List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page    

last, a feigned acknowledgment for a third part of a hundred thousand
livres, in order to give credence to the pretended payment made by

"Thirdly, in announcing and publishing, and attesting even by oath at
the time of an examination before the commissioner Mutel, that he had
really paid in cash to the aforesaid Dame de Lamotte the aforesaid
hundred thousand livres, and that she, being provided with this
money, had fled with her son and a certain person unknown;

"Fourthly, in depositing with a notary the deed of private contract
bearing the pretended receipt for the above sum of one hundred
thousand livres, end pursuing at law the execution of this deed and
of his claim to the possession of the said estate;

"Fifthly, in signing or causing to be signed by another person,
before the notaries of the town of Lyons, whither he had gone for
this purpose, a deed dated the twelfth day of March, by which the
supposed Dame de Lamotte appeared to accept the payment of the
hundred thousand livres, and to give authority to the Sieur de
Lamotte, her husband, to receive the arrears of the remainder of the
price of the said estate, the which deed he produced as a proof of
the existence of the said Dame de Lamotte;

"Sixthly, in causing to be sent, by other hands, under the name of
the aforesaid Dame de Lamotte, to a lawyer, on the eighth day o f
April 1777 (at a time when he was in prison, and had been compelled
to abandon the fable that he had paid the aforesaid sum of one
hundred thousand livres in hard cash, and had substituted a pretended
payment made in notes), the notes pretended to have been given by him
in payment to the said Dame de Lamotte

"Seventh, and finally, in maintaining constantly, until the discovery
of the body of the aforesaid Dame de Lamotte, that the said Dame was
still alive, and that he had seen her at the town of Lyons, as has
been stated above.

"In atonement has been condemned, etc.  etc.  etc.

"His goods are hereby declared acquired and confiscated to the King,
or to whomsoever His Majesty shall appoint, first deducting the sum
of two hundred livres as fine for the King, in case the confiscation
is not to the sole profit of His Majesty; and also the sum of six
hundred livres for masses to be said for the repose of the souls of
the aforesaid Dame de Lamotte and her son.  And, before being
executed, the said Antoine-Francois Derues shall suffer the question
ordinary and extraordinary, in order that from his mouth may be
learned the truth of these facts, and also the names of his
accomplices.  And the decision of the judges in the proceedings with
regard to the above-mentioned Marie-Louise Nicolais, wife of Derues,
is delayed until after the execution of the above sentence.  It is
also decreed that the mortuary act of the aforesaid de Lamotte the
younger, dated the sixteenth day of February last, in the register of
deaths belonging to the parish church of Saint-Louis at Versailles,
be amended, and his correct names be substituted, in order that the
said Sieur de Lamotte, the father, and other persons interested, may
produce said names before the magistrates if required.  And it is
also decreed that this sentence be printed and published by the
deputy of the Attorney-General at the Chatelet, and affixed to the
walls in the usual places and cross roads of the town, provostship
and viscounty of Paris, and wherever else requisite.

"With regard to the petition of Pierre-Etienne de Saint-Faust de
Lamotte, a Royal Equerry, Sieur de Grange-Flandre, Buisson-Souef,
Valperfond, and other places, widower and inheritor of Marie Francois
Perier, his wife, according to their marriage contract signed before
Baron and partner, notaries at Paris, the fifth day of September
1762, whereby he desires to intervene in the action brought against
Derues and his accomplices, concerning the assassination and
poisoning committed on the persons of the wife and son of the said
Sieur de Saint-Faust de Lamotte, on the accusation made by him to the
Deputy Attorney-General of the King at the Chatelet at present
pending in the Court, on the report of the final judgment given in
the said action the 3oth of April last, and which allowed the
intervention; it is decreed that there shall be levied on the goods
left by the condemned, before the rights of the Treasury, and
separate from them, the sum of six thousand livres, or such other sum
as it shall please the Court to award; from which sum the said
Saint-Faust de Lamotte shall consent to deduct the sum of two
thousand seven hundred and forty-eight livres, which he acknowledges
has been sent or remitted to him by the said Derues and his wife at
different times; which first sum of six thousand livres, or such
other, shall be employed by the said Sieur de Saint-Faust de Lamotte,
who is authorised to found therewith, in the parish church of Saint
Nicholas de Villeneuve-le-Roy, in which parish the estate of
Buisson-Souef is situate, and which is mentioned in the action, an
annual and perpetual service for the repose of the souls of the wife
and son of the said Sieur de Saint-Faust de Lamotte, of which an act
shall be inserted in the decree of intervention, and a copy of this
act or decree shall be inscribed upon a stone which shall be set in
the wall of the said church of Saint Nicholas de Villeneuve-le-Roy,
in such place as is expedient.  And the deed of contract for private
sale, made between the late spouse of the said Sieur de Saint-Faust
de Lamotte and the above-named Derues and his wife, is hereby
declared null and void, as having had no value in absence of any
payment or realisation of contract before a notary; and the pretended
agreement of the twelfth day of February last, as also all other
deeds fabricated by the said Derues or others, named in the above
action, as also any which may hereafter be presented, are hereby
declared to be null and void.

"The Court declares the judgment pronounced by the magistrates of the
Chatelet against the above named Derues to be good and right, and his
appeal against the same to be bad and ill-founded.

"It is decreed that the sentence shall lose its full and entire
effect with regard to Marie-Louise Nicolais, who is condemned to the
ordinary fine of twelve livres.  The necessary relief granted on the
petition of Pierre-Etienne de Saint-Faust de Lamotte, the second day
of May this present month, and delay accorded until after the
suspended judgment pronounced with regard to the said Marie-Louise

                         "(Signed) De Gourgues, President.
                                   "OUTREMONT, Councillor."

Derues' assurance and calmness never deserted him for one moment.
For three-quarters of an hour he harangued the Parliament, and his
defence was remarkable both for its presence of mind and the art with
which he made the most of any circumstances likely to suggest doubts
to the magistrates and soften the severity of the first sentence.
Found guilty on every point, he yet protested that he was innocent of
poisoning.  Remorse, which often merely means fear of punishment, had
no place in his soul, and torture he seemed not to dread.  As strong
in will as he was weak in body, he desired to die like a martyr in
the faith of his religion, which was hypocrisy, and the God whom he
gloried on the scaffold was the god of lies.

On May 6th, at seven in the morning, the sentence of execution was
read to him.  He listened calmly, and when it was finished, remarked:

"I had not anticipated so severe a sentence."

A few hours later the instruments of torture were got ready.  He was
told that this part of his punishment would be remitted if he would
confess his crimes and the names of his accomplices.  He replied:

"I have no more to say.  I know what terrible torture awaits me, I
know I must die to-day, but I have nothing to confess."

He made no resistance when his knees and legs were bound, and endured
the torture courageously.  Only, in a moment of agony, he exclaimed:

"Accursed money! has thou reduced me to this?"

Thinking that pain would overcome his resolution, the presiding
magistrate bent towards him, and said:

"Unhappy man! confess thy crime, since death is near at hand."

He recovered his firmness, and, looking at the magistrate, replied:

"I know it, monseigneur; I have perhaps not three hours to live."

Thinking that his apparently feeble frame could not endure the last
wedges, the executioner was ordered to stop.  He was unbound and laid
on a mattress, and a glass of wine was brought, of which he only
drank a few drops; after this, he made his confession to the priest.
For, dinner, they brought him soup and stew, which he ate eagerly,
and inquiring of the gaoler if he could have something more, an
entree was brought in addition.  One might have thought that this
final repast heralded, not death but deliverance.  At length three
o'clock struck the hour appointed for leaving the prison.

According to the report of credible persons whom we have consulted,
Paris on this occasion presented a remarkable appearance, which those
who saw it were never able to forget.  The great anthill was troubled
to its very lowest depth.  Whether by accident or design, the same
day had been fixed for a function which ought to have proved a
considerable counter attraction.  A great festival in honour of a
German prince was given on the Plaine de Grenelle, at which all the
court was present; and probably more than one great lady regretted
missing the emotions of the Place de Greve, abandoned to the rabble
and the bourgeoisie.  The rest of the city was deserted, the streets
silent, the houses closed.  A stranger transported suddenly into such
a solitude might have reasonably thought that during the night the
town had been smitten by the Angel of Death, and that only a
labyrinth of vacant buildings remained, testifying to the life and
turmoil of the preceding day.  A dark and dense atmosphere hung over
the abandoned town; lightning furrowed the heavy motionless clouds;
in the distance the occasional rumble of thunder was heard, answered
by the cannon of the royal fete.  The crowd was divided between the
powers of heaven and earth: the terrible majesty of the Eternal on
one side, on the other the frivolous pomp of royalty--eternal
punishment and transient grandeur in opposition.  Like the waters of
a flood leaving dry the fields which they have covered, so the waves
of the multitude forsook their usual course.  Thousands of men and
women crowded together along the route which the death-cart would
take; an ocean of heads undulated like the ears in a wheatfield.  The
old houses, hired at high rates, quivered under the weight of eager
spectators, and the window sashes had been removed to afford a better

Attired in the shirt worn by condemned criminals, and bearing a
placard both in front and behind, with the words "Wilful Poisoner,"
Derues descended the great staircase of the Chatelet with a firm
step.  It was at this moment, on seeing the crucifix, that he
exclaimed, "O Christ, I shall suffer like Thee!" He mounted the
tumbril, looking right and left amongst the crowd.  During the
progress he recognised and bowed to several of his old associates,
and bade adieu in a clear voice to the former mistress of his
'prentice days, who has recorded that she never saw him look so
pleasant.  Arrived at the door of Notre Dame, where the clerk was
awaiting him, he descended from the tumbril without assistance, took
a lighted wax taper weighing two pounds in his hand, and did penance,
kneeling, bareheaded and barefooted, a rope round his neck, repeating
the words of the death-warrant.  He then reascended the cart in the
midst of the cries and execrations of the populace, to which he
appeared quite insensible.  One voice only, endeavouring to dominate
the tumult, caused him to turn his head: it was that of the hawker
who was crying his sentence, and who broke off now and then to say--

"Well! my poor gossip Derues, how do you like that fine carriage
you're in?  Oh yes, mutter your prayers and look up to heaven as much
as you like, you won't take us in now.  Ah! thief who said I stole
from you!  Wasn't I right when I said I should be selling your
sentence some day?"

Then, adding her own wrongs to the list of crimes, she declared that
the Parliament had condemned him as much for having falsely accused
her of theft as for having poisoned Madame de Lamotte and her son!

When arrived at the scaffold, he gazed around him, and a sort of
shiver of impatience ran through the crowd.  He smiled, and as if
anxious to trick mankind for the last time, asked to be taken to the
Hotel de Ville, which was granted, in the hope that he would at last
make some confession; but he only persisted in saying that he was
guiltless of poisoning.  He had an interview with his wife, who
nearly fainted on seeing him, and remained for more than a quarter of
an hour unable to say a word.  He lavished tender names upon her, and
professed much affliction at seeing her in so miserable a condition.

When she was taken away, he asked permission to embrace her, and took
a most touching farewell.  His last words have been preserved.

"My dear wife," he said, "I recommend our beloved children to your
care: bring them up in the fear of God.  You must go to Chartres, you
will there see the bishop, on whom I had the honour of waiting when I
was there last, and who has always been kind to me; I believe he has
thought well of me, and that I may hope he will take pity on you and
on our children."

It was now seven in the evening, and the crowd began to murmur at the
long delay.  At length the criminal reappeared.  An onlooker who saw
him go to the Hotel de Ville, and who was carried by the movement of
the crowd to the foot of the scaffold, says that when handed over to
the executioner he took off his clothes himself.  He kissed the
instrument of punishment with devotion, then extended himself on the
St. Andrew's cross, asking with a resigned smile that they would make
his sufferings as short as possible.  As soon as his head was
covered, the executioner gave the signal.  One would have thought a
very few blows would have finished so frail a being, but he seemed as
hard to kill as the venomous reptiles which must be crushed and cut
to pieces before life is extinct, and the coup de grace was found
necessary.  The executioner uncovered his head and showed the
confessor that the eyes were closed and that the heart had ceased to
beat.  The body was then removed from the cross, the hands and feet
fastened together, and it was thrown on the funeral pile.

While the execution was proceeding the people applauded.  On the
morrow they bought up the fragments of bone, and hastened to buy
lottery tickets, in the firm conviction that these precious relics
would bring luck to the fortunate possessors!

In 1777, Madame Derues was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment, and
confined at the Salpetriere.  She was one of the first victims who
perished in the prison massacres.

< < Previous Page    

Other sites: