The Mystery of Orcival
The judge of instruction of the tribunal at Corbeil, was M. Antoine Domini, a remarkable
man, since called to higher functions. He was forty years of age, of a prepossessing
person, and endowed with a very expressive, but too grave physiognomy. In him seemed
typified the somewhat stiff solemnity of the magistracy. Penetrated with the dignity of his
office, he sacrificed his life to it, rejecting the most simple distractions, and the most
He lived alone, seldom showing himself abroad; rarely received his friends, not wishing,
as he said, that the weaknesses of the man should derogate from the sacred character of
the judge. This latter reason had deterred him from marrying, though he felt the need of a
Always and everywhere he was the magistrate - that is, the representative, even to
fanaticism, of what he thought the most august institution on the earth. Naturally gay, he
would double-lock himself in when he wished to laugh. He was witty; but if a bright sally
escaped him, you may be sure he repented of it. Body and soul he gave to his vocation;
and no one could bring more conscientiousness to the discharge of what he thought to be
his duty. He was also inflexible. It was monstrous, in his eyes, to discuss an article of the
code. The law spoke; it was enough; he shut his eyes, covered his ears, and obeyed.
>From the day when a legal investigation commenced, he did not sleep, and he employed
every means to discover the truth. Yet he was not regarded as a good judge of instruction;
to contend by tricks with a prisoner was repugnant to him; to lay a snare for a rogue he
thought debasing; in short, he was obstinate - obstinate to foolishness, sometimes to
absurdity; even to denying the existence of the sun at mid-day.
The mayor and Papa Plantat hastened to meet M. Domini. He bowed to them gravely, as
if he had not known them, and presenting to them a man of some sixty years who
Messieurs," said he, "this is Doctor Gendron."
Papa Plantat shook hands with the doctor; the mayor smiled graciously at him, for Dr.
Gendron was well-known in those parts; he was even celebrated, despite the nearness of
Paris. Loving his art and exercising it with a passionate energy, he yet owed his renown
less to his science than his manners. People said: "He is an original;" they admired his
affectation of independence, of scepticism, and rudeness. He made his visits from five to
nine in the morning - all the worse for those for whom these hours were inconvenient.
After nine o'clock the doctor was not to be had. The doctor was working for himself, the
doctor was in his laboratory, the doctor was inspecting his cellar. It was rumored that he
sought for secrets of practical chemistry, to augment still more his twenty thousand livres
of income. And he did not deny it; for in truth he was engaged on poisons, and was
perfecting an invention by which could be discovered traces of all the alkaloids which up