A Book of Remarkable Criminals
H. B. Irving

Part 4 out of 5

hammer Littlefield never saw again. About a quarter to two that
afternoon Littlefield, standing at the front door, after his
dinner, saw Dr. Parkman coming towards the College. At two
o'clock Littlefield went up to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes' room,
immediately above Professor Webster's, to help the Doctor to
clear his table after his lecture, which was the last delivered
that day. About a quarter of an hour later he let Dr. Holmes
out, locked the front door and began to clear out the stoves in
the other lecture-rooms. When he reached Webster's he was
surprised to find that both doors, that of the lecture room and
that of the lower laboratory, were either locked or bolted.
He could hear nothing but the running of water in one of the
sinks. About half-past five Littlefield saw the Professor coming
down the back stairs with a lighted candle in his hand. Webster
blew out the candle and left the building. Late that night
Littlefield again tried the Professor's doors; they were still
fastened. The janitor was surprised at this, as he had never
known such a thing to happen before.

On Saturday, the 24th, though not lecturing that day, the
Professor came to the College in the morning. He told
Littlefield to light the stove in the lower laboratory. When
Littlefield made to pass from the lecture-room into the
Professor's private room at the back, and so down by the private
stairs to the lower laboratory, the Professor stopped him and
told him to go round by the door in front of the building. The
whole of that day and Sunday, the Professor's doors remained
fast. On Sunday evening at sunset Littlefield, who was talking
with a friend in North Grove Street, the street that faces the
College, was accosted by Webster. The Professor asked him if he
recollected Parkman's visit to the College on Friday, the 23rd,
and, on his replying in the affirmative, the Professor described
to him their interview and the repayment of his debt.
Littlefield was struck during their conversation by the
uneasiness of the Professor's bearing; contrary to his habit he
seemed unable to look him in the face, his manner was confused,
his face pale.

During the whole of Monday, except for a visit from Mr. Parkman
Blake, Professor Webster was again locked alone in his
laboratory. Neither that night, nor early Tuesday morning, could
Littlefield get into the Professor's rooms to perform his
customary duties. On Tuesday the Professor lectured at twelve
o'clock, and later received the visit of the police officers that
has been described already. At four o'clock that afternoon,
the Professor's bell rang. Littlefield answered it. The Pro-

fessor asked the janitor whether he had bought his turkey for
Thanksgiving Day, which was on the following Thursday.
Littlefield said that he had not done so yet. Webster then
handed him an order on his provision dealer. "Take that," he
said, "and get a nice turkey; perhaps I shall want you to do some
odd jobs for me." Littlefield thanked him, and said that he
would be glad to do anything for him that he could. The janitor
was the more surprised at Webster's generosity on this occasion,
as this turkey was the first present he had received at the
Professor's hands during the seven years he had worked in the
College. Littlefield saw the Professor again about half-past six
that evening as the latter was leaving the College. The janitor
asked him if he wanted any more fires lighted in his rooms,
because owing to the holidays there were to be no further
lectures that week. Webster said that he did not, and asked Lit-

tlefield whether he were a freemason. The janitor said "Yes,"
and with that they parted.

Littlefield was curious. The mysterious activity of the
Professor of Chemistry seemed to him more than unusual. His
perplexity was increased on the following day. Though on account
of the holidays all work had been suspended at the College for
the remainder of the week, Webster was again busy in his room
early Wednesday morning. Littlefield could hear him moving
about. In vain did the janitor look through the keyhole, bore a
hole in the door, peep under it; all he could get was a sight of
the Professor's feet moving about the laboratory. Perplexity
gave way to apprehension when in the course of the afternoon
Littlefield discovered that the outer wall of the lower
laboratory was so hot that he could hardly bear to place his hand
on it. On the outer side of this wall was a furnace
sometimes used by the Professor in his chemical experiments. How
came it to be so heated? The Professor had told Littlefield on
Tuesday that he should not be requiring any fires during the
remainder of the week.

The janitor determined to resolve his suspicions. He climbed up
to the back windows of the lower laboratory, found one of them
unfastened, and let himself in. But, beyond evidences of the
considerable fires that had been kept burning during the last few
days, Littlefield saw nothing to excite peculiar attention.
Still he was uneasy. Those he met in the street kept on telling
him that Dr. Parkman would be found in the Medical College. He
felt that he himself was beginning to be suspected of having some
share in the mystery, whilst in his own mind he became more
certain every day that the real solution lay within the walls of
Professor Webster's laboratory. His attention had fixed itself
particularly on the lavatory at the foot of the stairs connecting
the upper and lower laboratories. This room he found to be
locked and the key, a large one, had disappeared. He recollected
that when the police officers had paid their visit to the col-

lege, the Professor had diverted their attention as they were
about to inspect this room. The only method by which, unknown to
the Professor and without breaking open the door, Littlefield
could examine the vault of this retiring room was by going down
to the basement floor of the college and digging a hole through
the wall into the vault itself. This he determined to do.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Littlefield commenced operations
with a hatchet and a chisel. Progress was slow, as that evening
he had been invited to attend a festal gathering. On Friday the
janitor, before resuming work, acquainted two of the Professors
of the college with his proposed investigation, and received
their sanction. As Webster, however, was going constantly
in and out of his rooms, he could make little further progress
that day. The Professor had come into town early in the morning.

Before going to the college he purchased some fish-hooks and gave
orders for the making of a strong tin box with firm handles, a
foot and a half square and a little more than a foot in depth;
during the rest of the day he had been busy in his rooms until he
left the college about four o'clock. Not till then was the
watchful janitor able to resume his labours. Armed with a crow-

bar, he worked vigorously until he succeeded in penetrating the
wall sufficiently to admit a light into the vault of the
lavatory. The first objects which the light revealed to his
eyes, were the pelvis of a man and two parts of a human leg.

Leaving his wife in charge of the remains, Littlefield went
immediately to the house of Professor Bigelow, and informed him
of the result of his search. They returned to the college some
twenty minutes later, accompanied by the City Marshal. The human
remains--a pelvis, a thigh and a leg--were taken out of the
vault, and on a further search some pieces of bone were removed
from one of the furnaces in the lower laboratory. The City
Marshal at once dispatched three of his officers to Cambridge, to
the house of Professor Webster.

To his immediate circle of friends and relations the conduct of
the Professor during this eventful week had betrayed no unwonted
discomposure or disturbance of mind. His evenings had been spent
either at the house of friends, or at his own, playing whist, or
reading Milton's "Allegro" and "Penseroso" to his wife and daugh-

ters. On Friday evening, about eight o'clock, as the Professor
was saying good-bye to a friend on the steps of his house at
Cambridge, the three police officers drove up to the door and
asked him to accompany them to the Medical College. It was
proposed, they said, to make a further search there that evening,
and his presence was considered advisable. Webster assented
immediately, put on his boots, his hat and coat, and got into the
hired coach. As they drove towards the city, Webster spoke to
the officers of Parkman's disappearance, and suggested that they
should stop at the house of a lady who, he said, could give them
some peculiar information on that subject. As they entered
Boston, he remarked that they were taking the wrong direction for
reaching the college. One of the officers replied that the
driver might be "green," but that he would find his way to the
college in time. At length the coach stopped. One of the offi-

cers alighted, and invited his companions to follow him into the
office of the Leverett Street Jail. They obeyed. The Professor
asked what it all meant; he was informed that he must consider
himself in custody, charged with the murder of Dr. George
Parkman. Webster, somewhat taken aback, desired that word should
be sent to his family, but was dissuaded from his purpose for the
time being. He was searched, and among other articles taken from
him was a key some four or five inches long; it was the missing
lavatory key. Whilst one of the officers withdrew to make out a
mittimus, the Professor asked one of the others if they had found
Dr. Parkman. The officer begged him not to question him. "You
might tell me something about it," pleaded Webster. "Where did
they find him? Did they find the whole body? Oh, my children!
What will they do? What will they think of me? Where did you
get the information?" The officers asked him if anybody had
access to his apartments but himself. "Nobody," he replied, "but
the porter who makes the fire." Then, after a pause, he ex-

claimed: "That villain! I am a ruined man." He was walking up
and down wringing his hands, when one of the officers saw
him put one hand into his waistcoat pocket, and raise it to his
lips. A few moments later the unhappy man was seized with
violent spasms. He was unable to stand, and was laid down in one
of the cells. From this distressing state he was roused shortly
before eleven, to be taken to the college. He was quite
incapable of walking, and had to be supported by two of the
officers. He was present there while his rooms were searched;
but his state was painful in the extreme. He asked for water,
but trembled so convulsively that he could only snap at the
tumbler like a dog; his limbs were rigid; tears and sweat poured
down his cheeks. On the way back to the jail, one of the
officers, moved by his condition, expressed his pity for him.
"Do you pity me? Are you sorry for me? What for?" asked
Webster. "To see you so excited," replied the officer. "Oh!
that's it," said the Professor.

The whole night through the prisoner lay without moving, and not
until the following afternoon were his limbs relaxed sufficiently
to allow of his sitting up. As his condition improved, he grew
more confident. "That is no more Dr. Parkman's body," he said,
"than mine. How in the world it came there I don't know," and he
added: "I never liked the looks of Littlefield the janitor; I
opposed his coming there all I could."

In the meantime a further examination of the Professor's rooms on
Saturday had resulted in the discovery, in a tea-chest in the
lower laboratory, of a thorax, the left thigh of a leg, and a
hunting knife embedded in tan and covered over with minerals;
some portions of bone and teeth were found mixed with the slag
and cinders of one of the furnaces; also some fish-hooks and a
quantity of twine, the latter identical with a piece of twine
that had been tied round the thigh found in the chest.

Two days later the Professor furnished unwittingly some
additional evidence against himself. On the Monday evening after
his arrest he wrote from prison to one of his daughters the
following letter:

"MY DEAREST MARIANNE,--I wrote Mama yesterday; I had a good sleep
last night, and dreamt of you all. I got my clothes off, for the
first time, and awoke in the morning quite hungry. It was a long
time before my first breakfast from Parker's came; and it was
relished, I can assure you. At one o'clock I was notified that I
must appear at the court room. All was arranged with great
regard to my comfort, and went off better than I had anticipated.

On my return I had a bit of turkey and rice from Parker's. They
send much more than I can eat, and I have directed the steward to
distribute the surplus to any poor ones here.

"If you will send me a small canister of tea, I can make my own.
A little pepper I may want some day. I would send the dirty
clothes, but they were taken to dry. Tell Mama NOT TO OPEN
the little bundle I gave her the other day, but to keep it just
as she received it. With many kisses to you all. Good night!--
From your affectionate


"P.S.--My tongue troubles me yet very much, and I must have
bitten it in my distress the other night; it is painful and
swollen, affecting my speech. Had Mama better send for Nancy? I
think so; or Aunt Amelia."

"Couple of coloured neck handkerchiefs, one Madras."

This letter, which shows an anxiety about his personal comfort
singular in one so tragically situated, passed through the hands
of the keeper of the jail. He was struck by the words
underlined," NOT TO OPEN," in regard to the small bundle
confided to Mrs. Webster. He called the attention of the police
to this phrase. They sent immediately an officer armed with a
search warrant to the Professor's house. He received from Mrs.
Webster among other papers a package which, on being opened, was
found to contain the two notes given by Webster to Parkman as
acknowledgments of his indebtedness to him in 1842 and 1847, and
a paper showing the amount of his debts to Parkman in 1847.
There were daubs and erasures made across these documents, and
across one was written twice over the word "paid." All these
evidences of payments and cancellations appeared on examination
to be in the handwriting of the Professor.

After an inquest lasting nine days the coroner's jury declared
the remains found in the college to be those of Dr. George
Parkman, and that the deceased had met his death at the hands of
Professor J. W. Webster. The prisoner waived his right to a
magisterial investigation, and on January 26, 1850, the Grand
Jury returned a true bill. But it was not until March 17 that
the Professor's trial opened before the Supreme Court of
Massachusetts. The proceedings were conducted with that dignity
and propriety which we look for in the courts of that State. The
principal features in the defence were an attempt to impugn the
testimony of the janitor Littlefield, and to question the
possibility of the identification of the remains of Parkman's
teeth. There was a further attempt to prove that the deceased
had been seen by a number of persons in the streets of Boston on
the Friday afternoon, after his visit to the Medical College.
The witness Littlefield was unshaken by a severe cross-
examination. The very reluctance with which Dr. Keep gave his
fatal evidence, and the support given to his conclusions by
distinguished testimony told strongly in favour of the absolute
trustworthiness of his statements. The evidence called to
prove that the murdered man had been seen alive late on Friday
afternoon was highly inconclusive.

Contrary to the advice of his counsel, Webster addressed the jury
himself. He complained of the conduct of his case, and
enumerated various points that his counsel had omitted to make,
which he conceived to be in his favour. The value of his
statements may be judged by the fact that he called God to
witness that he had not written any one of the anonymous letters,
purporting to give a true account of the doctor's fate, which had
been received by the police at the time of Parkman's disap-

pearance. After his condemnation Webster confessed to the
authorship of at least one of them.

The jury retired at eight o'clock on the eleventh day of the
trial. They would seem to have approached their duty in a most
solemn and devout spirit, and it was with the greatest reluctance
and after some searching of heart that they brought themselves to
find the prisoner guilty of wilful murder. On hearing their
verdict, the Professor sank into a seat, and, dropping his head,
rubbed his eyes behind his spectacles as if wiping away tears.
On the following morning the Chief Justice sentenced him to death
after a well-meaning speech of quite unnecessary length and
elaboration, at the conclusion of which the condemned man wept

A petition for a writ of error having been dismissed, the
Professor in July addressed a petition for clemency to the
Council of the State. Dr. Putnam, who had been attending Webster
in the jail, read to the Council a confession which he had
persuaded the prisoner to make. According to this statement
Webster had, on the Friday afternoon, struck Parkman on the head
with a heavy wooden stick in a wild moment of rage, induced by
the violent taunts and threats of his creditor. Appalled by his
deed, he had in panic locked himself in his room, and
proceeded with desperate haste to dismember the body; he had
placed it for that purpose in the sink in his back room, through
which was running a constant stream of water that carried away
the blood. Some portions of the body he had burnt in the
furnace; those in the lavatory and the tea-chest he had concealed
there, until he should have had an opportunity of getting rid of

In this statement Professor Webster denied all premeditation.
Dr. Putnam asked him solemnly whether he had not, immediately
before the crime, meditated at any time on the advantages that
would accrue to him from Parkman's death. Webster replied
"Never, before God!" He had, he protested, no idea of doing
Parkman an injury until the bitter tongue of the latter provoked
him. "I am irritable and violent," he said, "a quickness and
brief violence of temper has been the besetting sin of my life.
I was an only child, much indulged, and I have never secured the
control over my passions that I ought to have acquired early; and
the consequence is--all this!" He denied having told Parkman
that he was going to settle with him that afternoon, and said
that he had asked him to come to the college with the sole object
of pleading with him for further indulgence. He explained his
convulsive seizure at the time of his arrest by his having taken
a dose of strychnine, which he had carried in his pocket since
the crime. In spite of these statements and the prayers of the
unfortunate man's wife and daughters, who, until his confession
to Dr. Putnam, had believed implicity in his innocence, the
Council decided that the law must take its course, and fixed
August 30 as the day of execution.

The Professor resigned himself to his fate. He sent for
Littlefield and his wife, and expressed his regret for any
injustice he had done them: "All you said was true. You have
misrepresented nothing." Asked by the sheriff whether he
was to understand from some of his expressions that he
contemplated an attempt at suicide, "Why should I?" he replied,
"all the proceedings in my case have been just . . . and it is
just that I should die upon the scaffold in accordance with that
sentence." "Everybody is right," he said to the keeper of the
jail, "and I am wrong. And I feel that, if the yielding up of my
life to the injured law will atone, even in part, for the crime I
have committed, that is a consolation."

In a letter to the Reverend Francis Parkman he expressed deep
contrition for his guilt. He added one sentence which may
perhaps fairly express the measure of premeditation that
accompanied his crime. "I had never," he wrote, "until the two
or three last interviews with your brother, felt towards him
anything but gratitude for his many acts of kindness and

Professor Webster met his death with fortitude and resignation.
That he deserved his fate few will be inclined to deny. The
attempt to procure blood, the questions about the dissecting-room
vault, the appointment made with Parkman at the college, the
statement to Pettee, all point to some degree of premeditation,
or at least would make it appear that the murder of Parkman had
been considered by him as a possible eventuality. His accusation
of Littlefield deprives him of a good deal of sympathy. On the
other hand, the age and position of Webster, the aggravating
persistency of Parkman, his threats and denunciations, coupled
with his own shortness of temper, make it conceivable that he may
have killed his victim on a sudden and overmastering provocation,
in which case he had better at once have acknowledged his crime
instead of making a repulsive attempt to conceal it. But for the
evidence of Dr. Keep he would possibly have escaped punishment
altogether. Save for the portions of his false teeth, there was
not sufficient evidence to identify the remains found in the
college as those of Parkman. Without these teeth the proof of
the corpus delicti would have been incomplete, and so afforded
Webster a fair chance of acquittal.

The Mysterious Mr. Holmes

"The Holmes-Pitezel Case," by F. B. Geyer, 1896; "Holmes' Own
Story," Philadelphia, 1895; and "Celebrated Criminal Cases of
America," by T. S. Duke, San Francisco, are the authorities for
this account of the case.



In the year 1894 Mr. Smith, a carpenter, of Philadelphia, had
patented a new saw-set. Wishing to make some money out of his
invention, Mr. Smith was attracted by the sign:


which he saw stretched across the window of a two-storied house,
1,316 Callowhill Street. He entered the house and made the
acquaintance of Mr. Perry, a tall, dark, bony man, to whom he
explained the merits of his invention. Perry listened with
interest, and asked for a model. In the meantime he suggested
that Smith should do some carpenter's work for him in the house.
Smith agreed, and on August 22, while at work there saw a man
enter the house and go up with Perry to a room on the second

A few days later Smith called at Callowhill Street to ask Perry
about the sale of the patent. He waited half an hour in the shop
below, called out to Perry who, he thought, might be in the
rooms above, received no answer and went away. Next day,
September 4, Smith returned, found the place just as he had left
it the day before; called Perry again, but again got no answer.
Surprised, he went upstairs, and in the back room of the second
story the morning sunshine, streaming through the window, showed
him the dead body of a man, his face charred beyond recognition,
lying with his feet to the window and his head to the door.
There was evidence of some sort of explosion: a broken bottle
that had contained an inflammable substance, a broken pipe filled
with tobacco, and a burnt match lay by the side of the body.

The general appearance of the dead man answered to that of B. F.
Perry. A medical examination of the body showed that death had
been sudden, that there had been paralysis of the involuntary
muscles, and that the stomach, besides showing symptoms of
alcoholic irritation, emitted a strong odour of chloroform. An
inquest was held, and a verdict returned that B. F. Perry had
died of congestion of the lungs caused by the inhalation of flame
or chloroform. After lying in the mortuary for eleven days the
body was buried.

In the meantime the Philadelphia branch of the Fidelity Mutual
Life Association had received a letter from one Jephtha D. Howe,
an attorney at St. Louis, stating that the deceased B. F. Perry
was Benjamin F. Pitezel of that city, who had been insured in
their office for a sum of ten thousand dollars. The insurance
had been effected in Chicago in the November of 1893. Mr. Howe
proposed to come to Philadelphia with some members of the Pitezel
family to identify the remains. Referring to their Chicago
branch, the insurance company found that the only person who
would seem to have known Pitezel when in that city, was a certain
H. H. Holmes, living at Wilmette, Illinois. They got into
communication with Mr. Holmes, and forwarded to him a cutting
from a newspaper, which stated erroneously that the death of B.
F. Perry had taken place in Chicago.

On September 18 they received a letter from Mr. Holmes, in which
he offered what assistance he could toward the identification of
B. F. Perry as B. F. Pitezel. He gave the name of a dentist in
Chicago who would be able to recognise teeth which he had made
for Pitezel, and himself furnished a description of the man,
especially of a malformation of the knee and a warty growth on
the back of the neck by which he could be further identified.
Mr. Holmes offered, if his expenses were paid, to come to Chicago
to view the body. Two days later he wrote again saying that he
had seen by other papers that Perry's death had taken place in
Philadelphia and not in Chicago, and that as he had to be in
Baltimore in a day or two, he would run over to Philadelphia and
visit the office of the Fidelity Life Association.

On September 20 the assiduous Mr. Holmes called at the office of
the Association in Philadelphia, inquired anxiously about the
nature and cause of Perry's death, gave again a description of
him and, on learning that Mr. Howe, the attorney from St. Louis,
was about to come to Philadelphia to represent the widow, Mrs.
Pitezel, and complete the identification, said that he would
return to give the company any further help he could in the
matter. The following day Mr. Jephtha D. Howe, attorney of St.
Louis, arrived in Philadelphia, accompanied by Alice Pitezel, a
daughter of the deceased. Howe explained that Pitezel had taken
the name of Perry owing to financial difficulties. The company
said that they accepted the fact that Perry and Pitezel were one
and the same man, but were not convinced that the body was
Pitezel's body. The visit of Holmes was mentioned. Howe
said that he did not know Mr. Holmes, but would be willing to
meet him. At this moment Holmes arrived at the office. He was
introduced to Howe as a stranger, and recognised as a friend by
Alice Pitezel, a shy, awkward girl of fourteen or fifteen years
of age. It was then arranged that all the parties should meet
again next day to identify, if possible, the body, which had been
disinterred for that purpose.

The unpleasant duty of identifying the rapidly decomposing
remains was greatly curtailed by the readiness of Mr. Holmes.
When the party met on the 22nd at the Potter's Field, where the
body had been disinterred and laid out, the doctor present was
unable to find the distinctive marks which would show Perry and
Pitezel to have been the same man. Holmes at once stepped into
the breach, took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, put on the
rubber gloves, and taking a surgeon's knife from his pocket, cut
off the wart at the back of the neck, showed the injury to the
leg, and revealed also a bruised thumb-nail which had been
another distinctive mark of Pitezel. The body was then covered
up all but the teeth; the girl Alice was brought in, and she said
that the teeth appeared to be like those of her father. The
insurance company declared themselves satisfied, and handed to
Mr. Howe a cheque for 9,175 dollars, and to Mr. Holmes ten
dollars for his expenses. Smith, the carpenter, had been present
at the proceedings at the Potter's Field. For a moment he
thought he detected a likeness in Mr. Holmes to the man who had
visited Perry at Callowhill Street on August 22 and gone upstairs
with him, but he did not feel sure enough of the fact to make any
mention of it.

In the prison at St. Louis there languished in the year 1894 one
Marion Hedgspeth, serving a sentence of twenty years'
imprisonment for an audacious train robbery. On the night
of November 30, 1891, the "'Friscow express from St. Louis had
been boarded by four ruffians, the express car blown open with
dynamite, and 10,000 dollars carried off. Hedgspeth and another
man were tried for the robbery, and sentenced to twenty years'
imprisonment. On October 9, 1894, Hegspeth{sic} made a statement
to the Governor of the St. Louis prison, which he said he wished
to be communicated to the Fidelity Mutual Life Association. In
the previous July Hedgspeth said that he had met in the prison a
man of the name of H. M. Howard, who was charged with fraud, but
had been released on bail later in the month. While in prison
Howard told Hedgspeth that he had devised a scheme for swindling
an insurance company of 10,000 dollars, and promised Hedgspeth
that, if he would recommend him a lawyer suitable for such an
enterprise, he should have 500 dollars as his share of the
proceeds. Hedgspeth recommended Jephtha D. Howe. The latter
entered with enthusiasm into the scheme, and told Hedgspeth that
he thought Mr. Howard "one of the smoothest and slickest" men he
had ever known. A corpse was to be found answering to Pitezel's
description, and to be so treated as to appear to have been the
victim of an accidental explosion, while Pitezel himself would
disappear to Germany. From Howe Hedgspeth learnt that the
swindle had been carried out successfully, but he had never
received from Howard the 500 dollars promised him. Consequently,
he had but little compunction in divulging the plot to the

It was realised at once that H. M. Howard and H. H. Holmes were
the same person, and that Jephtha D. Howe and Mr. Holmes were not
the strangers to each other that they had affected to be when
they met in Philadelphia. Though somewhat doubtful of the truth
of Hedgspeth's statement, the insurance company decided to
set Pinkerton's detectives on the track of Mr. H. H. Holmes.
After more than a month's search he was traced to his father's
house at Gilmanton, N. H., and arrested in Boston on November 17.

Inquiry showed that, early in 1894, Holmes and Pitezel had
acquired some real property at Fort Worth in Texas and commenced
building operations, but had soon after left Texas under a cloud,
arising from the theft of a horse and other dubious transactions.

Holmes had obtained the property at Fort Worth from a Miss Minnie
Williams, and transferred it to Pitezel. Pitezel was a drunken
"crook," of mean intelligence, a mesmeric subject entirely under
the influence of Holmes, who claimed to have considerable
hypnotic powers. Pitezel had a wife living at St. Louis and five
children, three girls--Dessie, Alice, and Nellie--a boy, Howard,
and a baby in arms. At the time of Holmes' arrest Mrs. Pitezel,
with her eldest daughter, Dessie, and her little baby, was living
at a house rented by Holmes at Burlington, Vermont. She also was
arrested on a charge of complicity in the insurance fraud and
brought to Boston.

Two days after his arrest Holmes, who dreaded being sent back to
Texas on a charge of horse-stealing, for which in that State the
punishment is apt to be rough and ready, made a statement to the
police, in which he acknowledged the fraud practised by him and
Pitezel on the insurance company. The body substituted for
Pitezel had been obtained, said Holmes, from a doctor in New
York, packed in a trunk and sent to Philadelphia, but he declined
for the present to give the doctor's name. Pitezel, he said, had
gone with three of his children--Alice, Nellie and Howard--to
South America. This fact, however, Holmes had not communicated
to Mrs. Pitezel. When she arrived at Boston, the poor woman was
in great distress of mind. Questioned by the officers, she
attempted to deny any complicity in the fraud, but her real
anxiety was to get news of her husband and her three children.
Alice she had not seen since the girl had gone to Philadelphia to
identify the supposed remains of her father. Shortly after this
Holmes had come to Mrs. Pitezel at St. Louis, and taken away
Nellie and Howard to join Alice, who, he said, was in the care of
a widow lady at Ovington, Kentucky. Since then Mrs. Pitezel had
seen nothing of the children or her husband. At Holmes'
direction she had gone to Detroit, Toronto, Ogdensberg and,
lastly, to Burlington in the hope of meeting either Pitezel or
the children, but in vain. She believed that her husband had
deserted her; her only desire was to recover her children.

On November 20 Holmes and Mrs. Pitezel were transferred from
Boston to Philadelphia, and there, along with Benjamin Pitezel
and Jephtha D. Howe, were charged with defrauding the Fidelity
Life Association of 10,000 dollars. Soon after his arrival in
Philadelphia Holmes, who was never averse to talking, was asked
by an inspector of the insurance company who it was that had
helped him to double up the body sent from New York and pack it
into the trunk. He replied that he had done it alone, having
learned the trick when studying medicine in Michigan. The
inspector recollected that the body when removed from Callowhill
Street had been straight and rigid. He asked Holmes what trick
he had learnt in the course of his medical studies by which it
was possible to re-stiffen a body once the rigor mortis had
been broken. To this Holmes made no reply. But he realised his
mistake, and a few weeks later volunteered a second statement.
He now said that Pitezel, in a fit of depression, aggravated by
his drinking habits, had committed suicide on the third story of
the house in Callowhill Street. There Holmes had found his
body,carried it down on to the floor below, and arranged it
in the manner agreed upon for deceiving the insurance company.
Pitezel, he said, had taken his life by lying on the floor and
allowing chloroform to run slowly into his mouth through a rubber
tube placed on a chair. The three children, Holmes now stated,
had gone to England with a friend of his, Miss Minnie Williams.

Miss Minnie Williams was the lady, from whom Holmes was said to
have acquired the property in Texas which he and Pitezel had set
about developing. There was quite a tragedy, according to
Holmes, connected with the life of Miss Williams. She had come
to Holmes in 1893, as secretary, at a drug store which he was
then keeping in Chicago. Their relations had become more
intimate, and later in the year Miss Williams wrote to her
sister, Nannie, saying that she was going to be married, and
inviting her to the wedding. Nannie arrived, but unfortunately a
violent quarrel broke out between the two sisters, and Holmes
came home to find that Minnie in her rage had killed her sister.
He had helped her out of the trouble by dropping Nannie's body
into the Chicago lake. After such a distressing occurrence Miss
Williams was only too glad of the opportunity of leaving America
with the Pitezel children. In the meantime Holmes, under the
name of Bond, and Pitezel, under that of Lyman, had proceeded to
deal with Miss Williams' property in Texas.

For women Holmes would always appear to have possessed some power
of attraction, a power of which he availed himself generously.
Holmes, whose real name was Herman W. Mudgett, was thirty-four
years of age at the time of his arrest. As a boy he had spent
his life farming in Vermont, after which he had taken up medicine
and acquired some kind of medical degree. In the course of his
training Holmes and a fellow student, finding a body that
bore a striking resemblance to the latter; obtained 1,000 dollars
from an insurance company by a fraud similar to that in which
Holmes had engaged subsequently with Pitezel. After spending
some time on the staff of a lunatic asylum in Pennsylvania,
Holmes set up as a druggist in Chicago. His affairs in this city
prospered, and he was enabled to erect, at the corner of Wallace
and Sixty-Third Streets, the four-storied building known later as
"Holmes Castle." It was a singular structure. The lower part
consisted of a shop and offices. Holmes occupied the second
floor, and had a laboratory on the third. In his office was a
vault, air proof and sound proof. In the bathroom a trap-door,
covered by a rug, opened on to a secret staircase leading down to
the cellar, and a similar staircase connected the cellar with the
laboratory. In the cellar was a large grate. To this building
Miss Minnie Williams had invited her sister to come for her
wedding with Holmes, and it was in this building, according to
Holmes, that the tragedy of Nannie's untimely death occurred.

In hoping to become Holmes' wife, Miss Minnie Williams was not to
enjoy an exclusive privilege. At the time of his arrest Holmes
had three wives, each ignorant of the others' existence. He had
married the first in 1878, under the name of Mudgett, and was
visiting her at Burlington, Vermont, when the Pinkerton
detectives first got on his track. The second he had married at
Chicago, under the name of Howard, and the third at Denver as
recently as January, 1894, under the name of Holmes. The third
Mrs. Holmes had been with him when he came to Philadelphia to
identify Pitezel's body. The appearance of Holmes was
commonplace, but he was a man of plausible and ingratiating
address, apparent candour, and able in case of necessity to "let
loose," as he phrased it, "the fount of emotion."

The year 1895 opened to find the much enduring Holmes still a
prisoner in Philadelphia. The authorities seemed in no haste to
indict him for fraud; their interest was concentrated rather in
endeavouring to find the whereabouts of Miss Williams and her
children, and of one Edward Hatch, whom Holmes had described as
helping him in arranging for their departure. The "great
humiliation" of being a prisoner was very distressing to Holmes.

"I only know the sky has lost its blue,
The days are weary and the night is drear."

These struck him as two beautiful lines very appropriate to his
situation. He made a New Year's resolve to give up meat during
his close confinement. The visits of his third wife brought him
some comfort. He was "agreeably surprised" to find that, as an
unconvicted prisoner, he could order in his own meals and receive
newspapers and periodicals. But he was hurt at an unfriendly
suggestion on the part of the authorities that Pitezel had not
died by his own hand, and that Edward Hatch was but a figment of
his rich imagination. He would like to have been released on
bail, but in the same unfriendly spirit was informed that, if he
were, he would be detained on a charge of murder. And so the
months dragged on. Holmes, studious, patient, injured, the
authorities puzzled, suspicions, baffled--still no news of Miss
Williams or the three children. It was not until June 3 that
Holmes was put on his trial for fraud, and the following day
pleaded guilty. Sentence was postponed.

The same day Holmes was sent for to the office of the District
Attorney, who thus addressed him: "It is strongly suspected,
Holmes, that you have not only murdered Pitezel, but that you
have killed the children. The best way to remove this
suspicion is to produce the children at once. Now, where are
they?" Unfriendly as was this approach, Holmes met it calmly,
reiterated his previous statement that the children had gone with
Miss Williams to England, and gave her address in London, 80
Veder or Vadar Street, where, he said, Miss Williams had opened a
massage establishment. He offered to draw up and insert a cipher
advertisement in the New York Herald, by means of which, he
said, Miss Williams and he had agreed to communicate, and almost
tearfully he added, "Why should I kill innocent children?"

Asked to give the name of any person who had seen Miss Williams
and the children in the course of their journeyings in America,
he resented the disbelief implied in such a question, and strong
was his manly indignation when one of the gentlemen present
expressed his opinion that the story was a lie from beginning to
end. This rude estimate of Holmes' veracity was, however, in
some degree confirmed when a cipher advertisement published in
the New York Herald according to Holmes' directions, produced
no reply from Miss Williams, and inquiry showed that no such
street as Veder or Vadar Street was to be found in London.

