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Within an Inch of His Life by Emile Gaboriau

Part 8 out of 12

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He came up to her, took her hands in his, and said,--

"Ah, it is so kind in you to come! and yet I have looked for you ever
since the morning. I have been watching and waiting, and trembling at
every noise. But will you ever forgive me for having made you come to
a place like this, untidy and ugly, without the fatal poetry of horror

She looked at him with such obstinate fixedness, that the words
expired on his lips.

"Why will you tell me a falsehood?" she said sadly.

"I tell you a falsehood!"

"Yes. Why do you affect this gayety and tranquillity, which are so far
from your heart? Have you no longer confidence in me? Do you think I
am a child, from whom the truth must be concealed, or so feeble and
good for nothing, that I cannot bear my share of your troubles? Do not
smile, Jacques; for I know you have no hope."

"You are mistaken, Dionysia, I assure you."

"No, Jacques. They are concealing something from me, I know, and I do
not ask you to tell me what it is. I know quite enough. You will have
to appear in court."

"I beg your pardon. That question has not yet been decided."

"But it will be decided, and against you."

Jacques knew very well it would be so, and dreaded it; but he still
insisted upon playing his part.

"Well," he said, "if I appear in court, I shall be acquitted."

"Are you quite sure of that?"

"I have ninety-nine chances out of a hundred for me."

"There is one, however, against you," cried the young girl. And
seizing Jacques's hands, and pressing them with a force of which he
would never have suspected her, she added,--

"You have no right to run that one chance."

Jacques trembled in all his limbs. Was it possible? Did he understand
her? Did Dionysia herself come and suggest to him that act of supreme
despair, from which his counsel had so strongly dissuaded him?"

"What do you mean?" he said with trembling voice.

"You must escape."


"Nothing so easy. I have considered the whole matter thoroughly. The
jailers are in our pay. I have just come to an understanding with
Blangin's wife. One evening, as soon as night falls, they will open
the doors to you. A horse will be ready for you outside of town, and
relays have been prepared. In four hours you can reach Rochelle.
There, one of those pilot-boats which can stand any storm takes you on
board, and carries you to England."

Jacques shook his head.

"That cannot be," he replied. "I am innocent. I cannot abandon all I
hold dear,--you, Dionysia."

A deep flush covered the young girl's cheeks. She stammered,--

"I have expressed myself badly. You shall not go alone."

He raised his hands to heaven, as if in utter despair.

"Great God! Thou grantest me this consolation!"

But Dionysia went on speaking in a firmer voice.

"Did you think I would be mean enough to forsake the friend who is
betrayed by everybody else? No, no! Grandpapa and my aunts will
accompany me, and we will meet you in England. You will change your
name, and go across to America; and we will look out, far in the West,
for some new country where we can establish ourselves. It won't be
France, to be sure. But our country, Jacques, is the country where we
are free, where we are beloved, where we are happy."

Jacques de Boiscoran was moved to the last fibre of his innermost
heart, and in a kind of ecstasy which did not allow him to keep up any
longer his mask of impassive indifference. Was there a man upon earth
who could receive a more glorious proof of love and devotion? And from
what a woman! From a young girl, who united in herself all the
qualities of which a single one makes others proud,--intelligence and
grace, high rank and fortune, beauty and angelic purity.

Ah! she did not hesitate like that other one; she did not think of
asking for securities before she granted the first favor; she did not
make a science of duplicity, nor hypocrisy her only virtue. She gave
herself up entirely, and without the slightest reserve.

And all this at the moment when Jacques saw every thing else around
him crumbled to pieces, when he was on the very brink of utter
despair, just then this happiness came to him, this great and
unexpected happiness, which well-nigh broke his heart.

For a moment he could not move, he could not think.

Then all of a sudden, drawing his betrothed to him, pressing her
convulsively to his bosom, and covering her hair with a thousand
kisses, he cried,--

"I bless you, oh, my darling! I bless you, my well beloved! I shall
mourn no longer. Whatever may happen, I have had my share of heavenly

She thought he consented. Palpitating like the bird in the hand of a
child, she drew back, and looking at Jacques with ineffable love and
tenderness, she said,--

"Let us fix the day!"

"What day?"

"The day for your flight."

This word alone recalled Jacques to a sense of his fearful position.
He was soaring in the supreme heights of the ether, and he was plunged
down into the vile mud of reality. His face, radiant with celestial
joy, grew dark in an instant, and he said hoarsely,--

"That dream is too beautiful to be realized."

"What do you say?" she stammered.

"I can not, I must not, escape!"

"You refuse me, Jacques?"

He made no reply.

"You refuse me, when I swear to you that I will join you, and share
your exile? Do you doubt my word? Do you fear that my grandfather or
my aunts might keep me here in spite of myself?"

As this suppliant voice fell upon his ears, Jacques felt as if all his
energy abandoned him, and his will was shaken.

"I beseech you, Dionysia," he said, "do not insist, do not deprive me
of my courage."

She was evidently suffering agonies. Her eyes shone with unbearable
fire. Her dry lips were trembling.

"You will submit to being brought up in court?" she asked.


"And if you are condemned?"

"I may be, I know."

"This is madness!" cried the young girl.

In her despair she was wringing her hands; and then the words escaped
from her lips, almost unconsciously,--

"Great God," she said, "inspire me! How can I bend him? What must I
say? Jacques, do you love me no longer? For my sake, if not for your
own, I beseech you, let us flee! You escape disgrace; you secure
liberty. Can nothing touch you? What do you want? Must I throw myself
at your feet?"

And she really let herself fall at his feet.

"Flee!" she repeated again and again. "Oh, flee!"

Like all truly energetic men, Jacques recovered in the very excess of
his emotion all his self-possession. Gathering his bewildered thoughts
by a great effort of mind, he raised Dionysia, and carried her, almost
fainting, to the rough prison bench; then, kneeling down by her side,
and taking her hands he said,--

"Dionysia, for pity's sake, come to yourself and listen to me. I am
innocent; and to flee would be to confess that I am guilty."

"Ah! what does that matter?"

"Do you think that my escape would stop the trial? No. Although
absent, I should still be tried, and found guilty without any
opposition: I should be condemned, disgraced, irrevocably dishonored."

"What does it matter?"

Then he felt that such arguments would never bring her back to reason.
He rose, therefore, and said in a firm voice,--

"Let me tell you what you do not know. To flee would be easy, I agree.
I think, as you do, we could reach England readily enough, and we
might even take ship there without trouble. But what then? The cable
is faster than the fastest steamer; and, upon landing on American
soil, I should, no doubt, be met by agents with orders to arrest me.
But suppose even I should escape this first danger. Do you think there
is in all this world an asylum for incendiaries and murderers? There
is none. At the extreme confines of civilization I should still meet
with police-agents and soldiers, who, an extradition treaty in hand,
would give me up to the government of my country. If I were alone, I
might possibly escape all these dangers. But I should never succeed if
I had you near me, and Grandpapa Chandore, and your two aunts."

Dionysia was forcibly struck by these objections, of which she had had
no idea. She said nothing.

"Still, suppose we might possibly escape all such dangers. What would
our life be! Do you know what it would mean to have to hide and to run
incessantly, to have to avoid the looks of every stranger, and to
tremble, day by day, at the thought of discovery? With me, Dionysia,
your existence would be that of the wife of one of those banditti whom
the police are hunting down in his dens. And you ought to know that
such a life is so intolerable, that hardened criminals have been
unable to endure it, and have given up their life for the boon of a
night's quiet sleep."

Big tears were silently rolling down the poor girl's cheeks. She

"Perhaps you are right, Jacques. But, O Jacques, if they should
condemn you!"

"Well, I should at least have done my duty. I should have met fate,
and defended my honor. And, whatever the sentence may be, it will not
overthrow me; for, as long as my heart beats within me, I mean to
defend myself. And, if I die before I succeed in proving my innocence,
I shall leave it to you, Dionysia, to your kindred, and to my friends,
to continue the struggle, and to restore my honor."

She was worthy of comprehending and of appreciating such sentiments.

"I was wrong, Jacques," she said, offering him her hand: "you must
forgive me."

She had risen, and, after a few moments' hesitation, was about to
leave the room, when Jacques retained her, saying,--

"I do not mean to escape; but would not the people who have agreed to
favor my evasion be willing to furnish me the means for passing a few
hours outside of my prison?"

"I think they would," replied the young girl; "And, if you wish it, I
will make sure of it."

"Yes. That might be a last resort."

With these words they parted, exhorting each other to keep up their
courage, and promising each other to meet again during the next days.

Dionysia found her poor aunt Lavarande very tired of the long watch;
and they hastened home.

"How pale you are!" exclaimed M. de Chandore, when he saw his grand-
daughter; "and how red your eyes are! What has happened?"

She told him every thing; and the old gentleman felt chilled to the
marrow of his bones, when he found that it had depended on Jacques
alone to carry off his grandchild. But he had not done so.

"Ah, he is an honest man!" he said.

And, pressing his lips on Dionysia's brow, he added,--

"And you love him more than ever?"

"Alas!" she replied, "is he not more unhappy than ever?"


"Have you heard the news?"

"No: what is it?"

"Dionysia de Chandore has been to see M. de Boiscoran in prison."

"Is it possible?"

"Yes, indeed! Twenty people have seen her come back from there,
leaning on the arm of the older Miss Lavarande. She went in at ten
minutes past ten, and she did not come out till a quarter-past three."

"Is the young woman mad?"

"And the aunt--what do you think of the aunt?"

"She must be as mad as the niece."

"And M. de Chandore?"

"He must have lost his senses to allow such a scandal. But you know
very well, grandfather and aunts never had any will but Dionysia's."

"A nice training!"

"And nice fruits of such an education! After such a scandal, no man
will be bold enough to marry her."

Such were the comments on Dionysia's visit to Jacques, when the news
became known. It flew at once all over town. The ladies "in society"
could not recover from it; for people are exceedingly virtuous at
Sauveterre, and hence they claim the right of being exceedingly strict
in their judgment. There is no trifling permitted on the score of

The person who defies public opinion is lost. Now, public opinion was
decidedly against Jacques de Boiscoran. He was down, and everybody was
ready to kick him.

"Will he get out of it?"

This problem, which was day by day discussed at the "Literary Club,"
had called forth torrents of eloquence, terrible discussions, and even
one or two serious quarrels, one of which had ended in a duel. But
nobody asked any longer,--

"Is he innocent?"

Dr. Seignebos's eloquence, the influence of M. Seneschal, and the
cunning plots of Mechinet, had all failed.

"Ah, what an interesting trial it will be!" said many people, who were
all eagerness to know who would be the presiding judge, in order to
ask him for tickets of admission. Day by day the interest in the trial
became deeper; and all who were in any way connected with it were
watched with great curiosity. Everybody wanted to know what they were
doing, what they thought, and what they had said.

They saw in the absence of the Marquis de Boiscoran an additional
proof of Jacques's guilt. The continued presence of M. Folgat also
created no small wonder. His extreme reserve, which they ascribed to
his excessive and ill-placed pride, had made him generally disliked.
And now they said,--

"He must have hardly any thing to do in Paris, that he can spend so
many months in Sauveterre."

The editor of "The Sauveterre Independent" naturally found the affair
a veritable gold-mine for his paper. He forgot his old quarrel with
the editor of "The Impartial Journal," whom he accused of Bonapartism,
and who retaliated by calling him a Communist. Each day brought, in
addition to the usual mention under the "local" head, some article on
the "Boiscoran Case." He wrote,--

"The health of Count C., instead of improving, is declining
visibly. He used to get up occasionally when he first came to
Sauveterre; and now he rarely leaves his bed. The wound in the
shoulder, which at first seemed to be the least dangerous, has
suddenly become much inflamed, owing to the tropical heat of the
last days. At one time gangrene was apprehended, and it was feared
that amputation would become necessary. Yesterday Dr. S. seemed to
be much disturbed.

"And, as misfortunes never come singly, the youngest daughter of
Count C. is very ill. She had the measles at the time of the fire;
and the fright, the cold, and the removal, have brought on a
relapse, which may be dangerous.

"Amid all these cruel trials, the Countess C. is admirable in her
devotion, her courage, and her resignation. Whenever she leaves
the bedside of her dear patients to pray at church for them, she
is received with the most touching sympathy and the most sincere
admiration by the whole population."

"Ah, that wretch Boiscoran!" cried the good people of Sauveterre when
they read such an article.

The next day, they found this,--

"We have sent to the hospital to inquire from the lady superior how
the poor idiot is, who has taken such a prominent part in the
bloody drama at Valpinson. His mental condition remains unchanged
since he has been examined by experts. The spark of intelligence
which the crime had elicited seems to be extinguished entirely and
forever. It is impossible to obtain a word from him. He is,
however, not locked up. Inoffensive and gentle, like a poor animal
that has lost its master, he wanders mournfully through the courts
and gardens of the hospital. Dr. S., who used to take a lively
interest in him, hardly ever sees him now.

"It was thought at one time, that C. would be summoned to give
evidence in the approaching trial. We are informed by high
authority, that such a dramatic scene must not be expected to take
place. C. will not appear before the jury."

"Certainly, Cocoleu's deposition must have been an interposition of
Providence," said people who were not far from believing that it was a
genuine miracle.

The next day the editor took M. Galpin in hand.

"M. G., the eminent magistrate, is very unwell just now, and very
naturally so after an investigation of such length and importance
as that which preceded the Boiscoran trial. We are told that he
only awaits the decree of the court, to ask for a furlough and to
go to one of the rural stations of the Pyrenees."

Then came Jacques's turn,--

"M. J. de B. stands his imprisonment better than could be expected.
According to direct information, his health is excellent, and his
spirits do not seem to have suffered. He reads much, and spends
part of the night in preparing his defence, and making notes for
his counsel."

Then came, from day to day, smaller items,--

"M. J. de B. is no longer in close confinement."


"M. de B. had this morning an interview with his counsel, M. M.,
the most eminent member of our bar, and M. F., a young but
distinguished advocate from Paris. The conference lasted several
hours. We abstain from giving details; but our readers will
understand the reserve required in the case of an accused who
insists upon protesting energetically that he is innocent."

And, again,--

"M. de B. was yesterday visited by his mother."

Or, finally,--

"We hear at the last moment that the Marchioness de B. and M.
Folgat have left for Paris. Our correspondent in P. writes us that
the decree of the court will not be delayed much longer."

Never had "The Sauveterre Independent" been read with so much
interest. And, as everybody endeavored to be better informed than his
neighbor, quite a number of idle men had assumed the duty of watching
Jacques's friends, and spent their days in trying to find out what was
going on at M. de Chandore's house. Thus it came about, that, on the
evening of Dionysia's visit to Jacques, the street was full of curious
people. Towards half-past ten, they saw M. de Chandore's carriage come
out of the courtyard, and draw up at the door. At eleven o'clock M. de
Chandore and Dr. Seignebos got in, the coachman whipped the horse, and
they drove off.

"Where can they be going?" asked they.

They followed the carriage. The two gentlemen drove to the station.
They had received a telegram, and were expecting the return of the
marchioness and M. Folgat, accompanied, this time, by the old marquis.

They reached there much too soon. The local branch railway which goes
to Sauveterre is not famous for regularity, and still reminds its
patrons occasionally of the old habits of stage-coaches, when the
driver or the conductor had, at the last moment, to stop to pick up
something they had forgotten. At a quarter-past midnight the train,
which ought to have been there twenty minutes before, had not yet been
signalled. Every thing around was silent and deserted. Through the
windows the station-master might be seen fast asleep in his huge
leather chair. Clerks and porters all were asleep, stretched out on
the benches of the waiting-room. But people are accustomed to such
delays at Sauveterre; they are prepared for being kept waiting: and
the doctor and M. de Chandore were walking up and down the platform,
being neither astonished nor impatient at the irregularity. Nor would
they have been much surprised if they had been told that they were
closely watched all the time: they knew their good town. Still it was
so. Two curious men, more obstinate than the others, had jumped into
the omnibus which runs between the station and the town; and now,
standing a little aside, they said to each other,--

"I say, what can they be waiting for?"

At last towards one o'clock, a bell rang, and the station seemed to
start into life. The station-master opened his door, the porters
stretched themselves and rubbed their eyes, oaths were heard, doors
slammed, and the large hand-barrows came in sight.

Then a low thunder-like noise came nearer and nearer; and almost
instantly a fierce red light at the far end of the track shone out in
the dark night like a ball of fire. M. de Chandore and the doctor
hastened to the waiting-room.

The train stopped. A door opened, and the marchioness appeared,
leaning on M. Folgat's arm. The marquis, a travelling-bag in hand,
followed next.

"That was it!" said the volunteer spies, who had flattened their noses
against the window-panes.

And, as the train brought no other passengers, they succeeded in
making the omnibus conductor start at once, eager as they were to
proclaim the arrival of the prisoner's father.

The hour was unfavorable: everybody was asleep; but they did not give
up the hope of finding somebody yet at the club. People stay up very
late at the club, for there is play going on there, and at times
pretty heavy play: you can lose your five hundred francs quite readily
there. Thus the indefatigable news-hunters had a fair chance of
finding open ears for their great piece of news. And yet, if they had
been less eager to spread it, they might have witnessed, perhaps not
entirely unmoved, this first interview between M. de Chandore and the
Marquis de Boiscoran.

By a natural impulse they had both hastened forward, and shook hands
in the most energetic manner. Tears stood in their eyes. They opened
their lips to speak; but they said nothing. Besides, there was no need
of words between them. That close embrace had told Jacques's father
clearly enough what Dionysia's grandfather must have suffered. They
remained thus standing motionless, looking at each other, when Dr.
Seignebos, who could not be still for any length of time, came up, and

"The trunks are on the carriage: shall we go?"

They left the station. The night was clear; and on the horizon, above
the dark mass of the sleeping town, there rose against the pale-blue
sky the two towers of the old castle, which now served as prison to

"That is the place where my Jacques is kept," murmured the marquis.
"There my son is imprisoned, accused of horrible crimes."

"We will get him out of it," said the doctor cheerfully, as he helped
the old gentleman into the carriage.

But in vain did he try, during the drive, to rouse, as he called it,
the spirits of his companions. His hopes found no echo in their
distressed hearts.

M. Folgat inquired after Dionysia, whom he had been surprised not to
see at the station. M. de Chandore replied that she had staid at home
with the Misses Lavarande, to keep M. Magloire company; and that was

There are situations in which it is painful to talk. The marquis had
enough to do to suppress the spasmodic sobs which now and then would
rise in his throat. He was upset by the thought that he was at
Sauveterre. Whatever may be said to the contrary, distance does not
weaken our emotions. Shaking hands with M. de Chandore in person had
moved him more deeply than all the letters he had received for a
month. And when he saw Jacques's prison from afar, he had the first
clear notion of the horrible tortures endured by his son. The
marchioness was utterly exhausted: she felt as if all the springs in
her system were broken.

M. de Chandore trembled when he looked at them, and saw how they all
were on the point of succumbing. If they despaired, what could he hope
for,--he, who knew how indissolubly Dionysia's fate in life was
connected with Jacques?

At length the carriage stopped before his house. The door opened
instantly, and the marchioness found herself in Dionysia's arms, and
soon after comfortably seated in an easy-chair. The others had
followed her. It was past two o'clock; but every minute now was
valuable. Arranging his spectacles, Dr. Seignebos said,--

"I propose that we exchange our information. I, for my part, I am
still at the same point. But you know my views. I do not give them up.
Cocoleu is an impostor, and it shall be proved. I appear to notice him
no longer; but, in reality, I watch him more closely than ever."

Dionysia interrupted him, saying,--

"Before any thing is decided, there is one fact which you all ought to
know. Listen."

Pale like death, for it cost her a great struggle to reveal thus the
secret of her heart, but with a voice full of energy, and an eye full
of fire, she told them what she had already confessed to her
grandfather; viz., the propositions she had made to Jacques, and his
obstinate refusal to accede to them.

"Well done, madame!" said Dr. Seignebos, full of enthusiasm. "Well
done! Jacques is very unfortunate, and still he is to be envied."

Dionysia finished her recital. Then, turning with a triumphant air to
M. Magloire, she added,--

"After that, is there any one yet who could believe that Jacques is a
vile assassin?"

The eminent advocate of Sauveterre was not one of those men who prize
their opinions more highly than truth itself.

"I confess," he said, "that, if I were to go and see Jacques to-morrow
for the first time, I should not speak to him as I did before."

"And I," exclaimed the Marquis de Boiscoran,--"I declare that I answer
for my son as for myself, and I mean to tell him so to-morrow."

Then turning towards his wife, and speaking so low, that she alone
could hear him, he added,--

"And I hope you will forgive me those suspicions which now fill me
with horror."

But the marchioness had no strength left: she fainted, and had to be
removed, accompanied by Dionysia and the Misses Lavarande. As soon as
they were out of the room, Dr. Seignebos locked the door, rested his
elbow on the chimney, and, taking off his spectacles to wipe them,
said to M. Folgat,--

"Now we can speak freely. What news do you bring us?"


It had just struck eleven o'clock, when the jailer, Blangin, entered
Jacques's cell in great excitement, and said,--

"Sir, your father is down stairs."

The prisoner jumped up, thunderstruck.

The night before he had received a note from M. de Chandore, informing
him of the marquis's arrival; and his whole time had since been spent
in preparing himself for the interview. How would it be? He had
nothing by which to judge. He had therefore determined to be quite
reserved. And, whilst he was following Blangin along the dismal
passage and down the interminable steps, he was busily composing
respectful phrases, and trying to look self-possessed.

But, before he could utter a single word, he was in his father's arms.
He felt himself pressed against his heart, and heard him stammer,--

"Jacques, my dear son, my unfortunate child!"

In all his life, long and stormy as it had been, the marquis had not
been tried so severely. Drawing Jacques to one of the parlor-windows,
and leaning back a little, so as to see him better, he was amazed how
he could ever have doubted his son. It seemed to him that he was
standing there himself. He recognized his own feature and carriage,
his own frank but rather haughty expression, his own clear, bright

Then, suddenly noticing details, he was shocked to see Jacques so much
reduced. He found him looking painfully pale, and he actually
discovered at the temples more than one silvery hair amid his thick
black curls.

"Poor child!" he said. "How you must have suffered!"

"I thought I should lose my senses," replied Jacques simply.

And with a tremor in his voice, he asked,--

"But, dear father, why did you give me no sign of life? Why did you
stay away so long?"

The marquis was not unprepared for such a question. But how could he
answer it? Could he ever tell Jacques the true secret of his
hesitation? Turning his eyes aside, he answered,--

"I hoped I should be able to serve you better by remaining in Paris."
But his embarrassment was too evident to escape Jacques.

"You did not doubt your own child, father?" he asked sadly.

"Never!" cried the marquis, "I never doubted a moment. Ask your
mother, and she will tell you that it was this proud assurance I felt
which kept me from coming down with her. When I heard of what they
accused you, I said 'It is absurd!' "

Jacques shook his head, and said,--

"The accusation was absurd; and yet you see what it has brought me

Two big tears, which he could no longer retain, burnt in the eyes of
the old gentleman.

"You blame me, Jacques," he said. "You blame your father."

There is not a man alive who could see his father shed tears, and not
feel his heart melt within him. All the resolutions Jacques had formed
vanished in an instant. Pressing his father's hand in his own, he

"No, I do not blame you, father. And still I have no words to tell you
how much your absence has added to my sufferings. I thought I was
abandoned, disowned."

For the first time since his imprisonment, the unfortunate man found a
heart to whom he could confide all the bitterness that overflowed in
his own heart. With his mother and with Dionysia, honor forbade him to
show despair. The incredulity of M. Magloire had made all confidence
impossible; and M. Folgat, although as sympathetic as man could be
was, after all, a perfect stranger.

But now he had near him a friend, the dearest and most precious friend
that a man can ever have,--his father: now he had nothing to fear.

"Is there a human being in this world," he said, "whose misfortunes
equal mine? To be innocent, and not to be able to prove it! To know
the guilty one, and not to dare mention the name. Ah! at first I did
not take in the whole horror of my situation. I was frightened, to be
sure; but I had recovered, thinking that surely justice would not be
slow in discovering the truth. Justice! It was my friend Galpin who
represented it, and he cared little enough for truth: his only aim was
to prove that the man whom he accused was the guilty man. Read the
papers, father, and you will see how I have been victimized by the
most unheard-of combination of circumstances. Every thing is against
me. Never has that mysterious, blind, and absurd power manifested
itself so clearly,--that awful power which we call fate.

"First I was kept by a sense of honor from mentioning the name of the
Countess Claudieuse, and then by prudence. The first time I mentioned
it to M. Magloire, he told me I lied. Then I thought every thing lost.
I saw no other end but the court, and, after the trial, the galleys or
the scaffold. I wanted to kill myself. My friends made me understand
that I did not belong to myself, and that, as long as I had a spark of
energy and a ray of intelligence left me, I had no right to dispose of
my life."

"Poor, poor child!" said the marquis. "No, you have no such right."

"Yesterday," continued Jacques, "Dionysia came to see me. Do you know
what brought her here? She offered to flee with me. Father, that
temptation was terrible. Once free, and Dionysia by my side, what
cared I for the world? She insisted, like the matchless girl that she
is; and look there, there, on the spot where you now stand, she threw
herself at my feet, imploring me to flee. I doubt whether I can save
my life; but I remain here."

He felt deeply moved, and sank upon the rough bench, hiding his face
in his hands, perhaps to conceal his tears.

Suddenly, however, he was seized with one of those attacks of rage
which had come to him but too often during his imprisonment, and he

"But what have I done to deserve such fearful punishment?"

The brow of the marquis suddenly darkened; and he replied solemnly,--

"You have coveted your neighbor's wife, my son."

Jacques shrugged his shoulders. He said,--

"I loved the Countess Claudieuse, and she loved me."

"Adultery is a crime, Jacques."

"A crime? Magloire said the same thing. But, father, do you really
think so? Then it is a crime which has nothing appalling about it, to
which every thing invites and encourages, of which everybody boasts,
and at which the world smiles. The law, it is true, gives the husband
the right of life and death; but, if you appeal to the law, it gives
the guilty man six months' imprisonment, or makes him pay a few
thousand francs."

