Chapter 68571262

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68571262
Full Date1892-05-07
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count3614
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleWilliamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Masterpiece of Crime
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The ,ast1e1pieoe of Crime. (ADAPTDn ris Oxs u e Fuc ou B. B. B.H.) CHAPTER I. No chance I Oscar was his Christian ame, :Lapisotte his . surname. He wnas poor, without talent, and lih thought him self a man of genius., His first care, on starting life, was to tnl;e a pseudonym; his second, to take another;' and so forth, for ten years, he employed all the fantastic appellations he could devise to excite the curiosity of his contempo saries. Yet this curiosity, which he affected to fear, and whicl he' coveted with all his might, hardly cared to pierce the dense ob scurity of his existende.._Under all his bor rowed labels, whethther he called himlnsel Jacques de La Mole, Antoine Guivl:.al, Tildy Bob, Gregorias IIaupska, whether he assumed noble, plebeian, foreign, romantic, or modern titles, he remained none the less the most unknowlin of quill-drivers, the most obscure of tire misunderstood, sand the poorest of men of letters. Glory did not want him. "I psr si anlore! I have an idea," he said to himself with conviction, striking with his finger his bony head-piece, which he imagined profound because it sounded hollor, (ine can never tell to what aberrations literary vanity may force a man. There are men of true talent whom ithas thrown into inconceivable'absurdities, and whom it.has even induced to commit shameful and odious acts. What must then ensue when it torments a wretch of proved incapacity ? Patience exhausted, pride embittered, help-' lessness engendered, one's life spoiled by a useless yet persistent hope, there was little lacking to give birth to the idea of ending it by a suicide, or quilting it by a crime. Osecar Lapisotte was not brave enough to choose death. Besides, his pretensions to intellectual superiority would find an outlet in the consummation of a crime. He said to himself, in fact, that his genius had hitherto taken a wrong direction in applying itself to dreams of art, and that he was destined for deeds of violence. In other words crime would bring a fortune, and wealth Would at length place in the light of day that transcendent intellect which was wasting away in poverty. Thus the "misunderstood" proved to himself,, artistically and morally, that he must com mit a crime. He committed it. And as if fats wished to prove him right, for the first time in his life, he executed a masterpiece. About ten'years before the day on which he became a criminal, Oscar Lapisotte had lived on the sixth floor in a house in the Rue St. Denis. Lost amidst a score or so of lodgers, known only under one of his nu merous pseudonyms, Ihe had become inti nmate there with a gossiping old servant maid, who used to tell him of all her little matters of business. She was half-nurse, half-servant to a very aged widow, an in valid, and fairly wealthy. For the matter of that, lie scarcely stayed a month in that house. One evening, when he had just quitted a friend of his, house-surgeon at La Pitie Hospital, passing through a ward on his way out, he recognised the servant, who was dying. She told him that she had left the widow only three weeks ago, that they had temporarily filled her place by a charwoman, that her mistress was too infirm to visit her, and that she was very miserable. "I can understand that," said Oscar. " You would like to see her, would you not!" "Oh I it is not that. The fact is, I'm afraid lest, if I die here, madame may read all the letters I have left with her, and de spiste m after my death." "And why should she despise you h" "Listen; I will tell you the whole truth. You were once iny lover; but that was a long time ago. I may acknowledge to you that I have had other intrigues. You are not angry vith use for that, are you? Besides, you know well I was not of your class. You were an artist, a man of the world; our acquaintance was but an episode, to which you attached no importance. But there was in the house with mne a man of my own position, a coachman, and if ma dame should know, it would be msy ruin. And so many ill-deeds have I committed for hissake; Ah! the scoundrel! I was de voted to him. HIe is the father of my child ; that is why I allowed myself to be led by him. He has always promised me to recognise it, and marry me. Now, I can well see that it was all pretence; however, never mind that ! My little one will not be badly off with what I leave him, and -madame, I know, Will be good enough to look after him also, for I have writ ten 'to ther-to madame--lto tell her that I have a child. -I have the letter here, under my pillow, and I want it despatched to her, but only if my papers are first burnt. For, unless they are I would sooner eat the letter. .1 don't want madame to know all I have done. She