“One word will explain the whole thing to you: I was the lover of the Countess Claudieuse!”
If he had been less distressed, Jacques de Boiscoran would have seen how wisely had had acted in choosing for his defender the great advocate of Sauveterre. A stranger, M. Folgat, for instance, would have heard him silently, and would have seen in the revelation nothing but the fact without giving it a personal value. In M. Magloire, on the contrary, he saw what the whole country would feel. And M. Magloire, when he heard him declare that the Countess Claudieuse had been his mistress, looked indignant, and exclaimed,—
“That is impossible.”
At least Jacques was not surprised. He had been the first to say that they would refuse to believe him when he should speak; and this conviction had largely influenced him in keeping silence so long.
“It is impossible, I know,” he said; “and still it is so.”
“Give me proofs!” said M. Magloire.
“I have no proofs.”
The melancholy and sympathizing expression of the great lawyer changed instantly. He sternly glanced at the prisoner, and his eye spoke of amazement and indignation.
“There are things,” he said, “which it is rash to affirm when one is not able to support them with proof. Consider”—
“My situation forces me to tell all.”
“Why, then, did you wait so long?”
“I hoped I should be spared such a fearful extremity.”
“By the countess.”
M. Magloire’s face became darker and darker.
“I am not often accused of partiality,” he said. “Count Claudieuse is, perhaps, the only enemy I have in this country; but he is a bitter, fierce enemy. To keep me out of the chamber, and to prevent my obtaining many votes, he stooped to acts unworthy of a gentleman. I do not like him. But in justice I must say that I look upon the countess as the loftiest, the purest, and noblest type of the woman, the wife, and the mother.”
A bitter smile played on Jacques’s lips.
“And still I have been her lover,” he said.
“When? How? The countess lived at Valpinson: you lived in Paris.”
“Yes; but every year the countess came and spent the month of September in Paris; and I came occasionally to Boiscoran.”
“It is very singular that such an intrigue should never have been suspected even.”
“We managed to take our precautions.”
“And no one ever suspected any thing?”
But Jacques was at last becoming impatient at the attitude assumed by M. Magloire. He forgot that he had foreseen all the suspicions to which he found now he was exposed.
“Why do you ask all these questions?” he said. “You do not believe me. Well, be it so! Let me at least try to convince you. Will you listen to me?”