“Still, never mind,” the young detective mentally exclaimed, “no one ever tastes perfect happiness here below.”
And concentrating all his thoughts on the task before him, he hurried on his way.
When, after a rapid walk of twenty minutes, Lecoq reached the police station near the Barriere d’Italie, the doorkeeper, with his pipe in his mouth, was pacing slowly to and fro before the guard-house. His thoughtful air, and the anxious glances he cast every now and then toward one of the little grated windows of the building sufficed to indicate that some very rare bird indeed had been entrusted to his keeping. As soon as he recognized Lecoq, his brow cleared, and he paused in his promenade.
“Ah, well!” he inquired, “what news do you bring?”
“I have an order to conduct the prisoners to the prefecture.”
The keeper rubbed his hands, and his smile of satisfaction plainly implied that he felt a load the less on his shoulders.
“Capital! capital!” he exclaimed. “The Black Maria, the prison van, will pass here in less than an hour; we will throw them in, and hurry the driver off—”
Lecoq was obliged to interrupt the keeper’s transports of satisfaction. “Are the prisoners alone?” he inquired.
“Quite alone: the woman in one cell, and the man in the other. This has been a remarkably quiet night, for Shrove Sunday! Quite surprising indeed! It is true your hunt was interrupted.”
“You had a drunken man here, however.”
“No—yes—that’s true—this morning just at daybreak. A poor devil, who is under a great obligation to Gevrol.”
The involuntary irony of this remark did not escape Lecoq. “Yes, under a great obligation, indeed!” he said with a derisive laugh.
“You may laugh as much as you like,” retorted the keeper, “but such is really the case; if it hadn’t been for Gevrol the man would certainly have been run over.”
“And what has become of him?”
The keeper shrugged his shoulders. “You ask me too much,” he responded. He was a worthy fellow who had been spending the night at a friend’s house, and on coming out into the open air, the wine flew into his head. He told us all about it when he got sober, half an hour afterward. I never saw a man so vexed as he was. He wept, and stammered: “The father of a family, and at my age too! Oh! it is shameful! What shall I say to my wife? What will the children think?”
“Did he talk much about his wife?”
“He talked about nothing else. He mentioned her name—Eudosia Leocadie, or some name of that sort. He declared that he should be ruined if we kept him here. He begged us to send for the commissary, to go to his house, and when we set him free, I thought he would go mad with joy; he kissed our hands, and thanked us again and again!”
“And did you place him in the same cage as the murderer?” inquired Lecoq.