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Scenes from a Courtesan's Life by Honore de Balzac

Part 9 out of 12

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The public prosecutor rang, and the office-boy appeared.

"Desire Monsieur de Chargeboeuf to come here."

Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, a sucking barrister, was his private

"My good friend," said the Comte de Granville to Camusot, whom he took
to the window, "go back to your chambers, get your clerk to
reconstruct the report of the Abbe Carlos Herrera's depositions; as he
had not signed the first copy, there will be no difficulty about that.
To-morrow you must confront your Spanish diplomate with Rastignac and
Bianchon, who will not recognize him as Jacques Collin. Then, being
sure of his release, the man will sign the document.

"As to Lucien de Rubempre, set him free this evening; he is not likely
to talk about an examination of which the evidence is destroyed,
especially after such a lecture as I shall give him.

"Now you will see how little justice suffers by these proceedings. If
the Spaniard really is the convict, we have fifty ways of recapturing
him and committing him for trial--for we will have his conduct in
Spain thoroughly investigated. Corentin, the police agent, will take
care of him for us, and we ourselves will keep an eye on him. So treat
him decently; do not send him down to the cells again.

"Can we be the death of the Comte and Comtesse de Serizy, as well as
of Lucien, for the theft of seven hundred and fifty thousand francs as
yet unproven, and to Lucien's personal loss? Will it not be better for
him to lose the money than to lose his character? Above all, if he is
to drag with him in his fall a Minister of State, and his wife, and
the Duchesse du Maufrigneuse.

"This young man is a speckled orange; do not leave it to rot.

"All this will take you about half an hour; go and get it done; we
will wait for you. It is half-past three; you will find some judges
about. Let me know if you can get a rule of insufficient evidence--or
Lucien must wait till to-morrow morning."

Camusot bowed to the company and went; but Madame de Serizy, who was
suffering a good deal from her burns, did not return his bow.

Monsieur de Serizy, who had suddenly rushed away while the public
prosecutor and the magistrate were talking together, presently
returned, having fetched a small jar of virgin wax. With this he
dressed his wife's fingers, saying in an undertone:

"Leontine, why did you come here without letting me know?"

"My dear," replied she in a whisper, "forgive me. I seem mad, but
indeed your interests were as much involved as mine."

"Love this young fellow if fatality requires it, but do not display
your passion to all the world," said the luckless husband.

"Well, my dear Countess," said Monsieur de Granville, who had been
engaged in conversation with Comte Octave, "I hope you may take
Monsieur de Rubempre home to dine with you this evening."

This half promise produced a reaction; Madame de Serizy melted into

"I thought I had no tears left," said she with a smile. "But could you
not bring Monsieur de Rubempre to wait here?"

"I will try if I can find the ushers to fetch him, so that he may not
be seen under the escort of the gendarmes," said Monsieur de

"You are as good as God!" cried she, with a gush of feeling that made
her voice sound like heavenly music.

"These are the women," said Comte Octave, "who are fascinating,

And he became melancholy as he thought of his own wife. (See

As he left the room, Monsieur de Granville was stopped by young
Chargeboeuf, to whom he spoke to give him instructions as to what he
was to say to Massol, one of the editors of the Gazette des Tribunaux.

While beauties, ministers, and magistrates were conspiring to save
Lucien, this was what he was doing at the Conciergerie. As he passed
the gate the poet told the keeper that Monsieur Camusot had granted
him leave to write, and he begged to have pens, ink, and paper. At a
whispered word to the Governor from Camusot's usher a warder was
instructed to take them to him at once. During the short time that it
took for the warder to fetch these things and carry them up to Lucien,
the hapless young man, to whom the idea of facing Jacques Collin had
become intolerable, sank into one of those fatal moods in which the
idea of suicide--to which he had yielded before now, but without
succeeding in carrying it out--rises to the pitch of mania. According
to certain mad-doctors, suicide is in some temperaments the closing
phase of mental aberration; and since his arrest Lucien had been
possessed by that single idea. Esther's letter, read and reread many
times, increased the vehemence of his desire to die by reminding him
of the catastrophe of Romeo dying to be with Juliet.

This is what he wrote:--

"AT THE CONCIERGERIE, May 15th, 1830.

"I, the undersigned, give and bequeath to the children of my
sister, Madame Eve Chardon, wife of David Sechard, formerly a
printer at Angouleme, and of Monsieur David Sechard, all the
property, real and personal, of which I may be possessed at the
time of my decease, due deduction being made for the payments and
legacies, which I desire my executor to provide for.

"And I earnestly beg Monsieur de Serizy to undertake the charge of
being the executor of this my will.

"First, to Monsieur l'Abbe Carlos Herrera I direct the payment of
the sum of three hundred thousand francs. Secondly, to Monsieur le
Baron de Nucingen the sum of fourteen hundred thousand francs,
less seven hundred and fifty thousand if the sum stolen from
Mademoiselle Esther should be recovered.

"As universal legatee to Mademoiselle Esther Gobseck, I give and
bequeath the sum of seven hundred and sixty thousand francs to the
Board of Asylums of Paris for the foundation of a refuge
especially dedicated to the use of public prostitutes who may wish
to forsake their life of vice and ruin.

"I also bequeath to the Asylums of Paris the sum of money
necessary for the purchase of a certificate for dividends to the
amount of thirty thousand francs per annum in five per cents, the
annual income to be devoted every six months to the release of
prisoners for debts not exceeding two thousand francs. The Board
of Asylums to select the most respectable of such persons
imprisoned for debt.

"I beg Monsieur de Serizy to devote the sum of forty thousand
francs to erecting a monument to Mademoiselle Esther in the
Eastern cemetery, and I desire to be buried by her side. The tomb
is to be like an antique tomb--square, our two effigies lying
thereon, in white marble, the heads on pillows, the hands folded
and raised to heaven. There is to be no inscription whatever.

"I beg Monsieur de Serizy to give to Monsieur de Rastignac a gold
toilet-set that is in my room as a remembrance.

"And as a remembrance, I beg my executor to accept my library of
books as a gift from me.


This Will was enclosed in a letter addressed to Monsieur le Comte de
Granville, Public Prosecutor in the Supreme Court at Paris, as


"I place my Will in your hands. When you open this letter I shall
be no more. In my desire to be free, I made such cowardly replies
to Monsieur Camusot's insidious questions, that, in spite of my
innocence, I may find myself entangled in a disgraceful trial.
Even if I were acquitted, a blameless life would henceforth be
impossible to me in view of the opinions of the world.

"I beg you to transmit the enclosed letter to the Abbe Carlos
Herrera without opening it, and deliver to Monsieur Camusot the
formal retraction I also enclose.

"I suppose no one will dare to break the seal of a packet
addressed to you. In this belief I bid you adieu, offering you my
best respects for the last time, and begging you to believe that
in writing to you I am giving you a token of my gratitude for all
the kindness you have shown to your deceased humble servant,



"MY DEAR ABBE,--I have had only benefits from you, and I have
betrayed you. This involuntary ingratitude is killing me, and when
you read these lines I shall have ceased to exist. You are not
here now to save me.

"You had given me full liberty, if I should find it advantageous,
to destroy you by flinging you on the ground like a cigar-end; but
I have ruined you by a blunder. To escape from a difficulty,
deluded by a clever question from the examining judge, your son by
adoption and grace went over to the side of those who aim at
killing you at any cost, and insist on proving an identity, which
I know to be impossible, between you and a French villain. All is

"Between a man of your calibre and me--me of whom you tried to
make a greater man than I am capable of being--no foolish
sentiment can come at the moment of final parting. You hoped to
make me powerful and famous, and you have thrown me into the gulf
of suicide, that is all. I have long heard the broad pinions of
that vertigo beating over my head.

"As you have sometimes said, there is the posterity of Cain and
the posterity of Abel. In the great human drama Cain is in
opposition. You are descended from Adam through that line, in
which the devil still fans the fire of which the first spark was
flung on Eve. Among the demons of that pedigree, from time to time
we see one of stupendous power, summing up every form of human
energy, and resembling the fevered beasts of the desert, whose
vitality demands the vast spaces they find there. Such men are as
dangerous as lions would be in the heart of Normandy; they must
have their prey, and they devour common men and crop the money of
fools. Their sport is so dangerous that at last they kill the
humble dog whom they have taken for a companion and made an idol

"When it is God's will, these mysterious beings may be a Moses, an
Attila, Charlemagne, Mahomet, or Napoleon; but when He leaves a
generation of these stupendous tools to rust at the bottom of the
ocean, they are no more than a Pugatschef, a Fouche, a Louvel, or
the Abbe Carlos Herrera. Gifted with immense power over tenderer
souls, they entrap them and mangle them. It is grand, it is fine--
in its way. It is the poisonous plant with gorgeous coloring that
fascinates children in the woods. It is the poetry of evil. Men
like you ought to dwell in caves and never come out of them. You
have made me live that vast life, and I have had all my share of
existence; so I may very well take my head out of the Gordian knot
of your policy and slip it into the running knot of my cravat.

"To repair the mischief I have done, I am forwarding to the public
prosecutor a retraction of my deposition. You will know how to
take advantage of this document.

"In virtue of a will formally drawn up, restitution will be made,
Monsieur l'Abbe, of the moneys belonging to your Order which you
so imprudently devoted to my use, as a result of your paternal
affection for me.

"And so, farewell. Farewell, colossal image of Evil and
Corruption; farewell--to you who, if started on the right road,
might have been greater than Ximenes, greater than Richelieu! You
have kept your promises. I find myself once more just as I was on
the banks of the Charente, after enjoying, by your help, the
enchantments of a dream. But, unfortunately, it is not now in the
waters of my native place that I shall drown the errors of a boy;
but in the Seine, and my hole is a cell in the Conciergerie.

"Do not regret me: my contempt for you is as great as my



"I, the undersigned, hereby declare that I retract, without
reservation, all that I deposed at my examination to-day before
Monsieur Camusot.

"The Abbe Carlos Herrera always called himself my spiritual
father, and I was misled by the word father used in another sense
by the judge, no doubt under a misapprehension.

"I am aware that, for political ends, and to quash certain secrets
concerning the Cabinets of Spain and of the Tuileries, some
obscure diplomatic agents tried to show that the Abbe Carlos
Herrera was a forger named Jacques Collin; but the Abbe Carlos
Herrera never told me anything about the matter excepting that he
was doing his best to obtain evidence of the death or of the
continued existence of Jacques Collin.


"AT THE CONCIERGERIE, May 15th, 1830."

The fever for suicide had given Lucien immense clearness of mind, and
the swiftness of hand familiar to authors in the fever of composition.
The impetus was so strong within him that these four documents were
all written within half an hour; he folded them in a wrapper, fastened
with wafers, on which he impressed with the strength of delirium the
coat-of-arms engraved on a seal-ring he wore, and he then laid the
packet very conspicuously in the middle of the floor.

Certainly it would have been impossible to conduct himself with
greater dignity, in the false position to which all this infamy had
led him; he was rescuing his memory from opprobrium, and repairing the
injury done to his accomplice, so far as the wit of a man of the world
could nullify the result of the poet's trustfulness.

If Lucien had been taken back to one of the lower cells, he would have
been wrecked on the impossibility of carrying out his intentions, for
those boxes of masonry have no furniture but a sort of camp-bed and a
pail for necessary uses. There is not a nail, not a chair, not even a
stool. The camp-bed is so firmly fixed that it is impossible to move
it without an amount of labor that the warder would not fail to
detect, for the iron-barred peephole is always open. Indeed, if a
prisoner under suspicion gives reason for uneasiness, he is watched by
a gendarme or a constable.

In the private rooms for which prisoners pay, and in that whither
Lucien had been conveyed by the judge's courtesy to a young man
belonging to the upper ranks of society, the movable bed, table, and
chair might serve to carry out his purpose of suicide, though they
hardly made it easy. Lucien wore a long blue silk necktie, and on his
way back from examination he was already meditating on the means by
which Pichegru, more or less voluntarily, ended his days. Still, to
hang himself, a man must find a purchase, and have a sufficient space
between it and the ground for his feet to find no support. Now the
window of his room, looking out on the prison-yard, had no handle to
the fastening; and the bars, being fixed outside, were divided from
his reach by the thickness of the wall, and could not be used for a

This, then, was the plan hit upon by Lucien to put himself out of the
world. The boarding of the lower part of the opening, which prevented
his seeing out into the yard, also hindered the warders outside from
seeing what was done in the room; but while the lower portion of the
window was replaced by two thick planks, the upper part of both halves
still was filled with small panes, held in place by the cross pieces
in which they were set. By standing on his table Lucien could reach
the glazed part of the window, and take or break out two panes, so as
to have a firm point of attachment in the angle of the lower bar.
Round this he would tie his cravat, turn round once to tighten it
round his neck after securing it firmly, and kick the table from under
his feet.

He drew the table up under the window without making any noise, took
off his coat and waistcoat, and got on the table unhesitatingly to
break a pane above and one below the iron cross-bar. Standing on the
table, he could look out across the yard on a magical view, which he
then beheld for the first time. The Governor of the prison, in
deference to Monsieur Camusot's request that he should deal as
leniently as possible with Lucien, had led him, as we have seen,
through the dark passages of the Conciergerie, entered from the dark
vault opposite the Tour d'Argent, thus avoiding the exhibition of a
young man of fashion to the crowd of prisoners airing themselves in
the yard. It will be for the reader to judge whether the aspect of the
promenade was not such as to appeal deeply to a poet's soul.

The yard of the Conciergerie ends at the quai between the Tour
d'Argent and the Tour Bonbec; thus the distance between them exactly
shows from the outside the width of the plot of ground. The corridor
called the Galerie de Saint-Louis, which extends from the Galerie
Marchande to the Courts of Appeals and the Tour Bonbec--in which, it
is said, Saint-Louis' room still exists--may enable the curious to
estimate the depths of the yard, as it is of the same length. Thus the
dark cells and the private rooms are under the Galerie Marchande. And
Queen Marie Antoinette, whose dungeon was under the present cells, was
conducted to the presence of the Revolutionary Tribunal, which held
its sittings in the place where the Court of Appeals now performs its
solemn functions, up a horrible flight of steps, now never used, in
the very thickness of the wall on which the Galerie Marchande is

One side of the prison-yard--that on which the Hall of Saint-Louis
forms the first floor--displays a long row of Gothic columns, between
which the architects of I know not what period have built up two
floors of cells to accommodate as many prisoners as possible, by
choking the capitals, the arches, and the vaults of this magnificent
cloister with plaster, barred loopholes, and partitions. Under the
room known as the Cabinet de Saint-Louis, in the Tour Bonbec, there is
a spiral stair leading to these dens. This degradation of one of the
immemorial buildings of France is hideous to behold.

From the height at which Lucien was standing he saw this cloister, and
the details of the building that joins the two towers, in sharp
perspective; before him were the pointed caps of the towers. He stood
amazed; his suicide was postponed to his admiration. The phenomena of
hallucination are in these days so fully recognized by the medical
faculty that this mirage of the senses, this strange illusion of the
mind is beyond dispute. A man under the stress of a feeling which by
its intensity has become a monomania, often finds himself in the frame
of mind to which opium, hasheesh, or the protoxyde of azote might have
brought him. Spectres appear, phantoms and dreams take shape, things
of the past live again as they once were. What was but an image of the
brain becomes a moving or a living object. Science is now beginning to
believe that under the action of a paroxysm of passion the blood
rushes to the brain, and that such congestion has the terrible effects
of a dream in a waking state, so averse are we to regard thought as a
physical and generative force. (See Louis Lambert.)

Lucien saw the building in all its pristine beauty; the columns were
new, slender and bright; Saint-Louis' Palace rose before him as it had
once appeared; he admired its Babylonian proportions and Oriental
fancy. He took this exquisite vision as a poetic farewell from
civilized creation. While making his arrangements to die, he wondered
how this marvel of architecture could exist in Paris so utterly
unknown. He was two Luciens--one Lucien the poet, wandering through
the Middle Ages under the vaults and the turrets of Saint-Louis, the
other Lucien ready for suicide.

Just as Monsieur de Granville had ended giving his instructions to the
young secretary, the Governor of the Conciergerie came in, and the
expression of his face was such as to give the public prosecutor a
presentiment of disaster.

"Have you met Monsieur Camusot?" he asked.

"No, monsieur," said the Governor; "his clerk Coquart instructed me to
give the Abbe Carlos a private room and to liberate Monsieur de
Rubempre--but it is too late."

"Good God! what has happened?"

"Here, monsieur, is a letter for you which will explain the
catastrophe. The warder on duty in the prison-yard heard a noise of
breaking glass in the upper room, and Monsieur Lucien's next neighbor
shrieking wildly, for he heard the young man's dying struggles. The
warder came to me pale from the sight that met his eyes. He found the
prisoner hanged from the window bar by his necktie."

Though the Governor spoke in a low voice, a fearful scream from Madame
de Serizy showed that under stress of feeling our faculties are
incalculably keen. The Countess heard, or guessed. Before Monsieur de
Granville could turn round, or Monsieur de Bauvan or her husband could
stop her, she fled like a flash out of the door, and reached the
Galerie Marchande, where she ran on to the stairs leading out to the
Rue de la Barillerie.

A pleader was taking off his gown at the door of one of the shops
which from time immemorial have choked up this arcade, where shoes are
sold, and gowns and caps kept for hire.

The Countess asked the way to the Conciergerie.

"Go down the steps and turn to the left. The entrance is from the Quai
de l'Horloge, the first archway."

"That woman is crazy," said the shop-woman; "some one ought to follow

But no one could have kept up with Leontine; she flew.

A physician may explain how it is that these ladies of fashion, whose
strength never finds employment, reveal such powers in the critical
moments of life.

The Countess rushed so swiftly through the archway to the wicket-gate
that the gendarme on sentry did not see her pass. She flew at the
barred gate like a feather driven by the wind, and shook the iron bars
with such fury that she broke the one she grasped. The bent ends were
thrust into her breast, making the blood flow, and she dropped on the
ground, shrieking, "Open it, open it!" in a tone that struck terror
into the warders.

The gatekeepers hurried out.

"Open the gate--the public prosecutor sent me--to save the dead

While the Countess was going round by the Rue de la Barillerie and the
Quai de l'Horloge, Monsieur de Granville and Monsieur de Serizy went
down to the Conciergerie through the inner passages, suspecting
Leontine's purpose; but notwithstanding their haste, they only arrived
in time to see her fall fainting at the outer gate, where she was
picked up by two gendarmes who had come down from the guardroom.

On seeing the Governor of the prison, the gate was opened, and the
Countess was carried into the office, but she stood up and fell on her
knees, clasping her hands.

"Only to see him--to see him! Oh! I will do no wrong! But if you do
not want to see me die on the spot, let me look at Lucien dead or
living.--Ah, my dear, are you here? Choose between my death and----"

She sank in a heap.

"You are kind," she said; "I will always love you----"

"Carry her away," said Monsieur de Bauvan.

"No, we will go to Lucien's cell," said Monsieur de Granville, reading
a purpose in Monsieur de Serizy's wild looks.

And he lifted up the Countess, and took her under one arm, while
Monsieur de Bauvan supported her on the other side.

"Monsieur," said the Comte de Serizy to the Governor, "silence as of
the grave about all this."

"Be easy," replied the Governor; "you have done the wisest thing.--If
this lady----"

"She is my wife."

"Oh! I beg your pardon. Well, she will certainly faint away when she
sees the poor man, and while she is unconscious she can be taken home
in a carriage.

"That is what I thought," replied the Count. "Pray send one of your
men to tell my servants in the Cour de Harlay to come round to the
gate. Mine is the only carriage there."

"We can save him yet," said the Countess, walking on with a degree of
strength and spirit that surprised her friends. "There are ways of
restoring life----"

And she dragged the gentlemen along, crying to the warder:

"Come on, come faster--one second may cost three lives!"

When the cell door was opened, and the Countess saw Lucien hanging as
though his clothes had been hung on a peg, she made a spring towards
him as if to embrace him and cling to him; but she fell on her face on
the floor with smothered shrieks and a sort of rattle in her throat.

Five minutes later she was being taken home stretched on the seat in
the Count's carriage, her husband kneeling by her side. Monsieur de
Bauvan went off to fetch a doctor to give her the care she needed.

The Governor of the Conciergerie meanwhile was examining the outer
gate, and saying to his clerk:

"No expense was spared; the bars are of wrought iron, they were
properly tested, and cost a large sum; and yet there was a flaw in
that bar."

Monsieur de Granville on returning to his room had other instructions
to give to his private secretary. Massol, happily had not yet arrived.

Soon after Monsieur de Granville had left, anxious to go to see
Monsieur de Serizy, Massol came and found his ally Chargeboeuf in the
public prosecutor's Court.

