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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documents, to cite M. de Schwartzkoppen, who alone can throw full light
on the matter ; and the day that Labori took advantage of the opportunity
given him by the accusers bringing to the bar an unworthy foreigner, the
day he arose and demanded that the court-martial hear the man from
whom a single word would close the affair, he did his duty. His was the
heroic voice that nothing can reduce to silence. His demand has survived
the trial, and must inevitably reopen it and end it once for all by the only
possible solution — the acquittal of the innocent.

The demand for the documents has been made. Their ultimate pro-
duction is a certainty.

You see the awful, intolerable danger in which the president of the
Rennes court-martial has put us by refusing to use his discretionary power
to prevent the publication of the documents. Never was anything more
brutal ! Never was the door so wilfully shut upon the truth ! And a
third court-martial was added to the two others, in which the error was so
blinding that the denial from Berlin would now condemn three iniquitous

The Ministry forgot that government is foresight. If it does not wish
to leave to the good pleasure of Germany the fifth act, the " d^noument, "
before which every good Frenchman should tremble, it is the Government's
duty to play this fifth act without delay in order to prevent its coming to
us from Germany. The Government can procure the documents. Diplo-
macy has settled greater difficulties than this. Whenever it ventures to ask
for the documents enumerated in the bordereau they will be given, and
that will be the "fait nouveau " which will necessitate a second revision
before the Court of Cassation, which will be this time, I hope, fully in-


formed, and would quash the verdict " sans renvoi " in the plenitude of its
sovereign majesty.

But if the Government still hesitates, the defenders of truth and justice
will do what is necessary. Not one of us will desert his post. Invinci-
ble proof we shall finally end by obtaining.

On November 23d, we shall be at Versailles. My trial will recom-
mence, inasmuch as it is to recommence in all its fulness. If, meanwhile,
justice is not done we will again have to do it. My beloved, my valiant
Labori, whose honor has but increased, will pronounce at Versailles the
address which he was imable to pronounce at Eennes. And thus, as you
see, nothing will be lost. He will merely have to tell the truth, without
fear of injuring me, for I am ready to pay for it with my liberty and my
blood. Before the Seine Assize Court I swore to the innocence of Drey-
fus. I swear to it before the entire world, which now proclaims it with
me; and I repeat, truth is on the march. Nothing will stop it. At
Eennes it has just made a giant's stride.

I no longer have any fear except that I may see it arrive in a thunder-
clap of the avenging Nemesis. Emile Zola.


Chapter LIV.


Mathieu Dreypus, in an interview, in Paris, September 11th, was
quoted as saying:

" Yesterday, before leaving Kennes for Paris, I talked for two hours
with my brother, Captain Dreyfus. He is a marvellous man. After all
these years of suffering he is as strong to-day in declaring his innocence
as he was on the Champ de Mars, when first condemned.

" Those who spread rumors that he intends to commit suicide know
not that an indomitable spirit animates his attenuated frame. When I
heard the horrible report in Paris this morning that he had committed
suicide, I could not help thinking one of his bitter enemies had circulated
it in the hope that it might reach his ears, and that he would act upon the
suggestion, as weakened men sometimes do. But his enemies will never
have that grewsome pleasure. He is full of hope and looks fearlessly to
the future.

" He does not need to-day the soothing voice of Mme. Dreyfus to in-
duce him to continue to live. Mme. Dreyfus is similarly hopeful.

" Maitres Demange and Labori, both of whom have gone to the country
for some much needed repose, have given the whole family much encour-
agement. I, who have been charged by my brother with the rehabilita-
tion of our name, have firm faith in the near future.

"The recent trial practically rehabilitates him. Outside a very limit-
ed circle his name is as fair as though the Eennes court-martial had
declared him innocent. Suppose the son of Captain Dreyfus were to travel
in the United States when he grows up to manhood, do you think there is
one throughout the length and breadth of the land who would point to him
as the son of a traitor? On the contrary, they would say, ' This is the
youth who for years was unjustly robbed of his father,' and they would
honor him as the son of a martyr.


" My brother's innocence is believed by everybody outside of France
and by most people in France. "

Maitre Labori has been resting at Sammois, a short distance from
Paris. He said, in an interview :

" We have won a great deal, considering that the most important evi-
dence was excluded. Imagine where we are to-day, as compared with two
years ago. If you ask me what do I think the most important gain of all
in this fight for justice, I should answer, 'It is the world's awakening to
the justice of our cause.'

" The great newspapers of all lands have taken such a keen interest in
the question, and caught such a thorough grasp of it, that they are sure to
continue speaking in the name of humanity and civilization. For it is
pot the cause of Dreyfus alone which is at stake ; it is the cause of hu-
manity and civilization. The great newspapers have already given ample
evidence that they understand this, and if they follow up their broad and
generous grasp of the question by reminding the Emperor of Germany
that he owes a duty to humanity and to civilization, he is not the kind of
a man to shirk it. That duty is to deliver to the French Government the
documents mentioned in the bordereau. As soon as this responsibility,
not to an individual, but to humanity and civilization, is made clear to
him, the German Emperor is man of spirit and heart enough to act up to it.

" The verdict as it stands is neither yes nor no. Obviously the court
had little knowledge of law, and less of evidence.

" We have gained much in other ways. His first condemnation was
for twenty years, his second for ten ; his first, to Devil's Island, permitted
cruel and inhuman treatment; his second permits communication with
the outer world ; his first condemnation was unanimous : his second is
given in such a way that even the five who declared him guilty showed
they were not sure.

"Dreyfus's name is no longer stained before the civilized world, and
in a short time there will be fewer still who believe him guilty. "


Chapter LV,


The Figaro, of Paris, secured the first interview with Dreyfus after his
release from arrest. It was printed in the New York Herald, on Sep-
tember 22d, and read as follows:

" I do not know where to begin the story of emotion which I have
just lived through, so much has the flood overflowed my mind and my
heart. It has been given me to share for twenty-four hours — all that is
best in me — in the most terrible suffering that it is possible to imagine in
the destiny of a human being with whose fate the elite of the civilized
world has united itself for two years, and against whom all the ignorance
and malice of men have been leagued. This being, whom one would say
was accursed, is my brother, whom my saddened thoughts went out to
join and compassionate across the seas; he is there in the presence of my
real deep sympathy.

Every precaution had been taken for Dreyfus to leave Rennes without
inconvenience. Advised in the evening, he had passed his time — being
unable to sleep — in packing his trunk. At half-past two in the morning
M. Viguie, directeur de la surete gdn^rale, accompanied by one of his
controleurs, came to fetch him in a carriage at the gate of the Manuten-
tion, and they went to the station of Vern, situated ten kilometres from

" Nothing suspicious had been seen in the neighborhood of the prison,
but after a few hundred yards had been traversed M. Viguie, leaning out
of the window of the landau, noticed a red lantern following, evidently
that of a journalist. How was he to throw the intruder off the scent?
The driver whipped up his horses, which broke into a gallop. They thus
came to within four hundred metres of the station of Vern, and it was
perceived they had a big start of the man who was following.

" The carriage stopped at the comer of the road. The passengers got


out quickly and hid themselves behind a house by the roadside, and the
carriage, which now contained only the chef de cabinet of the prefect of
lie et Vilaine, rolled on into darkness.

" This stratagem escaped the notice of the man following. His car-
riage soon passed by the invisible group, and followed the other landau at
full speed. Then they walked quietly to Vem Station, and got into the
4:36 A.M. train from Eennes to Chateaubriand. The latter place was
reached at 6:14 a.m.

" The travellers changed carriages and arrived at Nantes at seventeen
minutes past eight o'clock. I was on the platform at the arrival of the
train. It would take too long to relate how I was able to foresee this
itinerary. Nevertheless I was not without uneasiness as to the success of
my plan. The platform was deserted. Had I made a mistake? I soon
saw two men dressed in black approaching, and I immediately recognized
them. They were Mathieu Dreyfus and his nephew, Paid Valabregue.

