My First Case

I AM a native of Lyon, in the department of the Rhȏne, the second city of France, seated upon the banks of those glorious rivers, the Rhȏne and Saȏne, and encircled by a magnificent amphitheatre of hills. My name is Theodore Duhamel, and I was bred to the trade of silk weaving, in one of the narrow, dingy streets which make up La Croix Rousse, that crowded, squalid quarter of the city, huddled together upon the upper part of the broad strip of land which divides the two rivers, and gradually narrows to their confluences, from which point their mingled waters flow in one broad volume to the sea.

Ascend the lofty height of Fouvrières and look around! Splendour, magnificence, both of nature and art, everywhere meet the dazzled glance, save in the direction of that huge agglomeration of the dens of despair, where scores of thousands of haggard, famine-dwindled workers spin and weave silk and satin from early youth to earlier age—their average length of life being probably some twenty-five percent. less than that of the more fortunate part of the population. In France, the only public interest not organised, left utterly dis-organised, is the compulsory relief of the poor. Bearing that terrible fact in mind, no one can feel surprised to hear that there have been wild, frantic uprisings of the habitants of La Croix Rousse against authority, the necessity of restraining which, in the interest of the insurrectionists themselves led, after Bugeaud’s bloody repression of the outbreaks in 1836, to the erection of the sixteen huge forts, the fire of which scientifically cross each other, and could reduce the weavers’ quarter to ruins in less than an hour. So at least Castellane boasted, when apprehensive of a revolt in January, 1852. The holy virgin of Fouvrières who, as his eminence the Cardinal Bonaldo reminded the Emperor the other day—his Majesty devoutly acquiescent—saved, once upon a time, La Croix Rousse from the ravages of cholera, would not, it was apprehended, have proved equally successful in averting Castellane’s cannonballs; and the projected outbreak was wisely abandoned. This, too, was the opinion of Jules Bertin, a simple-minded enthusiast, who concluded a flaming speech, counselling present submission, by reminding his audience that the triumphs of “Our Lady of Victories,” though often delayed, were always sure. “The last words of Bugeaud,” he added. “when struck down by cholera, were, ‘Je suis un homme perdu,’ (I am a lost man). Courage, then, and hope and faith!”
 
This incendiary language, duly reported by a zealous “Mouchard,” obtained for poor Bertin the honour of martyrdom. He was packed off to Cayenne, in the interest of Public Safety, and died there, in that interest, about three months after he left Lyons. My reason for introducing this somewhat inconsequent anecdote is, that Jules Bertin was a fellow-actor with me in my first appearance as a detective, a marvellous talent which he possessed for mimicking to perfection the voice of any man, woman, or child whom he had but once heard speak and sing, enabling him to sustain the part assigned him with complete success. Of that anon.

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The working, eating, and sleeping apartment occupied by my father, who had been many years a widower, and myself, was a large back room on the fifth floor of No. 8, Rue Mazard, at about the centre of La Croix Rousse. Our earnings, after I had grown up to man’s estate and was accounted a skilful workman, were about twenty-five francs per week. I was in my twenty-second year when an accident deprived my father of one of his eyes, the loss of which weakened the other. This fretted him terribly. Our earnings were much reduced in consequence; the winter of that year was a trying one—I mean with regard to scarcity of employment; the fountain of private charity was dried up by the crowd of claimants –and there being no compulsory poor-law in France, we were reduced to a state of semi-starvation. Death, under such circumstances, was a happy release; and my father showed that he felt it to be so, by the calm smile which gleamed wintrily over his wasted face when Monsieur le Medecin gently announced that the supreme hour was close at hand.

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I was at last emphatically my own master, as far at least as a poor devil can be said to be so who lives from hand to mouth upon scantiest fare, procured by incessant, monotonous labour, in a dingy room, which the bright sun grudgingly looked into askance, illuminating with its golden glory but one favoured corner on the brightest summer day. That stinted, scrubby life had, nevertheless, its pleasures.
 
“Dans un grenier l’on est bien a vingt ans” (At twenty years of age one is happy in a barn), and in addition to the genial flow of warm youthful spirits, I had several sources of consolation.
 
Two rooms on the fifth floor, one of which adjoined mine, were occupied by the Widow Durand, so called, and her son Emile. The young man, who had not long passed his twentieth birthday, was, like myself, a weaver, and unlike me, a sorry workman; his mother, a middle-aged person of quiet, gentle manners, who gave you the impression, when her features were palely lit up by a faint sunset smile, that her natural comeliness had been marred less by Time than by the touching, patient grief which gleamed through her soft, sad eyes. She was apt at the invention of designs, of simple designs, for figured silks of the cheaper sort, and in that way added considerably to the family income. Their united weekly gains could not be much less than forty francs.

There was a mystery in connection with that humble menage, which my precociously detective brain was eager to penetrate.

Emile, a handsome fellow and bon enfant, if there was ever one, gay, too, as a lark, ay, sacred blue as twenty larks in one, so blithely did he carol in his gloomy cage, took a wonderful liking to me. Perhaps for the very reason that in disposition and temperament we were the opposites of each other. He—ardent, imaginative, his fanciful future, brilliantly rose-coloured. I—a prosaic, matter-of-fact individuality, with a strong tendency to believe that society was mainly divided into two classes—knaves and fools, and whose future, as far as I could dimly peer into it, seemed to be of a cold lead-colour, which the corroding years would probably deepen to downright black.

Friendly as we were, Emile fought for a long time very shy of his past life, voluble as he was with respect to the good time coming, as soon as his godfather, one Monsieur Cuvelles, of Fontainebleau, an old bachelor, who had promised to bequeath him ten thousand francs (£400) should have been happily gathered to his fathers. Emile’s reserve, dictated by Madame Durand, was at length so far broken through that I learned from him that his mother—he had never seen his father—that his mother once kept a large fancy shop (articles de Paris) in the Palais Royal; that she was considered to be in good circumstances, till one fine day, when Emile was about fourteen years old, the establishment was suddenly closed, and he and his mother, without any explanation of the cause of the catastrophe being vouchsafed to him, hurriedly left Paris for Lyon, of which city Madame Durand was a native.

Arrived in the southern capital of France, Emile was apprenticed to a silk weaver, and enjoined to conform his life and hopes to the humble lot to which a severe fate had doomed him.

Emile’s confidential communication served but to sharpen my desire to know more of Madame Durand’s history. It was not for a long time possible to learn more, so persistently did Madame avoid the slightest allusion to the past, when even talking with effusion, upon other matters with her son. One thing was clear—that she bore her fall in life with a patient meekness, touching in its sad humility. As if, it often occurred to me, she was resignedly undergoing the expiation of a grave fault—or crime.
 
Emile loved his mother with a boundless love; affecting proofs, of which he often, and in a manner unconsciously, manifested. At such times Madame Durand’s eyes would fill with tears, whilst an expression of cruel anguish flitted over her pale, star-lit face, as if that filial devotion, offered at an unworthy shrine, pierced her to the heart.
 
Emile suspected nothing of the sort. The lamentable change in his mother’s condition of life fully accounted to him for the silent sadness of her ordinary demeanour, as well as for any casual outburst of passionate emotion sometimes called forth by the merest trifle—the sight of an old faded letter for example, or the striking-up of a familiar air by a barrel organ in the street, sweeping with rude breath it seemed, over Eolian chords of memory, that vibrated to the faintest echo of the old time.

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Emile and I continuing to be firm friends, it was not long before he imparted to me, in the strictest confidence, the first, sublime, ineffable mystery of youth and life. He had fallen in love with an angel— who superintended a market stall for the sale of flowers! The angel’s name, which pronounced under such circumstances by Emile Durand, was the stroke of a poniard upon a deep, but till that moment, almost unsuspected wound, was Clarisse Dubourg, only child of Widow Dubourg, the respectable relic of Claude Dubourg, a skilful floriculturist, who had, nevertheless, died in insolvent circumstances at his pretty place at Fouvrières, about a twelvemonth previously, leaving his wife and daughter no other heritage than a knowledge of flowers, and taste and skill in combining them into attractive bouquets. A sweetly-saucy, and I may add rather skittish damsel was Clarisse, with [dark], [electric] eyes, whose bright arrowy glances, piercing you through and through, merrily mocked the smart they made. Still a well-principled maiden—and there was a certain elegance in her carriage and general manner, which I have a notion the cultivation and love of flowers always impart to intelligent damsels, who, moreover, I fancy, imbibe from them, fragrance and beauty.

“Clarisse and I,” said Emile, with a trembling voice, and flushing scarlet, “Clarisse and I understand each other, and Madame Dubourg consents to our marriage.”

“Marriage! The marriage of Emile Durand with Clarisse Dubourg! Have you both gone mad, and bitten the girl’s mother?”

“The marriage of Emile Durand with Clarisse Dubourg,” replied my companion with dignity, “would just now be a folly—a crime even! But present adverse circumstances will before long have passed away. My mother has received a letter, direct, I believe, from Monsieur Cuvelles. He is failing fast, which considering his great age, upwards of fourscore, is not surprising, and he repeats his promise as to the legacy you know of—namely ten thousand francs.”
 
“When you have them safely en caisse—under lock and key.”
 
“Ten thousand francs,” persisted Emile, “will suffice to establish a fancy bazaar, such as Madame Durand once kept. We shall have the benefit of her judgment and—”
 
It is useless further to pursue my young friend’s Alnaschar dreams. Poor fellow he was destined to a rude awakening!
 
Meanwhile the days of courtship glided gaily past. The very next Sunday, having two or three francs to spare, Emile and I hired a boat, and I myself rowed the lovers, seated at the stern, about the river. I did not find it amusing—quite the reverse, especially when the slight skiff, rocking in the swell caused by the numerous steamers, pitched them, from no fault of their own, into each other arms almost, giving occasion and excuse for pretty endearments, more pleasant to enjoy than contemplate. This I was quite sure of, that if I was to continue friends with Emile, it would be necessary to decline being his boatman.

These little love matters cannot, it may be imagined, have any necessary connection with a French police officer’s recollections. The contrary is the fact. They form, it will be found, an important link in the chain of circumstances which, at the outset of my detective career, it was my good fortune to disentangle. Were it not so, I should have omitted the slightest allusion to them, inasmuch, that having many adventures to relate, I am desirous of telling each story in the fewest possible words.

Though I should have refused to go a-boating with the lovers, I could not help accompanying Emile to church, at early mass on Sunday, when he was sure to meet Clarisse and escort her home. My silly self following behind, chiefly absorbed in the contemplation of the prettiest feet and ankles in the world, and thinking what a lucky dog Emile would be, should he ever come into possession of those ten thousand francs—and Clarisse Dubourg.

Another incident must be related in this place, which at the time of its occurrence, had not the slightest perceptible connection with the Durands and Dubourgs, but which ultimately became an influential element in the catastrophe of their fortunes.

I and the Durands worked chiefly for one M. Delamarecotelle, a wealthy manufacturer of Lyon, and latterly it came to pass that I ordinarily transacted business with him both for them and myself. That is, I brought away the raw material, returned it when woven, and received the money. The person who always attended to my business was Alphonse Falzette, M. Delamarecotelle’s nephew, and as I had heard, a rather gay, dissipated young man. He was very pleasant in his manner, and had not a particle of pride in his composition.
 
One evening when I had taken a quantity of finished work to the warehouse—a few days before or a few days after, I forget which—that Emile made me the [confidante] of his engagement with Clarisse Dubourg, it chanced that M. Delamarecotelle abruptly entered the inner or private counting-house, accompanied by M. Fould, a Jew and moneychanger. I drew back; Mr. Delamarecotelle did not notice me, and, in his usual brusque business way, informed Fould that he had received about two hundred double gold Eagles of an American captain, and wished to know at what rate Fould would exchange them for French currency. Several of the Eagles were shown to the money dealer, and I myself distinctly observed the impression on the coins as M. Delamarecotelle held them up admiringly in the lamplight. There was no bargain made. M. Delamarecotelle put back his Eagles, and, with Fould, passed out of the room as abruptly as he entered.
 
It was, I reckon, about five weeks after this incident, that Madame Durand received a letter which threw her into such a convulsive passion of grief that it was necessary to immediately send for medical assistance.
 
“Be quick, Theodore,” said Emile. “The letter,” he added, in a hoarse spasmodic tone, and with a light in his eyes, fierce from its intensity—” The letter is from Fontainebleau, and announces the death of M. Cuvelles. This is all I know. My mother greatly esteemed M. Cuvelles. But be quick—quick—Theodore.”

I soon returned with Monsieur le Medicin. The opiates he administered calmed Madame Durand’s agitation, and she subsided into feverish moaning slumber, her hand the while, tightly clutching the letter, so that Emile, whose anxiety to read it was extreme, could not, without violence, have loosened the fingers which closed the more firmly on the paper as he gently endeavoured to loosen her grasp.
 
The next day, Sunday, Madame Durand, though still excited and nervous, was considerably better. She would not permit Emile to leave her; and he requested me to go to church, and inform Clarisse of the reason of his absence.

The Canon of the Mass had begun when I entered the sacred edifice, and Clarisse was a very pious girl, but for all that she hearkened with both her ears, and with her eyes too—I was going to say—so brilliantly did they flash with triumphant intelligence as I, in a low voice, intimated that a letter from Fontainebleau had been received, announcing the death of M. Cuvelles—Emile’s munificent godfather. I don’t think Clarisse profited much by the Church Service after that suggestive whisper.

I escorted her home, some half mile distant. The morning was overcast, and, fearing it might come on to rain, the careful maiden had brought a pair of sabots in her hand, to put on if it should prove wet. The sky had however cleared up when we left the church, and I was permitted to carry the sabots.

The tiniest, prettiest pair of sabots imaginable. So nicely varnished, and the patches of wool so neatly glued on. The pavement was a little damp, and Clarisse drew her frock and petticoat tightly about her, clear of the stones, patting along with such fascinating minauderie. I don’t, for the moment, remember the English equivalent for minauderie—if there be one—that I in some way confounded the sabots I was carrying with the twinkling feet they were intended to encase. It must have been so, for didn’t I, when arrived at Mademoiselle Dubourg’s domicile, as she darted upstairs to fetch a bouquet she had prepared for Madame Durant, supposing myself to be unobserved, fall to kissing the inside of the sabots, in a kind of delire d’amour fancying, no doubt, I was kissing the little twinkling feet.

“Ha! ha! ho! ho!” chuckled a rude coarse voice; “My faith, but that is a droll taste, my fine young man. I, now, should prefer Mademoiselle’s lips to the inside of her sabots.”

I glared round in a fury. The fellow jeering me was a sinister-looking rascal of maybe fifty years of age, whom I recognized to be the man, who, on the previous Sunday morning, had stared at Clarisse, Emile, and myself, with ostentatious impertinence, and with the same malevolent grin wrinkling his coffee-coloured visage.

An angry retort was on my lips, but Clarisse bounding down stairs at the exact moment, with the bouquet, checked its utterance. When I again looked about, the stranger had disappeared.
 
That was to be a day of surprises. Strolling listlessly out in the afternoon, I was struck of a heap at observing several affiches posted on the walls, offering a reward of five hundred francs to anyone who should discover, and bring to justice, the individual or individuals who had robbed M. Delamarecotelle of two hundred double American Eagles.
 
Really those affiches gave me a painful shock. It flashed through me that only I and Fould the moneychanger, were present when M. Delamarecotelle drew forth his Eagles. Might not, therefore, suspicion glance on me? And to be seriously suspected of such a crime, even if evidence fortifying a conviction were never obtained, was, I well knew, moral, and material ruin.

Hesitatingly I entered a Café, not a hundred yards distant from the pillaged silk manufacturer’s place of business, but where I believed myself to be personally unknown. People were talking of the robbery, and some one said that Fould had been arrested, but subsequently set at liberty. My name was not mentioned in my hearing.

Half-an-hour elapsed, and I was still puzzling myself as to what possible link there could be between that unmistakable son of Satan, Delmar, and Madame Durand, when Emile came to seek me. He was going to Fouvrières upon an errand for his mother, who was anxious to speak with me.
 
Madame Durand, pale, delicate as alabaster, and trembling with agitation, greeted me with a faint, piteous smile, and bade me draw my chair close to hers.

“I am anxious to consult you, Theodore Duhamel, upon a very painful subject. It is true you are very young to be entrusted with such a confidence by a woman of nearly twice your age; but, alas! I have no relative, and no other friend of whom I can ask counsel, and you may certainly help me by acting as an intermediary between me and a man of law, who must be consulted without delay. For me to venture outside the house, is, in the actual situation, simply impossible.”
 
“To my son, my pure-minded son!” continued the unhappy lady, “I dare not reveal myself in my past life—I should die with shame. You, Theodore Duhamel, are surely my friend, being his, and you are naturally acute, bold, and, I think, of a cool, calculating temperament. M. Delamarecotelle spoke in high terms of you this morning. You can, I am sure, render me inestimable service. Will you promise to so befriend me; first giving me your word of honour that the sad secrets I am about to disclose, shall be communicated to no human being, save a lawyer, and especially not to my son.”
 
The assurance given, Madame Durand proceeded.

“You noticed that a man was glaring up at the window where we stood, when I fainted? You did. Well, my young friend, that man, that miscreant, is Monsieur Durand—my husband!”

“Your husband, Madame! Emile’s father!”

The paleness of Madame Durand’s face changed instantly to flaming scarlet.

“Not really Emile’s father: in the eye of the law only.”
 
“Not really Emile’s father,” echoed I, like one stupefied. “In the eye of the law only! I do not at all understand.”
 
“It is impossible you should till you have heard my story. Listen, Theodore Duhamel, and—and turn your face from me whilst you listen.”

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The cruel narrative occupied two hours at least, broken, interrupted as it was by sobbing lamentation, passionate regrets, paroxysms of agonising remorse and terror.
 
When it was finished, Madame Durand had imparted all it was essential should be known for the guidance of myself and the homme-de-loi I was to instruct. There were, however, many blanks in the sad story which were not distinctly filled up till some time afterwards. It will be better, therefore, to give it in my own words, and as I ultimately knew it, in its completeness.

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Edouard Morny, brigadier of Gendarmerie, married, when in about his forty-fifth year, Louise Carrel, some ten years younger than himself. Both were natives of Paris, but at the time of the marriage Brigadier Morny was stationed at Lyon, and it consequently fell out that their daughter and only child was born at Fouvrières. The Morny family continued to reside in Lyon, but without, as it seemed, mixing in society, till Louise had passed her tenth year. M. Morny was then superannuated upon a moderate pension, and finally settled in Fontainebleau. The family had been domiciled there about seven years, when Madame Morny died. Six months afterwards the husband and father followed her to the tomb.

Unfortunately, the Morny family lived quite up to their income, and the orphan Louise found herself almost in a state of destitution, the only hope for her upon which her dying father relied, being a pathetic appeal in her behalf, addressed from his deathbed to a niece, Madame Carrel, the young and wealthy widow of a notary, not long since deceased.
 
The letter was duly posted; but week after week, month after month passed, and no answer reached Fontainebleau. Mademoiselle Morny was reduced to despair. Every article of plate, almost every article of furniture had been parted with to procure necessaries, and starvation, or a yet more frightful alternative, stared the delicately-nurtured, fair young girl in the face, when it was urged that she might herself make a personal appeal to her rich Parisian relative.

She did so. The fanciful, capricious, Madame Carrel, was charmed with her pretty, graceful cousin, and quickly perceiving that she was yielding, ductile as a child, decided to attach her to her own personal service, as an humble dependent, relative, and companion.

It is difficult for the coldest, most unimpressionable natures to pass, unsoiled, unscathed, through the seven-times heated furnace of Parisian society; who, then, shall cast the first stone at the poor, credulous, dazzled Louise? Emile de Beaupré, a captain in the guard, and a handsome roué, with the tongue of Belial, the craft of Mephistopheles, was a constant visitor at Madame Carrel’s brilliant reunions, and so taken was he with the fresh grace, the charming naïveté of the country maiden, that he at once set himself to beslime that fresh grace, betray that charming naïveté, and this, notwithstanding he was a serious suitor for the hand of Madame Carrel, who might then be about thirty years of age.

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’Tis an old tale; ancient as sin, common as girlhood’s weakness, truthfulness, and faith.

