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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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Greneral Mercier — I might, perhaps, have thought of it. But it did
not occur to me.

The prisoner again protested that the inquiry ought to have served to


destroy the fiction of a confession, to which such importance is now at-
tached. Continuing, Dreyfus said :

" Will you permit me, Colonel, to make a small remark with reference
to the fiction of my confessions? I remained in the prison of La Sante
for two or three weeks and saw M. Demange during that period, and also
then and while I was at the He de E^ I wrote to the Minister of War
and others.

" I believed the letters I wrote are contained in the secret dossier. I
believe I also wrote to the head of the state. How is it I was never
asked about the legend of my confession, that I was in a position to de-
stroy immediately ? I never heard a word of it. It was only four years
later, in January, 1899, when interrogated by the commissioners sent by
the Court of Cassation, that I heard of this fiction. What I do not im-
derstand is that while I was still in France no one spoke to me of this
fiction, which could have been disposed of before the egg was hatched by
proving it a false legend and nothing more."

M. de Veruine, Special Commissary of the Minister of War, deposed
that Colonel Picquart was ordered to have Esterhazy watched. Witness
informed General Gonse, and the latter was advised to continue the inves-
tigation discreetly. On several occasions, witness continued, Esterhazy
was seen entering the German Embassy, always quite openly, but dressed
in civilian clothes.

M. de Veruine saw Esterhazy enter the German Embassy on October
23, 1897. He stayed there an hour, and drove to the Credit Foncier (a
financial institution), whence he went to the office of La Patrie.

M. Labori — What does General Roget think of the part played by
Esterhazy ?

General Eoget — I have said that the part played by Esterhazy escaped
me completely.

M. Labori — General Eoget, however, spoke of the syndicate as though
it was a public institution.

General Eoget — Exactly, it is a public institution. Everybody talks
of it.

M. Labori — But General Eoget mentioned an offer of 600,000 francs
to Esterhazy. I insist upon asking General Eoget what he thinks of Es-
terhazy 's visit to Colonel Schwartzkoppen (the German military attach^) on


October 23, 1897, the same day as the interview in Mont Souris Park, a
visit during the course of which it is known Esterhazy threatened to
commit suicide if the German military attach^ refused to declare that he
(Esterhazy) was not the author of the bordereau?

General Eoget — It is not for me to say what I think of it.

M. Labori, resuming his seat, said, "Very good." [Loud and pro-
longed laughter.]

Colonel Eleur, retired, testified to the numerous alleged inaccuracies
in Colonel Sandherr's evidence before the Court of Cassation. Cordier
told the witness that the dismissal of himself and Colonel Sandherr was
a beginning of a Jewish revenge, and added that the Jews had influenced
General de Boisdeffre. Cordier also said he had not doubted the guilt of

The witness dramatically added:

" What was my stupefaction when, later, I heard Colonel Cordier ex-
press ideas diametrically opposite to those he expressed to me ! "

Asked if he desired to reply to the witness, Dreyfus said :

" I have nothing to say. I only reply to facts. I will not reply to
lies. If you attach the slightest importance to what has been said, I be-
seech you, with all my heart, to make a most complete inquiry for the
most dazzling truth. That is what I ask of you, Colonel, and of the mem-
bers of the court-martial."

Colonel Cordier, who was Deputy Chief of the Intelligence Office in
1894, was called. He protested against the conditions imder which he
was summoned, without being released from his oath of professional se-
crecy, and also protested at the manner in which the summons was

The witness expatiated on the series of schemes of which he claimed
he had been the victim, to the amusement of the court, until Colonel
Jouaust invited him to curtail his recriminations and proceed with his
testimony, to which Cordier genially replied :

" I am coming to that. Colonel. I'll reach it in less than five min-
utes. You will see how I shall cut it short ! "

Colonel Cordier, who is said to be given to excessive drinking, caused
shouts of laughter by interlarding his remarks with the expression : " Full
stop. That's all."


Even the judges joined in shrieks of laughter at the colonel's testi-

Colonel Cordier could only testify as to certain facts, since he was not
released from professional secrecy. Colonel Jouaust said he would ask
the Minister of War to release Cordier from his oath, and that he would
then be recalled.

