“This is strange language in the mouth of a Leadsman’s child!”
Christine appeared at a loss, for a moment, to comprehend his meaning; but, passing a hand across her fair brow she continued:
“I think I understand what you would say, mein Herr,” she said; “the world believes us to be without feeling and without hope. We are what we seem in the eyes of others because the law makes it so, but we are in our hearts like all around us, Herr Chatelain—with this difference, that, feeling our abasement among men, we lean more closely and more affectionately on God. You may condemn us to do your offices and to bear your dislike, but you cannot rob us of our trust in the justice of heaven. In that, at least, we are the equals of the proudest baron in the cantons!”
“The examination had better rest here,” said the prior, advancing with glistening eyes to interpose between the maiden and her interrogator. “Thou knowest, Herr Bourrit, that we have, other prisoners.”
The chatelain, who felt his own practised obduracy of feeling strangely giving way before the innocent and guileless faith of Christine, was not unwilling himself to change the direction of the inquiries. The family of Balthazar was directed to retire, and the attendants were commanded to bring forward Pippo and Conrad.
when thou thus
Shalt stand impleaded at the high tribunal
Of hoodwink’d Justice, who shall tell thy audit!
The buffoon and the pilgrim, though of a general appearance likely to excite distrust, presented themselves with the confidence and composure of innocence. Their examination was short, for the account they gave of their movements was clear and connected. Circumstances that were known to the monks, too, greatly aided in producing a conviction that they could have had no agency in the murder. They had left the valley below some hours before the arrival of Jacques Colis, and they reached the convent, weary and foot-sore, as was usual with all who ascended that long and toilsome path, shortly after the commencement of the storm. Measures had been taken by the local authorities, during the time lost in waiting the arrival of the bailiff and the chatelain, to ascertain all the minute facts which it was supposed would be useful in ferreting out the truth; and the results of these inquiries had also been favorable to these itinerants, whose habits of vagabondism might otherwise very justly have brought them within the pale of suspicion.
The flippant Pippo was the principal speaker in the short investigation, and his answers were given with a ready frankness, that, under the circumstances, did him and his companion infinite service. The buffoon, though accustomed to deception and frauds, had sufficient mother-wit to comprehend the critical position in which he was now placed, and that it was wiser to be sincere, than to attempt effecting his ends by any of the usual means of prevarication. He answered the judge, therefore, with a simplicity which his ordinary pursuits would not have given reason to expect, and apparently with some touches of feeling that did credit to his heart.