Make your own free website on Tripod.com

List Of Contents | Contents of Marquise de Brinvilliers, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page    

temptation that might assail you."

"Sir," she said, "I will do so, but it is nothing."  Then, looking
towards the executioner, who, as we know, sat facing the doctor, she
said, "Put me in front of you, please; hide that man from me."  And
she stretched out her hands towards a man who was following the
tumbril on horseback, and so dropped the torch, which the doctor
took, and the crucifix, which fell on the floor.  The executioner
looked back, and then turned sideways as she wished, nodding and
saying, "Oh yes, I understand."  The doctor pressed to know what it
meant, and she said, "It is nothing worth telling you, and it is a
weakness in me not to be able to bear the sight of a man who has ill-
used me.  The man who touched the back of the tumbril is Desgrais,
who arrested me at Liege, and treated me so badly all along the road.
When I saw him, I could not control myself, as you noticed."

"Madame," said the doctor, "I have heard of him, and you yourself
spoke of him in confession; but the man was sent to arrest you, and
was in a responsible position, so that he had to guard you closely
and rigorously; even if he had been more severe, he would only have
been carrying out his orders.  Jesus Christ, madame, could but have
regarded His executioners as ministers of iniquity, servants of
injustice, who added of their own accord every indignity they could
think of; yet all along the way He looked on them with patience and
more than patience, and in His death He prayed for them."

In the heart of the marquise a hard struggle was passing, and this
was reflected on her face; but it was only for a moment, and after a
last convulsive shudder she was again calm and serene; then she
said:--

"Sir, you are right, and I am very wrong to feel such a fancy as
this: may God forgive me; and pray remember this fault on the
scaffold, when you give me the absolution you promise, that this too
may be pardoned me."  Then she turned to the executioner and said,
"Please sit where you were before, that I may see M. Desgrais."  The
man hesitated, but on a sign from the doctor obeyed.  The marquise
looked fully at Desgrais for some time, praying for him; then, fixing
her eyes on the crucifix, began to pray for herself: this incident
occurred in front of the church of Sainte-Genevieve des Ardents.

But, slowly as it moved, the tumbril steadily advanced, and at last
reached the place of Notre-Dame.  The archers drove back the crowding
people, and the tumbril went up to the steps, and there stopped.  The
executioner got down, removed the board at the back, held out his
arms to the marquise, and set her down on the pavement.  The doctor
then got down, his legs quite numb from the cramped position he had
been in since they left the Conciergerie.  He mounted the church
steps and stood behind the marquise, who herself stood on the square,
with the registrar on her right, the executioner on her left, and a
great crowd of people behind her, inside the church, all the doors
being thrown open.  She was made to kneel, and in her hands was
placed the lighted torch, which up to that time the doctor had helped
to carry.  Then the registrar read the 'amende honorable' from a
written paper, and she began to say it after him, but in so low a
voice that the executioner said loudly, "Speak out as he does; repeat
every word.  Louder, louder!"  Then she raised her voice, and loudly
and firmly recited the following apology.

"I confess that, wickedly and for revenge, I poisoned my father and
my brothers, and attempted to poison my sister, to obtain possession
of their goods, and I ask pardon of God, of the king, and of my
country's laws."

The 'amende honorable' over, the executioner again carried her to the
tumbril, not giving her the torch any more: the doctor sat beside
her: all was just as before, and the tumbril went on towards La
Greve.  From that moment, until she arrived at the scaffold, she
never took her eyes off the crucifix, which the doctor held before
her the whole time, exhorting her with religious words, trying to
divert her attention from the terrible noise which the people made
around the car, a murmur mingled with curses.

When they reached the Place de Greve, the tumbril stopped at a little
distance from the scaffold.  Then the registrar M. Drouet, came up on
horseback, and, addressing the marquise, said, "Madame, have you
nothing more to say?  If you wish to make any declaration, the twelve
commissaries are here at hand, ready to receive it."

"You see, madame," said the doctor, "we are now at the end of our
journey, and, thank God, you have not lost your power of endurance on
the road; do not destroy the effect of all you have suffered and all
you have yet to suffer by concealing what you know, if perchance you
do know more than you have hitherto said."

"I have told all I know," said the marquise, "and there is no more I
can say."

"Repeat these words in a loud voice," said the doctor, "so that
everybody may hear."

Then in her loudest voice the marquise repeated--

"I have told all I know, and there is no more I can say."

After this declaration, they were going to drive the tumbril nearer
to the scaffold, but the crowd was so dense that the assistant could
not force a way through, though he struck out on every side with his
whip.  So they had to stop a few paces short.  The executioner had
already got down, and was adjusting the ladder.  In this terrible
moment of waiting, the marquise looked calmly and gratefully at the
doctor, and when she felt that the tumbril had stopped, said, "Sir,
it is not here we part: you promised not to leave me till my head is
cut off.  I trust you will keep your word."

"To be sure I will," the doctor replied; "we shall not be separated
before the moment of your death: be not troubled about that, for I
will never forsake you."

