|Chapter Title||THE MEETING AT THE CHAT NOIR.|
|Newspaper Title||North Melbourne Advertiser (Vic. : 1873 - 1894)|
|Trove Title||Fifine of the Damp Feet: An Experience of the Phonograph|
•FIFINE OF THE DAMP FEET. AN EX-ElE EMCE OP THE PIO-0 GRAPL Cnarrn I.--TnH M~En ATr T. CuITANOIr. The eveeng belore the day on which John fntson wa going o leave Paeis for Londonu, after a long visit to the elxhibition, having nothing better to do. he went up to Moottmartre to pausth6 evenin= at the famnous Chatacoir Tavern he had rea~nhout inl orvr'eJs.layrio, and was anxious to see its reputed artistic tree sures for himself. STowad midniht, feeling tired he was abou .to make his way back to his hotel, when a man camefn whom hlie reogised at onte as a friend Shaod had in the old days of his Bohemian life in the Latin quarter.. The Frencman recog. nised him as qmckly,'puttig out his hand, said: 'Alh, Ma?son, it's yoea.' 'Yes, and you re Mouy-Michel MaHoy, if I am not mistiaken, who used tolunch with me in thamt wretchedlittle cetmerie in the iuae do to Sorboune. What grand times we had in those days to be sure? Well, andwl.ataroyou doingl? You used to dream abot revolutionising Frellnl literature. lins the ' impressionist novel' made any progress since these days?' ' Oh,' said Mouy, sitting down and calling for a bock, ' I have given up all that long ago. I am on the Press now-on the Lut re journal and supply them each day with an anti.Bonlan gist poe. They take splendidly. And you Ishould say you, too, have given up youryouth f." o l' aspiratio?s.' ' Certalnly I have. I am now a bourgeois of :ithe bourgo?ms. ,I am employed in a bIg firm. '°,yo?6fl shippers in • the city. Woell, and you-I' suppose you are a regular customer?? ' ot at all. I don't suppose that I come hero more than once in the month, and then only to see my friends. To-nigkt, however, I have come here fornews. I want to know if it is. for to-morrow morning.' 'What is for to-morrow morning.' 'The execution of Lemasurear, the murderer of Rue Maubert. I heard that it was possible thatit would be for to-morrow, and have come up here to seo Ialtlitre of thoef.tle, to hearif that is so. And, by the way, there heis. Well, )Ialfilitre, do we pass the night out there or not'' ' Not a doubt of it,' said the person addressed, who was considerablyintoxicated. 'A longnigltt of poignantemotions. It wostelephoned down to the oflice just beforel came up. I, for my part," will take a bock.' ' Shall you come to-night?' said Mouy. ' Yes, I mnst say I should like to go with yon.' *'.Oh that will be all right. Shall we be going.' After a moment's hesitation Marson rose and accompanied his friend to the corner of the Avenue Trndaine, where they took a cab. The cabman grumbled greatly when he was told to drive out to the Place de la Roquetto, and sact outat a crawl. S'Our friendis doubtless an opponent of the system of capital punislunet,' said Mouy. S'So am I,' said Marson. 'With such a scoundrel as Lemasureur there canbono pity. Do you knowtbout him ? o? Well, he's the fellow who murdered the old woman in the Rue Maubert in the most brutal fashion imaginable. Ah, I thought you must have heard of it. Yes, that is the same man. The curious thing about it is that the police and the judges have never been able to lay their hinds on the plunder, which consisted of a quantity of jewels and stock. He would never confess his crime nor say a word as to what he had done with these things. Indeed, it is strange they are going to execute him, as after all they hove only circumstantial evidene agaisst him, and none of the strongest. Ishouldn't care to have sentenced him to death on the evidence given at his trial.' ' Whatsort of a man is he?' 'The regulararrier loafer. The vilest typo of man one can see. A mere wild beast, fero clous and cowardly. You will se him die like a craven. The ferocious criminal always does, while the cool calculating murderer, like the one I saw guillotined down at Beauvais last week, takes itas the gambler takes the loss of his laststake.' SAbout an hourlater Marson and his friend found themselves standingin the first row of a big crowd which was collected outside the omin onsdoorsof the Roquette goal. In front of them was a wooden barrier reaching to their waists. They were about two yards from the d.oor of the prison and separated only by the barrier from the way down which the criminal would gang his last gait. The scene was dramatie oatd sinister. The wicket of the prison gates was ajar, and the suggestion of adoor ajar is always a troubling one. Above the gates was an open trellis-woi-k of wooden bars after themanner of aportcullis, and through this adim light was shining. The castellated walls of the prison, gre and gloomy, were like a back ground n hofifth actof a melodrama. Above, between the trees, the stars were divinely beautiful, and from afar in the boskage of the cemeteryof P/re Lachaise the trilling of a night ingale mcould beheard, All round the largesquare were massed hundreds of human forms, kept back by soldiers and police, whose uniforms glittered as they swayed to and fro under the pressure of those behind them, and the faint ficker of the gaslights caught the polished metal of the button, sabre, or ayonet. Presently two tumbrils drove up and placed themselves just oppositethe two men. One was for the conveyance of the bodyafter the execu tion, the other contained the guillotine. This a busy hangman's roletaille began to unpack. They were so brisk about it that it looked for all the worldlike a household removalof a man toopoor to pay a contractor and to whom friends are gting a helping hand. The men were in frock coats and high hats, which re sently they changed for cape and short jackets before proceeding to the mounting of the guillo tine. The nightingale was now silent, and from afar the collected rabble sang hideously. Like those who piece together the fragments of a gigantic puzzle familiar to their fingers the men set up the machine, with occaonal steppings back s those who judge the progress of a work of art or handicraft. One who remained in the attire of respectability of the middle class, and who hada habit of rubbing his hands complt centlyfrom time to time, walked to and fro, casting occasional glances at the work that was being done. ' The henemnn,' it was whispered in the crowd. So, nmidlt sinister preparations, the night passed sloiwly. Marson, with the . national sentimentalityofanoEnglishman, began to regret having come as the faial hour drew near. Hoesaid toMony, who was talking and laughing with a bani 'of corfrres: 'I shall ct a sorry figure, Ia. sure. You .ce I a. tired, a.nd then thisin ahll so horrible. I wish now I had not come.' "No,' said the philosophical Frenchman. 'don't waste any pity on such afellow. Think of the old woman whom he butchered.' Caaa'mn I.--Tne GocrAoans Dorn rre Gradually the day stealing up reveals the sallow pallors of the attending crowd. The guillotine him now been in place a long while. Every now and then the hI:angman tries the fall of the knife, whiclh comes dowo with a hideous noise. Marson remarks on this, and IMouy say, ' Oh,Irj was justgeItg o o yt teary. it's de Paris has perfected it in view of the Exhibi tion. But look out, they are going in to e-ake him up. It will not be long now. C'est Jgl, I don't envy Lemasurcur thie ne?t five minutes of his life.' Whit he rpokethe doors of the prison were slammed to on thlcheels ofi a crowd ofofficials. A period of what was anguishl to Marson now ensued. lie felt hii knees bcending betneath him, and it was as if a cold haind was gripping his heart and rsqueezhg it in icy fingerg. Sauddenly a general cr of 'Hats oft!' and thoie bchinl make one more desplerate effort tobetter thelir places, and with a creaking andt omnious noise the gates of thle gaol are thlrown oloen. Marson turns his head and sces isuitng a melaechloly procestion. In front marclhes the ihangman, with the absurdest pa:rodl of cligcity ii clc gait. Then come other oiicials, anl then, suicortedl by the prt.t and a warder, thIe mierablet moan. lHe is livid in the face. anld great ldros, of per spiration roll down l:hi face. Yet, thloughi milerabl frightened en.l in lbtterest anguishi, he tries to look brave, and has thle most lpitifcl semblance of a grinl on hIcL face. ' That's Le masureur,' says Mocv, itn an adiblle voice. Just then, antd at the very IromCeenlt wslcn the con demned man is otaggering I:ot him, Marsaio is so pres ~e, behind yi coofr.reo manddened with ctriosity andl enraged at seeing noiithing that the feeble woo.den brleo r is c:raed away. and thle EIglihmn:a, hcoeorr.ttruck, is pushed almost in tile centre of lthe mornlfull pIrocesioln. Heis but a few inlchts frocc thie concdlmned man bIfore gathering up. his strtenigth hIe cal crowd hack thlose Ilhind hiim. Ai t this moment, however, Lemnasureur. wholes has had to stare in hiseyes, twists his miserable head forward and speakua few words in a husky and iquavering voice, too low for anyone but Marson to hear. A tuinute aftcrwards a scufle is seen, the knife come down, and thce dirty tragedy is 'Well, and how do you feel now?' asks Mlony, as together they made their way down
the Rue do Ia Roqluette. 'low badly those fellows Lehaved, to be surs The man died better than I thought he would.' ' Yes. Oh, I am feeling all right; only very tired,' I say. 'I sht'nt be able to take the train to London this morning. I shal't have time to get bck to my hotel and get ready. Will you come to the ixhibitio witlhl me? 'Not I. thank you; I have the exhibition up to my throat. I shall go )iomo quietly, tndl wlhen I have given the ir" Gse'rsrl his daoily dose I shall go to--blt. I say, let's go in hero and have a ifl?.oa.!,i;.' Cnarmz III.-Fta'N- Or en D.at' FEanr. After a short and troub:ed sleeop at'his liotel "aenrsou rose and dreaed, and weant beck to.,tli. Exhibition. . What is there I haven't son?"' he idsked h?niself :as he strolled down the Central Park ' Oh, I. knbow Edison's place, the phdoogrnph stsuuo in the Amernin section. Ishould be sorry nbt to see that and hear for myself if it is as'wonderful as the pilprs say.' There were only two people in tile kiosque when Marsou entered, and accordilnlv lte had not townditlong for tis turn to holt tile two little glass globes to bis ears.' Hoe livlr-arious slueaky repetitions of sones and phrases whlich sounded to him like the ar-off ech-o of some amateur ventriloquist performance. After a while, tired of listening to repeated inanities, he anked and obtalned: permission to speak into the receiver himself. While he was trying to think of sometlhig stronger to leave on record than such inbecilities ans he had been lister:ig to, there flashed across his mind the recollectlon of t1he words which lie had heard breathed in iis ear that morning by the hnsks sud quavering voice of a moriltnd itan, which e had completely forgotten until thou. This was all tthe more remarkableo that the worlsViero not in any latiua-'o that he under stood, sdunds and nothiing else as far as lihe was ceocerned. - It's doubtless some French slang,' he thought ; ' I say, it will be rathern joke to registerthem here. It will liri-elestnngs of respectable persons, far from imagiinig that they are listening to the last words of a common murderer.' Accordingly, beding down, lihe spoke the words into the tube. The treadle being worked a few minutes afterwards the glass globes echoed back the following:-' La ctmelotte-chez Fifine--des Pieds-Bumides.' M3arsonestartedback. Not onlyhad the curious machine produced the exact words, but ?lso the very tones of the original speaker. It was Lemasureur's very voice, with the ring of the agony of death in itsreents. - ' La-cmnelotte --ehe Fifhne-des Pieds-Humides.' As lie listened to it the horror of the night that he had passed camoover him, and withat agreat desire to be off nd away, so that by change of scene or by rapid motion he might shako off the re membrance which was ulon him like an hideous nightmare.. So handing the tubes to his neighbour he thanked the attendant, and, pale ondundone, staggered out into the American Court. As he reached the end of the court he heard a commotion behind idm, and looking round saw a man come tearing along inhs direction heedless of the abuse that was being levelled at his head by those whom he pushed aside in the eagerness of his onwArd passage. 'A pickpocketI dare say,' thought Marson, making room for the man to pass. But he, on seeing the Englishman, had halted suddenly and was pretending to be vastly interested in the exhibits of a household-utensil manufactur. ing company. It was a short and robust man, with keen black eyes and abushy black beard. Marson was too much occupied with his thouglts to p:ayany further attention to him. and walked on and on. 'I'll walk myself dead tired,' he said; 'that may help me to forget.' He tpased out of the Exnibition bythoe gateway on the Quai d'Orsay, and made his way ast tile Parliament House into the Boulevard St. Ger. main. As le was passing the War Office he looked round and saw that a short man with keen blackeyes anda thick beard was close be. hind him. ' Iseem to have seen that fellowbe fore,' he said, as he pushed on vigorously. At the corner of the Boulevard St. Michel, as he was debating whether to turn to tie right or to the left, he noticed him again. Turning to the left he made his way duown towards the Seine. ' Notroe Dame Cathedral is somewhere near here,' he thooghtafter awhile. 'I have half a mind to go and spend an hour there. It will put me into adifferent frame of mind. Yes, but where is Our Lady of Paris? I shlll be forgetting my owtn name next.' By the St. Iichel's fountain there were standing just then a dissolute-looking young fellow and a slatternlvgirl of about seventeen. ' Oh, that's no matter,' cried Marson, ' they will direct me all right. Pardon, Mademoiselle,' he said, ad. dressing the girl, ' will you beso good s to tell me the way to Notre Damn Cathledral ' The words were, hardly out of his mouth when, with a cry, the man and woman turned andran. At the same time Ma:son found him nelf roughly collared. ' Hold him tight.' cried a voice behind him, ' whilst we catch the other two.' Turning roundhishead Marson saw thathe was in the clutches of the little black-bearded man who had been following him from the Exhibition. ' What are you holding me for ? heeried, struggling violently to loose himself. 'This is an unheardof outrage.' 'Oh, yes,' said.the man. 'We know all about that. You just keep quiet, will youi or you'll geta crack on the head withioseph that you nwo'tlike.' Just then the police returned holding the man and the girl, who both were loudly vociferating in languago of the vilest. When they saw lIarson they began to abuse him in the most horrible terms, of which, luckily, he did not understand a word.. A largo crowd was collected, and it was followed by hundreds of shouting citizens that Marson ansdhis fellow. pisoners were marclsed off to the police esta. ton, the Englishman expostulating loudly in a dialeetwhich affordedimmense amusement, as well to the crowd as to his captors. Cut?wE n IV.-An ACccmPn'uc or u 'BoiD LEirrn.' The commisseire was in his office when they reached the police-station, and into his august presence the prisoners were ushered forthwith. The old gentleman looked very much surprised to see so respectable looking a man as the shippin.clerk in nuch bad company., 'Well, what'sthisl' he cried. 'EtineIknow; Aguste, otherwise the Limper, I know; but who is tlhat young foreiguer r An Englishman, Is tould say. Is it a pocket-picking case?' 'No, sir," said the detective. . Something very. much more important. Allow me to present to you, MIonsieur le Commissaire, the three accomplices of Lemasureur, otlherwise lthe Blood-letter, tate of 10, lue de . lRo quette.' And he fell back to see the effect pro duced by his words on the magistrate. It was as great a one as he could pouibly have desired. ' Lemasurur?' cried the magistrte, spring ing to his feet. 'The murderer of the Widow Faucheur? The man who was guilloteiied this morning ? You don't menu it ? How did you lay your hands on them? I cannot believeh my ears!' 'Yes, and whlat is more, sir,' said the detec tive, rubbing hIis hands, ' we shall be able to lay our hands on tile plunder. Won't old Biscuit bepleased ? ' How dare you speak of an examining magistrate attached to the Paris court of assizes in so familiar terms'u I am shocked it uil. But as you say, wion't lhe be pleased ? iowndid it come about ? I thouglht Lcmasu reur had made no confe-sioin.' ' No more hlie had. It is tso extraordlinary a businets thalt I nm astolished at it myself. I will tell you later on. lut tirst you will terhn-ps enxamine these fellows. They are already char,-ed.' 