Part 10 out of 12
"I have only told Miss Dionysia so far, and she sent me to you. You
ought to go and make inquiry."
The advice was not needed. Wiping his face hastily, the young advocate
went to dress at once. He was ready in a moment; and, having run down
the stairs, he was crossing the passage when he heard somebody call
his name. He turned round, and saw Dionysia making him a sign to come
into the boudoir in which she was usually sitting. He did so.
Dionysia and the young advocate alone knew what a desperate venture
Jacques had undertaken the night before. They had not said a word
about it to each other; but each had noticed the preoccupation of the
other. All the evening M. Folgat had not spoken ten words, and
Dionysia had, immediately after dinner, gone up to her own room.
"Well?" she asked.
"The report, madam, must be false," replied the advocate.
"His evasion would be a confession of his crime. It is only the guilty
who try to escape; and M. de Boiscoran is innocent. You can rest quite
assured, madam, it is not so. I pray you be quiet."
Who would not have pitied the poor girl at that moment? She was as
white as her collar, and trembled violently. Big tears ran over her
eyes; and at each word a violent sob rose in her throat.
"You know where Jacques went last night?" she asked again.
She turned her head a little aside, and went on, in a hardly audible
"He went to see once more a person whose influence over him is,
probably, all powerful. It may be that she has upset him, stunned him.
Might she not have prevailed upon him to escape from the disgrace of
appearing in court, charged with such a crime?"
"No, madam, no!"
"This person has always been Jacques's evil genius. She loves him, I
am sure. She must have been incensed at the idea of his becoming my
husband. Perhaps, in order to induce him to flee, she has fled with
"Ah! do not be afraid, madam: the Countess Claudieuse is incapable of
Dionysia threw herself back in utter amazement; and, raising her wide-
open eyes to the young advocate, she said with an air of
"The Countess Claudieuse?"
M. Folgat saw his indiscretion. He had been under the impression that
Jacques had told his betrothed every thing; and her very manner of
speaking had confirmed him in his conviction.
"Ah, it is the Countess Claudieuse," she went on,--"that lady whom all
revere as if she were a saint. And I, who only the other day marvelled
at her fervor in praying,--I who pitied her with all my heart,--I--Ah!
I now see what they were hiding from me."
Distressed by the blunder which he had committed, the young advocate
"I shall never forgive myself, madam, for having mentioned that name
in your presence."
She smiled sadly.
"Perhaps you have rendered me a great service, sir. But, I pray, go
and see what the truth is about this report."
M. Folgat had not walked down half the street, when he became aware
that something extraordinary must really have happened. The whole town
was in uproar. People stood at their doors, talking. Groups here and
there were engaged in lively discussions.
Hastening his steps, he was just turning into National Street, when he
was stopped by three or four gentlemen, whose acquaintance he had, in
some way or other, been forced to make since he was at Sauveterre.
"Well, sir?" said one of these amiable friends, "your client, it
seems, is running about nicely."
"I do not understand," replied M. Folgat in a tone of ice.
"Why? Don't you know your client has run off?"
"Are you quite sure of that?"
"Certainly. The wife of a workman whom I employ was the person through
whom the escape became known. She had gone on the old ramparts to cut
grass there for her goat; and, when she came to the prison wall, she
saw a big hole had been made there. She gave at once the alarm; the
guard came up; and they reported the matter immediately to the
For M. Folgat the evidence was not satisfactory yet. He asked,--
"Well? And M. de Boiscoran?"
"Cannot be found. Ah, I tell you, it is just as I say. I know it from
a friend who heard it from a clerk at the mayor's office. Blangin the
jailer, they say, is seriously implicated."
"I hope soon to see you again," said the young advocate, and left him
The gentleman seemed to be very grievously offended at such treatment;
but the young advocate paid no attention to him, and rapidly crossed
the New-Market Square.
He was become apprehensive. He did not fear an evasion, but thought
there might have occurred some fearful catastrophe. A hundred persons,
at least, were assembled around the prison-doors, standing there with
open mouths and eager eyes; and the sentinels had much trouble in
keeping them back.
M. Folgat made his way through the crowd, and went in.
In the court-yard he found the commonwealth attorney, the chief of
police, the captain of the gendarmes, M. Seneschal, and, finally, M.
Galpin, all standing before the janitor's lodge in animated
discussion. The magistrate looked paler than ever, and was, as they
called it in Sauveterre, in bull-dog humor. There was reason for it.
He had been informed as promptly as M. Folgat, and had, with equal
promptness, dressed, and hastened to the prison. And all along his
way, unmistakable evidence had proved to him that public opinion was
fiercely roused against the accused, but that it was as deeply excited
On all sides he had been greeted by ironical salutations, mocking
smiles, and even expressions of condolence at the loss of his
prisoner. Two men, whom he suspected of being in close relations with
Dr. Seignebos, had even murmured, as he passed by them,--
"Cheated, Mr. Bloodhound."
He was the first to notice the young advocate, and at once said to
"Well, sir, do you come for news?"
But M. Folgat was not the man to be taken in twice the same day.
Concealing his apprehensions under the most punctilious politeness, he
"I have heard all kinds of reports; but they do not affect me. M. de
Boiscoran has too much confidence in the excellency of his cause and
the justice of his country to think of escaping. I only came to confer
"And you are right!" exclaimed M. Daubigeon. "M. de Boiscoran is in
his cell, utterly unaware of all the rumors that are afloat. It was
Trumence who has run off,--Trumence, the light-footed. He was kept in
prison for form's sake only, and helped the keeper as a kind of
assistant jailer. He it is who has made a hole in the wall, and
escaped, thinking, no doubt, that the heavens are a better roof than
the finest jail."
A little distance behind the group stood Blangin, the jailer,
affecting a contrite and distressed air.
"Take the counsel to the prisoner Boiscoran," said M. Galpin dryly,
fearing, perhaps, that M. Daubigeon might regale the public with all
the bitter epigrams with which he persecuted him privately. The jailer
bowed to the ground, and obeyed the order; but, as soon as he was
alone with M. Folgat in the porch of the building, he blew up his
cheek, and then tapped it, saying,--
"Cheated all around,"
Then he burst out laughing. The young advocate pretended not to
understand him. It was but prudent that he should appear ignorant of
what had happened the night before, and thus avoid all suspicion of a
complicity which substantially did not exist.
"And still," Blangin went on, "this is not the end of it yet. The
gendarmes are all out. If they should catch my poor Trumence! That man
is such a fool, the most stupid judge would worm his secret out of him
in five minutes. And then, who would be in a bad box?"
M. Folgat still made no reply; but the other did not seem to mind that
much. He continued,--
"I only want to do one thing, and that is to give up my keys as soon
as possible. I am tired of this profession of jailer. Besides, I shall
not be able to stay here much longer. This escape has put a flea into
the ear of the authorities, and they are going to give me an
assistant, a former police sergeant, who is as bad as a watchdog. Ah!
the good days of M. de Boiscoran are over: no more stolen visits, no
more promenades. He is to be watched day and night."
Blangin had stopped at the foot of the staircase to give all these
"Let us go up," he said now, as M. Folgat showed signs of growing
He found Jacques lying on his bed, all dressed; and at the first
glance he saw that a great misfortune had happened.
"One more hope gone?" he asked.
The prisoner raised himself up with difficulty, and sat up on the side
of his bed; then he replied in a voice of utter despair,--
"I am lost, and this time hopelessly."
The young advocate could not help shuddering as he heard the account
given by Jacques of what had happened the night before. And when it
was finished, he said,--
"You are right. If Count Claudieuse carries out his threat, it may be
"It must be a condemnation, you mean. Well, you need not doubt. He
will carry out his threat."
And shaking his head with an air of desolation, he added,--
"And the most formidable part of it is this: I cannot blame him for
doing it. The jealousy of husbands is often nothing more than self-
love. When they find they have been deceived, their vanity is
offended; but their heart remains whole. But in this case it is very
different. He not only loved his wife, he worshipped her. She was his
happiness, life itself. When I took her from him, I robbed him of all
he had,--yes, of all! I never knew what adultery meant till I saw him
overcome with shame and rage. He was left without any thing in a
moment. His wife had a lover: his favorite daughter was not his own! I
suffer terribly; but it is nothing, I am sure, in comparison with what
he suffers. And you expect, that, holding a weapon in his hand, he
should not use it? It is a treacherous, dishonest weapon, to be sure;
but have I been frank and honest? It would be a mean, ignoble
vengeance, you will say; but what was the offence? In his place, I
dare say, I should do as he does."
M. Folgat was thunderstruck.
"But after that," he asked, "when you left the house?"
