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List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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from me, and perhaps I should be accused of this double
disappearance.  Finally, I declared that if she did not give me some
proofs of her existence, willingly or unwillingly, I would go at once
to a magistrate.  My firmness made her reflect.  'My good Monsieur
Derues,' she said, 'I ask your forgiveness for all the trouble I have
caused you.  I will give you this deed to-morrow, to-day it is too
late; but come to this same place to-morrow, and you shall see me
again.'  I hesitated, I confess, to let her go.  'Ah,' she said,
grasping my hands, 'do not suspect me of intending to deceive you!  I
swear that I will meet you here at four o'clock.  It is enough that I
have ruined myself, and perhaps my son, without also entangling you
in my unhappy fate.  Yes, you are right; this deed is important,
necessary for you, and you shall have it.  But do not show yourself
here; if you were seen, I might not be able to do what I ought to do.
To-morrow you shall see me again, I swear it.'  She then left me.
The next day, the 12th, of March, I was exact at the rendezvous, and
Madame de Lamotte arrived a moment later.  She gave me a deed,
authorising her husband to receive the arrears of thirty thousand
livres remaining from the purchase-money of Buisson-Souef.  I
endeavoured again to express my opinion of her conduct; she listened
in silence, as if my words affected her deeply.  We were walking
together, when she told me she had some business in a house we were
passing, and asked me to wait for her.  I waited more than an hour,
and then discovered that this house, like many others in Lyons, had
an exit in another street; and I understood that Madame de Lamotte
had escaped by this passage, and that I might wait in vain.
Concluding that trying to follow her would be useless, and seeing
also that any remonstrance would be made in vain, I returned to
Paris, deciding to say nothing as yet, and to conceal the truth as
long as possible.  I still had hopes, and I did not count on being so
soon called on to defend myself: I thought that when I had to speak,
it would be as a friend, and not as an accused person.  This, sir, is
the explanation of my conduct, and I regret that this justification,
so easy for myself, should be so cruelly painful for another.  You
have seen the efforts which I made to defer it."

Monsieur de Lamotte had heard this second part of Derues' recital
with a more silent indignation, not that he admitted its probability,
but he was confounded by this monstrous imposture, and, as it were,
terror-stricken by such profound hypocrisy.  His mind revolted at the
idea of his wife being accused of adultery; but while he repelled
this charge with decision, he saw the confirmation of his secret
terrors and presentiments, and his heart sank within him at the
prospect of exploring this abyss of iniquity.  He was pale, gasping
for breath, as though he himself had been the criminal, while
scorching tears furrowed his cheeks.  He tried to speak, but his
voice failed; he wanted to fling back at Derues the names of traitor
and assassin, and he was obliged to bear in silence the look of
mingled grief and pity which the latter bestowed upon him.

The magistrate, calmer, and master of his emotions, but tolerably
bewildered in this labyrinth of cleverly connected lies, thought it
desirable to ask some further questions.

"How," said he, "did you obtain this sum of a hundred thousand livres
which you say you paid over to Madame de Lamotte?"

"I have been engaged in business for several years, and have acquired
some fortune."

"Nevertheless, you have postponed the obligation of making this
payment several times, so that Monsieur de Lamotte had begun to feel
uneasiness on the subject.  This was the chief reason of his wife's
coming to Paris."

"One sometimes experiences momentary difficulties, which presently
disappear."

"You say you have a deed given you at Lyons by Madame de Lamotte,
which you were to give to her husband?"

"It is here."

The magistrate examined the deed carefully, and noted the name of the
lawyer in whose office it had been drawn up.

"You may go," he said at last.

"What!" exclaimed Monsieur de Lamotte.

Derues stopped, but the magistrate signed to him to go, intimating,
however, that he was on no account to leave Paris.

"But," said Monsieur de Lamotte, when they were alone, "this man is
indeed guilty.  My wife has not betrayed me!  She!--forget her duties
as a wife! she was virtue incarnate!  Ah! I assure you these terrible
calumnies are invented to conceal double crime!  I throw myself at
your feet,--I implore your justice!"

"Rise, monsieur.  This is only a preliminary examination, and I
confess that, so far, he comes well out of it, for imagination can
hardly understand such a depth of deceit.  I watched him closely the
whole time, and I could discover no sign of alarm, no contradiction,
in either face or language; if guilty, he must be the greatest
hypocrite that ever existed.  But I shall neglect nothing: if a
criminal is allowed to flatter himself with impunity, he frequently
forgets to be prudent, and I have seen many betray themselves when
they thought they had nothing to fear.  Patience, and trust to the
justice of both God and man."

Several days passed, and Derues flattered him self the danger was
over: his every action mean while was most carefully watched, but so
that he remained unaware of the surveillance.  A police officer named
Mutel, distinguished for activity and intelligence beyond his
fellows, was charged with collecting information and following any
trail.  All his bloodhounds were in action, and hunted Paris
thoroughly, but could trace nothing bearing on the fate of Madame de
Lamotte and her son.  Mutel, however, soon discovered that in the rue
Saint Victor, Derues had failed--three successive times, that he had
been pursued by numerous creditors, and been often near imprisonment
for debt, and that in 1771 he had been publicly accused of
incendiarism.  He reported on these various circumstances, and then
went himself to Derues' abode, where he obtained no results.  Madame
Derues declared that she knew nothing whatever, and the police,
having vainly searched the whole house, had to retire.  Derues
himself was absent; when he returned he found another order to appear
before the magistrate.

His first success had encouraged him.  He appeared before the
magistrate accompanied by a lawyer and full of confidence,
complaining loudly that the police, in searching during his absence,
had offended against the rights of a domiciled burgess, and ought to
have awaited his return.  Affecting a just indignation at Monsieur de
Lamotte's conduct towards him, he presented a demand that the latter
should be declared a calumniator, and should pay damages for the
injury caused to his reputation.  But this time his effrontery and
audacity were of little avail, the magistrate easily detected him in
flagrant lies.  He declared at first that he had paid the hundred
thousand livres with his own money but when reminded of his various
bankruptcies, the claims of his creditors, and the judgments obtained
against him as an insolvent debtor, he made a complete volte-face,
and declared he had borrowed the money from an advocate named Duclos,
to whom he had given a bond in presence of a notary.  In spite of all
his protestations, the magistrate committed him to solitary
confinement at Fort l'Eveque.

As yet, nothing was publicly known; but vague reports and gossip,
carried from shop to shop, circulated among the people, and began to
reach the higher classes of society.  The infallible instinct which
is aroused among the masses is truly marvellous; a great crime is
committed, which seems at first likely to defeat justice, and the
public conscience is aroused.  Long before the tortuous folds which
envelop the mystery can be penetrated, while it is still sunk in
profound obscurity, the voice of the nation, like an excited hive,
buzzes around the secret; though the magistrates doubt, the public
curiosity fixes itself, and never leaves go; if the criminal's
hiding-place is changed, it follows the track, points it out,
descries it in the gloom.  This is what happened on the news of
Derues' arrest.  The affair was everywhere discussed, although the
information was incomplete, reports inexact, and no real publicity to
be obtained.  The romance which Derues had invented by way of
defence, and which became known as well as Monsieur de Lamotte's
accusation, obtained no credence whatever; on the contrary, all the
reports to his discredit were eagerly adopted.  As yet, no crime
could be traced, but the public presentiment divined an atrocious
one.  Have we not often seen similar agitations?  The names of
Bastide, of Castaing, of Papavoine, had hardly been pronounced before
they completely absorbed all the public attention, and this had to be
satisfied, light had to be thrown on the darkness: society demanded
vengeance.

Derues felt some alarm in his dungeon, but his presence of mind and
his dissimulation in no wise deserted him, and he swore afresh every
day to the truth of his statements.  But his last false assertion
turned against him: the bond for a hundred thousand livres which he
professed to have given to Duclos was a counterfeit which Duclos had
annulled by a sort of counter declaration made the same day.  Another
circumstance, intended to ensure his safety, only redoubled
suspicion.  On April 8th, notes payable to order to the amount of
seventy-eight thousand livres, were received by Monsieur de Lamotte's
lawyer, as if coming from Madame de Lamotte.  It appeared
extraordinary that these notes, which arrived in an ordinary stamped
envelope, should not be accompanied by any letter of advice, and
suspicion attached to Madame Derues, who hitherto had remained
unnoticed.  An inquiry as to where the packet had been posted soon
revealed the office, distinguished by a letter of the alphabet, and
the postmaster described a servant-maid who had brought the letter
and paid for it.  The description resembled the Derues' servant; and

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