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Title: La Sorcière: The Witch of the Middle Ages
Author: Michelet, Jules, 1798-1874
Language: English
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(_The only Authorized English Translation._)



In this translation of a work rich in the raciest beauties and defects
of an author long since made known to the British public, the present
writer has striven to recast the trenchant humour, the scornful
eloquence, the epigrammatic dash of Mr. Michelet, in language not all
unworthy of such a word-master. How far he has succeeded others may be
left to judge. In one point only is he aware of having been less true
to his original than in theory he was bound to be. He has slurred or
slightly altered a few of those passages which French readers take as
a thing of course, but English ones, because of their different
training, are supposed to eschew. A Frenchman, in short, writes for
men, an Englishman rather for drawing-room ladies, who tolerate
grossness only in the theatres and the columns of the newspapers. Mr.
Michelet’s subject, and his late researches, lead him into details,
moral and physical, which among ourselves are seldom mixed up with
themes of general talk. The coarsest of these have been pruned away,
but enough perhaps remain to startle readers of especial prudery. The
translator, however, felt that he had no choice between shocking
these and sinning against his original. Readers of a larger culture
will make allowance for such a strait, will not be so very frightened
at an amount of plain-speaking, neither in itself immoral, nor, on the
whole, impertinent. Had he docked his work of everything condemned by
prudish theories, he might have made it more conventionally decent;
but Michelet would have been puzzled to recognize himself in the poor
maimed cripple that would then have borne his name.

Nor will a reader of average shrewdness mistake the religious drift of
a book suppressed by the Imperial underlings in the interests neither
of religion nor of morals, but merely of Popery in its most outrageous
form. If its attacks on Rome seem, now and then, to involve
Christianity itself, we must allow something for excess of warmth, and
something for the nature of inquiries which laid bare the rotten
outgrowths of a religion in itself the purest known among men. In
studying the so-called Ages of Faith, the author has only found them
worthy of their truer and older title, the Ages of Darkness. It is
against the tyranny, feudal and priestly, of those days, that he
raises an outcry, warranted almost always by facts which a more
mawkish philosophy refuses to see. If he is sometimes hasty and
onesided; if the Church and the Feudal System of those days had their
uses for the time being; it is still a gain to have the other side of
the subject kept before us by way of counterpoise to the doctrines
now in vogue. We need not be intolerant; but Rome is yet alive.

Taken as a whole, Mr. Michelet’s book cannot be called unchristian.
Like most thoughtful minds of the day, he yearns for some nobler and
larger creed than that of the theologians; for a creed which,
understanding Nature, shall reconcile it with Nature’s God. Nor may he
fairly be called irreverent for talking, Frenchman like, of things
spiritual with the same freedom as he would of things temporal.
Perhaps in his heart of hearts he has nearly as much religious
earnestness as they who call Dr. Colenso an infidel, and shake their
heads at the doubtful theology of Frederic Robertson. At any rate, no
translator who should cut or file away so special a feature of French
feeling would be doing justice to so marked an original.

For English readers who already know the concise and sober volumes of
their countryman, Mr. Wright, the present work will offer mainly an
interesting study of the author himself. It is a curious compound of
rhapsody and sound reason, of history and romance, of coarse realism
and touching poetry, such as, even in France, few save Mr. Michelet
could have produced. Founded on truth and close inquiry, it still
reads more like a poem than a sober history. As a beautiful
speculation, which has nearly, but not quite, grasped the physical
causes underlying the whole history of magic and illusion in all ages,
it may be read with profit as well as pleasure in this age of vulgar
spirit-rapping. But the true history of Witchcraft has yet to be
written by some cooler hand.

                                          L. T.

  _May 11th, 1863._



INTRODUCTION                                                        1
  To One Wizard Ten Thousand Witches                                1
  The Witch was the sole Physician of the People                    4
  Terrorism of the Middle Ages                                      5
  The Witch was the Offspring of Despair                            9
  She in her Turn created Satan                                    12
  Satan, Prince of the World, Physician, Innovator                 13
  His School--of Witches, Shepherds, and Headsmen                  15
  His Decline                                                      16


CHAPTER I.--THE DEATH OF THE GODS                                  19
  Christianity thought the World was Dying                         20
  The World of Demons                                              24
  The Bride of Corinth                                             26

  The People make their own Legends                                31
  But are forbidden to do so any more                              35
  The People guard their Territory                                 38
  But are made Serfs                                               40

  Ancient Communism of the _Villa_                                 43
  The Hearth made independent                                      44
  The Wife of the Serf                                             45
  Her Loyalty to the Olden Gods                                    46
  The Goblin                                                       53

CHAPTER IV.--TEMPTATIONS                                           57
  The Serf invokes the Spirit of Hidden Treasures                  58
  Feudal Raids                                                     59
  The Wife turns her Goblin into a Devil                           66

CHAPTER V.--POSSESSION                                             69
  The Advent of Gold in 1300                                       69
  The Woman makes Terms with the Demon of Gold                     71
  Impure Horrors of the Middle Ages                                75
  The Village Lady                                                 78
  Hatred of the Lady of the Castle                                 84

CHAPTER VI.--THE COVENANT                                          88
  The Woman-serf gives Herself up to the Devil                     90
  The Moor and the Witch                                           93

CHAPTER VII.--THE KING OF THE DEAD                                 96
  The dear Dead are brought back to Earth                          97
  The Idea of Satan is softened                                   103

CHAPTER VIII.--THE PRINCE OF NATURE                               106
  The Thaw in the Middle Ages                                     108
  The Witch calls forth the East                                  109
  She conceives Nature                                            112

CHAPTER IX.--THE DEVIL A PHYSICIAN                                116
  Diseases of the Middle Ages                                     116
  The _Comforters_, or Solaneæ                                    121
  The Middle Ages anti-natural                                    128

CHAPTER X.--CHARMS AND PHILTRES                                   131
  Blue-Beard and Griselda                                         133
  The Witch consulted by the Castle                               137
  Her Malice                                                      141

  The old Half-heathen Sabasies                                   144
  The Four Acts of the Black Mass                                 150
  Act I. The Introit, the Kiss, the Banquet                       151
  Act II. The Offering: the Woman as Altar and Host               153

  Act III. Love of near Kindred                                   158
  Act IV. Death of Satan and the Witch                            165


    COMMON                                                        168
  Witches and Wizards employed by the Great                       172
  The Wolf-lady                                                   174
  The last Philtre                                                179

CHAPTER II.--PERSECUTIONS                                         180
  The Hammer for Witches                                          181
  Satan Master of the World                                       193

  Spain begins when France stops short                            199
  Reaction: French Lawyers burn as many as the Priests            203

  They give Instructions to their own Judges                      212

CHAPTER V.--SATAN TURNS PRIEST                                    218
  Jokes of the Modern Sabbath                                     221

CHAPTER VI.--GAUFFRIDI: 1610                                      228
  Wizard Priests prosecuted by Monks                              232
  Jealousies of the Nuns                                          234

  The Vicar a fine Speaker, and a Wizard                          263
  Sickly Rages of the Nuns                                        264

  Illuminism: the Devil a Quietist                                277
  Fight between the Devil and the Doctor                          285


CHAPTER X.--FATHER GIRARD AND LA CADIÈRE                          303

CHAPTER XI.--CADIÈRE IN THE CONVENT                               339

CHAPTER XII.--TRIAL OF CADIÈRE                                    367

EPILOGUE                                                          395
  Can Satan and Jesus be reconciled?                              396
  The Witch is dead, but the Fairy will live again                399
  Oncoming of the Religious Revival                               399


It was said by Sprenger, before the year 1500, “_Heresy of witches_,
not of wizards, must we call it, for these latter are of very small
account.” And by another, in the time of Louis XIII.: “To one wizard,
ten thousand witches.”

“Witches they are by nature.” It is a gift peculiar to woman and her
temperament. By birth a fay, by the regular recurrence of her ecstasy
she becomes a sibyl. By her love she grows into an enchantress. By her
subtlety, by a roguishness often whimsical and beneficent, she becomes
a Witch; she works her spells; does at any rate lull our pains to rest
and beguile them.

All primitive races have the same beginning, as so many books of
travel have shown. While the man is hunting and fighting, the woman
works with her wits, with her imagination: she brings forth dreams and
gods. On certain days she becomes a seeress, borne on boundless wings
of reverie and desire. The better to reckon up the seasons, she
watches the sky; but her heart belongs to earth none the less. Young
and flower-like herself, she looks down toward the enamoured flowers,
and forms with them a personal acquaintance. As a woman, she beseeches
them to heal the objects of her love.

In a way so simple and touching do all religion and all science begin.
Ere long everything will get parcelled out; we shall mark the
beginning of the professional man as juggler, astrologer, or prophet,
necromancer, priest, physician. But at first the woman is everything.

A religion so strong and hearty as that of Pagan Greece begins with
the Sibyl to end in the Witch. The former, a lovely maiden in the
broad daylight, rocked its cradle, endowed it with a charm and glory
of its own. Presently it fell sick, lost itself in the darkness of the
Middle Ages, and was hidden away by the Witch in woods and wilds:
there, sustained by her compassionate daring, it was made to live
anew. Thus, of every religion woman is the mother, the gentle
guardian, the faithful nurse. With her the gods fare like men: they
are born and die upon her bosom.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alas! her loyalty costs her dear. Ye magian queens of Persia;
bewitching Circe; sublime Sibyl! Into what have ye grown, and how
cruel the change that has come upon you! She who from her throne in
the East taught men the virtues of plants and the courses of the
stars; who, on her Delphic tripod beamed over with the god of light,
as she gave forth her oracle to a world upon its knees;--she also it
is whom, a thousand years later, people hunt down like a wild beast;
following her into the public places, where she is dishonoured,
worried, stoned, or set upon the burning coals!

For this poor wretch the priesthood can never have done with their
faggots, nor the people with their insults, nor the children with
their stones. The poet, childlike, flings her one more stone, for a
woman the cruellest of all. On no grounds whatever, he imagines her to
have been always old and ugly. The word “witch” brings before us the
frightful old women of _Macbeth_. But their cruel processes teach us
the reverse of that. Numbers perished precisely for being young and

The Sibyl foretold a fortune, the Witch accomplishes one. Here is the
great, the true difference between them. The latter calls forth a
destiny, conjures it, works it out. Unlike the Cassandra of old, who
awaited mournfully the future she foresaw so well, this woman herself
creates the future. Even more than Circe, than Medea, does she bear in
her hand the rod of natural miracle, with Nature herself as sister and
helpmate. Already she wears the features of a modern Prometheus. With
her industry begins, especially that queen-like industry which heals
and restores mankind. As the Sibyl seemed to gaze upon the morning, so
she, contrariwise, looks towards the west; but it is just that gloomy
west, which long before dawn--as happens among the tops of the
Alps--gives forth a flush anticipant of day.

Well does the priest discern the danger, the bane, the alarming
rivalry, involved in this priestess of nature whom he makes a show of
despising. From the gods of yore she has conceived other gods. Close
to the Satan of the Past we see dawning within her a Satan of the

       *       *       *       *       *

The only physician of the people for a thousand years was the Witch.
The emperors, kings, popes, and richer barons had indeed their doctors
of Salerno, their Moors and Jews; but the bulk of people in every
state, the world as it might well be called, consulted none but the
_Saga_, or wise-woman. When she could not cure them, she was insulted,
was called a Witch. But generally, from a respect not unmixed with
fear, she was called good lady or fair lady (_belle dame_--_bella
donna_[1]), the very name we give to the fairies.

    [1] Whence our old word _Beldam_, the more courteous meaning
    of which is all but lost in its ironical one.--TRANS.

Soon there came upon her the lot which still befalls her favourite
plant, belladonna, and some other wholesome poisons which she employed
as antidotes to the great plagues of the Middle Ages. Children and
ignorant passers-by would curse those dismal flowers before they knew
them. Affrighted by their questionable hues, they shrink back, keep
far aloof from them. And yet among them are the _comforters_
(Solaneæ) which, when discreetly employed, have cured so many, have
lulled so many sufferings to sleep.

You find them in ill-looking spots, growing all lonely and ill-famed
amidst ruins and rubbish-heaps. Therein lies one other point of
resemblance between these flowers and her who makes use of them. For
where else than in waste wildernesses could live the poor wretch whom
all men thus evilly entreated; the woman accursed and proscribed as a
poisoner, even while she used to heal and save; as the betrothed of
the Devil and of evil incarnate, for all the good which, according to
the great physician of the Renaissance, she herself had done? When
Paracelsus, at Basle, in 1527, threw all medicine into the fire,[2] he
avowed that he knew nothing but what he had learnt from witches.

    [2] Alluding to the bonfire which Paracelsus, as professor of
    medicine, made of the works of Galen and Avicenna.--TRANS.

This was worth a requital, and they got it. They were repaid with
tortures, with the stake. For them new punishments, new pangs, were
expressly devised. They were tried in a lump; they were condemned by a
single word. Never had there been such wastefulness of human life. Not
to speak of Spain, that classic land of the faggot, where Moor and Jew
are always accompanied by the Witch, there were burnt at Trèves seven
thousand, and I know not how many at Toulouse; five hundred at Geneva
in three months of 1513; at Wurtzburg eight hundred, almost in one
batch, and fifteen hundred at Bamberg; these two latter being very
small bishoprics! Even Ferdinand II., the savage Emperor of the Thirty
Years’ War, was driven, bigot as he was, to keep a watch on these
worthy bishops, else they would have burned all their subjects. In the
Wurtzburg list I find one Wizard a schoolboy, eleven years old; a
Witch of fifteen: and at Bayonne two, infernally beautiful, of
seventeen years.

Mark how, at certain seasons, hatred wields this one word _Witch_, as
a means of murdering whom she will. Woman’s jealousy, man’s greed,
take ready hold of so handy a weapon. Is such a one wealthy? _She is a
Witch._ Is that girl pretty? _She is a Witch._ You will even see the
little beggar-woman, La Murgui, leave a death-mark with that fearful
stone on the forehead of a great lady, the too beautiful dame of

The accused, when they can, avert the torture by killing themselves.
Remy, that excellent judge of Lorraine, who burned some eight hundred
of them, crows over this very fear. “So well,” said he, “does my way
of justice answer, that of those who were arrested the other day,
sixteen, without further waiting, strangled themselves forthwith.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Over the long track of my History, during the thirty years which I
have devoted to it, this frightful literature of witchcraft passed to
and fro repeatedly through my hands. First I exhausted the manuals of
the Inquisition, the asinine foolings of the Dominicans. (_Scourges_,
_Hammers_, _Ant-hills_, _Floggings_, _Lanterns_, &c., are the titles
of their books.) Next, I read the Parliamentarists, the lay judges who
despised the monks they succeeded, but were every whit as foolish
themselves. One word further would I say of them here: namely, this
single remark, that, from 1300 to 1600, and yet later, but one kind of
justice may be seen. Barring a small interlude in the Parliament of
Paris, the same stupid savagery prevails everywhere, at all hours.
Even great parts are of no use here. As soon as witchcraft comes into
question, the fine-natured De Lancre, a Bordeaux magistrate and
forward politician under Henry IV., sinks back to the level of a
Nider, a Sprenger; of the monkish ninnies of the fifteenth century.

It fills one with amazement to see these different ages, these men of
diverse culture, fail in taking the least step forward. Soon, however,
you begin clearly to understand how all were checked alike, or let us
rather say blinded, made hopelessly drunk and savage, by the poison of
their guiding principle. That principle lies in the statement of a
radical injustice: “On account of one man all are lost; are not only
punished but worthy of punishment; _depraved and perverted
beforehand_, dead to God even before their birth. The very babe at the
breast is damned.”

Who says so? Everyone, even Bossuet himself. A leading doctor in Rome,
Spina, a Master of the Holy Palace, formulates the question neatly:
“Why does God suffer the innocent to die?--For very good reasons:
even if they do not die on account of their own sins, they are always
liable to death as guilty of the original sin.” (_De Strigibus_, ch.

From this atrocity spring two results, the one pertaining to justice,
the other to logic. The judge is never at fault in his work: the
person brought before him is certainly guilty, the more so if he makes
a defence. Justice need never beat her head, or work herself into a
heat, in order to distinguish the truth from the falsehood. Everyhow
she starts from a foregone conclusion. Again, the logician, the
schoolman, has only to analyse the soul, to take count of the shades
it passes through, of its manifold nature, its inward strifes and
battles. He had no need, as we have, to explain how that soul may grow
wicked step by step. At all such niceties and groping efforts, how, if
even he could understand them, would he laugh and wag his head! And,
oh! how gracefully then would quiver those splendid ears which deck
his empty skull!

Especially in treating of the _compact with the Devil_, that awful
covenant whereby, for the poor profit of one day, the spirit sells
itself to everlasting torture, we of another school would seek to
trace anew that road accursed, that frightful staircase of mishaps and
crimes, which had brought it to a depth so low. Much, however, cares
our fine fellow for all that! To him soul and Devil seem born for each
other, insomuch that on the first temptation, for a whim, a desire, a
passing fancy, the soul will throw itself at one stroke into so
horrible an extremity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Neither do I find that the moderns have made much inquiry into the
moral chronology of witchcraft. They cling too much to the connection
between antiquity and the Middle Ages; connection real indeed, but
slight, of small importance. Neither from the magician of old, nor the
seeress of Celts and Germans, comes forth the true Witch. The harmless
“Sabasies” (from Bacchus Sabasius), and the petty rural “Sabbath” of
the Middle Ages, have nothing to do with the Black Mass of the
fourteenth century, with the grand defiance then solemnly given to
Jesus. This fearful conception never grew out of a long chain of
tradition. It leapt forth from the horrors of the day.

At what date, then, did the Witch first appear? I say unfalteringly,
“In the age of despair:” of that deep despair which the gentry of the
Church engendered. Unfalteringly do I say, “The Witch is a crime of
their own achieving.”

I am not to be taken up short by the excuses which their sugary
explanations seem to furnish. “Weak was that creature, and giddy, and
pliable under temptation. She was drawn towards evil by her lust.”
Alas! in the wretchedness, the hunger of those days, nothing of that
kind could have ruffled her even into a hellish rage. An amorous
woman, jealous and forsaken, a child hunted out by her step-mother, a
mother beaten by her son (old subjects these of story), if such as
they were ever tempted to call upon the Evil Spirit, yet all this
would make no Witch. These poor creatures may have called on Satan,
but it does not follow that he accepted them. They are still far, ay,
very far from being ripe for him. They have not yet learned to hate

       *       *       *       *       *

For the better understanding of this point, you should read those
hateful registers which remain to us of the Inquisition, not only in
the extracts given by Llorente, by Lamothe-Langon, &c., but in what
remains of the original registers of Toulouse. Read them in all their
flatness, in all their dryness, so dismal, so terribly savage. At the
end of a few pages you feel yourself stricken with a chill; a cruel
shiver fastens upon you; death, death, death, is traceable in every
line. Already you are in a bier, or else in a stone cell with mouldy
walls. Happiest of all are the killed. The horror of horrors is the
_In pace_. This phrase it is which comes back unceasingly, like an
ill-omened bell sounding again and again the heart’s ruin of the
living dead: always we have the same word, “Immured.”

Frightful machinery for crushing and flattening; most cruel press for
shattering the soul! One turn of the screw follows another, until, all
breathless, and with a loud crack, it has burst forth from the machine
and fallen into the unknown world.

On her first appearance the Witch has neither father nor mother, nor
son, nor husband, nor family. She is a marvel, an aerolith, alighted
no one knows whence. Who, in Heaven’s name, would dare to draw near

Her place of abode? It is in spots impracticable, in a forest of
brambles, on a wild moor where thorn and thistle intertwining forbid
approach. The night she passes under an old cromlech. If anyone finds
her there, she is isolated by the common dread; she is surrounded, as
it were, by a ring of fire.

And yet--would you believe it?--she is a woman still. This very life
of hers, dreadful though it be, tightens and braces her woman’s
energy, her womanly electricity. Hence, you may see her endowed with
two gifts. One is the _inspiration of lucid frenzy_, which in its
several degrees, becomes poesy, second-sight, depth of insight,
cunning simplicity of speech, the power especially of believing in
yourself through all your delusions. Of such a gift the man, the
wizard, knows nothing. On his side no beginning would have been made.

From this gift flows that other, the sublime power of _unaided
conception_, that parthenogenesis which our physiologists have come to
recognise, as touching fruitfulness of the body in the females of
several species; and which is not less a truth with regard to the
conceptions of the spirit.

       *       *       *       *       *

By herself did she conceive and bring forth--what? A second self, who
resembles her in his self-delusions. The son of her hatred, conceived
upon her love; for without love can nothing be created. For all the
alarm this child gave her, she has become so well again, is so happily
engrossed with this new idol, that she places it straightway upon her
altar, to worship it, yield her life up to it, and offer herself up as
a living and perfect sacrifice. Very often she will even say to her
judge, “There is but one thing I fear; that I shall not suffer enough
for him.”--(_Lancre._)

Shall I tell you what the child’s first effort was? It was a fearful
burst of laughter. Has he not cause for mirth on his broad prairie,
far away from the Spanish dungeons and the “immured” of Toulouse? The
whole world is his _In pace_. He comes, and goes, and walks to and
fro. His is the boundless forest, his the desert with its far
horizons, his the whole earth, in the fulness of its teeming girdle.
The Witch in her tenderness calls him “_Robin mine_,” the name of that
bold outlaw, the joyous Robin Hood, who lived under the green bowers.
She delights too in calling him fondly by such names as _Little
Green_, _Pretty-Wood_, _Greenwood_; after the little madcap’s
favourite haunts. He had hardly seen a thicket when he took to playing
the truant.[3]

    [3] Here, as in some other passages, the play of words in the
    original is necessarily lost.--TRANS.

       *       *       *       *       *

What astounds one most is, that at one stroke the Witch should have
achieved an actual Being. He bears about him every token of reality.
We have heard and seen him; anyone could draw his likeness.

The Saints, those darling sons of the house, with their dreams and
meditations make but little stir; _they look forward waitingly_, as
men assured of their part in Elysium. What little energy they have is
all centred in the narrow round of _Imitation_; a word which condenses
the whole of the Middle Ages. He on the other hand--this accursed
bastard whose only lot is the scourge--has no idea of waiting. He is
always seeking and will never rest. He busies himself with all things
between earth and heaven. He is exceedingly curious; will dig, dive,
ferret, and poke his nose everywhere. At the _consummatum est_ he only
laughs, the little scoffer! He is always saying “Further,” or
“Forward.” Moreover, he is not hard to please. He takes every rebuff;
picks up every windfall. For instance, when the Church throws out
nature as impure and doubtworthy, Satan fastens on her for his own
adornment. Nay, more; he employs her, and makes her useful to him as
the fountain-head of the arts; thus accepting the awful name with
which others would brand him; to wit, the _Prince of the World_.

Some one rashly said, “Woe to those who laugh.” Thus from the first
was Satan intrusted with too pretty a part; he had the sole right of
laughing, and of declaring it an _amusement_--rather let us say _a
necessity_; for laughing is essentially a natural function. Life
would be unbearable if we could not laugh, at least in our

Looking on life as nothing but a trial, the Church is careful not to
prolong it. Her medicine is resignation, the looking for and the hope
of death. A broad field this for Satan! He becomes the physician, the
healer of the living. Better still, he acts as comforter: he is good
enough to shew us our dead, to call up the shades of our beloved.

One more trifle the Church rejected, namely, logic or free reason.
Here was a special dainty, to which _the other_ greedily helped
himself. The Church had carefully builded up a small _In pace_,
narrow, low-roofed, lighted by one dim opening, a mere cranny. That
was called _The School_. Into it were turned loose a few shavelings,
with this commandment, “Be free.” They all fell lame. In three or four
centuries the paralysis was confirmed, and Ockham’s standpoint is the
very same as Abélard’s.[4]

    [4] Abélard flourished in the twelfth, William of Ockham
    (pupil of Duns Scotus) in the fourteenth century.--TRANS.

It is pleasant to track the Renaissance up to such a point. The
Renaissance took place indeed, but how? Through the Satanic daring of
those who pierced the vault, through the efforts of the damned who
were bent on seeing the sky. And it took place yet more largely away
from the schools and the men of letters, in the _School of the Bush_,
where Satan had set up a class for the Witch and the shepherd.

Perilous teaching it was, if so it happened; but the very dangers of
it heightened the eager passion, the uncontrollable yearning to see
and to know. Thus began those wicked sciences, physic debarred from
poisoning, and that odious anatomy. There, along with his survey of
the heavens, the shepherd who kept watch upon the stars applied also
his shameful nostrums, made his essays upon the bodies of animals. The
Witch would bring out a corpse stolen from the neighbouring cemetery;
and, for the first time, at risk of being burned, you might gaze upon
that heavenly wonder, “which men”--as M. Serres has well said--“are
foolish enough to bury, instead of trying to understand.”

Paracelsus, the only doctor whom Satan admitted there, saw yet a third
worker, who, stealing at times into that dark assembly, displayed
there his surgical art. This was the surgeon of those happy days, the
headsman stout of hand, who could play patly enough with the fire,
could break bones and set them again; who if he killed, would
sometimes save, by hanging one only for a certain time.

By the more sacrilegious of its essays this convict university of
witches, shepherds, and headsmen, emboldened the other, obliged its
rival to study. For everyone wanted to live. The Witch would have got
hold of everything: people would for ever have turned their backs on
the doctor. And so the Church was fain to suffer, to countenance these
crimes. She avowed her belief in _good poisons_ (Grillandus). She
found herself driven and constrained to allow of public dissections.
In 1306 one woman, in 1315 another, was opened and dissected by the
Italian Mondino. Here was a holy revelation, the discovery of a
greater world than that of Christopher Columbus! Fools shuddered or
howled; but wise men fell upon their knees.

       *       *       *       *       *

With such conquests the Devil was like enough to live on. Never could
the Church alone have put an end to him. The stake itself was useless,
save for some political objects.

Men had presently the wit to cleave Satan’s realm in twain. Against
the Witch, his daughter, his bride, they armed his son, the doctor.
Heartily, utterly as the Church loathed the latter, yet to extinguish
the Witch, she established his monopoly nevertheless. In the
fourteenth century she proclaimed, that any woman who dared to heal
others _without having duly studied_, was a witch and should therefore

But how was she to study in public? Fancy what a scene of mingled fun
and horror would have occurred, if the poor savage had risked an
entrance into the schools! What games and merry-makings there would
have been! On Midsummer Day they used to chain cats together and burn
them in the fire. But to tie up a Witch in that hell of caterwaulers,
a Witch yelling and roasting, what fun it would have been for that
precious crew of monklings and cowlbearers!

In due time we shall see the decline of Satan. Sad to tell, we shall
find him pacified, turned into _a good old fellow_. He will be robbed
and plundered, until of the two masks he wore at the Sabbath, the
dirtiest is taken by Tartuffe. His spirit is still everywhere, but of
his bodily self, in losing the Witch he lost all. The wizards were
only wearisome.

Now that we have hurled him so far downwards, are we fully aware of
what has happened? Was he not an important actor, an essential item in
the great religious machine just now slightly out of gear? All
organisms that work properly are twofold, twosided. Life can otherwise
not go on at all. It is a kind of balance between two forces,
opposite, symmetrical, but unequal; the lower answering to the other
as its counterpoise. The higher chafes at it, seeks to put it down. So
doing, it is all wrong.

When Colbert, in 1672, got rid of Satan, with very little ceremony, by
forbidding the judges to entertain pleas of witchcraft, the sturdy
Parliament of Normandy with its sound Norman logic pointed out the
dangerous drift of such a decision. The Devil is nothing less than a
dogma holding on to all the rest. If you meddle with the Eternally
Conquered, are you not meddling with the Conqueror likewise? To doubt
the acts of the former, leads to doubting the acts of the second, the
miracles he wrought for the very purpose of withstanding the Devil.
The pillars of heaven are grounded in the Abyss. He who thoughtlessly
removes that base infernal, may chance to split up Paradise itself.

Colbert could not listen, having other business to mind. But the Devil
perhaps gave heed and was comforted. Amidst such minor means of
earning a livelihood as spirit-rapping or table-turning, he grows
resigned, and believes at least that he will not die alone.




Certain authors have declared that, shortly before the triumph of
Christianity, a voice mysterious ran along the shores of the Ægean
Sea, crying, “Great Pan is dead!” The old universal god of nature was
no more; and great was the joy thereat. Men fancied that with the
death of nature temptation itself was dead. After the troublings of so
long a storm, the soul of man was at length to find rest.

Was it merely a question touching the end of that old worship, its
overthrow, and the eclipse of old religious rites? By no means.
Consult the earliest Christian records, and in every line you may read
the hope, that nature is about to vanish, life to be extinguished;
that the end of the world, in short, is very near. It is all over with
the gods of life, who have spun out its mockeries to such a length.
Everything is falling, breaking up, rushing down headlong. The whole
is becoming as nought: “Great Pan is dead!”

It was nothing new that the gods must perish. Many an ancient worship
was grounded in that very idea. Osiris, Adonis die indeed in order to
rise again. On the stage itself, in plays which were only acted for
the feast days of the gods, Æschylus expressly averred by the mouth of
Prometheus, that some day they should suffer death: but how? As
conquered and laid low by the Titans, the ancient powers of nature.

Here, however, things are quite otherwise. Alike in generals and
particulars, in the past and the future, would the early Christians
have cursed Nature herself. So utterly did they condemn her, as to
find the Devil incarnate in a flower. Swiftly may the angels come
again, who erst overwhelmed the cities of the Dead Sea! Oh, that they
may sweep off, may crumple up as a veil the hollow frame of this
world; may at length deliver the saints from their long trial!

The Evangelist said, “The day is coming:” the Fathers, “It is coming
immediately.” From the breaking-up of the Empire and the invasion of
the Barbarians, St. Augustin draws the hope that very soon no city
would remain but the city of God.

And yet, how hard of dying is the world; how stubbornly bent on
living! Like Hezekiah, it begs a respite, one turn more of the dial.
Well, then, be it so until the year one thousand. But thereafter, not
one day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Are we quite sure of what has been so often repeated, that the gods of
old had come to an end, themselves wearied and sickened of living;
that they were so disheartened as almost to send in their resignation;
that Christianity had only to blow upon these empty shades?

They point to the gods in Rome; they point out those in the Capitol,
admitted there only by a kind of preliminary death, on the surrender,
I might say, of all their local pith; as having disowned their
country, as having ceased to be the representative spirits of the
nations. In order to receive them, indeed, Rome had performed on them
a cruel operation: they were enervated, bleached. Those great
centralized deities became in their official life the mournful
functionaries of the Roman Empire. But the decline of that Olympian
aristocracy had in no wise drawn down the host of home-born gods, the
mob of deities still keeping hold of the boundless country-sides, of
the woods, the hills, the fountains; still intimately blended with the
life of the country. These gods abiding in the heart of oaks, in
waters deep and rushing, could not be driven therefrom.

Who says so? The Church. She rudely gainsays her own words. Having
proclaimed their death, she is indignant because they live. Time after
time, by the threatening voice of her councils[5] she gives them
notice of their death--and lo! they are living still.

    [5] See Mansi, Baluze; Council of Arles, 442; of Tours, 567;
    of Leptines, 743; the Capitularies, &c., and even Gerson,
    about 1400.

“They are devils.”--Then they must be alive. Failing to make an end of
them, men suffer the simple folk to clothe, to disguise them. By the
help of legends they come to be baptized, even to be foisted upon the
Church. But at least they are converted? Not yet. We catch them
stealthily subsisting in their own heathen character.

Where are they? In the desert, on the moor, in the forest? Ay; but,
above all, in the house. They are kept up by the most intimate
household usages. The wife guards and hides them in her household
things, even in her bed. With her they have the best place in the
world, better than the temple,--the fireside.

       *       *       *       *       *

Never was revolution so violent as that of Theodosius. Antiquity shows
no trace of such proscription of any worship. The Persian
fire-worshipper might, in the purity of his heroism, have insulted the
visible deities, but he let them stand nevertheless. He greatly
favoured the Jews, protecting and employing them. Greece, daughter of
the light, made merry with the gods of darkness, the tunbellied
Cabiri; but yet she bore with them, adopted them as workmen, even to
shaping out of them her own Vulcan. Rome in her majesty welcomed not
only Etruria, but even the rural gods of the old Italian labourer. She
persecuted the Druids, but only as the centre of a dangerous national

Christianity conquering sought and thought to slay the foe. It
demolished the schools, by proscribing logic and uprooting the
philosophers, whom Valens slaughtered. It razed or emptied the
temples, shivered to pieces the symbols. The new legend would have
been propitious to the family, had the father not been cancelled in
Saint Joseph; had the mother been set up as an educatress, as having
morally brought forth Jesus. A fruitful road there was, but abandoned
at the very outset through the effort to attain a high but barren

So Christianity turned into that lonely path where the world was going
of itself; the path of a celibacy in vain opposed by the laws of the
emperors. Down this slope it was hurled headlong by the establishment
of monkery.

But in the desert was man alone? The Devil kept him company with all
manner of temptations. He could not help himself, he was driven to
create anew societies, nay whole cities of anchorites. We all know
those dismal towns of monks which grew up in the Thebaid; how wild,
unruly a spirit dwelt among them; how deadly were their descents on
Alexandria. They talked of being troubled, beset by the Devil; and
they told no lie.

A huge gap was made in the world; and who was to fill it? The
Christians said, The Devil, everywhere the Devil: _ubique dæmon_.[6]

    [6] See the Lives of the Desert Fathers, and the authors
    quoted by A. Maurie, _Magie_, 317. In the fourth century, the
    Messalians, thinking themselves full of devils, spat and blew
    their noses without ceasing; made incredible efforts to spit
    them forth.

Greece, like all other nations, had her _energumens_, who were sore
tried, possessed by spirits. The relation there is quite external; the
seeming likeness is really none at all. Here we have no spirits of any
kind: they are but black children of the Abyss, the ideal of
waywardness. Thenceforth we see them everywhere, those poor
melancholics, loathing, shuddering at their own selves. Think what it
must be to fancy yourself double, to believe in that _other_, that
cruel host who goes and comes and wanders within you, making you roam
at his pleasure among deserts, over precipices! You waste and weaken
more and more; and the weaker grows your wretched body, the more is it
worried by the devil. In woman especially these tyrants dwell, making
her blown and swollen. They fill her with an infernal _wind_, they
brew in her storms and tempests, play with her as the whim seizes
them, drive her to wickedness, to despair.

And not ourselves only, but all nature, alas! becomes demoniac. If
there is a devil in the flower, how much more in the gloomy forest!
The light we think so pure teems with children of the night. The
heavens themselves--O blasphemy!--are full of hell. That divine
morning star, whose glorious beams not seldom lightened a Socrates, an
Archimedes, a Plato, what is it now become? A devil, the archfiend
Lucifer. In the eventime again it is the devil Venus who draws me into
temptation by her light so soft and mild.

That such a society should wax wroth and terrible is not surprising.
Indignant at feeling itself so weak against devils, it persecutes them
everywhere, in the temples, at the altars once of the ancient worship,
then of the heathen martyrs. Let there be more feasts?--they will
likely be so many gatherings of idolaters. The Family itself becomes
suspected: for custom might bring it together round the ancient Lares.
And why should there be a family?--the empire is an empire of monks.

But the individual man himself, thus dumb and isolated though he be,
still watches the sky, still honours his ancient gods whom he finds
anew in the stars. “This is he,” said the Emperor Theodosius, “who
causes famines and all the plagues of the empire.” Those terrible
words turned the blind rage of the people loose upon the harmless
Pagan. Blindly the law unchained all its furies against the law.

Ye gods of Eld, depart into your tombs! Get ye extinguished, gods of
Love, of Life, of Light! Put on the monk’s cowl. Maidens, become nuns.
Wives, forsake your husbands; or, if ye will look after the house, be
unto them but cold sisters.

But is all this possible? What man’s breath shall be strong enough to
put out at one effort the burning lamp of God? These rash endeavours
of an impious piety may evoke miracles strange and monstrous. Tremble,
guilty that ye are!

Often in the Middle Ages will recur the mournful tale of the Bride of
Corinth. Told at a happy moment by Phlegon, Adrian’s freedman, it
meets us again in the twelfth, and yet again in the sixteenth century,
as the deep reproof, the invincible protest of nature herself.

       *       *       *       *       *

“A young man of Athens went to Corinth, to the house of one who had
promised him his daughter. Himself being still a heathen, he knew not
that the family which he thought to enter had just turned Christian.
It is very late when he arrives. They are all gone to rest, except the
mother, who serves up for him the hospitable repast and then leaves
him to sleep. Dead tired, he drops down. Scarce was he fallen asleep,
when a figure entered the room: ’tis a girl all clothed and veiled in
white; on her forehead a fillet of black and gold. She sees him. In
amazement she lifts her white hand: ‘Am I, then, such a stranger in
the house already? Alas, poor recluse!... But I am ashamed, and
withdraw. Sleep on.’

“‘Stay, fair maiden! Here are Bacchus, Ceres, and with thee comes
Love. Fear not, look not so pale!’

“‘Ah! Away from me, young man! I have nothing more to do with
happiness. By a vow my mother made in her sickness my youth and my
life are bound for ever. The gods have fled, and human victims now are
our only sacrifices.’

“‘Ha! can it be thou, thou, my darling betrothed, who wast given me
from my childhood? The oath of our fathers bound us for evermore under
the blessing of heaven. Maiden, be mine!’

“‘No, my friend, not I. Thou shalt have my younger sister. If I moan
in my chilly dungeon, do thou in her arms think of me, of me wasting
away and thinking only of thee; of me whom the earth is about to cover

“‘Nay, I swear by this flame, the torch of Hymen, thou shalt come home
with me to my father. Rest thee, my own beloved.’

“As a wedding-gift he offers her a cup of gold. She gives him her
chain, but instead of the cup desires a curl of his hair.

“It is the hour of spirits; her pale lip drinks up the dark blood-red
wine. He too drinks greedily after her. He calls on the god of Love.
She still resisted, though her poor heart was dying thereat. But he
grows desperate, and falls weeping on the couch. Anon she throws
herself by his side.

“‘Oh! how ill thy sorrow makes me! Yet, if thou wast to touch me----
Oh, horror!--white as the snow, and cold as ice, such, ah me! is thy

“‘I will warm thee again: come to me, wert thou come from the very

“Sighs and kisses many do they exchange.

“‘Dost thou feel how warm I am?’

“Love twines and holds them fast. Tears mingle with their joy. She
changes with the fire she drinks from his mouth: her icy blood is
aglow with passion; but the heart in her bosom will not beat.

“But the mother was there listening. Soft vows, cries of wailing and
of pleasure.

