A ROMANCE OF THE FOREST
“Drag forth the legal monster into light,
Leave was at length granted for the appearance of Du Bosse, with a promise that his words should not criminate him, and he accompanied La Motte into court.
The confusion of the Marquis de Montalt on perceiving this man was observed by many persons present, and particularly by La Motte, who drew from this circumstance a favourable presage for himself.
When Du Bosse was called upon, he informed the court, that on the night of the twenty-first of April, in the preceding year, one Jean d’Aunoy, a man he had known many years, came to his lodging. After they had discoursed for some time on their circumstances, d’Aunoy said he knew a way by which du Bosse might change all his poverty to riches, but that he would not say more till he was certain he would be willing to follow it. The distressed state in which du Bosse then was made him anxious to learn the means which would bring him relief; he eagerly inquired what his friend meant, and after some time d’Aunoy explained himself. He said he was employed by a nobleman, (whom he afterwards told du Bosse was the Marquis de Montalt) to carry off a young girl from a convent, and that she was to be taken to a house at a few leagues distant from Paris. “I knew the house he described “well,” said du Bosse, “for I had been there many times with d’Aunoy, who lived there to avoid his creditors, “though he often passed his nights at Paris.” He would not tell me more of the scheme, but said he should want assistants, and if I and my brother, who is since dead, would join him, his employer would grudge no money, and we should be well rewarded. I desired him again to tell me more of the plan, but he was obstinate, and after I had told him I would consider of what he said, and speak to my brother, he went away.
“When he called the next night for his answer, my brother and I agreed to engage, and accordingly we went home with him. He then told us that the young lady he was to bring thither was a natural daughter of the Marquis de Montalt, and of a nun belonging to a convent of Ursalines; that his wife had received the child immediately on its birth, and had been allowed a handsome annuity to bring it up as her own, which she had done till her death. The child was then placed in a convent and designed for the veil; but when she was of an age to receive the vows, she had steadily persisted in refusing them. This circumstance had so much exasperated the Marquis, that in his rage he ordered, that if she persisted in her obstinacy she should be removed from the convent, and got rid of any way, since if she lived in the world her birth might be discovered, and in consequence of this, her mother, for whom he had yet a regard, would be condemned to expatiate her crime by a terrible death.”
Du Bosse was interrupted in his narrative by the council of the Marquis, who contended that the circumstances alledged tending to criminate his client, the proceeding was both irrelevant and illegal. He was answered that it was not irrelevant, and therefore not illegal, for that the circumstances which threw light upon the character of the Marquis, affected his evidence against La Motte. Du Bosse was suffered to proceed.
“D’Aunoy then said that the Marquis had ordered him to dispatch her, but that as he had been used to see her from her infancy, he could not find in his heart to do it, and wrote to tell him so. The Marquis then commanded him to find those who would, and this was the business for which he wanted us. My brother and I were not so wicked as this came to, and so we told d’Aunoy, and I could not help asking why the Marquis resolved to murder his own child rather than expose her mother to the risque of suffering death. He said the Marquis had never seen his child, and that therefore it could not be supposed he felt much kindness towards it, and still less that he could love it better than he loved its mother.”
Du Bosse proceded to relate how much he and his brother had endeavoured to soften the heart of d’Aunoy towards the Marquis’s daughter, and that they prevailed with him to write again and plead for her. D’Aunoy went to Paris to await the answer, leaving them and the young girl at the house on the heath, where the former had consented to remain, seemingly for the purpose of executing the orders they might receive, but really with a design to save the unhappy victim from the sacrifice.
It is probable that Du Bosse, in this instance, gave a false account of his motive, since if he was really guilty of an intention so atrocious as that of murder, he would naturally endeavour to conceal it. However this might be, he affirmed that on the night of the twenty-sixth of April, he received an order from d’Aunoy for the destruction of the girl whom he had afterwards delivered into the hands of La Motte.
La Motte listened to this relation in astonishment; when he knew that Adeline was the daughter of the Marquis, and remembered the crime to which he had once devoted her, his frame thrilled with horror. He now took up the story, and added an account of what had passed at the Abbey between the Marquis and himself concerning a design of the former upon the life of Adeline; and urged, as a proof of the present prosecution originating in malice, that it had commenced immediately after he had effected her escape from the Marquis. He concluded, however, with saying, that as the Marquis had immediately sent his people in pursuit of her, it was possible she might yet have fallen a victim to his vengeance.
Here the Marquis’s council again interfered, and their objections were again overruled by the court. The uncommon degree of emotion which his countenance betrayed during the narrations of Du Bosse, and De la Motte, was generally observed. The court suspended the sentence of the latter, ordered that the Marquis should be put under immediate arrest, and that Adeline the (name given by her foster mother), and Jean d’Aunoy should be sought for.
The Marquis was accordingly seized at the suit of the crown, and put under confinement till Adeline should appear, or proof could be obtained that she died by his order, and till d’Aunoy should confirm or destroy the evidence of De la Motte.
Madame, who at length obtained intelligence of her son’s residence from the town where he was formerly stationed, had acquainted him with his father’s situation, and the proceedings of the trial; and as she believed that Adeline, if she had been so fortunate as to escape the Marquis’s pursuit, was still in Savoy, she desired Louis would obtain leave of absence, and bring her to Paris, where her immediate presence was requisite to substantiate the evidence, and probably to save the life of La Motte.
On the receipt of her letter, which happened on the morning appointed for the execution of Theodore, Louis went immediately to the commanding officer to petition for a respite till the king’s further pleasure should be known. He founded his plea on the arrest of the Marquis, and shewed the letter he had just received. The commanding officer readily granted a reprieve, and Louis, who, on the arrival of this letter, had forborne to communicate its contents to Theodore, left it should torture him with false hope, now hastened to him with this comfortable news.