Monsieur Lecoq HTML version
Long, narrow, and low of ceiling, having on the one side a row of windows
looking on to a small courtyard, and on the other a range of doors, each with a
number on its central panel, thus reminding one of some corridor in a second-
rate hotel, such is the Galerie d'Instruction at the Palais de Justice whereby
admittance is gained into the various rooms occupied by the investigating
magistrates. Even in the daytime, when it is thronged with prisoners, witnesses,
and guards, it is a sad and gloomy place. But it is absolutely sinister of aspect at
night-time, when deserted, and only dimly lighted by the smoky lamp of a solitary
attendant, waiting for the departure of some magistrate whom business has
detained later than usual.
Although Lecoq was not sensitive to such influences, he made haste to reach the
staircase and thus escape the echo of his footsteps, which sounded most drearily
in the silence and darkness pervading the gallery.
Finding an open window on the floor below, he looked out to ascertain the state
of the weather. The temperature was much milder; the snow had altogether
disappeared, and the pavement was almost dry. A slight haze, illumined by the
ruddy glare of the street lamps, hung like a purple mantle over the city. The
streets below were full of animation; vehicles were rolling rapidly to and fro, and
the footways were too narrow for the bustling crowd, which, now that the labors
of the day were ended, was hastening homeward or in search of pleasure.
The sight drew a sigh from the young detective. "And it is in this great city," he
murmured, "in the midst of this world of people that I must discover the traces of
a person I don't even know! Is it possible to accomplish such a feat?"
The feeling of despondency that had momentarily surprised him was not,
however, of long duration. "Yes, it is possible," cried an inward voice. "Besides, it