The Dead House
The lanthorns of the workmen employed in erecting a scaffold for a sentenced criminal had been extinguished in the prison of Avignon when two persons were seen walking together under its dark piazza near midnight.
“The task of proof is the accusers’. I am ready for mine.”
These words spoken in a deep whisper, were answered in a more careless tone. “You know I have exchanged the sword for the pen, and a lawyer’s is not the weakest weapon of the two. My friend, take my advice and let us remove this smuggler as your namesake rid himself of the pirate Earl.”
“Where would you find a Hermitage for this Bothwell?”
“Under the scaffold. He is sentenced and should die at day-break. I delayed one day to see you and learn if more questions should be asked in private.”
There was a brief pause, and the first speaker suddenly stopped. “Prefect, you have often challenged me to ask a favor. Save this man’s life. If it is forfeited to justice, let our laws take it. He has outraged them more than yours, and his evidence might be a better atonement than his death.”
“Well!” returned the French advocate in his usual bland and joyous tone, “I know the worst use you can make of a man is to hang him. But, Chevalier, remember your position. You are a Henry Stewart and your wife a lovely Mary. Beware of a second Kirk of Field.”
Stewart’s brow glowed like heated iron, then became darkly pale. The Frenchman proceeded. “You have enemies. Compare these letters with the scroll left in your lady’s chamber.”
The scroll to which Wallace had attempted to extort her signature, proposing to leave her personal liberty unquestioned on certain conditions, was in Stewart’s hand. “Observe this letter warning me to place under strict surveillance a traveller calling himself Henry Stewart, lieutenant-colonel of British cavalry — a name included in the list of those slain at Toulouse.”
“I know the autograph, and you may remember, Prefect, the assault committed in the Pass of Arve on an English traveller’s cabriolet. Why should we lose a witness?”
Because this Swiss stroller, prince of packs and margrave of mousetraps, would be no sufficient witness against heavy truths. Look, my good friend, on the gilt side of your kinsman’s shield. He has married the heiress, and will think no price too great for secrecy. Your Marianne is safe from all future threats or claims, My father-in-law may cover the Bend Sinister by adopting St. Julien’s gift as his grandson. Leave Claude to our judges and the curtain drops over all.”
Stewart concealed a smile of powerful sarcasm. “Over all except by doubts. I must see this Claude and hear in you presence whether he abides by his assertion. Thus far I am willing that he should believe himself in the last hour of life and therefore without bribe to falsehood, but I claim a right, Prefect, to be heard in his behalf.”
The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders. “At your own risk, my friend, we have only two certainties: his avarice and his cunning. Think again. You cannot ask the new-made duchess, the Grand-Marshals’ wife, to remember or attest her visit to yours as a Swiss soubrette — his divorce will be published next week, and her elopement is known already, perhaps, to some Alpine bear-hunter. The Scotch contrabandiste Ma. Maquestin, may die or be insane in our hospital at Avignon, where we shall keep her, but if my father-in-law’s heirs ask questions —”
“They shall be answered, Prefect. Am I to understand the statements I have received from Claude and Macquestin were ungarbled and unconstrained?”
“Faith,” said the Prefect laughing, “those letters answer for me. You will see your kinsman’s hints what questions should be asked and what answers registered. The tree of knowledge, says Mahomet, is the tree of penitence.”
“Take a branch yourself, Prefect,” added a third voice, and leaping from the prison-wall, Claude disappeared.
The night was dark and stormy. Stewart walked slowly through the intricate streets of Avignon, uncertain whether he had taken the safest way to the Hotel du Ville, when he found himself in a close avenue between a heap of irregular half-ruined buildings probably the remnant of some Roman aqueduct. A crevice rudely shaped into a casement opened above him and a white mass fell at his feet. The first impulse was to raise it as its size was not unlike an infant; the next to look around with surprise, almost dismay. Its contents were too well known. Before he could resolve either to spurn or crush this ghastly evidence, and he hesitated only an instant, two gendarmes rushed on him, seized and uncovered the small covert of a child’s remains and conveyed him to the bureau of a police intendant. Stewart’s statement was simple and brief — the gendarmes had theirs, and his request to summon the Prefect and other witnesses of his credit and station were answered by a committal to the prison of Avignon till they could be found. Very contrary to his expectations, the next day passed without intelligence of his friends or his accusers. Towards night the attendant of his prison brought wine and seemed disposed to linger. “Your letter to the Prefect if of no use,” he said; “write no more letters. They will not be sent. If you mean to escape, say you will appeal to the consul tomorrow, and give my deputy a passe tonight. He is a sleepy Swiss and forgets his keys.” “I shall appeal to the consul and pay you according to your treatment. Your commissary will find his prisoner is an English subject, provided with his minister’s visa.” “Well, fools wait for tomorrow and tonight belongs to the wise. You have my notion. A Frenchman would have said he had bought a specimen of anatomy and feed some surgeon’s pupil to own the purchase and take the price. Yours may be paid under the fifth rib.” He lifted his shoulders and finger with a strange glance and departed. The hint was ominous. Stewart had English coolness but no cowardly contempt of life. He felt and measured his danger which seemed imminent. Assassination might be attempted by those who had already dealt too audaciously with death. No weapon had been left in his possession and he looked round for some instrument of defence. The squalid cell afforded none except an iron bar or sconce carelessly attached to the wall and now supporting a lamp. He seated himself beneath it and awaited day-light, resolved to watch and take no rest. But sleep, perhaps the result of intense excitement, began to confuse his memory. Favored by the darkness always under a lamp, a man crept behind him and raised one hand to extinguish it. Stewart saw the shadow of that hand and fixing his own on the intruder’s leg, hurled him against the stone pavement with sufficient energy. Then throwing the lamp from its socket and wrapping himself in a cloak the assassin had dropped, he approached the door and found it ajar. Should he depart or confront the sequel? It might be fatal. The gaoler was dead or speechless — appearances most unfavorable, and the justice of the French tribunal to an alien very doubtful. He wrenched the lamp-iron from its place, the pass-key from his prison-door, and entered the narrow passage beyond. A muffled man sat on the stairs. “So soon finished! Is he quiet?” “Quiet enough,” was muttered in reply. “Well! take your earnings — these English often do their own work well. Take it, I say, and begone.” As if by accident Stewart touched the sleeve of the arm held towards him and grasped the hand which offered a purse. “Fool, take it — lights are coming and the sentinel — Hush! — to the left till he passes.” The hand he pressed seemed strangely scarred and shrunk.
There was no necessity to linger. Stewart saw he was in a paved court guarded on three sides by the bastions of the prison, on the fourth by a wall strongly spike. He twisted his coarse borrowed cloak round the curved lamp-iron, fixed it firmly on the spikes, and raising himself till he could grasp them, was soon on the other side, and a bold leap cleared the fosse of the prison. With the cloak, the key, and the purse as evidences, he made his way to the Prefect’s house and told the romance of the night. His friend listened gravely, advised his stay till the plot was unravelled, and shewed him the necessity of opposing policy to fraud. “We have stones to deal with — let us waste no blows with a silver hammer.”
At a customary hour next morning, the Prefect’s banker was requested to attend him. “I have a commercial friend, M. Brom,” said the magistrate, “whose bills of exchange are not negotiable in Provence. Favor me with the amount of these in Belgian coin.”
The Banker paused to consider. “I could have supplied the whole yesterday, but I doubt my store of gold or silver six-dollars. My cashier carried two hundred to the concierge at the request of an English correspondent and — you have heard his adventure, Prefect? Robbed and left half-dead.”
“Nothing accurate — that is, I had no judicial authority to enquire. How is the matter stated?”
“Strangely enough. Fire was seen in the lower department of the prison two hours after midnight. The serjeants of police found my accountant and one of the gaolers in the west-room with strong tokens of assault and robbery.”
“Where was the gold?”
“Gone, and the English prisoner missing. He must have been thief, incendiary, and assassin. Two victims, Prefect!” Warmed by his own imagination, the financier gave a thrilling narrative of the proofs.
“Listen, my good friend. Your clerk leaves you at an early hour of business — is seen at the bureau of our police, obtains admission and a conference with the Englishman’s keeper. The Englishman is in the streets of Avignon before midnight. No lamp or fire-light is observed in his prison-window by the patrol — no alarm in the interior. How were these two persons employed during seven hours?”
“Suffocation, M. Prefect, stupor caused by vapour of charcoal. Look at the chamber — you will find the door half-consumed — the ante-room blackened and —”
“And the chamber itself comfortably locked inside, the stove cool and the lamp-oil fresh-spilt. Men seldom leave such business so unfinished. Your clerk has had some contraband affair with the gaoler and thinks fit to end it in smoke. Make yourself easy. The good man’s wounds are all skin-deep and his new coat so cautiously kept unhurt, he must have made his toilette after staining his throat with currant-jelly. The gaoler will lose his place and share a few of your six-dollars.”
The scrivener shook his head and the Prefect accompanied him to see the “victims” and hear their statements. He surveyed, listened, and returned to his own mansion without committing his opinion farther, except by recommending the frightened man of money to suspend his.
“Well,” he said laughing as he closed the double doors of his private cabinet, “these fellows, Chevalier, have blundered to good purpose, The accursed box is burned to ashes in the ante-room where the Rhadamanthus of our tribunal deposits such records. Poor Brom’s cashier says some apparition of a dark man frightened him into a swoon till smoke wakened him. The gaoler lay stark and stiff, but very neatly reposed on a rug before the stove. The sentinel says he heard no clamour, the fire must have been deliberately kindled two hours after your departure, and the clerk’s smooth sleeve shows the very print you intended to leave on it.”
“But his accomplice — is he dead?”
“He is or seems insensible, his thick skull really cracked but not incurably. Come, you think I jest unseasonably. There you mistake — the jest is in the judgement of our three sages — the Commissaries of Police. It has pleased their wisdom to discover and excuse the culprits never thought of. The two rogues, we are to believe, quarreled over the bribe left by the rich Englishman; the strongest broke his rival’s os frontis with a harder piece of iron, burnt useless things and slept till it was convenient to be wakened.”
“But I am in your custody — let me challenge and compell justice.”
“Nonsense, English nonsense, my dear chevalier. French Justice may be seen sometimes as the sculptor shews her in our church — standing on the leg of a goose.. She can watch our capitol as the Roman birds did theirs, and serve it best by cackling. Have you no respect for the Second-sight they have learnt from this Scotch lawyer?”
“Fie, I must uncure my tale, as your Hamlet says. This usurer’s clerk is or was an emigrant from your North-country, skilled in seeing things as they should or might be. Therefore he puts money into his purse from his employer’s, and contrives to burn forged instructions.”
“Prefect, I must know by whom and on what pretence he was instructed to pay the knavish keeper these fifty pieces of gold. He must be an agent of some unseen and powerful plotter. Can we not discover the inhabitants of that ruined pent-house from whence the box was thrown?”
“Say, the pest-house. I have set our wolf-dogs on the scent, and if the birds of prey return to their garbage, we shall find them. But, my chevalier, our contrabandistes have the cunning of Arabs and the tough stubbornness of your Scottish theives. Let us gather figs from thistles, if any are hid under them. This clerk or cashier says his commission or instruction (burnt of course) came from a Scotchman name Grandalme or Glenalme — you know this seems the travelling title — the nec-nomine of your kinsman. He is from the Gascony of England — his accomplice is his clansman by birth and trade. You are free — leave them in their darkness.”
Some truth was mixed with the Frenchman’s sophistry. It was difficult to judge, impossible to prove whether this mysterious fraud had been planned to extricate him from a great and disgraceful danger or to deepen it. But Justice in Avignon had no feet, and Stewart found even its effigy carried away by public tumults. The prisoners in the Concierge, including Claude, had availed themselves of the fire to escape unnoticed. All the archives and documents of the criminal court were or supposed to be consumed, and the President, an agitator raised to his office during the fever of the “Hundred Days” was superseded by a civilian too politic to find any charge against an Englishman. The wounded men, gaoler and the Banker’s cashier were punished only by dismission from their employments and made haste to banish themselves. Of the mysterious jewel-casket no remnant could be found among the ruins caused or begun by the fire, as as the populace, both Buonapartists and Bourbonites had agreed in plunder, the disappearance of its rich silver clasps and antique cypher was not marvellous; nor were the relics of human skeletons extraordinary within the precincts of a prison. None admitted proof as fragments of those which these incidents had brought into startling remembrance. After the strictest search to be obtained from French gendarmes prompted by fifty gold coins, nothing could be learned concerning the obscure building in the suburb where Stewart’s adventure had begun, except that it had been a caravanserai for outlaws, gypsies, Swiss smugglers and their dogs. Two circumstances seemed to connect this den with the prison-scene. In a bare chamber with a window from which the street might have been overlooked, a remnant of tarpaulin was found tied with a sailor’s rope into a form resembling the ebony box of such fatal notoriety. A morsel of similar rope was in the pocket of a gaoler’s coat, and on the tarpaulin some letters not quite effaced nearly formed the ward Staller. Macaire, as the Banker’s clerk called himself, was known to hold some correspondence with a mariner of that name, and the police-officers remembered to have seen it on a suspected passport. Very unwillingly the Prefect made official notes of these particulars, and counselled his friend to be content with secrecy. “Truth need not go undrest through the city or stalk among hot ploughshares. We must wear glass masks when we handle poisons. Enquire for Madame Claus Duval in the seventh floor of Staller’s House, and beware of a shadow on the wall!”
* * *
“Now,” said Claude to his companion, as they cowered under the shadow of a chimney in their rendezvous, “if these fools had looked here without a torch, I should not have had to thank two shadows on the wall.”
“Two! Where was the first?” — “When I was a light lad with a pedlar’s pack, not a widow’s weeds, on my back.”
“Well, success and health to such widows. Finish your flask, Monsieur or Madame Claus Duval, and begin the story.”
The Prefect of Avignon was reposing in his rich library when a packet, bearing the seal of an English peer, high in judicial office, was laid before him. He read the contents twice, smiled as he gave a glance to the rare works of art and literature round him, another to the mirror which reflected his graceful figure. Then drawing nearer the magnificent ink-stand, a tribute to his merits from his fellow-citizens, he smiled again at the poetical inscription, and began this reply to his English correspondent.
“You have honoured me with an appeal to my experience and discernment: I commit to yours a series of circumstances which require both.
“One of your countrymen, hospitably received in France, tenanted a villa on the banks of the Rhone, called in allusion to a pastoral and peculiar custom la Petite Rosiere. Notwithstanding its picturesque position and this favorite custom, it had long been uninhabited and rendered fearful by the mysterious robber and homicide supposed to have happened there. However the Englishman brought his bride, and bearing an honourable name, was a welcome tenant. But they seemed of more than English habits of reserve. The husband never introduced his wife to neighbours — the wife declined or was not permitted visits or excursions. There were whispers that the place, as your poet says, was accurst, and that the present occupiers knew the tragic history of the former tenant, their countryman and kinsman. After one year’s residence in la Rosiere, they spoke of removal but the lady disappeared alone. My official duties compelled enquiry, and our search was unsparing. The terrace-garden of the villa overhung the Rhone and its steep bank was covered with rose-trees she had planted to supply the annual fête. A slipper and veil were found among them, and some weeks after, the remains of a female in the deepest curve of the river. They were so decomposed and mutilated that identity could not be proved though rendered probable by the sex, height, and hair. Her husband neither expressed unbelief nor assent, and they were interred without a name, in the chapel of St. Medard.
“Suspicion was inevitable and it wavered between elopement and suicide. The few who had seen the Englishman’s home spoke of his wife as beautiful and graceful but seldom familiar, never caressing nor confiding. There were rumours that she had wronged her husband and herself by some dangerous secret. Before her disappearance a box or casket had been mysteriously found at la Rosiere, containing evidence of an infant’s death, concealed at least, if accidental. Fear, remorse, or despair might have determined her to seek death or its semblance.
“Another conjecture rose. She had been last seen waiting on the terrace at a late dark hour for her husband’s return from Avignon, where he had attended the civil tribunal as a witness if favor of a supposed offender. His testimony was opposed by questioning his right to the name he bore. It appeared among those of the many brave men slain at Toulouse, and he was taxed with imposture. I know him to be ever chivalrously brave, a scholar, and an adept in all manly exercises, but my entire faith in his honour was no legal proof. Perhaps his wife might have received or formed some frightful suggestion of a doubt, and had perished in attempting to escape. None thought of abduction or assassination.
“Some months after this event, a small agate brooch was found near St. Medard’s chapel by two schoolboys. The toy had no glitter, and they exchanged it for honey at a chalet in Salency. The mistress shewed it to a shrewd agent of the police, her brother, telling him she had seen it worn by a young insane pauper fond of being called la Baronne, and of wearing tinsel finery. This poor vagrant had been absent from her usual haunts till she was almost forgotten, but the villagers now remembered that on the day of the English lady’s disappearance, the lunatic had talked with extreme glee of her own expected marriage to some rich man who would dress her in fine linen and send a boat to bring her down the Rhone. I sent an official emissary to ascertain the girl’s fate, and by mingling with the rovers in Free Trade, he learned that a female in the tinsel rags often worn by la Baronne had been found in one of their midnight visits, half dead with cold and fatigue, in their covert near St. Medard’s chapel. She told them in French and English, that she had been dragged from the terrace of her husband’s house into the Rhone, and held forcible under water till his dog seized one of her assailants by the throat. She escaped in the struggle and heard the dog howling dismally. In agony of fear, she had crept into the nearest covert, to wait for daylight, and the contrabandistes, not choosing to trust her with the secret of their hoard, carried her to one of their wine-houses to be warmed and fed, till they could place her at a safe distance, from whence she might begin her usual wandering as a mendicant. She took, they believed, the road to Paris or Chantilly.
“This wine-house or chalet had many spies paid by the Correctional Police, but they had only observed two or three women visiting or leaving it in carts well-known at such depôts. Our emissary chose an hour when the servant, half an idiot, might be expected to be alone, and found her sufficiently familiar. He remarked under her coarse camisole a white silk corset frayed and discoloured, and the remnant of a very delicate handkerchief. Being jocosely asked if they were provided for her wedding-day, she said her aunts had burnt many gayer things, but the silk and the kerchief had been too wet to burn readily and they seemed worth saving for herself. The officer begged the cambric as a love-token, and had scarcely time to secure it before the aunts, as she called them, entered the house. The lower part was a stable or cow-house, the upper a long room not less dark and dirty, with four bedsteads in a close row. He crept under one of which he knew the secret, and while the beldames opened their flasks, slid through a trap-door, gave signals to his party, and Claus Babati with his comrade Larron, two daring contrabandistes, were seized in their female attire with their domestic. They made no change in their account of la Baronne. Part of her dress, they said, was rent to fragments, and therefore burnt; her English words did not surprise them because she was or supposed herself related to the English favorite of the Prince de Condi, and went from their wine-house in more decent attire to seek his palace in or near Paris.
