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Within an Inch of His Life by Emile Gaboriau

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while the four others clung to her dress.

All these misfortunes were traced back to Jacques, who was loaded with
curses; and the people now thought of receiving his mother, the
marchioness, with fierce hootings.

"There she is, there she is!" they said in the crowd, when she
appeared in the station, leaning upon M. Folgat's arm.

But they did not say another word, so great was their surprise at her
appearance. Immediately two parties were formed. "She puts a bold face
on it," said some; while others declared, "She is quite sure of her
son's innocence."

At all events, she had presence of mind enough to see what an
impression she produced, and how well she had done to follow M.
Folgat's advice. It gave her additional strength. As she distinguished
in the crowd some people whom she knew, she went up to them, and,
smiling, said,--

"Well, you know what has happened to us. It is unheard of! Here is the
liberty of a man like my son at the mercy of the first foolish notion
that enters the head of a magistrate. I heard the news yesterday by
telegram, and came down at once with this gentleman, a friend of ours,
and one of the first lawyers of Paris."

M. Folgat looked embarrassed: he would have liked more considerate
words. Still he could not help supporting the marchioness in what she
had said.

"These gentlemen of the court," he said in measured tones, "will
perhaps be sorry for what they have done."

Fortunately a young man, whose whole livery consisted in a gold-laced
cap, came up to them at this moment.

"M. de Chandore's carriage is here," he said.

"Very well," replied the marchioness.

And bowing to the good people of Sauveterre, who were quite dumfounded
by her assurance, she said,--

"Pardon me if I leave you so soon; but M. de Chandore expects us. I
shall, however, be happy to call upon you soon, on my son's arm."

The house of the Chandore family stands on the other side of the New-
Market Place, at the very top of the street, which is hardly more than
a line of steps, which the mayor persistently calls upon the municipal
council to grade, and which the latter as persistently refuse to
improve. The building is quite new, massive but ugly, and has at the
side a pretentious little tower with a peaked roof, which Dr.
Seignebos calls a perpetual menace of the feudal system.

It is true the Chandores once upon a time were great feudal lords, and
for a long time exhibited a profound contempt for all who could not
boast of noble ancestors and a deep hatred of revolutionary ideas. But
if they had ever been formidable, they had long since ceased to be so.
Of the whole great family,--one of the most numerous and most powerful
of the province,--only one member survived, the Baron de Chandore, and
a girl, his granddaughter, betrothed to Jacques de Boiscoran. Dionysia
was an orphan. She was barely three years old, when within five
months, she lost her father, who fell in a duel, and her mother, who
had not the strength to survive the man whom she had loved. This was
certainly for the child a terrible misfortune; but she was not left
uncared for nor unloved. Her grandfather bestowed all his affections
upon her; and the two sisters of her mother, the Misses Lavarande,
then already no longer young, determined never to marry, so as to
devote themselves exclusively to their niece. From that day the two
good ladies had wished to live in the baron's house; but from the
beginning he had utterly refused to listen to their propositions,
asserting that he was perfectly able himself to watch over the child,
and wanted to have her all to himself. All he would grant was, that
the ladies might spend the day with Dionysia whenever they chose.

Hence arose a certain rivalry between the aunts and the grandfather,
which led both parties to most amazing exaggerations. Each one did
what could be done to engage the affections of the little girl; each
one was willing to pay any price for the most trifling caress. At five
years Dionysia had every toy that had ever been invented. At ten she
was dressed like the first lady of the land, and had jewelry in

The grandfather, in the meantime, had been metamorphosed from head to
foot. Rough, rigid, and severe, he had suddenly become a "love of a
father." The fierce look had vanished from his eyes, the scorn from
his lips; and both had given way to soft glances and smooth words. He
was seen daily trotting through the streets, and going from shop to
shop on errands for his grandchild. He invited her little friends,
arranged picnics for her, helped her drive her hoops, and if needs be,
led in a cotillion.

If Dionysia looked displeased, he trembled. If she coughed, he turned
pale. Once she was sick: she had the measles. He staid up for twelve
nights in succession, and sent to Paris for doctors, who laughed in
his face.

And yet the two old ladies found means to exceed his folly.

If Dionysia learned any thing at all, it was only because she herself
insisted upon it: otherwise the writing-master and the music-master
would have been sent away at the slightest sign of weariness.

Sauveterre saw it, and shrugged its shoulders.

"What a wretched education!" the ladies said. "Such weakness is
absolutely unheard of. They tender the child a sorry service."

There was no doubt that such almost incredible spoiling, such blind
devotion, and perpetual worship, came very near making of Dionysia the
most disagreeable little person that ever lived. But fortunately she
had one of those happy dispositions which cannot be spoiled; and
besides, she was perhaps saved from the danger by its very excess. As
she grew older she would say with a laugh,--

"Grandpapa Chandore, my aunts Lavarande, and I, we do just what we

That was only a joke. Never did a young girl repay such sweet
affection with rarer and nobler qualities.

She was thus leading a happy life, free from all care, and was just
seventeen years old, when the great event of her life took place. M.
de Chandore one morning met Jacques de Boiscoran, whose uncle had been
a friend of his, and invited him to dinner. Jacques accepted the
invitation, and came. Dionysia saw him, and loved him.

Now, for the first time in her life, she had a secret unknown to
Grandpapa Chandore and to her aunts; and for two years the birds and
the flowers were the only confidants of this love of hers, which grew
up in her heart, sweet like a dream, idealized by absence, and fed by

For Jacques's eyes remained blind for two years.

But the day on which they were opened he felt that his fate was
sealed. Nor did he hesitate a moment; and in less than a month after
that, the Marquis de Boiscoran came down to Sauveterre, and in all
form asked Dionysia's hand for his son.

Ah! that was a heavy blow for Grandpapa Chandore.

He had, of course, often thought of the future marriage of his
grandchild; he had even at times spoken of it, and told her that he
was getting old, and should feel very much relieved when he should
have found her a good husband. But he talked of it as a distant thing,
very much as we speak of dying. M. de Boiscoran brought his true
feelings out. He shuddered at the idea of giving up Dionysia, of
seeing her prefer another man to himself, and of loving her children
best of all. He was quite inclined to throw the ambassador out of the

Still he checked his feelings, and replied that he could give no reply
till he had consulted his granddaughter.

Poor grandpapa! At the very first words he uttered, she exclaimed,--

"Oh, I am so happy! But I expected it."

M. de Chandore bent his head to conceal a tear which burned in his
eyes. Then he said very low,--

"Then the thing is settled."

At once, rather comforted by the joy that was sparkling in his
grandchild's eyes, he began reproaching himself for his selfishness,
and for being unhappy, when his Dionysia seemed to be so happy.
Jacques had, of course, been allowed to visit the house as a lover;
and the very day before the fire at Valpinson, after having long and
carefully counted the days absolutely required for all the purchases
of the trousseau, and all the formalities of the event, the wedding-
day had been finally fixed.

Thus Dionysia was struck down in the very height of her happiness,
when she heard, at the same time, of the terrible charges brought
against M. de Boiscoran, and of his arrest.

At first, thunderstruck, she had lain nearly ten minutes unconscious
in the arms of her aunts, who, like the grandfather, were themselves
utterly overcome with terror. But, as soon as she came to, she

"Am I mad to give way thus? Is it not evident that he is innocent?"

Then she had sent her telegram to the marquis, knowing well, that,
before taking any measures, it was all important to come to an
understanding with Jacques's family. Then she had begged to be left
alone; and she had spent the night in counting the minutes that must
pass till the hour came when the train from Paris would bring her

At eight o'clock she had come down to give orders herself that a
carriage should be sent to the station for the marchioness, adding
that they must drive back as fast as they could. Then she had gone
into the sitting-room to join her grandfather and her aunts. They
talked to her; but her thoughts were elsewhere.

At last a carriage was heard coming up rapidly, and stopping before
the house. She got up, rushed into the hall, and cried,--

"Here is Jacques's mother!"


We cannot do violence to our natural feelings without paying for it.
The marchioness had nearly fainted when she could at last take refuge
in the carriage: she was utterly overcome by the great effort she had
made to present to the curious people of Sauveterre a smiling face and
calm features.

"What a horrible comedy!" she murmured, as she sank back on the

"Admit, at least, madam," said the lawyer, "that it was necessary. You
have won over, perhaps, a hundred persons to your son's side."

She made no reply. Her tears stifled her. What would she not have
given for a few moments' solitude, to give way to all the grief of her
heart, to all the anxiety of a mother! The time till she reached the
house seemed to her an eternity; and, although the horse was driven at
a furious rate, she felt as if they were making no progress. At last
the carriage stopped.

The little servant had jumped down, and opened the door, saying,--

"Here we are."

The marchioness got out with M. Folgat's assistance; and her foot was
hardly on the ground, when the house-door opened, and Dionysia threw
herself into her arms, too deeply moved to speak. At last she broke

"Oh, my mother, my mother! what a terrible misfortune!"