"My dear fellow," said the young secretary, "if you will do me a great
favor, you will put what I dictate to you in your Gazette to-morrow
under the heading of Law Reports; you can compose the heading. Write

And he dictated as follows:--

"It has been ascertained that the Demoiselle Esther Gobseck killed
herself of her own free will.

"Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre satisfactorily proved an alibi, and
his innocence leaves his arrest to be regretted, all the more
because just as the examining judge had given the order for his
release the young gentleman died suddenly."

"I need not point out to you," said the young lawyer to Massol, "how
necessary it is to preserve absolute silence as to the little service
requested of you."

"Since it is you who do me the honor of so much confidence," replied
Massol, "allow me to make one observation. This paragraph will give
rise to odious comments on the course of justice----"

"Justice is strong enough to bear them," said the young attache to the
Courts, with the pride of a coming magistrate trained by Monsieur de

"Allow me, my dear sir; with two sentences this difficulty may be

And the journalist-lawyer wrote as follows:--

"The forms of the law have nothing to do with this sad event. The
post-mortem examination, which was at once made, proved that
sudden death was due to the rupture of an aneurism in its last
stage. If Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre had been upset by his
arrest, death must have ensued sooner. But we are in a position to
state that, far from being distressed at being taken into custody,
the young man, whom all must lament, only laughed at it, and told
those who escorted him from Fontainebleau to Paris that as soon as
he was brought before a magistrate his innocence would be

"That saves it, I think?" said Massol.

"You are perfectly right."

"The public prosecutor will thank you for it to-morrow," said Massol

Now to the great majority, as to the more choice reader, it will
perhaps seem that this Study is not completed by the death of Esther
and of Lucien; Jacques Collin and Asie, Europe and Paccard, in spite
of their villainous lives, may have been interesting enough to make
their fate a matter of curiosity.

The last act of the drama will also complete the picture of life which
this Study is intended to present, and give the issue of various
interests which Lucien's career had strangely tangled by bringing some
ignoble personages from the hulks into contact with those of the
highest rank.

Thus, as may be seen, the greatest events of life find their
expression in the more or less veracious gossip of the Paris papers.
And this is the case with many things of greater importance than are
here recorded.


"What is it, Madeleine?" asked Madame Camusot, seeing her maid come
into the room with the particular air that servants assume in critical

"Madame," said Madeleine, "monsieur has just come in from Court; but
he looks so upset, and is in such a state, that I think perhaps it
would be well for you to go to his room."

"Did he say anything?" asked Madame Camusot.

"No, madame; but we never have seen monsieur look like that; he looks
as if he were going to be ill, his face is yellow--he seems all to

Madame Camusot waited for no more; she rushed out of her room and flew
to her husband's study. She found the lawyer sitting in an armchair,
pale and dazed, his legs stretched out, his head against the back of
it, his hands hanging limp, exactly as if he were sinking into

"What is the matter, my dear?" said the young woman in alarm.

"Oh! my poor Amelie, the most dreadful thing has happened--I am still
trembling. Imagine, the public prosecutor--no, Madame de Serizy--that
is--I do not know where to begin."

"Begin at the end," said Madame Camusot.

"Well, just as Monsieur Popinot, in the council room of the first
Court, had put the last signature to the ruling of 'insufficient
cause' for the apprehension of Lucien de Rubempre on the ground of my
report, setting him at liberty--in fact, the whole thing was done, the
clerk was going off with the minute book, and I was quit of the whole
business--the President of the Court came in and took up the papers.
'You are releasing a dead man,' said he, with chilly irony; 'the young
man is gone, as Monsieur de Bonald says, to appear before his natural
Judge. He died of apoplexy----'

"I breathed again, thinking it was sudden illness.

" 'As I understand you, Monsieur le President,' said Monsieur Popinot,
'it is a case of apoplexy like Pichegru's.'

" 'Gentlemen,' said the President then, very gravely, 'you must please
to understand that for the outside world Lucien de Rubempre died of an

"We all looked at each other. 'Very great people are concerned in this
deplorable business,' said the President. 'God grant for your sake,
Monsieur Camusot, though you did no less than your duty, that Madame
de Serizy may not go mad from the shock she has had. She was carried
away almost dead. I have just met our public prosecutor in a painful
state of despair.'--'You have made a mess of it, my dear Camusot,' he
added in my ear.--I assure you, my dear, as I came away I could hardly
stand. My legs shook so that I dared not venture into the street. I
went back to my room to rest. Then Coquart, who was putting away the
papers of this wretched case, told me that a very handsome woman had
taken the Conciergerie by storm, wanting to save Lucien, whom she was
quite crazy about, and that she fainted away on seeing him hanging by
his necktie to the window-bar of his room. The idea that the way in
which I questioned that unhappy young fellow--who, between ourselves,
was guilty in many ways--can have led to his committing suicide has
haunted me ever since I left the Palais, and I feel constantly on the
point of fainting----"

"What next? Are you going to think yourself a murderer because a
suspected criminal hangs himself in prison just as you were about to
release him?" cried Madame Camusot. "Why, an examining judge in such a
case is like a general whose horse is killed under him!--That is all."

"Such a comparison, my dear, is at best but a jest, and jesting is out
of place now. In this case the dead man clutches the living. All our
hopes are buried in Lucien's coffin."

"Indeed?" said Madame Camusot, with deep irony.

"Yes, my career is closed. I shall be no more than an examining judge
all my life. Before this fatal termination Monsieur de Granville was
annoyed at the turn the preliminaries had taken; his speech to our
President makes me quite certain that so long as Monsieur de Granville
is public prosecutor I shall get no promotion."

Promotion! The terrible thought, which in these days makes a judge a
mere functionary.

Formerly a magistrate was made at once what he was to remain. The
three or four presidents' caps satisfied the ambitions of lawyers in
each Parlement. An appointment as councillor was enough for a de
Brosses or a Mole, at Dijon as much as in Paris. This office, in
itself a fortune, required a fortune brought to it to keep it up.

In Paris, outside the Parlement, men of the long robe could hope only
for three supreme appointments: those of Controller-General, Keeper of
the Seals, or Chancellor. Below the Parlement, in the lower grades,
the president of a lower Court thought himself quite of sufficient
importance to be content to fill his chair to the end of his days.

Compare the position of a councillor in the High Court of Justice in
Paris, in 1829, who has nothing but his salary, with that of a
councillor to the Parlement in 1729. How great is the difference! In
these days, when money is the universal social guarantee, magistrates
are not required to have--as they used to have--fine private fortunes:
hence we see deputies and peers of France heaping office on office, at
once magistrates and legislators, borrowing dignity from other
positions than those which ought to give them all their importance.

In short, a magistrate tries to distinguish himself for promotion as
men do in the army, or in a Government office.

This prevailing thought, even if it does not affect his independence,
is so well known and so natural, and its effects are so evident, that
the law inevitably loses some of its majesty in the eyes of the
public. And, in fact, the salaries paid by the State makes priests and
magistrates mere employes. Steps to be gained foster ambition,
ambition engenders subservience to power, and modern equality places
the judge and the person to be judged in the same category at the bar
of society. And so the two pillars of social order, Religion and
Justice, are lowered in this nineteenth century, which asserts itself
as progressive in all things.

"And why should you never be promoted?" said Amelie Camusot.

She looked half-jestingly at her husband, feeling the necessity of
reviving the energies of the man who embodied her ambitions, and on
whom she could play as on an instrument.

"Why despair?" she went on, with a shrug that sufficiently expressed
her indifference as to the prisoner's end. "This suicide will delight
Lucien's two enemies, Madame d'Espard and her cousin, the Comtesse du
Chatelet. Madame d'Espard is on the best terms with the Keeper of the
Seals; through her you can get an audience of His Excellency and tell
him all the secrets of this business. Then, if the head of the law is
on your side, what have you to fear from the president of your Court
or the public prosecutor?"

"But, Monsieur and Madame de Serizy?" cried the poor man. "Madame de
Serizy is gone mad, I tell you, and her madness is my doing, they

"Well, if she is out of her mind, O judge devoid of judgment," said
Madame Camusot, laughing, "she can do you no harm.--Come, tell me all
the incidents of the day."

"Bless me!" said Camusot, "just as I had cross-questioned the unhappy
youth, and he had deposed that the self-styled Spanish priest is
really Jacques Collin, the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Madame de
Serizy sent me a note by a servant begging me not to examine him. It
was all over!----"

"But you must have lost your head!" said Amelie. "What was to prevent
you, being so sure as you are of your clerk's fidelity, from calling
Lucien back, reassuring him cleverly, and revising the examination?"

"Why, you are as bad as Madame de Serizy; you laugh justice to scorn,"
said Camusot, who was incapable of flouting his profession. "Madame de
Serizy seized the minutes and threw them into the fire."

"That is the right sort of woman! Bravo!" cried Madame Camusot.

"Madame de Serizy declared she would sooner see the Palais blown up
than leave a young man who had enjoyed the favors of the Duchesse de
Maufrigneuse and her own to stand at the bar of a Criminal court by
the side of a convict!"

"But, Camusot," said Amelie, unable to suppress a superior smile,
"your position is splendid----"

"Ah! yes, splendid!"

"You did your duty."

"But all wrong; and in spite of the jesuitical advice of Monsieur de
Granville, who met me on the Quai Malaquais."

"This morning!"

"This morning."

"At what hour?"

"At nine o'clock."

"Oh, Camusot!" cried Amelie, clasping and wringing her hands, "and I
am always imploring you to be constantly on the alert.--Good heavens!
it is not a man, but a barrow-load of stones that I have to drag on!--
Why, Camusot, your public prosecutor was waiting for you.--He must
have given you some warning."

"Yes, indeed----"

"And you failed to understand him! If you are so deaf, you will indeed
be an examining judge all your life without any knowledge whatever of
the question.--At any rate, have sense enough to listen to me," she
went on, silencing her husband, who was about to speak. "You think the
matter is done for?" she asked.

Camusot looked at his wife as a country bumpkin looks at a conjurer.

"If the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Madame de Serizy are compromised,
you will find them both ready to patronize you," said Amelie. "Madame
de Serizy will get you admission to the Keeper of the Seals, and you
will tell him the secret history of the affair; then he will amuse the
King with the story, for sovereigns always wish to see the wrong side
of the tapestry and to know the real meaning of the events the public
stare at open-mouthed. Henceforth there will be no cause to fear
either the public prosecutor or Monsieur de Serizy."

"What a treasure such a wife is!" cried the lawyer, plucking up
courage. "After all, I have unearthed Jacques Collin; I shall send him
to his account at the Assize Court and unmask his crimes. Such a trial
is a triumph in the career of an examining judge!"

"Camusot," Amelie began, pleased to see her husband rally from the
moral and physical prostration into which he had been thrown by
Lucien's suicide, "the President told you that you had blundered to
the wrong side. Now you are blundering as much to the other--you are
losing your way again, my dear."

The magistrate stood up, looking at his wife with a stupid stare.

"The King and the Keeper of the Seals will be glad, no doubt, to know
the truth of this business, and at the same time much annoyed at
seeing the lawyers on the Liberal side dragging important persons to
the bar of opinion and of the Assize Court by their special pleading--
such people as the Maufrigneuses, the Serizys, and the Grandlieus, in
short, all who are directly or indirectly mixed up with this case."

"They are all in it; I have them all!" cried Camusot.

And Camusot walked up and down the room like Sganarelle on the stage
when he is trying to get out of a scrape.

"Listen, Amelie," said he, standing in front of his wife. "An incident
recurs to my mind, a trifle in itself, but, in my position, of vital

"Realize, my dear, that this Jacques Collin is a giant of cunning, of
dissimulation, of deceit.--He is--what shall I say?--the Cromwell of
the hulks!--I never met such a scoundrel; he almost took me in.--But
in examining a criminal, a little end of thread leads you to find a
ball, is a clue to the investigation of the darkest consciences and
obscurest facts.--When Jacques Collin saw me turning over the letters
seized in Lucien de Rubempre's lodgings, the villain glanced at them
with the evident intention of seeing whether some particular packet
were among them, and he allowed himself to give a visible expression
of satisfaction. This look, as of a thief valuing his booty, this
movement, as of a man in danger saying to himself, 'My weapons are
safe,' betrayed a world of things.

"Only you women, besides us and our examinees, can in a single flash
epitomize a whole scene, revealing trickery as complicated as safety-
locks. Volumes of suspicion may thus be communicated in a second. It
is terrifying--life or death lies in a wink.

"Said I to myself, "The rascal has more letters in his hands than
these!'--Then the other details of the case filled my mind; I
overlooked the incident, for I thought I should have my men face to
face, and clear up this point afterwards. But it may be considered as
quite certain that Jacques Collin, after the fashion of such wretches,
has hidden in some safe place the most compromising of the young
fellow's letters, adored as he was by----"

"And yet you are afraid, Camusot? Why, you will be President of the
Supreme Court much sooner than I expected!" cried Madame Camusot, her
face beaming. "Now, then, you must proceed so as to give satisfaction
to everybody, for the matter is looking so serious that it might quite
possibly be snatched from us.--Did they not take the proceedings out
of Popinot's hands to place them in yours when Madame d'Espard tried
to get a Commission in Lunacy to incapacitate her husband?" she added,
in reply to her husband's gesture of astonishment. "Well, then, might
not the public prosecutor, who takes such keen interest in the honor
of Monsieur and Madame de Serizy, carry the case to the Upper Court
and get a councillor in his interest to open a fresh inquiry?"

"Bless me, my dear, where did you study criminal law?" cried Camusot.
"You know everything; you can give me points."

"Why, do you believe that, by to-morrow morning, Monsieur de Granville
will not have taken fright at the possible line of defence that might
be adopted by some liberal advocate whom Jacques Collin would manage
to secure; for lawyers will be ready to pay him to place the case in
their hands!--And those ladies know their danger quite as well as you
do--not to say better; they will put themselves under the protection
of the public prosecutor, who already sees their families unpleasantly
close to the prisoner's bench, as a consequence of the coalition
between this convict and Lucien de Rubempre, betrothed to Mademoiselle
de Grandlieu--Lucien, Esther's lover, Madame de Maufrigneuse's former
lover, Madame de Serizy's darling. So you must conduct the affair in
such a way as to conciliate the favor of your public prosecutor, the
gratitude of Monsieur de Serizy, and that of the Marquise d'Espard and
the Comtesse du Chatelet, to reinforce Madame de Maufrigneuse's
influence by that of the Grandlieus, and to gain the complimentary
approval of your President.

"I will undertake to deal with the ladies--d'Espard, de Maufrigneuse,
and de Grandlieu.

"You must go to-morrow morning to see the public prosecutor. Monsieur
de Granville is a man who does not live with his wife; for ten years
he had for his mistress a Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille, who bore him
illegitimate children--didn't she? Well, such a magistrate is no
saint; he is a man like any other; he can be won over; he must give a
hold somewhere; you must discover the weak spot and flatter him; ask
his advice, point out the dangers of attending the case; in short, try
to get him into the same boat, and you will be----"

"I ought to kiss your footprints!" exclaimed Camusot, interrupting his
wife, putting his arm round her, and pressing her to his heart.
"Amelie, you have saved me!"

"I brought you in tow from Alencon to Mantes, and from Mantes to the
Metropolitan Court," replied Amelie. "Well, well, be quite easy!--I
intend to be called Madame la Presidente within five years' time. But,
my dear, pray always think over everything a long time before you come
to any determination. A judge's business is not that of a fireman;
your papers are never in a blaze, you have plenty of time to think; so
in your place blunders are inexcusable."

"The whole strength of my position lies in identifying the sham
Spanish priest with Jacques Collin," the judge said, after a long
pause. "When once that identity is established, even if the Bench
should take the credit of the whole affair, that will still be an
ascertained fact which no magistrate, judge, or councillor can get rid
of. I shall do like the boys who tie a tin kettle to a cat's tail; the
inquiry, whoever carries it on, will make Jacques Collin's tin kettle

"Bravo!" said Amelie.

"And the public prosecutor would rather come to an understanding with
me than with any one else, since I am the only man who can remove the
Damocles' sword that hangs over the heart of the Faubourg Saint-

"Only you have no idea how hard it will be to achieve that magnificent
result. Just now, when I was with Monsieur de Granville in his private
office, we agreed, he and I, to take Jacques Collin at his own
valuation--a canon of the Chapter of Toledo, Carlos Herrera. We
consented to recognize his position as a diplomatic envoy, and allow
him to be claimed by the Spanish Embassy. It was in consequence of
this plan that I made out the papers by which Lucien de Rubempre was
released, and revised the minutes of the examinations, washing the
prisoners as white as snow.

"To-morrow, Rastignac, Bianchon, and some others are to be confronted
with the self-styled Canon of Toledo; they will not recognize him as
Jacques Collin who was arrested in their presence ten years ago in a
cheap boarding-house, where they knew him under the name of Vautrin."

There was a short silence, while Madame Camusot sat thinking.

"Are you sure your man is Jacques Collin?" she asked.

"Positive," said the lawyer, "and so is the public prosecutor."

"Well, then, try to make some exposure at the Palais de Justice
without showing your claws too much under your furred cat's paws. If
your man is still in the secret cells, go straight to the Governor of
the Conciergerie and contrive to have the convict publicly identified.
Instead of behaving like a child, act like the ministers of police
under despotic governments, who invent conspiracies against the
monarch to have the credit of discovering them and making themselves
indispensable. Put three families in danger to have the glory of
rescuing them."

"That luckily reminds me!" cried Camusot. "My brain is so bewildered
that I had quite forgotten an important point. The instructions to
place Jacques Collin in a private room were taken by Coquart to
Monsieur Gault, the Governor of the prison. Now, Bibi-Lupin, Jacques
Collin's great enemy, has taken steps to have three criminals, who
know the man, transferred from La Force to the Conciergerie; if he
appears in the prison-yard to-morrow, a terrific scene is


"Jacques Collin, my dear, was treasurer of the money owned by the
prisoners in the hulks, amounting to considerable sums; now, he is
supposed to have spent it all to maintain the deceased Lucien in
luxury, and he will be called to account. There will be such a battle,
Bibi-Lupin tells me, as will require the intervention of the warders,
and the secret will be out. Jacques Collin's life is in danger.

"Now, if I get to the Palais early enough I may record the evidence of

"Oh, if only his creditors should take him off your hands! You would
be thought such a clever fellow!--Do not go to Monsieur de Granville's
room; wait for him in his Court with that formidable great gun. It is
a loaded cannon turned on the three most important families of the
Court and Peerage. Be bold: propose to Monsieur de Granville that he
should relieve you of Jacques Collin by transferring him to La Force,
where the convicts know how to deal with those who betray them.

"I will go to the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, who will take me to the
Grandlieus. Possibly I may see Monsieur de Serizy. Trust me to sound
the alarm everywhere. Above all, send me a word we will agree upon to
let me know if the Spanish priest is officially recognized as Jacques
Collin. Get your business at the Palais over by two o'clock, and I
will have arranged for you to have an interview with the Keeper of the
Seals; perhaps I may find him with the Marquise d'Espard."

Camusot stood squarely with a look of admiration that made his knowing
wife smile.

"Now, come to dinner and be cheerful," said she in conclusion. "Why,
you see! We have been only two years in Paris, and here you are on the
highroad to be made Councillor before the end of the year. From that
to the Presidency of a court, my dear, there is no gulf but what some
political service may bridge."

This conjugal sitting shows how greatly the deeds and the lightest
words of Jacques Collin, the lowest personage in this drama, involved
the honor of the families among whom he had planted his now dead

At the Conciergerie Lucien's death and Madame de Serizy's incursion
had produced such a block in the wheels of the machinery that the
Governor had forgotten to remove the sham priest from his dungeon-

Though more than one instance is on record of the death of a prisoner
during his preliminary examination, it was a sufficiently rare event
to disturb the warders, the clerk, and the Governor, and hinder their
working with their usual serenity. At the same time, to them the
important fact was not the handsome young fellow so suddenly become a
corpse, but the breakage of the wrought-iron bar of the outer prison
gate by the frail hands of a fine lady. And indeed, as soon as the
public prosecutor and Comte Octave de Bauvan had gone off with
Monsieur de Serizy and his unconscious wife, the Governor, clerk, and
turnkeys gathered round the gate, after letting out Monsieur Lebrun,
the prison doctor, who had been called in to certify to Lucien's
death, in concert with the "death doctor" of the district in which the
unfortunate youth had been lodging.

In Paris, the "death doctor" is the medical officer whose duty it is
in each district to register deaths and certify to their causes.

With the rapid insight for which he was known, Monsieur de Granville
had judged it necessary, for the honor of the families concerned, to
have the certificate of Lucien's death deposited at the Mairie of the
district in which the Quai Malaquais lies, as the deceased had resided
there, and to have the body carried from his lodgings to the Church of
Saint-Germain des Pres, where the service was to be held. Monsieur de
Chargeboeuf, Monsieur de Granville's private secretary, had orders to
this effect. The body was to be transferred from the prison during the
night. The secretary was desired to go at once and settle matters at
the Mairie with the parish authorities and with the official
undertakers. Thus, to the world in general, Lucien would have died at
liberty in his own lodgings, the funeral would start from thence, and
his friends would be invited there for the ceremony.

So, when Camusot, his mind at ease, was sitting down to dinner with
his ambitious better-half, the Governor of the Conciergerie and
Monsieur Lebrun, the prison doctor, were standing outside the gate
bewailing the fragility of iron bars and the strength of ladies in

"No one knows," said the doctor to Monsieur Gault, "what an amount of
nervous force there is in a man wound up to the highest pitch of
passion. Dynamics and mathematics have no formulas or symbols to
express that power. Why, only yesterday, I witnessed an experiment
which gave me a shudder, and which accounts for the terrible strength
put forth just now by that little woman."

"Tell me about it," said Monsieur Gault, "for I am so foolish as to
take an interest in magnetism; I do not believe in it, but it
mystifies me."

"A physician who magnetizes--for there are men among us who believe in
magnetism," Lebrun went on, "offered to experiment on me in proof of a
phenomenon that he described and I doubted. Curious to see with my own
eyes one of the strange states of nervous tension by which the
existence of magnetism is demonstrated, I consented.

"These are the facts.--I should very much like to know what our
College of Medicine would say if each of its members in turn were
subjected to this influence, which leaves no loophole for incredulity.

"My old friend--this doctor," said Doctor Lebrun parenthetically, "is
an old man persecuted for his opinions since Mesmer's time by all the
faculty; he is seventy or seventy-two years of age, and his name is
Bouvard. At the present day he is the patriarchal representative of
the theory of animal magnetism. This good man regards me as a son; I
owe my training to him.--Well, this worthy old Bouvard it was who
proposed to prove to me that nerve-force put in motion by the
magnetizer was, not indeed infinite, for man is under immutable laws,
but a power acting like other powers of nature whose elemental essence
escapes our observation.

" 'For instance,' said he, 'if you place your hand in that of a
somnambulist who, when awake, can press it only up to a certain
average of tightness, you will see that in the somnambulistic state--
as it is stupidly termed--his fingers can clutch like a vise screwed
up by a blacksmith.'--Well, monsieur, I placed my hand in that of a
woman, not asleep, for Bouvard rejects the word, but isolated, and
when the old man bid her squeeze my wrist as long and as tightly as
she could, I begged him to stop when the blood was almost bursting
from my finger tips. Look, you can see the marks of her clutch, which
I shall not lose for these three months."

"The deuce!" exclaimed Monsieur Gault, as he saw a band of bruised
flesh, looking like the scar of a burn.

"My dear Gault," the doctor went on, "if my wrist had been gripped in
an iron manacle screwed tight by a locksmith, I should not have felt
the bracelet of metal so hard as that woman's fingers; her hand was of
unyielding steel, and I am convinced that she could have crushed my
bones and broken my hand from the wrist. The pressure, beginning
almost insensibly, increased without relaxing, fresh force being
constantly added to the former grip; a tourniquet could not have been
more effectual than that hand used as an instrument of torture.--To
me, therefore, it seems proven that under the influence of passion,
which is the will concentrated on one point and raised to an
incalculable power of animal force, as the different varieties of
electric force are also, man may direct his whole vitality, whether
for attack or resistance, to one of his organs.--Now, this little
lady, under the stress of her despair, had concentrated her vital
force in her hands."

"She must have a good deal too, to break a wrought-iron bar," said the
chief warder, with a shake of the head.

"There was a flaw in it," Monsieur Gault observed.

"For my part," said the doctor, "I dare assign no limits to nervous
force. And indeed it is by this that mothers, to save their children,
can magnetize lions, climb, in a fire, along a parapet where a cat
would not venture, and endure the torments that sometimes attend
childbirth. In this lies the secret of the attempts made by convicts
and prisoners to regain their liberty. The extent of our vital
energies is as yet unknown; they are part of the energy of nature
itself, and we draw them from unknown reservoirs."

"Monsieur," said the warder in an undertone to the Governor, coming
close to him as he was escorting Doctor Lebrun as far as the outer
gates of the Conciergerie, "Number 2 in the secret cells says he is
ill, and needs the doctor; he declares he is dying," added the

"Indeed," said the Governor.

"His breath rattles in his throat," replied the man.

"It is five o'clock," said the doctor; "I have had no dinner. But,
after all, I am at hand. Come, let us see."

"Number 2, as it happens, is the Spanish priest suspected of being
Jacques Collin," said Monsieur Gault to the doctor, "and one of the
persons suspected of the crime in which that poor young man was

"I saw him this morning," replied the doctor. "Monsieur Camusot sent
for me to give evidence as to the state of the rascal's health, and I
may assure you that he is perfectly well, and could make a fortune by
playing the part of Hercules in a troupe of athletes."

"Perhaps he wants to kill himself too," said Monsieur Gault. "Let us
both go down to the cells together, for I ought to go there if only to
transfer him to an upper room. Monsieur Camusot has given orders to
mitigate this anonymous gentleman's confinement."

Jacques Collin, known as Trompe-la-Mort in the world of the hulks, who
must henceforth be called only by his real name, had gone through
terrible distress of mind since, after hearing Camusot's order, he had
been taken back to the underground cell--an anguish such as he had
never before known in the course of a life diversified by many crimes,
by three escapes, and two sentences at the Assizes. And is there not
something monstrously fine in the dog-like attachment shown to the man
he had made his friend by this wretch in whom were concentrated all
the life, the powers, the spirit, and the passions of the hulks, who
was, so to speak, their highest expression?

Wicked, infamous, and in so many ways horrible, this absolute worship
of his idol makes him so truly interesting that this Study, long as it
is already, would seem incomplete and cut short if the close of this
criminal career did not come as a sequel to Lucien de Rubempre's end.
The little spaniel being dead, we want to know whether his terrible
playfellow the lion will live on.

In real life, in society, every event is so inevitably linked to other
events, that one cannot occur without the rest. The water of the great
river forms a sort of fluid floor; not a wave, however rebellious,
however high it may toss itself, but its powerful crest must sink to
the level of the mass of waters, stronger by the momentum of its
course than the revolt of the surges it bears with it.

And just as you watch the current flow, seeing in it a confused sheet
of images, so perhaps you would like to measure the pressure exerted
by social energy on the vortex called Vautrin; to see how far away the
rebellious eddy will be carried ere it is lost, and what the end will
be of this really diabolical man, human still by the power of loving--
so hardly can that heavenly grace perish, even in the most cankered

This wretched convict, embodying the poem that has smiled on many a
poet's fancy--on Moore, on Lord Byron, on Mathurin, on Canalis--the
demon who has drawn an angel down to hell to refresh him with dews
stolen from heaven,--this Jacques Collin will be seen, by the reader
who has understood that iron soul, to have sacrificed his own life for
seven years past. His vast powers, absorbed in Lucien, acted solely
for Lucien; he lived for his progress, his loves, his ambitions. To
him, Lucien was his own soul made visible.

It was Trompe-la-Mort who dined with the Grandlieus, stole into
ladies' boudoirs, and loved Esther by proxy. In fact, in Lucien he saw
Jacques Collin, young, handsome, noble, and rising to the dignity of
an ambassador.

Trompe-la-Mort had realized the German superstition of a doppelganger
by means of a spiritual paternity, a phenomenon which will be quite
intelligible to those women who have ever truly loved, who have felt
their soul merge in that of the man they adore, who have lived his
life, whether noble or infamous, happy or unhappy, obscure or
brilliant; who, in defiance of distance, have felt a pain in their leg
if he were wounded in his; who if he fought a duel would have been
aware of it; and who, to put the matter in a nutshell, did not need to
be told he was unfaithful to know it.

As he went back to his cell Jacques Collin said to himself, "The boy
is being examined."

And he shivered--he who thought no more of killing a man than a
laborer does of drinking.

"Has he been able to see his mistresses?" he wondered. "Has my aunt
succeeded in catching those damned females? Have the Duchesses and
Countesses bestirred themselves and prevented his being examined? Has
Lucien had my instructions? And if ill-luck will have it that he is
cross-questioned, how will he carry it off? Poor boy, and I have
brought him to this! It is that rascal Paccard and that sneak Europe
who have caused all this rumpus by collaring the seven hundred and
fifty thousand francs for the certificate Nucingen gave Esther. That
precious pair tripped us up at the last step; but I will make them pay
dear for their pranks.

"One day more and Lucien would have been a rich man; he might have
married his Clotilde de Grandlieu.--Then the boy would have been all
my own!--And to think that our fate depends on a look, on a blush of
Lucien's under Camusot's eye, who sees everything, and has all a
judge's wits about him! For when he showed me the letters we tipped
each other a wink in which we took each other's measure, and he
guessed that I can make Lucien's lady-loves fork out."

This soliloquy lasted for three hours. His torments were so great that
they were too much for that frame of iron and vitriol; Jacques Collin,
whose brain felt on fire with insanity, suffered such fearful thirst
that he unconsciously drank up all the water contained in one of the
pails with which the cell was supplied, forming, with the bed, all its

"If he loses his head, what will become of him?--for the poor child
has not Theodore's tenacity," said he to himself, as he lay down on
the camp-bed--like a bed in a guard-room.

A word must here be said about this Theodore, remembered by Jacques
Collin at such a critical moment. Theodore Calvi, a young Corsican,
imprisoned for life at the age of eighteen for eleven murders, thanks
to the influential interference paid for with vast sums, had been made
the fellow convict of Jacques Collin, to whom he was chained, in 1819
and 1820. Jacques Collin's last escape, one of his finest inventions--
for he had got out disguised as a gendarme leading Theodore Calvi as
he was, a convict called before the commissary of police--had been
effected in the seaport of Rochefort, where the convicts die by
dozens, and where, it was hoped, these two dangerous rascals would
have ended their days. Though they escaped together, the difficulties
of their flight had forced them to separate. Theodore was caught and
restored to the hulks.

Indeed, a life with Lucien, a youth innocent of all crime, who had
only minor sins on his conscience, dawned on him as bright and
glorious as a summer sun; while with Theodore, Jacques Collin could
look forward to no end but the scaffold after a career of
indispensable crimes.

The thought of disaster as a result of Lucien's weakness--for his
experience of an underground cell would certainly have turned his
brain--took vast proportions in Jacques Collin's mind; and,
contemplating the probabilities of such a misfortune, the unhappy man
felt his eyes fill with tears, a phenomenon that had been utterly
unknown to him since his earliest childhood.

"I must be in a furious fever," said he to himself; "and perhaps if I
send for the doctor and offer him a handsome sum, he will put me in
communication with Lucien."

At this moment the turnkey brought in his dinner.

"It is quite useless my boy; I cannot eat. Tell the governor of this
prison to send the doctor to see me. I am very bad, and I believe my
last hour has come."

Hearing the guttural rattle that accompanied these words, the warder
bowed and went. Jacques Collin clung wildly to this hope; but when he
saw the doctor and the governor come in together, he perceived that
the attempt was abortive, and coolly awaited the upshot of the visit,
holding out his wrist for the doctor to feel his pulse.

"The Abbe is feverish," said the doctor to Monsieur Gault, "but it is
the type of fever we always find in inculpated prisoners--and to me,"
he added, in the governor's ear, "it is always a sign of some degree
of guilt."

Just then the governor, to whom the public prosecutor had intrusted
Lucien's letter to be given to Jacques Collin, left the doctor and the
prisoner together under the guard of the warder, and went to fetch the

"Monsieur," said Jacques Collin, seeing the warder outside the door,
and not understanding why the governor had left them, "I should think
nothing of thirty thousand francs if I might send five lines to Lucien
de Rubempre."

"I will not rob you of your money," said Doctor Lebrun; "no one in
this world can ever communicate with him again----"

"No one?" said the prisoner in amazement. "Why?"

"He has hanged himself----"

No tigress robbed of her whelps ever startled an Indian jungle with a
yell so fearful as that of Jacques Collin, who rose to his feet as a
tiger rears to spring, and fired a glance at the doctor as scorching
as the flash of a falling thunderbolt. Then he fell back on the bed,

"Oh, my son!"

"Poor man!" said the doctor, moved by this terrific convulsion of

In fact, the first explosion gave way to such utter collapse, that the
words, "Oh, my son," were but a murmur.

"Is this one going to die in our hands too?" said the turnkey.

"No; it is impossible!" Jacques Collin went on, raising himself and
looking at the two witnesses of the scene with a dead, cold eye. "You
are mistaken; it is not Lucien; you did not see. A man cannot hang
himself in one of these cells. Look--how could I hang myself here? All
Paris shall answer to me for that boy's life! God owes it to me."

The warder and the doctor were amazed in their turn--they, whom
nothing had astonished for many a long day.

On seeing the governor, Jacques Collin, crushed by the very violence
of this outburst of grief, seemed somewhat calmer.

"Here is a letter which the public prosecutor placed in my hands for
you, with permission to give it to you sealed," said Monsieur Gault.

"From Lucien?" said Jacques Collin.

"Yes, monsieur."

"Is not that young man----"

"He is dead," said the governor. "Even if the doctor had been on the
spot, he would, unfortunately, have been too late. The young man died
--there--in one of the rooms----"

"May I see him with my own eyes?" asked Jacques Collin timidly. "Will
you allow a father to weep over the body of his son?"

"You can, if you like, take his room, for I have orders to remove you
from these cells; you are no longer in such close confinement,

The prisoner's eyes, from which all light and warmth had fled, turned
slowly from the governor to the doctor; Jacques Collin was examining
them, fearing some trap, and he was afraid to go out of the cell.

"If you wish to see the body," said Lebrun, "you have no time to lose;
it is to be carried away to-night."

"If you have children, gentlemen," said Jacques Collin, "you will
understand my state of mind; I hardly know what I am doing. This blow
is worse to me than death; but you cannot know what I am saying. Even
if you are fathers, it is only after a fashion--I am a mother too--I--
I am going mad--I feel it!"

By going through certain passages which open only to the governor, it
is possible to get very quickly from the cells to the private rooms.
The two sets of rooms are divided by an underground corridor formed of
two massive walls supporting the vault over which Galerie Marchande,
as it is called, is built. So Jacques Collin, escorted by the warder,
who took his arm, preceded by the governor, and followed by the
doctor, in a few minutes reached the cell where Lucien was lying
stretched on the bed.

On seeing the body, he threw himself upon it, seizing it in a
desperate embrace with a passion and impulse that made these
spectators shudder.

"There," said the doctor to Monsieur Gault, "that is an instance of
what I was telling you. You see that man clutching the body, and you
do not know what a corpse is; it is stone----"

"Leave me alone!" said Jacques Collin in a smothered voice; "I have
not long to look at him. They will take him away to----"

He paused at the word "bury him."

"You will allow me to have some relic of my dear boy! Will you be so
kind as to cut off a lock of his hair for me, monsieur," he said to
the doctor, "for I cannot----"

"He was certainly his son," said Lebrun.

"Do you think so?" replied the governor in a meaning tone, which made
the doctor thoughtful for a few minutes.

The governor gave orders that the prisoner should be left in this
cell, and that some locks of hair should be cut for the self-styled
father before the body should be removed.

At half-past five in the month of May it is easy to read a letter in
the Conciergerie in spite of the iron bars and the close wire trellis
that guard the windows. So Jacques Collin read the dreadful letter
while he still held Lucien's hand.

The man is not known who can hold a lump of ice for ten minutes
tightly clutched in the hollow of his hand. The cold penetrates to the
very life-springs with mortal rapidity. But the effect of that cruel
chill, acting like a poison, is as nothing to that which strikes to
the soul from the cold, rigid hand of the dead thus held. Thus Death
speaks to Life; it tells many dark secrets which kill many feelings;
for in matters of feeling is not change death?

As we read through once more, with Jacques Collin, Lucien's last
letter, it will strike us as being what it was to this man--a cup of


"MY DEAR ABBE,--I have had only benefits from you, and I have
betrayed you. This involuntary ingratitude is killing me, and when
you read these lines I shall have ceased to exist. You are not
here now to save me.

"You had given me full liberty, if I should find it advantageous,
to destroy you by flinging you on the ground like a cigar-end; but
I have ruined you by a blunder. To escape from a difficulty,
deluded by a clever question from the examining judge, your son by
adoption and grace went over to the side of those who aim at
killing you at any cost, and insist on proving an identity, which
I know to be impossible, between you and a French villain. All is

"Between a man of your calibre and me--me of whom you tried to
make a greater man than I am capable of being--no foolish
sentiment can come at the moment of final parting. You hoped to
make me powerful and famous, and you have thrown me into the gulf
of suicide, that is all. I have long heard the broad pinions of
that vertigo beating over my head.

"As you have sometimes said, there is the posterity of Cain and
the posterity of Abel. In the great human drama Cain is in
opposition. You are descended from Adam through that line, in
which the devil still fans the fire of which the first spark was
flung on Eve. Among the demons of that pedigree, from time to time
we see one of stupendous power, summing up every form of human
energy, and resembling the fevered beasts of the desert, whose
vitality demands the vast spaces they find there. Such men are as
dangerous as lions would be in the heart of Normandy; they must
have their prey, and they devour common men and crop the money of
fools. Their sport is so dangerous that at last they kill the
humble dog whom they have taken for a companion and made an idol

"When it is God's will, these mysterious beings may be a Moses, an
Attila, Charlemagne, Mahomet, or Napoleon; but when He leaves a
generation of these stupendous tools to rust at the bottom of the
ocean, they are no more than a Pugatschef, a Fouche, a Louvel, or
the Abbe Carlos Herrera. Gifted with immense power over tenderer
souls, they entrap them and mangle them. It is grand, it is fine--
in its way. It is the poisonous plant with gorgeous coloring that
fascinates children in the woods. It is the poetry of evil. Men
like you ought to dwell in caves and never come out of them. You
have made me live that vast life, and I have had all my share of
existence; so I may very well take my head out of the Gordian knot
of your policy and slip it into the running knot of my cravat.

"To repair the mischief I have done, I am forwarding to the public
prosecutor a retraction of my deposition. You will know how to
take advantage of this document.

"In virtue of a will formally drawn up, restitution will be made,
Monsieur l'Abbe, of the moneys belonging to your Order which you
so imprudently devoted to my use, as a result of your paternal
affection for me.

"And so, farewell. Farewell, colossal image of Evil and
Corruption; farewell--to you who, if started on the right road,
might have been greater than Ximenes, greater than Richelieu! You
have kept your promises. I find myself once more just as I was on
the banks of the Charente, after enjoying, by your help, the
enchantments of a dream. But, unfortunately, it is not now in the
waters of my native place that I shall drown the errors of a boy;
but in the Seine, and my hole is a cell in the Conciergerie.

"Do not regret me: my contempt for you is as great as my


A little before one in the morning, when the men came to fetch away
the body, they found Jacques Collin kneeling by the bed, the letter on
the floor, dropped, no doubt, as a suicide drops the pistol that has
shot him; but the unhappy man still held Lucien's hand between his
own, and was praying to God.

On seeing this man, the porters paused for a moment, for he looked
like one of those stone images, kneeling to all eternity on a
mediaeval tomb, the work of some stone-carver's genius. The sham
priest, with eyes as bright as a tiger's, but stiffened into
supernatural rigidity, so impressed the men that they gently bid him

"Why?" he asked mildly. The audacious Trompe-la-Mort was as meek as a

The governor pointed him out to Monsieur de Chargeboeuf; and he,
respecting such grief, and believing that Jacques Collin was indeed
the priest he called himself, explained the orders given by Monsieur
de Granville with regard to the funeral service and arrangements,
showing that it was absolutely necessary that the body should be
transferred to Lucien's lodgings, Quai Malaquais, where the priests
were waiting to watch by it for the rest of the night.

"It is worthy of that gentleman's well-known magnanimity," said
Jacques Collin sadly. "Tell him, monsieur, that he may rely on my
gratitude. Yes, I am in a position to do him great service. Do not
forget these words; they are of the utmost importance to him.

"Oh, monsieur! strange changes come over a man's spirit when for seven
hours he has wept over such a son as he---- And I shall see him no

After gazing once more at Lucien with an expression of a mother bereft
of her child's remains, Jacques Collin sank in a heap. As he saw
Lucien's body carried away, he uttered a groan that made the men hurry
off. The public prosecutor's private secretary and the governor of the
prison had already made their escape from the scene.

What had become of that iron spirit; of the decision which was a match
in swiftness for the eye; of the nature in which thought and action
flashed forth together like one flame; of the sinews hardened by three
spells of labor on the hulks, and by three escapes, the muscles which
had acquired the metallic temper of a savage's limbs? Iron will yield
to a certain amount of hammering or persistent pressure; its
impenetrable molecules, purified and made homogeneous by man, may
become disintegrated, and without being in a state of fusion the metal
had lost its power of resistance. Blacksmiths, locksmiths, tool-makers
sometimes express this state by saying the iron is retting,
appropriating a word applied exclusively to hemp, which is reduced to
pulp and fibre by maceration. Well, the human soul, or, if you will,
the threefold powers of body, heart, and intellect, under certain
repeated shocks, get into such a condition as fibrous iron. They too
are disintegrated. Science and law and the public seek a thousand
causes for the terrible catastrophes on railways caused by the rupture
of an iron rail, that of Bellevue being a famous instance; but no one
has asked the evidence of real experts in such matters, the
blacksmiths, who all say the same thing, "The iron was stringy!" The
danger cannot be foreseen. Metal that has gone soft, and metal that
has preserved its tenacity, both look exactly alike.

Priests and examining judges often find great criminals in this state.
The awful experiences of the Assize Court and the "last toilet"
commonly produce this dissolution of the nervous system, even in the
strongest natures. Then confessions are blurted by the most firmly set
lips; then the toughest hearts break; and, strange to say, always at
the moment when these confessions are useless, when this weakness as
of death snatches from the man the mask of innocence which made
Justice uneasy--for it always is uneasy when the criminal dies without
confessing his crime.

Napoleon went through this collapse of every human power on the field
of Waterloo.

At eight in the morning, when the warder of the better cells entered
the room where Jacques Collin was confined, he found him pale and
calm, like a man who has collected all his strength by sheer

"It is the hour for airing in the prison-yard," said the turnkey; "you
have not been out for three days; if you choose to take air and
exercise, you may."

Jacques Collin, lost in his absorbing thoughts, and taking no interest
in himself, regarding himself as a garment with no body in it, a
perfect rag, never suspected the trap laid for him by Bibi-Lupin, nor
the importance attaching to his walk in the prison-yard.

The unhappy man went out mechanically, along the corridor, by the
cells built into the magnificent cloisters of the Palace of the Kings,
over which is the corridor Saint-Louis, as it is called, leading to
the various purlieus of the Court of Appeals. This passage joins that
of the better cells; and it is worth noting that the cell in which
Louvel was imprisoned, one of the most famous of the regicides, is the
room at the right angle formed by the junction of the two corridors.
Under the pretty room in the Tour Bonbec there is a spiral staircase
leading from the dark passage, and serving the prisoners who are
lodged in these cells to go up and down on their way from or to the

Every prisoner, whether committed for trial or already sentenced, and
the prisoners under suspicion who have been reprieved from the closest
cells--in short, every one in confinement in the Conciergerie takes
exercise in this narrow paved courtyard for some hours every day,
especially the early hours of summer mornings. This recreation ground,
the ante-room to the scaffold or the hulks on one side, on the other
still clings to the world through the gendarme, the examining judge,
and the Assize Court. It strikes a greater chill perhaps than even the
scaffold. The scaffold may be a pedestal to soar to heaven from; but
the prison-yard is every infamy on earth concentrated and unavoidable.

Whether at La Force or at Poissy, at Melun or at Sainte-Pelagie, a
prison-yard is a prison-yard. The same details are exactly repeated,
all but the color of the walls, their height, and the space enclosed.
So this Study of Manners would be false to its name if it did not
include an exact description of this Pandemonium of Paris.

Under the mighty vaulting which supports the lower courts and the
Court of Appeals there is, close to the fourth arch, a stone slab,
used by Saint-Louis, it is said, for the distribution of alms, and
doing duty in our day as a counter for the sale of eatables to the
prisoners. So as soon as the prison-yard is open to the prisoners,
they gather round this stone table, which displays such dainties as
jail-birds desire--brandy, rum, and the like.

The first two archways on that side of the yard, facing the fine
Byzantine corridor--the only vestige now of Saint-Louis' elegant
palace--form a parlor, where the prisoners and their counsel may meet,
to which the prisoners have access through a formidable gateway--a
double passage, railed off by enormous bars, within the width of the
third archway. This double way is like the temporary passages arranged
at the door of a theatre to keep a line on occasions when a great
success brings a crowd. This parlor, at the very end of the vast
entrance-hall of the Conciergerie, and lighted by loop-holes on the
yard side, has lately been opened out towards the back, and the
opening filled with glass, so that the interviews of the lawyers with
their clients are under supervision. This innovation was made
necessary by the too great fascinations brought to bear by pretty
women on their counsel. Where will morality stop short? Such
precautions are like the ready-made sets of questions for self-
examination, where pure imaginations are defiled by meditating on
unknown and monstrous depravity. In this parlor, too, parents and
friends may be allowed by the authorities to meet the prisoners,
whether on remand or awaiting their sentence.

The reader may now understand what the prison-yard is to the two
hundred prisoners in the Conciergerie: their garden--a garden without
trees, beds, or flowers--in short, a prison-yard. The parlor, and the
stone of Saint-Louis, where such food and liquor as are allowed are
dispensed, are the only possible means of communication with the outer

The hour spent in the yard is the only time when the prisoner is in
the open air or the society of his kind; in other prisons those who
are sentenced for a term are brought together in workshops; but in the
Conciergerie no occupation is allowed, excepting in the privileged
cells. There the absorbing idea in every mind is the drama of the
Assize Court, since the culprit comes only to be examined or to be

This yard is indeed terrible to behold; it cannot be imagined, it must
be seen.

In the first place, the assemblage, in a space forty metres long by
thirty wide, of a hundred condemned or suspected criminals, does not
constitute the cream of society. These creatures, belonging for the
most part to the lowest ranks, are poorly clad; their countenances are
base or horrible, for a criminal from the upper sphere of society is
happily, a rare exception. Peculation, forgery, or fraudulent
bankruptcy, the only crimes that can bring decent folks so low, enjoy
the privilege of the better cells, and then the prisoner scarcely ever
quits it.

This promenade, bounded by fine but formidable blackened walls, by a
cloister divided up into cells, by fortifications on the side towards
the quay, by the barred cells of the better class on the north,
watched by vigilant warders, and filled with a herd of criminals, all
meanly suspicious of each other, is depressing enough in itself; and
it becomes terrifying when you find yourself the centre of all those
eyes full of hatred, curiosity, and despair, face to face with that
degraded crew. Not a gleam of gladness! all is gloom--the place and
the men. All is speechless--the walls and men's consciences. To these
hapless creatures danger lies everywhere; excepting in the case of an
alliance as ominous as the prison where it was formed, they dare not
trust each other.

The police, all-pervading, poisons the atmosphere and taints
everything, even the hand-grasp of two criminals who have been
intimate. A convict who meets his most familiar comrade does not know
that he may not have repented and have made a confession to save his
life. This absence of confidence, this dread of the nark, marks the
liberty, already so illusory, of the prison-yard. The "nark" (in
French, le Mouton or le coqueur) is a spy who affects to be sentenced
for some serious offence, and whose skill consists in pretending to be
a chum. The "chum," in thieves' slang, is a skilled thief, a
professional who has cut himself adrift from society, and means to
remain a thief all his days, and continues faithful through thick and
thin to the laws of the swell-mob.

Crime and madness have a certain resemblance. To see the prisoners of
the Conciergerie in the yard, or the madmen in the garden of an
asylum, is much the same thing. Prisoners and lunatics walk to and
fro, avoiding each other, looking up with more or less strange or
vicious glances, according to the mood of the moment, but never
cheerful, never grave; they know each other, or they dread each other.
The anticipation of their sentence, remorse, and apprehension give all
these men exercising, the anxious, furtive look of the insane. Only
the most consummate criminals have the audacity that apes the quietude
of respectability, the sincerity of a clear conscience.

As men of the better class are few, and shame keeps the few whose
crimes have brought them within doors, the frequenters of the prison-
yard are for the most part dressed as workmen. Blouses, long and
short, and velveteen jackets preponderate. These coarse or dirty
garments, harmonizing with the coarse and sinister faces and brutal
manner--somewhat subdued, indeed, by the gloomy reflections that weigh
on men in prison--everything, to the silence that reigns, contributes
to strike terror or disgust into the rare visitor who, by high
influence, has obtained the privilege, seldom granted, of going over
the Conciergerie.

Just as the sight of an anatomical museum, where foul diseases are
represented by wax models, makes the youth who may be taken there more
chaste and apt for nobler and purer love, so the sight of the
Conciergerie and of the prison-yard, filled with men marked for the
hulks or the scaffold or some disgraceful punishment, inspires many,
who might not fear that Divine Justice whose voice speaks so loudly to
the conscience, with a fear of human justice; and they come out honest
men for a long time after.

As the men who were exercising in the prison-yard, when Trompe-la-Mort
appeared there, were to be the actors in a scene of crowning
importance in the life of Jacques Collin, it will be well to depict a
few of the principal personages of this sinister crowd.

Here, as everywhere when men are thrown together, here, as at school
even, force, physical and moral, wins the day. Here, then, as on the
hulks, crime stamps the man's rank. Those whose head is doomed are the
aristocracy. The prison-yard, as may be supposed, is a school of
criminal law, which is far better learned there than at the Hall on
the Place du Pantheon.

A never-failing pleasantry is to rehearse the drama of the Assize
Court; to elect a president, a jury, a public prosecutor, a counsel,
and to go through the whole trial. This hideous farce is played before
almost every great trial. At this time a famous case was proceeding in
the Criminal Court, that of the dreadful murder committed on the
persons of Monsieur and Madame Crottat, the notary's father and
mother, retired farmers who, as this horrible business showed, kept
eight hundred thousand francs in gold in their house.

One of the men concerned in this double murder was the notorious
Dannepont, known as la Pouraille, a released convict, who for five
years had eluded the most active search on the part of the police,
under the protection of seven or eight different names. This villain's
disguises were so perfect, that he had served two years of
imprisonment under the name of Delsouq, who was one of his own
disciples, and a famous thief, though he never, in any of his
achievements, went beyond the jurisdiction of the lower Courts. La
Pouraille had committed no less than three murders since his dismissal
from the hulks. The certainty that he would be executed, not less than
the large fortune he was supposed to have, made this man an object of
terror and admiration to his fellow-prisoners; for not a farthing of
the stolen money had ever been recovered. Even after the events of
July 1830, some persons may remember the terror caused in Paris by
this daring crime, worthy to compare in importance with the robbery of
medals from the Public Library; for the unhappy tendency of our age is
to make a murder the more interesting in proportion to the greater sum
of money secured by it.

La Pouraille, a small, lean, dry man, with a face like a ferret,
forty-five years old, and one of the celebrities of the prisons he had
successively lived in since the age of nineteen, knew Jacques Collin
well, how and why will be seen.