oould have no pity for the urchin if she knew him to be the son of a loose woman and a thief." "Come, ,come, my dear friend," said Oscar, brusquely, "explain your 'situation "to me better. You talk too fast, and mix up everything; you must tell me cleiarly how things stand, if you wish me to do you a serrice. I ask notliioeg better, if it. be pos sible; but I want to understand thoroughly.'" "At that moment Oscar did not dream at all of crime. He merely gave the rein to hIis curiosity as a literary man, scented' a romance, and was preparing " copy." " Ah, well! ' returned thie wooman, "this is hos it is. I will try tobe clear. I fell illsuddenly in'the street in.an :attack of apoplexy, and they brought me to the hos pital. Madame has eIrft me here; as they could not morve me. I have 'ivrittcni to her *'and she answered me. Her' charwomann, caire as her repriesentative. But:neither to madame nor to. the charwomsii could I speak of whlat ,torments me. I have a packet. of the coachmani's letters; you utlderstand, the fatheri, The letteis are full of wickedness;'thetlts he advises ise to com mit, and thanks he sends me after I have eommitted them. For Ih?are :robbed, yes, robbed for his sake; robbed my mistress. I ougls to have burnt those' acecursed letters; but they had also iu them caressing wrords, promises of nsarriage, anid. assur ances that he wonld acknowledge tile' little one, so I kept them. Oie day the scamp threatened to take them from me to coinl promise me.:,I Irefused hIs i moner, and hes gave me to understand tilat, once mnster of the papers, he would do vlwhat he liked with me. I was horxibly frightened. All the same, I did not wish to part with tlhelettersl To place them in safety, I asked madame if I might entrust to her some filnily papers, which I raued ~very mdlc and thlus I: in-; troduced ;my; littert siolo her; bureau Madame gave me a drawer-to mysalf with. the key. I know I milght send word to her that I reqnire;th~ papers. Bui I mistrust

the charwoman, who would bring them to im ne. From words she has let slip I can easily guess that she, too, has the conchman in tow now. He is a reg-ulsr humbug, I can tell you ; and if he coan;s her it is to obtain ihe packet, the 'hiding place of which he knows. So, you understand my embarrassment. Oh ! if you would be so. good I I do not deserveit, it is true; but. it would lie handsome on your part to render b me this service." . " Wihat service ?" *: To bring mse my letters." "But how do you mean me to get hold of them ?" " That is very simple! Listen; every evening at ten o'clock madame lakes her slceping-draught of chlloral, and sleeips soiundly at that hour. The charwoman is not therc then, as she goes away at seven o'clock, aifer dlinner. You understand lth.t !madamie has never told her that she tiLes chloral ; for fear of being robbed. She only told use, in whom she had fll coilidence, poor lling. -Well! you might enter then, she would not hear you, and you could Scome away and bring isme my letters. You' Sknow there are two entrances to tile house. By the hack staircase the hall porter would notice nothing. Oh! do that. for mie, speak !" " "But you are mad. The desk-how nm I to open that . And the door of the room, how to get through that !" "Iliavea-double key to the bureau. To my shame, beit said, I had it made in order to rob madame. Here it is with that of my drawer. Here, too, is the key to enter throghl the kitchen by the backstairs. I beg you-I know not why, but I have faith in you, I am sure that you will do this that Imay die in peace." Oscar Lapisotte took. the keys. His eyes dilated. A sudden pallor overspread his face. Nervous twitches played round his thin-folded lips. Abruptly the possibility of crime came to his mind. This woman dead, the deed was easy to execute. "Oh, I am stifling, stifling," said the sick woman, whom the long confession had overpowered. "Give me -something to drink, to drink I" " The couch was in the dark, dimlylit by a night-light. In the adjacent beds everyone was asleep. Oscar raised the sick woman's head, drew away the pillow, and. placed it on her mouth, where lie held it with a Swrist of iron for at least ten minutes." Ho ;had the horrible courage to wait, watch in hand. When he uncovered the face, the sick woman was suffocated. She had neither been able to make a, movement or utter a cry. She appeared to have suc cumbed to a determination of blood to the Shead. He replaced the pillow beneath the head and arranged the bedclothes under the 1 chin. The corpse seemed to bea sleep. The bed of the nurse being fairly close to the door the assassin escaped without dis turbance. He glided along the house surgeon's corridor, passed through a side gate from the hospital road, and found Him self outside without having been seen. It was twenty minutes past nine. Without losing time, in a fever to carry. out his plnti, the wretch set out will long strides for the Rue Saint Denis. He entered the house before ten o'clock. On the road he had matured his plan. He, first entered