“But the embroidered handkerchief was recognized by a villager near la Rosiere, the pattern having been drawn by the Lady of the villa, and she specially remembered this, being a wreath of roses, intended as a memorial of the prize-crown the embroideress had received at the fête of St. Medard. The wine-shop of the smugglers and the old chapel were rigorously searched – another slipper bearing the lady’s initial, and a few long silky hairs entangled in a briar were all we found, but they were only enough to raise without confirming doubt. These circumstances might be adapted either to the lost wife or the beggar — both had disappeared about the same period, neither were discovered. The wife had a husband probably suspicious, certainly suspected; the beggar had a powerful and unscrupulous kinswoman, as certainly ashamed of her poor followers.
“You perceive, my lord, where these doubts rest, slender as they may seem, and you know how a cobweb in a telescope may cause darkness. Both public justice and private friendship require the immediate presence of those who have known the English Husband longest and can defend him best against deadly charges. He remains here, confronting them with a cool and steadfast courage which confirms the trust of his friend,
“Aubri de St. Medard, Prefect.”
All the idlers of Avignon collected in the Hall of Justice to witness the trial of Claus or Claude Babati for the abduction of a female and connivance in her violent death. To these was added the charge of infanticide, an addition unexpected by the public, and the English names involved in the whole, excited deep interest among all classes. May came in expectation of the keen encounter probable between the Public Accuser and the prisoner’s advocate, both of British ancestry, but opposite in politics as in person. Verdique, the official prosecutor, folded his arms and fixed his dark eyes sternly on his rival serjeant, who shook his crisp curls and smiled on the brilliant belles among the audience, few fairer and more blooming than himself.
After repeating drily but distinctly the circumstances stated in the Prefect’s narrative, the Procureur du Roi darkened his brow and added, “The prisoner has admitted much, and we can show him that a female of the age and class of his victim came to his chalet on the — day in — 1815 and left a newborn boy under his care. By the orders of another person this infant was conveyed to Brussels and mysteriously left with the wife of an English officer, then believed among the slain. She appeared at the villa in this neighbourhood, as we know, and was removed by means not yet proved. But a day or two before that strange removal, a box or casket of curious workmanship was found among the ruins of her garden-pavilion — ruins caused by fire a few hours before. I shall leave my hearers to view the contents.”
A sound like the murmur of a furnace or the rush of winds heard under the ice of a frozen lake, rose in the court when the casket was opened and discovered among the feathers of an Indian bird, a ghastly spectacle.
“Here!” said the Accuser with the theatric craft allowed in French tribunals, “here is a certain evidence of an infant’s death concealed if not violent. But we have living witnesses.”
Two witnesses, the innkeeper from Brussels and his wife, proved the arrival of the infant and its disappearance on the same day: a villager from les Rosieres detailed the secret visits of the Accused to the garden of the villa during the fire on the eve of the Feast of Roses. He had been seen among the riotous crowd, foremost in attack and plunder. Other circumstances, completing the chain of proofs, were clearly and closely traced. As the prosecutor finished his appeal in a tone of triumph, the prisoner only cast a viper’s glance at him and smiled as his own advocate rose.
“Messieurs, (the young pleader began) I regret to remind you that the chateau of les Rosieres was inhabited by an English nobleman, whose assassins have been undiscovered more than twenty years — a reproach to our Justice which ought not to render present haste an excuse for past tardiness. I regret more that I must accuse the Dead of errors which have caused crimes. He married obscurely, perhaps only in semblance, a forgot that example is a law and licence to guilt. He wronged his offspring by teaching them how wrongs may be varnished.”
“Our Brother,” interposed the Procurer du Roi, “travels from his course. We have no right to judge the dead or punish the innocent for his errors.”
“I insist,” interposed his opponent, “that they are deprived of innocence. The children of such parents must learn eitehr to despise of hate social order — their Father shews them blind and cruel selfishness. What does the Mother teach? If the serpents of shame and remorese are crushed, another and worse brood have devoured them — avarice, ambition, perhaps revenge. Has weakness no cunning — passion no obstinacy? We find oil and iron in honey and in water.”
Then, as if to prove the truth of his comparison, the pleader changed his soft glance and silver voice into fire and thunder. “Was not this man’s daughter tempted to err? She had seen trespasses easily veiled and might expect as gracious indulgence. But her confidante was ill chosen and his second employer a coward, a miser, and perhaps a felon. He hears me and I need no name him now.”
The ominous pause was prolonged by a sealed billet placed in the Advocate’s hand. “Messieurs, an unexpected witness!”
A pale slender boy was led in and placed where he could not see the accused. His face was not without beauty and expression, but both seemed blighted. He looked reverently at the Judges and with more gladness than fear at the immense assembly, as if they ensured his safety.
“You are among friends,” said his examiner resuming a bland tone. “What is your name?”
“They call me Blaise sometimes.”
“Do you know your parents?”
“Old Babati does — he is my grandfather.”
“Where were you on the eve of the Feast of Roses?”
“Fishing in the Rhone — they would not let me see the feast though they went themselves.”
“Who prevented you?”
“My grandfather and Babet — they gave her things to shine here, and here, and here (he pointed to his ears, neck, and hands) and she stayed at home till the boat came.”
By gentle questions he was led to tell that other presons, frequent visitors at Babati’s wine-house, were meant by the pronoun “they.” Whether these guests were females or only men disguised he could not know and seemed too dull to guess, though his answers were simple and direct.
“You told us of a boat — who came in it?”
“I dared not look — because — because I had seen it before.”
“When and where?”
The boy shuddered and grew suddenly and deadly pale. His eyes were fixed on a remote corner of the Hall.
“You have spoken well,” said the elder Judge, “why are you silent now?” The witness clung to his examiner whispering “he is there.”
Several persons, the occupiers of the remote bench among the audience, were ordered to place themselves before the witness and the Judges. A deep and awful silence followed: of the group thus subjected to a multitude of eyes, the principal figures were men of various ages and nations, and in attitudes shewing as different degrees of character though not far unlike in dress. The witness was commanded to name or signify the individual he knew. A finger slowly raised and pointed at the least remarkable person caused another strange silence, broken at last by the question of the Judge.
“Boy, you are safe — speak freely and truly. Who is this man, and where have you known him?”
“They call him Claude Larron. I saw him in the boat.”
“On the eve of the Festival of Roses?”
“No — when I was hidden in the boat — long — long ago. Hush! he will kill me.”
“Fear nothing, child, and answer us. What was done then?”
“They brought an old man into the cabin and made him sign a paper — then he bandaged his eyes and I saw him no more. They did not see me, but I saw knives and — He had one under that cloak.”
Paralysed either by remembrance of the past or fear of present peril, the boy fell down in a swoon.
At a sign from the presiding Judge, the cloak was removed from the wearer’s shoulders and displayed before the court. It was of rich and fashionable form, but with a fold concealing a knife of that particular mechanism known in Paris, capable of suddenly obtruding a very keen blade from a small delicately polished handle.
“Monsieur,” said the President, “you will not refuse to acquaint us with your real name and your remembrance of the incident we have heard described.”
“As an Englishman,” the stranger answered in a firm clear voice, “I might claim exemption from your laws and deny your authority. But my name will answer the charge — I am Stewart, of the oldest and noblest house in Britain, and my station is well known in French Society. The envoy of my country and the inhabitants of Avignon will confirm my statement. Other men wear such cloaks and such couteaux-de-chasse as you have seen, and some perhaps of my age and nation may find wine-houses and boats kept by contrabandistes useful. He looked sternly a slowly round the hall as if seeking a person who resembled him.
The young witness now shewed signs of recovered animation, and the official Prosecutor asked leave to question him. The first reply surprised the audience. “He came in the boat with the muffled woman and said she was his wife — a false wicked one who had killed her child and hid it with a dead bird. He laughed to think they would find it on the Feast of Roses. . . . and I thought they would kill the woman for they carried her away, struggling and stifled.”
The examiner, unprepared for this new light on his cause, was silent, and the prisoner’s advocate suddenly left the court. That strange sound “the whisper of a multitude” gradually rose into a shout, but more resembling applause than menace, while the doors of the hall opened to admit a lady thickly veiled and leaning on the advocate of the Accused. He advanced to the tribunal with the utmost grace of a practised pleader and addressed his audience in the tone always successful.
“Frenchmen,” he said, “will not be surprised if the Marshal Duke de St. Simon, after aiding the glory of France, assists in the triumph of Justice. In this mysterious cause we have had witnesses from the grave and from the very house of crime — I bring you one from the Palace of Honour.”
He led his veiled companion to her place and the crowd with amazement and delight saw the beautiful Duchess de St. Simon, the wife of Napoleon’s most popular Marshal, preparing to speak.
“I am,” she began with a charming smile of mixed pride and frankness, “the daughter of this old man, and Blaise Babuti is my brother’s son. I was in their chalet when a lady left her babe under my care, and I travelled with it to Brussels as its nurse and expected to see it received or claimed. Claude Larron, my half-brother, told me this lady had been born poor as ourselves but was now too rich to confess herself is wife and the mother of his son. At Brussels the infant was taken from me and I returned to the chalet alone.”
“Will the Duchess tell us,” asked the senior Judge, “if she saw at Brussels the mother of this lost child, or if she now sees either of its parents?”
“I see,” she replied, “a person who often visited my grandfather’s wine-house and employed his boat. I have seen him in a sailor’s dress, once worn by my brother Claude; and on the eve of the Festival at les Rosieres, my brother said his wife was at the villa and should find her child nearer than she believed.”
“Then,” resumed the Judge when the murmur in the court had ceased, “Claude himself concealed this terrible evidence in the garden where the mother might discover it?”
“The mother hear me and can answer. Her son lives and you see him standing before you with his grandfather Babuti.”
As these words were slowly pronounced, a splendid figure was seen striving to escape from sight among the crushing masses of spectators. An officer of the police retained his hold of the barrier.
“I declare,” and the Duchess was heard as if an oracle had spoken, “this man is not my brother, though I have heard he has too often assumed the name of Claude Larron, whose wife is now an Earl’s heiress. The wife of the Duke de St. Simon will not be less believed because she was once called Fanchon Babuti.”
And dropping her veil over her bright eyes, she retired while the Judges wept, the lawyers embraced each other, and the audience showered bouquets on the sublime actress.
“This man,” said the Belgian inn-keeper advancing towards the English stranger, “came to my house in Brussels with Desjardins, Graham, and the woman they called Angela, negotiators of the bills described in public circulars as obtained by extortion committed here. Your officers of police have heard my statement.”
“And I,” interrupted the prisoner Babuti, “I swear this Englishman hired my boat on St. Rosalie’s Eve to take, he said, his mad wife to our hospital. Why he has called himself Claude Larron I know not — unless to throw his shame and peril on others. But the woman who deserted her son may thank him for trying to bring her husband to the scaffold.” Clenching his gaunt hands, he shouted, “Woman! look at thy work!”
A scream of anguish rose above the groan of the audience. Babuti’s advocate seized a moment so favorable to his client, while the shrivelled and imbecile boy crouched near him gasping with joy at the thought of a mother.
“Our Hall of Justice resembles Aladdin’s palace — it wants the Window of Light, and the diamonds we have seen in beautiful eyes cannot supply it. The charge of infanticide has fallen harmless — the stranger in your presence has not denied his associates with the denounced confederates in a vast fraud involving half the banks in Europe. No proof appears of the death or abduction of the Chevalier Stewart’s wife by my client’s agency and I demand his acquittal and this Englishman’s detention under due surveillance till her life or death is proved. Do justice if you love mercy — Justice is mercy to the future.”
The scene was now extremely touching. The stern old man, his grandson’s pale eyes made paler by fear, and his advocate in one of Talma’s attitudes, formed a fine tableau for picturesque effect. Artists and editors took notes, the ladies created a mist of sighs and perfumes, and the Judge, a good-humoured epicure who had gained office by writing a madrigal for one minister, singing it to another, and composing a polka for a third, began to languish for his dinner. He represented to his brethren on the bench that the official prosecutor’s proofs had failed — the accused might expect acquittal though bother to him and others a strict surveillance must be continued, holding them amenable to future judgment. Thus instructed the assessors obeyed, the auditors and witnesses began to mingle a disperse when Babuti instead of some humble token of thankfulness for his release, exclaimed, “My lord, ask that inn-keeper, that man with the scarred hand, where he has lived before and since he was a German.”
And thrusting aside the females gathered round his grandson, he leaped on a bench as if to seek or seize his object, but the soi-disant inn-keeper had disappeared.
“Arrest him, search him,” shouted old Babuti. “He was once called M’Casquill — then M’Caire — ask this English chevalier if he ever heard of Cuthbert M’Casquill when his uncle died, or of Macaire the cashier’s clerk in Avignon. Ha, Monsieru Anglais, do these questions please you?”
“You have no right to ask them,” interposed the Procureur du Roi, “but it is mine to ask why they are addressed and to demand proofs.”
“Ask your own registers and they will shew you the Earl of Mornay, this man’s uncle, lived with his wife and daughter in the place called Rosieres. Read and you will find answers.”
A murmur rose in the hungry tribunal during this unexpected epilogue, and the investigation of Strasburg pâtés was more urgent than the registers of police written twenty years before. The Englishman probably entertained as little appetite for old records.
“We are not accustomed,” he said, “in my country to treat confiding strangers as criminals because a prisoner favored by a clever parvenue and a well-taught idiot, happens to imagine resemblances. Let him be content with this own escape — I dine tonight with our ambassador.”
If the Hall of Justice had not Aladdin’s diamond window, it had doors opened by gold keys. The speaker vanished as if by magic, but the Prefect of Avignon, though he knew the truth of his last words saw reason to use another “Open Sesame.” Whispering a sufficient hint to the ministers of French law, he commanded Babuti’s grandson to follow him.
Old Babuti’s wine-house, half-propped, half-hidden by the ruins of a Roman bridge, stood near a wild sandy road sufficient to excuse thirst. The Prefect and his companions, dressed as common travellers, entered the kitchen which they found without any occupant except the dog whose welcome was ensured by the boy’s presence. Though a rigorous search had been twice or thrice renewed, the visitors accompanied their guide into every nook, and hiding-place of the rude chalet, evidently well contrived for contraband deposits but containing no trace of those they expected, till the Prefect’s shrewd eye noticed a path well-worn towards what appeared only a blank wall of the dwelling, where recent masonry might be detected though parasite-plants were trained over it. “What,” he said carelessly, “was the use of the window closed up here?” — “People came,” the boy replied, “with those square papers which tell news without talking, and dropped them at a hole, but none came now.” This answer reminded the Prefect that a post-house had once belonged to a village near, and his assistants, soon removing a mass of stones, the boy busily pointed to the chasm within and aided in drawing forth among many heaps of mildewed papers, one well secured from damage. The first letter of a series evidently arranged, was addressed in a clerkly hand to the Sieur Stewart, poste-restante, and detailed the sudden death of the Earl of Mornay at les Rosieres, his doubtful marriage, and his daughter’s chance of inheritance. Another dated a year later, claimed farther payment for “past services” and hinted at a preference for French or German trade. Another shewed the writer had established a convenient inn at Brussels, called Onderdonk’s, and after a lapse of many years, the last letter described a new position as scrivener in Avignon, from whence a financial affair might render removal necessary to those who chose the names of Claude Larron, Macaire, or Onderdonk. This letter confidentially advised the “Sieur Stewart to avoid dangerous pastimes of Rouge et Noir and boating.”
Though the postscript was written in an ingenious cypher, the Prefect’s practised eye and keen penetration soon detected the places and persons mysteriously described. “We know the actors now,” he said to himself, “and the Prompter is ready.”
The Prefect knew his position and his peril too well to be without official attendants well armed. They collected at his signal and were probably surprised when he required their immediate escort to the chapel of St. Medard. Their torches soon shewed the recent grave of the supposed pauper, and her coffin was carefully removed to the morgue of Avignon. Late as the hour was, citations were issued and the first examiner of the dead was the surgeon Bonavis. At his suggestion the Baron de Salency and his wife were summoned. A cloak was lifted from the coffin where, very little changed by death, lay the body, not of a female, but of a fair-headed man in the prime of youth. The Baroness uttered a long thrilling shriek, repeating, “My sister’s son! my nephew Wallace!”
The Baron looked fearfully on the corpse. It was covered only by the grave-clothes probably taken from the female removed, and a ghastly wound on the temple seemed the cause of death, and he hesitated as he suggested suicide. Mingling her native idiom with grotesque French, but with the energy of passionate grief, she poured forth a history of her nephew’s long dissension with his cousin and pointed to the scar left by the blow he had received in his boyhood from Stewart — a scar seen and remembered by many.
Several witnesses from noted hotels in Avignon confirmed the identity and gave particulars of the frequent debts contracted by Wallace, especially at the hazard-table where he had been last seen in a desperate contest with two gamblers. They had parted at a late hour in a lonely place three nights before the present.
One of the commissaries of police hinted that Stewart should be summoned to assist in this enquiry, as one of the kinsmen of the deceased and most nearly interested in discovering the agents of the mysterious interment which rendered suicide improbable. The messengers returned with information that Chevalier Henry Stewart had not been seen since the third night of the week, and his servants waited anxiously at his hotel.
After a pause of ominous silence, one of the officials whispered, “May not this death-wound be the work of an enemy, avowed even in boyhood, either in and accidental or a contrived rencontre? We know a long, deep, family feud existed between these relatives, perhaps a rivalry still bitterer. Might not an agent be found to finish it by assassination and secret burial?”
“Why,” added another assessor, “should not Claus or Carl, or whatever alias Claude Larron has, be unsuspected? A strolling contrabandiste might venture to assist in removing his patron’s adversary and his own accuser.”
“Messieurs,” interposed the Prefect, “an accidental resemblance and one opinion cannot determine our judgement. We have not forgotten the mysterious deaths of the Duke de Bourbon, of Fualdes, Rasprecht, and Gaspar Hausser. You know how many subjects of English justice remain uncertain. Even now Huntley’s judges are wavering, and the assassins of an Irish peer and an English priest almost at their own gates remain unknown. Let this dead face be carefully modelled and the evidence recorded while our police seek the guilty. The Sieur Henry Stewart must be found.”
The Baron de Salency to moderate his wife’s loud demands that her nephew’s remains should be removed from public exposure and receive due funeral honours, assured of vengeance. “Be thankful, madam,” said the Prefect, quitting his judicial seat and tone, as he led her into a less public chamber, “be content that vengeance as you call public justice, is not now due to your nephew. He has escaped by a violent death, probably inflicted by himself or an accomplice, from exile or the galleys. Letters found in a half-burned post-office prove is share in the enormous fraud committed on almost every bank in Europe. Be comforted — while his fate is a mystery, he will have as many advocates and admirers as a Laffarge.”