Two other convicts, brought with la Pouraille from La Force within
these twenty-four hours, had at once acknowledged and made the whole
prison-yard acknowledge the supremacy of this past-master sealed to
the scaffold. One of these convicts, a ticket-of-leave man, named
Selerier, alias l'Avuergnat, Pere Ralleau, and le Rouleur, who in the
sphere known to the hulks as the swell-mob was called Fil-de-Soie (or
silken thread)--a nickname he owed to the skill with which he slipped
through the various perils of the business--was an old ally of Jacques

Trompe-la-Mort so keenly suspected Fil-de-Soie of playing a double
part, of being at once in the secrets of the swell-mob and a spy laid
by the police, that he had supposed him to be the prime mover of his
arrest in the Maison Vauquer in 1819 (Le Pere Goriot). Selerier, whom
we must call Fil-de-Soie, as we shall also call Dannepont la
Pouraille, already guilty of evading surveillance, was concerned in
certain well-known robberies without bloodshed, which would certainly
take him back to the hulks for at least twenty years.

The other convict, named Riganson, and his kept woman, known as la
Biffe, were a most formidable couple, members of the swell-mob.
Riganson, on very distant terms with the police from his earliest
years, was nicknamed le Biffon. Biffon was the male of la Biffe--for
nothing is sacred to the swell-mob. These fiends respect nothing,
neither the law nor religions, not even natural history, whose solemn
nomenclature, it is seen, is parodied by them.

Here a digression is necessary; for Jacques Collin's appearance in the
prison-yard in the midst of his foes, as had been so cleverly
contrived by Bibi-Lupin and the examining judge, and the strange
scenes to ensue, would be incomprehensible and impossible without some
explanation as to the world of thieves and of the hulks, its laws, its
manners, and above all, its language, its hideous figures of speech
being indispensable in this portion of my tale.

So, first of all, a few words must be said as to the vocabulary of
sharpers, pickpockets, thieves, and murderers, known as Argot, or
thieves' cant, which has of late been introduced into literature with
so much success that more than one word of that strange lingo is
familiar on the rosy lips of ladies, has been heard in gilded
boudoirs, and become the delight of princes, who have often proclaimed
themselves "done brown" (floue)! And it must be owned, to the surprise
no doubt of many persons, that no language is more vigorous or more
vivid than that of this underground world which, from the beginnings
of countries with capitals, has dwelt in cellars and slums, in the
third limbo of society everywhere (le troisieme dessous, as the
expressive and vivid slang of the theatres has it). For is not the
world a stage? Le troisieme dessous is the lowest cellar under the
stage at the Opera where the machinery is kept and men stay who work
it, whence the footlights are raised, the ghosts, the blue-devils shot
up from hell, and so forth.

Every word of this language is a bold metaphor, ingenious or horrible.
A man's breeches are his kicks or trucks (montante, a word that need
not be explained). In this language you do not sleep, you snooze, or
doze (pioncer--and note how vigorously expressive the word is of the
sleep of the hunted, weary, distrustful animal called a thief, which
as soon as it is in safety drops--rolls--into the gulf of deep slumber
so necessary under the mighty wings of suspicion always hovering over
it; a fearful sleep, like that of a wild beast that can sleep, nay,
and snore, and yet its ears are alert with caution).

In this idiom everything is savage. The syllables which begin or end
the words are harsh and curiously startling. A woman is a trip or a
moll (une largue). And it is poetical too: straw is la plume de
Beauce, a farmyard feather bed. The word midnight is paraphrased by
twelve leads striking--it makes one shiver! Rincer une cambriole is to
"screw the shop," to rifle a room. What a feeble expression is to go
to bed in comparison with "to doss" (piausser, make a new skin). What
picturesque imagery! Work your dominoes (jouer des dominos) is to eat;
how can men eat with the police at their heels?

And this language is always growing; it keeps pace with civilization,
and is enriched with some new expression by every fresh invention. The
potato, discovered and introduced by Louis XVI. and Parmentier, was at
once dubbed in French slang as the pig's orange (Orange a Cochons)[the
Irish have called them bog oranges]. Banknotes are invented; the "mob"
at once call them Flimsies (fafiots garotes, from "Garot," the name of
the cashier whose signature they bear). Flimsy! (fafiot.) Cannot you
hear the rustle of the thin paper? The thousand franc-note is male
flimsy (in French), the five hundred franc-note is the female; and
convicts will, you may be sure, find some whimsical name for the
hundred and two hundred franc-notes.

In 1790 Guillotin invented, with humane intent, the expeditious
machine which solved all the difficulties involved in the problem of
capital punishment. Convicts and prisoners from the hulks forthwith
investigated this contrivance, standing as it did on the monarchical
borderland of the old system and the frontier of modern legislation;
they instantly gave it the name of l'Abbaye de Monte-a-Regret. They
looked at the angle formed by the steel blade, and described its
action as repeating (faucher); and when it is remembered that the
hulks are called the meadow (le pre), philologists must admire the
inventiveness of these horrible vocables, as Charles Nodier would have

The high antiquity of this kind of slang is also noteworthy. A tenth
of the words are of old Romanesque origin, another tenth are the old
Gaulish French of Rabelais. Effondrer, to thrash a man, to give him
what for; otolondrer, to annoy or to "spur" him; cambrioler, doing
anything in a room; aubert, money; Gironde, a beauty (the name of a
river of Languedoc); fouillousse, a pocket--a "cly"--are all French of
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The word affe, meaning life,
is of the highest antiquity. From affe anything that disturbs life is
called affres (a rowing or scolding), hence affreux, anything that
troubles life.

About a hundred words are derived from the language of Panurge, a name
symbolizing the people, for it is derived from two Greek words
signifying All-working.

Science is changing the face of the world by constructing railroads.
In Argot the train is le roulant Vif, the Rattler.

The name given to the head while still on the shoulders--la Sorbonne--
shows the antiquity of this dialect which is mentioned by very early
romance-writers, as Cervantes, the Italian story-tellers, and Aretino.
In all ages the moll, the prostitute, the heroine of so many old-world
romances, has been the protectress, companion, and comfort of the
sharper, the thief, the pickpocket, the area-sneak, and the burglar.

Prostitution and robbery are the male and female forms of protest made
by the natural state against the social state. Even philosophers, the
innovators of to-day, the humanitarians with the communists and
Fourierists in their train, come at last, without knowing it, to the
same conclusion--prostitution and theft. The thief does not argue out
questions of property, of inheritance, and social responsibility, in
sophistical books; he absolutely ignores them. To him theft is
appropriating his own. He does not discuss marriage; he does not
complain of it; he does not insist, in printed Utopian dreams, on the
mutual consent and bond of souls which can never become general; he
pairs with a vehemence of which the bonds are constantly riveted by
the hammer of necessity. Modern innovators write unctuous theories,
long drawn, and nebulous or philanthropical romances; but the thief
acts. He is as clear as a fact, as logical as a blow; and then his

Another thing worth noting: the world of prostitutes, thieves, and
murders of the galleys and the prisons forms a population of about
sixty to eighty thousand souls, men and women. Such a world is not to
be disdained in a picture of modern manners and a literary
reproduction of the social body. The law, the gendarmerie, and the
police constitute a body almost equal in number; is not that strange?
This antagonism of persons perpetually seeking and avoiding each
other, and fighting a vast and highly dramatic duel, are what are
sketched in this Study. It has been the same thing with thieving and
public harlotry as with the stage, the police, the priesthood, and the
gendarmerie. In these six walks of life the individual contracts an
indelible character. He can no longer be himself. The stigmata of
ordination are as immutable as those of the soldier are. And it is the
same in other callings which are strongly in opposition, strong
contrasts with civilization. These violent, eccentric, singular signs
--sui generis--are what make the harlot, the robber, the murderer, the
ticket-of-leave man, so easily recognizable by their foes, the spy and
the police, to whom they are as game to the sportsman: they have a
gait, a manner, a complexion, a look, a color, a smell--in short,
infallible marks about them. Hence the highly-developed art of
disguise which the heroes of the hulks acquire.

One word yet as to the constitution of this world apart, which the
abolition of branding, the mitigation of penalties, and the silly
leniency of furies are making a threatening evil. In about twenty
years Paris will be beleaguered by an army of forty thousand reprieved
criminals; the department of the Seine and its fifteen hundred
thousand inhabitants being the only place in France where these poor
wretches can be hidden. To them Paris is what the virgin forest is to
beasts of prey.

The swell-mob, or more exactly, the upper class of thieves, which is
the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the aristocracy of the tribe, had, in
1816, after the peace which made life hard for so many men, formed an
association called les grands fanandels--the Great Pals--consisting of
the most noted master-thieves and certain bold spirits at that time
bereft of any means of living. This word pal means brother, friend,
and comrade all in one. And these "Great Pals," the cream of the
thieving fraternity, for more than twenty years were the Court of
Appeal, the Institute of Learning, and the Chamber of Peers of this
community. These men all had their private means, with funds in
common, and a code of their own. They knew each other, and were
pledged to help and succor each other in difficulties. And they were
all superior to the tricks or snares of the police, had a charter of
their own, passwords and signs of recognition.

From 1815 to 1819 these dukes and peers of the prison world had formed
the famous association of the Ten-thousand (see le Pere Goriot), so
styled by reason of an agreement in virtue of which no job was to be
undertaken by which less than ten thousand francs could be got.

At that very time, in 1829-30, some memoirs were brought out in which
the collective force of this association and the names of the leaders
were published by a famous member of the police-force. It was
terrifying to find there an army of skilled rogues, male and female;
so numerous, so clever, so constantly lucky, that such thieves as
Pastourel, Collonge, or Chimaux, men of fifty and sixty, were
described as outlaws from society from their earliest years! What a
confession of the ineptitude of justice that rogues so old should be
at large!

Jacques Collin had been the cashier, not only of the "Ten-thousand,"
but also of the "Great Pals," the heroes of the hulks. Competent
authorities admit that the hulks have always owned large sums. This
curious fact is quite conceivable. Stolen goods are never recovered
but in very singular cases. The condemned criminal, who can take
nothing with him, is obliged to trust somebody's honesty and capacity,
and to deposit his money; as in the world of honest folks, money is
placed in a bank.

Long ago Bibi-Lupin, now for ten years a chief of the department of
Public Safety, had been a member of the aristocracy of "Pals." His
treason had resulted from offended pride; he had been constantly set
aside in favor of Trompe-la-Mort's superior intelligence and
prodigious strength. Hence his persistent vindictiveness against

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