Memoirs of Vidocq, Volume II/Chapter XXII
Another robber—My wicker car—Arrest of two galgalley-slaves—Fearful discovery—St Germain wishes to involve me in a robbery—I offer to serve the police—Horrid perplexities—They wish to take me whilst in bed—My concealment—A comic adventure—Disguises on disguises—Chevalier has denounced me—Annette at the Depôt of the Prefecture—I prepare to leave Paris—Two passers of false money—I am apprehended in my shirt—I am conducted to the Bicêtre.
I was a receiver of stolen goods! a criminal, in spite of myself! But yet I was one, for I had lent a hand to crime. No hell can be imagined equal to the torment in which I now existed. I was incessantly agitated; remorse and fear assailed me at once, night and day; at each moment I was on the rack. I did not sleep, I had no appetite, the cares of business were no longer attended to, all was hateful to me. All! no, I had Annette and my mother with me. But should I not be forced to abandon them? Sometimes I trembled at the thoughts of my apprehension, and my home was transformed into a filthy dungeon; sometimes it was surrounded by the police, and their pursuit laid open proofs of a misdeed which would draw down on me the vengeance of the laws. Harassed by the family of Chevalier, who devoured my substance; tormented by Blondy, who was never wearied with applying to me for money; dreading all that could occur, that was most horrible and incurable, in my situation; ashamed of the tyranny exercised over me by the vilest wretches that disgraced the earth; irritated that I could not burst through the moral chain which irrevocably bound me to the opprobrium of the human race; I was driven to the brink of despair, and, for eight days, pondered in my head the direst purposes. Blondy, the wretch Blondy, was the especial object of my wrathful indignation; I could have strangled him with all my heart, and yet I still kept on terms with him, still had a welcome for him. Impetuous and violent as I was by nature, it was astonishing how much patient endurance I exercised; but it was all owing to Annette. Oh! how I prayed with fervent sincerity, that, in one of his frequent excursions, some friendly gendarme might, drive a bullet through Blondy's brain! I even trusted that it was an event that would soon occur; but every time that a more extended absence began to inspire me with the hope that I was at length freed from this wretch, he again appeared, and brought with him a renewal of all my cares.
One day I saw him come with Deluc and an ex-clerk, named St Germain, whom I had known at Rouen; where, like many others, he had barely the reputation of an honest man. St Germain, who had only known me as the merchant Blondel, was much astonished at the meeting; but two words from Blondy explained my whole history.—I was a thorough rogue. Confidence then replaced astonishment; and St Germain, who at first had frowned, joined in the mirth. Blondy told me, that they were going all three to set out for the environs of Senlis, and asked me for the loan of my wicker car, which I made use of when visiting the fairs. Glad to get rid of these fellows on such terms, I hastily wrote a note to the person who had charge of it. He gave them the conveyance and harness, and away they went; whilst for ten days I heard nothing of them, when St Germain re-appeared. He entered my house one morning with an alarmed look, and an appearance of much fatigue. "Well," said he, "my comrades have been seized."—"Seized!" cried I, with a joy which I could not repress; but assuming all my coolness, I asked for the details, with an affectation of being greatly concerned. St Germain told me, in few words, that Blondy and Deluc had only been apprehended because they travelled without credentials. I did not believe anything he said, and had no doubt but they had been engaged in some robbery; and what confirmed my suspicions was, that, on proposing to send them some money, St Germain told me that they were not in want of any. On leaving Paris, they had fifty francs amongst them; and certainly, with so small a sum, it would have been a difficult matter to have gone on for a fortnight; and yet how was it that they were still not unprovided? The first idea that flashed through my brain, was, that they had committed some extensive robbery, which they wished to conceal from me; but I soon discovered that the business was of still more serious nature.
Two days after St Germain's return, I thought I would go and look at my car; and remarked, at first, that they had altered its exterior appearance. On getting inside, I saw on the lining of white and blue striped ticken, red spots, recently washed out; and then opening the seat, to take out the key, I found it filled with blood, as if a carcase had been laid there! All was now apparent, and the truth was exposed, even more horrible than my suspicions had foreboded. I did not hesitate; far more interested than the murderers themselves in getting rid of all traces of the deed, on the next night I took the vehicle to the banks of the Seine, and having got as far as Bercy, in a lone spot, I set fire to some straw and dry wood, with which I had filled it, and did not leave the spot until the whole was burnt to ashes.
