In the Paris evening papers of Tuesday, February 28, 1866, under the head of Local Items, the following announcement appeared:
"A daring robbery, committed against one of our most eminent bankers, M. Andre Fauvel, caused great excitement this morning throughout the neighborhood of Rue de Provence.
"The thieves, who were as skilful as they were bold, succeeded in making an entrance to the bank, in forcing the lock of a safe that has heretofore been considered impregnable, and in possessing themselves of the enormous sum of three hundred and fifty thousand francs in bank-notes.
"The police, immediately informed of the robbery, displayed their accustomed zeal, and their efforts have been crowned with success. Already, it is said, P. B., a clerk in the bank, has been arrested, and there is every reason to hope that his accomplices will be speedily overtaken by the hand of justice."
For four days this robbery was the town talk of Paris.
Then public attention was absorbed by later and equally interesting events: an acrobat broke his leg at the circus; an actress made her debut at a small theatre: and the item of the 28th was soon forgotten.
But for once the newspapers were—perhaps intentionally—wrong, or at least inaccurate in their information.
The sum of three hundred and fifty thousand francs certainly had been stolen from M. Andre Fauvel's bank, but not in the manner described.
A clerk had also been arrested on suspicion, but no decisive proof had been found against him. This robbery of unusual importance remained, if not inexplicable, at least unexplained.
The following are the facts as they were related with scrupulous exactness at the preliminary examination.II
The banking-house of Andre Fauvel, No. 87 Rue de Provence, is an important establishment, and, owing to its large force of clerks, presents very much the appearance of a government department.
On the ground-floor are the offices, with windows opening on the street, fortified by strong iron bars sufficiently large and close together to discourage all burglarious attempts.
A large glass door opens into a spacious vestibule where three or four office-boys are always in waiting.
On the right are the rooms to which the public is admitted, and from which a narrow passage leads to the principal cash-room.
The offices of the corresponding clerk, book-keeper, and general accounts are on the left.
At the farther end is a small court on which open seven or eight little wicket doors. These are kept closed, except on certain days when notes are due; and then they are indispensable.
M. Fauvel's private office is on the first floor over the offices, and leads into his elegant private apartments.
This private office communicates directly with the bank by means of a narrow staircase, which opens into the room occupied by the head cashier.
This room, which in the bank goes by the name of the "cash-office," is proof against all attacks, no matter how skilfully planned; indeed, it could almost withstand a regular siege, sheeted as it is like a monitor.
The doors, and the partition where the wicket door is cut, are covered with thick sheets of iron; and a heavy grating protects the fireplace....