The Clique of Gold by Emile Gaboriau - HTML preview
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The magistrate from Saigon saw his hopes fulfilled, and, thanks to his promotion, was commissioned to continue the trial which he had so ably commenced. After the jury had brought in their verdict of guilty, he sentenced Justin Chevassat, alias Maxime de Brevan, to penal servitude for life.
Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, got off with twenty years; and the two Chevassats escaped with ten years' solitary confinement.
The trial of Thomas Elgin, which came on during the same term, revealed a system of swindling which was so strikingly bold and daring, that it appeared at first sight almost incredible. It excited especial surprise when it was found out that he had issued false shares, which he made Count Ville-Handry buy in, so as to ruin, by the same process, the count as an individual, and the company over which he presided. He was sent for twenty years to the penitentiary.
These scandalous proceedings had one good result. They saved the poor count; but they revealed, at the same time, such prodigious unfitness for business, that people began to suspect how dependent he must have been on his first wife, Henrietta's mother. He remained, however, relatively poor. They had made Thomas Elgin refund, and had even obtained possession of Sarah Brandon's fortune; but the count was called upon to make amends for his want of business capacity. When he had satisfied all his creditors, and handed over to his daughter a part of her maternal inheritance, he had hardly more than six thousand dollars a year left.
Of the whole "band," Mrs. Brian alone escaped.
Malgat, having surrendered to justice with the prescribed limits of time to purge himself, was tried, and the whole process begun anew. But the trial was naturally a mere form. His own lawyer had very little to say. The state attorney himself made his defense. After having fully explained the circumstances which had led the poor cashier to permit a crime, rather than to commit it himself, the attorney said to the jury,--
"Now, gentlemen, that you have learned what was the wrong of which he is guilty, you ought also to know how he has expiated his crime.
"When he left the miserable woman who had ruined him, maddened by grief, and determined to end his life, Malgat went home. There he found his sister.
"She was one of those women who have religiously preserved the domestic virtues of our forefathers, and who know of no compromise in questions of honor.
"She had soon forced her brother to confess his fatal secret, and, overcoming the horror she naturally felt, she found words, inspired by her excellent heart, which moved him, and led him to reconsider his resolve. She told him that suicide was but an additional crime, and that he was in honor bound to live, so that he might make amends, and restore the money he had stolen."
"Hope began to rise once more in his heart, and filled him with unexpected energy. And yet what obstacles he had to encounter! How could he ever hope to return four hundred thousand francs. How should he go about to earn so much money? and where? How could he do anything, now that he was compelled to live in concealment?
"Do you know, gentlemen, what this sister did in her almost sublime devotion? She had a moderate income from state bonds; she sold them all, and carried the proceeds to the president of the Mutual Discount Society, begging him to be patient as to the remainder, and promising that he should be repaid, capital and interest alike. She asked for nothing but secrecy; and he pledged himself to secrecy.
"And from that day, gentlemen of the jury, the brother and the sister have lived like the poorest laborers, working incessantly, and denying themselves everything but what was indispensable for life itself.
"And this day, gentlemen, Malgat owes nothing to the society; he has paid everything. He fell once; but he has risen again. And this place in court, where he now sits as a prisoner, will become to him a place of honor, in which he will recover his position in society, and his honor."
Malgat was acquitted.
The marriage of Henrietta, Countess Ville-Handry, and Lieut. Daniel Champcey, was celebrated at the Church of St. Clothilda. Daniel's groomsmen were Malgat and the old chief surgeon of the frigate "Conquest." Several persons noticed that the bride wore, contrary to usage, a dress of embroidered muslin. It was the robe which Henrietta had so often covered with her tears, at the time when, having no bread for the morrow, she had tried to live by the work of her hands. Malgat had hunted it up, and bought it: the precious dress was his wedding- gift.