Monsieur Lecoq HTML version

Chapter 4
That night the vagabonds, who had taken refuge in the neighborhood of the
Poivriere, had a very bad time of it; for while those who managed to sleep were
disturbed by frightful dreams of a police raid, those who remained awake
witnessed some strange incidents, well calculated to fill their minds with terror.
On hearing the shots fired inside Mother Chupin's drinking den, most of the
vagrants concluded that there had been a collision between the police and some
of their comrades, and they immediately began prowling about, eagerly listening
and watching, and ready to take flight at the least sign of danger. At first they
could discover no particular reasons for alarm. But later on, at about two o'clock
in the morning, just as they were beginning to feel secure again, the fog lifted a
little, and they witnessed a phenomenon well calculated to arouse anxiety.
Upon the unoccupied tract of land, which the people of the neighborhood called
the "plain," a small but very bright light was seen describing the most capricious
evolutions. It moved here and there without any apparent aim, tracing the most
inexplicable zigzags, sometimes sinking to the earth, sometimes rising to a
height of four or five feet, at others remaining quite motionless, and the next
second flying off like a ball. In spite of the place and the season of the year, the
less ignorant among vagabonds believed the light to be some ignis fatuus, one of
those luminous meteors that raise from the marshes and float about in the
atmosphere at the bidding of the wind. In point of fact, however, this ignis fatuus
was the lantern by the light of which the two police agents were pursuing their
After thus suddenly revealing his capacity to his first disciple, Lecoq found
himself involved in a cruel perplexity. He had not the boldness and promptness of
decision which is the gift of a prosperous past, and was hesitating between two
courses, both equally reasonable, and both offering strong probabilities of
success. He stood between two paths, that made by the two women on the one