Part 9 out of 11
"It is not enough for us to know them, doctor; we want evidence
against them,--clear, positive, irrefutable evidence. This evidence we
will get from Crochard. Oh, I know the ways of these rascals! As soon
as they see they are overwhelmed by the evidence against them, and
feel they are in real danger, they hasten to denounce their
accomplices, and to aid justice, with all their perversity to discover
them. The accused will do the same. When I shall have established the
fact that he was hired to murder M. Champcey, he will tell me by whom
he was hired; and he will have to confess that he was thus hired, when
I show him how much of the money he received for the purpose is now
The old surgeon once more jumped up from his chair.
"What!" he said, "you have found Crochard's treasure?"
"No," replied the lawyer, "not yet; but"--
He could hardly keep from smiling grimly; but he added at once,--
"But I know where it is, I think. Ah! I can safely say it was not on
the first day exactly that I saw where the truth probably was hid. I
have had a good deal of perplexity and trouble. Morally sure as I was,
after the first examination of the accused, that he had a relatively
large sum hidden somewhere, I first gave all my attention to his
chamber. Assisted by a clever police-agent, I examined that room for a
whole fortnight, till I was furious. The furniture was taken to
pieces, and examined, the lining taken out of the chairs, and even the
paper stripped from the walls. All in vain. I was in despair, when a
thought struck me,--one of those simple thoughts which make you wonder
why it did not occur to you at once. I said to myself, 'I have found
it!' And, anxious to ascertain if I was right, I immediately sent for
the man with whom Crochard had made the bet about swimming across the
Dong-Nai. He came; and-- But I prefer reading you his deposition."
He took from the large bundle of papers a single sheet, and, assuming
an air of great modesty, read the affidavit.
"/Magistrate/.--At what point of the river did Crochard swim
"/Witness/.--A little below the town.
"/M/.--Where did he undress?
"/W/.--At the place where he went into the water, just opposite the
tile-factory of M. Wang-Tai.
"/M/.--What did he do with his clothes?
"/W/. (very much surprised).-- Nothing.
"/M/.--Excuse me; he must have done something. Try to recollect.
"/W/. (striking his forehead).-- Why, yes! I remember now. When
Bagnolet had undressed, I saw he looked annoyed, as if he disliked
going into the water. But no! that was not it. He was afraid about
his clothes; and he did not rest satisfied till I had told him I
would keep watch over them. Now, his clothes consisted of a mean
pair of trousers and a miserable blouse. As they were in my way, I
put them down on the ground, at the foot of a tree. He had in the
meantime done his work, and came back; but, instead of listening
to my compliments, he cried furiously, 'My clothes!'--'Well,' I
said, 'they are not lost. There they are.' Thereupon he pushed me
back fiercely, without saying a word, and ran like a madman to
pick up his clothes."
The chief surgeon was electrified; he rose, and said,--
"I understand; yes, I understand."
Thus proceeding from one point to another, and by the unaided power of
his sagacity, coupled with indefatigable activity, the magistrate had
succeeded in establishing Crochard's guilt, and the existence of
accomplices who had instigated the crime. No one could doubt that he
was proud of it, and that his self-esteem had increased, although he
tried hard to preserve his stiff and impassive appearance. He had even
affected a certain dislike to the idea of reading Henrietta's letter,
until he should have proved that he could afford to do without such
But, now that he had proved this so amply, he very quickly asked for
the letter, and read it. Like the chief surgeon, he, also, was struck
and amazed by the wickedness of M. de Brevan.
"But here is exactly what we want," he exclaimed,--"an irrefragable
proof of complicity. He would never have dared to abuse Miss Ville-
Handry's confidence in so infamous a manner, if he had not been
persuaded, in fact been quite sure, that Lieut. Champcey would never
return to France."
Then, after a few minutes' reflection, he added,--
"And yet I feel that there is something underneath still, which we do
not see. Why had they determined upon M. Champcey's death even before
he sailed? What direct and pressing interest could M. de Brevan have
in wishing him dead at that time? Something must have happened between
the two which we do not know."
"Ah! that is what I cannot conceive. But remember what I say, doctor:
the future reserves some fearful mysteries yet to be revealed to us
The two men had been so entirely preoccupied with their thoughts, that
they were unconscious of the flight of time; and they were not a
little astonished, therefore, when they now noticed that the day was
gone, and night was approaching. The lawyer rose, and asked, returning
Henrietta's letter to the doctor,--
"Is this the only one M. Champcey has received?"
"No; but it is the only one he has opened."
"Would you object to handing me the others?"
The excellent doctor hesitated.
"I will hand them to you," he said at last, "if you will assure me
that the interests of justice require it. But why not wait"--
He did not dare say, "Why not wait for M. Champcey's death?" but the
lawyer understood him.
"I will wait," he said.
While thus talking, they had reached the door. They shook hands; and
the chief surgeon, his heart fall of darkest presentiments, slowly
made his way to the hospital.
A great surprise awaited him there. Daniel, whom he had left in a
desperate condition, almost dying,--Daniel slept profoundly, sweetly.
His pale face had recovered its usual expression; and his respiration
was free and regular.
"It is almost indescribable," said the old doctor, whose experience
was utterly at fault. "I am an ass; and our science is a bubble."
Turning to Lefloch, who had respectfully risen at his entrance, he
"Since when has your master been sleeping in this way?"
"For an hour, commandant."
"How did he fall asleep?"
"Quite naturally, commandant. After you left, the lieutenant was for
some time pretty wild yet; but soon he quieted down, and finally he
asked for something to drink. I gave him a cup of your tea; he took
it, and then asked me to help him turn over towards the wall. I did
so, and I saw him remain so, his arm bent, and his head in his hand,
like a man who is thinking profoundly. But about a quarter of an hour
later, all of a sudden, I thought I heard him gasp. I came up softly
on tiptoe, and looked. I was mistaken; the lieutenant was not gasping,
he was crying like a baby; and what I had heard were sobs. Ah,
commandant! I felt as if somebody had kicked me in the stomach.
Because, you see, I know him; and I know, that, before a man such as
he is goes to crying like a little child, he must have suffered more
than death itself. Holy God! If I knew where I could catch them, these
rascals who give him all this trouble"--
His fists rose instinctively, and most undoubtedly something bright
started from his eyes which looked prodigiously like a tear rolling
slowly down one of the deep furrows in his cheek.
"Now," he continued in a half-stifled voice, "I saw why the lieutenant
had wished to turn his face to the wall, and I went back without
making a noise. A moment after that, he began talking aloud. But he
was right in his senses now, I tell you."
"What did he say?"
"Ah! he said something like, 'Henrietta, Henrietta!' Always that good
friend of his, for whom he was forever calling when he had the fever.
And then he said, 'I am killing her, I! I am the cause of her death.
Fool, stupid, idiot that I am! He has sworn to kill me and Henrietta,
the wretch! He swore it no doubt, the very day on which I, fool as I
was, confided Henrietta and my whole fortune to him.'"
"Did he say that?"
"The very words, commandant, but better, a great deal better."
The old surgeon seemed to be amazed.
"That cunning lawyer had judged rightly," he said. "He suspected there
was something else; and here it is."
"You say, commandant?" asked the good sailor.
"Nothing of interest to you. Go on."
"Well, after that--but there is nothing more to tell, except that I
heard nothing more. The lieutenant remained in the same position till
I came to light the lamp; then he ordered me to make him tack ship,
and to let down the screen over the lamp. I did so. He gave out two or
three big sighs, and then goodnight, and nothing more. He was asleep
as you see him now."
"And how did his eyes look when he fell asleep?"
"Quite calm and bright."
The doctor looked like a man to whom something has happened which is
utterly inexplicable to him, and said in a low voice,--
"He will pull through, I am sure now. I said there could not be
another miracle; and here it is!"
Then turning to Lefloch, he asked,--
"You know where I am staying?"
"If your officer wakes up in the night, you will send for me at once."
But Daniel did not wake up; and he had hardly opened his eyes on the
next morning, about eight o'clock, when the chief surgeon entered his
room. At the first glance at his patient, he exclaimed,--
"I am sure our imprudence yesterday will have no bad effects!"
Daniel said nothing; but, after the old surgeon had carefully examined
him, he began,--
"Now, doctor, one question, a single one: in how many days will I be
able to get up and take ship?"
"Ah! my dear lieutenant, there is time enough to talk about that."
"No, doctor, no! I must have an answer. Fix a time, and I shall have
the fortitude to wait; but uncertainty will kill me. Yes, I shall
manage to wait, although I suffer like"--
The surgeon was evidently deeply touched.
"I know what you suffer, my poor Champcey," he said; "I read that
letter which came much nearer killing you than Crochard's ball. I
think in a month you will be able to sail."
"A month!" said Daniel in a tone as if he had said an age. And after a
pause he added,--
"That is not all, doctor: I want to ask you for the letters which I
could not read yesterday."
"What? You would-- But that would be too great an imprudence."
"No, doctor, don't trouble yourself. The blow has fallen. If I did not
lose my mind yesterday, that shows that my reason can stand the most
terrible trial. I have, God be thanked, all my energy. I know I must
live, if I want to save Henrietta,--to avenge her, if I should come
too late. That thought, you may rest assured, will keep me alive."
The surgeon hesitated no longer: the next moment Daniel opened the
other two letters from Henrietta. One, very long, was only a
repetition of the first he had read. The other consisted only of a few
"M. de Brevan has just left me. When the man told me mockingly that
I need not count upon your return, and cast an atrocious look at
me, I understood. Daniel, that man wants your life; and he has
hired assassins. For my sake, if not for your own, I beseech you
be careful. Take care, be watchful; think that you are the only
friend, the sole hope here below, of your Henrietta."
Now it was truly seen that Daniel had not presumed too much on his
strength and his courage. Not a muscle in his face changed; his eye
remained straight and clear; and he said in an accent of coldest,
"Look at this, doctor. Here is the explanation of the strange ill luck
that has pursued me ever since I left France."
At a glance the doctor read Henrietta's warning, which came, alas! so
much too late.
"You ought to remember this, also, that M. de Brevan could not foresee
that the assassin he had hired would be caught."
This was an unexpected revelation; and Daniel was all attention.
"What?" he said. "The man who fired at me has been arrested?"
Lefloch was unable to restrain himself at this juncture, and
"I should say so, lieutenant, and by my hand, before his gun had
The doctor did not wait for the questions which he read in the eyes of
his patient. He said at once,--
"It is as Lefloch says, my dear lieutenant; and, if you have not been
told anything about it, it was because the slightest excitement would
become fatal. Yesterday's experience has only proved that too clearly.
Yes, the assassin is in jail."
"And his account is made up," growled the sailor.
But Daniel shrugged his shoulders, and said,--
"I do not want him punished, any more than the ball which hit me. That
wretched creature is a mere tool. But, doctor, you know who are the
real guilty ones."
"And justice shall be done, I swear!" broke in the old surgeon, who
looked upon the cause of his patient with as much interest as if it
were his own. "Our lucky star has sent us a lawyer who is no trifler,
and who, if I am not very much mistaken, would like very much to leave
Saigon with a loud blast of trumpets."
He remained buried in thought for a while, watching his patient out of
the corner of his eye, and then said suddenly,--
"Now I think of it, why could you not see the lawyer? He is all
anxiety to examine you. Consider, lieutenant, do you feel strong
enough to see him?"
"Let him come," cried Daniel, "let him come! Pray, doctor, go for him
"I shall do my best, my dear Champcey. I will go at once, and leave
you to finish your correspondence."
He left the room with these words; and Daniel turned to the letters,
which were still lying on his bed. There were seven of them,--four
from the Countess Sarah, and three from Maxime. But what could they
tell him now? What did he care for the falsehoods and the calumnies
they contained? He ran over them, however.
Faithful to her system, Sarah wrote volumes; and from line to line, in
some way or other, her real or feigned love for Daniel broke forth
more freely, and no longer was veiled and hidden under timid reserve
and long-winded paraphrases. She gave herself up, whether her prudence
had forsaken her, or whether she felt quite sure that her letters
could never reach Count Ville-Handry. It sounded like an intense,
irresistible passion, escaping from the control of the owner, and
breaking forth terribly, like a long smouldering fire. Of Henrietta
she said but little,--enough, however, to terrify Daniel, if he had
not known the truth.
"That unfortunate, wayward girl," she wrote, "has just caused her aged
father such cruel and unexpected grief, that he was on the brink of
the grave. Weary of the control which her indiscretions rendered
indispensable, she has fled, we know not with whom; and all our
efforts to find her have so far been unsuccessful."
On the other hand, M. de Brevan wrote, "Deaf to my counsel and prayers
even, Miss Ville-Handry has carried out the project of leaving her
paternal home. Suspected of having favored her escape, I have been
called out by Sir Thorn, and had to fight a duel with him. A paper
which I enclose will give you the details of our meeting, and tell you
that I was lucky enough to wound that gentleman of little honor, but
of great skill with the pistol.
"Alas! my poor, excellent Daniel, why should I be compelled by the
duties of friendship to confess to you that it was not for the purpose
of remaining faithful to you, that Miss Henrietta was so anxious to be
free? Do not desire to return, my poor friend! You would suffer too
much in finding her whom you have loved so dearly unworthy of an
honest man, unworthy of you. Believe me, I did all I could to prevent
her irregularities, which now have become public. I only drew her
hatred upon me, and I should not be surprised if she did all she could
to make us all cut our throats."
This impudence was bold enough to confound anybody's mind, and to make
one doubt one's own good sense. Still he found the newspaper, which
had been sent to him with the letter, and in it the account of the
duel between M. de Brevan and M. Thomas Elgin. What did that signify?
He once more read over, more attentively than at first, the letters of
Maxime and the Countess Sarah; and, by comparing them with each other,
he thought he noticed in them some traces of a beginning disagreement.
"It may be that there is discord among my enemies," he said to
himself, "and that they do no longer agree, now that, in their view,
the moment approaches when they are to divide the proceeds of their
crimes. Or did they never agree, and am I the victim of a double plot?
Or is the whole merely a comedy for the purpose of deceiving me, and
keeping me here, until the murderer has done his work?"
He was not allowed to torture his mind long with efforts to seek the
solution of this riddle. The old doctor came back with the lawyer, and
for more than half an hour he had to answer an avalanche of questions.
But the investigation had been carried on with such rare sagacity,
that Daniel could furnish the prosecution only a single new fact,--the
surrender of his entire fortune into the hands of M. de Brevan.
And even this fact must needs, on account of its extreme
improbability, remain untold in an investigation which was based upon
logic alone. Daniel very naturally, somewhat ashamed of his
imprudence, tried to excuse himself; and, when he had concluded his
explanations, the lawyer said,--
"Now, one more question: would you recognize the man who attempted to
drown you in the Dong-Nai in a boat which he had offered to you, and
which he upset evidently on purpose?"
"Ah! that is a pity. That man was Crochard, I am sure; but he will
deny it; and the prosecution will have nothing but probabilities to
oppose to his denial, unless I can find the place where he changed his
"Excuse me, there is a way to ascertain his identity."
"The voice of the wretch is so deeply engraven on my mind, that even
at this moment, while I am speaking to you, I think I can hear it in
my ear; and I would recognize it among a thousand."
The lawyer made no reply, weighing, no doubt, in his mind the chances
of a confrontation. Then he made up his mind, and said,--
"It is worth trying."
And handing his clerk, who had been a silent witness of this scene, an
order to have the accused brought to the hospital, he said,--
"Take this to the jail, and let them make haste."
It was a month now since Crochard had been arrested; and his
imprisonment, so far from discouraging him, had raised his spirits. At
first, his arrest and the examination had frightened him; but, as the
days went by, he recovered his insolence.
"They are evidently looking for evidence," he said; "but, as they
cannot find any, they will have to let me go."
He looked, therefore, as self-assured as ever when he came into
Daniel's room, and exclaimed, while still in the door, with an air of
"Well? I ask for justice; I am tired of jail. If I am guilty, let them
cut my throat; if I am innocent"--
But Daniel did not let him finish.
"That is the man!" he exclaimed; "I am ready to swear to it, that is
Great as was the impudence of Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, he was
astonished, and looked with rapid, restless eyes at the chief surgeon,
at the magistrate, and last at Lefloch, who stood immovable at the
foot of the bed of his lieutenant. He had too much experience of legal
forms not to know that he had given way to absurd illusions,--and that
his position was far more dangerous than he had imagined. But what was
their purpose? what had they found out? and what did they know
positively? The effort he made to guess all this gave to his face an
"Did you hear that, Crochard?" asked the lawyer.
But the accused had recovered his self-control by a great effort; and
"I am not deaf." And there was in his voice the unmistakable accent of
the former vagabond of Paris. "I hear perfectly well; only I don't
The magistrate, finding that, where he was seated, he could not very
well observe Crochard, had quietly gotten up, and was now standing
near the mantle-piece, against which he rested.
"On the contrary," he said severely, "you understand but too well
Lieut. Champcey says you are the man who tried to drown him in the
Dong-Nai. He recognizes you."
"That's impossible!" exclaimed the accused. "That's impossible; for"--
But the rest of the phrase remained in his throat. A sudden reflection
had shown him the trap in which he had been caught,--a trap quite
familiar to examining lawyers, and terrible by its very simplicity.
But for that reflection, he would have gone on thus,--
"That's impossible; for the night was too dark to distinguish a man's
And that would have been equivalent to a confession; and he would have
had nothing to answer the magistrate, if the latter had asked at
"How do you know that the darkness was so great on the banks of the
Dong-Nai? It seems you were there, eh?"
Quite pallid with fright, the accused simply said,--
"The officer must be mistaken."
"I think not," replied the magistrate.
Turning to Daniel, he asked him,--
"Do you persist in your declaration, lieutenant?"
"More than ever, sir; I declare upon honor that I recognize the man's
voice. When he offered me a boat, he spoke a kind of almost
unintelligible jargon, a mixture of English and Spanish words; but he
did not think of changing his intonation and his accent."
Affecting an assurance which he was far from really feeling, Crochard,
surnamed Bagnolet, shrugged his shoulders carelessly, and said,--
"Do I know any English? Do I know any Spanish?"
