Memoirs of Vidocq, Volume I/Chapter VI
The pewter keys—The quacks—Vidocq an hussar—He is retaken—The siege of the dungeon—Sentence—Condemnation.
I found at the Petit Hôtel the greater number of the prisoners who had been emancipated before my escape. Some of them had made but a very short absence, and were speedily apprehended, charged with fresh crimes, or fresh offences. Amongst them was Calandrin, of whom I have spoken about: enlarged on the 11th, he was retaken on the 13th, charged with burglary, and being an accomplice of the Chauffeurs, whose name alone inspired universal dread. On the strength of the reputation which my various escapes had procured for me, these men looked on me as one on whom they might rely. On my side, I could scarcely separate myself from them. Accused of capital offences, they had a powerful motive for being secret concerning our attempts, whilst the unfortunate "petty larceny rascal" might denounce us, in the dread of being accused of being privy to our designs. This is the logic of the prison. This escape, however, was not so very easy a matter as may be surmised, when I say that our dungeons, seven feet square, had walls six feet thick, strengthened with planking crossed and rivetted with iron; a window, two feet by one, closed with three iron gratings placed one after the other, and the door cased with wrought iron. With such precautions, a jailor might depend on the safe keeping of his charge, but yet we overcame it all.
I was in a cell on the second floor with Duhamel. For six francs, a prisoner, who was also a turnkey, procured us two files, a ripping chisel, and two turn-screws. We had pewter spoons, and our jailor was probably ignorant of the use which prisoners could make of them. I knew the dungeon key; it was the counterpart of all the others on the same story; and I cut a model of it from a large carrot; then I made a mould with crumb of bread and potatoes. We wanted fire, and we procured it by making a lamp with a piece of fat and the rags of a cotton cap. The key was at last made of pewter, but it was not yet perfect; and it was only after many trials and various alterations that it fitted at last. Thus masters of the doors, we were compelled to work a hole in the wall, near the barns of the town-hall. Sallambier, who was in the dungeons below, found a way to cut the hole, by working through the planking. All was ready for our escape, and it was fixed for the evening, when the jailor told me that my term of dungeon imprisonment had expired, and I should be placed again with the other prisoners.
A favour was never less welcome; I saw all my preparations useless, and I might wait for a long time for circumstances as favourable. I was however compelled to follow the jailor, whom I wished at the devil with his congratulations. This disappointment affected me so greatly that all the prisoners saw it. One of them having learnt my secret from me, made some very just observations on the danger I ran in escaping with such men as Sallambier and Duhamel, who would perhaps not be out of prison twenty-four hours without committing a murder. He even made me promise to let them go, and wait myself for some other opportunity. I followed his advice, and it was well that I did so; I even took the precaution of telling Duhamel and Sallambier that they were suspected, and that they had not a moment to spare in saving themselves. They followed my advice literally, and two hours afterwards they had joined a band of forty-seven Chauffeurs, of whom twenty-eight were executed the following month at Bruges.
The escape of Duhamel and Sallambier made a great noise in the prison, and throughout the city. They found some extraordinary circumstances belonging to it, but the jailor was the more astonished that I had not made one of the party. It was necessary to repair the breach they had made, and workmen came; and they stationed at the bottom of the staircase a guard with orders not to let any one pass. The thought came to me of deceiving the sentinel, and getting out by the breach which was to have aided my escape before.
Francine, who came every day to see me, brought me three ells of tri-coloured ribbon, which I had requested her to procure. With one piece I made a belt, and ornamenting my hat with the rest, I passed, muffled up, by the soldier: who, taking me for a municipal officer, presented his arms. I ascended the staircase quickly—reached the opening, which I found guarded by two centinels, one in the granary of the town-hall, and the other in the passage of the prison. I told the latter that it was impossible for a man to pass through this opening: he insisted on the contrary; and his comrade, as if plotting with me, said that I could get through with my clothes on. I said I would try: and creeping through the hole I got into the barn. Pretending that I had hurt myself in passing, I told my two men that as I was on that side I should go round by another way. "In this case," said he, who was in the granary, "wait whilst I open the door;" and putting the key in the lock, I jumped at two bounds down the stair-case of the town-hall and got into the street with my ribbon still on, and which would again have caused my arrest had not the day been drawing to a close.
I was scarcely out, when the jailor, who rarely lost sight of me said, "Where is Vidocq?" They told him that I was taking a turn in the yard; but when he went there to convince himself, he sought me every where in vain, calling loudly over all parts of the prison (an official search would not have been more successful), no prisoner had seen me go out. It was soon known that I was no longer in the prison; but how then could I have escaped? Of this no one knew anything—not even Francine, who most ingenuously declared that she knew nothing of how I had liberated myself, for she had brought me the ribbon without knowing the purpose for which I intended it. She was however confined; but this revealed nothing, the soldiers, who had allowed me to pass, taking good care not to implicate themselves.
Whilst they were thus punishing the pretended authors of my escape, I left the city and reached Courtrai, where the juggler Olivier and the quack Devoye enrolled me in their troop to play pantomime. I saw there many prisoners who had escaped, whose acting costume, which they always wore (because they had no other) served greatly to mystify the police. From Courtrai we returned to Ghent, whence we were soon to depart for the fair of Enghien. We were in this latter city for five days: and the receipt, of which I had a share, was very good; when one evening, as I was about to go on the stage, I was arrested by the police officers, to whom I had been betrayed by the Merry Andrew, out of malice at seeing me fill the chief characters. I was again taken back to Lille, where I learnt, to my great grief, that my poor Francine had been sentenced to six months' confinement for having aided my escape. The turnkey Baptiste—whose only crime was that of having taken me for a superior officer, and having allowed me in this capacity to quit St Peter's Tower—the unlucky Baptiste was also imprisoned for the same fault. The terrible charge against him was, that the prisoners (overjoyed at an opportunity of revenging themselves) declared that a hundred crowns had made him take a young man of nineteen for an old soldier on the shady side of fifty.
As for me, I was sent to the prison of the department of Douai, where I was treated as a dangerous man; that is to say, I was thrust into a dungeon with my hands and legs in fetters. I found there my townsman Desfosseux and a young man named Doyenette, condemned to chains for sixteen years for a burglary effected with his father, mother, and two brothers under fifteen years of age. They had been four months in the dungeon where I was put, lying on straw, eaten up with vermin, and living on bean-bread and water. I ordered my provisions, which were soon consumed; we then talked over our business, and my fellow prisoners told me that for the last fortnight they were making a hole under the pavement of the dungeon which would open at the level of the Scarpe which washed the prison walls. I at first regarded the enterprise as difficult, as it was necessary to pierce a wall five feet thick and yet avoid the observation of the jailor, whose frequent visits would not allow of our suffering a morsel of rubbish to be seen.
We eluded detection from this by throwing out of the window, which overlooked the Scarpe, every handful of rubbish that we got from our mine. Desfosseux had besides found means of ridding us of our fetters, and we worked with less fatigue and difficulty. One of us was always in the hole, which was already large enough to admit a man. We thought that we had at length terminated our labours and our captivity, when we discovered that the foundations, which we had imagined to be composed of common stone, were formed of masses of sand-stone of large size. This compelled us to enlarge our subterranean gallery, and for a week we worked at it unremittingly. To conceal the disappearance of that one of us who might be at work when the guard went round, we had filled a vest and shirt with straw and placed the figure in the posture of a sleeping man.
After fifty-five days and nights of unrelaxing toil, we at last so far completed our work that we had but one stone to remove and then should reach the river's banks. One night we determined on making an essay, and all appeared favourable to our design; the jailor had locked up earlier than usual, and a dense fog gave us a confident hope of avoiding the sentinel of the bridge. The shaken stone yielded to our efforts, and fell inside the aperture we had made; but the water followed it at the same time as if impelled by the sluice of a mill. We had calculated our distance incorrectly, and the hole being made some feet beneath the level of the river, we were soon deluged. At first we endeavoured to plunge through the opening; but the rapidity of the current precluded all attempts, and we were compelled to call for help, or remain immersed in water for the whole night. At our cries the jailor and turnkeys ran to our assistance, and were greatly astonished at finding themselves mid-leg deep in water. All was soon discovered and the mischief repaired, whilst we were shut up singly in dungeons in the same gallery.
This catastrophe filled me with very sad reflections, from which I was very soon aroused by the voice of Desfosseux, who told me, in slang terms, not to despair, but to take courage by his example. Desfosseux was certainly endowed with a strength of mind which nothing could depress: cast half naked on the straw in a dungeon, where he could scarcely lie at length, loaded with thirty pounds weight of fetters, he yet sang with great vociferation, and was only devising means of escape, that he might again do some evil deed; and opportunity was not long wanting.
In the same prison with us were confined the jailor of the Petit Hôtel of Lille, and the turnkey Baptiste, both accused of having aided my escape for a bribe. The day of their trial having arrived, the jailor was acquitted, but Baptiste's sentence was deferred, the tribunal having decreed a fresh process, in which I was to be heard. Poor Baptiste then came to me, begging me to tell the truth. At first I only gave him evasive answers; but Desfosseux having told me that the man might serve us, and that we must arrange terms with him, I promised to do what he wished: on which he made me vast professions of gratitude and offers of service. I took him at his word, and desired him to bring me a knife and two large nails, of which Desfosseux had told me that he had need, and in an hour I had them brought to me. On learning that I had procured them, Desfosseux made as many jumps as his fetters and his bounded space would allow: Doyenette equally gave himself up to the most excessive joy; and, as gaiety is in general catching, I felt myself too in a mirthful mood, without exactly knowing why.
When these transports had a little subsided, Desfosseux desired me to look at the roof of my dungeon and observe if there were not five stones whiter than the rest: and on my replying in the affirmative, he desired me to try the divisions with the point of my knife, which I did, and found that the cement had been replaced by crumb of bread, whitened with scraping: and Desfosseux told me that the prisoner, who had been there before me, had done this to remove the stones and save himself when he had been taken to another part of the prison. I thus transferred the knife to Desfosseux, who employed himself with activity in opening a passage to my dungeon, when we were served similarly to my predecessor. The jailor having got wind of something, changed our dungeons, and placed us all three in a dungeon next to the Scarpe, where we were chained together: so that the least movement of one of us was communicated to the others, a horrid punishment when prolonged, and which ends in a total deprivation of sleep. At the end of two days Desfosseux, seeing us dejected, resolved on using a means which he only resorted to on desperate occasions, and which he reserved as the preparatory steps towards escape.
Like many of the galley-slaves he carried secretly about him a case full of files with which he set to work, and in less than three hours our fetters fell off, we cast them through the grating into the river. The jailor coming to visit us the moment after to see if we were quiet, almost fell backwards at finding us freed from our irons, and asked us what we had done with them: to which we only replied with jokes. The inspector of the prison arriving, together with an attendant bailiff named Hurtrel, we were compelled to undergo a fresh examination: and Desfosseux, who was much irritated, said, "You ask for our fetters? Well, the worms have eaten them, and will eat as many as you may load us with."—The inspector then suspecting that we had the famous herb which cuts iron, which no botanist has ever yet discovered, ordered us to strip and be examined from head to foot, and then again loaded us with irons, which were again cut off the following night; for the precious case was not discovered. This time we reserved to ourselves the pleasure of throwing them on the ground in the presence of the inspector and Hurtrel the bailiff, who did not know what to think of it. The report spread through the city that there was in the prison a conjuror who took fetters off by only touching them. To cut short all these accounts, and particularly to avoid drawing the attention of the other prisoners to means of getting rid of their chains, the public accuser gave an order to shut us up and watch us with particular care—a recommendation which did not prevent us from quitting Douai sooner than they expected, or than we ourselves had the least idea of.
Twice a week we had leave to consult our counsel in the gallery, of which one door led to the court of justice, and I contrived to get an impression of the lock; Desfosseux made a key, and one fine day, whilst my counsel was engaged with another client, accused of two murders, we all three got out without being seen. Two other gates, which opposed us, were broken open in a twinkling, and the prison was soon left behind us. But yet I was uneasy: six francs was our whole stock, and we could not get far with such a sum; which I told my companions, who looked at each other with a sinister smile: and on my repeating my observation, they told me that on the next night they intended to enter a house in the neighbourhood with which they were well acquainted.
I had no intention of turning housebreaker, any more than when I was amongst the Bohemiens. I had profitted by the experience of Desfosseux in escaping, but never contemplated uniting myself with such a villain: and yet I was not desirous of entering into any explanation. By evening we had reached a village on the road to Cambrai; we had not eaten since our escape from prison, and were sorely pressed by hunger. It was absolutely necessary to get provisions in the village. The half-naked appearance of my companions might give rise to suspicion, and it was agreed that I should go for the food. I went to a public-house, where, after having taken some bread and brandy, I went out by a different door from that at which I had entered, directing my steps in the opposite direction to that in which I had left the two men whose company I was so greatly desirous of getting rid of. I walked all night, and only stopped at break of day to sleep a few hours on a hay-stack.
Four days afterwards I reached me that they did not enlist; and the lieutenant, to whom I afterwards applied, gave me the same reply, but touched by the embarrassment of my situation, he agreed to keep me to clean the extra horses which he was going to procure at Paris. A cap of a police officer and an old cloak which was given to me, enabled me to clear the barrier unquestioned, and I went to the military school with the detachment, which I afterwards accompanied to the depôt, at Guise. On arriving in this city I was presented to the colonel, who, although suspecting me to be a deserter, engaged me under the name of Lannoy, which I assumed without being able to justify by any credentials. Concealed by my new uniform, and mingling with the rank of a numerous regiment, I thought myself secure, and begun to think of making my way as a soldier, when an unfortunate accident again befel me., on my way to Paris, where I trusted to find some means of existence until my mother could send me some succour. At Louvres, meeting a regiment of black hussars, I asked the quarter-master if I could enter, but he told
On entering the barrack one morning I met a gendarme who had left Douai for Guise. He had so frequently seen me, that he knew me at first sight and called to me. We were in the midst of the street, and thoughts of escape were useless, I therefore went up to him and boldly feigned to be glad to see him. He replied to me, but with an air that seemed to augur me no good. Whilst thus together, a hussar of my squadron, seeing me with the gendarme, approached, and said to me, "Well, Lannoy, what are you doing with the round hats?" "Lannoy," said the gendarme with astonishment. Yes, it is a nom de guerre." "Oh, we will see about that," said he, seizing my collar. I was compelled to follow him to prison, and my identity being confirmed, in opposition to my statements at the regiment, I was by a cursed chance again sent to Douai.