In the passage M. de Chandore was coming forward. He had not been able
to follow his granddaughter's rapid steps.

"Let us go in," he said to the two ladies: "don't stand there!"

For at all the windows curious eyes were peeping through the blinds.

He drew them into the sitting-room. Poor M. Folgat was sorely
embarrassed what to do with himself. No one seemed to be aware of his
existence. He followed them, however. He entered the room, and
standing by the door, sharing the general excitement, he was watching
by turns, Dionysia, M. de Chandore, and the two spinsters.

Dionysia was then twenty years old. It could not be said that she was
uncommonly beautiful; but no one could ever forget her again who had
once seen her. Small in form, she was grace personified; and all her
movements betrayed a rare and exquisite perfection. Her black hair
fell in marvellous masses over her head, and contrasted strangely with
her blue eyes and her fair complexion. Her skin was of dazzling
whiteness. Every thing in her features spoke of excessive timidity.
And yet, from certain movements of her lips and her eyebrows, one
might have suspected no lack of energy.

Grandpapa Chandore looked unusually tall by her side. His massive
frame was imposing. He did not show his seventy-two years, but was as
straight as ever, and seemed to be able to defy all the storms of
life. What struck strangers most, perhaps, was his dark-red
complexion, which gave him the appearance of an Indian chieftain,
while his white beard and hair brought the crimson color still more
prominently out. In spite of his herculean frame and his strange
complexion, his face bore the expression of almost child-like
goodness. But the first glance at his eyes proved that the gentle
smile on his lips was not to be taken alone. There were flashes in his
gray eyes which made people aware that a man who should dare, for
instance, to offend Dionysia, would have to pay for it pretty dearly.

As to the two aunts, they were as tall and thin as a couple of willow-
rods, pale, discreet, ultra-aristocratic in their reserve and their
coldness; but they bore in their faces an expression of happy peace
and sentimental tenderness, such as is often seen in old maids whose
temper has not been soured by celibacy. They dressed absolutely alike,
as they had done now for forty years, preferring neutral colors and
modest fashions, such as suited their simple taste.

They were crying bitterly at that moment; and M. Folgat felt
instinctively that there was no sacrifice of which they were not
capable for their beloved niece's sake.

"Poor Dionysia!" they whispered.

The girl heard them, however; and, drawing herself up, she said,--

"But we are behaving shamefully. What would Jacques say, if he could
see us from his prison! Why should we be so sad? Is he not innocent?"

Her eyes shone with unusual brilliancy: her voice had a ring which
moved Manuel Folgat deeply.

"I can at least, in justice to myself," she went on saying, "assure
you that I have never doubted him for a moment. And how should I ever
have dared to doubt? The very night on which the fire broke out,
Jacques wrote me a letter of four pages, which he sent me by one of
his tenants, and which reached me at nine o'clock. I showed it to
grandpapa. He read it, and then he said I was a thousand times right,
because a man who had been meditating such a crime could never have
written that letter."

"I said so, and I still think so," added M. de Chandore; "and every
sensible man will think so too; but"--

His granddaughter did not let him finish.

"It is evident therefore, that Jacques is the victim of an abominable
intrigue; and we must unravel it. We have cried enough: now let us

Then, turning to the marchioness, she said,--

"And my dear mother, I sent for you, because we want you to help us in
this great work."

"And here I am," replied the old lady, "not less certain of my son's
innocence than you are."

Evidently M. de Chandore had been hoping for something more; for he
interrupted her, asking,--

"And the marquis?"

"My husband remained in Paris."

The old gentleman's face assumed a curious expression.

"Ah, that is just like him," he said. "Nothing can move him. His only
son is wickedly accused of a crime, arrested, thrown into prison. They
write to him; they hope he will come at once. By no means. Let his son
get out of trouble as he can. He has his /faiences/ to attend to. Oh,
if I had a son!"

"My husband," pleaded the marchioness, "thinks he can be more useful
to Jacques in Paris than here. There will be much to be done there."

"Have we not the railway?"

"Moreover," she went on, "he intrusted me to this gentleman." She
pointed out M. Folgat.

"M. Manuel Folgat, who has promised us the assistance of his
experience, his talents, and his devotion."

When thus formally introduced, M. Folgat bowed, and said,--

"I am all hope. But I think with Miss Chandore, that we must go to
work without losing a second. Before I can decide, however, upon what
is to be done, I must know all the facts."

"Unfortunately we know nothing," replied M. de Chandore,--"nothing,
except that Jacques is kept in close confinement."

"Well, then, we must try to find out. You know, no doubt, all the law
officers of Sauveterre?"

"Very few. I know the commonwealth attorney."

"And the magistrate before whom the matter has been brought."

The older of the two Misses Lavarande rose, and exclaimed,--

"That man, M. Galpin, is a monster of hypocrisy and ingratitude. He
called himself Jacques's friend; and Jacques liked him well enough to
induce us, my sister and myself, to give our consent to a marriage
between him and one of our cousins, a Lavarande. Poor child. When she
learned the sad truth, she cried, 'Great God! God be blessed that I
escaped the disgrace of becoming the wife of such a man!' "

"Yes," added the other old lady, "if all Sauveterre thinks Jacques
guilty, let them also say, 'His own friend has become his judge.' "

M. Folgat shook his head, and said,--

"I must have more minute information. The marquis mentioned to me a M.
Seneschal, mayor of Sauveterre."

M. de Chandore looked at once for his hat, and said,--

"To be sure! He is a friend of ours; and, if any one is well informed,
he is. Let us go to him. Come."

M. Seneschal was indeed a friend of the Chandores, the Lavarandes, and
also of the Boiscorans. Although he was a lawyer he had become
attached to the people whose confidential adviser he had been for more
than twenty years. Even after having retired from business, M.
Seneschal had still retained the full confidence of his former
clients. They never decided on any grave question, without consulting
him first. His successor did the business for them; but M. Seneschal
directed what was to be done.

Nor was the assistance all on one side. The example of great people
like M. de Chandore and Jacques's uncle had brought many a peasant on
business into M. Seneschal's office; and when he was, at a later
period of his life, attacked by the fever of political ambition, and
offered to "sacrifice himself for his country" by becoming mayor of
Sauveterre, and a member of the general council, their support had
been of great service to him.

Hence he was well-nigh overcome when he returned, on that fatal
morning, to Sauveterre. He looked so pale and undone, that his wife
was seriously troubled.

"Great God, Augustus! What has happened?" she asked.

"Something terrible has happened," he replied in so tragic a manner,
that his wife began to tremble.

To be sure, Mrs. Seneschal trembled very easily. She was a woman of
forty-five or fifty years, very dark, short, and fat, trying hard to
breathe in the corsets which were specially made for her by the Misses
Mechinet, the clerk's sisters. When she was young, she had been rather
pretty: now she still kept the red cheeks of her younger days, a
forest of jet black hair, and excellent teeth. But she was not happy.
Her life had been spent in wishing for children, and she had none.

She consoled herself, it is true, by constantly referring to all the
most delicate details on the subject, mentioning not to her intimate
friends only, but to any one who would listen, her constant
disappointments, the physicians she had consulted, the pilgrimages she
had undertaken, and the quantities of fish she had eaten, although she
abominated fish. All had been in vain, and as her hopes fled with her
years, she had become resigned, and indulged now in a kind of romantic
sentimentality, which she carefully kept alive by reading novels and
poems without end. She had a tear ready for every unfortunate being,
and some words of comfort for every grief. Her charity was well known.
Never had a poor woman with children appealed to her in vain. In spite
of all that, she was not easily taken in. She managed her household
with her hand as well as with her eye; and no one surpassed her in the
extent of her washings, or the excellence of her dinners.

She was quite ready, therefore, to sigh and to sob when her husband
told her what had happened during the night. When he had ended, she

"That poor Dionysia is capable of dying of it. In your place, I would
go at once to M. de Chandore, and inform him in the most cautious
manner of what has happened."

"I shall take good care not to do so," replied M. Seneschal; "and I
tell you expressly not to go there yourself."

For he was by no means a philosopher; and, if he had been his own
master, he would have taken the first train, and gone off a hundred
miles, so as not to see the grief of the Misses Lavarande and
Grandpapa Chandore. He was exceedingly fond of Dionysia: he had been
hard at work for years to settle and to add to her fortune, as if she
had been his own daughter, and now to witness her grief! He shuddered
at the idea. Besides, he really did not know what to believe, and
influenced by M. Galpin's assurance, misled by public opinion, he had
come to ask himself if Jacques might not, after all, have committed
the crimes with which he was charged.

