“Ah,” he said, “monsieur comes to see me about M. Bertomy’s case?”
M. Patrigent remained standing by the sick-bed while Sigault arranged his papers on a little table.
In answer to the usual questions, the messenger swore that he was named Antonin Poche, was forty years old, born at Cadaujac (Gironde), and was unmarried.
“Now,” said the judge, “are you well enough to clearly answer any questions I may put?”
“Did you, on the 27th of February, go to the Bank of France for the three hundred and fifty thousand francs that were stolen?”
“At what hour did you return with the money?”
“It must have been five o’clock when I got back.”
“Do you remember what M. Bertomy did when you handed him the notes? Now, do not be in a hurry; think before you answer.”
“Let me see: first he counted the notes, and made them into four packages; then he put them in the safe; and then—it seems to me—and then he locked the safe; and, yes, I am not mistaken, he went out!”
He uttered these last words so quickly, that, forgetting his knee, he half started up, but, with a cry of pain, sank back in bed.
“Are you sure of what you say?” asked the judge.
M. Patrigent’s solemn tone seemed to frighten Antonin.
“Sure?” he replied with marked hesitation, “I would bet my head on it, yet I am not sure!”
It was impossible for him to be more decided in his answers. He had been frightened. He already imagined himself in difficulty, and for a trifle would have retracted everything.
But the effect was already produced; and when they retired M. Patrigent said to Sigault:
“This is a very important piece of evidence.”
The Archangel Hotel, Mme. Gypsy’s asylum, was the most elegant building on the Quai St. Michel.
A person who pays her fortnight’s board in advance is treated with consideration at this hotel.
Mme. Alexandre, who had been a handsome woman, was now stout, laced till she could scarcely breathe, always over-dressed, and fond of wearing a number of flashy gold chains around her fat neck.
She had bright eyes and white teeth; but, alas, a red nose. Of all her weaknesses, and Heaven knows she had indulged in every variety, only one remained; she loved a good dinner, washed down with plenty of good wine.
She also loved her husband; and, about the time M. Patrigent was leaving the hospital, she began to be worried that her “little man” had not returned to dinner. She was about to sit down without him, when the hotel-boy cried out:
“Here is monsieur.”
And Fanferlot appeared in person.
Three years before, Fanferlot had kept a little office of secret intelligence; Mme. Alexandre was a trader without a license in perfumery and toilet articles, and, finding it necessary to watch some of her suspicious customers, engaged Fanferlot’s services; this was the origin of their acquaintance.