For he had discovered everything, and now must bring matters to a crisis.
Adding to what he already knew, the story of an old nurse of Mlle. de la Verberie, the affidavit of an old servant who had always lived in the Clameran family, and the depositions of the Vesinet husband and wife who attended M. Lagors at his country house, the latter having been sent to him by Dubois (Fanferlot), with a good deal of information obtained from the prefecture of police, he had worked up a complete case, and could now act upon a chain of evidence without a missing link.
As he had predicted, he had been compelled to search into the distant past for the first causes of the crime of which Prosper had been the victim.
The following is the drama, as he wrote it out for the benefit of the judge of instruction, knowing that it would contain grounds for an indictment against the malefactors.
About two leagues from Tarascon, on the left bank of the Rhone, not far from the wonderful gardens of M. Audibert, stood the chateau of Clameran, a weather-stained, neglected, but massive structure.
Here lived, in 1841, the old Marquis de Clameran and his two sons, Gaston and Louis.
The marquis was an eccentric old man. He belonged to the race of nobles, now almost extinct, whose watches stopped in 1789, and who kept time with the past century.
More attached to his illusions than to his life, the old marquis insisted upon considering all the stirring events which had happened since the first revolution as a series of deplorable practical jokes.
Emigrating with the Count d’Artois, he did not return to France until 1815, with the allies.
He should have been thankful to Heaven for the recovery of a portion of his immense family estates; a comparatively small portion, to be sure, but full enough to support him comfortably: he said, however, that he did not think the few paltry acres were worth thanking God for.
At first, he tried every means to obtain an appointment at court; but seeing all his efforts fail, he resolved to retire to his chateau, which he did, after cursing and pitying his king, whom he had worshipped.
He soon became accustomed to the free and indolent life of a country gentleman.
Possessing fifteen thousand francs a year, he spent twenty-five or thirty thousand, borrowing from every source, saying that a genuine restoration would soon take place, and that then he would regain possession of all his properties.
Following his example, his younger son lived extravagantly. Louis was always in pursuit of adventure, and idled away his time in drinking and gambling. The elder son, Gaston, anxious to participate in the stirring events of the time, prepared himself for action by quietly working, studying, and reading certain papers and pamphlets surreptitiously received, the very mention of which was considered a hanging matter by his father.