The occasion was, of course, too good to be neglected by "The
Sauveterre Independent." Although a morning paper, it published, "in
view of the gravity of the circumstances," an evening edition, which a
dozen newsboys cried out in the streets up to mid-night. And this was
what it said,--
ASSIZES AT SAUVETERRE.
Presiding Judge.--M. DOMINI.
[Special Correspondence of the Independent.]
Whence this unusual commotion, this uproar, this great excitement,
in our peaceful city? Whence these gatherings of our public
squares, these groups in front of all the houses! Whence this
restlessness on all faces, this anxiety in all eyes?
The reason is, that to-day this terrible Valpinson case will be
brought up in court, after having for so many weeks now agitated
To-day this man who is charged with such fearful crimes is to be
Hence all steps are eagerly turned towards the court-house: the
people all hurry, and rush in the same direction.
The court-house! Long before daylight it was surrounded by an
eager multitude, which the constables and the gendarmes could only
with difficulty keep within bounds.
They press and crowd and push. Coarse words fly to and fro. From
words they pass to gestures, from gestures to blows. A row is
imminent. Women cry, men swear, and two peasants from Brechy are
arrested on the spot.
It is well known that there will be few only, happy enough to get
in. The great square would not contain all these curious people,
who have gathered here from all parts of the district: how should
the court-room be able to hold them?
And still our authorities, always anxious to please their
constituents, who have bestowed their confidence upon them, have
resorted to heroic measures. They have had two partition walls
taken down, so that a part of the great hall is added to the
M. Lautier, the city architect, who is a good judge in such
matters, assures us that this immense hall will accommodate twelve
Long before the hour fixed for the opening of the court, every
thing is full to overflowing. A pin might be thrown into the room,
and it could not fall to the ground.
Not an inch of space is lost. All around, along the wall men are
standing in close ranks. On both sides of the platform, chairs
have been put, which are occupied by a large number of our first
ladies in good society, not only of Sauveterre, however, but also
of the neighborhood and even other cites. Some of them appear in
A thousand reports are current, a thousand conjectures are formed,
which we shall take care not to report. Why should we? Let us say,
however, that the accused has not availed himself of his right to
reject a certain number of jurymen. He has accepted all the names
which were drawn by lot, and which the prosecuting attorney did
not object to.
We obtained this information from an attorney, a friend of ours;
and, just as he had told us all about it, a great noise rose at
the door, which was followed by rapid moving of chairs, and half-
It was the family of the accused, who had come in, and now
occupied the seats assigned them close by the platform.
The Marquis de Boiscoran had on his arm Miss Chandore, who wore
with great grace and dignity a dark gray dress, trimmed with
cherry-colored ribbons. M. de Chandore escorted the Marchioness de
Boiscoran. The marquis and the baron looked cold and reserved. The
mother of the accused appears utterly overcome. Miss Chandore, on
the contrary, is lively, does not seem in the least concerned, and
returns with a bright smile the few greetings she receives from
various parts of the court-room.
But soon they are no longer an object of curiosity.
The attention of all is now directed towards a large table
standing before the judges, and on which may be seen a number of
articles covered by large red cloth.
He is dressed in black, and with great elegance. It is noticed
that he wears in his buttonhole the ribbon of the Legion of Honor.
He looks pale; but his eye is clear and open, full of confidence,
yet not defiant. His carriage is proud, though melancholy.
He has hardly taken his seat when a gentleman passes over three
rows of chairs, and, in spite of the officers of the court,
succeeds in shaking hands with him. It is Dr. Seignebos.
The president orders the sheriff to proclaim silence; and, after
having reminded the audience that all expressions of approbation
or disapprobation are strictly prohibited, he turns to the
accused, and asks him,--
"Tell me your first names, your family name, your age, your
profession, and your domicile."
PRESIDENT.--Accused, rise and answer clearly. During the
preliminary investigation, you have refused to answer several
questions. Now the matter must be cleared up. And I am bound to
tell you it is to your interest to answer frankly.
ACCUSED.--No one desires more than I do that the truth be known. I
am ready to answer.
P.--Why were you so reticent in your first examination?
A.--I though it important for my interests to answer only in
P.--You have heard of what crimes you are accused?
