The Widow Lerouge, by Émile Gaboriau

Chapter XIV.

Old Tabaret did not consider himself defeated, because he had been repulsed by the investigating magistrate, already irritated by a long day’s examination. You may call it a fault, or an accomplishment; but the old man was more obstinate than a mule. To the excess of despair to which he succumbed in the passage outside the magistrate’s office, there soon succeeded that firm resolution which is the enthusiasm called forth by danger. The feeling of duty got the upper hand. Was it a time to yield to unworthy despair, when the life of a fellow-man depended on each minute? Inaction would be unpardonable. He had plunged an innocent man into the abyss; and he must draw him out, he alone, if no one would help him. Old Tabaret, as well as the magistrate, was greatly fatigued. On reaching the open air, he perceived that he, too, was in want of food. The emotions of the day had prevented him from feeling hungry; and, since the previous evening, he had not even taken a glass of water. He entered a restaurant on the Boulevard, and ordered dinner.

While eating, not only his courage, but also his confidence came insensibly back to him. It was with him, as with the rest of mankind; who knows how much one’s ideas may change, from the beginning to the end of a repast, be it ever so modest! A philosopher has plainly demonstrated that heroism is but an affair of the stomach.

The old fellow looked at the situation in a much less sombre light. He had plenty of time before him! A clever man could accomplish a great deal in a month! Would his usual penetration fail him now? Certainly not. His great regret was, his inability to let Albert know that some one was working for him.

He was entirely another man, as he rose from the table; and it was with a sprightly step that he walked towards the Rue St. Lazare. Nine o’clock struck as the concierge opened the door for him. He went at once up to the fourth floor to inquire after the health of his former friend, her whom he used to call the excellent, the worthy Madame Gerdy.

It was Noel who let him in, Noel, who had doubtless been thinking of the past, for he looked as sad as though the dying woman was really his mother.

In consequence of this unexpected circumstance, old Tabaret could not avoid going in for a few minutes, though he would much have preferred not doing so. He knew very well, that, being with the advocate, he would be unavoidably led to speak of the Lerouge case; and how could he do this, knowing, as he did, the particulars much better than his young friend himself, without betraying his secret? A single imprudent word might reveal the part he was playing in this sad drama. It was, above all others, from his dear Noel, now Viscount de Commarin, that he wished entirely to conceal his connection with the police.

But, on the other hand, he thirsted to know what had passed between the advocate and the count. His ignorance on this single point aroused his curiosity. However, as he could not withdraw he resolved to keep close watch upon his language and remain constantly on his guard.

The advocate ushered the old man into Madame Gerdy’s room. Her condition, since the afternoon, had changed a little; though it was impossible to say whether for the better or the worse. One thing was evident, her prostration was not so great. Her eyes still remained closed; but a slight quivering of the lids was evident. She constantly moved on her pillow, and moaned feebly.

“What does the doctor say?” asked old Tabaret, in that low voice one unconsciously employs in a sick room.

“He has just gone,” replied Noel; “before long all will be over.”

The old man advanced on tip-toe, and looked at the dying woman with evident emotion.

“Poor creature!” he murmured; “God is merciful in taking her. She perhaps suffers much; but what is this pain compared to what she would feel if she knew that her son, her true son, was in prison, accused of murder?”

“That is what I keep thinking,” said Noel, “to console myself for this sight. For I still love her, my old friend; I shall always regard her as a mother. You have heard me curse her, have you not? I have twice treated her very harshly. I thought I hated her; but now, at the moment of losing her, I forget every wrong she has done me, only to remember her tenderness. Yes, for her, death is far preferable! And yet I do not think, no, I cannot think her son guilty.”

“No! what, you too?”

Old Tabaret put so much warmth and vivacity into this exclamation, that Noel looked at him with astonishment. He felt his face grow red, and he hastened to explain himself. “I said, ‘you too,’” he continued, “because I, thanks perhaps to my inexperience, am persuaded also of this young man’s innocence. I cannot in the least imagine a man of his rank meditating and accomplishing so cowardly a crime. I have spoken with many persons on this matter which has made so much noise; and everybody is of my opinion. He has public opinion in his favor; that is already something.”

Seated near the bed, sufficiently far from the lamp to be in the shade, the nun hastily knitted stockings destined for the poor. It was a purely mechanical work, during which she usually prayed. But, since old Tabaret entered the room, she forgot her everlasting prayers whilst listening to the conversation. What did it all mean? Who could this woman be? And this young man who was not her son, and who yet called her mother, and at the same time spoke of a true son accused of being an assassin? Before this she had overheard mysterious remarks pass between Noel and the doctor. Into what strange house had she entered? She was a little afraid; and her conscience was sorely troubled. Was she not sinning? She resolved to tell all to the priest, when he returned.

“No,” said Noel, “no, M. Tabaret; Albert has not public opinion for him. We are sharper than that in France, as you know. When a poor devil is arrested, entirely innocent, perhaps, of the crime charged against him, we are always ready to throw stones at him. We keep all our pity for him, who, without doubt guilty, appears before the court of assize. As long as the justice hesitates, we side with the prosecution against the prisoner. The moment it is proved that the man is a villain, all our sympathies are in his favour. That is public opinion. You understand, however, that it affects me but little. I despise it to such an extent, that if, as I dare still hope, Albert is not released, I will defend him. Yes, I have told the Count de Commarin, my father, as much. I will be his counsel, and I will save him.”

Gladly would the old man have thrown himself on Noel’s neck. He longed to say to him: “We will save him together.” But he restrained himself. Would not the advocate despise him, if he told him his secret! He resolved, however, to reveal all should it become necessary, or should Albert’s position become worse. For the time being, he contented himself with strongly approving his young friend.

“Bravo! my boy,” said he; “you have a noble heart. I feared to see you spoiled by wealth and rank; pardon me. You will remain, I see, what you have always been in your more humble position. But, tell me, you have, then, seen your father, the count?”

Now, for the first time, Noel seemed to notice the nun’s eyes, which, lighted by eager curiosity, glittered in the shadow like carbuncles. With a look, he drew the old man’s attention to her, and said: “I have seen him; and everything is arranged to my satisfaction. I will tell you all, in detail, by-and-by, when we are more at ease. By this bedside, I am almost ashamed of my happiness.”

M. Tabaret was obliged to content himself with this reply and this promise. Seeing that he would learn nothing that evening, he spoke of going to bed, declaring himself tired out by what he had had to do during the day. Noel did not ask him to stop. He was expecting, he said, Madame Gerdy’s brother, who had been sent for several times, but who was not at home. He hardly knew how he could again meet this brother, he added: he did not yet know what conduct he ought to pursue. Should he tell him all? It would only increase his grief. On the other hand, silence would oblige him to play a difficult part. The old man advised him to say nothing; he could explain all later on.

“What a fine fellow Noel is!” murmured old Tabaret, as he regained his apartments as quietly as possible. He had been absent from home twenty-four hours; and he fully expected a formidable scene with his housekeeper. Mannette was decidedly out of temper, and declared once for all, that she would certainly seek a new place if her master did not change his conduct.

She had remained up all night, in a terrible fright, listening to the least sound on the stairs, expecting every moment to see her master brought home on a litter, assassinated. There had been great commotion in the house. M. Gerdy had gone down a short time after her master, and she had seen him return two hours later. After that, they had sent for the doctor. Such goings on would be the death of her, without counting that her constitution was too weak to allow her to sit up so late. But Mannette forgot that she did not sit up on her master’s account nor on Noel’s but was expecting one of her old friends, one of those handsome Gardes de Paris who had promised to marry her, and for whom she had waited in vain, the rascal!

She burst forth in reproaches, while she prepared her master’s bed, too sincere, she declared, to keep anything on her mind, or to keep her mouth closed, when it was a question of his health and reputation. M. Tabaret made no reply, not being in the mood for argument. He bent his head to the storm, and turned his back to the hail. But, as soon as Mannette had finished what she was about, he put her out of the room, and double locked the door.

He busied himself in forming a new line of battle, and in deciding upon prompt and active measures. He rapidly examined the situation. Had he been deceived in his investigations? No. Were his calculations of probabilities erroneous? No. He had started with a positive fact, the murder. He had discovered the particulars; his inferences were correct, and the criminal was evidently such as he had described him. The man M. Daburon had had arrested could not be the criminal. His confidence in a judicial axiom had led him astray, when he pointed to Albert.

“That,” thought he, “is the result of following accepted opinions and those absurd phrases, all ready to hand, which are like mile-stones along a fool’s road! Left free to my own inspirations, I should have examined this case more thoroughly, I would have left nothing to chance. The formula, ‘Seek out the one whom the crime benefits’ may often be as absurd as true. The heirs of a man assassinated are in reality all benefited by the murder; while the assassin obtains at most the victim’s watch and purse. Three persons were interested in Widow Lerouge’s death:— Albert, Madame Gerdy, and the Count de Commarin. It is plain to me that Albert is not the criminal. It is not Madame Gerdy, who is dying from the shock caused by the unexpected announcement of the crime. There remains, then, the Count. Can it be he? If so, he certainly did not do it himself. He must have hired some wretch, a wretch of good position, if you please, wearing patent leather boots of a good make, and smoking trabucos cigars with an amber mouth-piece. These well-dressed villains ordinarily lack nerve. They cheat, they forge; but they don’t assassinate. Supposing, though, that the count did get hold of some dare-devil fellow. He would simply have replaced one accomplice by another still more dangerous. That would be idiotic, and the count is a sensible man. He, therefore, had nothing whatever to do with the matter. To be quite sure though, I will make some inquiries about him. Another thing, Widow Lerouge, who so readily exchanged the children while nursing them, would be very likely to undertake a number of other dangerous commissions. Who can say that she has not obliged other persons who had an equal interest in getting rid of her? There is a secret, I am getting at it, but I do not hold it yet. One thing is certain though, she was not assassinated to prevent Noel recovering his rights. She must have been suppressed for some analogous reason, by a bold and experienced scoundrel, prompted by similar motives to those of which I suspected Albert. It is, then, in that direction that I must follow up the case now. And, above all, I must obtain the past history of this obliging widow, and I will have it too, for in all probability the particulars which have been written for from her birthplace will arrive tomorrow.”

Returning to Albert, old Tabaret weighed the charges which were brought against the young man, and reckoned the chances which he still had in favour of his release.

“From the look of things,” he murmured, “I see only luck and myself, that is to say absolutely nothing, in his favor at present. As to the charges, they are countless. However, it is no use going over them. It is I who amassed them; and I know what they are worth! At once everything and nothing. What do signs prove, however striking they may be, in cases where one ought to disbelieve even the evidence of one’s own senses? Albert is a victim of the most remarkable coincidences; but one word might explain them. There have been many such cases. It was even worse in the matter of the little tailor. At five o’clock, he bought a knife, which he showed to ten of his friends, saying, ‘This is for my wife, who is an idle jade, and plays me false with my workmen.’ In the evening, the neighbours heard a terrible quarrel between the couple, cries, threats, stampings, blows; then suddenly all was quiet. The next day, the tailor had disappeared from his home, and the wife was discovered dead, with the very same knife buried to the hilt between her shoulders. Ah, well! it turned out it was not the husband who had stuck it there; it was a jealous lover. After that, what is to be believed? Albert, it is true, will not give an account of how he passed Tuesday evening. That does not affect me. The question for me is not to prove where he was, but that he was not at La Jonchere. Perhaps, after all, Gevrol is on the right track. I hope so, from the bottom of my heart. Yes; God grant that he may be successful. My vanity and my mad presumption will deserve the slight punishment of his triumph over me. What would I not give to establish this man’s innocence? Half of my fortune would be but a small sacrifice. If I should not succeed! If, after having caused the evil, I should find myself powerless to undo it!”

Old Tabaret went to bed, shuddering at this last thought. He fell asleep, and had a terrible nightmare. Lost in that vulgar crowd, which, on the days when society revenges itself, presses about the Place de la Rouquette and watches the last convulsions of one condemned to death, he attended Albert’s execution. He saw the unhappy man, his hands bound behind his back, his collar turned down, ascend, supported by a priest, the steep flight of steps leading on to the scaffold. He saw him standing upon the fatal platform, turning his proud gaze upon the terrified assembly beneath him. Soon the eyes of the condemned man met his own; and, bursting his cords, he pointed him, Tabaret, out to the crowd, crying, in a loud voice: “That man is my assassin.” Then a great clamour arose to curse the detective. He wished to escape; but his feet seemed fixed to the ground. He tried at least to close his eyes; he could not. A power unknown and irresistible compelled him to look. Then Albert again cried out: “I am innocent; the guilty one is ——” He pronounced a name; the crowd repeated this name, and he alone did not catch what it was. At last the head of the condemned man fell.

M. Tabaret uttered a loud cry, and awoke in a cold perspiration. It took him some time to convince himself that nothing was real of what he had just heard and seen, and that he was actually in his own house, in his own bed. It was only a dream! But dreams sometimes are, they say, warnings from heaven. His imagination was so struck with what had just happened that he made unheard of efforts to recall the name pronounced by Albert. Not succeeding, he got up and lighted his candle. The darkness made him afraid, the night was full of phantoms. It was no longer with him a question of sleep. Beset with these anxieties, he accused himself most severely, and harshly reproached himself for the occupation he had until then so delighted in. Poor humanity!

He was evidently stark mad the day when he first had the idea of seeking employment in the Rue de Jerusalem. A noble hobby, truly, for a man of his age, a good quiet citizen of Paris, rich, and esteemed by all! And to think that he had been proud of his exploits, that he had boasted of his cunning, that he had plumed himself on his keenness of scent, that he had been flattered by that ridiculous sobriquet, “Tirauclair.” Old fool! What could he hope to gain from that bloodhound calling? All sorts of annoyance, the contempt of the world, without counting the danger of contributing to the conviction of an innocent man. Why had he not taken warning by the little tailor’s case.

Recalling his few satisfactions of the past, and comparing them with his present anguish, he resolved that he would have no more to do with it. Albert once saved, he would seek some less dangerous amusement, and one more generally appreciated. He would break the connection of which he was ashamed, and the police and justice might get on the best they could without him.

At last the day, which he had awaited with feverish impatience, dawned. To pass the time, he dressed himself slowly, with much care, trying to occupy his mind with needless details, and to deceive himself as to the time by looking constantly at the clock, to see if it had not stopped. In spite of all this delay, it was not eight o’clock when he presented himself at the magistrate’s house, begging him to excuse, on account of the importance of his business, a visit too early not to be indiscreet.

Excuses were superfluous. M. Daburon was never disturbed by a call at eight o’clock in the morning. He was already at work. He received the old amateur detective with his usual kindness, and even joked with him a little about his excitement of the previous evening. Who would have thought his nerves were so sensitive? Doubtless the night had brought deliberation. Had he recovered his reason? or had he put his hand on the true criminal?

This trifling tone in a magistrate, who was accused of being grave even to a fault, troubled the old man. Did not this quizzing hide a determination not to be influenced by anything that he could say? He believed it did; and it was without the least deception that he commenced his pleading.

He put the case more calmly this time, but with all the energy of a well-digested conviction. He had appealed to the heart, he now appealed to reason; but, although doubt is essentially contagious, he neither succeeded in convincing the magistrate, nor in shaking his opinion. His strongest arguments were of no more avail against M. Daburon’s absolute conviction than bullets made of bread crumbs would be against a breastplate. And there was nothing very surprising in that.

Old Tabaret had on his side only a subtle theory, mere words; M. Daburon possessed palpable testimony, facts. And such was the peculiarity of the case, that all the reasons brought forward by the old man to justify Albert simply reacted against him, and confirmed his guilt.

A repulse at the magistrate’s hands had entered too much into M. Tabaret’s anticipations for him to appear troubled or discouraged. He declared that, for the present, he would insist no more; he had full confidence in the magistrate’s wisdom and impartiality. All he wished was to put him on his guard against the presumptions which he himself unfortunately had taken such pains to inspire.

He was going, he added, to busy himself with obtaining more information. They were only at the beginning of the investigation; and they were still ignorant of very many things, even of Widow Lerouge’s past life. More facts might come to light. Who knew what testimony the man with the earrings, who was being pursued by Gevrol, might give? Though in a great rage internally, and longing to insult and chastise he whom he inwardly styled a “fool of a magistrate,” old Tabaret forced himself to be humble and polite. He wished, he said, to keep well posted up in the different phases of the investigation, and to be informed of the result of future interrogations. He ended by asking permission to communicate with Albert, He thought his services deserved this slight favour. He desired an interview of only ten minutes without witnesses.

M. Daburon refused this request. He declared, that, for the present, the prisoner must continue to remain strictly in solitary confinement. By way of consolation, he added that, in three or four days, he might perhaps be able to reconsider this decision, as the motives which prompted it would then no longer exist.

“Your refusal is cruel, sir,” said M. Tabaret; “but I understand it, and submit.”

That was his only complaint: and he withdrew almost immediately, fearing that he could no longer master his indignation. He felt that, besides the great happiness of saving an innocent man, compromised by his imprudence, he would experience unspeakable delight in avenging himself for the magistrate’s obstinacy.

“Three or four days,” he muttered, “that is the same as three or four years to the unfortunate prisoner. He takes things quite at his ease, this charming magistrate. But I must find out the real truth of the case between now and then.”

Yes, M. Daburon only required three or four days to wring a confession from Albert, or at least to make him abandon his system of defence.

The difficulty of the prosecution was not being able to produce any witness who had seen the prisoner during the evening of Shrove Tuesday.

One deposition alone to that effect would have such great weight, that M. Daburon, as soon as Tabaret had left him, turned all his attention in that direction. He could still hope for a great deal. It was only Saturday, the day of the murder was remarkable enough to fix people’s memories, and up till then there had not been time to start a proper investigation.

He arranged for five of the most experienced detectives in the secret service to be sent to Bougival, supplied with photographs of the prisoner. They were to scour the entire country between Rueil and La Jonchere, to inquire everywhere, and make the most minute investigations. The photographs would greatly aid their efforts. They had orders to show them everywhere and to everybody and even to leave a dozen about the neighbourhood, as they were furnished with a sufficient number to do so. It was impossible, that, on an evening when so many people were about, no one had noticed the original of the portrait either at the railway station at Rueil or upon one of the roads which lead to La Jonchere, the high road, and the path by the river.

These arrangements made, the investigating magistrate proceeded to the Palais de Justice, and sent for Albert. He had already in the morning received a report, informing him hour by hour of the acts, gestures, and utterances of the prisoner, who had been carefully watched. Nothing in him, the report said, betrayed the criminal. He seemed very sad, but not despairing. He had not cried out, nor threatened, nor cursed justice, nor even spoken of a fatal error. After eating lightly, he had gone to the window of his cell, and had there remained standing for more than an hour. Then he laid down, and had quietly gone to sleep.

“What an iron constitution!” thought M. Daburon, when the prisoner entered his office.

Albert was no longer the despairing man who, the night before, bewildered with the multiplicity of charges, surprised by the rapidity with which they were brought against him, had writhed beneath the magistrate’s gaze, and appeared ready to succumb. Innocent or guilty, he had made up his mind how to act; his face left no doubt of that. His eyes expressed that cold resolution of a sacrifice freely made, and a certain haughtiness which might be taken for disdain, but which expressed the noble resentment of an injured man. In him could be seen the self-reliant man, who might be shaken but never overcome by misfortune.

On beholding him, the magistrate understood that he would have to change his mode of attack. He recognized one of those natures which are provoked to resistance when assailed, and strengthened when menaced. He therefore gave up his former tactics, and attempted to move him by kindness. It was a hackneyed trick, but almost always successful, like certain pathetic scenes at theatres. The criminal who has girt up his energy to sustain the shock of intimidation, finds himself without defence against the wheedling of kindness, the greater in proportion to its lack of sincerity. Now M. Daburon excelled in producing affecting scenes. What confessions he had obtained with a few tears! No one knew so well as he how to touch those old chords which vibrate still even in the most corrupt hearts: honour, love, and family ties.

With Albert, he became kind and friendly, and full of the liveliest compassion. Unfortunate man! how greatly he must suffer, he whose whole life had been like one long enchantment. How at a single blow everything about him had fallen in ruins. Who could have foreseen all this at the time when he was the one hope of a wealthy and illustrious house! Recalling the past, the magistrate pictured to him the most touching reminiscences of his early youth, and stirred up the ashes of all his extinct affections. Taking advantage of all that he knew of the prisoner’s life, he tortured him by the most mournful allusions to Claire. Why did he persist in bearing alone his great misfortune? Had he no one in the world who would deem it happiness to share his sufferings? Why this morose silence? Should he not rather hasten to reassure her whose very life depended upon his? What was necessary for that? A single word. Then he would be, if not free, at least returned to the world. His prison would become a habitable abode, no more solitary confinement; his friends would visit him, he might receive whomsoever he wished to see.

It was no longer the magistrate who spoke; it was a father, who, no matter what happens, always keeps in the recesses of his heart, the greatest indulgence for his child.

M. Daburon did even more. For a moment he imagined himself in Albert’s position. What would he have done after the terrible revelation? He scarcely dared ask himself. He understood the motive which prompted the murder of Widow Lerouge; he could explain it to himself; he could almost excuse it. (Another trap.) It was certainly a great crime, but in no way revolting to conscience or to reason. It was one of those crimes which society might, if not forget, at least forgive up to a certain point, because the motive was not a shameful one. What tribunal would fail to find extenuating circumstances for a moment of frenzy so excusable. Besides was not the Count de Commarin the more guilty of the two? Was it not his folly that prepared the way for this terrible event? His son was the victim of fatality, and was in the highest degree to be pitied.

M. Daburon spoke for a long time upon this text, seeking those things most suitable in his opinion to soften the hardened heart of an assassin. And he arrived always at the same conclusion — the wisdom of confessing. But he wasted his eloquence precisely as M. Tabaret had wasted his. Albert appeared in no way affected. His answers were of the shortest. He began and ended as on the first occasion, by protesting his innocence.

One test, which has often given the desired result, still remained to be tried.

On this same day, Saturday, Albert was confronted with the corpse of Widow Lerouge. He appeared impressed by the sad sight, but no more than anyone would be, if forced to look at the victim of an assassination four days after the crime. One of the bystanders having exclaimed: “Ah, if she could but speak!” he replied: “That would be very fortunate for me.”

Since morning, M. Daburon had not gained the least advantage. He had had to acknowledge the failure of his manoeuvres; and now this last attempt had not succeeded either. The prisoner’s continued calmness filled to overflowing the exasperation of this man so sure of his guilt. His spite was evident to all, when, suddenly ceasing his wheedling, he harshly gave the order to re-conduct the prisoner to his cell.

“I will compel him to confess!” he muttered between his teeth.

Perhaps he regretted those gentle instruments of investigation of the middle ages, which compelled the prisoner to say whatever one wished to hear. Never, thought he, did any one ever meet a culprit like this. What could he reasonably hope for from his system of persistent denial? This obstinacy, absurd in the presence of such absolute proofs, drove the magistrate into a rage. Had Albert confessed his guilt, he would have found M. Daburon disposed to pity him; but as he denied it, he opposed himself to an implacable enemy.

It was the very falseness of the situation which misled and blinded this magistrate, naturally so kind and generous. Having previously wished Albert innocent, he now absolutely longed to prove him guilty, and that for a hundred reasons which he was unable to analyze. He remembered, too well, his having had the Viscount de Commarin for a rival, and his having nearly assassinated him. Had he not repented even to remorse his having signed the warrant of arrest, and his having accepted the duty of investigating the case. Old Tabaret’s incomprehensible change of opinion troubled him, too.

All these feelings combined, inspired M. Daburon with a feverish hatred, and urged him on in the path which he had chosen. It was now less the proofs of Albert’s guilt which he sought for than the justification of his own conduct as magistrate. The investigation became embittered like a personal matter.

In fact, were the prisoner innocent, he would become inexcusable in his own eyes; and, in proportion as he reproached himself the more severely, and as the knowledge of his own failings grew, he felt the more disposed to try everything to conquer his former rival, even to abusing his own power. The logic of events urged him on. It seemed as though his honour itself was at stake; and he displayed a passionate activity, such as he had never before been known to show in any investigation.

M. Daburon passed all Sunday in listening to the reports of the detectives he had sent to Bougival.

They had spared no trouble, they stated, but they could report nothing new.

They had heard many people speak of a woman, who pretended, they said, to have seen the assassin leave Widow Lerouge’s cottage; but no one had been able to point this woman out to them, or even to give them her name.

They all thought it their duty, however, to inform the magistrate that another inquiry was going on at the same time as theirs. It was directed by M. Tabaret, who personally scoured the country round about in a cabriolet drawn by a very swift horse. He must have acted with great promptness; for, no matter where they went, he had been there before them. He appeared to have under his orders a dozen men, four of whom at least certainly belonged to the Rue de Jerusalem. All the detectives had met him; and he had spoken to them. To one, he had said: “What the deuce are you showing this photograph for? In less than no time you will have a crowd of witnesses, who, to earn three francs, will describe some one more like the portrait than the portrait itself.”

He had met another on the high-road, and had laughed at him.

“You are a simple fellow,” he cried out, “to hunt for a hiding man on the high-way; look a little aside, and you may find him.”

Again he had accosted two who were together in a cafe at Bougival, and had taken them aside.

“I have him,” he said to them. “He is a smart fellow; he came by Chatois. Three people have seen him — two railway porters and a third person whose testimony will be decisive, for she spoke to him. He was smoking.”

M. Daburon became so angry with old Tabaret, that he immediately started for Bougival, firmly resolved to bring the too zealous man back to Paris, and to report his conduct in the proper quarter. The journey, however, was useless. M. Tabaret, the cabriolet, the swift horse, and the twelve men had all disappeared, or at least were not to be found.

On returning home, greatly fatigued, and very much out of temper, the investigating magistrate found the following telegram from the chief of the detective force awaiting him; it was brief, but to the point:

“ROUEN, Sunday.

“The man is found. This evening we start for Paris. The most valuable testimony. GEVROL.”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38