"My tips were good. My mind was relieved. Should I go up to
Mathieu Dreyfus, whom I knew well, or should I hide to follow him at
leisure? I hesitated between these two alternatives, and watched the two
men. They looked to right and left, as though they were afraid of being

" I made up my mind at once and approached. What was the stupe-
faction, I may almost say the distress, of Mathieu Dreyfus, when I ap-
proached him 1 I quickly understood his fears and quieted them. I
assured him that the train that was about to carry his brother away would
have only one more passenger, and that no indiscretion on my part would
interfere with the success of their journey.

" He begged me to keep my vow, and I have kept it.

" At this moment Captain Dreyfus is hidden in the midst of his own
people. I may now relate this touching Odyssey, all the details of which
will remain forever fixed in my memory.

"Here is the train from Chateau Briant coming. It 'stops, the door
opens, some men get down.

"Mathieu Dreyfus stands aside. Then when they are twenty metres
off he follows them. I go with him.

" ' Did you see? ' he asked.

" I saw nothing but a group of four or five persons carrying bags and


rugs, and it would have been impossible for me to recognize Captain Drey-
fus among them.

"' Look!' said his brother, ' there he is with that rug.'

" I saw a bowed back, dressed in black, making its way to the buffet
of the station.

" In a moment we entered. Already the passengers are at the tables.
In a small room at the further end Captain Dreyfus is seated eating. His
brother draws near. He rises. His mouth opens in an affectionate smile,
and the brothers meet with a long embrace, without speaking a word. No
one but myself witnessed this scene, so touching in its melancholy sym-

Mathieu introduced me to his brother. Captain Dreyfus holds out
his hand. I press it and speak of the profound joy which his freedom will
give to so many beings to whom it will be like a personal deliverance.
He wears a navy blue suit and over it a black overcoat, the collar of
which gapes behind, and on his head a soft, black felt hat.

"' It is in order not to be recognized,' he says, smiling, ' but it annoys
me. I am not used to it, and I see nothing in it.'

" 'Make haste,' says his brother, ' for we are going to start.' He seats
himself again obediently, and empties his cup of milk, for his stomach
cannot bear anything else.

"During this time M. Viguie has reserved seats in two compartments,
for at present the service of surveillance is composed of three inspectors,
chosen from among the best men of Hennion's brigade, who accompanied
him to Eennes, and on whom falls the heavy responsibility of the long
journey we are about to make.

" Captain Dreyfus enters the sleeping-car compartment with M.'Mathieu
Dreyfus, M. Paul Valabregue, his nephew, and myself.

"M. Viguie has just made his last suggestions, for he goes no further.
Captain and Mathieu Dreyfus congratulate him on the skill and prudence
he has displayed since their departure from Eennes, and the common wish
is expressed that the rest of the journey may pass off equally well.

" The train moves at two minutes of nine. I am seated facing Captain
Dreyfus. I never remove my eyes from him for an instant. I am sur-
prised at the effect he produces on me. I expected, whatever my senti-
ments might be as to his case, to find myself confronted by a being who


awakened no sympathy. He has been described as a haughty and disa-
greeable person, with a harsh voice and wandering eyes. I had imagined
him as hard, mistrustful, gloomy, if not bearing hate at least bitter; and
I own that I was ready to forgive him all those things. I find before me
a man with fine, regular features, with a calm and mild expression. He
is pink of face, which would give him an expression of extreme youth if
the top of his head were not absolutely bald, and if the hair on each side
were not quite gray. This being is enfeebled by anaemia, and what blood
there is left in him flows toward the head, the last refuge of his prodigious
vitality. His neck is thin, his hands are long and bony, and the knees
are pointed like nails through the blue cloth of his trousers.

" His chest is hollowed, his entire body is that of a vanquished being
but for the energy of the mouth, the square jaw, and the will expressed in
the look of his eyes. They are blue, charming and mild, limpid and
clear. Far from shunning one's look, he fixes his eyes on you with assu-
rance behind his eye-glasses, and his look is not that of a man of whom
a monster of hypocrisy has been made, of whom one scoundrel has said
that ' he sweated treason.'

" The train rolls on toward Bordeaux. M, Mathieu Dreyfus looks at
his brother with tender eyes.

" ' Well,' he asks, ' are you comfortable? You are not cold? '

"'Oh, no! I am well covered up with my flannel vest, two wool
shirts, my coat and overcoat. I am very well — and then you forget the
freedom. It is good to feel free, free, free ! Not to feel people everlast-
ing round you spying each movement, each gesture. That, mind you, is
the odious, insupportable thing. To be shut up one can bear, though it is
painful after a long time ; but the eye of that man whose hostile examina-
tion of the smallest movements of your body you have felt every minute
for five years — oh ! it is horrible ! '

" ' Do not tire yourself too much,' observed Mathieu, paternally.
'You must be very tired.'

"'Let me alone,' replied tTie captain, ' I feel the want of speaking.
Just think that I have not spoken for five years. Then I feel so well — no
fatigue, no pain — excitement probably — and to-morrow I shall sufi'er for
it, but to-day I mean to do what I please.'

" He smiles, with a fine and thin smile which is far from being one


of gayety, but which has rather the air of an unbending of the nerves of
the mouth, which have so long been contracted.

" Laugh? How could Captain Dreyfus ever laugh? His life, suddenly
overwhelmed under the deluge of adversity and catastrophe, under the
terrible chaos of misfortune, will always retain the crushing weight of
sadness. His impoverished blood will never again course joyously
through his cold veins, and between happiness and him will always inter-
vene the black muslin of melancholy.

"Already it sufficed to make sadness suddenly appear in his eyes that
a name should be pronounced — that of General Mercier, mentioned by
chance in the conversation.

" ' Mercier,' I asked Dreyfus ; ' what impression did his depositions
make upon you ? '

" Said he sharply : ' He is a malicious man and a dishonest man, but I
do not think he is conscious of the extent of the evil he has done. He
is too intelligent for me to be able to say that he is unconscious, but if he
is mentally conscious, he is morally unconscious. He is a man without
moral sense.'

"The train rushes on through the fertile land of this admirable coun-
try of the Vendean Bocage. Captain Dreyfus looks at the country.

" ' How pretty this country is ! ' he says. ' Look at that little village,
those cocks, those hens, those fine trees, outlined by the mist! Think
that during a year I have seen only the sky and sea, and during four years
the sky only, a square of brilliant blue, metallic, hard, and always alike,
without a cloud ! And, when I came back to France, you know how it
was — by night in the midst of a terrible storm, taken from a ship into a
boat, from the boat into a carriage, thence into a wagon, to arrive at last
at a prison at dawn. So these are the first trees I have seen.'
. "The landscape unfolds itself. Here is a sparkling stream, bordered
with poplars, a large wood, fresh and green, more pine spaces out on the
slopes. An old woman is washing linen on the banks of a pond. White
steeples and red steeples, golden ricks, ruins, a peaceful little village,
which seems half in mourning with its white house-points and slate
roofs, sad meres full of reeds and faded water-lilies, and, suddenly, wide
barren spaces with a few meagre pines and brambles growing between the


" Captain Dreyfus looks at all these as if they were indeed something
new to him. He devours them with his eyes.

" ' I should be as pleased as a child,' he says, ' to run about in those
meadows and amuse myself with nothing. I am like a convalescent com-
ing back to life.'

" Since the start he had never left off smoking.

" ' You smoke too much, ' said his brother.

"' Let me smoke; let me talk. It is so long since.'

" We talk of the death of Scheurer-Kestner. He told us the infinite
sorrow he had felt at the thought that he would never be able to thank
him, that he would never see the man who had done so much for him,
and to whom he owed his liberty. He seemed to dream for a moment.
Then he said :

" ' What fine characters have displayed themselves in this affair ! '

" ' Have you written many letters since you returned ? ' I asked.

" ' None ; I have not had time, but now I am going to wTite those that
I ought to write. Think ! I have received more than five thousand since
my return to France, without counting those that my wife has received on
her side — very humble testimonials, besides very high ones. Oh, it has
done me good ! Officers, even on active service, have written to me and
signed their names. One of my comrades in promotion wrote me the
simple words, "Glad at your return; glad at your approaching rehabilita-
tion." That consoles me for many desertions and for the unexpected hos-
tility of many of my comrades.

