Memoirs of Vidocq, Volume II/Chapter XXI
I am conducted to Douai—Application for pardon—My wife marries again—The plunge in the Scarpe—I travel as an officer—Reading the dispatches—Residence at Paris—A new name—The woman of my heart—I am a wandering merchant—The commissary of Melun—Execution of Herbaux—I denounce a robber; he denounces me—The galley slaves at Auxerre—I am settled in the capital—Two fugitives from the Bagne—My wife again—Receiving stolen goods.
I had scarcely set foot in the prison, when the attorney-general Rauson, whom my repeated escapes had irritated against me, appeared at the grating, and said—"What, Vidocq has arrived? Have they put him in fetters?"—"What have I done, sir," said I, "that you should wish to be so severe with me? Is it a great crime because I have so frequently escaped? Have I abused the liberty which I hold so precious? When I have been retaken, have I not been found exerting myself to procure honorable modes of livelihood? I am less guilty than unfortunate! Have pity on me,—pity my poor mother; if I am condemned to return to the Bagne, she will die!"
These words, pronounced with accents of sincerity, made some impression of M. Rauson, who returned in the evening, and questioned me at length of the mode of my life since I had left Toulon; and as in proof of what I told him, I offered indubitable testimony, he began to evince some kindness towards me. "Why do you not draw up," said he, "an application for pardon, or at least for a commutation of the sentence? I will recommend you to the chief justice." I thanked the magistrate for his proffered kindness to me, and the same day a barrister of Douai, M. Thomas, who took a real interest in me, brought for my signature a petition, which he had been so kind as to draw up for me.
I was in expectation of the answer, when one morning I was sent for to the police-office. Imagining that it was the decision of the minister which was to be communicated to me, and impatient to know it, I followed the turnkey with the haste of a man who anticipates agreeable intelligence. I relied on seeing the attorney-general, but—my wife appeared, accompanied by two strangers. I endeavoured to guess the purport of her visit, when, with the most unembarrassed tone in the world, madame Vidocq said to me, "I have come to tell you that the sentence of our divorce has been pronounced. I am going to be married again, and therefore I have judged it best to go through this formality. The clerk will give you a copy of the judgment for perusal."
Except obtaining my freedom, nothing could be more agreeable to me than the dissolution of this marriage, as I was for ever embarrassed with a creature whom I loathed. I do not know if I had sufficient command of myself to restrain my joy, but certainly my countenance must have betokened it; and if, as I have cogent reasons to believe, my successor was present, he retired with a conviction that I did not at all envy him the treasure he was about to possess.
My detention at Douai was painfully prolonged. I was in suspense for five whole months, and nothing arrived from Paris. The attorney-general had evinced much interest for me, but misfortune engenders distrust, and I began to fear that he had led me on with a vain hope, that I might form no plans of escape before the departure of the galley-slaves; and struck with the idea, I again plotted deeply-laid projects for escape.
The jailor, named Wettu, viewing me as gained over and peaceable, showed me various little favours; we frequently dined together tête-a-tête in a small room with one window, which looked on to the Scarpe. It struck me, that with the aid of this opening, which was not grated, some day, after dinner, I could easily take French leave, and depart; only it was absolutely necessary that I should secure some disguise, which, when I had effected my escape, would effectually conceal me from all pursuit. I confided my intentions to some friends, and they provided for me the uniform of an artillery officer, of which I resolved to avail myself at the very first opportunity. One Sunday evening I was at table with the jailor, and the agent Hurtrel; the wine had made them very merry, for I had pushed it about briskly. "Do you know, my hearty," said Hurtrel to me, "that it would have been no safe business to have put you here seven years ago. A window without bars! By Jove, I would not have trusted you."—"And further, Hurtrel," I replied, "one should be made of cork to risk a plunge from such a height; the Scarpe is very deep for a person who cannot swim,"—"True," said the jailor; and there the conversation rested, but my determination was taken. Some friends arrived, and the jailor sat down to play with them; and fixing on the moment when he was most intent on his game, I threw myself into the river.
At the noise of my fall, all the party ran to the window, whilst Wettu called loudly to the guard and turnkeys to pursue me. Fortunately, twilight rendered it scarcely possible to discern objects; and my hat, which I had thrown designedly on the bank, seemed to indicate that I had immediately got out of the river, whilst I had continued swimming towards the Watergate, under which I passed with great difficulty, in consequence of being very cold, and my strength beginning to fail. Once out of the city, I gained the bank, my clothes full of water, not weighing less than an hundred weight; but I had made up my mind not to delay, and pushed on at once for Blangy, a village two leagues from Arras. It was four in the morning; and a baker who was heating his oven, gave me leave to dry my garments, and supplied me with food. As soon as I was dried and refreshed, I started for Duisans, where the widow of an old friend of mine, a captain, resided. A messenger was to bring to me there the uniform which had been provided for me at Douai; and no sooner had I obtained it, than I went to Hersin, where I stayed a few days with a cousin of mine. The advice of my friends, which was very rational, urged me to depart as quickly as possible; and as I learnt that the police, convinced that I was in the vicinity, were beating up every quarter, and were approaching the place of my abode, I determined not to wait for them.
It was evident that Paris only could afford me a refuge; but to get to Paris it was indispensable I should pass through Arras, where I should be infallibly recognised. I cogitated on the means of obviating this danger; and prudence suggested to me to get into the wicker calash of my cousin, who had a famous horse, and was the cleverest fellow in the world for his knowledge of the cross roads. He pledged himself on the reputation of his talent as a guide, to carry me in safety by the ramparts of my native town; and I wanted no more at his hands, trusting to my disguise to effect the rest. I was no longer Vidocq, unless I was examined very closely; and on reaching the bridge of Gy, I saw, without the least alarm, eight horses belonging to gendarmes, tied to the door of a public house. I confess I would rather have avoided the rencontre; but it faced me, and it was only by fronting it boldly that I could hope to escape detection. "Come on," said I to my cousin; "here we must make an essay; get down; be as quick as you can, and call for something." He immediately alighted, and entered the public house with the air of a man who had no dread of the eye of the brigade. "Ah!" said they, "it is your cousin Vidocq that you are driving?"—"Perhaps, it may be," he answered with a laugh; "go and see." A gendarme did approach the calash, but rather from curiosity than suspicion. At the sight of my uniform, he respectfully touched his hat, and said, "Your servant, captain;" and soon afterwards mounted his horse with his comrades. "Good journey," cried my cousin, cracking his whip; "if you lay hold of him, perhaps you will write us word."—"Go your way," said the quarter-master who commanded the troop, "we know his haunt; Hersin is the word; and to-morrow by this time, he will be again between four walls."
We continued our journey very quietly, but yet one thing made me somewhat uneasy; my military dress might expose me to some difficulties which would have an unpleasant result. The war with Prussia had begun, and there were but few officers in the interior, unless they were confined there by some wound. I determined on carrying my arm in a sling as an officer who had been disabled at Jena; and if any questions were asked, I was prepared to give all particulars on this subject, which I had learnt from the bulletins; and to add those which I could pick up by hearing a multitude of accounts, some true and some false, from witnesses either ocular or not. In fact, I was quite au fait concerning the battle of Jena, and could speak to all comers with perfect knowledge of the subject; nobody knew more of it than I did. I acquitted myself in admirable style at Beaumont, when the weariness of our horse which had conveyed us thirty-three leagues in a day and a half, compelled us to halt. I had already begun conversing in the inn, when I saw a quarter-master of gendarmes go straight up to an officer of dragoons, and ask for his papers. I went up to the quarter-master, and asked him the motive of this precaution. "I asked for his route," he answered, "because when every one is with the army, a healthy officer would not be left in France." "You are right, comrade," said I, "duty must be performed;" and at the same time, that he might not take a fancy to ask me a similar question, I asked him to dine with us; and during the meal I so far gained his confidence, that he requested me, on reaching Paris, to use my interest in procuring him a change of quarters. I promised all he asked, which much pleased him; as I was to use my own influence, which was great, and that of others still more powerful. We are generally prodigal in bestowing that which we have not. However it may be, the flask circulated rapidly; and my guest, in the enthusiasm of having secured an interest which was so desirable to him, began to talk that voluble nonsense which usually precedes drunkenness, when a gendarme brought him a packet of dispatches. He opened them with an unsteady hand, and attempted to read them, but his eyes refused their office, and he begged me to peruse them for him. I opened a letter, and the first words which struck my sight were these: "Brigade of Arras." I hastily read it, and found that it was advice of my travelling towards Beaumont, and adding that I must have taken the diligence of the Silver Lion. In spite of my agitation, I read the letter to him, omitting or adding particulars as I pleased. "Good! very good!" said the sober and vigilant quarter-master; "the conveyance will not pass until to-morrow morning, and I will take due care." He then sat down with the intention of drinking more, but his strength did not equal his courage, and they were obliged to carry him to bed, to the great scandal of all the lookers-on, who repeated with much indignation; "What! the quarter-master! A man of rank to behave so shamefully!"
As might be conjectured, I did not wait the uprising of the man of rank; and at five o'clock got into the Beaumont diligence, which conveyed me safely to Paris, where my mother, who had remained at Versailles, rejoined me. We dwelt together for some months in the faubourg Saint-Denis, where we saw no one except a jeweller named Jacquelin, whom I was compelled, to a certain extent, to make my confidant, because he had known me at Rouen under the name of Blondel. It was at his house that I met a madame de B——, who holds the first rank in the affections of my life. Madame de B——, or Annette, for so I call her, was a very pretty woman, whom her husband had abandoned in consequence of his affairs turning out unfortunate. He had fled to Holland, and had not been heard of for a considerable time. Annette was then quite free; she pleased me; I liked her wit, understanding, kindly feeling, and ventured to tell her so; she saw soon, and without much trouble, my assiduity and regard; and we found that we could not exist without each other. Annette came to live with me, and as I resumed the trade of a travelling seller of fashionable commodities, she resolved to accompany me in my perambulations. The first journey we undertook together was excessively fortunate. I learnt, however, at the moment I was leaving Melun, from the landlord of the inn at which I had put up, that the commissary of police had testified some regret at not having examined my papers; but what was deferred was not ended, and that at my next visit, he meant to pay me a visit. The information surprised me, for I must consequently have been in some way an object of suspicion. To go on might lead to danger, and I therefore returned to Paris, resolving not to make any other journeys, unless I could render less unfavorable the chances which combined against me.
Having started very early, I reached the faubourg Saint Marceau in good time; and at my entrance, I heard the hawkers bawling out, "that two well-known persons are to be executed to-day at the Place de Grêve." I listened, and fancied I distinguished the name of Herbaux. Herbaux, the author of the forgery which caused all my misfortunes! I listened with more attention, but with an involuntary shudder; and this time the crier, to whom I had approached, repeated the sentence with these additions: "Here is the sentence of the criminal tribunal of the department of the Seine, which condemns to death the said Armand Saint Leger, an old sailor, born at Bayonne, and César Herbaux, a freed galley-slave, born at Lille, accused and convicted of murder," &c.
I could doubt no longer; the wretch who had heaped so much misery on my head was about to suffer at the scaffold. Shall I confess that I felt a sentiment of joy, and yet I trembled? Tormented again, and agitated with a perpetually renewing uneasiness, I would have destroyed all the population of the prisons and Bagnes, who, having been the means of casting me into the abyss of misery, had kept me there by their vile disclosures. It will not excite wonder, when I say that I ran with haste to the palace of justice to assure myself of the truth; it was not mid-day, and I had great trouble in reaching the grating, near which I fixed myself, waiting for the fatal moment.
At last four o'clock struck, and the wicket opened. A man appeared first on the sledge. It was Herbaux. His face was covered with a deadly paleness, whilst he affected a firmness which the convulsive workings of his features belied. He pretended to talk to his companion, who was already incapacitated from hearing him. At the signal of departure Herbaux, with a countenance into which he infused all the audacity he could force, gazed round on the crowd, and his eyes met mine. He started, and the blood rushed to his face. The procession passed on, and I remained as motionless as the bronze railings on which I was leaning; and I should probably have remained longer, if an inspector of the palace had not desired me to come away. Twenty minutes afterwards a car, laden with a red basket, and escorted by a gendarme, was hurried over the Pont-au-Change, going towards the burial-ground allotted for felons. Then, with an oppressed feeling at my heart, I went away, and regained my lodgings, full of sorrowful reflections.
I have since learnt, that, during his detention at the Bicêtre, Herbaux had expressed his regret at having been instrumental in getting me condemned, when innocent. The crime which had brought this wretch to the scaffold was a murder committed, in company with Saint Leger, on a lady of the Place Dauphine. These two villains had obtained access to their victim under pretence of giving her tidings of her son, whom they said they had seen in the army.
Although, in fact, Herbaux's execution could not have any direct influence over my situation, yet it alarmed me, and I was horror-struck at feeling that I had ever been in contact with such brigands, destined to the executioner's arm: my remembrance revealed me to myself, and I blushed, as it were, in my own face. I sought to lose the recollection, and to lay down an impassable line of demarcation between the past and the present; for I saw but too plainly, that the future was dependant on the past; and I was the more wretched, as a police, who have not always due powers of discernment, would not permit me to forget myself. I saw myself again on the point of being snared like a deer. The persuasion that I was interdicted from becoming an honest man drove me to despair; I was silent, morose, and disheartened. Annette perceived it, and sought to console me; she offered to devote herself for me, pressed me with questions, and my secret escaped me; but I never had cause to regret my confidence. The activity, the zeal, and presence of mind of this woman became very useful to me. I was in want of a passport, and she persuaded Jacquelin to lend me his, and to teach me how to make use of it; she gave me the most complete accounts of her family and connexions. Thus instructed, I set out on my journey, and traversed the whole of Lower Burgundy. Almost everywhere I was examined as to my passport, which if they had compared with my person, would have at once detected the fraud; but this was nowhere done, and for more than a year, with trifling exceptions not worth detailing, the name of Jacquelin was propitious to me.
One day that I had unpacked at Auxerre, and was walking peaceably on the quay, I met one Paquay, a robber by profession, whom I had seen at the Bicêtre, where he was confined for six years. I would rather have avoided him, but he addressed me abruptly, and from his first salutation, I found that it would not be safe to pretend no acquaintance with him. He was too inquisitive about what I was doing; and as I saw from his conversation that he wished me to join him in his robberies, I thought it best to get rid of him, to talk of the police of Auxerre, whom I represented as very vigilant, and consequently much to be dreaded. I thought I saw that my information made an impression on him, and I coloured the picture still higher, until at length, after having listened with much, but unquiet attention, he suddenly cried, "Devil take it! it appears that there is nothing to be done here; the packet-boat will start in two hours, and if you like we will be off together."—"Agreed," said I; "if you are for starting I am your man." I then quitted him, after having promised to rejoin him immediately that I should have made some preparations which were necessary. How pitiable is the condition of a fugitive galley-slave, who, if he would not be denounced or implicated in some evil deed, must be himself the denouncer. Returned to the public-house, I then wrote the following letter to the lieutenant of the gendarmerie, whom I knew to be on the hunt for the authors of a robbery lately committed at the coach office:—
"A person who does not wish to be known, informs you that one of the authors of the robbery committed at the coach-office in your city, will set out by the packet-boat to go to Soigny, where his accomplices most probably are. Lest you should fail, and not arrest him in time, it would be best for two disguised gendarmes to go on board the packet-boat with him, as it is important that he should be taken with prudence, and not be allowed to get out of sight, as he is a very active man."