This sentence completely overpowered me, and the intelligence that reached me at Douai was not calculated to set me at rest. I heard that Grouard, Herbaux, Stofflet, and Boitel, had decided by lot, that one of them should confess the execution of the forgery, but as this forgery could only be the work of one person, they determined on accusing me, thus punishing me for what I had said of them at my last examination; and I learnt besides that the prisoner who could have corroborated my statement, was dead. If anything could console me, it was that I had escaped in time from Desfosseux and Doyennette, who had been taken four days after our escape with their booty about them, in a mercer's shop in Ponte-a-Marcq. I soon saw them, and as they were astonished at my abrupt departure, I told them that the arrival of a gendarme at the public-house where I was purchasing provisions, had compelled me to fly with speed. Again united, we formed new plans of escape, which the approach of our trials rendered of great importance to us.
One evening a convoy of prisoners arrived, four of whom, ironed, were placed with us. They were the brothers Duhesme, rich farmers of Bailleul, where they had enjoyed the best reputation, until an unexpected accident unfolded their real characters. These four persons, men of powerful strength, were at the head of a band of Chauffeurs, who had struck terror into the vicinity, without any person being able to identify them. The prattling of a little girl of one of the Duhesme's at last exposed the affair. This child, chatting at a neighbour's house, said that she had been very much frightened the night before. "And with what?" said the curious neighbour. "Oh, papa came home again with the black men," "The black men?" "Yes, the men who go out with papa every night and come home in the day time and count out money; my mother lights the candle, and my aunt Genevieve also, because my uncles are amongst the black men. I asked my mother one day what it was all about, and she said. Be discreet my child, your father has a black hen who finds him in money, but it is only at night, and that he should not scare it, he makes his face as black as her feathers. Be silent, for if you tell anybody what you have seen, the black hen will never come again." We may easily divine that it was not to visit the mysterious hen that the Duhesmes blackened their faces with smoke. The neighbour, who guessed as much, communicated her suspicion to her husband, who, in his turn, questioned the little girl, and convinced that the favourites of the black hen were Chauffeurs, he made a deposition, and on measures being taken, the band was apprehended, all disguised, as they were about to sally out on an expedition.
The youngest Duhesme had, in the sole of his shoe, a knife-blade, which he had contrived to conceal on the road from Bailleul to Douai. Being told that I knew the way of the prison, he communicated this to me, asking me if it were not possible to effect an escape with its assistance. I was reflecting about it, when a justice of the peace, attended by gendarmes, came to make a strict search throughout our room, and about our persons. No one amongst us knowing the reason of this, I thought it prudent to hide in my mouth a small file which I had always about me, but one of the gendarmes having watched me, cried "He is going to swallow it!" "Swallow what?" Everybody looked, and we then learnt that they wanted to find the seal which had served to stamp the forged order for Boitel's liberation. Suspected, as we have just learnt, of having got it, I was transferred to the prison of the Town Hall, and thrust in a dungeon so chained that my right hand was confined to my left leg, and my left hand to my right leg. The dungeon was moreover so damp, that in twenty minutes the straw which they had thrown me was as wet as if it had been dipped in water.
I remained eight days in this frightful state, and when they found that it was impossible I could have got rid of the seal in the way suspected, I was ordered to the usual prison. On learning this intelligence, I pretended, as is often done under such circumstances, to be exceedingly weak and scarcely able to bear the light of day. The unwholesome state of the dungeon made this very probable, and the gendarmes fell completely into the snare and carried their complaisance so far as to cover my eyes with a handkerchief, and then deposited me in a hackney-coach. On the road I took off the handkerchief and opening the door, with a dexterity never yet surpassed, and jumped out into the street, the gendarmes sought to follow, but impeded by their sabres and jack boots, they had scarcely got out of the carriage when I was at a considerable distance. I quitted the city instantly, and resolved on embarking, I reached Dunkirk with some money which my mother had transmitted to me. I there made friends with the supercargo of a Swedish brig, who promised to get me a berth on board.
Whilst waiting for orders to sail, my new friend proposed that I should accompany him to Saint Omer, where he was going to get a large quantity of biscuit. I did not fear recognition in my sailor's clothes, and agreed, as it was impossible to refuse a man to whom I was under such great obligations. I went with him, but my turbulent character would not allow me to remain quiet in a pot-house row, and I was arrested as a riotous fellow and taken to the watch-house. There they asked for my papers, of which I had none, and my answers inducing a belief that I might be an escaped prisoner, they sent me the next day to the central prison of Douai, without allowing me to bid adieu to the supercargo, who was doubtlessly much surprised at this occurrence. At Douai they put me once more in the prison of the Town Hall, where at first the jailor evinced much kindness towards me, which did not however last. At the termination of a quarrel with the turnkeys, in which I took too active a part, I was thrown into a dark cell under the tower. There were five of us, one of whom, a deserter sentenced to death, was talking of nothing but suicide, until I desired him not to think of that, but rather devise means of escape from this dismal hole, where the rats, which ran about like rabbits in a corn field, eat our bread and bit our faces whilst we slept. With a bayonet, stolen from one of the soldiers of the national guard who did duty at the prison, we commenced working a hole in the wall, in a direction in which we heard a cobbler hammering his leather. In ten days, and as many nights, we penetrated six feet in depth and seemed to get nearer the cobbler's hammer. On the eleventh day, in the morning, on drawing out a brick, I saw daylight from a window which looked into the street, and gave light to a place where the jailor kept some rabbits.
This discovery inspired us with fresh courage, and the evening visit being concluded, we took from the hole all the loosened bricks, of which there were two courses, and placed them behind the dungeon door, which opened inwards, so as to barricade it, and then set to work with so much industry, that daylight surprised us, when the hole, six feet large at the openings was only two feet at the end. The jailor came with our allowances, and finding some resistance, opened the wicket, and saw the high pile of bricks, to his great astonishment. He desired us to open the door, and on our refusal the guard came, then the commissary of the prison, then the public accuser, then the municipal officers clothed with the tri-colored scarves. We held a parley, and during this time one of us continued working at the hole, which the darkness did not disclose. We might perhaps escape before the door was forced, when an unexpected event deprived us of our last hope.
The jailor's wife, in going to feed the rabbits, had observed rubbish scattered on the floor. In a prison, nothing is indifferent, and she carefully examined the wall, and although the bricks had been so replaced as to conceal the hole, she yet saw that they had been separated; and on calling for the guard, with a blow from the butt end of a musket, our bricks were knocked out and we were discovered. On both sides they called to us to clear the door-way, or they would fire on us. Entrenched behind the materials, we answered that the first who entered should be knocked on the head with bricks and irons. So much determination alarmed the authorities, and they left us for a few hours to calm ourselves. At noon, a municipal officer appeared at the wicket, which as well as the hole had been sedulously guarded, and offered us an amnesty, which we accepted, but scarcely had we removed our chevaux-de-frise, when they attacked us with the butt end of muskets, flat side of sabres, and bunches of keys, even the jailor's mastiff joined the party: he jumped at me and bit me most severely all over. They then led us into the court yard, where a body of fifteen men held us, lying on our faces, whilst they rivetted our fetters. This job done, they cast me into a dungeon yet more horrible than that I had left, and it was not till the next day that the surgeon Dutilleul, (now keeper at the hospital of St Maudé) came to dress the bites and bruises which covered me.
I had scarcely recovered from this when the day of trial came, which my repeated escapes and those of Grouard, who fled just as I was retaken, had deferred for eight months. The trial began, and I saw that I was lost; my companions accused me with an animosity, explained by my retarded confessions, which were useless to myself, and had not at all injured them. Boitel declared that I had asked him how much I would give to get out of prison. Herbaux confessed that he had forged the order, but not added the signatures, and said besides that I had persuaded him to forge it, and then taken it from him without his thinking it of the least importance. The jury thought that nothing indicated that I had materially aided the crime; all the charge against me was confined to allegations without proof, that I had furnished the seal. However, Boitel, who remembered having begged for the forged order; Stofflet, who had brought it to the jailor; Grouard, who had at least assisted at the whole operation, were acquitted; whilst Herbaux and I were condemned to eight years' imprisonment. This was the termination of the sentence, which I subjoin accurately, in reply to the tales which malevolence and stupidity have circulated. Some say that I was sentenced to death for numerous murders; others state that I had long been chief of a band which robbed the diligences; the most moderate state that I was condemned to perpetual labour at the gallies for robbery and housebreaking; and it has been asserted that I (at a later period) incited wretches to crime that I might show my vigilance in pouncing upon them; as if there were not a sufficient number of the really guilty. Certainly false comrades, as are everywhere found, even amongst robbers, sometimes instructed me in the plans of their accomplices: certainly to confirm the intent whilst we prevented the crime, it was sometimes necessary to allow of a partial commission of the deed, for experienced rogues are never caught but in the very act: and I ask, is there anything in this which has the appearance of an inducement to do ill. This imputation emanated from the police, amongst whom I have some enemies; but the imputation fails before the publicity of judicial facts, which would not have failed in revealing the infamies with which I am charged; and it also fails before the operations of the brigade of safety, which I directed. It is not when proof is given that we have recourse to deception, and the confidence of the clever men who have preceded M. Delavau, in the office of chief magistrate, will acquit me of such wretched expedients. "He is a lucky fellow," said, one day, the police officers who had failed in an enterprise in which I succeeded, to M. Angles. "Well," said he, turning his back on them, "Do you be lucky fellows too."
Parricide is the only crime of which I have not been charged, and yet I declare that I never was sentenced to, nor underwent, but the sentence which I here subjoin. My pardon will prove this; and when I assert that I never aided in this miserable forgery, I should be believed, for it was at last but a prison joke, which, if proved, would at present only subject the offender to a sentence of corporal punishment. But it was not the suspected accomplice in a foolish forgery that was to be punished; it was the disorderly, rebellious and impudent prisoner, the chief of so many plans of escape, of whom an example must be made, and I wad sacrificed.
"In the name of the French Republic, one and indivisible,
"It appears, by the criminal tribunal of the department of the, that the act of accusation made the twenty-eighth , in the 5th year, against certain men; namely, Sebastien Boitel, aged about forty, a labourer, living at Annoulin; César Herbaux, aged twenty, ci-devant serjeant-major in the chasseurs of Vandamme, living at Lille; Jean François Grouard, aged nineteen years and a half, second conductor of the military transports, living at Lille; Eugène Stofflet, aged twenty-three years, a broker, living at Lille; and François Vidocq, a native of Arras, aged twenty-two years, living at Lille; charged with forgery of a public and authentic document, by the director of the jury of the division of Cambrai, in manner following:
"The undersigned, judge of the civil tribunal of the department of the north, exercising the functions of director of the jury of the division of Cambrai, for formal indictments, states, that by virtue of a judgment given the seventh Fructidor last, by the criminal tribunal of the department of the north, superseding and annulling the acts of accusation, drawn up the twentieth and twenty-sixth of last Germinal, by the director of the jury of the division of Lille, charged the herein-named César Herbaux, François Vidocq, Sebastien Boitel, Eugène Stofflet, and Brice Coquelle, prisoners now present, and André Bordereau, prisoner, absent, with the crime, of forging a public and authentic document, to procure the escape of the said Sebastien Boitel, from the house of confinement, called St Peter's Tower, at Lille, where he was confined; and particularly the said Brice Coquelle, with having, by means of this forgery, allowed the escape of the prisoner entrusted to his care, as jailor of the said house of confinement. All the charges, together with the necessary papers, would have been sent to the undersigned to be submitted to a new indictment, but on the examination of the said papers it was discovered that the said Jean François Grouard, detained in the house of confinement, called St Peter's Tower, implicated in the charge, had been omitted by the director of the beforementioned jury, whereupon, on the orders of the commissioner of the executive power, and by virtue of an order of the twenty-fourth Fructidor, a decree was issued against the said Grouard, and thereupon, after having heard a decree of sentence, as being concerned in the said forging; that no plaintiff appearing in the two days of the remand of the accused to the house of confinement in this division, the undersigned proceeded with the examination of the papers relative to the causes of the detention and arrest of all the accused. That having corroborated the charges of the crimes of which they were respectively accused, it was found that the offences were of a nature to deserve severe and notorious punishment, and consequently, having consulted the commissioner of the executive power, he has this day passed a decree, by which he has ordered all the said defendants before a special jury of accusation, and by virtue of the decree, the undersigned has drawn up the present act of accusation to be, after the formalities required by law, presented to the said jury:
"The undersigned declares, that m consequence, there resulted from the examination of the papers, and particularly the indictment drawn up by the clerk of the tribunal of peace of the fourth section of the commune of Lille, the nineteenth of Nivose last, and the ninth and twenty-fourth Prairial following, by the justice of the peace for the south, of the commune of Douai (which indictment is hereunto annexed.)
"That the said Sebastian Boitel, a prisoner in the house of confinement, called St Peter's Tower, at Lille, had been set at liberty by virtue of a forged order from the committee of legislation, and the tribunal of Cassation, dated at Paris, the twentieth Brumaire, in the fourth year of the republic, signed Camot, Lesage-Cenault, and Le Coindre, at the back of which was the seal of the representative of the people Talot, addressed to the said Brice Coquelle; that this order and seal, which the latter used for his own purpose, were not those of the committee of legislation and the said representative Talot; and thence it is proved that this order and seal are a forgery of a public and authentic document, and that the forgery was evident on the slightest inspection, inasmuch as it was intituled 'Order of the Committee of Legislation, Tribunal of Cassation;' a ridiculous title, confounding, in one and the same authority, two distinct authorities.