'Just so.' s?id the mangistatle. ' In any r.se, it is too serious a luslnoss for me to dis pose of, and imut certainly go beforet the ex:mlining negistrate. I nied not asik you seoe n-mnoies,' le conteinuod, turin-ig to the two F:rech plitocersa. ' But you i' to 3Iarson, ' ll:ilt is Vour Ivn 1a e -' Selohn .arn-ono.' ' Engliish ? Yes. Ae? Thirty twio. Good. Profenssion? Cirr:. Bot:er. Domicile' Lon dol, with occalsional profeisionfl visits to Paris,. I idaresay. . . . Oh, don't make anyt fuss in here. Yeo will go thrlough tihe nithlroponmetrnIcal service jost like tile rcst, anlI we Ish:ll t bhen knowtim htrl uti alout you as well as you do yourself. If you snake auy noise iu hrIe you nsill get locked up ast once. liTake yil alvieu and keep quiet until tile s.slad-ha?klt comes round--llack Martia, yos call it in old Alion. It willl e hI re direcily, aud awnayyou go to tlie dep;,t prisosn.' l toi inpen-elet kniowle:lge of French, John wnas helpless to sdefnc:ild hlie!f. ' What does it matter aftr te all ?' he thoughlt. ' They can't do me ans harlsais I have done nothing. Aud it will b 'somettingl to talk about whenlc I get home.' Th, salad lblsket came roinnd in ablout lhalf lin lourn, and iolto it 'the tlhree pri~oncrs were uniceresmoniouslvl bundlcd. Isio?e tlhe prison he was searched, l slid shlortly afterwardswas locked up h hinssllsy in a cell. lie had niot long to wait beforn hs e?m?eu wans called out, antd, still led Iv tn e cord, he was ushered into tlhe cabinet oli 31. Biscuit, tholjouo. i'isntruction. CITAItER VI.--FLItoIIT. After thle prionelr had becon asked hIis name, age, and addressi , the mnagisnrato cleared his thlroat, nnd tixing his spectaycled eyes full on John's face, began,,: ' Wheteher all vou have told me is correct or not I am ot yet in a poesi tion to say. In the meanwhile it s indifferent
to me. What I have called you here for this morning is to ask you, what comneclion you had wtith the exelted man Liemasureur, and with the crimo for which he underwent not later than yesterday morning the extreme penalty of the law ?' 'Look, hefe, Mr. Biscuits,' cried Marlon, flying into a passion. ' I have just as mdch of this sort of thing as I care to take. Enough is as good us a feast. Aset. You know what I mean. I don't know anythiing about your Lemnsureur except that I snw the beostly way in which he was butchered yesterday. As for Mrs. Fanchleur and all the rest of yournonsense, I know and care iothing. I amn a respectablloeclerk of the city of London. I coam over to see the Exposition and the Tower and all thattinod very nice I must say it all is. But I don't want any more of your Paris ifthis is' the way you treat foreigners. I call ita shame, I do.' ' You do not appear to realise the position in which you are placed, continued the magistrate. 'A most serious chargo has beeni laid aginst you, namely of being ao accompice either be. fore or after the fact of the man who was executed yesterday morning. It is known that he had accomplices, and that the jewels and otherobjects which he stole front the unhappy Mrs. Fauchcur were given into the keeping of these. A most providential occurrence put justice on the track of you and your con federates just at a time when, the principal being dead, you were hoping to enjoy in quiet the fruit of his abominable exploits.' The magistrate touched a lll. An usher ap. peared, whIo at a wonl from him wint out ani returned accompanied Iby the blatck-bearded detective and a young man of repectable ap pearance. *Nowv, Mr. Carlou,' said the magistrate, addressing the detective, ' the prisoner persists in denying all connection with the affair we know about. I shall be glad to hear your statement of the circumstances under which you arrested hine.' ' It is,' said the detective, 'the most extra. ordinary experience I have orvcrhad. Being on holiday yesterday, I iprolited by my leisure to pay avisit to the collection of marvels of our great anid glorious Exhibition. After spending the morning in the admiration ot the works of art, I went to the American section, and had haroly entered when the alleged larson came in. lHe, too, was anxious to examine tihe triumph of the genius of Edison, though not I fear from the same motives as usually inspire a peaceful 'and in genuous crowd. Something in his apenearance attractedmy attention. .'Young man,' I said to myself, 'allis not straight with you. I'll keep my eyeon you.' And I did. All of a sudden, I see him chlange colour, and immedia. telyafterwvards ie drnpstheglobes andcctsoutof theo kosque. I catch up the apparatus, fix them in my ear, set the macmein going. and hear-I hearn voie saying as plain as the day: ' camelotto clhez Fithuo des Pieds-Humides."' ' Which translated into proper French,' inter. rupted tih magisIrate, glnrhog at John, 'means 'The plunder is in the keeping of Filue of the Damp-feot,' Fitne being a notorious character w'ho is geerally to be found near. the open-air noffee-stall lmown as the coff of the Damp-feet public. What sort of a voice wasit?' ' The voice of the prisoner before you.' 'And what conclusions did you draw from what you had heard ?' '-That some arrangement had been made by the gang to communicate in this original and unexpected manner. These ruffians have their heads full of romantic stuff from reading the halfpenny panors.' 't ry posibleo. Well;and what did you do then?' *I said,' Carlou, my boy, yourholldayisover. I knew that Filine lhadn been connected with thi e crime, and, as you know, she wassometime under arrest on suspicion. That unde me think at once that the plunder referred to seas that of the widow Faucheur. I conjectured also that this fellow, as soon as he had left his message, ad caught sitot of me, recognled me, and see ing that tee land givel himself away, had cut and run. I out after him, and followed him like his shadow. Right enough, at the St. Michel's Fountain I see him go up to Fifine and begin talking. Doubtless to give them the tip, and to warn them to get the things away. But in the meanwhile I had given two nolicemen the rink, and we were down upon them like lightning, before they could concert any plan of defenc.' ' Is this the phonograph operator?' ' At your service, sir. 'You recogniso this man? Yes. Now set the machine going.' 'I must informnn your honour,' said the operator, 'that the words in question were the last spoken in the machine, you will have to hear all that sTrt before-some thousand words.' 'Very well,' said the magistrate, settling him self comfortably in his arm-chair; ' we have plenty of time, and I for my part shall not in the least object, as I avre never yet heard - the voice of electricity enchained by man. Eh? What's that ?' he cried, as thephoonograph,now net in motion, squeaked forth, ' \'hat silly Johnnies these Frencluncn are to be sure.' ' Oh, it's only the machine.' ' onderful. Wonderful. To be sure. Not complimentary, but excessively - wonderful,' cried the magistrate. Suddenly Mr. Biscuit, turning round, cried out, ' Yes, wonderful to be sure. Bur wawr In All turned. The guard, awakened as fron/a dream, jumps forward, and then throws him. self against the door. It is locked from outside. They batter their hands against the door whtist the phonograph toots forth, not without irony, the tune of that popular song to which the words are 'He'll never come back, ' He'll never come back, And he d llnever co back any more.' And he didn't. By the timeo the door was opened John had got a good start, and without returning to his hotel was aloe to get over to England that afternoon by the club-train. From London he awrote to Mr. Biscuit and told him the circumstances. In due time he' received notice that an ordinance of nolle pro. cqlni had been delivered against him by thatmagistrate, as his complete innocence tad been established by'the confessions of Fiflne of the Damp.Feet, and of Auguste, known as the Limper. Neither Carlou, the detective, nor the magis trate, was over able to explain the mystery of the phonograph's message; and, as John had no particular reason to give them that or any other satisfaction, the only way I can see foe it is for them to buy a copy of thlis narra. tive.--t. E. rnaezno. in 11,]ll .l",fl L'udgrt.