Now, it was revealed to his intelligence that the professional thief, who devoted all his days and such of his nights as were spared from depredation to wine and women, was more readily detected than the valet-de-chambre, who did but crack a crib or cry `Stand and deliver!' on a proper occasion. Wherefore, he bade his soldiers take service in the great houses of Paris, that, secure of suspicion, they might still be ready to obey the call of duty. Thus, also, they formed a reconnoitring force, whose vigilance no prize might elude; and nowhere did Cartouche display his genius to finer purpose than in this prudent disposition of his army. It remained only to efface himself, and therein he succeeded admirably by never sleeping two following nights in the same house: so that, when Cartouche was the terror of Paris, when even the King trembled in his bed, none knew his stature nor could recognise his features. In this shifting and impersonal vizard, he broke houses, picked pockets, robbed on the pad. One night he would terrify the Faubourg St. Germain; another he would plunder the humbler suburb of St. Antoine; but on each excursion he was companioned by experts, and the map of Paris was rigidly apportioned among his followers. To each district a captain was appointed, whose business it was to apprehend the customs of the quarter, and thus to indicate the proper season of attack.
Ever triumphant, with yellow-boys ever jingling in his pocket, Cartouche lived a life of luxurious merriment. A favourite haunt was a cabaret in the Rue Dauphine, chosen for the sanest of reasons, as his Captain Ferrand declared, that the landlady was a femme d'esprit. Here he would sit with his friends and his women, and thereafter drive his chariot across the Pont Neuf to the sunnier gaiety of the Palais-Royal. A finished dandy, he wore by preference a grey-white coat with silver buttons; his breeches and stockings were on a famous occasion of black silk; while a sword, scabbarded in satin, hung at his hip.
But if Cartouche, like many another great man, had the faculty of enjoyment, if he loved wine and wit, and mistresses handsomely attired in damask, he did not therefore neglect his art. When once the gang was perfectly ordered, murder followed robbery with so instant a frequency that Paris was panic-stricken. A cry of `Cartouche' straightway ensured an empty street. The King took counsel with his ministers: munificent rewards were offered, without effect. The thief was still at work in all security, and it was a pretty irony which urged him to strip and kill on the highway one of the King's own pages. Also, he did his work with so astonishing a silence, with so reasoned a certainty, that it seemed impossible to take him or his minions red-handed.
Before all, he discouraged the use of firearms. `A pistol,' his philosophy urged, `is an excellent weapon in an emergency, but reserve it for emergencies. At close quarters it is none too sure; and why give the alarm against yourself?' Therefore he armed his band with loaded staves, which sent their enemies into a noiseless and fatal sleep. Thus was he wont to laugh at the police, deeming capture a plain impossibility. The traitor, in sooth, was his single, irremediable fear, and if ever suspicion was aroused against a member of the gang, that member was put to death with the shortest shrift.
It happened in the last year of Cartouche's supremacy that a lily-livered comrade fell in love with a pretty dressmaker. The indiscretion was the less pardonable since the dressmaker had a horror of theft, and impudently tried to turn her lover from his trade. Cartouche, discovering the backslider, resolved upon a public exhibition. Before the assembled band he charged the miscreant with treason, and, cutting his throat, disfigured his face beyond recognition. Thereafter he pinned to the corse the following inscription, that others might be warned by so monstrous an example: `Ci git Jean Rebti, qui a eu le traitement qu'il m
Du Chtelet, another craven, had already aroused the suspicions of his landlady: who, finding him something troubled the day after the traitor's death, and detecting a spot of blood on his neckerchief, questioned him closely. The coward fumbling at an answer, she was presently convinced of his guilt, and forthwith denounced him for a member of the gang to M. Pacome, an officer of the Guard. Straightly did M. Pac
In the grey morning thirty soldiers crept forth guided by the traitor, `en habits de bourgeois et de chasseur,' for the house where Cartouche had lain. It was an inn, kept by one Savard, near la Haulte Borne de la Courtille; and the soldiers, though they lacked not numbers, approached the chieftain's lair shaking with terror. In front marched Du Chtelet; the rest followed in Indian file, ten paces apart. When the traitor reached the house, Savard recognised him for a friend, and entertained him with familiar speech. `Is there anybody upstairs?' demanded Du Chtelet. `No,' replied Savard. `Are the four women upstairs?' asked Du Chtelet again. `Yes, they are,' came the answer: for Savard knew the password of the day. Instantly the soldiers filled the tavern, and, mounting the staircase, discovered Cartouche with his three lieutenants, Balagny, Limousin, and Blanchard. One of the four still lay abed; but Cartouche, with all the dandy's respect for his clothes, was mending his breeches. The others hugged a flagon of wine over the fire.
So fell the scourge of Paris into the grip of justice. But once under lock and key, he displayed all the qualities which made him supreme. His gaiety broke forth into a light-hearted contempt of his gaolers, and the Lieutenant Criminel, who would interrogate him, was covered with ridicule. Not for an instant did he bow to fate: all shackled as he was, his legs engarlanded in heavy chains--which he called his garters--he tempered his merriment with the meditation of escape. From the first he denied all knowledge of Cartouche, insisting that his name was Charles Bourguignon, and demanding burgundy, that he might drink to his country and thus prove him a true son of the soil. Not even the presence of his mother and brother abashed him. He laughed them away as impostors, hired by a false justice to accuse and to betray the innocent. No word of confession crossed his lips, and he would still entertain the officers of the law with joke and epigram.