Part 7 out of 12
At seven o'clock on the previous evening Lucien had set out in his own
chaise to post to Fontainebleau with a passport he had procured in the
morning; he slept in the nearest inn on the Nemours side. At six in
the morning he went alone, and on foot, through the forest as far as
"This," said he to himself, as he sat down on one of the rocks that
command the fine landscape of Bouron, "is the fatal spot where
Napoleon dreamed of making a final tremendous effort on the eve of his
At daybreak he heard the approach of post-horses and saw a britska
drive past, in which sat the servants of the Duchesse de Lenoncourt-
Chaulieu and Clotilde de Grandlieu's maid.
"Here they are!" thought Lucien. "Now, to play the farce well, and I
shall be saved!--the Duc de Grandlieu's son-in-law in spite of him!"
It was an hour later when he heard the peculiar sound made by a
superior traveling carriage, as the berline came near in which two
ladies were sitting. They had given orders that the drag should be put
on for the hill down to Bouron, and the man-servant behind the
carriage had it stopped.
At this instant Lucien came forward.
"Clotilde!" said he, tapping on the window.
"No," said the young Duchess to her friend, "he shall not get into the
carriage, and we will not be alone with him, my dear. Speak to him for
the last time--to that I consent; but on the road, where we will walk
on, and where Baptiste can escort us.--The morning is fine, we are
well wrapped up, and have no fear of the cold. The carriage can
The two women got out.
"Baptiste," said the Duchess, "the post-boy can follow slowly; we want
to walk a little way. You must keep near us."
Madeleine de Mortsauf took Clotilde by the arm and allowed Lucien to
talk. They thus walked on as far as the village of Grez. It was now
eight o'clock, and there Clotilde dismissed Lucien.
"Well, my friend," said she, closing this long interview with much
dignity, "I never shall marry any one but you. I would rather believe
in you than in other men, in my father and mother--no woman ever gave
greater proof of attachment surely?--Now, try to counteract the fatal
prejudices which militate against you."
Just then the tramp of galloping horses was heard, and, to the great
amazement of the ladies, a force of gendarmes surrounded the little
"What do you want?" said Lucien, with the arrogance of a dandy.
"Are you Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre?" asked the public prosecutor of
"You will spend to-night in La Force," said he. "I have a warrant for
the detention of your person."
"Who are these ladies?" asked the sergeant.
"To be sure.--Excuse me, ladies--your passports? For Monsieur Lucien,
as I am instructed, had acquaintances among the fair sex, who for him
"Do you take the Duchesse de Lenoncourt-Chaulieu for a prostitute?"
said Madeleine, with a magnificent flash at the public prosecutor.
"You are handsome enough to excuse the error," the magistrate very
"Baptiste, produce the passports," said the young Duchess with a
"And with what crime is Monsieur de Rubempre charged?" asked Clotilde,
whom the Duchess wished to see safe in the carriage.
"Of being accessory to a robbery and murder," replied the sergeant of
Baptiste lifted Mademoiselle de Grandlieu into the chaise in a dead
By midnight Lucien was entering La Force, a prison situated between
the Rue Payenne and the Rue des Ballets, where he was placed in
The Abbe Carlos Herrera was also there, having been arrested that
THE END OF EVIL WAYS
At six o'clock next morning two vehicles with postilions, prison vans,
called in the vigorous language of the populace, paniers a salade,
came out of La Force to drive to the Conciergerie by the Palais de
Few loafers in Paris can have failed to meet this prison cell on
wheels; still, though most stories are written for Parisian readers,
strangers will no doubt be satisfied to have a description of this
formidable machine. Who knows? A police of Russia, Germany, or
Austria, the legal body of countries to whom the "Salad-basket" is an
unknown machine, may profit by it; and in several foreign countries
there can be no doubt that an imitation of this vehicle would be a
boon to prisoners.
This ignominious conveyance, yellow-bodied, on high wheels, and lined
with sheet-iron, is divided into two compartments. In front is a box-
seat, with leather cushions and an apron. This is the free seat of the
van, and accommodates a sheriff's officer and a gendarme. A strong
iron trellis, reaching to the top, separates this sort of cab-front
from the back division, in which there are two wooden seats placed
sideways, as in an omnibus, on which the prisoners sit. They get in by
a step behind and a door, with no window. The nickname of Salad-basket
arose from the fact that the vehicle was originally made entirely of
lattice, and the prisoners were shaken in it just as a salad is shaken
to dry it.
For further security, in case of accident, a mounted gendarme follows
the machine, especially when it conveys criminals condemned to death
to the place of execution. Thus escape is impossible. The vehicle,
lined with sheet-iron, is impervious to any tool. The prisoners,
carefully searched when they are arrested or locked up, can have
nothing but watch-springs, perhaps, to file through bars, and useless
on a smooth surface.
So the panier a salade, improved by the genius of the Paris police,
became the model for the prison omnibus (known in London as "Black
Maria") in which convicts are transported to the hulks, instead of the
horrible tumbril which formerly disgraced civilization, though Manon
Lescaut had made it famous.
The accused are, in the first instance, despatched in the prison van
from the various prisons in Paris to the Palais de Justice, to be
questioned by the examining judge. This, in prison slang, is called
"going up for examination." Then the accused are again conveyed from
prison to the Court to be sentenced when their case is only a
misdemeanor; or if, in legal parlance, the case is one for the Upper
Court, they are transferred from the house of detention to the
Conciergerie, the "Newgate" of the Department of the Seine.
Finally, the prison van carries the criminal condemned to death from
Bicetre to the Barriere Saint-Jacques, where executions are carried
out, and have been ever since the Revolution of July. Thanks to
philanthropic interference, the poor wretches no longer have to face
the horrors of the drive from the Conciergerie to the Place de Greve
in a cart exactly like that used by wood merchants. This cart is no
longer used but to bring the body back from the scaffold.
Without this explanation the words of a famous convict to his
accomplice, "It is now the horse's business!" as he got into the van,
would be unintelligible. It is impossible to be carried to execution
more comfortably than in Paris nowadays.
At this moment the two vans, setting out at such an early hour, were
employed on the unwonted service of conveying two accused prisoners
from the jail of La Force to the Conciergerie, and each man had a
"Salad-basket" to himself.
Nine-tenths of my readers, ay, and nine-tenths of the remaining tenth,
are certainly ignorant of the vast difference of meaning in the words
incriminated, suspected, accused, and committed for trial--jail, house
of detention, and penitentiary; and they may be surprised to learn
here that it involves all our criminal procedure, of which a clear and
brief outline will presently be sketched, as much for their
information as for the elucidation of this history. However, when it
is said that the first van contained Jacques Collin and the second
Lucien, who in a few hours had fallen from the summit of social
splendor to the depths of a prison cell, curiosity will for the moment
The conduct of the two accomplices was characteristic; Lucien de
Rubempre shrank back to avoid the gaze of the passers-by, who looked
at the grated window of the gloomy and fateful vehicle on its road
along the Rue Saint-Antoine and the Rue du Martroi to reach the quay
and the Arch of Saint-Jean, the way, at that time, across the Place de
l'Hotel de Ville. This archway now forms the entrance gate to the
residence of the Prefet de la Seine in the huge municipal palace. The
daring convict, on the contrary, stuck his face against the barred
grating, between the officer and the gendarme, who, sure of their van,
were chatting together.
The great days of July 1830, and the tremendous storm that then burst,
have so completely wiped out the memory of all previous events, and
politics so entirely absorbed the French during the last six months of
that year, that no one remembers--or a few scarcely remember--the
various private, judicial, and financial catastrophes, strange as they
were, which, forming the annual flood of Parisian curiosity, were not
lacking during the first six months of the year. It is, therefore,
needful to mention how Paris was, for the moment, excited by the news
of the arrest of a Spanish priest, discovered in a courtesan's house,
and that of the elegant Lucien de Rubempre, who had been engaged to
Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu, taken on the highroad to Italy,
close to the little village of Grez. Both were charged as being
concerned in a murder, of which the profits were stated at seven
millions of francs; and for some days the scandal of this trial
preponderated over the absorbing importance of the last elections held
under Charles X.
In the first place, the charge had been based on an application by the
Baron de Nucingen; then, Lucien's apprehension, just as he was about
to be appointed private secretary to the Prime Minister, made a stir
in the very highest circles of society. In every drawing-room in Paris
more than one young man could recollect having envied Lucien when he
was honored by the notice of the beautiful Duchesse de Maufrigneuse;
and every woman knew that he was the favored attache of Madame de
Serizy, the wife of one of the Government bigwigs. And finally, his
handsome person gave him a singular notoriety in the various worlds
that make up Paris--the world of fashion, the financial world, the
world of courtesans, the young men's world, the literary world. So for
two days past all Paris had been talking of these two arrests. The
examining judge in whose hands the case was put regarded it as a
chance for promotion; and, to proceed with the utmost rapidity, he had
given orders that both the accused should be transferred from La Force
to the Conciergerie as soon as Lucien de Rubempre could be brought
As the Abbe Carlos had spent but twelve hours in La Force, and Lucien
only half a night, it is useless to describe that prison, which has
since been entirely remodeled; and as to the details of their
consignment, it would be only a repetition of the same story at the
But before setting forth the terrible drama of a criminal inquiry, it
is indispensable, as I have said, that an account should be given of
the ordinary proceedings in a case of this kind. To begin with, its
various phases will be better understood at home and abroad, and,
besides, those who are ignorant of the action of the criminal law, as
conceived of by the lawgivers under Napoleon, will appreciate it
better. This is all the more important as, at this moment, this great
and noble institution is in danger of destruction by the system known
A crime is committed; if it is flagrant, the persons incriminated
(inculpes) are taken to the nearest lock-up and placed in the cell
known to the vulgar as the Violon--perhaps because they make a noise
there, shrieking or crying. From thence the suspected persons
(inculpes) are taken before the police commissioner or magistrate, who
holds a preliminary inquiry, and can dismiss the case if there is any
mistake; finally, they are conveyed to the Depot of the Prefecture,
where the police detains them pending the convenience of the public
prosecutor and the examining judge. They, being served with due
notice, more or less quickly, according to the gravity of the case,
come and examine the prisoners who are still provisionally detained.
Having due regard to the presumptive evidence, the examining judge
then issues a warrant for their imprisonment, and sends the suspected
persons to be confined in a jail. There are three such jails (Maisons
d'Arret) in Paris--Sainte-Pelagie, La Force, and les Madelonettes.
Observe the word inculpe, incriminated, or suspected of crime. The
French Code has created three essential degrees of criminality--
inculpe, first degree of suspicion; prevenu, under examination;
accuse, fully committed for trial. So long as the warrant for
committal remains unsigned, the supposed criminal is regarded as
merely under suspicion, inculpe of the crime or felony; when the
warrant has been issued, he becomes "the accused" (prevenu), and is
regarded as such so long as the inquiry is proceeding; when the
inquiry is closed, and as soon as the Court has decided that the
accused is to be committed for trial, he becomes "the prisoner at the
bar" (accuse) as soon as the superior court, at the instance of the
public prosecutor, has pronounced that the charge is so far proved as
to be carried to the Assizes.
Thus, persons suspected of crime go through three different stages,
three siftings, before coming up for trial before the judges of the
upper Court--the High Justice of the realm.
At the first stage, innocent persons have abundant means of
exculpating themselves--the public, the town watch, the police. At the
second state they appear before a magistrate face to face with the
witnesses, and are judged by a tribunal in Paris, or by the Collective
Court of the departments. At the third stage they are brought before a
bench of twelve councillors, and in case of any error or informality
the prisoner committed for trial at the Assizes may appeal for
protection to the Supreme court. The jury do not know what a slap in
the face they give to popular authority, to administrative and
judicial functionaries, when they acquit a prisoner. And so, in my
opinion, it is hardly possible that an innocent man should ever find
himself at the bar of an Assize Court in Paris--I say nothing of other
seats of justice.
The detenu is the convict. French criminal law recognizes imprisonment
of three degrees, corresponding in legal distinction to these three
degrees of suspicion, inquiry, and conviction. Mere imprisonment is a
light penalty for misdemeanor, but detention is imprisonment with hard
labor, a severe and sometimes degrading punishment. Hence, those
persons who nowadays are in favor of the penitentiary system would
upset an admirable scheme of criminal law in which the penalties are
judiciously graduated, and they will end by punishing the lightest
peccadilloes as severely as the greatest crimes.
The reader may compare in the Scenes of Political Life (for instance,
in Une Tenebreuse affaire) the curious differences subsisting between
the criminal law of Brumaire in the year IV., and that of the Code
Napoleon which has taken its place.
In most trials, as in this one, the suspected persons are at once
examined (and from inculpes become prevenus); justice immediately
issues a warrant for their arrest and imprisonment. In point of fact,
in most of such cases the criminals have either fled, or have been
instantly apprehended. Indeed, as we have seen the police, which is
but an instrument, and the officers of justice had descended on
Esther's house with the swiftness of a thunderbolt. Even if there had
not been the reasons for revenge suggested to the superior police by
Corentin, there was a robbery to be investigated of seven hundred and
fifty thousand francs from the Baron de Nucingen.
Just as the first prison van, conveying Jacques Collin, reached the
archway of Saint-Jean--a narrow, dark passage, some block ahead
compelled the postilion to stop under the vault. The prisoner's eyes
shone like carbuncles through the grating, in spite of his aspect as
of a dying man, which, the day before, had led the governor of La
Force to believe that the doctor must be called in. These flaming
eyes, free to rove at this moment, for neither the officer nor the
gendarme looked round at their "customer," spoke so plain a language
that a clever examining judge, M. Popinot, for instance, would have
identified the man convicted for sacrilege.
In fact, ever since the "salad-basket" had turned out of the gate of
La Force, Jacques Collin had studied everything on his way.
Notwithstanding the pace they had made, he took in the houses with an
eager and comprehensive glance from the ground floor to the attics. He
saw and noted every passer-by. God Himself is not more clear-seeing as
to the means and ends of His creatures than this man in observing the
slightest differences in the medley of things and people. Armed with
hope, as the last of the Horatii was armed with his sword, he expected
help. To anybody but this Machiavelli of the hulks, this hope would
have seemed so absolutely impossible to realize that he would have
gone on mechanically, as all guilty men do. Not one of them ever
dreams of resistance when he finds himself in the position to which
justice and the Paris police bring suspected persons, especially those
who, like Collin and Lucien, are in solitary confinement.
It is impossible to conceive of the sudden isolation in which a
suspected criminal is placed. The gendarmes who apprehend him, the
commissioner who questions him, those who take him to prison, the
warders who lead him to his cell--which is actually called a cachot, a
dungeon or hiding-place, those again who take him by the arms to put
him into a prison-van--every being that comes near him from the moment
of his arrest is either speechless, or takes note of all he says, to
be repeated to the police or to the judge. This total severance, so
simply effected between the prisoner and the world, gives rise to a
complete overthrow of his faculties and a terrible prostration of
mind, especially when the man has not been familiarized by his
antecedents with the processes of justice. The duel between the judge
and the criminal is all the more appalling because justice has on its
side the dumbness of blank walls and the incorruptible coldness of its
But Jacques Collin, or Carlos Herrera--it will be necessary to speak
of him by one or the other of these names according to the
circumstances of the case--had long been familiar with the methods of
the police, of the jail, and of justice. This colossus of cunning and
corruption had employed all his powers of mind, and all the resources
of mimicry, to affect the surprise and anility of an innocent man,
while giving the lawyers the spectacle of his sufferings. As has been
told, Asie, that skilled Locusta, had given him a dose of poison so
qualified as to produce the effects of a dreadful illness.
Thus Monsieur Camusot, the police commissioner, and the public
prosecutor had been baffled in their proceedings and inquiries by the
effects apparently of an apoplectic attack.
"He has taken poison!" cried Monsieur Camusot, horrified by the
sufferings of the self-styled priest when he had been carried down
from the attic writhing in convulsions.
Four constables had with great difficulty brought the Abbe Carlos
downstairs to Esther's room, where the lawyers and the gendarmes were
"That was the best thing he could do if he should be guilty," replied
the public prosecutor.
"Do you believe that he is ill?" the police commissioner asked.
The police is always incredulous.
The three lawyers had spoken, as may be imagined, in a whisper; but
Jacques Collin had guessed from their faces the subject under
discussion, and had taken advantage of it to make the first brief
examination which is gone through on arrest absolutely impossible and
useless; he had stammered out sentences in which Spanish and French
were so mingled as to make nonsense.
At La Force this farce had been all the more successful in the first
instance because the head of the "safety" force--an abbreviation of
the title "Head of the brigade of the guardians of public safety"--
Bibi-Lupin, who had long since taken Jacques Collin into custody at
Madame Vauquer's boarding-house, had been sent on special business
into the country, and his deputy was a man who hoped to succeed him,
but to whom the convict was unknown.
Bibi-Lupin, himself formerly a convict, and a comrade of Jacques
Collin's on the hulks, was his personal enemy. This hostility had its
rise in quarrels in which Jacques Collin had always got the upper
hand, and in the supremacy over his fellow-prisoners which Trompe-la-
Mort had always assumed. And then, for ten years now, Jacques Collin
had been the ruling providence of released convicts in Paris, their
head, their adviser, and their banker, and consequently Bibi-Lupin's
Thus, though placed in solitary confinement, he trusted to the
intelligent and unreserved devotion of Asie, his right hand, and
perhaps, too, to Paccard, his left hand, who, as he flattered himself,
might return to his allegiance when once that thrifty subaltern had
safely bestowed the seven hundred and fifty thousand francs that he
had stolen. This was the reason why his attention had been so
superhumanly alert all along the road. And, strange to say! his hopes
were about to be amply fulfilled.
The two solid side-walls of the archway were covered, to a height of
six feet, with a permanent dado of mud formed of the splashes from the
gutter; for, in those days, the foot passenger had no protection from
the constant traffic of vehicles and from what was called the kicking
of the carts, but curbstones placed upright at intervals, and much
ground away by the naves of the wheels. More than once a heavy truck
had crushed a heedless foot-passenger under that arch-way. Such indeed
Paris remained in many districts and till long after. This
circumstance may give some idea of the narrowness of the Saint-Jean
gate and the ease with which it could be blocked. If a cab should be
coming through from the Place de Greve while a costermonger-woman was
pushing her little truck of apples in from the Rue du Martroi, a third
vehicle of any kind produced difficulties. The foot-passengers fled in
alarm, seeking a corner-stone to protect them from the old-fashioned
axles, which had attained such prominence that a law was passed at
last to reduce their length.
When the prison van came in, this passage was blocked by a market
woman with a costermonger's vegetable cart--one of a type which is all
the more strange because specimens still exist in Paris in spite of
the increasing number of green-grocers' shops. She was so thoroughly a
street hawker that a Sergeant de Ville, if that particular class of
police had been then in existence, would have allowed her to ply her
trade without inspecting her permit, in spite of a sinister
countenance that reeked of crime. Her head, wrapped in a cheap and
ragged checked cotton kerchief, was horrid with rebellious locks of
hair, like the bristles of a wild boar. Her red and wrinkled neck was
disgusting, and her little shawl failed entirely to conceal a chest
tanned brown by the sun, dust, and mud. Her gown was patchwork; her
shoes gaped as though they were grinning at a face as full of holes as
the gown. And what an apron! a plaster would have been less filthy.
This moving and fetid rag must have stunk in the nostrils of dainty
folks ten yards away. Those hands had gleaned a hundred harvest
fields. Either the woman had returned from a German witches' Sabbath,
or she had come out of a mendicity asylum. But what eyes! what
audacious intelligence, what repressed vitality when the magnetic
flash of her look and of Jacques Collin's met to exchange a thought!
"Get out of the way, you old vermin-trap!" cried the postilion in
"Mind you don't crush me, you hangman's apprentice!" she retorted.
"Your cartful is not worth as much as mine."
And by trying to squeeze in between two corner-stones to make way, the
hawker managed to block the passage long enough to achieve her
"Oh! Asie!" said Jacques Collin to himself, at once recognizing his
accomplice. "Then all is well."
The post-boy was still exchanging amenities with Asie, and vehicles
were collecting in the Rue du Martroi.
"Look out, there--Pecaire fermati. Souni la--Vedrem," shrieked old
Asie, with the Red-Indian intonations peculiar to these female
costermongers, who disfigure their words in such a way that they are
transformed into a sort onomatopoeia incomprehensible to any but
In the confusion in the alley, and among the outcries of all the
waiting drivers, no one paid any heed to this wild yell, which might
have been the woman's usual cry. But this gibberish, intelligible to
Jacques Collin, sent to his ear in a mongrel language of their own--a
mixture of bad Italian and Provencal--this important news:
"Your poor boy is nabbed. I am here to keep an eye on you. We shall
In the midst of his joy at having thus triumphed over the police, for
he hoped to be able to keep up communications, Jacques Collin had a
blow which might have killed any other man.
"Lucien in custody!" said he to himself.
He almost fainted. This news was to him more terrible than the
rejection of his appeal could have been if he had been condemned to
Now that both the prison vans are rolling along the Quai, the interest
of this story requires that I should add a few words about the
Conciergerie, while they are making their way thither. The
Conciergerie, a historical name--a terrible name,--a still more
terrible thing, is inseparable from the Revolutions of France, and
especially those of Paris. It has known most of our great criminals.
But if it is the most interesting of the buildings of Paris, it is
also the least known--least known to persons of the upper classes;
still, in spite of the interest of this historical digression, it
should be as short as the journey of the prison vans.
What Parisian, what foreigner, or what provincial can have failed to
observe the gloomy and mysterious features of the Quai des Lunettes--a
structure of black walls flanked by three round towers with conical
roofs, two of them almost touching each other? This quay, beginning at
the Pont du Change, ends at the Pont Neuf. A square tower--the Clock
Tower, or Tour de l'Horloge, whence the signal was given for the
massacre of Saint-Bartholomew--a tower almost as tall as that of
Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie, shows where the Palais de Justice
stands, and forms the corner of the quay.
These four towers and these walls are shrouded in the black winding
sheet which, in Paris, falls on every facade to the north. About half-
way along the quay at a gloomy archway we see the beginning of the
private houses which were built in consequence of the construction of
the Pont Neuf in the reign of Henry IV. The Place Royale was a replica
of the Place Dauphine. The style of architecture is the same, of brick
with binding courses of hewn stone. This archway and the Rue de Harlay
are the limit line of the Palais de Justice on the west. Formerly the
Prefecture de Police, once the residence of the Presidents of
Parlement, was a dependency of the Palace. The Court of Exchequer and
Court of Subsidies completed the Supreme Court of Justice, the
Sovereign's Court. It will be seen that before the Revolution the
Palace enjoyed that isolation which now again is aimed at.
This block, this island of residences and official buildings, in their
midst the Sainte-Chapelle--that priceless jewel of Saint-Louis'
chaplet--is the sanctuary of Paris, its holy place, its sacred ark.
For one thing, this island was at first the whole of the city, for the
plot now forming the Place Dauphine was a meadow attached to the Royal
demesne, where stood a stamping mill for coining money. Hence the name
of Rue de la Monnaie--the street leading to the Pont Neuf. Hence, too,
the name of one of the round towers--the middle one--called the Tour
d'Argent, which would seem to show that money was originally coined
there. The famous mill, to be seen marked in old maps of Paris, may
very likely be more recent than the time when money was coined in the
Palace itself, and was erected, no doubt, for the practice of improved
methods in the art of coining.
The first tower, hardly detached from the Tour d'Argent, is the Tour
de Montgomery; the third, and smallest, but the best preserved of the
three, for it still has its battlements, is the Tour Bonbec.
The Sainte-Chapelle and its four towers--counting the clock tower as
one--clearly define the precincts; or, as a surveyor would say, the
perimeter of the Palace, as it was from the time of the Merovingians
till the accession of the first race of Valois; but to us, as a result
of certain alterations, this Palace is more especially representative
of the period of Saint-Louis.
Charles V. was the first to give the Palace up to the Parlement, then
a new institution, and went to reside in the famous Hotel Saint-Pol,
under the protection of the Bastille. The Palais des Tournelles was
subsequently erected backing on to the Hotel Saint-Pol. Thus, under
the later Valois, the kings came back from the Bastille to the Louvre,
which had been their first stronghold.
The original residence of the French kings, the Palace of Saint-Louis,
which has preserved the designation of Le Palais, to indicate the
Palace of palaces, is entirely buried under the Palais de Justice; it
forms the cellars, for it was built, like the Cathedral, in the Seine,
and with such care that the highest floods in the river scarcely cover
the lowest steps. The Quai de l'Horloge covers, twenty feet below the
surface, its foundations of a thousand years old. Carriages run on the
level of the capitals of the solid columns under these towers, and
formerly their appearance must have harmonized with the elegance of
the Palace, and have had a picturesque effect over the water, since to
this day those towers vie in height with the loftiest buildings in
As we look down on this vast capital from the lantern of the Pantheon,
the Palace with the Sainte-Chapelle is still the most monumental of
many monumental buildings. The home of our kings, over which you tread
as you pace the immense hall known as the Salle des Pas-Perdus, was a
miracle of architecture; and it is so still to the intelligent eye of
the poet who happens to study it when inspecting the Conciergerie.
Alas! for the Conciergerie has invaded the home of kings. One's heart
bleeds to see the way in which cells, cupboards, corridors, warders'
rooms, and halls devoid of light or air, have been hewn out of that
beautiful structure in which Byzantine, Gothic, and Romanesque--the
three phases of ancient art--were harmonized in one building by the
architecture of the twelfth century.
This palace is a monumental history of France in the earliest times,
just as Blois is that of a later period. As at Blois you may admire in
a single courtyard the chateau of the Counts of Blois, that of Louis
XII., that of Francis I., that of Gaston; so at the Conciergerie you
will find within the same precincts the stamp of the early races, and,
in the Sainte-Chapelle, the architecture of Saint-Louis.
Municipal Council (to you I speak), if you bestow millions, get a poet
or two to assist your architects if you wish to save the cradle of
Paris, the cradle of kings, while endeavoring to endow Paris and the
Supreme Court with a palace worthy of France. It is a matter for study
for some years before beginning the work. Another new prison or two
like that of La Roquette, and the palace of Saint-Louis will be safe.
In these days many grievances afflict this vast mass of buildings,
buried under the Palais de Justice and the quay, like some
antediluvian creature in the soil of Montmartre; but the worst
affliction is that it is the Conciergerie. This epigram is
intelligible. In the early days of the monarchy, noble criminals--for
the villeins (a word signifying the peasantry in French and English
alike) and the citizens came under the jurisdiction of the
municipality or of their liege lord--the lords of the greater or the
lesser fiefs, were brought before the king and guarded in the
Conciergerie. And as these noble criminals were few, the Conciergerie
was large enough for the king's prisoners.
It is difficult now to be quite certain of the exact site of the
original Conciergerie. However, the kitchens built by Saint-Louis
still exist, forming what is now called the mousetrap; and it is
probable that the original Conciergerie was situated in the place
where, till 1825, the Conciergerie prisons of the Parlement were still
in use, under the archway to the right of the wide outside steps
leading to the supreme Court. From thence, until 1825, condemned
criminals were taken to execution. From that gate came forth all the
great criminals, all the victims of political feeling--the Marechale
d'Ancre and the Queen of France, Semblancay and Malesherbes, Damien
and Danton, Desrues and Castaing. Fouquier-Tinville's private room,
like that of the public prosecutor now, was so placed that he could
see the procession of carts containing the persons whom the
Revolutionary tribunal had sentenced to death. Thus this man, who had
become a sword, could give a last glance at each batch.
After 1825, when Monsieur de Peyronnet was Minister, a great change
was made in the Palais. The old entrance to the Conciergerie, where
the ceremonies of registering the criminal and of the last toilet were
performed, was closed and removed to where it now is, between the Tour
de l'Horloge and the Tour de Montgomery, in an inner court entered
through an arched passage. To the left is the "mousetrap," to the
right the prison gates. The "salad-baskets" can drive into this
irregularly shaped courtyard, can stand there and turn with ease, and
in case of a riot find some protection behind the strong grating of
the gate under the arch; whereas they formerly had no room to move in
the narrow space dividing the outside steps from the right wing of the
In our day the Conciergerie, hardly large enough for the prisoners
committed for trial--room being needed for about three hundred, men
and women--no longer receives either suspected or remanded criminals
excepting in rare cases, as, for instance, in these of Jacques Collin
and Lucien. All who are imprisoned there are committed for trial
before the Bench. As an exception criminals of the higher ranks are
allowed to sojourn there, since, being already disgraced by a sentence
in open court, their punishment would be too severe if they served
their term of imprisonment at Melun or at Poissy. Ouvrard preferred to
be imprisoned at the Conciergerie rather than at Sainte-Pelagie. At
this moment of writing Lehon the notary and the Prince de Bergues are
serving their time there by an exercise of leniency which, though
arbitrary, is humane.
As a rule, suspected criminals, whether they are to be subjected to a
preliminary examination--to "go up," in the slang of the Courts--or to
appear before the magistrate of the lower Court, are transferred in
prison vans direct to the "mousetraps."
The "mousetraps," opposite the gate, consist of a certain number of
old cells constructed in the old kitchens of Saint-Louis' building,
whither prisoners not yet fully committed are brought to await the
hour when the Court sits, or the arrival of the examining judge. The
"mousetraps" end on the north at the quay, on the east at the
headquarters of the Municipal Guard, on the west at the courtyard of
the Conciergerie, and on the south they adjoin a large vaulted hall,
formerly, no doubt, the banqueting-room, but at present disused.
Above the "mousetraps" is an inner guardroom with a window commanding
the court of the Conciergerie; this is used by the gendarmerie of the
department, and the stairs lead up to it. When the hour of trial
strikes the sheriffs call the roll of the prisoners, the gendarmes go
down, one for each prisoner, and each gendarme takes a criminal by the
arm; and thus, in couples, they mount the stairs, cross the guardroom,
and are led along the passages to a room contiguous to the hall where
sits the famous sixth chamber of the law (whose functions are those of
an English county court). The same road is trodden by the prisoners
committed for trial on their way to and from the Conciergerie and the
In the Salle des Pas-Perdus, between the door into the first court of
the inferior class and the steps leading to the sixth, the visitor
must observe the first time he goes there a doorway without a door or
any architectural adornment, a square hole of the meanest type.
Through this the judges and barristers find their way into the
passages, into the guardhouse, down into the prison cells, and to the
entrance to the Conciergerie.
The private chambers of all the examining judges are on different
floors in this part of the building. They are reached by squalid
staircases, a maze in which those to whom the place is unfamiliar
inevitably lose themselves. The windows of some look out on the quay,
others on the yard of the Conciergerie. In 1830 a few of these rooms
commanded the Rue de la Barillerie.
Thus, when a prison van turns to the left in this yard, it has brought
prisoners to be examined to the "mousetrap"; when it turns to the
right, it conveys prisoners committed for trial, to the Conciergerie.
