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perhaps in his time it was centuries old. There, the oak tree stood, beneath whose branches stands the very oak under which famed Robin William Rufus fell by Tyrrell's hand. Thus, Hood presided when the royal deer were cut up the old trees of England call to mind memoand distributed. There, too, is the Parliament rable scenes and personages. What protected oak, in which he held his meetings, with the these oaks? The spirit of reverence for law green oak of the valley, in whose towering and self-respect. This it is which watches over and branched trunk the bold outlaw met his and preserves her relics, monuments, and trees. merry company. In the New Forest, a stone points out where, until a hundred years ago, ' Tho Clovo, May, 1865.
JUSTIFIABLE OR UNJUSTIFIABLE?
In the middle of the night of the 26th | if not encouraged. Dehap, it would seem February, 1807, two men knocked up the house belonged to one of these, and his friends spread hold of the "juge de paix,” of the town of La their accounts of his decease accordingly. M. Force, in the department of Dordogne, in France. Ponterie-Escot was rich, and of accredited rank They came to beg the provincial functionary to in the world. He refused to entertain for a take immediate cognisance of an alleged act of moment the proposals of marriage which had manslaughter, committed that very night at been made to him by the family Dehap. He Meynard, the neighbouring chateau of one M. forbade all intercourse between Hilaire Debap Jean Jacques Ponterie-Escot, Member of the and his daughter Cécile. But parents cannot Corps Legislatif in the year IV.
always control the loves of their children. The “juge de paix" refused to take cognisance | Mademoiselle Cécile did not share or give in to of anything at so unseemly an hour, but pro
the feelings of her father. She corresponded mised to give the matter' his attention in the with Hilaire Dehap. She met Hilaire Dehap. morning. Early on the 27th February, accom- She set at defiance the injunctions of her family panied by a surgeon named Valencie, he arrived and the old-world notions of family life. M. at Meynard, and discovered that nobody was Ponterie-Escot was naturally enraged. His sons dead.
participated in his anger. They were determined
... to be revenged on Hilaire Dehap. So they But in the bedroom of Mademoiselle Cécile
enticed him into their own grounds by a forged Ponterie-Escot was a young man, half naked,
letter purporting to come from his mistress, and raving and delirious, his hands and his feet tied,
then compassed his death. What was he? An and bound to the wood-work of the bed by a
| ardent lover, following the fresh instincts of cloth passed round his body. A pistol was
nature, and sworn to risk everything in the cause lying on a second bed. But though the young
of love. What were they? The exponents of man was suffering from some injury, it was not
the feelings of an age gone by-gloomy characthe result of a pistol wound. The surgeon
ters, who would fetter youth and passion by the observed that his throat was marked with such
bonds of duty and religion-murderers deseryblack bruises as might have been made by a
ing the execration of their fellows, and the last thumb and fingers. In the afternoon he was
penalties of the law. considered able to be removed, and was con
This was the account given of the matter by veyed to an auberge at La Force. There he the friend
| the friends of Dehap; and these, it seems, lingered only a few hours, and died on the night | formed the majority of the neighbouring of February 28th.
population. The Ponterie-Escot side of the There was no question as to his identity. He story was very different. A year before the was recognized at once as M. Hilaire Dehap, catastrophe they had gone to pass the winter a young man of fair position and good looks, months at Bergerac. Then Mademoiselle Cécile residing with his parents at Bergerac. Many of had been introduced to Monsieur Hilaire Dehap. his friends and acquaintances knew that he was She was just seventeen, pretty, pleasant, and not insensible to the youthful graces of Made- the probable inheritrix of a considerable fortune. moiselle Ponterie-Escot, and opined that He was a handsome, pleasant fellow; but good between him and that young lady there had for nothing, and not worth a sou. He never existed an intimacy which, if clandestine, was made any proposals of marriage at all. He paid close. How then did he come by his marked attention ; but, whatever might be death?
Cécile's sentiments, her father peremptorily forIn the year 1807 there were many circles of bade any intimacy. Cécile was sent to stay at a society where great laxity of morals was condoned place called Gillet, with a sister who was married
to a doctor. Dehap did not visit at the house; and brothers played in the dining-room till hall. but he established himself in the neighbourhood, past two. Her brother went first to bed, and soon found means of continuing bis love traversing the saloon, and so reaching his room passages with the young heiress. There was a by a door opposite to that of Cécile's. Madame wood behind the doctor's house, and to this Ponterie-Escot then bethought her that she had wood Cécile was summoned by the report of a need of some linen stored in a press in Cécile's gun. Debap had not the good feeling to keep room. She went to the door, but found it, conhis proceedings a secret. Ere long there was a trary to custom, locked within. “Cécile,” she “ scandale.” Cécile was brought home in exclaimed, “let me in.” “Yes, mamma !” said disgrace. She pleaded in excuse, that she hoped | Cécile, but did not obey immediately. In a few that when her father saw the steadfastness of seconds the door was unlocked and the mother the love on both sides, he would consent to the started back in dismay on seeing a man's head, proposed marriage. Dehap had told her that the head of Dehap, appearing through the he had prayed in vain to be admitted to her curtains of one of the beds. Cécile was standpresence as a recognized suitor. Her father ing in the middle of the room. Madaine Ponteriedeclared that there had been no proposed | Escot gave a loud shriek. Her husband and marriage at all. At the dictation of her relatives her children rushed into the room. The man on she wrote a letter to Dehap, finally repudiating the bed snatched up a pistol from the second him; and, at the dictation of her private feelings, bed, and pointing it at the intruders said, “Eh another, in which she protested that the first had bien !” The infuriated father (so said the been extorted from her against her will. The Meynard family) sprang on him-knocked up two letters were despatched at the same time. bis pistol arm, and seized his throat with a grasp The interrupted correspondence was soon re- of fierce strength. The sons, running in halfnewed. The father and mother of the young undressed, wrenched the pistol from the weakened Dehay, said the Ponterie-Escots, abetted their grasp of Dehap. In a moment, so vigorous son in his infamous proceedings. Cécile too was the attack of the elder Ponterie-Escot, his was not without a confidant in the household at victim gave a hoarse rattle and fell to the ground Meynard. One Jean Faure, a kind of Softy, insensible. The details of the scene of horror carried her letters to her lover. At one time he and confusion can easily be supplied. The main had been caught in the act, reprimanded, and points to notice are, of course, the alleged surwarned. But he lacked either the wit or the prise of Debap in the bed-room; and the integrity to obey the orders of his master, and menace with the pointed pistol. No sooner had the transfer of letters continued. Although Cécile Debap fallen-apparently a corpse-than bis was kept a close prisoner at Meynard, many in slayer despatched the younger Ponterie-Escot the neighbourliood knew that her prison was not and Jean Faure, the half-witted servant, to inform wholly impervious to her pretended lover. Her the authorities at La Force. But no sooner own near relatives were the persons who were they out of the house than it was discovered suspected least that all their precautions had that Dehap was not yet dead, but had swooned. been taken in vain.
Ponterie-Escot placed him on the bed, sent for Such was the state of affairs, when, at the two men-servants, ordered biin to be clothed in begioning of the year 1807 (it must be remem the garments which were lying about the room, bered that we are repeating the account of the and to be carefully watched. During the nigh: Ponterie-Escot family) - Cécile began to exhibit the messengers to La Force returned with the a morbid dislike to her younger sister, Made news that the judge would not come till day, moiselle Eugénie. She quarrelled with her Then M. Ponterie-Escot wrote off letters to the incessantly. She made it impossible that they family of the wounded man, apprising them of should live peaceably together. So their the event, and requesting that a competent mother came to the conclusion that it would surgeon might be sent without delay. As his not be well for the two sisters to continue to strength revived, Dehap became more and more inhabit the saine bed-chamber.
