“Yes,” murmured Claire, “she breathed her last in the idea that her son was guilty of a crime. And we were not able to undeceive her.”
“At least,” cried the count, “her son should be free to render her his last duties; yes, he must be. Noel!”
The advocate had approached his father, and heard all.
“I have promised, father,” he replied, “to save him.”
For the first time, Mademoiselle d’Arlange was face to face with Noel. Their eyes met, and she could not restrain a movement of repugnance, which the advocate perceived.
“Albert is already saved,” she said proudly. “What we ask is, that prompt justice shall be done him; that he shall be immediately set at liberty. The magistrate now knows the truth.”
“The truth?” exclaimed the advocate.
“Yes; Albert passed at my house, with me, the evening the crime was committed.”
Noel looked at her surprised; so singular a confession from such a mouth, without explanation, might well surprise him.
She drew herself up haughtily.
“I am Mademoiselle Claire d’Arlange, sir,” said she.
M. de Commarin now quickly ran over all the incidents reported by Claire.
When he had finished, Noel replied: “You see, sir, my position at this moment, to-morrow—”
“To-morrow?” interrupted the count, “you said, I believe, to-morrow! Honour demands, sir, that we act to-day, at this moment. You can show your love for this poor woman much better by delivering her son than by praying for her.”
Noel bowed low.
“To hear your wish, sir, is to obey it,” he said; “I go. This evening, at your house, I shall have the honour of giving you an account of my proceedings. Perhaps I shall be able to bring Albert with me.”
He spoke, and, again embracing the dead woman, went out.
Soon the count and Mademoiselle d’Arlange also retired.
The old soldier went to the Mayor, to give notice of the death, and to fulfil the necessary formalities.
The nun alone remained, awaiting the priest, which the cure had promised to send to watch the corpse.
The daughter of St. Vincent felt neither fear nor embarrassment, she had been so many times in a similar position. Her prayers said, she arose and went about the room, arranging everything as it should be in the presence of death. She removed all traces of the illness, put away the medicine bottles, burnt some sugar upon the fire shovel, and, on a table covered with a white cloth at the head of the bed, placed some lighted candles, a crucifix with holy water, and a branch of palm.
Greatly troubled and perplexed by Mademoiselle d’Arlange’s revelations, M. Daburon was ascending the stairs that led to the offices of the investigating magistrates, when he saw old Tabaret coming towards him. The sight pleased him, and he at once called out: “M. Tabaret!”