“Where is he now?”
“At the prefecture, I suppose. Some policemen handcuffed him, and drove off with him in a cab.”
“Come with me.”
M. Verduret and Fanferlot found Clameran in one of the private cells reserved for dangerous prisoners.
He had on a strait-jacket, and was struggling violently against three men, who were striving to hold him, while a physician tried to force him to swallow a potion.
“Help!” he shrieked; “help, for God’s sake! Do you not see my brother coming after me? Look! he wants to poison me!”
M. Verduret took the physician aside, and questioned him about the maniac.
“The wretched man is in a hopeless state,” replied the doctor; “this species of insanity is incurable. He thinks someone is trying to poison him, and nothing will persuade him to eat or drink anything; and, as it is impossible to force anything down his throat, he will die of starvation, after having suffered all the tortures of poison.”
M. Verduret, with a shudder, turned to leave the prefecture, saying to Fanferlot:
“Mme. Fauvel is saved, and by the interposition of God, who has himself punished Clameran!”
“That don’t help me in the least,” grumbled Fanferlot. “The idea of all my trouble and labor ending in this flat, quiet way! I seem to be born for ill-luck!”
“Don’t take your blighted hopes of glory so much to heart,” replied M. Verduret. “It is a melancholy fact for you that File No. 113 will never leave the record-office; but you must bear your disappointment gracefully and heroically. I will console you by sending you as bearer of despatches to a friend of mine, and what you have lost in fame will be gained in gold.”
Four days had passed since the events just narrated, when one morning M. Lecoq—the official Lecoq, who resembled the dignified head of a bureau—was walking up and down his private office, at each turn nervously looking at the clock, which slowly ticked on the mantel, as if it had no intention of striking any sooner than usual, to gratify the man so anxiously watching its placid face.
At last, however, the clock did strike; and just then the faithful Janouille opened the door, and ushered in Mme. Nina and Prosper Bertomy.
“Ah,” said M. Lecoq, “you are punctual; lovers are generally so.”
“We are not lovers, monsieur,” replied Mme. Gypsy. “M. Verduret gave us express orders to meet here in your office this morning, and we have obeyed.”
“Very good,” said the celebrated detective: “then be kind enough to wait a few minutes; I will tell him you are here.”
During the quarter of an hour that Nina and Prosper remained alone together, they did not exchange a word. Finally a door opened, and M. Verduret appeared.
Nina and Prosper eagerly started toward him; but he checked them by one of those peculiar looks which no one ever dared resist.