Now it was to the right that the vehicle turned which conveyed Jacques
Collin to set him down at the prison gate. Nothing can be more
sinister. Prisoners and visitors see two barred gates of wrought iron,
with a space between them of about six feet. These are never both
opened at once, and through them everything is so cautiously
scrutinized that persons who have a visiting ticket pass the permit
through the bars before the key grinds in the lock. The examining
judges, or even the supreme judges, are not admitted without being
identified. Imagine, then, the chances of communications or escape!--
The governor of the Conciergerie would smile with an expression on his
lips that would freeze the mere suggestion in the most daring of
romancers who defy probability.
In all the annals of the Conciergerie no escape has been known but
that of Lavalette; but the certain fact of august connivance, now
amply proven, if it does not detract from the wife's devotion,
certainly diminished the risk of failure.
The most ardent lover of the marvelous, judging on the spot of the
nature of the difficulties, must admit that at all times the obstacles
must have been, as they still are, insurmountable. No words can do
justice to the strength of the walls and vaulting; they must be seen.
Though the pavement of the yard is on a lower level than that of the
quay, in crossing this Barbican you go down several steps to enter an
immense vaulted hall, with solid walls graced with magnificent
columns. This hall abuts on the Tour de Montgomery--which is now part
of the governor's residence--and on the Tour d'Argent, serving as a
dormitory for the warders, or porters, or turnkeys, as you may prefer
to call them. The number of the officials is less than might be
supposed; there are but twenty; their sleeping quarters, like their
beds, are in no respect different from those of the pistoles or
private cells. The name pistole originated, no doubt, in the fact that
the prisoners formerly paid a pistole (about ten francs) a week for
this accommodation, its bareness resembling that of the empty garrets
in which great men in poverty begin their career in Paris.
To the left, in the vast entrance hall, sits the Governor of the
Conciergerie, in a sort of office constructed of glass panes, where he
and his clerk keep the prison-registers. Here the prisoners for
examination, or committed for trial, have their names entered with a
full description, and are then searched. The question of their lodging
is also settled, this depending on the prisoner's means.
Opposite the entrance to this hall there is a glass door. This opens
into a parlor where the prisoner's relations and his counsel may speak
with him across a double grating of wood. The parlor window opens on
to the prison yard, the inner court where prisoners committed for
trial take air and exercise at certain fixed hours.
This large hall, only lighted by the doubtful daylight that comes in
through the gates--for the single window to the front court is
screened by the glass office built out in front of it--has an
atmosphere and a gloom that strike the eye in perfect harmony with the
pictures that force themselves on the imagination. Its aspect is all
the more sinister because, parallel with the Tours d'Argent and de
Montgomery, you discover those mysterious vaulted and overwhelming
crypts which lead to the cells occupied by the Queen and Madame
Elizabeth, and to those known as the secret cells. This maze of
masonry, after being of old the scene of royal festivities, is now the
basement of the Palais de Justice.
Between 1825 and 1832 the operation of the last toilet was performed
in this enormous hall, between a large stove which heats it and the
inner gate. It is impossible even now to tread without a shudder on
the paved floor that has received the shock and the confidences of so
many last glances.
The apparently dying victim on this occasion could not get out of the
horrible vehicle without the assistance of two gendarmes, who took him
under the arms to support him, and led him half unconscious into the
office. Thus dragged along, the dying man raised his eyes to heaven in
such a way as to suggest a resemblance to the Saviour taken down from
the Cross. And certainly in no picture does Jesus present a more
cadaverous or tortured countenance than this of the sham Spaniard; he
looked ready to breathe his last sigh. As soon as he was seated in the
office, he repeated in a weak voice the speech he had made to
everybody since he was arrested:
"I appeal to His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador."
"You can say that to the examining judge," replied the Governor.
"Oh Lord!" said Jacques Collin, with a sigh. "But cannot I have a
breviary! Shall I never be allowed to see a doctor? I have not two
hours to live."
As Carlos Herrera was to be placed in close confinement in the secret
cells, it was needless to ask him whether he claimed the benefits of
the pistole (as above described), that is to say, the right of having
one of the rooms where the prisoner enjoys such comfort as the law
permits. These rooms are on the other side of the prison-yard, of
which mention will presently be made. The sheriff and the clerk calmly
carried out the formalities of the consignment to prison.
"Monsieur," said Jacques Collin to the Governor in broken French, "I
am, as you see, a dying man. Pray, if you can, tell that examining
judge as soon as possible that I crave as a favor what a criminal must
most dread, namely, to be brought before him as soon as he arrives;
for my sufferings are really unbearable, and as soon as I see him the
mistake will be cleared up----"
As an universal rule every criminal talks of a mistake. Go to the
hulks and question the convicts; they are almost all victims of a
miscarriage of justice. So this speech raises a faint smile in all who
come into contact with the suspected, accused, or condemned criminal.
"I will mention your request to the examining judge," replied the
"And I shall bless you, monsieur!" replied the false Abbe, raising his
eyes to heaven.
As soon as his name was entered on the calendar, Carlos Herrera,
supported under each arm by a man of the municipal guard, and followed
by a turnkey instructed by the Governor as to the number of the cell
in which the prisoner was to be placed, was led through the
subterranean maze of the Conciergerie into a perfectly wholesome room,
whatever certain philanthropists may say to the contrary, but cut off
from all possible communication with the outer world.
As soon as he was removed, the warders, the Governor, and his clerk
looked at each other as though asking each other's opinion, and
suspicion was legible on every face; but at the appearance of the
second man in custody the spectators relapsed into their usual
doubting frame of mind, concealed under the air of indifference. Only
in very extraordinary cases do the functionaries of the Conciergerie
feel any curiosity; the prisoners are no more to them than a barber's
customers are to him. Hence all the formalities which appall the
imagination are carried out with less fuss than a money transaction at
a banker's, and often with greater civility.
Lucien's expression was that of a dejected criminal. He submitted to
everything, and obeyed like a machine. All the way from Fontainebleau
the poet had been facing his ruin, and telling himself that the hour
of expiation had tolled. Pale and exhausted, knowing nothing of what
had happened at Esther's house during his absence, he only knew that
he was the intimate ally of an escaped convict, a situation which
enabled him to guess at disaster worse than death. When his mind could
command a thought, it was that of suicide. He must, at any cost,
escape the ignominy that loomed before him like the phantasm of a
Jacques Collin, as the more dangerous of the two culprits, was placed
in a cell of solid masonry, deriving its light from one of the narrow
yards, of which there are several in the interior of the Palace, in
the wing where the public prosecutor's chambers are. This little yard
is the airing-ground for the female prisoners. Lucien was taken to the
same part of the building, to a cell adjoining the rooms let to
misdemeanants; for, by orders from the examining judge, the Governor
treated him with some consideration.
Persons who have never had anything to do with the action of the law
usually have the darkest notions as to the meaning of solitary or
secret confinement. Ideas as to the treatment of criminals have not
yet become disentangled from the old pictures of torture chambers, of
the unhealthiness of a prison, the chill of stone walls sweating
tears, the coarseness of the jailers and of the food--inevitable
accessories of the drama; but it is not unnecessary to explain here
that these exaggerations exist only on the stage, and only make
lawyers and judges smile, as well as those who visit prisons out of
curiosity, or who come to study them.
For a long time, no doubt, they were terrible. In the days of the old
Parlement, of Louis XIII. and Louis XIV., the accused were, no doubt,
flung pell-mell into a low room underneath the old gateway. The
prisons were among the crimes of 1789, and it is enough only to see
the cells where the Queen and Madame Elizabeth were incarcerated to
conceive a horror of old judicial proceedings.
In our day, though philanthropy has brought incalculable mischief on
society, it has produced some good for the individual. It is to
Napoleon that we owe our Criminal Code; and this, even more than the
Civil Code--which still urgently needs reform on some points--will
remain one of the greatest monuments of his short reign. This new view
of criminal law put an end to a perfect abyss of misery. Indeed, it
may be said that, apart from the terrible moral torture which men of
the better classes must suffer when they find themselves in the power
of the law, the action of that power is simple and mild to a degree
that would hardly be expected. Suspected or accused criminals are
certainly not lodged as if they were at home; but every necessary is
supplied to them in the prisons of Paris. Besides, the burden of
feelings that weighs on them deprives the details of daily life of
their customary value. It is never the body that suffers. The mind is
in such a phase of violence that every form of discomfort or of brutal
treatment, if such there were, would be easily endured in such a frame
of mind. And it must be admitted that an innocent man is quickly
released, especially in Paris.
So Lucien, on entering his cell, saw an exact reproduction of the
first room he had occupied in Paris at the Hotel Cluny. A bed to
compare with those in the worst furnished apartments of the Quartier
Latin, straw chairs with the bottoms out, a table and a few utensils,
compose the furniture of such a room, in which two accused prisoners
are not unfrequently placed together when they are quiet in their
ways, and their misdeeds are not crimes of violence, but such as
forgery or bankruptcy.
This resemblance between his starting-point, in the days of his
innocency, and his goal, the lowest depths of degradation and sham,
was so direct an appeal to his last chord of poetic feeling, that the
unhappy fellow melted into tears. For four hours he wept, as rigid in
appearance as a figure of stone, but enduring the subversion of all
his hopes, the crushing of all his social vanity, and the utter
overthrow of his pride, smarting in each separate _I_ that exists in
an ambitious man--a lover, a success, a dandy, a Parisian, a poet, a
libertine, and a favorite. Everything in him was broken by this fall
as of Icarus.
Carlos Herrera, on the other hand, as soon as he was locked into his
cell and found himself alone, began pacing it to and fro like the
polar bear in his cage. He carefully examined the door and assured
himself that, with the exception of the peephole, there was not a
crack in it. He sounded all the walls, he looked up the funnel down
which a dim light came, and he said to himself, "I am safe enough!"
He sat down in a corner where the eye of a prying warder at the
grating of the peephole could not see him. Then he took off his wig,
and hastily ungummed a piece of paper that did duty as lining. The
side of the paper next his head was so greasy that it looked like the
very texture of the wig. If it had occurred to Bibi-Lupin to snatch
off the wig to establish the identity of the Spaniard with Jacques
Collin, he would never have thought twice about the paper, it looked
so exactly like part of the wigmaker's work. The other side was still
fairly white, and clean enough to have a few lines written on it. The
delicate and tiresome task of unsticking it had been begun in La
Force; two hours would not have been long enough; it had taken him
half of the day before. The prisoner began by tearing this precious
scrap of paper so as to have a strip four or five lines wide, which he
divided into several bits; he then replaced his store of paper in the
same strange hiding-place, after damping the gummed side so as to make
it stick again. He felt in a lock of his hair for one of those pencil
leads as thin as a stout pin, then recently invented by Susse, and
which he had put in with some gum; he broke off a scrap long enough to
write with and small enough to hide in his ear. Having made these
preparations with the rapidity and certainty of hand peculiar to old
convicts, who are as light-fingered as monkeys, Jacques Collin sat
down on the edge of his bed to meditate on his instructions to Asie,
in perfect confidence that he should come across her, so entirely did
he rely on the woman's genius.
"During the preliminary examination," he reflected, "I pretended to be
a Spaniard and spoke broken French, appealed to my Ambassador, and
alleged diplomatic privilege, not understanding anything I was asked,
the whole performance varied by fainting, pauses, sighs--in short, all
the vagaries of a dying man. I must stick to that. My papers are all
regular. Asie and I can eat up Monsieur Camusot; he is no great
"Now I must think of Lucien; he must be made to pull himself together.
I must get at the boy at whatever cost, and show him some plan of
conduct, otherwise he will give himself up, give me up, lose all! He
must be taught his lesson before he is examined. And besides, I must
find some witnesses to swear to my being a priest!"
Such was the position, moral and physical, of these two prisoners,
whose fate at the moment depended on Monsieur Camusot, examining judge
to the Inferior Court of the Seine, and sovereign master, during the
time granted to him by the Code, of the smallest details of their
existence, since he alone could grant leave for them to be visited by
the chaplains, the doctor, or any one else in the world.
No human authority--neither the King, nor the Keeper of the Seals, nor
the Prime Minister, can encroach on the power of an examining judge;
nothing can stop him, no one can control him. He is a monarch, subject
only to his conscience and the Law. At the present time, when
philosophers, philanthropists, and politicians are constantly
endeavoring to reduce every social power, the rights conferred on the
examining judges have become the object of attacks that are all the
more serious because they are almost justified by those rights, which,
it must be owned, are enormous. And yet, as every man of sense will
own, that power ought to remain unimpaired; in certain cases, its
exercise can be mitigated by a strong infusion of caution; but society
is already threatened by the ineptitude and weakness of the jury--
which is, in fact, the really supreme bench, and which ought to be
composed only of choice and elected men--and it would be in danger of
ruin if this pillar were broken which now upholds our criminal
Arrest on suspicion is one of the terrible but necessary powers of
which the risk to society is counterbalanced by its immense
importance. And besides, distrust of the magistracy in general is a
beginning of social dissolution. Destroy that institution, and
reconstruct it on another basis; insist--as was the case before the
Revolution--that judges should show a large guarantee of fortune; but,
at any cost, believe in it! Do not make it an image of society to be
In these days a judge, paid as a functionary, and generally a poor
man, has in the place of his dignity of old a haughtiness of demeanor
that seems odious to the men raised to be his equals; for haughtiness
is dignity without a solid basis. That is the vicious element in the
present system. If France were divided into ten circuits, the
magistracy might be reinstated by conferring its dignities on men of
fortune; but with six-and-twenty circuits this is impossible.
The only real improvement to be insisted on in the exercise of the
power intrusted to the examining judge, is an alteration in the
conditions of preliminary imprisonment. The mere fact of suspicion
ought to make no difference in the habits of life of the suspected
parties. Houses of detention for them ought to be constructed in
Paris, furnished and arranged in such a way as greatly to modify the
feeling of the public with regard to suspected persons. The law is
good, and is necessary; its application is in fault, and public
feeling judges the laws from the way in which they are carried out.
And public opinion in France condemns persons under suspicion, while,
by an inexplicable reaction, it justifies those committed for trial.
This, perhaps, is a result of the essentially refractory nature of the
This illogical temper of the Parisian people was one of the factors
which contributed to the climax of this drama; nay, as may be seen, it
was one of the most important.
To enter into the secret of the terrible scenes which are acted out in
the examining judge's chambers; to understand the respective positions
of the two belligerent powers, the Law and the examinee, the object of
whose contest is a certain secret kept by the prisoner from the
inquisition of the magistrate--well named in prison slang, "the
curious man"--it must always be remembered that persons imprisoned
under suspicion know nothing of what is being said by the seven or
eight publics that compose THE PUBLIC, nothing of how much the police
know, or the authorities, or the little that newspapers can publish as
to the circumstances of the crime.
Thus, to give a man in custody such information as Jacques Collin had
just received from Asie as to Lucien's arrest, is throwing a rope to a
drowning man. As will be seen, in consequence of this ignorance, a
stratagem which, without this warning, must certainly have been
equally fatal to the convict, was doomed to failure.
Monsieur Camusot, the son-in-law of one of the clerks of the cabinet,
too well known for any account of his position and connection to be
necessary here, was at this moment almost as much perplexed as Carlos
Herrera in view of the examination he was to conduct. He had formerly
been President of a Court of the Paris circuit; he had been raised
from that position and called to be a judge in Paris--one of the most
coveted posts in the magistracy--by the influence of the celebrated
Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, whose husband, attached to the Dauphin's
person, and Colonel of a cavalry regiment of the Guards, was as much
in favor with the King as she was with MADAME. In return for a very
small service which he had done the Duchess--an important matter to
her--on occasion of a charge of forgery brought against the young
Comte d'Esgrignon by a banker of Alencon (see La Cabinet des Antiques;
Scenes de la vie de Province), he was promoted from being a provincial
judge to be president of his Court, and from being president to being
an examining judge in Paris.
For eighteen months now he had sat on the most important Bench in the
kingdom; and had once, at the desire of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse,
had an opportunity of forwarding the ends of a lady not less
influential than the Duchess, namely, the Marquise d'Espard, but he
had failed. (See the Commission in Lunacy.)
Lucien, as was told at the beginning of the Scene, to be revenged on
Madame d'Espard, who aimed at depriving her husband of his liberty of
action, was able to put the true facts before the Public Prosecutor
and the Comte de Serizy. These two important authorities being thus
won over to the Marquis d'Espard's party, his wife had barely escaped
the censure of the Bench by her husband's generous intervention.
On hearing, yesterday, of Lucien's arrest, the Marquise d'Espard had
sent her brother-in-law, the Chevalier d'Espard, to see Madame
Camusot. Madame Camusot had set off forthwith to call on the notorious
Marquise. Just before dinner, on her return home, she had called her
husband aside in the bedroom.
"If you can commit that little fop Lucien de Rubempre for trial, and
secure his condemnation," said she in his ear, "you will be Councillor
to the Supreme Court----"
"Madame d'Espard longs to see that poor young man guillotined. I
shivered as I heard what a pretty woman's hatred can be!"
"Do not meddle in questions of the law," said Camusot.
"I! meddle!" said she. "If a third person could have heard us, he
could not have guessed what we were talking about. The Marquise and I
were as exquisitely hypocritical to each other as you are to me at
this moment. She began by thanking me for your good offices in her
suit, saying that she was grateful in spite of its having failed. She
spoke of the terrible functions devolved on you by the law, 'It is
fearful to have to send a man to the scaffold--but as to that man, it
would be no more than justice,' and so forth. Then she lamented that
such a handsome young fellow, brought to Paris by her cousin, Madame
du Chatelet, should have turned out so badly. 'That,' said she, 'is
what bad women like Coralie and Esther bring young men to when they
are corrupt enough to share their disgraceful profits!' Next came some
fine speeches about charity and religion! Madame du Chatelet had said
that Lucien deserved a thousand deaths for having half killed his
mother and his sister
"Then she spoke of a vacancy in the Supreme Court--she knows the
Keeper of the Seals. 'Your husband, madame, has a fine opportunity of
distinguishing himself,' she said in conclusion--and that is all."
"We distinguish ourselves every day when we do our duty," said
"You will go far if you are always the lawyer even to your wife,"
cried Madame Camusot. "Well, I used to think you a goose. Now I admire
The lawyer's lips wore one of those smiles which are as peculiar to
them as dancers' smiles are to dancers.
"Madame, can I come in?" said the maid.
"What is it?" said her mistress.
"Madame, the head lady's-maid came from the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse
while you were out, and she will be obliged if you would go at once to
the Hotel de Cadignan."
"Keep dinner back," said the lawyer's wife, remembering that the
driver of the hackney coach that had brought her home was waiting to
She put her bonnet on again, got into the coach, and in twenty minutes
was at the Hotel de Cadignan. Madame Camusot was led up the private
stairs, and sat alone for ten minutes in a boudoir adjoining the
Duchess' bedroom. The Duchess presently appeared, splendidly dressed,
for she was starting for Saint-Cloud in obedience to a Royal
"Between you and me, my dear, a few words are enough."
"Yes, Madame la Duchesse."
"Lucien de Rubempre is in custody, your husband is conducting the
inquiry; I will answer for the poor boy's innocence; see that he is
released within twenty-four hours.--This is not all. Some one will ask
to-morrow to see Lucien in private in his cell; your husband may be
present if he chooses, so long as he is not discovered. The King looks
for high courage in his magistrates in the difficult position in which
he will presently find himself; I will bring your husband forward, and
recommend him as a man devoted to the King even at the risk of his
head. Our friend Camusot will be made first a councillor, and then the
President of Court somewhere or other.--Good-bye.--I am under orders,
you will excuse me, I know?
"You will not only oblige the public prosecutor, who cannot give an
opinion in this affair; you will save the life of a dying woman,
Madame de Serizy. So you will not lack support.
"In short, you see, I put my trust in you, I need not say--you
She laid a finger to her lips and disappeared.
"And I had not a chance of telling her that Madame d'Espard wants to
see Lucien on the scaffold!" thought the judge's wife as she returned
to her hackney cab.
She got home in such a state of anxiety that her husband, on seeing
"What is the matter, Amelie?"
"We stand between two fires."
She told her husband of her interview with the Duchess, speaking in
his ear for fear the maid should be listening at the door.
"Now, which of them has the most power?" she said in conclusion. "The
Marquise was very near getting you into trouble in the silly business
of the commission on her husband, and we owe everything to the
"One made vague promises, while the other tells you you shall first be
Councillor and then President.--Heaven forbid I should advise you; I
will never meddle in matters of business; still, I am bound to repeat
exactly what is said at Court and what goes on----"
"But, Amelie, you do not know what the Prefet of police sent me this
morning, and by whom? By one of the most important agents of the
superior police, the Bibi-Lupin of politics, who told me that the
Government had a secret interest in this trial.--Now let us dine and
go to the Varietes. We will talk all this over to-night in my private
room, for I shall need your intelligence; that of a judge may not
perhaps be enough----"
Nine magistrates out of ten would deny the influence of the wife over
her husband in such cases; but though this may be a remarkable
exception in society, it may be insisted on as true, even if
improbable. The magistrate is like the priest, especially in Paris,
where the best of the profession are to be found; he rarely speaks of
his business in the Courts, excepting of settled cases. Not only do
magistrates' wives affect to know nothing; they have enough sense of
propriety to understand that it would damage their husbands if, when
they are told some secret, they allowed their knowledge to be
Nevertheless, on some great occasions, when promotion depends on the
decision taken, many a wife, like Amelie, has helped the lawyer in his
study of a case. And, after all, these exceptions, which, of course,
are easily denied, since they remain unknown, depend entirely on the
way in which the struggle between two natures has worked out in home-
life. Now, Madame Camusot controlled her husband completely.
When all in the house were asleep, the lawyer and his wife sat down to
the desk, where the magistrate had already laid out the documents in
"Here are the notes, forwarded to me, at my request, by the Prefet of
police," said Camusot.
"THE ABBE CARLOS HERRERA.
"This individual is undoubtedly the man named Jacques Collin,
known as Trompe-la-Mort, who was last arrested in 1819, in the
dwelling-house of a certain Madame Vauquer, who kept a common
boarding-house in the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve, where he lived
in concealment under the alias of Vautrin."
A marginal note in the Prefet's handwriting ran thus:
"Orders have been sent by telegraph to Bibi-Lupin, chief of the
Safety department, to return forthwith, to be confronted with the
prisoner, as he is personally acquainted with Jacques Collin, whom
he, in fact, arrested in 1819 with the connivance of a
"The boarders who then lived in the Maison Vauquer are still
living, and may be called to establish his identity.
"The self-styled Carlos Herrera is Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre's
intimate friend and adviser, and for three years past has
furnished him with considerable sums, evidently obtained by
"This partnership, if the identity of the Spaniard with Jacques
Collin can be proved, must involve the condemnation of Lucien de
"The sudden death of Peyrade, the police agent, is attributable to
poison administered at the instigation of Jacques Collin,
Rubempre, or their accomplices. The reason for this murder is the
fact that justice had for a long time been on the traces of these
And again, on the margin, the magistrate pointed to this note written
by the Prefet himself:
"This is the fact to my personal knowledge; and I also know that
the Sieur Lucien de Rubempre has disgracefully tricked the Comte
de Serizy and the Public Prosecutor."
"What do you say to this, Amelie?"
"It is frightful!" repled his wife. "Go on."
"The transformation of the convict Jacques Collin into a Spanish
priest is the result of some crime more clever than that by which
Coignard made himself Comte de Sainte-Helene."
"LUCIEN DE RUBEMBPRE.
"Lucien Chardon, son of an apothecary at Angouleme--his mother a
Demoiselle de Rubempre--bears the name of Rubempre in virtue of a
royal patent. This was granted by the request of Madame la
Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Monsieur le Comte de Serizy.
"This young man came to Paris in 182 . . . without any means of
subsistence, following Madame la Comtesse Sixte du Chatelet, then
Madame de Bargeton, a cousin of Madame d'Espard's.
"He was ungrateful to Madame de Bargeton, and cohabited with a
girl named Coralie, an actress at the Gymnase, now dead, who left
Monsieur Camusot, a silk mercer in the Rue des Bourdonnais, to
live with Rubempre.
"Ere long, having sunk into poverty through the insufficiency of
the money allowed him by this actress, he seriously compromised
his brother-in-law, a highly respected printer of Angouleme, by
giving forged bills, for which David Sechard was arrested, during
a short visit paid to Angouleme by Lucien. In consequence of this
affair Rubempre fled, but suddenly reappeared in Paris with the
Abbe Carlos Herrera.
"Though having no visible means of subsistence, the said Lucien de
Rubempre spent on an average three hundred thousand francs during
the three years of his second residence in Paris, and can only
have obtained the money from the self-styled Abbe Carlos Herrera--
but how did he come by it?
"He has recently laid out above a million francs in repurchasing
the Rubempre estates to fulfil the conditions on which he was to
be allowed to marry Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu. This
marriage has been broken off in consequence of inquiries made by
the Grandlieu family, the said Lucien having told them that he had
obtained the money from his brother-in-law and his sister; but the
information obtained, more especially by Monsieur Derville,
attorney-at-law, proves that not only were that worthy couple
ignorant of his having made this purchase, but that they believed
the said Lucien to be deeply in debt.
"Moreover, the property inherited by the Sechards consists of
houses; and the ready money, by their affidavit, amounted to about
two hundred thousand francs.
"Lucien was secretly cohabiting with Esther Gobseck; hence there
can be no doubt that all the lavish gifts of the Baron de
Nucingen, the girl's protector, were handed over to the said
"Lucien and his companion, the convict, have succeeded in keeping
their footing in the face of the world longer than Coignard did,
deriving their income from the prostitution of the said Esther,
formerly on the register of the town."
Though these notes are to a great extent a repetition of the story
already told, it was necessary to reproduce them to show the part
played by the police in Paris. As has already been seen from the note
on Peyrade, the police has summaries, almost invariably correct,
concerning every family or individual whose life is under suspicion,
or whose actions are of a doubtful character. It knows every
circumstance of their delinquencies. This universal register and
account of consciences is as accurately kept as the register of the
Bank of France and its accounts of fortunes. Just as the Bank notes
the slightest delay in payment, gauges every credit, takes stock of
every capitalist, and watches their proceedings, so does the police
weigh and measure the honesty of each citizen. With it, as in a Court
of Law, innocence has nothing to fear; it has no hold on anything but
However high the rank of a family, it cannot evade this social
And its discretion is equal to the extent of its power. This vast mass
of written evidence compiled by the police--reports, notes, and
summaries--an ocean of information, sleeps undisturbed, as deep and
calm as the sea. Some accident occurs, some crime or misdemeanor
becomes aggressive,--then the law refers to the police, and
immediately, if any documents bear on the suspected criminal, the
judge is informed. These records, an analysis of his antecedents, are
merely side-lights, and unknown beyond the walls of the Palais de
Justice. No legal use can be made of them; Justice is informed by
them, and takes advantage of them; but that is all. These documents
form, as it were, the inner lining of the tissue of crimes, their
first cause, which is hardly ever made public. No jury would accept
it; and the whole country would rise up in wrath if excerpts from
those documents came out in the trial at the Assizes. In fact, it is
the truth which is doomed to remain in the well, as it is everywhere
and at all times. There is not a magistrate who, after twelve years'
experience in Paris, is not fully aware that the Assize Court and the
police authorities keep the secret of half these squalid atrocities,
or who does not admit that half the crimes that are committed are
never punished by the law.
If the public could know how reserved the employes of the police are--
who do not forget--they would reverence these honest men as much as
they do Cheverus. The police is supposed to be astute, Machiavellian;
it is, in fact most benign. But it hears every passion in its
paroxysms, it listens to every kind of treachery, and keeps notes of
all. The police is terrible on one side only. What it does for justice
it does no less for political interests; but in these it is as
ruthless and as one-sided as the fires of the Inquisition.
"Put this aside," said the lawyer, replacing the notes in their cover;
"this is a secret between the police and the law. The judge will
estimate its value, but Monsieur and Madame Camusot must know nothing
"As if I needed telling that!" said his wife.
"Lucien is guilty," he went on; "but of what?"
"A man who is the favorite of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, of the
Comtesse de Serizy, and loved by Clotilde de Grandlieu, is not
guilty," said Amelie. "The other MUST be answerable for everything."
"But Lucien is his accomplice," cried Camusot.
"Take my advice," said Amelie. "Restore this priest to the diplomatic
career he so greatly adorns, exculpate this little wretch, and find
some other criminal----"
"How you run on!" said the magistrate with a smile. "Women go to the
point, plunging through the law as birds fly through the air, and find
nothing to stop them."
"But," said Amelie, "whether he is a diplomate or a convict, the Abbe
Carlos will find some one to get him out of the scrape."
"I am only a considering cap; you are the brain," said Camusot.
"Well, the sitting is closed; give your Melie a kiss; it is one
And Madame Camusot went to bed, leaving her husband to arrange his
papers and his ideas in preparation for the task of examining the two
prisoners next morning.
And thus, while the prison vans were conveying Jacques Collin and
Lucien to the Conciergerie, the examining judge, having breakfasted,
was making his way across Paris on foot, after the unpretentious
fashion of Parisian magistrates, to go to his chambers, where all the
documents in the case were laid ready for him.
This was the way of it: Every examining judge has a head-clerk, a sort
of sworn legal secretary--a race that perpetuates itself without any
premiums or encouragement, producing a number of excellent souls in
whom secrecy is natural and incorruptible. From the origin of the
Parlement to the present day, no case has ever been known at the
Palais de Justice of any gossip or indiscretion on the part of a clerk
bound to the Courts of Inquiry. Gentil sold the release given by
Louise de Savoie to Semblancay; a War Office clerk sold the plan of
the Russian campaign to Czernitchef; and these traitors were more or
less rich. The prospect of a post in the Palais and professional
conscientiousness are enough to make a judge's clerk a successful
rival of the tomb--for the tomb has betrayed many secrets since
chemistry has made such progress.
This official is, in fact, the magistrate's pen. It will be understood
by many readers that a man may gladly be the shaft of a machine, while
they wonder why he is content to remain a bolt; still a bolt is
content--perhaps the machinery terrifies him.
Camusot's clerk, a young man of two-and-twenty, named Coquart, had
come in the morning to fetch all the documents and the judge's notes,
and laid everything ready in his chambers, while the lawyer himself
was wandering along the quays, looking at the curiosities in the
shops, and wondering within himself:--
"How on earth am I to set to work with such a clever rascal as this
Jacques Collin, supposing it is he? The head of the Safety will know
him. I must look as if I knew what I was about, if only for the sake
of the police! I see so many insuperable difficulties, that the best
plan would be to enlighten the Marquise and the Duchess by showing
them the notes of the police, and I should avenge my father, from whom
Lucien stole Coralie.--If I can unveil these scoundrels, my skill will
be loudly proclaimed, and Lucien will soon be thrown over by his
friends.--Well, well, the examination will settle all that."
He turned into a curiosity shop, tempted by a Boule clock.
"Not to be false to my conscience, and yet to oblige two great ladies
--that will be a triumph of skill," thought he. "What, do you collect
coins too, monsieur?" said Camusot to the Public Prosecutor, whom he
found in the shop.
"It is a taste dear to all dispensers of justice," said the Comte de
Granville, laughing. "They look at the reverse side of every medal."
And after looking about the shop for some minutes, as if continuing
his search, he accompanied Camusot on his way down the quay without
it ever occurring to Camusot that anything but chance had brought them
"You are examining Monsieur de Rubempre this morning," said the Public
Prosecutor. "Poor fellow--I liked him."
"There are several charges against him," said Camusot.
"Yes, I saw the police papers; but some of the information came from
an agent who is independent of the Prefet, the notorious Corentin, who
had caused the death of more innocent men than you will ever send
guilty men to the scaffold, and---- But that rascal is out of your
reach.--Without trying to influence the conscience of such a
magistrate as you are, I may point out to you that if you could be
perfectly sure that Lucien was ignorant of the contents of that
woman's will, it would be self-evident that he had no interest in her
death, for she gave him enormous sums of money."
"We can prove his absence at the time when this Esther was poisoned,"
said Camusot. "He was at Fontainebleau, on the watch for Mademoiselle
de Grandlieu and the Duchesse de Lenoncourt."
"And he still cherished such hopes of marrying Mademoiselle de
Grandlieu," said the Public Prosecutor--"I have it from the Duchesse
de Grandlieu herself--that it is inconceivable that such a clever
young fellow should compromise his chances by a perfectly aimless
"Yes," said Camusot, "especially if Esther gave him all she got."
"Derville and Nucingen both say that she died in ignorance of the
inheritance she had long since come into," added Granville.
"But then what do you suppose is the meaning of it all?" asked
Camusot. "For there is something at the bottom of it."
"A crime committed by some servant," said the Public Prosecutor.
"Unfortunately," remarked Camusot, "it would be quite like Jacques
Collin--for the Spanish priest is certainly none other than that
escaped convict--to have taken possession of the seven hundred and
fifty thousand francs derived from the sale of the certificate of
shares given to Esther by Nucingen."
"Weigh everything with care, my dear Camusot. Be prudent. The Abbe
Carlos Herrera has diplomatic connections; still, an envoy who had
committed a crime would not be sheltered by his position. Is he or is
he not the Abbe Carlos Herrera? That is the important question."
And Monsieur de Granville bowed, and turned away, as requiring no
"So he too wants to save Lucien!" thought Camusot, going on by the
Quai des Lunettes, while the Public Prosecutor entered the Palais
through the Cour de Harlay.
On reaching the courtyard of the Conciergerie, Camusot went to the
Governor's room and led him into the middle of the pavement, where no
one could overhear them.
"My dear sir, do me the favor of going to La Force, and inquiring of
your colleague there whether he happens at this moment to have there
any convicts who were on the hulks at Toulon between 1810 and 1815; or
have you any imprisoned here? We will transfer those of La Force here
for a few days, and you will let me know whether this so-called
Spanish priest is known to them as Jacques Collin, otherwise Trompe-
"Very good, Monsieur Camusot.--But Bibi-Lupin is come . . ."
"What, already?" said the judge.
"He was at Melun. He was told that Trompe-la-Mort had to be
identified, and he smiled with joy. He awaits your orders."
"Send him to me."
The Governor was then able to lay before Monsieur Camusot Jacques
Collin's request, and he described the man's deplorable condition.
"I intended to examine him first," replied the magistrate, "but not on
account of his health. I received a note this morning from the
Governor of La Force. Well, this rascal, who described himself to you
as having been dying for twenty-four hours past, slept so soundly that
they went into his cell there, with the doctor for whom the Governor
had sent, without his hearing them; the doctor did not even feel his
pulse, he left him to sleep--which proves that his conscience is as
tough as his health. I shall accept this feigned illness only so far
as it may enable me to study my man," added Monsieur Camusot, smiling.
"We live to learn every day with these various grades of prisoners,"
said the Governor of the prison.
The Prefecture of police adjoins the Conciergerie, and the
magistrates, like the Governor, knowing all the subterranean passages,
can get to and fro with the greatest rapidity. This explains the
miraculous ease with which information can be conveyed, during the
sitting of the Courts, to the officials and the presidents of the
Assize Courts. And by the time Monsieur Camusot had reached the top of
the stairs leading to his chambers, Bibi-Lupin was there too, having
come by the Salle des Pas-Perdus.
"What zeal!" said Camusot, with a smile.
"Ah, well, you see if it is HE," replied the man, "you will see great
fun in the prison-yard if by chance there are any old stagers here."
"Trompe-la-Mort sneaked their chips, and I know that they have vowed
to be the death of him."
THEY were the convicts whose money, intrusted to Trompe-la-Mort, had
all been made away with by him for Lucien, as has been told.
"Could you lay your hand on the witnesses of his former arrest?"
"Give me two summonses of witnesses and I will find you some to-day."
"Coquart," said the lawyer, as he took off his gloves, and placed his
hat and stick in a corner, "fill up two summonses by monsieur's
He looked at himself in the glass over the chimney shelf, where stood,
in the place of a clock, a basin and jug. On one side was a bottle of
water and a glass, on the other a lamp. He rang the bell; his usher
came in a few minutes after.
"Is anybody here for me yet?" he asked the man, whose business it was
to receive the witnesses, to verify their summons, and to set them in
the order of their arrival.
"Take their names, and bring me the list."
The examining judges, to save time, are often obliged to carry on
several inquiries at once. Hence the long waiting inflicted on the
witnesses, who have seats in the ushers' hall, where the judges' bells
are constantly ringing.
"And then," Camusot went on, "bring up the Abbe Carlos Herrera."
"Ah, ha! I was told that he was a priest in Spanish. Pooh! It is a new
edition of Collet, Monsieur Camusot," said the head of the Safety
"There is nothing new!" replied Camusot.
And he signed the two formidable documents which alarm everybody, even
the most innocent witnesses, whom the law thus requires to appear,
under severe penalties in case of failure.
By this time Jacques Collin had, about half an hour since, finished
his deep meditations, and was armed for the fray. Nothing is more
perfectly characteristic of this type of the mob in rebellion against
the law than the few words he had written on the greasy scraps of
The sense of the first--for it was written in the language, the very
slang of slang, agreed upon by Asie and himself, a cipher of words--
was as follows:--
"Go to the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse or Madame de Serizy: one of
them must see Lucien before he is examined, and give him the
enclosed paper to read. Then find Europe and Paccard; those two
thieves must be at my orders, and ready to play any part I may
"Go to Rastignac; tell him, from the man he met at the opera-ball,
to come and swear that the Abbe Carlos Herrera has no resemblance
to Jacques Collin who was apprehended at Vauquer's. Do the same
with Dr. Bianchon, and get Lucien's two women to work to the same
On the enclosed fragment were these words in good French:
"Lucien, confess nothing about me. I am the Abbe Carlos Herrera.
Not only will this be your exculpation; but, if you do not lose
your head, you will have seven millions and your honor cleared."
These two bits of paper, gummed on the side of the writing so as to
look like one piece, were then rolled tightly, with a dexterity
peculiar to men who have dreamed of getting free from the hulks. The
whole thing assumed the shape and consistency of a ball of dirty
rubbish, about as big as the sealing-wax heads which thrifty women
stick on the head of a large needle when the eye is broken.
"If I am examined first, we are saved; if it is the boy, all is lost,"
said he to himself while he waited.
His plight was so sore that the strong man's face was wet with white
sweat. Indeed, this wonderful man saw as clearly in his sphere of
crime as Moliere did in his sphere of dramatic poetry, or Cuvier in
that of extinct organisms. Genius of whatever kind is intuition. Below
this highest manifestation other remarkable achievements may be due to
talent. This is what divides men of the first rank from those of the
Crime has its men of genius. Jacques Collin, driven to bay, had hit on
the same notion as Madame Camusot's ambition and Madame de Serizy's
passion, suddenly revived by the shock of the dreadful disaster which
was overwhelming Lucien. This was the supreme effort of human
intellect directed against the steel armor of Justice.
On hearing the rasping of the heavy locks and bolts of his door,
Jacques Collin resumed his mask of a dying man; he was helped in this
by the intoxicating joy that he felt at the sound of the warder's
shoes in the passage. He had no idea how Asie would get near him; but
he relied on meeting her on the way, especially after her promise
given in the Saint-Jean gateway.
After that fortunate achievement she had gone on to the Place de
Till 1830 the name of La Greve (the Strand) had a meaning that is now
lost. Every part of the river-shore from the Pont d'Arcole to the Pont
Louis-Philippe was then as nature had made it, excepting the paved way
which was at the top of the bank. When the river was in flood a boat
could pass close under the houses and at the end of the streets
running down to the river. On the quay the footpath was for the most
part raised with a few steps; and when the river was up to the houses,
vehicles had to pass along the horrible Rue de la Mortellerie, which
has now been completely removed to make room for enlarging the Hotel
So the sham costermonger could easily and quickly run her truck down
to the bottom of the quay, and hide it there till the real owner--who
was, in fact, drinking the price of her wares, sold bodily to Asie, in
one of the abominable taverns in the Rue de la Mortellerie--should
return to claim it. At that time the Quai Pelletier was being
extended, the entrance to the works was guarded by a crippled soldier,
and the barrow would be quite safe in his keeping.
Asie then jumped into a hackney cab on the Place de l'Hotel de Ville,
and said to the driver, "To the Temple, and look sharp, I'll tip you
A woman dressed like Asie could disappear, without any questions being
asked, in the huge market-place, where all the rags in Paris are
gathered together, where a thousand costermongers wander round, and
two hundred old-clothes sellers are chaffering.
The two prisoners had hardly been locked up when she was dressing
herself in a low, damp entresol over one of those foul shops where
remnants are sold, pieces stolen by tailors and dressmakers--an
establishment kept by an old maid known as La Romette, from her
Christian name Jeromette. La Romette was to the "purchasers of
wardrobes" what these women are to the better class of so-called
ladies in difficulties--Madame la Ressource, that is to say, money-
lenders at a hundred per cent.
"Now, child," said Asie, "I have got to be figged out. I must be a
Baroness of the Faubourg Saint-Germain at the very least. And sharp's
the word, for my feet are in hot oil. You know what gowns suit me.
Hand up the rouge-pot, find me some first-class bits of lace, and the
swaggerest jewelry you can pick out.--Send the girl to call a coach,
and have it brought to the back door."
"Yes, madame," the woman replied very humbly, and with the eagerness
of a maid waiting on her mistress.
If there had been any one to witness the scene, he would have
understood that the woman known as Asie was at home here.
"I have had some diamonds offered me," said la Romette as she dressed
"I should think so."
"Well, then, however cheap they may be, we must do without 'em. We
must fight shy of the beak for a long time to come."
It will now be understood how Asie contrived to be in the Salle des
Pas-Perdus of the Palais de Justice with a summons in her hand, asking
her way along the passages and stairs leading to the examining judge's
chambers, and inquiring for Monsieur Camusot, about a quarter of an
hour before that gentleman's arrival.
Asie was not recognizable. After washing off her "make-up" as an old
woman, like an actress, she applied rouge and pearl powder, and
covered her head with a well-made fair wig. Dressed exactly as a lady
of the Faubourg Saint-Germain might be if in search of a dog she had
lost, she looked about forty, for she shrouded her features under a
splendid black lace veil. A pair of stays, severely laced, disguised
her cook's figure. With very good gloves and a rather large bustle,
she exhaled the perfume of powder a la Marechale. Playing with a bag
mounted in gold, she divided her attention between the walls of the
building, where she found herself evidently for the first time, and
the string by which she led a dainty little spaniel. Such a dowager
could not fail to attract the notice of the black-robed natives of the
Salle des Pas-Perdus.
Besides the briefless lawyers who sweep this hall with their gowns,
and speak of the leading advocates by their Christian names, as fine
gentlemen address each other, to produce the impression that they are
of the aristocracy of the law, patient youths are often to be seen,
hangers-on of the attorneys, waiting, waiting, in hope of a case put
down for the end of the day, which they may be so lucky as to be
called to plead if the advocates retained for the earlier cases should
not come out in time.
A very curious study would be that of the differences between these
various black gowns, pacing the immense hall in threes, or sometimes
in fours, their persistent talk filling the place with a loud, echoing
hum--a hall well named indeed, for this slow walk exhausts the lawyers
as much as the waste of words. But such a study has its place in the
volumes destined to reveal the life of Paris pleaders.
Asie had counted on the presence of these youths; she laughed in her
sleeve at some of the pleasantries she overheard, and finally
succeeded in attracting the attention of Massol, a young lawyer whose
time was more taken up by the Police Gazette than by clients, and who
came up with a laugh to place himself at the service of a woman so
elegantly scented and so handsomely dressed.
Asie put on a little, thin voice to explain to this obliging gentleman
that she appeared in answer to a summons from a judge named Camusot.
"Oh! in the Rubempre case?"
So the affair had its name already.
"Oh, it is not my affair. It is my maid's, a girl named Europe, who
was with me twenty-four hours, and who fled when she saw my servant
bring in a piece of stamped paper."
Then, like any old woman who spends her life gossiping in the chimney-
corner, prompted by Massol, she poured out the story of her woes with
her first husband, one of the three Directors of the land revenue. She
consulted the young lawyer as to whether she would do well to enter on
a lawsuit with her son-in-law, the Comte de Gross-Narp, who made her
daughter very miserable, and whether the law allowed her to dispose of
In spite of all his efforts, Massol could not be sure whether the
summons were addressed to the mistress or the maid. At the first
moment he had only glanced at this legal document of the most familiar
aspect; for, to save time, it is printed, and the magistrates' clerks
have only to fill in the blanks left for the names and addresses of
the witnesses, the hour for which they are called, and so forth.
Asie made him tell her all about the Palais, which she knew more
intimately than the lawyer did. Finally, she inquired at what hour
Monsieur Camusot would arrive.
"Well, the examining judges generally are here by about ten o'clock."
"It is now a quarter to ten," said she, looking at a pretty little
watch, a perfect gem of goldsmith's work, which made Massol say to
"Where the devil will Fortune make herself at home next!"
At this moment Asie had come to the dark hall looking out on the yard
of the Conciergerie, where the ushers wait. On seeing the gate through
the window, she exclaimed:
"What are those high walls?"
"That is the Conciergerie."
"Oh! so that is the Conciergerie where our poor queen---- Oh! I should
so like to see her cell!"
"Impossible, Madame la Baronne," replied the young lawyer, on whose
arm the dowager was now leaning. "A permit is indispensable, and very
difficult to procure."
"I have been told," she went on, "that Louis XVIII. himself composed
the inscription that is to be seen in Marie-Antoinette's cell."
"Yes, Madame la Baronne."
"How much I should like to know Latin that I might study the words of
that inscription!" said she. "Do you think that Monsieur Camusot could
give me a permit?"
"That is not in his power; but he could take you there."
"But his business----" objected she.
"Oh!" said Massol, "prisoners under suspicion can wait."
"To be sure," said she artlessly, "they are under suspicion.--But I
know Monsieur de Granville, your public prosecutor----"
This hint had a magical effect on the ushers and the young lawyer.
"Ah, you know Monsieur de Granville?" said Massol, who was inclined to
ask the client thus sent to him by chance her name and address.
"I often see him at my friend Monsieur de Serizy's house. Madame de
Serizy is a connection of mine through the Ronquerolles."
"Well, if Madame wishes to go down to the Conciergerie," said an
"Yes," said Massol.
So the Baroness and the lawyer were allowed to pass, and they
presently found themselves in the little guard-room at the top of the
stairs leading to the "mousetrap," a spot well known to Asie, forming,
as has been said, a post of observation between those cells and the
Court of the Sixth Chamber, through which everybody is obliged to
"Will you ask if Monsieur Camusot is come yet?" said she, seeing some
gendarmes playing cards.
"Yes, madame, he has just come up from the 'mousetrap.' "
"The mousetrap!" said she. "What is that?--Oh! how stupid of me not to
have gone straight to the Comte de Granville.--But I have not time
now. Pray take me to speak to Monsieur Camusot before he is otherwise
"Oh, you have plenty of time for seeing Monsieur Camusot," said
Massol. "If you send him in your card, he will spare you the
discomfort of waiting in the ante-room with the witnesses.--We can be
civil here to ladies like you.--You have a card about you?"
At this instant Asie and her lawyer were exactly in front of the
window of the guardroom whence the gendarmes could observe the gate of
the Conciergerie. The gendarmes, brought up to respect the defenders
of the widow and the orphan, were aware too of the prerogative of the
gown, and for a few minutes allowed the Baroness to remain there
escorted by a pleader. Asie listened to the terrible tales which a
young lawyer is ready to tell about that prison-gate. She would not
believe that those who were condemned to death were prepared for the
scaffold behind those bars; but the sergeant-at-arms assured her it
"How much I should like to see it done!" cried she.
And there she remained, prattling to the lawyer and the sergeant, till
she saw Jacques Collin come out supported by two gendarmes, and
preceded by Monsieur Camusot's clerk.
"Ah, there is a chaplain no doubt going to prepare a poor wretch----"
"Not at all, Madame la Baronne," said the gendarme. "He is a prisoner
coming to be examined."
"What is he accused of?"
"He is concerned in this poisoning case."
"Oh! I should like to see him."
"You cannot stay here," said the sergeant, "for he is under close
arrest, and he must pass through here. You see, madame, that door
leads to the stairs----"
"Oh! thank you!" cried the Baroness, making for the door, to rush down
the stairs, where she at once shrieked out, "Oh! where am I?"
This cry reached the ear of Jacques Collin, who was thus prepared to
see her. The sergeant flew after Madame la Baronne, seized her by the
middle, and lifted her back like a feather into the midst of a group
of five gendarmes, who started up as one man; for in that guardroom
everything is regarded as suspicious. The proceeding was arbitrary,
but the arbitrariness was necessary. The young lawyer himself had
cried out twice, "Madame! madame!" in his horror, so much did he fear
finding himself in the wrong.
The Abbe Carlos Herrera, half fainting, sank on a chair in the
"Poor man!" said the Baroness. "Can he be a criminal?"
The words, though spoken low to the young advocate, could be heard by
all, for the silence of death reigned in that terrible guardroom.
Certain privileged persons are sometimes allowed to see famous
criminals on their way through this room or through the passages, so
that the clerk and the gendarmes who had charge of the Abbe Carlos
made no remark. Also, in consequence of the devoted zeal of the
sergeant who had snatched up the Baroness to hinder any communication
between the prisoner and the visitors, there was a considerable space
"Let us go on," said Jacques Collin, making an effort to rise.
At the same moment the little ball rolled out of his sleeve, and the
spot where it fell was noted by the Baroness, who could look about her
freely from under her veil. The little pellet, being damp and sticky,
did not roll; for such trivial details, apparently unimportant, had
all been duly considered by Jacques Collin to insure success.
When the prisoner had been led up the higher part of the steps, Asie
very unaffectedly dropped her bag and picked it up again; but in
stooping she seized the pellet which had escaped notice, its color
being exactly like that of the dust and mud on the floor.
"Oh dear!" cried she, "it goes to my heart.--He is dying----"
"Or seems to be," replied the sergeant.
"Monsieur," said Asie to the lawyer, "take me at once to Monsieur
Camusot; I have come about this case; and he might be very glad to see
me before examining that poor priest."
The lawyer and the Baroness left the guardroom, with its greasy,
fuliginous walls; but as soon as they reached the top of the stairs,
"Oh, and my dog! My poor little dog!" and she rushed off like a mad
creature down the Salle des Pas-Perdus, asking every one where her dog
was. She got to the corridor beyond (la Galerie Marchande, or
Merchant's Hall, as it is called), and flew to the staircase, saying,
"There he is!"
These stairs lead to the Cour de Harlay, through which Asie, having
played out the farce, passed out and took a hackney cab on the Quai
des Orfevres, where there is a stand; thus she vanished with the
summons requiring "Europe" to appear, her real name being unknown to
the police and the lawyers.
"Rue Neuve-Saint-Marc," cried she to the driver.
Asie could depend on the absolute secrecy of an old-clothes purchaser,
known as Madame Nourrisson, who also called herself Madame de Saint-
Esteve; and who would lend Asie not merely her personality, but her
shop at need, for it was there that Nucingen had bargained for the
surrender of Esther. Asie was quite at home there, for she had a
bedroom in Madame Nourrisson's establishment.