A.--I am innocent. And, first of all, I beg you will allow me to
say one thing. The crime committed at Valpinson is an atrocious,
cowardly crime; but it is at the same time an absurdly stupid
crime, more like the unconscious act of a madman. Now, I have
always been looked upon as not lacking exactly in intelligence.
A.--(After an expression of indignation, which was noticed by
all.) I could not believe that I was in danger. It seemed to me
impossible that I should be reached by an accusation, which
nevertheless, has brought me into this court. Hence I did not deem
it necessary to make my private affairs public.
P.--But you very soon found out that you were in danger?
"We cannot tolerate such recriminations against a magistrate who
has done his duty nobly, and in spite of the pain it caused him.
If the accused had well-founded objections to the magistrate, why
did he not make them known? He cannot plead ignorance: he knows
the law, he is a lawyer himself. His counsel, moreover, are men of
P.--(To the accused.) And now are you ready to tell the truth with
regard to that business which prevented you from spending the
evening with your betrothed?
A.--Yes, sir. My wedding was to take place at the church in
Brechy, and I had to make my arrangements with the priest about
the ceremony. I had, besides, to fulfil certain religious duties.
The priest at Brechy, who is a friend of mine, will tell you,
that, although no day had been fixed, it had been agreed upon
between us that I should come to confession on one of the evenings
of the week since he insisted upon it.
The audience, which had been expecting some very exciting
revelations, seemed to be much disappointed; and ironical laughter
was heard in various directions.
P.--(In a severe tone of voice.) This laughter is indecent and
objectionable. Sheriff, take out the persons who presume to laugh.
And once more I give notice, that, at the first disturbance, I
shall order the room to be cleared.
A.--I went therefore to the priest at Brechy, that evening:
unluckily there was no one at home at the parsonage when I got
there. I was ringing the third or fourth time in vain, when a
little peasant-girl came by, who told me that she had just met the
priest at the Marshalls' Cross-roads. I thought at once I would go
and meet him, and went in that direction. But I walked more than
four miles without meeting him. I thought the girl must have been
mistaken, and went home again.
A.--I have promised to say not what is plausible, but what is
true. I may confess, however, that, precisely because the
explanation is so simple, I did not venture at first to give it.
And yet if no crime had been committed, and I had said the day
after, "Yesterday I went to see the priest at Brechy, and did not
find him," who would have seen any thing unnatural in my
P.--And, in order to fulfil so simple a duty, you chose a
roundabout way, which is not only troublesome, but actually
dangerous, right across the swamps?
A.--Pardon me, I did not say so. To expect is not the same as to
P.--Why, then did you take such pains to explain your being there?
A.--I gave no explanations. Young Ribot first told me, laughingly,
where he was going, and then I told him that I was going to
P.--You told him, also, that you were going through the marshes to
shoot birds, and, at the same time you showed him your gun?
A.--That may be. But is that any proof against me? I think just
the contrary. If I had had such criminal intentions as the
prosecution suggests, I should certainly have gone back after
meeting people, knowing that I was exposed to great danger. But I
was only going to see my friend, the priest.
A.--My land lies in the woods and marshes, and there was not a day
when I did not bag a rabbit or a waterfowl. Everybody in the
neighborhood will tell you that I never went out without a gun.
P.--And on your return, why did you go through the forest of
A.--Because, from the place where I was on the road, it was
probably the shortest way to Boiscoran. I say probably, because
just then I did not think much about that. A man who is taking a
walk would be very much embarrassed, in the majority of cases, if
he had to give a precise account why he took one road rather than
P.--You were seen in the forest by a woodcutter, called Gaudry?
P.--That witness deposes that you were in a state of great
excitement. You were tearing leaves from the branches, you were
A.--I certainly was very much vexed at having lost my evening, and
particularly vexed at having relied on the little peasant-girl. It
is quite likely that I might have exclaimed, as I walked along,
"Plague upon my friend, the priest, who goes and dines in town!"
or some such words.
There was a smile in the assembly, but not such as to attract the
P.--You know that the priest of Brechy was dining out that day?
"It is through us, sir, that the accused has found out this fact.