This missive was accompanied by a description so minute that it was impossible to mistake him. The moment of departure arrived, and I went on the quays, taking a circuitous route, and from the window of a public-house where I stationed myself, I perceived Paquay enter the packet-boat, and soon afterwards the two gendarmes embarked, whom I recognized by a certain air, which may be seen, but cannot be described. At intervals they handed a paper to each other, which they perused, and then cast their eyes on the man, whose dress, contrary to the usual garb of the robbers, was in a bad condition. The boat moved on, and I saw it depart with the more pleasure, as it carried with it Paquay, his propositions, and even his discoveries, if, as I did not doubt, he had the intention of making any.
The day after this adventure, whilst I was taking an inventory of my merchandizes, I heard an extraordinary noise, and, looking from the windows, I saw Thierry and his satellites guarding a chain of galley-slaves! At this sight, so terrible and inauspicious for me, I drew back quickly, but in my haste I broke a pane of glass, and suddenly attracted all looks towards me. I wished myself in the bowels of the earth. But this was not all; for to increase my disquietude, somebody opened my door; it was the landlady of the Pheasant, madame Gelat. "Here, M. Jacquelin, come and see the chain passing," she cried. "Oh, it is long since I saw such a fine one, there are at least one hundred and fifty, and some of them famous fellows! Do you hear how they are singing?" I thanked my hostess for her attention, and pretending to be much busied, told her that I would go down in an instant. "Oh, do not hurry yourself," she answered, "there is plenty of time, they are going to sleep here in our stables. And then if you wish to have any conversation with the commandant, they will put him in the chamber next to you." Lieutenant Thierry my neighbour! At this intelligence I know not what passed in my mind; but I think that if madame Gelat had observed me she would have seen my countenance grow pale, and my whole frame tremble with an involuntary shudder. Lieutenant Thierry my neighbour! He might recognize me, detect me; a gesture might betray me; and it was therefore expedient to avoid a rencontre if possible. The necessity of completing my inventory was an excuse for my apparent want of curiosity. I passed a frightful night, and it was not until four o'clock in the morning that the departure of the infernal procession was announced to me, that I breathed freely again.
He has never suffered, who has not experienced horrors similar to those into which the presence of this troop of banditti and their guards threw me. To be again invested with those fetters which I had broken at the cost of so much endurance and exertion, was an idea which haunted me incessantly. I was not the sole possessor of my own secret, for there were galley-slaves everywhere, who, if I sought to flee from them would infallibly betray me: my repose, my very existence was menaced on all sides, and at all times. The glance of an eye, the name of a commissary, the appearance of a gendarme, the perusal of a sentence, all roused and excited my alarm. How often did I curse the perverse fate which, deceiving my youth, had smiled at the disorderly license of my passions; and that tribunal which, by an unjust sentence, had plunged me into a gulf whence I could not extricate myself, nor cleanse myself of the foul imputations which clung to me; and those institutions which close for ever the door of repentance! I was excluded from society, and yet I was anxious to give it proofs of good conduct; I had given them; and I attest my invariable honourable behaviour after every escape, my habits of regularity, and my punctilious fidelity in fulfilling all my engagements.
Now some fears arose in my mind concerning Paquay, in whose arrest I had been instrumental; and, on reflection, it seemed that I had acted inconsiderately in this circumstance; I felt a forewarning of some impending evil, and the presentiment was realized. Paquay, when conducted to Paris and then brought back to be confronted at Auxerre, learnt that I was still in that city; he had always suspected me of having denounced him, and determined on his revenge. He told the jailor all he knew concerning me, and he reported it to the authorities; but my reputation for probity was so well established in Auxerre, where I remained for three months at a time, that, to avoid an unpleasant business, a magistrate, whose name I will not disclose, sent for me, and gave me notice of what had occurred. There was no occasion for me to avow the truth, my agitation revealed all, and I had only strength to say, "Sir, I seek to be an honest man." Without any reply, he went out and left me alone. I comprehended his generous silence, and in a quarter of an hour I had lost sight of Auxerre; and from my retreat I wrote to Annette, to inform her of this fresh catastrophe. But to remove suspicion, I recommended her to stay for a fortnight at the 'Pheasant,' and to tell everybody that I was at Rouen, making purchases, and on the expiration of the time she was to rejoin me at Paris, where she arrived at the day appointed. She told me, that the day after my departure, disguised gendarmes had called at my warehouse, intending to arrest me, and that not finding me, they had said that they did not mind, for they should discover me at last.
They continued their search; and this deranged all my plans, for, masked under the name of Jacquelin, I saw myself reduced to quit it, and once more renounce the industrious trade which I had created.
No passport, however good, could protect me through the districts which I usually travelled over; and in those where I was unknown, my unusual appearance would most probably excite suspicion. The crisis was horridly critical. What could I do? This was my only thought, when chance introduced me to a tailor of the Cour Saint Martin, who was desirous of selling his business. I treated with him, persuaded that I could nowhere be so safe as in the heart of a capital, where it is easy to lose oneself amid the crowded population. Eight months elapsed, and nothing disturbed the tranquillity enjoyed by my mother, Annette, and myself. My trade prospered, and every day augmented it; nor did I confine myself as my predecessor had done, to the making up of clothes, but traded also in cloths, and was perhaps on the road to fortune, when one morning all my troubles were renewed.
I was in my warehouse, when a messenger came to me, and said I was wanted at a coffee-house in the Rue Aumaire, and thinking that it was some matter of business, I immediately went to the place appointed. I was taken into a private room, and there found two fugitives from the bagne at Brest; one of them was that Blondy who aided my unfortunate escape from Pont-a-Luzen. "We have been here these ten days," said he to me, "and have not a sous. Yesterday we saw you in a warehouse, that we learnt was your own, which gave us much pleasure; and I said to my friend, 'Let us now cast off all care;' for we know that you are not the man to leave old comrades in difficulty."
The idea of seeing myself in the power of two ruffians, whom I knew capable of the vilest deeds, even of selling me to the police to make a profit of me, although they injured themselves, was overwhelming. I did not fail to express my pleasure at seeing them, adding, that I was not rich, and regretting that it was only in my power to give them fifty francs. They appeared content with this sum; and on leaving me, expressed their intention to depart at once for Chalons-sur-Marne, where they said they had business. I should have been but too fortunate had they at once quitted Paris, but on bidding me adieu, they promised soon to see me again, and I remained tormented with the dread of their return. Would they not consider me as a milch-cow, and make the most of their power over me? Would they not be insatiable? Who could answer that their demands would be limited to my means? I already saw myself the banker of these gentlemen and many others; for it was to be presumed, that in conformity with the custom of these thieves, if I satisfied them, they would introduce their friends to me, who would also draw upon me, and I shall only be on good terms with them till my first refusal, and after that they would without doubt serve me a villanous trick. With such blood-hands let loose upon me, it may be imagined that I was but ill at ease! It must be allowed that my situation was a pleasant one, but it was crowned with a rencontre which made it still worse.
It may or may not be remembered that my wife, after her divorce, had married again, and I thought she was in the department of the Pas-de-Calais, entirely occupied in being happy and making her new husband so, when in the Rue du Petit-Carreau, I met her, face to face; and it was impossible to pass her, for she at once recognized me. I spoke to her, without alluding to the wrongs she had done me; and as the dilapidation of her dress evinced that she was not in very flourishing circumstances, I gave her some money. She perhaps imagined that it was an interested generosity, but it certainly was not. It never occurred to me that the ex-madame Vidocq would denounce me. In truth, in recurring at a later period to our old wrangles, I thought that my heart had only given me prudential suggestions, and then approved of what I had done; it appeared most proper that this female, in her distress, should rely on me for some assistance. Detained in or far from Paris, I was anxious to relieve her misery. This should have been a consideration to determine her to preserve silence; and I at least thought so. We shall see whether or not I was deceived in my expectation.
The support of my ex-wife was an expense to which I reconciled myself; but of this charge I did not as yet know the whole weight. A fortnight had elapsed since our interview; when one morning I was sent for to the Rue de l’Échiquier, and on going there, and at the bottom of a court, in a ground-floor room, very clean, but meanly furnished, I saw again, not only my wife, but also her neices and their father, the terrorist Chevalier, who had just been freed from an imprisonment of six months, for stealing plate. A glance was sufficient to assure me that I had now the whole family on my hands. They were in a state of the most complete destitution; I hated them and cursed them, and yet I could do nothing better than extend my hand to them. I drained myself for them, for to have driven them to despair would have brought on my own ruin; and rather than return to the power of the police, I resolved on sacrificing my last sous.
At this period it seemed as if the whole world was leagued against me; I was compelled to draw my purse-strings at every moment, and for whom? For creatures who, looking on my liberality as compulsory, were prepared to betray me as soon as I ceased to be a certain source of reliance. When I went home from my wife's, I had still another proof of the wretchedness affixed to the state of a fugitive galley-slave. Annette and my mother were in tears. During my absence, two drunken men had asked for me, and on being told that I was from home, they had broke forth in oaths and threats which left me no longer in doubt of the perfidy of their intentions. By the description which Annette gave me of these two individuals, I easily recognized Blondy and his comrade Deluc. I had no trouble in guessing their names; and besides, they had left an address, with a formal injunction to send them forty francs, which was more than enough to disclose to me who they were, as there were not in Paris any other persons who could send me such an intimation. I was obedient, very obedient; only in paying my contribution to these two scoundrels, I could not help letting them know how inconsiderately they had behaved. "Consider what a step you have taken," said I to them; "they know nothing at my house, and you have told all; my wife, who carries on the concern in her name, will perhaps turn me out, and then I must be reduced to the lowest ebb of misery."—"Oh you can come and rob with us," answered the two rascals.
I endeavoured to convince them how much better it was to owe an existence to honest toil, than to be in incessant fear from the police, which sooner or later catches all malefactors in its nets. I added that one crime generally leads to another; that he would risk his neck who ran straight towards the guillotine; and the termination of my discourse was, that they would do well to renounce the dangerous carreer on which they had entered.
"Not so bad!" cried Blondy, when I had finished my lecture, "not so bad! But can you in the mean time point out to us any apartment that we can ransack. We are, you see, like Harlequin, and I have more need of cash than advice;" and they left me, laughing deridingly at me. I called them back, to profess my attachment to them, and begged them not to call again at my house. "If that is all," said Deluc, "we will keep from that."—"Oh yes, we'll keep away," added Blondy, "since that is unpleasant to your mistress."
But the latter did not stay away long: the very next day at nightfall he presented himself at my warehouse, and asked to speak to me privately. I took him into my own room. "We are alone?" said he to me, looking round at the room in which we were; and when he was assured that he had no witnesses, he drew from his pocket eleven silver forks and two gold watches, which he placed on a stand. "Four hundred francs for this would not be too much—the silver plate and the gold watches—Come, tip us the needful."—"Four hundred francs!" said I, alarmed at so abrupt a total. "I have not so much money."—"Never mind. Go and sell the goods."—"But if it should be known!" "That's your affair; I want the ready; or if you like it better, I'll send you customers from the police office—you know what a word would do—Come, come, the cash, the chink, and no gammon." I understood the scoundrel but too well: I saw myself denounced, dragged from the state into which I had installed myself, and led back to the Bagne. I counted out the four hundred francs.