W. (William) Harding.

Dreyfus: the prisoner of Devil's Island, a full story of the most remarkable military trial and scandal of the age online

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Dreyfus spoke of great sums he had lost in gambling and how much he
had spent on women.

"One day," the witness proceeded, "when we were visiting the Con-
cours Hippique, we met three women who bowed to us. Dreyfus re-
turned the greeting, and I said to him : ' Well, for a married man, you
have nice acquaintances.' He replied that they were old friends of his
bachelorhood, and, pointing to one of them, said her name was Valtesse,
and that she had a house on the Champs Elys^es, where she gave nice
parties, where pretty women were to be met, and where there was much
gambling. Dreyfus also boasted of his large means, and spoke with great
relish of his comfortable house and travels."

The witness, continuing, said Dreyfus was well acquainted with the
scheme for the concentration of troops, and could trace it on any map, as
most of the other probationers could.

The witness then detailed the work of the different bureaus, and pro-
ceeded to demonstrate that the probationers were cognizant of the plans
for the transportation and concentration of the troops, and how Dreyfus
was ordered to draw up a report on the Grerman artillery, comparing it
with the French artillery, and having access to all the necessary docu-

In regard to the Madagascar note, Dreyfus, Junck claimed, told the
witness that his cousin had procured him interesting information.


Captain Jimck then spoke of the efforts of Dreyfus to secure the Fir-
ing Manual, and discussed the theory that Henry might have divulged
the documents in the bordereau. Such a supposition, the captain de-
clared, was utterly impossible.

Later, the witness corroborated the statement that Colonel Picquart
proposed post-marking the petit bleu with the view of proving its genuine-

Dreyfus, after being asked the usual question, replied:

" I will not speak to the witness of private confidences he has made
to me. If Captain Junck's ideas of honor allow him to divulge private
conversation, mine do not. I have clean hands, and I will keep them
clean. But there are a number of facts to which I will refer. I will
speak first in regard to all the losses it is said I sustained at the club at
Mans. I declare I was never a member of the Civil Club at Mans, never
visited it, and, consequently, never gambled there. I am convinced that
the members of the club are very respectable, and ask you simply to have
an inquiry made, in order to know if I am speaking the truth.

" In regard to the lectures in the offices of the Headquarters Staff, at
which it is asserted I was present, they occurred in December, 1893. I
was absent at that time, and consequently did not attend the lectures."

The prisoner then proceeded to show that in July, 1894, the proba-
tioners were informed by an official circular that they were to pass a
period of probation in the army, the first-yearers in August and Septem-
ber, the second -yearers in October, November, and December, therefore,
at a period when there were no manoeuvres.

Regarding the officers directing the dispatch of troops at various
points, Dreyfus dwelt upon the fact that he, at that time, was on a mis-
sion and was not at the manoeuvres at all.

"We must be precise," Dreyfus added, "and not play upon words. In
August, 1894, the second-year probationers knew definitely that they
were to go to various regiments in October, November, and December, and
that consequently they would not attend the manoeuvres."


Chapter XXXVL 4


MaItre Labori, leading counsel for the defence, who was murderously
assaulted on August 14th, was able to resume the defence of Captain Drey-
fus when the trial was resumed on August 2 2d.

The arrival of M. Labori at the Lyc^e was the signal for scenes of
extraordinary enthusiasm. At 6:15 a.m. three carriages, preceded by a
number of bicyles, drove up. The first carriage contained M. Labori and
his wife and physicians. The others contained friends of the lawyer and
some police inspectors. The crowd about the Lyc^e Bviilding rushed up
to M. Labori's carriage, and a number of persons eagerly thrust their
hands through the windows to greet the distinguished lawyer.

When M. Labori descended, he was surrounded by friends, and a hun-
dred hands pressed his, while he was assailed with all sorts of questions,
to which he smilingly replied :

"I am getting on well, my friends, thank you, thank you."

As M. Labori, still accompanied by Madame Labori and a physician,
entered the court-room the audience greeted him by standing up, and there
was a general roar of applause, accompanied by the clapping of hands,
which was distinctly heard in the streets.