“But you forget — you cannot comprehend the feelings of kindred!” the aged woman wrung her hands with the fierce pride of her clan — “You have not any care here for pure blood and old names such as ——” She stopped, remembering some uncertainty in the Prefect’s. His colour changed slightly
and returning her sarcastic glance, answered, “You are right, Baroness, and my judgment may not be quite unbiassed by my obscure birth. It disposes me to rejoice that your Brother’s reputed daughter, the soi-disant Demoiselle Emilia has learned that her own devices to cover a folly by a fraud, have exposed both. Had she not sent her ill-fated son to Brussels, and abandoned him to strangers, he would not have been now a goitered idiot and herself an outlaw’s slave But I thank her. By her flight from Avignon this day, she has spared me the task of proving her dishonoured fall from the station she received from erring judgment. We shall see how far it may extend.”
“I come,” said the Earl of Glenalmond to the Prefect of Avignon, “to claim a new proof of your love of justice. Your love is merciful therefore you will hear me patiently. An Englishman, a brave and distinguished Englishman has been accused in your presence of an audacious imposture and more that suspected of connivance in his wife’s death.”
“Acquitted of both by our tribunal,” answered the French judge. “No proofs were brought of the lady’s death, and the imposture is traced to another.”
“You are right, and I shall be pardoned if I add more may be expected. This Englishman, the son of my first and best friend, came to your tribunal as a witness in favor of a friendless stranger, accused of fraud, robbery and homicide.”
“Friendless is scarcely a just word,” interposed the Prefect with a courteous smile; “your countryman’s zeal and courage obtained Claude’s acquittal by enabling us to trace the culprit who assumed a poor man’s name to cover his crimes. If milord Glenalmond thinks his friend’s honour can be doubted, he doubts French justice.”
The English peer smiled at this gracious gasconade, and took the Prefect’s offered hand. “Then you will save his life to-night!”
The Prefect was all ear while his visitor added, “You know the ruins of the Dominican hall and your officials know the present occupants. M’Caire and his accomplices believe they were betrayed by the babble of an idiot-boy and he has disappeared. My friend has ventured into this den of thieves, expecting to rescue or discover him with Claude’s assistance. It is a dark hour and a darker place. Let your agents have orders to be near it when the clock strikes the third quarter after twelve.”
“I have told the Chevalier Stewart,” said the Prefect with a smile of more sarcasm, “that his chivalry was romantic and might excuse a whisper against his lady’s memory. It is said their bridal day was twice disturbed by strange discoveries of secrets possessed by Claude. May not this imbecile decrepit boy have some filial claim?”
“If he had,” returned the Englishman, “these earnest and public enquiries are a singular kind of secrecy. Is not justice a sufficient motive, or is it not common here when only a goitered idiot is missing?”
The Prefect shrugged his shoulders and offered his snuff-box blandly. “Milord, you are a senator and judge in your own land as I am in mine, and we civilians examine the canvas of a picture before we look at the colours spread on it. Let me give you one specimen of curious weaving. A young goat-herd or bird-catcher was found half-dead under an avalanche by one of your kind country men who offered him a home and education in England. The wild boy eloped, and became a rover among our Alps again, a bear-hunter, a muleteer, and perhaps a free-trader. Bolder outrages were committed by some daring felon of the same age and name. Claude Larron was arrested, and escaped. He has been tried thrice, always acquitted, till the last and gravest charge — an attempt to rob and slay a traveller. He was found secreted in my father-in-law’s house and he would have held him in close custody if his confessor had not shewn him a letter entrusted to his care by a noble lady on her deathbed.”
“No, a document to be used at the discretion of the priest who thought Claude’s position required it. The lady’s letter informed my father-in-law that her first husband, a reckless profligate, personated Claude and used hi name in brigandage and forgery. She implored the Baron’s protection for her honour and the real Claud’e life. Perhaps my father-in-law knew why she chose him to be their protector, and expected zealous intercession.”
The Englishman peer’s brow darkened. “Who was the lady you call noble?”
“Our conference must be secret as the confessional. The lady had been the companion of a titled Scotchman who lived obscurely in this province and died suddenly. By laws derived from ours in the northern portion of your island, she obtained the rights of widowhood, and a rich heritage for her daughter, now the tool and victim of a reprobate.”
Glenalmond was silent and seemed in deep thought, then rising suddenly, he said in the clearest tones of his powerful voice, “I thank you for this trust. I was the pleader chosen for this reputed widow, but I knew her history and chose her adversary for my client. This was not enough. I ought to have enquired whether M’Caire, her first husband, a digger in the worst mire of our laws, was still living in exile. But false honour, or pride, or shame made me silent. And our judges, deceived, by circumstantial evidence, gave her the benefit of a noble name. Justice is now too late — my client is dead.”
“And your client’s death is believed only on such evidence. My lord, I have learned to doubt it when strong and deep motives may be seen for falsehood.”
“Have we not sufficient proofs? We know a painful subject rose and was perhaps too earnestly discussed by her husband and herself a few moments before she left this home. Her veil and scarf were found on the edge of the swift water near the garden-terrace. She had been seen there walking in extreme agony of thought. The current might have carried her far from shore if her fall was accident or desperation.”
“Neither, perhaps,” rejoined the Prefect with his usual cool smile. “Husbands have been known to assist in accidents, or those who enjoy the inheritance she lost, might fear her claims again. You were known to be diligent in seeking witnesses, and they may have removed the most perilous.”
“Well, Prefect, I agree in your suspicion but not in its first point. Her husband is too brave, too generous, too English to use or need such agents. But, as you have said, those who have ventured to entrap and imprison a miserable boy may contrive to strangle an accuser, prompt and vigorous in demanding justice.”
The Frenchman quietly added a pencil-mark to his tablets. “I hope,” he answered, “to shew you our justice is as prompt and vigorous. The boy you speak of is safe in the asylum provided for imbecile paupers. His grandfather, old Babuti, is at this moment conversing with your friend the Chevalier Henry Stewart in the seventh chamber of the Dominican House. Wait till the last quarter of this hour is past, and you shall see whether our system of police is sufficient.”
Before the third quarter of the twelfth hour, an English dog might have been seen searching anxiously round a ruined chamber to which his sagacious gestures and the cry of a young voice had led his master.
There was a deep pause — then the crash as of stones hurled inwards and the heavy steps of men. Claude crashed and scattered the embers on the hearth, leaped over them and disappeared, leaving Stewart in utter darkness, on the edge, as he knew, of a deep and dangerous stair. Two men ascended, one burthened with some muffled substance, the other holding a lanthorn which threw a sudden and strong glare into every recess of the ruined chamber.