unmanageable. Then it was that his keepers The principal rooms at Meynard were on the found it necessary to bind his hands and feet, ground-floor. The saloon looked out on the and to tie him to the bed. So he was found garden, and communicated with the room when the juge de paix arrived in the morning. occupied by Mademoiselle Cécile. This bed Seen in this light, the story makes the slayer room was only separated from that of the master the victim and the object of pity. Such was by and mistress of the house by a wooden partition. no means the opinion of the mass of the It was lighted by two windows, one opening on community. the garden, the other on a roadway, the latter i There was an examination of the corpse. The raised some four mètres from the lane. It con- surgeons employed stated that there were four tained two beds. The garden was shut in by a bruises on the neck-one on the right side, two wall, in which there was a gate. At the other on the left, one in the middle. One only out of side of the wall was a wood of elms.
the five members of the faculty dissented from On the evening of the 26th February, said the the conclusion that the wounds were the print of Ponterie-Escots, the family sat down, after their one hand. All agreed that the bandages and evening meal, to play a rubber at whist. Cécile cords used to confine the struggling man had declined to join in the game, and at 9 o'clock done him no serious injury. All agreed, too, retired to her own room. Her father and mother that certain mutilations which some imaginatire persons who may possibly have read the tale of An attempt was made to induce her to sign a "Abelard” declared they had seen, existed only paper, asking the intervention of the magistrates in the fancies of the fanciful. The magistrates to protect her from the surveillance of her decided that death had resulted from “interrup- family. It became necessary to post a guard of tion of respiration and circulation caused by gendarmes at Meynard in order to secure the long and severe compression of the neck.” unfortunate family from outrage. A strange
Public opinion was almost unanimously in state of society! Obviously the order of the favour of the Dehaps. And whether it was new empire had not yet altogether taken the vell or ill founded, it displayed itself with very place of the lawlessness of the Revolution. great violence and impropriety. When the body Once let it be established that every man may do of the unhappy young man was conveyed to the what is right in his own eyes, and it is the work grave, it was followed by a vast crowd of those of many years to restore law and restraint. who were most excited concerning the manner. In the urdinary course of events, the accused of bis death, invoking vengeance on the would have been brought to trial before the "murderers," and making altogether a very “ Cour d'Assises" of la Dordogne. But it was unseemly demonstration. It is even stated in clear that in the near neighbourhood of the the records of the event that a butcher fresh scene of the event in question, it would be next from the abattoir was brought to smear the door to impossible for the case to have a fair hearing. of the Ponterie-Escots town residence at The Ponterie-Escots were advised to petition the Bergerac with blood, and that while the crowd then Court of Cassation that the case should shrieked applause, “ Maison des Bouveaux" was come on at Bordeaux, and were successful in their inscribed on the house front. The feeling of appeal. There it was not likely that their interests the more moderate of the Dehap faction was would be compromised by a prejudiced tribunal; expressed in such statements as the following, and there they were brought to a fairer bar than extracted from a newspaper of the day:
that of the mob, on the 24th August, 1807. “A young man named Dehap, son of a The indictinent was not confined to the father gentleman, formerly a magistrate, and now an and son. The whole family of Ponterie-Escot octogenarian, paid his addresses to a daughter of were arraigned on a charge of murder. M. Ponterie-Escot, ex-member of one of our for several days all that the world heard of deliberatic assemblies. The parties were ill was the prosecution. The points on which matched in point of fortune; and the father of most stress was laid would seem to be the letter the lady refused his consent, forbidding all said to have been written by Cécile on the morn. hope for the future. As the young lady was ing of the catastrophe, and opened and examined approacbiog her majority, she deemed that she by her family, and sonje rents in the clothes of might keep faith with her lover, and afford him Dehap, supposed to indicate a struggle while opportunities of seeing her. These interviews, they were yet worn--these clothes the Debap however, never gave cause for any stain on her family were unable to produce. The conclusion reputation. On Thursday, February 26th, the which the prosecution sought to establish