the stables where the coachman's things ought to be. IHe picked up a necktie there, tore a small strip from it, and put the strip in his pocket. Then he went up the back slairs -our steps at a time. It wsas on the first floor, and one could stride up the eighteen steps with no risk of being perceived. He opened the door, entered noiselessly, reached the bed chamber, and in one mo tion strangled the old woman who was sleeping there. Here, too, lie had the cool ness to keep the throat compressed for a good quarter of an hour. IHe then opened the bureau. In the big drawer in the middle there were stock shares and bonds; in. th left drawer, bank notes; in the right one, rolls' of louis. HI sorted out the convertible deeds and left the rest. In all-deeds, gold, and noles-llere were one hundred and forty Ilhousand francs, with which ie . crammed his pockets. He then looked after the letters. HIe easily found them in the little corner, just where the servant had told him they were. He burnt lthem in tile fireplace, but took care to leave intact those scraps that were most compromising to the servant and' the coachman. Just a few well chosen sufliced to establish the whole story of the child, the temptations to theft," nil the thefts committed. He placed these in sight near the fender, admirably arranged to insduce belief that some one had hastily burned them, and had gone away before they were quite consumed. .' He crumpled and tore the strip of neck tie, placing it in the stiff convulsive grasp of the dead woman's right hand.! Hee then went out, fled like a streak of lightning as far'as the road, and then. at once com menced to walk with the quiet, strolling pace of an idler. S'Oscar Lapisotte was certainly not in errorin imagining himself a genius ;he had a genius for crime, and had worked with the hand of a master. ' , ." A crime is really only a masterpiece if the author of it escapes with silnpnity.p : On the other hand, impunity iss only complete if justice finds the wrong man guilty. : Oscar Lapissotte enjhyed. complete im punity.. . Justice did not hesitate one single in stant in finding the assassin. Clearly it was the coachlman. The fragments of the letters were infallible proofs.'Whbo else, but the coachman, the nurse'ss lover, could knouw so well the details that favoured :the crime ? Who elso could obtain the' kelys i • Had he not begun by robbing tlilewidov. in concert witlh the nurse.;. Was it .ioi logicali that he should have taken the step which separates theft 'from assassiunation. BeDo 'sides, the accusing scrap of necktie' spoke: clearly. To crown his bad luck, the coach. man lhada bid prefous record. An a last Ioverwhelming circumsatance, li could- iot account for the emplooyment of Ihis tliio :-at the fatal hiour: He might: deny his gluilt, and protest hirs'insnoceee as lie pleised ; all was agaiiist hlisli, inothing pleaded in.hiso favour. - i aseisjudgedl, =-condemned to deatll eecuteued anid thes jidges, tlihd'jury, the Ivwyer, tle , papersi aild tlie'publcwere' all of one naccord in having an *eaisycdns cience in thae isa ?etr STihere remaiied hbut one obscunre poinjin. thei bnsiness';it wasithe fortunei that-.they.i '.colid liot recover, .:They thought that the scaumpp liad hidden it in a sure pliace; but n o'dne doubted tlat he had stolen :it.n In: Tfine, if ever a criiinnal bas proved guilty of. his crime, it was he.':. " .,': .',: . 'They say that consciooaness; of a goodi actlion- gives profound pence. But few people hIre the boldncss to say that impsn. nity after an evil action brings also' its hap pinels. Iavray d'Auverillay, in: hia ad

mirable " Diaboliques," was not" afraid to, write a novel entitled ",lHappiness in' Crinme," and he was right, for criminals do know what it is to be at peace. Oscar Lapissotte was able fully to ,enjoy his double murder, end to relish the fruits of it in absolute tranquility. :He' stiffered neither remorse nor terror. The only trou blesome sentiment he experienced, and which increased little by little, was enor mous pride, and, aboi?e all, the pride of the artist. What made him oblivious of every moral consideration was exactly the perfec tion of his work and the feeling that he had appeared absolutely 1guiltless. In that thought alone his thirst for superiority found a drought to quaff to intoxication. On the othelhnlid, he remained one of the crowd, obscure and justly unknown. He had made good use of his new fortune to effect an entry to journals and reviews--he had well fited the critics, but he could not gain the ear of the public. His verses, his prose, his theatrical essays were stamped with the brand of incapacity. Men of the pirofession knew Anatole Desroses slightly, the amateur man of letters, who had more income than talent, bLit readers laughed at his income, and everyone agreed in refutsing him even the smallest morsel of talent. He was duly convicted of incapability. "And yet," be sometitiles said to himself, with sparkling eyes, "yet if I wanted tol If I were to relate, my. masterpiece-for I hare achieved a masterpiece, there is no doubt about linthat. Anatole Desroses may be an idiot-be it so; but Oscar Lapisotte is a man of genius. All the- same, it is fearful to think that an exploit so well con trived, so powierfully conceived, 0so igOr osly executled, so completely successful, will remain eternally unk!own. Ah ! on that day I had true inspiration-tihe inspi ratioil that achieves perfection. Great: heavens ! Abb6 Prrvost scribbled* mbrse than a hundred rubbishing romances, yet .wrote but one .Malfoni Lescaut. Bernardin de Saint rierre will ontly leave behinsd liim 1'taul and I'irglnia. There are many. of : these strange geniuses who produce but one work; but then, what a work I It remains like.a monpiuent:in literature. I, too, am; one of those choice spirits-I have accom plished but one excellent performance. Why did I live it instead of writing it If I had written it, I should be celebrated; I should have but one tale to show, but everyone would want to read it, for it would be unique of its kind. I have accomplished a masterpiece of crime." Atlength this idea became a nightmare to him. For ten years lie contended with :it. He allowed himself to be a prey, first to regret for having performed, and not imagined the deed, then to a desire to re late his action as if it had been imaginary. What haunted him was not the demon of perrversity,-lthat strange force which i rges Edgar Allan Poe's characters to proclaim their secret; it was a devotion to litera ture, a greed for renown, a lust after' glory. Like a subtle counsel, whorefutes objections one'by otne, and weighs all plausible argu ments, thiis fixed idea of his pursued him with a thousand pleadings. - Why should you.not write the truth? What do you fear? Anatole Desroses is safe from punishment; the crime is old ; to most people it is forgotten; the author of it is known ; lie is dead and buried, with his head tucked between his legs. You will op pear to have artistically arranged an old legal story. You will put into it all your hidden thoughts, all the bitterness that urged you on to the muirder, all the skilful plans you combined to commit it, lnd allthe coincidences with which that wondcrful in ventor, called chatnce, furni.-shld*you. You alone are in the secret of the work, and no one will guess that you have drawn it from reality. People will see in your tale only the effort of an extraordinary imagination, And then you will be the matn you wish. to be, the great writer, who is slow to reveal his powers, but when ihe does, it is with a master-stroke. You will enjoy the fruits of your crime as never did criminal before. You will have drawn fromn it, not only fortune, but renown too. And who knows? After the first success, when you .have a sname, you will get your other works read, and doubt less people will reverse the unjust opinion they have of you. On the road to celebrity, 'tis but the first step that is hard. Courage i Revive some of that astonishing boldness you had once in your life. See loow it has succeeded with you. It Cannot fail to suc ceed again. You were once able to take time by the forelock. You still hold it in your hand. Will you let it slip?- You knotv well the woik is a great one, do you not? Well, then, relate it fearlessly, with out concealment, boldly, in all its majestic horior. And, if you will follow my advice, gratify your pride to the top of its ent;, put a bold face on it, renounce that nickname which appears to beyoir real name, and sign your own name, which will appearrto be a t nickniame.' It is not Jacques de la Molds,i Antoine Guiiland, or even Anatole Des roses, it is not that heap of talentless indi enviduals, whom you want to glorify;': it is yourself, Oscar Lapisotte. ,A?id one fine evening Oscar Lapisotte sat :down n i frdnt of his foolscap, with head on fire a?id: feverish land, like a grent.poet who feels himself about to be 'delivered· o a great work, and at bne stretch he wrote the history o[f a crime .: .., lHe related Oscar Lapisotte' ms iirable siart in: lifel his ]3olemiam i 'existence, his. uiany failures ,"is priosved in;eaicity, Isis terrible embittrmuont, the ideas of suicide and of crime which danced ini his brain, that rebel!ious hoart betrayed a elimera. which longs to tiake its reucnige upoiii ithe real a whole romance of deep psychologys the dissection of the soul" "Neit, in sober iiguiage, and withi, horrible distinctnitess, he described thece io in he luopiti~ scone inCIte lIne?t Detiiis, the death of the ininiict accused", ad the ;t h thatiuosicuubtlety of detati, itosn atloed the causes. wthebtihld deetdod iCnite utine to 2 '/It is easier to :est-shlisl? ':iit ?epurtatonhbfor Sgoodness wihthh?he wirld:a;tlarge than 'with ti losef our own ihouisl?oid:d::':.:::. SIt must be a uetter of regret to tte m hI lio likes to: hear hitiseilf taif k Cto : told tlhat be ias been talking in his slee.'%, I To blise a healthy gorersnmeit ia ?tle ' nmaiut lItsve a good conoitititntti rick, I only think it rigit to'smsksa oait( f: ession.; Ilove onions.'·