Make your own free website on

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

allow to have opened.  The clerk then went up to the Sieur Picard's
bedroom, but came back saying that what the marquise demanded was for
the time being an impossibility, for the commissary was asleep.  She
saw that it was idle to insist, and went away, saying that she should
send a man the next morning to fetch the box.  In the morning the man
came, offering fifty Louis to the commissary on behalf of the
marquise, if he would give her the box.  But he replied that the box
was in the sealed room, that it would have to be opened, and that if
the objects claimed by the marquise were really hers, they would be
safely handed over to her.  This reply struck the marquise like a
thunderbolt.  There was no time to be lost: hastily she removed from
the rue Neuve-Saint-Paul, where her town house was, to Picpus, her
country place.  Thence she posted the same evening to Liege, arriving
the next morning, and retired to a convent.

The seals had been set on the 31st of July 1672, and they were taken
off on the 8th of August following.  Just as they set to work a
lawyer charged with full powers of acting for the marquise, appeared
and put in the following statement: "Alexandre Delamarre, lawyer
acting for the Marquise de Brinvilliers, has come forward, and
declares that if in the box claimed by his client there is found a
promise signed by her for the sum of 30,000 livres, it is a paper
taken from her by fraud, against which, in case of her signature
being verified, she intends to lodge an appeal for nullification."
This formality over, they proceeded to open Sainte-Croix's closet:
the key was handed to the commissary Picard by a Carmelite called
Friar Victorin.  The commissary opened the door, and entered with the
parties interested, the officers, and the widow, and they began by
setting aside the loose papers, with a view to taking them in order,
one at a time.  While they were thus busy, a small roll fell down, on
which these two words were written: "My Confession."  All present,
having no reason to suppose Sainte-Croix a bad man, decided that this
paper ought not to be read.  The deputy for the attorney general on
being consulted was of this opinion, and the confession of Sainte-
Croix was burnt.  This act of conscience performed, they proceeded to
make an inventory.  One of the first objects that attracted the
attention of the officers was the box claimed by Madame de
Brinvilliers.  Her insistence had provoked curiosity, so they began
with it.  Everybody went near to see what was in it, and it was

We shall let the report speak: in such cases nothing is so effective
or so terrible as the official statement.

"In the closet of Sainte-Croix was found a small box one foot square,
on the top of which lay a half-sheet of paper entitled 'My Will,'
written on one side and containing these words: 'I humbly entreat any
into whose hands this chest may fall to do me the kindness of putting
it into the hands of Madame the Marquise de Brinvilliers, resident in
the rue Neuve-Saint-Paul, seeing that all the contents concern and
belong to her alone, and are of no use to any person in the world
apart from herself: in case of her being already dead before me, the
box and all its contents should be burnt without opening or
disturbing anything.  And lest anyone should plead ignorance of the
contents, I swear by the God I worship and by all that is most sacred
that no untruth is here asserted.  If anyone should contravene my
wishes that are just and reasonable in this matter, I charge their
conscience therewith in discharging my own in this world and the
next, protesting that such is my last wish.

"'Given at Paris, the 25th of May after noon, 1672.  Signed by

"And below were written these words: 'There is one packet only
addressed to M. Penautier which should be delivered.'"

It may be easily understood that a disclosure of this kind only
increased the interest of the scene; there was a murmur of curiosity,
and when silence again reigned, the official continued in these

"A packet has been found sealed in eight different places with eight
different seals.  On this is written: 'Papers to be burnt in case of
my death, of no consequence to anyone.  I humbly beg those into whose
hands they may fall to burn them.  I give this as a charge upon their
conscience; all without opening the packet.' In this packet we find
two parcels of sublimate.

"Item, another packet sealed with six different seals, on which is a
similar inscription, in which is found more sublimate, half a pound
in weight.

"Item, another packet sealed with six different seals, on which is a
similar inscription, in which are found three parcels, one containing
half an ounce of sublimate, the second 2 1/4 ozs. of Roman vitriol,
and the third some calcined prepared vitriol.  In the box was found a
large square phial, one pint in capacity, full of a clear liquid,
which was looked at by M. Moreau, the doctor; he, however, could not
tell its nature until it was tested.

"Item, another phial, with half a pint of clear liquid with a white
sediment, about which Moreau said the same thing as before.

