List Of Contents | Contents of Urbain Grandier, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

which he had commenced, Mannouri passed to that on the thigh, but
though he plunged the needle in to its full depth Grandier uttered
neither cry nor groan, but went on quietly repeating a prayer, and
notwithstanding that Mannouri stabbed him twice more through each of
the two marks, he could draw nothing from his victim but prayers for
his tormentors.

M. de Laubardemont was present at this scene.

The next day the devil was addressed in such forcible terms that an
acknowledgment was wrung from him that Grandier's body bore, not
five, but two marks only; and also, to the vast admiration of the
spectators, he was able this time to indicate their precise

Unfortunately for the demon, a joke in which he indulged on this
occasion detracted from the effect of the above proof of cleverness.
Having been asked why he had refused to speak on the preceding
Saturday, he said he had not been at Loudun on that day, as the whole
morning he had been occupied in accompanying the soul of a certain Le
Proust, attorney to the Parliament of Paris, to hell.  This answer
awoke such doubts in the breasts of some of the laymen present that
they took the trouble to examine the register of deaths, and found
that no one of the name of Le Proust, belonging to any profession
whatever, had died on that date.  This discovery rendered the devil
less terrible, and perhaps less amusing.

Meantime the progress of the other exorcisms met with like
interruptions.  Pere Pierre de Saint Thomas, who conducted the
operations in the Carmelite church, asked one of the possessed
sisters where Grandier's books of magic were; she replied that they
were kept at the house of a certain young girl, whose name she gave,
and who was the same to whom Adam had been forced to apologise.  De
Laubardemont, Moussant, Herve, and Meunau hastened at once to the
house indicated, searched the rooms and the presses, opened the
chests and the wardrobes and all the secret places in the house, but
in vain.  On their return to the church, they reproached the devil
for having deceived them, but he explained that a niece of the young
woman had removed the books.  Upon this, they hurried to the niece's
dwelling, but unluckily she was not at home, having spent the whole
day at a certain church making her devotions, and when they went
thither, the priests and attendants averred that she had not gone out
all day; so notwithstanding the desire of the exorcists to oblige
Adam they were forced to let the matter drop.

These two false statements increased the number of unbelievers; but
it was announced that a most interesting performance would take place
on May 4th; indeed, the programme when issued was varied enough to
arouse general curiosity.  Asmodeus was to raise the superior two
feet from the ground, and the fiends Eazas and Cerberus, in emulation
of their leader, would do as much for two other nuns; while a fourth
devil, named Beherit, would go farther still, and, greatly daring,
would attack M. de Laubardemont himself, and, having spirited his
councillor's cap from his head, would hold it suspended in the air
for the space of a Misereye.  Furthermore, the exorcists announced
that six of the strongest men in the town would try to prevent the
contortions of the, weakest of the convulsed nuns, and would fail.

It need hardly be said that the prospect of such an entertainment
filled the church on the appointed day to overflowing.  Pere Lactance
began by calling on Asmodeus to fulfil his promise of raising the
superior from the ground.  She began, hereupon, to perform various
evolutions on her mattress, and at one moment it seemed as if she
were really suspended in the air; but one of the spectators lifted
her dress and showed that she was only standing on tiptoe, which,
though it might be clever, was not miraculous.  Shouts of laughter
rent the air, which had such an intimidating effect on Eazas and
Cerberus that not all the adjurations of the exorcists could extract
the slightest response.  Beherit was their last hope, and he replied
that he was prepared to lift up M. de Laubardemont's cap, and would
do so before the expiration of a quarter of an hour.

We must here remark that this time the exorcisms took place in the
evening, instead of in the morning as hitherto; and it was now
growing dark, and darkness is favourable to illusions.  Several of
the unbelieving ones present, therefore, began to call attention to
the fact that the quarter of an hour's delay would necessitate the
employment of artificial light during the next scene.  They also
noticed that M. de Laubardemont had seated himself apart and
immediately beneath one of the arches in the vaulted  roof, through
which a hole had been drilled for the passage of the bell-rope.  They
therefore slipped out of the church, and up into the belfry, where
they hid.  In a few moments a man appeared who began to work at
something.  They sprang on him and seized his wrists, and found in
one of his hands a thin line of horsehair, to one end of which a hook
was attached.  The holder being frightened, dropped the line and
fled, and although M. de Laubardemont, the exorcists, and the
spectators waited, expecting every moment that the cap would rise
into the air, it remained quite firm on the owner's head, to the no
small confusion of Pere Lactance, who, all unwitting of the fiasco,
continued to adjure Beherit to keep his word--of course without the
least effect.

Altogether, this performance of May 4th, went anything but smoothly.
Till now no trick had succeeded; never before had the demons been
such bunglers.  But the exorcists were sure that the last trick would
go off without a hitch.  This was, that a nun, held by six men chosen
for their strength, would succeed in extricating herself from their
grasp, despite their utmost efforts.  Two Carmelites and two
Capuchins went through the audience and selected six giants from
among the porters and messengers of the town.

This time the devil answered expectations by showing that if he was
not clever he was strong, for although the six men tried to hold her
down upon her mattress, the superior was seized with such terrible
convulsions that she escaped from their hands, throwing down one of
those who tried to detain her.  This experiment, thrice renewed,
succeeded thrice, and belief seemed about to return to the assembly,
when a physician of Saumur named Duncan, suspecting trickery, entered
the choir, and, ordering the six men to retire, said he was going to
try and hold the superior down unaided, and if she escaped from his
hands he would make a public apology for his unbelief.  M. de
Laubardemont tried to prevent this test, by objecting to Duncan as an
atheist, but as Duncan was greatly respected on account of his skill
and probity, there was such an outcry at this interference from the
entire audience that the commissioner was forced to let him have his
way.  The six porters were therefore dismissed, but instead of
resuming their places among the spectators they left the church by
the sacristy, while Duncan approaching the bed on which the superior
had again lain down, seized her by the wrist, and making certain that
he had a firm hold, he told the exorcists to begin.

Never up to that time had it been so clearly shown that the conflict
going on was between public opinion and the private aims of a few.  A
hush fell on the church; everyone stood motionless in silent

The moment Pere Lactance uttered the sacred words the convulsions of
the superior recommenced; but it seemed as if Duncan had more
strength than his six predecessors together, for twist and writhe and
struggle as she would, the superior's wrist remained none the less
firmly clasped in Duncan's hand.  At length she fell back on her bed
exhausted, exclaiming!"

"It's no use, it's no use!  He's holding me!"

Release her arm!  "shouted Pere Lactance in a rage.  "How can the
convulsions take place if you hold her that way?"

"If she is really possessed by a demon," answered Duncan aloud, "he
should be stronger than I; for it is stated in the ritual that among
the symptoms of possession is strength beyond one's years, beyond
one's condition, and beyond what is natural."

"That is badly argued," said Lactance sharply: "a demon outside the
body is indeed stronger than you, but when enclosed in a weak frame
such as this it cannot show such strength, for its efforts are
proportioned to the strength of the body it possesses."

"Enough!" said M. de Laubardemont; "we did not come here to argue
with philosophers, but to build up the faith of Christians."

With that he rose up from his chair amidst a terrible uproar, and the
assembly dispersed in the utmost disorder, as if they were leaving a
theatre rather than a church.

The ill success of this exhibition caused a cessation of events of
interest for some days.  The result was that a great number of
noblemen and other people of quality who had come to Loudun expecting
to see wonders and had been shown only commonplace transparent
tricks, began to think it was not worth while remaining any longer,
and went their several ways--a defection much bewailed by Pere
Tranquille in a little work which he published on this affair.

"Many," he says, "came to see miracles at Loudun, but finding the
devils did not give them the signs they expected, they went away
dissatisfied, and swelled the numbers of the unbelieving."

It was determined, therefore, in order to keep the town full, to
predict some great event which would revive curiosity and increase
faith.  Pere Lactance therefore announced that on the 20th of May
three of the seven devils dwelling in the superior would come out,
leaving three wounds in her left side, with corresponding holes in
her chemise, bodice, and dress.  The three parting devils were
Asmodeus, Gresil des Trones, and Aman des Puissances.  He added that
the superior's hands would be bound behind her back at the time the
wounds were given.

On the appointed day the church of Sainte-Croix was filled to
overflowing with sightseers curious to know if the devils would keep

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: