The End of Evil Ways/Section 4
Monsieur Camusot, the son-in-law of one of the clerks of the cabinet, too well known for any account of his position and connection to be necessary here, was at this moment almost as much perplexed as Carlos Herrera in view of the examination he was to conduct. He had formerly been President of a Court of the Paris circuit; he had been raised from that position and called to be a judge in Paris—one of the most coveted posts in the magistracy—by the influence of the celebrated Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, whose husband, attached to the Dauphin's person, and Colonel of a cavalry regiment of the Guards, was as much in favor with the King as she was with MADAME. In return for a very small service which he had done the Duchess—an important matter to her—on occasion of a charge of forgery brought against the young Comte d'Esgrignon by a banker of Alencon (see La Cabinet des Antiques; Scenes de la vie de Province), he was promoted from being a provincial judge to be president of his Court, and from being president to being an examining judge in Paris.
For eighteen months now he had sat on the most important Bench in the kingdom; and had once, at the desire of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, had an opportunity of forwarding the ends of a lady not less influential than the Duchess, namely, the Marquise d'Espard, but he had failed. (See the Commission in Lunacy.)
Lucien, as was told at the beginning of the Scene, to be revenged on Madame d'Espard, who aimed at depriving her husband of his liberty of action, was able to put the true facts before the Public Prosecutor and the Comte de Serizy. These two important authorities being thus won over to the Marquis d'Espard's party, his wife had barely escaped the censure of the Bench by her husband's generous intervention.
On hearing, yesterday, of Lucien's arrest, the Marquise d'Espard had sent her brother-in-law, the Chevalier d'Espard, to see Madame Camusot. Madame Camusot had set off forthwith to call on the notorious Marquise. Just before dinner, on her return home, she had called her husband aside in the bedroom.
"If you can commit that little fop Lucien de Rubempre for trial, and secure his condemnation," said she in his ear, "you will be Councillor to the Supreme Court——"
"Madame d'Espard longs to see that poor young man guillotined. I shivered as I heard what a pretty woman's hatred can be!"
"Do not meddle in questions of the law," said Camusot.
"I! meddle!" said she. "If a third person could have heard us, he could not have guessed what we were talking about. The Marquise and I were as exquisitely hypocritical to each other as you are to me at this moment. She began by thanking me for your good offices in her suit, saying that she was grateful in spite of its having failed. She spoke of the terrible functions devolved on you by the law, 'It is fearful to have to send a man to the scaffold—but as to that man, it would be no more than justice,' and so forth. Then she lamented that such a handsome young fellow, brought to Paris by her cousin, Madame du Chatelet, should have turned out so badly. 'That,' said she, 'is what bad women like Coralie and Esther bring young men to when they are corrupt enough to share their disgraceful profits!' Next came some fine speeches about charity and religion! Madame du Chatelet had said that Lucien deserved a thousand deaths for having half killed his mother and his sister.
"Then she spoke of a vacancy in the Supreme Court—she knows the Keeper of the Seals. 'Your husband, madame, has a fine opportunity of distinguishing himself,' she said in conclusion—and that is all."
"We distinguish ourselves every day when we do our duty," said Camusot.
"You will go far if you are always the lawyer even to your wife," cried Madame Camusot. "Well, I used to think you a goose. Now I admire you."
The lawyer's lips wore one of those smiles which are as peculiar to them as dancers' smiles are to dancers.
"Madame, can I come in?" said the maid.
"What is it?" said her mistress.
"Madame, the head lady's-maid came from the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse while you were out, and she will be obliged if you would go at once to the Hotel de Cadignan."
"Keep dinner back," said the lawyer's wife, remembering that the driver of the hackney coach that had brought her home was waiting to be paid.
She put her bonnet on again, got into the coach, and in twenty minutes was at the Hotel de Cadignan. Madame Camusot was led up the private stairs, and sat alone for ten minutes in a boudoir adjoining the Duchess' bedroom. The Duchess presently appeared, splendidly dressed, for she was starting for Saint-Cloud in obedience to a Royal invitation.
"Between you and me, my dear, a few words are enough."
"Yes, Madame la Duchesse."
"Lucien de Rubempre is in custody, your husband is conducting the inquiry; I will answer for the poor boy's innocence; see that he is released within twenty-four hours.—This is not all. Some one will ask to-morrow to see Lucien in private in his cell; your husband may be present if he chooses, so long as he is not discovered. The King looks for high courage in his magistrates in the difficult position in which he will presently find himself; I will bring your husband forward, and recommend him as a man devoted to the King even at the risk of his head. Our friend Camusot will be made first a councillor, and then the President of Court somewhere or other.—Good-bye.—I am under orders, you will excuse me, I know?
