“Because you would not believe in the logical sequence of your premises; but I am consistent, and I say that it seems impossible the murderer arrested in the Widow Chupin’s drinking den should be the Duc de Sairmeuse. Hence, the murderer arrested there, May, the pretended buffoon, is the Duc de Sairmeuse!”
How this idea had entered old Tabaret’s head, Lecoq could not understand. A vague suspicion had, it is true, flitted through his own mind; but it was in a moment of despair when he was distracted at having lost May, and when certain of Couturier’s remarks furnished the excuse for any ridiculous supposition. And yet now Father Tirauclair calmly proclaimed this suspicion—which Lecoq had not dared seriously to entertain, even for an instant—to be an undoubted fact.
“You look as if you had suddenly fallen from the clouds,” exclaimed the oracle, noticing his visitor’s amazement. “Do you suppose that I spoke at random like a parrot?”
“No, certainly not, but—”
“Tush! You are surprised because you know nothing of contemporary history. If you don’t wish to remain all your life a common detective, like your friend Gevrol, you must read, and make yourself familiar with all the leading events of the century.”
“I must confess that I don’t see the connection.”
M. Tabaret did not deign to reply. Turning to Father Absinthe, he requested the old detective, in the most affable tones, to go to the library and fetch two large volumes entitled: “General Biography of the Men of the Present Age,” which he would find in the bookcase on the right. Father Absinthe hastened to obey; and as soon as the books were brought, M. Tabaret began turning the pages with an eager hand, like a person seeking some word in a dictionary.
“Esbayron,” he muttered, “Escars, Escayrac, Escher, Escodica—at last we have it—Escorval! Listen attentively, my boy, and you will be enlightened.”
This injunction was entirely unnecessary. Never had the young detective’s faculties been more keenly on the alert. It was in an emphatic voice that the sick man then read: “Escorval (Louis-Guillaume, baron d’).—Diplomatist and politician, born at Montaignac, December 3d, 1769; of an old family of lawyers. He was completing his studies in Paris at the outbreak of the Revolution and embraced the popular cause with all the ardor of youth. But, soon disapproving the excesses committed in the name of Liberty, he sided with the Reactionists, advised, perhaps, by Roederer, who was one of his relatives. Commended to the favor of the First Counsel by M. de Talleyrand, he began his diplomatic career with a mission to Switzerland; and during the existence of the First Empire he was entrusted with many important negotiations. Devoted to the Emperor, he found himself gravely compromised at the advent of the Second