"No, very likely not; but like all Frenchmen who live in this colony,
and like all the marines, you no doubt know a certain number of words
of these two languages."
To the great surprise of the doctor and of Daniel, the prisoner did
not deny it; it looked as if he felt that he was on dangerous ground.
"Never mind!" he exclaimed in the most arrogant manner. "It is anyhow
pretty hard to accuse an honest man of a crime, because his voice
resembles the voice of a rascal."
The magistrate gently shook his head. He said,--
"Do you pretend being an honest man?"
"What! I pretend? Let them send for my employers."
"That is not necessary. I know your antecedents, from the first petty
theft that procured you four months' imprisonment, to the aggravated
robbery for which you were sent to the penitentiary, when you were in
Profound stupor lengthened all of Crochard's features; but he was not
the man to give up a game in which his head was at stake, without
fighting for it.
"Well, there you are mistaken," he said very coolly. "I have been
condemned to ten years, that is true, when I was a soldier; but it was
for having struck an officer who had punished me unjustly."
"You lie. A former soldier of your regiment, who is now in garrison
here in Saigon, will prove it."
For the first time the accused seemed to be really troubled. He saw
all of a sudden his past rising before him, which until now he had
thought unknown or forgotten; and he knew full well the weight which
antecedents like his would have in the scales of justice. So he
changed his tactics; and, assuming an abject humility, he said,--
"One may have committed a fault, and still be incapable of murdering a
"That is not your case."
"Oh! how can you say such a thing?--I who would not harm a fly.
Unlucky gun! Must I needs have such a mishap?"
The magistrate had for some time been looking at the accused with an
air of the most profound disgust. He interrupted him rudely now, and
"Look here, my man! Spare us those useless denials. Justice knows
everything it wants to know. That shot was the third attempt you made
to murder a man."
Crochard drew back. He looked livid. But he had still the strength to
say in a half-strangled voice,--
"That is false!"
But the magistrate had too great an abundance of evidence to allow the
examination to continue. He said simply,--
"Who, then, threw, during the voyage, an enormous block at M.
Champcey's head? Come, don't deny it. The emigrant who was near you,
who saw you, and who promised he would not report you at that time,
has spoken. Do you want to see him?"
Once more Crochard opened his lips to protest his innocence; but he
could not utter a sound. He was crushed, annihilated; he trembled in
all his limbs; and his teeth rattled in his mouth. In less than no
time, his features had sunk in, as it were, till he looked like a man
at the foot of the scaffold. It may be, that, feeling he was
irretrievably lost, he had had a vision of the fatal instrument.
"Believe me," continued the lawyer, "do not insist upon the
impossible; you had better tell the truth."
For another minute yet, the miserable man hesitated. Then, seeing no
other chance of safety, except the mercy of the judges, he fell
heavily on his knees, and stammered out,--
"I am a wretched man."
At the same instant a cry of astonishment burst from the doctor, from
Daniel, and the worthy Lefloch. But the man of law was not surprised.
He knew in advance that the first victory would be easily won, and
that the real difficulty would be to induce the prisoner to confess
the name of his principal. Without giving him, therefore time to
recover, he said,--
"Now, what reasons had you for persecuting M. Champcey in this way?"
The accused rose again; and, making an effort, he said slowly,--
"I hated him. Once during the voyage he had threatened to have me put
"The man lies!" said Daniel.
"Do you hear?" asked the lawyer. "So you will not tell the truth?
Well, I will tell it for you. They had hired you to kill Lieut.
Champcey, and you wanted to earn your money. You got a certain sum of
money in advance; and you were to receive a larger sum after his
"Don't swear! The sum in your possession, which you cannot account
for, is positive proof of what I say."
"Alas! I possess nothing. You may inquire. You may order a search."
Under the impassive mask of the lawyer, a certain degree of excitement
could at this moment be easily discerned. The time had come to strike
a decisive blow, and to judge of the value of his system of induction.
Instead, therefore, of replying to the prisoner, he turned to the
gendarmes who were present and said to them,--
"Take the prisoner into the next room. Strip him, and examine all his
clothes carefully: see to it that there is nothing hid in the lining."
The gendarmes advanced to seize the prisoner, when he suddenly jumped
up, and said in a tone of ill-constrained rage,--
"No need for that! I have three one thousand-franc-notes sewn into the
lining of my trousers."
This time the pride of success got completely the better of the
imperturbable coldness of the magistrate. He uttered a low cry of
satisfaction, and could not refrain from casting a look of triumph at
Daniel and the doctor, which said clearly,--
"Well? What did I tell you?"
It was for a second only; the next instant his features resumed their
icy immobility; and, turning to the accused, he said in a tone of
"Hand me the notes!"
Crochard did not stir; but his livid countenance betrayed the fierce
suffering he endured. Certainly, at this moment, he did not play a
part. To take from him his three thousand francs, the price of the
meanest and most execrable crime; the three thousand francs for the
sake of which he had risked the scaffold,--this was like tearing his
entrails from him.
Like an enraged brute who sees that the enemy is all-powerful, he
gathered all his strength, and, with a furious look, glanced around
the room to see if he could escape anywhere, asking himself, perhaps,
upon which of the men he ought to throw himself for the purpose.
"The notes!" repeated the inexorable lawyer. "Must I order force to be
Convinced of the uselessness of resistance, and of the folly of any
attempt at escape, the wretch hung his head.
"But I cannot undo the seams of my trousers with my nails," he said.
"Let them give me a knife or a pair of scissors."
They were careful not to do so. But, at a sign given by the
magistrate, one of the gendarmes approached, and, drawing a penknife
from his pocket, ripped the seam at the place which the prisoner
pointed out. A genuine convulsion of rage seized the assassin, when a
little paper parcel appeared, folded up, and compressed to the
smallest possible size. By a very curious phenomenon, which is,
however, quite frequently observed in criminals, he was far more
concerned about his money than about his life, which was in such
"That is my money!" he raged. "No one has a right to take it from me.
It is infamous to ill use a man who has been unfortunate, and to rob
The magistrate, no doubt quite accustomed to such scenes, did not even
listen to Crochard, but carefully opened the packet. It contained
three notes of a thousand francs each, wrapped up in a sheet of
letter-paper, which was all greasy, and worn out in the folds. The
bank-notes had nothing peculiar; but on the sheet of paper, traces
could be made out of lines of writing; and at least two words were
distinctly legible,--/University/ and /Street/.
"What paper is this, Crochard?" asked the lawyer.
"I don't know. I suppose I picked it up somewhere."
"What? Are you going to lie again? What is the use? Here is evidently
the address of some one who lives in University Street."
Daniel was trembling on his bed.
"Ah, sir!" he exclaimed, "I used to live in University Street, Paris."
A slight blush passed over the lawyer's face, a sign of unequivocal
satisfaction in him. He uttered half loud, as if replying to certain
objections in his own mind,--
"Everything is becoming clear."
And yet, to the great surprise of his listeners, he abandoned this
point; and, returning to the prisoner, he asked him,--
"So you acknowledge having received money for the murder of Lieut.
"I never said so."
"No; but the three thousand francs found concealed on your person say
so very clearly. From whom did you receive this money?"
"From nobody. They are my savings."
The lawyer shrugged his shoulders; and, looking very sternly at
Crochard, he said,--
"I have before compelled you to make a certain confession. I mean to
do so again and again. You will gain nothing, believe me, by
struggling against justice; and you cannot save the wretches who
tempted you to commit this crime. There is only one way left to you,
if you wish for mercy; and that is frankness. Do not forget that!"
The assassin was, perhaps, better able to appreciate the importance of
such advice than anybody else there present. Still he remained silent
for more than a minute, shaken by a kind of nervous tremor, as if a
terrible struggle was going on in his heart. He was heard to mutter,--
"I do not denounce anybody. A bargain is a bargain. I am not a tell-
Then, all of a sudden, making up his mind, and showing himself just
the man the magistrate had expected to find, he said with a cynic
"Upon my word, so much the worse for them! Since I am in the trap, let
the others be caught as well! Besides, who would have gotten the big
prize, if I had succeeded? Not I, most assuredly; and yet it was I who
risked most. Well, then, the man who hired me to 'do the lieutenant's
business' is a certain Justin Chevassat."
The most intense disappointment seized both Daniel and the surgeon.
This was not the name they had been looking for with such deep
"Don't you deceive me, Crochard?" asked the lawyer, who alone had been
able to conceal all he felt.
"You may take my head if I lie!"
Did he tell the truth? The lawyer thought he did; for, turning to
Daniel, he asked,--
"Do you know anybody by the name of Chevassat, M. Champcey?"
"No. It is the first time in my life I hear that name."
"Perhaps that Chevassat was only an agent," suggested the doctor.
"Yes, that may be," replied the lawyer; "although, in such matters,
people generally do their own work."
And, continuing his examination, he asked the accused,--
"Who is this Justin Chevassat?"
"One of my friends."
"A friend richer than yourself, I should think?"
"As to that--why, yes; since he has always plenty of money in his
pockets, dresses in the last fashion, and drives his carriage."
"What is he doing? What is his profession?"
"Ah! as to that, I know nothing about it. I never asked him, and he
never told me. I once said to him, 'Do you know you look like a
prodigiously lucky fellow?' And he replied, 'Oh, not as much so as you
think;' but that is all."
"Where does he live?"
"In Paris, Rue Louis, 39."
"Do you write to him there? For I dare say you have written to him
since you have been in Saigon."
"I send my letters to M. X. O. X. 88."
It became evident now, that, so far from endeavoring to save his
accomplices, Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, would do all he could to aid
justice in discovering them. He began to show the system which the
wretch was about to adopt,--to throw all the responsibility and all
the odium of the crime on the man who had hired him, and to appear the
poor devil, succumbing to destitution when he was tempted and dazzled
by such magnificent promises, that he had not the strength to resist.
The lawyer continued,--
"Where and how did you make the acquaintance of this Justin
"I made his acquaintance at the galleys."
"Ah! that is becoming interesting. And do you know for what crime he
had been condemned?"
"For forgery, I believe, and also for theft."
"And what was he doing before he was condemned?"
"He was employed by a banker, or perhaps as cashier in some large
establishment. At all events, he had money to handle; and it stuck to
"I am surprised, as you are so well informed with regard to this man's
antecedents, that you should know nothing of his present means of
"He has money, plenty of money; that is all I know."
"Have you lost sight of him?"
"Why, yes. Chevassat was set free long before I was. I believe he was
pardoned; and I had not met him for more than fifteen years."
"How did you find him again?"
"Oh! by the merest chance, and a very bad chance for me; since, but
for him, I would not be here."
Never would a stranger who should have suddenly come into Daniel's
chamber, upon seeing Crochard's attitude, have imagined that the
wretch was accused of a capital crime, and was standing there before a
magistrate, in presence of the man whom he had tried three times to
Quite at home in the law, as far as it was studied at the galleys, he
had instantly recognized that his situation was by no means so
desperate as he had at first supposed; that, if the jury rendered a
verdict of guilty of death, it would be against the instigator of the
crime, and that he would probably get off with a few years' penal
Hence he had made up his mind about his situation with that almost
bestial indifference which characterizes people who are ready for
everything, and prepared for everything. He had recovered from that
stupor which the discovery of his crime had produced in him, and from
the rage in which he had been thrown by the loss of his bank-notes.
Now there appeared, under the odious personage of the murderer, the
pretentious and ridiculous orator of the streets and prisons, who is
accustomed to make himself heard, and displays his eloquence with
He assumed a studied position; and it was evident that he was
preparing himself for his speech, although, afterwards, a good many
words escaped him which are found in no dictionary, but belong to the
jargon of the lowest classes, and serve to express the vilest
"It was," he began, "a Friday, an unlucky day,--a week, about, before
'The Conquest' sailed. It might have been two o'clock. I had eaten
nothing; I had not a cent in my pockets and I was walking along the
boulevards, loafing, and thinking how I could procure some money.
"I had crossed several streets, when a carriage stopped close to me;
and I saw a very fine gentleman step out, a cigar in his mouth, a gold
chain across his waistcoat, and a flower in his buttonhole. He entered
"At once I said to myself, 'Curious! I have seen that head somewhere.'
"Thereupon, I go to work, and remain fixed to the front of the shop, a
little at the side, though, you know, at a place where, without being
seen myself, I could very well watch my individual, who laughed and
talked, showing his white teeth, while a pretty girl was trying on a
pair of gloves. The more I looked at him, the more I thought,
'Positively, Bagnolet, although that sweet soul don't look as if he
were a member of your society, you know him.'
"However, as I could not put a name to that figure, I was going on my
way, when suddenly my memory came back to me, and I said, '/Cretonne/,
it is an old comrade. I shall get my dinner.'
"After all, I was not positively sure; because why? Fifteen years make
a difference in a man, especially when he does not particularly care
to be recognized. But I had a little way of my own to make the thing
"I waited, therefore, for my man; and, at the moment when he crossed
the sidewalk to get into his carriage, I stepped up, and cried out,
though not very loud, 'Eh, Chevassat!'
"The scamp! They might have fired a cannon at his ear, and he would
not have jumped as he did when I spoke to him. And white he was,--as
white as his collar. But, nevertheless, he was not without his
compass, the screw. He puts up his eyeglass, and looks at me up and
down; and then he says in his finest manner, 'What is it, my good
fellow? Do you want to speak to me?'
"Thereupon, quite sure of my business now, I say, 'Yes, to you, Justin
Chevassat. Don't you recall me? Evariste Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet;
eh? Do you recollect now?' However, the gentleman continued to hold
his head high, and to look at me. At last he says, '/If/ you do not
clear out, I will call a policeman.' Well, the mustard got into my
nose, and I began to cry, to annoy him, so as to collect a crowd,--
"'What, what! Policemen, just call them, please do! They will take us
before a magistrate. If I am mistaken, they won't hang me; but, if I
am not mistaken, they will laugh prodigiously. What have I to risk?
Nothing at all; for I have nothing.'
"I must tell you, that, while I said all this, I looked at him fixedly
with the air of a man who has nothing in his stomach, and who is bent
upon putting something into it. He also looked at me fixedly; and, if
his eyes had been pistols--but they were not. And, when he saw I was
determined, the fine gentleman softened down.
"'Make no noise,' he whispered, looking with a frightened air at all
the idlers who commenced to crowd around us. And pretending to laugh
very merrily,--for the benefit of the spectators, you know,--he said,
speaking very low and very rapidly,--
"'In the costume that you have on, I cannot ask you to get into my
carriage; that would only compromise us both uselessly. I shall send
my coachman back, and walk home. You can follow quietly; and, when we
get into a quiet street, we will take a cab, and talk.'
"As I was sure I could catch him again, if he should try to escape, I
approved the idea. 'All right. I understand.'"
The magistrate suddenly interrupted the accused. He thought it of
great importance that Crochard's evidence should be written down, word
for word; and he saw, that, for some little while, the clerk had been
unable to follow.
"Rest a moment, Crochard," he said.
And when the clerk had filled up what was wanting, and the magistrate
had looked it over, he said to the prisoner,--
"Now you can go on, but speak more slowly."
The wretch smiled, well pleased. This permission gave him more time to
select his words, and this flattered his vanity; for even the lowest
of these criminals have their weak point, in which their vanity is
"Don't let your soup get cold," he continued. "Chevassat said a few
words to his coachman, who whipped the horse, and there he was,
promenading down the boulevard, turning his cane this way, puffing out
big clouds of smoke, as if he had not the colic at the thought that
his friend Bagnolet was following on his heels.
"I ought to say that he had lots of friends, very genteel friends, who
wished him good-evening as they passed him. There were some even who
stopped him, shook hands with him, and offered to treat him; but he
left them all promptly, saying, 'Excuse me, pray, I am in a hurry.'
"Why, yes, he was in a hurry; and I who was behind him, and saw and
heard it all, I laughed in my sleeve most heartily."
Whatever advantage there may be in not interrupting a great talker,
who warms up as he talks, and consequently forgets himself, the
magistrate became impatient.
"Spare us your impressions," he said peremptorily.
This was not what Crochard expected. He looked hurt, and went on
"In fine, my individual goes down the boulevard as far as the opera,
turns to the right, crosses the open square, and goes down the first
street to the left. Here a cab passes; he hails it; orders the driver
to take /us/ to Vincennes. We get in; and his first care is to let
down the curtains. Then he looks at me with a smile, holds out his
hand, and says, 'Well, old man! how are you?'
"At first, when I saw myself so well received, I was quite overcome.
Then reflecting, I thought, 'It is not natural for him to be so soft.
He is getting ready for some trick. Keep your eyes open, Bagnolet.'
"'Then you are not angry that I spoke to you; eh?' He laughs, and
"Then I, 'However, you hadn't exactly a wedding-air when I spoke to
you, and I thought you were looking for a way to get rid of me
unceremoniously.' But he said very seriously, 'Look here, I am going
to talk to you quite openly! For a moment I was surprised; but I was
not annoyed. I have long foreseen something of the kind would happen;
and I know that every time I go out I run the risk of meeting a former
comrade. You are not the first who has recognized me, and I am
prepared to save myself all annoyance. If I wanted to get rid of you,
this very evening you would have lost all trace of me, thanks to a
little contrivance I have arranged. Besides, as you are in Paris
without leave, before twenty-four hours are over, you would /be/ in
jail.' He told me all this so calmly, that I felt it was so, and that
the scamp had some special trick.
"'Then,' I said, 'you rather like meeting an old friend, eh?'
"He looked me straight in the face and replied, 'Yes; and the proof of
it is, that if you were not here, sitting at my side, and if I had
known where to find you, I should have gone in search of you. I have
something to do for you.'"
Henceforth Bagnolet had reason to be satisfied.
Although the magistrate preserved his impassive appearance, Daniel and
the chief surgeon listened with breathless attention, feeling that the
prisoner had come to the really important part of his confession, from
which, no doubt, much light would be obtained. Lefloch himself
listened with open mouth; and one could follow on his ingenuous
countenance all the emotions produced by the recital of the criminal,
who, but for him, would probably have escaped justice.
"Naturally," continued Crochard, "when he talked of something to do, I
opened my ears wide. 'Why,' I said, 'I thought you had retired from
business.' And I really thought he had. 'You are mistaken,' he
replied. 'Since I left that place you know of, I have been living
nicely. But I have not put anything aside; and if an accident should
happen to me, which I have reason to fear, I would be destitute.'
"I should have liked very much to know more; but he would not tell me
anything else concerning himself; and I had to give him my whole
history since my release. Oh! that was soon done. I told him how
nothing I had undertaken had ever succeeded; that, finally, I had been
a waiter in a drinking-shop; that they had turned me out; and that for
a month now I had been walking the streets, having not a cent, no
clothes, no lodgings, and no bed but the quarries.
"'Since that is so,' he said, 'you shall see what a comrade is.' I
ought to say that the cab had been going all the time we were talking,
and that we were out in the suburbs now. My Chevassat raised the blind
to look out; and, as soon as he saw a clothing store, he ordered the
driver to stop there. The driver did so; and then Chevassat said to
me, 'Come, old man, we'll begin by dressing you up decently.' So we
get out; and upon my word, he buys me a shirt, trousers, a coat, and
everything else that was needful; he pays for a silk hat, and a pair
of varnished boots. Farther down the street was a watchmaker. I
declare he makes me a present of a gold watch, which I still have, and
which they seized when they put me in jail. Finally, he has spent his
five hundred francs, and gives me eighty francs to boot, to play the
"You need not ask if I thanked him, when we got back into the cab.
After such misery as I had endured, my morals came back with my
clothes. I would have jumped into the fire for Chevassat. Alas! I
would not have been so delighted, if I had known what I should have to
pay for all this; for in the first place"--
"Oh, go on!" broke in the lawyer; "go on!"
Not without some disappointment, Crochard had to acknowledge that
everything purely personal did not seem to excite the deepest
interest. He made a face, full of spite, and then went on, speaking
"All these purchases had taken some time; so that it was six o'clock,
and almost dark, when we reached Vincennes. A little before we got
into the town, Chevassat stopped the cab, paid the driver, sends him
back, and, taking me by the arm, says, 'You must be hungry: let us
"So we first absorb a glass of absinthe; then he carries me straight
to the best restaurant, asks for a private room, and orders a dinner.
Ah, but a dinner! Merely to hear it ordered from the bill of fare made
my mouth water.
"We sit down; and I, fearing nothing, would not have changed places
with the pope. And I talked, and I ate, and I drank; I drank, perhaps,
most; for I had not had anything to drink for a long time; and,
finally, I was rather excited. Chevassat seemed to have unbuttoned,
and told me lots of funny things which set me a-laughing heartily. But
when the coffee had been brought, with liquors in abundance, and
cigars at ten cents apiece, my individual rises, and pushes the latch
in the door; for there was a latch.
"Then he comes back, and sits down right in front of me, with his
elbows on the table. 'Now, old man,' he says, 'we have had enough
laughing and talking. I am a good fellow, you know; but you understand
that I am not treating you for the sake of your pretty face alone. I
want a good stout fellow; and I thought you might be the man.'
"Upon my word, he told me that in such a peculiar way, that I felt as
if somebody had kicked me in the stomach; and I began to be afraid of
him. Still I concealed my fears, and said, 'Well, let us see; go it!
What's the row?'
"At once he replies, 'As I told you before, I have not laid up a cent.
But if anything should happen to a certain person whom I think of, I
should be rich; and you--why, you might be rich too, if you were
willing to give him a little push with the elbow, so that the thing
might happen to him a little sooner.'"
Earnestly bent upon the part which he had to play for the sake of
carrying out his system of defence, the prisoner assumed more and more
hypocritical repentance, an effort which gave to his wicked face a
peculiarly repulsive expression.
The magistrate, however, though no doubt thoroughly disgusted with
this absurd comedy, did not move a muscle of his face, nor make a
gesture, anxious, as he was, not to break the thread of this important
"Ah, sir!" exclaimed Crochard, his hand upon his heart, "when I heard
Chevassat talk that way, my heart turned within me, and I said,
'Unfortunate man, what do you mean? I should commit a murder? Never!
I'd rather die first!' He laughed, and replied, 'Don't be a fool; who
talks to you of murder? I spoke of an accident. Besides, you would not
risk anything. The thing would happen to him abroad.' I continued,
however, to refuse, and I spoke even of going away; when Chevassat
seized a big knife, and said, now that I had his secret, I was bound
to go on. If not!--he looked at me with such a terrible air, that,
upon my word, I was frightened, and sat down again.
"Then, all at once, he became as jolly again as before; and, whilst he
kept pouring the brandy into my glass, he explained to me that I would
be a fool to hesitate; that I could never in all my life find such a
chance again of making a fortune; that I would most certainly succeed;
and that then I would have an income, keep a carriage as he did, wear
fine clothes, and have every day a dinner like the one we had just
been enjoying together.
"I became more and more excited. This lot of gold which he held up
before my mind's eyes dazzled me; and the strong drink I had been
taking incessantly got into my head. Then he flourished again the big
knife before my face; and finally I did not know what I was saying or
doing. I got up; and, striking the table with my fist, I cried out, 'I
am your man!'"
Although, probably, the whole scene never took place, except in the
prisoner's imagination, Daniel could not help trembling under his
cover, at the thought of these two wretches arranging for his death,
while they were there, half drunk, glass in hand, and their elbows
resting on a table covered with wine-stains. Lefloch, on his part,
stood grasping the bedstead so hard with his hand, that the wood
cracked. Perhaps he dreamed he held in his grasp the neck of the man
who was talking so coolly of murdering his lieutenant. The lawyer and
the doctor thought of nothing but of watching the contortions of the
accused. He had drawn a handkerchief from his pocket, and rubbed his
eyes hard, as if he hoped thus to bring forth a few tears.
"Come, come!" said the "magistrate. "No scene!"
Crochard sighed deeply, and then continued in a tearful tone,--
"They might cut me to pieces, and I would not be able to say what
happened after that. I was dead drunk, and do not recollect a thing
any more. From what Chevassat afterwards told me, I had to be carried
to the carriage; and he took me to a hotel in the suburb, where he
hired a lodging for me. When I woke the next day, a little before
noon, my head was as heavy as lead; and I tried to recall what had
happened at the restaurant, and if it was not perhaps merely the bad
wine that had given me the nightmare.
"Unfortunately, it was no dream; and I soon found that out, when a
waiter came up and brought me a letter. Chevassat wrote me to come to
his house, and to breakfast with him for the purpose of talking
"Of course I went. I asked the concierge where M. Justin Chevassat
lives in the house; and he directs me to go to the second floor, on
the right hand. I go up, ring the bell; a servant opens the door; I
enter, and find, in an elegant apartment, my brigand in a dressing-
gown, stretched out on a sofa. On the way I had made up my mind to
tell him positively that he need not count upon me; that the thing was
a horror to me; and that I retracted all I had said. But, as soon as I
began, he became perfectly furious, calling me a coward and a traitor,
and telling me that I had no choice but to make my fortune, or to
receive a blow with the big knife between my shoulders. At the same
time he spread out before me a great heap of gold. Then, yes, then I
was weak. I felt I was caught. Chevassat frightened me; the gold
intoxicated me. I pledged my word; and the bargain was made."
As he said this, Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, sighed deeply and
noisily, like a man whose heart has been relieved of a grievous
burden. He really felt prodigiously relieved. To have to confess
everything on the spot, without a moment's respite to combine a plan
of apology, was a hard task. Now, the wretch had stood this delicate
and dangerous trial pretty well, and thought he had managed cleverly
enough to prepare for the day of his trial a number of extenuating
circumstances. But the magistrate hardly gave him time to breathe.
"Not so fast," he said: "we are not done yet. What were the conditions
which you and Chevassat agreed upon?"
"Oh! very simple, sir. I, for my part, said yes to everything he
proposed. He magnetized me, I tell you, that man! We agreed,
therefore, that he would pay me four thousand francs in advance, and
that, after the accident, he would give me six thousand certain, and a
portion of the sum which he would secure."
"Thus you undertook, for ten thousand francs, to murder a man?"
"That sum is very far from those fabulous amounts by which you said
you had been blinded and carried away."
"Pardon me! There was that share in the great fortune."
"Ah! You knew very well that Chevassat would never have paid you
Crochard's hands twitched nervously. He cried out,--
"Chevassat cheat me! /cochonnere/! I would have--but no; he knows me;
he would never have dared"--
The magistrate had caught the prisoner's eye, and, fixing him sternly,
he said good-naturedly,--
"Why did you tell me, then, that that man magnetized you, and
frightened you out of your wits?"
The wretch had gone into the snare, and, instead of answering, hung
his head, and tried to sob.
"Repentance is all very well," said the lawyer, who did not seem to be
in the least touched; "but just now it would be better for you to
explain how your trip to Cochin China was arranged. Come, collect
yourself, and give us the details."
"As to that," he resumed his account, "you see Chevassat explained to
me everything at breakfast; and the very same day he gave me the
address which you found on the paper in which the bank-notes were
"What did he give you M. Champcey's address for?"
"So that I might know him personally."
"Well, go on."
