The Mystery of Orcival
Part 6 out of 7
of Robelot furthered projects which he was secretly nourishing, and
fulfilled his secret hopes. Besides, it little mattered if the
object was to oppose M. Domini's theories and induce him to change
his opinion. This corpse had more eloquence in it than the most
explicit of confessions.
The doctor, seeing the uselessness of his pains, got up.
"It's all over," said he. "The asphyxia was accomplished in a very
The bone-setter's body was carefully laid on the floor in the
"There is nothing more to be done," said M. Plantat, "but to carry
him home; we will follow on so as to seal up his effects, which
perhaps contain important papers. Run to the mairie," he added,
turning to his servant, "and get a litter and two stout men."
Dr. Gendron's presence being no longer necessary, he promised M.
Plantat to rejoin him at Robelot's, and started off to inquire
after M. Courtois's condition.
Louis lost no time, and soon reappeared followed, not by two, but
ten men. The body was placed on a litter and carried away. Robelot
occupied a little house of three rooms, where he lived by himself;
one of the rooms served as a shop, and was full of plants, dried
herbs, grain, and other articles appertaining to his vocation as
an herbist. He slept in the back room, which was better furnished
than most country rooms. His body was placed upon the bed. Among
the men who had brought it was the "drummer of the town," who was
at the same time the grave-digger. This man, expert in everything
pertaining to funerals, gave all the necessary instructions on the
present occasion, himself taking part in the lugubrious task.
Meanwhile M. Plantat examined the furniture, the keys of which had
been taken from the deceased's pocket. The value of the property
found in the possession of this man, who had, two years before,
lived from day to day on what he could pick up, were an
over-whelming proof against him in addition to the others already
discovered. But M. Plantat looked in vain for any new indications
of which he was ignorant. He found deeds of the Morin property and
of the Frapesle and Peyron lands; there were also two bonds, for
one hundred and fifty and eight hundred and twenty francs, signed
by two Orcival citizens in Robelot's favor. M. Plantat could
scarcely conceal his disappointment.
"Nothing of importance," whispered he in M. Lecoq's ear. "How do
you explain that?"
"Perfectly," responded 'the detective. "He was a sly rogue, this
Robelot, and he was cunning enough to conceal his sudden fortune
and patient enough to appear to be years accumulating it. You only
find in his secretary effects which he thought he could avow
without danger. How much is there in all?"
Plantat rapidly added up the different sums, and said:
"About fourteen thousand five hundred francs."
"Madame Sauvresy gave him more than that," said the detective,
positively. "If he had no more than this, he would not have been
such a fool as to put it all into land. He must have a hoard of
money concealed somewhere."
"Of course he must. But where?"
"Ah, let me look."
He began to rummage about, peering into everything in the room,
moving the furniture, sounding the floor wjth his heels, and rapping
on the wall here and there. Finally he came to the fireplace, before
which he stopped.
"This is July," said he. "And yet there are cinders here in the
"People sometimes neglect to clean them out in the spring."
"True; but are not these very clean and distinct? I don't find any
of the light dust and soot on them which ought to be there after
they have lain several months."
He went into the second room whither he had sent the men after they
had completed their task, and said:
"I wish one of you would get me a pickaxe."
All the men rushed out; M. Lecoq returned to his companion.
"Surely," muttered he, as if apart, "these cinders have been
disturbed recently, and if they have been - "
He knelt down, and pushing the cinders away, laid bare the stones
of the fireplace. Then taking a thin piece of wood, he easily
inserted it into the cracks between the stones.
"See here, Monsieur Plantat," said he. "There is no cement between
these stones, and they are movable; the treasure must be here."
When the pickaxe was brought, he gave a single blow with it; the
stones gaped apart, and betrayed a wide and deep hole between them.
"Ah," cried he, with a triumphant air, "I knew it well enough."
The hole was full of rouleaux of twenty-franc pieces; on counting
them, M. Lecoq found that there were nineteen thousand five hundred
The old justice's face betrayed an expression of profound grief.
"That," thought he, "is the price of my poor Sauvresy's life."
M. Lecoq found a small piece of paper, covered with figures,
deposited with the gold; it seemed to be Robelot's accounts. He
had put on the left hand the sum of forty thousand francs; on the
right hand, various sums were inscribed, the total of which was
twenty-one thousand five hundred francs. It was only too clear;
Mme. Sauvresy had paid Robelot forty thousand francs for the bottle
of poison. There was nothing more to learn at his house. They
locked the money up in the secretary, and affixed seals everywhere,
leaving two men on guard.
But M. Lecoq was not quite satisfied yet. What was the manuscript
which Plantat had read? At first he had thought that it was simply
a copy of the papers confided to him by Sauvresy; but it could not
be that; Sauvresy couldn't have thus described the last agonizing
scenes of his life. This mystery mightily worried the detective
and dampened the joy he felt at having solved the crime at
Valfeuillu. He made one more attempt to surprise Plantat into
satisfying his curiosity. Taking him by the coat-lapel, he drew
him into the embrasure of a window, and with his most innocent air,
"I beg your pardon, are we going back to your house?"
"Why should we? You know the doctor is going to meet us here."
"I think we may need the papers you read to us, to convince Monsieur
M. Plantat smiled sadly, and looking steadily at him, replied:
"You are very sly, Monsieur Lecoq; but I too am sly enough to keep
the last key of the mystery of which you hold all the others."
"Believe me - " stammered M. Lecoq.
"I believe," interrupted his companion, "that you would like very
well to know the source of my information. Your memory is too good
for you to forget that when I began last evening I told you that
this narrative was for your ear alone, and that I had only one
object in disclosing it - to aid our search. Why should you wish
the judge of instruction to see these notes, which are purely
personal, and have no legal or authentic character?"
He reflected a few moments, and added:
"I have too much confidence in you, Monsieur Lecoq, and esteem you
too much, not to have every trust that you will not divulge these
strict confidences. What you will say will be of as much weight as
anything I might divulge - especially now that you have Robelot's
body to back your assertions, as well as the money found in his
possession. If Monsieur Domini still hesitates to believe you, you
know that the doctor promises to find the poison which killed
M. Plantat stopped and hesitated.
"In short," he resumed, "I think you will be able to keep silence
as to what you have heard from me."
M. Lecoq took him by the hand, and pressing it significantly, said:
"Count on me, Monsieur."
At this moment Dr. Gendron appeared at the door.
"Courtois is better," said he. "He weeps like a child; but he will
come out of it."
"Heaven be praised!" cried the old justice of the peace. " Now,
since you've come, let us hurry off to Corbeil; Monsieur Domini,
who is waiting for us this morning, must be mad with impatience."
M. Plantat, in speaking of M. Domini's impatience, did not exaggerate
the truth. That personage was furious; he could not comprehend the
reason of the prolonged absence of his three fellow-workers of the
previous evening. He had installed himself early in the morning in
his cabinet, at the court-house, enveloped in his judicial robe; and
he counted the minutes as they passed. His reflections during the
night, far from shaking, had only confirmed his opinion. As he
receded from the period of the crime, he found it very simple and
natural - indeed, the easiest thing in the world to account for.
He was annoyed that the rest did not share his convictions, and he
awaited their report in a state of irritation which his clerk only
too well perceived. He had eaten his breakfast in his cabinet, so
as to be sure and be beforehand with M. Lecoq. It was a usless
precaution; for the hours passed on and no one arrived.
To kill time, he sent for Guespin and Bertaud and questioned them
anew, but learned nothing more than he had extracted from them the
night before. One of the prisoners swore by all things sacred that
he knew nothing except what he had already told ; the other preserved
an obstinate and ferocious silence, confining himself to the remark:
"I know that I am lost; do with me what you please."
M. Domini was just going to send a mounted gendarme to Orcival to
find out the cause of the delay, when those whom he awaited were
announced. He quickly gave the order to admit them, and so keen
was his curiosity, despite what he called his dignity, that he got
up and went forward to meet them.
"How late you are! "said he.
"And yet we haven't lost a minute," replied M. Plantat. "We haven't
even been in bed."
"There is news, then? Has the count's body been found?"
"There is much news, Monsieur," said M. Lecoq. "But the count's
body has not been found, and I dare even say that it will not be
found - for the very simple fact that he has not been killed. The
reason is that he was not one of the victims, as at first supposed,
but the assassin.
At this distinct declaration on M. Lecoq's part, the judge started
in his seat.
"Why, this is folly!" cried he.
M. Lecoq never smiled in a magistrate's presence. "I do not think
so," said he, coolly; "I am persuaded that if Monsieur Domini will
grant me his attention for half an hour I will have the honor of
persuading him to share my opinion."
M. Domini's slight shrug of the shoulders did not escape the
detective, but he calmly continued:
"More; I am sure that Monsieur Domini will not permit me to leave
his cabinet without a warrant to arrest Count Hector de Tremorel,
whom at present he thinks tobe dead."
"Possibly," said M. Domini. "Proceed."
M. Lecoq then rapidly detailed the facts gathered by himself and M.
Plantat from the beginning of the inquest. He narrated them not as
if he had guessed or been told of them, but in their order of time
and in such a manner that each new incident which, he mentioned
followed naturally from the preceding one. He had completely
resumed his character of a retired haberdasher, with a little piping
voice, and such obsequious expressions as, "I have the honor," and
"If Monsieur the Judge will deign to permit me;" he resorted to the
candy-box with the portrait, and, as the night before at Valfeuillu,
chewed a lozenge when he came to the more striking points. M.
Domini's surprise increased every minute as he proceeded; while at
times, exclamations of astonishment passed his lips: "Is it
possible?" "That is hard to believe!"
M. Lecoq finished his recital; he tranquilly munched a lozenge, and
"What does Monsieur the Judge of Instruction think now?"
M. Domini was fain to confess that he was almost satisfied. A man,
however, never permits an opinion deliberately and carefully formed
to be refuted by one whom he looks on as an inferior, without a
secret chagrin. But in this case the evidence was too abundant,
and too positive to be resisted.
"I am convinced," said he, "that a crime was committed on Monsieur
Sauvresy with the dearly paid assistance of this Robelot. To-morrow
I shall give instructions to Doctor Gendron to proceed at once to an
exhumation and autopsy of the late master of Valfeuillu."
"And you may be sure that I shall find the poison," chimed in the
"Very well," resumed M. Domini. "But does it necessarily follow that
because Monsieur Tremorel poisoned his friend to marry his widow, he
yesterday killed his wife and then fled? I don't think so."
"Pardon me," objected Lecoq, gently. "It seems to me that
Mademoiselle Courtois's supposed suicide proves at least something."
"That needs clearing up. This coincidence can only be a matter of
"But I am sure that Monsieur Tremorel shaved himself - of that we
have proof; then, we did not find the boots which, according to
the valet, he put on the morning of the murder."
"Softly, softly," interrupted the judge. "I don't pretend that you
are absolutely wrong; it must be as you say; only I give you my
objections. Let us admit that Tremorel killed his wife, that he
fled and is alive. Does that clear Guespin, and show that he took
no part in the murder?"
This was evidently the flaw in Lecoq's case; but being convinced
of Hector's guilt, he had given little heed to the poor gardener,
thinking that his innocence would appear of itself when the real
criminal was arrested. He was about to reply, when footsteps and
voices were heard in the corridor.
"Stop," said M. Domini. "Doubtless we shall now hear something
important about Guespin."
"Are you expecting some new witness?" asked M. Plantat.
"No; I expect one of the Corbeil police to whom I have given an
"Yes. Very early this morning a young working-woman of the town,
whom Guespin has been courting, brougnt me an excellent pflotograph
of him. I gave this portrait to the agent with instructions to go
to the Vulcan's Forges and ascertain if Guespin had been seen there,
and whether he bought anything there night before last."
M. Lecoq was inclined to be jealous; the judge's proceeding
ruffled him, and he could not conceal an expressive grimace.
"I am truly grieved," said he, dryly, " that Monsieur the Judge
has so little confidence in me that he thinks it necessary to give
This sensitiveness aroused M. Domini, who replied:
"Eh! my dear man, you can't be everywhere at once. I think you
very shrewd, but you were not here, and I was in a hurry."
"A false step is often irreparable."
"Make yourself easy; I've sent an intelligent man." At this moment
the, door opened, and the policeman referred to by the judge
appeared on the threshold. He was a muscular man about forty years
old, with a military pose, a heavy mustache, and thick brows,
meeting over the nose. He had a sly rather than a shrewd expression,
so that his appearance alone seemed to awake all sorts of suspicions
and put one instinctively on his guard.
"Good news!" said he in a big voice: "I didn't make the journey to
Paris for the King of Prussia; we are right on the track of this
rogue of a Guespin."
M. Domini encouraged him with an approving gesture.
"See here, Goulard," said he, "let us go on in order if we can. You
went then, according to my instructions, to the Vulcan's Forges?"
"At once, Monsieur."
"Precisely. Had they seen the prisoner there?"
"Yes; on the evening of Wednesday, July 8th."
"At what hour?"
"About ten o'clock, a few minutes before they shut up; so that he
was remarked, and the more distinctly observed."
The judge moved his lips as if to make an objection, but was stopped
by a gesture from M. Lecoq.
"And who recognized the photograph?"
"Three of the clerks. Guespin's manner first attracted their
attention. It was strange, so they said, and they thought he was
drunk, or at least tipsy. Then their recollection was fixed by his
talking very fast, saying that he was going to patronize them a
great deal, and that if they would make a reduction in their prices
he would procure for them the custom of an establishment whose
confidence he possessed, the Gentil Jardinier, which bought a great
many gardening tools."
M. Domini interrupted the examination to consult some papers which
lay before him on his desk. It was, he found, the Gentil Jardinier
which had procured Guespin his place in Tremorel's household. The
judge remarked this aloud, and added:
"The question of identity seems to be settled. Guespin was
undoubtedly at the Vulcan's Forges on Wednesday night."
"So much the better for him," M. Lecoq could not help muttering.
The judge heard him, but though the remark seemed singular to him
he did not notice it, and went on questioning the agent.
"Well, did they tell you what Guespin went there to obtain?"
"The clerks recollected it perfectly. He first bought a hammer,
a cold chisel, and a file."
"I knew it," exclaimed the judge. "And then?"
"Then - "
Here the man, ambitious to make a sensation among his hearers,
rolled his eyes tragically, and in a dramatic tone, added:
"Then he bought a dirk knife!"
The judge felt that he was triumphing over M. Lecoq.
"Well," said he to the detective in his most ironical tone, "what
do you think of your friend now? What do you say to this honest
and worthy young man, who, on the very night of the crime, leaves
a wedding where he would have had a good time, to go and buy a
hammer, a chisel, and a dirk - everything, in short, used in the
murder and the mutilation of the body?"
Dr. Gendron seemed a little disconcerted at this, but a sly smile
overspread M. Plantat's face. As for M. Lecoq, he had the air of
one who is shocked by objections which he knows he ought to
annihilate by a word, and yet who is fain to be resigned to waste
time in useless talk, which he might put to great profit.
"I think, Monsieur," said he, very humbly, "that the murderers at
Valfeuillu did not use either a hammer or a chisel, or a file, and
that they brought no instrument at all from outside - since they
used a hammer."
"And didn't they have a dirk besides?" asked the judge in a
bantering tone, confident that he was on the right path.
"That is another question, I confess ; but it is a difficult one
He began to lose patience. He turned toward the
Corbeil policeman, and abruptly asked him:
"Is this all you know?"
The big man with the thick eyebrows superciliously eyed this little
Parisian who dared to question him thus. He hesitated so long that
M. Lecoq, more rudely than before, repeated his question.
"Yes, that's all," said Goulard at last, "and I think it's
sufficient; the judge thinks so too; and he is the only person who
gives me orders, and whose approbation I wish for."
M. Lecoq shrugged his shoulders, and proceeded:
"Let's see; did you ask what was the shape of the dirk bought by
Guespin? Was it long or short, wide or narrow?"
"Faith, no. What was the use?"
"Simply, my brave fellow, to compare this weapon with the victim's
wounds, and to see whether its handle corresponds to that which left
a distinct and visible imprint between the victim's shoulders."
"I forgot it; but it is easily remedied."
"An oversight may, of course, be pardoned; but you can at least tell
us in what sort of money Guespin paid for his purchases?"
The poor man seemed so embarrassed, humiliated, and vexed, that the
judge hastened to his assistance.
"The money is of little consequence, it seems to me," said he.
"I beg you to excuse me I don't agree with you," returned M. Lecoq.
"This matter may be a very grave one. What is the most serious
evidence against Guespin? The money found in his pocket. Let us
suppose for a moment that night before last, at ten o'clock, he
changed a one-thousand-franc note in Paris. Could the obtaining
of that note have been the motive of the crime at Valfeuillu? No,
for up to that hour the crime had not been committed. Where could
it have come from? That is no concern of mine, at present. But if
my theory is correct, justice will be forced to agree that the
several hundred francs found in Guespin's possession can and must
be the change for the note."
"That is only a theory," urged M. Domini in an irritated tone.
"That is true; but one which may turn out a certainty. It remains
for me to ask this man how Guespin carried away the articles which
he bought? Did he simply slip them into his pocket, or did he have
them done up in a bundle, and if so, how?"
The detective spoke in a sharp, hard, freezing tone, with a bitter
raillery in it, frightening his Corbeil colleague out of his
"I don't know," stammered the latter. "They didn't tell me - I
thought - "
M. Lecoq raised his hands as if to call the heavens to witness: in
his heart, he was charmed with this fine occasion to revenge himself
for M. Domini's disdain. He could not, dared not say anything to
the judge; but he had the right to banter the agent and visit his
wrath upon him.
"Ah so, my lad," said he, "what did you go to Paris for? To show
Guespin's picture and detail the crime to the people at Vulcan's
Forges? They ought to be very grateful to you; but Madame Petit,
Monsieur Plantat's housekeeper, would have done as much."
At this stroke the man began to get angry; he frowned, and in his
bluffest tone, began:
"Look here now, you - "
"Ta, ta, ta," interrupted M. Lecoq. "Let me alone, and know who
is talking to you. I am Monsieur Lecoq."
The effect of the famous detective's name on his antagonist was
magical. He naturally laid down his arms and surrendered,
straightway becoming respectful and obsequious. It almost flattered
him to be roughly handled by such a celebrity. He muttered, in an
abashed and admiring tone:
"What, is it possible? You, Monsieur Lecoq!"