In spite of these disappointments, Holmes' quiet confidence in
his own good faith continued unshaken. When the hapless Mrs.
Pitezel was released, he wrote her a long letter. "Knowing me as
you do," he said, "can you imagine me killing little and innocent
children, especially without any motive?" But even Mrs. Pitezel
was not wholly reassured. She recollected how Holmes had taken
her just before his arrest to a house he had rented at
Burlington, Vermont, how he had written asking her to carry a
package of nitro-glycerine from the bottom to the top of the
house, and how one day she had found him busily removing the
boards in the cellar.


The District Attorney and the Insurance Company were not in
agreement as to the fate of the Pitezel children. The former
still inclined to the hope and belief that they were in England
with Miss Williams, but the insurance company took a more
sinister view. No trace of them existed except a tin box found
among Holmes' effects, containing letters they had written to
their mother and grandparents from Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and
Detroit, which had been given to Holmes to dispatch but had never
reached their destination. The box contained letters from Mrs.
Pitezel to her children, which Holmes had presumably intercepted.

It was decided to make a final attempt to resolve all doubts by
sending an experienced detective over the route taken by the
children in America. He was to make exhaustive inquiries in each
city with a view to tracing the visits of Holmes or the three
children. For this purpose a detective of the name of Geyer was
chosen. The record of his search is a remarkable story of
patient and persistent investigation.

Alice Pitezel had not seen her mother since she had gone with
Holmes to identify her father's remains in Philadelphia. From
there Holmes had taken her to Indianapolis. In the meantime he
had visited Mrs. Pitezel at St. Louis, and taken away with him
the girl, Nellie, and the boy, Howard, alleging as his reason for
doing so that they and Alice were to join their father, whose
temporary effacement was necessary to carry out successfully the
fraud on the insurance company, to which Mrs. Pitezel had been
from the first an unwilling party. Holmes, Nellie and Howard had
joined Alice at Indianapolis, and from there all four were
believed to have gone to Cincinnati. It was here, accordingly,
on June 27, 1895, that Geyer commenced his search.

After calling at a number of hotels, Geyer found that on Friday,
September 28, 1894, a man, giving the name of Alexander E. Cook,
and three children had stayed at a hotel called the Atlantic
House. Geyer recollected that Holmes, when later on he had sent
Mrs. Pitezel to the house in Burlington, had described her as
Mrs. A. E. Cook and, though not positive, the hotel clerk thought
that he recognised in the photographs of Holmes and he three
children, which Geyer showed him, the four visitors to the hotel.

They had left the Atlantic House the next day, and on that same
day, the 29th, Geyer found that Mr. A. E. Cook and three children
had registered at the Bristol Hotel, where they had stayed until
Sunday the 30th.

Knowing Holmes' habit of renting houses, Geyer did not confine
his enquiries to the hotels. He visited a number of estate
agents and learnt that a man and a boy, identified as Holmes and
Howard Pitezel, had occupied a house No. 305 Poplar Street. The
man had given the name of A. C. Hayes. He had taken the house on
Friday the 28th, and on the 29th had driven up to it with the boy
in a furniture wagon. A curious neighbour, interested in the
advent of a newcomer, saw the wagon arrive, and was somewhat
astonished to observe that the only furniture taken into the
house was a large iron cylinder stove. She was still further
surprised when, on the following day, Mr. Hayes told her that he
was not going after all to occupy the house, and made her a pres-

ent of the cylinder stove.

From Cincinnati Geyer went to Indianapolis. Here inquiry showed
that on September 30 three children had been brought by a man
identified as Holmes to the Hotel English, and registered in
the name of Canning. This was the maiden name of Mrs. Pitezel.
The children had stayed at the hotel one night. After that Geyer
seemed to lose track of them until he was reminded of a hotel
then closed, called the Circle House. With some difficulty he
got a sight of the books of the hotel, and found that the three
Canning children had arrived there on October 1 and stayed until
the 10th. From the former proprietor of the hotel he learnt that
Holmes had described himself as the children's uncle, and had
said that Howard was a bad boy, whom he was trying to place in
some institution. The children seldom went out; they would sit
in their room drawing or writing, often they were found crying;
they seemed homesick and unhappy.

There are letters of the children written from Indianapolis to
their mothers, letters found in Holmes' possession, which had
never reached her. In these letters they ask their mother why
she does not write to them. She had written, but her letters
were in Holmes' possession. Alice writes that she is reading
"Uncle Tom's Cabin." She has read so much that her eyes hurt;
they have bought a crystal pen for five cents which gives them
some amusement; they had been to the Zoo in Cincinnati the Sunday
before: "I expect this Sunday will pass away slower than I don't
know--Howard is two (sic) dirty to be seen out on the street
to-day." Sometimes they go and watch a man who paints "genuine
oil paintings" in a shoe store, which are given away with every
dollar purchase of shoes--"he can paint a picture in one and a
half minutes, ain't that quick!" Howard was getting a little
troublesome. "I don't like to tell you," writes Alice, "but you
ask me, so I will have to. Howard won't mind me at all. He
wanted a book and I got `Life of General Sheridan,' and it is
awful nice, but now he don't read it at all hardly." Poor
Howard! One morning, says Alice, Mr. Holmes told him to
stay in and wait for him, as he was coming to take him out, but
Howard was disobedient, and when Mr. Holmes arrived he had gone
out. Better for Howard had he never returned! "We have written
two or three letters to you," Alice tells her mother, "and I
guess you will begin to get them now. She will not get them.
Mr. Holmes is so very particular that the insurance company shall
get no clue to the whereabouts of any member of the Pitezel

Geyer knew that from Indianapolis Holmes had gone to Detroit. He
ascertained that two girls, "Etta and Nellie Canning," had
registered on October 12 at the New Western Hotel in that city,
and from there had moved on the 15th to a boarding-house in
Congress Street. From Detroit Alice had written to her
grandparents. It was cold and wet, she wrote; she and Etta had
colds and chapped hands: "We have to stay in all the time. All
that Nell and I can do is to draw, and I get so tired sitting
that I could get up and fly almost. I wish I could see you all.
I am getting so homesick that I don't know what to do. I suppose
Wharton (their baby brother) walks by this time, don't he? I
would like to have him here, he would pass away the time a good
deal." As a fact little Wharton, his mother and sister Dessie,
were at this very moment in Detroit, within ten minutes' walk of
the hotel at which Holmes had registered "Etta and Nellie

On October 14 there had arrived in that city a weary, anxious-
looking woman, with a girl and a little baby. They took a room
at Geis's Hotel, registering as Mrs. Adams and daughter. Mrs.
Adams seemed in great distress of mind, and never left her room.

The housekeeper, being shown their photographs, identified the
woman and the girl as Mrs. Pitezel and her eldest daughter
Dessie. As the same time there had been staying at another
hotel in Detroit a Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, whose photographs showed
them to be the Mr. Holmes in question and his third wife. These
three parties--the two children, Mrs. Pitezel and her baby, and
the third Mrs. Holmes--were all ignorant of each other's presence
in Detroit; and under the secret guidance of Mr. Holmes the three
parties (still unaware of their proximity to each other, left
Detroit for Canada, arriving in Toronto on or about October 18,
and registering at three separate hotels. The only one who had
not to all appearances reached Toronto was the boy Howard.

In Toronto "Alice and Nellie Canning" stayed at the Albion Hotel.

They arrived there on October 19, and left on the 25th. During
their stay a man, identified as Holmes, had called every morning
for the two children, and taken them out; but they had come back
alone, usually in time for supper. On the 25th he had called and
taken them out, but they had not returned to supper. After that
date Geyer could find no trace of them. Bearing in mind Holmes'
custom of renting houses, he compiled a list of all the house
agents in Toronto, and laboriously applied to each one for
information. The process was a slow one, and the result seemed
likely to be disappointing.

To aid his search Geyer decided to call in the assistance of the
Press. The newspapers readily published long accounts of the
case and portraits of Holmes and the children. At last, after
eight days of patient and untiring investigation, after following
up more than one false clue, Geyer received a report that there
was a house--No. 16 St. Vincent Street--which had been rented in
the previous October by a man answering to the description of
Holmes. The information came from an old Scottish gentleman
living next door. Geyer hastened to see him. The old gentleman
said that the man who had occupied No. 16 in October had
told him that he had taken the house for his widowed sister, and
he recognised the photograph of Alice Pitezel as one of the two
girls accompanying him. The only furniture the man had taken
into the house was a bed, a mattress and a trunk. During his
stay at No. 16 this man had called on his neighbour about four
o'clock one afternoon and borrowed a spade, saying that he wanted
to dig a place in the cellar where his widowed sister could keep
potatoes; he had returned the spade the following morning. The
lady to whom the house belonged recognised Holmes' portrait as
that of the man to whom she had let No. 16.

At last Geyer seemed to be on the right track. He hurried back
to St. Vincent Street, borrowed from the old gentleman at No. 18
the very spade which he had lent to Holmes in the previous
October, and got the permission of the present occupier of No. 16
to make a search. In the centre of the kitchen Geyer found a
trap-door leading down into a small cellar. In one corner of the
cellar he saw that the earth had been recently dug up. With the
help of the spade the loose earth was removed, and at a depth of
some three feet, in a state of advanced decomposition, lay the
remains of what appeared to be two children. A little toy wooden
egg with a snake inside it, belonging to the Pitezel children,
had been found by the tenant who had taken the house after
Holmes; a later tenant had found stuffed into the chimney, but
not burnt, some clothing that answered the description of that
worn by Alice and Etta Pitezel; and by the teeth and hair of the
two corpses Mrs. Pitezel was able to identify them as those of
her two daughters. The very day that Alice and Etta had met
their deaths at St. Vincent Street, their mother had been staying
near them at a hotel in the same city, and later on the same day
Holmes had persuaded her to leave Toronto for Ogdensburg. He
said that they were being watched by detectives, and so it
would be impossible for her husband to come to see her there.

But the problem was not yet wholly solved. What had become of
Howard? So far Geyer's search had shown that Holmes had rented
three houses, one in Cincinnati, one in Detroit, and one in
Toronto. Howard had been with his sisters at the hotels in
Indianapolis, and in Detroit the house agents had said that, when
Holmes had rented a house there, he had been accompanied by a
boy. Yet an exhaustive search of that house had revealed no
trace of him. Geyer returned to Detroit and again questioned the
house agents; on being pressed their recollection of the boy who
had accompanied Holmes seemed very vague and uncertain. This
served only to justify a conclusion at which Geyer had already
arrived, that Howard had never reached Detroit, but had
disappeared in Indianapolis. Alice's letters, written from
there, had described how Holmes had wanted to take Howard out one
day and how the boy had refused to stay in and wait for him. In
the same way Holmes had called for the two girls at the Albion
Hotel in Toronto on October 25 and taken them out with him, after
which they had never been seen alive except by the old gentleman
at No. 18 St. Vincent Street.

If Geyer could discover that Holmes had not departed in
Indianapolis from his usual custom of renting houses, he might be
on the high way to solving the mystery of Howard's fate.
Accordingly he returned to Indianapolis.

In the meantime, Holmes, in his prison at Philadelphia, learnt of
the discovery at Toronto. "On the morning of the 16th of July,"
he writes in his journal, "my newspaper was delivered to me about
8.30 a.m., and I had hardly opened it before I saw in large
headlines the announcement of the finding of the children in
Toronto. For the moment it seemed so impossible that I was
inclined to think it was one of the frequent newspaper
excitements that had attended the earlier part of the case, but,
in attempting to gain some accurate comprehension of what was
stated in the article, I became convinced that at least certain
bodies had been found there, and upon comparing the date when the
house was hired I knew it to be the same as when the children had
been in Toronto; and thus being forced to realise the awfulness
of what had probably happened, I gave up trying to read the
article, and saw instead the two little faces as they had looked
when I hurriedly left them--felt the innocent child's kiss so
timidly given, and heard again their earnest words of farewell,
and realised that I had received another burden to carry to my
grave with me, equal, if not worse, than the horrors of Nannie
Williams' death."

Questioned by the district attorney, Holmes met this fresh
evidence by evoking once again the mythical Edward Hatch and
suggesting that Miss Minnie Williams, in a "hellish wish for
vengeance" because of Holmes' fancied desertion, and in order to
make it appear probable that he, and not she, had murdered her
sister, had prompted Hatch to commit the horrid deed. Holmes
asked to be allowed to go to Toronto that he might collect any
evidence which he could find there in his favour. The district
attorney refused his request; he had determined to try Holmes in
Philadelphia. "What more could, be said?" writes Holmes.
Indeed, under the circumstances, and in the unaccountable absence
of Edward Hatch and Minnie Williams, there was little more to be

Detective Geyer reopened his search in Indianapolis by obtaining
a list of advertisements of houses to let in the city in 1894.
Nine hundred of these were followed up in vain. He then turned
his attention to the small towns lying around Indianapolis
with no happier result. Geyer wrote in something of despair to
his superiors: "By Monday we will have searched every outlying
town except Irvington. After Irvington, I scarcely know where we
shall go." Thither he went on August 27, exactly two months from
the day on which his quest had begun. As he entered the town he
noticed the advertisement of an estate agent. He called at the
office and found a "pleasant-faced old gentleman," who greeted
him amiably. Once again Geyer opened his now soiled and ragged
packet of photographs, and asked the gentleman if in October,
1894, he had let a house to a man who said that he wanted one for
a widowed sister. He showed him the portrait of Holmes.

The old man put on his glasses and looked at the photograph for
some time. Yes, he said, he did remember that he had given the
keys of a cottage in October, 1894, to a man of Holmes'
appearance, and he recollected the man the more distinctly for
the uncivil abruptness with which he had asked for the keys; "I
felt," he said, "he should have had more respect for my grey

From the old gentleman's office Geyer hastened to the cottage,
and made at once for the cellar. There he could find no sign of
recent disturbance. But beneath the floor of a piazza adjoining
the house he found the remains of a trunk, answering to the
description of that which the Pitezel children had had with them,
and in an outhouse he discovered the inevitable stove, Holmes'
one indispensable piece of furniture. It was stained with blood
on the top. A neighbour had seen Holmes in the same October
drive up to the house in the furniture wagon accompanied by a
boy, and later in the day Holmes had asked him to come over to
the cottage and help him to put up a stove. The neighbour asked
him why he did not use gas; Holmes replied that he did not
think gas was healthy for children. While the two men were
putting up the stove, the little boy stood by and watched them.
After further search there were discovered in the cellar chimney
some bones, teeth, a pelvis and the baked remains of a stomach,
liver and spleen.

Medical examination showed them to be the remains of a child
between seven and ten years of age. A spinning top, a scarf-pin,
a pair of shoes and some articles of clothing that had belonged
to the little Pitezels, had been found in the house at different
times, and were handed over to Geyer.

His search was ended. On September 1 he returned to

Holmes was put on his trial on October 28, 1895, before the Court
of Oyer and Terminer in Philadelphia, charged with the murder of
Benjamin Pitezel. In the course of the trial the district
attorney offered to put in evidence showing that Holmes had also
murdered the three children of Pitezel, contending that such
evidence was admissible on the ground that the murders of the
children and their father were parts of the same transaction.
The judge refused to admit the evidence, though expressing a
doubt as to its inadmissibility. The defence did not dispute the
identity of the body found in Callowhill Street, but contended
that Pitezel had committed suicide. The medical evidence
negatived such a theory. The position of the body, its condition
when discovered, were entirely inconsistent with self-
destruction, and the absence of irritation in the stomach showed
that the chloroform found there must have been poured into it
after death. In all probability, Holmes had chloroformed Pitezel
when he was drunk or asleep. He had taken the chloroform to
Callowhill Street as a proposed ingredient in a solution for
cleaning clothes, which he and Pitezel were to patent. It
was no doubt with the help of the same drug that he had done to
death the little children, and failing the nitro-glycerine, with
that drug he had intended to put Mrs. Pitezel and her two
remaining children out of the way at the house in Burlington; for
after his trial there was found there, hidden away in the cellar,
a bottle containing eight or ten ounces of chloroform.

Though assisted by counsel, Holmes took an active part in his
defence. He betrayed no feeling at the sight of Mrs. Pitezel,
the greater part of whose family he had destroyed, but the
appearance of his third wife as a witness he made an opportunity
for "letting loose the fount of emotion," taking care to inform
his counsel beforehand that he intended to perform this touching
feat. He was convicted and sentenced to death on November 2.

Previous to the trial of Holmes the police had made an exhaustive
investigation of the mysterious building in Chicago known as
"Holmes' Castle." The result was sufficiently sinister. In the
stove in the cellar charred human bones were found, and in the
middle of the room stood a large dissecting table stained with
blood. On digging up the cellar floor some human ribs, sections
of vertebrae and teeth were discovered buried in quicklime, and
in other parts of the "castle" the police found more charred
bones, some metal buttons, a trunk, and a piece of a watch chain.

The trunk and piece of watch chain were identified as having
belonged to Miss Minnie Williams.

Inquiry showed that Miss Williams had entered Holmes' employment
as a typist in 1893, and had lived with him at the castle. In
the latter part of the year she had invited her sister, Nannie,
to be present at her wedding with Holmes. Nannie had come to
Chicago for that purpose, and since then the two sisters had
never been seen alive. In February in the following year
Pitezel, under the name of Lyman, had deposited at Fort Worth,
Texas, a deed according to which a man named Bond had transferred
to him property in that city which had belonged to Miss Williams,
and shortly after, Holmes, under the name of Pratt, joined him at
Fort Worth, whereupon the two commenced building on Miss
Williams' land.

Other mysterious cases besides those of the Williams sisters
revealed the Bluebeard-like character of this latterday castle of
Mr. Holmes. In 1887 a man of the name of Connor entered Holmes'
employment. He brought with him to the castle a handsome,
intelligent wife and a little girl of eight or nine years of age.

After a short time Connor quarrelled with his wife and went away,
leaving Mrs. Connor and the little girl with Holmes. After 1892
Mrs. Connor and her daughter had disappeared, but in August,
1895, the police found in the castle some clothes identified as
theirs, and the janitor, Quinlan, admitted having seen the dead
body of Mrs. Connor in the castle. Holmes, questioned in his
prison in Philadelphia, said that Mrs. Connor had died under an
operation, but that he did not know what had become of the little

In the year of Mrs. Connor's disappearance, a typist named Emily
Cigrand, who had been employed in a hospital in which Benjamin
Pitezel had been a patient, was recommended by the latter to
Holmes. She entered his employment, and she and Holmes soon
became intimate, passing as "Mr. and Mrs. Gordon." Emily Cigrand
had been in the habit of writing regularly to her parents in
Indiana, but after December 6, 1892, they had never heard from
her again, nor could any further trace of her be found.

A man who worked for Holmes as a handy man at the castle
stated to the police that in 1892 Holmes had given him a skeleton
of a man to mount, and in January, 1893, showed him in the
laboratory another male skeleton with some flesh still on it,
which also he asked him to mount. As there was a set of surgical
instruments in the laboratory and also a tank filled with a fluid
preparation for removing flesh, the handy man thought that Holmes
was engaged in some kind of surgical work.

About a month before his execution, when Holmes' appeals from his
sentence had failed and death appeared imminent, he sold to the
newspapers for 7,500 dollars a confession in which he claimed to
have committed twenty-seven murders in the course of his career.
The day after it appeared he declared the whole confession to be
a "fake." He was tired, he said, of being accused by the
newspapers of having committed every mysterious murder that had
occurred during the last ten years. When it was pointed out to
him that the account given in his confession of the murder of the
Pitezel children was clearly untrue, he replied, "Of course, it
is not true, but the newspapers wanted a sensation and they have
got it." The confession was certainly sensational enough to
satisfy the most exacting of penny-a-liners, and a lasting
tribute to Holmes' undoubted power of extravagant romancing.

According to his story, some of his twenty-seven victims had met
their death by poison, some by more violent methods, some had
died a lingering death in the air-tight and sound-proof vault of
the castle. Most of these he mentioned by name, but some of
these were proved afterwards to be alive. Holmes had actually
perpetrated, in all probability, about ten murders. But, given
further time and opportunity, there is no reason why this peri-

patetic assassin should not have attained to the
considerable figure with which he credited himself in his
bogus confession.

Holmes was executed in Philadelphia on May 7, 1896. He seemed to
meet his fate with indifference.

The motive of Holmes in murdering Pitezel and three of his
children and in planning to murder his wife and remaining
children, originated in all probability in a quarrel that
occurred between Pitezel and himself in the July of 1894.
Pitezel had tired apparently of Holmes and his doings, and wanted
to break off the connection. But he must have known enough of
Holmes' past to make him a dangerous enemy. It was Pitezel who
had introduced to Holmes Emily Cigrand, the typist, who had
disappeared so mysteriously in the castle; Pitezel had been his
partner in the fraudulent appropriation of Miss Minnie Williams'
property in Texas; it is more than likely, therefore, that
Pitezel knew something of the fate of Miss Williams and her
sister. By reviving, with Pitezel's help, his old plan for
defrauding insurance companies, Holmes saw the opportunity of
making 10,000 dollars, which he needed sorely, and at the same
time removing his inconvenient and now lukewarm associate.
Having killed Pitezel and received the insurance money, Holmes
appropriated to his own use the greater part of the 10,000
dollars, giving Mrs. Pitezel in return for her share of the
plunder a bogus bill for 5,000 dollars. Having robbed Mrs.
Pitezel of both her husband and her money, to this thoroughgoing
criminal there seemed only one satisfactory way of escaping
detection, and that was to exterminate her and the whole of her

Had Holmes not confided his scheme of the insurance fraud to
Hedgspeth in St. Louis prison and then broken faith with him,
there is no reason why the fraud should ever have been
discovered. The subsequent murders had been so cunningly
contrived that, had the Insurance Company not put the
Pinkerton detectives on his track, Holmes would in all
probability have ended by successfully disposing of Mrs. Pitezel,
Dessie, and the baby at the house in Burlington, Vermont, and the
entire Pitezel family would have disappeared as completely as his
other victims.

Holmes admitted afterwards that his one mistake had been his
confiding to Hedgspeth his plans for defrauding an insurance
company--a mistake, the unfortunate results of which might have
been avoided, if he had kept faith with the train robber and
given him the 500 dollars which he had promised.

