A Book of Remarkable Criminals
H. B. Irving

Part 3 out of 5

years old. For some time after his birth he was assumed to be a
girl; it was not until he was twelve years old that an operation
determined his sex to be masculine. Apprenticed by his relatives
to a grocer, Derues succeeded so well in the business that he was
able in 1770 to set up on his own account in Paris, and in 1772
he married. Among the grocer's many friends and acquaintances
this marriage created something of a sensation, for Derues let it
be known that the lady of his choice was of noble birth and an
heiress. The first statement was untrue. The lady was one Marie
Louise Nicolais, daughter of a non-commissioned artillery
officer, turned coachbuilder. But by suppressing the S at
the end of her name, which Derues was careful also to erase in
his marriage contract, the ambitious grocer was able to describe
his wife as connected with the noble house of Nicolai, one of the
most distinguished of the great French families.

There was more truth in the statement that Mme. Derues was an
heiress. A kinsman of her mother, Beraud by name, had become
the heir to a certain Marquis Desprez. Beraud was the son of
a small merchant. His mother had married a second time, the hus-

band being the Marquis Desprez, and through her Beraud had
inherited the Marquis' property. According to the custom of the
time, Beraud, on coming into his inheritance, took a title
from one of his estates and called himself thenceforth the lord
of Despeignes-Duplessis. A rude, solitary, brutal man, devoted
to sport, he lived alone in his castle of Candeville, hated by
his neighbours, a terror to poachers. One day he was found lying
dead in his bedroom; he had been shot in the chest; the assassin
had escaped through an open window.

The mystery of Beraud's murder was never solved. His estate
of 200,000 livres was divided among three cousins, of whom the
mother of Mme. Derues was one. Mme. Derues herself was entitled
to a third of his mother's share of the estate, that is, one-
ninth of the whole. But in 1775 Derues acquired the rest of the
mother's share on condition that he paid her an annual income of
1,200 livres. Thus on the liquidation of the Duplessis
inheritance Mme. Derues would be entitled nominally to some
66,500 livres, about L11,000 in English money. But five years
had passed since the death of Despeignes-Duplessis, and the
estate was still in the slow process of legal settlement. If
Derues were to receive the full third of the Duplessis
inheritance--a very unlikely supposition after four years of
liquidation--66,000 livres would not suffice to pay his
ordinary debts quite apart from the purchase money of Buisson-
Souef. His financial condition was in the last degree critical.
Not content with the modest calling of a grocer, Derues had
turned money-lender, a money-lender to spendthrift and
embarrassed noblemen. Derues dearly loved a lord; he wanted to
become one himself; it delighted him to receive dukes and
marquises at the Rue Beaubourg, even if they came there with the
avowed object of raising the wind. The smiling grocer, in his
everlasting bonnet and flowered dressing-gown a la J. J.
Rousseau, was ever ready to oblige the needy scion of a noble
house. What he borrowed at moderate interest from his creditors
he lent at enhanced interest to the quality. Duns and bailiffs
jostled the dukes and marquises whose presence at the Rue
Beaubourg so impressed the wondering neighbours of the facile

This aristocratic money-lending proved a hopeless trade; it only
plunged Derues deeper and deeper into the mire of financial
disaster. The noblemen either forgot to pay while they were
alive, or on their death were found to be insolvent. Derues was
driven to ordering goods and merchandise on credit, and selling
them at a lower price for ready money. Victims of this treatment
began to press him seriously for their money or their goods.
Desperately he continued to fence them off with the long expected
windfall of the Duplessis inheritance.

Paris was getting too hot for him. Gay and irrepressible as he
was, the strain was severe. If he could only find some retreat
in the country where he might enjoy at once refuge from his
creditors and the rank and consequence of a country gentleman!
Nothing--no fear, no disappointment, no disaster--could check the
little grocer's ardent and overmastering desire to be a gentleman
indeed, a landed proprietor, a lord or something or other.
At the beginning of 1775 he had purchased a place near Rueil from
a retired coffeehouse-keeper, paying 1,000 livres on account, but
the non-payment of the rest of the purchase-money had resulted in
the annulment of the contract. Undefeated, Derues only deter-

mined to fly the higher. Having failed to pay 9,000 livres for a
modest estate near Rueil, he had no hesitation in pledging
himself to pay 130,000 livres for the lordly domain of Buisson-
Souef. So great were his pride and joy on the conclusion of the
latter bargain that he amused himself by rehearsing on paper his
future style and title: "Antoine Francois de Cyrano Derues de
Bury, Seigneur de Buisson-Souef et Valle Profonde." He is worthy
of Thackeray's pen, this little grocer-snob, with his grand and
ruinous acquaintance with the noble and the great, his spurious
titles, his unwearied climbing of the social ladder.

The confiding, if willing, dupe of aristocratic impecuniosity,
Derues was a past master of the art of duping others. From the
moment of the purchase of Buisson-Souef all his art was employed
in cajoling the trusting and simple de Lamottes. Legally
Buisson-Souef was his from the signing of the agreement in
December, 1775. His first payment was due in April, 1776.
Instead of making it, Derues went down to Buisson-Souef with his
little girl, and stayed there as the guests of the de Lamottes
for six months. His good humour and piety won all hearts. The
village priest especially derived great satisfaction from the
society of so devout a companion. He entertained his good
friends, the merry little man, by dressing up as a woman, a role
his smooth face and effeminate features well fitted him to play.
If business were alluded to, the merry gentleman railed at the
delay and chicanery of lawyers; it was that alone that postponed
the liquidation of the Duplessis inheritance; as soon as the
lawyers could be got rid of, the purchase-money of his new estate
would be promptly paid up. But as time went on and no payment
was forthcoming the de Lamottes began to feel a little uneasy.
As soon as Derues had departed in November M. de Lamotte decided
to send his wife to Paris to make further inquiries and, if
possible, bring their purchaser up to the scratch. Mme. de
Lamotte had developed into a stout, indolent woman, of the Mrs.
Bloss type, fond of staying in bed and taking heavy meals. Her
son, a fat, lethargic youth of fourteen, accompanied his mother.

On hearing of Mme. de Lamotte's contemplated visit to Paris,
Derues was filled with alarm. If she were living free and
independent in Paris she might find out the truth about the real
state of his affairs, and then good-bye to Buisson-Souef and
landed gentility! No, if Mme. de Lamotte were to come to Paris,
she must come as the guest of the Derues, a pleasant return for
the hospitality accorded to the grocer at Buisson-Souef. The
invitation was given and readily accepted; M. de Lamotte still
had enough confidence in and liking for the Derues to be glad of
the opportunity of placing his wife under their roof. And so it
was that on December 16, 1776, Mme. de Lamotte arrived at Paris
and took up her abode at the house of the Derues in the Rue
Beaubourg Her son she placed at a private school in a
neighbouring street.

To Derues there was now one pressing and immediate problem to be
solved--how to keep Buisson-Souef as his own without paying for
it? To one less sanguine, less daring, less impudent and
desperate in his need, the problem would have appeared insoluble.

But that was by no means the view of the cheery and resourceful
grocer. He had a solution ready, well thought out and bearing to
his mind the stamp of probability. He would make a
fictitious payment of the purchase-money to Mme. de Lamotte. She
would then disappear, taking her son with her. Her indiscretion
in having been the mistress of de Lamotte before she became his
wife, would lend colour to his story that she had gone off with a
former lover, taking with her the money which Derues had paid her
for Buisson-Souef. He would then produce the necessary documents
proving the payment of the purchase-money, and Buisson-Souef
would be his for good and all.

The prime necessity to the success of this plan was the
disappearance, willing or unwilling, of Mme. de Lamotte and her
son. The former had settled down quite comfortably beneath the
hospitable roof of the Derues, and under the soothing influence
of her host showed little vigour in pressing him for the money
due to herself and her husband. She had already spent a month in
quietly enjoying Paris and the society of her friends when,
towards the end of January, 1770, her health and that of her son
began to fail. Mme. de Lamotte was seized with sickness and
internal trouble. Though Derues wrote to her husband that his
wife was well and their business was on the point of conclusion,
by the 30th of January Mme. de Lamotte had taken to her bed,
nursed and physicked by the ready Derues. On the 31st the
servant at the Rue Beaubourg was told that she could go to her
home at Montrouge, whither Derues had previously sent his two
children. Mme. Derues, who was in an interesting condition, was
sent out for an hour by her husband to do some shopping. Derues
was alone with his patient.

In the evening a friend, one Bertin, came to dine with Derues.
Bertin was a short, hustling, credulous, breathless gentleman,
always in a hurry, with a great belief in the abilities of M.
Derues. He found the little man in excellent spirits.
Bertin asked if he could see Mme. de Lamotte. Mme. Derues said
that that was impossible, but that her husband had given her some
medicine which was working splendidly. The young de Lamotte
called to see his mother. Derues took him into her room; in the
dim light the boy saw her sleeping, and crept out quietly for
fear of disturbing her. The Derues and their friends sat down to
dinner. Derues kept jumping up and running into the sick room,
from which a horrible smell began to pervade the house. But
Derues was radiant at the success of his medicine. "Was there
ever such a nurse as I am?" he exclaimed. Bertin remarked that
he thought it was a woman's and not a man's place to nurse a lady
under such distressing circumstances. Derues protested that it
was an occupation he had always liked. Next day, February 1, the
servant was still at Montrouge; Mme. Derues was again sent out
shopping; again Derues was alone with his patient. But she was a
patient no longer; she had become a corpse. The highly
successful medicine administered to the poor lady by her jolly
and assiduous nurse had indeed worked wonders.

Derues had bought a large leather trunk. It is possible that to
Derues belongs the distinction of being the first murderer to put
that harmless and necessary article of travel to a criminal use.
He was engaged in his preparations for coffining Mme. de Lamotte,
when a female creditor knocked insistently at the door. She
would take no denial. Clad in his bonnet and gown, Derues was
compelled to admit her. She saw the large trunk, and suspected a
bolt on the part of her creditor. Derues reassured her; a lady,
he said, who had been stopping with them was returning to the
country. The creditor departed. Later in the day Derues came
out of the house and summoned some porters. With their help the
heavy trunk was taken to the house of a sculptor, a friend
of Derues, who agreed to keep it in his studio until Derues
could take it down to his place in the country. Bertin came in
to dinner again that evening, and also the young de Lamotte.
Derues was gayer than ever, laughing and joking with his guests.
He told the boy that his mother had quite recovered and gone to
Versailles to see about finding him some post at the Court.
"We'll go and see her there in a day or two," he said, "I'll let
you know when."

On the following day a smartly dressed, dapper, but very pale
little gentleman, giving the name of Ducoudray, hired a vacant
cellar in a house in the Rue de la Mortellerie. He had, he said,
some Spanish wine he wanted to store there, and three or four
days later M. Ducoudray deposited in this cellar a large grey
trunk. A few days after he employed a man to dig a large hole in
the floor of the cellar, giving as his reason for such a
proceeding that "there was no way of keeping wine like burying
it." While the man worked at the job, his genial employer
beguiled his labours with merry quips and tales, which he
illustrated with delightful mimicry. The hole dug, the man was
sent about his business. "I will bury the wine myself," said his
employer, and on one or two occasions M. Ducoudray was seen by
persons living in the house going in and out of his cellar, a
lighted candle in his hand. One day the pale little gentleman
was observed leaving the cellar, accompanied by a porter carrying
a large trunk, and after that the dwellers in the Rue de la
Mortellerie saw the pale little gentleman no more.

A few days later M. Derues sent down to his place at Buisson-
Souef a large trunk filled with china. It was received there by
M. de Lamotte. Little did the trusting gentleman guess that it
was in this very trunk that the body of his dear wife had been
conveyed to its last resting place in the cellar of M.
Ducoudray in the Rue de la Mortellerie. Nor had M. Mesvrel-
Desvergers, importunate creditor of M. Derues, guessed the
contents of the large trunk that he had met his debtor one day
early in February conveying through the streets of Paris.
Creditors were always interrupting Derues at inconvenient
moments. M. Mesvrel-Desvergers had tapped Derues on the
shoulder, reminded him forcibly of his liability towards him, and
spoken darkly of possible imprisonment. Derues pointed to the
trunk. It contained, he said, a sample of wine; he was going to
order some more of it, and he would then be in a position to pay
his debt. But the creditor, still doubting, had M. Derues
followed, and ascertained that he had deposited his sample of
wine at a house in the Rue de la Mortellerie.

On Wednesday, February 12, a M. Beaupre of Commercy arrived at
Versailles with his nephew, a fat boy, in reality some fourteen
years of age, but given out as older. They hired a room at the
house of a cooper named Pecquet. M. Beaupre was a very pale
little gentleman, who seemed in excellent spirits, in spite of
the fact that his nephew was clearly anything but well. Indeed,
so sick and ailing did he appear to be that Mme. Pecquet
suggested that his uncle should call in a doctor. But M.
Beaupre said that that was quite unnecessary; he had no faith
in doctors; he would give the boy a good purge. His illness was
due, he said, to a venereal disorder and the drugs which he had
been taking in order to cure it; it was a priest the boy needed
rather than a doctor. On the Thursday and Friday the boy's
condition showed little improvement; the vomiting continued. But
on Saturday M. Beaupre declared himself as highly delighted
with the success of his medicine. The same night the boy was
dead. The priest, urgently sent for by his devout uncle, arrived
to find a corpse. On the following day "Louis Anotine
Beaupre, aged twenty-two and a half," was buried at
Versailles, his pious uncle leaving with the priest six livres to
pay for masses for the repose of his erring nephew's soul.

The same evening M. Derues who, according to his own account, had
left Paris with the young de Lamotte in order to take the boy to
his mother in Versailles, returned home to the Rue Beaubourg. As
usual, Bertin dropped in to dinner. He found his host full of
merriment, singing in the lightness of his heart. Indeed, he had
reason to be pleased, for at last, he told his wife and his
friend, Buisson-Souef was his. He had seen Mme. de Lamotte at
Versailles and paid her the full purchase-money in good, sounding
gold. And, best joke of all, Mme. de Lamotte had no sooner
settled the business than she had gone off with a former lover,
her son and her money, and would in all probability never be
heard of again. The gay gentleman laughingly reminded his
hearers that such an escapade on the part of Mme. de Lamotte was
hardly to be wondered at, when they recollected that her son had
been born out of wedlock

To all appearances Mme. de Lamotte had undoubtedly concluded the
sale of Buisson-Souef to Derues and received the price of it
before disappearing with her lover. Derues had in his possession
a deed of sale signed by Mme. de Lamotte and acknowledging the
payment to her by Derues of 100,000 livres, which he had borrowed
for that purpose from an advocate of the name of Duclos. As a
fact the loan from Duclos to Derues was fictitious. A legal
document proving the loan had been drawn up, but the cash which
the notary had demanded to see before executing the document had
been borrowed for a few hours. Duclos, a provincial advocate,
had acted in good faith, in having been represented to him that
such fictitious transactions were frequently used in Paris
for the purpose of getting over some temporary financial
difficulty. On the 15th of February the deed of the sale of
Buisson-Souef had been brought by a woman to the office of a
scrivener employed by Derues; it was already signed, but the
woman asked that certain blanks should be filled in and that the
document should be dated. She was told that the date should be
that of the day on which the parties had signed it. She gave it
as February 12. A few days later Derues called at the office and
was told of the lady's visit. "Ah!" he said, "it was Mme. de
Lamotte herself, the lady who sold me the estate."

In the meantime Derues, through his bustling and ubiquitous
friend Bertin, took good care that the story of Mme. de Lamotte's
sale of Buisson-Souef and subsequent elopement should be spread
sedulously abroad. By Bertin it was told to M. Jolly, the
proctor in whose hands the de Lamottes had placed the sale of
Buisson-Souef. It was M. Jolly who had in the first instance
recommended to them his client Derues as a possible purchaser.
The proctor, who knew Mme. de Lamotte to be a woman devoted to
her husband and her home, was astonished to hear of her
infidelity, more especially as the story told by Derues
represented her as saying in very coarse terms how little she
cared for her husband's honour. He was surprised, too, that she
should not have consulted him about the conclusion of the
business with Derues, and that Derues himself should have been
able to find so considerable a sum of money as 100,000 livres.
But, said M. Jolly, if he were satisfied that Mme. de Lamotte had
taken away the money with her, then he would deliver up to Derues
the power of attorney which M. de Lamotte had left with him in
1775, giving his wife authority to carry out the sale of Buisson-
Souef. Mme. de Lamotte, being a married woman, the sale of
the property to Derues would be legally invalid if the husband's
power of attorney were not in the hands of the purchaser.



To Derues, on the eve of victory, the statement of Jolly in
regard to the power of attorney was a serious reverse. He had
never thought of such an instrument, or he would have persuaded
Mme. de Lamotte to have gotten permission of it before her
disappearance. Now he must try to get it from Jolly himself. On
the 26th of February he once again raised from a friendly notary
a few thousand livres on the Duplessis inheritance, and deposited
the deed of sale of Buisson-Souef as further security. His
pocket full of gold, he went straight to the office of Jolly. To
the surprise of the proctor Derues announced that he had come to
pay him 200 livres which he owed him, and apologised for the
delay. Taking the gold coins from his pockets he filled his
three-cornered hat with considerably more than the sum due, and
held it out invitingly to M. Jolly. Then he proceeded to tell
him of his dealings with Mme. de Lamotte. She had offered, he
said, to get the power of attorney for him, but he, trusting in
her good faith, had said that there was no occasion for hurry;
and then, faithless, ungrateful woman that she was, she had gone
off with his money and left him in the lurch. "But," he added,
"I trust you absolutely, M. Jolly, you have all my business in
your hands, and I shall be a good client in the future. You have
the power of attorney--you will give it to me?" and he rattled
the coins in his hat. "I must have it," he went on, "I must have
it at any price at any price," and again the coins danced in
his hat, while his eyes looked knowingly at the proctor. M.
Jolly saw his meaning, and his surprise turned to indignation.
He told Derues bluntly that he did not believe his story, that
until he was convinced of its truth he would not part with the
power of attorney, and showed the confounded grocer the door.

Derues hastened home filled with wrath, and took counsel with his
friend Bertin. Bertin knew something of legal process; they
would try whether the law could not be invoked to compel Jolly to
surrender the power of attorney. Bertin went off to the Civil
Lieutenant and applied for an order to oblige M. Jolly to give up
the document in question. An order was made that Jolly must
either surrender it into the hands of Derues or appear before a
referee and show cause why he should not comply with the order.
Jolly refused still to give it up or allow a copy of it to be
made, and agreed to appear before the referee to justify his
action. In the meantime Derues, greatly daring, had started for
Buisson-Souef to try what "bluff" could do in this serious crisis
in his adventure.

At Buisson-Souef poor M. de Lamotte waited, puzzled and
distressed, for news from his wife. On Saturday, 17th, the day
after the return of Derues from Versailles, he heard from Mme.
Derues that his wife had left Paris and gone with her son to
Versailles. A second letter told him that she had completed the
sale of Buisson-Souef to Derues, and was still at Versailles
trying to obtain some post for the boy. On February 19 Mme.
Derues wrote again expressing surprise that M. de Lamotte had not
had any letter from his wife and asking if he had received some
oysters which the Derues had sent him. The distracted husband
was in no mood for oysters. "Do not send me oysters," he writes,
"I am too ill with worry. I thank you for all your kindness
to my son. I love him better than myself, and God grant he will
be good and grateful." The only reply he received from the
Derues was an assurance that he would see his wife again in a few

The days passed, but Mme. de Lamotte made no sign. About four
o'clock on the afternoon of February 28, Derues, accompanied by
the parish priest of Villeneuvele-Roi, presented himself before
M. de Lamotte at Buisson-Souef. For the moment M. de Lamotte was
rejoiced to see the little man; at last he would get news of his
wife. But he was disappointed. Derues could tell him only what
he had been told already, that his wife had sold their estate and
gone away with the money.

M. de Lamotte was hardly convinced. How, he asked Derues, had he
found the 100,000 livres to buy Buisson-Souef, he who had not a
halfpenny a short time ago? Derues replied that he had borrowed
it from a friend; that there was no use in talking about it; the
place was his now, his alone, and M. de Lamotte had no longer a
right to be there; he was very sorry, poor dear gentleman, that
his wife had gone off and left him without a shilling, but
personally he would always be a friend to him and would allow him
3,000 livres a year for the rest of his life. In the meantime,
he said, he had already sold forty casks of the last year's
vintage, and would be obliged if M. de Lamotte would see to their
being sent off at once.

By this time the anger and indignation of M. de Lamotte blazed
forth. He told Derues that his story was a pack of lies, that he
was still master at Buisson-Souef, and not a bottle of wine
should leave it. "You are torturing me," he exclaimed, "I know
something has happened to my wife and child. I am coming to
Paris myself, and if it is as I fear, you shall answer for it
with your head!" Derues, undismayed by this outburst, re-

asserted his ownership and departed in defiant mood, leaving on
the premises a butcher of the neighbourhood to look after his

But things were going ill with Derues. M. de Lamotte meant to
show fight; he would have powerful friends to back him; class
against class, the little grocer would be no match for him. It
was immediate possession of Buisson-Souef that Derues wanted, not
lawsuits; they were expensive and the results uncertain. He
spoke freely to his friends of the difficulties of the situation.

What could he do? The general opinion seemed to be that some
fresh news of Mme. de Lamotte--her reappearance, perhaps--would
be the only effective settlement of the dispute. He had made
Mme. de Lamotte disappear, why should he not make her reappear?
He was not the man to stick at trifles. His powers of female
impersonation, with which he had amused his good friends at
Buisson-Souef, could now be turned to practical account. On
March 5 he left Paris again.

On the evening of March 7 a gentleman, M. Desportes of Paris,
hired a room at the Hotel Blanc in Lyons. On the following day
he went out early in the morning, leaving word that, should a
lady whom he was expecting, call to see him, she was to be shown
up to his room. The same morning a gentleman, resembling M.
Desportes of Paris, bought two lady's dresses at a shop in Lyons.

The same afternoon a lady dressed in black silk, with a hood well
drawn over her eyes, called at the office of M. Pourra, a notary.

The latter was not greatly attracted by his visitor, whose nose
struck him as large for a woman. She said that she had spent her
youth in Lyons, but her accent was distinctly Parisian. The lady
gave her name as Madame de Lamotte, and asked for a power of
attorney by which she could give her husband the interest
due to her on a sum of 30,000 livres, part of the purchase-money
of the estate of Buisson-Souef, which she had recently sold. As
Mme. de Lamotte represented herself as having been sent to M.
Pourra by a respectable merchant for whom he was in the habit of
doing business, he agreed to draw up the necessary document,
accepting her statement that she and her husband had separate
estates. Mme. de Lamotte said that she would not have time to
wait until the power of attorney was ready, and therefore asked
M. Pourra to send it to the parish priest at Villeneuvele-Roi;
this he promised to do. Mme. de-Lamotte had called twice during
the day at the Hotel Blanc and asked for M. Desportes of Paris,
but he was not at home.
While Derues, alias Desportes, alias Mme. de Lamotte, was
masquerading in Lyons, events had been moving swiftly and
unfavourably in Paris. Sick with misgiving and anxiety, M. de
Lamotte had come there to find, if possible, his wife and child.
By a strange coincidence he alighted at an inn in the Rue de la
Mortellerie, only a few yards from the wine-cellar in which the
corpse of his ill-fated wife lay buried. He lost no time in
putting his case before the Lieutenant of Police, who placed the
affair in the hands of one of the magistrates of the Chatelet,
then the criminal court of Paris. At first the magistrate
believed that the case was one of fraud and that Mme. de Lamotte
and her son were being kept somewhere in concealment by Derues.
But as he investigated the circumstances further, the evidence of
the illness of the mother and son, the date of the disappearance
of Mme. de Lamotte, and her reputed signature to the deed of sale
on February 12, led him to suspect that he was dealing with a
case of murder.

When Derues returned to Paris from Lyons, on March 11, he found
that the police had already visited the house and questioned
his wife, and that he himself was under close surveillance. A
day or two later the advocate, Duclos, revealed to the magistrate
the fictitious character of the loan of 100,000 livres, which
Derues alleged that he had paid to Mme. de Lamotte as the price
of Buisson-Souef. When the new power of attorney purporting to
be signed by Mme. de Lamotte arrived from Lyons, and the
signature was compared with that on the deed of sale of Buisson-
Souef to Derues, both were pronounced to be forgeries. Derues
was arrested and lodged in the Prison of For l'Eveque.

The approach of danger had not dashed the spirits of the little
man, nor was he without partisans in Paris. Opinion in the city
was divided as to the truth of his account of Mme. de Lamotte's
elopement. The nobility were on the side of the injured de
Lamotte, but the bourgeoisie accepted the grocer's story and made
merry over the deceived husband. Interrogated, however, by the
magistrate of the Chatelet, Derues' position became more
difficult. Under the stress of close questioning the flimsy
fabric of his financial statements fell to pieces like a house of
cards. He had to admit that he had never paid Mme. de Lamotte
100,000 livres; he had paid her only 25,000 livres in gold;
further pressed he said that the 25,000 livres had been made up
partly in gold, partly in bills; but where the gold had come
from, or on whom he had drawn the bills, he could not explain.
Still his position was not desperate; and he knew it. In the
absence of Mme. de Lamotte he could not be charged with fraud or
forgery; and until her body was discovered, it would be
impossible to charge him with murder.

A month passed; Mme. Derues, who had made a belated attempt to
follow her husband's example by impersonating Mme. de Lamotte in
Paris, had been arrested and imprisoned in the Grand
Chatelet; when, on April 18, information was received by the
authorities which determined them to explore the wine-cellar in
the Rue de la Mortellerie. Whether the woman who had let the
cellar to Derues, or the creditor who had met him taking his cask
of wine there, had informed the investigating magistrate, seems
uncertain. In any case, the corpse of the unhappy lady was soon
brought to light and Derues confronted with it. At first he said
that he failed to recognise it as the remains of Mme. de Lamotte,
but he soon abandoned that rather impossible attitude. He
admitted that he had given some harmless medicine to Mme. de
Lamotte during her illness, and then, to his horror, one morning
had awakened to find her dead. A fear lest her husband would
accuse him of having caused her death had led him to conceal the
body, and also that of her son who, he now confessed, had died
and been buried by him at Versailles. On April 23 the body of
the young de Lamotte was exhumed. Both bodies were examined by
doctors, and they declared themselves satisfied that mother and
son had died "from a bitter and corrosive poison administered in
some kind of drink." What the poison was they did not venture to
state, but one of their number, in the light of subsequent
investigation, arrived at the conclusion that Derues had used in
both cases corrosive sublimate. How or where he had obtained the
poison was never discovered.

Justice moved swiftly in Paris in those days. The preliminary
investigation in Derues' case was ended on April 28. Two days
later his trial commenced before the tribunal of the Chatelet.

It lasted one day. The judges had before them the depositions
taken by the examining magistrate. Both Derues and his wife were
interrogated. He maintained that he had not poisoned either
Mme. de Lamotte or her son; his only crime, he said, lay in
having concealed their deaths. Mme; Derues said: "It is
Buisson-Souef that has ruined us! I always told my husband that
he was mad to buy these properties--I am sure my husband is not a
poisoner--I trusted my husband and believed every word he said."
The court condemned Derues to death, but deferred judgment in his
wife's case on the ground of her pregnancy.

And now the frail, cat-like little man had to brace himself to
meet a cruel and protracted execution. But sanguine to the last,
he still hoped. An appeal lay from the Chatelet to the
Parliament of Paris. It was heard on March 5. Derues was
brought to the Palais de Justice. The room in which he waited
was filled with curious spectators, who marvelled at his coolness
and impudence. He recognised among them a Benedictine monk of
his acquaintance. "My case," he called out to him, "will soon be
over; we'll meet again yet and have a good time together." One
visitor, wishing not to appear too curious, pretended to be
looking at a picture. "Come, sir," said Derues, "you haven't
come here to see the pictures, but to see me. Have a good look
at me. Why study copies of nature when you can look at such a
remarkable original as I?" But there were to be no more days of
mirth and gaiety for the jesting grocer. His appeal was
rejected, and he was ordered for execution on the morrow.

At six o'clock on the morning of May 6 Derues returned to the
Palais de Justice, there to submit to the superfluous torments of
the question ordinary and extraordinary. Though condemned to
death, torture was to be applied in the hope of wringing from the
prisoner some sort of confession. The doctors declared him too
delicate to undergo the torture of pouring cold water into him,
which his illustrious predecessor, Mme. de Brinvilliers, had
suffered; he was to endure the less severe torture of the "boot."

His legs were tightly encased in wood, and wedges were then
hammered in until the flesh was crushed and the bones broken.
But never a word of confession was wrung from the suffering
creature. Four wedges constituting the ordinary torture he
endured; at the third of the extraordinary he fainted away. Put
in the front of a fire the warmth restored him. Again he was
questioned, again he asserted his wife's innocence and his own.

At two o'clock in the afternoon Derues was recovered sufficiently
to be taken to Notre Dame. There, in front of the Cathedral,
candle in hand and rope round his neck, he made the amende
honorable. But as the sentence was read aloud to the people
Derues reiterated the assertion of his innocence. From Notre
Dame he was taken to the Hotel de Ville. A condemned man had the
right to stop there on his way to execution, to make his will and
last dying declarations. Derues availed himself of this
opportunity to protest solemnly and emphatically his wife's
absolute innocence of any complicity in whatever he had done. "I
want above all," he said, "to state that my wife is entirely
innocent. She knew nothing. I used fifty cunning devices to
hide everything from her. I am speaking nothing but the truth,
she is wholly innocent--as for me, I am about to die." His wife
was allowed to see him; he enjoined her to bring up their
children in the fear of God and love of duty, and to let them
know how he had died. Once again, as he took up the pen to sign
the record of his last words, he re-asserted her innocence.

Of the last dreadful punishment the offending grocer was to be
spared nothing. For an aristocrat like Mme. de Brinvilliers
beheading was considered indignity enough. But Derues must go
through with it all; he must be broken on the wheel and
burnt alive and his ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven;
there was to be no retentum for him, a clause sometimes
inserted in the sentence permitting the executioner to strangle
the broken victim before casting him on to the fire. He must
endure all to the utmost agony the law could inflict. It was six
o'clock when Derues arrived at the Place de Greve, crowded to
its capacity, the square itself, the windows of the houses;
places had been bought at high prices, stools, ladders, anything
that would give a good view of the end of the now famous

Pale but calm, Derues faced his audience. He was stripped of all
but his shirt; lying flat on the scaffold, his face looking up to
the sky, his head resting on a stone, his limbs were fastened to
the wheel. Then with a heavy bar of iron the executioner broke
them one after another, and each time he struck a fearful cry
came from the culprit. The customary three final blows on the
stomach were inflicted, but still the little man lived. Alive
and broken, he was thrown on to the fire. His burnt ashes,
scattered to the winds, were picked up eagerly by the mob,
reputed, as in England the pieces of the hangman's rope,

Some two months after the execution of her husband Mme. Derues
was delivered in the Conciergerie of a male child; it is hardly
surprising, in face of her experiences during her pregnancy, that
it was born an idiot. In January, 1778, the judges of the
Parliament, by a majority of one, decided that she should remain
a prisoner in the Conciergerie for another year, while judgment
in her case was reserved. In the following August she was
charged with having forged the signature of Mme. de Lamotte on
the deeds of sale. In February, 1779, the two experts in
handwriting to whom the question had been submitted decided
in her favour, and the charge was abandoned.

But Mme. Derues had a far sterner, more implacable and, be it
added, more unscrupulous adversary than the law in M. de Lamotte.

Not content with her husband's death, M. de Lamotte believed the
wife to have been his partner in guilt, and thirsted for revenge.

To accomplish it he even stooped to suborn witnesses, but the
conspiracy was exposed, and so strong became the sympathy with
the accused woman that a young proctor of the Parliament
published a pamphlet in her defence, asking for an immediate
inquiry into the charges made against her, charges that had in no
instance been proved.

At last, in March, 1779, the Parliament decided to finish with
the affair. In secret session the judges met, examined once more
all the documents in the case, listened to a report on it from
one of their number, interrogated the now weary, hopeless
prisoner, and, by a large majority, condemned her to a punishment
that fell only just short of the supreme penalty. On the grounds
that she had wilfully and knowingly participated with her husband
in the fraudulent attempt to become possessed of the estate of
Buisson-Souef, and was strongly suspected of having participated
with him in his greater crime, she was sentenced to be publicly
flogged, branded on both shoulders with the letter V (Voleuse)
and imprisoned for life in the Salpetriere Prison. On March
13, in front of the Conciergerie Mme. Derues underwent the first
part of her punishment. The same day her hair was cut short, and
she was dressed in the uniform of the prison in which she was to
pass the remainder of her days.

Paris had just begun to forget Mme. Derues when a temporary
interest was-excited in her fortunes by the astonishing
intelligence that, two months after her condemnation, she
had been delivered of a child in her new prison. Its fatherhood
was never determined, and, taken from her mother, the child died
in fifteen days. Was its birth the result of some passing love
affair, or some act of drunken violence on the part of her
jailors, or had the wretched woman, fearing a sentence of death,
made an effort to avert once again the supreme penalty? History
does not relate.

Ten years passed. A fellow prisoner in the Salpetriere
described Mme. Derues as "scheming, malicious, capable of
anything." She was accused of being violent, and of wishing to
revenge herself by setting fire to Paris. At length the
Revolution broke on France, the Bastille fell, and in that same
year an old uncle of Mme. Derues, an ex-soldier of Louis XV.,
living in Brittany, petitioned for his niece's release. He
protested her innocence, and begged that he might take her to his
home and restore her to her children. For three years he
persisted vainly in his efforts. At last, in the year 1792, it
seemed as if they might be crowned with success. He was told
that the case would be re-examined; that it was possible that the
Parliament had judged unjustly. This good news came to him in
March. But in September of that year there took place those
shocking massacres in the Paris prisons, which rank high among
the atrocities of the Revolution. At four o'clock on the
afternoon of September 4, the slaughterers visited the
Salpetriere Prison, and fifth among their victims fell the
widow of Derues.

Dr. Castaing

There are two reports of the trial of Castaing: "Proces Com-

plet d'Edme Samuel Castaing," Paris, 1823; "Affaire Castaing,"
Paris, 1823.



