"No, sir, certainly not! I am no longer delirious, and I should not have let myself be brought before you if I had felt that my mind was at all weak."
"Apparently, then, you consider that a state of mental aberration was responsible for the revelations you made to Patience, to Mademoiselle Leblanc, your companion, and also, perhaps, to Abbe Aubert."
"I made no revelations," she replied emphatically, "either to the worthy Patience, the venerable abbe, or my servant Leblanc. If the meaningless words we utter in a state of delirium are to be called 'revelations,' all the people who frighten us in our dreams would have to be condemned to death. How could I have revealed facts of which I never had any knowledge?"
"But at the time you received the wound, and fell from your horse, you said: 'Bernard, Bernard! I should never have thought that you would kill me!' "
"I do not remember having said so; and, even if I did, I cannot conceive that any one would attach much importance to the impressions of a person who had suddenly been struck to the ground, and whose mind was annihilated, as it were. All that I know is that Bernard de Mauprat would lay down his life for my father or myself; which does not make it very probable that he wanted to murder me. Great God! what would be his object?"
In order to embarrass Edmee, the president now utilized all the arguments which could be drawn from Mademoiselle Leblanc's evidence. As a fact, they were calculated to cause her not a little confusion. Edmee, who was at first somewhat astonished to find that the law was in possession of so many details which she believed were unknown to others, regained her courage and pride, however, when they suggested, in those brutally chaste terms which are used by the law in such a case, that she had been a victim of my violence at Roche-Mauprat. Her spirit thoroughly roused, she proceeded to defend my character and her own honour, and declared that, considering how I had been brought up, I had behaved much more honourably than might have been expected. But she still had to explain all her life from this point onward, the breaking off of her engagement with M. de la Marche, her frequent quarrels with myself, my sudden departure for America, her refusal of all offers of marriage.
"All these questions are abominable," she said, rising suddenly, her physical strength having returned with the exercise of her mental powers. "You ask me to give an account of my inmost feelings; you would sound the mysteries of my soul; you put my modesty on the rack; you would take to yourself rights that belong only to God. I declare to you that, if my own life were now at stake and not another's, you should not extract a word more from me. However, to save the life of the meanest of men I would overcome my repugnance; much more, therefore, will I do for him who is now at the bar. Know then--since you force me to a confession which is painful to the pride and reserve of my sex--that everything which to you seems inexplicable in my conduct, everything which you attribute to Bernard's persecutions and my own resentment, to his threats and my terror, finds its justification in one word: I love him!"
On uttering this word, the red blood in her cheeks, and in the ringing tone of the proudest and most passionate soul that ever existed, Edmee sat down again and buried her face in her hands. At this moment I was so transported that I could not help crying out: