I have really gotten Friday Mystery Author off schedule. I’ll try to do better. As always, if you think recognize this passage, please post the title and author in the comments – or just say hello.
Six weeks later, on August 8, 1899, the retrial of Dreyfus by a new court-martial was scheduled to open in the garrison town of Rennes, a Catholic and aristcratic corner of traditionally Counter-Revolutionary Brittany. France quivered in expectation; as each week passed bringing the moment closer, the tension grew. The world’s eyes were turned on Rennes. All the important foreign newspapers sent their star correspondents. Lord Russell of Killowen, the Lord Chief Justice of England, came as an observer. All the leading figures in the Affair, hundreds of French journalists and important political, social, and literary figures crammed the town. The Secret File was brought from Paris in an iron box on an artillary caisson. No one anywhere talked of anything but the coming verdict. Acquittal would mean for the Dreyfusards vindication and last; for the Nationalists it would be lethal; an unimaginable blow not to be permitted. As if on order they returned to the theme of the first blackmail: Dreyfus or the Army. “A choice is to be made,” wrote Barres in the Journal; Rennes, he said, was the Rubicon. “If Dreyfus is innocent then seven Ministers of War are guilty and the last more than the first,” echoed Meyer in Le Gaulois. General Mercier, leaving for Rennes to appear as a witness, issued his Order of the Day: “Dreyfus will be condemned once more. For in this affair someone is certainly guilty and the guilty one is either him or me. As it is certainly not me, it is Dreyfus. … Dreyfus is a traitor and I shall prove it.”
At six o’clock on the morning of August 8 the Court convened with an audience of six hundred persons in the hall of the lycee, the only room in Rennes large enough to accomodate them. In the front row, next to former President Casimir-Perier, sat Mercier, his yellow lined face as expressionless as ever, and nearby, the widow of Colonel Henry in her long black mourning veil. Dignitaries, officers in uniform, ladies in light summer dresses and more than four hundred journalists filled the rows behind. Colonel Jouaust, presiding officer of the seven military judges, called out in a voice hoarse under the pressure of the moment, “Bring in the accused.”
Last week’s edition is here.