Jacques passed his hand mechanically over his forehead, as if to
gather his thoughts, and then went on,--
"After that I fled precipitately, like a man who has committed a
crime. The garden-door was open, and I rushed out. I could not tell
you with certainty in what direction I ran, through what streets I
passed. I had but one fixed idea,--to get away from that house as
quickly and as far as possible. I did not know what I was doing. I
went, I went. When I came to myself, I was many miles away from
Sauveterre, on the road to Boiscoran. The instinct of the animal
within me had guided me on the familiar way to my house. At the first
moment I could not comprehend how I had gotten there. I felt like a
drunkard whose head is filled with the vapors of alcohol, and who,
when he is roused, tries to remember what has happened during his
intoxication. Alas! I recalled the fearful reality but too soon. I
knew that I ought to go back to prison, that it was an absolute
necessity; and yet I felt at times so weary, so exhausted, that I was
afraid I should not be able to get back. Still I did reach the prison.
Blangin was waiting for me, all anxiety; for it was nearly two
o'clock. He helped me to get up here. I threw myself, all dressed as I
was, on my bed, and I fell fast asleep in an instant. But my sleep was
a miserable sleep, broken by terrible dreams, in which I saw myself
chained to the galleys, or mounting the scaffold with a priest by my
side; and even at this moment I hardly know whether I am awake or
asleep, and whether I am not still suffering under a fearful
M. Folgat could hardly conceal a tear. He murmured,--
"Oh, yes, poor man indeed!" repeated Jacques. "Why did I not follow my
first inspiration last night when I found myself on the high-road. I
should have gone on to Boiscoran, I should have gone up stairs to my
room, and there I should have blown out my brains. I should then
suffer no more."
Was he once more giving himself up to that fatal idea of suicide?
"And your parents," said M. Folgat.
"My parents! And do you think they will survive my condemnation?"
"And Miss Chandore?"
He shuddered, and said fiercely,--
"Ah! it is for her sake first of all that I ought to make an end of
it. Poor Dionysia! Certainly she would grieve terribly when she heard
of my suicide. But she is not twenty yet. My memory would soon fade in
her heart; and weeks growing into months, and months into years, she
would find comfort. To live means to forget."
"No! You cannot really think what you are saying!" broke in M. Folgat.
"You know very well that she--she would never forget you!"
A tear appeared in the eyes of the unfortunate man, and he said in a
"You are right. I believe to strike me down means to strike her down
also. But do you think what life would be after a condemnation? Can
you imagine what her sensations would be, if day after day she had to
say to herself, 'He whom alone I love upon earth is at the galleys,
mixed up with the lowest of criminals, disgraced for life,
dishonored.' Ah! death is a thousand times preferable."
"Jacques, M. de Boiscoran, do you forget that you have given me your
word of honor?"
"The proof that I have not forgotten it is that you see me here. But,
never mind, the day is not very far off when you will see me so
wretched that you yourself will be the first to put a weapon into my
But the young advocate was one of those men whom difficulties only
excite and stimulate, instead of discouraging. He had already
recovered somewhat from the first great shock, and he said,--
"Before you throw down your hand, wait, at least, till the game is
lost. You are not sentenced yet. Far from it! You are innocent, and
there is divine justice. Who tells us that Count Claudieuse will
really give evidence? We do not even know whether he has not, at this
moment, drawn his last breath upon earth!"
Jacques leaped up as if in a spasm, and turning deadly pale,
"Ah, don't say that! That fatal thought has already occurred to me,
that perhaps he did not rise again last night. Would to God that that
be not so! for then I should but too surely be an assassin. He was my
first thought when I awoke. I thought of sending out to make
inquiries. But I did not dare do it."
M. Folgat felt his heart oppressed with most painful anxiety, like the
prisoner himself. Hence he said at once,--
"We cannot remain in this uncertainty. We can do nothing as long as
the count's fate is unknown to us; for on his fate depends ours. Allow
me to leave you now. I will let you know as soon as I hear any thing
positive. And, above all, keep up your courage, whatever may happen."
The young advocate was sure of finding reliable information at Dr.
Seignebos's house. He hastened there; and, as soon as he entered, the
"Ah, there you are coming at last! I give up twenty of my worst
patients to see you, and you keep me waiting forever. I was sure you
would come. What happened last night at Count Claudieuse's house?"
"Then you know"--
"I know nothing. I have seen the results; but I do not know the cause.
The result was this: last night, about eleven o'clock, I had just gone
to bed, tired to death, when, all of a sudden, somebody rings my bell
as if he were determined to break it. I do not like people to perform
so violently at my door; and I was getting up to let the man know my
mind, when Count Claudieuse's servant rushed in, pushing my own
servant unceremoniously aside, and cried out to me to come instantly,
as his master had just died."
"That is what I said, because, although I knew the count was very ill,
I did not think he was so near death."
"Then, he is really dead?"
"Not at all. But, if you interrupt me continually, I shall never be
able to tell you."
And taking off his spectacles, wiping them, and putting them on again,
he went on,--
"I was dressed in an instant, and in a few minutes I was at the house.
They asked me to go into the sitting-room down stairs. There I found,
to my great amazement, Count Claudieuse, lying on a sofa. He was pale
and stiff, his features fearfully distorted, and on his forehead a
slight wound, from which a slender thread of blood was trickling down.
Upon my word I thought it was all over."
"And the countess?"
"The countess was kneeling by her husband; and, with the help of her
women, she was trying to resuscitate him by rubbing him, and putting
hot napkins on his chest. But for these wise precautions she would be
a widow at this moment; whilst, as it is, he may live a long time yet.
This precious count has a wonderful tenacity of life. We, four of us,
then took him and carried him up stairs, and put him to bed, after
having carefully warmed it first. He soon began to move; he opened his
eyes; and a quarter of an hour later he had recovered his
consciousness, and spoke readily, though with a somewhat feeble voice.
Then, of course, I asked what had happened, and for the first time in
my life I saw the marvellous self-possession of the countess forsake
her. She stammered pitifully, looking at her husband with a most
frightened air, as if she wished to read in his eyes what she should
say. He undertook to answer me; but he, also was evidently very much
embarrassed. He said, that being left alone, and feeling better than
usual, he had taken it into his head to try his strength. He had
risen, put on his dressing-gown, and gone down stairs; but, in the act
of entering the room, he had become dizzy, and had fallen so
unfortunately as to hurt his forehead against the sharp corner of a
table. I affected to believe it, and said, 'You have done a very
imprudent thing, and you must not do it again.' Then he looked at his
wife in a very singular way, and replied, 'Oh! you can be sure I shall
not commit another imprudence. I want too much to get well. I have
never wished it so much as now.' "
M. Folgat was on the point of replying; but the doctor closed his lips
with his hand, and said,--
"Wait, I have not done yet."
And, manipulating his spectacles most assiduously, he added,--
"I was just going home, when suddenly a chambermaid came in with a
frightened air to tell the countess that her older daughter, little
Martha, whom you know, had just been seized with terrible convulsions.
Of course I went to see her, and found her suffering from a truly
fearful nervous attack. It was only with great difficulty I could
quiet her; and when I thought she had recovered, suspecting that there
might be some connection between her attack and the accident that had
befallen her father, I said in the most paternal tone I could assume,
'Now my child, you must tell me what was the matter.' She hesitated a
while, and then she said, 'I was frightened.'--'Frightened at what, my
darling?' She raised herself on her bed, trying to consult her
mother's eyes; but I had placed myself between them, so that she could
not see them. When I repeated my question, she said, 'Well, you see, I
had just gone to bed, when I heard the bell ring. I got up, and went
to the window to see who could be coming so late. I saw the servant go
and open the door, a candlestick in her hand, and come back to the
house, followed by a gentleman, whom I did not know.' The countess
interrupted her here, saying, 'It was a messenger from the court, who
had been sent to me with an urgent letter.' But I pretended not to
hear her; and, turning still to Martha, I asked again, 'And it was
this gentleman who frightened you so?'--'Oh, no!'--'What then?' Out of
the corner of my eye I was watching the countess. She seemed to be
terribly embarrassed. Still she did not dare to stop her daughter.
