List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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with some great misfortune; and just now, when you came in, I could
think only of death.  What is the cause of this languor and weakness?
It is surely no temporary ailment.  Tell me the truth: am I not
dreadfully altered? and do you not think my husband will be shocked
when he sees me like this?"

"You are unnecessarily anxious," replied Derues; "it is rather a
failing of yours.  Did I not see you last year tormenting yourself
about Edouard's health, when he was not even thinking of being ill?
I am not so soon alarmed.  My own old profession, and that of
chemistry, which I studied in my youth, have given me some
acquaintance with medicine.  I have frequently been consulted, and
have prescribed for patients whose condition was supposed to be
desperate, and I can assure you I have never seen a better and
stronger constitution than yours.  Try to calm yourself, and do not
call up chimeras; because a mind at ease is the greatest enemy of
illness.  This depression will pass, and then you will regain your

"May God grant it! for I feel weaker every day."

"We have still some business to transact together.  The notary at
Beauvais writes that the difficulties which prevented his paying over
the inheritance of my wife's relation, Monsieur Duplessis, have
mostly disappeared.  I have a hundred thousand livres at my
disposal,--that is to say, at yours,--and in a month at latest I
shall be able to pay off my debt.  You ask me to be sincere," he
continued, with a tinge of reproachful irony; "be sincere in your
turn, madame, and acknowledge that you and your husband have both
felt uneasy, and that the delays I have been obliged to ask for have
not seemed very encouraging to you?"

"It is true," she replied; "but we never questioned your good

"And you were right.  One is not always able to carry out one's
intentions; events can always upset our calculations; but what really
is in our power is the desire to do right--to be honest; and I can
say that I never intentionally wronged anyone.  And now.  I am happy
in being able to fulfil my promises to you.  I trust when I am the
owner of Buisson-Souef you will not feel obliged to leave it."

"Thank you; I should like to come occasionally, for all my happy
recollections are connected with it.  Is it necessary for me to
accompany you to Beauvais?"

"Why should you not?  The change would do you good."

She looked up at him and smiled sadly.  "I am not in a fit state to
undertake it."

"Not if you imagine that you are unable, certainly.  Come, have you
any confidence in me?"

"The most complete confidence, as you know."

"Very well, then: trust to my care.  This very evening I will prepare
a draught for you to take to-morrow morning, and I will even now fix
the duration of this terrible malady which frightens you so much.  In
two days I shall fetch Edouard from his school to celebrate the
beginning of your convalescence, and we will start, at latest, on
February 1st.  You are astonished at what I say, but you shall see if
I am not a good doctor, and much cleverer than many who pass for such
merely because the have obtained a diploma."

"Then, doctor, I will place myself in your hands."

"Remember what I say.  You will leave this on February 1st."

"To begin this cure, can you ensure my sleeping to-night?"

"Certainly.  I will go now, and send my wife to you.  She will bring
a draught, which you must promise to take."

"I will exactly follow your prescriptions.  Goodnight, my friend."

"Good-night, madame; and take courage"; and bowing low, he left the

The rest of the evening was spent in preparing the fatal medicine.
The next morning, an hour or two after Madame de Lamotte had
swallowed it, the maid who had given it to her came and told Derues
the invalid was sleeping very heavily and snoring, and asked if she
ought to be awoke.  He went into the room, and, opening the curtains,
approached the bed.  He listened for some time, and recognised that
the supposed snoring was really he death-rattle.  He sent the servant
off into the country with a letter to one of his friends, telling her
not to return until the Monday following, February 3rd.  He also sent
away his wife, on some unknown pretext, and remained alone with his

So terrible a situation ought to have troubled the mind of the most
hardened criminal.  A man familiar with murder and accustomed to shed
blood might have felt his heart sink, and, in the absence of pity,
might have experienced disgust at the sight of this prolonged and
useless torture; but Derues, calm and easy, as if unconscious of
evil, sat coolly beside the bed, as any doctor might have done.  From
time to time he felt the slackening pulse, and looked at the glassy
and sightless eyes which turned in their orbits, and he saw without
terror the approach of night, which rendered this awful 'tete-a-tete'
even more horrible.  The most profound silence reigned in the house,
the street was deserted, and the only sound heard was caused by an
icy rain mixed with snow driven against the glass, and occasionally
the howl of the wind, which penetrated the chimney and scattered the
ashes.  A single candle placed behind the curtains lighted this
dismal scene, and the irregular flicker of its flame cast weird
reflections and dancing shadows an the walls of the alcove.  There
came a lull in the wind, the rain ceased, and during this instant of
calm someone knocked, at first gently, and then sharply, at the outer
door.  Derues dropped the dying woman's hand and bent forward to
listen.  The knock was repeated, and he grew pale.  He threw the
sheet, as if it were a shroud, over his victim's head drew the
curtains of the alcove, and went to the door.  "Who is there?" he

"Open, Monsieur Derues," said a voice which he recognised as that of
a woman of Chartres whose affairs he managed, and who had entrusted
him with sundry deeds in order that he might receive the money due to
her.  This woman had begun to entertain doubts as to Derues' honesty,
and as she was leaving Paris the next day, had resolved to get the
papers out of his hands.

"Open the door," she repeated.  "Don't you know my voice?"

"I am sorry I cannot let you in.  My servant is out: she has taken
the key and locked the door outside."

"You must let me in," the woman continued; "it is absolutely
necessary I should speak to you."

"Come to-morrow."

"I leave Paris to-morrow, and I must have those papers to-night."

He again refused, but she spoke firmly and decidedly.  "I must come
in.  The porter said you were all out, but, from the rue des
Menetriers I could see the light in your room.  My brother is with
me, and I left him below.  I shall call him if you don't open the

"Come in, then," said Derues; "your papers are in the sitting-room.
Wait here, and I will fetch them."  The woman looked at him and took
his hand.  "Heavens! how pale you are!  What is the matter?"

"Nothing is the matter: will you wait here?  "But she would not
release his arm, and followed him into the sitting-room, where Derues
began to seek hurriedly among the various papers which covered a
table.  "Here they are," he said; "now you can go."

"Really," said the woman, examining her deeds carefully, "never yet
did I see you in such a hurry to give up things which don't belong to
you.  But do hold that candle steadily; your hand is shaking so that
I cannot see to read."

At that moment the silence which prevailed all round was broken by a
cry of anguish, a long groan proceeding from the chamber to the right
of the sitting-room.

"What is that?" cried the woman.  "Surely it is a dying person!"

The sense of the danger which threatened made Derues pull himself
together.  "Do not be alarmed," he said.  "My wife has been seized
with a violent fever; she is quite delirious now, and that is why I
told the porter to let no one come up."

But the groans in the next room continued, and the unwelcome visitor,
overcome by terror which she could neither surmount nor explain, took
a hasty leave, and descended the staircase with all possible
rapidity.  As soon as he could close the door, Derues returned to the

Nature frequently collects all her expiring strength at the last
moment of existence.  The unhappy lady struggled beneath her
coverings; the agony she suffered had given her a convulsive energy,
and inarticulate sounds proceeded from her mouth.  Derues approached
and held her on the bed.  She sank back on the pillow, shuddering
convulsively, her hands plucking and twisting the sheets, her teeth
chattering and biting the loose hair which fell over her face and
shoulders.  "Water! water!" she cried; and then, "Edouard,--my
husband!--Edouard!--is it you?" Then rising with a last effort, she
seized her murderer by the arm, repeating, "Edouard!--oh!" and then
fell heavily, dragging Derues down with her.  His face was against
hers; he raised his head, but the dying hand, clenched in agony, had
closed upon him like a vise. The icy fingers seemed made of iron and
could not be opened, as though the victim had seized on her assassin
as a prey, and clung to the proof of his crime.

Derues at last freed himself, and putting his hand on her heart, "It
is over," he remarked; "she has been a long time about it.  What
o'clock is it?  Nine!  She has struggled against death for twelve

While the limbs still retained a little warmth, he drew the feet
together, crossed the hands on the breast, and placed the body in the
chest.  When he had locked it up, he remade the bed, undressed
himself, and slept comfortably in the other one.

The next day, February 1st, the day he had fixed for the "going out"
of Madame de Lamotte, he caused the chest to be placed on a hand-cart
and carried at about ten o'clock in the morning to the workshop of a
carpenter of his acquaintance called Mouchy, who dwelt near the
Louvre.  The two commissionaires employed had been selected in
distant quarters, and did not know each other.  They were well paid,
and each presented with a bottle of wine.  These men could never be

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