M. George Charles Alfred Marie Millin de Grandmaison, deputy from
the Saumur District of Maine-et-Loire, who is classed as a Eoyalist,
though registered as a liberal Eepublican, next appeared as a witness and
repeated the testimony he had given before the Court of Cassation.

He recalled a conversation he had with an English friend, Mr. Charles
Baker, who said he was assured Dreyfus was innocent because he had seen
a letter from Colonel Schwartzkoppen affirming the prisoner's innocence.
Baker, it seems, also mentioned numerous documents showing that certain
French officers, not including Dreyfus, were spies, and Baker asked the
witness to publish the documents, but without proofs of their genuineness,
as Emperor William did not wish to intervene.

The witness, after protesting against foreign interference in French
affairs, repudiated the idea that a French officer could be sentenced be-
cause he was a Jew.

M. de Grandmaison concluded by saying:

" I adjure the Court to acquit the prisoner unhesitatingly if it believes
him innocent, [laughter] and to convict him if it believes him guilty. "

M. Demange bitterly complained that the witnesses of the prosecution
were allowed to air their personal opinions and appeal to the gallery, at
which M. de Grandmaison retorted :

" Anyway the defenders of Dreyfus are being assisted by foreigners.
Their cause must be very bad to necessitate recourse to such help."

M. Labori invited the witness to define what he meant by foreign in-
tervention, particularly pointing out the alleged contradictions in the
statements of foreign personages.

The witness quoted the declarations of the German Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Count von Buelow, according to one of which, he said, the Ger-
man Government and Embassy were not acquainted with either Dreyfus
or Esterhazy, while in another statement Von Buelow implicated the Ger-
man Headquarters Staff and Embassy in connection with Esterhazy. M.


Labori and the German Government might very well not know Dreyfus,
but Esterhazy might be known to the German Espionage Bureau.

M. Mertian de Muller, a friend of M. de Beaurepaire, followed. He
described a visit which he made to Emperor William's palace at Potsdam,
and said that at one point the guide announced that they were about to
enter the Emperor's room. At the bottom of the room witness noticed
his Majesty's bed, and witness was admiring the canvases on the wall,
when he remarked a small table, upon which was an army list and a
newspaper, the Libre Parole, bearing a postage-stamp. Written on the
newspaper, in blue pencil, the witness asserted were certain words in
German regarding the meaning of which M. de Muller was certain.
They were: "Dreyfus has been arrested."

M. Demange — You are quite sure you were in the Emperor's bed-

M. de Muller — I should think so. But his name was not written on
the door.

Kegarding the German word meaning "arrested," the witness, when
cross-examined, could not positively say he had distinctly read or under-
stood it.

M. de Muller, who is a paralytic, left the witness box assisted by an


Colonel Eleur and M. de Grandmaison momentarily reappeared on the
scene. But Colonel Jouaust, evidently wearying of the prolonged trial,
quickly called the next witness.

Colonel Picquart's former orderly in Tunis, a man named Savignaud,
testified to posting letters from Picquart to M. Scheurer-Kestner, the for-
mer Vice-President of the Senate, who has taken so much interest in the
Dreyfus case, in May and June, 1897.

But M. Labori pointed out that M. Scheurer-Kestner absolutely denied
the receipt of letters under those dates.

The court then adjourned.



Chapter XXXIX.


When the session of August 25th was opened, the clerk of the
court read a medical certificate, signed by two doctors whose names were
unknown to the audience, declaring it was impossible for Du Paty de
Clam to leave his bed and come to Eennes to testify.

Maitre Labori asked President Jouaust to instruct two well-known
medical men to examine Du Paty de Clam, but Colonel Jouaust re-

Rowland Strong, an English newspaper man, was then called to the
witness bar. He deposed to the fact that Major Count Esterhazy con-
fessed to him that he wrote the famous bordereau.

Henri Weill, a former officer of the Headquarters Staff, was then
called. But he was absent, and his deposition was read. M. Weill's state-
ment, in substance, was that Esterhazy told him in 1894 that Dreyfus
was innocent, but that this would not prevent his conviction, because he
was a Jew.

The next witness was M. Gobert, an expert of the Bank of France,
who could claim the honor of being the first man in France to have de-
clared in favor of Dreyfus, having reported, on examining the documents
in the case, that Esterhazy, and not Dreyfus, wrote the bordereau.

This witness opened his deposition with a brief personal statement
protesting against being characterized as a " doubtful expert " by the mili-
tary party.

"But," he added, in tones of profound pity, and turning toward Drey-
fus, " I have no right to complain, and am silent when I see before me the
unfortimate man who sits there."

A murmur of approval from the audience greeted these words of sym-

M. Gobert was most emphatic in attributing the bordereau to Ester-


hazy. He declared the bordereau was written in a running natural hand,
and said there was no tracing or other trickery.

M. Gobert protested against the insinuation that he was an inter-
ested witness. He referred to his thirty years of service, during which
he had reported on thousands of documents, and added, visibly affected :

" I protest against the term ' interested expert.' "

The court closely followed M. Gobert's exhaustive story of his exami-
nation of the bordereau and his interview with Generals Mercier, de Bois-
deffre, and Gonse.

M. Gobert asserted that the handwriting of the bordereau was natural
and fluent, but that it was almost illegible, whereas Dreyfus, even when
writing rapidly, always wrote most legibly.

The witness had asked General Gonse if an envelope accompanied the
bordereau, as he, M. Gobert, wished to see what the writer's careful cali-
graphy was like, explaining that the address of a letter is always in a
firmer hand than its contents.

General Gonse had refused the request on the ground that the witness
must not know the name of the addressee.

The General had also decided not to allow the bordereau to be photo-
graphed, alleging that if the War Office photographers were allowed to
photograph it all Paris would be acquainted with the bordereau the next
day. [Laughter.] Thereupon the witness had remarked :

"General Gonse, this is a very interesting confession."

M. Gobert had then suggested that the work be intrusted to the Pre-
fecture of Police, where M. Bertillon is the photographer.

Until then, the witness also said, he had never heard of M. Bertillon
as a handwriting expert, saying he became an expert for this special occa-
sion, when he was called into the War Office. [Laughter.]

General Gonse, it appears from the testimony, had been greatly en-
raged when he learned of the result of M. Gobert's examination of the
bordereau, and visited the expert repeatedly. The latter always insisted
upon learning the name of the suspect.

"It was not proper," said M. Gobert, "for me to accuse any one with-
out being perfectly cognizant of the facts, especially in circumstances of
so grave a nature. I would not accuse any one anonymously, for to do
so would be contrary to the law."


Amid laughter in court, the witness described how, from an examina-
tion of an official report on Dreyfus, from which Dreyfus's name had been
removed, M. Gobert had the malicious satisfaction of telling General
Gonse the name of the officer they wanted to arrest.

It was after M. Gobert had refused to incriminate Dreyfus that M.
Bertillon had been intrusted with the examination of the bordereau, and,
after a few hours' study, M. Bertillon positively attributed the bordereau
to Dreyfus. From that time forward M. Gobert had heard no more of the
Dreyfus case. He was not asked to submit a report, but had described to
the then Minister of Justice, M. Gu^rin, the circumstances in the case.
M. Guerin, continued the witness, had intimated that "these were sol-
diers' affairs," which did not concern him as Chief of the Civil Judiciary.

General Gonse having alluded to certain imdesirable acquaintances
formed by M. Gobert, the latter replied, amid a sensation in court :

"I emphatically protest against the insinuations of General Gonse.
There is not a single word of truth in what he says."

There was a further dispute between General Gonse and M. Gobert
over circumstances in connection with the latter's examination of the
bordereau. M. Gobert said that Colonel d'Abeville was present, but the
colonel promptly advanced, and said he had never seen M. Gobert before
to-day, adding:

" If M. Gobert' s other recollections are as exact as this, the court will
draw its own conclusions."

Dreyfus here declared in the most positive manner that he had never
been at the Bank of France, where M. Gobert was employed, or had rela-
tions with any one there. The prisoner reasserted that his sole desire was
to know the truth. He admitted he had been engaged in various finan-
cial operations, but said he had never asked either for written or verbal
information from the Bank of France.

M. Bertillon, the noted specialist in the measurement of the human
body, was called as the next witness. To the surprise of the audience,
he entered the court-room without a single paper, carrying a high hat in
his hand instead. But the astonishment was short-lived, the first words
of M. Bertillon being a request to permit his diagrams and papers to be
brought in.

The request was granted, and M. Bertillon retired for a moment. He


returned at ihe head of a squad composed of an infantry sergeant and
four privates, all staggering under the weight of immense leather satchels,
bulging with documents, charts, etc., which they deposited on the stage
as a roar of laughter echoed throughout the court.

Even the judges were unable to repress a smile as they gazed on M.
Bertillon's stage properties strewed over half of the platform. A table
was brought in, upon which the plans he was using could be placed.

The witness began by saying that only intelligent men could follow
his explanations ; and the court was half emptied as the audience, after
smiling at his extraordinary words and expressions, soon became bored and
went out.

M. Bertillon's deposition occupied the whole of this session.

The court-room presented a curious scene while M. Bertillon, whom
the Dreyfusards, in their most indulgent moments, describe as a " danger-
ous maniac," spent the remaining hours of the session in explaining in
unintelligible terms his "infallible system" of proving that Dreyfus was
the author of the bordereau. The majority of the public, however, utterly
unable to comprehend M. Bertillon's theories, had left the court-room.
Even "La Dame Blanche" (the White Lady) abandoned her post.

In the mean while M. Bertillon, with gestures and in the shrill
pitched voice of a quack at a country fair, continued his monologue, pro-
ducing every few minutes some fresh paper covered with wonderful hiero-
glyphics. These papers he presented to the judges, who, with an expres-
sion of owl-like wisdom, carefully examined them, their heads clustered
together, their eyes gazing on the long, wide strips of paper, while M.
Bertillon leaned over their table trying to explain his mystifying dia-
grams. The copies were afterward passed to MM. Labori and Demange,
who, however, apparently did not derive much benefit from their perusal.

Dreyfus gazed at the scene with a look of stupefaction.

The clearest utterance of M. Bertillon during the course of his demon-
stration was that the handwriting of the bordereau " obeys a geometrical
rhythm, of which I discovered the equation in the prisoner's blotting

The audience watched him as he bent over the desk busily drawing
letters, the judges gazing at him, until at the end of ten minutes the
people and the judges became restlessly impatient, and Colonel Jouaust


remarked that it was not necessary to copy the whole bordereau, and that
a few lines would suffice.

A few minutes later M. Bertillon arose, strode to the judges' table,
and laid before them his copy. The judges, counsel, the Government
Commissary, Major Carriere, and the clerk clustered aroimd in one group,
eager to see the result. Again the audience watched the strange spectacle
until Colonel Jouaust shrugged his shoulders, and then the audience knew
that M. Bertillon had failed to satisfy them.

M. Bertillon noticed this, and said, apologetically :

"I was too badly placed."

Maitre Demange returned to the counsels' table and, in response to a
look of inquiry from Dreyfus, whispered a few words to the prisoner with
a shrug of his shoulders and a smile on his face. Dreyfus appeared per-
fectly satisfied.

M. Bertillon gave his testimony in the manner of a schoolboy reciting
a lesson, to demonstrate technically how he reached the conviction of
Dreyfus's guilt, reciting facts already published on April 2 2d. He said
he proposed to prove to the court :

" First — That the bordereau was a doctored document.

" Second — That it could only be manufactured by the prisoner.

" Third — That it had been written in a free hand by means of a key-
word placed beneath tracing paper in such a way as to be quite visible."

The witness, continuing, declared Dreyfus did not have recourse to
imitating Esterhazy's free handwriting, because it required too long to
study, and he used the tracing process because it was easier to learn and
more likely to be successful.

Suddenly the wandering attention of those remaining in the hall was
riveted by the cryptographic remark, enunciated by M. Bertillon in loud
tones :

" We clearly have before us a fabricated document. The one word al-
ways rests upon the other, with a divergence of 1.25 millimetres and 2.25
millimetres. That is a phenomenon which is unnatural."

M. Labori watched the specialist for a few moments, and then returned
to his seat, holding up both hands and exclaiming :

"It is most extraordinary."

