Karl Ludwig Sand
by Alexander Dumas, Pere
On the 22nd of March, 1819, about nine o'clock in the morning, a
young man, some twenty-three or twenty-four years old, wearing the
dress of a German student, which consists of a short frock-coat with
silk braiding, tight trousers, and high boots, paused upon a little
eminence that stands upon the road between Kaiserthal and Mannheim,
at about three-quarters of the distance from the former town, and
commands a view of the latter. Mannheim is seen rising calm and
smiling amid gardens which once were ramparts, and which now surround
and embrace it like a girdle of foliage and flowers. Having reached
this spot, he lifted his cap, above the peak of which were
embroidered three interlaced oak leaves in silver, and uncovering his
brow, stood bareheaded for a moment to feel the fresh air that rose
from the valley of the Neckar. At first sight his irregular features
produced a strange impression; but before long the pallor of his
face, deeply marked by smallpox, the infinite gentleness of his eyes,
and the elegant framework of his long and flowing black hair, which
grew in an admirable curve around a broad, high forehead, attracted
towards him that emotion of sad sympathy to which we yield without
inquiring its reason or dreaming of resistance. Though it was still
early, he seemed already to have come some distance, for his boots
were covered with dust; but no doubt he was nearing his destination,
for, letting his cap drop, and hooking into his belt his long pipe,
that inseparable companion of the German Borsch, he drew from his
pocket a little note-book, and wrote in it with a pencil: "Left
Wanheim at five in the morning, came in sight of Mannheim at a
quarter-past nine." Then putting his note-book back into his pocket,
he stood motionless for a moment, his lips moving as though in mental
prayer, picked up his hat, and walked on again with a firm step
This young Student was Karl-Ludwig Sand, who was coming from Jena, by
way of Frankfort aid Darmstadt, in order to assassinate Kotzebue.
Now, as we are about to set before our readers one of those terrible
actions for the true appreciation of which the conscience is the sole
judge, they must allow us to make them fully acquainted with him whom
kings regarded as an assassin, judges as a fanatic, and the youth of
Germany as a hero. Charles Louis Sand was born on the 5th of
October, 1795, at Wonsiedel, in the Fichtel Wald.; he was the
youngest son of Godfrey Christopher Sand, first president and
councillor of justice to the King of Prussia, and of Dorothea Jane
Wilheltmina Schapf, his wife. Besides two elder brothers, George,
who entered upon a commercial career at St, Gall, and Fritz, who was
an advocate in the Berlin court of appeal, he had an elder sister
named Caroline, and a younger sister called Julia.
While still in the cradle he had been attacked by smallpox of the
most malignant type. The virus having spread through all his body,
laid bare his ribs, and almost ate away his skull. For several
months he lay between life and death; but life at last gained the
upper hand. He remained weak and sickly, however, up to his seventh
year, at which time a brain fever attacked him; and again put his
life in danger. As a compensation, however, this fever, when it left
him, seemed to carry away with it all vestiges of his former illness.
>From that moment his health and strength came into existence; but
during these two long illnesses his education had remained very
backward, and it was not until the age of eight that he could begin
his elementary studies; moreover, his physical sufferings having
retarded his intellectual development, he needed to work twice as
hard as others to reach the same result.
Seeing the efforts that young Sand made, even while still quite a
child, to conquer the defects of his organisation, Professor
Salfranck, a learned and distinguished man, rector of the Hof
gymnasium [college], conceived such an affection for him, that when,
at a later time, he was appointed director of the gymnasium at
Ratisbon, he could not part from his pupil, and took him with him.
In this town, and at the age of eleven years, he gave the first proof
of his courage and humanity. One day, when he was walking with some
young friends, he heard cries for help, and ran in that direction: a
little boy, eight or nine years old, had just fallen into a pond.
Sand immediately, without regarding his best clothes, of which,
however, he was very proud, sprang into the water, and, after
unheard-of efforts for a child of his age, succeeded in bringing the
drowning boy to land.
At the age of twelve or thirteen, Sand, who had become more active,
skilful, and determined than many of his elders, often amused himself
by giving battle to the lads of the town and of the neighbouring
villages. The theatre of these childish conflicts, which in their
pale innocence reflected the great battles that were at that time
steeping Germany in blood, was generally a plain extending from the
town of Wonsiedel to the mountain of St. Catherine, which had ruins
at its top, and amid the ruins a tower in excellent preservation.
Sand, who was one of the most eager fighters, seeing that his side
had several times been defeated on account of its numerical
inferiority, resolved, in order to make up for this drawback, to
fortify the tower of St. Catherine, and to retire into it at the next
battle if its issue proved unfavourable to him. He communicated this
plan to his companions, who received it with enthusiasm. A week was
spent, accordingly, in collecting all possible weapons of defence in
the tower and in repairing its doors and stairs. These preparations
were made so secretly that the army of the enemy had no knowledge of
Sunday came: the holidays were the days of battle. Whether because
the boys were ashamed of having been beaten last time, or for some
other reason, the band to which Sand belonged was even weaker than
usual. Sure, however, of a means of retreat, he accepted battle,
notwithstanding. The struggle was not a long one; the one party was
too weak in numbers to make a prolonged resistance, and began to
retire in the best order that could be maintained to St. Catherine's
tower, which was reached before much damage had been felt. Having
arrived there, some of the combatants ascended to the ramparts, and
while the others defended themselves at the foot of the wall, began
to shower stones and pebbles upon the conquerors. The latter,
surprised at the new method of defence which was now for the first
time adopted, retreated a little; the rest of the defenders took
advantage of the moment to retire into the fortress and shut the
door. Great was the astonishment an the part of the besiegers: they
had always seen that door broken down, and lo! all at once it was
presenting to them a barrier which preserved the besieged from their
blows. Three or four went off to find instruments with which to
break it down and meanwhile the rest of the attacking farce kept the
At the end of half an hour the messengers returned not only with
levers and picks, but also with a considerable reinforcement composed
of lads from, the village to which they had been to fetch tools.
Then began the assault: Sand and his companions defended themselves
desperately; but it was soon evident that, unless help came, the
garrison would be forced to capitulate. It was proposed that they
should draw lots, and that one of the besieged should be chosen, who
in spite of the danger should leave the tower, make his way as best
he might through the enemy's army, and go to summon the other lads of
Wonsiedel, who had faint-heartedly remained at home. The tale of the
peril in which their Comrades actually were, the disgrace of a
surrender, which would fall upon all of them, would no doubt overcome
their indolence and induce them to make a diversion that would allow
the garrison to attempt sortie. This suggestion was adopted; but
instead of leaving the decision to chance, Sand proposed himself as
the messenger. As everybody knew his courage, his skill, and his
lightness of foot, the proposition was unanimously accepted, and the
new Decius prepared to execute his act of devotion. The deed was not
free from danger: there were but two means of egress, one by way of
the door, which would lead to the fugitive's falling immediately into
the hands of the enemy; the other by jumping from a rampart so high
that the enemy had not set a guard there. Sand without a moment's
hesitation went to the rampart, where, always religious, even in his
childish pleasures, he made a short prayer; then, without fear,
without hesitation, with a confidence that was almost superhuman, he
sprang to the ground: the distance was twenty-two feet. Sand flew
instantly to Wonsiedel, and reached it, although the enemy had
despatched their best runners in pursuit. Then the garrison, seeing
the success of their enterprise, took fresh courage, and united their
efforts against the besiegers, hoping everything from Sand's
eloquence, which gave him a great influence over his young
companions. And, indeed, in half an hour he was seen reappearing at
the head of some thirty boys of his own age, armed with slings and
crossbows. The besiegers, on the point of being attacked before and
behind, recognised the disadvantage of their position and retreated.
The victory remained with Sand's party, and all the honours of the
day were his.
We have related this anecdote in detail, that our readers may
understand from the character of the child what was that of the man.
Besides, we shall see him develop, always calm and superior amid
small events as amid large ones.
About the same time Sand escaped almost miraculously from two
dangers. One day a hod full of plaster fell from a scaffold and
broke at his feet. Another day the Price of Coburg, who during the
King of Prussia's stay at the baths of Alexander, was living in the
house of Sand's parents, was galloping home with four horses when he
came suddenly upon young Karl in a gateway; he could not escape
either on the right or the left, without running the risk of being
crushed between the wall and the wheels, and the coachman could not,
when going at such a pace, hold in his horses: Sand flung himself on
his face, and the carriage passed over him without his receiving so
much as a single scratch either from the horses or the wheels. From
that moment many people regarded him as predestined, and said that
the hand of God was upon him.
Meanwhile political events were developing themselves around the boy,
and their seriousness made him a man before the age of manhood.
Napoleon weighed upon Germany like another Sennacherib. Staps had
tried to play the part of Mutius Scaevola, and had died a martyr.
Sand was at Hof at that time, and was a student of the gymnasium of
which his good tutor Salfranck was the head. He learned that the man
whom he regarded as the antichrist was to come and review the troops
in that town; he left it at once and went home to his parents, who
asked him for what reason he had left the gymnasium.
"Because I could not have been in the same town with Napoleon," he
answered, "without trying to kill him, and I do not feel my hand
strong enough for that yet."
This happened in 1809; Sand was fourteen years old. Peace, which was
signed an the 15th of October, gave Germany some respite, and allowed
the young fanatic to resume his studies without being distracted by
political considerations; but in 1811 he was occupied by them again,
when he learned that the gymnasium was to be dissolved and its place
taken by a primary school. To this the rector Salfranck was
appointed as a teacher, but instead of the thousand florins which his
former appointment brought him, the new one was worth only five
hundred. Karl could not remain in a primary school where he could
not continue his education; he wrote to his mother to announce this
event and to tell her with what equanimity the old German philosopher
had borne it. Here is the answer of Sand's mother; it will serve to
show the character of the woman whose mighty heart never belied
itself in the midst of the severest suffering; the answer bears the
stamp of that German mysticism of which we have no idea in France:--
"MY DEAR KARL,--You could not have given me a more grievous piece of
news than that of the event which has just fallen upon your tutor and
father by adoption; nevertheless, terrible though it may be, do not
doubt that he will resign himself to it, in order to give to the
virtue of his pupils a great example of that submission which every
subject owes to the king wham God has set over him. Furthermore, be
well assured that in this world there is no other upright and well
calculated policy than that which grows out of the old precept,
'Honour God, be just and fear not.' And reflect also that when
injustice against the worthy becomes crying, the public voice makes
itself heard, and uplifts those who are cast down.
"But if, contrary to all probability, this did not happen,--if God
should impose this sublime probation upon the virtue of our friend,
if the world were to disown him and Providence were to became to
that, degree his debtor,--yet in that case there are, believe me,
supreme compensations: all the things and all the events that occur
around us and that act upon us are but machines set in motion by a
Higher Hand, so as to complete our education for a higher world, in
which alone we shall take our true place. Apply yourself, therefore,
my dear child, to watch over yourself unceasingly and always, so that
you may not take great and fine isolated actions for real virtue, and
may be ready every moment to do all that your duty may require of
you. Fundamentally nothing is great, you see, and nothing small,
when things are, looked at apart from one another, and it is only the
putting of things together that produces the unity of evil or of
"Moreover, God only sends the trial to the heart where He has put
strength, and the manner in which you tell me that your master has
borne the misfortune that has befallen him is a fresh proof of this
great and eternal truth. You must form yourself upon him, my dear
child, and if you are obliged to leave Hof for Bamberg you must
resign yourself to it courageously. Man has three educations: that
which he receives from his parents, that which circumstances impose
upon him, and lastly that which he gives himself; if that misfortune
should occur, pray to God that you may yourself worthily complete
that last education, the most important of all.
"I will give you as an example the life and conduct of my father, of
whom you have not heard very much, for he died before you were born,
but whose mind and likeness are reproduced in you only among all your
brothers and sisters. The disastrous fire which reduced his native
town to ashes destroyed his fortune and that of his relatives; grief
at having lost everything--for the fire broke out in the next house
to his--cost his father his life; and while his mother, who for six
years had been stretched an a bed of pain, where horrible convulsions
held her fast, supported her three little girls by the needlework
that she did in the intervals of suffering, he went as a mere clerk
into one of the leading mercantile houses of Augsburg, where his
lively and yet even temper made him welcome; there he learned a
calling, for which, however, he was not naturally adapted, and came
back to the home of his birth with a pure and stainless heart, in
order to be the support of his mother and his sisters.
"A man can do much when he wishes to do much: join your efforts to my
prayers, and leave the rest in the hands of God."
The prediction of this Puritan woman was fulfilled: a little time
afterwards rector Salfranck was appointed professor at Richembourg,
whither Sand followed him; it was there that the events of 1813 found
him. In the month of March he wrote to his mother:--
"I can scarcely, dear mother, express to you how calm and happy I
begin to feel since I am permitted to believe in the enfranchisement
of my country, of which I hear on every side as being so near at
hand,--of that country which, in my faith in God, I see beforehand
free and mighty, that country for whose happiness I would undergo the
greatest sufferings, and even death. Take strength for this crisis.
If by chance it should reach our good province, lift your eyes to the
Almighty, then carry them back to beautiful rich nature. The
goodness of God which preserved and protected so many men during the
disastrous Thirty Years' War can do and will do now what it could and
did then. As for me, I believe and hope."
Leipzig came to justify Sand's presentiments; then the year 1814
arrived, and he thought Germany free.
On the 10th of December in the same year he left Richembourg with
this certificate from his master:--
"Karl Sand belongs to the small number of those elect young men who
are distinguished at once by the gifts of the mind and the faculties
of the soul; in application and work he surpasses all his fellow-
students, and this fact explains his rapid progress in all the
philosophical and philological sciences; in mathematics only there
are still some further studies which he might pursue. The most
affectionate wishes of his teacher follow him on his departure.
"J. A. KEYN,
"Rector, and master of the first class.
"Richembourg, Sept. 15, 1814"
But it was really the parents of Sand, and in particular his mother,
who had prepared the fertile soil in which his teachers had sowed the
seeds of learning; Sand knew this well, for at the moment of setting
out for the university of Tubingen, where he was about to complete
the theological studies necessary for becoming a pastor, as he
desired to do, he wrote to them:--
"I confess that, like all my brothers and sisters, I owe to you that
beautiful and great part of my education which I have seen to be
lacking to most of those around me. Heaven alone can reward you by a
conviction of having so nobly and grandly fulfilled your parental
duties, amid many others."
After having paid a visit to his brother at St. Gall, Sand reached
Tubingen, to which he had been principally attracted by the
reputation of Eschenmayer; he spent that winter quietly, and no other
incident befell than his admission into an association of Burschen,
called the Teutonic; then came tester of 1815, and with it the
terrible news that Napoleon had landed in the Gulf of Juan.
Immediately all the youth of Germany able to bear arms gathered once
more around the banners of 1813 and 1814. Sand followed the general
example; but the action, which in others was an effect of enthusiasm,
was in him the result of calm and deliberate resolution. He wrote to
Wonsiedel on this occasion:--
"April 22, 1813
"MY DEAR PARENTS,- Until now you have found me submissive to your
parental lessons and to the advice of my excellent masters; until now
I have made efforts to render myself worthy of the education that God
has sent me through you, and have applied myself to become capable of
spreading the word of the Lord through my native land; and for this
reason I can to-day declare to you sincerely the decision that I lave
taken, assured that as tender and affectionate parents you will calm
yourselves, and as German parents and patriots you will rather praise
my resolution than seek to turn me from it.
"The country calls once more for help, and this time the call is
addressed to me, too, for now I have courage and strength. It cast
me a great in ward struggle, believe me, to abstain when in 1813 she
gave her first cry, and only the conviction held me back that
thousands of others were then fighting and conquering for Germany,
while I had to live far the peaceful calling to which I was destined.
Now it is a question of preserving our newly re-established liberty,
which in so many places has already brought in so rich a harvest.
The all-powerful and merciful Lord reserves for us this great trial,
which will certainly be the last; it is for us, therefore, to show
that we are worthy of the supreme gift which He has given us, and
capable of upholding it with strength and firmness.
"The danger of the country has never been so great as it is now, that
is why, among the youth of Germany, the strong should support the
wavering, that all may rise together. Our brave brothers in the
north are already assembling from all parts under their banners; the
State of Wurtemburg is, proclaiming a general levy, and volunteers
are coming in from every quarter, asking to die for their country.
I consider it my duty, too, to fight for my country and for all the
dear ones whom I love. If I were not profoundly convinced of this
truth, I should not communicate my resolution to you,; but my family
is one that has a really German heart, and that would consider me as
a coward and an unworthy son if I did not follow this impulse. I
certainly feel the greatness of the sacrifice; it costs me something,
believe me, to leave my beautiful studies and go to put myself under
the orders of vulgar, uneducated people, but this only increases my
courage in going to secure the liberty of my brothers; moreover, when
once that liberty is secured, if God deigns to allow, I will return
to carry them His word.
"I take leave, therefore, for a time of you, my most worthy parents,
of my brothers, my sisters, and all who are dear to me. As, after
mature deliberation, it seems the most suitable thing for me to serve
with the Bavarians. I shall get myself enrolled, for as long as the
war may last, with a company of that nation. Farewell, then; live
happily; far away from you as I shall be, I shall follow your pious
exhortations. In this new track I shall still I hope, remain pure
before God, and I shall always try to walk in the path that rises
above the things of earth and leads to those of heaven, and perhaps
in this career the bliss of saving some souls from their fall may be
reserved for me.
"Your dear image will always be about me; I will always have the Lord
before my eyes and in my heart, so that I may endure joyfully the
pains and fatigues of this holy war. Include me in your Prayers; God
will send you the hope of better times to help you in bearing the
unhappy time in which we now are. We cannot see one another again
soon, unless we conquer; and if we should be conquered (which God
forbid!), then my last wish, which I pray you, I conjure you, to
fulfil, my last and supreme wish would be that you, my dear and
deserving German relatives, should leave an enslaved country for some
other not yet under the yoke.
"But why should we thus sadden one another's hearts? Is not our
cause just and holy, and is not God just and holy? How then should
we not be victors? You see that sometimes I doubt, so, in your
letters, which I am impatiently expecting, have pity on me and do not
alarm my soul, far in any case we shall meet again in another
country, and that one will always be free and happy.
"I am, until death, your dutiful and grateful son,
These two lines of Korner's were written as a postscript:--
"Perchance above our foeman lying dead
We may behold the star of liberty."
With this farewell to his parents, and with Korner's poems on his
lips, Sand gave up his books, and on the l0th of May we find him in
arms among the volunteer chasseurs enrolled under the command of
Major Falkenhausen, who was at that time at Mannheim; here he found
his second brother, who had preceded him, and they underwent all
their drill together.
Though Sand was not accustomed to great bodily fatigues, he endured
those of the campaign with surprising strength, refusing all the
alleviations that his superiors tried to offer him; for he would
allow no one to outdo him in the trouble that he took for the good of
the country. On the march he invariably shared: anything that he
possessed fraternally with his comrades, helping those who were
weaker than himself to carry their burdens, and, at once priest and
soldier, sustaining them by his words when he was powerless to do
On the 18th of June, at eight o'clock in the evening, he arrived upon
the field of battle at Waterloo, On the 14th of July he entered
On the 18th of December, 1815, Karl Sand and his brother were back at
Wonsiedel, to the great joy of their family. He spent the Christmas
holidays and the end of the year with them, but his ardour for his
new vacation did not allow him to remain longer, and an the 7th of
January he reached Erlangen. Then, to make up for lost time, he
resolved to subject his day to fixed and uniform rules, and to write
down every evening what he had done since the morning. It is by the
help of this journal that we are able to follow the young enthusiast,
not only in all the actions of his life, but also in all the thoughts
of his mind and all the hesitations of his conscience. In it we find
his whole self, simple to naivete, enthusiastic to madness, gentle
even to weakness towards others, severe even to asceticism towards
himself. One of his great griefs was the expense that his education
occasioned to his parents, and every useless and costly pleasure left
a remorse in his heart. Thus, on the 9th of February 1816, he
"I meant to go and visit my parents. Accordingly I went to the
'Commers-haus', and there I was much amused. N. and T. began upon me
with the everlasting jokes about Wonsiedel; that went on until eleven
o'clock. But afterwards N. and T. began to torment me to go to the
wine-shop; I refused as long as I could. But as, at last, they
seemed to think that it was from contempt of them that I would not go
and drink a glass of Rhine wine with them, I did not dare resist
longer. Unfortunately, they did not stop at Braunberger; and while
my glass was still half full, N. ordered a bottle of champagne. When
the first had disappeared, T. ordered a second; then, even before
this second battle was drunk, both of them ordered a third in my name
and in spite of me. I returned home quite giddy, and threw myself on
the sofa, where I slept for about an hour, and only went to bed
"Thus passed this shameful day, in which I have not thought enough of
my kind and worthy parents, who are leading a poor and hard life, and
in which I suffered myself to be led away by the example of people
who have money into spending four florins--an expenditure which was
useless, and which would have kept the whole family for two days.
Pardon me, my God, pardon me, I beseech Thee, and receive the vow
that I make never to fall into the same fault again. In future I
will live even more abstemiously than I usually do, so as to repair
the fatal traces in my poor cash-box of my extravagance, and not to
be obliged to ask money of my mother before the day when she thinks
of sending me some herself."
Then, at the very time when the poor young man reproaches himself as
if with a crime with having spent four florins, one of his cousins, a
widow, dies and leaves three orphan children. He runs immediately to
carry the first consolations to the unhappy little creatures,
entreats his mother to take charge of the youngest, and overjoyed at
her answer, thanks her thus:--
"Far the very keen joy that you have given me by your letter, and for
the very dear tone in which your soul speaks to me, bless you, O my
mother! As I might have hoped and been sure, you have taken little
Julius, and that fills me afresh with the deepest gratitude towards
you, the rather that, in my constant trust in your goodness, I had
already in her lifetime given our good little cousin the promise that
you are fulfilling for me after her death."
About March, Sand, though he did not fall ill, had an indisposition
that obliged him to go and take the waters; his mother happened at
the time to be at the ironworks of Redwitz, same twelve or fifteen
miles from Wonsiedel, where the mineral springs are found. Sand
established himself there with his mother, and notwithstanding his
desire to avoid interrupting his work, the time taken up by baths, by
invitations to dinners, and even by the walks which his health
required, disturbed the regularity of his usual existence and
awakened his remorse. Thus we find these lines written in his
journal for April 13th:
"Life, without some high aim towards which all thoughts and actions
tend, is an empty desert: my day yesterday is a proof of this; I
spent it with my own people, and that, of course, was a great
pleasure to me; but how did I spend it? In continual eating, so that
when I wanted to work I could do nothing worth doing. Full of
indolence and slackness, I dragged myself into the company of two or
three sets of people, and came from them in the same state of mind as
I went to them."
Far these expeditions Sand made use of a little chestnut horse which
belonged to his brother, and of which he was very fond. This little
horse had been bought with great difficulty; for, as we have said,
the whole family was poor. The following note, in relation to the
animal, will give an idea of Sand's simplicity of heart:--
"To-day I have been very happy at the ironworks, and very industrious
beside my kind mother. In the evening I came home on the little
chestnut. Since the day before yesterday, when he got a strain and
hurt his foot, he has been very restive and very touchy, and when he
got home he refused his food. I thought at first that he did not
fancy his fodder, and gave him some pieces of sugar and sticks of
cinnamon, which he likes very much; he tasted them, but would not eat
them. The poor little beast seems to have same other internal
indisposition besides his injured foot. If by ill luck he were to
become foundered or ill, everybody, even my parents, would throw the
blame on me, and yet I have been very careful and considerate of him.
My God, my Lord, Thou who canst do things both great and small,
remove from me this misfortune, and let him recover as quickly as
possible. If, however, Thou host willed otherwise, and if this fresh
trouble is to fall upon us, I will try to bear it with courage, and
as the expiation of same sin. Meanwhile, O my Gad, I leave this
matter in Thy hands, as I leave my life and my soul."
On the 20th of April he wrote:--
"The little horse is well; God has helped me."
German manners and customs are so different from ours, and contrasts
occur so frequently in the same man, on the other side of the Rhine,
that anything less than all the quotations which we have given would
have been insufficient to place before our readers a true idea of
that character made up of artlessness and reason, childishness and
strength, depression and enthusiasm, material details and poetic
ideas, which renders Sand a man incomprehensible to us. We will now
continue the portrait, which still wants a few finishing touches.
When he returned to Erlangen, after the completion of his "cure,"
Sand read Faust far the first time. At first he was amazed at that
work, which seemed to him an orgy of genius; then, when he had
entirely finished it, he reconsidered his first impression, and
"Oh, horrible struggle of man and devil! What Mephistopheles is in
me I feel far the first time in this hour, and I feel it, O God, with
"About eleven at night I finished reading the tragedy, and I felt and
saw the fiend in myself, so that by midnight, amid my tears and
despair, I was at last frightened at myself."
Sand was falling by degrees into a deep melancholy, from which
nothing could rouse him except his desire to purify and preach
morality to the students around him. To anyone who knows university
life such a task will seem superhuman. Sand, however, was not
discouraged, and if he could not gain an influence over everyone, he
at least succeeded in forming around him a considerable circle of the
most intelligent and the best; nevertheless, in the midst of these
apostolic labours strange longings for death would overcome him; he
seemed to recall heaven and want to return to it; he called these
temptations "homesickness for the soul's country."
His favourite authors were Lessing, Schiller, Herder, and Goethe;
after re-reading the two last for the twentieth time, this is what he
"Good and evil touch each other; the woes of the young Werther and
Weisslingen's seduction, are almost the same story; no matter, we
must not judge between what is good and what is evil in others; for
that is what God will do. I have just been spending much time over
this thought, and have become convinced that in no circumstances
ought we to allow ourselves to seek for the devil in others, and that
we have no right to judge; the only creature over wham we have
received the power to judge and condemn is ourself, and that gives us
enough constant care, business, and trouble.
"I have again to-day felt a profound desire to quit this world and
enter a higher world; but this desire is rather dejection than
strength, a lassitude than an upsoaring."
The year 1816 was spent by Sand in these pious attempts upon his
young comrades, in this ceaseless self-examination, and in the
perpetual battle which he waged with the desire for death that
pursued him; every day he had deeper doubts of himself; and on the
1st of January, 1817, he wrote this prayer in his diary :--
"Grant to me, O Lord, to me whom Thou halt endowed, in sending me on
earth, with free will, the grace that in this year which we are now
beginning I may never relax this constant attention, and not
shamefully give up the examination of my conscience which I have
hitherto made. Give me strength to increase the attention which I
turn upon my own life, and to diminish that which I turn upon the
life of others; strengthen my will that it may become powerful to
command the desires of the body and the waverings of the soul; give
me a pious conscience entirely devoted to Thy celestial kingdom, that
I may always belong to Thee, or after failing, may be able to return
Sand was right in praying to God for the year 1817, and his fears
were a presentiment: the skies of Germany, lightened by Leipzig and
Waterloo, were once more darkened; to the colossal and universal
despotism of Napoleon succeeded the individual oppression of those
little princes who made up the Germanic Diet, and all that the
nations had gained by overthrowing the giant was to be governed by
dwarfs. This was the time when secret societies were organised
throughout Germany; let us say a few words about them, for the
history that we are writing is not only that of individuals, but also
that of nations, and every time that occasion presents itself we will
give our little picture a wide horizon.
The secret societies of Germany, of which, without knowing them, we
have all heard, seem, when we follow them up, like rivers, to
originate in some sort of affiliation to those famous clubs of the
'i1lumines' and the freemasons which made so much stir in France at
the close of the eighteenth century. At the time of the revolution
of '89 these different philosophical, political, and religious sects
enthusiastically accepted the republican doctrines, and the successes
of our first generals have often been attributed to the secret
efforts of the members. When Bonaparte, who was acquainted with
these groups, and was even said to have belonged to them, exchanged
his general's uniform for an emperor's cloak, all of them,
considering him as a renegade and traitor, not only rose against him
at home, but tried to raise enemies against him abroad; as they
addressed themselves to noble and generous passions, they found a
response, and princes to whom their results might be profitable
seemed for a moment to encourage them. Among others, Prince Louis of
Prussia was grandmaster of one of these societies.
The attempted murder by Stops, to which we have already referred, was
one of the thunderclaps of the storm; but its morrow brought the
peace of Vienna, and the degradation of Austria was the death-blow of
the old Germanic organisation. These societies, which had received a
mortal wound in 1806 and were now controlled by the French police,
instead of continuing to meet in public, were forced to seek new
members in the dark. In 1811 several agents of these societies were
arrested in Berlin, but the Prussian authorities, following secret
orders of (Queen Louisa, actually protected them, so that they were
easily able to deceive the French police about their intentions.
About February 1815 the disasters of the French army revived the
courage of these societies, for it was seen that God was helping
their cause: the students in particular joined enthusiastically in
the new attempts that were now begun; many colleges enrolled
themselves almost entire, anal chose their principals and professors
as captains; the poet, Korner, killed on the 18th of October at
Liegzig, was the hero of this campaign.
The triumph of this national movement, which twice carried the
Prussian army--largely composed of volunteers--to Paris, was
followed, when the treaties of 1815 and the new Germanic constitution
were made known, by a terrible reaction in Germany. All these young
men who, exiled by their princes, had risen in the name of liberty,
soon perceived that they had been used as tools to establish European
despotism; they wished to claim the promises that had been made, but
the policy of Talleyrand and Metternich weighed on them, and
repressing them at the first words they uttered, compelled them to
shelter their discontent and their hopes in the universities, which,
enjoying a kind of constitution of their own, more easily escaped the
investigations made by the spies of the Holy Alliance; but, repressed
as they were, these societies continued nevertheless to exist, and
kept up communications by means of travelling students, who, bearing
verbal messages, traversed Germany under the pretence of botanising,
and, passing from mountain to mountain, sowed broadcast those
luminous and hopeful words of which peoples are always greedy and
kings always fear.
We have seen that Sand, carried away by the general movement, had
gone through the campaign of 1815 as a volunteer, although he was
then only nineteen years old. On his return, he, like others, had
found his golden hopes deceived, and it is from this period that we
find his journal assuming the tone of mysticism and sadness which our
readers must have remarked in it. He soon entered one of these
associations, the Teutonia; and from that moment, regarding the great
cause which he had taken up as a religious one, he attempted to make
the conspirators worthy of their enterprise, and thus arose his
attempts to inculcate moral doctrines, in which he succeeded with
some, but failed with the majority. Sand had succeeded, however, in
forming around him a certain circle of Puritans, composed of about
sixty to eighty students, all belonging to the group of the
'Burschenschaft' which continued its political and religious course
despite all the jeers of the opposing group--the 'Landmannschaft'.
One of his friends called Dittmar and he were pretty much the chiefs,
and although no election had given them their authority, they
exercised so much influence upon what was decided that in any
particular case their fellow-adepts were sure spontaneously to obey
any impulse that they might choose to impart. The meetings of the
Burschen took place upon a little hill crowned by a ruined castle,
which was situated at some distance from Erlangen, and which Sand and
Dittmar had called the Ruttli, in memory of the spot where Walter
Furst, Melchthal, and Stauffacher had made their vow to deliver their
country; there, under the pretence of students' games, while they
built up a new house with the ruined fragments, they passed
alternately from symbol to action and from action to symbol.
Meanwhile the association was making such advances throughout Germany
that not only the princes and kings of the German confederation, but
also the great European powers, began to be uneasy. France sent
agents to bring home reports, Russia paid agents on the spot, and the
persecutions that touched a professor and exasperated a whole
university often arose from a note sent by the Cabinet of the
Tuileries or of St. Petersburg.
It was amid the events that began thus that Sand, after commending
himself to the protection of God, began the year 1817, in the sad
mood in which we have just seen him, and in which he was kept rather
by a disgust for things as they were than by a disgust for life. On
the 8th of May, preyed upon by this melancholy, which he cannot
conquer, and which comes from the disappointment of all his political
hopes, he writes in his diary:
"I shall find it impassible to set seriously to work, and this idle
temper, this humour of hypochondria which casts its black veil over
everything in life,--continues and grows in spite of the moral
activity which I imposed on myself yesterday."
In the holidays, fearing to burden his parents with any additional
expense, he will not go home, and prefers to make a walking tour with
his friends. No doubt this tour, in addition to its recreative side,
had a political aim. Be that as it may, Sand's diary, during the
period of his journey, shows nothing but the names of the towns
through which he passed. That we may have a notion of Sand's
dutifulness to his parents, it should be said that he did not set out
until he had obtained his mother's permission. On their return,
Sand, Dittmar, and their friends the Burschen, found their Ruttli
sacked by their enemies of the Landmannschaft; the house that they
had built was demolished and its fragments dispersed. Sand took this
event for an omen, and was greatly depressed by it.
"It seems to me, O my God!" he says in his journal, "that everything
swims and turns around me. My soul grows darker and darker; my moral
strength grows less instead of greater; I work and cannot achieve;
walk towards my aim and do not reach it; exhaust myself, and do
nothing great. The days of life flee one after another; cares and
uneasiness increase; I see no haven anywhere for our sacred German
cause. The end will be that we shall fall, for I myself waver. O
Lord and Father! protect me, save me, and lead me to that land from
which we are for ever driven back by the indifference of wavering
About this time a terrible event struck Sand to the heart; his friend
Dittmar was drowned. This is what he wrote in his diary on the very
morning of the occurrence:
"Oh, almighty God! What is going to become of me? For the last
fortnight I have been drawn into disorder, and have not been able to
compel myself to look fixedly either backward or forward in my life,
so that from the 4th of June up to the present hour my journal has
remained empty. Yet every day I might have had occasion to praise
Thee, O my God, but my soul is in anguish. Lord, do not turn from
me; the more are the obstacles the more need is there of strength."
In the evening he added these few words to the lines that he had
written in the morning:--
"Desolation, despair, and death over my friend, over my very deeply
This letter which he wrote to his family contains the account of the
"You know that when my best friends, A., C., and Z., were gone, I
became particularly intimate with my well-beloved Dittmar of Anspach;
Dittmar, that is to say a true and worthy German, an evangelical
Christian, something more, in short, than a man! An angelic soul,
always turned toward the good, serene, pious, and ready for action;
he had come to live in a room next to mine in Professor Grunler's
house; we loved each other, upheld each other in our efforts, and,
well or ill, bare our good or evil fortune in common. On this last
spring evening, after having worked in his room and having
strengthened ourselves anew to resist all the torments of life and to
advance towards the aim that we desired to attain; we went, about
seven in the evening, to the baths of Redwitz. A very black storm
was rising in the sky, but only as yet appeared on the horizon. E.,
who was with us, proposed to go home, but Dittmar persisted, saying
that the canal was but a few steps away. God permitted that it
should not be I who replied with these fatal words. So he went on.
The sunset was splendid: I see it still; its violet clouds all
fringed with gold, for I remember the smallest details of that
"Dittmar went down first; he was the only one of us who knew how to
swim; so he walked before us to show us the depth. The water was
about up to our chests, and he, who preceded us, was up to his
shoulders, when he warned us not to go farther, because he was
ceasing to feel the bottom. He immediately gave up his footing and
began to swim, but scarcely had he made ten strokes when, having
reached the place where the river separates into two branches, he
uttered a cry, and as he was trying to get a foothold, disappeared.
We ran at once to the bank, hoping to be able to help him more
easily; but we had neither poles nor ropes within reach, and, as I
have told you, neither of us could swim. Then we called for help
with all our might. At that moment Dittmar reappeared, and by an
unheard-of effort seized the end of a willow branch that was hanging
over the water; but the branch was not strong enough to resist, and
our friend sank again, as though he had been struck by apoplexy. Can
you imagine the state in which we were, we his friends, bending over
the river, our fixed and haggard eyes trying to pierce its depth? My
God, my God! how was it we did not go mad?
"A great crowd, however, had run at our cries. For two hours they
sought far him with boats and drag-hooks; and at last they succeeded
in drawing his body from the gulf. Yesterday we bore it solemnly to
the field of rest.
"Thus with the end of this spring has begun the serious summer of my
life. I greeted it in a grave and melancholy mood, and you behold me
now, if not consoled, at least strengthened by religion, which,
thanks to the merits of Christ, gives me the assurance of meeting my
friend in heaven, from the heights of which he will inspire me with
strength to support the trials of this life; and now I do not desire
anything more except to know you free from all anxiety in regard to
Instead of serving to unite the two groups of students in a common
grief, this accident, on the contrary, did but intensify their hatred
of each other. Among the first persons who ran up at the cries of
Sand and his companion was a member of the Landmannschaft who could
swim, but instead of going to Dittmar's assistance he exclaimed, "It
seems that we shall get rid of one of these dogs of Burschen; thank
God!" Notwithstanding this manifestation of hatred, which, indeed,
might be that of an individual and not of the whole body, the
Burschen invited their enemies to be present at Dittmar's funeral.
A brutal refusal, and a threat to disturb the ceremony by insults to
the corpse, formed their sole reply. The Burschen then warned the
authorities, who took suitable measures, and all Dittmar's friends
followed his coffin sword in hand. Beholding this calm but resolute
demonstration, the Landmannschaft did not dare to carry out their
threat, and contented themselves with insulting the procession by
laughs and songs.
Sand wrote in his journal:
"Dittmar is a great loss to all of us, and particularly to me; he
gave me the overflow of his strength and life; he stopped, as it
were, with an embankment, the part of my character that is irresolute
and undecided. From him it is that I have learned not to dread the
approaching storm, and to know how to fight and die."
Some days after the funeral Sand had a quarrel about Dittmar with one
of his former friends, who had passed over from the Burschen to the
Landmannschaft, and who had made himself conspicuous at the time of
the funeral by his indecent hilarity. It was decided that they
should fight the next day, and on the same day Sand wrote in his
"To-morrow I am to fight with P. G.; yet Thou knowest, O my God, what
great friends we formerly were, except for a certain mistrust with
which his coldness always inspired me; but on this occasion his
odious conduct has caused me to descend from the tenderest pity to
the profoundest hatred.
"My God, do not withdraw Thy hand either from him or from me, since
we are both fighting like men! Judge only by our two causes, and
give the victory to that which is the more just. If Thou shouldst
call me before Thy supreme tribunal, I know very well that I should
appear burdened with an eternal malediction; and indeed it is not
upon myself that I reckon but upon the merits of our Saviour Jesus
"Come what may, be praised and blessed, O my God!
"My dear parents, brothers, and friends, I commend you to the
protection of God."
Sand waited in vain for two hours next day: his adversary did not
come to the meeting place.
The loss of Dittmar, however, by no means produced the result upon
Sand that might have been expected, and that he himself seems to
indicate in the regrets he expressed for him. Deprived of that
strong soul upon which he rested, Sand understood that it was his
task by redoubled energy to make the death of Dittmar less fatal to
his party. And indeed he continued singly the work of drawing in
recruits which they had been carrying on together, and the patriotic
conspiracy was not for a moment impeded.
The holidays came, and Sand left Erlangen to return no more. From
Wonsiedel he was to proceed to Jena, in order to complete his
theological studies there. After some days spent with his family,
and indicated in his journal as happy, Sand went to his new place of
abode, where he arrived some time before the festival of the
Wartburg. This festival, established to celebrate the anniversary of
the battle of Leipzig, was regarded as a solemnity throughout
Germany, and although the princes well knew that it was a centre for
the annual renewal of affiliation to the various societies, they
dared not forbid it. Indeed, the manifesto of the Teutonic
Association was exhibited at this festival and signed by more than
two thousand deputies from different universities in Germany. This
was a day of joy for Sand; for he found in the midst of new friends a
great number of old ones.
The Government, however, which had not 'dared to attack the
Association by force, resolved to undermine it by opinion. M. de
Stauren published a terrible document, attacking the societies, and
founded, it was said, upon information furnished by Kotzebue. This
publication made a great stir, not only at Jena, but throughout all
Germany. Here is the trace of this event that we find in Sand's
"Today, after working with much ease and assiduity, I went out about
four with E. As we crossed the market-place we heard Kotzebue's new
and venomous insult read. By what a fury that man is possessed
against the Burschen and against all who love Germany!"
Thus far the first time and in these terms Sand's journal presents
the name of the man who, eighteen months later, he was to slay.
The Government, however, which had not 'dared to attack the
Association by force, resolved to undermine it by opinion. M. de
Stauren published a terrible document, attacking the societies, and
founded, it was said, upon information furnished by Kotzebue. This
publication made a great stir, not only at Jena, but throughout all
Germany. Here is the trace of this event that we find in Sand's
"To-day, after working with much ease and assiduity, I went out about
four with E. As we crossed the market-place we heard Kotzebue's new
and venomous insult read. By what a fury that man is possessed
against the Burschen and against all who love Germany!"
Thus for the first time and in these terms Sand's journal presents
the name of the man who, eighteen months later, he was to slay.
On the 29th, in the evening, Sand writes again:
"To-morrow I shall set out courageously and joyfully from this place
for a pilgrimage to Wonsiedel; there I shall find my large-hearted
mother and my tender sister Julia; there I shall cool my head and
warm my heart. Probably I shall be present at my good Fritz's
marriage with Louisa, and at the baptism of my very dear Durchmith's
first-born. God, O my Father, as Thou hast been with me during my
sad course, be with me still on my happy road."
This journey did in fact greatly cheer Sand. Since Dittmar's death
his attacks of hypochondria had disappeared. While Dittmar lived he
might die; Dittmar being dead, it was his part to live.
On the 11th of December he left Wonsiedel, to return to Jena, and on
the 31st of the same month he wrote this prayer in his journal.
"O merciful Saviour! I began this year with prayer, and in these
last days I have been subject to distraction and ill-disposed. When
I look backward, I find, alas! that I have not become better; but I
have entered more profoundly into life, and, should occasion present,
I now feel strength to act.
"It is because Thou hast always been with me, Lord, even when I was
not with Thee."
If our readers have followed with some attention the different
extracts from the journal that we have placed before them, they must
have seen Sand's resolution gradually growing stronger and his brain
becoming excited. From the beginning of the year 1818, one feels his
view, which long was timid and wandering, taking in a wider horizon
and fixing itself on a nobler aim. He is no longer ambitious of the
pastor's simple life or of the narrow influence which he might gain
in a little community, and which, in his juvenile modesty, had seemed
the height of good fortune and happiness; it is now his native land,
his German people, nay, all humanity, which he embraces in his
gigantic plans of political regeneration. Thus, on the flyleaf of
his journal for the year 1818, he writes:
"Lord, let me strengthen myself in the idea that I have conceived of
the deliverance of humanity by the holy sacrifice of Thy Son. Grant
that I may be a Christ of Germany, and that, like and through Jesus,
I may be strong and patient in suffering."
But the anti-republican pamphlets of Kotzebue increased in number and
gained a fatal influence upon the minds of rulers. Nearly all the
persons who were attacked in these pamphlets were known and esteemed
at Jena; and it may easily be comprehended what effects were produced
by such insults upon these young heads and noble hearts, which
carried conviction to the paint of blindness and enthusiasm to that
Thus, here is what Sand wrote in his diary on the 5th of May.
"Lord, what causes this melancholy anguish which has again taken
possession of me? But a firm and constant will surmounts everything,
and the idea of the country gives joy and courage to the saddest and
the weakest. When I think of that, I am always amazed that there is
none among us found courageous enough to drive a knife into the
breast of Kotzebue or of any other traitor."
Still dominated by the same thought, he continues thus on the i8th of
"A man is nothing in comparison with a nation; he is a unity compared
with millions, a minute compared with a century. A man, whom nothing
precedes and nothing follows, is born, lives, and dies in a longer or
shorter time, which, relatively to eternity, hardly equals the
duration of a lightning flash. A nation, on the contrary, is
>From time to time, however, amid these thoughts that bear the impress
of that political fatality which was driving him towards the deed of
bloodshed, the kindly and joyous youth reappears. On the 24th of
June he writes to his mother:--
"I have received your long and beautiful letter, accompanied by the
very complete and well-chosen outfit which you send me. The sight of
this fine linen gave me back one of the joys of my childhood. These
are fresh benefits. My prayers never remain unfulfilled, and I have
continual cause to thank you and God. I receive, all at once,
shirts, two pairs of fine sheets, a present of your work, and of
Julia's and Caroline's work, dainties and sweetmeats, so that I am
still jumping with joy and I turned three times on my heels when I
opened the little parcel. Receive the thanks of my heart, and share,
as giver, in the joy of him who has received.
"Today, however, is a very serious day, the last day of spring and
the anniversary of that on which I lost my noble and good Dittmar. I
am a prey to a thousand different and confused feelings; but I have
only two passions left in me which remain upright and like two
pillars of brass support this whole chaos--the thought of God and the
love of my country."
During all this time Sand's life remains apparently calm and equal;
the inward storm is calmed; he rejoices in his application to work
and his cheerful temper. However, from time to time, he makes great
complaints to himself of his propensity to love dainty food, which he
does not always find it possible to conquer. Then, in his
self-contempt, he calls himself "fig-stomach" or "cake-stomach." But
amid all this the religious and political exaltation and visits all
the battlefields near to the road that he follows. On the 18th of
October he is back at Jena, where he resumes his studies with more
application than ever. It is among such university studies that the
year 1818 closes far him, and we should hardly suspect the terrible
resolution which he has taken, were it not that we find in his
journal this last note, dated the 3lst of December:
"I finish the last day of this year 1818, then, in a serious and
solemn mood, and I have decided that the Christmas feast which has
just gone by will be the last Christmas feast that I shall celebrate.
If anything is to come of our efforts, if the cause of humanity is to
assume the upper hand in our country, if in this faithless epoch any
noble feelings can spring up afresh and make way, it can only happen
if the wretch, the traitor, the seducer of youth, the infamous
Kotzebue, falls! I am fully convinced of this, and until I have
accomplished the work upon which I have resolved, I shall have no
rest. Lord, Thou who knowest that I have devoted my life to this
great action, I only need, now that it is fixed in my mind, to beg of
Thee true firmness and courage of soul."
Here Sand's diary ends; he had begun it to strengthen himself; he had
reached his aim; he needed nothing more. From this moment he was
occupied by nothing but this single idea, and he continued slowly to
mature the plan in his head in order to familiarise himself with its
execution; but all the impressions arising from this thought remained
in his own mind, and none was manifested on the surface. To everyone
else he was the same; but for some little time past, a complete and
unaltered serenity, accompanied by a visible and cheerful return of
inclination towards life, had been noticed in him. He had made no
charge in the hours or the duration of his studies; but he had begun
to attend the anatomical classes very assiduously. One day he was
seen to give even more than his customary attention to a lesson in
which the professor was demonstrating the various functions of the
heart; he examined with the greatest care the place occupied by it in
the chest, asking to have some of the demonstrations repeated two or
three times, and when he went out, questioning some of the young men
who were following the medical courses, about the susceptibility of
the organ, which cannot receive ever so slight a blow without death
ensuing from that blow: all this with so perfect an indifference and
calmness that no one about him conceived any suspicion.
Another day, A. S., one of his friends, came into his room. Sand,
who had heard him coming up, was standing by the table, with a
paper-knife in his hand, waiting for him; directly the visitor came
in, Sand flung himself upon him, struck him lightly on the forehead;
and then, as he put up his hands to ward off the blow, struck him
rather more violently in the chest; then, satisfied with this
"You see, when you want to kill a man, that is the way to do it; you
threaten the face, he puts up his hands, and while he does so you
thrust a dagger into his heart."
The two young men laughed heartily over this murderous demonstration,
and A. S. related it that evening at the wine-shop as one of the
peculiarities of character that were common in his friend. After the
event, the pantomime explained itself.
The month of March arrived. Sand became day by day calmer, more
affectionate, and kinder; it might be thought that in the moment of
leaving his friends for ever he wished to leave them an ineffaceable
remembrance of him. At last he announced that on account of several
family affairs he was about to undertake a little journey, and set
about all his preparations with his usual care, but with a serenity
never previously seen in him. Up to that time he had continued to
work as usual, not relaxing for an instant; for there was a
possibility that Kotzebue might die or be killed by somebody else
before the term that Sand had fixed to himself, and in that case he
did not wish to have lost time. On the 7th of March he invited all
his friends to spend the evening with him, and announced his
departure for the next day but one, the 9th. All of them then
proposed to him to escort him for some leagues, but Sand refused; he
feared lest this demonstration, innocent though it were, might
compromise them later on. He set forth alone, therefore, after
having hired his lodgings for another half-year, in order to obviate
any suspicion, and went by way of Erfurt and Eisenach, in order to
visit the Wartburg. From that place he went to Frankfort, where he
slept on the 17th, and on the morrow he continued his journey by way
of Darmstadt. At last, on the 23rd, at nine in the morning, he
arrived at the top of the little hill where we found him at the
beginning of this narrative. Throughout the journey he had been the
amiable and happy young man whom no one could see without liking.
Having reached Mannheim, he took a room at the Weinberg, and wrote
his name as "Henry" in the visitors' list. He immediately inquired
where Kotzebue lived. The councillor dwelt near the church of the
Jesuits; his house was at the corner of a street, and though Sand's
informants could not tell him exactly the letter, they assured him it
was not possible to mistake the house. [At Mannheim houses are marked
by letters, not by numbers.]
Sand went at once to Kotzebue's house: it was about ten o'clock; he
was told that the councillor went to walk for an hour or two every
morning in the park of Mannheim. Sand inquired about the path in
which he generally walked, and about the clothes he wore, for never
having seen him he could only recognise him by the description.
Kotzebue chanced to take another path. Sand walked about the park
for an hour, but seeing no one who corresponded to the description
given him, went back to the house.
Kotzebue had come in, but was at breakfast and could not see him.
Sand went back to the Weinberg, and sat down to the midday table
d'hote, where he dined with an appearance of such calmness, and even
of such happiness, that his conversation, which was now lively, now
simple, and now dignified, was remarked by everybody. At five in the
afternoon he returned a third time to the house of Kotzebue, who was
giving a great dinner that day; but orders had been given to admit
Sand. He was shown into a little room opening out of the anteroom,
and a moment after, Kotzebue came in.
Sand then performed the drama which he had rehearsed upon his friend
A. S. Kotzebue, finding his face threatened, put his hands up to it,
and left his breast exposed; Sand at once stabbed him to the heart;
Kotzebue gave one cry, staggered, arid fell back into an arm-chair:
he was dead.
At the cry a little girl of six years old ran in, one of those
charming German children, with the faces of cherubs, blue-eyed, with
long flowing hair. She flung herself upon the body of Kotzebue,
calling her father with piercing cries. Sand, standing at the door,
could not endure this sight, and without going farther, he thrust the
dagger, still covered with Kotzebue's blood, up to the hilt into his
own breast. Then, seeing to his surprise that notwithstanding the
terrible wound--he had just given himself he did not feel the
approach of death, and not wishing to fall alive into the hands of
the servants who were running in, he rushed to the staircase. The
persons who were invited were just coming in; they, seeing a young
man, pale and bleeding with a knife in his breast, uttered loud
cries, and stood aside, instead of stopping him. Sand therefore
passed down the staircase and reached the street below; ten paces
off, a patrol was passing, on the way to relieve the sentinels at the
castle; Sand thought these men had been summoned by the cries that
followed him; he threw himself on his knees in the middle of the
street, and said, "Father, receive my soul!"
Then, drawing the knife from the wound, he gave himself a second blow
below the former, and fell insensible.
Sand was carried to the hospital and guarded with the utmost
strictness; the wounds were serious, but, thanks to the skill of the
physicians who were called in, were not mortal; one of them even
healed eventually; but as to the second, the blade having gone
between the costal pleura and the pulmonary pleura, an effusion of
blood occurred between the two layers, so that, instead of closing
the wound, it was kept carefully open, in order that the blood
extravasated during the night might be drawn off every morning by
means of a pump, as is done in the operation for empyaemia.
Notwithstanding these cares, Sand was for three months between life
When, on the 26th of March, the news of Kotzebue's assassination came
from Mannheim to Jena, the academic senate caused Sand's room to be
opened, and found two letters--one addressed to his friends of the
Burschenschaft, in which he declared that he no longer belonged to
their society, since he did not wish that their brotherhood should
include a man about to die an the scaffold. The other letter, which
bore this superscription, "To my nearest and dearest," was an exact
account of what he meant to do, and the motives which had made him
determine upon this act. Though the letter is a little long, it is
so solemn and so antique in spirit, that we do not hesitate to
present it in its entirety to our readers:--
"To all my own
"Loyal and eternally cherished souls
"Why add still further to your sadness? I asked myself, and I
hesitated to write to you; but my silence would have wounded the
religion of the heart; and the deeper a grief the more it needs,
before it can be blotted out, to drain to the dregs its cup of
bitterness. Forth from my agonised breast, then; forth, long and
cruel torment of a last conversation, which alone, however, when
sincere, can alleviate the pain of parting.
"This letter brings you the last farewell of your son and your
"The greatest misfortune of life far any generous heart is to see the
cause of God stopped short in its developments by our fault; and the
most dishonouring infamy would be to suffer that the fine things
acquired bravely by thousands of men, and far which thousands of men
have joyfully sacrificed themselves, should be no more than a
transient dream, without real and positive consequences. The
resurrection of our German life was begun in these last twenty years,
and particularly in the sacred year 1813, with a courage inspired by
God. But now the house of our fathers is shaken from the summit to
the base. Forward! let us raise it, new and fair, and such as the
true temple of the true God should be.
"Small is the number of those who resist, and who wish to oppose
themselves as a dyke against the torrent of the progress of higher
humanity among the German people. Why should vast whole masses bow
beneath the yoke of a perverse minority? And why, scarcely healed,
should we fall back into a worse disease than that which we are
"Many of these seducers, and those are the most infamous, are playing
the game of corruption with us; among them is Kotzebue, the most
cunning and the worst of all, a real talking machine emitting all
sorts of detestable speech and pernicious advice. His voice is
skillful in removing from us all anger and bitterness against the
most unjust measures, and is just such as kings require to put us to
sleep again in that old hazy slumber which is the death of nations.
Every day he odiously betrays his country, and nevertheless, despite
his treason, remains an idol for half Germany, which, dazzled by him,
accepts unresisting the poison poured out by him in his periodic
pamphlets, wrapped up and protected as he is by the seductive mantle
of a great poetic reputation. Incited by him, the princes of
Germany, who have forgotten their promises, will allow nothing free
or good to be accomplished; or if anything of the kind is
accomplished in spite of them, they will league themselves with the
French to annihilate it. That the history of our time may not be
covered with eternal ignominy, it is necessary that he should fall.
"I have always said that if we wish to find a great and supreme
remedy for the state of abasement in which we are, none must shrink
from combat nor from suffering; and the real liberty of the German
people will only be assured when the good citizen sets himself or
some other stake upon the game, and when every true son of the
country, prepared for the struggle for justice, despises the good
things of this world, and only desires those celestial good things
which death holds in charge.
"Who then will strike this miserable hireling, this venal traitor?
"I have long been waiting in fear, in prayer, and in tears--I who am
not born for murder--for some other to be beforehand with me, to set
me free, and suffer me to continue my way along the sweet and
peaceful path that I had chosen for myself. Well, despite my prayers
and my tears, he who should strike does not present himself; indeed,
every man, like myself, has a right to count upon some other, and
everyone thus counting, every hour's delay, but makes our state
worse; far at any moment--and how deep a shame would that be for us!
Kotzebue may leave Germany, unpunished, and go to devour in Russia
the treasures for which he has exchanged his honour, his conscience,
and his German name. Who can preserve us from this shame, if every
man, if I myself, do not feel strength to make myself the chosen
instrument of God's justice? Therefore, forward! It shall be I who
will courageously rush upon him (do not be alarmed), on him, the
loathsome seducer; it shall be I who will kill the traitor, so that
his misguiding voice, being extinguished, shall cease to lead us
astray from the lessons of history and from the Spirit of God. An
irresistible and solemn duty impels me to this deed, ever since I
have recognised to what high destinies the German; nation may attain
during this century, and ever since I have come to know the dastard
and hypocrite who alone prevents it from reaching them; for me, as
for every German who seeks the public good, this desire has became a
strict and binding necessity. May I, by this national vengeance,
indicate to all upright and loyal consciences where the true danger
lies, and save our vilified and calumniated societies from the
imminent danger that threatens them! May I, in short, spread terror
among the cowardly and wicked, and courage arid faith among the good!
Speeches and writings lead to nothing; only actions work.
"I will act, therefore; and though driven violently away from my fair
dreams of the future, I am none the less full of trust in God; I even
experience a celestial joy, now that, like the Hebrews when they
sought the promised land, I see traced before me, through darkness
and death, that road at the end of which I shall have paid my debt to
"Farewell, then, faithful hearts: true, this early separation is
hard; true, your hopes, like my wishes, are disappointed; but let us
be consoled by the primary thought that we have done what the voice
of our country called upon us to do; that, you knew, is the principle
according to which I have always lived. You will doubtless say among
yourselves, 'Yes, thanks to our sacrifices, he had learned to know
life and to taste the joys of earth, and he seemed: deeply to love
his native country and the humble estate to which he was called'.
Alas, yes, that is true! Under your protection, and amid your
numberless sacrifices, my native land and life had become profoundly
dear to me. Yes, thanks to you, I have penetrated into the Eden of
knowledge, and have lived the free life of thought; thanks to you, I
have looked into history, and have then returned to my own conscience
to attach myself to the solid pillars of faith in the Eternal.
"Yes, I was to pass gently through this life as a preacher of the
gospel; yes, in my constancy to my calling I was to be sheltered from
the storms of this existence. But would that suffice to avert the
danger that threatens Germany? And you yourselves, in your infinite
lave, should you not rather push me on to risk my life for the good
of all? So many modern Greeks have fallen already to free their
country from the yoke of the Turks, and have died almost without any
result and without any hope; and yet thousands of fresh martyrs keep
up their courage and are ready to fall in their turn; and should I,
then, hesitate to die?
"That I do not recognise your love, or that your love is but a
trifling consideration with me, you will not believe. What else
should impel me to die if not my devotion to you and to Germany, and
the need of proving this devotion to my family and my country?
"You, mother, will say, 'Why have I brought up a son whom I loved and
who loved me, for whom I have undergone a thousand cares and toils,
who, thanks to my prayers and my example, was impressionable to good
influences, and from whom, after my long and weary course, I hoped to
receive attentions like those which I have given him? Why does he
now abandon me?'
"Oh, my kind and tender mother! Yes, you will perhaps say that; but
could not the mother of anyone else say the same, and everything go
off thus in words when there is need to act for the country? And if
no one would act, what would become of that mother of us all who is
"But no; such complaints are far from you, you noble woman! I
understood your appeal once before, and at this present hour, if no
one came forward in the German cause, you yourself would urge me to
the fight. I have two brothers and two sisters before me, all noble
and loyal. They will remain to you, mother; and besides you will
have for sons all the children of Germany who love their country.
"Every man has a destiny which he has to accomplish: mine is devoted
to the action that I am about to undertake; if I were to live another
fifty years, I could not live more happily than I have done lately.
Farewell, mother: I commend you to the protection of God; may He
raise you to that joy which misfortunes can no longer trouble! Take
your grandchildren, to whom I should so much have liked to be a
loving friend, to the top of our beautiful mountains soon. There, on
that altar raised by the Lord Himself in the midst of Germany, let
them devote themselves, swearing to take up the sword as soon as they
have strength to lift it, and to lay it down only when our brethren
are all united in liberty, when all Germans, having a liberal
constitution; are great before the Lord, powerful against their
neighbours, and united among themselves.
"May my country ever raise her happy gaze to Thee, Almighty Father!
May Thy blessing fall abundantly upon her harvests ready to be cut
and her armies ready for battle, and recognising the blessings that
Thou host showered upon us, may the German nation ever be first among
nations to rise and uphold the cause of humanity, which is Thy image
"Your eternally attached son, brother and friend,
" KARL-LUDWIG SAND.
" JENA, the beginning of March, 1819."
Sand, who, as we have said, had at first been taken to the hospital,
was removed at the end of three months to the prison at Mannheim,
where the governor, Mr. G----, had caused a room to be prepared for
him. There he remained two months longer in a state of extreme
weakness: his left arm was completely paralysed; his voice was very
weak; every movement gave him horrible pain, and thus it was not
until the 11th of August--that is to say, five months after the event
that we have narrated--that he was able to write to his family the
MY VERY DEAR PARENTS:-- The grand-duke's commission of inquiry
informed me yesterday that it might be possible I should have the
intense joy of a visit from you, and that I might perhaps see you
here and embrace you--you, mother, and some of my brothers and
"Without being surprised at this fresh proof of your motherly love, I
have felt an ardent remembrance reawaken of the happy life that we
spent gently together. Joy and grief, desire and sacrifice, agitate
my heart violently, and I have had to weigh these various impulses
one against the other, and with the force of reason, in order to
resume mastery of myself and to take a decision in regard to my
"The balance has inclined in the direction of sacrifice.
"You know, mother, how much joy and courage a look from your eyes,
daily intercourse with you, and your pious and high-minded
conversation, might bring me during my very short time. But you also
know my position, and you are too well acquainted with the natural
course of all these painful inquiries, not to feel as I do, that such
annoyance, continually recurring, would greatly trouble the pleasure
of our companionship, if it did not indeed succeed in entirely
destroying it. Then, mother, after the long and fatiguing journey
that you would be obliged to make in order to see me, think of the
terrible sorrow of the farewell when the moment came to part in this
world. Let us therefore abide by the sacrifice, according to God's
will, and let us yield ourselves only to that sweet community of
thought which distance cannot interrupt, in which I find my only
joys, and which, in spite of men, will always be granted us by the
Lord, our Father.
"As for my physical state, I knew nothing about it. You see,
however, since at last I am writing to you myself, that I have come
past my first uncertainties. As for the rest, I know too little of
the structure of my own body to give any opinion as to what my wounds
may determine for it. Except that a little strength has returned to
me, its state is still the same, and I endure it calmly and
patiently; for God comes to my help, and gives me courage and
firmness. He will help me, believe me, to find all the joys of the
soul and to be strong in mind. Amen.
"May you live happy!--Your deeply respectful son,
A month after this letter came tender answers from all the family.
We will quote only that of Sand's mother, because it completes the
idea which the reader may have formed already of this great-hearted
woman, as her son always calls her.
"DEAR, INEXPRESSIBLY DEAR KARL,--How Sweet it was to me to see the
writing of your beloved hand after so long a time! No journey would
have been so painful and no road so long as to prevent me from coming
to you, and I would go, in deep and infinite love, to any end of the
earth in the mere hope of catching sight of you.
"But, as I well know both your tender affection and your profound
anxiety for me, and as you give me, so firmly and upon such manly
reflection, reasons against which I can say nothing, and which I can
but honour, it shall be, my well-beloved Karl, as you have wished and
decided. We will continue, without speech, to communicate our
thoughts; but be satisfied, nothing can separate us; I enfold you in
my soul, and my material thoughts watch over you.
"May this infinite love which upholds us, strengthens us, and leads
us all to a better life, preserve, dear Karl, your courage and
"Farewell, and be invariably assured that I shall never cease to love
you strongly and deeply.
"Your faithful mother, who loves you to eternity.
January 1820, from my isle of Patmos.
"MY DEAR PARENTS, BROTHERS, AND SISTERS,--
In the middle of the month of September last year I received, through
the grand-duke's special commission of inquiry, whose humanity you
have already appreciated, your dear letters of the end of August and
the beginning of September, which had such magical influence that
they inundated me with joy by transporting me into the inmost circle
of your hearts.
"You, my tender father, you write to me on the sixty-seventh
anniversary of your birth, and you bless me by the outpouring of your
most tender love.
"You, my well-beloved mother, you deign to promise the continuance of
your maternal affection, in which I have at all times constantly
believed; and thus I have received the blessings of both of you,
which, in my present position, will exercise a more beneficent
influence upon me than any of the things that all the kings of the
earth, united together, could grant me. Yes, you strengthen me
abundantly by your blessed love, and I render thanks to you, my
beloved parents, with that respectful submission that my heart will
always inculcate as the first duty of a son.
"But the greater your love and the more affectionate your letters,
the more do I suffer, I must acknowledge, from the voluntary
sacrifice that we have imposed upon ourselves in not seeing one
another; and the only reason, my dear parents, why I have delayed to
reply to you, was to give myself time to recover the strength which I
"You too, dear brother-in-law and dear sister, assure me of your
sincere and uninterrupted attachment. And yet, after the fright that
I have spread among you all, you seem not to know exactly what to
think of me; but my heart, full of gratitude for your past kindness,
comforts itself ; for your actions speak and tell me that, even if
you wished no longer to love me as I love you, you would not be able
to do otherwise. These actions mean more to me at this hour than any
possible protestations, nay, than even the tenderest words.
"And you also, my kind brother, you would have consented to hurry
with our beloved mother to the shores of the Rhine, to this place
where the real links of the soul were welded between us, where we
were doubly brothers; but tell me, are you not really here, in
thought and in spirit, when I consider the rich fountain of
consolation brought me by your cordial and tender letter?
"And, you, kind sister-in-law, as you showed yourself from the first,
in your delicate tenderness, a true sister, so I find you again at
present. There are still the same tender relations, still the same
sisterly affection; your consolations, which emanate from a deep and
submissive piety, have fallen refreshingly into the depths of my
heart. But, dear sister-in-law, I must tell you, as well as the
others, that you are too liberal towards me in dispensing your esteem
and praises, and your exaggeration has cast me back face to face with
my inmost judge, who has shown me in the mirror of my conscience the
image of my every weakness.
"You, kind Julia, you desire nothing else but to save me from the
fate that awaits me; and you assure me in your own name and in that
of you all, that you, like the others, would rejoice to endure it in
my place; in that I recognise you fully, and I recognise, too, those
sweet and tender relations in which we have been brought up from
childhood. Oh, be comforted, dear Julia; thanks to the protection of
God, I promise you: that it will be easy for me, much easier than I
should have thought, to bear what falls to my lot. Receive, then,
all of you, my warm and sincere thanks for having thus rejoiced my
"Now that I know from these strengthening letters that, like the
prodigal son, the love and goodness of my family are greater on my
return than at my departure, I will, as carefully as possible, paint
for you my physical and moral state, and I pray God to supplement my
words by His strength, so that my letter may contain an equivalent of
what yours brought to me, and may help you to reach that state of
calm and serenity to which I have myself attained.
"Hardened, by having gained power over myself, against the good and
ill of this earth, you knew already that of late years I have lived
only for moral joys, and I must say that, touched by my efforts,
doubtless, the Lord, who is the sacred fount of all that is good, has
rendered me apt in seeking them and in tasting them to the full. God
is ever near me, as formerly, and I find in Him the sovereign
principle of the creation of all things; in Him, our holy Father, not
only consolation and strength, but an unalterable Friend, full of the
holiest love, who will accompany me in all places where I may need
His consolations. Assuredly, if He had turned from me, or if I had
turned away my eyes from Him, I should now find myself very
unfortunate and wretched; but by His grace, on the contrary, lowly
and weak creature as I am, He makes me strong and powerful against
whatever can befall me.
"What I have hitherto revered as sacred, what I have desired as good
what I have aspired to as heavenly, has in no respect changed now.
And I thank God for it, for I should now be in great despair if I
were compelled to recognise that my heart had adored deceptive images
and enwrapped itself in fugitive chimeras. Thus my faith in these
ideas and my pure love far them, guardian angels of my spirit as they
are, increase moment by moment, and will go on increasing to my end,
and I hope that I may pass all the more easily from this world into
eternity. I pass my silent life in Christian exaltation and
humility, and I sometimes have those visions from above through which
I have, from my birth, adored heaven upon earth, and which give me
power to raise myself to the Lord upon the eager wings of my prayers.
My illness, though long, painful, and cruel, has always been
sufficiently mastered by my will to let me busy myself to some result
with history, positive sciences, and the finer parts of religious
education, and when my suffering became more violent and for a time
interrupted these occupations, I struggled successfully,
nevertheless, against ennui; for the memories of the past, my
resignation to the present, and my faith in the future were rich
enough and strong enough in me and round me to prevent my falling
from my terrestrial paradise. According to my principles, I would
never, in the position in which I am and in which I have placed
myself, have been willing to ask anything for my own comfort; but so
much kindness and care have been lavished upon me, with so much
delicacy and humanity,--which alas! I am unable to return--by every
person with whom I have been brought into contact, that wishes which
I should not have dared to frame in the mast private recesses of my
heart have been more than exceeded. I have never been so much
overcome by bodily pains that I could not say within myself, while I
lifted my thoughts to heaven, 'Come what may of this ray.' And great
as these gains have been, I could not dream of comparing them with
those sufferings of the soul that we feel so profoundly and
poignantly in the recognition of our weaknesses and faults.
"Moreover, these pains seldom now cause me to lose consciousness; the
swelling and inflammation never made great headway, and the fever has
always been moderate, though for nearly ten months I have been forced
to remain lying on my back, unable to raise myself, and although more
than forty pints of matter have come from my chest at the place where
the heart is. No, an the contrary, the wound, though still open, is
in a good state; and I owe that not only to the excellent nursing
around me, but also to the pure blood that I received from you, my
mother. Thus I have lacked neither earthly assistance nor heavenly
encouragement. Thus, on the anniversary of my birth, I had every
reason--oh, not to curse the hour in which I was born, but, on the
contrary, after serious contemplation of the world, to thank God and
you, my dear parents, for the life that you have given me! I
celebrated it, on the 18th of October, by a peaceful and ardent
submission to the holy will of God. On Christmas Day I tried to put
myself into the temper of children who are devoted to the Lord; and
with God's help the new year will pass like its predecessor, in
bodily pain, perhaps, but certainly in spiritual joy. And with this
wish, the only one that I form, I address myself to you, my dear
parents, and to you and yours, my dear brothers and sisters.
"I cannot hope to see a twenty-fifth new year; so may the prayer that
I have just made be granted! May this picture of my present state
afford you some tranquillity, and may this letter that I write to you
from the depths of my heart not only prove to you that I am not
unworthy of the inexpressible love that you all display, but, on the
contrary, ensure this love to me for eternity.
"Within the last few days I have also received your dear letter of
the 2nd of December, my kind mother, and the grind-duke's commission
has deigned to let me also read my kind brother's letter which
accompanied yours. You give me the best of news in regard to the
health of all of you, and send me preserved fruits from our dear
home. I thank you for them from the bottom of my heart. What causes
me most joy in the matter is that you have been solicitously busy
about me in summer as in winter, and that you and my dear Julia
gathered them and prepared them for me at home, and I abandon my
whole soul to that sweet enjoyment.
"I rejoice sincerely at my little cousin's coming into the world; I
joyfully congratulate the good parents and the grandparents; I
transport myself, for his baptism, into that beloved parish, where I
offer him my affection as his Christian brother, and call down on him
all the blessings of heaven.
"We shall be obliged, I think, to give up this correspondence, so as
not to inconvenience the grand-duke's commission. I finish,
therefore, by assuring you, once more, but for the last time,
perhaps, of my profound filial submission and of my fraternal
affection.--Your most tenderly attached
Indeed, from that moment all correspondence between Karl and his
family ceased, and he only wrote to them, when he knew his fate, one
more letter, which we shall see later on.
We have seen by what attentions Sand was surrounded; their humanity
never flagged for an instant. It is the truth, too, that no one saw
in him an ordinary murderer, that many pitied him under their breath,
and that some excused him aloud. The very commission appointed by
the grand-duke prolonged the affair as much as possible; for the
severity of Sand's wounds had at first given rise to the belief that
there would be no need of calling in the executioner, and the
commission was well pleased that God should have undertaken the
execution of the judgment. But these expectations were deceived: the
skill of the doctor defeated, not indeed the wound, but death: Sand
did not recover, but he remained alive; and it began to be evident
that it would be needful to kill him.
Indeed, the Emperor Alexander, who had appointed Kotzebue his
councillor, and who was under no misapprehension as to the cause of
the murder, urgently demanded that justice should take its course.
The commission of inquiry was therefore obliged to set to work; but
as its members were sincerely desirous of having some pretext to
delay their proceedings, they ordered that a physician from
Heidelberg should visit Sand and make an exact report upon his case;
as Sand was kept lying down and as he could not be executed in his
bed, they hoped that the physician's report, by declaring it
impossible for the prisoner to rise, would come to their assistance
and necessitate a further respite.
The chosen doctor came accordingly to Mannheim, and introducing
himself to Sand as though attracted by the interest that he inspired,
asked him whether he did not feel somewhat better, and whether it
would be impossible to rise. Sand looked at him for an instant, and
then said, with a smile--
"I understand, sir; they wish to know whether I am strong enough to
mount a scaffold: I know nothing about it myself, but we will make
the experiment together."
With these words he rose, and accomplishing, with superhuman courage,
what he had not attempted for fourteen months, walked twice round the
room, came back to his bed, upon which he seated himself, and said
"You see, sir, I am strong enough; it would therefore be wasting
precious time to keep my judges longer about my affair; so let them
deliver their judgment, for nothing now prevents its execution."
The doctor made his report; there was no way of retreat; Russia was
becoming more and more pressing, and an the 5th of May 1820 the high
court of justice delivered the following judgment, which was
confirmed on the 12th by His Royal Highness the Grand-Duke of Baden:
"In the matters under investigation and after administration of the
interrogatory and hearing the defences, and considering the united
opinions of the court of justice at Mannheim and the further
consultations of the court of justice which declare the accused, Karl
Sand of Wonsiedel, guilty of murder, even on his own confession, upon
the person of the Russian imperial Councillor of State, Kotzebue; it
is ordered accordingly, for his just punishment and for an example
that may deter other people, that he is to be put from life to death
by the sword.
"All the costs of these investigations, including these occasioned by
his public execution, will be defrayed from the funds of the law
department, on account of his want of means."
We see that, though it condemned the accused to death, which indeed
could hardly be avoided, the sentence was both in form and substance
as mild as possible, since, though Sand was convicted, his poor
family was not reduced by the expenses of a long and costly trial to
Five days were still allowed to elapse, and the verdict was not
announced until the 17th. When Sand was informed that two
councillors of justice were at the door, he guessed that they were
coming to read his sentence to him; he asked a moment to rise, which
he had done but once before, in the instance already narrated, during
fourteen months. And indeed he was so weak that he could not stand
to hear the sentence, and after having greeted the deputation that
death sent to him, he asked to sit down, saying that he did so not
from cowardice of soul but from weakness of body; then he added, "You
are welcome, gentlemen; far I have suffered so much for fourteen
months past that you come to me as angels of deliverance."
He heard the sentence quite unaffectedly and with a gentle smile upon
his lips; then, when the reading was finished, he said--
"I look for no better fate, gentlemen, and when, more than a year
ago, I paused on the little hill that overlooks the town, I saw
beforehand the place where my grave would be; and so I ought to thank
God and man far having prolonged my existence up to to-day."
The councillors withdrew; Sand stood up a second time to greet them
on their departure, as he had done on their entrance; then he sat
down again pensively in his chair, by which Mr. G, the governor of
the prison, was standing. After a moment of silence, a tear appeared
at each of the condemned man's eyelids, and ran down his cheeks;
then, turning suddenly to Mr. G----, whom he liked very much, he
said, "I hope that my parents would rather see me die by this violent
death than of some slow and shameful disease. As for me, I am glad
that I shall soon hear the hour strike in which my death will satisfy
those who hate me, and those wham, according to my principles, I
ought to hate."
Then he wrote to his family.
"17th of the month of spring, 1820
"DEAR PARENTS, BROTHERS, AND SISTERS,--You should have received my
last letters through the grand-duke's commission; in them I answered
yours, and tried to console you for my position by describing the
state of my soul as it is, the contempt to which I have attained for
everything fragile and earthly, and by which one must necessarily be
overcome when such matters are weighed against the fulfilment of an
idea, or that intellectual liberty which alone can nourish the soul;
in a word, I tried to console you by the assurance that the feelings,
principles, and convictions of which I formerly spoke are faithfully
preserved in me and have remained exactly the same; but I am sure all
this was an unnecessary precaution on my part, for there was never a
time when you asked anything else of me than to have God before my
eyes and in my heart; and you have seen how, under your guidance,
this precept so passed into my soul that it became my sole object of
happiness for this world and the next; no doubt, as He was in and
near me, God will be in and near you at the moment when this letter
brings you the news of my sentence. I die willingly, and the Lord
will give me strength to die as one ought to die.
"I write to you perfectly quiet and calm about all things, and I hope
that your lives too will pass calmly and tranquilly until the moment
when our souls meet again full of fresh force to love one another and
to share eternal happiness together.
"As for me, such as I have lived as long as I have known myself--that
is to say, in a serenity full of celestial desires and a courageous
and indefatigable love of liberty, such I am about to die.
"May God be with you and with me!--Your son, brother, and friend,
>From that moment his serenity remained un troubled; during the whole
day he talked more gaily than usual, slept well, did not awake until
half-past seven, said that he felt stronger, and thanked God for
visiting him thus.
The nature of the verdict had been known since the day before, and it
had been learned that the execution was fixed for the 20th of May
--that is to say, three full days after the sentence had been read to
Henceforward, with Sand's permission, persons who wished to speak to
him and whom he was not reluctant to see, were admitted: three among
these paid him long and noteworthy visits.
One was Major Holzungen, of the Baden army, who was in command of the
patrol that had arrested him, or rather picked him up, dying, and
carried him to the hospital. He asked him whether he recognised him,
and Sand's head was so clear when he stabbed himself, that although
he saw the major only for a moment and had never seen him again
since, he remembered the minutest details of the costume which he had
been wearing fourteen months previously, and which was the full-dress
uniform. When the talk fell upon the death to which Sand was to
submit at so early an age, the major pitied him; but Sand answered,
with a smile, "There is only one difference between you and me,
major; it is that I shall die far my convictions, and you will die
for someone else's convictions."
After the major came a young student from Jena whom Sand had known at
the university. He happened to be in the duchy of Baden and wished
to visit him. Their recognition was touching, and the student wept
much; but Sand consoled him with his usual calmness and serenity.
Then a workman asked to be admitted to see Sand, on the plea that he
had been his schoolfellow at Wonsiedel, and although he did not
remember his name, he ordered him to be let in: the workman reminded
him that he had been one of the little army that Sand had commanded
on the day of the assault of St. Catherine's tower. This indication
guided Sand, who recognised him perfectly, and then spoke with tender
affection of his native place and his dear mountains. He further
charged him to greet his family, and to beg his mother, father,
brothers, and sisters once more not to be grieved on his account,
since the messenger who undertook to deliver his last wards could
testify in how calm and joyful a temper he was awaiting death.
To this workman succeeded one of the guests whom Sand had met on the
staircase directly after Kotzebue's death. He asked him whether he
acknowledged his crime and whether he felt any repentance. Sand
replied, "I had thought about it during a whole year. I have been
thinking of it for fourteen months, and my opinion has never varied
in any respect: I did what I should have done."
After the departure of this last visitor, Sand sent for Mr. G----,
the governor of the prison, and told him that he should like to talk
to the executioner before the execution, since he wished to ask for
instructions as to how he should hold himself so as to render the
operation most certain and easy. Mr. G---- made some objections, but
Sand insisted with his usual gentleness, and Mr. G---- at last
promised that the man in question should be asked to call at the
prison as soon as he arrived from Heidelberg, where he lived.
The rest of the day was spent in seeing more visitors and in
philosophical and moral talks, in which Sand developed his social and
religious theories with a lucidity of expression and an elevation of
thought such as he had, perhaps, never before shown. The governor of
the prison from whom I heard these details, told me that he should
all his life regret that he did not know shorthand, so that he might
have noted all these thoughts, which would have formed a pendant to
Night came. Sand spent part of the evening writing; it is thought
that he was composing a poem; but no doubt he burned it, for no trace
of it was found. At eleven he went to bed, and slept until six in
the morning. Next day he bore the dressing of his wound, which was
always very painful, with extraordinary courage, without fainting, as
he sometimes did, and without suffering a single complaint to escape
him: he had spoken the truth; in the presence of death God gave him
the grace of allowing his strength to return. The operation was
over; Sand was lying down as usual, and Mr. G---- was sitting on the
foot of his bed, when the door opened and a man came in and bowed to
Sand and to Mr. G----. The governor of the prison immediately stood
up, and said to Sand in a voice the emotion of which he could not
conceal, "The person who is bowing to you is Mr. Widemann of
Heidelberg, to whom you wished to speak."
Then Sand's face was lighted up by a strange joy; he sat up and said,
"Sir, you are welcome." Then, making his visitor sit down by his
bed, and taking his hand, he began to thank him for being so
obliging, and spoke in so intense a tone and so gentle a voice, that
Mr. Widemann, deeply moved, could not answer. Sand encouraged him to
speak and to give him the details for which he wished, and in order
to reassure him, said, "Be firm, sir; for I, on my part, will not
fail you: I will not move; and even if you should need two or three
strokes to separate my head from my body, as I am told is sometimes
the case, do not be troubled on that account."
Then Sand rose, leaning on Mr. G----, to go through with the
executioner the strange and terrible rehearsal of the drama in which
he was to play the leading part on the morrow. Mr. Widemann made him
sit in a chair and take the required position, and went into all the
details of the execution with him. Then Sand, perfectly instructed,
begged him not to hurry and to take his time. Then he thanked him
beforehand; "for," added he, "afterwards I shall not be able." Then
Sand returned to his bed, leaving the executioner paler and more
trembling than himself. All these details have been preserved by Mr.
G----; for as to the executioner, his emotion was so great that he
could remember nothing.
After Mr. Widemann, three clergymen were introduced, with whom Sand
conversed upon religious matters: one of them stayed six hours with
him, and on leaving him told him that he was commissioned to obtain
from him a promise of not speaking to the people at the place of
execution. Sand gave the promise, and added, "Even if I desired to
do so, my voice has become so weak that people could not hear it."
Meanwhile the scaffold was being erected in the meadow that extends
on the left of the road to Heidelberg. It was a platform five to six
feet high and ten feet wide each way. As it was expected that,
thanks to the interest inspired by the prisoner and to the nearness
to Whitsuntide, the crowd would be immense, and as some movement from
the universities was apprehended, the prison guards had been trebled,
and General Neustein had been ordered to Mannheim from Carlsruhe,
with twelve hundred infantry, three hundred and fifty cavalry, and a
company of artillery with guns.
On, the afternoon of the 19th there arrived, as had been foreseen, so
many students, who took up their abode in the neighbouring villages,
that it was decided to put forward the hour of the execution, and to
let it take place at five in the morning instead of at eleven, as had
been arranged. But Sand's consent was necessary for this; for he
could not be executed until three full days after the reading of his
sentence, and as the sentence had not been read to him till half-past
ten Sand had a right to live till eleven o'clock.
Before four in the morning the officials went into the condemned
man's room; he was sleeping so soundly that they were obliged to
awaken him. He opened his eyes with a smile, as was his custom, and
guessing why they came, asked, "Can I have slept so well that it is
already eleven in the morning?" They told him that it was not, but
that they had come to ask his permission to put forward the time;
for, they told him, same collision between the students and the
soldiers was feared, and as the military preparations were very
thorough, such a collision could not be otherwise than fatal to his
friends. Sand answered that he was ready that very moment, and only
asked time enough to take a bath, as the ancients were accustomed to
do before going into battle. But as the verbal authorisation which
he had given was not sufficient, a pen and paper were given to Sand,
and he wrote, with a steady hand and in his usual writing:
"I thank the authorities of Mannheim for anticipating my most eager
wishes by making my execution six hours earlier.
"Sit nomen Domini benedictum.
"From the prison room, May 20th, day of my deliverance.
When Sand had given these two lines to the recorder, the physician
came to him to dress his wound, as usual. Sand looked at him with a
smile, and then asked, "Is it really worth the trouble?"
"You will be stronger for it," answered the physician.
"Then do it," said Sand.
A bath was brought. Sand lay down in it, and had his long and
beautiful hair arranged with the greatest care; then his toilet being
completed, he put on a frock-coat of the German shape--that is to
say, short and with the shirt collar turned back aver the shoulders,
close white trousers, and high boots. Then Sand seated himself on
his bed and prayed some time in a low voice with the clergy; then,
when he had finished, he said these two lines of Korner's :
"All that is earthly is ended,
And the life of heaven begins."
He next took leave of the physician and the priests, saying to them,
"Do not attribute the emotion of my voice to weakness but to
gratitude." Then, upon these gentlemen offering to accompany him to
the scaffold, he said, "There is no need; I am perfectly prepared, at
peace with God and with my conscience. Besides, am I not almost a
Churchman myself?" And when one of them asked whether he was not
going out of life in a spirit of hatred, he returned, "Why, good
heavens! have I ever felt any?"
