La Sorciere: The Witch of the Middle Ages
by Jules Michelet
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

* * * * *

They ruined themselves, but could not stay the issue. A general protest by the town to the King failed to stay it also. On the 18th August, 1634, Grandier was condemned to the stake. So violent were his enemies that, for the second time before burning him, they insisted on having him stuck with needles in order to find out the Devil's marks. One of his judges would have had even his nails torn out of him, had not the surgeon withheld his leave.

They were afraid of the last words their victim might say on the scaffold. Among his papers there had been found a manuscript condemning the celibacy of priests, and those who called him a wizard themselves believed him to be a freethinker. They remembered the brave words which the martyrs of free thought had thrown out against their judges; they called to mind the last speech of Giordano Bruno, the bold defiance of Vanini.[101] So they agreed with Grandier, that if he were prudent, he should be saved from burning, perhaps be strangled. The weak priest, being a man of flesh, yielded to this demand of the flesh, and promised to say nothing. He spoke not a word on the road, nor yet upon the scaffold. When he was fairly fastened to the post, with everything ready, and the fire so arranged as to enfold him swiftly in smoke and flames, his own confessor, a monk, set the faggots ablaze without waiting for the executioner. The victim, pledged to silence, had only time to say, "So, you have deceived me!" when the flames whirled fiercely upwards, and the furnace of pain began, and nothing was audible save the wretch's screams.

[101] Both Neapolitans, burnt alive, the former at Venice in 1600, the latter at Toulouse in 1619.—TRANS.

Richelieu in his Memoirs says little, and that with evident shame, concerning this affair. He gives one to believe that he only followed the reports that reached him, the voice of general opinion. Nevertheless, by rewarding the exorcisers, by throwing the reins to the Capuchins, and letting them triumph over France, he gave no slight encouragement to that piece of knavery. Gauffridi, thus renewed in Grandier, is about to reappear in yet fouler plight in the Louviers affair.

In this very year, 1634, the demons hunted from Poitou pass over into Normandy, copying again and again the fooleries of Sainte-Baume, without any trace of invention, of talent, or of imagination. The frantic Leviathan of Provence, when counterfeited at Loudun, loses his Southern sting, and only gets out of a scrape by talking fluently to virgins in the language of Sodom. Presently, alas! at Louviers he loses even his old daring, imbibes the sluggish temper of the North, and sinks into a sorry sprite.[102]

[102] Wright and Dumas both differ from M. Michelet in their view of Urban Grandier's character. The latter especially, regards him as an innocent victim to his own fearlessness and the hate of his foes, among whom not the least deadly was Richelieu himself, who bore him a deep personal grudge.—TRANS.



Had Richelieu allowed the inquiry demanded by Father Joseph into the doings of the Illuminate Confessors, some strange light would have been thrown into the depth of the cloisters, on the daily life of the nuns. Failing that, we may still learn from the Louviers story, which is far more instructive than those of Aix and Loudun, that, notwithstanding the new means of corruption furnished by Illuminism, the director still resorted to the old trickeries of witchcraft, of apparitions, heavenly or infernal, and so forth.[103]

[103] It was very easy to cheat those who wished to be cheated. By this time celibacy was harder to practise than in the Middle Ages, the number of fasts and bloodlettings being greatly reduced. Many died from the nervous plethora of a life so cruelly sluggish. They made no secret of their torments, owning them to their sisters, to their confessor, to the Virgin herself. A pitiful thing, a thing to sorrow for, not to ridicule. In Italy, a nun besought the Virgin for pity's sake to grant her a lover.

Of the three directors successively appointed to the Convent of Louviers in the space of thirty years, David, the first, was an Illuminate, who forestalled Molinos; the second, Picart, was a wizard dealing with the Devil; and Boulle, the third, was a wizard working in the guise of an angel.

There is an excellent book about this business; it is called The History of Magdalen Bavent, a nun of Louviers; with her Examination, &c., 1652: Rouen.[104] The date of this book accounts for the thorough freedom with which it was written. During the wars of the Fronde, a bold Oratorian priest, who discovered the nun in one of the Rouen prisons, took courage from her dictation to write down the story of her life.

[104] I know of no book more important, more dreadful, or worthier of being reprinted. It is the most powerful narrative of its class. Piety Afflicted, by the Capuchin Esprit de Bosroger, is a work immortal in the annals of tomfoolery. The two excellent pamphlets by the doughty surgeon, Yvelin, the Inquiry and the Apology, are in the Library of Ste. Genevieve.

Born at Rouen in 1607, Madeline was left an orphan at nine years old. At twelve she was apprenticed to a milliner. The confessor, a Franciscan, held absolute sway in the house of this milliner, who as maker of clothes for the nuns, was dependent on the Church. The monk caused the apprentices, whom he doubtless made drunk with belladonna and other magical drinks, to believe that they had been taken to the Sabbath and there married to the devil Dagon. Three were already possessed by him, and Madeline at fourteen became the fourth.

She was a devout worshipper, especially of St. Francis. A Franciscan monastery had just been founded at Louviers, by a lady of Rouen, widow of lawyer Hennequin, who was hanged for cheating. She hoped by this good deed of hers to help in saving her husband's soul. To that end she sought counsel of a holy man, the old priest David, who became director to the new foundation. Standing at the entrance of the town, with a wood surrounding it, this convent, born of so tragical a source, seemed quite gloomy and poor enough for a place of stern devotion. David was known as author of a Scourge for Rakes, an odd and violent book against the abuses that defiled the Cloister.[105] All of a sudden this austere person took up some very strange ideas concerning purity. He became an Adamite, preached up the nakedness of Adam in his days of innocence. The docile nuns of Louviers sought to subdue and abase the novices, to break them into obedience, by insisting—of course in summer-time—that these young Eves should return to the plight of their common mother. In this state they were sent out for exercise in some secluded gardens, and were taken into the chapel itself. Madeline, who at sixteen had come to be received as a novice, was too proud, perhaps in those days too pure also, to submit to so strange a way of life. She got an angry scolding for having tried at communion to hide her bosom with the altar-cloth.

[105] See Floquet; Parliament of Normandy, vol. v. p. 636.

Not less unwilling was she to uncover her soul, to confess to the Lady Superior, after the usual monastic custom of which the abbesses were particularly fond. She would rather trust herself with old David, who kept her apart from the rest. He himself confided his own ailments into her ear. Nor did he hide from her his inner teaching, the Illuminism, which governed the convent: "You must kill sin by being made humble and lost to all sense of pride through sin." Madeline was frightened at the depths of depravity reached by the nuns, who quietly carried out the teaching with which they had been imbued. She avoided their company, kept to herself, and succeeded in getting made one of the doorkeepers.

* * * * *

David died when she was eighteen. Old age prevented his going far with the girl. But the vicar Picart, who succeeded him, was furious in his pursuit of her; at the confessional spoke to her only of his love. He made her his sextoness, that he might meet her alone in chapel. She liked him not; but the nuns forbade her to have another confessor, lest she might divulge their little secrets. And thus she was given over to Picart. He beset her when she was sick almost to death; seeking to frighten her by insisting that from David he had received some infernal prescriptions. He sought to win her compassion by feigning illness and begging her to come and see him. Thenceforth he became her master, upset her mind with magic potions, and worked her into believing that she had gone with him to the Sabbath, there to officiate as altar and victim. At length, exceeding even the Sabbath usages and daring the scandal that would follow, he made her to be with child.

The nuns were afraid of one who knew the state of their morals; and their interest also bound them to him. The convent was enriched by his energy, his good repute, the alms and gifts he attracted towards it from every quarter. He was building them a large church. We saw in the Loudun business by what rivalries and ambitions these houses were led away, how jealously they strove each to outdo the others. Through the trust reposed in him by the wealthy, Picart saw himself raised into the lofty part of benefactor and second founder of the convent. "Sweetheart," he said to Madeline, "that noble church is all my building! After my death you will see wonders wrought there. Do you not agree to that?"

This fine gentleman did not put himself out at all regarding Madeline. He paid a dowry for her, and made a nun of her who was already a lay-sister. Thus, being no longer a doorkeeper, she could live in one of the inner rooms, and there be brought to bed at her convenience. By means of certain drugs, and practices of their own, the convents could do without the help of doctors. Madeline said that she was delivered several times. She never said what became of the newly-born.

Picart being now an old man, feared lest Madeline might in her fickleness fly off some day, and utter words of remorse to another confessor. So he took a detestable way of binding her to himself beyond recall, by forcing her to make a will in which she promised "to die when he died, and to be wherever he was." This was a dreadful thought for the poor soul. Must she be drawn along with him into the bottomless pit? Must she go down with him, even into hell? She deemed herself for ever lost. Become his property, his mere tool, she was used and misused by him for all kinds of purposes. He made her do the most shameful things. He employed her as a magical charm to gain over the rest of the nuns. A holy wafer steeped in Madeline's blood, and buried in the garden, would be sure to disturb their senses and their minds.

This was the very year in which Urban Grandier was burnt. Throughout France, men spoke of nothing but the devils of Loudun. The Penitentiary of Evreux, who had been one of the actors on that stage, carried the dreadful tale back with him to Normandy. Madeline fancied herself bewitched and knocked about by devils; followed about by a lewd cat with eyes of fire. By degrees, other nuns caught the disorder, which showed itself in odd supernatural jerks and writhings. Madeline had besought aid of a Capuchin, afterwards of the Bishop of Evreux. The prioress was not sorry for a step of which she must have been aware, for she saw what wealth and fame a like business had brought to the Convent of Loudun. But for six years the bishop turned a deaf ear to the prayer, doubtless through fear of Richelieu, who was then at work on a reform of the cloisters.

Richelieu wanted to bring these scandals to an end. It was not till his own death, and that of Louis XIII., during the break-up which followed on the rule of the Queen and Mazarin, that the priests again betook themselves to working wonders, and waging war with the Devil. Picart being dead, they were less shy of a matter in which so dangerous a man might have accused others in his turn. They met the visions of Madeline, by looking out a visionary for themselves. They got admission into the convent for a certain Sister Anne of the Nativity, a girl of sanguine, hysteric temperament, frantic at need and half-mad, so far at least as to believe in her own lies. A kind of dogfight was got up between the two. They besmeared each other with false charges. Anne saw the Devil quite naked, by Madeline's side. Madeline swore to seeing Anne at the Sabbath, along with the Lady Superior, the Mother-Assistant, and the Mother of the Novices. Besides this, there was nothing new; merely a hashing up of the two great trials at Aix and Loudun. They read and followed the printed narratives only. No wit, no invention, was shown by either.

Anne, the accuser, and her devil Leviathan, were backed by the Penitentiary of Evreux, one of the chief actors in the Loudun affair. By his advice, the Bishop of Evreux gave orders to disinter the body of Picart, so that the devils might leave the convent when Picart himself was taken away from the neighbourhood. Madeline was condemned, without a hearing, to be disgraced, to have her body examined for the marks of the Devil. They tore off her veil and gown, and made her the wretched sport of a vile curiosity, that would have pierced her till she bled again, in order to win the right of sending her to the stake. Leaving to no one else the care of a scrutiny which was in itself a torture, these virgins acting as matrons, ascertained if she was with child or no, shaved all her body, and dug their needles into her quivering flesh, to find out the insensible spots that betrayed the mark of the Devil. At every dig they discovered signs of pain: if they had not the luck to prove her a Witch, at any rate, they could revel in her tears and cries.

* * * * *

But Sister Anne was not satisfied, until, on the mere word of her own devil, Madeline, though acquitted by the results of this examination, was condemned for the rest of her life to an In pace. It was said that the convent would be quieted by her departure; but such was not the case. The Devil was more violent than ever; some twenty nuns began to cry out, to prophesy, to beat themselves.

Such a sight drew thither a curious crowd from Rouen, and even from Paris. Yvelin, a young Parisian surgeon, who had already seen the farce at Loudun, came to see that of Louviers. He brought with him a very clear-headed magistrate, the Commissioner of Taxes at Rouen. They devoted unwearying attention to the matter, settled themselves at Louviers, and carried on their researches for seventeen days.

From the first day they saw into the plot. A conversation they had had with the Penitentiary of Evreux on their entrance into the town, was repeated back to them by Sister Anne's demon, as if it had been a revelation. The scenic arrangements were very bewitching. The shades of night, the torches, the flickering and smoking lights, produced effects which had not been seen at Loudun. The rest of the process was simple enough. One of the bewitched said that in a certain part of the garden they would find a charm. They dug for it, and it was found. Unluckily, Yvelin's friend, the sceptical magistrate, never budged from the side of the leading actress, Sister Anne. At the very edge of a hole they had just opened he grasped her hand, and on opening it, found the charm, a bit of black thread, which she was about to throw into the ground.

The exorcisers, the penitentiary, priests, and Capuchins, about the spot, were overwhelmed with confusion. The dauntless Yvelin, on his own authority, began a scrutiny, and saw to the uttermost depth of the affair.

Among the fifty-two nuns, said he, there were six possessed, but deserving of chastisement. Seventeen more were victims under a spell, a pack of girls upset by the disease of the cloisters. He describes it with great precision: the girls are regular but hysterical, blown out with certain inward storms, lunatics mainly, and disordered in mind. A nervous contagion has ruined them; and the first thing to do is to keep them apart.

He then, with the liveliness of Voltaire, examines the tokens by which the priests were wont to recognize the supernatural character of the bewitched. They foretel, he allows, but only what never happens. They translate, indeed, but without understanding; as when, for instance, they render "ex parte virginis," by "the departure of the Virgin." They know Greek before the people of Louviers, but cannot speak it before the doctors of Paris. They cut capers, take leaps of the easiest kind, climb up the trunk of a tree which a child three years old might climb. In short, the only thing they do that is really dreadful and unnatural, is to use dirtier language than men would ever do.

* * * * *

In tearing off the mask from these people, the surgeon rendered a great service to humanity. For the matter was being pushed further; other victims were about to be made. Besides the charms were found some papers, ascribed to David or Picart, in which this and that person were called witches, and marked out for death. Each one shuddered lest his name should be found there. Little by little the fear of the priesthood made its way among the people.

The rotten age of Mazarin, the first days of the weak Anne of Austria, were already come. Order and government were no more. "But one phrase was left in the language: The Queen is so good." Her goodness gave the clergy a chance of getting the upper hand. The power of the laity entombed with Richelieu, bishops, priests, and monks, were about to reign. The bold impiety of the magistrate and his friend Yvelin imperilled so sweet a hope. Groans and wailings went forth to the Good Queen, not from the victims, but from the knaves thus caught in the midst of their offences. Up to the Court they went, weeping for the outrage to their religion.

Yvelin was not prepared for this stroke: he deemed himself firm at Court, having for ten years borne the title of Surgeon to the Queen. Before he returned from Louviers to Paris, the weakness of Anne of Austria had been tempted into granting another commission named by his opponents, consisting of an old fool in his dotage, one Diafoirus of Rouen, and his nephew, both attached to the priesthood. These did not fail to discover that the Louviers affair was supernatural, transcending all art of man.

Any other than Yvelin would have been discouraged. The Rouen physicians treated with utter scorn this surgeon, this barber fellow, this mere sawbones. The Court gave him no encouragement. Still, he held on his way in a treatise which will live yet. He accepts this battle of science against priestcraft, declaring, as Wyer did in the sixteenth century, that "in all such matters the right judge is not the priest but the man of science." With great difficulty he found some one bold enough to print, but no one willing to sell his little work. So in broad daylight the heroic young man set about distributing it with his own hands. Placing himself on the Pont Neuf, the most frequented spot in Paris, at the foot of Henry the Fourth's statue, he gave out copies of his memoir to the passers by. At the end of it they found a formal statement of the shameful fraud, how in the hand of the female demons the magistrate had caught the unanswerable evidence of their dishonour.

* * * * *

Return we to the wretched Madeline. Her enemy, the Penitentiary of Evreux, by whose influence she had been searched with needles, carried her off as his prey to the heart of the episcopal dungeons in that town. Below an underground passage dipped a cave, below the cave a cell, where the poor human creature lay buried in damps and darkness. Reckoning upon her speedy death, her dread companions had not even the kindness to give her a piece of linen for the dressing of her ulcer. There, as she lay in her own filth, she suffered alike from pain and want of cleanliness. The whole night long she was disturbed by the running to and fro of ravenous rats, those terrors of every prison, who were wont to nibble men's ears and noses.

But all these horrors fell short of those which her tyrant, the Penitentiary, dealt out to her himself. Day after day he would come into the upper vault and speak to her through the mouth of her pit, threatening her, commanding her, and making her, whether she would or no, confess to this or that crime as having been wrought by others. At length she ceased to eat. Fearing that she might die at once, he drew her for a while out of her In Pace, and laid her in the upper vault. Then, in his rage against Yvelin's memoir, he cast her back into her sewer below.

That glimpse of light, that short renewal and sudden death of hope, gave the crowning impulse to her despair. Her wound was closing, so that her strength was greater. She was seized with a deep and violent thirst for death. She swallowed spiders, but instead of dying, only brought them up again. Pounded glass she swallowed, but in vain. Finding an old bit of sharp iron, she tried to cut her throat, but could not. Then, as an easier way, she dug the iron into her belly. For four hours she worked and bled, but without success. Even this wound shortly began to close. To crown all, the life she hated so returned to her stronger than before. Her heart's death was of no avail.

She became once more a woman; still, alas! an object of desire, of temptation for her jailers, those brutish varlets of the bishopric, who, notwithstanding the horror of the place, and the unhappy creature's own sad and filthy plight, would come to make sport of her, believing that they might do all their pleasure against a Witch. But an angel succoured her, so she said. From men and rats alike she defended herself. But against herself, herself she could not protect. Her prison corrupted her mind. She dreamed of the Devil, besought him to come and see her, to restore to her the shameful pleasures in which she had wallowed at Louviers. He never deigned to come back. Once more amidst this corruption of her senses, she fell back on her old desire for death. One of the jailers had given her a drug to kill the rats. She was just going to swallow it herself, when an angel—an angel, was it, or a devil?—stayed her hand, reserving her for other crimes.

Thenceforward—sunk into the lowest depths of vileness, become an unspeakable cipher of cowardice and servility—she signed endless lists of crimes which she had never committed. Was she worth the trouble of burning? Many had given up that idea, but the ruthless Penitentiary clung to it still. He offered money to a Wizard of Evreux, then in prison, if he would bear such witness as might bring about the death of Madeline.

For the future, however, they could use her for other purposes—to bear false witness, to become a tool for any slander. Whenever they sought the ruin of any man, they had only to drag down to Louviers or to Evreux this accursed ghost of a dead woman, living only to make others die. In this way she was brought out to kill with her words a poor man named Duval. What the Penitentiary dictated to her, she repeated readily: when he told her by what marks she should know Duval, whom she had never seen, she pointed him out and said she had seen him at the Sabbath. Through her it fell out that he was burnt!

She owned her dreadful crime, and shuddered to think what answer she could make before God. She was fallen into such contempt that no one now deigned to look after her. The doors stood wide open: sometimes she had the keys herself. But where now should she go, object as she was of so much dread? Thenceforth the world repelled her—cast her out: the only world she had left was her dungeon.

During the anarchy of Mazarin and his Good Lady the chief authority remained with the Parliaments. That of Rouen, hitherto the friendliest to the clergy, grew wroth at last at their arrogant way of examining, ordering, and burning people. A mere decree of the Bishop had caused Picart's body to be disinterred and thrown into the common sewer. And now they were passing on to the trial of Boulle, the curate, and supposed abettor of Picart. Listening to the plaint of Picart's family, the Parliament sentenced the Bishop of Evreux to replace him at his own expense in his tomb at Louviers. They called up Boulle, undertook his trial themselves, and at the same time sent for the wretched Madeline from Evreux to Rouen.

People were afraid that Yvelin and the magistrate who had caught the nuns in the very act of cheating, would be made to appear. Hieing away to Paris, they found the knave Mazarin ready to protect their knavish selves. The whole matter was appealed to the King's Council—an indulgent court, without eyes or ears—whose care it was to bury, hush up, bedarken everything connected with justice.

Meanwhile, some honey-tongued priests had comforted Madeline in her Rouen dungeon; they heard her confessions, and enjoined her, by way of penance, to ask forgiveness of her persecutors, the nuns of Louviers. Thenceforth, happen what might, Madeline could never more be brought in evidence against those who had thus bound her fast. It was a triumph indeed for the clergy, and the victory was sung by a knave of an exorciser, the Capuchin Esprit de Bosroger, in his Piety Afflicted, a farcical monument of stupidity, in which he accuses, unawares, the very people he fancies himself defending.

The Fronde, as I said before, was a revolution for honest ends. Fools saw only its outer form—its laughable aspects; but at bottom it was a serious business, a moral reaction. In August, 1647, with the first breath of freedom, Parliament stepped forward and cut the knot. It ordered, in the first place, the destruction of the Louviers Sodom; the girls were to be dispersed and sent back to their kinsfolk. In the next, it decreed that thenceforth the bishops of the province should, four times a-year, send special confessors to the nunneries, to ascertain that such foul abuses were not renewed.

One comfort, however, the clergy were to receive. They were allowed to burn the bones of Picart and the living body of Boulle, who, after making public confession in the cathedral, was drawn on a hurdle to the Fish Market, and there, on the 21st August, 1647, devoured by the flames. Madeline, or rather her corpse, remained in the prisons of Rouen.



The Fronde was a kind of Voltaire. The spirit of Voltaire, old as France herself, but long restrained, burst forth in the political, and anon in the religious, world. In vain did the Great King seek to establish a solemn gravity. Beneath it laughter went on.

Was there nought else, then, but laughter and jesting? Nay, it was the Advent of Reason. By means of Kepler, of Galileo, Descartes, Newton, there was now triumphantly enthroned the reasonable dogma of faith in the unchangeable laws of nature. Miracle dared no longer show itself, or, when it did dare, was hissed down. In other and better words, the fantastic miracles of mere whim had vanished, and in their stead was seen the mighty miracle of the universe—more regular, and therefore more divine.

The great rebellion decidedly won the day. You may see it working in the bold forms of those earlier outbursts; in the irony of Galileo; in the absolute doubt wherewith Descartes leads off his system. The Middle Ages would have said, "'Tis the spirit of the Evil One."

The victory, however, is not a negative one, but very affirmative and surely based. The spirit of nature and the natural sciences, those outlaws of an elder day, return in might irresistible. All idle shadows are hunted out by the real, the substantial.

They had said in their folly, "Great Pan is dead." Anon, observing that he was yet alive, they had made him a god of evil: amid such a chaos they might well be deceived. But, lo! he lives, and lives harmonious, in the grand stability of laws that govern alike the star and the deep-hidden mystery of life.

* * * * *

Of this period two things, by no means contradictory, may be averred: the spirit of Satan conquers, while the reign of witchcraft is at an end.

All marvel-mongering, hellish or holy, is fallen very sick at last. Wizards and theologians are powerless alike. They are become, as it were, empirics, who pray in vain for some supernatural change, some whim of Providence, to work the wonders which science asks of nature and reason only.

For all their zeal, the Jansenists of this century succeed only in bringing forth a miracle very small and very ridiculous. Still less lucky are the rich and powerful Jesuits, who cannot get a miracle done at any price; who have to be satisfied with the visions of a hysteric girl, Sister Mary Alacoque, of an exceedingly sanguine habit, with eyes for nothing but blood. In view of so much impotence, magic and witchcraft may find some solace for themselves.

While the old faith in the supernatural was thus declining, priests and witches shared a common fate. In the fears, the fancies of the Middle Ages, these two were bound up together. Together they were still to face the general laughter and disdain. When Moliere made fun of the Devil and his "seething cauldrons," the clergy were deeply stirred, deeming that the belief in Paradise had fallen equally low.

A government of laymen only, that of the great Colbert, who was long the virtual King of France, could not conceal its scorn for such old questions. It emptied the prisons of the wizards whom the Rouen Parliament still crowded into them, and, in 1672, forbade the law courts from entertaining any prosecutions for witchcraft. The Parliament protested, and gave people to understand that by this denial of sorcery many other things were put in peril. Any doubting of these lower mysteries would cause many minds to waver from their belief in mysteries of a higher sort.

* * * * *

The Sabbath disappears, but why? Because it exists everywhere. It enters into the people's habits, becomes the practice of their daily life. The Devil, the Witches, had long been reproached with loving death more than life, with hating and hindering the generative powers of nature. And now in the pious seventeenth century, when the Witch is fast dying out, a love of barrenness, and a fear of being fruitful, are found to be, in very truth, the one prevalent disease.

If Satan ever read, he would have good cause for laughter as he read the casuists who took him up where he left off. For there was one difference at least between them. In times of terror Satan made provision for the famished, took pity on the poor. But these fellows have compassion only for the rich. With his vices, his luxury, his court life, the rich man is still a needy miserable beggar. He comes to confession with a humbly threatening air, in order to wrest from his doctor permission to sin with a good conscience. Some day will be told, by him who may have the courage to tell it, an astounding tale of the cowardly things done, and the shameful tricks so basely ventured by the casuist who wished to keep his penitent. From Navarro to Escobar the strangest bargains were continually made at the wife's expense, and some little wrangling went on after that. But all this would not do. The casuist was conquered, was altogether a coward. From Zoccoli to Liguori—1670 to 1770—he gave up banning Nature.

The Devil, so it was said, showed two countenances at the Sabbath: the one in front seemed threatening, the other behind was farcical. Now that he has nothing to do with it, he has generously given the latter to the casuist.

It must have amused him to see his trusty friends settled among honest folk, in the serious households swayed by the Church. The worldling who bettered himself by that great resource of the day, lucrative adultery, laughed at prudence, and boldly followed his natural bent. Pious families, on the other hand, followed nothing but their Jesuits. In order to preserve, to concentrate their property, to leave each one wealthy heir, they entered on the crooked ways of the new spiritualism. Buried in a mysterious gloom, losing at the faldstool all heed and knowledge of themselves, the proudest of them followed the lesson taught by Molinos: "In this world we live to suffer. But in time that suffering is soothed and lulled to sleep by a habit of pious indifference. We thus attain to a negation. Death do you say? Not altogether. Without mingling in the world, or heeding its voices, we get thereof an echo dim and soft. It is like a windfall of Divine Grace, so mild and searching; never more so than in moments of self-abasement, when the will is wholly obscured."

Exquisite depths of feeling! Alas, poor Satan! how art thou left behind! Bend low, acknowledge, and admire thy children!

* * * * *

The physicians who, having sprung from the popular empiricism which men called witchcraft, were far more truly his lawful children, were too forgetful of him who had left them his highest patrimony, as being his favoured heirs. They were ungrateful to the Witch, who laid the way for themselves. Nay, they went further than that. On this fallen king, their father and creator, they dealt some hard strokes with the whip. "Thou, too, my son?" They gave the jesters cruel weapons against him.

Even in the sixteenth century there were some to scoff at the spirit who through all time, from the days of the Sibyl to those of the Witch, had filled and troubled the woman. They maintained that he was neither God nor Devil, but only "the Prince of the Air," as the Middle Ages called him. Satan was nothing but a disease!

Possession to them was only a result of the prison-like, sedentary, dry, unyielding life of the cloister. As for the 6500 devils in Gauffridi's little Madeline, and the hosts that fought in the bodies of maddened nuns at Loudun and Louviers, these doctors called them physical storms. "If AEolus can shake the earth," said Yvelin, "why not also the body of a girl?" La Cadiere's surgeon, of whom more anon, had the coolness to say, "it was nothing more than a choking of the womb."

Wonderful descent! Routed by the simplest remedies, by exorcisms after Moliere, the terror of the Middle Ages would flee away and vanish utterly!

This is too sweeping a reduction of the question. Satan was more than that. The doctors saw neither the height nor the depth of him; neither his grand revolt in the form of science, nor that strange mixture of impurity and pious intrigue, that union of Tartuffe and Priapus, which he brought to pass about the year 1700.

People fancy they know something about the eighteenth century, and yet have never seen one of its most essential features. The greater its outward civilization, the clearer and fuller the light that bathed its uppermost layers, so much the more hermetically sealed lay all those widespread lower realms, of priests and monks, and women credulous, sickly, prone to believe whatever they heard or saw. In the years before Cagliostro, Mesmer, and the magnetisers, who appeared towards the close of the century, a good many priests still worked away at the old dead witchcraft. They talked of nothing but enchantments, spread the fear of them abroad, and undertook to hunt out the devils with their shameful exorcisms. Many set up for wizards, well knowing how little risk they ran, now that people were no longer burnt. They knew they were sheltered by the milder spirit of their age, by the tolerant teachings of their foes the philosophers, by the levity of the great jesters, who thought that anything could be extinguished with a laugh. Now it was just because people laughed, that these gloomy plot-spinners went their way without much fear. The new spirit, that of the Regent namely, was sceptical and easy-natured. It shone forth in the Persian Letters, it shone forth everywhere in the all-powerful journalist who filled that century, Voltaire. At any shedding of human blood his whole heart rises indignant. All other matters only make him laugh. Little by little, the maxim of the worldly public seems to be, "Punish nothing, and laugh at all."

This tolerant spirit suffered Cardinal Tencin to appear in public as his sister's husband. This, too, it was that ensured to the masters of convents the peaceful possession of their nuns, who were even allowed to make declarations of pregnancy, to register the births of their children.[106] This tolerant temper made excuses for Father Apollinaire, when he was caught in a shameful piece of exorcism. That worthy Jesuit, Cauvrigny, idol of the provincial convents, paid for his adventures only by a recall to Paris, in other words—by fresh preferment.

[106] The noble Chapter of Canons of Pignan were sixteen in number. In one year the provost received from the nuns sixteen declarations of pregnancy. (See MS. History of Besse, by M. Renoux.) One good fruit of this publicity was the decrease of infanticide among the religious orders. At the price of a little shame, the nuns let their children live, and doubtless became good mothers. Those of Pignan put their babes out to nurse with the neighbouring peasants, who brought them up as their own.

Such also was the punishment awarded the famous Jesuit, Girard, who was loaded with honours when he should have got the rope. He died in the sweetest savour of holiness. His was the most curious affair of that century. It enables us to probe the peculiar methods of that day, to realize the coarse jumble of jarring machinery which was then at work. As a thing of course, it was preluded by the dangerous suavities of the Song of Songs. It was carried on by Mary Alacoque, with a marriage of Bleeding Hearts spiced with the morbid blandishments of Molinos. To these Girard added the whisperings of Satan and the terrors of enchantment. He was at once the Devil and the Devil's exorciser. At last, horrible to say, instead of getting justice done to her, the unhappy girl whom he sacrificed with so much cruelty, was persecuted to death. She disappeared, shut up perhaps by a lettre de cachet, and buried alive in her tomb.



The Jesuits were unlucky. Powerful at Versailles, where they ruled the Court, they had not the slightest credit with Heaven. Not one tiny miracle could they do. The Jansenists overflowed, at any rate, with touching stories of miracles done. Untold numbers of sick, infirm, halt, and paralytic obtained a momentary cure at the tomb of the Deacon Paris. Crushed by a terrible succession of plagues, from the time of the Great King to the Regency, when so many were reduced to beggary, these unfortunate people went to entreat a poor, good fellow, a virtuous imbecile, a saint in spite of his absurdities, to make them whole. And what need, after all, of laughter? His life is far more touching than ridiculous. We are not to be surprised if these good folk, in the emotion of seeing their benefactor's tomb, suddenly forgot their own sufferings. The cure did not last, but what matter? A miracle indeed had taken place, a miracle of devotion, of lovingkindness, of gratitude. Latterly, with all this some knavery began to mingle, but at that time, in 1728, these wonderful popular scenes were very pure.

The Jesuits would have given anything for the least of the miracles they denied. For well-nigh fifty years they worked away, embellishing with fables and anecdotes their Legend of the Sacred Heart, the story of Mary Alacoque. For twenty-five or thirty years they had been trying to convince the world that their helpmate, James II. of England, not content with healing the king's evil (in his character of King of France), amused himself after his death in making the dumb to speak, the lame to walk straight, and the squint-eyed to see properly. They who were cured squinted worse than ever. As for the dumb, it so chanced that she who played this part was a manifest rogue, caught in the very act of stealing. She roamed the provinces: at every chapel of any renowned saint she was healed by a miracle and received alms, and then began her work again elsewhere.

For getting wonders wrought the South was a better country. There might be found a plenty of nervous women, easy to excite, the very ones to make into somnambulists, subjects of miracle, bearers of mystic marks, and so forth.

At Marseilles the Jesuits had on their side a bishop, Belzunce, a bold, hearty sort of man, renowned in the memorable plague,[107] but credulous and narrow-minded withal; under whose countenance many a bold venture might be made. Beside him they had placed a Jesuit of Franche-Comte, not wanting in mind, whose austere outside did not prevent his preaching pleasantly, in an ornate and rather worldly style, such as the ladies loved. A true Jesuit, he made his way by two different methods, now by feminine intrigue, anon by his holy utterances. Girard had on his side neither years nor figure; he was a man of forty-seven, tall, withered, weak-looking, of dirty aspect, and given to spitting without end.[108] He had long been a tutor, even till he was thirty-seven; and he preserved some of his college tastes. For the last ten years, namely, ever since the great plague, he had been confessor to the nuns. With them he had fared well, winning over them a high degree of power by enforcing a method seemingly quite at variance with the Provencial temperament, by teaching the doctrine and the discipline of a mystic death, of absolute passiveness, of entire forgetfulness of self. The dreadful crisis through which they had just passed had deadened their spirits, and weakened hearts already unmanned by a kind of morbid languor. Under Girard's leading, the Carmelites of Marseilles carried their mysticism to great lengths; and first among them was Sister Remusat, who passed for a saint.

[107] The great plague of 1720, which carried off 60,000 people about Marseilles. Belzunce is the "Marseilles' good bishop" of Pope's line—TRANS.

[108] See "The Proceedings in the Affair of Father Girard and La Cadiere," Aix, 1733.

In spite, or perhaps by reason, of this success, the Jesuits took Girard away from Marseilles: they wanted to employ him in raising anew their house at Toulon. Colbert's splendid institution, the Seminary for Naval Chaplains, had been entrusted to the Jesuits, with the view of cleansing the young chaplains from the influence of the Lazarists, who ruled them almost everywhere. But the two Jesuits placed in charge were men of small capacity. One was a fool; the other, Sabatier, remarkable, in spite of his age, for heat of temper. With all the insolence of our old navy he never kept himself under the least control. In Toulon he was reproached, not for having a mistress, nor yet a married woman, but for intriguing in a way so insolent and outrageous as to drive the husband wild. He sought to keep the husband specially alive to his own shame, to make him wince with every kind of pang. Matters were pushed so far that at last the husband died outright.

Still greater was the scandal caused by the Jesuits' rivals, the Observantines, who, having spiritual charge of a sisterhood at Ollioules, made mistresses openly of the nuns, and, not content with this, dared even to seduce the little boarders. One Aubany, the Father Guardian, violated a girl of thirteen; when her parents pursued him, he found shelter at Marseilles.

As Director of the Seminary for Chaplains, Girard began, through his seeming sternness and his real dexterity, to win for the Jesuits an ascendant over monks thus compromised, and over parish-priests of very vulgar manners and scanty learning.

In those Southern regions, where the men are abrupt, not seldom uncouth of speech and appearance, the women have a lively relish for the gentle gravity of the men of the North: they feel thankful to them for speaking a language at once aristocratic, official, and French.

When Girard reached Toulon, he must already have gained full knowledge of the ground before him. Already had he won over a certain Guiol, who sometimes came to Marseilles, where she had a daughter, a Carmelite nun. This Guiol, wife of a small carpenter, threw herself entirely into his hands, even more so than he wanted. She was of ripe age, extremely vehement for a woman of forty-seven, depraved and ready for anything, ready to do him service of whatever kind, no matter what he might do or be, whether he were a sinner or a saint.

This Guiol, besides her Carmelite daughter at Marseilles, had another, a lay-sister to the Ursulines of Toulon. The Ursulines, an order of teaching nuns, formed everywhere a kind of centre; their parlour, the resort of mothers, being a half-way stage between the cloister and the world. At their house, and doubtless through their means, Girard saw the ladies of the town, among them one of forty years, a spinster, Mdlle. Gravier, daughter of an old contractor for the royal works at the Arsenal. This lady had a shadow who never left her, her cousin La Reboul, daughter of a skipper and sole heiress to herself; a woman, too, who really meant to succeed her, though very nearly her own age, being five-and-thirty. Around these gradually grew a small roomful of Girard's admirers, who became his regular penitents. Among them were sometimes introduced a few young girls, such as La Cadiere, a tradesman's daughter and herself a sempstress, La Laugier, and La Batarelle, the daughter of a waterman. They had godly readings together, and now and then small suppers. But they were specially interested in certain letters which recounted the miracles and ecstacies of Sister Remusat, who was still alive; her death occurring in February, 1730. What a glorious thing for Father Girard, who had led her to a pitch so lofty! They read, they wept, they shouted with admiration. If they were not ecstatic yet, they were not far from being so. Already, to please her kinswoman, would La Reboul throw herself at times into a strange plight by holding her breath and pinching her nose.

* * * * *

Among these girls and women the least frivolous certainly was Catherine Cadiere, a delicate, sickly girl of seventeen, taken up wholly with devotion and charity, of a mournful countenance, which seemed to say that, young as she was, she had felt more keenly than anyone else the great misfortunes of the time, those, namely, of Provence and Toulon. This is easily explained. She was born during the frightful famine of 1709; and just as the child was growing into a maiden, she witnessed the fearful scenes of the great plague. Those two events seemed to have left their mark upon her, to have taken her out of the present into a life beyond.

This sad flower belonged wholly to Toulon, to the Toulon of that day. To understand her better we must remember what that town is and what it was.

Toulon is a thoroughfare, a landing-place, the entrance of an immense harbour and a huge arsenal. The sense of this carries the traveller away, and prevents his seeing Toulon itself. There is a town however there, indeed an ancient city. It contains two different sets of people, the stranger functionaries, and the genuine Toulonnese, who are far from friendly to the former, regarding them with envy, and often roused to rebellion by the swaggering of the naval officers. All these differences were concentred in the gloomy streets of a town in those days choked up within its narrow girdle of fortifications. The most peculiar feature about this small dark town is, that it lies exactly between two broad seas of light, between the marvellous mirror of its roadstead and its glorious amphitheatre of mountains, baldheaded, of a dazzling grey, that blinds you in the noonday sun. All the gloomier look the streets themselves. Such as do not lead straight to the harbour and draw some light therefrom, are plunged at all hours in deep gloom. Filthy byeways, and small tradesmen with shops ill-furnished, invisible to anyone coming for the day, such is the general aspect of the place. The interior forms a maze of passages in which you may find plenty of churches, and old convents now turned into barracks. Copious kennels, laden and foul with sewage water, run down in torrents. The air is almost stagnant, and in so dry a climate you are surprised at seeing so much moisture.

In front of the new theatre a passage called La Rue de l'Hopital leads from the narrow Rue Royale into the narrow Rue des Cannoniers. It might almost be called a blind alley. The sun, however, just looks down upon it at noon, but, finding the place so dismal, passes on forthwith, and leaves the passage to its wonted darkness.

Among these gloomy dwellings the smallest was that of the Sister Cadiere, a retail dealer, or huckster. There was no entrance but by the shop, and only one room on each floor. The Cadieres were honest pious folk, and Madame Cadiere the mirror of excellence itself. These good people were not altogether poor. Besides their small dwelling in the town, they too, like most of their fellow-townsmen, had a country-house of their own. This latter is, commonly, a mere hut, a little stony plot of ground yielding a little wine. In the days of its naval greatness, under Colbert and his son, the wondrous bustle in the harbour brought some profit to the town. French money flowed in. The many great lords who passed that way brought their households along with them, an army of wasteful domestics, who left a good many things behind them. All this came to a sudden end. The artificial movement stopped short: even the workmen at the arsenal could no longer get their wages; shattered vessels were left unrepaired; and at last the timbers themselves were sold.

Toulon was keenly sensible of the rebound. At the siege of 1707 it seemed as if dead. What, then, was it in the dreadful year 1709, the 71st of Louis XIV., when every plague at once, a hard winter, a famine, and an epidemic, seemed bent on utterly destroying France? The very trees of Provence were not spared. All traffic came to an end. The roads were covered with starving beggars. Begirt with bandits who stopped up every outlet, Toulon quaked for fear.

To crown all, Madame Cadiere, in this year of sorrow, was with child. Three boys she had borne already. The eldest stayed in the shop to help his father. The second was with the Friar Preachers, and destined to become a Dominican, or a Jacobin as they were then called. The third was studying in the Jesuit seminary as a priest to be. The wedded couple wanted a daughter; Madame prayed to Heaven for a saint. She spent her nine months in prayer, fasting, or eating nought but rye bread. She had a daughter, namely Catherine. The babe was very delicate and, like her brothers, unhealthy. The dampness of an ill-aired dwelling, and the poor nourishment gained from a mother so thrifty and more than temperate, had something to do with this. The brothers had scrofulous glands, and in her earlier years the little thing suffered from the same cause. Without being altogether ill, she had all the suffering sweetness of a sickly child. She grew up without growing stronger. At an age when other children have all the strength and gladness of upswelling life in them, she was already saying, "I have not long to live."

She took the small-pox, which left her rather marked. I know not if she was handsome, but it is clear that she was very winning, with all the charming contrasts, the twofold nature of the maidens of Provence. Lively and pensive, gay and sad, by turns, she was a good little worshipper, but given to harmless pranks withal. Between the long church services, if she went into the country with girls of her own age, she made no fuss about doing as they did, but would sing and dance away and flourish her tambourine. But such days were few. Most times her chief delight was to climb up to the top of the house, to bring herself nearer heaven, to obtain a glimpse of daylight, to look out, perhaps, on some small strip of sea, or some pointed peak in the vast wilderness of hills. Thenceforth to her eyes they were serious still, but less unkindly than before, less bald and leafless, in a garment thinly strewn with arbutus and larch.

This dead town of Toulon numbered 26,000 inhabitants when the plague began. It was a huge throng cooped up in one spot. But from this centre let us take away a girdle of great convents with their backs upon the ramparts, convents of Minorites, Ursulines, Visitandines, Bernardines, Oratorians, Jesuits, Capuchins, Recollects; those of the Refuge, the Good Shepherd, and, midmost of all, the enormous convent of Dominicans. Add to these the parish churches, parsonages, bishop's palace, and it seems that the clergy filled up the place, while the people had no room at all, to speak of.[109]

[109] See the work by M. d'Antrechaus, and the excellent treatise by M. Gustave Lambert.

On a centre so closely thronged, we may guess how savagely the plague would fasten. Toulon's kind heart was also to prove her bane. She received with generous warmth some fugitives from Marseilles. These are just as likely to have brought the plague with them, as certain bales of wool to which was traced the first appearance of that scourge. The chief men of the place were about to fly, to scatter themselves over the country. But the First Consul, M. d'Antrechaus, a man of heroic soul, withheld them, saying, with a stern air, "And what will the people do, sirs, in this impoverished town, if the rich folk carry their purses away?" So he held them back, and compelled all persons to stay where they were. Now the horrors of Marseilles had been ascribed to the mutual intercourse of its inhabitants. D'Antrechaus, however, tried a system entirely the reverse, tried to isolate the people of Toulon, by shutting them up in their houses. Two huge hospitals were established, in the roadstead and in the hills. All who did not come to these, had to keep at home on pain of death. For seven long months D'Antrechaus carried out a wager, which would have been held impossible, the keeping, namely, and feeding in their own houses, of a people numbering 26,000 souls. All that time Toulon was one vast tomb. No one stirred save in the morning, to deal out bread from door to door, and then to carry off the dead. Most of the doctors perished, and the magistrates all but D'Antrechaus. The gravediggers also perished, and their places were filled by condemned deserters, who went to work with brutal and headlong violence. Bodies were thrown into the tumbril, head downwards, from the fourth storey. One mother, having just lost her little girl, shrunk from seeing her poor wee body thus hurled below, and by dint of bribing, managed to get it lowered the proper way. As they were bearing it off, the child came to; it lived still. They took her up again, and she survived, to become the grandmother of the learned M. Brun, who wrote an excellent history of the port.

Poor little Cadiere was exactly the same age as this girl who died and lived again, being twelve years old, an age for her sex so full of danger. In the general closing of the churches, in the putting down of all holidays, and chiefly of Christmas, wont to be so merry a season at Toulon, the child's fancy saw the end of all things. It seems as though she never quite shook off that fancy. Toulon never raised her head again. She retained her desert-like air. Everything was in ruins, everyone in mourning; widowers, orphans, desperate beings were everywhere seen. In the midst, a mighty shadow, moved D'Antrechaus himself; he had seen all about him perish, his sons, his brothers, and his colleagues; and was now so gloriously ruined, that he was fain to look to his neighbours for his daily meals. The poor quarrelled among themselves for the honour of feeding him.

The young girl told her mother that she would never more wear any of her smarter clothes, and she must, therefore, sell them. She would do nothing but wait upon the sick, and she was always dragging her to the hospital at the end of the street. A little neighbour-girl of fourteen, Laugier by name, who had lost her father, was living with her mother in great wretchedness. Catherine was continually going to them with food and clothes, and anything she could get for them. She begged her parents to defray the cost of apprenticing Laugier to a dressmaker; and such was her sway over them that they could not refuse to incur so heavy an outlay. Her piety, her many little charms of soul, rendered her all-powerful. She was impassioned in her charity, giving not alms only, but love as well. She longed to make Laugier perfect, rejoiced to have her by her side, and often gave her half her bed. The pair had been admitted among the Daughters of Saint Theresa, the third order established by the Carmelites. Mdlle. Cadiere was their model nun, and seemed at thirteen a Carmelite complete. Already she devoured some books of mysticism borrowed from a Visitandine. In marked contrast with herself seemed Laugier, now a girl of fifteen, who would do nothing but eat and look handsome. So indeed she was, and on that account had been made sextoness to the chapel of Saint Theresa. This led her into great familiarities with the priests, and so, when her conduct called for her expulsion from the congregation, another authority, the vicar-general, flew into such a rage as to declare that, if she were expelled, the chapel itself would be interdicted.

Both these girls had the temperament of their country, suffering from great excitement of the nerves, and from what was called flatulence of the womb. But in each the result was entirely different; being very carnal in the case of Laugier, who was gluttonous, lazy, passionate; but wholly cerebral with regard to the pure and gentle Catherine, who owing to her ailments or to a lively imagination that took everything up into itself, had no ideas concerning sex. "At twenty she was like a child of seven." For nothing cared she but praying and giving of alms; she had no wish at all to marry. At the very word "marriage," she would fall a-weeping, as if she had been asked to abandon God.

They had lent her the life of her patroness, Catherine of Genoa, and she had bought for herself The Castle of the Soul, by St. Theresa. Few confessors could follow her in these mystic flights. They who spoke clumsily of such things gave her pain. She could not keep either her mother's confessor, the cathedral-priest, or another, a Carmelite, or even the old Jesuit Sabatier. At sixteen she found a priest of Saint Louis, a highly spiritual person. She spent days in church, to such a degree that her mother, by this time a widow and often in want of her, had to punish her, for all her own piety, on her return home. It was not the girl's fault, however: during her ecstasies she quite forgot herself. So great a saint was she accounted by the girls of her own age, that sometimes at mass they seemed to see the Host drawn on by the moving power of her love, until it flew up and placed itself of its own accord in her mouth.

Her two young brothers differed from each other in their feelings towards Girard. The elder, who lived with the Friar Preachers, shared the natural dislike of all Dominicans for the Jesuit. The other, who was studying with the Jesuits in order to become a priest, regarded Girard as a great man, a very saint, a man to honour as a hero. Of this younger brother, sickly like herself, Catherine was very fond. His ceaseless talking about Girard was sure to do its work upon her. One day she met the father in the street. He looked so grave, but so good and mild withal, that a voice within her said, "Behold the man to whose guidance thou art given!" The next Saturday, when she came to confess to him, he said that he had been expecting her. In her amazed emotion she never dreamed that her brother might have given him warning, but fancied that the mysterious voice had spoken to him also, and that they two were sharing the heavenly communion of warnings from the world above.

