Still the man hesitated: “Couldn’t you bring it?”
Maillochon exclaimed: “No, indeed! You know our price! Take it or leave it!”
The dealer decided: “It’s a bargain for twenty francs!”
And they shook hands over the deal.
Then he took out four big five-franc pieces from the cash drawer, and the two friends pocketed the money. Labouise arose, emptied his glass and left. As he was disappearing in the shadows he turned round to exclaim: “It isn’t a buck. I don’t know what it is!—but it’s there. I’ll give you back your money if you find nothing!”
And he disappeared in the darkness. Maillochon, who was following him, kept punching him in the back to express his joy.
As we were still talking about Pranzini, M. Maloureau, who had been attorney general under the Empire, said: “Oh! I formerly knew a very curious affair, curious for several reasons, as you will see.
“I was at that time imperial attorney in one of the provinces. I had to take up the case which has remained famous under the name of the Moiron case.
“Monsieur Moiron, who was a teacher in the north of France, enjoyed an excellent reputation throughout the whole country. He was a person of intelligence, quiet, very religious, a little taciturn; he had married in the district of Boislinot, where he exercised his profession. He had had three children, who had died of consumption, one after the other. From this time he seemed to bestow upon the youngsters confided to his care all the tenderness of his heart. With his own money he bought toys for his best scholars and for the good boys; he gave them little dinners and stuffed them with delicacies, candy and cakes: Everybody loved this good man with his big heart, when suddenly five of his pupils died, in a strange manner, one after the other. It was supposed that there was an epidemic due to the condition of the water, resulting from drought; they looked for the causes without being able to discover them, the more so that the symptoms were so peculiar. The children seemed to be attacked by a feeling of lassitude; they would not eat, they complained of pains in their stomachs, dragged along for a short time, and died in frightful suffering.
“A post-mortem examination was held over the last one, but nothing was discovered. The vitals were sent to Paris and analyzed, and they revealed the presence of no toxic substance.
“For a year nothing new developed; then two little boys, the best scholars in the class, Moiron’s favorites, died within four days of each other. An examination of the bodies was again ordered, and in both of them were discovered tiny fragments of crushed glass. The conclusion arrived at was that the two youngsters must imprudently have eaten from some carelessly cleaned receptacle. A glass broken over a pail of milk could have produced this frightful accident, and the affair would have been pushed no further if Moiron’s servant had not been taken sick at this time. The physician who was called in noticed the same symptoms he had seen in the children. He questioned her and obtained the admission that she had stolen and eaten some candies that had been bought by the teacher for his scholars.