An increasing noise was audible from the street, and Sand said again
that he was at their disposal and that he was ready. At this moment
the executioner came in with his two assistants; he was dressed in a
long wadded black coat, beneath which he hid his sword. Sand offered
him his hand affectionately; and as Mr. Widemann, embarrassed by the
sword which he wished to keep Sand from seeing, did not venture to
come forward, Sand said to him, "Come along and show me your sword; I
have never seen one of the kind, and am curious to know what it is
Mr. Widemann, pale and trembling, presented the weapon to him; Sand
examined it attentively, and tried the edge with his finger.
"Come," said he, "the blade is good; do not tremble, and all will go
well." Then, turning to Mr. G----, who was weeping, he said to him,
"You will be good enough, will you not, to do me the service of
leading me to the scaffold?"
Mr. G---- made a sign of assent with his head, for he could not
answer. Sand took his arm, and spoke for the third time, saying once
more, "Well, what are you waiting for, gentlemen? I am ready."
When they reached the courtyard, Sand saw all the prisoners weeping
at their windows. Although he had never seen them, they were old
friends of his; for every time they passed his door, knowing that the
student who had killed Kotzebue lay within, they used to lift their
chain, that he might not be disturbed by the noise.
All Mannheim was in the streets that led to the place of execution,
and many patrols were passing up and down. On the day when the
sentence was announced the whole town had been sought through for a
chaise in which to convey Sand to the scaffold, but no one, not even
the coach-builders, would either let one out or sell one; and it had
been necessary, therefore, to buy one at Heidelberg without saying
for what purpose.
Sand found this chaise in the courtyard, and got into it with Mr. G-
---. Turning to him, he whispered in his ear, " Sir, if you see me
turn pale, speak my name to me, my name only, do you hear? That will
The prison gate was opened, and Sand was seen; then every voice cried
with one impulse, "Farewell, Sand, farewell!"
And at the same time flowers, some of which fell into the carriage,
were thrown by the crowd that thronged the street, and from the
windows. At these friendly cries and at this spectacle, Sand, who
until then had shown no moment of weakness, felt tears rising in
spite of himself, and while he returned the greetings made to him on
all sides, he murmured in a low voice, "O my God, give me courage!"
This first outburst over, the procession set out amid deep silence;
only now and again same single voice would call out, "Farewell,
Sand!" and a handkerchief waved by some hand that rose out of the
crowd would show from what paint the last call came. On each side of
the chaise walked two of the prison officials, and behind the chaise
came a second conveyance with the municipal authorities.
The air was very cold: it had rained all night, and the dark and
cloudy sky seemed to share in the general sadness. Sand, too weak to
remain sitting up, was half lying upon the shoulder of Mr. G-----,
his companion; his face was gentle, calm and full of pain; his brow
free and open, his features, interesting though without regular
beauty, seemed to have aged by several years during the fourteen
months of suffering that had just elapsed. The chaise at last
reached the place of execution, which was surrounded by a battalion
of infantry; Sand lowered his eyes from heaven to earth and saw the
scaffold. At this sight he smiled gently, and as he left the
carriage he said, "Well, God has given me strength so far."
The governor of the prison and the chief officials lifted him that he
might go up the steps. During that short ascent pain kept him bowed,
but when he had reached the top he stood erect again, saying, "Here
then is the place where I am to die!"
Then before he came to the chair on which he was to be seated for the
execution, he turned his eyes towards Mannheim, and his gaze
travelled over all the throng that surrounded him; at that moment a
ray of sunshine broke through the clouds. Sand greeted it with a
smile and sat down.
Then, as, according to the orders given, his sentence was to be read
to him a second time, he was asked whether he felt strong enough to
hear it standing. Sand answered that he would try, and that if his
physical strength failed him, his moral strength would uphold him.
He rose immediately from the fatal chair, begging Mr. G----to stand
near enough to support him if he should chance to stagger. The
precaution was unnecessary, Sand did not stagger.
After the judgment had been read, he sat down again and said in a
laud voice, "I die trusting in God."
But at these words Mr. G------ interrupted him.
"Sand," said he, "what did you promise?"
"True," he answered; "I had forgotten." He was silent, therefore, to
the crowd; but, raising his right hand and extending it solemnly in
the air, he said in a low voice, so that he might be heard only by
those who were around him, "I take God to witness that I die for the
freedom of Germany."
Then, with these words, he did as Conradin did with his glove; he
threw his rolled-up handkerchief over the line of soldiers around
him, into the midst of the people.
Then the executioner came to cut off his hair; but Sand at first
"It is for your mother," said Mr. Widemann.
"On your honour, sir?" asked Sand.
"On my honour."
"Then do it," said Sand, offering his hair to the executioner.
Only a few curls were cut off, those only which fell at the back, the
others were tied with a ribbon on the top of the head. The
executioner then tied his hands on his breast, but as that position
was oppressive to him and compelled him an account of his wound to
bend his head, his hands were laid flat on his thighs and fixed in
that position with ropes. Then, when his eyes were about to be
bound, he begged Mr. Widemann to place the bandage in such a manner
that he could see the light to his last moment. His wish was
Then a profound and mortal stillness hovered over the whole crowd and
surrounded the scaffold. The executioner drew his sword, which
flashed like lightning and fell. Instantly a terrible cry rose at
once from twenty thousand bosoms; the head had not fallen, and though
it had sunk towards the breast still held to the neck. The
executioner struck a second time, and struck off at the same blow the
head and a part of the hand.
In the same moment, notwithstanding the efforts of the soldiers,
their line was broken through; men and women rushed upon the
scaffold, the blood was wiped up to the last drop with handkerchiefs;
the chair upon which Sand had sat was broken and divided into pieces,
and those who could not obtain one, cut fragments of bloodstained
wood from the scaffold itself.
The head and body were placed in a coffin draped with black, and
carried back, with a large military escort, to the prison. At
midnight the body was borne silently, without torches or lights, to
the Protestant cemetery, in which Kotzebue had been buried fourteen
months previously. A grave had been mysteriously dug; the coffin was
lowered into it, and those who were present at the burial were sworn
upon the New Testament not to reveal the spot where Sand was buried
until such time as they were freed from their oath. Then the grave
was covered again with the turf, that had been skilfully taken off,
and that was relaid on the same spat, so that no new grave could be
perceived; then the nocturnal gravediggers departed, leaving guards
at the entrance.
There, twenty paces apart, Sand and Kotzebue rest: Kotzebue opposite
the gate in the most conspicuous spot of the cemetery, and beneath a
tomb upon which is engraved this inscription:
"The world persecuted him without pity,
Calumny was his sad portion,
He found no happiness save in the arms of his wife,
And no repose save in the bosom of death.
Envy dogged him to cover his path with thorns,
Love bade his roses blossom;
May Heaven pardon him
As he pardons earth!"
In contrast with this tall and showy monument, standing, as we have
said, in the most conspicuous spot of the cemetery, Sand's grave must
be looked far in the corner to the extreme left of the entrance gate;
and a wild plum tree, some leaves of which every passing traveller
carries away, rises alone upon the grave, which is devoid of any
As far the meadow in which Sand was executed, it is still called by
the people "Sand's Himmelsfartsweise," which signifies "The manner of
Toward the end of September, 1838, we were at Mannheim, where I had
stayed three days in order to collect all the details I could find
about the life and death of Karl-Ludwig Sand. But at the end of
these three days, in spite of my active investigations, these details
still remained extremely incomplete, either because I applied in the
wrong quarters, or because, being a foreigner, I inspired same
distrust in those to whom I applied. I was leaving Mannheim,
therefore, somewhat disappointed, and after having visited the little
Protestant cemetery where Sand and Kotzebue are buried at twenty
paces from each other, I had ordered my driver to take the road to
Heidelberg, when, after going a few yards, he, who knew the object of
my inquiries, stopped of himself and asked me whether I should not
like to see the place where Sand was executed. At the same time he
pointed to a little mound situated in the middle of a meadow and a
few steps from a brook. I assented eagerly, and although the driver
remained on the highroad with my travelling companions, I soon
recognised the spot indicated, by means of some relics of cypress
branches, immortelles, and forget-me-nots scattered upon the earth.
It will readily be understood that this sight, instead of diminishing
my desire for information, increased it. I was feeling, then, more
than ever dissatisfied at going away, knowing so little, when I saw a
man of some five-and-forty to fifty years old, who was walking a
little distance from the place where I myself was, and who, guessing
the cause that drew me thither, was looking at me with curiosity.
I determined to make a last effort, and going up to him, I said, "Oh,
sir, I am a stranger; I am travelling to collect all the rich and
poetic traditions of your Germany. By the way in which you look at
me, I guess that you know which of them attracts me to this meadow.
Could you give me any information about the life and death of Sand?"
"With what object, sir?" the person to whom I spoke asked me in
almost unintelligible French.
"With a very German object, be assured, sir," I replied. "From the
little I have learned, Sand seems to me to be one of those ghosts
that appear only the greater and the more poetic for being wrapped in
a shroud stained with blood. But he is not known in France; he might
be put on the same level there with a Fieschi or a Meunier, and I
wish, to the best of my ability, to enlighten the minds of my
countrymen about him."
"It would be a great pleasure to me, sir, to assist in such an
undertaking; but you see that I can scarcely speak French; you do not
speak German at all; so that we shall find it difficult to understand
"If that is all," I returned, "I have in my carriage yonder an
interpreter, or rather an interpretress, with whom you will, I hope,
be quite satisfied, who speaks German like Goethe, and to whom, when
you have once begun to speak to her, I defy you not to tell
"Let us go, then, sir," answered the pedestrian. "I ask no better
than to be agreeable to you."
We walked toward the carriage, which was still waiting on the
highroad, and I presented to my travelling companion the new recruit
whom I had just gained. The usual greetings were exchanged, and the
dialogue began in the purest Saxon. Though I did not understand a
word that was said, it was easy for me to see, by the rapidity of the
questions and the length of the answers, that the conversation was
most interesting. At last, at the end of half an hours growing
desirous of knowing to what point they had come, I said, "Well?"
"Well," answered my interpreter, "you are in luck's way, and you
could not have asked a better person."
"The gentleman knew Sand, then?"
"The gentleman is the governor of the prison in which Sand was
"For nine months--that is to say, from the day he left the hospital--
this gentleman saw him every day."
"But that is not all: this gentleman was with him in the carriage
that took him to execution; this gentleman was with him on the
scaffold; there's only one portrait of Sand in all Mannheim, and this
gentleman has it."
I was devouring every word; a mental alchemist, I was opening my
crucible and finding gold in it.
"Just ask," I resumed eagerly, "whether the gentleman will allow us
to take down in writing the particulars that he can give me."
My interpreter put another question, then, turning towards me, said,
Mr. G---- got into the carriage with us, and instead of going on to
Heidelberg, we returned to Mannheim, and alighted at the prison.
Mr. G--- did not once depart from the ready kindness that he had
shown. In the most obliging manner, patient over the minutest
trifles, and remembering most happily, he went over every
circumstance, putting himself at my disposal like a professional
guide. At last, when every particular about Sand had been sucked
dry, I began to ask him about the manner in which executions were
performed. "As to that," said he, "I can offer you an introduction
to someone at Heidelberg who can give you all the information you can
wish for upon the subject."
I accepted gratefully, and as I was taking leave of Mr. G----, after
thanking him a thousand times, he handed me the offered letter. It
bore this superscription : "To Herr-doctor Widemann, No. III High
I turned to Mr. G---- once more.
"Is he, by chance, a relation of the man who executed Sand? "I asked.
"He is his son, and was standing by when the head fell.".
"What is his calling, then?"
"The same as that of his father, whom he succeeded."
"But you call him 'doctor'?"
"Certainly; with us, executioners have that title."
"But, then, doctors of what?"
"Really?" said I. "With us it is just the contrary; surgeons are
"You will find him, moreover," added Mr. G----, "a very
distinguished young man, who, although he was very young at that
time, has retained a vivid recollection of that event. As for his
poor father, I think he would as willingly have cut off his own right
hand as have executed Sand; but if he had refused, someone else would
have been found. So he had to do what he was ordered to do, and he
did his best."
I thanked Mr. G----, fully resolving to make use of his letter, and
we left for Heidelberg, where we arrived at eleven in the evening.
My first visit next day was to Dr. Widernann. It was not without
some emotion, which, moreover, I saw reflected upon, the faces of my
travelling companions, that I rang at the door of the last judge, as
the Germans call him. An old woman opened the door to us, and
ushered us into a pretty little study, on the left of a passage and
at the foot of a staircase, where we waited while Mr. Widemann
finished dressing. This little room was full of curiosities,
madrepores, shells, stuffed birds, and dried plants; a double-
barrelled gun, a powder-flask, and a game-bag showed that Mr.
Widemann was a hunter.
After a moment we heard his footstep, and the door opened. Mr.
Widemann was a very handsome young man, of thirty or thirty-two, with
black whiskers entirely surrounding his manly and expressive face;
his morning dress showed a certain rural elegance. He seemed at
first not only embarrassed but pained by our visit. The aimless
curiosity of which he seemed to be the object was indeed odd. I
hastened to give him Mr. G -'s letter and to tell him what reason
brought me. Then he gradually recovered himself, and at last showed
himself no less hospitable and obliging towards us than he to whom we
owed the introduction had been, the day before.
Mr. Widemann then gathered together all his remembrances; he, too,
had retained a vivid recollection of Sand, and he told us among other
things that his father, at the risk of bringing himself into ill
odour, had asked leave to have a new scaffold made at his own
expense, so that no other criminal might be executed upon the altar
of the martyr's death. Permission had been given, and Mr. Widemann
had used the wood of the scaffold for the doors and windows of a
little country house standing in a vineyard. Then for three or four
years this cottage became a shrine for pilgrims; but after a time,
little by little, the crowd grew less, and at the present day, when
some of those who wiped the blood from the scaffold with their
handkerchiefs have became public functionaries, receiving salaries
from Government, only foreigners ask, now and again, to see these
Mr. Widemann gave me a guide; for, after hearing everything, I wanted
to see everything. The house stands half a league away from
Heidelberg, on the left of the road to Carlsruhe, and half-way up the
mountain-side. It is perhaps the only monument of the kind that
exists in the world.
Our readers will judge better from this anecdote than from anything
more we could say, what sort of man he was who left such a memory in
the hearts of his gaoler and his executioner.
On Sunday, the 26th of November, 1631, there was great excitement in
the little town of Loudun, especially in the narrow streets which led
to the church of Saint-Pierre in the marketplace, from the gate of
which the town was entered by anyone coming from the direction of the
abbey of Saint-Jouin-les-Marmes. This excitement was caused by the
expected arrival of a personage who had been much in people's mouths
latterly in Loudun, and about whom there was such difference of
opinion that discussion on the subject between those who were on his
side and those who were against him was carried on with true
provincial acrimony. It was easy to see, by the varied expressions
on the faces of those who turned the doorsteps into improvised
debating clubs, how varied were the feelings with which the man would
be welcomed who had himself formally announced to friends and enemies
alike the exact date of his return.
About nine o'clock a kind of sympathetic vibration ran through the
crowd, and with the rapidity of a flash of lightning the words,
"There he is! there he is!" passed from group to group. At this cry
some withdrew into their houses and shut their doors and darkened
their windows, as if it were a day of public mourning, while others
opened them wide, as if to let joy enter. In a few moments the
uproar and confusion evoked by the news was succeeded by the deep
silence of breathless curiosity.
Then, through the silence, a figure advanced, carrying a branch of
laurel in one hand as a token of triumph. It was that of a young man
of from thirty-two to thirty-four years of age, with a graceful and
well-knit frame, an aristocratic air and faultlessly beautiful
features of a somewhat haughty expression. Although he had walked
three leagues to reach the town, the ecclesiastical garb which he
wore was not only elegant but of dainty freshness. His eyes turned
to heaven, and singing in a sweet voice praise to the Lord, he passed
through the streets leading to the church in the market-place with a
slow and solemn gait, without vouchsafing a look, a word, or a
gesture to anyone. The entire crowd, falling into step, marched
behind him as he advanced, singing like him, the singers being the
prettiest girls in Loudun, for we have forgotten to say that the
crowd consisted almost entirely of women.
Meanwhile the object of all this commotion arrived at length at the
porch of the church of Saint-Pierre. Ascending the steps, he knelt
at the top and prayed in a low voice, then rising he touched the
church doors with his laurel branch, and they opened wide as if by
magic, revealing the choir decorated and illuminated as if for one of
the four great feasts of the year, and with all its scholars, choir
boys, singers, beadles, and vergers in their places. Glancing
around, he for whom they were waiting came up the nave, passed
through the choir, knelt for a second time at the foot of the altar,
upon which he laid the branch of laurel, then putting on a robe as
white as snow and passing the stole around his neck, he began the
celebration of the mass before a congregation composed of all those
who had followed him. At the end of the mass a Te Deum was sung.
He who had just rendered thanks to God for his own victory with all
the solemn ceremonial usually reserved for the triumphs of kings was
the priest Urbain Grandier. Two days before, he had been acquitted,
in virtue of a decision pronounced by M. d'Escoubleau de Sourdis,
Archbishop of Bordeaux, of an accusation brought against him of which
he had been declared guilty by a magistrate, and in punishment of
which he had been condemned to fast on bread and water every Friday
for three months, and forbidden to exercise his priestly functions in
the diocese of Poitiers for five years and in the town of Loudun for
These are the circumstances under which the sentence had been passed
and the judgment reversed.
Urbain Grandier was born at Rovere, a village near Sable, a little
town of Bas-Maine. Having studied the sciences with his father
Pierre and his uncle Claude Grandier, who were learned astrologers
and alchemists, he entered, at the age of twelve, the Jesuit college
at Bordeaux, having already received the ordinary education of a
young man. The professors soon found that besides his considerable
attainments he had great natural gifts for languages and oratory;
they therefore made of him a thorough classical scholar, and in order
to develop his oratorical talent encouraged him to practise
preaching. They soon grew very fond of a pupil who was likely to
bring them so much credit, and as soon as he was old enough to take
holy orders they gave him the cure of souls in the parish of Saint-
Pierre in Loudun, which was in the gift of the college. When he had
been some months installed there as a priest-in-charge, he received a
prebendal stall, thanks to the same patrons, in the collegiate church
It is easy to understand that the bestowal of these two positions on
so young a man, who did not even belong to the province, made him
seem in some sort a usurper of rights and privileges belonging to the
people of the country, and drew upon him the envy of his brother-
ecclesiastics. There were, in fact, many other reasons why Urbain
should be an object of jealousy to these: first, as we have already
said, he was very handsome, then the instruction which he had
received from his father had opened the world of science to him and
given him the key to a thousand things which were mysteries to the
ignorant, but which he fathomed with the greatest ease. Furthermore,
the comprehensive course of study which he had followed at the Jesuit
college had raised him above a crowd of prejudices, which are sacred
to the vulgar, but for which he made no secret of his contempt; and
lastly, the eloquence of his sermons had drawn to his church the
greater part of the regular congregations of the other religious
communities, especially of the mendicant orders, who had till then,
in what concerned preaching, borne away the palm at Loudun. As we
have said, all this was more than enough to excite, first jealousy,
and then hatred. And both were excited in no ordinary degree.
We all know how easily the ill-natured gossip of a small town can
rouse the angry contempt of the masses for everything which is beyond
or above them. In a wider sphere Urbain would have shone by his many
gifts, but, cooped up as he was within the walls of a little town and
deprived of air and space, all that might have conduced to his
success in Paris led to his destruction at Loudun.
It was also unfortunate for Urbain that his character, far from
winning pardon for his genius, augmented the hatred which the latter
inspired. Urbain, who in his intercourse with his friends was
cordial and agreeable, was sarcastic, cold, and haughty to his
enemies. When he had once resolved on a course, he pursued it
unflinchingly; he jealously exacted all the honour due to the rank at
which he had arrived, defending it as though it were a conquest; he
also insisted on enforcing all his legal rights, and he resented the
opposition and angry words of casual opponents with a harshness which
made them his lifelong enemies.
The first example which Urbain gave of this inflexibility was in
1620, when he gained a lawsuit against a priest named Meunier. He
caused the sentence to be carried out with such rigour that he awoke
an inextinguishable hatred in Meunier's mind, which ever after burst
forth on the slightest provocation.
A second lawsuit, which he likewise gained; was one which he
undertook against the chapter of Sainte-Croix with regard to a house,
his claim to which the chapter, disputed. Here again he displayed
the same determination to exact his strict legal rights to the last
iota, and unfortunately Mignon, the attorney of the unsuccessful
chapter, was a revengeful, vindictive, and ambitious man; too
commonplace ever to arrive at a high position, and yet too much above
his surroundings to be content with the secondary position which he
occupied. This man, who was a canon of the collegiate church of
Sainte-Croix and director of the Ursuline convent, will have an
important part to play in the following narrative. Being as
hypocritical as Urbain was straightforward, his ambition was to gain
wherever his name was known a reputation for exalted piety; he
therefore affected in his life the asceticism of an anchorite and the
self-denial of a saint. As he had much experience in ecclesiastical
lawsuits, he looked on the chapter's loss of this one, of which he
had in some sort guaranteed the success, as a personal humiliation,
so that when Urbain gave himself airs of triumph and exacted the last
letter of his bond, as in the case of Meunier, he turned Mignon into
an enemy who was not only more relentless but more dangerous than the
In the meantime, and in consequence of this lawsuit, a certain Barot,
an uncle of Mignon and his partner as well, got up a dispute with
Urbain, but as he was a man below mediocrity, Urbain required in
order to crush him only to let fall from the height of his
superiority a few of those disdainful words which brand as deeply as
a red-hot iron. This man, though totally wanting in parts, was very
rich, and having no children was always surrounded by a horde of
relatives, every one of whom was absorbed in the attempt to make
himself so agreeable that his name would appear in Barot's will.
This being so, the mocking words which were rained down on Barot
spattered not only himself but also all those who had sided with him
in the quarrel, and thus added considerably to the tale of Urbain's
About this epoch a still graver event took place. Amongst the most
assiduous frequenters of the confessional in his church was a young
and pretty girl, Julie by name, the daughter of the king's attorney,
Trinquant--Trinquant being, as well as Barot, an uncle of Mignon.
Now it happened that this young girl fell into such a state of
debility that she was obliged to keep her room. One of her friends,
named Marthe Pelletier, giving up society, of which she was very
fond, undertook to nurse the patient, and carried her devotion so far
as to shut herself up in the same room with her. When Julie
Trinquant had recovered and was able again to take her place in the
world, it came out that Marthe Pelletier, during her weeks of
retirement, had given birth to a child, which had been baptized and
then put out to nurse. Now, by one of those odd whims which so often
take possession of the public mind, everyone in Loudun persisted in
asserting that the real mother of the infant was not she who had
acknowledged herself as such--that, in short, Marthe Pelletier had
sold her good name to her friend Julie for a sum of money; and of
course it followed as a matter about which there could be no possible
doubt, that Urbain was the father.
Trinquant hearing of the reports about his daughter, took upon
himself as king's attorney to have Marthe Pelletier arrested and
imprisoned. Being questioned about the child, she insisted that she
was its mother, and would take its maintenance upon herself. To have
brought a child into the world under such circumstances was a sin,
but not a crime; Trinquant was therefore obliged to set Marthe at
liberty, and the abuse of justice of which he was guilty served only
to spread the scandal farther and to strengthen the public in the
belief it had taken up.
Hitherto, whether through the intervention of the heavenly powers, or
by means of his own cleverness, Urbain Grandier had come out victor
in every struggle in which he had engaged, but each victor had added
to the number of his enemies, and these were now so numerous that any
other than he would have been alarmed, and have tried either to
conciliate them or to take precautions against their malice; but
Urbain, wrapped in his pride, and perhaps conscious of his innocence,
paid no attention to the counsels of his most faithful followers, but
went on his way unheeding.
All the opponents whom till now Urbain had encountered had been
entirely unconnected with each other, and had each struggled for his
own individual ends. Urbain's enemies, believing that the cause of
his success was to be found in the want of cooperation among
themselves, now determined to unite in order to crush him. In
consequence, a conference was held at Barot's, at which, besides
Barot himself, Meunier, Trinquant, and Mignon took part, and the
latter had also brought with him one Menuau, a king's counsel and his
own most intimate friend, who was, however, influenced by other
motives than friendship in joining the conspiracy. The fact was,
that Menuau was in love with a woman who had steadfastly refused to
show him any favour, and he had got firmly fixed in his head that the
reason for her else inexplicable indifference and disdain was that
Urbain had been beforehand with him in finding an entrance to her
heart. The object of the meeting was to agree as to the best means
of driving the common enemy out of Loudon and its neighbourhood.
Urbain's life was so well ordered that it presented little which his
enemies could use as a handle for their purpose. His only foible
seemed to be a predilection for female society; while in return all
the wives and daughters of the place, with the unerring instinct of
their sex, seeing, that the new priest was young, handsome, and
eloquent, chose him, whenever it was possible, as their spiritual
director. As this preference had already offended many husbands and
fathers, the decision the conspirators arrived at was that on this
side alone was Grandier vulnerable, and that their only chance of
success was to attack him where he was weakest. Almost at once,
therefore, the vague reports which had been floating about began to
attain a certain definiteness: there were allusions made, though no
name was mentioned, to a young girl in Loudun; who in spite of
Grandier's frequent unfaithfulness yet remained his mistress-in-
chief; then it began to be whispered that the young girl, having had
conscientious scruples about her love for Urbain, he had allayed them
by an act of sacrilege--that is to say, he had, as priest, in the
middle of the night, performed the service of marriage between
himself and his mistress. The more absurd the reports, the more
credence did they gain, and it was not long till everyone in Loudun
believed them true, although no one was able to name the mysterious
heroine of the tale who had had the courage to contract a marriage
with a priest; and considering how small Loudun was, this was most
Resolute and full of courage as was Grandier, at length he could not
conceal from himself that his path lay over quicksands: he felt that
slander was secretly closing him round, and that as soon as he was
well entangled in her shiny folds, she would reveal herself by
raising her abhorred head, and that then a mortal combat between them
would begin. But it was one of his convictions that to draw back was
to acknowledge one's guilt; besides, as far as he was concerned, it
was probably too late for him to retrace his steps. He therefore
went on his way, as unyielding, as scornful, and as haughty as ever.
Among those who were supposed to be most active in spreading the
slanders relative to Urbain was a man called Duthibaut, a person of
importance in the province, who was supposed by the townspeople to
hold very advanced views, and who was a "Sir Oracle" to whom the
commonplace and vulgar turned for enlightenment. Some of this man's
strictures on Grandier were reported to the latter, especially some
calumnies to which Duthibaut had given vent at the Marquis de
Bellay's; and one day, Grandier, arrayed in priestly garments, was
about to enter the church of Sainte-Croix to assist in the service,
he encountered Duthibaut at the entrance, and with his usual haughty
disdain accused him of slander. Duthibaut, who had got into the
habit of saying and doing whatever came into his head without fear of
being called to account, partly because of his wealth and partly
because of the influence he had gained over the narrow-minded, who
are so numerous in a small provincial town, and who regarded him as
being much above them, was so furious at this public reprimand, that
he raised his cane and struck Urbain.
The opportunity which this affront afforded Grandier of being
revenged on all his enemies was too precious to be neglected, but,
convinced, with too much reason, that he would never obtain justice
from the local authorities, although the respect due to the Church
had been infringed, in his person he decided to appeal to King Louis
XIII, who deigned to receive him, and deciding that the insult
offered to a priest robed in the sacred vestments should be expiated,
sent the cause to the high court of Parliament, with instructions
that the case against Duthibaut should be tried and decided there.
Hereupon Urbain's enemies saw they had no time to lose, and took
advantage of his absence to make counter accusations against him.
Two worthies beings, named Cherbonneau and Bugrau, agreed to become
informers, and were brought before the ecclesiastical magistrate at
Poitiers. They accused Grandier of having corrupted women and girls,
of indulging in blasphemy and profanity, of neglecting to read his
breviary daily, and of turning God's sanctuary into a place of
debauchery and prostitution. The information was taken down, and
Louis Chauvet, the civil lieutenant, and the archpriest of Saint-
Marcel and the Loudenois, were appointed to investigate the matter,
so that, while Urbain was instituting proceedings against Duthibaut
in Paris, information was laid against himself in Loudun. This
matter thus set going was pushed forward with all the acrimony so
common in religious prosecutions; Trinquant appeared as a witness,
and drew many others after him, and whatever omissions were found in
the depositions were interpolated according to the needs of the
prosecution. The result was that the case when fully got up appeared
to be so serious that it was sent to the Bishop of Poitiers for
trial. Now the bishop was not only surrounded by the friends of
those who were bringing the accusations against Grandier, but had
himself a grudge against him. It had happened some time before that
Urbain, the case being urgent, had dispensed with the usual notice of
a marriage, and the bishop, knowing this, found in the papers laid
before him, superficial as they were, sufficient evidence against
Urbain to justify him in issuing a warrant for his apprehension,
which was drawn up in the following words:
"Henri-Louis, Chataignier de la Rochepezai, by divine mercy Bishop of
Poitiers, in view of the charges and informations conveyed to us by
the archpriest of Loudun against Urbain Grandier, priest-in-charge of
the Church of Saint-Pierre in the Market-Place at Loudun, in virtue
of a commission appointed by us directed to the said archpriest, or
in his absence to the Prior of Chassaignes, in view also of the
opinion given by our attorney upon the said charges, have ordered and
do hereby order that Urbain Grandier, the accused, be quietly taken
to the prison in our palace in Poitiers, if it so be that he be taken
and apprehended, and if not, that he be summoned to appear at his
domicile within three days, by the first apparitor-priest, or
tonsured clerk, and also by the first royal sergeant, upon this
warrant, and we request the aid of the secular authorities, and to
them, or to any one of them, we hereby give power and authority to
carry out this decree notwithstanding any opposition or appeal, and
the said Grandier having been heard, such a decision will be given by
our attorney as the facts may seem to warrant.
"Given at Dissay the 22nd day of October 1629, and signed in the
original as follows:
"HENRI-LOUIS, Bishop of Poitiers."
Grandier was, as we have said, at Paris when these proceedings were
taken against him, conducting before the Parliament his case against
Duthibaut. The latter received a copy of the decision arrived at by
the bishop, before Grandier knew of the charges that had been
formulated against him, and having in the course of his defence drawn
a terrible picture of the immorality of Grandier's life, he produced
as a proof of the truth of his assertions the damning document which
had been put into his hands. The court, not knowing what to think of
the turn affairs had taken, decided that before considering the
accusations brought by Grandier, he must appear before his bishop to
clear himself of the charges, brought against himself. Consequently
he left Paris at once, and arrived at Loudun, where he only stayed
long enough to learn what had happened in his absence, and then went
on to Poitiers in order to draw up his defence. He had, however, no
sooner set foot in the place than he was arrested by a sheriff's
officer named Chatry, and confined in the prison of the episcopal
It was the middle of November, and the prison was at all times cold
and damp, yet no attention was paid to Grandier's request that he
should be transferred to some other place of confinement. Convinced
by this that his enemies had more influence than he had supposed, he
resolved to possess his soul in patience, and remained a prisoner for
two months, during which even his warmest friends believed him lost,
while Duthibaut openly laughed at the proceedings instituted against
himself, which he now believed would never go any farther, and Barot
had already selected one of his heirs, a certain Ismael Boulieau, as
successor to Urbain as priest and prebendary.
It was arranged that the costs of the lawsuit should be defrayed out
of a fund raised by the prosecutors, the rich paying for the poor;
for as all the witnesses lived at Loudun and the trial was to take
place at Poitiers, considerable expense would be incurred by the
necessity of bringing so many people such a distance; but the lust of
vengeance proved stronger than the lust of gold; the subscription
expected from each being estimated according to his fortune, each
paid without a murmur, and at the end of two months the case was
In spite of the evident pains taken by the prosecution to strain the
evidence against the defendant, the principal charge could not be
sustained, which was that he had led astray many wives and daughters
in Loudun. No one woman came forward to complain of her ruin by
Grandier; the name of no single victim of his alleged immorality was
given. The conduct of the case was the most extraordinary ever seen;
it was evident that the accusations were founded on hearsay and not
on fact, and yet a decision and sentence against Grandier were
pronounced on January 3rd, 1630. The sentence was as follows: For
three months to fast each Friday on bread and water by way of
penance; to be inhibited from the performance of clerical functions
in the diocese of Poitiers for five years, and in the town of Loudun
Both parties appealed from this decision: Grandier to the Archbishop
of Bordeaux, and his adversaries, on the advice of the attorney to
the diocese, pleading a miscarriage of justice, to the Parliament of
Paris; this last appeal being made in order to overwhelm Grandier and
break his spirit. But Grandier's resolution enabled him to face this
attack boldly: he engaged counsel to defend his case before the
Parliament, while he himself conducted his appeal to the Archbishop
of Bordeaux. But as there were many necessary witnesses, and it was
almost impossible to bring them all such a great distance, the
archiepiscopal court sent the appeal to the presidial court of
Poitiers. The public prosecutor of Poitiers began a fresh
investigation, which being conducted with impartiality was not
encouraging to Grandier's accusers. There had been many conflicting
statements made by the witnesses, and these were now repeated: other
witnesses had declared quite openly that they had been bribed; others
again stated that their depositions had been tampered with; and
amongst these latter was a certain priest named Mechin, and also that
Ishmael Boulieau whom Barot had been in such a hurry to select as
candidate for the reversion of Grandier's preferments. Boulieau's
deposition has been lost, but we can lay Mechin's before the reader,
for the original has been preserved, just as it issued from his pen:
"I, Gervais Mechin, curate-in-charge of the Church of Saint-Pierre in
the Market Place at Loudun, certify by these presents, signed by my
hand, to relieve my conscience as to a certain report which is being
spread abroad, that I had said in support of an accusation brought by
Gilles Robert, archpriest, against Urbain Grandier, priest-in-charge
of Saint-Pierre, that I had found the said Grandier lying with women
and girls in the church of Saint Pierre, the doors being closed.
"ITEM, that on several different occasions, at unsuitable hours both
day and night, I had seen women and girls disturb the said Grandier
by going into his bedroom, and that some of the said women remained
with him from one o'clock in the after noon till three o'clock the
next morning, their maids bringing them their suppers and going away
again at once.
"ITEM, that I had seen the said Grandier in the church, the doors
being open, but that as soon as some women entered he closed them.
As I earnestly desire that such reports should cease, I declare by
these presents that I have never seen the said Grandier with women or
girls in the church, the doors being closed; that I have never found
him there alone with women or girls; that when he spoke to either
someone else was always present, and the doors were open; and as to
their posture, I think I made it sufficiently clear when in the
witness-box that Grandier was seated and the women scattered over the
church; furthermore, I have never seen either women or girls enter
Grandier's bedroom either by day or night, although it is true that I
have heard people in the corridor coming and going late in the
evening, who they were I cannot say, but a brother of the said
Grandier sleeps close by; neither have I any knowledge that either
women or girls, had their suppers brought to the said room. I have
also never said that he neglected the reading of his breviary,
because that would be contrary to the truth, seeing that on several
occasions he borrowed mine and read his hours in it. I also declare
that I have never seen him close the doors of the church, and that
whenever I have seen him speaking to women I have never noticed any
impropriety; I have not ever seen him touch them in any way, they
have only spoken together; and if anything is found in my deposition
contrary to the above, it is without my knowledge, and was never read
to me, for I would not have signed it, and I say and affirm all this
in homage to the truth.
"Done the last day of October 1630,
"(Signed) G. MECHIN."
In the face of such proofs of innocence none of the accusations could
be considered as established and so, according to the decision of the
presidial court of Poitiers, dated the 25th of May 1634, the decision
of the bishop's court was reversed, and Grandier was acquitted of the
charges brought against him. However, he had still to appear before
the Archbishop of Bordeaux, that his acquittal might be ratified.
Grandier took advantage of a visit which the archbishop paid to his
abbey at Saint-Jouin-les-Marmes, which was only three leagues from
Loudun, to make this appearance; his adversaries, who were
discouraged by the result of the proceedings at Poitiers, scarcely
made any defence, and the archbishop, after an examination which
brought clearly to light the innocence of the accused, acquitted and
The rehabilitation of Grandier before his bishop had two important
results: the first was that it clearly established his innocence, and
the second that it brought into prominence his high attainments and
eminent qualities. The archbishop seeing the persecutions to which
he was subjected, felt a kindly interest in him, and advised him to
exchange into some other diocese, leaving a town the principal
inhabitants of which appeared to have vowed him a relentless hate.
But such an abandonment of his rights was foreign to the character of
Urbain, and he declared to his superior that, strong in His Grace's
approbation and the testimony of his own conscience, he would remain
in the place to which God had called him. Monseigneur de Sourdis did
not feel it his duty to urge Urbain any further, but he had enough
insight into his character to perceive that if Urbain should one day
fall, it would be, like Satan, through pride; for he added another
sentence to his decision, recommending him to fulfil the duties of
his office with discretion and modesty, according to the decrees of
the Fathers and the canonical constitutions. The triumphal entry of
Urbain into Loudun with which we began our narrative shows the spirit
in which he took his recommendation.
Urbain Granadier was not satisfied with the arrogant demonstration by
which he signalised his return, which even his friends had felt to be
ill advised; instead of allowing the hate he had aroused to die away
or at least to fall asleep by letting the past be past, he continued
with more zeal than ever his proceedings against Duthibaut, and
succeeded in obtaining a decree from the Parliament of La Tournelle,
by which Duthibaut was summoned before it, and obliged to listen
bareheaded to a reprimand, to offer apologies, and to pay damages and
Having thus got the better of one enemy, Urbain turned on the others,
and showed himself more indefatigable in the pursuit of justice than
they had been in the pursuit of vengeance. The decision of the
archbishop had given him a right to a sum of money for compensation,
and interest thereon, as well as to the restitution of the revenues
of his livings, and there being some demur made, he announced
publicly that he intended to exact this reparation to the uttermost
farthing, and set about collecting all the evidence which was
necessary for the success of a new lawsuit for libel and forgery
which he intended to begin. It was in vain that his friends assured
him that the vindication of his innocence had been complete and
brilliant, it was in vain that they tried to convince him of the
danger of driving the vanquished to despair, Urbain replied that he
was ready to endure all the persecutions which his enemies might
succeed in inflicting on him, but as long as he felt that he had
right upon his side he was incapable of drawing back.
Grandier's adversaries soon became conscious of the storm which was
gathering above their heads, and feeling that the struggle between
themselves and this man would be one of life or death, Mignon, Barot,
Meunier, Duthibaut, and Menuau met Trinquant at the village of
Pindadane, in a house belonging to the latter, in order to consult
about the dangers which threatened them. Mignon had, however,
already begun to weave the threads of a new intrigue, which he
explained in full to the others; they lent a favourable ear, and his
plan was adopted. We shall see it unfold itself by degrees, for it
is the basis of our narrative.
We have already said that Mignon was the director of the convent of
Ursulines at Loudun: Now the Ursuline order was quite modern, for the
historic controversies to which the slightest mention of the
martyrdom of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins gave rise,
had long hindered the foundation of an order in the saint's honour.
However, in 1560 Madame Angele de Bresse established such an order in
Italy, with the same rules as the Augustinian order. This gained the
approbation of Pope Gregory XIII in 1572. In 1614, Madeleine
Lhuillier, with the approval of Pope Paul V, introduced this order
into France, by founding a convent at Paris, whence it rapidly spread
over the whole kingdom, so-that in 1626, only six years before the
time when the events just related took place, a sisterhood was
founded in the little town of Loudun.
Although this community at first consisted entirely of ladies of good
family, daughters of nobles, officers, judges, and the better class
of citizens, and numbered amongst its founders Jeanne de Belfield,
daughter of the late Marquis of Cose, and relative of M. de
Laubardemont, Mademoiselle de Fazili, cousin of the cardinal-duke,
two ladies of the house of Barbenis de Nogaret, Madame de Lamothe,
daughter of the Marquis Lamothe-Barace of Anjou, and Madame
d'Escoubleau de Sourdis, of the same family as the Archbishop of
Bordeaux, yet as these nuns had almost all entered the convent
because of their want of fortune, the community found itself at the
time of its establishment richer in blood than in money, and was
obliged instead of building to purchase a private house. The owner
of this house was a certain Moussaut du Frene, whose brother was a
priest. This brother, therefore, naturally became the first director
of these godly women. Less than a year after his appointment he
died, and the directorship became vacant.
The Ursulines had bought the house in which they lived much below its
normal value, for it was regarded as a haunted house by all the town.
The landlord had rightly thought that there was no better way of
getting rid of the ghosts than to confront them with a religious
sisterhood, the members of which, passing their days in fasting and
prayer, would be hardly likely to have their nights disturbed by bad
spirits; and in truth, during the year which they had already passed
in the house, no ghost had ever put in an appearance--a fact which
had greatly increased the reputation of the nuns for sanctity.
When their director died, it so happened that the boarders took
advantage of the occasion to indulge in some diversion at the expense
of the older nuns, who were held in general detestation by the youth
of the establishment on account of the rigour with which they
enforced the rules of the order. Their plan was to raise once more
those spirits which had been, as everyone supposed, permanently
relegated to outer darkness. So noises began to be heard on the roof
of the house, which resolved themselves into cries and groans; then
growing bolder, the spirits entered the attics and garrets,
announcing their presence by clanking of chains; at last they became
so familiar that they invaded the dormitories, where they dragged the
sheets off the sisters and abstracted their clothes.
Great was the terror in the convent, and great the talk in the town,
so that the mother superior called her wisest, nuns around her and
asked them what, in their opinion, would be the best course to take
in the delicate circumstances in which they found themselves.
Without a dissentient voice, the conclusion arrived at was, that the
late director should be immediately replaced by a man still holier
than he, if such a man could be found, and whether because he
possessed a reputation for sanctity, or for some other reason, their
choice fell on Urbain Grandier. When the offer of the post was
brought to him, he answered that he was already responsible for two
important charges, and that he therefore had not enough time to watch
over the snow-white flock which they wished to entrust to him, as a
good shepherd should, and he recommended the lady superior to seek
out another more worthy and less occupied than himself.
