The Mystery of Orcival
Nine o'clock had just struck in the belfry of the church of St. Eustache, when M. Plantat
reached Rue Montmartre, and entered the house bearing the number which M. Lecoq had
"Monsieur Lecoq?" said he to an old woman who was engaged in getting breakfast for
three large cats which were mewing around her. The woman scanned him with a
surprised and suspicious air. M. Plantat, when he was dressed up, had much more the
appearance of a fine old gentleman than of a country attorney; and though the detective
received many visits from all sorts of people, it was rarely that the denizens of the
Faubourg Saint Germaine rung his bell.
"Monsieur Lecoq's apartments," answered the old woman, "are on the third story, the
door facing the stairs."
The justice of the peace slowly ascended the narrow, ill-lighted staircase, which in its
dark corners was almost dangerous. He was thinking of the strange step he was about to
take. An idea had occurred to him, but he did not know whether it were practicable, and
at all events he needed the aid and advice of the detective. He was forced to disclose his
most secret thoughts, as it were, to confess himself; and his heart beat fast. The door
opposite the staircase on the third story was not like other doors; it was of plain oak,
thick, without mouldings, and fastened with iron bars. It would have looked like a prison
door had not its sombreness been lightened by a heavily colored engraving of a cock
crowing, with the legend "Always Vigilant." Had the detective put his coat of arms up
there? Was it not more likely that one of his men had done it? After examining the door
more than a minute, and hesitating like a youth before his beloved's gate, he rang the bell.
A creaking of locks responded, and through the narrow bars of the peephole he saw the
hairy face of an old crone.
"What do you want?" said the woman, in a deep, bass voice.
"What do you want of him?"
"He made an appointment with me for this morning."
"Your name and business?"
"Monsieur Plantat, justice of the peace at Orcival."
"All right. Wait."
The peephole was closed and the old man waited.