“I am going to let you down, father,” said he; “and, as soon as you touch the ground, you must undo the knot. Take care of the first-story windows; beware of the concierge; and, once in the street, don’t walk too fast. Make for the Boulevard, where you will be sooner lost in the crowd.”
The knocks had now become violent blows; and it was evident that the door would soon be broken in, if M. Desormeaux did not make up his mind to open it.
The light was put out. With the assistance of his daughter, M. Favoral lifted himself upon the window-sill, whilst Maxence held the sheets with both hands.
“I beseech you, Vincent,” repeated Mme. Favoral, “write to us. We shall be in mortal anxiety until we hear of your safety.”
Maxence let the sheets slip slowly: in two seconds M. Favoral stood on the pavement below.
“All right,” he said.
The young man drew the sheets back rapidly, and threw them under the bed. But Mlle. Gilberte remained long enough at the window to recognize her father’s voice asking the concierge to open the door, and to hear the heavy gate of the adjoining house closing behind him.
“Saved!” she said.
It was none too soon. M. Desormeaux had just been compelled to yield; and the commissary of police was walking in.
The commissaries of police of Paris, as a general thing, are no simpletons; and, if they are ever taken in, it is because it has suited them to be taken in.
Their modest title covers the most important, perhaps, of magistracies, almost the only one known to the lower classes; an enormous power, and an influence so decisive, that the most sensible statesman of the reign of Louis Philippe ventured once to say, “Give me twenty good commissaries of police in Paris, and I’ll undertake to suppress any government: net profit, one hundred millions.”
Parisian above all, the commissary has had ample time to study his ground when he was yet only a peace-officer. The dark side of the most brilliant lives has no mysteries for him. He has received the strangest confidences: he has listened to the most astounding confessions. He knows how low humanity can stoop, and what aberrations there are in brains apparently the soundest. The work woman whom her husband beats, and the great lady whom her husband cheats, have both come to him. He has been sent for by the shop-keeper whom his wife deceives, and by the millionaire who has been blackmailed. To his office, as to a lay confessional, all passions fatally lead. In his presence the dirty linen of two millions of people is washed en famille.
A Paris commissary of police, who after ten years’ practice, could retain an illusion, believe in something, or be astonished at any thing in the world, would be but a fool. If he is still capable of some emotion, he is a good man.