M. Bertillon continued his explanations, and caused a whirl in the


brains of his hearers. The audience, quite in the dark regarding the
meaning of the technicalities, punctuated the queer expressions with peals
of laughter. The members of the court-martial evidently tried hard to
understand, while Dreyfus appeared fatigued, but endeavored to follow the

"My theory," continued the witness, "was, in 1894, considered by the
Ministry of War to be favorable to the prisoner. If the defence accepted
it, they said, the long magisterial investigation would have to be recom-
menced, and so," here the witness raised his voice and struck the table
with his fist, " when the word ' grille ' [perforated card used for cipher]
was uttered at the court-martial of 1894, the prisoner's face contracted.
When I spoke of the fabrication of the bordereau he exclaimed :

"'Oh, the wretch. He saw me write, then.'

" I did not hear the remark, but when it was repeated to me it was a
revelation. For, if innocent, the word ' fabrication ' would have delighted
instead of frightened him."


Chapter XL.


When the court resumed its sessions on August 26th, M. Alphonse
Bertillon, chief of the Anthropometric Department of the Paris Prefec-
ture of Police, resumed his testimony, which had been interrupted on
August 25th by adjournment.

The comic aspect of M. Bertillon's performance again appealed to the
risibilities of the audience, though the judges paid close attention to his
demonstrations, which were concluded at 8:30 a.m., the witness saying,
in a declamatory tone :

" I am convinced that the writer of the bordereau is the prisoner sit-
ting there."

Drefyus heard him without flinching and with an expression of dis-
dain, which he showed in a still more noticeable manner just before the
specialist's testimony, when M. Demange handed him a paper which M.
Bertillon had submitted to the judges as convincing proof of the guilt of
the accused. The prisoner perused it for a few moments, and then handed
it back with a shrug of his shoulders and without uttering a word.

Referring to his papers which were seized at the War Office, Dreyfus
said it would not be strange to see notes, written by officers, altered. He
added :

"I was shown yesterday (August 25th) a note relative to General de
Miribel. There were in the document corrections, made by the chief of
the department himself, which shows that immediately after having
written a note he handed it to the chief of the department."

In regard to the so-called "blotting-pad letter," Dreyfus said:

" This letter is perfectly genuine. Madame Dreyfus can testify to that
point. No one here will doubt the word of Madame Dreyfus, and you,
gentlemen, less than any one," he added, looking steadily at the judges.

Captain Valerio of the artillery, called by the prosecution to explain


M. Bertillon's system and to give an opinion on the subject, said he
thought M. Bertillon's evidence might be summarized in a sentence :

" The bordereau was doctored and the document fabricated by means
of secret writing, or writing with a key, the key- word ' interest ' being
found on the ' blotting-pad letter ' attributed to Mathieu Dreyfus.

"The system," continued the captain, "was evidently devised to offer
the prisoner two means of escape. Either he would deny being the au-
thor of the bordereau by pointing to the difference of the handwriting, or
he would contend it was a plot, by showing the documents were traced
over his writings.

" However complicated the ingenuity of the human mind might ap-
pear," continued the witness, "I propose to show:

" First — That the document was fabricated.

"Second — That it was fabricated by means of the key- word 'interest.'

"Third — That documents written by the prisoner in the War Office
contained words written by means of the same key.

"Fourth — That the forgery was intended to enable the prisoner to
plead there was a plot against him.

" Fifth — That the prisoner alone could be the writer. "

Captain Valerio then attempted to prove his hypothesis, traversing
practically the same ground as already laboriously covered by M. Bertil-
lon, during the course of which he pointed to what he alleged were con-
clusive proofs of the value of M. Bertillon's system.

The witness declared that as he wished to remain on scientific ground,
he would not attempt to define the motive actuating the writer of the
bordereau. But, he added, he was perfectly convinced it could only have
been Dreyfus. Esterhazy had declared himself to be the writer, but that
could not be true, because it had been proved the bordereau was forged.

In conclusion. Captain Valerio declared the court now had in its pos-
session material proof of the prisoner's guilt. [Sensation.]

When Dreyfus was asked the usual question, the prisoner pointed out
that the evidence of Captain Valerio was only a repetition of M. Bertil-

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 18 of 35)