“Stand back, M’Caire!” said Stewart. “I know your secret and your purpose. You use this dead house as a prison for the witness of your felonies. He is an imbecile decrepit boy — without malice, almost without memory and you cannot fear either. Release him without injury, and ——”
“We have our secrets too,” M’Caire answered, “and we come to sell them. Hear the price. This boy’s mother was your wife — we have means to prove and you have none to disprove it. Promise us a thousand ducats for him and two thousand for our prudence, and the judges of Avignon shall not know who paid us for hiding him.”
“Fool, no less than villain! Of what use are promises to you? Of what benefit would your care be to the goitered idiot you have entrapped? Take his life or mine at your own peril.”
“No,” interrupted old Babuti’s rough voice, “the goitered idiot is not good enough for a proud Englishman’s son, and his mother thinks our hovel too good for him. Well, here is a safer place if monseigneur thinks so.” And thrusting aside a broken plank, he held his lanthorn over the black chasm beneath, the iron chair used by the former occupiers of the Dominican Hall still hung on the chain which conveyed it to the depths of their dungeons. At the same moment, M’Caire dragged the muffled body to the edge and twisting his hand in the cords twisting round it, laughed grimly while it hung over the abyss. A feeble cry shewed the body was not lifeless. For one instant Stewart relaxed his grasp of M’Caire’s throat, and planting his foot on the knotted cordage, prevented the fall of the victim while he caught a fold of the coarse winding-sheet. But Babuti snatched the knife he wore and stooped to cut the cord with a deadly execration. A blow on the neck hurled him from the loose plank he trod on and both fell — his cry lost in the dismal gulph below. Stewart reeled back, in total darkness but not alone — his left hand kept its vigorous grasp of M’Caire’s throat while he strove to drag him with the body he still held, from the frightful verge. Suddenly the voice of Babuti seemed to give his adversary strength and a desperate effort released him from his single hand. Conscious of another unseen enemy, Stewart cast his powder-flask among the few living embers on the hearth, and their flashes enabled him to see Babuti’s gaunt arm stretched out to seize the chain suspended over the chasm. In another moment, he had caught it, climbed near enough to reach the matted hair which had escaped from the doomed head, and spread his left hand to secure a fatal hold. No weapon was near except an axe — it fell with such right force and aim that the chain, the engine it guided, and the wretch who clung to it sunk instantly and forever.
The crash, the death-shriek, and the trembling of the frail planks beneath him prevented Stewart from immediately observing another peril. The smouldering embers burst suddenly into a flame which reached the low rafters and began to hiss among them. To pluck down and heap the splinters on the platform of stone which served as hearth, was his first thought, the next to look for the body, perhaps already lifeless, of the boy he had come to save. It lay at his feet, an unmoving heap, and for one instant he remembered that this boy had been brought here to disgrace and endanger his life, and the honour of one whose purity had been dearer to him than her existence. Why should he risk more to preserve a goitered idiot to be the future tool of fraud and avarice, living or dead? His brave spirit scorned the question, and lifting the seeming corpse towards the hearth, attempted to unbind the swathed linen and the cords cruelly tightened round it. A chill horror and loathing came upon him, as the fitful flame rose and he turned his eyes from the face, lest it should shew in death any resemblance of the dead. But he knelt to listen and feel if breath remained, and the movement saved his own. A pistol-shot passed his head, and the sound guided those who sought him. The Prefect of Avignon, Glenalmond, and a crowed of officials surrounded him.
“Save yourself,” said a voice close to his ear, “the boy is dead. Babuti is a lost witness — call me to prove his deed.”
“Seize him first,” shouted Claude. “Ah! felon, impostor, outlaw! Where have you hid the corpse?”
The cloak was lifted from the face — life, beautiful life was still there — a woman’s [MARIANNE!]
“My letter,” said Glenalmond wringing his friend’s hand, “my intercepted letter would have told you all. Claude was our informer and guide here. Prefect, for myself, and for all my countrymen, I thank you patience, your sagacity, and mercy. Evidence sufficient to justify any judge appeared against him — this lady’s death was undoubted, yet we see our error and the true criminal is here!”
“You have yet to prove,” murmured M’Caire, “that I knew of her abduction or imprisonment.”
“We knew, at least, that your fraud deprived her of her birthright. You robbed your Patron’s daughter to enrich your own, and would have added murder to robbery.”
“Ay, procurator!” added Claude shewing his bright teeth and laughing eyes, “remember the shadow on the wall while you used a dead man’s hand to sign a forgery. One witness is not lost.”
M’Caire glared at him with a tiger’s eye but remembered the safety of silence.
“Well,” said the Prefect, “this Dominican Hall has served justice once. And now, since this giant knavery has shrunk into a bottle of smoke, we must recompense the fisherman. What say you, Claude? Your tale is stranger than an Arabian Night’s and should not be worse paid.”
“My lord judge, I have only paid my debts. A lie has no feet and I should have had none to tell the truth if they had not helped me in the ice-valley.” And he laid his hand on Stewart’s, now clasped fast in Marianne’s.
“Julien! Julien of Chamouny! Why was your name changed? Why become a wanderer?”
Claude’s voice sunk to escape a lady’s ear. “Because — because my mother’s husband hated me and — I had no father —”
“Let me answer for her!” interrupted the Prefect. “Her confession was complete, and I have a fund of forty thousand livres for her son. Had he kept the name she gave him, I might have been spared the task of judging in his cause.”
Had the Prefect of Avignon been alone, he would have danced a pas-seul and sung ‘ca-ira’. In this group he only made a pirouette and shook hands with all. “Vivat! St. Dominic’s chair shall be sanctified by carrying a lady, and I will keep it for my judgment-seat. Let me be the Bride’s Father at this, her third nuptial-day.”
“The happiest and the last!” rejoined Glenalmond answering for Stewart and Marianne. “False pride has been the root of all these errors. I erred and was deceived first, but the client I wronged shall be my heiress.”
“No,” said the Prefect, still laughing. “A secret was the original evil and has been ever since Eve’s apple, the first mystery. Monsieur M’Caire, the cord you provided for your clients may be useful to yourself — you have been a clerk of the law and cannot object to be its example. And you, Claude, alias Julien, must find a safer home than Avignon. You have toiled long enough in the world’s dark tunnels — come now into its sunshine and broad highways among honest men.”