Tears filled the eyes of the wounded man, who was evidently deeply
affected by the warm welcome accorded him. Among those who greeted
M. Labori were Generals Billot and Mercier, who courteously inquired as
to his condition. The lawyer looked very well, considering his recent
experience. He walked quite briskly, but held his left arm close to his
side, in order not to disturb the wound. He was conducted to a light,
well-cushioned armchair, instead of one of the ordinary cane-bottom
chairs, behind the table set apart for the lawyers.

Madame Labori, who entered the court-room ahead of her husband,


also received a hearty greeting. As she took a seat in court she was sur-
rounded by friends, who overwhelmed her with congratulations on her
husband's recovery, to which she smilingly responded.

Dreyfus entered the court-room soon afterward, and, after saluting the
judges in the usual manner, he turned to M. Labori with outstretched
hand, and a smile of keen pleasure lighted up his pale and usually impas-
sive features. The lawyer took the prisoner's hand and shook it warmly,
whereupon Dreyfus gave him another look of gratitude and took his seat
in front of the counsel's table with his back toward them.

Colonel Jouaust next read from a paper an address to M. Labori, the
tone of the president being quite sympathetic. The lawyer made an im-
passioned reply. He was deeply affected and his voice was clear,, though
not so strong as before the outrage. He was very nervous and excited,
and swayed to and fro as he delivered his reply, which profoundly im-
pressed his hearers.

The first witness was M. Grenier, the former prefect of Belfort. His
testimony was favorable to Dreyfus, inasmuch as his deposition was dis-
tinctly hostile to Esterhazy.

Major EoUin of the Intelligence Department was asked during the
course of his testimony by M. Labori how a certain document, of a later
date than Mercier's ministry, came into General Mercier's possession.
Eollin said it was not his business to explain, but counsel insisted, asking
whose business it was.

Finally M. Labori asked Colonel Jouaust to request General Mercier
to explain.

The general arose and said he declined to answer.

M. Labori insisted emphatically, but Mercier still refused to answer,
and Major Carriere, the Government Commissary, supported him, on the
ground that the examination was entering upon a matter which ought
not, in the interests of the country, to be discussed publicly.

M. Labori then declared in a loud voice that he would reserve to him-
self the right to take the necessary measure to obtain the desired informa-

The next point was made by Dreyfus in his reply to Major Eolliu.
The latter had remarked that all the prisoner's papers were seized when
his rooms were searched in 1894, and Colonel Jouaust said that certain


pages from his text-book, "The School of War," were found missing.
To this the prisoner retorted :

"Not in 1894, Colonel!"

This caused some sensation, as the obvious interpretation was that the
pages were torn out at the War Office, and that then the fact was used
against him as an insinuation that he had communicated the missing
pages to foreign agents.

M. Ferret, who was alleged to have caught Dreyfus prying into the
work of some of his fellow-officers during their absence, then testified that
toward the end of 1893, on returning from his luncheon, at an hour the
officers were usually out, he found Dreyfus in the Fourth Bureau, stand-
ing with a stranger, a civilian, at the table, consulting a document which
seemed to the witness to be connected with the transportation of troops.

M. Demange — Why did you not give this evidence in 1894?

Witness said he regretted he had overlooked it.

The prisoner protested against such statements, which, he said, were
nothing but "vile insinuations," concocted by a former Minister of War
(General Mercier). [Great sensation.]

"I never went into my office," continued Dreyfus, "at any other time
than the hours of duty. 1 declare it was impossible, or at least most
difficult, for a civilian to enter the offices of the Ministry of War."

Dreyfus added that while his wife was at Houlgate, Normandy, in
August or September, 1894, he happened to go to his office at noon,
though the usual hour was two o'clock.

Colonel Jouaust questioned Dreyfus relative to his hours of duties and
the difficulty of introducing a stranger into the offices, after which Gen-
eral Gonse asked for permission to speak in order to complete his evi-
dence. He said he received a letter on August 21st from M. Le Cha-
teller. Chief Engineer of the Department of Eoads and Bridges, and the
general read a letter in which Le Chateller said :

" During six or seven years I had a permit for the Ministry of War,
and went thei-e at least a himdred times. I did not have to show my
permit more than ten times. On another occasion I was accompanied by
a friend, who entered without any other formality than opening the gate
and saluting the sentry." [Laughter.]

General Gonse read another letter of similar purport, and Dreyfus said :


" That rule was strict. The letters only prove that certain persons did
not observe it."

M. Demange — It also proves that since the Ministry of War was so
easily entered, others besides officers could easily procure information.
[Murmurs of dissent.]

Lieutenant-Colonel Bertin, who was the head of Dreyfus's office in 1894,
was the next witness, and showed himself to be a most virulent enemy of
the prisoner. He had evidently learned his testimony by heart, and de-
clared it in a strident, aggressive tone, which grated upon the ears of the
audience. Some of his remarks, particularly his declaration that he was
convinced of Dreyfus's guilt by M. Bertillon's chart and his introduction
of Esterhazy's statements against Dreyfus, elicited general smiles in court.

The witness testified to the prisoner's great zeal at first, and said that
later this was replaced by great carelessness in matters of detail.

"In the face of this," said Bertin, "I gradually ceased to consider him
an assistant. He left an enormous amount of uncompleted work. Thus,
after devoting much time to initiating him into the secrets of the concen-
tration of troops on the Eastern Railway system in time of war, I did not
receive any service in exchange."

Witness added that the reports he gave Dreyfus when he left were
such that he could never enter the Railroad Department. Proceeding, the
witness reiterated that Dreyfus was in a position to acquaint himself with
the questions of the Eastern Railroad's mobilization, and described a con-
versation which he had with Dreyfus in 1893, which, in the opinion of
the witness, threw a curious light on Dreyfus's idea of the Fatherland.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bertin also spoke of the comparisons of the hand-
writings, and then, turning to the prisoner's attitude at the court-martial
of 1894, he said it painfully impressed him, and he was convinced of the
guilt of Dreyfus by the evidence of M. Bertillon.

Referring to his interviews with M. Scheurer-Kestner, formerly a vice-
president of the senate, "whom I always regarded as an honorable man,
obeying the dictates of his conscience," Lieutenant-Colonel Bertin contro-
verted part of Colonel Picquart's evidence on the subject, and at the con-
clusion of his deposition the witness declared he never ordered Dreyfus to
procure information concerning the entire network of railroads, "which the

prisoner sought to acquire from Captain Cuignet."


Replying to questions on the subject of the alleged untimely visit of
Dreyfus to his office, witness said that the plans were kept in his office,
and that Dreyfus knew the word necessary to open the press containing

At this juncture the clerk of the court read a letter from M. Scheurer-
Kestner excusing himself from being unable to attend the session of the
court. The letter referred to the steps taken by Mathieu Dreyfus to secure
the rehabilitation of his brother, and described the writer's investigations
and how it was only when Esterhazy's handwriting was shown him that
his hesitation ended. The letter also described the moments of anguish
the writer experienced during the course of the campaign, and dwelt on
the opinion expressed in the judgment of the Court of Cassation and the
confessions of Esterhazy that he was the writer of the bordereau.

In conclusion the letter said :

"You will permit an old Alsatian, Monsieur le President, to express
the sentiment that the hour of justice will soon strike in the interest of
the army, of justice, and of the country." [Great sensation.]

M. Demange reminded Lieutenant-Colonel Bertin of a remark he made
to M. Ferdinand Scheurer-Kestner, namely :

" There are only five of us who know this terrible secret. One out of
the five must betray it before you can know anything."

Counsel asked if the secret was not that Dreyfus was innocent?

Lieutenant- Colonel Bertin — Oh, no, no !

M. Demange — According to the terms of the conversation ?

Lieutenant- Colonel Bertin (energetically) — No, no; and I'll tell you
why. I have never concealed two things from any members of the
Scheurer-Kestner family: Firstly, that M. Scheurer-Kestner would be
doing a great service if his efforts resulted in establishing the innocence
of a French officer. Secondly, that I was convinced of the guilt of Drey-
fus. [Sensation.]

M. Demange — Did you not once make the following remark: "'This
Jew was a thrust at Headquarters, and we had to get rid of him ' ? "

Lieutenant-Colonel Bertin — No, never. I absolutely deny it. When
I was in the War Office the Jewish question was never raised. Dreyfus
was regarded as a comrade. I confided all my secrets to him and gave
him the password of my locker.