"Yes, it is I, young man ; but console yourself; I bear no grudge
against you. You don't know your trade, but you have done me a
service and you have brought us a convincing proof of Guespin's
M. Domini looked on at this scene with secret chagrin. His recruit
went over to the enemy, yielding without a struggle to a confessed
superiority. M. Lecoq's presumption, in speaking of a prisoner's
innocence whose guilt seemed to the judge indisputable, exasperated
"And what is this tremendous proof, if you please?" asked he.
"It is simple and striking," answered M. Lecoq, putting on his most
frivolous air as his conclusions narrowed the field of probabilities.
"You doubtless recollect that when we were at Valfeuillu we found
the hands of the clock in the bedroom stopped at twenty minutes past
three. Distrusting foul play, I put the striking apparatus in
motion - do you recall it? What happened? The clock struck eleven.
That convinced us that the crime was committed before that hour. But
don't you see that if Guespin was at the Vulcan's Forges at ten he
could not have got back to Valfeuillu before midnight? Therefore it
was not- he who did the deed."
The detective, as he came to this conclusion, pulled out the
inevitable box and helped himself to a lozenge, at the same time
bestowing upon the judge a smile which said:
"Get out of that, if you can."
The judge's whole theory tumbled to pieces if M. Lecoq's deductions
were right; but he could not admit that he had been so much
deceived; he could not renounce an opinion formed by deliberate
"I don't pretend that Guespin is the only criminal," said he. "He
could only have been an accomplice; and that he was."
"An accomplice? No, Judge, he was a victim. Ah, Tremorel is a
great rascal! Don't you see now why he put forward the hands? At
first I didn't perceive the object of advancing the time five hours;
now it is clear. In order to implicate Guespin the crime must
appear to have been committed after midnight, and - "
He suddenly checked himself and stopped with open mouth and fixed
eyes as a new idea crossed his mind. The judge, who was bending
over his papers trying to find something to sustain his position,
did not perceive this.
"But then," said the latter, "how do you explain Guespin's refusal
to speak and to give an account of where he spent the night?"
M. Lecoq had now recovered from his emotion, and Dr. Gendron and M.
Plantat, who were watching him with the deepest attention, saw a
triumphant light in his eyes. Doubtless he had just found a
solution of the problem which had been put to him.
"I understand," replied he, "and can explain Guespin's obstinate
silence. I should be perfectly amazed if he decided to speak just
M. Domini misconstrued the meaning of this; he thought he saw in it
a covert intention to banter him.
He has had a night to reflect upon it," he answered. "Is not twelve
hours enough to mature a system of defence?"
The detective shook his head doubtfully.
"It is certain that he does not need it," said he. "Our prisoner
doesn't trouble himself about a system of defence, that I'll
"He keeps quiet, because he hasn't been able to get up a plausible
"No, no; believe me, he isn't trying to get up one. In my opinion,
Guespin is a victim; that is, I suspect Tremorel of having set an
infamous trap for him, into which he has fallen, and in which he
sees himself so completely caught that he thinks it useless to
struggle. The poor wretch is convinced that the more he resists
the more surely he will tighten the web that is woven around him."
"I think so, too," said M. Plantat.
"The true criminal, Count Hector," resumed the detective, "lost his
presence of mind at the last moment, and thus lost all the advantages
which his previous caution had gained. Don't let us forget that he
is an able man, perfidious enough to mature the most infamous
stratagems, and unscrupulous enough to execute them. He knows that
justice must have its victims, one for every crime; he does not
forget that the police, as long as it has not the criminal, is
always on the search with eye and ear open ; and he has thrown us
Guespin as a huntsman, closely pressed, throws his glove to the bear
that is close upon him. Perhaps he thought that the innocent man
would not be in danger of his life; at all events he hoped to gain
time by this ruse; while the bear is smelling and turning over the
glove,, the huntsman gains ground, escapes and reaches his place of
refuge; that was what Tremorel proposed to do."
The Corbeil policeman was now undoubtedly Lecoq's most enthusiastic
listener. Goulard literally drank in his chief's words. He had
never heard any of his colleagues express themselves with such
fervor and authority; he had had no idea of such eloquence, and he
stood erect, as if some of the admiration which he saw in all the
faces were reflected back on him. He grew in his own esteem as he
thought that he was a soldier in an army commanded by such generals.
He had no longer any opinion excepting that of his superior. It
was not so easy to persuade, subjugate, and convince the judge.
"But," objected the latter, "you saw Guespin's countenance?"
"Ah, what matters the countenance - what does that prove? Don't
we know if you and I were arrested to-morrow on a terrible charge,
what our bearing would be?"
M. Domini gave a significant start; this hypothesis scarcely
"And yet you and I are familiar with the machinery of justice. When
I arrested Lanscot, the poor servant in the Rue Marignan, his first
words were: 'Come on, my account is good.' The morning that Papa
Tabaret and I took the Viscount de Commarin as he was getting out
of bed, on the accusation of having murdered the widow Lerouge, he
cried: 'I am lost.' Yet neither of them were guilty; but both of
them, the viscount and the valet, equal before the terror of a
possible mistake of justice, and running over in their thoughts
the charges which would be brought against them, had a moment of
"But such discouragement does not last two days," said M. Domini.
M. Lecoq did not answer this; he went on, growing more animated
as he proceeded.
"You and I have seen enough prisoners to know how deceitful
appearances are, and how little they are to be trusted. It would
be foolish to base a theory upon a prisoner's bearing. He who
talked about 'the cry of innocence' was an idiot, just as the man
was who prated about the 'pale stupor' of guilt. Neither crime
nor virtue have, unhappily, any especial countenance. The Simon
girl, who was accused of having killed her father, absolutely
refused to answer any questions for twenty-two days; on the
twenty-third, the murderer was caught. As to the Sylvain affair - "
M. Domini rapped lightly on his desk to check the detective. As a
man, the judge held too obstinately to his opinions; as a magistrate
he was equally obstinate, but was at the same time ready to make any
sacrifice of his self-esteem if the voice of duty prompted it. M.
Lecoq's arguments had not shaken his convictions, but they imposed
on him the duty of informing himself at once, and to either conquer
the detective or avow himself conquered.
"You seem to be pleading," said he to M. Lecoq. "There is no need
of that here. We are not counsel and judge; the same honorable
intentions animate us both. Each, in his sphere, is searching after
the truth. You think you see it shining where I only discern clouds;
and you may be mistaken as well as I."
Then by an act of heroism, he condescended to add:
"What do you think I ought to do?"
The judge was at least rewarded for the effort he made by approving
glances from M. Plantat and the doctor. But M. Lecoq did not hasten
to respond; he had many weighty reasons to advance; that, he saw,
was not what was necessary. He ought to present the facts, there
and at once, and produce one of those proofs which can be touched
with the finger. How should he do it? His active mind searched
eagerly for such a proof.
"Well?" insisted M. Domini.
"Ah," cried the detective. "Why can't I ask Guespin two or three
The judge frowned; the suggestion seemed to him rather presumptuous.
It is formally laid down that the questioning of the accused should
be done in secret, and by the judge alone, aided by his clerk. On
the other hand it is decided, that after he has once been
interrogated he may be confronted with witnesses. There are,
besides, exceptions in favor of the members of the police force.
M. Domini reflected whether there were any precedents to apply to
"I don't know," he answered at last, "to what point the law permits
me to consent to what you ask. However, as I am convinced the
interests of truth outweigh all rules, I shall take it on myself
to let you question Guespin."
He rang; a bailiff appeared.
"Has Guespin been carried back to prison?"
"Not yet, Monsieur."
"So much the better; have him brought in here."
M. Lecoq was beside himself with joy; he had not hoped to achieve
such a victory over one so determined as M. Domini.
"He will speak now," said he, so full of confidence that his eyes
shone, and he forgot the portrait of the dear defunct, "for I have
three means of unloosening his tongue, one of which is sure to
succeed. But before he comes I should like to know one thing. Do
you know whether Tremorel saw Jenny after Sauvresy's death?"
"Jenny?" asked M. Plantat, a little surprised.
"Certainly he did."
"Pretty often. After the scene at the Belle Image the poor girl
plunged into terrible dissipation. Whether she was smitten with
remorse, or understood that it was her conduct which had killed
Sauvresy, or suspected the crime, I don't know. She began, however,
to drink furiously, falling lower and lower every week - "
"And the count really consented to see her again?"
"He was forced to do so; she tormented him, and he was afraid of
her. When she had spent all her money she sent to him for more,
and he gave it. Once he refused; and that very evening she went
to him the worse for wine, and he had the greatest difficulty in
the world to send her away again. In short, she knew what his
relations with Madame Sauvresy had been, and she threatened him;
it was a regular black-mailing operation. He told me all about
the trouble she gave him, and added that he would not be able to
get rid of her without shutting her up, which he could not bring
himself to do."
"How long ago was their last interview?"
"Why," answered the doctor, "not three weeks ago, when I had a
consultation at Melun, I saw the count and this demoiselle at a
hotel window; when he saw me he suddenly drew back."
"Then," said the detective, "there is no longer any doubt - "
He stopped. Guespin came in between two gendarmes.