Precisely how the sad discovery was made I do not remember, but made it was by Madame Carrel herself, whose anger at the dishonour brought upon her family was inflamed by the fires of jealousy, for she too was madly attached to the seductive M. de Beaupré. Madame Durand intimated that her cousin was apprehensive that M. de Beaupré might, influenced by remorse, and an access of generosity, atone for the ruin he had wrought by fulfilling the vow of marriage which had enabled him to effect it, and without delay concocted a scheme which would effectively prevent such a catastrophe. A very unlikely one, I should imagine. How the affair was managed Madame Durand gave me but a confused, imperfect account. I gathered that the unfortunate girl was forbidden to leave her chamber under penalty of being at once cast on the pavé, that a letter was addressed to her by M. le Capitaine Beaupré, bidding her an eternal adieu, after ruthlessly insisting upon the utter impossibility of his marriage with her. The next move in Madame Carrel’s game, was to introduce the name of Lieutenant Durand whom Louise had once or twice seen. Madame Carrel represented him to be a needy, but otherwise a perfectly respectable naval officer, with whom she had already opened a negotiation, the issue of which was, that in consideration of a large sum of money, to be supplied by Madame Carrel, the perfectly respectable naval officer would go through the ceremony—the civil ceremony of marriage with the doubly-betrayed Louise Morny; sign and seal a deed immediately after leaving the Mairie, binding himself never to claim any of the privileges of a husband, and moreover to at once leave Paris, under the plea of having received a peremptory order to join his ship. The honour of Louise would be saved, the disgrace that would else reflect upon Madame Carrel herself be averted, and as a reward for her helpless cousin’s compliance, Madame would amply provide for the future maintenance of Louise, and of her offspring, should it be born alive. On the other hand, if Louise refused to go through her part in the purely formal ceremony—the streets, public infamy awaited the young unfortunate. Who can wonder that so placed, lost in her own esteem, Louise Morny submissively bent her neck to the blow, humbly obeyed her imperious relative’s behest!

The naval lieutenant strictly fulfilled his part of the bargain, received the stipulated sum of money, and left Paris on the evening of the day that witnessed his mock marriage, though his departure was concealed for some time afterwards.

Madame Carrel and Monsieur le Captaine Beaupré were married within a few weeks of the birth of the little Emile, so baptised by the unforgetful Louise, who, at about the same time, was established in a handsome shop in the Palais Royal.

To finish with M. de Beaupré and his wife. I may here mention that the marriage was an unhappy one, terminating in a separation, by mutual consent, after less than two years cohabitation. They had no family; and the gallant captain, after dissipating his means in riotous excess, emigrated to the French settlement of Pondicherry, India, where he had obtained an appointment. He had not since been heard of by Madame Durand. Madame de Beaupré, ci-devant Carrel, who since her marriage had constantly refused to see or receive a letter from her cousin, Madame Durand believed to be still alive. She had become an ascetic in religion; and it had been reported would bequeath her wealth to the convent in which she had many years resided.

During nearly twelve years nothing was heard of Lieutenant Durand, and Louise Morny was believed to be a widow.

At last a letter, dated from Montpelier and subscribed your faithful friend and husband, Pierre Durand, reached the terrified, soi-distant widow. It accounted, in an offhand way, for the writer’s long absence and silence, and concluded with a peremptory demand of four thousand francs, which sum, forwarded without delay, would relieve her from any further solicitation in or interference on his part. The business in the Palais Royal had been a fairly prosperous one, and the money was sent.

That demand, as might easily have been foreseen, was but the commencement of a series of extortions, which went on till the persecuted woman was positively unable to satisfy Durand’s rapacity. The principal means by which he coerced his nominal wife, was a threat to take her son from her. The deed he had signed might, she was advised, be a legal protection for herself, but could not bar a father’s right over the reputed son. Finally, driven to desperation by a peremptory menace that if Durand did not immediately receive a sum of money, which she could not by possibility raise, he would at once return to Paris, and deprive her of Emile, the panic-stricken woman transferred her stock in trade, &c., &c., to her creditors, and hurried away with her son to Lyon, where she had passed the happiest years of her life. She believed Durand was not aware that she was a native of that city; but to make quite sure of her whereabouts not being discovered by him, she would have changed her name, but that her friend and the only person in her confidence, M. Cuvelles, warned her that to travel or otherwise pass under a false name was a highly penal offence. The letter which had so strangely affected her was, it must be remembered, from that gentleman, who had written to state that he had seen Durand, who hinted that he had discovered his wife’s address, but was silent as to whether he intended to molest her or not.

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Such, in bare outline, was Madame Durand’s story, I was terribly puzzled. What motive, I asked myself, again and again, could Durand have in hunting up his pretended wife and son: a woman and a youth but just capable, by constant industry, to provide for their own support? That, as I remarked to Madame Durand, was the question, and one which neither Avoué or Avocât could much help us to solve.
 
“Yes, Madame,” said I, “that which is essential to discover is what motive Durand can have in seeking you out. Upon the face of the affair his persistence in doing so is inexplicable.”
 
As I’m alive a hot flush of wounded vanity crimsoned for a moment Madame Durand’s pale features. Positively it must have occurred to her that that scélérat Durand might be desirous of being received by her as a legitimate husband—poverty stricken though she was. True, she was a comely woman and on the sunny side of forty. Still—

“I presume I hardly need ask Madame if she is disposed to contract a more intimate relationship with Pierre Durand?” said I, rather tartly.
 
“How dare you hint at such a thing?” angrily exclaimed Madame Durand, — “Villain, Robber, that he is: I would die first!”
 
The anger was genuine. Her scorn and hatred of the villain and robber real. The transient emotion I had observed was but the sparkle of the harmless vanity which to the very verge of old age glows at the heart of all once pretty women—of all French women I am sure.
 
I apologized, and our consultation was continued. I informed Madame that I had, in a kind of way, made Durand’s acquaintance, and that he passed under the name of Delmar—omitting, of course, any allusion to the silly, sabot incident. We both agreed that knowing I was Madame’s fellow lodger, and upon friendly terms with Emile, he had a design of making me useful in furthering his purposes, whatever those purposes might be.

That, I remarked, might prove to be a fortunate circumstance, if I could contrive to lure Durand into making me his confidant by making him believe that I should prove a supple tool.

“Money, money, Madame,” I went on to say –“the obtainment of money—must be—at the bottom of his plans. But from what source, in the name of Heaven! Are you quite sure?” I added, “that Madame de Beaupré has not died lately?”
 
Madame Durand could not be sure, but she believed her wealthy cousin still lived. As to the rest,” she added, “Madame de Beaupré would not bequeath me or Emile a single franc.”
 
“I am not so sure of that. Did Madame de Beaupré know you had fled to Lyons? Could she have obtained your address?”

Madame Durand did not believe her cousin knew, or could have easily discovered her address.

“Ah! and if, which is after all quite possible, Madame de Beaupré has remembered you in her last testament, the superior of the convent, who you believe would be the general legatee, might not be very hard or perseverant in her inquiries after you. Is there anyone else that would be likely to bequeath you a fortune!”
 
“I have no relative in the world but Emile: no friend except yourself.”
 
In the end, Madame Durand consented to confide, for a short time, exclusively in me, and I left her in quite a hopeful state of mind. It seemed to me that I had caught the thread of my true vocation. Often and often, when reading a complicated romance, in which the “virtuous” characters found themselves perplexed and in peril of being circumvented by the ames damnees of the story. I used to lay down the book, and set to work upon the facts and hints already known by the bewildered personages, to as they ought to have done, elucidate the difficulties, and confront the dangers which beset them, instead of helplessly waiting for the clumsy Deus ex Machina sure to appear in the last pages. Like the delighted boy who has obtained, instead of the old useless toy, a watch that would go, I wound up my real watch without delay—that is, I repaired that same evening to the Lion D’Or with the hope of there meeting with M. Durand. I was not disappointed. There sure enough was my man, sipping his wine and smoking a cigar with three or four young fellows, with one of whom I was slightly acquainted.

Durand was quite gracious, offered me a chair next his own, and presented me with a glass of wine and a cigar, all of which I accepted.

The conversation, after other topics had been exhausted, turned upon the everlasting Gold Eagle robbery, and presently the man—a bilious—tailor with whom, as I said, I was slightly acquainted, said, in a sneering tone, “Ah, ça Duhamel, I hear that if the advice of the Jew moneychanger had been followed you would have been arrested upon suspicion of having stolen the Eagles.”

“What is that?” I fiercely exclaimed, and reddening to the hue of flame, “what is that you say?”

“What I have said, and many others are saying. Fould, when questioned, said that you, Duhamel, were in the counting-house when M. Delamarecotelle displayed the tempting coins, and that he noticed at the time that you shrank back, keeping well behind that gentleman, so that he did not, himself, see yon.”

Whilst this was being said, Durand’s eyes were fixed upon mine with intense, satanic scrutiny.

“My cigar is out,” said he, with a chuckle of satisfaction. “Permit me, mon cher, to relight it at your face” —and he suited the action to the word. I struck the cigar out of his hand, angrily exclaiming, “The devil take you and your cigar!”

“Very polite of you,” said he, picking up the cigar; “but you seem to be disturbed in mind, so I must excuse you.”

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

The other persons present civilly changed the conversation, and after some minutes cogitation, a bright idea, almost a ray of genius, glanced across my mind, evoked by the satisfaction exhibited by Durand at hearing I was suspected of robbing M. Delamarecotelle. I would confirm him in that suspicion, contrive to give him proof that I was the guilty party. He would then believe that I was irrevocably in his power, and should not, for my life, dare prove false to him.
 
I left the Lion D’Or, and went direct to M. Delamarecotelle. “I am here, monsieur,” said I, “to prefer a strange request: that you will do me the favour of lending me two or three of your Double Eagles?”
 
“Lend you three double eagles? For what purpose, in Heaven’s name?”
 
“An honest purpose, monsieur. More than that I cannot say at present. If you consent, I will call tomorrow forenoon for the Eagles, bringing with me their value.” (Madame Durand, who I knew had made a little purse with her savings, would, I was quite sure, lend me the sum required, without asking how I meant to use it.)
 
“It is a strange request,” said Monsieur Delamarecotelle; “but I will grant it. Take the coins at once. I confide in your honour to return them.”

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

I was early the next evening at the Lion D’Or, a full hour before it was probable Durand would make his appearance. That time I spent in flustering myself with a bottle of Medoc. In the game I was intent to play, it was essential that I should be naturally off my guard; mentally obfuscated—half helpless, physically. I knew by experience how far I could venture, and of course my personation of a reckless, three-parts tipsy scamp, would, being partially real, aid the deception I meditated.
 
At last, Monsieur Durand alias Delmar, made his appearance; and glanced round the salon with his tiger, yet timid, apprehensive eyes.
 
They rested upon me with the tiger expression intensified—timidity displaced by triumph. There were not more than half-a-dozen persons in the room, and they were playing at dominoes at the furthest end of the spacious salon. Monsieur Durand came towards me, seated himself, and, with insolent familiarity, smelt at the bottle I had nearly finished.

“Thunder of Heaven!” said he; “but you, for a poor proletaire, a weaver at twelve francs a week, enjoy life rarely! Medoc, at five francs the bottle is, however, a little too bold. You will be suspected!”

“Suspected of what?”

“Of being rich—for a weaver! Don’t speak in such a high key,” he added. “The people yonder may hear you, and I have the pretension to be your sole auditor. Loud talking, moreover, will aggravate the effect of the wine you have swallowed, and I wish to have a quiet, serious talk with you.”

“Sacred Blue! go on. I am as—as—so—sober as yourself!”
 
“To be sure you are; but for all that you must listen quietly to me. I observed you at a window in the Rue Mazard yesterday.”

“And I, in—in revenge, saw you in the street staring up at the window, Monsieur Delmar, or Diable, or whatever you are. What then?”
 
“You lodge with a Madame Durand—do you not?”
 
“Yes, on the same floor. What of that?”
 
“Nothing; not much, at least. It is her son of whom you are so madly jealous.”
 
“Who told you I was jealous of Emile Durand?”

[The reader will understand, without my marking it in type, that the hiccuping was done capitally; in fact, it was genuine Medoc hiccuping. As before stated, I knew how far to venture; and though my speech was confused, my brain was perfectly clear.]

“Who told me you were jealous of Emile Durand? Why, yourself. Do you, by chance, forget the little affair of the sabots?”
 
“Malediction upon the sabots! It is very impertinent on your part to—to—”

“Softly, softly. Do you know, Theodore Duhamel, that I could easily put you in the way of being avenged on young Durand, and obtaining the charming Clarisse for yourself?”

“How!—what!” I exclaimed, springing to my feet, impelled by a partly real, partly simulated, emotion. “How! What! I do not understand!”
 
“Ah, it would be strange if you did. Perhaps you may, some fine day, perhaps never. I should require a service in return. Pray, sit down, if you would not rather fall down. Is Madame Durand married?” he added suddenly, and with a piercing look.

“Married! She is a widow. Surely you can have no wish, no intention— Bah! what am I babbling of? You are a married man. The lady I met you with is your wife.”
 
“My wife! Death of my soul, I should hope not. My wife! the devil and all his imps forbid! The little incident yesterevening,” he added, in a calmer tone, “gave me hopes that we might finally understand each other. But after all, I may be mistaken.”

“You talk riddles, Monsieur Delmar. But come, will you play me half-a-dozen games at dominoes, for what stake you please? Sacred blue, I am in the humour for anything tonight!”

Thus speaking, I pulled out of my pocket a little canvas bag, slapped it down on the table, contriving, as I did so, accidentally to loosen the string, which my practice at the loom enabled me to manage cleverly. Out rolled a number of francs, several Napoleons, and the three double Eagles!

I snatched frantically at the Eagles, but a grip of iron arrested my hand.

“Some of the plunder, eh?” hissed Durand in my ear. “No outcry, no nonsense, or I at once hand you over to the custody of gendarmes. Come with me. In one moment of time thou hast passed under the iron yoke of a master—of a pitiless master—if thou canst not find a sure way to buy his mercy. I shall first introduce you to the lady you called my wife; and only dare to utter, to hint a syllable of what I said of her. Only dare, my fine young man!”

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

“Madame Delmar,” said Durand, “I have the honour of introducing Theodore Duhamel to your notice, the young monsieur of whom you and I have more than once spoken.”
 
“Madame Delmar’s” glittering eyes, glancing from my face to his, demanded an explanation. Durand gave it in full detail.

“L’Imbécile,” exclaimed the woman, with a derisive laugh, “L’Imbécile, to allow himself to be caught in that way! Where are the bulk of the coins?” she added sharply to me. “They must form part of thy ransom from the galleys.”

“I hope madame and monsieur will have compassion upon me. It is my first offence. I am in monsieur and madame’s power; but surely the sacrifice of a poor devil like me—”

Chut. You are in our power; that is quite as true as L’Evangile. But where are the gold Eagles?”

“A confederate has left with them for Paris, where they can be safely changed. I did not know that I had one of the cursed coins in my purse.”

“Take care that thy fellow robber restores thy share, at least. If he should not, it is quite certain that the next chain-gang to Toulon or Brest will see thee harnessed in iron. En attendant, we will find work for thee.”

“Yes, that is it,” said Durand; “and Theodore Duhamel,” he continued, “will this moment write out, in his natural hand, his indenture of servitude—a confession, I mean, of his guilt, and the manner or its detection. Stop, take a glass of brandy to steady your hand. That confession shall be held in terrorem over you, to be used or not at mine or Madame Delmar’s pleasure.”

“This will do,” said he, snatching up the paper the moment I finished writing:—

“I confess that I was this evening detected by Monsieur Delmar, at the Lion D’Or, in the possession of Three Double American Gold Eagles, which belong to Monsieur Delamarecotelle.— Signed, THEODORE DUHAMEL.”

“Yes, this will do. It is firmly written . Dites-donc, ma belle,” he added; “must not this young fellow have strongish nerves to write a hand like that under such circumstances.”

“It is true. He must be an old practitioner at such enterprises, young as he is in years. A few more words must,” continued ma belle, “be added. Write, Theodore Duhamel, that the motives of M. and Madame Delmar for not instantly giving you into the custody of Justice, are that you may have an opportunity of restoring a great part of the gold you have stolen, and thereby commend yourself to the favourable consideration of the authorities. Monsieur Delmar meantime to keep strict watch over your movements; and the slightest attempt at evasion to be the signal for your arrest. Write strictly to that effect, after what mode of phrase you will.”
 
I obeyed with well-acted reluctance. As I wrote, there came a tap at the door of the apartment. Durand partially opened it, and was informed that Monsieur Delmar was wanted below for a few minutes. He left the room.

The woman, whose gaze had been fixed upon me whilst I wrote, was reading the paper when Durand came back:

“Unfortunate fool!” said she, folding the paper, and placing it in her bosom. “Unfortunate fool! I to have so stupidly stumbled into a pit of perdition, the only issue from which is to the galleys. Let me tell you what it is,” she proceeded, with a grimly-playful feline ferocity, her flashing eyes darting fire from the bottomless pit, now at me, now at Durand. “Let me tell you what it is to be condemned to the galleys. I was born at Brest, and was one of the few female employées in the Bágne there. I know, therefore, all about these veritable hells upon earth. To be a prisoner in the Bágne is to be the starved, kicked, abject slave of slaves. To wake, to sleep, to live, to die in fetters. To gnaw your own heart in bitter, bootless rage, to curse with ceaseless anethemas the father that begot, the mother who bore you—your wretched, witless self especially. And fiercest hell of all, to know, to feel, that outside the infernal walls, he or she who was chiefly instrumental in shutting you up in that dark den of torture is revelling, laughing, triumphing in the bright sunshine; that revelling, laughter, triumph, based upon, and alimented by, the certainty of your misery, despair; and that you will miserably perish with her chains upon your hands, choked with impotent fury and vain curses of your destroyer. This it is, young man,” continued the woman, after a pause for breath, and subjugating her voice and manner to comparative repose. “This it is, young man, to be condemned to the galleys a perpetuite (for life), which would be your case. Your choice is between such a fate and implicit, blind obedience to my will and that of your master.”

Clearly the fierce virago had not hurled that speech at me. It was directed at Durand, and he evidently understood and cowered beneath the terrible menace conveyed in her flaming words. Did she suspect Durand of intending to play her false; and had she power, should that suspicion be realised, to consign her paramour to the galleys? I could put no other interpretation upon her speech.
 
“You may go now, Theodore Duhamel,” said Durand, in a husky, shaking voice, “Madame Delmar and I will consult together. Tomorrow morning, at ten precisely, meet me at the Cheval Blanc. You know the house, and we can be private there.”
 
“Why can’t he meet you here?” demanded the woman.
 
“Because, ma chere, the landlord of the house has returned from Chalons. It was he who desired to speak with me below. I have not to tell you what a curious, prying fool he is.”
 
“It is well: meet at the Cheval Blanc. He,” she added, molten fire again flashing in her eyes; “he! who should he but attempt to deceive or betray me, rushes upon his fate. I have but slight fear, therefore—. Yes, you may meet at the Cheval Blanc.”

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

Whilst dispatching my breakfast the next morning, a carefully sealed note was brought to me:—
 
“Immediately T. D. leaves the Cheval Blanc, he will proceed to the Pomme d’ Or, and there await my coming. The slightest allusion by T. D. to this note in the presence of Monsieur D—r, will be equivalent to a sentence of the galleys, a perpetuite, upon himself.”

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

“I say Theodore Duhamel,” murmured I, as crumpling up the note, I thrust it into my pocket, “mind you don’t get out of your depth in these turbid, eddying currents. Yet, after all, what is there really to fear? Truly, nothing.”
 
My game is to aid the impostors in unmasking each other. And I shall win that game, if I play it with spirit and warily.”
 .     .     .     .     .     .
Durand waited for me in a private back room at the Cheval Blanc. His visage was that of a man who had not slept all night, and who was suffering from general, deep-seated disquietude.
 
I respectfully remarked upon his apparent agitation.

“You are right,” he said; “I am ill—very ill at ease—extremely nervous. That woman-fury who, between ourselves is capable of anything, has got some cursed crotchet in her head, which—. But talking to you of Adèle’s megrims will avail nothing; besides which, I am here to confer with you upon matters of supreme and pressing importance. Listen, therefore, Theodore Duhamel, with intelligence and strictest attention.”

With cool, audacious volubility, Durand ran through the story of his acquaintance with Louise Morny, the sham nuptials in which it resulted; the consideration for the same, and his subsequent extortions. Having finished so far, he added, that it was of imperative necessity that he should be, without loss of time, reconciled to Madame Durand; to be, in fact, restored to the legal status he occupied, when the civil marriage was concluded, and he had not signed and sealed the document, which, though there was doubt upon the point, was held to bar his marital rights.
 
“Really, Monsieur,” said I, finding that he expected me to make some sort of answer; “really, monsieur, I can hardly speak for astonishment. You Madame Durand’s husband! It is marvellous! confounding! But that which, monsieur, will permit me to say, puzzles me most of all, is the declaration that a reconciliation, an entire reconciliation with Madame Durand, is an imperative necessity for monsieur. Why, sapristie, she is as poor as myself.”
 
“May be so; but never mind. I must and will be received and recognised by Madame Durand as her lawful husband, and this ere twenty-four hours have elapsed. I am environed by quicksands, which may at any moment engulf me. And it is this service, Theodore Duhamel, that I will compel you to render me.”
 
“Me! compel me? How in the name of all saints, seeing that—”

“There is nothing more easy of accomplishment,” interrupted Durand. “I happen to have been informed by a Paris avocat, whom she herself consulted, that if Madame Durand should associate herself with me in friendly intimacy, that fact would be conclusive evidence that she had herself voluntarily abandoned the position of femme sole as defined by the deed. Do you understand?”

“Yes; I think I do; but still not at all, monsieur, as to why you are so anxious to indissolubly unite yourself with a middle-aged dame, who has not, perhaps, a hundred francs in the world. Above all, when I reflect that Madame Delmar—”

“Silence, fool! All that is my business, not yours, which is simply to give effect to my wishes. Madame Durand herself shall know; to tell the truth, I have no choice but to let her know why I desire this reconciliation. This very night,” added Durand, with slow, syllabic emphasis, “this very night, when the house, No. 8, Rue Mazard is quiet; when the lodgers have retired to rest, you, Theodore Duhamel, having previously organised success, will gently, softly, admit me to Madame Durand’s sleeping-room.”

“What—what is it you require of me?” I exclaimed, with real indignation. “If—if I am a robber, it is not a reason I would lend myself to—to—”

“To do that which you imagined I asked you to do. Well, you would go so far to avoid the galleys? But tranquillise yourself. I propose nothing of the kind you appear to apprehend. I meditate no outrage. It is my interest to treat Madame Durand with the utmost deference and delicacy. You may, therefore, be quite sure I shall offer her no insult, and if possible, cause her no alarm. Here, in a few sentences, is my settled programme. You will quietly admit me into the apartment at the fitting time, where I shall remain still and silent for, say three of four hours. We will settle the exact time hereafter, so that you and others may be at hand to prove that I have been in the apartment so many hours, less or more. Good! I shall at the expiration of the time agreed upon, awake Madame Durand, and calmly explain. She will comprehend that, spite of all she could say, or swear, my marital right would be in the eye of the law restored, and that not only her son, but herself, was completely in my power. I, moreover, acquaint her, frankly, with my reasons for having recourse to such a stratagem, and if after that she prove obstinate, unreasonable, I purpose an honourable compromise, which there cannot be the shadow of a doubt she will joyfully accept. Now leave me, Theodore Duhamel. Minor details we can arrange this evening. You for that purpose will be here at seven precisely. Fail in that, or other essential particular, you are a lost man, and it is I that tell you so, I, Pierre Durand, who never yet failed to carry out any evil design I had promised to execute.”

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

I trod on air as I left the fellow’s hated presence. A splendid device had darted like a sunbeam through my brain. O, it was a thousand times true that I had found my real vocation. A delicious device compared with which that of the Double-Eagles, (which was, after all, suggested by Alphonse Falzette’s mischance,) was mere silliness. I would catch clever Monsieur Durand in the net of his own weaving. A device too, as facile of accomplishment as to draw on one’s glove. Bertin—to be sure—Bertin, our upstairs lodger, philanthropic politician and inimitable imitator of voices, should “for this time only,” personate Madame Durand. There would be merely starlight; Durand had not heard his wife’s voice for twenty years, and the good Bertin would hide his head under the bedclothes, and ejaculate only piercing sighs and sobs, and broken sentences, and timid questions, till having drained that devil Durand quite dry, I should pass into the room with a lamp, and Bontemps, uplifting his comical phiz, would beg Durand’s pardon for having stolen upon his confidence in the guise of a lady! That, if you please, will be a coup de theatre well worth witnessing. O Monsieur Durand—Monsieur Durand, if ever knave slumbered securely in a fool’s paradise—thou art that knave, at this moment!

I could have shouted with delight, and was in sober fact, so carried away, that though I might have found my way blindfold, I took three or four wrong turnings, and when at last I recovered myself, was as far from the Pomme d’ Or, as when I quitted La Cheval Blanc.
 
That was easily remedied, and in good time, I reached the appointed rendezvous, where soi-disant Madame Delmar had arrived some half hour before.

“Close the door; speak in a whisper, and tell me precisely what has passed between you and Delmar,” said the woman, in her stern, peremptory way.

I complied to the letter; she listening in grim silence, making no sign, save by the firmer compression of her thin lip, and fire-flashing eyes.

“I must,” said she, “be an unseen, unsuspected witness of the interview between Durand and his so-called wife. I must, I say, hear every syllable that passes, and I will. I suspect treachery. No matter to you of what nature or towards whom. I insist, Theodore Duhamel, upon your devising some method by which I shall be an unseen auditor of all that passes.”
 
A few moments reflection showed me that nothing would be risked, and something might be gained by acceding to the willful woman’s demand. The affair might also be quite easily managed. I intimated obedience; she imagining, of course, like Durand, that I had no choice between the most slavish submission to her commands, and the galleys. A meeting for about midnight was arranged, and we parted.
 
That was a busy day for me. Madame Durand and Emile were to be sent away, without the lodgers suspecting they were gone for the night—that dear Bertin had to be fully instructed in his part—and it would be necessary to unscrew the door of a closet leading out of the apartment where Madame Durand slept. Her bed would then be drawn across the opening which was perfectly concealed by the blue check curtain of the bed. That closet opened into Emile’s bedroom, through which, of course, access, could be quietly gained to it, and when the moment arrived for the grand music to strike up, I, and Madame Delmar, could in a moment burst upon the scene; the stage lights going up at the same moment. Another advantage was that till our counterfeit Tarquin—a counterfeit in that as in most other things—advanced towards the bed, and awoke the supposed slumbering woman, neither I, nor Madame Delmar, would need remain in such dangerous proximity to the scene of action, that a cough, or sneeze, might spoil the play. Bertin assured me that in that respect he was safe as a stone-image.

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

At twelve o’clock—midnight, M. Durand was stealthily ushered into the room in his stockings. At two precisely, by his repeater-watch, set by our wooden clock, he was to open the game, and I be ready to confirm his assertion, that he had been there two hours. “Other little oaths, you must not strain at,” said he, as I helped him off with his boots.

“Ha! well thought of,” he added. “I promised you, in the event of success, the hand of Clarisse Dubourg. That promise shall be kept. Emile, two hours from hence, will be at my disposition. He shall resign his pretensions in your favour.”
 
It is a fact, and shows what an oddly compounded being I must have been, in the bel-age, if not now, that it was with an effort I prevented myself from dealing a savage blow on his insolent, boasting lips. He—swindler! scoundrel!—pretend to barter Clarisse Dubourg as one might a bale of goods! Disgusting! Insufferable!

*                  *                  *                  *                 *                  *

The old clock has warned for two o’clock. Madame Delmar, as I may continue to call her, has stolen with me into the closet. I have a shaded lantern with me, but her eyes positively glisten through the darkness, as would those of an aroused, watchful wild beast.
 
We could hear a pin fall in the adjoining chamber; but no pin falls. Presently, the whirr of the wooden clock breaks the silence; and, as one, two, chime out, a step crosses the creaking floor—poor, ricketty structures were the houses in Rue Mazard, Croix Rousse— a soft step in the direction of the bed.
 
“Madame! Madame!” says Durand, gently at first; soon louder, louder, and seems to be shaking the sleeper. “Madame! Madame!”
 
“Eh! eh! O, my God!” gasps a woman’s voice, with the most natural little scream, so natural that I, for half a moment, fancy that Madame Durand may have returned home and gone to her bed.
 
“Do not, Madame, alarm yourself. It is I, your husband, Durand, who you know has been for some time in Lyon. In this room, I have, proveably, been over two hours. You, Madame, are, I know, fully aware of the legal consequences of that fact.”
 
“Emile! Emile! help—help my son!” gurgles, stifledly, a trembling voice, the owner of which had evidently buried her (his) head beneath the bedclothes.
 
“Folly to call for your son, Madame. Listen rather to me; and, I beseech you, with attention and patience. Permit me to hand you this flask of choice wine—a draught of it may steady your nerves; and it is of immense importance that you and I should at once come to a definitive understanding and arrangement.”
 
That infernal wine! I was sure Bertin could not resist the temptation. The glug-glug, which told of its passage down his thirsty throat, though it terribly vexed, did not in the least surprise me. The cheat would now be discovered, and we should be foiled after all. Madame Delmar emitted a low, derisive laugh, close to my ear, whispering, “This, my virtuous madame, is a drunkard also, it would appear.”
 
Bertin had the sense to push the flask off the bed on the opposite side to where Durand stood, so that it could not be known that he had emptied it. What was still better, the acceptance of his wine emboldened Durand, whose tone became, at once, comparatively loud and confident.
 
“You are aware, Madame, I repeat, of the legal construction that will be placed upon the fact of my being here, as described?”
 
“Yes—yes,” murmured the broken, plaintive voice, “I am in your power, as my son was, and is. We are lost—lost!”
 
“Not so, madame. A happy future may be yours –to be shared by me!”
 
The feline blaze of the eyes, close in front of mine, burned with intenser glow, and I fancied I heard the grinding of the woman’s teeth.
 
“A happy future! Helas! I am a poor outcast. Emile—Emile!”
 
“Would you share opulence with me, Louise, had it perchance fallen from the clouds to my lot?”
 
“Ah, I do not know! Emile, my son, come to thy mother. Yes, perhaps—I do not know. What fortune?”
 
“You admit, Louise, that you are now completely in my power—that any fortune that may have been bequeathed to you, is in fact mine!”
 
“Yes—yes—I do not know. Call my son—Emile! Emile!”
 
“Well, a large fortune, eighty thousand francs (£3,200) has been bequeathed you by Madame de Beaupré. She died about a month since, and the trustees do not even yet know where you are domiciled. Now, I know your word can be trusted. Will you, then, promise to leave Lyon with me for England tomorrow, and there share this fortune with me and your son. I can, no doubt, by process of law, secure it for myself; but, I have reasons for leaving France immediately—pressing, peremptory reasons; besides, I wish to behave fairly to you, Louise. I am not so bad a man as circumstances may have led you to believe. My passport is en regle, yours can be readily vised in the morning—we can be gone at once.”

“But Mon Dieu!” sobbed the poor woman, “I was told you were married again, under the name of Delmar, to a much younger woman than I, and beautiful.”
 
“Beautiful!” interrupted Durand, with explosion. “In my eyes, she is the ugliest, deadliest viper that ever crawled! It is, above all, to be quit of her that I purpose leaving Lyon tomorrow. She expects that I will beggar you to enrich her. I—married to the vicious harlot–”

The “vicious harlot,” whose panting breath might, I had feared, have revealed her near presence too soon, snatched the shaded lantern from my hand, wrenched back its screen, as well as the intervening curtain, and leaped, like the tigress she was, across the narrow pallet.

“Arrest this felon,” she screamed, rushing at, and grappling Durand with her disengaged hand. “He is Louvain, an escaped forçat from the Bàgne, at Brest—the murderer of Professor Cazou!”
 
The light of the blazing lamp suddenly revealed, not only Madame Delmar and myself, but the honest, staring visage of Bertin, Madame Durand’s representative, who, not having been aware of the woman’s presence, started up in bed, night-cap covered, in surprise, if not alarm.
 
For a few seconds, Durand was utterly confounded; but quickly comprehending it all, he darted at me a look of diabolical ferocity, and made a resolute effort to shake off his infuriate assailant. This was not so easily effected; and in another moment I and Bertin should have grappled him.
 
All that had passed like a stroke of lightning. So did the gleam of Durand’s knife, as he raised and plunged it, with a horrible malediction, into his paramour’s bosom. She fell off from him into my outstretched arms with a fearful scream. The lamp, falling from her hand, was extinguished, and we were, from its suddenness, in almost total darkness. Another scream of agony—Bertin was struck on the shoulder with the ruffian’s knife—a blow, I have no doubt, intended for myself. Durand then rushed from the room, bounded down the stairs, let himself out, and escaped—for the time!

 Madame Truchet (this, it appeared, was the unfortunate woman’s real name) was borne to the Maison Dieu, where she expired before noon the next day. She had, by her own avowal, aided Durand’s escape from the Bàgne at Brest, where he had been confined during the greatest part of the twelve years he had remained away from Paris, to the great satisfaction of his nominal wife. He had been sentenced, under the name of Louvain, to the galleys for life, for the murder and robbery of Professor Cazou, of Rouen, Normandy –the jury, who convicted him, having found that there were “extenuating circumstances.” Either, too, I misinterpreted the broken phrases which fell from the dying woman’s lips, or she was a widow and the mother of a grown-up son.
 
Bertin’s wound was not a very serious one; and Madame Durand was generous to him, as well as to myself, when she obtained possession, in which there was no difficulty, of the deceased Madame De Beaupré’s bequest. Clarisse Dubourg. I need hardly say, espoused Emile, and a most amiable wife and managing mother she makes.
 
A satisfactory understanding, with M. Delamarecotelle’s assistance (my confession having been found upon Adele Truchet’s person) was arrived at between me and the authorities, by whom my ingenuity was strongly recommended, with, however, this qualification that, when preparing the piege for Durand, I should have secured the services of a couple of gendarmes in readiness to act in case of necessity. Thus it was that I became a French Detective Officer.

From Experiences of a French Detective Officer by William Russell. New York: Dick & Fitgerald, 1864. 18-66.

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.