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Rosalie Prudent
by [?]

There was a real mystery in this affair which neither the jury, nor the president, nor the public prosecutor himself could understand.

The girl Prudent (Rosalie), servant at the Varambots’, of Nantes, having become enceinte without the knowledge of her masters, had, during the night, killed and buried her child in the garden.

It was the usual story of the infanticides committed by servant girls. But there was one inexplicable circumstance about this one. When the police searched the girl Prudent’s room they discovered a complete infant’s outfit, made by Rosalie herself, who had spent her nights for the last three months in cutting and sewing it. The grocer from whom she had bought her candles, out of her own wages, for this long piece of work had come to testify. It came out, moreover, that the sage-femme of the district, informed by Rosalie of her condition, had given her all necessary instructions and counsel in case the event should happen at a time when it might not be possible to get help. She had also procured a place at Poissy for the girl Prudent, who foresaw that her present employers would discharge her, for the Varambot couple did not trifle with morality.

There were present at the trial both the man and the woman, a middle- class pair from the provinces, living on their income. They were so exasperated against this girl, who had sullied their house, that they would have liked to see her guillotined on the spot without a trial. The spiteful depositions they made against her became accusations in their mouths.

The defendant, a large, handsome girl of Lower Normandy, well educated for her station in life, wept continuously and would not answer to anything.

The court and the spectators were forced to the opinion that she had committed this barbarous act in a moment of despair and madness, since there was every indication that she had expected to keep and bring up her child.

The president tried for the last time to make her speak, to get some confession, and, having urged her with much gentleness, he finally made her understand that all these men gathered here to pass judgment upon her were not anxious for her death and might even have pity on her.

Then she made up her mind to speak.

“Come, now, tell us, first, who is the father of this child?” he asked.

Until then she had obstinately refused to give his name.

But she replied suddenly, looking at her masters who had so cruelly calumniated her:

“It is Monsieur Joseph, Monsieur Varambot’s nephew.”

The couple started in their seats and cried with one voice–“That’s not true! She lies! This is infamous!”

The president had them silenced and continued, “Go on, please, and tell us how it all happened.”

Then she suddenly began to talk freely, relieving her pent-up heart, that poor, solitary, crushed heart–laying bare her sorrow, her whole sorrow, before those severe men whom she had until now taken for enemies and inflexible judges.

“Yes, it was Monsieur Joseph Varambot, when he came on leave last year.”

“What does Mr. Joseph Varambot do?”

“He is a non-commissioned officer in the artillery, monsieur. Well, he stayed two months at the house, two months of the summer. I thought nothing about it when he began to look at me, and then flatter me, and make love to me all day long. And I let myself be taken in, monsieur. He kept saying to me that I was a handsome girl, that I was good company, that I just suited him–and I, I liked him well enough. What could I do? One listens to these things when one is alone–all alone–as I was. I am alone in the world, monsieur. I have no one to talk to–no one to tell my troubles to. I have no father, no mother, no brother, no sister, nobody. And when he began to talk to me it was as if I had a brother who had come back. And then he asked me to go with him to the river one evening, so that we might talk without disturbing any one. I went–I don’t know–I don’t know how it happened. He had his arm around me. Really I didn’t want to–no–no–I could not–I felt like crying, the air was so soft–the moon was shining. No, I swear to you–I could not– he did what he wanted. That went on three weeks, as long as he stayed. I could have followed him to the ends of the world. He went away. I did not know that I was enceinte. I did not know it until the month after–“