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me, that, after considerable hesitation, I re Infamy. In minor trials, this elevated seat is solved to judge for myself in how far these occupied only by two gendarmes, who, after extraordinary reports were worthy of credence. having escorted their prisoners to the entrance To do this effectually, it was of course necessary of the court, and delivered them into the keepto witness the passage of some great criminal ing of the proper officers, afterwards introduce through the awful ordeal of human justice—to themselves by the small door already alluded brace my nerves, and to resolve to watch, with to; but, in all cases involving life or the all the philosophy I could command, the fearful galleys, they seat themselves on either side wrestling of foul guilt or outraged innocence the culprit, over whose every movement they with the stupendous power of legal talent and keep a scrupulous watch. of legal ingenuity. No petty crime could To complete the picture, it is only necessary enable me to do this; for in France, as I was to add, that in the centre of the platform, facing well aware, trials for minor offences are con the president, and consequently with its back ducted with a haste and brevity proportioned to the audience, was placed a large arm-chair, to their insignificance; and I accordingly raised one step from the floor, and approawaited with considerable trepidation the an- | priated to the witnesses ; while four ranges nouncement of one of those more fearful accu of enclosed benches formed the reserved seats, sations which involve the penalty of death. and shut in the dais, being themselves sepaUnhappily, this was not long in coming ; and I rated from the main body of the court by a was, ere the close of the session, informed that stout wooden partition, breast-high, behind a young peasant woman, from an adjoining which all ingress is free, and is accomplished hamlet, was about to take her trial for the two through a separate door. fold crime of murder and arson; and at the At the appointed hour, a bell rang, and the same time assured that no doubt whatever, officers of the court entered and took their from the evidence of the procès-verbal, (or pre seats. The President wore a black cloak, lined liminary examination,) existed of her guilt; and edged with scarlet, and a high cap of while, at the same time, it was a great relief black cloth, with a scarlet sash about his waist. to me to ascertain that her intended victim The Procureur de la République was also robed still survived.
in black, edged with white fur, with a blue The approaches of the Palais de Justice were sash, and two rows of broad silver lace upon almost choked by the anxious multitude who his cap; while the counsel for the prisoner-a were struggling to effect an entrance, as, led young and eloquent man, who had volunteered by a professional friend, I made my way by a to undertake her defence-wore a gown of private staircase to the seat which had been black silk, and differed little in his appearance reserved for me. The aspect of the court was from a student at one of our own universities. solemn and imposing. Immediately before me After some examination of papers, and an was a dais, raised two steps above the floor of exhibition of that by-play among the officials hall, in the centre of which, behind a long which appears to be the usual preliminary of table covered with black serge, stood the chairs all legal investigations, a second bell rang out. of the President (or judge) and his two assist The twenty individuals composing the jury ants, over whose heads extended, from the were called and sworn; and they had no sooner lofty roof to the summit of their seats, a colossal entered the box, than the President adjusted painting of our Saviour upon the cross. On the his spectacles, and fell back in his seat. The left hand, an enclosed space was appropriated small door-that which has been the door of to the Procureur-Général de la République (or doom to so many trembling and justice-fearing attorney-general), beyond which stretched, to criminals, and which is doubtlessly still fated the extremity of the platform, the jury-box. to afford ingress to scores of others--opened as On the right hand, a second enclosure (or loge) noiselessly as though it feared to drown the formed the place allotted for the greffier (or | heart-throb of the wretched woman who stood registrar), while a tier