Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

us.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

farm-servants and the girl; “I don't like with his head. At length the labourer's leaving godfathers and godmothers behind wife came with a candle and found the

miserable man half dead on the threshold. The gang, opening the trap-door of the With the help of a neighbour, the good cellar, now thrust in Bernard Fousset, the woman unbound the old farmer, dressed his old man's son, the carter, and the shepherd. feet, and put him on a bed. At daybreak Catherine, the maid, who stayed behind, the two women, taking a lantern, went to paralysed with terror, was hurled down the the farm and released the imprisoned farmsteps headlong by Borgne le Mans, one of servants. The next day they went to seek the most brutal of the band, amid shouts a justice of the Canton d’Artenay. The of cruel laughter. Le Beau François and officers arrived, and found the straw and Le Gros Normand barred up the trap, the beds still smouldering:

A surgeon and loaded it with casks of flour. The found the old man dying; his legs below troop then formed in two files—the men the knee almost roasted; the chest terriwith muskets preceding, and Le Beau bly burnt. He expired eight days after François, Sans Pouce, and Le Gros Nor- the robbery, of his wounds. The only mand guarding the rear. They passed the traces the thieves had left behind them houses of Pourpry, and made for the wood. were two old three-cornered hats, a pair of There they divided the spoil. They lit a iron-heeled sabots, a pipe, and an old bivouac fire of dead boughs, threw their blouse. These things were carefully old shirts and rags in the flames, and put guarded by the gendarmes. on the clean linen from the farın; the There was nothing more dreadful in the clothes were equally shared, and the silver attack on Fousset than in dozens of other cups, bowls, shoe-buckles, and brooches set crimes perpetrated by the same band, and apart for sale at the receivers, near D’An- the state of things had now become ingerville. As he stretched himself to sleep, tolerable. The small farmers were afraid Le Bean François muttered, “That old to combine, and the country people were rascal of a Fousset robbed us after all.” too often in league with the thieves. Severe

In spite of all the tortures heaped upon measures were rendered necessary. The him, the old farmer was not dead. Re-wound that cannot be healed must be cut covering from his swoon, and hearing no out. Suchy, the commissary of Chartres, sound, he tried to disengage himself from found a stern and staunch lieutenant the superincumbent load. He succeeded in a simple maréchal des logis of genby a terrible exertion, and, by the dim darmes, Pierre Pascal Vasseur. This man light of the almost burnt-out embers, seeing was a resolute and untiring pursuer. that the feather bed covering him still He seemed to take as much pleasure in smouldered, he tore it from him with his choking a brigand as a good terrier does teeth. His hands were tied, but the flames in killing a rat. To ferret out these had burnt through the cords round his vermin, and to introduce them to the guilfeet and thighs, and he raised himself with lotine, was the one end and aim of his restpain on his bleeding feet. Crawling to less life. This was not his first hunt; the door, he called out, in a feeble voice, some years before he had cleared the forest ‘Bernard, Bernard !” No voice replied. of Senonches with fire and sword. He knew * They have killed him.” He crawled on the habits of the brigands and their motley to the outer door, supporting himself by language, old as the wars of the League. the walls. There was no light in Pourpry, The National Guards were utterly useless. no light on the plain; the night was That was visible at the very outset. On the gloomy and dark. He tried to reach the 17th of January a detachment had orders cottage of a labourer, about a hundred to search on the farm of Stas, in the canton yards from the farm. What an hour of of Bazoches les Gallerand, for seven or agony !

A hundred yards ; it seemed eight suspected beggars, among whom was twenty miles. Often he fell, for his feet Sans Pouce, one of Fousset's torturers. were swollen and sore, and his thighs were The distrustful rustic soldiers, whose musblistered, and almost fleshless. His breath, kets were rusty, and some of them without too, failed him, and it seemed as if his very flints, were mocked by the sturdy beggars, lungs had been laid open. After midnight whose cudgels they shunned. he reached the labourer's door. He called, master,

,” said Sans Pouce, to the farmer's but his voice was too weak to be heard. milk-maid, “ that if he is afraid of his Collecting all his strength, he rolled his crowns we will take care of them.” body into the doorway, and struck the door But the daring rascals did not long defy

"Tell your

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'Ancarters, 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 magisafter, she saw them again pass well- trate and head of the police for the Canton dressed, and Jacques d'Etampes had on a Orgères at Ville-Prevost. The captain com. red carmagnole bandkerchief, ornamented mandant of the National Gendarmerie for with cannons and caps of liberty. He took the Department of the Eure and Loire put off this, flourished it before the girl, who at the disposal of Vasseur as many deadmired it, and offered it to her for a tachments as he might need, and lent “beau louis-d'or.”

him in addition the hussars quartered at The girl mocking him, Jacques untwisted Chartres and Neuville. the handkerchief and showed her a louis From the deserters of the band Vasseur tied up in one corner.

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

had infested the forests near Paris, Rouvray, In a stable of a farm in the canton of Bondy,and Senart, had gradually been driven Orgères, Vasseur and his men found a into the woods of the Isle of France, Beauce, beggar-woman and her husband. They had Berry, and Picardy. In a vast triangle no passports, and were at once arrested. The formed of the three departments now known man, Germain Bouscaut, alias Le Borgne as Eure and Loire, Loire and Cher, and de Jouy, aged twenty-eight years, had been Loiret, these robbers ruled supreme. The for nine years one of the most dreaded woods were large, the plains rich, and chiefs of the Orgères band. After some scantily inhabited. Vast caves, the quarries reticence he made the fullest and minutest of mediæval churches and fortresses, natural revelations of the names of all his infamous or artificial retreats, known to the brigands companions, and drew up a complete and by traditions, served to shelter their families terrible list of their various crimes.

and conceal their spoil. “You seek,” he said to Vasseur, “the The chauffeurs formed an organised assassins of Millouard. I was there. I association. They had their curé, an old have never been a murderer, but I was Norman mason, who in a priest's dress compelled to associate with these men, or performed the mock marriages.

Their they would have killed me. There are one schoolmaster and lawyer, Jacques de hundred and twenty men, and nearly as Pithiviers, was an old carter who had many women. They scour all the plain of been a clerk to a procureur. He taught Beauce, from the high road from Orléans the children and lads how to plan and carry to Paris, as far as the great road from out a robbery, and when to use violence Châteaudun to Epernay, the plain Gâtinais, judiciously. Their patriarch, Le Père Elouis, the plain of Gomert, and the plain of was an old villain eighty years old, who Picardy. Most of them wear round had known the survivors of Cartouche's slouched hats, woollen caps, or three- gang. It was he who had revived the crael cornered hats à la militaire. They seldom torture by fire of more barbarous times. have visible weapons, but they carry short, The surgeon Baptiste gained access to farms heavy bludgeons. The assassins of Fousset as a quack and juggler. These brigands you will find near Pithiviers, in such and had also their spies who became farm such farms, but you must go in force, or servants, and who ran away and rejoined the you'll very likely never return."

band when they had obtained the required Vasseur was close upon them. In the house information. In all the towns and villages

а

round the forest in which they lurked the simultaneous burning and plunder of there were receivers, who bought their three farms. But first he resolved to attack plunder. Their chief cave was in a wood the château of Faronville, the residence of a near Goudreville. This huge vault, ap. ci-devant abbé, near Toury. But already proached by intricate paths, was one hun. Vasseur was close upon his heels. 'At the dred feet long and thirty wide. The en- farm of Goudreville he had arrested a trance, hidden by bushes, could be closed beggar, who turned out to be the famous on the inside by a massive bar of iron and Sans Pouce, who confessed that he had a very strong secret