Edme Castaing, born at Alencon in 1796, was the youngest of
the three sons of an Inspector-General in the department of Woods
and Forests. His elder brother had entered the same service as
his father, the other brother was a staff-captain of engineers.
Without being wealthy, the family, consisting of M. and Mme.
Castaing and four children, was in comfortable circumstances.
The young Edme was educated at the College of Angers--the Alma
Mater of Barre and Lebiez--where, intelligent and hard working,
he carried off many prizes. He decided to enter the medical
profession, and at the age of nineteen commenced his studies at
the School of Medicine in Paris. For two years he worked hard
and well, living within the modest allowance made him by his
father. At the end of that time this young man of two or three-
and-twenty formed a passionate attachment for a lady, the widow
of a judge, and the mother of three children. Of the genuine
depth and sincerity of this passion for a woman who must have
been considerably older than himself, there can be no doubt.
Henceforth the one object in life to Castaing was to make money
enough to relieve the comparative poverty of his adored
mistress, and place her and her children beyond the reach of
want. In 1821 Castaing became a duly qualified doctor, and by
that time had added to the responsibilities of his mistress and
himself by becoming the father of two children, whom she had
brought into the world. The lady was exigent, and Castaing found
it difficult to combine his work with a due regard to her claims
on his society. Nor was work plentiful or lucrative. To add to
his embarrassments Castaing, in 1818, had backed a bill for a
friend for 600 francs. To meet it when it fell due two years
later was impossible, and desperate were the efforts made by
Castaing and his mother to put off the day of reckoning. His
father, displeased with his son's conduct, would do nothing to
help him. But his mother spared no effort to extricate him from
his difficulties. She begged a highly placed official to plead
with the insistent creditor, but all in vain. There seemed no
hope of a further delay when suddenly, in the October of 1822,
Castaing became the possessor of 100,000 francs. How he became
possessed of this considerable sum of money forms part of a
strange and mysterious story.

Among the friends of Castaing were two young men of about his own
age, Auguste and Hippolyte Ballet. Auguste, the elder, had the
misfortune a few days after his birth to incur his mother's
lasting dislike. The nurse had let the child fall from her arms
in the mother's presence, and the shock had endangered Mme.
Ballet's life. From that moment the mother took a strong aver-

sion to her son; he was left to the charge of servants; his meals
were taken in the kitchen. As soon as he was five years old he
was put out to board elsewhere, while his brother Hippolyte and
his sister were well cared for at home. The effect of this
unjust neglect on the character of Auguste Ballet was, as may be
imagined, had; he became indolent and dissipated. His
brother Hippolyte, on the other hand, had justified the
affectionate care bestowed on his upbringing; he had grown into a
studious, intelligent youth of a refined and attractive
temperament. Unhappily, early in his life he had developed
consumption, a disease he inherited from his mother. As he grew
older his health grew steadily worse until, in 1822, his friends
were seriously alarmed at his condition. It became so much
graver that, in the August of that year, the doctors recommended
him to take the waters at Enghien. In September he returned to
Paris apparently much better, but on October 2 he was seized with
sudden illness, and three days later he was dead.

A few years before the death of Hippolyte his father and mother
had died almost at the same time. M. Ballet had left to each of
his sons a fortune of some 260,000 francs. Though called to the
bar, both Auguste and Hippolyte Ballet were now men of
independent means. After the death of their parents, whatever
jealousy Auguste may have felt at the unfair preference which his
mother had shown for her younger son, had died down. At the time
of Hippolyte's death the brothers were on good terms, though the
more prudent Hippolyte disapproved of his elder brother's

Of Hippolyte Ballet Dr. Castaing had become the fast friend.
Apart from his personal liking for Castaing, it was a source of
comfort to Hippolyte, in his critical state of health, to have as
his friend one whose medical knowledge was always at his service.

About the middle of August, 1822, Hippolyte, on the advice of his
doctors, went to Enghien to take the waters. There Castaing paid
him frequent visits. He returned to Paris on September 22, and
seemed to have benefited greatly by the cure. On Tuesday,
October 1, he saw his sister, Mme. Martignon, and her husband; he
seemed well, but said that he was having leeches applied to
him by his friend Castaing. On the Wednesday evening his sister
saw him again, and found him well and with a good appetite. On
the Thursday, after a night disturbed by severe attacks of
vomiting, his condition seemed serious. His brother-in-law, who
visited him, found that he had taken to his bed, his face was
swollen, his eyes were red. His sister called in the evening,
but could not see him. The servants told her that her brother
was a little better but resting, and that he did not wish to be
disturbed; they said that Dr. Castaing had been with him all day.

On Friday Castaing himself called on the Martignons, and told
them that Hippolyte had passed a shockingly bad night. Madame
Martignon insisted on going to nurse her brother herself, but
Castaing refused positively to let her see him; the sight of her,
he said, would be too agitating to the patient. Later in the day
Mme. Martignon went to her brother's house. In order to obey Dr.
Castaing's injunctions, she dressed herself in some of the
clothes of the servant Victoire, in the hope that if she went
into his bedroom thus disguised, Hippolyte would not recognise
her. But even this subterfuge was forbidden by Castaing, and
Mme. Martignon had to content herself with listening in an
adjoining room for the sound of her brother's voice. At eight
o'clock that evening the Martignons learnt that Hippolyte was
better, but at ten o'clock they received a message that he was
dying, and that his brother Auguste had been sent for. Mme.
Martignon was prostrated with grief, but her husband hastened to
his brother-in-law's house. There he found Castaing, who said
that the death agony of his friend was so dreadful that he had
not the strength to remain in the room with the dying man.
Another doctor was sent for, but at ten o'clock the
following morning, after protracted suffering, Hippolyte
Ballet passed away.

A post-mortem was held on his body. It was made by Drs. Segalas
and Castaing. They stated that death was due to pleurisy
aggravated by the consumptive condition of the deceased, which,
however serious, was not of itself likely to have been so rapidly
fatal in its consequences.

Hippolyte had died, leaving a fortune of some 240,000 francs. In
the previous September he had spoken to the notary Lebret, a
former clerk of his father's, of his intention of making a will.
He had seen that his brother Auguste was squandering his share of
their inheritance; he told Lebret that whatever he might leave to
Auguste should not be placed at his absolute disposal. To his
servant Victoire, during his last illness, Hippolyte had spoken
of a will he had made which he wished to destroy. If Hippolyte
had made such a will, did he destroy it before his death? In any
case, no trace of it was ever found after his death. He was
presumed to have died intestate, and his fortune was divided,
three-quarters of it going to his brother Auguste, the remaining
quarter to his sister, Mme. Martignon.

On the day of Hippolyte's death Auguste Ballet wrote from his
brother's house to one Prignon: "With great grief I have to tell
you that I have just lost my brother; I write at the same time to
say that I must have 100,000 francs to-day if possible. I have
the greatest need of it. Destroy my letter, and reply at once.
M. Sandrie will, I am sure, accommodate me. I am at my poor
brother's house, from which I am writing." Prignon did as he was
asked, but it was two days before the stockbroker, Sandrie, could
raise the necessary sum. On October 7 he sold out sufficient of
Auguste's stock to realise 100,000 francs, and the following day
gave Prignon an order on the Bank of France for that amount.
The same day Prignon took the order to Auguste. Accompanied by
Castaing and Jean, Auguste's black servant, Auguste and Prignon
drove to the bank. There the order was cashed. Prignon's part
of the business was at an end. He said good-bye to Auguste
outside the bank. As the latter got into his cabriolet, carrying
the bundle of notes, Prignon heard him say to Castaing: "There
are the 100,000 francs."

Why had Auguste Ballet, after his brother's death, such urgent
need of 100,000 francs? If the statements of Auguste made to
other persons are to be believed, he had paid the 100,000 francs
which he had raised through Prignon to Lebret, his father's
former clerk, who would seem to have acted as legal and financial
adviser to his old master's children. According to Auguste's
story, his sister, Mme. Martignon, had offered Lebret 80,000
francs to preserve a copy of a will made by Hippolyte, leaving
her the bulk of his fortune. Castaing, however, had ascertained
that Lebret would be willing, if Auguste would outbid his sister
and pay 100,000 francs, to destroy the will so that, Hippolyte
dying intestate, Auguste would take the greater part of his
brother's fortune. Auguste agreed to accept Lebret's terms,
raised the necessary sum, and handed over the money to Castaing,
who, in turn, gave it to Lebret, who had thereupon destroyed the
copy of the will. Castaing, according to the evidence of
Auguste's mistress, an actress of the name of Percillie, had
spoken in her presence of having himself destroyed one copy of
Hippolyte's will before his death, and admitted having arranged
with Lebret after Hippolyte's death for the destruction of the
other copy.

How far was the story told by Auguste, and repeated in somewhat
different shape by Castaing to other persons, true? There is no
doubt that after the visit to the Bank of France with
Prignon on October 8, Auguste and Castaing drove together to
Lebret's office. The negro servant said that on arriving there
one of them got out of the cab and went up to Lebret's house, but
which of the two he would not at first say positively. Later he
swore that it was Auguste Ballet. Whatever happened on that
visit to Lebret's--and it was the theory of the prosecution that
Castaing and not Auguste had gone up to the office--the same
afternoon Auguste Ballet showed his mistress the seals of the
copy of his brother's will which Lebret had destroyed, and told
her that Lebret, all through the business, had refused to deal
directly with him, and would only act through the intermediary of

Did Lebret, as a fact, receive the 100,000 francs? A close
examination of his finances showed no trace of such a sum.
Castaing, on the other hand, on October 10, 1822, had given a
stockbroker a sum of 66,000 francs to invest in securities; on
the 11th of the same month he had lent his mother 30,000 francs;
and on the 14th had given his mistress 4,000 francs. Of how this
large sum of money had come to Castaing at a time when he was
practically insolvent he gave various accounts. His final
version was that in the will destroyed by Auguste, Hippolyte
Ballet had left him an income for life equivalent to a capital of
100,000 francs, and that Auguste had given him that sum out of
respect for his brother's wishes. If that explanation were true,
it was certainly strange that shortly after his brother's death
Auguste Ballet should have expressed surprise and suspicion to a
friend on hearing that Castaing had been buying stock to the
value of 8,000 francs. If he had given Castaing 100,000 francs
for himself, there was no occasion for surprise or suspicion at
his investing 8,000. That Auguste had paid out 100,000 francs to
some one in October the state of his finances at his death
clearly proved. According to the theory of the prosecution,
Auguste believed that he had paid that money to Lebret through
the intermediary of Castaing, and not to Castaing himself. Hence
his surprise at hearing that Castaing, whom he knew to be
impecunious, was investing such a sum as 8,000 francs.

No money had ever reached Lebret. His honesty and good faith
were demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt; no copy of any
will of Hippolyte Ballet had ever been in his possession. But
Castaing had shown Auguste Ballet a copy of his brother's will,
the seals of which Auguste had shown to his mistress. In all
probability, and possibly at the instigation of Castaing, Hip-

polyte Ballet had made a will, leaving the greater part of his
property to his sister. Somehow or other Castaing had got
possession of this will. On his death Castaing had invented the
story of Mme. Martignon's bribe to Lebret, and so persuaded
Auguste to outbid her. He had ingeniously kept Auguste and
Lebret apart by representing Lebret as refusing to deal direct
with Auguste, and by these means had secured to his own use the
sum of 100,000 francs, which Auguste believed was being paid to
Lebret as the price of his alleged destruction of his brother's
will. The plot was ingenious and successful. To Lebret and the
Martignons Castaing said that Hippolyte had made a will in Mme.
Martignon's favour, but had destroyed it himself some days before
his death. The Martignons expressed themselves as glad that Hip-

polyte had done so, for they feared lest such a will should have
provoked resentment against them on the part of Auguste. By
keeping Auguste and Lebret apart, Castaing prevented awkward
explanations. The only possible danger of discovery lay in
Auguste's incautious admissions to his mistress and friends; but
even had the fact of the destruction of the will come to the
ears of the Martignons, it is unlikely that they would have taken
any steps involving the disgrace of Auguste.