of seats, corresponding upon its threshold, and, behind a stalwart with those occupied by the jury were destined gendarme, entered a female peasant with to accommodate the counsel for the defence; her head bowed upon her bosom, followed and, in cases of political delinquency, the ac in her turn by a second armed guardian. cused themselves, and their friends. These It is not my purpose to excite a false symseats bear the name of Benches of the Accused; pathy, by describing the prisoner as one of but behind them rises a third, beside which those fair beings whose personal beauty is opens a small door, and which is distinguished adapted to disarm justice by captivating the by the frightful appellation of the Bench of pity of its ministers ; but I may, nevertheless, be permitted to remark that her appearance by what she considered as a degrading union. was singularly prepossessing, and that it was At the period of the fire, Rosalie was the moeasy to decide at the first glance, that, under ther of a child of four years old, and was lookother circumstances, she could not have failed | ing forward to the birth of a second; but disto attract notice. She was young; and, al comfort and dissension had already supervened though her features were now swollen from between the young couple. The father of incessant weeping, and her complexion almost Baptiste, indeed, had become reconciled to his purple from emotion, the luxuriance of her daughter-in-law; but such was far from being pale brown hair, the long lashes by which her the case with his sister, who lost no opportueyes were shaded, the extreme neatness of her nity of exciting the anger of her nephew dress, and the remarkable, although somewhat against his wife, whenever the latter failed to redundant, symmetry of her figure, could not obey her behests; while, as it was proved by be passed over without remark. As she dropped several witnesses, Rosalie became at length so upon the bench, in obedience to the gesture of much irritated by the ceaseless severity of one of her guardians, her head fell heavily which she was the object, and so indignant at upon her bosom, and she covered her face with the taunts uttered against her previous poverty, her handkerchief, which was already steeped that she had been more than once heard to with her tears.
declare that she wished the farm burnt to the There was a momentary hush throughout ground, and her husband reduced to the rank the crowded court, interrupted only by the of a common labourer; and that she would rustling of papers, or the occasional heavy sob gladly fire it herself, in order to be delivered of the prisoner ; and then the voice of the Presi from the life of wretchedness to which she was dent broke coldly and harshly upon the silence. then condemned. More than one witness, " Accused, stand up."
stated the accusation, would swear to this fact, He was obeyed; but still the burning cheeks which at once pointed suspicion towards the were hidden by the friendly handkerchief. prisoner; when, several months previous to the
" Remove your hand from your face-hold present trial, on a calm evening, between up your head and answer me."
seven and eight o'clock, long after the farmThe hand was withdrawn—the head raised, servants had quitted the premises, a fire broke but only for a moment—and then the interro out in a barn adjacent to the dwelling-house gatory was resumed.
occupied by the family, which, after consuming "What is your name?”
the out-buildings and several stacks of un" Rosalie Marie --"
thrashed grain and beans, had been with diffi“ Your age?"
culty extinguished by the energetic labour of “Twenty-four years."
the villagers. “Your calling?"
Among other evidence tendered to the mayor “Wife of Baptistem, a farmer; I assisted during this examination was that of the maiden him in his farm.”
aunt, who, to her unqualified accusation of the “ An able assistant !” remarked the Procu prisoner as the sole author of the catastrophe, reur sarcastically to the President, who replied superadded the information that Rosalio had, by a quiet smile.
only a week or two previously, attempted to " Are you aware of the crime of which you murder her husband, by mixing a quantity of are accused ?”
white powder in some soup, which had been The answer was a violent passion of tears. kept warm for his supper upon the ashes of “Sit down"-said the cold voice. “Greffier, the hearth, and which had produced violent read the accusation."