The unhappy gardener had aged twenty years in twenty-four hours.
His eyes were haggard, his dry lips were bordered with foam.
"Let us see," said the judge. "Have you changed your mind about
The prisoner did not answer.
"Have you decided to tell us about yourself?"
Guespin's rage made him tremble from head to foot, and his eyes
"Speak!" said he hoarsely. "Why should I?"
He added with the gesture of a desperate man who abandons himself,
renounces all struggling and all hope:
"What have I done to you, my God, that you torture me this way?
What do you want me to say? That I did this crime - is that what
you want? Well, then - yes - it was I. Now you are satisfied.
Now cut my head off, and do it quick - for I don't want to suffer
A mournful silence welcomed Guespin's declaration. What, he
M. Domini had at least the good taste not to exult; he kept still,
and yet this avowal surprised him beyond all expression.
M. Lecoq alone, although surprised, was not absolutely put out of
countenance. He approached Guespin and tapping him on the shoulder,
said in a paternal tone:
"Come, comrade, what you are telling us is absurd. Do you think
the judge has any secret grudge against you? No, eh? Do you
suppose I am interested to have you guillotined? Not at all. A
crime has been committed, and we are trying to find the assassin.
If you are innocent, help us to find the man who isn't: What were
you doing from Wednesday evening till Thursday morning?"
But Guespin persisted in his ferocious and stupid obstinacy.
"I've said what I have to say," said he.
M. Lecoq changed his tone to one of severity, stepping back to watch
the effect he was about to produce upon Guespin.
"You haven't any right to hold your tongue. And even if you do,
you fool, the police know everything. Your master sent you on an
errand, didn't he, on Wednesday night; what did he give you? A
The prisoner looked at M. Lecoq in speechless amazement.
"No," he stammered. "It was a five-hundred-franc note."
The detective, like all great artists in a critical scene, was
really moved. His surprising genius for investigation had just
inspired him with a bold stroke, which, if it succeeded, would
assure him the victory.
"Now," said he, "tell me the woman's name."
"I don't know."
"You are only a fool then. She is short, isn't she, quite pretty,
brown and pale, with very large eyes?"
"You know her, then?" said Guespin, in a voice trembling with
"Yes, comrade, and if you want to know her name, to put in your
prayers, she is called - Jenny."
Men who are really able in some specialty, whatever it may be, never
uselessly abuse their superiority; their satisfaction at seeing it
recognized is suffioient reward. M. Lecoq softly enjoyed his
triumph, while his hearers wondered at his perspicacity. A rapid
chain of reasoning had shown him not only Tremorel's thoughts, but
also the means he had employed to accomplish his purpose.
Guespin's astonishment soon changed to anger. He asked himself how
this man could have been informed of things which he had every
reason to believe were secret. Lecoq continued:
"Since I have told you the woman's name, tell me now, how and why
the count gave you a five-hundred-franc note."
"It was just as I was going out. The count had no change, and did
not want to send me to Orcival for it. I was to bring back the
"And why didn't you rejoin your companions at the wedding in the
"What was the errand which you were to do for the count?"
Guespin hesitated. His eyes wandered from one to another of those
present, and he seemed to discover an ironical expression on all
the faces. It occurred to him that they were making sport of him,
and had set a snare into which he had fallen. A great despair
took possession of him.
"Ah," cried he, addressing M. Lecoq, "you have deceived me. You
have been lying so as to find out the truth. I have been such a
fool as to answer you, and you are going to turn it all against me."
"What? Are you going to talk nonsense again?"
"No, but I see just how it is, and you won't catch me again! Now
I'd rather die than say a word."
The detective tried to reassure him; but he added:
"Besides, I'm as sly as you; I've told you nothing but lies."
This sudden whim surprised no one. Some prisoners intrench
themselves behind a system of defence, and nothing can divert them
from it; others vary with each new question, denying what they have
just affirmed, and constantly inventing some new absurdity which
anon they reject again. M. Lecoq tried in vain to draw Guespin
from his silence; M. Domini made the same attempt, and also failed;
to all questions he only answered, "I don't know."
At last the detective waxed impatient.
"See here," said he to Guespin, "I took you for a young man of
sense, and you are only an ass. Do you imagine that we don't know
anything? Listen: On the night of Madame Denis's wedding, you
were getting ready to go off with your comrades, and had just
borrowed twenty francs from the valet, when the count called you.
He made you promise absolute secrecy (a promise which to do you
justice, you kept) ; he told you to leave the other servants at
the station and go to Vulcan's Forges, where you were to buy for
him a hammer, a file, a chisel, and a dirk; these you were to carry
to a certain woman. Then he gave you this famous five-hundred-franc
note, telling you to bring him back the change when you returned
next day. Isn't that so?"
An affirmative response glistened in the prisoner's eyes; still,
he answered, " I don't recollect it."
"Now," pursued M. Lecoq, "I'm going to tell you what happened
afterwards. You drank something and got tipsy, and in short spent
a part of the change of the note. That explains your fright when
you were seized yesterday morning, before anybody said a word to
you. Vou thought you were being arrested for spending that money.
Then, when you learned that the count had been murdered during the
night, recollecting that on the evening before you had bought all
kinds of instruments of theft and murder, and that you didn't know
either the address or the name of the woman to whom you gave up
the package, convinced that if you explained the source of the
money found in your pocket, you would not be believed - then,
instead of thinking of the means to prove your innocence, you
became afraid, and thought you would save yourself by holding your
The prisoner's countenance visibly changed; his nerves relaxed;
his tight lips fell apart; his mind opened itself to hope. But he
"Do with me as you like," said he.
"Eh! What should we do with such a fool as you?" cried M. Lecoq
angrily. "I begin to think you are a rascal too. A decent fellow
would see that we wanted to get him out of a scrape, and he'd tell
us the truth. You are prolonging your imprisonment by your own
will. You'd better learn that the greatest shrewdness consists in
telling the truth. A last time, will you answer?"
Guespin shook his head; no.
"Go back to prison, then; since it pleases you," concluded the
detective. He looked at the judge for his approval, and added:
"Gendarmes, remove the prisoner."
The judge's last doubt was dissipated like the mist before the sun.
He was, to tell the truth, a little uneasy at having treated the
detective so rudely; and he tried to repair it as much as he could.
"You are an able man, Monsieur Lecoq," said he. "Without speaking
of your clearsightedness, which is so prompt as to seem almost like
second sight, your examination just now was a master-piece of its
kind. Receive my congratulations, to say nothing of the reward
which I propose to recommend in your favor to your chiefs."
The detective at these compliments cast down his eyes with the
abashed air of a virgin. He looked tenderly at the dear defunct's
portrait, and doubtless said to it:
"At last, darling, we have defeated him - this austere judge who so
heartily detests the force of which we are the brightest ornament,
makes his apologies; he recognizes and applauds our services."
He answered aloud:
"I can only accept half of your eulogies, Monsieur; permit me to
offer the other half to my friend Monsieur Plantat."
M. Plantat tried to protest.
"Oh," said he, "only for some bits of information! You would have
ferreted out the truth without me all the same."
The judge arose and graciously, but not without effort, extended
his hand to M. Lecoq, who respectfully pressed it.
"You have spared me," said the judge, "a great remorse. Guespin's
innocence would surely sooner or later have been recognized; but
the idea of having imprisoned an innocent man and harassed him with
my interrogatories, would have disturbed my sleep and tormented my
conscience for a long time."
"God knows this poor Guespin is not an interesting youth," returned
the detective. "I should be disposed to press him hard were I not
certain that he's half a fool."
M. Domini gave a start.
"I shall discharge him this very day," said he, "this very hour."
It will be an act of charity," said M. Lecoq; "but confound his
obstinacy; it was so easy for him to simplify my task. I might be
able, by the aid of chance, to collect the principal facts - the
errand, and a woman being mixed up in the affair; but as I'm no
magician, I couldn't guess all the details. How is Jenny mixed
up in this affair? Is she an accomplice, or has she only been
made to play an ignorant part in it? Where did she meet Guespin
and whither did she lead him? It is clear that she made the poor
fellow tipsy so as to prevent his going to the Batignolles.
Tremorel must have told her some false story - but what?"
"I don't think Tremorel troubled his head about so small a matter,"
said M. Plantat. "He gave Guespin and Jenny some task, without
explaining it at all."
M. Lecoq reflected a moment.
"Perhaps you are right. But Jenny must have had special orders to
prevent Guespin from putting in an alibi."
But," said M. Domini, Jenny will explain it all to us."
"That is what I rely on; and I hope that within forty-eight hours
I shall have found her and brought her safely to Corbeil."
He rose at these words, took his cane and hat, and turning to the
"Before retiring - "
"Yes, I know," interrupted M. Domini, "you want a warrant to arrest
Hector de Tremorel."
"I do, as you are now of my opinion that he is still alive."
" I am sure of it."
M. Domini opened his portfolio and wrote off a warrant as follows:
"By the law:
"We, judge of instruction of the first tribunal, etc., considering
articles 91 and 94 of the code of criminal instruction, command and
ordain to all the agents of the police to arrest, in conformity
with the law, one Hector de Tremorel, etc."
