Then turning to the peasants, who were standing respectfully and uncovered close by the door, he asked them,—
“Where did you find this cartridge, my friends?”
“Close by the old tower, where they keep the tools, and where the ivy is growing all over the old castle.”
M. Seneschal had in the meantime succeeded in recovering his self-control, and said now,—
“Surely the murderer cannot have fired from there. You cannot even see the door of the house from the old tower.”
“That may be,” replied the magistrate; “but the cartridge-case does not necessarily fall to the ground at the place where the gun is discharged. It falls as soon as the gun is cocked to reload.”
This was so true, that even Dr. Seignebos had nothing to say.
“Now, my friends,” said M. Galpin, “which of you has found the cartridge-case?”
“We were all together when we saw it, and picked it up.”
“Well, then, all three of you must give me your names and your domicile, so that I can send for you when you are wanted.”
This was done; and, when all formalities were attended to, they went off with numberless bows and doffings of hats. Just at that moment the furious gallop of a horse was heard approaching the house; the next moment the man who had been sent to Sauveterre for medicines came in. He was furious.
“That rascal of a druggist!” he said. “I thought he would never open his shop!”
Dr. Seignebos had eagerly seized the things that were sent him, then, bowing with mock respect to the magistrate, he said,—
“I know very well, sir, how pressing the necessity is to have the head of the culprit cut off; but I think it is almost as pressing to save the life of the murdered man. I have probably delayed the binding up of the count’s wounds longer than I ought to have done; and I beg you will now leave me alone, so as to enable me to do my duty to him.”
There was nothing more to be done for the magistrate, the commonwealth attorney, or the mayor. The doctor might assuredly have used more polite language; but people were accustomed to his brutal ways; for it is surprising with what readiness men are tolerated in France, under the pretext that they are as they are, and that they must be taken as they are. The three gentlemen, therefore, left the room, after having bid farewell to the countess, and after having promised to send the count news of all that might be discovered.
The fire was going out for want of fuel. A few hours had sufficed to destroy all that the hard work and incessant cares of many years had accomplished. This charming and much envied estate presented now nothing but a few half calcined walls, heaps of black and gray ashes, and still glowing timbers, from which columns of smoke were slowly rising upward. Thanks to Capt. Parenteau, all that they had been able