Deutsche Numismatische Gesellschaft.

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

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the affair, as I had intended. What was to be done?
St. Germain was a man of uncommon daring, eager for

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money, and always ready to purchase it either witii bis
own blood of that of others ; however, as yet it wae
but ten o'clock in the morning ; I hoped that, during
the long interval between that hour and midnight,
some opportunity would present itself of dexterously
stealing away and giving information to the police.
Meanwhile, I made not the slightest objection to the
proposition of St. Grermain, which was indeed the best
pledge we could separately have of the good faith ^L
the others. When he perceived that we were all agrsJiB
St. Germain, who, by his energy, his talents for plottin^^
and carrying his schemes into execution, was the real '
head of the conspiracy, expressed his satisfaction, and
added further — *• This unanimity is what I like ; and I
beg to say, that, for myself, I will leave nothing undone
to merit the continuance of so flattering a consent to
my wishes and opinions."

It was agreed that we should take a hackney coach|^
and proceed together to his house, situated in the Rue
St. Antoine. Arrived there,, ife ascended into his
chamber, where he was to keep us under lock and
key until the instant of departure. Confined between
four walls, in close converse with these robbers, I
knew'*not what saint to invoke, and what pretext to
invent, to effect my escape. St. Germain would have
blown out my brains at the hmsi suspicion ; and how
to act, or what was to be doire, I knew not. My only
plan was to resign myself to the event, be it what it
might ; and this determination taken, I affected to busy
myself with the preparatives for our crime, the very
sight of which redoubled my perplexity and horror.
Pistols were laid on the table, in order to have the
charges drawn* and to be properly reloaded. Whilst
they underwent a strict sciutiny,^St. Germain remarked
a pair which seemed to him no longer, able " to do the
state any service ;" he laid them aside — " Here," said
he, " these * toothless barkers' will never do ; whilst
the rest of you are loading and priming your batteries,
I will get these changed for others more likely to aid

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our purpose. As he was preparing to quit the room,
1 bade him remember that, according to our contract,
none of us could quit the place without being accom-
panied by a second. ** Right — quite right," replied he;
*' I like people not only to make, but to keep engage-
m^Qts ; so come with me/' — " But,'* said I, " these
otNr' two gentlemen?"— " Oh!*' laughed St. Ger-
in^ii, <' they shall be kept out of harm's way till our

iU^ ;" so saying, he very coolly double-locked the

^ ,upon them, and then taking me by the arm, led
|b a shop from which he generally supplied himself

iih what he required for his various expeditions.

7pen the present occasion he purchased some balls,
powder, flints, exchanged the old pistols for new ones,
and,, then declaring his business completed, returned
" with me to his house. On entering I felt a fresh thrill
of horror, from perceiving how earnestly and yet calmly
the wretch Boudin was occupied in sharpening* two
large dinner-knives on a hone; — the sight froze my
blood, and I turned away in disgust.

Meanwhile the time was passing away ; one o'clock
struck, and no expedient ot safety had yet presented
itself. 1 yawned and stretched, feigning weariness, and
going into an apartment adjoining the one in which we
had assembled, threw myself on a bed, as if in search
of repose ; after a few instants, I appeared still more
fidgetty with this indolence, and I could perceive that
the others were not less so than myself. " Suppose
we have a glass of something to cheer us," cried St.
Germain. ** An excellent idea !" I replied, almost
leaping for joy at the unexpected opening it seemed
likely to afford my scheme ; " a most capital thought —
and by way of helping it, if you can manage to send to
my house, you may have a glass of Burgundy, such as
cannot be met with every day.** All declared the
thought a most seasonable relief to the ennui which
was beginning to have hold of them, now that all
their work of preparation was at an end ; and St. Ger-
main without further delay despatched his porter to

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Aonette, who was requested to bring the promised
treat herself. It was agreed that nothing relative to our
plan should be uttered before her ; and whilst my three
companions were indulging in rough jokes upon the
unexpected pleasure thus offered them, I carelessly
resumed my place on the bed, and whilst there traced
with a pencil these few lines — " When you leave this
place, disguise yourself; and do not for an instant lose
sight of myself, St. Germain, or Boudin. Be careful
to avoid all observation ; and> above all, be sure to
pick up any thing I may let fall, and to convey it as
directed." Short as was this hurried instruction, it
was, I knew, sufficient for Annette, who had frequently
received similar directions, and I felt quite assured that
she would comprehend it in its fullest sense. It was
not long before she joined us, bringing with her the
basket of wine. Her appearance was the signal for
mirth and gaiety. She was complimented by all ; and
as for myself, under the semblance of thanking her for
her ready attendance with an embrace, I managed to
slip the billet into her hand: she understood me, took
leave of the company, and left me far happier Uian*I
had felt an hour before.

We made a hearty dinner, after which I suggested
the idea of going alone with St. Germain to reconuoitre
the scene of action, in order to be provided with the
means of guarding against any accident. As this
seemed merely the counsel of' a prudent man, it ex-
cited no suspicion ; the only difference in his opinion
and mine was, that I proposed taking a hackney-coach,
whilst he judged it better to walk. When we reached
the part he considered most favourable fot scaling, he
pointed it out to me ; and I took care tb ooserve it so
well, that I could easily describe it to another, without
fear of any mistake arising. This done, St. Germain
recollected that we had all better cover our faces with
black crape, and we proceeded towards the Palais
Royal, for the purpose of buying some ; and whibt he
was in a shop, examining the different sorts, I managed

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to scrawl hastily on paper every particular and direction
which might enable the police to interfere and prevent
the crime. St. Germain, whose vigilance never relaxed,
and v?ho had as much as possible kept his eye upon me
with calm scrutiny, conducted toe to a public-house,
where we refreshed ourselves with some beer : quitting
this place, we walked again homewards, without my
having been enabled to dispose of the billet I had writ-
ten ; when, just as we were re-entering his odious den
of crimes, my eye caught sight of Annette, who, dis-
guised in a manner that would have effectually deceived
every other but myself, was on the watch for our re-
turn. Convinced that she had recognised me, I ma-
naged to drop my paper as I crossed the threshold ,
and relieved, in a great measure, of many of my
former apprehensions, I committed myself to my fate.'
As the terrible hour for the fulfilment of our scheme
approached, I became a prey to a thousand tecrors.
Spite of the warning I had sent through Annette, the
police might be tardy in obeying its directions, and •
might perhaps arrive too late to prevent the consum-
mation of tne crime. Should I at once avow myself,
and, in my real character, arrest St. Germain and
his accomplices? Alas! what could I do against
three powerful men, rendered furious by revenge and
desperation? And besides, had I even succeeded ia
my attempt, who could say that I might be believed,
when I denied all participation with them, except such
as was to further the ends of justice. Instances rose to
my recollection, where, under similar circumstances,
the police had abandoned its agents, or, confounding
them with 4he guilty wretches with whom they had
mingled, refused to acknowledge their innocence.
I was in all the agony of such reflections, when St.
Germain roused me, by desiring I would accompany
Debenne, whose cabriolet was destined to receive the
expected treasure of money-bags, and was for that
purpose to be stationed at the corner of the street.
We went out together, and, as I looked around me, I

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again met the eye of my faithful Anuette, whose
glance satisfied me that all my commissions had been
attended to. Just then, Debenne inquired of me the
place qf rendezvous. I know not what good genius
suggested to me the idea of saving this unhappy crea-
ture. I had observed that he was not wicked at heart,
and that he seemed rather drawn towards the abyss of
guilt by want and bad advice, than by any natural in-
clination for crime. I hastily assigned to him a post,
away from the spot which had been agreed on ; and,
happy in having* saved him from the snare, rejoined
St. Germain and Boudin at the angle of the boulevard
St. Denis. It was now about half-past ten, and I gave
them to understand that the cabriolet would require
some time in getting ready ; that I had given orders to
Debenne, that he should take his station in the comer
of the Rue du Faubourg PoissonniSre, ready to hasten
to us at the slightest signal. I observed to them, that
the sight of a cabriolet too near to the place of our
labours might awaken suspicion ; and they agreed in
thinking my precautions wisely taken.

Eleven o'clock struck — we took a glass together in
the fauxbourg St. Denis, and then directed our steps
towards the banker's habitation. The tranquillity of
Boudin and his infamous associate, had something in it
almost fiend-like : they walked coolly along, each with
his pipe in his mouth, which was only removed to hum
over some loose song.

At last we arrived at the part of the garden wall it
had been determined to scale, by means of a large
post, which would serve as a ladder. St. Germain de-
manded my pistols ;— my heart began to b^t violently,
for I fully expected that, having by some ill chance
penetrated my real share in the affair, he meant 'that I
should answer for it with my life: resistance would
have been useless, and I put them into his hands ; but,
to my extreme relief, he merely opened the pan, changed
the priming, and returned them to me. After havin/ij
performed a similar operation on his own pistols and

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those of Boudin, he set the example of climbing the
post; Boudin followed; and both of them, without
interrupting their smoking, sprung into the garden : it
became my turn to follow them : trembling, I reached
the top of the wall ; all my former apprehensions
crowded back upon me. Had the police yet had time
to lay their ambuscade ? Might not St. Germain have
preceded them ? These and a thousand similar ques-
tions agitated my mind. My feelings were, however,
wrought up to so high a pitch, that, in the midst of
such a moment of cruel suspense, I determined on one
meswure, namely, to prevent the commission of the
crime, though I sunk in the unequal struggle. How-
ever, St. Grermain, seeing me sUU sitting astride on the
top of the wall, and becoming impatient at my delay,
cried out, " Come, come, down with you." Scarcely
had he said the words, than he was vigorously attacked
l^ a number of men. Boudin and himself offered a
desperate resistance. A brisk firing commenced — the
balls whistled — and, after a combat of some minutes,
the two assassins were seized, though not before seve-
ral of the police had been wounded. St. Germain and
his" companion were likewise much hurt. For myself,
as I todcjiocpart in the engagement, I was not likely
to come td any harm : nevertheless, that 1 might sus-
tain my part to the end, I fell on the field of battle, as
though I had been mortally wounded. The next in-
stant I was wrapped in a covering, and in this manner
.conveyed to a room where Boudin and St. Germain
were ; the latter appeared deeply touched at my death ;
he shed tears, ana it was necessary to employ force to
remove him from what he believed to be my corpse.

St. Germain was a man of about five feet eight inches
high, with strongly developed muscles, an enormous
head, and very small eyes, half closed, like those of an
ovfi ; his face, deeply marked with the small-pox, was
extremely plain; and yet, from the quickness and
vivacity of his expression, he was by many persons
considered pleasing. In describing his features, a
R 3

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186 M£510iaS OP VIDOCQ.

strong resemblance would suggest itself to those of
the hyena and wolf, particularly if the attention were
directed to his immensely wide jaws, furnished with
large projecting fangs ; his very organization partook
of the animal instinct common to beasts of prey ; he
was passionately fond of hunting ; the sight of blood
exhilarated him: his other passions were gaming,
women, and good eating and drinking. As he had
aequii:ed the air and manners of good society, he ex-
pressed himself when he ch6se with ease and fluency,
and was almost always fashionably and elegantly dressed ;
he might be styled a *• well-bred thief." When his
interest required it, no person could better assume the
pleasant mildness of an amiable man ; at other times
he was abrupt and brutal. His comrade Bond in was
diminutive in stature, scarcely reaching five feet two
inches ; thin, with a livid complexion ; his eyes dark
and piercing, and deeply sunk in his head. The habit
of wielding the carving-knife, and of cutting up meat,
had rendered him ferocious. He was bow-legged ; a
deformity I have observed amongst several systematic
assassins, as well as amongst many other individuals
distinguished by their crimes.

