Part 11 out of 12
"Leontine's state so occupied my thoughts that I forgot myself
entirely. The poor woman was almost crazy the day before yesterday;
imagine the effect on her of this tragical termination. If you could
only know, child, what a morning we went through yesterday! It is
enough to make one forswear love!--Yesterday Leontine and I were
dragged across Paris by a horrible old woman, an old-clothes buyer, a
domineering creature, to that stinking and blood-stained sty they call
the Palace of Justice, and I said to her as I took her there: 'Is not
this enough to make us fall on our knees and cry out like Madame de
Nucingen, when she went through one of those awful Mediterranean
storms on her way to Naples, "Dear God, save me this time, and never
"These two days will certainly have shortened my life.--What fools we
are ever to write!--But love prompts us; we receive pages that fire
the heart through the eyes, and everything is in a blaze! Prudence
deserts us--we reply----"
"But why reply when you can act?" said Madame Camusot.
"It is grand to lose oneself utterly!" cried the Duchess with pride.
"It is the luxury of the soul."
"Beautiful women are excusable," said Madame Camusot modestly. "They
have more opportunities of falling than we have."
The Duchess smiled.
"We are always too generous," said Diane de Maufrigneuse. "I shall do
just like that odious Madame d'Espard."
"And what does she do?" asked the judge's wife, very curious.
"She has written a thousand love-notes----"
"So many!" exclaimed Amelie, interrupting the Duchess.
"Well, my dear, and not a word that could compromise her is to be
found in any one of them."
"You would be incapable of maintaining such coldness, such caution,"
said Madame Camusot. "You are a woman; you are one of those angels who
cannot stand out against the devil----"
"I have made a vow to write no more letters. I never in my life wrote
to anybody but that unhappy Lucien.--I will keep his letters to my
dying day! My dear child, they are fire, and sometimes we want----"
"But if they were found!" said Amelie, with a little shocked
"Oh! I should say they were part of a romance I was writing; for I
have copied them all, my dear, and burned the originals."
"Oh, madame, as a reward allow me to read them."
"Perhaps, child," said the Duchess. "And then you will see that he did
not write such letters as those to Leontine."
This speech was woman all the world over, of every age and every land.
Madame Camusot, like the frog in la Fontaine's fable, was ready to
burst her skin with the joy of going to the Grandlieus' in the society
of the beautiful Diane de Maufrigneuse. This morning she would forge
one of the links that are so needful to ambition. She could already
hear herself addressed as Madame la Presidente. She felt the ineffable
gladness of triumphing over stupendous obstacles, of which the
greatest was her husband's ineptitude, as yet unrevealed, but to her
well known. To win success for a second-rate man! that is to a woman--
as to a king--the delight which tempts great actors when they act a
bad play a hundred times over. It is the very drunkenness of egoism.
It is in a way the Saturnalia of power.
Power can prove itself to itself only by the strange misapplication
which leads it to crown some absurd person with the laurels of success
while insulting genius--the only strong-hold which power cannot touch.
The knighting of Caligula's horse, an imperial farce, has been, and
always will be, a favorite performance.
In a few minutes Diane and Amelie had exchanged the elegant disorder
of the fair Diane's bedroom for the severe but dignified and splendid
austerity of the Duchesse de Grandlieu's rooms.
She, a Portuguese, and very pious, always rose at eight to attend mass
at the little church of Sainte-Valere, a chapelry to Saint-Thomas
d'Aquin, standing at that time on the esplanade of the Invalides. This
chapel, now destroyed, was rebuilt in the Rue de Bourgogne, pending
the building of a Gothic church to be dedicated to Sainte-Clotilde.
On hearing the first words spoken in her ear by Diane de Maufrigneuse,
this saintly lady went to find Monsieur de Grandlieu, and brought him
back at once. The Duke threw a flashing look at Madame Camusot, one of
those rapid glances with which a man of the world can guess at a whole
existence, or often read a soul. Amelie's dress greatly helped the
Duke to decipher the story of a middle-class life, from Alencon to
Mantes, and from Mantes to Paris.
Oh! if only the lawyer's wife could have understood this gift in
dukes, she could never have endured that politely ironical look; she
saw the politeness only. Ignorance shares the privileges of fine
"This is Madame Camusot, a daughter of Thirion's--one of the Cabinet
ushers," said the Duchess to her husband.
The Duke bowed with extreme politeness to the wife of a legal
official, and his face became a little less grave.
The Duke had rung for his valet, who now came in.
"Go to the Rue Saint-Honore: take a coach. Ring at a side door, No.
10. Tell the man who opens the door that I beg his master will come
here, and if the gentleman is at home, bring him back with you.--
Mention my name, that will remove all difficulties.
"And do not be gone more than a quarter of an hour in all."
Another footman, the Duchess' servant, came in as soon as the other
"Go from me to the Duc de Chaulieu, and send up this card."
The Duke gave him a card folded down in a particular way. When the two
friends wanted to meet at once, on any urgent or confidential business
which would not allow of note-writing, they used this means of
Thus we see that similar customs prevail in every rank of society, and
differ only in manner, civility, and small details. The world of
fashion, too, has its argot, its slang; but that slang is called
"Are you quite sure, madame, of the existence of the letters you say
were written by Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu to this young man?"
said the Duc de Grandlieu.
And he cast a look at Madame Camusot as a sailor casts a sounding
"I have not seen them, but there is reason to fear it," replied Madame
"My daughter can have written nothing we would not own to!" said the
"Poor Duchess!" thought Diane, with a glance at the Duke that
"What do you think, my dear little Diane?" said the Duke in a whisper,
as he led her away into a recess.
"Clotilde is so crazy about Lucien, my dear friend, that she had made
an assignation with him before leaving. If it had not been for little
Lenoncourt, she would perhaps have gone off with him into the forest
of Fontainebleau. I know that Lucien used to write letters to her
which were enough to turn the brain of a saint.--We are three
daughters of Eve in the coils of the serpent of letter-writing."
The Duke and Diane came back to the Duchess and Madame Camusot, who
were talking in undertones. Amelie, following the advice of the
Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, affected piety to win the proud lady's
"We are at the mercy of a dreadful escaped convict!" said the Duke,
with a peculiar shrug. "This is what comes of opening one's house to
people one is not absolutely sure of. Before admitting an
acquaintance, one ought to know all about his fortune, his relations,
all his previous history----"
This speech is the moral of my story--from the aristocratic point of
"That is past and over," said the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse. "Now we
must think of saving that poor Madame de Serizy, Clotilde, and me----"
"We can but wait for Henri; I have sent to him. But everything really
depends on the man Gentil is gone to fetch. God grant that man may be
in Paris!--Madame," he added to Madame Camusot, "thank you so much for
having thought of us----"
This was Madame Camusot's dismissal. The daughter of the court usher
had wit enough to understand the Duke; she rose. But the Duchess de
Maufrigneuse, with the enchanting grace which had won her so much
friendship and discretion, took Amelie by the hand as if to show her,
in a way, to the Duke and Duchess.
"On my own account," said she, "to say nothing of her having been up
before daybreak to save us all, I may ask for more than a remembrance
for my little Madame Camusot. In the first place, she has already done
me such a service as I cannot forget; and then she is wholly devoted
to our side, she and her husband. I have promised that her Camusot
shall have advancement, and I beg you above everything to help him on,
for my sake."
"You need no such recommendation," said the Duke to Madame Camusot.
"The Grandlieus always remember a service done them. The King's
adherents will ere long have a chance of distinguishing themselves;
they will be called upon to prove their devotion; your husband will be
placed in the front----"
Madame Camusot withdrew, proud, happy, puffed up to suffocation. She
reached home triumphant; she admired herself, she made light of the
public prosecutor's hostility. She said to herself:
"Supposing we were to send Monsieur de Granville flying----"
It was high time for Madame Camusot to vanish. The Duc de Chaulieu,
one of the King's prime favorites, met the bourgeoise on the outer
"Henri," said the Duc de Grandlieu when he heard his friend announced,
"make haste, I beg of you, to get to the Chateau, try to see the King
--the business of this;" and he led the Duke into the window-recess,
where he had been talking to the airy and charming Diane.
Now and then the Duc de Chaulieu glanced in the direction of the
flighty Duchess, who, while talking to the pious Duchess and
submitting to be lectured, answered the Duc de Chaulieu's expressive
"My dear child," said the Duc de Grandlieu to her at last, the ASIDE
being ended, "do be good! Come, now," and he took Diane's hands,
"observe the proprieties of life, do not compromise yourself any more,
write no letters. Letters, my dear, have caused as much private woe as
public mischief. What might be excusable in a girl like Clotilde, in
love for the first time, had no excuse in----"
"An old soldier who has been under fire," said Diane with a pout.
This grimace and the Duchess' jest brought a smile to the face of the
two much-troubled Dukes, and of the pious Duchess herself.
"But for four years I have never written a billet-doux.--Are we
saved?" asked Diane, who hid her curiosity under this childishness.
"Not yet," said the Duc de Chaulieu. "You have no notion how difficult
it is to do an arbitrary thing. In a constitutional king it is what
infidelity is in a wife: it is adultery."
"The fascinating sin," said the Duc de Grandlieu.
"Forbidden fruit!" said Diane, smiling. "Oh! how I wish I were the
Government, for I have none of that fruit left--I have eaten it all."
"Oh! my dear, my dear!" said the elder Duchess, "you really go too
The two Dukes, hearing a coach stop at the door with the clatter of
horses checked in full gallop, bowed to the ladies and left them,
going into the Duc de Grandlieu's study, whither came the gentleman
from the Rue Honore-Chevalier--no less a man than the chief of the
King's private police, the obscure but puissant Corentin.
"Go on," said the Duc de Grandlieu; "go first, Monsieur de Saint-
Corentin, surprised that the Duke should have remembered him, went
forward after bowing low to the two noblemen.
"Always about the same individual, or about his concerns, my dear
sir," said the Duc de Grandlieu.
"But he is dead," said Corentin.
"He has left a partner," said the Duc de Chaulieu, "a very tough
"The convict Jacques Collin," replied Corentin.
"Will you speak, Ferdinand?" said the Duke de Chaulieu to his friend.
"That wretch is an object of fear," said the Duc de Grandlieu, "for he
has possessed himself, so as to be able to levy blackmail, of the
letters written by Madame de Serizy and Madame de Maufrigneuse to
Lucien Chardon, that man's tool. It would seem that it was a matter of
system in the young man to extract passionate letters in return for
his own, for I am told that Mademoiselle de Grandlieu had written some
--at least, so we fear--and we cannot find out from her--she is gone
"That little young man," replied Corentin, "was incapable of so much
foresight. That was a precaution due to the Abbe Carlos Herrera."
Corentin rested his elbow on the arm of the chair on which he was
sitting, and his head on his hand, meditating.
"Money!--The man has more than we have," said he. "Esther Gobseck
served him as a bait to extract nearly two million francs from that
well of gold called Nucingen.--Gentlemen, get me full legal powers,
and I will rid you of the fellow."
"And--the letters?" asked the Duc de Grandlieu.
"Listen to me, gentlemen," said Corentin, standing up, his weasel-face
betraying his excitement.
He thrust his hands into the pockets of his black doeskin trousers,
shaped over the shoes. This great actor in the historical drama of the
day had only stopped to put on a waistcoat and frock-coat, and had not
changed his morning trousers, so well he knew how grateful men can be
for immediate action in certain cases. He walked up and down the room
quite at his ease, haranguing loudly, as if he had been alone.
"He is a convict. He could be sent off to Bicetre without trial, and
put in solitary confinement, without a soul to speak to, and left
there to die.--But he may have given instructions to his adherents,
foreseeing this possibility."
"But he was put into the secret cells," said the Duc de Grandlieu,
"the moment he was taken into custody at that woman's house."
"Is there such a thing as a secret cell for such a fellow as he is?"
said Corentin. "He is a match for--for me!"
"What is to be done?" said the Dukes to each other by a glance.
"We can send the scoundrel back to the hulks at once--to Rochefort; he
will be dead in six months! Oh! without committing any crime," he
added, in reply to a gesture on the part of the Duc de Grandlieu.
"What do you expect? A convict cannot hold out more than six months of
a hot summer if he is made to work really hard among the marshes of
the Charente. But this is of no use if our man has taken precautions
with regard to the letters. If the villain has been suspicious of his
foes, and that is probable, we must find out what steps he has taken.
Then, if the present holder of the letters is poor, he is open to
bribery. So, no, we must make Jacques Collin speak. What a duel! He
will beat me. The better plan would be to purchase those letters by
exchange for another document--a letter of reprieve--and to place the
man in my gang. Jacques Collin is the only man alive who is clever
enough to come after me, poor Contenson and dear old Peyrade both
being dead! Jacques Collin killed those two unrivaled spies on
purpose, as it were, to make a place for himself. So, you see,
gentlemen, you must give me a free hand. Jacques Collin is in the
Conciergerie. I will go to see Monsieur de Granville in his Court.
Send some one you can trust to meet me there, for I must have a letter
to show to Monsieur de Granville, who knows nothing of me. I will hand
the letter to the President of the Council, a very impressive sponsor.
You have half an hour before you, for I need half an hour to dress,
that is to say, to make myself presentable to the eyes of the public
"Monsieur," said the Duc de Chaulieu, "I know your wonderful skill. I
only ask you to say Yes or No. Will you be bound to succeed?"
"Yes, if I have full powers, and your word that I shall never be
questioned about the matter.--My plan is laid."
This sinister reply made the two fine gentlemen shiver. "Go on, then,
monsieur," said the Duc de Chaulieu. "You can set down the charges of
the case among those you are in the habit of undertaking."
Corentin bowed and went away.
Henri de Lenoncourt, for whom Ferdinand de Grandlieu had a carriage
brought out, went off forthwith to the King, whom he was privileged to
see at all times in right of his office.
Thus all the various interests that had got entangled from the highest
to the lowest ranks of society were to meet presently in Monsieur de
Granville's room at the Palais, all brought together by necessity
embodied in three men--Justice in Monsieur de Granville, and the
family in Corentin, face to face with Jacques Collin, the terrible foe
who represented social crime in its fiercest energy.
What a duel is that between justice and arbitrary wills on one side
and the hulks and cunning on the other! The hulks--symbolical of that
daring which throws off calculation and reflection, which avails
itself of any means, which has none of the hyprocrisy of high-handed
justice, but is the hideous outcome of the starving stomach--the swift
and bloodthirsty pretext of hunger. Is it not attack as against self-
protection, theft as against property? The terrible quarrel between
the social state and the natural man, fought out on the narrowest
possible ground! In short, it is a terrible and vivid image of those
compromises, hostile to social interests, which the representatives of
authority, when they lack power, submit to with the fiercest rebels.
When Monsieur Camusot was announced, the public prosecutor signed that
he should be admitted. Monsieur de Granville had foreseen this visit,
and wished to come to an understanding with the examining judge as to
how to wind up this business of Lucien's death. The end could no
longer be that on which he had decided the day before in agreement
with Camusot, before the suicide of the hapless poet.
"Sit down, Monsieur Camusot," said Monsieur de Granville, dropping
into his armchair. The public prosecutor, alone with the inferior
judge, made no secret of his depressed state. Camusot looked at
Monsieur de Granville and observed his almost livid pallor, and such
utter fatigue, such complete prostration, as betrayed greater
suffering perhaps than that of the condemned man to whom the clerk had
announced the rejection of his appeal. And yet that announcement, in
the forms of justice, is a much as to say, "Prepare to die; your last
hour has come."
"I will return later, Monsieur le Comte," said Camusot. "Though
business is pressing----"
"No, stay," replied the public prosecutor with dignity. "A magistrate,
monsieur, must accept his anxieties and know how to hide them. I was
in fault if you saw any traces of agitation in me----"
Camusot bowed apologetically.
"God grant you may never know these crucial perplexities of our life.
A man might sink under less! I have just spent the night with one of
my most intimate friends.--I have but two friends, the Comte Octave de
Bauvan and the Comte de Serizy.--We sat together, Monsieur de Serizy,
the Count, and I, from six in the evening till six this morning,
taking it in turns to go from the drawing-room to Madame de Serizy's
bedside, fearing each time that we might find her dead or irremediably
insane. Desplein, Bianchon, and Sinard never left the room, and she
has two nurses. The Count worships his wife. Imagine the night I have
spent, between a woman crazy with love and a man crazy with despair.
And a statesman's despair is not like that of an idiot. Serizy, as
calm as if he were sitting in his place in council, clutched his chair
to force himself to show us an unmoved countenance, while sweat stood
over the brows bent by so much hard thought.--Worn out by want of
sleep, I dozed from five till half-past seven, and I had to be here by
half-past eight to warrant an execution. Take my word for it, Monsieur
Camusot, when a judge has been toiling all night in such gulfs of
sorrow, feeling the heavy hand of God on all human concerns, and
heaviest on noble souls, it is hard to sit down here, in front of a
desk, and say in cold blood, 'Cut off a head at four o'clock! Destroy
one of God's creatures full of life, health, and strength!'--And yet
this is my duty! Sunk in grief myself, I must order the scaffold----
"The condemned wretch cannot know that his judge suffers anguish equal
to his own. At this moment he and I, linked by a sheet of paper--I,
society avenging itself; he, the crime to be avenged--embody the same
duty seen from two sides; we are two lives joined for the moment by
the sword of the law.
"Who pities the judge's deep sorrow? Who can soothe it? Our glory is
to bury it in the depth of our heart. The priest with his life given
to God, the soldier with a thousand deaths for his country's sake,
seem to me far happier than the magistrate with his doubts and fears
and appalling responsibility.
"You know who the condemned man is?" Monsieur de Granville went on. "A
young man of seven-and-twenty--as handsome as he who killed himself
yesterday, and as fair; condemned against all our anticipations, for
the only proof against him was his concealment of the stolen goods.
Though sentenced, the lad will confess nothing! For seventy days he
has held out against every test, constantly declaring that he is
innocent. For two months I have felt two heads on my shoulders! I
would give a year of my life if he would confess, for juries need
encouragement; and imagine what a blow it would be to justice if some
day it should be discovered that the crime for which he is punished
was committed by another.
"In Paris everything is so terribly important; the most trivial
incidents in the law courts have political consequences.
"The jury, an institution regarded by the legislators of the
Revolution as a source of strength, is, in fact, an instrument of
social ruin, for it fails in action; it does not sufficiently protect
society. The jury trifles with its functions. The class of jurymen is
divided into two parties, one averse to capital punishment; the result
is a total upheaval of true equality in administration of the law.
Parricide, a most horrible crime, is in some departments treated with
leniency, while in others a common murder, so to speak, is punished
with death. [There are in penal servitude twenty-three parricides who
have been allowed the benefit of EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES.] And what
would happen if here in Paris, in our home district, an innocent man
should be executed!"
"He is an escaped convict," said Monsieur Camusot, diffidently.
"The Opposition and the Press would make him a paschal lamb!" cried
Monsieur de Granville; "and the Opposition would enjoy white-washing
him, for he is a fanatical Corsican, full of his native notions, and
his murders were a Vendetta. In that island you may kill your enemy,
and think yourself, and be thought, a very good man.
"A thorough-paced magistrate, I tell you, is an unhappy man. They
ought to live apart from all society, like the pontiffs of old. The
world should never see them but at fixed hours, leaving their cells,
grave, and old, and venerable, passing sentence like the high priests
of antiquity, who combined in their person the functions of judicial
and sacerdotal authority. We should be accessible only in our high
seat.--As it is, we are to be seen every day, amused or unhappy, like
other men. We are to be found in drawing-rooms and at home, as
ordinary citizens, moved by our passions; and we seem, perhaps, more
grotesque than terrible."
This bitter cry, broken by pauses and interjections, and emphasized by
gestures which gave it an eloquence impossible to reduce to writing,
made Camusot's blood run chill.
"And I, monsieur," said he, "began yesterday my apprenticeship to the
sufferings of our calling.--I could have died of that young fellow's
death. He misunderstood my wish to be lenient, and the poor wretch
"Ah, you ought never to have examined him!" cried Monsieur de
Granville; "it is so easy to oblige by doing nothing."
"And the law, monsieur?" replied Camusot. "He had been in custody two
"The mischief is done," said the public prosecutor. "I have done my
best to remedy what is indeed irremediable. My carriage and servants
are following the poor weak poet to the grave. Serizy has sent his
too; nay, more, he accepts the duty imposed on him by the unfortunate
boy, and will act as his executor. By promising this to his wife he
won from her a gleam of returning sanity. And Count Octave is
attending the funeral in person."
"Well, then, Monsieur le Comte," said Camusot, "let us complete our
work. We have a very dangerous man on our hands. He is Jacques Collin
--and you know it as well as I do. The ruffian will be recognized----"
"Then we are lost!" cried Monsieur de Granville.
"He is at this moment shut up with your condemned murderer, who, on
the hulks, was to him what Lucien has been in Paris--a favorite
protege. Bibi-Lupin, disguised as a gendarme, is watching the
"What business has the superior police to interfere?" said the public
prosecutor. "He has no business to act without my orders!"
"All the Conciergerie must know that we have caught Jacques Collin.--
Well, I have come on purpose to tell you that this daring felon has in
his possession the most compromising letters of Lucien's
correspondence with Madame de Serizy, the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse,
and Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu."
"Are you sure of that?" asked Monsieur de Granville, his face full of
"You shall hear, Monsieur le Comte, what reason I have to fear such a
misfortune. When I untied the papers found in the young man's rooms,
Jacques Collin gave a keen look at the parcel, and smiled with
satisfaction in a way that no examining judge could misunderstand. So
deep a villain as Jacques Collin takes good care not to let such a
weapon slip through his fingers. What is to be said if these documents
should be placed in the hands of counsel chosen by that rascal from
among the foes of the government and the aristocracy!--My wife, to
whom the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse has shown so much kindness, is gone
to warn her, and by this time they must be with the Grandlieus holding
"But we cannot possibly try the man!" cried the public prosecutor,
rising and striding up and down the room. "He must have put the papers
in some safe place----"
"I know where," said Camusot.
These words finally effaced every prejudice the public prosecutor had
felt against him.
"Well, then----" said Monsieur de Granville, sitting down again.
"On my way here this morning I reflected deeply on this miserable
business. Jacques Collin has an aunt--an aunt by nature, not putative
--a woman concerning whom the superior police have communicated a
report to the Prefecture. He is this woman's pupil and idol; she is
his father's sister, her name is Jacqueline Collin. This wretched
woman carries on a trade as a wardrobe purchaser, and by the
connection this business has secured her she gets hold of many family
secrets. If Jacques Collin has intrusted those papers, which would be
his salvation, to any one's keeping, it is to that of this creature.
Have her arrested."
The public prosecutor gave Camusot a keen look, as much as to say,
"This man is not such a fool as I thought him; he is still young, and
does not yet know how to handle the reins of justice."
"But," Camusot went on, "in order to succeed, we must give up all the
plans we laid yesterday, and I came to take your advice--your
The public prosecutor took up his paper-knife and tapped it against
the edge of the table with one of the tricky movements familiar to
thoughtful men when they give themselves up to meditation.
"Three noble families involved!" he exclaimed. "We must not make the
smallest blunder!--You are right: as a first step let us act on
Fouche's principle, 'Arrest!'--and Jacques Collin must at once be sent
back to the secret cells."
"That is to proclaim him a convict and to ruin Lucien's memory!"
"What a desperate business!" said Monsieur de Granville. "There is
danger on every side."
At this instant the governor of the Conciergerie came in, not without
knocking; and the private room of a public prosecutor is so well
guarded, that only those concerned about the courts may even knock at
"Monsieur le Comte," said Monsieur Gault, "the prisoner calling
himself Carlos Herrera wishes to speak with you."
"Has he had communication with anybody?" asked Monsieur de Granville.
"With all the prisoners, for he has been out in the yard since about
half-past seven. And he has seen the condemned man, who would seem to
have talked to him."
A speech of Camusot's, which recurred to his mind like a flash of
light, showed Monsieur de Granville all the advantage that might be
taken of a confession of intimacy between Jacques Collin and Theodore
Calvi to obtain the letters. The public prosecutor, glad to have an
excuse for postponing the execution, beckoned Monsieur Gault to his
"I intend," said he, "to put off the execution till to-morrow; but let
no one in the prison suspect it. Absolute silence! Let the executioner
seem to be superintending the preparations.
"Send the Spanish priest here under a strong guard; the Spanish
Embassy claims his person! Gendarmes can bring up the self-styled
Carlos by your back stairs so that he may see no one. Instruct the men
each to hold him by one arm, and never let him go till they reach this
"Are you sure, Monsieur Gault, that this dangerous foreigner has
spoken to no one but the prisoners!"
"Ah! just as he came out of the condemned cell a lady came to see
The two magistrates exchanged looks, and such looks!
"What lady was that!" asked Camusot.
"One of his penitents--a Marquise," replied Gault.
"Worse and worse!" said Monsieur de Granville, looking at Camusot.
"She gave all the gendarmes and warders a sick headache," said
Monsieur Gault, much puzzled.
"Nothing can be a matter of indifference in your business," said the
public prosecutor. "The Conciergerie has not such tremendous walls for
nothing. How did this lady get in?"
"With a regular permit, monsieur," replied the governor. "The lady,
beautifully dressed, in a fine carriage with a footman and a chasseur,
came to see her confessor before going to the funeral of the poor
young man whose body you had had removed."
"Bring me the order for admission," said Monsieur de Granville.
"It was given on the recommendation of the Comte de Serizy."
"What was the woman like?" asked the public prosecutor.
"She seemed to be a lady."
"Did you see her face?"
"She wore a black veil."
"What did they say to each other?"
"Well--a pious person, with a prayer-book in her hand--what could she
say? She asked the Abbe's blessing and went on her knees."
"Did they talk together a long time?"
"Not five minutes; but we none of us understood what they said; they
spoke Spanish no doubt."
"Tell us everything, monsieur," the public prosecutor insisted. "I
repeat, the very smallest detail is to us of the first importance. Let
this be a caution to you."
"She was crying, monsieur."
"That we could not see, she hid her face in her handkerchief. She left
three hundred francs in gold for the prisoners."
"That was not she!" said Camusot.
"Bibi-Lupin at once said, 'She is a thief!' " said Monsieur Gault.
"He knows the tribe," said Monsieur de Granville.--"Get out your
warrant," he added, turning to Camusot, "and have seals placed on
everything in her house--at once! But how can she have got hold of
Monsieur de Serizy's recommendation?--Bring me the order--and go,
Monsieur Gault; send me that Abbe immediately. So long as we have him
safe, the danger cannot be greater. And in the course of two hours'
talk you get a long way into a man's mind."
"Especially such a public prosecutor as you are," said Camusot
"There will be two of us," replied Monsieur de Granville politely.
And he became discursive once more.
"There ought to be created for every prison parlor, a post of
superintendent, to be given with a good salary to the cleverest and
most energetic police officers," said he, after a long pause. "Bibi-
Lupin ought to end his days in such a place. Then we should have an
eye and ear on the watch in a department that needs closer supervision
than it gets.--Monsieur Gault could tell us nothing positive."
"He has so much to do," said Camusot. "Still, between these secret
cells and us there lies a gap which ought not to exist. On the way
from the Conciergerie to the judges' rooms there are passages,
courtyards, and stairs. The attention of the agents cannot be
unflagging, whereas the prisoner is always alive to his own affairs.
"I was told that a lady had already placed herself in the way of
Jacques Collin when he was brought up from the cells to be examined.
That woman got into the guardroom at the top of the narrow stairs from
the mousetrap; the ushers told me, and I blamed the gendarmes."
"Oh! the Palais needs entire reconstruction," said Monsieur de
Granville. "But it is an outlay of twenty to thirty million francs!
Just try asking the Chambers for thirty millions for the more decent
accommodation of Justice."
The sound of many footsteps and a clatter of arms fell on their ear.
It would be Jacques Collin.
The public prosecutor assumed a mask of gravity that hid the man.
Camusot imitated his chief.
The office-boy opened the door, and Jacques Collin came in, quite calm
"You wished to speak to me," said Monsieur de Granville. "I am ready
"Monsieur le Comte, I am Jacques Collin. I surrender!"
Camusot started; the public prosecutor was immovable.
"As you may suppose, I have my reasons for doing this," said Jacques
Collin, with an ironical glance at the two magistrates. "I must
inconvenience you greatly; for if I had remained a Spanish priest, you
would simply have packed me off with an escort of gendarmes as far as
the frontier by Bayonne, and there Spanish bayonets would have
relieved you of me."
The lawyers sat silent and imperturbable.
"Monsieur le Comte," the convict went on, "the reasons which have led
me to this step are yet more pressing than this, but devilish personal
to myself. I can tell them to no one but you.--If you are afraid----"
"Afraid of whom? Of what?" said the Comte de Granville.
