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and the prisoners were finally committed for trial, the Marquis de Chargeboeuf courageously appeared, still in the same old caleche, to support and protect his young cousin. Foreseeing the haste with which the law would be administered, this chief of a great family had already gone to Paris and secured the services of the most able as well as the most honest lawyer of the old school, named Bordin, who was for ten years counsel of the nobility in Paris, and was ultimately succeeded by the celebrated Derville. This excellent lawyer chose for his assistant the grandson of a former president of the parliament of Normandy, whose studies had been made under his tuition. This young lawyer, who was destined to be appointed deputy-attorney-general in Paris after the conclusion of the present trial, became eventually one of the most celebrated of French magistrates. Monsieur de Grandville, for that was his name, accepted the defence of the four young men, being glad of an opportunity to make his first appearance as an advocate with distinction.

The old marquis, alarmed at the ravages which troubles had wrought in Laurence’s appearance, was charmingly kind and considerate. He made no allusion to his neglected advice; he presented Bordin as an oracle whose counsel must be followed to the letter, and young de Grandville as a defender in whom the utmost confidence might be placed.

Laurence held out her hand to the kind old man, and pressed his with an eagerness which delighted him.

“You were right,” she said.

“Will you now take my advice?” he asked.

The young countess bowed her head in assent, as did Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre.

“Well, then, come to my house; it is in the middle of town, close to the courthouse. You and your lawyers will be better off there than here, where you are crowded and too far from the field of battle. Here, you would have to cross the town twice a day.”

Laurence, accepted, and the old man took her with Madame d’Hauteserre to his house, which became the home of the Cinq-Cygne household and the lawyers of the defence during the whole time the trial lasted. After dinner, when the doors were closed, Bordin made Laurence relate every circumstance of the affair, entreating her to omit nothing, not the most trifling detail. Though many of the facts had already been told to him and his young assistant by the marquis on their journey from Paris to Troyes, Bordin listened, his feet on the fender, without obtruding himself into the recital. The young lawyer, however, could not help being divided between his admiration for Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, and the attention he was bound to give to the facts of his case.

“Is that really all?” asked Bordin when Laurence had related the events of the drama just as the present narrative has given them up to the present time.

“Yes,” she answered.

Profound silence reigned for several minutes in the salon of the Chargeboeuf mansion where this scene took place,–one of the most important which occur in life. All cases are judged by the counsellors engaged in them, just as the death or life or a patient is foreseen by a physician, before the final struggle which the one sustains against nature, the other against law. Laurence, Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, and the marquis sat with their eyes fixed on the swarthy and deeply pitted face of the old lawyer, who was now to pronounce the words of life or death. Monsieur d’Hauteserre wiped the sweat from his brow. Laurence looked at the younger man and noted his saddened face.

“Well, my dear Bordin?” said the marquis at last, holding out his snuffbox, from which the old lawyer took a pinch in an absent-minded way.

Bordin rubbed the calf of his leg, covered with thick stockings of black raw silk, for he always wore black cloth breeches and a coat made somewhat in the shape of those which are now termed /a la Francaise/. He cast his shrewd eyes upon his clients with an anxious expression, the effect of which was icy.

“Must I analyze all that?” he said; “am I to speak frankly?”

“Yes; go on, monsieur,” said Laurence.

“All that you have innocently done can be converted into proof against you,” said the old lawyer. “We cannot save your friends; we can only reduce the penalty. The sale which you induced Michu to make of his property will be taken as evident proof of your criminal intentions against the senator. You sent your servants to Troyes so that you might be alone; that is all the more plausible because it is actually true. The elder d’Hauteserre made an unfortunate speech to Beauvisage, which will be your ruin. You yourself, mademoiselle, made another in your own courtyard, which proves that you have long shown ill-will to the possessor of Gondreville. Besides, you were at the gate of the /rond-point/, apparently on the watch, about the time when the abduction took place; if they have not arrested you, it is solely because they fear to bring a sentimental element into the affair.”

“The case cannot be successfully defended,” said Monsieur de Grandville.

“The less so,” continued Bordin, “because we cannot tell the whole truth. Michu and the Messieurs de Simeuse and d’Hauteserre must hold to the assertion that you merely went for an excursion into the forest and returned to Cinq-Cygne for luncheon. Allowing that we can show you were in the house at three o’clock (the exact hour at which the attack was made), who are our witnesses? Marthe, the wife of one of the accused, the Durieus, and Catherine, your own servants, and Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, father and mother of two of the accused. Such testimony is valueless; the law does not admit it against you, and commonsense rejects it when given in your favor. If, on the other hand, you were to say you went to the forest to recover eleven hundred thousand francs in gold, you would send the accused to the galleys as robbers. Judge, jury, audience, and the whole of France would believe that you took that gold from Gondreville, and abducted the senator that you might ransack his house. The accusation as it now stands is not wholly clear, but tell the truth about the matter and it would become as plain as day; the jury would declare that the robbery explained the mysterious features,–for in these days, you must remember, a royalist means a thief. This very case is welcomed as a legitimate political vengeance. The prisoners are now in danger of the death penalty; but that is not dishonoring under some circumstances. Whereas, if they can be proved to have stolen money, which can never be made to seem excusable, you lose all benefit of whatever interest may attach to persons condemned to death for other crimes. If, at the first, you had shown the hiding-places of the treasure, the plan of the forest, the tubes in which the gold was buried, and the gold itself, as an explanation of your day’s work, it is possible you might have been believed by an impartial magistrate, but as it is we must be silent. God grant that none of the prisoners may reveal the truth and compromise the defence; if they do, we must rely on our cross- examinations.”

Laurence wrung her hands in despair and raised her eyes to heaven with a despondent look, for she saw at last in all its depths the gulf into which her cousins had fallen. The marquis and the young lawyer agreed with the dreadful view of Bordin. Old d’Hauteserre wept.

“Ah! why did they not listen to the Abbe Goujet and fly!” cried Madame d’Hauteserre, exasperated.

“If they could have escaped, and you prevented them,” said Bordin, “you have killed them yourselves. Judgment by default gains time; time enables the innocent to clear themselves. This is the most mysterious case I have ever known in my life, in the course of which I have certainly seen and known many strange things.”

“It is inexplicable to every one, even to us,” said Monsieur de Grandville. “If the prisoners are innocent some one else has committed the crime. Five persons do not come to a place as if by enchantment, obtain five horses shod precisely like those of the accused, imitate the appearance of some of them, and put Malin apparently underground for the sole purpose of casting suspicion on Michu and the four gentlemen. The unknown guilty parties must have had some strong reason for wearing the skin, as it were, of five innocent men. To discover them, even to get upon their traces, we need as much power as the government itself, as many agents and as many eyes as there are townships in a radius of fifty miles.”

“The thing is impossible,” said Bordin. “There’s no use thinking of it. Since society invented law it has never found a way to give an innocent prisoner an equal chance against a magistrate who is pre- disposed against him. Law is not bilateral. The defence, without spies or police, cannot call social power to the rescue of its innocent clients. Innocence has nothing on her side but reason, and reasoning which may strike a judge is often powerless on the narrow minds of jurymen. The whole department is against you. The eight jurors who have signed the indictment are each and all purchasers of national domain. Among the trial jurors we are certain to have some who have either sold or bought the same property. In short, we can get nothing but a Malin jury. You must therefore set up a consistent defence, hold fast to it, and perish in your innocence. You will certainly be condemned. But there’s a court of appeal; we will go there and try to remain there as long as possible. If in the mean time we can collect proofs in your favor you must apply for pardon. That’s the anatomy of the business, and my advice. If we triumph (for everything is possible in law) it will be a miracle; but your advocate Monsieur de Grandville is the most likely man among all I know to produce that miracle, and I’ll do my best to help him.”

“The senator has the key to the mystery,” said Monsieur de Grandville; “for a man knows his enemies and why they are so. Here we find him leaving Paris at the close of the winter, coming to Gondreville alone, shutting himself up with his notary, and delivering himself over, as one might say, to five men who seize him.”

“Certainly,” said Bordin, “his conduct seems inexplicable. But how could we, in the face of a hostile community, become accusers when we ourselves are the accused? We should need the help and good-will of the government and a thousand times more proof than is wanted in ordinary circumstances. I am convinced there was premeditation, and subtle premeditation, on the part of our mysterious adversaries, who must have known the situation of Michu and the Messieurs de Simeuse towards Malin. Not to utter one word; not to steal one thing!– remarkable prudence! I see something very different from ordinary evil-doers behind those masks. But what would be the use of saying so to the sort of jurors we shall have to face?”

This insight into hidden matters which gives such power to certain lawyers and certain magistrates astonished and confounded Laurence; her heart was wrung by that inexorable logic.

“Out of every hundred criminal cases,” continued Bordin, “there are not ten where the law really lays bare the truth to its full extent; and there is perhaps a good third in which the truth is never brought to light at all. Yours is one of those cases which are inexplicable to all parties, to accused and accusers, to the law and to the public. As for the Emperor, he has other fish to fry than to consider the case of these gentlemen, supposing even that they had not conspired against him. But who the devil /is/ Malin’s enemy? and what has really been done with him?”

Bordin and Monsieur de Grandville looked at each other; they seemed in doubt as to Laurence’s veracity. This evident suspicion was the most cutting of all the many pangs the girl had suffered in the affair; and she turned upon the lawyers a look which effectually put an end to their distrust.

The next day the indictment was handed over to the defence, and the lawyers were then enabled to communicate with the prisoners. Bordin informed the family that the six accused men were “well supported,”– using a professional term.

“Monsieur de Grandville will defend Michu,” said Bordin.

“Michu!” exclaimed the Marquis de Chargeboeuf, amazed at the change.

“He is the pivot of the affair–the danger lies there,” replied the old lawyer.

“If he is more in danger than the others, I think that is just,” cried Laurence.

“We see certain chances,” said Monsieur de Grandville, “and we shall study them carefully. If we are able to save these gentlemen it will be because Monsieur d’Hauteserre ordered Michu to repair one of the stone posts in the covered way, and also because a wolf has been seen in the forest; in a criminal court everything depends on discussions, and discussions often turn on trivial matters which then become of immense importance.”

Laurence sank into that inward dejection which humiliates the soul of all thoughtful and energetic persons when the uselessness of thought and action is made manifest to them. It was no longer a matter of overthrowing a usurper, or of coming to the help of devoted friends,– fanatical sympathies wrapped in a shroud of mystery. She now saw all social forces full-armed against her cousins and herself. There was no taking a prison by assault with her own hands, no deliverance of prisoners from the midst of a hostile population and beneath the eyes of a watchful police. So, when the young lawyer, alarmed at the stupor of the generous and noble girl, which the natural expression of her face made still more noticeable, endeavored to revive her courage, she turned to him and said: “I must be silent; I suffer,–I wait.”