Fortunately his duties were on that day so numerous and so
troublesome, that he had no time to think. He had to provide for the
recovery and the transportation of the remains of the two unfortunate
victims of the fire; he had to receive the mother of one, and the
widow and children of the other, and to listen to their complaints,
and try to console them by promising the former a small pension, and
the latter some help in the education of their children. Then he had
to give directions to have the wounded men brought home; and, after
that, he had gone out in search of a house for Count Claudieuse and
his wife, which had given him much trouble. Finally, a large part of
the afternoon had been taken up by an angry discussion with Dr.
Seignebos. The doctor, in the name of outraged society, as he called
it, and in the name of justice and humanity, demanded the immediate
arrest of Cocoleu, that wretch whose unconscious statement formed the
basis of the accusation. He demanded with a furious oath that the
epileptic idiot should be sent to the hospital, and kept there so as
to be professionally examined by experts. The mayor had for some time
refused to grant the request, which seemed to him unreasonable; but he
doctor had talked so loud and insisted so strongly, that at last he
had sent two gendarmes to Brechy with orders to bring back Cocoleu.

They had returned several hours later with empty hands. The idiot had
disappeared; and no one in the whole district had been able to give
any information as to this whereabouts.

"And you think that is natural?" exclaimed Dr. Seignebos, whose eyes
were glaring at the mayor from under his spectacles. "To me that looks
like an absolute proof that a plot has been hatched to ruin M. de

"But can't you be quiet?" M. Seneschal said angrily. "Do you think
Cocoleu is lost? He will turn up again."

The doctor had left him without insisting any longer; but before going
home, he had dropped in at his club, and there, in the presence of
twenty people he had declared that he had positive proof of a plot
formed against M. de Boiscoran, whom the Monarchists had never
forgiven for having left them; and that the Jesuits were certainly
mixed up with the business.

This interference was more injurious than useful to Jacques; and the
consequences were soon seen. That same evening, when M. Galpin crossed
the New-Market Place, he was wantonly insulted. Very naturally he
went, almost in a fury, to call upon the mayor, to hold him
responsible for this insult offered to Justice in his person, and
asking for energetic punishment. M. Seneschal promised to take the
proper measures, and went to the commonwealth attorney to act in
concert with him. There he learned what had happened at Boiscoran, and
the terrible result of the examination.

So he had come home, quite sorrowful, distressed at Jacques's
situation, and very much disturbed by the political aspect which the
matter was beginning to wear. He had spent a bad night, and in the
morning had displayed such fearful temper, that his wife had hardly
dared to say a word to him. But even that was not all. At two o'clock
precisely, the funeral of Bolton and Guillebault was to take place;
and he had promised Capt. Parenteau that he would be present in his
official costume, and accompanied by the whole municipal council. He
had already given orders to have his uniform gotten ready, when the
servant announced visitors,--M. de Chandore and friend.

"That was all that was wanting!" he exclaimed

But, thinking it over, he added,--

"Well, it had to come sooner r later. Show them in!"

M. Seneschal was too good to be so troubled in advance, and to prepare
himself for a heart-rending scene. He was amazed at the easy, almost
cheerful manner with which M. de Chandore presented to him his

"M. Manuel Folgat, my dear Seneschal, a famous lawyer from Paris, who
has been kind enough to come down with the Marchioness de Boiscoran."

"I am a stranger here, M. Seneschal," said Folgat: "I do not know the
manner of thinking, the customs, the interests, the prejudices, of
this country; in fact, I am totally ignorant, and I know I would
commit many a grievous blunder, unless I could secure the assistance
of an able and experienced counsellor. M. de Boiscoran and M. de
Chandore have both encouraged me to hope that I might find such a man
in you."

"Certainly, sir, and with all my heart," replied M. Seneschal, bowing
politely, and evidently flattered by this deference on the part of a
great Paris lawyer.

He had offered his guests seats. He had sat down himself, and resting
his elbow on the arm of his big office-chair, he rubbed his clean-
shaven chin with his hand.

"This is a very serious matter, gentlemen," he said at last.

"A criminal charge is always serious," replied M. Folgat.

"Upon my word," cried M. de Chandore, "you are not in doubt about
Jacques's innocence?"

M. Seneschal did not say, No. He was silent, thinking of the wise
remarks made by his wife the evening before.

"How can we know," he began at last, "what may be going on in young
brains of twenty-five when they are set on fire by the remembrance of
certain insults! Wrath is a dangerous counsellor."

Grandpapa Chandore refused to hear any more.

"What! do you talk to me of wrath?" he broke in; "and what do you see
of wrath in this Valpinson affair? I see nothing in it, for my part,
but the very meanest crime, long prepared and coolly carried out."

The mayor very seriously shook his head, and said,--

"You do not know all that has happened."

"Sir," added M. Folgat, "it is precisely for the purpose of hearing
what has happened that we come to you."

"Very well," said M. Seneschal.

Thereupon he went to work to describe the events which he had
witnessed at Valpinson, and those, which, as he had learned from the
commonwealth attorney, had taken place at Boiscoran; and this he did
with all the lucidity of an experienced old lawyer who is accustomed
to unravel the mysteries of complicated suits. He wound up by

"Finally, do you know what Daubigeon said to me, whose evidence you
will certainly know how to appreciate? He said in so many words,
'Galpin could not but order the arrest of M. de Boiscoran. Is he
guilty? I do not know what to think of it. The accusation is
overwhelming. He swears by all the gods that he is innocent; but he
will not tell how he spent the night.' "

M. de Chandore, in spite of his vigor, was near fainting, although his
face remained as crimson as ever. Nothing on earth could make him turn

"Great God!" he murmured, "what will Dionysia say?"

Then, turning to M. Folgat, he said aloud,--

"And yet Jacques had something in his mind for that evening."

"Do you think so?"

"I am sure of it. But for that, he would certainly have come to the
house, as he has done every evening for a month. Besides, he said so
himself in the letter which he sent Dionysia by one of his tenants,
and which she mentioned to you. He wrote, 'I curse from the bottom of
my heart the business which prevents me from spending the evening with
you; but I cannot possibly defer it any longer. To-morrow!' "

"You see," said M. Seneschal.

"The letter is of such a nature," continued the old gentleman, "that I
repeat, No man who premeditated such a hideous crime could possibly
have written it. Nevertheless, I confess to you, that, when I heard
the fatal news, this very allusion to some pressing business impressed
me painfully."

But the young lawyer seemed to be far from being convinced.

"It is evident," he said, "that M. de Boiscoran will on no account let
it be known where he went."

"He told a falsehood, sir," insisted M. Seneschal. "He commenced by
denying that he had gone the way on which the witnesses met him."

"Very naturally, since he desires to keep the place unknown to which
he went."

"He did not say any more when he was told that he was under arrest."

"Because he hopes he will get out of this trouble without betraying
his secret."

"If that were so, it would be very strange."

"Stranger things than that have happened."

"To allow himself to be accused of incendiarism and murder when he is

"To be innocent, and to allow one's self to be condemned, is still
stranger; and yet there are instances"--

The young lawyer spoke in that short, imperious tone which is, so to
say, the privilege of his profession, and with such an accent of
assurance, that M. de Chandore felt his hopes revive. M. Seneschal was
sorely troubled.

"And what do you think, sir?" he asked.

"That M. de Boiscoran must be innocent," replied the young advocate.
And, without leaving time for objections, he continued,--

"That is the opinion of a man who is not influenced by any
consideration. I come here without any preconceived notions. I do not
know Count Claudieuse any more than M. de Boiscoran. A crime has been
committed: I am told the circumstances; and I at once come to the
conclusion that the reasons which led to the arrest of the accused
would lead me to set him at liberty."


"Let me explain. If M. de Boiscoran is guilty, he has shown, in the
way in which he received M. Galpin at the house, a perfectly unheard-
of self-control, and a matchless genius for comedy. Therefore, if he
is guilty, he is immensely clever"--


"Allow me to finish. If he is guilty, he has in the examination shown
a marvellous want of self-control, and, to be brief, a nameless
stupidity: therefore, if he is guilty, he is immensely stupid"--


"Allow me to finish. Can one and the same person be at once so
unusually clever and so unusually stupid? Judge yourself. But again:
if M. de Boiscoran is guilty, he ought to be sent to the insane
asylum, and not to prison; for any one else but a madman would have
poured out the dirty water in which he had washed his blackened hands,
and would have buried anywhere that famous breech-loader, of which the
prosecution makes such good use."

"Jacques is safe!" exclaimed M. de Chandore.

M. Seneschal was not so easily won over.

"That is specious pleading," he said. "Unfortunately, we want
something more than a logic conclusion to meet a jury with an
abundance of witnesses on the other side."

"We will find more on our side."

"What do you propose to do?"

"I do not know. I have just told you my first impression. Now I must
study the case, and examine the witnesses, beginning with old

M. de Chandore had risen. He said,--

"We can reach Boiscoran in an hour. Shall I send for my carriage?"

"As quickly as possible," replied the young lawyer.

M. de Chandore's servant was back in a quarter of an hour, and
announced that the carriage was at the door. M. de Chandore and M.
Folgat took their seats; and, while they were getting in, the mayor
warned the young Paris lawyer,--

"Above all, be prudent and circumspect. The public mind is already but
too much inflamed. Politics are mixed up with the case. I am afraid of
some disturbance at the burial of the firemen; and they bring me word
that Dr. Seignebos wants to make a speech at the graveyard. Good-by
and good luck!"

The driver whipped the horse, and, as the carriage was going down
through the suburbs, M. de Chandore said,--

"I cannot understand why Anthony did not come to me immediately after
his master had been arrested. What can have happened to him?"


M. Seneschal's horse was perhaps one of the very best in the whole
province; but M. de Chandore's was still better. In less than fifty
minutes they had driven the whole distance to Boiscoran; and during
this time M. de Chandore and M. Folgat had not exchanged fifty words.

When they reached Boiscoran, the courtyard was silent and deserted.
Doors and windows were hermetically closed. On the steps of the porch
sat a stout young peasant, who, at the sight of the newcomers, rose,
and carried his hand to his cap.

"Where is Anthony?" asked M. de Chandore.

"Up stairs, sir."

The old gentleman tried to open the door: it resisted.

"O sir! Anthony has barricaded the door from the inside."

"A curious idea," said M. de Chandore, knocking with the butt-end of
his whip.

He was knocking fiercer and fiercer, when at last Anthony's voice was
heard from within,--

"Who is there?"

"It is I, Baron Chandore."

The bars were removed instantly, and the old valet showed himself in
the door. He looked pale and undone. The disordered condition of his
beard, his hair, and his dress, showed that he had not been to bed.
And this disorder was full of meaning in a man who ordinarily prided
himself upon appearing always in the dress of an English gentleman.

M. de Chandore was so struck by this, that he asked, first of all,--

"What is the matter with you, my good Anthony?"

Instead of replying, Anthony drew the baron and his companion inside;
and, when he had fastened the door again, he crossed his arms, and

"The matter is--well, I am afraid."

The old gentleman and the lawyer looked at each other. They evidently
both thought the poor man had lost his mind. Anthony saw it, and said

"No, I am not mad, although, certainly, there are things passing here
which could make one doubtful of one's own senses. If I am afraid, it
is for good reasons."

"You do not doubt your master?" asked M. Folgat.

The servant cast such fierce, threatening glances at the lawyer, that
M. de Chandore hastened to interfere.

"My dear Anthony," he said, "this gentleman is a friend of mine, a
lawyer, who has come down from Paris with the marchioness to defend
Jacques. You need not mistrust him, nay, more than that, you must tell
him all you know, even if"--

The trusty old servant's face brightened up, and he exclaimed,--

"Ah! If the gentleman is a lawyer. Welcome, sir. Now I can say all
that weighs on my heart. No, most assuredly I do not think Master
Jacques guilty. It is impossible he should be so: it is absurd to
think of it. But what I believe, what I am sure of, is this,--there is
a plot to charge him with all the horrors of Valpinson."

"A plot?" broke in M. Folgat, "whose? how? and what for?"

"Ah! that is more than I know. But I am not mistaken; and you would
think so too, if you had been present at the examination, as I was. It
was fearful, gentlemen, it was unbearable, so that even I was
stupefied for a moment, and thought my master was guilty, and advised
him to flee. The like has never been heard of before, I am sure. Every
thing went against him. Every answer he made sounded like a
confession. A crime had been committed at Valpinson; he had been seen
going there and coming back by side paths. A fire had been kindled;
his hands bore traces of charcoal. Shots had been fired; they found
one of his cartridge-cases close to the spot where Count Claudieuse
had been wounded. There it was I saw the plot. How could all these
circumstances have agreed so precisely if they had not been pre-
arranged, and calculated beforehand? Our poor M. Daubigeon had tears
in his eyes; and even that meddlesome fellow, Mechinet, the clerk, was
quite overcome. M. Galpin was the only one who looked pleased; but
then he was the magistrate, and he put the questions. He, my master's
friend!--a man who was constantly coming here, who ate our bread,
slept in our beds, and shot our game. Then it was, 'My dear Jacques,'
and 'My dear Boiscoran' always, and no end of compliments and
caresses; so that I often thought one of these days I should find him
blackening my master's boots. Ah! he took his revenge yesterday; and
you ought to have seen with what an air he said to master, 'We are
friends no longer.' The rascal! No, we are friends no longer; and, if
God was just, you ought to have all the shot in your body that has
wounded Count Claudieuse."

M. de Chandore was growing more and more impatient. As soon,
therefore, as Anthony's breath gave out a moment, he said,--

"Why did you not come and tell me all that immediately?"

The old servant ventured to shrug his shoulders slightly, and

"How could I? When the examination was over, that man, Galpin, put the
seals everywhere,--strips of linen, fastened on with sealing-wax, as
they do with dead people. He put one on every opening, and on some of
them two. He put three on the outer door. Then he told me that he
appointed me keeper of the house, that I would be paid for it, but
that I would be sent to the galleys if any one touched the seals with
the tip of the finger. When he had handed master over to the
gendarmes, that man, Galpin, went away, leaving me here alone,
dumfounded, like a man who has been knocked in the head. Nevertheless,
I should have come to you, sir, but I had an idea, and that gave me
the shivers."

Grandpapa Chandore stamped his foot, and said,--

"Come to the point, to the point!"

"It was this: you must know, gentlemen, that, in the examination, that
breech-loading gun played a prominent part. That man, Galpin looked at
it carefully, and asked master when he had last fired it off. Master
said, 'About five days ago. You hear, I say, five days.' Thereupon,
that man, Galpin, puts the gun down, without looking at the barrels."

"Well?" asked M. Folgat.

"Well, sir, I--Anthony--I had the evening before--I say the evening
before--cleaned the gun, washed it, and"--

"Upon my word," cried M. de Chandore, "why did you not say so at once?
If the barrels are clean, that is an absolute proof that Jacques is

The old servant shook his head, and said,--

"To be sure, sir. But are they clean?"


"Master may have been mistaken as to the time when he last fired the
gun, and then the barrels would be soiled; and, instead of helping
him, my evidence might ruin him definitely. Before I say any thing, I
ought to be sure."

"Yes," said Folgat, approvingly, "and you have done well to keep
silence, my good man, and I cannot urge you too earnestly not to say a
word of it to any one. That fact may become a decisive argument for
the /defence/."

"Oh! I can keep my tongue, sir. Only you may imagine how impatient it
has made me to see these accursed seals which prevent me from going to
look at the gun. Oh, if I had dared to break one of them!"

"Poor fellow!"

"I thought of doing it; but I checked myself. Then it occurred to me
that other people might think of the same thing. The rascals who have
formed this abominable plot against Master Jacques are capable of any
thing, don't you think so? Why might not they come some night, and
break the seals? I put the steward on guard in the garden, beneath the
windows. I put his son as a sentinel into the courtyard; and I have
myself stood watch before the seals with arms in my hands all the
time. Let the rascals come on; they will find somebody to receive

In spite of all that is said, lawyers are better than their
reputation. Lawyers, accused of being sceptics above all men, are, on
the contrary, credulous and simple-minded. Their enthusiasm is
sincere; and, when we think they play a part, they are in earnest. In
the majority of cases, they fancy their own side the just one, even
though they should be beaten. Hour by hour, ever since his arrival at
Sauveterre, M. Folgat's faith in Jacques's innocence had steadily
increased. Old Anthony's tale was not made to shake his growing
conviction. He did not admit the existence of a plot, however; but he
was not disinclined to believe in the cunning calculations of some
rascal, who, availing himself of circumstances known to him alone,
tried to let all suspicion fall upon M. de Boiscoran, instead of

But there were many more questions to be asked; and Anthony was in
such a state of feverish excitement, that it was difficult to induce
him to answer. For it is not so easy to examine a man, however
inclined he may be to answer. It requires no small self-possession,
much care, and an imperturbable method, without which the most
important facts are apt to be overlooked. M. Folgat began, therefore,
after a moment's pause, once more, saying,--

"My good Anthony, I cannot praise your conduct in this matter too
highly. However, we have not done with it yet. But as I have eaten
nothing since I left Paris last night, and as I hear the bell strike
twelve o'clock"--

M. de Chandore seemed to be heartily ashamed, and broke in,--

"Ah, forgetful old man that I am! Why did I not think of it? But you
will pardon me, I am sure. I am so completely upset. Anthony, what can
you let us have?"

"The housekeeper has eggs, potted fowl, ham"--

"Whatever can be made ready first will be the best," said the young

"In a quarter of an hour the table shall be set," replied the servant.

He hurried away, while M. de Chandore invited M. Folgat into the
sitting-room. The poor grandfather summoned all his energy to keep up

"This fact about the gun will save him, won't it?" he asked.

"Perhaps so," replied the famous advocate.

And they were silent,--the grandfather thinking of the grief of his
grandchild, and cursing the day on which he had opened his house to
Jacques, and with him to such heart-rending anguish; the lawyer
arranging in his mind the facts he had learned, and preparing the
questions he was going to ask. They were both so fully absorbed by
their thoughts, that they started when Anthony reappeared, and said,--

"Gentlemen, breakfast is ready!"

The table had been set in the dining-room; and, when the two gentlemen
had taken their seats, old Anthony placed himself, his napkin over his
arm, behind them; but M. de Chandore called him, saying,--

"Put another plate, Anthony, and breakfast with us."

"Oh, sir," protested the old servant,--"sir"--

"Sit down," repeated the baron: "if you eat after us, you will make us
lose time, and an old servant like you is a member of the family."

Anthony obeyed, quite overcome, but blushing with delight at the honor
that was done him; for the Baron de Chandore did not usually
distinguish himself to familiarity. When the ham and eggs of the
housekeeper had been disposed of, M. Folgat said,--

"Now let us go back to business. Keep cool, my dear Anthony, and
remember, that, unless we get the court to say that there is no case,
your answers may become the basis of our defence. What were M. de
Boiscoran's habits when he was here?"

"When he was here, sir, he had, so to say, no habits. We came here
very rarely, and only for a short time."

"Never mind: what was he doing here?"

"He used to rise late; he walked about a good deal; he sometimes went
out hunting; he sketched; he read, for master is a great reader, and
is as fond of his books as the marquis, his father, is of his

"Who came here to see him?"

"M. Galpin most frequently, Dr. Seignebos, the priest from Brechy, M.
Seneschal, M. Daubigeon."

"How did he spend his evenings?"

"At M. de Chandore's, who can tell you all about it."

"He had no other relatives in this country?"


"You do not know that he had any lady friend?"

Anthony looked as if he would have blushed.

"Oh, sir!" he said, "you do not know, I presume, that master is
engaged to Miss Dionysia?"

The Baron de Chandore was not a baby, as he liked to call it. Deeply
interested as he was, he got up, and said,--

"I want to take a little fresh air."

And he went out, understanding very well that his being Dionysia's
grandfather might keep Anthony from telling the truth.

"That is a sensible man," thought M. Folgat.

Then he added aloud,--

"Now we are alone, my dear Anthony, you can speak frankly. Did M. de
Boiscoran keep a mistress?"

"No, sir."

"Did he ever have one?"

"Never. They will tell you, perhaps, that once upon a time he was
rather pleased with a great, big red-haired woman, the daughter of a
miller in the neighborhood, and that the gypsy of a woman came more
frequently to the chateau than was needful,--now on one pretext, and
now on another. But that was mere childishness. Besides, that was five
years ago, and the woman has been married these three years to a
basket-maker at Marennes."

"You are quite sure of what you say?"

"As sure as I am of myself. And you would be as sure of it yourself,
if you knew the country as I know it, and the abominable tongues the
people have. There is no concealing any thing from them. I defy a man
to talk three times to a woman without their finding it out, and
making a story of it. I say nothing of Paris"--

M. Folgat listened attentively. He asked,--

"Ah! was there any thing of the kind in Paris?"

Anthony hesitated; at last he said,--

"You see, master's secrets are not my secrets, and, after the oath I
have sworn,"--

"It may be, however, that his safety depends upon your frankness in
telling me all," said the lawyer. "You may be sure he will not blame
you for having spoken."

For several seconds the old servant remained undecided; then he

"Master, they say, has had a great love-affair."


"I do not know when. That was before I entered his service. All I know
is, that, for the purpose of meeting the person, master had bought at
Passy, at the end of Vine Street, a beautiful house, in the centre of
a large garden, which he had furnished magnificently."


"That is a secret, which, of course, neither master's father nor his
mother knows to this day; and I only know it, because one day master
fell down the steps, and dislocated his foot, so that he had to send
for me to nurse him. He may have bought the house under his own name;
but he was not known by it there. He passed for an Englishmen, a Mr.
Burnett; and he had an English maid-servant."

"And the person?"

"Ah, sir! I not only do not know who she is, but I cannot even guess
it, she took such extraordinary precautions! Now that I mean to tell
you every thing, I will confess to you that I had the curiosity to
question the English maid. She told me that she was no farther than I
was, that she knew, to be sure, a lady was coming there from time to
time; but that she had never seen even the end of her nose. Master
always arranged it so well, that the girl was invariably out on some
errand or other when the lady came and when she went away. While she
was in the house, master waited upon her himself. And when they wanted
to walk in the garden, they sent the servant away, on some fool's
errand, to Versailles or to Fontainebleau; and she was mad, I tell

M. Folgat began to twist his mustache, as he was in the habit of doing
when he was specially interested. For a moment, he thought he saw the
woman--that inevitable woman who is always at the bottom of every
great event in man's life; and just then she vanished from his sight;
for he tortured his mind in vain to discover a possible if not
probable connection between the mysterious visitor in Vine Street and
the events that had happened at Valpinson. He could not see a trace.
Rather discouraged, he asked once more,--

"After all, my dear Anthony, this great love-affair of your master's
has come to an end?"

"It seems so, sir, since Master Jacques was going to marry Miss

That reason was perhaps not quite as conclusive as the good old
servant imagined; but the young advocate made no remark.

"And when do you think it came to an end?"

"During the war, master and the lady must have been parted; for master
did not stay in Paris. He commanded a volunteer company; and he was
even wounded in the head, which procured him the cross."

"Does he still own the house in Vine Street?"

"I believe so."


"Because, some time ago, when master and I went to Paris for a week,
he said to me one day, 'The War and the commune have cost me dear. My
cottage has had more than twenty shells, and it has been in turn
occupied by /Francs-tireurs/, Communists and Regulars. The walls are
broken; and there is not a piece of furniture uninjured. My architect
tells me, that all in all, the repairs will cost me some ten thousand
dollars.' "

"What? Repairs? Then he thought of going back there?"

"At that time, sir, master's marriage had not been settled. Yet"--

"Still that would go to prove that he had at that time met the
mysterious lady once more, and that the war had not broken off their

"That may be."

"And has he never mentioned the lady again?"


At this moment M. de Chandore's cough was heard in the hall,--that
cough which men affect when they wish to announce their coming.
Immediately afterwards he reappeared; and M. Folgat said to him, to
show that his presence was no longer inconvenient,--

"Upon my word, sir, I was just on the point of going in search of you,
for fear that you felt really unwell."

"Thank you," replied the old gentleman, "the fresh air has done me

He sat down; and the young advocate turned again to Anthony, saying,--

"Well, let us go on. How was he the day before the fire?"

"Just as usual."

"What did he do before he went out?"

"He dined as usual with a good appetite; then he went up stairs and
remained there for an hour. When he came down, he had a letter in his
hand, which he gave to Michael, our tenant's son, and told him to
carry it to Sauveterre, to Miss Chandore."

"Yes. In that letter, M. de Boiscoran told Miss Dionysia that he was
retained here by a matter of great importance."


"Have you any idea what that could have been?"

"Not at all, sir, I assure you."

"Still let us see. M. de Boiscoran must have had powerful reasons to
deprive himself of the pleasure of spending the evening with Miss

"Yes, indeed."

"He must also have had his reasons for taking to the marshes, on his
way out, instead of going by the turnpike, and for coming back through
the woods."

Old Anthony was literally tearing his hair, as he exclaimed,--

"Ah, sir! These are the very words M. Galpin said."

"Unfortunately every man in his senses will say so."

"I know, sir: I know it but too well. And Master Jacques himself knew
it so well that at first he tried to find some pretext; but he has
never told a falsehood. And he who is such a clever man could not find
a pretext that had any sense in it. He said he had gone to Brechy to
see his wood-merchant"--

"And why should he not?"

Anthony shook his head, and said,--

"Because the wood-merchant at Brechy is a thief, and everybody knows
that master has kicked him out of the house some three years ago. We
sell all our wood at Sauveterre."

M. Folgat had taken out a note-book, and wrote down some of Anthony's
statements, preparing thus the outline of his defence. This being
done, he commenced again,--

"Now we come to Cocoleu."

"Ah the wretch!" cried Anthony.

"You know him?"

"How could I help knowing him, when I lived all my life here at
Boiscoran in the service of master's uncle?"

"Then what kind of a man is he?"

"An idiot, sir or, as they here call it, an innocent, who has Saint
Vitus dance into the bargain, and epilepsy moreover."

"Then it is perfectly notorious that he is imbecile?"

"Yes, sir, although I have heard people insist that he is not quite so
stupid as he looks, and that, as they say here, he plays the ass in
order to get his oats"--

M. de Chandore interrupted him, and said,--

"On this subject Dr. Seignebos can give you all the information you
may want: he kept Cocoleu for nearly two years at his own house."

"I mean to see the doctor," replied M. Folgat. "But first of all we
must find this unfortunate idiot."

"You heard what M. Seneschal said: he has put the gendarmes on his

Anthony made a face, and said,--

"If the gendarmes should take Cocoleu, Cocoleu must have given himself
up voluntarily."

"Why so?"

"Because, gentlemen, there is no one who knows all the by-ways and
out-of-the-way corners of the country so well as that idiot; for he
has been hiding all his life like a savage in all the holes and
hiding-places that are about here; and, as he can live perfectly well
on roots and berries, he may stay away three months without being seen
by any one."

"Is it possible?" exclaimed M. Folgat angrily.

"I know only one man," continued Anthony, "who could find out Cocoleu,
and that is our tenant's son Michael,--the young man you saw down

"Send for him," said M. de Chandore.

Michael appeared promptly, and, when he had heard what he was expected
to do, he replied,--

"The thing can be done, certainly; but it is not very easy. Cocoleu
has not the sense of a man; but he has all the instincts of a brute.
However, I'll try."

There was nothing to keep either M. de Chandore or M. Folgat any
longer at Boiscoran; hence, after having warned Anthony to watch the
seals well, and get a glimpse, if possible, of Jacques's gun, when the
officers should come for the different articles, they left the
chateau. It was five o'clock when they drove into town again. Dionysia
was waiting for them in the sitting-room. She rose as they entered,
looking quite pale, with dry, brilliant eyes.

"What? You are alone here!" said M. de Chandore. "Why have they left
you alone?"

"Don't be angry, grandpapa. I have just prevailed on the marchioness,
who was exhausted with fatigue to lie down for an hour or so before

"And your aunts?"

"They have gone out, grandpapa. They are probably, by this time at M.

M. Folgat started, and said,--


"But that is foolish in them!" exclaimed the old gentleman.

The young girl closed his lips by a single word. She said,--

"I asked them to go."


Yes, the step taken by the Misses Lavarande was foolish. At the point
which things had reached now, their going to see M. Galpin was perhaps
equivalent to furnishing him the means to crush Jacques. But whose
fault was it, but M. de Chandore's and M. Folgat's? Had they not
committed an unpardonable blunder in leaving Sauveterre without any
other precaution than to send word through M. Seneschal's servant,
that they would be back for dinner, and that they need not be troubled
about them?

Not be troubled? And that to the Marchioness de Boiscoran and
Dionysia, to Jacques's mother and Jacques's betrothed.

Certainly, at first, the two wretched women preserved their self-
control in a manner, trying to set each other an example of courage
and confidence. But, as hour after hour passed by, their anxiety
became intolerable; and gradually, as they confided their
apprehensions to each other, their grief broke out openly. They
thought of Jacques being innocent, and yet treated like one of the
worst criminals, alone in the depth of his prison, given up to the
most horrible inspirations of despair. What could have been his
feelings during the twenty-four hours which had brought him no news
from his friends? Must he not fancy himself despised and abandoned.

"That is an intolerable thought!" exclaimed Dionysia at lat. "We must
get to him at any price."

"How?" asked the marchioness.

"I do not know; but there must be some way. There are things which I
would not have ventured upon as long as I was alone; but, with you by
my side, I can risk any thing. Let us go to the prison."

The old lady promptly put a shawl around her shoulders, and said,--

"I am ready; let us go."

They had both heard repeatedly that Jacques was kept in close
confinement; but neither of them realized fully what that meant. They
had no idea of this atrocious measure, which is, nevertheless,
rendered necessary by the peculiar forms of French law-proceedings,--a
measure which, so to say, immures a man alive, and leaves him in his
cell alone with the crime with which he is charged, and utterly at the
mercy of another man, whose duty it is to extort the truth from him.
The two ladies only saw the want of liberty, a cell with its dismal
outfittings, the bars at the window, the bolts at the door, the jailer
shaking his bunch of keys at his belt, and the tramp of the solitary
sentinel in the long passages.

"They cannot refuse me permission," said the old lady, "to see my

"They cannot," repeated Dionysia. "And, besides, I know the jailer,
Blangin: his wife was formerly in our service."

When the young girl, therefore, raised the heavy knocker at the
prison-door, she was full of cheerful confidence. Blangin himself came
to the door; and, at the sight of the two poor ladies, his broad face
displayed the utmost astonishment.

"We come to see M. de Boiscoran," said Dionysia boldly.

"Have you a permit, ladies?" asked the keeper.

"From whom?"

"From M. Galpin."

"We have no permit."

"Then I am very sorry to have to tell you, ladies, that you cannot
possibly see M. de Boiscoran. He is kept in close confinement, and I
have the strictest orders."

Dionysia looked threatening, and said sharply,--

"Your orders cannot apply to this lady, who is the Marchioness de

"My orders apply to everybody, madam."

"You would not, I am sure, keep a poor, distressed mother from seeing
her son!"

"Ah! but--madam--it does not rest with me. I? Who am I? Nothing more
than one of the bolts, drawn or pushed at will."

For the first time, it entered the poor girl's head that her effort
might fail: still she tried once more, with tears in her eyes,--

"But I, my dear M. Blangin, think of me! You would not refuse me?
Don't you know who I am? Have you never heard your wife speak of me?"

The jailer was certainly touched. He replied,--

"I know how much my wife and myself are indebted to your kindness,
madam. But--I have my orders, and you surely would not want me to lose
my place, madam?"

"If you lose your place, M. Blangin, I, Dionysia de Chandore, promise
you another place twice as good."


"You do not doubt my word, M. Blangin, do you?"

"God forbid, madam! But it is not my place only. If I did what you
want me to do, I should be severely punished."

The marchioness judged from the jailer's tone that Dionysia was not
likely to prevail over him, and so she said,--

"Don't insist, my child. Let us go back."

"What? Without finding out what is going on behind these pitiless
walls; without knowing even whether Jacques is dead or alive?"

There was evidently a great struggle going on in the jailer's heart.
All of a sudden he cast a rapid glance around, and then said, speaking
very hurriedly,--

"I ought not to tell you--but never mind--I cannot let you go away
without telling you that M. de Boiscoran is quite well."


"Yesterday, when they brought him here, he was, so to say, overcome.
He threw himself upon his bed, and he remained there without stirring
for over two hours. I think he must have been crying."

A sob, which Dionysia could not suppress, made Blangin start.

"Oh, reassure yourself, madame!" he added quickly. "That state of
things did not last long. Soon M. de Boiscoran got up, and said, 'Why,
I am a fool to despair!' "

"Did you hear him say so?" asked the old lady.

"Not I. It was Trumence who heard it."


"Yes, one of our jail-birds. Oh! he is only a vagabond, not bad at
all; and he has been ordered to stand guard at the door of M. de
Boiscoran's cell, and not for a moment to lose sight of it. It was M.
Galpin who had that idea, because the prisoners sometimes in their
first despair,--a misfortune happens so easily,--they become weary of
life--Trumence would be there to prevent it."

The old lady trembled with horror. This precautionary measure, more
than any thing else, gave her the full measure of her son's situation.

"However," M. Blangin went on, "there is nothing to fear. M. de
Boiscoran became quite calm again, and even cheerful, if I may say so.
When he got up this morning, after having slept all night like a
dormouse, he sent for me, and asked me for paper, ink, and pen. All
the prisoners ask for that the second day. I had orders to let him
have it, and so I gave it to him. When I carried him his breakfast, he
handed me a letter for Miss Chandore."

"What?" cried Dionysia, "you have a letter for me, and you don't give
it to me?"

"I do not have it now, madam. I had to hand it, as is my duty, to M.
Galpin, when he came accompanied by his clerk, Mechinet, to examine M.
de Boiscoran."

"And what did he say?"

"He opened the letter, read it, put it into his pocket, and said,
'Well.' "

Tears of anger this time sprang from Dionysia's eyes; and she cried,--

"What a shame? This man reads a letter written by Jacques to me! That
is infamous!"

And, without thinking of thanking Blangin, she drew off the old lady,
and all the way home did not say a word.

"Ah, poor child, you did not succeed," exclaimed the two old aunts,
when they saw their niece come back.

But, when they had heard every thing, they said,--

"Well, we'll go and see him, this little magistrate, who but the day
before yesterday was paying us abject court to obtain the hand of our
cousin. And we'll tell him the truth; and, if we cannot make him give
us back Jacques, we will at least trouble him in his triumph, and take
down his pride."

How could poor Dionysia help adopting the notions of the old ladies,
when their project offered such immediate satisfaction to her
indignation, and at the same time served her secret hopes?

"Oh, yes! You are right, dear aunts," she said. "Quick, don't lose any
time; go at once!"

Unable to resist her entreaties, they started instantly, without
listening to the timid objections made by the marchioness. But the
good ladies were sadly mistaken as to the state of mind of M. Galpin.
The ex-lover of one of their cousins was not bedded on roses by any
means. At the beginning of this extraordinary affair he had taken hold
of it with eagerness, looking upon it as an admirable opportunity,
long looked for, and likely to open wide the doors to his burning
ambition. Then having once begun, and the investigation being under
way, he had been carried away by the current, without having time to
reflect. He had even felt a kind of unhealthy satisfaction at seeing
the evidence increasing, until he felt justified and compelled to
order his former friend to be sent to prison. At that time he was
fairly dazzled by the most magnificent expectations. This preliminary
inquiry, which in a few hours already had led to the discovery of a
culprit the most unlikely of all men in the province, could not fail
to establish his superior ability and matchless skill.

But, a few hours later, M. Galpin looked no longer with the same eye
upon these events. Reflection had come; and he had begun to doubt his
ability, and to ask himself, if he had not, after all, acted rashly.
If Jacques was guilty, so much the better. He was sure, in that case,
immediately after the verdict, to obtain brilliant promotion. Yes, but
if Jacques should be innocent? When that thought occurred to M. Galpin
for the first time, it made him shiver to the marrow of his bones.
Jacques innocent!--that was his own condemnation, his career ended,
his hopes destroyed, his prospects ruined forever. Jacques innocent!--
that was certain disgrace. He would be sent away from Sauveterre,
where he could not remain after such a scandal. He would be banished
to some out-of-the-way village, and without hope of promotion.

In vain he tried to reason that he had only done his duty. People
would answer, if they condescended at all to answer, that there are
flagrant blunders, scandalous mistakes, which a magistrate must not
commit; and that for the honor of justice, and in the interest of the
law, it is better, under certain circumstances, to let a guilty man
escape, than to punish an innocent one.

With such anxiety on his mind, the most cruel that can tear the heart
of an ambitious man, M. Galpin found his pillow stuffed with thorns.
He had been up since six o'clock. At eleven, he had sent for his
clerk, Mechinet; and they had gone together to the jail to recommence
the examination. It was then that the jailer had handed him the
prisoner's letter for Dionysia. It was a short note, such as a
sensible man would write who knows full well that a prisoner cannot
count upon the secrecy of his correspondence. It was not even sealed,
a fact which M. Blangin had not noticed.

"Dionysia, my darling," wrote the prisoner, "the thought of the
terrible grief I cause you is my most cruel, and almost my only
sorrow. Need I stoop to assure you that I am innocent? I am sure
it is not needed. I am the victim of a fatal combination of
circumstances, which could not but mislead justice. But be
reassured, be hopeful. When the time comes, I shall be able to set
matters right.


"Well," M. Galpin had really said after reading this letter.
Nevertheless it had stung him to the quick.

"What assurance!" he had said to himself.

Still he had regained courage while ascending the steps of the prison.
Jacques had evidently not thought it likely that his note would reach
its destination directly, and hence it might be fairly presumed that
he had written for the eyes of justice as well as for his lady-love.
The fact that the letter was not sealed even, gave some weight to this

"After all we shall see," said M. Galpin, while Blangin was unlocking
the door.

But he found Jacques as calm as if he had been in his chateau at
Boiscoran, haughty and even scornful. It was impossible to get any
thing out of him. When he was pressed, he became obstinately silent,
or said that he needed time to consider. The magistrate had returned
home more troubled than ever. The position assumed by Jacques puzzled
him. Ah, if he could have retraced his steps!

But it was too late. He had burnt his vessels, and condemned himself
to go on to the end. For his own safety, for his future life, it was
henceforth necessary that Jacques de Boiscoran should be found guilty;
that he should be tried in open court, and there be sentenced. It must
be. It was a question of life or death for him.

He was in this state of mind when the two Misses Lavarande called at
his house, and asked to see him. He shook himself; and in an instant
his over-excited mind presented to him all possible contingencies.
What could the two old ladies want of him?

"Show them in," he said at last.

They came in, and haughtily declined the chairs that were offered.

"I hardly expected to have the honor of a visit from you, ladies," he

The older of the two, Miss Adelaide, cut him short, saying,--

"I suppose not, after what has passed."

And thereupon, speaking with all the eloquence of a pious woman who is
trying to wither an impious man, she poured upon him a stream of
reproaches for what she called his infamous treachery. What? How could
he appear against Jacques, who was his friend, and who had actually
aided him in obtaining the promise of a great match. By that one hope
he had become, so to say, a member of the family. Did he not know that
among kinsmen it was a sacred duty to set aside all personal feelings
for the purpose of protecting that sacred patrimony called family

M. Galpin felt like a man upon whom a handful of stones falls from the
fifth story of a house. Still he preserved his self-control, and even
asked himself what advantage he might obtain from this extraordinary
scene. Might it open a door for reconciliation?

As soon, therefore, as Miss Adelaide stopped, he began justifying
himself, painting in hypocritical colors the grief it had given him,
swearing that he was able to control the events, and that Jacques was
as dear to him now as ever.

"If he is so dear to you," broke in Miss Adelaide, "why don't you set
him free?"

"Ah! how can I?"

"At least give his family and his friends leave to see him."

"The law will not let me. If he is innocent, he has only to prove it.
If he is guilty, he must confess. In the first case, he will be set
free; in the other case, he can see whom he wishes."

"If he is so dear to you, how could you dare read the letter he had
written to Dionysia?"

"It is one of the most painful duties of my profession to do so."

"Ah! And does that profession also prevent you from giving us that
letter after having read it?"

"Yes. But I may tell you what is in it."

He took it out of a drawer, and the younger of the two sisters, Miss
Elizabeth, copied it in pencil. Then they withdrew, almost without
saying good-by.

M. Galpin was furious. He exclaimed,--

"Ah, old witches! I see clearly you do not believe in Jacques's
innocence. Why else should his family be so very anxious to see him?
No doubt they want to enable him to escape by suicide the punishment
of his crime. But, by the great God, that shall not be, if I can help

M. Folgat was, as we have seen, excessively annoyed at this step taken
by the Misses Lavarande; but he did not let it be seen. It was very
necessary that he at least should retain perfect presence of mind and
calmness in this cruelly tried family. M. de Chandore, on the other
hand, could not conceal his dissatisfaction so well; and, in spite of
his deference to his grandchild's wishes, he said,--

"I am sure, my dear child, I don't wish to blame you. But you know
your aunts, and you know, also, how uncompromising they are. They are
quite capable of exasperating M. Galpin."

"What does it matter?" asked the young girl haughtily. "Circumspection
is all very well for guilty people; but Jacques is innocent."

"Miss Chandore is right," said M. Folgat, who seemed to succumb to
Dionysia like the rest of the family. "Whatever the ladies may have
done, they cannot make matters worse. M. Galpin will be none the less
our bitter enemy."

Grandpapa Chandore started. He said,--


"Oh! I do not blame him," broke in the young lawyer; "but I blame the
laws which make him act as he does. How can a magistrate remain
perfectly impartial in certain very important cases, like this one,
when his whole future career depends upon his success? A man may be a
most upright magistrate, incapable of unfairness, and conscientious in
fulfilling all his duties, and yet he is but a man. He has his
interest at stake. He does not like the court to find that that there
is no case. The great rewards are not always given to the lawyer who
has taken most pains to find out the truth."

"But M. Galpin was a friend of ours, sir."

"Yes; and that is what makes me fear. What will be his fate on the day
when M. Jacques's innocence is established?"

They were just coming home, quite proud of their achievement, and
waving in triumph the copy of Jacques's letter. Dionysia seized upon
it; and, while she read it aside, Miss Adelaide described the
interview, stating how haughty and disdainful she had been, and how
humble and repentant M. Galpin had seemed to be.

"He was completely undone," said the two old ladies with one voice:
"he was crushed, annihilated."

"Yes, you have done a nice thing," growled the old baron; "and you
have much reason to boast, forsooth."

"My aunts have done well," declared Dionysia. "Just see what Jacques
has written! It is clear and precise. What can we fear when he says,
'Be reassured: when the time comes, I shall be able to set matters

M. Folgat took the letter, read it, and shook his head. Then he

"There was no need of this letter to confirm my opinion. At the bottom
of this affair there is a secret which none of us have found out yet.
But M. de Boiscoran acts very rashly in playing in this way with a
criminal prosecution. Why did he not explain at once? What was easy
yesterday may be less easy to-morrow, and perhaps impossible in a

"Jacques, sir, is a superior man," cried Dionysia, "and whatever he
says is perfectly sure to be the right thing."

His mother's entrance prevented the young lawyer from making any
reply. Two hours' rest had restored to the old lady a part of her
energy, and her usual presence of mind; and she now asked that a
telegram should be sent to her husband.

"It is the least we can do," said M. de Chandore in an undertone,
"although it will be useless, I dare say. Boiscoran does not care that
much for his son. Pshaw! Ah! if it was a rare /faience/, or a plate
that is wanting in his collection, then would it be a very different

Still the despatch was drawn up and sent, at the very moment when a
servant came in, and announced that dinner was ready. The meal was
less sad than they had anticipated. Everybody, to be sure, felt a
heaviness at heart as he thought that at the same hour a jailer
probably brought Jacques his meal to his cell; nor could Dionysia keep
from dropping a tear when she saw M. Folgat sitting in her lover's
place. But no one, except the young advocate, thought that Jacques was
in real danger.

M. Seneschal, however, who came in just as coffee was handed round,
evidently shared M. Folgat's apprehensions. The good mayor came to
hear the news, and to tell his friends how he had spent the day. The
funeral of the firemen had passed off quietly, although amid deep
emotion. No disturbance had taken place, as was feared; and Dr.
Seignebos had not spoken at the graveyard. Both a disturbance and a
row would have been badly received, said M. Seneschal; for he was
sorry to say, the immense majority of the people of Sauveterre did not
doubt M. de Boiscoran's guilt. In several groups he had heard people
say, "And still you will see they will not condemn him. A poor devil
who should commit such a horrible crime would be hanged sure enough;
but the son of the Marquis de Boiscoran--you will see, he'll come out
of it as white as snow."

The rolling of a carriage, which stopped at the door, fortunately
interrupted him at this point.

"Who can that be?" asked Dionysia, half frightened.

They heard in the passage the noise of steps and voices, something
like a scuffle; and almost instantly the tenant's son Michael pushed
open the door of the sitting-room, crying out,--

"I have gotten him! Here he is!"

And with these words he pushed in Cocoleu, all struggling, and looking
around him, like a wild beast caught in a trap.

"Upon my word, my good fellow," said M. Seneschal, "you have done
better than the gendarmes!"

The manner in which Michael winked with his eye showed that he had not
a very exalted opinion of the cleverness of the gendarmes.

"I promised the baron," he said, "I would get hold of Cocoleu somehow
or other. I knew that at certain times he went and buried himself,
like the wild beast that he is, in a hole which he has scratched under
a rock in the densest part of the forest of Rochepommier. I had
discovered this den of his one day by accident; for a man might pass
by a hundred times, and never dream of where it was. But, as soon as
the baron told me that the innocent had disappeared, I said to myself,
'I am sure he is in his hole: let us go and see.' So I gathered up my
legs; I ran down to the rocks: and there was Cocoleu. But it was not
so easy to pull him out of his den. He would not come; and, while
defending himself, he bit me in the hand, like the mad dog that he

And Michael held up his left hand, wrapped up in a bloody piece of

"It was pretty hard work to get the madman here. I was compelled to
tie him hand and foot, and to carry him bodily to my father's house.
There we put him into the little carriage, and here he is. Just look
at the pretty fellow!"

He was hideous at that moment, with his livid face spotted all over
with red marks, his hanging lips covered with white foam, and his
brutish glances.

"Why would you not come?" asked M. Seneschal.

The idiot looked as if he did not hear.

"Why did you bit Michael?" continued the mayor.

Cocoleu made no reply.

"Do you know that M. de Boiscoran is in prison because of what you
have said?"

Still no reply.

"Ah!" said Michael, "it is of no use to question him. You might beat
him till to-morrow, and he would rather give up the ghost than say a

"I am--I am hungry," stammered Cocoleu.

M. Folgat looked indignant.

"And to think," he said, "that, upon the testimony of such a thing, a
capital charge has been made!"

Grandpapa Chandore seemed to be seriously embarrassed. He said,--

"But now, what in the world are we to do with the idiot?"

"I am going to take him," said M. Seneschal, "to the hospital. I will
go with him myself, and let Dr. Seignebos know, and the commonwealth

Dr. Seignebos was an eccentric man, beyond doubt; and the absurd
stories which his enemies attributed to him were not all unfounded.
But he had, at all events, the rare quality of professing for his art,
as he called it, a respect very nearly akin to enthusiasm. According
to his views, the faculty were infallible, as much so as the pope,
whom he denied. He would, to be sure, in confidence, admit that some
of his colleagues were amazing donkeys; but he would never have
allowed any one else to say so in his presence. From the moment that a
man possessed the famous diploma which gives him the right over life
and death, that man became in his eyes an august personage for the
world at large. It was a crime, he thought, not to submit blindly to
the decision of a physician. Hence his obstinacy in opposing M.
Galpin, hence the bitterness of his contradictions, and the rudeness
with which he had requested the "gentlemen of the law" to leave the
room in which /his/ patient was lying.

"For these devils," he said, "would kill one man in order to get the
means of cutting off another man's head."

And thereupon, resuming his probes and his sponge, he had gone to work
once more, with the aid of the countess, digging out grain by grain
the lead which had honeycombed the flesh of the count. At nine o'clock
the work was done.

"Not that I fancy I have gotten them all out," he said modestly, "but,
if there is any thing left, it is out of reach, and I shall have to
wait for certain symptoms which will tell me where they are."

As he had foreseen, the count had grown rather worse. His first
excitement had given way to perfect prostration; and he seemed to be
insensible to what was going on around him. Fever began to show
itself; and, considering the count's constitution, it was easily to be
foreseen that delirium would set in before the day was out.

"Nevertheless, I think there is hardly any danger," said the doctor to
the countess, after having pointed out to her all the probable
symptoms, so as to keep her from being alarmed. Then he recommended to
her to let no one approach her husband's bed, and M. Galpin least of

This recommendation was not useless; for almost at the same moment a
peasant came in to say that there was a man from Sauveterre at the
door who wished to see the count.

"Show him in," said the doctor; "I'll speak to him."

It was a man called Tetard, a former constable, who had given up his
place, and become a dealer in stones. But besides being a former
officer of justice and a merchant, as his cards told the world, he was
also the agent of a fire insurance company. It was in this capacity
that he presumed, as he told the countess, to present himself in
person. He had been informed that the farm buildings at Valpinson,
which were insured in his company, had been destroyed by fire; that
they had been purposely set on fire by M. de Boiscoran; and that he
wished to confer with Count Claudieuse on the subject. Far from him,
he added, to decline the responsibility of his company: he only wished
to establish the facts which would enable him to fall back upon M. de
Boiscoran, who was a man of fortune, and would certainly be condemned
to make compensation for the injury done. For this purpose, certain
formalities had to be attended to; and he had come to arrange with
Count Claudieuse the necessary measures."

"And I," said Dr. Seignebos,--"I request you to take to your heels."
He added with a thundering voice,--

"I think you are very bold to dare to speak in that way of M. de

M. Tetard disappeared without saying another word; and the doctor,
very much excited by this scene, turned to the youngest daughter of
the countess, the one with whom she was sitting up when the fire broke
out, and who was now decidedly better: after that nothing could keep
him at Valpinson. He carefully pocketed the pieces of lead which he
had taken from the count's wounds, and then, drawing the countess out
to the door, he said,--

"Before I go away, madam, I should like to know what you think of
these events."

The poor lady, who looked as pale as death itself, could hardly hold
up any longer. There seemed to be nothing alive in her but her eyes,
which were lighted up with unusual brilliancy.

"Ah! I do not know, sir," she replied in a feeble voice. "How can I
collect my thoughts after such terrible shocks?"

"Still you questioned Cocoleu."

"Who would not have done so, when the truth was at stake?"

"And you were not surprised at the name he mentioned?"

"You must have seen, sir."

"I saw; and that is exactly why I ask you, and why I want to know what
you really think of the state of mind of the poor creature."

"Don't you know that he is idiotic?"

"I know; and that is why I was so surprised to see you insist upon
making him talk. Do you really think, that, in spite of his habitual
imbecility, he may have glimpses of sense?"

"He had, a few moments before, saved my children from death."

"That proves his devotion for you."

"He is very much attached to me indeed, just like a poor animal that I
might have picked up and cared for."

"Perhaps so. And still he showed more than mere animal instinct."

"That may well be so. I have more than once noticed flashes of
intelligence in Cocoleu."

The doctor had taken off his spectacles, and was wiping them

"It is a great pity that one of these flashes of intelligence did not
enlighten him when he saw M. de Boiscoran make a fire and get ready to
murder Count Claudieuse."

The countess leaned against the door-posts, as if about to faint.

"But it is exactly to his excitement at the sight of the flames, and
at hearing the shots fired, that I ascribe Cocoleu's return to

"May be," said the doctor, "may be."

Then putting on his spectacles again, he added,--

"That is a question to be decided by the professional men who will
have to examine the poor imbecile creature."

"What! Is he going to be examined?"

"Yes, and very thoroughly, madam, I tell you. And now I have the honor
of wishing you good-bye. However, I shall come back to-night, unless
you should succeed during the day in finding lodgings in Sauveterre,--
an arrangement which would be very desirable for myself, in the first
place, and not less so for your husband and your daughter. They are
not comfortable in this cottage."

Thereupon he lifted his hat, returned to town, and immediately asked
M. Seneschal in the most imperious manner to have Cocoleu arrested.
Unfortunately the gendarmes had been unsuccessful; and Dr. Seignebos,
who saw how unfortunate all this was for Jacques, began to get
terribly impatient, when on Saturday night, towards ten o'clock, M.
Seneschal came in, and said,--

"Cocoleu is found."

The doctor jumped up, and in a moment his hat on his head, and stick
in hand, asked,--

"Where is he?"

"At the hospital. I have seen him myself put into a separate room."

"I am going there."

"What, at this hour?"

"Am I not one of the hospital physicians? And is it not open to me by
night and by day?"

"The sisters will be in bed."

The doctor shrugged his shoulders furiously; then he said,--

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