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La Sorciere: The Witch of the Middle Ages
by Jules Michelet
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[81] Catholicon, or purgative panacea: i. e. the Inquisition.—TRANS.

[82] The wars of the Catholic League against Henry of Navarre began in 1576.—TRANS.

But this is all too little for Bodin, lawyer of Angers, and a violent adversary to Wyer. He begins by saying that the wizards in Europe are numerous enough to match Xerxes' army of eighteen hundred thousand men. Then, like Caligula, he utters a prayer, that these two millions might be gathered together, so as he, Bodin, could sentence and burn them all at one stroke.

* * * * *

The new rivalry makes matters worse. The gentry of the Law begin to say that the priest, being too often connected with the wizard, is no longer a safe judge. In fact, for a moment, the lawyers seem to be yet more trustworthy. In Spain, the Jesuit pleader, Del Rio; in Lorraine, Remy (1596); Boguet (1602) on the Jura; Leloyer (1605) in Anjou; are all matchless persecutors, who would have made Torquemada[83] himself die of envy.

[83] The infamous Spanish Inquisitor, who died at the close of the fifteenth century, after sixteen years of untold atrocities against the heretics of Spain.—TRANS.

In Lorraine there seemed to be quite a dreadful plague of wizards and visionaries. Driven to despair by the constant passing of troops and brigands, the multitude prayed to the Devil only. They were drawn on by the wizards. A number of villagers, frightened by a twofold dread of wizards on the one hand, and judges on the other, longed to leave their homes and flee elsewhither, if Remy, Judge of Nancy, may be believed. In the work he dedicated (1596) to the Cardinal of Lorraine, he owns to having burnt eight hundred witches, in sixteen years. "So well do I deal out judgements," he says, "that last year sixteen slew themselves to avoid passing through my hands."

* * * * *

The priests felt humbled. Could they have done better than the laity? Nay, even the monkish lords of Saint Claude asked for a layman, honest Boguet, to sit in judgment on their own people, who were much given to witchcraft. In that sorry Jura, a poor land of firs and scanty pasturage, the serf in his despair yielded himself to the Devil. They all worshipped the Black Cat.

Boguet's book had immense weight. This Golden Book, by the petty judge of Saint Claude, was studied as a handbook by the worshipful members of Parliament. In truth, Boguet is a thorough lawyer, is even scrupulous in his own way. He finds fault with the treachery shown in these prosecutions; will not hear of barristers betraying their clients, of judges promising pardon only to ensure the death of the accused. He finds fault with the very doubtful tests to which the witches were still exposed. "Torture," he says, "is needless: it never makes them yield." Moreover, he is humane enough to have them strangled before throwing them to the flames, always except the werewolves, "whom you must take care to burn alive." He cannot believe that Satan would make a compact with children: "Satan is too sharp; knows too well that, under fourteen years, any bargain made with a minor, is annulled by default of years and due discretion." Then the children are saved? Not at all; for he contradicts himself, and holds, moreover, that such a leprosy cannot be purged away without burning everything, even to the cradles. Had he lived, he would have come to that. He made the country a desert: never was there a judge who destroyed people with so fine a conscience.

But it is to the Parliament of Bourdeaux that the grand hurrah for lay jurisdiction is sent up in Lancre's book on The Fickleness of Demons. The author, a man of some sense, a counsellor in this same Parliament, tells with a triumphant air of his fight with the Devil in the Basque country, where, in less than three months, he got rid of I know not how many witches, and, better still, of three priests. He looks compassionately on the Spanish Inquisition, which at Logrono, not far off, on the borders of Navarre and Castille, dragged on a trial for two years, ending in the poorest way by a small auto-da-fe, and the release of a whole crowd of women.



CHAPTER IV.

THE WITCHES OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY: 1609.[84]

[84] The Basques of the Lower Pyrenees, the Aquitani of Caesar, belonged to the old Iberian race which peopled Western Europe before the Celtic era.—TRANS.

That strong-handed execution of the priests shows M. Lancre to have been a man of independent spirit. In politics he is the same. In his book on The Prince (1617), he openly declares "the law to be above the King."

Never was the Basque character better drawn than in his book on The Fickleness of Demons. In France, as in Spain, the Basque people had privileges which almost made them a republic. On our side they owed the King no service but that of arms: at the first beat of drum they were bound to gather two thousand armed men commanded by Basque captains. They were not oppressed by their clergy, who seldom prosecuted wizards, being wizards themselves. The priests danced, wore swords, and took their mistresses to the Witches' Sabbath. These mistresses acted as their sextonesses or benedictes, to keep the churches in order. The parson quarrelled with nobody, offered the White Mass to God by day, the Black by night to the Devil, and sometimes, according to Lancre, in the same church.

The Basques of Bayonne and St. Jean de Luz, a race of men quaint, venturesome, and fabulously bold, left many widows, from their habit of sailing out into the roughest seas to harpoon whales. Leaving their wives to God or the Devil, they threw themselves in crowds into the Canadian settlements of Henry IV. As for the children, these honest worthy sailors would have thought about them more, if they had been clear as to their parentage. But on their return home they would reckon up the months of their absence, and they never found the reckoning right.

The women, bold, beautiful, imaginative, spent their day seated on tombs in the grave-yards, talking of the Sabbath, whither they expected to go in the evening. This was their passion, their craze.

They are born witches, daughters of the sea and of enchantment. They sport among the billows, swimming like fish. Their natural master is the Prince of the Air, King of Winds and Dreams, the same who inspired the Sibyl and breathed to her the future.

The judge who burns them is charmed with them, nevertheless. "When you see them pass," says he, "their hair flowing in the breeze about their shoulders, they walk so trim, so bravely armed in that fair head-dress, that the sun playing through it as through a cloud, causes a mighty blaze which shoots forth hot lightning-flashes. Hence the fascination of their eyes, as dangerous in love as in witchcraft."

This amiable Bordeaux magistrate, the earliest sample of those worldly judges who enlivened the gown in the seventeenth century, plays the lute between whiles, and even makes the witches dance before sending them to the stake. And he writes well, far more clearly than anyone else. But for all that, one discovers in his work a new source of obscurity, inherent to those times. The witches being too numerous for the judge to burn them all, the most of them have a shrewd idea that he will show some indulgence to those who enter deepest into his thoughts and passions! What passions? you ask. First, his love of the frightfully marvellous, a passion common enough; the delight of feeling afraid; and also, if it must be said, the enjoyment of unseemly pleasures. Add to these a touch of vanity: the more dreadful and enraged those clever women show the Devil to be, the greater the pride taken by the judge in subduing so mighty an adversary. He arrays himself as it were in his victory, enthrones himself in his foolishness, triumphs in his senseless twaddling.

The prettiest thing of this kind is the report of the procedure in the Spanish auto-da-fe of Logrono, as furnished to us by Llorente. Lancre, while quoting him jealously and longing to disparage him, owns to the surpassing charm of the festival, the splendour of the sight, the moving power of the music. On one platform were the few condemned to the flames, on another a crowd of reprieved criminals. The confession of a repentant heroine who had dared all things, is read aloud. Nothing could be wilder. At the Sabbaths they ate children made into hash, and by way of second course, the bodies of wizards disentombed. Toads dance, and talk and complain lovingly of their mistresses, getting them scolded by the Devil. The latter politely escorts the witches home, lighting them with the arm of a child who died unchristened, &c.

Among our Basques witchcraft put on a less fantastic guise. It seems that at this time the Sabbath was only a grand feast to which all, the nobles included, went for purposes of amusement. In the foremost line would be seen persons in veils and masks, by some supposed to be princes. "Once on a time," says Lancre, "none but idiots of the Landes appeared there: now people of quality are seen to go." To entertain these local grandees, Satan sometimes created a Bishop of the Sabbath. Such was the title he gave the young lord Lancinena, with whom the Devil in person was good enough to open the ball.

So well supported, the witches held their sway, wielding over the land an amazing terrorism of the fancy. Numbers regarded themselves as victims, and became in fact seriously ill. Many were stricken with epilepsy, and barked like dogs. In one small town of Acqs were counted as many as forty of these barkers. The Witch had so fearful a hold upon them, that one lady being called as witness, began barking with uncontrollable fury as the Witch, unawares to herself, drew near.

Those to whom was ascribed so terrible a power lorded it everywhere. No one would dare shut his door against them. One magistrate, the criminal assessor of Bayonne, allowed the Sabbath to be held in his own house. Urtubi, Lord of Saint Pe, was forced to hold the festival in his castle. But his head was shaken to that degree, that he imagined a witch was sucking his blood. Emboldened, however, by his fear, he, with another gentleman, repaired to Bordeaux, and persuaded the Parliament to obtain from the King the commissioning of two of its members, Espagnet and Lancre, to try the wizards in the Basque country. This commission, absolute and without appeal, worked with unheard-of vigour; in four months, from May to August, 1609, condemned sixty or eighty witches, and examined five hundred more, who, though equally marked with the sign of the Devil, figured in the proceedings as witnesses only.

* * * * *

It was no safe matter for two men and a few soldiers to carry on these trials amongst a violent, hot-headed people, a multitude of wild and daring sailors' wives. Another source of danger was in the priests, many of whom were wizards, needing to be tried by the lay commissioners, despite the lively opposition of the clergy.

When the judges appeared, many persons saved themselves in the hills. Others boldly remained, saying, it was the judges who would be burnt. So little fear had the witches themselves, that before the audience they would sink into the Sabbatic slumber, and affirm on awaking that, even in court, they had enjoyed the blessedness of Satan. Many said, they only suffered from not being able to prove to him how much they burned to suffer for his sake.

