No consultation held at the bedside of a dying man ever took place in the
presence of two physicians so utterly unlike each other as those who
accompanied the commissary of police to the Poivriere.
One of them, a tall old man with a bald head, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, and
an overcoat of antique cut, was evidently one of those modest savants
encountered occasionally in the byways of Paris--one of those healers devoted to
their art, who too often die in obscurity, after rendering immense services to
mankind. He had the gracious calmness of a man who, having seen so much of
human misery, has nothing left to learn, and no troubled conscience could have
possibly sustained his searching glance, which was as keen as his lancet.
His colleague--young, fresh-looking, light-haired, and jovial--was somewhat
foppishly attired; and his white hands were encased in handsome fur gloves.
There was a soft self-satisfied smile on his face, and he had the manners of
those practitioners who, for profit's sake, invariably recommend the infallible
panaceas invented each month in chemical laboratories and advertised ad
nauseam in the back pages of newspapers. He had probably written more than
one article upon "Medicine for the use of the people"; puffing various mixtures,
pills, ointments, and plasters for the benefit of their respective inventors.
"I will request you, gentlemen," said the commissary of police, "to begin your
duties by examining the victim who wears a military costume. Here is a sergeant-
major summoned to answer a question of identity, whom I must send back to his
quarters as soon as possible."
The two physicians responded with a gesture of assent, and aided by Father
Absinthe and another agent of police, they lifted the body and laid it upon two
tables, which had previously been placed end to end. They were not obliged to