Imatges de pÓgina

Charles Dickens.]

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definite; but there is a mournful mysterious vagueness about the following, that would seem to call for the interference of the authorities, but for the circumstance that the figures seem to afford evidence that, spite of affliction, reason is not yet General, sweets, tottering on its throne: twelve pounds; rent fourteen shillings, let off eight and sixpence, affliction of proA "ladies' middle-class dayprietor." A school," which is vouched for as a genuine transaction, is to be had for twenty-five pounds; a soup-shop in a business neighbourhood for twelve pounds; and a comprehensive concern described as a "music, news-agent, and tobacco business," must be dirt cheap at forty-five pounds.

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good, may be had in two places, and there is a recondite instrument for sale cheap, in the shape of an "alamode potato cuttingmachine." Goats, lathes, mangles, microscopes, and mills, are all advertised for sale in this column; and for a neat assortment of "sundries," it would be difficult to beat this: "Gas cooking-stove, if needed, for one hundred persons; butter block and scale complete; mahogany sideboard, single gun, two bedsteads, looking-glass, patent sausage machine." Or this: "Bradford's washing machine; a large club-room mahogany table; a small quantity of vulcanite; a French velocipede; slate bagatelle table; and two large gin vats."


ON a dark December night, in the year 1797, twenty-nine brigands, or chauffeurs, as they called themselves, assembled at a great gipsy feast of stolen poultry in the heart of the forest of Lifermeau (in the district of Orgères), to plan an attack on a rich farmer named Fousset, at Millouard. It was reported about Chartres that Fousset was one of the "Black Band," who bought up the deserted châteaux of the fugitive or guillotined aristocrats; that he had coffers full of louis-d'or, and chests crammed with linen and plate. The greedy eyes of the murderous scoundrels glittered at the prospect of such spoil.

But the pick of the paper is to be found in the curious miscellaneous reading under the heading, to be sold." The oddest things are advertised for sale; and could we see behind the scenes of which the sixpenny advertisement, hard, dry, and laconic, is the curtain, the smile that the perusal of it may haply raise would surely give place to the gravity of sincerest sympathy. Such an advertisement as this is "Bible the index to a very bitter pass: (family devotional), illustrated, for sale." The children's birthdays may be recorded in it, but it must go; and if it finds a purchaser the wedding-ring of the wife and mother may be respected a little longer. "Duplicate, fourteen yards of rich Magenta silk, and gold and amethyst necklace, The next night the robbers set out about pledged this month for thirty-five shillings; This does eleven o'clock for the farm at Millouard. ten shillings for the duplicate.' duffer," somehow; and it The leader of these vagabonds was a man not read like a requires no ingenuity to picture to the named Girodet, generally known as Le mind's eye the sudden vicissitudes that Beau François. Originally an itinerant may have enforced the sacrifice. Who that seller of 'rabbit-skins, he had succeeded could help it would advertise for sale his or the former chief, Fleur d'Epine, who had her "parrot, fine grey talking, very gentle," perished in the massacres of September, a pair of Lord as ruler of the band equally dreaded by or such a cherished relic as Byron's duelling pistols"? Has the old the travellers of Chartres, Orleans, Pithistroller got too feeble to attend the village viers, and Etampes. He was a tall, handfairs, and take his stand of a Saturday some fellow of about thirty, with good night in Whitechapel, or has he made complexion and blue eyes. The second and in for a bigger thing, that in command among these marauders was money gone we find advertised, "a very pretty portable Thomas Roncin, alias the Big Dragoon, show, the Mermaid's Cave,' price two a ferocious man with a red beard, who had pounds"? What but necessity can exact first been a cattle-dealer, then a soldier in the sale of "a mackintosh for carmen, the Queen's Dragoons. In serious expedicheap, a bargain seldom to be met with"?tions he usually carried a musket, a sabre, Norwich canaries can be heard in full song; cocks five shillings, hens one and sixpence, which difference in price is an insult to femininity; or if the investor would prefer a “dissolving view, apparatus complete," he can be accommodated. Dripping, warranted

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and a pair of pistols. The rest of the band preferred loaded bludgeons, but there were two muskets among them, one of which had a bayonet, the other was doublebarrelled. On arriving under the walls of the farm-house, a man named Duchesne

was sent out to reconnoitre. In slinking round the house, Duchesne saw a light at a loophole. Climbing a tree he looked in and saw three men, one of whom was counting money. These men were Fousset, his son, and a notary, who had come to receive some money for a mortgage, and was sleeping at the farm. As Duchesne slid down from a tree some dogs in the court-yard barked. A shepherd whistled, and Duchesne heard a door open, and the clatter of sabots. The spy returned and made his report. "We must wait an hour," said Beau François. At the end of an hour Beau François went to reconnoitre. The light was out; he whistled softly, and the band joined him; but all at once a dog flew at the door, sniffing and barking. Presently the notary's dog roused the farm dog, and the two barked furiously all night at intervals. "No good," said the chief, and the attack was postponed till the 14th of January. About twenty-six armed scoundrels assembled on that night by different routes in the forest of Goury. They started at nine o'clock at night and surrounded Millouard, according to strict military tactics. A pistol fired by Beau François was the signal of attack. A field-roller, swung as a battering-ram by six of the brigands, shattered the courtyard gate. The second door was stove in with equal ease. The farmer and his family had already, in their abject terror, fled to the stable and barricaded the door. The robbers, leaving a vedette at the front door, and sentinels outside the walls, rushed into the house shouting, "Forward; thirty of you here, forty there," to give an exaggerated impression of their numbers. The next moment the barred stable-door was dashed open, and the gang rushed in with threats and curses, one of them carrying an ominous red-hot coal and a wisp of straw. The moment the door gave way the farmer and his son and the servant-girl had hidden themselves in the stable litter. The chauffeurs drove them out by pricking them with knives and bayonets. One of the thieves, his knife between his teeth, wanted at once to cut their throats, but Beau François cried very considerately:

"And the yellow boys, Sans Pouce, who will tell us then where they are hidden? No, we must have a talk with the old


In the mean time the two other servants were hunted for, in the dread of any fugitive giving the alarm. The carter, trying

to pass into the road by a hole in the stable wall, was driven back by the blows of a cudgel; he then hid himself in the manger under some horse-collars, and was there caught. The shepherd, burrowing in the hayloft, was pricked out and thrashed back to the stable. All safe now, so the gang chose the oldest, and weakest, and richest to talk to. Le Père Fousset, garotted, and with his cotton cap drawn down over his nose, so that he should recognise no one, was cudgelled into the parlour, where, his legs being tied, they threw him on the ground. The wretches lighting wisps of straw passed them quickly over the body of the old man.

"Where is your money ?" they shouted. Quick, if you do not want to be put on the spit."

The poor man, blinded, sore with blows, and nearly suffocated with smoke and flame, had no heart to reply. Then half stripping him, and taking off his shoes and stockings, the chauffeurs scorched the naked flesh till he screamed in agony.

"Cry out as much as you like, but tell us where the money is,' said Le Beau François.

"There are three hundred francs in the little bureau in the kitchen," moaned the old man.

The bag was found in the place indicated. "Now the rest," roared Le Beau François ; "you won't make us believe that you haven't more. There are at least twenty thousand francs."

The miserable man made a gesture of denial.

“You won't speak!" cried the enraged chief. “Then warm him, my children."

Again they lit the straw, and blazed it over him. As he still uttered only halfstifled groans, they drew out a long sharp needle and pierced the soles of his feet, and passed the flame over the wounds of this martyr of Mammon. Still no confession could be burnt out of him. In spite of all their cruelty, nothing more could be found. In vain they ripped mattresses and feather beds, and split open cupboards and chests of drawers. In his insane rage, Le Beau François trampled on the half-dead man, and, regarding him as a mere worthless corpse, threw on him a heap of ripped-up beds and counterpanes. Then, tying the clothes and linen in bundles, Le Beau François whistled together his men from the court and the stable.

"We had better settle with these,” said one of the gang, pointing to the three

farm-servants and the girl; "I don't like leaving godfathers and godmothers behind


The gang, opening the trap-door of the cellar, now thrust in Bernard Fousset, the old man's son, the carter, and the shepherd. Catherine, the maid, who stayed behind, paralysed with terror, was hurled down the steps headlong by Borgne le Mans, one of the most brutal of the band, amid shouts of cruel laughter. Le Beau François and Le Gros Normand barred up the trap, and loaded it with casks of flour. The troop then formed in two files-the men with muskets preceding, and Le Beau François, Sans Pouce, and Le Gros Normand guarding the rear. They passed the houses of Pourpry, and made for the wood. There they divided the spoil. They lit a bivouac fire of dead boughs, threw their old shirts and rags in the flames, and put on the clean linen from the farm; the clothes were equally shared, and the silver cups, bowls, shoe-buckles, and brooches set apart for sale at the receivers, near D'Angerville. As he stretched himself to sleep, Le Beau François muttered, "That old rascal of a Fousset robbed us after all."

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In spite of all the tortures heaped upon him, the old farmer was not dead. Recovering from his swoon, and hearing no sound, he tried to disengage himself from the superincumbent load. He succeeded by a terrible exertion, and, by the dim light of the almost burnt-out embers, seeing that the feather bed covering him still smouldered, he tore it from him with his teeth. His hands were tied, but the flames had burnt through the cords round his feet and thighs, and he raised himself with pain on his bleeding feet. Crawling to the door, he called out, in a feeble voice, Bernard, Bernard!" No voice replied. "They have killed him." He crawled on to the outer door, supporting himself by the walls. There was no light in Pourpry, no light on the plain; the night was gloomy and dark. He tried to reach the cottage of a labourer, about a hundred yards from the farm. What an hour of agony ! A hundred yards; it seemed twenty miles. Often he fell, for his feet were swollen and sore, and his thighs were blistered, and almost fleshless. His breath, too, failed him, and it seemed as if his very lungs had been laid open. After midnight he reached the labourer's door. He called, but his voice was too weak to be heard. Collecting all his strength, he rolled his body into the doorway, and struck the door

with his head. At length the labourer's wife came with a candle and found the miserable man half dead on the threshold. With the help of a neighbour, the good woman unbound the old farmer, dressed his feet, and put him on a bed. At daybreak the two women, taking a lantern, went to the farm and released the imprisoned farmservants. The next day they went to seek a justice of the Canton d'Artenay. The officers arrived, and found the straw and the beds still smouldering. A surgeon found the old man dying; his legs below the knee almost roasted; the chest terribly burnt. He expired eight days after the robbery, of his wounds. The only traces the thieves had left behind them were two old three-cornered hats, a pair of iron-heeled sabots, a pipe, and an old blouse. These things were carefully guarded by the gendarmes.


There was nothing more dreadful in the attack on Fousset than in dozens of other crimes perpetrated by the same band, and the state of things had now become intolerable. The small farmers were afraid to combine, and the country people were too often in league with the thieves. Severe measures were rendered necessary. wound that cannot be healed must be cut out.. Suchy, the commissary of Chartres, found a stern and staunch lieutenant in a simple maréchal des logis of gendarmes, Pierre Pascal Vasseur. This man was a resolute and untiring pursuer. He seemed to take as much pleasure in choking a brigand as a good terrier does in killing a rat. To ferret out these vermin, and to introduce them to the guillotine, was the one end and aim of his restless life. This was not his first hunt; some years before he had cleared the forest of Senonches with fire and sword. He knew the habits of the brigands and their motley language, old as the wars of the League. The National Guards were utterly useless. That was visible at the very outset. On the 17th of January a detachment had orders to search on the farm of Stas, in the canton of Bazoches les Gallerand, for seven or eight suspected beggars, among whom was Sans Pouce, one of Fousset's torturers. The distrustful rustic soldiers, whose muskets were rusty, and some of them without flints, were mocked by the sturdy beggars, whose cudgels they shunned. "Tell your master," said Sans Pouce, to the farmer's milk-maid, "that if he is afraid of his crowns we will take care of them."

But the daring rascals did not long defy

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justice. Vasseur, surrounding the suspected of detention at Chartres he found a young
region, drawing his nets in narrowing circle man of St. Brigaud, one of the gang who
after circle, sending out his spies and scouts had been wounded in 1796, after attacking
from farm to farm, striking every bush, a farm. They also captured Le Borgne
probing every wood, chatting with farmers, Quatre Sous, who had joined Rouge d'An-
carters, and vine-dressers, met at last with neau in a murder and robbery, in 1797, of
two shepherds and a farm-girl who had a poor schoolmaster and beadle named
seen the suspected beggars in the wood of Lampe Trop. In the prison of Neuville they
Goury, about a league and a half from met with the notorious Rouge d'Auneau,
Fousset's farm. There the ashes of their again in trouble for not having a passport.
bivouac fires were found, and some huts It was now resolved to filter all the prisons
and shelters they had constructed. The between Chartres and Orléans, to discover
farm-girl told the keen gendarme that the dregs of the Orgères gang, who were
three days before the sack of Millouard she constantly being arrested. Vasseur found
had seen Jacques d'Etampes and others an honest, brave, and unflinching coadjutor
of the gang pass by in rags. Eight days in Armand François Fougeron, the magis-
after, she saw them again pass well-trate and head of the police for the Canton
dressed, and Jacques d'Etampes had on a
red carmagnole handkerchief, ornamented
with cannons and caps of liberty. He took
off this, flourished it before the girl, who
admired it, and offered it to her for a
“beau louis-d'or.”

The girl mocking him, Jacques untwisted the handkerchief and showed her a louis tied up in one corner.

Orgères at Ville-Prevost. The captain com-
mandant of the National Gendarmerie for
the Department of the Eure and Loire put
at the disposal of Vasseur as many de-
tachments as he might need, and lent
him in addition the hussars quartered at
Chartres and Neuville.

From the deserters of the band Vasseur gradually obtained the fullest details. The "I gained that," he said, "at the last bands of robbers that in Cartouche's time harvest."

In a stable of a farm in the canton of Orgères, Vasseur and his men found a beggar-woman and her husband. They had no passports, and were at once arrested. The man, Germain Bouscaut, alias Le Borgne de Jouy, aged twenty-eight years, had been for nine years one of the most dreaded chiefs of the Orgères band. After some reticence he made the fullest and minutest revelations of the names of all his infamous companions, and drew up a complete and terrible list of their various crimes.



"You seek," he said to Vasseur, assassins of Millouard. I was there. have never been a murderer, but I was compelled to associate with these men, or they would have killed me. There are one hundred and twenty men, and nearly as many women. They scour all the plain of Beauce, from the high road from Orléans to Paris, as far as the great road from Châteaudun to Epernay, the plain Gâtinais, the plain of Gomert, and the plain of Picardy. Most of them wear round slouched hats, woollen caps, or threecornered hats à la militaire. They seldom have visible weapons, but they carry short, heavy bludgeons. The assassins of Fousset you will find near Pithiviers, in such and such farms, but you must go in force, or you'll very likely never return."

Vasseur was close upon them. In the house

had infested the forests near Paris, Rouvray, Bondy, and Senart, had gradually been driven into the woods of the Isle of France, Beauce, Berry, and Picardy. In a vast triangle formed of the three departments now known as Eure and Loire, Loire and Cher, and Loiret, these robbers ruled supreme. The woods were large, the plains rich, and scantily inhabited. Vast caves, the quarries of medieval churches and fortresses, natural or artificial retreats, known to the brigands by traditions, served to shelter their families and conceal their spoil.

The chauffeurs formed an organised association. They had their curé, an old Norman mason, who in a priest's dress performed the mock marriages. Their schoolmaster and lawyer, Jacques de Pithiviers, was an old carter who had been a clerk to a procureur. He taught the children and lads how to plan and carry out a robbery, and when to use violence judiciously. Their patriarch, Le Père Elouis, was an old villain eighty years old, who had known the survivors of Cartouche's gang. It was he who had revived the cruel torture by fire of more barbarous times. The surgeon Baptiste gained access to farms as a quack and juggler. These brigands had also their spies who became farm servants, and who ran away and rejoined the band when they had obtained the required information. In all the towns and villages