When he had finished, he said:
"Here it is, and may you succeed in speedily finding this great
"Oh, he'll find him," cried the Corbeil policeman.
"I hope so, at least. As to how I shall go to work, I don't know
yet. I will arrange my plan of battle to-night."
The detective then took leave of M. Domini and retired, followed
by M. Plantat. The doctor remained with the judge to make
arrangements for Sauvresy's exhumation.
M. Lecoq was just leaving the court-house when he felt himself
pulled by the arm. He turned and found that it was Goulard who
came to beg his favor and to ask him to take him along, persuaded
that after having served under so great a captain he must inevitably
become a famous man himself. M. Lecoq had some difficulty in
getting rid of him; but he at length found himself alone in the
street with the old justice of the peace.
"It is late," said the latter. "Would it be agreeable to you to
partake of another modest dinner with me, and accept my cordial
"I am chagrined to be obliged to refuse you," replied M. Lecoq.
"But I ought to be in Paris this evening."
"But I - in fact, I - was very anxious to talk to you - about - "
"About Mademoiselle Laurence?"
"Yes; I have a plan, and if you would help me - "
M. Lecoq affectionately pressed his friend's hand.
"I have only known you a few hours," said he, "and yet I am as
devoted to you as I would be to an old friend. All that is humanly
possible for me to do to serve you, I shall certainly do."
"But where shall I see you? They expect me to-day at Orcival."
"Very well; to-morrow morning at nine, at my rooms, No - Rue
"A thousand thanks; I shall be there."
When they had reached the Belle Image they separated.
Nine o'clock had just struck in the belfry of the church of St.
Eustache, when M. Plantat reached Rue Montmartre, and entered the
house bearing the number which M. Lecoq had given him.
"Monsieur Lecoq?" said he to an old woman who was engaged in getting
breakfast for three large cats which were mewing around her. The
woman scanned him with a surprised and suspicious air. M. Plantat,
when he was dressed up, had much more the appearance of a fine old
gentleman than of a country attorney; and though the detective
received many visits from all sorts of people, it was rarely that
the denizens of the Faubourg Saint Germaine rung his bell.
"Monsieur Lecoq's apartments," answered the old woman, "are on the
third story, the door facing the stairs."
The justice of the peace slowly ascended the narrow, ill-lighted
staircase, which in its dark corners was almost dangerous. He was
thinking of the strange step he was about to take. An idea had
occurred to him, but he did not know whether it were practicable,
and at all events he needed the aid and advice of the detective.
He was forced to disclose his most secret thoughts, as it were,
to confess himself; and his heart beat fast. The door opposite the
staircase on the third story was not like other doors; it was of
plain oak, thick, without mouldings, and fastened with iron bars.
It would have looked like a prison door had not its sombreness been
lightened by a heavily colored engraving of a cock crowing, with
the legend "Always Vigilant." Had the detective put his coat of
arms up there? Was it not more likely that one of his men had done
it? After examining the door more than a minute, and hesitating
like a youth before his beloved's gate, he rang the bell. A
creaking of locks responded, and through the narrow bars of the
peephole he saw the hairy face of an old crone.
"What do you want?" said the woman, in a deep, bass voice.
"What do you want of him?"
"He made an appointment with me for this morning."
"Your name and business?"
"Monsieur Plantat, justice of the peace at Orcival."
"All right. Wait."
The peephole was closed and the old man waited.
"Peste!" growled he. "Everybody can't get in here, it seems."
Hardly had this reflection passed through his mind when the door
opened with a noise as of chains and locks. He entered, and the
old crone, after leading him through a dining-room whose sole
furniture was a table and six chairs, introduced him to a large
room, half toilet-room and half working-room, lighted by two windows
looking on the court, and guarded by strong, close bars.
"If you will take the trouble to sit," said the servant, "Monsieur
Lecoq will soon be here; he is giving orders to one of his men."
But M. Plantat did not take a seat; he preferred to examine the
curious apartment in which he found himself. The whole of one
side of the wall was taken up with a long rack, where hung the
strangest and most incongruous suits of clothes. There were
costumes belonging to all grades of society; and on some wooden
pegs above, wigs of all colors were hanging; while boots and shoes
of various styles were ranged on the floor. A toilet-table,
covered with powders, essences, and paints, stood between the
fireplace and the window. On the other side of the room was a
bookcase full of scientific works, especially of physic and
chemistry. The most singular piece of furniture in the apartment,
however, was a large ball, shaped like a lozenge, in black velvet,
suspended beside the looking-glass. A quantity of pins were stuck
in this ball, so as to form the letters composing these two names:
These names glittering on the black background attracted the old
man's attention at once. This must have been M. Lecoq's reminder.
The ball was meant to recall to him perpetually the people of whom
he was in pursuit. Many names, doubtless, had in turn glittered on
that velvet, for it was much frayed and perforated. An unfinished
letter lay open upon the bureau;
M. Plantat leaned over to read it; but he took his trouble for
nothing, for it was written in cipher.
He had no sooner finished his inspection of the room than the noise
of a door opening made him turn round. He saw before him a man of
his own age, of respectable mien, and polite manners, a little bald,
with gold spectacles and a light-colored flannel dressing-gown.
M. Plantat bowed, saying:
"I am waiting here for Monsieur Lecoq."
The man in gold spectacles burst out laughing, and clapped his
hands with glee.
"What, dear sir," said he, " don't you know me? Look at me well
- it is I - Monsieur Lecoq!" And to convince him, he took off his
spectacles. Those might, indeed, be Lecoq's eyes, and that his
voice; M. Plantat was confounded.
"I never should have recognized you," said he.
"It's true, I have changed a little - but what would you have? It's
And pushing a chair toward his visitor, he pursued:
"I have to beg a thousand pardons for the formalities you've had
to endure to get in here; it's a dire necessity, but one I can't
help. I have told you of the dangers to which I am exposed; they
pursue me to my very door. Why, last week a railway porter brought
a package here addressed to me. Janouille - that's my old woman
- suspected nothing, though she has a sharp nose, and told him to
come in. He held out the package, I went up to take it, when pif!
paf! off went two pistol-shots. The package was a revolver wrapped
up in oilcloth, and the porter was a convict escaped from Cayenne,
caught by me last year. Ah, I put him through for this though!"
He told this adventure carelessly, as if it were the most natural
thing in the world.
"But let's not starve ourselves to death," he continued, ringing
the bell. The old hag appeared, and he ordered her to bring on
breakfast forthwith, and above all, some good wine.
"You are observing my Janouille," remarked he, seeing that M.
Plantat looked curiously at the servant. "She's a pearl, my dear
friend, who watches over me as if I were her child, and would go
through the fire for me. I had a good deal of trouble the other
day to prevent her strangling the false railway porter. I picked
her out of three or four thousand convicts. She had been convicted
of infanticide and arson. I would bet a hundred to one that,
during the three years that she has been in my service, she has not
even thought of robbing me of so much as a centime."
But M. Plantat only listened to him with one ear; he was trying to
find an excuse for cutting Janouille's story short, and to lead the
conversation to the events of the day before.
"I have, perhaps, incommoded you a little this morning, Monsieur
"Me? then you did not see my motto - 'always vigilant?' Why, I've
been out ten times this morning; besides marking out work for three
of my men. Ah, we have little time to ourselves, I can tell you.
I went to the Vulcan's Forges to see what news I could get of that
poor devil of a Guespin."
"And what did you hear?"
"That I had guessed right. He changed a five-hundred-franc note
there last Wednesday evening at a quarter before ten."
"That is to say, he is saved?"
"Well, you may say so. He will be, as soon as we have found Miss
The old justice of the peace could not avoid showing his uneasiness.
"That will, perhaps, be long and difficult?"
"Bast! Why so? She is on my black ball there - we shall have her,
accidents excepted, before night."
"You really think so?"
"I should say I was sure, to anybody but you. Reflect that this
girl has been connected with the Count de Tremorel, a man of the
world, a prince of the mode. When a girl falls to the gutter, after
having, as they say, dazzled all Paris for six months with her
luxury, she does not disappear entirely, like a stone in the mud.
When she has lost all her friends there are still her creditors, who
follow and watch her, awaiting the day when fortune will smile on
her once more. She doesn't trouble herself about them, she thinks
they've forgotten her; a mistake! I know a milliner whose head is
a perfect dictionary of the fashionable world; she has often done
me a good turn. We will go and see her if you say so, after
breakfast, and in two hours she will give us Jenny's address. Ah,
if I were only as sure of pinching Tremorel!
M. Plantat gave a sigh of relief. The conversation at last took
the turn he wished.
"You are thinking of him, then?" asked he.
"Am I?" shouted M. Lecoq, who started from his seat at the question.
"Now just look at my black ball there. I haven't thought of anybody
else, mark you, since yesterday; I haven't had a wink of sleep all
night for thinking of him. I must have him, and I will!"
"I don't doubt it; but when?"
"Ah, there it is! Perhaps to-morrow, perhaps in a month; it depends
on the correctness of my calculations and the exactness of my plan."
"What, is your plan made?"
"And decided on."
