List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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parricide was to pay the penalty of his crime--a crime committed
under atrocious circumstances, with an unheard-of refinement of
barbarity.  The punishment corresponded to the crime: the wretched
man was broken on the wheel.  The most complete and terrible silence
prevailed in the multitude eager for ghastly emotions.  Three times
already had been heard the heavy thud of the instrument which broke
the victim's limbs, and a loud cry escaped the sufferer which made
all who heard it shudder with horror, One man only, who, in spite of
all his efforts, could not get through the crowd and cross the
square, remained unmoved, and looking contemptuously towards the
criminal, muttered, "Idiot! he was unable to deceive anyone!"

A few moments later the flames began to rise from the funeral pile,
the crowd began to move, and the than was able to make his way
through and reach one of the streets leading out of the square.

The sky was overcast, and the grey daylight hardly penetrated the
narrow lane, hideous and gloomy as the name it bore, and which; only
a few years ago, still wound like a long serpent through the mire of
this quarter.  Just then it was deserted, owing to the attraction of
the execution close by.  The man who had just left the square
proceeded slowly, attentively reading all the inscriptions on the
doors.  He stopped at Number 75, where on the threshold of a shop sat
a stout woman busily knitting, over whom one read in big yellow
letters, "Widow Masson." He saluted the woman, and asked--

"Is there not a cellar to let in this house?"

"There is, master," answered the widow.

"Can I speak to the owner?"

"And that is myself, by your leave."

"Will you show me the cellar?  I am a provincial wine merchant, my
business often brings me to Paris, and I want a cellar where I could
deposit wine which I sell on commission."

They went down together.  After examining the place, and ascertaining
that it was not too damp for the expensive wine which he wished to
leave there, the man agreed about the rent, paid the first term in
advance, and was entered on the widow Masson's books under the name
of Ducoudray.  It is hardly necessary to remark that it should have
been Derues.

When he returned home in the evening, his wife told him that a large
box had arrived.

"It is all right," he said, "the carpenter from whom I ordered it is
a man of his word."  Then he supped, and caressed his children.  The
next day being Sunday, he received the communion, to the great
edification of the devout people of the neighbourhood.

On Monday the 16th Madame de Lamotte and Edouard, descending from the
Montereau stagecoach, were met by Derues and his wife.

"Did my husband write to you, Monsieur Derues?" inquired Madame de

"Yes, madame, two days ago; and I have arranged our dwelling for your

"What! but did not Monsieur de Lamotte ask you to engage the rooms I
have had before at the Hotel de France?"

"He did not say so, and if that was your idea I trust you will change
it.  Do not deprive me of the pleasure of offering you the
hospitality which for so long I have accepted from you.  Your room is
quite ready, also one for this dear boy," and so saying he took
Edouard's hand; "and I am sure if you ask his opinion, he will say
you had better be content to stay with me."

"Undoubtedly," said the boy; "and I do not see why there need be any
hesitation between friends."

Whether by accident, or secret presentiment, or because she foresaw a
possibility of business discussions between them, Madame de Lamotte
objected to this arrangement.  Derues having a business appointment
which he was bound to keep, desired his wife to accompany the
Lamottes to the Hotel de France, and in case of their not being able
to find rooms there, mentioned three others as the only ones in the
quarter where they could be comfortably accommodated.  Two hours
later Madame de Lamotte and her son returned to his house in the rue

The house which Derues occupied stood opposite the rue des Menoriers,
and was pulled down quite lately to make way for the rue Rambuteau.
In 1776 it was one of the finest houses of the rue Beaubourg, and it
required a certain income to be able to live there, the rents being
tolerably high.  A large arched doorway gave admittance to a passage,
lighted at the other end by a small court, on the far side of which
was the shop into which Madame de Lamotte had been taken on the
occasion of the accident.  The house staircase was to the right of
the passage; and the Derues' dwelling on the entresol.  The first
room, lighted by a window looking into the court, was used as a
dining room, and led into a simply furnished sitting-room, such as
was generally found among the bourgeois and tradespeople of this
period.  To the right of the sitting-room was a large closet, which
could serve as a small study or could hold a bed; to the left was a
door opening into the Derues' bedroom, which had been prepared for
Madame de Lamotte.  Madame Derues would occupy one of the two beds
which stood in the alcove.  Derues had a bed made up in the
sitting-room, and Edouard was accommodated in the little study.

