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Within an Inch of His Life by Emile Gaboriau

Part 12 out of 12

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"Being about to die as a Christian, as I have lived as a Christian,
I owe it to myself, I owe it to God whom I have offended, and I
owe it to those men whom I have deceived, to declare the truth.

"Actuated by hatred, I have been guilty of giving false evidence in
court, and of stating wrongfully that M. de Boiscoran is the man
who shot at me, and that I recognized him in the act.

"I did not only not recognize him, but I know that he is innocent.
I am sure of it; and I swear it by all I hold sacred in this world
which I am about to leave, and in that world in which I must
appear before my sovereign Judge.

"May M. de Boiscoran pardon me as I pardon myself.


"Poor man!" murmured M. Folgat.

The priest at once went on,--

"You see, gentlemen, Count Claudieuse withdraws his charge
unconditionally. He asks for nothing in return: he only wants the
truth to be established. And yet I beg leave to express the last
wishes of a dying man. I beseech you, in the new trial, to make no
mention of the name of the countess."

Tears were seen in all eyes.

"You may rest assured, reverend father," said M. Daubigeon, "that
Count Claudieuse's last wishes shall be attended to. The name of the
countess shall not appear. There will be no need for it. The secret of
her wrongs shall be religiously kept by those who know it."

It was four o'clock now.

An hour later there arrived at the court-house a gendarme and Michael,
the son of the Boiscoran tenant, who had been sent out to ascertain if
Cocoleu's statement was true. They brought back the gun which the
wretch had used, and which he had concealed in that den which he had
dug out for himself in the forest of Rochepommier, and where Michael
had discovered him the day after the crime.

Henceforth Jacques's innocence was as clear as daylight; and although
he had to bear the burden of his sentence till the judgment was
declared void, it was decided, with the consent of the president of
the court, M. Domini, and the active cooperation of M. Gransiere, that
he should be set free that same evening.

M. Folgat and M. Magloire were charged with the pleasant duty of
informing the prisoner of this happy news. They found him walking up
and down in his cell like a madman, devoured by unspeakable anguish,
and not knowing what to make of the words of hope which M. Daubigeon
had spoken to him in the morning.

He was hopeful, it is true; and yet when he was told that he was safe,
that he was free, he sank, an inert mass, into a chair, being less
able to bear joy than sorrow.

But such emotions are not apt to last long. A few moments later, and
Jacques de Boiscoran, arm in arm with his counsel, left his prison, in
which he had for several months suffered all that an honest man can
suffer. He had paid a fearful penalty for what, in the eyes of so many
men, is but a trifling wrong.

When they reached the street in which the Chandores lived, M. Folgat
said to his client,--

"They do not expect you, I am sure. Go slowly, while I go ahead to
prepare them."

He found Jacques's parents and friends assembled in the parlor,
suffering great anxiety; for they had not been able to ascertain if
there were any truth in the vague rumors which had reached them.

The young advocate employed the utmost caution in preparing them for
the truth; but at the first words Dionysia asked,--

"Where is Jacques?"

Jacques was kneeling at her feet, overcome with gratitude and love.


The next day the funeral of Count Claudieuse took place. His youngest
daughter was buried at the same time; and in the evening the Countess
left Sauveterre, to make her home henceforth with her father in Paris.

In the proper course of the law, the sentence which condemned Jacques
was declared null and void; and Cocoleu, found guilty of having
committed the crime at Valpinson, was sentenced to hard labor for

A month later Jacques de Boiscoran was married at the church in Brechy
to Dionysia de Chandore. The witnesses for the bridegroom were M.
Magloire and Dr. Seignebos; the witnesses for the bride, M. Folgat and
M. Daubigeon.

Even the excellent commonwealth attorney laid aside on that day some
of his usual gravity. He continually repeated,--

"Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero
Pulsanda tellus."

And he really did drink his glass of wine, and opened the ball with
the bride.

M. Galpin, who was sent to Algiers, was not present at the wedding.
But M. Mechinet was there, quite brilliant, and, thanks to Jacques,
free from all pecuniary troubles.

The two Blangins, husband and wife, have well-nigh spent the whole of
the large sums of money which they extorted from Dionysia. Trumence,
private bailiff at Boiscoran, is the terror of all vagrants.

And Goudar, in his garden and nursery, sells the finest peaches in Paris.

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