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Monsieur Lecoq

Chapter 15
Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, was very gay that year; that is to say, all places
of public resort were crowded. When Lecoq left the Hotel de Mariembourg about
midnight, the streets were as full as if it had been noonday, and the cafes were
thronged with customers.
But the young detective had no heart for pleasure. He mingled with the crowd
without seemingly seeing it, and jostled against groups of people chatting at the
corners, without hearing the imprecations occasioned by his awkwardness.
Where was he going? He had no idea. He walked aimlessly, more disconsolate
and desperate than the gambler who had staked his last hope with his last louis,
and lost.
"I must yield," he murmured; "this evidence is conclusive. My presumptions were
only chimeras; my deductions the playthings of chance! All I can now do is to
withdraw, with the least possible damage and ridicule, from the false position I
have assumed."
Just as he reached the boulevard, however, a new idea entered his brain, an
idea of so startling a kind that he could scarcely restrain a loud exclamation of
surprise. "What a fool I am!" cried he, striking his hand violently against his
forehead. "Is it possible to be so strong in theory, and yet so ridiculously weak in
practise? Ah! I am only a child, a mere novice, disheartened by the slightest
obstacle. I meet with a difficulty, and at once I lose all my courage. Now, let me
reflect calmly. What did I tell the judge about this murderer, whose plan of
defense so puzzles us? Did I not tell him that we had to deal with a man of
superior talent--with a man of consummate penetration and experience--a bold,
courageous fellow of imperturbable coolness, who will do anything to insure the
success of his plans? Yes; I told him all that, and yet I give up the game in
despair as soon as I meet with a single circumstance that I can not instantly
 
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