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List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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doctor.  I was alone; I might have been accused, imprisoned, perhaps
condemned for a crime I did not commit.  Do not ruin me!  You leave
Paris to-night, you need not be uneasy; no one would know that I
employed you, if this unhappy affair should ever be discovered.  I do
not know your name, I do not wish to know it, and I tell you mine, it
is Ducoudray.  I give myself up to you, but have some pity!--if not
for me, yet for my wife and my two little children--for these poor
creatures whose only support I am!"

Seeing that the mason was touched, Derues opened the chest.

"Look," he said, "examine the body of this woman, does it show any
mark of violent death?  My God!" he continued, joining his hands and
in tones of despairing agony,--"my God, Thou who readest all hearts,
and who knowest my innocence, canst Thou not ordain a miracle to save
an honest man?  Wilt Thou not command this dead body to bear witness
for me?"

The mason was stupefied by this flow of language.  Unable to restrain
his tears, he promised to keep silence, persuaded that Derues was
innocent, and that appearances only were against him.  The latter,
moreover, did not neglect other means of persuasion; he handed the
mason two gold pieces, and between them they buried the body of
Madame de Lamotte.

However extraordinary this fact, which might easily be supposed
imaginary, may appear, it certainly happened.  In the examination at
his trial.  Derues himself revealed it, repeating the story which had
satisfied the mason.  He believed that this man had denounced him: he
was mistaken, for this confidant of his crime, who might have been
the first to put justice on his track, never reappeared, and but for
Derues' acknowledgment his existence would have remained unknown.

This first deed accomplished, another victim was already appointed.
Trembling at first as to the consequences of his forced confession,
Derues waited some days, paying, however, his creditor as promised.
He redoubles his demonstrations of piety, he casts a furtive glance
on everyone he meets, seeking for some expression of distrust.  But
no one avoids him, or points him out with a raised finger, or
whispers on seeing him; everywhere he encounters the customary
expression of goodwill.  Nothing has changed; suspicion passes over
his head without alighting there.  He is reassured, and resumes his
work.  Moreover, had he wished to remain passive, he could not have
done so; he was now compelled to follow that fatal law of crime which
demands that blood must be effaced with blood, and which is compelled
to appeal again to death in order to stifle the accusing voice
already issuing from the tomb.

Edouard de Lamotte, loving his mother as much as she loved him,
became uneasy at receiving no visits, and was astonished at this
sudden indifference.  Derues wrote to him as follows:

"I have at length some good news for you, my dear boy, but you must
not tell your mother I have betrayed her secret; she would scold me,
because she is planning a surprise for you, and the various steps and
care necessary in arranging this important matter have caused her
absence.  You were to know nothing until the 11th or 12th of this
month, but now that all is settled, I should blame myself if I
prolonged the uncertainty in which you have been left, only you must
promise me to look as much astonished as possible.  Your mother, who
only lives for you, is going to present you with the greatest gift a
youth of your age can receive--that of liberty.  Yes, dear boy, we
thought we had discovered that you have no very keen taste for study,
and that a secluded life will suit neither your character nor your
health.  In saying this I utter no reproach, for every man is born
with his own decided tastes, and the way to success and happiness
is-often-to allow him to follow these instincts.  We have had long
discussions on this subject--your mother and I--and we have thought
much about your future; she has at last come to a decision, and for
the last ten days has been at Versailles, endeavouring to obtain your
admission as a royal page.  Here is the mystery, this is the reason
which has kept her from you, and as she knew you would hear it with
delight, she wished to have the pleasure of telling you herself.
Therefore, once again, when you see her, which will be very soon, do
not let her see I have told you; appear to be greatly surprised.  It
is true that I am asking you to tell a lie, but it is a very innocent
one, and its good intention will counteract its sinfulness--may God
grant we never have worse upon our consciences!  Thus, instead of
lessons and the solemn precepts of your tutors, instead of a
monotonous school-life, you are going to enjoy your liberty; also the
pleasures of the court and the world.  All that rather alarms me, and
I ought to confess that I at first opposed this plan.  I begged your
mother  to reflect, to consider that in this new existence you would
run great risk of losing the religious feeling which inspires you,
and which I have had the happiness, during my sojourn at Buisson-
Souef, of  further developing in your mind.  I still recall with
emotion your fervid and sincere aspirations towards the Creator when
you approached the Sacred Table for the first time, and when,
kneeling beside you, and envying the purity of heart and innocence of
soul which appeared to animate your countenance as with a divine
radiance, I besought God that, in default of my own virtue, the love
for heavenly Truth with which I have inspired you might be reckoned
to my account.  Your piety is my work,  Edouard, and I defended it
against your mother's plans; but she replied that in every career a
man is master of his own good or evil actions; and as I have no
authority over you, and friendship only gives me the right to advise,
I must give way.  If this be your vocation, then follow it.

