When a heavy stone is thrown into a lake a considerable commotion ensues, the
water spouts and seethes and bubbles and frequently a tall jet leaps into the air.
But all this agitation only lasts for a moment; the bubbling subsides as the circles
of the passing whirlpool grow larger and larger; the surface regains at last its
customary smoothness; and soon no trace remains of the passage of the stone,
now buried in the depths below.
So it is with the events of our daily life, however momentous they may appear at
the hour of their occurrence. It seems as if their impressions would last for years;
but no, they speedily sink into the depths of the past, and time obliterates their
passage--just as the water of the lake closes over and hides the stone, for an
instant the cause of such commotion. Thus it was that at the end of a fortnight
the frightful crime committed in the Widow Chupin's drinking-den, the triple
murder which had made all Paris shudder, which had furnished the material for
so many newspaper articles, and the topic for such indignant comments, was
completely forgotten. Indeed, had the tragedy at the Poivriere occurred in the
times of Charlemagne, it could not have passed more thoroughly out of people's
minds. It was remembered only in three places, at the Depot, at the Prefecture
de Police, and at the Palais de Justice.
M. Segmuller's repeated efforts had proved as unsuccessful as Lecoq's. Skilful
questioning, ingenious insinuations, forcible threats, and seductive promises had
proved powerless to overcome the dogged spirit of absolute denial which
persistently animated, not merely the prisoner May, but also the Widow Chupin,
her son Polyte, Toinon the Virtuous, and Madame Milner. The evidence of these
various witnesses showed plainly enough that they were all in league with the
mysterious accomplice; but what did this knowledge avail? Their attitude never
varied! And, even if at times their looks gave the lie to their denials, one could
always read in their eyes an unshaken determination to conceal the truth.