Part 6 out of 7
impassive, there was an ineffable expression of pity and sorrow and
"Poor master!" he said, "delirium, head bad, that's all. Great
misfortune! But fidelity not changed. Always with you; if need be,
ready to die with you."
His tears and words filled me with sadness; but this was owing to an
instinctive sympathy enhanced by the weak state of my nerves, for I
did not remember a thing. I threw myself into his arms and wept like
himself; he pressed me to his bosom, as a father might his son. I was
fully conscious that some frightful misfortune had overtaken me, but I
was afraid to learn what it was, and nothing in the world would have
induced me to ask him.
He took me by the arm and led me through the forest. I let myself be
taken like a child. Then a fresh sense of weariness came over me, and
he was obliged to let me sit down again for half an hour. At last he
lifted me up and succeeded in leading me to Roche-Mauprat, where we
arrived very late. I do not know what happened to me during the night.
Marcasse told me subsequently that I had been very delirious. He took
upon himself to send to the nearest village for a barber, who bled me
early in the morning, and a few minutes later I recovered my reason.
But what a frightful service they seemed to have done me. Dead! Dead!
Dead! This was the only word I could utter. I did nothing but groan
and toss about on my bed. I wanted to get up and run to Sainte-Severe.
My poor sergeant would throw himself at my feet, or plant himself in
front of the door to prevent me. To keep me back, he would tell me
various things which I did not in the least understand. However, his
manifest solicitude for me and my own feeling of exhaustion made me
yield, though I could not explain his conduct. In one of these
struggles my vein opened again, and I returned to bed before Marcasse
noticed it. Gradually I sank into a deep swoon, and I was almost dead
when, seeing my blue lips and purple cheeks, he took it into his head
to lift up the bed-clothes, and found me lying in a pool of blood.
However, this was the most fortunate thing that could have happened to
me. For several days I remained in a state of prostration in which
there was but little difference between my waking and sleeping hours.
Thanks to this, I understood nothing, and therefore did not suffer.
One morning, having managed to make me take a little nourishment, and
noticing that with my strength my melancholy and anxiety were
returning, Marcasse announced, with a simple, genuine delight, that
Edmee was not dead, and that they did not despair of saving her. These
words fell upon me like a thunderbolt; for I was still under the
impression that this frightful adventure was a delusion of my
delirium. I began to shout and to brandish my arms in a terrible
manner. Marcasse fell on his knees by my bed and implored me to be
calm, and a score of times he repeated the following words, which to
me were like the meaningless words one hears in dreams:
"You did not do it on purpose; I know well enough. No, you did not do
it on purpose. It was an accident; a gun going off in your hand by
"Come, now, what do you mean?" I exclaimed impatiently. "What gun?
What accident? What have I to do with it?"
"Don't you know, then, sir, how she was hit?"
I passed my hands over my brow as if to bring back to my mind the
energy of life, and as I had no clear recollection of the mysterious
event which had unhinged it, I thought that I was mad, and remained
silent and dismayed, fearful lest any word should escape to betray the
loss of my faculties.
At last, little by little, I collected my thoughts. I asked for some
wine, as I felt weak; and no sooner had I drunk a few drops than all
the scenes of the fatal day unrolled themselves before me as if by
magic. I even remembered the words that I had heard Patience utter
immediately after the event. It was as if they had been graven in that
part of the memory which preserves the sound of words, even when the
other part which treasures up their sense is asleep. For one more
moment I was uncertain; I wondered if my gun could have gone off in my
hands just as I was leaving Edmee. I distinctly remembered firing it
at a pewit an hour before, for Edmee had wanted to examine the bird's
plumage. Further, when I heard the shot which had hit her, my gun was
in my hands, and I had not thrown it down until a few seconds later,
so it could not have been this weapon which had gone off on falling.
Besides, even granting a fatality which was incredible, I was much too
far from Edmee at that moment to have shot her. Finally, I had not a
single bullet on me throughout the day; and it was impossible for my
gun to have been loaded, unknown to myself, since I had not unslung it
after killing the pewit.
Quite convinced, therefore, that I was not the cause of the hideous
accident, it remained to me to find an explanation of this crushing
catastrophe. To me it was perfectly simple; some booby with a gun, I
thought, must have caught sight of Edmee's horse through the branches
and mistaken it for a wild beast; and I did not dream of accusing any
one of a deliberate attempt at murder. I discovered, however, that I
was accused myself. I drew the truth from Marcasse. He informed me
that the chevalier and all the people who took part in the hunt had
attributed the misfortune to a pure accident, their opinion being
that, to my great sorrow, my gun had gone off when my horse threw me,
for it was believed that I had been thrown. This was practically the
view they all took. In the few words that Edmee had been able to utter
she seemed to confirm the supposition. Only one person accused me, and
that was Patience; but he had accused me before none but his two
friends, Marcasse and the Abbe Aubert, and then only after pledging
them to secrecy.
"There is no need," added Marcasse, "for me to tell you that the abbe
maintains an absolute silence, and refuses to believe that you are
guilty. As for myself, I swear to you that I shall never--"
"Stop! stop!" I said. "Do not tell me even that; it would imply that
some one in the world might actually believe it. But Edmee said
something extraordinary to Patience just as she was dying; for she is
dead; it is useless for you to try to deceive me. She is dead, and I
shall never see her again."
"She is not dead!" cried Marcasse.
And his solemn oaths convinced me, for I knew that he would have tried
in vain to lie; his simple soul would have risen in revolt against his
charitable intentions. As for Edmee's words, he frankly refused to
repeat them; from which I gathered that their testimony seemed
overwhelming. Thereupon I dragged myself out of bed, and stubbornly
resisted all Marcasse's efforts to keep me back; I had the farmer's
horse saddled and started off at a gallop. I staggered into the
drawing-room without meeting any one except Saint-Jean, who uttered a
cry of terror on seeing me, and rushed off without answering my
The drawing-room was empty. Edmee's embroidery frame, buried under the
green cloth, which her hand, perchance, would never lift again, seemed
to me like a bier under its pall. My uncle's big arm-chair was no
longer in the chimney-corner. My portrait, which I had had painted in
Philadelphia and had sent over during the American war, had been taken
down from the wall. These were signs of death and malediction.
I left this room with all haste and went upstairs with the courage of
innocence, but with despair in my soul. I waled straight to Edmee's
room, knocked, and entered at once. Mademoiselle Leblanc was coming
towards the door; she gave a loud scream and ran away, hiding her face
in her hands as if she had seen a wild beast. Who, then, could have
been spreading hideous reports about me? Had the abbe been disloyal
enough to do so? I learnt later that Edmee, though generous and
unshaken in her lucid moments, had openly accused me in her delirium.
I approached her bed and, half delirious myself, forgetting that my
sudden appearance might be a deathblow to her, I pulled the curtains
aside with an eager hand and gazed on her. Never have I seen more
marvellous beauty. Her big dark eyes had grown half as large again;
they were shining with an extraordinary brilliancy, though without any
expression, like diamonds. Her drawn, colourless cheeks, and her lips,
as white as her cheeks, gave her the appearance of a beautiful marble
head. She looked at me fixedly, with as little emotion as if she had
been looking at a picture or a piece of furniture; then, turning her
face slightly towards the wall, she said, with a mysterious smile:
"This is the flower they call /Edmea sylvestris/."
I fell upon my knees; I took her hand; I covered it with kisses; I
broke into sobs. But she gave no heed; her hand remained in mine icy
and still, like a piece of alabaster.
The abbe came in and greeted me in a cold and sombre manner. Then he
made a sign to me, and drawing me away from the bed, said:
"You must be mad! Return at once; and if you are wise, you will remain
away. It is the only thing left for you to do."
"And since when," I cried, flying into a passion, "have you had the
right to drive me out of the bosom of my family?"
"Alas! you have no longer a family," he answered, with an accent of
sorrow that somewhat disarmed me. "What were once father and daughter
are now naught but two phantoms, whose souls are already dead and
whose bodies soon will be. Show some respect for the last days of
those who loved you."
"And how can I show my respect and grief by quitting them?" I replied,
"On this point," said the abbe, "I neither wish nor ought to say
anything; for you know that your presence here is an act of rashness
and a profanation. Go away. When they are no more (and the day cannot
be far distant), if you have any claims to this house, you may return,
and you will certainly not find me here to contest them or affirm
them. Meanwhile, as I have no knowledge of these claims, I believe I
may take upon myself to see that some respect is paid to the last
hours of these two holy people."
"Wretched man!" I said, "I do not know what prevents me from tearing
you to pieces! What abominable impulse urges you to be everlastingly
turning the dagger in my breast? Are you afraid that I may survive
this blow? Cannot you see that three coffins will be taken out
together from this house? do you imagine that I have come here for
aught but a farewell look and a farewell blessing?"
"You might say a farewell pardon," replied the abbe, in a bitter tone,
and with a gesture of merciless condemnation.
"What I say is that you are mad!" I cried, "and that if you were not a
priest, this hand of mine should crush the life out of you for daring
to speak to me in this way."
"I have but little fear of you, sir," he rejoined. "To take my life
would be doing me a great service; but I am sorry that your threats
and anger should lend weight to the charges under which you lie. If I
saw that you were moved to penitence, I would weep with you; but your
assurance fills me with loathing. Hitherto, I had seen in you nothing
worse than a raging lunatic; to-day I seem to see a scoundrel. Begone,
I fell into an arm-chair, choking with rage and anguish. For a moment
I hoped that I was about to die. Edmee was dying by my side, and
before me was a judge so firmly convinced of my guilt that his usual
gentle, timid nature had become harsh and pitiless. The imminent loss
of her I loved was hurrying me into a longing for death. Yet the
horrible charge hanging over me began to rouse my energies. I did not
believe that such an accusation could stand for a single instant
against the voice of truth. I imagined that one word from me, one
look, would be sufficient to make it fall to the ground; but I felt so
dazed, so deeply wounded, that this means of defence was denied me.
The more grievously the disgrace of such a suspicion weighed upon my
mind, the more clearly I realized that it is almost impossible for a
man to defend himself successfully when his only weapon is the pride
of slandered innocence.
I sat there overwhelmed, unable to utter a word. It seemed as if a
dome of lead were weighing on my skull. Suddenly the door opened and
Mademoiselle Leblanc approached me stiffly; in a tone full of hatred
she informed me that some one outside wished to speak to me. I went
out mechanically, and found Patience waiting with his arms folded, in
his most dignified attitude, and with an expression on his face which
would have compelled both respect and fear if I had been guilty.
"Monsieur de Mauprat," he said, "I must request you to grant me a
private interview. Will you kindly follow me to my cottage?"
"Yes, I will," I replied. "I am ready to endure any humiliation, if
only I can learn what is wanted of me. and why you are all pleased to
insult the most unfortunate of men. Lead the way, Patience, and go
quickly; I am eager to return here."
Patience walked in front of me with an impassive air. When we arrived
at his little dwelling, we found my poor sergeant, who had just
arrived likewise. Not finding any horse on which he could follow me,
and not wishing to quit me, he had come on foot, and so quickly that
he was bathed in perspiration. Nevertheless, the moment he saw us he
sprang up full of life from the bench on which he had thrown himself
under the bower of vine-branches, and came to meet us.
