M. de Boiscoran hung his head. The magistrate went on,—
“You confess, then, that last night, between ten and eleven you were at Valpinson?”
“No, sir, I do not.”
“But this cartridge-case which I have just shown you was picked up at Valpinson, close by the ruins of the old castle.”
“Well, sir, have I not told you before that I have seen a hundred times children pick up these cases to play with? Besides, if I had really been at Valpinson, why should I deny it?”
M. Galpin rose to his full height, and said in the most solemn manner,—
“I am going to tell you why! Last night, between ten and eleven, Valpinson was set on fire; and it has been burnt to the ground.”
“Last night Count Claudieuse was fired at twice.”
“And it is thought, in fact there are strong reasons to think, that you, Jacques de Boiscoran, are the incendiary and the assassin.”
M. de Boiscoran looked around him like a man who has suddenly been seized with vertigo, pale, as if all his blood had rushed to his heart.
He saw nothing but mournful, dismayed faces.
Anthony, his old trusted servant, was leaning against the doorpost, as if he feared to fall. The clerk was mending his pen in the air, overcome with amazement. M. Daubigeon hung his head.
“This is horrible!” he murmured: “this is horrible!”
He fell heavily into a chair, pressing his hands on his heart, as if to keep down the sobs that threatened to rise. M. Galpin alone seemed to remain perfectly cool. The law, which he imagined he was representing in all its dignity, knows nothing of emotions. His thin lips even trembled a little, as if a slight smile was about to burst forth: it was the cold smile of the ambitious man, who thinks he has played his little part well.
Did not every thing tend to prove that Jacques de Boiscoran was the guilty man, and that, in the alternative between a friend, and an opportunity of gaining high distinction, he had chosen well? After the silence of a minute, which seemed to be a century, he went and stood, with arms crossed on his chest, before the accused, and asked him,—
“Do you confess?”
M. de Boiscoran sprang up as if moved by a spring, and said,—
“What? What do you want me to confess?”
“That you have committed the crime at Valpinson.”
The young man pressed his hands convulsively on his brow, and cried out,—
“But I am mad! I should have committed such a fearful, cowardly crime? Is that possible? Is that likely? I might confess, and you would not believe me. No! I am sure you would not believe my own words.”
He would have moved the marble on his mantelpiece sooner than M. Galpin. The latter replied in icy tones,—
“I am not part of the question here. Why will you refer to relations which must be forgotten? It is no longer the friend who speaks to you, not even the man, but simply the magistrate. You were seen”—