'Well, doctor,' said the little girl, 'no sooner had the gentleman
gone into the house than I saw one of the statues under the trees
there come down from its pedestal, move on, and glide very quietly
along the avenue of lime-trees.' "
M. Folgat trembled.
"Do you remember, doctor," he said, "the day we were questioning
little Martha, she said she was terribly frightened by the statutes in
"Yes, indeed!" replied the doctor. "But wait a while. The countess
promptly interrupted her daughter, saying to me, 'But, dear doctor,
you ought to forbid the child to have such notions in her head. At
Valpinson she never was afraid, and even at night, quite alone, and
without a light, all over the house. But here she is frightened at
every thing; and, as soon as night comes, she fancies the garden is
full of ghosts. You are too big now, Martha, to think that statues,
which are made of stone, can come to life, and walk about.' The child
" 'The other times, mamma,' she said, 'I was not quite sure; but this
time I am sure. I wanted to go away from the window, and I could not
do it. It was too strong for me: so that I saw it all, saw it
perfectly. I saw the statue, the ghost, come up the avenue slowly and
cautiously, and then place itself behind the last tree, the one that
is nearest to the parlor window. Then I heard a loud cry, then nothing
more. The ghost remained all the time behind the tree, and I saw all
it did: it turned to the left and the right; it drew itself up; and it
crouched down. Then, all of a sudden, two terrible cries; but, O
mamma, such cries! Then the ghost raised one arm, this way, and all of
a sudden it was gone; but almost the same moment another one came out,
and then disappeared, too.' "
M. Folgat was utterly overcome with amazement.
"Oh, these ghosts!" he said.
"You suspect them, do you? I suspected them at once. Still I pretended
to turn Martha's whole story into a joke, and tried to explain to her
how the darkness made us liable to have all kinds of optical
illusions; so that when I left, and a servant was sent with a candle
to light me on my way, the countess was quite sure that I had no
suspicion. I had none; but I had more than that. As soon as I entered
the garden, therefore, I dropped a piece of money which I had kept in
my hand for the purpose. Of course I set to work looking for it at the
foot of the tree nearest to the parlor-window, while the servant
helped with his candle. Well, M. Folgat, I can assure you that it was
not a ghost that had been walking about under the trees; and, if the
footmarks which I found there were made by a statue, that statue must
have enormous feet, and wear huge iron-shod shoes."
The young advocate was prepared for this. He said,--
"There is no doubt: the scene had a witness."
"What scene? What witness? That is what I wanted to hear from you, and
why I was waiting so impatiently for you," said Dr. Seignebos to M.
Folgat. "I have seen and stated the results: now it is for you to give
me the cause."
Nevertheless, he did not seem to be in the least surprised by what the
young advocate told him of Jacques's desperate enterprise, and of the
tragic result. As soon as he had heard it all, he exclaimed,--
"I thought so: yes, upon my word! By racking my brains all night long,
I had very nearly guessed the whole story. And who, in Jacques's
place, would not have been desirous to make one last effort? But
certainly fate is against him."
"Who knows?" said M. Folgat. And, without giving the doctor time to
reply, he went on,--
"In what are our chances worse than they were before? In no way. We
can to-day, just as well as we could yesterday, lay our hands upon
those proofs which we know do exist, and which would save us. Who
tells us that at this moment Sir Francis Burnett and Suky Wood may not
have been found? Is your confidence in Goudar shaken?"
"Oh, as to that, not at all! I saw him this morning at the hospital,
when I paid my usual visit; and he found an opportunity to tell me
that he was almost certain of success."
"I am persuaded Cocoleu will speak. But will he speak in time? That is
the question. Ah, if we had but a month's time, I should say Jacques
is safe. But our hours are counted, you know. The court will be held
next week. I am told the presiding judge has already arrived, and M.
Gransiere has engaged rooms at the hotel. What do you mean to do if
nothing new occurs in the meantime?"
"M. Magloire and I will obstinately adhere to our plan of defence."
"And if Count Claudieuse keeps his promise, and declares that he
recognized Jacques in the act of firing at him?"
"We shall say he is mistaken."
"And Jacques will be condemned."
"Well," said the young advocate.
And lowering his voice, as if he did not wish to be overheard, he
"Only the sentence will not be a fatal sentence. Ah, do not interrupt
me, doctor, and upon your life, upon Jacques's life, do not say a word
of what I am going to tell you. A suspicion which should cross M.
Galpin's mind would destroy my last hope; for it would give him an
opportunity of correcting a blunder which he has committed, and which
justifies me in saying to you, 'Even if the count should give
evidence, even if sentence should be passed, nothing would be lost
He had become animated; and his accent and his gestures made you feel
that he was sure of himself.
"No," he repeated, "nothing would be lost; and then we should have
time before us, while waiting for a second trial, to hunt up our
witnesses, and to force Cocoleu to tell the truth. Let the count say
what he chooses, I like it all the better: I shall thus be relieved of
my last scruples. It seemed to me odious to betray the countess,
because I thought the most cruelly punished would be the count. But,
if the count attacks us, we are on the defence; and public opinion
will be on our side. More than that, they will admire us for having
sacrificed our honor to a woman's honor, and for having allowed
ourselves to be condemned rather than to give up the name of her who
has given herself to us."
The physician did not seem to be convinced; but the young advocate
paid no attention. He went on,--
"No, our success in a second trial would be almost certain. The scene
in Mautrec Street has been seen by a witness: his iron-shod shoes have
left, as you say, their marks under the linden-trees nearest to the
parlor-window, and little Martha has watched his movements. Who can
this witness be unless it is Trumence? Well, we shall lay hands upon
him. He was standing so that he could see every thing, and hear every
word. He will tell what he saw and what he heard. He will tell how
Count Claudieuse called out to M. de Boiscoran, 'No, I do not want to
kill you! I have a surer vengeance than that: you shall go to the
Dr. Seignebos sadly shook his head as he said,--
"I hope your expectations may be realized, my dear sir."
But they came again for the doctor the third time to-day. Shaking
hands with the young advocate, he parted with his young friend, who
after a short visit to M. Magloire, whom he thought it his duty to
keep well informed of all that was going on, hastened to the house of
M. de Chandore. As soon as he looked into Dionysia's face, he knew
that he had nothing to tell her; that she knew all the facts, and how
unjust her suspicions had been.
"What did I tell you, madam?" he said very modestly.
She blushed, ashamed at having let him see the secret doubts which had
troubled her so sorely, and, instead of replying, she said,--
"There are some letters for you, M. Folgat. They have carried them up
stairs to your room."
He found two letters,--one from Mrs. Goudar, the other from the agent
who had been sent to England.
The former was of no importance. Mrs. Goudar only asked him to send a
note, which she enclosed, to her husband.
The second, on the other hand, was of the very greatest interest. The
"Not without great difficulties, and especially not without a heavy
outlay of money, I have at length discovered Sir Francis Burnett's
brother in London, the former cashier of the house of Gilmour and
"Our Sir Francis is not dead. He was sent by his father to Madras,
to attend to very important financial matters, and is expected
back by the next mail steamer. We shall be informed of his arrival
on the very day on which he lands.
"I have had less trouble in discovering Suky Wood's family. They
are people very well off, who keep a sailor's tavern in Folkstone.
They had news from their daughter about three weeks ago; but,
although they profess to be very much attached to her, they could
not tell me accurately where she was just now. All they know is,
that she has gone to Jersey to act as barmaid in a public house.
"But that is enough for me. The island is not very large; and I
know it quite well, having once before followed a notary public
there, who had run off with the money of his clients. You may
consider Suky as safe.
"When you receive this letter, I shall be on my way to Jersey.
"Send me money there to the Golden Apple Hotel, where I propose to
lodge. Life is amazingly dear in London; and I have very little
left of the sum you gave me on parting."
Thus, in this direction, at least, every thing was going well.
Quite elated by this first success, M. Folgat put a thousand-franc
note into an envelope, directed it as desired, and sent it at once to
the post-office. Then he asked M. de Chandore to lend him his
carriage, and went out to Boiscoran.
He wanted to see Michael, the tenant's son, who had been so prompt in
finding Cocoleu, and in bringing him into town. He found him,
fortunately, just coming home, bringing in a cart loaded with straw;
and, taking him aside, he asked him,--
"Will you render M. de Boiscoran a great service?"
"What must I do?" replied the young man in a tone of voice which said,
better than all protestations could have done, that he was ready to do
"Do you know Trumence?"
"The former basket-weaver of Tremblade?"
"Upon my word, don't I know him? He has stolen apples enough from me,
the scamp! But I don't blame him so much, after all; for he is a good
fellow, in spite of that."
"He was in prison at Sauveterre."
"Yes, I know; he had broken down a gate near Brechy and"--
"Well, he has escaped."
"Ah, the scamp!"
"And we must find him again. They have put the gendarmes on his track;
but will they catch him?"
Michael burst out laughing.
"Never in his life!" he said. "Trumence will make his way to Oleron,
where he has friends; the gendarmes will be after him in vain."
M. Folgat slapped Michael amicably on the shoulder, and said,--
"But you, if you choose? Oh! do not look angry at me. We do not want
to have him arrested. All I want you to do is to hand him a letter
from me, and to bring me back his answer."
