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Of all the persons who witnessed Baron d'Escorval's terrible fall, the abbe was the only one who did not despair.
What a learned doctor would not have dared to do, he did.
He was a priest; he had faith. He remembered the sublime saying of Ambroise Pare: "I dress the wound: God heals it."
After a six months' sojourn in Father Poignot's secluded farm-house, M. d'Escorval was able to sit up and to walk about a little, with the aid of crutches.
Then he began to be seriously inconvenienced by his cramped quarters in the loft, where prudence compelled him to remain; and it was with transports of joy that he welcomed the idea of taking up his abode at the Borderie with Marie-Anne.
When the day of departure had been decided upon, he counted the minutes as impatiently as a school-boy pining for vacation.
"I am suffocating here," he said to his wife. "I am suffocating. Time drags so slowly. When will the happy day come?"
It came at last. During the morning all the articles which they had succeeded in procuring during their stay at the farm-house were collected and packed; and when night came, Poignot's son began the moving.
"Everything is at the Borderie," said the honest fellow, on returning from his last trip, "and Mademoiselle Lacheneur bids the baron bring a good appetite."
"I shall have one, never fear!" responded the baron, gayly. "We shall all have one."
Father Poignot himself was busily engaged in harnessing his best horse to the cart which was to convey M. d'Escorval to his new home.
The worthy man's heart grew sad at the thought of the departure of these guests, for whose sake he had incurred such danger. He felt that he should miss them, that the house would seem gloomy and deserted after they left it.
He would allow no one else to perform the task of arranging the mattress comfortably in the cart. When this had been done to his satisfaction, he heaved a deep sigh, and exclaimed:
"It is time to start!"
Slowly he ascended the narrow staircase leading to the loft.
M. d'Escorval had not thought of the moment of parting.
At the sight of the honest farmer, who came toward him, his face crimsoned with emotion to bid him farewell, he forgot all the comforts that awaited him at the Borderie, in the remembrance of the loyal and courageous hospitality he had received in the house he was about to leave. The tears sprang to his eyes.
"You have rendered me a service which nothing can repay, Father Poignot," he said, with intense feeling. "You have saved my life."
"Oh! we will not talk of that, Baron. In my place, you would have done the same--neither more nor less."
"I shall not attempt to express my thanks, but I hope to live long enough to prove that I am not ungrateful."
The staircase was so narrow that they had considerable difficulty in carrying the baron down; but finally they had him comfortably extended upon his mattress and threw over him a few handsful of straw, which concealed him entirely.
"Farewell, then!" said the old farmer, when the last hand-shake had been exchanged, "or rather au revoir, Monsieur le Baron, Madame, and you, my good cure."
"All ready?" inquired young Poignot.
"Yes," replied the invalid.
The cart, driven with the utmost caution by the young peasant, started slowly on its way.
Mme. d'Escorval, leaning upon the abbe's arm, walked about twenty paces in the rear.
It was very dark, but had it been as light as day the former cure of Sairmeuse might have encountered any of his old parishioners without the least danger of detection.
His hair and his beard had been allowed to grow; his tonsure had entirely disappeared, and his sedentary life had caused him to become much stouter. He was clad like all the well-to-do peasants of the neighborhood, and his face was hidden by a large slouch hat.
He had not felt so tranquil in mind for months. Obstacles which had appeared almost insurmountable had vanished. In the near future he saw the baron declared innocent by impartial judges; he saw himself reinstalled in the presbytery of Sairmeuse.
The recollection of Maurice was the only thing that marred his happiness. Why did he not give some sign of life?
"But if he had met with any misfortune we should have heard of it," thought the priest. "He has with him a brave man--an old soldier who would risk anything to come and tell us."
He was so absorbed in these thoughts that he did not observe that Mme. d'Escorval was leaning more and more heavily upon his arm.
"I am ashamed to confess it," she said at last, "but I can go no farther. It has been so long since I was out of doors that I have almost forgotten how to walk."
"Fortunately, we are almost there," replied the priest.
A moment after young Poignot stopped his cart in the road, at the entrance of the little footpath leading to the Borderie.
"Our journey is ended!" he remarked to the baron. Then he uttered a low whistle, like that which he had given a few hours before, to warn Marie-Anne of his arrival.
No one appeared; he whistled again, louder this time; then with all his might--still no response.
Mme. d'Escorval and the abbe had now overtaken the cart.
"It is very strange that Marie-Anne does not hear me," remarked young Poignot, turning to them. "We cannot take the baron to the house until we have seen her. She knows that very well. Shall I run up and warn her?"
"She is asleep, perhaps," replied the abbe; "you stay with your horse, my boy, and I will go and wake her."
Certainly he did not feel the slightest disquietude. All was calm and still; a bright light was shining through the windows of the second story.
Still, when he saw the open door, a vague presentiment of evil stirred his heart.
"What can this mean?" he thought.
There was no light in the lower rooms, and the abbe was obliged to feel for the staircase with his hands. At last he found it and went up. But upon the threshold of the chamber he paused, petrified with horror by the spectacle before him.
Poor Marie-Anne was lying on the floor. Her eyes, which were wide open, were covered with a white film; her black and swollen tongue was hanging from her mouth.
"Dead!" faltered the priest, "dead!"
But this could not be. The abbe conquered his weakness, and approaching the poor girl, he took her hand.
It was icy cold; the arm was rigid as iron.
"Poisoned!" he murmured; "poisoned with arsenic."
He rose to his feet, and cast a bewildered glance around the room. His eyes fell upon his medicine-chest, open upon the table.
He rushed to it and unhesitatingly took out a vial, uncorked it, and inverted it on the palm of his hand--it was empty.
"I was not mistaken!" he exclaimed.
But he had no time to lose in conjectures.
The first thing to be done was to induce the baron to return to the farm-house without telling him the terrible misfortune which had occurred.
To find a pretext was easy enough.
The priest hastened back to the wagon, and with well-affected calmness told the baron that it would be impossible for him to take up his abode at the Borderie at present, that several suspicious-looking characters had been seen prowling about, and that they must be more prudent than ever, now they could rely upon the kindly intervention of Martial de Sairmeuse.
At last, but not without considerable reluctance, the baron yielded.
"You desire it, cure," he sighed, "so I obey. Come, Poignot, my boy, take me back to your father's house."
Mme. d'Escorval took a seat in the cart beside her husband; the priest watched them as they drove away, and not until the sound of their carriage-wheels had died away in the distance did he venture to go back to the Borderie.
He was ascending the stairs when he heard moans that seemed to issue from the chamber of death. The sound sent all his blood wildly rushing to his heart. He darted up the staircase.
A man was kneeling beside Marie-Anne, weeping bitterly. The expression of his face, his attitude, his sobs betrayed the wildest despair. He was so lost in grief that he did not observe the abbe's entrance.
Who was this mourner who had found his way to the house of death?
After a moment, the priest divined who the intruder was, though he did not recognize him.
"Jean!" he cried, "Jean Lacheneur!"
With a bound the young man was on his feet, pale and menacing; a flame of anger drying the tears in his eyes.
"Who are you?" he demanded, in a terrible voice. "What are you doing here? What do you wish with me?"
By his peasant dress and by his long beard, the former cure of Sairmeuse was so effectually disguised that he was obliged to tell who he really was.
As soon as he uttered his name, Jean uttered a cry of joy.
"God has sent you here!" he exclaimed. "Marie-Anne cannot be dead! You, who have saved so many others, will save her."
As the priest sadly pointed to heaven, Jean paused, his face more ghastly than before. He understood now that there was no hope.
"Ah!" he murmured, with an accent of frightful despondency, "fate shows us no mercy. I have been watching over Marie-Anne, though from a distance; and this very evening I was coming to say to her: 'Beware, sister--be cautious!'"
"What! you knew----"
"I knew she was in great danger; yes, Monsieur. An hour ago, while I was eating my supper in a restaurant at Sairmeuse, Grollet's son entered. 'Is this you, Jean?' said he. 'I just saw Chupin hiding near your sister's house; when he observed me he slunk away.' I ran here like one crazed. But when fate is against a man, what can he do? I came too late!"
The abbe reflected for a moment.
"Then you suppose that it was Chupin?"
"I do not suppose, sir; I swear that it was he--the miserable traitor!--who committed this foul deed."
"Still, what motive could he have had?"
Jean burst into one of those discordant laughs that are, perhaps, the most frightful signs of despair.
"You may rest assured that the blood of the daughter will yield him a richer reward than did the father's. Chupin has been the vile instrument; but it was not he who conceived the crime. You will have to seek higher for the culprit, much higher, in the finest chateau of the country, in the midst of an army of valets at Sairmeuse, in short!"
