“Your son,” he cried, “your Jacques, I wish he were dead a thousand times! The wretch who is killing my child, for you see he is killing her.”
And, without pity, he told her the whole story of Jacques and the Countess Claudieuse. The marchioness was overcome. She had even ceased to sob, and had not strength enough left to ask him to have pity on her. And, when he had ended, she whispered to herself with an expression of unspeakable suffering,—
“Adultery! Oh, my God! what punishment!”
M. Folgat and M. Magloire went to the courthouse; and, as they descended the steep street from M. de Chandore’s house, the Paris lawyer said,—
“M. Galpin must fancy himself wonderfully safe in his position, that he should grant the defence permission to see all the papers of the prosecution.”
Ordinarily such leave is given only after the court has begun proceedings against the accused, and the presiding judge has questioned him. This looks like crying injustice to the prisoner; and hence arrangements can be made by which the rigor of the law is somewhat mitigated. With the consent of the commonwealth attorney, and upon his responsibility, the magistrate who had carried on the preliminary investigation may inform the accused, or his counsel, by word of mouth, or by a copy of all or of part, of what has happened during the first inquiry. That is what M. Galpin had done.
And on the part of a man who was ever ready to interpret the law in its strictest meaning, and who no more dared proceed without authority for every step than a blind man without his staff,—or on the part of such a man, an enemy, too, of M. de Boiscoran, this permission granted to the defence was full of meaning. But did it really mean what M. Folgat thought it did?
“I am almost sure you are mistaken,” said M. Magloire. “I know the good man, having practiced with him for many years. If he were sure of himself, he would be pitiless. If he is kind, he is afraid. This concession is a door which he keeps open, in case of defeat.”
The eminent counsel was right. However well convinced M. Galpin might be of Jacques’s guilt, he was still very much troubled about his means of defence. Twenty examinations had elicited nothing from his prisoner but protestations of innocence. When he was driven to the wall, he would reply,—
“I shall explain when I have seen my counsel.”
This is often the reply of the most stupid scamp, who only wants to gain time. But M. Galpin knew his former friend, and had too high an opinion of his mind, not to fear that there was something serious beneath his obstinate silence.
What was it? A clever falsehood? a cunningly-devised alibi? Or witnesses bribed long beforehand?
M. Galpin would have given much to know. And it was for the purpose of finding it out sooner, that he had given the permission. Before he granted it, however, he had conferred with the commonwealth attorney. Excellent M. Daubigeon, whom he found, as usual, admiring the beautiful gilt edging of his beloved books, had treated him badly.