A Seventeenth-Century Mouse-Trap

The invention of the mouse-trap does not date from our day: as soon as society, in developing, had invented any kind of police, that police in its turn invented mouse-traps.

As perhaps our readers are not familiar with the slang of the Rue de Jérusalem, and as, in all the fifteen years we have been writing, we now for the first time apply this word to the thing, let us explain to them what a mouse-trap is.

When in a house, of whatever kind it may be, an individual suspected of any crime is arrested, the arrest is kept secret. Four or five men are placed in an ambuscade in the first apartment; the door is opened to all who knock; it is closed after them, and they are arrested; so that at the end of two or three days they have in their power almost all the frequenters of the establishment. And this is a mouse-trap.

The apartment of M. Bonacieux, then, became a mouse-trap, and whoever appeared there was taken and examined by the cardinal’s people. It goes without saying that as a private passage led to the first floor, on which D’Artagnan lodged, those who called to see him were exempt from all search.

As to D’Artagnan, he did not stir from his apartment. He had converted his chamber into an observatory. From his windows he saw all who came and were caught; then, having removed some of the tiles of his floor and dug into the planking, and nothing remaining but a simple ceiling between him and the room beneath, in which the examinations were made, he heard all that passed between the inquisitors and the accused.

The examinations, preceded by a minute search of the persons arrested, were almost all conceived in this manner:

“Has Madame Bonacieux given anything to you for her husband, or any other person?

“Has Monsieur Bonacieux given anything to you for his wife, or for any other person?

“Has either the one or the other confided anything to you by word of mouth?”

On the evening of the day after the arrest of poor Bonacieux, as Athos had just left D’Artagnan to go to M. de Tréville, as nine o’clock had just struck, and as Planchet, who had not yet made the bed, was beginning his task, a knocking was heard at the street door. The door was instantly opened and shut: some one was caught in the mouse-trap.

D’Artagnan flew to his peek-hole, and laid himself down on the floor at full length to listen.

Cries were soon heard, and then moans, which some one was endeavouring to stifle. There were no questionings.

“The devil!” said D’Artagnan to himself; “it’s a woman—they are searching her—she resists—they use force—the scoundrels!”

In spite of all his prudence, D’Artagnan had as much as he could do not to take part in the scene that was going on below.

“But I tell you that I am the mistress of the house, gentlemen! I tell you I am Madame Bonacieux! I tell you I belong to the queen!” cried the unfortunate woman.

“Madame Bonacieux!” murmured D’Artagnan. “Can I have been so lucky as to have found what everybody is looking for?”

“You are the very one we were waiting for,” replied the examiners.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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