Those who were questioned said they could not speak. Satan rising into their throats blocked up their gullets. Lancre, who wrote this narrative, though the younger of the commissioners, was a man of the world. The witches guessed that, with a man of his sort, there were means of saving themselves. The league between them was broken. A beggar-girl of seventeen, La Murgui, or Margaret, who had found witchcraft gainful, and, while herself almost a child, had brought away children as offerings to the Devil, now betook herself, with another girl, Lisalda, of the same age, to denouncing all the rest. By word of mouth or in writing she revealed all; with the liveliness, the noise, the emphatic gestures of a Spaniard, entering truly or falsely into a hundred impure details. She frightened, amused, wheedled her judges, drawing them after her like fools. To this corrupt, wanton, crazy girl, they entrusted the right of searching about the bodies of girls and boys, for the spot whereon Satan had set his mark. This spot discovered itself by a certain numbness, by the fact that you might stick needles into it without causing pain. While a surgeon thus tormented the elder ones, she took in hand the young, who, though called as witnesses, might themselves be accused, if she pronounced them to bear the mark. It was a hateful thing to see this brazen-faced girl made sole mistress of the fate of those wretched beings, commissioned to prod them all over with needles, and able at will to assign those bleeding bodies to death!

She had gotten so mighty a sway over Lancre, as to persuade him that, while he was sleeping in Saint Pe, in his own house, guarded by his servants and his escort, the Devil came by night into his room, to say the Black Mass; while the witches getting inside his very curtains, would have poisoned him, had he not been well protected by God Himself. The Black Mass was offered by the Lady of Lancinena, to whom Satan made love in the very bedroom of the judge. We can guess the likely aim of this wretched tale: the beggar bore a grudge against the lady, who was good-looking, and, but for this slander, might have come to bear sway over the honest commissioner.

* * * * *

Lancre and his colleague taking fright, went forward; never dared to draw back. They had their royal gallows set up on the very spots where Satan had held a Sabbath. People were alarmed thereat, deeming them strongly backed by the arm of royalty. Impeachments hailed about them. The women all came in one long string to accuse each other. Children were brought forward to impeach their mothers. Lancre gravely ruled that a child of eight was a good, sufficient, reputable witness!

M. d'Espagnet could give but a few moments to this matter, having speedily to show himself in the Estates of Bearn. Lancre being pushed unwittingly forward by the violence of the younger informers, who would have fallen into great danger, if they had failed to get the old ones burnt, threw the reins on the neck of the business, and hurried it on at full gallop. A due amount of witches were condemned to the stake. These, too, on finding themselves lost, ended by impeaching others. When the first batch were brought to the stake, a frightful scene took place. Executioner, constables, and sergeants, all thought their last hour was come. The crowd fell savagely upon the carts, seeking to force the wretches to withdraw their accusations. The men put daggers to their throats: their furious companions were like to finish them with their nails.

Justice, however, got out of the scrape with some credit; and then the commissioners went on to the harder work of sentencing eight priests whom they had taken up. The girls' confessions had brought these men to light. Lancre speaks of their morals like one who knew all about them of himself. He rebukes them, not only for their gay proceedings on Sabbath nights, but, most of all, for their sextonesses and female churchwardens. He even repeats certain tales about the priests having sent off the husbands to Newfoundland, and brought back Devils from Japan who gave up the wives into their hands.

The clergy were deeply stirred: the Bishop of Bayonne would have made resistance. His courage failing him, he appointed his vicar-general to act as judge-assistant in his own absence. Luckily the Devil gave the accused more help than their Bishop. He opened all the doors, so that one morning five of the eight were found missing. The commissioners lost no time in burning the three still left to them.

* * * * *

This happened about August, 1609. The Spanish inquisitors at Logrono did not crown their proceedings with an auto-da-fe before the 8th November, 1610. They had met with far more trouble than our own countrymen, owing to the frightful number of persons accused. How burn a whole people? They sought advice of the Pope, of the greatest doctors in Spain. The word was given to draw back. Only the wilful who persisted in denying their guilt, were to be burnt; while they who pleaded guilty should be let go. The same method had already been used to rescue priests in trials for loose living. According to Llorente, it was deemed sufficient, if they owned their crime, and went through a slight penance.

The Inquisition, so deadly to heretics, so cruel to Moors and Jews, was much less so to wizards. These, being mostly shepherds, had no quarrel with the Church. The rejoicings of goatherds were too low, if not too brutish, to disturb the enemies of free thought.

* * * * *

Lancre wrote his book mainly to show how much the justice of French Parliaments and laymen excelled the justice of the priests. It is written lightly, merrily, with flowing pen. It seems to express the joy felt by one who has come creditably out of a great risk. It is a gasconading, an over-boastful joy. He tells with pride how, the Sabbath following the first execution of the witches, their children went and wailed to Satan, who replied that their mothers had not been burnt, but were alive and happy. From the midst of the crowd the children thought they heard their mothers' voices saying how thoroughly blest they were. Satan was frightened nevertheless. He absented himself for four Sabbaths, sending a small commonplace devil in his stead. He did not show himself again till the 22nd July. When the wizards asked him the reason of his absence, he said, "I have been away, pleading your cause against Little John," the name by which he called Jesus. "I have won the suit, and they who are still in prison will not be burnt."

The lie was given to the great liar. And the conquering magistrate avers that, while the last witch was burning, they saw a swarm of toads come out of her head. The people fell on them with stones, so that she was rather stoned than burnt. But for all their attacks, they could not put an end to one black toad which escaped from flames, sticks, and stones, to hide, like the Devil's imp it was, in some spot where it could never be found.[85]

[85] For a more detailed account of these Basque Witches, the English reader may turn to Wright's Narratives of Sorcery and Magic. Bentley, 1851.—TRANS.



CHAPTER V.

SATAN TURNS PRIEST.

Whatever semblance of Satanic fanaticism was still preserved by the witches, it transpires from the narratives of Lancre and other writers of the seventeenth century, that the Sabbath then was mainly an affair of money. They raised contributions almost by force, charged something for right of entrance, and extracted fines from those who stayed away. At Brussels and in Picardy, they had a fixed scale of payment for rewarding those who brought new members into the brotherhood.

In the Basque country no mystery was kept up. The gatherings there would amount to twelve thousand persons, of all classes, rich or poor, priests and gentlemen. Satan, himself a gentleman, wore a hat upon his three horns, like a man of quality. Finding his old seat, the druidic stone, too hard for him, he treats himself to an easy well-gilt arm-chair. Shall we say he is growing old? More nimble now than when he was young, he frolics about, cuts capers, and leaps from the bottom of a large pitcher. He goes through the service head downwards, his feet in the air.

He likes everything to go off quite respectably, and spares no cost in his scenic arrangements. Besides the customary flames, red, yellow, and blue, which entertain the eye, as they show forth or hide the flickering shadows, he charms the ear with strange music, mainly of little bells that tickle the nerves with something like the searching vibrations of musical-glasses. To crown this splendour Satan bids them bring out his silver plate. Even his toads give themselves airs, become fashionable, and, like so many lordlings, go about in green velvet.

The general effect is that of a large fair, of a great masked ball with very transparent disguises. Satan, who understands his epoch, opens the ball with the Bishop of the Sabbath; or the King and Queen: offices devised in compliment to the great personages, wealthy or well-born, who honour the meeting by their presence.

Here may be seen no longer the gloomy feast of rebels, the baleful orgie of serfs and boors, sharing by night the sacrament of love, by day the sacrament of death. The violent Sabbath-round is no more the one only dance of the evening. Thereto are now added the Moorish dances, lively or languishing, but always amorous and obscene, in which girls dressed up for the purpose, like La Murgui or La Lisalda, feigned and showed off the most provoking characters. Among the Basques these dances formed, we are told, the invincible charm which sent the whole world of women, wives, daughters, widows—the last in great numbers—headlong into the Sabbath.

Without such amusements and the accompanying banquet, one could hardly understand this general rage for these Sabbaths. It is a kind of love without love; a feast of barrenness undisguised. Boguet has settled that point to a nicety. Differing in one passage, where he dismisses the women as afraid of coming to harm, Lancre is generally at one with Boguet, besides being more sincere. The cruel and foul researches he pursues on the very bodies of witches, show clearly that he deemed them barren, and that a barren passive love underlay the Sabbath itself.

The feast ought therefore to have been a dismal one, if the men had owned the smallest heart.

The silly girls who went to dance and eat were victims in every way. But they were resigned to everything save the prospect of bearing children. They bore indeed a far heavier load of wretchedness than the men. Sprenger tells of the strange cry, which even in his day burst forth in the hour of love, "May the Devil have the fruits!" In his day, moreover, people could live for two sous a day, while in the reign of Henry IV., about 1600, they could barely live for twenty. Through all that century the desire, the need for barrenness grew more and more.

Under this growing dread of love's allurements the Sabbath would have become quite dull and wearisome, had not the conductresses cleverly made the most of its comic side, enlivening it with farcical interludes. Thus, the opening scene in which Satan, like the Priapus of olden times, bestowed his coarse endearments on the Witch, was followed by another game, a kind of chilly purification, which the sorceress underwent with much grimacing, and a great show of unpleasant shuddering. Then came another swinish farce, described by Lancre and Boguet, in which some young and pretty wife would take the Witch's place as Queen of the Sabbath, and submit her body to the vilest handling. A farce not less repulsive was the "Black Sacrament," performed with a black radish, which Satan would cut into little pieces and gravely swallow.

The last act of all, according to Lancre, or at least according to the two bold hussies who made him their fool, was an astounding event to happen in such crowded meetings. Since witchcraft had become hereditary in whole families, there was no further need of openly divulging the old incestuous ways of producing witches, by the intercourse of a mother with her son. Some sort of comedy perhaps was made out of the old materials, in the shape of a grotesque Semiramis or an imbecile Ninus. But the more serious game, which doubtless really took place, attests the existence of great profligacy in the upper walks of society: it took the form of a most hateful and barbarous hoax.

Some rash husband would be tempted to the spot, so fuddled with a baleful draught of datura or belladonna, that, like one entranced, he came to lose all power of speech and motion, retaining only his sight. His wife, on the other hand, being so bewitched with erotic drinks as to lose all sense of what she was doing, would appear in a woeful state of nature, letting herself be caressed under the indignant eyes of one who could no longer help himself in the least. His manifest despair, his bootless efforts to unshackle his tongue, and set free his powerless limbs, his dumb rage and wildly rolling eyes, inspired beholders with a cruel joy, like that produced by some of Moliere's comedies. The poor woman, stung with a real delight, yielded herself up to the most shameful usage, of which on the morrow neither herself nor her husband would have the least remembrance. But those who had seen or shared in the cruel farce, would they, too, fail to remember?

In such heinous outrages an aristocratic element seems traceable. In no way do they remind us of the old brotherhood of serfs, of the original Sabbath, which, though ungodly, and foul enough, was still a free straightforward matter, in which all was done readily and without constraint.

Clearly, Satan, depraved as he was from all time, goes on spoiling more and more. A polite, a crafty Satan is he now become, sweetly insipid, but all the more faithless and unclean. It is a new, a strange thing to see at the Sabbaths, his fellowship with priests. Who is yon parson coming along with his Benedicte, his sextoness, he who jobs the things of the Church, saying the White Mass of mornings, the Black at night? "Satan," says Lancre, "persuades him to make love to his daughters in the spirit, to debauch his fair penitents." Innocent magistrate! He pretends to be unaware that for a century back the Devil had been working away at the Church livings, like one who knew his business! He had made himself father-confessor; or, if you would rather have it so, the father-confessor had turned Devil.

The worthy M. de Lancre should have remembered the trials that began in 1491, and helped perchance to bring the Parliament of Paris into a tolerant frame of mind. It gave up burning Satan, for it saw nothing of him but a mask.

A good many nuns were conquered by his new device of borrowing the form of some favourite confessor. Among them was Jane Pothierre, a holy woman of Quesnoy, of the ripe age of forty-five, but still, alas! all too impressible. She owns her passion to her ghostly counsellor, who loth to listen to her, flies to Falempin, some leagues off. The Devil, who never sleeps, saw his advantage, and perceiving her, says the annalist, "goaded by the thorns of Venus, he slily took the shape of the aforesaid 'Father,' and returning every night to the convent, was so successful in befooling her, that she owned to having received him 434 times."[86] Great pity was felt for her on her repenting; and she was speedily saved from all need of blushing, being put into a fine walled-tomb built for her in the Castle of Selles, where a few days after she died the death of a good Catholic. Is it not a deeply moving tale? But this is nothing to that fine business of Gauffridi, which happened at Marseilles while Lancre was drawing up deeds at Bayonne.

[86] Massee, Chronique du Monde, 1540; and the Chroniclers of Hainault, &c.

The Parliament of Provence had no need to envy the success attained by that of Bordeaux. The lay authorities caught at the first occasion of a trial for witchcraft to institute a reform in the morals of the clergy. They sent forth a stern glance towards the close-shut convent-world. A rare opportunity was offered by the strange concurrence of many causes, by the fierce jealousies, the revengeful longings which severed priest from priest. But for those mad passions which ere long began to burst forth at every moment, we should have gained no insight into the real lot of that great world of women who died in those gloomy dwellings; not one word should we have heard of the things that passed behind those parlour gratings, within those mighty walls which only the confessor could overleap.

The example of the Basque priest, whom Lancre presents to us as worldly, trifling, going with his sword upon him, and his deaconess by his side, to dance all night at the Sabbath, was not one to inspire fear. It was not such as he whom the Inquisition took such pains to screen, or towards whom a body so stern for others, proved itself, for once, indulgent. It is easy to see through all Lancre's reticences the existence of something else. And the States-General of 1614, affirming that priests should not be tried by priests, are also thinking of something else. This very mystery it is which gets torn in twain by the Parliament of Provence. The director of nuns gaining the mastery over them and disposing of them, body and soul, by means of witchcraft,—such is the fact which comes forth from the trial of Gauffridi; at a later date from the dreadful occurrences at Loudun and Louviers; and also in the scenes described by Llorente, Ricci, and several more.

One common method was employed alike for reducing the scandal, for misleading the public, for hiding away the inner fact while it was busied with the outer aspects of it. On the trial of a priestly wizard, all was done to juggle away the priest by bringing out the wizard; to impute everything to the art of the magician, and put out of sight the natural fascination wielded by the master of a troop of women all abandoned to his charge.

But there was no way of hushing up the first affair. It had been noised abroad in all Provence, in a land of light, where the sun pierces without any disguise. The chief scene of it lay not only in Aix and Marseilles, but also in Sainte-Baume, the famous centre of pilgrimage for a crowd of curious people, who thronged from all parts of France to be present at a deadly duel between two bewitched nuns and their demons. The Dominicans, who attacked the affair as inquisitors, committed themselves by the noise they made about it through their partiality for one of these nuns. For all the care Parliament presently took to hurry the conclusion, these monks were exceedingly anxious to excuse her and justify themselves. Hence the important work of the monk Michaelis, a mixture of truth and fable; wherein he raises Gauffridi, the priest he had sent to the flames, into the Prince of Magicians, not only in France, but even in Spain, Germany, England, Turkey, nay, in the whole inhabited earth.

Gauffridi seems to have been a talented, agreeable man. Born in the mountains of Provence, he had travelled much in the Low Countries and the East. He bore the highest character in Marseilles, where he served as priest in the Church of Acoules. His bishop made much of him: the most devout of the ladies preferred him for their confessor. He had a wondrous gift, they say, of endearing himself to all. Nevertheless, he might have preserved his fair reputation had not a noble lady of Provence, whom he had already debauched, carried her blind, doting fondness to the extent of entrusting him, perhaps for her religious training, with the care of a charming child of twelve, Madeline de la Palud, a girl of fair complexion and gentle nature. Thereon, Gauffridi lost his wits, and respected neither the youth nor the holy ignorance, the utter unreserve of his pupil.

As she grew older, however, the young highborn girl discovered her misfortune, in loving thus beneath her, without hope of marriage. To keep his hold on her, Gauffridi vowed he would wed her before the Devil, if he might not wed her before God. He soothed her pride by declaring that he was the Prince of Magicians, and would make her his queen. He put on her finger a silver ring, engraved with magic characters. Did he take her to the Sabbath, or only make her believe she had been there, by confusing her with strange drinks and magnetic witcheries? Certain it is, at least, that torn by two different beliefs, full of uneasiness and fear, the girl thenceforth became mad at certain times, and fell into fits of epilepsy. She was afraid of being carried off alive by the Devil. She durst no longer stay in her father's house, and took shelter in the Ursuline Convent at Marseilles.



CHAPTER VI.

GAUFFRIDI: 1610.

The order of Ursuline nuns seemed to be the calmest, the least irrational of them all. They were not wholly idle, but found some little employment in the bringing up of young girls. The Catholic reaction which, aiming at a higher flight of ecstasy than was possible at that time even in Spain, had foolishly built a number of convents, Carmelite, Bernardine, and Capuchin, soon found itself at the end of its motive-powers. The girls of whom people got rid by shutting them up so strictly therein, died off immediately, and their swift decease led to frightful statements of the cruelty shown by their families. They perished, indeed, not by their excessive penances, but rather of heart-sickness and despair. After the first heats of zeal were over, the dreadful disease of the cloister, described by Cassieu as dating from the fifteenth century, that crushing, sickening sadness which came on of an afternoon—that tender listlessness which plunged them into a state of unutterable exhaustion, speedily wore them away. A few among them would turn as if raging mad, choking, as it were, with the exceeding strength of their blood.

A nun who hoped to die decently, without bequeathing too large a share of remorse to her kindred, was bound to live on about ten years, the mean term of life in the cloister. She needed to be let gently down; and men of sense and experience felt that her days could only be prolonged by giving her something to do, by leaving her not quite alone. St. Francis of Sales[87] founded the Visitandine order, whose duty it was to visit the sick in pairs. Caesar of Bus and Romillion, who had established the Teaching Priests in connection with the Oratorians[88], afterwards ordained what might be called the Teaching Sisters, the Ursulines, who taught under the direction of the said priests. The whole thing was under the supervision of the bishops, and had very little of the monastic about it: the nuns were not shut up again in cloisters. The Visitandines went out; the Ursulines received, at any rate, their pupils' kinsfolk. Both of them had connection with the world under guardians of good repute. The result was a certain mediocrity. Though the Oratorians and the Doctrinaries numbered among them persons of high merit, the general character of the order was uniformly moderate, commonplace; it took care never to soar too high. Romillion, founder of the Ursulines, was an oldish man, a convert from Protestantism, who had roamed everywhere, and come back again to his starting point. He deemed his young Provencials wise enough already, and counted on keeping his little flock on the slender pasturage of an Oratorian faith, at once monotonous and rational. And being such, it came in time to be utterly wearisome. One fine morning all had disappeared.

[87] St. Francis of Sales, famous for his successful missions among the Protestants, and Bishop of Geneva in his later years, died in 1622.—TRANS.

[88] The Brethren of the Oratory, founded at Rome in 1564.—TRANS.

Gauffridi, the mountaineer of Provence, the travelled mystic, the man of strong feelings and restless mind, had quite another effect upon them, when he came thither as Madeline's ghostly guide. They felt a certain power, and by those who had already passed out of their wild, amorous youth, were doubtless assured that it was nothing less than a power begotten of the Devil. All were seized with fear, and more than one with love also. Their imaginations soared high; their heads began to turn. Already six or seven may be seen weeping, shrieking, yelling, fancying themselves caught by the Devil. Had the Ursulines lived in cloisters, within high walls, Gauffridi, being their only director, might one way or another have made them all agree. As in the cloisters of Quesnoy, in 1491, so here also it might have happened that the Devil, who gladly takes the form of one beloved, had under that of Gauffridi made himself lover-general to the nuns. Or rather, as in those Spanish cloisters named by Llorente, he would have persuaded them that the priestly office hallowed those to whom the priest made love, that to sin with him, was only to be sanctified. A notion, indeed, ripe through France, and even in Paris, where the mistresses of priests were called "the hallowed ones."[89]

[89] Lestoile, edit. Michaud, p. 561.

Did Gauffridi, thus master of all, keep to Madeline only? Did not the lover change into the libertine? We know not. The sentence points to a nun who never showed herself during the trial, but reappeared at the end, as having given herself up to the Devil and to him.

The Ursuline convent was open to all visitors. The nuns were under the charge of their Doctrinaries, men of fair character, and jealous withal. The founder himself was there, indignant, desperate. How woeful a mishap for the rising order, just as it was thriving amain and spreading all over France! After all its pretensions to wisdom, calmness, good sense, thus suddenly to go mad! Romillion would have hushed up the matter if he could. He caused one of his priests to exorcise the maidens. But the demons laughed the exorciser to scorn. He who dwelt in the fair damsel, even the noble demon Beelzebub, Spirit of Pride, never deigned to unclose his teeth.

Among the possessed was one sister from twenty to twenty-five years old, who had been specially adopted by Romillion; a girl of good culture, bred up in controversy; a Protestant by birth, but left an orphan, to fall into the hands of the Father, a convert like herself from Protestantism. Her name, Louisa Capeau, sounds plebeian. She showed herself but too clearly a girl of exceeding wit, and of a raging passion. Her strength, moreover, was fearful to see. For three months, in addition to the hellish storm within, she carried on a desperate struggle, which would have killed the strongest man in a week.

She said she had three devils: Verrine, a good Catholic devil, a volatile spirit of the air; Leviathan, a wicked devil, an arguer and a Protestant; lastly, another, acknowledged by her to be the spirit of uncleanness. One other she forgot to name, the demon of jealousy.

She bore a savage hate to the little fair-faced damsel, the favoured rival, the proud young woman of rank. This latter, in one of her fits, had said that she went to the Sabbath, where she was made queen, and received homage, and gave herself up, but only to the prince—"What prince?" To Louis Gauffridi, prince of magicians.

Pierced by this revelation as by a dagger, Louisa was too wild to doubt its truth. Mad herself, she believed the mad woman's story in order to ruin her. Her own devil was backed by all the jealous demons. The women all exclaimed that Gauffridi was the very king of wizards. The report spread everywhere, that a great prize had been taken, a priest-king of magicians, even the prince of universal magic. Such was the dreadful diadem of steel and flame which these feminine demons drove into his brow.

Everyone lost his head, even to old Romillion himself. Whether from hatred of Gauffridi, or fear of the Inquisition, he took the matter out of the bishop's hands, and brought his two bewitched ones, Louisa and Madeline, to the Convent of Sainte-Baume, whose prior was the Dominican Michaelis, papal inquisitor in the Pope's domain of Avignon, and, as he himself pretended, over all Provence. The great point was to get them exorcised. But as the two women were obliged to accuse Gauffridi, the business ended in making him fall into the hands of the Inquisition.

Michaelis had to preach on Advent Sunday at Aix, before the Parliament. He felt how much so striking a drama would exalt him. He grasped at it with all the eagerness of a barrister in a Criminal Court, when a very dramatic murder, or a curious case of adultery comes before him.

The right thing in matters of this sort was, to spin out the play through Advent, Christmas, Lent, and burn no one before the Holy Week, the vigil, as it were, of the great day of Easter. Michaelis kept himself for the last act, entrusting the bulk of the business to a Flemish Dominican in his service, Doctor Dompt, from Louvain, who had already exorcised, was well-skilled in fooleries of that nature.

The best thing the Fleming could do, was to do nothing. In Louisa, he found a terrible helpmate, with thrice as much zeal in her as the Inquisition itself, unquenchable in her rage, of a burning eloquence, whimsical, and sometimes very odd, but always raising a shudder; a very torch of Hell.

The matter was reduced to a public duel between the two devils, Louisa and Madeline.

Some simple folk who came thither on a pilgrimage to Sainte-Baume, a worthy goldsmith, for instance, and a draper, both from Troyes, in Champagne, were charmed to see Louisa's devil deal such cruel blows at the other demons, and give so sound a thrashing to the magicians. They wept for joy, and went away thanking God.

It is a terrible sight, however, even in the dull wording of the Fleming's official statement, to look upon this unequal strife; to watch the elder woman, the strong and sturdy Provencial, come of a race hard as the flints of its native Crau, as day after day she stones, knocks down, and crushes her young and almost childish victim, who, wasted with love and shame, has already been fearfully punished by her own distemper, her attacks of epilepsy.

The Fleming's volume, which, with the additions made by Michaelis, reaches to four hundred pages in all, is one condensed epitome of the invectives, threats, and insults spewed forth by this young woman in five months; interspersed with sermons also, for she used to preach on every subject, on the sacraments, on the next coming of Antichrist, on the frailty of women, and so forth. Thence, on the mention of her devils, she fell into the old rage, and renewed twice a-day, the execution of the poor little girl; never taking breath, never for one minute staying the frightful torrent, until at least the other in her wild distraction, "with one foot in hell"—to use her own words—should have fallen into a convulsive fit, and begun beating the flags with her knees, her body, her swooning head.

It must be acknowledged that Louisa herself is a trifle mad: no amount of mere knavishness would have enabled her to maintain so long a wager. But her jealousy points with frightful clearness to every opening by which she may prick or rend the sufferer's heart.

Everything gets turned upside down. This Louisa, possessed of the Devil, takes the sacrament whenever she pleases. She scolds people of the highest authority. The venerable Catherine of France, the oldest of the Ursulines, came to see the wonder, asked her questions, and at the very outset caught her telling a flagrant and stupid falsehood. The impudent woman got out of the mess by saying in the name of her evil spirit, "The Devil is the Father of Lies."

A sensible Minorite who was present, took up the word and said, "Now, thou liest." Turning to the exorcisers, he added, "Cannot ye make her hold her tongue?" Then he quoted to them the story of one Martha, a sham demoniac of Paris. By way of answer, she was made to take the communion before him. The Devil communicate, the Devil receive the body of God! The poor man was bewildered; humbled himself before the Inquisition. They were too many for him, so he said not another word.

One of Louisa's tricks was to frighten the bystanders, by saying she could see wizards among them; which made every one tremble for himself.

Triumphant over Sainte-Baume, she hits out even at Marseilles. Her Flemish exorciser, being reduced to the strange part of secretary and bosom-counsellor to the Devil, writes, under her dictation, five letters: first, to the Capuchins of Marseilles, that they may call upon Gauffridi to recant; second, to the same Capuchins, that they may arrest Gauffridi, bind him fast with a stole, and keep him prisoner in a house of her describing; thirdly, several letters to the moderate party, to Catherine of France, to the Doctrinal Priests, who had declared against her; and then this lewd, outrageous termagant ends with insulting her own prioress: "When I left, you bade me be humble and obedient. Now take back your own advice."

Her devil Verrine, spirit of air and wind, whispered to her some trivial nonsense, words of senseless pride which harmed friends and foes, and the Inquisition itself. One day she took to laughing at Michaelis, who was shivering at Aix, preaching in a desert while all the world was gone to hear strange things at Sainte-Baume. "Michaelis, you preach away, indeed, but you get no further forward; while Louisa has reached, has caught hold of the quintessence of all perfection."

This savage joy was mainly caused by her having quite conquered Madeline at last. One word had done more for her than a hundred sermons: "Thou shalt be burnt." Thenceforth in her distraction the young girl said whatever the other pleased, and upheld her statements in the meanest way. Humbling herself before them all, she besought forgiveness of her mother, of her superior Romillion, of the bystanders, of Louisa. According to the latter, the frightened girl took her aside, and begged her to be merciful, not to chasten her too much.

The other woman, tender as a rock and merciful as a hidden reef, felt that Madeline was now hers, to do whatever she might choose. She caught her, folded her round, and bedazed her out of what little spirit she had left. It was a second enchantment; but all unlike that by Gauffridi, a possession by means of terror. The poor downtrodden wretch, moving under rod and scourge, was pushed onward in a path of exquisite suffering which led her to accuse and murder the man she loved still.

Had Madeline stood out, Gauffridi would have escaped, for every one was against Louisa. Michaelis himself at Aix, eclipsed by her as a preacher, treated by her with so much coolness, would have stopped the whole business rather than leave the honour of it in her hands.

Marseilles supported Gauffridi, being fearful of seeing the Inquisition of Avignon pushed into her neighbourhood, and one of her own children carried off from her threshold. The Bishop and Chapter were specially eager to defend their priest, maintaining that the whole affair sprang from nothing but a rivalry between confessors, nothing but the hatred commonly shown by monks towards secular priests.

The Doctrinaries would have quashed the matter. They were sore troubled by the noise it made. Some of them in their annoyance were ready to give up everything and forsake their house.

The ladies were very wroth, especially Madame Libertat, the lady of the Royalist leader who had given Marseilles up to the King.

The Capuchins whom Louisa had so haughtily commanded to seize on Gauffridi, were, like all other of the Franciscan orders, enemies of the Dominicans. They were jealous of the prominence gained for these latter by their demoniac friend. Their wandering life, moreover, by throwing them into continual contact with the women, brought them a good deal of moral business. They had no wish to see too close a scrutiny made into the lives of clergymen; and so they also took the side of Gauffridi. Demoniacs were not so scarce, but that one was easily found and brought forward at the first summons. Her devil, obedient to the rope-girdle of St. Francis, gainsaid everything said by the Dominicans' devil: it averred—and the words were straightway written down—that "Gauffridi was no magician at all, and could not therefore be arrested."

They were not prepared for this at Sainte-Baume. Louisa seemed confounded. She could only manage to say that apparently the Capuchins had not made their devil swear to tell the truth: a sorry reply, backed up, however, by the trembling Madeline, who, like a beaten hound that fears yet another beating, was ready for anything, ready even to bite and tear. Through her it was that Louisa at such a crisis inflicted an awful bite.

She herself merely said that the Bishop was offending God unawares. She clamoured against "the wizards of Marseilles" without naming any one. But the cruel, the deadly word was spoken at her command by Madeline. A woman who had lost her child two years before, was pointed out by her as having throttled it. Afraid of being tortured, she fled or hid herself. Her husband, her father, went weeping to Sainte-Baume, hoping of course to soften the inquisitors. But Madeline durst not unsay her words; so she renewed the charge.