"At first, when I heard he was a lieutenant in the navy, I said I must
give it up, knowing as I did that with such men there is no trifling.
But Chevassat scolded me so terribly, and called me such hard names,
that I finally got mad, and promised everything.
"'Besides,' he said to me, 'listen to my plan. The navy department
wants mechanics to go to Saigon. They have not gotten their full
number yet: so you go and offer yourself. They will accept you, and
even pay your journey to Rochefort: a boat will carry you out to the
roadstead on board the frigate "Conquest." Do you know whom you will
find on board? Our man, Lieut. Champcey. Well, now, I tell you! that
if any accident should happen to him, either during the voyage, or at
Saigon, that accident will pass unnoticed, as a letter passes through
"Yes, that's what he told me, every word of it; and I think I hear him
now. And I--I was so completely bewildered, that I had nothing to say
in return. However, there was one thing which troubled me; and I
thought, 'Well, after all, they won't accept me at the navy
department, with my antecedents.'
"But, when I mentioned the difficulty to Chevassat, he laughed. Oh,
but he laughed! it made me mad.
"'You are surely more of a fool than I thought,' he said. 'Are your
condemnations written on your face? No, I should say. Well, as you
will exhibit your papers in excellent order, they will take you.'
"I opened my eyes wide, and said, 'That's all very pretty, what you
say; but the mischief is, that, as I have not worked at my profession
for more than fifteen years, I have no papers at all.' He shrugs his
shoulders, and says, 'You shall have your papers.' That worries me;
and I reply, 'If I have to steal somebody's papers, and change my
name, I won't do it.' But the brigand had his notions. 'You shall keep
your name,' he said, touching me on the shoulder. 'You shall always
remain Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet; and you shall have your papers as
engraver on metal as perfect as anybody can have them.'
"And, to be sure, the second day after that he gave me a set of
papers, signatures, seals, all in perfect order."
"The papers found in your room, you mean?" asked the lawyer.
"Where did Chevassat get them?"
"Get them? Why, he had made them himself. He can do anything he
chooses with his pen, the scamp! If he takes it into his head to
imitate your own handwriting, you would never suspect it."
Daniel and the old surgeon exchanged glances. This was a strong and
very important point in connection with the forged letter that had
been sent to the navy department, and claimed to be signed by Daniel
himself. The magistrate was as much struck by the fact as they were;
but his features remained unchanged; and, pursuing his plan in spite
of all the incidents of the examination, he asked,--
"These papers caused no suspicion?"
"None whatever. I had only to show them, and they accepted me.
Besides, Chevassat said he would enlist some people in my behalf;
perhaps I had been specially recommended."
"And thus you sailed?"
"Yes. They gave me my ticket, some money for travelling expenses; and,
five days after my meeting with Chevassat, I was on board 'The
Conquest.' Lieut. Champcey was not there. Ah! I began to hope he would
not go out on the expedition at all. Unfortunately, he arrived forty-
eight hours afterwards, and we sailed at once."
The marvellous coolness of the wretch showed clearly under his
affected trouble; and, while it confounded Daniel and the old surgeon,
it filled the faithful Lefloch with growing indignation. He spoke of
this abominable plot, of this assassination which had been so
carefully plotted, and of the price agreed upon, and partly paid in
advance, as if the whole had been a fair commercial operation.
"Now, Crochard," said the lawyer, "I cannot impress it too strongly on
your mind, how important it is for your own interests that you should
tell the truth. Remember, all your statements will be verified. Do you
know whether Chevassat lives in Paris under an assumed name?"
"No, sir! I have always heard him called Chevassat by everybody."
"What? By everybody?"
"Well, I mean his concierge, his servants."
The magistrate seemed for a moment to consider how he should frame his
next question; and then he asked, all of a sudden,--
"Suppose that the--accident, as you call it, had succeeded, you would
have taken ship; you would have arrived in France; you reach Paris;
how would you have found Chevassat to claim your six thousand francs?"
"I should have gone to his house, where I breakfasted with him; and,
if he had left, the concierge would have told me where he lived now."
"Then you really think you saw him at his own rooms? Consider. If you
left him only for a couple of hours, between the time when you first
met him and the visit you paid him afterwards, he might very well have
improvised a new domicile for himself."
"Ah! I did not lie, sir. When dinner was over, I had lost my
consciousness, and I did not get wide awake again till noon on the
next day. Chevassat had the whole night and next morning."
Then, as a suspicion suddenly flashed through Crochard's mind, he
"Ah, the brigand! Why did he urge me never to write to him otherwise
than 'to be called for'?"
The magistrate had turned to his clerk.
"Go down," he said, "and see if any of the merchants in town have a
The clerk went off like an arrow, and appeared promptly back again
with the volume in question. The magistrate hastened to look up the
address given by the prisoner, and found it entered thus: "/Langlois/,
sumptuous apartments for families and single persons. Superior
"I was almost sure of it," he said to himself.
Then handing Daniel the paper on which the words "University" and
"Street" could be deciphered, he asked,--
"Do you know that handwriting, M. Champcey?"
Too full of the lawyer's shrewd surmises to express any surprise,
Daniel looked at the words, and said coolly,--
"That is Maxime de Brevan's handwriting."
A rush of blood colored instantly the pale face of Crochard. He was
furious at the idea of having been duped by his accomplice, by the
instigator of the crime he had committed, and for which he would
probably never have received the promised reward.
"Ah, the brigand!" he exclaimed. "And I, who was very near not
denouncing him at all!"
A slight smile passed over the lawyer's face. His end had been
attained. He had foreseen this wrath on the part of the prisoner; he
had prepared it carefully, and caused it to break out fully; for he
knew it would bring him full light on the whole subject.
"To cheat me, me!" Crochard went on with extraordinary vehemence,--"to
cheat a friend, an old comrade! Ah the rascal! But he sha'n't go to
paradise, if I can help it! Let them cut my throat, I don't mind it; I
shall be quite content even, provided I see his throat cut first."
"He has not even been arrested yet."
"But nothing is easier than to catch him, sir. He must be uneasy at
not hearing from me; and I am sure he is going every day to the post-
office to inquire if there are no letters yet for M. X. O. X. 88. I
can write to him. Do you want me to write to him? I can tell him that
I have once more missed it, and that I have been caught even, but that
the police have found out nothing, and that they have set me free
again. I am sure, after that, the scamp will keep quiet; and the
police will have nothing to do but to take the omnibus, and arrest him
at his lodgings."
The magistrate had allowed the prisoner to give free vent to his fury,
knowing full well by experience how intensely criminals hate those of
their accomplices by whom they find themselves betrayed. And he was in
hopes that the rage of this man might suggest a new idea, or furnish
him with new facts. When he saw he was not likely to gain much, he
"Justice cannot stoop to such expedients." Then he added, seeing how
disappointed Crochard looked,--
"You had better try and recollect all you can. Have you forgotten or
concealed nothing that might assist us in carrying out this
"No; I think I have told you every thing."
"You cannot furnish any additional evidence of the complicity of
Justin Chevassat, of his efforts to tempt you to commit this crime, or
of the forgery he committed in getting up a false set of papers for
"No! Ah, he is a clever one, and leaves no trace behind him that could
convict him. But, strong as he is, if we could be confronted in court,
I'd undertake, just by looking at him, to get the truth out of him
"You shall be confronted, I promise you."
The prisoner seemed to be amazed.
"Are you going to send for Chevassat?" he asked.
"No. You will be sent home, to be tried there."
A flash of joy shone in the eyes of the wretch. He knew the voyage
would not be a pleasant one; but the prospect of being tried in France
was as good as an escape from capital punishment to his mind. Besides,
he delighted in advance in the idea of seeing Chevassat in court,
seated by his side as a fellow-prisoner.
"Then," he asked again, "they will send me home?"
"On the first national vessel that leaves Saigon."
The magistrate went and sat down at the table where the clerk was
writing, and rapidly ran his eye over the long examination, seeing if
anything had been overlooked. When he had done, he said,--
"Now give me as accurate a description of Justin Chevassat as you
Crochard passed his hand repeatedly over his forehead; and then, his
eyes staring at empty space, and his neck stretched out, as if he saw
a phantom which he had suddenly called up, he said,--
"Chevassat is a man of my age; but he does not look more than twenty
seven or eight. That is what made me hesitate at first, when I met him
on the boulevard. He is a handsome fellow, very well made, and wears
all his beard. He looks clever, with soft eyes; and his face inspires
confidence at once."
"Ah! that is Maxime all over," broke in Daniel.
And, suddenly remembering something, he called Lefloch. The sailor
started, and almost mechanically assumed the respectful position of a
sailor standing before his officer.
"Lieutenant?" he said.
"Since I have been sick, they have brought part of my baggage here;
have they not?"
"Yes, lieutenant, all of it."
"Well. Go and look for a big red book with silver clasps. You have no
doubt seen me look at it often."
"Yes, lieutenant; and I know where it is."
And he immediately opened one of the trunks that were piled up in a
corner of the room, and took from it a photograph album, which, upon a
sign from Daniel, he handed to the lawyer.
"Will you please," said Daniel at the same time, "ask the prisoner,
if, among the sixty or seventy portraits in that book, he knows any
The album was handed to Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, who turned over
leaf after leaf, till all of a sudden, and almost beside himself, he
"Here he is, Justin Chevassat! Oh! that's he, no doubt about it."
Daniel could, from his bed, see the photograph, and said,--
"That is Maxime's portrait."
After this decisive evidence, there could be no longer any doubt that
Justin Chevassat and Maxime de Brevan were one and the same person.
The investigation was complete, as far as it could be carried on in
Saigon; the remaining evidence had to be collected in Paris. The
magistrate directed, therefore, the clerk to read the deposition; and
Crochard followed it without making a single objection. But when he
had signed it, and the gendarmes were about to carry him off again,
and to put on the handcuffs, he asked leave to make an addition. The
magistrate assented; and Crochard said,--
"I do not want to excuse myself, nor to make myself out innocent; but
I do not like, on the other hand, to seem worse than I am."
He had assumed a very decided position, and evidently aimed at giving
to his words an expression of coarse but perfect frankness.
"The thing which I had undertaken to do, it was not in my power to do.
It has never entered my head to kill a man treacherously. If I had
been a brute, such as these are, the lieutenant would not be there,
wounded to be sure, but alive. Ten times I might have done his
business most effectively; but I did not care. I tried in vain to
think of Chevassat's big promises; at the last moment, my heart always
failed me. The thing was too much for me. And the proof of it is, that
I missed him at ten yards' distance. The only time when I tried it
really in earnest was in the little boat, because there, I ran some
risk; it was like a duel, since my life was as much at stake as the
lieutenant's. I can swim as well as anybody, to be sure; but in a
river like the Dong-Nai, at night, and with a current like that, no
swimmer can hold his own. The lieutenant got out of it; but I was very
near being drowned. I could not get on land again until I had been
carried down two miles or more; and, when I did get on shore, I sank
in the mud up to my hips. Now, I humbly beg the lieutenant's pardon;
and you shall see if I am going to let Chevassat escape."
Thereupon he held out his hands for the handcuffs, with a theatrical
gesture, and left the room.
In the meantime, the long, trying scene had exhausted Daniel; and he
lay there, panting, on his bed. The surgeon and the lawyer withdrew,
to let him have some rest.
He certainly needed it; but how could he sleep with the fearful idea
of his Henrietta--she whom he loved with his whole heart--being in the
hands of this Justin Chevassat, a forger, a former galley-slave, the
accomplice and friend of Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet?
"And I myself handed her over to him!" he repeated for the thousandth
time,--"I, her only friend upon earth! And her confidence in me was so
great, that, if she had any presentiment, she suppressed it for my
Daniel had, to be sure, a certain assurance now, that Maxime de Brevan
would not be able to escape from justice. But what did it profit him
to be avenged, when it was too late, long after Henrietta should have
been forced to seek in suicide the only refuge from Brevan's
persecution? Now it seemed to him as if the magistrate was far more
anxiously concerned for the punishment of the guilty than for the
safety of the victims. Blinded by passion, so as to ask for
impossibilities, Daniel would have had this lawyer, who was so clever
in unearthing crimes committed in Saigon, find means rather to prevent
the atrocious crime which was now going on in France. On his part, he
had done the only thing that could be done.
At the first glimpse of reason that had appeared after his terrible
sufferings, he had hastened to write to Henrietta, begging her to take
courage, and promising her that he would soon be near her. In this
letter he had enclosed the sum of four thousand francs.
This letter was gone. But how long would it take before it could reach
her? Three or four months, perhaps even more.
Would it reach her in time? Might it not be intercepted, like the
others? All these anxieties made a bed of burning coals of the couch
of the poor wounded man. He twisted and turned restlessly from side to
side, and felt as if he were once more going to lose his senses. And
still, by a prodigious effort of his will, his convalescence pursued
its normal, steady way in spite of so many contrary influences.
A fortnight after Crochard's confession, Daniel could get up; he spent
the afternoon in an arm-chair, and was even able to take a few steps
in his chamber. The next week he was able to get down into the garden
of the hospital, and to walk about there, leaning on the arm of his
faithful Lefloch. And with his strength and his health, hope, also,
began to come back; when, all of a sudden, two letters from Henrietta
rekindled the fever.
In one the poor /girl/ told him how she had lived so far on the money
obtained from the sale of the little jewelry she had taken with her,
but added that she was shamefully cheated, and would soon be compelled
to seek employment of some sort in order to support herself.
"I am quite sure," she said, with a kind of heartrending cheerfulness,
"that I can earn my forty cents a day; and with that, my friend, I
shall be as happy as a queen, and wait for your return, free from
In the other she wrote,--
"None of my efforts to procure work has so far succeeded. The future
is getting darker and darker. Soon I shall be without bread. I shall
struggle on to the last extremity, were it only not to give my enemies
the joy of seeing me dead. But, Daniel, if you wish to see your
Henrietta again, come back; oh, come back!"
Daniel had not suffered half as much the day when the assassin's ball
ploughed through his chest. He was evidently reading one of those last
cries which precede agony. After these two fearful letters, he could
only expect a last one from Henrietta,--a letter in which she would
tell him, "All is over. I am dying. Farewell!"
He sent for the chief surgeon, and said, as soon as he entered,--
"I must go!"
The good doctor frowned, and replied rudely,--
"Are you mad? Do you know that you cannot stand up fifteen minutes?"
"I can lie down in my berth."
"You would kill yourself."
"What of that? I would rather suffer death than what I now endure.
Besides, I have made up my mind irrevocably! Read this, and you will
see yourself that I cannot do otherwise."
The chief surgeon took in Henrietta's last letter almost at a single
glance; but he held it in his hand for some time, pretending to read
it, but in reality meditating.
"I am sure," the excellent man thought in his heart, "I am sure, in
this man's place, I should do the same. But would this imprudence be
of any use to him? No; for he could not reach the mouth of the Dong-
Nai alive. Therefore it is my duty to keep him here: and that can be
done, since he is as yet unable to go out alone; and Lefloch will obey
me, I am sure, when I tell him that his master's life depends upon his
Too wise to meet so decided a determination as Daniel's was by a flat
refusal, he said,--
"Very well, then; be it as you choose!"
Only he came in again the same evening, and, with an air of
disappointment, said to Daniel,--
"To go is all very well; but there is one difficulty in the way, of
which neither you nor I have thought."
"And what is that?"
"There is no vessel going home."
"Ah! my dear friend," replied the excellent man boldly, "do you think
I could deceive you?"
Evidently Daniel thought him quite capable of doing so; but he took
good care not to show his suspicions, reserving to himself the right
of making direct inquiries as soon as the opportunity should offer. It
came the very next morning. Two friends of his called to see him. He
sent Lefloch out of the room on some pretext, and then begged them to
go down to the port, and to engage a passage for him,--no, not for
him, but for his man, whom urgent business recalled to France.
In the most eager manner the two gentlemen disappeared. They stayed
away three hours; and, when they came back, their answer was the same
as the doctor's. They declared they had made inquiries on all sides;
but they were quite sure that there was not a single vessel in Saigon
ready to sail for home. Ten other persons whom Daniel asked to do the
same thing brought him the same answer. And yet, that very week, two
ships sailed,--one for Havre, the other for Bordeaux. But the
concierge of the hospital, and Lefloch, were so well drilled, that no
visitor reached Daniel before having learned his lesson thoroughly.
Thus they succeeded in keeping Daniel quiet for a fortnight; but, at
the end of that time, he declared that he felt quite well enough to
look out for a ship himself; and that, if he could do no better, he
meant to sail for Singapore, where he would be sure to procure a
passage home. It would, of course, have been simple folly to try and
keep a man back who was so much bent upon his purpose; and, as his
first visit to the port would have revealed to him the true state of
things, the old surgeon preferred to make a clean breast of it. When
he learned that he had missed two ships, Daniel was at first naturally
very much incensed.
"That was not right, doctor, to treat me thus," he exclaimed. "It was
wrong; for you know what sacred duties call me home."
But the surgeon was prepared for his justification. He replied with a
certain solemnity which he rarely assumed,--
"I have only obeyed my conscience. If I had let you set sail in the
condition in which you were, I should have virtually sent you to your
grave, and thus have deprived your betrothed, Miss Ville-Handry, of
her last and only chance of salvation."
Daniel shook his head sadly, and said,--
"But if I get there too late, too late; by a week, a day, do you
think, doctor, I shall not curse your prudence? And who knows, now,
when a ship will leave?"
"When? On Sunday, in five days; and that ship is 'The Saint Louis' a
famous clipper, and so good a sailor, that you will easily overtake
the two big three-masters that have sailed before you."
Offering his hand to Daniel, he added,--
"Come, my dear Champcey; don't blame an old friend who has done what
he thought was his duty to do."
Daniel was too painfully affected to pay much attention to the
conclusive and sensible reasons alleged by the chief surgeon; he saw
nothing but that his friends had taken advantage of his condition to
keep him in the dark. Still he also felt that it would have been black
ingratitude and stupid obstinacy to preserve in his heart a shadow of
resentment. He therefore, took the hand that was offered him, and,
pressing it warmly, replied in a tone of deep emotion,--
"Whatever the future may have in store for me, doctor, I shall never
forget that I owe my life to your devotion."
As usually, when he felt that excitement was overcoming him,--a very
rare event, to tell the truth,--the old surgeon fell back into his
rough and abrupt manner.
"I have attended you as I would have attended any one: that is my
duty, and you need not trouble yourself about your gratitude. If any
one owes me thanks, it is Miss Ville-Handry; and I beg you will remind
her of it when she is your wife. And now you will be good enough to
dismiss all those dismal ideas, and remember that you have only five
days longer to tremble with impatience in this abominable country."
He spoke easily enough of it,--five days! It was an eternity for a man
in Daniel's state of mind. In three hours he had made all his
preparations for his departure, arranged his business matters, and
obtained a furlough for Lefloch, who was to go with him. At noon,
therefore, he asked himself with terror, how he was to employ his time
till night, when they came, and asked if he would please come over to
the courthouse, to see the magistrate.
He went at once, and found the lawyer, but so changed, that he hardly
recognized him at first. The last mail had brought him the news of his
appointment to a judgeship, which he had long anxiously desired, and
which would enable him to return, not only to France, but to his
native province. He meant to sail in a frigate which was to leave
towards the end of the month, and in which Crochard, also, was to be
"In this way," he said, "I shall arrive at the same time as the
accused, and very soon after the papers, which were sent home last
week; and I trust and hope I shall be allowed to conduct the trial of
an affair, which, so far, has gone smoothly enough in my hands."
His impassive air was gone; and that official mask was laid aside,
which might have been looked upon as much a part of his official
costume as the black gown which was lying upon one of his trunks. He
laughed, he rubbed his hands, and said,--
"I should take pleasure in having him in my court, this Justin
Chevassat, alias Maxime de Brevan. He must be a cool swindler, brimful
of cunning and astuteness, familiar with all the tricks of criminal
courts, and not so easily overcome. It will be no child's play, I am
sure, to prove that he was the instigator of Crochard's crimes, and
that he has hired him with his own money. Ah! There will be lively
discussions and curious incidents."
Daniel listened, quite bewildered.
"He, too," he thought. "Professional enthusiasm carries him away; and
here he is, troubling himself about the discussions in court, neither
less nor more than Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet. He thinks only of the
honor he will reap for having handed over to the jury such a
formidable rascal as"--
But the lawyer had not sent for Daniel to speak to him of his plans
and his hopes. Having learned from the chief surgeon that Lieut.
Champcey was on the point of sailing, he wished to tell him that he
would receive a very important packet, which he was desired to hand to
the court as soon as he reached Paris.
"This is, you understand," he concluded, "an additional precaution
which we take to prevent Maxime de Brevan from escaping us."
It was five o'clock when Daniel left the court-house; and on the
little square before it he found the old surgeon, waiting to carry him
off to dinner, and a game of whist in the evening. So, when he
undressed at night, he said to himself,--
"After all, the day has not been so very long!"
But to-morrow, and the day after to-morrow, and the next days!
He tried in vain to get rid of the fixed idea which filled his mind,--
a mechanical instinct, so to say, which was stronger than his will,
and drove him incessantly to the wharf where "The Saint Louis" was
lying. Sitting on some bags of rice, he spent hour after hour in
watching the cargo as it was put on board. Never had the Annamites and
the Chinamen, who in Saigon act as stevedores, appeared to him so
lazy, so intolerable. Sometimes he felt as if, seeing or guessing his
impatience, they were trying to irritate him by moving the bales with
the utmost slowness, and walking with unbearable laziness around with
Then, when he could no longer bear the sight, he went to the cafe on
the wharf, where the captain of "The Saint Louis" was generally to be
"Your men will never finish, captain," he said. "You will never be
ready by Sunday."
To which the captain invariably replied in his fierce Marseilles
"Don't be afraid, lieutenant. 'The Saint Louis,' I tell you, beats the
Indian mail in punctuality."
And really, on Saturday, when he saw his passenger come as usual to
the cafe, the captain exclaimed,--
"Well, what did I tell you? We are all ready. At five o'clock I get my
mail at the post-office; and to-morrow morning we are off. I was just
going to send you word that you had better sleep on board."
That evening the officers of "The Conquest," gave Daniel a farewell
dinner; and it was nearly midnight, when, after having once more
shaken hands most cordially with the old chief surgeon, he took
possession of his state-room, one of the largest on board ship, in
which they had put up two berths, so that, in case of need, Lefloch
might be at hand to attend his master.
Then at last, towards four o'clock in the morning, Daniel was aroused
by the clanking of chains, accompanied by the singing of the sailors.
He hastened on deck. They were getting up anchors; and, an hour after
that, "The Saint Louis" went down the Dong-Nai, aided by a current,
rushing along "like lightning."
"And now," said Daniel to Lefloch, "I shall judge, by the time it will
take us to get home, if fortune is on my side."
Yes, fate, at last, declared for him. Never had the most
extraordinarily favorable winds hastened a ship home as in this case.
"The Saint Louis" was a first-class sailer; and the captain,
stimulated by the presence of a navy lieutenant, always exacted the
utmost from his ship; so that on the seventeenth day after they had
left Saigon, on a fine winter afternoon, Daniel could see the hills
above Marseilles rise from the blue waters of the Mediterranean. He
was drawing near the end of the voyage and of his renewed anxieties.
Two days more, and he would be in Paris, and his fate would be
But would they let him go on shore that evening? He trembled as he
thought of all the formalities which have to be observed when a ship
arrives. The quarantine authorities might raise difficulties, and
cause a delay.
Standing by the side of the captain, he was watching the masts, which
looked as if they were loaded down with all the sails they could
carry, when a cry from the lookout in the bow of the vessel attracted
his attention. That man reported, at two ship's lengths on starboard,
a small boat, like a pilot-boat, making signs of distress. The captain
and Daniel exchanged looks of disappointment. The slightest delay in
the position in which they were, and at a season when night falls so
suddenly, deprived them of all hope of going on shore that night. And
who could tell how long it would take them to go to the rescue of that
"Well, never mind!" said Daniel. "We have to do it."
"I wish they were in paradise!" swore the captain.
Nevertheless, he ordered all that was necessary to slacken speed, and
then to tack so as to come close upon the little boat.
It was a difficult and tedious manoeuvre; but at last, after half an
hour's work, they could throw a rope into the boat.
There were two men in it, who hastened to come on the deck of the
clipper. One was a sailor of about twenty, the other a man of perhaps
fifty, who looked like a country gentleman, appeared ill at ease, and
cast about him restless glances in all directions. But, whilst they
were hoisting themselves up by the man-rope; the captain of "The Saint
Louis" had had time to examine their boat, and to ascertain that it
was in good condition, and every thing in it in perfect order.
Crimson with wrath, he now seized the young sailor by his collar; and,
shaking him so roughly as nearly to disjoint his neck, he said with a
"Are you making fun of me? What wretched joke have you been playing?"
Like their captain, the men on board, also, had discovered the perfect
uselessness of the signals of distress which had excited their
sympathy; and their indignation was great at what they considered a
stupid mystification. They surrounded the sailor with a threatening
air, while he struggled in the captain's hand, and cried in his
"Let go! You are smothering me! It is not my fault. It was the
gentleman there, who hired my boat for a sail. I, I would not make the
Nevertheless, the poor fellow would probably have experienced some
very rough treatment, if the "gentleman" had not come running up, and
covered him with his own body, exclaiming,--
"Let that poor boy go! I am the only one to blame!"
The captain, in a great rage, pushed him back, and, looking at him
"Ah! so it is you who have dared"--
"Yes, I did it. But I had my reasons. This is surely 'The Saint
Louis,' eh, coming from Saigon?"
"Yes. What next?"
"You have on board Lieut. Champcey of the navy?"
Daniel, who had been a silent witness of the scene, now stepped
forward, very much puzzled.
"I am Lieut. Champcey, sir," he said. "What do you desire?"
But, instead of replying, the "gentleman" raised his hands to heaven
in a perfect ecstasy of joy, and said in an undertone,--
"We triumph at last!"
Then, turning to Daniel and the captain, he said,--
"But come, gentlemen, come! I must explain my conduct; and we must be
alone for what I have to tell you."
Pale, and with every sign of seasickness in his face, when he had
first appeared on deck, the man now seemed to have recovered, and, in
spite of the rolling of the vessel, followed the captain and Daniel
with a firm step to the quarter-deck. As soon as they were alone, he
"Could I be here, if I had not used a stratagem? Evidently not. And
yet I had the most powerful interest in boarding 'The Saint Louis'
before she should enter port; therefore I did not hesitate."
He drew from his pocket a sheet of paper, simply folded twice, and
"Here is my apology, Lieut. Champcey; see if it is sufficient."
Utterly amazed, the young officer read,--
"I am saved, Daniel; and I owe my life to the man who will hand you
this. I shall owe to him the pleasure of seeing you again. Confide
in him as you would in your best and most devoted friend; and, I
beseech you, do not hesitate to follow his advice literally.
Daniel turned deadly pale, and tottered. This unexpected, intense
happiness overcame him.
"Then--it is true--she is alive?" he stammered.
"She is at my sister's house, safe from all danger."
"And you, sir, you have rescued her?"