Part 3 out of 7
zeal was inspired; he found himself before a great crime - one of
those crimes which triple the sale of the Gazette of the Courts.
Doubtless many of its details escaped him: he was ignorant of the
starting-point; but he saw the way clearing before him. He had
surprised Plantat's theory, and had followed the train of his
thought step by step; thus he discovered the complications of the
crime which seemed so simple to M. Domini. His subtle mind had
connected together all the circumstances which had been disclosed
to him during the day, and now he sincerely admired the old
justice of the peace. As he gazed at his beloved portrait, he
thought, "Between the two of us - this old fox and I - we will
unravel the whole web." He would not, however, show himself to be
inferior to his companion.
"Monsieur," said he, "while you were questioning this rogue, who
will be very useful to us, I did not lose any time. I've been
looking about, under the furniture and so on, and have found this
slip of paper."
"It is the envelope of the young lady's letter. Do you know where
her aunt, whom she was visiting, lives?"
"At Fontainebleau, I believe."
"Ah; well, this envelope is stamped 'Paris,' Saint-Lazare branch
post-office. I know this stamp proves nothing - "
"It is, of course, an indication."
"That is not all; I have read the letter itself - it was here on
M. Plantat frowned involuntarily.
"It was, perhaps, a liberty," resumed M. Lecoq, "but the end
justifies the means. Well, you have read this letter; but have you
studied it, examined the hand-writing, weighed the words, remarked
the context of the sentences?"
"Ah," cried Plantat, "I was not mistaken then - you had the same
idea strike you that occurred to me!"
And, in the energy of his excitement he seized the detective's hands
and pressed them as if he were an old friend. They were about to
resume talking when a step was heard on the staircase; and presently
Dr. Gendron appeared.
Courtois is better," said he, "he is in a doze, and will recover."
"We have nothing more, then, to keep us here," returned M. Plantat.
"Let's be off. Monsieur Lecoq must be half dead with hunger."
As they went away, M. Lecoq slipped Laurence's letter, with the
envelope, into his pocket.
M. Plantat's house was small and narrow; a philosopher's house.
Three large rooms on the ground-floor, four chambers in the first
story, an attic under the roof for the servants, composed all its
apartments. Everywhere the carelessness of a man who has withdrawn
from the world into himself, for years, ceasing to have the least
interest in the objects which surround him, was apparent. The
furniture was shabby, though it had been elegant; the mouldings
had come off, the clocks had ceased to keep time, the chairs showed
the stuffing of their cushions, the curtains, in places, were faded
by the sun. The library alone betrayed a daily care and attention.
Long rows of books in calf and gilt were ranged on the carved oaken
shelves, a movable table near the fireplace contained M. Plantat's
favorite books, the discreet friends of his solitude. A spacious
conservatory, fitted with every accessory and convenience, was his
only luxury. In it flourished one hundred and thirty-seven
varieties of briars.
Two servants, the widow Petit, cook and house-keeper, and Louis,
gardener, inhabited the house. If they did not make it a noisy one,
it was because Plantat, who talked little, detested also to hear
others talk. Silence was there a despotic law. It was very hard
for Mme. Petit, especially at first. She was very talkative, so
talkative that when she found no one to chat with, she went to
confession; to confess was to chat. She came near leaving the place
twenty times; but the thought of an assured pension restrained her.
Gradually she became accustomed to govern her tongue, and to this
cloistral silence. But she revenged herself outside for the
privations of the household, and regained among the neighbors the
time lost at home.
She was very much wrought up on the day of the murder. At eleven
o'clock, after going out for news, she had prepared monsieur's
dinner; but he did not appear. She waited one, two hours, five
hours, keeping her water boiling for the eggs; no monsieur. She
wanted to send Louis to look for him, but Louis being a poor talker
and not curious, asked her to go herself. The house was besieged
by the female neighbors, who, thinking that Mme. Petit ought to be
well posted, came for news; no news to give.
Toward five o'clock, giving up all thought of breakfast, she began
to prepare for dinner. But when the village bell struck eight
o'clock, monsieur had not made his appearance. At nine, the good
woman was beside herself, and began to scold Louis, who had just
come in from watering the garden, and, seated at the kitchen table,
was soberly eating a plate of soup.
The bell rung.
"Ah, there's monsieur, at last."
No, it was not monsieur, but a little boy, whom M. Plantat had sent
from Valfeuillu to apprise Mme. Petit that he would soon return,
bringing with him two guests who would dine and sleep at the house.
The worthy woman nearly fainted. It was the first time that M.
Plantat had invited anyone to dinner for five years. There was
some mystery at the bottom of it - so thought Mme. Petit, and her
anger doubled with her curiosity.
"To order a dinner at this hour," she grumbled. "Has he got
common-sense, then?" But reflecting that time pressed, she
"Go along, Louis; this is not the moment for two feet to stay in
one shoe. Hurry up, and wring three chickens' heads; see if there
ain't some ripe grapes in the conservatory; bring on some preserves;
fetch some wine from the cellar!" The dinner was well advanced
when the bell rung again. This time Baptiste appeared, in exceeding
bad humor, bearing M. Lecoq's night-gown.
"See here," said he to the cook, "what the person, who is with your
master, gave me to bring here."
"How do I know? He's a spy sent down from Paris about this
Valfeuillu affair; not much good, probably - ill-bred-a brute - and
"But he's not alone with monsieur?"
"No; Doctor Gendron is with them."
Mme. Petit burned to get some news out of Baptiste; but Baptiste
also burned to get back and know what was taking place at his
master's - so off he went, without having left any news behind.
An hour or more passed, and Mme. Petit had just angrily declared
to Louis that she was going to throw the dinner out the window,
when her master at last appeared, followed by his guests. They had
not exchanged a word after they left the mayor's. Aside from the
fatigues of the evening, they wished to reflect, and to resume their
self-command. Mme. Petit found it useless to question their faces
- they told her nothing. But she did not agree with Baptiste about
M. Lecoq: she thought him good-humored, and rather silly. Though
the party was less silent at the dinner-table, all avoided, as if
by tacit consent, any allusion to the events of the day. No one
would ever have thought that they had just been witnesses of, almost
actors in, the Valfeuillu drama, they were so calm, and talked so
glibly of indifferent things. From time to time, indeed, a question
remained unanswered, or a reply came tardily; but nothing of the
sensations and thoughts, which were concealed beneath the uttered
commonplaces, appeared on the surface.
Louis passed to and fro behind the diners, his white cloth on his
arm, carving and passing the wine. Mme. Petit brought in the
dishes, and came in thrice as often as was necessary, her ears wide
open, leaving the door ajar as often as she dared. Poor woman!
she had prepared an excellent dinner, and nobody paid any attention
M. Lecoq was fond of tit-bits; yet, when Louis placed on the table
a dish of superb grapes - quite out of season - his mouth did not
so much as expand into a smile. Dr. Gendron would have been
puzzled to say what he had eaten. The dinner was nearly over, when
M. Plantat began to be annoyed by the constraint which the presence
of the servants put upon the party. He called to the cook:
"You will give us our coffee in the library, and may then retire,
as well as Louis."
"But these gentlemen do not know their rooms," insisted Mme. Petit,
whose eavesdropping projects were checked by this order. "They will,
perhaps, need something."
"I will show them their rooms," said M. Plantat, dryly. "And if
they need anything, I shall be here."
They went into the library. M. Plantat brought out a box of cigars
and passed them round:
"It will be healthful to smoke a little before retiring."
M. Lecoq lit an aromatic weed, and remarked:
"You two may go to bed if you like; I am condemned, I see, to a
sleepless night. But before I go to writing, I wish to ask you a
few things, Monsieur Plantat."
M. Plantat bowed in token of assent.
"We must resume our conversation," continued the detective, "and
compare our inferences. All our lights are not too much to throw
a little daylight upon this affair, which is one of the darkest I
have ever met with. The situation is dangerous, and time presses.
On our acuteness depends the fate of several innocent persons, upon
whom rest very serious charges. We have a theory: but Monsieur
Domini also has one, and his, let us confess, is based upon material
facts, while ours rests upon very disputable sensations and logic."
"We have more than sensations," responded M. Plantat.
"I agree with you," said the doctor, "but we must prove it."
"And I will prove it, parbleu," cried M. Lecoq, eagerly. "The
affair is complicated and difficult - so much the better. Eh!
If it were simple, I would go back to Paris instanter, and to-morrow
I would send you one of my men. I leave easy riddles to infants.
What I want is the inexplicable enigmas, so as to unravel it; a
struggle, to show my strength; obstacles, to conquer them."
M. Plantat and the doctor looked steadily at the speaker. He was
as if transfigured. It was the same yellow-haired and whiskered
man, in a long overcoat: yet the voice, the physiognomy, the very
features, had changed. His eyes shone with the fire of his
enthusiasm, his voice was metallic and vibrating, his imperious
gesture affirmed the audacity and energy of his resolution.
"If you think, my friends," pursued he, "that they don't manufacture
detectives like me at so much a year, you are right. When I was
twenty years old, I took service with an astronomer, as his
calculator, after a long course of study. He gave me my breakfasts
and seventy francs a month; by means of which I dressed well, and
covered I know not how many square feet with figures daily."
M. Lecoq puffed vigorously at his cigar a moment, casting a curious
glance at M. Plantat. Then he resumed:
"Well, you may imagine that I wasn't the happiest of men. I forgot
to mention that I had two little vices: I loved the women, and I
loved play. All are not perfect. My salary seemed too small, and
while I added up my columns of figures, I was looking about for a
way to make a rapid fortune. There is, indeed, but one means; to
appropriate somebody else's money, shrewdly enough not to be found
out. I thought about it day and night. My mind was fertile in
expedients, and I formed a hundred projects, each more practicable
than the others. I should frighten you if I were to tell you half
of what I imagined in those days. If many thieves of my calibre
existed, you'd have to blot the word 'property' out of the dictionary.
Precautions, as well as safes, would be useless. Happily for men
of property, criminals are idiots."
"What is he coming to?" thought the doctor.
"One day, I became afraid of my own thoughts. I had just been
inventing a little arrangement by which a man could rob any banker
whatever of 200,000 francs without any more danger or difficulty
than I raise this cup. So I said to myself, 'Well, my boy, if this
goes on a little longer, a moment will come when, from the idea,
you will naturally proceed to the practice.' Having, however, been
born an honest lad - a mere chance - and being determined to use
the talents which nature had given me, eight days afterward I bid
my astronomer good-morning, and went to the prefecture. My fear
of being a burglar drove me into the police."
"And you .are satisfied with the exchange?" asked Dr. Gendron.
"I' faith, Doctor, my first regret is yet to come. I am happy,
because I am free to exercise my peculiar faculties with
usefulness to my race. Existence has an enormous attraction for
me, because I have still a passion which overrides all others
The detective smiled, and continued:
"There are people who have a mania for the theatre. It is like my
own mania. Only, I can't understand how people can take pleasure
in the wretched display of fictions, which are to real life what
a tallow dip is to the sun. It seems to me monstrous that people
can be interested in sentiments which, though well represented, are
fictitious. What! can you laugh at the witticisms of a comedian,
whom you know to be the struggling father of a family? Can you
pity the sad fate of the poor actress who poisons herself, when you
know that on going out you will meet her on the boulevards? It's
"Let's shut up the theatres," suggested Dr. Gendron.
"I am more difficult to please than the public," returned M. Lecoq.
"I must have veritable comedies, or real dramas. My theatre is
- society. My actors laugh honestly, or weep with genuine tears.
A crime is committed - that is the prologue; I reach the scene,
the first act begins. I seize at a glance the minutest shades of
the scenery. Then I try to penetrate the motives, I group the
characters, I link the episodes to the central fact, I bind in a
bundle all the circumstances. The action soon reaches the crisis,
the thread of my inductions conducts me to the guilty person; I
divine him, arrest him, deliver him up. Then comes the great scene;
the accused struggles, tries tricks, splits straws; but the judge,
armed with the arms I have forged for him, overwhelms the wretch;
he does not confess, but he is confounded. And how many secondary
personages, accomplices, friends, enemies, witnesses are grouped
about the principal criminal! Some are terrible, frightful, gloomy
- others grotesque. And you know not what the ludicrous in the
horrible is. My last scene is the court of assize. The prosecutor
speaks, but it is I who furnished his ideas; his phrases are
embroideries set around the canvas of my report. The president
submits his questions to the jury; what emotion! The fate of my
drama is being decided. The jury, perhaps, answers, 'Not guilty;'
very well, my piece was bad, I am hissed. If 'Guilty,' on the
contrary, the piece was good, I am applauded, and victorious. The
next day I can go and see my hero, and slapping him on the shoulder,
say to him, 'You have lost, old fellow, I am too much for you!'"
Was M. Lecoq in earnest now, or was he playing a part? What was
the object of this autobiography? Without appearing to notice the
surprise of his companions, he lit a fresh cigar; then, whether
designedly or not, instead of replacing the lamp with which he lit
it on the table, he put it on one corner of the mantel. Thus M.
Plantat's face was in full view, while that of M. Lecoq remained
"I ought to confess," he continued, "without false modesty, that I
have rarely been hissed. Like every man I have my Achilles heel.
I have conquered the demon of play, but I have not triumphed over
my passion for woman."
He sighed heavily, with the resigned gesture of a man who has chosen
his path. "It's this way. There is a woman, before whom I am but
an idiot. Yes, I the detective, the terror of thieves and murderers,
who have divulged the combinations of all the sharpers of all the
nations, who for ten years have swum amid vice and crime; who wash
the dirty linen of all the corruptions, who have measured the depths
of human infamy; I who know all, who have seen and heard all; I,
Lecoq, am before her, more simple and credulous than an infant. She
deceives me - I see it - and she proves that I have seen wrongly.
She lies - I know it, I prove it to her - and I believe her. It is
because this is one of those passions," he. added, in a low,
mournful tone, "that age, far from extinguishing, only fans, and to
which the consciousness of shame and powerlessness adds fire. One
loves, and the certainty that he cannot be loved in return is one
of those griefs which you must have felt to know its depth. In a
moment of reason, one sees and judges himself; he says, no, it's
impossible, she is almost a child, I almost an old man. He says
this - but always, in the heart, more potent than reason, than will,
than experience, a ray of hope remains, and he says to himself,
'who knows - perhaps!' He awaits, what-a miracle? There are none,
nowadays. No matter, he hopes on."
M. Lecoq stopped, as if his emotion prevented his going on. M.
Plantat had continued to smoke mechanically, puffing the smoke out
at regular intervals; but his face seemed troubled, his glance was
unsteady, his hands trembled. He got up, took the lamp from the
mantel and replaced it on the table, and sat down again. The
significance of this scene at last struck Dr. Gendron.
In short, M. Lecoq, without departing widely from the truth, had
just attempted one of the most daring experiments of his repertoire,
and he judged it useless to go further. He knew now what he wished
to know. After a moment's silence, he shuddered as though awaking
from a dream, and pulling out his watch, said:
"Par le Dieu! How I chat on, while time flies!"
"And Guespin is in prison," remarked the doctor.
"We will have him out," answered the detective, "if, indeed, he is
innocent; for this time I have mastered the mystery, my romance,
if you wish, and without any gap. There is, however, one fact of
the utmost importance, that I by myself cannot explain."
"What?" asked M. Plantat.
"Is it possible that Monsieur de Tremorel had a very great interest
in finding something - a deed, a letter, a paper of some sort
- something of a small size, secreted in his own house?"
"Yes - that is possible," returned the justice of the peace.
"But I must know for certain."
M. Plantat reflected a moment.
"Well then," he went on, "I am sure, perfectly sure, that if Madame
de Tremorel had died suddenly, the count would have ransacked the
house to find a certain paper, which he knew to be in his wife's
possession, and which I myself have had in my hands."
"Then," said M. Lecoq, "there's the drama complete. On reaching
Valfeuillu, I, like you, was struck with the frightful disorder of
the rooms. Like you, I thought at first that this disorder was the
result of design. I was wrong; a more careful scrutiny has
convinced me of it. The assassin, it is true, threw everything
into disorder, broke the furniture, hacked the chairs in order to
make us think that some furious villains had been there. But amid
these acts of premeditated violence I have followed up the
involuntary traces of an exact, minute, and I may say patient search.
Everything seemed turned topsy-turvy by chance; articles were broken
open with the hatchet, which might have been opened with the hands;
drawers had been forced which were not shut, and the keys of which
were in the locks. Was this folly? No. For really no corner or
crevice where a letter might be hid has been neglected. The table
and bureau-drawers had been thrown here and there, but the narrow
spaces between the drawers had been examined - I saw proofs of it,
for I found the imprints of fingers on the dust which lay in these
spaces. The books had been thrown pell-mell upon the floor, but
every one of them had been handled, and some of them with such
violence that the bindings were torn off. We found the
mantel-shelves in their places, but every one had been lifted up.
The chairs were not hacked with a sword, for the mere purpose of
ripping the cloth - the seats were thus examined. My conviction
of the certainty that there had been a most desperate search, at
first roused my suspicions. I said to myself, 'The villains have
been looking for the money which was concealed; therefore they did
not belong to the household.'"
"But," observed the doctor, "they might belong to the house, and
yet not know the money was hidden; for Guespin - "
"Permit me," interrupted M. Lecoq, " I will explain myself. On the
other hand, I found indications that the assassin must have been
closely connected with Madame de Tremorel - her lover, or her
husband. These were the ideas that then struck me."
"Now," responded the detective, " with the certainty that something
besides booty might have been the object of the search, I am not
far from thinking that the guilty man is he whose body is being
searched for - the Count Hector de Tremorel."
M. Plantat and Dr. Gendron had divined the name; but neither had
as yet dared to utter his suspicions. They awaited this name of
Tremorel; and yet, pronounced as it was in the middle of the night,
in this great sombre room, by this at least strange personage, it
made them shudder with an indescribable fright.
"Observe," resumed M. Lecoq, "what I say; I believe it to be so.
In my eyes, the count's guilt is only as yet extremely probable.
Let us see if we three can reach the certainty of it. You see,
gentlemen, the inquest of a crime is nothing more nor less than
the solution of a problem. Given the crime, proved, patent, you
commence by seeking out all the circumstances, whether serious or
superficial; the details and the particulars. When these have been
carefully gathered, you classify them, and put them in their order
and date. You thus know the victim, the crime, and the
circumstances; it remains to find the third term of the problem,
that is, x, the unknown quantity - the guilty party. The task is
a difficult one, but not so difficult as is imagined. The object
is to find a man whose guilt explains all the circumstances, all
the details found - all, understand me. Find such a man, and it
is probable - and in nine cases out of ten,, the probability becomes
a reality - that you hold the perpetrator of the crime."
So clear had been M. Lecoq's exposition, so logical his argument,
that his hearers could not repress an admiring exclamation:
"Very good! Very good!"
"Let us then examine together if the assumed guilt of the Count de
Tremorel explains all the circumstances of the crime at Valfeuillu."
He was about to continue when Dr. Gendron, who sat near the window,
"There is someone in the garden," said he.
All approached the window. The weather was glorious, the night
very clear, and a large open space lay before the library window;
they looked out, but saw no one.
"You are mistaken, Doctor," said Plantat, resuming his arm-chair.
M. Lecoq continued:
"Now let us suppose that, under the influence of certain events
that we will examine presently, Monsieur de Tremorel had made up
his mind to get rid of his wife. The crime once resolved upon, it
was clear that the count must have reflected, and sought out the
means of committing it with impunity; he must have weighed the
circumstances, and estimated the perils of his act. Let us admit,
also, that the events which led him to this extremity were such
that he feared to be disturbed, and that he also feared that a
search would be made for certain things, even should his wife die
a natural death."
"That is true," said M. Plantat, nodding his head.
"Monsieur de Tremorel, then, determined to kill his wife, brutally,
with a knife, with the idea of so arranging everything, as to make
it believed that he too had been assassinated; and he also decided
to endeavor to thrust suspicion on an innocent person, or at least,
an accomplice infinitely less guilty than he.
"He made up his mind in advance, in adopting this course, to
disappear, fly, conceal himself, change his personality; to suppress,
in short, Count Hector de Tremorel, and make for himself, under
another name, a new position and identity. These hypotheses, easily
admitted, suffice to explain the whole series of otherwise
inconsistent circumstances. They explain to us in the first place,
how it was that on the very night of the murder, there was a large
fortune in ready money at Valfeuillu; and this seems to me decisive.
Why, when a man receives sums like this, which he proposes to keep
by him, he conceals the fact as carefully as possible. Monsieur de
Tremorel had not this common prudence. He shows his bundles of
bank-notes freely, handles them, parades them; the servants see
them, almost touch them. He wants everybody to know and repeat
that there is a large sum in the house, easy to take, carry off,
and conceal. And what time of all times, does he choose for this
display? Exactly the moment when he knows, and everyone in the
neighborhood knows, that he is going to pass the night at the
chateau, alone with Madame de Tremorel.
"For he is aware that all his servants are invited, on the evening
of July 8th to the wedding of the former cook. So well aware of
it is he, that he defrays the wedding expenses, and himself names
the day. You will perhaps say that it was by chance that this
money was sent to Valfeuilfu on the very night of the crime. At
the worst that might be admitted. But believe me, there was no
chance about it, and I will prove it. We will go to-morrow to the
count's banker, and will inquire whether the count did not ask him,
by letter or verbally, to send him these funds precisely on July 8th.
Well, if he says yes, if he shows us such a letter, or if he
declares that the money was called for in person, you will confess,
no doubt, that I have more than a probability in favor of my theory."
Both his hearers bowed in token of assent.
"So far, then, there is no objection."
"Not the least," said M. Plantat.
"My conjectures have also the advantage of shedding light on
Guespin's position. Honestly, his appearance is against him, and
justifies his arrest. Was he an accomplice or entirely innocent?
We certainly cannot yet decide. But it is a fact that he has fallen
into an admirably well-laid trap. The count, in selecting him for
his victim, took all care that every doubt possible should weigh
upon him. I would wager that Monsieur de Tremorel, who knew this
fellow's history, thought that his antecedents would add probability
to the suspicions against him, and would weigh with a terrible
weight in the scales of justice. Perhaps, too, he said to himself
that Guespin would be sure to prove his innocence in the end, and
he only wished to gain time to elude the first search. It is
impossible that we can be deceived. We know that the countess died
of the first blow, as if thunderstruck. She did not struggle;
therefore she could not have torn a piece of cloth off the assassin's
vest. If you admit Guespin's guilt, you admit that he was idiot
enough to put a piece of his vest in his victim's hand; you admit
that he was such a fool as to go and throw this torn and bloody vest
into the Seine, from a bridge, in a place where he might know search
would be made - and all this, without taking the common precaution
of attaching it to a stone to carry it to the bottom. That would
"To me, then, this piece of cloth, this smeared vest, indicate at
once Guespin's innocence and the count's guilt."
"But," objected Dr. Gendron, "if Guespin is innocent, why don't
he talk? Why don't he prove an alibi? How was it he had his purse
full of money?"
"Observe," resumed the detective, "that I don't say he is innocent;
we are still among the probabilities. Can't you suppose that the
count, perfidious enough to set a trap for his servant, was shrewd
enough to deprive him of every means of proving an alibi?"
"But you yourself deny the count's shrewdness."
"I beg your pardon; please hear me. The count's plan was excellent,
and shows a superior kind of perversity; the execution alone was
defective. This is because the plan was conceived and perfected
in safety, while when the crime had been committed, the murderer,
distressed, frightened at his danger, lost his coolness and only
half executed his project. But there are other suppositions. It
might be asked whether, while Madame de Tremorel was being murdered,
Guespin might not have been committing some other crime elsewhere.
This conjecture seemed so improbable to the doctor that he could
not avoid objecting to it. "Oh!" muttered he.
"Don't forget," replied Lecoq, "that the field of conjectures has
no bounds. Imagine whatever complication of events you may, I am
ready to maintain that such a complication has occurred or will
present itself. Lieuben, a German lunatic, bet that he would
succeed in turning up a pack of cards in the order stated in the
written agreement. He turned and turned ten hours per day for
twenty years. He had repeated the operation 4,246,028 times, when
M. Lecoq was about to proceed with another illustration, when M.
Plantat interrupted him by a gesture.
"I admit your hypotheses; I think they are more than probable
- they are true."
M. Lecoq, as he spoke, paced up and down between the window and
the book-shelves, stopping at emphatic words, like a general who
dictates to his aids the plan of the morrow's battle. To his
auditors, he seemed a new man, with serious features, an eye bright
with intelligence, his sentences clear and concise - the Lecoq, in
short, which the magistrates who have employed his talents, would
"Now," he resumed, "hear me. It is ten o'clock at night. No noise
without, the road deserted, the village lights extinguished, the
chateau servants away at Paris. The count and countess are alone
"They have gone to their bedroom.
"The countess has seated herself at the table where tea has been
served. The count, as he talks with her, paces up and down the
"Madame de Tremorel has no ill presentiment; her husband, the past
few days, has been more amiable, more attentive than ever. She
mistrusts nothing, and so the count can approach her from behind,
without her thinking of turning her head.
"When she hears him coming up softly, she imagines that he is going
to surprise her with a kiss. He, meanwhile, armed with a long dagger,
stands beside his wife. He knows where to strike that the wound may
be mortal. He chooses the place at a glance; takes aim; strikes a
terrible blow - so terrible that the handle of the dagger imprints
itself on both sides of the wound. The countess falls without a
sound, bruising her forehead on the edge of the table, which is
overturned. Is not the position of the terrible wound below the
left shoulder thus explained - a wound almost vertical, its
direction being from right to left?"
The doctor made a motion of assent.
"And who, besides a woman's lover or her husband is admitted to her
chamber, or can approach her when she is seated without her turning
"That's clear," muttered M. Plantat.
"The countess is now dead," pursued M. Lecoq. "The assassin's first
emotion is one of triumph. He is at last rid of her who was his wife,
whom he hated enough to murder her, and to change his happy, splendid,
envied existence for a frightful life, henceforth without country,
friend, or refuge, proscribed by all nations, tracked by all the
police, punishable by the laws of all the world! His second thought
is of this letter or paper, this object of small size which he knows
to be in his wife's keeping, which he has demanded a hundred times,
which she would not give up to him, and which he must have."
"Add," interrupted M. Plantat, "that this paper was one of the
motives of the crime.
The count thinks he knows where it is. He imagines that he can
put his hand on it at once. He is mistaken. He looks into all the
drawers and bureaus used by his wife - and finds nothing. He
searches every corner, he lifts up the shelves, overturns
everything in the chamber - nothing. An idea strikes him. Is this
letter under the mantel - shelf? By a turn of the arm he lifts it
- down the clock tumbles and stops. It is not yet half-past ten."
"Yes," murmured the doctor, "the clock betrays that."
"The count finds nothing under the mantel-shelf except the dust,
which has retained traces of his fingers. Then he begins to be
anxious. Where can this paper be, for which he has risked his life?
He grows angry. How search the locked drawers? The keys are on the
carpet - I found them among the debris of the tea service - but he
does not see them. He must have some implement with which to break
open everything. He goes downstairs for a hatchet. The drunkenness
of blood and vengeance is dissipated on the staircase; his terrors
begin. All the dark corners are peopled, now, with those spectres
which form the cortege of assassins; he is frightened, and hurries
on. He soon goes up again, armed with a large hatchet - that found
on the second story - and makes the pieces of wood fly about him.
He goes about like a maniac, rips up the furniture at hazard; but
he pursues a desperate search, the traces of which I have followed,
among the debris. Nothing, always nothing! Everything in the room
is topsy-turvy; he goes into his cabinet and continues the
destruction; the hatchet rises and falls without rest. He breaks
his own bureau, since he may find something concealed there of which
he is ignorant. This bureau belonged to the first husband - to
Sauvresy. He takes out all the books in the library, one by one,
shakes them furiously, and throws them about the floor. The infernal
paper is undiscoverable. His distress is now too great for him to
pursue the search with the least method. His wandering reason no
longer guides him. He staggers, without calculation, from one thing
to another, fumbling a dozen times in the same drawer, while he
completely forgets others just by him. Then he thinks that this
paper may have been hid in the stuffing of a chair. He seizes a
sword, and to be certain, he slashes up the drawing-room chairs and
sofas and those in the other rooms.
M. Lecoq's voice, accent, gestures, gave a vivid character to his
recital. The hearer might imagine that he saw the crime committed,
and was present at the terrible scenes which he described. His
companions held their breath, unwilling by a movement to distract
"At this moment," pursued he, "the count's rage and terror were at
their height. He had said to himself, when he planned the murder,
that he would kill his wife, get possession of the letter, execute
his plan quickly, and fly. And now all his projects were baffled!
