Select Story

The Shirt of Mail 

by William Russell

The death of that desperate devil Durand, raised me immensely in the estimation of the influential notabilities of Lyons. The incidents of the enterprise were vividly illustrated in the local journals—by written emblazonment, I mean—we had not then arrived in France at popular pictorial embellishments of passing ephemeral topics. I was presented with a gratuity of one thousand francs as a reward, it was politely stated, for my skill and audacity; and M. le Sous-Prefȇt hinted to me, unofficially, but none the less confidentially, that it would not be long before I should be transferred to Paris, and attached to the Bureau of La Haute Police. For some years, of course, considering my age, notwithstanding, he was pleased to say, the virile capacity I had displayed as a kind of cadet, to be trained under vigilant superintendence for the delicate and difficult duties I might ultimately be selected to carry out. In the meantime I was to be paid a weekly salary of twenty-five francs, as a substantial recognition of my permanent enrolment as a conscript-soldier in the civilian army of France. The civilian army of France! A pretty, tickling phrase that! Far more agreeable than the vulgar verity, “The Corps of Mouchards.” And let us be just. If there is one thing that French functionaries—from Monsieur le Maire, to Monsieur le Ministre—from Prefȇt to Prince—are unrivalled in, it is the faculty of skilfully lacquering over with copper phraseology whatever is vile, base, and tyrannous in the govermental action of France.

This remark made, en passant, is, it will be well understood, an after thought. Such an irreverent reflection could not, as I listened with both ears to the Sous-Prefet’s flattering announcement, have entered my head, which must have been, I suspect, more than half turned by the surprising change in my circumstances so rapidly brought… Read More