Lecoq’s face was so radiant when he returned to the cab that, as the old coachman urged on his horse, he could not refrain from saying: “Things are going on to suit you.”
A friendly “hush!” was the only response. It required all Lecoq’s attention to classify this new information. When he alighted from the cab in front of the Palais de Justice, he experienced considerable difficulty in dismissing the old cabman, who insisted upon remaining at his orders. He succeeded at last, however, but even when he had reached the portico on the left side of the building, the worthy fellow, standing up, still shouted at the top of his voice: “At M. Trigault’s house—don’t forget—Father Papillon—No. 998—1,000 less 2—”
Lecoq had entered the left wing of the Palais. He climbed the stairs till he had reached the third floor, and was about to enter the long, narrow, badly-lighted corridor known as the Galerie de l’Instruction, when, finding a doorkeeper installed behind a heavy oaken desk, he remarked: “M. d’Escorval is, of course, in his office?”
The man shook his head. “No,” said he, “M. d’Escorval is not here this morning, and he won’t be here for several weeks.”
“Why not! What do you mean?”
“Last night, as he was alighting from his carriage, at his own door, he had a most unfortunate fall, and broke his leg.”
Some men are wealthy. They own a carriage drawn by a pair of high-stepping horses, and driven by a coachman in stylish livery; and as they pass by, leaning back on comfortable cushions, they become the object of many an envious glance. Sometimes, however, the coachman has taken a drop too much, and upsets the carriage; perhaps the horses run away and a general smash ensues; or, maybe, the hitherto fortunate owner, in a moment of absent-mindedness, misses the step, and fractures his leg on the curbstone. Such accidents occur every day; and their long list should make humble foot-passengers bless the lowly lot which preserves them from such peril.
On learning the misfortune that had befallen M. d’Escorval, Lecoq’s face wore such an expression of consternation that the doorkeeper could not help laughing. “What is there so very extraordinary about that I’ve told you?” he asked.
The detective did not speak the truth. The fact is, he had just been struck by the strange coincidence of two events—the supposed murderer’s attempted suicide, and the magistrate’s fall. Still, he did not allow the vague presentiment that flitted through his mind to assume any definite form. For after all, what possible connection could there be between the two occurrences? Then again, he never allowed himself to be governed by prejudice, nor had he as yet enriched his formulary with an axiom he afterward professed: “Distrust all circumstances that seem to favor your secret wishes.”