This answer, as may be supposed, wounded the self-esteem of the
sisters: they next turned their eyes towards Mignon, priest and canon
of the collegiate church of Sainte-Croix, and he, although he felt
deeply hurt that they had not thought first of him, accepted the
position eagerly; but the recollection that Grandier had been
preferred before himself kept awake in, him one of those bitter
hatreds which time, instead of soothing, intensifies. From the
foregoing narrative the reader can see to what this hate led.
As soon as the new director was appointed, the mother superior
confided to him the kind of foes which he would be expected to
vanquish. Instead of comforting her by the assurance that no ghosts
existing, it could not be ghosts who ran riot in the house, Mignon
saw that by pretending to lay these phantoms he could acquire the
reputation for holiness he so much desired. So he answered that the
Holy Scriptures recognised the existence of ghosts by relating how
the witch of Endor had made the shade of Samuel appear to Saul. He
went on to say that the ritual of the Church possessed means of
driving away all evil spirits, no matter how persistent they were,
provided that he who undertook the task were pure in thought and
deed, and that he hoped soon, by the help of God, to rid the convent
of its nocturnal visitants, whereupon as a preparation for their
expulsion he ordered a three days' fast, to be followed by a general
It does not require any great cleverness to understand how easily
Mignon arrived at the truth by questioning the young penitents as
they came before him. The boarders who had played at being ghosts
confessed their folly, saying that they had been helped by a young
novice of sixteen years of age, named Marie Aubin. She acknowledged
that this was true; it was she who used to get up in the middle of
the night, and open the dormitory door, which her more timid room-
mates locked most carefully from within every night, before going to
bed--a fact which greatly increased their terror when, despite their
precautions, the ghosts still got in. Under pretext of not exposing
them to the anger of the superior, whose suspicions would be sure to
be awakened if the apparitions were to disappear immediately after
the general confession, Mignon directed them to renew their nightly
frolics from time to time, but at longer and longer intervals. He
then sought an interview with the superior, and assured her that he
had found the minds of all those under her charge so chaste and pure
that he felt sure through his earnest prayers he would soon clear the
convent of the spirits which now pervaded it.
Everything happened as the director had foretold, and the reputation
for sanctity of the holy man, who by watching and praying had
delivered the worthy Ursulines from their ghostly assailants,
increased enormously in the town of Loudun.
Hardly had tranquillity been restored when Mignon, Duthibaut, Menuau,
Meunier, and Barot, having lost their cause before the Archbishop of
Bordeaux, and finding themselves threatened by Grandier with a
prosecution for libel and forgery, met together to consult as to the
best means of defending themselves before the unbending severity of
this man, who would, they felt, destroy them if they did not destroy
The result of this consultation was that very shortly afterwards
queer reports began to fly about; it was whispered that the ghosts
whom the pious director had expelled had again invaded the convent,
under an invisible and impalpable form, and that several of the nuns
had given, by their words and acts, incontrovertible proofs of being
When these reports were mentioned to Mignon, he, instead of denying
their truth, cast up his eyes to heaven and said that God was
certainly a great and merciful God, but it was also certain that
Satan was very clever, especially when he was barked by that false
human science called magic. However, as to the reports, though they
were not entirely without foundation, he would not go so far as to
say that any of the sisters were really possessed by devils, that
being a question which time alone could decide.
The effect of such an answer on minds already prepared to listen to
the most impossible things, may easily be guessed. Mignon let the
gossip go its rounds for several months without giving it any fresh
food, but at length, when the time was ripe, he called on the priest
of Saint-Jacques at Chinon, and told him that matters had now come to
such a pass in the Ursuline convent that he felt it impossible to
bear up alone under the responsibility of caring for the salvation of
the afflicted nuns, and he begged him to accompany him to the
convent. This priest, whose name was Pierre Barre, was exactly the
man whom Mignon needed in such a crisis. He was of melancholy
temperament, and dreamed dreams and saw visions; his one ambition was
to gain a reputation for asceticism and holiness. Desiring to
surround his visit with the solemnity befitting such an important
event, he set out for Loudun at the head of all his parishioners, the
whole procession going on foot, in order to arouse interest and
curiosity; but this measure was quite needless it took less than that
to set the town agog.
While the faithful filled the churches offering up prayers for the
success of the exorcisms, Mignon and Barre entered upon their task at
the convent, where they remained shut up with the nuns for six hours.
At the end of this time Barre appeared and announced to his
parishioners that they might go back to Chinon without him, for he
had made up his mind to remain for the present at Loudun, in order to
aid the venerable director of the Ursuline convent in the holy work
he had undertaken; he enjoined on them to pray morning and evening,
with all possible fervour, that, in spite of the serious dangers by
which it was surrounded, the good cause might finally triumph. This
advice, unaccompanied as it was by any explanation, redoubled the
curiosity of the people, and the belief gained ground that it was not
merely one or two nuns who were possessed of devils, but the whole
sisterhood. It was not very long before the name of the magician who
had worked this wonder began to be mentioned quite openly: Satan, it
was said, had drawn Urbain Grandier into his power, through his
pride. Urbain had entered into a pact with the Evil Spirit by which
he had sold him his soul in return for being made the most learned
man on earth. Now, as Urbain's knowledge was much greater than that
of the inhabitants of Loudun, this story gained general credence in
the town, although here and there was to be found a man sufficiently
enlightened to shrug his shoulders at these absurdities, and to laugh
at the mummeries, of which as yet he saw only the ridiculous side,
For the next ten or twelve days Mignon and Barre spent the greater
part of their time at the convent; sometimes remaining there for six
hours at a stretch, sometimes the entire day. At length, on Monday,
the 11th of October, 1632, they wrote to the priest of Venier, to
Messire Guillaume Cerisay de la Gueriniere, bailiff of the Loudenois,
and to Messire Louis Chauvet, civil lieutenant, begging them to visit
the Ursuline convent, in order to examine two nuns who were possessed
by evil spirits, and to verify the strange and almost incredible
manifestations of this possession. Being thus formally appealed to,
the two magistrates could not avoid compliance with the request. It
must be confessed that they were not free from curiosity, and felt
far from sorry at being able to get to the bottom of the mystery of
which for some time the whole town was talking. They repaired,
therefore, to the convent, intending to make a thorough investigation
as to the reality of the possession and as to the efficacy of the
exorcisms employed. Should they judge that the nuns were really
possessed, and that those who tried to deliver them were in earnest,
they would authorise the continuation of the efforts at exorcism; but
if they were not satisfied on these two points, they would soon put
an end to the whole thing as a comedy. When they reached the door,
Mignon, wearing alb and stole, came to meet them. He told them that
the feelings of the nuns had for more than two weeks been harrowed by
the apparition of spectres and other blood-curdling visions, that the
mother superior and two nuns had evidently been possessed by evil
spirits for over a week; that owing to the efforts of Barre and same
Carmelite friars who were good enough to assist him against their
common enemies, the devils had been temporarily driven out, but on
the previous Sunday night, the 10th of October, the mother superior,
Jeanne de Belfield, whose conventual name was Jeanne des Anges, and a
lay sister called Jeanne Dumagnoux, had again been entered into by
the same spirits. It had, however, been discovered by means of
exorcisms that a new compact, of which the symbol and token was a
bunch of roses, had been concluded, the symbol and token of the first
having been three black thorns. He added that during the time of the
first possession the demons had refused to give their names, but by
the power of his exorcisms this reluctance had been overcome, the
spirit which had resumed possession of the mother superior having at
length revealed that its name was Ashtaroth, one of the greatest
enemies of God, while the devil which had entered into the lay sister
was of a lower order, and was called Sabulon. Unfortunately,
continued Mignon, just now the two afflicted nuns were resting, and
he requested the bailiff and the civil lieutenant to put off their
inspection till a little later. The two magistrates were just about
to go away, when a nun appeared, saying that the devils were again
doing their worst with the two into whom they had entered.
Consequently, they accompanied Mignon and the priest from Venier to
an upper room, in which were seven narrow beds, of which two only
were occupied, one by the mother superior and the other by the lay
sister. The superior, who was the more thoroughly possessed of the
two, was surrounded by the Carmelite monks, the sisters belonging to
the convent, Mathurin Rousseau, priest and canon of Sainte-Croix, and
Mannouri, a surgeon from the town.
No sooner did the two magistrates join the others than the superior
was seized with violent convulsions, writhing and uttering squeals in
exact imitation of a sucking pig. The two magistrates looked on in
profound astonishment, which was greatly increased when they saw the
patient now bury herself in her bed, now spring right out of it, the
whole performance being accompanied by such diabolical gestures and
grimaces that, if they were not quite convinced that the possession
was genuine, they were at least filled with admiration of the manner
in which it was simulated. Mignon next informed the bailiff and the
civil lieutenant, that although the superior had never learned Latin
she would reply in that language to all the questions addressed to
her, if such were their desire. The magistrates answered that as
they were there in order to examine thoroughly into the facts of the
case, they begged the exorcists to give them every possible proof
that the possession was real. Upon this, Mignon approached the
mother superior, and, having ordered everyone to be silent, placed
two of his fingers in her mouth, and, having gone through the form of
exorcism prescribed by the ritual, he asked the following questions
word for word as they are given,
D. Why have you entered into the body of this young girl?
R. Causa animositatis. Out of enmity.
D. Per quod pactum ? By what pact?
R. Per flores. By flowers.
D. Quales? What flowers?
R. Rosas. Roses.
D. Quis misfit? By whom wert thou sent?
At this question the magistrates remarked that the superior hesitated
to reply; twice she opened her mouth in vain, but the third time she
said in a weak voice
D. Dic cognomen? What is his surname?
R. Urbanus. Urbain.
Here there was again the same hesitation, but as if impelled by the
will of the exorcist she answered--
R. Grandier. Grandier.
D. Dic qualitatem? What is his profession?
R. Sacerdos. A priest.
D. Cujus ecclesiae? Of what church?
R. Sancti Petri. Saint-Pierre.
D. Quae persona attulit
flores? Who brought the flowers?
R. Diabolica. Someone sent by the devil.
As the patient pronounced the last word she recovered her senses, and
having repeated a prayer, attempted to swallow a morsel of bread
which was offered her; she was, however, obliged to spit it out,
saying it was so dry she could not get it down.
Something more liquid was then brought, but even of that she could
swallow very little, as she fell into convulsions every few minutes.
Upon this the two officials, seeing there was nothing more to be got
out of the superior, withdrew to one of the window recesses and began
to converse in a low tone; whereupon Mignon, who feared that they had
not been sufficiently impressed, followed them, and drew their
attention to the fact that there was much in what they had just seen
to recall the case of Gaufredi, who had been put to death a few years
before in consequence of a decree of the Parliament of Aix, in
Provence. This ill-judged remark of Mignon showed so clearly what
his aim was that the magistrates made no reply. The civil lieutenant
remarked that he had been surprised that Mignon had not made any
attempt to find out the cause of the enmity of which the superior had
spoken, and which it was so important to find out; but Mignon excused
himself by saying that he had no right to put questions merely to
gratify curiosity. The civil lieutenant was about to insist on the
matter being investigated, when the lay sister in her turn went into
a fit, thus extricating Mignon from his embarrassment. The
magistrates approached the lay sister's bed at once, and directed
Mignon to put the same questions to her as to the superior: he did
so, but all in vain; all she would reply was, "To the other! To the
Mignon explained this refusal to answer by saying that the evil
spirit which was in her was of an inferior order, and referred all
questioners to Ashtaroth, who was his superior. As this was the only
explanation, good or bad, offered them by Mignon, the magistrates
went away, and drew up a report of all they had seen and heard
without comment, merely appending their signatures.
But in the town very few people showed the same discretion and
reticence as the magistrates. The bigoted believed, the hypocrites
pretended to believe; and the worldly-minded, who were numerous,
discussed the doctrine of possession in all its phases, and made no
secret of their own entire incredulity. They wondered, and not
without reason it must be confessed, what had induced the devils to
go out of the nuns' bodies for two days only, and then come back and
resume possession, to the confusion of the exorcists; further, they
wanted to know why the mother superior's devil spoke Latin, while the
lay sister's was ignorant of that tongue; for a mere difference of
rank in the hierarchy of hell did not seem a sufficient explanation
of such a difference in education; Mignon's refusal to go on with his
interrogations as to the cause of the enmity made them, they said,
suspect that, knowing he had reached the end of Ashtaroth's classical
knowledge, he felt it useless to try to continue the dialogue in the
Ciceronian idiom. Moreover, it was well known that only a few days
before all Urbain's worst enemies had met in conclave in the village
of Puidardane; and besides, how stupidly Mignon had shown his hand by
mentioning Gaufredi, the priest who had been executed at Aix: lastly,
why had not a desire for impartiality been shown by calling in other
than Carmelite monks to be present at the exorcism, that order having
a private quarrel with Grandier? It must be admitted that this way
of looking at the case was not wanting in shrewdness.
On the following day, October 12th, the bailiff and the civil
lieutenant, having heard that exorcisms had been again tried without
their having been informed beforehand, requested a certain Canon
Rousseau to accompany them, and set out with him and their clerk for
the convent. On arriving, they asked for Mignon, and on his
appearance they told him that this matter of exorcism was of such
importance that no further steps were to be taken in it without the
authorities being present, and that in future they were to be given
timely notice of every attempt to get rid of the evil spirits. They
added that this was all the more necessary as Mignon's position as
director of the sisterhood and his well-known hate for Grandier would
draw suspicions on him unworthy of his cloth, suspicions which he
ought to be the first to wish to see dissipated, and that quickly;
and that, therefore, the work which he had so piously begun would be
completed by exorcists appointed by the court.
Mignon replied that, though he had not the slightest objection to the
magistrates being present at all the exorcisms, yet he could not
promise that the spirits would reply to anyone except himself and
Barre. Just at that moment Barre came on the scene, paler and more
gloomy than ever, and speaking with the air of a man whose word no
one could help believing, he announced that before their arrival some
most extraordinary things had taken place. The magistrates asked
what things, and Barre replied that he had learned from the mother
superior that she was possessed, not by one, but by seven devils, of
whom Ashtaroth was the chief; that Grandier had entrusted his pact
with the devil, under the symbol of a bunch of roses, to a certain
Jean Pivart, to give to a girl who had introduced it into the convent
garden by throwing it over the wall; that this took place in the
night between Saturday and Sunday "hora secunda nocturna" (two hours
after midnight); that those were the very words the superior had
used, but that while she readily named Pivart, she absolutely refused
to give the name of the girl; that on asking what Pivart was; she had
replied, "Pauper magus" (a poor magician); that he then had pressed
her as to the word magus, and that she had replied "Magicianus et
civis" (magician and citizen); and that just as she said those words
the magistrates had arrived, and he had asked no more questions.
The two officials listened to this information with the seriousness
befitting men entrusted with high judicial functions, and announced
to the two priests that they proposed to visit the possessed women
and witness for themselves the miracles that were taking place. The
clerics offered no opposition, but said they feared that the devils
were fatigued and would refuse to reply; and, in fact, when the
officials reached the sickroom the two patients appeared to have
regained some degree of calm. Mignon took advantage of this quiet
moment to say mass, to which the two magistrates listened devoutly
and tranquilly, and while the sacrifice was being offered the demons
did not dare to move. It was expected that they would offer some
opposition at the elevation of the Host, but everything passed off
without disturbance, only the lay sister's hands and feet twitched a
great deal; and this was the only fact which the magistrates thought
worthy of mention in their report for that morning. Barre assured
them, however, that if they would return about three o'clock the
devils would probably have recovered sufficiently from their fatigue
to give a second performance.
As the two gentlemen had determined to see the affair to the end,
they returned to the convent at the hour named, accompanied by
Messire Irenee de Sainte-Marthe, sieur Deshurneaux; and found the
room in which the possessed were lying full of curious spectators;
for the exorcists had been true prophets--the devils were at work
The superior, as always, was the more tormented of the two, as was
only to be expected, she having seven devils in her all at once; she
was terribly convulsed, and was writhing and foaming at the mouth as
if she were mad. No one could long continue in such a condition
without serious injury to health; Barre therefore asked the devil-in-
chief how soon he would come out. "Cras mane" (To-morrow morning),
he replied. The exorcist then tried to hurry him, asking him why he
would not come out at once; whereupon the superior murmured the word
"Pactum" (A pact); and then "Sacerdos" (A priest), and finally
"Finis," or "Finit," for even those nearest could not catch the word
distinctly, as the devil, afraid doubtless of perpetrating a
barbarism, spoke through the nun's closely clenched teeth. This
being all decidedly unsatisfying, the magistrates insisted that the
examination should continue, but the devils had again exhausted
themselves, and refused to utter another word. The priest even tried
touching the superior's head with the pyx, while prayers and litanies
were recited, but it was all in vain, except that some of the
spectators thought that the contortions of the patient became more
violent when the intercessions of certain saints were invoked, as for
instance Saints Augustine Jerome, Antony, and Mary Magdalene. Barre
next directed the mother superior to dedicate her heart and soul to
God, which she did without difficulty; but when he commanded her to
dedicate her body also, the chief devil indicated by fresh
convulsions that he was not going to allow himself to be deprived of
a domicile without resistance, and made those who had heard him say
that he would leave the next morning feel that he had only said so
under compulsion; and their curiosity as to the result became
heightened. At length, however, despite the obstinate resistance of
the demon, the superior succeeded in dedicating her body also to God,
and thus victorious her features resumed their usual expression, and
smiling as if nothing had happened, she turned to Barre and said that
there was no vestige of Satan left in her. The civil lieutenant then
asked her if she remembered the questions she had been asked and the
answers she had given, but she replied that she remembered nothing;
but afterwards, having taken some refreshment, she said to those
around her that she recollected perfectly how the first possession,
over which Mignon had triumphed, had taken place: one evening about
ten o'clock, while several nuns were still in her room, although she
was already in bed, it seemed to her that someone took her hand and
laid something in it, closing her fingers; at that instant she felt a
sharp pain as if she had been pricked by three pins, and hearing her
scream, the nuns came to her bedside to ask what ailed her. She held
out her hand, and they found three black thorns sticking in it, each
having made a tiny wound. Just as she had told this tale, the lay
sister, as if to prevent all commentary, was seized with convulsions,
and Barre recommenced his prayers and exorcisms, but was soon
interrupted by shrieks; for one of the persons present had seen a
black cat come down the chimney and disappear. Instantly everyone
concluded it must be the devil, and began to seek it out. It was not
without great difficulty that it was caught; for, terrified at the
sight of so many people and at the noise, the poor animal had sought
refuge under a canopy; but at last it was secured and carried to the
superior's bedside, where Barre began his exorcisms once more,
covering the cat with signs of the cross, and adjuring the devil to
take his true shape. Suddenly the 'touriere', (the woman who
received the tradespeople,) came forward, declaring the supposed
devil to be only her cat, and she immediately took possession of it,
lest some harm should happen to it.
The gathering had been just about to separate, but Barry fearing that
the incident of the cat might throw a ridiculous light upon the evil
spirits, resolved to awake once more a salutary terror by announcing
that he was going to burn the flowers through which the second spell
had been made to work. Producing a bunch of white roses, already
faded, he ordered a lighted brazier to be brought. He then threw the
flowers on the glowing charcoal, and to the general astonishment they
were consumed without any visible effect: the heavens still smiled,
no peal of thunder was heard, and no unpleasant odour diffused itself
through the room. Barre feeling that the baldness of this act of
destruction had had a bad effect, predicted that the morrow would
bring forth wondrous things; that the chief devil would speak more
distinctly than hitherto; that he would leave the body of the
superior, giving such clear signs of his passage that no one would
dare to doubt any longer that it was a case of genuine possession.
Thereupon the criminal lieutenant, Henri Herve, who had been present
during the exorcism, said they must seize upon the moment of his exit
to ask about Pivart, who was unknown at Loudun, although everyone who
lived there knew everybody else. Barre replied in Latin, "Et hoc
dicet epuellam nominabit" (He will not only tell about him, but he
will also name the young girl). The young girl whom the devil was to
name was, it may be recollected, she who had introduced the flowers
into the convent, and whose name the demon until now had absolutely
refused to give. On the strength of these promises everyone went
home to await the morrow with impatience.
That evening Grandier asked the bailiff for an audience. At first he
had made fun of the exorcisms, for the story had been so badly
concocted, and the accusations were so glaringly improbable, that he
had not felt the least anxiety. But as the case went on it assumed
such an important aspect, and the hatred displayed by his enemies was
so intense, that the fate of the priest Gaufredi, referred to by
Mignon, occurred to Urbain's mind, and in order to be beforehand with
his enemies he determined to lodge a complaint against them. This
complaint was founded on the fact that Mignon had performed the rite
of exorcism in the presence of the civil lieutenant, the bailiff, and
many other persons, and had caused the nuns who were said to be
possessed, in the hearing of all these people, to name him, Urbain,
as the author of their possession. This being a falsehood and an
attack upon his honour, he begged the bailiff, in whose hands the
conduct of the affair had been specially placed, to order the nuns to
be sequestered, apart from the rest of the sisterhood and from each
other, and then to have each separately examined. Should there
appear to be any evidence of possession, he hoped that the bailiff
would be pleased to appoint clerics of well-known rank and upright
character to perform whatever exorcisms were needful; such men having
no bias against him would be more impartial than Mignon and his
adherents. He also called upon the bailiff to have an exact report
drawn up of everything that took place at the exorcisms, in order
that, if necessary, he as petitioner might be able to lay it before
anyone to whose judgment he might appeal. The bailiff gave Grandier
a statement of the conclusions at which he had arrived, and told him
that the exorcisms had been performed that day by Barre, armed with
the authority of the Bishop of Poitiers himself. Being, as we have
seen, a man of common sense and entirely unprejudiced in the matter,
the bailiff advised Grandier to lay his complaint before his bishop;
but unfortunately he was under the authority of the Bishop of
Poitiers, who was so prejudiced against him that he had done
everything in his power to induce the Archbishop of Bordeaux to
refuse to ratify the decision in favour of Grandier, pronounced by
the presidial court. Urbain could not hide from the magistrate that
he had nothing to hope for from this quarter, and it was decided that
he should wait and see what the morrow would bring forth, before
taking any further step.
The impatiently expected day dawned at last, and at eight o'clock in
the morning the bailiff, the king's attorney, the civil lieutenant,
the criminal lieutenant, and the provost's lieutenant, with their
respective clerks, were already at the convent. They found the outer
gate open, but the inner door shut. In a few moments Mignon came to
them and brought them into a waiting-room. There he told them that
the nuns were preparing for communion, and that he would be very much
obliged to them if they would withdraw and wait in a house across the
street, just opposite the convent, and that he would send them word
when they could come back. The magistrates, having first informed
Mignon of Urbain's petition, retired as requested.
An hour passed, and as Mignon did not summon them, in spite of his
promise, they all went together to the convent chapel, where they
were told the exorcisms were already over. The nuns had quitted the
choir, and Mignon and Barre came to the grating and told them that
they had just completed the rite, and that, thanks to their
conjurations, the two afflicted ones were now quite free from evil
spirits. They went on to say that they had been working together at
the exorcism from seven o'clock in the morning, and that great
wonders, of which they had drawn up an account, had come to pass; but
they had considered it would not be proper to allow any one else to
be present during the ceremony besides the exorcists and the
possessed. The bailiff pointed out that their manner of proceedings
was not only illegal, but that it laid them under suspicion of fraud
and collusion, in the eyes of the impartial: Moreover, as the
superior had accused Grandier publicly, she was bound to renew and
prove her accusation also publicly, and not in secret; furthermore,
it was a great piece of insolence on the part of the exorcists to
invite people of their standing and character to come to the convent,
and having kept them waiting an hour, to tell them that they
considered them unworthy to be admitted to the ceremony which they.
had been requested to attend; and he wound up by saying that he would
draw up a report, as he had already done on each of the preceding
days, setting forth the extraordinary discrepancy between their
promises and their performance. Mignon replied that he and Barre had
had only one thing in view, viz. the expulsion of the, demons, and
that in that they had succeeded, and that their success would be of
great benefit to the holy Catholic faith, for they had got the demons
so thoroughly into their power that they had been able to command
them to produce within a week miraculous proofs of the spells cast on
the nuns by Urbain Grandier and their wonderful deliverance
therefrom; so that in future no one would be able to doubt as to the
reality of the possession. Thereupon the magistrates drew up a
report of all that had happened, and of what Barre and Mignon had
said. This was signed by all the officials present, except the
criminal lieutenant, who declared that, having perfect confidence in
the statements of the exorcists, he was anxious to do nothing to
increase the doubting spirit which was unhappily so prevalent among
The same day the bailiff secretly warned Urbain of the refusal of the
criminal lieutenant to join with the others in signing the report,
and almost at the same moment he learned that the cause of his
adversaries was strengthened by the adhesion of a certain Messire
Rene Memin, seigneur de Silly, and prefect of the town. This
gentleman was held in great esteem not only on account of his wealth
and the many offices which he filled, but above all on account of his
powerful friends, among whom was the cardinal-duke himself, to whom
he had formerly been of use when the cardinal was only a prior. The
character of the conspiracy had now become so alarming that Grandier
felt it was time to oppose it with all his strength. Recalling his
conversation with the bailiff the preceding day, during which he had
advised him to lay his complaint before the Bishop of Poitiers, he
set out, accompanied by a priest of Loudun, named Jean Buron, for the
prelate's country house at Dissay. The bishop, anticipating his
visit, had already given his orders, and Grandier was met by Dupuis,
the intendant of the palace, who, in reply to Grandier's request to
see the bishop, told him that his lordship was ill. Urbain next
addressed himself to the bishop's chaplain, and begged him to inform
the prelate that his object in coming was to lay before him the
official reports which the magistrates had drawn up of the events
which had taken place at the Ursuline convent, and to lodge a
complaint as to the slanders and accusations of which he was the
victim. Grandier spoke so urgently that the chaplain could not
refuse to carry his message; he returned, however, in a few moments,
and told Grandier, in the presence of Dupuis, Buron, and a certain
sieur Labrasse, that the bishop advised him to take his case to the
royal judges, and that he earnestly hoped he would obtain justice
from them. Grandier perceived that the bishop had been warned
against him, and felt that he was becoming more and more entangled in
the net of conspiracy around him; but he was not a man to flinch
before any danger. He therefore returned immediately to Loudun, and
went once more to the bailiff, to whom he related all that had
happened at Dissay; he then, a second time, made a formal complaint
as to the slanders circulated with regard to him, and begged the
magistrates to have recourse to the king's courts in the business.
He also said that he desired to be placed under the protection of the
king and his justice, as the accusations made against him were aimed
at his honour and his life. The bailiff hastened to make out a
certificate of Urbain's protest, which forbade at the same time the
repetition of the slanders or the infliction on Urbain of any injury.
Thanks to this document, a change of parts took place: Mignon, the
accuser, became the accused. Feeling that he had powerful support
behind him, he had the audacity to appear before the bailiff the same
day. He said that he did not acknowledge his jurisdiction, as in
what concerned Grandier and himself, they being both priests, they
could only be judged by their bishop; he nevertheless protested
against the complaint lodged by Grandier, which characterised him as
a slanderer, and declared that he was ready to give himself up as a
prisoner, in order to show everyone that he did not fear the result
of any inquiry. Furthermore, he had taken an oath on the sacred
elements the day before, in the presence of his parishioners who had
come to mass, that in all he had hitherto done he had been moved, not
by hatred of Grandier, but by love of the truth, and by his desire
for the triumph of the Catholic faith; and he insisted that the
bailiff should give him a certificate of his declaration, and served
notice of the same on Grandier that very day.
Since October 13th, the day on which the demons had been expelled,
life at the convent seemed to have returned to its usual quiet; but
Grandier did not let himself be lulled to sleep by the calm: he knew
those with whom he was contending too well to imagine for an instant
that he would hear no more of them; and when the bailiff expressed
pleasure at this interval of repose, Grandier said that it would not
last long, as the nuns were only conning new parts, in order to carry
on the drama in a more effective manner than ever. And in fact, on
November 22nd, Rene Mannouri, surgeon to the convent, was sent to one
of his colleagues, named Gaspard Joubert, to beg him to come,
bringing some of the physicians of the town with him, to visit the
two sisters, who were again tormented by evil spirits. Mannouri,
however, had gone to the wrong man, for Joubert had a frank and loyal
character, and hated everything that was underhand. Being determined
to take no part in the business, except in a public and judicial
manner, he applied at once to the bailiff to know if it was by his
orders that he was called in. The bailiff said it was not, and
summoned Mannouri before him to ask him by whose authority he had
sent for Joubert. Mannouri declared that the 'touriere' had run in a
fright to his house, saying that the nuns had never been worse
possessed than now, and that the director, Mignon, begged him to come
at once to the convent, bringing with him all the doctors he could
The bailiff, seeing that fresh plots against Grandier were being
formed, sent for him and warned him that Barre had come over from
Chinon the day before, and had resumed his exorcisms at the convent,
adding that it was currently reported in the town that the mother
superior and Sister Claire were again tormented by devils. The news
neither astonished nor discouraged Grandier, who replied, with his
usual smile of disdain, that it was evident his enemies were hatching
new plots against him, and that as he had instituted proceedings
against them for the former ones, he would take the same course with
regard to these. At the same time, knowing how impartial the bailiff
was, he begged him to accompany the doctors and officials to the
convent, and to be present at the exorcisms, and should any sign of
real possession manifest itself, to sequester the afflicted nuns at
once, and cause them to be examined by other persons than Mignon and
Barre, whom he had such good cause to distrust.
The bailiff wrote to the king's attorney, who, notwithstanding his
bias against Grandier, was forced to see that the conclusions arrived
at were correct, and having certified this in writing, he at once
sent his clerk to the convent to inquire if the superior were still
possessed. In case of an affirmative reply being given, the clerk
had instructions to warn Mignon and Barre that they were not to
undertake exorcisms unless in presence of the bailiff and of such
officials and doctors as he might choose to bring with him, and that
they would disobey at their peril; he was also to tell them that
Grandier's demands to have the nuns sequestered and other exorcists
called in were granted.
Mignon and Barre listened while the clerk read his instructions, and
then said they refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the bailiff
in this case; that they had been summoned by the mother superior and
Sister Claire when their strange illness returned, an illness which
they were convinced was nothing else than possession by evil spirits;
that they had hitherto carried out their exorcisms under the
authority of a commission given them by the Bishop of Poitiers; and
as the time for which they had permission had not yet expired; they
would continue to exorcise as often as might be necessary. They had,
however, given notice to the worthy prelate of what was going on, in
order that he might either come himself or send other exorcists as
best suited him, so that a valid opinion as to the reality, of the
possession might be procured, for up to the present the worldly and
unbelieving had taken upon themselves to declare in an off-hand
manner that the whole affair was a mixture of fraud and delusion, in
contempt of the glory of God and the Catholic religion. As to the
rest of the message, they would not, in any way prevent the bailiff
and the other officials, with as many medical men as they chose to
bring, from seeing the nuns, at least until they heard from the
bishop, from whom they expected a letter next day. But it was for
the nuns themselves to say whether it was convenient for them to
receive visitors; as far as concerned themselves, they desired to
renew their protest, and declared they could not accept the bailiff
as their judge, and did not think that it could be legal for them to
refuse to obey a command from their ecclesiastical superiors, whether
with relation to exorcism or any other thing of which the
ecclesiastical courts properly took cognisance. The clerk brought
this answer to the bailiff, and he, thinking it was better to wait
for the arrival of the bishop or of fresh orders from him, put off
his visit to the convent until the next day. But the next day came
without anything being heard of the prelate himself or of a messenger
Early in the morning the bailiff went to the convent, but was not
admitted; he then waited patiently until noon, and seeing that no
news had arrived from Dissay, and that the convent gates were still
closed against him, he granted a second petition of Grandier's, to
the effect that Byre and Mignon should be prohibited from questioning
the superior and the other nuns in a manner tending to blacken the
character of the petitioner or any other person. Notice of this
prohibition was served the same day on Barre and on one nun chosen to
represent the community. Barre did not pay the slightest attention
to this notice, but kept on asserting that the bailiff had no right
to prevent his obeying the commands of his bishop, and declaring that
henceforward he would perform all exorcisms solely under
ecclesiastical sanction, without any reference to lay persons, whose
unbelief and impatience impaired the solemnity with which such rites
should be conducted.
The best part of the day having gone over without any sign of either
bishop or messenger, Grandier presented a new petition to the
bailiff. The bailiff at once summoned all the officers of the
bailiwick and the attorneys of the king, in order to lay it before
them; but the king's attorneys refused to consider the matter,
declaring upon their honour that although they did not accuse
Grandier of being the cause, yet they believed that the nuns were
veritably possessed, being convinced by the testimony of the devout
ecclesiastics in whose presence the evil spirits had come out. This
was only the ostensible reason for their refusal, the real one being
that the advocate was a relation of Mignon's, and the attorney a son-
in-law of Trinquant's, to whose office he had succeeded. Thus
Grandier, against whom were all the ecclesiastical judges, began to
feel as if he were condemned beforehand by the judges of the royal
courts, for he knew how very short was the interval between the
recognition of the possession as a fact and the recognition of
himself as its author.
Nevertheless, in spite of the formal declarations of the king's
advocate and attorney, the bailiff ordered the superior and the lay
sister to be removed to houses in town, each to be accompanied by a
nun as companion. During their absence from the convent they were to
be looked after by exorcists, by women of high character and
position, as well as by physicians and attendants, all of whom he
himself would appoint, all others being forbidden access to the nuns
without his permission.
The clerk was again sent to the convent with a copy of this decision,
but the superior having listened to the reading of the document,
answered that in her own name and that of the sisterhood she refused
to recognise the jurisdiction of the bailiff; that she had already
received directions from the Bishop of Poitiers, dated 18th November,
explaining the measures which were to be taken in the matter, and she
would gladly send a copy of these directions to the bailiff, to
prevent his pleading ignorance of them; furthermore, she demurred to
the order for her removal, having vowed to live always secluded in a
convent, and that no one could dispense her from this vow but the
bishop. This protest having been made in the presence of Madame de
Charnisay, aunt of two of the nuns, and Surgeon Mannouri, who was
related to another, they both united in drawing up a protest against
violence, in case the bailiff should insist on having his orders
carried out, declaring that, should he make the attempt, they would
resist him, as if he were a mere private individual. This document
being duly signed and witnessed was immediately sent to the bailiff
by the hand of his own clerk, whereupon the bailiff ordered that
preparations should be made with regard to the sequestration, and
announced that the next day, the 24th November, he would repair to
the convent and be present at the exorcisms.
The next day accordingly, at the appointed hour, the bailiff summoned
Daniel Roger, Vincent de Faux, Gaspard Joubert, and Matthieu Fanson,
all four physicians, to his presence, and acquainting them with his
reasons for having called them, asked them to accompany him to the
convent to examine, with the most scrupulous impartiality, two nuns
whom he would point out, in order to discover if their illness were
feigned, or arose from natural or supernatural causes. Having thus
instructed them as to his wishes, they all set out for the convent.
They were shown into the chapel and placed close to the altar, being
separated by a grating from the choir, in which the nuns who sang
usually sat. In a few moments the superior was carried in on a small
bed, which was laid down before the grating. Barre then said mass,
during which the superior went into violent convulsions. She threw
her arms about, her fingers were clenched, her cheeks enormously
inflated, and her eyes turned up so that only the whites could be
The mass finished, Barre approached her to administer the holy
communion and to commence the exorcism. Holding the holy wafer in
his hand, he said--
"Adora Deum tuum, creatorem tuum" (Adore God, thy Creator).
The superior hesitated, as if she found great difficulty in making
this act of love, but at length she said--
"Adoro te" (I adore Thee).
"Quem adoras?" (Whom dost thou adore?)
"Jesus Christus" (Jesus Christ), answered the nun, quite unconscious
that the verb adorn governs accusative.
This mistake, which no sixth-form boy would make, gave rise to bursts
of laughter in the church; and Daniel Douin, the provost's assessor,
was constrained to say aloud--
"There's a devil for you, who does not know much about transitive
Barre perceiving the bad impression that the superior's nominative
had made, hastened to ask her--
"Quis est iste quem adoras?" (Who is it whom thou dost adore?)
His hope was that she would again reply " Jesus Christus," but he was
"Jesu Christe," was her answer.
Renewed shouts of laughter greeted this infraction of one of the most
elementary rules of syntax, and several of those present exclaimed
"Oh, your reverence, what very poor Latin!"
Barre pretended not to hear, and next asked what was the name of the
demon who had taken possession of her. The poor superior, who was
greatly confused by the unexpected effect of her last two answers,
could not speak for a long time; but at length with great trouble she
brought out the name Asmodee, without daring to latinise it. The
exorcist then inquired how many devils the superior had in her body,
and to this question she replied quite fluently
"Sex" ( Six).
The bailiff upon this requested Barre to ask the chief devil how many
evil spirits he had with him. But the need for this answer had been
foreseen, and the nun unhesitatingly returned
This answer raised Asmodee somewhat in the opinion of those present;
but when the bailiff adjured the superior to repeat in Greek what she
had just said in Latin she made no reply, and on the adjuration being
renewed she immediately recovered her senses.
The examination of the superior being thus cut short, a little nun
who appeared for the first time in public was brought forward. She
began by twice pronouncing the name of Grandier with a loud laugh;
then turning to the bystanders, called out--
"For all your number, you can do nothing worth while."
As it was easy to see that nothing of importance was to be expected
from this new patient, she was soon suppressed, and her place taken
by the lay sister Claire who had already made her debut in the mother
Hardly had she entered the choir than she uttered a groan, but as
soon as they placed her on the little bed on which the other nuns had
lain, she gave way to uncontrollable laughter, and cried out between
"Grandier, Grandier, you must buy some at the market."
Barre at once declared that these wild and whirling words were a
proof of possession, and approached to exorcise the demon; but Sister
Claire resisted, and pretending to spit in the face of the exorcist,
put out her tongue at him, making indecent gestures, using a word in
harmony with her actions. This word being in the vernacular was
understood by everyone and required no interpretation.
The exorcist then conjured her to give the name of the demon who was
in her, and she replied
But Barre by repeating his question gave her to understand that she
had made a mistake, whereupon she corrected herself and said
Nothing in the world could induce her to reveal the number of evil
spirits by whom Elimi was accompanied, so that Barre, seeing that it
was useless to press her on this point, passed on to the next
"Quo pacto ingressus est daemon"(By what pact did the demon get in?).
"Duplex" (Double), returned Sister Claire.
This horror of the ablative, when the ablative was absolutely
necessary, aroused once more the hilarity of the audience, and proved
that Sister Claire's devil was just as poor a Latin scholar as the
superior's, and Barre, fearing some new linguistic eccentricity on
the part of the evil spirit, adjourned the meeting to another day.
The paucity of learning shown in the answers of the nuns being
sufficient to convince any fairminded person that the whole affair
was a ridiculous comedy, the bailiff felt encouraged to persevere
until he had unravelled the whole plot. Consequently, at three
o'clock in the afternoon, he returned to the convent, accompanied by
his clerk, by several magistrates, and by a considerable number of
the best known people of Loudun, and asked to see the superior.
Being admitted, he announced to Barre that he had come to insist on
the superior being separated from Sister Claire, so that each could
be exorcised apart. Barre dared not refuse before such a great
number of witnesses, therefore the superior was isolated and the
exorcisms begun all over again. Instantly the convulsions returned,
just as in the morning, only that now she twisted her feet into the
form of hooks, which was a new accomplishment.
Having adjured her several times, the exorcist succeeded in making
her repeat some prayers, and then sounded her as to the name and
number of the demons in possession, whereupon she said three times
that there was one called Achaos. The bailiff then directed Barre to
ask if she were possessed 'ex pacto magi, aut ex Aura voluntate Dei'
(by a pact with a sorcerer or by the pure will of God), to which the
"Non est voluutas Dei" (Not by the will of God).
Upon this, Barre dreading more questions from the bystanders, hastily
resumed his own catechism by asking who was the sorcerer.
"Urbanus," answered the superior.
"Est-ne Urbanus papa" (Is it Pope Urban?), asked the exorcist.
"Grandier," replied the superior.
"Quare ingressus es in corpus hujus puellae" (Why did you enter the
body of this maiden?), said Barre.
"Propter praesentiam tuum" (Because of your presence), answered the
At this point the bailiff, seeing no reason why the dialogue between
Barre and the superior should ever come to an end, interposed and
demanded that questions suggested by him and the other officials
present should be put to the superior, promising that if she answered
three of four such questions correctly, he, and those with him, would
believe in the reality of the possession, and would certify to that
effect. Barre accepted the challenge, but unluckily just at that
moment the superior regained consciousness, and as it was already
late, everyone retired.
The next day, November 25th, the bailiff and the majority of the
officers of the two jurisdictions came to the convent once more, and
were all conducted to the choir. In a few moments the curtains
behind the grating were drawn back, and the superior, lying on her
bed, came to view. Barre began, as usual, by the celebration of
mass, during which the superior was seized with convulsions, and
exclaimed two or three times, "Grandier! Grandier! false priest!"
When the mass was over, the celebrant went behind the grating,
carrying the pyx; then, placing it on his head and holding it there,
he protested that in all he was doing he was actuated by the purest
motives and the highest integrity; that he had no desire to harm
anyone on earth; and he adjured God to strike him dead if he had been
guilty of any bad action or collusion, or had instigated the nuns to
any deceit during the investigation.
The prior of the Carmelites next advanced and made the same
declaration, taking the oath in the same manner, holding the pyx over
his head; and further calling down on himself and his brethren the
curse of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram if they had sinned during this
inquiry. These protestations did not, however, produce the salutary
effect intended, some of those present saying aloud that such oaths
smacked of sacrilege.
Barre hearing the murmurs, hastened to begin the exorcisms, first
advancing to the superior to offer her the holy sacrament: but as
soon as she caught sight of him she became terribly convulsed, and
attempted to drag the pyx from his hands. Barre, however, by
pronouncing the sacred words, overcame the repulsion of the superior,
and succeeded in placing the wafer in her mouth; she, however, pushed
it out again with her tongue, as if it made her sick; Barge caught it
in his fingers and gave it to her again, at the same time forbidding
the demon to make her vomit, and this time she succeeded in partly
swallowing the sacred morsel, but complained that it stuck in her
throat. At last, in order to get it down, Barge three times gave her
water to drink; and then, as always during his exorcisms, he began by
interrogating the demon.
"Per quod pactum ingressus es in corpus hujus puellae?" (By what pact
didst thou enter the body of this maiden?)
"Aqua" ( By water), said the superior.
One of those who had accompanied the bailiff was a Scotchman called
Stracan, the head of the Reformed College of Loudun. Hearing this
answer, he called on the demon to translate aqua into Gaelic, saying
if he gave this proof of having those linguistic attainments which
all bad spirits possess, he and those with him would be convinced
that the possession was genuine and no deception. Barre, without
being in the least taken aback, replied that he would make the demon
say it if God permitted, and ordered the spirit to answer in Gaelic.
But though he repeated his command twice, it was not obeyed; on the
third repetition the superior said--
"Nimia curiositas" (Too much curiosity), and on being asked again,
"Deus non volo."
This time the poor devil went astray in his conjugation, and
confusing the first with the third person, said, "God, I do not
wish," which in the context had no meaning. "God does not wish,"
being the appointed answer.
The Scotchman laughed heartily at this nonsense, and proposed to
Barre to let his devil enter into competition with the boys of his
seventh form; but Barre, instead of frankly accepting the challenge
in the devil's name, hemmed and hawed, and opined that the devil was
justified in not satisfying idle curiosity.
"But, sir, you must be aware," said the civil lieutenant, "and if you
are not, the manual you hold in your hand will teach you, that the
gift of tongues is one of the unfailing symptoms of true possession,
and the power to tell what is happening at a distance another."
"Sir," returned Barre, "the devil knows the language very well, but,
does not wish to speak it; he also knows all your sins, in proof of
which, if you so desire, I shall order him to give the list."
"I shall be delighted to hear it," said the civil lieutenant; "be so
good as to try the experiment."
Barre was about to approach the superior, when he was held back by
the bailiff, who remonstrated with him on the impropriety of his
conduct, whereupon Barre assured the magistrate that he had never
really intended to do as he threatened.
However, in spite of all Barre's attempts to distract the attention
of the bystanders from the subject, they still persisted in desiring
to discover the extent of the devil's knowledge of foreign languages,
and at their suggestion the bailiff proposed to Barre to try him in
Hebrew instead of Gaelic. Hebrew being, according to Scripture, the
most ancient language of all, ought to be familiar to the demon,
unless indeed he had forgotten it. This idea met with such general
applause that Barre was forced to command the possessed nun to say
aqua in Hebrew. The poor woman, who found it difficult enough to
repeat correctly the few Latin words she had learned by rote, made an
impatient movement, and said--
"I can't help it; I retract" (Je renie).
These words being heard and repeated by those near her produced such
an unfavourable impression that one of the Carmelite monks tried to
explain them away by declaring that the superior had not said "Je
renie," but "Zaquay," a Hebrew word corresponding to the two Latin
words, "Effudi aquam" (I threw water about). But the words "Je
renie" had been heard so distinctly that the monk's assertion was
greeted with jeers, and the sub-prior reprimanded him publicly as a
liar. Upon this, the superior had a fresh attack of convulsions, and
as all present knew that these attacks usually indicated that the
performance was about to end, they withdrew, making very merry over a
devil who knew neither Hebrew nor Gaelic, and whose smattering of
Latin was so incorrect.
However, as the bailiff and civil lieutenant were determined to clear
up every doubt so far as they still felt any, they went once again to
the convent at three o'clock the same afternoon. Barre came out to
meet them, and took them for a stroll in the convent grounds. During
their walk he said to the civil lieutenant that he felt very much
surprised that he, who had on a former occasion, by order of the
Bishop of Poitiers, laid information against Grandier should be now
on his side. The civil lieutenant replied that he would be ready to
inform against him again if there were any justification, but at
present his object was to arrive at the truth, and in this he felt
sure he should be successful. Such an answer was very unsatisfactory
to Barre; so, drawing the bailiff aside, he remarked to him that a
man among whose ancestors were many persons of condition, several of
whom had held positions of much dignity in the Church, and who
himself held such an important judicial position, ought to show less
incredulity in regard to the possibility of a devil entering into a
human body, since if it were proved it would redound to the glory of
God and the good of the Church and of religion. The bailiff received
this remonstrance with marked coldness, and replied that he hoped
always to take justice for his guide, as his duty commanded. Upon
this, Barre pursued the subject no farther, but led the way to the
Just as they entered the room, where a large number of people were
already gathered, the superior, catching sight of the pyx which Barre
had brought with him, fell once more into convulsions. Barre went
towards her, and having asked the demon as usual by what pact he had
entered the maiden's body, and received the information that it was
by water, continued his examination as follows:
"Quis finis pacti" ( What is the object of this pact?
At these words the bailiff interrupted the exorcist and ordered him
to make the demon say in Greek the three words, 'finis, pacti,
impuritas'. But the superior, who had once already got out of her
difficulties by an evasive answer, had again recourse to the same
convenient phrase, "Nimia curiositas," with which Barre agreed,
saying that they were indeed too much given to curiosity. So the
bailiff had to desist from his attempt to make the demon speak Greek,
as he had before been obliged to give up trying to make him speak
Hebrew and Gaelic. Barre then continued his examination.
"Quis attulit pactum?" ( Who brought the pact ? )
"Magus" ( The sorcerer).
"Quale nomen magi?" ( What is the sorcerer's name?)
"Quis Urbanus? Est-ne Urbanus papa?"
(What Urban? Pope Urban?)
"Cujus qualitatis?" (What is his profession?)
The enriching of the Latin language by this new and unknown word
produced a great effect on the audience; however, Barre did not pause
long enough to allow it to be received with all the consideration it
deserved, but went on at once.
"Quis attulit aquam pacti?" ( Who brought the water of the pact?)
"Magus" (The magician).
"Qua hora?" (At what o'clock?)
"Septima" (At seven o'clock).
"An matutina?" (In the morning?)
"Sego" (In the evening).
"Quomodo intravit?" (How did he enter?)
"Janua" ( By the door).
"Quis vidit?" (Who saw him?)
"Tres" (Three persons).
Here Barre stopped, in order to confirm the testimony of the devil,
assuring his hearers that the Sunday after the superior's deliverance
from the second possession he along with Mignon and one of the
sisters was sitting with her at supper, it being about seven o'clock
in the evening, when she showed them drops of water on her arm, and
no one could tell where they came from. He had instantly washed her
arm in holy water and repeated some prayers, and while he was saying
them the breviary of the superior was twice dragged from her hands
and thrown at his feet, and when he stooped to pick it up for the
second time he got a box on the ear without being able to see the
hand that administered it. Then Mignon came up and confirmed what
Barre had said in a long discourse, which he wound up by calling down
upon his head the most terrible penalties if every word he said were
not the exact truth. He then dismissed the assembly, promising to
drive out the evil spirit the next day, and exhorting those present
to prepare themselves, by penitence and receiving the holy communion,
for the contemplation of the wonders which awaited them.
The last two exorcisms had been so much talked about in the town,
that Grandier, although he had not been present, knew everything that
had happened, down to the smallest detail, so he once more laid a
complaint before the bailiff, in which he represented that the nuns
maliciously continued to name him during the exorcisms as the author
of their pretended possession, being evidently influenced thereto by
his enemies, whereas in fact not only had he had no communication
with them, but had never set eyes on them; that in order to prove
that they acted under influence it was absolutely necessary that they
should be sequestered, it being most unjust that Mignon and Barre,
his mortal enemies, should have constant access to them and be able
to stay with them night and day, their doing so making the collusion
evident and undeniable; that the honour of God was involved, and also
that of the petitioner, who had some right to be respected, seeing
that he was first in rank among the ecclesiastics of the town.
Taking all this into consideration, he consequently prayed the
bailiff to be pleased to order that the nuns buffering from the so-
called possession should at once be separated from each other and
from their present associates, and placed under the control of
clerics assisted by physicians in whose impartiality the petitioner
could have confidence; and he further prayed that all this should be
performed in spite of any opposition or appeal whatsoever (but
without prejudice to the right of appeal), because of the importance
of the matter. And in case the bailiff were not pleased to order the
sequestration, the petitioner would enter a protest and complaint
against his refusal as a withholding of justice.
The bailiff wrote at the bottom of the petition that it would be at
once complied with.
After Urbain Grandier had departed, the physicians who had been
present at the exorcisms presented themselves before the bailiff,
bringing their report with them. In this report they said that they
had recognised convulsive movements of the mother superior's body,
but that one visit was not sufficient to enable them to make a
thorough diagnosis, as the movements above mentioned might arise as
well from a natural as from supernatural causes; they therefore
desired to be afforded opportunity for a thorough examination before
being called on to pronounce an opinion. To this end they required
permission to spend several days and nights uninterruptedly in the
same room with the patients, and to treat them in the presence of
other nuns and some of the magistrates. Further, they required that
all the food and medicine should pass through the doctors' hands, and
that no one, should touch the patients except quite openly, or speak
to them except in an audible voice. Under these conditions they
would undertake to find out the true cause of the convulsions and to
make a report of the same.
It being now nine o'clock in the morning, the hour when the exorcisms
began, the bailiff went over at once to the convent, and found Barre
half way through the mass, and the superior in convulsions. The
magistrate entered the church at the moment of the elevation of the
Host, and noticed among the kneeling Catholics a young man called
Dessentier standing up with his hat on. He ordered him either to
uncover or to go away. At this the convulsive movements of the
superior became more violent, and she cried out that there were
Huguenots in the church, which gave the demon great power over her.
Barre asked her how many there were present, and she replied, "Two,"
thus proving that the devil was no stronger in arithmetic than in
Latin; for besides Dessentier, Councillor Abraham Gauthier, one of
his brothers, four of his sisters, Rene Fourneau, a deputy, and an
attorney called Angevin, all of the Reformed faith, were present.
As Barre saw that those present were greatly struck, by this
numerical inaccuracy, he tried to turn their thoughts in another
direction by asking the superior if it were true that she knew no
Latin. On her replying that she did not know a single word, he held
the pyx before her and ordered her to swear by the holy sacrament.
She resisted at first, saying loud enough for those around her to
"My father, you make me take such solemn oaths that I fear God will
To this Barre replied--
"My daughter, you must swear for the glory of God."
And she took the oath.
Just then one of the bystanders remarked that the mother superior was
in the habit of interpreting the Catechism to her scholars. This she
denied, but acknowledged that she used to translate the Paternoster
and the Creed for them. As the superior felt herself becoming
somewhat confused at this long series of embarrassing questions, she
decided on going into convulsions again, but with only moderate
success, for the bailiff insisted that the exorcists should ask her
where Grandier was at that very moment. Now, as the ritual teaches
that one of the proofs of possession is the faculty of telling, when
asked, where people are, without seeing them, and as the question was
propounded in the prescribed terms, she was bound to answer, so she
said that Grandier was in the great hall of the castle.
"That is not correct," said the bailiff, "for before coming here I
pointed out a house to Grandier and asked him to stay in it till I
came back. If anybody will go there, they will be sure to find him,
for he wished to help me to discover the truth without my being
obliged to resort to sequestration, which is a difficult measure to
take with regard to nuns."
Barre was now ordered to send some of the monks present to the
castle, accompanied by a magistrate and a clerk. Barre chose the
Carmelite prior, and the bailiff Charles Chauvet, assessor of the
bailiwick, Ismael Boulieau a priest, and Pierre Thibaut, an articled
clerk, who all set out at once to execute their commission, while the
rest of those present were to await their return.
Meanwhile the superior, who had not spoken a word since the bailiff's
declaration, remained, in spite of repeated exorcisms, dumb, so Barre
sent for Sister Claire, saying that one devil would encourage the
other. The bailiff entered a formal protest against this step,
insisting that the only result of a double exorcism would be to cause
confusion, during which suggestions might be conveyed to the
superior, and that the proper thing to do was, before beginning new
conjurations, to await the return of the messengers. Although the
bailiff's suggestion was most reasonable, Barre knew better than to
adopt it, for he felt that no matter what it cost he must either get
rid of the bailiff and all the other officials who shared his doubts,
or find means with the help of Sister Claire to delude them into
belief. The lay sister was therefore brought in, in spite of the
opposition of the bailiff and the other magistrates, and as they did
not wish to seem to countenance a fraud, they all withdrew, declaring
that they could no longer look on at such a disgusting comedy. In
the courtyard they met their messengers returning, who told them they
had gone first to the castle and had searched the great hall and all
the other rooms without seeing anything of Grandier; they had then
gone to the house mentioned by the bailiff, where they found him for
whom they were looking, in the company of Pere Veret, the confessor
of the nuns, Mathurin Rousseau, and Nicolas Benoit, canons, and
Conte, a doctor, from whom they learned that Grandier had not been an
instant out of their sight for the last two hours. This being all
the magistrates wanted to know, they went home, while their envoys
went upstairs and told their story, which produced the effect which
might be expected. Thereupon a Carmelite brother wishing to weaken
the impression, and thinking that the devil might be more lucky in
his, second guess than the first, asked the superior where Grandier
was just then. She answered without the slightest hesitation that he
was walking with the bailiff in the church of Sainte-Croix. A new
deputation was at once sent off, which finding the church empty, went
on to the palace, and saw the bailiff presiding at a court. He had
gone direct from the convent to the palace, and had not yet seen
Grandier. The same day the nuns sent word that they would not
consent to any more exorcisms being performed in the presence of the
bailiff and the officials who usually accompanied him, and that for
the future they were determined to answer no questions before such
Grandier learning of this piece of insolence, which prevented the
only man on whose impartiality he could reckon from being
henceforward present at the exorcisms, once more handed in a petition
to the bailiff, begging for the sequestration of the two nuns, no
matter at what risk. The bailiff, however, in the interests of the
petitioner himself, did not dare to grant this request, for he was
afraid that the ecclesiastical authorities would nullify his
procedure, on the ground that the convent was not under his
He, however, summoned a meeting of the principal inhabitants of the
town, in order to consult with them as to the best course to take for
the public good. The conclusion they arrived at was to write to the
attorney-general and to the Bishop of Poitiers, enclosing copies of
the reports which had been drawn up, and imploring them to use their
authority to put an end to these pernicious intrigues. This was
done, but the attorney-general replied that the matter being entirely
ecclesiastical the Parliament was not competent to take cognisance of
it. As for the bishop, he sent no answer at all.
He was not, however, so silent towards Grandier's enemies; for the
ill-success of the exorcisms of November 26th having made increased
precautions necessary, they considered it would be well to apply to
the bishop for a new commission, wherein he should appoint certain
ecclesiastics to represent him during the exorcisms to come. Barre
himself went to Poitiers to make this request. It was immediately
granted, and the bishop appointed Bazile, senior-canon of Champigny,
and Demorans, senior canon of Thouars, both of whom were related to
some of Grandier's adversaries. The following is a copy of the new
"Henri-Louis le Chataignier de la Rochepezai, by the divine will
Bishop of Poitiers, to the senior canons of the Chatelet de
Saint-Pierre de Thouars et de Champigny-sur-Vese, greeting:
"We by these presents command you to repair to the town of Loudun, to
the convent of the nuns of Sainte-Ursule, to be present at the
exorcisms which will be undertaken by Sieur Barre upon some nuns of
the said convent who are tormented by evil spirits, we having thereto
authorised the said Barre. You are also to draw up a report of all
that takes place, and for this purpose are to take any clerk you may
choose with you.
" Given and done at Poitiers, November 28th, 1632.
"(Signed) HENRI LOUIS, Bishop of Poitiers.
"(Countersigned) By order of the said Lord Bishop,
These two commissioners having been notified beforehand, went to
Loudun, where Marescot, one of the queen's chaplains, arrived at the
same time; for the pious queen, Anne of Austria, had heard so many
conflicting accounts of the possession of the Ursuline nuns, that she
desired, for her own edification, to get to the bottom of the affair.
We can judge what importance the case was beginning to assume by its
being already discussed at court.
In spite of the notice which had been sent them that the nuns would
not receive them, the bailiff and the civil lieutenant fearing that
the royal envoy would allow himself to be imposed on, and would draw
up an account which would cast doubt on the facts contained in their
reports, betook themselves to the convent on December 1st, the day on
which the exorcisms were to recommence, in the presence of the new
commissioners. They were accompanied by their assessor, by the
provost's lieutenant, and a clerk. They had to knock repeatedly
before anyone seemed to hear them, but at length a nun opened the
door and told them they could not enter, being suspected of bad
faith, as they had publicly declared that the possession was a fraud
and an imposture. The bailiff, without wasting his time arguing with
the sister, asked to see Barre, who soon appeared arrayed in his
priestly vestments, and surrounded by several persons, among whom was
the queen's chaplain. The bailiff complained that admittance had
been refused to him and those with him, although he had been
authorised to visit the convent by the Bishop of Poitiers. Barre'
replied that he would not hinder their coming in, as far as it
"We are here with the intention of entering," said the bailiff, "and
also for the purpose of requesting you to put one or two questions to
the demon which we have drawn up in terms which are in accordance
with what is prescribed in the ritual. I am sure you will not
refuse," he added, turning with a bow to Marescot, "to make this
experiment in the presence of the queen's chaplain, since by that
means all those suspicions of imposture can be removed which are
unfortunately so rife concerning this business."
"In that respect I shall do as I please, and not as you order me,"
was the insolent reply of the exorcist.
"It is, however, your duty to follow legal methods in your
procedure," returned the bailiff, "if you sincerely desire the truth;
for it would be an affront to God to perform a spurious miracle in
His honour, and a wrong to the Catholic faith, whose power is in its
truth, to attempt to give adventitious lustre to its doctrines by the
aid of fraud and deception."
"Sir," said Barre, "I am a man of honour, I know my duty and I shall
discharge it; but as to yourself, I must recall to your recollection
that the last time you were here you left the chapel in anger and
excitement, which is an attitude of mind most unbecoming in one whose
duty it is to administer justice."
Seeing that these recriminations would have no practical result, the
magistrates cut them short by reiterating their demand for
admittance; and on this being refused, they reminded the exorcists
that they were expressly prohibited from asking any questions tending
to cast a slur on the character of any person or persons whatever,
under pain of being treated as disturbers of the public peace. At
this warning Barre, saying that he did not acknowledge the bailiff's
jurisdiction, shut the door in the faces of the two magistrates.
As there was no time to lose if the machinations of his enemies were
to be brought to nought, the bailiff and the civil lieutenant advised
Grandier to write to the Archbishop of Bordeaux, who had once already
extricated him from imminent danger, setting forth at length his
present predicament; this letter; accompanied by the reports drawn up
by the bailiff and the civil lieutenant, were sent off at once by a
trusty messenger to His Grace of Escoubleau de Sourdis. As soon as
he received the despatches, the worthy prelate seeing how grave was
the crisis, and that the slightest delay might be fatal to Grandier,
set out at once for his abbey of Saint-Jouinles-Marmes, the place in
which he had already vindicated in so striking a manner the upright
character of the poor persecuted priest by a fearless act of justice.
It is not difficult to realise what a blow his arrival was to those
who held a brief for the evil spirits in possession; hardly had he
reached Saint-Jouin than he sent his own physician to the convent
with orders to see the afflicted nuns and to test their condition, in
order to judge if the convulsions were real or simulated. The
physician arrived, armed with a letter from the archbishop, ordering
Mignon to permit the bearer to make a thorough examination into the
position of affairs. Mignon received the physician with all the
respect due to him who sent him, but expressed great regret that he
had not come a little sooner, as, thanks to his (Mignon's) exertions
and those of Barre, the devils had been exorcised the preceding day.
He nevertheless introduced the archbishop's envoy to the presence of
the superior and Sister Claire, whose demeanour was as calm as if
they had never been disturbed by any agitating' experiences.
Mignon's statement being thus confirmed, the doctor returned to
Saint-Jouin, the only thing to which he could bear testimony being
the tranquillity which reigned at the moment in the convent.
The imposture being now laid so completely bare, the archbishop was
convinced that the infamous persecutions to which it had led would
cease at once and for ever; but Grandier, better acquainted with the
character of his adversaries, arrived on the 27th of December at the
abbey and laid a petition at the archbishop's feet. In this document
he set forth that his enemies having formerly brought false and
slanderous accusations, against him of which, through the justice of
the archbishop, he had been able to clear himself, had employed
themselves during the last three months in inventing and publishing
as a fact that the petitioner had sent evil spirits into the bodies
of nuns in the Ursuline convent of Loudun, although he had never
spoken to any of the sisterhood there; that the guardianship of the
sisters who, it was alleged, were possessed, and the task of
exorcism, had been entrusted to Jean Mignon and Pierre Barre, who had
in the most unmistakable manner shown themselves to be the mortal
enemies of the petitioner; that in the reports drawn up by the said
Jean Mignon and Pierre Barre, which differed so widely from those
made by the bailiff and the civil lieutenant, it was boastfully
alleged that three or four times devils had been driven out, but that
they had succeeded in returning and taking possession of their
victims again and again, in virtue of successive pacts entered into
between the prince of darkness and the petitioner; that the aim of
these reports and allegations was to destroy the reputation of the
petitioner and excite public opinion against him; that although the
demons had been put to flight by the arrival of His Grace, yet it was
too probable that as soon as he was gone they would return to the
charge; that if, such being the case, the powerful support of the
archbishop were not available, the innocence of the petitioner, no
matter how strongly established, would by the cunning tactics of his
inveterate foes be obscured and denied: he, the petitioner, therefore
prayed that, should the foregoing reasons prove on examination to be
cogent, the archbishop would be pleased to prohibit Barre, Mignon,
and their partisans, whether among the secular or the regular clergy,
from taking part in any future exorcisms, should such be necessary,
or in the control of any persons alleged to be possessed;
furthermore, petitioner prayed that His Grace would be pleased to
appoint as a precautionary measure such other clerics and lay persons
as seemed to him suitable, to superintend the administration of food
and medicine and the rite of exorcism to those alleged to be
possessed, and that all the treatment should be carried out in the
presence of magistrates.
The archbishop accepted the petition, and wrote below it:
"The present petition having been seen by us and the opinion of our
attorney having been taken in the matter, we have sent the petitioner
in advance of our said attorney back to Poitiers, that justice may be
done him, and in the meantime we have appointed Sieur Barre, Pere
l'Escaye, a Jesuit residing in Poitiers, Pere Gaut of the Oratory,
residing at Tours, to conduct the exorcisms, should such be
necessary, and have given them an order to this effect.
"It is forbidden to all others to meddle with the said exorcisms, on
pain of being punished according to law."
It will be seen from the above that His Grace the Archbishop of
Bordeaux, in his enlightened and generous exercise of justice, had
foreseen and provided for every possible contingency; so that as soon
as his orders were made known to the exorcists the possession ceased
at once and completely, and was no longer even talked of. Barre
withdrew to Chinon, the senior canons rejoined their chapters, and
the nuns, happily rescued for the time, resumed their life of
retirement and tranquillity. The archbishop nevertheless urged on
Grandier the prudence of effecting an exchange of benefices, but he
replied that he would not at that moment change his simple living of
Loudun for a bishopric.
The exposure of the plot was most prejudicial to the prosperity of
the Ursuline community: spurious possession, far from bringing to
their convent an increase of subscriptions and enhancing their
reputation, as Mignon had promised, had ended for them in open shame,
while in private they suffered from straitened circumstances, for the
parents of their boarders hastened to withdraw their daughters from
the convent, and the nuns in losing their pupils lost their sole
source of income. Their, fall in the estimation of the public filled
them with despair, and it leaked out that they had had several
altercations with their director, during which they reproached him
for having, by making them commit such a great sin, overwhelmed them
with infamy and reduced them to misery, instead of securing for them
the great spiritual and temporal advantages he had promised them.
Mignon, although devoured by hate, was obliged to remain quiet, but
he was none the less as determined as ever to have revenge, and as he
was one of those men who never give up while a gleam of hope remains,
and whom no waiting can tire, he bided his time, avoiding notice,
apparently resigned to circumstances, but keeping his eyes fixed on
Grandier, ready to seize on the first chance of recovering possession
of the prey that had escaped his hands. And unluckily the chance
soon presented itself.
It was now 1633: Richelieu was at the height of his power, carrying
out his work of destruction, making castles fall before him where he
could not make heads fall, in the spirit of John Knox's words,
"Destroy the nests and the crows will disappear." Now one of these
nests was the crenellated castle of Loudun, and Richelieu had
therefore ordered its demolition.
The person appointed to carry out this order was a man such as those
whom Louis XI. had employed fifty years earlier to destroy the feudal
system, and Robespierre one hundred and fifty years later to destroy
the aristocracy. Every woodman needs an axe, every reaper a sickle,
and Richelieu found the instrument he required in de Laubardemont,
Councillor of State.
But he was an instrument full of intelligence, detecting by the
manner in which he was wielded the moving passion of the wielder, and
adapting his whole nature with marvellous dexterity to gratify that
passion according to the character of him whom it possessed; now by a
rough and ready impetuosity, now by a deliberate and hidden advance;
equally willing to strike with the sword or to poison by calumny, as
the man who moved him lusted for the blood or sought to accomplish
the dishonour of his victim.
M. de Laubardemont arrived at Loudun during the month of August 1633,
and in order to carry out his mission addressed himself to Sieur
Memin de Silly, prefect of the town, that old friend of the
cardinal's whom Mignon and Barre, as we have said, had impressed so
favourably. Memin saw in the arrival of Laubardemont a special
intimation that it was the will of Heaven that the seemingly lost
cause of those in whom he took such a warm interest should ultimately
triumph. He presented Mignon and all his friends to M. Laubardemont,
who received them with much cordiality. They talked of the mother
superior, who was a relation, as we have seen, of M. de Laubardemont,
and exaggerated the insult offered her by the decree of the
archbishop, saying it was an affront to the whole family; and before
long the one thing alone which occupied the thoughts of the
conspirators and the councillor was how best to draw down upon
Grandier the anger of the cardinal-duke. A way soon opened.
The Queen mother, Marie de Medici, had among her attendants a woman
called Hammon, to whom, having once had occasion to speak, she had
taken a fancy, and given a post near her person. In consequence of
this whim, Hammon came to be regarded as a person of some importance
in the queen's household. Hammon was a native of Loudun, and had
passed the greater part of her youth there with her own people, who
belonged to the lower classes. Grandier had been her confessor, and
she attended his church, and as she was lively and clever he enjoyed
talking to her, so that at length an intimacy sprang up between them.
It so happened at a time when he and the other ministers were in
momentary disgrace, that a satire full of biting wit and raillery
appeared, directed especially against the cardinal, and this satire
had been attributed to Hammon, who was known to share, as was
natural, her mistress's hatred of Richelieu. Protected as she was by
the queen's favour, the cardinal had found it impossible to punish
Hammon, but he still cherished a deep resentment against her.
It now occurred to the conspirators to accuse Grandier of being the
real author of the satire; and it was asserted that he had learned
from Hammon all the details of the cardinal's private life, the
knowledge of which gave so much point to the attack on him; if they
could once succeed in making Richelieu believe this, Grandier was
This plan being decided on, M. de Laubardemont was asked to visit the
convent, and the devils knowing what an important personage he was,
flocked thither to give him a worthy welcome. Accordingly, the nuns
had attacks of the most indescribably violent convulsions, and M. de
Laubardemont returned to Paris convinced as to the reality of their
The first word the councillor of state said to the cardinal about
Urbain Grandier showed him that he had taken useless trouble in
inventing the story about the satire, for by the bare mention of his
name he was able to arouse the cardinal's anger to any height he
wished. The fact was, that when Richelieu had been Prior of Coussay
he and Grandier had had a quarrel on a question of etiquette, the
latter as priest of Loudun having claimed precedence over the prior,
and carried his point. The cardinal had noted the affront in his
bloodstained tablets, and at the first hint de Laubardemont found him
as eager to bring about Grandier's ruin as was the councillor
De Laubardemont was at once granted the following commission :
"Sieur de Laubardemont, Councillor of State and Privy Councillor,
will betake himself to Loudun, and to whatever other places may be
necessary, to institute proceedings against Grandier on all the
charges formerly preferred against him, and on other facts which have
since come to light, touching the possession by evil spirits of the
Ursuline nuns of Loudun, and of other persons, who are said like wise
to be tormented of devils through the evil practices of the said
Grandier; he will diligently investigate everything from the
beginning that has any bearing either on the said possession or on
the exorcisms, and will forward to us his report thereon, and the
reports and other documents sent in by former commissioners and
delegates, and will be present at all future exorcisms, and take
proper steps to obtain evidence of the said facts, that they may be
clearly established; and, above all, will direct, institute, and
carry through the said proceedings against Grandier and all others
who have been involved with him in the said case, until definitive
sentence be passed; and in spite of any appeal or countercharge this
cause will not be delayed (but without prejudice to the right of
appeal in other causes), on account of the nature of the crimes, and
no regard will be paid to any request for postponement made by the
said Grandier. His majesty commands all governors, provincial
lieutenant-generals, bailiffs, seneschals, and other municipal
authorities, and all subjects whom it may concern, to give every
assistance in arresting and imprisoning all persons whom it may be
necessary to put under constraint, if they shall be required so to
Furnished with this order, which was equivalent to a condemnation, de
Laubardemont arrived at Laudun, the 5th of December, 1633, at nine
o'clock in the evening; and to avoid being seen he alighted in a
suburb at the house of one maitre Paul Aubin, king's usher, and son-
in-law of Memin de Silly. His arrival was kept so secret that
neither Grandier nor his friends knew of it, but Memin, Herve Menuau,
and Mignon were notified, and immediately called on him. De
Laubardemont received them, commission in hand, but broad as it was,
it did not seem to them sufficient, for it contained no order for
Grandier's arrest, and Grandier might fly. De Laubardemont, smiling
at the idea that he could be so much in fault, drew from his pocket
an order in duplicate, in case one copy should be lost, dated like
the commission, November 30th, signed LOUIS, and countersigned
PHILIPPEAUX. It was conceived in the following terms:
LOUIS, etc. etc.
"We have entrusted these presents to Sieur de Laubardemont, Privy
Councillor, to empower the said Sieur de Laubardemont to arrest
Grandier and his accomplices and imprison them in a secure place,
with orders to all provosts, marshals, and other officers, and to all
our subjects in general, to lend whatever assistance is necessary to
carry out above order; and they are commanded by these presents to
obey all orders given by the said Sieur; and all governors and
lieutenants-general are also hereby commanded to furnish the said
Sieur with whatever aid he may require at their hands."
This document being the completion of the other, it was immediately
resolved, in order to show that they had the royal authority at their
back, and as a preventive measure, to arrest Grandier at once,
without any preliminary investigation. They hoped by this step to
intimidate any official who might still be inclined to take
Grandier's part, and any witness who might be disposed to testify in
his favour. Accordingly, they immediately sent for Guillaume Aubin,
Sieur de Lagrange arid provost's lieutenant. De Laubardemont
communicated to him the commission of the cardinal and the order of
the king, and requested him to arrest Grandier early next morning.
M. de Lagrange could not deny the two signatures, and answered that
he would obey; but as he foresaw from their manner of going to work
that the proceedings about to be instituted would be an assassination
and not a fair trial, he sent, in spite of being a distant connection
of Memin, whose daughter was married to his (Lagrange's) brother, to
warn Grandier of the orders he had received. But Grandier with his
usual intrepidity, while thanking Lagrange for his generous message,
sent back word that, secure in his innocence and relying on the
justice of God, he was determined to stand his ground.
So Grandier remained, and his brother, who slept beside him, declared
that his sleep that night was as quiet as usual. The next morning he
rose, as was his habit, at six o'clock, took his breviary in his
hand, and went out with the intention of attending matins at the
church of Sainte-Croix. He had hardly put his foot over the
threshold before Lagrange, in the presence of Memin, Mignon, and the
other conspirators, who had come out to gloat over the sight,
arrested him in the name of the king. He was at once placed in the
custody of Jean Pouguet, an archer in His Majesty's guards, and of
the archers of the provosts of Loudun and Chinon, to be taken to the
castle at Angers. Meanwhile a search was instituted, and the royal
seal affixed to the doors of his apartments, to his presses, his
other articles of furniture-in fact, to every thing and place in the
house; but nothing was found that tended to compromise him, except an
essay against the celibacy of priests, and two sheets of paper
whereon were written in another hand than his, some love-poems in the
taste of that time.
For four months Grandier languished in prison, and, according to the
report of Michelon, commandant of Angers, and of Pierre Bacher, his
confessor, he was, during the whole period, a model of patience and
firmness, passing his days in reading good books or in writing
prayers and meditations, which were afterwards produced at his trial.
Meanwhile, in spite of the urgent appeals of Jeanne Esteye, mother of
the accused, who, although seventy years of age, seemed to recover
her youthful strength and activity in the desire to save her son,
Laubardemont continued the examination, which was finished on April
4th. Urbain was then brought back from Angers to Loudun.
An extraordinary cell had been prepared for him in a house belonging
to Mignon, and which had formerly been occupied by a sergeant named
Bontems, once clerk to Trinquant, who had been a witness for the
prosecution in the first trial. It was on the topmost story; the
windows had been walled up, leaving only one small slit open, and
even this opening was secured by enormous iron bars; and by an
exaggeration of caution the mouth of the fireplace was furnished with
a grating, lest the devils should arrive through the chimney to free
the sorcerer from his chains. Furthermore, two holes in the corners
of the room, so formed that they were unnoticeable from within,
allowed a constant watch to be kept over Grandier's movements by
Bontem's wife, a precaution by which they hoped to learn something
that would help them in the coming exorcisms. In this room, lying on
a little straw, and almost without light, Grandier wrote the
following letter to his mother:
"MY MOTHER,--I received your letter and everything you sent me except
the woollen stockings. I endure any affliction with patience, and
feel more pity for you than for myself. I am very much
inconvenienced for want of a bed; try and have mine brought to me,
for my mind will give way if my body has no rest: if you can, send me
a breviary, a Bible, and a St. Thomas for my consolation; and above
all, do not grieve for me. I trust that, God will bring my innocence
to light. Commend me to my brother and sister, and all our good
friends.--I am, mother, your dutiful son and servant,
While Grandier had been in prison at Angers the cases of possession
at the convent had miraculously multiplied, for it was no longer only
the superior and Sister Claire who had fallen a prey to the evil
spirits, but also several other sisters, who were divided into three
groups as follows, and separated:--
The superior, with Sisters Louise des Anges and Anne de Sainte-Agnes,
were sent to the house of Sieur Delaville, advocate, legal adviser to
the sisterhood; Sisters Claire and Catherine de la Presentation were
placed in the house of Canon Maurat; Sisters Elisabeth de la Croix,
Monique de Sainte-Marthe, Jeanne du Sainte-Esprit, and Seraphique
Archer were in a third house.
A general supervision was undertaken by Memin's sister, the wife of
Moussant, who was thus closely connected with two of the greatest
enemies of the accused, and to her Bontems' wife told all that the
superior needed to know about Grandier. Such was the manner of the
The choice of physicians was no less extraordinary. Instead of
calling in the most skilled practitioners of Angers, Tours, Poitiers,
or Saumur, all of them, except Daniel Roger of Loudun, came from the
surrounding villages, and were men of no education: one of them,
indeed, had failed to obtain either degree or licence, and had been
obliged to leave Saumur in consequence; another had been employed in
a small shop to take goods home, a position he had exchanged for the
more lucrative one of quack.
There was just as little sense of fairness and propriety shown in the
choice of the apothecary and surgeon. The apothecary, whose name was
Adam, was Mignon's first cousin, and had been one of the witnesses
for the prosecution at Grandier's first trial; and as on that
occasion--he had libelled a young girl of Loudun, he had been
sentenced by a decree of Parliament to make a public apology. And
yet, though his hatred of Grandier in consequence of this humiliation
was so well known,--perhaps for that very reason, it was to him the
duty of dispensing and administering the prescriptions was entrusted,
no one supervising the work even so far as to see that the proper
doses were given, or taking note whether for sedatives he did not
sometimes substitute stimulating and exciting drugs, capable of
producing real convulsions. The surgeon Mannouri was still more
unsuitable, for he was a nephew of Memin de Silly, and brother of the
nun who had offered the most determined opposition to Grandier's
demand for sequestration of the possessed sisters, during the second
series of exorcisms. In vain did the mother and brother of the
accused present petitions setting forth the incapacity of the doctors
and the hatred of Grandier professed by the apothecary; they could
not, even at their own expense, obtain certified copies of any of
these petitions, although they had witnesses ready to prove that Adam
had once in his ignorance dispensed crocus metallorum for crocus
mantis--a mistake which had caused the death of the patient for whom
the prescription was made up. In short, so determined were the
conspirators that this time Grandier should be done to death, that
they had not even the decency to conceal the infamous methods by
which they had arranged to attain this result.
The examination was carried on with vigour. As one of the first
formalities would be the identification of the accused, Grandier
published a memorial in which he recalled the case of Saint-
Anastasius at the Council of Tyre, who had been accused of immorality
by a fallen woman whom he had never seen before. When this woman
entered the hall of justice in order to swear to her deposition, a
priest named Timothy went up to her and began to talk to her as if he
were Anastasius; falling into the trap, she answered as if she
recognised him, and thus the innocence of the saint was shown forth.
Grandier therefore demanded that two or three persons of his own
height and complexion should be dressed exactly like himself, and
with him should be allowed to confront the nuns. As he had never
seen any of them, and was almost certain they had never seen him,
they would not be able, he felt sure, to point him out with
certainty, in spite of the allegations of undue intimacy with
themselves they brought against him. This demand showed such
conscious innocence that it was embarrassing to answer, so no notice
was taken of it.
Meanwhile the Bishop of Poitiers, who felt much elated at getting the
better of the Archbishop of Bordeaux, who of course was powerless
against an order issued by the cardinal-duke, took exception to Pere
1'Escaye and Pere Gaut, the exorcists appointed by his superior, and
named instead his own chaplain, who had been judge at Grandier's
first trial, and had passed sentence on him, and Pere Lactance, a
Franciscan monk. These two, making no secret of the side with which
they sympathised, put up on their arrival at Nicolas Moussant's, one
of Grandier's most bitter enemies; on the following day they went to
the superior's apartments and began their exorcisms. The first time
the superior opened her lips to reply, Pere Lactance perceived that
she knew almost no Latin, and consequently would not shine during the
exorcism, so he ordered her to answer in French, although he still
continued to exorcise her in Latin; and when someone was bold enough
to object, saying that the devil, according to the ritual, knew all
languages living and dead, and ought to reply in the same language in
which he was addressed, the father declared that the incongruity was
caused by the pact, and that moreover some devils were more ignorant
Following these exorcists, and two Carmelite monks, named Pierre de
Saint-Thomas and Pierre de Saint-Mathurin, who had, from the very
beginning, pushed their way in when anything was going on, came four
Capuchins sent by Pere Joseph, head of the Franciscans, "His grey
Eminence," as he was called, and whose names were Peres Luc,
Tranquille, Potais, and Elisee; so that a much more rapid advance
could be made than hitherto by carrying on the exorcisms in four
different places at once--viz., in the convent, and in the churches
of Sainte-Croix, Saint-Pierre du Martroy, and Notre-Dame du Chateau.
Very little of importance took place, however, on the first two
occasions, the 15th and 16th of April; for the declarations of the
doctors were most vague and indefinite, merely saying that the things
they had seen were supernatural, surpassing their knowledge and the
rules of medicine.
The ceremony of the 23rd April presented, however, some points of
interest. The superior, in reply to the interrogations of Pere
Lactance, stated that the demon had entered her body under the forms
of a cat, a dog, a stag, and a buck-goat.
"Quoties?" (How often?), inquired the exorcist.
"I didn't notice the day," replied the superior, mistaking the word
quoties for quando (when).
It was probably to revenge herself for this error that the superior
declared the same day that Grandier had on his body five marks made
by the devil, and that though his body was else insensible to pain,
he was vulnerable at those spots. Mannouri, the surgeon, was
therefore ordered to verify this assertion, and the day appointed for
the verification was the 26th.
In virtue of this mandate Mannouri presented himself early on that
day at Grandier's prison, caused him to be stripped naked and cleanly
shaven, then ordered him to be laid on a table and his eyes bandaged.
But the devil was wrong again: Grandier had only two marks, instead
of five--one on the shoulder-blade, and the other on the thigh.
Then took place one of the most abominable performances that can be
imagined. Mannouri held in his hand a probe, with a hollow handle,
into which the needle slipped when a spring was touched: when
Mannouri applied the probe to those parts of Grandier's body which,
according to the superior, were insensible, he touched the spring,
and the needle, while seeming to bury itself in the flesh, really
retreated into the handle, thus causing no pain; but when he touched
one of the marks said to be vulnerable, he left the needle fixed, and
drove it in to the depth of several inches. The first time he did
this it drew from poor Grandier, who was taken unprepared, such a
piercing cry that it was heard in the street by the crowd which had
gathered round the door. From the mark on the shoulder-blade with
which he had commenced, Mannouri passed to that on the thigh, but
though he plunged the needle in to its full depth Grandier uttered
neither cry nor groan, but went on quietly repeating a prayer, and
notwithstanding that Mannouri stabbed him twice more through each of
the two marks, he could draw nothing from his victim but prayers for
M. de Laubardemont was present at this scene.
The next day the devil was addressed in such forcible terms that an
acknowledgment was wrung from him that Grandier's body bore, not
five, but two marks only; and also, to the vast admiration of the
spectators, he was able this time to indicate their precise
Unfortunately for the demon, a joke in which he indulged on this
occasion detracted from the effect of the above proof of cleverness.
Having been asked why he had refused to speak on the preceding
Saturday, he said he had not been at Loudun on that day, as the whole
morning he had been occupied in accompanying the soul of a certain Le
Proust, attorney to the Parliament of Paris, to hell. This answer
awoke such doubts in the breasts of some of the laymen present that
they took the trouble to examine the register of deaths, and found
that no one of the name of Le Proust, belonging to any profession
whatever, had died on that date. This discovery rendered the devil
less terrible, and perhaps less amusing.