"Wretched man, what do you mean?"
"What I say."
And coldly, he added:
"Martial de Sairmeuse is the assassin." The priest recoiled, really appalled by the looks and manner of the grief-stricken man.
"You are mad!" he said, severely.
But Jean gravely shook his head.
"If I seem so to you, sir," he replied, "it is only because you are ignorant of Martial's wild passion for Marie-Anne. He wished to make her his mistress. She had the audacity to refuse this honor; that was a crime for which she must be punished. When the Marquis de Sairmeuse became convinced that Lacheneur's daughter would never be his, he poisoned her that she might not belong to another."
Any attempt to convince Jean of the folly of his accusation would have been vain at that moment. No proofs would have convinced him. He would have closed his eyes to all evidence.
"To-morrow, when he is more calm, I will reason with him," thought the abbe; then, turning to Jean, he said:
"We cannot allow the body of the poor girl to remain here upon the floor. Assist me, and we will place it upon the bed."
Jean trembled from head to foot, and his hesitation was apparent.
"Very well!" he said, at last, after a severe struggle.
No one had ever slept upon this bed which poor Chanlouineau had destined for Marie-Anne.
"It shall be for her," he said to himself, "or for no one."
And it was Marie-Anne who rested there first--dead.
When this sad task was accomplished, he threw himself into the same arm-chair in which Marie-Anne had breathed her last, and with his face buried in his hands, and his elbows supported upon his knees, he sat there as silent and motionless as the statues of sorrow placed above the last resting-places of the dead.
The abbe knelt at the head of the bed and began the recital of the prayers for the dead, entreating God to grant peace and happiness in heaven to her who had suffered so much upon earth.
But he prayed only with his lips. In spite of his efforts, his mind would persist in wandering.
He was striving to solve the mystery that enshrouded Marie-Anne's death. Had she been murdered? Could it be that she had committed suicide?
This explanation recurred to him, but he could not believe it.
But, on the other hand, how could her death possibly be the result of a crime?
He had carefully examined the room, and he had discovered nothing that betrayed the presence of a stranger.
All that he could prove was, that his vial of arsenic was empty, and that Marie-Anne had been poisoned by the bouillon, a few drops of which were left in the bowl that was standing upon the mantel.
"When daylight comes," thought the abbe, "I will look outside."
When morning broke, he went into the garden, and made a careful examination of the premises.
At first he saw nothing that gave him the least clew, and was about to abandon the investigations, when, upon entering the little grove, he saw in the distance a large dark stain upon the grass. He went nearer--it was blood!
Much excited, he summoned Jean, to inform him of the discovery.
"Someone has been assassinated here," said Lacheneur; "and it happened last night, for the blood has not had time to dry."
"The victim lost a great deal of blood," the priest remarked; "it might be possible to discover who he was by following up these stains."
"I am going to try," responded Jean. "Go back to the house, sir; I will soon return."
A child might have followed the track of the wounded man, the blood- stains left in his passage were so frequent and so distinct.
These tell-tale marks stopped at Chupin's house. The door was closed; Jean rapped without the slightest hesitation.
The old poacher's eldest son opened the door, and Jean saw a strange spectacle.
The traitor's body had been thrown on the ground, in a corner of the room, the bed was overturned and broken, all the straw had been torn from the mattress, and the wife and sons of the dead man, armed with pickaxes and spades, were wildly overturning the beaten soil that formed the floor of the hovel. They were seeking the hidden treasures.
"What do you want?" demanded the widow, rudely.
"You can see very plainly that he has been murdered," replied one of the sons.
And brandishing his pick a few inches from Jean's head, he exclaimed:
"And you, perhaps, are the assassin. But that is for justice to determine. Now, decamp; if you do not----"
Had he listened to the promptings of anger, Jean Lacheneur would certainly have attempted to make the Chupins repent their menaces.
But a conflict was scarcely permissible under the circumstances.
He departed without a word, and hastened back to the Borderie.
The death of Chupin overturned all his plans, and greatly irritated him.
"I had sworn that the vile wretch who betrayed my father should perish by my hand," he murmured; "and now my vengeance has escaped me. Someone has robbed me of it."
Then he asked himself who the murderer could be.
"Is it possible that Martial assassinated Chupin after he murdered Marie-Anne? To kill an accomplice is an effectual way of assuring one's self of his silence."
He had reached the Borderie, and was about going upstairs, when he thought he heard the sound of voices in the back room.
"That is strange," he said to himself. "Who can it be?"
And impelled by curiosity, he went and tapped upon the communicating door.
The abbe instantly made his appearance, hurriedly closing the door behind him. He was very pale, and visibly agitated.
"Who is it?" inquired Jean, eagerly.
"It is--it is. Guess who it is."
"How can I guess?"
"Maurice d'Escorval and Corporal Bavois."
"And it is a miracle that he has not been upstairs."
"But whence does he come? Why have we received no news of him?"
"I do not know. He has been here only five minutes. Poor boy! after I told him that his father was safe, his first words were: 'And Marie- Anne?' He loves her more devotedly than ever. He comes with his heart full of her, confident and hopeful; and I tremble--I fear to tell him the truth."
"Oh, terrible! terrible!"
"I have warned you; be prudent--and now, come in."
They entered the room together; and Maurice and the old soldier greeted Jean with the most ardent expressions of friendship.
They had not seen each other since the duel on the Reche, which had been interrupted by the arrival of the soldiers; and when they parted that day they scarcely expected to meet again.
"And now we are together once more," said Maurice, gayly, "and we have nothing to fear."
Never had the unfortunate man seemed so cheerful; and it was with the most jubilant air that he explained the reason of his long silence.
"Three days after we crossed the frontier," said he, "Corporal Bavois and I reached Turin. It was time, for we were tired out. We went to a small inn, and they gave us a room with two beds.
"That evening, while we were undressing, the corporal said to me: 'I am capable of sleeping two whole days without waking.' I, too, promised myself a rest of at least twelve hours. We reckoned without our host, as you will see.
"It was scarcely daybreak when we were awakened by a great tumult. A dozen rough-looking men entered our room, and ordered us, in Italian, to dress ourselves. They were too strong for us, so we obeyed; and an hour later we were in prison, confined in the same cell. Our reflections, I confess, were not couleur de rose.
"I well remember how the corporal said again and again, in that cool way of his: 'It will require four days to obtain our extradition, three days to take us back to Montaignac--that is seven days; it will take one day more to try me; so I have in all eight days to live.'"
"Upon my word! that was exactly what I thought," said the old soldier, approvingly.
"For five months," continued Maurice, "instead of saying 'good-night' to each other, we said: 'To-morrow they will come for us.' But they did not come.
"We were kindly treated. They did not take away my money; and they willingly sold us little luxuries; they also granted us two hours of exercise each day in the court-yard, and even loaned us books to read. In short, I should not have had any particular cause to complain, if I had been allowed to receive or to forward letters, or if I had been able to communicate with my father or with Marie-Anne. But we were in the secret cells, and were not allowed to have any intercourse with the other prisoners.
"At length our detention seemed so strange and became so insupportable to us, that we resolved to obtain some explanation of it, cost what it might.
"We changed our tactics. Up to that time we had been quite submissive; we suddenly became violent and intractable. We made the prison resound with our cries and protestations; we were continually sending for the superintendent; we claimed the intervention of the French ambassador. We were not obliged to wait long for the result.
"One fine afternoon, the superintendent released us, not without expressing much regret at being deprived of the society of such amiable and charming guests.
"Our first act, as you may suppose, was to run to the ambassador. We did not see that dignitary, but his secretary received us. He knit his brows when I told my story, and became excessively grave. I remember each word of his reply.
"'Monsieur,' said he, 'I can swear that the persecution of which you have been the object in France had nothing whatever to do with your detention here.'
"And as I expressed my astonishment:
"'One moment,' he added. 'I shall express my opinion very frankly. One of your enemies--I leave you to discover which one--must exert a very powerful influence in Turin. You were in his way, perhaps; he had you imprisoned by the Piedmontese police.'"
With a heavy blow of his clinched fist, Jean Lacheneur made the table beside him reel.
"Ah! the secretary was right!" he exclaimed. "Maurice, it was Martial de Sairmeuse who caused your arrest----"
"Or the Marquis de Courtornieu," interrupted the abbe, with a warning glance at Jean.
A wrathful light gleamed for an instant in the eyes of Maurice; but it vanished almost immediately, and he shrugged his shoulders carelessly.
"Nonsense," said he, "I do not wish to trouble myself any more about the past. My father is well again, that is the main thing. We can easily find some way of getting him safely across the frontier. Marie- Anne and I, by our devotion, will strive to make him forget that my rashness almost cost him his life. He is so good, so indulgent to the faults of others. We will take up our residence in Italy or in Switzerland. You will accompany us, Monsieur l'Abbe, and you also, Jean. As for you, corporal, it is decided that you belong to our family."
Nothing could be more horrible than to see this man, upon whose life such a terrible blight was about to fall, so bright and full of hope and confidence.
The impression produced upon Jean and the abbe was so terrible, that, in spite of their efforts, it showed itself in their faces; and Maurice remarked their agitation.
"What is the matter?" he inquired, in evident surprise.
They trembled, hung their heads, but did not say a word.
The unfortunate man's astonishment changed to a vague, inexpressible fear.
He enumerated all the misfortunes which could possibly have befallen him.
"What has happened?" he asked, in a stifled voice. "My father is safe, is he not? You said that my mother would desire nothing, if I were with her again. Is it Marie-Anne----"
"Courage, Maurice," murmured the abbe. "Courage!"
The stricken man tottered as if about to fall; his face grew whiter than the plastered wall against which he leaned for support.
"Marie-Anne is dead!" he exclaimed.
Jean and the abbe were silent.
"Dead!" Maurice repeated--"and no secret voice warned me! Dead! when?"
"She died only last night," replied Jean.
"Last night?" said he. "In that case, then, she is still here. Where? upstairs?"
And without waiting for any response, he darted toward the staircase so quickly that neither Jean nor the abbe had time to intercept him.
With three bounds he reached the chamber; he walked straight to the bed, and with a firm hand turned back the sheet that hid the face of the dead.
He recoiled with a heart-broken cry.
Was this indeed the beautiful, the radiant Marie-Anne, whom he had loved to his own undoing! He did not recognize her.
He could not recognize these distorted features, this face swollen and discolored by poison, these eyes which were almost concealed by the purple swelling around them.
When Jean and the priest entered the room they found him standing with head thrown back, eyes dilated with terror, and rigid arm extended toward the corpse.
"Maurice," said the priest, gently, "be calm. Courage!"
He turned with an expression of complete bewilderment upon his features.
"Yes," he faltered, "that is what I need--courage!"
He staggered; they were obliged to support him to an arm-chair.
"Be a man," continued the priest; "where is your energy? To live, is to suffer."
He listened, but did not seem to comprehend.
"Live!" he murmured, "why should I desire to live since she is dead?"
The dread light of insanity glittered in his dry eyes. The abbe was alarmed.
"If he does not weep, he will lose his reason!" he thought.
And in an imperious voice, he said:
"You have no right to despair thus; you owe a sacred duty to your child."
He recoiled with a heart-broken cry.
The recollection which had given Marie-Anne strength to hold death at bay for a moment, saved Maurice from the dangerous torpor into which he was sinking. He trembled as if he had received an electric shock, and springing from his chair:
"That is true," he cried. "Take me to my child."
"Not just now, Maurice; wait a little."
"Where is it? Tell me where it is."
"I cannot; I do not know."
An expression of unspeakable anguish stole over the face of Maurice, and in a husky voice he said:
"What! you do not know! Did she not confide in you?"
"No. I suspected her secret. I alone----"
"You, alone! Then the child is dead, perhaps. Even if it is living, who can tell me where it is?"
"We shall undoubtedly find something that will give us a clew."
"You are right," faltered the wretched man. "When Marie-Anne knew that her life was in danger, she would not have forgotten her child. Those who cared for her in her last moments must have received some message for me. I wish to see those who watched over her. Who were they?"
The priest averted his face.
"I asked you who was with her when she died," repeated Maurice, in a sort of frenzy.
And, as the abbe remained silent, a terrible light dawned on the mind of the stricken man. He understood the cause of Marie-Anne's distorted features now.
"She perished the victim of a crime!" he exclaimed.
"Some monster has killed her. If she died such a death, our child is lost forever! And it was I who recommended, who commanded the greatest precautions! Ah! it is a curse upon me!"
He sank back in his chair, overwhelmed with sorrow and remorse, and silent tears rolled slowly down his cheeks.
"He is saved!" thought the abbe, whose heart bled at the sight of such despair. Suddenly someone plucked him by the sleeve.
It was Jean Lacheneur, and he drew the priest into the embrasure of a window.
"What is this about a child?" he asked, harshly.
A flood of crimson suffused the brow of the priest.
"You have heard," he responded, laconically.
"Am I to understand that Marie-Anne was the mistress of Maurice, and that she had a child by him? Is this true? I will not--I cannot believe it! She, whom I revered as a saint! Did her pure forehead and her chaste looks lie? And he--Maurice--he whom I loved as a brother! So, his friendship was only a mask assumed to enable him to steal our honor!"
He hissed these words through his set teeth in such low tones that Maurice, absorbed in his agony of grief, did not overhear him.
"But how did she conceal her shame?" he continued. "No one suspected it--absolutely no one. And what has she done with her child? Appalled by a dread of disgrace, did she commit the crime committed by so many other ruined and forsaken women? Did she murder her own child?"
A hideous smile curved his thin lips.
"If the child is alive," he added, "I will find it, and Maurice shall be punished for his perfidy as he deserves." He paused; the sound of horses' hoofs upon the road attracted his attention, and that of Abbe Midon.
They glanced out of the window and saw a horseman stop before the little footpath, alight from his horse, throw the reins to his groom, and advance toward the Borderie.
At the sight of the visitor, Jean Lacheneur uttered the frightful howl of an infuriated wild beast.
"The Marquis de Sairmeuse here!" he exclaimed.
He sprang to Maurice, and shaking him violently, he cried:
"Up! here is Martial, Marie-Anne's murderer! Up! he is coming! he is at our mercy!"
Maurice sprang up in a fury of passion, but the abbe darted to the door and intercepted the infuriated men as they were about to leave the room.
"Not a word, young men, not a threat!" he said, imperiously. "I forbid it. At least respect the dead who is lying here!"
There was such an irresistible authority in his words and glance, that Jean and Maurice stood as if turned to stone.
Before the priest had time to say more, Martial was there.
He did not cross the threshold. With a glance he took in the whole scene; he turned very pale, but not a gesture, not a word escaped his lips.
Wonderful as was his accustomed control over himself, he could not articulate a syllable; and it was only by pointing to the bed upon which Marie-Anne's lifeless form was reposing, that he asked an explanation.
"She was infamously poisoned last evening," replied the abbe, sadly.
Maurice, forgetting the priest's commands, stepped forward.
"She was alone and defenceless. I have been at liberty only two days. But I know the name of the man who had me arrested at Turin, and thrown into prison. They told me the coward's name!"
Instinctively Martial recoiled.
"It was you, infamous wretch!" exclaimed Maurice. "You confess your guilt, scoundrel?"
Once again the abbe interposed; he threw himself between the rivals, persuaded that Martial was about to attack Maurice.
But no; the Marquis de Sairmeuse had resumed the haughty and indifferent manner which was habitual to him. He took from his pocket a bulky envelope, and throwing it upon the table:
"Here," he said coldly, "is what I was bringing to Mademoiselle Lacheneur. It contains first a safe-conduct from His Majesty for Monsieur d'Escorval. From this moment, he is at liberty to leave Poignot's farm-house and return to Escorval. He is free, he is saved, he is granted a new trial, and there can be no doubt of his acquittal. Here is also a decree of his non-complicity rendered in favor of Abbe Midon, and an order from the bishop which reinstates him as Cure of Sairmeuse; and lastly, a discharge, drawn up in due form, and an acknowledged right to a pension in the name of Corporal Bavois."
He paused, and as his astonished hearers stood rooted to their places with wonder, he turned and approached Marie-Anne's bedside.
With hand uplifted to heaven over the lifeless form of her whom he had loved, and in a voice that would have made the murderess tremble in her innermost soul, he said, solemnly:
"To you, Marie-Anne, I swear that I will avenge you!"
For a few seconds he stood motionless, then suddenly he stopped, pressed a kiss upon the dead girl's brow, and left the room.
"And you think that man can be guilty!" exclaimed the abbe. "You see, Jean, that you are mad!"
"And this last insult to my dead sister is an honor, I suppose," said Jean, with a furious gesture.
"And the wretch binds my hands by saving my father!" exclaimed Maurice.
From his place by the window, the abbe saw Martial remount his horse.
But the marquis did not take the road to Montaignac. It was toward the Chateau de Courtornieu that he hastened.
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