When he told us how he had spent the evening, we went to see the
priest at Brechy, who told us how it came about that neither he
nor his old servant was at the parsonage. At our request the
priest has been summoned. We shall also produce another priest,
who at that time passed the Marshalls' Cross-roads, and was the
one whom the little girl had seen."
Having made a sign to counsel to sit down again, the president
once more turns to the accused.
P.--The woman Courtois who met you deposes that you looked very
curious. You did not speak to her: you were in great haste to
escape from her.
A.--The night was much too dark for the woman to see my face. She
asked me to render her a slight service, and I did so. I did not
speak to her, because I had nothing to say to her. I did not leave
her suddenly, but only got ahead of her, because her ass walked
At a sign from the president, the ushers raise the red cloth which
cover the objects on the table.
Great curiosity is manifested by the whole audience; and all rise,
and stretch their necks to see better. On the table are displayed
clothes, a pair of velveteen trousers, a shooting-jacket of
maroon-colored velveteen, an old straw hat, and a pair of dun-
colored leather boots. By their side lie a double-barrelled gun,
packages of cartridges, two bowls filled with small-shot, and,
finally, a large china basin, with a dark sediment at the bottom.
P.--(Showing these objects to the accused.) Are those the clothes
which you wore the evening of the crime?
P.--A curious costume in which to visit a venerable ecclesiastic,
and to perform religious duties.
A.--The priest at Brechy was my friend. Our intimacy will explain,
even if it does not justify, the liberty I took.
P.--Do you also recognize this basin? The water has been allowed
to evaporate, and the residue alone remains there on the bottom.
A.--It is true, that, when the magistrate appeared at my house, he
found there the basin full of dark water, which was thick with
half-burnt debris. He asked me about this water, and I did not
hesitate a moment to tell him that I had washed my hands in it the
evening before, after my return home.
Is it not evident, that if I had been guilty, my first effort
would have been to put every evidence of my crime out of the way?
And yet this circumstance is looked upon as the strongest evidence
of my guilt, and the prosecution produces it as the most serious
charge against me.
A.--Well, nothing can be more easily explained than that. I am a
great smoker. When I left home the evening of the crime, I took
cigars in abundance; but, when I was about to light one, I found
that I had no matches.
"And I wish to point out that this is not one of those explanations
which are invented, after the fact, to meet the necessities of a
doubtful case. We have absolute and overwhelming proof of it. M.
de Boiscoran did not have the little match-box which he usually
carries about him, at that time, because he had left it at M. de
Chandore's house, on the mantelpiece, where I have seen it, and
where it still is."
P.--That is sufficient, M. Magloire. Let the defendant go on.
A.--I wanted to smoke; and so I resorted to the usual expedient,
which all sportsmen know. I tore open one of my cartridges, put,
instead of the lead, a piece of paper inside, and set it on fire.
A.--But, sir, I smoked five or six cigars during the evening,
which means that I had to repeat the operation a dozen times at
least, and in different places,--in the woods and on the high-
road. Each time I quenched the fire with my fingers; and, as the
powder is always greasy, my hands naturally became soon as black
as those of a charcoal-burner.
The accused gives this explanation in a perfectly natural but
still rather excited manner, which seems to make a great
P.--Let us go on to your gun. Do you recognize it?
M. MAGLOIRE.--(Rising.) A fact has become patent which at once
establishes the innocence of M. de Boiscoran. By providential
intercession, his servant Anthony had cleaned the gun two days
before the day of the crime. It appears now that one of the
barrels is still clean, and in good condition. Hence it cannot be
M. de Boiscoran who has fired twice at Count Claudieuse.
During this time the accused has gone up to the table on which the
objects are lying. He wraps his handkerchief around the ramrod,
slips it into one of the barrels, draws it out again, and shows
that it is hardly soiled.
The whole audience is in a state of great excitement.
The accused does it. The handkerchief remains clean.
P.--You see, and still you have told us that you had burnt,
perhaps, a dozen cartridges to light your cigars. But the
prosecution had foreseen this objection, and they are prepared to
meet it. Sheriff, bring in the witness, Maucroy.
Our readers all know this gentleman, whose beautiful collection of
weapons, sporting-articles, and fishing-tackle, is one of the
ornaments of our great Square. He is dressed up, and without
hesitation takes the required oath.
P.--Repeat your deposition with regard to this gun.
WITNESS.--It is an excellent gun, and very costly: such guns are
not made in France, where people are too economical.
At this answer the whole audience laughs. M. Maucroy is not
exactly famous for cheap bargains. Even some of the jurymen can
hardly control their laughter.
P.--Never mind your reflections on that object. Tell us only what
you know about the peculiarities of this gun.
WITNESS.--Well, thanks to a peculiar arrangement of the
cartridges, and thanks, also, to the special nature of the
fulminating material, the barrels hardly ever become foul.
A.--(Eagerly.) You are mistaken, sir. I have myself cleaned my gun
frequently; and I have, just on the contrary, found the barrels
WITNESS.--Because you had fired too often. But I mean to say that
you can use up two or three cartridges without a trace being left
in the barrels.
P.--You were so irritated against him, that you once actually
aimed your gun at him. At another time you said, "He will not
leave me alone till I put a ball into him." Do not deny! You will
hear what the witnesses say.
Thereupon, the accused resumes his place. He looks as confident as
ever, and carries his head high. He has entirely overcome any
feeling of discouragement, and converses with his counsel in the
most composed manner.
There can be no doubt, that, at this stage of the proceedings,
public opinion is on his side. He has won the good-will even of
those who came there strongly prejudiced. No one can help being
impressed by his proud but mournful expression of fate; and all
are touched by the extreme simplicity of his answers.
Although the discussion about the gun has not turned out to his
advantage, it does not seem to have injured him. People are
eagerly discussing the question of the fouling of guns. A number
of incredulous persons, whom the experiment has not convinced,
maintain that M. Maucroy has been too rash in his statements.
Others express surprise at the reserve shown by counsel,--less by
that of M. Folgat, who is unknown here, than by that of M.
Magloire, who usually allows no opportunity to escape, but is sure
to profit by the smallest incident.
The proceedings are not exactly suspended; but there is a pause,
whilst the ushers cover the articles on the table once more with
red cloth, and, after several comings and goings, roll a large
arm-chair in front of the judge's seat.
At last one of the ushers comes up to the president, and whispers
something into his ear.
When the usher has left the room, M. Domini says,--
"We shall now proceed to hear the witnesses, and we propose to
begin with Count Claudieuse. Although seriously indisposed, he has
preferred to appear in court."
At these words Dr. Seignebos is seen to start up, as if he wished
to address the court; but one of his friends, sitting by him,
pulls him down by his coat. M. Folgat makes a sign to him, and he
sits down again.
The small door through which the armorer Maucroy had been admitted
opens once more, and Count Claudieuse enters. Supported and almost
carried by his man-servant.
He is greeted by a murmur of sympathetic pity. He is frightfully
thin; and his features look as haggard as if he were about to give
up the ghost. The whole vitality of his system seems to have
centred in his eyes, which shine with extraordinary brilliancy.
But the silence is so deep, that when the president asks him the
usual question, "Do you swear to tell the whole truth?" and he
answers, "I swear," the words are distinctly heard all over the
P.--(Very kindly.) We are very much obliged to you, sir, for the
effort which you have made. That chair has been brought in for
you: please sit down.
COUNT CLAUDIEUSE.--I thank you, sir; but I am strong enough to
P.--Please tell us, then, what you know of the attempt made on
C.C.--It might have been eleven o'clock: I had gone to bed a
little while before, and blown out my light. I was in that half
state which is neither waking nor sleeping, when I saw my room
lighted up by a dazzling glare. I saw it was fire. I jumped out of
bed, and, only lightly dressed, rushed down the stairs. I found
some difficulty in opening the outer door, which I had locked
myself. At last I succeeded. But I had no sooner put my foot
outside than I felt a terrible pain in my right side, and at the
same time I heard an explosion of fire-arms. Instinctively I
rushed towards the place from which the shot seemed to have been
fired; but, before I had taken three steps, I was struck once more
in my shoulder, and fell down unconscious.
