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CURIOSITIES OF CRIME: THE BARBER FIEND

Two attached and opulent neighbours, residing in some province not very remote from the French capital, having occasion to go to town on certain money transactions, agreed to travel thence and to return together, which was to be done with as much expedition as possible. They were on foot, a very common way even at present for persons of much respectability to travel in France, and were attended, as most pedestrians are, by a faithful dog.

Upon their arrival at the Rue de la Harpe they stepped into tho shop of a perruquier to be shaved, before they would proceed on their business or enter into the more fashionable streets. So limited was their time and so peremptory was their return that the first man who was shaved proposed to his companion that while he was undergoing the operation of the razor he who was already shorn should run to execute a small commission in the neighbourhood, promising that he would be back before the other was ready to move. For this purpose he left the shop of the barber.

On returning, to his great surprise and vexation, he was informed that his friend was gone, but as the dog, which belonged to the absentee, was sitting outside the door, the other presumed he was only gone out for the moment, perhaps in pursuit of him; so, expecting him back every moment, he chatted to the barber whilst he waited his return.

Such a considerable time elapsed that the stranger became quite impatient. He went in and out, and up and down the street; still the dog remained stationed at the door. "Did he leave no message?" "No." All the barber knew was that when he was shaved he went away. "It was very odd."

The dog remaining stationed at the door was to the traveller conclusive evidence that his master was not far off. He went in and out, and up and down the street again. Still no signs of him whatever.

Impatience now became alarm; alarm became sympathetic. The poor animal exhibited marks of restlessness in yelps and in howlings, which so affected the sensibility of tho stranger that he threw out some insinuations not much to the credit of "Monsieur."

An altercation ensued, and the traveller was indignantly ordered by the barber to quit his boutique.

Upon quitting the shop he found it impossible to remove the dog from the door. No whistling, no calling, no patting would do: stir he would not.

In his agony the afflicted man raised a crowd about the door, to whom he told his lamentable story. The dog became an object of universal interest, and of close attention. He shivered and he howled, but no seduction, no caressing, no experiment could make him desert his post.

By some of the populace it was proposed to send for the police; by others a remedy more summary was proposed—namely, to force in and search the house, which was immediately done. The crowd burst in. Every apartment was searched, but searched in vain. There was no trace whatever of the countryman.

During this investigation the dog still remained sentinel at the shop door, which was bolted within, to keep out the crowd, which was immense, outside.

After a fruitless search and much altercation the barber, who had prevailed upon those who had forced in to quit his house, came to the door and was haranguing the populace, declaring most solemnly his innocence, when the dog suddenly sprang upon him, and flew at his throat in such a state of terrific exasperation that his victim fainted, and was with the greatest difficulty rescued from being torn to pieces. The dog seemed in a state of intellectual agony and fury.

It was now proposed to give the animal his way, to see what course he would pursue. The moment he was let loose he flew through the shop, darting downstairs into a dark cellar, where he set up the most dismal lamentations.

Lights being procured, an aperture was discovered in the wall communicating to the next house, which was immediately surrounded, in the cellar whereof was found the body of the unfortunate man who had been missing. The person who kept this shop was а pâtissier.

It is unnecessary to say that the miscreants were brought to trial and executed. The facts that appeared upon their trial, and afterwards upon confession, were these:—

The incautious travellers, whilst in the shop of this barber, unhappily talked of the money they had
about them, and the wretch, who was a robber and а murderer by profession, as soon as the one turned his back, drew his razor across the throat of the other and plundered him.

The remainder of the story is almost too horrible for human ears, but is not upon that account the less credible.

The pastry-cook, whose shop was so remarkable for savoury patties that they were sent for to the Rue de la Harpe from the most distant parts of Paris, was the partner of this perruquier, and those who were murdered by the razor of the one were concealed by the knife of the other in those very identical patties, by which, independently of his partnership in those frequent robberies, he had made a fortune.

This case was of so terrific a nature that it was made part of the sentence of the law that, besides the execution of these monsters upon the rack, the houses in which they had perpetrated their infernal deeds should be pulled down, and that the spot on which they stood should be marked out to posterity with horror and execration.

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Published @ COVE

August 2021

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