The detective weighed his wife’s words, and then said:
“Perhaps you are right; yet M. Lecoq is so devilishly shrewd, that he might see through me.”
“Shrewd!” echoed Mme. Alexandre, “shrewd! All of you at the police office say that so often, that he has gained his reputation by it: you are just as sharp as he is.”
“Well, we will see. I will think the matter over; but, in the meantime, what does the girl say?”
The “girl” was Mme. Nina Gypsy.
In taking up her abode at the Archangel, the poor girl thought she was following good advice; and, as Fanferlot had never appeared in her presence since, she was still under the impression that she had obeyed a friend of Prosper’s. When she received her summons from M. Patrigent, she admired the wonderful skill of the police in discovering her hiding-place; for she had established herself at the hotel under a false, or rather her true name, Palmyre Chocareille.
Artfully questioned by her inquisitive landlady, she had, without any mistrust, confided her history to her.
Thus Fanferlot was able to impress the judge with the idea of his being a skilful detective, when he pretended to have discovered all this information from a variety of sources.
“She is still upstairs,” answered Mme. Alexandre. “She suspects nothing; but to keep her in her present ignorance becomes daily more difficult. I don’t know what the judge told her, but she came home quite beside herself with anger. She wanted to go and make a fuss at M. Fauvel’s; then she wrote a letter which she told Jean to post for her; but I kept it to show you.”
“What!” interrupted Fanferlot, “you have a letter, and did not tell me before? Perhaps it contains the clew to the mystery. Give it to me, quick.”
Obeying her husband, Mme. Alexandre opened a little cupboard, and took out a letter which she handed to him.
“Here, take it,” she said, “and be satisfied.”
Considering that she used to be a chambermaid, Palmyre Chocareille, since become Mme. Gypsy, wrote a good letter.
It bore the following address, written in a free, flowing hand:
Forge-Master, Hotel du Louvre.
To be handed to M. Raoul de Lagors.
(In great haste.)
“Oh, ho!” said Fanferlot, accompanying his exclamation with a little whistle, as was his habit when he thought he had made a grand discovery. “Oh, ho!”
“Do you intend to open it?” questioned Mme. Alexandre.
“A little bit,” said Fanferlot, as he dexterously opened the envelope.
Mme. Alexandre leaned over her husband’s shoulder, and they both read the following letter:
“Monsieur Raoul—Prosper is in prison, accused of a robbery which he never committed. I wrote to you three days ago.”