M. Plantat became attention itself.
I start from the principle that it is impossible for a man,
accompanied by a woman, to hide from the police. In this case,
the woman is young, pretty, and in a noticeable condition; three
impossibilities more. Admit this, and we'll study Hector's
character. He isn't a man of superior shrewdness, for we have
found out all his dodges. He isn't a fool, because his dodges
deceived people who are by no means fools. He is then a medium
sort of a man, and his education, reading, relations, and daily
conversation have procured him a number of acquaintances whom he
will try to use. Now for his mind. We know the weakness of his
character; soft, feeble, vacillating, only acting in the last
extremity. We have seen him shrinking from decisive steps, trying
always to delay matters. He is given to being deceived by
illusions, and to taking his desires for accomplished events. In
short, he is a coward. And what is his situation? He has killed
his wife, he hopes he has created a belief in his own death, he has
eloped with a young girl, and he has got nearly or quite a million
of francs in his pocket. Now, this position admitted, as well as
the man's character and mind, can we by an effort of thought,
reasoning from his known actions, discover what he has done in such
and such a case? I think so, and I hope I shall prove it to you."
M. Lecoq rose and promenaded, as his habit was, up and down the
room. "Now let's see," he continued, "how I ought to proceed in
order to discover the probable conduct of a man whose antecedents,
traits, and mind are known to me. To begin with, I throw off my
own individuality and try to assume his. I substitute his will for
my own. I cease to be a detective and become this man, whatever he
is. In this case, for instance, I know very well what I should do
if I were Tremorel. I should take such measures as would throw all
the detectives in the universe off the scent. But I must forget
Monsieur Lecoq in order to become Hector de Tremorel. How would a
man reason who was base enough to rob his friend of his wife, and
then see her poison her husband before his very eyes? We already
know that Tremorel hesitated a good while before deciding to commit
this crime. The logic of events, which fools call fatality, urged
him on. It is certain that he looked upon the murder in every point
of view, studied its results, and tried to find means to escape from
justice. All his acts were determined on long beforehand, and
neither immediate necessity nor unforeseen circumstances disturbed
his mind. The moment he had decided on the crime, he said to
himself: 'Grant that Bertha has been murdered; thanks to my
precautions, they think that I have been killed too; Laurence,
with whom I elope, writes a letter in which she announces her
suicide; I have money, what must I do?' The problem, it seems to
me, is fairly put in this way."
"Perfectly so," approved M. Plantat.
"Naturally, Tremorel would choose from among all the methods of
flight of which he had ever heard, or which he could imagine, that
which seemed to him the surest and most prompt. Did he meditate
leaving the country? That is more than probable. Only, as he was
not quite out of his senses, he saw that it was most difficult, in
a foreign country, to put justice off the track. If a man flies
from France to escape punishment, he acts absurdly. Fancy a man
and woman wandering about a country of whose language they are
ignorant; they attract attention at once, are observed, talked
about, followed. They do not make a purchase which is not remarked;
they cannot make any movement without exciting curiosity. The
further they go the greater their danger. If they choose to cross
the ocean and go to free America, they must go aboard a vessel; and
the moment they do that they may be considered as good as lost.
You might bet twenty to one they would find, on landing on the other
side, a detective on the pier armed with a warrant to arrest them.
I would engage to find a Frenchman in eight days, even in London,
unless he spoke pure enough English to pass for a citizen of the
United Kingdom. Such were Tremorel's reflections. He recollected
a thousand futile attempts, a hundred surprising adventures,
narrated by the papers; and it is certain that he gave up the idea
of going abroad."
"It's clear," cried M. Plantat, "perfectly plain and precise. We
must look for the fugitives in France."
"Yes," replied M. Lecoq. "Now let's find out where and how people
can hide themselves in France. Would it be in the provinces?
Evidently not. In Bordeaux, one of our largest cities, people stare
at a man who is not a Bordelais. The shopkeepers on the quays say
to their neighbors: 'Eh! do you know that man?' There are two
cities, however, where a man may pass unnoticed - Marseilles and
Lyons; but both of these are distant, and to reach them a long
journey must be risked - and nothing is so dangerous as the railway
since the telegraph was established. One can fly quickly, it's
true; but on entering a railway carriage a man shuts himself in,
and until he gets out of it he remains under the thumb of the
police. Tremorel knows all this as well as we do. We will put all
the large towns, including Lyons and Marseilles, out of the
"In short, it's impossible to hide in the provinces."
"Excuse me - there is one means; that is, simply to buy a modest
little place at a distance from towns and railways, and to go and
reside on it under a false name. But this excellent project is
quite above Tremorel's capacity, and requires preparatory steps
which he could not risk, watched as he was by his wife. The field
of investigation is thus much narrowed. Putting aside foreign
parts, the provinces, the cities, the country, Paris remains. It
is in Paris that we must look for Tremorel."
M. Lecoq spoke with the certainty and positiveness of a
mathematical professor; the old justice of the peace listened, as
do the professor's scholars. But he was already accustomed to the
detective's surprising clearness, and was no longer astonished.
During the four-and-twenty hours that he had been witnessing M.
Lecoq's calculations and gropings, he had seized the process and
almost appropriated it to himself. He found this method of
reasoning very simple, and could now explain to himself certain
exploits of the police which had hitherto seemed to him miraculous.
But M. Lecoq's "narrow field" of observation appeared still immense.
"Paris is a large place," observed the old justice.
M. Lecoq smiled loftily.
"Perhaps so; but it is mine. All Paris is under the eye of the
police, just as an ant is under that of the naturalist with his
microscope. How is it, you may ask, that Paris still holds so
many professional rogues? Ah, that is because we are hampered by
legal forms. The law compels us to use only polite weapons against
those to whom all weapons are serviceable. The courts tie our
hands. The rogues are clever, but be sure that our cleverness is
much greater than theirs."
"But," interrupted M. Plantat, "Tremorel is now outside the law;
we have the warrant."
"What matters it? Does the warrant give me the right to search any
house in which I may have reason to suppose he is hiding himself?
No. If I should go to the house of one of Hector's old friends he
would kick me out of doors. You must know that in France the police
have to contend not only with the rogues, but also with the honest
M. Lecoq always waxed warm on this subject; he felt a strong
resentment against the injustice practised on his profession.
Fortunately, at the moment when he was most excited, the black ball
suddenly caught his eye.
"The devil!" exclaimed he, "I was forgetting Hector."
M. Plantat, though listening patiently to his companion's indignant
utterances, could not help thinking of the murderer.
"You said that we must look for Tremorel in Paris," he remarked.
"And I said truly," responded M. Lecoq in a calmer tone. "I have
come to the conclusion that here, perhaps within two streets of
us, perhaps in the next house, the fugitives are hid. But let's go
on with our calculation of probabilities. Hector knows Paris too
well to hope to conceal himself even for a week in a hotel or
lodging-house; he knows these are too sharply watched by the police.
He had plenty of time before him, and so arranged to hire apartments
in some convenient house."
"He came to Paris three or four times some weeks ago."
"Then there's no longer any doubt about it. He hired some
apartments under a false name, paid in advance, and to-day he is
comfortably ensconced in his new residence."
M. Plantat seemed to feel extremely distressed at this.
"I know it only too well, Monsieur Lecoq," said he, sadly. "You
must be right. But is not the wretch thus securely hidden from us?
Must we wait till some accident reveals him to us? Can you search
one by one all the houses in Paris?"
The detective's nose wriggled under his gold spectacles, and the
justice of the peace, who observed it, and took it for a good sign,
felt all his hopes reviving in him.
"I've cudgelled my brain in vain - " he began.
"Pardon me," interrupted M. Lecoq. "Having hired apartments,
Tremorel naturally set about furnishing them."
"Of course he would furnish them sumptuously, both because he is
fond of luxury and has plenty of money, and because he couldn't
carry a young girl from a luxurious home to a garret. I'd wager
that they have as fine a drawing-room as that at Valfeuillu."
"Alas! How can that help us?"
"Peste! It helps us much, my dear friend, as you shall see. Hector,
as he wished for a good deal of expensive furniture, did not have
recourse to a broker; nor had he time to go to the Faubourg St.
Antoine. Therefore, he simply went to an upholsterer."
Some fashionable upholsterer - "
"No, he would have risked being recognized. It is clear that he
assumed a false name, the same in which he had hired his rooms. He
chose some shrewd and humble upholsterer, ordered his goods, made
sure that they would be delivered on a certain day, and paid for
M. Plantat could not repress a joyful exclamation; he began to see
M. Lecoq's drift.
"This merchant," pursued the latter, "must have retained his rich
customer in his memory, this customer who did not beat him down,
and paid cash. If he saw him again, he would recognize him."
"What an idea!" cried M. Plantat, delighted. "Let's get photographs
and portraits of Tremorel as quick as we can - let's send a man to
Orcival for them."
M. Lecoq smiled shrewdly and proceeded:
"Keep yourself easy; I have done what was necessary. I slipped
three of the count's cartes-de-visite in my pocket yesterday during
the inquest. This morning I took down, out of the directory, the
names of all the upholsterers in Paris, and made three lists of
them. At this moment three of my men, each with a list and a
photograph, are going from upholsterer to upholsterer showing them
the picture and asking them if they recognize it as the portrait of
one of their customers. If one of them answers 'yes,' we've got
"And we will get him!" cried the old man, pale with emotion.
"Not yet; don't shout victory too soon. It is possible that Hector
was prudent enough not to go to the upholsterer's himself. In this
case we are beaten in that direction. But no, he was not so sly
as that - "
M. Lecoq checked himself. Janouille, for the third time, opened
the door, and said, in a deep bass voice:
"Breakfast is ready."
Janouille was a remarkable cook; M. Plantat had ample experience of
the fact when he began upon her dishes. But he was not hungry, and
could not force himself to eat; he could not think of anything but
a plan which he had to propose to his host, and he had that
oppressive feeling which is experienced when one is about to do
something which has been decided on with hesitation and regret.
The detective, who, like all men of great activity, was a great
eater, vainly essayed to entertain his guest, and filled his glass
with the choicest Chateau Margaux; the old man sat silent and sad,
and only responded by monosyllables. He tried to speak out and to
struggle against the hesitation he felt. He did not think, when he
came, that he should have this reluctance; he had said to himself
that he would go in and explain himself. Did he fear to be
ridiculed? No. His passion was above the fear of sarcasm or irony.
And what did he risk? Nothing. Had not M. Lecoq already divined
the secret thoughts he dared not impart to him, and read his heart
from the first? He was reflecting thus when the door-bell rang.
Janouille went to the door, and speedily returned with the
announcement that Goulard begged to speak with M. Lecoq, and asked
if she should admit him.
The chains clanked and the locks scraped, and presently Goulard
made his appearance. He had donned his best clothes, with spotless
linen, and a very high collar. He was respectful, and stood as
stiffly as a well-drilled grenadier before his sergeant.
"What the deuce brought you here?" said M. Lecoq, sternly. "And
who dared to give you my address?
"Monsieur," said Goulard, visibly intimidated by his reception,
"please excuse me; I was sent by Doctor Gendron with this letter
for Monsieur Plantat."
"Oh," cried M. Plantat, "I asked the doctor, last evening, to let
me know the result of the autopsy, and not knowing where I should
put up, took the liberty of giving your address."
M. Lecoq took the letter and handed it to his guest. "Read it,
read it," said the latter. "There is nothing in it to conceal."
"All right; but come into the other room. Janouille, give this man
some breakfast. Make yourself at home, Goulard, and empty a bottle
to my health."
When the door of the other room was closed, M. Lecoq broke the seal
of the letter, and read:
"MY DEAR PLANTAT:
"You asked me for a word, so I scratch off a line or two which I
shall send to our sorcerer's - "
"Oh, ho," cried M. Lecoq. "Monsieur Gendron is too good, too
No matter, the compliment touched his heart. He resumed the letter:
"At three this morning we exhumed poor Sauvresy's body. I
certainly deplore the frightful circumstances of this worthy man's
death as much as anyone; but on the other hand, I cannot help
rejoicing at this excellent opportunity to test the efficacy of my
sensitive paper - "
"Confound these men of science," cried the indignant Plantat. "They
are all alike!"
"Why so? I can very well comprehend the doctor's involuntary
sensations. Am I not ravished when I encounter a fine crime?"
And without waiting for his guest's reply, he continued reading the
"The experiments promised, to be all the more conclusive as
aconitine is one, of those drugs which conceal themselves most
obstinately from analysis. I proceed thus: After heating the
suspected substances in twice their weight of alcohol, I drop the
liquid gently into a vase with edges a little elevated, at the
bottom of which is a piece of paper on which I have placed my tests.
If my paper retains its color, there is no poison; if it changes,
the poison is there. In this case my paper was of a light yellow
color, and if we were not mistaken, it ought either to become
covered with brown spots, or completely brown. I explained this
experiment beforehand to the judge of instruction and the experts
who were assisting me. Ah, my friend, what a success I had! When
the first drops of alcohol fell, the paper at once became a dark
brown; your suspicions are thus proved to be quite correct. The
substances which I submitted to the test were liberally saturated
with aconitine. I never obtained more decisive results in my
laboratory. I expect that my conclusions will be disputed in court;
but I have means of verifying them, so that I shall surely confound
all the chemists who oppose me. I think, my dear friend, that you
will not be indifferent to the satisfaction I feel - "
M. Plantat lost patience.
"This is unheard-of!" cried he. "Incredible! Would you say, now,
that this poison which he found in Sauvresy's body was stolen from
his own laboratory? Why, that body is nothing more to him than
'suspected matter!' And he already imagines himself discussing the
merits of his sensitive paper in court!"
"He has reason to look for antagonists in court."
"And meanwhile he makes his experiments, and analyzes with the
coolest blood in the world; he continues his abominable cooking,
boiling and filtering, and preparing his arguments - !"
M. Lecoq did not share in his friend's indignation; he was not sorry
at the prospect of a bitter struggle in court, and he imagined a
great scientific duel, like that between Orfila and Raspail, the
provincial and Parisian chemists.
"If Tremorel has the face to deny his part in Sauvresy's murder,"
said he, "we shall have a superb trial of it."
This word "trial" put an end to M. Plantat's long hesitation.
"We mustn't have any trial," cried he.
The old man's violence, from one who was usually so calm and
self-possessed, seemed to amaze M. Lecoq.
"Ah ha," thought he, "I'm going to know all." He added aloud:
"What, no trial?"
M. Plantat had turned whiter than a sheet; he was trembling, and
his voice was hoarse, as if broken by sobs.
"I would give my fortune," resumed he to avoid a trial - every
centime of it, though it doesn't amount to much. But how can we
secure this wretch Tremorel from a conviction? What subterfuge
shall we invent? You alone, my friend, can advise me in the
frightful extremity to which you see me reduced, and aid me to
accomplish what I wish. If there is any way in the world, you
will find it and save me - "
"But, my - "
"Pardon-hear me, and you will comprehend me. I am going to be frank
with you, as I would be with myself; and you will see the reason of
my hesitation, my silence, in short, of all my conduct since the
discovery of the crime."
"I am listening."
"It's a sad history, Lecoq. I had reached an age at which a man's
career is, as they say, finished, when I suddenly lost my wife and
my two sons, my whole joy, my whole hope in this world. I found
myself alone in life, more lost than the shipwrecked man in the
midst of the sea, without a plank to sustain me. I was a soulless
body, when chance brought me to settle down at Orcival. There I
saw Laurence; she was just fifteen, and never lived there a
creature who united in herself so much intelligence, grace,
innocence, and beauty. Courtois became my friend, and soon Laurence
was like a daughter to me. I doubtless loved her then, but I did
not confess it to myself, for I did not read my heart clearly. She
was so young, and I had gray hairs! I persuaded myself that my
love for her was like that of a father, and it was as a father that
she cherished me. Ah, I passed many a delicious hour listening to
her gentle prattle and her innocent confidences; I was happy when
I saw her skipping about in my garden, picking the roses I had
reared for her, and laying waste my parterres; and I said to
myself that existence is a precious gift from God. My dream then
was to follow her through life. I fancied her wedded to some
good man who made her happy, while I remained the friend of the
wife, after having been the confidant of the maiden. I took good
care of my fortune, which is considerable, because I thought of
her children, and wished to hoard up treasures for them. Poor,
M. Lecoq fidgeted in his chair, rubbed his face with his
handkerchief, and seemed ill at ease. He was really much more
touched than he wished to appear.
"One day," pursued the old man, "my friend Gourtois spoke to me of
her marriage with Tremorel; then I measured the depth of my love.
I felt terrible agonies which it is impossible to describe; it was
like a long-smothered fire which suddenly breaks forth and devours
everything. To be old, and to love a child! I thought I was
going crazy; I tried to reason, to upbraid myself, but it was of
no avail. What can reason or irony do against passion? I kept
silent and suffered. To crown all, Laurence selected me as her
confidant - what torture! She came to me to talk of Hector; she
admired in him all that seemed to her superior to other men, so
that none could be compared with him. She was enchanted with his
bold horseback riding, and thought everything he said sublime."
"Did you know what a wretch Tremorel was?"
"Alas, I did not yet know it. What was this man who lived at
Valfeuillu to me? But from the day that I learned that he was
going to deprive me of my most precious treasure, I began to
study him. I should have been somewhat consoled if I had found
him worthy of her; so I dogged him, as you, Monsieur Lecoq, cling
to the criminal whom you are pursuing. I went often to Paris to
learn what I could of his past life; I became a detective, and
went about questioning everybody who had known him, and the more
I heard of him the more I despised him. It was thus that I found
out his interviews with Jenny and his relations with Bertha."
"Why didn't you divulge them?"
"Honor commanded silence. Had I a right to dishonor my friend and
ruin his happiness and life, because of this ridiculous, hopeless
love? I kept my own counsel after speaking to Courtois about Jenny,
at which he only laughed. When I hinted something against Hector
to Laurence, she almost ceased coming to see me."
"Ah! I shouldn't have had either your patience or your generosity."
"Because you are not as old as I, Monsieur Lecoq. Oh, I cruelly
hated this Tremorel! I said to myself, when I saw three women of
such different characters smitten with him, 'what is there in him
to be so loved?'"
"Yes," answered M. Lecoq, responding to a secret thought, "women
often err; they don't judge men as we do."
"Many a time," resumed the justice of the peace, "I thought of
provoking him to fight with me, that I might kill him; but then
Laurence would not have looked at me any more. However, I should
perhaps have spoken at last, had not Sauvresy fallen ill and died.