Six months of summer passed away, and yet Girard, who confessed her every Saturday, had taken no step towards her. The scandal about old Sabatier had set him on his guard. His own prudence would have held him to an attachment of a darker kind for such a one as the Guiol, who was certainly very mature, but also ardent and a devil incarnate.

It was Cadiere who made the first advances towards him, innocent as they were. Her brother, the giddy Jacobin, had taken it into his head to lend a lady and circulate through the town a satire called The Morality of the Jesuits. The latter were soon apprised of this. Sabatier swore that he would write to the Court for a sealed order (lettre-de-cachet) to shut up the Jacobin. In her trouble and alarm, his sister, with tears in her eyes, went to beseech Father Girard for pity's sake to interfere. On her coming again to him a little later, he said, "Make yourself easy; your brother has nothing to fear; I have settled the matter for him." She was quite overcome. Girard saw his advantage. A man of his influence, a friend of the King, a friend of Heaven as well, after such proof of goodness as he had just been giving, would surely have the very strongest sway over so young a heart! He made the venture, and in her own uncertain language said to her, "Put yourself in my hands; yield yourself up to me altogether." Without a blush she answered, in the fulness of her angelic purity, "Yes;" meaning nought else than to have him for her sole director.

What were his plans concerning her? Would he make her a mistress or the tool of his charlatanry? Girard doubtless swayed to and fro, but he leant, I think, most towards the latter idea. He had to make his choice, might manage to seek out pleasures free from risk. But Mdlle. Cadiere was under a pious mother. She lived with her family, a married brother and the two churchmen, in a very confined house, whose only entrance lay through the shop of the elder brother. She went no whither except to church. With all her simplicity she knew instinctively what things were impure, what houses dangerous. The Jesuit penitents were fond of meeting together at the top of a house, to eat, and play the fool, and cry out, in their Provencial tongue, "Vivent les Jesuitons!" A neighbour, disturbed by their noise, went and found them lying on their faces, singing and eating fritters, all paid for, it was said, out of the alms-money. Cadiere was also invited, but taking a disgust to the thing she never went a second time.

She was assailable only through her soul. And it was only her soul that Girard seemed to desire. That she should accept those lessons of passive faith which he had taught at Marseilles, this apparently was all his aim. Hoping that example would do more for him than precept, he charged his tool Guiol to escort the young saint to Marseilles, where lived the friend of Cadiere's childhood, a Carmelite nun, a daughter of Guiol's. The artful woman sought to win her trust by pretending that she, too, was sometimes ecstatic. She crammed her with absurd stories. She told her, for instance, that on finding a cask of wine spoilt in her cellar, she began to pray, and immediately the wine became good. Another time she felt herself pierced by a crown of thorns, but the angels had comforted her by serving up a good dinner, of which she partook with Father Girard.

Cadiere gained her mother's leave to go with this worthy Guiol to Marseilles, and Madame Cadiere paid her expenses. It was now the most scorching month—that of August, 1729—in a scorching climate, when the country was all dried up, and the eye could see nothing but a rugged mirror of rocks and flintstone. The weak, parched brain of a sick girl suffering from the fatigues of travel, was all the more easily impressed by the dismal air of a nunnery of the dead. The true type of this class was the Sister Remusat, already a corpse to outward seeming, and soon to be really dead. Cadiere was moved to admire so lofty a piece of perfection. Her treacherous companion allured her with the proud conceit of being such another and filling her place anon.

During this short trip of hers, Girard, who remained amid the stifling heats of Toulon, had met with a dismal fall. He would often go to the girl Laugier, who believed herself to be ecstatic, and "comfort" her to such good purpose that he got her presently with child. When Mdlle. Cadiere came back in the highest ecstasy, as if like to soar away, he for his part was become so carnal, so given up to pleasure, that he "let fall on her ears a whisper of love." Thereat she took fire, but all, as anyone may see, in her own pure, saintly, generous way; as eager to keep him from falling, as devoting herself even to die for his sake.

One of her saintly gifts was her power of seeing into the depths of men's hearts. She had sometimes chanced to learn the secret life and morals of her confessors, to tell them of their faults; and this, in their fear and amazement, many of them had borne with great humility. One day this summer, on seeing Guiol come into her room, she suddenly said, "Wicked woman! what have you been doing?"

"And she was right," said Guiol herself, at a later period; "for I had just been doing an evil deed." Perhaps she had just been rendering Laugier the same midwife's service which next year she wished to render Batarelle.

Very likely, indeed, Laugier had entrusted to Catherine, at whose house she often slept, the secret of her good fortune, the love, the fatherly caresses of her saint. It was a hard and stormy trial for Catherine's spirits. On the one side, she had learnt by heart Girard's maxim, that whatever a saint may do is holy. But on the other hand, her native honesty and the whole course of her education compelled her to believe that over-fondness for the creature was ever a mortal sin. This woeful tossing between two different doctrines quite finished the poor girl, brought on within her dreadful storms, until at last she fancied herself possessed with a devil.

And here her goodness of heart was made manifest. Without humbling Girard, she told him she had a vision of a soul tormented with impure thoughts and deadly sin; that she felt the need of rescuing that soul, by offering the Devil victim for victim, by agreeing to yield herself into his keeping in Girard's stead. He never forbade her, but gave her leave to be possessed for one year only.

Like the rest of the town, she had heard of the scandalous loves of Father Sabatier—an insolent passionate man, with none of Girard's prudence. The scorn which the Jesuits—to her mind, such pillars of the Church—were sure to incur, had not escaped her notice. She said one day to Girard, "I had a vision of a gloomy sea, with a vessel full of souls tossed by a storm of unclean thoughts. On this vessel were two Jesuits. Said I to the Redeemer, whom I saw in heaven, 'Lord, save them, and let me drown! The whole of their shipwreck do I take upon myself,' And God, in His mercy, granted my prayer."

All through the trial, and when Girard, become her foe, was aiming at her death, she never once recurred to this subject. These two parables, so clear in meaning, she never explained. She was too high-minded to say a word about them. She had doomed herself to very damnation. Some will say that in her pride she deemed herself so deadened and impassive as to defy the impurity with which the Demon troubled a man of God. But it is quite clear that she had no accurate knowledge of sensual things, foreseeing nought in such a mystery save pains and torments of the Devil. Girard was very cold, and quite unworthy of all this sacrifice. Instead of being moved to compassion, he sported with her credulity through a vile deceit. Into her casket he slipped a paper, in which God declared that, for her sake, He would indeed save the vessel. But he took care not to leave so absurd a document there: she would have read it again and again until she came to perceive how spurious it was. The angel who brought the paper carried it off the next day.

With the same coarseness of feeling Girard lightly allowed her, all unsettled and incapable of praying as she plainly was, to communicate as much as she pleased in different churches every day. This only made her worse. Filled already with the Demon, she harboured the two foes in one place. With equal power they fought within her against each other. She thought she would burst asunder. She would fall into a dead faint, and so remain for several hours. By December she could not move even from her bed.

Girard had now but too good a plea for seeing her. He was prudent enough to let himself be led by the younger brother at least as far as her door. The sick girl's room was at the top of the house. Her mother stayed discreetly in the shop. He was left alone as long as he pleased, and if he chose could turn the key. At this time she was very ill. He handled her as a child, drawing her forward a little to the front of the bed, holding her head, and kissing her in a fatherly way.

She was very pure, but very sensitive. A slight touch, that no one else would have remarked, deprived her of her senses: this Girard found out for himself, and the knowledge of it possessed him with evil thoughts. He threw her at will into this trance,[110] and she, in her thorough trust in him, never thought of trying to prevent it, feeling only somewhat troubled and ashamed at causing such a man to waste upon her so much of his precious time. His visits were very long. It was easy to foresee what would happen at last. Ill as she was, the poor girl inspired Girard with a passion none the less wild and uncontrollable. One freedom led to another, and her plaintive remonstrances were met with scornful replies. "I am your master—your god. You must bear all for obedience sake." At length, about Christmas-time, the last barrier of reserve was broken down; and the poor girl awoke from her trance to utter a wail which moved even him to pity.

[110] A case of mesmerism applied to a very susceptible patient.—TRANS.

An issue which she but dimly realized, Girard, as better enlightened, viewed with growing alarm. Signs of what was coming began to show themselves in her bodily health. To crown the entanglement, Laugier also found herself with child. Those religious meetings, those suppers watered with the light wine of the country, led to a natural raising of the spirits of a race so excitable, and the trance that followed spread from one to another. With the more artful all this was mere sham; but with the sanguine, vehement Laugier the trance was genuine enough. In her own little room she had real fits of raving and swooning, especially when Girard came in. A little later than Cadiere she, too became fruitful.

The danger was great. The girls were neither in a desert nor in the heart of a convent, but rather, as one might say, in the open street: Laugier in the midst of prying neighbours, Cadiere in her own family. The latter's brother, the Jacobin, began to take Girard's long visits amiss. One day when Girard came, he ventured to stay beside her as though to watch over her safety. Girard boldly turned him out of the room, and the mother angrily drove her son from the house.

This was very like to bring on an explosion. Of course, the young man, swelling with rage at this hard usage, at this expulsion from his home, would cry aloud to the Preaching Friars, who in their turn would seize so fair an opening, to go about repeating the story and stirring up the whole town against the Jesuit. The latter, however, resolved to meet them with a strangely daring move, to save himself by a crime. The libertine became a scoundrel.