No one now could feel safe. As soon as the Devil came to be accounted God's avenger, from the moment that people under his dictation began writing the names of those who should pass through the fire, every one had before him, day and night, the hideous nightmare of the stake.

To withstand these bold attempts of the Papal Inquisition, Marseilles ought to have been backed up by the Parliament of Aix. Unluckily she knew herself to be little liked at Aix. That small official town of magistrates and nobles was always jealous of the wealth and splendour of Marseilles, the Queen of the South. On the other hand, the great opponent of Marseilles, the Papal Inquisitor, forestalled Gauffridi's appeal to the Parliament by carrying his own suit thither first. This was a body of utter fanatics, headed by some heavy nobles, whose wealth had been greatly increased in a former century by the massacre of the Vaudois. As lay judges, too, they were charmed to see a Papal Inquisitor set the precedent of acknowledging that, in a matter touching a priest, in a case of witchcraft, the Inquisition could not go beyond the preliminary inquiry. It was just as though the inquisitors had formally laid aside their old pretensions. The people of Aix, like those of Bordeaux before them, were also bitten by the flattering thought, that these lay-folk had been set up by the Church herself as censors and reformers of the priestly morals.

In a business where all would needs be strange and miraculous, not least among those marvels was it to see so raging a demon grow all at once so fair-spoken towards the Parliament, so politic and fine-mannered. Louisa charmed the Royalists by her praises of the late King. Henry IV.—who would have thought it?—was canonized by the Devil. One morning, without any invitation, he broke forth into praises of "that pious and saintly King who had just gone up to heaven."

Such an agreement between two old enemies, the Parliament and the Inquisition, which latter was thenceforth sure of the secular arm, its soldiers, and executioner; this and the sending of a commission to Sainte-Baume to examine the possessed, take down their statements, hear their charges, and impannel a jury, made up a frightful business indeed. Louisa openly pointed out the Capuchins, Gauffridi's champions, and proclaimed "their coming punishment temporally" in their bodies, and in their flesh.

The poor Fathers were sorely bruised. Their devil would not whisper one word. They went to find the Bishop, and told him that indeed they might not refuse to bring Gauffridi forward at Sainte-Baume, in obedience to the secular power; but afterwards the Bishop and Chapter could claim him back, and replace him under the shelter of episcopal justice.

Doubtless they had also reckoned on the agitation that would be shown by the two young women at the sight of one they loved; on the extent to which even the terrible Louisa might be shaken by the reproaches of her own heart.

That heart indeed woke up at the guilty one's approach: for one moment the furious woman seemed to grow tender. I know nothing more fiery than her prayer for God to save the man she has driven to death: "Great God, I offer thee all the sacrifices that have been offered since the world began, that will be offered until it ends. All, all, for Lewis. I offer thee all the tears of every saint, all the transports of every angel. All, all, for Lewis. Oh, that there were yet more souls to reckon up, that so the oblation might be all the greater! It should be all for Lewis. O God, the Father of Heaven, have pity on Lewis! O God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have pity on Lewis!" &c.

Bootless pity! baneful as well as bootless! Her real desire was that the accused should not harden his heart, should plead guilty. In that case by our laws he would most assuredly be burnt.

She herself, in short, was worn out, unable to do anything more. The inquisitor Michaelis was so humbled by a victory he could not have gained without her, so wroth with the Flemish exorciser who had become her obedient follower, and let her see into all the hidden springs of the tragedy, that he came simply to crush Louisa, and save Madeline by substituting the one for the other, if he could, in this popular drama. This move of his implies some skill, and a knowing eye for scenery. The winter and the Advent season had been wholly taken up with the acting of that awful sibyl, that raging bacchante. In the milder days of a Provencial spring, in the season of Lent, he would bring upon the scene a more moving personage, a demon all womanly, dwelling in a sick child, in a fair-haired frightened girl. The nobles and the Parliament of Provence would feel an interest in a little lady who belonged to an eminent house.

Far from listening to his Flemish agent, Louisa's follower, Michaelis shut the door upon him when he sought to enter the select council of Parliament-men. A Capuchin who also came, on the first words spoken by Louisa, cried out, "Silence, accursed devil!"

Meanwhile Gauffridi had arrived at Sainte-Baume, where he cut a sorry figure. A man of sense, but weak and blameworthy, he foreboded but too truly how that kind of popular tragedy would end; and in coming to a strait so dreadful, he saw himself forsaken and betrayed by the child he loved. He now entirely forsook himself. When he was confronted with Louisa, she seemed to him like a judge, like one of those cruel and subtle schoolmen who judged the causes of the Church. To all her questions concerning doctrine, he only answered yes, assenting even to points most open to dispute; as, for instance, to the assumption "that the Devil in a court of justice might be believed on his word and his oath."

This lasted only a week, from the 1st to the 8th January. The clergy of Marseilles demanded Gauffridi back. His friends, the Capuchins, declared that they had found no signs of magic in his room. Four canons of Marseilles came with authority to take him, and carried him away home.

If Gauffridi had fallen very low, his adversaries had not risen much. Even the two inquisitors, Michaelis and the Fleming, were in shameful variance with each other. The partiality of the former for Madeline, of the latter for Louisa, went beyond mere words, leading them into opposite lines of action. That chaos of accusations, sermons, revelations, which the Devil had dictated by the mouth of Louisa, the Fleming who wrote it down maintained to be the very word of God, and expressed his fear that somebody might tamper with the same. He owned to a great mistrust of his chief, Michaelis, who, he was sore afraid, would so amend the papers in behalf of Madeline, as to ensure the ruin of Louisa. To guard them to the best of his power, he shut himself up in his room and underwent a regular siege. Michaelis, with the Parliament-men on his side, could only get at the manuscript by using the King's name and breaking the door open.

Louisa, afraid of nothing, sought to array the Pope against the King. The Fleming carried an appeal to the legate at Avignon, against his chief, Michaelis. But the Papal Court had a prudent fear of causing scandal by letting one inquisitor accuse another. Lacking its support, the Fleming had no resource but to submit. To keep him quiet Michaelis gave him back his papers.

Those of Michaelis, forming a second report, dull and nowise comparable with the former, are full of nought but Madeline. They played music to try and soothe her: care was taken to note down when she ate, and when she did not eat. Too much time indeed was taken up about her, often in a way but little edifying. Strange questions are put to her touching the Magician, and what parts of his body might bear the mark of the Devil. She herself was examined. This would have to be done at Aix by surgeons and doctors; but meanwhile, in the height of his zeal, Michaelis examined her at Sainte-Baume, and put down the issue of his researches. No matron was called to see her. The judges, lay and monkish, agreeing in this one matter, and having no fear of each other's overlooking, seem to have quietly passed over this contempt of outward forms.

In Louisa, however, they found a judge. The bold woman branded the indecency as with hot iron. "They who were swallowed up by the Flood never behaved so ill!... Even of thee, O Sodom, the like was never said!"

She also averred that Madeline was given over to uncleanness. This was the saddest thing of all. In her blind joy at being alive, at escaping the flames, or else from some cloudy notion that it was her turn now to act upon her judges, the poor simpleton would sing and dance at times with a shameful freedom, in a coarse, indecent way. The old Doctrinal father, Romillion, blushed for his Ursuline. Shocked to remark the admiration of the men for her long hair, he said that such a vanity must be taken from her, be cut away.

In her better moments she was gentle and obedient.

They would have liked to make her a second Louisa; but her devils were vain and amorous; not, like the other's, eloquent and raging. When they wanted her to preach, she could only utter sorry things. Michaelis was fain to play out the piece by himself. As chief inquisitor, and bound greatly to outdo his Flemish underling, he avowed that he had already drawn out of this small body a host of six thousand, six hundred, and sixty devils: only a hundred still remained. By way of convincing the public, he made her throw up the charm or spell which by his account she had swallowed, and he drew it from her mouth in some slimy matter. Who could hold out any longer? Assurance itself stood stupefied and convinced.

Madeline was in a fair way to escape: the only hindrance was herself. Every moment she would be saying something rash, something to arouse the misgivings of her judges, and urge them beyond all patience. She declared that everything to her recalled Gauffridi, that everywhere she saw him present. Nor would she hide from them her dreams of love. "To-night," she said, "I was at the Sabbath. To my statue all covered with gilding the magicians offered their homage. Each of them, in honour thereof, made oblation of some blood drawn from his hands with a lancet. He was also there, on his knees, a rope round his neck, beseeching me to go back and betray him not. I held out. Then said he, 'Is there anyone here who would die for her?' 'I,' said a young man, and he was sacrificed by the magician."

At another time she saw him, and he asked her only for one of her fine fair locks. "And when I refused, he said, 'Only the half of one hair.'"

She swore, however, that she never yielded. But one day, the door happening to be open, behold our convert running off at the top of her speed to rejoin Gauffridi!

They took her again, at least her body. But her soul? Michaelis knew not how to catch that again. Luckily he caught sight of her magic ring, which was taken off, cut up, destroyed, and thrown into the fire. Fancying, moreover, that this perverseness on the part of one so gentle was due to unseen wizards who found their way into her room, he set there a very substantial man at arms, with a sword to slash about him everywhere, and cut the invisible imps into pieces.

But the best physic for the conversion of Madeline was the death of Gauffridi. On the 5th February, the inquisitor went to Aix for his Lent preachings, saw the judges, and stirred them up. The Parliament, swiftly yielding to such a pressure, sent off to Marseilles an order to seize the rash man, who, finding himself so well backed by Bishop, Chapter, Capuchins, and all the world, had fancied they would never dare so far.

Madeline from one quarter, Gauffridi from another, arrived at Aix. She was so disturbed that they were forced to bind her. Her disorder was frightful, and all were in great perplexity what to do. They bethought them at least of one bold way of dealing with this sick child; one of those fearful tricks that throw a woman into fits, and sometimes kill her outright. A vicar-general of the archbishopric said that the palace contained a dark narrow charnel-house, such as you may see in the Escurial, and called in Spain a "rotting vat."

There, in olden days, old bones of unknown dead were left to waste away. Into this tomb-like cave the trembling girl was led. They exorcised her by putting those chilly bones to her face. She did not die of fright, but thenceforth gave herself up to their will and pleasure; and so they got what they wanted, the death of the conscience, the destruction of all that remained to her of moral insight and free will.

She became their pliant tool, ready to obey their least desire, to flatter them, to try and guess beforehand what would give them most pleasure. Huguenots were brought before her: she called them names. Confronted with Gauffridi, she told forth by heart her grievances against him, better than the King's own officers could have done. This did not prevent her from squalling violently, when she was brought to the church to excite the people against Gauffridi, by making her devil blaspheme in the magician's name. Beelzebub speaking through her said, "In the name of Gauffridi I abjure God;" and again, at the lifting up of the Host, "Let the blood of the just be upon me, in the name of Gauffridi!"

An awful fellowship indeed! This twofold devil condemns one out of the other's mouth; whatever Madeline says, is ascribed to Gauffridi. And the scared crowd were impatient to behold the burning of the dumb blasphemer, whose ungodliness so loudly declared itself by the voice of the girl.

The exorcisers then put to her this cruel question, to which they themselves could have given the best answer:—"Why, Beelzebub, do you speak so ill of your great friend?" Her answer was frightful: "If there be traitors among men, why not among demons also? When I am with Gauffridi, I am his to do all his will. But when you constrain me, I betray him and turn him to scorn."

However, she could not keep up this hateful mockery. Though the demon of fear and fawning seemed to have gotten fast hold of her, there was room still for despair. She could no longer take the slightest food; and they who for five months had been killing her with exorcisms and pretending to relieve her of six or seven thousand devils, were fain to admit that she longed only to die, and greedily sought after any means of self-destruction. Courage alone was wanting to her. Once she pricked herself with a lancet, but lacked the spirit to persevere. Once she caught up a knife, and when that was taken from her, tried to strangle herself. She dug needles into her body, and then made one last foolish effort to drive a long pin through her ear into her head.

What became of Gauffridi? The inquisitor, who dwells so long on the two women, says almost nothing about him. He walks as it were over the fire. The little he does say is very strange. He relates that having bound Gauffridi's eyes, they pricked him with needles all over the body, to find out the callous places where the Devil had made his mark. On the removal of the bandage, he learned, to his horror and amazement, that the needle had thrice been stuck into him without his feeling it; so he was marked in three places with the sign of Hell. And the inquisitor added, "If we were in Avignon, this man should be burnt to-morrow."

He felt himself a lost man; and defended himself no more. His only thought now was to see if he could save his life through any of the Dominicans' foes. He wished, he said, to confess himself to the Oratorians. But this new order, which might have been called the right mean of Catholicism, was too cold and wary to take up a matter already so hopeless and so far advanced.

Thereon he went back again to the Begging Friars, confessing himself to the Capuchins, and acknowledging all and more than all the truth, that he might purchase life with dishonour. In Spain he would assuredly have been enlarged, barring a term of penance in some convent. But our Parliaments were sterner: they felt bound to prove the greater purity of the lay jurisdiction. The Capuchins, themselves a little shaky in the matter of morals, were not the people to draw the lightning down on their own body. They surrounded Gauffridi, sheltered him, gave him comfort day and night; but only in order that he might own himself a magician, and so, because magic formed the main head of his indictment, the seduction wrought by a confessor to the great discredit of the clergy might be left entirely in the background.

So his friends the Capuchins, by dint of tender caresses and urgent counsel, drew from him the fatal confession which, by their showing, was to save his soul, but which was very certain to hand his body over to the stake.

The man thus lost and done for, they made an end with the girls whom it was not their part to burn. A farcical scene took place. In a large gathering of the clergy and the Parliament, Madeline was made to appear, and, in words addressed to herself, her devil Beelzebub was summoned to quit the place or else offer some opposition. Not caring to do the latter, he went off in disgrace.

Then Louisa, with her demon Verrine, was made to appear. But before they drove away a spirit so friendly to the Church, the monks regaled the Parliamentaries, who were new to such things, with the clever management of this devil, making him perform a curious pantomime. "How do the Seraphim, the Cherubim, the Thrones, behave before God?" "A hard matter this:" says Louisa, "they have no bodies." But on their repeating the command, she made an effort to obey, imitating the flight of the one class, the fiery longing of the others; and ending with the adoration, when she bowed herself before the judges, falling prostrate with her head downwards. Then was the far-famed Louisa, so proud and so untamable, seen to abase herself, kissing the pavement, and with outstretched arms laying all her length thereon.

It was a strange, frivolous, unseemly exhibition, by which she was made to atone for her terrible success among the people. Once more she won the assembly by dealing a cruel dagger-stroke at Gauffridi, who stood there strongly bound. "Where," said they, "is Beelzebub now, the devil who went out of Madeline?" "I see him plainly at Gauffridi's ear."

Have you had shame and horror enough? We should like further to know what the poor wretch said, when put to the torture. Both the ordinary and the extraordinary forms were used upon him. His revelations must undoubtedly have thrown light on the curious history of the nunneries. Those tales the Parliament stored up with greediness, as weapons that might prove serviceable to itself; but it retained them "under the seal of the Court."

The inquisitor Michaelis, who was fiercely assailed in public for an excess of animosity so closely resembling jealousy, was summoned by his order to a meeting at Paris, and never saw the execution of Gauffridi, who was burnt alive four days afterwards, 30th April, 1611, at Aix.

The name of the Dominicans, damaged by this trial, was not much exalted by another case of possession got up at Beauvais in such a way as to ensure them all the honours of a war, the account of which they got printed in Paris. Louisa's devil having been reproached for not speaking Latin, the new demoniac, Denise Lacaille, mingled a few words of it in her gibberish. They made a plenty of noise about her, often displayed her in the midst of a procession, and even carried her from Beauvais to Our Lady of Liesse. But the matter kept quite cool. This Picard pilgrimage lacked the horror, the dramatic force of the affair at Sainte-Baume. This Lacaille, for all her Latin, had neither the burning eloquence, nor the mettle, nor the fierce rage, that marked the woman of Provence. The only end of all her proceedings was to amuse the Huguenots.

What became of the two rivals, Madeline and Louisa? The former, or at least her shadow, was kept on Papal ground, for fear of her being led to speak about so mournful a business. She was never shown in public, save in the character of a penitent. She was taken out among the poor women to cut wood, which was afterwards sold for alms; the parents, whom she had brought to shame, having forsworn and forsaken her.

Louisa, for her part, had said during the trial: "I shall make no boast about it. The trial over, I shall soon be dead." But this was not to be. Instead of dying, she went on killing others. The murdering devil within her waxed stormier than ever. She set about revealing to the inquisitors the names, both Christian and surnames, of all whom she fancied to have any dealings with magic; among others a poor girl named Honoria, "blind of both eyes," who was burnt alive.

"God grant," says Father Michaelis, in conclusion, "that all this may redound to His own glory and to that of His Church!"



CHAPTER VII.

THE DEMONIACS OF LOUDUN—URBAN GRANDIER: 1632-1634.

In the State Memoirs, written by the famous Father Joseph, and known to us by extracts only—the work itself having, no doubt, been wisely suppressed as too instructive—the good Father explained how, in 1633, he had the luck to discover a heresy, a huge heresy, in which ever so many confessors and directors were concerned. That excellent army of Church-constables, those dogs of the Holy Troop, the Capuchins, had, not only in the wildernesses, but even in the populous parts of France—at Chartres, in Picardy, everywhere—got scent of some dreadful game; the Alumbrados namely, or Illuminate, of Spain, who being sorely persecuted there, had fled for shelter into France, where, in the world of women, especially among the convents, they dropped the gentle poison which was afterwards called by the name of Molinos.[90]

[90] Molinos, born at Saragossa in 1627, died a prisoner to the Inquisition in 1696. His followers were called Quietists.—TRANS.

The wonder was, that the matter had not been sooner known. Having spread so far, it could not have been wholly hidden. The Capuchins swore that in Picardy alone, where the girls are weak and warmer-blooded than in the South, this amorously mystic folly owned some sixty thousand professors. Did all the clergy share in it—all the confessors and directors? We must remember, that attached to the official directors were a good many laymen, who glowed with the same zeal for the souls of women. One of them, who afterwards made some noise by his talent and boldness, is the author of Spiritual Delights, Desmarets of Saint Sorlin.

* * * * *

Without remembering the new state of things, we should fail to understand the all-powerful attitude of the director towards the nuns, of whom he was now a hundred-fold more the master than he had been in days of yore.

The reforming movement of the Council of Trent, for the better enclosing of monasteries, was not much followed up in the reign of Henry IV., when the nuns received company, gave balls, danced, and so forth. In the reign, however, of Louis XIII., it began afresh with greater earnestness. The Cardinal Rochefoucauld, or rather the Jesuits who drew him on, insisted on a great deal of outward decency. Shall we say, then, that all entrance into the convents was forbidden? One man only went in every day, not only into the house, but also, if he chose, into each of the cells; a fact made evident from several known cases, especially that of David at Louviers. By this reform, this closing system, the door was shut upon the world at large, on all inconvenient rivals, while the director enjoyed the sole command of his nuns, the special right of private interviews with them.

What would come of this? The speculative might treat it as a problem; not so practical men or physicians. The physician Wyer tells some plain stories to show what did come of it from the sixteenth century onwards. In his Fourth Book he quotes a number of nuns who went mad for love. And in Book III. he talks of an estimable Spanish priest who, going by chance into a nunnery, came out mad, declaring that the brides of Jesus were his also, brides of the priest, who was a vicar of Jesus. He had masses said in return for the favour which God had granted him in this speedy marriage with a whole convent.