The accent, gesture, and look with which the words were said made this answer one of those sublime things which only need a wider stage to make them famous.

A few moments later old d’Hauteserre was saying to the Marquis de Chargeboeuf: “What efforts I have made for my two unfortunate sons! I have already laid by in the Funds enough to give them eight thousand francs a year. If they had only been willing to serve in the army they would have reached the higher grades by this time, and could now have married to advantage. Instead of that, all my plans are scattered to the winds!”

“How can you,” said his wife, “think of their interests when it is a question of their honor and their lives?”

“Monsieur d’Hauteserre thinks of everything,” said the marquis.

CHAPTER XVI

MARTHE INVEIGLED

While the masters of Cinq-Cygne were waiting at Troyes for the opening of the trial before the Criminal court and vainly soliciting permission to see the prisoners, an event of the utmost importance had taken place at the chateau.

Marthe returned to Cinq-Cygne as soon as she had given her testimony before the indicting jury. This testimony was so insignificant that it was not thought necessary to summon her before the Criminal court. Like all persons of extreme sensibility, the poor woman sat silent in the salon, where she kept company with Mademoiselle Goujet, in a pitiable state of stupefaction. To her, as to the abbe, and indeed to all others who did not know how the accused had been employed on that day, their innocence seemed doubtful. There were moments when Marthe believed that Michu and his masters and Laurence had executed vengeance on the senator. The unhappy woman now knew Michu’s devotion well enough to be certain that he was the one who would be most in danger, not only because of his antecedents, but because of the part he was sure to have taken in the execution of the scheme.

The Abbe Goujet and his sister and Marthe were bewildered among the possibilities to which this opinion gave rise; and yet, in the process of thinking them over, their minds insensibly took hold of them in a certain way. The absolute doubt which Descartes demands can no more exist in the brain of a man than a vacuum can exist in nature, and the mental operation required to produce it would, like the effect of a pneumatic machine, be exceptional and anomalous. Whatever a case may be, the mind believes in something. Now Marthe was so afraid that the accused were guilty that her fear became equivalent to belief; and this condition of her mind proved fatal to her.

Five days after the arrests, just as she was in the act of going to bed about ten o’clock at night, she was called from the courtyard by her mother, who had come from the farm on foot.

“A laboring man from Troyes wants to speak to you; he is sent by Michu, and is waiting in the covered way,” she said to Marthe.

They passed through the breach so as to take the shortest path. In the darkness it was impossible for Marthe to distinguish anything more than the form of a person which loomed through the shadows.

“Speak, madame; so that I may be certain you are really Madame Michu,” said the person, in a rather anxious voice.

“I am Madame Michu,” said Marthe; “what do you want of me?”

“Very good,” said the unknown, “give me your hand; do not fear me. I come,” he added, leaning towards her and speaking low, “from Michu with a note for you. I am employed at the prison, and if my superiors discover my absence we shall all be lost. Trust me; your good father placed me where I am. For that reason Michu counted on my helping him.”

He put the letter into Marthe’s hand and disappeared toward the forest without waiting for an answer. Marthe trembled at the thought that she was now to hear the secret of the mystery. She ran to the farm with her mother and shut herself up to read the following letter:–

My dear Marthe,–You can rely on the discretion of the man who will give you this letter; he does not know how to read or to write. He is a stanch Republican, and shared in Baboeuf’s conspiracy; your father often made use of him, and he regards the senator as a traitor. Now, my dear wife, attend to my directions. The senator has been shut up by us in the cave where our masters were hidden. The poor creature had provisions for only five days, and as it is our interest that he should live, I wish you, as soon as you receive this letter, to take him food for at least five days more. The forest is of course watched; therefore take as many precautions as we formerly did for our young masters. Don’t say a word to Malin; don’t speak to him; and put on one of our masks which you will find on the steps which lead down to the cave. Unless you wish to compromise our heads you must be absolutely silent about this letter and the secret I have now confided to you. Don’t say a word to Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, who might tell of it. Don’t fear for me. We are certain that the matter will turn out well; when the time comes Malin himself will save us. I don’t need to tell you to burn this letter as soon as you have read it, for it would cost me my head if a line of it were seen. I kiss you for now and always,

Michu.

The existence of the cave was known only to Marthe, her son, Michu, the four gentlemen, and Laurence; or rather, Marthe, to whom her husband had not related the incident of his meeting with Peyrade and Corentin, believed it was known only to them. Had she consulted her mistress and the two lawyers, who knew the innocence of the prisoners, the shrewd Bordin would have gained some light upon the perfidious trap which was evidently laid for his clients. But Marthe, acting like most women under a first impulse, was convinced by this proof which came to her own eyes, and flung the letter into the fire as directed. Nevertheless, moved by a singular gleam of caution, she caught a portion of it from the flames, tore off the five first lines, which compromised no one, and sewed them into the hem of her dress. Terrified at the thought that the prisoner had been without food for twenty-four hours, she resolved to carry bread, meat, and wine to him at once; curiosity was well as humanity permitting no delay. Accordingly, she heated her oven and made, with her mother’s help, a /pate/ of hare and ducks, a rice cake, roasted two fowls, selected three bottles of wine, and baked two loaves of bread. About two in the morning she started for the forest, carrying the load on her back, accompanied by Couraut, who in all such expeditions showed wonderful sagacity as a guide. He scented strangers at immense distances, and as soon as he was certain of their presence he returned to his mistress with a low growl, looking at her fixedly and turning his muzzle in the direction of the danger.

Marthe reached the pond about three in the morning, and left the dog as sentinel on the bank. After half an hour’s labor in clearing the entrance she came with a dark lantern to the door of the cave, her face covered with a mask, which she had found, as directed, on the steps. The imprisonment of the senator seemed to have been long premeditated. A hole about a foot square, which Marthe had never seen before, was roughly cut in the upper part of the iron door which closed the cave; but in order to prevent Malin from using the time and patience all prisoners have at their command in loosening the iron bar which held the door, it was securely fastened with a padlock.

The senator, who had risen from his bed of moss, sighed when he saw the masked face and felt that there was no chance then of his deliverance. He examined Marthe, as much as he could by the unsteady light of her dark lantern, and he recognized her by her clothes, her stoutness, and her motions. When she passed the /pate/ through the door he dropped it to seize her hand and then, with great swiftness, he tried to pull the rings from her fingers,–one her wedding-ring, the other a gift from Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne.

“You cannot deny that it is you, my dear Madame Michu,” he said.

Marthe closed her fist the moment she felt his fingers, and gave him a vigorous blow in the chest. Then, without a word, she turned away and cut a stick, at the end of which she held out to the senator the rest of the provisions.

“What do they want of me?” he asked.

Marthe departed giving him no answer. By five o’clock she had reached the edge of the forest and was warned by Couraut of the presence of strangers. She retraced her steps and made for the pavilion where she had lived so long; but just as she entered the avenue she was seen from afar by the forester of Gondreville, and she quickly reflected that her best plan was to go straight up to him.

“You are out early, Madame Michu,” he said, accosting her.

“We are so unfortunate,” she replied, “that I am obliged to do a servant’s work myself. I am going to Bellache for some grain.”

“Haven’t you any at Cinq-Cygne?” said the forester.

Marthe made no answer. She continued on her way and reached the farm at Bellache, where she asked Beauvisage to give her some seed-grain, saying that Monsieur d’Hauteserre advised her to get it from him to renew her crop. As soon as Marthe had left the farm, the forester went there to find out what she asked for.

Six days later, Marthe, determined to be prudent, went at midnight with her provisions so as to avoid the keepers who were evidently patrolling the forest. After carrying a third supply to the senator she suddenly became terrified on hearing the abbe read aloud the public examination of the prisoners,–for the trial was by that time begun. She took the abbe aside, and after obliging him to swear that he would keep the secret she was about to reveal as though it was said to him in the confessional, she showed him the fragments of Michu’s letter, told him the contents of it, and also the secret of the hiding-place where the senator then was.

The abbe at once inquired if she had other letters from her husband that he might compare the writing. Marthe went to her home to fetch them and there found a summons to appear in court. By the time she returned to the chateau the abbe and his sister had received a similar summons on behalf of the defence. They were obliged therefore to start for Troyes immediately. Thus all the personages of our drama, even those who were only, as it were, supernumeraries, were collected on the spot where the fate of the two families was about to be decided.

CHAPTER XVII

THE TRIAL

There are but few localities in France where Law derives from outward appearance the dignity which ought always to accompany it. Yet it surely is, after religion and royalty, the greatest engine of society. Everywhere, even in Paris, the meanness of its surroundings, the wretched arrangement of the courtrooms, their barrenness and want of decoration in the most ornate and showy nation upon earth in the matter of its public monuments, lessens the action of the law’s mighty power. At the farther end of some oblong room may be seen a desk with a green baize covering raised on a platform; behind it sit the judges on the commonest of arm-chairs. To the left, is the seat of the public prosecutor, and beside him, close to the wall, is a long pen filled with chairs for the jury. Opposite to the jury is another pen with a bench for the prisoners and the gendarmes who guard them. The clerk of the court sits below the platform at a table covered with the papers of the case. Before the imperial changes in the administration of justice were instituted, a commissary of the government and the director of the jury each had a seat and a table, one to the right, the other to the left of the baize-covered desk. Two sheriffs hovered about in the space left in front of the desk for the station of witnesses. Facing the judges and against the wall above the entrance, there is always a shabby gallery reserved for officials and for women, to which admittance is granted only by the president of the court, to whom the proper management of the courtroom belongs. The non- privileged public are compelled to stand in the empty space between the door of the hall and the bar. This normal appearance of all French law courts and assize-rooms was that of the Criminal court of Troyes.

In April, 1806, neither the four judges nor the president (or chief- justice) who made up the court, nor the public prosecutor, the director of the jury, the commissary of the government, nor the sheriffs or lawyers, in fact no one except the gendarmes, wore any robes or other distinctive sign which might have relieved the nakedness of the surroundings and the somewhat meagre aspect of the figures. The crucifix was suppressed; its example was no longer held up before the eyes of justice and of guilt. All was dull and vulgar. The paraphernalia so necessary to excite social interest is perhaps a consolation to criminals. On this occasion the eagerness of the public was what it has ever been and ever will be in trials of this kind, so long as France refuses to recognize that the admission of the public to the courts involves publicity, and that the publicity given to trials is a terrible penalty which would never have been inflicted had legislators reflected on it. Customs are often more cruel than laws. Customs are the deeds of men, but laws are the judgment of a nation. Customs in which there is often no judgment are stronger than laws.

Crowds surrounded the courtroom; the president was obliged to station squads of soldiers to guard the doors. The audience, standing below the bar, was so crowded that persons suffocated. Monsieur de Grandville, defending Michu, Bordin, defending the Simeuse brothers, and a lawyer of Troyes who appeared for the d’Hauteserres, were in their seats before the opening of the court; their faces wore a look of confidence. When the prisoners were brought in, sympathetic murmurs were heard at the appearance of the young men, whose faces, in twenty days’ imprisonment and anxiety, had somewhat paled. The perfect likeness of the twins excited the deepest interest. Perhaps the spectators thought that Nature would exercise some special protection in the case of her own anomalies, and felt ready to join in repairing the harm done to them by destiny. Their noble, simple faces, showing no signs of shame, still less of bravado, touched the women’s hearts. The four gentlemen and Gothard wore the clothes in which they had been arrested; but Michu, whose coat and trousers were among the “articles of testimony,” so-called, had put on his best clothes,–a blue surtout, a brown velvet waistcoat /a la/ Robespierre, and a white cravat. The poor man paid the penalty of his dangerous-looking face. When he cast a glance of his yellow eye, so clear and so profound upon the audience, a murmur of repulsion answered it. The assembly chose to see the finger of God bringing him to the dock where his father-in-law had sacrificed so many victims. This man, truly great, looked at his masters, repressing a smile of scorn. He seemed to say to them, “I am injuring your cause.” Five of the prisoners exchanged greetings with their counsel. Gothard still played the part of an idiot.

After several challenges, made with much sagacity by the defence under advice of the Marquis de Chargeboeuf, who boldly took a seat beside Bordin and de Grandville, the jury were empanelled, the indictment was read, and the prisoners were brought up separately to be examined. They answered every question with remarkable unanimity. After riding about the forest all the morning they had returned to Cinq-Cygne for breakfast at one o’clock. After that meal, from three to half-past five in the afternoon, they had returned to the forest. That was the basis of each testimony; any variations were merely individual circumstances. When the president asked the Messieurs de Simeuse why they had ridden out so early, they both declared that wishing, since their return, to buy back Gondreville and intending to make an offer to Malin who had arrived the night before, they had gone out early with their cousin and Michu to make certain examinations of the property on which to base their offer. During that time the Messieurs d’Hauteserre, their cousin, and Gothard had chased a wolf which was reported in the forest by the peasantry. If the director of the jury had sought for the prints of their horses’ feet in the forest as carefully as in the park of Gondreville, he would have found proof of their presence at long distances from the house.

The examination of the Messieurs d’Hauteserre corroborated this testimony, and was in harmony with their preliminary dispositions. The necessity of some reason for their ride suggested to each of them the excuse of hunting. The peasants had given warning, a few days earlier, of a wolf in the forest, and on that they had fastened as a pretext.

The public prosecutor, however, pointed out a discrepancy between the first statements of the Messieurs d’Hauteserre, in which they mentioned that the whole party hunted together, and the defence now made by the Messieurs de Simeuse that their purpose on that day was the valuation of the forest.

Monsieur de Grandville here called attention to the fact that as the crime was not committed until after two o’clock in the afternoon, the prosecution had no ground to question their word when they stated the manner in which they had employed their morning.

The prosecutor replied that the prisoners had an interest in concealing their preparations for the abduction of the senator.

The remarkable ability of the defence was now felt. Judges, jurors, and audience became aware that victory would be hotly contested. Bordin and Monsieur de Grandville had studied their ground and foreseen everything. Innocence is required to render a clear and plausible account of its actions. The duty of the defence is to present a consistent and probable tale in opposition to an insufficient and improbable accusation. To counsel who regard their client as innocent, an accusation is false. The public examination of the four gentlemen sufficiently explained the matter in their favor. So far all was well. But the examination of Michu was more serious; there the real struggle began. It was now clear to every one why Monsieur de Grandville had preferred to take charge of the servant’s defence rather than that of his masters.

Michu admitted his threats against Marion; but denied that he had made them violently. As for the ambush in which he was supposed to have watched for his enemy, he said he was merely making his rounds in his park; the senator and Monsieur Grevin might perhaps have been alarmed at the sight of his gun and have thought his intentions hostile when they were really inoffensive. He called attention to the fact that in the dusk a man who was not in the habit of hunting might easily fancy a gun was pointed at him, whereas, in point of fact, it was held in his hand at half-cock. To explain the condition of his clothes when arrested, he said he had slipped and fallen in the breach on his way home. “I could scarcely see my way,” he said, “and the loose stones slipped from under me as I climbed the bank.” As for the plaster which Gothard was bringing him, he replied as he had done in all previous examinations, that he wanted it to secure one of the stone posts of the covered way.

The public prosecutor and the president asked him to explain how he could have been at the top of the covered way engaged in mending a stone post and at the same time in the breach of the moat leading to the chateau; more especially as the justice of peace, the gendarmes and the forester all declared they had heard him approach them from the lower road. To this Michu replied that Monsieur d’Hauteserre had blamed him for not having mended the post,–which he was anxious to have finished because there were difficulties about that road with the township,–and he had therefore gone up to the chateau to report that the work was done.

Monsieur d’Hauteserre had, in fact, put up a fence above the covered way to prevent the township from taking possession of it. Michu seeing the important part which the state of his clothes was likely to play, invented this subterfuge. If, in law, truth is often like falsehood, falsehood on the other hand has a very great resemblance to truth. The defence and the prosecution both attached much importance to this testimony, which became one of the leading points of the trial on account of the vigor of the defence and the suspicions of the prosecution.

Gothard, instructed no doubt by Monsieur de Grandville, for up to that time he had only wept when they questioned him, admitted that Michu had told him to carry the plaster.

“Why did neither you nor Gothard take the justice of peace and the forester to the stone post and show them your work?” said the public prosecutor, addressing Michu.

“Because,” replied the man, “I didn’t believe there was any serious accusation against us.”

All the prisoners except Gothard were now removed from the courtroom. When Gothard was left alone the president adjured him to speak the truth for his own sake, pointing out that his pretended idiocy had come to an end; none of the jurors believed him imbecile; if he refused to answer the court he ran the risk of serious penalty; whereas by telling the truth at once he would probably be released. Gothard wept, hesitated, and finally ended by saying that Michu had told him to carry several sacks of plaster; but that each time he had met him near the farm. He was asked how many sacks he had carried.

“Three,” he replied.

An argument hereupon ensued as to whether the three sacks included the one which Gothard was carrying at the time of the arrest (which reduced the number of the other sacks to two) or whether there were three without the last. The debate ended in favor of the first proposition, the jury considering that only two sacks had been used. They appeared to have a foregone conviction on that point, but Bordin and Monsieur de Grandville judged it best to surfeit them with plaster, and weary them so thoroughly with the argument that they would no longer comprehend the question. Monsieur de Grandville made it appear that experts ought to have been sent to examine the stone posts.

“The director of the jury,” he said, “has contented himself with merely visiting the place, less for the purpose of making a careful examination than to trap Michu in a lie; this, in our opinion, was a failure of duty, but the blunder is to our advantage.”

On this the Court appointed experts to examine the posts and see if one of them had been really mended and reset. The public prosecutor, on his side, endeavored to make capital of the affair before the experts could testify.

“You seem to have chosen,” he said to Michu, who was now brought back into the courtroom, “an hour when the daylight was waning, from half- past five to half-past six o’clock, to mend this post and to cement it all alone.”

“Monsieur d’Hauteserre had blamed me for not doing it,” replied Michu.

“But,” said the prosecutor, “if you used that plaster on the post you must have had a trough and a trowel. Now, if you went to the chateau to tell Monsieur d’Hauteserre that you had done the work, how do you explain the fact that Gothard was bringing you more plaster. You must have passed your farm on your way to the chateau, and you would naturally have left your tools at home and stopped Gothard.”

This overwhelming argument produced a painful silence in the courtroom.

“Come,” said the prosecutor, “you had better admit at once that what you buried was /not a stone post/.”

“Do you think it was the senator?” said Michu, sarcastically.

Monsieur de Grandville hereupon demanded that the public prosecutor should explain his meaning. Michu was accused of abduction and the concealment of a person, but not of murder. Such an insinuation was a serious matter. The code of Brumaire, year IV., forbade the public prosecutor from presenting any fresh count at the trial; he must keep within the indictment or the proceedings would be annulled.

The public prosecutor replied that Michu, the person chiefly concerned in the abduction and who, in the interests of his masters, had taken the responsibility on his own shoulders, might have thought it necessary to plaster up the entrance of the hiding-place, still undiscovered, where the senator was now immured.

Pressed with questions, hampered by the presence of Gothard, and brought into contradiction with himself, Michu struck his fist upon the edge of the dock with a resounding blow and said: “I have had nothing whatever to do with the abduction of the senator. I hope and believe his enemies have merely imprisoned him; when he reappears you’ll find out that the plaster was put to no such use.”

“Good!” said de Grandville, addressing the public prosecutor; “you have done more for my client’s cause than anything I could have said.”

The first day’s session ended with this bold declaration, which surprised the judges and gave an advantage to the defence. The lawyers of the town and Bordin himself congratulated the young advocate. The prosecutor, uneasy at the assertion, feared that he had fallen into some trap; in fact he was really caught in a snare that was cleverly set for him by the defence and admirably played off by Gothard. The wits of the town declared that he had white-washed the affair and splashed his own cause, and had made the accused as white as the plaster itself. France is the domain of satire, which reigns supreme in our land; Frenchmen jest on a scaffold, at the Beresina, at the barricades, and some will doubtless appear with a quirk upon their lips at the grand assizes of the Last Judgment.