The case of Holmes illustrates the practical as well as the
purely ethical value of "honour among thieves," and shows how a
comparatively insignificant misdeed may ruin a great and
comprehensive plan of crime. To dare to attempt the
extermination of a family of seven persons, and to succeed so
nearly in effecting it, could be the work of no tyro, no beginner
like J. B. Troppmann. It was the act of one who having already
succeeded in putting out of the way a number of other persons un-

detected, might well and justifiably believe that he was born for
greater and more compendious achievements in robbery and murder
than any who had gone before him. One can almost subscribe to
America's claim that Holmes is the "greatest criminal" of a
century boasting no mean record in such persons.

In the remarkable character of his achievements as an assassin we
are apt to lose sight of Holmes' singular skill and daring as a
liar and a bigamist. As an instance of the former may be cited
his audacious explanation to his family, when they heard of his
having married a second time. He said that he had met with a
serious accident to his head, and that when he left the hospital,
found that he had entirely lost his memory; that, while in
this state of oblivion, he had married again and then, when
his memory returned, realised to his horror his unfortunate
position. Plausibility would seem to have been one of Holmes'
most useful gifts; men and women alike--particularly the latter--
he seems to have deceived with ease. His appearance was
commonplace, in no way suggesting the conventional criminal, his
manner courteous, ingratiating and seemingly candid, and like so
many scoundrels, he could play consummately the man of sentiment.

The weak spot in Holmes' armour as an enemy of society was a
dangerous tendency to loquacity, the defect no doubt of his
qualities of plausible and insinuating address and ever ready

The Widow Gras

Report of the trial of the woman Gras and Gaudry in the Gazette
des Tribunaux. The case is dealt with also by Mace in his
"Femmes Criminelles."



Jenny Amenaide Brecourt was born in Paris in the year 1837.
Her father was a printer, her mother sold vegetables. The
parents neglected the child, but a lady of title took pity on
her, and when she was five years old adopted her. Even as a
little girl she was haughty and imperious. At the age of eight
she refused to play with another child on the ground of her
companion's social inferiority. "The daughter of a Baroness,"
she said, "cannot play with the daughter of a wine-merchant."
When she was eleven years old, her parents took her away from her
protectress and sent her into the streets to sell gingerbread--a
dangerous experience for a child of tender years. After six
years of street life, Amenaide sought out her benefactress and
begged her to take her back. The Baroness consented, and found
her employment in a silk manufactory. One day the girl, now
eighteen years old, attended the wedding of one of her companions
in the factory. She returned home after the ceremony thoughtful.

She said that she wanted to get married. The Baroness did not
take her statement seriously, and on the grocer calling one
day, said in jest to Amenaide, "You want a husband, there's one."

But Amenaide was in earnest. She accepted the suggestion and, to
the Baroness' surprise, insisted on taking the grocer as her
husband. Reluctantly the good lady gave her consent, and in 1855
Amenaide Brecourt became the wife of the grocer Gras.

A union, so hasty and ill-considered, was not likely to be of
long duration. With the help of the worthy Baroness the newly
married couple started a grocery business. But Amenaide was too
economical for her husband and mother-in-law. Quarrels ensued,
recriminations. In a spirit of unamiable prophecy husband and
wife foretold each other's future. "You will die in a hospital,"
said the wife. "You will land your carcase in prison," retorted
the husband. In both instances they were correct in their
anticipations. One day the husband disappeared. For a short
time Amenaide returned to her long-suffering protectress, and
then she too disappeared.

When she is heard of again, Amenaide Brecourt has become
Jeanne de la Cour. Jeanne de la Cour is a courtesan. She has
tried commerce, acting, literature, journalism, and failed at
them all. Henceforth men are to make her fortune for her. Such
charms as she may possess, such allurements as she can offer, she
is ready to employ without heart or feeling to accomplish her
end. Without real passion, she has an almost abnormal, erotic
sensibility, which serves in its stead. She cares only for one
person, her sister. To her Jeanne de la Cour unfolded her
philosophy of life. While pretending to love men, she is going
to make them suffer. They are to be her playthings, she knows
how to snare them: "All is dust and lies. So much the worse for
the men who get in my way. Men are mere stepping-stones to me.
As soon as they begin to fail or are played out, I put them
scornfully aside. Society is a vast chess-board, men the
pawns, some white, some black; I move them as I please, and break
them when they bore me."

The early years of Jeanne de la Cour's career as a Phryne were
hardly more successful than her attempts at literature, acting
and journalism. True to her philosophy, she had driven one
lover, a German, to suicide, and brought another to his death by
over-doses of cantharides. On learning of the death of the
first, she reflected patriotically, "One German the less in
Paris!" That of the second elicited the matter-of-fact comment,
"It was bound to happen; he had no moderation." A third admirer,
who died in a hospital, was dismissed as "a fool who, in spite of
all, still respects women." But, in ruining her lovers, she had
ruined her own health. In 1865 she was compelled to enter a
private asylum. There she is described as "dark in complexion,
with dark expressive eyes, very pale, and of a nervous
temperament, agreeable, and pretty." She was suffering at the
time of her admission from hysterical seizures, accompanied by
insane exaltation, convulsions and loss of speech. In speaking
of her humble parents she said, "I don't know such people"; her
manner was bombastic, and she was fond of posing as a fine lady.

After a few months Jeanne de la Cour was discharged from the
asylum as cured, and on the advice of her doctors went to Vittel.

There she assumed the rank of Baroness and recommenced her
career, but this time in a more reasonable and businesslike
manner. Her comments, written to her sister, on her fellow
guests at the hotel are caustic. She mocks at some respectable
married women who are trying to convert her to Catholicism. To
others who refuse her recognition, she makes herself so
mischievous and objectionable that in self-defence they are
frightened into acknowledging her. Admirers among men she has
many, ex-ministers, prefects. It was at Vittel that
occurred the incident of the wounded pigeon. There had been some
pigeon-shooting. One of the wounded birds flew into the room of
the Baroness de la Cour. She took pity on it, tended it, taught
it not to be afraid of her and to stay in her room. So touching
was her conduct considered by some of those who heard it, that
she was nicknamed "the Charmer." But she is well aware, she
writes to her sister, that with the true ingratitude of the male,
the pigeon will leave her as soon as it needs her help no longer.

However, for the moment, "disfigured as it is, beautiful or
ugly," she loves it. "Don't forget," she writes, "that a woman
who is practical and foreseeing, she too enjoys her pigeon
shooting, but the birds are her lovers."

Shortly after she left Vittel an event occurred which afforded
Jeanne de la Cour the prospect of acquiring that settled position
in life which, "practical and foreseeing," she now regarded as
indispensable to her future welfare. Her husband, Gras, died, as
she had foretold, in the Charity Hospital. The widow was free.
If she could bring down her bird, it was now in her power to make
it hers for life. Henceforth all her efforts were directed to
that end. She was reaching her fortieth year, her hair was
turning grey, her charms were waning. Poverty, degradation, a
miserable old age, a return to the wretched surroundings of her
childhood, such she knew to be the fate of many of her kind.
There was nothing to be hoped for from the generosity of men.
Her lovers were leaving her. Blackmail, speculation on the
Bourse, even the desperate expedient of a supposititious child,
all these she tried as means of acquiring a competence. But for-

tune was shy of the widow. There was need for dispatch. The
time was drawing near when it might be man's unkind privilege to
put her scornfully aside as a thing spent and done with. She
must bring down her bird, and that quickly. It was at this
critical point in the widow's career, in the year 1873, that she
met at a public ball for the first time Georges de Saint

[16] For obvious reasons I have suppressed the real name of the
widow's lover.

Georges de Saint Pierre was twenty years of age when he made the
acquaintance of the Widow Gras. He had lost his mother at an
early age, and since then lived with relatives in the country.
He was a young man of independent means, idle, of a simple,
confiding and affectionate disposition. Four months after his
first meeting with the widow they met again. The end of the year
1873 saw the commencement of an intimacy, which to all
appearances was characterised by a more lasting and sincere
affection than is usually associated with unions of this kind.
There can be no doubt that during the three years the Widow Gras
was the mistress of Georges de Saint Pierre, she had succeeded in
subjugating entirely the senses and the affection of her young
lover. In spite of the twenty years between them, Georges de
Saint Pierre idolised his middle-aged mistress. She was astute
enough to play not only the lover, but the mother to this
motherless youth. After three years of intimacy he writes to
her: "It is enough for me that you love me, because I don't
weary you, and I, I love you with all my heart. I cannot bear to
leave you. We will live happily together. You will always love
me truly, and as for me, my loving care will ever protect you. I
don't know what would become of me if I did not feel that your
love watched over me." The confidence of Georges in the widow
was absolute. When, in 1876, he spent six months in Egypt, he
made her free of his rooms in Paris, she was at liberty to go
there when she liked; he trusted her entirely, idolised her.
Whatever her faults, he was blind to them. "Your form," he
writes, "is ever before my eyes; I wish I could enshrine
your pure heart in gold and crystal."

The widow's conquest, to all appearances, was complete. But
Georges was very young. He had a family anxious for his future;
they knew of his liaison; they would be hopeful, no doubt, of
one day breaking it off and of marrying him to some desirable
young person. From the widow's point of view the situation
lacked finality. How was that to be secured?

One day, toward the end of the year 1876, after the return of
Georges from Egypt, the widow happened to be at the house of a
friend, a ballet dancer. She saw her friend lead into the room a
young man; he was sightless, and her friend with tender care
guided him to a seat on the sofa. The widow was touched by the
spectacle. When they were alone, she inquired of her friend the
reason of her solicitude for the young man. "I love this victim
of nature," she replied, "and look after him with every care. He
is young, rich, without family, and is going to marry me. Like
you, I am just on forty; my hair is turning grey, my youth
vanishing. I shall soon be cast adrift on the sea, a wreck.
This boy is the providential spar to which I am going to cling
that I may reach land in safety." "You mean, then," said the
widow, "that you will soon be beyond the reach of want?" "Yes,"
answered the friend, "I needn't worry any more about the future."

"I congratulate you," said the widow, "and what is more, your
lover will never see you grow old."

To be cast adrift on the sea and to have found a providential
spar! The widow was greatly impressed by her friend's rare good
fortune. Indeed, her experience gave the widow furiously to
think, as she revolved in her brain various expedients by which
Georges de Saint Pierre might become the "providential spar" in
her own impending wreck. The picture of the blind young man
tenderly cared for, dependent utterly on the ministrations of his
devoted wife, fixed itself in the widow's mind; there was
something inexpressibly pathetic in the picture, whilst its
practical significance had its sinister appeal to one in her

At this point in the story there appears on the scene a character
as remarkable in his way as the widow herself, remarkable at
least for his share in the drama that is to follow. Nathalis
Gaudry, of humble parentage, rude and uncultivated, had been a
playmate of the widow when she was a child in her parents' house.

They had grown up together, but, after Gaudry entered the army,
had lost sight of each other. Gaudry served through the Italian
war of 1859, gaining a medal for valour. In 1864 he had married.

Eleven years later his wife died, leaving him with two children.
He came to Paris and obtained employment in an oil refinery at
Saint Denis. His character was excellent; he was a good workman,
honest, hard-working, his record unblemished. When he returned
to Paris, Gaudry renewed his friendship with the companion of his
youth. But Jeanne Brecourt was now Jeanne de la Cour, living
in refinement and some luxury, moving in a sphere altogether
remote from and unapproachable by the humble workman in an oil
refinery. He could do no more than worship from afar this
strange being, to him wonderfully seductive in her charm and

On her side the widow was quite friendly toward her homely
admirer. She refused to marry him, as he would have wished, but
she did her best without success to marry him to others of her
acquaintance. Neither a sempstress nor an inferior actress could
she persuade, for all her zeal, to unite themselves with a hand
in an oil mill, a widower with two children. It is typical
of the widow's nervous energy that she should have
undertaken so hopeless a task. In the meantime she made use of
her admirer. On Sundays he helped her in her apartment, carried
coals, bottled wine, scrubbed the floors, and made himself
generally useful. He was supposed by those about the house to be
her brother. Occasionally, in the absence of a maid, the widow
allowed him to attend on her personally, even to assist her in
her toilette and perform for her such offices as one woman would
perform for another. The man soon came to be madly in love with
the woman; his passion, excited but not gratified, enslaved and
consumed him. To some of his fellow-workmen who saw him moody
and pre-occupied, he confessed that he ardently desired to marry
a friend of his childhood, not a working woman but a lady.

Such was the situation and state of mind of Nathalis Gaudry when,
in November, 1876, he received a letter from the widow, in which
she wrote, "Come at once. I want you on a matter of business.
Tell your employer it is a family affair; I will make up your
wages." In obedience to this message Gaudry was absent from the
distillery from the 17th to the 23rd of November.

The "matter of business" about which the widow wished to consult
with Gaudry turned out to be a scheme of revenge. She told him
that she had been basely defrauded by a man to whom she had
entrusted money. She desired to be revenged on him, and could
think of no better way than to strike at his dearest affections
by seriously injuring his son. This she proposed to do with the
help of a knuckle-duster, which she produced and gave to Gaudry.
Armed with this formidable weapon, Gaudry was to strike her
enemy's son so forcibly in the pit of the stomach as to disable
him for life. The widow offered to point out to Gaudry the young
man whom he was to attack. She took him outside the young man's
club and showed him his victim. He was Georges de Saint

The good fortune of her friend, the ballet-dancer, had proved a
veritable toxin in the intellectual system of the Widow Gras. The
poison of envy, disappointment, suspicion, apprehension had
entered into her soul. Of what use to her was a lover, however
generous and faithful, who was free to take her up and lay her
aside at will? But such was her situation relative to Georges de
Saint Pierre. She remembered that the wounded pigeon, as long as
it was dependent on her kind offices, had been-compelled to stay
by her side; recovered, it had flown away. Only a pigeon, maimed
beyond hope of recovery, could she be sure of compelling to be
hers for all time, tied to her by its helpless infirmity, too
suffering and disfigured to be lured from its captivity. And so,
in accordance with her philosophy of life, the widow, by a blow
in the pit of the stomach with a knuckle-duster, was to bring
down her bird which henceforth would be tended and cared for by
"the Charmer" to her own satisfaction and the admiration of all

For some reason, the natural reluctance of Gaudry, or perhaps a
feeling of compunction in the heart of the widow, this plan was
not put into immediate execution. Possibly she hesitated before
adopting a plan more cruel, more efficacious. Her hesitation did
not last long.

With the dawn of the year 1877 the vigilant apprehension of the
widow was roused by the tone of M. de Saint Pierre's letters. He
wrote from his home in the country, "I cannot bear leaving you,
and I don't mean to. We will live together." But he adds that
he is depressed by difficulties with his family, "not about money
or business but of a kind he can only communicate to her
verbally." To the widow it was clear that these difficulties
must relate to the subject of marriage. The character of Georges
was not a strong one; sooner or later he might yield to the
importunities of his family; her reign would be ended, a modest
and insufficient pension the utmost she could hope for. She had
passed the meridian of her life as a charmer of men, her health
was giving way, she was greedy, ambitious, acquisitive. In
January she asked her nephew, who worked as a gilder, to get her
some vitriol for cleaning her copper. He complied with her

During Jeanne de la Cour's brief and unsuccessful appearance as
an actress she had taken part in a play with the rather cumbrous
title, Who Puts out the Eyes must Pay for Them. The widow may
have forgotten this event; its occurrence so many years before
may have been merely a sinister coincidence. But the incident of
the ballet-dancer and her sightless lover was fresh in her mind.

Early in January the widow wrote to Georges, who was in the
country, and asked him to take her to the masked ball at the
Opera on the 13th. Her lover was rather surprised at her
request, nor did he wish to appear with her at so public a
gathering. "I don't understand," he writes, "why you are so
anxious to go to the Opera. I can't see any real reason for your
wanting to tire yourself out at such a disreputable gathering.
However, if you are happy and well, and promise to be careful, I
will take you. I would be the last person, my dear little wife,
to deny you anything that would give you pleasure." But for some
reason Georges was unhappy, depressed. Some undefined
presentiment of evil seems to have oppressed him. His brother
noticed his pre-occupation.

He himself alludes to it in writing to his mistress: "I am
depressed this evening. For a very little I could break down
altogether and give way to tears. You can't imagine what horrid
thoughts possess me. If I felt your love close to me, I should
be less sad." Against his better inclination Georges promised to
take the widow to the ball on the 13th. He was to come to
Paris on the night of the 12th.



On the afternoon of January 11, Gaudry called to see the widow.
There had been an accident at the distillery that morning, and
work was suspended for three days. The widow showed Gaudry the
bottle containing the vitriol which her nephew had procured for
her use. She was ill, suffering, she said; the only thing that
could make her well again would be the execution of her revenge
on the son of the man who had defrauded her so wickedly: "Make
him suffer, here are the means, and I swear I will be yours."
She dropped a little of the vitriol on to the floor to show its
virulent effect. At first Gaudry was shocked, horrified. He
protested that he was a soldier, that he could not do such a
deed; he suggested that he should provoke the young man to a duel
and kill him. "That is no use," said the widow, always sensitive
to social distinctions; "he is not of your class, he would refuse
to fight with you." Mad with desire for the woman, his senses
irritated and excited, the ultimate gratification of his passion
held alluringly before him, the honest soldier consented to play
the cowardly ruffian. The trick was done. The widow explained
to her accomplice his method of proceeding. The building in the
Rue de Boulogne, in which the widow had her apartment, stood at
the end of a drive some twenty-seven and a half yards long and
five and a half yards wide. About half-way up the drive, on
either side, there were two small houses, or pavilions, standing
by themselves and occupied by single gentlemen. The whole was
shut off from the street by a large gate, generally kept
closed, in which a smaller gate served to admit persons going in
or out. According to the widow's plan, the young man, her
enemy's son, was to take her to the ball at the Opera on the
night of January 13. Gaudry was to wait in her apartment until
their return. When he heard the bell ring, which communicated
with the outer gate, he was to come down, take his place in the
shadow of one of the pavilions on either side of the drive, and
from the cover of this position fling in the face of the young
man the vitriol which she had given him. The widow herself,
under the pretence of closing the smaller gate, would be well
behind the victim, and take care to leave the gate open so that
Gaudry could make his escape.

In spite of his reluctance, his sense of foreboding, Georges de
Saint Pierre came to Paris on the night of the 12th, which he
spent at the widow's apartment. He went to his own rooms on the
morning of the 13th.

This eventful day, which, to quote Iago, was either to "make or
fordo quite" the widow, found her as calm, cool and deliberate in
the execution of her purpose as the Ancient himself. Gaudry came
to her apartment about five o'clock in the afternoon. The widow
showed him the vitriol and gave him final directions. She would,
she said, return from the ball about three o'clock in the
morning. Gaudry was then sent away till ten o'clock, as Georges
was dining with her. He returned at half-past ten and found the
widow dressing, arraying herself in a pink domino and a blonde
wig. She was in excellent spirits. When Georges came to fetch
her, she put Gaudry into an alcove in the drawing-room which was
curtained off from the rest of the room. Always thoughtful, she
had placed a stool there that he might rest himself. Gaudry
could hear her laughing and joking with her lover. She
reproached him playfully with hindering her in her dressing.
To keep him quiet, she gave him a book to read, Montaigne's
"Essays." Georges opened it and read the thirty-fifth chapter of
the second book, the essay on "Three Good Women," which tells how
three brave women of antiquity endured death or suffering in
order to share their husbands' fate. Curiously enough, the essay
concludes with these words, almost prophetic for the unhappy
reader: "I am enforced to live, and sometimes to live is
magnanimity." Whilst Georges went to fetch a cab, the widow
released Gaudry from his place of concealment, exhorted him to
have courage, and promised him, if he succeeded, the
accomplishment of his desire. And so the gay couple departed for
the ball. There the widow's high spirits, her complete
enjoyment, were remarked by more than one of her acquaintances;
she danced one dance with her lover, and with another young man
made an engagement for the following week.

Meanwhile, at the Rue de Boulogne, Gaudry sat and waited in the
widow's bedroom. From the window he could see the gate and the
lights of the cab that was to bring the revellers home. The
hours passed slowly. He tried to read the volume of Montaigne
where Georges had left it open, but the words conveyed little to
him, and he fell asleep. Between two and three o'clock in the
morning he was waked by the noise of wheels. They had returned.
He hurried downstairs and took up his position in the shadow of
one of the pavilions. As Georges de Saint Pierre walked up the
drive alone, for the widow had stayed behind to fasten the gate,
he thought he saw the figure of a man in the darkness. The next
moment he was blinded by the burning liquid flung in his face.
The widow had brought down her pigeon.

At first she would seem to have succeeded perfectly in her
attempt. Georges was injured for life, the sight of one eye
gone, that of the other threatened, his face sadly
disfigured. Neither he nor anyone else suspected the real author
of the crime. It was believed that the unfortunate man had been
mistaken for some other person, and made by accident the victim
of an act of vengeance directed against another. Georges was
indeed all the widow's now, lodged in her own house to nurse and
care for. She undertook the duty with every appearance of
affectionate devotion. The unhappy patient was consumed with
gratitude for her untiring solicitude; thirty nights she spent by
his bedside. His belief in her was absolute. It was his own
wish that she alone should nurse him. His family were kept away,
any attempts his relatives or friends made to see or communicate
with him frustrated by the zealous widow.

It was this uncompromising attitude on her part toward the
friends of Georges, and a rumour which reached the ears of one of
them that she intended as soon as possible to take her patient
away to Italy, that sounded the first note of danger to her peace
of mind. This friend happened to be acquainted with the son of
one of the Deputy Public Prosecutors in Paris. To that official
he confided his belief that there were suspicious circumstances
in the case of Georges de Saint Pierre. The judicial authorities
were informed and the case placed in the hands of an examining
magistrate. On February 2, nearly a month after the crime, the
magistrate, accompanied by Mace, then a commissary of police,
afterwards head of the Detective Department, paid a visit to the
Rue de Boulogne. Their reception was not cordial. It was only
after they had made known their official character that they got
audience of the widow. She entered the room, carrying in her
hand a surgical spray, with which she played nervously while the
men of the law asked to see her charge. She replied that it was
impossible. Mace placed himself in front of the door by which
she had entered, and told her that her attitude was not
seemly. "Leave that spray alone," he said; "it might shoot over
us, and then perhaps we should be sprinkled as M. de Saint Pierre
was." From that moment, writes Mace, issue was joined between
the widow and himself.

