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List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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Buisson?  I should have gone to see and thank him the first time I
went to Paris, and meanwhile a letter would have been sufficient.
Did he carry his complaisance and interest so far as to offer you his
escort?"

"Ah! I see you cannot get over your first impression--honestly, is it
not so?"

"Indeed," exclaimed Monsieur de Lamotte, laughing heartily, "it is
truly unlucky for a decent man to have such a face as that!  He ought
to give Providence no rest until he obtains the gift of another
countenance."

"Always these prejudices!  It is not the poor man's fault that he was
born like that."

"Well, you said something about business we were to discuss together
--what is it?"

"I believe he can help us to obtain the money we are in want of."

"And who told him that we wanted any?"

"I did."

"You!  Come, it certainly seems that this gentleman is to be a family
friend.  And pray what induced you to confide in him to this extent?"

"You would have known by now, if you did not interrupt.  Let me tell
you all in order.  The day after my accident I went out with Edouard
about midday, and I went to again express my gratitude for his
kindness.  I was received by Madame Derues, who told me her husband
was out, and that he had gone to my hotel to inquire after me and my
son, and also to see if anything had been heard of my stolen
earrings.  She appeared a simple and very ordinary sort of person,
and she begged me to sit down and wait for her husband.  I thought it
would be uncivil not to do so, and Monsieur Derues appeared in about
two hours.  The first thing he did, after having saluted me and
inquired most particularly after my health, was to ask for his
children, two charming little things, fresh and rosy, whom he covered
with kisses.  We talked about indifferent matters, then he offered me
his services, placed himself at my disposal, and begged me to spare
neither his time nor his trouble.  I then told him what had brought
me to Paris, and also the disappointments I had encountered, for of
all the people I had seen not one had given me a favourable answer.
He said that he might possibly be of some use to me, and the very
next day told 'me that he had seen a capitalist, but could do nothing
without more precise information.  Then I thought it might be better
to bring him here, so that he might talk matters over with you.  When
I first asked him, he refused altogether, and only yielded to my
earnest entreaties and Edouard's.  This is the history, dear, of the
circumstances under which I made Monsieur Derues' acquaintance.  I
hope you do not think I have acted foolishly?"

"Very well," said Monsieur de Lamotte, "I will talk to him
to-morrow, and in any case I promise you I will be civil to him.  I
will not forget that he has been useful to you."  With which promise
the conversation came to a close.

Skilled in assuming any kind of mask and in playing every sort of
part, Derues did not find it difficult to overcome Monsieur de
Lamotte's prejudices, and in order to obtain the goodwill of the
father he made a skilful use of the friendship which the, son had
formed with him.  One can hardly think that he already meditated the
crime which he carried out later; one prefers to believe that these
atrocious plots were not invented so long beforehand.  But he was
already a prey to the idea, and nothing henceforth could turn him
from it.  By what route he should arrive at the distant goal which
his greed foresaw, he knew not as yet, but he had said to himself,
"One day this property shall be mine."  It was the death-warrant of
those who owned it.

We have no details, no information as to Derues' first visit to
Buisson-Souef, but when he departed he had obtained the complete
confidence of the family, and a regular correspondence was carried on
between him and the Lamottes.  It was thus that he was able to
exercise his talent of forgery, and succeeded in imitating the
writing of this unfortunate lady so as to be able even to deceive her
husband.  Several months passed, and none of the hopes which Derues
had inspired were realised; a loan was always on the point of being
arranged, and regularly failed because of some unforeseen
circumstance.  These pretended negotiations were managed by Derues
with so much skill and cunning that instead of being suspected, he
was pitied for having so much useless trouble.  Meanwhile, Monsieur
de Lamotte's money difficulties increased, and the sale of
Buisson-Souef became inevitable.  Derues offered himself as a
purchaser, and actually acquired the property by private contract,
dated December, 1775.  It was agreed between the parties that the
purchase-money of one hundred and thirty thousand livres should not
be paid until 1776, in order to allow Derues to collect the various
sums at his disposal.  It was an important purchase, which, he said,
he only made on account of his interest in Monsieur de Lamotte, and
his wish to put an end to the latter's difficulties.

But when the period agreed on arrived, towards the middle of 1776,
Derues found it impossible to pay.  It is certain that he never meant
to do so; and a special peculiarity of this dismal story is the
avarice of the man, the passion for money which overruled all his
actions, and occasionally caused him to neglect necessary prudence.
Enriched by three bankruptcies, by continual thefts, by usury, the
gold he acquired promptly seemed to disappear.  He stuck at nothing
to obtain it, and once in his grasp, he never let it go again.
Frequently he risked the loss of his character for honest dealing
rather than relinquish a fraction of his wealth.  According to many
credible people, it was generally believed by his contemporaries that
this monster possessed treasures which he had buried in the ground,
the hiding-place of which no one knew, not even his wife.  Perhaps it
is only a vague and unfounded rumour, which should be rejected; or is
it; perhaps, a truth which failed to reveal itself?  It would be
strange if after the lapse of half a century the hiding-place were to
open and give up the fruit of his rapine.  Who knows whether some of
this treasure, accidentally discovered, may not have founded fortunes
whose origin is unknown, even to their possessors?

Although it was of the utmost importance not to arouse Monsieur de
Lamotte's suspicions just at the moment when he ought to be paying
him so large a sum, Derues was actually at this time being sued by
his creditors.  But in those days ordinary lawsuits had no publicity;
they struggled and died between the magistrates and advocates without
causing any sound.  In order to escape the arrest and detention with
which he was threatened, he took refuge at Buisson-Souef with his
family, and remained there from Whitsuntide till the end of November.
After being treated all this time as a friend, Derues departed for
Paris, in order, he said, to receive an inheritance which would
enable him to pay the required purchase-money.

This pretended inheritance was that of one of his wife's relations,
Monsieur Despeignes-Duplessis, who had been murdered in his country
house, near Beauvais.  It has been strongly suspected that Derues was
guilty of this crime.  There are, however, no positive proofs, and we
prefer only to class it as a simple possibility.

Derues had made formal promises to Monsieur de Lamotte, and it was no
longer possible for him to elude them.  Either the payment must now
be made, or the contract annulled.  A new correspondence began
between the creditors and the debtor; friendly letters were
exchanged, full of protestations on one side and confidence on the
other.  But all Derues' skill could only obtain a delay of a few
months.  At length Monsieur de Lamotte, unable to leave Buisson-Souef
himself, on account of important business which required his
presence, gave his wife a power of attorney, consented to another
separation, and sent her to Paris, accompanied by Edouard, and as if
to hasten their misfortunes, sent notice of their coming to the
expectant murderer.

We have passed quickly over the interval between the first meeting of
Monsieur de Lamotte and Derues, and the moment when the victims fell
into the trap: we might easily have invented long conversations, and
episodes which would have brought Derues' profound hypocrisy into
greater relief; but the reader now knows all that we care to show
him.  We have purposely lingered in our narration in the endeavour to
explain the perversities of this mysterious organisation; we have
over-loaded it with all the facts which seem to throw any light upon
this sombre character.  But now, after these long preparations, the
drama opens, the scenes become rapid and lifelike; events, long
impeded, accumulate and pass quickly before us, the action is
connected and hastens to an end.  We shall see Derues like an
unwearied Proteus, changing names, costumes, language, multiplying
himself in many forms, scattering deceptions and lies from one end of
France to the other; and finally, after so many efforts, such
prodigies of calculation and activity, end by wrecking himself
against a corpse.

The letter written at Buisson-Souef arrived at Paris the morning of
the 14th of December.  In the course of the day an unknown man
presented himself at the hotel where Madame de Lamotte and her son
had stayed before, and inquired what rooms were vacant.  There were
four, and he engaged them for a certain Dumoulin, who had arrived
that morning from Bordeaux, and who had passed through Paris in order
to meet, at some little distance, relations who would return with
him.  A part of the rent was paid in advance, and it was expressly
stipulated that until his return the rooms should not be let to
anyone, as the aforesaid Dumoulin might return with his family and
require them at any moment.  The same person went to other hotels in
the neighbourhood and engaged vacant rooms, sometimes for a stranger
he expected, sometimes for friends whom he could not accommodate
himself.

At about three o'clock, the Place de Greve was full of people,
thousands of heads crowded the windows of the surrounding houses.  A

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