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- Within an Inch of His Life - 60/111 -
in prison, and say to him. 'This woman has attempted her husband's life; but she had been your mistress, and you are her accomplice.'
"That is the situation, gentlemen!"
M. Magloire had stripped it of all unnecessary comments, of idle conjecture, and all sentimental phraseology, and placed it before them as it had to be looked at, in all its fearful simplicity.
Grandpapa Chandore was terrified. He rose, and said in an almost inaudible voice,--
"Ah, all is over indeed! Innocent, or guilty, Jacques de Boiscoran will be condemned."
M. Magloire made no reply.
"And that is," continued the old gentleman, "what you call justice!"
"Alas!" sighed M. Seneschal, "it is useless to deny it: trials by jury are a lottery."
M. de Chandore, driven nearly to madness by his despair, interrupted him,--
"In other words, Jacques's honor and life depend at this hour on a chance,--on the weather on the day of the trial, or the health of a juror. And if Jacques was the only one! But there is Dionysia's life, gentlemen, my child's life, also at stake. If you strike Jacques, you strike Dionysia!"
M. Folgat could hardly restrain a tear. M. Seneschal, and even the doctor, shuddered at such grief in an old man, who was threatened in all that was dearest to him,--in his one great love upon earth. He had taken the hand of the great advocate of Sauveterre, and, pressing it convulsively, he went on,--
"You will save him, Magloire, won't you? What does it matter whether he be innocent or guilty, since Dionysia loves him? You have saved so many in your life! It is well known the judges cannot resist the weight of your words. You will find means to save a poor, unhappy man who once was your friend."
The eminent lawyer looked cast-down, as if he had been guilty himself. When Dr. Seignebos saw this, he exclaimed,--
"What do you mean, friend Magloire? Are you no longer the man whose marvellous eloquence is the pride of our country? Hold your head up: for shame! Never was a nobler cause intrusted to you."
But he shook his head, and murmured,--
"I have no faith in it; and I cannot plead when my conscience does not furnish the arguments."
And becoming more and more embarrassed, he added,--
"Seignebos was right in saying just now, I am not the man for such a cause. Here all my experience would be of no use. It will be better to intrust it to my young brother here."
For the first time in his life, M. Folgat came here upon a case such as enables a man to rise to eminence, and to open a great future before him. For the first time, he came upon a case in which were united all the elements of supreme interest,--greatness of crime, eminence of victim, character of the accused, mystery, variety of opinions, difficulty of defence, and uncertainty of issue,--one of those causes for which an advocate is filled with enthusiasm, which he seizes upon with all his energies, and in which he shares all the anxiety and all the hopes with his client.
He would readily have given five years' income to be offered the management of this case; but he was, above all, an honest man. He said, therefore,--
"You would not think of abandoning M. de Boiscoran, M. Magloire?"
"You will be more useful to him than I can be," was the reply.
Perhaps M. Folgat was inwardly of the same opinion. Still he said,--
"You have not considered what an effect this would have."
"What would the public think if they heard all of a sudden that you had withdrawn? 'This affair of M. de Boiscoran must be a very bad one indeed,' they would say, 'that M. Magloire should refuse to plead in it.' And that would be an additional burden laid upon the unfortunate man."
The doctor gave his friend no time to reply.
"Magloire is not at liberty to withdraw," he said, "but he has the right to associate a brother-lawyer with himself. He must remain the advocate and counsel of M. de Boiscoran; but M. Folgat can lend him the assistance of his advice, the support of his youth and his activity, and even of his eloquence."
A passing blush colored the cheeks of the young lawyer.
"I am entirely at M. Magloire's service," he said.
The famous advocate of Sauveterre considered a while. After a few moments he turned to his young colleague, and asked him,--
"Have you any plan? Any idea? What would you do?"
To the astonishment of all, M. Folgat now revealed his true character to some extent. He looked taller, his face brightened up, his eyes shone brightly, and he said in a full, sonorous voice,--a voice which by its metallic ring made all hearts vibrate,--
"First of all, I should go and see M. de Boiscoran. He alone should determine my final decision. But my plan is formed now. I, gentlemen, I have faith, as I told you before. The man whom Miss Dionysia loves cannot be a criminal. What would I do? I would prove the truth of M. de Boiscoran's statement. Can that be done? I hope so. He tells us that there are no proofs or witnesses of his intimacy with the Countess Claudieuse. I am sure he is mistaken. She has shown, he says, extraordinary care and prudence. That may be. But mistrust challenges suspicion; and, when you take the greatest precautions, you are most likely to be watched. You want to hide, and you are discovered. You see nobody; but they see you.
"If I were charged with the defence, I should commence to-morrow a counter-investigation. We have money, the Marquis de Boiscoran has influential connections; and we should have help everywhere. Before forty-eight hours are gone, I should have experienced agents at work. I know Vine Street in Passy: it is a lonely street; but it has eyes, as all streets have. Why should not some of these eyes have noticed the mysterious visits of the countess? My agents would inquire from house to house. Nor would it be necessary to mention names. They would not be charged with a search after the Countess Claudieuse, but after an unknown lady, dressed so and so; and, if they should discover any one who had seen her, and who could identify her, that man would be our first witness.
"In the meantime, I should go in search of this friend of M. de Boiscoran's, this Englishman, whose name he assumed; and the London police would aid me in my efforts. If that Englishman is dead, we would hear of it, and it would be a misfortune. If he is only at the other end of the world, the transatlantic cable enables us to question him, and to be answered in a week.
"I should, at the same time, have sent detectives after that English maid-servant who attended to the house in Vine Street. M. de Boiscoran declares that she has never even caught a glimpse of the countess. I do not believe it. It is out of question that a servant should not wish for the means, and find them, of seeing the face of the woman who comes to see her master.
"And that is not all. There were other people who came to the house in Vine Street. I should examine them one by one,--the gardener and his help, the water-carrier, the upholsterer, the errand-boys of all the merchants. Who can say whether one of them is not in possession of this truth which we are seeking?
"Finally, when a woman has spent so many days in a house, it is almost impossible that she should not have left some traces of her passage behind her. Since then, you will say, there has been the war, and then the commune. Nevertheless, I should examine the ruins, every tree in the garden, every pane in the windows: I should compel the very mirrors that have escaped destruction to give me back the image which they have so often reflected."
"Ah, I call that speaking!" cried the doctor, full of enthusiasm.
The others trembled with excitement. They felt that the struggle was commencing. But, unmindful of the impression he had produced, M. Folgat went on,--
"Here in Sauveterre, the task would be more difficult; but, in case of success, the result, also, would be more decided. I should bring down from Paris one of those keen, subtle detectives who have made an art of their profession, and I should know how to stimulate his vanity. He, of course, would have to know every thing, even the names; but there would be no danger in that. His desire to succeed, the splendor of the reward, even his professional habits, would be our security. He would come down secretly, concealed under whatever disguise would appear to him most useful for his purpose; and he would begin once more, for the benefit of the defence, the investigation carried on by M. Galpin for the benefit of the prosecution. Would he find out any thing? We can but hope so. I know detectives, who, by the aid of smaller material, have unravelled far deeper mysteries."
Grandpapa Chandore, excellent M. Seneschal, Dr. Seignebos, and even M. Magloire, were literally drinking in the words of the Paris lawyer.
"Is that all, gentlemen?" he continued. "By no means! Thanks to his great experience, Dr. Seignebos had, on the very first day, instinctively guessed who was the most important personage of this mysterious drama."
"Exactly, Cocoleu. Whether he be actor, confident, or eye-witness, Cocoleu has evidently the key to this mystery. This key we must make every effort to obtain from him. Medical experts have just declared him idiotic; nevertheless, we protest. We claim that the imbecility of
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