If this was the result of one passing visit, we may understand the plight of a director of nuns when he was left alone with them, and could take advantage of the new restrictions to spend the day among them, listening hour by hour to the perilous secret of their languishings and their weaknesses.

In the plight of these girls the mere senses are not all in all. Allowance must be made for their listlessness of mind; for the absolute need of some change in their way of life; of some dream or diversion to relieve their lifelong monotony. Strange things are happening constantly at this period. Travels, events in the Indies, the discovery of a world, the invention of printing: what romance there is everywhere! While all this goes on without, putting men's minds into a flutter, how, think you, can those within bear up against the oppressive sameness of monastic life—the irksomeness of its lengthy services, seasoned by nothing better than a sermon preached through the nose?

* * * * *

The laity themselves, living amidst so many distractions, desire, nay insist, that their confessors shall absolve them for their acts of inconstancy. The priests, on their side, are drawn or forced on, step by step. There grows up a vast literature, at once various and learned, of casuistry, of the art of allowing all things; a progressive literature, in which the indulgence of to-night seems to become the severity of the morrow.

This casuistry was meant for the world; that mysticism for the convent. The annihilation of the person and the death of the will form the great mystic principle. The true moral bearings of that principle are well shown by Desmarets. "The devout," he says, "having offered up and annihilated their own selves, exist no longer but in God. Thenceforth they can do no wrong. The better part of them is so divine that it no longer knows what the other is doing."[91]

[91] An old doctrine which often turns up again in the Middle Ages. In the seventeenth century it prevails among the convents of France and Spain. A Norman angel, in the Louviers business, teaches a nun to despise the body and disregard the flesh, after the example of Jesus, who bared himself for a scourging before all the people. He enforces an utter surrendering of the soul and the will by the example of the Virgin, "who obeyed the angel Gabriel and conceived, without risk of evil, for impurity could not come of a spirit." At Louviers, David, an old director of some authority, taught "that sin could be killed by sin, as the better way of becoming innocent again."

It might have been thought that the zealous Joseph who had raised so loud a cry of alarm against these corrupt teachers, would have gone yet further; that a grand searching inquiry would have taken place; that the countless host whose number, in one province only, were reckoned at sixty thousand, would be found out and closely examined. But not so: they disappear, and nothing more is known about them. A few, it is said, were imprisoned; but trial there was none: only a deep silence. To all appearance Richelieu cared but little about fathoming the business. In his tenderness for the Capuchins he was not so blind as to follow their lead in a matter which would have thrown the supervision of all confessors into their hands.

As a rule, the monks had a jealous dislike of the secular clergy. Entire masters of the Spanish women, they were too dirty to be relished by those of France; who preferred going to their own priests or to some Jesuit confessor, an amphious creature, half monk, half worldling. If Richelieu had once let loose the pack of Capuchins, Recollects, Carmelites, Dominicans, &c., who among the clergy would have been safe? What director, what priest, however upright, but had used, and used amiss, the gentle language of the Quietists towards their penitents?

Richelieu took care not to trouble the clergy, while he was already bringing about the General Assembly from which he was soon to ask a contribution towards the war. One trial alone was granted the monks, the trial of a vicar, but a vicar who dealt in magic; a trial wherein matters were allowed, as in the case of Gauffridi, to get so entangled, that no confessor, no director, saw his own likeness there, but everyone in full security could say, "This is not I."

* * * * *

Thanks to these strict precautions the Grandier affair is involved in some obscurity.[92] Its historian, the Capuchin Tranquille, proves convincingly that Grandier was a wizard, and, still more, a devil; and on the trial he is called, as Ashtaroth might have been called, Grandier of the Dominations. On the other hand, Menage is ready to rank him with great men accused of magic, with the martyrs of free thought.

[92] The History of the Loudun Devils, by the Protestant Aubin, is an earnest, solid book, confirmed by the Reports of Laubardemont himself. That of the Capuchin Tranquille is a piece of grotesquerie. The Proceedings are in the Great Library of Paris. M. Figuier has given a long and excellent account of the whole affair, in his History of the Marvellous.

In order to see a little more clearly, we must not set Grandier by himself; we must keep his place in the devilish trilogy of those times, in which he figured only as a second act; we must explain him by the first act, already shown to us in the dreadful business of Sainte-Baume, and the death of Gauffridi; we must explain him by the third act, by the affair at Louviers, which copied Loudun, as Loudun had copied Sainte-Baume, and which in its turn owned a Gauffridi and an Urban Grandier.

The three cases are one and selfsame. In each case there is a libertine priest, in each a jealous monk, and a frantic nun by whose mouth the Devil is made to speak; and in all three the priest gets burnt at last.

And here you may notice one source of light which makes these matters clearer to our eyes than if we saw them through the miry shades of a monastery in Spain or Italy. In those lands of Southern laziness, the nuns were astoundingly passive, enduring the life of the seraglio and even worse.[93] Our French women, on the contrary, gifted with a personality at once strong, lively, and hard to please, were equally dreadful in their jealousy and in their hate; and being devils indeed without metaphor, were accordingly rash, blusterous, and prompt to accuse. Their revelations were very plain, so plain indeed at the last, that everyone felt ashamed; and after thirty years and three special cases, the whole thing, begun as it was through terror, got fairly extinguished in its own dulness beneath hisses of general disgust.

[93] See Del Rio, Llorente Ricci, &c.

It was not in Loudun, amidst crowds of Poitevins, in the presence of so many scoffing Huguenots, in the very town where they held their great national synods, that one would have looked for an event so discreditable to the Catholics. But these latter, living, as it were, in a conquered country,[94] in the old Protestant towns, with the greatest freedom, and thinking, not without cause, of the people they had often massacred and but lately overcome, were not the persons to say a word about it. Catholic Loudun, composed of magistrates, priests, monks, a few nobles, and some workmen, dwelled aloof from the rest, like a true conquering settlement. This settlement, as one might easily guess, was rent in twain by the rivalry of the priests and the monks.

[94] The capture of Rochelle, the last of the Huguenot strongholds took place in 1628.—TRANS.

* * * * *

The monks, being numerous and proud, as men specially sent forth to make converts, kept the pick of the pavement against the Protestants, and were confessing the Catholic ladies, when there arrived from Bordeaux a young vicar, brought up by the Jesuits, a man of letters, of pleasing manners, who wrote well and spoke better. He made a noise in the pulpit, and ere long in the world. By birth a townsman of Mantes, of a wrangling turn, he was Southern by education, with all the readiness of a Bordelais, boastful and frivolous as a Gascon. He soon managed to set the whole town by the ears, drawing the women to his side, while the men were mostly against him. He became lofty, insolent, unbearable, devoid of respect for everything. The Carmelites he overwhelmed with jibes; he would rail away from his pulpit against monks in general. They choked with rage at his sermons. Proud and stately, he went along the streets of Loudun like a Father of the Church; but by night he would steal, with less of bluster, down the byeways and through back-doors.

They all surrendered themselves to his pleasure. The wife of the Crown Counsel was aware of his charms; still more so the daughter of the Public Prosecutor, who had a child by him. This did not satisfy him. Master of the ladies, this conqueror pushed his advantage until he had gained the nuns.

By that time the Ursulines abounded everywhere, sisters devoted to education, feminine missionaries in a Protestant land, who courted and pleased the mothers, while they won over the little girls. The nuns of Loudun formed a small convent of young ladies, poor and well-born. The convent in itself was poor, the nuns for whom it was founded, having been granted nothing but their house, an old Huguenot college. The prioress, a lady of good birth and high connections, burned to exalt her nunnery, to enlarge it, make it wealthier and wider known. Perhaps she would have chosen Grandier, as being then the fashion, had she not already gotten for her director a priest with very different rootage in the country, a near kinsman of the two chief magistrates. The Canon Mignon, as he was called, held the prioress fast. These two were enraged at learning through the confessional—the "Ladies Superior" might confess their nuns—that the young nuns dreamed of nothing but this Grandier, of whom there was so much talk.

Thereupon three parties, the threatened director, the cheated husband, the outraged father, joined together by a common jealousy, swore together the destruction of Grandier. To ensure success, they only needed to let him go on. He was ruining himself quite fast enough. An incident that came to light made noise enough almost to bring down the town.

* * * * *

The nuns placed in that old Huguenot mansion, were far from easy in their minds. Their boarders, children of the town, and perhaps also some of the younger nuns, had amused themselves with frightening the rest by playing at ghosts and apparitions. Little enough of order was there among this throng of rich spoilt girls. They would run about the passages at night, until they frightened themselves. Some of them were sick, or else sick at heart. But these fears and fancies mingled with the gossip of the town, of which they heard but too much during the day, until the ghost by night took the form of Grandier himself. Several said they saw him, felt him near them in the night, and yielded unawares to his bold advances. Was all this fancy, or the fun of novices? Had Grandier bribed the porteress or ventured to climb the walls? This part of the business was never cleared up.

From that time the three felt sure of catching him. And first, among the small folk under their protection, they stirred up two good souls to declare that they could no longer keep as vicar a profligate, a wizard, a devil, a freethinker, who bent one knee in church instead of two, who scoffed at rules and granted dispensations contrary to the rights of the Bishop. A shrewd accusation, which turned against him his natural defender, the Bishop of Poitiers, and delivered him over to the fury of the monks.

To say truth, all this was planned with much skill. Besides raising up two poor people as accusers, they thought it advisable to have him cudgelled by a noble. In those days of duelling a man who let himself be cudgelled with impunity lost ground with the public, and sank in the esteem of the women. Grandier deeply felt the blow. Fond of making a noise in all cases, he went to the King, threw himself on his knees, and besought vengeance for the insult to his gown. From so devout a king he might have gained it; but here there chanced to be some persons who told the King that it was all an affair of love, the fury of a betrayed husband wreaking itself on his foe.

At the spiritual court of Poitiers, Grandier was condemned to do penance, to be banished from Loudun, and disgraced as a priest. But the civil court took up the matter and found him innocent. He had still to await the orders of him by whom Poitiers was spiritually overruled, Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux. That warlike prelate, an admiral and brave sailor more than a priest, shrugged his shoulders on hearing of such peccadilloes. He acquitted the vicar, but at the same time wisely recommended him to go and live anywhere out of Loudun.