In attitude and expression, in the turn of his head, his demeanor and
his look, this distinguished judge was at this moment a living
embodiment of the law which ought to supply us with the noblest
examples of civic courage. In this brief instant he was on a level
with the magistrates of the old French Parlement in the time of the
civil wars, when the presidents found themselves face to face with
death, and stood, made of marble, like the statues that commemorate
"Afraid to be alone with an escaped convict!"
"Leave us, Monsieur Camusot," said the public prosecutor at once.
"I was about to suggest that you should bind me hand and foot,"
Jacques Collin coolly added, with an ominous glare at the two
gentlemen. He paused, and then said with great gravity:
"Monsieur le Comte, you had my esteem, but you now command my
"Then you think you are formidable?" said the magistrate, with a look
of supreme contempt.
"THINK myself formidable?" retorted the convict. "Why think about it?
I am, and I know it."
Jacques Collin took a chair and sat down, with all the ease of a man
who feels himself a match for his adversary in an interview where they
would treat on equal terms.
At this instant Monsieur Camusot, who was on the point of closing the
door behind him, turned back, came up to Monsieur de Granville, and
handed him two folded papers.
"Look!" said he to Monsieur de Granville, pointing to one of them.
"Call back Monsieur Gault!" cried the Comte de Granville, as he read
the name of Madame de Maufrigneuse's maid--a woman he knew.
The governor of the prison came in.
"Describe the woman who came to see the prisoner," said the public
prosecutor in his ear.
"Short, thick-set, fat, and square," replied Monsieur Gault.
"The woman to whom this permit was given is tall and thin," said
Monsieur de Granville. "How old was she?"
"This concerns me, gentlemen?" said Jacques Collin. "Come, do not
puzzle your heads. That person is my aunt, a very plausible aunt, a
woman, and an old woman. I can save you a great deal of trouble. You
will never find my aunt unless I choose. If we beat about the bush, we
shall never get forwarder."
"Monsieur l'Abbe has lost his Spanish accent," observed Monsieur
Gault; "he does not speak broken French."
"Because things are in a desperate mess, my dear Monsieur Gault,"
replied Jacques Collin with a bitter smile, as he addressed the
Governor by name.
Monsieur Gault went quickly up to his chief, and said in a whisper,
"Beware of that man, Monsieur le Comte; he is mad with rage."
Monsieur de Granville gazed slowly at Jacques Collin, and saw that he
was controlling himself; but he saw, too, that what the governor said
was true. This treacherous demeanor covered the cold but terrible
nervous irritation of a savage. In Jacques Collin's eyes were the
lurid fires of a volcanic eruption, his fists were clenched. He was a
tiger gathering himself up to spring.
"Leave us," said the Count gravely to the prison governor and the
"You did wisely to send away Lucien's murderer!" said Jacques Collin,
without caring whether Camusot heard him or no; "I could not contain
myself, I should have strangled him."
Monsieur de Granville felt a chill; never had he seen a man's eyes so
full of blood, or cheeks so colorless, or muscles so set.
"And what good would that murder have done you?" he quietly asked.
"You avenge society, or fancy you avenge it, every day, monsieur, and
you ask me to give a reason for revenge? Have you never felt vengeance
throbbing in surges in your veins? Don't you know that it was that
idiot of a judge who killed him?--For you were fond of my Lucien, and
he loved you! I know you by heart, sir. The dear boy would tell me
everything at night when he came in; I used to put him to bed as a
nurse tucks up a child, and I made him tell me everything. He confided
everything to me, even his least sensations!
"The best of mothers never loved an only son so tenderly as I loved
that angel! If only you knew! All that is good sprang up in his heart
as flowers grow in the fields. He was weak; it was his only fault,
weak as the string of a lyre, which is so strong when it is taut.
These are the most beautiful natures; their weakness is simply
tenderness, admiration, the power of expanding in the sunshine of art,
of love, of the beauty God has made for man in a thousand shapes!--In
short, Lucien was a woman spoiled. Oh! what could I not say to that
brute beast who had just gone out of the room!
"I tell you, monsieur, in my degree, as a prisoner before his judge, I
did what God A'mighty would have done for His Son if, hoping to save
Him, He had gone with Him before Pilate!"
A flood of tears fell from the convict's light tawny eyes, which just
now had glared like those of a wolf starved by six months' snow in the
plains of the Ukraine. He went on:
"That dolt would listen to nothing, and he killed the boy!--I tell
you, sir, I bathed the child's corpse in my tears, crying out to the
Power I do not know, and which is above us all! I, who do not believe
in God!--(For if I were not a materialist, I should not be myself.)
"I have told everything when I say that. You don't know--no man knows
what suffering is. I alone know it. The fire of anguish so dried up my
tears, that all last night I could not weep. Now I can, because I feel
that you can understand me. I saw you, sitting there just now, an
Image of Justice. Oh! monsieur, may God--for I am beginning to believe
in Him--preserve you from ever being as bereft as I am! That cursed
judge has robbed me of my soul, Monsieur le Comte! At this moment they
are burying my life, my beauty, my virtue, my conscience, all my
powers! Imagine a dog from which a chemist had extracted the blood.--
That's me! I am that dog----
"And that is why I have come to tell you that I am Jacques Collin, and
to give myself up. I made up my mind to it this morning when they came
and carried away the body I was kissing like a madman--like a mother--
as the Virgin must have kissed Jesus in the tomb.
"I meant then to give myself up to justice without driving any
bargain; but now I must make one, and you shall know why."
"Are you speaking to the judge or to Monsieur de Granville?" asked the
The two men, Crime and Law, looked at each other. The magistrate had
been strongly moved by the convict; he felt a sort of divine pity for
the unhappy wretch; he understood what his life and feelings were. And
besides, the magistrate--for a magistrate is always a magistrate--
knowing nothing of Jacques Collin's career since his escape from
prison, fancied that he could impress the criminal who, after all, had
only been sentenced for forgery. He would try the effect of generosity
on this nature, a compound, like bronze, of various elements, of good
Again, Monsieur de Granville, who had reached the age of fifty-three
without ever having been loved, admired a tender soul, as all men do
who have not been loved. This despair, the lot of many men to whom
women can only give esteem and friendship, was perhaps the unknown
bond on which a strong intimacy was based that united the Comtes de
Bauvan, de Granville, and de Serizy; for a common misfortune brings
souls into unison quite as much as a common joy.
"You have the future before you," said the public prosecutor, with an
inquisitorial glance at the dejected villain.
The man only expressed by a shrug the utmost indifference to his fate.
"Lucien made a will by which he leaves you three hundred thousand
"Poor, poor chap! poor boy!" cried Jacques Collin. "Always too honest!
I was all wickedness, while he was goodness--noble, beautiful,
sublime! Such lovely souls cannot be spoiled. He had taken nothing
from me but my money, sir."
This utter and complete surrender of his individuality, which the
magistrate vainly strove to rally, so thoroughly proved his dreadful
words, that Monsieur de Granville was won over to the criminal. The
public prosecutor remained!
"If you really care for nothing," said Monsieur de Granville, "what
did you want to say to me?"
"Well, is it not something that I have given myself up? You were
getting warm, but you had not got me; besides, you would not have
known what to do with me----"
"What an antagonist!" said the magistrate to himself.
"Monsieur le Comte, you are about to cut off the head of an innocent
man, and I have discovered the culprit," said Jacques Collin, wiping
away his tears. "I have come here not for their sakes, but for yours.
I have come to spare you remorse, for I love all who took an interest
in Lucien, just as I will give my hatred full play against all who
helped to cut off his life--men or women!
"What can a convict more or less matter to me?" he went on, after a
short pause. "A convict is no more in my eyes than an emmet is in
yours. I am like the Italian brigands--fine men they are! If a
traveler is worth ever so little more than the charge of their musket,
they shoot him dead.
"I thought only of you.--I got the young man to make a clean breast of
it; he was bound to trust me, we had been chained together. Theodore
is very good stuff; he thought he was doing his mistress a good turn
by undertaking to sell or pawn stolen goods; but he is no more guilty
of the Nanterre job than you are. He is a Corsican; it is their way to
revenge themselves and kill each other like flies. In Italy and Spain
a man's life is not respected, and the reason is plain. There we are
believed to have a soul in our own image, which survives us and lives
for ever. Tell that to your analyst! It is only among atheistical or
philosophical nations that those who mar human life are made to pay so
dearly; and with reason from their point of view--a belief only in
matter and in the present.
"If Calvi had told you who the woman was from whom he obtained the
stolen goods, you would not have found the real murderer; he is
already in your hands; but his accomplice, whom poor Theodore will not
betray because she is a woman---- Well, every calling has its point of
honor; convicts and thieves have theirs!
"Now, I know the murderer of those two women and the inventors of that
bold, strange plot; I have been told every detail. Postpone Calvi's
execution, and you shall know all; but you must give me your word that
he shall be sent safe back to the hulks and his punishment commuted. A
man so miserable as I am does not take the trouble to lie--you know
that. What I have told you is the truth."
"To you, Jacques Collin, though it is degrading Justice, which ought
never to condescend to such a compromise, I believe I may relax the
rigidity of my office and refer the case to my superiors."
"Will you grant me this life?"
"Monsieur, I implore you to give me your word; it will be enough."
Monsieur Granville drew himself up with offended pride.
"I hold in my hand the honor of three families, and you only the lives
of three convicts in yours," said Jacques Collin. "I have the stronger
"But you may be sent back to the dark cells: then, what will you do?"
said the public prosecutor.
"Oh! we are to play the game out then!" said Jacques Collin. "I was
speaking as man to man--I was talking to Monsieur de Granville. But if
the public prosecutor is my adversary, I take up the cards and hold
them close.--And if only you had given me your word, I was ready to
give you back the letters that Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu----"
This was said with a tone, an audacity, and a look which showed
Monsieur de Granville, that against such an adversary the least
blunder was dangerous.