"Item, a small earthenware pot containing two or three lumps of
prepared opium.

"Item, a folded paper containing two drachms of corrosive sublimate

"Next, a little box containing a sort of stone known as infernal

"Next, a paper containing one ounce of opium.

"Next, a piece of pure antimony weighing three ounces.

"Next, a packet of powder on which was written: 'To check the flow of
blood.'  Moreau said that it was quince flower and quince buds dried.

"Item, a pack sealed with six seals, on which was written, 'Papers to
be burnt in case of death.'  In this twenty-four letters were found,
said to have been written by the Marquise de Brinvilliers.

"Item, another packet sealed with six seals, on which a similar
inscription was written.  In this were twenty-seven pieces of paper
on each of which was written: 'Sundry curious secrets.'

"Item, another packet with six more seals, on which a similar
inscription was written.  In this were found seventy-five livres,
addressed to different persons.  Besides all these, in the box there
were two bonds, one from the marquise for 30,000, and one from
Penautier for 10,000 francs, their dates corresponding to the time of
the deaths of M. d'Aubray and the Sieur de St. Laurent."

The difference in the amount shows that Sainte-Croix had a tariff,
and that parricide was more expensive than simple assassination.
Thus in his death did Sainte-Croix bequeath the poisons to his
mistress and his friend; not content with his own crimes in the past,
he wished to be their accomplice in the future.

The first business of the officials was to submit the different
substances to analysis, and to experiment with them on animals.
The report follows of Guy Simon, an apothecary, who was charged to
undertake the analysis and the experiments:

"This artificial poison reveals its nature on examination.  It is so
disguised that one fails to recognise it, so subtle that it deceives
the scientific, so elusive that it escapes the doctor's eye:
experiments seem to be at fault with this poison, rules useless,
aphorisms ridiculous.  The surest experiments are made by the use of
the elements or upon animals.  In water, ordinary poison falls by its
own weight.  The water is superior, the poison obeys, falls
downwards, and takes the lower place.

"The trial by fire is no less certain: the fire evaporates and
disperses all that is innocent and pure, leaving only acrid and sour
matter which resists its influence.  The effect produced by poisons
on animals is still more plain to see: its malignity extends to every
part that it reaches, and all that it touches is vitiated; it burns
and scorches all the inner parts with a strange, irresistible fire.

"The poison employed by Sainte-Croix has been tried in all the ways,
and can defy every experiment.  This poison floats in water, it is
the superior, and the water obeys it; it escapes in the trial by
fire, leaving behind only innocent deposits; in animals it is so
skilfully concealed that no one could detect it; all parts of the
animal remain healthy and active; even while it is spreading the
cause of death, this artificial poison leaves behind the marks and
appearance of life.  Every sort of experiment has been tried.  The
first was to pour out several drops of the liquid found into oil of
tartar and sea water, and nothing was precipitated into the vessels
used; the second was to pour the same liquid into a sanded vessel,
and at the bottom there was found nothing acrid or acid to the
tongue, scarcely any stains; the third experiment was tried upon an
Indian fowl, a pigeon, a dog, and some other animals, which died soon
after.  When they were opened, however, nothing was found but a
little coagulated blood in the ventricle of the heart.  Another
experiment was giving a white powder to a cat, in a morsel of mutton.
The cat vomited for half an hour, and was found dead the next day,
but when opened no part of it was found to be affected by the poison.
A second trial of the same poison was made upon a pigeon, which soon
died.  When opened, nothing peculiar was found except a little
reddish water in the stomach."

These experiments proved that Sainte-Croix was a learned chemist, and
suggested the idea that he did not employ his art for nothing;
everybody recalled the sudden, unexpected deaths that had occurred,
and the bonds from the marquise and from Penautier looked like blood-
money.  As one of these two was absent, and the other so powerful and
rich that they dared not arrest him without proofs, attention was now
paid to the objection put in by Lachaussee.

It was said in the objection that Lachaussee had spent seven years in
the service of Sainte-Croix, so he could not have considered the time
he had passed with the d'Aubrays as an interruption to this service.
The bag containing the thousand pistoles and the three bonds for a
hundred livres had been found in the place indicated; thus Lachaussee

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: