Monsieur Baudrain’s Niece

PASSING over years marked by adventures that I may publish at some future time, but which relate like the foregoing papers, to the active French Detective Policeman in its legitimate sphere, I arrive at a curious story, in which the political element comes into play, though not strongly and exclusively, as in the two following histoirettes.

In 1847, there was great agitation in “the Capital of Civilisation,” as we love to designate Paris. Amongst other sources of anxiety, the attempt at Boulogne had disquieted men’s minds. The “Legend” of Bonapartism into which the songs of Béranger—

“Parlez nous de lui grandmère,
  Parlez nous de lui—”

and the writings of Thiers, Mignet, and others had breathed new life, was found to be a religion with the mass of Frenchmen, and of far greater potency than that of Calvary preached by priests, to careless, indifferent auditories.
 
The army, I need hardly say, was thoroughly imbued with Idées Napoleoniennes, in the true sense, it must be understood, of ruthless conquest and domination, contemptuously careless of the coloured cobwebs with which their now triumphant expositor has successfully sought to transfigure in the eyes of fools, the degrading atrocity of a system, of which the composing elements are simply brute force and liveried servitude.
 
Only “les hautes Intelligences,” and the timid bourgeosie of wealthy cities, were professedly loyal to the citizen king,—these last chiefly from an instinctive dread of change,—whilst all, or nearly all, apologised for cold allegiance, by pointing to the necessity, in presence of so many perils, of supporting Louis Philippe, “Quoique Bourbon,” (although a Bourbon,) Those who avowed loyalty to the actual monarch,  “Parceque Bourbon,” (because a Bourbon,) were according, to my experience, secret partizans of Henri Cinq. Persons familiar with the political comedy of the epoch, will remember that “Quoique,” and “Parceque,” were common party catch words.
 
A general feeling of insecurity, consequently pervaded official bureaux. Presentable mouchards, (of both sexes) zealous in their not unprofitable vocation, displayed an exaggerated activity in reporting Legitimist, Bonapartist, and Republican conversations, or scraps of conversation, generally with embellishments, to give them piquancy and value in the estimation of superiors; themselves being, in a large majority of instances, either Bonapartist or Republican; the only real divisions after all, existing in the French nation.

For example, I knew one of our lady allies, a fascinating and most successful artiste, of peasant origin, but fairly educated, I believe in some convent, who was received by la creme de la creme of the Faubourg Saint Germain, an account of the devotion she had simulated, (perhaps at the time felt, who shall say?) for Madame La Duchesse de Berri, during that eccentric lady’s Quixotic invasion of France, which, as every body knows, terminated in her betrayal by a Jew, her consignment to the jailor-custody of General Bugeaud, and a cruelly compelled confession of pregnancy, and a damning mesalliance. Well, this fair and fascinating colleague of ours, so well received by the élite of legitimist society, was a republican of the reddest hue; whose Evangile was the Contrat Social; whose sexual ethics were those of Madame Dudevant, and whose political Messiah was Barbés, to whom during the first bewildering days of 1848, she solemnly offered herself, by letter, with an intimation, of course, “qu’elle se passcroit de pretre,” as the only gift in her power worthy his acceptance! A charming woman, nevertheless, and one of the most adroit mouchards I have known.

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One day, or more exactly one evening, Monsieur Caussidière, in after days Prefȇt de Police for the department of the Seine, under the Republic one, and indivisible, sent me a note, commanding my immediate attendance.
 
“You know le Sieur Baudrain?” said he, with official curtness; “le Sieur Baudrain, whose château is situate about midway between Rambouillet and Versailles?”

“Yes, by reputation; and he was once pointed out to me at the Theàtre François.”
 
“Well, you are le Sieur Baudrain’s valet!”

“How! le Sieur Baudrain’s valet!—I, le Sieur Baudrain’s valet?”
 
“Certainly. You will play valet at least as well as you have marquises, millionaires, and the rest. Monsieur Baudrain advertised in the Messager des Chambres for a valet. The place has been secured for you. Your character furnished by a brother mouchard, le Chevalier Verdun, was quite satisfactory; your nom de valet, is Edouard le Brun, and you will enter upon your duties tomorrow.”
 
“And my duties, Monsieur?”
 
“To keep an exact register of the names of every person that habitually visits at the Château Baudrain. To report their conversation with as much exactness as possible. M. Baudrain himself is a fanatical Bonapartist, and his nephew, Hippolyte, is a young man of very decided opinions. There is also a niece, on the maternal side, Coralie Jasmin. We have no curiosity about her political opinions, but you will keep strict watch over uncle, nephew, and associates.”

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M. Baudrain was a valetudinarian of some sixty years of age, for whom I found the Idée Napoléonienne was a sentiment, not a principle of action. His guests to a man and woman were Bonapartists to their fingers’ ends; and their sovereign disdain of Louis Philippe’s parliamentary government, of “les faiseurs de beaux discours” (makers of fine speeches) were venemously Napoleonic. Edouard le Brun reported as in Mouchard-duty bound; but, cui bono? I often asked myself. Under a régime of law, persons who indulged in abuse of the actual Government could not be seized and sent off to Cayenne, or dealt with in the mildestly-penal fashion, whilst the executive had abundant evidence of much greater validity than Mouchard reports of the general disaffection. The simple truth was that the government had no root in the traditions, the prejudices, the pride of the French people, and possessed consequently no real force—no force, I mean, that could be depended upon to act resolutely against either of the factions, which surrounded, stifled, and in discordant combination—if such a phrase be permissable—finally crushed the Monarchy of July.
 
May I tell the English people how—by what means Louis Philippe, might have consolidated his dynasty, have assured to his grandson, the Count of Paris, an applauded succession to the throne of France, with liberty to deal as he should please with merely French liberties?
 
The answer is simple, and by those who really know France, who are skilled to feel her fiery pulse, and with mental stethescope, to hear and comprehend the burning aspirations of that essentially warrior heart, will at once be admitted as conclusive.
 
In 1840—I think it was in 1840—you, England, by the advice of Lord Palmerston, then Foreign Secretary, signed a treaty with Russia, Austria, Prussia, and the Sublime Porte, the main purpose of which was to drive Mehemet Ali out of Syria. (Napoleon the Third’s soldiers are there now.)
 
France did not sign the treaty, and was politically isolated. The ferment of rage amongst my excitable countrymen was terrific, and any effective blow that could have been struck at England—at England, the heart and soul, the lifeblood of the confederacy, which in defiance of France, had resolved to despoil and humble Mehemet Ali, the protégé of France—would have been hailed with frenzied delight in every château, every chaumière of France.
 
And it was believed by Frenchmen, that that blow could have been successfully dealt. Thiers, then Foreign Minister, openly declared his conviction that it could, in my hearing,—adding that the opportunity once missed would probably never present itself again.
 
The opportunity was this: The French fleet in the Mediterranean, under the command of Admiral Llalande, was about equal in number of ships, men, and guns to the English fleet under the command of your Admiral Stopford. How easy would it have been, then, to have quietly armed the reserve ships at Toulon—I am merely repeating, be it understood, the naval talk of the day—how easy then would it have been to quietly, and quickly fit out, arm and man (by means of the always available reserve force secured by our admirably-organised maritime conscription) the reserve ships at Toulon—ten of the line-of-battle—and with that formidable reinforcement send peremptory orders to Llanlade to give unexpected battle to, and crush the English fleet!
 
Immoral—you object: against the law of nations! Bah! we Frenchmen should not have cared one straw for such paper-protest! A great victory—a great naval victory, the destruction of a British fleet, a page not yet written, never, it may be to be written in our naval annals would have blinded us by its dazzle to all other considerations. Imagine the Waterloo defeat of Napoleon, avenged, wiped out, effaced, by a Louis-Philippe’s Waterloo victory—on the seas! Ha! ha! France would have been ablaze with triumph, and the Orleans dynasty, consecrated by the baptism of an unexampled glory, would have been endowed with, humanly speaking, immortal life!

The chance was missed—happily missed, no doubt, for the interests of both nations. Possibly, too, the hypothetical certainty of a great success was a mere illusion of French vanity.
 
Soit! Be it so! That, however, of which I am positive is that I have truly described the prevalent feeling of France at the time, and that, in a great measure, it was the echoes of those maledictions of the policy of the king, defended by Guizot, at a supposedly great occasion, with which I, and other employés, in the secret service of the state, made up our wordy reports, till the beginning of the end of the constitutional government of France flashed forth in the thunder-lightning of 1848.
 
My excuse for interweaving such comments with “The Experiences of a French Detective Officer,” rests upon the fact, set forth in the first pages of my book—namely, that a French Detective Officer, is and must be, more and less, a political spy; and as a necessary consequence, that his vocation is not merely influenced, but governed by political exigencies.

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The ignus fatuus of police politics will, however, but glance its lurid light obliquely upon the salient incidents which, in this and other narratives, I merely string together—not very skilfully, I am afraid.

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The Baudrain family interested me, and it will be necessary to particularise the three persons composing it with some minuteness.
 
The Uncle, Baudrain, need not detain us long. He was a rich, ailing man, physically, but endowed with a will of iron, not to be softened, moulded, overcome, by any consideration for, any appeal from the individual, or individuals, whose fate depended upon his fiat. His Bonapartism was, I have already said, a mere reminiscence,—a sentiment too weak, too much diluted by time to actively influence his course of action, but in his inner, absolute life he was stern and constant as fate.
 
The most thorough sceptic I ever knew; in that respect approximating to the Napoleonic idea, which embodies a faith in “Destiny,” a blundering bewilderment, which the African Mumbo-Jumbo cannot surpass in absurdity, supposing, as it necessarily does, a constant, immutable agency without an agent. It is a mere parody, in fact, upon the Greek Hades fable, the threads cutting themselves without aid of the scissors of Atropus. The present “Saviour of France” has, we know, his “Star.” Mercury, perhaps.

M. Baudrain’s quite maniacal hatred of dogmatic religion was intense, unappeasable. He would, I verily believe, have condemned, had he the power, all incorrigible priests to the galleys, all stubbornly pious nuns to the stews. It was this ingrained prejudice well known and appreciated by his nephew Hippolyte, which mainly brought about, it will be seen, the catastrophe of this story.
 
I may be permitted to go out of my way for a moment, to remark that Monsieur Baudrain, who believed neither in divinities or devils, in destiny or damnation, was haunted by an intense horror of the grave—of its stone or earth shut-in, pressing down, stifling blackness rather. He could not divest himself of the dread that the vitality of his brain might survive the death of the grosser parts of his body—(so I understood him, and he was constantly harping upon the terrible theme)—and might, therefore, long retain consciousness, and communicate that consciousness to his else dead self, that he was cruelly confined, shut down, blinded in the gross darkness underneath. Insanity, of course, which might, it was subsequently feared, invalidate his will. Happily, that fear proved groundless.

So much for M. Baudrain. His nephew, Hippolyte, was cast in somewhat the same mould, which it would not grieve me to know had been broken, so that none others of the same pattern would make their appearance upon this world’s motley stage. Yes, cast in the same mould, but the strong God Circumstance, had made the nephew to differ superficially from the uncle. The one was rich, the other poor, but both alike selfish, unscrupulous, implacable, deaf as stone to the pleadings of an angel, if those pleadings urged them to forego any cherished scheme that promised to gratify their instincts of hate, vengeance, or cupidity. Hippolyte Baudrain was, moreover, a red republican, pur sang, and held in equal contempt the pretensions of Bonapartes and Bourbons to rule over France.

Hippolyte Baudrain was a handsome young man, and when in a gracious mood, a rare circumstance, was an agreeable, one might say, fascinating companion. As a rule, he was taciturn, wordy, atrabilious—a temperament which frequent paroxysms of obstreperous hilarity when he was in the slightest degree under the influence of wine, brought out in vivid relief. Those flashes of fierce, mad merriment, affording glimpses of the man’s inner nature, interested and puzzled me. Languidly at first, but before the end of the month of valet-servitude to which I was condemned, Hippolyte Baudrain’s strongly marked peculiarities had become for me a serious study.

His fretful, half-savage aversion to Baudrain senior, thinly masked to keen eyes, by mannered sycophancy, was natural enough, and easily understood. No doubt he was ferociously impatient of the time when his uncle would descend into the tomb, and he himself rise into consideration and independence upon the wings of wealth. That was upon the upper sides of the cards and required no interpreter. But what strange riddle was shadowed forth in his contradictory demeanour towards his charming cousine Coralie Jasmin? Whether it was the consuming fire of unreturned, hopeless love, or hell flame of envious hate which I saw flash upon her from his burning eyes, when her’s were turned away, I could not for some time decide. When directly addressing her, his voice and manner expressed caressing, tenderest solicitude, yet how could such a feeling be reconciled with unremitting efforts to damage the guileless girl in the estimation of La Sieur Baudrain, by skillfully turning the conversation, whenever there was the slightest opportunity for doing so, upon religious topics? Mademoiselle Jasmin was a spiritual enthusiast, and eloquent in the expression of her convictions, which, when challenged, she never hesitated to earnestly, and, in some degree, defiantly avow and defend. This religious combativeness always drew upon her the contemptuous anger, and more than once, in my hearing, the maledictions of her uncle, who, nevertheless, loved his sweet niece with all the force of his nature, much more so, it was very clear, than he did his nephew.
 
One day, I thought I had obtained the clue to Hippolyte Baudrain’s inconsistent conduct in respect of Mademoiselle Jasmin.
 
“It is vain talking, mon oncle, or threatening either, Coralie, be quite sure of it, will be a professed religieuse as soon as possible after she is her own mistress, and able to pay handsomely for admission into one of those convent cells of superstition.”

The old man made a reply—an angry one—which I did not distinctly hear, as at the moment he and Hippolyte passed out of the apartment, at the further end of which I was busy, and apparently absorbed with menial duties. The conclusion was irresistible, that the wily nephew was plotting the disinheritance of his unsuspecting cousin. His avaricious soul could not be content with an equal share of his uncle’s wealth. He would, if possible, secure the whole.

That logical deduction of mine was proved, on the evening of the very same day, to have been based upon partial, insufficient data. Mademoiselle Jasmin, I discovered, though a devout Catholic, and powerfully swayed by religious impulses, was not insensible to less sacred influences.

I had been sent by M. Baudrain upon an errand to a considerable distance, and upon my return, having been enjoined to make all the speed possible, I took a short cut to the chateau through an ornamental wood, which the servants of the establishment rarely entered, and which was certain, I imagined, to be quite solitary at that hour—about nine in the evening. I was mistaken. Mademoiselle Jasmin was walking there, her waist encircled by the arm of a gentleman, who, in the dim moonlight, and in consequence of the distance I was from them, I supposed to be her cousin Hippolyte. I passed, and had made perhaps fifty paces upon the soft, unsounding green sward, when I came suddenly upon Monsieur Hippolyte himself; so close upon him that I was about to apologise for my presence there, when I perceived that he neither saw nor heard me; that he was sensible to, observant of, nothing, save those linked figures in the distance, at which he gazed with wordless, demoniac rage. The tempest of passion shook his frame with convulsive force; he leant against a tree for support; and was still so leaning, when I, having instinctively felt that he would resent being observed by me under such circumstances, walked quickly away, and in two or three minutes lost sight of him.

The next day but one my term of service expired, and I returned to Paris with alacrity, after passing the most wearisome, unprofitable, barren four weeks it had ever been my lot to experience. Nor had I been successful in my valetship, and Monsieur Baudrain sourly warned me not to refer to him for a recommendation. I said I should take excellent care not to do so, and left the chateau in the belief that my connection with the family had terminated for ever.

I was mistaken. About a month subsequently, my vocation of Mouchard imposed upon me the disagreeable and dangerous duty of joining the secret confederacy of La Marianne, a treasonable association of restless “men of action,” first established about that time, and rapidly extending its branches over every part of France, except perhaps Brittany.

I was duly proposed, accepted, and passed successfully through the grotesquely horrible mummeries of initiation.
 
Never before had I been in presence of such a lot of unmitigated ruffians, as the some twenty individuals who witnessed and welcomed the addition to their ranks of a new and faithful brother.

Permit me to state apart, as it were, from the direct current of the narrative I am penning, that I was not in the faintest degree impressed by the melodramatic parodies of solemn sanctions, the horrible oaths extorted, writing one’s name on the muster-roll in blood drawn from the signer’s arm, etc. Bah! all that to me was the commonest stage charlatanism. I certainly should never feel any scruple of conscience in setting at naught such satanic obligations. In fact, the functions of a “mouchard” had never presented itself to my mind in so respectable an aspect, as when employed to detect and disconcert the ferocious schemes of ruffians banded together to corrupt, degrade, destroy society, under pretext of elevating and emancipating it from the shackles of duty, honour, and religion.

Not more than twenty persons, as I have said, were present when I was initiated; but a few days afterwards, a general meeting of the brotherhood residing in Paris was held, at which I was present, so artistically disguised that my most intimate acquaintance would have failed to recognise me.
 
There could hardly have been less than a hundred men present, and a hellish orgie—if there was ever one upon earth—was enacted then. Business over, coarse Cette brandy was supplied in abundance, and such toasts as “A bas le Ciel” (Down with Heaven!) “Vive l’Enfer” (Hell for ever!) “A bas les riches” (Down with the rich!) with many others of a still more frightfully disgusting character, were given and received with frantic applause. It was a Pandemonium of devils of the lowest grade.

It was growing late, and deafened, bewildered by the infernal uproar combined with the fiery liquid I was compelled to swallow, I was about leaving, when, to my astonishment, Jean Souday, M. Hippolyte Baudrain’s personal servant, made his appearance! It has been already remarked that Le Sieur Baudrain’s nephew was a person of very decided politics, but no one could have suspected one in his position of polluting himself by associating with Marianne desperadoes.
 
Yet Souday was, I knew, rather M. Hippolyte’s confidential friend than menial servant. With what object was Souday there? That it would be my delight, as well as duty to discover, for with flashing instinctiveness, so to speak, I, at once connected it with the lovers, whom I had seen M. Hippolyte Baudrain pursue, strike, trample down, imaginatively, of course, in the ornamental coppice of the Château-Baurdrain.

Souday did not remain more than half an hour, during twenty-five minutes of which time, he was in close council with one Philippe Martin, a fellow, of whose ways I had before obtained, professionally, a somewhat dim, yet, in a certain sense, distinct apercu. If a staunch scoundrel was wanted—one insensible to fear, deaf to remorse, to do a bold and bloody deed—Philippe Martin was the man.

I had been officiously introduced to Philippe Martin a long time previously; he supported, though he did not propose my nomination as a member of La Marianne, so that after Souday’s departure, it was not difficult to engage him in a confidential chat; but the fellow was deaf as stone to any attempt to ascertain Jean Souday’s business with him.

A business too, I believed, of deep import. I fancied I could read that in Souday’s preoccupied manner; in his sullen introspection, in the gloom of his cruel eyes; gloom corruscated by flashes of anticipative greed. Not to judge, lest we be judged, is a precept that would be out of place in a police officer’s Bible. At the same time, it is possible this prophetic visual reading of mine is but the reflex of a veritable after appreciation of Jean Souday’s object in presenting himself that night at the “Marianne,” grounded upon subsequently established facts.
 
En avant. I must proceed with the story; and passing over three months, I again appear before the reader in an apartment adjoining the cabinet de travail of the Prefȇt of Police. I am with the private secretary to the great man. We speak of many things, gossip about various reports. At last, he says,—“You have heard or read, I suppose, of the Baudrain affair?”
 
“The Baudrain affair—what Baudrain affair?”
 
“The death of le Sieur Baudrain, and the escape, as it is called, a few hours previously, of his niece, with the avowded intention of entering a convent?”

“It is strange to me, all that. When died le Sieur Baudrain?”
 
“Let me see. By the by, I am ordered to especially consult you upon the case. Le Sieur Baudrain died about three months ago, suddenly, as I told you.”

“You did not—excuse me, Monsieur, tell me that le Sieur Baudrain died suddenly. I comprehend, nevertheless. Three months ago, you said!”

“Three months ago—and his nephew, Hippolyte Baudrain inherits the whole, or nearly the whole of his vast wealth, in accordance with a testamentary disposition, drawn up by a notary, and signed by the testator within two hours of his decease.”
 
“A lucky personage, apparently, is M. Hippolyte Baudrain. In my Mouchard memoranda, I have written, ‘Nous verrons,’ (we shall see) after his name. Of one thing I feel certain, le Sieur Baudrain’s niece, Mademoiselle Jasmin has not consigned herself to a convent.”
 
“You think so? and yet we have the sworn testimony of Hippolyte Baudrain, and a blotted scrawl in her own handwriting, addressed to her uncle to the effect that she did leave M. Baudrain’s house with that intention.”
 
“May I see that blotted scrawl?”
 
“Certainly; here it is. There can be no question of its genuineness. The erasures and blots would alone prove that the scrawl is not a forged scrawl.”
 
“Pardon me, but I am not so sure of that. To me, now, this scrawl appears to be elaborately blotted, and scratched through.”
 
“Jean Souday, M. Hippolyte’s valet, declares that he found the note upon Mademoiselle Jasmin’s toilet-table.
 
“Did he, by hazard, say that Mademoiselle Jasmin was accompanied in her flight by Philippe Martin?” (This was a shot at a venture.)
 
“By Philippe Martin? Sacred blue, but that is the very name of the man who contrived and aided her escape! And what, Monsieur Mouchard, can you know of Philippe Martin?”
 
“Being ‘Mouchard,’ I do know something of Philippe Martin, and suspect more.

“And le Sieur Baudrain died, Monsieur tells me,” I continued, “a few hours after his niece fled from her home to enter a convent; but not till a notary had arrived—from Paris, I suppose.”
 
“Yes, Jean Jacques Phillipon.”
 
“Jean Jacques Phillipon! The iron road immensely aids the dispatch of business, no doubt; still it is difficult to persuade one’s self that a prearrangement had not been arrived at by Jean Jacques Phillipon and M. Hippolyte Baudrain.”
 
“Prearrangement! What is your Mouchard mind running upon! Some poudre de succession [In the Brinvillier, palmy days of artistic poisoning, a deadly preparation was prepared by professors of the art, and sold under the name of “Poudre de Succession,” to impatient heirs.] notion, I suppose.”
 
“Well—yes.”
 
“Nothing to hint such a suspicion has been discovered. But it is believed that he has permitted himself to be inveigled into the ranks of a secret society, and that acting under some kind of compulsion, or influence, which he cannot resist, he is squandering his wealth in furtherance of the wild schemes of seditious conspirators. The duty of a strict surveillance will, if you wish it, be confided to you.”

“Much obliged. It is an affair which I shall pursue with energy. In what convent, may I ask, is it said that Mademoiselle Jasmin is immured?”
 
“In a Bavarian convent, I believe. No serious inquiry has been instituted, but as you appear to cherish a strong opinion upon the subject, you shall have a right to include the young lady’s flight, and present position, in the scope of the investigation intrusted to you. M. Hippolyte Baudrain,” added the secretary, glancing over some memoranda, “M. Hippolyte Baudrain is, for the present, residing in Paris. You will find his address, and where he is usually to be met with at night, in these papers. Château Baudrain is to let, and at present is in the sale charge of an aged servitor of feu Monsieur Baudrain.”

“Shall I be armed with the power of making a domiciliary visit, either at M. Hippolyte’s Paris residence or at the Château Baudrain—in the event only, it is well understood, that circumstances come to my knowledge justifying such a step?”

“Certainly. We have confidence in your judgment and discretion, and you shall be furnished with the necessary authority to command the aid of the gendarmerie.”

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M. Hippolyte Baudrain had engaged handsome apartments in the Rue Richelieu, not very far from the Café Cardinal, in which place of resort I, in recompense of three or four days’ sedulous watching about the neighbourhood, surprised MM. Jean Souday and Philippe Martin in close, jovial companionship. I mean that I suddenly found myself in close proximity with them. Surprise MM. Souday and Martin I did not; for although the eyes of both were for a moment or so fixed upon my face, as if it were one with which they were indistinctly acquainted, neither recognised me, and I passed on.
 
Philippe Martin, the man who had helped off Mademoiselle Jasmin, was still then in close communion with Jean Souday, M. Hippolyte Baudrain’s confidant and prime minister! Their associative friendship, as manifested at the meeting of La Marianne, had evidently increased in cordiality. Monsieur Martin, too, was in high feather, expensively dressed, and an insolent, triumphant scoundrelism glowed in his sinister glances.

Careful meditation upon all the circumstances decided me to lose no time in paying a visit to the Château Baudrain. The aged servitor of the deceased M. Baudrain, left in charge there, was, I had ascertained, François Bart, who I believed to be an honest, simple man, of whom I should learn the truth, to the extent that he himself was acquainted with it.

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It was somewhat late in the evening when I rang the outer gate bell at the Château Baudrain, but François Bart having retired to rest, I, after half-an-hour’s fruitless efforts to awaken him, was fain to seek a lodging for the night at Le Cerf, a modest auberge, distant about a quarter of a league from the château, and conducted by Madame Dufour, an honest gossip, with whom I was slightly acquainted. It was quite possible that I might obtain some useful information of the garrulous old woman.

.         .         .         .         .         .

There was no need to question Madame Dufour concerning the late doings and the inmates of the château. Before I had been five minutes in her house, she plunged direct into the subject, and rattled along till out of breath, at a tremendous pace.

A strange tale she had to tell. Mademoiselle Jasmin had been cruelly persecuted by her uncle, who, goaded by fears lest when he was gone she would bury herself and his money in a convent, insisted that she would marry her cousin Hippolyte. The young lady peremptorily refused, alleging that such a union would violate a solemn law of the church, which excuse, I readily understood, inflamed his anger at her refusal. This persecution went on till the poor girl, wearying of the strife, secretly left her uncle’s protection—eloped, in fact, she, Madame Dufour had believed, with a young gentleman of the name of Rayneval, with whom she had formed an acquaintance when she was en pension at Evreux, and who had often visited Mademoiselle Jasmin, as Madame Dufour had the best means of knowing, he upon such occasions always putting up at Le Cerf. The ancient dame was the more positive that Mdlle. Jasmin had fled with Monsieur Rayneval, forasmuch that that gentleman, who had appeared upon the scene only about a week previously, then obtained a long interview with her, and subsequently left Le Cerf in a joyous, exalted state of mind.

“Error! Mademoiselle Jasmin was pursued by M. Hippolyte Baudrain, overtaken, and brought back the same evening. She had no companion, and was fleeing with the avowed intention of seeking shelter from her uncle’s persecution in a Bavarian convent, for the abbess of which she had a letter of introduction furnished by some friend at Evreux.

Brokenhearted, indignant, Mademoiselle Jasmin refused to see her uncle, who had been for some time confined to his chamber by illness. Indeed, she would see nobody except one Philippe Martin, a new servant, introduced to the family a short time before by Monsieur Hippolyte, and who accompanied that worthy in the chase after his unhappy cousin. This man charged himself with the duty of taking her meals to Mademoiselle Jasmin, and whether bribed by Mademoiselle, or touched by her distress, actually contrived, and successfully carried out her second flight from the château. A note, addressed to her uncle, was found upon a toilet-table, avowing her determination to, at all hazards, seek the asylum of a convent, adding, that one of her chief duties when there, would be to implore the mercy of Almighty God upon the dark, pitiless soul of her Atheist uncle, which would else be eternally lost.
 
Explosion! maniacal rage, curses, blasphemies, that made the involuntary hearer shudder, were elicited by Mademoiselle Jasmin’s impolitic, and one could not but admit, unbecoming note. That tempest of passion made almost immediate shipwreck of M. Baudrain’s shattered bark of life. He died six or seven hours after reading his niece’s insolent note, but not till a notary, who, by a fortunate chance, M. Hippolyte knew was at that precise time in Versailles, had time to draw a deed, and see it executed with all the formalities, which totally disinherited the niece in favour of the nephew.
 
“These details you have mainly derived from conversations with François Bart, I presume?”

“Ah, yes, for the most part; le vieux François seldom misses looking in at Le Cerf once a day for his petit verre.”
 
“You, equally with François Bart, must be perfectly acquainted with the character of Mademoiselle Jasmin?”
 
Foi de Marie, I should think so! For myself I know that a more charitable, amiable, gentle young lady does not live in all France.”
 
“And you believe that one of the most gentle and amiable young ladies in all France wrote the cruel note you speak of to her uncle—her dying uncle?”
 
“That is a remark I have made a hundred times. Confess, mon ami, I say to François Bart, that but that we are sure it is true, it would be impossible to imagine that Mademoiselle Jasmin could have written such a note.”
 
“I understood you to state positively, upon the authority of François Bart, that not only the uncle did not see Mademoiselle Baudrain after her compelled return to the château, but that no one else did, except Phillippe Martin?”
 
“It is exact, Monsieur le Brun.”

“Have you seen M. Rayneval lately?”
 
“Not once since the day when he left the Cerf, after a long, secret interview with Mademoiselle Jasmin, in such brilliant spirits.”
 
“Well, it is a mystery, Madame Dufour, which your brains and mine—I can answer for my own, will not be able to solve. En attendant, I am hungry and tired, and shall welcome first supper, next sleep.”
 
.         .         .         .         .         .

“It is rigorously true,” said François Bart, in reply to me. “It is rigorously true, that no one except Philippe Martin spoke with, or positively saw Mademoiselle Jasmin after she was brought back to the Château by M. Hippolyte. That is to say, Mademoiselle was so closely veiled that no one could see her face. Some of us heard, sacre bleu, her choaking, sobs, and broken exclamations in the sweet familiar voice,—Do not doubt that it was Mademoiselle Jasmin herself whom M. Hippolyte overtook and compelled to return here. I assert that, positively. Nor do I comprehend why you should doubt it, Maìtre Edouard? After all, it is not an affair of yours or of mine.”

“It is clear that, parbleu. Still finding myself here, and having been strongly impressed by though beauty, grace, and gentleness of Mademoiselle Jasmin, I cannot help feeling deeply interested for her. Did you see the note Mademoiselle left for her uncle, and which it is said excited the paroxysm of passion that quenched his long since flickering life?”
 
“You ask droll questions! You must know that I was not in attendance upon Mademoiselle Jasmin. The note was taken by Souday to M. Baudrain’s chamber, and handed by him to M. Hippolyte, who read it aloud. The effect upon M. Baudrain was terrible; but you have heard all about that from commère Dufour.”
 
I changed the conversation, perceiving that François Bart was becoming suspicious and irritable. We talked politics, and he, a “vielle moustache,” who had served in the Napoleonic wars, was soon fighting his battles over again, an exercise of which he never tired.

He was in the midst of an episode of the battle of Eylau, when there came a feeble, hesitating ring at the outer gate. The veteran rose to answer it, and I, peeping through the jalousies, observed a shabbily dressed woman of middle-age, and coarse features, who, in a masculine, drink-depraved, bullying voice, insisted upon knowing where Hippolyte Baudrain was to be found.

François Bart, in soft, temporising tones, assured the woman that he was ignorant of M. Hippolyte Baudrain’s address. He might be in England or in Germany. Bart would, however, forward the letter she held in her hand to his address directly he himself received it. The woman sullenly refused to leave the letter. “The writer,” she growled, “would apply elsewhere for the address of M. Hippolyte Baudrain. So grand, and so suddenly rich a Monsieur, could not,” she added, with vehement emphasis. “So grand, and so suddenly rich a Monsieur, could not conceal himself in a knapsack, or even at Mazas” (a criminal prison near Paris). So saying, and with a scowling grimace, she left the place.
 
This colloquy—to which I listened with both my ears—and the knowledge that it must have been overheard by me, discomposed Monsieur Bart, whose honest simplicity of character I had, it seemed, too hastily assumed. He, however, did not comment upon the circumstance; and alleging that I feared to miss the next convoi to Paris, bade him adieu, and left the château in less than five minutes after the woman’s departure.

Her I quickly overtook, and sans ceremomie, entered into conversation with her, said I had overheard her brief dialogue with old François Bart, and that I knew, as he knew, M. Hippolyte Baudrain was in Paris.

“Would I give her his address?” she sharply asked.

I could not do that, I only knew that he was certainly in Paris. If, however, she would entrust her letter to me, I would undertake that it should be delivered to M. Hippolyte Baudrain on the morrow—a shallow overture, which was at once gruffly declined. If M. Baudrain was actually in Paris, she herself could easily ascertain his exact address. She had come direct from Paris, and was returning there. Did I know when the next convoi left the station? “There is one leaves in an hour from this,” I replied, after looking at my watch, a showy gold one, with stout chain of the same material attached.

The woman’s eye flashed hungrily at the sight of the glittering bauble. I added that I myself should leave by the next train, and meanwhile should rest myself, and take some refreshment at Le Cerf, a respectable auberge close by. She said she would do the same, and we entered Le Cerf together.

Before we left to catch the train, Dame Perrot, as she chose to name herself, had swallowed at my cost somewhere about a dozen glasses of brandy, and though not positively drunk, was highly excited, liquor-valiant, and would, I had not the slightest doubt, make a bold effort to secure my watch and chain. She should be offered that chance.

We entered the compartment of a carriage, in which, till the next station, as the train was on the point of starting, we should certainly be alone.
 
I had drank freely myself at Le Cerf, and it was natural therefore that I should doze off to sleep. Dame Perrot seized the lucky opportunity, and when the slackening of speed showed that we were nearing an intermediate station, I felt the watch and chain slip gently from my possession to hers. It had scarcely disappeared beneath her shawl, when I was wide awake, and Madame Perrot my terrified, trembling prisoner.
 
“Cleverly caught, femme Perrot, you must admit. You will hardly have another opportunity of robbing Theodore Duhamel, a police officer, whom you have no doubt heard of. Tonight a lodging in the Violin (a cant term for a house of preliminary detention); tomorrow Jail, followed by at least six years of hard labour will, I should say, finally dispose of you.”
 
The terrified wretch howled for mercy. Without directly replying, I peremptorily demanded the letter in her possession.

She handed it over with alacrity. Peste! It was nothing more than a brief, indifferently spelt, but most piteous appeal for money, signed “La Malheureuse Rosé.”
 
“Who is la Malherueuse Rose, and what especial claim for assistance has she upon M. Hippolyte Baudrain?”

“Rose is an ‘unfortunate.’ She is clever and handsome, but has fallen ill, and is in want of bread. When or where she first made the acquaintance of M. Baudrain I do not know. Some time ago, however, I do know that she assisted in some enterprise, a criminal one, I suspect, from some expressions that escaped Rose only yesterday, when she was temporarily delirious from want and fever.”
 
“M. Hippolyte Baudrain was always liberal with his money, and would surely pay an accomplice in a criminal enterprise highly, if only to ensure her silence. Don’t, I warn you, attempt to impose any fables upon me.”
 
“Monsieur, I am speaking the exact truth. M. Hippolyte Baudrain was generous towards Rose –lavish even; but her love for luxuries, in which she will indulge when it is possible to do so, quickly sweeps away her gains, however large. I love poor Rose,” continued the woman, with a whimpering whine, and a futile attempt to squeeze a few tears out of her brandy-bleared eyes; “and it was to help her that I was tempted to—to –”
 
“Tempted, for the first time in your life of course, cela va sans dire—to steal a watch you would say. No more of that blague! It will not serve you in the least. You are Madame, or Mademoiselle Rose’s servant, I suppose?”
 
“Yes, Monsieur. She has now no other.”

“I must see her this very evening. Where does she lodge?”
 
“We removed three days ago only to a mean house in the Rue des Fossés, in which we occupy one room. I will conduct you, Monsieur. Before then we had handsome apartments, but everything upon which they would lend half a franc having been sent to the Mont de Piété, the landlord turned us into the street. Ah! Monsieur, we are very miserable.”

“Misery and crime are constant companions. Has ever Phillippe Martin visited your mistress?”

“Yes. Monsieur, several times, but not of late. Madame Rose does not know his address, or she would have forwarded the note to M. Hippolyte Baudrain through him.”
 
“One Souday, a friend of Martin’s, was another of your Mistress’s visitors?”
 
Mon Dieu! Monsieur; how should you know that?”

“That is not your affair. There is something else I know. This—that if the woman Perrot does not aid me with zeal and fidelity in the enquiry I am engaged in, she will have six years at least, of hard labour, as surely as she now hears me tell her so. And let her not forget that her movements will be constantly watched, and that the immediate consequence of any attempt to conceal herself, or leave Paris, would be her arrest, upon the charge of robbing me of my watch and chain.”

The woman promised implicit obedience, and I had no doubt would keep her word.
 
.         .         .         .         .         .

“Entrez, Monsieur,” said the woman Perrot, who had gone into the room to announce my presence, and desire to speak with her mistress.
 
Truly a miserable place, a very den of squalor, suffering, guilt, with death’s black shadow projecting over all, and deepening the thick darkness.

It was growing late, and I could not discern the features of Madame Rose, who was writhing with pain upon the wretched straw pallet, till Perrot had lit a candle and placed it in my hands.
 
I started back from a close view of the wan, wasted face, with a cry of astonishment and dismay.

The woman lying there was Cécile—Cécile the tambourine player, whose sudden disappearance from the neighbourhood had caused the death of her father, poor Laboudie on the scaffold at Angers.

She did not recognise me, and as it was very plain that nothing could save her but prompt medical aid, and nourishing diet, I entrusted Perrot with a small sum of money, and left with a promise to send a doctor to her, I feared, dying mistress.

That fear was not realised. Cécile recovered, and at the end of a fortnight I was intently listening to a confession, which the promptings of her better nature; the fiery arrows of remorse, and I must add, the fear of falling herself under the just vengeance of the law, should she refuse to make all the expiation in her power had at last goaded her into making.

.         .         .         .         .         .

The primary causes of her own degradation need only be glanced at. The tragical end of her father had first caused her to indulge in drink; her husband fell into brutish courses, and died in an hospital. The troupe was broken up, and Cécile quickly forsaken by an old debauché who had brought her to Paris, abandoned herself to a life of open shame under the name of Mademoiselle Rose.
 
M. Hippolyte Baudrain who was caught, and held for a time by her pretty face and vivacious manners, had never, it seemed., entirely lost sight of her, and when his long meditated designs against his cousin, Coralie Jasmin were ripe for execution, it at once occurred to him that Mademoiselle Rose would be a useful auxiliary to help carry them successfully out.

All, she was solemnly assured, that would be required of her was, to personate a lady of about her own height and figure, under circumstances so skilfully combined, that detection of the imposture would be impossible.

Early upon a day previously agreed upon, Philippe Martin brought her a dress—an exact counterpart of that usually worn by the lady she was to be made pass for. Her immediate destination was Orleans, to which city she would be accompanied by M. Souday, who would call for her about two hours from that time. Her absence from Paris would not exceed a week, and the reward would be two thousand francs, argent comptant. M. Souday was punctual, and they left Paris in a hired Berline—an enclosed carriage which concealed them from passers by. Souday announced a trifling change in the programme. They were to go no further than Chartres, where Monsieur Hippolyte Baudrain would join Mademoiselle Rose on the following day at, Le Renard, Hotel.
 
M. Hippolyte Baudrain arrived at the appointed time, and Souday returned to Paris or the Chateâu Baudrain.

M. Hippolyte Baudrain lost no time in developing his purpose and plan of action. Cécile, hopelessly depraved, consented to lend herself to his infamous design, which was, however, draped to the eyes of his facile tool by flimsy assurances of the loyalty of his intentions, and that Mademoiselle Jasmin herself would ultimately thank him for saving her from social ruin, by what might be more truly termed “a pious fraud,” than the devices of many sainted men, which passed by that name.
 
First, and before all, it was imperative that he, Hippolyte Baudrain, should marry his cousin, Mdlle. Jasmin. But she, unfortunately, had formed an acquaintance with one Rayneval, an artful adventurer, a mere Chevalier d’Industrie, who had obtained immense influence over her; an acquaintance which he, Hippolyte Baudrain, had ascertained would speedily, but for the success of the pious fraud he contemplated, terminate in a disgraceful, ruinous marriage.
 
The principle, the essence of Hippolyte Baudrain’s plan, was to convince Rayneval that Mademoiselle Jasmin, yielding to the persuasions and menaces of her uncle, had actually espoused her cousin Hippolyte. How he might be communicated with, though his actual address was not known, had been ascertained, and an artfully worded anonymous letter must already have been received by him, alleging that Ceralie Jasmin and Hippolyte Baudrain, about to be married at Rambouillet, would, in the progress of their wedding tour, be at Orleans on the morrow.
 
“My cousin Ceralie,” added Hippolyte, “is eccentric in her dress, though her taste is perfect, and her travelling attire would, unquestionably, be fashioned precisely as that is which I sent you. We start tomorrow in the Berline for Orleans, as Monsieur et Madame Baudrain, attended by Philippe Martin, whom I expect every minute. We shall take care that le pauvre Reyneval shall not be too close a witness of our marital endearments. Martin will confidentially impart all that it is desirable should be believed, and I have a firm conviction that Rayneval, thoroughly deceived, will either blow his brains out or leave the country. Bien sur, he will not keep his rendezvous with Mademoiselle Jasmin at Evreux tomorrow. And if such a contretemps should occur, it can have, as we shall manage, no adverse consequences.

“M. Hippolyte Baudrain,” said Cécile, “was distrait, ill at ease, and even I, who have neither the power nor the inclination to look below the surface of things, found it strange that Monsieur Hippolyte should have a firm conviction that an Adventurer, a Chevalier d’Industrie, would blow out his brains, or emigrate, in consequence of a merely sentimental disappointment, since Mademoiselle Jasmin would not have a franc of fortune should she marry in opposition to her uncle’s wishes! The impression upon my mind was,” continued Cécile, “that Monsieur Hippolyte et compagnie’s fine scheme was but rudely outlined, and that for a successful issue, much reliance was placed upon the chapter of lucky accidents. But I, you know, M. Duhamel, was a mere puppet in their hands, harnessed for their use, and compelled by whip and spur to submit to their guidance! We left Chartres, I and Hippolyte Baudrain, in the masquerade of newlyespoused man and wife, and arrived at Orleans, and occupied apartments in the principal hotel there.
 
.         .         .         .         .         .

“Chère Rose,” said Hippolyte, hastily entering on the following morning an apartment, overlooking the street, in which I was sitting. “Chère, charmante Rose, have the complaisance to draw your chair near to the window, and sit with your face turned from it, towards me. Put your bonnet on. You will be gay, folatre in manner, as a newly-married bride should be. Rayneval, possessed by ten thousand furies, is coming up the street.

.         .         .         .         .         .

“Ca va,” said Hippolyte Baudrain, exultingly, an hour afterwards. “Ca va, Monsieur Rayneval thoroughly believes that I am my cousin’s husband, but dominated by the suggestions of an absurd vanity, persists in believing that you, my cousin, are a martyr –the victim of your uncle’s inexorable tyranny. Philippe Martin, who plays his part to perfection, has, melted by a douceur of two hundred francs, undertaken to convince M. Rayneval that you are Madame Hippolyte Baudrain by choice, not compulsion. To achieve that coup de maitre, will not be very difficult, thanks to Martin’s fertile cunning. The clever rogue will presently usher [Rayneval] into an adjoining room, where, we have ascertained, our voices can be indistinctly heard, and which has no communication with this apartment. We, you and I, ma belle, converse lovingly with each other. I, in the loud, joyous accents of virile, triumphant passion; you respond now and then only, and briefly, in low, soft, carressing tones, interupted by little musical, gurgling laughs. No one can do that more naturally, seductively, than Mademoiselle Rose. C’ est son metier, and as he will not, cannot suspect deception, I shall, I trust, have finished with Rayneval for ever. Ha! I hear their footsteps. The comedy begins!”
 
The “comedy” was played out with entire success. Rayneval thoroughly believed that he was listening to an amatory scene between his worshipped Coralie and her triumphant husband or seducer, a point which the wily Martin had left in doubt, and forgetful in his terrible rage of his word of honour pledged to Martin—strove to force his way into the presence of the traitress and his victorious rival. That he might do so was foreseen and effectually guarded against. Baffled, spurned, wild with despair—distracted, mad,” added Cecile, in a broken, sobbing voice, and manifesting other signs of remorseful shame and guilt. “Baffied, spurned, wild with despair, distracted, mad! the unfortunate, murdered victim—”

“Murdered! Do you say murdered?”

“Alas! yes, murdered in the essential sense of murdered! Ha! God is a terrible God of vengeance, as well as of mercy. Since that fatal hour I have been the sport and prey of demons!”
 
“Go on.”

“Wild with rage, as I have said, gone from himself—mad! poor Rayneval, fleeing like one pursued by the Furies, reached the brink of the deep river which flows by at no great distance from the backgrounds of the hotel, and instantly plunged in! A quarter of an hour afterwards,” added Cecile, “his corpse was lying in the very room where he had listened to our devilish dialogue, and would remain there till legally identified, and the cause and manner of his death had been officially ascertained. Ah, mea culpa, mea culpa! I have sinned beyond the reach of mercy!”

“Continue. I must know all. Omit no circumstance!”

“In the distraction of terror and remorse which seized me at sight of the corpse, I should, no doubt, by my wild speech have compromised Baudrain, and he, assisted by Martin, bore me forcibly to a chamber and locked me in.
 
“What passed during the next three or four hours,” continued Cecile, with a shudder, “I can only relate from hearsay, and imperfectly. The terrible tragedy is not the less burnt indellibly into my brain because not witnessed by my bodily eyes.”
 
“Another tragedy! But I must not interrupt. You are growing weak and faint.”
 
“About two hours after the corpse had been discovered, the Juge d’Instruction came to make formal inquiry, and draw up the process verbal. This, of course, caused a great bustle in the hotel, and preoccupied the cares and attention of most of the servants. It thus happened that a caleche de porte drove into the stable yard, and that a lady, travelling alone, alighted, almost without being observed, and entered the hotel, ungreeted with the usual obsequious attentions.
 
“A femme de chambre was crossing the hall, to whom the stranger addressed an agitated request to be conducted to the presence of M. Rayneval. Closely veiled, and dressed precisely as I had been, the femme de chambre supposed it was I who addressed her, and though surprised at the request, concluded that I, unknown to my husband—a vague suspicion that M. Rayneval destroyed himself in an access of delire d’ amour was entertained by the servants of the establishment—wished to give evidence touching the cause of death before the Juge d’Instruction. The femme de chambre, consequently, desired the stranger to follow, and, by a back stair, conducted her to the door of the room where lay the corpse.

“There!” said the woman, pointing to the room, “there!” The femme de chambre herself then hurried away, fearing, perhaps, that she might be blamed for complying with the newly-married bride’s strange request.

“Mademoiselle Coralie Jasmin tapped lightly—”

“Mademoiselle Coralie Jasmin! Surely not! You have been deceived. Mademoiselle Jasmin eloped from Chateau Baudrain, was pursued, and brought back the same evening by her cousin!”

“It is you, Monsieur Duhamel, that have been deceived! You, the authorities, and the uncle Baudrain! Permit me to finish this cruel story.

“Mademoiselle Jasmin tapped lightly at the door. ‘Entrez,’ was the reply, and the next moment Mdlle. Jasmin, aghast, thunder-stricken, was looking with scared, incredulous eyes upon the pale corpse of the beloved one whom she was there to disabuse of an injurious suspicion, to assure him of her unswerving constancy, and arrange with him, should her uncle’s persecution continue, for future flight. Do not ask me to reproduce the frenzied words of Hippolyte Baudrain, wildly, incoherently descriptive of the crushing agony which smote and shattered the brain of Mademoiselle Jasmin, as soon as she could comprehend and believe in the reality of the dreadful occurrence. Her intellect, it was feared, and justly feared, it is said, would be permanently affected. In his remorseful, jealous fury—for there can be no question that he is passionately attached to his unfortunate cousin—he launched, at himself, at me, at all concerned in the shocking tragedy, the most terrible anathemas. Comprehensible to the strangers who heard them only as the exaggerated expression of grief for the sad affliction that had fallen upon a dear relative, they excited no particular remark. The suicide of Jules Rayneval was formally recorded, and Mademoiselle Jasmin was consigned to the care of her relative Hippolyte Baudrain, of Château Baudrain, in the Department of the Seine et Oise.”

Cecile, after having at my instance, taken a glass of wine, resumed and concluded the gloomy narrative.

“The violence of Hippolyte Baudrain soon subsided, weighed down by exhaustion, and the stern remonstrances of Philippe Martin. There was work to do, which must be done at once. M. Baudrain senior, had been for some time sinking rapidly, and it was naturally feared, that the sudden disappearance of his niece might accelerate the crisis. Temporary arrangements for the care of Mademoiselle Jasmin were made, and I, Hippolyte Baudrain, and Martin left Orleans in the Berline just as night was falling, and pushed on with unpassing rapidity for Château Baudrain.

“The uncle had not, his nephew found, been so much affected by the supposed elopement of Mdlle. Jasmin as had been apprehended. He could not, however, last very many days it was thought. Souday was despatched, and set out without loss of time for Orleans—for Paris, it was given out. The scheme of the conspirators required for its completion the second disappearance of the supposedly recovered Mademoiselle Jasmin, this time avowedly to enter a convent, an avowal which in itself would fearfully exasperate the uncle, and much the more so, if announced by a note, couched in terms skilfully adapted to wound and defy the fierce prejudices of the eccentric viellard. The cruel ruse was, you know, completely successful, the uncle made a new disposition of his wealth, and died early on the following morning.”

“I have been told, and superior authority believes, that Baudrain senior died almost before the signature to the new will was dry.”

“I know it is so given out. I know also that the servants at Château Baudrain were told their master was dead from six to seven hours before he actually expired, told so by Jean Souday soon after he came back from Orleans. In the meantime,” added Cécile, looking me keenly in the face, “In the meantime, that is to say, during these six or seven hours, Souday had gone to and returned from Paris. The old man did not live long after Souday’s return.
 
“Upon what authority do you base facts, or pretended facts suggestive of a terrible inference?”

“Upon excellent authority. Savage words bandied between Souday and Martin, in a bitter quarrel, overheard by me.”

“Ha! But you have heard nothing of what has become of Mademoiselle Jasmin?”
 
“Not one word. She is under restraint I have no doubt—if she is alive!
 
“Her death would profit nothing to M. Hippolyte Baudrain. I cannot comprehend why such an unmitigated, unscrupulous ruffian as Philippe Martin should have been especially selected to play the part of valet in attendance upon a bride and bridegroom. Can you?”
 
“I cannot. A caprice possibly, on the part of Monsieur Hippolyte.”
 
“Bah! Might it not be that in a certain contingency—if things had not eventuated as they did—Philippe Martin would have been required to finish once for all with M. Rayneval. Dead men never marry—and, a more important consideration—never present themselves at the sellette (witness seat) to tell tales.”
 
“It is possible.”

“Again, how came it that Mademoiselle Jasmin arrived so inopportunely at Orleans on that particular day. The circumstance has the look rather of an incident in a novel than a fact in real life.”

“The explanation is simple—M. Rayneval, a young man of an impetuous temperament, wrote immediately he received the anonymous letter you know of, to Mademoiselle Jasmin, stating in fierce but confused language that he would meet and confront her on that day at Orleans. That letter, which I have read, was found upon her person, and secured by Hippolyte Baudrain.”

I had no more questions that I could for the moment think of, to ask. I thanked Cécile for her frankness, and warned her that she must be prepared to repeat her statement before a commissary of police, and attest it upon oath. This was done the very next day, and herself and the woman Perrot were apprised that they were both under the strict surveillance of the police.

.         .         .         .         .         .

The complications of the affair Baudrain, perplexed me. The discrepancies, I mean as to dates, and contradictions as to important facts. The contradictions, especially as to Mademoiselle Jasmin’s so-called elopement, the instant pursuit by her cousin, and her compelled return on the same day to the château. The immediate breaking up of the deceased’s establishment and discharge of all the servants, with the exception of Souday, Martin, and Bart, certainly threw a sinister light upon that part of the case strongly corroborative of Cécile’s version. Monsieur Bart, whose superficial bonhommie had so imposed upon me, was then mixed up in the conspiracy. His sour, angry insistence that it was certainly Mademoiselle Jasmin, who was brought back to the château, and fled a second time with the aid of Martin, confirmed that suspicion.
 
And what a portentous fact, if a fact, was Souday’s announcement to the servants that their master was dead six hours before he actually expired—an interval employed by Souday in going to, and returning from, Paris. If the terrible inference suggested by Cécile was correct, Souday had evinced great caution, remarkable prevoyance in so acting. Supposing, that by one of those fatalities which often confound the most cleverly-organised conspiracies, it should be one day found—certain suspicions having arisen—that a man of Souday’s description had purchased a subtle poison that evening in Paris, such a poison, it would be argued, could not have been intended for a man who was already dead when the purchaser left Château Baudrain! And that lie, that journey of Souday’s had been flung in his teeth by Martin in the heat of a bitter, drunken quarrel.

For all that, the suggestion of foul play, more closely examined, seemed absurd. The change made by M. Hippolyte’s uncle in the disposition of his property had been legally effected by a notary, and the moribund could not, it was known, live more than a few days at the utmost. What motive, then, could the nephew have for abridging those few days of feeble life, for brutally extinguishing a flickering flame that would so soon sink in the socket of itself? Men never, according to my experience, deliberately committed a crime, sure to evoke and keep for ever before their waking, ay, and their sleeping senses the spectre of the guillotine and its grim functionaries, except under the impulse of a strong motive, of an overpowering temptation. Here there was no conceivable motive—not the slightest temptation that I could perceive. Nor could I understand why M. Hippolyte Baudrain should incur grave penalties by keeping Mademoiselle Jasmin in illegal confinement. The dead uncle’s testament could not be revoked; the law of partage did not apply, and as regarded herself, M. Hippolyte Baudrain had done nothing, taking Cécile’s statement au pied de la lettre, rendering him amenable to the criminal law. The atrocious devilry which drove poor Monsieur Rayneval to suicide, Mademoiselle Jasmin to despair, came not within the provisions of any article of the Penal Code. The unfortunate young lady was, it might be fairly assumed, confined in a Maison de Santȇ. Yet, if that were so, why did they give out that she had taken refuge in a Bavarian convent? Nor could I comprehend how it happened that no stir had been made in the matter by M. Rayneval’s relatives. I was fairly puzzled, and doubted that I should ever find out the “mot d’enigme.”
 
All these reasonings, pourparlers with myself, were, with Cécile’s sworn statement, submitted to the judgment of my official superiors. The result was, that they directed me to prosecute the enquiry with vigour and perseverance. They had ascertained by other agents, that M. Hippolyte Baudrain was the servant, not the master of Souday and Martin, and that it was these worthies through whom his money found its way to the coffers of the seditious societies, who were daily becoming more and more audacious, defiant. To find a sufficient pretence, if nothing more for arresting all three upon a criminal charge, which would afford an opportunity of “putting them to the question,” as to every incident of their lives, the names and haunts of their associates, etc., might lead to important
discoveries.

.         .         .         .         .         .

After maturely considering the situation in all its aspects, and from every point of view, I decided to, in the first place, wait upon the notary who drew La Sieur Baudrain’s will. My chief purpose was to learn from him the testator’s actual state when the testament was signed—that is to say, whether there were any symptoms which in his judgment announced almost immediate dissolution. There was no medical man to apply to; one of the deceased’s many prejudices having been that physicians, as well as priests, were impostors. He chose to be his own doctor, and died, as we have seen, at sixty, though originally of a vigorous constitution.

 

This reminds me I have omitted to make mention of a greatly influencing episode in le Sieur Baudrain’s life, which I learned when I acted valet at the château. When a young man he had loved with the vehemence of his fierce nature a Mademoiselle Loison. They were affianced; but the lady’s heart, it would seem, did not echo the promise of her lips. She suddenly discovered that her vocation was that of a Réligieuse. No remonstances could turn her from her settled purpose of becoming a nun. She entered a Benedictine convent of the strictest order—Black Benedictines is, I believe, the correct designation—and was in due time professed. Repentance of the rash step came too late—too soon! The illusions of an exalted fanaticism vanished in the chilling gloom of a cell in which she was for ever shut out from the world, which God had made so beautiful for her—for all! Her health rapidly declined; she died young, but before her departure surreptitiously dispatched a letter to her forsaken, outraged lover, soliciting his forgiveness, and depicting with a pen dipped in the blood of her own heart, her regrets, her sufferings, her despair! All this I gathered plainly from overheard conversations between the uncle and niece, partly from Monsieur Bart, who was au fait, in all the history, traditions, gossip of the family Baudrain.

I was remarking when I rode off upon the foregoing long parenthesis, that my first demarche, after I settled with myself the course which I should follow, was to wait upon the notary, M. Phillipon, who had drawn le Sieur Baudrain’s will.

 I found M. Phillipon at his office, and was received by him with not only civility, but cordial, anticipative frankness—empressement. He knew my errand I was quite sure; his notarial ear had caught the echo of rumours affecting the Baudrain family, afloat in the police atmosphere, and like the sensible man he was, M. Phillipon had decided to be frankly communicative as to all he knew of the business. M. Phillipon was not the man to show sympathy or consideration for people who had fallen under the suspicion of Messieurs de la haute police. Certainly not.
 
“The state, mental and physical, of feu Monsieur Baudrain when I last saw him? Well, his mind was sound, clear; his will as firm, mulish as ever. As to his physical condition, he was, no doubt, ill—very ill, but I said at the time, and I believed what I said, that in my opinion he would live many months—perhaps years.”

“You expressed that opinion in the presence of M. Hippolyte Baudrain?”

“In the presence of M. Hippolyte Baudrain.”
 
“You have no doubt seen the original testament of Monsieur Baudrain deposited in the municipal archives?