“‘Hush, the cock is crowing: to-morrow night!’ Then with kiss on kiss
they say farewell.

“In wrath the mother enters; sees what? Her daughter. He would have
hidden her, covered her up. But freeing herself from him, she grew
from the couch up to the roof.

“‘O mother, mother, you grudge me a pleasant night; you would drive me
from this cosy spot! Was it not enough to have wrapped me in my
winding-sheet and borne me to the grave? A greater power has lifted up
the stone. In vain did your priests drone over the trench they dug for
me. Of what use are salt and water, where burns the fire of youth? The
earth cannot freeze up love. You made a promise; I have just reclaimed
my own.

“‘Alas, dear friend, thou must die: thou wouldst but pine and dry up
here. I have thy hair; it will be white to-morrow.... Mother, one last
prayer! Open my dark dungeon, set up a stake, and let the loving one
find rest in the flames. Let the sparks fly upward and the ashes
redden. We will go to our olden gods.’”[7]

    [7] Here I have suppressed a shocking phrase. Goethe, so
    noble in the form, is not so in the spirit of his poem. He
    spoils the marvel of the legend by sullying the Greek
    conception with a horrible Slavish idea. As they are weeping,
    he turns the maiden into a vampire. She comes because she
    thirsts for blood, that she may suck the blood from his
    heart. And he makes her coldly say this impious and unclean
    thing: “When I have done with him, I will pass on to others:
    the young blood shall fall a prey to my fury.”

    In the Middle Ages this story put on a grotesque garb, by way
    of frightening us with the _Devil Venus_. On the finger of
    her statue a young man imprudently places a ring, which she
    clasps tight, guarding it like a bride, and going in the
    night to his couch, to assert her rights. He cannot rid
    himself of his infernal spouse without an exorcism. The same
    tale, foolishly applied to the Virgin, is found in the
    _Fabliaux_. If my memory does not mislead me, Luther also, in
    his “Table Talk,” takes up the old story in a very coarse
    way, till you quite smell the body. The Spanish Del Rio
    shifts the scene of it to Brabant. The bride dies shortly
    before her marriage; the death-bells are rung. The bridegroom
    rushed wildly over the country. He hears a wail. It is she
    herself wandering about the heath. “Seest thou not”--she
    says--“who leads me?” But he catches her up and bears her
    home. At this point the story threatened to become too
    moving; but the hard inquisitor, Del Rio, cuts the thread.
    “On lifting her veil,” says he, “they found only a log of
    wood covered with the skin of a corpse.” The Judge le Loyer,
    silly though he be, has restored the older version.

    Thenceforth these gloomy taletellers come to an end. The
    story is useless when our own age begins; for then the bride
    has triumphed. Nature comes back from the grave, not by
    stealth, but as mistress of the house.



“Be ye as newborn babes (_quasi modo geniti infantes_); be thoroughly
childlike in the innocence of your hearts; peaceful, forgetting all
disputes, calmly resting under the hand of Christ.” Such is the kindly
counsel tendered by the Church to this stormy world on the morning
after the great fall. In other words: “Volcanoes, ruins, ashes, and
lava, become green. Ye parched plains, get covered with flowers.”

One thing indeed gave promise of the peace that reneweth: the schools
were all shut up, the way of logic forsaken. A method infinitely
simple for the doing away with argument, offered all men a gentle
slope, down which they had nothing to do but go. If the creed was
doubtful, the life was all traced out in the pathway of the legend.
From first to last but the one word _Imitation_.

“Imitate, and all will go well. Rehearse and copy.” But is this the
way to that true childhood which quickens the heart of man, which
leads back to its fresh and fruitful springs? In this world that is to
make us young and childlike, I see at first nothing but the tokens of
age; only cunning, slavishness, want of power. What kind of
literature is this, confronted with the glorious monuments of Greeks
and Jews? We have just the same literary fall as happened in India
from Brahminism to Buddhism; a twaddling flow of words after a noble
inspiration. Books copy from books, churches from churches, until they
cannot so much as copy. They pillage from each other: Aix-la-Chapelle
is adorned with the marbles torn from Ravenna. It is the same with all
the social life of those days. The bishop-king of a city, the savage
king of a tribe, alike copy the Roman magistrates. Original as one
might deem them, our monks in their monasteries simply restored their
ancient _Villa_, as Chateaubriand well said. They had no notion either
of forming a new society or of fertilizing the old. Copying from the
monks of the East, they wanted their servants at first to be
themselves a barren race of monkling workmen. It was in spite of them
that the family in renewing itself renewed the world.

Seeing how fast these oldsters keep on oldening; how in one age we
fall from the wise monk St. Benedict down to the pedantic Benedict of
Aniane;[8] we feel that such gentry were wholly guiltless of that
great popular creation which bloomed amidst ruins; namely, the Lives
of the Saints. If the monks wrote, it was the people made them. This
young growth might throw out some leaves and flowers from the crannies
of an old Roman ruin turned into a convent: but most assuredly not
thence did it first arise. Its roots go deep into the ground: sown by
the people and cultivated by the family, it takes help from every
hand, from men, from women, from children. The precarious, troubled
life of those days of violence, made these poor folk imaginative,
prone to believe in their own dreams, as being to them full of
comfort: strange dreams withal, rich in marvels, in fooleries; absurd,
but charming.

    [8] Benedict founded a convent at Aniane in Languedoc, in the
    reign of Charlemagne.

These families, isolated in forests and mountains, as we still see
them in the Tyrol or the Higher Alps, and coming down thence but once
a week, never wanted for illusions in the desert. One child had seen
this, some woman had dreamed that. A new saint began to rise. The
story went abroad in the shape of a ballad with doggrel rhymes. They
sang and danced to it of an evening at the oak by the fountain. The
priest, when he came on Sunday to perform service in the woodland
chapel, found the legendary chant already in every mouth. He said to
himself, “After all, history is good, is edifying.... It does honour
to the Church. _Vox populi, vox Dei!_--But how did they light upon
it?” He could be shown the true, the irrefragable proofs of it in some
tree or stone which had witnessed the apparition, had marked the
miracle. What can he say to that?

Brought back to the abbey, the tale will find a monk good for nothing,
who can only write; who is curious, believes everything, no matter
how marvellous. It is written out, broidered with his dull rhetoric,
and spoilt a little. But now it has come forth, confirmed and
consecrated, to be read in the refectory, ere long in the church.
Copied, loaded and overloaded with ornaments chiefly grotesque, it
will go on from age to age, until at last it comes to take high rank
in the Golden Legend.

       *       *       *       *       *

When those fair stories are read again to us in these days, even as we
listen to the simple, grave, artless airs into which those rural
peoples threw all their young heart, we cannot help marking a great
inspiration; and we are moved to pity as we reflect upon their fate.

They had taken literally the touching advice of the Church: “Be ye as
newborn babes.” But they gave to it a meaning, the very last that one
would dream of finding in the original thought. As much as
Christianity feared and hated Nature, even so much did these others
cherish her, deeming her all guileless, hallowing her even in the
legends wherewith they mingled her up.

Those _hairy_ animals, as the Bible sharply calls them, animals
mistrusted by the monks who fear to find devils among them, enter in
the most touching way into these beautiful stories; as the hind, for
instance, who refreshes and comforts Geneviève of Brabant.

Even outside the life of legends, in the common everyday world, the
humble friends of his hearth, the bold helpmates of his work, rise
again in man’s esteem. They have their own laws,[9] their own
festivals. If in God’s unbounded goodness there is room for the
smallest creatures, if He seems to show them a pitying preference,
“Wherefore,” says the countryman, “should my ass not have entered the
church? Doubtless, he has his faults, wherein he only resembles me the
more. He is a rough worker, but has a hard head; is intractable,
stubborn, headstrong; in short, just like myself.”

    [9] See J. Grimm, _Rechts Alterthümer_, and my _Origines du

Thence come those wonderful feasts, the fairest of the Middle Ages;
feasts of _Innocents_, of _Fools_, of the _Ass_. It is the people
itself, moreover, which, in the shape of an ass, draws about its own
image, presents itself before the altar, ugly, comical, abased.
Verily, a touching sight! Led by Balaam, he enters solemnly between
Virgil and the Sibyl;[10] enters that he may bear witness. If he
kicked of yore against Balaam, it was that before him he beheld the
sword of the ancient law. But here the law is ended, and the world of
grace seems opening its two-leaved gate to the mean and to the simple.
The people innocently believes it all. Thereon comes that lofty hymn,
in which it says to the ass what it might have said to itself:--

    “Down on knee and say _Amen_!
    Grass and hay enough hast eaten.
    Leave the bad old ways, and go!

       *       *       *       *       *

    For the new expels the old:
    Shadows fly before the noon:
    Light hath hunted out the night.”

    [10] According to the ritual of Rouen. See Ducange on the
    words _Festum_ and _Kalendæ_: also Martène, iii. 110. The
    Sibyl was crowned and followed by Jews and Gentiles, by
    Moses, the Prophets, Nebuchadnezzar, &c. From a very early
    time, and continually from the seventh to the seventeenth
    century, the Church strove to proscribe the great people’s
    feasts of the Ass, of Innocents, of Children, and of Fools.
    It never succeeded until the advent of the modern spirit.

How bold and coarse ye are! Was it this we asked of you, children rash
and wayward, when we told you to be as children? We offered you milk;
you are drinking wine. We led you softly, bridle in hand, along the
narrow path. Mild and fearful, ye hesitated to go forward: and now,
all at once, the bridle is broken; the course is cleared at a single
bound. Ah! how foolish we were to let you make your own saints; to
dress out the altar; to deck, to burden, to cover it up with flowers!
Why, it is hardly distinguishable! And what we do see is the old
heresy condemned of the Church, _the innocence of nature_: what am I
saying?--a new heresy, not like to end to-morrow, _the independence of

Listen and obey!--You are forbidden to invent, to create. No more
legends, no more new saints: we have had enough of them. You are
forbidden to introduce new chants in your worship: inspiration is not
allowed. The martyrs you would bring to light should stay modestly
within their tombs, waiting to be recognised by the Church. The
clergy, the monks are forbidden to grant the tonsure of civil freedom
to husbandmen and serfs. Such is the narrow fearful spirit that fills
the Church of the Carlovingian days.[11] She unsays her words, she
gives herself the lie, she says to the children, “Be old!”

    [11] See the Capitularies, _passim_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A fall indeed! But is this earnest? They had bidden us all be
young.--Ah! but priest and people are no longer one. A divorce without
end begins, a gulf unpassable divides them for ever. The priest
himself, a lord and prince, will come out in his golden cope, and
chant in the royal speech of that great empire which is no more. For
ourselves, a mournful company, bereft of human speech, of the only
speech that God would care to hear, what else can we do but low and
bleat with the guileless friends who never scorn us, who, in
winter-time will keep us warm in their stable, or cover us with their
fleeces? We will live with dumb beasts, and be dumb ourselves.

In sooth there is less need than before for our going to church. But
the church will not hold us free: she insists on our returning to hear
what we no longer understand. Thenceforth a mighty fog, a fog heavy
and dun as lead, enwraps the world. For how long? For a whole
millennium of horror. Throughout ten centuries, a languor unknown to
all former times seizes upon the Middle Ages, even in part on those
latter days that come midway betwixt sleep and waking, and holds them
under the sway of a visitation most irksome, most unbearable; that
convulsion, namely, of mental weariness, which men call a fit of

When the tireless bell rings at the wonted hours, they yawn; while the
nasal chant is singing in the old Latin words, they yawn. It is all
foreseen, there is nothing to hope for in the world, everything will
come round just the same as before. The certainty of being bored
to-morrow sets one yawning from to-day; and the long vista of
wearisome days, of wearisome years to come, weighs men down, sickens
them from the first with living. From brain to stomach, from stomach
to mouth, the fatal fit spreads of its own accord, and keeps on
distending the jaws without end or remedy. An actual disease the pious
Bretons call it, ascribing it, however, to the malice of the Devil. He
keeps crouching in the woods, the peasants say: if anyone passes by
tending his cattle, he sings to him vespers and other rites, until he
is dead with yawning.[12]

    [12] An illustrious Breton, the last man of the Middle Ages,
    who had gone on a bootless errand to convert Rome, received
    there some brilliant offers. “What do you want?” said the
    Pope.--“Only one thing: to have done with the Breviary.”

       *       *       *       *       *

_To be old_ is to be weak. When the Saracens, when the Norsemen
threaten us, what will come to us if the people remain old?
Charlemagne weeps, and the Church weeps too. She owns that her relics
fail to guard her altars from these Barbarian devils.[13] Had she not
better call upon the arm of that wayward child whom she was going to
bind fast, the arm of that young giant whom she wanted to paralyse?
This movement in two opposite ways fills the whole ninth century. The
people are held back, anon they are hurled forward: we fear them and
we call on them for aid. With them and by means of them we throw up
hasty barriers, defences that may check the Barbarians, while
sheltering the priests and their saints escaped thither from their

    [13] The famous avowal made by Hincmar.

In spite of the Bald Emperor’s[14] command not to build, there grows
up a tower on the mountain. Thither comes the fugitive, crying, “In
God’s name, take me in, at least my wife and children! Myself with my
cattle will encamp in your outer enclosure.” The tower emboldens him
and he feels himself a man. It gives him shade, and he in his turn
defends, protects his protector.

    [14] Charles the Bald.--TRANS.

Formerly in their hunger the small folk yielded themselves to the
great as serfs; but here how great the difference! He offers himself
as a _vassal_, one who would be called brave and valiant.[15] He gives
himself up, and keeps himself, and reserves to himself the right of
going elsewhere. “I will go further: the earth is large: I, too, like
the rest, can rear my tower yonder. If I have defended the outworks, I
can surely look after myself within.”

    [15] A difference too little felt by those who have spoken of
    the _personal recommendation_, &c.

Thus nobly, thus grandly arose the feudal world. The master of the
tower received his vassals with some such words as these: “Thou shalt
go when thou willest, and if need be with my help; at least, if thou
shouldst sink in the mire, I myself will dismount to succour thee.”
These are the very words of the old formula.[16]

    [16] Grimm, _Rechts Alterthümer_, and my _Origines du Droit_.

       *       *       *       *       *

But, one day, what do I see? Can my sight be grown dim? The lord of
the valley, as he rides about, sets up bounds that none may overleap;
ay, and limits that you cannot see. “What is that? I don’t
understand.” That means that the manor is shut in. “The lord keeps it
all fast under gate and hinge, between heaven and earth.”

Most horrible! By virtue of what law is this _vassus_ (or _valiant_
one) held to his power? People will thereon have it, that _vassus_ may
also mean _slave_. In like manner the word _servus_, meaning a
_servant_, often indeed a proud one, even a Count or Prince of the
Empire, comes in the case of the weak to signify a _serf_, a wretch
whose life is hardly worth a halfpenny.

In this damnable net are they caught. But down yonder, on his ground,
is a man who avers that his land is free, a _freehold_, a _fief of the
sun_. Seated on his boundary-stone, with hat pressed firmly down, he
looks at Count or Emperor passing near. “Pass on, Emperor; go thy
ways! If thou art firm on thy horse, yet more am I on my pillar. Thou
mayest pass, but so will not I: for I am Freedom.”

But I lack courage to say what becomes of this man. The air grows
thick around him: he breathes less and less freely. He seems to be
_under a spell_: he cannot move: he is as one paralysed. His very
beasts grow thin, as if a charm had been thrown over them. His
servants die of hunger. His land bears nothing now; spirits sweep it
clean by night.

Still he holds on: “The poor man is a king in his own house.” But he
is not to be let alone. He gets summoned, must answer for himself in
the Imperial Court. So he goes, like an old-world spectre, whom no one
knows any more. “What is he?” ask the young. “Ah, he is neither a
lord, nor a serf! Yet even then is he nothing?”

“Who am I? I am he who built the first tower, he who succoured you, he
who, leaving the tower, went boldly forth to meet the Norse heathens
at the bridge. Yet more, I dammed the river, I tilled the meadow,
creating the land itself by drawing it God-like out of the waters.
From this land who shall drive me?”

“No, my friend,” says a neighbour--“you shall not be driven away. You
shall till this land, but in a way you little think for. Remember, my
good fellow, how in your youth, some fifty years ago, you were rash
enough to wed my father’s little serf, Jacqueline. Remember the
proverb, ‘He who courts my hen is my cock.’ You belong to my
fowl-yard. Ungird yourself; throw away your sword! From this day forth
you are my serf.”

There is no invention here. The dreadful tale recurs incessantly
during the Middle Ages. Ah, it was a sharp sword that stabbed him. I
have abridged and suppressed much, for as often as one returns to
these times, the same steel, the same sharp point, pierces right
through the heart.

There was one among them who, under this gross insult, fell into so
deep a rage that he could not bring up a single word. It was like
Roland betrayed. His blood all rushed upwards into his throat. His
flaming eyes, his mouth so dumb, yet so fearfully eloquent, turned all
the assembly pale. They started back. He was dead: his veins had
burst. His arteries spurted the red blood over the faces of his

    [17] This befell the Count of Avesnes when his freehold was
    declared a mere fief, himself a mere vassal, a serf of the
    Earl of Hainault. Read, too, the dreadful story of the Great
    Chancellor of Flanders, the first magistrate of Bruges, who
    also was claimed as a serf.--Gualterius, _Scriptores Rerum
    Francicarum_, viii. 334.

       *       *       *       *       *

The doubtful state of men’s affairs, the frightfully slippery descent
by which the freeman becomes a vassal, the vassal a servant, and the
servant a serf,--in these things lie the great terror of the Middle
Ages, and the depth of their despair. There is no way of escape
therefrom; for he who takes one step is lost. He is an _alien_, a
_stray_, a _wild beast of the chase_. The ground grows slimy to catch
his feet, roots him, as he passes, to the spot. The contagion in the
air kills him; he becomes a thing _in mortmain_, a dead creature, a
mere nothing, a beast, a soul worth twopence-halfpenny, whose murder
can be atoned for by twopence-halfpenny.

These are outwardly the two great leading traits in the wretchedness
of the Middle Ages, through which they came to give themselves up to
the Devil. Meanwhile let us look within, and sound the innermost
depths of their moral life.



There is an air of dreaming about those earlier centuries of the
Middle Ages, in which the legends were self-conceived. Among
countryfolk so gently submissive, as these legends show them, to the
Church, you would readily suppose that very great innocence might be
found. This is surely the temple of God the Father. And yet the
_penitentiaries_, wherein reference is made to ordinary sins, speak of
strange defilements, of things afterwards rare enough under the rule
of Satan.

These sprang from two causes, from the utter ignorance of the times,
and from the close intermingling of near kindred under one roof. They
seem to have had but a slight acquaintance with our modern ethics.
Those of their day, all counterpleas notwithstanding, resemble the
ethics of the patriarchs, of that far antiquity which regarded
marriage with a stranger as immoral, and allowed only of marriage
amongst kinsfolk. The families thus joined together became as one. Not
daring to scatter over the surrounding deserts, tilling only the
outskirts of a Merovingian palace or a monastery, they took shelter
every evening under the roof of a large homestead (_villa_). Thence
arose unpleasant points of analogy with the ancient _ergastulum_,
where the slaves of an estate were all crammed together. Many of these
communities lasted through and even beyond the Middle Ages. About the
results of such a system the lord would feel very little concern. To
his eyes but one family was visible in all this tribe, this multitude
of people “who rose and lay down together, ... who ate together of the
same bread, and drank out of the same mug.”

Amidst such confusion the woman was not much regarded. Her place was
by no means lofty. If the virgin, the ideal woman, rose higher from
age to age, the real woman was held of little worth among these
boorish masses, in this medley of men and herds. Wretched was the doom
of a condition which could only change with the growth of separate
dwellings, when men at length took courage to live apart in hamlets,
or to build them huts in far-off forest-clearings, amidst the fruitful
fields they had gone out to cultivate. From the lonely hearth comes
the true family. It is the nest that forms the bird. Thenceforth they
were no more things, but men; for then also was the woman born.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a very touching moment, the day she entered _her own home_.
Then at last the poor wretch might become pure and holy. There, as she
sits spinning alone, while her goodman is in the forest, she may brood
on some thought and dream away. Her damp, ill-fastened cabin, through
which keeps whistling the winter wind, is still, by way of a
recompense, calm and silent. In it are sundry dim corners where the
housewife lodges her dreams.

And by this time she has some property, something of her own. The
_distaff_, the _bed_, and the _trunk_, are all she has, according to
the old song.[18] We may add a table, a seat, perhaps two stools. A
poor dwelling and very bare; but then it is furnished with a living
soul! The fire cheers her, the blessed box-twigs guard her bed,
accompanied now and again by a pretty bunch of vervein. Seated by her
door, the lady of this palace spins and watches some sheep. We are not
yet rich enough to keep a cow; but to that we may come in time, if
Heaven will bless our house. The wood, a bit of pasture, and some bees
about our ground--such is our way of life! But little corn is
cultivated as yet, there being no assurance of a harvest so long of
coming. Such a life, however needy, is anyhow less hard for the woman:
she is not broken down and withered, as she will be in the days of
large farming. And she has more leisure withal. You must never judge
of her by the coarse literature of the Fabliaux and the Christmas
Carols, by the foolish laughter and license of the filthy tales we
have to put up with by and by. She is alone; without a neighbour. The
bad, unwholesome life of the dark, little, walled towns, the mutual
spyings, the wretched dangerous gossipings, have not yet begun. No old
woman comes of an evening, when the narrow street is growing dark, to
tempt the young maiden by saying how for the love of her somebody is
dying. She has no friend but her own reflections; she converses only
with her beasts or the tree in the forest.


    “Trois pas du côté du banc,
    Et trois pas du côté du lit;
    Trois pas du côté du coffre,
    Et trois pas---- Revenez ici.”

    (_Old Song of the Dancing Master._)

Such things speak to her, we know of what. They recall to her mind the
saws once uttered by her mother and grandmother; ancient saws handed
down for ages from woman to woman. They form a harmless reminder of
the old country spirits, a touching family religion which doubtless
had little power in the blustering hurly-burly of a great common
dwellinghouse, but now comes back again to haunt the lonely cabin.

It is a singular, a delicate world of fays and hobgoblins, made for a
woman’s soul. When the great creation of the saintly Legend gets
stopped and dried up, that other older, more poetic legend comes in
for its share of welcome; reigns privily with gentle sway. It is the
woman’s treasure; she worships and caresses it. The fay, too, is a
woman, a fantastic mirror wherein she sees herself in a fairer guise.

Who were these fays? Tradition says, that of yore some Gaulish queens,
being proud and fanciful, did on the coming of Christ and His Apostles
behave so insolently as to turn their backs upon them. In Brittany
they were dancing at the moment, and never stopped dancing. Hence
their hard doom; they are condemned to live until the Day of
Judgment.[19] Many of them were turned into mice or rabbits; as the
Kow-riggwans for instance, or Elves, who meeting at night round the
old Druidic stones entangle you in their dances. The same fate befell
the pretty Queen Mab, who made herself a royal chariot out of a
walnut-shell. They are all rather whimsical, and sometimes
ill-humoured. But can we be surprised at them, remembering their
woeful lot? Tiny and odd as they are, they have a heart, a longing to
be loved. They are good and they are bad and full of fancies. On the
birth of a baby they come down the chimney, to endow it and order its
future. They are fond of good spinning-women--they even spin divinely
themselves. Do we not talk of _spinning like a fairy_?

    [19] All passages bearing on this point have been gathered
    together in two learned works by M. Maury (_Les Fées_, 1843;
    and _La Magie_, 1860). See also Grimm.

The fairy-tales, stripped of the absurd embellishments in which the
latest compilers muffled them up, express the heart of the people
itself. They mark a poetic interval between the gross communism of the
primitive _villa_, and the looseness of the time when a growing
burgess-class made our cynical Fabliaux.[20]

    [20] A body of tales by the Trouvères of the twelfth and
    thirteenth centuries.--TRANS.

These tales have an historical side, reminding us, in the ogres, &c.,
of the great famines. But commonly they soar higher than any history,
on the _Blue Bird’s_ wing, in a realm of eternal poesy; telling us our
wishes which never vary, the unchangeable history of the heart.

The poor serf’s longing to breathe, to rest, to find a treasure that
may end his sufferings, continually returns. More often, through a
lofty aspiration, this treasure becomes a soul as well, a treasure of
love asleep, as in _The Sleeping Beauty_: but not seldom the charming
person finds herself by some fatal enchantment hidden under a mask.
Hence that touching trilogy, that admirable _crescendo_ of _Riquet
with the Tuft_, _Ass’s Skin_, and _Beauty and the Beast_. Love will
not be discouraged. Through all that ugliness it follows after and
gains the hidden beauty. In the last of these tales that feeling
touches the sublime, and I think that no one has ever read it without

A passion most real, most sincere, lurks beneath it--that unhappy,
hopeless love, which unkind nature often sets between poor souls of
very different ranks in life. On the one hand is the grief of the
peasant maid at not being able to make herself fair enough to win the
cavalier’s fancy; on the other the smothered sighs of the serf, when
along his furrow he sees passing, on a white horse, too exquisite a
glory, the beautiful, the majestic Lady of the Castle. So in the East
arises the mournful idyll of the impossible loves of the Rose and the
Nightingale. Nevertheless, there is one great difference: the bird and
the flower are both beautiful; nay, are alike in their beauty. But
here the humbler being, doomed to a place so far below, avows to
himself that he is ugly and monstrous. But amidst his wailing he feels
in himself a power greater than the East can know. With the will of a
hero, through the very greatness of his desire, he breaks out of his
idle coverings. He loves so much, this monster, that he is loved, and,
in return, through that love grows beautiful.

An infinite tenderness pervades it all. This soul enchanted thinks not
of itself alone. It busies itself in saving all nature and all society
as well. Victims of every kind, the child beaten by its step-mother,
the youngest sister slighted, ill-used by her elders, are the surest
objects of its liking. Even to the Lady of the Castle does its
compassion extend; it mourns her fallen into the hands of so fierce a
lord as Blue-Beard. It yearns with pity towards the beasts; it seeks
to console them for being still in the shape of animals. Let them be
patient, and their day will come. Some day their prisoned souls shall
put on wings, shall be free, lovely, and beloved. This is the other
side of _Ass’s Skin_ and such like stories. There especially we are
sure of finding a woman’s heart. The rude labourer in the fields may
be hard enough to his beasts, but to the woman they are no beasts. She
regards them with the feeling of a child. To her fancy all is human,
all is soul: the whole world becomes ennobled. It is a beautiful
enchantment. Humble as she is, and ugly as she thinks herself, she
has given all her beauty, all her grace to the surrounding universe.

       *       *       *       *       *

Is she, then, so ugly, this little peasant-wife, whose dreaming fancy
feeds on things like these? I tell you she keeps house, she spins and
minds the flock, she visits the forest to gather a little wood. As yet
she has neither the hard work nor the ugly looks of the countrywoman
as afterwards fashioned by the prevalent culture of grain crops. Nor
is she like the fat townswife, heavy and slothful, about whom our
fathers made such a number of fat stories. She has no sense of safety;
she is meek and timid, and feels herself, as it were, in God’s hand.
On yonder hill she can see the dark frowning castle, whence a thousand
harms may come upon her. Her husband she holds in equal fear and
honour. A serf elsewhere, by her side he is a king. For him she saves
of her best, living herself on nothing. She is small and slender like
the women-saints of the Church. The poor feeding of those days must
needs make women fine-bred, but lacking also in vital strength. The
children die off in vast numbers: those pale roses are all nerves.
Hence, will presently burst forth the epileptic dances of the
fourteenth century. Meanwhile, towards the twelfth century, there come
to be two weaknesses attached to this state of half-grown youth: by
night somnambulism; in the daytime seeing of visions, trance, and the
gift of tears.

       *       *       *       *       *

This woman, for all her innocence, still has a secret which the Church
may never be told. Locked up in her heart she bears the pitying
remembrance of those poor old gods who have fallen into the state of
spirits;[21] and spirits, you must know, are not exempt from
suffering. Dwelling in rocks, and in hearts of oak, they are very
unhappy in winter; being particularly fond of warmth. They ramble
about houses; they are sometimes seen in stables warming themselves
beside the beasts. Bereft of incense and burnt-offerings, they
sometimes take of the milk. The housewife being thrifty, will not
stint her husband, but lessens her own share, and in the evening
leaves a little cream.

    [21] This loyalty of hers is very touching indeed. In the
    fifth century the peasants braved persecution by parading the
    gods of the old religion in the shape of small dolls made of
    linen or flour. Still the same in the eighth century. The
    _Capitularies_ threaten death in vain. In the twelfth
    century, Burchard, of Worms, attests their inutility. In
    1389, the Sorbonne inveighs against certain traces of
    heathenism, while in 1400, Gerson talks of it as still a
    lively superstition.

Those spirits who only appear at night, regret their banishment from
the day and are greedy of lamplight. By night the housewife starts on
her perilous trip, bearing a small lantern, to the great oak where
they dwell, or to the secret fountain whose mirror, as it multiplies
the flame, may cheer up those sorrowful outlaws.

But if anyone should know of it, good heavens! Her husband is canny
and fears the Church: he would certainly give her a beating. The
priest wages fierce war with the sprites, and hunts them out of every
place. Yet he might leave them their dwelling in the oaks! What harm
can they do in the forest? Alas! no: from council to council they are
hunted down. On set days the priest will go even to the oak, and with
prayers and holy water drive away the spirits.

How would it be if no kind soul took pity on them? This woman,
however, will take them under her care. She is an excellent Christian,
but will keep for them one corner of her heart. To them alone can she
entrust those little natural affairs, which, harmless as they are in a
chaste wife’s dwelling, the Church at any rate would count as
blameworthy. They are the confidants, the confessors of these touching
womanly secrets. Of them she thinks, when she puts the holy log on the
fire. It is Christmastide; but also is it the ancient festival of the
Northern spirits, the _Feast of the Longest Night_. So, too, the Eve
of May-day is the _Pervigilium of Maia_, when the tree is planted. So,
too, with the Eve of St. John, the true feast-day of life, of flowers,
and newly-awakened love. She who has no children makes it her especial
duty to cherish these festivals, and to offer them a deep devotion. A
vow to the Virgin would perhaps be of little avail, it being no
concern of Mary’s. In a low whisper, she prefers addressing some
ancient _genius_, worshipped in other days as a rustic deity, and
afterwards by the kindness of some local church transformed into a
saint.[22] And thus it happens that the bed, the cradle, all the
sweetest mysteries on which the chaste and loving soul can brood,
belong to the olden gods.

    [22] A. Maury, _Magie_, 159.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nor are the sprites ungrateful. One day she awakes, and without having
stirred a finger, finds all her housekeeping done. In her amazement
she makes the sign of the cross and says nothing. When the good man
goes she questions herself, but in vain. It must have been a spirit.
“What can it be? How came it here? How I should like to see it! But I
am afraid: they say it is death to see a spirit.”--Yet the cradle
moves and swings of itself. She is clasped by some one, and a voice so
soft, so low that she took it for her own, is heard saying, “Dearest
mistress, I love to rock your babe, because I am myself a babe.” Her
heart beats, and yet she takes courage a little. The innocence of the
cradle gives this spirit also an innocent air, causing her to believe
it good, gentle, suffered at least by God.

From that day forth she is no longer alone. She readily feels its
presence, and it is never far from her. It rubs her gown, and she
hears the grazing. It rambles momently about her, and plainly cannot
leave her side. If she goes to the stable, it is there; and she
believes that the other day it was in the churn.[23]

    [23] This is a favourite haunt of the little rogue’s. To this
    day the Swiss, knowing his tastes, make him a present of some
    milk. His name among them is _troll_ (_drôle_); among the
    Germans _kobold_, _nix_. In France he is called _follet_,
    _goblin_, _lutin_; in England, _Puck_, _Robin Goodfellow_.
    Shakespeare says, he does sleepy servants the kindness to
    pinch them black and blue, in order to rouse them.

Pity she cannot take it up and look at it! Once, when she suddenly
touched the brands, she fancied she saw the tricksy little thing
tumbling about in the sparks; another time she missed catching it in a
rose. Small as it is, it works, sweeps, arranges, saves her a thousand

It has its faults, however; is giddy, bold, and if she did not hold it
fast, might perhaps shake itself free. It observes and listens too
much. It repeats sometimes of a morning some little word she had
whispered very, very softly on going to bed, when the light was put
out. She knows it to be very indiscreet, exceedingly curious. She is
irked with feeling herself always followed about, complains of it, and
likes complaining. Sometimes, having threatened him and turned him
off, she feels herself quite at ease. But just then she finds herself
caressed by a light breathing, as it were a bird’s wing. He was under
a leaf. He laughs: his gentle voice, free from mocking, declares the
joy he felt in taking his chaste young mistress by surprise. On her
making a show of great wrath, “No, my darling, my little pet,” says
the monkey, “you are not a bit sorry to have me here.”

She feels ashamed and dares say nothing more. But she guesses now that
she loves him overmuch. She has scruples about it, and loves him yet
more. All night she seems to feel him creeping up to her bed. In her
fear she prays to God, and keeps close to her husband. What shall she
do? She has not the strength to tell the Church. She tells her
husband, who laughs at first incredulously. Then she owns to a little
more,--what a madcap the goblin is, sometimes even overbold. “What
matters? He is so small.” Thus he himself sets her mind at ease.

Should we too feel reassured, we who can see more clearly? She is
quite innocent still. She would shrink from copying the great lady up
there who, in the face of her husband, has her court of lovers and her
page. Let us own, however, that to that point the goblin has already
smoothed the way. One could not have a more perilous page than he who
hides himself under a rose; and, moreover, he smacks of the lover.
More intrusive than anyone else, he is so tiny that he can creep

He glides even into the husband’s heart, paying him court and winning
his good graces. He looks after his tools, works in his garden, and of
an evening, by way of reward, curls himself up in the chimney, behind
the babe and the cat. They hear his small voice, just like a
cricket’s; but they never see much of him, save when a faint glimmer
lights a certain cranny in which he loves to stay. Then they see, or
think they see, a thin little face; and cry out, “Ah! little one, we
have seen you at last!”

In church they are told to mistrust the spirits, for even one that
seems innocent, and glides about like a light breeze, may after all be
a devil. They take good care not to believe it. His size begets a
belief in his innocence. Whilst he is there, they thrive. The husband
holds to him as much as the wife, and perhaps more. He sees that the
tricksy little elf makes the fortune of the house.



I have kept this picture clear of those dreadful shadows of the hour
by which it would have been sadly overdarkened. I refer especially to
the uncertainty attending the lot of these rural households, to their
constant fear and foreboding of some casual outrage which might at any
moment descend on them from the castle.

There were just two things which made the feudal rule a hell: on one
hand, its _exceeding steadfastness_, man being nailed, as it were, to
the ground, and emigration made impossible; on the other, a very great
degree of _uncertainty_ about his lot.

The optimist historians who say so much about fixed rents, charters,
buying of immunities, forget how slightly all this was guaranteed. So
much you were bound to pay the lord, but all the rest he could take if
he chose; and this was very fitly called the _right of seizure_. You
may work and work away, my good fellow! But while you are in the
fields, yon dreaded band from the castle will fall upon your house and
carry off whatever they please “for their lord’s service.”

Look again at that man standing with his head bowed gloomily over the
furrow! And thus he is always found, his face clouded, his heart
oppressed, as if he were expecting some evil news. Is he meditating
some wrongful deed? No; but there are two ideas haunting him, two
daggers piercing him in turn. The one is, “In what state shall I find
my house this evening?” The other, “Would that the turning up of this
sod might bring some treasure to light! O that the good spirit would
help to buy us free!”

We are assured that, after the fashion of the Etruscan spirit which
one day started up from under the ploughshare in the form of a child,
a dwarf or gnome of the tiniest stature would sometimes on such an
appeal come forth from the ground, and, setting itself on the furrow,
would say, “What wantest thou?” But in his amazement the poor man
would ask for nothing; he would turn pale, cross himself, and
presently go quite away.

Did he never feel sorry afterwards? Said he never to himself, “Fool
that you are, you will always be unlucky?” I readily believe he did;
but I also think that a barrier of dread invincible stopped him short.
I cannot believe with the monks who have told us all things concerning
witchcraft, that the treaty with Satan was the light invention of a
miser or a man in love. On the contrary, nature and good sense alike
inform us that it was only the last resource of an overwhelming
despair, under the weight of dreadful outrages and dreadful

       *       *       *       *       *

But those great sufferings, we are told, must have been greatly
lightened about the time of St. Louis, who forbade private wars among
the nobles. My own opinion is quite the reverse. During the fourscore
or hundred years that elapsed between his prohibition and the wars
with England (1240-1340), the great lords being debarred from the
accustomed sport of burning and plundering their neighbours’ lands,
became a terror to their own vassals. For the latter such a peace was
simply war.

The spiritual, the monkish lords, and others, as shown in the _Journal
of Eudes Rigault_, lately published, make one shudder. It is a
repulsive picture of profligacy at once savage and uncontrolled. The
monkish lords especially assail the nunneries. The austere Rigault,
Archbishop of Rouen, confessor of the holy king, conducts a personal
inquiry into the state of Normandy. Every evening he comes to a
monastery. In all of them he finds the monks leading the life of great
feudal lords, wearing arms, getting drunk, fighting duels, keen
huntsmen over all the cultivated land; the nuns living among them in
wild confusion, and betraying everywhere the fruits of their shameless

If things are so in the Church, what must the lay lords have been?
What like was the inside of those dark towers which the folk below
regarded with so much horror? Two tales, undoubtedly historical,
namely, _Blue-Beard_ and _Griselda_, tell us something thereanent. To
his vassals, his serfs, what indeed must have been this devotee of
torture who treated his own family in such a way? He is known to us
through the only man who was brought to trial for such deeds; and that
not earlier than the fifteenth century,--Gilles de Retz, who kidnapped

Sir Walter Scott’s Front de Bœuf, and the other lords of melodramas
and romances, are but poor creatures in the face of these dreadful
realities. The Templar also in _Ivanhoe_, is a weak artificial
conception. The author durst not assay the foul reality of celibate
life in the Temple, or within the castle walls. Few women were taken
in there, being accounted not worth their keep. The romances of
chivalry altogether belie the truth. It is remarkable, indeed, how
often the literature of an age expresses the very opposite of its
manners, as, for instance, the washy theatre of eclogues after
Florian,[24] during the years of the Great Terror.