"Patience!" he cried, in a dramatic style which would have made me
smile had it been possible for me to display a glimmer of mirth at
such a moment. "Old fool! . . . Slanderer at your age? . . . Fie, sir!
. . . Ruined by good fortune . . . you are . . . yes."
Patience, impassive as ever, shrugged his shoulders and said to his
"Marcasse, you do not know what you are saying. Go and rest awhile at
the bottom of the orchard. This matter does not concern you. I want to
speak to your master alone. I wish you to go," he added, taking him by
the arm; and there was a touch of authority in his manner to which the
sergeant, in spite of his ticklish prided, yielded from instinct and
As soon as we were alone Patience proceeded to the point; he began by
a series of questions to which I resolved to submit, so that I might
the more quickly obtain some light on the state of affairs around me.
"Will you kindly inform me, monsieur," he said, "what you purpose
"I purpose remaining with my family," I answered, "as long as I have a
family; and when this family is no more, what I shall do concerns no
"But, sir," replied Patience, "if you were told that you could not
remain under the same roof with them without causing the death of one
or the other, would you persist in staying?"
"If I were convinced that this was so," I rejoined, "I would not
appear in their presence. I would remain at their door and await the
last day of their life, or the first day of their renewed health, and
again implore a love I have not yet ceased to deserve."
"Ah, we have come to this!" said Patience, with a smile of contempt.
"I should not have believed it. However, I am very glad; it makes
"What do you mean?" I cried. "Speak, you wretch! Explain yourself!"
"You are the only wretch here," he answered coldly, at the same time
sitting down on the one stool in the cottage, while I remained
standing before him.
I wanted to draw an explanation from him, at all costs. I restrained
my feelings; I even humbled myself so far as to say that I should be
ready to accept advice, if he would consent to tell me the words that
Edmee had uttered immediately after the event, and those which she had
repeated in her hours of delirium.
"That I will not," replied Patience sternly; "you are not worthy to
hear any words from that mouth, and I shall certainly never repeat
them to you. Why do you want to know them? Do you hope to hide
anything from men hereafter? God saw you; for Him there are no
secrets. Leave this place; stay at Roche-Mauprat; keep quiet there;
and when your uncle is dead and your affairs are settled, leave this
part of the country. If you take my advice, you will leave it this
very day. I do not want to put the law on your track, unless your
actions force me. But others besides myself, if they are not certain
of the truth, have at least a suspicion of it. Before two days have
passed a chance word said in public, the indiscretion of some servant,
may awaken the attention of justice, and from that point to the
scaffold, when a man is guilty, is but a single step. I used not to
hate you; I even had a liking for you; take this advice, then, which
you say you are ready to follow. Go away at once, or remain in hiding
and ready for flight. I do not desire your ruin; Edmee would not
desire it either--so--do you understand?"
"You must be insane to think that I could listen to such advice. I,
hide myself! or flee like a murderer! You can't dream of that! Come
on! come on! I defy the whole of you! I know not what fury and hatred
are fretting you and uniting you all against me; I know not why you
want to keep me from seeing my uncle and cousin; but I despise your
follies. My place is here; I shall not quit it except by order of my
cousin or uncle; and this order, too, I must take from their own lips;
I cannot allow sentence to be brought me by any outsider. So, thanks
for your wisdom, Monsieur Patience; in this case my own will suffice.
I am your humble servant, sir."
I was preparing to leave the cottage when he rushed in front of me,
and for a moment I saw that he was ready to use force to detain me. In
spite of his advanced age, in spite of my height and strength, he
might still have been a match, perhaps more than a match, for me in a
struggle of this kind. Short, bent, broad-shouldered, he was a
He stopped, however, just as he was about to lay hands on me, and,
seized with one of those fits of deep tenderness to which he was
subject in his moments of greatest passion, he gazed at me with eyes
of pity, and said, in a gentle tone:
"My poor boy! you whom I loved as a son (for I looked upon you as
Edmee's brother), do not hasten to your ruin. I beseech you in the
name of her whom you have murdered, and whom you still love--I can see
it--but whom you may never behold again. Believe me, but yesterday
your family was a proud vessel, whose helm was in your hands; to-day
it is a drifting wreck, without either sail or pilot--left to be
handled by cabinboys, as friend Marcasse says. Well, my poor mariner,
do not persist in drowning yourself; I am throwing you a rope; take it
--a day more, and it may be too late. Remember that if the law gets
hold of you, the man who is trying to save you to-day, to-morrow will
be obliged to appear against you and condemn you. Do not compel me to
do a thing the very thought of which brings tears to my eyes. Bernard,
you have been loved, my lad; even to-day you may live on the past."
I burst into tears, and the sergeant, who returned at this moment,
began to weep also; he implored me to go back to Roche-Mauprat; but I
soon recovered and, thrusting them both away, said:
"I know that both of you are excellent men, and both most generous;
you must have some love for me too, since, though you believe me
blackened with a hideous crime, you can still think of saving my life.
But have no fears on my account, good friends; I am innocent of this
crime, and my one wish is that the matter may be fully investigated,
so that I may be acquitted--yes, this is inevitable, I owe it to my
family to live until my honour has been freed from stain. Then, if I
am condemned to see my cousin die, as I have no one in the world to
love but her, I will blow my brains out. Why, then, should I be
downcast? I set little store by my life. May God make the last hours
of her whom I shall certainly not survive painless and peaceful--that
is all I ask of Him."
Patience shook his head with a gloomy, dissatisfied expression. He was
so convinced of my crime that all my denials only served to alienate
his pity. Marcasse still loved me, though he thought I was guilty. I
had no one in the world to answer for my innocence, except myself.
"If you persist on returning to the chateau," exclaimed Patience, "you
must swear before you leave that you will not enter your cousin's
room, or your uncle's, without the abbe's permission."
"What I swear is that I am innocent," I replied, "and that I will
allow no man to saddle me with a crime. Back, both of you! Let me
pass! Patience, if you consider it your duty to denounce me, go and do
so. All that I ask is that I may not be condemned without a hearing; I
prefer the bar of justice to that of mere opinion."
I rushed out of the cottage and returned to the chateau. However, not
wishing to make a scandal before the servants, and knowing quite well
that they could not hide Edmee's real condition from me, I went and
shut myself up in the room I usually occupied.
But in the evening, just as I was leaving it to get news of the two
patients, Mademoiselle Leblanc again told me that some one wished to
speak with me outside. I noticed that her face betrayed a sense of joy
as well as fear. I concluded that they had come to arrest me, and I
suspected (rightly, as it transpired) that Mademoiselle Leblanc had
denounced me. I went to the window, and saw some of the mounted police
in the courtyard.
"Good," I said; "let my destiny take its course."
But, before quitting, perhaps forever, this house in which I was
leaving my soul, I wished to see Edmee again for the last time. I
walked straight to her room. Mademoiselle Leblanc tried to throw
herself in front of the door; I pushed her aside so roughly that she
fell, and, I believe, hurt herself slightly. She immediately filled
the house with her cries; and later, in the trial, made a great pother
about what she was pleased to call an attempt to murder her. I at once
entered Edmee's room; there I found the abbe and the doctor. I
listened in silence to what the latter was saying. I learnt that the
wounds in themselves were not mortal, that they would not even be very
serious, had not a violent disturbance in the brain complicated the
evil and made him fear tetanus. This frightful word fell upon me like
a death sentence. In America I had seen many men die of this terrible
malady, the result of wounds received in the war. I approached the
bed. The abbe was so alarmed that he did not think of preventing me. I
took Edmee's hand, cold and lifeless, as ever. I kissed it a last
time, and, without saying a single word to the others, went and gave
myself up to the police.
I was immediately thrown into prison at La Chatre. The public
prosecutor for the district of Issoudun took in hand this case of the
attempted murder of Mademoiselle de Mauprat, and obtained permission
to have a monitory published on the morrow. He went to the village of
Sainte-Severe, and then to the farms in the neighbourhood of the Curat
woods, where the event had happened, and took the depositions of more
than thirty witnesses. Then, eight days after I had been arrested, the
writ of arrest was issued. If my mind had been less distracted, or if
some one had interested himself in me, this breach of the law and many
others that occurred during the trial might have been adduced as
powerful arguments in my favour. They would at least have shown that
the proceedings were inspired by some secret hatred. In the whole
course of the affair an invisible hand directed everything with
pitiless haste and severity.
The first examination had produced but a single indictment against me;
this came from Mademoiselle Leblanc. The men who had taken part in the
hunt declared that they knew nothing, and had no reason to regard the
occurrence as a deliberate attempt at murder. Mademoiselle Leblanc,
however, who had an old grudge against me for certain jokes I had
ventured to make at her expense, and who, moreover, had been suborned,
as I learned afterward, declared that Edmee, on recovering from her
first swoon, at a time when she was quite calm and in full possession
of her reason, had confided to her, under a pledge of secrecy, that
she had been insulted, threatened, dragged from her horse, and finally
shot by me. This wicked old maid, putting together the various
revelations that Edmee had made in her delirium, had, cleverly enough,
composed a connected narrative, and added to it all the embellishments
that hatred could suggest. Distorting the incoherent words and vague
impressions of her mistress, she declared upon oath that Edmee had
seen me point the barrel of my carbine at her, with the words, "As I
swore, you shall die by my hand."
Saint-Jean, who was examined the same day, declared that he knew
nothing beyond what Mademoiselle Leblanc had told him that evening,
and his deposition was very similar to hers. He was honest enough, but
dull and narrow-minded. From love of exactness, he omitted no trifling
detail which might be interpreted against me. He asserted that I had
always been subject to pains in the head, during which I lost my
senses; that several times previously, when my nerves were disordered,
I had spoken of blood and murder to some individual whom I always
fancied I could see; and, finally, that my temper was so violent that
I was "capable of throwing the first thing that came to hand at any
one's head, though as a fact I had never, to his knowledge, committed
any excess of this kind." Such are the depositions that frequently
decide life and death in criminal cases.
Patience could not be found on the day of this inquiry. The abbe
declared that his ideas on the occurrence were so vague that he would
undergo all the penalties inflicted on recalcitrant witnesses rather
than express his opinion before fuller investigations had been made.
He requested the public prosecutor to give him time, promising on his
honour that he would not resist the demands of justice, and
representing that at the end of a few days, by inquiring into certain
things, he would probably arrive at a conviction of some sort; in this
event he undertook to speak plainly, either for or against me. This
delay was granted.
Marcasse simply said that if I had inflicted the wounds on
Mademoiselle de Mauprat, about which he was beginning to feel very
doubtful, I had at least inflicted them unintentionally; on this he
was prepared to stake his honour and his life.
Such was the result of the first inquiry. It was resumed at various
times during the following days, and several false witnesses swore
that they had seen me shoot Mademoiselle de Mauprat, after vainly
endeavouring to make her yield to my wishes.
One of the most baneful instruments of ancient criminal procedure was
what was known as the monitory; this was a notice from the pulpit,
given out by the bishop and repeated by all vicars to their
parishioners, ordering them to make inquiries about the crime in
question, and to reveal all the facts which might come to their
knowledge. This was merely a modified form of the inquisitorial
principle which reigned more openly in other countries. In the
majority of cases, the monitory, which had, as a fact, been instituted
in order to encourage informers in the name of religion, was a marvel
of ridiculous atrocity; it frequently set forth the crime and all the
imaginary circumstances the plaintiffs were eager to prove; it was, in
short, the publication of a ready-made case, which gave the first
knave that came a chance of earning some money by making a lying
deposition in favour of the highest bidder. The inevitable effect of
the monitory, when it was drawn up with a bias, was to arouse public
hatred against the accused. The devout especially, receiving their
opinions ready-made from the clergy, pursued the victim without mercy.
This is what happened in my own case; but here the clergy of the
province were playing a further secret part which almost decided my
The case was taken to the assizes at the court of Bourges, and
proceedings began in a very few days.
You can imagine the gloomy despair with which I was filled. Edmee's
condition was growing more and more serious; her mind was completely
unhinged. I felt no anxiety as to the result of the trial; I never
imagined it was possible to convict me of a crime I had not committed;
but what were honour and life to me, if Edmee were never to regain the
power of recognising my innocence? I looked upon her as already dead,
and as having cursed me dying! So I was inflexibly resolved to kill
myself immediately after receiving my sentence, whatever it might be.
Until then I felt that it was my duty to live, and to do what might be
necessary for the triumph of truth; but I was plunged in such a state
of stupor that I did not even think of ascertaining what was to be
done. Had it not been for the cleverness and zeal of my counsel, and
the sublime devotion of Marcasse, my listlessness would have left me
to the most terrible fate.
Marcasse spent all his time in expeditions on my behalf. In the
evening he would come and throw himself on a bundle of straw at the
foot of my trunkle bed, and, after giving me news of Edmee and the
chevalier, whom he went to see every day, he would tell me the results
of his proceedings. I used to grasp his hand affectionately; but I was
generally so absorbed by the news he had just given me of Edmee, that
I never heard anything further.
This prison of La Chatre had formerly been the stronghold of the
Elevains of Lombaud, the seigneurs of the province. Nothing was left
of it but a formidable square tower at the top of a ravine where the
Indre forms a narrow, winding valley, rich with the most beautiful
vegetation. The weather was magnificent. My room, situated at the top
of the tower, received the rays of the rising sun, which cast the
long, thin shadows of a triple row of poplars as far as the eye could
see. Never did landscape more smiling, fresh, and pastoral offer
itself to the eyes of a prisoner. But how could I find pleasure in it?
Words of death and contumely came to me in every breeze that blew
through the wall-flowers growing in the crannies. Every rustic sound,
every tune on the pipe that rose to my room, seemed to contain an
insult or to proclaim profound contempt for my sorrow. There was
nothing, even to the bleating of the flocks, which did not appear to
me an expression of neglect or indifference.
For some time Marcasse had had one fixed idea, namely, that Edmee had
been shot by John Mauprat. It was possible; but as there was no
evidence to support the conjecture, I at once ordered him not to make
known his suspicions. It was not for me to clear myself at the expense
of others. Although John Mauprat was capable of anything, it was
possible that he had never thought of committing this crime; and as I
had not heard him spoken of for more than six weeks, it seemed to me
that it would have been cowardly to accuse him. I clung to the belief
that one of the men in the battue had fired at Edmee by mistake, and
that a feeling of fear and shame prevented him from confessing his
misadventure. Marcasse had the courage to go and see all those who had
taken part in the hunt, and, with such eloquence as Heaven had granted
him, implored them not to fear the penalty for unintentional murder,
and not to allow an innocent man to be accused in their stead. All
these efforts were fruitless; from none of the huntsmen did my poor
friend obtain a reply which left him any nearer a solution of the
mystery that surrounded us.
On being transferred to Bourges, I was thrown into the castle which
had belonged to the old dukes of Berry; this was henceforth to be my
prison. It was a great grief to me to be separated from my faithful
sergeant. He would have been allowed to follow me, but he had a
presentiment that he would soon be arrested at the suggestion of my
enemies (for he persisted in believing that I was the victim of a
plot), and thus be unable to serve me any more. He wished, therefore,
to lose no time, and to continue his investigations as long as they
"should not have seized his person."
Two days after my removal to Bourges, Marcasse produced a document
which had been drawn up at his instance by two notaries of La Chatre.
It contained the depositions of ten witnesses to the effect that for
some days before the attempted assassination, a mendicant friar had
been prowling about Varenne; that he had appeared in different places
very close together; and, notably, that he had slept at Notre-Dame de
Poligny the night before the event. Marcasse maintained that this monk
was John Mauprat. Two women declared that they had thought they
recognised him either as John or Walter Mauprat, who closely resembled
him. But Walter had been found drowned the day after the capture of
the keep; and the whole town of La Chatre, on the day when Edmee was
shot, had seen the Trappist engaged with the Carmelite prior from
morning till night in conducting the procession and services for the
pilgrimage of Vaudevant. These depositions, therefore, so far from
being favourable to me, produced a very bad effect, and threw odium on
my defence. The Trappist conclusively proved his alibi, and the prior
of the Carmelites helped him to spread a report that I was a worthless
villain. This was a time of triumph for John Mauprat; he proclaimed
aloud that he had come to deliver himself up to his natural judges to
suffer punishment for his crimes in the past; but no one could think
of prosecuting such a holy man. The fanaticism that he inspired in our
eminently devout province was such that no magistrate would have dared
to brave public opinion by proceeding against him. In his own
depositions, Marcasse gave an account of the mysterious and
inexplicable appearance of the Trappist at Roche-Mauprat, the steps he
had taken to obtain an interview with M. Hubert and his daughter, his
insolence in entering and terrifying them in their drawing-room, and
the efforts the Carmelite prior had made to obtain considerable sums
of money from me on behalf of this individual. All these depositions
were treated as fairy tales, for Marcasse admitted that he had not
seen the Trappist in any of the places mentioned, and neither the
chevalier nor his daughter was able to give evidence. It is true that
my answers to the various questions put to me confirmed Marcasse's
statements; but as I declared in all sincerity that for some two
months the Trappist had given me no cause for uneasiness or
displeasure, and as I refused to attribute the murder to him, it
seemed for some days as if he would be forever reinstated in public
opinion. My lack of animosity against him did not, however, diminish
that which my judges showed against me. They made use of the arbitrary
powers which magistrates had in bygone days, especially in remote
parts of the provinces, and they paralyzed all my lawyer's efforts by
a fierce haste. Several legal personages, whose names I will not
menton, indulged, even publicly, in a strain of invective against me
which ought to have excluded them from any court dealing with
questions of human dignity and morality. They intrigued to induce me
to confess, and almost went so far as to promise me a favourable
verdict if I at least acknowledged that I had wounded Mademoiselle de
Mauprat accidently. The scorn with which I met these overtures
alienated them altogether. A stranger to all intrigue, at a time when
justice and truth could not triumph except by intrigue, I was a victim
of two redoubtable enemies, the Church and the Law; the former I had
offended in the person of the Carmelite prior; and the latter hated me
because, of the suitors whom Edmee had repulsed, the most spiteful was
a man closely related to the chief magistrate.
Nevertheless, a few honest men to whom I was almost unknown, took an
interest in my case on account of the efforts of others to make my
name odious. One of them, a Monsieur E----, who was not without
influence, for he was the brother of the sheriff of the province and
acquainted with all the deputies, rendered me a service by the
excellent suggestions he made for throwing light on this complicated
Patience, convinced as he was of my guilt, might have served my
enemies without wishing to do so; but he would not. He had resumed his
roaming life in the woods, and, though he did not hide, could never be
found. Marcasse was very uneasy about his intentions and could not
understand his conduct at all. The police were furious to find that an
old man was making a fool of them, and that without going beyond a
radius of a few leagues. I fancy that the old fellow, with his habits
and constitution, could have lived for years in Varenne without
falling into their hands, and, moreover, without feeling that longing
to surrender which a sense of /ennui/ and the horror of solitude so
frequently arouse, even in great criminals.
The day of the public trial came. I went to face it quite calmly; but
the sight of the crowd filled me with a profound melancholy. No
support, no sympathy for me there! It seemed to me that on such an
occasion I might at least have looked for that show of respect to
which the unfortunate and friendless are entitled. Yet, on all the
faces around I saw nothing but a brutal and insolent curiosity. Girls
of the lower classes talked loudly of my looks and my youth. A large
number of women belonging to the nobility or moneyed classes displayed
their brilliant dresses in the galleries, as if they had come to some
/fete/. A great many monks showed their shaven crowns in the middle of
the populace, which they were inciting against me; from their crowded
ranks I could frequently catch the words "brigand," "ungodly," and
"wild beast." The men of fashion in the district were lolling on the
seats of honour, and discussing my passion in the language of the
gutter. I saw and heard everything with that tranquility which springs
from a profound disgust of life; even as a traveller who has come to
the end of his journey, may look with indifference and weariness on
the eager bustle of those who are setting off for a more distant goal.
The trial began with that emphatic solemnity which at all times has
been associated with the exercise of judicial power. My examination
was short, in spite of the innumerable questions that were asked me
about my whole life. My answers singularly disappointed the
expectations of public curiosity, and shortened the trial
considerably. I confined myself to three principal replies, the
substance of which I never changed. Firstly, to all questions
concerning my childhood and education, I replied that I had not come
into the defendant's dock to accuse others. Secondly, to those bearing
on Edmee, the nature of my feeling for her, and my relations with her,
I replied that Mademoiselle de Mauprat's worth and reputation could
not permit even the simplest question as to the nature of her
relations with any man whatever; and that, as to my feelings for her,
I was accountable for them to no one. Thirdly, to those which were
designed to make me confess my pretended crime, I replied that I was
not even the unwilling author of the accident. In brief answers I gave
some details of the events immediately preceding it; but, feeling that
I owed it to Edmee as much as to myself to be silent about the
tumultuous impulses that had stirred me, I explained the scene which
had resulted in my quitting her, as being due to a fall from my horse;
and that I had been found some distance from her body was, I said,
because I had deemed it advisable to run after my horse, so that I
might again escort her. Unfortunately all this was not very clear,
and, naturally, could not be. My horse had gone off in the direction
opposite to that which I said; and the bewildered state in which I had
been found before I knew of the accident, was not sufficiently
explained by a fall from my horse. They questioned me especially about
the gallop I had had with my cousin through the wood, instead of
following the hunt as we had intended; they would not believe that we
had gone astray, guided altogether by chance. It was impossible, they
said, to look upon chance as a reasonable being, armed with a gun,
waiting for Edmee at Gazeau Tower at an appointed time, in order to
shoot her the moment I turned my back for five minutes. They pretended
that I must have taken her to this out-of-the-way spot either by craft
or force to outrage her; and that I had tried to kill her either from
rage at not succeeding, or from fear of being discovered and punished
for my crime.