Meantime the progress of the other exorcisms met with like
interruptions. Pere Pierre de Saint Thomas, who conducted the
operations in the Carmelite church, asked one of the possessed
sisters where Grandier's books of magic were; she replied that they
were kept at the house of a certain young girl, whose name she gave,
and who was the same to whom Adam had been forced to apologise. De
Laubardemont, Moussant, Herve, and Meunau hastened at once to the
house indicated, searched the rooms and the presses, opened the
chests and the wardrobes and all the secret places in the house, but
in vain. On their return to the church, they reproached the devil
for having deceived them, but he explained that a niece of the young
woman had removed the books. Upon this, they hurried to the niece's
dwelling, but unluckily she was not at home, having spent the whole
day at a certain church making her devotions, and when they went
thither, the priests and attendants averred that she had not gone out
all day; so notwithstanding the desire of the exorcists to oblige
Adam they were forced to let the matter drop.
These two false statements increased the number of unbelievers; but
it was announced that a most interesting performance would take place
on May 4th; indeed, the programme when issued was varied enough to
arouse general curiosity. Asmodeus was to raise the superior two
feet from the ground, and the fiends Eazas and Cerberus, in emulation
of their leader, would do as much for two other nuns; while a fourth
devil, named Beherit, would go farther still, and, greatly daring,
would attack M. de Laubardemont himself, and, having spirited his
councillor's cap from his head, would hold it suspended in the air
for the space of a Misereye. Furthermore, the exorcists announced
that six of the strongest men in the town would try to prevent the
contortions of the, weakest of the convulsed nuns, and would fail.
It need hardly be said that the prospect of such an entertainment
filled the church on the appointed day to overflowing. Pere Lactance
began by calling on Asmodeus to fulfil his promise of raising the
superior from the ground. She began, hereupon, to perform various
evolutions on her mattress, and at one moment it seemed as if she
were really suspended in the air; but one of the spectators lifted
her dress and showed that she was only standing on tiptoe, which,
though it might be clever, was not miraculous. Shouts of laughter
rent the air, which had such an intimidating effect on Eazas and
Cerberus that not all the adjurations of the exorcists could extract
the slightest response. Beherit was their last hope, and he replied
that he was prepared to lift up M. de Laubardemont's cap, and would
do so before the expiration of a quarter of an hour.
We must here remark that this time the exorcisms took place in the
evening, instead of in the morning as hitherto; and it was now
growing dark, and darkness is favourable to illusions. Several of
the unbelieving ones present, therefore, began to call attention to
the fact that the quarter of an hour's delay would necessitate the
employment of artificial light during the next scene. They also
noticed that M. de Laubardemont had seated himself apart and
immediately beneath one of the arches in the vaulted roof, through
which a hole had been drilled for the passage of the bell-rope. They
therefore slipped out of the church, and up into the belfry, where
they hid. In a few moments a man appeared who began to work at
something. They sprang on him and seized his wrists, and found in
one of his hands a thin line of horsehair, to one end of which a hook
was attached. The holder being frightened, dropped the line and
fled, and although M. de Laubardemont, the exorcists, and the
spectators waited, expecting every moment that the cap would rise
into the air, it remained quite firm on the owner's head, to the no
small confusion of Pere Lactance, who, all unwitting of the fiasco,
continued to adjure Beherit to keep his word--of course without the
Altogether, this performance of May 4th, went anything but smoothly.
Till now no trick had succeeded; never before had the demons been
such bunglers. But the exorcists were sure that the last trick would
go off without a hitch. This was, that a nun, held by six men chosen
for their strength, would succeed in extricating herself from their
grasp, despite their utmost efforts. Two Carmelites and two
Capuchins went through the audience and selected six giants from
among the porters and messengers of the town.
This time the devil answered expectations by showing that if he was
not clever he was strong, for although the six men tried to hold her
down upon her mattress, the superior was seized with such terrible
convulsions that she escaped from their hands, throwing down one of
those who tried to detain her. This experiment, thrice renewed,
succeeded thrice, and belief seemed about to return to the assembly,
when a physician of Saumur named Duncan, suspecting trickery, entered
the choir, and, ordering the six men to retire, said he was going to
try and hold the superior down unaided, and if she escaped from his
hands he would make a public apology for his unbelief. M. de
Laubardemont tried to prevent this test, by objecting to Duncan as an
atheist, but as Duncan was greatly respected on account of his skill
and probity, there was such an outcry at this interference from the
entire audience that the commissioner was forced to let him have his
way. The six porters were therefore dismissed, but instead of
resuming their places among the spectators they left the church by
the sacristy, while Duncan approaching the bed on which the superior
had again lain down, seized her by the wrist, and making certain that
he had a firm hold, he told the exorcists to begin.
Never up to that time had it been so clearly shown that the conflict
going on was between public opinion and the private aims of a few. A
hush fell on the church; everyone stood motionless in silent
The moment Pere Lactance uttered the sacred words the convulsions of
the superior recommenced; but it seemed as if Duncan had more
strength than his six predecessors together, for twist and writhe and
struggle as she would, the superior's wrist remained none the less
firmly clasped in Duncan's hand. At length she fell back on her bed
"It's no use, it's no use! He's holding me!"
Release her arm! "shouted Pere Lactance in a rage. "How can the
convulsions take place if you hold her that way?"
"If she is really possessed by a demon," answered Duncan aloud, "he
should be stronger than I; for it is stated in the ritual that among
the symptoms of possession is strength beyond one's years, beyond
one's condition, and beyond what is natural."
"That is badly argued," said Lactance sharply: "a demon outside the
body is indeed stronger than you, but when enclosed in a weak frame
such as this it cannot show such strength, for its efforts are
proportioned to the strength of the body it possesses."
"Enough!" said M. de Laubardemont ; "we did not come here to argue
with philosophers, but to build up the faith of Christians."
With that he rose up from his chair amidst a terrible uproar, and the
assembly dispersed in the utmost disorder, as if they were leaving a
theatre rather than a church.
The ill success of this exhibition caused a cessation of events of
interest for some days. The result was that a great number of
noblemen and other people of quality who had come to Loudun expecting
to see wonders and had been shown only commonplace transparent
tricks, began to think it was not worth while remaining any longer,
and went their several ways--a defection much bewailed by Pere
Tranquille in a little work which he published on this affair.
"Many," he says, "came to see miracles at Loudun, but finding the
devils did not give them the signs they expected, they went away
dissatisfied, and swelled the numbers of the unbelieving."
It was determined, therefore, in order to keep the town full, to
predict some great event which would revive curiosity and increase
faith. Pere Lactance therefore announced that on the 20th of May
three of the seven devils dwelling in the superior would come out,
leaving three wounds in her left side, with corresponding holes in
her chemise, bodice, and dress. The three parting devils were
Asmodeus, Gresil des Trones, and Aman des Puissances. He added that
the superior's hands would be bound behind her back at the time the
wounds were given.
On the appointed day the church of Sainte-Croix was filled to
overflowing with sightseers curious to know if the devils would keep
their promises better this time than the last. Physicians were
invited to examine the superior's side and her clothes; and amongst
those who came forward was Duncan, whose presence guaranteed the
public against deception; but none of the exorcists ventured to
exclude him, despite the hatred in which they held him--a hatred
which they would have made him feel if he had not been under the
special protection of Marshal Breze. The physicians having completed
their examination, gave the following certificate:--
"We have found no wound in the patient's side, no rent in her
vestments, and our search revealed no sharp instrument hidden in the
folds of her dress."
These preliminaries having been got through, Pere Lactance questioned
her in French for nearly two hours, her answers being in the same
language. Then he passed from questions to adjurations: on this,
Duncan came forward, and said a promise had been given that the
superior's hands should be tied behind her back, in order that there
might be no room for suspicion of fraud, and that the moment had now
arrived to keep that promise. Pere Lactance admitted the justice of
the demand, but said as there were many present who had never seen
the superior in convulsions such as afflicted the possessed, it would
be only fair that she should be exorcised for their satisfaction
before binding her. Accordingly he began to repeat the form of
exorcism, and the superior was immediately attacked by frightful
convulsions, which in a few minutes produced complete exhaustion, so
that she fell on her face to the ground, and turning on her left arm
and side, remained motionless some instants, after which she uttered
a low cry, followed by a groan. The physicians approached her, and
Duncan seeing her take away her hand from her left side, seized her
arm, and found that the tips of her fingers were stained with blood.
They then examined her clothing and body, and found her dress,
bodice, and chemise cut through in three places, the cuts being less
than an inch long. There were also three scratches beneath the left
breast, so slight as to be scarcely more than skin deep, the middle
one being a barleycorn in length; still, from all three a sufficient
quantity of blood had oozed to stain the chemise above them.
This time the fraud was so glaring that even de Laubardemont
exhibited some signs of confusion because of the number and quality
of the spectators. He would not, however, allow the doctors to
include in their report their opinion as to the manner in which the
wounds were inflicted; but Grandier protested against this in a
Statement of Facts, which he drew up during the night, and which was
distributed next day.
It was as follows :
"That if the superior had not groaned the physicians would not have
removed her clothes, and would have suffered her to be bound, without
having the least idea that the wounds were already made; that then
the exorcists would have commanded the devils to come forth, leaving
the traces they had promised; that the superior would then have gone
through the most extraordinary contortions of which she was capable,
and have had a long fit of, convulsions, at the end of which she
would have been delivered from the three demons, and the wounds would
have been found in her body; that her groans, which had betrayed her,
had by God's will thwarted the best-laid plans of men and devils.
Why do you suppose," he went on to ask, "that clean incised wounds,
such as a sharp blade would make, 'were chosen for a token, seeing
that the wounds left by devils resemble burns? Was it not because it
was easier for the superior to conceal a lancet with which to wound
herself slightly, than to conceal any instrument sufficiently heated
to burn her? Why do you think the left side was chosen rather than
the forehead and nose, if not because she could not give herself a
wound in either of those places without being seen by all the
spectators? Why was the left side rather than the right chosen, if
it were not that it was easier for the superior to wound herself with
her right hand, which she habitually used, in the left side than in
the right? Why did she turn on her left side and arm and remain so
long in that position, if it were not to hide from the bystanders the
instrument with which she wounded herself? What do you think caused
her to groan, in spite of all her resolution, if it were not the pain
of the wound she gave herself? for the most courageous cannot repress
a shudder when the surgeon opens a vein. Why were her finger-tips
stained with blood, if it were not that the secreted blade was so
small that the fingers which held it could not escape being reddened
by the blood it caused to flow? How came it that the wounds were so
superficial that they barely went deeper than the cuticle, while
devils are known to rend and tear demoniacs when leaving them, if it
were not that the superior did not hate herself enough to inflict
deep and dangerous wounds?"
Despite this logical protest from Grandier and the barefaced knavery
of the exorcist, M. de Laubardemont prepared a report of the
expulsion of the three devils, Asmodeus, Gresil, and Aman, from the
body of sister Jeanne des Anges, through three wounds below the
region of the heart; a report which was afterwards shamelessly used
against Grandier, and of which the memorandum still exists, a
monument, not so much of credulity and superstition, as of hatred and
revenge. Pere Lactance, in order to allay the suspicions which the
pretended miracle had aroused among the eye-wittnesses, asked Balaam,
one of the four demons who still remained in the superior's body, the
following day, why Asmodeus and his two companions had gone out
against their promise, while the superior's face and hands were
hidden from the people.
"To lengthen the incredulity of certain people," answered Balaam.
As for Pere Tranquille, he published a little volume describing the
whole affair, in which, with the irresponsible frivolity of a true
Capuchin, he poked fun at those who could not swallow the miracles
"They had every reason to feel vexed," he said, "at the small
courtesy or civility shown by the demons to persons of their merit
and station; but if they had examined their consciences, perhaps they
would have found the real reason of their discontent, and, turning
their anger against themselves, would have done penance for having
come to the exorcisms led by a depraved moral sense and a prying
Nothing remarkable happened from the 20th May till the 13th June, a
day which became noteworthy by reason of the superior's vomiting a
quill a finger long. It was doubtless this last miracle which
brought the Bishop of Poitiers to Loudun, "not," as he said to those
who came to pay their respects to him, "to examine into the
genuineness of the possession, but to force those to believe who
still doubted, and to discover the classes which Urbain had founded
to teach the black art to pupils of both sexes."
Thereupon the opinion began to prevail among the people that it would
be prudent to believe in the possession, since the king, the
cardinal-duke, and the bishop believed in it, and that continued
doubt would lay them open to the charges of disloyalty to their king
and their Church, and of complicity in the crimes of Grandier, and
thus draw down upon them the ruthless punishment of Laubardemont.
"The reason we feel so certain that our work is pleasing to God is
that it is also pleasing to the king," wrote Pere Lactance.
The arrival of the bishop was followed by a new exorcism; and of this
an eye-witness, who was a good Catholic and a firm believer in
possession, has left us a written description, more interesting than
any we could give. We shall present it to our readers, word for
word, as it stands:--
"On Friday, 23rd June 1634, on the Eve of Saint John, about 3 p.m.,
the Lord Bishop of Poitiers and M. de Laubardemont being present in
the church of Sainte-Croix of Loudun, to continue the exorcisms of
the Ursuline nuns, by order of M, de Laubardemont, commissioner,
Urbain Grandier, priest-in-charge, accused and denounced as a
magician by the said possessed nuns, was brought from his prison to
the said church.
"There were produced by the said commissioner to the said Urbain
Grandier four pacts mentioned several times by the said possessed
nuns at the preceding exorcisms, which the devils who possessed the
nuns declared they had made with the said Grandier on several
occasions: there was one in especial which Leviathan gave up on
Saturday the 17th inst., composed of an infant's heart procured at a
witches' sabbath, held in Orleans in 1631; the ashes of a consecrated
wafer, blood, etc., of the said Grandier, whereby Leviathan asserted
he had entered the body of the sister, Jeanne des Anges, the superior
of the said nuns, and took possession of her with his coadjutors
Beherit, Eazas, and Balaam, on December 8th, 1632. Another such pact
was composed of the pips of Grenada oranges, and was given up by
Asmodeus and a number of other devils. It had been made to hinder
Beherit from keeping his promise to lift the commissioner's hat two
inches from his head and to hold it there the length of a Miseyere,
as a sign that he had come out of the nun. On all these pacts being
shown to the said Grandier, he said, without astonishment, but with
much firmness and resolution, that he had no knowledge of them
whatever, that he had never made them, and had not the skill by which
to make them, that he had held no communication with devils, and knew
nothing of what they were talking about. A report of all this being
made and shown to him, he signed it.
"This done, they brought all the possessed nuns, to the number of
eleven or twelve, including three lay sisters, also possessed, into
the choir of the said church, accompanied by a great many monks,
Carmelites, Capuchins, and Franciscans; and by three physicians and a
surgeon. The sisters on entering made some wanton remarks, calling
Grandier their master, and exhibiting great delight at seeing him.
"Thereupon Pere Lactance and Gabriel, a Franciscan brother, and one
of the exorcists, exhorted all present with great fervour to lift up
their hearts to God and to make an act of contrition for the offences
committed against His divine majesty, and to pray that the number of
their sins might not be an obstacle to the fulfilment of the plans
which He in His providence had formed for the promotion of His glory
on that occasion, and to give outward proof of their heartfelt grief
by repeating the Confiteor as a preparation for the blessing of the
Lord Bishop of Poitiers. This having been done, he went on to say
that the matter in question was of such moment and so important in
its relation to the great truths of the Roman Catholic Church, that
this consideration alone ought to be sufficient to excite their
devotion; and furthermore, that the affliction of these poor sisters
was so peculiar and had lasted so long, that charity impelled all
those who had the right to work for their deliverance and the
expulsion of the devils, to employ the power entrusted to them with
their office in accomplishing so worthy a task by the forms of
exorcism prescribed by the Church to its ministers; then addressing
Grandier, he said that he having been anointed as a priest belonged
to this number, and that he ought to help with all his power and with
all his energy, if the bishop were pleased to allow him to do so, and
to remit his suspension from authority. The bishop having granted
permission, the Franciscan friar offered a stole to Grandier, who,
turning towards the prelate, asked him if he might take it. On
receiving a reply in the affirmative, he passed it round his neck,
and on being offered a copy of the ritual, he asked permission to
accept it as before, and received the bishop's blessing, prostrating
himself at his feet to kiss them; whereupon the Veni Creator Spiritus
having been sung, he rose, and addressing the bishop, asked--
"'My lord, whom am I to exorcise?'"
The said bishop having replied--
" Grandier again asked--
"'The possessed maidens,' was the answer.
"'That is to say, my lord,' said he; "that I am obliged to believe in
the fact of possession. The Church believes in it, therefore I too
believe; but I cannot believe that a sorcerer can cause a Christian
to be possessed unless the Christian consent.'
"Upon this, some of those present exclaimed that it was heretical to
profess such a belief; that the contrary was indubitable, believed by
the whole Church and approved by the Sorbonne. To which he replied
that his mind on that point was not yet irrevocably made up, that
what he had said was simply his own idea, and that in any case he
submitted to the opinion of the whole body of which he was only a
member; that nobody was declared a heretic for having doubts, but
only for persisting in them, and that what he had advanced was only
for the purpose of drawing an assurance from the bishop that in doing
what he was about to do he would not be abusing the authority of the
Church. Sister Catherine having been brought to him by the
Franciscan as the most ignorant of all the nuns, and the least open
to the suspicion of being acquainted with Latin, he began the
exorcism in the form prescribed by the ritual. But as soon as he
began to question her he was interrupted, for all the other nuns were
attacked by devils, and uttered strange and terrible noises. Amongst
the rest, Sister Claire came near, and reproached him for his
blindness and obstinacy, so that he was forced to leave the nun with
whom he had begun, and address his words to the said Sister Claire,
who during the entire duration of the exorcism continued to talk at
random, without paying any heed to Grandier's words, which were also
interrupted by the mother superior, to whom he of last gave
attention, leaving Sister Claire. But it is to be noted that before
beginning to exorcise the superior, he said, speaking in Latin as
heretofore, that knowing she understood Latin, he would question her
in Greek. To which the devil replied by the mouth of the possessed
"'Ah! how clever you are! You know it was one of the first
conditions of our pact that I was not to answer in Greek.'
"Upon this, he cried, 'O pulchra illusio, egregica evasio!'
(O superb fraud, outrageous evasion!)
"He was then told that he was permitted to exorcise in Greek,
provided he first wrote down what he wished to say, and the superior
hereupon said that he should be answered in what language he pleased;
but it was impossible, for as soon as he opened his mouth all the
nuns recommenced their shrieks and paroxysms, showing unexampled
despair, and giving way to convulsions, which in each patient assumed
a new form, and persisting in accusing Grandier of using magic and
the black art to torment them; offering to wring his neck if they
were allowed, and trying to outrage his feelings in every possible
way. But this being against the prohibitions of the Church, the
priests and monks present worked with the utmost zeal to calm the
frenzy which had seized on the nuns. Grandier meanwhile remained
calm and unmoved, gazing fixedly at the maniacs, protesting his
innocence, and praying to God for protection. Then addressing
himself to the bishop and M. de Laubardemont, he implored them by the
ecclesiastical and royal authority of which they were the ministers
to command these demons to wring his neck, or at least to put a mark
in his forehead, if he were guilty of the crime of which they accused
him, that the glory of God might be shown forth, the authority of the
Church vindicated, and himself brought to confusion, provided that
the nuns did not touch him with their hands. But to this the bishop
and the commissioner would not consent, because they did not want to
be responsible for what might happen to him, neither would they
expose the authority of the Church to the wiles of the devils, who
might have made some pact on that point with Grandier. Then the
exorcists, to the number of eight, having commanded the devils to be
silent and to cease their tumult, ordered a brazier to be brought,
and into this they threw the pacts one by one, whereupon the
convulsions returned with such awful violence and confused cries,
rising into frenzied shrieks, and accompanied by such horrible
contortions, that the scene might have been taken for an orgy of
witches, were it not for the sanctity of the place and the character
of those present, of whom Grandier, in outward seeming at least, was
the least amazed of any, although he had the most reason. The devils
continued their accusations, citing the places, the days, and the
hours of their intercourse with him; the first spell he cast on them,
his scandalous behaviour, his insensibility, his abjurations of God
and the faith. To all this he calmly returned that these accusations
were calumnies, and all the more unjust considering his profession;
that he renounced Satan and all his fiends, having neither knowledge
nor comprehension of them; that in spite of all he was a Christian,
and what was more, an anointed priest; that though he knew himself to
be a sinful man, yet his trust was in God and in His Christ; that he
had never indulged in such abominations, end that it would be
impossible to furnish any pertinent and convincing proof of his
"At this point no words could express what the senses perceived; eyes
and ears received an impression of being surrounded by furies such as
had never been gathered together before; and unless accustomed to
such ghastly scenes as those who sacrifice to demons, no one could
keep his mind free from astonishment and horror in the midst of such
a spectacle. Grandier alone remained unchanged through it all,
seemingly insensible to the monstrous exhibitions, singing hymns to
the Lord with the rest of the people, as confident as if he were
guarded by legions of angels. One of the demons cried out that
Beelzebub was standing between him and Pere Tranquille the Capuchin,
upon which Grandier said to the demon--
"'Obmutescas!' (Hold thy peace).
"Upon this the demon began to curse, and said that was their
watchword; but they could not hold their peace, because God was
infinitely powerful, and the powers of hell could not prevail against
Him. Thereupon they all struggled to get at Grandier, threatening to
tear him limb from limb, to point out his marks, to strangle him
although he was their master; whereupon he seized a chance to say he
was neither their master nor their servant, and that it was
incredible that they should in the same breath acknowledge him for
their master and express a desire to strangle him: on hearing this,
the frenzy of the nuns reached its height, and they kicked their
slippers into his face.
"'Just look!' said he; 'the shoes drop from the hoofs of their own
"At length, had it not been for the help and interposition of people
in the choir, the nuns in their frenzy would have taken the life of
the chief personage in this spectacle; so there was no choice but to
take him away from the church and the furies who threatened his life.
He was therefore brought back to prison about six o'clock in the
evening, and the rest of the day the exorcists were employed in
calming the poor sisters--a task of no small difficulty."
Everyone did not regard the possessed sisters with the indulgent eye
of the author of the above narrative, and many saw in this terrible
exhibition of hysteria and convulsions an infamous and sacrilegious
orgy, at which revenge ran riot. There was such difference of
opinion about it that it was considered necessary to publish the
following proclamation by means of placards on July 2nd:
"All persons, of whatever rank or profession, are hereby expressly
forbidden to traduce, or in any way malign, the nuns and other
persons at Loudun possessed by evil spirits; or their exorcists; or
those who accompany them either to the places appointed for exorcism
or elsewhere; in any form or manner whatever, on pain of a fine of
ten thousand livres, or a larger sum and corporal punishment should
the case so require; and in order that no one may plead ignorance
hereof, this proclamation will be read and published to-day from the
pulpits of all the churches, and copies affixed to the church doors
and in other suitable public places.
" Done at Loudun, July 2nd, 1634."
This order had great influence with worldly folk, and from that
moment, whether their belief was strengthened or not, they no longer
dared to express any incredulity. But in spite of that, the judges
were put to shame, for the nuns themselves began to repent; and on
the day following the impious scene above described, just as Pere
Lactanee began to exorcise Sister Claire in the castle chapel, she
rose, and turning towards the congregation, while tears ran down her
cheeks, said in a voice that could be heard by all present, that she
was going to speak the truth at last in the sight of Heaven.
Thereupon she confessed that all that she had said during the last
fortnight against Grandier was calumnious and false, and that all her
actions had been done at the instigation of the Franciscan Pere
Lactance, the director, Mignon, and the Carmelite brothers. Pere
Lactance, not in the least taken aback, declared that her confession
was a fresh wile of the devil to save her master Grandier. She then
made an urgent appeal to the bishop and to M. de Laubardemont, asking
to be sequestered and placed in charge of other priests than those
who had destroyed her soul, by making her bear false witness against
an innocent man; but they only laughed at the pranks the devil was
playing, and ordered her to be at once taken back to the house in
which she was then living. When she heard this order, she darted out
of the choir, trying to escape through the church door, imploring
those present to come to her assistance and save her from everlasting
damnation. But such terrible fruit had the proclamation borne that
noon dared respond, so she was recaptured and taken back to the house
in which she was sequestered, never to leave it again.
The next day a still more extraordinary scene took place. While M.
de Laubardemont was questioning one of the nuns, the superior came
down into the court, barefooted; in her chemise, and a cord round her
neck; and there she remained for two hours, in the midst of a fearful
storm, not shrinking before lightning, thunder, or rain, but waiting
till M. de Laubardemont and the other exorcists should come out. At
length the door opened and the royal commissioner appeared, whereupon
Sister Jeanne des Anges, throwing herself at his feet, declared she
had not sufficient strength to play the horrible part they had made
her learn any longer, and that before God and man she declared Urbain
Grandier innocent, saying that all the hatred which she and her
companions had felt against him arose from the baffled desires which
his comeliness awoke--desires which the seclusion of conventional
life made still more ardent. M. de Laubardemont threatened her with
the full weight of his displeasure, but she answered, weeping
bitterly, that all she now dreaded was her sin, for though the mercy
of the Saviour was great, she felt that the crime she had committed
could never be pardoned. M. de Laubardemont exclaimed that it was
the demon who dwelt in her who was speaking, but she replied that the
only demon by whom she had even been possessed was the spirit of
vengeance, and that it was indulgence in her own evil thoughts, and
not a pact with the devil, which had admitted him into her heart.
With these words she withdrew slowly, still weeping, and going into
the garden, attached one end of the cord round her neck to the branch
of a tree, and hanged herself. But some of the sisters who had
followed her cut her down before life was extinct.
The same day an order for her strict seclusion was issued for her as
for Sister Claire, and the circumstances that she was a relation of
M. de Laubardemont did not avail to lessen her punishment in view of
the gravity of her fault.
It was impossible to continue the exorcisms other nuns might be
tempted to follow the example, of the superior and Sister Claire, and
in that case all would be lost. And besides, was not Urbain Grandier
well and duly convicted? It was announced, therefore, that the
examination had proceeded far enough, and that the judges would
consider the evidence and deliver judgment.
This long succession of violent and irregular breaches of law
procedure, the repeated denials of his claim to justice, the refusal
to let his witnesses appear, or to listen to his defence, all
combined to convince Grandier that his ruin was determined on; for
the case had gone so far and had attained such publicity that it was
necessary either to punish him as a sorcerer and magician or to
render a royal commissioner, a bishop, an entire community of nuns,
several monks of various orders, many judges of high reputation, and
laymen of birth and standing, liable to the penalties incurred by
calumniators. But although, as this conviction grew, he confronted
it with resignation, his courage did not fail,--and holding it to be
his duty as a man and a Christian to defend his life and honour to
the end, he drew up and published another memorandum, headed Reasons
for Acquittal, and had copies laid before his judges. It was a
weighty and, impartial summing up of the whole case, such as a
stranger might have written, and began, with these words.
"I entreat you in all humility to consider deliberately and with
attention what the Psalmist says in Psalm 82, where he exhorts judges
to fulfil their charge with absolute rectitude; they being themselves
mere mortals who will one day have to appear before God, the
sovereign judge of the universe, to give an account of their
administration. The Lord's Anointed speaks to you to-day who are
sitting in judgment, and says--
"'God standeth in the congregation of the mighty: He judgeth among
"'How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the
"'Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and
"'Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
"'I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most
"'But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.'"
But this appeal, although convincing and dignified, had no influence
upon the commission; and on the 18th of August the following verdict
and sentence was pronounced:--
"We have declared, and do hereby declare, Urbain Grandier duly
accused and convicted of the crimes of magic and witchcraft, and of
causing the persons of certain Ursuline nuns of this town and of
other females to become possessed of evil spirits, wherefrom other
crimes and offences have resulted. By way of reparation therefor, we
have sentenced, and do hereby sentence, the said Grandier to make
public apology, bareheaded, with a cord around his neck, holding a
lighted torch of two pounds weight in his hand, before the west door
of the church of Saint-Pierre in the Market Place and before--that of
Sainte-Ursule, both of this town, and there on bended knee to ask
pardon of God and the king and the law, and this done, to be taken to
the public square of Sainte-Croix and there to be attached to a
stake, set in the midst of a pile of wood, both of which to be
prepared there for this purpose, and to be burnt alive, along with
the pacts and spells which remain in the hands of the clerk and the
manuscript of the book written by the said Grandier against a
celibate priesthood, and his ashes, to be scattered to the four winds
of heaven. And we have declared, and do hereby declare, all and
every part of his property confiscate to the king, the sum of one
hundred and fifty livres being first taken therefrom to be employed
in the purchase of a copper plate whereon the substance of the
present decree shall be engraved, the same to be exposed in a
conspicuous place in the said church of Sainte-Ursule, there to
remain in perpetuity; and before this sentence is carried out, we
order the said Grandier to be put to the question ordinary and
extraordinary, so that his accomplices may become known.
"Pronounced at Loudun against the said Grandier this 18th day of
On the morning of the day on which this sentence was passed, M. de
Laubardemont ordered the surgeon Francois Fourneau to be arrested at
his own house and taken to Grandier's cell, although he was ready to
go there of his own free will. In passing through the adjoining room
he heard the voice of the accused saying:--
"What do you want with me, wretched executioner? Have you come to
kill me? You know how cruelly you have already tortured my body.
Well I am ready to die."
On entering the room, Fourneau saw that these words had been
addressed to the surgeon Mannouri.
One of the officers of the 'grand privot de l'hotel', to whom M. de
Laubardemont lent for the occasion the title of officer of the king's
guard, ordered the new arrival to shave Grandier, and not leave a
single hair on his whole body. This was a formality employed in
cases of witchcraft, so that the devil should have no place to hide
in; for it was the common belief that if a single hair were left, the
devil could render the accused insensible to the pains of torture.
From this Urbain understood that the verdict had gone against him and
that he was condemned to death.
Fourneau having saluted Grandier, proceeded to carry out his orders,
whereupon a judge said it was not sufficient to shave the body of the
prisoner, but that his nails must also be torn out, lest the devil
should hide beneath them. Grandier looked at the speaker with an
expression of unutterable pity, and held out his hands to Fourneau;
but Forneau put them gently aside, and said he would do nothing of
the kind, even were the order given by the cardinal-duke himself, and
at the same time begged Grandier's pardon for shaving him. At, these
words Grandier, who had for so long met with nothing but barbarous
treatment from those with whom he came in contact, turned towards the
surgeon with tears in his eyes, saying--
"So you are the only one who has any pity for me."
"Ah, sir," replied F6urneau, "you don't see everybody."
Grandier was then shaved, but only two marks found on him, one as we
have said on the shoulder blade, and the other on the thigh. Both
marks were very sensitive, the wounds which Mannouri had made not
having yet healed. This point having been certified by Fourneau,
Grandier was handed, not his own clothes, but some wretched garments
which had probably belonged to some other condemned man.
Then, although his sentence had been pronounced at the Carmelite
convent, he was taken by the grand provost's officer, with two of his
archers, accompanied by the provosts of Loudun and Chinon, to the
town hall, where several ladies of quality, among them Madame de
Laubardemont, led by curiosity, were sitting beside the judges,
waiting to hear the sentence read. M. de Laubardemont was in the
seat usually occupied by the clerk, and the clerk was standing before
him. All the approaches were lined with soldiers.
Before the accused was brought in, Pere Lactance and another
Franciscan who had come with him exorcised him to oblige the devils
to leave him; then entering the judgment hall, they exorcised the
earth, the air, "and the other elements." Not till that was done was
Grandier led in.
At first he was kept at the far end of the hall, to allow time for
the exorcisms to have their full effect, then he was brought forward
to the bar and ordered to kneel down. Grandier obeyed, but could
remove neither his hat nor his skull-cap, as his hands were bound
behind his back, whereupon the clerk seized on the one and the
provost's officer on the other, and flung them at de Laubardemont's
feet. Seeing that the accused fixed his eyes on the commissioner as
if waiting to see what he was about to do, the clerk said
"Turn your head, unhappy man, and adore the crucifix above the
Grandier obeyed without a murmur and with great humility, and
remained sunk in silent prayer for about ten minutes; he then resumed
his former attitude.
The clerk then began to read the sentence in a trembling voice, while
Grandier listened with unshaken firmness and wonderful tranquillity,
although it was the most terrible sentence that could be passed,
condemning the accused to be burnt alive the same day, after the
infliction of ordinary and extraordinary torture. When the clerk had
ended, Grandier said, with a voice unmoved from its usual calm
"Messeigneurs, I aver in the name of the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Ghost, and the Blessed Virgin, my only hope, that I have never
been a magician, that I have never committed sacrilege, that I know
no other magic than that of the Holy Scriptures, which I have always
preached, and that I have never held any other belief than that of
our Holy Mother the Catholic Apostolic Church of Rome; I renounce the
devil and all his works; I confess my Redeemer, and I pray to be
saved through the blood of the Cross; and I beseech you,
messeigneurs, to mitigate the rigour of my sentence, and not to drive
my soul to despair."
The concluding words led de Laubardemont to believe that he could
obtain some admission from Grandier through fear of suffering, so he
ordered the court to be cleared, and, being left alone with Maitre
Houmain, criminal lieutenant of Orleans, and the Franciscans, he
addressed Grandier in a stern voice, saying there was only one way to
obtain any mitigation of his sentence, and that was to confess the
names of his accomplices and to sign the confession. Grandier
replied that having committed no crime he could have no accomplices,
whereupon Laubardemont ordered the prisoner to be taken to the
torture chamber, which adjoined the judgment hall--an order which was
The mode of torture employed at Loudun was a variety of the boot, and
one of the most painful of all. Each of the victim's legs below the
knee was placed between two boards, the two pairs were then laid one
above the other and bound together firmly at the ends; wedges were
then driven in with a mallet between the two middle boards; four such
wedges constituted ordinary and eight extraordinary torture; and this
latter was seldom inflicted, except on those condemned to death, as
almost no one ever survived it, the sufferer's legs being crushed to
a pulp before he left the torturer's bands. In this case M. de
Laubardemont on his own initiative, for it had never been done
before, added two wedges to those of the extraordinary torture, so
that instead of eight, ten were to be driven in.
Nor was this all: the commissioner royal and the two Franciscans
undertook to inflict the torture themselves.
Laubardemont ordered Grandier to be bound in the usual manner, I and
then saw his legs placed between the boards. He then dismissed the
executioner and his assistants, and directed the keeper of the
instruments to bring the wedges, which he complained of as being too
small. Unluckily, there were no larger ones in stock, and in spite
of threats the keeper persisted in saying he did not know where to
procure others. M. de Laubardemont then asked how long it would take
to make some, and was told two hours; finding that too long to wait,
he was obliged to put up with those he had.
Thereupon the torture began. Pere Lactance having exorcised the
instruments, drove in the first wedge, but could not draw a murmur
from Grandier, who was reciting a prayer in a low voice; a second was
driven home, and this time the victim, despite his resolution, could
not avoid interrupting his devotions by two groans, at each of which
Pere Lactance struck harder, crying, "Dicas! dicas!" (Confess,
confess!), a word which he repeated so often and so furiously, till
all was over, that he was ever after popularly called " Pere Dicas."
When the second wedge was in, de Laubardemont showed Grandier his
manuscript against the celibacy of the priests, and asked if he
acknowledged it to be in his own handwriting. Grandier answered in
the affirmative. Asked what motive he had in writing it, he said it
was an attempt to restore peace of mind to a poor girl whom he had
loved, as was proved by the two lines written at the end--
"Si ton gentil esprit prend bien cette science,
Tu mettras en repos ta bonne conscience."
[If thy sensitive mind imbibe this teaching,
It will give ease to thy tender conscience]
Upon this, M. de Laubardemont demanded the girl's name; but Grandier
assured him it should never pass his lips, none knowing it but
himself and God. Thereupon M. de Laubardemont ordered Pere Lactance
to insert the third wedge. While it was being driven in by the
monk's lusty arm, each blow being accompanied by the word "'Dicas'!"
"My God! they are killing me, and yet I am neither a sorcerer nor
At the fourth wedge Grandier fainted, muttering--
"Oh, Pere Lactance, is this charity?"
Although his victim was unconscious, Pere Lactance continued to
strike; so that, having lost consciousness through pain, pain soon
brought him back to life.
De Laubardemont took advantage of this revival to take his turn at
demanding a confession of his crimes; but Grandier said--
"I have committed no crimes, sir, only errors. Being a man, I have
often gone astray; but I have confessed and done penance, and believe
that my prayers for pardon have been heard; but if not, I trust that
God will grant me pardon now, for the sake of my sufferings."
At the fifth wedge Grandier fainted once more, but they restored him
to consciousness by dashing cold water in his face, whereupon he
moaned, turning to M. de Laubardemont
"In pity, sir, put me to death at once! I am only a man, and I cannot
answer for myself that if you continue to torture me so I shall not
give way to despair."
"Then sign this, and the torture shall cease," answered the
commissioner royal, offering him a paper.
"My father," said Urbain, turning towards the Franciscan, "can you
assure me on your conscience that it is permissible for a man, in
order to escape suffering, to confess a crime he has never
"No," replied the monk; "for if he die with a lie on his lips he dies
in mortal sin."
"Go on, then," said Grandier; "for having suffered so much in my
body, I desire to save my soul."
As Pere Lactance drove in the sixth wedge Grandier fainted anew.
When he had been revived, Laubardemont called upon him to confess
that a certain Elisabeth Blanchard had been his mistress, as well as
the girl for whom he had written the treatise against celibacy; but
Grandier replied that not only had no improper relations ever existed
between them, but that the day he had been confronted with her at his
trial was the first time he had ever seen her.
At the seventh wedge Grandier's legs burst open, and the blood
spurted into Pere Lactance's face; but he wiped it away with the
sleeve of his gown.
"O Lord my God, have mercy on me! I die!" cried Grandier, and
fainted for the fourth time. Pere Lactance seized the opportunity to
take a short rest, and sat down.
When Grandier had once more come to himself, he began slowly to utter
a prayer, so beautiful and so moving that the provost's lieutenant
wrote it down; but de Laubardemont noticing this, forbade him ever to
show it to anyone.
At the eighth wedge the bones gave way, and the marrow oozed out of
the wounds, and it became useless to drive in any more wedges, the
legs being now as flat as the boards that compressed them, and
moreover Pere Lactance was quite worn out.
Grandier was unbound and laid upon the flagged floor, and while his
eyes shone with fever and agony he prayed again a second prayer--a
veritable martyr's prayer, overflowing with faith and enthusiasm; but
as he ended his strength failed, and he again became unconscious.
The provost's lieutenant forced a little wine between his lips, which
brought him to; then he made an act of contrition, renounced Satan
and all his works once again, and commended his soul to God.
Four men entered, his legs were freed from the boards, and the
crushed parts were found to be a mere inert mass, only attached to
the knees by the sinews. He was then carried to the council chamber,
and laid on a little straw before the fire.
In a corner of the fireplace an Augustinian monk was seated. Urbain
asked leave to confess to him, which de Laubardemont refused, holding
out the paper he desired to have signed once more, at which Grandier
"If I would not sign to spare myself before, am I likely to give way
now that only death remains?"
"True," replied Laubardemont; "but the mode of your death is in our
hands: it rests with us to make it slow or quick, painless or
agonising; so take this paper and sign?
Grandier pushed the paper gently away, shaking his head in sign of
refusal, whereupon de Laubardemont left the room in a fury, and
ordered Peres Tranquille and Claude to be admitted, they being the
confessors he had chosen for Urbain. When they came near to fulfil
their office, Urbain recognised in them two of his torturers, so he
said that, as it was only four days since he had confessed to Pere
Grillau, and he did not believe he had committed any mortal sin since
then, he would not trouble them, upon which they cried out at him as
a heretic and infidel, but without any effect.
At four o'clock the executioner's assistants came to fetch him; he
was placed lying on a bier and carried out in that position. On the
way he met the criminal lieutenant of Orleans, who once more exhorted
him to confess his crimes openly; but Grandier replied--
"Alas, sir, I have avowed them all; I have kept nothing back."
"Do you desire me to have masses said for you?" continued the
"I not only desire it, but I beg for it as a great favour," said
A lighted torch was then placed in his hand: as the procession
started he pressed the torch to his lips; he looked on all whom he
met with modest confidence, and begged those whom he knew to
intercede with God for him. On the threshold of the door his
sentence was read to him, and he was then placed in a small cart and
driven to the church of St. Pierre in the market-place. There he was
awaited by M. de Laubardemont, who ordered him to alight. As he
could not stand on his mangled limbs, he was pushed out, and fell
first on his knees and then on his face. In this position he
remained patiently waiting to be lifted. He was carried to the top
of the steps and laid down, while his sentence was read to him once
more, and just as it was finished, his confessor, who had not been
allowed to see him for four days, forced a way through the crowd and
threw himself into Grandier's arms. At first tears choked Pere
Grillau's voice, but at last he said, "Remember, sir, that our
Saviour Jesus Christ ascended to His Father through the agony of the
Cross: you are a wise man, do not give way now and lose everything.
I bring you your mother's blessing; she and I never cease to pray
that God may have mercy on you and receive you into Paradise."
These words seemed to inspire Grandier with new strength; he lifted
his head, which pain had bowed, and raising his eyes to heaven,
murmured a short prayer. Then turning towards the worthy, friar, he
"Be a son to my mother; pray to God for me constantly; ask all our
good friars to pray for my soul; my one consolation is that I die
innocent. I trust that God in His mercy may receive me into
"Is there nothing else I can do for you?" asked P6re Grillau.
"Alas, my father!" replied Grandier, "I am condemned to die a most
cruel death; ask the executioner if there is no way of shortening
what I must undergo."
"I go at once," said the friar; and giving him absolution in
'articulo mortis', he went down the steps, and while Grandier was
making his confession aloud the good monk drew the executioner aside
and asked if there were no possibility of alleviating the death-agony
by means of a shirt dipped in brimstone. The executioner answered
that as the sentence expressly stated that Grandier was to be burnt
alive, he could not employ an expedient so sure to be discovered as
that; but that if the friar would give him thirty crowns he would
undertake to strangle Grandier while he was kindling the pile. Pere
Grillau gave him the money, and the executioner provided himself with
a rope. The Franciscan then placed himself where he could speak to
his penitent as he passed, and as he embraced him for the last time,
whispered to him what he had arranged with the executioner, whereupon
Grandier turned towards the latter and said in a tone of deep
"Thanks, my brother."
At that moment, the archers having driven away Pere Grillau, by order
of M. de Laubardemont, by beating him with their halberts, the
procession resumed its march, to go through the same ceremony at the
Ursuline church, and from there to proceed to the square of Sainte-
Croix. On the way Urbain met and recognised Moussant, who was
accompanied by his wife, and turning towards him, said--
"I die your debtor, and if I have ever said a word that could offend
you I ask you to forgive me."
When the place of execution was reached, the provost's lieutenant
approached Grandier and asked his forgiveness.
"You have not offended me," was the reply; "you have only done what
your duty obliged you to do."
The executioner then came forward and removed the back board of the
cart, and ordered his assistants to carry Grandier to where the pile
was prepared. As he was unable to stand, he was attached to the
stake by an iron hoop passed round his body. At that moment a flock
of pigeons seemed to fall from the sky, and, fearless of the crowd,
which was so great that the archers could not succeed even by blows
of their weapons in clearing a way for the magistrates, began to fly
around Grandier, while one, as white as the driven snow, alighted on
the summit of the stake, just above his head. Those who believed in
possession exclaimed that they were only a band of devils come to
seek their master, but there were many who muttered that devils were
not wont to assume such a form, and who persisted in believing that
the doves had come in default of men to bear witness to Grandier's
In trying next day to combat this impression, a monk asserted that he
had seen a huge fly buzzing round Grandier's head, and as Beelzebub
meant in Hebrew, as he said, the god of flies, it was quite evident
that it was that demon himself who, taking upon him the form of one
of his subjects, had come to carry off the magician's soul.
When everything was prepared, the executioner passed the rope by
which he meant to strangle him round Grandier's neck; then the
priests exorcised the earth, air, and wood, and again demanded of
their victim if he would not publicly confess his crimes. Urbain
replied that he had nothing to say, but that he hoped through the
martyr's death he was about to die to be that day with Christ in
The clerk then read his sentence to him for the fourth time, and
asked if he persisted in what he said under torture.
"Most certainly I do," said Urbain; "for it was the exact truth."
Upon this, the clerk withdrew, first informing Grandier that if he
had anything to say to the people he was at liberty to speak.
But this was just what the exorcists did not want: they knew
Grandier's eloquence and courage, and a firm, unshaken denial at the
moment of death would be most prejudicial to their interests. As
soon, therefore, as Grandier opened his lips to speak, they dashed
such a quantity of holy water in his face that it took away his
breath. It was but for a moment, however, and he recovered himself,
and again endeavoured to speak, a monk stooped down and stifled the
words by kissing him on the lips. Grandier, guessing his intention,
said loud enough for those next the pile to hear, "That was the kiss
At these words the monks become so enraged that one of them struck
Grandier three times in the face with a crucifix, while he appeared
to be giving it him to kiss; but by the blood that flowed from his
nose and lips at the third blow those standing near perceived the
truth: all Grandier could do was to call out that he asked for a
Salve Regina and an Ave Maria, which many began at once to repeat,
whilst he with clasped hands and eyes raised to heaven commended
himself to God and the Virgin. The exorcists then made one more
effort to get him to confess publicly, but he exclaimed--
"My fathers, I have said all I had to say; I hope in God and in His
At this refusal the anger of the exorcists surpassed all bounds, and
Pere Lactance, taking a twist of straw, dipped it in a bucket of
pitch which was standing beside the pile, and lighting it at a torch,
thrust it into his face, crying--
"Miserable wretch! will nothing force you to confess your crimes and
renounce the devil?"
"I do not belong to the devil," said Grandier, pushing away the straw
with his hands; "I have renounced the devil, I now renounce him and
all his works again, and I pray that God may have mercy on me."
At this, without waiting for the signal from the provost's
lieutenant, Pere Lactance poured the bucket of pitch on one corner of
the pile of wood and set fire to it, upon which Grandier called the
executioner to his aid, who, hastening up, tried in vain to strangle
him, while the flames spread apace.
"Ah! my brother," said the sufferer, "is this the way you keep your
"It's not my fault," answered the executioner; "the monks have
knotted the cord, so that the noose cannot slip."
"Oh, Father Lactance! Father Lactance! have you no charity?" cried
The executioner by this time was forced by the increasing heat to
jump down from the pile, being indeed almost overcome; and seeing
this, Grandier stretched forth a hand into the flames, and said--
"Pere Lactance, God in heaven will judge between thee and me; I
summon thee to appear before Him in thirty days."
Grandier was then seen to make attempts to strangle himself, but
either because it was impossible, or because he felt it would be
wrong to end his life by his own hands, he desisted, and clasping his
hands, prayed aloud--
"Deus meus, ad te vigilo, miserere me."
A Capuchin fearing that he would have time to say more, approached
the pile from the side which had not yet caught fire, and dashed the
remainder of the holy water in his face. This caused such smoke that
Grandier was hidden for a moment from the eyes of the spectators;
when it cleared away, it was seen that his clothes were now alight;
his voice could still be heard from the midst of the flames raised in
prayer; then three times, each time in a weaker voice, he pronounced
the name of Jesus, and giving one cry, his head fell forward on his
At that moment the pigeons which had till then never ceased to circle
round the stake, flew away, and were lost in the clouds.
Urbain Grandier had given up the ghost.
This time it was not the man who was executed who was guilty, but the
executioners; consequently we feel sure that our readers will be
anxious to learn something of their fate.
Pere Lactance died in the most terrible agony on September 18th,
1634, exactly a month from the date of Grandier's death. His
brother-monks considered that this was due to the vengeance of Satan;
but others were not wanting who said, remembering the summons uttered
by Grandier, that it was rather due to the justice of God. Several
attendant circumstances seemed to favour the latter opinion. The
author of the History of the Devils of Loudzin gives an account of
one of these circumstances, for the authenticity of which he vouches,
and from which we extract the following:
"Some days after the execution of Grandier, Pere Lactance fell ill of
the disease of which he died. Feeling that it was of supernatural
origin, he determined to take a pilgrimage to Notre Dame des
Andilliers de Saumur, where many miracles were wrought, and which was
held in high estimation in the neighbourhood. A place in the
carriage of the Sieur de Canaye was offered him for the journey; for
this gentleman, accompanied by a large party on pleasure bent, was
just then setting out for his estate of Grand Fonds, which lay in the
same direction. The reason for the offer was that Canaye and his
friends, having heard that the last words of Grandier had affected
Pere Lactance's mind, expected to find a great deal of amusement in
exciting the terrors of their travelling-companion. And in truth,
for a day or two, the boon companions sharpened their wits at the
expense of the worthy monk, when all at once, on a good road and
without apparent cause, the carriage overturned. Though no one was
hurt, the accident appeared so strange to the pleasure-seekers that
it put an end to the jokes of even the boldest among them. Pere
Lactance himself appeared melancholy and preoccupied, and that
evening at supper refused to eat, repeating over and over again--
"'It was wrong of me to deny Grandier the confessor he asked for; God
is punishing me, God is punishing me!'
"On the following morning the journey was resumed, but the evident
distress of mind under which Pere Lactance laboured had so damped the
spirits of the party that all their gaiety had disappeared.
Suddenly, just outside Fenet, where the road was in excellent
condition and no obstacle to their progress apparent, the carriage
upset for the second time. Although again no one was hurt, the
travellers felt that there was among them someone against whom God's
anger was turned, and their suspicions pointing to Pere Lactance,
they went on their way, leaving him behind, and feeling very
uncomfortable at the thought that they had spent two or three days in
Pere Lactance at last reached Notre-Dame des Andilliers; but however
numerous were the miracles there performed, the remission of the doom
pronounced by the martyr on Pere Lactance was not added to their
number; and at a quarter-past six on September 18th, exactly a month
to the very minute after Grandier's death, Pere Lactance expired in
Pere Tranquille's turn came four years later. The malady which
attacked him was so extraordinary that the physicians were quite at a
loss, and forced to declare their ignorance of any remedy. His
shrieks and blasphemies were so distinctly heard in the streets, that
his brother Franciscans, fearing the effect they would have on his
after-reputation, especially in the minds of those who had seen
Grandier die with words of prayer on his lips, spread abroad the
report that the devils whom he had expelled from the bodies of the
nuns had entered into the body of the exorcist. He died shrieking--
"My God! how I suffer! Not all the devils and all the damned
together endure what I endure!" His panegyrist, in whose book we
find all the horrible details of his death employed to much purpose
to illustrate the advantages of belonging to the true faith,
"Truly big generous heart must have been a hot hell for those fiends
who entered his body to torment it."
The following epitaph which was placed over his grave was
interpreted, according to the prepossessions of those who read it,
either as a testimony to his sanctity or as a proof of his
"Here lies Pere Tranquille, of Saint-Remi; a humble Capuchin
preacher. The demons no longer able to endure his fearlessly
exercised power as an exorcist, and encouraged by sorcerers, tortured
him to death, on May 31st, 1638."
But a death about which there could be no doubt as to the cause was
that of the surgeon Mannouri, the same who had, as the reader may
recollect, been the first to torture Grandier. One evening about ten
o'clock he was returning from a visit to a patient who lived on the
outskirts of the town, accompanied by a colleague and preceded by his
surgery attendant carrying a lantern. When they reached the centre
of the town in the rue Grand-Pave, which passes between the walls of
the castle grounds and the gardens of the Franciscan monastery,
Mannouri suddenly stopped, and, staring fixedly at some object which
was invisible to his companions, exclaimed with a start--
"Oh! there is Grandier!
"Where? where?" cried the others.
He pointed in the direction towards which his eyes were turned, and
beginning to tremble violently, asked--
"What do you want with me, Grandier? What do you want?"
A moment later he added
"Yes-yes, I am coming."
Immediately it seemed as if the vision vanished from before his eyes,
but the effect remained. His brother-surgeon and the servant brought
him home, but neither candles nor the light of day could allay his
fears; his disordered brain showed him Grandier ever standing at the
foot of his bed. A whole week he continued, as was known all over
the town, in this condition of abject terror; then the spectre seemed
to move from its place and gradually to draw nearer, for he kept on
repeating, "He is coming! he is coming!" and at length, towards
evening, at about the same hour at which Grandier expired, Surgeon
Mannouri drew his last breath.
We have still to tell of M. de Laubardemont. All we know is thus
related in the letters of M. de Patin:--
"On the 9th inst., at nine o'clock in the evening, a carriage was
attacked by robbers; on hearing the noise the townspeople ran to the
spot, drawn thither as much by curiosity as by humanity. A few shots
were exchanged and the robbers put to flight, with the exception of
one man belonging to their band who was taken prisoner, and another
who lay wounded on the paving-stones. This latter died next day
without having spoken, and left no clue behind as to who he was. His
identity was, however, at length made clear. He was the son of a
high dignitary named de Laubardemont, who in 1634, as royal
commissioner, condemned Urbain Grandier, a poor, priest of Loudun, to
be burnt alive, under the pretence that he had caused several nuns of
Loudun to be possessed by devils. These nuns he had so tutored as to
their behaviour that many people foolishly believed them to be
demoniacs. May we not regard the fate of his son as a chastisement
inflicted by Heaven on this unjust judge--an expiation exacted for
the pitilessly cruel death inflicted on his victim, whose blood still
cries unto the Lord from the ground?"
Naturally the persecution of Urbain Grandier attracted the attention
not only of journalists but of poets. Among the many poems which
were inspired by it, the following is one of the best. Urbain
"From hell came the tidings that by horrible sanctions
I had made a pact with the devil to have power over women:
Though not one could be found to accuse me.
In the trial which delivered me to torture and the stake,
The demon who accused me invented and suggested the crime,
And his testimony was the only proof against me.
The English in their rage burnt the Maid alive;
Like her, I too fell a victim to revenge;
We were both accused falsely of the same crime;
In Paris she is adored, in London abhorred;
In Loudun some hold me guilty of witchcraft,
Some believe me innocent; some halt between two minds.
Like Hercules, I loved passionately;
Like him, I was consumed by fire;
But he by death became a god.
The injustice of my death was so well concealed
That no one can judge whether the flames saved or destroyed me;
Whether they blackened me for hell, or purified me for heaven.
In vain did I suffer torments with unshaken resolution;
They said that I felt no pain, being a sorcerer died unrepentant;
That the prayers I uttered were impious words;
That in kissing the image on the cross I spat in its face;
That casting my eyes to heaven I mocked the saints;
That when I seemed to call on God, I invoked the devil
Others, more charitable, say, in spite of their hatred of my crime,
That my death may be admired although my life was not blameless;
That my resignation showed that I died in hope and faith;
That to forgive, to suffer without complaint or murmur,
Is perfect love; and that the soul is purified
From the sins of life by a death like mine."
If our readers, tempted by the Italian proverb about seeing Naples
and then dying, were to ask us what is the most favourable moment for
visiting the enchanted city, we should advise them to land at the
mole, or at Mergellina, on a fine summer day and at the hour when
some solemn procession is moving out of the cathedral. Nothing can
give an idea of the profound and simple-hearted emotion of this
populace, which has enough poetry in its soul to believe in its own
happiness. The whole town adorns herself and attires herself like a
bride for her wedding; the dark facades of marble and granite
disappear beneath hangings of silk and festoons of flowers; the
wealthy display their dazzling luxury, the poor drape themselves
proudly in their rags. Everything is light, harmony, and perfume;
the sound is like the hum of an immense hive, interrupted by a
thousandfold outcry of joy impossible to describe. The bells repeat
their sonorous sequences in every key; the arcades echo afar with the
triumphal marches of military bands; the sellers of sherbet and
water-melons sing out their deafening flourish from throats of
copper. People form into groups; they meet, question, gesticulate;
there are gleaming looks, eloquent gestures, picturesque attitudes;
there is a general animation, an unknown charm, an indefinable
intoxication. Earth is very near to heaven, and it is easy to
understand that, if God were to banish death from this delightful
spot, the Neapolitans would desire no other paradise.
The story that we are about to tell opens with one of these magical
pictures. It was the Day of the Assumption in the year 1825; the sun
had been up some four or five hours, and the long Via da Forcella,
lighted from end to end by its slanting rays, cut the town in two,
like a ribbon of watered silk. The lava pavement, carefully cleaned,
shone like any mosaic, and the royal troops, with their proudly
waving plumes, made a double living hedge on each side of the street.
The balconies, windows, and terraces, the stands with their
unsubstantial balustrades, and the wooden galleries set up during the
night, were loaded with spectators, and looked not unlike the boxes
of a theatre. An immense crowd, forming a medley of the brightest
colours, invaded the reserved space and broke through the military
barriers, here and there, like an overflowing torrent. These
intrepid sightseers, nailed to their places, would have waited half
their lives without giving the least sign of impatience.
At last, about noon, a cannon-shot was heard, and a cry of general
satisfaction followed it. It was the signal that the procession had
crossed the threshold of the church. In the same moment a charge of
carabineers swept off the people who were obstructing the middle of
the street, the regiments of the line opened floodgates for the
overflowing crowd, and soon nothing remained on the causeway but some
scared dog, shouted at by the people, hunted off by the soldiers, and
fleeing at full speed. The procession came out through the Via di
Vescovato. First came the guilds of merchants and craftsmen, the
hatters, weavers, bakers, butchers, cutlers, and goldsmiths. They
wore the prescribed dress: black coats, knee breeches, low shoes and
silver buckles. As the countenances of these gentlemen offered
nothing very interesting to the multitude, whisperings arose, little
by little, among the spectators, then some bold spirits ventured a
jest or two upon the fattest or the baldest of the townsmen, and at
last the boldest of the lazzaroni slipped between the soldiers' legs
to collect the wax that was running down from the lighted tapers.
After the craftsmen, the religious orders marched past, from the
Dominicans to the Carthusians, from the Carmelites to the Capuchins.
They advanced slowly, their eyes cast down, their step austere, their
hands on their hearts; some faces were rubicund and shining, with
large cheek-hones and rounded chins, herculean heads upon bullnecks;
some, thin and livid, with cheeks hollowed by suffering and
penitence, and with the look of living ghosts ; in short, here were
the two sides of monastic life.
At this moment, Nunziata and Gelsomina, two charming damsels, taking
advantage of an old corporal's politeness, pushed forward their
pretty heads into the first rank. The break in the line was
conspicuous; but the sly warrior seemed just a little lax in the
matter of discipline.
"Oh, there is Father Bruno!" said Gelsomina suddenly. "Good-day,
"Hush, cousin! People do not talk to the procession."
"How absurd! He is my confessor. May I not say good-morning to my
"Who was that spoke?"
"Oh, my dear, it was Brother Cucuzza, the begging friar."
"Where is he? Where is he?"
"There he is, along there, laughing into his beard. How bold he is!"
"Ah, God in heaven! If we were to dream of him---"
While the two cousins were pouring out endless comments upon the
Capuchins and their beards, the capes of the canons and the surplices
of the seminarists, the 'feroci' came running across from the other
side to re-establish order with the help of their gun-stocks.
"By the blood of my patron saint," cried a stentorian voice, "if I
catch you between my finger and thumb, I will straighten your back
for the rest of your days."
"Who are you falling out with, Gennaro?"
"With this accursed hunchback, who has been worrying my back for the
last hour, as though he could see through it."
"It is a shame," returned the hunchback in a tone of lamentation;
"I have been here since last night, I slept out of doors to keep my
place, and here is this abominable giant comes to stick himself in
front of me like an obelisk."
The hunchback was lying like a Jew, but the crowd rose unanimously
against the obelisk. He was, in one way, their superior, and
majorities are always made up of pigmies.
"Hi! Come down from your stand!"
"Hi! get off your pedestal!"
"Off with your hat!"
"Down with your head!"
This revival of curiosity expressing itself in invectives evidently
betokened the crisis of the show. And indeed the chapters of canons,
the clergy and bishops, the pages and chamberlains, the
representatives of the city, and the gentlemen of the king's chamber
now appeared, and finally the king himself, who, bare-headed and
carrying a taper, followed the magnificent statue of the Virgin. The
contrast was striking: after the grey-headed monks and pale novices
came brilliant young captains, affronting heaven with the points of
their moustaches, riddling the latticed windows with killing glances,
following the procession in an absent-minded way, and interrupting
the holy hymns with scraps of most unorthodox conversation.
"Did you notice, my dear Doria, how like a monkey the old Marchesa
d'Acquasparta takes her raspberry ice?"
"Her nose takes the colour of the ice. What fine bird is showing off
"It is the Cyrenian."
"I beg your pardon! I have not seen that name in the Golden Book."
"He helps the poor marquis to bear his cross."
The officer's profane allusion was lost in the prolonged murmur of
admiration that suddenly rose from the crowd, and every gaze was
turned upon one of the young girls who was strewing flowers before
the holy Madonna. She was an exquisite creature. Her head glowing
in the sun shine, her feet hidden amid roses and broom-blossom, she
rose, tall and fair, from a pale cloud of incense, like some seraphic
apparition. Her hair, of velvet blackness, fell in curls half-way
down her shoulders; her brow, white as alabaster and polished as a
mirror, reflected the rays of the sun; her beautiful and finely
arched black eye-brows melted into the opal of her temples; her
eyelids were fast down, and the curled black fringe of lashes veiled
a glowing and liquid glance of divine emotion; the nose, straight,
slender, and cut by two easy nostrils, gave to her profile that
character of antique beauty which is vanishing day by day from the
earth. A calm and serene smile, one of those smiles that have
already left the soul and not yet reached the lips, lifted the
corners of her mouth with a pure expression of infinite beatitude and
gentleness. Nothing could be more perfect than the chin that
completed the faultless oval of this radiant countenance; her neck of
a dead white, joined her bosom in a delicious curve, and supported
her head gracefully like the stalk of a flower moved by a gentle
breeze. A bodice of crimson velvet spotted with gold outlined her
delicate and finely curved figure, and held in by means of a handsome
gold lace the countless folds of a full and flowing skirt, that fell
to her feet like those severe robes in which the Byzantine painters
preferred to drape their angels. She was indeed a marvel, and so
rare and modest of beauty had not been seen within the memory of man.
Among those who had gazed most persistently at her was observed the
young Prince of Brancaleone, one of the foremost nobles of the
kingdom. Handsome, rich, and brave, he had, at five-and-twenty,
outdone the lists of all known Don Juans. Fashionable young women
spoke very ill of him and adored him in secret; the most virtuous
made it their rule to fly from him, so impossible did resistance
appear. All the young madcaps had chosen him for their model; for
his triumphs robbed many a Miltiades of sleep, and with better cause.
In short, to get an idea of this lucky individual, it will be enough
to know that as a seducer he was the most perfect thing that the
devil had succeeded in inventing in this progressive century. The
prince was dressed out for the occasion in a sufficiently grotesque
costume, which he wore with ironic gravity and cavalier ease. A
black satin doublet, knee breeches, embroidered stockings, and shoes
with gold buckles, formed the main portions of his dress, over which
trailed a long brocaded open-sleeved robe lined with ermine, and a
magnificent diamond-hilted sword. On account of his rank he enjoyed
the rare distinction of carrying one of the six gilded staves that
supported the plumed and embroidered canopy.
As soon as the procession moved on again, Eligi of Brancaleone gave a
side glance to a little man as red as a lobster, who was walking
almost at his side, and carrying in his right hand, with all the
solemnity that he could muster, his excellency's hat. He was a
footman in gold-laced livery, and we beg leave to give a brief sketch
of his history. Trespolo was the child of poor but thieving parents,
and on that account was early left an orphan. Being at leisure, he
studied life from an eminently social aspect. If we are to believe a
certain ancient sage, we are all in the world to solve a problem: as
to Trespolo, he desired to live without doing anything; that was his
problem. He was, in turn, a sacristan, a juggler, an apothecary's
assistant, and a cicerone, and he got tired of all these callings.
Begging was, to his mind, too hard work, and it was more trouble to
be a thief than to be an honest man. Finally he decided in favour of
contemplative philosophy. He had a passionate preference for the
horizontal position, and found the greatest pleasure in the world in
watching the shooting of stars. Unfortunately, in the course of his
meditations this deserving man came near to dying of hunger; which
would have been a great pity, for he was beginning to accustom
himself not to eat anything. But as he was predestined by nature to
play a small part in our story, God showed him grace for that time,
and sent to his assistance--not one of His angels, the rogue was not
worthy of that, but--one of Brancaleone's hunting dogs. The noble
animal sniffed round the philosopher, and uttered a little charitable
growl that would have done credit to one of the brethren of Mount St.
Bernard. The prince, who was returning in triumph from hunting, and
who, by good luck, had that day killed a bear and ruined a countess,
had an odd inclination to do a good deed. He approached the plebeian
who was about to pass into the condition of a corpse, stirred the
thing with his foot, and seeing that there was still a little hope,
bade his people bring him along.
>From that day onward, Trespolo saw the dream of his life nearly
realised. Something rather above a footman and rather below a house
steward, he became the confidant of his master, who found his talents
most useful; for this Trespolo was as sharp as a demon and almost as
artful as a woman. The prince, who, like an intelligent man as he
was, had divined that genius is naturally indolent, asked nothing of
him but advice; when tiresome people wanted thrashing, he saw to that
matter himself, and, indeed, he was the equal of any two at such
work. As nothing in this lower world, however, is complete, Trespolo
had strange moments amid this life of delights; from time to time his
happiness was disturbed by panics that greatly diverted his master;
he would mutter incoherent words, stifle violent sighs, and lose his
appetite. The root of the matter was that the poor fellow was afraid
of going to hell. The matter was very simple: he was afraid of
everything; and, besides, it had often been preached to him that the
Devil never allowed a moment's rest to those who were ill-advised
enough to fall into his clutches. Trespolo was in one of his good
moods of repentance, when the prince, after gazing on the young girl
with the fierce eagerness of a vulture about to swoop upon its prey,
turned to speak to his intimate adviser. The poor servant understood
his master's abominable design, and not wishing to share the guilt of
a sacrilegious conversation, opened his eyes very wide and turned
them up to heaven in ecstatic contemplation. The prince coughed,
stamped his foot, moved his sword so as to hit Trespolo's legs, but
could not get from him any sign of attention, so absorbed did he
appear in celestial thoughts. Brancaleone would have liked to wring
his neck, but both his hands were occupied by the staff of the
canopy; and besides, the king was present.
At last they were drawing nearer to the church of St. Clara, where
the Neapolitan kings were buried, and where several princesses of the
blood, exchanging the crown for the veil, have gone to bury
themselves alive. The nuns, novices, and abbess, hidden behind
shutters, were throwing flowers upon the procession. A bunch fell at
the feet of the Prince of Brancaleone.
"Trespolo, pick up that nosegay," said the prince, so audibly that
his servant had no further excuse. "It is from Sister Theresa," he
added, in a low voice; "constancy is only to be found, nowadays, in a
Trespolo picked up the nosegay and came towards his master, looking
like a man who was being strangled.
"Who is that girl?" the latter asked him shortly.
"Which one?" stammered the servant.
"Forsooth! The one walking in front of us."
"I don't know her, my lord."
"You must find out something about her before this evening."
"I shall have to go rather far afield."
"Then you do know her, you intolerable rascal! I have half a mind to
have you hanged like a dog."
"For pity's sake, my lord, think of the salvation of your soul, of
your eternal life."
"I advise you to think of your temporal life. What is her name?"
"She is called Nisida, and is the prettiest girl in the island that
she is named after. She is innocence itself. Her father is only a
poor fisherman, but I can assure your excellency that in his island
he is respected like a king."
"Indeed!" replied the prince, with an ironical smile. "I must own,
to my great shame, that I have never visited the little island of
Nisida. You will have a boat ready for me to-morrow, and then we
He interrupted himself suddenly, for the king was looking at him; and
calling up the most sonorous bass notes that he could find in the
depths of his throat, he continued with an inspired air, "Genitori
genitoque laus et jubilatio."
"Amen," replied the serving-man in a ringing voice.
Nisida, the beloved daughter of Solomon, the fisherman, was, as we
have said, the loveliest flower of the island from which she derived
her name. That island is the most charming spot, the most delicious
nook with which we are acquainted; it is a basket of greenery set
delicately amid the pure and transparent waters of the gulf, a hill
wooded with orange trees and oleanders, and crowned at the summit by
a marble castle. All around extends the fairy-like prospect of that
immense amphitheatre, one of the mightiest wonders of creation.
There lies Naples, the voluptuous syren, reclining carelessly on the
seashore; there, Portici, Castellamare, and Sorrento, the very names
of which awaken in the imagination a thousand thoughts of poetry and
love; there are Pausilippo, Baiae, Puozzoli, and those vast plains,
where the ancients fancied their Elysium, sacred solitudes which one
might suppose peopled by the men of former days, where the earth
echoes under foot like an empty grave, and the air has unknown sounds
and strange melodies.
Solomon's hut stood in that part of the island which, turning its
back to the capital, beholds afar the blue crests of Capri. Nothing
could be simpler or brighter. The brick walls were hung with ivy
greener than emeralds, and enamelled with white bell-flowers; on the
ground floor was a fairly spacious apartment, in which the men slept
and the family took their meals; on the floor above was Nisida's
little maidenly room, full of coolness, shadows, and mystery, and
lighted by a single casement that looked over the gulf; above this
room was a terrace of the Italian kind, the four pillars of which
were wreathed with vine branches, while its vine-clad arbour and wide
parapet were overgrown with moss and wild flowers. A little hedge
of hawthorn, which had been respected for ages, made a kind of
rampart around the fisherman's premises, and defended his house
better than deep moats and castellated walls could have done. The
boldest roisterers of the place would have preferred to fight before
the parsonage and in the precincts of the church rather than in front
of Solomon's little enclosure. Otherwise, this was the meeting place
of the whole island. Every evening, precisely at the same hour, the
good women of the neighbourhood came to knit their woollen caps and
tell the news. Groups of little children, naked, brown, and as
mischievous as little imps, sported about, rolling on the grass and
throwing handfuls of sand into the other's eyes, heedless of the risk
of blinding, while their mothers were engrossed in that grave gossip
which marks the dwellers in villages. These gatherings occurred
daily before the fisherman's house; they formed a tacit and almost
involuntary homage, consecrated by custom, and of which no one had
ever taken special account; the envy that rules in small communities
would soon have suppressed them. The influence which old Solomon had
over his equals had grown so simply and naturally, that no one found
any fault with it, and it had only attracted notice when everyone was
benefiting by it, like those fine trees whose growth is only observed
when we profit by their shade. If any dispute arose in the island,
the two opponents preferred to abide by the judgment of the fisherman
instead of going before the court; he was fortunate enough or clever
enough to send away both parties satisfied. He knew what remedies to
prescribe better than any physician, for it seldom happened that he
or his had not felt the same ailments, and his knowledge, founded on
personal experience, produced the most excellent results. Moreover,
he had no interest, as ordinary doctors have, in prolonging
illnesses. For many years past the only formality recognised as a
guarantee for the inviolability of a contract had been the
intervention of the fisherman. Each party shook hands with Solomon,
and the thing was done. They would rather have thrown themselves
into Vesuvius at the moment of its most violent eruption than have
broken so solemn an agreement. At the period when our story opens,
it was impossible to find any person in the island who had not felt
the effects of the fisherman's generosity, and that without needing
to confess to him any necessities. As it was the custom for the
little populace of Nisida to spend its leisure hours before Solomon's
cottage, the old man, while he walked slowly among the different
groups, humming his favourite song, discovered moral and physical
weaknesses as he passed ; and the same evening he or his daughter
would certainly be seen coming mysteriously to bestow a benefit upon
every sufferer, to lay a balm upon every wound. In short, he united
in his person all those occupations whose business is to help
mankind. Lawyers, doctors, and the notary, all the vultures of
civilisation, had beaten a retreat before the patriarchal benevolence
of the fisherman. Even the priest had capitulated.
On the morrow of the Feast of the Assumption, Solomon was sitting, as
his habit was, on a stone bench in front of his house, his legs
crossed and his arms carelessly stretched out. At the first glance
you would have taken him for sixty at the outside, though he was
really over eighty. He had all his teeth, which were as white as
pearls, and showed them proudly. His brow, calm and restful beneath
its crown of abundant white hair, was as firm and polished as marble;
not a wrinkle ruffled the corner of his eye, and the gem-like lustre
of his blue orbs revealed a freshness of soul and an eternal youth
such as fable grants to the sea-gods. He displayed his bare arms and
muscular neck with an old man's vanity. Never had a gloomy idea, an
evil prepossession, or a keen remorse, arisen to disturb his long and
peaceful life. He had never seen a tear flow near him without
hurrying to wipe it; poor though he was, he had succeeded in pouring
out benefits that all the kings of the earth could not have bought
with their gold; ignorant though he was, he had spoken to his fellows
the only language that they could understand, the language of the
heart. One single drop of bitterness had mingled with his
inexhaustible stream of happiness; one grief only had clouded his
sunny life--the death of his wife--and moreover he had forgotten
All the affections of his soul were turned upon Nisida, whose birth
had caused her mother's death; he loved her with that immoderate love
that old people have for the youngest of their children. At the
present moment he was gazing upon her with an air of profound
rapture, and watching her come and go, as she now joined the groups
of children and scolded them for games too dangerous or too noisy;
now seated herself on the grass beside their mothers and took part
with grave and thoughtful interest in their talk. Nisida was more
beautiful thus than she had been the day before; with the vaporous
cloud of perfume that had folded her round from head to foot had
disappeared all that mystic poetry which put a sort of constraint
upon her admirers and obliged them to lower their glances. She had
become a daughter of Eve again without losing anything of her charm.
Simply dressed, as she usually was on work-days, she was
distinguishable among her companions only by her amazing beauty and
by the dazzling whiteness of her skin. Her beautiful black hair was
twisted in plaits around the little dagger of chased silver, that has
lately been imported into Paris by that right of conquest which the
pretty women of Paris have over the fashions of all countries, like
the English over the sea.
Nisida was adored by her young friends, all the mothers had adopted
her with pride; she was the glory of the island. The opinion of her
superiority was shared by everyone to such a degree, that if some
bold young man, forgetting the distance which divided him from the
maiden, dared speak a little too loudly of his pretensions, he became
the laughing-stock of his companions. Even the past masters of
tarentella dancing were out of countenance before the daughter of
Solomon, and did not dare to seek her as a partner. Only a few
singers from Amalfi or Sorrento, attracted by the rare beauty of this
angelic creature, ventured to sigh out their passion, carefully
veiled beneath the most delicate allusions. But they seldom reached
the last verse of their song; at every sound they stopped short,
threw down their triangles and their mandolines, and took flight like
One only had courage enough or passion enough to brave the mockery;
this was Bastiano, the most formidable diver of that coast. He also
sang, but with a deep and hollow voice; his chant was mournful and
his melodies full of sadness. He never accompanied himself upon any
instrument, and never retired without concluding his song. That day
he was gloomier than usual; he was standing upright, as though by
enchantment, upon a bare and slippery rock, and he cast scornful
glances upon the women who were looking at him and laughing. The
sun, which was plunging into the sea like a globe of fire, shed its
light full upon his stern features, and the evening breeze, as it
lightly rippled the billows, set the fluttering reeds waving at his
feet. Absorbed by dark thoughts, he sang, in the musical language of
his country, these sad words:--
"O window, that wert used to shine in the night like an open eye, how
dark thou art! Alas, alas! my poor sister is ill.
"Her mother, all in tears, stoops towards me and says, 'Thy poor
sister is dead and buried.'
"Jesus! Jesus! Have pity on me! You stab me to the heart.
"Tell me, good neighbours, how it happened; repeat to me her last
"She had a burning thirst, and refused to drink because thou wast not
there to give her water from thy hand.
"Oh, my sister! Oh, my sister!
"She refused her mother's kiss, because thou wast not there to
"Oh, my sister! Oh, my sister!
"She wept until her last breath, because thou wast not there to dry
"Oh, my sister! Oh, my sister!
"We placed on her brow her wreath of orangeflowers, we covered her
with a veil as white as snow; we laid her gently in her coffin.
"Thanks, good neighbours. I will go and be with her.
"Two angels came down from heaven and bore her away on their wings.
Mary Magdalene came to meet her at the gate of heaven.
"Thanks, good neighbours. I will go and be with her.
"There, she was seated in a place of glory, a chaplet of rubies was
given to her, and she is singing her rosary with the Virgin.
"Thanks, good neighbours. I will go and be with her.
As he finished the last words of his melancholy refrain, he flung
himself from the top of his rock into the sea, as though he really
desired to engulf himself. Nisida and the other women gave a cry of
terror, for during some minutes the diver failed to reappear upon the
"Are you out of your senses?" cried a young man who had suddenly
appeared, unobserved among the women. "Why, what are you afraid of?
You know very well that Bastiano is always doing things of this sort.
But do not be alarmed: all the fishes in the Mediterranean will be
drowned before any harm comes to him. Water is his natural element.
Good-day, sister; good-day, father."
The young fisherman kissed Nisida on the forehead, drew near to his
father, and, bowing his handsome head before him, took off his red
cap and respectfully kissed the old man's hand. He came thus to ask
his blessing every evening before putting out to sea, where he often
spent the night fishing from his boat.
"May God bless thee, my Gabriel!" said the old man in a tone of
emotion, as he slowly passed his hand over his son's black curls, and
a tear came into his eye. Then, rising solemnly and addressing the
groups around him, he added in a voice full of dignity and of
gentleness. "Come, my children, it is time to separate. The young
to work, the old to rest. There is the angelus ringing."
Everybody knelt, and after a short prayer each went on his way.
Nisida, after having given her father the last daily attentions, went
up to her room, replenished the oil in the lamp that burned day and
night before the Virgin, and, leaning her elbow on the window ledge,
divided the branches of jasmine which hung like perfumed curtains,
began to gaze out at the sea, and seemed lost in a deep, sweet
At this very time, a little boat, rowed silently by two oarsmen,
touched shore on the other side of the island. It had become quite
dark. A little man first landed cautiously, and respectfully offered
his hand to another individual, who, scorning that feeble support,
leapt easily ashore.
"Well, knave," he cried, "are my looks to your taste?"
"Your lordship is perfect."
"I flatter myself I am. It is true that, in order to make the
transformation complete, I chose the very oldest coat that displayed
its rags in a Jew's shop."
"Your lordship looks like a heathen god engaged in a love affair.
Jupiter has sheathed his thunderbolts and Apollo has pocketed his
"A truce to your mythology. And, to begin with, I forbid you to call
me ' your lordship.'"
"Yes, your lordship."
"If my information that I have procured during the day is correct,
the house must be on the other side of the island, in a most remote
and lonely spot. Walk at a certain distance, and do not trouble
yourself about me, for I know my part by heart.'
The young Prince of Brancaleone, whom, in spite of the darkness of
the night, our readers will already have recognised, advanced towards
the fisherman's house, with as little noise as possible, walked up
and down several times upon the shore, and, after having briefly
reconnoitred the place that he wished to attack, waited quietly for
the moon to rise and light up the scene that he had prepared. He was
not obliged to exercise his patience very long, for the darkness
gradually disappeared, and Solomon's little house was bathed in
silvery light. Then he approached with timid steps, lifted towards
the casement a look of entreaty, and began to sigh with all the power
of his lungs. The young girl, called suddenly from her meditations
by the appearance of this strange person, raised herself sharply and
prepared to close the shutters.
"Stay, charming Nisida!" cried the prince, in the manner of a man
overcome by irresistible passion.
"What do you want with me, signor?" answered the maiden, amazed to
hear herself called by name.
"To adore you as a Madonna is adored, and to make you aware of my
Nisida looked at him steadily, and, after a moment or two of
reflection, asked suddenly, as though in response to some secret
thought, "Do you belong to this country, or are you a foreigner?"
"I arrived in this island," replied the prince without hesitation,
"at the moment when the sun was writing his farewell to the earth and
dipping the rays that serves as his pen into the shadow that serves
as his inkstand."
"And who are you?" returned the young girl, not at all understanding
these strange words.
"Alas! I am but a poor student, but I may become a great poet like
Tasso, whose verses you often hear sung by a departing fisherman who
sends his thrilling music as a last farewell that returns to die on
"I do not know whether I am doing wrong to speak to you, but at least
I will be frank with you," said Nisida, blushing; "I have the
misfortune to be the richest girl on the island."
"Your father will not be inexorable," returned the prince ardently;
"one word from you, light of my eyes, goddess of my heart, and I will
work night and day, never pausing nor slackening, and will render.
myself worthy to possess the treasure that God has revealed to my
dazzled eyes, and, from being poor and obscure as you see me, I will
become rich and powerful."
"I have stayed too long listening to talk that a maiden should not
hear; permit me, signor, to withdraw."
"Have pity on me, my cruel enemy! What have I done to you that you
should thus leave me with death in my soul? You do not know that,
for months past, I have been following you everywhere like a shadow,
that I prowl round your home at night, stifling my sighs lest they
should disturb your peaceful slumber. You are afraid, perhaps, to
let yourself be touched, at a first meeting, by a poor wretch who
adores you. Alas! Juliet was young and beautiful like you, and she
did not need many entreaties to take pity on Romeo."
Nisida suffered a sad and thoughtful look to fall upon this handsome
young man who spoke to her in so gentle a voice, and withdrew without
further reply, that she might not humiliate his poverty.
The prince made great efforts to suppress a strong inclination
towards laughter, and, very well satisfied with this opening, turned
his steps towards the spot where he had left his servant. Trespolo,
after having emptied a bottle of lacryma with which he had provided
himself for any emergency, had looked long around him to choose a
spot where the grass was especially high and thick, and had laid
himself down to a sound sleep, murmuring as he did so, this sublime
observation, "O laziness, but for the sin of Adam you would be a
The young girl could not close her eyes during the whole night after
the conversation that she had held with the stranger. His sudden
appearance, his strange dress and odd speech, had awakened in her an
uncertain feeling that had been lying asleep in the bottom of her
heart. She was at this time in all the vigour of her youth and of
her resplendent beauty. Nisida was not one of the weak and timid
natures that are broken by suffering or domineered over by tyranny.
Far otherwise: everything around her had contributed towards shaping
for her a calm and serene destiny; her simple, tender soul had
unfolded in an atmosphere of peace and happiness. If she had not
hitherto loved, it was the fault, not of her coldness but of the
extreme timidity shown by the inhabitants of her island. The blind
depth of respect that surrounded the old fisherman had drawn around
his daughter a barrier of esteem and submission that no one dared to
cross. By means of thrift and labour Solomon had succeeded in
creating for himself a prosperity that put the poverty of the other
fishermen to the blush. No one had asked for Nisida because no one
thought he deserved her. The only admirer who had dared to show his
passion openly was Bastiano, the most devoted and dearest friend of
Gabriel; but Bastiano did not please her. So, trusting in her
beauty, upheld by the mysterious hope that never deserts youth, she
had resigned herself to wait, like some princess who knows that her
betrothed will come from a far country.
On the day of the Assumption she had left her island for the first
time in her life, chance having chosen her among the maidens of the
kingdom vowed by their mothers to the special protection of the
Virgin. But, overwhelmed by the weight of a position so new to her,
blushing and confused under the eyes of an immense crowd, she had
scarcely dared to raise her wondering looks, and the splendours of
the town had passed before her like a dream, leaving but a vague
When she perceived the presence of this handsome young man, so
slenderly and elegantly built, whose noble and calm demeanour
contrasted with the timidity and awkwardness of her other admirers,
she felt herself inwardly disturbed, and no doubt she would have
believed that her prince had come, if she had been unpleasantly
struck by the poverty of his dress. She had, nevertheless, allowed
herself to listen to him longer than she ought to have done, and she
drew back with her bosom heavy, her cheek on fire, and her heart rent
by an ache that was both dull and sharp.
"If my father does not wish me to marry him," she said to herself,
tormented by the first remorseful feeling of her life. "I shall have
done wrong to speak to him. And yet he is so handsome!"
Then she knelt before the Virgin, who was her only confidante, the
poor child having never known her mother, and tried to tell her the
torments of her soul; but she could not achieve her prayer. The
thoughts became entangled within her brain, and she surprised herself
uttering strange words. But, assuredly, the Holy Virgin must have
taken pity upon her lovely devotee, for she rose with the impression
of a consoling thought, resolved to confide everything to her father.
"I cannot have a moment's doubt," she said to herself, as she unlaced
her bodice, "of my father's affection. Well, then, if he forbids me
to speak to him, it will be for my good. And indeed, I have seen him
but this once," she added, as she threw herself upon the bed, "and
now I think of it, I consider him very bold to dare to speak to me.
