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List Of Contents | Contents of Marquise de Brinvilliers, by Dumas, Pere
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had a thorough knowledge of this closet: if he knew the closet, he
would know about the box; if he knew about the box, he could not be
an innocent man.  This was enough to induce Madame Mangot de
Villarceaux, the lieutenant's widow, to lodge an accusation against
him, and in consequence a writ was issued against Lachaussee, and he
was arrested.

When this happened, poison was found upon him.  The trial came on
before the Chatelet.  Lachaussee denied his guilt obstinately.  The
judges thinking they had no sufficient proof, ordered the preparatory
question to be applied.  Mme. Mangot appealed from a judgment which
would probably save the culprit if he had the strength to resist the
torture and own to nothing;

[Note: There were two kinds of question, one before and one after the
sentence was passed.  In the first, an accused person would endure
frightful torture in the hope of saving his life, and so would often
confess nothing.  In the second, there was no hope, and therefore it
was not worth while to suffer additional pains.]

so, in virtue of this appeal, a judgment, on March 4th, 1673,
declared that Jean Amelin Lachaussee was convicted of having poisoned
the lieutenant and the councillor; for which he was to be broken
alive on the wheel, having been first subjected to the question both
ordinary and extraordinary, with a view to the discovery of his
accomplices.  At the same time Madame de Brinvilliers was condemned
in default of appearance to have her head cut off.

Lachaussee suffered the torture of the boot.  This was having each
leg fastened between two planks and drawn together in an iron ring,
after which wedges were driven in between the middle planks; the
ordinary question was with four wedges, the extraordinary with eight.
At the third wedge Lachaussee said he was ready to speak; so the
question was stopped, and he was carried into the choir of the chapel
stretched on a mattress, where, in a weak voice--for he could hardly
speak--he begged for half an hour to recover himself.  We give a
verbatim extract from the report of the question and the execution of
the death-sentence:

"Lachaussee, released from the question and laid on the mattress, the
official reporter retired.  Half an hour later Lachaussee begged that
he might return, and said that he was guilty; that Sainte-Croix told
him that Madame de Brinvilliers had given him the poison to
administer to her brothers; that he had done it in water and soup,
had put the reddish water in the lieutenant's glass in Paris, and the
clear water in the pie at Villequoy; that Sainte-Croix had promised
to keep him always, and to make him a gift of 100 pistolets; that he
gave him an account of the effect of the poisons, and that Sainte-
Croix had given him some of the waters several times.  Sainte-Croix
told him that the marquise knew nothing of his other poisonings, but
Lachaussee thought she did know, because she had often spoken to him
about his poisons; that she wanted to compel him to go away, offering
him money if he would go; that she had asked him for the box and its
contents; that if Sainte-Croix had been able to put anyone into the
service of Madame d'Aubray, the lieutenant's widow, he would possibly
have had her poisoned also; for he had a fancy for her daughter."

This declaration, which left no room for doubt, led to the judgment
that came next, thus described in the Parliamentary register: "Report
of the question and execution on the 24th of March 1673, containing
the declarations and confessions of Jean Amelin Lachaussee; the court
has ordered that the persons mentioned, Belleguise, Martin, Poitevin,
Olivier, Veron pere, the wife of Quesdon the wigmaker, be summoned to
appear before the court to be interrogated and heard concerning
matters arising from the present inquiry, and orders that the decree
of arrest against Lapierre and summons against Penautier decreed by
the criminal lieutenant shall be carried out.  In Parliament, 27th
March 1673."  In virtue of this judgment, Penautier, Martin, and
Belleguise were interrogated on the 2lst, 22nd, and 24th of April.
On the 26th of July, Penautier was discharged; fuller information was
desired concerning Belleguise, and the arrest of Martin was ordered.
On the 24th of March, Lachaussee had been broken on the wheel.  As to
Exili, the beginner of it all, he had disappeared like Mephistopheles
after Faust's end, and nothing was heard of him.  Towards the end of
the year Martin was released for want of sufficient evidence.  But
the Marquise de Brinvilliers remained at Liege, and although she was
shut up in a convent she had by no means abandoned one, at any rate,
of the most worldly pleasures.  She had soon found consolation for
the death of Sainte-Croix, whom, all the same, she had loved so much
as to be willing to kill herself for his sake.  But she had adopted a
new lover, Theria by name.  About this man it has been impossible to
get any information, except that his name was several times mentioned
during the trial.  Thus, all the accusations had, one by one, fallen
upon her, and it was resolved to seek her out in the retreat where
she was supposed to be safe.  The mission was difficult and very
delicate.  Desgrais, one of the cleverest of the officials, offered
to undertake it.  He was a handsome man, thirty-six years old or
thereabouts: nothing in his looks betrayed his connection with the
police; he wore any kind of dress with equal ease and grace, and was
familiar with every grade in the social scale, disguising himself as
a wretched tramp or a noble lord.  He was just the right man, so his
offer was accepted.

He started accordingly for Liege, escorted by several archers, and,
fortified by a letter from the king addressed to the Sixty of that
town, wherein Louis xiv demanded the guilty woman to be given up for
punishment.  After examining the letter, which Desgrais had taken
pains to procure, the council authorised the extradition of the

This was much, but it was not all.  The marquise, as we know, had
taken refuge in a convent, where Desgrais dared not arrest her by
force, for two reasons: first, because she might get information
beforehand, and hide herself in one of the cloister retreats whose
secret is known only to the superior; secondly, because Liege was so
religious a town that the event would produce a great sensation: the
act might be looked upon as a sacrilege, and might bring about a
popular rising, during which the marquise might possibly contrive to
escape.  So Desgrais paid a visit to his wardrobe, and feeling that
an abbe's dress would best free him from suspicion, he appeared at
the doors of the convent in the guise of a fellow-countryman just
returned from Rome, unwilling to pass through Liege without
presenting his compliments to the lovely and unfortunate marquise.
Desgrais had just the manner of the younger son of a great house: he
was as flattering as a courtier, as enterprising as a musketeer.  In
this first visit he made himself attractive by his wit and his
audacity, so much so that more easily than he had dared to hope, he
got leave to pay a second call.  The second visit was not long
delayed: Desgrais presented himself the very next day.  Such
eagerness was flattering to the marquise, so Desgrais was received
even better than the night before.  She, a woman of rank and fashion,
for more than a year had been robbed of all intercourse with people
of a certain set, so with Desgrais the marquise resumed her Parisian
manner.  Unhappily the charming abbe was to leave Liege in a few
days; and on that account he became all the more pressing, and a
third visit, to take place next day, was formally arranged.  Desgrais
was punctual: the marquise was impatiently waiting him; but by a
conjunction of circumstances that Desgrais had no doubt arranged
beforehand, the amorous meeting was disturbed two or three times just
as they were getting more intimate and least wanting to be observed.
Desgrais complained of these tiresome checks; besides, the marquise
and he too would be compromised: he owed concealment to his cloth: He
begged her to grant him a rendezvous outside the town, in some
deserted walk, where there would be no fear of their being recognised
or followed: the marquise hesitated no longer than would serve to put
a price on the favour she was granting, and the rendezvous was fixed
for the same evening.

The evening came: both waited with the same impatience, but with very
different hopes.  The marquise found Desgrais at the appointed spot:
he gave her his arm then holding her hand in his own, he gave a sign,
the archers appeared, the lover threw off his mask, Desgrais was
confessed, and the marquise was his prisoner.  Desgrais left her in
the hands of his men, and hastily made his way to the convent.  Then,
and not before, he produced his order from the Sixty, by means of
which he opened the marquise's room.  Under her bed he found a box,
which he seized and sealed; then he went back to her, and gave the
order to start.

When the marquise saw the box in the hands of Desgrais, she at first
appeared stunned; quickly recovering, she claimed a paper inside it
which contained her confession.  Desgrais refused, and as he turned
round for the carriage to come forward, she tried to choke herself by
swallowing a pin.  One of the archers, called Claude, Rolla,
perceiving her intention, contrived to get the pin out of her mouth.
After this, Desgrais commanded that she should be doubly watched.

They stopped for supper.  An archer called Antoine Barbier was
present at the meal, and watched so that no knife or fork should be
put on the table, or any instrument with which she could wound or
kill herself.  The marquise, as she put her glass to her mouth as
though to drink, broke a little bit off with her teeth; but the
archer saw it in time, and forced her to put it out on her plate.
Then she promised him, if he would save her, that she would make his
fortune.  He asked what he would have to do for that.  She proposed
that he should cut Desgrais' throat; but he refused, saying that he

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