lock. You descended been at Millouard, and soon after was capinto this cave of Roland by a flight of tured, at another farm, Le Rouge d'Auneau. sixteen steps. The huge hearth had a chim- A few days later he laid hands on Le Borgne ney up which any one could escape with de Mans, who pretended to be a runaway ease, and its outer orifice was concealed by man-of-war's man from Brest. One mid. a growth of thorn - bushes and brambles. night, halting at an auberge at Artenay, This place was the pandemonium of the Lambert, one of the gendarmes, laid down chauffeurs, and there they held their shame- his loaded pistols for a moment on the less orgies. Their bank and store-house chimney-piece. At one bound Le Borgne at Apreux was kept by an old hag whom de Jouy seized the pistols, presented one they called La Bonne Mère d'Apreux. at Lambert, and threatened death with the Her cellars were honeycombed with secret other to whoever opposed his flight. But passages, and in her chests she kept stolen in a moment Vasseur had slipped behind goods and assorted parcels of money, the him, and crushed him in his arms till he property of her various clients. Their dropped the pistols and begged for mercy. council chamber was a rough hut in the This unsuccessful attempt at escape brought forest of Muette. The chauffeurs, beside on a fit of madness, followed by a collapse, their other officers, bad their surgeons, that compelled Vasseur to tie him on a their barbers, and their tailors, who could horse during the march. When his reason make disguises and alter costumes. The returned Le Borgne offered to help Vasseur, gang had certain receivers, who sold the who had spared his life, to trap Le Beau cattle and sheep-dogs they stole, and they François and all his gang at one swoop. had other agents at Chartres who procured They were to be found in a rendezvous in passports when necessary. Coiners also the forest of Meriville, in a place hitherto worked for them, so complete was their thought inaccessible. He would undertake organisation.

to"pincer les marrons” in three movements. From the deserters he had enlisted, Vasseur's heart leaped up at this; the next Vasseur obtained a detailed list of the morning his column of inquiry, avoiding the various crimes the Orgères gang had com- high roads, marched eighteen leagues. Demitted.

They had attacked a farm in the filing silently, and with extreme caution, Valley of St. Cyr-en-Val. There they along the woodmen's paths, he shunned stole thirty thousand francs, one hun- the farms, and pressed towards the brigand dred and thirty-one louis, and some church camp. What he most feared was the plate, and tortured the servants. For this chauffeurs taking alarm before his sabres robbery two of the gang afterwards suf- were at them. Worn out at last, neither fered at Chartres. Soon after this the horses nor men could budge a foot further. chauffeurs broke into a house at Montgon, By the advice of a spy, Vasseur reluctantly killed the farmer, his wife, and a carter in resolved to encamp for the night in a chesta cruel manner, and carried off a hoard of nut wood near a spring, and to resume the

a louis that had been hidden in a pot of lard. march an hour after midnight, when the In March, 1796, the same band robbed and brigands would be sunk into their first killed a farmer at Grillons. A few days sleep. later they tortured a farmer's daughter, At the appointed hour Vasseur, who disand a woman of the gang, La Grande Marie, dained sleep, touched the sleeping men, disguised as a man, stabbed a farmer and prepared for the march. The genand his wife; but as the catalogue of the darmes rolled up their cloaks, muffled their chauffeur murders and assassinations would sabres, and felted the horses' feet. Le fill whole pages, let us pass on to the final Borgne de Jouy, Vasseur carried on his own destruction of these wretches.

powerful charger; and as they started on Le Beau François, irritated at the pur- their march, the gendarme whispered in suit of the gendarmes, had determined on the rogue's ear : striking a vigorous blow, and had planned “ You understand, mon garçon, that I

[ocr errors]

a

risk my men's skin as well as my own. bound the thief, and threw him like a log You will not, therefore, be surprised, if the at the foot of a tree. affair fails through any fault of yours,

that A mere measure of precaution, mon my first ball will be for you.”

garçon," whispered Vasseur ; “it is for As long as they kept the road to Meri- your interest. If this coup does not turn ville, the track that led to the great forest, out well, your comrades will never suspect the hussars and gendarmes were able to the man they find here tied round like a ride two and two, in spite of the dim star- sausage.” light; but Vasseur allowed no “éclaireurs,' Two winding paths led down to the for fear of giving a premature alarm. As abyss. At the opposite side of the gorge to his own troop being surprised he felt no were thick trees, and not the shadow even fear. Arrived at the thicker part of the of a rabbit run. forest, each horseman dismounted, and with “A regular mouse-trap,” whispered Vas. left hand on his pistol, and musketoon slung seur to the brigadier. “ The fools have on his back, led his horse through the un- forgotten to guard the heights, but for that derwood the best v

y

he could. After they could have carbonadoed us. Take about a hundred yaras the path began to half the men and wheel to the right. I'll grow rocky, and to ascend, with trees and move on the left, and then fall together on thickets here and there, and precipices these rascals. No fire-arms. The sabre opening on either side. Vasseur went first, only. Leave up here six steady men, with holding Le Borgne de Jouy with an iron muskets ready for the fugitives.” grip under the left arm. After a quarter of He then sent on his hussars; when he an hour of this dangerous climb, Le Borgne judged they had reached the required de Jouy pointed out a path, and said, in a point, he dashed on at a gallop, followed low voice :

by his gendarmes. In a moment they “Regardez! there is the Devil's Leap." were on them.

Le Bean François, recog. The road that showed by the pale star- nisable at once by his great height, was light was narrow, steep, and suspended first on his feet, pistol in either hand. The between two yawning precipices. The ready finger was on the triggers, when he stumble of a horse, a cry of pain, a whistle heard the gallop of the hussars. Seeing at of treason, and all would perish. Two or once that they were surrounded, he threw three determined men well posted there away his arms, crying, “I surrender.” Le could have kept all the hosts of Charle- Gros Normand had already covered a gen. magne at bay. Vasseur, at a glance, com- darme, when Le Beau François cried, “ Pa prehended the situation. He returned to de betises !” and kicked him and the musket the brigadier of hussars, who followed his into the fire. In a moment the gendarmes steps, and said:

and hussars had their hands on the rascals' "One by one every man and every throats and cords round their hands. The horse follow where I tread. If the chaf- whole covey was caught at the one drag feurs attack let every man make his horse of the net. Day by day strings of sham lie down, and throw himself on the ground.” beggars, shampedlars, deserters, and

The road luckily soon became sandy; jugglers were hurried to the prisons of the horses' hoofs could not be heard. In Chartres. A celebrated receiver named ten minutes Le Saut du Diable was passed, Mongendre and his son were captured in and not a horse had slipped. The path a hut in the very heart of the forest of now widened into a narrow plateau, com- Orléans by six determined gendarmes, who manding a gorge that seemed fathomless. had disguised themselves as wood-cutters. A hundred feet below, a little to the left, Bit by bit, crime after crime of these asLe Borgne de Jouy pointed to a faint red sassins, who had for so many years devasglare. It was the chauffeurs' camp, and tated central France, came to the light. It Vasseur could have thrown a stone down was discovered that the chauffeurs formed into the bivouac fire. By the dim light a secret brotherhood, and that any disVasseur's eyes sparkled to see a great num- closure of their plans was usually followed ber of men stretched out with their feet by the murder of the informer. On one towards the fire.

occasion a boy-thief, Le Petit Garçon “ Eh bien,” said Le Borgne de Jouy, d'Etrechy, had been beaten to death for “have I kept my word ?”

imprudently talking of a robbery.

Le That moment Vasseur's hand closed Beau François sentenced him to death, and upon the spy's mouth, while at a pre- as he was dying, Sans Pouce trampled on arranged signal two men garotted and his head with his huge iron-shod sabots.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The body was not even buried. In 1791, Elouis, the reviver of chauffage, Le Gros
Charles de Paris, Vincent le Tonnelier, and Beauceron, one of theassassins at Millouard,
Beauceron le Blouse, bludgeoned to death the sanguinary Quatre Sous, and Léjeune,
a comrade for having helped an innkeeper the brigands' curé, had already perished
against the gang: Franche Montagne, either by fever or the guillotine. The
about the same time, was burnt to death twenty-three condemned members of the
for some petty reason, and his ears cut Orgères band perished with brutal courage
off and nailed to an adjoining tree, as a on a scaffold in the market-place of Char-
warning to his brothers. La Belle Nanette tres.
had a narrow escape, and La Dubarry, The stragglers of the Orgères band
another lady of the gang, was nearly joined the Vendéans, or escaped to the
beaten to death for threatening, in à Lyonnais, Ardeches, or the Cevennes. Three
moment of passion, to denounce the savage were shot in attacking a diligence filled
Sans Pouce as a deserter. It was also with disguised gendarmes, and four more
found that Beau François, Sans Pouce, condemned to death at Bourg. On the
Beor, Marabon, and Charles de Paris, had day of the execution t 'se four ruffians, in
been aided by two servants in a robbery some way or other getting rid of their
at Levès, in May, 1795, when the farmer irons, and obtaining cutlasses, defied the
and his wife were strangled and robbed. gendarmes. Two of the wretches were
Twenty-seven days Vasseur scoured the shot dead, and two who were wounded
dangerous country, without taking off his were led bleeding to death, and shouted
clothes or laying down his sword. Every blasphemies and ça ira till the axe fell.
day he effected some fresh captures. In On the return of Napoleon from Egypt
the three prisons of Chartres there were in October, 1799, Fouché, who was then
crowded nearly seven hundred chauffeurs, head of the police, crushed the last cubs
till dysentery broke out and thinned the of the wolf's brood. In forty-seven de-
black ranks. While awaiting his trial, Le partments three hundred brigands were
Bean François escaped from the infirmary, arrested, and a great number destroyed.
into which he had got by shamming a In the Deux Sevres ten armed brigands
fever, A sick man escaped with him, but were guillotined. The leader of these was
was recaptured the next day, half dead, Le Grand Gars. The most ferocious of his
under a tree. A quarter of an hour after acolytes was one Girodet. This Girodet,
his escape, Le Beau François robbed a whom we leave under a wayside tree with
poor gardener of Chartres of three crowns his skull cloven and his brutal face looking
twenty sous, and some bread.

ferocious even in death, was our old friend
Nearly two years after their first arrest of Orgères, the chauffeur captain, Le Beau
the chauffeurs were solemnly tried at François.
Chartres, one hundred and ninety - four
witnesses being examined, the chauffeurs
loudly protesting against any mere igno-

CASTAWAY. rant labourers being retained on the jury, and demanding lawyers and educated men.

BOOK III. Twenty of the men, and three of the miserable women, were condemned to

CHAPTER XI. QUO FATA DUCUNT. death. When the sentence

pro

The first bell had rung, and the huge nounced, the chauffeurs seeing a movement locomotive, just filled, was leisurely backing among the gendarmes, imagined they from the water-tank towards the train to were to be instantly shot where they sat, which it was to be coupled, as Philip Vane and leaping up in frenzy they tried to entered the Springside station. He found break through the bayonets, but were soon his knees trembling under him as he alighted overpowered. Le Borgne de Mans, Rouge from the fly which had picked him up on d'Aunean, Chat Gauthier, Sans Pouce, and the Wheatcroft road, and felt that he Le Gros Normand were among these dregs. should require all the nerve at his comThe spy of Vasseur, Germain Bouscaut, mand to face the blaze of light and the alias Le Borgne de Jouy, was condemned bustling crowd spread over the platform. to twenty-four years in irons. Hosts of He had his return-ticket in his pocket, so others were sentenced to various terms in that there was no occasion for him to enter the galleys, where they spent the rest of the booking-office; but on his arrival he their miserable lives. The old man, Père had left his travelling-coat and rugs in the

[ocr errors]

"WRECKED IN

BY THE AUTHOR OF "BLACK SHEEP,'

PORT,” &c. &c.

was

« AnteriorContinua »