He knew his victim, had seen the scrofulous traces of her childhood, traces healed up but still looking different from common scars. Some of these were on her feet, others a little below her bosom. He formed a devilish plan of renewing the wounds and passing them off as "stigmata," like those procured from heaven by St. Francis and other saints, who sought after the closest conformity with their pattern, the crucified Redeemer, even to bearing on themselves the marks of the nails and the spear-wound in the side. The Jesuits were distressed at having nought to show against the miracles of the Jansenists. Girard felt sure of pleasing them by an unlooked-for miracle. He could not but receive the support of his own order, of their house at Toulon. One of them, old Sabatier, was ready to believe anything: he had of yore been Cadiere's confessor, and this affair would bring him into credit. Another of these was Father Grignet, a pious old dotard, who would see whatever they pleased. If the Carmelites or any others were minded to have their doubts, they might be taught, by warnings from a high quarter, to consult their safety by keeping silence. Even the Jacobin Cadiere, hitherto a stern and jealous foe, might find his account in turning round and believing in a tale which made his family illustrious and himself the brother of a saint.

"But," some will say, "did not the thing come naturally? We have instances numberless, and well-attested, of persons really marked with the sacred wounds."

The reverse is more likely. When she was aware of the new wounds, she felt ashamed and distressed with the fear of displeasing Girard by this return of her childish ailments; for such she deemed the sores which he had opened afresh while she lay unconscious in the trance. So she sped away to a neighbour, one Madame Truc, who dabbled in physic, and of her she bought, as if for her youngest brother, an ointment to burn away the sores.

She would have thought herself guilty of a great sin, if she had not told everything to Girard. So, however fearful she might be of displeasing and disgusting him, she spoke of this matter also. Looking at the wounds, he began playing his comedy, rebuked her attempt to heal them, and thus set herself against God. They were the marks, he said, of Heaven. Falling on his knees, he kissed the wounds on her feet. She crossed herself in self-abasement, struggled long-time against such a belief. Girard presses and scolds, makes her show him her side, and looks admiringly at the wound. "I, too," he said, "have a wound; but mine is within."

And now she is fain to believe in herself as a living miracle. Her acceptance of a thing so startling was greatly quickened by the fact, that Sister Remusat was just then dead. She had seen her in glory, her heart borne upward by the angels. Who was to take her place on earth? Who should inherit her high gifts, the heavenly favours wherewith she had been crowned? Girard offered her the succession, corrupting her through her pride.

From that time she was changed. In her vanity she set down every natural movement within her as holy. The loathings, the sudden starts of a woman great with child, of all which she knew nothing, were accounted for as inward struggles of the Spirit. As she sat at table with her family on the first day of Lent, she suddenly beheld the Saviour, who said, "I will lead thee into the desert, where thou shalt share with Me all the love and all the suffering of the holy Forty Days." She shuddered for dread of the suffering she must undergo. But still she would offer up her single self for a whole world of sinners. Her visions were all of blood; she had nothing but blood before her eyes. She beheld Jesus like a sieve running blood. She herself began to spit blood, and lose it in other ways. At the same time her nature seemed quite changed. The more she suffered, the more amorous she grew. On the twentieth day of Lent she saw her name coupled with that of Girard. Her pride, raised and quickened by these new sensations, enabled her to comprehend the special sway enjoyed by Mary, the Woman, with respect to God. She felt how much lower angels are than the least of saints, male or female. She saw the Palace of Glory, and mistook herself for the Lamb. To crown these illusions she felt herself lifted off the ground, several feet into the air. She could hardly believe it, until Mdlle. Gravier, a respectable person, assured her of the fact. Everyone came, admired, worshipped. Girard brought his colleague Grignet, who knelt before her and wept with joy.

Not daring to go to her every day, Girard often made her come to the Jesuits' Church. There, before the altar, before the cross, he surrendered himself to a passion all the fiercer for such a sacrilege. Had she no scruples? did she still deceive herself? It seems as if, in the midst of an elation still unfeigned and earnest, her conscience was already dazed and darkened. Under cover of her bleeding wounds, those cruel favours of her heavenly Spouse, she began to feel some curious compensations....

In her reveries there are two points especially touching. One is the pure ideal she had formed of a faithful union, when she fancied that she saw her name and that of Girard joined together for ever in the Book of Life. The other is her kindliness of heart, the charmingly childlike nature which shines out through all her extravagances. On Palm Sunday, looking at the joyous party around their family table, she wept three hours together, for thinking that "on that very day no one had asked Jesus to dinner."

Through all that Lent, she could hardly eat anything: the little she took was thrown up again. The last fifteen days she fasted altogether, until she reached the last stage of weakness. Who would have believed that against this dying girl, to whom nothing remained but the mere breath, Girard could practise new barbarities? He had kept her sores from closing. A new one was now formed on her right side. And at last, on Good Friday, he gave the finishing touch to his cruel comedy, by making her wear a crown of iron-wire, which pierced her forehead, until drops of blood rolled down her face. All this was done without much secresy. He began by cutting off her long hair and carrying it away. He ordered the crown of one Bitard, a cagemaker in the town. She did not show herself to her visitors with the crown on: they saw the result only, the drops of blood and the bleeding visage. Impressions of the latter, like so many Veronicas,[111] were taken off on napkins, and doubtless given away by Girard to people of great piety.

[111] After the saint of that name, whose handkerchief received the impress of Christ's countenance.—TRANS.

The mother, in her own despite, became an abettor in all this juggling. In truth, she was afraid of Girard; she began to find him capable of anything, and somebody, perhaps the Guiol, had told her, in the deepest confidence, that, if she said a word against him, her daughter would not be alive twenty-four hours.

Cadiere, for her part, never lied about the matter. In the narrative taken down from her own lips of what happened this Lent, she expressly tells of a crown, with sharp points, which stuck in her head, and made it bleed. Nor did she then make any secret of the source whence came the little crosses she gave her visitors. From a model supplied by Girard, they were made to her order by one of her kinsfolk, a carpenter in the Arsenal.

On Good Friday, she remained twenty-four hours in a swoon, which they called a trance; remained in special charge of Girard, whose attentions weakened her, and did her deadly harm. She was now three months gone with child. The saintly martyr, the transfigured marvel, was already beginning to fill out. Desiring, yet dreading the more violent issues of a miscarriage, he plied her daily with reddish powders and dangerous drinks.

Much rather would he have had her die, and so have rid himself of the whole business. At any rate, he would have liked to get her away from her mother, to bury her safe in a convent. Well acquainted with houses of that sort, he knew, as Picard had done in the Louviers affair, how cleverly and discreetly such cases as Cadiere's could be hidden away. He talked of it this very Good Friday. But she seemed too weak to be taken safely from her bed. At last, however, four days after Easter, a miscarriage took place.

The girl Laugier had also been having strange convulsive fits, and absurd beginnings of stigmata: one of them being an old wound, caused by her scissors when she was working as a seamstress, the other an eruptive sore in her side. Her transports suddenly turned to impious despair. She spat upon the crucifix: she cried out against Girard, "that devil of a priest, who had brought a poor girl of two-and-twenty into such a plight, only to forsake her afterwards!" Girard dared not go and face her passionate outbreaks. But the women about her, being all in his interest, found some way of bringing this matter to a quiet issue.

Was Girard a wizard, as people afterwards maintained? They might well think so, who saw how easily, being neither young nor handsome, he had charmed so many women. Stranger still it was, that after getting thus compromised, he swayed opinion to such a degree. For a while, he seemed to have enchanted the whole town.

The truth was, that everyone knew the strength of the Jesuits. Nobody cared to quarrel with them. It was hardly reckoned safe to speak ill of them, even in a whisper. The bulk of the priesthood consisted of monklings of the Mendicant orders, who had no powerful friends or high connections. The Carmelites themselves, jealous and hurt as they were at losing Cadiere, kept silence. Her brother, the young Jacobin, was lectured by his trembling mother into resuming his old circumspect ways. Becoming reconciled to Girard, he came at length to serve him as devotedly as did his younger brother, even lending himself to a curious trick by which people were led to believe that Girard had the gift of prophecy.

* * * * *

Such weak opposition as he might have to fear, would come only from the very person whom he seemed to have most thoroughly mastered. Submissive hitherto, Cadiere now gave some slight tokens of a coming independence which could not help showing itself. On the 30th of April, at a country party got up by the polite Girard, and to which he sent his troop of young devotees in company with Guiol, Cadiere fell into deep thought. The fair spring-time, in that climate so very charming, lifted her heart up to God. She exclaimed with a feeling of true piety, "Thee, Thee only, do I seek, O Lord! Thine angels are not enough for me." Then one of the party, a blithesome girl, having, in the Provencial fashion, hung a tambourine round her neck, Cadiere skipped and danced about like the rest; with a rug thrown across her shoulders, she danced the Bohemian measure, and made herself giddy with a hundred mad capers.

She was very unsettled. In May she got leave from her mother to make a trip to Sainte-Baume, to the Church of St. Mary Magdalen, the chief saint of girls on penance. Girard would only let her go under charge of two faithful overlookers, Guiol and Reboul. But though she had still some trances on the way, she showed herself weary of being a passive tool to the violent spirit, whether divine or devilish, that annoyed her. The end of her year's possession was not far off. Had she not won her freedom? Once issued forth from the gloom and witcheries of Toulon, into the open air, in the midst of nature, beneath the full sunshine, the prisoner regained her soul, withstood the stranger spirit, dared to be herself, to use her own will. Girard's two spies were far from edified thereat. On their return from this short journey, from the 17th to the 22nd May, they warned him of the change. He was convinced of it from his own experience. She fought against the trance, seeming no longer wishful to obey aught save reason.

He had thought to hold her both by his power of charming and through the holiness of his high office, and, lastly, by right of possession and carnal usage. But he had no hold upon her at all. The youthful soul, which, after all, had not been so much conquered as treacherously surprised, resumed its own nature. This hurt him. Besides his business of pedant, his tyranny over the children he chastised at will, over nuns not less at his disposal, there remained within a hard bottom of domineering jealousy. He determined to snatch Cadiere back by punishing this first little revolt, if such a name could be given to the timid fluttering of a soul rising again from its long compression. On the 22nd May she confessed to him after her wont; but he refused to absolve her, declaring her to be so guilty that on the morrow he would have to lay upon her a very great penance indeed.

