List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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guilty, you will ruin me if I do not speak?"

"It is true."

" There is still time for reflection; consider what you are doing; I
will forget your insults and your anger.  Your trouble is great
enough without my reproaches being added to it.  But you desire that
I should speak, you desire it absolutely?"

"I do desire it."

"Very well, then; it shall be as you wish."

Derues surveyed Monsieur de Lamotte with a look which seemed to say,
"I pity you." He then added, with a sigh--

"I am now ready to answer.  Your Honour, will you have the kindness
to resume my examination?"

Derues had succeeded in taking up an advantageous position.  If he
had begun narrating the extraordinary romance he had invented, the
least penetrating eye must have perceived its improbability, and one
would have felt it required some support at every turn.  But since he
had resisted being forced to tell it, and apparently only ceded to
Monsieur de Lamotte's violent persistency, the situation was changed;
and this refusal to speak, coming from a man who thereby compromised
his personal safety, took the semblance of generosity, and was likely
to arouse the magistrate's curiosity and prepare his mind for unusual
and mysterious revelations.  This was exactly what Derues wanted, and
he awaited the interrogation with calm and tranquillity.

"Why did you leave Paris?" the magistrate demanded a second time.

"I have already had the honour to inform you that important business
necessitated my absence."

"But you refused to explain the nature of this business.  Do you
still persist in this refusal?"

"For the moment, yes.  I will explain it later."

"Where have you been?  Whence do you return?"

"I have been to Lyons, and have returned thence."

"What took you there?

"I will tell you later."

"In the month of December last, Madame de Lamotte and her son came to

"That is so."

"They both lodged in your house?"

"I have no reason to deny it."

"But neither she herself, nor Monsieur de Lamotte, had at first
intended that she should accept a lodging in the house which you

"That is quite true.  We had important accounts to settle, and Madame
de Lamotte told me afterwards that she feared some dispute on the
question of money might arise between us--at least, that is the
reason she gave me.  She was mistaken, as the event proved, since I
always intended to pay, and I have paid.  But she may have had
another reason which she preferred not to give."

"It was the distrust of this man which she felt," exclaimed Monsieur
de Lamotte.  Derues answered only with a melancholy smile.

"Silence, monsieur," said the magistrate, "silence; do not
interrupt."  Then addressing Derues--

"Another motive?  What motive do you suppose?"

"Possibly she preferred to be more free, and able to receive any
visitor she wished."

"What do you mean?"

"It is only supposition on my part, I do not insist upon it."

"But the supposition appears to contain a hint injurious to Madame de
Lamotte's reputation?"

"No, oh no!" replied Derues, after a moment's silence.

This sort of insinuation appeared strange to the magistrate, who
resolved to try and force Derues to abandon these treacherous
reticences behind which he sheltered himself.  Again recommending
silence to Monsieur de Lamotte, he continued to question Derues, not
perceiving that he was only following the lead skilfully given by the
latter, who drew him gradually on by withdrawing himself, and that
all the time thus gained was an advantage to the accused.

"Well," said the magistrate, "whatever Madame de Lamotte's motives
may have been, it ended in her coming to stay with you.  How did you
persuade her to take this step?"

"My wife accompanied her first to the Hotel de France, and then to
other hotels.  I said no more than might be deemed allowable in a
friend; I could not presume to persuade her against her will.  When I
returned home, I was surprised to find her there with her son.  She
could not find a disengaged room in any of the hotels she tried, and
she then accepted my offer."

"What date was this?"

"Monday, the 16th of last December."

"And when did she leave your house?"

"On the 1st of February."

"The porter cannot remember having seen her go out on that day."

"That is possible.  Madame de Lamotte went and came as her affairs
required.  She was known, and no more attention would be paid to her
than to any other inmate."

"The porter also says that for several days before this date she was
ill, and obliged to keep her room?"

"Yes, it was a slight indisposition, which had no results, so slight
that it seemed unnecessary to call in a doctor.  Madame de Lamotte
appeared preoccupied and anxious.  I think her mental attitude
influenced her health."

"Did you escort her to Versailles?"

"No; I went there to see her later."

"What proof can you give of her having actually stayed there?"

"None whatever, unless it be a letter which I received from her."

"You told Monsieur de, Lamotte that she was exerting herself to
procure her son's admission either as a king's page or into the
riding school.  Now, no one at Versailles has seen this lady, or even
heard of her."

"I only repeated what she told me."

"Where was she staying?"

"I do not know."

"What!  she wrote to you, you went to see her, and yet you do not
know where she was lodging?"

"That is so."

"But it is impossible."

"There are many things which would appear impossible if I were to
relate them, but which are true, nevertheless."

"Explain yourself."

"I only received one letter from Madame de Lamotte, in which she
spoke of her plans for Edouard, requesting me to send her her son on
a day she fixed, and I told Edouard of her projects.  Not being able
to go to the school to see him, I wrote, asking if he would like to
give up his studies and become a royal page.  When I was last at
Buisson-Souef, I showed his answer to Monsieur de Lamotte; it is

And he handed over a letter to the magistrate, who read it, and
passing it on to Monsieur de Lamotte, inquired--

"Did you then, and do you now, recognise your son's handwriting?"

"Perfectly, monsieur."

"You took Edouard to Versailles?"

"I did."

"On what day?"

"February 11th, Shrove Tuesday.  It is the only time I have been to
Versailles.  The contrary might be supposed; for I have allowed it to
be understood that I have often seen Madame de Lamotte since she left
my house, and was acquainted with all her actions, and that the
former confidence and friendship still existed between us.  In
allowing this, I have acted a lie, and transgressed the habitual
sincerity of my whole life."

This assertion produced a bad impression on the magistrate.  Derues
perceived it, and to avert evil consequences, hastened to add--

"My conduct can only be appreciated when it is known in entirety.  I
misunderstood the meaning of Madame de Lamotte's letter.  She asked
me to send her her son, I thought to oblige her by accompanying him,
and not leaving him to go alone.  So we travelled together, and
arrived at Versailles about midday.  As I got down from the coach I
saw Madame de Lamotte at the palace gate, and observed, to my
astonishment, that my presence displeased her.  She was not alone."

He stopped, although he had evidently reached the most interesting
point of his story.

"Go on," said the magistrate; "why do you stop now?"

"Because what I have to say is so painful--not to me, who have to
justify myself, but for others, that I hesitate."

"Go on."

"Will you then interrogate me, please?"

"Well, what happened in this interview?"

Derues appeared to collect himself for a moment, and then said with
the air of a man who has decide on speaking out at last--

"Madame de Lamotte was not alone; she was attended by a gentleman
whom I did not know, whom I never saw either at Buisson-Souef or in
Paris, and whom I have never seen again since.  I will ask you to
allow me to recount everything; even to the smallest details.  This
man's face struck me at once, on account of a singular resemblance;
he paid no attention to me at first, and I was able to examine him at
leisure.  His manners were those of a man belonging to the highest
classes of society, and his dress indicated wealth.  On seeing
Edouard, he said to Madame de Lamotte--

"'So this is he?' and he then kissed him tenderly.  This and the
marks of undisguised pleasure which he evinced surprised me, and I
looked at Madame de Lamotte, who then remarked with some asperity--

"'I did not expect to see you, Monsieur Derues.  I had not asked you
to accompany my son.'

"Edouard seemed quite as much surprised as I was.  The stranger gave
me a look of haughty annoyance, but seeing I did not avoid his glance
his countenance assumed a more gentle expression, and Madame de
Lamotte introduced him as a person who took great interest in

"It is a whole tissue of imposture!" exclaimed Monsieur de Lamotte.

"Allow me to finish," answered Derues.  "I understand your doubts,
and that you are not anxious to believe what I say, but I have been
brought here by legal summons to tell the truth, and I am going to
tell it.  You can then weigh the two accusations in the balance, and
choose between them.  The reputation of an honourable man is as
sacred, as important, as worthy of credit as the reputation of a
woman, and I never heard that the virtue of the one was more fragile
than that of the other."

Monsieur de Lamotte, thunderstruck by such a revelation, could not
contain his impatience and indignation.

"This, then," he said, "is the explanation of an anonymous letter
which I received, and of the injurious suggestions' concerning my
wife's honour which it contained; it was written to give an
appearance of probability to this infamous legend.  The whole thing
is a disgraceful plot, and no doubt Monsieur Derues wrote the letter

"I know nothing about it," said Derues unconcernedly, "and the
explanation which you profess to find in it I should rather refer to

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