How much time was being lost, when each minute diminished the chances
of escape! Then the probability of a thousand dangers which had not
occurred to him, entered his mind. What if some friend should
suddenly arrive, expecting his hospitality, as had occurred twenty
times? What if a passer-by on the road should notice a light flying
from room to room? Might not one of the servants return? When he
is in the drawing-room, he thinks he hears someone ring at the gate;
such is his terror, that he lets his candle fall - for I have found
the marks of it on the carpet. He hears strange noises, such as
never before assailed his ears; he thinks he hears walking in the
next room; the floor creaks. Is his wife really dead; will she not
suddenly rise up, run to the window, and scream for help? Beset by
these terrors, he returns to the bedroom, seizes his dagger, and
again strikes the poor countess. But his hand is so unsteady that
the wounds are light. You have observed, doctor, that all these
wounds take the same direction. They form right angles with the
body, proving that the victim was lying down when they were
inflicted. Then, in the excess of his frenzy, he strikes the body
with his feet, and his heels form the contusions discovered by the
M. Lecoq paused to take breath. He not only narrated the drama, he
acted it, adding gesture to word; and each of his phrases made a
scene, explained a fact, and dissipated a doubt. Like all true
artists who wrap themselves up in the character they represent, the
detective really felt something of the sensations which he
interpreted, and his expressive face was terrible in its contortions.
"That," he resumed, "is the first act of the drama. An irresistible
prostration succeeds the count's furious passion. The various
circumstances which I am describing to you are to be noticed in
nearly all great crimes. The assassin is always seized, after the
murder, with a horrible and singular hatred against his victim, and
he often mutilates the body. Then comes the period of a prostration
so great, of torpor so irresistible, that murderers have been known
literally to go to sleep in the blood, that they have been surprised
sleeping, and that it was with great difficulty that they were
awakened. The count, when he has frightfully disfigured the poor
lady, falls into an arm-chair; indeed, the cloth of one of the
chairs has retained some wrinkles, which shows that someone had sat
in it. What are then the count's thoughts? He reflects on the
long hours which have elapsed, upon the few hours which remain to
him. He reflects that he has found nothing; that he will hardly
have time, before day, to execute his plans for turning suspicion
from him, and assure his safety, by creating an impression that he,
too, has been murdered. And he must fly at once - fly, without that
accursed paper. He summons up his energies, rises, and do you know
what he does? He seizes a pair of scissors and cuts off his long,
carefully cultivated beard."
"Ah!" interrupted M. Plantat, "that's why you examined the portrait
M. Lecoq was too intent on following the thread of his deductions
to note the interruption.
"This is one of those vulgar details," pursued he, "whose very
insignificance makes them terrible, when they are attended by
certain circumstances. Now imagine the Count de Tremorel, pale,
covered with his wife's blood, shaving himself before his glass;
rubbing the soap over his face, in that room all topsy-turvy,
while three steps off lies the still warm and palpitating body!
It was an act of terrible courage, believe me, to look at himself
in the glass after a murder - one of which few criminals are
capable. The count's hands, however, trembled so violently that
he could scarcely hold his razor, and his face must have been cut
"What!" said 'Dr. Gendron, "do you imagine that the count spared
the time to shave?"
"I am positively sure of it, pos-i-tive-ly. A towel on which I
have found one of those marks which a razor leaves when it is
wiped - and one only - has put me on the track of this fact. I
looked about, and found a box of razors, one of which had recently
been used, for it was still moist; and I have carefully preserved
both the towel and the box. And if these proofs are not enough,
I will send to Paris for two of my men, who will find, somewhere in
the house or the garden, both the count's beard and the cloth with
which he wiped his razor. As to the fact which surprises you,
Doctor, it seems to me very natural; more, it is the necessary
result of the plan headopted. Monsieur de Tremorel has always worn
his full beard: he cuts it off, and his appearance is so entirely
altered, that if he met anyone in his flight, he would not be
The doctor was apparently convinced, for he cried:
"It's clear - it's evident,"
"Once thus disguised, the count hastens to carry out the rest of
his plan, to arrange everything to throw the law off the scent, and
to make it appear that he, as well as his wife, has been murdered.
He hunts up Guespin's vest, tears it out at the pocket, and puts a
piece of it in the countess's hand. Then taking the body in his
arms, crosswise, he goes downstairs. The wounds bleed frightfully
- hence the numerous stains discovered all along his path. Reaching
the foot of the staircase he is obliged to put the countess down,
in order to open the garden-door. This explains the large stain
in the vestibule. The count, having opened the door, returns for
the body and carries it in his arms as far as the edge of the lawn;
there he stops carrying it, and drags it by the shoulders, walking
backward, trying thus to create the impression that his own body
has been dragged across there and thrown into the Seine. But the
wretch forgot two things which betray him to us. He did not reflect
that the countess's skirts, in being dragged along the grass,
pressing it down and breaking it for a considerable space, spoiled
his trick. Nor did he think that her elegant and well-curved feet,
encased in small high-heeled boots, would mould themselves in the
damp earth of the lawn, and thus leave against him a proof clearer
than the day."
M. Plantat rose abruptly.
"Ah," said he, "you said nothing of this before."
"Nor of several other things, either. But I was before ignorant of
some facts which I now know; and as I had reason to suppose that
you were better informed than I, I was not sorry to avenge myself
for a caution which seemed to me mysterious.
"Well, you are avenged," remarked the doctor, smiling.
"On the other side of the lawn," continued M. Lecoq, "the count
again took up the countess's body. But forgetting the effect of
water when it spirts, or - who knows? - disliking to soil himself,
instead of throwing her violently in the river, he put her down
softly, with great precaution. That's not all. He wished it to
appear that there had been a terrible struggle. What does he do?
Stirs up the sand with the end of his foot. And he thinks that
will deceive the police!"
"Yes, yes," muttered Plantat, "exactly so - I saw it."
"Having got rid of the body, the count returns to the house. Time
presses, but he is still anxious to find the paper. He hastens to
take the last measures to assure his safety. He smears his slippers
and handkerchief with blood. He throws his handkerchief and one of
his slippers on the sward, and the other slipper into the river.
His haste explains the incomplete execution of his manoeuvres. He
hurries - and commits blunder after blunder. He does not reflect
that his valet will explain about the empty bottles which he puts
on the table. He thinks he is turning wine into the five glasses
- it is vinegar, which will prove that no one has drunk out of them.
He ascends, puts forward the hands of the clock, but forgets to put
the hands and the striking bell in harmony. He rumples up the bed,
but he does it awkwardly - and it is impossible to reconcile these
three facts, the bed crumpled, the clock showing twenty minutes past
three, and the countess dressed as if it were mid-day. He adds as
much as he can to the disorder of the room. He smears a sheet with
blood; also the bed-curtains and furniture. Then he marks the door
with the imprint of a bloody hand, too distinct and precise not to
be done designedly. Is there so far a circumstance or detail of
the crime, which does not explain the count's guilt?"
"There's the hatchet," answered M. Plantat, "found on the second
story, the position of which seemed so strange to you."
"I am coming to that. There is one point in this mysterious affair,
which, thanks to you, is now clear. We know that Madame de Tremorel,
known to her husband, possessed and concealed a paper or a letter,
which he wanted, and which she obstinately refused to give up in
spite of all his entreaties. You have told us that the anxiety
- perhaps the necessity - to have this paper, was a powerful motive
of the crime. We will not be rash then in supposing that the
importance of this paper was immense - entirely beyond an ordinary
affair. It must have been, somehow, very damaging to one or the
other. To whom? To both, or only the count? Here I am reduced to
conjectures. It is certain that it was a menace - capable of being
executed at any moment - suspended over the head of him or them
concerned by it. Madame de Tremorel surely regarded this paper
either as a security, or as a terrible arm which put her husband
at her mercy. It was surely to deliver himself from this perpetual
menace that the count killed his wife."
The logic was so clear, the last words brought the evidence out so
lucidly and forcibly, that his hearers were struck with admiration.
They both cried:
"Now," resumed M. Lecoq, "from the various elements which have
served to form our conviction, we must conclude that the contents
of this letter, if it can be found, will clear away our last doubts,
will explain the crime, and will render the assassin's precautions
wholly useless. The count, therefore, must do everything in the
world, must attempt the impossible, not to leave this danger behind
him. His preparations for flight ended, Hector, in spite of his
deadly peril, of the speeding time, of the coming day, instead of
flying recommences with more desperation than ever his useless
search. Again he goes through all the furniture, the books, the
papers - in vain. Then he determines to search the second story,
and armed with his hatchet, goes up to it. He has already attacked
a bureau, when he hears a cry in the garden. He runs to the window
- what does he see? Philippe and old Bertaud are standing on the
river-bank under the willows, near the corpse. Can you imagine his
immense terror? Now, there's not a second to lose-he has already
delayed too long. The danger is near, terrible. Daylight has come,
the crime is discovered, they are coming, he sees himself lost
beyond hope. He must fly, fly at once, at the peril of being seen,
met, arrested. He throws the hatchet down violently - it cuts the
floor. He rushes down, slips the bank-notes in his pocket, seizes
Guespin's torn and smeared vest, which he will throw into the river
from the bridge, and saves himself by the garden. Forgetting all
caution, confused, beside himself, covered with blood, he runs,
clears the ditch, and it is he whom old Bertaud sees making for the
forest of Mauprevior, where he intends to arrange the disorder of
his clothes. For the moment he is safe. But he leaves behind him
this letter, which is, believe me, a formidable witness, which will
enlighten justice and will betray his guilt and the perfidy of his
projects. For he has not found it, but we will find it; it is
necessary for us to have it to defeat Monsieur Domini, and to change
our doubts into certainty."
A long silence followed the detective's discourse. Perhaps his
hearers were casting about for objections. At last Dr. Gendron
"I don't see Guespin's part in all this."
"Nor I, very clearly," answered M. Legoq. "And here I ought to
confess to you not only the strength, but the weakness also, of the
theory I have adopted. By this method, which consists of
reconstructing the crime before discovering the criminal, I can be
neither right nor wrong by halves. Either all my inferences are
correct, or not one of them is. It's all, or nothing. If I am
right, Guespin has not been mixed up with this crime, at least
directly; for there isn't a single circumstance which suggests
outside aid. If, on the other hand, I am wrong - "
M. Lecoq paused. He seemed to have heard some unexpected noise
in the garden.
"But I am not wrong. I have still another charge against the count,
of which I haven't spoken, but which seems to be conclusive."
"Oh," cried the doctor, "what now?"
"Two certainties are better than one, and I always doubt. When I
was left alone a moment with Francois, the valet, I asked him if
he knew exactly the number of the count's shoes; he said yes, and
took me to a closet where the shoes are kept. A pair of boots,
with green Russia leather tops, which Francois was sure the count
had put on the previous morning, was missing. I looked for them
carefully everywhere, but could not find them. Again, the blue
cravat with white stripes which the count wore on the 8th, had also
"There," cried M. Plantat, "that is indisputable proof that your
supposition about the slippers and handkerchief was right."
"I think that the facts are sufficiently established to enable us
to go forward. Let's now consider the events which must have
decided - "
M. Lecoq again stopped, and seemed to be listening. All of a sudden,
without a word he jumped on the window-sill and from thence into the
garden, with the bound of a cat which pounces on a mouse. The noise
of a fall, a stifled cry, an oath, were heard, and then a stamping as
if a struggle were going on. The doctor and M. Plantat hastened to
the window. Day was breaking, the trees shivered in the fresh wind
of the early morning, - objects were vaguely visible without distinct
forms across the white mist which hangs, on summer nights, over the
valley of the Seine. In the middle of the lawn, at rapid intervals,
they heard the blunt noise of a clinched fist striking a living body,
and saw two men, or rather two phantoms, furiously swinging their
arms. Presently the two shapes formed but one, then they separated,
again to unite; one of the two fell, rose at once, and fell again.
"Don't disturb yourselves," cried M. Lecoq's voice. "I've got the
The shadow of the detective, which was upright, bent over, and the
conflict was recommenced. The shadow stretched on the ground
defended itself with the dangerous strength of despair; his body
formed a large brown spot in the middle of the lawn, and his legs,
kicking furiously, convulsively stretched and contracted. Then
there was a moment when the lookers-on could not make out which was
the detective. They rose again and struggled; suddenly a cry of pain
escaped, with a ferocious oath.
And almost immediately a loud shout rent the air, and the detective's
mocking tones were heard:
"There he is! I've persuaded him to pay his respects to us - light
me up a little."
The doctor and his host hastened to the lamp; their zeal caused a
delay, and at the moment that the doctor raised the lamp, the door
was rudely pushed open.
"I beg to present to you," said M. Lecoq, "Master Robelot,
bone-setter of Orcival, herborist by prudence, and poisoner by
The stupefaction of the others was such that neither could speak.
It was really the bone-setter, working his jaws nervously. His
adversary had thrown him down by the famous knee-stroke which is
the last resort of the worst prowlers about the Parisian barriers.
But it was not so much Robelot's presence which surprised M. Plantat
and his friend. Their stupor was caused by the detective's
appearance; who, with his wrist of steel - as rigid as handcuffs
- held the doctor's ex-assistant, and pushed him forward. The voice
was certainly Lecoq 's; there was his costume, his big-knotted
ravat, his yellow-haired watch-chain - still it was no longer Lecoq.
He was blond, with highly cultivated whiskers, when he jumped out
the window; he returned, brown, with a smooth face. The man who
had jumped out was a middle-aged person, with an expressive face
which was in turn idiotic and intelligent; the man who returned by
the door was a fine young fellow of thirty-five, with a beaming eye
and a sensitive lip; a splendid head of curly black hair, brought
out vividly the pallor of his complexion, and the firm outline of
his head and face. A wound appeared on his neck, just below the
"Monsieur Lecoq!" cried M. Plantat, recovering his voice.
"Himself," answered the detective, "and this time the true Lecoq."
Turning to Robelot, he slapped him on the shoulder and added:
"Go on, you."
Robelot fell upon a sofa, but the detective continued to hold him
"Yes," he continued, "this rascal has robbed me of my blond locks.
Thanks to him and in spite of myself, you see me as I am, with the
head the Creator gave me, and which is really my own." He gave a
careless gesture, half angry, half good-humored. "I am the true
Lecoq; and to tell the truth, only three persons besides yourselves
really know him - two trust-ed friends, and one who is infinitely
less so - she of whom I spoke a while ago."
The eyes of the other two met as if to question each other, and M.
"What can a fellow do? All is not rose color in my trade. We run
such dangers, in protecting society, as should entitle us to the
esteem, if not the affection of our fellow-men: Why, I am condemned
to death, at this moment, by seven of the most dangerous criminals
in France. I have caught them, you see, and they have sworn - they
are men of their word, too - that I should only die by their hands.
Where are these wretches? Four at Cayenne, one at Brest; I've had
news of them. But the other two? I've lost their track. Who knows
whether one of them hasn't followed me here, and whether to-morrow,
at the turning of some obscure road, I shall not get six inches of
cold steel in my stomach?"
He smiled sadly.
"And no reward," pursued he, "for the perils which we brave. If I
should fall to-morrow, they would take up my body, carry it to my
house, and that would be the end." The detective's tone had become
bitter, the irritation of his voice betrayed his rancor. "My
precautions happily are taken. While I am performing my duties, I
suspect everything, and when I am on my guard I fear no one. But
there are days when one is tired of being on his guard, and would
like to be able to turn a street corner without looking for a dagger.
On such days I again become myself; I take off my false beard, throw
down my mask, and my real self emerges from the hundred disguises
which I assume in turn. I have been a detective fifteen years, and
no one at the prefecture knows either my true face or the color of
Master Robelot, ill at ease on his lounge, attempted to move.
"Ah, look out!" cried M. Lecoq, suddenly changing his tone. "Now
get up here, and tell us what you were about in the garden?"
"But you are wounded!" exclaimed Plantat, observing stains of blood
on M. Lecoq's shirt.
"Oh, that's nothing-only a scratch that this fellow gave me with a
big cutlass he had."
M. Plantat insisted on examining the wound, and was not satisfied
until the doctor declared it to be a very slight one.
"Come, Master Robelot," said the old man, "what were you doing here?"
The bone-setter did not reply.
"Take care," insisted M. Plantat, "your silence will confirm us in
the idea that you came with the worst designs."
But it was in vain that M. Plantat wasted his persuasive eloquence.
Robelot shut himself up in a ferocious and dogged silence. M.
Gendron, hoping, not without reason, that he might have some influence
over his former assistant, spoke:
"Answer us; what did you come for?"
Robelot made an effort; it was painful, with his broken jaw, to speak.
"I came to rob; I confess it."
"I don't know."
"But you didn't scale a wall and risk the jail without a definite
"Well, then, I wanted - "
"What? Go on."
"To get some rare flowers in the conservatory."
"With your cutlass, hey?" said M. Lecoq. Robelot gave him a
terrible look; the detective continued:
"You needn't look at me that way - you don't scare me. And don't
talk like a fool, either. If you think we are duller than you, you
are mistaken - I warn you of it."
"I wanted the flower-pots," stammered the man.
"Oh, come now," cried M. Lecoq, shrugging his shoulders, "don't
repeat such nonsense. You, a man that buys large estates for cash,
steal flower-pots! Tell that to somebody else. You've been turned
over to-night, my boy, like an old glove. You've let out in spite
of yourself a secret that tormented you furiously, and you came
here to get it back again. You thought that perhaps Monsieur Plantat
had not told it to anybody, and you wanted to prevent him from
speaking again forever."
Robelot made a sign of protesting.
"Shut up now," said M. Lecoq. "And your cutlass?"
While this conversation was going on, M. Plantat reflected.
"Perhaps," he murmured, "I've spoken too soon."
"Why so?" asked M. Lecoq. "I wanted a palpable proof for Monsieur
Domini; we'll give him this rascal, and if he isn't satisfied, he's
difficult to please."
"But what shall we do with him?"
"Shut him up somewhere in the house; if necessary, I'll tie him up."
"Here's a dark closet."
"Is it secure?"
"There are thick walls on three sides of it, and the fourth is
closed with a double door; no openings, no windows, nothing."
"Just the place."
M. Plantat opened the closet, a black-looking hole, damp, narrow,
and full of old books and papers.
"There," said M. Lecoq to his prisoner, "in here you'll be like a
little king," and he pushed him into the closet. Robelot did not
resist, but he asked for some water and a light. They gave him a
bottle of water and a glass.
"As for a light," said M. Lecoq, "you may dispense with it. You'll
be playing us some dirty trick."
M. Plantat, having shut the closet-door, took the detective's hand.
"Monsieur," said he, earnestly, "you have probably just saved my
life at the peril of your own; I will not thank you. The day will
come, I trust, when I may - "
The detective interrupted him with a gesture.
"You know how I constantly expose myself," said he, "once more or
less does not matter much. Besides, it does not always serve a man
to save his life." He was pensive a moment, then added: "You will
thank me after awhile, when I have gained other titles to your
M. Gendron also cordially shook the detective's hand, saying:
"Permit me to express my admiration of you. I had no idea what the
resources of such a man as you were. You got here this morning
without information, without details, and by the mere scrutiny of
the scene of the crime, by the sole force of reasoning, have found
the criminal: more, you have proved to us that the criminal could
be no other than he whom you have named."
M. Lecoq bowed modestly. These praises evidently pleased him greatly.
Still," he answered, "I am not yet quite satisfied. The guilt of
the Count de Tremorel is of course abundantly clear to me. But what
motives urged him? How was he led to this terrible impulse to kill
his wife, and make it appear that he, too, had been murdered?"
"Might we not conclude," remarked the doctor, "that, disgusted with
Madame de Tremorel, he has got rid of her to rejoin another woman,
adored by him to madness?"
M. Lecoq shook his head.
"People don't kill their wives for the sole reason that they are
tired of them and love others. They quit their wives, live with
the new loves - that's all. That happens every day, and neither
the law nor public opinion condemns such people with great severity."
"But it was the wife who had the fortune."
"That wasn't the case here. I have been posting myself up. M. de
Tremorel had a hundred thousand crowns, the remains of a colossal
fortune saved by his friend Sauvresy; and his wife by the marriage
contract made over a half million to him. A man can live in ease
anywhere on eight hundred thousand francs. Besides, the count was
master of all the funds of the estate. He could sell, buy, realize,
borrow, deposit, and draw funds at will."
The doctor had nothing to reply. M. Lecoq went on, speaking with
a certain hesitation, while his eyes interrogated M. Plantat.
"We must find the reasons of this murder, and the motives of the
assassin's terrible resolution - in the past. Some crime so
indissolubly linked the count and countess, that only the death of
one of them could free the other. I suspected this crime the first
thing this morning, and have seen it all the way through; and the
man that we have just shut up in there - Robelot - who wanted to
murder Monsieur Plantat, was either the agent or the accomplice of
The doctor had not been present at the various episodes which,
during the day at Valfeuillu and in the evening at the mayor's, had
established a tacit understanding between Plantat and Lecoq. He
needed all the shrewdness he possessed to fill up the gaps and
understand the hidden meanings of the conversation to which he had
been listening for two hours. M. Lecoq's last words shed a ray of
light upon it all, and the doctor cried, "Sauvresy!"
"Yes - Sauvresy," answered M. Lecoq. "And the paper which the
murderer hunted for so eagerly, for which he neglected his safety
and risked his life, must contain the certain proof of the crime."
M. Plantat, despite the most significant looks and the direct
provocation to make an explanation, was silent. He seemed a hundred
leagues off in his thoughts, and his eyes, wandering in space,
seemed to follow forgotten episodes in the mists of the past. M.
Lecoq, after a brief pause, decided to strike a bold blow.
"What a past that must have been," exclaimed he, "which could drive
a young, rich, happy man like Hector de Tremorel to plan in cool
blood such a crime, to resign himself to disappear after it, to
cease to exist, as it were to lose all at once his personality, his
position, his honor and his name! What a past must be that which
drives a young girl of twenty to suicide!"
M. Plantat started up, pale, more moved than he had yet appeared.
"Ah," cried he, in an altered voice, "you don't believe what you say!
Laurence never knew about it, never!"
The doctor, who was narrowly watching the detective, thought he
saw a faint smile light up his mobile features. The old justice of
the peace went on, now calmly and with dignity, in a somewhat
"You didn't need tricks or subterfuge, Monsieur Lecoq, to induce me
to tell what I know. I have evinced enough esteem and confidence in
you to deprive you of the right to arm yourself against me with the
sad secret which you have surprised."
M. Lecoq, despite his cool-headedness, was disconcerted.
"Yes," pursued M. Plantat, "your astonishing genius for penetrating
dramas like this has led you to the truth. But you do not know all,
and even now I would hold my tongue, had not the reasons which
compelled me to be silent ceased to exist."
He opened a secret drawer in an old oaken desk near the fireplace
and took out a large paper package, which he laid on the table.
"For four years," he resumed, "I have followed, day by day - I might
say, hour by hour - the various phases of the dreadful drama which
ended in blood last night at Valfeuillu. At first, the curiosity
of an old retired attorney prompted me. Later, I hoped to save the
life and honor of one very dear to me. Why did I say nothing of my
discoveries? That, my friends, is the secret of my conscience - it
does not reproach me. Besides, I shut my eyes to the evidence even
up to yesterday; I needed the brutal testimony of this deed!"
Day had come. The frightened blackbirds flew whistling by. The
pavement resounded with the wooden shoes of the workmen going
fieldward. No noise troubled the sad stillness of the library,
unless it were the rustling of the leaves which M. Plantat was
turning over, or now and then a groan from Robelot.
"Before commencing," said the old man, "I ought to consider your
weariness; we have been up twenty-four hours - "
But the others protested that they did not need repose. The fever
of curiosity had chased away their exhaustion. They were at last
to know the key of the mystery.
"Very well," said their host, "listen to me."
The Count Hector de Tremorel, at twenty-six, was the model and
ideal of the polished man of the world, proper to our age; a man
useless alike to himself and to others, harmful even, seeming to
have been placed on earth expressly to play at the expense of all.
Young, noble, elegant, rich by millions, endowed with vigorous
health, this last descendant of a great family squandered most
foolishly and ignobly both his youth and his patrimony. He acquired
by excesses of all kinds a wide and unenviable celebrity. People
talked of his stables, his carriages, his servants, his furniture,
his dogs, his favorite loves. His cast-off horses still took
prizes, and a jade distinguished by his notice was eagerly sought
by the young bloods of the town. Do not think, however, that he
was naturally vicious; he had a warm heart, and even generous
emotions at twenty. Six years of unhealthy pleasures had spoiled
him to the marrow. Foolishly vain, he was ready to do anything to
maintain his notoriety. He had the bold and determined egotism of
one who has never had to think of anyone but himself, and has never
suffered. Intoxicated by the flatteries of the so-called friends
who drew his money from him, he admired himself, mistaking his
brutal cynicism for wit, and his lofty disdain of all morality and
his idiotic scepticism, for character. He was also feeble; he had
caprices, but never a will; feeble as a child, a woman, a girl.
His biography was to be found in the petty journals of the day,
which retailed his sayings - or what he might have said; his
least actions and gestures were reported.
One night when he was supping at the Cafe-de Paris, he threw all
the plates out the window. It cost him twenty thousand francs.
Bravo! One morning gossiping Paris learned with stupefaction that
he had eloped to Italy with the wife of X-, the banker, a lady
nineteen years married. He fought a duel, and killed his man. The
week after, he was wounded in another. He was a hero! On one
occasion he went to Baden, where he broke the bank. Another time,
after playing sixty hours, he managed to lose one hundred and twenty
thousand francs - won by a Russian prince.
He was one of those men whom success intoxicates, who long for
applause, but who care not for what they are applauded. Count
Hector was more than ravished by the noise he made in the world.
It seemed to him the acme of honor and glory to have his name or
initials constantly in the columns of the Parisian World. He did
not betray this, however, but said, with charming modesty, after
each new adventure:
"When will they stop talking about me?"
On great occasions, he borrowed from Louis XIV the epigram:
"After me the deluge."
The deluge came in his lifetime.
One April morning, his valet, a villainous fellow, drilled and
dressed up by the count - woke him at nine o'clock with this speech:
"Monsieur, a bailiff is downstairs in the ante-chamber, and has come
to seize your furniture."
Hector turned on his pillow, yawned, stretched, and replied:
"Well, tell him to begin operations with the stables and
carriage-house; and then come up and dress me."
He did not seem disturbed, and the servant retired amazed at his
master's coolness. The count had at least sense enough to know the
state of his finances; and he had foreseen, nay, expected the
bailiff's visit. Three years before, when he had been laid up for
six weeks in consequence of a fall from his horse, he had measured
the depth of the gulf toward which he was hastening. Then, he might
yet have saved himself. But he must have changed his whole course
of life, reformed his household, learned that twenty-one franc
pieces made a napoleon. Fie, never! After mature reflection he had
said to himself that he would go on to the end. When the last hour
came, he would fly to the other end of France, erase his name from
his linen, and blow his brainsout in some forest.
This hour had now come.
By contracting debts, signing bills, renewing obligations, paying
interests and compound interests, giving commissions by always
borrowing, and never paying, Hector had consumed the princely
heritage - nearly four millions in lands - which he had received
at his father's death. The winter just past had cost him fifty
thousand crowns. He had tried eight days before to borrow a hundred
thousand francs, and had failed. He had been refused, not because
his property was not as much as he owed, but because it was known
that property sold by a bankrupt does not bring its value.
Thus it was that when the valet came in and said, "The bailiff is
here," he seemed like a spectre commanding suicide.
Hector took the announcement coolly and said, as he got up:
"Well, here's an end of it."
He was very calm, though a little confused. A little confusion is
excusable when a man passes from wealth to beggary. He thought he
would make his last toilet with especial care. Parbleu! The French
nobility goes into battle in court costume! He was ready in less
than an hour. He put on his bejewelled watch-chain; then he put a
pair of little pistols, of the finest quality, in his overcoat
pocket; then he sent the valet away, and opening his desk, he
counted up what funds he had left. Ten thousand and some hundreds
of francs remained. He might with this sum take a journey, prolong
his life two or three months; but he repelled with disdain the
thought of a miserable subterfuge, of a reprieve in disguise. He
imagined that with this money he might make a great show of
generosity, which would be talked of in the world; it would be
chivalrous to breakfast with his inamorata and make her a present
of this money at dessert. During the meal he would be full of
nervous gayety, of cynical humor, and then he would announce his
intention to kill himself. The girl would not fail to narrate the
scene everywhere; she would repeat his last conversation, his last
will and gift; all the cafes would buzz with it at night; the papers
would be full of it.
This idea strangely excited him, and comforted him at once. He was
going out, when his eyes fell upon the mass of papers in his desk.
Perhaps there was something there which might dim the positiveness
of his resolution. He emptied all the drawers without looking or
choosing, and put all the papers in the fire. He looked with pride
upon this conflagration; there were bills, love letters, business
letters, bonds, patents of nobility, deeds of property. Was it not
his brilliant past which flickered and consumed in the fireplace?
The bailiff occurred to him, and he hastily descended. He was the
most polite of bailiffs, a man of taste and wit, a friend of artists,
himself a poet at times. He had already seized eight horses in the
stables with all their harness and trappings, and five carriages
with their equipage, in the carriage-house.
"I'm going on slowly, Count," said he bowing. "Perhaps you wish
to arrest the execution. The sum is large, to be sure, but a man
in your position - "
"Believe that you are here because it suits me," interrupted Hector,
proudly, " this house doesn't suit me; I shall never enter it again.
So, as you are master, go on."
And wheeling round on his heel he went off.
The astonished bailiff proceeded with his work. He went from room
to room, admiring and seizing. He seized cups gained at the races,
collections of pipes and arms, and the library, containing many
sporting-books, superbly bound.