The magistrate insisted on seeing the patient. He sat by his
bedside. M. de Saint Pierre told him that, having no enemies, he
was sure he had been the victim of some mistake, and that, as he
claimed no damages for his injuries, he did not wish his
misfortune to be made public. He wanted to be left alone with
his brave and devoted nurse, and to be spared the nervous
excitement of a meeting with his family. He intended, he added,
to leave Paris shortly for change of scene and air. The widow
cut short the interview on the ground that her patient was tired.

It was inhuman, she said, to make him suffer so. The magistrate,
before leaving, asked her whither she intended taking her
patient. She replied, "To Italy." That, said the magistrate,
would be impossible until his inquiry was closed. In the
meantime she might take him to any place within the Department of
the Seine; but she must be prepared to be under the surveillance
of M. Mace, who would have the right to enter her house
whenever he should think it expedient. With this disconcerting
intelligence the men of the law took leave of the widow.

She was no longer to be left in undisturbed possession of her
prize. Her movements were watched by two detectives. She was
seen to go to the bachelor lodgings of Georges and take away a
portable desk, which contained money and correspondence. More
mysterious, however, was a visit she paid to the Charonne
Cemetery, where she had an interview with an unknown, who was
dressed in the clothes of a workman. She left the cemetery
alone, and the detectives lost track of her companion. This
meeting took place on February 11. Shortly after the widow left
Paris with Georges de Saint Pierre for the suburb of Courbevoie.

Mace had elicited certain facts from the porter at the Rue de
Boulogne and other witnesses, which confirmed his suspicion that
the widow had played a sinister part in her lover's misfortune.
Her insistence that he should take her to the ball on January 13;
the fact that, contrary to the ordinary politeness of a
gentleman, he was walking in front of her at the time of the
attack; and that someone must have been holding the gate open to
enable the assailant to escape it was a heavy gate, which, if
left to itself after being opened, would swing too quickly on its
hinges and shut of its own accord--these facts were sufficient to
excite suspicion. The disappearance, too, of the man calling
himself her brother, who had been seen at her apartment on the
afternoon of the 13th, coupled with the mysterious interview in
the cemetery, suggested the possibility of a crime in which the
widow had had the help of an accomplice. To facilitate
investigation it was necessary to separate the widow from her
lover. The examining magistrate, having ascertained from a
medical report that such a separation would not be hurtful to the
patient, ordered the widow to be sent back to Paris, and the
family of M. de Saint Pierre to take her place. The change was
made on March 6. On leaving Courbevoie the widow was taken to
the office of Mace. There the commissary informed her that
she must consider herself under provisional arrest. "But who,"
she asked indignantly, "is to look after my Georges?" "His
family," was the curt reply. The widow, walking up and down the
room like a panther, stormed and threatened. When she had in
some degree recovered herself, Mace asked her certain
questions. Why had she insisted on her lover going to the ball?
She had done nothing of the kind. How was it his assailant
had got away so quickly by the open gate? She did not know.
What was the name and address of her reputed brother? She was
not going to deliver an honest father of a family into the
clutches of the police. What was the meaning of her visit to the
Charonne Cemetery? She went there to pray, not to keep
assignations. "And if you want to know," she exclaimed, "I have
had typhoid fever, which makes me often forget things. So I
shall say nothing more--nothing--nothing."

Taken before the examining magistrate, her attitude continued to
be defiant and arrogant. "Your cleverest policemen," she told
the magistrate, "will never find any evidence against me. Think
well before you send me to prison. I am not the woman to live
long among thieves and prostitutes." Before deciding finally
whether the widow should be thrown into such uncongenial society,
the magistrate ordered Mace to search her apartment in the Rue
de Boulogne.

On entering the apartment the widow asked that all the windows
should be opened. "Let in the air," she said; "the police are
coming in; they make a nasty smell." She was invited to sit-down
while the officers made their search. Her letters and papers
were carefully examined; they presented a strange mixture of
order and disorder. Carefully kept account books of her personal
expenses were mixed up with billets dous, paints and pomades,
moneylenders' circulars, bella-donna and cantharides. But most
astounding of all were the contents of the widows' prie-Dieu.
In this devotional article of furniture were stored all the
inmost secrets of her profligate career. Affectionate letters
from the elderly gentleman on whom she had imposed a
supposititious child lay side by side with a black-edged card, on
which was written the last message of a young lover who had
killed himself on her account. "Jeanne, in the flush of my youth
I die because of you, but I forgive you.--M." With these genuine
outpourings of misplaced affection were mingled the indecent
verses of a more vulgar admirer, and little jars of hashish. The
widow, unmoved by this rude exposure of her way of life, only
broke her silence to ask Mace the current prices on the Stock

One discovery, however, disturbed her equanimity. In the drawer
of a cupboard, hidden under some linen, Mace found a leather
case containing a sheaf of partially-burnt letters. As he was
about to open it the widow protested that it was the property of
M. de Saint Pierre. Regardless of her protest, Mace opened
the case, and, looking through the letters, saw that they were
addressed to M. de Saint Pierre and were plainly of an intimate
character. "I found them on the floor near the stove in the
dining-room," said the widow, "and I kept them. I admit it was a
wrong thing to do, but Georges will forgive me when he knows why
I did it." From his better acquaintance with her character
Mace surmised that an action admitted by the widow to be
"wrong" was in all probability something worse. Without delay he
took the prisoner back to his office, and himself left for
Courbevoie, there to enlighten, if possible, her unhappy victim
as to the real character of his enchantress.

The interview was a painful one. The lover refused to hear a
word against his mistress. "Jeanne is my Antigone," he said.
"She has lavished on me all her care, her tenderness, her love,
and she believes in God." Mace told him of her past, of the
revelations contained in the prie-Dieu of this true believer,
but he could make no impression. "I forgive her past, I accept
her present, and please understand me, no one has the power to
separate me from her." It was only when Mace placed in
his hands the bundle of burnt letters, that he might feel what he
could not see, and read him some passages from them, that the
unhappy man realised the full extent of his mistress' treachery.
Feeling himself dangerously ill, dying perhaps, M. de Saint
Pierre had told the widow to bring from his rooms to the Rue de
Boulogne the contents of his private desk. It contained some
letters compromising to a woman's honour. These he was anxious
to destroy before it was too late. As he went through the
papers, his eyes bandaged, he gave them to the widow to throw
into the stove. He could hear the fire burning and feel its
warmth. He heard the widow take up the tongs. He asked her why
she did so. She answered that it was to keep the burning papers
inside the stove. Now from Mace he learnt the real truth.
She had used the tongs to take out some of the letters half
burnt, letters which in her possession might be one day useful
instruments for levying blackmail on her lover. "To blind me,"
exclaimed M. de Saint Pierre, "to torture me, and then profit by
my condition to lie to me, to betray me--it's infamous--
infamous!" His dream was shattered. Mace had succeeded in
his task; the disenchantment of M. de Saint Pierre was complete.
That night the fastidious widow joined the thieves and
prostitutes in the St. Lazare Prison.

It was all very well to imprison the widow, but her participation
in the outrage on M. de Saint Pierre was by no means established.

The reputed brother, who had been in the habit of attending on
her at the Rue de Boulogne, still eluded the searches of the
police. In silence lay the widow's only hope of baffling her
enemies. Unfortunately for the widow, confinement told on her
nerves. She became anxious, excited. Her very ignorance of what
was going on around her, her lover's silence made her
apprehensive; she began to fear the worst. At length--the widow
always had an itch for writing--she determined to communicate at
all costs with Gaudry and invoke his aid. She wrote appealing to
him to come forward and admit that he was the man the police were
seeking, for sheltering whom she had been thrown into prison.
She drew a harrowing picture of her sufferings in jail. She had
refused food and been forcibly fed; she would like to dash her
head against the walls. If any misfortune overtake Gaudry, she
promises to adopt his son and leave him a third of her property.
She persuaded a fellow-prisoner; an Italian dancer undergoing six
months' imprisonment for theft, who was on the point of being
released, to take the letter and promise to deliver it to Gaudry
at Saint Denis. On her release the dancer told her lover of her
promise. He refused to allow her to mix herself up in such a
case, and destroyed the letter. Then the dancer blabbed to
others, until her story reached the ears of the police. Mace
sent for her. At first she could remember only that the name
Nathalis occurred in the letter, but after visiting accidentally
the Cathedral at Saint Denis, she recollected that this Nathalis
lived there, and worked in an oil factory. It was easy after
this for the police to trace Gaudry. He was arrested. At his
house, letters from the widow were found, warning him not to come
to her apartment, and appointing to meet him in Charonne
Cemetery. Gaudry made a full confession. It was his passion for
the widow, and a promise on her part to marry him, which, he
said, had induced him to perpetrate so abominable a crime. He
was sent to the Mazas Prison.

In the meantime the Widow Gras was getting more and more
desperate. Her complete ignorance tormented her. At last she
gave up all hope, and twice attempted suicide with powdered glass
and verdigris. On May 12 the examining magistrate
confronted her with Gaudry. The man told his story, the widow
feigned surprise that the "friend of her childhood" should malign
her so cruelly. But to her desperate appeals Gaudry would only
reply, "It is too late!" They were sent for trial.

The trial of the widow and her accomplice opened before the Paris
Assize Court on July 23, 1877, and lasted three days. The widow
was defended by Lachaud, one of the greatest criminal advocates
of France, the defender of Madame Lafarge, La Pommerais, Tropp-

mann, and Marshal Bazaine. M. Demange (famous later for his
defence of Dreyfus) appeared for Gaudry. The case had aroused
considerable interest. Among those present at the trial were
Halevy, the dramatist, and Mounet-Sully and Coquelin, from the
Comedie Francaise. Fernand Rodays thus described the widow
in the Figaro: "She looks more than her age, of moderate
height, well made, neither blatant nor ill at ease, with nothing
of the air of a woman of the town. Her hands are small. Her
bust is flat, and her back round, her hair quite white. Beneath
her brows glitter two jet-black eyes--the eyes of a tigress, that
seem to breathe hatred and revenge."

Gaudry was interrogated first. Asked by the President the motive
of his crime, he answered, "I was mad for Madame Gras; I would
have done anything she told me. I had known her as a child, I
had been brought up with her. Then I saw her again. I loved
her, I was mad for her, I couldn't resist it. Her wish was law
to me."

Asked if Gaudry had spoken the truth, the widow said that he
lied. The President asked what could be his motive for accusing
her unjustly. The widow was silent. Lachaud begged her to
answer. "I cannot," she faltered. The President invited her to
sit down. After a pause the widow seemed to recover her

President: Was Gaudry at your house while you were at the

Widow: No, no! He daren't look me in the face and say so.

President: But he is looking at you now.

Widow: No, he daren't! (She fixes her eyes on Gaudry, who
lowers his head.)

President: I, whose duty it is to interrogate you, look you in
the face and repeat my question: Was Gaudry at your house at
half-past ten that night?

Widow: No.

President: You hear her, Gaudry?

Gaudry: Yes, Monsieur, but I was there.

Widow: It is absolutely impossible! Can anyone believe me
guilty of such a thing.

President: Woman Gras, you prefer to feign indignation and
deny everything. You have the right. I will read your
examination before the examining magistrate. I see M. Lachaud
makes a gesture, but I must beg the counsel for the defence not
to impart unnecessary passion into these proceedings.

Lachaud: My gesture was merely meant to express that the woman
Gras is on her trial, and that under the circumstances her
indignation is natural.


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