Part 11 out of 12
ATTORNEY-GENERAL.--I allude to no one.
M. MAGLOIRE.--You might just as well say at once, that my friends
as well as myself are all M. de Boiscoran's accomplices; and that
we have employed him to rid us of a formidable adversary.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL.--(Continues.) Gentlemen, this is the real motive
of the crime. Hence that hatred which the accused soon is unable
to conceal any longer, which overflows in invectives, which breaks
forth in threats of death, and which actually carries him so far
that he points his gun at Count Claudieuse.
The attorney-general next passes on to examine the charges, which,
he declares, are overwhelming and irrefutable. Then he goes on,--
"But what need is there of such questions after the crushing
evidence of Count Claudieuse? You have heard it,--on the point of
appearing before God!
"His first impulse was to follow the generous nature of his heart,
and to pardon the man who had attempted his life. He desired to
save him; but, as he felt death come nearer, he saw that he had no
right to shield a criminal from the sword of justice: he
remembered that there were other victims beside himself.
"And then, rising from his bed of agony, he dragged himself here
into court, in order to tell you. 'That is the man! By the light
of the fire which he had kindled, I saw him and recognized him. He
is the man!'
"And could you hesitate after such evidence? No! I can not and will
not believe it. After such crimes, society expects that justice
should be done,--justice in the name of Count Claudieuse on his
deathbed,--justice in the name of the dead,--justice in the name
of Bolton's mother, and of Guillebault's widow and her five
A murmur of approbation accompanied the last words of M.
Gransiere, and continued for some time after he had concluded.
There is not a woman in the whole assembly who does not shed
P.--The counsel for the defence.
As M. Magloire had so far alone taken an active part in the
defence, it was generally believed that he would speak. But it was
not so. M. Folgat rises.
Our court-house here in Sauveterre has at various times reechoed
the words of almost all our great masters of forensic eloquence.
We have heard Berryer, Dufaure, Jules Favre, and others; but, even
after these illustrious orators, M. Folgat still succeeds in
astonishing and moving us deeply.
We can, of course, report here only a few of his phrases; and we
must utterly abandon all hope of giving an idea of his proud and
disdainful attitude, his admirable manner, full of authority, and
especially of his full, rich voice, which found its way into every
"To defend certain men against certain charges," he began, "would
be to insult them. They cannot be touched. To the portrait drawn
by the prosecuting attorney, I shall simply oppose the answer
given by the venerable priest of Brechy. What did he tell you? M.
de Boiscoran is the best and most honorable of men. There is the
truth; they wish to make him out a political intriguant. He had,
it is true, a desire to be useful to his country. But, while
others debated, he acted. The Sauveterre Volunteers will tell you
to what passions he appealed before the enemy, and by what
intrigues he won the cross which Chausy himself fastened to his
breast. He wanted power, you say. No: he wished for happiness. You
speak of a letter written by him, the evening of the crime, to his
betrothed. I challenge you to read it. It covers four pages:
before you have read two, you will be forced to abandon the case."
Then the young advocate repeats the evidence given by the accused;
and really, under the influence of his eloquence, the charges seem
to fall to the ground, and to be utterly annihilated.
"And now," he went on, "what other evidence remains there? The
evidence given by Count Claudieuse. It is crushing, you say. I say
it is singular. What! here is a witness who sees his last hour
drawing nigh, and who yet waits for the last minute of his life
before he speaks. And you think that is natural! You pretend that
it was generosity which made him keep silent. I, I ask you how the
most cruel enemy could have acted more atrociously?
" 'Never was a case clearer,' says the prosecution. On the
contrary, I maintain that never was a case more obscure; and that,
so far from fathoming the secret of the whole affair, the
prosecution has not found out the first word of it."
M. Folgat takes his seat, and the sheriff's officers have to
interfere to prevent applause from breaking out. If the vote had
been taken at that moment, M. de Boiscoran would have been
But the proceedings are suspended for fifteen minutes; and in the
meantime the lamps are lit, for night begins to fall.
When the president resumes his chair, the attorney-general claims
his right to speak.
"I shall not reply as I had at first proposed. Count Claudieuse is
about to pay with his life for the effort which he has made to
place his evidence before you. He could not even be carried home.
He is perhaps at this very moment drawing his last breath upon
earth in the adjoining room."
The counsel for the defence do not desire to address the jury;
and, as the accused also declares that he has nothing more to say,
the president sums up, and the jurymen withdrew to their room to
The heat is overwhelming, the restraint almost unbearable; and all
faces bear the marks of oppressive fatigue; but nobody thinks of
leaving the house. A thousand contradictory reports circulate
through the excited crowd. Some say that Count Claudieuse has
died; others, on the contrary, report him better, and add that he
has sent for the priest from Brechy.
At last, a few minutes after nine o'clock, the jury reappears.
Jacques de Boiscoran is declared guilty, and, on the score of
extenuating circumstances, sentenced to twenty years' penal labor.
Thus M. Galpin triumphed, and M. Gransiere had reason to be proud of
his eloquence. Jacques de Boiscoran had been found guilty.
But he looked calm, and even haughty, as the president, M. Domini,
pronounced the terrible sentence, a thousand times braver at that
moment than the man who, facing the squad of soldiers from whom he is
to receive death, refuses to have his eyes bandaged, and himself gives
the word of command with a firm voice.
That very morning, a few moments before the beginning of the trial, he
had said to Dionysia,--
"I know what is in store for me; but I am innocent. They shall not see
me turn pale, nor hear me ask for mercy."
And, gathering up all the energy of which the human heart is capable,
he had made a supreme effort at the decisive moment, and kept his
Turning quietly to his counsel at the moment when the last words of
the president were lost among the din of the crowd, he said,--
"Did I not tell you that the day would come when you yourself would be
the first to put a weapon into my hands?"
M. Folgat rose promptly.
He showed neither the anger nor the disappointment of an advocate who
has just had a cause which he knew to be just.
"That day has not come yet," he replied. "Remember your promise. As
long as there remains a ray of hope, we shall fight. Now we have much
more than mere hope at this moment. In less than a month, in a week,
perhaps to-morrow, we shall have our revenge."
The unfortunate man shook his head.
"I shall nevertheless have undergone the disgrace of a condemnation,"
The taking the ribbon of the Legion of Honor from his buttonhole, he
handed it to M. Folgat, saying--
"Keep this in memory of me, and if I never regain the right to wear
In the meantime, however, the gendarmes, whose duty it was to guard
the prisoner, had risen; and the sergeant said to Jacques,--
"We must go, sir. Come, come! You need not despair. You need not lose
courage. All is not over yet. There is still the appeal for you, and
then the petition for pardon, not to speak of what may happen, and
cannot be foreseen."
M. Folgat was allowed to accompany the prisoner, and was getting ready
to do so; but the latter said, with a pained voice,--
"No, my friend, please leave me alone. Others have more need of your
presence than I have. Dionysia, my poor father, my mother. Go to them.
Tell them that the horror of my condemnation lies in the thought of
them. May they forgive me for the affliction which I cause them, and
for the disgrace of having me for their son, for her betrothed!"
Then, pressing the hands of his counsel, he added,--
"And you, my friends, how shall I ever express to you my gratitude?
Ah! if incomparable talents, and matchless zeal and ability, had
sufficed, I know I should be free. But instead of that"--he pointed at
the little door through which he was to pass, and said in a
"Instead of that, there is the door to the galleys. Henceforth"--
A sob cut short his words. His strength was exhausted; for if there
are, so to say, no limits to the power of endurance of the spirit, the
energy of the body has its bounds. Refusing the arm which the sergeant
offered him, he rushed out of the room.
M. Magloire was well-nigh beside himself with grief.
"Ah! why could we not save him?" he said to his young colleague. "Let
them come and speak to me again of the power of conviction. But we
must not stay here: let us go!"
They threw themselves into the crowd, which was slowly dispersing, all
palpitating yet with the excitement of the day.
A strange reaction was already beginning to set in,--a reaction
perfectly illogic, and yet intelligible, and by no means rare under
Jacques de Boiscoran, an object of general execration as long as he
was only suspected, regained the sympathy of all the moment he was
condemned. It was as if the fatal sentence had wiped out the horror of
the crime. He was pitied; his fate was deplored; and as they thought
of his family, his mother, and his betrothed, they almost cursed the
severity of the judges.
Besides, even the least observant among those present had been struck
by the singular course which the proceedings had taken. There was not
one, probably, in that vast assembly who did not feel that there was a
mysterious and unexplored side of the case, which neither the
prosecution nor the defence had chosen to approach. Why had Cocoleu
been mentioned only once, and then quite incidentally? He was an
idiot, to be sure; but it was nevertheless through his evidence alone
that suspicions had been aroused against M. de Boiscoran. Why had he
not been summoned either by the prosecution or by the defence?
The evidence given by Count Claudieuse, also, although apparently so
conclusive at the moment, was now severely criticised.
The most indulgent said,--
"That was not well done. That was a trick. Why did he not speak out
before? People do not wait for a man to be down before they strike
"And did you notice how M. de Boiscoran and Count Claudieuse looked at
each other? Did you hear what they said to each other? One might have
sworn that there was something else, something very different from a
mere lawsuit, between them."
And on all sides people repeated,--
"At all events, M. Folgat is right. The whole matter is far from being
cleared up. The jury was long before they agreed. Perhaps M. de
Boiscoran would have been acquitted, if, at the last moment, M.
Gransiere had not announced the impending death of Count Claudieuse in
the adjoining room."
M. Magloire and M. Folgat listened to all these remarks, as they heard
them in the crowd here and there, with great satisfaction; for in
spite of all the assertions of magistrates and judges, in spite of all
the thundering condemnations against the practice, public opinion will
find an echo in the court-room; and, more frequently than we think,
public opinion does dictate the verdict of the jury.
"And now," said M. Magloire to his young colleague, "now we can be
content. I know Sauveterre by heart. I tell you public opinion is
henceforth on our side."
By dint of perseverance they made their way, at last, out through the
narrow door of the court-room, when one of the ushers stopped them.
"They wish to see you," said the man.
"The family of the prisoner. Poor people! They are all in there, in M.
Mechinet's office. M. Daubigeon told me to keep it for them. The
Marchioness de Boiscoran also was carried there when she was taken ill
in the court-room."
He accompanied the two gentlemen, while telling them this, to the end
of the hall; then he opened a door, and said,--
"They are in there," and withdrew discreetly.
There, in an easy-chair, with closed eyes, and half-open lips, lay
Jacques's mother. Her livid pallor and her stiff limbs made her look
like a dead person; but, from time to time, spasms shook her whole
body, from head to foot. M. de Chandore stood on one side, and the
marquis, her husband, on the other, watching her with mournful eyes
and in perfect silence. They had been thunderstruck; and, from the
moment when the fatal sentence fell upon their ears, neither of them
had uttered a word.
Dionysia alone seemed to have preserved the faculty of reasoning and
moving. But her face was deep purple; her dry eyes shone with a
painful light; and her body shook as with fever. As soon as the two
advocates appeared, she cried,--
"And you call this human justice?"
And, as they were silent, she added,---
"Here is Jacques condemned to penal labor; that is to say, he is
judicially dishonored, lost, disgraced, forever cut off from human
society. He is innocent; but that does not matter. His best friends
will know him no longer: no hand will touch his hand hereafter; and
even those who were most proud of his affection will pretend to have
forgotten his name."
"I understand your grief but too well, madam," said M. Magloire.
"My grief is not as great as my indignation," she broke in. "Jacques
must be avenged, and he shall be avenged! I am only twenty, and he is
not thirty yet: there is a whole life before us which we can devote to
the work of his rehabilitation; for I do not mean to abandon him. I!
His undeserved misfortunes make him a thousand times dearer to me, and
almost sacred. I was his betrothed this morning: this evening I am his
wife. His condemnation was our nuptial benediction. And if it is true,
as grandpapa says, that the law prohibits a prisoner to marry the
woman he loves, well, I will be his without marriage."
Dionysia spoke all this aloud, so loud that it seemed she wanted all
the earth to hear what she was saying.
"Ah! let me reassure you by a single word, madam," said M. Folgat. "We
have not yet come to that. The sentence is not final."
The Marquis de Boiscoran and M. de Chandore started.
"What do you mean?"
"An oversight which M. Galpin has committed makes the whole proceeding
null and void. You will ask how a man of his character, so painstaking
and so formal, should have made such a blunder. Probably because he
was blinded by passion. Why had nobody noticed this oversight? Because
fate owed us this compensation. There can be no question about the
matter. The defect is a defect of form; and the law provides expressly
for the case. The sentence must be declared void, and we shall have
"And you never told us anything of that?" asked Dionysia.
"We hardly dared to think of it," replied M. Magloire. "It was one of
those secrets which we dare not confide to our own pillow. Remember,
that, in the course of the proceedings, the error might have been
corrected at any time. Now it is too late. We have time before us; and
the conduct of Count Claudieuse relieves us from all restraint of
delicacy. The veil shall be torn now."
The door opened violently, interrupting his words. Dr. Seignebos
entered, red with anger, and darting fiery glances from under his gold
"Count Claudieuse?" M. Folgat asked eagerly.
"Is next door," replied the doctor. "They have had him down on a
mattress, and his wife is by his side. What a profession ours is! Here
is a man, a wretch, whom I should be most happy to strangle with my
own hands; and I am compelled to do all I can to recall him to life: I
must lavish my attentions upon him, and seek every means to relieve
"Is he any better?"
"Not at all! Unless a special miracle should be performed in his
behalf, he will leave the court-house only feet forward, and that in
twenty-four hours. I have not concealed it from the countess; and I
have told her, that, if she wishes her husband to die in peace with
Heaven, she has but just time to send for a priest."
"And has she sent for one?"
"Not at all! She told me her husband would be terrified by the
appearance of a priest, and that would hasten his end. Even when the
good priest from Brechy came of his own accord, she sent him off
"Ah the miserable woman!" cried Dionysia.
And, after a moment's reflection, she added,--
"And yet that may be our salvation. Yes, certainly. Why should I
hesitate? Wait for me here: I am coming back."
She hurried out. Her grandpapa was about to follow her; but M. Folgat
"Let her do it," he said,--"let her do it!"
It had just struck ten o'clock. The court-house, just now as full and
as noisy as a bee-hive, was silent and deserted. In the immense hall,
badly lighted by a smoking lamp, there were only two men to be seen.
One was the priest from Brechy, who was praying on his knees close to
a door; and the other was the watchman, who was slowly walking up and
down, and whose steps resounded there as in a church.
Dionysia went straight up to the latter.
"Where is Count Claudieuse?" she asked.
"There, madam," replied the man, pointing at the door before which the
priest was praying,--"there, in the private office of the commonwealth
"Who is with him?"
"His wife, madam, and a servant."
"Well, go in and tell the Countess Claudieuse,--but so that her
husband does not hear you,--that Miss Chandore desires to see her a
The watchman made no objection, and went in. But, when he came back,
he said to the young girl,--
"Madam, the countess sends word that she cannot leave her husband, who
is very low."
She stopped him by an impatient gesture, and said,--
"Never mind! Go back and tell the countess, that, if she does not come
out, I shall go in this moment; that, if it must be, I shall force my
way in; that I shall call for help; that nothing will keep me. I must
absolutely see her."
"Go! Don't you see that it is a question of life and death?"
There was such authority in her voice, that the watchman no longer
hesitated. He went in once more, and reappeared a moment after.
"Go in," he said to the young girl.
She went in, and found herself in a little anteroom which preceded the
office of the commonwealth attorney. A large lamp illuminated the
room. The door leading to the room in which the count was lying was
In the centre of the room stood the Countess Claudieuse. All these
successive blows had not broken her indomitable energy. She looked
pale, but calm.
"Since you insist upon it, madam," she began, "I come to tell you
myself that I cannot listen to you. Are you not aware that I am
standing between two open graves,--that of my poor girl, who is dying
at my house, and that of my husband, who is breathing his last in
She made a motion as if she were about to retire; but Dionysia stopped
her by a threatening look, and said with a trembling voice,--
"If you go back into that room where your husband is, I shall go back
with you, and I shall speak before him. I shall ask you right before
him, how you dare order a priest away from his bedside at the moment
of death, and whether, after having robbed him of all his happiness in
life, you mean to make him unhappy in all eternity."
Instinctively the countess drew back.
"I do not understand you," she said.
"Yes, you do understand me, madam. Why will you deny it? Do you not
see that I know every thing, and that I have guessed what you have not
told me? Jacques was your lover; and your husband has had his
"Ah!" cried the countess, "that is too much; that is too much!"
"And you have permitted it," Dionysia went on with breathless haste;
"and you did not come, and cry out in open court that your husband was
a false witness! What a woman you must be! You do not mind it, that
your love carries a poor unfortunate man to the galleys. You mean to
live on with this thought in your heart, that the man whom you love is
innocent, and nevertheless, disgraced forever, and cut off from human
society. A priest might induce the count to retract his statement, you
know very well; and hence you refuse to let the priest from Brechy
come to his bedside. And what is the end and aim of all your crimes?
To save your false reputation as an honest woman. Ah! that is
miserable; that is mean; that is infamous!"
The countess was roused at last. What all M. Folgat's skill and
ability had not been able to accomplish, Dionysia obtained in an
instant by the force of her passion. Throwing aside her mask, the
countess exclaimed with a perfect burst of rage,--
"Well, then, no, no! I have not acted so, and permitted all this to
happen, because I care for my reputation. My reputation!--what does it
matter? It was only a week ago, when Jacques had succeeded in escaping
from prison, I offered to flee with him. He had only to say a word,
and I should have given up my family, my children, my country, every
thing, for him. He answered, 'Rather the galleys!' "
In the midst of all her fearful sufferings, Dionysia's heart filled
with unspeakable happiness as she heard these words. Ah! now she could
no longer doubt Jacques.
"He has condemned himself, you see," continued the countess. "I was
quite willing to ruin myself for him, but certainly not for another
"And that other woman--no doubt you mean me!"
"Yes!--you for whose sake he abandoned me,--you whom he was going to
marry,--you with whom he hoped to enjoy long happy years, and a
happiness not furtive and sinful like ours, but a legitimate, honest
Tears were trembling in Dionysia's eyes. She was beloved: she thought
of what she must suffer who was not beloved.
"And yet I should have been generous," she murmured. The countess
broke out into a fierce, savage laugh.
"And the proof of it is," said the young girl, "that I came to offer
you a bargain."
"Yes. Save Jacques, and, by all that is sacred to me in the world, I
promise I will enter a convent: I will disappear, and you shall never
hear my name any more."
Intense astonishment seized the countess, and she looked at Dionysia
with a glance full of doubt and mistrust. Such devotion seemed to her
too sublime not to conceal some snare.
"You would really do that?" she asked.
"You would make a great sacrifice for my benefit?"
"For yours? No, madam, for Jacques's."
"You love him very dearly, do you?"
"I love him dearly enough to prefer his happiness to my own a thousand
times over. Even if I were buried in the depths of a convent, I should
still have the consolation of knowing that he owed his rehabilitation
to me; and I should suffer less in knowing that he belonged to another
than that he was innocent, and yet condemned."
But, in proportion as the young girl thus confirmed her sincerity, the
brow of the countess grew darker and sterner, and passing blushes
mantled her cheek. At last she said with haughty irony,--
"You condescend to give up M. de Boiscoran. Will that make him love
me? You know very well he will not. You know that he loves you alone.
Heroism with such conditions is easy enough. What have you to fear?
Buried in a convent, he will love you only all the more ardently, and
he will execrate me all the more fervently."
"He shall never know any thing of our bargain!"
"Ah! What does that matter? He will guess it, if you do not tell him.
No: I know what awaits me. I have felt it now for two years,--this
agony of seeing him becoming daily more detached from me. What have I
not done to keep him near me! How I have stooped to meanness, to
falsehood, to keep him a single day longer, perhaps a single hour! But
all was useless. I was a burden to him. He loved me no longer; and my
love became to him a heavier load than the cannon-ball which they will
fasten to his chains at the galleys."
"That is horrible!" she murmured.
"Horrible! Yes, but true. You look amazed. That is because you have as
yet only seen the morning dawn of your love: wait for the dark
evening, and you will understand me. Is not the story of all of us
women the same! I have seen Jacques at my feet as you see him at
yours: the vows he swears to you, he once swore to me; and he swore
them to me with the same voice, tremulous with passion, and with the
same burning glances. But you think you will be his wife, and I never
was. What does that matter? What does he tell you? That he will love
you forever, because his love is under the protection of God and of
men. He told me, precisely because our love was not thus protected,
that we should be united by indissoluble bonds,--bonds stronger than
all others. You have his promise: so had I. And the proof of it is
that I gave him every thing,--my honor and the honor of my family, and
that I would have given him still more, if there had been any more to
give. And now to be betrayed, forsaken, despised, to sink lower and
lower, until at last I must become the object of your pity! To have
fallen so low, that you should dare come and offer me to give up
Jacques for my benefit! Ah, that is maddening! And I should let the
vengeance I hold in my hands slip from me at your bidding! I should be
stupid enough, blind enough, to allow myself to be touched by your
hypocritical tears! I should secure your happiness by the sacrifice of
my reputation! No, madam, cherish no such hope!"
Her voice expired in her throat in a kind of toneless rattle. She
walked up and down a few times in the room. Then she placed herself
straight before Dionysia, and, looking fixedly into her eyes, she
"Who suggested to you this plan of coming here, this supreme insult
which you tried to inflict upon me?"
Dionysia was seized with unspeakable horror, and hardly found heart to
"No one," she murmured.
"Knows nothing of it."
"I have not seen him. The thought occurred to me quite suddenly, like
an inspiration on high. When Dr. Seignebos told me that you had
refused to admit the priest from Brechy, I said to myself, 'This is
the last misfortune, and the greatest of them all! If Count Claudieuse
dies without retracting, Jacques can never be fully restored, whatever
may happen hereafter, not even if his innocence should be
established.' Then I made up my mind to come to you. Ah! it was a hard
task. But I was in hopes I might touch your heart, or that you might
be moved by the greatness of my sacrifice."
The countess was really moved. There is no heart absolutely bad, as
there is none altogether good. As she listened to Dionysia's
passionate entreaty, her resolution began to grow weaker.
"Would it be such a great sacrifice?" she asked.
Tears sprang to the eyes of the poor young girl.
"Alas!" she said, "I offer you my life. I know very well you will not
be long jealous of me."
She was interrupted by groans, which seemed to come from the room in
which the count was lying.
The countess half-opened the door; and immediately a feeble, and yet
imperious voice was heard calling out,--
"Genevieve, I say, Genevieve!"
"I am coming, my dear, in a moment," replied the countess.
"What security can you give me," she said, in a hard and stern voice,
after having closed the door again,--"what security do you give me,
that if Jacques's innocence were established, and he reinstated, you
would not forget your promises?"
"Ah, madam! How or upon what do you want me to swear that I am ready
to disappear. Choose your own securities, and I will do whatever you
Then, sinking down on her knees, before the countess, she went on,--
"Here I am at your feet, madam, humble and suppliant,--I whom you
accuse of a desire to insult you. Have pity on Jacques! Ah! if you
loved him as much as I do, you would not hesitate."
The countess raised her suddenly and quickly, and holding her hands in
her own, looked at her for more than a minute without saying a word,
but with heaving bosom and trembling lips. At last she asked in a
voice which was so deeply affected, that it was hardly intelligible.
"What do you want me to do?"
"Induce Count Claudieuse to retract."
The countess shook her head.
"It would be useless to try. You do not know the count. He is a man of
iron. You might tear his flesh inch by inch with hot iron pincers, and
he would not take back one of his words. You cannot conceive what he
has suffered, nor the depth of the hatred, the rage, and the thirst of
vengeance, which have accumulated in his heart. It was to torture me
that he brought me here to his bedside. Only five minutes ago he told
me that he died content, since Jacques was declared guilty, and
condemned through his evidence."
She was conquered: her energy was exhausted, and tears came to her
"He has been so cruelly tried!" she went on. "He loved me to
distraction; he loved nothing in the world but me. And I-- Ah, if we
could know, if we could foresee! No, I shall never be able to induce
him to retract."
Dionysia almost forgot her own great grief.
"Nor do I expect you to obtain that favor," she said very gently.
"The priest from Brechy. He will surely find words to shake even the
firmest resolution. He can speak in the name of that God, who, even on
the cross, forgave those who crucified Him."
One moment longer the countess hesitated; and then, overcoming finally
the last rebellious impulses of her pride, she said,--
"Well, I will call the priest."
"And I, madam, I swear I will keep my promise."
But the countess stopped her, and said, making a supreme effort over
"No: I shall try to save Jacques without making conditions. Let him be
yours. He loves you, and you were ready to sacrifice your life for his
sake. He forsakes me; but I sacrifice my honor to him. Farewell!"
And hastening to the door, while Dionysia returned to her friends, she
summoned the priest from Brechy.
