List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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lawful proprietor, of Buisson-Souef.  Prudence required him to
shelter himself behind a deed which should have been executed by that
lady.  On February 27th he appeared at the office of Madame de
Lamotte's lawyer in the rue du Paon, and, with all the persuasion of
an artful tongue, demanded the power of attorney on that lady's
behalf, saying that he had, by private contract, just paid a hundred
thousand livres on the total amount of purchase, which money was now
deposited with a notary. The lawyer, much astonished that an affair
of such importance should have been arranged without any reference to
himself, refused to give up the deed to anyone but Monsieur or Madame
de Lamotte, and inquired why the latter did not appear herself.
Derues replied that she was at Versailles, and that he was to send
the deed to her there.  He repeated his request and the lawyer his
refusal, until Derues retired, saying he would find means to compel
him to give up the deed.  He actually did, the same day, present a
petition to the civil authority, in which Cyrano Derues de Bury sets
forth arrangements, made with Madame de Lamotte, founded on the deed
given by her husband, and requires permission to seize and withdraw
said deed from the custody in which it remains at present.  The
petition is granted.  The lawyer objects that he can only give up the
deed to either Monsieur or Madame de Lamotte, unless he be otherwise
ordered.  Derues has the effrontery to again appeal to the civil
authority, but, for the reasons given by that public officer, the
affair is adjourned.

These two futile efforts might have compromised Derues had they been
heard of at Buisson-Souef; but everything seemed to conspire in the
criminal's favour: neither the schoolmaster's wife nor the lawyer
thought of writing to Monsieur de Lamotte.  The latter, as yet
unsuspecting, was tormented by other anxieties, and kept at home by

In these days, distance is shortened, and one can travel from
Villeneuve-le-Roi-les-Sens to Paris in a few hours.  This was not the
case in 1777, when private industry and activity, stifled by routine
and privilege, had not yet experienced the need of providing the
means for rapid communication.  Half a day was required to go from
the capital to Versailles; a journey of twenty leagues required at
least two days and a night, and bristled with obstacles ind delays of
all kinds.  These difficulties of transport, still greater during bad
weather, and a long and serious attack of gout, explain why Monsieur
ale Lamotte, who was so ready to take alarm, had remained separated
from his wife from the middle of December to the end of February.  He
had received reassuring letters from her, written at first with
freedom and simplicity; but he thought he noticed a gradual change in
the later ones, which appeared to proceed more from the mind than the
heart.  A style which aimed at being natural was interspersed with
unnecessary expressions of affection, unusual between married people
well assured of their mutual love.  Monsieur de Lamotte observed and
exaggerated these peculiarities, and though endeavouring to persuade
himself that he was mistaken, he could not forget them, or regain his
usual tranquility.  Being somewhat ashamed of his anxiety, he kept
his fears to himself.

One morning, as he was sunk in a large armchair by the fire, his
sitting-room door opened, and the cure entered, who was surprised by
his despondent, sad, and pale appearance.  "What is the matter?" he
inquired, "Have you had an extra bad night?"

"Yes," answered Monsieur de Lamotte.

"Well, have you any news from Paris?"

"Nothing for a whole week: it is odd, is it not?"

"I am always hoping that this sale may fall through; it drags on for
so very long; and I believe that Monsieur Derues, in spite of what
your wife wrote a month ago, has not as much money as he pretends to
have.  Do you know that it is said that Monsieur Despeignes-
Duplessis, Madame Derues' relative, whose money they inherited, was

"Where did you hear that?"

"It is a common report in the country, and was brought here by a man
who came recently from Beauvais."

"Have the murderers been discovered?"

"Apparently not; justice seems unable to discover anything at all."

Monsieur de Lamotte hung his head, and his countenance assumed an
expression of painful thought, as though this news affected him

"Frankly," resumed the cure, "I believe you will remain Seigneur du
Buisson-Souef, and that I shall be spared the pain of writing another
name over your seat in the church of Villeneuve."

"The affair must be settled in a few days, for I can wait no longer;
if the purchaser be not Monsieur Derues, it will have to be someone
else.  "What makes you think he is short of money?"

"Oh!  oh!" said the cure, "a man who has money either pays his debts,
or is a cheat.  Now Heaven preserve me from suspecting Monsieur
Derues' honesty!"

"What do you know about him?"

"Do you remember Brother Marchois of the Camaldulians, who came to
see me last spring, and who was here the day Monsieur Derues arrived,
with your wife and Edouard?"

"Perfectly.  Well?"

"Well, I happened to tell him in one of my letters that Monsieur
Derues had become the purchaser of Buisson-Souef, and that I believed
the arrangements were concluded.  Thereupon Brother Marchois wrote
asking me to remind him that he owes them a sum of eight hundred
livres, and that, so far, they have not seen a penny of it."

"Ah!" said Monsieur de Lamotte, "perhaps I should have done better
not to let myself be deluded by his fine promises.  He certainly has
money on his tongue, and when once one begins to listen to him, one
can't help doing what he wants.  All the same, I had rather have had
to deal with someone else."

"And is it this which worries you, and makes you seem so anxious?"

"This and other things."

"What, then?"

"I am really ashamed to own it, but I am a credulous and timid as any
old woman.  Now do not laugh at me too much.  Do you believe in

"Monsieur," said the cure, smiling, "you should never ask a coward
whether he is afraid, you only risk his telling a lie.  He will say
'No,' but he means 'Yes.'"

"And are you a coward, my father?"

"A little.  I don't precisely believe all the nursery, tales, or in
the favourable or unfavourable meaning of some object seen during our
sleep, but--"

A sound of steps interrupted them, a servant entered, announcing
Monsieur Derues.

On hearing the name, Monsieur de Lamotte felt troubled in spite of
himself, but, overcoming the impression, he rose to meet the visitor.

"You had better stay," he said to the cure, who was also rising to
take leave.  "Stay; we have probably nothing to say which cannot be
said before you."

Derues entered the room, and, after the usual compliments, sat down
by the fire, opposite Monsieur de Lamotte.

"You did not expect me," he said, "and I ought to apologise for
surprising you thus."

Give me some news of my wife," asked Monsieur de Lamotte anxiously.

"She has never been better.  Your son is also to perfect health."

"But why are you alone?  Why does not Marie accompany you?  It is ten
weeks since she went to Paris."

"She has not yet quite finished the business with which you entrusted
her.  Perhaps I am partly the cause of this long absence, but one
cannot transact business as quickly as one would wish.  But, you have
no doubt heard from her, that all is finished, or nearly so, between
us.  We have drawn up a second private contract, which annuls the
former agreement, and I have paid over a sum of one hundred thousand

"I do not comprehend," said Monsieur de Lamotte.  "What can induce my
wife not to inform me of this?"

"You did not know?"

"I know nothing.  I was wondering just now with Monsieur le cure why
I did not hear from her."

"Madame de Lamotte was going to write to you, and I do not know what
can have hindered her."

"When did you leave her?"

"Several days ago.  I have not been at Paris; I am returning from
Chartres.  I believed you were informed of everything."

Monsieur de Lamotte remained silent for some moments.  Then, fixing
his eyes upon Derues' immovable countenance, he said, with some

"You are a husband and father, sir; in the name of this double and
sacred affection which is, not unknown to you, do not hide anything
from me: I fear some misfortune has happened to my wife which you are

Derues' physiognomy expressed nothing but a perfectly natural

"What can have suggested such ideas to you; dear sir?"  In saying
this he glanced at the cure; wishing to ascertain if this distrust
was Monsieur de Lamotte's own idea, or had been suggested to him.
The movement was so rapid that neither of the others observed it.
Like all knaves, obliged by their actions to be continually on the
watch, Derues possessed to a remarkable extent the art of seeing all
round him without appearing to observe anything in particular.  He
decided that as yet he had only to combat a suspicion unfounded on
proof, and he waited till he should be attacked more seriously.

"I do not know," he said, "what may have happened during my absence;
pray explain yourself, for you are making me share your disquietude."

"Yes, I am exceedingly anxious; I entreat you, tell me the whole
truth.  Explain this silence, and this absence prolonged beyond all
expectation.  You finished your business with Madame de Lamotte
several days ago: once again, why did she not write?  There is no
letter, either from her or my son!  To-morrow I shall send someone to

"Good heavens!" answered Derues, "is there nothing but an accident
which could cause this delay?  .  .  .  Well, then," he continued,
with the embarrassed look of a man compelled to betray a confidence,-
-"well, then, I see that in order to reassure you, I shall have to
give up a secret entrusted to me."

He then told Monsieur de Lamotte that his wife was no longer at
Paris, but at Versailles, where she was endeavouring to obtain an

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