Make your own free website on

List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

something else I am going to mention.  I did not know a secret
warning had been sent to you: I now learn it from you, and I
understand perfectly that such a letter, may have been written.  But
that you have received such a warning ought surely to be a reason for
listening patiently and not denouncing all I say as imposture."

While saying this Derues mentally constructed the fresh falsehood
necessitated by the interruption, but no variation of countenance
betrayed his thought.  He had an air of dignity natural to his
position.  He saw that, in spite of clear-headedness and long
practice in studying the most deceptive countenances, the magistrate
so far had not scented any of his falsehoods, and was getting
bewildered in the windings of this long narrative, through which
Derues led him as he chose; and he resumed with confidence--

"You know that I made Monsieur de Lamotte's acquaintance more than a
year ago, and I had reason to believe his friendship as sincere as my
own.  As a friend, I could not calmly accept the suspicion which then
entered my mind, nor could I conceal my surprise.  Madame de Lamotte
saw this, and understood from my looks that I was not satisfied with
the explanation she wished me to accept.  A glance of intelligence
passed between her and her friend, who was still holding Edouard's
hand.  The day, though cold, was fine, and she proposed a walk in the
park.  I offered her my arm, and the stranger walked in front with
Edouard.  We had a short conversation, which has remained indelibly
fixed in my memory.

"'Why did you come?' she inquired.

"I did not answer, but looked sternly at her, in order to discompose
her.  At length I said--

"'You should have written, madame, and warned me that my coming would
be indiscreet.'

"She seemed much disconcerted, and exclaimed--

"'I am lost!  I see you guess everything, and will tell my husband.
I am an unhappy woman, and a sin once committed can never be erased
from the pages of a woman's life!  Listen, Monsieur Derues, listen, I
implore you!  You see this man, I shall not tell you who he is, I
shall not give his name .  .  .  but I loved him long ago; I should
have been his wife, and had he not been compelled to leave France, I
should have married no one else.'"

Monsieur de Lamotte started, and grew pale.

"What is the matter?" the magistrate inquired.

"Oh! this dastardly wretch is profiting by his knowledge of secrets
which a long intimacy has enabled him to discover.  Do not believe
him, I entreat you, do not believe him!"

Derues resumed.  "Madame de Lamotte continued: 'I saw him again
sixteen years ago, always in hiding, always proscribed.  To-day he
reappears under a name which is not his own: he wishes to link my
fate with his; he has insisted on seeing Edouard.  But I shall escape
him.  I have invented this fiction of placing my son among the, royal
pages to account for my stay here.  Do not contradict me, but help
me; for a little time ago I met one of Monsieur de Lamotte's friends,
I am afraid he suspected something.  Say you have seen me several
times; as you have come, let it be known that you brought Edouard
here.  I shall return to Buisson as soon as possible, but will you go
first, see my husband, satisfy him if he is anxious?  I am in your
hands; my honour, my reputation, my very life, are at your mercy; you
can either ruin or help to save me.  I may be guilty, but I am not
corrupt.  I have wept for my sin day after day, and I have already
cruelly expiated it.'"

This execrable calumny was not related without frequent interruptions
on the part of Monsieur de Lamotte.  He was, however, obliged to own
to himself that it was quite true that Marie Perier had really been
promised to a man whom an unlucky affair had driven into exile, and
whom he had supposed to be dead.  This revelation, coming from
Derues, who had the strongest interest in lying, by no means
convinced him of his wife's dishonour, nor destroyed the feelings of
a husband and father; but Derues was not speaking for him lone, and
what appeared incredible to Monsieur de Lamotte might easily seem
less improbable to the colder and less interested judgment of the

"I was wrong," Derues continued, "in allowing myself to be touched by
her tears, wrong in believing in her repentance, more wrong still in
going to Buisson to satisfy her husband.  But I only consented on
conditions: Madame de Lamotte promised me to return shortly to Paris,
vowing that her son should never know the truth, and that the rest of
her life should be devoted to atoning for her sin by a boundless
devotion.  She then begged me to leave her, and told me she would
write to me at Paris to fix the day of her return.  This is what
happened, and this is why I went to Buissan and gave my support to a
lying fiction.  With one word I might have destroyed the happiness of
seventeen years.  I did not wish to do so.  I believed in the
remorse; I believe in it still, in spite of all appearances; I have
refused to speak this very day, and made every effort to prolong an
illusion which I know it will be terrible to lose."