M. Daubigeon, the commonwealth attorney, learned that morning from his
chief clerk what had happened, and how the proceedings in the
Boiscoran case were necessarily null and void on account of a fatal
error in form. The counsel of the defence had lost no time, and, after
spending the whole night in consultation, had early that morning
presented their application for a new trial to the court.
The commonwealth attorney took no pains to conceal his satisfaction.
"Now," he cried, "this will worry my friend Galpin, and clip his wings
considerably; and yet I had called his attention to the lines of
Horace, in which he speaks of Phaeton's sad fate, and says,--
'Terret ambustus Phaeton avaras Spes.'
But he would not listen to me, forgetting, that, without prudence,
force is a danger. And there he is now, in great difficulty, I am
And at once he made haste to dress, and to go and see M. Galpin in
order to hear all the details accurately, as he told his clerk, but,
in reality, in order to enjoy to his heart's content the discomfiture
of the ambitious magistrate.
He found him furious, and ready to tear his hair.
"I am disgraced," he repeated: "I am ruined; I am lost. All my
prospects, all my hopes, are gone. I shall never be forgiven for such
To look at M. Daubigeon, you would have thought he was sincerely
"Is it really true," he said with an air of assumed pity,--"is it
really true, what they tell me, that this unlucky mistake was made by
"By me? Yes, indeed! I forgot those wretched details which a scholar
knows by heart. Can you understand that? And to say that no one
noticed my inconceivable blindness! Neither the first court of
inquiry, nor the attorney-general himself, nor the presiding judge,
ever said a word about it. It is my fate. And that is to be the result
of my labors. Everybody, no doubt, said, 'Oh! M. Galpin has the case
in hand; he knows all about it: no need to look after the matter when
such a man has taken hold of it.' And here I am. Oh! I might kill
"It is all the more fortunate," replied M. Daubigeon, "that yesterday
the case was hanging on a thread."
The magistrate gnashed his teeth, and replied,--
"Yes, on a thread, thanks to M. Domini! whose weakness I cannot
comprehend, and who did not know at all, or who was not willing to
know, how to make the most of the evidence. But it was M. Gransiere's
fault quite as much. What had he to do with politics to drag them into
the affair? And whom did he want to hit? No one else but M. Magloire,
the man whom everybody respects in the whole district, and who had
three warm personal friends among the jurymen. I foresaw it, and I
told him where he would get into trouble. But there are people who
will not listen. M. Gransiere wants to be elected himself. It is a
fancy, a monomania of our day: everybody wants to be a deputy. I wish
Heaven would confound all ambitious men!"
For the first time in his life, and no doubt for the last time also,
the commonwealth attorney rejoiced at the misfortune of others. Taking
savage pleasure in turning the dagger in his poor friend's wounds, he
"No doubt M. Folgat's speech had something to do with it."
"Nothing at all."
"He was brilliantly successful."
"He took them by surprise. It was nothing but a big voice, and grand,
"And what did he say, after all? That the prosecution did not know the
real secret of the case. That is absurd!"
"The new judges may not think so, however."
"We shall see."
"This time M. de Boiscoran's defence will be very different. He will
spare nobody. He is down now, and cannot fall any lower."
"That may be. But he also risks having a less indulgent jury, and not
getting off with twenty years."
"What do his counsel say?"
"I do not know. But I have just sent my clerk to find out; and, if you
choose to wait"--
M. Daubigeon did wait, and he did well; for M. Mechinet came in very
soon after, with a long face for the world, but inwardly delighted.
"Well?" asked M. Galpin eagerly.
He shook his head, and said in a melancholy tone of voice,--
"I have never seen any thing like this. How fickle public opinion is,
after all! Day before yesterday M. de Boiscoran could not have passed
through the town without being mobbed. If he should show himself
to-day, they would carry him in triumph. He has been condemned, and
now he is a martyr. It is known already that the sentence is void, and
they are delighted. My sisters have just told me that the ladies in
good society propose to give to the Marchioness de Boiscoran and to
Miss Chandore some public evidence of their sympathy. The members of
the bar will give M. Folgat a public dinner."
"Why that is monstrous!" cried M. Galpin.
"Well," said M. Daubigeon, " 'the opinions of men are more fickle and
changeable than the waves of the sea.' "
But, interrupting the quotation, M. Galpin asked his clerk,--
"Well, what else?"
"I went to hand M. Gransiere the letter which you gave me for him"--
"What did he say?"
"I found him in consultation with the president, M. Domini. He took
the letter, glanced at it rapidly, and told me in his most icy tone,
'Very well!' To tell the truth, I thought, that, in spite of his stiff
and grand air, he was in reality furious."
The magistrate looked utterly in despair.
"I can't stand it," he said sighing. "These men whose veins have no
blood in them, but poison, never forgive."
"Day before yesterday you thought very highly of him."
"Day before yesterday he did not look upon me as the cause of a great
misfortune for him."
M. Mechinet went on quite eagerly,--
"After leaving M. Gransiere, I went to the court-house, and there I
head the great piece of news which has set all the town agog. Count
Claudieuse is dead."
M. Daubigeon and M. Galpin looked at each other, and exclaimed in the
"Great God! Is that so?"
"He breathed his last this morning, at two or three minutes before six
o'clock. I saw his body in the private room of the attorney-general.
The priest from Brechy was there, and two other priests from his
parish. They were waiting for a bier to have him carried to his
"Poor man!" murmured M. Daubigeon.
"But I heard a great deal more," Mechinet said, "from the watchman who
was on guard last night. He told me that when the trial was over, and
it became known that Count Claudieuse was likely to die, the priest
from Brechy came there, and asked to be allowed to offer him the last
consolations of his church. The countess refused to let him come to
the bedside of her husband. The watchman was amazed at this; and just
then Miss Chandore suddenly appeared, and sent word to the countess
that she wanted to speak to her."
"Is it possible?"
"Quite certain. They remained together for more than a quarter of an
hour. What did they say? The watchman told me he was dying with
curiosity to know; but he could hear nothing, because there was the
priest from Brechy, all the while, kneeling before the door, and
praying. When they parted, they looked terribly excited. Then the
countess immediately called in the priest, and he stayed with the
count till he died."
M. Daubigeon and M. Galpin had not yet recovered from their amazement
at this account, when somebody knocked timidly at the door.
"Come in!" cried Mechinet.
The door opened, and the sergeant of gendarmes appeared.
"I have been sent here by the attorney-general," he said; "and the
servant told me you were up here. We have just caught Trumence."
"That man who had escaped from jail?"
"Yes. We were about to carry him back there, when he told us that he
had a secret to reveal, a very important, urgent secret, concerning
the condemned prisoner, Boiscoran."
"Yes. Then we carried him to the court-house, and I came for orders."
"Run and say that I am coming to see him!" cried M. Daubigeon. "Make
haste! I am coming after you."
But the gendarme, a model of obedience, had not waited so long: he was
already down stairs.
"I must leave you, Galpin," said M. Daubigeon, very much excited. "You
heard what the man said. We must know what that means at once."
But the magistrate was not less excited.
"You permit me to accompany you, I hope?" he asked.
He had a right to do so.
"Certainly," replied the commonwealth attorney. "But make haste!"
The recommendation was not needed. M. Galpin had already put on his
boots. He now slipped his overcoat over his home dress, as he was; and
off they went.
Mechinet followed the two gentlemen as they hastened down the street;
and the good people of Sauveterre, always on the lookout, were not a
little scandalized at seeing their well-known magistrate, M. Galpin,
in his home costume,--he who generally was most scrupulously precise
in his dress.
Standing on their door-steps, they said to each other,--
"Something very important must have happened. Just look at these
The fact was, they were walking so fast, that people might well
wonder; and they did not say a word all the way.
But, ere they reached the court-house, they were forced to stop; for
some four or five hundred people were filling the court, crowding on
the steps, and actually pressing against the doors.
Immediately all became silent; hats were raised; the crowd parted; and
a passage was opened.
On the porch appeared the priest from Brechy, and two other priests.
Behind them came attendants from the hospital, who bore a bier covered
with black cloth; and beneath the cloth the outlines of a human body
could be seen.
The women began to cry; and those who had room enough knelt down.
"Poor countess!" murmured one of them. "Here is her husband dead, and
they say one of her daughters is dying at home."
But M. Daubigeon, the magistrate, and Mechinet were too preoccupied
with their own interests to think of stopping for more reliable news.
The way was open: they went in, and hastened to the clerk's office,
where the gendarmes had taken Trumence, and now were guarding him.
He rose as soon as he recognized the gentlemen, and respectfully took
off his cap. It was really Trumence; but the good-for-nothing vagrant
did not present his usual careless appearance. He looked pale, and was
evidently very much excited.
"Well," said M. Daubigeon, "so you have allowed yourself to be
"Beg pardon, judge," replied the poor fellow, "I was not retaken. I
came of my own accord."
"Involuntarily, you mean?"
"Quite by my own free will! Just ask the sergeant."
The sergeant stepped forward, touched his cap, and reported,--
"That is the naked truth. Trumence came himself to our barrack, and
said, 'I surrender as a prisoner. I wish to speak to the commonwealth
attorney, and give importance evidence.' "
The vagabond drew himself up proudly,--
"You see, sir, that I did not lie. While these gentlemen were
galloping all over the country in search of me, I was snugly ensconced
in a garret at the Red Lamb, and did not think of coming out from
there till I should be entirely forgotten."
"Yes; but people who lodge at the Red Lamb have to pay, and you had no
Trumence very quietly drew from his pocket a handful of Napoleons, and
of five-and-twenty-franc notes, and showed them.
"You see that I had the wherewithal to pay for my room," he said. "But
I surrendered, because, after all, I am an honest man, and I would
rather suffer some trouble myself than see an innocent gentleman go to
"M. de Boiscoran?"
"Yes. He is innocent! I know it; I am sure of it; and I can prove it.
And, if he will not tell, I will tell,--tell every thing!"
M. Daubigeon and M. Galpin were utterly astounded.
"Explain yourself," they both said in the same breath.
But the vagrant shook his head, pointing at the gendarmes; and, as a
man who is quite cognizant of all the formalities of the law, he
"But it is a great secret; and, when one confesses, one does not like
anybody else to hear it but the priest. Besides, I should like my
deposition to be taken down in writing."
Upon a sign made by M. Galpin, the gendarmes withdrew; and Mechinet
took his seat at a table, with a blank sheet of paper before him.
"Now we can talk," said Trumence: "that's the way I like it. I was not
thinking myself of running away. I was pretty well off in jail; winter
is coming, I had not a cent; and I knew, that, if I were retaken, I
should fare rather badly. But M. Jacques de Boiscoran had a notion to
spend a night outside."
"Mind what you are saying," M. Galpin broke in severely. "You cannot
play with the law, and go off unpunished."
"May I die if I do not tell the truth!" cried Trumence. "M. Jacques
has spent a whole night out of jail."
The magistrate trembled.
"What a story that is!" he said again.
"I have my proof," replied Trumence coldly, "and you shall hear. Well,
as he wanted to leave, M. Jacques came to me, and we agreed, that in
consideration of a certain sum of money which he has paid me, and of
which you have seen just now all that is left, I should make a hole in
the wall, and that I should run off altogether, while he was to come
back when he had done his business."
"And the jailer?" asked M. Daubigeon.
Like a true peasant of his promise, Trumence was far too cunning to
expose Blangin unnecessarily. Assuming, therefore, the whole
responsibility of the evasion, he replied,--
"The jailer saw nothing. We had no use for him. Was not I, so to say,
under-jailer? Had not I been charged by you yourself, M. Galpin, with
keeping watch over M. Jacques? Was it not I who opened and locked his
door, who took him to the parlor, and brought him back again?"
That was the exact truth.
"Go on!" said M. Galpin harshly.
"Well," said Trumence, "every thing was done as agreed upon. One
evening, about nine o'clock, I make my hole in the wall, and here we
are, M. Jacques and I, on the ramparts. There he slips a package of
banknotes into my hand, and tells me to run for it, while he goes
about his business. I thought he was innocent then; but you see I
should not exactly have gone through the fire for him as yet. I said
to myself, that perhaps he was making fun of me, and that, once on the
wing, he would not be such a fool as to go back into the cage. This
made me curious, as he was going off, to see which way he was going,--
and there I was, following him close upon his heels!"
The magistrate and the commonwealth attorney, accustomed as they both
were, by the nature of their profession, to conceal their feelings,
could hardly restrain now,--one, the hope trembling within him, and
the other, the vague apprehensions which began to fill his heart.
Mechinet, who knew already all that was coming, laughed in his sleeve
while his pen was flying rapidly over the paper.
"He was afraid he might be recognized," continued the vagrant, "and so
M. Jacques had been running ever so fast, keeping close to the wall,
and choosing the narrowest lanes. Fortunately, I have a pair of very
good legs. He goes through Sauveterre like a race-horse; and, when he
reaches Mautrec Street, he begins to ring the bell at a large gate."
"At Count Claudieuse's house!"
"I know now what house it was; but I did not know then. Well, he
rings. A servant comes and opens. He speaks to her, and immediately
she invites him in, and that so eagerly, that she forgets to close the
M. Daubigeon stopped him by a gesture.
"Wait!" he said.
And, taking up a blank form, he filled it up, rang the bell, and said
to an usher of the court who had hastened in, giving him the printed
"I want this to be taken immediately. Make haste; and not a word!"
Then Trumence was directed to go on; and he said,--
"There I was, standing in the middle of the street, feeling like a
fool. I thought I had nothing left me but to go and use my legs: that
was safest for me. But that wretched, half-open gate attracted me. I
said to myself, 'If you go in, and they catch you, they will think you
have come to steal, and you'll have to pay for it.' That was true; but
the temptation was too strong for me. My curiosity broke my heart, so
to say, and, 'Come what may, I'll risk it,' I said. I push the huge
gate just wide enough to let me in, and here I am in a large garden.
It was pitch dark; but, quite at the bottom of the garden, three
windows in the lower story of the house were lighted up. I had
ventured too far now to go back. So I went on, creeping along
stealthily, until I reached a tree, against which I pressed closely,
about the length of my arm from one of the windows, which belonged to
a beautiful parlor. I look--and I see whom? M. de Boiscoran. As there
were no curtains to the windows, I could see as well as I can see you.
His face looked terrible. I was asking myself for whom he could be
waiting there, when I saw him hiding behind the open door of the room,
like a man who is lying in wait for somebody, with evil intentions.
This troubled me very much; but the next moment a lady came in.
Instantly M. Jacques shuts the door behind her; the lady turns round,
sees him, and wants to run, uttering at the same time a loud cry. That
lady was the Countess Claudieuse!"
He looked as if he wished to pause to watch the effect of his
revelation. But Mechinet was so impatient, that he forgot the modest
character of his duty, and said hastily,--
"Go on; go on!"
"One of the windows was half open," continued the vagrant, "and thus I
could hear almost as well as I saw. I crouched down on all-fours and
kept my head on a level with the ground, so as not to lose a word. Oh,
it was fearful! At the first word I understood it all: M. Jacques and
the Countess Claudieuse had been lovers."
"This is madness!" cried M. Galpin.
"Well, I tell you I was amazed. The Countess Claudieuse--such a pious
lady! But I have ears; don't you think I have? M. Jacques reminded her
of the night of the crime, how they had been together a few minutes
before the fire broke out, as they had agreed some days before to meet
near Valpinson at that very time. At this meeting they had burnt their
love-letters, and M. Jacques had blackened his fingers badly in
"Did you really hear that?" asked M. Daubigeon.
"As I hear you, sir."
"Write it down, Mechinet," said the commonwealth attorney with great
eagerness,--"write that down carefully."
The clerk was sure to do it.
"What surprised me most," continued Trumence, "was, that the countess
seemed to consider M. Jacques guilty, and he thought she was. Each
accused the other of the crime. She said, 'You attempted the life of
my husband, because you were afraid of him!' And he said, 'You wanted
to kill him, so as to be free, and to prevent my marriage!' "
M. Galpin had sunk into a chair: he stammered,--
"Did anybody ever hear such a thing?"
"However, they explained; and at last they found out that they were
both of them innocent. Then M. Jacques entreated the countess to save
him; and she replied that she would certainly not save him at the
expense of her reputation, and so enable him, as soon as he was free
once more, to marry Miss Chandore. Then he said to her, 'Well, then I
must tell all;' and she, 'You will not be believed. I shall deny it
all, and you have no proof!' In his despair, he reproached her
bitterly, and said she had never loved him at all. Then she swore she
loved him more than ever; and that, as he was free now, she was ready
to abandon every thing, and to escape with him to some foreign
country. And she conjured him to flee, in a voice which moved my
heart, with loving words such as I have never heard before in my life,
and with looks which seemed to be burning fire. What a woman! I did
not think he could possibly resist. And yet he did resist; and,
perfectly beside himself with anger, he cried, 'Rather the galleys!'
Then she laughed, mocking him, and saying, 'Very well, you shall go to
the galleys!' "
Although Trumence entered into many details, it was quite evident that
he kept back many things.
Still M. Daubigeon did not dare question him, for fear of breaking the
thread of his account.
"But that was nothing at all," said the vagrant. "While M. Jacques and
the countess were quarrelling in this way, I saw the door of the
parlor suddenly open as if by itself, and a phantom appear in it,
dressed in a funeral pall. It was Count Claudieuse himself. His face
looked terrible; and he had a revolver in his hand. He was leaning
against the side of the door; and he listened while his wife and M.
Jacques were talking of their former love-affairs. At certain words,
he would raise his pistol as if to fire; then he would lower it again,
and go on listening. It was so awful, I had not a dry thread on my
body. It was very hard not to cry out to M. Jacques and the countess,
'You poor people, don't you see that the count is there?' But they saw
nothing; for they were both beside themselves with rage and despair:
and at last M. Jacques actually raised his hand to strike the
countess. 'Do not strike that woman!' suddenly said the count. They
turn round; they see him, and utter a fearful cry. The countess fell
on a chair as if she were dead. I was thunderstruck. I never in my
life saw a man behave so beautifully as M. Jacques did at that moment.
Instead of trying to escape, he opened his coat, and baring his
breast, he said to the husband, 'Fire! You are in your right!' The
count, however, laughed contemptuously, and said, 'The court will
avenge me!'--'You know very well that I am innocent.'--'All the
better.'--'It would be infamous to let me be condemned.'--'I shall do
more than that. To make your condemnation sure, I shall say that I
recognized you.' The count was going to step forward, as he said this;
but he was dying. Great God, what a man! He fell forward, lying at
full-length on the floor. Then I got frightened, and ran away."
By a very great effort only could the commonwealth attorney control
his intense excitement. His voice, however, betrayed him as he asked
Trumence, after a solemn pause,--
"Why did you not come and tell us all that at once?"
The vagabond shook his head, and said,--
"I meant to do so; but I was afraid. You ought to understand what I
mean. I was afraid I might be punished very severely for having run
"Your silence has led the court to commit a grievous mistake."
"I had no idea M. Jacques would be found guilty. Big people like him,
who can pay great lawyers, always get out of trouble. Besides, I did
not think Count Claudieuse would carry out his threat. To be betrayed
by one's wife is hard; but to send an innocent man to the galleys"--
"Still you see"--
"Ah, if I could have foreseen! My intentions were good; and I assure
you, although I did not come at once to denounce the whole thing, I
was firmly resolved to make a clean breast of it if M. Jacques should
get into trouble. And the proof of it is, that instead of running off,
and going far away, I very quietly lay concealed at the Red Lamb,
waiting for the sentence to be published. As soon as I heard what was
done last night, I did not lose an hour, and surrendered at once to
In the meantime, M. Galpin had overcome his first amazement, and now
broke out furiously,--
"This man is an impostor. The money he showed us was paid him to bear
false witness. How can we credit his story?"
"We must investigate the matter," replied M. Daubigeon. He rang the
bell; and, when the usher came in, he asked,--
"Have you done what I told you?"
"Yes, sir," replied the man. "M. de Boiscoran and the servant of Count
Claudieuse are here."
"Bring in the woman: when I ring, show M. de Boiscoran in."
This woman was a big country-girl, plain of face, and square of
figure. She seemed to be very much excited, and looked crimson in her
"Do you remember," asked M. Daubigeon, "that one night last week a man
came to your house, and asked to see your mistress?"
"Oh, yes!" replied the honest girl. "I did not want to let him in at
first; but he said he came from the court, and then I let him in."
"Would you recognize him?"
The commonwealth attorney rang again; the door opened, and Jacques
came in, his face full of amazement and wonder.
"That is the man!" cried the servant.
"May I know?" asked the unfortunate man.
"Not yet!" replied M. Daubigeon. "Go back, and be of good hope!"
But Jacques remained standing where he was, like a man who has
suddenly been overcome, looking all around with amazed eyes, and
evidently unable to comprehend.
How could he have comprehended what was going on?
They had taken him out of his cell without warning; they had carried
him to the court-house; and here he was confronted with Trumence, whom
he thought he should never see again, and with the servant of the
M. Galpin looked the picture of consternation; and M. Daubigeon,
radiant with delight, bade him be of good hope.
Hopeful of what? How? To what purpose?
And Mechinet made him all kinds of signs.
The usher who had brought him in had actually to take him out.
Immediately the commonwealth attorney turned again to the servant-girl
"Now, my good girl, can you tell me if any thing special happened in
connection with this gentleman's visit at your house?"
"There was a great quarrel between him and master and mistress."
"Were you present?"
"No. But I am quite certain of what I say."
"Well, I will tell you. When I went up stairs to tell the countess
that there was a gentleman below who came from the courts, she was in
a great hurry to go down, and told me to stay with the count, my
master. Of course, I did what she said. But no sooner was she down
than I heard a loud cry. Master, who had looked all in a stupor, heard
it too: he raised himself on his pillow, and asked me where my
mistress was. I told him, and he was just settling down to try and
fall asleep again, when the sound of loud voices came up to us. 'That
is very singular,' said master. I offered to go down and see what was
the matter: but he told me sharply not to stir an inch. And, when the
voices became louder and louder, he said, 'I will go down myself. Give
me my dressing-gown.'
"Sick as he was, exhausted, and almost on his deathbed, it was very
imprudent in him, and might easily have cost him his life. I ventured
to speak to him; but he swore at me, and told me to hush, and to do
what he ordered me to do.
"The count--God be merciful to his soul!--was a very good man,
certainly; but he was a terrible man also, and when he got angry, and
talked in a certain way, everybody in the house began to tremble, even
"I obeyed, therefore, and did what he wanted. Poor man! He was so weak
he could hardly stand up, and had to hold on to a chair while I helped
him just to hang his dressing-gown over his shoulders.
"Then I asked him if he would not let me help him down. But looking at
me with awful eyes, he said, 'You will do me the favor to stay here,
and, whatever may happen, if you dare so much as open the door while I
am away, you shall not stay another hour in my service.'
"Then he went out, holding on to the wall; and I remained alone in the
chamber, all trembling, and feeling as sick as if I had known that a
great misfortune was coming upon us.
"However, I heard nothing more for a time; and as the minutes passed
away, I was just beginning to reproach myself for having been so
foolishly alarmed, when I heard two cries; but, O sir! two such
fearful, sharp cries, that I felt cold shivers running all over me.
"As I did not dare leave the room, I put my ear to the door, and I
heard distinctly the count's voice, as he was quarrelling with another
gentleman. But I could not catch a single word, and only made out that
they were angry about a very serious matter.
"All of a sudden, a great but dull noise, like that of the fall of a
heavy body, then another awful cry, I had not a drop of blood left in
my veins at that moment.
"Fortunately, the other servants, who had gone to bed, had heard
something. They had gotten up, and were now coming down the passage.
"I left the room at all hazards, and went down stairs with the others,
and there we found my mistress fainting in an armchair, and my master
stretched out at full-length, lying on the floor like a dead man."
"What did I say?" cried Trumence.
But the commonwealth attorney made him a sign to keep quiet; and,
turning again to the girl, he asked,--
"And the visitor?"
"He was gone, sir. He had vanished."
"What did you do then?"
"We raised up the count: we carried him up stairs and laid him on his
bed. Then we brought mistress round again; and the valet went in haste
to fetch Dr. Seignebos."
"What said the countess when she recovered her consciousness?"
"Nothing. Mistress looked like a person who has been knocked in the
"Was there any thing else?"
"Oh, yes, sir!"
"The oldest of the young ladies, Miss Martha, was seized with terrible
"How was that?"
"Why, I only know what miss told us herself."
"Let us hear what she said."
"Ah! It is a very singular story. When this gentleman whom I have just
seen here rang the bell at our gate, Miss Martha, who had already gone
to bed, got up again, and went to the window to see who it was. She
saw me go and open, with a candle in my hand, and come back again with
the gentleman behind me. She was just going to bed again, when she
thought she saw one of the statues in the garden move, and walk right
off. We told her it could not be so; but she did not mind us. She told
us over and over again that she was quite sure that she saw that
statue come up the avenue, and take a place behind the tree which is
nearest to the parlor-window."
Trumence looked triumphant.
"That was I!" he cried.
The girl looked at him, and said, only moderately surprised,--
"That may very well be."
"What do you know about it?" asked M. Daubigeon.
"I know it must have been a man who had stolen into the garden, and
who had frightened Miss Martha so terribly, because Dr. Seignebos
dropped, in going out, a five-franc piece just at the foot of that
tree, where miss said she had seen the man standing. The valet who
showed the doctor out helped him look for his money; and, as they
sought with the candle, they saw the footprints of a man who wore
"The marks of my shoes!" broke in Trumence again; and sitting down,
and raising his legs, he said to the magistrate,--
"Just look at my shoes, and you will see there is no lack of iron
But there was no need for such evidence; and he was told,--
"Never mind that! We believe you."
"And you, my good girl," said M. Daubigeon again, "can you tell us,
if, after these occurrences, Count Claudieuse had any explanation with
"No, I do not know. Only I saw that the count and the countess were no
longer as they used to be with each other."
That was all she knew. She was asked to sign her deposition; and then
M. Daubigeon told her she might go.
Then, turning to Trumence, he said,--
"You will be taken to jail now. But you are an honest man, and you
need not give yourself any trouble. Go now."
The magistrate and the commonwealth attorney remained alone now,
since, of course, a clerk counts for nothing.
"Well," said M. Daubigeon, "what do you think of that?"
M. Galpin was dumfounded.
"It is enough to make one mad," he murmured.
"Do you begin to see how that M. Folgat was right when he said the
case was far from being so clear as you pretended?"
"Ah! who would not have been deceived as I was? You yourself, at one
time at least, were of my opinion. And yet, if the Countess Claudieuse
and M. de Boiscoran are both innocent, who is the guilty one?"
"That is what we shall know very soon; for I am determined I will not
allow myself a moment's rest till I have found out the truth of the
whole matter. How fortunate it was that this fatal error in form
should have made the sentence null and void!"
He was so much excited, that he forgot his never-failing quotations.
Turning to the clerk, he said,--
"But we must not lose a minute. Put your legs into active motion, my
dear Mechinet, and run and ask M. Folgat to come here. I will wait for
When Dionysia, after leaving the Countess Claudieuse, came back to
Jacques's parents and his friends, she said, radiant with hope,--
"Now victory is on our side!"
Her grandfather and the Marquis de Boiscoran urged her to explain; but
she refused to say any thing, and only later, towards evening, she
confessed to M. Folgat what she had done with the countess, and that
it was more than probable that the count would, before he died,
retract his evidence.
"That alone would save Jacques," said the young advocate.
But his hope only encouraged him to make still greater efforts; and,
all overcome as he was by his labors and emotions of the trial, he
spent the night in Grandpapa Chandore's study, preparing with M.
Magloire the application they proposed to make for a new trial.
They finished only when it was already broad daylight: so he did not
care to go to bed, and installed himself in a large easy-chair for the
purpose of getting a few hours' rest.
He had, however, not slept more than an hour, when old Anthony roused
him to tell him that there was an unknown man down stairs who asked to
see him instantly.
M. Folgat rubbed his eyes, and at once went down: in the passage he
found himself face to face with a man of some fifty years, of rather
suspicious appearance, who wore his mustache and his chin-beard, and
was dressed in a tight coat and large trousers, such as old soldiers
"You are M. Folgat?" asked this man.
"Well, I--I am the agent whom friend Goudar sent to England."
The young lawyer started, and asked,--
"Since when are you here?"
"Since this morning, by express. Twenty-four hours too late, I know;
for I bought a newspaper at the station. M. de Boiscoran has been
found guilty. And yet I swear I did not lose a minute; and I have well
earned the gratuity which I was promised in case of success."
"You have been successful, have you?"
"Of course. Did I not tell you in my letter from Jersey that I was
sure of success?"
"You have found Suky?"
"Twenty-four hours after I wrote to you,--in a public-house at Bonly
Bay. She would not come, the wretch!"
"You have brought her, however?"
"Of course. She is at the Hotel de France, where I have left her till
I could come and see you."
"Does she know any thing?"
"Make haste and bring her here."
From the time when M. Folgat first hoped for this recovery of the
servant-girl, he had made up his mind to make the most of her
He had slipped a portrait of the Countess Claudieuse into an album of
Dionysia's, amidst some thirty photographs. He now went for this
album, and had just put it upon the centre-table in the parlor when
the agent came back with his captive.
She was a tall, stout woman of some forty years, with hard features,
masculine manners, and dressed, as all common English-women are, with
great pretensions to fashion.
When M. Folgat questioned her, she answered in very fair, intelligible
French, which was only marred by her strong English accent,--
"I stayed four years at the house in Vine Street; and I should be
there still, but for the war. As soon as I entered upon my duties, I
became aware that I was put in charge of a house in which two lovers
had their meetings. I was not exactly pleased, because, you know, we
have our self-respect; but it was a good place. I had very little to
do, and so I staid. However, my master mistrusted me: I saw that very
clearly. When a meeting was to take place, my master sent me on some
errand to Versailles, to Saint Germain, or even to Orleans. This hurt
me so much, that I determined I would find out what they tried so hard
to conceal from me. It was not very difficult; and the very next week
I knew that my master was no more Sir Francis Burnett than I was; and
that he had borrowed the name from a friend of his."
"How did you go about to find it out?"
"Oh! very simply. One day, when my master went away on foot, I
followed him, and saw him go into a house in University Street. Before
the house opposite, some servants were standing and talking. I asked
them who the gentleman was; and they told me it was the son of the
Marquis de Boiscoran."
"So much for the master; but the lady."
Suky Wood smiled.
"As for the lady," she replied, "I did the same thing to find her out.
It cost me, however, a great deal more time and a great deal more
patience, because she took the very greatest precautions; and I lost
more than one afternoon in watching her. But, the more she tried to
hide, the more I was curious to know, as a matter of course. At last,
one evening when she left the house in her carriage, I took a cab and
followed her. I traced her thus to her house; and next morning I
talked to the servants there, and they told me that she was a lady who
lived in the province, but came every year to Paris to spend a month
with her parents, and that her name was Countess Claudieuse."
And Jacques had imagined and strongly maintained that Suky would not
know any thing, in fact, could not know any thing!
"But did you ever see this lady?" asked M. Folgat.
"As well as I see you."
"Would you recognize her?"
"And if you saw her portrait?"
"I should know it at once."
M. Folgat handed her the album.
"Well, look for her," he said.
She had found the likeness in a moment.
"Here she is!" cried Suky, putting her finger on the photograph.
There was no doubt any longer.
"But now, Miss Suky," said the young advocate, "you will have to
repeat all that before a magistrate."
"I will do so with pleasure. It is the truth."
"If that is so, they will send for you at your lodgings, and you will
please stay there till you are called. You need not trouble yourself
about any thing. You shall have whatever you want, and they will pay
you your wages as if you were in service."
M. Folgat had not time to say more; for Dr. Seignebos rushed in like a
tempest, and cried out at the top of his voice,--
"Victory! We are victorious now! Great Victory!"
But he could not speak before Suky and the agent. They were sent off;
and, as soon as they had left the room, he said to M. Folgat,--
"I am just from the hospital. I have seen Goudar. He had done it. He
had made Cocoleu talk."
"And what does he say?"
"Well, exactly what I knew he would say, as soon as they could loose
his tongue. But you will hear it all; for it is not enough that
Cocoleu should confess it to Goudar: there must be witnesses present
to certify to the confessions of the wretch."
"He will not talk before witnesses."
"He must not see them: they can be concealed. The place is admirably
adapted for such a purpose."
"But how, if Cocoleu refuses to talk after the witnesses have been
"He will not. Goudar has found out a way to make him talk whenever he
wants it. Ah! that man is a clever man, and understands his business
thoroughly. Have you full confidence in him?"
"Well, he says he is sure he will succeed. 'Come to-day,' he said to
me, 'between one and two, with M. Folgat, the commonwealth attorney,
and M. Galpin: put yourself where I will show you, and then let me go
to work.' Then he showed me the place where he wants us to remain, and
told me how we should let him know when we are all ready."
M. Folgat did not hesitate.
"We have not a moment to lose. Let me go at once to the court-house."
But they were hardly in the passage when they were met by Mechinet,
who came running up out of breath, and half mad with delight.
"M. Daubigeon sends me to say you must come to him at once. Great
news! Great news!"
And immediately he told them in a few words what had happened in the
morning,--Trumence's statement, and the deposition of the maid of
"Ah, now we are safe!" cried Dr. Seignebos.
M. Folgat was pale with excitement. Still he proposed,--
"Let us tell the marquis and Miss Dionysia what is going on before we
leave the house."
"No," said the doctor, "no! Let us wait till every thing is quite
safe. Let us go quick; let us go at once."
They were right to make haste. The magistrate and the commonwealth
attorney were waiting for them with the greatest impatience. As soon
as they came into the small room of the clerk's office, M. Daubigeon
"Well, I suppose Mechinet has told you all?"
"Yes," replied M. Folgat; "but we have some information of which you
have heard as yet nothing."
Then he told them that Suky Wood had arrived, and what she had given
in as evidence.
M. Galpin had sunk into a chair, completely crushed by the weight of
so many proofs of his misapprehension of the case. There he sat
without saying a word, without moving a muscle. But M. Daubigeon was
"Most assuredly," he cried, "Jacques must be innocent!"
"Most assuredly he is innocent!" said Dr. Seignebos; "and the proof of
it is, that I know who is guilty."
"And you will know too, if you will take the trouble of following me,
with M. Galpin, to the hospital."
It was just striking one; and not one of them all had eaten any thing
that morning. But they had no time to think of breakfast.
Without a shadow of hesitation, M. Daubigeon turned to M. Galpin, and
"Will you come, Galpin?"
The poor magistrate rose mechanically, after the manner of an
automaton, and they went out, creating no small sensation among the
good people of Sauveterre, when they appeared thus all in a group.
M. Daubigeon spoke first to the lady superior of the hospital; and,
when he had explained to her what their purpose was in coming there,
she raised her eyes heavenward, and said with a sigh of resignation,--
"Well, gentlemen, do as you like, and I hope you will be successful;
for it is a sore trial for us poor sisters to have these continual
visitations in the name of the law."
"Please follow me, then, to the Insane Ward, gentlemen," said the
They call the Insane Ward at the Sauveterre hospital a small, low
building, with a sanded court in front, and a tall wall around the
whole. The building is divided into six cells, each of which has two
doors,--one opening into the court, and the other an outside door for
the assistants and servants.
It was to one of these latter doors that Dr. Seignebos led his
friends. And after having recommended to them the most perfect
silence, so as not to rouse Cocoleu's suspicions, he invited them into
one of the cells, in which the door leading into the court had been
closed. There was, however, a little grated window in the upper part
of the door, so that they could, without being seen, both see and hear
all that was said and done in the court reserved for the use of the
Not two yards from the little window, Goudar and Cocoleu were sitting
on a wooden bench in the bright sunlight.
By long study and a great effort of will, Goudar had succeeded in
giving to his face a most perfect expression of stupidity: even the
people belonging to the hospital thought he was more idiotic than the
He held in his hand his violin, which the doctor had ordered to be
left to him; and he accompanied himself with a few notes, as he
repeated the same familiar song which he had sung on the New-Market
Square when he first accosted M. Folgat.
Cocoleu, a large piece of bread-and-butter in one hand, and a big
clasp-knife in the other, was finishing his meal.
But this music delighted him so intensely, that he actually forgot to
eat, and, with hanging lip and half-closed eyes, rocked himself to and
fro, keeping time with the measure.
"They look hideous!" M. Folgat could not keep from whispering. In the
meantime Goudar, warned by the preconcerted signal, had finished his
song. He bent over, and drew from under the bench an enormous bottle,
from which he seemed to draw a considerable quantity of something
Then he passed it to Cocoleu, who likewise began to pull, eagerly and
long, and with an expression of idiotic beatitude. Then patting his
stomach with his hands, he said,--
M. Daubigeon whispered into Dr. Seignebos's ear,--
"Ah, I begin to see! I notice from Cocoleu's eyes, that this practice
with the bottle must have been going on for some time already. Cocoleu
Goudar again took up his violin and repeated his song.
"I--I--want--want to--to drink!" stammered Cocoleu.
Goudar kept him waiting a little while, and then handed him the
bottle. The idiot threw back his head, and drank till he had lost his
breath. Then Goudar asked,--
"Ah! you did not have such good wine to drink at Valpinson?"
"Oh, yes!" replied Cocoleu.
"But as much as you wanted?"
And, laughing with some difficulty, he stammered, and stuttered out,--
"I got--got into the cellar through one of the windows; and I drank--
drank through--through a--a straw."
"You must be sorry you are no longer there?"
"But, if you were so well off at Valpinson, why did you set it on
The witnesses of the strange scene crowded to the little window of the
cell, and held their breath with eager expectation.
"I wanted to burn some fagots only, to make the count come out. It was
not my fault, if the whole house got on fire."
"And why did you want to kill the count?"
"Because I wanted the great lady to marry M. de Boiscoran."
"Ah! She told you to do it, did she?"
"Oh, no! But she cried so much; and then she told me she would be so
happy if her husband were dead. And she was always good to Cocoleu;
and the count was always bad; and so I shot him."
"Well! But why, then, did you say it was M. de Boiscoran who shot the
"They said at first it was me. I did not like that. I would rather
they should cut off his head than mine."
He shuddered as he said this, so that Goudar, afraid of having gone
rather too fast, took up his violin, and gave him a verse of his song
to quiet him. Then accompanying his words still now and then with a
few notes, and after having allowed Cocoleu to caress his bottle once
more, he asked again,--
"Where did you get a gun?"
"I--I had taken it from the count to shoot birds: and I--I have it
still--still. It is hid in the hole where Michael found me."
Poor Dr. Seignebos could not stand it any longer. He suddenly pushed
open the door, and, rushing into the court, he cried,--
"Bravo, Goudar! Well done!"
At the noise, Cocoleu had started up. He evidently understood it all;
for terror drove the fumes of the wine out of his mind in an instant,
and he looked frightened to death.
"Ah, you scoundrel!" he howled.
And, throwing himself upon Goudar, he plunged his knife twice into
The movement was so rapid and so sudden, that it had been impossible
to prevent it. Pushing M. Folgat violently back as he tried to disarm
him, Cocoleu leaped into a corner of the court, and there, looking
like a wild beast driven to bay, his eyes bloodshot, his mouth
foaming, he threatened with his formidable knife to kill any one who
should come near him.
At the cries of M. Daubigeon and M. Galpin, the assistants in the
hospital came rushing in. The struggle, however, would probably have
been a long one, notwithstanding their numbers, if one of the keepers
had not, with great presence of mind, climbed up to the top of the
wall, and caught the arm of the wretch in a noose. By these means he
was thrown down in a moment, disarmed, and rendered harmless.
"You--you may--may do--do what you--you choose; I--I won't say--say
In the meantime, poor Dr. Seignebos, who had unwillingly caused the
catastrophe, was distressed beyond measure; still he hastened to the
assistance of Goudar, who lay insensible on the sand of the court. The
two wounds which the detective had received were quite serious, but
not fatal, or even very dangerous, as the knife had been turned aside
by the ribs. He was at once carried into one of the private rooms of
the hospital, and soon recovered his consciousness.
When he saw all four of the gentlemen bending anxiously over his bed,
he murmured with a mournful smile,--
"Well, was I not right when I said that my profession is a rascally
"But you are at liberty now to give it up," replied M. Folgat,
"provided always a certain house in Vine Street should not prove too
small for your ambition."
The pale face of the detective recovered its color for a moment.
"Will they really give it to me?" he asked.
"Since you have discovered the real criminal, and handed him over to
"Well, then, I will bless these wounds: I feel that I shall be up
again in a fortnight. Give me quick pen and ink, that I may write my
resignation immediately, and tell my wife the good news."
He was interrupted by the entrance of one of the officers of the
court, who, walking up to the commonwealth attorney, said to him
"Sir, the priest from Brechy is waiting for you at your office."
"I am coming directly," replied M. Daubigeon.
And, turning to his companions, he said,--
"Let us go, gentlemen."
The priest was waiting, and rose quickly from his chair when he saw M.
Daubigeon enter, accompanied by M. Galpin, M. Folgat, and Dr.
"Perhaps you wish to speak to me alone, sir?" asked M. Daubigeon.
"No, sir," replied the old priest, "no! The words of reparation which
have been intrusted to me must be uttered publicly." And handing him a
letter, he added,--
"Read this. Please read it aloud."
The commonwealth attorney tore the envelope with a tremulous hand, an