“If you know how to hold your tongue you shall have one hundred thousand francs.”
Then, drawing a table before the door opening into the adjoining room, he intrenched himself behind it as behind a rampart, and awaited the approach of the enemy.
The next moment the door was forced open, and a squad of police, under the command of Inspector Gevrol, entered the room.
“Surrender!” cried the inspector.
Martial did not move; his pistol was turned upon the intruder.
“If I can parley with them, and hold them in check only two minutes, all may yet be saved,” he thought.
He obtained the wished-for delay; then he threw his weapon to the ground, and was about to bound through the back-door, when a policeman, who had gone round to the rear of the house, seized him about the body, and threw him to the floor.
From this side he expected only assistance, so he cried:
“Lost! It is the Prussians who are coming!”
In the twinkling of an eye he was bound; and two hours later he was an inmate of the station-house at the Place d’Italie.
He had played his part so perfectly, that he had deceived even Gevrol. The other participants in the broil were dead, and he could rely upon the Widow Chupin. But he knew that the trap had been set for him by Jean Lacheneur; and he read a whole volume of suspicion in the eyes of the young officer who had cut off his retreat, and who was called Lecoq by his companions.
The Duc de Sairmeuse was one of those men who remain superior to all fortuitous circumstances, good or bad. He was a man of vast experience, and great natural shrewdness. His mind was quick to act, and fertile in resources. But when he found himself immured in the damp and loathsome station-house, after the terrible scenes at the Poivriere, he relinquished all hope.
Martial knew that Justice does not trust to appearances, and that when she finds herself confronted by a mystery, she does not rest until she has fathomed it.
Martial knew, only too well, that if his identity was established, the authorities would endeavor to discover the reason of his presence at the Poivriere. That this reason would soon be discovered, he could not doubt, and, in that case, the crime at the Borderie, and the guilt of the duchess, would undoubtedly be made public.
This meant the Court of Assizes, prison, a frightful scandal, dishonor, eternal disgrace!
And the power he had wielded in former days was a positive disadvantage to him now. His place was now filled by his political adversaries. Among them were two personal enemies upon whom he had inflicted those terrible wounds of vanity which are never healed. What an opportunity for revenge this would afford them!
At the thought of this ineffaceable stain upon the great name of Sairmeuse, which was his pride and his glory, reason almost forsook him.