Monsieur Lecoq, by Émile Gaboriau

XXI

So the landlady of the Hotel de Mariembourg had given May money. There could be no further doubt on that point after the purchase of this cigar. But had they agreed upon any plan? Had they had sufficient time to decide on the method that May was to employ with the view of baffling his pursuit?

It would seem so, since the fugitive’s manner had now changed in more respects than one. If hitherto he had seemed to care little for the danger of pursuit and capture, at present he was evidently uneasy and agitated. After walking so long in the full sunlight, with his head high in the air, he now slunk along in the shadow of the houses, hiding himself as much as possible.

“It is evident that his fears have increased in proportion with his hopes,” said Lecoq to his companion. “He was quite unnerved when we saw him at the Odeon, and the merest trifle would have decided him to surrender; now, however, he thinks he has a chance to escape with his secret.”

The fugitive was following the boulevards, but suddenly he turned into a side street and made his way toward the Temple, where, soon afterward, Father Absinthe and Lecoq found him conversing with one of those importunate dealers in cast-off garments who consider every passer-by their lawful prey. The vender and May were evidently debating a question of price; but the latter was plainly no skilful bargainer, for with a somewhat disappointed air he soon gave up the discussion and entered the shop.

“Ah, so now he has some coin he has determined on a costume,” remarked Lecoq. “Isn’t that always an escaped prisoner’s first impulse?”

Soon afterward May emerged into the street. His appearance was decidedly changed, for he wore a pair of dark blue linen trousers, of the type French “navvies” habitually affect, and a loosely fitting coat of rough woolen material. A gay silk ‘kerchief was knotted about his throat, and a black silk cap was set on one side of his head. Thus attired, he was scarcely more prepossessing in appearance than Lecoq, and one would have hesitated before deciding which of the two it would be preferable to meet at night on a deserted highway.

May seemed very well pleased with his transformation, and was evidently more at ease in his new attire. On leaving the shop, however, he glanced suspiciously around him, as if to ascertain which of the passers-by were watching his movements. He had not parted with his broadcloth suit, but was carrying it under his arm, wrapped up in a handkerchief. The only thing he had left behind him was his tall chimney-pot hat.

Lecoq would have liked to enter the shop and make some inquiries, but he felt that it would be imprudent to do so, for May had settled his cap on his head with a gesture that left no doubt as to his intentions. A second later he turned into the Rue du Temple, and now the chase began in earnest; for the fugitive proved as swift and agile as a stag, and it was no small task to keep him well in sight. He had no doubt lived in England and Germany, since he spoke the language of these countries like a native; but one thing was certain — he knew Paris as thoroughly as the most expert Parisian.

This was shown by the way in which he dashed into the Rue des Gravelliers, and by the precision of his course through the many winding streets that lie between the Rue du Temple and the Rue Beaubourg. He seemed to know this quarter of the capital by heart; as well, indeed, as if he had spent half his life there. He knew all the wine-shops communicating with two streets — all the byways, passages, and tortuous alleys. Twice he almost escaped his pursuers, and once his salvation hung upon a thread. If he had remained in an obscure corner, where he was completely hidden, only an instant longer, the two detectives would have passed him by and his safety would have been assured.

The pursuit presented immense difficulties. Night was coming on, and with it that light fog which almost invariably accompanies a spring sunset. Soon the street-lamps glimmered luridly in the mist, and then it required a keen eyesight indeed to see even for a moderate distance. And, to add to this drawback, the streets were now thronged with workmen returning home after their daily toil, and with housewives intent on purchasing provisions for the evening meal, while round about each dwelling there congregated its numerous denizens swarming like bees around a hive. May, however, took advantage of every opportunity to mislead the persons who might be following him. Groups collected around some cheap-jack’s stall, street accidents, a block of vehicles — everything was utilized by him with such marvelous presence of mind that he often glided through the crowd without leaving any sign of his passage.

