“Oh, trust me!” replied the governor, hastily leaving the room.
Less than a quarter of an hour afterward he returned, carrying in triumph a little volume in 32mo. With a trembling hand Lecoq turned to page 235, and began to count. The fifteenth word on the page was ‘I’; the third afterward, ‘have’; the eighth following, ‘told’; the twenty-fifth, ‘her’; the second, ‘your’; the sixteenth, ‘wishes.’ Hence, the meaning of those six numbers was: “I have told her your wishes.”
The three persons who had witnessed this display of shrewdness could not restrain their admiration. “Bravo! Lecoq,” exclaimed the magistrate. “I will no longer bet a hundred to one on May,” thought the smiling clerk.
But Lecoq was still busily engaged in deciphering the missive, and soon, in a voice trembling with gratified vanity, he read the entire note aloud. It ran as follows: “I have told her your wishes; she submits. Our safety is assured; we are waiting your orders to act. Hope! Courage!”
Yet what a disappointment it produced after the fever of anxiety and expectation that had seized hold of everybody present. This strange epistle furnished no clue whatever to the mystery; and the ray of hope that had sparkled for an instant in M. Segmuller’s eyes speedily faded away. As for the versatile Goguet he returned with increased conviction to his former opinion, that the prisoner had the advantage over his accusers.
“How unfortunate,” remarked the governor of the Depot, with a shade of sarcasm in his voice, “that so much trouble, and such marvelous penetration, should be wasted!”
“So you think, sir, that I have wasted my time!” rejoined Lecoq in a tone of angry banter, a scarlet flush mantling at the same time over his features. “Such is not my opinion. This scrap of paper undeniably proves that if any one has been mistaken as regards the prisoner’s identity, it is certainly not I.”
“Very well,” was the reply. “M. Gevrol and myself may have been mistaken: no one is infallible. But have you learned anything more than you knew before? Have you made any progress?”
“Why, yes. Now that people know the prisoner is not what he pretends to be, instead of annoying and hampering me, perhaps they will assist us to discover who he really is.”
Lecoq’s tone, and his allusion to the difficulties he had encountered, cut the governor to the quick. The knowledge that the reproof was not altogether undeserved increased his resentment and determined him to bring this discussion with an inferior to an abrupt close. “You are right,” said he, sarcastically. “This May must be a very great and illustrious personage. Only, my dear Monsieur Lecoq (for there is an only), do me the favor to explain how such an important personage could disappear, and the police not be advised of it? A man of rank, such as you suppose this prisoner to be, usually has a family, friends, relatives, proteges, and numerous connections; and yet not a single person has made any inquiry during the three weeks that this fellow May has been under my charge! Come, admit you never thought of that.”