was young Dehap received a letter from Mademoiselle that Dehap was the victim of a “guet-à-pens" Ponterie-Escot, then in the country. She invited that he had been enticed on to the Meynard him to visit her that evening. Although this premises by the bait of an interview with his letter had evidently been opened and resealed, mistress, and then strangled. There was clearly M. Dehap was punctual at the appointed time | homicide ; and, said the prosecution, not justi. and place. In the morning he was found by the fiable homicide. Indeed the procureur-général juge de paix, dead, laid on a mattress, his hands did not hesitate to employ, and to insist on the tied behind his back, his face downwards. The fac | term, assassination. It was not till the 29th day ther of the girl had disappeared; but the police are of the month that the council for the Ponterieon his track. The whole population of Bergerac Escot family began their defence. Tbey had took part in the funeral procession of Dehap.” chosen for their advocate a Monsieur Dennée,
Many days had not gone by, before a crowd who had made his début, and been received in collected in one of the squares of Bergerac, the parliament of Bordeaux, as early as 1782. threatening to march to Meynard, and set it on Like many others, he had suffered from the fire. The Ponterie-Escots were warned that it | interruption which the Revolution caused to the was intended to attack their house in the night. exercise of his profession. He began to practise They were in a difficulty; for though a warrant once more when the Empire gave promise of for their apprehension had been issued, the stability and order, and died a procureur du authorities of the neighbourhood were unwilling roi in 1820. He enjoyed a considerable to run the risk of the attempt to convey them to reputation, founded in a great measure on his tbe gaol at Bergerac. Lynch-law was feared. conduct of the Ponlerie-Escot defence. His Ponterie-Escot and his son contrived to effect speech on that occasion is, in itself, not the least their escape from their menaced home, and then note-worthy feature of a very singular case, and it was invaded by an extraordinary influx of the no mean specimen of the forensic eloquence of friends of Dehap. A number of young men, the country of Berryer. it is related, went in the name of the parents of The procureur-général having stated that the the dead man, and demanded Cécile from her accused were arraigned for "an attack on motber, contending that her own natural pro- personal freedom and individual security" (it is tectors had forfeited all rights to control her. I not easy to perceive how detention of the person
could be an aggravation of murder), Maître from the error that has misled you. Mark that not Derinée began by congratulating himself and his only is there not the smallest foundation of proof, clients on the starting of this notion. “You but that the unhappy Cécile herself, in the have told us yourselves," he said, “how much absence of her father, free from all suspicion of confidence you put in your principal point. You restraint, has declared to the interrogating feel that it will not touch the accused, and it is magistrate, that at that time she bad ceased to something to find at the very beginning a correspond with Dehap; that she had not justification suggested by the officer charged with written to him since Christmas. But, it is the prosecution." Having given a vivid recital urged, if she did not write, she sent messages of the discovery and death of the deceased, by Faure the servant. It has been extracted according to the version of his clients, Dennée from this witness, with some difficulty, that continued: “It is only too true that a man has he was the go-between-that he did convey been killed, and the accused is the first to acknow- messages. But his endeavour to deny this to ledge that death was the result of his violent the court, shows that he had denied it to his action. But law, in accordance with reason, master. He was afraid to confess his fault in recognizes the possibility of homicide without the face of the severe threats held out against crime. The ordinary rule, one of the few with him by the Sieur Ponterie in case of such a out an exception, is that there can be no crime dereliction of his duty. One fact will prore without intent; this the law lays down distinctly, I clearly enough that Faure carried on the corres. and so requires, that in the case of every accusa- pondence without the knowledge of his master. tion preferred before a jury, the question of You remember that Cécile, to recover the letters intent should be argued. So the law denies of Dehap, wrote one at the dictation of her that there is crime in a homicide committed father : you remember that she wrote a second involuntarily; or in homicide committed in self-in pencil, to show that the first was not her free defence, or in defence of another. In these act. These two letters were sent together, and