M. Plantat followed him with a firmer step, and they soon reached M. Wilson’s house, accompanied by Job and his men.
“You men,” said M. Lecoq, “wait till I call before you go in; I will leave the door ajar.”
He rang; the door swung open; and M. Plantat and the detective went in under the arch. The porter was on the threshold of his lodge.
“Monsieur Wilson?” asked M. Lecoq.
“He is out.”
“I will speak to Madame, then.”
“She is also out.”
“Very well. Only, as I must positively speak with Madame Wilson, I’m going upstairs.”
The porter seemed about to resist him by force; but, as Lecoq now called in his men, he thought better of it and kept quiet.
M. Lecoq posted six of his men in the court, in such a position that they could be easily seen from the windows on the first floor, and instructed the others to place themselves on the opposite sidewalk, telling them to look ostentatiously at the house. These measures taken, he returned to the porter.
“Attend to me, my man. When your master, who has gone out, comes in again, beware that you don’t tell him that we are upstairs; a single word would get you into terribly hot water—”
“I am blind,” he answered, “and deaf.”
“How many servants are there in the house?”
“Three; but they have all gone out.”
The detective then took M. Plantat by the arm, and holding him firmly:
“You see, my dear friend,” said he, “the game is ours. Come along— and in Laurence’s name, have courage!”
All M. Lecoq’s anticipations were realized. Laurence was not dead, and her letter to her parents was an odious trick. It was really she who lived in the house as Mme. Wilson. How had the lovely young girl, so much beloved by the old justice, come to such a dreadful extremity? The logic of life, alas, fatally enchains all our determinations to each other. Often an indifferent action, little wrongful in itself, is the beginning of an atrocious crime. Each of our new resolutions depends upon those which have preceded it, and is their logical sequence just as the sum-total is the product of the added figures. Woe to him who, being seized with a dizziness at the brink of the abyss, does not fly as fast as possible, without turning his head; for soon, yielding to an irresistible attraction, he approaches, braves the danger, slips, and is lost. Whatever thereafter he does or attempts he will roll down the faster, until he reaches the very bottom of the gulf.
Tremorel had by no means the implacable character of an assassin; he was only feeble and cowardly; yet he had committed abominable crimes. All his guilt came from the first feeling of envy with which he regarded Sauvresy, and which he had not taken the pains to subdue. Laurence, when, on the day that she became enamoured of Tremorel, she permitted him to press her hand, and kept it from her mother, was lost. The hand-pressure led to the pretence of suicide in order to fly with her lover. It might also lead to infanticide.