Bertin's testimony was concluded with a sharp passage-at-arms be-
tween him and M. Labori. The latter declared that Bertin himself, by
remarks which he had made upon a certain occasion, convinced the law-
yer of the innocence of Dreyfus. Counsel then recalled other words used
by Bertin to the effect that M. Demange was counsel for the German
embassy because he had defended others accused of espionage.

The witness admitted the correctness of M. Labori's quotation, where-
upon M. Demange jumped up and protested against Lieutenant-Colonel
Bertin's statement. Sharp words were exchanged, until Colonel Jouaust
intervened and refused to allow any further discussion of a matter outside
of the case.

Several minor witnesses followed.

Major Gendron was called to testify regarding an Austrian woman,
Mme. Dely. He said he had taken tea at her house on a single occasion,
and that he thereafter confined himself to exchanging a few polite words
with her when they met, though the gallant officer asserted that the lady
urged his revisiting her home. He thought that neither the age nor the
beauty of the lady accounted for her stylish mode of dressing, nor for the
mystery of her existence, nor for the presence of her child. All this, it
appears, told the witness that he was dealing with an adventuress. He
heard that she had fine acquaintances, including Dreyfus, and, in view of
the fact that in such companionship Dreyfus was liable to commit some
light, imprudent action, witness informed Lieutenant-Colouel Bertin of his

Major Bosse, Captain Boulanger, Colonel Jeannel, and Major Maistre
all testified. In the main their evidence was uninteresting.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jeannel repeated evidence which he had given be-
fore the Court of Cassation. He was very hard on Dreyfus, but while
testifying he scarcely once looked the prisoner in the face.

Colonel Jeannel during his cross-examination threw some light upon
the question of the Firing Manual, which, he said, he lent Dreyfus in

M. Demange wanted to know the exact date, and Colonel Jeannel said
he believed it was in July, adding "in 1894." That would have been a
point calculated to weaken the proof against Dreyfus, counsel pointing
out that Colonel Jeannel was not examined in 1894, and asking the cause


of this irregularity. The date of the bordereau was given as April of that
year, namely, before Colonel Jeannel lent the Firing Manual.

The prisoner said that in 1894 he insisted at both the preliminary
examination and at the court-martial that Colonel Jeannel should be

"I obtained no satisfaction," Dreyfus added. "I was, however, sure
of my facts. Colonel Jeannel' s memory must be playing him false. Per-
haps the confusion arises from the fact that I asked him to lend me the
Grerman Firing Manual."

Colonel Jouaust — Do you remember that. Colonel Jeannel?

Colonel Jeannel — No.

At this point M. Labori expressed surprise that it was not thought
necessary in 1894 to examine a witness who now (August 2 2d), "out of
pure caprice and for the convenience of the prosecution" had become an
excellent witness. The court, counsel added, would deduce its own

The last witness of the day. Captain Maistre, read a letter from an offi-
cer, now at Nantes, affirming that while he was on the General Staff as a
probationer, at the same time as Dreyfus, the latter told the officer of his
visit to Alsace-Lorraine, and recounted how he had followed the German
army manoeuvres on foot and on horseback.

This was intended to show Dreyfus was not telling the truth when he
denied having been present at any time at the manoeuvres in Alsace-Lor-

Another part of Captain Maistre' s evidence proved to be in favor of
Dreyfus. In contradiction of other witnesses who declared Dreyfus fre-
quently stayed at the office prying into other officers' duties. Captain
Maistre declared that Dreyfus was disinclined to work, and often left the
office before the regular time.

The prisoner, in the tone of calm moderation which again distin-
guished his utterances, replied to Captain Maistre's allegations, and added,
with reference to M. Beaurepaire's accusations, that the latter's immoral-
ity would ere long be demonstrated before the court-martial. The court
then rose for the day.

Maitre Labori was immediately surrounded by friends, nearly every
one in court wishing to shake hands with him. He was cheerful and


smiling, and had a few well-chosen words for every one. Madame Labori
shared in the admiration expressed for her husband. The brilliant lawyer
returned home in a carriage as he had come, with an escort of two moimted
gendarmes. Policemen, gendarmes, and detectives were also distributed
along the road, as a precaution against a fresh outrage.

Apart from the salutations of his personal friends, there was no demon-
stration while M. Labori was either going to or coming from the Lyc^e.


Chapter XXXVIL


Maitre Labori, leading counsel for the defence, and Madame Labori
were present in court when the trial of Dreyfus was resumed on August
23d. The session was comparatively uneventful. The depositions were
not productive of any really thrilling incidents. Much of the time was
occupied in reading the testimony of Esterhazy and Mile. Pays before the
Court of Cassation, during which many of the audience left the court.

M. Labori again distinguished himself in laying bare the weak points
of the evidence. He was less fierce, however, than yesterday, though
quite aggressive enough to arouse the latent hostility of the judges, which
showed itself in various little ways.

During some of the depositions M. Labori appeared very nervous. He
was unable to remain still an instant, twitching his fingers and shaking
papers in his hands. He was almost too impatient to wait till the wit-
nesses concluded their testimony.

The only dangerous opponent of Dreyfus was General Gonse, who
mounted the stage with a quick step and apparently light heart. But
he left it badly mauled by M. Labori.

General Gonse began by declaring he came to defend his honor against
those "drivelling " against him. But when his cross-examination was fin-
ished he returned to his seat with his honor worse off than before, for M.
Labori had driven him into a corner on the attempts of the General Staff
to shield Esterhazy, and had shown that the General Staff, for which
Gonse was responsible, had engineered Esterhazy 's escape from the hands
of justice.

Comptroller Kay, the first witness called, gave his impressions of
Dreyfus, which harmonized with those of the generals who have already
testified. But, the witness was unable to give a single specific fact to
substantiate his impressions.


Major Drevieli testified to a long string of similar insinuations. He
referred to Dreyfus's alleged boastfulness of his money and the prisoner's
irregular attendance at his office.

After Dreyfus had rebutted one or two of this witness's statements,
Major Du Chatelet was called. He described the alleged confidences of
Dreyfus in regard to women and gambling.

Maitre Demange expressed surprise at the fact that the witness had
not mentioned this at the court-martial of 1894, to which Major Du
Chatelet replied :

" What ! Here was a man accused of one of the most heinous crimes,
and you think I ought to have retailed his confidences in regard to women
and gambling. Nonsense ! "

Dreyfus briefly corrected some of Du Chatelet's statements, and then
M. Dubreuil, who described himself as a private gentleman, took the
stand. He testified as to how he was introduced to Dreyfus by a certain
M. Bodson, at whose house the witness afterward dined in company with
Dreyfus and a German attach^, whose name he did not remember.

Continuing, M. Dubreuil said he was greatly astonished at the " suspi-
cious familiarity" between the attach^ and Dreyfus, and that, perceiving
they disapproved of his presence, M. Dubreuil ceased his visits to M.
Bodson. When the latter asked the reason of this, saying, according to
the witness, that Dreyfus was the friend and even the lover of his wife,
and asking witness's advice as to how to get rid of her, witness asked M.
Bodson if he had proofs, and Bodson is said to have replied :

" Proofs ! Yes, I have even proofs enough to drive Dreyfus out of the
French army."

Witness, however, was unable to learn what M. Bodson referred to.

When he was pressed to describe more clearly the alleged German
attach^, M. Dubreuil replied that he did not know his name, but was told
he was attached to the German Embassy.

M. Labori — Was he a military or civil attach^?

M, Dubreuil — I do not remember. I do not know. Let Maitre La-
bori put himself in my place [laughter], and he will see the difficulty of
remembering the name of a stranger he met thirteen years ago.

Dreyfus protested excitedly against the evidence of M. Dubreuil, who
is a Parisian friend of M. de Beaurepaire ; but Colonel Jouaust exhorted


him to be calm, promising the prisoner a chance to reply. This arrived
shortly afterward, and Dreyfus thundered out:

" I won't speak here of M. or Madame Bodson, except to say that my
relations with Madame Bodson ceased in 1886 or 1887, since when I have
never seen her. I wish simply to assert that the witness is lying. I
never dined at M. Bodson's with any civil or military attach^. The mat-
ter must be cleared up. People must produce definite facts here, and not
mere tittle-tattle. The name of the person with whom I am alleged to
have dined must be ascertained. It must be known here who is lying
and who is speaking the truth."

Online LibraryW. (William) HardingDreyfus: the prisoner of Devil's Island, a full story of the most remarkable military trial and scandal of the age → online text (page 16 of 35)