cases the homicide, so far from incurring a pe- by the hands of Faure. Now it is plain that the nalty, is declared justifiable (légitime). Homicide Sieur Ponterie, endeavouring to break off all becomes an atrocity when it is committed with correspondence, was very far from knowing any. premeditation. Then it is termed murder. In thing of this second letter. It is obvious that ibis case alone is it punishable with death. It the servant must have carried on the corresponis in this last category that it is attempted to dence without the privity of the head of the rank the deed of the Sieur Ponterie. It is family. Everything tends to disprove the maintained that Dehap was not surprised in possibility of the Sieur Pontérie's knowing any. the chamber of Cécile. It is maintained that the thing about the continuance of the correspondence Sieur Ponterie, forewarned of Dehap's visit, between his daughter and the deceased. But waylaid him in the shrubbery of the garden, the notion of premeditation is strengthened by assailed him there, and then led, dragged, or the condition of the torn clotbes; contradicting, carried him to the chamber of his daughter, we are told, the statement of Dehap being in order to convict him of an outrage which he discovered in bed. There are considerable had not attempted. And what are the proofs discrepancies in the evidence on this point. Some brought forward to support this hypothesis ? say the clothes were in one state, some in another. None, absolutely none. It rests on certain The Sieur Vignac alone noticed the inside of suppositions which we shall proceed to examine the waistcoat torn, and the collar unsewed. He, presently, on certain alleged improbabilities in the close friend of the deceased, and Tavaux, the story of Dehap's allowing himself to be another warm partizan of the Dehap family, are surprised in the bedroom. or the pretended the only authorities for the overcoat being "nem" letter, intercepted by Cécile's father, no witness or “nearly new." The first witnesses, among has been found to establish even the existence. them the juge de paix, declared it to be conThere is not the slightest ground for supposing siderably worn. But after all, of what import that it was either written or sent; and yet it is is the state in which the clothes were found in persistently quoted, on the authority of the letter the house of Chignac (whither the deceased had in the 'Journal de l'Empire.' Unhappy old been carried from Meynard)? Might they not man! (he addresses the elder Dehap) it is im- have been torn there, whether wilfully or by possible that you should have penned a libel so chance? Might not these rents have been made foully calumnious! its flowery phrases could in the transit from Meynard to La Force-in never have been written by a heart-broken father. laying the deceased in the cart-in taking him Let me believe that you gave your signature out-in depositing him in the house-in dresswithout reflection-that, overwhelmed by your ing him-in undressing him? The only point grief, you were made the victim of some dis- worth consideration is the condition in which honest hand : I will not believe that you could the clothes were found at Meynard. There everystain your last days by an imposture contrived thing was examined, because the injured man to found on an imaginary murder the horrible was dressed bit by bit: there no rent was found hope of a judicial murder. And you, who in the waistcoat : only the shoulder of the shirt, have believed in the existence of this letter of and the tail of the coat, were torn. Is it theni Cécile's, intercepted, opened, resealed by her true, as we are told, that these tears are necessafather-you who have been thus convinced of rily connected with a struggle in the garden? premeditation on the part of the accused - return 'Debap walking in the night through hedges and ditches, climbing walls, and pushing through contingencies of a crime? And if it was a folly on trees, they might well tear his coat : and these the part of the first to leave his clothes in careless tears point to murder! What reasonable man disorder, would the second have been so foolish could draw such an inference? And observe, as not to dispose them in the manner most likely gentlemen, that Dehap received no wound in to suggest a corroboration of his own story? any part of his body corresponding with the But, it is urged again, the window was open; alleged rents. No wound or contusion was found Debap, instead of disclosing hiinself to Madame in the back part of his body. And since these Ponterie, might have so escaped ; he could tears were to be put in evidence against my not have left it open but with that intention. I clients; what has become of the clothes ? They reply, Dehap was undressed, even to his stockhave disappeared. And it is hardly likely that ings. Surprised in such a state it is easy to they would have been mislaid through careless- imagine that he could not run away. His unness. Why are they not forthcoming ? It is happy accomplice, having once replied to her the relatives and the friends of Dehap who have mother, might think that there was more danger made away with them. You may be sure, sirs; in disobeying than in not keeping her waiting ; that if they could have been used to advantage and, as Cécile said, on her examination, they against the accused, they would not have gone had both lost their heads. But we are audown with their wearer to the grave. Another thorised in supposing that another idea, auground for the argument of the prosecution is dacious no doubt, but still not less extraordithe fact that Debap's hat was found rubbed. nary, may have struck the infatuated young What ! an ill-brushed hat is to prove the murder | man. The witness Meslon, whom all parties of its owner! There is no question of aby seem to acknowledge to be unimpeachable, dewound in the head : and it was not till it had poses that, after the departure of Sieur Ponterie been all night in the room that it was found by for La Force, he asked to see Cécile Ponterie, his the juge de paix on February 27. But after it piece. He found her lying down, and, having had left the head of Dehap, might it not have upbraided her for what she had done, asked her been in many hands? Is it not probable that why, before she opened the door to her mother, in the confusion of that awful night it was she had not dimissed Dehap by the way he had picked up and handled and dropped ? Yes, it come. She replied: 'I tried to get him to do dropped in that room, and nowhere else. We so, but he refused ;' adding, Who could have have an irresistible proof. It has been testified thought that this would happen?' On being that the hat was stained by dust-a significant asked if he had been often, she answered: circumstance. That dust proves that it was only too often !' Note these words with dropped in the room. Had Dehap been assaulted care, gentlemen of the jury : they will give you a in the garden, the hat falling in soft soil on a key to the sudden idea formed in the young rainy night would have shown marks not of man's brain. He is not the first who has dust, but of mud. I have shown impro- wished to be surprised in such circumstances babilities in the theory of the prosecution. as would force consent to his wishes. And it But it is urged that the statements of the would be vain to object that the window, left accused are improbable. Is it probable, we open for flight, is inconsistent with this hypoare asked, that à rash villain should have thesis. The idea was very probably the thought dared to introduce himself, at an hour of a moment. At all events the open window when the family were still awake, into a room militates strongly against the notion that Dehap adjoining the saloon, where the least noise could was assaulted in the garden and then conveyed be heard? It was precisely the time when the to Cécile's room. If it was so-if Dehap did not attempt could be made with least danger. Once come himself into Cécile's room; if vile assassins let the father and mother have retired to rest, dragged him thither, the simplest road for them and it would have been impossible. Their room to have taken would have been by the door, is separated from that of Cécile only by a thin through the saloon, and so into Cécile's bedroom. partition. A little later, and the house would But, then, why should they have opened the have been wrapt in profound silence, when every window? Can you see the least use in their so noise would have been audible. There was not doing? Once in the room, so far from opening so much to fear while the family were playing the window, would they not carefully have shut and talking in the saloon. It was then easy not it, in order to finish their work in secret ? If, to be heard. Neither time nor place, then, is on the other hand, they threw or dragged him improbable. But is it likely, it is continued, in by the window-although I can see no mothat Debap would have left his clothes scattered tive in a master's preferring the window of all over the room, bis boots between the two his house to the door-there would still have beds, his coat in one place, his watch and bat in been the same probability that their first care apother? Ah, sirs ! had the wretched man been would have been to have shut it after them. gifted with prudence it would not have been only But, if by inconceivable inadvertence they how to place his clothes that he would have had neglected to shut it, if by that negligence thought-rather how to avoid a quarrel-how to they feared discovery, at least they would be rein an immoderate passion. And why should careful not to reveal a fact likely to tell against more foresight and reflection be expected in a' themselves; and yet we have no evidence for young libertine, burning to satisfy his desires, the window being open except the declaration than in a cold-blooded assassin calculating the of the accused themselves. So the circum