“Before any thing is decided, there is one fact which you all ought to know. Listen.”
Pale like death, for it cost her a great struggle to reveal thus the secret of her heart, but with a voice full of energy, and an eye full of fire, she told them what she had already confessed to her grandfather; viz., the propositions she had made to Jacques, and his obstinate refusal to accede to them.
“Well done, madame!” said Dr. Seignebos, full of enthusiasm. “Well done! Jacques is very unfortunate, and still he is to be envied.”
Dionysia finished her recital. Then, turning with a triumphant air to M. Magloire, she added,—
“After that, is there any one yet who could believe that Jacques is a vile assassin?”
The eminent advocate of Sauveterre was not one of those men who prize their opinions more highly than truth itself.
“I confess,” he said, “that, if I were to go and see Jacques to-morrow for the first time, I should not speak to him as I did before.”
“And I,” exclaimed the Marquis de Boiscoran,—“I declare that I answer for my son as for myself, and I mean to tell him so to-morrow.”
Then turning towards his wife, and speaking so low, that she alone could hear him, he added,—
“And I hope you will forgive me those suspicions which now fill me with horror.”
But the marchioness had no strength left: she fainted, and had to be removed, accompanied by Dionysia and the Misses Lavarande. As soon as they were out of the room, Dr. Seignebos locked the door, rested his elbow on the chimney, and, taking off his spectacles to wipe them, said to M. Folgat,—
“Now we can speak freely. What news do you bring us?”
It had just struck eleven o’clock, when the jailer, Blangin, entered Jacques’s cell in great excitement, and said,—
“Sir, your father is down stairs.”
The prisoner jumped up, thunderstruck.
The night before he had received a note from M. de Chandore, informing him of the marquis’s arrival; and his whole time had since been spent in preparing himself for the interview. How would it be? He had nothing by which to judge. He had therefore determined to be quite reserved. And, whilst he was following Blangin along the dismal passage and down the interminable steps, he was busily composing respectful phrases, and trying to look self-possessed.
But, before he could utter a single word, he was in his father’s arms. He felt himself pressed against his heart, and heard him stammer,—
“Jacques, my dear son, my unfortunate child!”
In all his life, long and stormy as it had been, the marquis had not been tried so severely. Drawing Jacques to one of the parlor-windows, and leaning back a little, so as to see him better, he was amazed how he could ever have doubted his son. It seemed to him that he was standing there himself. He recognized his own feature and carriage, his own frank but rather haughty expression, his own clear, bright eye.