There was a moment of silence.  This fable, so atrociously ingenious,
was simply and impressively narrated, and with an air of candour well
contrived to impose on the magistrate, or, at least, to suggest grave
doubts to his mind.  Derues, with his usual cunning, had conformed
his language to the quality of his listener.  Any tricks, profession
of piety, quotations from sacred books, so largely indulged in when
he wished to bamboozle people of a lower class, would here have told
against him.  He knew when to abstain, and carried the art of
deception far enough to be able to lay aside the appearance of
hypocrisy.  He had described all the circumstances without
affectation, and if this unexpected accusation was wholly unproved,
it yet rested on a possible fact, and did not appear absolutely
incredible.  The magistrate went through it all again, and made him
repeat every detail, without being able to make him contradict
himself or show the smallest embarrassment.  While interrogating
Derues, he kept his eyes fixed upon him; and this double examination
being quite fruitless, only increased his perplexity.  However, he
never relaxed the incredulous severity of his demeanour, nor the
imperative and threatening tone of his voice.

"You acknowledge having been at Lyons?" he asked.

"I have been there."

"At the beginning of this examination you said you would explain the
reason of this journey later."

"I am ready to do so, for the journey is connected with the facts I
have just narrated; it was caused by them."

"Explain it."

"I again ask permission to relate fully.  I did not hear from
Versailles: I began to fear Monsieur de Lamotte's anxiety would bring
him to Paris.  Bound by the promise I had made to his wife to avert
all suspicion and to satisfy any doubts he might conceive, and, must
I add, also remembering that it was important for me to inform him of
our new arrangements, and of this payment of a hundred thousand

"That payment is assuredly fictitious," interrupted Monsieur de
Lamotte; "we must have some proof of it."

"I will prove it presently," answered Derues.  "So I went to Buisson,
as I have already told you.  On my return I found a letter from
Madame de Lamotte, a letter with a Paris stamp, which had arrived
that morning.  I was surprised that she should write, when actually
in Paris; I opened the letter, and was still more surprised.  I have
not the letter with me, but I recollect the sense of it perfectly, if
not the wording, and I can produce it if necessary.  Madame de
Lamotte was at Lyons with her son and this person whose name I do not
know, and whom I do not care to mention before her husband.  She had
confided this letter to a person who was coming to Paris, and who was
to bring it me; but this individual, whose name was Marquis,
regretted that having to start again immediately, he was obliged to
entrust it to the post.  This is the sense of its contents.  Madame
de Lamotte wrote that she found herself obliged to follow this
nameless person to Lyons; and she begged me to send her news of her
husband and of the state of his affairs, but said not one single word
of any probable return.  I became very uneasy at the news of this
clandestine departure.  I had no security except a private contract
annulling our first agreement on the payment of one hundred thousand
livres, and that this was not a sufficient and regular receipt I
knew, because the lawyer had already refused to surrender Monsieur de
Lamotte's power of attorney.  I thought over all the difficulties
which this flight, which would have to be kept secret, was likely to
produce, and I started for Lyons without writing or giving any notice
of my intention.  I had no information, I did not even know whether
Madame de Lamotte was passing by another name, as at Versailles, but
chance decreed that I met her the very day of my arrival.  She was
alone, and complained bitterly of her fate, saying she had been
compelled to follow this individual to Lyons, but that very soon she
would be free and would return to Paris.  But I was struck by the
uncertainty of her manner, and said I should not leave her without
obtaining a deed in proof of our recent arrangements.  She refused at
first, saying it was unnecessary, as she would so soon return; but I
insisted strongly.  I told her I had already com promised myself by
telling Monsieur de Lamotte that she was at Versailles, endeavouring
to procure an appointment for her son; that since she had been
compelled to come to Lyons, the same person might take her elsewhere,
so that she might disappear any day, might leave France without
leaving any trace, without any written acknowledgment of her own
dishonour; and that when all these falsehoods were discovered, I
should appear in the light of an accomplice.  I said also that, as
she had unfortunately lodged in my house in Paris, and had requested
me to remove her son from his school, explanations would be required

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: