This letter, to which Picquart replied by a brief protest, opened his eyes; he understood the plot that was being hatched against him, the dangers which threatened him for having been too discerning. He asked for leave, went to Paris, and disclosed his affair to his old friend and comrade Leblois, a lawyer. Without revealing to Leblois any secret document, even the "petit bleu," he told him that he had discovered Esterhazy's crime and the innocence of Dreyfus; he authorized him, in case of necessity, to inform the government, but absolutely forbade him to apprise either the brother or the lawyer of Dreyfus. Leblois did not long remain the only recipient of the secret. A few days later chance brought him in contact with one of the few statesmen who had shown any sympathy with the researches of Matthew Dreyfus - the Alsatian Scheurer-Kestner, former member of the Chamber of Deputies for Alsace and coworker with Gambetta, and now vice-president of the Senate and one of the most justly esteemed men of the Republican party. Since 1895 Scheurer-Kestner, induced by the deputy Ranc and by Matthew Dreyfus, had made some inquiries. In 1897 the friends of Dreyfus returned to the charge. Scheurer-Kestner was surprised to find that all the so-called moral proofs, the tales that were brought forward to explain the crime of Dreyfus, did not bear investigation. The expert Teyssonnières, sent to him by his friend and colleague Trarieux, former minister of justice, did not succeed in convincing him that the bordereau was in the writing of Dreyfus. In great distress, he went to tell his old comrade Billot of his suspicions; the general reassured him: a secret document discovered since the condemnation, at the moment of Castelin's interpellation, had removed all doubts; Billot related the substance of it to him without letting him see it. This "crushing blow," which he kept in reserve for the partisans of Dreyfus, was Major Henry's forgery.
Toward the middle of October a meeting was held at the War Office, in anticipation of Scheurer-Kestner's impending campaign. Gonse, Henry, Lauth, Du Paty de Clam, were all present; the last, although having nothing to do with the Intelligence Office, had been summoned to it as the principal worker in the condemnation of Dreyfus, and as interested therefore more than any one in maintaining it. Gonse set forth the plot "of the Jews" to substitute for Dreyfus Esterhazy, an officer of doubtful character, but whom a minute inquiry had cleared of all suspicion of treachery: who was, however, a nervous man, and who, under the blow of a sudden denunciation, might lose his head and take flight or even kill himself; and that would mean catastrophe, war, and disaster. Esterhazy must then be warned, to prevent him from going quite mad. But how was it to be done? It was decided to send him an anonymous letter in order that he might take courage. Billot objected to this proceeding; it seems, however, that somebody disregarded the objection, for Esterhazy received (or pretended to have received) a letter signed Espérance, warning him that the Dreyfus family, informed by a certain Colonel Picquart, intended to accuse him of treason. One fact is certain - that he settled in Paris, went to see Schwarzkoppen, and told him that all was lost if he (Schwarzkoppen) did not go and declare to Madame Dreyfus that her husband was guilty; on the indignant refusal of Schwarzkoppen he threatened to blow his brains out.
At the Staff Office Henry and Du Paty, understanding at once the wishes of Boisdeffre and of Gonse, resolved to join forces with Esterhazy. The keeper of the records, Gribelin, went in disguise to take a letter to Esterhazy fixing a rendezvous in the park of Montsouris. There, while Henry (fearing, as he said, recognition by his former comrade) kept watch, Du Paty, who was also disguised, told Esterhazy that he was known to be innocent, and that he would be defended on condition that he conformed rigorously to the instructions that would be given to him. After this interview, Esterhazy went to Schwarzkoppen quite cheered up, and told him that the staff was entering into a campaign for his defense. A week later Schwarzkoppen had himself recalled to Berlin; it was the discreet but significant avowal that "his man was taken." Meanwhile Esterhazy, as agreed upon, was receiving his daily instructions from the Staff Office. Every evening from this time on Gribelin brought to him at the Military Club the program for the next day; Du Paty and Henry, whose connection with the affair Esterhazy soon knew, saw him several times, sometimes at the Montmartre cemetery, sometimes on the Pont d'Alexandre III. Later on, when these meetings were considered too dangerous, they corresponded with him through the medium of his mistress, of his lawyer, or of his cousin Christian.
Following instructions, Esterhazy wrote to Billot, ending his letter with the threat that if he were not defended he would apply to the German emperor. He wrote in the same strain to the president of the republic, claiming that a lady, afterward mysteriously referred to as the "veiled lady", had given him a photograph of a very important document which Picquart had acquired from an embassy and which seriously compromised persons of high diplomatic rank. This braggadocio was taken so seriously that General Leclerc received an order at Tunis to question Picquart on having given to an outsider - the "veiled lady" - the "document of deliverance." Receiving no answer, Esterhazy, in his third letter (5 November), virtually held the knife at the president's throat: the stolen document proved the rascality of Dreyfus; if he should publish it, it would be war or humiliation for France. This time they made up their minds to listen to him. General Saussier was charged with interrogating Esterhazy in regard to the "document of deliverance"; he obtained no details from him, but made him promise to send back the document to the minister. On 15 November (the day when Matthew Dreyfus wrote his denunciation) it was "restored" to Saussier in a triple envelope, sealed with Esterhazy's arms: the "document of deliverance," as Esterhazy called it, was a photograph of the document "canaille de D . . ." There is nothing to prove that Esterhazy had ever had it in his hands. Billot acknowledged the receipt by the hand of his "chef de cabinet," General Torcy. By these barefaced stratagems Esterhazy and his defenders on the staff made certain of the complicity of the minister and of the president of the republic, while they compromised Picquart more deeply.
During this time Scheurer-Kestner was being deceived by his "old friend" Billot. On 30 October he had a long conference with Billot, at which he accused Esterhazy. Billot declared that in spite of persistent investigations nobody had been able to find any proofs against Esterhazy, but that there were positive proofs against Dreyfus. Scheurer-Kestner implored him to distrust suspicious documents, and finally gave him a fortnight in which to make an honest and thorough investigation, promising that he himself would not speak during that time.
For four days they hesitated as to the course to pursue, Scheurer-Kestner still persisting in keeping the fortnight's silence promised to Billot on 31 October. In the interim, by means of the press the public mind had been influenced by indications as to the real traitor and by counter-declarations by Esterhazy in "La Libre Parole" concerning the conspiracy of the Jews and of "X. Y." (Picquart).
On the night of 15 November, in a letter to the minister of war which was published at once, Matthew Dreyfus denounced "Count" Walsin Esterhazy as the writer of the bordereau and as the author of the treason for which his brother had been condemned.
Convinced of the guilt of Dreyfus through the assurances of the staff, and before long by Henry's forged documents, Pellieux refused at the outset to examine the bordereau, on the subject of which there was "chose jugée." Even after the formal order to prosecute, an interpellation of Scheurer-Kestner to the Senate (7 December) was necessary to induce General Billot to promise that all the documents, including the famous bordereau, should be produced for examination. On this occasion also, as he had done some days before in the Chamber of Deputies (4 December), the minister did not fail to proclaim on his soul and conscience the guilt of Dreyfus, thus bringing to bear the whole weight of his high office on the verdict of the future judges of Esterhazy. Premier Méline, on his part, gained applause for declaring "that there was no Dreyfus affair," and the Chamber in its "ordre du jour" stigmatized "the ringleaders of the odious campaign which troubled the public conscience."
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