Lecoq did not sleep that night, although he had been on his feet for more than
forty hours, and had scarcely paused either to eat or drink. Anxiety, hope, and
even fatigue itself, had imparted to his body the fictitious strength of fever, and to
his intellect the unhealthy acuteness which is so often the result of intense
He no longer had to occupy himself with imaginary deductions, as in former times
when in the employ of his patron, the astronomer. Once again did the fact prove
stranger than fiction. Here was reality--a terrible reality personified by the corpses
of three victims lying on the marble slabs at the Morgue. Still, if the catastrophe
itself was a patent fact, its motive, its surroundings, could only be conjectured.
Who could tell what circumstances had preceded and paved the way for this
It is true that all doubt might be dispelled by one discovery--the identity of the
murderer. Who was he? Who was right, Gevrol or Lecoq? The former's views
were shared by the officials at the prison; the latter stood alone. Again, the
former's opinion was based upon formidable proof, the evidence of sight; while
Lecoq's hypothesis rested only on a series of subtle observations and
deductions, starting from a single sentence that had fallen from the prisoner's
And yet Lecoq resolutely persisted in his theory, guided by the following reasons.
He learnt from M. d'Escorval's clerk that when the magistrate had examined the
prisoner, the latter not only refused to confess, but answered all the questions
put to him in the most evasive fashion. In several instances, moreover, he had
not replied at all. If the magistrate had not insisted, it was because this first
examination was a mere formality, solely intended to justify the somewhat
premature delivery of the order to imprison the accused.