Meanwhile the Count de Tremorel, who was resolved more than ever on
suicide, ascending the boulevards came to his inamorata's house,
which was near the Madeleine. He had introduced her some six months
before into the demi-monde as Jenny Fancy. Her real name was
Pelagie Taponnet, and although the count did not know it, she was
his valet's sister. She was pretty and lively, with delicate hands
and a tiny foot, superb chestnut hair, white teeth, and great
impertinent black eyes, which were languishing, caressing, or
provoking, at will. She had passed suddenly from the most abject
poverty to a state of extravagant luxury. This brilliant change did
not astonish her as much as you might think. Forty-eight hours
after her removal to her new apartments, she had established order
among the servants; she made them obey a glance or a gesture; and
she made her dress-makers and milliners submit with good grace to
her orders. Jenny soon began to languish, in her fine rooms, for
new excitement; her gorgeous toilets no longer amused her. A woman's
happiness is not complete unless seasoned by the jealousy of rivals.
Jenny's rivals lived in the Faubourg du Temple, near the barrier;
they could not envy her splendor, for they did not know her, and
she was strictly forbidden to associate with and so dazzle them.
As for Tremorel, Jenny submitted to him from necessity. He seemed
to her the most tiresome of men. She thought his friends the
dreariest of beings. Perhaps she perceived beneath their ironically
polite manner, a contempt for her, and understood of how little
consequence she was to these rich people, these high livers,
gamblers, men of the world. Her pleasures comprised an evening with
someone of her own class, card-playing, at which she won, and a
midnight supper. The rest of the time she suffered ennui. She was
wearied to death: A hundred times she was on the point of discarding
Tremorel, abandoning all this luxury, money, servants, and resuming
her old life. Many a time she packed up; her vanity always checked
her at the last moment.
Hector de Tremorel rang at her door at eleven on the morning in
question. She did not expect him so early. and she was evidently
surprised when he told her he had come to breakfast, and asked her
to hasten the cook, as he was in a great hurry.
She had never, she thought, seen him so amiable, so gay. All
through breakfast he sparkled, as he promised himself he would,
with spirit and fun. At last, while they were sipping their coffee,
"All this, my dear, is only a preface, intended to prepare you for
a piece of news which will surprise you. I am a ruined man."
She looked at him with amazement, not seeming to comprehend him.
"I said - ruined," said he, laughing bitterly, "as ruined as man
"Oh, you are making fun of me, joking - "
"I never spoke so seriously in my life. It seems strange to you,
doesn't it? Yet it's sober truth."
Jenny's large eyes continued to interrogate him.
"Why," he continued, with lofty carelessness, "life, you know, is
like a bunch of grapes, which one either eats gradually, piece by
piece, or squeezes into a glass to be tossed off at a gulp. I've
chosen the latter way. My grape was four million francs; they are
drunk up to the dregs. I don't regret them, I've had a jolly life
for my money. But now I can flatter myself that I am as much of a
beggar as any beggar in France. Everything at my house is in the
bailiff's hands - I am without a domicile, without a penny."
He spoke with increasing animation as the multitude of diverse
thoughts passed each other tumultuously in his brain. And he was
not playing a part. He was speaking in all good faith.
"But - then - " stammered Jenny.
"What? Are you free? Just so-"
She hardly knew whether to rejoice or mourn.
"Yes," he continued, "I give you back your liberty."
Jenny made a gesture which Hector misunderstood.
"Oh! be quiet," he added quickly, "I sha'n't leave you thus; I would
not desert you in a state of need. This furniture is yours, and I
have provided for you besides. Here in my pocket are five hundred
napoleons; it is my all; I have brought it to give to you."
He passed the money over to her on a plate, laughingly, imitating
the restaurant waiters. She pushed it back with a shudder.
"Oh, well," said he, "that's a good sign, my dear; very good, very
good. I've always thought and said that you were a good girl - in
fact, too good; you needed correcting."
She did, indeed, have a good heart; for instead of taking Hector's
bank-notes and turning him out of doors, she tried to comfort and
console him. Since he had confessed,to her that he was penniless,
she ceased to hate him, and even commenced to love him. Hector,
homeless, was no longer the dreaded man who paid to be master, the
millionnaire who, by a caprice, had raised her from the gutter. He
was no longer the execrated tyrant. Ruined, he descended from his
pedestal, he became a man like others, to be preferred to others,
as a handsome and gallant youth. Then Jenny mistook the last
artifice of a discarded vanity for a generous impulse of the heart,
and was deeply touched by this splendid last gift.
"You are not as poor as you say," she said," for you still have so
large a sum."
"But, dear child, I have several times given as much for diamonds
which you envied."
She reflected a moment, then as if an idea had struck her, exclaimed:
"That's true enough; but I can spend, oh, a great deal less, and
yet be just as happy. Once, before I knew you, when I was young
(she was now nineteen), ten thousand francs seemed to me to be one
of those fabulous sums which were talked about, but which few men
ever saw in one pile, and fewer still held in their hands."
She tried to slip the money into the count's pocket; but he
"Come, take it back, keep it - "
"What shall I do with it?"
"I don't know, but wouldn't this money bring in more? Couldn't you
speculate on the Bourse, bet at the races, play at Baden, or
something? I've heard of people that are now rich as kings, who
commenced with nothing, and hadn't your talents either. Why don't
you do as they did?"
She spoke excitedly, as a woman does who is anxious to persuade.
He looked at her, astonished to find her so sensitive, so
"You will, won't you?" she insisted, "now, won't you?"
"You are a good girl," said he, charmed with her, "but you must take
this money. I give it to you, don't be worried about anything."
"But you - have you still any money? What have you?"
"I have yet-"
He stopped, searched his pockets, and counted the money in his purse.
"Faith, here's three hundred and forty francs - more than I need.
I must give some napoleons to your servants before I go."
"And what for Heaven's sake will become of you?"
He sat back in his chair, negligently stroked his handsome beard,
"I am going to blow my brains out."
Hector thought that she doubted what he said. He took his pistols
out of his pockets, showed them to her, and went on:
"You see these toys? Well, when I leave you, I shall go somewhere
- no matter where - put the muzzle to my temple, thus, press the
trigger - and all will be over!"
She gazed at him, her eyes dilated with terror, pale, breathing
hard and fast. But at the same time, she admired him. She marvelled
at so much courage, at this calm, this careless railing tone. What
superb disdain of life! To exhaust his fortune and then kill
himself, without a cry, a tear, or a regret, seemed to her an act
of heroism unheard of, unexampled. It seemed to her that a new,
unknown, beautiful, radiant man stood before her. She loved him as
she had never loved before!
"No!" she cried, "no! It shall not be!"
And rising suddenly, she rushed to him and seized him by the arm.
"You will not kill yourself, will you? Promise me, swear it to me.
It isn't possible, you would not! I love you - I couldn't bear you
before. Oh, I did not know you, but now - come, we will be happy.
You, who have lived with millions don't know how much ten thousand
francs are - but I know. We can live a long time on that, and very
well, too. Then, if we are obliged to sell the useless things - the
horses, carriages, my diamonds, my green cashmere, we can have three
or four times that sum. Thirty thousand francs - it's a fortune!
Think how many happy days-"
The Count de Tremorel shook his head, smilingly. He was ravished;
his vanity was flattered by the heat of the passion which beamed
from the poor girl's eyes. How he was beloved! How he would be
regretted! What a hero the world was about to lose!
"For we will not stay here," Jenny went on, "we will go and conceal
ourselves far from Paris, in a little cottage. Why, on the other
side of Belleville you can get a place surrounded by gardens for
a thousand francs a year. How well off we should be there! You
would never leave me, for I should be jealous - oh, so jealous!
We wouldn't have any servants, and you should see that I know how
to keep house."
Hector said nothing.
"While the money lasts," continued Jenny, "we'll laugh away the
days. When it's all gone, if you are still decided, you will kill
yourself - that is, we will kill ourselves together. But not with
a pistol - No! We'll light a pan of charcoal, sleep in one another's
arms, and that will be the end. They say one doesn't suffer that
way at all."
This idea drew Hector from his torpor, and awoke in him a
recollection which ruffled all his vanity.
Three or four days before, he had read in a paper the account of
the suicide of a cook, who, in a fit of love and despair, had
bravely suffocated himself in his garret. Before dying he had
written a most touching letter to his faithless love. The idea of
killing himself like a cook made him shudder. He saw the
possibility of the horrible comparison. How ridiculous! And
the Count de Tremorel had a wholesome fear of ridicule. To
suffocate himself, at Belleville, with a grisette, how dreadful!
He almost rudely pushed Jenny's arms away, and repulsed her.
"Enough of that sort of thing," said he, in his careless tone.
"What you say, child, is all very pretty, but utterly absurd. A
man of my name dies, and doesn't choke." And taking the bank-notes
from his pocket, where Jenny had slipped them, he threw them on the
He would have gone, but Jenny, red and with glistening eyes, barred
the door with her body.
"You shall not go!" she cried, "I won't have you; you are mine - for
I love you; if you take one step, I will scream."
The count shrugged his shoulders.
"But we must end all this!"
"You sha'n't go!
"Well, then, I'll blow my brains out here." And taking out one of
his pistols, he held it to his forehead, adding, "If you call out
and don't let me pass, I shall fire." He meant the threat for
But Jenny did not call out; she could not; she uttered a deep groan
"At last!" muttered Hector, replacing the pistol in his pocket.
He went out, not taking time to lift her from the floor where she
had fallen, and shut the door. Then he called the servants into
the vestibule, gave them ten napoleons to divide among them, and
The Count de Tremorel, having reached the street, ascended the
boulevard. All of a sudden he bethought him of his friends. The
story of the execution must have already spread.
"No; not that way," he muttered.
This was because, on the boulevard, he would certainly meet some
of his very dear cronies, and he desired to escape their condolence
and offers of service. He pictured to himself their sorry visages,
concealing a hidden and delicious satisfaction. He had wounded so
many vanities that he must look for terrible revenges. The friends
of an insolently prosperous man are rejoiced in his downfall.
Hector crossed the street, went along the Rue Duphot, and reached
the quays. Where was he going? He did not know, and did not even
ask himself. He walked at random, enjoying the physical content
which follows a good meal, happy to find himself still in the land
of the living, in the soft April sunlight.
The weather was superb, and all Paris was out of doors. There was
a holiday air about the town. The flower-women at the corners of
the bridges had their baskets full of odorous violets. The count
bought, a bouquet near the Pont Neuf and stuck it in his button-hole,
and without waiting for his change, passed on. He reached the large
square at the end of the Bourdon boulevard, which is always full of
jugglers and curiosity shows; here the noise, the music, drew him
from his torpor, and brought his thoughts back to his present
"I must leave Paris," thought he.
He crossed toward the Orleans station at a quicker pace. He entered
the waiting-room, and asked what time the train left for Etampes.
Why did he choose Etampes? A train had just gone, and there would
not be another one for two hours. He was much annoyed at this, and
as he could not wait there two hours, he wended his way, to kill
time, toward the Jardin des Plantes. He had not been there for ten
or twelve years - not since, when at school, his teachers had brought
him there to look at the animals. Nothing had changed. There were
the groves and parterres, the lawns and lanes, the beasts and birds,
as before. The principal avenue was nearly deserted. He took a
seat opposite the mineralogical museum. He reflected on his
position. He glanced back through the departed years, and did not
find one day among those many days which had left him one of those
gracious memories which delight and console. Millions had slipped
through his prodigal hands, and he could not recall a single useful
expenditure, a really generous one, amounting to twenty francs. He,
who had had so many friends, searched his memory in vain for the
name of a single friend whom he regretted to part from. The past
seemed to him like a faithful mirror; he was surprised, startled at
the folly of the pleasures, the inane delights, which had been the
end and aim of his existence. For what had he lived? For others.
"Ab, what a fool I was!" he muttered, "what a fool!"
After living for others, he was going to kill himself for others.
His heart became softened. Who would think of him, eight days
hence? Not one living being. Yes - Jenny, perhaps. Yet, no.
She would be consoled with a new lover in less than a week.
The bell for closing the garden rang. Night had come, and a thick
and damp mist had covered the city. The count, chilled to the bones,
left his seat.
"To the station again," muttered he.
It was a horrible idea to him now - this of shooting himself in the
silence and obscurity of the forest. He pictured to himself his
disfigured body, bleeding, lying on the edge of some ditch. Beggars
or robbers would despoil him. And then? The police would come and
take up this unknown body, and doubtless would carry it, to be
identified, to the Morgue. "Never!" cried he, at this thought, "no,
How die, then? He reflected, and it struck him that he would kill
himself in some second-class hotel on the left bank of the Seine.
"Yes, that's it," said he to himself.
Leaving the garden with the last of the visitors, he wended his way
toward the Latin Quarter. The carelessness which he had assumed
in the morning gave way to a sad resignation. He was suffering;
his head was heavy, and he was cold.
"If I shouldn't die to-night," he thought, "I shall have a terrible
cold in the morning."
This mental sally did not make him smile, but it gave him the
consciousness of being firm and determined. He went into the Rue
Dauphine and looked about for a hotel. Then it occurred to him
that it was not yet seven o'clock, and it might arouse suspicions
if he asked for a room at that early hour. He reflected that he
still had over one hundred francs, and resolved to dine. It should
be his last meal. He went into a restaurant and ordered it. But
he in vain tried to throw off the anxious sadness which filled him.
He drank, and consumed three bottles of wine without changing the
current of his thoughts.
The waiters were surprised to see him scarcely touch the dishes set
before him, and growing more gloomy after each potation. His dinner
cost ninety francs; he threw his last hundred-franc note on the
table, and went out. As it was not yet late, he went into another
restaurant where some students were drinking, and sat down at a
table in the farther corner of the room. He ordered coffee and
rapidly drank three or four cups. He wished to excite himself, to
screw up his courage to do what he had resolved upon; but he could
not; the drink seemed only to make him more and more irresolute.
A waiter, seeing him alone at the table, offered him a newspaper.
He took it mechanically, opened it, and read:
"Just as we are going to press, we learn that a well-known person
has disappeared, after announcing his intention to commit suicide.
The statements made to us are so strange, that we defer details
till to-morrow, not having time to send for fuller information now."
These lines startled Hector. They were his death sentence, not to
be recalled, signed by the tyrant whose obsequious courtier he had
always been - public opinion.
"They will never cease talking about me," he muttered angrily. Then
he added, firmly, "Come, I must make an end of this."
He soon reached the H6tel Luxembourg. He rapped at the door, and was
speedily conducted to the best room in the house. He ordered a fire
to be lighted. He also asked for sugar and water, and writing
materials. At this moment he was as firm as in the morning.
"I must not hesitate," he muttered, " nor recoil from my fate."
He sat down at the table near the fireplace, and wrote in a firm
hand a declaration which he destined for the police.
"No one must be accused of my death," he commenced; and he went on
by asking that the hotel-keeper should be indemnified.
The hour by the clock was five minutes before eleven; he placed his
pistols on the mantel.
"I will shoot myself at midnight," thought he. "I have yet an hour
The count threw himself in an arm-chair and buried his face in his
hands. Why did he not kill himself at once? Why impose on himself
this hour of waiting, of anguish and torture? He could not have told.
He began again to think over the events of his life, reflecting on
the headlong rapidity of the occurrences which had brought him to
that wretched room. How time had passed! It seemed but yesterday
that he first began to borrow. It does little good, however, to a
man who has fallen to the bottom of the abyss, to know the causes
why he fell.
The large hand of the clock had passed the half hour after eleven.
He thought of the newspaper item which he had just read. Who
furnished the information? Doubtless it was Jenny. She had come to
her senses, tearfully hastened after him. When she failed to find
him on the boulevard, she had probably gone to his house, then to
his club, then to some of his friends. So that to-night, at this
very moment, the world was discussing him.
"Have you heard the news?"
"Ah, yes, poor Tremorel! What a romance! A good fellow, only - "
He thought he heard this "only" greeted with laughter and innuendoes.
Time passed on. The ringing vibration of the clock was at hand; the
hour had come.
The count got up, seized his pistols, and placed himself near the
bed, so as not to fall on the floor.
The first stroke of twelve ; he did not fire.
Hector was a man of courage; his reputation for bravery was high.
He had fought at least ten duels; and his cool bearing on the ground
had always been admiringly remarked. One day he had killed a man,
and that night he slept very soundly.
But he did not fire.
There are two kinds of courage. One, false courage, is that meant
for the public eye, which needs the excitement of the struggle, the
stimulus of rage, and the applause of lookers-on. The other, true
courage, despises public opinion, obeys conscience, not passion;
success does not sway it, it does its work noiselessly.
Two minutes after twelve - Hector still held the pistol against his
"Am I going to be afraid?" he asked himself.
He was afraid, but would not confess it to himself. He put his
pistols back on the table and returned to his seat near the fire.
All his limbs were trembling.
It's nervousness," he muttered. "It'll pass off."
He gave himself till one o'clock. He tried to convince himself of
the necessity of committing suicide. If he did not, what would
become of him? How would he live? Must he make up his mind to work?
Besides, could he appear in the world, when all Paris knew of his
intention? This thought goaded him to fury; he had a sudden courage,
and grasped his pistols. But the sensation which the touch of the
cold steel gave him, caused him to drop his arm and draw away
"I cannot," repeated he, in his anguish. "I cannot!"
The idea of the physical pain of shooting himself filled him with
horror. Why had he not a gentler death? Poison, or perhaps
charcoal - like the little cook? He did not fear the ludicrousness
of this now; all that he feared was, that the courage to kill
himself would fail him.
He went on extending his time of grace from half-hour to half-hour.
It was a horrible night, full of the agony of the last night of the
criminal condemned to the scaffold. He wept with grief and rage
and wrung his hands and prayed. Toward daylight he fell exhausted
into an uneasy slumber, in his arm-chair. He was awakened by three
or four heavy raps on the door, which he hastily opened. It was the
waiter, who had come to take his order for breakfast, and who started
back with amazement on seeing Hector, so disordered was his clothing
and so livid the pallor of his features.
"I want nothing," said the count. "I'm going down."
He had just enough money left to pay his bill, and six sous for the
waiter. He quitted the hotel where he had suffered so much, without
end or aim in view. He was more resolved than ever to die, only he
yearned for several days of respite to nerve himself for the deed.
But how could he live during these days? He had not so much as a
centime left. An idea struck him - the pawnbrokers!
He knew that at the Monte-de-Piete* a certain amount would be
advanced to him on his jewelry. But where find a branch office?
He dared not ask, but hunted for one at hazard. He now held his
head up, walked with a firmer step; he was seeking something, and
had a purpose to accomplish. He at last saw the sign of the
Monte-de-Piete on a house in the Rue Conde, and entered. The hall
was small, damp, filthy, and full of people. But if the place was
gloomy, the borrowers seemed to take their misfortunes good-humoredly.
They were mostly students and women, talking gayly as they waited
for their turns. The Count de Tremorel advanced with his watch,
chain, and a brilliant diamond that he had taken from his finger.
He was seized with the timidity of misery, and did not know how to
open his business. A young woman pitied his embarrassment.
[* The public pawnbroker establishment of Paris, which has
branch bureaus through the city.]
"See," said she, "put your articles on this counter, before that
window with green curtains."
A moment after he heard a voice which seemed to proceed from the
"Twelve hundred francs for the watch and ring."
This large amount produced such a sensation as to arrest all the
conversation. All eyes were turned toward the millionnaire who was
going to pocket such a fortune. The millionnaire made no response.
The same woman who had spoken before nudged his arm.
"That's for you," said she. "Answer whether you will take it or
I'll take it," cried Hector.