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List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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The hypocrite's excellent reputation had crossed the Parisian bounds.
A young man from the country, intending to start as a grocer in the
capital, applied to Derues for the necessary information and begged
for advice.  He arrived at the latter's house with a sum of eight
thousand livres, which he placed in Derues' hands, asking him for
assistance in finding a business.  The sight of gold was enough to
rouse the instinct of crime in Derues, and the witches who hailed
Macbeth with the promise of royalty did not rouse the latter's
ambitious desires to a greater height than the chance of wealth did
the greed of the assassin; whose hands, once closed over the eight
thousand livres, were never again relaxed.  He received them as a
deposit, and hid them along with his previous plunder, vowing never
to return them.  Several days had elapsed, when one afternoon Derues
returned home with an air of such unusual cheerfulness that the young
man questioned him.  "Have you heard some good news for me?" he
asked, "or have you had some luck yourself?"

"My young friend," answered Derues, "as for me, success depends on my
own efforts, and fortune smiles on me.  But I have promised to be
useful to you, your parents have trusted me, and I must prove that
their confidence is well founded.  I have heard to-day of a business
for disposal in one of the best parts of Paris.  You can have it for
twelve thousand livres, and I wish I could lend you the amount you
want.  But you must write to your father, persuade him, reason with
him; do not lose so good a chance.  He must make a little sacrifice,
and he will be grateful to me later."

In accordance with their son's request, the young man's parents
despatched a sum of four thousand livres, requesting Derues to lose
no time in concluding the purchase.

Three weeks later, the father, very uneasy, arrived in Paris.  He
came to inquire about his son, having heard nothing from him.  Derues
received him with the utmost astonishment, appearing convinced that
the young man had returned home.  One day, he said, the youth
informed him that he had heard from his father, who had given up all
idea of establishing him in Paris, having arranged an advantageous
marriage for him near home; and he had taken his twelve thousand
livres, for which Derues produced a receipt, and started on his
return journey.

One evening, when nearly dark, Derues had gone out with his guest,
who complained of headache and internal pains.  Where did they go?
No one knew; but Denies only returned at daybreak, alone, weary and
exhausted, and the young man was never again heard of.

One of his apprentices was the constant object of reproof.  The boy
was accused of negligence, wasting his time, of spending three hours
over a task which might have been done in less than one.  When Derues
had convinced the father, a Parisian bourgeois, that his son was a
bad boy and a good-for-nothing, he came to this man one day in a
state of wild excitement.

"Your son," he said, "ran away yesterday with six hundred livres,
with which I had to meet a bill to-day.  He knew where I kept this
money, and has taken it."

He threatened to go before a magistrate and denounce the thief, and
was only appeased by being paid the sum he claimed to have lost.  But
he had gone out with the lad the evening before, and returned alone
in the early hours of the morning.

However, the veil which concealed the truth was becoming more and
more transparent every day.  Three bankruptcies had diminished the
consideration he enjoyed, and people began to listen to complaints
and accusations which till now had been considered mere inventions
designed to injure him.  Another attempt at trickery made him feel it
desirable to leave the neighbourhood.

He had rented a house close to his own, the shop of which had been
tenanted for seven or eight years by a wine merchant.  He required
from this man, if he wished to remain where he was, a sum of six
hundred livres as a payment for goodwill.  Although the wine merchant
considered it an exorbitant charge, yet on reflection he decided to
pay it rather than go, having established a good business on these
premises, as was well known.  Before long a still mare arrant piece
of dishonesty gave him an opportunity for revenge.  A young man of
good family, who was boarding with him in order to gain some business
experience, having gone into Derues' shop to make some purchases,
amused himself while waiting by idly writing his name on a piece of
blank paper lying on the counter; which he left there without
thinking more about it.  Derues, knowing the young man had means, as
soon as he had gone, converted the signed paper into a promissory
note for two thousand livres, to his order, payable at the majority
of the signer.  The bill, negotiated in trade, arrived when due at
the wine merchant's, who, much surprised, called his young boarder
and showed him the paper adorned with his signature.  The youth was
utterly confounded, having no knowledge of the bill whatever, but
nevertheless could not deny his signature.  On examining the paper
carefully, the handwriting was recognised as Derues'.  The wine
merchant sent for him, and when he arrived, made him enter a room,
and having locked the door, produced the promissory note.  Derues
acknowledged having written it, and tried various falsehoods to
excuse himself.  No one listened to him, and the merchant threatened
to place the matter in the hands of the police.  Then Derues wept,
implored, fell on his knees, acknowledged his guilt, and begged for
mercy.  He agreed to restore the six hundred livres exacted from the
wine merchant, on condition that he should see the note destroyed and
that the matter should end there.  He was then about to be married,
and dreaded a scandal.

Shortly after, he married Marie-Louise Nicolais; daughter of a
harness-maker at Melun.

One's first impression in considering this marriage is one of
profound sorrow and utmost pity for the young girl whose destiny was
linked with that of this monster.  One thinks of the horrible future;
of youth and innocence blighted by the tainting breath of the
homicide; of candour united to hypocrisy; of virtue to wickedness; of
legitimate desires linked to disgraceful passions; of purity mixed
with corruption.  The thought of these contrasts is revolting, and
one pities such a dreadful fate.  But we must not decide hastily.
Madame Denies has not been convicted of any active part in her
husband's later crimes, but her history, combined with his, shows no
trace of suffering, nor of any revolt against a terrible complicity.
In her case the evidence is doubtful, and public opinion must decide
later.

In 1773, Derues relinquished retail business, and left the Saint
Victor neighbourhood, having taken an apartment in the rue des Deux
Boules, near the rue Bertin-Poiree, in the parish of St. Germain
l'Auxerrois, where he had been married.  He first acted on commission
for the Benedictine-Camalduian fathers of the forest of Senart, who
had heard of him as a man wholly given to piety; then, giving himself
up to usury, he undertook what is known as "business affairs," a
profession which, in such hands, could not fail to be lucrative,
being aided by his exemplary morals and honest appearance.  It was
the more easy for him to impose on others, as he could not be accused
of any of the deadly vices which so often end in ruin--gaming, wine,
and women.  Until now he had displayed only one passion, that of
avarice, but now another developed itself, that of ambition.  He
bought houses and land, and when the money was due, allowed himself
to be sued for it; he bought even lawsuits, which he muddled with all
the skill of a rascally attorney.  Experienced in bankruptcy, he
undertook the management of failures, contriving to make dishonesty
appear in the light of unfortunate virtue.  When this demon was not
occupied with poison, his hands were busy with every social iniquity;
he could only live and breathe in an atmosphere of corruption.

His wife, who had already presented him with a daughter, gave birth
to a son in February 1774.  Derues, in order to better support the
airs of grandeur and the territorial title which he had assumed,
invited persons of distinction to act as sponsors.  The child was
baptized Tuesday, February 15th.  We give the text of the baptismal
register, as a curiosity:--

"Antoine-Maximilian-Joseph, son of Antoine-Francois Derues,
gentleman, seigneur of Gendeville, Herchies, Viquemont, and other
places, formerly merchant grocer; and of Madame Marie-Louise
Nicolais, his wife.  Godfathers, T. H.  and T. P., lords of, etc.
etc.  Godmothers, Madame M. Fr. C. D. V., etc.  etc.

                         "(Signed)       A. F. DERUES, Senior."


But all this dignity did not exclude the sheriff's officers, whom, as
befitted so great a man, he treated with the utmost insolence,
overwhelming them with abuse when they came to enforce an execution.
Such scandals had several times aroused the curiosity of his
neighbours, and did not redound to his credit.  His landlord, wearied
of all this clamour, and most especially weary of never getting any
rent without a fight for it, gave him notice to quit.  Derues removed
to the rue Beaubourg, where he continued to act as commission agent
under the name of Cyrano Derues de Bury.

And now we will concern ourselves no more with the unravelling of
this tissue of imposition; we will wander no longer in this labyrinth
of fraud, of low and vile intrigue, of dark crime of which the clue
disappears in the night, and of which the trace is lost in a doubtful
mixture of blood and mire; we will listen no longer to the cry of the
widow and her four children reduced to beggary, to the groans of
obscure victims, to the cries of terror and the death-groan which
echoed one night through the vaults of a country house near Beauvais.
Behold other victims whose cries are yet louder, behold yet other
crimes and a punishment which equals them in terror!  Let these
nameless ghosts, these silent spectres, lose themselves in the clear

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