I knew that he had made his wife and Tremorel swear to marry each
other; I knew that a terrible reason forced them to keep their
oath; and I thought Laurence saved. Alas, on the contrary she was
lost! One evening, as I was passing the mayor's house, I saw a
man getting over the wall into the garden; it was Tremorel. I
recognized him perfectly. I was beside myself with rage, and swore
that I would wait and murder him. I did wait, but he did not come
out that night."
M. Plantat hid his face in his bands; his heart bled at the
recollection of that night of anguish, the whole of which he had
passed in waiting for a man in order to kill him. M. Lecoq trembled
"This Tremorel," cried he, "is the most abominable of scoundrels.
There is no excuse for his infamies and crimes. And yet you want
to save him from trial, the galleys, the scaffold which await him."
The old man paused a moment before replying. Of the thoughts which
now crowded tumultuously in his mind, he did not know which to
utter first. Words seemed powerless to betray his sensations; he
wanted to express all that he felt in a single sentence.
"What matters Tremorel to me?" said he at last. "Do you think I
care about him? I don't care whether he lives or dies, whether he
succeeds in flying or ends his life some morning in the Place
"Then why have you such a horror of a trial?"
"Because - "
"Are you a friend to his family, and anxious to preserve the great
name which he has covered with mud and devoted to infamy?"
"No, but I am anxious for Laurence, my friend; the thought of her
never leaves me."
"But she is not his accomplice ; she is totally ignorant - there's
no doubt of it - that he has killed his wife."
"Yes," resumed M. Plantat, "Laurence is innocent; she is only the
victim of an odious villain. It is none the less true, though,
that she would be more cruelly punished than he. If Tremorel is
brought before the court, she will have to appear too, as a witness
if not as a prisoner. And who knows that her truth will not be
suspected? She will be asked whether she really had no knowledge
of the project to murder Bertha, and whether she did not encourage
it. Bertha was her rival; it were natural to suppose that she
hated her. If I were the judge I should not hesitate to include
Laurence in the indictment."
"With our aid she will prove victoriously that she was ignorant of
all, and has been outrageously deceived."
"May be; but will she be any the less dishonored and forever lost?
Must she not, in that case, appear in public, answer the judge's
questions, and narrate the story of her shame and misfortunes?
Must not she say where, when, and how she fell, and repeat the
villain's words to her? Can you imagine that of her own free will
she compelled herself to announce her suicide at the risk of
killing her parents with grief? No. Then she must explain what
menaces forced her to do this, which surely was not her own idea.
And worse than all, she will be compelled to confess her love for
"No," answered the detective. "Let us not exaggerate anything.
You know as well as I do that justice is most considerate with the
innocent victims of affairs of this sort."
"Consideration? Eh! Could justice protect her, even if it would,
from the publicity in which trials are conducted? You might touch
the magistrates' hearts; but there are fifty journalists who, since
this crime, have been cutting their pens and getting their paper
ready. Do you think that, to please us, they would suppress the
scandalous proceedings which I am anxious to avoid, and which the
noble name of the murderer would make a great sensation? Does not
this case unite every feature which gives success to judicial
dramas? Oh, there's nothing wanting, neither unworthy passion,
nor poison, nor vengeance, nor murder. Laurence represents in it
the romantic and sentimental element; she - my darling girl - will
become a heroine of the assizes; it is she who will attract the
readers of the Police Gazette; the reporters will tell when she
blushes and when she weeps; they will rival each other in describing
her toilet and bearing. Then there will be the photographers
besieging her, and if she refuses to sit, portraits of some hussy
of the street will be sold as hers. She will yearn to hide herself
- but where? Can a few locks and bars shelter her from eager
curiosity? She will become famous. What shame and misery! If she
is to be saved, Monsieur Lecoq, her name must not be spoken. I ask
of you, is it possible? Answer me."
The old man was very violent, yet his speech was simple, devoid of
the pompous phrases of passion. Anger lit up his eyes with a
strange fire; he seemed young again - he loved, and defended his
M. Lecoq was silent; his companion insisted.
"Why seek to mislead me? Haven't I as well as you had experience
in these things? If Tremorel is brought to trial, all is over with
Laurence: And I love her! Yes, I dare to confess it to you, and
let you see the depth of my grief, I love her now as I have never
loved her. She is dishonored, an object of contempt, perhaps still
adores this wretch - what matters it? I love her a thousand times
more than before her fall, for then I loved her without hope, while
now - "
He stopped, shocked at what he was going to say. His eyes fell
before M. Lecoq's steady gaze, and he blushed for this shameful yet
human hope that he had betrayed.
"You know all, now," resumed he, in a calmer tone; "consent to aid
me, won't you? Ah, if you only would, I should not think I had
repaid you were I to give you half my fortune - and I am rich - "
M. Lecoq stopped him with a haughty gesture.
"Enough, Monsieur Plantat," said he, in a bitter tone, "I can do a
service to a person whom I esteem, love and pity with all my soul;
but I cannot sell such a service."
"Believe that I did not wish - "
"Yes, yes, you wished to pay me. Oh, don't excuse yourself, don't
deny it. There are professions, I know, in which manhood and
integrity seem to count for nothing. Why offer me money? What
reason have you for judging me so mean as to sell my favors? You
are like the rest, who can't fancy what a man in my position is.
If I wanted to be rich - richer than you - I could be so in a
fortnight. Don't you see that I hold in my hands the honor and
lives of fifty people? Do you think I tell all I know? I have
here," added he, tapping his forehead, "twenty secrets that I could
sell to-morrow, if I would, for a plump hundred thousand apiece."
He was indignant, but beneath his anger a certain sad resignation
might be perceived. He had often to reject such offers.
"If you go and resist this prejudice established for ages, and say
that a detective is honest and cannot be otherwise, that he is
tenfold more honest than any merchant or notary, because he has
tenfold the temptations, without the benefits of his honesty; if
you say this, they'll laugh in your face. I could get together
to-morrow, with impunity, without any risk, at least a million.
Who would mistrust it? I have a conscience, it's true; but a
little consideration for these things would not be unpleasant.
When it would be so easy for me to divulge what I know of those
who have been obliged to trust me, or things which I have surprised,
there is perhaps a merit in holding my tongue. And still, the
first man who should come along to-morrow - a defaulting banker,
a ruined merchant, a notary who has gambled on change - would
feel himself compromised by walking up the boulevard with me! A
policeman - fie! But old Tabaret used to say to me, that the
contempt of such people was only one form of fear."
M. Plantat was dismayed. How could he, a man of delicacy, prudence
and finesse, have committed such an awkward mistake? He had just
cruelly wounded this man, who was so well disposed toward him, and
he had everything to fear from his resentment.
"Far be it from me, dear friend," he commenced, "to intend the
offence you imagine. You have misunderstood an insignificant
phrase, which I let escape carelessly, and had no meaning at all."
M. Lecoq grew calmer.
"Perhaps so. You will forgive my being so susceptible, as I am
more exposed to insults than most people. Let's leave the subject,
which is a painful one, and return to Tremorel."
M. Plantat was just thinking whether he should dare to broach his
projects again, and he was singularly touched by M. Lecoq's
delicately resuming the subject of them.
"I have only to await your decision," said the justice of the peace.
"I will not conceal from you," resumed M. Lecoq, "that you are
asking a very difficult thing, and one which is contrary to my duty,
which commands me to search for Tremorel, to arrest him, and deliver
him up to justice. You ask me to protect him from the law - "
"In the name of an innocent creature whom you will thereby save."
"Once in my life I sacrificed my duty. I could not resist the
tears of a poor old mother, who clung to my knees and implored
pardon for her son. To-day I am going to exceed my right, and to
risk an attempt for which my conscience will perhaps reproach me.
I yield to your entreaty."
"Oh, my dear Lecoq, how grateful I am!" cried M. Plantat,
transported with joy.
But the detective remained grave, almost sad, and reflected.
"Don't let us encourage a hope which may be disappointed," he
resumed. "I have but one means of keeping a criminal like Tremorei
out of the courts; will it succeed?"
"Yes, yes. If you wish it, it will!"
M. Lecoq could not help smiling at the old man's faith.
"I am certainly a clever detective," said he. "But I am only a man
after all, and I can't answer for the actions of another man. All
depends upon Hector. If it were another criminal, I should say I
was sure. I am doubtful about him, I frankly confess. We ought,
above all, to count upon the firmness of Mademoiselle Courtois ;
can we, think you?"
" She is firmness itself."
"Then there's hope. But can we really suppress this affair? What
will happen when Sauvresy's narrative is found? It must be
concealed somewhere in Valfeuillu, and Tremorel, at least, did not
"It will not be found," said M. Plantat, quickly.
"You think so?"
"I am sure of it."
M. Lecoq gazed intently at his companion, and simply said:
But this is what he thought: "At last I am going to find out where
the manuscript which we heard read the other night, and which is
in two handwritings, came from."
After a moment's hesitation, M. Plantat went on:
"I have put my life in your hands, Monsieur Lecoq; I can, of
course, confide my honor to you. I know you. I know that, happen
what may - "
"I shall keep my mouth shut, on my honor."
" Very Well. The day that I caught Tremorel at the mayor's, I
wished to verify the suspicions I had, and so I broke the seal of
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