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round the forest in which they lurked there were receivers, who bought their plunder. Their chief cave was in a wood near Goudreville. This huge vault, approached by intricate paths, was one hundred feet long and thirty wide. The entrance, hidden by bushes, could be closed on the inside by a massive bar of iron and a very strong secret lock. You descended into this cave of Roland by a flight of sixteen steps. The huge hearth had a chimney up which any one could escape with ease, and its outer orifice was concealed by a growth of thorn - bushes and brambles. This place was the pandemonium of the chauffeurs, and there they held their shameless orgies. Their bank and store-house at Apreux was kept by an old hag whom they called La Bonne Mère d'Apreux. Her cellars were honeycombed with secret passages, and in her chests she kept stolen goods and assorted parcels of money, the property of her various clients. Their council chamber was a rough hut in the forest of Muette. The chauffeurs, beside their other officers, had their surgeons, their barbers, and their tailors, who could make disguises and alter costumes. The gang had certain receivers, who sold the cattle and sheep-dogs they stole, and they had other agents at Chartres who procured passports when necessary. Coiners also worked for them, so complete was their organisation.

From the deserters he had enlisted, Vasseur obtained a detailed list of the various crimes the Orgères gang had committed. They had attacked a farm in the Valley of St. Cyr-en-Val. There they stole thirty thousand francs, one hundred and thirty-one louis, and some church plate, and tortured the servants. For this robbery two of the gang afterwards suffered at Chartres. Soon after this the chauffeurs broke into a house at Montgon, killed the farmer, his wife, and a carter in a cruel manner, and carried off a hoard of louis that had been hidden in a pot of lard. In March, 1796, the same band robbed and killed a farmer at Grillons. A few days later they tortured a farmer's daughter, and a woman of the gang, La Grande Marie, disguised as a man, stabbed a farmer and his wife; but as the catalogue of the chauffeur murders and assassinations would fill whole pages, let us pass on to the final destruction of these wretches.

Le Beau François, irritated at the pursuit of the gendarmes, had determined on striking a vigorous blow, and had planned

the simultaneous burning and plunder of three farms. But first he resolved to attack the château of Faronville, the residence of a ci-devant abbé, near Toury. But already Vasseur was close upon his heels. At the farm of Goudreville he had arrested a beggar, who turned out to be the famous Sans Pouce, who confessed that he had been at Millouard, and soon after was captured, at another farm, Le Rouge d'Auneau. A few days later he laid hands on Le Borgne de Mans, who pretended to be a runaway man-of-war's man from Brest. One midnight, halting at an auberge at Artenay, Lambert, one of the gendarmes, laid down his loaded pistols for a moment on the chimney-piece. At one bound Le Borgne de Jouy seized the pistols, presented one at Lambert, and threatened death with the other to whoever opposed his flight. But in a moment Vasseur had slipped behind him, and crushed him in his arms till he dropped the pistols and begged for mercy. This unsuccessful attempt at escape brought on a fit of madness, followed by a collapse, that compelled Vasseur to tie him on a horse during the march. When his reason returned Le Borgne offered to help Vasseur, who had spared his life, to trap Le Beau François and all his gang at one swoop. They were to be found in a rendezvous in the forest of Meriville, in a place hitherto thought inaccessible. He would undertake to "pincer les marrons" in three movements. Vasseur's heart leaped up at this; the next morning his column of inquiry, avoiding the high roads, marched eighteen leagues. Defiling silently, and with extreme caution, along the woodmen's paths, he shunned the farms, and pressed towards the brigand camp. What he most feared was the chauffeurs taking alarm before his sabres were at them. Worn out at last, neither horses nor men could budge a foot further. By the advice of a spy, Vasseur reluctantly resolved to encamp for the night in a chestnut wood near a spring, and to resume the march an hour after midnight, when the brigands would be sunk into their first sleep.


At the appointed hour Vasseur, who disdained sleep, touched the sleeping men, and prepared for the march. The gendarmes rolled up their cloaks, muffled their sabres, and felted the horses' feet. Borgne de Jouy, Vasseur carried on his own powerful charger; and as they started on their march, the gendarme whispered in the rogue's ear:

"You understand, mon garçon, that I

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