    [24] A writer of eclogues, fables and dramas; in youth a
    friend of Voltaire, afterwards imprisoned during the

The rooms in these castles, in such at least as may be seen to-day,
speak more plainly than any books. Men-at-arms, pages, footmen,
crammed together of nights under low-vaulted roofs, in the daytime
kept on the battlements, on narrow terraces, in a state of most
sickening weariness, lived only in their pranks down below; in feats
no longer of arms on the neighbouring domains, but of hunting, ay, and
hunting of men; insults, I may say, without number, outrages untold on
families of serfs. The lord himself well knew that such an army of
men, without women, could only be kept in order by letting them loose
from time to time.

The awful idea of a hell wherein God employs the very guiltiest of the
wicked spirits to torture the less guilty delivered over to them for
their sport,--this lovely dogma of the Middle Ages was exemplified to
the last letter. Men felt that God was not among them. Each new raid
betokened more and more clearly the kingdom of Satan, until men came
to believe that thenceforth their prayers should be offered to him

Up in the castle there was laughing and joking. “The women-serfs were
too ugly.” There is no question raised as to their beauty. The great
pleasure lay in deeds of outrage, in striking and making them weep.
Even in the seventeenth century the great ladies died with laughing,
when the Duke of Lorraine told them how, in peaceful villages, his
people went about harrying and torturing all the women, even to the

These outrages fell most frequently, as we might suppose, on families
well to do and comparatively distinguished among the serfs; the
families, namely, of those serf-born mayors, who already in the
twelfth century appear at the head of the village. By the nobles they
were hated, jeered, cruelly plagued. Their newborn moral dignity was
not to be forgiven. Their wives and daughters were not allowed to be
good and wise: they had no right to be held in any respect. Their
honour was not their own. _Serfs of the body_, such was the cruel
phrase cast for ever in their teeth.

       *       *       *       *       *

In days to come people will be slow to believe, that the law among
Christian nations went beyond anything decreed concerning the olden
slavery; that it wrote down as an actual right the most grievous
outrage that could ever wound man’s heart. The lord spiritual had this
foul privilege no less than the lord temporal. In a parish outside
Bourges, the parson, as being a lord, expressly claimed the
firstfruits of the bride, but was willing to sell his rights to the

    [25] Lauriere, ii. 100 (on the word _Marquette_). Michelet,
    _Origines du Droit_, 264.

It has been too readily believed that this wrong was formal, not real.
But the price laid down in certain countries for getting a
dispensation, exceeded the means of almost every peasant. In Scotland,
for instance, the demand was for “several cows:” a price immense,
impossible. So the poor young wife was at their mercy. Besides, the
Courts of Béarn openly maintain that this right grew up naturally:
“The eldest-born of the peasant is accounted the son of his lord, for
he perchance it was who begat him.”[26]

    [26] When I published my _Origines_ in 1837, I could not have
    known this work, published in 1842.

All feudal customs, even if we pass over this, compel the bride to go
up to the castle, bearing thither the “wedding-dish.” Surely it was a
cruel thing to make her trust herself amongst such a pack of celibate
dogs, so shameless and so ungovernable.

A shameful scene we may well imagine it to have been. As the young
husband is leading his bride to the castle, fancy the laughter of
cavaliers and footmen, the frolics of the pages around the wretched
poor! But the presence of the great lady herself will check them? Not
at all. The lady in whose delicate breeding the romances tell us to
believe,[27] but who, in her husband’s absence, ruled his men,
judging, chastising, ordaining penalties, to whom her husband himself
was bound by the fiefs she brought him,--such a lady would be in no
wise merciful, especially towards a girl-serf who happened also to be
good-looking. Since, according to the custom of those days, she openly
kept her gentleman and her page, she would not be sorry to sanction
her own libertinism by that of her husband.

    [27] This delicacy appears in the treatment these ladies
    inflicted on their poet Jean de Meung, author of the _Roman
    de la Rose_.

Nothing will she do to hinder the fun, the sport they are making out
of yon poor trembler who has come to redeem his bride. They begin by
bargaining with him; they laugh at the pangs endured by “the miserly
peasant;” they suck the very blood and marrow of him. Why all this
fury? Because he is neatly clad; is honest, settled; is a man of mark
in the village. Why, indeed? Because she is pious, chaste, and pure;
because she loves him; because she is frightened and falls a-weeping.
Her sweet eyes plead for pity.

In vain does the poor wretch offer all he has, even to her dowry: it
is all too little. Angered at such cruel injustice, he will say
perhaps that “his neighbour paid nothing.” The insolent fellow! he
would argue with us! Thereon they gather round him, a yelling mob:
sticks and brooms pelt upon him like hail. They jostle him, they throw
him down. “You jealous villain, you Lent-faced villain!” they cry; “no
one takes your wife from you; you shall have her back to-night, and to
enhance the honour done you ... your eldest child will be a baron!”
Everyone looks out of window at the absurd figure of this dead man in
wedding garments. He is followed by bursts of laughter, and the noisy
rabble, down to the lowest scullion, give chase to the “cuckold.”[28]

    [28] The old tales are very sportive, but rather monotonous.
    They turn on three jokes only: the despair of the _cuckold_,
    the cries of the _beaten_, the wry faces of the _hanged_. The
    first is amusing, the second laughable, the third, as crown
    of all, makes people split their sides. And the three have
    one point in common: it is the weak and helpless who is

       *       *       *       *       *

The poor fellow would have burst, had he nothing to hope for from the
Devil. By himself he returns: is the house empty as well as desolate?
No, there is company waiting for him there: by the fireside sits

But soon his bride comes back, poor wretch, all pale and undone. Alas!
alas! for her condition. At his feet she throws herself and craves
forgiveness. Then, with a bursting heart, he flings his arms round her
neck. He weeps, he sobs, he roars, till the house shakes again.

But with her comes back God. For all her suffering, she is pure,
innocent, holy still. Satan for that nonce will get no profit: the
treaty is not yet ripe.

Our silly Fabliaux, our absurd tales, assume with regard to this
deadly outrage and all its further issues, that the woman sides with
her oppressors against her husband; they would have us believe that
her brutal treatment by the former makes her happy and transports her
with delight. A likely thing indeed! Doubtless she might be seduced by
rank, politeness, elegant manners. But no pains are ever taken to that
end. Great would be the scoffing at anyone who made true-love’s wooing
towards a serf. The whole gang of men, to the chaplain, the butler,
even the footmen, would think they honoured her by deeds of outrage.
The smallest page thought himself a great lord, if he only seasoned
his love with insolence and blows.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day, the poor woman, having just been ill-treated during her
husband’s absence, begins weeping, and saying quite aloud, the while
she is tying up her long hair, “Ah, those unhappy saints of the woods,
what boots it to offer them my vows? Are they deaf, or have they grown
too old? Why have I not some protecting spirit, strong and
mighty--wicked even, if it need be? Some such I see in stone at the
church-door; but what do they there? Why do they not go to their
proper dwelling, the castle, to carry off and roast those sinners? Oh,
who is there will give me power and might? I would gladly give myself
in exchange. Ah, me, what is it I would give? What have I to give on
my side? Nothing is left me. Out on this body, out on this soul, a
mere cinder now! Why, instead of this useless goblin, have I not some
spirit, great, strong, and mighty, to help me?”

“My darling mistress! If I am small, it is your fault; and bigger I
cannot grow. And besides, if I were very big, neither you nor your
husband would have borne with me. You would have driven me away with
your priests and your holy water. I can be strong, however, if you
please. For, mistress mine, the spirits in themselves are neither
great nor small, neither weak nor strong. For him who wishes it, the
smallest can become a giant.”

“In what way?”

“Why, nothing can be simpler. To make him a giant, you must grant him
only one gift.”

“What is that?”

“A lovely woman-soul.”

“Ah, wicked one! What then art thou, and what wouldst thou have?”

“Only what you give me every day.... Would you be better than the lady
up yonder? She has pledged her soul to her husband and to her lover,
and yet she yields it whole to her page. I am more than a page to you,
more than a servant. In how many matters have I not been your little
handmaid! Do not blush, nor be angry. Let me only say, that I am all
about you, and already perhaps in you. Else, how could I know your
thoughts, even those which you hide from yourself? Who am I, then?
Your little soul, which speaks thus openly to the great one. We are
inseparable. Do you know how long I have been with you? Some thousand
years, for I belonged to your mother, to hers, to your ancestors. I am
the Spirit of the Fireside.”

“Tempter! What wilt thou do?”

“Why, thy husband shall be rich, thyself mighty, and men shall fear

“Where am I? Surely thou art the demon of hidden treasures!”

“Why call me demon, if I do deeds of justice, of goodness, of piety?
God cannot be everywhere--He cannot be always working. Sometimes He
likes to rest, leaving us other spirits here to carry on the smaller
husbandry, to remedy the ills which his providence passed over, which
his justice forgot to handle.

“Of this your husband is an example. Poor, deserving workman, he is
killing himself and gaining nought in return. Heaven has had no time
to look after him. But I, though rather jealous of him, still love my
kind host. I pity him: his strength is going, he can bear up no
longer. He will die, like your children, already dead of misery. This
winter he was ill; what will become of him the next?”

Thereon, her face in her hands, she wept two, three hours, and even
more. And when she had poured out all her tears--her bosom still
throbbing hard--the other said, “I ask nothing: only, I pray, save

She had promised nothing, but from that hour she became his.



A dreadful age was the age of gold; for thus do I call that hard time
when gold first came into use. This was in the year 1300, during the
reign of that Fair King[29] who never spake a word; the great king who
seemed to have a dumb devil, but a devil with mighty arm, strong
enough to burn the Temple, long enough to reach Rome, and with glove
of iron to deal the first good blow at the Pope.

    [29] Philip the Fair of France, who put down the Templar in
    Paris, and first secured the liberties of the Gallican

Gold thereupon becomes a great pope, a mighty god, and not without
cause. The movement began in Europe with the Crusades: the only wealth
men cared for was that which having wings could lend itself to their
enterprise; the wealth, namely, of swift exchanges. To strike blows
afar off the king wants nothing but gold. An army of gold, a fiscal
army, spreads over all the land. The lord, who has brought back with
him his dreams of the East, is always longing for its wonders, for
damascened armour, carpets, spices, valuable steeds. For all such
things he needs gold. He pushes away with his foot the serf who
brings him corn. “That is not all; I want gold!”

On that day the world was changed. Theretofore in the midst of much
evil there had always been a harmless certainty about the tax.
According as the year was good or bad, the rent followed the course of
nature and the measure of the harvest. If the lord said, “This is
little,” he was answered, “My lord, Heaven has granted us no more.”

But the gold, alas! where shall we find it? We have no army to seize
it in the towns of Flanders. Where shall we dig the ground to win him
his treasure? Oh, that the spirit of hidden treasures would be our

    [30] The devils trouble the world all through the Middle
    Ages; but not before the thirteenth century does Satan put on
    a settled shape. “_Compacts_,” says M. Maury, “are very rare
    before that epoch;” and I believe him. How could they treat
    with one who as yet had no real existence? Neither of the
    treating parties was yet ripe for the contract. Before the
    will could be reduced to the dreadful pass of selling itself
    for ever, it must be made thoroughly desperate. It is not the
    unhappy who falls into despair, but the truly wretched, who
    being quite conscious of his misery, and having yet more to
    suffer, can find no escape therefrom. The wretched in this
    way are the men of the fourteenth century, from whom they ask
    a thing so impossible as payments in gold. In this and the
    following chapter I have touched on the circumstances, the
    feelings, the growing despair, which brought about the
    enormity of _compacts_, and, worse still than these, the
    dreadful character of the _Witch_. If the name was freely
    used, the thing itself was then rare, being no less than a
    marriage and a kind of priesthood. For ease of illustration,
    I have joined together the details of so delicate a scrutiny
    by a thread of fiction. The outward body of it matters
    little. The essential point is to remember that such things
    were not caused, as they try to persuade us, by _human
    fickleness, by the inconstancy of our fallen nature, by the
    chance persuasions of desire_. There was needed the deadly
    pressure of an age of iron, of cruel needs: it was needful
    that Hell itself should seem a shelter, an asylum, by
    contrast with the hell below.

While all are desperate, the woman with the goblin is already seated
on her sacks of corn in the little neighbouring village. She is alone,
the rest being still at their debate in the village.

She sells at her own price. But even when the rest come up, everything
favours her, some strange magical allurement working on her side. No
one bargains with her. Her husband, before his time, brings his rent
in good sounding coin to the feudal elm. “Amazing!” they all say, “but
the Devil is in her!”

They laugh, but she does not. She is sorrowful and afraid. In vain she
tries to pray that night. Strange prickings disturb her slumber.
Fantastic forms appear before her. The small gentle sprite seems to
have grown imperious. He waxes bold. She is uneasy, indignant, eager
to rise. In her sleep she groans, and feels herself dependent, saying,
“No more do I belong to myself!”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Here is a sensible countryman,” says the lord; “he pays beforehand!
You charm me: do you know accounts?”--“A little.”--“Well then, you
shall reckon with these folk. Every Saturday you shall sit under the
elm and receive their money. On Sunday, before mass, you shall bring
it up to the castle.”

What a change in their condition! How the wife’s heart beats when of a
Saturday she sees her poor workman, serf though he be, seated like a
lordling under the baronial shades. At first he feels giddy, but in
time accustoms himself to put on a grave air. It is no joking matter,
indeed; for the lord commands them to show him due respect. When he
has gone up to the castle, and the jealous ones look like laughing and
designing to pay him off, “You see that battlement,” says the lord,
“the rope you don’t see, but it is also ready. The first man who
touches him shall be set up there high and quick.”

       *       *       *       *       *

This speech is repeated from one to another; until it has spread
around these two as it were an atmosphere of terror. Everybody doffs
his hat to them, bowing very low indeed. But when they pass by, folk
stand aloof, and get out of the way. In order to shirk them they turn
up cross roads, with backs bended, with eyes turned carefully down.
Such a change makes them first savage, but afterwards sorrowful. They
walk alone through all the district. The wife’s shrewdness marks the
hostile scorn of the castle, the trembling hate of those below. She
feels herself fearfully isolated between two perils. No one to defend
her but her lord, or rather the money they pay him: but then to find
that money, to spur on the peasant’s slowness, and overcome his
sluggish antagonism, to snatch somewhat even from him who has nothing,
what hard pressure, what threats, what cruelty, must be employed! This
was never in the goodman’s line of business. The wife brings him to
the mark by dint of much pushing: she says to him, “Be rough; at need
be cruel. Strike hard. Otherwise you will fall short of your
engagements; and then we are undone.”

This suffering by day, however, is a trifle in comparison with the
tortures of the night. She seems to have lost the power of sleeping.
She gets up, walks to and fro, and roams about the house. All is
still; and yet how the house is altered; its old innocence, its sweet
security all for ever gone! “Of what is that cat by the hearth
a-thinking, as she pretends to sleep, and ’tweenwhiles opens her green
eyes upon me? The she-goat with her long beard, looking so discreet
and ominous, knows more about it than she can tell. And yon cow which
the moon reveals by glimpses in her stall, why does she give me such a
sidelong look? All this is surely unnatural!”

Shivering, she returns to her husband’s side. “Happy man, how deep his
slumber! Mine is over; I cannot sleep, I never shall sleep again.” In
time, however, she falls off. But oh, what suffering visits her then!
The importunate guest is beside her, demanding and giving his orders.
If one while she gets rid of him by praying or making the sign of the
cross, anon he returns under another form. “Get back, devil! What
durst thou? I am a Christian soul. No, thou shalt not touch me!”

In revenge he puts on a hundred hideous forms; twining as an adder
about her bosom, dancing as a frog upon her stomach, anon like a bat,
sharp-snouted, covering her scared mouth with dreadful kisses. What is
it he wants? To drive her into a corner, so that conquered and crushed
at last, she may yield and utter the word “Yes.” Still she is resolute
to say “No.” Still she is bent on braving the cruel struggles of every
night, the endless martyrdom of that wasting strife.

       *       *       *       *       *

“How far can a spirit make himself withal a body? What reality can
there be in his efforts and approaches? Would she be sinning in the
flesh, if she allowed the intrusions of one who was always roaming
about her? Would that be sheer adultery?” Such was the sly roundabout
way in which sometimes he stayed and weakened her resistance. “If I am
only a breath, a smoke, a thin air, as so many doctors call me, why
are you afraid, poor fearful soul, and how does it concern your

It is the painful doom of the soul in these Middle Ages, that a number
of questions which to us would seem idle, questions of pure
scholastics, disturb, frighten, and torment it, taking the guise of
visions, sometimes of devilish debatings, of cruel dialogues carried
on within. The Devil, fierce as he shows himself in the demoniacs,
remains always a spirit throughout the days of the Roman Empire, even
in the time of St. Martin or the fifth century. With the Barbarian
inroads he waxes barbarous, and takes to himself a body. So great a
body does he become, that he amuses himself in breaking with stones
the bell of the convent of St. Benedict. More and more fleshly is he
made to appear, by way of frightening the plunderers of ecclesiastical
goods. People are taught to believe that sinners will be tormented not
in the spirit only, but even bodily in the flesh; that they will
suffer material tortures, not those of ideal flames, but in very deed
such exquisite pangs as burning coals, gridirons, and red-hot spits
can awaken.

This conception of the torturing devils inflicting material agonies on
the souls of the dead, was a mine of gold to the Church. The living,
pierced with grief and pity, asked themselves “if it were possible to
redeem these poor souls from one world to another; if to these, too,
might be applied such forms of expiation, by atonement and compromise,
as were practised upon earth?” This bridge between two worlds was
found in Cluny, which from its very birth, about 900, became at once
among the wealthiest of the monastic orders.

So long as God Himself dealt out his punishments, _making heavy his
hand_, or striking _with the sword of the Angel_, according to the
grand old phrase, there was much less of horror; if his hand was heavy
as that of a judge, it was still the hand of a Father. The Angel who
struck remained pure and clean as his own sword. Far otherwise is it
when the execution is done by filthy demons, who resemble not the
angel that burned up Sodom, but the angel that first went forth
therefrom. In that place they stay, and their hell is a kind of Sodom,
wherein these spirits, fouler than the sinners yielded into their
charge, extract a horrible joy from the tortures they are inflicting.
Such was the teaching to be found in the simple carvings hung out at
the doors of churches. By these men learned the horrible lesson of the
pleasures of pain. On pretence of punishing, the devils wreaked upon
their victims the most outrageous whims. Truly an immoral and most
shameful idea was this, of a sham justice that befriended the worse
side, deepening its wickedness by the present of a plaything, and
corrupting the Demon himself!

       *       *       *       *       *

Cruel times indeed! Think how dark and low a heaven it was, how
heavily it weighed on the head of man! Fancy the poor little children
from their earliest years imbued with such awful ideas, and trembling
within their cradles! Look at the pure innocent virgin believing
herself damned for the pleasure infused in her by the spirit! And the
wife in her marriage-bed tortured by his attacks, withstanding him,
and yet again feeling him within her!--a fearful feeling known to
those who have suffered from tænia. You feel in yourself a double
life; you trace the monster’s movements, now boisterous, anon soft and
waving, and therein the more troublesome, as making you fancy yourself
on the sea. Then you rush off in wild dismay, terrified at yourself,
longing to escape, to die.

Even at such times as the demon was not raging against her, the woman
into whom he had once forced his way would wander about as one
burdened with gloom. For thenceforth she had no remedy. He had taken
fast hold of her, like an impure steam. He is the Prince of the Air,
of storms, and not least of the storms within. All this may be seen
rudely but forcefully presented under the great doorway of Strasburg
Cathedral. Heading the band of _Foolish Virgins_, the wicked woman who
lures them on to destruction is filled, blown out by the Devil, who
overflows ignobly and passes out from under her skirts in a dark
stream of thick smoke.

This blowing-out is a painful feature in the _possession_; at once her
punishment and her pride. This proud woman of Strasburg bears her
belly well before her, while her head is thrown far back. She triumphs
in her size, delights in being a monster.

To this, however, the woman we are following has not yet come. But
already she is puffed up with him, and with her new and lofty lot.
The earth has ceased to bear her. Plump and comely in these better
days, she goes down the street with head upright, and merciless in her
scorn. She is feared, hated, admired.

In look and bearing our village lady says, “I ought to be the great
lady herself. And what does she up yonder, the shameless sluggard,
amidst all those men, in the absence of her lord?” And now the rivalry
is set on foot. The village, while it loathes her, is proud thereat.
“If the lady of the castle is a baroness, our woman is a queen; and
more than a queen,--we dare not say what.” Her beauty is a dreadful, a
fantastic beauty, killing in its pride and pain. The Demon himself is
in her eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

He has her and yet has her not. She is still _herself_, and preserves
_herself_. She belongs neither to the Demon nor to God. The Demon may
certainly invade her, may encompass her like a fine atmosphere. And
yet he has gained nothing at all; for he has no will thereto. She is
_possessed_, _bedevilled_, and she does not belong to the Devil.
Sometimes he uses her with dreadful cruelty, and yet gains nothing
thereby. He places a coal of fire on her breast, or within her bowels.
She jumps and writhes, but still says, “No, butcher, I will stay as I

“Take care! I will lash you with so cruel a scourge of vipers, I will
smite you with such a blow, that you will afterwards go weeping and
rending the air with your cries.”

The next night he will not come. In the morning--it was Sunday--her
husband went up to the castle. He came back all undone. The lord had
said: “A brook that flows drop by drop cannot turn the mill. You bring
me a halfpenny at a time, which is good for nought. I must set off in
a fortnight. The king marches towards Flanders, and I have not even a
war-horse, my own being lame ever since the tourney. Get ready for
business: I am in want of a hundred pounds.”

“But, my lord, where shall I find them?”

“You may sack the whole village, if you will; I am about to give you
men enough. Tell your churls, if the money is not forthcoming they are
lost men; yourself especially--you shall die. I have had enough of
you: you have the heart of a woman; you are slack and sluggish. You
shall die--you shall pay for your cowardice, your effeminacy. Stay; it
makes but very small difference whether you go down now, or whether I
keep you here. This is Sunday: right loudly would the folk yonder
laugh to see you dangling your legs from my battlements.”

All this the unhappy man tells again to his wife; and preparing
hopelessly for death, commends his soul to God. She being just as
frightened, can neither lie down nor sleep. What is to be done? How
sorry she is now to have sent the spirit away! If he would but come
back! In the morning, when her husband rises, she sinks crushed upon
the bed. She has hardly done so, when she feels on her chest a heavy
weight. Gasping for breath, she is like to choke. The weight falls
lower till it presses on her stomach, and therewithal on her arms she
feels the grasp as of two steel hands.

“You wanted me, and here I am. So, at last, stubborn one, I have your
soul--at last!”

“But oh, sir, is it mine to give away? My poor husband! you used to
love him--you said so: you promised----”

“Your husband! You forget. Are you sure your thoughts were always kept
upon him? Your soul! I ask for it as a favour; but it is already

“No, sir,” she says--her pride once more returning to her, even in so
dire a strait--“no, sir; that soul belongs to me, to my husband, to
our marriage rites.”

“Ah, incorrigible little fool! you would struggle still, even now that
you are under the goad! I have seen your soul at all hours; I know it
better than you yourself. Day by day did I mark your first
reluctances, your pains, and your fits of despair. I saw how
disheartened you were when, in a low tone, you said that no one could
be held to an impossibility. And then I saw you growing more resigned.
You were beaten a little, and you cried out not very loud. As for me,
I ask for your soul simply because you have already lost it.
Meanwhile, your husband is dying. What is to be done? I am sorry for
you: I have you in my power; but I want something more. You must
grant it frankly and of free will, or else he is a dead man.”

She answered very low, in her sleep, “Ah me! my body and my miserable
flesh, you may take them to save my husband; but my heart, never. No
one has ever had it, and I cannot give it away.”

So, all resignedly she waited there. And he flung at her two words:
“Keep them, and they will save you.” Therewith she shuddered, felt
within her a horrible thrill of fire, and, uttering a loud cry, awoke
in the arms of her astonished husband, to drown him in a flood of

       *       *       *       *       *

She tore herself away by force, and got up, fearing lest she should
forget those two important words. Her husband was alarmed; for,
without looking even at him, she darted on the wall a glance as
piercing as that of Medea. Never was she more handsome. In her dark
eye and the yellowish white around it played such a glimmer as one
durst not face--a glimmer like the sulphurous jet of a volcano.

She walked straight to the town. The first word was “_Green_.” Hanging
at a tradesman’s door she beheld a green gown--the colour of the
Prince of the World--an old gown, which as she put it on became new
and glossy. Then she walked, without asking anyone, straight to the
door of a Jew, at which she knocked loudly. It was opened with great
caution. The poor Jew was sitting on the ground, covered over with
ashes. “My dear, I must have a hundred pounds.”

“Oh, madam, how am I to get them? The Prince-bishop of the town has
just had my teeth drawn to make me say where my gold lies.[31] Look at
my bleeding mouth.”

    [31] This was a common way of extracting help from the Jews.
    King John Lackland often tried it.

“I know, I know; but I come to obtain from you the very means of
destroying your Bishop. When the Pope gets a cuffing, the Bishop will
not hold out long.”

“Who says so?”


    [32] Toledo seems to have been the holy city of Wizards, who
    in Spain were numberless. These relations with the civilized
    Moors, with the Jews so learned and paramount in Spain, as
    managers of the royal revenues, had given them a very high
    degree of culture, and in Toledo they formed a kind of
    University. In the sixteenth century, it was christianised,
    remodelled, reduced to mere _white magic_. See the
    _Deposition of the Wizard Achard, Lord of Beaumont, a
    Physician of Poitou_. Lancre, _Incredulité_, p. 781.

He hung his head. She spoke and blew: within her was her own soul and
the Devil to boot. A wondrous warmth filled the room: he himself was
aware of a kind of fiery fountain. “Madam,” said he, looking at her
from under his eyes, “poor and ruined as I am, I had some pence still
in store to sustain my poor children.”

“You will not repent of it, Jew. I will swear to you the _great oath_
that kills whoso breaks it. What you are about to give me, you shall
receive back in a week, at an early hour in the morning. This I swear
by your _great oath_ and by mine, which is yet greater: ‘_Toledo_.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

A year went by. She had grown round and plump; had made herself one
mass of gold. Men were amazed at her power of charming. Every one
admired and obeyed her. By some devilish miracle the Jew had grown so
generous as to lend at the slightest signal. By herself she maintained
the castle, both through her own credit in the town, and through the
fear inspired in the village by her rough extortion. The all-powerful
green gown floated to and fro, ever newer and more beautiful. Her own
beauty grew, as it were, colossal with success and pride. Frightened
at a result so natural, everyone said, “At her time of life how tall
she grows!”

Meanwhile we have some news: the lord is coming home. The lady, who
for a long time had not dared to come forth, lest she might meet the
face of this other woman down below, now mounted her white horse.
Surrounded by all her people, she goes to meet her husband; she stops
and salutes him.

And, first of all, she says, “How long I have been looking for you!
Why did you leave your faithful wife so long a languishing widow? And
yet I will not take you in to-night, unless you grant me a boon.”

“Ask it, ask it, fair lady,” says the gentleman laughing; “but make
haste, for I am eager to embrace you. How beautiful you have grown!”

She whispered in his ear, so that no one knew what she said. Before
going up to the castle the worthy lord dismounts by the village
church, and goes in. Under the porch, at the head of the chief people,
he beholds a lady, to whom without knowing her he offers a low salute.
With matchless pride she bears high over the men’s heads the towering
horned bonnet (_hennin_[33]) of the period; the triumphal cap of the
Devil, as it was often called, because of the two horns wherewith it
was embellished. The real lady, blushing at her eclipse, went out
looking very small. Anon she muttered, angrily, “There goes your serf.
It is all over: everything has changed places: the ass insults the

    [33] The absurd head-dress of the women, with its one and
    often two horns sloping back from the head, in the fourteenth

As they are going off, a bold page, a pet of the lady’s, draws from
his girdle a well-sharpened dagger, and with a single turn cleverly
cuts the fine robe along her loins.[34] The crowd was astonished, but
began to make it out when it saw the whole of the Baron’s household
going off in pursuit of her. Swift and merciless about her whistled
and fell the strokes of the whip. She flies, but slowly, being already
grown somewhat heavy. She has hardly gone twenty paces when she
stumbles; her best friend having put a stone in her way to trip her
up. Amidst roars of laughter she sprawls yelling on the ground. But
the ruthless pages flog her up again. The noble handsome greyhounds
help in the chase and bite her in the tenderest places. At last, in
sad disorder, amidst the terrible crowd, she reaches the door of her
house. It is shut. There with hands and feet she beats away, crying,
“Quick, quick, my love, open the door for me!” There hung she, like
the hapless screech-owl whom they nail up on a farm-house door; and
still as hard as ever rained the blows. Within the house all is deaf.
Is the husband there? Or rather, being rich and frightened, does he
dread the crowd, lest they should sack his house?

    [34] Such cruel outrages were common in those days. By the
    French and Anglo-Saxon laws, lewdness was thus punished.
    Grimm, 679, 711. Sternhook, 19, 326. Ducange, iii. 52.
    Michelet, _Origines_, 386, 389. By and by, the same rough
    usage is dealt out to honest women, to citizen’s wives, whose
    pride the nobles seek to abase. We know the kind of ambush
    into which the tyrant Hagenbach drew the honourable ladies of
    the chief burghers in Alsace, probably in scorn of their rich
    and royal costume, all silks and gold. In my _Origines_ I
    have also related the strange claim made by the Lord of Pacé,
    in Anjou, on the pretty (and honest) women of the
    neighbourhood. They were to bring to the castle fourpence and
    a chaplet of flowers, and to dance with his officers: a
    dangerous trip, in which they might well fear some such
    affronts as those offered by Hagenbach. They were forced to
    obey by the threat of being stripped and pricked with a goad
    bearing the impress of the lord’s arms.

And now she has borne such misery, such strokes, such sounding
buffets, that she sinks down in a swoon. On the cold stone threshold
she finds herself seated, naked, half-dead, her bleeding flesh covered
with little else than the waves of her long hair. Some one from the
castle says, “No more now! We do not want her to die.”

They leave her alone, to hide herself. But in spirit she can see the
merriment going on at the castle. The lord however, somewhat dazed,
said that he was sorry for it. But the chaplain says, in his meek way,
“If this woman is _bedevilled_, as they say, my lord, you owe it to
your good vassals, you owe it to the whole country, to hand her over
to Holy Church. Since all that business with the Templars and the
Pope, what way the Demon is making! Nothing but fire will do for him.”
Upon which a Dominican says, “Your reverence has spoken right well.
This devilry is a heresy in the highest degree. The bedevilled, like
the heretic, should be burnt. Some of our good fathers, however, do
not trust themselves now even to the fire. Wisely they desire that,
before all things, the soul may be slowly purged, tried, subdued by
fastings; that it may not be burnt in its pride, that it shall not
triumph at the stake. If you, madam, in the greatness of your piety,
of your charity, would take the trouble to work upon this woman,
putting her for some years _in pace_ in a safe cell, of which you
only should have the key,--by thus keeping up the chastening process
you might be doing good to her soul, shaming the Devil, and giving
herself up meek and humble into the hands of the Church.”



Nothing was wanting but the victim. They knew that to bring this woman
before her was the most charming present she could receive. Tenderly
would she have acknowledged the devotion of anyone who would have
given her so great a token of his love, by delivering that poor
bleeding body into her hands.

But the prey was aware of the hunters. A few minutes later and she
would have been carried off, to be for ever sealed up beneath the
stone. Wrapping herself in some rags found by chance in the stable,
she took to herself wings of some kind, and before midnight gained
some out-of-the-way spot on a lonely moor all covered with briars and
thistles. It was on the skirts of a wood, where by the uncertain light
she might gather a few acorns, to swallow them like a beast. Ages had
elapsed since evening; she was utterly changed. Beauty and queen of
the village no more, she seemed with the change in her spirit to have
changed her postures also. Among her acorns she squatted like a boar
or a monkey. Thoughts far from human circled within her as she heard,
or seemed to hear the hooting of an owl, followed by a burst of
shrill laughter. She felt afraid, but perhaps it was the merry
mockbird mimicking all those sounds, according to its wonted fashion.

But the laughter begins again: whence comes it? She can see nothing.
Apparently it comes from an old oak. Distinctly, however, she hears
these words: “So, here you are at last! You have come with an ill
grace; nor would you have come now, if you had not tried the full
depth of your last need. You were fain first to run the gauntlet of
whips; to cry out and plead for mercy, haughty as you were; to be
mocked, undone, forsaken, unsheltered even by your husband. Where
would you have been this night, if I had not been charitable enough to
show you the _in pace_ getting ready for you in the tower? Late, very
late, you are in coming to me, and only after they have called you the
_old woman_. In your youth you did not treat me well, when I was your
wee goblin, so eager to serve you. Now take your turn, if so I wish
it, to serve me and kiss my feet.

“You were mine from birth through your inborn wickedness, through
those devilish charms of yours. I was your lover, your husband. Your
own has shut his door against you: I will not shut mine. I welcome you
to my domains, my free prairies, my woods. How am I the gainer, you
may say? Could I not long since have had you at any hour? Were you
not invaded, possessed, filled with my flame? I changed your blood
and renewed it: not a vein in your body where I do not flow. You know
not yourself how utterly you are mine. But our wedding has yet to be
celebrated with all the forms. I have some manners, and feel rather
scrupulous. Let us be one for everlasting.”

“Oh! sir, in my present state, what should I say? For a long, long
while back have I felt, too truly felt, that you were all my fate.
With evil intent you caressed me, loaded me with favours, and made me
rich, in order at length to cast me down. Yesterday, when the black
greyhound bit my poor naked flesh, its teeth scorched me, and I said,
‘’Tis he!’ At night when that daughter of Herodias with her foul
language scared the company, somebody put them up to the promising her
my blood; and that was you!”

“True; but ’twas I who saved you and brought you hither. I did
everything, as you have guessed. I ruined you, and why? That I might
have you all to myself. To speak frankly, I was tired of your husband.
You took to haggling and pettifogging: far otherwise do I go to work;
I want all or none. This is why I have moulded and drilled you,
polished and ripened you, for my own behoof. Such, you see, is my
delicacy of taste. I don’t take, as people imagine, those foolish
souls who would give themselves up at once. I prefer the choicer
spirits, who have reached a certain dainty stage of fury and despair.
Stop: I must let you know how pleasant you look at this moment. You
are a great beauty, a most desirable soul. I have loved you ever so
long, but now I am hungering for you.

“I will do things on a large scale, not being one of those husbands
who reckon with their betrothed. If you wanted only riches, you should
have them in a trice. If you wanted to be queen in the stead of Joan
of Navarre, that too, though difficult, should be done, and the King
would not lose much thereby in the matter of pride and haughtiness. My
wife is greater than a queen. But, come, tell me what you wish.”

“Sir, I ask only for the power of doing evil.”

“A delightful answer, very delightful! Have I not cause to love you?
In reality those words contain all the law and all the prophets. Since
you have made so good a choice, all the rest shall be thrown in, over
and above. You shall learn all my secrets. You shall see into the
depths of the earth. The whole world shall come and pour out gold at
thy feet. See here, my bride, I give you the true diamond,
_Vengeance_. I know you, rogue; I know your most hidden desires. Ay,
our hearts on that point understand each other well! Therein at least
shall I have full possession of you. You shall behold your enemy on
her knees at your feet, begging and praying for mercy, and only too
happy to earn her release by doing whatever she has made you do. She
will burst into tears; and you will graciously say, _No_: whereon she
will cry, ‘Death and damnation!’ ... Come, I will make this my special

“Sir, I am at your service. I was thankless indeed, for you have
always heaped favours on me. I am yours, my master, my god! None other
do I desire. Sweet are your endearments, and very mild your service.”

And so she worships him, tumbling on all-fours. At first she pays him,
after the forms of the Temple, such homage as betokens the utter
abandonment of the will. Her master, the Prince of this World, the
Prince of the Winds, breathes upon her in his turn, like an eager
spirit. She receives at once the three sacraments, in reverse
order--baptism, priesthood, and marriage. In this new Church, the
exact opposite of the other, everything must be done the wrong way.
Meekly, patiently, she endures the cruel initiation,[35] borne up by
that one word, “Vengeance!”

    [35] This will be explained further on. We must guard against
    the pedantic additions of the sixteenth century writers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Far from being crushed or weakened by the infernal thunderbolt, she
arose with an awful vigour and flashing eyes. The moon, which for a
moment had chastely covered herself, took flight on seeing her again.
Blown out to an amazing degree by the hellish vapour, filled with
fire, with fury, and with some new ineffable desire, she grew for a
while enormous with excess of fulness, and displayed a terrible
beauty. She looked around her, and all nature was changed. The trees
had gotten a tongue, and told of things gone by. The herbs became
simples. The plants which yesterday she trod upon as so much hay, were
now as people discoursing on the art of medicine.

She awoke on the morrow far, very far, from her enemies, in a state of
thorough security. She had been sought after, but they had only found
some scattered shreds of her unlucky green gown. Had she in her
despair flung herself headlong into the torrent? Or had she been
carried off alive by the Devil? No one could tell. Either way she was
certainly damned, which greatly consoled the lady for having failed to
find her.

Had they seen her they would hardly have known her again, she was so
changed. Only the eyes remained, not brilliant, but armed with a very
strange and a rather deterring glimmer. She herself was afraid of
frightening: she never lowered them, but looked sideways, so that the
full force of their beams might be lost by slanting them. From the
sudden browning of her hue people would have said that she had passed
through the flame. But the more watchful felt that the flame was
rather in herself, that she bore about her an impure and scorching
heat. The fiery dart with which Satan had pierced her was still
there, and, as through a baleful lamp, shot forth a wild, but
fearfully witching sheen. Shrinking from her, you would yet stand
still, with a strange trouble filling your every sense.

She saw herself at the mouth of one of those troglodyte caves, such as
you find without number in the hills of the Centre and the West of
France. It was in the borderland, then wild, between the country of
Merlin and the country of Melusina. Some moors stretching out of sight
still bear witness to the ancient wars, the unceasing havoc, the many
horrors, which prevented the country being peopled again. There the
Devil was in his home. Of the few inhabitants most were his zealous
worshippers. Whatever attractions he might have found in the rough
brakes of Lorraine, the black pine-forests of the Jura, or the briny
deserts of Burgos, his preferences lay, perhaps, in our western
marches. There might be found not only the visionary shepherd, that
Satanic union of the goat and the goatherd, but also a closer
conspiracy with nature, a deeper insight into remedies and poisons, a
mysterious connection, whose links we know not, with Toledo the
learned, the University of the Devil.

The winter was setting in: its breath having first stripped the trees,
had heaped together the leaves and small boughs of dead wood. All this
she found prepared for her at the mouth of her gloomy den. By a wood
and moor, half a mile across, you came down within reach of some
villages, which had grown up beside a watercourse. “Behold your
kingdom!” said the voice within her. “To-day a beggar, to-morrow you
shall be queen of the whole land.”



