M. de Chandore was bitterly undeceived.
“What!” he said, “you think so, and you refuse to support Dr. Seignebos, who is certainly an honest man?”
The young lawyer shook his head.
“I wanted to have twenty-four hours’ delay, because we must absolutely consult M. de Boiscoran. Could I tell the doctor so? Had I a right to take him into Miss Dionysia’s secret?”
“You are right,” murmured M. de Chandore, “you are right.”
But, in order to write to M. de Boiscoran, Dionysia’s assistance was necessary; and she did not reappear till the afternoon, looking very pale, but evidently armed with new courage.
M. Folgat dictated to her certain questions to ask the prisoner.
She hastened to write them in cipher; and about four o’clock the letter was sent to Mechinet, the clerk.
The next evening the answer came.
“Dr. Seignebos is no doubt right, my dear friends,” wrote Jacques. “I have but too good reasons to be sure that Cocoleu’s imbecility is partly assumed, and that his evidence has been prompted by others. Still I must beg you will take no steps that would lead to another medical investigation. The slightest imprudence may ruin me. For Heaven’s sake wait till the end of the preliminary investigation, which is now near at hand, from what M. Galpin tells me.”
The letter was read in the family circle; and the poor mother uttered a cry of despair as she heard those words of resignation.
“Are we going to obey him,” she said, “when we all know that he is ruining himself by his obstinacy?”
Dionysia rose, and said,—
“Jacques alone can judge his situation, and he alone, therefore, has the right to command. Our duty is to obey. I appeal to M. Folgat.”
The young advocate nodded his head.
“Every thing has been done that could be done,” he said. “Now we can only wait.”
The famous night of the fire at Valpinson had been a godsend to the good people of Sauveterre. They had henceforth an inexhaustible topic of discussion, ever new and ever rich in unexpected conjectures,—the Boiscoran case. When people met in the streets, they simply asked,—
“What are they doing now?”
Whenever, therefore, M. Galpin went from the court-house to the prison, or came striding up National Street with his stiff, slow step, twenty good housewives peeped from behind their curtains to read in his face some of the secrets of the trial. They saw, however, nothing there but traces of intense anxiety, and a pallor which became daily more marked. They said to each other,—
“You will see poor M. Galpin will catch the jaundice from it.”
The expression was commonplace; but it conveyed exactly the feelings of the ambitious lawyer. This Boiscoran case had become like a festering wound to him, which irritated him incessantly and intolerably.