"I looked for this kindness," she said, "and your promise was too
solemn for you to think for one moment of failing me.  Please be on
the scaffold and be near me.  And now, sir, I would anticipate the
final farewell,--for all the things I shall have to do on the
scaffold may distract me,--so let me thank you here.  If I am
prepared to suffer the sentence of my earthly judge, and to hear that
of my heavenly judge, I owe it to your care for me, and I am deeply
grateful.  I can only ask your forgiveness for the trouble I have
given you."  Tears choked the doctor's speech, and he could not
reply.  "Do you not forgive me?" she repeated.  At her words, the
doctor tried to reassure her; but feeling that if he opened his mouth
he must needs break into sobs, he still kept silent.  The marquise
appealed to him a third time.  "I entreat you, sir, forgive me; and
do not regret the time you have passed with me.  You will say a De
Profundus at the moment of my death, and a mass far me to-morrow:
will you not promise?"

"Yes, madame," said the doctor in a choking voice; "yes, yes, be
calm, and I will do all you bid me."

The executioner hereupon removed the board, and helped the marquise
out of the tumbril; and as they advanced the few steps towards the
scaffold, and all eyes were upon them, the doctor could hide his
tears for a moment without being observed.  As he was drying his
eyes, the assistant gave him his hand to help him down.  Meanwhile
the marquise was mounting the ladder with the executioner, and when
they reached the platform he told her to kneel down in front of a
block which lay across it.  Then the doctor, who had mounted with a
step less firm than hers, came and knelt beside her, but turned in
the other direction, so that he might whisper in her ear--that is,
the marquise faced the river, and the doctor faced the Hotel de
Ville.  Scarcely had they taken their place thus when the man took
down her hair and began cutting it at the back and at the sides,
making her turn her head this way and that, at times rather roughly;
but though this ghastly toilet lasted almost half an hour, she made
no complaint, nor gave any sign of pain but her silent tears.  When
her hair was cut, he tore open the top of the shirt, so as to uncover
the shoulders, and finally bandaged her eyes, and lifting her face by
the chin, ordered her to hold her head erect.  She obeyed,
unresisting, all the time listening to the doctor's words and
repeating them from time to time, when they seemed suitable to her
own condition.  Meanwhile, at the back of the scaffold, on which the
stake was placed, stood the executioner, glancing now and again at
the folds of his cloak, where there showed the hilt of a long,
straight sabre, which he had carefully concealed for fear Madame de
Brinvilliers might see it when she mounted the scaffold.  When the
doctor, having pronounced absolution, turned his head and saw that
the man was not yet armed, he uttered these prayers, which she
repeated after him: "Jesus, Son of David and Mary, have mercy upon
me; Mary, daughter of David and Mother of Jesus, pray for me; my God,
I abandon my body, which is but dust, that men may burn it and do
with it what they please, in the firm faith that it shall one day
arise and be reunited with my soul.  I trouble not concerning my
body; grant, O God, that I yield up to Thee my soul, that it may
enter into Thy rest; receive it into Thy bosom; that it may dwell
once more there, whence it first descended; from Thee it came, to
Thee returns; Thou art the source and the beginning; be thou, O God,
the centre and the end!"

The marquise had said these words when suddenly the doctor heard a
dull stroke like the sound of a chopper chopping meat upon a block:
at that moment she ceased to speak.  The blade had sped so quickly
that the doctor had not even seen a flash.  He stopped, his hair
bristling, his brow bathed in sweat; for, not seeing the head fall,
he supposed that the executioner had missed the mark and must needs
start afresh.  But his fear was short-lived, for almost at the same
moment the head inclined to the left, slid on to the shoulder, and
thence backward, while the body fell forward on the crossway block,
supported so that the spectators could see the neck cut open and
bleeding.  Immediately, in fulfilment of his promise, the doctor said
a De Profundis.

When the prayer was done and the doctor raised his head, he saw
before him the executioner wiping his face.  "Well, sir," said he,
"was not that a good stroke?  I always put up a prayer on these
occasions, and God has always assisted me; but I have been anxious
for several days about this lady.  I had six masses said, and I felt
strengthened in hand and heart."  He then pulled out a bottle from
under his cloak, and drank a dram; and taking the body under one arm,
all dressed as it was, and the head in his other hand, the eyes still
bandaged, he threw both upon the faggots, which his assistant
lighted.

"The next day," says Madame de Sevigne, "people were looking for the
charred bones of Madame de Brinvilliers, because they said she was a
saint."

In 1814, M. d'Offemont, father of the present occupier of the castle
where the Marquise de Brinvilliers poisoned her father, frightened at
the approach of all the allied troops, contrived in one of the towers
several hiding-places, where he shut up his silver and such other
valuables as were to be found in this lonely country in the midst of
the forest of Laigue.  The foreign troops were passing backwards and
forwards at Offemont, and after a three months' occupation retired to
the farther side of the frontier.

Then the owners ventured to take out the various things that had been
hidden; and tapping the walls, to make sure nothing had been
overlooked, they detected a hollow sound that indicated the presence
of some unsuspected cavity.  With picks and bars they broke the wall
open, and when several stones had come out they found a large closet
like a laboratory, containing furnaces, chemical instruments, phials
hermetically sealed full of an unknown liquid, and four packets of
powders of different colours.  Unluckily, the people who made these
discoveries thought them of too much or too little importance; and
instead of submitting the ingredients to the tests of modern science,
they made away with them all, frightened at their probably deadly
nature.

Thus was lost this great opportunity--probably the last--for finding
and analysing the substances which composed the poisons of Sainte-
Croix and Madame de Brinvilliers.






< < Previous Page    



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com