I am almost inclined to laugh at him. How confidently he brought out
his nonsense, how absurdly he rolled his eyes! They are really very
fine, those eyes of his, and so is his mouth, and his forehead and
his hair. He does not suspect that I noticed his hands, which are
really very white, when he raised them to heaven, like a madman, as
he walked up and down by the sea. Come, come, is he going to prevent
my sleeping? I will not see him again!" she cried, drawing the sheet
over her head like an angry child. Then she began to laugh to
herself over her lover's dress, and meditated long upon what her
companions would say to it. Suddenly her brow contracted painfully,
a frightful thought had stolen into her mind, she shuddered from head
to foot. "Suppose he were to think someone else prettier than me?
Men are so foolish! Certainly, it is too hot, and I shall not sleep
Then she sat up in her bed, and continued her monologue--which we
will spare the reader--till the morning. Scarcely had the first rays
of light filtered through the interlacing branches of jasmine and
wavered into the room, when Nisida dressed herself hurriedly, and
went as usual to present her forehead to her father's kiss. The old
man at once observed the depression and weariness left by a sleepless
night upon his daughter's face, and parting with an eager and anxious
hand the beautiful black hair that fell over her cheeks, he asked
her, "What is the matter, my child? Thou hast not slept well?"
"I have not slept at all," answered Nisida, smiling, to reassure her
father; "I am perfectly well, but I have something to confess to
"Speak quickly, child; I am dying with impatience."
"Perhaps I have done wrong; but I want you to promise beforehand not
to scold me."
"You know very well that I spoil you," said the old man, with a
caress ; "I sha11 not begin to be stern to-day."
"A young man who does not belong to this island, and whose name I do
not know, spoke to me yesterday evening when I was taking the air at
"And what was he so eager to say to you, my dear Nisida?"
"He begged me to speak to you in his favour."
"I am listening. What can I do for him?"
"Order me to marry him."
"And should you obey willingly?"
"I think so, father," the girl candidly replied. "As to other
things, you yourself must judge in your wisdom; for I wanted to speak
to you before coming to know him, so as not to go on with a
conversation that you might not approve. But there is a hindrance."
"You know that I do not recognise any when it is a question of making
my daughter happy."
"He is poor, father."
"Well, all the more reason for me to like him. There is work here
for everybody, and my table can spare a place for another son. He is
young, he has arms; no doubt he has some calling."
"He is a poet."
"No matter; tell him to come and speak to me, and if he is an honest
lad, I promise you, my child, that I will do anything in the world to
promote your happiness."
Nisida embraced her father effusively, and was beside herself with
joy all day, waiting impatiently for the evening in order to give the
young man such splendid news. Eligi Brancaleone was but moderately
flattered, as you will easily believe, by the fisherman's magnanimous
intentions towards him; but like the finished seducer that he was, he
appeared enchanted at them. Recollecting his character as a
fantastical student and an out-at-elbows poet, he fell upon his knees
and shouted a thanksgiving to the planet Venus; then, addressing the
young girl, he added, in a calmer voice, that he was going to write
immediately to his own father, who in a week's time would come to
make his formal proposal; until then, he begged, as a favour, that he
might not present himself to Solomon nor to any person at all in the
island, and assigned as a pretext a certain degree of shame which he
felt on account of his old clothes, assuring his beloved that his
father would bring him a complete outfit for the wedding-day.
While the ill-starred girl was thus walking in terrifying security at
the edge of the precipice, Trespolo, following his master's wishes,
had established himself in the island as a pilgrim from Jerusalem.
Playing his part and sprinkling his conversation with biblical
phrases, which came to him readily, in his character of ex-sacristan,
he distributed abundance of charms, wood of the true Cross and milk
of the Blessed Virgin, and all those other inexhaustible treasures on
which the eager devotion of worthy people daily feeds. His relics
were the more evidently authentic in that he did not sell any of
them, and, bearing his poverty in a holy manner, thanked the faithful
and declined their alms. Only, out of regard for the established
virtue of Solomon, he had consented to break bread with the
fisherman, and went to take meals with him with the regularity of a
cenobite. His abstinence aroused universal surprise: a crust dipped
in water, a few nuts or figs sufficed to keep this holy man alive--to
prevent him, that is to say, from dying. Furthermore, he entertained
Nisida by his tales of his travels and by his mysterious predictions.
Unfortunately, he only appeared towards evening; for he spent the
rest of the day in austerities and in prayers--in other words, in
drinking like a Turk and snoring like a buffalo.
On the morning of the seventh day, after the promise given by the
prince to the fisherman's daughter, Brancaleone came into his
servant's room, and, shaking hint roughly, cried in his ear, "Up,
Trespolo, awakened suddenly, rubbed his eyes in alarm. The dead,
sleeping peacefully at the bottom of their coffins, will be less
annoyed at the last day when the trump of Judgment comes to drag them
from their slumbers. Fear having, however, immediately dispersed the
dark clouds that overspread his countenance, he sat up, and asked
with an appearance of bewilderment--
"What is the matter, your excellency?"
"The matter is that I will have you flayed alive a little if you do
not leave off that execrable habit of sleeping twenty hours in the
"I was not asleep, prince!" cried the servant boldly, as he sprang
out of bed; "I was reflecting---"
"Listen to me," said the prince in a severe tone; "you were once
employed, I believe, in a chemist's shop?"
"Yes, my lord, and I left because my employer had the scandalous
barbarity to make me pound drugs, which tired my arms horribly."
"Here is a phial containing a solution of opium."
"Mercy!" cried Trespolo, falling on his knees.
"Get up, idiot, and pay great attention to what I am going to say to
you. This little fool of a Nisida persists in wanting me to speak to
her father. I made her believe that I was going away this evening to
fetch my papers. There is no time to lose. They know you very well
at the fisherman's. You will pour this liquid into their wine; your
life will answer for your not giving them a larger dose than enough
to produce a deep sleep. You will take care to prepare me a good
ladder for to-night; after which you will go and wait for me in my
boat, where you will find Numa and Bonaroux. They have my orders.
I shall not want you in scaling the fortress; I have my Campo Basso
"But, my lord---" stammered Trespolo, astounded.
"No difficulties!" cried the prince, stamping his foot furiously,
"or, by my father's death, I will cure you, once for all, of your
scruples." And he turned on his heel with the air of a man who is
certain that people will be very careful not to disobey his orders.
The unhappy Trespolo fulfilled his master's injunctions punctually.
With him fear was the guiding principle. That evening the
fisherman's supper table was hopelessly dull, and the sham pilgrim
tried in vain to enliven it by factitious cheerfulness. Nisida was
preoccupied by her lover's departure, and Solomon, sharing
unconsciously in his daughter's grief, swallowed but a drop or two of
wine, to avoid resisting the repeated urgency of his guest. Gabriel
had set out in the morning for Sorrento and was not to return for two
or three days; his absence tended to increase the old man's
melancholy. As soon as Trespolo had retired, the fisherman yielded
to his fatigue. Nisida, with her arms hanging by her sides, her head
heavy and her heart oppressed by a sad presentiment, had scarcely
strength to go up to her room, and after having mechanically trimmed
the lamp, sank on her bed as pale and stiff as a corpse.
The storm was breaking out with violence; one of those terrible
storms seen only in the South, when the congregated clouds, parting
suddenly, shed torrents of rain and of hail, and threaten another
deluge. The roar of the thunder drew nearer and was like the noise
of a cannonade. The gulf, lately so calm and smooth that the island
was reflected as in a mirror, had suddenly darkened; the furiously
leaping waves flung themselves together like wild horses; the island
quaked, shaken by terrible shocks. Even the boldest fishermen had
drawn their boats ashore, and, shut within their cabins, encouraged
as best they could their frightened wives and children.
Amid the deep darkness that overspread the sea Nisida's lamp could be
seen gleaming clear and limpid, as it burned before the Madonna. Two
boats, without rudders, sails, or oars, tossed by the waves, beaten
by the winds, were whirling above the abyss; two men were in these
two boats, their muscles tense, their breasts bare, their hair
flying. They gazed haughtily on the sea, and braved the tempest.
"Once more, I beg you," cried one of these men, "fear not for me,
Gabriel; I promise you that with my two broken oars and a little
perseverance I shall get to Torre before daybreak."
"You are mad, Bastiano; we have not been able ever since the morning
to get near Vico, and have been obliged to keep tacking about; your
skill and strength have been able to do nothing against this
frightful hurricane which has driven us back to this point."
"It is the first time you have ever refused to go with me," remarked
the young man.
"Well, yes, my dear Bastiano, I do not know how it is, but to-night I
feel drawn to the island by an irresistible power. The winds have
been unchained to bring me back to it in spite of myself, and I will
own to you, even though it should make me seem like a madman in your
eyes, that this simple and ordinary event appears to me like an order
from heaven. Do you see that lamp shining over there?"
"I know it," answered Bastiano, suppressing a sigh.
"It was lighted before the Virgin one the day when my sister was
born, and for eighteen year it has never ceased to burn, night and
day. It was my mother's vow. You do not know, my dear Bastiano, you
cannot know how many torturing thoughts that vow recalls to me. My
poor mother called me to her deathbed and told me a frightful tale, a
horrible secret, which weighs on my soul like a cloak of lead, and of
which I can only relieve myself by confiding it to a friend. When
her painful story was ended she asked to see and to embrace my
sister, who was just born; then with her trembling hand, already
chilled by the approach of death, she desired to light the lamp
herself. 'Remember,' these were her last words, 'remember, Gabriel,
that your sister is vowed to the Madonna. As long as this light
shines before the blessed image of the Virgin, your sister will be in
no danger.' You can understand now why, at night, when we are
crossing the gulf, my eyes are always fixed on that lamp. I have a
belief that nothing could shake, which is that on the day that light
goes out my sister's soul will have taken flight to heaven."
"Well," cried Bastiano in an abrupt tone that betrayed the emotion of
his heart, "if you prefer to stay, I will go alone."
"Farewell," said Gabriel, without turning aside his eyes from the
window towards which he felt himself drawn by a fascination for which
he could not account. Bastiano disappeared, and Nisida's brother,
assisted by the waves, was drawing nearer and nearer to the shore,
when, at all once, he uttered a terrible cry which sounded above the
noise of the tempest.
The star had just been extinguished; the lamp had been blown out.
"My sister is dead!" cried Gabriel and, leaping into the sea, he
cleft the waves with the rapidity of lightning.
The storm had redoubled its intensity; long lines of lightning,
rending the sides of the clouds, bathed everything in their tawny and
intermittent light. The fisherman perceived a ladder leaning against
the front of his home, seized it with a convulsive hand, and in three
bounds flung himself into the room. The prince felt himself
strangely moved on making his way into this pure and silent retreat.
The calm and gentle gaze of the Virgin who seemed to be protecting
the rest of the sleeping girl, that perfume of innocence shed around
the maidenly couch, that lamp, open-eyed amid the shadows, like a
soul in prayer, had inspired the seducer with an unknown distress.
Irritated by what he called an absurd cowardice, he had extinguished
the obtrusive light, and was advancing towards the bed, and
addressing unspoken reproaches to himself, when Gabriel swooped upon
him with a wounded tiger's fierce gnashing of the teeth.
Brancaleone, by a bold and rapid movement that showed no common
degree of skill and bravery, while struggling in the grasp of his
powerful adversary, drew forth in his right hand a long dagger with a
fine barbed blade. Gabriel smiled scornfully, snatched the weapon
from him, and even as he stooped to break it across his knee, gave
the prince a furious blow with his head that made him stagger and
sent him rolling on the floor, three paces away; then, leaning over
his poor sister and gazing on her with hungry eyes, by the passing
gleam of a flash, "Dead!" he repeated, wringing his arms in despair,
In the fearful paroxysm that compressed his throat he could find no
other words to assuage his rage or to pour forth his woe. His hair,
which the storm had flattened, rose on his head, the marrow of his
bones was chilled, and he felt his tears rush back upon his heart.
It was a terrible moment; he forgot that the murderer still lived.
The prince, however, whose admirable composure did not for a moment
desert him, had risen, bruised and bleeding. Pale and trembling with
rage, he sought everywhere for a weapon with which to avenge himself.
Gabriel returned towards him gloomier and more ominous than ever, and
grasping his neck with an iron hand, dragged him into the room where
the old man was sleeping.
"Father! father! father!" he cried in a piercing voice, "here is
the Bastard who Has just murdered Nisida!"
The old man, who had drunk but a few drops of the narcotic potion,
was awakened by this cry which echoed through his soul; he arose as
though moved by a spring, flung off his coverings, and with that
promptitude of action that God has bestowed upon mothers in moments
of danger, event up to his daughter's room, found a light, knelt on
the edge of the bed, and began to test his child's pulse and watch
her breathing with mortal anxiety.
All! this had passed in less time than we have taken in telling it.
Brancaleone by an unheard-of effort had freed himself from the hands
of the young fisherman, and suddenly resuming his princely pride,
said in a loud voice, "You shall not kill me without listening to
Gabriel would have overwhelmed him with Bitter reproaches, but,
unable to utter a single word, he burst into tears.
"Your sifter is not dead," said the prince, with cold dignity; "she
is merely asleep. You can assure yourself of it, and meanwhile I
undertake, upon my Honour, not to move a single step away."
These words were pronounced with such an accent of truth that the
fisherman was struck by them. An unexpected gleam of hope suddenly
dawned in his thoughts; he cast upon the stranger a glance of hate
and distrust, and muttered in a muffled voice, "Do not flatter
yourself, in any case, that you will be able to escape me."
Then he went up to his sister's room, and approaching the old man,
asked tremblingly, "Well, father?"
Solomon thrust him gently aside with the solicitude of a mother
removing some buzzing insect from her child's cradle, and, making a
sign to enjoin silence, added in a low voice, "She is neither dead
nor poisoned. Some philtre has been given to her for a bad purpose.
Her breathing is even, and she cannot fail to recover from her
Gabriel, reassured about Nisida's life, returned silently to the
ground floor where he had left the seducer. His manner was grave and
gloomy; he was coming now not to rend the murderer of his sister with
his hands, but to elucidate a treacherous and infamous mystery, and
to avenge his honour which had been basely attacked. He opened wide
the double entrance door that admitted daylight to the apartment in
which, on the few nights that he spent at home, he was accustomed to
sleep with his father. The rain had just stopped, a ray of moonlight
pierced the clouds, and all at once made its way into the room. The
fisherman adjusted his dripping garments, walked towards the
stranger, who awaited him without stirring, and after having gazed
upon him haughtily, said, "Now you are going to explain your presence
in our house."
"I confess," said the prince, in an easy tone and with the most
insolent assurance, "that appearances are against me. It is the fate
of lovers to be treated as thieves. But although I have not the
advantage of being known to you, I am betrothed to the fair Nisida--
with your father's approval, of course. Now, as I have the
misfortune to possess very hardhearted parents, they have had the
cruelty to refuse me their consent. Love led me astray, and I was
about to be guilty of a fault for which a young man like you ought to
have some indulgence. Furthermore, it was nothing but a mere attempt
at an abduction, with the best intentions in the world, I swear, and
I am ready to atone for everything if you will agree to give me your
hand and call me your brother."
"I will agree to call you a coward and a betrayer!" replied Gabriel,
whose face had begun to glow, as he heard his sister spoken of with
such impudent levity. "If it is thus that insults are avenged in
towns, we fishers have a different plan. Ah! so you flattered
yourself with the thought of bringing desolation aid disgrace into
our home, and of paying infamous assassins to come and share an old
man's bread so as to poison his daughter, of stealing by night, like
a brigand, armed with a dagger, into my sister's room, and of being
let off by marrying the most beautiful woman in the kingdom!"
The prince made a movement.
"Listen," continued Gabriel: "I could break you as I broke your
dagger just now; but I have pity on you. I see that you can do
nothing with your hands, neither defend yourself nor work. Go, I
begin to understand; you are a braggart, my fine sir; your poverty is
usurped; you have decked yourself in these poor clothes, but you are
unworthy of them."
He suffered a glance of crushing contempt to fall upon the prince,
then going to a cupboard hidden in the wall, he drew out a rifle and
"Here," said he, "are all the weapons in the house; choose."
A flash of joy illuminated the countenance of the prince, who had
hitherto suppressed his rage. He seized the rifle eagerly, drew
three steps backward, and drawing himself up to his full height,
said, "You would have done better to lend me this weapon at the
beginning; for then I would have been spared from witnessing your
silly vapourings and frantic convulsions. Thanks, young-man; one of
my servants will bring you back your gun. Farewell."
And he threw him his purse, which fell heavily at the fisherman's
"I lent you that rifle to fight with me," cried Gabriel, whom
surprise had rooted to the spot.
"Move aside, my lad; you are out of your senses," said the prince,
taking a step towards the door.
"So you refuse to defend yourself?" asked Gabriel in a determined
"I have told you already that I cannot fight with you."
"Because such is the will of God; because you were born to crawl and
I to trample you under my feet; because all the blood that I could
shed in this island would not purchase one drop of my blood; because
a thousand lives of wretches like you are not equal to one hour of
mine; because you will kneel at my name that I, am now going to
utter; because, in short, you are but a poor fisherman and my name is
Prince of Brancaleone."
At this dreaded name, which the young nobleman flung, like a
thunderbolt, at his head, the fisherman bounded like a lion. He drew
a deep breath, as though he had lifted a weight that had long rested
on his heart.
"Ah!" he cried, "you have given yourself into my hands, my lord!
Between the poor fisherman and the all-powerful prince there is a
debt of blood. You shall pay for yourself and for your father. We
are going to settle our accounts, your excellency," he added, rising
his axe over the head of the prince, who was aiming at him. "Oh!
you were in too great haste to choose: the rifle is not loaded." The
prince turned pale.
"Between our two families," Gabriel continued, "there exists a
horrible secret which my mother confided to me on the brink of the
grave, of which my father himself is unaware, and that no man in the
world must learn. You are different, you are going to die."
He dragged him into the space outside the house.
"Do you know why my sister, whom you wished to dishonour, was vowed
to the Madonna? Because your father, like you, wished to dishonour
my mother. In your accursed house there is a tradition of infamy.
You do not know what slow and terrible torments my poor mother
endured-torments that broke her strength and caused her to die in
early youth, and that her angelic soul dared confide to none but her
son in that supreme hour and in order to bid me watch over my
The fisherman wiped away a burning tear. "One day, before we were
born, a fine lady, richly dressed, landed in our island from a
splendid boat; she asked to see my mother, who was as young and
beautiful as my Nisida is to-day. She could not cease from admiring
her; she blamed the blindness of fate which had buried this lovely
jewel in the bosom of an obscure island; she showered praises,
caresses, and gifts upon my mother, and after many indirect speeches,
finally asked her parents for her, that she might make her her lady-
in-waiting. The poor people, foreseeing in the protection of so
great a lady a brilliant future for their daughter, were weak enough
to yield. That lady was your mother; and do you know why she came
thus to seek that poor innocent maiden? Because your mother had a
lover, and because she wished to make sure, in this infamous manner,
of the prince's indulgence."
"Oh, your excellency will hear me out. At the beginning, my poor
mother found herself surrounded by the tenderest care: the princess
could not be parted from her for a moment; the most flattering words,
the finest clothes, the richest ornaments were hers; the servants
paid her as much respect as though she were a daughter of the house.
When her parents went to see her and to inquire whether she did not
at all regret having left them, they found her so lovely and so
happy, that they blessed the princess as a good angel sent them from
God. Then the prince conceived a remarkable affection for my mother;
little by little his manners became more familiar and affectionate.
At last the princess went away for a few days, regretting that she
could not take with her her dear child, as she called her. Then the
prince's brutality knew no further barriers; he no longer concealed
his shameful plans of seduction; he spread before the poor girl's
eyes pearl necklaces and caskets of diamonds; he passed from the most
glowing passion to the blackest fury, from the humblest prayers to
the most horrible threats. The poor child was shut up in a cellar
where there was hardly a gleam of daylight, and every morning a
frightful gaoler came and threw her a bit of black bread, repeating
with oaths that it only depended upon herself to alter all this by
becoming the prince's mistress. This cruelty continued for two
years. The princess had gone on a long journey, and my mother's poor
parents believed that their daughter was still happy with her
protectress. On her return, having; no doubt fresh sins for which
she needed forgiveness, she took my mother from her dungeon, assumed
the liveliest indignation at this horrible treatment, about which she
appeared to have known nothing, wiped her tears, and by an abominable
refinement of perfidy received the thanks of the victim whom she was
about to sacrifice.
One evening--I have just finished, my lord--the princess chose to sup
alone with her lady-in-waiting: the rarest fruits, the most exquisite
dishes, and the most delicate wines were served to my poor mother,
whose prolonged privations had injured her health and weakened her
reason; she gave way to a morbid gaiety. Diabolical philtres were
poured into her cup; that is another tradition in your family. My
mother felt uplifted, her eyes shone with feverish brilliance, her
cheeks were on fire. Then the prince came in--oh! your excellency
will see that God protects the poor. My darling mother, like a
frightened dove, sheltered herself in the bosom of the princess, who
pushed her away, laughing. The poor distraught girl, trembling,
weeping, knelt down in the midst of that infamous room. It was St.
Anne's Day; all at once the house shook, the walls cracked, cries of
distress rang out in the streets. My mother was saved. It was the
earthquake that destroyed half Naples. You know all about it, my
lord, since your old palace is no longer habitable."
"What are you driving at? " cried Brancaleone in terrible agitation.
"Oh, I merely wish to persuade you that you must fight with me,"
answered the fisherman coldly, as he offered him a cartridge. "And
now," he added, in an excited tone, "say your prayers, my lord; for I
warn you, you will die by my hand; justice must be done."
The prince carefully examined the powder and shot, made sure that his
rifle was in good condition; loaded it, and, eager to make an end,
took aim at the fisherman; but, either because he had been so much
disturbed by his opponent's terrible tale, or, because the grass was
wet from the storm, at the moment when he put forward his left foot
to steady his shot, he slipped, lost his balance and fell on one
knee. He fired into the air.
"That does not count, my lord," cried Gabriel instantly, and handed
him a second charge.
At the noise of the report Solomon had appeared at the window, and,
understanding what was going on, had lifted his hands to heaven, in
order to address to God a dumb and fervent prayer. Eligi uttered a
frightful inprecation, and hastily reloaded his rifle; but, struck by
the calm confidence of the young man, who stood motionless before
him, and by the old man, who, impassive and undisturbed, seemed to be
conjuring God in the name of a father's authority, disconcerted by
his fall, his knees shaking and his arm jarred, he felt the chills of
death running in his veins. Attempting, nevertheless, to master his
emotion, he took aim a second time; the bullet whistled by the
fisherman's ear and buried itself in the stem of a poplar.
The prince, with the energy of despair, seized the barrel of his
weapon in both hands; but Gabriel was coming forward with his axe, a
terrible foe, and his first stroke carried away the butt of the
rifle. He was still hesitating, however, to kill a defenceless man,
when two armed servants appeared at the end of the pathway. Gabriel
did not see them coming; but at the moment when they would have
seized him by the shoulders, Solomon uttered a cry and rushed to his
"Help, Numa! help, Bonaroux! Death to the ruffians! They want to
"You lie, Prince of Brancaleone!" cried Gabriel, and with one blow of
the axe he cleft his skull.
The two bravoes who were coming to their master's assistance, when
they saw him fall, took flight; Solomon and his son went up to
Nisida's room. The young girl had just shaken off her heavy slumber;
a slight perspiration moistened her brow, and she opened her eyes
slowly to the dawning day.
"Why are you looking at me in that way, father?" she said, her mind
still wandering a littler and she passed her hand over her forehead.
The old man embraced her tenderly.
"You have just passed through a great danger, my poor Nisida," said
he; "arise, and let us give thanks to the Madonna."
Then all three, kneeling before the sacred image of the Virgin, began
to recite litanies. But at that very instant a noise of arms sounded
in the enclosure, the house was surrounded by soldiers, and a
lieutenant of gendarmes, seizing Gabriel, said in a loud voice, "In
the name of the law, I arrest you for the murder that you have just
committed upon the person of his excellency and illustrious lordship,
the Prince of Brancaleone."
Nisida, struck by these words, remained pale and motionless like a
marble statue kneeling on a tomb; Gabriel was already preparing to
make an unreasoning resistance, when a gesture from his father
"Signor tenente," said the old man, addressing himself to the
officer, "my son killed the prince in lawful defence, for the latter
had scaled our house and made his way in at night and with arms in
his hand. The proofs are before your eyes. Here is a ladder set up
against the window; and here," he proceeded, picking up the two
pieces of the broken blade, "is a dagger with the Brancaleone arms.
However, we do not refuse to follow you."
The last words of the fisherman were drowned by cries of "Down with
the sbirri! down with the gendarmes!" which were repeated in every
direction. The whole island was up in arms, and the fisher-folk
would have suffered themselves to be cut up to the last man before
allowing a single hair of Solomon or of his son to be touched; but
the old man appeared upon his threshold, and, stretching out his arm
with a calm and grave movement that quieted the anger of the crowd,
he said, "Thanks, my children; the law must be respected. I shall be
able, alone, to defend the innocence of my son before the judges."
Hardly three months have elapsed since the day upon which we first
beheld the old fisherman of Nisida sitting before the door of his
dwelling, irradiated by all the happiness that he had succeeded in
creating around him, reigning like a king, on his throne of rock, and
blessing his two children, the most beautiful creatures in the
island. Now the whole existence of this man, who was once so happy
and so much envied, is changed. The smiling cottage, that hung over
the gulf like a swan over a transparent lake, is sad and desolate;
the little enclosure, with its hedges of lilac and hawthorn, where
joyous groups used to come and sit at the close of day, is silent and
deserted. No human sound dares to trouble the mourning of this
saddened solitude. Only towards evening the waves of the sea,
compassionating such great misfortunes, come to murmur plaintive
notes upon the beach.
Gabriel has been condemned. The news of the high-born Prince of
Brancaleone's death, so young, so handsome, and so universally
adored, not only fluttered the aristocracy of Naples, but excited
profound indignation in all classes of people. He was mourned by
everybody, and a unanimous cry for vengeance was raised against the
The authorities opened the inquiry with alarming promptness. The
magistrates whom their office called to judge this deplorable affair
displayed, however, the most irreproachable integrity. No
consideration outside their duty, no deference due to so noble and
powerful a family, could shake the convictions of their conscience.
History has kept a record of this memorable trial; and has, no
reproach to make to men which does not apply equally to the
imperfection of human laws. The appearance of things, that fatal
contradiction which the genius of evil so often here on earth gives
to truth, overwhelmed the poor fisherman with the most evident
Trespolo, in whom fear had destroyed all scruples, being first
examined, as having been the young prince's confidant, declared with
cool impudence that, his master having shown a wish to escape for a
few days from the importunities of a young married lady whose passion
was beginning to tire him, had followed him to the island with three
or four of his most faithful servants, and that he himself had
adopted the disguise of a pilgrim, not wishing to betray his
excellency's incognito to the fisher-people, who would certainly have
tormented so powerful a person by all sorts of petitions. Two local
watch men, who had happened to be on the hillside at the moment of
the crime, gave evidence that confirmed the valet's lengthy
statement; hidden by some under wood, they had seen Gabriel rush upon
the prince, and had distinctly heard the last words of the dying man;
calling "Murder!" All the witnesses, even those summoned at the
request of the prisoner, made his case worse by their statements,
which they tried to make favourable. Thus the court, with its usual
perspicacity and its infallible certainty, succeeded in establishing
the fact that Prince Eligi of Brancaleone, having taken a temporary
dislike to town life, had retired to the little island of Nisida,
there to give himself up peaceably to the pleasure of fishing, for
which he had at all times had a particular predilection (a proof
appeared among the documents of the case that the prince had
regularly been present every other year at the tunny-fishing on his
property at Palermo); that when once he was thus hidden in the
island, Gabriel might have recognised him, having gone with his
sister to the procession, a few days before, and had, no doubt,
planned to murder him. On the day before the night of the crime, the
absence of Gabriel and the discomposure of his father and sister had
been remarked. Towards evening the prince had dismissed his servant,
and gone out alone, as his custom was, to walk by the seashore.
Surprised by the storm and not knowing the byways of the island, he
had wandered round the fisherman's house, seeking a shelter; then
Gabriel, encouraged by the darkness and by the noise of the tempest,
which seemed likely to cover the cries of his victim, had, after
prolonged hesitation, resolved to commit his crime, and having fired
two shots at the unfortunate young man without succeeding in wounding
him, had put an end to him by blows of the axe; lastly, at the moment
when, with Solomon's assistance, he was about to throw the body into
the sea, the prince's servants having appeared, they had gone up to
the girl's room, and, inventing their absurd tale, had cast
themselves on their knees before the Virgin, in order to mislead the
authorities. All the circumstances that poor Solomon cited in his
son's favour turned against him: the ladder at Nisida's window
belonged to the fisherman; the dagger which young Brancaleone always
carried upon him to defend himself had evidently been taken from him
after his death, and Gabriel had hastened to break it, so as to
destroy, to the best of his power, the traces of his crime.
Bastiano's evidence did not receive a minute's consideration: he, to
destroy the idea of premeditation, declared that the young fisherman
had left him only at the moment when the storm broke over the island;
but, in the first place, the young diver was known to be Gabriel's
most devoted friend and his sister's warmest admirer, and, in the
second, he had been seen to land at Torre during the same hour in
which he had affirmed that he was near to Nisida. As for the
prince's passion for the poor peasant girl, the magistrates simply
shrugged their shoulders at the ridiculous assertion of that, and
especially at the young girl's alleged resistance and the extreme
measures to which the prince was supposed to have resorted to conquer
the virtue of Nisida. Eligi of Brancaleone was so young, so
handsome, so seductive, and at the same time so cool amid his
successes, that he had never been suspected of violence, except in
getting rid of his mistresses. Finally, an overwhelming and
unanswerable proof overthrew all the arguments for the defence: under
the fisherman's bed had been found a purse with the Brancaleone arms,
full of gold, the purse which, if our readers remember, the prince
had flung as a last insult at Gabriel's feet.
The old man did not lose heart at this fabric of lies; after the
pleadings of the advocates whose ruinous eloquence he had bought with
heavy gold, he defended his son himself, and put so much truth, so
much passion, and so many tears into his speech, that the whole
audience was moved, and three of the judges voted for an acquittal;
but the majority was against it, and the fatal verdict was
The news at once spread throughout the little island, and caused the
deepest dejection there. The fishers who, at the first irruption of
force, had risen as one man to defend their comrade's cause, bowed
their heads without a murmur before the unquestioned authority of a
legal judgment. Solomon received unflinchingly the stab that pierced
his heart. No sigh escaped his breast; no tear came to his eyes; his
wound did not bleed. Since his son's arrest he had sold all he
possessed in the world, even the little silver cross left by his wife
at her death, even the pearl necklace that flattered his fatherly
pride by losing its whiteness against his dear Nisida's throat; the
pieces of gold gained by the sale of these things he had sewn into
his coarse woollen cap, and had established himself in the city. He
ate nothing but the bread thrown to him by the pity of passers-by,
and slept on the steps of churches or at the magistrates' door.
To estimate at its full value the heroic courage of this unhappy
father, one must take a general view of the whole extent of his
misfortune. Overwhelmed by age and grief, he looked forward with
solemn calmness to the terrible moment which would bear his son, a
few days before him, to the grave. His sharpest agony was the
thought of the shame that would envelop his family. The first
scaffold erected in that gently mannered island would arise for
Gabriel, and that ignominious punishment tarnish the whole population
and imprint upon it the first brand of disgrace. By a sad
transition, which yet comes so easily in the destiny of man, the poor
father grew to long for those moments of danger at which he had
formerly trembled, those moments in which his son might have died
nobly. And now all was lost: a long life of work, of abnegation, and
of good deeds, a pure and stainless reputation that had extended
beyond the gulf into distant countries, and the traditional
admiration, rising almost to worship, of several generations; all
these things only served to deepen the pit into which the fisherman
had fallen, at one blow, from his kingly height. Good fame, that
divine halo without which nothing here on earth is sacred, had
disappeared. Men no longer dared to defend the poor wretch, they
pitied him. His name would soon carry horror with it, and Nisida,
poor orphan, would be nothing to anyone but the sister of a man who
had been condemned to death. Even Bastiano turned away his face and
wept. Thus, when every respite was over, when poor Solomon's every
attempt had failed, people in the town who saw him smile strangely,
as though under the obsession of some fixed idea, said to one another
that the old man had lost his reason.
Gabriel saw his last day dawn, serenely and calmly. His sleep had
been deep; he awoke full of unknown joy; a cheerful ray of sunlight,
falling through the loophole, wavered over the fine golden straw in
his cell; an autumn breeze playing around him, brought an agreeable
coolness to his brow, and stirred in his long hair. The gaoler, who
while he had had him in his charge had always behaved humanely,
struck by his happy looks, hesitated to announce the priest's visit,
in fear of calling the poor prisoner from his dream. Gabriel
received the news with pleasure; he conversed for two hours with the
good priest, and shed sweet tears on receiving the last absolution.
The priest left the prison with tears in his eyes, declaring aloud
that he had never in his life met with a more beautiful, pure,
resigned, and courageous spirit.
The fisherman was still under the influence of this consoling emotion
when his sister entered. Since the day when she had been carried,
fainting, from the room where her brother had just been arrested, the
poor girl, sheltered under the roof of an aunt, and accusing herself
of all the evil that had befallen, had done nothing but weep at the
feet of her holy protectress. Bowed by grief like a young lily
before the storm, she would spend whole hours, pale, motionless,
detached from earthly things, her tears flowing silently upon her
beautiful clasped hands. When the moment came to go and embrace her
brother for the last time, Nisida arose with the courage of a saint.
She wiped away the traces of her tears, smoothed her beautiful black
hair, and put on her best white dress. Poor child, she tried to hide
her grief by an angelic deception. She had the strength to smile!
At the sight of her alarming pallor Gabriel felt his heart wrung, a
cloud passed over his eyes; he would have run to meet her, but, held
back by the chain which fettered him to a pillar of his prison,
stepped back sharply and stumbled. Nisida flew to her brother and
upheld him in her arms. The young girl had understood him; she
assured him that she was well. Fearing to remind him of his terrible
position, she spoke volubly of all manner of things--her aunt, the
weather, the Madonna. Then she stopped suddenly, frightened at her
own words, frightened at her own silence; she fixed her burning gaze
upon her brother's brow as though to fascinate him. Little by little
animation returned to her; a faint colour tinted her hollowed cheeks,
and Gabriel, deceived by the maiden's super human efforts, thought
her still beautiful, and thanked God in his heart for having spared
this tender creature. Nisida, as though she had followed her
brother's secret thoughts, came close to him, pressed his hand with
an air of understanding, and murmured low in his ear, "Fortunately
our father has been away for two days; he sent me word that he would
be detained in town. For us, it is different; we are young, we have
The poor young girl was trembling like a leaf.
"What will become of you, my poor Nisida?"
"Bah! I will pray to the Madonna. Does she not watch over us?" The
girl stopped, struck by the sound of her own words, which the
circumstances so cruelly contradicted. But looking at her brother,
she went on in a low tone: "Assuredly she does watch over us. She
appeared to me last night in a dream. She held her child Jesus on
her arm, and looked at me with a mother's tenderness. She wishes to
make saints of us, for she loves us; and to be a saint, you see,
Gabriel, one must suffer."
"Well, go and pray for me, my kind sister; go away from the view of
this sad place, which will eventually shake your firmness, and
perhaps mine. Go; we shall see each other again in heaven above,
where our mother is waiting for us--our mother whom you have not
known, and to whom I shall often speak of you. Farewell, my sister,
until we meet again!"
And he kissed her on the forehead.
The young girl called up all her strength into her heart for this
supreme moment; she walked with a firm step; having reached the
threshold, she turned round and waved him a farewell, preventing
herself by a nervous contraction from bursting into tears, but as
soon as she was in the corridor, a sob broke from her bosom, and
Gabriel, who heard it echo from the vaulted roof, thought that his
heart would break.
Then he threw himself on his knees, and, lifting his hands to heaven,
cried, "I have finished suffering; I have nothing more that holds me
to life. I thank Thee, my God! Thou hast kept my father away, and
hast been willing to spare the poor old man a grief that would have
been beyond his strength."
It was at the hour of noon, after having exhausted every possible
means, poured out his gold to the last piece, and embraced the knees
of the lowest serving man, that Solomon the fisherman took his way to
his son's prison. His brow was so woebegone that the guards drew
back, seized with pity, and the gaoler wept as he closed the door of
the cell upon him. The old man remained some moments without
advancing a step, absorbed in contemplation of his son. By the tawny
gleam of his eye might be divined that the soul of the man was moved
at that instant by some dark project. He seemed nevertheless struck
by the-beauty of Gabriel's face. Three months in prison had restored
to his skin the whiteness that the sun had turned brown; his fine
dark hair fell in curls around his neck, his eyes rested on his
father with a liquid and brilliant gaze. Never had this head been so
beautiful as now, when it was to fall.
"Alas, my poor son!" said the old man, "there is no hope left; you
"I know it," answered Gabriel in a tone of tender reproach, "and it
is not that which most afflicts me at this moment. But you, too, why
do you wish to give me pain, at your age? Why did you not stay in
"In the town," the old man returned, "they have no pity; I cast
myself at the king's feet, at everybody's feet; there is no pardon,
no mercy for us."
"Well, in God's name, what is death to me? I meet it daily on the
sea. My greatest, my only torment is the pain that they are causing
"And I, do you think, my Gabriel, that I only suffer in seeing you
die? Oh, it is but a parting for a few days; I shall soon go to join
you. But a darker sorrow weighs upon me. I am strong, I am a man".
He stopped, fearing that he had said too much; then drawing near to
his son, he said in a tearful voice, "Forgive me, my Gabriel; I am
the cause of your death. I ought to have killed the prince with my
own hand. In our country, children and old men are not condemned to
death. I am over eighty years old; I should have been pardoned; they
told me that when, with tears, I asked pardon for you; once more,
forgive me, Gabriel; I thought my daughter was dead; I thought of
nothing else; and besides, I did not know the law."
"Father, father!" cried Gabriel, touched, "what are you saying? I
would have given my life a thousand times over to purchase one day of
yours. Since you are strong enough to be present at my last hour,
fear not; you will not see me turn pale; your son will be worthy of
"And he is to die, to die!" cried Solomon, striking his forehead in
despair, and casting on the walls of the dungeon a look of fire that
would fain have pierced them.
"I am resigned, father," said Gabriel gently; did not Christ ascend
"Yes," murmured the old man in a muffled voice, "but He did not leave
behind a sister dishonoured by His death."
These words, which escaped the old fisherman in spite of himself,
threw a sudden and terrible light into the soul of Gabriel. For the
first time he perceived all the infamous manner of his death: the
shameless populace crowding round the scaffold, the hateful hand of
the executioner taking him by the Hair, and the drops of his blood
besprinkling the white raiment of his sister and covering her with
"Oh, if I could get a weapon!" cried Gabriel, his haggard eyes
"It is not the weapon that is lacking," answered Solomon, carrying
his hand to the hilt of a dagger that he had hidden in his breast.
"Then kill me, father," said Gabriel in a low tone, but with an
irresistible accent of persuasion and entreaty; "oh yes, I confess it
now, the executioner's hand frightens me. My Nisida, my poor Nisida,
I have seen her; she was here just now, as beautiful and as pale as
the Madonna Dolorosa; she smiled to hide from me her sufferings. She
was happy, poor girl, because she believed you away. Oh, how sweet
it will be to me to die by your hand! You gave me life; take it
back, father, since God will have it so. And Nisida will be saved.
Oh, do not hesitate! It would be a cowardice on the part of both of
us; she is my sister, she is your daughter."
And seeing that his powerful will had subjugated the old man, he
said, "Help! help, father!" and offered his breast to the blow. The
poor father lifted his hand to strike; but a mortal convulsion ran
through all his limbs; he fell into his son's arms, and both burst
"Poor father!" said Gabriel. "I ought to have foreseen that. Give
me that dagger and turn away; I am young and my arm will not
"Oh no !" returned Solomon solemnly, "no, my son, for then you would
be a suicide! Let your soul ascend to heaven pure! God will give me
His strength. Moreover, we have time yet."
And a last ray of hope shone in the eyes of the fisherman.
Then there passed in that dungeon one of those scenes that words can
never reproduce. The poor father sat down on the straw at his son's
side and laid his head gently upon his knees. He smiled to him
through his tears, as one smiles to a sick child; he passed his hand
slowly through the silky curls of his hair, and asked him countless
questions, intermingled with caresses. In order to give him a
distaste for this world he kept on talking to him of the other.
Then, with a sudden change, he questioned him minutely about all
sorts of past matters. Sometimes he stopped in alarm, and counted
the beatings of his heart, which were hurriedly marking the passage
"Tell me everything, my child; have you any desire, any wish that
could be satisfied before you die? Are you leaving any woman whom
you loved secretly? Everything we have left shall be hers."
"I regret nothing on earth but you and my sister. You are the only
persons whom I have loved since my mother's death."
"Well, be comforted. Your sister will be saved."
"Oh, yes! I shall die happy."
"Do you forgive our enemies?"
"With all the strength of my heart. I pray God to have mercy on the
witnesses who accused me. May He forgive me my sins!"
"How old is it that you will soon be?" the old man asked suddenly,
for his reason was beginning to totter, and his memory had failed
"I was twenty-five on All Hallows' Day."
"True; it was a sad day, this year; you were in prison."
"Do you remember how, five years ago, on that same day I got the
prize in the regatta at Venice?"
"Tell me about that, my child."
And he listened, his neck stretched forward, his mouth half open, his
hands in his son's. A sound of steps came in from the corridor, and
a dull knock was struck upon the door. It was the fatal hour. The
poor father had forgotten it.
The priests had already begun to sing the death hymn; the executioner
was ready, the procession had set out, when Solomon the fisherman
appeared suddenly on the threshold of the prison, his eyes aflame and
his brow radiant with the halo of the patriarchs. The old man drew
himself up to his full height, and raising in one hand the reddened
knife, said in a sublime voice, "The sacrifice is fulfilled. God did
not send His angel to stay the hand of Abraham."
The crowd carried him in triumph!
[The details of this case are recorded in the archives of the
Criminal Court at Naples. We have changed nothing in the age or
position of the persons who appear in this narrative. One of the
most celebrated advocates at the Neapolitan bar secured the acquittal
of the old man.]