“I soon caught up with them. It was now pitch dark. I was creeping up behind them softly, that they might not hear me. My mother was still crying. My father was saying: ’It’s all your own fault. Why did you wish to see him? It was absurd in our position. We could have helped him from afar, without showing ourselves. Of what use are these dangerous visits, since we can’t recognize him?’
“Then I rushed up to them, beseeching. I cried:
“’You see! You are my parents. You have already rejected me once; would you repulse me again?’
“Then, your honor, he struck me. I swear it on my honor, before the law and my country. He struck me, and as I seized him by the collar, he drew from his pocket a revolver.
“The blood rushed to my head, I no longer knew what I was doing, I had my compass in my pocket; I struck him with it as often as I could.
“Then she began to cry: ‘Help! murder!’ and to pull my beard. It seems that I killed her also. How do I know what I did then?
“Then, when I saw them both lying on the ground, without thinking, I threw them into the Seine.
“That’s all. Now sentence me.”
The prisoner sat down. After this revelation the case was carried over to the following session. It comes up very soon. If we were jurymen, what would we do with this parricide?
Dr. Bonnet, my old friend—one sometimes has friends older than one’s self—had often invited me to spend some time with him at Riom, and, as I did not know Auvergne, I made up my mind to visit him in the summer of 1876.
I arrived by the morning train, and the first person I saw on the platform was the doctor. He was dressed in a gray suit, and wore a soft, black, wide-brimmed, high-crowned felt hat, narrow at the top like a chimney pot, a hat which hardly any one except an Auvergnat would wear, and which reminded one of a charcoal burner. Dressed like that, the doctor had the appearance of an old young man, with his spare body under his thin coat, and his large head covered with white hair.
He embraced me with that evident pleasure which country people feel when they meet long-expected friends, and, stretching out his arm, he said proudly:
“This is Auvergne!” I saw nothing before me except a range of mountains, whose summits, which resembled truncated cones, must have been extinct volcanoes.
Then, pointing to the name of the station, he said:
“Riom, the fatherland of magistrates, the pride of the magistracy, and which ought rather to be the fatherland of doctors.”
“Why?” I, asked.
“Why?” he replied with a laugh. “If you transpose the letters, you have the Latin word ‘mori’, to die. That is the reason why I settled here, my young friend.”
And, delighted at his own joke, he carried me off, rubbing his hands.