At last he left the neighborhood of the Rue des Gravelliers and made for a broader street. Reaching the Boulevard de Sebastopol, he turned to the left, and took a fresh start. He darted on with marvelous rapidity, with his elbows pressed close to his body — husbanding his breath and timing his steps with the precision of a dancing-master. Never pausing, and without once turning his head, he ever hurried on. And it was at the same regular but rapid pace that he covered the Boulevard de Sebastopol, crossed the Place du Chatelet, and proceeded to mount the Boulevard Saint-Michel.

Here he suddenly halted before a cab-stand. He spoke to one of the drivers, opened the door of his vehicle, and jumped in. The cab started off at a rapid pace. But May was not inside. He had merely passed through the vehicle, getting out at the other door, and just as the driver was departing for an imaginary destination May slipped into an adjacent cab which left the stand at a gallop. Perhaps, after so many ruses, after such formidable efforts, after this last stratagem — perhaps May believed that he was free.

He was mistaken. Behind the cab which bore him onward, and while he leaned back against the cushions to rest, a man was running; and this man was Lecoq. Poor Father Absinthe had fallen by the way. In front of the Palais de Justice he paused, exhausted and breathless, and Lecoq had little hope of seeing him again, since he had all he could do to keep his man in sight without stopping to make the chalk-marks agreed upon.

May had instructed his driver to take him to the Place d’Italie: requesting him, moreover, to stop exactly in the middle of the square. This was about a hundred paces from the police station in which he had been temporarily confined with the Widow Chupin. When the vehicle halted, he sprang to the ground and cast a rapid glance around him, as if looking for some dreaded shadow. He could see nothing, however, for although surprised by the sudden stoppage, Lecoq had yet had time to fling himself flat on his stomach under the body of the cab, regardless of all danger of being crushed by the wheels. May was apparently reassured. He paid the cabman and then retraced his course toward the Rue Mouffetard.

With a bound, Lecoq was on his feet again, and started after the fugitive as eagerly as a ravenous dog might follow a bone. He had reached the shadow cast by the large trees in the outer boulevards when a faint whistle resounded in his ears. “Father Absinthe!” he exclaimed in a tone of delighted surprise.

“The same,” replied the old detective, “and quite rested, thanks to a passing cabman who picked me up and brought me here —”

“Oh, enough!” interrupted Lecoq. “Let us keep our eyes open.”

May was now walking quite leisurely. He stopped first before one and then before another of the numerous wine-shops and eating-houses that abound in this neighborhood. He was apparently looking for some one or something, which of the two Lecoq could not, of course, divine. However, after peering through the glass doors of three of these establishments and then turning away, the fugitive at last entered the fourth. The two detectives, who were enabled to obtain a good view of the shop inside, saw the supposed murderer cross the room and seat himself at a table where a man of unusually stalwart build, ruddy-faced and gray-whiskered, was already seated.

“The accomplice!” murmured Father Absinthe.

Was this really the redoubtable accomplice? Under other circumstances Lecoq would have hesitated to place dependence on a vague similarity in personal appearance; but here probabilities were so strongly in favor of Father Absinthe’s assertion that the young detective at once admitted its truth. Was not this meeting the logical sequence of May and Madame Milner’s chance interview a few hours before?

“May,” thought Lecoq, “began by taking all the money Madame Milner had about her, and then instructed her to tell his accomplice to come and wait for him in some cheap restaurant near here. If he hesitated and looked inside the different establishments, it was only because he hadn’t been able to specify any particular one. Now, if they don’t throw aside the mask, it will be because May is not sure he has eluded pursuit and because the accomplice fears that Madame Milner may have been followed.”

