Page:Memoirs of Vidocq, Volume 1.djvu/24

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MEMOIRS OF VIDOCQ.




CHAPTER I.


My birth—Precocious disposition—I become a journeyman baker—The first theft—The false key—The accusing fowls—The stolen plate—Prison—Maternal clemency—My father's eyes opened—The finishing stroke—Departure from Arras—I seek a ship—The ship broker—The danger of idleness—The trumpet calls—M. Comus, first physician in the world—The preceptor of general Jacquot—The rope dancers—I enter the company—Lessons of the Little Devil—The savage of the South Seas—Punch and the Theatre of Amusing Varieties—A scene of jealousy or the serjeant in the eye—I go into the service of a quack doctor—Return to my father's house—Acquaintance with an actor—Another chace—My departure in a regiment—The rash companion—Desertion—The raw Picardy soldier and the assignats—I go over to the enemy—A flogging—I return to my old standard—A domestic robbery, and the housekeeper of an old worthy—Two duels a day—I am wounded—My father a public functionary—I join the war-Change of regiment-Residence at Arras.

I was born at Arras; my continual disguises, the flexibility of my features, and a singular power of grimacing, having cast some doubt concerning my age, it will not be deemed superfluous to declare here, that I was brought into the world on the 23d of July 1775, in a house adjoining that in which Robespierre was born sixteen years before. It was night; the rain fell in torrents; the thunder growled; a relation, who combined the functions of midwife and fortune-teller, predicted that my career would be a stormy one. There were even then in the world some good people who believed in prognostications; now that the world