If it is difficult to extort a confession from a man interested in preserving silence
and persuaded that no proofs can be produced against him, it is a yet more
arduous task to make a woman, similarly situated, speak the truth. As they say at
the Palais de Justice, one might as well try to make the devil confess.
The examination of the Widow Chupin had been conducted with the greatest
possible care by M. Segmuller, who was as skilful in managing his questions as a
tried general in maneuvering his troops.
However, all that he had discovered was that the landlady of the Poivriere was
conniving with the murderer. The motive of her connivance was yet unknown,
and the murderer's identity still a mystery. Both M. Segmuller and Lecoq were
nevertheless of the opinion that the old hag knew everything. "It is almost
certain," remarked the magistrate, "that she was acquainted with the people who
came to her house--with the women, the victims, the murderer--with all of them,
in fact. I am positive as regards that fellow Gustave--I read it in her eyes. I am
also convinced that she knows Lacheneur--the man upon whom the dying soldier
breathed vengeance--the mysterious personage who evidently possesses the
key to the enigma. That man must be found."
"Ah!" replied Lecoq, "and I will find him even if I have to question every one of the
eleven hundred thousand men who constantly walk the streets of Paris!"
This was promising so much that the magistrate, despite his preoccupation,
could not repress a smile.
"If this old woman would only decide to make a clean breast of it at her next
examination!" remarked Lecoq.
"Yes. But she won't."