“The man wore very large rings in his ears.”
“Bravo!” cried Gevrol, “here is a complete description. I shall find the fellow now. M. Daburon can prepare a warrant for his appearance whenever he likes.”
“I believe, indeed, the testimony of this child is of the highest importance,” said M. Daburon; and turning to the boy added, “Can you tell us, my little friend, with what this boat was loaded?”
“No, sir, I couldn’t see because it was decked.”
“Which way was she going, up the Seine or down?”
“Neither, sir, she was moored.”
“We know that,” said Gevrol. “The magistrate asks you which way the prow of the boat was turned,—towards Paris or towards Marly?”
“The two ends of the boat seemed alike to me.”
The chief of the detective of police made a gesture of disappointment.
“At least,” said he, addressing the child again, “you noticed the name of the boat? you can read I suppose. One should always know the names of the boats one goes aboard of.”
“No, I didn’t see any name,” said the little boy.
“If this boat was moored at the quay,” remarked M. Daburon, “it was probably noticed by the inhabitants of Bougival.”
“That is true, sir,” approved the commissary.
“Yes,” said Gevrol, “and the sailors must have come ashore. I shall find out all about it at the wine shop. But what sort of a man was Gervais, the master, my little friend?”
“Like all the sailors hereabouts, sir.”
The child was preparing to depart when M. Daburon recalled him.
“Before you go, my boy, tell me, have you spoken to any one of this meeting before to-day?”
“Yes, sir, I told all to mamma when I got back from church, and gave her the ten sous.”
“And you have told us the whole truth?” continued the magistrate. “You know that it is a very grave matter to attempt to impose on justice. She always finds it out, and it is my duty to warn you that she inflicts the most terrible punishment upon liars.”
The little fellow blushed as red as a cherry, and held down his head.
“I see,” pursued M. Daburon, “that you have concealed something from us. Don’t you know that the police know everything?”
“Pardon! sir,” cried the boy, bursting into tears,—“pardon. Don’t punish me, and I will never do so again.”
“Tell us, then, how you have deceived us?”
“Well, sir, it was not ten sous that the man gave me, it was twenty sous. I only gave half to mamma; and I kept the rest to buy marbles with.”
“My little friend,” said the investigating magistrate, “for this time I forgive you. But let it be a lesson for the remainder of your life. You may go now, and remember it is useless to try and hide the truth; it always comes to light!”