Castaing had enriched himself considerably by the opportune death
of his friend Hippolyte. It might be made a matter of unfriendly
comment that, on the first day of May preceding that sad event,
Castaing had purchased ten grains of acetate of morphia from a
chemist in Paris, and on September 18, less than a month before
Hippolyte's death, he had purchased another ten grains of acetate
of morphia from the same chemist. The subject of poisons had
always been a favourite branch of Castaing's medical studies,
especially vegetable poisons; morphia is a vegetable poison.

Castaing's position relative to Auguste Ballet was now a strong
one. They were accomplices in the unlawful destruction of
Hippolyte's will. Auguste believed it to be in his friend's
power to ruin him at any time by revealing his dealings with
Lebret. But, more than that, to Auguste, who believed that his
100,000 francs had gone into Lebret's pocket, Castaing could
represent himself as so far unrewarded for his share in the
business; Lebret had taken all the money, while he had received
no recompense of any kind for the trouble he had taken and the
risk he was encountering on his friend's behalf. Whatever the
motive, from fear or gratitude, Auguste Ballet was persuaded to
make a will leaving Dr. Edme Samuel Castaing the whole of his
fortune, subject to a few trifling legacies. But Auguste's
feelings towards his sole legatee were no longer cordial. To one
or two of his friends he expressed his growing distaste for Cas-

taing's society.

Dr. Castaing can hardly have failed to observe this change. He
knew Auguste to be reckless and extravagant with his money; he
learnt that he had realised another 100,000 francs out of
his securities, and that he kept the money locked up in a drawer
in his desk. If Auguste's fortune were dissipated by
extravagance, or he revoked his will, Castaing stood to lose
heavily. As time went on Castaing felt less and less sure that
he could place much reliance on the favourable disposition or
thrift of Auguste. The latter had fallen in love with a new
mistress; he began to entertain expensively; even if he should
not change his mind and leave his money away from Castaing, there
might very soon be no money to leave. At the end of May, 1823,
Castaing consulted a cousin of his, Malassis, a notary's clerk,
as to the validity of a will made by a sick man in favour of his
medical attendant. He said that he had a patient gravely ill
who, not wishing to leave his money to his sister, whom he
disliked, intended to leave it to him. Malassis reassured him as
to the validity of such a will, and gave him the necessary
instructions for preparing it. On May 29 Castaing sent Malassis
the will of Auguste Ballet with the following note, "I send you
the will of M. Ballets examine it and keep it as his
representative." The will was dated December 1, 1822, and made
Castaing sole legatee. On the same day that the will was
deposited with Malassis, Castaing and Auguste Ballet started to-

gether on a little two days' trip into the country. To his
friends Auguste seemed in the best of health and spirits; so much
so that his housekeeper remarked as he left how well he was
looking, and Castaing echoed her remark, saying that he looked
like a prince!

During the afternoon the two friends visited Saint Germain, then
returned to Paris, and at seven o'clock in the evening arrived at
the Tete Noire Hotel at Saint Cloud, where they took a double-
bedded room, Castaing paying five francs in advance. They spent
the following day, Friday, May 30, in walking about the
neighbourhood, dined at the hotel at seven, went out again
and returned about nine o'clock. Soon after their return
Castaing ordered some warmed wine to be sent up to the bedroom.
It was taken up by one of the maid-servants. Two glasses were
mixed with lemon and sugar which Castaing had brought with him.
Both the young men drank of the beverage. Auguste complained
that it was sour, and thought that he had put too much lemon in
it. He gave his glass to the servant to taste, who also found
the drink sour. Shortly after she left the room and went
upstairs to the bedside of one of her fellow-servants who was
ill. Castaing, for no apparent reason, followed her up and
stayed in the room for about five minutes. Auguste spent a bad
night, suffering from internal pains, and in the morning his legs
were so swollen that he could not put on his boots.

Castaing got up at four o'clock that morning and asked one of the
servants to let him out. Two hours later he drove up in a
cabriolet to the door of a chemist in Paris, and asked for twelve
grains of tartar emetic, which he wanted to mix in a wash
according to a prescription of Dr. Castaing. But he did not tell
the chemist that he was Dr. Castaing himself. An hour later Cas-
taing arrived at the shop of another chemist, Chevalier, with
whom he had already some acquaintance; he had bought acetate of
morphia from him some months before, and had discussed with him
then the effects of vegetable poisons. On this particular
morning he bought of his assistant thirty-six grains of acetate
of morphia, paying, as a medical man, three francs fifty centimes
for it instead of the usual price of four francs. Later in the
morning Castaing returned to Saint Cloud, a distance of ten miles
from Paris, and said that he had been out for a long walk. He
found Auguste ill in bed. Castaing asked for some cold milk,
which was taken up to the bedroom by one of the servants.
Shortly after this Castaing went out again. During his absence
Auguste was seized with violent pains and sickness. When
Castaing returned he found his friend in the care of the people
of the hotel. He told them to throw away the matter that had
been vomited, as the smell was offensive, and Auguste told them
to do as his friend directed. Castaing proposed to send for a
doctor from Paris, but Auguste insisted that a local doctor
should be called in at once.

Accordingly Dr. Pigache of Saint Cloud was summoned. He arrived
at the hotel about eleven o'clock. Before seeing the patient
Castaing told the doctor that he believed him to be suffering
from cholera. Pigache asked to see the matter vomited but was
told that it had been thrown away. He prescribed a careful diet,
lemonade and a soothing draught.

Dr. Pigache returned at three o'clock, when he found that the
patient had taken some lemonade, but, according to Castaing, had
refused to take the draught. He called again that afternoon.
Ballet was much better; he said that he would be quite well if he
could get some sleep, and expressed a wish to return to Paris.
Dr. Pigache dissuaded him from this and left, saying that he
would come again in the evening. Castaing said that that would
be unnecessary, and it was agreed that Pigache should see the
patient again at eight o'clock the next morning. During the
afternoon Castaing sent a letter to Paris to Jean, Auguste's
negro servant, telling him to take the two keys of his master's
desk to his cousin Malassis. But the negro distrusted Castaing.
He knew of the will which his master had made in the doctor's
favour. Rather than compromise himself by any injudicious act,
he brought the keys to Saint Cloud and there handed them over to

When Jean arrived his master complained to him of feeling
very ill. Jean said that he hoped he would be well enough to go
back to Paris the following day, to which Auguste replied, "I
don't think so. But if I am lucky enough to get away to-morrow,
I shall leave fifty francs for the poor here." About eleven
o'clock that night Castaing, in Jean's presence, gave the sick
man a spoonful of the draught prescribed by Dr. Pigache. Four or
five minutes later Auguste was seized with terrible convulsions,
followed by unconsciousness. Dr. Pigache was sent for. He found
Ballet lying on his back unconscious, his throat strained, his
mouth shut and his eyes fixed; the pulse was weak, his body
covered with cold sweat; and every now and then he was seized
with strong convulsions. The doctor asked Castaing the cause of
the sudden change in Ballet's condition. Castaing replied that
it had commenced shortly after he had taken a spoonful of the
draught which the doctor had prescribed for him. Dr. Pigache
bled the patient and applied twenty leeches. He returned about
six; Ballet was sinking, and Castaing appeared to be greatly
upset. He told the doctor what an unhappy coincidence it was
that he should have been present at the deathbeds of both
Hippolyte and his brother Auguste; and that the position was the
more distressing for him as he was the sole heir to Auguste's
fortune. To M. Pelletan, a professor of medicine, who had been
sent for to St. Cloud in the early hours of Sunday morning,
Castaing appeared to be in a state of great grief and agitation;
he was shedding tears. Pelletan was from the first impressed by
the suspicious nature of the case, and pointed out to Castaing
the awkwardness of his situation as heir to the dying man.
"You're right," replied Castaing, "my position is dreadful,
horrible. In my great grief I had never thought of it till now,
but now you make me see it clearly. Do you think there will be
an investigation?" Pelletan answered that he should be
compelled to ask for a post-mortem. "Ah! You will be doing me
the greatest service," said Castaing, "I beg you to insist on a
post-mortem. You will be acting as a second father to me in
doing so." The parish priest was sent for to administer extreme
unction to the dying man. To the parish clerk who accompanied
the priest Castaing said, "I am losing a friend of my childhood,"
and both priest and clerk went away greatly edified by the
sincere sorrow and pious demeanour of the young doctor. About
mid-day on Sunday, June 1, Auguste Ballet died.

During the afternoon Castaing left the hotel for some hours, and
that same afternoon a young man about twenty-five years of age,
short and fair, left a letter at the house of Malassis. The
letter was from Castaing and said, "My dear friend, Ballet has
just died, but do nothing before to-morrow, Monday. I will see
you and tell you, yes or no, whether it is time to act. I expect
that his brother-in-law, M. Martignon, whose face is pock-marked
and who carries a decoration, will call and see you. I have said
that I did not know what dispositions Ballet may have made, but
that before his death he had told me to give you two little keys
which I am going to deliver to you myself to-morrow, Monday. I
have not said that we are cousins, but only that I had seen you
once or twice at Ballet's, with whom you were friendly. So say
nothing till I have seen you, but whatever you do, don't say you
are a relative of mine." When he returned to the hotel Castaing
found Martignon, Lebret, and one or two friends of Auguste
already assembled. It was only that morning that Martignon had
received from Castaing any intimation of his brother-in-law's
critical condition. From the first Castaing was regarded with
suspicion; the nature of the illness, the secrecy maintained
about it by Castaing, the coincidence of some of the
circumstances with those of the death of Hippolyte, all combined
to excite suspicion. Asked if Auguste had left a will Castaing
said no; but the next day he admitted its existence, and said
that it was in the hands of Malassis.

Monday, June 2, was the day fixed for the post-mortem; it was
performed in the hotel at Saint Cloud. Castaing was still in the
hotel under provisional arrest. While the post-mortem was going
on his agitation was extreme; he kept opening the door of the
room in which he was confined, to hear if possible some news of
the result. At last M. Pelletan obtained permission to inform
him of the verdict of the doctors. It was favourable to
Castaing; no trace of death by violence or poison had been

The medical men declared death to be due to an inflammation of
the stomach, which could be attributed to natural causes; that
the inflammation had subsided; that it had been succeeded by
cerebral inflammation, which frequently follows inflammation of
the stomach, and may have been aggravated in this case by
exposure to the sun or by over-indulgence of any kind.



Castaing expected, as a result of the doctors' report, immediate
release. In this he was disappointed; he was placed under
stricter arrest and taken to Paris, where a preliminary
investigation commenced, lasting five months. During the early
part of his imprisonment Castaing feigned insanity, going to
disgusting lengths in the hope of convincing those about him of
the reality of his madness. But after three days of futile
effort he gave up the attempt, and turned his attention to more
practical means of defence. In the prison at Versailles, whither
he had been removed from Paris, he got on friendly terms with a
prisoner, one Goupil, who was awaiting trial for some unimportant
offence. To Goupil Castaing described the cruelty of his
position and the causes that had led to his wrongful arrest. He
admitted his unfortunate possession of the poison, and said that
the 100,000 francs which he had invested he had inherited from an
uncle. Through Goupil he succeeded in communicating with his
mother in the hope that she would use her influence to stifle
some of the more serious evidence against him. Through other
prisoners he tried to get at the chemists from whom he had bought
acetate of morphia, and persuade them to say that the preparation
of morphia which he had purchased was harmless.

The trial of Castaing commenced before the Paris Assize Court on
November 10, 1823. He was charged with the murder of Hippolyte
Ballet, the destruction of a document containing the final
dispositions of Hippolyte's property, and with the murder of
Auguste Ballet. The three charges were to be tried
simultaneously. The Act of Accusation in Castaing's case is a
remarkable document, covering a hundred closely-printed pages.
It is a well-reasoned, graphic and unfair statement of the case
for the prosecution. It tells the whole story of the crime, and
inserts everything that can possibly prejudice the prisoner in
the eyes of the jury. As an example, it quotes against Castaing
a letter of his mistress in which, in the course of some quarrel,
she had written to him saying that his mother had said some
"horrible things" (des horreurs) of him; but what those
"horrible things" were was not revealed, nor were they ever
alluded to again in the course of the trial, nor was his
mistress called as a witness, though payments of money by
Castaing to her formed an important part of the evidence against
him. Again, the evidence of Goupil, his fellow prisoner, as to
the incriminating statements made to him by Castaing is given in
the Act of Accusation, but Goupil himself was not called at the

During the reading of the Act of Accusation by the Clerk of the
Court Castaing listened calmly. Only when some allusion was made
to his mistress and their children did he betray any sign of
emotion. As soon as the actual facts of the case were set out he
was all attention, making notes busily. He is described as
rather attractive in appearance, his face long, his features
regular, his forehead high, his hair, fair in colour, brushed
back from the brows; he wore rather large side-whiskers. One of
the witnesses at Saint Cloud said that Castaing looked more like
a priest than a doctor; his downcast eyes, gentle voice, quiet
and unassuming demeanour, lent him an air of patience and

The interrogatory of Castaing by the presiding judge lasted all
the afternoon of the first day of the trial and the morning of
the second. The opening part of it dealt with the murder of
Hippolyte Ballet, and elicited little or nothing that was fresh.
Beyond the purchase of acetate of morphia previous to Hippolyte's
death, which Castaing reluctantly admitted, there was no serious
evidence against him, and before the end of the trial the
prosecution abandoned that part of the charge.

Questioned by the President as to the destruction of Hippolyte
Ballet's will, Castaing admitted that he had seen a draft of a
will executed by Hippolyte in favour of his sister, but he denied
having told Auguste that Lebret had in his possession a copy
which he was prepared to destroy for 100,000 francs. Asked to
explain the assertion of Mlle. Percillie, Auguste's
mistress, that statements to this effect had been made in her
presence by both Auguste Ballet and himself, he said that it was
not true; that he had never been to her house. "What motive," he
was asked, "could Mlle. Percillie have for accusing you?"
"She hated me," was the reply, "because I had tried to separate
Auguste from her." Castaing denied that he had driven with
Auguste to Lebret's office on October 8. Asked to explain his
sudden possession of 100,000 francs at a moment when he was
apparently without a penny, he repeated his statement that
Auguste had given him the capital sum as an equivalent for an
income of 4,000 francs which his brother had intended to leave
him. "Why, when first asked if you had received anything from
Auguste, did you say you had received nothing?" was the question.

"It was a thoughtless statement," was the answer. "Why," pursued
the President, "should you not have admitted at once a fact that
went to prove your own good faith? If, however, this fact be
true, it does not explain the mysterious way in which Auguste
asked Prignon to raise for him 100,000 francs; and unless those
100,000 francs were given to you, it is impossible to account for
them. It is important to your case that you should give the jury
a satisfactory explanation on this point." Castaing could only
repeat his previous explanations.

The interrogatory was then directed to the death of Auguste
Ballet. Castaing said that Auguste Ballet had left him all his
fortune on account of a disagreement with his sister. Asked why,
after Auguste's death, he had at first denied all knowledge of
the will made in his favour and deposited by him with Malassis,
he could give no satisfactory reason. Coming to the facts of the
alleged poisoning of Auguste Ballet, the President asked Castaing
why, shortly after the warm wine was brought up on the night
of May 30, he went up to the room where one of the servants of
the hotel was lying sick. Castaing replied that he was sent for
by the wife of the hotel-keeper. This the woman denied; she said
that she did not even know that he was a doctor. "According to
the prosecution," said the judge, "you left the room in order to
avoid drinking your share of the wine." Castaing said that he
had drunk half a cupful of it. The judge reminded him that to
one of the witnesses Castaing had said that he had drunk only a

A ridiculous statement made by Castaing to explain the purchase
of morphia and antimony in Paris on May 31 was brought up against
him. Shortly after his arrest Castaing had said that the cats
and dogs about the hotel had made such a noise on the night of
May 30 that they had disturbed the rest of Auguste, who, in the
early morning, had asked Castaing to get some poison to kill
them. He had accordingly gone all the way, about ten miles, to
Paris at four in the morning to purchase antimony and morphia to
kill cats and dogs. All the people of the hotel denied that
there had been any such disturbance on the night in question.
Castaing now said that he had bought the poisons at Auguste's
request, partly to kill the noisy cats and dogs, and partly for
the purpose of their making experiments on animals. Asked why he
had not given this second reason before, he said that as Auguste
was not a medical man it would have been damaging to his
reputation to divulge the fact of his wishing to make
unauthorised experiments on animals. "Why go to Paris for the
poison?" asked the judge, "there was a chemist a few yards from
the hotel. And when in Paris, why go to two chemists?" To all
these questions Castaing's answers were such as to lead the
President to express a doubt as to whether they were likely to
convince the jury. Castaing was obliged to admit that he
had allowed, if not ordered, the evacuations of the sick man to
be thrown away. He stated that he had thrown away the morphia
and antimony, which he had bought in Paris, in the closets of the
hotel, because, owing to the concatenation of circumstances, he
thought that he would be suspected of murder. In reply to a
question from one of the jury, Castaing said that he had mixed
the acetate of morphia and tartar emetic together before reaching
Saint Cloud, but why he had done so he could not explain.

The medical evidence at the trial was favourable to the accused.
Orfila, the famous chemist of that day, said that, though the
symptoms in Auguste Ballet's case might be attributed to
poisoning by acetate of morphia or some other vegetable poison,
at the same time they could be equally well attributed to sudden
illness of a natural kind. The liquids, taken from the stomach
of Ballet, had yielded on analysis no trace of poison of any
sort. The convulsive symptoms present in Ballet's case were un-

doubtedly a characteristic result of a severe dose of acetate of
morphia.[14] Castaing said that he had mixed the acetate of
morphia and tartar emetic together, but in any case no trace of
either poison was found in Auguste's body, and his illness might,
from all appearances, have been occasioned by natural causes.
Some attempt was made by the prosecution to prove that the
apoplexy to which Hippolyte Ballet had finally succumbed, might
be attributed to a vegetable poison; one of the doctors expressed
an opinion favourable to that conclusion "as a man but not as a
physician." But the evidence did not go further.

[14] It was asserted some years later by one medical authority in
Palmer's case that it might have been morphia and not strychnine
that had caused the tetanic symptoms which preceded Cook's death.

To the young priest-like doctor the ordeal of his trial was
a severe one. It lasted eight days. It was only at midday on
the sixth day that the evidence was concluded. Not only was
Castaing compelled to submit to a long interrogatory by the
President, but, after each witness had given his or her evidence,
the prisoner was called on to refute or explain any points
unfavourable to him. This he did briefly, with varying success;
as the trial went on, with increasing embarrassment. A great
deal of the evidence given against Castaing was hearsay, and
would have been inadmissible in an English court of justice.
Statements made by Auguste to other persons about Castaing were
freely admitted. But more serious was the evidence of Mlle.
Percillie, Auguste's mistress. She swore that on one occasion
in her presence Castaing had reproached Auguste with ingratitude;
he had complained that he had destroyed one copy of Hippolyte
Ballet's will, and for Auguste's sake had procured the
destruction of the other, and that yet, in spite of all this,
Auguste hesitated to entrust him with 100,000 francs. Asked what
he had to say to this statement Castaing denied its truth. He
had, he said, only been in Mlle. Percillie's house once, and
then not with Auguste Ballet. Mlle. Percillie adhered to the
truth of her evidence, and the President left it to the jury to
decide between them.

A Mme. Durand, a patient of Castaing, gave some curious evidence
as to a story told her by the young doctor. He said that a
friend of his, suffering from lung disease, had been persuaded
into making a will in his sister's favour. The sister had
offered a bribe of 80,000 francs to her brother's lawyer to
persuade him to make such a will, and paid one of his clerks
3,000 francs for drawing it up. Castaing, in his friend's
interest, and in order to expose the fraud, invited the clerk to
come and see him. His friend, hidden in an alcove in the room,
overheard the conversation between Castaing and the clerk,
and so learnt the details of his sister's intrigue. He at once
destroyed the will and became reconciled with his brother, whom
he had been about to disinherit. After his death the brother,
out of gratitude, had given Castaing 100,000 francs.

President: Castaing, did you tell this story to Mme. Durand?

Castaing: I don't recollect.

Avocat-General: But Mme. Durand says that you did.

Castaing: I don't recollect.

President: You always say that you don't recollect; that is no
answer. Have you, yes or no, made such a statement to Mme.

Castaing: I don't recollect; if I had said it, I should
recollect it.

Another lady whom Castaing had attended free of charge swore,
with a good deal of reluctance, that Castaing had told her a
somewhat similar story as accounting for his possession of
100,000 francs.

Witnesses were called for the defence who spoke to the diligence
and good conduct of Castaing as a medical student; and eighteen,
whom he had treated free of expense, testified to his kindness
and generosity. "All these witnesses," said the President,
"speak to your generosity; but, for that very reason, you must
have made little profit out of your profession, and had little
opportunity for saving anything," to which Castaing replied:
"These are not the only patients I attended; I have not called
those who paid me for my services." At the same time Castaing
found it impossible to prove that he had ever made a substantial
living by the exercise of his profession.

One of the medical witnesses called for the defence, M.
Chaussier, had volunteered the remark that the absence of any
trace of poison in the portions of Auguste Ballet's body
submitted to analysis, constituted an absence of the corpus
delicti. To this the President replied that that was a question
of criminal law, and no concern of his. But in his speech for
the prosecution the Avocat-General dealt with the point
raised at some length--a point which, if it had held good as a
principle of English law, would have secured the acquittal of so
wicked a poisoner as Palmer. He quoted from the famous French
lawyer d'Aguesseau: "The corpus delicti is no other thing than
the delictum itself; but the proofs of the delictum are
infinitely variable according to the nature of things; they may
be general or special, principal or accessory, direct or
indirect; in a word, they form that general effect (ensemble)
which goes to determine the conviction of an honest man." If
such a contention as M. Chaussier's were correct, said the
Avocat-General, then it would be impossible in a case of
poisoning to convict a prisoner after his victim's death, or, if
his victim survived, to convict him of the attempt to poison. He
reminded the jury of that paragraph in the Code of Criminal
Procedure which instructed them as to their duties: "The Law
does not ask you to give the reasons that have convinced you; it
lays down no rules by which you are to decide as to the fullness
or sufficiency of proof . . . it only asks you one question:
`Have you an inward conviction?'" "If," he said, "the actual
traces of poison are a material proof of murder by poison, then a
new paragraph must be added to the Criminal Code--`Since,
however, vegetable poisons leave no trace, poisoning by such
means may be committed with impunity.'" To poisoners he would
say in future: "Bunglers that you are, don't use arsenic or any
mineral poison; they leave traces; you will be found out. Use
vegetable poisons; poison your fathers, poison your mothers,
poison all your families, and their inheritance will be yours--
fear nothing; you will go unpunished! You have committed
murder by poisoning, it is true; but the corpus delicti will
not be there because it can't be there!" This was a case, he
urged, of circumstantial evidence. "We have," he said, "gone
through a large number of facts. Of these there is not one that
does not go directly to the proof of poisoning, and that can only
be explained on the supposition of poisoning; whereas, if the
theory of the defence be admitted, all these facts, from the
first to the last, become meaningless and absurd. They can only
be refuted by arguments or explanations that are childish and

Castaing was defended by two advocates--Roussel, a schoolfellow
of his, and the famous Berryer, reckoned by some the greatest
French orator since Mirabeau. Both advocates were allowed to
address the jury. Roussel insisted on the importance of the
corpus delicti. "The delictum," he said, "is the effect, the
guilty man merely the cause; it is useless to deal with the cause
if the effect is uncertain," and he cited a case in which a woman
had been sent for trial, charged with murdering her husband; the
moral proof of her guilt seemed conclusive, when suddenly her
husband appeared in court alive and well. The advocate made a
good deal of the fact that the remains of the draught prescribed
by Dr. Pigache, a spoonful of which Castaing had given to Auguste
Ballet, had been analysed and showed no trace of poison. Against
this the prosecution set the evidence of the chemist at Saint
Cloud, who had made up the prescription. He said that the same
day he had made up a second prescription similar to that of Dr.
Pigache, but not made out for Auguste Ballet, which contained, in
addition to the other ingredients, acetate of morphia. The
original of this prescription he had given to a friend of
Castaing, who had come to his shop and asked him for it a
few days after Ballet's death. It would seem therefore that
there had been two bottles of medicine, one of which containing
morphia had disappeared.

M. Roussel combatted the suggestion that the family of Castaing
were in a state of indigence. He showed that his father had an
income of 10,000 francs, while his two brothers were holding good
positions, one as an officer in the army, the other as a
government official. The mistress of Castaing he represented as
enjoying an income of 5,000 francs. He protested against the
quantity of hearsay evidence that had been admitted into the
case. "In England," he said, "when a witness is called, he is
asked `What have you seen?' If he can only testify to mere talk,
and hearsay, he is not heard." He quoted the concluding
paragraph of the will of Auguste Ballet as showing his friendly
feeling towards Castaing: "It is only after careful reflection
that I have made this final disposition of my property, in order
to mark the sincere friendship which I have never for one moment
ceased to feel for MM. Castaing, Briant and Leuchere, in order
to recognise the faithful loyalty of my servants, and deprive M.
and Mme. Martignon, my brother-in-law and sister, of all rights
to which they might be legally entitled on my death, fully
persuaded in soul and conscience that, in doing so, I am giving
to each their just and proper due." "Is this," asked M. Roussel,
"a document wrested by surprise from a weak man, extorted by
trickery? Is he not acting in the full exercise of his
faculties? He forgets no one, and justifies his conduct."

When M. Roussel came to the incident of the noisy cats and dogs
at Saint Cloud, he was as ingenious as the circumstances
permitted: "A serious charge engrosses public attention; men's
minds are concentrated on the large, broad aspects of the case;
they are in a state of unnatural excitement. They see only the
greatness, the solemnity of the accusation, and then,
suddenly, in the midst of all that is of such tragic and
surpassing interest, comes this trivial fact about cats and dogs.

It makes an unfavourable impression, because it is dramatically
out of keeping with the tragedy of the story. But we are not
here to construct a drama. No, gentlemen, look at it merely as a
trivial incident of ordinary, everyday life, and you will see it
in its proper light." M. Roussel concluded by saying that
Castaing's most eloquent advocate, if he could have been present,
would have been Auguste Ballet. "If Providence had permitted him
to enter this court, he would cry out to you, `Save my friend's
life! His heart is undefiled! He is innocent!'"

M. Roussel concluded his speech at ten o'clock on Sunday night,
November 16. The next morning Berryer addressed the jury. His
speech in defence of Castaing is not considered one of his most
successful efforts. He gave personal testimony as to the taste
of acetate of morphia. He said that with the help of his own
chemist he had put a quarter of a grain of the acetate into a
large spoonful of milk, and had found it so insupportably bitter
to the taste that he could not keep it in his mouth. If, he
contended, Ballet had been poisoned by tartar emetic, then twelve
grains given in milk would have given it an insipid taste, and
vomiting immediately after would have got rid of the poison.
Later investigations have shown that, in cases of antimonial
poisoning, vomiting does not necessarily get rid of all the
poison, and the convulsions in which Auguste Ballet died are
symptomatic of poisoning either by morphia or antimony. In
conclusion, Berryer quoted the words addressed by one of the
Kings of France to his judges: "When God has not vouchsafed
clear proof of a crime, it is a sign that He does not wish that
man should determine it, but leaves its judgment to a higher

The Avocat-General, in reply, made a telling answer to M.
Roussel's attempt to minimise the importance of the cats and
dogs: "He has spoken of the drama of life, and of its ordinary
everyday incidents. If there is drama in this case, it is of
Castaing's making. As to the ordinary incidents of everyday
life, a man buys poison, brings it to the bedside of his sick
friend, saying it is for experiments on cats and dogs, the friend
dies, the other, his sole heir, after foretelling his death,
takes possession of his keys, and proceeds to gather up the
spoils--are these ordinary incidents of every-day life?"

It was nine o'clock at night when the jury retired to consider
their verdict. They returned into court after two hours'
deliberation. They found the prisoner "Not Guilty" of the murder
of Hippolyte Ballet, "Guilty" of destroying his will, and
"Guilty" by seven votes to five of the murder of Auguste Ballet.
Asked if he had anything to say before judgment was given,
Castaing, in a very loud voice, said "No; but I shall know how to
die, though I am the victim of ill-fortune, of fatal circum-

stance. I shall go to meet my two friends. I am accused of
having treacherously murdered them. There is a Providence above
us! If there is such a thing as an immortal soul, I shall see
Hippolyte and Auguste Ballet again. This is no empty
declamation; I don't ask for human pity" (raising his hands to
heaven), "I look to God's mercy, and shall go joyfully to the
scaffold. My conscience is clear. It will not reproach me even
when I feel" (putting his hands to his neck). "Alas! It is
easier to feel what I am feeling than to express what I dare not
express." (In a feeble voice): "You have desired my death; you
have it!" The judges retired to consider the sentence. The
candles were guttering, the light of the lamps was beginning to
fade; the aspect of the court grim and terrible. M. Roussel
broke down and burst into tears. Castaing leant over to his
old schoolfellow: "Courage, Roussel," he said; "you have always
believed me innocent, and I am innocent. Embrace for me my
father, my mother, my brothers, my child." He turned to a group
of young advocates standing near: "And you, young people, who
have listened to my trial, attend also my execution; I shall be
as firm then as I am now. All I ask is to die soon. I should be
ashamed to plead for mercy." The judges returned. Castaing was
condemned to death, and ordered to pay 100,000 francs damages to
the family of Auguste Ballet.

Castaing was not ashamed to appeal to the Court of Cassation for
a revision of his trial, but on December 4 his appeal was
rejected. Two days later he was executed. He had attempted
suicide by means of poison, which one of his friends had brought
to him in prison, concealed inside a watch. His courage failed
him at the last, and he met his death in a state of collapse.

It is not often, happily, that a young man of gentle birth and
good education is a double murderer at twenty-six. And such a
soft, humble, insinuating young man too!--good to his mother,
good to his mistress, fond of his children, kind to his patients.

Yet this gentle creature can deliberately poison his two friends.

Was ever such a contradictory fellow?

Professor Webster

The best report of Webster's trial is that edited by Bemis. The
following tracts in the British Museum have been consulted by the
writer: "Appendix to the Webster Trial," Boston, 1850:
"Thoughts on the Conviction of Webster"; "The Boston Tragedy," by
W. E. Bigelow.

It is not often that the gaunt spectre of murder invades the
cloistered calm of academic life. Yet such a strange and
unwonted tragedy befell Harvard University in the year 1849, when
John W. Webster, Professor of Chemistry, took the life of Dr.
George Parkman, a distinguished citizen of Boston. The scene of
the crime, the old Medical School, now a Dental Hospital, is
still standing, or was when the present writer visited Boston in
1907. It is a large and rather dreary red-brick, three-storied
building, situated in the lower part of the city, flanked on its
west side by the mud flats leading down to the Charles River.
The first floor consists of two large rooms, separated from each
other by the main entrance hall, which is approached by a flight
of steps leading up from the street level. Of these two rooms,
the left, as you face the building, is fitted up as a lecture-
room. In the year 1849 it was the lecture-room of Professor
Webster. Behind the lecture-room is a laboratory, known as the
upper laboratory, communicating by a private staircase with the
lower laboratory, which occupies the left wing of the ground
floor. A small passage, entered by a door on the left-hand side
of the front of the building, separated this lower laboratory
from the dissecting-room, an out-house built on to the west
wall of the college, but now demolished. From this description
it will be seen that any person, provided with the necessary
keys, could enter the college by the side-door near the
dissecting room on the ground floor, and pass up through the
lower and upper laboratory into Professor Webster's lecture-room
without entering any other part of the building. The Professor
of Chemistry, by locking the doors of his lecture-rooms and the
lower laboratory, could, if he wished, make himself perfectly
secure against intrusion, and come and go by the side-door
without attracting much attention. These rooms are little
altered at the present time from their arrangement in 1849. The
lecture-room and laboratory are used for the same purposes to-
day; the lower laboratory, a dismal chamber, now disused and
somewhat rearranged, is still recognisable as the scene of the
Professor's chemical experiments.

On the second floor of the hospital is a museum, once anatomical,
now dental. One of the principal objects of interest in this
museum is a plaster cast of the jaws of Dr. George Parkman, made
by a well-known dentist of Boston, Dr. Keep, in the year 1846.
In that year the new medical college was formally opened. Dr.
Parkman, a wealthy and public-spirited citizen of Boston, had
given the piece of land, on which the college had been erected.
He had been invited to be present at the opening ceremony. In
anticipation of being asked to make a speech on this occasion Dr.
Parkman, whose teeth were few and far between, had himself fitted
by Dr. Keep with a complete set of false teeth. Oliver Wendell
Holmes, then Professor of Anatomy at Harvard, who was present at
the opening of the college, noticed how very nice and white the
doctor's teeth appeared to be. It was the discovery of the
remains of these same admirable teeth three years later in the
furnace in Professor Webster's lower laboratory that led to
the conviction of Dr. Parkman's murderer. By a strange
coincidence the doctor met his death in the very college which
his generosity had helped to build. Though to-day the state of
the college has declined from the medical to the dental, his
memory still lives within its walls by the cast of his jaws
preserved in the dental museum as a relic of a case, in which the
art of dentistry did signal service to the cause of justice.

In his lifetime Dr. Parkman was a well-known figure in the
streets of Boston. His peculiar personal appearance and
eccentric habits combined to make him something of a character.
As he walked through the streets he presented a remarkable
appearance. He was exceptionally tall, longer in the body than
the legs; his lower jaw protruded some half an inch beyond the
upper; he carried his body bent forward from the small of his
back. He seemed to be always in a hurry; so impetuous was he
that, if his horse did not travel fast enough to please him, he
would get off its back, and, leaving the steed in the middle of
the street, hasten on his way on foot. A just and generous man,
he was extremely punctilious in matters of business, and uncom-

promising in his resentment of any form of falsehood or deceit.
It was the force of his resentment in such a case that cost him
his life.

The doctor was unfailingly punctual in taking his meals. Dr.
Kingsley, during the fourteen years he had acted as his agent,
had always been able to make sure of finding him at home at his
dinner hour, half-past two o'clock. But on Friday, November 23,
1849, to his surprise and that of his family, Dr. Parkman did not
come home to dinner; and their anxiety was increased when the day
passed, and there was still no sign of the doctor's return.
Inquiries were made. From these it appeared that Dr.
Parkman had been last seen alive between one and two o'clock on
the Friday afternoon. About half-past one he had visited a
grocer's shop in Bridge Street, made some purchases, and left
behind him a paper bag containing a lettuce, which, he said, he
would call for on his way home. Shortly before two o'clock he
was seen by a workman, at a distance of forty or fifty feet from
the Medical College, going in that direction. From that moment
all certain trace of him was lost. His family knew that he had
made an appointment for half-past one that day, but where and
with whom they did not know. As a matter of fact, Professor John
W. Webster had appointed that hour to receive Dr. Parkman in his
lecture-room in the Medical College.

John W. Webster was at this time Professor of Chemistry and
Mineralogy in Harvard University, a Doctor of Medicine and a
Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the London
Geological Society and the St. Petersburg Mineralogical Society.
He was the author of several works on geology and chemistry, a
man now close on sixty years of age. His countenance was genial,
his manner mild and unassuming; he was clean shaven, wore
spectacles, and looked younger than his years.

Professor Webster was popular with a large circle of friends. To
those who liked him he was a man of pleasing and attractive
manners, artistic in his tastes--he was especially fond of
music--not a very profound or remarkable chemist, but a pleasant
social companion. His temper was hasty and irritable. Spoilt in
his boyhood as an only child, he was self-willed and self-
indulgent. His wife and daughters were better liked than he. By
unfriendly criticics{sic} the Professor was thought to be
selfish, fonder of the good things of the table and a good
cigar than was consistent with his duty to his family or the
smallness of his income. His father, a successful apothecary at
Boston, had died in 1833, leaving John, his only son, a fortune
of some L10,000. In rather less than ten years Webster had
run through the whole of his inheritance. He had built himself a
costly mansion in Cambridge, spent a large sum of money in
collecting minerals, and delighted to exercise lavish
hospitality. By living consistently beyond his means he found
himself at length entirely dependent on his professional
earnings. These were small. His salary as Professor was fixed
at L240 a year;[15] the rest of his income he derived from the
sale of tickets for his lectures at the Medical College. That
income was insufficient to meet his wants.

[15] I have given these sums of money in their English
equivalents in order to give the reader an idea of the smallness
of the sum which brought about the tragedy.

As early as 1842 he had borrowed L80 from his friend Dr.
Parkman. It was to Parkman's good offices that he owed his
appointment as a Professor at Harvard; they had entered the
University as under-graduates in the same year. Up to 1847
Webster had repaid Parkman twenty pounds of his debt; but, in
that year he found it necessary to raise a further loan of
L490, which was subscribed by a few friends, among them
Parkman himself. As a security for the repayment of this loan,
the professor executed a mortgage on his valuable collection of
minerals in favour of Parkman. In the April of 1848 the
Professor's financial difficulties became so serious that he was
threatened with an execution in his house. In this predicament
he went to a Mr. Shaw, Dr. Parkman's brother-in-law, and begged a
loan of L240, offering him as security a bill of sale on the
collection of minerals, which he had already mortgaged to
Parkman. Shaw accepted the security, and lent the money.
Shaw would seem to have had a good deal of sympathy with
Webster's embarrassments; he considered the Professor's income
very inadequate to his position, and showed himself quite ready
at a later period to waive his debt altogether.

Dr. Parkman was a less easy-going creditor. Forbearing and
patient as long as he was dealt with fairly, he was merciless
where he thought he detected trickery or evasion. His
forbearance and his patience were utterly exhausted, his anger
and indignation strongly aroused, when he learnt from Shaw that
Webster had given him as security for his debt a bill of sale on
the collection of minerals, already mortgaged to himself. From
the moment of the discovery of this act of dishonesty on the part
of Webster, Parkman pursued his debtor with unrelenting severity.

He threatened him with an action at law; he said openly that he
was neither an honourable, honest, nor upright man; he tried to
appropriate to the payment of his debt the fees for lectures
which Mr. Pettee, Webster's agent, collected on the Professor's
behalf. He even visited Webster in his lecture-room and sat
glaring at him in the front row of seats, while the Professor was
striving under these somewhat unfavourable conditions to impart
instruction to his pupils--a proceeding which the Doctor's odd
cast of features must have aggravated in no small degree.

It was early in November that Parkman adopted these aggressive
tactics. On the 19th of that month Webster and the janitor of
the College, Ephraim Littlefield, were working in the upper
laboratory. It was dark; they had lit candles. Webster was
reading a chemical book. As he looked up from the book he saw
Parkman standing in the doorway leading from the lecture-room.
"Dr. Webster, are you ready for me to-night?" asked Parkman.
"No," replied the other, "I am not ready to-night." After a
little further conversation in regard to the mortgage, Parkman
departed with the ominous remark, "Doctor, something must be done

Unfortunately the Professor was not in a position to do anything.

He had no means sufficient to meet his creditor's demands; and
that creditor was unrelenting. On the 22nd Parkman rode into
Cambridge, where Webster lived, to press him further, but failed
to find him. Webster's patience, none too great at any time, was
being sorely tried. To whom could he turn? What further
resource was open to him? There was none. He determined to see
his creditor once more. At 8 o'clock on the morning of Friday
the 23rd, Webster called at Dr. Parkman's house and made the
appointment for their meeting at the Medical College at half-past
one, to which the Doctor had been seen hastening just before his
disappearance. At nine o'clock the same morning Pettee, the
agent, had called on the Professor at the College and paid him by
cheque a balance of L28 due on his lecture tickets, informing
him at the same time that, owing to the trouble with Dr. Parkman,
he must decline to receive any further sums of money on his
behalf. Webster replied that Parkman was a nervous, excitable
man, subject to mental aberrations, but he added, "You will have
no further trouble with Dr. Parkman, for I have settled with
him." It is difficult to see how the Professor could have
settled, or proposed to settle, with his creditor on that day. A
balance of L28 at his bank, and the L18 which Mr. Pettee
had paid to him that morning, represented the sum of Professor
Webster's fortune on Friday, November 23, 1849.

Since the afternoon of that day the search for the missing
Parkman had been unremitting. On the Saturday his friends
communicated with the police. On Sunday hand-bills were issued
stating the fact of the Doctor's disappearance, and on
Monday, the 26th, a description and the offer of a considerable
reward for the discovery of his body were circulated both in and
out of the city. Two days later a further reward was offered.
But these efforts were fruitless. The only person who gave any
information beyond that afforded by those who had seen the Doctor
in the streets on the morning of his disappearance, was Professor
Webster. About four o'clock on the Sunday afternoon the
Professor called at the house of the Revd. Francis Parkman, the
Doctor's brother. They were intimate friends. Webster had for a
time attended Parkman's chapel; and Mr. Parkman had baptised the
Professor's grand-daughter. On this Sunday afternoon Mr. Parkman
could not help remarking Webster's peculiar manner. With a bare
greeting and no expression of condolence with the family's
distress, his visitor entered abruptly and nervously on the
object of his errand. He had called, he said, to tell Mr.
Parkman that he had seen his brother at the Medical College on
Friday afternoon, that he had paid him L90 which he owed him,
and that the Doctor had in the course of their interview taken
out a paper and dashed his pen through it, presumably as an
acknowledgment of the liquidation of the Professor's debt.
Having communicated this intelligence to the somewhat astonished
gentleman, Webster left him as abruptly as he had come.

Another relative of Dr. Parkman, his nephew, Mr. Parkman Blake,
in the course of inquiries as to his uncle's fate, thought it
right to see Webster. Accordingly he went to the college on
Monday, the 26th, about eleven o'clock in the morning. Though
not one of his lecture days, the janitor Littlefield informed him
that the Professor was in his room. The door of the lecture--

room, however, was found to be locked, and it was only after
considerable delay that Mr. Blake gained admittance. As he
descended the steps to the floor of the lecture-room Webster,
dressed in a working suit of blue overalls and wearing on his
head a smoking cap, came in from the back door. Instead of
advancing to greet his visitor, he stood fixed to the spot, and
waited, as if defensively, for Mr. Blake to speak. In answer to
Mr. Blake's questions Webster described his interview with Dr.
Parkman on the Friday afternoon. He gave a very similar account
of it to that he had already given to Mr. Francis Parkman. He
added that at the end of their interview he had asked the Doctor
for the return of the mortgage, to which the latter had replied,
"I haven't it with me, but I will see it is properly cancelled."
Mr. Blake asked Webster if he could recollect in what form of
money it was that he had paid Dr. Parkman. Webster answered that
he could only recollect a bill of L20 on the New Zealand Bank:
pressed on this point, he seemed to rather avoid any further
inquiries. Mr. Blake left him, dissatisfied with the result of
his visit.

One particular in Webster's statement was unquestionably strange,
if not incredible. He had, he said, paid Parkman a sum of
L90, which he had given him personally, and represented the
Doctor as having at their interview promised to cancel the
mortgage on the collection of minerals which Webster had given as
security for the loan of L490 that had been subscribed by
Parkman and four of his friends. Now L120 of this loan was
still owing. If Webster's statement were true, Parkman had a
perfect right to cancel Webster's personal debt to himself; but
he had no right to cancel entirely the mortgage on the minerals,
so long as money due to others on that mortgage was yet unpaid.
Was it conceivable that one so strict and scrupulous in all
monetary transactions as Parkman would have settled his own
personal claim, and then sacrificed in so discreditable a
manner the claims of others, for the satisfaction of which he had
made himself responsible?

There was yet another singular circumstance. On Saturday, the
24th, the day after his settlement with Parkman, Webster paid
into his own account at the Charles River Bank the cheque for
L18, lecture fees, handed over to him by the agent Pettee just
before Dr. Parkman's visit on the Friday. This sum had not ap-

parently gone towards the making up of the L90, which Webster
said that he had paid to Parkman that day. The means by which
Webster had been enabled to settle this debt became more
mysterious than ever.

On Tuesday, November 27, the Professor received three other
visitors in his lecture-room. These were police officers who, in
the course of their search for the missing man, felt it their
duty to examine, however perfunctorily, the Medical College.
With apologies to the Professor, they passed through his lecture
room to the laboratory at the back, and from thence, down the
private stairs, past a privy, into the lower laboratory. As they
passed the privy one of the officers asked what place it was.
"Dr. Webster's private lavatory," replied the janitor, who was
conducting them. At that moment Webster's voice called them away
to examine the store-room in the lower laboratory, and after a
cursory examination the officers departed.

The janitor, Ephraim Littlefield, did not take the opportunity
afforded him by the visit of the police officers to impart to
them the feelings of uneasiness; which the conduct of Professor
Webster during the last three days had excited in his breast.
There were circumstances in the Professor's behaviour which could
not fail to attract the attention of a man, whose business
throughout the day was to dust and sweep the College, light the
fires and overlook generally the order and cleanliness of
the building.

Littlefield, it will be remembered, had seen Dr. Parkman on the
Monday before his disappearance, when he visited Webster at the
College, and been present at the interview, in the course of
which the Doctor told Webster that "something must be done."
That Monday morning Webster asked Littlefield a number of
questions about the dissecting-room vault, which was situated
just outside the door of the lower laboratory. He asked how it
was built, whether a light could be put into it, and how it was
reached for the purpose of repair. On the following Thursday,
the day before Parkman's disappearance, the Professor told
Littlefield to get him a pint of blood from the Massachusetts
Hospital; he said that he wanted it for an experiment. On the
morning of Friday, the day of Parkman's disappearance,
Littlefield informed the Professor that he had been unsuccessful
in his efforts to get the blood, as they had not been bleeding
anyone lately at the hospital. The same morning Littlefield
found to his surprise a sledge-hammer behind the door of the
Professor's back room; he presumed that it had been left there by
masons, and took it down to the lower laboratory. This sledge-


Back to Full Books