The Mystery of Orcival HTML version

Chapter 5
The staircase had been put under guard, but the vestibule had remained free. People were
heard coming and going, tramping and coughing; then rising above this continuous noise,
the oaths of the gendarmes trying to keep back the crowd. From time to time, a scared
face passed by the dining-room door, which was ajar. These were curious folks who,
more daring than the rest, wished to see the "men of justice" eating, and tried to hear a
word or two, to report them, and so become important in the eyes of the others. But the
"men of justice " - as they said at Orcival - took care to say nothing of moment while the
doors were open, and while a servant was passing to and fro. Greatly moved by this
frightful crime, disturbed by the mystery which surrounded it, they hid their impressions.
Each, on his part, studied the probability of his suspicions, and kept his opinion to
M. Domini, as he ate, put his notes in order, numbering the leaves, marking certain
peculiarly significant answers of the suspected persons with a cross. He was, perhaps, the
least tormented of the four companions at this funereal repast. The crime did not seem to
him one of those which keep judges of instruction sleepless through the night; he saw
clearly the motive of it; and he had Bertaud and Guespin, two of the assassins, or at least
accomplices, secure.
M. Plantat and Dr. Gendron, seated next each other, were talking of the illness which
carried off Sauvresy. M. Courtois listened to the hubbub without.
The news of the double murder was soon noised about the neighborhood, and the crowd
increased every minute. It filled the court, and became bolder and bolder; the gendarmes
were overwhelmed. Then or never was the time for the mayor to show his authority. "I
am going to make these people listen to reason," said he, "and make them retire." And at
once, wiping his mouth, he threw his tumbled napkin on the table, and went out.
It was time. The brigadier's injunctions were no longer heeded. Some curious people,
more eager than the rest, had flanked the position and were forcing an entrance through
the gate leading to the garden. The mayor's presence did not perhaps intimidate the crowd
much, but it redoubled the energy of the gendames; the vestibule was cleared, amid
murmurings against the arm of the law. What a chance for a speech! M. Courtois was not
wanting to the occasion. He believed that his eloquence, endowed with the virtues of a
cold showerbath, would calm this unwonted effervescence of his constituency. He
stepped forward upon the steps, his left hand resting in the opening of his vest, gesturing
with his right in the proud and impassible attitude which the sculptor lends to great
orators. It was thus that he posed before his council when, finding unexpected opposition,
he undertook to impose his will upon them, and recall the recalcitrant members to their
His speech, in fragments, penetrated to the dining-rooM. According as he turned to the
right or to the left, his voice was clear and distinct, or was lost in space. He said: