Corrientes (Argentina : Province). Cámara de apel Corrientes (Argentina : Province). Superior tribun.

Autobiography; a collection of the most instructive and amusing lives ever published online

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they said they had seen in the army.

Although, in fact, Herbaux*s execution could not

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have any direct influence over my situation, yet it
alanned me, and I was horror-struck at feeling that I
had ever been in contact with such brigands, destined
to the executioner's arm: ray 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 bu^ too plainly, that
the future was dependent 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. An-
nette perceived it,'^nd 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
now to make use of it, she gave me the most complete
accounts of her hmily and connections. Thus in-
structed, I set out on my journey, and traversed the
whole of Lower Burgundy. Almost everywhere I
was examined as to my passport, which, jf they had
compared it with my person, would have at once dis-
closed 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 Bicfetre,
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 tlMit it would not be
safe to pretend no acquaintance with him. lie was

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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 impress
sion on him, and I coloured the picture still higher,
until at lengthy after having listened with much, bul
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, whor, if he would not be denounced or
implicated in some evil deed, must be himself the
denouncer. Returned to the public-house, I tbeo
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 :—

" Sib,
" A person who does not wish to be known^ informs
you, that one of the authors of the robbery committed
at the coadi-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 w^ impossible to mistake him. The
moment of d^artA arrived, and I went on the quays.

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ts^ng a circuitous route, and from the window of a
publiG-honse where I stationed myself, I perceived
Faquay enter the packet-boat, and soon afterwards
the two gendarmes embarked, whom I recognised by
a certain air, which may be seen, but cannot be de-
scribed. At intervab 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 extra-
ordinary 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?" t
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 pass^ in my mind; but T think that if
* madame Gelat had observed me sho- would have seen
my countenance grow pale, and my whole frame

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tremble ^ith an involuntary shudder. Lieutenant
Thierry my neighbour ! He might recognise 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 nignt, and it was not until four o*clock in
the morning when the departure of the infernal pro-
cession was announced to me, that I breathed freely .

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 then)^
would infallibly betray me: my repose, my very ex-'
ist^nce 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,
ail aroused 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 con-
duct; 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 Pa-
quay, in whose arrest I had been instrumental ; and,
on reflection, it seemed that I had acted incon-
siderately in this circumstance; I felt a forewarning

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ff some impending evil, and the presentiment was
realized. Paquay, when conducted to Paris and then
broaght 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 gaoler all he knew concerning
me, and he reported it to the authorities; but my
reputation for probity was so well established in
Aozerre, where I remained for three months at a
time, thaty to avoid an unpleasant business, a magis-
trate, 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 mv 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 every-
body 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 dav after my departure, dis^ised
gendarmes had called at my warehouse, intendmg to
arrest me, and that not finding me, thev had said
that they did not mind, for they should discover me
at last.

They continued their search; and this derang^ all
my plans, for, masked under the name of Jacquelin,
I saw myself reduced to quit it, and once more re-
nounce tne 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 ap-
pearance would most probably excite suspicion. The
crisis was horridly critical. What could 1 do ? This
was my only thought, when chance introduced me to

VOL. 11. M

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ft 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 ^asy to lose oneself amid the
crowded population. Eight months elapsed, aad
nothing disturbed the tranouillity enjoy^ by my
mother, Annette, and myself. My trsule 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 ga^e 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

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 over-
whelming. I did not fail to express my pleasure at
Seeing them, adding, that I was not rich, and regret-
ting 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-Mame, 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

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MCMoiRs OP vieocQ. 123

remained tormented with the dread of their return.
Would they not consider me as a milch^ow, and make
the most of tlieir 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 1^ to be presumed, that» in conformity with the cus*
torn of tliese thieves, if I satisfied them, they would
introduce their friends to me, who would also draw
upon me, and I should only be on good terms with them
tUl my first refusal, and after that they would without
doubt serve me a villainous trick. With such blood-
bounds let loose upon me, it may be imagined that I
was but ill at ease 1 It must be allowed that my situa^
tion was an unpleasant one, but it was crowned with a
rencontre whicn made it still worse* ^
•, tt may or may not be remembered that my wife» after
her divorce, had married again, and I thought she was
in tbe department of the PaS'de-Calais, entirely occu-
pied IB being happy and making her new hwsband 80»
wben^ in the Rue du Petit-Carreau, I met her» (ace to
^cej and it was impossible to pass hgr* for she at
QHce recognised roe« I spoke to ner, without alluding
to the wrongs she had done me ; and as the dilapida-
tion of her dress evinced that she was not in very flou-
rishing 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
tke 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 ^dential
suggestions, and then approved of what I had done j
it appeared most proper that this female, in her dis-
tress, should rely on me for some assistance. Detained
in or far from Paris, I was anxious to relieve her mi-
lery. This should have been a consideration to deter-
mine her to preserve silence ; and I at least thought
80, We shall see whether or not I was deceived in
my expectation.

M 2

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The support of pny ex-wife was an expense to which
I reconcilra 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 TEchiquier, and on going there,
and at the bottom of a court, in a ground-floor room,
very clean, but meanly furnished, I saw again, ^jot
only my wife, but also her nieces and their father, the
terrorist ChevaKer,. 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 tnia period it seemed as if the whole world was
les^ed a»ast me ; I was compelled to draw my purse-
strings at cfrery moment, and for whom ? For creatures
who, lo^ingvon my liberality as compulsory, were
prepared to^ betray me as soon as I ceased to be a cer-
tain source of reliance. When I went home from my
wife*s, I had still another proof of the wretched-
ness affixed to the state of a fugitive galley-slave. An-
nette and my mother were in tears. During my ab-
sence, two drunken men had asked for me, and on
being told, that I was from home, they had broke forth
in oaths^ftd threats which left me no longer in doubt
of the [SRidy of their intentions. By the description
which Anisette gave me of these two individuals, I
easily recognised Blondy and his comrade Deluc. I
had no trouble «i 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

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paying my contributfon to these two scoundrels, I
txjuld not help letting them know how inconsiderately
they had behaved. *' Consider what a step you have
laken," 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,
att then I must be reduced to the lowest ebb' of mi-
sery." — •* Oh you can come and rob with us," answered
ihe two rascals.

I endeavoured to convince theni how much better
it was to owe an existence to honest toll, 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 career on which
they had entered.

•• Not so bad !*' cried Blondy, when I had finished
my lecture, " not so bad 1 But can you in the mean
time point out to us any apartment that we can ransack ?
We are, you see, like Harlequin, and have more need
of cash than advice ;** and they left me, laughing de-
ridingly at me. I called them back, to profess my at-
tachment 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 epeak to me privately. I totdff him into
my own room. " We are alone ?** said he to' me, look-
ing 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 ffold watches — Come, tip us the needful." — •* Four
hundred fraacs !" said I, alarmed at so abrupt a total.
M 3

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" I have not so much money." — *' Never mind. Gc
and sell the goods/'—" But if it should be known T*
" That's your affair ; I want the ready ; or if you like
it better, VW send you customers from the police of-
fice — ^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 denoundM,
dragged from the state into which I had installed my-
self, and led back to the Bagne. I counted out the
four hundred f^juMt.

/ .

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Another roVber— My wicker car — Arrest *of tiro gmltey-tlares^-*
Fearful discovery — St. Germaii msfhes to involve me in a rob-
bery — I offer to *erve the police — Horrid perplexities— They wi»h
l» take me whilnt in bed — My concealment — A. comic adventure —
Ditiguiites on disffaises — Chevalier has denounced mo— Annette at
the depot of the Prefecture — I prepare to leave Paris — ^Two
passers of false money — I am apprehended in my shirt — I am
conducted to the Bicetre*

I WAS a receiver of stolen goods ! a criminal, in spite
of myself I But yet I was one, for I bad 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 vilesl 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 indig-
nation ; I could have strangled him with all my heart,
and yet I still kept on terms with, him, still had a

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Mrelcome for him. Impetuous and violent as I was by
nature, it was astonishing how much patient endurance
I exer(!ised ; 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 wofds from Blondy
explained my whole history.— I was a thorough rogue*
Confidence then replaced astonishment ; and St. Ger^
main, 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 ^urs. Glad to get rid of these felkms on
subh 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 T
cried I, with a joy which I conld not repress ; but as-
suming all my coolness, I asked for the details, with
an afiectation of being greatly concerned. St. Germain
told me, in few words, that Blondy ftnd 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 rob-
bery ; and what confirmed my suspicions was, that, on

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proposing to send them some money, St. Germain told
me that they were not in want of any. On leaving
FaiiSy they had fifty francs amongst them ; and cer-
tainly with so small a sum, it would have been a diffi-
cult 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 the)
wished to conceal from me ; but I soon discovered tha
the business was of still more serious nature.

TWo days after St Grermain's return, I thought }
would go and look at my car; and remarked, at first
that th^ had altered its exterior appearance. On geti
ting inside, I saw on the lining of white and blue striped
ticken, red spots, recently washed out; and then open-
ing the seat, to take out the key, I found it filled with
blood, as if a carcass 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 &r 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. Grermain, to whom I spoke of the circumstances,
without adding that I had burnt my carriage, con-
fessed that the dead body of a waggoner, assassinated

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Online LibraryCorrientes (Argentina : Province). Cámara de apel Corrientes (Argentina : Province). Superior tribunAutobiography; a collection of the most instructive and amusing lives ever published → online text (page 11 of 22)