Then all the witnesses for and against me were heard. It is true that
among the former Marcasse was the only one who could really be
considered as a witness for the defence. The rest merely affirmed that
a "monk bearing a resemblance to the Mauprats" had been roaming about
Varenne at the period in question, and that he had even appeared to
hide himself on the evening of the event. Since then he had not been
seen. These depositions, which I had not solicited, and which I
declared had not been taken at my request, caused me considerable
astonishment; for among the witnesses who made them I saw some of the
most honest folk in the country. However, they had no weight except in
the eyes of Monsieur E----, the magistrate, who was really interested
in discovering the truth. He interposed, and asked me how it was that
M. Jean de Mauprat had not been summoned to confront these witnesses,
seeing that he had taken the trouble to put in his affidavit to prove
an alibi. This objection was received with a murmur of indignation.
There were not a few people, however, who by no means looked upon John
Mauprat as a saint; but they took no interest in myself, and had
merely come to the trial as to a play.
The enthusiasm of the bigots reached a climax when the Trappist
suddenly stood up in the crowd. Throwing back his cowl in a theatrical
manner, he boldly approached the bar, declaring that he was a
miserable sinner worthy of all scorn, but on this occasion, when it
was the duty of every one to strive for truth, he considered it
incumbent on him to set an example of simple candour by voluntarily
offering himself for any examination which might shed light on the
judges' minds. These words were greeted with applause. The Trappist
was admitted to the witness-box, and confronted with the witnesses,
who all declared, without any hesitation, that the monk they had seen
wore the same habit as this man, and that there was a family likeness,
a sort of distant resemblance between the two; but that it was not the
same person--on this point they had not the least doubt.
The result of this incident was a fresh triumph for the Trappist. No
one seemed to notice that, as the witnesses had displayed so much
candour, it was difficult to believe that they had not really seen
another Trappist. At this moment I remembered that, at the time of the
abbe's first interview with John Mauprat at the spring at Fougeres,
the latter had let fall a few words about a friar of the same order
who was travelling with him, and had passed the night at the Goulets
farm. I thought it advisable to mention this fact to my counsel. He
discussed it in a low voice with the abbe, who was sitting among the
witnesses. The latter remembered the circumstance quite clearly, but
was unable to add any further details.
When it came to the abbe's turn to give evidence he looked at me with
an expression of agony; his eyes filled with tears, and he answered
the formal questions with difficulty, and in an almost inaudible
voice. He made a great effort to master himself, and finally he gave
his evidence in these words:
"I was driving in the woods when M. le Chevalier Hubert de Mauprat
requested me to alight, and see what had become of his daughter,
Edmee, who had been missing from the field long enough to cause him
uneasiness. I ran for some distance, and when I was about thirty yards
from Gazeau Tower I found M. Bernard de Mauprat in a state of great
agitation. I had just heard a gun fired. I noticed that he was no
longer carrying his carbine; he had thrown it down (discharged, as has
been proved), a few yards away. We both hastened to Mademoiselle de
Mauprat, whom we found lying on the ground with two bullets in her.
Another man had reached her before us and was standing near her at
this moment. He alone can make known the words he heard from her lips.
She was unconscious when I saw her."
"But you heard the exact words from this individual," said the
president; "for rumour has it that there is a close friendship between
yourself and the learned peasant known as Patience,"
The abbe hesitated, and asked if the laws of conscience were not in
this case at variance with the laws of the land; and if the judges had
a right to ask a man to reveal a secret intrusted to his honour, and
to make him break his word.
"You have taken an oath here in the name of Christ to tell the truth,
the whole truth," was the reply. "It is for you to judge whether this
oath is not more solemn than any you may have made previously."
"But, if I had received this secret under the seal of the
confessional," said the abbe, "you certainly would not urge me to
"I believe, Monsieur l'Abbe," said the president, "that it is some
time since you confessed any one."
At this unbecoming remark I noticed an expression of mirth on John
Mauprat's face--a fiendish mirth, which brought back to me the man as
I knew him of old, convulsed with laughter at the sight of suffering
The annoyance which the abbe felt at this personal attack gave him the
courage which might otherwise have been wanting. He remained for a few
moments with downcast eyes. They thought that he was humiliated; but,
as soon as he raised his head, they saw his eyes flashing with the
malicious obstinacy of the priest.
"All things considered," he said, in the most gentle tone, "I think
that my conscience bids me keep this secret; I shall keep it."
"Aubert," said the King's advocate, angrily, "you are apparently
unaware of the penalties which the law inflicts on witnesses who
behave as you are doing."
"I am aware of them," replied the abbe, in a still milder tone.
"Doubtless, then, you do not intend to defy them?"
"I will undergo them if necessary," rejoined the abbe, with an
imperceptible smile of pride, and such a dignified bearing that all
the women were touched.
Women are excellent judges of things that are delicately beautiful.
"Very good," replied the public prosecutor. "Do you intend to persist
in this course of silence?"
"Perhaps," replied the abbe.
"Will you tell us whether, during the days that followed this attempt
to murder Mademoiselle de Mauprat, you were in a position to hear the
words she uttered, either during her delirium or during her lucid
"I can give you no information on that point," answered the abbe. "It
would be against my inclinations, and, moreover, in my eyes, an
outrage on propriety, to repeat words which, in the case of delirium,
could prove absolutely nothing, and, if uttered in a lucid moment,
could only have been the outpouring of a genuinely filial affection."
"Very good," said the King's advocate, rising. "We shall call upon the
Court to deliberate on your refusal of evidence, taking this incident
in connection with the main question."
"And I," said the president, "in virtue of my discretionary power, do
order that Aubert be meanwhile arrested and taken to prison."
The abbe allowed himself to be led away with unaffected calmness. The
spectators were filled with respect, and a profound silence reigned in
court, in spite of the bitter efforts of the monks and cures, who
continued to revile the heretic in an undertone.
When the various witnesses had been heard (and I must say that those
who had been suborned played their part very feebly in public), to
crown all, Mademoiselle Leblanc appeared. I was surprised to find the
old maid so bitter against me and able to turn her hatred to such
account. In truth, the weapons she could bring against me were only
too powerful. In virtue of the right which domestics claim to listen
at doors and overhear family secrets, this skilled misinterpreter and
prolific liar had learnt and shaped to her own purposes most of the
facts in my life which could be utilized for my ruin. She related how,
seven years before, I had arrived at the chateau of Sainte-Severe with
Mademoiselle de Mauprat, whom I had rescued from the roughness and
wickedness of my uncles.
"And let that be said," she added, turning toward John Mauprat with a
polite bow, "without any reference to the holy man in this court, who
was once a great sinner, and is now a great saint. But at what a
price," she continued, facing the judges again, "had this miserable
bandit saved my dear mistress! He had dishonoured her, gentlemen; and,
throughout the days that followed, the poor young lady had abandoned
herself to grief and shame on account of the violence which had been
done her, for which nothing could bring consolation. Too proud to
breath her misfortune to a single soul, and too honest to deceive any
man, she broke off her engagement with M. de la Marche, whom she loved
passionately, and who returned her passion. She refused every offer of
marriage that was made her, and all from a sense of honour, for in
reality she hated M. Bernard. At first she wanted to kill herself;
indeed, she had one of her father's little hunting-knives sharpened
and (M. Marcasse can tell you the same, if he chooses to remember) she
would certainly have killed herself, if I had not thrown this knife
into the well belonging to the house. She had to think, too, of
defending herself against the night attacks of her persecutor; and, as
long as she had this knife, she always used to put it under her
pillow; every night she would bolt the door of her room; and
frequently I have seen her rush back, pale and ready to faint, quite
out of breath, like a person who has just been pursued and had a great
fright. When this gentleman began to receive some education, and learn
good manners, mademoiselle, seeing that she could never have any other
husband, since he was always talking of killing any man who dared to
present himself, hoped he would get rid of his fierceness, and was
most kind and good to him. She even nursed him during his illness; not
that she liked and esteemed him as much as M. Marcasse was pleased to
say in his version; but she was always afraid that in his delirium he
might reveal, either to the servants or her father, the secret of the
injury he had done her. This her modesty and pride made her most
anxious to conceal, as all the ladies present will readily understand.
When the family went to Paris for the winter of '77, M. Bernard became
jealous and tyrannical and threatened so frequently to kill M. de la
Marche that mademoiselle was obliged to send the latter away. After
that she had some violent scenes with Bernard, and declared that she
did not and never would love him. In his rage and grief--for it cannot
be denied that he was enamoured of her in his tigerish fashion--he
went off to America, and during the six years he spent there his
letters seemed to show that he had much improved. By the time he
returned, mademoiselle had made up her mind to be an old maid, and had
become quite calm again. And M. Bernard, too, seemed to have grown
into a fairly good young gentleman. However, through seeing her every
day and everlastingly leaning over the back of her arm-chair, or
winding her skeins of wool and whispering to her while her father was
asleep, he fell so deeply in love again that he lost his head. I do
not wish to be too hard on him, poor creature! and I fancy his right
place is in the asylum rather than on the scaffold. He used to shout
and groan all night long; and the letters he wrote her were so stupid
that she used to smile as she read them and then put them in her
pocket without answering them. Here is one of these letters that I
found upon her when I undressed her after the horrible deed; a bullet
has gone through it, and it is stained with blood, but enough may
still be read to show that monsieur frequently intended to kill
So saying, she put down on the table a sheet of paper half burnt and
half covered with blood, which sent a shudder through the spectators--
genuine with some of them, mere affectation with many others.
Before this letter was read, she finished her deposition, and ended it
with some assertions which perplexed me considerably; for I could no
longer distinguish the boundary between truth and perfidy.
"Ever since her accident," she said, "mademoiselle has been hovering
between life and death. She will certainly never recover, whatever the
doctors may declare. I venture to say that these gentlemen, who only
see the patient at certain hours, do not understand her illness as
well as I, who have never left her for a single night. They pretend
that her wounds are going on well and that her head is deranged;
whereas I say that her wounds are going on badly, and that her head is
better than they say. Mademoiselle very rarely talks irrationally, and
if by chance she does, it is in the presence of these gentlemen, who
confuse and frighten her. She then makes such efforts not to appear
mad that she actually becomes so; but as soon as they leave her alone
with me or Saint-Jean or Monsieur l'Abbe, who could quite well have
told you how things are, if he had wished, she becomes calm again, and
sweet and sensible as usual. She says that she could almost die of
pain, although to the doctors she pretends that she is scarcely
suffering at all. And then she speaks of her murderer with the
generosity that becomes a Christian; a hundred times a day she will
" 'May God pardon him in the next life as I pardon him in this! After
all, a man must be very fond of a woman to kill her! I was wrong not
to marry him; perhaps he would have made me happy. I drove him to
despair and he has avenged himself on me. Dear Leblanc, take care
never to betray the secret I have told you. A single indiscreet word
might send him to the scaffold, and that would be the death of my
"The poor young lady is far from imagining that things have come to
this pass; that I have been summoned by the law and my religion to
make known what I would rather conceal; and that, instead of going out
to get an apparatus for her shower-baths, I have come here to confess
the truth. The only thing that consoles me is that it will be easy to
hide all this from M. le Chevalier, who has no more sense now than a
babe just born. For myself, I have done my duty; may God be my judge!"
After speaking thus with perfect self-possession and great volubility,
Mademoiselle Leblanc sat down again amid a murmur of approbation, and
they proceeded to read the letter which had been found on Edmee.
It was, indeed, the one I had written to her only a few days before
the fatal day. They handed it to me; I could not help pressing my lips
to the stains of Edmee's blood. Then, after glancing at the writing, I
returned the letter, and declared quite calmly that it was written by
The reading of this letter was my /coup de grace/. Fate, who seems
ingenious in injuring her victims, had obtained (and perhaps some
famous hand had contributed to the mutilation) that the passages
expressing my obedience and respect should be destroyed. Certain
poetic touches which might have furnished an explanation of, and an
excuse for, my wild ramblings, were illegible. What showed plain to
every eye, and carried conviction to every mind, were the lines that
remained intact, the lines that bore witness to the violence of my
passion and the vehemence of my frenzy. They were such phrases as
these: "Sometimes I feel inclined to rise in the middle of the night
and go and kill you! I should have done this a hundred times, if I had
been sure that I should love you no more after your death. Be
considerate; for there are two men in me, and sometimes the brigand of
old lords it over the new man, etc." A smile of triumph played about
my enemies' mouths. My supporters were demoralized, and even my poor
sergeant looked at me in despair. The public had already condemned me.
This incident afforded the King's advocate a fine chance of thundering
forth a pompous address, in which he described me as an incurable
blackguard, as an accursed branch of an accursed stock, as an example
of the fatality of evil instincts. Then, after exerting himself to
hold me up as an object of horror and fear, he endeavoured, in order
to give himself an air of impartiality and generosity, to arouse the
compassion of the judges in my favour; he proceeded to show that I was
not responsible for my actions; that my mind had been perverted in
early childhood by foul sights and vile principles, and was not sound,
nor ever could have been, whatever the origin and growth of my
passions. At last, after going through a course of philosophy and
rhetoric, to the great delight of the audience, he demanded that I
should be condemned to privation of civil rights and imprisonment for
Though my counsel was a man of spirit and intelligence, the letter had
so taken him by surprise, the people in court were so unfavourably
disposed towards me, and the judges, as they listened to him, so
frequently showed signs of incredulity and impatience (an unseemly
habit which appears to be the heritage of the magisterial benches of
this country), that his defence was tame. All that he seemed justified
in demanding with any vigour was a further inquiry. He complained that
all the formalities had not been fulfilled; that sufficient light had
not been thrown on certain points in the case; that it would be
showing too much haste to give a verdict when several circumstances
were still wrapped in mystery. He demanded that the doctors should be
called to express an opinion as to the possibility of taking
Mademoiselle de Mauprat's evidence. He pointed out that the most
important, in fact the only important, testimony was that of Patience,
and that Patience might appear any day and prove me innocent. Finally,
he demanded that they should order a search to be made for the
mendicant friar whose resemblance to the Mauprats had not yet been
explained, and had been sworn to by trustworthy witnesses. In his
opinion it was essential to discover what had become of Antony
Mauprat, and to call upon the Trappist for information on this point.
He complained bitterly that they had deprived him of all means of
defence by refusing any delay; and he had the courage to assert that
some evil passions must be responsible for such blind haste as had
marked the conduct of this trial. On this the president called him to
order. Then the King's advocate replied triumphantly that all
formalities had been fulfilled; that the court was sufficiently
enlightened; that a search for the mendicant friar would be a piece of
folly and in bad taste, since John Mauprat had proved his last
brother's death, which had taken place several years before. The court
retired to deliberate; at the end of half an hour they came back with
a verdict condemning me to death.
Although the haste with which the trial had been conducted and the
severity of the sentence were iniquitous, and filled those who were
most bitter against me with amazement, I received the blow with
supreme indifference; I no longer felt an interest in anything on
earth. I commended my soul and the vindication of my memory to God. I
said to myself that if Edmee died I should find her again in a better
world; that if she survived me and recovered her reason, she would one
day succeed in discovering the truth, and that then I should live in
her heart as a dear and tender memory. Irritable as I am, and always
inclined to violence in the case of anything that is an obstacle or an
offence to me, I am astonished at the philosophical resignation and
the proud calm I have shown on the momentous occasions of life, and
above all on this one.
It was two o'clock in the morning. The case had lasted for fourteen
hours. A silence as of death reigned over the court, which was as full
and as attentive as at the beginning, so fond are mortals of anything
in the nature of a show. That offered by the criminal court at this
moment was somewhat dismal. Those men in red robes, as pale and stern
and implacable as the Council of Ten at Venice; those ghosts of women
decked with flowers, who, by the dim light of the tapers, looked like
mere reflections of life hovering in the galleries above the priests
of death; the muskets of the guard glittering in the gloom in the back
of the court; the heart-broken attitude of my poor sergeant, who had
fallen at my feet; the silent but vast delight of the Trappist, still
standing unwearied near the bar; the mournful note of some convent
bell in the neighbourhood beginning to ring for matins amid the
silence of the assembly--was not all this enough to touch the nerves
of the wives of the farmers-general and to send a thrill through the
brawny breasts of the tanners in the body of the court?
Suddenly, just as the court was about to disperse, a figure like that
of the traditional peasant of the Danube--squat, rugged, barefooted,
with a long beard, dishevelled hair, a broad, grave brow, and a stern,
commanding glance--rose in the midst of the flickering reflections by
which the hall was half lighted, and standing erect before the bar,
said in a deep, striking voice:
"I, Jean le Houx, known as Patience, oppose this judgment as
iniquitous in substance and illegal in form. I demand that it be
revised, so that I may give my evidence, which is necessary, may be of
sovereign importance, and should have been waited for."
"If you had anything to say," cried the King's advocate, in a passion,
"why did you not present yourself when you were summoned. You are
imposing on the court by pretending that you have important evidence
"And you," answered Patience, more slowly and in an even deeper tone
than before, "you are imposing on the public by pretending that I have
not. You know well enough that I must have."
"Remember where you are, witness, and to whom you are speaking."
"I know too well, and I shall not say too much. I hereby declare that
I have some important things to say, and that I should have said them
at the right time, if you had not done violence to the time. I wish to
say them, and I shall; and, believe me, it is better that I should
make them known while it is still possible to revise these
proceedings. It is even better for the judges than the prisoner; for
the one comes to life again in honour, as soon as the others die in
"Witness," said the irritated magistrate, "the virulence and
impertinence of your language will be prejudicial rather than
advantageous to the prisoner."
"And who says that I am favourable to the prisoner?" said Patience in
a voice of thunder. "What do you know about me? What if it pleases me
to change an illegal and worthless verdict into one which is legal and
"But how can you reconcile this desire to see the laws respected,"
said the magistrate, genuinely moved by Patience's powerful
personality, "with your own breach of them in not appearing when
summoned by the public prosecutor?"
"I did not wish to appear."
"Severe penalties may be inflicted on those whose wishes are not in
harmony with the laws of the land."
"Have you come here to-day with the intention of submitting to them?"
"I have come to see that you respect them."
"I warn you that, if you do not change your tone, I shall have you
taken off to prison."
"And I warn you that, if you love justice and serve God, you will
listen to me and suspend the execution of this sentence. It is not for
him who brings truth to humble himself before those who should be
seeking it. But you who are listening to me now, you men of the
people, whom I will not accuse the great of wishing to dupe, you whose
voice is called 'the voice of God,' side with me; embrace the cause of
truth, that truth which is in danger of being stifled under false
outward shows, or else is about to triumph by unfair means. Go down on
your knees, you men of the people, my brothers, my children; pray,
implore, require that justice be done and anger repressed. It is your
duty, it is your right, and to your own interest; for it is you who
are insulted and threatened when laws are violated."
Patience spoke with so much warmth, and his sincerity was so
strikingly manifest, that a thrill of sympathy ran through the whole
audience. At that time, philosophy was too fashionable with the young
men of quality for these not to be among the first to respond to an
appeal, though addressed to others than themselves. They rose with
chivalrous enthusiasm and turned round to the people, who, carried
away by their noble example, rose likewise. There was a wild uproar,
and one and all, conscious of their dignity and power, cast away
personal prejudices in order to combine for their common rights. Thus,
a noble impetuosity and a true word are sometimes sufficient to bring
back the masses who have long been led astray by sophism.
A respite was granted, and I was led back to my prison amid the
applause of the people. Marcasse followed me. Patience disappeared
without giving me a chance to thank him.
The revision of the sentence could not be made without an order from
the high court. For my own part, before the verdict was given I had
resolved to make no appeal to this court of cassation of the old
jurisprudence. But Patience's bearing and words had had as much effect
on my mind as on the minds of the spectators. The spirit of resistance
and the sense of human dignity, dulled in me and paralyzed, as it
were, by grief, suddenly awoke again, and in this hour I realized that
man is not made for that selfish concentration of despair which is
known as resignation or stoicism. No man can cease to have a regard
for his own honour without at the same time ceasing to feel the
respect due to the principle of honour. If it is grand to sacrifice
personal glory and life to the mysterious decrees of conscience, it is
cowardly to abandon both to the fury of an unjust persecution. I felt
that I had risen in my own estimation, and I passed the rest of this
momentous night in devising means of vindicating myself, with as much
persistence as I had previously displayed in abandoning myself to
fate. With this feeling of energy I could feel hope springing up anew.
Edmee, perhaps, was neither mad nor mortally wounded. She might acquit
me; she might recover.
"Who knows?" I said to myself. "Perhaps she has already done me
justice. Perhaps it was she who sent Patience to my rescue.
Undoubtedly I shall best please her by taking courage again, and not
letting myself be crushed by a set of knaves."
But how was I to obtain this order from the high court? It needed a
special mandate from the King; who would procure this? Who would cut
short those odious delays which the law can introduce at will into the
very cases that it has previously hurried on with blind precipitation?
Who would prevent my enemies from injuring me and paralyzing all my
efforts? In a word, who would fight for me? The abbe alone could have
taken up my cause; but he was already in prison on my account. His
generous behaviour in the trial had proved that he was still my
friend, but his zeal was now fettered. And what could Marcasse do,
hampered by his humble birth and enigmatical language? Evening came,
and I fell asleep in the hope that help would be sent from on high;
for I had prayed to God with my whole soul. A few hours of sleep
refreshed me; I was aroused by the noise of bolts being drawn at the
other side of my door. O God of goodness! what was my delight on
seeing Arthur, my brother in arms, my other self, the man from whom I
had had no secret for six long years! I wept like a child on receiving
this mark of love from Providence. Arthur did not believe me guilty!
Scientific matters connected with the library at Philadelphia had
taken him to Paris, where he had heard of this sad affair in which I
was implicated. He had broken a lance with all who attacked me, and
had not lost a moment in coming to offer help or consolation.
In a transport of joy I poured out my soul to him, and then explained
how he could assist me. He wanted to take the coach for Paris that
very evening; but I implored him to go to Sainte-Severe first of all
to get news of Edmee. Four mortal days had passed since I had received
any; and, moreover, Marcasse had never given me such exact details as
I could have wished.
"Ease your mind," said Arthur. "I will undertake to bring you the
truth. I am a pretty good surgeon; and I have a practised eye. I shall
be able to give you some idea of what you have to hope or fear. From
Sainte-Severe I shall go straight to Paris."
Two days later I received a long letter from him giving full details
Her condition was extraordinary. She did not speak, nor did she appear
to be in pain as long as nothing happened to excite her nerves; but on
the first word which stirred up recollections of her troubles she
would be seized with convulsions. Her moral isolation formed the
greatest obstacle to recovery. Physically she wanted for nothing; she
had two good doctors and a most devoted nurse. Mademoiselle Leblanc
likewise was very zealous in her attentions, though this dangerous
woman often gave her pain by untimely remarks and indiscreet
questions. Furthermore, Arthur assured me that, if ever Edmee had
thought me guilty and had expressed an opinion on this point, it must
have been in some previous phase of her illness; for, during the last
fortnight at least, she had been in a state of complete torpor. She
would frequently doze, but without quite falling asleep; she could
take liquid food and jellies, nor did she ever complain. When her
doctors questioned her about her sufferings she answered by careless
signs and always negatively; and she would never give any indication
that she remembered the affections which had filled her life. Her love
for her father, however, that feeling which had always been so deep
and powerful in her, was not extinct; she would often shed copious
tears; but at such a time she seemed to be deaf to all sounds; in vain
would they try to make her understand that her father was not dead, as
she appeared to believe. With a gesture of entreaty she would beg them
to stop, not the noise (for that did not seem to strike her ear), but
the bustle that was going on around her; then, hiding her face in her
hands, lying back in her arm-chair and bringing her knees up almost to
her breast, she would apparently give way to inconsolable despair.
This silent grief, which could no longer control itself and no longer
wished to be controlled; this powerful will, which had once been able
to quell the most violent storms, and now going adrift on a dead sea
and in an unruffled calm--this, said Arthur, was the most painful
spectacle he had ever beheld. Edmee seemed to wish to have done with
life. Mademoiselle Leblanc, in order to test her and arouse her, had
brutally taken upon herself to announce that her father was dead; she
had replied by a sign that she knew. A few hours later the doctors had
tried to make her understand that he was alive; she had replied by
another sign that she did not believe them. They had wheeled the
chevalier's arm-chair into her room; they had brought father and
daughter face to face and the two had not recognised each other. Only,
after a few moments, Edmee, taking her father for a ghost, had uttered
piercing cries, and had been seized with convulsions that had opened
one of her wounds again, and made the doctors tremble for her life.
Since then, they had taken care to keep the two apart, and never to
breathe a word about the chevalier in Edmee's presence. She had taken
Arthur for one of the doctors of the district and had received him
with the same sweetness and the same indifference as the others. He
had not dared to speak to her about me; but he extorted me not to
despair. There was nothing in Edmee's condition that time and rest
could not triumph over; there was but little fever left; none of her
vital organs were really affected; her wounds were almost healed; and
it did not seem as if her brain were in such an excited condition that
it would be permanently deranged. The weak state of her mind, and the
prostration of all the other organs could not, according to Arthur,
long withstand the vitality of youth and the recuperative power of an
admirable constitution. Finally, he advised me to think of myself; I
might help towards her recovery, and I might again find happiness in
her affection and esteem.
In a fortnight Arthur returned from Paris with an order from the King
for the revision of my sentence. Fresh witnesses were heard. Patience
did not appear; but I received a note from him containing these words
in a shapeless hand, "You are not guilty, so don't despair." The
doctors declared that Mademoiselle de Mauprat might be examined
without danger, but that her answers would have no meaning. She was
now in better health. She had recognised her father, and at present
would never leave him; but she could understand nothing that was not
connected with him. She seemed to derive great pleasure from tending
him like a child, and, on his side, the chevalier would now and then
recognise his beloved daughter; but his vital powers were visibly
decaying. They questioned him in one of his lucid moments. He replied
that his daughter had, indeed, fallen from her horse while hunting,
and that she had torn her breast on the stump of a tree, but that not
a soul had fired at her, even by mistake, and that only a madman could
possibly believe her cousin capable of such a crime. This was all the
information they could draw from him. When they asked him what he
thought of his nephew's absence, he answered that his nephew was still
in the house, and that he saw him every day. Was it that, in his
devotion to the good name of a family--alas! so compromised--he
thought to defeat the aims of justice by childish lies? This is a
point I was never able to ascertain. As for Edmee, it was impossible
to examine her. At the first question that was asked her, she shrugged
her shoulders and made a sign that she did not wish to be bothered. As
the public prosecutor insisted and became more explicit, she stared at
him and seemed to be making an effort to understand. He pronounced my
name, she gave a loud cry and fainted. He had to abandon all thoughts
of taking her evidence. However, Arthur did not despair. On the
contrary, the account of this scene made him think that Edmee's mental
faculties might be about to take a favourable turn. He immediately
returned to Sainte-Severe, where he remained several days without
writing to me, which caused me great anxiety.
When the abbe was questioned again, he persisted in his calm, laconic
refusal to give evidence.
My judges, seeing that the information promised by Patience was not
forthcoming, hurried on the revision of the trial, and, by another
exhibition of haste, gave another proof of their animosity. The
appointed day arrived. I was devoured by anxiety. Arthur had written
me to keep up my courage, in as laconic a style as Patience. My
counsel had been unable to obtain any fresh evidence in my favour. I
could see clearly that he was beginning to believe me guilty. All he
hoped for was to obtain a further delay.
There were even more people present than at the first trial. The guard
were forced back to the doors of the court, and the crowd occupied
every available space, even to the windows of the mansion of Jacques
Coeur, the town-hall of the present day. I was much agitated this
time, though I had strength and pride enough not to let it be seen. I
was now interested in the success of my case, and, as it seemed as if
my hopes were not to be realized, I experienced an indescribable
feeling of uneasiness, a sort of suppressed rage, a bitter hatred of
these men who would not open their eyes to my innocence, and even of
God who seemed to have deserted me.
In this state of agitation I had to make such violent efforts to
appear calm that I scarcely noticed what was happening around me. I
recovered sufficient presence of mind when my fresh examination took
place to answer in the same terms as at the first trial. Then a black
veil seemed to fall over my head, an iron ring gripped my brow; the
sockets of my eyes went icily cold; I could see nothing but myself,
hear nothing but vague, unintelligible sounds. I do not know what
actually took place; I do not know if any one announced the apparition
which suddenly appeared before me. I only remember that a door opened
behind the judges, and that Arthur came forward leading a veiled
woman, that he took off her veil after making her sit down in a big
arm-chair which the ushers eagerly wheeled toward her, and that a cry
of admiration rang through the hall when Edmee's pale, sublime beauty
At this moment I forgot the crowd, and the judges, and my cause, and
the whole universe. I believe that no human power could have withstood
my wild rush. I dashed like a thunderbolt into the middle of the
inclosure and, falling at Edmee's feet, I showered kisses on her
knees. I have been told that this act won over the public, and that
nearly all the ladies burst into tears. The young dandies did not
venture to laugh; the judges were affected; and for a moment truth was
Edmee looked at me for some time. Her face was as expressionless as
the face of death. It did not seem as if she could ever recognise me.
The spectators were waiting in profound silence for her to show some
sign of hatred or affection for me. All at once she burst into tears,
threw her arms around my neck, and then lost consciousness. Arthur had
her carried out immediately; he had some trouble in making me return
to my place. I could not remember where I was or the issues that were
at stake; I clung to Edmee's dress, and only wanted to follow her.
Arthur addressed the court and requested that the doctors who had
examined Edmee in the morning might again pronounce upon the state of
her health. He likewise demanded that she should be recalled to give
evidence, and to be confronted with me as soon as she recovered from
"This attack is not serious," he said. "Mademoiselle de Mauprat has
had several of the same kind during the last few days and on her way
here. After each her mental faculties have taken a more and more
"Go and attend to the invalid," said the president. "She shall be
recalled in two hours, if you think she will have recovered from her
swoon by then. Meanwhile the court will hear the witness on whose
demand the first sentence was not carried out."
Arthur withdrew and Patience was introduced. He was dressed quite
neatly; but, after saying a few words, he declared that it would be
impossible to continue unless they allowed him to take off his coat.
This borrowed finery so embarrassed him and seemed so heavy that he
was perspiring profusely. No sooner did the president make a sign of
consent, accompanied by a smile of scorn, than he threw to the ground
this badge of civilization. Then, after carefully pulling down his
shirt-sleeves over his sinewy arms, he spoke almost as follows:
"I will speak the truth, the whole truth. I take the oath for the
second time; for I have to speak of things that seem contradictory,
things that I cannot explain to myself. I swear before God and man
that I will say what I know, and as I know it, without being
influenced for or against any one."
He lifted his big hand and turned round towards the people with a
simple confidence, as if to say, "You can all see that I am taking an
oath, and you know that I am to be trusted." This confidence of his
was not ill-founded. Since the incident in the first trial the public
mind had been much occupied about this extraordinary man, who had
spoken before the court with so much daring, and harangued the people
in presence of the judges. His conduct had filled all the democrats
and /Philadelphians/ with great curiosity and sympathy. The works of
Beaumarchais were very fashionable among the upper classes, and this
will explain how it was that Patience, though opposed to all the
authorities in the province, yet found himself supported and applauded
by every man who prided himself on his intelligence. They all thought
they saw in him Figaro under a new form. The fame of his private
virtues had spread; for you remember that during my stay in America,
Patience had made himself known among the people of Varenne and had
exchanged his sorcerer's reputation for that of a public benefactor.
They had given him the title of the /great judge/, because he was
always ready to intervene in disputes, and would always settle to the
satisfaction of both sides with admirable good-nature and tact.
This time he spoke in a high, penetrating voice. It was a rich voice
of wide compass. His gestures were quiet or animated, according to the
circumstances, but always dignified and impressive; the expression on
his short, Socratic face was never anything but fine. He had all the
qualities of an orator; but there was no vanity in his display of
them. He spoke in the plain, concise style that he had been obliged to
acquire in his recent intercourse with men, in discussions about their
"When Mademoiselle de Mauprat was shot," he said, "I was not more than
a dozen paces from her; but the brushwood at that spot is so thick
that I could not see more than two paces in front of me. They had
persuaded me to take part in the hunt; but it gave me but little
pleasure. Finding myself near Gazeau Tower, where I lived for some
twenty years, I felt an inclination to see my old cell again, and I
was bearing down upon it at a great pace when I heard a shot. That did
not frighten me in the least; it seemed but natural that there should
be some gun fired during a battue. But when I got through the thicket,
that is to day, some two minutes later, I found Edmee--excuse me, I
generally call her by this name; I am, so to speak, a sort of foster-
father to her--I found Edmee on her knees upon the ground, wounded as
you have been told, and still holding the bridle of her horse, which
was rearing. She did not know whether she was seriously or slightly
wounded, but she had her other hand on her breast, and she was saying:
" 'Bernard, this is hideous! I should never have thought that you
would kill me. Bernard, where are you? Come and see me die. This will
"As she said this she let go the horse's bridle and fell to the
ground. I rushed towards her.
" 'Ah, you saw it, Patience?' she said. 'Do not speak about it; do not
tell my father . . .'
"She threw out her arms, and her body became rigid. I thought that she
was dead. She spoke no more until night, after they had extracted the
bullets from her breast."
"Did you then see Bernard de Mauprat?"
"I saw him on the spot where the deed was done, just as Edmee lost
consciousness and seemed to be giving up her soul; he seemed to be out
of his mind. I thought that he was overwhelmed with remorse. I spoke
to him sternly, and treated him as a murderer. He made no reply, but
sat down on the ground by his cousin's side. He remained there in a
dazed condition, even a long time after they had taken her away. No
one thought of accusing him. The people thought that he had had a
fall, because they saw his horse trotting by the side of the pond;
they believed that his carbine had gone off as he fell. The Abbe
Aubert was the only one who heard me accuse M. Bernard of having
murdered his cousin. During the days that followed, Edmee spoke
occasionally, but it was not always in my presence; besides, at this
time she was nearly always delirious. I maintain that she told nobody
(and least of all Mademoiselle Leblanc) what had passed between
herself and M. de Mauprat before the gun was fired. Nor did she
confide this to me any more than others. On the rare occasions when
she was in possession of her senses she would say in answer to our
questions, that Bernard had certainly not done it on purpose, and
several times during the first three days she even asked to see him.
However, when she was delirious she would sometimes cry, 'Bernard!
Bernard! You have committed a great crime. You have killed my father!'
"That was her idea; she used really to think that her father was dead;
and she thought so for a long time. Very little, therefore, of what
she said is to be taken seriously. The words that Mademoiselle Leblanc
has put into her mouth are false. After three days she ceased to talk
intelligibly, and at the end of a week she ceased to speak altogether.
When she recovered her reason, about a week ago, she sent away
Mademoiselle Leblanc, which would clearly show that she had some
ground for disliking her maid. That is what I have to say against M.
de Mauprat. It rested entirely with myself to keep silent; but having
other things to say yet, I wished to make known the whole truth."
Patience paused awhile; the public and the judges themselves, who were
beginning to take an interest in me and lose the bitterness of their
prejudices, were apparently thunderstruck at hearing evidence so
different from what they expected.
Patience continued as follows:
"For several weeks I remained convinced of Bernard's guilt. But I was
pondering over the matter the while; I frequently said to myself that
a man as good and clever as Bernard, a man for whom Edmee felt so much
esteem, and whom M. le Chevalier loved like a son, a man, in short, so
deeply imbued with the spirit of justice and truth, could not between
one day and the next turn into a scoundrel. Then the idea came into my
head that, after all, it might have been some other Mauprat who fired
the shot. I do not speak of the one who has become a Trappist," he
added, looking among the audience for Jean de Mauprat, who, however
was not there; "I speak of the man whose death has never been proved,
although the court thought fit to overlook this, and to accept M. Jean
de Mauprat's word."
"Witness," said the president, "I must remind you that you are not
here to serve as counsel for the prisoner, or to criticise the
decisions of this court. You must confine yourself to a statement of
facts, and not express your opinion on the question at issue."
"Very well," replied Patience. "I must, however, explain why I did not
wish to appear at the first trial, seeing that the only evidence I had
was against M. Bernard, and that I could not trust that evidence
"You are not asked to explain this at present. Please keep to your
"One moment. I have my honour to defend; I have to explain my own
conduct, if you please."
"You are not the prisoner; you are not here to plead your own cause.
If the court thinks right to prosecute you for contempt you can see to
your own defence; but there is no question of that now."
"I beg your pardon. The question is for me to let the court see
whether I am an honest man or a false witness. It would seem that this
has something to do with the case; the prisoner's life depends on it;
the court cannot consider that a matter of indifference."
"Proceed," said the King's advocate, "and try to remember the respect
you owe to the court."
"I have no wish to offend the court," replied Patience. "I would
merely observe that a man may refuse to submit to the orders of the
court from conscientious motives which the court can legally condemn,
but which each judge, personally, can understand and excuse. I say,
then, that I could not persuade myself of Bernard de Mauprat's guilt;
my ears alone knew of it; this was not enough for me. Pardon me,
gentlemen, I, too, am a judge. Make inquiries about me; in my village
they call me 'the great judge.' When my fellow-villagers ask me to
decide some tavern dispute or the boundary of some field, I do not so
much listen to their opinions as my own. In judging a man one must
take account of more than a single little act. Many previous ones will
help to show the truth or falsity of the last that is imputed to him.
Thus, being unable to believe that Bernard was a murderer, and having
heard more than a dozen people, whom I consider incapable of giving
false evidence, testify to the fact that a monk 'bearing a resemblance
to the Mauprats' had been prowling about the country, and having
myself seen this monk's back and habit as he was passing through
Pouligny on the morning of the event, I wished to discover if he was
in Varenne; and I learnt that he was still there; that is to say,
after leaving it, he had returned about the time of the trial last
month. And, what is more, I learnt that he was acquainted with John
Mauprat. Who can this monk be? I asked myself; why does the very sight
of him frighten all the people in the country? What is he doing in
Varenne? If he belongs to the Carmelite convent, why does he not wear
their habit? If he is of the same order as John, why is he not staying
with him at the Carmelites? If he is collecting money, why, after
making a collection in one place, does he not move on to another,
instead of returning and bothering people who have given him money
only the day before? If he is a Trappist and does not want to stay
with the Carmelites like the other, why does he not go back to his own
convent? What is this wandering monk? And how does John Mauprat, who
has told several people that he does not know him, know him so well
that they lunch together from time to time in a tavern at Crevant? I
made up my mind, then, to give evidence, though it might, in a
measure, do harm to M. Bernard, so as to be able to say what I am now
saying, even if it should be of no use. But as you never allow
witnesses sufficient time to try to verify what they have reason to
believe, I started off immediately for my woods, where I live like the
foxes, with a determination not to quit them until I had discovered
what this monk was doing in the country. So I put myself on his track
and I have discovered who he is; he is the murderer of Edmee de
Mauprat; his name is Antony Mauprat."
This revelation caused a great stir on the bench and among the public.
Every one looked around for John Mauprat, whose face was nowhere to be
"What proof have you of this?" said the president.
"I am about to tell you," replied Patience. "Having learnt from the
landlady at Crevant, to whom I have occasionally been of some
assistance, that the two Trappists used to lunch at her tavern from
time to time, as I have said, I went and took up my abode about half a
league from here, in a hermitage known as Le Trou aux Fades, situated
in the middle of the woods and open to the first comer, furniture and
all. It is a cave in the rock, containing a seat in the shape of a big
stone and nothing else. I lived there for a couple of days on roots
and bits of bread that they occasionally brought me from the tavern.
It is against my principles to live in a tavern. On the third day the
landlady's little boy came and informed me that the two monks were
about to sit down to a meal. I hastened back, and hid myself in a
cellar which opens into the garden. The door of this cellar is quite
close to the apple-tree under which these gentlemen were taking
luncheon in the open air. John was sober; the other was eating like a
Carmelite and drinking like a Franciscan. I could hear and see
everything at my ease.
" 'There must be an end of this,' Antony was saying--I easily
recognised the man when I saw him drink and heard him swear--'I am
tired of playing this game for you. Hide me away with the Carmelites
or I shall make a row.'
" 'And what row can you make that will not bring you to the gallows,
you clumsy fool!' answered John. 'It is very certain that you will not
set foot inside the monastery. I don't want to find myself mixed up in
a criminal trial; for they would discover what you are in an hour or
" 'And why, I should like to know? You make them all believe that you
are a saint!'
" 'Because I know how to behave like a saint; whereas you--you behave
like a fool. Why, you can't stop swearing for an hour, and you would
be breaking all the mugs after dinner!'
" 'I say, Nepomucene,' rejoined the other, 'do you fancy that you
would get off scot-free if I were caught and tried?'
" 'Why not?' answered the Trappist. 'I had no hand in your folly, nor
did I advise anything of this kind.'
" 'Ha! ha! my fine apostle!' cried Antony, throwing himself back in
his chair in a fit of laughter. 'You are glad enough about it, now
that it is done. You were always a coward; and had it not been for me
you would never have thought of anything better than getting yourself
made a Trappist, to ape devotion and afterward get absolution for the
past, so as to have a right to draw a little money from the
"Headbreakers" of Sainte-Severe. By Jove! a mighty fine ambition, to
give up the ghost under a monk's cowl after leading a pretty poor life
and only tasting half its sweets, let alone hiding like a mole! Come,
now; when they have hung my pretty Bernard, and the lovely Edmonde is
dead, and when the old neck-breaker has given back his big bones to
the earth; when we have inherited all that pretty fortune yonder; you
will own that we have done a capital stroke of business--three at a
blow! It would cost me rather too much to play the saint, seeing that
convent ways are not quite my ways, and that I don't know how to wear
the habit; so I shall throw the cowl to the winds, and content myself
with building a chapel at Roche-Mauprat and taking the sacrament four
times a year.'
" 'Everything you have done in this matter is stupid and infamous.'
" 'Bless my soul! Don't talk of infamy, my sweet brother, or I shall
make you swallow this bottle whole.'
" 'I say that it is a piece of folly, and if it succeeds you ought to
burn a fine candle to the Virgin. If it does not succeed, I wash my
hands of the whole business, do you hear? After I had been in hiding
in the secret passage in the keep, and had heard Bernard telling his
valet after supper that he was going out of his mind on account of the
beautiful Edmee, I happened to throw out a suggestion that there might
be a chance here of doing a good stroke of business; and like a fool
you took the matter seriously, and, without consulting me or waiting
for a favourable moment, you went and did a deed that should have been
thought over and properly planned.'
" 'A favourable moment, chicken-heart that you are! How the deuce was
I to get one? "Opportunity makes the thief." I find myself surprised
by the hunt in the middle of the forest; I go and hide in that cursed
Gazeau Tower; I see my turtle-doves coming; I overhear a conversation
that might make one die of laughing, and see Bernard blubbering and
the girl playing the haughty beauty; Bernard goes off like an idiot
without showing himself a man; I find on me--God knows how--a rascally
pistol already loaded. Bang! . . .'
" 'Hold your tongue, you wild brute!' said the other, quite
frightened. 'Do you think a tavern is the proper place to talk of
these things? Keep that tongue quiet, you wretched creature, or I will
never see you again.'
" 'And yet you will have to see me, sweet brother mine, when I go and
ring the bell at the gate of the Carmelite monastery.'
" 'If you come I will denounce you.'
" 'You will not denounce me, for I know too much about you.'
" 'I am not afraid. I have given proofs of my repentance; I have
expiated my sins.'
" 'Come, now, hold your tongue, you madman!' said the other. 'I must
leave you. There is some money.'
" 'That all?'
" 'What do you expect from a monk? Do you imagine that I am rich?'
" 'Your Carmelites are; and you can do what you like with them.'
" 'I might give you more, but I would rather not. As soon as you got a
couple of louis you would be off for a debauch, and make enough row to
" 'And if you want me to quit this part of the country for some time,
what do you suppose I am to travel with?'
" 'Three times already I have given you enough to take you away,
haven't I? And each time you have come back, after drinking it all in
the first place of ill-fame on the frontier of the province! Your
impudence sickens me, after the evidence given against you, when the
police are on the watch, when Bernard is appealing for a fresh trial.
You may be caught at any moment!'
" 'That is for you to see to, brother. You can lead the Carmelites by
the nose; and the Carmelites can lead the bishop, through some little
peccadillo, I suppose, done together on the quiet in the convent after
supper . . .' "
Here the president interrupted Patience.
"Witness," he said, "I call you to order. You are outraging a
prelate's virtue by daring to retail such a conversation."
"By no means," replied Patience. "I am merely reporting a drunkard's
and a murderer's invectives against the prelate. They do not concern
me in the least; and every one here knows what value to put upon them;
but, if you wish, I will say no more on this point. The discussion
lasted for some time longer. The real Trappist wanted to make the sham
Trappist leave the country, and the latter persisted in remaining,
declaring that, if he were not on the spot, his brother would have him
arrested immediately after Bernard's head had been cut off, so that he
might have the whole inheritance to himself. John, driven to
extremities, seriously threatened to denounce him and hand him over to
" 'Enough!' replied Antony. 'You will take good care not to do that, I
know; for, if Bernard is acquitted, good-bye to the inheritance!'
"Then they separated. The real Trappist went away looking very
anxious; the other fell asleep, with his elbows on the table. I left
my hiding-place to take steps for his arrest. It was just then that
the police, who had been on my track for some time to force me to come
and give evidence, collared me. In vain did I point to the monk as
Edmee's murderer; they would not believe me, and said they had no
warrant against him. I wanted to arouse the village, but they
prevented me from speaking. They brought me here, from station to
station, as if I had been a deserter, and for the last week I have
been in the cells and no one has deigned to heed my protests. They
would not even let me see M. Bernard's lawyer, or inform him that I
was in prison; it was only just now that the jailer came, and told me
that I must put on my coat and appear in court. I do not know whether
all this is according to the law; but one thing is certain, namely,
that the murderer might have been arrested and has not been; nor will
he be, unless you secure the person of John Mauprat to prevent him
from warning, I do not say his accomplice, but his /protege/. I state
on oath that, from all I have heard, John Mauprat is above any
suspicion of complicity. As to the act of allowing an innocent man to
be handed over to the rigour of the law, and of endeavouring to save a
guilty man by going so far as to give false evidence, and produce
false documents to prove his death . . ."
Patience, noticing that the president was again about to interrupt
him, hastened to end his testimony by saying:
"As to that, gentlemen, it is for you, not for me, to judge him."
After this important evidence the trial was suspended for a few
minutes. When the judges returned Edmee was brought back into the
court. Pale and weak, scarcely able to drag herself to the arm-chair
which was reserved for her, she nevertheless displayed considerable
mental vigour and presence of mind.
"Do you think you can answer the questions which will be put to you
without unduly exciting yourself?" asked the president.
"I hope so, sir," she replied. "It is true that I have recently been
seriously ill, and that it is only within the last few days that I
have recovered my memory; but I believe I have completely recovered
it, and my mind feels quite clear."
"Solange-Edmonde de Mauprat; /Edmea sylvestris/," she added in an
I shuddered. As she said these unseasonable words her eyes had assumed
a strange expression. I feared that her mind was going to wander still
further. My counsel was also alarmed and looked at me inquiringly. No
one but myself had understood these two words which Edmee had been in
the habit of frequently repeating during the first and last days of
her illness. Happily this was the last sign of any disturbance in her
faculties. She shook her beautiful head, as if to drive out any
troublesome ideas; and, the president having asked her for an
explanation of these unintelligible words, she replied with sweetness
"It is nothing, sir. Please continue my examination."
"Your age, mademoiselle?"
"Are you related to the prisoner?"
"He is my second cousin, and my father's grand-nephew."
"Do you swear to speak the truth, the whole truth?"
"Raise your hand."
Edmee turned towards Arthur with a sad smile. He took off her glove,
and helped to raise her arm, which hung nerveless and powerless by her
side. I felt big tears rolling down my cheeks.
With delicacy and simplicity Edmee related how she and I had lost our
way in the woods; how I, under the impression that her horse had
bolted, had unseated her in my eager anxiety to stop the animal; how a
slight altercation had ensued, after which, with a little feminine
temper, foolish enough, she had wished to mount her mare again without
help; how she had even spoken unkindly to me, not meaning a word of
what she said, for she loved me like a brother; how, deeply hurt by
her harshness, I had moved away a few yards to obey her; and how, just
as she was about to follow me, grieved herself at our childish
quarrel, she had felt a violent shock in her breast, and had fallen
almost without hearing any report. It was impossible for her to say in
which direction she was looking, or from which side the shot had come.
"That is all that happened," she added. "Of all people I am least able
to explain this occurrence. In my soul and conscience I can only
attribute it to the carelessness of one of the hunting party, who is
afraid to confess. Laws are so severe. And it is so difficult to prove
"So, mademoiselle, you do not think that your cousin was the author of
"No, sir, certainly not! I am no longer delirious, and I should not
have let myself be brought before you if I had felt that my mind was
at all weak."
"Apparently, then, you consider that a state of mental aberration was
responsible for the revelations you made to Patience, to Mademoiselle
Leblanc, your companion, and also, perhaps, to Abbe Aubert."
"I made no revelations," she replied emphatically, "either to the
worthy Patience, the venerable abbe, or my servant Leblanc. If the
meaningless words we utter in a state of delirium are to be called
'revelations,' all the people who frighten us in our dreams would have
to be condemned to death. How could I have revealed facts of which I
never had any knowledge?"
"But at the time you received the wound, and fell from your horse, you
said: 'Bernard, Bernard! I should never have thought that you would
kill me!' "
"I do not remember having said so; and, even if I did, I cannot
conceive that any one would attach much importance to the impressions
of a person who had suddenly been struck to the ground, and whose mind
was annihilated, as it were. All that I know is that Bernard de
Mauprat would lay down his life for my father or myself; which does
not make it very probable that he wanted to murder me. Great God! what
would be his object?"
In order to embarrass Edmee, the president now utilized all the
arguments which could be drawn from Mademoiselle Leblanc's evidence.
As a fact, they were calculated to cause her not a little confusion.
Edmee, who was at first somewhat astonished to find that the law was
in possession of so many details which she believed were unknown to
others, regained her courage and pride, however, when they suggested,
in those brutally chaste terms which are used by the law in such a
case, that she had been a victim of my violence at Roche-Mauprat. Her
spirit thoroughly roused, she proceeded to defend my character and her
own honour, and declared that, considering how I had been brought up,
I had behaved much more honourably than might have been expected. But
she still had to explain all her life from this point onward, the
breaking off of her engagement with M. de la Marche, her frequent
quarrels with myself, my sudden departure for America, her refusal of
all offers of marriage.
"All these questions are abominable," she said, rising suddenly, her
physical strength having returned with the exercise of her mental
powers. "You ask me to give an account of my inmost feelings; you
would sound the mysteries of my soul; you put my modesty on the rack;
you would take to yourself rights that belong only to God. I declare
to you that, if my own life were now at stake and not another's, you
should not extract a word more from me. However, to save the life of
the meanest of men I would overcome my repugnance; much more,
therefore, will I do for him who is now at the bar. Know then--since
you force me to a confession which is painful to the pride and reserve
of my sex--that everything which to you seems inexplicable in my
conduct, everything which you attribute to Bernard's persecutions and
my own resentment, to his threats and my terror, finds its
justification in one word: I love him!"
On uttering this word, the red blood in her cheeks, and in the ringing
tone of the proudest and most passionate soul that ever existed, Edmee
sat down again and buried her face in her hands. At this moment I was
so transported that I could not help crying out:
"Let them take me to the scaffold now; I am king of all the earth!"
"To the scaffold! You!" said Edmee, rising again. "Let them rather
take me. Is it your fault, poor boy, if for seven years I have hidden
from you the secret of my affections; if I did not wish you to know it
until you were the first of men in wisdom and intelligence as you are
already the first in greatness of heart? You are paying dearly for my
ambition, since it has been interpreted as scorn and hatred. You have
good reason to hate me, since my pride has brought you to the felon's
dock. But I will wash away your shame by a signal reparation; though
they send you to the scaffold, you shall go there with the title of my
"Your generosity is carrying you too far, Edmee de Mauprat," said the
president. "It would seem that, in order to save your relative, you
are accusing yourself of coquetry and unkindness; for, how otherwise
do you explain the fact that you exasperated this young man's passion
by refusing him for seven years?"
"Perhaps, sir," replied Edmee archly, "the court is not competent to
judge this matter. Many women think it no great crime to show a little
coquetry with the man they love. Perhaps we have a right to this when
we have sacrificed all other men to him. After all, it is a very
natural and very innocent ambition to make the man of one's choice
feel that one is a soul of some price, that one is worth wooing, and
worth a long effort. True, if this coquetry resulted in the
condemnation of one's lover to death, one would speedily correct one's
self of it. But, naturally, gentlemen, you would not think of atoning
for my cruelty by offering the poor young man such a consolation as
After saying these words in an animated, ironical tone, Edmee burst
into tears. This nervous sensibility which brought to the front all
the qualities of her soul and mind, tenderness, courage, delicacy,
pride, modesty, gave her face at the same time an expression so
varied, so winning in all its moods, that the grave, sombre assembly
of judges let fall the brazen cuirass of impassive integrity and the
leaden cope of hypocritical virtue. If Edmee had not triumphantly
defended me by her confession, she had at least roused the greatest
interest in my favour. A man who is loved by a beautiful woman carries
with him a talisman that makes him invulnerable; all feel that his
life is of greater value than other lives.
Edmee still had to submit to many questions; she set in their proper
light the facts which had been misrepresented by Mademoiselle Leblanc.
True, she spared me considerably; but with admirable skill she managed
to elude certain questions, and so escaped the necessity of either
lying or condemning me. She generously took upon herself the blame for
all my offences, and pretended that, if we had had various quarrels,
it was because she herself took a secret pleasure in them; because
they revealed the depth of my love; that she had let me go to America
to put my virtue to the proof, thinking that the campaign would not
last more than a year, as was then supposed; that afterwards she had
considered me in honour bound to submit to the indefinite
prolongation, but that she had suffered more than myself from my
absence; finally, she quite remembered the letter which had been found
upon her, and, taking it up, she gave the mutilated passages with
astonishing accuracy, and at the same time called the clerk to follow
as she deciphered the words which were half obliterated.
"This letter was so far from being a threatening letter," she said,
"and the impression it left on me was so far from filling me with fear
or aversion, that it was found on my heart, where I had been carrying
it for a week, though I had not even let Bernard know that I had
"But you have not yet explained," said the president, "how it was that
seven years ago, when your cousin first came to live in your house,
you armed yourself with a knife which you used to put under your
pillow every night, after having it sharpened as if to defend yourself
in case of need."
"In my family," she answered with a blush, "we have a somewhat
romantic temperament and a very proud spirit. It is true that I
frequently thought of killing myself, because I felt an unconquerable
affection for my cousin springing up in me. Believing myself bound by
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