"That the ninth Prairial last, there was found in one of the dungeons of the house of confinement at Douai, a brass seal without a top, hid at the foot of a bed; that the said Vidocq had slept there previously; that the seal is the same as that which was found attached to the forged order, and presents a precisely similar impression; that, after the visit of the said judge of the south of Douai, made on the day before, from the dungeon in which the said Vidocq then was, they heard, on turning over the straw bed, something fell, sounding like brass or silver; that Vidocq threw himself on it, and managed to withdraw what had fallen, and to substitute in its place a piece of a file which he produced; that he had been seen previously with the seal by the said Herbaux and Stofflet, to whom he had confessed having been lieutenant of the battalion of which the seal bore the name.
"That the said Herbaux, François Vidocq, Sebastien Boitel, Eugène Stofflet, Brice Coquelle, André Bordereau, and Jean François Grouard, are charged with being the authors and contrivers of the said forgery, and having thereby effected the escape of the said Sebastien Boitel, from the house of confinement where he had been confined, by virtue of a sentence of condemnation to imprisonment.
"That the said Brice Coquelle is, besides, charged with having, by means of thus false order, allowed to escape from the said house of confinement the said Sebastien Boitel, committed to his custody, as jailor of the said prison; that the said Brice Coquelle was convicted before the jury at Lille, of having set at liberty the said Sebastien Boitel, the third Frimaire last, by virtue of the forged order.
"That this paper was conveyed to him by Stofflet, who carried it to him, and who was recognised before the judge as having been the bearer of it; that the said Stofflet had been at the prison five or six times in the space of ten days, and always enquired for Herbaux, with whom he remained for two or three hours; that Herbaux and Boitel were together in the same prison, and that the said Stofflet spoke equally to one as to the other; that the pretended order was addressed to him, and that he could not suspect the forgery, not knowing the signature; that the said Stofflet confessed that he was suspected of having carried a letter to St Peter's Tower, but that it was a forgery; that he had been many times at the house of confinement to speak to the said Herbaux, but had never taken any letters to him, and that Brice Coquelle had asserted falsely in saying that he had recognized him before the judge, as having brought him the forged order, by virtue of which he had set Sebastien Boitel at liberty.
"That François Vidocq had declared that he only knew Boitel in prison; that he knew he had left by virtue of an order brought to Coquelle, who was drinking with the brothers of Coquelle and Prevôt, another prisoner, that he had been to sup with them at the cabaret of Dordreck, and that Coquelle and Prévôt had not returned till midnight; that he declared to the judge at Douai, that the seal found at the foot of the bed did not come from him; that he had not served in the battalion of which the seal bore the name, and did not know whether this battalion had been incorporated into one of those in which he had served; that if he made any resistance at the visit to his dungeon, it was in consequence of the piece of file which he had, fearing that it might create a suspicion that he would use it to loosen his fitters.
"That the said Boitel had stated that he had been sentenced to St Peter's Tower in consequence of a sentence to six years' imprisonment; that he well remembered that one day Herbaux and Vidocq had asked him how much he would give to be set at liberty; that he promised them twelve louis, and gave them seven, promising the remainder when he was at home; that he went out of prison with his two brothers and Brice Coquelle; that he had been with them to the Dordreck, to drink some wine, until ten o'clock in the evening: that he well knew that he had got out of prison through a false order, forged by Vidocq and Herbaux, but that he did not know, by whom it had been brought.
"That the said Grouard had declared, in presence of the undersigned, that he knew of the liberation of the said Boitel, by virtue of a superior order; that after his going away he had seen the said order; that he had suspected it to be a forgery, and thought he recognized the writing of Herbaux; and that as for himself, he did not at all assist, either in the sending away Boitel or in the fabrication of the forgery.
"That the said Herbaux declared to the undersigned, that being with Vidocq and the other prisoners, they were conversing about Boitel; that the said Vidocq defied him to draw up an order by which the liberation of Boitel could be effected; that he accepted the challenge, and took the first paper that came to hand and made the order in question, without putting any signature to it; that he left it on the table; that Vidocq obtained it, and that it is the same order through which Boitel's escape was effected.
"That as to André Bordereau, not apprehended, it appears that he must have known of the forgery, because the day Boitel got out of prision he went to deliver a letter to Stofflet from Herbaux, and the day after Bortel's escape he visited him at Annoulin, whither Boitel had fled.
"It results from all these details, attested by the said documents and indictments, that a forgery of a public and authentic paper has been committed; and that by virtue of this forgery the said Sebastien Boitel escaped from the house of confinement called St Peter's Tower, at Lille, where he was confined under custody of the jailor; that this escape took place the third Frimare last; a double crime, on which, according to the penal code, the jury will have to decide, if there be any accusation against the said Boitel, Stofflet, Vidocq, Coquelle, Grouard, Herbaux, and Bordereau, by reason of the offences committed, mentioned in this indictment.
