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A Sale
by [?]

The defendants, Cesaire-Isidore Brument and Prosper-Napoleon Cornu, appeared before the Court of Assizes of the Seine-Inferieure, on a charge of attempted murder, by drowning, of Mme. Brument, lawful wife of the first of the aforenamed.

The two prisoners sat side by side on the traditional bench. They were two peasants; the first was small and stout, with short arms, short legs, and a round head with a red pimply face, planted directly on his trunk, which was also round and short, and with apparently no neck. He was a raiser of pigs and lived at Cacheville-la-Goupil, in the district of Criquetot.

Cornu (Prosper-Napoleon) was thin, of medium height, with enormously long arms. His head was on crooked, his jaw awry, and he squinted. A blue blouse, as long as a shirt, hung down to his knees, and his yellow hair, which was scanty and plastered down on his head, gave his face a worn- out, dirty look, a dilapidated look that was frightful. He had been nicknamed “the cure” because he could imitate to perfection the chanting in church, and even the sound of the serpent. This talent attracted to his cafe–for he was a saloon keeper at Criquetot–a great many customers who preferred the “mass at Cornu” to the mass in church.

Mme. Brument, seated on the witness bench, was a thin peasant woman who seemed to be always asleep. She sat there motionless, her hands crossed on her knees, gazing fixedly before her with a stupid expression.

The judge continued his interrogation.

“Well, then, Mme. Brument, they came into your house and threw you into a barrel full of water. Tell us the details. Stand up.”

She rose. She looked as tall as a flag pole with her cap which looked like a white skull cap. She said in a drawling tone:

“I was shelling beans. Just then they came in. I said to myself, ‘What is the matter with them? They do not seem natural, they seem up to some mischief.’ They watched me sideways, like this, especially Cornu, because he squints. I do not like to see them together, for they are two good-for-nothings when they are in company. I said: ‘What do you want with me?’ They did not answer. I had a sort of mistrust—-“

The defendant Brument interrupted the witness hastily, saying:

“I was full.”

Then Cornu, turning towards his accomplice said in the deep tones of an organ:

“Say that we were both full, and you will be telling no lie.”

The judge, severely:

“You mean by that that you were both drunk?”

Brument: “There can be no question about it.”

Cornu: “That might happen to anyone.”

The judge to the victim: “Continue your testimony, woman Brument.”

“Well, Brument said to me, ‘Do you wish to earn a hundred sous?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, seeing that a hundred sous are not picked up in a horse’s tracks. Then he said: ‘Open your eyes and do as I do,’ and he went to fetch the large empty barrel which is under the rain pipe in the corner, and he turned it over and brought it into my kitchen, and stuck it down in the middle of the floor, and then he said to me: ‘Go and fetch water until it is full.’

“So I went to the pond with two pails and carried water, and still more water for an hour, seeing that the barrel was as large as a vat, saving your presence, m’sieu le president.

“All this time Brument and Cornu were drinking a glass, and then another glass, and then another. They were finishing their drinks when I said to them: ‘You are full, fuller than this barrel.’ And Brument answered me. ‘Do not worry, go on with your work, your turn will come, each one has his share.’ I paid no attention to what he said as he was full.