List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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to the recess under the stairs, said--

"Examine this corner.  The prisoner glanced involuntarily in this
direction when he came down; I have watched him, and it is the only
sign he has given.  I was the only person who could see him, and he
did not see me.  He is very clever, but one can't be for ever on
one's guard, and may the devil take me if I haven't scented the

"Wretch!" said Derues to himself, "then you have had your hand on me
for a whole hour, and amused yourself by prolonging my agony!  Oh! I
ought to have known it; I have found my master.  Never mind, you
shall learn nothing from my face, nor yet from the decaying body you
will find; worms and poison can only have left an unrecognisable

An iron rod sunk into the ground, encountered a hard substance some
four feet below.  Two men set to work, and dug with energy.  Every
eye was fixed upon this trench increasing in depth with every
shovelful of earth which the two labourers cast aside.  Monsieur de
Lamotte was nearly fainting, and his emotion impressed everyone
except Derues.  At length the silence was broken by the spades
striking heavily on wood, and the noise made everyone shudder.  The
chest was uncovered and hoisted out of the trench; it was opened, and
the body of a woman was seen, clad only in a chemise, with a red and
white headband, face downwards.  The body was turned over, and
Monsieur de Lamotte recognised his wife, not yet disfigured.

The feeling of horror was so great that no one spoke or uttered a
sound.  Derues, occupied in considering the few chances which
remained to him, had not observed that, by the officer's order, one
of the guards had left the cellar before the men began to dig.
Everybody had drawn back both from the corpse and the murderer, who
alone had not moved, and who was repeating prayers.  The flame of the
torches placed on the ground cast a reddish light on this silent and
terrible scene.

Derues started and turned round on hearing a terrified cry behind
him.  His wife had just been brought to the cellar.  The commissioner
seized her with one hand, and taking a torch in the other, compelled
her to look down on the body.

"It is Madame de Lamotte!" she exclaimed.

"Yes, yes," she answered, overwhelmed with terror,--" yes, I
recognise her!"

Unable to support the sight any longer, she grew pale and fainted
away.  She and her husband were removed separately.  One would have
supposed the discovery was already known outside, for the people
showered curses and cries of "Assassin!" and "Poisoner!" on the
carriage which conveyed Derues.  He remained silent during the drive,
but before re-entering his dungeon, he said--

"I must have been mad when I sought to hide the death and burial of
Madame de Lamotte from public knowledge.  It is the only sin I have
committed, and, innocent of aught else, I resign myself as a
Christian to the judgment of God."

It was the only line of defence which remained open to him, and he
clung to it, with the hope of imposing on the magistrates by
redoubled hypocrisy and pious observances.  But all this laboriously
constructed scaffolding of lies was shaken to its base and fell away
piece by piece.  Every moment brought fresh and overwhelming
revelations.  He professed that Madame de Lamotte had died suddenly
in his house, and that, fearing suspicion, he had buried her
secretly.  But the doctors called on to examine the body declared
that she had been poisoned with corrosive sublimate and opium.  The
pretended payment was clearly an odious imposture, the receipt a
forgery!  Then, like a threatening spectre, arose another question,
to which he found no reply, and his own invention turned against him.

Why, knowing his mother was no more, had he taken young de Lamotte to
Versailles?  What had become of the youth?  What had befallen, him?
Once on the track, the cooper with whom he had lodged on the 12th of
February was soon discovered, and an Act of Parliament ordered the
exhumation of the corpse buried under the name of Beaupre, which the
cooper identified by a shirt which he had given for the burial.
Derues, confounded by the evidence, asserted that the youth died of
indigestion and venereal disease.  But the doctors again declared the
presence of corrosive sublimate and opium.  All this evidence of
guilt he met with assumed resignation, lamenting incessantly for
Edouard, whom he declared he had loved as his own son.  "Alas!" he
said, "I see that poor boy every night!  But it softens my grief to
know that he was not deprived of the last consolations of religion!
God, who sees me, and who knows my innocence, will enlighten the
magistrates, and my honour will be vindicated."

The evidence being complete, Derues was condemned by sentence of the
Chatelet, pronounced April 30th, and confirmed by Parliament, May
5th.  We give the decree as it is found in the archives:

"This Court having considered the trial held before the Provost of
Paris, or his Deputy-Lieutenant at the Chatelet, for the satisfaction
of the aforesaid Deputy at the aforesaid Chatelet, at the request of
the Deputy of the King's Attorney General at the aforesaid Court,
summoner and plaintiff, against Antoine-Francois Derues, and
Marie-Louise Nicolais, his wife, defendants and accused, prisoners in
the prisons of the Conciergerie of the Palace at Paris, who have
appealed from the sentence given at the aforesaid trial, the
thirtieth day of April 1777, by which the aforesaid Antoine-Francois
Derues has been declared duly attainted and convicted of attempting
unlawfully to appropriate without payment, the estate of Buissony
Souef, belonging to the Sieur and Dame de Saint Faust de Lamotte,
from whom he had bought the said estate by private contract on the
twenty-second day of December 1775, and also of having unworthily
abused the hospitality shown by him since the sixteenth day of
December last towards the aforesaid Dame de Lamotte, who arrived in
Paris on the aforesaid day in order to conclude with him the bargain
agreed on in December 1775, and who, for this purpose, and at his
request, lodged with her son in the house of the said Derues, who of
premeditated design poisoned the said Dame de Lamotte, whether by a
medicine composed and prepared by him on the thirtieth day of January
last, or by the beverages and drinks administered by him after the
aforesaid medicine (he having taken the precaution to send his
servant into the country for two or three days), and to keep away
strangers from the room where the said Dame de Lamotte was lying),
from the effects of which poison the said Dame de Lamotte died on the
night of the said thirty-first day of January last; also of having
kept her demise secret, and of having himself enclosed in a chest the
body of the said Dame de Lamotte, which he then caused to be secretly
transported to a cellar in the rue de la Mortellerie hired by him for
this purpose, under the assumed name of Ducoudray, wherein he buried
it himself, or caused it to be buried; also of having persuaded the
son of the above Dame de Lamotte (who, with his mother, had lodged in
his house from the time of their arrival in Paris until the fifteenth
day of January, last,--and who had then been placed in a school that
the aforesaid Dame de Lamotte was at Versailles and desired him to
join her there, and, under this pretence, of having conducted the
said younger Sieur de Lamotte, the twelfth day of February (after
having given him some chocolate), to the aforesaid town of
Versailles, to a lodging hired at a cooper's, and of having there
wilfully poisoned him, either in the chocolate taken by the said
younger Sieur de Lamotte before starting, or in beverages and
medicaments which the said Derues himself prepared, mixed, and
administered to the aforesaid Sieur de Lamotte the younger, during
the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth days of February
last, having kept him lying ill in the aforesaid hired room, and
having refused to call in physicians or surgeons, notwithstanding the
progress of the malady, and the representations made to him on the
subject, saying that he himself was a physician and surgeon; from
which poison the said Sieur de Lamotte the younger died on the
fifteenth day of February last, at nine o'clock in the evening, in
the arms of the aforesaid Derues, who, affecting the deepest grief,
and shedding tears, actually exhorted the aforesaid Sieur de Lamotte
to confession, and repeated the prayers for the dying; after which he
himself laid out the body for burial, saying that the deceased had
begged him to do so, and telling the people of the house that he had
died of venereal disease; also of having caused him to be buried the
next day in the churchyard of the parish church of Saint Louis at the
aforesaid Versailles, and of having entered the deceased in the
register of the said parish under a false birthplace, and the false
name of Beaupre, which name the said Derues had himself assumed on
arriving at the said lodging, and had given to the said Sieur de
Lamotte the younger, whom he declared to be his nephew.  Also, to
cover these atrocities, and in order to appropriate to himself the
aforesaid estate of Buisson-Souef, he is convicted of having
calumniated the aforesaid Dame de Lamotte, and of having used various
manoeuvres and practised several deceptions, to wit--

"First, in signing, or causing to be signed, the names of the above
Dame de Lamotte to a deed of private contract between the said Derues
and his wife on one side and the aforesaid Dame de Lamotte by right
of a power of attorney given by her husband on the other (the which
deed is dated the twelfth day of February, and was therefore written
after the decease of the said Dame de Lamotte); by which deed the
said Dame de Lamotte appears to change the previous conventions
agreed on in the first deed of the twenty-second of December in the
year 1775, and acknowledges receipt from the said Derues of a sum of
one hundred thousand livres, as being the price of the estate of

"Secondly, in signing before a notary, the ninth day of February

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