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A Book of Remarkable Criminals
H. B. Irving
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There are two reports of the trial of Castaing: "Proces Complet d'Edme Samuel
Castaing," Paris, 1823; "Affaire Castaing," Paris, 1823.
I. AN UNHAPPY COINCIDENCE
Edme Castaing, born at Alencon in 1796, was the youngest of the three sons of
an Inspector-General in the department of Woods and Forests. His elder brother
had entered the same service as his father, the other brother was a staff-captain
of engineers. Without being wealthy, the family, consisting of M. and Mme.
Castaing and four children, was in comfortable circumstances. The young Edme
was educated at the College of Angers--the Alma Mater of Barre and Lebiez--
where, intelligent and hard working, he carried off many prizes. He decided to
enter the medical profession, and at the age of nineteen commenced his studies
at the School of Medicine in Paris. For two years he worked hard and well, living
within the modest allowance made him by his father. At the end of that time this
young man of two or three- and-twenty formed a passionate attachment for a
lady, the widow of a judge, and the mother of three children. Of the genuine
depth and sincerity of this passion for a woman who must have been
considerably older than himself, there can be no doubt. Henceforth the one
object in life to Castaing was to make money enough to relieve the comparative
poverty of his adored mistress, and place her and her children beyond the reach
of want. In 1821 Castaing became a duly qualified doctor, and by that time had
added to the responsibilities of his mistress and himself by becoming the father
of two children, whom she had brought into the world. The lady was exigent, and
Castaing found it difficult to combine his work with a due regard to her claims on
his society. Nor was work plentiful or lucrative. To add to his embarrassments
Castaing, in 1818, had backed a bill for a friend for 600 francs. To meet it when it
fell due two years later was impossible, and desperate were the efforts made by
Castaing and his mother to put off the day of reckoning. His father, displeased
with his son's conduct, would do nothing to help him. But his mother spared no
effort to extricate him from his difficulties. She begged a highly placed official to
plead with the insistent creditor, but all in vain. There seemed no hope of a
further delay when suddenly, in the October of 1822, Castaing became the
possessor of 100,000 francs. How he became possessed of this considerable
sum of money forms part of a strange and mysterious story.
Among the friends of Castaing were two young men of about his own age,
Auguste and Hippolyte Ballet. Auguste, the elder, had the misfortune a few days
after his birth to incur his mother's lasting dislike. The nurse had let the child fall
from her arms in the mother's presence, and the shock had endangered Mme.
Ballet's life. From that moment the mother took a strong aver-
sion to her son; he was left to the charge of servants; his meals were taken in the
kitchen. As soon as he was five years old he was put out to board elsewhere,