“How stupid of me not to have foreseen this,” exclaimed Lecoq. “He has poisoned himself; let some one run for a doctor. Take him into another room and lay him on a bed.”
While these orders were being carried out, Catenac was removed to a cab which was in waiting, and Martin Rigal seemed to have lapsed into a state of moody imbecility. Suddenly he started to his feet, crying,—
“My daughter Flavia! yes, her name is Flavia, what is to become of her? She has no fortune, and she is married to a man who can never provide for her. My child will perhaps starve. Oh, horrible thought!”
The man’s strong mind had evidently given way, and his love for his child and the hideous future that lay before her had broken down the barrier that divides reason from insanity. He was secured by the officers, raving and struggling. When Lecoq was left alone with the Duke, Paul and Flavia, he cast a glimpse of pity at the young girl, who had crouched down in a corner, and evidently hardly understood the terrible scene that had just passed.
“Your Grace,” said he, turning to the Duke, “you have been the victim of a foul conspiracy; this young man is not your son; he is Paul Violaine, and is the son of a poor woman who kept a petty haberdashery shop in the provinces.”
The miserable young fool began to bluster, and attempted to deny this statement; but Lecoq opened the door, and Rose appeared in a most becoming costume. Paul now made no effort to continue his protestations, but throwing himself on his knees, in whining accents confessed the whole fraud and pleaded for mercy, promising to give evidence against his accomplices.
“Do not despair, your Grace,” said Lecoq, as he conducted the Duke to his carriage; “this certainly is not your son; but I have found him, and to-morrow, if you like, you shall be introduced to him.”
“EVERY MAN TO HIS OWN PLACE.”
Obedient to the wishes of M. Lecoq, Andre resigned himself to a lengthy sojourn at the Hospital de Beaujon, and had even the courage to affect that state of profound indifference that had deceived Mascarin. The pretended sick man in the next bed to his told him all that had taken place, but the days seemed to be interminable, and he was beginning to lose patience, when one morning he received a letter which caused a gleam of joy to pass through his heart. “All is right,” wrote Lecoq. “Danger is at an end. Ask the house surgeon for leave to quit the hospital. Dress yourself smartly. You will find me waiting at the doors.—L.”
Andre was not quite convalescent, for he might have to wear his arm in a sling for many weeks longer; but these considerations did not deter him. He now dressed himself in a suit which he had sent for to his rooms, and about nine o’clock he left the hospital.
He stood upon the steps inhaling deep draughts of the fresh air, and then began to wonder where the strange personage was to whom he owed his life. While he was deliberating what to do, an open carriage drew up before the door of the hospital.