La Constantin HTML version

Chapter 1
Before beginning our story, we must warn the reader that it will not be worth his while to
make researches among contemporary or other records as to the personage whose
name it bears. For in truth neither Marie Leroux, widow of Jacques Constantin, nor her
accomplice, Claude Perregaud, was of sufficient importance to find a place on any list of
great criminals, although it is certain that they were guilty of the crimes with which they
were charged. It may seem strange that what follows is more a history of the retribution
which overtook the criminals than a circumstantial description of the deeds for which
they were punished; but the crimes were so revolting, and so unsuitable for discussion,
that it was impossible for us to enter into any details on the subject, so that what we
offer in these pages is, we confess quite openly, not a full, true, and particular account
of a certain series of events leading up to a certain result; it is not even a picture
wherein that result is depicted with artistic completeness, it is only an imperfect
narrative imperfectly rounded off. We feel sure, however, that the healthy-minded
reader will be grateful for our reticence and total disregard of proportion. In spite of the
disadvantage which such a theme imposes on any writer with a deep sense of
responsibility, we have resolved to let in some light on these obscure figures; for we can
imagine no more effective way of throwing into high relief the low morals and deep
corruption into which all classes of society had sunk at the termination of the factious
dissensions of the Fronde, which formed such a fitting prelude to the licence of the reign
of the grand roi.
After this explanation, we shall, without further preamble, introduce the reader to a little
tavern in Paris, situated in the rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts, on an evening in November
It was about seven o'clock. Three gentlemen were seated at one of the tables in a low,
smoky room. They had already emptied several bottles, and one of them seemed to
have just suggested some madcap scheme to the others, the thought of which sent
them off into shouts of laughter.
"Pardu!" said one of them, who was the first to recover his breath, "I must say it would
be an excellent trick."
"Splendid!" said another; "and if you like, Commander de Jars, we can try it this very
"All right, my worthy king's treasurer, provided my pretty nephew here won't be too
much shocked," and as he spoke de Jars gave to the youngest of the three a caressing
touch on the cheek with the back of his hand.
"That reminds me, de Jars!" said the treasurer, "that word you have just said piques my
curiosity. For some months now this little fellow here, Chevalier de Moranges, follows