It would be difficult to tell his exact status at the Prefecture. When a person is employed, salary or compensation of some kind is understood, but this strange man had never consented to receive a penny. What he did he did for his own pleasure—for the gratification of a passion which had become his very life. When the funds allowed him for expenses seemed insufficient, he at once opened his private purse; and the men who worked with him never went away without some substantial token of his liberality. Of course, such a man had many enemies. He did as much work—and far better work than any two inspectors of police; and he didn’t receive a sou of salary. Hence, in calling him “spoil-trade,” his rivals were not far from right.
Whenever any one ventured to mention his name favorably in Gevrol’s presence, the jealous inspector could scarcely control himself, and retorted by denouncing an unfortunate mistake which this remarkable man once made. Inclined to obstinacy, like all enthusiastic men, he had indeed once effected the conviction of an innocent prisoner—a poor little tailor, who was accused of killing his wife. This single error (a grievous one no doubt), in a career of some duration, had the effect of cooling his ardor perceptibly; and subsequently he seldom visited the Prefecture. But yet he remained “the oracle,” after the fashion of those great advocates who, tired of practise at the bar, still win great and glorious triumphs in their consulting rooms, lending to others the weapons they no longer care to wield themselves.
When the authorities were undecided what course to pursue in some great case, they invariably said: “Let us go and consult Tirauclair.” For this was the name by which he was most generally known: a sobriquet derived from a phrase which was always on his lips. He was constantly saying: “Il faut que cela se tire au clair: That must be brought to light.” Hence, the not altogether inappropriate appellation of “Pere Tirauclair,” or “Father Bring-to-Light.”
Perhaps this sobriquet assisted him in keeping his occupation secret from his friends among the general public. At all events they never suspected them. His disturbed life when he was working up a case, the strange visitors he received, his frequent and prolonged absences from home, were all imputed to a very unreasonable inclination to gallantry. His concierge was deceived as well as his friends, and laughing at his supposed infatuation, disrespectfully called him an old libertine. It was only the officials of the detective force who knew that Tirauclair and Tabaret were one and the same person.
Lecoq was trying to gain hope and courage by reflecting on the career of this eccentric man, when the buxom housekeeper reentered the library and announced that the physician had left. At the same time she opened a door and exclaimed: “This is the room; you gentlemen can enter now.”