“No! Then the illustration that document affords of the unimpaired vigour of his intellect, and the force of his unswerving resolve will be new as well as instructive. Mademoiselle Jasmin had, as you know, left the Château a second time, with the insolently avowed determination to seek refuge in a convent. That it was which induced M. Baudrain to send for me. The nephew, M. Hippolyte, before I was in presence of his uncle, had informed me that the whole of the property was to be devised to him;—Le Sieur Baudrain formally instructed me to the same effect, and I forthwith set about formulising these instructions. A very singular caprice I remarked, after jotting down the preamble to the will dictated by M. Baudrain, which set forth the testator’s motive for disinheriting his niece, ‘A very singular caprice on the part of Mademoiselle Jasmin. The young lady attempts an elopement with a view of marriage, is brought back; has an opportunity of getting away again, and avails herself of it not to rejoin her lover, but to bury herself in a convent.’ M. Hippolyte darted at me a look of thunder. His uncle, struck by my remark, raised himself upon his elbow—that alone will show that he was certainly not then in extremis—gazed fixedly at M. Hippolyte, lay down again, and calmly went on dictating to me. The nephew was constituted sole heir of his uncle’s wealth to the exclusion of the niece. Now add a clause, said le Sieur Baudrain, in a steady, deliberate, I might say menacing voice, to the effect that it if should prove that Coralie had not entered a convent, and that she would subscribe a declaration that she never would enter a convent, the former will by which she was entitled to the moiety of all he should die possessed of, was to reacquire validity, and the present one to be ipso-facto null and void.

“M. Hippolyte could not conceal his chagrin, and he took courage to murmur that such a promise would not, in his judgment, be worth the paper it was written upon.

“M. Baudrain again raised himself upon his elbow and gazed sternly, doubtingly at his nephew.

“The pledged word of my sister, Coralie’s child, will never be violated. You know that as well as I do. Please also to distinctly understand, continued le Sieur Baudrain, his dim eyes kindling with angry fire, ‘Please also to understand, Hippolyte, that if I find any imposition has been practised upon me in respect of my niece, the will I have now dictated shall be rewritten, with this alteration, that you, not Coralie shall be disinherited. But no, no,’ he added, lying down again, and speaking to himself, ‘No, he would not dare deceive me, knowing his uncle so well as he does, and that I am not dead yet.’ Nothing more passed between the uncle and nephew whilst I remained. The will was fairly written out, signed, attested, and I left the Château.”
 
“A will containing the clause you have mentioned?”

“Certainly. It is a rigorous consequence of that clause that Monsieur Hippolyte Baudrain cannot enter into possession of more than a moiety of his uncle’s wealth, till he produces legal proof that Mademoiselle Jasmin is a professed nun. That moiety is an immense sum—quite half a million (£20,000.)

Remerciments, Monsieur Phillipon,” said I, rising to leave. “Your frank disclosures will, I predict, lead to important results; and I need hardly remind a gentleman of your profession, that silence, strict, absolute silence—except when in communication with the agents of justice—is imperative upon him.”

.         .         .         .         .         .

The next day I was at Orleans. Cécile’s story was confirmed in every particular by the landlord and servants of the hotel, in so far as they were acquainted with them. M. Bijon, (the landlord.) also informed me that a relative of M. Rayneval had made enquiries respecting the death of that gentleman. Cursory enquiries only. M. Rayneval, it seemed, had been many years an orphan; had no brothers or sisters, and had long since, (no doubt before he contemplated making Mademoiselle Jasmin his wife,) made a disposition of his property, which in a pecuniary sense made his dying unmarried a blessing to those distant relatives, of whom the enquirer was one.

I next waited upon M. Hugon, the medical gentleman to whose care Mademoiselle Jasmin had been first consigned by her relative, M. Hippolyte Baudrain’s specially depicted homme d’ affaires, Jean Souday. And what did I hear? That Mademoiselle’s cerebral affection had quickly yielded to medical treatment, and that at the end of about a fortnight, he Monsieur Hugon, having written to Château Baudrain announcing her convalescence, M. Souday forthwith came to Orleans, the bearer of a kind message of peace and forgiveness from her uncle—her dead and buried uncle!—A few hours afterwards they left in a private carriage and pair, by which Souday had arrived, and which was driven by him. M. Hugon was horrorstricken to hear that the unfortunate young lady had not since been heard of. Madame Hugon sobbed with bitter grief, such tenderness of sympathy had the sweet, suffering maiden excited during her brief sojourn with them.

A passion of rage swelled my own heart, police officer though I was, and custom hardened to calamity. Had the villains murdered her too, as well as the uncle? I thought I should never get back to Paris. The swift railway lagged in the rear of my fierce impatience.
 
I fully made up mind during the journey to act at once, and upon my own responsibility. Legal evidence of foul play towards the deceased, M. Baudrain, there was none, and against Souday alone for the abduction of Mademoiselle Jasmin. Now, a razzia promptly executed in the hotel apartments occupied by M. Hippolyte Baudrain and his confederates during their absence, and they were always absent, I knew, from early in the evening, till not very early the following morning, would in all probability strengthen the case against them, and afford information which might be used with effect in the separate examination of the three conspirators, whom I proposed to arrest when they returned to the hotel.

The razzia was rigourously carried out, we made prize of every letter, every scrap of writing we could lay hands on, and found quite enough to justify the arrest of all three upon three separate charges—the assassination of le Sieur Baudrain, the abduction of his niece, and of sedition and conspiracy.

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

It is possible that the prisoners might have escaped conviction on the capital charge had H. Baudrain been as hardened in [villainy] as Souday and Martin. He gave way at the first examination, made a full, unreserved confession of his guilt. Finding that, Philippe Martin followed his example, the final result being that Hippolyte Baudrain, and Jean Souday were convicted of the murder by morphine, of le Sieur Valentin Baudrain; Philippe Martin of being an accomplice after the fact. Hippolyte Bandrain and Jean Souday were condemned to death, Philippe Martin to three years of “travaux forcés.”

It appeared that Souday returned to the Château Baudrain from Orleans, soon after the notary who had drawn the will, left. He brought word that Mademoiselle Jasmin’s mental health would soon be restored, and that she might be expected at the Château before many days had passed. Hippolyte Baudrain, in his turn, acquainted Souday with what had been said by his uncle in presence of the notary. The conclusion come to by both was that le Sieur Baudrain could not be permitted to live, and that the sooner he was disposed of the better, safer for themselves. It was quite possible, Souday urged, that M. Hugon, who evinced much interest in Mademoiselle Jasmin, and who, no doubt, from something she had said, seemed to be distrustful of M. Hippolyte Baudrain’s intentions towards her, might seek, and of course obtain a personal interview with her uncle, M. Baudrain, before twenty-four hours, ay, before twelve hours had passed. No time was to be lost; Souday started at once to Paris to procure the poison, returned with it, and the crime was consummated!

Souday perished by the guillotine at Versailles; Hippolyte Baudrain, by his own act, in prison; and by the same deadly agent that destroyed his uncle—morphine, a sufficient quantity of which he had managed to secrete about his person. He died in less than half-an hour after he had been sentenced to death by the Cour d’ Assizes.

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

Mademoiselle Jasmin had been forcibly carried off to a solitary farmhouse at some distance from Saint Brieux, Cotes du Nord, and given into the charge of the farmer and his wife—ignorant, stolid Bretons—as a person of unsound mind. A large sum paid down, and the promise of liberal, periodical payment for the future, overcame any scruples the churlish peasants—who had formerly known Souday—might have otherwise entertained. They firmly fulfilled their part of the bargain by keeping her in strict seclusion, and preventing her not only from communicating with, but from being seen by anyone. An order for her liberation was despatched immediately after Hippolyte’s confession made known the place of her confinement. She was brought by easy stages to Château Baudrain, where I saw and spoke with her about four months subsequently. She was very pale and thin, but not in ill health, and the singularly sweet expression of her face was, I thought, spiritualised by the touching sadness by which it was shadowed, softened. The joy and brightness of the world had passed away for her, but she was resigned and tranquil, having found, no doubt, in deeds of mercy, in benefits that her wealth enabled her to bestow upon the poor and needy, solace for her own sorrows.

I feel a kind of repugnance in writing the name of Cécile immediately after that of Coralie Jasmin. I may, however, briefly state that that unfortunate, died a few weeks after Hippolyte Baudrain committed suicide.

From Experiences of a French Detective Officer by William Russell. New York: Dick & Fitgerald, 1864. 161-218.

This collection was originally published in England in 1861 under the pseudonym of Thomas Waters and claimed to be an adaptation from a manuscript by Théodore Duhamel, yet another pseudonym.