"If that is all, then I am your man. Just give me time to change my
clothes, and to let father know, and I am off."
Thus M. Folgat began, as far as in him lay, to prepare for future
action, trying to counteract all the cunning measures of the
prosecution by such combinations as were suggested to him by his
experience and his genius.
Did it follow from this, that his faith in ultimate success was strong
enough to make him speak of it to his most reliable friends, even, say
to Dr. Seignebos, to M. Magloire, or to good M. Mechinet?
No; for, bearing all the responsibility on his own shoulders, he had
carefully weighed the contrary chances of the terrible game in which
he proposed to engage, and in which the stakes were the honor and the
life of a man. He knew, better than anybody else, that a mere nothing
might destroy all his plans, and that Jacques's fate was dependent on
the most trivial accident.
Like a great general on the eve of a battle, he managed to control his
feelings, affecting, for the benefit of others, a confidence which he
did not really feel, and allowing no feature of his face to betray the
great anxiety which generally kept him awake more than half the night.
And certainly it required a character of marvellous strength to remain
impassive and resolute under such circumstances.
Everybody around him was in despair, and gave up all hope.
The house of M. de Chandore, once so full of life and merriment, had
become as silent and sombre as a tomb.
The last two months had made of M. de Chandore an old man in good
earnest. His tall figure had begun to stoop, and he looked bent and
broken. He walked with difficulty, and his hands began to tremble.
The Marquis de Boiscoran had been hit even harder. He, who only a few
weeks before looked robust and hearty, now appeared almost decrepit.
He did not eat, so to say, and did not sleep. He became frightfully
thin. It gave him pain to utter a word.
As to the marchioness, the very sources of life seemed to have been
sapped within her. She had had to hear M. Magloire say that Jacques's
safety would have been put beyond all doubt if they had succeeded in
obtaining a change of venue, or an adjournment of the trial. And it
was her fault that such a change had not been applied for. That
thought was death to her. She had hardly strength enough left to drag
herself every day as far as the jail to see her son.
The two Misses Lavarande had to bear all the practical difficulties
arising from this sore trial: they went and came, looking as pale as
ghosts, whispering in a low voice, and walking on tiptoe, as if there
had been a death in the house.
Dionysia alone showed greater energy as the troubles increased. She
did not indulge in much hope.
"I know Jacques will be condemned," she said to M. Folgat. But she
said, also, that despair belonged to criminals only, and that the
fatal mistake for which Jacques was likely to suffer ought to inspire
his friends with nothing but indignation and thirst for vengeance.
And, while her grandfather and the Marquis de Boiscoran went out as
little as possible, she took pains to show herself in town,
astonishing the ladies "in good society" by the way in which she
received their false expressions of sympathy. But it was evident that
she was only held up by a kind of feverish excitement, which gave to
her cheeks their bright color, to her eyes their brilliancy, and to
her voice its clear, silvery ring. Ah! for her sake mainly, M. Folgat
longed to end this uncertainty which is so much more painful than the
The time was drawing near.
As Dr. Seignebos had announced, the president of the tribunal, M.
Domini, had already arrived in Sauveterre.
He was one of those men whose character is an honor to the bench, full
of the dignity of his profession, but not thinking himself infallible,
firm without useless rigor, cold and still kind-hearted, having no
other mistress but Justice, and knowing no other ambition but that of
establishing the truth.
He had examined Jacques, as he was bound to do; but the examination
had been, as it always is, a mere formality, and had led to no result.
The next step was the selection of a jury.
The jurymen had already begun to arrive from all parts of the
department. They lodged at the Hotel de France, where they took their
meals in common in the large back dining-room, which is always
specially reserved for their use.
In the afternoon one might see them, looking grave and thoughtful,
take a walk on the New-Market Square, or on the old ramparts.
M. Gransiere, also, had arrived. But he kept strictly in retirement in
his room at the Hotel de la Poste, where M. Galpin every day spent
several hours in close conference with him.
"It seems," said Mechinet in confidence to M. Folgat,--"it seems they
are preparing an overwhelming charge."
The day after, Dionysia opened "The Sauveterre Independent," and found
in it an announcement of the cases set down for each day,--
MONDAY.--Fraudulent bankruptcy, defalcation, forgery.
WEDNESDAY.--Infanticide, domestic theft.
THURSDAY.--Incendiarism, and attempted assassination (case of M.
This was, therefore, the great day on which the good people of
Sauveterre expected to enjoy the most delightful emotions. Hence there
was an immense pressure brought to bear upon all the principal members
of the court to obtain tickets of admission. People who, the night
before, had refused to speak to M. Galpin, would stop him the next day
in the street, and beg him to give them a ticket, not for themselves,
but for "their lady." Finally, the unheard-of fact became known, that
tickets were openly sold for money! One family had actually the
incomprehensible courage to write to the Marquis de Boiscoran for
three tickets, promising, in return, "by their attitude in court" to
contribute to the acquittal of the accused.
In the midst of all these rumors, the city was suddenly startled by a
list of subscriptions in behalf of the families of the unfortunate
firemen who had perished in the fire at Valpinson.
Who had started this paper? M. Seneschal tried in vain to discover the
hand that had struck this blow. The secret of this treacherous trick
was well kept. But it was a most atrocious trick to revive thus, on
the eve of the trial, such mournful memories and such bitter hatred.
"That man Galpin had a hand in it," said Dr. Seignebos, grinding his
teeth. "And to think that he may, after all, be triumphant! Ah, why
did not Goudar commence his experiment a little sooner?"
For Goudar, while assuring everybody of certain success, asked for
time. To disarm the mistrust of an idiot like Cocoleu was not the work
of a day or a week. He declared, that, if he should be overhasty, he
would most assuredly ruin every thing.
Otherwise, nothing new occurred.
Count Claudieuse was getting rather better.
The agent in Jersey had telegraphed that he was on Suky's track; that
he would certainly catch her, but that he could not say when.
Michael, finally, had in vain searched the whole district, and been
all over Oleron; no one had been able to give him any news of
Thus, on the day when the session began, a council was held, in which
all of Jacques's friends took part; and here it was resolved that his
counsel would not mention the name of the Countess Claudieuse, and
would, even if the count should offer to give evidence, adhere to the
plan of defence suggested by M. Folgat.
Alas! the chances of success seemed hourly to diminish; for the jury,
very much against the usual experience, appeared to be excessively
severe. The bankrupt was sentenced to twenty years' hard labor. The
man accused of murder could not even obtain the plea of "extenuating
circumstances," and was sentenced to death.
This was on Wednesday.
It was decided that M. de Chandore and the Marquis and the Marchioness
de Boiscoran should attend the trial. They wanted to spare Dionysia
the terrible excitement; but she declared that, in that case, she
should go alone to the court-house; and thus they were forced to
submit to her will.
Thanks to an order from M. Domini, M. Folgat and M. Magloire could
spend the evening with Jacques in order to determine all the details,
and to agree upon certain replies to be given.
Jacques looked excessively pale, but was quite composed. And when his
counsel left him, saying,--
"Keep up your courage and hope," he replied,--
"Hope I have none; but courage--I assure you, I have courage!"
At last, in his dark cell, Jacques de Boiscoran saw the day break that
was to decide his fate.
He was to be tried to-day.
The occasion was, of course, too good to be neglected by "The
Sauveterre Independent." Although a morning paper, it published, "in
view of the gravity of the circumstances," an evening edition, which a
dozen newsboys cried out in the streets up to mid-night. And this was
what it said,--
ASSIZES AT SAUVETERRE.
Presiding Judge.--M. DOMINI.
[Special Correspondence of the Independent.]
Whence this unusual commotion, this uproar, this great excitement,
in our peaceful city? Whence these gatherings of our public
squares, these groups in front of all the houses! Whence this
restlessness on all faces, this anxiety in all eyes?
The reason is, that to-day this terrible Valpinson case will be
brought up in court, after having for so many weeks now agitated
To-day this man who is charged with such fearful crimes is to be
Hence all steps are eagerly turned towards the court-house: the
people all hurry, and rush in the same direction.
The court-house! Long before daylight it was surrounded by an
eager multitude, which the constables and the gendarmes could only
with difficulty keep within bounds.
They press and crowd and push. Coarse words fly to and fro. From
words they pass to gestures, from gestures to blows. A row is
imminent. Women cry, men swear, and two peasants from Brechy are
arrested on the spot.
It is well known that there will be few only, happy enough to get
in. The great square would not contain all these curious people,
who have gathered here from all parts of the district: how should
the court-room be able to hold them?
And still our authorities, always anxious to please their
constituents, who have bestowed their confidence upon them, have
resorted to heroic measures. They have had two partition walls
taken down, so that a part of the great hall is added to the
M. Lautier, the city architect, who is a good judge in such
matters, assures us that this immense hall will accommodate twelve
But what are twelve hundred persons?
Long before the hour fixed for the opening of the court, every
thing is full to overflowing. A pin might be thrown into the room,
and it could not fall to the ground.
Not an inch of space is lost. All around, along the wall men are
standing in close ranks. On both sides of the platform, chairs
have been put, which are occupied by a large number of our first
ladies in good society, not only of Sauveterre, however, but also
of the neighborhood and even other cites. Some of them appear in
A thousand reports are current, a thousand conjectures are formed,
which we shall take care not to report. Why should we? Let us say,
however, that the accused has not availed himself of his right to
reject a certain number of jurymen. He has accepted all the names
which were drawn by lot, and which the prosecuting attorney did
not object to.
We obtained this information from an attorney, a friend of ours;
and, just as he had told us all about it, a great noise rose at
the door, which was followed by rapid moving of chairs, and half-
It was the family of the accused, who had come in, and now
occupied the seats assigned them close by the platform.
The Marquis de Boiscoran had on his arm Miss Chandore, who wore
with great grace and dignity a dark gray dress, trimmed with
cherry-colored ribbons. M. de Chandore escorted the Marchioness de
Boiscoran. The marquis and the baron looked cold and reserved. The
mother of the accused appears utterly overcome. Miss Chandore, on
the contrary, is lively, does not seem in the least concerned, and
returns with a bright smile the few greetings she receives from
various parts of the court-room.
But soon they are no longer an object of curiosity.
The attention of all is now directed towards a large table
standing before the judges, and on which may be seen a number of
articles covered by large red cloth.
These are the articles to be used in evidence.
In the meantime it strikes eleven o'clock. The sheriff's officers
move about the room, seeing that every thing is in order.
Then a small door opens on the left, and the counsel for the
Our readers know who they are. One is M. Magloire, the ornament of
our bar; the other, an advocate from the capital, M. Folgat, quite
young, but already famous.
M. Magloire looks as he does on his best days, and smilingly
converses with the mayor of Sauveterre; while M. Folgat opens his
blue bag, and consults his papers.
An usher announces,--
M. Domini takes the chair. M. Gransiere occupies the seat of the
Behind them the jurymen sit down, looking grave and solemn.
Everybody rises, everybody strains his eyes to see, and stands on
tiptoe. Some persons in the back rows even get upon their chairs.
The president has ordered the prisoner to be brought in.
He is dressed in black, and with great elegance. It is noticed
that he wears in his buttonhole the ribbon of the Legion of Honor.
He looks pale; but his eye is clear and open, full of confidence,
yet not defiant. His carriage is proud, though melancholy.
He has hardly taken his seat when a gentleman passes over three
rows of chairs, and, in spite of the officers of the court,
succeeds in shaking hands with him. It is Dr. Seignebos.
The president orders the sheriff to proclaim silence; and, after
having reminded the audience that all expressions of approbation
or disapprobation are strictly prohibited, he turns to the
accused, and asks him,--
"Tell me your first names, your family name, your age, your
profession, and your domicile."
The accused replies,--
"Louis Trivulce Jacques de Boiscoran, twenty-seven years, land-
owner, residing at Boiscoran, district of Sauveterre."
"Sit down, and listen to the charges which are brought against
The clerk, M. Mechinet, thereupon reads the charges, which, in
their terrible simplicity, cause a shudder to pass through the
We shall not repeat them here, as all the incidents which they
relate are well known to our readers.
[Examination of the Accused.]
PRESIDENT.--Accused, rise and answer clearly. During the
preliminary investigation, you have refused to answer several
questions. Now the matter must be cleared up. And I am bound to
tell you it is to your interest to answer frankly.
ACCUSED.--No one desires more than I do that the truth be known. I
am ready to answer.
P.--Why were you so reticent in your first examination?
A.--I though it important for my interests to answer only in
P.--You have heard of what crimes you are accused?
A.--I am innocent. And, first of all, I beg you will allow me to
say one thing. The crime committed at Valpinson is an atrocious,
cowardly crime; but it is at the same time an absurdly stupid
crime, more like the unconscious act of a madman. Now, I have
always been looked upon as not lacking exactly in intelligence.
P.--That is a discussion.
A.--Still, Mr. President--
P.--Hereafter you shall have full liberty to state your argument.
For the present you must be content to answer the questions which
I shall ask you.
P.--Were you not soon to be married?
At this question all eyes are turned towards Miss Chandore, who
blushes till she is as red as a poppy, but does not cast down her
A.--(In a low voice.) Yes.
P.--Did you not write to your betrothed a few hours before the
crime was committed?
A.--Yes, sir; and I sent her my letter by the son of one of my
P.--What did you write to her?
A.--That important business would prevent me from spending the
evening with her.
P.--What was that business?
At the moment when the accused opened his lips to reply, the
president stopped him by a gesture, and said,--
P.--Take care! You were asked this question during the preliminary
investigation, and you replied that you had to go to Brechy to see
A.--I did indeed make that reply on the spur of the moment. It was
P.--Why did you tell a falsehood?
A.--(After an expression of indignation, which was noticed by
all.) I could not believe that I was in danger. It seemed to me
impossible that I should be reached by an accusation, which
nevertheless, has brought me into this court. Hence I did not deem
it necessary to make my private affairs public.
P.--But you very soon found out that you were in danger?
A.--Yes, I did.
P.--Why did you not tell the truth then?
A.--Because the magistrate who carried on the investigation had
been too intimate a friend of mine to inspire me with confidence.
P.--Explain yourself more fully.
A.--I must ask leave to say no more. I might, in speaking of M.
Galpin, be found to be wanting in moderation.
A low murmur accompanies this reply made by the accused.
P.--Such murmurs are improper, and I remind the audience of the
respect due to the court.
M. Gransiere, the prosecuting attorney, rises,--
"We cannot tolerate such recriminations against a magistrate who
has done his duty nobly, and in spite of the pain it caused him.
If the accused had well-founded objections to the magistrate, why
did he not make them known? He cannot plead ignorance: he knows
the law, he is a lawyer himself. His counsel, moreover, are men of
M. Magloire replies, in his seat,--
"We were of the opinion that the accused ought to ask for a change
of venue. He declined to follow our advice, being confident, as he
said, that his cause was a good one."
M. Gransiere, resuming his seat,--
"The jury will judge of this plea."
P.--(To the accused.) And now are you ready to tell the truth with
regard to that business which prevented you from spending the
evening with your betrothed?
A.--Yes, sir. My wedding was to take place at the church in
Brechy, and I had to make my arrangements with the priest about
the ceremony. I had, besides, to fulfil certain religious duties.
The priest at Brechy, who is a friend of mine, will tell you,
that, although no day had been fixed, it had been agreed upon
between us that I should come to confession on one of the evenings
of the week since he insisted upon it.
The audience, which had been expecting some very exciting
revelations, seemed to be much disappointed; and ironical laughter
was heard in various directions.
P.--(In a severe tone of voice.) This laughter is indecent and
objectionable. Sheriff, take out the persons who presume to laugh.
And once more I give notice, that, at the first disturbance, I
shall order the room to be cleared.
Then, turning again to the accused, he said,--
A.--I went therefore to the priest at Brechy, that evening:
unluckily there was no one at home at the parsonage when I got
there. I was ringing the third or fourth time in vain, when a
little peasant-girl came by, who told me that she had just met the
priest at the Marshalls' Cross-roads. I thought at once I would go
and meet him, and went in that direction. But I walked more than
four miles without meeting him. I thought the girl must have been
mistaken, and went home again.
P.--Is that your explanation?
P.--And you think it a plausible one?
A.--I have promised to say not what is plausible, but what is
true. I may confess, however, that, precisely because the
explanation is so simple, I did not venture at first to give it.
And yet if no crime had been committed, and I had said the day
after, "Yesterday I went to see the priest at Brechy, and did not
find him," who would have seen any thing unnatural in my
P.--And, in order to fulfil so simple a duty, you chose a
roundabout way, which is not only troublesome, but actually
dangerous, right across the swamps?
A.--I chose the shortest way.
P.--Then, why were you so frightened upon meeting young Ribot at
the Seille Canal?
A.--I was not frightened, but simply surprised, as one is apt to
be when suddenly meeting a man where no one is expected. And, if I
was surprised, young Ribot was not less so.
P.--You see that you hoped to meet no one?
A.--Pardon me, I did not say so. To expect is not the same as to
P.--Why, then did you take such pains to explain your being there?
A.--I gave no explanations. Young Ribot first told me, laughingly,
where he was going, and then I told him that I was going to
P.--You told him, also, that you were going through the marshes to
shoot birds, and, at the same time you showed him your gun?
A.--That may be. But is that any proof against me? I think just
the contrary. If I had had such criminal intentions as the
prosecution suggests, I should certainly have gone back after
meeting people, knowing that I was exposed to great danger. But I
was only going to see my friend, the priest.
P.--And for such a visit you took your gun?
A.--My land lies in the woods and marshes, and there was not a day
when I did not bag a rabbit or a waterfowl. Everybody in the
neighborhood will tell you that I never went out without a gun.
P.--And on your return, why did you go through the forest of
A.--Because, from the place where I was on the road, it was
probably the shortest way to Boiscoran. I say probably, because
just then I did not think much about that. A man who is taking a
walk would be very much embarrassed, in the majority of cases, if
he had to give a precise account why he took one road rather than
P.--You were seen in the forest by a woodcutter, called Gaudry?
A.--So I was told by the magistrate.
P.--That witness deposes that you were in a state of great
excitement. You were tearing leaves from the branches, you were
A.--I certainly was very much vexed at having lost my evening, and
particularly vexed at having relied on the little peasant-girl. It
is quite likely that I might have exclaimed, as I walked along,
"Plague upon my friend, the priest, who goes and dines in town!"
or some such words.
There was a smile in the assembly, but not such as to attract the
P.--You know that the priest of Brechy was dining out that day?
M. Magloire rose, and said,--
"It is through us, sir, that the accused has found out this fact.
When he told us how he had spent the evening, we went to see the
priest at Brechy, who told us how it came about that neither he
nor his old servant was at the parsonage. At our request the
priest has been summoned. We shall also produce another priest,
who at that time passed the Marshalls' Cross-roads, and was the
one whom the little girl had seen."
Having made a sign to counsel to sit down again, the president
once more turns to the accused.
P.--The woman Courtois who met you deposes that you looked very
curious. You did not speak to her: you were in great haste to
escape from her.
A.--The night was much too dark for the woman to see my face. She
asked me to render her a slight service, and I did so. I did not
speak to her, because I had nothing to say to her. I did not leave
her suddenly, but only got ahead of her, because her ass walked
At a sign from the president, the ushers raise the red cloth which
cover the objects on the table.
Great curiosity is manifested by the whole audience; and all rise,
and stretch their necks to see better. On the table are displayed
clothes, a pair of velveteen trousers, a shooting-jacket of
maroon-colored velveteen, an old straw hat, and a pair of dun-
colored leather boots. By their side lie a double-barrelled gun,
packages of cartridges, two bowls filled with small-shot, and,
finally, a large china basin, with a dark sediment at the bottom.
P.--(Showing these objects to the accused.) Are those the clothes
which you wore the evening of the crime?
P.--A curious costume in which to visit a venerable ecclesiastic,
and to perform religious duties.
A.--The priest at Brechy was my friend. Our intimacy will explain,
even if it does not justify, the liberty I took.
P.--Do you also recognize this basin? The water has been allowed
to evaporate, and the residue alone remains there on the bottom.
A.--It is true, that, when the magistrate appeared at my house, he
found there the basin full of dark water, which was thick with
half-burnt /debris/. He asked me about this water, and I did not
hesitate a moment to tell him that I had washed my hands in it the
evening before, after my return home.
Is it not evident, that if I had been guilty, my first effort
would have been to put every evidence of my crime out of the way?
And yet this circumstance is looked upon as the strongest evidence
of my guilt, and the prosecution produces it as the most serious
charge against me.
P.--It is very strong and serious indeed.
A.--Well, nothing can be more easily explained than that. I am a
great smoker. When I left home the evening of the crime, I took
cigars in abundance; but, when I was about to light one, I found
that I had no matches.
M. Magloire rises, and says,--
"And I wish to point out that this is not one of those explanations
which are invented, after the fact, to meet the necessities of a
doubtful case. We have absolute and overwhelming proof of it. M.
de Boiscoran did not have the little match-box which he usually
carries about him, at that time, because he had left it at M. de
Chandore's house, on the mantelpiece, where I have seen it, and
where it still is."
P.--That is sufficient, M. Magloire. Let the defendant go on.
A.--I wanted to smoke; and so I resorted to the usual expedient,
which all sportsmen know. I tore open one of my cartridges, put,
instead of the lead, a piece of paper inside, and set it on fire.
P.--And thus you get a light?
A.--Not always, but certainly in one case out of three.
P.--And the operation blackens the hands?
A.--Not the operation itself. But, when I had lit my cigar, I
could not throw away the burning paper as it was: I might have
kindled a regular fire.
P.--In the marshes?
A.--But, sir, I smoked five or six cigars during the evening,
which means that I had to repeat the operation a dozen times at
least, and in different places,--in the woods and on the high-
road. Each time I quenched the fire with my fingers; and, as the
powder is always greasy, my hands naturally became soon as black
as those of a charcoal-burner.
The accused gives this explanation in a perfectly natural but
still rather excited manner, which seems to make a great
P.--Let us go on to your gun. Do you recognize it?
A.--Yes, sir. May I look at it?
The accused takes up the gun with feverish eagerness, snaps the
two cocks, and puts one of his fingers inside the barrels.
He turns crimson, and, bending down to his counsel, says a few
words to them so quickly and so low, that they do not reach us.
P.--What is the matter?
M. MAGLOIRE.--(Rising.) A fact has become patent which at once
establishes the innocence of M. de Boiscoran. By providential
intercession, his servant Anthony had cleaned the gun two days
before the day of the crime. It appears now that one of the
barrels is still clean, and in good condition. Hence it cannot be
M. de Boiscoran who has fired twice at Count Claudieuse.
During this time the accused has gone up to the table on which the
objects are lying. He wraps his handkerchief around the ramrod,
slips it into one of the barrels, draws it out again, and shows
that it is hardly soiled.
The whole audience is in a state of great excitement.
P.--Do the same thing to the other barrel.
The accused does it. The handkerchief remains clean.
P.--You see, and still you have told us that you had burnt,
perhaps, a dozen cartridges to light your cigars. But the
prosecution had foreseen this objection, and they are prepared to
meet it. Sheriff, bring in the witness, Maucroy.
Our readers all know this gentleman, whose beautiful collection of
weapons, sporting-articles, and fishing-tackle, is one of the
ornaments of our great Square. He is dressed up, and without
hesitation takes the required oath.
P.--Repeat your deposition with regard to this gun.
WITNESS.--It is an excellent gun, and very costly: such guns are
not made in France, where people are too economical.
At this answer the whole audience laughs. M. Maucroy is not
exactly famous for cheap bargains. Even some of the jurymen can
hardly control their laughter.
P.--Never mind your reflections on that object. Tell us only what
you know about the peculiarities of this gun.
WITNESS.--Well, thanks to a peculiar arrangement of the
cartridges, and thanks, also, to the special nature of the
fulminating material, the barrels hardly ever become foul.
A.--(Eagerly.) You are mistaken, sir. I have myself cleaned my gun
frequently; and I have, just on the contrary, found the barrels
WITNESS.--Because you had fired too often. But I mean to say that
you can use up two or three cartridges without a trace being left
in the barrels.
A.--I deny that positively.
P.--(To witness.) And if a dozen cartridges were burnt?
WITNESS.--Oh, then, the barrels would be very foul.
P.--Examine the barrels, and tell us what you see.
WITNESS.--(After a minute examination.) I declare that two
cartridges cannot have been used since the gun was cleaned.
P.--(To the accused.) Well, what becomes of that dozen cartridges
which you have used up to light your cigars, and which had
blackened your hands so badly?
M. MAGLOIRE.--The question is too serious to be left entirely in
the hands of a single witness.
THE PROSECUTING ATTORNEY.--We only desire the truth. It is easy to
make an experiment.
P.--Let it be done.
Witness puts a cartridge into each barrel, and goes to the window
to explode them. The sudden explosion is followed by the screams
of several ladies.
WITNESS.--(Returning, and showing that the barrels are no more
foul than they were before.) Well, you see I was right.
P.--(To the accused.) You see this circumstance on which you
relied so securely, so far from helping you, only proves that your
explanation of the blackened state of your hands was a falsehood.
Upon the president's order, witness is taken out, and the
examination of the accused is continued.
P.--What were your relations with Count Claudieuse?
A.--We had no intercourse with each other.
P.--But it was known all over the country that you hated him?
A.--That is a mistake. I declare, upon my honor, that I always
looked upon him as the best and most honorable of men.
