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The war has led to so many upheavals that not many people now remember the Hergemont scandal of seventeen years ago. Let us recall the details in a few lines. One day in July 1902, M. Antoine d’Hergemont, the author of a series of well-known studies on the megalithic monuments of Brittany, was walking in the Bois with his daughter V ronique, when he was assaulted by four men, receiving a blow in the face with a walking-stick which felled him to the ground. Contents: The Deserted Cabin; On The Edge Of The Atlantic; Vorski’s Son; The Poor People Of Sarek; “Four Women Crucified”; All’s Well; François And Stéphane; Anguish; The Death-chamber; The Escape; The Scourge Of God; The Ascent Of Golgotha; “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani!”; The Ancient Druid; The Hall Of The Underground Sacrifices; The Hall Of The Kings Of Bohemia; “cruel Prince, Obeying Destiny”; The God-Stone.
91,661 words, with a reading time of ~ 5.6 hours (~ 366 pages), and first published in 1919. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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Into the picturesque village of Le Faouet, situated in the very heart of Brittany, there drove one morning in the month of May a lady whose spreading grey cloak and the thick veil that covered her face failed to hide her remarkable beauty and perfect grace of figure.
The lady took a hurried lunch at the principal inn. Then, at about half-past eleven, she begged the proprietor to look after her bag for her, asked for a few particulars about the neighbourhood and walked through the village into the open country.
The road almost immediately branched into two, of which one led to Quimper and the other to Quimperlé. Selecting the latter, she went down into the hollow of a valley, climbed up again and saw on her right, at the corner of another road, a sign-post bearing the inscription, “Locriff, 3 kilometers.”
“This is the place,” she said to herself.
Nevertheless, after casting a glance around her, she was surprised not to find what she was looking for and wondered whether she had misunderstood her instructions.
There was no one near her nor any one within sight, as far as the eye could reach over the Breton country-side, with its tree-lined meadows and undulating hills. Not far from the village, rising amid the budding greenery of spring, a small country house lifted its grey front, with the shutters to all the windows closed. At twelve o’clock, the angelus-bells pealed through the air and were followed by complete peace and silence.
Véronique sat down on the short grass of a bank, took a letter from her pocket and smoothed out the many sheets, one by one.
The first page was headed:
“Consulting Rooms. “Private Enquiries. “Absolute Discretion Guaranteed.”
Next came an address:
“Madame Véronique, “Dressmaker, “Besançon.”
And the letter ran:
“You will hardly believe the pleasure which it gave me to fulfill the two commissions which you were good enough to entrust to me in your last favour. I have never forgotten the conditions under which I was able, fourteen years ago, to give you my practical assistance at a time when your life was saddened by painful events. It was I who succeeded in obtaining all the facts relating to the death of your honoured father, M. Antoine d’Hergemont, and of your beloved son François. This was my first triumph in a career which was to afford so many other brilliant victories.
“It was I also, you will remember, who, at your request and seeing how essential it was to save you from your husband’s hatred and, if I may add, his love, took the necessary steps to secure your admission to the Carmelite convent. Lastly, it was I who, when your retreat to the convent had shown you that a life of religion did not agree with your temperament, arranged for you a modest occupation as a dressmaker at Besançon, far from the towns where the years of your childhood and the months of your marriage had been spent. You had the inclination and the need to work in order to live and to escape your thoughts. You were bound to succeed; and you succeeded.
“And now let me come to the fact, to the two facts in hand.
“To begin with your first question: what has become, amid the whirlwind of war, of your husband, Alexis Vorski, a Pole by birth, according to his papers, and the son of a king, according to his own statement? I will be brief. After being suspected at the commencement of the war and imprisoned in an internment-camp near Carpentras, Vorski managed to escape, went to Switzerland, returned to France and was re-arrested, accused of spying and convicted of being a German. At the moment when it seemed inevitable that he would be sentenced to death, he escaped for the second time, disappeared in the Forest of Fontainebleau and in the end was stabbed by some person unknown.
“I am telling you the story quite crudely, Madam, well knowing your contempt for this person, who had deceived you abominably, and knowing also that you have learnt most of these facts from the newspapers, though you have not been able to verify their absolute genuineness.