CHAPTER XVIII

TRIAL CONTINUED: CRUEL VICISSITUDES

On the morrow the witnesses for the prosecution were examined,–Madame Marion, Madame Grevin, Grevin himself, the senator’s valet, and Violette, whose testimony can readily be imagined from the facts already told. They all identified the five prisoners, with more or less hesitation as to the four gentlemen, but with absolute certainty as to Michu. Beauvisage repeated Robert d’Hauteserre’s speech when he met them at daybreak in the park. The peasant who had bought Monsieur d’Hauteserre’s calf testified to overhearing that of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne. The experts, who had compared the hoof-prints with the shoes on the horses ridden by the five prisoners and found them absolutely alike, confirmed their previous depositions. This point was naturally one of vehement contention between Monsieur de Grandville and the prosecuting officer. The defence called the blacksmith at Cinq-Cygne and succeeded in proving that he had sold several horseshoes of the same pattern to strangers who were not known in the place. The blacksmith declared, moreover, that he was in the habit of shoeing in this particular manner not only the horses of the chateau de Cinq-Cygne, but those from other places in the canton. It was also proved that the horse which Michu habitually rode was always shod at Troyes, and the mark of that shoe was not among the hoof-prints found in the park.

“Michu’s double was not aware of this circumstance, or he would have provided for it,” said Monsieur de Grandville, looking at the jury. “Neither has the prosecution shown what horses our clients rode.”

He ridiculed the testimony of Violette so far as it concerned a recognition of the horses, seen from a long distance, from behind, and after dusk. Still, in spite of all his efforts, the body of the evidence was against Michu; and the prosecutor, judge, jury, and audience were impressed with a feeling (as the lawyers for the defence had foreseen) that the guilt of the servant carried with it that of the masters. So the vital interest centred on all that concerned Michu. His bearing was noble. He showed in his answers the sagacity with which nature had endowed him; and the public, seeing him on his mettle, recognized his superiority. And yet, strange to say, the more they understood him the more certainty they felt that he was the instigator of the outrage.

The witnesses for the defence, always less important in the eyes of a jury and of the law than the witnesses for the prosecution, seemed to testify as in duty bound, and were listened to with that allowance. In the first place neither Marthe, nor Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre took the oath. Catherine and the Durieus, in their capacity as servants, did not take it. Monsieur d’Hauteserre stated that he had ordered Michu to replace and mend the stone post which had been thrown down. The deposition of the experts sent to examine the fence, which was now read, confirmed his testimony; but they helped the prosecution by declaring they could not fix the exact time at which the repairs had been made; it might have been several weeks or no more than twenty days.

The appearance of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne excited the liveliest curiosity; but the sight of her cousins in the prisoners’ dock after three weeks’ separation affected her so much that her emotions gave the audience an impression of guilt. She felt an overwhelming desire to stand beside the twins, and was obliged, as she afterwards admitted, to use all her strength to repress the longing that came into her mind to kill the prosecutor so as to stand in the eyes of the world as a criminal beside them. She testified, with simplicity, that riding from Cinq-Cygne and seeing smoke in the park of Gondreville, she had supposed there was a fire; at first she thought they were burning weeds or brush; “but later,” she added, “I observed a circumstance which I offer to the attention of the Court. I found in the frogging of my habit and in the folds of my collar small fragments of what appeared to be burned paper which were floating in the air.”

“Was there much smoke?” asked Bordin.

“Yes,” replied Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, “I feared a conflagration.”

“This is enough to change the whole inquiry,” remarked Bordin. “I request the Court to order an immediate examination of that region of the park where the fire occurred.”

The president ordered the inquiry.

Grevin, recalled by the defence and questioned on this circumstance, declared he knew nothing about it. But Bordin and he exchanged looks which mutually enlightened them.

“The gist of the case is there,” thought the old notary.

“They’ve laid their finger on it,” thought the notary.

But each shrewd head considered the following up of this point useless. Bordin reflected that Grevin would be silent as the grave; and Grevin congratulated himself that every sign of the fire had been effaced.

To settle this point, which seemed a mere accessory to the trial and somewhat puerile (but which is really essential in the justification which history owes to these young men), the experts and Pigoult, who were despatched by the president to examine the park, reported that they could find no traces of a bonfire.

Bordin summoned two laborers, who testified to having dug over, under the direction of the forester, a tract of ground in the park where the grass had been burned; but they declared they had not observed the nature of the ashes they had buried.

The forester, recalled by the defence, said he had received from the senator himself, as he was passing the chateau of Gondreville on his way to the masquerade at Arcis, an order to dig over that particular piece of ground which the senator had remarked as needing it.

“Had papers, or herbage been burned there?”

“I could not say. I saw nothing that made me think that papers had been burned there,” replied the forester.

“At any rate,” said Bordin, “if, as it appears, a fire was kindled on that piece of ground some one brought to the spot whatever was burned there.”

The testimony of the abbe and that of Mademoiselle Goujet made a favorable impression. They said that as they left the church after vespers and were walking towards home, they met the four gentlemen and Michu leaving the chateau on horseback and making their way to the forest. The character, position, and known uprightness of the Abbe Goujet gave weight to his words.

The summing up of the public prosecutor, who felt sure of obtaining a verdict, was in the nature of all such speeches. The prisoners were the incorrigible enemies of France, her institutions and laws. They thirsted for tumult and conspiracy. Though they had belonged to the army of Conde and had shared in the late attempts against the life of the Emperor, that magnanimous sovereign had erased their names from the list of /emigres/. This was the return they made for his clemency! In short, all the oratorical declamations of the Bourbons against the Bonapartists, which in our day are repeated against the republicans and the legitimists by the Younger Branch, flourished in the speech. These trite commonplaces, which might have some meaning under a fixed government, seem farcical in the mouth of administrators of all epochs and opinions. A saying of the troublous times of yore is still applicable: “The label is changed, but the wine is the same as ever.” The public prosecutor, one of the most distinguished legal men under the Empire, attributed the crime to a fixed determination on the part of returned /emigres/ to protest against the sale of their estates. He made the audience shudder at the probable condition of the senator; then he massed together proofs, half-proofs, and probabilities with a cleverness stimulated by a sense that his zeal was certain of its reward, and sat down tranquilly to await the fire of his opponents.

Monsieur de Grandville never argued but this one criminal case; and it made his reputation. In the first place, he spoke with the same glowing eloquence which to-day we admire in Berryer. He was profoundly convinced of the innocence of his clients, and that in itself is a most powerful auxiliary of speech. The following are the chief points of his defence, which was reported in full by all the leading newspapers of the period. In the first place he exhibited the character and life of Michu in its true light. He made it a noble tale, ringing with lofty sentiments, and it awakened the sympathies of many. When Michu heard himself vindicated by that eloquent voice, tears sprang from his yellow eyes and rolled down his terrible face. He appeared then for what he really was,–a man as simple and as wily as a child; a being whose whole existence had but one thought, one aim. He was suddenly explained to the minds of all present, more especially by his tears, which produced a great effect upon the jury. His able defender seized that moment of strong interest to enter upon a discussion of the charges:–

“Where is the body of the person abducted? Where is the senator?” he asked. “You accuse us of walling him up with stones and plaster. If so, we alone know where he is; you have kept us twenty-three days in prison, and the senator must be dead by this time for want of food. We are therefore murderers, but you have not accused us of murder. On the other hand, if he still lives, we must have accomplices. If we have them, and if the senator is living, we should assuredly have set him at liberty. The scheme in relation to Gondreville which you attribute to us is a failure, and only aggravates our position uselessly. We might perhaps obtain a pardon for an abortive attempt by releasing our victim; instead of that we persist in detaining a man from whom we can obtain no benefit whatever. It is absurd! Take away your plaster; the effect is a failure,” he said, addressing the public prosecutor. “We are either idiotic criminals (which you do not believe) or the innocent victims of circumstances as inexplicable to us as they are to you. You ought rather to search for the mass of papers which were burned at Gondreville, which will reveal motives stronger far than yours or ours and put you on the track of the causes of this abduction.”

The speaker discussed these hypotheses with marvellous ability. He dwelt on the moral character of the witnesses for the defence, whose religious faith was a living one, who believed in a future life and in eternal punishment. He rose to grandeur in this part of his speech and moved his hearers deeply:–

“Remember!” he said; “these criminals were tranquilly dining when told of the abduction of the senator. When the officer of gendarmes intimated to them the best means of ending the whole affair by giving up the senator, they refused, for they did not understand what was asked of them!”

Then, reverting to the mystery of the matter, he declared that its solution was in the hands of time, which would eventually reveal the injustice of the charge. Once on this ground, he boldly and ingeniously supposed himself a juror; related his deliberations with his colleagues; imagined his distress lest, having condemned the innocent, the error should be known too late, and drew such a picture of his remorse, dwelling on the grave doubts which the case presented, that he brought the jury to a condition of intense anxiety.

Juries were not in those days so blase to this sort of allocution as they are now; Monsieur de Grandville’s appeal had the power of things new, and the jurors were evidently shaken. After this passionate outburst they had to listen to the wily and specious prosecutor, who went over the whole case, brought out the darkest points against the prisoners and made the rest inexplicable. His aim was to reach the minds and the reasoning faculties of his hearers just as Monsieur de Grandville had aimed at the heart and the imagination. The latter, however, had seriously entangled the convictions of the jury, and the public prosecutor found his well-laid arguments ineffectual. This was so plain that the counsel for the Messieurs d’Hauteserre and Gothard appealed to the judgment of the jury, asking that the case against their clients be abandoned. The prosecutor demanded a postponement till the next day in order that he might prepare an answer. Bordin, who saw acquittal in the eyes of the jury if they deliberated on the case at once, opposed the delay of even one night by arguments of legal right and justice to his innocent clients; but in vain,–the court allowed it.

“The interests of society are as great as those of the accused,” said the president. “The court would be lacking in equity if it denied a like request when made by the defence; it ought therefore to grant that of the prosecution.”

“All is luck or ill-luck!” said Bordin to his clients when the session was over. “Almost acquitted tonight you may be condemned to-morrow.”

“In either case,” said the elder de Simeuse, “we can only admire your skill.”

Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne’s eyes were full of tears. After the doubts and fears of the counsel for the defence, she had not expected this success. Those around her congratulated her and predicted the acquittal of her cousins. But alas! the matter was destined to end in a startling and almost theatrical event, the most unexpected and disastrous circumstance which ever changed the face of a criminal trial.

At five in the morning of the day after Monsieur de Grandville’s speech, the senator was found on the high road to Troyes, delivered from captivity during his sleep, unaware of the trial that was going on or of the excitement attaching to his name in Europe, and simply happy in being once more able to breathe the fresh air. The man who was the pivot of the drama was quite as amazed at what was now told to him as the persons who met him on his way to Troyes were astounded at his reappearance. A farmer lent him a carriage and he soon reached the house of the prefect at Troyes. The prefect notified the director of the jury, the commissary of the government, and the public prosecutor, who, after a statement made to them by Malin, arrested Marthe, while she was still in bed at the Durieu’s house in the suburbs. Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, who was only at liberty under bail, was also snatched from one of the few hours of slumber she had been able to obtain at rare intervals in the course of her ceaseless anxiety, and taken to the prefecture to undergo an examination. An order to keep the accused from holding any communication with each other or with their counsel was sent to the prison. At ten o’clock the crowd which assembled around the courtroom were informed that the trial was postponed until one o’clock in the afternoon of the same day.

This change of hour, following on the news of the senator’s deliverance, Marthe’s arrest, and that of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, together with the denial of the right to communicate with the prisoners carried terror to the hotel de Chargeboeuf. The whole town and the spectators who had come to Troyes to be present at the trial, the short-hand writers for the daily journals, even the populace were in a ferment which can readily be imagined. The Abbe Goujet came at ten o’clock to see Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre and the counsel for the defence, who were breakfasting–as well as they could under the circumstances. The abbe took Bordin and Monsieur Grandville apart, told them what Marthe had confided to him the day before, and gave them the fragment of the letter she had received. The two lawyers exchanged a look, after which Bordin said to the abbe: “Not a word of all this! The case is lost; but at any rate let us show a firm front.”

Marthe was not strong enough to evade the cross-questioning of the director of the jury and the public prosecutor. Moreover the proof against her was too overwhelming. Lechesneau had sent for the under crust of the last loaf of bread she had carried to the cavern, also for the empty bottles and various other articles. During the senator’s long hours of captivity he had formed conjectures in his own mind and had looked for indications which might put him on the track of his enemies. These he now communicated to the authorities. Michu’s farmhouse, lately built, had, he supposed, a new oven; the tiles or bricks on which the bread was baked would show their jointed lines on the bottom of the loaves, and thus afford a proof that the bread supplied to him was baked on that particular oven. So with the wine brought in bottles sealed with green wax, which would probably be found identical with other bottles in Michu’s cellar. These shrewd observations, which Malin imparted to the justice of peace, who made the first examination (taking Marthe with him), led to the results foreseen by the senator.

Marthe, deceived by the apparent friendliness of Lechesneau and the public prosecutor, who assured her that complete confession could alone save her husband’s life, admitted that the cavern where the senator had been hidden was known only to her husband and the Messieurs de Simeuse and d’Hauteserre, and that she herself had taken provisions to the senator on three separate occasions at midnight.

Laurence, questioned about the cavern, was forced to acknowledge that Michu had discovered it and had shown it to her at the time when the four young men evaded the police and were hidden in it.

As soon as these preliminary examinations were ended, the jury, lawyers, and audience were notified that the trial would be resumed. At three o’clock the president opened the session by announcing that the case would be continued under a new aspect. He exhibited to Michu three bottles of wine and asked him if he recognized them as bottles from his own cellar, showing him at the same time the identity between the green wax on two empty bottles with the green wax on a full bottle taken from his cellar that morning by the justice of peace in presence of his wife. Michu refused to recognize anything as his own. But these proofs for the prosecution were understood by the jurors, to whom the president explained that the empty bottles were found in the place where the senator was imprisoned.

Each prisoner was questioned as to the cavern or cellar beneath the ruins of the old monastery. It was proved by all witnesses for the prosecution, and also for the defence, that the existence of this hiding-place discovered by Michu was known only to him and his wife, and to Laurence and the four gentlemen. We may judge of the effect in the courtroom when the public prosecutor made known the fact that this cavern, known only to the accused and to their two witnesses, was the place where the senator had been imprisoned.

Marthe was summoned. Her appearance caused much excitement among the spectators and keen anxiety to the prisoners. Monsieur de Grandville rose to protest against the testimony of a wife against her husband. The public prosecutor replied that Marthe by her own confession was an accomplice in the outrage; that she had neither sworn nor testified, and was to be heard solely in the interests of truth.

“We need only submit her preliminary examination to the jury,” remarked the president, who now ordered the clerk of the court to read the said testimony aloud.

“Do you now confirm your own statement?” said the president, addressing Marthe.

Michu looked at his wife, and Marthe, who saw her fatal error, fainted away and fell to the floor. It may be truly said that a thunderbolt had fallen upon the prisoners and their counsel.

“I never wrote to my wife from prison, and I know none of the persons employed there,” said Michu.

Bordin passed to him the fragments of the letter Marthe had received. Michu gave but one glance at it. “My writing has been imitated,” he said.

“Denial is your last resource,” said the public prosecutor.

The senator was introduced into the courtroom with all the ceremonies due to his position. His entrance was like a stage scene. Malin (now called Comte de Gondreville, without regard to the feelings of the late owners of the property) was requested by the president to look at the prisoners, and did so with great attention and for a long time. He stated that the clothing of his abductors was exactly like that worn by the four gentlemen; but he declared that the trouble of his mind had been such that he could not be positive that the accused were really the guilty parties.

“More than that,” he said, “it is my conviction that these four gentlemen had nothing to do with it. The hands that blindfolded me in the forest were coarse and rough. I should rather suppose,” he added, looking at Michu, “that my old enemy took charge of that duty; but I beg the gentlemen of the jury not to give too much weight to this remark. My suspicions are very slight, and I feel no certainty whatever–for this reason. The two men who seized me put me on horseback behind the man who blindfolded me, and whose hair was red like Michu’s. However singular you may consider the observation I am about to make, it is necessary to make it because it is the ground of an opinion favorable to the accused–who, I hope, will not feel offended by it. Fastened to the man’s back I would naturally have been affected by his odor–yet I did not perceive that which is peculiar to Michu. As to the person who brought me provisions on three several occasions, I am certain it was Marthe, the wife of Michu. I recognized her the first time she came by a ring she always wore, which she had forgotten to remove. The Court and jury will please allow for the contradictions which appear in the facts I have stated, which I myself am wholly unable to reconcile.”

A murmur of approval followed this testimony. Bordin asked permission of the Court to address a few questions to the witness.

“Does the senator think that his abduction was due to other causes than the interests respecting property which the prosecution attributes to the prisoners?”

“I do,” replied the senator, “but I am wholly ignorant of what the real motives were; for during a captivity of twenty days I saw and heard no one.”

“Do you think,” said the public prosecutor, “that your chateau at Gondreville contains information, title-deeds, or other papers of value which would induce a search on the part of the Messieurs de Simeuse?”

“I do not think so,” replied Malin; “I believe those gentlemen to be incapable of attempting to get possession of such papers by violence. They had only to ask me for them to obtain them.”

“You burned certain papers in the park, did you not?” said Monsieur de Gondreville, abruptly.

Malin looked at Grevin. After exchanging a rapid glance with the notary, which Bordin intercepted, he replied that he had not burned any papers. The public prosecutor having asked him to describe the ambush to which he had so nearly fallen a victim two years earlier, the senator replied that he had seen Michu watching him from the fork of a tree. This answer, which agreed with Grevin’s testimony, produced a great impression.

The four gentlemen remained impassible during the examination of their enemy, who seemed determined to overwhelm them with generosity. Laurence suffered horrible agony. From time to time the Marquis de Chargeboeuf held her by the arm, fearing she might dart forward to the rescue. The Comte de Gondreville retired from the courtroom and as he did so he bowed to the four gentlemen, who did not return the salutation. This trifling matter made the jury indignant.

“They are lost now,” whispered Bordin to the Marquis de Chargeboeuf.

“Alas, yes! and always through the nobility of their sentiments,” replied the marquis.

“My task is now only too easy, gentlemen,” said the prosecutor, rising to address the jury.

He explained the use of the cement by the necessity of securing an iron frame on which to fasten a padlock which held the iron bar with which the gate of the cavern was closed; a description of which was given in the /proces-verbal/ made that morning by Pigoult. He put the falsehoods of the accused into the strongest light, and pulverized the arguments of the defence with the new evidence so miraculously obtained. In 1806 France was still too near the Supreme Being of 1793 to talk about divine justice; he therefore spared the jury all reference to the intervention of heaven; but he said that earthly justice would be on the watch for the mysterious accomplices who had set the senator at liberty, and he sat down, confidently awaiting the verdict.

The jury believed there was a mystery, but they were all persuaded that it came from the prisoners, who were probably concealing some matter of a private interest of great importance to them.

Monsieur de Grandville, to whom a plot or machination of some kind was quite evident, rose; but he seemed discouraged,–less, however, by the new evidence than by the manifest opinion of the jury. He surpassed, if anything, his speech of the previous evening; his argument was more compact and logical; but he felt his fervor repelled by the coldness of the jury; he spoke ineffectually, and he knew it,–a chilling situation for an advocate. He called attention to the fact that the release of the senator, as if by magic and clearly without the aid of any of the accused or of Marthe, corroborated his previous argument. Yesterday the prisoners could most surely rely on acquittal, and if they had, as the prosecution claimed, the power to hold or to release the senator, they certainly would not have released him until after their acquittal. He endeavored to bring before the minds of the Court and jury the fact that mysterious enemies, undiscovered as yet, could alone have struck the accused this final blow.

Strange to say, the only minds Monsieur de Grandville reached with this argument were those of the public prosecutor and the judges. The jury listened perfunctorily; the audience, usually so favorable to prisoners, were convinced of their guilt. In a court of justice the sentiments of the crowd do unquestionably weigh upon the judges and the jury, and /vice versa/. Seeing this condition of the minds about him, which could be felt if not defined, the counsel uttered his last words in a tone of passionate excitement caused by his conviction:–

“In the name of the accused,” he cried, “I forgive you for the fatal error you are about to commit, and which nothing can repair! We are the victims of some mysterious and Machiavellian power. Marthe Michu was inveigled by vile perfidy. You will discover this too late, when the evil you now do will be irreparable.”

Bordin simply claimed the acquittal of the prisoners on the testimony of the senator himself.

The president summed up the case with all the more impartiality because it was evident that the minds of the jurors were already made up. He even turned the scales in favor of the prisoners by dwelling on the senator’s evidence. This clemency, however, did not in the least endanger the success of the prosecution. At eleven o’clock that night, after the jury had replied through their foreman to the usual questions, the Court condemned Michu to death, the Messieurs de Simeuse to twenty-four years’ and the Messieurs d’Hauteserre to ten years, penal servitude at hard labor. Gothard was acquitted.

The whole audience was eager to observe the bearing of the five guilty men in this supreme moment of their lives. The four gentlemen looked at Laurence, who returned them, with dry eyes, the ardent look of the martyrs.

“She would have wept had we been acquitted,” said the younger de Simeuse to his brother.

Never did convicted men meet an unjust fate with serener brows or countenances more worthy of their manhood than these five victims of a cruel plot.

“Our counsel has forgiven you,” said the eldest de Simeuse to the Court.

*****

Madame d’Hauteserre fell ill, and was three months in her bed at the hotel de Chargeboeuf. Monsieur d’Hauteserre returned patiently to Cinq-Cygne, inwardly gnawed by one of those sorrows of old age which have none of youth’s distractions; often he was so absent-minded that the abbe, who watched him, knew the poor father was living over again the scene of the fatal verdict. Marthe passed away from all blame; she died three weeks after the condemnation of her husband, confiding her son to Laurence, in whose arms she died.

The trial once over, political events of the utmost importance effaced even the memory of it, and nothing further was discovered. Society is like the ocean; it returns to its level and its specious calmness after a disaster, effacing all traces of it in the tide of its eager interests.

Without her natural firmness of mind and her knowledge of her cousins’ innocence, Laurence would have succumbed; but she gave fresh proof of the grandeur of her character; she astonished Monsieur de Grandville and Bordin by the apparent serenity which these terrible misfortunes called forth in her noble soul. She nursed Madame d’Hauteserre and went daily to the prison, saying openly that she would marry one of the cousins when they were taken to the galleys.

“To the galleys!” cried Bordin, “Mademoiselle! our first endeavor must be to wring their pardon from the Emperor.”

“Their pardon!–/from a Bonaparte/?” cried Laurence in horror.

The spectacles of the old lawyer jumped from his nose; he caught them as they fell and looked at the young girl who was now indeed a woman; he understood her character at last in all its bearings; then he took the arm of the Marquis de Chargeboeuf, saying:–

“Monsieur le Marquis, let us go to Paris instantly and save them without her!”

The appeal of the Messieurs de Simeuse and d’Hauteserre and that of Michu was the first case to be brought before the new court. Its decision was fortunately delayed by the ceremonies attending its installation.

CHAPTER XIX

THE EMPEROR’S BIVOUAC

Towards the end of September, after three sessions of the Court of Appeals in which the lawyers for the defence pleaded, and the attorney-general Merlin himself spoke for the prosecution, the appeal was rejected. The Imperial Court of Paris was by this time instituted. Monsieur de Grandville was appointed assistant attorney-general, and the department of the Aube coming under the jurisdiction of this court, it became possible for him to take certain steps in favor of the convicted prisoners, among them that of importuning Cambaceres, his protector. Bordin and Monsieur de Chargeboeuf came to his house in the Marais the day after the appeal was rejected, where they found him in the midst of his honeymoon, for he had married in the interval. In spite of all these changes in his condition, Monsieur de Chargeboeuf saw very plainly that the young lawyer was faithful to his late clients. Certain lawyers, the artists of their profession, treat their causes like mistresses. This is rare, however, and must not be depended on.

As soon as they were alone in his study, Monsieur de Grandville said to the marquis: “I have not waited for your visit; I have already employed all my influence. Don’t attempt to save Michu; if you do, you cannot obtain the pardon of the Messieurs de Simeuse. The law will insist on one victim.”

“Good God!” cried Bordin, showing the young magistrate the three petitions for mercy; “how can I take upon myself to withdraw the application for that man. If I suppress the paper I cut off his head.”

He held out the petition; de Grandville took it, looked it over, and said:–

“We can’t suppress it; but be sure of one thing, if you ask all you will obtain nothing.”

“Have we time to consult Michu?” asked Bordin.

“Yes. The order for execution comes from the office of the attorney- general; I will see that you have some days. We kill men,” he said with some bitterness, “but at least we do it formally, especially in Paris.”

Monsieur de Chargeboeuf had already received from the chief justice certain information which added weight to these sad words of Monsieur de Grandville.

“Michu is innocent, I know,” continued the young lawyer, “but what can we do against so many? Remember, too, that my present influence depends on my keeping silent. I must order the scaffold to be prepared, or my late client is certain to be beheaded.”

Monsieur de Chargeboeuf knew Laurence well enough to be certain she would never consent to save her cousins at the expense of Michu; he therefore resolved on making one more effort. He asked an audience of the minister of foreign affairs to learn if salvation could be looked for through the influence of the great diplomat. He took Bordin with him, for the latter knew the minister and had done him some service. The two old men found Talleyrand sitting with his feet stretched out, absorbed in contemplation of his fire, his head resting on his hand, his elbow on the table, a newspaper lying at his feet. The minister had just read the decision of the Court of Appeals.

“Pray sit down, Monsieur le marquis,” said Talleyrand, “and you, Bordin,” he added, pointing to a place at the table, “write as follows:–“

Sire,–Four innocent gentlemen, declared guilty by a jury have just had their condemnation confirmed by your Court of Appeals.

Your Imperial Majesty can now only pardon them. These gentlemen ask this pardon of your august clemency, in the hope that they may enter your army and meet their death in battle before your eyes; and thus praying, they are, of your Imperial and Royal Majesty, with reverence, etc.

“None but princes can do such prompt and graceful kindness,” said the Marquis de Chargeboeuf, taking the precious draft of the petition from the hands of Bordin that he might have it signed by the four gentlemen; resolving in his own mind that he would also obtain the signatures of several august names.

“The life of your young relatives, Monsieur le marquis,” said the minister, “now depends on the turn of a battle. Endeavor to reach the Emperor on the morning after a victory and they are saved.”

He took a pen and himself wrote a private and confidential letter to the Emperor, and another of ten lines to Marechal Duroc. Then he rang the bell, asked his secretary for a diplomatic passport, and said tranquilly to the old lawyer, “What is your honest opinion of that trial?”

“Do you know, monseigneur, who was at the bottom of this cruel wrong?”

“I presume I do; but I have reasons to wish for certainty,” replied Talleyrand. “Return to Troyes; bring me the Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne, here, to-morrow at the same hour, but secretly; ask to be ushered into Madame de Talleyrand’s salon; I will tell her you are coming. If Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, who shall be placed where she can see a man who will be standing before me, recognizes that man as an individual who came to her house during the conspiracy of de Polignac and Riviere, tell her to remember that, no matter what I say or what he answers me, she must not utter a word nor make a gesture. One thing more, think only of saving the de Simeuse brothers; don’t embarrass yourself with that scoundrel of a bailiff–“

“A sublime man, monseigneur!” exclaimed Bordin.

“Enthusiasm! in you, Bordin! The man must be remarkable. Our sovereign has an immense self-love, Monsieur le marquis,” he said, changing the conversation. “He is about to dismiss me that he may commit follies without warning. The Emperor is a great soldier who can change the laws of time and distance, but he cannot change men; yet he persists in trying to run them in his own mould! Now, remember this; the young men’s pardon can be obtained by one person only–Mademoiselle de Cinq- Cygne.”

The marquis went alone to Troyes and told the whole matter to Laurence. She obtained permission from the authorities to see Michu, and the marquis accompanied her to the gates of the prison, where he waited for her. When she came out her face was bathed in tears.

“Poor man!” she said; “he tried to kneel to me, praying that I would not think of him, and forgetting the shackles that were on his feet! Ah, marquis, I /will/ plead his cause. Yes, I’ll kiss the boot of their Emperor. If I fail–well, the memory of that man shall live eternally honored in our family. Present his petition for mercy so as to gain time; meantime I am resolved to have his portrait. Come, let us go.”

The next day, when Talleyrand was informed by a sign agreed upon that Laurence was at her post, he rang the bell; his orderly came to him, and received orders to admit Monsieur Corentin.

“My friend, you are a very clever fellow,” said Talleyrand, “and I wish to employ you.”

“Monsiegneur–“

“Listen. In serving Fouche you will get money, but never honor nor any position you can acknowledge. But in serving me, as you have lately done at Berlin, you can win credit and repute.”

“Monseigneur is very good.”

“You displayed genius in that late affair at Gondreville.”

“To what does Monseigneur allude?” said Corentin, with a manner that was neither too reserved nor too surprised.

“Ah, Monsieur!” observed the minister, dryly, “you will never make a successful man; you fear–“

“What, monseigneur?”

“Death!” replied Talleyrand, in his fine, deep voice. “Adieu, my good friend.”

“That is the man,” said the Marquis de Chargeboeuf entering the room after Corentin was dismissed; “but we have nearly killed the countess.”

“He is the only man I know capable of playing such a trick,” replied the minister. “Monsieur le marquis, you are in danger of not succeeding in your mission. Start ostensibly for Strasburg; I’ll send you double passports in blank to be filled out. Provide yourself with substitutes; change your route and above all your carriage; let your substitutes go on to Strasburg, and do you reach Prussia through Switzerland and Bavaria. Not a word–prudence! The police are against you; and you do not know what the police are–“

Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne offered the then celebrated Robert Lefebvre a sufficient sum to induce him to go to Troyes and take Michu’s portrait. Monsieur de Grandville promised to afford the painter every possible facility. Monsieur de Chargeboeuf then started in the old /berlingot/, with Laurence and a servant who spoke German. Not far from Nancy they overtook Mademoiselle Goujet and Gothard, who had preceded them in an excellent carriage, which the marquis took, giving them in exchange the /berlingot/.

Talleyrand was right. At Strasburg the commissary-general of police refused to countersign the passport of the travellers, and gave them positive orders to return. By that time the marquis and Laurence were leaving France by way of Besancon with the diplomatic passport.

Laurence crossed Switzerland in the first days of October, without paying the slightest attention to that glorious land. She lay back in the carriage in the torpor which overtakes a criminal on the eve of his execution. To her eyes all nature was shrouded in a seething vapor; even common things assumed fantastic shapes. The one thought, “If I do not succeed they will kill themselves,” fell upon her soul with reiterated blows, as the bar of the executioner fell upon the victim’s members when tortured on the wheel. She felt herself breaking; she lost her energy in this terrible waiting for the cruel moment, short and decisive, when she should find herself face to face with that man on whom the fate of the condemned depended. She chose to yield to her depression rather than waste her strength uselessly. The marquis, who was incapable of understanding this resolve of firm minds, which often assumes quite diverse aspects (for in such moments of tension certain superior minds give way to surprising gaiety), began to fear that he might never bring Laurence alive to the momentous interview, solemn to them only, and yet beyond the ordinary limits of private life. To Laurence, the necessity of humiliating herself before that man, the object of her hatred and contempt, meant the sacrifice of all her noblest feelings.

