The Brotherhood of Consolation


PRAY FOR THOSE WHO DESPITEFULLY USE YOU AND PERSECUTE YOUThis legal paper, much shorter and more imperative than such indictments are these days, when they are far more detailed and more precise, especially as to the antecedent life of accused persons, affected Godefroid deeply.The dryness of the statement in which the official pen narrated in red ink the principal details of the affair stirred his imagination.Concise, abbreviated narratives are to some minds texts into the hidden meaning of which they love to burrow.

In the middle of the night, aided by the silence, by the darkness, by the terrible relation intimated by the worthy Alain between the facts of that document and Madame de la Chanterie, Godefroid applied all the forces of his intellect to decipher the dreadful theme.

Evidently the name Lechantre stood for la Chanterie; in all probably the aristocracy of the name was intentionally thus concealed during the Revolution and under the Empire.

Godefroid saw, in imagination, the landscape and the scenes where this drama had taken place.The forms and faces of the accomplices passed before his eyes.He pictured to himself not "one Rifoel" but a Chevalier du Vissard, a young man something like the Fergus of Walter Scott, a French Jacobite.He developed the romance of an ardent young girl grossly deceived by an infamous husband (a style of romance then much the fashion); loving the young and gallant leader of a rebellion against the Empire; giving herself, body and soul, like another Diana Vernon, to the conspiracy, and then, once launched on that fatal incline, unable to stop herself.Had she rolled to the scaffold?

The young man saw in his own mind a whole world, and he peopled it.He wandered in the shade of those Norman groves; he saw the Breton hero and Madame Bryond among the gorse and shrubbery; he inhabited the old chateau of Saint-Savin; he shared in the diverse acts of all those many personages, picturing to himself the notary, the merchant, and those bold Chouans.His mind conceived the state of that wild country where lingered still the memory of the Comtes de Bauvan, de Longuy, the exploits of Marche-a-Terre, the massacre at La Vivetiere, the death of the Marquis de Montauran--of whose prowess Madame de la Chanterie had told him.

This sort of vision of things, of men, of places was rapid.When he remembered that this drama must relate to the dignified, noble, deeply religious old woman whose virtue was acting upon him so powerfully as to be upon the point of metamorphosing him, Godefroid was seized with a sort of terror, and turned hastily to the second document which Monsieur Alain had given him.This was entitled:--Summary on behalf of Madame Henriette Bryond des Tours-Minieres, nee Lechantre de la Chanterie.

"No longer any doubt!" murmured Godefroid.

We are condemned and guilty; but if ever the Sovereign had reason to exercise his right of clemency it is surely in a case like this.

Here is a young woman, about to become a mother, and condemned to death.

From a prison cell, with the scaffold before her, this woman will tell the truth.

The trial before the Criminal Court of Alencon had, as in all cases where there are many accused persons in a conspiracy inspired by party-spirit, certain portions which were seriously obscure.

The Chancellor of His Imperial and Royal Majesty knows now the truth about the mysterious personage named Le Marchand, whose presence in the department of the Orne was not denied by the government during the trial, but whom the prosecution did not think proper to call as witness, and whom the defence had neither the power nor the opportunity to find.

That personage is, as the prosecuting officer, the police of Paris, and the Chancellor of His Imperial and Royal Majesty well know, the Sieur Bernard-Polydor Bryond des Tours-Minieres, the correspondent, since 1794, of the Comte de Lille,--known elsewhere as the Baron des Tours-Minieres, and on records of the Parisian police under the name of Contenson.

He is notorious.His youth and name were degraded by vices so imperative, an immorality so profound, conduct so criminal, that his infamous life must have ended on the scaffold if he had not possessed the ability to play a double part, as indicated by his names.Hereafter, as his passions rule him more and more, he will end by falling to the depths of infamy in spite of his incontestable ability and a remarkable mind.

[Well, falling to the ground from the roof of a house, at any rate, courtesy of Collin in Scenes.--JB.]

When the Comte de Lille became aware of this man's character he no longer permitted him to take part in the royalist councils or to handle the money sent to France; he thus lost the resources derived from these masters, whose service had been profitable to him.

It was then that he returned to his country home, crippled with debt.

His traitorous connection with the intrigues of England and the Comte de Lille, won him the confidence of the old families attached to the cause now vanquished by the genius of our immortal Emperor.He there met one of the former leaders of the rebellion, with whom at the time of the expedition to Quberon, and later, at the time of the last uprising of the Chouans, he had held certain relations as an envoy from England.He encouraged the schemes of this young agitator, Rifoel, who has since paid with his life on the scaffold for his plots against the State.Through him Bryond was able to penetrate once more into the secrets of that party which has misunderstood both the glory of H.M.the Emperor Napoleon I.and the true interests of the nation united in his august person.

Honore De Balzac