"My occupations are so numerous (I have to collect from different
sources this hundred thousand livres intended to defray the greater
part of the Buisson purchase) that I have not a moment in which to
come and see you this week.  Spend the time in reflection, and write
to me fully what you think about this plan.  If, like me, you feel
any scruples, you must tell them to your mother, who decidedly wants
only to make you happy.  Speak to me freely, openly.  It is arranged
that I am to fetch you on the 11th of this month, and escort you to
Versailles, where Madame de Lamotte will be waiting to receive you
with the utmost tenderness.  Adieu, dear boy; write to me.  Your
father knows nothing as yet; his consent will be asked after your
decision."

The answer to this letter did not have to be waited for: it was such
as Derues expected; the lad accepted joyfully.  The answer was, for
the murderer, an arranged plea of defence, a proof which, in a given
case, might link the present with the past.

On the morning of February 11th, Shrove Tuesday, he went to fetch the
young de Lamotte from his school, telling the master that he was
desired by the youth's mother to conduct him to Versailles.  But,
instead, he took him to his own house, saying that he had a letter
from Madame de Lamotte asking them not to come  till the next day; so
they started on Ash Wednesday, Edouard having breakfasted on
chocolate.  Arrived at Versailles, they stopped at the Fleur-de-lys
inn, but there the sickness which the boy had complained of during
the journey became very  serious, and the innkeeper, having young
children,  and believing that he recognised symptoms of smallpox,
which just then was ravaging Versailles, refused to receive them,
saying he had no vacant room.  This might have disconcerted anyone
but Derues, but his audacity, activity, and resource seemed to
increase with each fresh obstacle.  Leaving Edouard in a room on the
ground floor which had no communication with the rest of the inn, he
went at once to look for lodgings, and hastily explored the town.
After a fruitless search, he found at last, at the junction of the
rue Saint-Honore with that of the Orangerie, a cooper named Martin,
who had a furnished room to spare.  This he hired at thirty sous per
day for himself and his nephew, who had been taken suddenly ill,
under the  name of Beaupre.  To avoid being questioned later,  he
informed the cooper in a few words that he was a doctor; that he had
come to Versailles in order to place his nephew in one of the offices
of the town; that in a few days the latter's mother would arrive to
join him in seeing and making application to influential persons
about the court, to whom he had letters of introduction.  As soon as
he had delivered this fable with all the appearance of truth with
which he knew so well how to disguise his falsehoods, he went back to
the young de Lamotte, who was already so exhausted that he was hardly
able to drag himself as far as the cooper's house.  He fainted on
arrival, and was carried into the hired room, where Derues begged to
be left alone with him, and only asked for certain beverages which he
told the people how to prepare.

Whether it was that the strength of youth fought against the poison,
or that Derues took pleasure in watching the sufferings of his
victim, the agony of the poor lad was prolonged until the fourth day.
The sickness continuing incessantly, he sent the cooper's wife for a
medicine which he prepared and administered himself.  It produced
terrible pain, and Edouard's cries brought the cooper and his wife
upstairs.  They represented to Derues that he ought to call in a
doctor and consult with him, but he refused decidedly, saying that a
doctor hastily fetched might prove to be an ignorant person with whom
he could not agree, and that he could not allow one so dear to him to
be prescribed for and nursed by anyone but himself.

"I know what the malady is," he continued, raising his eyes to
heaven; "it is one that has to be concealed rather than acknowledged.
Poor youth! whom I love as my own son, if God, touched by my tears
and thy suffering, permits me to save thee, thy whole life will be
too short for thy blessings and thy gratitude!"  And as Madame Martin

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