At first she was not much affected by promises like these. A lonely
hermitage without God, amidst the great monotonous breezes of the
West, amidst memories all the more ruthless for that mighty solitude,
of such heavy losses, such sharp affronts; a widowhood so hard and
sudden, away from the husband who had left her to her shame--all this
was enough to bow her down. Plaything of fate, she seemed like the
wretched weed upon the moor, having no root, but tossed to and fro,
lashed and cruelly cut by the north-east winds; or rather, perhaps,
like the grey, many-cornered coral, which only sticks fast to get more
easily broken. The children trampled on her; the people said, with a
laugh, “She is the bride of the winds.”

Wildly she laughed at herself when she thought on the comparison. But,
from the depth of her dark cave, she heard,--

“Ignorant and witless, you know not what you say. The plant thus
tossing to and fro may well look down upon the rank and vulgar herbs.
If it tosses, it is, at least, all self-contained--itself both flower
and seed. Do thou be like it; be thine own root, and even in the
whirlwind thou wilt still bear thy blossom: our own flowers for
ourselves, as they come forth from the dust of tombs and the ashes of

“To thee, first flower of Satan, do I this day grant the knowledge of
my former name, my olden power. I was, I am, the _King of the Dead_.
Ay, have I not been sadly slandered? ’Tis I who alone can make them
reappear; a boon untold, for which I surely deserved an altar.”

       *       *       *       *       *

To pierce the future and to call up the past, to forestal and to live
again the swift-flying moments, to enlarge the present with that which
has been and that which will be--these are the two things forbidden to
the Middle Ages; but forbidden in vain. Nature is invincible; nothing
can be gained in such a quarter. He who thus errs is _a man_. It is
not for him to be rooted to his furrow, with eyes cast down, looking
nowhere beyond the steps he takes behind his oxen. No: we will go
forward with head upraised, looking further and looking deeper! This
earth that we measure out with so much care, we kick our feet upon
withal, and keep ever saying to it, “What dost thou hold in thy
bowels? What secrets lie therein? Thou givest us back the grain we
entrust to thee; but not that human seed, those beloved dead, we have
lent into thy charge. Our friends, our loves, that lie there, will
they never bud again? Oh, that we might see them, if only for one
hour, if only for one moment!

“Some day we ourselves shall reach the unknown land, whither they have
already gone. But shall we see them again there? Shall we dwell with
them? Where are they, and what are they doing? They must be kept very
close prisoners, these dear dead of mine, to give me not one token!
And how can I make them hear me? My father, too, whose only hope I
was, who loved me with so mighty a love, why comes he never to me? Ah,
me! on either side is bondage, imprisonment, mutual ignorance; a
dismal night, where we look in vain for one glimmer!”[36]

    [36] The glimmer shines forth in Dumesnil’s _Immortalité_,
    and _La Foi Nouvelle_, in the _Ciel et Terre_ of Reynaud,
    Henry Martin, &c.

These everlasting thoughts of Nature, from having in olden times been
simply mournful, became in the Middle Ages painful, bitter, weakening,
and the heart thereby grew smaller. It seems as if they had reckoned
on flattening the soul, on pressing and squeezing it down to the
compass of a bier. The burial of the serf between four deal boards was
well suited to such an end: it haunted one with the notion of being
smothered. A person thus enclosed, if ever he returned in one’s
dreams, would no longer appear as a thin luminous shadow encircled by
a halo of Elysium, but only as the wretched sport of some hellish
griffin-cat. What a hateful and impious idea, that my good, kind
father, my mother so revered by all, should become the plaything of
such a beast! You may laugh now, but for a thousand years it was no
laughing matter: they wept bitterly. And even now the heart swells
with wrath, the very pen grates angrily upon the paper, as one writes
down these blasphemous doings.

       *       *       *       *       *

Moreover, it was surely a cruel device to transfer the Festival of the
Dead from the Spring, where antiquity had placed it, to November. In
May, where it fell at first, they were buried among the flowers. In
March, wherein it was afterwards placed, it became the signal for
labour and the lark. The dead and the seed of corn entered the earth
together with the same hope. But in November, when all the work is
done, the weather close and gloomy for many days to come; when the
folk return to their homes; when a man, re-seating himself by the
hearth, looks across on that place for evermore empty--ah, me! at such
a time how great the sorrow grows! Clearly, in choosing a moment
already in itself so funereal, for the obsequies of Nature, they
feared that a man would not find cause enough of sorrow in himself!

The coolest, the busiest of men, however taken up they be with life’s
distracting cares, have, at least, their sadder moments. In the dark
wintry morning, in the night that comes on so swift to swallow us up
in its shadow, ten years, nay, twenty years hence, strange feeble
voices will rise up in your heart: “Good morning, dear friend, ’tis
we! You are alive, are working as hard as ever. So much the better!
You do not feel our loss so heavily, and you have learned to do
without us; but we cannot, we never can, do without you. The ranks are
closed, the gap is all but filled. The house that was ours is full,
and we have blessed it. All is well, is better than when your father
carried you about; better than when your little girl said, in her
turn, to you, ‘Papa, carry me.’ But, lo! you are in tears. Enough,
till we meet again!”

Alas, and are they gone? That wail was sweet and piercing: but was it
just? No. Let me forget myself a thousand times rather than I should
forget them! And yet, cost what it will to say so, say it we must,
that certain traces are fading off, are already less clear to see;
that certain features are not indeed effaced, but grown paler and more
dim. A hard, a bitter, a humbling thought it is, to find oneself so
weak and fleeting, wavering as unremembered water; to feel that in
time one loses that treasure of grief which one had hoped to preserve
for ever. Give it me back, I pray: I am too much bounden to so rich a
fountain of tears. Trace me again, I implore you, those features I
love so well. Could you not help me at least to dream of them by

       *       *       *       *       *

More than one such prayer is spoken in the month of November. And
amidst the striking of the bells and the dropping of the leaves, they
clear out of church, saying one to another in low tones: “I say,
neighbour; up there lives a woman of whom folk speak well and ill.
For myself, I dare say nothing; but she has power over the world
below. She calls up the dead, and they come. Oh, if she might--without
sin, you know, without angering God--make my friends come to me! I am
alone, as you must know, and have lost everything in this world. But
who knows what this woman is, whether of hell or heaven? I won’t go
(he is dying of curiosity all the while); I won’t. I have no wish to
endanger my soul: besides, the wood yonder is haunted. Many’s the time
that things unfit to see have been found on the moor. Haven’t you
heard about Jacqueline, who was there one evening looking for one of
her sheep? Well, when she returned, she was crazy. I won’t go.”

Thus unknown to each other, many of the men at least went thither. For
as yet the women hardly dared so great a risk. They remark the dangers
of the road, ask many questions of those who return therefrom. The new
Pythoness is not like her of Endor, who raised up Samuel at the prayer
of Saul. Instead of showing you the ghosts, she gives you cabalistic
words and powerful potions to bring them back in your dreams. Ah, how
many a sorrow has recourse to these! The grandmother herself,
tottering with her eighty years, would behold her grandson again. By
an unwonted effort, yet not without a pang of shame at sinning on the
edge of the grave, she drags herself to the spot. She is troubled by
the savage look of a place all rough with yews and thorns, by the
rude, dark beauty of that relentless Proserpine. Prostrate,
trembling, grovelling on the ground, the poor old woman weeps and
prays. Answer there is none. But when she dares to lift herself up a
little, she sees that Hell itself has been a-weeping.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is simply Nature recovering herself. Proserpine blushes
self-indignantly thereat. “Degenerate soul!” she calls herself, “why
this weakness? You came hither with the firm desire of doing nought
but evil. Is this your master’s lesson? How he will laugh at you for

“Nay! Am I not the great shepherd of the shades, making them come and
go, opening unto them the gate of dreams? Your Dante, when he drew my
likeness, forgot my attributes. When he gave me that useless tail, he
did not see that I held the shepherd’s staff of Osiris; that from
Mercury I had inherited his caduceus. In vain have they thought to
build up an insurmountable wall between the two worlds; I have wings
to my heels, I have flown over. By a kindly rebellion of that
slandered Spirit, of that ruthless monster, succour has been given to
those who mourned; mothers, lovers, have found comfort. He has taken
pity on them in defiance of their new god.”

The scribes of the Middle Ages, being all of the priestly class, never
cared to acknowledge the deep but silent changes of the popular mind.
It is clear that from thenceforth compassion goes over to Satan’s
side. The Virgin herself, ideal as she is of grace, makes no answer
to such a want of the heart. Neither does the Church, who expressly
forbids the calling up of the dead. While all books delight in keeping
up either the swinish demon of earlier times, or the griffin butcher
of the second period, Satan has changed his shape for those who cannot
write. He retains somewhat of the ancient Pluto; but his pale nor
wholly ruthless majesty, that permitted the dead to come back, the
living once more to see the dead, passes ever more and more into the
nature of his father, or his grandfather, Osiris, the shepherd of

Through this one change come many others. Men with their mouths
acknowledge the hell official and the boiling caldrons; but in their
hearts do they truly believe therein? Would it be so easy to win these
infernal favours for hearts beset with hateful traditions of a hell of
torments? The one idea neutralizes without wholly effacing the other,
and between them grows up a vague mixed image, resembling more and
more nearly the hell of Virgil. A mighty solace was here offered to
the human heart. Blessed above all was the relief thus given to the
poor women, whom that dreadful dogma about the punishment of their
loved dead had kept drowned in tears and inconsolable. The whole of
their lifetime had been but one long sigh.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Sibyl was musing over her master’s words, when a very light step
became audible. The day has scarcely dawned: it is after Christmas,
about the first day of the new year. Over the crisp and rimy grass
approaches a small, fair woman, all a-trembling, who has no sooner
reached the spot, than she swoons and loses her breath. Her black gown
tells plainly of her widowhood. To the piercing gaze of Medea, without
moving or speaking, she reveals all: there is no mystery about her
shrinking figure. The other says to her with a loud voice: “You need
not tell me, little dumb creature, for you would never get to the end
of it. I will speak for you. Well, you are dying of love!” Recovering
a little, she clasps her hands together, and sinking almost on her
knees, tells everything, making a full confession. She had suffered,
wept, prayed, and would have silently suffered on. But these winter
feasts, these family re-unions, the ill-concealed happiness of other
women who, without pity for her, showed off their lawful loves, had
driven the burning arrow again into her heart. Alas, what could she
do? If he might but return and comfort her for one moment! “Be it even
at the cost of my life; let me die, but only let me see him once

“Go back to your house: shut the door carefully: put up the shutter
even against any curious neighbour. Throw off your mourning, and put
on your wedding-clothes; place a cover for him on the table; but yet
he will not come. You will sing the song he made for you, and sang to
you so often, but yet he will not come. Then you shall draw out of
your box the last dress he wore, and, kissing it, say, ‘So much the
worse for thee if thou wilt not come!’ And presently when you have
drunk this wine, bitter, but very sleepful, you will lie down as a
wedded bride. Then assuredly he will come to you.”

The little creature would have been no woman, if next morning she had
not shown her joy and tenderness by owning the miracle in whispers to
her best friend. “Say nought of it, I beg. But he himself told me,
that if I wore this gown and slept a deep sleep every Sunday, he would

A happiness not without some danger. Where would the rash woman be, if
the Church learned that she was no longer a widow; that re-awakened by
her love, the spirit came to console her?

But strange to tell, the secret is kept. There is an understanding
among them all, to hide so sweet a mystery. For who has no concern
therein? Who has not lost and mourned? Who would not gladly see this
bridge created between two worlds? “O thou beneficent Witch! Blessed
be thou, spirit of the nether world!”



Hard is the long sad winter of the North-west. Even after its
departure it renews its visits, like a drowsy sorrow which ever and
again comes back and rages afresh. One morning everything wakes up
decked with bright needles. In this cruel mocking splendour that makes
one shiver through and through, the whole vegetable world seems turned
mineral, loses its sweet diversity, and freezes into a mass of rough

The poor Sibyl, as she sits benumbed by her hearth of leaves, scourged
by the flaying north-east winds, feels at her heart a cruel pang, for
she feels herself all alone. But that very thought again brings her
relief. With returning pride returns a vigour that warms her heart and
lights up her soul. Intent, quick, and sharp, her sight becomes as
piercing as those needles; and the world, the cruel world that caused
her suffering, is to her transparent as glass. Anon she rejoices over
it, as over a conquest of her making.

For is she not a queen, a queen with courtiers of her own? The crows
have clearly some connection with her. In grave, dignified body they
come like ancient augurs, to talk to her of passing things. The
wolves passing by salute her timidly with sidelong glances. The bear,
then oftener seen than now, would sometimes, in his heavily
good-natured way, seat himself awkwardly at the threshold of her den,
like a hermit calling on a fellow-hermit, just as we often see him in
the Lives of the Desert Fathers.

All those birds and beasts with whom men only made acquaintance in
hunting or slaying them, were outlawed as much as she. With all these
she comes to an understanding; for Satan as the chief outlaw, imparts
to his own the pleasures of natural freedom, the wild delight of
living in a world sufficient unto itself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rough freedom of loneliness, all hail! The whole earth seems still
clothed in a white shroud, held in bondage by a load of ice, of
pitiless crystals, so uniform, sharp, and agonizing. After the year
1200 especially, the world is shut in like a transparent tomb, wherein
all things look terribly motionless, hard, and stiff.

The Gothic Church has been called a “crystallization;” and so it truly
is. About 1300, architecture gave up all its old variety of form and
living fancies, to repeat itself for evermore, to vie with the
monotonous prisms of Spitzbergen, to become the true and awful
likeness of that hard crystal city, in which a dreadful dogma thought
to bury all life away.

But for all the props, buttresses, flying-buttresses, that keep the
monument up, one thing there is that makes it totter. There is no loud
battering from without, but a certain softness in the very
foundations, which attacks the crystal with an imperceptible thaw.
What thing do I mean? The humble stream of warm tears shed by a whole
world, until they have become a very sea of wailings. What do I call
it? A breath of the future, a stirring of the natural life, which
shall presently rise again in irresistible might. The fantastic
building of which more than one side is already sinking, says, not
without terror, to itself, “It is the breath of Satan.”

Beneath this Hecla-glacier lies a volcano which has no need of
bursting out; a mild, slow, gentle heat, which caresses it from below,
and, calling it nearer, says in a whisper, “Come down.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The Witch has something to laugh at, if from the gloom she can see how
utterly Dante and St. Thomas,[37] in the bright light yonder, ignore
the true position of things. They fancy that the Devil wins his way by
cunning or by terror. They make him grotesque and coarse, as in his
childhood, when Jesus could still send him into the herd of swine. Or
else they make him subtle as a logician of the schools, or a
fault-finding lawyer. If he had been no better than this compound of
beast and disputant,--if he had only lived in the mire or on
fine-drawn quibbles about nothing, he would very soon have died of

    [37] St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor,” who died in

People were too ready to crow over him, when he was shewn by
Bartolus[38] pleading against the woman--that is, the Virgin--who gets
him nonsuited and condemned with costs. At that time, indeed, the very
contrary was happening on earth. By a master-stroke of his he had won
over the plaintiff herself, his fair antagonist, the Woman; had
seduced her, not indeed by verbal pleadings, but by arguments not less
real than they were charming and irresistible. He put into her hands
the fruits of science and of nature.

    [38] Bartolus or Bartoli, a lawyer and law-writer of the
    fourteenth century.--TRANS.

No need for controversies, for pleas of any kind: he simply shows
himself. In the East, the new-found Paradise, he begins to work. From
that Asian world, which men had thought to destroy, there springs
forth a peerless day-dawn, whose beams travel afar until they pierce
the deep winter of the West. There dawns on us a world of nature and
of art, accursed of the ignorant indeed, but now at length come
forward to vanquish its late victors in a pleasant war of love and
motherly endearments. All are conquered, all rave about it; they will
have nothing but Asia herself. With her hands full she comes to meet
us. Her tissues, shawls, her carpets so agreeably soft, so wondrously
harmonized, her bright and well-wrought blades, her richly damascened
arms, make us aware of our own barbarism. Moreover, little as that may
seem, these accursed lands of the “miscreant,” ruled by Satan, are
visibly blessed with the fairest fruits of nature, that elixir of the
powers of God; with _the first of vegetables_, coffee; with _the first
of beasts_, the Arab horse. What am I saying?--with a whole world of
treasures, silk, sugar, and a host of herbs all-powerful to relieve
the heart, to soothe and lighten our sufferings.

All this breaks upon our view about the year 1300. Spain herself,
whose brain is wholly fashioned out of Moors and Jews, for all that
she is again subdued by the barbarous children of the Goth, bears
witness in behalf of those _miscreants_. Wherever the Mussulman
children of the Devil are at work, all is prosperous, the springs well
forth, the ground is covered with flowers. A right worthy and harmless
travail decks it with those wondrous vineyards, through which men
recruit themselves, drowning all care, and seeming to drink in
draughts of very goodness and heavenly compassion.

       *       *       *       *       *

To whom does Satan bring the foaming cup of life? In this fasting
world, which has so long been fasting from reason, what man was there
strong enough to take all this in without growing giddy, without
getting drunken and risking the loss of his wits?

Is there yet a brain so far from being petrified or crystallized by
the teaching of St. Thomas, as to remain open to the living world, to
its vegetative forces? Three magicians, Albert the Great, Roger Bacon,
Arnaud of Villeneuve,[39] by strong efforts make their way to Nature’s
secrets; but those lusty intellects lack flexibility and popular
power. Satan falls back on his own Eve. The woman is still the most
natural thing in the world; still keeps her hold on those traits of
roguish innocence one sees in a kitten or a child of very high spirit.
Besides, she figures much better in that world-comedy, that mighty
game wherewith the universal Proteus disports himself.

    [39] Three eminent schoolmen of the thirteenth century, whose
    scientific researches pointed the way to future

But being light and changeful, she is all the less liable to be carked
and hardened by pain! This woman, whom we have seen outlawed from the
world, and rooted on her wild moor, affords a case in point. Have we
yet to learn whether, bruised and soured as she is, with her heart
full of hate, she will re-enter the natural world and the pleasant
paths of life? Assuredly her return thither will not find her in good
tune, will happen mainly through a round of ill. In the coming and
going of the storm she is all the more scared and violent for being so
very weak.

When in the mild warmth of spring, from the air, the depths of the
earth, from the flowers and their languages, a new revelation rises
round her on every side, she is taken dizzy at the first. Her
swelling bosom overflows. The Sibyl of science has her tortures, like
her of Cumæ or of Delphi. The schoolmen find their fun in saying, “It
is the wind and nought else that blows her out. Her lover, the Prince
of the Air, fills her with dreams and delusions, with wind, with
smoke, with emptiness.” Foolish irony! So far from this being the true
cause of her drunkenness, it is nothing empty, it is a real, a
substantial thing, which has loaded her bosom all too quickly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Have you ever seen the agave, that hard wild African shrub, so sharp,
bitter, and tearing, with huge bristles instead of leaves? Ten years
through it loves and dies. At length one day the amorous shoot, which
has so long been gathering in the rough thing, goes off with a noise
like gunfire, and darts skyward. And this shoot becomes a whole tree,
not less than thirty feet high, and bristling with sad flowers.

Some such analogy does the gloomy Sibyl feel, when one morning of a
spring-time, late in coming, and therefore impetuous at the last,
there takes place all around her a vast explosion of life.

And all things look at her, and all things bloom for her. For every
thing that has life says softly, “Whoso understands me, I am his.”

What a contrast! Here is the wife of the desert and of despair, bred
up in hate and vengeance, and lo! all these innocent things agree to
smile upon her! The trees, soothed by the south wind, pay her gentle
homage. Each herb of the field, with its own special virtue of scent,
or remedy, or poison--very often the three things are one--offers
itself to her, saying, “Gather me.”

All things are clearly in love. “Are they not mocking me? I had been
readier for hell than for this strange festival. O spirit, art thou
indeed that spirit of dread whom once I knew, the traces of whose
cruelty I bear about me--what am I saying, and where are my
senses?--the wound of whose dealing scorches me still?

“Ah, no! ’Tis not the spirit whom I hoped for in my rage; ‘_he who
always says, No!_’ This other one utters a yes of love, of drunken
dizziness. What ails him? Is he the mad, the dazed soul of life?

“They spoke of the great Pan as dead. But here he is in the guise of
Bacchus, of Priapus, eager with long-delayed desire, threatening,
scorching, teeming. No, no! Be this cup far from me! Trouble only
should I drink from it,--who knows? A despair yet sharper than my past

Meanwhile wherever the woman appears, she becomes the one great object
of love. She is followed by all, and for her sake all despise their
own proper kind. What they say about the black he-goat, her pretended
favourite, may be applied to all. The horse neighs for her, breaking
everything and putting her in danger. The awful king of the prairie,
the black bull, bellows with grief, should she pass him by at a
distance. And, behold, yon bird despondingly turns away from his hen,
and with whirring wings hastes to convince the woman of his love!

Such is the new tyranny of her master, who, by the funniest hap of
all, foregoes the part accredited to him as king of the dead, to burst
forth a very king of life.

“No!” she says; “leave me to my hatred: I ask for nothing more. Let me
be feared and fearful! The beauty I would have, is only that which
dwells in these black serpents of my hair, in this countenance
furrowed with grief, and the scars of thy thunderbolt.” But the Lord
of Evil replies with cunning softness: “Oh, but you are only the more
beautiful, the more impressible, for this fiery rage of yours! Ay,
call out and curse on, beneath one and the same goad! ’Tis but one
storm calling another. Swift and smooth is the passage from wrath to

Neither her fury nor her pride would have saved her from such
allurements. But she is saved by the boundlessness of her desire.
There is nought will satisfy her. Each kind of life for her is all too
bounded, wanting in power. Away from her, steed and bull and loving
bird! Away, ye creatures all! for one who desires the Infinite, how
weak ye are!

She has a woman’s longing; but for what? Even for the whole, the great
all-containing whole. Satan did not foresee that no one creature would
content her.

That which he could not do, is done for her in some ineffable way.
Overcome by a desire so wide and deep, a longing boundless as the sea,
she falls asleep. At such a moment, all else forgot, no touch of hate,
no thought of vengeance left in her, she slumbers on the plain,
innocent in her own despite, stretched out in easy luxuriance like a
sheep or a dove.

She sleeps, she dreams; a delightful dream! It seemed as if the
wondrous might of universal life had been swallowed up within her; as
if life and death and all things thenceforth lay fast in her bowels;
as if in return for all her suffering, she was teeming at last with
Nature herself.



That still and dismal scene of the Bride of Corinth, is repeated
literally from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. While it was
yet night, just before the daybreak, the two lovers, Man and Nature,
meet again, embrace with rapture, and, at that same moment--horrible
to tell!--behold themselves attacked by fearful plagues. We seem still
to hear the loved one saying to her lover, “It is all over: thy hair
will be white to-morrow. I am dead, and thou too wilt die.”

Three dreadful blows happen in these three centuries. In the first we
have a loathsome changing of the outer man, diseases of the skin,
above all, leprosy. In the second, the evil turns inwards, becomes a
grotesque excitement of the nerves, a fit of epileptic dancing. Then
all grows calm, but the blood is changed, and ulcers prepare the way
for syphilis, the scourge of the fifteenth century.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the chief diseases of the Middle Ages, so far as one can look
therein, to speak generally, had been hunger, weakness, poverty of
blood, that kind of consumption which is visible in the sculptures of
that time. The blood was like clear water, and scrofulous ailments
were rife everywhere. Barring the well-paid doctors, Jew or Arab, of
the kings, the art of medicine was practised only with, holy water at
the church door. Thither on Sundays, after the service, would come a
crowd of sick, to whom words like these were spoken: “You have sinned
and God has afflicted you. Be thankful: so much the less will you
suffer in the next world. Resign yourselves to suffer and to die. The
Church has prayers for the dead.” Weak, languishing, hopeless, with no
desire to live, they followed this counsel faithfully, and let life go
its way.

A fatal discouragement, a wretched state of things, that would have
prolonged without end these ages of lead, and debarred them from all
progress! Worst of all things is it to resign oneself so readily, to
welcome death with so much docility, to have strength for nothing, to
desire nothing. Of more worth was that new era, that close of the
Middle Ages, which at the cost of cruel sufferings first enabled us to
regain our former energy; namely, _the resurrection of desire_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some Arab writers have asserted that the widespread eruption of
skin-diseases which marks the thirteenth century, was caused by the
taking of certain stimulants to re-awaken and renew the defaults of
passion. Undoubtedly the burning spices brought over from the East,
tended somewhat to such an issue. The invention of distilling and of
divers fermented drinks may also have worked in the same direction.

But a greater and far more general fermentation was going on. During
the sharp inward struggle between two worlds and two spirits, a third
surviving silenced both. As the fading faith and the newborn reason
were disputing together, somebody stepping between them caught hold of
man. You ask who? A spirit unclean and raging, the spirit of sour
desires, bubbling painfully within.

Debarred from all outlet, whether of bodily enjoyment, or the free
flow of soul, the sap of life thus closely rammed together, was sure
to corrupt itself. Bereft of light, of sound, of speech, it spoke
through pains and ominous excrescences. Then happened a new and
dreadful thing. The desire put off without being diminished, finds
itself stopped short by a cruel enchantment, a shocking
metamorphosis.[40] Love was advancing blindly with open arms. It
recoils groaning; but in vain would it flee: the fire of the blood
keeps raging; the flesh eats itself away in sharp titillations, and
sharper within rages the coal of fire, made fiercer by despair.

    [40] Leprosy has been traced to Asia and the Crusades; but
    Europe had it in herself. The war declared by the Middle Ages
    against the flesh and all cleanliness bore its fruits. More
    than one saint boasted of having never washed even his hands.
    And how much did the rest wash? To have stripped for a moment
    would have been sinful. The worldlings carefully follow the
    teaching of the monks. This subtle and refined society, which
    sacrificed marriage and seemed inspired only with the poetry
    of adultery, preserved a strange scruple on a point so
    harmless. It dreaded all cleansing, as so much defilement.
    There was no bathing for a thousand years!

What remedy does Christian Europe find for this twofold ill? Death and
captivity; nothing more. When the bitter celibacy, the hopeless love,
the passion irritable and ever-goading, bring you into a morbid state;
when your blood is decomposing, then you shall go down into an _In
pace_, or build your hut in the desert. You must live with the
handbell in your hand, that all may flee before you. “No human being
must see you: no consolation may be yours. If you come near, ’tis

       *       *       *       *       *

Leprosy is the last stage, the _apogee_ of this scourge; but a
thousand other ills, less hideous but still cruel, raged everywhere.
The purest and the most fair were stricken with sad eruptions, which
men regarded as sin made visible, or the chastisement of God. Then
people did what the love of life had never made them do: they forsook
the old sacred medicine, the bootless holy water, and went off to the
Witch. From habit and fear as well, they still repaired to church; but
thenceforth their true church was with her, on the moor, in the
forest, in the desert. To her they carried their vows.

Prayers for healing, prayers for pleasure. On the first effervescing
of their heated blood, folk went to the Sibyl, in great secrecy, at
uncertain hours. “What shall I do? and what is this I feel within me?
I burn: give me some lenitive. I burn: grant me that which causes my
intolerable desire.”

A bold, a blamable journey, for which they reproach themselves at
night. Let this new fatality be never so urgent, this fire be never so
torturing, the Saints themselves never so powerless; still, have not
the indictment of the Templars and the proceedings of Pope Boniface
unveiled the Sodom lying hid beneath the altar? But a wizard Pope, a
friend of the Devil, who also carried him away, effects a change in
all their ideas. Was it not with the Demon’s help that John XXII., the
son of a shoemaker, a Pope no more of Rome, succeeded in amassing in
his town of Avignon more gold than the Emperor and all the kings? As
the Pope is, so is the bishop. Did not Guichard, Bishop of Troyes,
procure from the Devil the death of the King’s daughters? No death we
ask for--we; but pleasant things--for life, for health, for beauty,
and for pleasure: the things of God which God refuses. What shall we
do? Might we but win them through the grace of the _Prince of this

       *       *       *       *       *

When the great and mighty doctor of the Renaissance, Paracelsus, cast
all the wise books of ancient medicine into the fire, Latin, and
Jewish, and Arabic, all at once, he declared that he had learned none
but the popular medicine, that of the _good women_,[41] the
_shepherds_, and the _headsmen_, the latter of whom made often good
horse-doctors and clever surgeons, resetting bones broken or put out
of joint.

    [41] The name given in fear and politeness to the witches.

I make no doubt but that his admirable and masterly work on _The
Diseases of Women_--the first then written on a theme so large, so
deep, so tender--came forth from his special experience of those women
to whom others went for aid; of the witches, namely, who always acted
as the midwives: for never in those days was a male physician admitted
to the woman’s side, to win her trust in him, to listen to her
secrets. The witches alone attended her, and became, especially for
women, the chief and only physician.

       *       *       *       *       *

What we know for surest with regard to their medicinal practice is,
that for ends the most different, alike to stimulate and to soothe,
they made use of one large family of doubtful and very dangerous
plants, called, by reason of the services they rendered, _The
Comforters_, or Solaneæ.[42]

    [42] Man’s ingratitude is painful to see. A thousand other
    plants have come into use: a hundred exotic vegetables have
    become the fashion. But the good once done by these poor
    _Comforters_ is clean forgotten!--Nay, who now remembers or
    even acknowledges the old debt of humanity to harmless
    nature? The _Asclepias acida_, _Sarcostemma_, or flesh-plant,
    which for five thousand years was the _Holy Wafer_ of the
    East, its very palpable God, eaten gladly by five hundred
    millions of men,--this plant, in the Middle Ages called the
    Poison-queller (_vince-venenum_), meets with not one word of
    historical comment in our books of Botany. Perhaps two
    thousand years hence they will forget the wheat. See Langlois
    on the _Soma_ of India and the _Hom_ of Persia. _Mem. de
    l’Académie des Inscriptions_, xix. 326.

A vast and popular family, many kinds of which abound to excess under
our feet, in the hedges, everywhere--a family so numerous that of one
kind alone we have eight hundred varieties.[43] There is nothing
easier, nothing more common, to find. But these plants are mostly
dangerous in the using. It needs some boldness to measure out a dose,
the boldness, perhaps, of genius.

    [43] M. d’Orbigny’s _Dictionary of Natural History_, article

Let us, step by step, mount the ladder of their powers.[44] The first
are simply pot-herbs, good for food, such as the mad-apples and the
tomatoes, miscalled “love-apples.” Other, of the harmless kinds, are
sweetness and tranquillity itself, as the white mullens, or lady’s
fox-gloves, so good for fomentations.

    [44] I have found this ladder nowhere else. It is the more
    important, because the witches who made these essays at the
    risk of passing for poisoners, certainly began with the
    weakest, and rose gradually to the strongest. Each step of
    power thus gives its relative date, and helps us in this dark
    subject to set up a kind of chronology. I shall complete it
    in the following chapters, when I come to speak of the
    Mandragora and the Datura. I have chiefly followed Pouchet’s
    _Solanées_ and _Botanique Générale_.

Going higher up, you come on a plant already suspicious, which many
think a poison, a plant which at first seems like honey and afterwards
tastes bitter, reminding one of Jonathan’s saying, “I have eaten a
little honey, and therefore shall I die.” But this death is
serviceable, a dying away of pain. The “bittersweet” should have been
the first experiment of that bold homœopathy which rose, little by
little, up to the most dangerous poisons. The slight irritation and
the tingling which it causes might point it out as a remedy for the
prevalent diseases of that time, those, namely, of the skin.

The pretty maiden who found herself woefully adorned with uncouth red
patches, with pimples, or with ringworm, would come crying for such
relief. In the case of an elder woman the hurt would be yet more
painful. The bosom, most delicate thing in nature, with its innermost
vessels forming a matchless flower, becomes, through its injective and
congestive tendencies, the most perfect instrument for causing pain.
Sharp, ruthless, restless are the pains she suffers. Gladly would she
accept all kinds of poison. Instead of bargaining with the Witch, she
only puts her poor hard breast between her hands.

From the bittersweet, too weak for such, we rise to the dark
nightshades, which have rather more effect. For a few days the woman
is soothed. Anon she comes back weeping. “Very well, to-night you may
come again. I will fetch you something, as you wish me; but it will be
a strong poison.”

It was a heavy risk for the Witch. At that time they never thought
that poisons could act as remedies, if applied outwardly or taken in
very weak doses. The plants they compounded together under the name of
_witches’ herbs_, seemed to be but ministers of death. Such as were
found in her hands would have proved her, in their opinion, a poisoner
or a dealer in accursed charms. A blind crowd, all the more cruel for
its growing fears, might fell her with a shower of stones, or make her
undergo the trial by water--the _noyade_. Or even--most dreadful doom
of all!--they might drag her with a rope round her neck to the
churchyard, where a pious festival was held and the people edified by
seeing her thrown to the flames.

However, she runs the risk, and fetches home the dreadful plant. The
other woman comes back to her abode by night or morning, whenever she
is least afraid of being met. But a young shepherd, who saw her there,
told the village, “If you had seen her as I did, gliding among the
rubbish of the ruined hut, looking about her on all sides, muttering I
know not what! Oh, but she has frightened me very much! If she had
seen me, I was a lost man. She would have changed me into a lizard, a
toad, or a bat. She took a paltry herb--the paltriest I ever saw--of a
pale sickly yellow, with red and black marks, like the flames, as they
say, of hell. The horror of the thing is, that the whole stalk was
hairy like a man, with long, black, sticky hairs. She plucked it
roughly, with a grunt, and suddenly I saw her no more. She could not
have run away so quick; she must have flown. What a dreadful thing
that woman is! How dangerous to the whole country!”

Certainly the plant inspires dread. It is the henbane, a cruel and
dangerous poison, but a powerful emollient, a soft sedative poultice,
which melts, unbends, lulls to sleep the pain, often taking it quite

Another of these poisons--the Belladonna, so called, undoubtedly, in
thankful acknowledgment, had great power in laying the convulsions
that sometimes supervened in childbirth, and added a new danger, a new
fear, to the danger and the fear of that most trying moment. A
motherly hand instilled the gentle poison, casting the mother herself
into a sleep, and smoothing the infant’s passage, after the manner of
the modern chloroform, into the world.[45]

    [45] Madame La Chapelle and M. Chaussier have renewed to good
    purpose these practices of the older medicine. Pouchet,

Belladonna cures the dancing-fits while making you dance. A daring
homœopathy this, which at first must frighten: it is _medicine
reversed_, contrary in most things to that which alone the Christians
studied, which alone they valued, after the example of the Jews and

How did men come to this result? Undoubtedly by the simple effect of
the great Satanic principle, that _everything must be done the wrong
way_, the very opposite way to that followed by the holy people. These
latter have a dread of poisons. Satan uses them and turns them into
remedies. The Church thinks by spiritual means, by sacraments and
prayers, to act even on the body. Satan, on the other hand, uses
material means to act even upon the soul, making you drink of
forgetfulness, love, reverie, and every passion. To the blessing of
the priest he opposes the magnetic passes made by the soft hands of
women, who cheat you of your pains.

       *       *       *       *       *

By a change of system, and yet more of dress, as in the substitution
of linen for wool, the skin-diseases lost their intensity. Leprosy
abated, but seemed to go inwards and beget deeper ills. The fourteenth
century wavered between three scourges--the epileptic dancings, the
plague, and the sores which, according to Paracelsus, led the way to

The first danger was not the least. About 1350 it broke out in a
frightful manner with the dance of St. Guy, and was singular
especially in this, that it did not act upon each person separately.
As if carried on by one same galvanic current, the sick caught each
other by the hand, formed immense chains, and spun and spun round till
they died. The spectators, who laughed at first, presently catching
the contagion, let themselves go, fell into the mighty current,
increased the terrible choir.

What would have happened if the evil had held on as long as leprosy
did even in its decline?

It was the first step, as it were, towards epilepsy. If that
generation of sufferers had not been cured, it would have begotten
another decidedly epileptic. What a frightful prospect! Think of
Europe covered with fools, with idiots, with raging madmen! We are not
told how the evil was treated and checked. The remedy prescribed by
most, the falling upon these jumpers with kicks and cuffings, was
entirely fitted to increase the frenzy and turn it into downright
epilepsy.[46] Doubtless there was some other remedy, of which people
were loth to speak. At the time when witchcraft took its first great
flight, the widespread use of the _Solaneæ_, above all, of belladonna,
vulgarized the medicine which really checked those affections. At the
great popular gatherings of the Sabbath, of which we shall presently
speak, the _witches’ herb_, mixed with mead, beer, cider,[47] or perry
(the strong drinks of the West), set the multitude dancing a dance
luxurious indeed, but far from epileptic.

    [46] We should think that few physicians would quite agree
    with M. Michelet.--TRANS.

    [47] Cider was first made in the twelfth century.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the greatest revolution caused by the witches, the greatest step
_the wrong way_ against the spirit of the Middle Ages, was what may be
called the reënfeoffment of the stomach and the digestive organs. They
had the boldness to say, “There is nothing foul or unclean.”
Thenceforth the study of matter was free and boundless. Medicine
became a possibility.

That this principle was greatly abused, we do not deny; but the
principle is none the less clear. There is nothing foul but moral
evil. In the natural world all things are pure: nothing may be
withheld from our studious regard, nothing be forbidden by an idle
spiritualism, still less by a silly disgust.

It was here especially that the Middle Ages showed themselves in their
true light, as _anti-natural_, out of Nature’s oneness drawing
distinctions of castes, of priestly orders. Not only do they count the
spirit _noble_, and the body _ignoble_; but even parts of the body are
called noble, while others are not, being evidently plebeian. In like
manner heaven is noble, and hell is not; but why?--“Because heaven is
high up.” But in truth it is neither high nor low, being above and
beneath alike. And what is hell? Nothing at all. Equally foolish are
they about the world at large and the smaller world of men.

This world is all one piece: each thing in it is attached to all the
rest. If the stomach is servant of the brain and feeds it, the brain
also works none the less for the stomach, perpetually helping to
prepare for it the digestive _sugar_.[48]

    [48] This great discovery was made by Claude Bernard.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no lack of injurious treatment. The witches were called
filthy, indecent, shameless, immoral. Nevertheless, their first steps
on that road may be accounted as a happy revolution in things most
moral, in charity and kindness. With a monstrous perversion of ideas
the Middle Ages viewed the flesh in its representative,
woman,--accursed since the days of Eve--as a thing impure. The Virgin,
exalted as _Virgin_ more than as _Our Lady_, far from lifting up the
real woman, had caused her abasement, by setting men on the track of a
mere scholastic puritanism, where they kept rising higher and higher
in subtlety and falsehood.

Woman herself ended by sharing in the hateful prejudice and deeming
herself unclean. She hid herself at the hour of childbed. She blushed
at loving and bestowing happiness on others. Sober as she mostly was
in comparison with man, living as she mostly did on herbs and fruits,
sharing through her diet of milk and vegetables the purity of the most
innocent breeds, she almost besought forgiveness for being born, for
living, for carrying out the conditions of her life.

       *       *       *       *       *

The medical art of the Middle Ages busied itself peculiarly about the
man, a being noble and pure, who alone could become a priest, alone
could make God at the altar. It also paid some attention to the
beasts, beginning indeed with them; but of children it thought seldom:
of women not at all.

The romances, too, with their subtleties pourtray the converse of the
world. Outside the courts and highborn adulterers, which form the
chief topic of these romances, the woman is always a poor Griselda,
born to drain the cup of suffering, to be often beaten, and never
cared for.

In order to mind the woman, to trample these usages under foot, and to
care for her in spite of herself, nothing less would serve than the
Devil, woman’s old ally, her trusty friend in Paradise, and the Witch,
that monster who deals with everything the wrong way, exactly
contrariwise to that of the holier people. The poor creature set such
little store by herself. She would shrink back, blushing, and loth to
say a word. The Witch being clever and evil-hearted, read her to the
inmost depths. Ere long she won her to speak out, drew from her her
little secret, overcame her refusals, her modest, humble hesitations.
Rather than undergo the remedy, she was willing almost to die. But the
cruel sorceress made her live.



Let no one hastily conclude from the foregoing chapter that I attempt
to whiten, to acquit entirely, the dismal bride of the Devil. If she
often did good, she could also do no small amount of ill. There is no
great power which is not abused. And this one had three centuries of
actual reigning, in the interlude between two worlds, the older dying
and the new struggling painfully to begin. The Church, which in the
quarrels of the sixteenth century will regain some of her strength, at
least for fighting, in the fourteenth is down in the mire. Look at the
truthful picture drawn by Clémangis. The nobles, so proudly arrayed in
their new armour, fall all the more heavily at Crécy, Poitiers,
Agincourt. All who survive end by being prisoners in England. What a
theme for ridicule! The citizens, the very peasants make merry and
shrug their shoulders. This general absence of the lords gave, I
fancy, no small encouragement to the Sabbath gatherings which had
always taken place, but at this time might first have grown into vast
popular festivals.

How mighty the power thus wielded by Satan’s sweetheart, who cures,
foretels, divines, calls up the souls of the dead; who can throw a
spell upon you, turn you into a hare or wolf, enable you to find a
treasure, and, best of all, ensure your being beloved! It is an awful
power which combines all others. How could a stormy soul, a soul most
commonly gangrened, and sometimes grown utterly wayward, have helped
employing it to wreak her hate and revenge; sometimes even out of a
mere delight in malice and uncleanness?

All that once was told the confessor, is now imparted to her: not only
the sins already done, but those also which folk purpose doing. She
holds each by her shameful secret, by the avowal of her uncleanest
desires. To her they entrust both their bodily and mental ills; the
lustful heats of a blood inflamed and soured; the ceaseless prickings
of some sharp, urgent, furious desire.

To her they all come: with her there is no shame. In plain blunt words
they beseech her for life, for death, for remedies, for poisons.
Thither comes a young woman, to ask through her tears for the means of
saving her from the fruits of her sin. Thither comes the
step-mother--a common theme in the Middle Ages--to say that the child
of a former marriage eats well and lives long. Thither comes the
sorrowing wife whose children year by year are born only to die. And
now, on the other hand, comes a youth to buy at any cost the burning
draught that shall trouble the heart of some haughty dame, until,
forgetful of the distance between them, she has stooped to look upon
her little page.

       *       *       *       *       *

In these days there are but two types, two forms of marriage, both of
them extreme and outrageous.

The scornful heiress of a fief, who brings her husband a crown or a
broad estate, an Eleanor of Guyenne for instance, will, under her
husband’s very eyes, hold her court of lovers, keeping herself under
very slight control. Let us leave romances and poems, to look at the
reality in its dread march onward to the unbridled rage of the
daughters of Philip the Fair, of the cruel Isabella, who by the hands
of her lovers impaled Edward II. The insolence of the feudal women
breaks out diabolically in the triumphant two-horned bonnet and other
brazen-faced fashions.

But in this century, when classes are beginning to mingle slightly,
the woman of a lower rank, when she marries a lord, has to fear the
hardest trials. So says the truthful history of the humble, the meek,
the patient Griselda. In a more popular form it becomes the tale of
_Blue-Beard_, a tale which seems to me quite earnest and historical.
The wife so often killed and replaced by him could only have been his
vassal. He would have reckoned wholly otherwise with the daughter or
sister of a baron, who might avenge her. If I am not misled by a
specious conjecture, we must believe that this tale is of the
fourteenth century, and not of those preceding, in which the lord
would never have deigned to take a wife below himself.

Specially remarkable in the moving tale of _Griselda_ is the fact,
that throughout her heavy trials, she never seeks support in being
devout or in loving another. She is evidently faithful, chaste, and
pure. It never comes into her mind to love elsewhere.

Of the two feudal women, the Heiress and Griselda, it is peculiarly
the first who has her household of gentlemen, her courts of love, who
shows favour to the humblest lovers, encouraging them, delivering, as
Eleanor did, the famous sentence, soon to become quite classical:
“There can be no love between married folk.”

Thereupon a secret hope, but hot and violent withal, arises in more
than one young heart. If he must give himself to the Devil, he will
rush full tilt on this adventurous intrigue. Let the castle be never
so surely closed, one fine opening is still left for Satan. In a game
so perilous, what chance of success reveals itself? Wisdom answers,
None. But what if Satan said, Yes?

We must remember how great a distance feudal pride set between the
nobles themselves. Words are misleading: one _cavalier_ might be far
below another.

The knight banneret, who brought a whole army of vassals to his king’s
side, would look with utter scorn from one end of his long table on
the poor _lackland_ knights seated at the other. How much greater his
scorn for the simple varlets, grooms, pages, &c., fed upon his
leavings! Seated at the lowermost end of the tables close to the door,
they scraped the dishes sent down to them, often empty, from the
personages seated above beside the hearth. It never would cross the
great lord’s mind, that those below would dare to lift eyes of fancy
towards their lovely mistress, the haughty heiress of a fief, sitting
near her mother, “crowned by a chaplet of white roses.” Whilst he bore
with wondrous patience the love of some stranger knight, appointed by
his lady to bear her colours, he would have savagely punished the
boldness of any servant who looked so high. Of this kind was the
raging jealousy shown by the Lord of Fayel, who was stirred to deadly
wrath, not because his wife had a lover, but because that lover was
one of his household, the castellan or simple constable of his castle
of Coucy.

The deeper and less passable seemed the gulf between the great
heiress, lady of the manor, and the groom or page who, barring his
shirt, had nothing, not even his coat, but what belonged to his
master, the stronger became love’s temptation to overleap that gulf.

The youth was buoyed up by the very impossibility. At length, one day
that he managed to get out of the tower, he ran off to the Witch and
asked her advice. Would a philtre serve as a spell to win her? Or,
failing that, must he make an express covenant? He never shrank at all
from the dreadful idea of yielding himself to Satan. “We will take
care for that, young man: but hie thee up again; you will find some
change already.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The change, however, is in himself. He is stirred by some ineffable
hope, that escapes in spite of him from a deep downcast eye, scored by
an ever-darting flame. Somebody, we may guess who, having eyes for him
alone, is moved to throw him, as she passes, a word of pity. Oh,
rapture! Kind Satan! Charming, adorable Witch!

He cannot eat nor drink until he has been to see the latter again.
Respectfully kissing her hand, he almost falls at her feet. Whatever
she may ask him, whatever she may bid him do, he will obey her. That
moment, if she wishes it, he will give her his golden chain, will give
her the ring upon his finger, though he had it from a dying mother.
But the Witch, in her native malice, in her hatred of the Baron, feels
an especial comfort in dealing him a secret blow.

Already a vague anxiety disturbs the castle. A dumb tempest, without
lightning or thunder, broods over it, like an electric vapour on a
marsh. All is silence, deep silence; but the lady is troubled. She
suspects that some supernatural power has been at work. For why indeed
be thus drawn to this youth, more than to some one else, handsomer,
nobler, renowned already for deeds of arms? There is something toward,
down yonder! Has that woman cast a spell upon her, or worked some
hidden charm? The more she asks herself these questions, the more her
heart is troubled.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Witch has something to wreak her malice upon at last. In the
village she was a queen; but now the castle comes to her, yields
itself up to her on that side where its pride ran the greatest risk.
For us this passion has a peculiar interest, as the rush of one soul
towards its ideal against every social harrier, against the unjust
decree of fate. To the Witch, on her side, it holds out the deep, keen
delight of humbling the lady’s pride, and revenging perhaps her own
wrongs; the delight of serving the lord as he served his vassals, of
levying upon him, through the boldness of a mere child, the
firstfruits of his outrageous wedding-rights. Undoubtedly, in these
intrigues where the Witch had to play her part, she often acted from a
depth of levelling hatred natural to a peasant.

Already it was something gained to have made the lady stoop to love a
menial. We should not be misled by such examples as John of Saintré
and Cherubin. The serving-boy filled the lowest offices in the
household. The footman proper did not then exist, while on the other
hand, few, if any maidservants lived in military strongholds. Young
hands did everything, and were not disgraced thereby. The service,
specially the body-service of the lord and lady, honoured and raised
them up. Nevertheless, it often placed the highborn page in situations
sorrowful enough, prosaic, not to say ridiculous. The lord never
distresses himself about that. And the lady must indeed be charmed by
the Devil, not to see what every day she saw, her well-beloved
employed in servile and unsuitable tasks.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Middle Ages the very high and the very low are continually
brought together. That which is hidden by the poems, we can catch a
glimpse of otherwhere. With those ethereal passions, many gross things
were clearly blended.

All we know of the charms and philtres used by the witches is very
fantastic, not seldom marked by malice, and recklessly mixed up with
things that seem to us the least likely to have awakened love. By
these methods they went a long way without the husband’s perceiving in
his blindness the game they made of him.

These philtres were of various kinds. Some were for exciting and
troubling the senses, like the stimulants so much abused in the East.
Others were dangerous, and often treacherous draughts to whose
illusions the body would yield itself without the will. Others again
were employed as tests when the passion was defied, when one wished to
see how far the greediness of desire might derange the senses, making
them receive as the highest and holiest of favours, the most
disagreeable services done by the object of their love.

The rude way in which a castle was constructed, with nothing in it but
large halls, led to an utter sacrifice of the inner life. It was long
enough before they took to building in one of the turrets a closet or
recess for meditation and the saying of prayers. The lady was easily
watched. On certain days set or waited for, the bold youth would
attempt the stroke, recommended him by the Witch, of mingling a
philtre with her drink.

This, however, was a dangerous matter, not often tried. Less difficult
was it to purloin from the lady things which escaped her notice, which
she herself despised. He would treasure up the very smallest paring of
a nail; he would gather up respectfully one or two beautiful hairs
that might fall from her comb. These he would carry to the Witch, who
often asked, as our modern sleep-wakers do, for something very
personal and strongly redolent of the person, but obtained without her
leave; as, for instance, some threads torn out of a garment long worn
and soiled with the traces of perspiration. With much kissing, of
course, and worshipping, the lover was fain reluctantly to throw these
treasures into the fire, with a view to gathering up the ashes
afterwards. By and by, when she came to look at her garment, the fine
lady would remark the rent, but guessing at the cause, would only sigh
and hold her tongue. The charm had already begun to work.

       *       *       *       *       *

Even if she hesitated from regard for her marriage-vow, certain it is
that life in a space so narrow, where they were always in each
other’s sight, so near and yet so far, became a downright torment. And
even when she had once shown her weakness, still before her husband
and others equally jealous the moments of happiness would assuredly be
rare. Hence sprang many a foolish outbreak of unsatisfied desire. The
less they came together, the more deeply they longed to do so. A
disordered fancy sought to attain that end by means grotesque,
unnatural, utterly senseless. So by way of establishing a means of
secret correspondence between the two, the Witch had the letters of
the alphabet pricked on both their arms. If one of them wanted to send
a thought to the other, he brightened and brought out by sucking the
blood-red letters of the wished-for word. Immediately, so it is said,
the corresponding letters bled on the other’s arm.

Sometimes in these mad fits they would drink each of the other’s
blood, so as to mingle their souls, it was said, in close communion.
The devouring of Coucy’s heart, which the lady “found so good that she
never ate again,” is the most tragical instance of these monstrous
vows of loving cannibalism. But when the absent one did not die, but
only the love within him, then the lady would seek counsel of the
Witch, begging of her the means of holding him, of bringing him back.

The incantations used by the sorceress of Theocritus and Virgil,
though employed also in the Middle Ages, were seldom of much avail. An
attempt was made to win back the lover by a spell seemingly copied
from antiquity, by means of a cake, of a _confarreatio_[49] like that
which, both in Asia and Europe, had always been the holiest pledge of
love. But in this case it is not the soul only, it is the flesh also
they seek to bind; there must be so true an identity established
between the two, that, dead to all other women, he shall live only for
her. It was a cruel ceremony on the woman’s side. “No haggling,
madam,” says the Witch. Suddenly the proud dame grows obedient, even
to letting herself be stripped bare: for thus indeed it must be.

    [49] One form of wedding among the Romans, in which the
    bride-cake was broken between the pair, in token of their

What a triumph for the Witch! And if this lady were the same as she
who had once made her “run the gauntlet,” how meet the vengeance, how
dread the requital now! But it is not enough to have stripped her thus
naked. About her loins is fastened a little shelf, on which a small
oven is set for the cooking of the cake. “Oh, my dear, I cannot bear
it longer! Make haste, and relieve me.”

“You must bear it, madam; you must feel the heat. When the cake is
done, he will be warmed by you, by your flame.”

It is over; and now we have the cake of antiquity, of the Indian and
the Roman marriage, but spiced and warmed up by the lecherous spirit
of the Devil. She does not say with Virgil’s wizard,[50]

    “Ducite ab urbe domum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnin!”

    [50] “Hither, ye spells of mine, bring Daphnis home from the
    city!”--_Virgil_, Eclogue viii.

But she takes him the cake, steeped, as it were, in the other’s
suffering, and kept warm by her love. He has hardly bitten it when he
is overtaken by an odd emotion, by a feeling of dizziness. Then as the
blood rushes up to his heart he turns red and hot. Passion fastens
anew on him, and inextinguishable desire.[51]

    [51] I am wrong in saying inextinguishable. Fresh philtres
    were often needed; and the blame of this must lie with the
    lady, from whom the Witch in her mocking, malignant rage
    exacted the most humiliating observances.



We must now speak of the _Sabbaths_; a word which at different times
clearly meant quite different things. Unhappily, we have no detailed
accounts of these gatherings earlier than the reign of Henry IV.[52]
By that time they were nothing more than a great lewd farce carried on
under the cloak of witchcraft. But these very descriptions of a thing
so greatly corrupted are marked by certain antique touches that tell
of the successive periods and the different forms through which it had

    [52] The least bad of these is by Lancre, a man of some wit,
    whose evident connection with some young witches gave him
    something to say. The accounts of the Jesuit Del Rio and the
    Dominican Michaëlis are the absurd productions of two
    credulous and silly pedants.

       *       *       *       *       *

We may set out with this firm idea that, for many centuries, the serf
led the life of a wolf or a fox; that he was _an animal of the night_,
moving about, I may say, as little as possible in the daytime, and
truly living in the night alone.

Still, up to the year 1000, so long as the people made their own
saints and legends, their daily life was not to them uninteresting.
Their nightly Sabbaths were only a slight relic of paganism. They
held in fear and honour the Moon, so powerful over the good things of
earth. Her chief worshippers, the old women, burn small candles to
_Dianom_--the Diana of yore, whose other names were Luna and Hecate.
The Lupercal (or wolf-man) is always following the women and children,
disguised indeed under the dark face of ghost Hallequin (Harlequin).
The Vigil of Venus was kept as a holiday precisely on the first of
May. On Midsummer Day they kept the Sabaza by sacrificing the he-goat
of Bacchus Sabasius. In all this there was no mockery; nothing but a
harmless carnival of serfs.

But about the year 1000 the church is well-nigh shut against the
peasant through the difference between his language and hers. By 1100
her services became quite unintelligible. Of the mysteries played at
the church-doors, he has retained chiefly the comic side, the ox and
the ass, &c. On these he makes Christmas carols, which grow ever more
and more burlesque, forming a true Sabbatic literature.

       *       *       *       *       *

Are we to suppose that the great and fearful risings of the twelfth
century had no influence on these mysteries, on this night-life of the
_wolf_, the _game bird_, the _wild quarry_. The great sacraments of
rebellion among the serfs, when they drank of each other’s blood, or
ate of the ground by way of solemn pledge,[53] may have been
celebrated at the Sabbaths. The “Marseillaise” of that time, sung by
night rather than day, was perhaps a Sabbatic chant:--

    “Nous sommes hommes commes ils sont!
    Tout aussi grand cœur nous avons!
    Tout autant souffrir nous pouvons!”[54]

    [53] At the battle of Courtray. See also Grimm and my


    “We are fashioned of one clay:
    Big as theirs our hearts are aye:
    We can bear as much as they.”--TRANS.

But the tombstone falls again in 1200. Seated thereon the Pope and the
King, with their enormous weight, have sealed up man. Has he now his
old life by night? More than ever. The old pagan dances must by this
time have waxed furious. Our negroes of the Antilles, after a dreadful
day of heat and hard work, would go and dance away some four leagues
off. So it was with the serf too. But with his dances there must have
mingled a merriment born of revenge, satiric farces, burlesques and
caricatures of the baron and the priest: a whole literature of the
night indeed, that knew not one word of the literature of the day,
that knew little even of the burgher Fabliaux.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of such a nature were the Sabbaths before 1300. Before they could take
the startling form of open warfare against the God of those days, much
more was needed still, and especially these two things: not only a
descending into the very depths of despair, but also _an utter losing
of respect for anything_.

To this pass they do not come until the fourteenth century, under the
Avignon popes, and during the Great Schism; when the Church with two
heads seems no longer a church; when the king and all his nobles,
being in shameful captivity to the English, are extorting the means of
ransom from their oppressed and outraged people. Then do the Sabbaths
take the grand and horrible form of the _Black Mass_, of a ritual
upside down, in which Jesus is defied and bidden to thunder on the
people if He can. In the thirteenth century this devilish drama was
still impossible, through the horror it would have caused. And later
again, in the fifteenth, when everything, even suffering itself, had
become exhausted, so fierce an outburst could not have issued forth;
so monstrous an invention no one would have essayed. It could only
have belonged to the age of Dante.

       *       *       *       *       *

It took place, I fancy, at one gush; an explosion as it were of genius
raving, bringing impiety up to the height of a great popular
passion-fit. To understand the nature of these bursts of rage, we must
remember that, far from imagining the fixedness of God’s laws, a
people brought up by their own clergy to believe and depend on
miracles, had for ages past been hoping and waiting for nothing else
than a miracle which never came. In vain they demanded one in the
desperate hour of their last worst strait. Heaven thenceforth appeared
to them as the ally of their savage tormentors, nay, as itself a
tormentor too.

Thereon began the _Black Mass_ and the _Jacquerie_.[55]

    [55] The Peasants’ war which raged in France in 1364.

In the elastic shell of the Black Mass, a thousand variations of
detail may afterwards have been inserted; but the shell itself was
strongly made and, in my opinion, all of one piece.

This drama I succeeded in reproducing in my “History of France,” in
the year 1857. There was small difficulty in casting it anew in its
four acts. Only at that time I left in it too many of the grotesque
adornments which clothed the Sabbath of a later period; nor did I
clearly enough define what belonged to the older shell, so dark and

       *       *       *       *       *

Its date is strongly marked by certain savage tokens of an age
accursed, and yet more by the ruling place therein assigned to woman,
a fact most characteristic of the fourteenth century.

It is strange to mark how, at that period, the woman who enjoys so
little freedom still holds her royal sway in a hundred violent
fashions. At this time she inherits fiefs, brings her kingdoms to the
king. On the lower levels she has still her throne, and yet more in
the skies. Mary has supplanted Jesus. St. Francis and St. Dominic have
seen the three worlds in her bosom. By the immensity of her grace she
washes away sin; ay, and sometimes helps the sinner,--as in the story
of a nun whose place the Virgin took in the choir, while she herself
was gone to meet her lover.

Up high, and down very low, we see the woman. Beatrice reigns in
heaven among the stars, while John of Meung in the _Romaunt of the
Rose_ is preaching the community of women. Pure or sullied, the woman
is everywhere. We might say of her what Raymond Lulle said of God:
“What part has He in the world? The whole.”

But alike in heaven and in poetry the true heroine is not the fruitful
mother decked out with children; but the Virgin, or some barren
Beatrice, who dies young.

A fair English damsel passed over into France, it is said, about the
year 1300, to preach the redemption of women. She looked on herself as
their Messiah.

       *       *       *       *       *

In its earliest phase the Black Mass seemed to betoken this redemption
of Eve, so long accursed of Christianity. The woman fills every office
in the Sabbath. She is priestess, altar, pledge of holy communion, by
turns. Nay, at bottom, is she not herself as God?

       *       *       *       *       *

Many popular traits may be found herein, and yet it comes not wholly
from the people. The peasant who honoured strength alone, made small
account of the woman; as we see but too clearly in our old laws and
customs. From him the woman would not have received the high place she
holds here. It is by her own self the place is won.

I would gladly believe that the Sabbath in its then shape was woman’s
work, the work of such a desperate woman as the Witch was then. In the
fourteenth century she saw open before her a horrible career of
torments lighted up for three or four hundred years by the stake.
After 1300 her medical knowledge is condemned as baleful, her remedies
are proscribed as if they were poisons. The harmless drawing of lots,
by which lepers then thought to better their luck, brought on a
massacre of those poor wretches. Pope John XXII. ordered the burning
of a bishop suspected of Witchcraft. Under a system of such blind
repression there was just the same risk in daring little as in daring
much. Danger itself made people bolder; and the Witch was able to dare

       *       *       *       *       *

Human brotherhood, defiance of the Christian heaven, a distorted
worship of nature herself as God--such was the purport of the Black

They decked an altar to the arch-rebel of serfs, _to Him who had been
so wronged_, the old outlaw, unfairly hunted out of heaven, “the
Spirit by whom earth was made, the Master who ordained the budding of
the plants.” Such were the names of honour given him by his
worshippers, the _Luciferians_, and also, according to a very likely
opinion, by the Knights of the Temple.

The greatest miracle of those unhappy times is, the greater abundance
found at the nightly communion of the brotherhood, than was to be
found elsewhere by day. By incurring some little danger the Witch
levied her contributions from those who were best off, and gathered
their offerings into a common fund. Charity in a Satanic garb grew
very powerful, as being a crime, a conspiracy, a form of rebellion.
People would rob themselves of their food by day for the sake of the
common meal at night.

       *       *       *       *       *

Figure to yourself, on a broad moor, and often near an old Celtic
cromlech, at the edge of a wood, this twofold scene: on one side a
well-lit moor and a great feast of the people; on the other, towards
yon wood, the choir of that church whose dome is heaven. What I call
the choir is a hill commanding somewhat the surrounding country.
Between these are the yellow flames of torch-fires, and some red
brasiers emitting a fantastic smoke. At the back of all is the Witch,
dressing up her Satan, a great wooden devil, black and shaggy. By his
horns, and the goatskin near him, he might be Bacchus; but his manly
attributes make him a Pan or a Priapus. It is a darksome figure, seen
differently by different eyes; to some suggesting only terror, while
others are touched by the proud melancholy wherein the Eternally
Banished seems absorbed.[56]

    [56] This is taken from Del Rio, but is not, I think,
    peculiar to Spain. It is an ancient trait, and marked by the
    primitive inspiration.

       *       *       *       *       *

Act First. The magnificent _In troit_ taken by Christendom from
antiquity, that is, from those ceremonies where the people in long
train streamed under the colonnades on their way to the sanctuary, is
now taken back for himself by the elder god upon his return to power.
The _Lavabo_, likewise borrowed from the heathen lustrations,
reappears now. All this he claims back by right of age.

His priestess is always called, by way of honour, the Elder; but she
would sometimes have been young. Lancre tells of a witch of seventeen,
pretty, and horribly savage.

The Devil’s bride was not to be a child: she must be at least thirty
years old, with the form of a Medea, with the beauty that comes of
pain; an eye deep, tragic, lit up by a feverish fire, with great
serpent tresses waving at their will: I refer to the torrent of her
black untamable hair. On her head, perhaps, you may see the crown of
vervein, the ivy of the tomb, the violets of death.

When she has had the children taken off to their meal, the service
begins: “I will come before thine altar; but save me, O Lord, from the
faithless and violent man (from the priest and the baron).”

Then come the denial of Jesus, the paying of homage to the new master,
the feudal kiss, like the greetings of the Temple, when all was
yielded without reserve, without shame, or dignity, or even purpose;
the denial of an olden god being grossly aggravated by a seeming
preference for Satan’s back.

It is now his turn to consecrate his priestess. The wooden deity
receives her in the manner of an olden Pan or Priapus. Following the
old pagan form she sits a moment upon him in token of surrender, like
the Delphian seeress on Apollo’s tripod. After receiving the breath of
his spirit, the sacrament of his love, she purifies herself with like
formal solemnity. Thenceforth she is a living altar.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Introit over, the service is interrupted for the feast. Contrary
to the festive fashion of the nobles, who all sit with their swords
beside them, here, in this feast of brethren, are no arms, not even a

As a keeper of the peace, each has a woman with him. Without a woman
no one is admitted. Be she a kinswoman or none, a wife or none; be she
old or young, a woman he must bring with him.

What were the drinks passed round among them? Mead, or beer, or wine;
strong cider or perry? The last two date from the twelfth century.

The illusive drinks, with their dangerous admixture of belladonna, did
they already appear at that board? Certainly not. There were children
there. Besides, an excess of commotion would have prevented the

This whirling dance, the famous _Sabbath-round_, was quite enough to
complete the first stage of drunkenness. They turned back to back,
their arms behind them, not seeing each other, but often touching each
other’s back. Gradually no one knew himself, nor whom he had by his
side. The old wife then was old no more. Satan had wrought a miracle.
She was still a woman, desirable, after a confused fashion beloved.

       *       *       *       *       *

Act Second. Just as the crowd, grown dizzy together, was led, both by
the attraction of the women and by a certain vague feeling of
brotherhood, to imagine itself one body, the service was resumed at
the _Gloria_. The altar, the host, became visible. These were
represented by the woman herself. Prostrate, in a posture of extreme
abasement, her long black silky tresses lost in the dust; she, this
haughty Proserpine, offered up herself. On her back a demon
officiated, saying the _Credo_, and making the offering.[57]

    [57] This important fact of the woman being her own altar, is
    known to us by the trial of La Voisin, which M. Ravaisson,
    Sen., is about to publish with the other _Papers of the

At a later period this scene came to be immodest. But at this time,
amidst the calamities of the fourteenth century, in the terrible days
of the Black Plague, and of so many a famine, in the days of the
Jacquerie and those hateful brigands, the Free Lances,--on a people
thus surrounded by danger, the effect was more than serious. The whole
assembly had much cause to fear a surprise. The risk run by the Witch
in this bold proceeding was very great, even tantamount to the
forfeiting of her life. Nay, more; she braved a hell of suffering, of
torments such as may hardly be described. Torn by pincers, and broken
alive; her breasts torn out; her skin slowly singed, as in the case
of the wizard bishop of Cahors; her body burned limb by limb on a
small fire of red-hot coal, she was like to endure an eternity of

Certainly all were moved when the prayer was spoken, the
harvest-offering made, upon this devoted creature who gave herself up
so humbly. Some wheat was offered to the _Spirit of the Earth_, who
made wheat to grow. A flight of birds, most likely from the woman’s
bosom, bore to the _God of Freedom_ the sighs and prayers of the
serfs. What did they ask? Only that we, their distant descendants,
might become free.[58]

    [58] This grateful offering of wheat and birds is peculiar to
    France. In Lorraine, and no doubt in Germany, black beasts
    were offered, as the black cat, the black goat, or the black

What was the sacrament she divided among them? Not the ridiculous
pledge we find later in the reign of Henry IV., but most likely that
_confarreatio_ which we saw in the case of the philtres, the hallowed
pledge of love, a cake baked on her own body, on the victim who,
perhaps, to-morrow would herself be passing through the fire. It was
her life, her death, they ate there. One sniffs already the scorching

Last of all they set upon her two offerings, seemingly of flesh; two
images, one of _the latest dead_, the other of the newest-born in the
district. These shared in the special virtue assigned to her who acted
as altar and Host in one, and on these the assembly made a show of
receiving the communion. Their Host would thus be threefold, and
always human. Under a shadowy likeness of the Devil the people
worshipped none other than its own self.

The true sacrifice was now over and done. The woman’s work was ended,
when she gave herself up to be eaten by the multitude. Rising from her
former posture, she would not withdraw from the spot until she had
proudly stated, and, as it were, confirmed the lawfulness of her
proceedings by an appeal to the thunderbolt, by an insolent defiance
of the discrowned God.

In mockery of the _Agnus Dei_, and the breaking of the Christian Host,
she brought a toad dressed up, and pulled it to pieces. Then rolling
her eyes about in a frightful way she raised them to heaven, and
beheading the toad, uttered these strange words: “Ah, _Philip_,[59] if
I had you here, you should be served in the same manner!”

    [59] Lancre, 136. Why “Philip,” I cannot say. By Satan Jesus
    is always called John or _Janicot_ (Jack). Was she speaking
    of Philip of Valois, who brought on the wasting hundred
    years’ war with England?

       *       *       *       *       *

No answer being outwardly given to her challenge, no thunderbolt
hurled upon her head, they imagine that she has triumphed over the
Christ. The nimble band of demons seized their moment to astonish the
people with various small wonders which amazed and overawed the more
credulous. The toads, quite harmless in fact, but then accounted
poisonous, were bitten and torn between their dainty teeth. They
jumped over large fires and pans of live coal, to amuse the crowd and
make them laugh at the fires of Hell.

Did the people really laugh after a scene so tragical, so very bold? I
know not. Assuredly there was no laughing on the part of her who first
dared all this. To her these fires must have seemed like those of the
nearest stake. Her business rather lay in forecasting the future of
that devilish monarchy, in creating the Witch to be.



And now the multitude is made free, is of good cheer. For some hours
the serf reigns in short-lived freedom. His time indeed is scant
enough. Already the sky is changing, the stars are going down. Another
moment, and the cruel dawn remits him to his slavery, brings him back
again under hostile eyes, under the shadow of the castle, beneath the
shadow of the church; back again to his monotonous toiling, to the old
unending weariness of heart, governed as it were by two bells, whereof
one keeps saying “Always,” the other “Never.” Anon they will be seen
coming each out of his own house, heavily, humbly, with an air of calm

Let them at least enjoy the one short moment! Let each of these
disinherited, for once fulfil his fancy, for once indulge his musings.
What soul is there so all unhappy, so lost to all feeling, as never to
have one good dream, one fond desire; never to say, “If this would
only happen!”

The only detailed accounts we have, as I said before, are modern,
belonging to a time of peace and well-doing, when France was blooming
afresh, in the latter years of Henry VI., years of thriving luxury,
entirely different from that dark age when the Sabbath was first set

No thanks to Mr. Lancre and others, if we refrain from pourtraying the
Third Act as like the Church-Fair of Rubens, a very miscellaneous
orgie, a great burlesque ball, which allowed of every kind of union,
especially between near kindred. According to those authors, who would
make us groan with horror, the main end of the Sabbath, the explicit
doctrine taught by Satan, was incest; and in those great gatherings,
sometimes of two thousand souls, the most startling deeds were done
before the whole world.

This is hard to believe; and the same writers tell of other things
which seem quite opposed to a view so cynical. They say that people
went to those meetings only in pairs, that they sat down to the feast
by twos, that even if one person came alone, she was assigned a young
demon, who took charge of her, and did the honours of the feast. They
say, too, that jealous lovers were not afraid to go thither in company
with the curious fair.

We also find that the most of them came by families, children and all.
The latter were sent off only during the first act, not during the
feast, nor the services, nor yet while this third act was going on; a
fact which proves that some decency was observed. Moreover, the scene
was twofold. The household groups stayed on the moor in a blaze of
light. It was only beyond the fantastic curtain of torch-smoke that
the darker spaces, where people could roam in all directions, began.

The judges, the inquisitors, for all their enmity, are fain to allow
the existence here of a general spirit of peace and mildness. Of the
three things that startle us in the feasts of nobles, there is not one
here; no swords, no duels, no tables reeking blood. No faithless
gallantries here bring dishonour on some intimate friend. Unknown,
unneeded here, for all they say, is the unclean brotherhood of the
Temple; in the Sabbath, woman is everything.

The question of incest needs explaining. All alliances between
kinsfolk, even those most allowable in the present day, were then
regarded as a crime. The modern law, which is charity itself,
understands the heart of man and the well-being of families.[60] It
allows the widower to marry his wife’s sister, the best mother his
children could have. Above all, it allows a man to wed his cousin,
whom he knows and may trust fully, whom he has loved perhaps from
childhood, his playfellow of old, regarded by his mother with special
favour as already the adopted of her own heart. In the Middle Ages all
this was incestuous.

    [60] Of course the allusion here, as shown in the next
    following sentence, is to French law in particular. As for
    the marriage of cousins, there is much to say on both sides
    of the question.--TRANS.

The peasant being fondest of his own family was driven to despair. It
was a monstrous thing for him to marry a cousin, even in the sixth
degree. It was impossible for him to get married in his own village
where the question of kinship stood so much in his way. He had to look
for a wife elsewhere, afar off. But in those days there was not much
intercourse or acquaintance between different places, and each hated
its own neighbours. On feast days one village would fight another
without knowing the reason why, as may sometimes still be seen in
countries never so thinly peopled. No one durst go seek a wife in the
very spot where men had been fighting together, where he himself would
have been in great danger.

There was another difficulty. The lord of the young serf forbade his
marrying in the next lordship. Becoming the serf of his wife’s lord he
would have been wholly lost to his own. Thus he was debarred by the
priest from his cousin, by the lord from a stranger; and so it
happened that many did not marry at all.

The result was just what they pretended to avoid. In the Sabbath the
natural sympathies sprang forth again. There the youth found again her
whom he had known and loved at first, her whose “little husband” he
had been called at ten years old. Preferring her as he certainly did,
he paid but little heed to canonical hindrances.

When we come to know the Mediæval Family better, we give up believing
the declamatory assumptions of a general mingling together of the
people forming so great a crowd. On the contrary, we feel that each
small group is so closely joined together, as to be utterly barred to
the entrance of a stranger.

The serf was not jealous towards his own kin, but his poverty and
wretchedness made him exceedingly afraid of worsening his lot by
multiplying children whom he could not support. The priest and the
lord on their part wished to increase the number of their
serfs--wanted the woman to be always bearing; and the strangest
sermons were often delivered on this head,[61] varied sometimes with
threats and cruel reproaches. All the more resolute was the prudence
of the man. The woman, poor creature, unable to bear children fit to
live on such conditions, bearing them only to her sorrow, had a horror
of being made big. She never would have ventured to one of these night
festivals without being first assured, again and again, that no woman
ever came away pregnant.[62]

    [61] The ingenious M. Génin has very recently collected the
    most curious information on this point.

    [62] Boguet, Lancre, and other authors, are agreed on this

They were drawn thither by the banquet, the dancing, the lights, the
amusements; in nowise by carnal pleasure. The last thing they cared
for was to heighten their poverty, to bring one more wretch into the
world, to give another serf to their lord.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cruel indeed was the social system of those days. Authority bade men
marry, but rendered marriage nearly impossible, at once by the
excessive misery of most, and the senseless cruelty of the canonical

The result was quite opposed to the purity thus preached. Under a show
of Christianity existed the patriarchate of Asia alone.

Only the firstborn married. The younger brothers and sisters worked
under him and for him. In the lonely farms of the mountains of the
South, far from all neighbours and every woman, brothers and sisters
lived together, the latter serving and in all ways belonging to the
former; a way of life analogous to that in Genesis, to the marriages
of the Parsees, to the customs still obtaining in certain shepherd
tribes of the Himalayas.

The mother’s fate was still more revolting. She could not marry her
son to a kinswoman, and thus secure to herself a kindly-affected
daughter-in-law. Her son married, if he could, a girl from a distant
village, an enemy often, whose entrance proved baneful either to the
children of a former marriage, or to the poor mother, who was often
driven away by the stranger wife. You may not think it, but the fact
is certainly so. At the very least she was ill-used; banished from the
fireside, from the very table.

There is a Swiss law forbidding the removal of the mother from her
place by the chimney-corner.

She was exceedingly afraid of her son’s marrying. But her lot was
little happier if he did not marry. None the less servant was she of
the young master of the house, who succeeded to all his father’s
rights, even to that of beating her. This impious custom I have seen
still followed in the South: a son of five-and-twenty chastising his
mother when she got drunk.

       *       *       *       *       *

How much greater her suffering in those days of savagery! Then it was
rather he who came back from the feast half-drunken, hardly knowing
what he was about. But one room, but one bed, was all they had between
them. She was by no means free from fear. He had seen his friends
married, and felt soured thereat. Thenceforth her way is marked by
tears, by utter weakness, by a woful self-surrender. Threatened by her
only God, her son, heart-broken at finding herself in a plight so
unnatural, she falls desperate. She tries to drown all her memories in
sleep. At length comes an issue for which neither of them can fairly
account, an issue such as nowadays will often happen in the poorer
quarters of large towns, where some poor woman is forced, frightened,
perhaps beaten, into bearing every outrage. Thus conquered, and, spite
of her scruples, far too resigned, she endured thenceforth a pitiable
bondage; a life of shame and sorrow, and abundant anguish, growing
with the yearly widening difference between their several ages. The
woman of six-and-thirty might keep watch over a son of twenty years:
but at fifty, alas! or still later, where would he be? From the great
Sabbath where thronged the people of far villages, he would be
bringing home a strange woman for his youthful mistress, a woman hard,
heartless, devoid of ruth, who would rob her of her son, her seat by
the fire, her bed, of the very house which she herself had made.

To believe Lancre and others, Satan accounted the son for
praiseworthy, if he kept faithful to his mother, thus making a virtue
of a crime. If this be true, we must assume that the woman was
protected by a woman, that the Witch sided with the mother, to defend
her hearth against a daughter-in-law who, stick in hand, would have
sent her forth to beg.

Lancre further maintains that “never was good Witch, but she sprang
from the love of a mother for her son.” In this way, indeed, was born
the Persian soothsayer, the natural fruit, they say, of so hateful a
mystery; and thus the secrets of the magical art were kept confined to
one family which constantly renewed itself.

An impious error led them to imitate the harmless mystery of the
husbandman, the unceasing vegetable round whereby the corn resown in
the furrow, brings forth its corn.

The less monstrous unions of brother with sister, so common in the
East, and in Greece, were cold and rarely fruitful. They were wisely
abandoned; nor would people ever have returned to them, but for that
rebellious spirit which, being aroused by absurd restrictions, flung
itself foolishly into the opposite extreme. Thus from unnatural laws,
hatred begot unnatural customs.

A cruel, an accursed time, a time big with despair!

       *       *       *       *       *

We have been long discoursing; but the dawn is well-nigh come. In a
moment the hour will strike for the spirits to take themselves away.
The Witch feels her dismal flowers already withering on her brow.
Farewell, her royalty, perhaps her life! Where would they be, if the
day still found her there?

Of Satan, what shall she make? A flame, a cinder? He asks for nothing
better; knowing well, in his craftiness, that the only way to live and
to be born again, is first to die.

And will he die, he who as the mighty summoner of the dead, granted to
them that mourn their only joy on earth, the love they had lost, the
dream they had cherished? Ah, no! he is very sure to live.

Will he die, he that mighty spirit who, finding Creation accurst, and
Nature lying cold upon the ground, flung thither like a dirty
foster-child from off the Church’s garment, gathered her up and placed
her on his bosom? In truth it cannot be.

Will he die, he the one great physician of the Middle Ages, of a
world that, falling sick, was saved by his poisons and bidden, poor
fool, to live?

As the gay rogue is sure of living, he dies wholly at his ease. He
shuffles out of himself, cleverly burns up his fine goatskin, and
disappears in a blaze of dawn.

But _she_ who made Satan, who made all things, good or ill, whose
countenance was given to so many forms of love, of devotion, and of
crime,--to what end will she come? Behold her all lonely on her waste

She is not, as they say, the dread of all. Many will bless her. More
than one have found her beautiful, would sell their share in Paradise
to dare be near her. But all around her is a wide gulf. They who
admire, are none the less afraid of this all-powerful Medea, with her
fair deep eyes, and the thrilling adders of her dark overflowing hair.

To her thus lonely for ever, for evermore without love, what is there
left? Nothing but the Demon who had suddenly disappeared.

“’Tis well, good Devil, let us go. I am utterly loath to stay here any
more. Hell itself is far preferable. Farewell to the world!”

She must live but a very little longer, to play out the dreadful drama
she had herself begun. Near her, ready saddled by the obedient Satan,
stood a huge black horse, the fire darting from his eyes and nostrils.
She sprang upon him with one bound.

They follow her with their eyes. The good folk say with alarm, “What
is to become of her?” With a frightful burst of laughter, she goes
off, vanishing swift as an arrow. They would like much to know what
becomes of the poor woman, but that they never will.[63]

    [63] See the end of the Witch of Berkeley, as told by William
    of Malmesbury.




The Devil’s delicate fondling, the lesser Witch, begotten of the Black
Mass after the greater one’s disappearance, came and bloomed in all
her malignant cat-like grace. This woman is quite the reverse of the
other: refined and sidelong in manner, sly and purring demurely, quick
also at setting up her back. There is nothing of the Titan about her,
to be sure. Far from that, she is naturally base; lewd from her cradle
and full of evil daintinesses. Her whole life is the expression of
those unclean thoughts which sometimes in a dream by night may assail
him who would shrink with horror from any such by day.

She who is born with such a secret in her blood, with such instinctive
mastery of evil, she who has looked so far and so low down, will have
no religion, no respect for anything or person in the world; none even
for Satan, since he is a spirit still, while she has a particular
relish for all things material.

In her childhood she spoiled everything. Tall and pretty she startled
all by her slovenly habits. With her Witchcraft becomes a mysterious
cooking up of some mysterious chemistry. From an early date she
delights to handle repulsive things, to-day a drug, to-morrow an
intrigue. Among diseases and love-affairs she is in her element. She
will make a clever go-between, a bold and skilful empiric. War will be
made against her as a fancied murderer, as a woman who deals in
poisons. And yet she has small taste for such things, is far from
murderous in her desires. Devoid of goodness, she yet loves life,
loves to work cures, to prolong others’ lives. She is dangerous in two
ways: on the one hand by selling receipts for barrenness, and even for
abortion; while on the other, her headlong libertine fancy leads her
to compass a woman’s fall with her cursed potions, to triumph in the
wicked deeds of love.

Different, indeed, is this one from the other! She is a manufacturer:
the other was the ungodly one, the demon, the great rebellion, the
wife, we might almost say, the mother of Satan; for out of her and her
inward strength he grew up. But this one is the Devil’s daughter
notwithstanding. Two things she derives from him, her uncleanness, her
love of handling life. These are her allotted walk, in these she is
quite an artist; an artist already trading in her lore, and we are
admitted into the business.

It was said that she would perpetuate herself by the incest from which
she sprang. But she has no need of that: numberless little ones will
she beget without help from another. In less than fifty years, at the
opening of the fifteenth century, under Charles VI., a mighty
contagion was spread abroad. Whoever thought he had any secrets or any
receipts, whoever fancied himself a seer, whoever dreamed and
travelled in his dreams, would call himself a pet of Satan. Every
moonstruck woman adopted the awful name of Witch!

A perilous, profitable name, cast at her in their hatred by people who
alternately insult and implore the unknown power. It is none the less
accepted, nay, is often claimed. To the children who follow her, to
the woman who, with threatening fists, hurl the name at her like a
stone, she turns round, saying proudly, “’Tis true, you have said

The business improves, and men are mingled in it. Hence another fall
for the art. Still the least of the witches retains somewhat of the
Sibyl. Those other frowsy charlatans, those clownish jugglers,
mole-catchers, ratkillers, who throw spells over beasts, who sell
secrets which they have not, defiled these times with the stench of a
dismal black smoke, of fear and foolery. Satan grows enormous, gets
multiplied without end. ’Tis a poor triumph, however, for him. He
grows dull and sick at heart. Still the people keep flowing towards
him, bent on having no other God than he. Himself only is to himself

       *       *       *       *       *

In spite of two or three great discoveries, the fifteenth century is,
to my thinking, none the less a century tired out, a century of few

It opened right worthily with the Sabbath Royal of St. Denis, the wild
and woful ball given by Charles VI. in the abbey so named, to
commemorate the burial of Du Guesclin, which had taken place so many
years before. For three days and nights was Sodom wallowing among the
graves. The foolish king, not yet grown quite an idiot, compelled his
royal forefathers to share in the ball, by making their dry bones
dance in their biers. Death, becoming a go-between whether he would or
no, lent a sharp spur to the voluptuous revel. Then broke out those
unclean fashions of an age when ladies made themselves taller by
wearing the Devil’s horned-bonnet, and gloried in dressing as if they
were all with child.[64] To this fashion they clung for the next forty
years. The younger folk on their side, not to be behind in
shamelessness, eclipsed them in the display of naked charms. The woman
wore Satan on her forehead in the shape of a horned head-dress: on the
feet of the bachelor and the page he was visible in the tapering
scorpion-like tips of their shoes. Under the mask of animals they
represented the lowest side of brute nature. The famous child stealer,
Retz, here took his first flight in villany. The great feudal ladies,
unbridled Jezebels, with less sense of shame in them than the men,
scorned all disguise whatever; displayed themselves with face
uncovered. In their sensual rages, in their mad parade of debauchery,
the king, the whole company might see the bottomless pit itself
yawning for the life, the feeling, the body, and the soul of each.

    [64] Even in a very mystic theme, in a work of such genius as
    the _Lamb_ of Van Eyck (says John of Bruges), all the Virgins
    seem big. It was only the quaint fashion of the fifteenth

Out of such doings come forth the conquered of Agincourt, a poor
generation of effete nobles, in whose miniatures you shiver to see the
falling away of their sorry limbs, as shown through the treacherous
tightness of their clothes.[65]

    [65] This wasting away of a used-up, enervated race, mars the
    effect of all those splendid miniatures of the Court of
    Burgundy, the Duke of Berry, &c. No amount of clever handling
    could make good works of art out of subjects so very

       *       *       *       *       *

Much to be pitied is the Witch who, when the great lady came home from
that royal feast, became her bosom-counsellor and agent charged with
the doing of impossible things.

In her own castle, indeed, the lady is almost, if not all alone,
amidst a crowd of single men. To judge from romances you would think
she delighted in girding herself with an array of fair girls. Far
otherwise are we taught by history and common sense. Eleanor is not
so silly as to match herself against Rosamond. With all their own
rakishness, those queens and great ladies could be frightfully
jealous; witness she who is said by Henry Martin to have caused the
death of a girl admired by her husband, under the outrageous handling
of his soldiery. The power wielded by the lady’s love depends, we
repeat, on her being alone. Whatever her age and figure, she becomes
the dream of all. The Witch takes mischievous delight in making her
abuse her goddesship, in tempting her to make game of the men she
humbles and befools. She goes to all lengths of boldness, even
treating them like very beasts. Look at them being transformed! Down
on all fours they tumble, like fawning monkeys, absurd bears, lewd
dogs, or swine eager to follow their contemptuous Circé.

Her pity rises thereat? Nay, but she grows sick of it all, and kicks
those crawling beasts with her foot. The thing is impure, but not
heinous enough. An absurd remedy is found for her complaint. These
others being so nought, she is to have something yet more
nought--namely, a little sweetheart. The advice is worthy of the
Witch. Love’s spark shall be lighted before its time in some young
innocent, sleeping the pure sleep of childhood! Here you have the ugly
tale of little John of Saintré, pink of cherubim, and other paltry
puppets of the Age of Decay.

Through all those pedantic embellishments and sentimental
moralizings, one clearly marks the vile cruelty that lies below. The
fruit was killed in the flower. Here, in a manner, is the very “eating
of children,” which was laid so often to the Witch’s charge. Anyhow,
she drained their lives. The fair lady who caresses one in so tender
and motherly a way, what is she but a vampire, draining the blood of
the weak? The upshot of such atrocities we may gather from the tale
itself. Saintré becomes a perfect knight, but so utterly frail and
weak as to be dared and defied by the lout of a peasant priest, in
whom the lady, become better advised, has seen something that will
suit her best.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such idle whimsies heighten the surfeit, the mad rage of an empty
mind. Circé among her beasts grows so weary and heartsick that she
would be a beast herself. She fancies herself wild, and locks herself
up. From her tower she casts an evil eye towards the gloomy forest.
She fancies herself a prisoner, and rages like a wolf chained fast.
“Let the old woman come this moment: I want her. Run!” Two minutes
later again: “What! is she not come yet?”

At last she is come. “Hark you: I have a sore longing--invincible, as
you know--to choke you, to drown you, or to give you up to the bishop,
who already claims you. You have but one way of escape, that is, to
satisfy another longing of mine by changing me into a wolf. I feel
wretchedly bored, weary of keeping still. I want, by night at least,
to run free about the forest. Away with stupid servants, with dogs
that stun me with their noise, with clumsy horses that kick out and
shy at a thicket.”

“But if you were caught, my lady----”

“Insolent woman! You would rather die, then?”

“At least you have heard the story of the woman-wolf, whose paw was
cut off.[66] But, oh! how sorry I should be.”

    [66] Among the great ladies imprisoned in their castles, this
    dreadful fancy was not rare. They hungered and thirsted for
    freedom, for savage freedom. Boguet mentions how, among the
    hills of Auvergne, a hunter one night drew his sword upon a
    she-wolf, but missing her, cut off her paw. She fled away
    limping. He came to a neighbouring castle to seek the
    hospitality of him who dwelt there. The gentleman, on seeing
    him, asked if he had had good sport. By way of answer he
    thought to draw out of his pouch the she-wolf’s paw; but what
    was his amazement to find instead of the paw a hand, and on
    one of the fingers a ring, which the gentleman recognized as
    belonging to his wife! Going at once in search of her, he
    found her hurt and hiding her fore-arm. To the arm which had
    lost its hand he fitted that which the hunter had brought
    him, and the lady was fain to own that she it was, who in the
    likeness of a wolf had attacked the hunter, and afterwards
    saved herself by leaving a paw on the battle-field. The
    husband had the cruelty to give her up to justice, and she
    was burnt.

“That is my concern. I will hear nothing more, I am in a hurry--have
been barking already. What happiness, to hunt all by myself in the
clear moonlight; by myself to fasten on the hind, or man likewise if
he comes near me; to attack the tender children, and, above all, to
set my teeth in the women; ay, the women, for I hate them all--not one
like yourself. Don’t start, I won’t bite you--you are not to my taste,
and besides, you have no blood in you! ’Tis blood I crave--blood!”

She can no longer refuse. “Nothing easier, my lady. To-night, at nine
o’clock, you will drink this. Lock yourself up, and then turning into
a wolf, while they think you are still here, you can scour the

It is done; and next morning the lady finds herself worn out and
depressed. In one night she must have travelled some thirty leagues.
She has been hunting and slaying until she is covered with blood. But
the blood, perhaps, comes from her having torn herself among the

A great triumph and danger also for her who has wrought this miracle.
From the lady, however, whose command provoked it, she receives but a
gloomy welcome. “Witch, ’tis a fearful power you have; I should never
have guessed it. But now I fear and dread you. Good cause, indeed,
they have to hate you. A happy day will it be when you are burnt. I
can ruin you when I please. One word of mine about last night, and my
peasants would this evening whet their scythes upon you. Out, you
black-looking, hateful old hag!”

       *       *       *       *       *

The great folk, her patrons, launch her into strange adventures. For
what can she refuse to her terrible protectors, when nothing but the
castle saves her from the priest, from the faggot? If the baron, on
his return from a crusade, being bent on copying the manners of the
Turks, sends for her, and orders her to steal him a few children, what
can she do? Raids such as those grand ones in which two thousand pages
were sometimes carried off from Greek ground to enter the seraglio,
were by no means unknown to the Christians; were known from the tenth
century to the barons of England, at a later date to the knights of
Rhodes and Malta. The famous Giles of Retz, the only one brought to
trial, was punished, not for having stolen his small serfs, a crime
not then uncommon, but for having sacrificed them to Satan. She who
actually stole them, and was ignorant, doubtless, of their future lot,
found herself between two perils: on the one hand the peasant’s fork
and scythe; on the other, those torments which awaited her, when
recusant, within the tower. Retz’s terrible Italian would have made
nothing of pounding her in a mortar.[67]

    [67] See my _History of France_, and still more the learned
    and careful account by the lamented Armand Guéraud: _Notice
    sur Gilles de Rais_, Nantes, 1855. We there find that the
    purveyors of that horrible child’s charnel-house were mostly

On all sides the perils and the profits went together. A position more
frightfully corrupting could not have been found. The Witches
themselves did not deny the absurd powers imputed to them by the
people. They averred that by means of a doll stuck over with needles
they could weave their spells around whomever they pleased, making him
waste away until he died. They averred that mandragora, torn from
beneath the gallows by the teeth of a dog, who invariably died
therefrom, enabled them to pervert the understanding; to turn men into
beasts, to give women over to idiotcy and madness. Still more dreadful
was the furious frenzy caused by the Thorn-apple, or Datura, which
made men dance themselves to death, and go through a thousand shameful
antics, without their own knowledge or remembrance.[68]

    [68] Pouchet, on the _Solaneæ and General Botany_. Nysten,
    _Dictionary of Medicine_, article _Datura_. The robbers
    employed these potions but too often. A butcher of Aix and
    his wife, whom they wanted to rob of their money, were made
    to drink of some such, and became so maddened thereby, that
    they danced all one night naked in a cemetery.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hence there grew up against them a feeling of boundless hatred,
mingled with as extreme a fear. Sprenger, who wrote the _Hammer for
Witches_, relates with horror how, in a season of snow, when all the
roads were broken up, he saw a wretched multitude, wild with terror,
and spell-bound by evils all too real, fill up all the approaches to a
little German town. “Never,” says he, “did you behold so mighty a
pilgrimage to our Lady of Grace, or her of the wilderness. All these
people, who hobbled, crawled, and stumbled among the quagmires, were
on their way to the Witch, to beseech the grace of the Devil upon
themselves. How proud and excited must the old woman have felt at
seeing so large a concourse prostrate before her feet!”[69]

    [69] The Witch delighted in causing the noble and the great
    to undergo the most outrageous trials of their love. We know
    that queens and ladies of rank (in Italy even to the last
    century) held their court at times the most forbidding, and
    exacted the most unpleasant services from their favourites.
    There was nothing too mean, too repulsive, for the domestic
    brute--the _cicisbeo_, the priest, the half-witted page--to
    undergo, in the stupid belief that the power of a philtre
    increased with its nastiness. This was sad enough when the
    ladies were neither young, nor beautiful, nor witty. But what
    of that other astounding fact, that a Witch, who was neither
    a great lady, nor young, nor fair, but poor, and perhaps a
    serf, clad only in dirty rags, could still by her malice, by
    the strange power of her raging lewdness, by some
    bewitchingly treacherous spell, stupefy the gravest
    personages, and abase them to so low a depth? Some monks of a
    monastery on the Rhine, wherein, as in many other German
    convents, none but a noble of four hundred years’ standing
    could gain admission, sorrowfully owned to Sprenger that they
    had seen three of their brethren bewitched in turn, and a
    fourth killed by a woman, who boldly said, “I did it, and
    will do so again: they cannot escape me, for they have
    eaten,” &c. (Sprenger, _Malleus maleficarum_, _quæstio_, vii.
    p. 84.) “The worst of it is,” says Sprenger, “that we have no
    means of punishing or examining her: _so she lives still_.”



The witches took small care to hide their game. Rather they boasted of
it; and it was, indeed, from their own lips that Sprenger picked up
the bulk of the tales that grace his handbook. It is a pedantic work,
marked out into the absurd divisions and subdivisions employed by the
followers of St. Thomas Aquinas; but a work sincere withal, and
frank-spoken, written by a man so thoroughly frightened by this
dreadful duel between God and the Devil, wherein God _generally_
allows the Devil to win, that the only remedy he can discern is to
pursue the latter fire in hand, and burn with all speed those bodies
which he had chosen for his dwelling-place.

Sprenger’s sole merit is the fact of his having written a complete
book, which crowns a mighty system, a whole literature. To the old
_Penitentiaries_, handbooks of confessors for the inquisition of sin,
succeeded the _Directories_ for the inquisition of heresy, the
greatest sin of all. But for Witchcraft, the greatest of all heresies,
special handbooks or directories were appointed. Hammers for Witches,
to wit. These handbooks, continually enriched by the zeal of the
Dominicans, attained perfection in the _Malleus_ of Sprenger, the
book by which he himself was guided during his great mission to
Germany, and which for a century after served as a guide and light for
the courts of the Inquisition.

How was Sprenger led to the study of these things? He tells us that
being in Rome, at a refectory where the monks were entertaining some
pilgrims, he saw two from Bohemia; one a young priest, the other his
father. The father sighing prayed for a successful journey. Touched
with a kindly feeling Sprenger asked him why he sorrowed. Because his
son was _possessed_: at great cost and with much trouble he had
brought him to the tomb of the saints, at Rome.

“Where is this son of yours?” said the monk.

“By your side.”

“At this answer I shrank back alarmed. I scanned the young priest’s
figure, and was amazed to see him eat with so modest an air, and
answer with so much gentleness. He informed me that, on speaking
somewhat sharply to an old woman, she had laid him under a spell, and
that spell was under a tree. What tree? The Witch steadily refused to

Sprenger’s charity led him to take the possessed from church to
church, from relic to relic. At every halting-place there was an
exorcism, followed by furious cries, contortions, jabbering in every
language, and gambols without number: all this before the people, who
followed the pair with shuddering admiration. The devils, so abundant
in Germany, were scarcer among the Italians. For some days Rome talked
of nothing else. The noise made by this affair doubtless brought the
Dominican into public notice. He studied, collected all the _Mallei_,
and other manuscript handbooks, and became a first-rate authority in
the processes against demons. His _Malleus_ was most likely composed
during the twenty years between this adventure and the important
mission entrusted to Sprenger by Pope Innocent VIII., in 1484.

       *       *       *       *       *

For that mission to Germany a clever man was specially needed; a man
of wit and ability, who might overcome the dislike of honest German
folk for the dark system it would be his care to introduce. In the Low
Countries Rome had suffered a rude check, which brought the
Inquisition into vogue there, and consequently closed France against
it: Toulouse alone, as being the old Albigensian country, having
endured the Inquisition. About the year 1460 a Penitentiary[70] of
Rome, being made Dean of Arras, thought to strike an awe-inspiring
blow at the _Chambers of Rhetoric_, literary clubs which had begun to
handle religious questions. He had one of these Rhetoricians burnt for
a wizard, and along with him some wealthy burgesses, and even a few
knights. The nobles were angry at this near approach to themselves:
the public voice was raised in violent outcry. The Inquisition was
cursed and spat upon, especially in France. The Parliament of Paris
roughly closed its doors upon it; and thus by her awkwardness did Rome
lose her opportunity of establishing that Reign of Terror throughout
the North.

    [70] Officer charged with the absolution of

About 1484 the time seemed better chosen. The Inquisition had grown to
so dreadful a height in Spain, setting itself even above the king,
that it seemed already confirmed as a conquering institution, able to
move forward alone, to make its way everywhere, and seize upon
everything. In Germany, indeed, it was hindered by the jealous
antagonism of the spiritual princes, who, having courts of their own,
and holding inquisitions by themselves, would never agree to accept
that of Rome. But the position of these princes towards the popular
movements by which they were then so greatly disquieted, soon rendered
them more manageable. All along the Rhine, and throughout Swabia, even
on the eastern side towards Salzburg, the country seemed to be
undermined. At every moment burst forth some fresh revolt of the
peasantry. A vast underground volcano, an invisible lake of fire,
showed itself, as it were, from place to place, in continual spouts of
flame. More dreaded than that of Germany, the foreign Inquisition
appeared at a most seasonable hour for spreading terror through the
country, and crushing the rebellious spirits, by roasting, as the
wizards of to-day, those who might else have been the insurgents of
to-morrow. It was a beautiful _derivative_, an excellent popular
weapon for putting down the people. This time the storm got turned
upon the Wizards, as in 1349, and on many other occasions it had been
launched against the Jews.

Only the right man was needed. He who should be the first to set up
his judgment-seat in sight of the jealous courts of Mentz and Cologne,
in presence of the mocking mobs of Strazburg or Frankfort, must indeed
be a man of ready wit. He would need great personal cleverness to
atone for, to cause a partial forgetfulness of his hateful mission.
Rome, too, has always plumed herself on choosing the best men for her
work. Caring little for questions, and much for persons, she thought
rightly enough that the successful issue of her affairs depended on
the special character of her several agents abroad. Was Sprenger the
right man? He was a German to begin with, a Dominican enjoying
beforehand the support of that dreaded order through all its convents,
through all its schools. Need was there of a worthy son of the
schools, a good disputant, of a man well skilled in the _Sum_,[71]
grounded firm in his St. Thomas, able at any moment to quote texts.
All this Sprenger certainly was: and best of all, he was a fool.

    [71] A mediæval text-book on theology.--TRANS.

       *       *       *       *       *

“It has been often said that _diabolus_ comes from _dia_, ‘two,’ and
_bolus_, ‘a pill or ball,’ because devouring alike soul and body, he
makes but one pill, one mouthful of the two. But”--he goes on to say
with the gravity of _Sganarelle_--“in Greek etymology _diabolus_ means
‘shut up in a house of bondage,’ or rather ‘flowing down’ (Teufel?),
that is to say, falling, because he fell from heaven.”

Whence comes the word sorcery (_maléfice_)? From _maleficiendo_, which
means _male de fide sentiendo_.[72] A curious etymology, but one that
will hold a great deal. Once trace a resemblance between witchcraft
and evil opinions, and every wizard becomes a heretic, every doubter a
wizard. All who think wrongly can be burnt for wizards. This was done
at Arras; and they long to establish the same rule, little by little,
everywhere else.

    [72] “Thinking ill of the faith.”--TRANS.

Herein lies the once sure merit of Sprenger. A fool, but a fearless
one, he boldly lays down the most unwelcome theses. Others would have
striven to shirk, to explain away, to diminish, the objections that
might be made. Not he, however. From the first page he puts plainly
forward, one by one, the natural manifest reasons for not believing in
the Satanic miracles. To these he coldly adds: “_They are but so many
heretical mistakes_.” And without stopping to refute those reasons, he
copies you out the adverse passages found in the Bible, St. Thomas, in
books of legends, in the canonists, and the scholiasts. Having first
shown you the right interpretation, he grinds it to powder by dint of

He sits down satisfied, calm as a conqueror; seeming to say, “Well,
what say you now? Will you dare use your reason again? Go and doubt
away then; doubt, for instance, that the Devil delights in setting
himself between wife and husband, although the Church and all the
canonists repeatedly admit this reason for a divorce!”

Of a truth this is unanswerable: nobody will breathe so much as a
whisper in reply. Since Sprenger heads his handbook for judges by
declaring the slightest doubt _heretical_, the judge stands bound
accordingly; he feels that he cannot stumble, that if unhappily he
should ever be tempted by an impulse of doubt or humanity, he must
begin by condemning himself and delivering his own body to the flames.

       *       *       *       *       *

The same method prevails everywhere: first the sensible meaning, which
is then confronted openly, without reserve, by the negation of all
good sense. Some one, for instance, might be tempted to say that as
love is in the soul, there is no need to account for it by the
mysterious working of the Devil. That is surely specious, is it not?

“By no means,” says Sprenger.

“I mark a difference. He who cuts wood does not cause it to burn: he
only does so indirectly. The woodcutter is Love; see Denis the
Areopagite, Origen, John of Damascus. Therefore, love is but the
indirect cause of love.”

What a thing, you see, to have studied! No weak school could have
turned out such a man. Only Paris, Louvain, or Cologne, had machinery
fit to mould the human brain. The school of Paris was mighty: for
dog-Latin who can be matched with the _Janotus_ of Gargantua?[73] But
mightier yet was Cologne, glorious queen of darkness, whence Hutten
drew the type of his _Obscuri viri_, that thriving and fruitful race
of obscurantists and ignoramuses.[74]

    [73] A character in Rabelais. “Date nobis clochas nostras,
    &c.”--_Gargantua_, ch. 19.--TRANS.

    [74] Ulrich von Hutten, friend of Luther, and author of the
    witty _Epistolæ obscurorum virorum_.--TRANS.

This massive logician, so full of words, so devoid of meaning, sworn
foe of nature as well as reason, takes his seat with a proud reliance
on his books and gown, on his dirt and dust. On one side of his
judgement-table lies the _Sum_, on the other the _Directory_. Beyond
these he never goes: at all else he only smiles. On such a man as he
there is no imposing: he is not the man to utter anent astrology or
alchemy nonsense not so foolish but that others might be led thereby
to observe truly. And yet Sprenger is a freethinker: he is sceptical
about old receipts! Albert the Great may aver, that some sage in a
spring of water will suffice to raise a storm, but Sprenger only
shakes his head. Sage indeed! Tell that to others, I beg. For all my
little experience, I see herein the craft of One who would put us on
the wrong scent, that cunning Prince of the Air; but he will fare
ill, for he has to deal with a doctor more subtle than the Subtle One

I should have liked to see face to face this wonderful specimen of a
judge, and the people who were brought before him. The creatures that
God might bring together from two different worlds would not be more
unlike, more strange to each other, more utterly wanting in a common
language. The old hag, a skeleton in tatters, with an eye flashing
forth evil things, a being thrice cooked in hell-fire; and the
ill-looking hermit shepherd of the Black Forest or the upper Alpine
wastes--such are the savages offered to the leaden gaze of a
scholarling, to the judgement of a schoolman.

Not long will they let him toil in his judgment-seat. They will tell
all without being tortured. Come the torture will indeed, but
afterwards, by way of complement and crown to the law-procedure. They
explain and relate to order whatever they have done. The Devil is the
Witch’s bedfellow, the shepherd’s intimate friend. She, for her part,
smiles triumphantly, feels a manifest joy in the horror of those

Truly, the old woman is very mad, and equally so the shepherd. Are
they foolish? Not at all, but far otherwise. They are refined, subtle,
skilled in growing herbs, and seeing through walls. Still more clearly
do they see those monumental ass’s ears that overshadow the doctor’s
cap. Clearest of all is the fear he has of them, for in vain does he
try to bear him boldly; he does nought but tremble. He himself owns
that, if the priest who adjures the demon does not take care, the
Devil will change his lodging only to pass into the priest himself,
feeling all the more proud of dwelling in a body dedicated to God. Who
knows but these simple Devils of Witches and shepherds might even
aspire to inhabit an inquisitor? He is far from easy in mind when in
his loudest voice he says to the old woman, “If your master is so
mighty, why do I not feel his blows?”

“And, indeed I felt them but too strongly,” says the poor man in his
book. “When I was in Ratisbon, how often he would come knocking at my
windowpanes! How often he stuck pins in my cap! A hundred visions too
did I have of dogs, monkeys,” &c.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dearest delight of that great logician, the Devil, is, by the
mouth of the seeming old woman, to push the doctor with awkward
arguments, with crafty questions, from which he can only escape by
acting like the fish who saves himself by troubling the water and
turning it black as ink. For instance, “The Devil does no more than
God allows him: why, then, punish his tools?” Or again, “We are not
free. As in the case of Job, the Devil is allowed by God to tempt and
beset us, to urge us on by blows. Should we, then, punish him who is
not free?” Sprenger gets out of that by saying, “We are free beings.”
Here come plenty of texts. “You are made serfs only by covenant with
the Evil One.” The answer to this would be but too ready: “If God
allows the Evil One to tempt us into making covenants, he renders
covenants possible,” &c.

“I am very good,” says he, “to listen to yonder folk. He is a fool who
argues with the Devil.” So say all the rest likewise. They all cheer
the progress of the trial: all are strongly moved, and show in murmurs
their eagerness for the execution. They have seen enough of men
hanged. As for the Wizard and the Witch, ’twill be a curious treat to
see those two faggots crackling merrily in the flames.

The judge has the people on his side, so he is not embarrassed.
According to his _Directory_ three witnesses would be enough. Are not
three witnesses readily found, especially to witness a falsehood? In
every slanderous town, in every envious village teeming with the
mutual hate of neighbours, witnesses abound. Besides, the _Directory_
is a superannuated book, a century old. In that century of light, the
fifteenth, all is brought to perfection. If witnesses are wanting, we
are content with the _public voice_, the general clamour.[75]

    [75] Faustin Hélie, in his learned and luminous _Traité de
    l’Instruction Criminelle_ (vol. i. p. 398), has clearly
    explained the manner in which Pope Innocent III., about 1200,
    suppressed the safeguards theretofore required in any
    prosecution, especially the risk incurred by prosecutors of
    being punished for slander. Instead of these were established
    the dismal processes of _Denunciation and Inquisition_. The
    frightful levity of these latter methods is shown by Soldan.
    Blood was shed like water.

A genuine outcry, born of fear; the piteous cry of victims, of the
poor bewitched. Sprenger is greatly moved thereat. Do not fancy him
one of those unfeeling schoolmen, the lovers of a dry abstraction. He
has a heart: for which very reason he is so ready to kill. He is
compassionate, full of lovingkindness. He feels pity for yon weeping
woman, but lately pregnant, whose babe the witch had smothered by a
look. He feels pity for the poor man whose land she wasted with hail.
He pities the husband, who though himself no wizard, clearly sees his
wife to be a witch, and drags her with a rope round her neck before
Sprenger, who has her burnt.

From a cruel judge escape was sometimes possible; but from our worthy
Sprenger it was hopeless. His humanity is too strong: it needs great
management, a very large amount of ready wit, to avoid a burning at
his hands. One day there was brought before him the plaint of three
good ladies of Strasburg who, at one same hour of the same day, had
been struck by an arm unseen. Ah, indeed! They are fain to accuse a
man of evil aspect, of having laid them under a spell. On being
brought before the inquisitor, the man vows and swears by all the
saints that he knows nothing about these ladies, has never so much as
seen them. The judge is hard of believing: nor tears nor oaths avail
aught with him. His great compassion for the ladies made him
inexorable, indignant at the man’s denials. Already he was rising from
his seat. The man would have been tortured into confessing his guilt,
as the most innocent often did. He got leave to speak, and said: “I
remember, indeed, having struck some one yesterday at the hour named;
but whom? No Christian beings, but only three cats which came
furiously biting at my legs.” The judge, like a shrewd fellow, saw the
whole truth of the matter; the poor man was innocent; the ladies were
doubtless turned on certain days into cats, and the Evil One amused
himself by sending them at the legs of Christian folk, in order to
bring about the ruin of these latter by making them pass for wizards.

A judge of less ability would never have hit upon this. But such a man
was not always to be had. It was needful to have always handy on the
table of the Inquisition a good fool’s guide, to reveal to simple and
inexperienced judges the tricks of the Old Enemy, the best way of
baffling him, the clever and deep-laid tactics employed with such
happy effect by the great Sprenger in his campaigns on the Rhine. To
that end the _Malleus_, which a man was required to carry in his
pocket, was commonly printed in small 18mo, a form at that time
scarce. It would not have been seemly for a judge in difficulties to
open a folio on the table before his audience. But his handbook of
folly he might easily squint at from the corner of his eye, or turn
over its leaves as he held it under the table.

       *       *       *       *       *

This _Malleus_ (or Mallet), like all books of the same class, contains
a singular avowal, namely, that the Devil is gaining ground; in other
words, that God is losing it; that mankind, after being saved by
Christ, is becoming the Devil’s prey. Too clearly indeed does he step
forward from legend to legend. What a way he has made between the time
of the Gospels, when he was only too glad to get into the swine, and
the days of Dante, when, as lawyer and divine, he argues with the
saints, pleads his cause, and by way of closing a successful
syllogism, bears away the soul he was fighting for, saying, with a
triumphant laugh, “You didn’t know that I was a logician!”

In the earlier days of the Middle Ages he waits till the last pangs to
seize the soul and bear it off. Saint Hildegarde, about 1100, thinks
that “_he cannot enter the body of a living man_, for else his limbs
would fly off in all directions: it is but the shadow and the smoke of
the Devil which pass therein.” That last gleam of good sense vanishes
in the twelfth century. In the thirteenth we find a suppliant so
afraid of being caught alive that he has himself watched day and night
by two hundred armed men.

Then begins a period of increasing terror, in which men trust
themselves less and ever less to God’s protection. The Demon is no
longer a stealthy sprite, no longer a thief by night, gliding through
the gloom. He becomes the fearless adversary, the daring ape of
Heaven, who in broad daylight mimics God’s creation under God’s own
sun. Is it the legends tell us this? Nay, it is the greatest of the
doctors. “The Devil,” says Albert the Great, “transforms all living
things.” St. Thomas goes yet further. “All changes that may occur
naturally by means of seeds, can be copied by the Devil.” What an
astounding concession, which coming from the mouth of so grave a
personage, means nothing short of setting up one Creator face to face
with another! “But in things done without the germinal process,” he
adds, “such as the changing of men into beasts or the resurrection of
the dead, there the Devil can do nothing.” Thus to God is left the
smaller part of His work! He may only perform miracles, a kind of
action alike singular and infrequent. But the daily miracle of life is
not for Him alone: His copyist, the Devil, shares with Him the world
of nature!

For man himself, whose weak eyes see no difference between nature as
sprung from God and nature as made by the Devil, here is a world split
in twain! A dreadful uncertainty hangs over everything. Nature’s
innocence is gone. The clear spring, the pale flower, the little bird,
are these indeed of God, or only treacherous counterfeits, snares laid
out for man? Back! all things look doubtful! The better of the two
creations, being suspiciously like the other, becomes eclipsed and
conquered. The shadow of the Devil covers up the day, spreads over all
life. To judge by appearances and the fears of men, he has ceased to
share the world; he has taken it all to himself.

So matters stand in the days of Sprenger. His book teems with saddest
avowals of God’s weakness. “These things,” he says, “are done with
God’s leave.” To permit an illusion so entire, to let people believe
that God is nought and the Devil everything, is more than mere
_permission_; is tantamount to decreeing the damnation of countless
souls whom nothing can save from such an error. No prayers, no
penances, no pilgrimages, are of any avail; nor even, so it is said,
the sacrament of the altar. Strange and mortifying avowal! The very
nuns who have just confessed themselves, declare _while the host is
yet in their mouths_, that even then they feel the infernal lover
troubling them without fear or shame, troubling and refusing to leave
his hold. And being pressed with further questions, they add, through
their tears, that he has a body _because he has a soul_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Manichees of old, and the more modern Albigenses, were charged
with believing in the Power of Evil struggling side by side with Good,
with making the Devil equal to God. Here, however, he is more than
equal; for if God through His holy sacrament has still no power for
good, the Devil certainly seems superior.

I am not surprised at the wondrous sight then offered by the world.
Spain with a darksome fury, Germany with the frightened pedantic rage
certified in the _Malleus_, assail the insolent conqueror through the
wretches in whom he chooses to dwell. They burn, they destroy the
dwellings in which he has taken up his abode. Finding him too strong
for men’s souls, they try to hunt him out of their bodies. But what is
the good of it all? You burn one old woman and he settles himself in
her neighbour. Nay, more; if Sprenger may be trusted, he fastens
sometimes on the exorcising priest, and triumphs over his very judge.

Among other expedients, the Dominicans advised recourse to the
intercession of the Virgin, by a continual repeating of the _Ave
Maria_. Sprenger, for his part, always averred that such a remedy was
but a momentary one. You might be caught between two prayers. Hence
came the invention of the rosary, the chaplet of beads, by means of
which any number of aves might be mumbled through, whilst the mind was
busied elsewhere. Whole populations adopted this first essay of an art
thereafter to be used by Loyola in his attempt to govern the world, an
art of which his _Exercises_ furnish the ingenious groundwork.

       *       *       *       *       *

All this seems opposed to what was said in the foregoing chapter as to
the decline of Witchcraft. The Devil is now popular and everywhere
present. He seems to have come off conqueror: but has he gained by
his victory? What substantial profit has he reaped therefrom?

Much, as beheld in his new phase of a scientific rebellion which is
about to bring forth the bright Renaissance. None, if beheld under his
old aspect, as the gloomy Spirit of Witchcraft. The stories told of
him in the sixteenth century, if more numerous, more widespread than
ever, readily swing towards the grotesque. People tremble, but they
laugh withal.[76]

    [76] See my _Memoirs of Luther_, concerning the Kilcrops, &c.



The Church forfeited the wizard’s property to the judge and the
prosecutor. Wherever the Canon Law was enforced the trials for
witchcraft waxed numerous, and brought much wealth to the clergy.
Wherever the lay tribunals claimed the management of these trials they
grew scarce and disappeared, at least for a hundred years in France,
from 1450 to 1550.

The first gleam of light shot forth from France in the middle of the
fifteenth century. The inquiry made by Parliament into the trial of
Joan of Arc, and her after reinstalment, set people thinking on the
intercourse of spirits, good and bad; on the errors, also, of the
spiritual courts. She whom the English, whom the greatest doctors of
the Council of Basil pronounced a Witch, appeared to Frenchmen a saint
and sibyl. Her reinstalment proclaimed to France the beginning of an
age of toleration. The Parliament of Paris likewise reinstalled the
alleged Waldenses of Arras. In 1498 it discharged as mad one who was
brought before it as a wizard. None such were condemned in the reigns
of Charles VIII., Louis XII., and Francis I.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the contrary, Spain, under the pious Isabella (1506) and the
Cardinal Ximenes, began burning witches. In 1515, Geneva, being then
under a Bishop, burned five hundred in three months. The Emperor
Charles V., in his German Constitutions, vainly sought to rule, that
“Witchcraft, as causing damage to goods and persons, is a question for
_civil_, not ecclesiastic law.” In vain did he do away the right of
confiscation, except in cases of treason. The small prince-bishops,
whose revenues were largely swelled by trials for witchcraft, kept on
burning at a furious rate. In one moment, as it were, six hundred
persons were burnt in the infinitesimal bishopric of Bamberg, and nine
hundred in that of Wurtzburg. The way of going to work was very
simple. Begin by using torture against the witnesses; create witnesses
for the prosecution by means of pain and terror; then, by dint of
excessive kindliness, draw from the accused a certain avowal, and
believe that avowal in the teeth of proven facts. A witch, for
instance, owns to having taken from the graveyard the body of an
infant lately dead, that she might use it in her magical compounds.
Her husband bids them go the graveyard, for the child is there still.
On being disinterred, the child is found all right in his coffin. But
against the witness of his own eyes the judge pronounces it _an
appearance_, a cheat of the Devil. He prefers the wife’s confession to
the fact itself; and she is burnt forthwith.[77]

    [77] For this and other facts regarding Germany, see Soldan.

So far did matters go among these worthy prince-bishops, that after a
while, Ferdinand II., the most bigoted of all emperors, the emperor of
the Thirty Years’ War, was fain to interfere, to set up at Bamberg an
imperial commissary, who should maintain the law of the empire, and
see that the episcopal judge did not begin the trial with tortures
which settled it beforehand, which led straight to the stake.

       *       *       *       *       *

Witches were easily caught by their confessions, sometimes without the
torture. Many of them were half mad. They would own to turning
themselves into beasts. The Italian women often became cats, and
gliding under the doors, sucked, they said, the blood of children. In
the land of mighty forests, in Lorraine and on the Jura, the women, of
their own accord, became wolves, and, if you could believe them,
devoured the passers by, even when nobody had passed by. They were
burnt. Some girls, who swore they had given themselves to the Devil,
were found to be maidens still. They, too, were burnt. Several seemed
in a great hurry, as if they wanted to be burnt. Sometimes it happened
from raging madness, sometimes from despair. An Englishwoman being led
to the stake, said to the people, “Do not blame my judges. I wanted to
put an end to my own self. My parents kept aloof from me in their
dread. My husband had disowned me. I could not have lived on without
disgrace. I longed for death, and so I told a lie.”

The first words of open toleration against silly Sprenger, his
frightful Handbook, and his Inquisitors, were spoken by Molitor, a
lawyer of Constance. He made this sensible remark, that the
confessions of witches should not be taken seriously, because it was
the very Father of Lies who spoke by their mouths. He laughed at the
miracles of Satan, affirming them to be all illusory. In an indirect
way, such jesters as Hutten and Erasmus dealt violent blows at the
Inquisition, through their satires on the Dominican idiots. Cardan[78]
said, straightforwardly, “In order to obtain forfeit property, the
same persons acted as accusers and judges, and invented a thousand
stories in proof.”

    [78] A famous Italian physician, who lived through the
    greater part of the sixteenth century.--TRANS.

That apostle of toleration, Chatillon, who maintained against
Catholics and Protestants both, that heretics should not be burnt,
though he said nothing about wizards, put men of sense in a better
way. Agrippa,[79] Lavatier, above all, Wyer[80]] the illustrious
physician of Clèves, rightly said that if those wretched witches were
the Devil’s plaything, we must lay the blame on the Devil, not on
them; must cure, instead of burning them. Some physicians of Paris
soon pushed incredulity so far as to maintain that the possessed and
the witches were simply knaves. This was going too far. Most of them
were sufferers under the sway of an illusion.

    [79] Cornelius Agrippa, of Cologne, born in 1486, sometime
    Secretary of the Emperor Maximilian, and author of two works
    famous in their day, _Vanity of the Sciences_, and _Occult

    [80] A friend of Sir Philip Sydney, who sent for him when

The dark reign of Henry II. and Diana of Poitiers ends the season of
toleration. Under Diana, they burn heretics and wizards again. On the
other hand, Catherine of Medici, surrounded as she was by astrologers
and magicians, would have protected the latter. Their numbers
increased amain. The wizard Trois-Echelles, who was tried in the reign
of Charles IX., reckons them at a hundred thousand, declaring all
France to be one Witch.

Agrippa and others affirm, that all science is contained in magic. In
white magic undoubtedly. But the fears of fools and their fanatic
rage, put little difference between them. In spite of Wyer, in spite
of those true philosophers, Light and Toleration, a strong reaction
towards darkness set in from a quarter whence it was least expected.
Our magistrates, who for nearly a century, had shown themselves
enlightened and fair-dealing, now threw themselves into the Spanish
Catholicon[81] and the fury of the Leaguists,[82] until they waxed
more priest-like than the priests themselves. While scouting the
Inquisition from France, they matched, and well-nigh eclipsed it by
their own deeds: the Parliament of Toulouse alone sending four hundred
human bodies at one time to the stake. Think of the horror, the black
smoke of all that flesh, of the frightful melting and bubbling of the
fat amidst those piercing shrieks and yells! So accursed, so sickening
a sight had not been seen, since the Albigenses were broiled and

    [81] Catholicon, or purgative panacea: _i. e._ the

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

    [85] For a more detailed account of these Basque Witches, the
    English reader may turn to Wright’s _Narratives of Sorcery
    and Magic_. Bentley, 1851.--TRANS.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [86] Massée, _Chronique du Monde_, 1540; and the Chroniclers
    of Hainault, &c.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

    [88] The Brethren of the Oratory, founded at Rome in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In her better moments she was gentle and obedient.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [98] A woman named Hammon, of low birth, who entered the
    service, and rose high in the good graces of Mary of Medici.
    See Dumas’ _Celebrated Crimes_.--TRANS.

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

    [100] Esprit de Bosroger, p. 135.

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [105] See Floquet; _Parliament of Normandy_, vol. v. p. 636.

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

    [107] The great plague of 1720, which carried off 60,000
    people about Marseilles. Belzunce is the “Marseilles’ good
    bishop” of Pope’s line--TRANS.

    [108] See “The Proceedings in the Affair of Father Girard and
    La Cadière,” Aix, 1733.

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [110] A case of mesmerism applied to a very susceptible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

These were scarcely hidden from her at all. But as nothing came to
Cadière save by the way of spiritual insight, she fancied they had
been told her in a revelation. Here her kindliness shone out. She felt
a large compassion for the God who was thus outraged. And once again
she imagined herself bound to atone for the rest, to save the sinners
from the punishment they deserved, by draining herself the worst
cruelties which the rage of devils would have power to wreak.

All this burst upon her on the 25th June, the Feast of St. John. She
was spending the evening with the sisters in the novices’ rooms. With
a loud cry she fell backward in contortions, and lost all

When she came to, the novices surrounded her, waiting eager to hear
what she was going to say. But the governess, Madame Lescot, guessed
what she would say, felt that she was about to ruin herself. So she
lifted her up, and led her straight to her room, where she found
herself quite flayed, and her linen covered with blood.

Why did Girard fail her amidst these struggles inward and from
without? She could not make him out. She had much need of support, and
yet he never came, except for one moment at rare intervals, to the

She wrote to him on the 28th June, by her brothers; for though she
could read, she was scarcely able to write. She called to him in the
most stirring, the most urgent tones, and he answers by putting her
off. He has to preach at Hyères, he has a sore throat, and so on.

Wonderful to tell, it is the abbess herself who brings him thither. No
doubt she was uneasy at Cadière’s discovering so much of the inner
life of the convent. Making sure that the girl would talk of it to
Girard, she wished to forestal her. In a very flattering and tender
note of the 3rd July, she besought the Jesuit to come and see herself
first, for she longed, between themselves, to be his pupil, his
disciple, as humble Nicodemus had been of Christ. “Under your
guidance, by the blessing of that holy freedom which my post ensures
me, I should move forward swiftly and noiselessly in the path of
virtue. The state of our young candidate here will serve me as a fair
and useful pretext.”

A startling, ill-considered step, betraying some unsoundness in the
lady’s mind. Having failed to supplant Girard with Cadière, she now
essayed to supplant Cadière with Girard. Abruptly, without the least
preface, she stepped forward. She made her decision, like a great
lady, who was still agreeable and quite sure of being taken at her
word, who would go so far as even to talk of the _freedom_ she

In taking so false a step she started from a true belief that Girard
had ceased to care much for Cadière. But she might have guessed that
he had other things to perplex him in Toulon. He was disturbed by an
affair no longer turning upon a young girl, but on a lady of ripe age,
easy circumstances, and good standing; on his wisest penitent, Mdlle.
Gravier. Her forty years failed to protect her. He would have no
self-governed sheep in his fold. One day, to her surprise and
mortification, she found herself pregnant, and loud was her wail

Taken up with this new adventure, Girard looked but coldly on the
abbess’s unforeseen advances. He mistrusted them as a trap laid for
him by the Observantines. He resolved to be cautious, saw the abbess,
who was already embarrassed by her rash step, and then saw Cadière,
but only in the chapel where he confessed her.

The latter was hurt by his want of warmth. In truth his conduct showed
strange inconsistencies. He unsettled her with his light, agreeable
letters, full of little sportive threats which might have been called
lover-like. And yet he never deigned to see her save in public.

In a note written the same evening she revenged herself in a very
delicate way. She said that when he granted her absolution, she felt
wonderfully dissevered both from herself and from _every other

It was just what Girard would have wanted. His plots had fallen into a
sad tangle, and Cadière was in the way. Her letter enchanted him: far
from being annoyed with her, he enjoined her to keep dissevered. At
the same time, he hinted at the need he had for caution. He had
received a letter, he said, warning him sharply of her faults.
However, as he would set off on the 6th July for Marseilles, he would
see her on the road.

She awaited him, but no Girard came. Her agitation was very great. It
brought on a sharp fit of her old bodily distemper. She spoke of it to
her dear Sister Raimbaud, who would not leave her, who slept with her,
against the rules. This was on the night of the 6th July, when the
heat in that close oven of Ollioules was most oppressive and
condensed. At four or five o’clock, seeing her writhe in sharp
suffering, the other “thought she had the colic, and went to fetch
some fire from the kitchen.” While she was gone, Cadière tried by one
last effort to bring Girard to her side forthwith. Whether with her
nails she had re-opened the wounds in her head, or whether she had
stuck upon it the sharp iron crown, she somehow made herself all
bloody. The pain transfigured her, until her eyes sparkled again.

This lasted not less than two hours. The nuns flocked to see her in
this state, and gazed admiringly. They would even have brought their
Observantines thither, had Cadière not prevented them.

The abbess would have taken good care to tell Girard nothing, lest he
should see her in a plight so touching, so very pitiful. But good
Madame Lescot comforted the girl by sending the news to the father. He
came, but like a true juggler, instead of going up to her room at
once, had himself an ecstatic fit in the chapel, staying there a whole
hour on his knees, prostrate before the Holy Sacrament. Going at
length upstairs, he found Cadière surrounded by all the nuns. They
tell him how for a moment she looked as if she was at mass, how she
seemed to open her lips to receive the Host. “Who should know that
better than myself?” said the knave. “An angel had told me. I repeated
the mass, and gave her the sacrament from Toulon.” They were so upset
by the miracle, that one of them was two days ill. Girard then
addressed Cadière with unseemly gaiety: “So, so, little glutton! would
you rob me of half my share?”

They withdraw respectfully, leaving these two alone. Behold him face
to face with his bleeding victim, so pale, so weak, but agitated all
the more! Anyone would have been greatly moved. The avowal expressed
by her blood, her wounds, rather than spoken words, was likely to
reach his heart. It was a humbling sight; but who would not have
pitied her? This innocent girl could for one moment yield to nature!
In her short unhappy life, a stranger as she was to the charms of
sense, the poor young saint could still show one hour of weakness! All
he had hitherto enjoyed of her without her knowledge, became mere
nought. With her soul, her will, he would now be master of everything.

In her deposition Cadière briefly and bashfully said that she lost all
knowledge of what happened next. In a confession made to one of her
friends she uttered no complaints, but let her understand the truth.

And what did Girard do in return for so charmingly bold a flight of
that impatient heart? He scolded her. He was only chilled by a warmth
which would have set any other heart on fire. His tyrannous soul
wanted nothing but the dead, the merest plaything of his will. And
this girl, by the boldness of her first move, had forced him to come.
The scholar had drawn the master along. The peevish pedant treated the
matter as he would have treated a rebellion at school. His lewd
severities, his coolly selfish pursuit of a cruel pleasure, blighted
the unhappy girl, who now had nothing left her but remorse.

It was no less shocking a fact, that the blood poured out for his sake
had no other effect than to tempt him to make the most of it for his
own purposes. In this, perhaps his last, interview he sought to make
so far sure of the poor thing’s discretion, that, however forsaken by
him, she herself might still believe in him. He asked if he was to be
less favoured than the nuns who had seen the miracle. She let herself
bleed before him. The water with which he washed away the blood he
drank himself,[113] and made her drink also, and by this hateful
communion, he thought to bind fast her soul.

    [113] This communion of blood prevailed among the Northern
    _Reiters_. See my _Origines_.

This lasted two or three hours, and it was now near noon. The abbess
was scandalized. She resolved to go with the dinner herself, and make
them open the door. Girard took some tea: it being Friday, he
pretended to be fasting; though he had doubtless armed himself well at
Toulon. Cadière asked for coffee. The lay sister who managed the
kitchen was surprised at this on such a day. But without that
strengthening draught she would have fainted away. It set her up a
little, and she kept hold of Girard still. He stayed with her, no
longer indeed locked in, till four o’clock, seeking to efface the
gloomy impression caused by his conduct in the morning. By dint of
lying about friendship and fatherhood, he somewhat reassured the
susceptible creature, and calmed her troubled spirits. She showed him
the way out, and, walking after him, took, childlike, two or three
skips for joy. He said, drily, “Little fool!”

       *       *       *       *       *

She paid heavily for her weakness. At nine of that same night she had
a dreadful vision, and was heard crying out, “O God! keep off from me!
get back!” On the morning of the 8th, at mass she did not stay for the
communion, deeming herself, no doubt, unworthy, but made her escape
to her own room. Thereon arose much scandal. Yet so greatly was she
beloved, that one of the nuns ran after her, and, telling a
compassionate falsehood, swore she had beheld Jesus giving her the
sacrament with His own hand.

Madame Lescot delicately and cleverly wrote a legend out of the mystic
ejaculations, the holy sighs, the devout tears, and whatever else
burst forth from this shattered heart. Strange to say, these women
tenderly conspired to shield a woman. Nothing tells more than this in
behalf of poor Cadière and her delightful gifts. Already in one
month’s time she had become the child of all. They defended her in
everything she did. Innocent though she might be, they saw in her only
the victim of the Devil’s attacks. One kind sturdy woman of the
people, Matherone, daughter of the Ollioules locksmith, and porteress
herself to the convent, on seeing some of Girard’s indecent liberties,
said, in spite of them, “No matter: she is a saint.” And when he once
talked of taking her from the convent, she cried out, “Take away our
Mademoiselle Cadière! I will have an iron door made to keep her from

Alarmed at the state of things, and at the use to which it might be
turned by the abbess and her monks, Cadière’s brethren who came to her
every day, took courage to be beforehand; and in a formal letter
written in her name to Girard, reminded him of the revelation given
to her on the 25th June regarding the morals of the Observantines. It
was time, they said, “to carry out God’s purposes in this matter,”
namely, of course, to demand an inquiry, to accuse the accusers.

Their excess of boldness was very rash. Cadière, now all but dying,
had no such thoughts in her head. Her women-friends imagined that he
who had caused the disturbance would, perhaps, bring back the calm.
They besought Girard to come and confess her. A dreadful scene took
place. At the confessional she uttered cries and wailings audible
thirty paces off. The curious among them found some amusement
listening to her, and were not disappointed. Girard was inflicting
chastisement. Again and again he said, “Be calm, mademoiselle!” In
vain did he try to absolve her. She would not be absolved. On the
12th, she had so sharp a pang below her heart, that she felt as though
her sides were bursting. On the 14th, she seemed fast dying, and her
mother was sent for. She received the viaticum; and on the morrow made
a public confession, “the most touching, the most expressive that had
ever been heard. We were drowned in tears.” On the 20th, she was in a
state of heart-rending agony. After that she had a sudden and saving
change for the better, marked by a very soothing vision. She beheld
the sinful Magdalen pardoned, caught up into glory, filling in heaven
the place which Lucifer had lost.

Girard, however, could only ensure her discretion by corrupting her
yet further, by choking her remorse. Sometimes he would come to the
parlour and greet her with bold embraces. But oftener he sent his
faithful followers, Guiol and others, who sought to initiate her into
their own disgraceful secrets, while seeming to sympathise tenderly
with the sufferings of their outspoken friend. Girard not only winked
at this, but himself spoke freely to Cadière of such matters as the
pregnancy of Mdlle. Gravier. He wanted her to ask him to Ollioules, to
calm his irritation, to persuade him that such a circumstance might be
a delusion of the Devil’s causing, which could perchance be dispelled.

These impure teachings made no way with Cadière. They were sure to
anger her brethren, to whom they were not unknown. The letters they
wrote in her name are very curious. Enraged at heart and sorely
wounded, accounting Girard a villain, but obliged to make their sister
speak of him with respectful tenderness, they still, by snatches, let
their wrath become visible.

As for Girard’s letters, they are pieces of laboured writing,
manifestly meant for the trial which might take place. Let us talk of
the only one which he did not get into his hands to tamper with. It is
dated the 22nd July. It is at once sour and sweet, agreeable,
trifling, the letter of a careless man. The meaning of it is thus:--

“The bishop reached Toulon this morning, and will go to see
Cadière.... They will settle together what to do and say. If the Grand
Vicar and Father Sabatier wish to see her, and ask to see her wounds,
she will tell them that she has been forbidden to do or say aught.

“I am hungering to see you again, to see the whole of you. You know
that I only demand _my right_. It is so long since I have seen more
than half of you (he means to say, at the parlour grating). Shall I
tire you? Well, do you not also tire me?” And so on.

A strange letter in every way. He distrusts alike the bishop and the
Jesuit, his own colleague, old Sabatier. It is at bottom the letter of
a restless culprit. He knows that in her hands she holds his letters,
his papers, the means, in short, of ruining him. The two young men
write back in their sister’s name a spirited answer--the only one that
has a truthful sound. They answer him line for line, without insult,
but with a roughness often ironical, and betraying the wrath pent-up
within them. The sister promises to obey him, to say nothing either to
the bishop or the Jesuit. She congratulates him on having “boldness
enough to exhort others to suffer.” She takes up and returns him his
shocking gallantry, but in a shocking way; and here we trace a man’s
hand, the hand of those two giddy heads.

Two days after, they went and told her to decide on leaving the
convent forthwith. Girard was dismayed. He thought his papers would
disappear with her. The greatness of his terror took away his senses.
He had the weakness to go and weep at the Ollioules parlour, to fall
on his knees before her, and ask her if she had the heart to leave
him. Touched by his words, the poor girl said “No,” went forward, and
let him embrace her. And yet this Judas wanted only to deceive her, to
gain a few days’ time for securing help from a higher quarter.

On the 29th there is an utter change. Cadière stays at Ollioules, begs
him to excuse her, vows submission. It is but too clear that he has
set some mighty influences at work; that from the 29th threats come
in, perhaps from Aix, and presently from Paris. The Jesuit bigwigs
have been writing, and their courtly patrons from Versailles.

In such a struggle, what were the brethren to do? No doubt they took
counsel with their chiefs, who would certainly warn them against
setting too hard on Girard as a _libertine confessor_; for thereby
offence would be given to all the clergy, who deemed confession their
dearest prize. It was needful, on the contrary; to sever him from the
priests by proving the strangeness of his teaching, by bringing him
forward as a _Quietist_. With that one word they might lead him a long
way. In 1698, a vicar in the neighbourhood of Dijon had been burnt for
Quietism. They conceived the idea of drawing up a memoir, dictated
apparently by their sister, to whom the plan was really unknown, in
which the high and splendid Quietism of Girard should be affirmed,
and therefore in effect denounced. This memoir recounted the visions
she had seen in Lent. In it the name of Girard was already in heaven.
She saw it joined with her own in the Book of Life.

They durst not take this memoir to the bishop. But they got their
friend, little Camerle, his youthful chaplain, to steal it from them.
The bishop read it, and circulated some copies about the town. On the
21st August, Girard being at the palace, the bishop laughingly said to
him, “Well, father, so your name is in the Book of Life!”

He was overcome, fancied himself lost, wrote to Cadière in terms of
bitter reproach. Once more with tears he asked for his papers. Cadière
in great surprise vowed that her memoir had never gone out of her
brother’s hands. But when she found out her mistake, her despair was
unbounded. The sharpest pangs of body and soul beset her. Once she
thought herself on the point of death. She became like one mad. “I
long so much to suffer. Twice I caught up the rod of penance, and
wielded it so savagely as to draw a great deal of blood.” In the midst
of this dreadful outbreak, which proved at once the weakness of her
head and the boundless tenderness of her conscience, Guiol finished
her by describing Girard as nearly dead. This raised her compassion to
the highest pitch.

She was going to give up the papers. And yet it was but too clear
that these were her only safeguard and support, the only proofs of her
innocence, and the tricks of which she had been made the victim. To
give them up was to risk a change of characters, to risk the
imputation of having herself seduced a saint, the chance, in short, of
seeing all the blame transferred to her own side.

But, if she must either be ruined herself or else ruin Girard, she
would far sooner accept the former result. A demon, Guiol of course,
tempted her in this very way, with the wondrous sublimity of such a
sacrifice. God, she wrote, asked of her a bloody offering. She could
tell her of saints who, being accused, did not justify, but rather
accused themselves, and died like lambs. This example Cadière
followed. When Girard was accused before her, she defended him,
saying, “He is right, and I told a falsehood.”

She might have yielded up the letters of Girard only; but in so great
an outflowing of heart she would have no haggling, and so gave him
even copies of her own.

Thus at the same time he held these drafts written by the Jacobin, and
the copies made and sent him by the other brother. Thenceforth he had
nothing to fear: no further check could be given him. He might make
away with them or put them back again; might destroy, blot out, and
falsify at pleasure. He was perfectly free to carry on his forger’s
work, and he worked away to some purpose. Out of twenty-four letters,
sixteen remain; and these still read like elaborately forged

With everything in his own hands, Girard could laugh at his foes. It
was now their turn to be afraid. The bishop, a man of the upper world,
was too well acquainted with Versailles and the name won by the
Jesuits not to treat them with proper tenderness. He even thought it
safest to make Girard some small amends for his unkind reproach about
The Book of Life; and so he graciously informed him that he would like
to stand godfather to the child of one of his kinsmen.

The Bishops of Toulon had always been high lords. The list of them
shows all the first names of Provence, and some famous names from
Italy. From 1712 to 1737, under the Regency and Fleury, the bishop was
one of the La Tours of Pin. He was very rich, having also the Abbeys
of Aniane and St. William of the Desert, in Languedoc. He behaved
well, it was said, during the plague of 1721. However, he stayed but
seldom at Toulon, lived quite as a man of the world, never said mass,
and passed for something more than a lady’s man.

In July he went to Toulon, and though Girard would have turned him
aside from Ollioules and Cadière, he was curious to see her
nevertheless. He saw her in one of her best moments. She took his
fancy, seemed to him a pretty little saint; and so far did he believe
in her enlightenment from above, as to speak to her thoughtlessly of
all his affairs, his interests, his future doings, consulting her as
he would have consulted a teller of fortunes.

In spite, however, of the brethren’s prayers he hesitated to take her
away from Ollioules and from Girard. A means was found of resolving
him. A report was spread about Toulon, that the girl had shown a
desire to flee into the wilderness, as her model saint, Theresa, had
essayed to do at twelve years old. Girard, they said, had put this
fancy into her head, that he might one day carry her off beyond the
diocese whose pride she was, and box-up his treasure in some far
convent, where the Jesuits, enjoying the whole monopoly, might turn to
the most account her visions, her miracles, her winsome ways as a
young saint of the people. The bishop felt much hurt. He instructed
the abbess to give Mdlle. Cadière up to no one save her mother, who
was certain to come very shortly and take her away from the convent to
a country-house belonging to the family.

In order not to offend Girard, they got Cadière to write and say that,
if such a change incommoded him, he could find a colleague and give
her a second confessor. He saw their meaning, and preferred disarming
jealousy by abandoning Cadière. He gave her up on the 15th September,
in a note most carefully worded and piteously humble, by which he
strove to leave her friendly and tender towards himself. “If I have
sometimes done wrong as concerning you, you will never at least forget
how wishful I have been to help you.... I am, and ever will be, all
yours in the Secret Heart of Jesus.”

The bishop, however, was not reassured. He fancied that the three
Jesuits, Girard, Sabatier, and Grignet, wanted to beguile him, and
some day, with some order from Paris, rob him of his little woman. On
the 17th September, he decided once for all to send his carriage, a
light fashionable _phaeton_, as it was called, and have her taken off
at once to her mother’s country-house.

By way of soothing and shielding her, of putting her in good trim, he
looked out for a confessor, and applied first to a Carmelite who had
confessed her before Girard came. But he, being an old man, declined.
Some others also probably hung back. The bishop had to take a
stranger, but three months come from the County (Avignon), one Father
Nicholas, prior of the Barefooted Carmelites. He was a man of forty,
endowed with brains and boldness, very firm and even stubborn. He
showed himself worthy of such a trust by rejecting it. It was not the
Jesuits he feared, but the girl herself. He foreboded no good
therefrom, thought that the angel might be an angel of darkness, and
feared that the Evil One under the shape of a gentle girl would deal
his blows with all the more baleful effect.

But he could not see her without feeling somewhat reassured. She
seemed so very simple, so pleased at length to have a safe, steady
person, on whom she might lean. The continual wavering in which she
had been kept by Girard, had caused her the greatest suffering. On the
first day she spoke more than she had done for a month past, told him
of her life, her sufferings, her devotions, and her visions. Night
itself, a hot night in mid-September, did not stop her. In her room
everything was open, the windows, and the three doors. She went on
even to daybreak, while her brethren lay near her asleep. On the
morrow she resumed her tale under the vine-bower. The Carmelite was
amazed, and asked himself if the Devil could ever be so earnest in
praise of God.

Her innocence was clear. She seemed a nice obedient girl, gentle as a
lamb, frolicsome as a puppy. She wanted to play at bowls, a common
game in those country-places, nor did he for his part refuse to join

If there was a spirit in her, it could not at any rate be called the
spirit of lying. On looking at her closely for a long time, you could
not doubt that her wounds now and then did really bleed. He took care
to make no such immodest scrutiny of them as Girard had done,
contenting himself with a look at the wound upon her foot. Of her
trances he saw quite enough. On a sudden, a burning heat would diffuse
itself everywhere from her heart. Losing her consciousness, she went
into convulsions and talked wildly.

The Carmelite clearly perceived that in her were two persons, the
young woman and the Demon. The former was honest, nay, very fresh of
heart; ignorant, for all that had been done to her; little able to
understand the very things that had brought her into such sore
trouble. When, before confession, she spoke of Girard’s kisses, the
Carmelite roughly said, “But those are very great sins.”

“O God!” she answered, weeping, “I am lost indeed, for he has done
much more than that to me!”

The bishop came to see. For him the country-house was only the length
of a walk. She answered his questions artlessly, told him at least how
things began. The bishop was angry, mortified, very wroth. No doubt he
guessed the remainder. There was nought to keep him from raising a
great outcry against Girard. Not caring for the danger of a struggle
with the Jesuits, he entered thoroughly into the Carmelite’s views,
allowed that she was bewitched, and added that _Girard himself was the
wizard_. He wanted to lay him that very moment under a solemn ban, to
bring him to disgrace and ruin. Cadière prayed for him who had done
her so much wrong; vengeance she would not have. Falling on her knees
before the bishop, she implored him to spare Girard, to speak no more
of things so sorrowful. With touching humility, she said, “It is
enough for me to be enlightened at last, to know that I was living in
sin.” Her Jacobin brother took her part, foreseeing the perils of such
a war, and doubtful whether the bishop would stand fast.

Her attacks of disorder were now fewer. The season had changed. The
burning summer was over. Nature at length showed mercy. It was the
pleasant month of October. The bishop had the keen delight of feeling
that she had been saved by him. No longer under Girard’s influence in
the stifling air of Ollioules, but well cared-for by her family, by
the brave and honest monk, protected, too, by the bishop, who never
grudged his visits, and who shielded her with his steady countenance,
the young girl became altogether calm.

For seven weeks or so she seemed quite well-behaved. The bishop’s
happiness was so great that he wanted the Carmelite, with Cadière’s
help, to look after Girard’s other penitents, and bring them also back
to their senses. They should go to the country-house; how unwillingly,
and with how ill a grace we can easily guess. In truth, it was
strangely ill-judged to bring those women before the bishop’s ward, a
girl so young still, and but just delivered from her own ecstatic

The state of things became ridiculous and sorely embittered. Two
parties faced each other, Girard’s women and those of the bishop. On
the side of the latter were a German lady and her daughter, dear
friends of Cadière’s. On the other side were the rebels, headed by the
Guiol. With her the bishop treated, in hopes of getting her to enter
into relations with the Carmelite, and bring her friends over to him.
He sent her his own clerk, and then a solicitor, an old lover of
Guiol’s. All this failing of any effect, the bishop came to his last
resource, determined to summon them all to his palace. Here they
mostly denied those trances and mystic marks of which they had made
such boast. One of them, Guiol, of course, astonished him yet more by
her shamelessly treacherous offer to prove to him, on the spot, that
they had no marks whatever about their bodies. They had deemed him
wanton enough to fall into such a snare. But he kept clear of it very
well, declining the offer with thanks to those who, at the cost of
their own modesty, would have had him copy Girard, and provoke the
laughter of all the town.

The bishop was not lucky. On the one hand, these bold wenches made fun
of him. On the other, his success with Cadière was now being undone.
She had hardly entered her own narrow lane in gloomy Toulon, when she
began to fall off. She was just in those dangerous and baleful centres
where her illness began, on the very field of the battle waged by the
two hostile parties. The Jesuits, whose rearguard everyone saw in the
Court, had on their side the crafty, the prudent, the knowing. The
Carmelite had none but the bishop with him, was not even backed by his
own brethren, nor yet by the clergy. He had one weapon, however, in
reserve. On the 8th November, he got out of Cadière a written power to
reveal her confession in case of need.

It was a daring, dauntless step, which made Girard shudder. He was
not very brave, and would have been undone had his cause not been that
of the Jesuits also. He cowered down in the depths of their college.
But his colleague Sabatier, an old, sanguine, passionate fellow, went
straight to the bishop’s palace. He entered into the prelate’s
presence, like another Popilius, bearing peace or war in his gown. He
pushed him to the wall, made him understand that a suit with the
Jesuits would lead to his own undoing; that he would remain for ever
Bishop of Toulon; would never rise to an archbishopric. Yet further,
with the freedom of an apostle strong at Versailles, he assured him
that if this affair exposed the morals of a Jesuit, it would shed no
less light on the morals of a bishop. In a letter, clearly planned by
Girard, it was pretended that the Jesuits held themselves ready in the
background, to hurl dreadful recriminations against the prelate,
declaring his way of life not only unepiscopal, but _abominable_
withal. The sly, faithless Girard and the hot-headed Sabatier, swollen
with rage and spitefulness, would have pressed the calumnious charge.
They would not have failed to say that all this matter was about a
girl; that if Girard had taken care of her when ill, the bishop had
gotten her when she was well. What a commotion would be caused by such
a scandal in the well-regulated life of the great worldly lord! It
were too laughable a piece of chivalry to make war in revenge for the
maidenhood of a weak little fool, to embroil oneself for her sake with
all honest people! The Cardinal of Bonzi died indeed of grief at
Toulouse, but that was on account of a fair lady, the Marchioness of
Ganges. The bishop, on his part, risked his ruin, risked the chance of
being overwhelmed with shame and ridicule, for the child of a
retail-dealer in the Rue de l’Hôpital!

Sabatier’s threatenings made all the greater impression, because the
bishop himself clung less firmly to Cadière. He did not thank her for
falling ill again; for giving the lie to his former success; for doing
him a wrong by her relapse. He bore her a grudge for having failed to
cure her. He said to himself that Sabatier was in the right; that he
had better come to a compromise. The change was sudden--a kind of
warning from above. All at once, like Paul on the way to Damascus, he
beheld the light, and became a convert to the Jesuits.

Sabatier would not let him go. He put paper before him, and made him
write and sign a decree forbidding the Carmelite, his agent with
Cadière, and another forbidding her brother, the Jacobin.



We can guess how this alarming blow was taken by the Cadière family.
The sick girl’s attacks became frequent and fearful. By a cruel chance
they brought on a kind of epidemic among her intimate friends. Her
neighbour, the German lady, who had trances also, which she had
hitherto deemed divine, now fell into utter fright, and fancied they
came from hell. This worthy dame of fifty years remembered that she,
too, had often had unclean thoughts: she believed herself given over
to the Devil; saw nothing but devils about her; and escaping from her
own house in spite of her daughter’s watchfulness, entreated shelter
from the Cadières. From that time the house became unbearable;
business could not be carried on. The elder Cadière inveighed
furiously against Girard, crying, “He shall be served like Gauffridi:
he, too, shall be burnt!” And the Jacobin added, “Rather would we
waste the whole of our family estate!”

On the night of the 17th November, Cadière screamed, and was like one
choking. They thought she was going to die. The eldest Cadière, the
tradesman, lost his wits, and called out to his neighbours from the
window, “Help! the Devil is throttling my sister!” They came running
up almost in their shirts. The doctors and surgeons wanted to apply
the cupping-glasses to a case of what they called “suffocation of the
womb.” While some were gone to fetch these, they succeeded in
unlocking her teeth and making her swallow a drop of brandy, which
brought her to herself. Meanwhile there also came to the girl some
doctors of the soul; first an old priest confessor to Cadière’s
mother, and then some parsons of Toulon. All this noise and shouting,
the arrival of the priests in full dress, the preparations for
exorcising, had brought everyone out into the street. The newcomers
kept asking what was the matter. “Cadière has been bewitched by
Girard,” was the continual reply. We may imagine the pity and the
wrath of the people.

Greatly alarmed, but anxious to cast the fear back on others, the
Jesuits did a very barbarous thing. They returned to the bishop,
ordered and insisted that Cadière should be brought to trial; that the
attack should be made that very day; that justice should make an
unforeseen descent on this poor girl, as she lay rattling in the
throat after the last dreadful seizure.

Sabatier never left the bishop until the latter had called his judge,
his officer, the Vicar-general Larmedieu, and his prosecutor or
episcopal advocate, Esprit Reybaud, and commanded them to go to work

By the Canon Law this was impossible, illegal. A _preliminary inquiry
was needed_ into the facts, before the judicial business could begin.
There was another difficulty: the spiritual judge had no right to make
such an arrest save for _a rejection of the Sacrament_. The two
church-lawyers must have made these objections. But Sabatier would
hear of no excuses. If matters were allowed to drag in this cold legal
way, he would miss his stroke of terror.

Larmedieu was a compliant judge, a friend of the clergy. He was not
one of your rude magistrates who go straight before them, like blind
boars, on the high-road of the law, without seeing or respecting
anyone. He had shown great regard for Aubany, the patron of Ollioules,
during his trial; helping him to escape by the slowness of his own
procedure. Afterwards, when he knew him to be at Marseilles, as if
that was far from France, in the _ultima thule_ or _terra incognita_
of ancient geographers, he would not budge any further. This, however,
was a very different case: the judge who was so paralytic against
Aubany, had wings, and wings of lightning, for Cadière. It was nine in
the morning when the dwellers in the lane saw with much curiosity a
grand procession arrive at the Cadières’ door, with Master Larmedieu
and the episcopal advocate at the head, honoured by an escort of two
clergymen, doctors of theology. The house was invaded: the sick girl
was summoned before them. They made her swear to tell the truth
against herself; swear to defame herself by speaking out in the ears
of justice matters that touched her conscience and the confessional

She might have dispensed with an answer, for none of the usual forms
had been observed: but she would not raise the question. She took the
oath that was meant to disarm and betray her. For, being once bound
thereby, she told everything, even to those shameful and ridiculous
details which it must be very painful for any girl to acknowledge.

Larmedieu’s official statement and his first examination point to a
clearly settled agreement between him and the Jesuits. Girard was to
be brought forward as the dupe and prey of Cadière’s knavery. Fancy a
man of sixty, a doctor, professor, director of nuns, being therewithal
so innocent and credulous, that a young girl, a mere child, was enough
to draw him into the snare! The cunning, shameless wanton had beguiled
him with her visions, but failed to draw him into her own excesses.
Enraged thereat, she endowed him with every baseness that the fancy of
a Messalina could suggest to her!

So far from giving grounds for any such idea, the examination brings
out the victim’s gentleness in a very touching way. Evidently she
accuses others only through constraint, under the pressure of her oath
just taken. She is gentle towards her enemies, even to the faithless
Guiol who, in her brother’s words, had betrayed her; had done her
worst to corrupt her; had ruined her, last of all, by making her give
up the papers which would have insured her safety.

The Cadière brothers were frightened at their sister’s artlessness. In
her regard for her oath she gave herself up without reserve to be
vilified, alas! for ever; to have ballads sung about her; to be mocked
by the very foes of Jesuits and silly scoffing libertines.

The mischief done, they wanted at least to have it defined, to have
the official report of the priests checked by some more serious
measure. Seeming though she did to be the party accused, they made her
the accuser, and prevailed on Marteli Chantard, the King’s Lieutenant
Civil and Criminal, to come and take her deposition. In this document,
short and clear, the fact of her seduction is clearly established;
likewise the reproaches she uttered against Girard for his lewd
endearments, reproaches at which he only laughed; likewise the advice
he gave her, to let herself be possessed by the Demon; likewise the
means he used for keeping her wounds open, and so on.

The King’s officer, the Lieutenant, was bound to carry the matter
before his own court. For the spiritual judge in his hurry had failed
to go through the forms of ecclesiastic law, and so made his
proceedings null. But the lay magistrate lacked the courage for this.
He let himself be harnessed to the clerical inquiry, accepted
Larmedieu for his colleague, went himself to sit and hear the evidence
in the bishop’s court. The clerk of the bishopric wrote it down, and
not the clerk of the King’s Lieutenant. Did he write it down
faithfully? We have reason to doubt that, when we find him threatening
the witnesses, and going every night to show their statements to the

The two curates of Cadière’s parish, who were heard first, deposed
drily, not in her favour, yet by no means against her, certainly not
in favour of the Jesuits. These latter saw that everything was going
amiss for them. Lost to all shame, at the risk of angering the people,
they determined to break all down. They got from the bishop an order
to imprison Cadière and the chief witnesses she wanted to be heard.
These were the German lady and Batarelle. The girl herself was placed
in the Refuge, a convent-prison; the ladies in a bridewell, the
_Good-Shepherd_, where mad women and foul streetwalkers needing
punishment were thrown. On the 26th November, Cadière was dragged from
her bed and given over to the Ursulines, penitents of Girard’s, who
laid her duly on some rotten straw.

A fear of them thus established, the witnesses might now be heard.
They began with two, choice and respectable. One was the Guiol,
notorious for being Girard’s pander, a woman of keen and clever
tongue, who was commissioned to hurl the first dart and open the wound
of slander. The other was Laugier, the little seamstress, whom Cadière
had supported and for whose apprenticeship she had paid. While she lay
with child by Girard, this Laugier had cried out against him; now she
washed away her fault by sneering at Cadière and defiling her
benefactress, but in a very clumsy way, like the shameless wanton she
was; ascribing to her impudent speeches quite contrary to her known
habits. Then came Mdlle. Gravier and her cousin Reboul--all the
_Girardites_, in short, as they were called in Toulon.

But, do as they would, the light would burst forth now and then. The
wife of a purveyor in the house where these Girardites met together,
said, with cruel plainness, that she could not abide them, that they
disturbed the whole house; she spoke of their noisy bursts of
laughter, of their suppers paid for out of the money collected for the
poor, and so forth.

They were sore afraid lest the nuns should speak out for Cadière. The
bishop’s clerk told them, as if from the bishop himself, that those
who spoke evil should be chastised. As a yet stronger measure, they
ordered back from Marseilles the gay Father Aubany, who had some
ascendant over the nuns. His affair with the girl he had violated was
got settled for him. Her parents were made to understand that justice
could do nothing in their case. The child’s good name was valued at
eight hundred livres, which were paid on Aubany’s account. So, full of
zeal, he returned, a thorough Jesuit, to his troop at Ollioules. The
poor troop trembled indeed, when this worthy father told them of his
commission to warn them that, if they did not behave themselves, “they
should be put to the torture.”

For all that, they could not get as much as they wanted from these
fifteen nuns. Two or three at most were on Girard’s side, but all
stated facts, especially about the 7th July, which bore directly
against him.

In despair the Jesuits came to an heroic decision, in order to make
sure of their witnesses. They stationed themselves in an outer hall
which led into the court. There they stopped those going in, tampered
with them, threatened them, and, if they were against Girard, coolly
debarred their entrance by thrusting them out of doors.

Thus the clerical judge and the King’s officer were only as puppets in
the Jesuits’ hands. The whole town saw this and trembled. During
December, January, and February, the Cadière family drew up and
diffused a complaint touching the way in which justice was denied them
and witnesses suborned. The Jesuits themselves felt that the place
would no longer hold them. They evoked help from a higher quarter.
This seemed best available in the shape of a decree of the Great
Council, which would have brought the matter before itself and hushed
up everything, as Mazarin had done in the Louviers affair. But the
Chancellor was D’Aguesseau; and the Jesuits had no wish to let the
matter go up to Paris. They kept it still in Provence. On the 16th
January, 1731, they got the King to determine that the Parliament of
Provence, where they had plenty of friends, should pass sentence on
the inquiry which two of its councillors were conducting at Toulon.

M. Faucon, a layman, and M. de Charleval, a councillor of the Church,
came in fact and straightway marched down among the Jesuits. These
eager commissioners made so little secret of their loud and bitter
partiality, as to toss out an order for Cadière’s remand, just as they
might have done to an accused prisoner; whilst Girard was most
politely called up and allowed to go free, to keep on saying mass and
hearing confessions. And so the plaintiff was kept under lock and key,
in her enemies’ hands, exposed to all manner of cruelty from Girard’s

From these honest Ursulines she met with just such a reception as if
they had been charged to bring about her death. The room they gave her
was the cell of a mad nun who made everything filthy. In the nun’s old
straw, in the midst of a frightful stench, she lay. Her kinsmen on the
morrow had much ado to get in a coverlet and mattress for her use. For
her nurse and keeper she was allowed a poor tool of Girard’s, a
lay-sister, daughter to that very Guiol who had betrayed her; a girl
right worthy of her mother, capable of any wickedness, a source of
danger to her modesty, perhaps even to her life. They submitted her to
a course of penance in her case specially painful, refusing her the
right of confessing herself or taking the sacrament. She relapsed into
her illness from the time she was debarred the latter privilege. Her
fierce foe, the Jesuit Sabatier, came into her cell, and formed a new
and startling scheme to win her by a bribe of the holy wafer. The
bargaining began. They offered her terms: she should communicate if
she would only acknowledge herself a slanderer, unworthy of
communicating. In her excessive humbleness she might have done so.
But, while ruining herself, she would also have ruined the Carmelite
and her own brethren.

Reduced to Pharisaical tricks, they took to expounding her speeches.
Whatever she uttered in a mystic sense they feigned to accept in its
material hardness. To free herself from such snares she displayed,
what they had least expected, very great presence of mind.

A yet more treacherous plan for robbing her of the public sympathy and
setting the laughers against her, was to find her a lover. They
pretended that she had proposed to a young blackguard that they should
set off together and roam the world.

The great lords of that day, being fond of having children and little
pages to wait on them, readily took in the better-mannered of their
peasant’s sons. In this way had the bishop dealt with the boy of one
of his tenants. He washed his face, as it were; made him tidy.
Presently, when the favourite grew up, he gave him the tonsure,
dressed him up like an abbé, and dubbed him his chaplain at the age of
twenty. This person was the Abbé Camerle. Brought up with the footmen
and made to do everything, he was, like many a half-scrubbed country
youth, a sly, but simple lout. He saw that the prelate since his
arrival at Toulon had been curious about Cadière and far from friendly
to Girard. He thought to please and amuse his master by turning
himself, at Ollioules, into a spy on their suspected intercourse. But
after the bishop changed through fear of the Jesuits, Camerle became
equally zealous in helping Girard with active service against Cadière.

He came one day, like another Joseph, to say that Mdlle. Cadière had,
like Potiphar’s wife, been tempting him, and trying to shake his
virtue. Had this been true, it was all the more cowardly of him thus
to punish her for a moment’s weakness, to take so mean an advantage of
some light word. But his education as page and seminarist was not such
as to bring him either honour or the love of women.

She extricated herself with spirit and success, covering him with
shame. The two angry commissioners saw her making so triumphant an
answer, that they cut the investigation short, and cut down the number
of her witnesses. Out of the sixty-eight she summoned, they allowed
but thirty-eight to appear. Regardless alike of the delays and the
forms of justice, they hurried forward the confronting of witnesses.
Yet nothing was gained, thereby. On the 25th and again on the 26th
February, she renewed her crushing declarations.

Such was their rage thereat, that they declared their regret at the
want of torments and executioners in Toulon, “who might have made her
sing out a little.” These things formed their _ultima ratio_. They
were employed, by the Parliaments through all that century. I have
before me a warm defence of torture,[114] written in 1780, by a
learned member of Parliament, who also became a member of the Great
Council; it was dedicated to the King, Louis XVI., and crowned with
the flattering approval of His Holiness Pius VI.

    [114] Muyart de Vouglans, in the sequel to his _Loix
    Criminelles_, 1780.

But, in default of the torture that would have made her sing, she was
made to speak by a still better process. On the 27th February, Guiol’s
daughter, the lay-sister who acted as her jailer, came to her at an
early hour with a glass of wine. She was astonished: she was not at
all thirsty: she never drank wine, especially pure wine, of a morning.
The lay-sister, a rough, strong menial, such as they keep in convents
to manage crazy or refractory women, and to punish children,
overwhelmed the feeble sufferer with remonstrances that looked like
threats. Unwilling as she was, she drank. And she was forced to drink
it all, to the very dregs, which she found unpleasantly salt.

What was this repulsive draught? We have already seen how clever these
old confessors of nuns were at remedies of various kinds. In this case
the wine alone would have done for so weakly a patient. It had been
quite enough to make her drunk, to draw from her at once some
stammering speeches, which the clerk might have moulded into a
downright falsehood. But a drug of some kind, perhaps some wizard’s
simple, which would act for several days, was added to the wine, in
order to prolong its effects and leave her no way of disproving
anything laid to her charge.

In her declaration of the 27th February, how sudden and entire a
change! It is nothing but a defence of Girard! Strange to say, the
commissioners make no remark on so abrupt a change. The strange,
shameful sight of a young girl drunk causes no astonishment, fails to
put them on their guard. She is made to own that all which had passed
between herself and Girard was merely the offspring of her own
diseased fancy; that all she had spoken of as real, at the bidding of
her brethren and the Carmelite, was nothing more than a dream. Not
content with whitening Girard, she must blacken her own friends, must
crush them, and put the halter round their necks.

Especially wonderful is the clearness of her deposition, the neat way
in which it is worded. The hand of the skilful clerk peeps out
therefrom. It is very strange, however, that now they are in so fair a
way, they do not follow it up. From the 27th to the 6th of March there
is no further questioning.

On the 28th, the poison having doubtless done its work, and plunged
her into a perfect stupor, or else a kind of Sabbatic frenzy, it was
impossible to bring her forth. After that, while her head was still
disordered, they could easily give her other potions of which she
would know and remember nothing. What happened during those six days
seems to have been so shocking, so sad for poor Cadière, that neither
she nor her brother had the heart to speak of it twice. Nor would they
have spoken at all, had not the brethren themselves incurred a
prosecution aiming at their own lives.

Having won his cause through Cadière’s falsehood, Girard dared to come
and see her in her prison, where she lay stupefied or in despair,
forsaken alike of earth and heaven, and if any clear thoughts were
left her, possessed with the dreadful consciousness of having by her
last deposition murdered her own near kin. Her own ruin was complete
already. But another trial, that of her brothers and the bold
Carmelite, would now begin. She may in her remorse have been tempted
to soften Girard, to keep him from proceeding against them, above all
to save herself from being put to the torture. Girard, at any rate,
took advantage of her utter weakness, and behaved like the determined
scoundrel he really was.

Alas! her wandering spirit came but slowly back to her. It was on the
6th March that she had to face her accusers, to renew her former
admissions, to ruin her brethren beyond repair. She could not speak;
she was choking. The commissioners had the kindness to tell her that
the torture was there, at her side; to describe to her the wooden
horse, the points of iron, the wedges for jamming fast her bones. Her
courage failed her, so weak she was now of body. She submitted to be
set before her cruel master, who might laugh triumphant now that he
had debased not only her body, but yet more her conscience, by making
her the murderess of her own friends.

No time was lost in profiting by her weakness. They prevailed
forthwith on the Parliament of Aix to let the Carmelite and the two
brothers be imprisoned, that they might undergo a separate trial for
their lives, as soon as Cadière should have been condemned.

On the 10th March, she was dragged from the Ursulines of Toulon to
Sainte-Claire of Ollioules. Girard, however, was not sure of her yet.
He got leave to have her conducted, like some dreaded highway robber,
between some soldiers of the mounted police. He demanded that she
should be carefully locked up at Sainte-Claire. The ladies were moved
to tears at the sight of a poor sufferer who could not drag herself
forward, approaching between those drawn swords. Everyone pitied her.
Two brave men, M. Aubin, a solicitor, and M. Claret, a notary, drew up
for her the deeds in which she withdrew her late confession, fearful
documents that record the threats of the commissioners and of the
Ursuline prioress, and above all, the fact of the drugged wine she had
been forced to drink.

At the same time these daring men drew up for the Chancellor’s court
at Paris a plea of error, as it is called, exposing the irregular and
blameable proceedings, the wilful breaches of the law, effected in the
coolest way, first by the bishop’s officer and the King’s Lieutenant,
secondly by the two commissioners. The Chancellor D’Aguesseau showed
himself very slack and feeble. He let these foul proceedings stand;
left the business in charge of the Parliament of Aix, sullied as it
already seemed to be by the disgrace with which two of its members had
just been covering themselves.

So once more they laid hands on their victim, and had her dragged, in
charge as before of the mounted police, from Ollioules to Aix. In
those days people slept at a public house midway. Here the corporal
explained that, by virtue of his orders, he would sleep in the young
girl’s room. They pretended to believe that an invalid unable to walk,
might flee away by jumping out of window. Truly, it was a most
villanous device, to commit such a one to the chaste keeping of the
heroes of the _dragonnades_.[115] Happily, her mother had come to see
her start, had followed her in spite of everything, and they did not
dare to beat her away with their butt-ends. She stayed in the room,
kept watch--neither of them, indeed, lying down--and shielded her
child from all harm.

    [115] Alluding to the cruelties dealt on the Huguenots by the
    French dragoons, at the close of Louis the Fourteenth’s

Cadière was forwarded to the Ursulines of Aix, who had the King’s
command to take her in charge. But the prioress pretended that the
order had not yet come. We may see here how savage a woman who was
once impassioned will grow, until she has lost all her woman’s nature.
She kept the other four hours at her street-door, as if she were a
public show. There was time to fetch a mob of Jesuits’ followers, of
honest Church artizans, to hoot and hiss, while children might help by
throwing stones. For these four hours she was in the pillory. Some,
however, of the more dispassionate passers-by asked if the Ursulines
had gotten orders to let them kill the girl. We may guess what tender
jailers their sick prisoner would find in these good sisters!

The ground was prepared with admirable effect. By a spirited concert
between Jesuit magistrates and plotting ladies, a system of deterring
had been set on foot. No pleader would ruin himself by defending a
girl thus heavily aspersed. No one would digest the poisonous things
stored up by her jailers, for him who should daily show his face in
their parlour to await an interview with Cadière. The defence in that
case would devolve on M. Chaudon, syndic of the Aix bar. He did not
decline so hard a duty. And yet he was so uneasy as to desire a
settlement, which the Jesuits refused. Thereupon he showed what he
really was, a man of unswerving honesty, of amazing courage. He
exposed, with the learning of a lawyer, the monstrous character of the
whole proceeding. So doing, he would for ever embroil himself with
the Parliament no less than the Jesuits. He brought into sharp outline
the spiritual incest of the confessor, though he modestly refrained
from specifying how far he had carried his profligacy. He also
withheld himself from speaking of Girard’s girls, the loose-lived
devotees, as a matter well-known, but to which no one would have liked
to bear witness. In short, he gave Girard the best case he could by
assailing him _as a wizard_. People laughed, made fun of the advocate.
He undertook to prove the existence of demons by a series of sacred
texts, beginning with the Gospels. This made them laugh the louder.

The case had been cleverly disfigured by the turning of an honest
Carmelite into Cadière’s lover, and the weaver of a whole chain of
libels against Girard and the Jesuits. Thenceforth the crowd of
idlers, of giddy worldlings, scoffers and philosophers alike, made
merry with either side, being thoroughly impartial as between
Carmelite and Jesuit, and exceedingly rejoiced to see this battle of
monk with monk. Those who were presently to be called _Voltairites_,
were even better inclined towards the polished Jesuits, those men of
the world, than towards any of the old mendicant orders.

So the matter became more and more tangled. Jokes kept raining down,
but raining mostly on the victim. They called it a love-intrigue. They
saw in it nothing but food for fun. There was not a scholar nor a
clerk who did not turn a ditty on Girard and his pupil, who did not
hash up anew the old provincial jokes about Madeline in the Gauffridi
affair, her six thousand imps, their dread of a flogging, and the
wonderful chastening-process whereby Cadière’s devils were put to

On this latter point the friends of Girard had no difficulty in
proving him clean. He had acted by his right as director, in
accordance with the common wont. The rod is the symbol of fatherhood.
He had treated his penitent with a view to the healing of her soul.
They used to thrash demoniacs, to thrash the insane and sufferers in
other ways. This was the favourite mode of hunting out the enemy,
whether in the shape of devil or disease. With the people it was a
very common idea. One brave workman of Toulon, who had witnessed
Cadière’s sad plight, declared that a bull’s sinew was the poor
sufferer’s only cure.

Thus strongly supported, Girard had only to act reasonably. He would
not take the trouble. His defence is charmingly flippant. He never
deigns even to agree with his own depositions. He gives the lie to his
own witnesses. He seems to be jesting, and says, with the coolness of
a great lord of the Regency, that if, as they charge him, he was ever
shut up with her, “it could only have happened nine times.”

“And why did the good father do so,” would his friends say, “save to
watch, to consider, to search out the truth concerning her? ’Tis the
confessor’s duty in all such cases. Read the life of the most holy
Catherine of Genoa. One evening her confessor hid himself in her room,
waiting to see the wonders she would work, and to catch her in the act
miraculous. But here, unhappily, the Devil, who never sleeps, had laid
a snare for this lamb of God, had belched forth this devouring monster
of a she-dragon, this mixture of maniac and demoniac, to swallow him
up, to overwhelm him in a cataract of slander.”

It was an old and excellent custom to smother monsters in the cradle.
Then why not later also? Girard’s ladies charitably advised the
instant using against her of fire and sword. “Let her perish!” cried
the devotees. Many of the great ladies also wished to have her
punished, deeming it rather too bad that such a creature should have
dared to enter such a plea, to bring into court the man who had done
her but too great an honour.

Some determined Jansenists there were in the Parliament, but these
were more inimical to the Jesuits than friendly to the girl. And they
might well be downcast and discouraged, seeing they had against them
at once the terrible Society of Jesus, the Court of Versailles, the
Cardinal Minister (Fleury), and, lastly, the drawing-rooms of Aix.
Should they be bolder than the head of the law, the Chancellor
D’Aguesseau, who had proved so very slack? The Attorney-General did
not waver at all: being charged with the indictment of Girard, he
avowed himself his friend, advised him how to meet the charges
against him.

There was, indeed, but one question at issue, to ascertain by what
kind of reparation, of solemn atonement, of exemplary chastening, the
plaintiff thus changed into the accused might satisfy Girard and the
Company of Jesus. The Jesuits, with all their good-nature, affirmed
the need of an example, in the interests of religion, by way of some
slight warning both to the Jansenist Convulsionaries and the
scribbling philosophers who were beginning to swarm.

There were two points by which Cadière might be hooked, might receive
the stroke of the harpoon.

Firstly, she had borne false witness. But, then, by no law could
slander be punished with death. To gain that end you must go a little
further, and say, “The old Roman text, _De famosis libellis_,
pronounces death on those who have uttered libels hurtful to the
Emperor or to _the religion_ of the Empire. The Jesuits represent that
religion. Therefore, a memorial against a Jesuit deserves the last

A still better handle, however, was their second. At the opening of
the trial the episcopal judge, the prudent Larmedieu, had asked her if
she had never _divined_ the secrets of many people, and she had
answered yes. Therefore they might charge her with the practice named
in the list of forms employed in trials for witchcraft, as _Divination
and imposture_. This alone in ecclesiastic law deserved the stake.
They might, indeed, without much effort, call her a _Witch_, after
the confession made by the Ollioules ladies, that at one same hour of
the night she used to be in several cells together. Their infatuation,
the surprising tenderness that suddenly came over them, had all the
air of an enchantment.

What was there to prevent her being burnt? They were still burning
everywhere in the eighteenth century. In one reign only, that of
Philip V., sixteen hundred people were burnt in Spain: one Witch was
burnt as late as 1782. In Germany one was burnt in 1751; in
Switzerland one also in 1781. Rome was always burning her victims, on
the sly indeed, in the dark holes and cells of the Inquisition.[116]

    [116] This fact comes to us from an adviser to the Holy
    Office, still living.

“But France, at least, is surely more humane?” She is very
inconsistent. In 1718, a Wizard is burnt at Bordeaux.[117] In 1724 and
1726, the faggots were lighted in Grève for offences which passed as
schoolboy jokes at Versailles. The guardians of the Royal child, the
Duke and Fleury, who are so indulgent to the Court, are terrible to
the town. A donkey-driver and a noble, one M. des Chauffours, are
burnt alive. The advent of the Cardinal Minister could not be
celebrated more worthily than by a moral reformation, by making a
severe example of those who corrupted the people. Nothing more timely
than to pass some terrible and solemn sentence on this infernal girl,
who made so heinous an assault on the innocent Girard!

    [117] I am not speaking of executions done by the people of
    their own accord. A hundred years ago, in a village of
    Provence, an old woman on being refused alms by a landowner,
    said in her fury, “You will be dead to-morrow.” He was
    smitten and died. The whole village, high and low, seized the
    old woman, and set her on a bundle of vine-twigs. She was
    burnt alive. The Parliament made a feint of inquiring, but
    punished nobody.--[In 1751 an old couple of Tring, in
    Hertfordshire, according to Wright, were tortured, kicked,
    and beaten to death, on the plea of witchcraft, by a maddened
    country mob.--TRANS.]

Observe what was needed to wash that father clean. It was needful to
show that, even if he had done wrong and imitated Des Chauffours, he
had been the sport of some enchantment. The documents were but too
plain. By the wording of the Canon Law, and after these late decrees,
somebody ought to be burnt. Of the five magistrates on the bench, two
only would have burnt Girard. Three were against Cadière. They came to
terms. The three who formed the majority would not insist on burning
her, would forego the long, dreadful scene at the stake, would content
themselves with a simple award of death.

In the name of these five, it was settled, pending the final assent of
Parliament, “That Cadière, having first been put to the torture in
both kinds, should afterwards be removed to Toulon, and suffer death
by hanging on the Place des Prêcheurs.”

This was a dreadful blow. An immense revulsion of feeling at once took
place. The worldlings, the jesters ceased to laugh: they shuddered.
Their love of trifling did not lead them to slur over a result so
horrible. That a girl should be seduced, ill-used, dishonoured,
treated as a mere toy, that she should die of grief, or of frenzy,
they had regarded as right and good; with all that they had no
concern. But when it was a case of punishment, when in fancy they saw
before them the woeful victim, with rope round her neck, by the
gallows where she was about to hang, their hearts rose in revolt. From
all sides went forth the cry, “Never, since the world began, was there
seen so villanous a reversal of things; the law of rape administered
the wrong way, the girl condemned for having been made a tool, the
victim hanged by her seducer!”

In this town of Aix, made up of judges, priests, and the world of
fashion, a thing unforeseen occurred: a whole people suddenly rose, a
violent popular movement was astir. A crowd of persons of every class
marched in one close well-ordered body straight towards the Ursulines.
Cadière and her mother were bidden to show themselves. “Make yourself
easy, mademoiselle,” they shouted: “we stand by you: fear nothing!”

The grand eighteenth century, justly called by Hegel the “reign of
mind,” was still grander as the “reign of humanity.” Ladies of
distinction, such as the granddaughter of Mde. de Sévigné, the
charming Madame de Simiane, took possession of the young girl and
sheltered her in their bosoms.

A thing yet prettier and more touching was it, to see the Jansenist
ladies, elsewhile so sternly pure, so hard towards each other, in
their austerities so severe, now in this great conjuncture offer up
Law on the altar of Mercy, by flinging their arms round the poor
threatened child, purifying her with kisses on the forehead, baptizing
her anew in tears.

If Provence be naturally wild, she is all the more wonderful in these
wild moments of generosity and real greatness. Something of this was
later seen in the earliest triumphs of Mirabeau, when he had a million
of men gathered round him at Marseilles. But here already was a great
revolutionary scene, a vast uprising against the stupid Government of
the day, and Fleury’s pets the Jesuits: a unanimous uprising in behalf
of humanity, of compassion, in defence of a woman, a very child, thus
barbarously offered up. The Jesuits fancied that among their own
rabble, among their clients and their beggars, they might array a kind
of popular force, armed with handbells and staves to beat back the
party of Cadière. This latter, however, included almost everyone.
Marseilles rose up as one man to bear in triumph the son of the
Advocate Chaudon. Toulon went so far for the sake of her poor
townswoman, as to think of burning the Jesuit college.

The most touching of all these tokens in Cadière’s favour, reached
her from Ollioules. A simple boarder, Mdlle. Agnes, for all her
youthful shyness, followed the impulse of her own heart, threw herself
into the press of pamphlets, and published a defence of Cadière.

So widespread and deep a movement had its effect on the Parliament
itself. The foes of the Jesuits raised their heads, took courage to
defy the threats of those above, the influence of the Jesuits, and the
bolts that Fleury might hurl upon them from Versailles.[118]

    [118] There is a laughable tale which expresses the state of
    Parliament with singular nicety. The Recorder was reading his
    comments on the trial, on the share the Devil might have had
    therein, when a loud noise was heard. A black man fell down
    the chimney. In their fright they all ran away, save the
    Recorder only, who, being entangled in his robe, could not
    move. The man made some excuse. It was simply a chimneysweep
    who had mistaken his chimney.

The very friends of Girard, seeing their numbers fall off, their
phalanx grow thin, were eager for the sentence. It was pronounced on
the 11th October, 1731.

In sight of the popular feeling, no one dared to follow up the savage
sentence of the bench, by getting Cadière hanged. Twelve councillors
sacrificed their honour, by declaring Girard innocent. Of the twelve
others, some Jansenists condemned him to the flames as a wizard; and
three or four, with better reason, condemned him to death as a
scoundrel. Twelve being against twelve, the President Lebret had to
give the casting vote. He found for Girard. Acquitted of the capital
crime of witchcraft, the latter was then made over, as priest and
confessor, to the Toulon magistrate, his intimate friend Larmedieu,
for trial in the bishop’s court.

The great folk and the indifferent ones were satisfied. And so little
heed was given to this award, that even in these days it has been said
that “both were _acquitted_.” The statement is not correct. Cadière
was treated as a slanderer, was condemned to see her memorials and
other papers burnt by the hand of the executioner.

There was still a dreadful something in the background. Cadière being
so marked, so branded for the use of calumny, the Jesuits were sure to
keep pushing underhand their success with Cardinal Fleury, and to urge
her being punished in some secret, arbitrary way. Such was the notion
imbibed by the town of Aix. It felt that, instead of sending her home,
Parliament would rather _yield her up_. This caused so fearful a rage,
such angry menaces, against President Lebret, that he asked to have
the regiment of Flanders sent thither.

Girard was fleeing away in a close carriage, when they found him out
and would have killed him, had he not escaped into the Jesuits’
Church. There the rascal betook himself to saying mass. After his
escape thence he returned to Dôle, to reap honour and glory from the
Society. Here, in 1733, he died, _in the perfume of holiness_. The
courtier Lebret died in 1735.

Cardinal Fleury did whatever the Jesuits pleased. At Aix, Toulon,
Marseilles, many were banished, or cast into prison. Toulon was
specially guilty, as having borne Girard’s effigy to the doors of his
_Girardites_, and carried about the thrice holy standard of the

According to the terms of the award, Cadière should have been free to
return home, to live again with her mother. But I venture to say that
she was never allowed to re-enter her native town, that flaming
theatre wherein so many voices had been raised in her behalf.

If only to feel an interest in her was a crime deserving imprisonment,
we cannot doubt but that she herself was presently thrown into prison;
that the Jesuits easily obtained a special warrant from Versailles to
lock up the poor girl, to hush up, to bury with her an affair so
dismal for themselves. They would wait, of course, until the public
attention was drawn off to something else. Thereon the fatal clutch
would have caught her anew; she would have been buried out of sight in
some unknown convent, snuffed out in some dark _In pace_.

She was but one-and-twenty at the time of the award, and she had
always hoped to die soon. May God have granted her that mercy![119]

    [119] Touching this matter, Voltaire is very flippant: he
    scoffs at both parties, especially the Jansenists. The
    historians of our own day, MM. Cabasse, Fabre, Méry, not
    having read the _Trial_, believe themselves impartial, while
    they are bearing down the victim.


A woman of genius, in a burst of noble tenderness, has figured to
herself the two spirits whose strife moulded the Middle Ages, as
coming at last to recognise each other, to draw together, to renew
their olden friendship. Looking closer at each other, they discern,
though somewhat late, the marks of a common parentage. How if they
were indeed brethren, and this long battle nought but a mistake? Their
hearts speak, and they are softened. The haughty outlaw and the gentle
persecutor have forgotten everything: they dart forward and throw
themselves into each other’s arms.--(_Consuelo._)

A charming, womanly idea. Others, too, have dreamed the same dream.
The sweet Montanelli turned it into a beautiful poem. Ay, who would
not welcome the delightful hope of seeing the battle here hushed down
and finished by an embrace so moving?

What does the wise Merlin think of it? In the mirror of his lake,
whose depths are known to himself only, what did he behold? What said
he in the colossal epic produced by him in 1860? Why, that Satan will
not disarm, if disarm he ever do, until the Day of Judgment. Then,
side by side, at peace with each other, the two will fall asleep in a
common death.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not so hard, indeed, to bend them into a kind of compromise. The
weakening, relaxing effects of so long a battle allow of their
mingling in a certain way. In the last chapter we saw two shadows
agreeing to form an alliance in deceit; the Devil appearing as the
friend of Loyola, devotees and demoniacs marching abreast, Hell
touched to softness in the Sacred Heart.

It is a quiet time now, and people hate each other less than formerly.
They hate few indeed but their own friends. I have seen Methodists
admiring Jesuits. Those lawyers and physicians whom the Church in the
Middle Ages called the children of Satan, I have seen making shrewd
covenant with the old conquered Spirit.

But get we away from these pretences. They who gravely propose that
Satan should make peace and settle down, have they thought much about
the matter?

There is no hindrance as regards ill-will. The dead are dead. The
millions of former victims sleep in peace, be they Albigenses,
Vaudois, or Protestants, Moors, Jews, or American Indians. The Witch,
universal martyr of the Middle Ages, has nought to say. Her ashes have
been scattered to the winds.

Know you, then, what it is that raises a protest, that keeps these two
spirits steadily apart, preventing them from coming nearer? It is a
huge reality, born five hundred years ago; a gigantic creation
accursed by the Church, even that mighty fabric of science and modern
institutions, which she excommunicated stone by stone, but which with
every anathema has grown a storey higher. You cannot name one science
which has not been itself a rebellion.

There is but one way of reconciling the two spirits, of joining into
one the two churches. Demolish the younger, that one which from its
first beginning was pronounced guilty and doomed as such. Let us, if
we can, destroy the natural sciences, the observatory, the museum, the
botanical garden, the schools of medicine, and all the modern
libraries. Let us burn our laws, our bodies of statutes, and return to
the Canon Law.

All these novelties came of Satan. Each step forward has been a crime
of his doing.

He was the wicked logician who, despising the clerical law, preserved
and renewed that of jurists and philosophers, grounded on an impious
faith, on the freedom of the will.

He was that dangerous magician who, while men were discussing the sex
of angels and other questions of like sublimity, threw himself
fiercely on realities, and created chemistry, physics, mathematics--ay,
even mathematics. He sought to revive them, and that was rebellion.
People were burnt for saying that three made three.

Medicine especially was a Satanic thing, a rebellion against disease,
the scourge so justly dealt by God. It was clearly sinful to check the
soul on its way towards heaven, to plunge it afresh into life!

What atonement shall we make for all this? How are we to put down, to
overthrow, this pile of insurrections, whereof at this moment all
modern life is made up? Will Satan destroy his work, that he may tread
once more the way of angels? That work rests on three everlasting
rocks, Reason, Right, and Nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

So great is the triumph of the new spirit, that he forgets his
battles, hardly at this moment deigns to remember that he has won.

It were not amiss to remind him of his wretched beginnings, how
coarsely mean, how rude and painfully comic were the shapes he wore in
the season of persecution, when through a woman, even the unhappy
Witch, he made his first homely flights in science. Bolder than the
heretic, the half-Christian reasoner, the scholar who kept one foot
within the sacred circle, this woman eagerly escaped therefrom, and
under the open sunlight tried to make herself an altar of rough
moorland stones.

She has perished, as she was certain to perish. By what means? Chiefly
by the progress of those very sciences which began with her, through
the physician, the naturalist, for whom she had once toiled.

The Witch has perished for ever, but not the Fay. She will reappear in
the form that never dies.

Busied in these latter days with the affairs of men, Woman has in
return given up her rightful part, that of the physician, the
comforter, the healing Fairy. Herein lies her proper priesthood--a
priesthood that does belong to her, whatever the Church may say.

Her delicate organs, her fondness for the least detail, her tender
consciousness of life, all invite her to become Life’s shrewd
interpreter in every science of observation. With her tenderly pitiful
heart, her power of divining goodness, she goes of her own accord to
the work of doctoring. There is but small difference between children
and sick people. For both of them we need the Woman.

She will return into the paths of science, whither, as a smile of
nature, gentleness and humanity will enter by her side.

The Anti-natural is growing dim, nor is the day far off when its
eclipse will bring back daylight to the earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

The gods may vanish, but God is still there. Nay, but the less we see
of them, the more manifest is He. He is like a lighthouse eclipsed at
moments, but alway shining again more clearly than before.

It is a remarkable thing to see Him discussed so fully, even in the
journals themselves. People begin to feel that all questions of
education, government, childhood, and womanhood, turn on that one
ruling and underlying question. As God is, so must the world be.

From this we gather that the times are ripe.

       *       *       *       *       *

So near, indeed, is that religious dayspring that I seemed momently to
see it breaking over the desert where I brought this book to an end.

How full of light, how rough and beautiful looked this desert of mine!
I had made my nest on a rock in the mighty roadstead of Toulon, in a
lowly villa surrounded with aloe and cypress, with the prickly pear
and the wild rose. Before me was a spreading basin of sparkling sea;
behind me the bare-topt amphitheatre, where, at their ease, might sit
the Parliament of the world.

This spot, so very African, bedazzles you in the daytime with
flashings as of steel. But of a winter morning, especially in
December, it seemed full of a divine mystery. I was wont to rise
exactly at six o’clock, when the signal for work was boomed from the
Arsenal gun. From six to seven I enjoyed a delicious time of it. The
quick--may I call it piercing?--twinkle of the stars made the moon
ashamed, and fought against the daybreak. Before its coming, and
during the struggle between two lights, the wonderful clearness of the
air would let things be seen and heard at incredible distances. Two
leagues away I could make everything out. The smallest detail about
the distant mountains, a tree, a cliff, a house, a bend in the ground,
was thrown out with the most delicate sharpness. New senses seemed to
be given me. I found myself another being, released from bondage, free
to soar away on my new wings. It was an hour of utter purity, all hard
and clear. I said to myself, “How is this? Am I still a man?”

An unspeakable bluish hue, respected, left untouched by the rosy dawn,
hung round me like a sacred ether, a spirit that made all things

One felt, however, a forward movement, through changes soft and slow.
The great marvel was drawing nearer, to shine forth and eclipse all
other things. It came on in its own calm way: you felt no wish to
hurry it. The coming transfiguration, the expected witcheries of the
light, took not a whit away from the deep enjoyment of being still
under the divinity of night, still, as it were, half-hidden, and slow
to emerge from so wonderful a spell.... Come forth, O Sun! We worship
thee while yet unseen, but will reap all of good we yet may from these
last moments of our dream!

He is about to break forth. In hope let us await his welcome.



Graesse, _Bibliotheca Magiæ_, Leipsic, 1843.

_Magie Antique_--as edited by Soldan, A. Maury, &c.

Calcagnini, _Miscell., Magia Amatoria Antiqua_, 1544.

J. Grimm, _German Mythology_.

_Acta Sanctorum._--Acta SS. Ordinis S. Benedicti.

Michael Psellus, _Energie des Démons_, 1050.

Cæsar of Heisterbach, _Illustria Miracula_, 1220.

_Registers of the Inquisition_, 1307-1326, in Limburch; and the
extracts given by Magi, Llorente, Lamothe-Langon, &c.

_Directorium._ Eymerici, 1358.

Llorente, _The Spanish Inquisition_.

Lamothe-Langon, _Inquisition de France_.

_Handbooks of the Monk-Inquisitors of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth
Centuries_: Nider’s _Formicarius_; Sprenger’s _Malleus_.

C. Bernardus’s _Lucerna_; Spina, Grillandus, &c.

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Remigius, _Demonolatria_, 1596.

Del Rio, _Disquisitiones Magicæ_, 1599.

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Lancre, _Inconstance_, 1612: _Incredulité_, 1622.

Michaëlis, _Histoire d’une Pénitente, &c._, 1613.

Tranquille, _Relation de Loudun_, 1634.

_Histoire des Diables de Loudun_ (by Aubin), 1716.

_Histoire de Madeleine Bavent_, de Louviers, 1652.

_Examen de Louviers. Apologie de l’Examen_ (by Yvelin), 1643.

_Procès du P. Girard et de la Cadière_; Aix, 1833.

_Pièces relatives à ce Procès_; 5 vols., Aix, 1833.

_Factum, Chansons, relatifs, &c._ MSS. in the Toulon Library.

Eugène Salverte, _Sciences Occultes_, with Introduction by Littré.

A. Maury, _Les Fées_, 1843; _Magie_, 1860.

Soldan, _Histoire des Procès de Sorcellerie_, 1843.

Thos. Wright, _Narratives of Sorcery, &c._, 1851.

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_Histoire des Sciences au Moyen Age_, by Sprenger, Pouchet, Cuvier, &c.

Printed by Woodfall and Kinder, Angel Court, Skinner Street, London.

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