"And is that all you ask?" said the magistrate.
"I will speak for myself now," said Jacques. "The honor of the
Grandlieu family is to pay for the commutation of Theodore's sentence.
It is giving much to get very little. For what is a convict in penal
servitude for life? If he escapes, you can so easily settle the score.
It is drawing a bill on the guillotine! Only, as he was consigned to
Rochefort with no amiable intentions, you must promise me that he
shall be quartered at Toulon, and well treated there.
"Now, for myself, I want something more. I have the packets of letters
from Madame de Serizy and Madame de Maufrigneuse.--And what letters!--
I tell you, Monsieur le Comte, prostitutes, when they write letters,
assume a style of sentiment; well, sir, fine ladies, who are
accustomed to style and sentiment all day long, write as prostitutes
behave. Philosophers may know the reasons for this contrariness. I do
not care to seek them. Woman is an inferior animal; she is ruled by
her instincts. To my mind a woman has no beauty who is not like a man.
"So your smart duchesses, who are men in brains only, write
masterpieces. Oh! they are splendid from beginning to end, like
Piron's famous ode!----"
"Would you like to see them?" said Jacques Collin, with a laugh.
The magistrate felt ashamed.
"I cannot give them to you to read. But, there; no nonsense; this is
business and all above board, I suppose?--You must give me back the
letters, and allow no one to play the spy or to follow or to watch the
person who will bring them to me."
"That will take time," said Monsieur de Granville.
"No. It is half-past nine," replied Jacques Collin, looking at the
clock; "well, in four minutes you will have a letter from each of
these ladies, and after reading them you will countermand the
guillotine. If matters were not as they are, you would not see me
taking things so easy.--The ladies indeed have had warning."--Monsieur
de Granville was startled.--"They must be making a stir by now; they
are going to bring the Keeper of the Seals into the fray--they may
even appeal to the King, who knows?--Come, now, will you give me your
word that you will forget all that has passed, and neither follow, nor
send any one to follow, that person for a whole hour?"
"I promise it."
"Very well; you are not the man to deceive an escaped convict. You are
a chip of the block of which Turennes and Condes are made, and would
keep your word to a thief.--In the Salle des Pas-Perdus there is at
this moment a beggar woman in rags, an old woman, in the very middle
of the hall. She is probably gossiping with one of the public writers,
about some lawsuit over a party-wall perhaps; send your office
messenger to fetch her, saying these words, 'Dabor ti Mandana' (the
Boss wants you). She will come.
"But do not be unnecessarily cruel. Either you accept my terms or you
do not choose to be mixed up in a business with a convict.--I am only
a forger, you will remember!--Well, do not leave Calvi to go through
the terrors of preparation for the scaffold."
"I have already countermanded the execution," said Monsieur de
Granville to Jacques Collin. "I would not have Justice beneath you in
Jacques Collin looked at the public prosecutor with a sort of
amazement, and saw him ring his bell.
"Will you promise not to escape? Give me your word, and I shall be
satisfied. Go and fetch the woman."
The office-boy came in.
"Felix, send away the gendarmes," said Monsieur de Granville.
Jacques Collin was conquered.
In this duel with the magistrate he had tried to be the superior, the
stronger, the more magnanimous, and the magistrate had crushed him. At
the same time, the convict felt himself the superior, inasmuch as he
had tricked the Law; he had convinced it that the guilty man was
innocent, and had fought for a man's head and won it; but this
advantage must be unconfessed, secret and hidden, while the magistrate
towered above him majestically in the eye of day.
As Jacques Collin left Monsieur de Granville's room, the Comte des
Lupeaulx, Secretary-in-Chief of the President of the Council, and a
deputy, made his appearance, and with him a feeble-looking, little old
man. This individual, wrapped in a puce-colored overcoat, as though it
were still winter, with powdered hair, and a cold, pale face, had a
gouty gait, unsteady on feet that were shod with loose calfskin boots;
leaning on a gold-headed cane, he carried his hat in his hand, and
wore a row of seven orders in his button-hole.
"What is it, my dear des Lupeaulx?" asked the public prosecutor.
"I come from the Prince," replied the Count, in a low voice. "You have
carte blanche if you can only get the letters--Madame de Serizy's,
Madame de Maufrigneuse's and Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu's. You
may come to some arrangement with this gentleman----"
"Who is he?" asked Monsieur de Granville, in a whisper.
"There are no secrets between you and me, my dear sir," said des
Lupeaulx. "This is the famous Corentin. His Majesty desires that you
will yourself tell him all the details of this affair and the
conditions of success."
"Do me the kindness," replied the public prosecutor, "of going to tell
the Prince that the matter is settled, that I have not needed this
gentleman's assistance," and he turned to Corentin. "I will wait on
His Majesty for his commands with regard to the last steps in the
matter, which will lie with the Keeper of the Seals, as two reprieves
will need signing."
"You have been wise to take the initiative," said des Lupeaulx,
shaking hands with the Comte de Granville. "On the very eve of a great
undertaking the King is most anxious that the peers and the great
families should not be shown up, blown upon. It ceases to be a low
criminal case; it becomes an affair of State."
"But tell the Prince that by the time you came it was all settled."
"I believe so."
"Then you, my dear fellow, will be Keeper of the Seals as soon as the
present Keeper is made Chancellor----"
"I have no ambition," replied the magistrate.
Des Lupeaulx laughed, and went away.
"Beg of the Prince to request the King to grant me ten minutes'
audience at about half-past two," added Monsieur de Granville, as he
accompanied the Comte des Lupeaulx to the door.
"So you are not ambitious!" said des Lupeaulx, with a keen look at
Monsieur de Granville. "Come, you have two children, you would like at
least to be made peer of France."
"If you have the letters, Monsieur le Procureur General, my
intervention is unnecessary," said Corentin, finding himself alone
with Monsieur de Granville, who looked at him with very natural
"Such a man as you can never be superfluous in so delicate a case,"
replied the magistrate, seeing that Corentin had heard or guessed
Corentin bowed with a patronizing air.
"Do you know the man in question, monsieur?"
"Yes, Monsieur le Comte, it is Jacques Collin, the head of the 'Ten
Thousand Francs Association,' the banker for three penal settlements,
a convict who, for the last five years, has succeeded in concealing
himself under the robe of the Abbe Carlos Herrera. How he ever came to
be intrusted with a mission to the late King from the King of Spain is
a question which we have all puzzled ourselves with trying to answer.
I am now expecting information from Madrid, whither I have sent notes
and a man. That convict holds the secrets of two kings."
"He is a man of mettle and temper. We have only two courses open to
us," said the public prosecutor. "We must secure his fidelity, or get
him out of the way."
"The same idea has struck us both, and that is a great honor for me,"
said Corentin. "I am obliged to have so many ideas, and for so many
people, that out of them all I ought occasionally to meet a clever
He spoke so drily, and in so icy a tone, that Monsieur de Granville
made no reply, and proceeded to attend to some pressing matters.
Mademoiselle Jacqueline Collin's amazement on seeing Jacques Collin in
the Salle des Pas-Perdus is beyond imagining. She stood square on her
feet, her hands on her hips, for she was dressed as a costermonger.
Accustomed as she was to her nephew's conjuring tricks, this beat
"Well, if you are going to stare at me as if I were a natural history
show," said Jacques Collin, taking his aunt by the arm and leading her
out of the hall, "we shall be taken for a pair of curious specimens;
they may take us into custody, and then we should lose time."
And he went down the stairs of the Galerie Marchande leading to the
Rue de la Barillerie. "Where is Paccard?"
"He is waiting for me at la Rousse's, walking up and down the flower
"Also at her house, as my god-daughter."
"Let us go there."
"Look round and see if we are watched."
La Rousse, a hardware dealer living on the Quai aux Fleurs, was the
widow of a famous murderer, one of the "Ten Thousand." In 1819,
Jacques Collin had faithfully handed over twenty thousand francs and
odd to this woman from her lover, after he had been executed. Trompe-
la-Mort was the only person who knew of his pal's connection with the
girl, at that time a milliner.
"I am your young man's boss," the boarder at Madame Vauquer's had told
her, having sent for her to meet him at the Jardin des Plantes. "He
may have mentioned me to you, my dear.--Any one who plays me false
dies within a year; on the other hand, those who are true to me have
nothing to fear from me. I am staunch through thick and thin, and
would die without saying a word that would compromise anybody I wish
well to. Stick to me as a soul sticks to the Devil, and you will find
the benefit of it. I promised your poor Auguste that you should be
happy; he wanted to make you a rich woman, and he got scragged for
"Don't cry; listen to me. No one in the world knows that you were
mistress to a convict, to the murderer they choked off last Saturday;
and I shall never tell. You are two-and-twenty, and pretty, and you
have twenty-six thousand francs of your own; forget Auguste and get
married; be an honest woman if you can. In return for peace and quiet,
I only ask you to serve me now and then, me, and any one I may send
you, but without stopping to think. I will never ask you to do
anything that can get you into trouble, you or your children, or your
husband, if you get one, or your family.
"In my line of life I often want a safe place to talk in or to hide
in. Or I may want a trusty woman to carry a letter or do an errand.
You will be one of my letter-boxes, one of my porters' lodges, one of
my messengers, neither more nor less.
"You are too red-haired; Auguste and I used to call you la Rousse; you
can keep that name. My aunt, an old-clothes dealer at the Temple, who
will come and see you, is the only person in the world you are to
obey; tell her everything that happens to you; she will find you a
husband, and be very useful to you."
And thus the bargain was struck, a diabolical compact like that which
had for so long bound Prudence Servien to Jacques Collin, and which
the man never failed to tighten; for, like the Devil, he had a passion
In about 1821 Jacques Collin found la Rousse a husband in the person
of the chief shopman under a rich wholesale tin merchant. This head-
clerk, having purchased his master's house of business, was now a
prosperous man, the father of two children, and one of the district
Maire's deputies. La Rousse, now Madame Prelard, had never had the
smallest ground for complaint, either of Jacques Collin or of his
aunt; still, each time she was required to help them, Madame Prelard
quaked in every limb. So, as she saw the terrible couple come into her
shop, she turned as pale as death.
"We want to speak to you on business, madame," said Jacques Collin.
"My husband is in there," said she.
"Very well; we have no immediate need of you. I never put people out
of their way for nothing."
"Send for a hackney coach, my dear," said Jacqueline Collin, "and tell
my god-daughter to come down. I hope to place her as maid to a very
great lady, and the steward of the house will take us there."
A shop-boy fetched the coach, and a few minutes later Europe, or, to
be rid of the name under which she had served Esther, Prudence
Servien, Paccard, Jacques Collin, and his aunt, were, to la Rousse's
great joy, packed into a coach, ordered by Trompe-la-Mort to drive to
the Barriere d'Ivry.
Prudence and Paccard, quaking in presence of the boss, felt like
guilty souls in the presence of God.
"Where are the seven hundred and fifty thousand francs?" asked the
boss, looking at them with the clear, penetrating gaze which so
effectually curdled the blood of these tools of his, these ames
damnees, when they were caught tripping, that they felt as though
their scalp were set with as many pins as hairs.
"The seven hundred and THIRTY thousand francs," said Jacqueline Collin
to her nephew, "are quite safe; I gave them to la Romette this morning
in a sealed packet."
"If you had not handed them over to Jacqueline," said Trompe-la-Mort,
"you would have gone straight there," and he pointed to the Place de
Greve, which they were just passing.
Prudence Servien, in her country fashion, made the sign of the Cross,
as if she had seen a thunderbolt fall.
"I forgive you," said the boss, "on condition of your committing no
more mistakes of this kind, and of your being henceforth to me what
these two fingers are of my right hand," and he pointed to the first
and middle fingers, "for this good woman is the thumb," and he slapped
his aunt on the shoulder.
"Listen to me," he went on. "You, Paccard, have nothing more to fear;
you may follow your nose about Pantin (Paris) as you please. I give
you leave to marry Prudence Servien."
Paccard took Jacques Collin's hand and kissed it respectfully.
"And what must I do?" said he.
"Nothing; and you will have dividends and women, to say nothing of
your wife--for you have a touch of the Regency about you, old boy!--
That comes of being such a fine man!"
Paccard colored under his sultan's ironical praises.
"You, Prudence," Jacques went on, "will want a career, a position, a
future; you must remain in my service. Listen to me. There is a very
good house in the Rue Sainte-Barbe belonging to that Madame de Saint-
Esteve, whose name my aunt occasionally borrows. It is a very good
business, with plenty of custom, bringing in fifteen to twenty
thousand francs a year. Saint-Esteve puts a woman in to keep the
"La Gonore," said Jacqueline.
"Poor la Pouraille's moll," said Paccard. "That is where I bolted to
with Europe the day that poor Madame van Bogseck died, our mis'ess."
"Who jabbers when I am speaking?" said Jacques Collin.
Perfect silence fell in the coach. Paccard and Prudence did not dare
look at each other.
"The shop is kept by la Gonore," Jacques Collin went on. "If that is
where you went to hide with Prudence, I see, Paccard, that you have
wit enough to dodge the reelers (mislead the police), but not enough
to puzzle the old lady," and he stroked his aunt's chin. "Now I see
how she managed to find you.--It all fits beautifully. You may go back
to la Gonore.--To go on: Jacqueline will arrange with Madame
Nourrisson to purchase her business in the Rue Sainte-Barbe; and if
you manage well, child, you may make a fortune out of it," he said to
Prudence. "An Abbess at your age! It is worthy of a Daughter of
France," he added in a hard tone.
Prudence flung her arms round Trompe-la-Mort's neck and hugged him;
but the boss flung her off with a sharp blow, showing his
extraordinary strength, and but for Paccard, the girl's head would
have struck and broken the coach window.
"Paws off! I don't like such ways," said the boss stiffly. "It is
disrespectful to me."
"He is right, child," said Paccard. "Why, you see, it is as though the
boss had made you a present of a hundred thousand francs. The shop is
worth that. It is on the Boulevard, opposite the Gymnase. The people
come out of the theatre----"
"I will do more," said Trompe-la-Mort; "I will buy the house."
"And in six years we shall be millionaires," cried Paccard.
Tired of being interrupted, Trompe-la-Mort gave Paccard's shin a kick
hard enough to break it; but the man's tendons were of india-rubber,
and his bones of wrought iron.
"All right, boss, mum it is," said he.
"Do you think I am cramming you with lies?" said Jacques Collin,
perceiving that Paccard had had a few drops too much. "Well, listen.
In the cellar of that house there are two hundred and fifty thousand
francs in gold----"
Again silence reigned in the coach.
"The coin is in a very hard bed of masonry. It must be got out, and
you have only three nights to do it in. Jacqueline will help you.--A
hundred thousand francs will buy up the business, fifty thousand will
pay for the house; leave the remainder."
"Where?" said Paccard.
"In the cellar?" asked Prudence.
"Silence!" cried Jacqueline.
"Yes, but to get the business transferred, we must have the consent of
the police authorities," Paccard objected.
"We shall have it," said Trompe-la-Mort. "Don't meddle in what does
not concern you."
Jacqueline looked at her nephew, and was struck by the alteration in
his face, visible through the stern mask under which the strong man
generally hid his feelings.
"You, child," said he to Prudence Servien, "will receive from my aunt
the seven hundred and fifty thousand francs----"
"Seven hundred and thirty," said Paccard.
"Very good, seven hundred and thirty then," said Jacques Collin. "You
must return this evening under some pretext to Madame Lucien's house.
Get out on the roof through the skylight; get down the chimney into
your miss'ess' room, and hide the packet she had made of the money in
"And why not by the door?" asked Prudence Servien.
"Idiot! there are seals on everything," replied Jacques Collin. "In a
few days the inventory will be taken, and you will be innocent of the
"Good for the boss!" cried Paccard. "That is really kind!"
"Stop, coachman!" cried Jacques Collin's powerful voice.
The coach was close to the stand by the Jardin des Plantes.
"Be off, young 'uns," said Jacques Collin, "and do nothing silly! Be
on the Pont des Arts this afternoon at five, and my aunt will let you
know if there are any orders to the contrary.--We must be prepared for
everything," he whispered to his aunt. "To-morrow," he went on,
"Jacqueline will tell you how to dig up the gold without any risk. It
is a ticklish job----"
Paccard and Prudence jumped out on to the King's highway, as happy as
"What a good fellow the boss is!" said Paccard.
"He would be the king of men if he were not so rough on women."
"Oh, yes! He is a sweet creature," said Paccard. "Did you see how he
kicked me? Well, we deserved to be sent to old Nick; for, after all,
we got him into this scrape."
"If only he does not drag us into some dirty job, and get us packed
off to the hulks yet," said the wily Prudence.
"Not he! If he had that in his head, he would tell us; you don't know
him.--He has provided handsomely for you. Here we are, citizens at
large! Oh, when that man takes a fancy to you, he has not his match
"Now, my jewel," said Jacques Collin to his aunt, "you must take la
Gonore in hand; she must be humbugged. Five days hence she will be
taken into custody, and a hundred and fifty thousand francs will be
found in her rooms, the remains of a share from the robbery and murder
of the old Crottat couple, the notary's father and mother."
"She will get five years in the Madelonnettes," said Jacqueline.
"That's about it," said the nephew. "This will be a reason for old
Nourrisson to get rid of her house; she cannot manage it herself, and
a manager to suit is not to be found every day. You can arrange all
that. We shall have a sharp eye there.--But all these three things are
secondary to the business I have undertaken with regard to our
letters. So unrip your gown and give me the samples of the goods.
Where are the three packets?"
"At la Rousse's, of course."
"Coachman," cried Jacques Collin, "go back to the Palais de Justice,
and look sharp----
"I promised to be quick, and I have been gone half an hour; that is
too much.--Stay at la Rousse's, and give the sealed parcels to the
office clerk, who will come and ask for Madame DE Saint-Esteve; the DE
will be the password. He will say to you,'Madame, I have come from the
public prosecutor for the things you know of.' Stand waiting outside
the door, staring about at what is going on in the Flower-Market, so
as not to arouse Prelard's suspicions. As soon as you have given up
the letters, you can start Paccard and Prudence."
"I see what you are at," said Jacqueline; "you mean to step into Bibi-
Lupin's shoes. That boy's death has turned your brain."
"And there is Theodore, who was just going to have his hair cropped to
be scragged at four this afternoon!" cried Jacques Collin.
"Well, it is a notion! We shall end our days as honest folks in a fine
property and a delightful climate--in Touraine."
"What was to become of me? Lucien has taken my soul with him, and all
my joy in life. I have thirty years before me to be sick of life in,
and I have no heart left. Instead of being the boss of the hulks, I
shall be a Figaro of the law, and avenge Lucien. I can never be sure
of demolishing Corentin excepting in the skin of a police agent. And
so long as I have a man to devour, I shall still feel alive.--The
profession a man follows in the eyes of the world is a mere sham; the
reality is in the idea!" he added, striking his forehead.--"How much
have we left in the cash-box?" he asked.
"Nothing," said his aunt, dismayed by the man's tone and manner. "I
gave you all I had for the boy. La Romette has not more than twenty
thousand francs left in the business. I took everything from Madame
Nourrisson; she had about sixty thousand francs of her own. Oh! we are
lying in sheets that have been washed this twelve months past. That
boy had all the pals' blunt, our savings, and all old Nourrisson's."
"Five hundred and sixty thousand."
"We have a hundred and fifty thousand which Paccard and Prudence will
pay us. I will tell you where to find two hundred thousand more. The
remainder will come to me out of Esther's money. We must repay old
Nourrisson. With Theodore, Paccard, Prudence, Nourrisson, and you, I
shall soon have the holy alliance I require.--Listen, now we are
"Here are the three letters," said Jacqueline, who had finished
unsewing the lining of her gown.
"Quite right," said Jacques Collin, taking the three precious
documents--autograph letters on vellum paper, and still strongly
scented. "Theodore did the Nanterre job."
"Oh! it was he."
"Don't talk. Time is precious. He wanted to give the proceeds to a
little Corsican sparrow named Ginetta. You must set old Nourrisson to
find her; I will give you the necessary information in a letter which
Gault will give you. Come for it to the gate of the Conciergerie in
two hours' time. You must place the girl with a washerwoman, Godet's
sister; she must seem at home there. Godet and Ruffard were concerned
with la Pouraille in robbing and murdering the Crottats.
"The four hundred and fifty thousand francs are all safe, one-third in
la Gonore's cellar--la Pouraille's share; the second third in la
Gonore's bedroom, which is Ruffard's; and the rest is hidden in
Godet's sister's house. We will begin by taking a hundred and fifty
thousand francs out of la Pouraille's whack, a hundred thousand of
Godet's, and a hundred thousand of Ruffard's. As soon as Godet and
Ruffard are nabbed, they will be supposed to have got rid of what is
missing from their shares. And I will make Godet believe that I have
saved a hundred thousand francs for him, and that la Gonore has done
the same for la Pouraille and Ruffard.
"Prudence and Paccard will do the job at la Gonore's; you and Ginetta
--who seems to be a smart hussy--must manage the job at Godet's
"And so, as the first act in the farce, I can enable the public
prosecutor to lay his hands on four hundred thousand francs stolen
from the Crottats, and on the guilty parties. Then I shall seem to
have shown up the Nanterre murderer. We shall get back our shiners,
and are behind the scenes with the police. We were the game, now we
are the hunters--that is all.
"Give the driver three francs."
The coach was at the Palais. Jacqueline, speechless with astonishment,
paid. Trompe-la-Mort went up the steps to the public prosecutor's
A complete change of life is so violent a crisis, that Jacques Collin,
in spite of his resolution, mounted the steps but slowly, going up
from the Rue de la Barillerie to the Galerie Marchande, where, under
the gloomy peristyle of the courthouse, is the entrance to the Court
Some civil case was going on which had brought a little crowd together
at the foot of the double stairs leading to the Assize Court, so that
the convict, lost in thought, stood for some minutes, checked by the
To the left of this double flight is one of the mainstays of the
building, like an enormous pillar, and in this tower is a little door.
This door opens on a spiral staircase down to the Conciergerie, to
which the public prosecutor, the governor of the prison, the presiding
judges, King's council, and the chief of the Safety department have
access by this back way.
It was up a side staircase from this, now walled up, that Marie
Antoinette, the Queen of France, was led before the Revolutionary
tribunal which sat, as we all know, in the great hall where appeals
are now heard before the Supreme Court. The heart sinks within us at
the sight of these dreadful steps, when we think that Marie Therese's
daughter, whose suite, and head-dress, and hoops filled the great
staircase at Versailles, once passed that way! Perhaps it was in
expiation of her mother's crime--the atrocious division of Poland. The
sovereigns who commit such crimes evidently never think of the
retribution to be exacted by Providence.
When Jacques Collin went up the vaulted stairs to the public
prosecutor's room, Bibi-Lupin was just coming out of the little door
in the wall.
The chief of the "Safety" had come from the Conciergerie, and was also
going up to Monsieur de Granville. It was easy to imagine Bibi-Lupin's
surprise when he recognized, in front of him, the gown of Carlos
Herrera, which he had so thoroughly studied that morning; he ran on to
pass him. Jacques Collin turned round, and the enemies were face to
face. Each stood still, and the self-same look flashed in both pairs
of eyes, so different in themselves, as in a duel two pistols go off
at the same instant.
"This time I have got you, rascal!" said the chief of the Safety
"Ah, ha!" replied Jacques Collin ironically.
It flashed through his mind that Monsieur de Granville had sent some
one to watch him, and, strange to say, it pained him to think the
magistrate less magnanimous than he had supposed.
Bibi-Lupin bravely flew at Jacques Collin's throat; but he, keeping
his eye on the foe, gave him a straight blow, and sent him sprawling
on his back three yards off; then Trompe-la-Mort went calmly up to
Bibi-Lupin, and held out a hand to help him rise, exactly like an
English boxer who, sure of his superiority, is ready for more. Bibi-
Lupin knew better than to call out; but he sprang to his feet, ran to
the entrance to the passage, and signed to a gendarme to stand on
guard. Then, swift as lightning, he came back to the foe, who quietly
looked on. Jacques Collin had decided what to do.
"Either the public prosecutor has broken his word, or he had not taken
Bibi-Lupin into his confidence, and in that case I must get the matter
explained," thought he.--"Do you mean to arrest me?" he asked his
enemy. "Say so without more ado. Don't I know that in the heart of
this place you are stronger than I am? I could kill you with a well-
placed kick, but I could not tackle the gendarmes and the soldiers.
Now, make no noise. Where to you want to take me?"
"To Monsieur Camusot."
"Come along to Monsieur Camusot," replied Jacques Collin. "Why should
we not go to the public prosecutor's court? It is nearer," he added.
Bibi-Lupin, who knew that he was out of favor with the upper ranks of
judicial authorities, and suspected of having made a fortune at the
expense of criminals and their victims, was not unwilling to show
himself in Court with so notable a capture.
"All right, we will go there," said he. "But as you surrender, allow
me to fit you with bracelets. I am afraid of your claws."
And he took the handcuffs out of his pocket.
Jacques Collin held out his hands, and Bibi-Lupin snapped on the
"Well, now, since you are feeling so good," said he, "tell me how you
got out of the Conciergerie?"
"By the way you came; down the turret stairs."
"Then have you taught the gendarmes some new trick?"
"No, Monsieur de Granville let me out on parole."
"You are gammoning me?"
"You will see. Perhaps it will be your turn to wear the bracelets."
Just then Corentin was saying to Monsieur de Granville:
"Well, monsieur, it is just an hour since our man set out; are you not
afraid that he may have fooled you? He is on the road to Spain perhaps
by this time, and we shall not find him there, for Spain is a
whimsical kind of country."
"Either I know nothing of men, or he will come back; he is bound by
every interest; he has more to look for at my hands than he has to
Bibi-Lupin walked in.
"Monsieur le Comte," said he, "I have good news for you. Jacques
Collin, who had escaped, has been recaptured."
"And this," said Jacques Collin, addressing Monsieur de Granville, "is
the way you keep your word!--Ask your double-faced agent where he took
"Where?" said the public prosecutor.
"Close to the Court, in the vaulted passage," said Bibi-Lupin.
"Take your irons off the man," said Monsieur de Granville sternly.
"And remember that you are to leave him free till further orders.--Go!
--You have a way of moving and acting as if you alone were law and
police in one."
The public prosecutor turned his back on Bibi-Lupin, who became deadly
pale, especially at a look from Jacques Collin, in which he read
"I have not been out of this room. I expected you back, and you cannot
doubt that I have kept my word, as you kept yours," said Monsieur de
Granville to the convict.
"For a moment I did doubt you, sir, and in my place perhaps you would
have thought as I did, but on reflection I saw that I was unjust. I
bring you more than you can give me; you had no interest in betraying
The magistrate flashed a look at Corentin. This glance, which could
not escape Trompe-la-Mort, who was watching Monsieur de Granville,
directed his attention to the strange little old man sitting in an
armchair in a corner. Warned at once by the swift and anxious instinct
that scents the presence of an enemy, Collin examined this figure; he
saw at a glance that the eyes were not so old as the costume would
suggest, and he detected a disguise. In one second Jacques Collin was
revenged on Corentin for the rapid insight with which Corentin had
unmasked him at Peyrade's.
"We are not alone!" said Jacques Collin to Monsieur de Granville.
"No," said the magistrate drily.
"And this gentleman is one of my oldest acquaintances, I believe,"
replied the convict.
He went forward, recognizing Corentin, the real and confessed
originator of Lucien's overthrow.
Jacques Collin, whose face was of a brick-red hue, for a scarcely
perceptible moment turned white, almost ashy; all his blood rushed to
his heart, so furious and maddening was his longing to spring on this
dangerous reptile and crush it; but he controlled the brutal impulse,
suppressing it with the force that made him so formidable. He put on a
polite manner and the tone of obsequious civility which he had
practised since assuming the garb of a priest of a superior Order, and
he bowed to the little old man.
"Monsieur Corentin," said he, "do I owe the pleasure of this meeting
to chance, or am I so happy as to be the cause of your visit here?"
Monsieur de Granville's astonishment was at its height, and he could
not help staring at the two men who had thus come face to face.
Jacques Collin's behavior and the tone in which he spoke denoted a
crisis, and he was curious to know the meaning of it. On being thus
suddenly and miraculously recognized, Corentin drew himself up like a
snake when you tread on its tail.
"Yes, it is I, my dear Abbe Carlos Herrera."
"And are you here," said Trompe-la-Mort, "to interfere between
monsieur the public prosecutor and me? Am I so happy as to be the
object of one of those negotiations in which your talents shine so
brightly?--Here, Monsieur le Comte," the convict went on, "not to
waste time so precious as yours is, read these--they are samples of my
And he held out to Monsieur de Granville three letters, which he took
out of his breast-pocket.
"And while you are studying them, I will, with your permission, have a
little talk with this gentleman."
"You do me great honor," said Corentin, who could not help giving a
"You achieved a perfect success in our business," said Jacques Collin.
"I was beaten," he added lightly, in the tone of a gambler who has
lost his money, "but you left some men on the field--your victory cost
"Yes," said Corentin, taking up the jest, "you lost your queen, and I
lost my two castles."
"Oh! Contenson was a mere pawn," said Jacques Collin scornfully; "you
may easily replace him. You really are--allow me to praise you to your
face--you are, on my word of honor, a magnificent man."
"No, no, I bow to your superiority," replied Corentin, assuming the
air of a professional joker, as if he said, "If you mean humbug, by
all means humbug! I have everything at my command, while you are
single-handed, so to speak."
"Oh! Oh!" said Jacques Collin.
"And you were very near winning the day!" said Corentin, noticing the
exclamation. "You are quite the most extraordinary man I ever met in
my life, and I have seen many very extraordinary men, for those I have
to work with me are all remarkable for daring and bold scheming.
"I was, for my sins, very intimate with the late Duc d'Otranto; I have
worked for Louis XVIII. when he was on the throne; and, when he was
exiled, for the Emperor and for the Directory. You have the tenacity
of Louvel, the best political instrument I ever met with; but you are
as supple as the prince of diplomates. And what auxiliaries you have!
I would give many a head to the guillotine if I could have in my
service the cook who lived with poor little Esther.--And where do you
find such beautiful creatures as the woman who took the Jewess' place
for Monsieur de Nucingen? I don't know where to get them when I want
"Monsieur, monsieur, you overpower me," said Jacques Collin. "Such
praise from you will turn my head----"
"It is deserved. Why, you took in Peyrade; he believed you to be a
police officer--he!--I tell you what, if you had not that fool of a
boy to take care of, you would have thrashed us."
"Oh! monsieur, but you are forgetting Contenson disguised as a
mulatto, and Peyrade as an Englishman. Actors have the stage to help
them, but to be so perfect by daylight, and at all hours, no one but
you and your men----"
"Come, now," said Corentin, "we are fully convinced of our worth and
merits. And here we stand each of us quite alone; I have lost my old
friend, you your young companion. I, for the moment, am in the
stronger position, why should we not do like the men in l'Auberge des
Adrets? I offer you my hand, and say, 'Let us embrace, and let bygones
be bygones.' Here, in the presence of Monsieur le Comte, I propose to
give you full and plenary absolution, and you shall be one of my men,
the chief next to me, and perhaps my successor."
"You really offer me a situation?" said Jacques Collin. "A nice
situation indeed!--out of the fire into the frying-pan!"
"You will be in a sphere where your talents will be highly appreciated
and well paid for, and you will act at your ease. The Government
police are not free from perils. I, as you see me, have already been
imprisoned twice, but I am none the worse for that. And we travel, we
are what we choose to appear. We pull the wires of political dramas,
and are treated with politeness by very great people.--Come, my dear
Jacques Collin, do you say yes?"
"Have you orders to act in this matter?" said the convict.
"I have a free hand," replied Corentin, delighted at his own happy
"You are trifling with me; you are very shrewd, and you must allow
that a man may be suspicious of you.--You have sold more than one man
by tying him up in a sack after making him go into it of his own
accord. I know all your great victories--the Montauran case, the
Simeuse business--the battles of Marengo of espionage."
"Well," said Corentin, "you have some esteem for the public
"Yes," said Jacques Collin, bowing respectfully, "I admire his noble
character, his firmness, his dignity. I would give my life to make him
happy. Indeed, to begin with, I will put an end to the dangerous
condition in which Madame de Serizy now is."
Monsieur de Granville turned to him with a look of satisfaction.
"Then ask him," Corentin went on, "if I have not full power to snatch
you from the degrading position in which you stand, and to attach you
"It is quite true," said Monsieur de Granville, watching the convict.
"Really and truly! I may have absolution for the past and a promise of
succeeding to you if I give sufficient evidence of my intelligence?"
"Between two such men as we are there can be no misunderstanding,"
said Corentin, with a lordly air that might have taken anybody in.
"And the price of the bargain is, I suppose, the surrender of those
three packets of letters?" said Jacques Collin.
"I did not think it would be necessary to say so to you----"
"My dear Monsieur Corentin," said Trompe-la-Mort, with irony worthy of
that which made the fame of Talma in the part of Nicomede, "I beg to
decline. I am indebted to you for the knowledge of what I am worth,
and of the importance you attach to seeing me deprived of my weapons--
I will never forget it.
"At all times and for ever I shall be at your service, but instead of
saying with Robert Macaire, 'Let us embrace!' I embrace you."
He seized Corentin round the middle so suddenly that the other could
not avoid the hug; he clutched him to his heart like a doll, kissed
him on both cheeks, carried him like a feather with one hand, while
with the other he opened the door, and then set him down outside,
quite battered by this rough treatment.
"Good-bye, my dear fellow," said Jacques Collin in a low voice, and in
Corentin's ear: "the length of three corpses parts you from me; we
have measured swords, they are of the same temper and the same length.
Let us treat each other with due respect; but I mean to be your equal,
not your subordinate. Armed as you would be, it strikes me you would
be too dangerous a general for your lieutenant. We will place a grave
between us. Woe to you if you come over on to my territory!
"You call yourself the State, as footmen call themselves by their
master's names. For my part, I will call myself Justice. We shall
often meet; let us treat each other with dignity and propriety--all
the more because we shall always remain--atrocious blackguards," he
added in a whisper. "I set you the example by embracing you----"
Corentin stood nonplussed for the first time in his life, and allowed
his terrible antagonist to wring his hand.
"If so," said he, "I think it will be to our interest on both sides to
"We shall be stronger each on our own side, but at the same time more
dangerous," added Jacques Collin in an undertone. "And you will allow
me to call on you to-morrow to ask for some pledge of our agreement."
"Well, well," said Corentin amiably, "you are taking the case out of
my hands to place it in those of the public prosecutor. You will help
him to promotion; but I cannot but own to you that you are acting
wisely.--Bibi-Lupin is too well known; he has served his turn; if you
get his place, you will have the only situation that suits you. I am
delighted to see you in it--on my honor----"
"Till our next meeting, very soon," said Jacques Collin.
On turning round, Trompe-la-Mort saw the public prosecutor sitting at
his table, his head resting on his hands.
"Do you mean that you can save the Comtesse de Serizy from going mad?"
asked Monsieur de Granville.
"In five minutes," said Jacques Collin.
"And you can give me all those ladies' letters?"
"Have you read the three?"
"Yes," said the magistrate vehemently, "and I blush for the women who
"Well, we are now alone; admit no one, and let us come to terms," said
"Excuse me, Justice must first take its course. Monsieur Camusot has
instructions to seize your aunt."
"He will never find her," said Jacques Collin.
"Search is to be made at the Temple, in the shop of a demoiselle
Paccard who superintends her shop."
"Nothing will be found there but rags, costumes, diamonds,
uniforms---- However, it will be as well to check Monsieur Camusot's
Monsieur de Granville rang, and sent an office messenger to desire
Monsieur Camusot to come and speak with him.
"Now," said he to Jacques Collin, "an end to all this! I want to know
your recipe for curing the Countess."
"Monsieur le Comte," said the convict very gravely, "I was, as you
know, sentenced to five years' penal servitude for forgery. But I love
my liberty.--This passion, like every other, had defeated its own end,
for lovers who insist on adoring each other too fondly end by
quarreling. By dint of escaping and being recaptured alternately, I
have served seven years on the hulks. So you have nothing to remit but
the added terms I earned in quod--I beg pardon, in prison. I have, in
fact, served my time, and till some ugly job can be proved against me,
--which I defy Justice to do, or even Corentin--I ought to be
reinstated in my rights as a French citizen.
"What is life if I am banned from Paris and subject to the eye of the
police? Where can I go, what can I do? You know my capabilities. You
have seen Corentin, that storehouse of treachery and wile, turn
ghastly pale before me, and doing justice to my powers.--That man has
bereft me of everything; for it was he, and he alone, who overthrew
the edifice of Lucien's fortunes, by what means and in whose interest
I know not.--Corentin and Camusot did it all----"
"No recriminations," said Monsieur de Granville; "give me the facts."
"Well, then, these are the facts. Last night, as I held in my hand the
icy hand of that dead youth, I vowed to myself that I would give up
the mad contest I have kept up for twenty years past against society
"You will not believe me capable of religious sentimentality after
what I have said of my religious opinions. Still, in these twenty
years I have seen a great deal of the seamy side of the world. I have
known its back-stairs, and I have discerned, in the march of events, a
Power which you call Providence and I call Chance, and which my
companions call Luck. Every evil deed, however quickly it may hide its
traces, is overtaken by some retribution. In this struggle for
existence, when the game is going well--when you have quint and
quartorze in your hand and the lead--the candle tumbles over and the
cards are burned, or the player has a fit of apoplexy!--That is
Lucien's story. That boy, that angel, had not committed the shadow of
a crime; he let himself be led, he let things go! He was to marry
Mademoiselle de Grandlieu, to be made marquis; he had a fine fortune;
--well, a prostitute poisons herself, she hides the price of a
certificate of stock, and the whole structure so laboriously built up
crumbles in an instant.
"And who is the first man to deal a blow? A man loaded with secret
infamy, a monster who, in the world of finance, has committed such
crimes that every coin of his vast fortune has been dipped in the
tears of a whole family [see la Maison Nucingen]--by Nucingen, who has
been a legalized Jacques Collin in the world of money. However, you