P.--How long a time was there between the first and the second
P.--When you were examined a few hours after the crime, you
declared that you had not recognized the murderer. More than that,
when M. de Boiscoran's name was mentioned, you seemed to be
indignant of such a suspicion, and almost became surety yourself
for his innocence.
C.C.--That was contrary to truth. I felt a very natural sense of
commiseration, and tried to save a man who belonged to a highly
esteemed family from disgraceful punishment.
C.C.--Now I see that I was wrong, and that the law ought to have
its course. And this is my reason for coming here,--although
afflicted by a disease which never spares, and on the point of
appearing before God--in order to tell you M. de Boiscoran is
guilty. I recognized him.
A.--By all that is dear and sacred to me in the world, I swear
that I am innocent. Count Claudieuse says he is about to appear
before God: I appeal to the justice of God.
Sobs well-nigh drown the voice of the accused. The Marchioness de
Boiscoran is overcome by a nervous attack. She is carried out
stiff and inanimate; and Dr. Seignebos and Miss Chandore hasten
A.--(To Count Claudieuse.) You have killed my mother!
Certainly, all who had hoped for scenes of thrilling interest were
not disappointed. Everybody looks overcome with excitement. Tears
appear in the eyes of almost all the ladies.
And yet those who watch the glances which are exchanged between M.
de Boiscoran and Count Claudieuse cannot help asking themselves,
if there is not something else between these two men, besides what
the trial has made known. We cannot explain to ourselves these
singular answers given to the president's questions, nor does any
one understand the silence observed by M. de Boiscoran's counsel.
Do they abandon their client? No; for we see them go up to him,
shake hands with him, and lavish upon him every sign of friendly
consolation and encouragement.
We may even be permitted to say, that, to all appearances, the
president himself and the prosecuting attorney were, for a moment,
perfectly overcome with surprise. At all events, we thought so at
C.C.--I do. And once more, upon my oath, I declare solemnly that I
recognized, in such a manner as to prevent any possible mistake,
M. Jacques Boiscoran.
It was evidently time that Count Claudieuse should end his
evidence. He begins to totter; his eyes close; his head rolls from
side to side; and two ushers have to come to his assistance to
enable him, with the help of his own servant, to leave the room.
It was thought so; but it was not so. The countess being kept by
the bedside of one of her daughters, who is most dangerously ill,
will not be called at all; and the clerk of the court is ordered
to read her deposition.
Although her description of the terrible event is very graphic, it
contains no new facts, and will remain without influence on the
This is a fine handsome countryman, a regular village cock, with a
pink-and-blue cravat around his neck, and a huge gold chain
dangling from his watch-pocket. He seems to be very proud of his
appearance and looks around with an air of the most perfect self-
In the same way he relates his meeting with the accused in a tone
of great importance. He knows every thing and explains every
thing. With a little encouragement he would, no doubt, declare
that the accused had confided to him all his plans of incendiarism
and murder. His answers are almost all received with great
hilarity, which bring down upon the audience another and very
severe reprimand from the president.
The witness Gaudry, who succeeds him, is a small, wretched-looking
man, with a false and timid eye, who exhausts himself in bows and
scrapes. Quite different from Ribot, he seems to have forgotten
every thing. It is evident he is afraid of committing himself. He
praises the count; but he does not speak the less well of M. de
Boiscoran. He assures the court of his profound respect for them
all,--for the ladies and gentlemen present, for everybody, in
The woman Courtois, who comes next, evidently wishes she were a
thousand miles away. The president has to make the very greatest
efforts to obtain, word by word, her evidence, which, after all,
amounts to next to nothing.
Then follow two farmers from Brechy, who have been present at the
violent altercation which ended in M. de Boiscoran's aiming with
his gun at Count Claudieuse.
Their account, interrupted by numberless parentheses, is very
obscure. One of the counsel of the defendant requests them to be
more explicit; and thereupon they become utterly unintelligible.
Besides, they contradict each other. One has looked upon the act
of the accused as a mere jest: the other has looked upon it so
seriously as to throw himself between the two men, in order to
prevent M. de Boiscoran from killing his adversary then and there.
Once more the accused protests, energetically, he never hated
Count Claudieuse: there was no reason why he should hate him.
The obstinate peasant insists upon it that a lawsuit is always a
sufficient reason for hating a man. And thereupon he undertakes to
explain the lawsuit, and how Count Claudieuse, by stopping the
water of the Seille, overflowed M. de Boiscoran's meadows.
The president at last stops the discussion, and orders another
witness to be brought in.
This man swears he has head M. de Boiscoran say, that, sooner or
later, he would put a ball into Count Claudieuse. He adds, that
the accused is a terrible man, who threatened to shoot people upon
the slightest provocation. And, to support his evidence, he states
that once before, to the knowledge of the whole country, M. de
Boiscoran has fired at a man.
The accused undertakes to explain this. A scamp, who he thinks was
no one else but the witness on the stand, came every night and
stole his tenants' fruit and vegetables. One night he kept watch,
and gave him a load of salt. He does not know whether he hit him.
At all events, the thief never complained, and thus was never
The next witness is a constable from Brechy. He deposes that once
Count Claudieuse, by stopping up the waters of the little stream,
the Seille, had caused M. de Boiscoran a loss of twenty thousand
weight of first-rate hay. He confesses that such a bad neighbor
would certainly have exasperated him.
The prosecuting attorney does not deny the fact, but adds, that
Count Claudieuse offered to pay damages. M. de Boiscoran had
refused with insulting haughtiness.
The accused replies, that he had refused upon the advice of his
lawyer, but that he had not used insulting words.
Next appeared the witnesses summoned by the defence.
The first is the excellent priest from Brechy. He confirms the
statement of the accused. He was dining, the evening of the crime,
at the house of M. de Besson; his servant had come for him; and
the parsonage was deserted. He states that he had really arranged
with M. de Boiscoran that the latter should come some evening of
that week to fulfil the religious duties which the church requires
before it allows a marriage to be consecrated. He has known
Jacques de Boiscoran from a child, and knows no better and no more
honorable man. In his opinion, that hatred, of which so much has
been said, never had any existence. He cannot believe, and does
not believe, that the accused is guilty.
The second witness is the priest of an adjoining parish. He
states, that, between nine and ten o'clock, he was on the road,
near the Marshalls' Cross-roads. The night was quite dark. He is
of the same size as the priest at Brechy; and the little girl
might very well have taken him for the latter, thus misleading M.
Three other witnesses are introduced; and then, as neither the
accused nor his counsel have any thing to add, the prosecuting
attorney begins his speech.
M. Gransiere's eloquence is so widely known, and so justly
appreciated, that we need not refer to it here. We will only say
that he surpassed himself in this charge, which, for more than an
hour, held the large assembly in anxious and breathless suspense,
and caused all hearts to vibrate with the most intense excitement.
He commences with a description of Valpinson, "this poetic and
charming residence, where the noble old trees of Rochepommier are
mirrored in the crystal waves of the Seille.
"There," he went on to say,--"there lived the Count and the
Countess Claudieuse,--he one of those noblemen of a past age who
worshipped honor, and were devoted to duty; she one of those women
who are the glory of their sex, and the perfect model of all
"Heaven had blessed their union, and given them two children, to
whom they were tenderly attached. Fortune smiled upon their wise
efforts. Esteemed by all, cherished, and revered, they lived
happy, and might have counted upon long years of prosperity.
"One evening, a fatal glare arouses the count. He rushes out; he
hears the report of a gun. He hears it a second time, and he sinks
down, bathed in his blood. The countess also is alarmed by the
explosion, and hastens to the spot: she stumbles; she sees the
lifeless body of her husband, and sinks unconscious to the ground.
"Are the children also to perish? No. Providence watches. A flash
of intelligence pierces the night of an insane man, who rushes
through the flames, and snatches the children from the fire that
was already threatening their couch.
"Their lives are saved; but the fire continues its destructive
"At the sound of the terrible fire-bell, all the inhabitants of the
neighboring villages hurry to the spot. But there is no one to
direct their efforts; there are no engines; and they can do
"But all of a sudden a distant rumbling sound revives hope in their
hearts. They know the fire-engines are coming. They come; they
reach the spot; and whatever men can do is done at once.
"But great God! What mean those cries of horror which suddenly rise
on all sides? The roof of the house is falling, and buries under
its ruins two men, the most zealous and most courageous of all the
zealous and courageous men,--Bolton the drummer, who had just now
summoned his neighbors to come to the rescue, and Guillebault, a
father with five children.
"High above the crash and the hissing of flames rise their heart-
rending cries. They call for help. Will they be allowed to perish?
A gendarme rushes forward, and with him a farmer from Brechy. But
their heroism is useless: the monster keeps its prey. The two men
also are apparently doomed; and only by unheard-of efforts, and at
great peril of life, can they be rescued from the furnace. But
they are so grievously wounded, that they will remain infirm for
the rest of their lives, compelled to appeal to public charity for
Then the prosecuting attorney proceeds to paint the whole of the
disaster at Valpinson in the sombrest colors, and with all the
resources of his well-known eloquence. He describes the Countess
Claudieuse as she kneels by the side of her dying husband, while
the crowd is eagerly pressing around the wounded man and
struggling with the flames for the charred remains of the
unfortunate firemen. With increasing vehemence, he says next,--
"And during all this time what becomes of the author of these
fearful misdeeds? When his hatred is gratified, he flees through
the wood, and returns to his home. Remorse, there is none. As soon
as he reaches the house, he eats, drinks, smokes his cigar. His
position in the country is such, and the precautionary measures he
had taken appear to him so well chosen, that he thinks he is above
suspicion. He is calm. He feels so perfectly safe, that he
neglects the commonest precautions, and does not even take the
trouble of pouring out the water in which he has washed his hands,
blackened as they are by the fire he has just kindled.
"He forgets that Providence whose torch on great occasions
illumines and guides human justice.
"And how, indeed, could the law ever have expected to find the
guilty man in one of the most magnificent chateaux of the country
but for a direct intervention of Providence?
"For the incendiary, the assassin, was actually there, at the
"And let no one come and tell us that the past life of Jacques de
Boiscoran is such as to protect him against the formidable charges
that are brought against him. We know his past life.
"A perfect model of those idle young men who spend in riotous
living a fortune painfully amassed by their fathers, Jacques de
Boiscoran had not even a profession. Useless to society, a burden
to himself, he passed through life like a ship without rudder and
without compass, indulging in all kinds of unhealthy fashions in
order to spend the hours that were weighing heavily upon him.
"And yet he was ambitious; but his ambition lay in the direction of
those dangerous and wicked intrigues which inevitably lead men to
"Hence we see him mixed up with all those sterile and wanton party
movements which discredit our days, uttering over and over again
hollow phrases in condemnation of all that is noble and sacred,
appealing to the most execrable passions of the multitude"--
M. MAGLOIRE.--If this is a political affair, we ought to be
ATTORNEY-GENERAL.--There is no question of politics here. We speak
of the life of a man who has been an apostle of strife.
M. MAGLOIRE.--Does the attorney-general fancy he is preaching
ATTORNEY-GENERAL.--And it is in this ambition of the accused that
we must look for a key to that terrible hatred which has led him
to commit such crimes. That lawsuit about a stream of water is a
matter of comparatively little importance. But Jacques de
Boiscoran was preparing to become a candidate for election.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL.--(Not noticing the interruption.) He did not say
so; but his friends said it for him, and went about everywhere,
repeating that by his position, his wealth, and his opinions, he
was the man best worthy of the votes of Republicans. And he would
have had an excellent chance, if there had not stood between him
and the object of his desires Count Claudieuse, who had already
more than once succeeded in defeating similar plots.
M. MAGLOIRE.--You might just as well say at once, that my friends
as well as myself are all M. de Boiscoran's accomplices; and that
we have employed him to rid us of a formidable adversary.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL.--(Continues.) Gentlemen, this is the real motive
of the crime. Hence that hatred which the accused soon is unable
to conceal any longer, which overflows in invectives, which breaks
forth in threats of death, and which actually carries him so far
that he points his gun at Count Claudieuse.
The attorney-general next passes on to examine the charges, which,
he declares, are overwhelming and irrefutable. Then he goes on,--
"But what need is there of such questions after the crushing
evidence of Count Claudieuse? You have heard it,--on the point of
appearing before God!
"His first impulse was to follow the generous nature of his heart,
and to pardon the man who had attempted his life. He desired to
save him; but, as he felt death come nearer, he saw that he had no
right to shield a criminal from the sword of justice: he
remembered that there were other victims beside himself.
"And then, rising from his bed of agony, he dragged himself here
into court, in order to tell you. 'That is the man! By the light
of the fire which he had kindled, I saw him and recognized him. He
is the man!'
"And could you hesitate after such evidence? No! I can not and will
not believe it. After such crimes, society expects that justice
should be done,--justice in the name of Count Claudieuse on his
deathbed,--justice in the name of the dead,--justice in the name
of Bolton's mother, and of Guillebault's widow and her five
A murmur of approbation accompanied the last words of M.
Gransiere, and continued for some time after he had concluded.
There is not a woman in the whole assembly who does not shed
As M. Magloire had so far alone taken an active part in the
defence, it was generally believed that he would speak. But it was
not so. M. Folgat rises.
Our court-house here in Sauveterre has at various times reechoed
the words of almost all our great masters of forensic eloquence.
We have heard Berryer, Dufaure, Jules Favre, and others; but, even
after these illustrious orators, M. Folgat still succeeds in
astonishing and moving us deeply.
We can, of course, report here only a few of his phrases; and we
must utterly abandon all hope of giving an idea of his proud and
disdainful attitude, his admirable manner, full of authority, and
especially of his full, rich voice, which found its way into every
"To defend certain men against certain charges," he began, "would
be to insult them. They cannot be touched. To the portrait drawn
by the prosecuting attorney, I shall simply oppose the answer
given by the venerable priest of Brechy. What did he tell you? M.
de Boiscoran is the best and most honorable of men. There is the
truth; they wish to make him out a political intriguant. He had,
it is true, a desire to be useful to his country. But, while
others debated, he acted. The Sauveterre Volunteers will tell you
to what passions he appealed before the enemy, and by what
intrigues he won the cross which Chausy himself fastened to his
breast. He wanted power, you say. No: he wished for happiness. You
speak of a letter written by him, the evening of the crime, to his
betrothed. I challenge you to read it. It covers four pages:
before you have read two, you will be forced to abandon the case."
Then the young advocate repeats the evidence given by the accused;
and really, under the influence of his eloquence, the charges seem
to fall to the ground, and to be utterly annihilated.
"And now," he went on, "what other evidence remains there? The
evidence given by Count Claudieuse. It is crushing, you say. I say
it is singular. What! here is a witness who sees his last hour
drawing nigh, and who yet waits for the last minute of his life
before he speaks. And you think that is natural! You pretend that
it was generosity which made him keep silent. I, I ask you how the
most cruel enemy could have acted more atrociously?
" 'Never was a case clearer,' says the prosecution. On the
contrary, I maintain that never was a case more obscure; and that,
so far from fathoming the secret of the whole affair, the
prosecution has not found out the first word of it."
M. Folgat takes his seat, and the sheriff's officers have to
interfere to prevent applause from breaking out. If the vote had
been taken at that moment, M. de Boiscoran would have been
But the proceedings are suspended for fifteen minutes; and in the
meantime the lamps are lit, for night begins to fall.
When the president resumes his chair, the attorney-general claims
his right to speak.
"I shall not reply as I had at first proposed. Count Claudieuse is
about to pay with his life for the effort which he has made to
place his evidence before you. He could not even be carried home.
He is perhaps at this very moment drawing his last breath upon
earth in the adjoining room."
The counsel for the defence do not desire to address the jury;
and, as the accused also declares that he has nothing more to say,
the president sums up, and the jurymen withdrew to their room to
The heat is overwhelming, the restraint almost unbearable; and all
faces bear the marks of oppressive fatigue; but nobody thinks of
leaving the house. A thousand contradictory reports circulate
through the excited crowd. Some say that Count Claudieuse has
died; others, on the contrary, report him better, and add that he
has sent for the priest from Brechy.
At last, a few minutes after nine o'clock, the jury reappears.
Jacques de Boiscoran is declared guilty, and, on the score of
extenuating circumstances, sentenced to twenty years' penal labor.