The accomplice, if this new personage was really the accomplice, had resorted to a disguise not unlike that which May and Lecoq had both adopted. He wore a dirty blue blouse and a hideous old slouch hat, which was well-nigh in tatters. He had, in fact, rather exaggerated his make-up, for his sinister physiognomy attracted especial attention even beside the depraved and ferocious faces of the other customers in the shop. For this low eating-house was a regular den of thieves and cut-throats. Among those present there were not four workmen really worthy of that name. The others occupied in eating and drinking there were all more or less familiar with prison life. The least to be dreaded were the barriere loafers, easily recognized by their glazed caps and their loosely-knotted neckerchiefs. The majority of the company appeared to consist of this class.

And yet May, that man who was so strongly suspected of belonging to the highest social sphere, seemed to be perfectly at home. He called for the regular “ordinary” and a “chopine” of wine, and then, after gulping down his soup, bolted great pieces of beef, pausing every now and then to wipe his mouth on the back of his sleeve. But was he conversing with his neighbor? This it was impossible to discern through the glass door, all obscured by smoke and steam.

“I must go in,” said Lecoq, resolutely. “I must get a place near them, and listen.”

“Don’t think of such a thing,” said Father Absinthe. “What if they recognized you?”

“They won’t recognize me.”

“If they do, they’ll kill you.”

Lecoq made a careless gesture.

“I certainly think that they wouldn’t hesitate to rid themselves of me at any cost. But, nonsense! A detective who is afraid to risk his life is no better than a low spy. Why! you never saw even Gevrol flinch.”

Perhaps Father Absinthe had wished to ascertain if his companion’s courage was equal to his shrewdness and sagacity. If such were the case he was satisfied on this score now.

“You, my friend, will remain here to follow them if they leave hurriedly,” resumed Lecoq, who in the mean while had already turned the handle of the door. Entering with a careless air and taking a seat at a table near that occupied by the fugitive and the man in the slouch hat, he called for a plate of meat and a “chopine” of wine in a guttural voice.

The fugitive and the ruffian opposite him were talking, but like strangers who had met by chance, and not at all after the fashion of friends who have met at a rendezvous. They spoke in the jargon of their pretended rank in life, not that puerile slang met with in romances descriptive of low life, but that obscene, vulgar dialect which it is impossible to render, so changeable and diverse is the signification of its words.

“What wonderful actors!” thought Lecoq; “what perfection! what method! How I should be deceived if I were not absolutely certain!”

For the moment the man in the slouch hat was giving a detailed account of the different prisons in France. He described the governors of the principal houses of detention; explained the divergencies of discipline in different establishments; and recounted that the food at Poissy was ten times better than that at Fontevrault.

Lecoq, having finished his repast, ordered a small glass of brandy, and, leaning his back against the wall and closing his eyes, pretended to fall asleep. His ears were wide open, however, and he carefully listened to the conversation.

Soon May began talking in his turn; and he narrated his story exactly as he had related it to the magistrate, from the murder up to his escape, without forgetting to mention the suspicions attached to his identity — suspicions which afforded him great amusement, he said. He added that he would be perfectly happy if he had money enough to take him back to Germany; but unfortunately he only had a few sous and didn’t know where or how to procure any more. He had not even succeeded in selling some clothing which belonged to him, and which he had with him in a bundle.

At these words the man in the tattered felt hat declared that he had too good a heart to leave a comrade in such embarrassment. He knew, in the very same street, an obliging dealer in such articles, and he offered to take May to his place at once. May’s only response was to rise, saying: “Let us start.” And they did start, with Lecoq at their heels.

They walked rapidly on until passing the Rue Fer-a-Moulin, when they turned into a narrow, dimly lighted alley, and entered a dingy dwelling.

“Run and ask the concierge if there are not two doors by which any one can leave this house,” said Lecoq, addressing Father Absinthe.

The latter instantly obeyed. He learned, however, that the house had only one street door, and accordingly the two detectives waited. “We are discovered!” murmured Lecoq. “I am sure of it. May must have recognized me, or the boy at the Hotel de Mariembourg has described me to the accomplice.”

Father Absinthe made no response, for just then the two men came out of the house. May was jingling some coins in his hand, and seemed to be in a very bad temper. “What infernal rascals these receivers are!” he grumbled.

However, although he had only received a small sum for his clothing, he probably felt that his companion’s kindness deserved some reward; for immediately afterward he proposed they should take a drink together, and with that object in view they entered a wine-shop close by. They remained here for more than an hour, drinking together; and only left this establishment to enter one a hundred paces distant. Turned out by the landlord, who was anxious to shut up, the two friends now took refuge in the next one they found open. Here again they were soon turned out and then they hurried to another boozing-den — and yet again to a fifth. And so, after drinking innumerable bottles of wine, they contrived to reach the Place Saint-Michel at about one o’clock in the morning. Here, however, they found nothing to drink; for all the wine-shops were closed.

The two men then held a consultation together, and, after a short discussion, they walked arm-in-arm toward the Faubourg Saint-Germain, like a pair of friends. The liquor they had imbibed was seemingly producing its effect, for they often staggered in their walk, and talked not merely loudly but both at the same time. In spite of the danger, Lecoq advanced near enough to catch some fragments of their conversation; and the words “a good stroke,” and “money enough to satisfy one,” reached his ears.

Father Absinthe’s confidence wavered. “All this will end badly,” he murmured.

“Don’t be alarmed,” replied his friend. “I frankly confess that I don’t understand the maneuvres of these wily confederates, but what does that matter after all; now the two men are together, I feel sure of success — sure. If one runs away, the other will remain, and Gevrol shall soon see which is right, he or I.”

Meanwhile the two drunkards had slackened their pace. By the manner in which they examined the magnificent mansions of the Faubourg Saint-German, one might have suspected them of the very worst intentions. In the Rue de Varrennes, at only a few steps from the Rue de la Chaise, they suddenly paused before a wall of moderate height surrounding an immense garden. The man in the slouch hat now did the talking, and explained to May — as the detectives could tell by his gestures — that the mansion to which the garden belonged had its front entrance in the Rue de Grenelle.

“Bah!” growled Lecoq, “how much further will they carry this nonsense?”

They carried it farther than the young detective had ever imagined. May suddenly sprang on to his companion’s shoulders, and raised himself to a level with the summit of the wall. An instant afterward a heavy thud might have been heard. He had let himself drop into the garden. The man in the slouch hat remained in the street to watch.

The enigmatical fugitive had accomplished this strange, inconceivable design so swiftly that Lecoq had neither the time nor the desire to oppose him. His amazement at this unexpected misfortune was so great that for, an instant he could neither think nor move. But he quickly regained his self-possession, and at once decided what was to be done. With a sure eye he measured the distance separating him from May’s accomplice, and with three bounds he was upon him. The man in the slouched hat attempted to shout, but an iron hand stifled the cry in his throat. He tried to escape, and to beat off his assailant, but a vigorous kick stretched him on the ground as if he had been a child. Before he had time to think of further resistance he was bound, gagged, and carried, half-suffocated, to the corner of the Rue de la Chaise. No sound had been heard; not a word, not an ejaculation, not even a noise of shuffling — nothing. Any suspicious sound might have reached May, on the other side of the wall, and warned him of what was going on.

“How strange,” murmured Father Absinthe, too much amazed to lend a helping hand to his younger colleague. “How strange! Who would have supposed —”

“Enough! enough!” interrupted Lecoq, in that harsh, imperious voice, which imminent peril always gives to energetic men. “Enough! — we will talk to-morrow. I must run away for a minute, and you will remain here. If May shows himself, capture him; don’t allow him to escape.”

“I understand; but what is to be done with the man who is lying there?”

“Leave him where he is. I have bound him securely, so there is nothing to fear. When the night-police pass, we will give him into charge —”

He paused and listened. A short way down the street, heavy, measured footsteps could be heard approaching.

“There they come,” said Father Absinthe.

“Ah! I dared not hope it! I shall have a good chance now.”

At the same moment, two sergeants de ville, whose attention had been attracted by this group at the street corner, hastened toward them. In a few words, Lecoq explained the situation, and it was decided that one of the sergeants should take the accomplice to the station-house, while the other remained with Father Absinthe to cut off May’s retreat.

“And now,” said Lecoq, “I will run round to the Rue de Grenelle and give the alarm. To whose house does this garden belong?”

“What!” replied one of the sergeants in surprise, “don’t you know the gardens of the Duke de Sairmeuse, the famous duke who is a millionaire ten times over, and who was formerly the friend —”

“Ah, yes, I know, I know!” said Lecoq.

“The thief,” resumed the sergeant, “walked into a pretty trap when he got over that wall. There was a reception at the mansion this evening, as there is every Monday, and every one in the house is still up. The guests are only just leaving, for there were five or six carriages still at the door as we passed by.”

Lecoq darted off extremely troubled by what he had just heard. It now seemed to him that if May had got into this garden, it was not for the purpose of committing a robbery, but in the hope of throwing his pursuers off the track, and making his escape by way of the Rue de Grenelle, which he hoped to do unnoticed, in the bustle and confusion attending the departure of the guests.

On reaching the Hotel de Sairmeuse, a princely dwelling, the long facade of which was brilliantly illuminated, Lecoq found a last carriage just coming from the courtyard, while several footmen were extinguishing the lights, and an imposing “Suisse,” dazzling to behold in his gorgeous livery, prepared to close the heavy double doors of the grand entrance.

The young detective advanced toward this important personage: “Is this the Hotel de Sairmeuse?” he inquired.

The Suisse suspended his work to survey the audacious vagabond who ventured to question him, and then in a harsh voice replied: “I advise you to pass on. I want none of your jesting.”

Lecoq had forgotten that he was clad as a barriere loafer. “Ah,” he rejoined, “I’m not what I seem to be. I’m an agent of the secret service; by name Lecoq. Here is my card, and I came to tell you that an escaped criminal has just scaled the garden wall in the rear of the Hotel de Sairmeuse.”

“A crim-in-al?”

The young detective thought a little exaggeration could do no harm, and might perhaps insure him more ready aid. “Yes,” he replied; “and one of the most dangerous kind — a man who has the blood of three victims already on his hands. We have just arrested his accomplice, who helped him over the wall.”

The flunky’s ruby nose paled perceptibly. “I will summon the servants,” he faltered, and suiting the action to the word, he was raising his hand to the bell-chain, employed to announce the arrival of visitors, when Lecoq hastily stopped him.

“A word first!” said he. “Might not the fugitive have passed through the house and escaped by this door, without being seen? In that case he would be far away by this time.”

“Impossible!”

“But why?”

“Excuse me, but I know what I am saying. First, the door opening into the garden is closed; it is only open during grand receptions, not for our ordinary Monday drawing-rooms. Secondly, Monseigneur requires me to stand on the threshold of the street door when he is receiving. To-day he repeated this order, and you may be sure that I haven’t disobeyed him.”

“Since that’s the case,” said Lecoq, slightly reassured, “we shall perhaps succeed in finding our man. Warn the servants, but without ringing the bell. The less noise we make, the greater will be our chance of success.”

In a moment the fifty servants who peopled the ante-rooms, stables, and kitchens of the Hotel de Sairmeuse were gathered together. The great lanterns in the coach houses and stables were lighted, and the entire garden was illuminated as by enchantment.

“If May is concealed here,” thought Lecoq, delighted to see so many auxiliaries, “it will be impossible for him to escape.”

But it was in vain that the gardens were thoroughly explored over and over again; no one could be found. The sheds where gardening tools were kept, the conservatories, the summer houses, the two rustic pavilions at the foot of the garden, even the dog kennels, were scrupulously visited, but all in vain. The trees, with the exception of some horse-chestnuts at the rear of the garden, were almost destitute of leaves, but they were not neglected on that account. An agile boy, armed with a lantern, climbed each tree, and explored even the topmost branches.

“The murderer must have left by the way he came,” obstinately repeated the Suisse who had armed himself with a huge pistol, and who would not let go his hold on Lecoq, fearing an accident perhaps.

To convince the Suisse of his error it was necessary for the young detective to place himself in communication with Father Absinthe and the sergeant de ville on the other side of the wall. As Lecoq had expected, the latter both replied that they had not once taken their eyes off the wall, and that not even a mouse had crossed into the street.

The exploration had hitherto been conducted after a somewhat haphazard fashion, each of the servants obeying his own inspiration; but the necessity of a methodically conducted search was now recognized. Accordingly, Lecoq took such measures that not a corner, not a recess, could possibly escape scrutiny; and he was dividing the task between his willing assistants, when a new-comer appeared upon the scene. This was a grave, smooth-faced individual in the attire of a notary.

“Monsieur Otto, Monseigneur’s first valet de chambre,” the Suisse murmured in Lecoq’s ear.

This important personage came on behalf of Monsieur le Duc (he did not say “Monseigneur”) to inquire the meaning of all this uproar. When he had received an explanation, M. Otto condescended to compliment Lecoq on his efficiency, and to recommend that the house should be searched from garret to cellar. These precautions alone would allay the fears of Madame la Duchesse.

He then departed, and the search began again with renewed ardor. A mouse concealed in the gardens of the Hotel de Sairmeuse could not have escaped discovery, so minute were the investigations. Not a single object of any size was left undisturbed. The trees were examined leaf by leaf, one might almost say. Occasionally the discouraged servants proposed to abandon the search; but Lecoq urged them on. He ran from one to the other, entreating and threatening by turns, swearing that he asked only one more effort, and that this effort would assuredly be crowned with success. Vain promises! The fugitive could not be found.

The evidence was now conclusive. To persist in searching the garden any longer would be worse than folly. Accordingly, the young detective decided to recall his auxiliaries. “That’s enough,” he said, in a despondent voice. “It is now certain that the criminal is no longer in the garden.”

Was he cowering in some corner of the great house, white with fear, and trembling at the noise made by his pursuers? One might reasonably suppose this to be the case; and such was the opinion of the servants. Above all, such was the opinion of the Suisse who renewed with growing assurance his affirmations of a few moments before.

“I have not moved from the threshold of the house to-night,” he said, “and I should certainly have seen any person who passed out.”

“Let us go into the house, then,” said Lecoq. “But first let me ask my companion, who is waiting for me in the street, to join me. It is unnecessary for him to remain any longer where he is.”

When Father Absinthe had responded to the summons all the lower doors were carefully closed and guarded, and the search recommenced inside the house, one of the largest and most magnificent residences of the Faubourg Saint-Germain. But at this moment all the treasures of the universe could not have won a single glance or a second’s attention from Lecoq. All his thoughts were occupied with the fugitive. He passed through several superb drawing-rooms, along an unrivaled picture gallery, across a magnificent dining-room, with sideboards groaning beneath their load of massive plate, without paying the slightest attention to the marvels of art and upholstery that were offered to his view. He hurried on, accompanied by the servants who were guiding and lighting him. He lifted heavy articles of furniture as easily as he would have lifted a feather; he moved each chair and sofa from its place, he explored each cupboard and wardrobe, and drew back in turns all the wall-hangings, window-curtains, and portieres. A more complete search would have been impossible. In each of the rooms and passages that Lecoq entered not a nook was left unexplored, not a corner was forgotten. At length, after two hours’ continuous work, Lecoq returned to the first floor. Only five or six servants had accompanied him on his tour of inspection. The others had dropped off one by one, weary of this adventure, which had at first possessed the attractions of a pleasure party.

“You have seen everything, gentlemen,” declared an old footman.

“Everything!” interrupted the Suisse, “everything! Certainly not. There are the private apartments of Monseigneur and those of Madame la Duchesse still to be explored.”

“Alas!” murmured Lecoq, “What good would it be?”

But the Suisse had already gone to rap gently at one of the doors opening into the hall. His interest equaled that of the detectives. They had seen the murderer enter; he had not seen him go out; therefore the man was in the house and he wished him to be found.

The door at which he had knocked soon opened, and the grave, clean-shaven face of Otto, the duke’s first valet de chambre, showed itself. “What the deuce do you want?” he asked in surly tones.

“To enter Monseigneur’s room,” replied the Suisse, “in order to see if the fugitive has not taken refuge there.”

“Are you crazy?” exclaimed the head valet de chambre. “How could any one have entered here? Besides, I can’t suffer Monsieur le Duc to be disturbed. He has been at work all night, and he is just going to take a bath before going to bed.”

The Suisse seemed very vexed at this rebuff; and Lecoq was presenting his excuses, when another voice was heard exclaiming. “Let these worthy men do their duty, Otto.”

“Ah! do you hear that!” exclaimed the Suisse triumphantly.

“Very well, since Monsieur le Duc permits it. Come in, I will light you through the apartments.”

Lecoq entered, but it was only for form’s sake that he walked through the different apartments; a library, an admirable study, and a charming smoking-room. As he was passing through the bed-chamber, he had the honor of seeing the Duc de Sairmeuse through the half-open door of a small, white, marble bath-room.

“Ah, well!” cried the duke, affably, “is the fugitive still invisible?”

“Still invisible, monsieur,” Lecoq respectfully replied.

The valet de chambre did not share his master’s good humor. “I think, gentlemen,” said he, “that you may spare yourselves the trouble of visiting the apartments of the duchess. It is a duty we have taken upon ourselves — the women and I— and we have looked even in the bureau drawers.”

Upon the landing the old footman, who had not ventured to enter his master’s apartments, was awaiting the detectives. He had doubtless received his orders, for he politely inquired if they desired anything, and if, after such a fatiguing night, they would not find some cold meat and a glass of wine acceptable. Father Absinthe’s eyes sparkled. He probably thought that in this royal abode they must have delicious things to eat and drink — such viands, indeed, as he had never tasted in his life. But Lecoq civilly refused, and left the Hotel de Sairmeuse, reluctantly followed by his old companion.

He was eager to be alone. For several hours he had been making immense efforts to conceal his rage and despair. May escaped! vanished! evaporated! The thought drove him almost mad. What he had declared to be impossible had nevertheless occurred. In his confidence and pride, he had sworn to answer for the prisoner’s head with his own life; and yet he had allowed him to slip between his fingers.

When he was once more in the street, he paused in front of Father Absinthe, and crossing his arms, inquired: “Well, my friend, what do you think of all this?”

The old detective shook his head, and in serene unconsciousness of his want of tact, responded: “I think that Gevrol will chuckle with delight.”

At this mention of his most cruel enemy, Lecoq bounded from the ground like a wounded bull. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “Gevrol has not won the battle yet. We have lost May; it is a great misfortune; but his accomplice remains in our hands. We hold the crafty man who has hitherto defeated all our plans, no matter how carefully arranged. He is certainly shrewd and devoted to his friend; but we will see if his devotion will withstand the prospect of hard labor in the penitentiary. And that is what awaits him, if he is silent, and if he thus accepts the responsibility of aiding and abetting the fugitive’s escape. Oh! I’ve no fears — M. Segmuller will know how to draw the truth out of him.”

So speaking, Lecoq brandished his clinched fist with a threatening air and then, in calmer tones, he added: “But we must go to the station-house where the accomplice was removed. I wish to question him a little.”

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