Mauprat eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 382 pages of information about Mauprat.

XXV

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

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Mauprat from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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