result of the 1 preliminary examination, soon afterwards made
public, at first-hand from the avocat general. Here, in a con-
densed form, is the substance of the indictment which was
being drawn up by the prosecution :
Jean-Francois Tascheron was the son of a small farmer
burdened with a large family, who lived in the township
of Montegnac. Twenty years before the perpetration of
this crime, whose memory still lingers in Limousin, Canton
Montegnac bore a notoriously bad character. It was alleged
in the criminal court of Limoges that fifty out of every
hundred convictions came from the Montegnac district.
Since 1816, two years after the arrival of the new cure,
M. Bonnet, Montegnac lost its old reputation, and no longer
sent up its contingent to the assizes. The change was gen-
erally set down to M. Bonnet's influence in the commune,
which had once been a perfect hotbed of bad characters who
gave trouble in all the country round about. Jean-Francois
Tascheron's crime suddenly restored Montegnac to its former
unenviable pre-eminence. It happened, singularly enough,
that the Tascherons had been almost the only family in the
countryside which had not departed from the old exemplary
58 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
traditions and religious habits now fast dying out in country
places. In them the cure had found a moral support and
basis of operations, and naturally he thought a great deal of
them. The whole family, were hard workers, remarkable for
their honesty and the strong affection that bound them to each
other ; Jean-Francois Tascheron had had none but good ex-
amples set before him at home. A praiseworthy ambition had
brought him to Limoges. He meant to make a little fortune
honestly by a handicraft, and left the township, to the regret
of his relations and friends, who were very much attached to
His conduct during his two years of apprenticeship was
admirable ; apparently no irregularity in his life had foreshad-
owed the hideous crime for which he forfeited his life. The
leisure which other workmen wasted in the wineshop and
debauches, Tascheron spent in study.
Justice in the provinces has plenty of time on her hands,
but the most minute investigation threw no light whatever on
the secrets of his existence. The landlady of Jean Francois*
humble lodging, skillfully questioned, said that she had never
had such a steady young man as a lodger. He was pleasant-
spoken and good-tempered, almost gay, as you might say.
About a year ago a change seemed to come over him. He
would stop out all night several times a month, and often for
several nights at a time. She did not know whereabouts in
the town he spent those nights. Still, she had sometimes
thought, judging by the mud on his boots, that her lodger
had been somewhere out in the country. He used to wear
pumps, too, instead of hobnailed boots, although he was
going out of the town, and before he went he used to shave
and scent himself, and put on clean clothes.
The examining magistrate carried his investigation to such
a length that inquiries were made in houses of ill-fame and
among licensed prostitutes, but no one knew anything of
Jean-Francois Tascheron ; other inquiries made among the
class of factory operatives and shop-girls met with no better
success ; none of those whose conduct was light had any rela-
tions with the accused.
A crime without any motive whatever is inconceivable,
especially when the criminal's bent was apparently towards
self-improvement, while his ambitions argued higher ideals
and sense superior to that of other workmen. The whole
criminal department, like the examining magistrate, were fain
to find a motive for the murder in a passion for play on Tas-
cheron's part ; but after minute investigation, it was proved
that the accused had never gambled in his life.
From the very first Jean-Francois took refuge in a system
of denial which could not but break down in the face of
circumstantial evidence when his case should come before a
jury ; but his manner of defending himself suggested the
intervention of some person well acquainted with the law, or
gifted with no ordinary intelligence. The evidence of his
guilt, as in most similar cases, was at once unconvincing and
yet too strong to be set aside. The principal points which
told against Tascheron were four his absence from home on
the night of the murder (he would not say where he spent
that night, and scorned to invent an alibi) ; a shred of his
blouse, torn without his knowledge during the struggle with
the poor servant-girl, and blown by the wind into the tree
where it was found ; the fact that he had been seen hanging
about the house that evening by people in the suburb, who
would not have remembered this but for the crime which
followed ; and, lastly, a false key which he had made to fit the
lock of the garden-gate, which was entered from the fields.
It had been hidden rather ingeniously in one of the holes,
some two feet below the surface. M. des Vanneaulx had
come upon it while digging to see whether by chance there
might be a second hoard beneath the first. The police suc-
ceeded in finding out the man who supplied the steel, the
vise, and the key-file. This had been their first clue, it put
60 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
them on Tascheroa's track, and finally they arrested him on
the limits of the department in a woods where he was waiting
for the diligence. An hour later, and he would have been on
his way to America. Moreover, in spite of the care with
which the footprints had been erased in the trampled earth
and on the muddy road, the rural policeman had found the
marks of thin shoes, clear and unmistakable, in the soil.
Tascheron's lodgings were searched, and a pair of pumps
were found which exactly corresponded with the impress, a
fatal coincidence which confirmed the curious observations
of his landlady.
Then the criminal investigation department saw another
influence at work in the crime, and a second and perhaps a
prime mover in the case. Tascheron must have had an
accomplice, if only for the reason that it was impossible for
one man to take away such a weight of coin. No man, how-
ever strong, could carry twenty-five thousand francs in gold
very far. If each of the pots had held so much, he must
have made four journeys. Now, a singular accident deter-
mined the very hour when the deed was done. Jeanne
Malassis, springing out of bed in terror at her master's
shrieks, had overturned the table on which her watch lay
(the one present which the miser had made her in five years).
The fall had broken the mainspring, and stopped the hands
at two o'clock.
In mid-March, the time of the murder, the sun rises be-
tween five and six in the morning. So on the hypothesis
traced out by the police and the department, it was clearly
impossible that Tascheron should have carried off the money
unaided and alone, even for a short distance, in the time.
The evident pains which the man had taken to erase other
footprints to the neglect of his own, also indicated an un-
Justice, driven to invent some reason for the crime, decided
on a frantic passion for some woman., and, as she was not to
be found among the lower classes, forensic sagacity looked
Could it be some woman of the bourgeoisie who, feeling
sure of the discretion of a lover of so puritanical a cut, had
read with him the opening chapters of a romance which had
ended in this ugly tragedy ? There were circumstances in
the case which almost bore out this theory. The old man
had been killed by blows from a spade. The murder, it
seemed, was the result of chance, a sudden fortuitous develop-
ment, and not a part of a deliberate plan. The two lovers
might, perhaps, have concerted the theft, but not the second
crime. Then Tascheron the lover and Pingret the miser had
crossed each other's paths, and in the thick darkness of
night two inexorable passions met on the same spot, both
attracted thither by gold.
Justice devised a new plan for obtaining light on these dark
facts. Jean-Francois had a favorite sister ; her they arrested
and examined privately, hoping in this way to come by a
knowledge of the mysteries of her brother's private life.
Denise Tascheron denied all knowledge of his affairs ; pru-
dence dictating a system of negative answers which led her
questioners to suspect that she really knew the reasons of the
crime. Denise Tascheron, as a matter of fact, knew nothing
whatever about it, but for the rest of her days she was to be
under a cloud in consequence of her detention.
The accused showed a spirit very unusual in a workingman.
He was too clever for the cleverest " sheep of the prisons"
with whom he came in contact though he did not discover
that he had to do with a spy. The keener intelligences
among the magistracy saw in him a murderer through passion,
not through necessity, like the common herd of criminals
who pass by way of the petty sessions and the hulks to a
capital charge. He was shrewdly plied with questions put
with this idea; but the man's wonderful discretion left the
magistrates much where they were before. The romantic but
62 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
plausible theory of a passion for a woman of higher rank, once
admitted, insidious questions were suddenly asked more than
once ; but Jean-Francois discretion issued victorious from all
the mental tortures which the ingenuity of an examining mag-
istrate could inflict.
As a final expedient, Tascheron was told that the person
for whom he had committed the crime had been discovered
and arrested; but his face underwent no change, he contented
himself with the ironical retort, " I should be very glad to see
When these details became known, there were plenty of
people who shared the magistrate's suspicions, confirmed to
all appearance by the behavior of the accused, who main-
tained the silence of a savage. An all-absorbing interest
attached to a young man who had come to be a problem.
Every one will understand how the public curiosity was stimu-
lated by the facts of the case, and how eagerly reports of the
examination were followed ; for, in spite of all the probings
of the police, the case for the prosecution remained on the
brink of a mystery, which the authorities did not dare to
penetrate, beset with dangers as it was. In some cases a half-
certainty is not enough for the magistracy. So it was hoped
that the buried truth would arise and come to light at the
great day of the assizes, an occasion when criminals fre-
quently lose their heads.
It happened that M. Graslin was on the jury empaneled for
the occasion, and Veronique could not but hear through him
or through M. de Granville the whole story of a trial which
kept Limousin, and indeed all France, in excitement for a
fortnight. The behavior of the prisoner at the bar justified
the romances founded on the conjectures of justice which
were current in the town ; more than once his eyes were
turned searchingly on the bevy of women privileged to enjoy
the spectacle of a sensational drama in real life. Every time
that the clear impenetrable gaze was turned on the fashionable
audience, it produced a flutter of consternation, so greatly
did every woman fear lest she might seem to inquisitive eyes
in the court to be the prisoner's partner in guilt.
The useless efforts of the criminal investigation department
were then made public, and Limoges was informed of the pre-
cautions taken by the accused to ensure the complete success
of his crime.
Some months before that fatal night, Jean-Francois had pro-
cured a passport for North America. Clearly he had meant
to leave France. Clearly, therefore, the woman in the case
must be married ; for there was, of course, no object to be
gained by eloping with a young girl. Perhaps it was a desire
to maintain the fair unknown in luxury which had prompted
the crime ; but, on the other hand, a search through the regis-
ters of the administration had discovered that no passport for
that country had been made out in a woman's name. The
police had even investigated the registers in Paris as well as
those of the neighboring perfectures, but fruitlessly.
As the case proceeded, every least detail brought to light
revealed profound forethought on the part of a man of no
ordinary intelligence. While the most virtuous ladies of
Limousin explained the sufficiently inexplicable use of even-
ing shoes for a country excursion on muddy roads and heavy
soil, by the plea that it was necessary to spy upon old Pingret ;
the least coxcombically given of men were delighted to point
out how eminently a pair of thin pumps favored noiseless
movements about a house, scaling windows, and stealing along
Evidently Jean-Francois Tascheron and his mistress, a
young, romantic, and beautiful woman (for every one drew
a superb portrait of the lady), had contemplated forgery, and
the words "and wife" were to be filled in after his name on
Card-parties were broken up during these evenings by mali-
cious conjectures and comments. People began to cast about
64 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
for the names of women who went to Paris during March,
1829 ; or of others who might be supposed to have made pre-
parations openly or secretly for flight. The trial supplied
Limoges with a second Fualdes case, with an unknown Mme.
Manson by way of improvement on the first. Never, indeed,
was any country town so puzzled as Limoges after the court
rose each day. People's very dreams turned on the trial.
Everything that transpired raised the accused in their eyes ;
his answers, skillfully turned over and over, expanded and
edited, supplied a theme for endless argument. One of the
jury asked, for instance, why Tascheron had taken a passport
for America, to which the prisoner replied that he meant to
open a porcelain factory there. In this way he screened his
accomplice without quitting his line of defense, and supplied
conjecture with a plausible and sufficient motive for the crime
in this ambition of his.
In the thick of these disputes, it was impossible that Veron-
ique's friends should not also try to account for Tascheron's
close reserve. One evening she seemed better than usual.
The doctor had prescribed exercise ; and that very morning
Veronique, leaning on her mother's arm, had walked out as
far as Mme. Sauviat's cottage, and rested there a while. When
she came home again, she tried to sit up until her husband
returned, but Graslin was late, and did not come back from
the court till eight o'clock; his wife waited on him at din-
ner after her usual custom, and in this way she could not
help but hear the discussion between her husband and his
" We should have known more about this if my poor father
were still alive," said Veronique, " or perhaps the man would
not have committed the crime But I notice that you
have all of you taken one strange notion into your heads !
You will have it that there is a woman at the bottom of this
business (as far as that goes I myself am of your opinion), but
why do you think that she is a married woman ? Why cannot
he have loved some girl whose father and mother refused to
listen to him?"
" Sooner or later a young girl might have been legitimately
his," returned M. de Granville. " Tascheron is not wanting
in patience ; he would have had time to make an independ-
ence honestly; he could have waited until the girl was old
enough to marry without her parents' consent."
" I did not know that such a marriage was possible," said
Mme. Graslin. " Then how is it that no one had the least
suspicion of it, here in a place where everybody knows the
affairs of everybody else, and sees all that goes on in his
neighbor's house ? Two" people cannot fall in love without
at any rate seeing each other or being seen of each other !
What do you lawyers think?" she continued, looking the
av ocat general full in the eyes.
"We all think that the woman must be the wife of some
tradesman, a man in business."
"I am of a totally opposite opinion," said Mme. Graslin.
" That kind of woman has not sentiments sufficiently lofty,"
a retort which drew all eyes upon her. Every one waited for
the explanation of the paradox.
"At night," she said, "when I do not sleep, or when I
lie in bed in the daytime, I cannot help thinking over this
mysterious business, and I believe I can guess Tascheron's
motives. These are my reasons for thinking that it is a girl,
and not a woman in the case. A married woman has other
interests, if not other feelings ; she has a divided heart in
her, she cannot rise to the full height of the exaltation in-
spired by a love so passionate as this. She must never have
borne a child if she is to conceive a love in which maternal
instincts are blended with those which spring from desire.
It is quite clear that some woman who wished to be a sustain-
ing power to him has loved this man. That unknown woman
must have brought to her love the genius which inspires artists
and poets, aye, and women also, but in another form, for it
66 THE COUA\TRY PARSON.
is a woman's destiny to create, not things, but men. Our
creations are our children, our children are our pictures, our
books and statues. Are we not artists when we shape their
lives from the first ? So I am sure that if she is not a girl,
she is not a mother ; I would stake my head upon it. Law-
yers should have a woman's instinct to apprehend the infinite
subtle touches which continually escape them in so many
"If I had been your substitute," she continued, turning
to M. de Granville, "we should have discovered the guilty
woman, always supposing that she is guilty. I think, with
M. 1'Abbe" Dutheil, that the two lovers had planned to go to
America, and to live there on poor Pingret's money, as they
had none of their own. The theft, of course, led to the
murder, the usual fatal consequence of the fear of detec-
tion and death. And it would be worthy of you," she
added, with a suppliant glance at the young lawyer, " to
withdraw the charge of malice aforethought ; you would save
the miserable man's life. He is so great in spite of his crime,
that he would perhaps expiate his sins by some magnificent
repentance. The works of repentance should be taken into
account in the deliberations of justice. In these days there
are no better ways of atoning an offense than by the loss of
a head, or by founding, as in olden times, a Milan cathe-
"Madame, your ideas are sublime," returned the lawyer ;
" but if the averment of malice aforethought were withdrawn,
Tascheron would still be tried for his life ; and it is a case of
aggravated theft, it was committed at night, the walls were
scaled, the premises broken into "
"Then, do you think he will be condemned?" she asked,
lowering her eyelids.
" I do not doubt it. The prosecution has the best of it."
A light shudder ran through Mme. Graslin, Her dress
"I feel cold," she said.'
She took her mother's arm and went to bed.
" She is much better to-day," said her friends.
The next morning Veronique was at death's door. She
smiled at her doctor's surprise at finding her in an almost
" Did I not tell you that the walk would do me no good? "
Ever since the opening of the trial there had been no trace
of either swagger or hypocrisy in Tascheron's attitude. The
doctor, always with a view to diverting his patient's mind,
tried to explain this attitude out of which the counsel for the
defense made capital for his client. The counsel's cleverness,
the doctor opined, had dazzled the accused, who imagined
that he should escape the capital sentence. Now and then an
expression crossed his face which spoke plainly of hopes of
some coming happiness greater than mere acquittal or reprieve.
The whole previous life of this man of twenty-three was such
a flat contradiction to the deeds which brought it to a close
that his champions put forward his behavior as a conclusive
argument. In fact, the clues spun by the police into a stout
hypothesis fit to hang a man dwindled so pitiably when woven
into the romance of the defense, that the prisoner's counsel
fought for his client's life with some prospect of success. To
save him he shifted the ground of the combat, and fought the
battle out on the question of malice aforethought. It was
admitted, without prejudice, that the robbery had been
planned beforehand, but contended that the double murder
had been the result of an unexpected resistance in both cases.
The issue looked doubtful ; neither side had made good their
When the doctor went, the avocat general came in as usual
to see Veronique before he went to the court.
" I have read the counsel's speeches yesterday," she told
68 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
him. " To-day the other side will reply. I am so very much
interested in the prisoner that I should like him to be saved.
Could you not forego a triumph for once in your life ? Let
the counsel for the defense gain the day. Come, make me a
present of this life, and perhaps some day mine shall be
yours There is a doubt after that fine speech of Tasche-
ron's counsel; well, then, why not "
"Your voice is quivering " said the Vicomte, almost
taken by surprise.
" Do you know why? " she asked. " My husband has just
pointed out a coincidence hideous for a sensitive nature like
mine a thing that is likely to cause me my death. You will
give the order for his head to fall just about the time when
my child will be born."
"Can I reform the Code?" asked the public prosecutor.
"There, go! You do not know how to love!" she
answered, and closed her eyes.
She lay back on her pillow, and dismissed the lawyer with
an imperative gesture.
M. Graslin pleaded hard, but in vain, for an acquittal, ad-
vancing an argument, first suggested to him by his wife, and
taken up by two of his friends ort the jury : " If we spare the
man's life, the des Vanneaulx will recover Pingret's money."
This irresistible argument told upon the jury, and divided
them seven for acquittal as against five. As they failed to
agree, the president and assessors were obliged to add their
suffrages, and they were on the side of the minority. Jean-
Francois Tascheron was found guilty of murder.
When sentence was passed, Tascheron burst into a blind
fury, natural enough in a man full of strength and life, but
seldom seen in court when it is an innocent man who is con-
demned. It seemed to every one who saw it that the drama
was not brought to an end by the sentence. So obstinate a
struggle (as often happens in such cases) gave rise to two
diametrically opposite opinions as to the guilt of the central
figure in it. Some saw oppressed innocence in him, others a
criminal justly punished. The Liberal party felt it incumbent
upon them to believe in Tascheron's innocence; it was not
so much conviction on their part as a desire to annoy those in
"What?" cried they. '-'Is a man to be condemned be-
cause his foot happens to suit the size of a footmark ? Be-
cause, forsooth, he was not at his lodgings at the time? (As
if any young fellow would not die sooner than compromise a
woman!) Because he borrowed tools and bought steel?
(for it has not been proved that he made the key). Because
some one finds a blue rag in a tree, where old Pingret very
likely put it himself to scare the sparrows, and it happens to
match a slit made in the blouse? Take a man's life on such
grounds as these ! And, after all, Jean-Francois has denied
every charge, and the prosecution did not produce any wit-
ness who had seen him commit the crime."
Then they fell to corroborating, amplifying, and paraphras-
ing the speeches made by the prisoner's counsel and his line
of defense. As for Pingret; what was Pingret? A money-
box which had been broken open ; so said the freethinkers.
A few so-called Progressives, who did not recognize the
sacred laws of property (which the Saint-Simonians had
already attacked in the abstract region of economical theory),
went further still.
"Old Pingret," said these, " was the prime author of the
crime. The man was robbing his country by hoarding the
gold. What a lot of businesses that idle capital might have
fertilized ! He had thwarted industry ; he was properly
As for the servant-girl, they were sorry for her ; and
Denise, who had baffled the ingenuity of the lawyers, the girl
who never opened her mouth at the trial without long ponder-
ing over what she meant to say, excited the keenest interest.