This time he spoke in a high, penetrating voice. It was a rich voice of wide compass. His gestures were quiet or animated, according to the circumstances, but always dignified and impressive; the expression on his short, Socratic face was never anything but fine. He had all the qualities of an orator; but there was no vanity in his display of them. He spoke in the plain, concise style that he had been obliged to acquire in his recent intercourse with men, in discussions about their practical interests.
"When Mademoiselle de Mauprat was shot," he said, "I was not more than a dozen paces from her; but the brushwood at that spot is so thick that I could not see more than two paces in front of me. They had persuaded me to take part in the hunt; but it gave me but little pleasure. Finding myself near Gazeau Tower, where I lived for some twenty years, I felt an inclination to see my old cell again, and I was bearing down upon it at a great pace when I heard a shot. That did not frighten me in the least; it seemed but natural that there should be some gun fired during a battue. But when I got through the thicket, that is to day, some two minutes later, I found Edmee--excuse me, I generally call her by this name; I am, so to speak, a sort of foster- father to her--I found Edmee on her knees upon the ground, wounded as you have been told, and still holding the bridle of her horse, which was rearing. She did not know whether she was seriously or slightly wounded, but she had her other hand on her breast, and she was saying:
" 'Bernard, this is hideous! I should never have thought that you would kill me. Bernard, where are you? Come and see me die. This will kill father!'
"As she said this she let go the horse's bridle and fell to the ground. I rushed towards her.
" 'Ah, you saw it, Patience?' she said. 'Do not speak about it; do not tell my father . . .'
"She threw out her arms, and her body became rigid. I thought that she was dead. She spoke no more until night, after they had extracted the bullets from her breast."
"Did you then see Bernard de Mauprat?"
"I saw him on the spot where the deed was done, just as Edmee lost consciousness and seemed to be giving up her soul; he seemed to be out of his mind. I thought that he was overwhelmed with remorse. I spoke to him sternly, and treated him as a murderer. He made no reply, but sat down on the ground by his cousin's side. He remained there in a dazed condition, even a long time after they had taken her away. No one thought of accusing him. The people thought that he had had a fall, because they saw his horse trotting by the side of the pond; they believed that his carbine had gone off as he fell. The Abbe Aubert was the only one who heard me accuse M. Bernard of having murdered his cousin. During the days that followed, Edmee spoke occasionally, but it was not always in my presence; besides, at this time she was nearly always delirious. I maintain that she told nobody (and least of all Mademoiselle Leblanc) what had passed between herself and M. de Mauprat before the gun was fired. Nor did she confide this to me any more than others. On the rare occasions when she was in possession of her senses she would say in answer to our questions, that Bernard had certainly not done it on purpose, and several times during the first three days she even asked to see him. However, when she was delirious she would sometimes cry, 'Bernard! Bernard! You have committed a great crime. You have killed my father!'