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Émile Gaboriau
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 483 pages of information about Within an Inch of His Life.

“‘Never was a case clearer,’ says the prosecution.  On the contrary, I maintain that never was a case more obscure; and that, so far from fathoming the secret of the whole affair, the prosecution has not found out the first word of it.”

M. Folgat takes his seat, and the sheriff’s officers have to interfere to prevent applause from breaking out.  If the vote had been taken at that moment, M. de Boiscoran would have been acquitted.

But the proceedings are suspended for fifteen minutes; and in the meantime the lamps are lit, for night begins to fall.

When the president resumes his chair, the attorney-general claims his right to speak.

“I shall not reply as I had at first proposed.  Count Claudieuse is about to pay with his life for the effort which he has made to place his evidence before you.  He could not even be carried home.  He is perhaps at this very moment drawing his last breath upon earth in the adjoining room.”

The counsel for the defence do not desire to address the jury; and, as the accused also declares that he has nothing more to say, the president sums up, and the jurymen withdrew to their room to deliberate.

The heat is overwhelming, the restraint almost unbearable; and all faces bear the marks of oppressive fatigue; but nobody thinks of leaving the house.  A thousand contradictory reports circulate through the excited crowd.  Some say that Count Claudieuse has died; others, on the contrary, report him better, and add that he has sent for the priest from Brechy.

At last, a few minutes after nine o’clock, the jury reappears.

Jacques de Boiscoran is declared guilty, and, on the score of extenuating circumstances, sentenced to twenty years’ penal labor.

THIRD PART—­COCOLEU

I.

Thus M. Galpin triumphed, and M. Gransiere had reason to be proud of his eloquence.  Jacques de Boiscoran had been found guilty.

But he looked calm, and even haughty, as the president, M. Domini, pronounced the terrible sentence, a thousand times braver at that moment than the man who, facing the squad of soldiers from whom he is to receive death, refuses to have his eyes bandaged, and himself gives the word of command with a firm voice.

That very morning, a few moments before the beginning of the trial, he had said to Dionysia,—­

“I know what is in store for me; but I am innocent.  They shall not see me turn pale, nor hear me ask for mercy.”

And, gathering up all the energy of which the human heart is capable, he had made a supreme effort at the decisive moment, and kept his word.

Turning quietly to his counsel at the moment when the last words of the president were lost among the din of the crowd, he said,—­

“Did I not tell you that the day would come when you yourself would be the first to put a weapon into my hands?”

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