St Germain, to whom I spoke of the circumstances, without adding that I had burnt my carriage, confessed that the dead body of a waggoner, assassinated by Blondy, between Louvres and Dammartin, had been concealed in it, until they found an opportunity of throwing it into a well. This man, one of the most abandoned villains I ever encountered, spoke of the deed as if it were a most harmless action; and a laugh was on his lips while he related the facts with the most unembarrassed and easy tone. I was horrified, and listened with a sort of stupefaction; and when he asked me for the impression of the lock of an apartment with which I was acquainted, I reached the climax of my terrors. I made some observations, to which he replied, "What is that to me?—business must be done—Because you know him! Why that is the stronger reason; you know all the ways of the house; you can guide me, and we will share the produce!—Come, it is no use refusing; I must have the impression." I pretended to yield to his arguments. "Such scruples as these—hold your tongue!" replied St Germain; "you make me sweat (the expression he used was not quite so proper). But come—all is agreed, and half the plunder is yours." Good God! what an associate! I had no cause to rejoice at Blondy's mishap; I really got rid of a fever and fell into an ague. Blondy would yield to persuasion on certain terms, but St Germain never; and he was even more imperious in his demands. Exposed to see myself compromised from one moment to another, I determined to see M. Henry, chief of the division of security in the prefecture of police. I went to him; and having unfolded my situation to him, declared that if he would tolerate my residence at Paris, I would give him exact information of a great many fugitive galley-slaves, with whose retreats and plans I was well acquainted.
M. Henry received me with much kindness; but having for a moment reflected on what I had said, answered that he could not enter into any terms with me. "That should not prevent your giving the information," he continued, "and we can then judge how useful it may be; and perhaps . . . ."—"Ah, sir, no perhaps, that would risk my life. You are not ignorant of what those individuals are capable whom you denounce; and if I must be led back to the Bagne after some part of an accusation has stated that I have made communications to the police, I am a dead man."—"Under these circumstances, let us speak no farther on the subject;" and he left me, without even asking my name.
I was deeply grieved at the ill success of my proposition. St Germain was about to return, and demand the performance of my promise. What was I to do? Ought I to inform the individual, that we were about to rob him together? If it had been possible to have avoided accompanying St Germain, it would not have been so dangerous to have given such notice; but I had promised to assist him, and had no pretext for getting off from my promise, and I waited for him as I should have done for a sentence of death. One, two, three weeks passed in these perplexities, and at the end of this time I began to breathe again; and when two months had elapsed, was perfectly at my ease, thinking that he had been apprehended, as well as his two companions. Annette (I shall always remember it) made a nine days' vow, and burnt at least a dozen wax candles in token of joy. "I pray to heaven," she sometimes said, "that they may continue where they are." The torment had been of long duration, but the moments of calm were brief, and they preceded the catastrophe which decided my existence.
The 3rd of May 1809, at day-break, I was awakened by several knocks at my warehouse door; and going down to see, was on the point of opening the door, when I heard some voices in conversation in a low tone. "He is a powerful man," said one; "we must be wary!" There was no doubt concerning the motives of this early visit, and I returned hastily to my chamber, told Annette what had passed, and opening the window, whilst she entered into conversation with the officers, I glided out in my shirt, by a door which opened on the staircase, and soon reached the upper story; at the fourth I saw an open door and entered, looked about me, listened, and found I was alone. In a recess in the wall was a bed, hidden by a ragged crimson damask curtain. Pressed by circumstances, and sure that the staircase was guarded, I threw myself beneath the mattress; but scarcely had I lain down when some one entered, whom I recognized to be a young man named Fossé, whose father, a brass-worker, was lying in an adjacent room, and a dialogue thus began:—
SCENE THE FIRST.
FATHER, MOTHER, AND SON.
Son. "What do you think, father? They are looking for the tailor—they want to seize him—all the house is in an uproar—Do you hear the bell? Hark! hark! they are ringing at the watchmaker's."
Mother. "Let them ring—do not you meddle in business that does not concern you;—(to her husband) Come, father, dress; they will soon be here."
Father. (Yawning, and as I imagined, rubbing his eyes) "The devil fetch them—what do they want with the tailor?"
Son. "I do not know, father; but there are lots of them—bailiffs and gendarmes, and a commissary with them."
Father. "Perhaps it is nothing at all."
Mother. "But what can they want with the tailor? What can he have done?"
Father. "What can he have done? Since he sells cloth, he may have made clothes of English goods."
Mother. "He may have employed foreign goods! You make me laugh at you. Do you think he would be apprehended for that?"
Father. "Yes, I think they would apprehend him for that, and the continental blockade."
Son. "Continental blockade! What do you mean by that, father? What has that to do with the matter?"
Mother. "Oh yes! Tell us, then, what will be the end of this; and let us know the truth of it all."
Father. "The meaning of all this;—that perhaps they will make the tailor a head shorter."
Mother. "Good God! poor man! I am sure they will take him away—criminals, like him, are not guilty; and if it only depended on me, I know I would hide them all in my chemise."
Father. "Do you not know the tailor is a large fellow?—he has a famous body of his own."
Mother. "Never mind, I would hide him, I wish he would come here. Do you remember the deserter?"
Father. "Hush, hush! Here they come."
SCENE THE SECOND.
ENTER THE COMMISSARY, GENDARMES, AND THEIR ATTENDANTS.
(At this moment the commissary and his staff having traversed the house from top to bottom, reached the fourth story.)
Commissary. "Ah! the door is open. I beg pardon for disturbing you, but the interest of society demands it. You have a neighbour, a very bad man, a man who would kill either father or mother."
Wife. "What, monsieur Vidocq?"
Commissary. "Yes, madam, Vidocq; and I charge you, in case you or your husband have given him shelter, to tell me without delay."
Wife. "Ah, monsieur le commissaire, you may look everywhere if you please. We give shelter to any one who—"
Commissary. "Ah, you should beware, for the law is very severe in this particular. It is a subject on which there is no joking! You would subject yourselves to very severe punishment; for a man condemned to capital punishment, it would be nothing less than——"
Husband (quickly). "We are not afraid of that, monsieur commissaire."
Commissary. "I believe you, and rely on you. However, that I may have nothing to reproach myself with, you will permit me to make a slight search, just a simple formality. (Addressing his attendants). Gentlemen, are the egresses well guarded?"
After a very minute search of the inner room, the commissary returned to that in which I was. "And in this bed," said he, raising the tattered damask curtain, whilst at my feet I felt one of the corners of the mattress shake, which they let fall carelessly, "there is no Vidocq here. Come, he must have made himself invisible; we must give over our search." It may be imagined that I felt overjoyed at these words, which removed an enormous weight from my mind. At length all the alguazils retired, the brass-worker's wife attending them with much politeness, and I was left alone with the father and son, and a little child, who did not think that I was so near them. I heard them pitying me; but madame Fossé soon ran up the staircase, four steps at a time, until she was quite of breath, and I still was the theme of conversation.
SCENE THE THIRD.
THE HUSBAND, WIFE, AND SON.
Wife. "Oh my God! my God! how many people there are in the street. Ah! they say fine things about M. Vidocq; they talk much, and all sorts of things. However, there must be some of it true; never so much smoke without some fire. I knew very well that this monsieur Vidocq was a proud chap for a master-tailor. His arms were crossed much more frequently than his legs."
Husband. "There you go like all the rest with your suppositions; you are a slanderous woman now. Besides, it is no business of ours; and suppose that it did concern us, of what do they accuse him, what do they chatter about? I am not curious."
Wife. "What do they chatter about! Why the very thoughts on't make me tremble, when they say he is a man condemned to death for having killed a man. I wish you could hear the little tailor who lives lower down."
Husband. "Oh, he speaks from a professional jealousy."
Wife. "And the porteress at No. 27, who speaks of what she knows well, says that she has seen him go out every evening with a thick stick, so well disguised that she did not know him."
Husband. "The porteress says that?"
Wife. "And that he went to lay wait for the people in the Champs Élysées."
Husband. "Are you growing foolish?"
Wife. "Ah, is that foolish! The cook-shopman, perhaps is foolish, when he says that they were all robbers who came in, and that he had seen M. Vidocq with some very ill-looking fellows."
Husband. "Well! who had ill looks after——"
Wife. "After all, he is, said the commissary to the grocer, a worthless man; and worse than that, for he added that he was a vile criminal, and justice could not get hold of him."
Husband. "And you talk nonsense; you believe the commissary because he is beating up our quarters; but I will never be persuaded that M. Vidocq is a dishonest man. I think, on the other hand, that he is a good fellow, a punctual man. Besides, whatever he may be, it is no business of ours; let us meddle with our own affairs, and time wags onward;—we must to work; come quickly, to work, to work."
The sitting was adjourned; father, mother, son, and little daughter, all the Fossé family, went away, and I remained locked up, reflecting on the perfidious insinuations of the police, who to deprive me of the aid of my neighbours, represented me as an infamous villain. I have often seen, subsequently, this species of tactics employed, the success of which is always founded on atrocious calumnies and measures, revolting, because unjust; clumsy, because they produce an effect entirely contrary to that which is expected; for those persons who would exert themselves personally in the apprehension of a thief, are prevented from fear of struggling with a man whom the feeling of crime and the prospect of a scaffold, drives probably to despair.
I had been shut up for two hours; there was no noise either in the house or in the street, and the groups had dispersed; I was beginning to take courage, when I heard a key thrust into the lock, and whilst I again squatted beneath the coverlid, the father, mother, son, and daughter Fossé entered.
The father and son were quarrelling, and by the interference of the mother I had no doubt but blows would arise, when, throwing aside the tattered curtains, I made my appearance in the midst of the astonished family. It may be imagined how much the good folks were surprised. Whilst they were looking at me without saying a word, I told them as briefly as possible how I had got amongst them; how I had concealed myself under the mattress, &c. The husband and wife were astonished that I had not been stifled in my place of concealment; they pitied me, and with a cordiality not uncommon amongst people of their class, offered me refreshments which were necessary after so painful a morning.
It may be supposed that I was on thorns during the progress of the whole affair; I perspired copiously; at any other moment I should have been amused; but when I reflected on the inevitable results of a discovery, none less than myself could appreciate the burlesque of my situation. Supposing myself lost, I would have expedited the fatal moment, it would have cut short my train of perplexities; a reflection on the mobility of circumstances determined me to wait the event; I knew from more than one hour of experience, that the best contrived schemes of man are disconcerted, and sometimes we triumph over the most desperate cases.
After the reception afforded me by the Fossé family, it was probable that I should have no reason to repent of having waited patiently for results. However, I was not yet fully assured: this family was not well off; and it might happen that the first impression of kindness and compassion which the most perverse persons sometimes evince, would give place to the hope of obtaining some reward by surrendering me to the police; and then supposing my hosts to be what is called 'staunch,' yet an indiscreet expression might betray me. Without being endowed with much penetration, Fossé guessed the secret of my uneasiness, which he succeeded in dissipating by protestations too sincere to be doubted.
He undertook to watch over my safety, and began by disclaiming any return for his kindness, and then informed me, that the police agents had fixed themselves in the house and the adjoining streets, and intended to pay a second visit to all the lodgers of the house. On these statements I judged that it was imperative on me to get away, for they would doubtlessly this time ransack all the apartments.
The Fossé family, like many other of the work-people of Paris, used to sup at a wine-shop in the vicinity, where they carried their provisions, and it was agreed that I should seize on that moment to go out with them. Till night I had time to form my plans, and was first occupied with thinking how I should obtain intelligence of Annette, when Fossé undertook this for me. It would have been the height of imprudence to have communicated directly with her, and he thus contrived it. He went into the Rue de Grammont, where he bought a pie, into which he introduced the note that follows:
"I am in safety. Be careful of yourself, and trust no one. Do not attend to promises from persons who have neither the intention nor the power of serving you. Confine yourself to these four words: 'I do not know.' Play the fool, which will be the best proof of your sense. I cannot meet you; but when you go out, always go through the Rue St Martin and the Boulevards. Mind, do not return; I will answer for all."
The pie, entrusted to a messenger of the Place Vendôme, and addressed to madame Vidocq, fell, as I had foreseen, into the hands of the agents, who allowed it to be delivered, after having read the dispatch; and thus I attained two ends at once, that of deceiving them, by persuading them that I was not in that quarter, and that of assuring Annette that I was out of danger. My expedient succeeded, and emboldened by my first success, I was more calm in making preparations for my retreat. Some money, which I had snatched by chance from my night-table, served to procure me pantaloons, stockings and shoes, a frock, and a blue cotton cap, intended to complete my disguise. When supper-hour came, I left the room with all the family, carrying on my head, as a precaution, a large dish of harrico mutton, the appetizing fumes of which sufficiently explained the intent of our excursion. My heart did not beat less anxiously when I met, face to face on the second floor, a police-officer, whom I did not at first perceive, as he was ensconced in a corner. "Put out your candle," cried he, abruptly to Fossé. "Why?" replied he, who had only taken a light that it might not awaken suspicion. "Go along, and ask no questions," said the fellow, blowing out the candle himself. I could have hugged him! In the passage we met several of his comrades, who, more polite than he, made way for us to pass. At length we got out, and the moment we turned the angle of the street, Fossé took the dish from me, and we parted. That I might not attract attention, I walked very slowly to the Rue des Fontaines; but when once there, I did not amuse myself, as the Germans say, in counting my buttons, but directed my steps towards the Boulevard of the Temple, and running rapidly, reached the Rue de Bondy, without thinking of asking where I was.
However, it was not enough to have escaped a first pursuit; for doubtless other searches more active would be instituted. It was necessary to mislead the police, whose numerous blood-hounds, according to custom, would leave all other business, and occupy themselves solely in hunting for me. At this critical juncture I resolved to make use of those persons for my safety whom I considered as my denouncers. These were the Chevaliers, whom I had seen on the previous evening, and who in conversation had dropped some of those words which make no impression at the time, but which we reflect upon afterwards. Convinced that I had no terms to keep henceforward with these wretched beings, I determined to avenge myself on them, whilst I compelled them to refund all that I could enforce from them. It was on a tacit understanding that I had obliged them; and they had violated the faith of treaties, even against their own interest; they had done wrong; and I intended to punish them for having mistaken their own interest.
The road is not far from the Boulevard to the Rue de l’Échiquier, and I fell like a bomb-shell on Chevalier's domicile, whose surprise at seeing me at liberty confirmed my suspicions. He pretended at first an excuse for going out; but, double-locking the door, and putting the key in my pocket, I seized on a knife lying on the table, and told my brother-in-law that if he uttered a cry it was all over with him and his family. This threat could not fail to produce the due effect: I was with people who knew me, and who feared the violence of my despair. The women were more dead than alive, and Chevalier, petrified and motionless as the stone-vessel on which he leant, asked me, with a faint voice what I wanted from him? "You shall know," answered I.
I began by asking for a complete suit of clothes, with which I had provided him the month previously, and he gave it to me: I made him also give me a shirt, boots and a hat; all of which having been purchased with my means, my demand was only for restitution. Chevalier did all this with a stern look, and I thought I read in his eyes the meditation of some project; it might be that he intended to let his neighbours know by some means the embarrassment into which my presence threw him, and prudence demanded that I should ensure a retreat in case of a nocturnal visit. A window, looking on a garden, was closed by two iron bars; I ordered Chevalier to take one of them out; and as, in spite of my directions, he was exceedingly awkward about it, I took the work in hand myself, without his perceiving that I had laid down the knife which had inspired him with so much fear. The operation ended, I again took up the weapon: "And now," said I to him and the terrified women, "you may go to bed." As for me, I was hardly inclined to sleep, and threw myself into a chair, where I passed a very agitated night. All the vicissitudes of my life passed in review before me, and I did not doubt that a curse hung over me: in vain did I fly from crime, crime came to seek me; and this fatality, against which I struggled with all the energy of my character, seemed to delight in overturning my plans of conduct, in incessantly placing me in contact with infamy and imperious necessity.
At break of day I roused Chevalier, and asked him what money he had, and on his replying that he only had a few pieces of money I desired him to take four silver knives and forks, which I had given him to take his permit of residence, and to follow me. I had no need of him, but it would have been dangerous to leave him at home, for he might have informed the police, and directed them on my route, before I had concerted my plans. Chevalier obeyed, and I was not very fearful of the women, as I took so precious a hostage with me; and as, besides, they did not precisely partake of his feelings. I contented myself on going out by double-locking the door, and we reached the Champs Élysées by the most deserted streets of the capital, even in day-time. It was four o'clock in the morning, and we met nobody. I carried the knives and forks, which I took good care not to trust to my companion, as I wanted to get off without inconvenience in case he should turn upon me or create a disturbance. Fortunately he was very quiet, for I had the terrible knife, and Chevalier, who never reasoned, felt persuaded that at the least motion he should make, I would stab him to the heart; and this salutary dread, which he felt the more deeply as it was not undeserved, kept him in check.
We walked for some time in the environs, and Chevalier, who did not foresee how this was to end, walked mechanically beside me, like one bewildered and idiotic. At eight o'clock I made him get into a coach and conducted him to the passage of the wood of Boulogne, where he pledged, in my presence, and under his own name, the four knives and forks, on which they lent him a hundred francs. I took the sum, and, satisfied with having so conveniently recovered in a lump what he had exorted from me in detail, I got into the coach with him once more, which I stopped at the Place de la Concorde. There I alighted, after having given him this piece of advice—"Mind and be more circumspect than ever; if I am arrested, whoever is the cause, look to yourself." I desired the coachman to drive on to Rue de l'Échiquier, No. 23; and to be sure that he took no other direction, I remained for a short time on the watch; and then jumping into a cabriolet, I went to a clothesman of the Croix-Rouge, who gave me the clothes of a workman in exchange for my own. In this new costume I walked towards the Esplanade des Invalides, to learn if it were possible to purchase a uniform of this etablishment. A wooden-legged man, whom I questioned, directed me to Rue St Dominique, where, at a broker's, I should find a complete outfit. This broker was, it appeared, a chattering fellow. "I am not inquisitive," said he—(that is the preamble to all impertinent enquiries)—"You have all your limbs; I presume the uniform is not for yourself."—"It is," said I; and as he testified astonishment, I added that I was going to act in a play.—"And in what piece?"—"In l'Amour Filial."
The bargain concluded, I immediately set out for Passy, where, at the house of a friend, I hastened to effect my metamorphose. In less than five minutes I was converted into the most maimed of invalids; my arm laid over the hollow of the breast, and kept close to my body by a girth and the waistband of my breeches, had entirely disappeared; some ribbons introduced into the upper part of one of the sleeves, the end of which was hung to a button in front, joined a stump admirably deceptive, and which made the disguise most efficient; a dye which I used to stain my hair and whiskers black, perfected my disguise, under which I was so sure of misleading the physiognomical knowledge of the observers in the quarter St Martin, that I ventured there that same evening. I learnt that the police not only still kept possession of my abode, but were making an inventory of the goods and furniture. By the number of officers whom I saw going and coming, it was easy to perceive that the search was prosecuted with a renewal of activity very extraordinary at this period, when the vigilant administration was not too zealous unless it were in cases of political arrests. Alarmed at such an appearance of investigation, any one but myself would have judged it prudent to leave Paris without delay, at least for a time. It would have been best perhaps to allow the storm to blow over; but I could not resolve on forsaking Annette in the midst of her troubles, caused by her attachment to me. At this time she must have suffered much; shut up in the depôt of the prefecture, she was placed in solitary confinement for twenty-five days, whence she was only taken to be threatened with being left to rot in St Lazarre, if she would not confess the place of my retreat. But with a dagger at her breast, Annette would not have betrayed me. It may be judged how deeply I was grieved to learn her wretched situation and yet be unable to deliver her. As soon as it depended on me, I hastened to aid her. A friend to whom I had lent a few hundred francs, having returned them to me, I begged him to retain a portion of the sum; and full of hope that the term of her detention would soon expire, since, after all, they had only to reproach her with having lived with a fugitive galley-slave, I prepared to quit Paris, determining, if she was not set at liberty before my departure, that I would let her know, by some means, where I had betaken myself.
I lodged in the Rue Tiquetonne, at the house of a currier, named Bouhin, who undertook, for a compensation, to get for himself a passport which he would give to me. We were exactly alike: he, like me, was fair, with blue eyes, coloured complexion, and, by a singular chance, had on his upper lip a slight cicatrice. He was however shorter than I was, and to increase his height so as to reach mine, he put two or three packs of cards in his shoes. Bouhin had recourse to this expedient; so that, although I could use the strange faculty I had of reducing my height four or five inches, at pleasure, the passport which he procured did not need that I should have recourse to this curtailment of my fair proportions. Provided with this, I was congratulating myself on a resemblance which ensured my liberty, when Bouhin (after I had been at his house eight days) confided to me a secret which made me tremble. He was a forger of false money, and, to give me a sample of his skill, coined in my presence eight five-franc pieces, which his wife passed the same day. It may be believed that the confidence of Bouhin alarmed me.
At first I argued that actually from one moment to another, his passport would become but a bad recommendation in the eyes of the gendarmes; for from the trade he carried on, Bouhin must sooner or later be the object of an arrest; besides, the money I had given him was but a rash adventure, and it must be confessed that I had but a small chance of advantage in personating such a character. This was not all; considering that this state of suspicion, which, in the opinion of the judge and of the public is always inseparable from the condition of a fugitive galley-slave, was it not likely that if Bouhin were apprehended as a coiner, I should be considered as his accomplice? Justice has committed many errors! Condemned once, though innocent, who would answer that I should not a second time be similarly sentenced? The crime which had been wrongfully imputed to me, inasmuch as it pronounced me a forger, was nominally the same species of crime as that which Bouhin had committed. I saw myself sinking beneath a weight of presumptive evidence and appearances, such as, perhaps, my counsel, ashamed of undertaking my defence, would conceive necessary to impel him to throw me on the pity of my judges. I heard my death-sentence pronounced. My fears redoubled when I learnt that Bouhin had an associate, a doctor, named Terrier, who frequently came to his house. This man had a most hanging look, and it seemed to me that on only looking at him, all the police-officers in the world would have suspected and watched him. Without knowing him, I should have thought that in following him it would be impossible not to attain the knowledge of some perpetrated or intended crime. In a word, he was a bird of ill omen to every place he entered; and persuaded that his visits would bring mischief to the house, I persuaded Bouhin to give up a business so hazardous as that he followed; but the most cogent reasons prevailed not with him; all I could obtain by dint of intreaty was, that to avoid giving rise to a search which would certainly betray me to the police, he would suspend the making and the passing of money as long as I should remain with him; but this promise did not prevent my discovering him two days afterwards hard at work. This time I thought it best to address his fellow-labourer, to whom I represented, in the most glaring colours, the dangers which he ran. "I see," answered the doctor, "that you are one of those cowardly fellows of whom there are so great a number. Suppose we are detected, what then? There are many others who make their exit at the Place de Grève, and we are not there yet; for fifteen years I have used these 'chamber gentlemen' as my bankers, and nobody has yet doubted me; it will do yet. And besides, my friend," he added in an ill-humoured tone, "do you meddle with your own affairs."
After the turn which this discussion took, I saw that it would be superfluous to continue it, and that I should do wisely to be on my guard, feeling still more the necessity of quitting Paris as speedily as possible. It was Tuesday, and I purposed starting on the following day; but having learnt that Annette would be set at liberty at the end of the week, I proposed deferring my departure until her release, when on Friday, about three o'clock in the morning, I heard a light knock at the street-door; the nature of the rap, the hour, and circumstance, all combined to make me think that they were coming to take me; and saying nothing to Bouhin, I went out on the staircase, and getting to the top, I got hold of the gutter, and climbing on the roof, hastened to conceal myself behind a stack of chimnies.
My presentiments had not deceived me, and in an instant the house was filled with police-agents, who searched everywhere. Surprised at not finding me, and doubtless informed by my clothes, left near my bed, that I had escaped in my shirt, which would not allow me to go far, they imagined that I would not have escaped by the usual way. For want of cavaliers to send in pursuit of me, they sent for some bricklayers, who went all over the roof, where I was found and seized, without the nature of the place allowing me to offer any resistance, which could only have been done at the risk of a most perilous leap. Except n few cuffs, which the agents betowed on me, my arrest offered nothing remarkable. Conducted to the prefecture, I was interrogated by M. Henry, who remembering perfectly the offer I had made him some months previously, promised to do all in his power to ease my situation; but still I was taken to the Force, and thence to Bicêtre, to await the departure of the next chain of galley-slaves.