P.--There, at least, you agree with all who knew him. Still you
are at law with him?
A.--I have inherited that suit from my uncle, together with his
fortune. I carried it on, but very quietly. I asked for nothing
better than a compromise.
P.--And, when Count Claudieuse refused, you were incensed?
P.--You were so irritated against him, that you once actually
aimed your gun at him. At another time you said, "He will not
leave me alone till I put a ball into him." Do not deny! You will
hear what the witnesses say.
Thereupon, the accused resumes his place. He looks as confident as
ever, and carries his head high. He has entirely overcome any
feeling of discouragement, and converses with his counsel in the
most composed manner.
There can be no doubt, that, at this stage of the proceedings,
public opinion is on his side. He has won the good-will even of
those who came there strongly prejudiced. No one can help being
impressed by his proud but mournful expression of fate; and all
are touched by the extreme simplicity of his answers.
Although the discussion about the gun has not turned out to his
advantage, it does not seem to have injured him. People are
eagerly discussing the question of the fouling of guns. A number
of incredulous persons, whom the experiment has not convinced,
maintain that M. Maucroy has been too rash in his statements.
Others express surprise at the reserve shown by counsel,--less by
that of M. Folgat, who is unknown here, than by that of M.
Magloire, who usually allows no opportunity to escape, but is sure
to profit by the smallest incident.
The proceedings are not exactly suspended; but there is a pause,
whilst the ushers cover the articles on the table once more with
red cloth, and, after several comings and goings, roll a large
arm-chair in front of the judge's seat.
At last one of the ushers comes up to the president, and whispers
something into his ear.
The president only nods his head.
When the usher has left the room, M. Domini says,--
"We shall now proceed to hear the witnesses, and we propose to
begin with Count Claudieuse. Although seriously indisposed, he has
preferred to appear in court."
At these words Dr. Seignebos is seen to start up, as if he wished
to address the court; but one of his friends, sitting by him,
pulls him down by his coat. M. Folgat makes a sign to him, and he
sits down again.
P.--Sheriff, bring in Count Claudieuse.
[Examination of Witnesses.]
The small door through which the armorer Maucroy had been admitted
opens once more, and Count Claudieuse enters. Supported and almost
carried by his man-servant.
He is greeted by a murmur of sympathetic pity. He is frightfully
thin; and his features look as haggard as if he were about to give
up the ghost. The whole vitality of his system seems to have
centred in his eyes, which shine with extraordinary brilliancy.
He takes the oath in an almost inaudible voice.
But the silence is so deep, that when the president asks him the
usual question, "Do you swear to tell the whole truth?" and he
answers, "I swear," the words are distinctly heard all over the
P.--(Very kindly.) We are very much obliged to you, sir, for the
effort which you have made. That chair has been brought in for
you: please sit down.
COUNT CLAUDIEUSE.--I thank you, sir; but I am strong enough to
P.--Please tell us, then, what you know of the attempt made on
C.C.--It might have been eleven o'clock: I had gone to bed a
little while before, and blown out my light. I was in that half
state which is neither waking nor sleeping, when I saw my room
lighted up by a dazzling glare. I saw it was fire. I jumped out of
bed, and, only lightly dressed, rushed down the stairs. I found
some difficulty in opening the outer door, which I had locked
myself. At last I succeeded. But I had no sooner put my foot
outside than I felt a terrible pain in my right side, and at the
same time I heard an explosion of fire-arms. Instinctively I
rushed towards the place from which the shot seemed to have been
fired; but, before I had taken three steps, I was struck once more
in my shoulder, and fell down unconscious.
P.--How long a time was there between the first and the second
C.C.--Almost three or four seconds.
P.--Was that time enough to distinguish the murderer?
C.C.--Yes; and I saw him run from behind a wood-pile, where he had
been lying in ambush, and escape into the country.
P.--You can tell us, no doubt, how he was dressed?
C.C.--Certainly. He had on a pair of light gray trousers, a dark
coat, and a large straw hat.
At a sign from the president, and in the midst of the most
profound silence, the ushers remove the red cloth from the table.
P.--(Pointing at the clothes of the accused.) Does the costume
which you describe correspond with those cloths?
C.C.--Of course; for they are the same.
P.--Then you must have recognized the murderer.
C.C.--The fire was so large at that time, that it was as bright as
daylight. I recognized M. Jacques de Boiscoran.
There was, probably, in the whole vast audience assembled under
that roof, not a heart that was not seized with unspeakable
anguish when these crushing words were uttered.
We were so fully prepared for them, that we could watch the
Not a muscle in his face seemed to move. His counsel showed as
little any signs of surprise or emotion.
Like ourselves, the president also, and the prosecuting attorney,
had been watching the accused and his counsel. Did they expect a
protest, an answer, any thing at all? Perhaps they did.
But, as nothing came, the president continued, turning to
P.--Your declaration is a very serious one, sir.
C.C.--I know its weight.
P.--It is entirely different from your first deposition made
before the investigating magistrate.
P.--When you were examined a few hours after the crime, you
declared that you had not recognized the murderer. More than that,
when M. de Boiscoran's name was mentioned, you seemed to be
indignant of such a suspicion, and almost became surety yourself
for his innocence.
C.C.--That was contrary to truth. I felt a very natural sense of
commiseration, and tried to save a man who belonged to a highly
esteemed family from disgraceful punishment.
C.C.--Now I see that I was wrong, and that the law ought to have
its course. And this is my reason for coming here,--although
afflicted by a disease which never spares, and on the point of
appearing before God--in order to tell you M. de Boiscoran is
guilty. I recognized him.
P.--(To the accused.) Do you hear?
The accused rises and says,--
A.--By all that is dear and sacred to me in the world, I swear
that I am innocent. Count Claudieuse says he is about to appear
before God: I appeal to the justice of God.
Sobs well-nigh drown the voice of the accused. The Marchioness de
Boiscoran is overcome by a nervous attack. She is carried out
stiff and inanimate; and Dr. Seignebos and Miss Chandore hasten
A.--(To Count Claudieuse.) You have killed my mother!
Certainly, all who had hoped for scenes of thrilling interest were
not disappointed. Everybody looks overcome with excitement. Tears
appear in the eyes of almost all the ladies.
And yet those who watch the glances which are exchanged between M.
de Boiscoran and Count Claudieuse cannot help asking themselves,
if there is not something else between these two men, besides what
the trial has made known. We cannot explain to ourselves these
singular answers given to the president's questions, nor does any
one understand the silence observed by M. de Boiscoran's counsel.
Do they abandon their client? No; for we see them go up to him,
shake hands with him, and lavish upon him every sign of friendly
consolation and encouragement.
We may even be permitted to say, that, to all appearances, the
president himself and the prosecuting attorney were, for a moment,
perfectly overcome with surprise. At all events, we thought so at
But the president continues,--
P.--I have but just been asking the accused, count, whether there
was any ground of enmity between you.
C.C.--(In a steadily declining voice.) I know no other ground
except our lawsuit about a little stream of water.
P.--Has not the accused once threatened to fire at you?
C.C.--Yes; but I did not think he was in earnest, and I never
resented the matter.
P. Do you persist in your declaration?
C.C.--I do. And once more, upon my oath, I declare solemnly that I
recognized, in such a manner as to prevent any possible mistake,
M. Jacques Boiscoran.
It was evidently time that Count Claudieuse should end his
evidence. He begins to totter; his eyes close; his head rolls from
side to side; and two ushers have to come to his assistance to
enable him, with the help of his own servant, to leave the room.
Is the Countess Claudieuse to be called next?
It was thought so; but it was not so. The countess being kept by
the bedside of one of her daughters, who is most dangerously ill,
will not be called at all; and the clerk of the court is ordered
to read her deposition.
Although her description of the terrible event is very graphic, it
contains no new facts, and will remain without influence on the
The next witness is Ribot.
This is a fine handsome countryman, a regular village cock, with a
pink-and-blue cravat around his neck, and a huge gold chain
dangling from his watch-pocket. He seems to be very proud of his
appearance and looks around with an air of the most perfect self-
In the same way he relates his meeting with the accused in a tone
of great importance. He knows every thing and explains every
thing. With a little encouragement he would, no doubt, declare
that the accused had confided to him all his plans of incendiarism
and murder. His answers are almost all received with great
hilarity, which bring down upon the audience another and very
severe reprimand from the president.
The witness Gaudry, who succeeds him, is a small, wretched-looking
man, with a false and timid eye, who exhausts himself in bows and
scrapes. Quite different from Ribot, he seems to have forgotten
every thing. It is evident he is afraid of committing himself. He
praises the count; but he does not speak the less well of M. de
Boiscoran. He assures the court of his profound respect for them
all,--for the ladies and gentlemen present, for everybody, in
The woman Courtois, who comes next, evidently wishes she were a
thousand miles away. The president has to make the very greatest
efforts to obtain, word by word, her evidence, which, after all,
amounts to next to nothing.
Then follow two farmers from Brechy, who have been present at the
violent altercation which ended in M. de Boiscoran's aiming with
his gun at Count Claudieuse.
Their account, interrupted by numberless parentheses, is very
obscure. One of the counsel of the defendant requests them to be
more explicit; and thereupon they become utterly unintelligible.
Besides, they contradict each other. One has looked upon the act
of the accused as a mere jest: the other has looked upon it so
seriously as to throw himself between the two men, in order to
prevent M. de Boiscoran from killing his adversary then and there.
Once more the accused protests, energetically, he never hated
Count Claudieuse: there was no reason why he should hate him.
The obstinate peasant insists upon it that a lawsuit is always a
sufficient reason for hating a man. And thereupon he undertakes to
explain the lawsuit, and how Count Claudieuse, by stopping the
water of the Seille, overflowed M. de Boiscoran's meadows.
The president at last stops the discussion, and orders another
witness to be brought in.
This man swears he has head M. de Boiscoran say, that, sooner or
later, he would put a ball into Count Claudieuse. He adds, that
the accused is a terrible man, who threatened to shoot people upon
the slightest provocation. And, to support his evidence, he states
that once before, to the knowledge of the whole country, M. de
Boiscoran has fired at a man.
The accused undertakes to explain this. A scamp, who he thinks was
no one else but the witness on the stand, came every night and
stole his tenants' fruit and vegetables. One night he kept watch,
and gave him a load of salt. He does not know whether he hit him.
At all events, the thief never complained, and thus was never
The next witness is a constable from Brechy. He deposes that once
Count Claudieuse, by stopping up the waters of the little stream,
the Seille, had caused M. de Boiscoran a loss of twenty thousand
weight of first-rate hay. He confesses that such a bad neighbor
would certainly have exasperated him.
The prosecuting attorney does not deny the fact, but adds, that
Count Claudieuse offered to pay damages. M. de Boiscoran had
refused with insulting haughtiness.
The accused replies, that he had refused upon the advice of his
lawyer, but that he had not used insulting words.
Next appeared the witnesses summoned by the defence.
The first is the excellent priest from Brechy. He confirms the
statement of the accused. He was dining, the evening of the crime,
at the house of M. de Besson; his servant had come for him; and
the parsonage was deserted. He states that he had really arranged
with M. de Boiscoran that the latter should come some evening of
that week to fulfil the religious duties which the church requires
before it allows a marriage to be consecrated. He has known
Jacques de Boiscoran from a child, and knows no better and no more
honorable man. In his opinion, that hatred, of which so much has
been said, never had any existence. He cannot believe, and does
not believe, that the accused is guilty.
The second witness is the priest of an adjoining parish. He
states, that, between nine and ten o'clock, he was on the road,
near the Marshalls' Cross-roads. The night was quite dark. He is
of the same size as the priest at Brechy; and the little girl
might very well have taken him for the latter, thus misleading M.
Three other witnesses are introduced; and then, as neither the
accused nor his counsel have any thing to add, the prosecuting
attorney begins his speech.
M. Gransiere's eloquence is so widely known, and so justly
appreciated, that we need not refer to it here. We will only say
that he surpassed himself in this charge, which, for more than an
hour, held the large assembly in anxious and breathless suspense,
and caused all hearts to vibrate with the most intense excitement.
He commences with a description of Valpinson, "this poetic and
charming residence, where the noble old trees of Rochepommier are
mirrored in the crystal waves of the Seille.
"There," he went on to say,--"there lived the Count and the
Countess Claudieuse,--he one of those noblemen of a past age who
worshipped honor, and were devoted to duty; she one of those women
who are the glory of their sex, and the perfect model of all
"Heaven had blessed their union, and given them two children, to
whom they were tenderly attached. Fortune smiled upon their wise
efforts. Esteemed by all, cherished, and revered, they lived
happy, and might have counted upon long years of prosperity.
"But no. Hate was hovering over them.
"One evening, a fatal glare arouses the count. He rushes out; he
hears the report of a gun. He hears it a second time, and he sinks
down, bathed in his blood. The countess also is alarmed by the
explosion, and hastens to the spot: she stumbles; she sees the
lifeless body of her husband, and sinks unconscious to the ground.
"Are the children also to perish? No. Providence watches. A flash
of intelligence pierces the night of an insane man, who rushes
through the flames, and snatches the children from the fire that
was already threatening their couch.
"Their lives are saved; but the fire continues its destructive
"At the sound of the terrible fire-bell, all the inhabitants of the
neighboring villages hurry to the spot. But there is no one to
direct their efforts; there are no engines; and they can do
"But all of a sudden a distant rumbling sound revives hope in their
hearts. They know the fire-engines are coming. They come; they
reach the spot; and whatever men can do is done at once.
"But great God! What mean those cries of horror which suddenly rise
on all sides? The roof of the house is falling, and buries under
its ruins two men, the most zealous and most courageous of all the
zealous and courageous men,--Bolton the drummer, who had just now
summoned his neighbors to come to the rescue, and Guillebault, a
father with five children.
"High above the crash and the hissing of flames rise their heart-
rending cries. They call for help. Will they be allowed to perish?
A gendarme rushes forward, and with him a farmer from Brechy. But
their heroism is useless: the monster keeps its prey. The two men
also are apparently doomed; and only by unheard-of efforts, and at
great peril of life, can they be rescued from the furnace. But
they are so grievously wounded, that they will remain infirm for
the rest of their lives, compelled to appeal to public charity for
Then the prosecuting attorney proceeds to paint the whole of the
disaster at Valpinson in the sombrest colors, and with all the
resources of his well-known eloquence. He describes the Countess
Claudieuse as she kneels by the side of her dying husband, while
the crowd is eagerly pressing around the wounded man and
struggling with the flames for the charred remains of the
unfortunate firemen. With increasing vehemence, he says next,--
"And during all this time what becomes of the author of these
fearful misdeeds? When his hatred is gratified, he flees through
the wood, and returns to his home. Remorse, there is none. As soon
as he reaches the house, he eats, drinks, smokes his cigar. His
position in the country is such, and the precautionary measures he
had taken appear to him so well chosen, that he thinks he is above
suspicion. He is calm. He feels so perfectly safe, that he
neglects the commonest precautions, and does not even take the
trouble of pouring out the water in which he has washed his hands,
blackened as they are by the fire he has just kindled.
"He forgets that Providence whose torch on great occasions
illumines and guides human justice.
"And how, indeed, could the law ever have expected to find the
guilty man in one of the most magnificent chateaux of the country
but for a direct intervention of Providence?
"For the incendiary, the assassin, was actually there, at the
"And let no one come and tell us that the past life of Jacques de
Boiscoran is such as to protect him against the formidable charges
that are brought against him. We know his past life.
"A perfect model of those idle young men who spend in riotous
living a fortune painfully amassed by their fathers, Jacques de
Boiscoran had not even a profession. Useless to society, a burden
to himself, he passed through life like a ship without rudder and
without compass, indulging in all kinds of unhealthy fashions in
order to spend the hours that were weighing heavily upon him.
"And yet he was ambitious; but his ambition lay in the direction of
those dangerous and wicked intrigues which inevitably lead men to
"Hence we see him mixed up with all those sterile and wanton party
movements which discredit our days, uttering over and over again
hollow phrases in condemnation of all that is noble and sacred,
appealing to the most execrable passions of the multitude"--
M. MAGLOIRE.--If this is a political affair, we ought to be
ATTORNEY-GENERAL.--There is no question of politics here. We speak
of the life of a man who has been an apostle of strife.
M. MAGLOIRE.--Does the attorney-general fancy he is preaching
PRESIDENT.--I request counsel for the defence not to interrupt.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL.--And it is in this ambition of the accused that
we must look for a key to that terrible hatred which has led him
to commit such crimes. That lawsuit about a stream of water is a
matter of comparatively little importance. But Jacques de
Boiscoran was preparing to become a candidate for election.
A.--I never dreamed of it.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL.--(Not noticing the interruption.) He did not say
so; but his friends said it for him, and went about everywhere,
repeating that by his position, his wealth, and his opinions, he
was the man best worthy of the votes of Republicans. And he would
have had an excellent chance, if there had not stood between him
and the object of his desires Count Claudieuse, who had already
more than once succeeded in defeating similar plots.
M. MAGLOIRE.--(Warmly.) Do you refer to me?