This the proud man did not care to do. He wanted to enjoy his triumph on the very field of battle, to show off before the ladies. He came back to Loudun in broad day, with mighty noise; the women all looking out of window, as he went by with a laurel-branch in his hand.

* * * * *

Not satisfied with that piece of folly, he began to threaten, to demand reparation. Thus pushed and imperilled in their turn, his enemies called to remembrance the affair of Gauffridi, where the Devil, the Father of Lies, was restored to his honours and accepted in a court of justice as a right truthful witness, worthy of belief on the side of the Church, worthy of belief on the side of His Majesty's servants. In despair they invoked a devil and found one at their command. He showed himself among the Ursulines.

A dangerous thing; but then, how many were nearly concerned in its success! The prioress saw her poor humble convent suddenly attracting the gaze of the Court, of the provinces, of all the world. The monks saw themselves victorious over their rivals the priests. They pictured anew those popular battles waged with the Devil in a former century, and often, as at Soissons, before the church doors; the terror of the people, and their joy at the triumph of the Good Spirit; the confession drawn from the Devil touching God's presence in the Sacrament; and the humiliation of the Huguenots at being refuted by the Demon himself.

In these tragi-comedies the exorciser represented God, or at any rate the Archangel, overthrowing the dragon. He came down from the platform in utter exhaustion, streaming with sweat, but victorious, to be borne away in the arms of the crowd, amidst the blessings of good women who shed tears of joy the while.

Therefore it was that in these trials a dash of witchcraft was always needful. The Devil alone roused the interest of the vulgar. They could not always see him coming out of a body in the shape of a black toad, as at Bordeaux in 1610. But it was easy to make it up to them by a grand display of splendid stage scenery. The affair of Provence owed much of its success to Madeline's desolate wildness and the terror of Sainte-Baume. Loudun was regaled with the uproar and the bacchanal frenzy of a host of exorcisers distributed among several churches. Lastly, Louviers, as we shall presently see, put a little new life into this fading fashion by inventing midnight scenes, in which the demons who possessed the nuns began digging by the glimmer of torches, until they drew forth certain charms from the holes wherein they had been concealed.

* * * * *

The Loudun business began with the prioress and a lay sister of hers. They had convulsive fits, and talked infernal gibberish. Other of the nuns began copying them, one bold girl especially taking up Louisa's part at Marseilles, with the same devil Leviathan, the leading demon of trickery and evil speaking.

The little town was all in a tremble. Monks of every hue provided themselves with nuns, shared them all round, and exorcised them by threes and fours. The churches were parcelled out among them; the Capuchins alone taking two for themselves. The crowd go after them, swollen by all the women in the place, and in this frightened audience, throbbing with anxiety, more than one cries out that she, too, is feeling the devils.[95] Six girls of the town are possessed. And the bare recital of these alarming events begets two new cases of possession at Chinon.

[95] The same hysteric contagion marks the "Revivals" of a later period, down to the last mad outbreak in Ireland. The translator hopes some day to work out the physical question here stated.—TRANS.

Everywhere the thing was talked of, at Paris, at the Court. Our Spanish queen,[96] who is imaginative and devout, sends off her almoner; nay more, sends her faithful follower, the old papist, Lord Montague, who sees, who believes everything, and reports it all to the Pope. It is a miracle proven. He had seen the wounds on a certain nun, and the marks made by the Devil on the Lady Superior's hands.

[96] Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII.—TRANS.

What said the King of France to this? All his devotion was turned on the Devil, on hell, on thoughts of fear. It is said that Richelieu was glad to keep him thus. I doubt it; the demons were essentially Spanish, taking the Spanish side: if ever they talked politics, they must have spoken against Richelieu. Perhaps he was afraid of them. At any rate, he did them homage, and sent his niece to prove the interest he took in the matter.

* * * * *

The Court believed, but Loudun itself did not. Its devils, but sorry imitators of the Marseilles demons, rehearsed in the morning what they had learnt the night before from the well-known handbook of Father Michaelis. They would never have known what to say but for the secret exorcisms, the careful rehearsal of the day's farce, by which night after night they were trained to figure before the people.

One sturdy magistrate, bailiff of the town, made a stir: going himself to detect the knaves, he threatened and denounced them. Such, too, was the tacit opinion of the Archbishop of Bordeaux, to whom Grandier appealed. He despatched a set of rules for the guidance at least of the exorcisers, for putting a stop to their arbitrary doings; and, better still, he sent his surgeon, who examined the girls, and found them to be neither bewitched, nor mad, nor even sick. What were they then? Knaves, to be sure.[97]

[97] Not of necessity knaves, Mr. Michelet; at least not wilfully so; but silly hysteric patients, of the spirit-rapping, revivalist order, victims of nervous derangement, or undue nervous sensibility.—TRANS.

So through the century keeps on this noble duel between the Physician and the Devil, this battle of light and knowledge with the dark shades of falsehood. We saw its beginning in Agrippa and Wyer. Doctor Duncan carried it bravely on at Loudun, and fearlessly impressed on others the belief that this affair was nothing but a farce.

For all his alleged resistance, the Demon was frightened, held his tongue, quite lost his voice. But people's passions had been too fiercely roused for the matter to end there. The tide flowed again so strongly in favour of Grandier, that the assailed became in their turn assailants. An apothecary of kin to the accusers was sued by a rich young lady of the town for speaking of her as the vicar's mistress. He was condemned to apologise for his slander.

The prioress was a lost woman. It would have been easy to prove, what one witness afterwards saw, that the marks upon her were made with paint renewed daily. But she was kinswoman to one of the King's judges, Laubardemont, and he saved her. He was simply charged to overthrow the strong places of Loudun. He got himself commissioned to try Grandier. The Cardinal was given to understand that the accused was vicar and friend of the Loudun shoemaker,[98] was one of the numerous agents of Mary of Medici, had made himself his parishioner's secretary, and written a disgraceful pamphlet in her name.

[98] A woman named Hammon, of low birth, who entered the service, and rose high in the good graces of Mary of Medici. See Dumas' Celebrated Crimes.—TRANS.

Richelieu, for his part, would have liked to show a high-minded scorn of the whole business, if he could have done so with safety to himself. The Capuchins and Father Joseph had an eye to that also. Richelieu would have given them a fine handle against him with the King, had he displayed a want of zeal. One Quillet, after much grave reflection, went to see the Minister and give him warning. But the other, afraid to listen, regarded him with so stern a gaze that the giver of advice deemed it prudent to seek shelter in Italy.

* * * * *

Laubardemont arrived at Loudun on the 6th December, 1633, bringing along with him great fear, and unbounded powers; even those of the King himself. The whole strength of the kingdom became, as it were, a dreadful bludgeon to crush one little fly.

The magistrates were wroth; the civic lieutenant warned Grandier that he would have to arrest him on the morrow. The latter paid no heed to him, and was arrested accordingly. In a moment he was carried off, without form of trial, to the dungeons of Angers. Presently he was taken back and thrown, where think you? Into the house, the room of one of his enemies, who had the windows walled up so as well-nigh to choke him. The loathsome scrutiny of the wizard's body, in order to find out the Devil's marks by sticking needles all over it, was carried on by the hands of the accusers themselves, who took their revenge upon him beforehand in the foretaste thus given him of his future punishment.

They led him to the churches, confronted him with the girls, who had got their cue from Laubardemont. These Bacchanals, for such they became under the fuddling effect of some drugs administered by the condemned apothecary above-named, flung out in such frantic rages, that Grandier was nearly perishing one day beneath their nails.

Unable to imitate the eloquence of the Marseilles demoniac, they tried obscenity in its stead. It was a hideous thing to see these girls give full vent in public to their sensual fury, on the plea of scolding their pretended devils. Thus indeed it was that they managed to swell their audiences. People flocked to hear from the lips of these women what no woman would else have dared to utter.

As the matter grew more hateful, so it also grew more laughable. They were sure to repeat all awry what little Latin was ever whispered to them. The public found that the devils had never gone through their lower classes. The Capuchins, however, coolly said that if these demons were weak in Latin, they were marvellous speakers of Iroquois and Tupinambi.[99]

[99] Indians of the coast of Brazil.—TRANS.

* * * * *

A farce so shameful, seen from a distance of sixty leagues, from St. Germain or the Louvre, appeared miraculous, awful, terrifying. The Court admired and trembled. Richelieu to please them did a cowardly thing. He ordered money to be paid to the exorcisers, to the nuns.

The height of favour to which they had risen, drove the plotters altogether mad. Senseless words were followed by shameful deeds. Pleading that the nuns were tired, the exorcisers got them outside the town, took them about by themselves. One of them, at least to all appearance, returned pregnant. In the fifth or sixth month all outward trace of it disappeared, and the devil within her acknowledged how wickedly he had slandered the poor nun by making her look so large. This tale concerning Loudun we learn from the historian of Louviers.[100]

[100] Esprit de Bosroger, p. 135.

It is stated that Father Joseph, after a secret journey to the spot, saw to what end the matter was coming, and noiselessly backed out of it. The Jesuits also went, tried their exorcisms, did next to nothing, got scent of the general feeling, and stole off in like manner.

But the monks, the Capuchins, were gone so far, that they could only save themselves by frightening others. They laid some treacherous snares for the daring bailiff and his wife, seeking to destroy them, and thereby quench the coming reaction of justice. Lastly, they urged on the commissioners to despatch Grandier. Things could be carried no further: the nuns themselves were slipping out of their hands. After that dreadful orgie of sensual rage and immodest shouting in order to obtain the shedding of human blood, two or three of them swooned away, were seized with disgust and horror; vomited up their very selves. Despite the hideous doom that awaited them if they spoke the truth, despite the certainty of ending their days in a dungeon, they owned in church that they were damned, that they had been playing with the Devil, and Grandier was innocent.

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