In the hotel from whence the coach starts every one seems to be asleep, and a waiter, whose eyes are scarcely open, wanders languidly about. There is not the slightest good in losing your temper, or in pouring out a string of violent remonstrances. In a small restaurant opposite a cup of hot coffee can be procured, and it is there that the disappointed travellers congregate, to await the hour when the coach really makes a start.
At length, however, all is ready, the conductor utters a tremendous execration, the coachman cracks his whip, the horses spring forward, the wheels rattle, and the coach is off at last. Whilst the conductor smokes his pipe tranquilly, the passengers gaze out of the windows and admire the beautiful aspect of the surrounding country. On each side stretch the woods and fields of Bevron. The covers are full of game, which has increased enormously, as the owner of the property has never allowed a shot to be fired since he had the misfortune, some twenty years ago, to kill one of his dependents whilst out shooting. On the right hand side some distance off rise the tower and battlements of the ...
On the first Sunday in the month of August, 1815, at ten o'clock precisely—as on every Sunday morning—the sacristan of the parish church at Sairmeuse sounded the three strokes of the bell which warn the faithful that the priest is ascending the steps of the altar to celebrate high mass.
The church was already more than half full, and from every side little groups of peasants were hurrying into the church-yard. The women were all in their bravest attire, with cunning little fichus crossed upon their breasts, broad-striped, brightly colored skirts, and large white coifs.
Being as economical as they were coquettish, they came barefooted, bringing their shoes in their hands, but put them on reverentially before entering the house of God.
But few of the men entered the church. They remained outside to talk, seating themselves in the porch, or standing about the yard, in the shade of the century-old elms.
For such was the custom in the hamlet of Sairmeuse.
The two hours which the women consecrated to prayer the men employed in discussing the news, the success or the failure of the crops; and, before the service ended, they could generally be found, glass in hand, in the bar-room of the village inn.
For the farmers for a league around, the Sunday mass was only an excuse for a reunion, a sort of weekly bourse....
Taking their tackle, they descended the charming pathway, shaded by acacias, which you see from the station at Evry, and which leads from the burg of Orcival to the Seine.
They made their way to their boat, moored as usual some fifty yards above the wire bridge, across a field adjoining Valfeuillu, the imposing estate of the Count de Tremorel.
Having reached the river-bank, they laid down their tackle, and Jean jumped into the boat to bail out the water in the bottom.
While he was skilfully using the scoop, he perceived that one of the oar-pins of the old craft, worn by the oar, was on the point of breaking.
"Philippe," cried he, to his son, who was occupied in unravelling a net, "bring me a bit of wood to make a new oar-pin."
"All right," answered Philippe.
There was no tree in the field. The young man bent his steps toward the park of Valfeuillu, a few rods distant; and, neglectful of Article 391 of the Penal Code, jumped across the wide ditch which surrounds M. de Tremorel's domain. He thought he would cut off a branch of one of the old willows, which at this place touch the water with their drooping branches....
The traveller who wishes to go from Poitiers to London by the shortest route will find that the simplest way is to take a seat in the stage-coach which runs to Saumur; and when you book your place, the polite clerk tells you that you must take your seat punctually at six o'clock. The next morning, therefore, the traveller has to rise from his bed at a very early hour, and make a hurried and incomplete toilet, and on arriving, flushed and panting, at the office, discover that there was no occasion for such extreme haste.
In the hotel from whence the coach starts every one seems to be asleep, and a waiter, whose eyes are scarcely open, wanders languidly about. There is not the slightest good in losing your temper, or in pouring out a string of violent remonstrances. In a small restaurant opposite a cup of hot coffee can be procured, and it is there that the disappointed travellers congregate, to await the hour when the coach really makes a start....
The servants at the Hotel de Chalusse, one of the most magnificent mansions in the Rue de Courcelles in Paris, were assembled in the porter's lodge, a little building comprising a couple of rooms standing on the right hand side of the great gateway. Here, as in all large mansions, the "concierge" or porter, M. Bourigeau, was a person of immense importance, always able and disposed to make any one who was inclined to doubt his authority, feel it in cruel fashion. As could be easily seen, he held all the other servants in his power. He could let them absent themselves without leave, if he chose, and conceal all returns late at night after the closing of public balls and wine-shops. Thus, it is needless to say that M. Bourigeau and his wife were treated by their fellow-servants with the most servile adulation.
The owner of the house was not at home that evening, so that M. Casimir, the count's head valet, was serving coffee for the benefit of all the retainers. And while the company sipped the fragrant beverage which had been generously tinctured with cognac, provided by the ...
This bitterly cold day actually made the landlady of the Hotel de Perou, though she was a hard, grasping woman of Auvergne, gave a thought to the condition of her lodgers, and one quite different from her usual idea of obtaining the maximum of rent for the minimum of accommodation.
"The cold," remarked she to her husband, who was busily engaged in replenishing the stove with fuel, "is enough to frighten the wits out of a Polar bear. In this kind of weather I always feel very anxious, for it was during a winter like this that one of our lodgers hung himself, a trick which cost us fifty francs, in good, honest money, besides giving us a bad name in the neighborhood. The fact is, one never knows what lodgers are capable of doing. ...
On Thursday, the 6th of March, 1862, two days after Shrove Tuesday, five women belonging to the village of La Jonchere presented themselves at the police station at Bougival.
They stated that for two days past no one had seen the Widow Lerouge, one of their neighbours, who lived by herself in an isolated cottage. They had several times knocked at the door, but all in vain. The window-shutters as well as the door were closed; and it was impossible to obtain even a glimpse of the interior.
This silence, this sudden disappearance alarmed them. Apprehensive of a crime, or at least of an accident, they requested the interference of the police to satisfy their doubts by forcing the door and entering the house.
Bougival is a pleasant riverside village, peopled on Sundays by crowds of boating parties. Trifling offences are frequently heard of in its neighbourhood, but crimes are rare.
The commissary of police at first refused to listen to the women, but their importunities so fatigued him that he at length acceded to their request. He sent for the corporal of gendarmes, with two of his men, called into requisition the services of a locksmith, and, thus accompanied, followed the neighbours of the Widow Lerouge.
La Jonchere owes some celebrity to the inventor of the sliding railway, who for some years past has, with more enterprise than profit, made public trials of his system in the immediate neighbourhood. It is a hamlet of no importance, resting upon the slope of the hill which overlooks the Seine between La Malmaison and Bougival. It is about twenty minutes' walk from the main road, which, passing by Rueil and Port-Marly, goes from Paris to St. Germain, and is reached by a steep and rugged lane, quite unknown to the government engineers.
The party, led by the gendarmes, followed the main road which here bordered the river until it reached this lane, into which it turned, and stumbled over the rugged inequalities of the ground for about a hundred yards, when it arrived in front of a cottage of extremely modest yet respectable appearance. This cottage had probably been built by some little Parisian shopkeeper in love with the beauties of nature; for all the trees had been carefully cut down. It consisted merely of two apartments on the ground floor with a loft above. Around it extended a much-neglected garden, badly protected against midnight prowlers, by a very dilapidated stone wall about three feet high, and broken and crumbling in many places. A light wooden gate, clumsily held in its place by pieces of wire, gave access to the garden.
There is not, perhaps, in all Paris, a quieter street than the Rue St. Gilles in the Marais, within a step of the Place Royale. No carriages there; never a crowd. Hardly is the silence broken by the regulation drums of the Minims Barracks near by, by the chimes of the Church of St. Louis, or by the joyous clamors of the pupils of the Massin School during the hours of recreation.
At night, long before ten o'clock, and when the Boulevard Beaumarchais is still full of life, activity, and noise, every thing begins to close. One by one the lights go out, and the great windows with diminutive panes become dark. And if, after midnight, some belated citizen passes on his way home, he quickens his step, feeling lonely and uneasy, and apprehensive of the reproaches of his concierge, who is likely to ask him whence he may be coming at so late an hour.
In such a street, every one knows each other: houses have no mystery; families, no secrets,—a small town, where idle curiosity has always a corner of the veil slyly raised, where gossip flourishes as rankly as the grass on the street.
Thus on the afternoon of the 27th of April, 1872 (a Saturday), a fact which anywhere else might have passed unnoticed was attracting particular attention.
A man some thirty years of age, wearing the working livery of servants of the upper class,—the long striped waistcoat with sleeves, and the white linen apron,—was going from door to door....
Then public attention was absorbed by later and equally interesting events: an acrobat broke his leg at the circus; an actress made her debut at a small theatre: and the item of the 28th was soon forgotten.
But for once the newspapers were—perhaps intentionally—wrong, or at least inaccurate in their information.
The sum of three hundred and fifty thousand francs certainly had been stolen from M. Andre Fauvel's bank, but not in the manner described.
A clerk had also been arrested on suspicion, but no decisive proof had been found against him. This robbery of unusual importance remained, if not inexplicable, at least unexplained.
The following are the facts as they were related with scrupulous exactness at the preliminary examination....
First published in 1869, Monsieur Lecoq is astonishingly modern and enjoyable. André Gide pronounced author Emile Gaboriau "the father of the modern detective novel," and this is Gaboriau's finest work. Energetic and keenly logical, Lecoq ranks as a significant figure in the history of detective novels; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself acknowledged the fictional sleuth's influence on his own logical mastermind, Sherlock Holmes.