I cannot remember any event of my life which
afforded me more real satisfaction than the taking of
these two villains. I applauded myself for having
delivered society from two monsters, at the same time
that I esteemed myself fortunate in having saved
Debenne from the fate which would have befallen him,
had he been taken with them. However, the share
of self-satisfaction produced by the feeling of having
been instrumental in rescuing a fellow-creature from
destruction, was but a slight compensation for the
misery I experienced at being in a manner compelled
by the stem duties of the post I filled, 'either to '•end
a fresh succession of victims to ascend the scaffold, or
to mount it myself. The quality of " secret agent**
preserved, it is true, my liberty, and shielded me from
the dangers to which, as a fugitive galley-slave, I was

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fofmcrly exposed ; true, I was no longer suli^ted to
the many terrors which had once agitated me : but still
I was not pardoned ; and until that happy event took
place the liberty I enjoyed was but a precarious pos-
session, which the caprice of my employers could de-
prive me of at any moment. Again, I was not insen-
sible to the general odium attached to the department
I filled. Still, revolting as were its functions to my
own choice and mind, it was a necessary evil, and one
from which there was no escape. I therefore strove to
reconcile myself to it by arguments such as these : —
Was I not daily occupied in endeavouring to projnote
the welfare of society ? Was I not espousing the part
of the good and upright against the bad and vicious ?
And should I by >these steps draw down upon me the
contempt of mankind? I went about dragging guilt
from its hidden recesses, and unmaskint; its many
schemes of blood and murder ; and should I for this be
pointed out with the finger of scorn and hatred ? At-
tacking thieves, even on the very theatre of their crimes,
wresting from them the weapons with which they had
armed themselves, I boldly dared their vengeance ; and
did I for this merit to be despised ? My reason became
convinced; and my mind, satisfied with the upright
motives which guided me, regained its calmness and
self-command ; and thus armed, I felt that I had cou-
rage to dare the ingratitude and obloquy of an unjust
opinion respecting me and my occupation.

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I continue to freque«t places of bad resort— The inspectors betray me
— DiiMMTerj of a receiver of stolen foods — I arrest him— Stratagem
employed to convict him— He is ccmdemned.

Tee thieves, ifvho had experienced a temporary panic
at the many arrests which bad successively fallen,
with unexpected vengeance, on many of their party,
were not long in reappearing more numerous and
more audacious than ever. Amongst their number
weie several fugitive galley-slaves, who, having per-
fected in the Bagn6s a very dangerous sort of trade
and ready invention, had come to exercise it in Pads,
where they soon rendered themselves dreaded by all
parties. The police, exasperated at their boldness,
resolved upon putting an end to their career. I was
accordingly commanded to seek them out ; and further
orders were given to me, to arrange a plan of action
with the peace-officers, by which they might be at
hand whenever I deemed it likely, they could effect
the capture of any of these ruffians. It may be easily
guessed how difficult my task must be: nowever, I
lost no time in visiting every place of ill ^une, both in
the metropolis and its environs. In a very few days
I had gained the knowledge of all the dens of vice
where I might be likely to meet with these wretches.
The barrier de la Courtille, those of the Combat and
dfe Menilmontant, were the places of most favourite
resort; they were, in a manner, their head-quarters,
and woe to the agent who had shown himself there,
ne matter for what reason ; he would assuredly have
had his brains beaten out. The gendarmes were equally
in dread of this well-known and formidable association,
and carefully abstained from approaching it. For my
own part, I felt less timidity, and ventured without
hesitation into the midst of this herd of miserable



beings. I frequented their society ; I became to out-
ward semblance one ot themselves ; and soon gained
the advantage of being treated with so much confidence
as to be admitted to their nocturnal meetings, where
they openly discussed the crimes they had committed,
as well as those they meditated. I managed so
skilfully, that I easily drew from them the particulars
of their own abode, or that of the females with whom
they cohabited. I may go still further, and assert,
that so boundless was i^«e confidence with which I
inspired them, that haa any one of their members
dared to express the shadow of a suspicion respecting
me, he would have been punished on the spot In
this manner I obtained every requisite information;
so that, when I had once indicated any fit object for
arrest, his conviction and condemnation became mat-
ters of course. My researches ** intra muros," were
not less sticcessful. I frequented every tennis-court in
the environs of the Palais- Royal, the Hotel d'Angleterre,
the boulevards of the Temple ; the streets of la Van-
nerie, of la Mortellerie, of la Pianche Mibray ; the
market St. Jaques, Petite Chaise; the Hues de la
Juiverie, la Calandre, le Ch&telet ; the Place Maubert,
and in fact the whole city. Not a day passed in which
I did not effect some important discovery. Nothing
escaped me, either relating to crimes which had been
committed, or were in contemplation. I was in all
places ; I knew all that was passing or projecting ; and
never were the police idly or unprofitably employed
when set to work upon my suggestions.

M. Henry openly expressed his surprise as well as
«atisfaction at my zeal and success ; it was not so with
many of the peace-officers and sub-agents of police,
for, little accustomed to the hard duty and constant
watchfulness my plans induced, they openly murmured.
Some of them, in their anxiety to be rid of the irksome-
ness of my direction, were cowardly enough to betray
the secret of the disguise under favour of which I had
so skilfully manoeuvred. This imprudent act drew

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down upon thera severe reprimands, without having
the effect of making them more circumspect, or mort
devoted to the public good.

•It will be readily understood, that associating as I
constantly did with the vilest and most abandoned, I
must, as a matter of course, be repeatedly invited to
join in their acts of criminal violence ; this I never re-
fused at the moment of asking, but always formed some
plea for failing to attend the rendezvous for such pur-
pofes. These men of crimes were generally so absorbed
in their villainous machinations, that the most flimsy
excuse passed current with them : I may even say,
that frequently it did not require the trouble of an ex-
cuse to deceive them. Once arrested, they never
troubled themselves to find out by what means it had
been effected ; and had they even been more awake, my
measures were laid too My for them to have arrived
at the chance of suspecting me as the author of it :
indeed, I have often been accosted by some of the
gang to communicate the sorrowful tidings of the appre*
hension of one of their number, as well as to beg my
advice and assistance in endeavouring to procure his

Nothing is more easy, when once on good terms with
a thief, than to obtain a knowledge of the persons to
whom he disposes of his stolen property. I was en*
abled to discover several ; and the directions with which
I furnished the police were so unequivocal, that they
never failed to join their worthy companions in the
Bagnes. Perhaps the recital of the means I adopted
to rid Paris of one of these dangerous characters, may
not be uninteresting to the reader.

For many years the police had had its eye upon
him, but as yet had not been able to detect him in any
positive act of delinquency. His house had undergone
repeated searches without any effect resulting from the
most diligent inquiry; nothing of the most trifling
nature could be found to rise in evidence assunst htm.
Nevertheless, he was known to traffic with me thieves ;



and many of them who were far from suspecting my
connection with the police, pointed him out to me as a
staunch friend, and a man on whom they coul'd depend.
These assertions respecting him were not sufficient^o
effect his conviction ; it would be requisite to seize him
with ihe stolen articles in his possession. M. Henry
had tried every scheme to accomplish this ; but whether
from stupidity on the part of the agents employed by
him, or tne superior address of the receiver of stolen
property, all his plans h^ tailed. . He was desirous of
trying whether I should be more successful. I willingly
undertook the office, and arranged my plans in the
following manner. Posted near the house of the sus-
pected dealer in stcden property, I watched for his
going out, and following him when he had gone a few
steps down the street, addressed him by a different
name to his own. He assured me I was mistaken ; I

Srotested to the contrary : he insisted upon it I was
eceived, and I affected to be equally satisfied of his
identity, declaring my perfect recognition of his person
as that of a man who for some time had been sought
after by the police throughout Paris and its environs.
" You are grossly mistaken,'* repied he* warmly. " My
name is so and so, and I live in such a street.'* «* Come,
come, friend,*' said . I, " excuses are useless. I know
you too well to part with you so easily." — " This is too
much," cried he ; ** but at the next police station I shall
possibly be able to meet with those who can convince
you that I know my own name better than you seem
to do.*' This was exactly the point at which I wished
to arrive. " Agreed," said I ; and we bent our steps
towards the neighbouring guard-house. We entered,
and I requested be would show me His papers : he had
none about him. I then insisted upon his being searched,
and on his person were found three watches and twenty-
five double Napoleons, which I caused to be laid aside
liM he should be examined before a magistrate. These
things had been wrapped in a handkerchief, which t
OOtttrived to secure ; and after having disguised myself

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Online LibraryDeutsche Numismatische GesellschaftAutobiography; a collection of the most instructive and amusing lives ever published → online text (page 16 of 22)