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of a charge which involved nothing less than
the life or death of a human being.

CHAPTER THE FOURTH. THE SENTENCE.

WHILE the inquiry was in course of progress,
various details connected with it found
their way out of doors. The natural sense
of justice among the people which had
survived the corruptions of the time, was
aroused to assert itself on behalf of the maid-
of-all-work. The public voice spoke as loudly
as it dared, in those days, in Marie's favour,
and in condemnation of the conspiracy against
her. People persisted, from the first, in
inquiring how it was that arsenic had got into
the house of Monsieur Duparc; and rumour
answered, in more than one direction, that a
member of the family had purchased the
poison a short time since, and that there were
persons in the town who could prove it. To
the astonishment of every one, no steps were
taken by the legal authorities to clear up
this report, and to establish the truth or the
falsehood of it, before the trial. Another
circumstance, of which also no explanation
was attempted, filled the public mind with
natural suspicion. This was the disappearance
of the eldest son of Monsieur and
Madame Dupare. On the day of his
grandfather's sudden death, he had been sent, as
may be remembered, to bring his father back
from the country; and, from that time forth,
he had never reappeared at the house, and
nobody could say what had become of him.
Was it not natural to connect together the
rumours of purchased poison and the
mysterious disappearance of this young man?
Was it not utterly inconsistent with any
proceedings conducted in the name of justice to
let these suspicious circumstances exist, without
making the slightest attempt to investigate
and to explain them?

But, apart from all other considerations,
the charge against Marie, was on the face of
it preposterously incredible. A friendless
young girl arrives at a strange town, possessing
excellent testimonials to her character,
and gets a situation in a family every
member of which is utterly unknown to her
until she enters the house. Established in
her new place, she instantly conceives the
project of poisoning the whole family, and
carries it out in five days from the time when
she first took her situation, by killing one
member of the household, and producing
suspicious symptoms of illness in the cases of
all the rest. She commits this crime having
nothing to gain by it; and she is so
inconceivably reckless of detection that she scatters
poison about the bed on which she lies down,
leaves poison sticking to crumbs in her
pockets, puts those pockets on when her
mistress tells her to do so, and hands them over
without a moment's hesitation to the first
person who asks permission to search them.
What mortal evidence could substantiate
such a wild charge as this? How does the
evidence actually presented substantiate it?
No shadow of proof that she had purchased
arsenic is presented, to begin with. The
evidence against her is evidence which attempts
to associate her with the actual possession
of poison. What is it worth? In the
first place, the witnesses contradict each other.
In the second place, in no one case in which
powdered substances were produced in evidence
against her, had those powdered substances
been so preserved as to prevent their
being tampered with. Two packets of the
powder pass about from hand to hand for
seven days; two have been given to witnesses
who can't produce them, or account
for what has become of them; and one, which
the witnesses who made it up swear to as a
single packet, suddenly expands into three
when it is called for in evidence!

Careless as they were of assuming even the
common external decencies of justice, the
legal authorities and their friends, the Duparcs,
felt that there would be some risk in
trying their victim for her life on such evidence
as this, in a large town like Caen. It
was impossible to shift their ground and
charge her with poisoning accidentally; for
they either could not, or would not, account
on ordinary grounds for the presence of
arsenic in the house. And, even if this difficulty
were overcome, and if it were alleged
that arsenic purchased for killing vermin,
had been carelessly placed in one of the salt-
cellars on the dresser, Madame Duparc could
not deny that her own hands had salted the
hasty-pudding on the Monday, and that her
servant had been too ill through exhaustion
to cook the dinner on the Tuesday. Even
supposing there were no serious interests
of the vilest kind at stake, which made
the girl's destruction a matter of necessity,
it was clearly impossible to modify the
charge against her. One other alternative
remainedthe alternative of adding a
second accusation which might help to
strengthen the first, and to degrade Marie in
the estimation of those inhabitants of the
town who were now disposed to sympathise
with her.

The poor girl's character was so good, her
previous country life had been so harmless,
that no hint or suggestion for a second charge
against her could be found in her past history.
If her enemies were to succeed, it was necessary
to rely on pure invention. Having
hesitated before no extremes of baseness and
falsehood, thus far, they were true to themselves
in regard to any vile venture which
remained to be tried. A day or two after
the examination of the witnesses called to
prove the poisoning had been considered
complete, the public of Caen were amazed to
hear that certain disclosures had taken place
which would render it necessary to try Marie,
on a charge of theft as well as of poisoning.
She was now not only accused of the murder
of Monsieur de Beaulieu, but of robbing her

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