The old surgeon once more jumped up from his chair.
“What!” he said, “you have found Crochard’s treasure?”
“No,” replied the lawyer, “not yet; but”—
He could hardly keep from smiling grimly; but he added at once,—
“But I know where it is, I think. Ah! I can safely say it was not on the first day exactly that I saw where the truth probably was hid. I have had a good deal of perplexity and trouble. Morally sure as I was, after the first examination of the accused, that he had a relatively large sum hidden somewhere, I first gave all my attention to his chamber. Assisted by a clever police-agent, I examined that room for a whole fortnight, till I was furious. The furniture was taken to pieces, and examined, the lining taken out of the chairs, and even the paper stripped from the walls. All in vain. I was in despair, when a thought struck me,—one of those simple thoughts which make you wonder why it did not occur to you at once. I said to myself, ‘I have found it!’ And, anxious to ascertain if I was right, I immediately sent for the man with whom Crochard had made the bet about swimming across the Dong-Nai. He came; and—But I prefer reading you his deposition.”
He took from the large bundle of papers a single sheet, and, assuming an air of great modesty, read the affidavit.
“Magistrate.—At what point of the river did Crochard swim across?
“Witness.—A little below the town.
“M.—Where did he undress?
“W.—At the place where he went into the water, just opposite the tile-factory of M. Wang-Tai.
“M.—What did he do with his clothes?
“W. (very much surprised).—Nothing.
“M.—Excuse me; he must have done something. Try to recollect.
“W. (striking his forehead).—Why, yes! I remember now. When Bagnolet had undressed, I saw he looked annoyed, as if he disliked going into the water. But no! that was not it. He was afraid about his clothes; and he did not rest satisfied till I had told him I would keep watch over them. Now, his clothes consisted of a mean pair of trousers and a miserable blouse. As they were in my way, I put them down on the ground, at the foot of a tree. He had in the meantime done his work, and came back; but, instead of listening to my compliments, he cried furiously, ‘My clothes!’—’Well,’ I said, ‘they are not lost. There they are.’ Thereupon he pushed me back fiercely, without saying a word, and ran like a madman to pick up his clothes.”
The chief surgeon was electrified; he rose, and said,—
“I understand; yes, I understand.”
Thus proceeding from one point to another, and by the unaided power of his sagacity, coupled with indefatigable activity, the magistrate had succeeded in establishing Crochard’s guilt, and the existence of accomplices who had instigated the crime. No one could doubt that he was proud of it, and that his self-esteem had increased, although he tried hard to preserve his stiff and impassive appearance. He had even affected a certain dislike to the idea of reading Henrietta’s letter, until he should have proved that he could afford to do without such assistance.