Ah, if he had known, the unfortunate man!

"Jacques," said the marquis, "the Countess Claudieuse hints, as you
say, that one of her daughters, the youngest, is your child?"

"That may be so."

The Marquis de Boiscoran shuddered. Then he exclaimed bitterly,--

"That may be so! You say that carelessly, indifferently, madman! Did
you never think of the grief Count Claudieuse would feel if he should
learn the truth? And even if he merely suspected it! Can you not
comprehend that such a suspicion is quite sufficient to embitter a
whole life, to ruin the life of that girl? Have you never told
yourself that such a doubt inflicts a more atrocious punishment than
any thing you have yet suffered?"

He paused. A few words more, and he would have betrayed his secret.
Checking his excitement by an heroic effort, he said,--

"But I did not come here to discuss this question; I came to tell you,
that, whatever may happen, your father will stand by you, and that, if
you must undergo the disgrace of appearing in court, I will take a
seat by your side."

In spite of his own great trouble, Jacques had not been able to avoid
seeing his father's unusual excitement and his sudden vehemence. For a
second, he had a vague perception of the truth; but, before the
suspicion could assume any shape, it had vanished before this promise
which his father made, to face by his side the overwhelming
humiliation of a judgment in court,--a promise full of divine self-
abnegation and paternal love. His gratitude burst forth in the

"Ah, father! I ought to ask your pardon for ever having doubted your
heart for a moment."

M. de Boiscoran tried his best to recover his self-possession. At last
he said in an earnest voice,--

"Yes, I love you, my son; and still you must not make me out more of a
hero than I am. I still hope we may be spared the appearance in

"Has any thing new been discovered?"

"M. Folgat has found some traces which justify legitimate hopes,
although, as yet, no real success has been achieved."

Jacques looked rather discouraged.

"Traces?" he asked.

"Be patient. They are feeble traces, I admit, and such as could not be
produced in court; but from day to day they may become decisive. And
already they have had one good effect: they have brought us back M.

"O God! Could I really be saved?"

"I shall leave to M. Folgat," continued the marquis, "the satisfaction
of telling you the result of his efforts. He can explain their bearing
better than I could. And you will not have long to wait; for last
night, or rather this morning, when we separated, he and M. Magloire
agreed to meet here at the prison, before two o'clock."

A few minutes later a rapid step approached in the passage; and
Trumence appeared, the prisoner of whom Blangin had made an assistant,
and whom Mechinet had employed to carry Jacques's letters to Dionysia.
He was a tall well-made man of twenty-five or six years, whose large
mouth and small eyes were perpetually laughing. A vagabond without
hearth or home, Trumence had once been a land-owner. At the death of
his parents, when he was only eighteen years old, Trumence had come
into possession of a house surrounded by a yard, a garden, several
acres of land, and a salt meadow; all worth about fifteen thousand
francs. Unfortunately the time for the conscription was near. Like
many young men of that district, Trumence believed in witchcraft, and
had gone to buy a charm, which cost him fifty francs. It consisted of
three tamarind-branches gathered on Christmas Eve, and tied together
by a magic number of hairs drawn from a dead man's head. Having sewed
this charm into his waistcoat, Trumence had gone to town, and,
plunging his hand boldly into the urn, had drawn number three. This
was unexpected. But as he had a great horror of military service, and,
well-made as he was, felt quite sure that he would not be rejected, he
determined to employ a chance much more certain to succeed; namely, to
borrow money in order to buy a substitute.

As he was a land-owner, he found no difficulty in meeting with an
obliging person, who consented to lend him for two years thirty-five
hundred francs, in return for a first mortgage on his property. When
the papers were signed, and Trumence had the money in his pocket, he
set out for Rochefort, where dealers in substitutes abounded; and for
the sum of two thousand francs, exclusive of some smaller items, they
furnished him a substitute of the best quality.

Delighted with the operation, Trumence was about to return home, when
his evil star led him to sup at his inn with a countryman, a former
schoolmate, who was now a sailor on board a coal-barge. Of course,
countrymen when they meet must drink. They did drink; and, as the
sailor very soon scented the twelve hundred francs which remained in
Trumence's pockets, he swore that he was going to have a jolly time,
and would not return on board his barge as long as there remained a
cent in his friend's pocket. So it happened, that, after a fortnight's
carouse, the sailor was arrested and put in jail; and Trumence was
compelled to borrow five francs from the stage-driver to enable him to
get home.

This fortnight was decisive for his life. During these days he had
lost all taste for work, and acquired a real passion for taverns where
they played with greasy cards. After his return he tried to continue
this jolly life; and, to do so, he made more debts. He sold, piece
after piece, all he possessed that was salable, down to his mattress
and his tools. This was not the way to repay the thirty-five hundred
francs which he owed. When pay-day came, the creditor, seeing that his
security was diminishing every day, lost no time. Before Trumence was
well aware of what was going on, an execution was in the house; his
lands were sold; and one fine day he found himself in the street,
possessing literally nothing in the world but the wretched clothes on
his back.

He might easily have found employment; for he was a good workman, and
people were fond of him in spite of all. But he was even more afraid
of work than he was fond of drink. Whenever want pressed too hard, he
worked a few days; but, as soon as he had earned ten francs, good-by!
Off he went, lounging by the road-side, talking with the wagoners, or
loafing about the villages, and watching for one of those kind topers,
who, rather than drink alone, invite the first-comer. Trumence boasted
of being well known all along the coast, and even far into the
department. And what was most surprising was that people did not blame
him much for his idleness. Good housewives in the country would, it is
true, greet him with a "Well, what do you want here, good-for-
nothing?" But they would rarely refuse him a bowl of soup or a glass
of white wine. His unchanging good-humor, and his obliging
disposition, explained this forbearance. This man, who would refuse a
well-paid job, was ever ready to lend a hand for nothing. And he was
handy at every thing, by land and by water, he called it, so that the
farmer whose business was pressing, and the fisherman in his boat who
wanted help, appealed alike to Trumence.

The mischief, however, is, that this life of rural beggary, if it has
its good days, also has its evil times. On certain days, Trumence
could not find either kind-hearted topers or hospitable housewives.
Hunger, however, was ever on hand; then he had to become a marauder;
dig some potatoes, and cook them in a corner of a wood, or pilfer the
orchards. And if he found neither potatoes in the fields, nor apples
in the orchards, what could he do but climb a fence, or scale a wall?

Relatively speaking, Trumence was an honest man, and incapable of
stealing a piece of money; but vegetables, fruits, chickens--

Thus it had come about that he had been arrested twice, and condemned
to several days' imprisonment; and each time he had vowed solemnly
that he would never be caught at it again, and that he was going to
work hard. And yet he had been caught again.

The poor fellow had told his misfortunes to Jacques; and Jacques, who
owed it to him that he could, when still in close confinement,
correspond with Dionysia, felt very kindly towards him. Hence, when he
saw him come up very respectful, and cap in hand, he asked,--

"What is it, Trumence?"

"Sir," replied the vagrant, "M. Blangin sends you word that the two
advocates are coming up to your room."

Once more the marquis embraced his son, saying,--

"Do not keep them waiting, and keep up your courage."


The Marquis de Boiscoran had not been mistaken about M. Magloire. Much
shaken by Dionysia's statement, he had been completely overcome by M.
Folgat's explanations; and, when he now came to the jail, it was with
a determination to prove Jacques's innocence.

"But I doubt very much whether he will ever forgive me for my
incredulity," he said to M. Folgat while they were waiting for the
prisoner in his cell.

Jacques came in, still deeply moved by the scene with his father. M.
Magloire went up to him, and said,--

"I have never been able to conceal my thoughts, Jacques. When I
thought you guilty, and felt sure that you accused the Countess
Claudieuse falsely, I told you so with almost brutal candor. I have
since found out my error, and am now convinced of the truth of your
statement: so I come and tell you as frankly, Jacques, I was wrong to
have had more faith in the reputation of a woman than in the words of
a friend. Will you give me your hand?"

The prisoner grasped his hand with a profusion of joy, and cried,--

"Since you believe in my innocence, others may believe in me too, and
my salvation is drawing near."

The melancholy faces of the two advocates told him that he was
rejoicing too soon. His features expressed his grief; but he said with
a firm voice,--

"Well, I see that the struggle will be a hard one, and that the result
is still uncertain. Never mind. You may be sure I will not give way."

In the meantime M. Folgat had spread out on the table all the papers
he had brought with him,--copies furnished by Mechinet, and notes
taken during his rapid journey.

"First of all, my dear client," he said, "I must inform you of what
has been done."

And when he had stated every thing, down to the minutest details of
what Goudar and he had done, he said,--

"Let us sum up. We are able to prove three things: 1. That the house
in Vine Street belongs to you, and that Sir Francis Burnett, who is
known there, and you are one; 2. That you were visited in this house
by a lady, who, from all the precautions she took, had powerful
reasons to remain unknown; 3. That the visits of this lady took place
at certain epochs every year, which coincided precisely with the
journeys which the Countess Claudieuse yearly made to Paris."

The great advocate of Sauveterre expressed his assent.

"Yes," he said, "all this is fully established."

"For ourselves, we have another certainty,--that Suky Wood, the
servant of the false Sir Francis Burnett, has watched the mysterious
lady; that she has seen her, and consequently would know her again."

"True, that appears from the deposition of the girl's friend."

"Consequently, if we discover Suky Wood, the Countess Claudieuse is

"If we discover her," said M. Magloire. "And here, unfortunately, we
enter into the region of suppositions."

"Suppositions!" said M. Folgat. "Well, call them so; but they are
based upon positive facts, and supported by a hundred precedents. Why
should we not find this Suky Wood, whose birthplace and family we
know, and who has no reason for concealment? Goudar has found very
different people; and Goudar is on our side. And you may be sure he
will not be asleep. I have held out to him a certain hope which will
make him do miracles,--the hope of receiving as a reward, if he
succeeds, the house in Vine Street. The stakes are too magnificent: he
must win the game,--he who has won so many already. Who knows what he
may not have discovered since we left him? Has he not done wonders

"It is marvellous!" cried Jacques, amazed at these results.

Older than M. Folgat and Jacques, the eminent advocate of Sauveterre
was less ready to feel such enthusiasm.

"Yes," he said, "it is marvellous; and, if we had time, I would say as
you do, 'We shall carry the day!' But there is no time for Goudar's
investigations: the sessions are on hand, and it seems to me it would
be very difficult to obtain a postponement."

"Besides, I do not wish it to be postponed," said Jacques.


"On no account, Magloire, never! What? I should endure three months
more of this anguish which tortures me? I could not do it: my strength
is exhausted. This uncertainty has been too much for me. I could bear
no more suspense."

M. Folgat interrupted him, saying,--

"Do not trouble yourself about that: a postponement is out of the
question. On what pretext could we ask for it? The only way would be
to introduce an entirely new element in the case. We should have to
summon the Countess Claudieuse."

The greatest surprise appeared on Jacques's face.

"Will we not summon her anyhow?" he asked.

"That depends."

"I do not understand you."

'It is very simple, however. If Goudar should succeed, before the
trial, in collecting sufficient evidence against her, I should summon
her certainly; and then the case would naturally change entirely; the
whole proceeding would begin anew; and you would probably appear only
as a witness. If, on the contrary, we obtain, before the trial begins,
no other proof but what we have now, I shall not mention her name
even; for that would, in my opinion, and in M. Magloire's opinion,
ruin your cause irrevocably."

"Yes," said the great advocate, "that is my opinion."

Jacques's amazement was boundless.

"Still," he said, "in self-defence, I must, if I am brought up in
court, speak of my relations to the Countess Claudieuse."


"But that is my only explanation."

"If it were credited."

"And you think you can defend me, you think you can save me, without
telling the truth?"

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

"In court the truth is the last thing to be thought of."


"Do you think the jury would credit allegations which M. Magloire did
not credit? No. Well, then, we had better not speak of them any more,
and try to find some explanation which will meet the charges brought
against you. Do you think we should be the first to act thus? By no
means. There are very few cases in which the prosecution says all it
knows, and still fewer in which the defence calls for every thing it
might call for. Out of ten criminal trials, there are at least three
in which side-issues are raised. What will be the charge in court
against you? The substance of the romance which the magistrate has
invented in order to prove your guilt. You must meet him with another
romance which proves your innocence."

"But the truth."

"Is dependent on probability, my dear client. Ask M. Magloire. The
prosecution only asks for probability: hence probability is all the
defence has to care for. Human justice is feeble, and limited in its
means; it cannot go down to the very bottom of things; it cannot judge
of motives, and fathom consciences. It can only judge from
appearances, and decide by plausibility; there is hardly a case which
has not some unexplored mystery, some undiscovered secret. The truth!
Ah! do you think M. Galpin has looked for it? If he did, why did he
not summon Cocoleu? But no, as long as he can produce a criminal, who
may be responsible for the crime, he is quite content. The truth!
Which of us knows the real truth? Your case, M. de Boiscoran, is one
of those in which neither the prosecution, nor the defence, nor the
accused himself, knows the truth of the matter."

There followed a long silence, so deep a silence, that the step of the
sentinel could b heard, who was walking up and down under the prison-
windows. M. Folgat had said all he thought proper to say: he feared,
in saying more, to assume too great a responsibility. It was, after
all, Jacques's life and Jacques's honor which were at stake. He alone,
therefore, ought to decide the nature of his defence. If his judgment
was too forcibly controlled by his counsel, he would have had a right
hereafter to say, "Why did you not leave me free to choose? I should
not have been condemned."

To show this very clearly, M. Folgat went on,--

"The advice I give you, my dear client, is, in my eyes, the best; it
is the advice I would give my own brother. But, unfortunately, I
cannot say it is infallible. You must decide yourself. Whatever you
may resolve, I am still at your service."

Jacques made no reply. His elbows resting on the table, his face in
his hands, he remained motionless, like a statue, absorbed in his
thoughts. What should he do? Should he follow his first impulse, tear
the veil aside, and proclaim the truth? That was a doubtful policy,
but also, what a triumph if he succeeded!

Should he adopt the views of his counsel, employ subterfuges and
falsehoods? That was more certain of success; but to be successful in
this way--was that a real victory?

Jacques was in a terrible perplexity. He felt it but too clearly. The
decision he must form now would decide his fate. Suddenly he raised
his head, and said,--

"What is your advice, M. Magloire?"

The great advocate of Sauveterre frowned angrily; and said, in a
somewhat rough tone of voice,--

"I have had the honor to place before your mother all that my young
colleague has just told you. M. Folgat has but one fault,--he is too
cautious. The physician must not ask what his patient thinks of his
remedies: he must prescribe them. It may be that our prescriptions do
not meet with success; but, if you do not follow them, you are most
assuredly lost."

Jacques hesitated for some minutes longer. These prescriptions, as M.
Magloire called them, were painfully repugnant to his chivalrous and
open character.

"Would it be worth while," he murmured, "to be acquitted on such
terms? Would I really be exculpated by such proceedings? Would not my
whole life thereafter be disgraced by suspicions? I should not come
out from the trial with a clear acquittal: I should have escaped by a
mere chance."

"That would still better than to go, by a clear judgment, to the
galleys," said M. Magloire brutally.

This word, "the galleys," made Jacques bound. He rose, walked up and
down a few times in his room, and then, placing himself in front of
his counsel, said,--

"I put myself in your hands, gentlemen. Tell me what I must do."

Jacques had at least this merit, if he once formed a resolution, he
was sure to adhere to it. Calm now, and self-possessed, he sat down,
and said, with a melancholy smile,--

"Let us hear the plan of battle."

This plan had been for a month now the one great thought of M. Folgat.
All his intelligence, all his sagacity and knowledge of the world, had
been brought to bear upon this case, which he had made his own, so to
say, by his almost passionate interest. He knew the tactics of the
prosecution as well as M. Galpin himself, and he knew its weak and its
strong side even better than M. Galpin.

"We shall go on, therefore," he began, "as if there was no such person
as the Countess Claudieuse. We know nothing of her. We shall say
nothing of the meeting at Valpinson, nor of the burned letters."

"That is settled."

"That being so, we must next look, not for the manner in which we
spent our time, but for our purpose in going out the evening of the
crime. Ah! If we could suggest a plausible, a very probable purpose, I
should almost guarantee our success; for we need not hesitate to say
there is the turning-point of the whole case, on which all the
discussions will turn."

Jacques did not seem to be fully convinced of this view. He said,--

"You think that possible?"

"Unfortunately, it is but too certain; and, if I say unfortunately, it
is because here we have to meet a terrible charge, the most decisive,
by all means, that has been raised, one on which M. Galpin has not
insisted (he is much too clever for that), but one which, in the hands
of the prosecution, may become a terrible weapon."

"I must confess," said Jacques, "I do not very well see"--

"Have you forgotten the letter you wrote to Miss Dionysia the evening
of the crime?" broke in M. Magloire.

Jacques looked first at one, and then at the other of his counsel.

"What," he said, "that letter?"

"Overwhelms us, my dear client," said M. Folgat. "Don't you remember
it? You told your betrothed in that note, that you would be prevented
from enjoying the evening with her by some business of the greatest
importance, and which could not be delayed? Thus, you see, you had
determined beforehand, and after mature consideration, to spend that
evening in doing a certain thing. What was it? 'The murder of Count
Claudieuse,' says the prosecution. What can we say?"

"But, I beg your pardon--that letter. Miss Dionysia surely has not
handed it over to them?"

"No; but the prosecution is aware of its existence. M. de Chandore and
M. Seneschal have spoken of it in the hope of exculpating you, and
have even mentioned the contents. And M. Galpin knows it so well, that
he had repeatedly mentioned it to you, and you have confessed all that
he could desire."

The young advocate looked among his papers; and soon he had found what
he wanted.

"Look here," he said, "in your third examination, I find this,--

" 'QUESTION.--You were shortly to marry Miss Chandore?


Q--For some time you had been spending your evenings with her?

A.--Yes, all.

Q.--Except the one of the crime?


Q.--Then your betrothed must have wondered at your absence?

A.--No: I had written to her.' "

"Do you hear, Jacques?" cried M. Magloire. "Notice that M. Galpin
takes care not to insist. He does not wish to rouse your suspicions.
He has got you to confess, and that is enough for him."

But, in the meantime, M. Folgat had found another paper.

"In your sixth examination," he went on, "I have noticed this,--

" 'Q.--You left your house with your gun on your shoulder, without
any definite aim?

A.--I shall explain that when I have consulted with counsel.

Q.--You need no consultation to tell the truth.

A.--I shall not change my resolution.

Q.--Then you will not tell me where you were between eight and

A.--I shall answer that question at the same time with the other.

Q.--You must have had very strong reasons to keep you out, as you
were expected by your betrothed, Miss Chandore?

A.--I had written to her not to expect me.' "

"Ah! M. Galpin is a clever fellow," growled M. Magloire.

"Finally," said M. Folgat, "here is a passage from your last but one

" 'Q.--When you wanted to send anybody to Sauveterre, whom did you
usually employ?

A.--The son of one of my tenants, Michael.

Q.--It was he, I suppose, who, on the evening of the crime,
carried the letter to Miss Chandore, in which you told her not to
expect you?


Q.--You pretended you would be kept by some important business?

A.--That is the usual pretext.

Q.--But in your case it was no pretext. Where had you to go? and
where did you go?

A.--As long as I have not seen counsel I shall say nothing.

Q.--Have a care: the system of negation and concealment is

A.--I know it, and I accept the consequences.' "

Jacques was dumfounded. And necessarily every accused person is
equally surprised when he hears what he has stated in the examination.
There is not one who does not exclaim,--

"What, I said that? Never!"

He has said it, and there is no denying it; for there it is written,
and signed by himself. How could he ever say so?

Ah! that is the point. However clever a man may be, he cannot for many
months keep all his faculties on the stretch, and all his energy up to
its full power. He has his hours of prostration and his hours of hope,
his attacks of despair and his moments of courage; and the impassive
magistrate takes advantage of them all. Innocent or guilty, no
prisoner can cope with him. However powerful his memory may be, how
can he recall an answer which he may have given weeks and weeks
before? The magistrate, however, remembers it; and twenty times, if
need be, he brings it up again. And as the small snowflake may become
an irresistible avalanche, so an insignificant word, uttered at
haphazard, forgotten, then recalled, commented upon, and enlarged may
become crushing evidence.

Jacques now experienced this. These questions had been put to him so
skilfully, and at such long intervals of time, that he had totally
forgotten them; and yet now, when he recalled his answers, he had to
acknowledge that he had confessed his purpose to devote that evening
to some business of great importance.

"That is fearful!" he cried.

And, overcome by the terrible reality of M. Folgat's apprehension, he

"How can we get out of that?"

"I told you," replied M. Folgat, "we must find some plausible

"I am sure I am incapable of that."

The young lawyer seemed to reflect a moment, and then he said,--

"You have been a prisoner while I have been free. For a month now I
have thought this matter over."


"Where was your wedding to be?"

"At my house at Boiscoran."

"Where was the religious ceremony to take place?"

"At the church at Brechy."

"Have you ever spoken of that to the priest?"

"Several times. One day especially, when we discussed it in a pleasant
way, he said jestingly to me, 'I shall have you, after all in my
confessional.' "

M. Folgat almost trembled with satisfaction, and Jacques saw it.

"Then the priest at Brechy was your friend?"

"An intimate friend. He sometimes came to dine with me quite
unceremoniously, and I never passed him without shaking hands with

The young lawyer's joy was growing perceptibly.

"Well," he said, "my explanation is becoming quite plausible. Just
hear what I have positively ascertained to be the fact. In the time
from nine to eleven o'clock, on the night of the crime, there was not
a soul at the parsonage in Brechy. The priest was dining with M.
Besson, at his house; and his servant had gone out to meet him with a

"I understand," said M. Magloire.

"Why should you not have gone to see the priest at Brechy, my dear
client? In the first place, you had to arrange the details of the
ceremony with him; then, as he is your friend, and a man of
experience, and a priest, you wanted to ask him for his advice before
taking so grave a step, and, finally, you intended to fulfil that
religious duty of which he spoke, and which you were rather reluctant
to comply with."

"Well said!" approved the eminent lawyer of Sauveterre,--"very well

"So, you see, my dear client, it was for the purpose of consulting the
priest at Brechy that you deprived yourself of the pleasure of
spending the evening with your betrothed. Now let us see how that
answers the allegations of the prosecution. They ask you why you took
to the marshes. Why? Because it was the shortest way, and you were
afraid of finding the priest in bed. Nothing more natural; for it is
well known that the excellent man is in the habit of going to bed at
nine o'clock. Still you had put yourself out in vain; for, when you
knocked at the door of the parsonage, nobody came to open."

Here M. Magloire interrupted his colleague, saying,--

"So far, all is very well. But now there comes a very great
improbability. No one would think of going through the forest of
Rochepommier in order to return from Brechy to Boiscoran. If you knew
the country"--

"I know it; for I have carefully explored it. And the proof of it is,
that, having foreseen the objection, I have found an answer. While M.
de Boiscoran knocked at the door, a little peasant-girl passed by, and
told him that she had just met the priest at a place called the
Marshalls' Cross-roads. As the parsonage stands quite isolated, at the
end of the village, such an incident is very probable. As for the
priest, chance led me to learn this: precisely at the hour at which M.
de Boiscoran would have been at Brechy, a priest passed the Marshalls'
Cross-roads; and this priest, whom I have seen, belongs to the next
parish. He also dined at M. Besson's, and had just been sent for to
attend a dying woman. The little girl, therefore, did not tell a
story; she only made a mistake."

"Excellent!" said M. Magloire.

"Still," continued M. Folgat, "after this information, what did M. de
Boiscoran do? He went on; and, hoping every moment to meet the priest,
he walked as far as the forest of Rochepommier. Finding, at last, that
the peasant-girl had--purposely or not--led him astray, he determined
to return to Boiscoran through the woods. But he was in very bad humor
at having thus lost an evening which he might have spent with his
betrothed; and this made him swear and curse, as the witness Gaudry
has testified."

The famous lawyer of Sauveterre shook his head.

"That is ingenious, I admit; and I confess, in all humility, that I
could not have suggested any thing as good. But--for there is a but--
your story sins by its very simplicity. The prosecution will say, 'If
that is the truth, why did not M. de Boiscoran say so at once? And
what need was there to consult his counsel?' "

M. Folgat showed in his face that he was making a great effort to meet
the objection. After a while, he replied,--

"I know but too well that that is the weak spot in our armor,--a very
weak spot, too; for it is quite clear, that, if M. de Boiscoran had
given this explanation on the day of his arrest, he would have been
released instantly. But what better can be found? What else can be
found? However, this is only a rough sketch of my plan, and I have
never put it into words yet till now. With your assistance, M.
Magloire, with the aid of Mechinet, to whom I am already indebted for
very valuable information, with the aid of all our friends, in fine, I
cannot help hoping that I may be able to improve my plan by adding
some mysterious secret which may help to explain M. de Boiscoran's
reticence. I thought, at one time, of calling in politics, and to
pretend, that, on account of the peculiar views of which he is
suspected, M. de Boiscoran preferred keeping his relations with the
priest at Brechy a secret."

"Oh, that would have been most unfortunate!" broke in M. Magloire. "We
are not only religious at Sauveterre, we are devout, my good
colleague,--excessively devout."

"And I have given up that idea."

Jacques, who had till now kept silent and motionless, now raised
himself suddenly to his full height, and cried, in a voice of
concentrated rage,--

"Is it not too bad, is it not atrocious, that we should be compelled
to concoct a falsehood? And I am innocent! What more could be done if
I were a murderer?"

Jacques was perfectly right: it was monstrous that he should be
absolutely forced to conceal the truth. But his counsel took no notice
of his indignation: they were too deeply absorbed in examining
minutely their system of defence.

"Let us go on to the other points of the accusation," said M.

"If my version is accepted," replied M. Folgat, "the rest follows as a
matter of course. But will they accept it? On the day on which he was
arrested, M. de Boiscoran, trying to find an excuse for having been
out that night, has said that he had gone to see his wood-merchant at
Brechy. That was a disastrous imprudence. And here is the real danger.
As to the rest, that amounts to nothing. There is the water in which
M. de Boiscoran washed his hands when he came home, and in which they
have found traces of burnt paper. We have only to modify the facts
very slightly to explain that. We have only to state that M. de
Boiscoran is a passionate smoker: that is well known. He had taken
with him a goodly supply of cigarettes when he set out for Brechy; but
he had taken no matches. And that is a fact. We can furnish proof, we
can produce witnesses, we had no matches; for we had forgotten our
match-box, the day before, at M. de Chandore's,--the box which we
always carry about on our person, which everybody knows, and which is
still lying on the mantelpiece in Miss Dionysia's little boudoir.
Well, having no matches, we found that we could go no farther without
a smoke. We had gone quite far already; and the question was, Shall we
go on without smoking, or return? No need of either! There was our
gun; and we knew very well what sportsmen do under such circumstances.
We took the shot out of one of our cartridges, and, in setting the
powder on fire, we lighted a piece of paper. This is an operation in
which you cannot help blackening your fingers. As we had to repeat it
several times, our hands were very much soiled and very black, and the
nails full of little fragments of burnt paper."

"Ah! now you are right," exclaimed M. Magloire. "Well done!"

His young colleague became more and more animated; and always
employing the profession "we," which his brethren affect, he went

"This water, which you dwell upon so much, is the clearest evidence of
our innocence. If we had been an incendiary, we should certainly have
poured it out as hurriedly as the murderer tries to wash out the
blood-stains on his clothes, which betray him."

"Very well," said M. Magloire again approvingly.

"And your other charges," continued M. Folgat, as if he were standing
in court, and addressing the jury,--"your other charges have all the
same weight. Our letter to Miss Dionysia--why do you refer to that?
Because, you say, it proves our premeditation. Ah! there I hold you.
Are we really so stupid and bereft of common sense? That is not our
reputation. What! we premeditate a crime, and we do not say to
ourselves that we shall certainly be convicted unless we prepare an
/alibi/! What! we leave home with the fixed purpose of killing a man,
and we load our gun with small-shot! Really, you make the defence too
easy; for your charges do not stand being examined."

It was Jacques's turn, this time, to testify his approbation.

"That is," he said, "what I have told Galpin over and over again; and
he never had any thing to say in reply. We must insist on that point."

M. Folgat was consulting his notes.

"I now come to a very important circumstance, and one which I should,
at the trial, make a decisive question, if it should be favorable to
our side. Your valet, my dear client,--your old Anthony,--told me that
he had cleaned and washed your breech-loader the night before the

"Great God!" exclaimed Jacques.

"Well, I see you appreciate the importance of the fact. Between that
cleaning and the time when you set a cartridge on fire, in order to
burn the letters of the Countess Claudieuse, did you fire your gun? If
you did, we must say nothing more about it. If you did not, one of the
barrels of the breech-loader must be clean, and then you are safe."

For more than a minute, Jacques remained silent, trying to recall the
facts; at last he replied,--

"It seems to me, I am sure, I fired at a rabbit on the morning of the
fatal day."

M. Magloire looked disappointed.

"Fate again!" he said.

"Oh, wait!" cried Jacques. "I am quite sure, at all events, that I
killed that rabbit at the first shot. Consequently, I can have fouled
only one barrel of the gun. If I have used the same barrel at
Valpinson, to get a light, I am safe. With a double gun, one almost
instinctively first uses the right-hand barrel."

M. Magloire's face grew darker.

"Never mind," he said, "we cannot possibly make an argument upon such
an uncertain chance,--a chance which, in case of error, would almost
fatally turn against us. But at the trial, when they show you the gun,
examine it, so that you can tell me how that matter stands."

Thus they had sketched the outlines of their plan of defence. There
remained nothing now but to perfect the details; and to this task the
two lawyers were devoting themselves still, when Blangin, the jailer,
called to them through the wicket, that the doors of the prison were
about to be closed.

"Five minutes more, my good Blangin!" cried Jacques.

And drawing his two friends aside, as far from the wicket as he could,
he said to them in a low and distressed voice,--

"A thought has occurred to me, gentlemen, which I think I ought to
mention to you. It cannot be but that the Countess Claudieuse must be
suffering terribly since I am in prison. However, sure she may be of
having left no trace behind her that could betray her, she must
tremble at the idea that I may, after all, tell the truth in self-
defence. She would deny, I know, and she is so sure of her prestige,
that she knows my accusation would not injure her marvellous
reputation. Nevertheless, she cannot but shrink from the scandal. Who
knows if she might not give us the means to escape from the trial, to
avoid such exposure? Why might not one of you gentleman make the

M. Folgat was a man of quick resolution.

"I will try, if you will give me a line of introduction."

Jacque immediately sat down, and wrote,--

"I have told my counsel, M. Folgat, every thing. Save me, and I
swear to you eternal silence. Will you let me perish, Genevieve,
when you know I am innocent?


"Is that enough?" he asked, handing the lawyer the note.

"Yes; and I promise you I will see the Countess Claudieuse within the
next forty-eight hours."

Blangin was becoming impatient; and the two advocates had to leave the
prison. As they crossed the New-Market Square, they noticed, not far
from them, a wandering musician, who was followed by a number of boys
and girls.

It was a kind of minstrel, dressed in a sort of garment which was no
longer an overcoat and had not yet assumed the shape of a shortcoat.
He was strumming on a wretched fiddle; but his voice was good, and the
ballad he sang had the full flavor of the local accent:--

"In the spring, mother Redbreast
Made her nest in the bushes,
The good lady!
Made her nest in the bushes,
The good lady!"

Instinctively M. Folgat was fumbling in his pocket for a few cents,
when the musician came up to him, held out his hat as if to ask alms,
and said,--

"You do not recognize me?"

The advocate started.

"You here!" he said.

"Yes, I myself. I came this morning. I was watching for you; for I
must see you this evening at nine o'clock. Come and open the little
garden-gate at M. de Chandore's for me."

And, taking up his fiddle again, he wandered off listlessly, singing
with his clear voice,--

"And a few, a few weeks later,
She had a wee, a wee bit birdy."


The great lawyer of Sauveterre had been far more astonished at the
unexpected and extraordinary meeting than M. Folgat. As soon as the
wandering minstrel had left them, he asked his young colleague,--

"You know that individual?"

"That individual," replied M. Folgat, "is none other than the agent
whose services I have engaged, and whom I mentioned to you."


"Yes, Goudar."

"And did you not recognize him?"

The young advocate smiled.

"Not until he spoke," he replied. "The Goudar whom I know is tall,
thin, beardless, and wears his hair cut like a brush. This street-
musician is low, bearded, and has long, smooth hair falling down his
back. How could I recognize my man in that vagabond costume, with a
violin in his hand, and a provincial song set to music?"

M. Magloire smiled too, as he said,--

"What are, after all, professional actors in comparison with these
men! Here is one who pretends having reached Sauveterre only this
morning, and who knows the country as well as Trumence himself. He has
not been here twelve hours, and he speaks already of M. de Chandore's
little garden-gate."

"Oh! I can explain that circumstance now, although, at first, it
surprised me very much. When I told Goudar the whole story, I no doubt
mentioned the little gate in connection with Mechinet."

Whilst they were chatting thus, they had reached the upper end of
National Street. Here they stopped; and M. Magloire said,--

"One word before we part. Are you quite resolved to see the Countess

"I have promised."

"What do you propose telling her?"

"I do not know. That depends upon how she receives me."

"As far as I know her, she will, upon looking at the note, merely
order you out."

"Who knows! At all events, I shall not have to reproach myself for
having shrunk from a step which in my heart I thought it my duty to

"Whatever may happen, be prudent, and do not allow yourself to get
angry. Remember that a scene with her would compel us to change our
whole line of defence, and that that is the only one which promises
any success."

"Oh, do not fear!"

Thereupon, shaking hands once more, they parted, M. Magloire returning
to his house, and M. Folgat going up the street. It struck half-past
five, and the young advocate hurried on for fear of being too late. He
found them waiting for him to go to dinner; but, as he entered the
room, he forgot all his excuses in his painful surprise at the
mournful and dejected appearance of the prisoner's friends and

"Have we any bad news?" he asked with a hesitating voice.

"The worst we had to fear," replied the Marquis de Boiscoran. "We had
all foreseen it; and still, as you see, it has surprised us all, like
a clap of thunder."

The young lawyer beat his forehead, and cried,--

"The court has ordered the trial!"

The marquis only bent his head, as if his voice, had failed him to
answer the question.

"It is still a great secret," said Dionysia; "and we only know it,
thanks to the indiscretion of our kind, our devoted Mechinet. Jacques
will have to appear before the Assizes."

She was interrupted by a servant, who entered to announce that dinner
was on the table.

They all went into the dining-room; but the last event made it well-
nigh impossible for them to eat. Dionysia alone, deriving from
feverish excitement an amazing energy, aided M. Folgat in keeping up
the conversation. From her the young advocate learned that Count
Claudieuse was decidedly worse, and that he would have received, in
the day, the last sacrament, but for the decided opposition of Dr.
Seignebos, who had declared that the slightest excitement might kill
his patient.

"And if he dies," said M. de Chandore, "that is the finishing stroke.
Public opinion, already incensed against Jacques, will become

However, the meal came to an end; and M. Folgat went up to Dionysia,

"I must beg of you, madam, to trust me with the key to the little

She looked at him quite astonished.

"I have to see a detective secretly, who has promised me his

"Is he here?"

"He came this morning."

When Dionysia had handed him the key, M. Folgat hastened to reach the
end of the garden; and, at the third stroke of nine o'clock, the
minstrel of the New-Market Square, Goudar, pushed the little gate,
and, his violin under his arm, slipped into the garden.

"A day lost!" he exclaimed, without thinking of saluting the young
lawyer,--"a whole day; for I could do nothing till I had seen you."

He seemed to be so angry, that M. Folgat tried to soothe him.

"Let me first of all compliment you on your disguise," he said. But
Goudar did not seem to be open to praise.

"What would a detective be worth if he could not disguise himself! A
great merit, forsooth! And I tell you, I hate it! But I could not
think of coming to Sauveterre in my own person, a detective. Ugh!
Everybody would have run away; and what a pack of lies they would have
told me! So I had to assume that hideous masquerade. To think that I
once took six months' lessons from a music-teacher merely to fit
myself for that character! A wandering musician, you see, can go
anywhere, and nobody is surprised; he goes about the streets, or he
travels along the high-road; he enters into yards, and slips into
houses; he asks alms: and in so doing, he accosts everybody, speaks to
them, follows them. And as to my precious dialect, you must know I
have been down here once for half a year, hunting up counterfeiters;
and, if you don't catch a provincial accent in six months, you don't
deserve belonging to the police. And I do belong to it, to the great
distress of my wife, and to my own disgust."

"If your ambition is really what you say, my dear, Goudar," said M.
Folgat, interrupting him, "you may be able to leave your profession
very soon--if you succeed in saving M. de Boiscoran."

"He would give me his house in Vine Street?"

"With all his heart!"

The detective looked up, and repeated slowly,--

"The house in Vine Street, the paradise of this world. An immense
garden, a soil of marvellous beauty. And what an exposure! There are
walls there on which I could raise finer peaches than they have at
Montreuil, and richer Chasselas than those of Fontainebleau!"

"Did you find any thing there?" asked M. Folgat.

Goudar, thus recalled to business, looked angry again.

"Nothing at all," he replied. "Nor did I learn any thing from the
tradesmen. I am no further advanced than I was the first day."

"Let us hope you will have more luck here."

"I hope so; but I need your assistance to commence operations. I must
see Dr. Seignebos, and Mechinet the clerk. Ask them to meet me at the
place I shall assign in a note which I will send them."

"I will tell them."

"Now, if you want my /incognito/ to be respected, you must get me a
permit from the mayor, for Goudar, street-musician. I keep my name,
because here nobody knows me. But I must have the permit this evening.
Wherever I might present myself, asking for a bed, they would call for
my papers."

"Wait here for a quarter of an hour, there is a bench," said M.
Folgat, "and I'll go at once to the mayor."

A quarter of an hour later, Goudar had his permit in his pocket, and
went to take lodgings at the Red Lamb, the worst tavern in all

When a painful and inevitable duty is to be performed, the true
character of a man is apt to appear in its true light. Some people
postpone it as long as they can, and delay, like those pious persons
who keep the biggest sin for the end of their confession: others, on
the contrary, are in a hurry to be relieved of their anxiety, and make
an end of it as soon as they can. M. Folgat belonged to this latter

Next morning he woke up at daylight, and said to himself,--

"I will call upon the Countess Claudieuse this morning."

At eight o'clock, he left the house, dressed more carefully than
usual, and told the servant that he did not wish to be waited for if
he should not be back for breakfast.

He went first to the court-house, hoping to meet the clerk there. He
was not disappointed. The waiting-rooms were quite deserted yet; but
Mechinet was already at work in his office, writing with the feverish
haste of a man who has to pay for a piece of property that he wants to
call his own.

When he saw Folgat enter, he rose, and said at once,--

"You have heard the decision of the court?"

"Yes, thanks to your kindness; and I must confess it has not surprised
me. What do they think of it here?"

"Everybody expects a condemnation."

"Well, we shall see!" said the young advocate.

And, lowering his voice, he added,--

"But I came for another purpose. The agent whom I expected has come,
and he wishes to see you. He will write to you to make an appointment,
and I hope you will consent."

"Certainly, with all my heart," replied the clerk. "And God grant that
he may succeed in extricating M. de Boiscoran from his difficulties,
even if it were only to take the conceit out of my master."

"Ah! is M. Galpin so triumphant?"

"Without the slightest reserve. He sees his old friend already at the
galleys. He has received another letter of congratulation from the
attorney general, and came here yesterday, when the court had
adjourned, to read it to any one who would listen. Everybody, of
course, complimented him, except the president, who turned his back
upon him, and the commonwealth attorney, who told him in Latin that he
was selling the bear's skin before he had killed him."

In the meantime steps were heard coming down the passages; and M.
Folgat said hurriedly,--

"One more suggestion. Goudar desires to remain unknown. Do not speak
of him to any living soul, and especially show no surprise at the
costume in which you see him."

The noise of a door which was opened interrupted him. One of the
judges entered, who, after having bowed very civilly, asked the clerk
a number of questions about a case which was to come on the same day.

"Good-bye, M. Mechinet," said the young advocate.

And his next visit was to Dr. Seignebos. When he rang the bell, a
servant came to the door, and said,--

"The doctor is gone out; but he will be back directly, and has told me
to beg you to wait for him in his study."

Such an evidence of perfect trust was unheard of. No one was ever
allowed to remain alone in his sanctuary. It was an immense room,
quite full of most varied objects, which at a glance revealed the
opinions, tastes, and predilections of the owner. The first thing to
strike the visitor as he entered was an admirable bust of Bichat,
flanked on either side by smaller busts of Robespierre and Rousseau. A
clock of the time of Louis XIV. stood between the windows, and marked
the seconds with a noise which sounded like the rattling of old iron.
One whole side was filled with books of all kinds, unbound or bound,
in a way which would have set M. Daubigeon laughing very heartily. A
huge cupboard adapted for collections of plants bespoke a passing
fancy for botany; while an electric machine recalled the time when the
doctor believed in cures by electricity.

On the table in the centre of the room vast piles of books betrayed
the doctor's recent studies. All the authors who have spoken of
insanity or idiocy were there, from Apostolides to Tardien. M. Folgat
was still looking around when Dr. Seignebos entered, always like a
bombshell, but far more cheerful than usual.

"I knew I should find you here!" he cried still in the door. "You come
to ask me to meet Goudar."

The young advocate started, and said, all amazed,--

"Who can have told you?"

"Goudar himself. I like that man. I am sure no one will suspect me of
having a fancy for any thing that is connected with the police. I have
had too much to do all my life with spies and that ilk. But your man
might almost reconcile me with that department."

"When did you see him?"

"This morning at seven. He was so prodigiously tired of losing his
time in his garret at the Red Lamb, that it occurred to him to pretend
illness, and to send for me. I went, and found a kind of street-
minstrel, who seemed to me to be perfectly well. But, as soon as we
were alone, he told me all about it, asking me my opinion, and telling
me his ideas. M. Folgat, that man Goudar is very clever: I tell you
so; and we understand each other perfectly."

"Has he told you what he proposes to do?"

"Nearly so. But he has not authorized me to speak of it. Have
patience; let him go to work, wait, and you will see if old Seignebos
has a keen scent."

Saying this with an air of sublime conceit, he took off his
spectacles, and set to work wiping them industriously.

"Well, I will wait," said the young advocate. "And, since that makes
an end to my business here, I beg you will let me speak to you of
another matter. M. de Boiscoran has charged me with a message to the
Countess Claudieuse."

"The deuce!"

"And to try to obtain from her the means for our discharge."

"Do you expect she will do it?"

M. Folgat could hardly retain an impatient gesture.

"I have accepted the mission," he said dryly, "and I mean to carry it

"I understand, my dear sir. But you will not see the countess. The
count is very ill. She does not leave his bedside, and does not even
receive her most intimate friends."

"And still I must see her. I must at any hazard place a note which my
client has confided to me, in her own hands. And look here, doctor, I
mean to be frank with you. It was exactly because I foresaw there
would be difficulties, that I came to you to ask your assistance in
overcoming or avoiding them."

"To me?"

"Are you not the count's physician?"

"Ten thousand devils!" cried Dr. Seignebos. "You do not mince matters,
you lawyers!"

And then speaking in a lower tone, and replying apparently to his own

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