“After this,” she said, “the Laurence who survives will bear no likeness to her who is now to perish.”

The travellers could not fail to be aware of the vast movement of men and material which surrounded them the moment they entered Prussia. The campaign of Jena had just begun. Laurence and the marquis beheld the magnificent divisions of the French army deploying and parading as if at the Tuileries. In this display of military power, which can be adequately described only with the words and images of the Bible, the proportions of the Man whose spirit moved these masses grew gigantic to Laurence’s imagination. Soon, the cry of victory resounded in her ears. The Imperial arms had just obtained two signal advantages. The Prince of Prussia had been killed the evening before the day on which the travellers arrived at Saalfeld on their endeavor to overtake Napoleon, who was marching with the rapidity of lightning.

At last, on the 13th of October (date of ill-omen) Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne was skirting a river in the midst of the Grand Army, seeing nought but confusion, sent hither and thither from one village to another, from division to division, frightened at finding herself alone with one old man tossed about in an ocean of a hundred and fifty thousand armed men facing a hundred and fifty thousand more. Weary of watching the river through the hedges of the muddy road which she was following along a hillside, she asked its name of a passing soldier.

“That’s the Saale,” he said, showing her the Prussian army, grouped in great masses on the other side of the stream.

Night came on. Laurence beheld the camp-fires lighted and the glitter of stacked arms. The old marquis, whose courage was chivalric, drove the horses himself (two strong beasts bought the evening before), his servant sitting beside him. He knew very well he should find neither horses nor postilions within the lines of the army. Suddenly the bold equipage, an object of great astonishment to the soldiers, was stopped by a gendarme of the military gendarmerie, who galloped up to the carriage, calling out to the marquis: “Who are you? where are you going? what do you want?”

“The Emperor,” replied the Marquis de Chargeboeuf; “I have an important dispatch for the Grand-marechal Duroc.”

“Well, you can’t stay here,” said the gendarme.

Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne and the marquis were, however, compelled to remain where they were on account of the darkness.

“Where are we?” she asked, stopping two officers whom she saw passing, whose uniforms were concealed by cloth overcoats.

“You are among the advanced guard of the French army,” answered one of the officers. “You cannot stay here, for if the enemy makes a movement and the artillery opens you will be between two fires.”

“Ah!” she said, with an indifferent air.

Hearing that “Ah!” the other officer turned and said: “How did that woman come here?”

“We are waiting,” said Laurence, “for a gendarme who has gone to find General Duroc, a protector who will enable us to speak to the Emperor.”

“Speak to the Emperor!” exclaimed the first officer; “how can you think of such a thing–on the eve of a decisive battle?”

“True,” she said; “I ought to speak to him on the morrow–victory would make him kind.”

The two officers stationed themselves at a little distance and sat motionless on their horses. The carriage was now surrounded by a mass of generals, marshals, and other officers, all extremely brilliant in appearance, who appeared to pay deference to the carriage merely because it was there.

“Good God!” said the marquis to Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne; “I am afraid you spoke to the Emperor.”

“The Emperor?” said a colonel, beside them, “why there he is!” pointing to the officer who had said, “How did that woman get here?” He was mounted on a white horse, richly caparisoned, and wore the celebrated gray top-coat over his green uniform. He was scanning with a field-glass the Prussian army massed beyond the Saale. Laurence understood then why the carriage remained there, and why the Emperor’s escort respected it. She was seized with a convulsive tremor–the hour had come! She heard the heavy sound of the tramp of men and the clang of their arms as they arrived at a quick step on the plateau. The batteries had a language, the caissons thundered, the brass glittered.

“Marechal Lannes will take position with his whole corps in the advance; Marechal Lefebvre and the Guard will occupy this hill,” said the other officer, who was Major-general Berthier.

The Emperor dismounted. At his first motion Roustan, his famous mameluke, hastened to hold his horse. Laurence was stupefied with amazement; she had never dreamed of such simplicity.

“I shall pass the night on the plateau,” said the Emperor.

Just then the Grand-marechal Duroc, whom the gendarme had finally found, came up to the Marquis de Chargeboeuf and asked the reason of his coming. The marquis replied that a letter from the Prince de Talleyrand, of which he was the bearer, would explain to the marshal how urgent it was that Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne and himself should obtain an audience of the Emperor.

“His Majesty will no doubt dine at his bivouac,” said Duroc, taking the letter, “and when I find out what your object is, I will let you know if you can see him. Corporal,” he said to the gendarme, “accompany this carriage, and take it close to that hut at the rear.”

Monsieur de Chargeboeuf followed the gendarme and stopped his horses behind a miserable cabin, built of mud and branches, surrounded by a few fruit-trees, and guarded by pickets of infantry and cavalry.

It may be said that the majesty of war appeared here in all its grandeur. From this height the lines of the two armies were visible in the moonlight. After an hour’s waiting, the time being occupied by the incessant coming and going of the aides-de-camp, Duroc himself came for Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne and the marquis, and made them enter the hut, the floor of which was of battened earth like that of a stable.

Before a table with the remains of dinner, and before a fire made of green wood which smoked, Napoleon was seated in a clumsy chair. His muddy boots gave evidence of a long tramp across country. He had taken off the famous top-coat; and his equally famous green uniform, crossed by the red cordon of the Legion of honor and heightened by the white of his kerseymere breeches and of his waistcoat, brought out vividly his pale and terrible Caesarian face. One hand was on a map which lay unfolded on his knees. Berthier stood near him in the brilliant uniform of the vice-constable of the Empire. Constant, the valet, was offering the Emperor his coffee from a tray.

“What do you want?” said Napoleon, with a show of roughness, darting his eye like a flash through Laurence’s head. “You are no longer afraid to speak to me before the battle? What is it about?”

“Sire,” she said, looking at him with as firm an eye, “I am Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne.”

“Well?” he replied, in an angry voice, thinking her look braved him.

“Do you not understand? I am the Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne, come to ask mercy,” she said, falling on her knees and holding out to him the petition drawn up by Talleyrand, endorsed by the Empress, by Cambaceres and by Malin.

The Emperor raised her graciously, and said with a keen look: “Have you come to your senses? Do you now understand what the French Empire is and must be?”

“Ah! at this moment I understand only the Emperor,” she said, vanquished by the kindly manner with which the man of destiny had said the words that foretold to her ears success.

“Are they innocent?” asked the Emperor.

“Yes, all of them,” she said with enthusiasm.

“All? No, that bailiff is a dangerous man, who would have killed my senator without taking your advice.”

“Ah, Sire,” she said, “if you had a friend devoted to you, would you abandon him? Would you not rather–“

“You are a woman,” he said, interrupting her in a faint tone of ridicule.

“And you, a man of iron!” she replied with a passionate sternness which pleased him.

“That man has been condemned to death by the laws of his country,” he continued.

“But he is innocent!”

“Child!” he said.

He took Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne by the hand and led her from the hut to the plateau.

“See,” he continued, with that eloquence of his which changed even cowards to brave men, “see those three hundred thousand men–all innocent. And yet to-morrow thirty thousand of them will be lying dead, dead for their country! Among those Prussians there is, perhaps, some great mathematician, a man of genius, an idealist, who will be mown down. On our side we shall assuredly lose many a great man never known to fame. Perhaps even I shall see my best friend die. Shall I blame God? No. I shall bear it silently. Learn from this, mademoiselle, that a man must die for the laws of his country just as men die here for her glory.” So saying, he led her back into the hut. “Return to France,” he said, looking at the marquis; “my orders shall follow you.”

Laurence believed in a commutation of Michu’s punishment, and in her gratitude she knelt again before the Emperor and kissed his hand.

“You are the Marquis de Chargeboeuf?” said Napoleon, addressing the marquis.

“Yes, Sire.”

“You have children?”

“Many children.”

“Why not give me one of your grandsons? he shall be my page.”

“Ah!” thought Laurence, “there’s the sub-lieutenant after all; he wants to be paid for his mercy.”

The marquis bowed without replying. Happily at this moment General Rapp rushed into the hut.

“Sire, the cavalry of the Guard, and that of the Grand-duc de Berg cannot be set up before midday to-morrow.”

“Never mind,” said Napoleon, turning to Berthier, “we, too, get our reprieves; let us profit by them.”

At a sign of his hand the marquis and Laurence retired and again entered their carriage; the corporal showed them their road and accompanied them to a village where they passed the night. The next day they left the field of battle behind them, followed by the thunder of the cannon,–eight hundred pieces,–which pursued them for ten hours. While still on their way they learned of the amazing victory of Jena.

Eight days later, they were driving through the faubourg of Troyes, where they learned that an order of the chief justice, transmitted through the /procureur imperial/ of Troyes, commanded the release of the four gentlemen on bail during the Emperor’s pleasure. But Michu’s sentence was confirmed, and the warrant for his execution had been forwarded from the ministry of police. These orders had reached Troyes that very morning. Laurence went at once to the prison, though it was two in the morning, and obtained permission to stay with Michu, who was about to undergo the melancholy ceremony called “the toilet.” The good abbe, who had asked permission to accompany him to the scaffold, had just given absolution to the man, whose only distress in dying was his uncertainty as to the fate of his young masters. When Laurence entered his cell he uttered a cry of joy.

“I can die now,” he said.

“They are pardoned,” she said; “I do not know on what conditions, but they are pardoned. I did all I could for you, dear friend–against the advice of others. I thought I had saved you; but the Emperor deceived me with his graciousness.”

“It was written above,” said Michu, “that the watch-dog should be killed on the spot where his old masters died.”

The last hour passed rapidly. Michu, at the moment of parting, asked to kiss her hand, but Laurence held her cheek to the lips of the noble victim that he might sacredly kiss it. Michu refused to mount the cart.

“Innocent men should go afoot,” he said.

He would not let the abbe give him his arm; resolutely and with dignity he walked alone to the scaffold. As he laid his head on the plank he said to the executioner, after asking him to turn down the collar of his coat, “My clothes belong to you; try not to spot them.”

*****

The four gentlemen had hardly time to even see Mademoiselle de Cinq- Cygne. An orderly of the general commanding the division to which they were assigned, brought them their commissions as sub-lieutenants in the same regiment of cavalry, with orders to proceed at once to Bayonne, the base of supplies for its particular army-corps. After a scene of heart-rending farewells, for they all foreboded what the future should bring forth, Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne returned to her desolate home.

The two brothers were killed together under the eyes of the Emperor at Sommo-Sierra, the one defending the other, both being already in command of their troop. The last words of each were, “Laurence, /cy meurs/!”

The elder d’Hauteserre died a colonel at the attack on the redoubt at Moscow, where his brother took his place.

Adrien d’Hauteserre, appointed brigadier-general at the battle of Dresden, was dangerously wounded there and was sent to Cinq-Cygne for proper nursing. While endeavoring to save this relic of the four gentlemen who for a few brief months had been so happy around her, Laurence, then thirty-two years of age, married him. She offered him a withered heart, but he accepted it; those who truly love doubt nothing or doubt all.

The Restoration found Laurence without enthusiasm. The Bourbons returned too late for her. Nevertheless, she had no cause for complaint. Her husband, made peer of France with the title of Marquis de Cinq-Cygne, became lieutenant-general in 1816, and was rewarded with the blue ribbon for the eminent services which he then performed.

Michu’s son, of whom Laurence took care as though he were her own child, was admitted to the bar in 1817. After practising two years he was made assistant-judge at the court of Alencon, and from there he became /procureur-du-roi/ at Arcis in 1827. Laurence, who had also taken charge of Michu’s property, made over to the young man on the day of his majority an investment in the public Funds which yielded him an income of twelve thousand francs a year. Later, she arranged a marriage for him with Mademoiselle Girel, an heiress at Troyes.

The Marquis de Cinq-Cygne died in 1829, in the arms of his wife, surrounded by his father and mother, and his children who adored him. At the time of his death no one had ever fathomed the mystery of the senator’s abduction. Louis XVIII. did not neglect to repair, as far as possible, the wrongs done by that affair; but he was silent as to the causes of the disaster. From that time forth the Marquise de Cinq- Cygne believed him to have been an accomplice in the catastrophe.

CHAPTER XX

THE MYSTERY SOLVED

The late Marquis de Cinq-Cygne had used his savings, as well as those of his father and mother, in the purchase of a fine house in the rue de Faubourg-du-Roule, entailing it on heirs male for the support of the title. The sordid economy of the marquis and his parents, which had often troubled Laurence, was then explained. After this purchase the marquise, who lived at Cinq-Cygne and economized on her own account for her children, spent her winters in Paris,–all the more willingly because her daughter Berthe and her son Paul were now of an age when their education required the resources of Paris.

Madame de Cinq-Cygne went but little into society. Her husband could not be ignorant of the regrets which lay in her tender heart; but he showed her always the most exquisite delicacy, and died having loved no other woman. This noble soul, not fully understood for a period of time but to which the generous daughter of the Cinq-Cygnes returned in his last years as true a love as that he gave to her, was completely happy in his married life. Laurence lived for the joys of home. No woman has ever been more cherished by her friends or more respected. To be received in her house is an honor. Gentle, indulgent, intellectual, above all things simple and natural, she pleases choice souls and draws them to her in spite of her saddened aspect; each longs to protect this woman, inwardly so strong, and that sentiment of secret protection counts for much in the wondrous charm of her friendship. Her life, so painful during her youth, is beautiful and serene towards evening. Her sufferings are known, and no one asks who was the original of that portrait by Lefebvre which is the chief and sacred ornament of her salon. Her face has the maturity of fruits that have ripened slowly; a hallowed pride dignifies that long-tried brow.

At the period when the marquise came to Paris to open the new house, her fortune, increased by the law of indemnities, gave her some two hundred thousand francs a year, not counting her husband’s salary; besides this, Laurence had inherited the money guarded by Michu for his young masters. From that time forth she made a practice of spending half her income and of laying by the rest for her daughter Berthe.

Berthe is the living image of her mother, but without her warrior nerve; she is her mother in delicacy, in intellect,–“more a woman,” Laurence says, sadly. The marquise was not willing to marry her daughter until she was twenty years of age. Her savings, judiciously invested in the Funds by old Monsieur d’Hauteserre at the moment when consols fell in 1830, gave Berthe a dowry of eighty thousand francs a year in 1833, when she was twenty.

About that time the Princesse de Cadignan, who was seeking to marry her son, the Duc de Maufrigneuse, brought him into intimate relations with Madame de Cinq-Cygne. Georges de Maufrigneuse dined with the marquise three times a week, accompanied the mother and daughter to the Opera, and curvetted in the Bois around their carriage when they drove out. It was evident to all the world of the Faubourg Saint- Germain that Georges loved Berthe. But no one could discover to a certainty whether Madame de Cinq-Cygne was desirous of making her daughter a duchess, to become a princess later, or whether it was only the princess who coveted for her son the splendid dowry. Did the celebrated Diane court the noble provincial house? and was the daughter of the Cinq-Cygnes frightened by the celebrity of Madame de Cadignan, her tastes and her ruinous extravagance? In her strong desire not to injure her son’s prospects the princess grew devout, shut the door on her former life, and spent the summer season at Geneva in a villa on the lake.

One evening there were present in the salon of the Princesse de Cadignan, the Marquise d’Espard, and de Marsay, then president of the Council (on this occasion the princess saw her former lover for the last time, for he died the following year), Eugene de Rastignac, under-secretary of State attached to de Marsay’s ministry, two ambassadors, two celebrated orators from the Chamber of Peers, the old dukes of Lenoncourt and de Navarreins, the Comte de Vandenesse and his young wife, and d’Arthez,–who formed a rather singular circle, the composition of which can be thus explained. The princess was anxious to obtain from the prime minister of the crown a permit for the return of the Prince de Cadignan. De Marsay, who did not choose to take upon himself the responsibility of granting it came to tell the princess the matter had been entrusted to safe hands, and that a certain political manager had promised to bring her the result in the course of that evening.

Madame and Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne were announced. Laurence, whose principles were unyielding, was not only surprised but shocked to see the most illustrious representatives of Legitimacy talking and laughing in a friendly manner with the prime minister of the man whom she never called anything but Monsieur le Duc d’Orleans. De Marsay, like an expiring lamp, shone with a last brilliancy. He laid aside for the moment his political anxieties, and Madame de Cinq-Cygne endured him, as they say the Court of Austria endured de Saint-Aulaire; the man of the world effaced the minister of the citizen-king. But she rose to her feet as though her chair were of red-hot iron when the name was announced of “Monsieur le Comte de Gondreville.”

“Adieu, madame,” she said to the princess in a curt tone.

She left the room with Berthe, measuring her steps to avoid encountering that fatal being.

“You may have caused the loss of Georges’ marriage,” said the princess to de Marsay, in a low voice. “Why did you not tell me your agent’s name?”

The former clerk of Arcis, former Conventional, former Thermidorien, tribune, Councillor of State, count of the Empire and senator, peer of the Restoration, and now peer of the monarchy of July, made a servile bow to the princess.

“Fear nothing, madame,” he said; “we have ceased to make war on princes. I bring you an assurance of the permit,” he added, seating himself beside her.

Malin was long in the confidence of Louis XVIII., to whom his varied experience was useful. He had greatly aided in overthrowing Decazes, and had given much good advice to the ministry of Villele. Coldly received by Charles X., he had adopted all the rancors of Talleyrand. He was now in high favor under the twelfth government he had served since 1789, and which in turn he would doubtless betray. For the last fifteen months he had broken the long friendship which had bound him for thirty-six years to our greatest diplomat, the Prince de Talleyrand. It was in the course of this very evening that he made answer to some one who asked why the Prince showed such hostility to the Duc de Bordeaux, “The Pretender is too young!”

“Singular advice to give young men,” remarked Rastignac.

De Marsay, who grew thoughtful after Madame de Cadignan’s reproachful speech, took no notice of these jests. He looked askance at Gondreville and was evidently biding his time until that now old man, who went to bed early, had taken leave. All present, who had witnessed the abrupt departure of Madame de Cinq-Cygne (whose reasons were well- known to them), imitated de Marsay’s conduct and kept silence. Gondreville, who had not recognized the marquise, was ignorant of the cause of the general reticence, but the habit of dealing with public matters had given him a certain tact; he was moreover a clever man; he saw that his presence was embarrassing to the company and he took leave. De Marsay, standing with his back to the fire, watched the slow departure of the old man in a manner which revealed the gravity of his thoughts.

“I did wrong, madame, not to tell you the name of my negotiator,” said the prime minister, listening for the sound of Malin’s wheels as they rolled away. “But I will redeem my fault and give you the means of making your peace with the Cinq-Cygnes. It is now thirty years since the affair I am about to speak of took place; it is as old to the present day as the death of Henri IV. (which between ourselves and in spite of the proverb is still a mystery, like so many other historical catastrophes). I can, however, assure you that even if this affair did not concern Madame de Cinq-Cygne it would be none the less curious and interesting. Moreover, it throws light on a celebrated exploit in our modern annals,–I mean that of the Mont Saint-Bernard. Messieurs les Ambassadeurs,” he added, bowing to the two diplomats, “will see that in the element of profound intrigue the political men of the present day are far behind the Machiavellis whom the waves of the popular will lifted, in 1793, above the storm,–some of whom have ‘found,’ as the old song says, ‘a haven.’ To be anything in France in these days a man must have been tossed in those tempests.”

“It seems to me,” said the princess, smiling, “that from that point of view the present state of things under your regime leaves nothing to be desired.”

A well-bred laugh went round the room, and even the prime minister himself could not help smiling. The ambassadors seemed impatient for the tale; de Marsay coughed dryly and silence was obtained.

“On a June night in 1800,” began the minister, “about three in the morning, just as daylight was beginning to pale the brilliancy of the wax candles, two men tired of playing at /bouillotte/ (or who were playing merely to keep others employed) left the salon of the ministry of foreign affairs, then situated in the rue du Bac, and went apart into a boudoir. These two men, of whom one is dead and the other has /one/ foot in the grave, were, each in his own way, equally extraordinary. Both had been priests; both had abjured religion; both were married. One had been merely an Oratorian, the other had worn the mitre of a bishop. The first was named Fouche; I shall not tell you the name of the second;[*] both were then mere simple citizens–with very little simplicity. When they were seen to leave the salon and enter the boudoir, the rest of the company present showed a certain curiosity. A third person followed them,–a man who thought himself far stronger than the other two. His name was Sieyes, and you all know that he too had been a priest before the Revolution. The one who /walked with difficulty/ was then the minister of foreign affairs; Fouche was minister of police; Sieyes had resigned the consulate.

[*] Talleyrand was still living when de Marsay related these circumstances.

“A small man, cold and stern in appearance, left his seat and followed the three others, saying aloud in the hearing of the person from whom I have the information, ‘I mistrust the gambling of priests.’ This man was Carnot, minister of war. His remark did not trouble the two