Several timid knocks at the door interrupted the speaker. It was late, and the household was already awake and about. Mme. Petit in her anxiety and curiosity had put her ear to the key-hole at least ten times, but in vain.
“What can they be up to in there?” said she to Louis. “Here they’ve been shut up these twelve hours without eating or drinking. At all events I’ll get breakfast.”
It was not Mme. Petit, however, who dared to knock on the door; but Louis, the gardener, who came to tell his master of the ravages which had been made in his flower-pots and shrubs. At the same time he brought in certain singular articles which he had picked up on the sward, and which M. Lecoq recognized at once.
“Heavens!” cried he, “I forgot myself. Here I go on quietly talking with my face exposed, as if it was not broad daylight; and people might come in at any moment!” And turning to Louis, who was very much surprised to see this dark young man whom he had certainly not admitted the night before, he added:
“Give me those little toilet articles, my good fellow; they belong to me.”
Then, by a turn of his hand, he readjusted his physiognomy of last night, while the master of the house went out to give some orders, which M. Lecoq did so deftly, that when M. Plantat returned, he could scarcely believe his eyes.
They sat down to breakfast and ate their meal as silently as they had done the dinner of the evening before, losing no time about it. They appreciated the value of the passing moments; M. Domini was waiting for them at Corbeil, and was doubtless getting impatient at their delay.
Louis had just placed a sumptuous dish of fruit upon the table, when it occurred to M. Lecoq that Robelot was still shut up in the closet.
“Probably the rascal needs something,” said he.
M. Plantat wished to send his servant to him; but M. Lecoq objected.
“He’s a dangerous rogue,” said he. “I’ll go myself.”
He went out, but almost instantly his voice was heard:
“Messieurs! Messieurs, see here!”
The doctor and M. Plantat hastened into the library.
Across the threshold of the closet was stretched the body of the bone-setter. He had killed himself.
Robelot must have had rare presence of mind and courage to kill himself in that obscure closet, without making enough noise to arouse the attention of those in the library. He had wound a string tightly around his neck, and had used a piece of pencil as a twister, and so had strangled himself. He did not, however, betray the hideous look which the popular belief attributes to those who have died by strangulation. His face was pale, his eyes and mouth half open, and he had the appearance of one who has gradually and without much pain lost his consciousness by congestion of the brain.