"Given at Cambrai, the twenty-eighth Vendemiaire, in the fifth of the Republic, one and indivisible."
"The declaration of the jury of the criminal court of the division of Cambrai from the sixth Brumaire to the fifteenth, written below the indictment, and stating that there is a criminal charge made out as mentioned in the said indictment.
"The order of seizure, made by the director of the jury of the said division the same day, against the said Sebastien Boitel, César Herbaux, Eugène Stofflet, François Grouard, and François Vidocq.
"The procès-verbal of the return of these persons to the court of justice of the department, the twenty-first of last Brumaire.
"And the declaration of the special jury of judgment, the same date, stating:—
"1st, That the forgery mentioned by the indictment is made out.
"2d, That César Herbaux, accused, is convicted of having committed this forgery.
"3d, That, he is convicted of having committed it designedly, and with an intent to do wrong.
"4th, That François Vidocq is convicted of having committed this forgery.
"5th, That he is convicted of having committed it designedly, and with an intent to do wrong.
"6th, That it is proved that the said forgery has been committed on a public and authentic paper.
"7th, That Sebastien Boitel, accused, is not convicted of having by gifts and presents incited the guilty person or persons to commit the said forgery.
"8th, That Eugène Stofflet is not convicted of having aided and assisted the guilty person or persons, either with the means which prepared, or the facilities which aided the execution of the said forgery, or in the act itself which consummated the deed.
"9th, That Jean François Grouard is not convicted of having aided and assisted the guilty person or persons, either with the means which prepared, or the facilities which aided the execution of the said forgery, or in the act itself which consummated the deed.
"In consequence of the said declaration, the president pronounced, in conformity with the four hundred and twenty-fourth article of the law, from the third of Brumaire to the fourth, code of crimes and punishment, that the said Sebastien Boitel, Eugène Stofflet, and Jean François Grouard, are and remain acquitted of the charge laid to them; and the guardian of the house of justice of the department is ordered to set them free immediately, unless they be detained for any other reason.
"The tribunal having heard the commissioner of the executive power, and the citizen Despres, counsel for the prisoners, sentences François Vidocq and César Herbaux to the punishment of the galleys for eight years, conformably to the forty-fourth article of the second section of the second chapter of the second part of the penal code, which has been read, and which runs thus:—
"If the said crime of forgery is committed on a public and authentic paper, the punishment shall be eight years at the galleys.
"Ordered, conformably with the twenty-eighth article of the first chapter of the penal code, which has also been read, and runs thus:—
"'Whoever shall have been condemned to the punishment of irons, imprisonment in the house of correction, to the rack, to confinement, before undergoing the sentence shall be first led to the public square of the city, where the criminal jury have been summoned, and shall then be tied to a post, placed on a scaffold, and shall remain there exposed to the gaze of the populace for six hours, if he be condemned to irons or solitary confinement; for four hours if he be condemned to the rack; for two hours if he be condemned to imprisonment; over his head, on a board shall be inscribed in large characters, his name, profession, residence, cause of his sentence, and judgment passed on him.'
"And by the four hundred and forty-fifth article of the law of the third and fourth Brumaire, code of crimes and punishments, which has been read and runs thus:—'The exposure shall be made in one of the public places of the commune, where the criminal tribunal holds its sittings.'
"That the said François Vidocq and César Herbaux shall be exposed for six hours on a scaffold, which shall be for that purpose erected on the public square of this commune.
"Ordered, that with all speed of the commissaries of the executive power, this sentence be carried into effect.
"Given and pronounced at Douai, at the sitting of the criminal tribunal of the department of the North, the seventh Nivose, fifth year of the French Republic, one and indivisible; present, the citizens Delaetre, president; Havyn, Ricquet, Reat, and Legrand, judges, who signed the minutes of this said sentence.
"We command and order all officers on this our requisition, to carry the said sentence into effect; to our attorney-general and our officers at the inferior tribunals to give all requisite aid; to all commandants and their officers of the public departments to render all necessary assistance when they shall be legally called upon for the same.
"By virtue of which, the present judgment has been signed by the president of the court, and by the clerk. With all speed,
On the margin is written: "Registered at Douai, the sixteenth Prairal, thirteenth year, folio 67 (back of the leaf) second case, received five francs, namely, two francs for as many sentences, three francs for as many discharges, and fifty centimes for charge on all.
On the margin of the first part is written: "By a judge of the superior tribunal of the division of Bethune, conformably with the two hundred and thirty-seventh article of the civil code, and by the procès-verbal of this day, thirtieth Prairal, year thirteen, supplying the place of the absent president, reference approved.