" ' Ah ! What I suffered from those depositions in which they came
spontaneously to say things which had no connection with the trial, but
which they thought might injure me ! And, mind you, I do not think it
was out of malice against me — no, it was merely to please the chiefs.
Ah! there are natures which conserve a very strange idea of duty. In-
stead of understanding by discipline obedience on the field of battle or in
barracks, they extend it to the degradation of reason and moral liberty.

" ' For me, I never could bend myself to such discipline, and I never
could have believed that it was possible for officers to do so.'"


Chapter LVL


"'How do you explain this animosity against you since 1894 in the
offices of the General Staff ? ' " continued the correspondent.

^ ' I think that the cause of it is rather complex. First, and above all,
I was believed to be guilty. It could never have been suspected that they
could have plunged so lightheartedly into error. Then there was anti-
Semitism in a latent state. Lastly, my manner may perhaps have had
something to do with it. Yes, it was rather curt, but only with my
chiefs, for, of^ course, I strove to show as much consideration as possible
to my inferiors. I scarcely associated with any one, and when I entered
the General Staff I had paid no visit to any one. I contented myself with
sending cards by my orderly to the chief and sub-chief of the General Staff
and the chief and sub-chief of my office, and that was alL

" ' In my dealings with my chiefs I always retained my outspokenness
and independence. If a plan or any piece of work seemed to me to be
badly conceived, I did not hesitate to say so aloud, instead of considering
myself obliged to approve everything in advance, as I saw done all around
me, when it was a chief who spoke or acted.

" ' I know that people don't like that. Colonel Bertin Mourot said
something with deep meaning at Eennes, speaking of that admirable man,
that hero. Colonel Picquart. It was felt that this officer did not walk be-
hind the chiefs. That is their psychology and all their morality.'

" ' Walk behind the chiefs as if it were in war or at the manoeuvres ? '

" ' Yes, certainly, but when it is a question of honor and duty is there
any need to walk behind any one? Has one not one's own conscience?'

" The hour for luncheon was approaching. We reach La Eoche-sur-
Yonne. They brought us some well-stocked baskets, containing hard-
boiled eggs, cold meat, two biscuits, some chocolate, white wine, mineral
water, and two little flasks of cinchona and rum. All these were carefully
packed in tiny boxes or wrapped up.


" Mathieu wanted to prevent Alfred eating the meats. ' You know
quite well that Delbet forbade you.'

"' What does it matter for once? To-morrow I will be good, but to-
day is a holiday. Be easy ; I feel so well. It is like a new life ' — and
Mathieu Dreyfus agrees to everything like a good-natured parent to a loved
child whom he wishes to restore to health.

" The conversation now rolled on everything at haphazard.

" And Esterhazy — what do you think of him ? '

"In quiet, measured accents, slightly doubtful, even like a savant
propounding an hypothesis, he replied :

" ' I think he is a swindler, a chevalier d'industrie, who has SAyindled
his country — it is not even his country — just as he swindled his cousin
and his tradesmen, but without in the least realizing that he did so. He
wanted money. That was the motive, for,' he continued with animation,
'for every crime there must be a motive.'

What could it have been in my case ? No one ever saw me touch a
card, so I was not a gambler. It was said that I had led a fast life. How
can you explain, then, that I took the ninth place on leaving the college?
Don't people know what arduous work these examinations mean? How
can work be allied with debauch ?

" ' General Mercier said that the search for a motive for a crime be-
longed to the domain of psychology, and that we were on the judicial do-
main. What does that mean ? I was never in the law, but it seems to
me that the first thing to be done when one suspects a criminal is to dis-
cover the motive for his crime. That is what I call sound sense.'

" He shrugged his shoulders, and his grave voice rose high in the si-
lence of the stopped train. Then, lowering his voice, he repeated several
times, accentuating each word, ' Sound sense. Simple, sober sense.'

" The train started, and the captain went on :

" ' As to the theory of the court-martial upon the extenuating circum-
stances, it is just like this: Treason against his country is the greatest
crime a human being can commit. A murderer, a thief may find some
excuse for themselves ; their crime is one against an individual. Treason
is a crime against a collectivity. There are no extenuating circumstances.
It is a monstrosity,'

" ' What effect did the verdict have upon you ? '


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 30 of 35)