The Mystery of Orcival
A long silence followed the detective's discourse. Perhaps his hearers were casting about
for objections. At last Dr. Gendron spoke:
"I don't see Guespin's part in all this."
"Nor I, very clearly," answered M. Legoq. "And here I ought to confess to you not only
the strength, but the weakness also, of the theory I have adopted. By this method, which
consists of reconstructing the crime before discovering the criminal, I can be neither right
nor wrong by halves. Either all my inferences are correct, or not one of them is. It's all, or
nothing. If I am right, Guespin has not been mixed up with this crime, at least directly;
for there isn't a single circumstance which suggests outside aid. If, on the other hand, I
am wrong - "
M. Lecoq paused. He seemed to have heard some unexpected noise in the garden.
"But I am not wrong. I have still another charge against the count, of which I haven't
spoken, but which seems to be conclusive."
"Oh," cried the doctor, "what now?"
"Two certainties are better than one, and I always doubt. When I was left alone a moment
with Francois, the valet, I asked him if he knew exactly the number of the count's shoes;
he said yes, and took me to a closet where the shoes are kept. A pair of boots, with green
Russia leather tops, which Francois was sure the count had put on the previous morning,
was missing. I looked for them carefully everywhere, but could not find them. Again, the
blue cravat with white stripes which the count wore on the 8th, had also disappeared."
"There," cried M. Plantat, "that is indisputable proof that your supposition about the
slippers and handkerchief was right."
"I think that the facts are sufficiently established to enable us to go forward. Let's now
consider the events which must have decided - "
M. Lecoq again stopped, and seemed to be listening. All of a sudden, without a word he
jumped on the window-sill and from thence into the garden, with the bound of a cat
which pounces on a mouse. The noise of a fall, a stifled cry, an oath, were heard, and
then a stamping as if a struggle were going on. The doctor and M. Plantat hastened to the
window. Day was breaking, the trees shivered in the fresh wind of the early morning, -
objects were vaguely visible without distinct forms across the white mist which hangs, on
summer nights, over the valley of the Seine. In the middle of the lawn, at rapid intervals,
they heard the blunt noise of a clinched fist striking a living body, and saw two men, or
rather two phantoms, furiously swinging their arms. Presently the two shapes formed but
one, then they separated, again to unite; one of the two fell, rose at once, and fell again.