What would that be? A fast? But she was weakened and wasted already. Long prayers, again, were not in fashion with Quietist directors,—were in fact forbidden. There remained the discipline, or bodily chastisement. This punishment, then everywhere habitual, was enforced as prodigally in convents as in colleges. It was a simple and summary means of swift execution, sometimes, in a rude and simple age, carried out in the churches themselves. The Fabliaux show us an artless picture of manners, where, after confessing husband and wife, the priest gave them the discipline without any ceremony, just as they were, behind the confessional. Scholars, monks, nuns, were all punished in the same way.[112]

[112] The Dauphin was cruelly flogged. A boy of fifteen, according to St. Simon, died from the pain of a like infliction. The prioress of the Abbey-in-the-Wood, pleaded before the King against the "afflictive chastisement" threatened by her superior. For the credit of the convent, she was spared the public shame; but the superior, to whom she was consigned, doubtless punished her in a quiet way. The immoral tendency of such a practice became more and more manifest. Fear and shame led to woeful entreaties and unworthy bargains.

Girard knew that a girl like Cadiere, all unused to shame, and very modest—for what she had hitherto suffered took place unknown to herself in her sleep—would feel so cruelly tortured, so fatally crushed by this unseemly chastisement, as utterly to lose what little buoyancy she had. She was pretty sure too, if we must speak out, to be yet more cruelly mortified than other women, in respect of the pang endured by her woman's vanity. With so much suffering, and so many fasts, followed by her late miscarriage, her body, always delicate, seemed worn away to a shadow. All the more surely would she shrink from any exposure of a form so lean, so wasted, so full of aches. Her swollen legs and such-like small infirmities would serve to enhance her humiliation.

We lack the courage to relate what followed. It may all be read in those three depositions, so artless, so manifestly unfeigned, in which, without being sworn, she made it her duty to avow what self-interest bade her conceal, owning even to things which were afterwards turned to the cruellest account against her.

Her first deposition was made on the spur of the moment, before the spiritual judge who was sent to take her by surprise. In this we seem to be ever hearing the utterances of a young heart that speaks as though in God's own presence. The second was taken before the King—I should rather say before the magistrate who represented him, the Lieutenant Civil and Criminal of Toulon. The last was heard before the great assembly of the Parliament of Aix.

Observe that all three, agreeing as they do wonderfully together, were printed at Aix under the eye of her enemies, in a volume where, as I shall presently prove, an attempt was made to extenuate the guilt of Girard, and fasten the reader's gaze on every point likely to tell against Cadiere. And yet the editor could not help inserting depositions like these, which bear with crushing weight on the man he sought to uphold.

It was a monstrous piece of inconsistency on Girard's part. He first frightened the poor girl, and then suddenly took a base, a cruel advantage of her fears.

In this case no plea of love can be offered in extenuation. The truth is far otherwise: he loved her no more. And this forms the most dreadful part of the story. We have seen how cruelly he drugged her; we have now to see her utterly forsaken. He owed her a grudge for being of greater worth than those other degraded women. He owed her a grudge for having unwittingly tempted him and brought him into danger. Above all, he could not forgive her for keeping her soul in safety. He sought only to tame her down, but caught hopefully at her oft-renewed assurance, "I feel that I shall not live." Villanous profligate that he was, bestowing his shameful kisses on that poor shattered body whose death he longed to see!

How did he account to her for this shocking antagonism of cruelty and caresses? Was it meant to try her patience and obedience, or did he boldly pass on to the true depths of Molinos' teaching, that "only by dint of sinning can sin be quelled"? Did she take it all in full earnest, never perceiving that all this show of justice, penitence, expiation, was downright profligacy and nothing else?

She did not care to understand him in the strange moral crash that befell her after that 23rd May, under the influence of a mild warm June. She submitted to her master, of whom she was rather afraid, and with a singularly servile passion carried on the farce of undergoing small penances day by day. So little regard did Girard show for her feelings that he never hid from her his relations with other women. All he wanted was to get her into a convent. Meanwhile she was his plaything: she saw him, let him have his way. Weak, and yet further weakened by the shame that unnerved her, growing sadder and more sad at heart, she had now but little hold on life, and would keep on saying, in words that brought no sorrow to Girard's soul, "I feel that I shall soon be dead."



The Abbess of the Ollioules Convent was young for an abbess, being only thirty-eight years old. She was not wanting in mind. She was lively, swift alike in love and in hatred, hurried away by her heart and her senses also, endowed with very little of the tact and the moderation needed for the governing of such a body.

This nunnery drew its livelihood from two sources. On the one side, there came to it from Toulon two or three nuns of consular families, who brought good dowers with them, and therefore did what they pleased. They lived with the Observantine monks who had the ghostly direction of the convent. On the other hand, these monks, whose order had spread to Marseilles and many other places, picked up some little boarders and novices who paid for their keep: a contact full of danger and unpleasantness for the children, as one may see by the Aubany affair.

There was no real confinement, nor much internal order. In the scorching summer nights of that African climate, peculiarly oppressive and wearying in the airless passes of Ollioules, nuns and novices went to and fro with the greatest freedom. The very same things were going on at Ollioules in 1730 which we saw in 1630 at Loudun. The bulk of nuns, well-nigh a dozen out of the fifteen who made up the house, being rather forsaken by the monks, who preferred ladies of loftier position, were poor creatures, sick at heart, and disinherited, with nothing to console them but tattling, child's play, and other school-girls' tricks.

The abbess was afraid that Cadiere would soon see through all this. She made some demur about taking her in. Anon, with some abruptness, she entirely changed her cue. In a charming letter, all the more flattering as sent so unexpectedly from such a lady to so young a girl, she expressed a hope of her leaving the ghostly guidance of Father Girard. The girl was not, of course, to be transferred to her Observantines, who were far from capable of the charge. The abbess had formed the bold, enlivening idea of taking her into her own hands and becoming her sole director.

She was very vain. Deeming herself more agreeable than an old Jesuit confessor, she reckoned on making this prodigy her own, on conquering her without trouble. She would have worked the young saint for the benefit of her house.

She paid her the marked compliment of receiving her on the threshold, at the street-door. She kissed her, caught her up, led her into the abbess's own fine room, and bade her share it with herself. She was charmed with her modesty, with her invalid grace, with a certain strangeness at once mysterious and melting. In that short journey the girl had suffered a great deal. The abbess wanted to lay her down in her own bed, saying she loved her so that she would have them sleep together like sisters in one bed.

For her purpose this was probably more than was needful. It would have been quite enough to have the saint under her own roof. She would now have too much the look of a little favourite. The lady, however, was surprised at the young girl's hesitation, which doubtless sprang from her modesty or her humility; in part, perhaps, from a comparison of her own ill-health with the young health and blooming beauty of the other. But the abbess tenderly urged her request.

Under the influence of a fondling so close and so continual, she deemed that Girard would be forgotten. With all abbesses it had become the ruling fancy, the pet ambition, to confess their own nuns, according to the practice allowed by St. Theresa. By this pleasant scheme of hers the same result would come out of itself, the young woman telling her confessors only of small things, but keeping the depths of her heart for one particular person. Caressed continually by one curious woman, at eventide, in the night, when her head was on the pillow, she would have let out many a secret, whether her own or another's.

From this living entanglement she could not free herself at the first. She slept with the abbess. The latter thought she held her fast by a twofold tie, by the opposite means employed on the saint and on the woman; that is, on the nervous, sensitive, and, through her weakness, perhaps sensual girl. Her story, her sayings, whatever fell from her lips, were all written down. From other sources she picked up the meanest details of her physical life, and forwarded the report thereof to Toulon. She would have made her an idol, a pretty little pet doll. On a slope so slippery the work of allurement doubtless moved apace. But the girl had scruples and a kind of fear. She made one great effort, of which her weak health would have made her seem incapable. She humbly asked leave to quit that dove's-nest, that couch too soft and delicate, to go and live in common with the novices or the boarders.

Great was the abbess's surprise; great her mortification. She fancied herself scorned. She took a spite against the thankless girl, and never forgave her.

* * * * *

From the others Cadiere met with a very pleasant welcome. The mistress of the novices, Madame de Lescot, a nun from Paris, refined and good, was a worthier woman than the abbess. She seemed to understand the other—to see in her a poor prey of fate, a young heart full of God, but cruelly branded by some eccentric spell which seemed like to hurry her onward to disgrace, to some unhappy end. She busied herself entirely with looking after the girl, saving her from her own rashness, interpreting her to others, excusing those things which might in her be least excusable.

Saving the two or three noble ladies who lived with the monks and had small relish for the higher mysticism, they were all fond of her, and took her for an angel from heaven. Their tender feelings having little else to engage them, became concentred in her and her alone. They found her not only pious and wonderfully devout, but a good child withal, kind-hearted, winning, and entertaining. They were no longer listless and sick at heart. She engaged and edified them with her dreams, with stories true, or rather, perhaps, unfeigned, mingled ever with touches of purest tenderness. She would say, "At night I go everywhere, even to America. Everywhere I leave letters bidding people repent. To-night I shall go and seek you out, even when you have locked yourselves in. We will all go together into the Sacred Heart."

The miracle was wrought. Each of them at midnight, so she said, received the delightful visit. They all fancied they felt Cadiere embracing them, and making them enter the heart of Jesus. They were very frightened and very happy. Tenderest, most credulous of all, was Sister Raimbaud, a woman of Marseilles, who tasted this happiness fifteen times in three months, or nearly once in every six days.

It was purely the effect of imagination. The proof is, that Cadiere visited all of them at one same moment. The abbess meanwhile was hurt, being roused at the first to jealousy by the thought that she only had been left out, and afterwards feeling assured that, lost as the girl might be in her own dreams, she would get through so many intimate friends but too clear an inkling into the scandals of the house.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse