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A Book of Remarkable Criminals

M. Derues
The last word on Derues has been said by M. Georges Claretie in his excellent
monograph, "Derues L'Empoisonneur," Paris. 1907. There is a full account of the
case in Vol. V. of Fouquier, "Causes Celebres."
M. Etienne Saint-Faust de Lamotte, a provincial nobleman of ancient lineage and
moderate health, ex-equerry to the King, desired in the year 1774 to dispose of a
property in the country, the estate of Buisson-Souef near Villeneuve-le-Roi,
which he had purchased some ten years before out of money acquired by a
prudent marriage.
With an eye to the main chance M. de Lamotte had in 1760 ran away with the
daughter of a wealthy citizen of Rheims, who was then staying with her sister in
Paris. They lived together in the country for some time, and a son was born to
them, whom the father legitimised by subsequently marrying the mother. For a
few years M. and Mme. de Lamotte dwelt happily together at Buisson-Souef. But
as their boy grew up they became anxious to leave the country and return to
Paris, where M. de Lamotte hoped to be able to obtain for his son some position
about the Court of Louis XVI. And so it was that in May, 1775, M. de Lamotte
gave a power of attorney to his wife in order that she might go to Paris and
negotiate for the sale of Buisson-Souef. The legal side of the transaction was
placed in the hands of one Jolly, a proctor at the Chatelet in Paris.
Now the proctor Jolly had a client with a great desire to acquire a place in the
country, M. Derues de Cyrano de Bury, lord of Candeville, Herchies, and other
places. Here was the very man to comply with the requirements of the de
Lamottes, and such a pleasing, ready, accommodating gentleman into the
bargain! Very delicate to all appearances, strangely pale, slight, fragile in build,
with his beardless chin and feminine cast of feature, there was something cat-like
in the soft insinuating smile of this seemingly most amiable, candid and pious of
men. Always cheerful and optimistic, it was quite a pleasure to do business with
M. Derues de Cyrano de Bury. The de Lamottes after one or two interviews were
delighted with their prospective purchaser. Everything was speedily settled. M.
Derues and his wife, a lady belonging to the distinguished family of Nicolai,
visited Buisson-Souef. They were enchanted with what they saw, and their hosts
were hardly less enchanted with their visitors. By the end of December, 1775, the
purchase was concluded. M. Derues was to give 130,000 livres (about L20,000)
for the estate, the payments to be made by instalments, the first of 12,000 livres
to be paid on the actual signing of the contract of sale, which, it was agreed, was
to be concluded not later than the first of June, 1776. In the meantime, as an
earnest of good faith, M. Derues gave Mme. de Lamotte a bill for 4,200 livres to
fall due on April 1, 1776.