Nothing particular happened during the first few days which followed
the Lamottes' arrival.  They had not come to Paris only on account of
the Buisson-Souef affairs.  Edouard was nearly sixteen, and after
much hesitation his parents had decided on placing him in some school
where his hitherto neglected education might receive more attention.
Derues undertook to find a capable tutor, in whose house the boy
would be brought up in the religious feeling which the cure of
Buisson and his own exhortations had already tended to develop.
These proceedings, added to Madame de Lamotte's endeavours to collect
various sums due to her husband, took some time.  Perhaps, when on
the point of executing a terrible crime, Derues tried to postpone the
fatal moment, although, considering his character, this seems
unlikely, for one cannot do him the honour of crediting him with a
single moment of remorse, doubt, or pity.  Far from it, it appears
from all the information which can be gathered, that Derues, faithful
to his own traditions, was simply experimenting on his unfortunate
guests, for no sooner were they in his house than both began to
complain of constant nausea, which they had never suffered from
before.  While he thus ascertained the strength of their
constitution, he was able, knowing the cause of the malady, to give
them relief, so that Madame de Lamotte, although she grew daily
weaker, had so much confidence in him as to think it unnecessary to
call in a doctor.  Fearing to alarm her husband, she never mentioned
her sufferings, and her letters only spoke of the care and kind
attention which she received.

On the 15th of January, 1777, Edouard was placed in a school in the
rue de l'Homme Arme.  His mother never saw him again.  She went out
once more to place her husband's power of attorney with a lawyer in
the rue de Paon.  On her return she felt so weak and broken-down that
she was obliged to go to bed and remain there for several days.  On
January 29th the unfortunate lady had risen, and was sitting near the
window which overlooked the deserted rue des Menetriers, where clouds
of snow were drifting before the wind.  Who can guess the sad
thoughts which may have possessed her?--all around dark, cold, and
silent, tending to produce painful depression and involuntary dread.
To escape the gloomy ideas which besieged her, her mind went back to
the smiling times of her youth and marriage.  She recalled the time
when, alone at Buisson during her husband's enforced absences, she
wandered with her child in the cool and shaded walks of the park, and
sat out in the evening, inhaling the scent of the flowers, and
listening to the murmur of the water, or the sound of the whispering
breeze in the leaves.  Then, coming back from these sweet
recollections to reality, she shed tears, and called on her husband
and son.  So deep was her reverie that she did not hear the room door
open, did not perceive that darkness had come on.  The light of a
candle, dispersing the shadows, made her start; she turned her head,
and saw Derues coming towards her.  He smiled, and she made an effort
to keep back the tears which were shining in her eyes, and to appear

"I am afraid I disturb you," he said.  "I came to ask a favour,

"What is it, Monsieur Derues?" she inquired.

"Will you allow me to have a large chest brought into this room?  I
ought to pack some valuable things in it which are in my charge, and
are now in this cupboard.  I am afraid it will be in your way."

"Is it not your own house, and is it not rather I who am in the way
and a cause of trouble?  Pray have it brought in, and try to forget
that I am here.  You are most kind to me, but I wish I could spare
you all this trouble and that I were fit to go back to Buisson.  I
had a letter from my husband yesterday----"

"We will talk about that presently, if you wish it," said Derues.
"I will go and fetch the servant to help me to carry in this chest.
I have put it off hitherto, but it really must be sent in three

He went away, and returned in a few minutes.  The chest was carried
in, and placed before the cupboard at the foot of the bed.  Alas!
the poor lady little thought it was her own coffin which stood before

The maid withdrew, and Derues assisted Madame de Lamotte to a seat
near the fire, which he revived with more fuel.  He sat down opposite
to her, and by the feeble light of the candle placed on a small table
between them could contemplate at leisure the ravages wrought by
poison on her wasted features.

"I saw your son to-day," he said: "he complains that you neglect
him, and have not seen him for twelve days.  He does not know you
have been ill, nor did I tell him.  The dear boy! he loves you so

"And I also long to see him.  My friend, I cannot tell you what
terrible presentiments beset me; it seems as if I were threatened

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