vomitings, after he had partaken of it about This formidable document, based on the half an hour. procès-verbal drawn up on the spot by the As the monotonous accents of the greffier mayor of the village, amid the dying embers fell upon her ear, the unhappy woman sat with of the fire, set forth that Rosalie, having been her hands forcibly clasped together, and her hired as a general servant by the proprietors flushed face and eager eyes turned steadily of a small farm, the joint property of an aged towards him ; but he no sooner ceased reading, man and his sister, had engaged the affections than she started convulsively from her seat, of her master's son, who, finding that he could and, leaning forward eagerly towards the not induce her to return his passion upon easier bench, exclaimed, “I am innocent, M. le Preterms, had ultimately married her, to the ex- | sident; I am innocent!". treme annoyance of his family, and especially “ Peace!" thundered out the frowning offiof his maiden aunt, whose pride was wounded | cial; and then, as the wretched prisoner sank back between her guards, and once more en whole half-hour she poured forth, in the most deavoured to conceal herself, he extended his gutteral patois, a tide of village gossip and arm towards her, and, with outstretched finger, scandal, all of which tended to cast suspicion directed the attention of the court to the quail upon the prisoner. Two leading facts were, ing form of the accused amid a silence so deep however, elicited from her evidence, which that it could almost be heard, and which he threw considerable doubt upon her statements. ultimately terminated by these extraordinary The farm at which the fire had occurred was words :-"You see that woman, gentlemen of the the joint property of her brother and herself ; jury, who has just so vehemently declared her in and she had been careful to insure her own nocence ; and now I, in my turn, tell you that portion of the estate against the very calamity I entertain no doubt of her guilt; and that I, which had taken place; nor had she failed, moreover, believe her to be capable of anything." within twenty-four hours of the event, to claim
Be it remembered that this declaration on the amount due to her, after having solemnly the part of the presiding officer of the court sworn that she believed the fire to have been of the man who sat beneath the awful effigy purely accidental. She, moreover, admitted, of a crucified Saviour—and to whom had been that she had not accused the prisoner of the delegated the supreme duty of administering crime of arson until the money had been paid even-handed justice alike to the accused and over to her ; while the cross-questioning of the to society, did not even await the evidence of prisoner's counsel soon enabled him to prove the witnesses whose revelations were to decide that, subsequently to her having done so, on a question of life and death- but that he being informed that should her step-niece be volunteered this frightful assertion before any found guilty of arson, she would be called upon distinct proof of the guilt of the prisoner had to refund the insurance money, she had endeabeen adduced ; nor should the fact be over voured to recal her accusation, and to persuade looked that the jury, which was composed of her neighbours that they had misunderstood small farmers and petty tradesmen, regarded her meaning. It was, however, too late; her with awe and reverence the solemn and stately extreme loquacity had rung an alarum throughpersonage who had arrived from the capital out the village - the ignorant are always expressly to preside over the tribunal of their re greedy of the marvellous and her disclaimers mote province, and that they were consequently were universally disregarded. All the inhaprepared to consider his opinion as infallible. I bitants of the hamlet at once decided that
I watched the countenances of those who Rosalie was the incendiary; and, with a pertiwere nearest to me, and I at once perceived nacity which almost drove the aunt to desperathat the cruel words of the President had not tion, quoted her own declarations as evidence failed in their effect; nor was it, indeed, pos of the fact. Thus taken in her own toils, the sible that such a declaration, pronounced, heartless old woman, instead of acknowledging moreover, with an emphasis which appeared that she had no authority for the rumours to insure the perfect conviction of the speaker, which she had spread, but had been instigated could do otherwise than impress every one to this act of cruel injustice by her hatred and who heard it; and it was amid the sensation jealousy of her step-niece, vehemently declared produced by this startling incident that the that, since such was the case, if she were comfirst witness was called and sworn.
pelled to refund the money, she would at least This witness was the aunt; and, if my pre have the life of the prisoner as some compensaconceived notions of a criminal trial had tion for the loss. already been shaken, I became still more be When accused by the counsel of having wildered and surprised as the proceedings made use of this threat, her denial was faint progressed. Instead, as is the case in our own and sullen, and finally terminated by the fiendcourts of law, of rejecting all merely hearsay ish remark, that, if she had ever said so, she evidence, the old woman was urged, alternately was prepared to abide by it; that she mainby the President and the Procureur, to detail tained the guilt of the prisoner; and that they all the reports consequent upon the fire; and to should do better, even if they lost the money, repeat what Jean-Marie So-and-so had said so that they were rid of her nephew's wife relatively to the prisoner to Dominique, or along with it. Joseph, or Jules; while the bitter volubility of As these malignant words passed her lips a the vindictive witness, whose occasional glances low murmur filled the court, and the President of hatred towards the accused sufficiently testi- ordered her to stand down. Half-a-dozen other fied to the feeling by which she was actuated, witnesses were then successively called on the ably seconded their efforts ; and throughout a | same side, and in every case were asked whe
ther they were relatives, friends, or lovers of the “This is trifling with the court!" exclaimed prisoner? to which question two sturdy young the President angrily; "and cruel to this poor peasants answered bitterly, "No, thank God!" old man. Who is he?” and in both instances it was elicited by her “Her husband's father, my brother; the counsel that they were discarded suitors, who father-in-law that she tried to burn out," rehad, since her marriage, caused frequent misun sponded the woman, derstandings between herself and her husband. "Silence!" shouted the President. “Usher,
Still, hour after hour, the tide of words remove this man from the court, and see that flowed on, and no one proof of guilt had been he is taken care of until he can be conveyed to brought against the prisoner. At intervals, his home." some leading question, well calculated to cause He was obeyed; the old man was with diffiher to criminate herself, was abruptly put by culty induced to leave his seat, and many a the President, and at each denial she was de tear followed him as he disappeared. It was a sired to remember that she had confessed as most painful spectacle, nor was it the only one much during her previous examination ; but, which we were destined to witness ; for, before agitated as she was, she still retained sufficient the examination was resumed, an individual self-possession to refute the assertion, declaring approached the bench, and whispered a few that she never could have accused herself of a words to the President, who, with an irritated crime of which she was innocent.
gesture, impatiently replied, “Well, if it must As the next name was called, and one of the be so; but we are losing time.” ushers of the court was about to introduce a The messenger made a sign, and he had no new witness, a faint scream burst from the sooner done so than a woman appeared at a lips of the prisoner, which was succeeded by a side door, carrying an infant in her arms, with violent fit of weeping; and I grew sick at which she approached the prisoner, who eagerly heart, lest she was at last to find herself in leant forward to receive it. The child sprang, contact with an accuser whose charge she with a joyful cry of recognition, into the emcould not refute. A slight confusion at the brace of its wretched mother, who for a moment extremity of the hall, a low murmur, and the strained it convulsively to her bosom; but dragging of heavy steps along the floor, at when she endeavoured to give it the nourishthat moment diverted my attention from the ment which it required, the infant flung itself wretched woman; and I saw, slowly approach violently back, terrified by the feverish coning the witness chair, an infirm and aged tact, and could not be induced again to apman, supported by two of the subordinate offi proach her. Never shall I forget the agony cers of the court. As he was led forward, he depicted upon the countenance of the unhappy looked helplessly from side to side, as if bewil prisoner : her tears seemed to have been suddered by the novelty of the scene about him ; denly dried up; and, rising from her seat, she and, after having been assisted up the steps of gave back the struggling infant into the arms the dais, he dropped into the chair to which he of its nurse, without a word. Had she been was conducted, nor did he attempt to rise when the veriest criminal on earth, she was an object told by the President to stand up while he of intense pity at that moment! took the customary oath.
The proceedings were once more resumed. "Stand up:" repeated the usher ; but the old Other witnesses for the prosecution followed, man continued motionless.
but the evidence was still vague and incon“He can't hear;" shouted the harsh voice of clusive ; and at length the Procureur rose to his sister from the extremity of the court ; l address the court. His speech was eloquent "he's been deaf this many a year; you must and emphatic; but, although he cleverly shout into his ear.” The usher acted upon this availed himself of every opportunity of bringsuggestion ; but the poor old man only shook | ing the guilt of both charges home to the his grey head, and laughed.
prisoner, he was rather startling than convinc“Does he know why he is here?” asked the ing in his arguments. He repeatedly called President impatiently.
upon her to deny the truth of his conclusions, “Not he:” replied the same voluntary spokes but he gave her no opportunity of doing so; woman; "we did'nt tell him, or he would'nt he hurled at her the most bitter invectives, have come."
applied to her the most opprobrious epithets, “ Can he be made to understand the nature and defied her to summon a single witness to of an oath ?"
prove her innocence, or to save her from an “May-be yes, may be no; he's childish like; ignominious death; and, finally, he reproached but you can try him.”
her with her ingratitude to a family by whose
generosity she had been raised from poverty to comfort; reminded her of the disgrace which she had brought, not only upon the wretched old man of eighty-six years of age, who had been made through her means a public spectacle, but also upon the helpless children to whom she had given birth, and especially upon the innocent and ill-fated infant who had first seen the light through the iron bars of a prison.
It was a frightful piece of elocution ; never for an instant did he appear to remember that the wretched prisoner might yet, despite appearances, have been wrongfully accused, and have been a victim rather than a criminal. There was no leaning to the side of mercy, no relenting, no gleam of light thrown upon the darkness of the picture; and it was evident that the miserable woman felt she was lost long before his terrible words ceased to vibrate in her ears. For a time she had sat motionless, gazing upon him with a wild stare of affrighted wonder ; but as he rapidly heaped circumstance upon circumstance, recapitulated the gossip of the villagers, and deduced from the most apparently unimportant facts the most condemnatory conclusions, she gradually sank lower and lower upon her seat, until she appeared no longer able to sustain herself; and, when a deep and thrilling silence succeeded to the speech of the public accuser, her choking sobs were distinctly audible.
The Procureur was right : the witnesses for the defence were unable to prove her innocence of the crime imputed to her ; but they one and all bore evidence to the irreproachability of her character; to her piety, her industry, her neighbourly helpfulness, and her charity, both of word and deed. They showed, moreover, that she had borne with patience and submission the tyranny of her husband's aunt, the violence of that husband himself, and that she had been to her father-in-law a devoted and affectionate daughter.
“But," said the Procureur to one of her panegyrists, “if the accused were indeed the admirable person whom you describe, how do you account for her having made so many enemies, and for the general belief in her guilt prevalent throughout the village ?”
"Ha, monsieur !” replied the brave young peasant, as he turned a hasty and sympathizing glance towards the prisoner; "hate grows faster than love, and lasts longer. Before the neighbours dreamt of Rosalie's good luck—or, rather, bad luck, as it has since turned out, poor woman !--there was many a lad in the village that hoped to make her his wife; but she listened to none of them, and they
can't forgive her for having married above them."
“And you, not having been of the number, can afford to say a good word for her. Is that what we are to understand ?” asked the Procureur, sarcastically
“No, monsieur;" was the sturdy reply; "but I loved her too well to bear malice.”
A gleam of light at last! But, alas ! too faint | to penetrate the gloom of her prison cell.
“Stand down," said the President; and the heroic young man obeyed. And this was heroism ; for he had boldly avowed his affection for one who had appeared to be abandoned by every other human being-her adopted father had abandoned her in the unconsciousness of second childhood-her infant, in the terror of helplessness—her friends, from the dread of shame-she stood alone, until that humble but upright man braved the world's withering scorn, and dared the contemptuous laughter of his fellows to silence one throb of her bursting heart.
The last witness had been heard, and the counsel rose for the defence. He no doubt felt that he had undertaken not only a difficult, but an onerous task, for at the commencement of his speech he was visibly agitated : he perpetually repeated himself; and, instead of plunging boldly into the heart of his subject, and at once grappling with the charges brought against his client, he dwelt upon her youth, on the agony of mind and body which she had undergone for so many months, and on the misery which she must have endured when she gave birth to her lastinfantin disgrace and tears. Suddenly, however, he rallied; and declared, with an energy as startling as it was unexpected, that, although the sufferings which he had enumerated were of themselves almost a sufficient punishment for the crimes of which she was accused, he had no intention of asking an acquittal upon such grounds.
“No, gentlemen of the jury," he exclaimed, vehemently, “we seek no such subterfuge-we desire no impunity which does not restore our honour. We have already endured enough, more than enough ; we care not to remain a mark for the finger of scorn and of suspicion ; we must leave this court not only free, but justified. I maintain, gentlemen of the jury, that we have a right to demand this ; and I have no fear but that you will feel as I do. What has been proved against the accused ? I will tell you in a few words. It has been proved that she was pretty and good-so pretty and so good, that half the young peasants of the village sought to win her affections; that she was industrious,