"You will not only oblige the public prosecutor, who cannot give an opinion in this affair; you will save the life of a dying woman, Madame de Serizy. So you will not lack support.
"In short, you see, I put my trust in you, I need not say—you know——"
She laid a finger to her lips and disappeared.
"And I had not a chance of telling her that Madame d'Espard wants to see Lucien on the scaffold!" thought the judge's wife as she returned to her hackney cab.
She got home in such a state of anxiety that her husband, on seeing her, asked:
"What is the matter, Amelie?"
"We stand between two fires."
She told her husband of her interview with the Duchess, speaking in his ear for fear the maid should be listening at the door.
"Now, which of them has the most power?" she said in conclusion. "The Marquise was very near getting you into trouble in the silly business of the commission on her husband, and we owe everything to the Duchess.
"One made vague promises, while the other tells you you shall first be Councillor and then President.—Heaven forbid I should advise you; I will never meddle in matters of business; still, I am bound to repeat exactly what is said at Court and what goes on——"
"But, Amelie, you do not know what the Prefet of police sent me this morning, and by whom? By one of the most important agents of the superior police, the Bibi-Lupin of politics, who told me that the Government had a secret interest in this trial.—Now let us dine and go to the Varietes. We will talk all this over to-night in my private room, for I shall need your intelligence; that of a judge may not perhaps be enough——"
Nine magistrates out of ten would deny the influence of the wife over her husband in such cases; but though this may be a remarkable exception in society, it may be insisted on as true, even if improbable. The magistrate is like the priest, especially in Paris, where the best of the profession are to be found; he rarely speaks of his business in the Courts, excepting of settled cases. Not only do magistrates' wives affect to know nothing; they have enough sense of propriety to understand that it would damage their husbands if, when they are told some secret, they allowed their knowledge to be suspected.
Nevertheless, on some great occasions, when promotion depends on the decision taken, many a wife, like Amelie, has helped the lawyer in his study of a case. And, after all, these exceptions, which, of course, are easily denied, since they remain unknown, depend entirely on the way in which the struggle between two natures has worked out in home-life. Now, Madame Camusot controlled her husband completely.
When all in the house were asleep, the lawyer and his wife sat down to the desk, where the magistrate had already laid out the documents in the case.
"Here are the notes, forwarded to me, at my request, by the Prefet of police," said Camusot.
"The Abbe Carlos Herrera.
"This individual is undoubtedly the man named Jacques Collin,
known as Trompe-la-Mort, who was last arrested in 1819, in the
dwelling-house of a certain Madame Vauquer, who kept a common
boarding-house in the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve, where he lived
in concealment under the alias of Vautrin."
A marginal note in the Prefet's handwriting ran thus:
"Orders have been sent by telegraph to Bibi-Lupin, chief of the
Safety department, to return forthwith, to be confronted with the
prisoner, as he is personally acquainted with Jacques Collin, whom
he, in fact, arrested in 1819 with the connivance of a
"The boarders who then lived in the Maison Vauquer are still
living, and may be called to establish his identity.
"The self-styled Carlos Herrera is Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre's
intimate friend and adviser, and for three years past has
furnished him with considerable sums, evidently obtained by
"This partnership, if the identity of the Spaniard with Jacques
Collin can be proved, must involve the condemnation of Lucien de
"The sudden death of Peyrade, the police agent, is attributable to
poison administered at the instigation of Jacques Collin,
Rubempre, or their accomplices. The reason for this murder is the
fact that justice had for a long time been on the traces of these
And again, on the margin, the magistrate pointed to this note written by the Prefet himself:
"This is the fact to my personal knowledge; and I also know that
the Sieur Lucien de Rubempre has disgracefully tricked the Comte
de Serizy and the Public Prosecutor."
"What do you say to this, Amelie?"
"It is frightful!" repled his wife. "Go on."
"The transformation of the convict Jacques Collin into a Spanish priest is the result of some crime more clever than that by which Coignard made himself Comte de Sainte-Helene."
"Lucien de Rubempre.
"Lucien Chardon, son of an apothecary at Angouleme—his mother a
Demoiselle de Rubempre—bears the name of Rubempre in virtue of a
royal patent. This was granted by the request of Madame la
Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Monsieur le Comte de Serizy.
"This young man came to Paris in 182 . . . without any means of
subsistence, following Madame la Comtesse Sixte du Chatelet, then
Madame de Bargeton, a cousin of Madame d'Espard's.
"He was ungrateful to Madame de Bargeton, and cohabited with a
girl named Coralie, an actress at the Gymnase, now dead, who left
Monsieur Camusot, a silk mercer in the Rue des Bourdonnais, to
live with Rubempre.
"Ere long, having sunk into poverty through the insufficiency of
the money allowed him by this actress, he seriously compromised
his brother-in-law, a highly respected printer of Angouleme, by
giving forged bills, for which David Sechard was arrested, during
a short visit paid to Angouleme by Lucien. In consequence of this
affair Rubempre fled, but suddenly reappeared in Paris with the
Abbe Carlos Herrera.
"Though having no visible means of subsistence, the said Lucien de
Rubempre spent on an average three hundred thousand francs during
the three years of his second residence in Paris, and can only
have obtained the money from the self-styled Abbe Carlos Herrera
—but how did he come by it?
"He has recently laid out above a million francs in repurchasing
the Rubempre estates to fulfil the conditions on which he was to
be allowed to marry Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu. This
marriage has been broken off in consequence of inquiries made by
the Grandlieu family, the said Lucien having told them that he had
obtained the money from his brother-in-law and his sister; but the
information obtained, more especially by Monsieur Derville,
attorney-at-law, proves that not only were that worthy couple
ignorant of his having made this purchase, but that they believed
the said Lucien to be deeply in debt.
"Moreover, the property inherited by the Sechards consists of
houses; and the ready money, by their affidavit, amounted to about
two hundred thousand francs.
"Lucien was secretly cohabiting with Esther Gobseck; hence there
can be no doubt that all the lavish gifts of the Baron de
Nucingen, the girl's protector, were handed over to the said
"Lucien and his companion, the convict, have succeeded in keeping
their footing in the face of the world longer than Coignard did,
deriving their income from the prostitution of the said Esther,
formerly on the register of the town."
Though these notes are to a great extent a repetition of the story already told, it was necessary to reproduce them to show the part played by the police in Paris. As has already been seen from the note on Peyrade, the police has summaries, almost invariably correct, concerning every family or individual whose life is under suspicion, or whose actions are of a doubtful character. It knows every circumstance of their delinquencies. This universal register and account of consciences is as accurately kept as the register of the Bank of France and its accounts of fortunes. Just as the Bank notes the slightest delay in payment, gauges every credit, takes stock of every capitalist, and watches their proceedings, so does the police weigh and measure the honesty of each citizen. With it, as in a Court of Law, innocence has nothing to fear; it has no hold on anything but crime.
However high the rank of a family, it cannot evade this social providence.
And its discretion is equal to the extent of its power. This vast mass of written evidence compiled by the police—reports, notes, and summaries—an ocean of information, sleeps undisturbed, as deep and calm as the sea. Some accident occurs, some crime or misdemeanor becomes aggressive,—then the law refers to the police, and immediately, if any documents bear on the suspected criminal, the judge is informed. These records, an analysis of his antecedents, are merely side-lights, and unknown beyond the walls of the Palais de Justice. No legal use can be made of them; Justice is informed by them, and takes advantage of them; but that is all. These documents form, as it were, the inner lining of the tissue of crimes, their first cause, which is hardly ever made public. No jury would accept it; and the whole country would rise up in wrath if excerpts from those documents came out in the trial at the Assizes. In fact, it is the truth which is doomed to remain in the well, as it is everywhere and at all times. There is not a magistrate who, after twelve years' experience in Paris, is not fully aware that the Assize Court and the police authorities keep the secret of half these squalid atrocities, or who does not admit that half the crimes that are committed are never punished by the law.
If the public could know how reserved the employes of the police are—who do not forget—they would reverence these honest men as much as they do Cheverus. The police is supposed to be astute, Machiavellian; it is, in fact most benign. But it hears every passion in its paroxysms, it listens to every kind of treachery, and keeps notes of all. The police is terrible on one side only. What it does for justice it does no less for political interests; but in these it is as ruthless and as one-sided as the fires of the Inquisition.
"Put this aside," said the lawyer, replacing the notes in their cover; "this is a secret between the police and the law. The judge will estimate its value, but Monsieur and Madame Camusot must know nothing of it."
"As if I needed telling that!" said his wife.
"Lucien is guilty," he went on; "but of what?"
"A man who is the favorite of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, of the Comtesse de Serizy, and loved by Clotilde de Grandlieu, is not guilty," said Amelie. "The other must be answerable for everything."
"But Lucien is his accomplice," cried Camusot.
"Take my advice," said Amelie. "Restore this priest to the diplomatic career he so greatly adorns, exculpate this little wretch, and find some other criminal——"
"How you run on!" said the magistrate with a smile. "Women go to the point, plunging through the law as birds fly through the air, and find nothing to stop them."
"But," said Amelie, "whether he is a diplomate or a convict, the Abbe Carlos will find some one to get him out of the scrape."
"I am only a considering cap; you are the brain," said Camusot.
"Well, the sitting is closed; give your Melie a kiss; it is one o'clock."
And Madame Camusot went to bed, leaving her husband to arrange his papers and his ideas in preparation for the task of examining the two prisoners next morning.