The governor of the Depot, a functionary who had gained the reputation of an
oracle by twenty years' experience in prisons and with prisoners--a man whom it
was most difficult to deceive--had advised the magistrate to surround himself with
every precaution before examining the prisoner, May.
And yet this man, characterized as a most dangerous criminal, and the very
announcement of whose coming had made the clerk turn pale, had proved to be
a practical, harmless, and jovial philosopher, vain of his eloquence, a bohemian
whose existence depended upon his ability to turn a compliment; in short, a
somewhat erratic genius.
This was certainly strange, but the seeming contradiction did not cause M.
Segmuller to abandon the theory propounded by Lecoq. On the contrary, he was
more than ever convinced of its truth. If he remained silent, with his elbows
leaning on the desk, and his hands clasped over his eyes, it was only that he
might gain time for reflection.
The prisoner's attitude and manner were remarkable. When his English harangue
was finished, he remained standing in the centre of the room, a half-pleased,
half-anxious expression on his face. Still, he was as much at ease as if he had
been on the platform outside some stroller's booth, where, if one could believe
his story, he had passed the greater part of his life. It was in vain that the
magistrate sought for some indication of weakness on his features, which in their
mobility were more enigmatical than the lineaments of the Sphinx.
Thus far, M. Segmuller had been worsted in the encounter. It is true, however,
that he had not as yet ventured on any direct attack, nor had he made use of any
of the weapons which Lecoq had forged for his use. Still he was none the less
annoyed at his defeat, as it was easy to see by the sharp manner in which he