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List Of Contents | Contents of Marquise de Brinvilliers, by Dumas, Pere
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stabbed, because she had told him the secret about the poisoning;
that d'Aubray's daughter had to be warned; and that there was a
similar design against the tutor of M. de Brinvillier's children.
Marie de Villeray added that two days after the death of the
councillor, when Lachaussee was in Madame's bedroom, Couste, the late
lieutenant's secretary, was announced, and Lachaussee had to be
hidden in the alcove by the bed.  Lachaussee brought the marquise a
letter from Sainte-Croix.

Francois Desgrais, officer, deposed that when he was given the king's
orders he arrested the marquise at Liege; that he found under her bed
a box which he sealed; that the lady had demanded a paper which was
in it, containing her confession, but he refused it; that on the road
to Paris the marquise had told him that she believed it was Glazer
who made the poisons for Sainte-Croix; that Sainte-Croix, who had
made a rendezvous with her one day at the cross Saint-Honore, there
showed her four little bottles, saying, "See what Glazer has sent
me."  She asked him for one, but Sainte-Croix said he would rather
die than give it up.  He added that the archer Antoine Barbier had
given him three letters written by the marquise to Theria; that in
the first she had told him to come at once and snatch her from the
hands of the soldiers; that in the second she said that the escort
was only composed of eight persons, who could he worsted by five men;
that in the third she said that if he could not save her from the men
who were taking her away, he should at least approach the commissary,
and killing his valet's horse and two other horses in his carriage,
then take the box, and burn it; otherwise she was lost.

Laviolette, an archer, deposed that on the evening of the arrest.
the marquise had a long pin and tried to put it in her mouth; that he
stopped her, and told her that she was very wicked; that he perceived
that people said the truth and that she had poisoned all her family;
to which she replied, that if she had, it was only through following
bad advice, and that one could not always be good.

Antoine Barbier, an archer, said that the marquise at table took up a
glass as though to drink, and tried to swallow a piece of it; that he
prevented this, and she promised to make his fortune if only he would
save her; that she wrote several letters to Theria; that during the
whole journey she tried all she could to swallow pins, bits of glass,
and earth; that she had proposed that he should cut Desgrais' throat,
and kill the commissary's valet; that she had bidden him get the box
and burn it, and bring a lighted torch to burn everything; that she
had written to Penautier from the Conciergerie; that she gave him,
the letter, and he pretended to deliver it.

Finally, Francoise Roussel deposed that she had been in the service
of the marquise, and the lady had one day given her some preserved
gooseberries; that she had eaten some on the point of her knife, and
at once felt ill.  She also gave her a slice of mutton, rather wet,
which she ate, afterwards suffering great pain in the stomach,
feeling as though she had been pricked in the heart, and for three
years had felt the same, believing herself poisoned.

It was difficult to continue a system of absolute denial in face of
proofs like these.  The marquise persisted, all the same, that she
was in no way guilty; and Maitre Nivelle, one of the best lawyers of
the period, consented to defend her cause.

He combated one charge after another, in a remarkably clever way,
owning to the adulterous connection of the marquise with Sainte-
Croix, but denying her participation in the murders of the d'Aubrays,
father and sons: these he ascribed entirely to the vengeance desired
by Sainte-Croix.  As to the confession, the strongest and, he
maintained, the only evidence against Madame de Brinvilliers, he
attacked its validity by bringing forward certain similar cases,
where the evidence supplied by the accused against themselves had not
been admitted by reason of the legal action: 'Non auditur perire
volens'.  He cited three instances, and as they are themselves
interesting, we copy them verbatim from his notes.


                         FIRST CASE

Dominicus Soto, a very famous canonist and theologian, confessor to
Charles V, present at the first meetings of the Council of Trent
under Paul III, propounds a question about a man who had lost a paper
on which he had written down his sins.  It happened that this paper
fell into the hands of an ecclesiastical judge, who wished to put in
information against the writer on the strength of this document.  Now
this judge was justly punished by his superior, because confession is
so sacred that even that which is destined to constitute the
confession should be wrapped in eternal silence.  In accordance with
this precedent, the following judgment, reported in the 'Traite des
Confesseurs', was given by Roderic Acugno.  A Catalonian, native of
Barcelona, who was condemned to death for homicide and owned his
guilt, refused to confess when the hour of punishment arrived.
However strongly pressed, he resisted, and so violently, giving no
reason, that all were persuaded that his mind was unhinged by the
fear of death.  Saint-Thomas of Villeneuve, Archbishop of Valencia,
heard of his obstinacy.  Valencia was the place where his sentence
was given.  The worthy prelate was so charitable as to try to
persuade the criminal to make his confession, so as not to lose his
soul as well as his body.  Great was his surprise, when he asked the
reason of the refusal, to hear the doomed man declare that he hated
confessors, because he had been condemned through the treachery of
his own priest, who was the only person who knew about the murder.
In confession he had admitted his crime and said where the body was
buried, and all about it; his confessor had revealed it all, and he
could not deny it, and so he had been condemned.  He had only just
learned, what he did not know at the time he confessed, that his
confessor was the brother of the man he had killed, and that the
desire for vengeance had prompted the bad priest to betray his
confession.  Saint-Thomas, hearing this, thought that this incident
was of more importance than the trial, which concerned the life of
only one person, whereas the honour of religion was at stake, with
consequences infinitely more important.  He felt he must verify this
statement, and summoned the confessor.  When he had admitted the
breach of faith, the judges were obliged to revoke their sentence and
pardon the criminal, much to the gratification of the public mind.
The confessor was adjudged a very severe penance, which Saint-Thomas
modified because of his prompt avowal of his fault, and still more
because he had given an opportunity for the public exhibition of that
reverence which judges themselves are bound to pay to confessions.


                         SECOND CASE

In 1579 an innkeeper at Toulouse killed with his own hand, unknown to
the inmates of his house, a stranger who had come to lodge with him,
and buried him secretly in the cellar.  The wretch then suffered from
remorse, and confessed the crime with all its circumstances, telling
his confessor where the body was buried.  The relations of the dead
man, after making all possible search to get news of him, at last
proclaimed through the town a large reward to be given to anyone who
would discover what had happened to him.  The confessor, tempted by
this bait, secretly gave word that they had only to search in the
innkeeper's cellar and they would find the corpse.  And they found it
in the place indicated.  The innkeeper was thrown into prison, was
tortured, and confessed his crime.  But afterwards he always
maintained that his confessor was the only person who could have
betrayed him.  Then the Parliament, indignant with such means of
finding out the truth, declared him innocent, failing other proof
than what came through his confessor.  The confessor was himself
condemned to be hanged, and his body was burnt.  So fully did the
tribunal in its wisdom recognise the importance of securing the
sanctity of a sacrament that is indispensable to salvation.


                         THIRD CASE

An Armenian woman had inspired a violent passion in a young Turkish
gentleman, but her prudence was long an obstacle to her lover's
desires.  At last he went beyond all bounds, and threatened to kill
both her and her husband if she refused to gratify him.  Frightened
by this threat, which she knew too well he would carry out, she
feigned consent, and gave the Turk a rendezvous at her house at an
hour when she said her husband would be absent; but by arrangement
the husband arrived, and although the Turk was armed with a sabre and
a pair of pistols, it so befell that they were fortunate enough to
kill their enemy, whom they buried under their dwelling unknown to
all the world.  But some days after the event they went to confess to
a priest of their nation, and revealed every detail of the tragic
story.  This unworthy minister of the Lord supposed that in a
Mahommedan country, where the laws of the priesthood and the
functions of a confessor are either unknown or disapproved, no
examination would be made into the source of his information, and
that his evidence would have the same weight as any other accuser's.
So he resolved to make a profit and gratify his own avarice.  Several
times he visited the husband and wife, always borrowing considerable
sums, and threatening to reveal their crime if they refused him.  The
first few times the poor creatures gave in to his exactions; but the
moment came at last when, robbed of all their fortune, they were
obliged to refuse the sum he demanded.  Faithful to his threat, the
priest, with a view to more reward, at once denounced them to the
dead man's father.  He, who had adored his son, went to the vizier,
told him he had identified the murderers through their confessor, and
asked for justice.  But this denunciation had by no means the desired
effect.  The vizier, on the contrary, felt deep pity for the wretched

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