List Of Contents | Contents of Marquise de Brinvilliers, by Dumas, Pere
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to Madame de Marillac, and the third to M. Couste.  I should have
liked to show them to you, but Father Chavigny offered to take charge
of them, and as he had approved of them, I could not venture to
suggest any doubts.  After the letters were written, we had some
conversation and prayer; but when the father took up his breviary and
I my rosary with the same intention, I felt so weary that I asked if
I might lie on my bed; he said I might, and I had two good hours'
sleep without dreams or any sort of uneasiness; when I woke we prayed
together, and had just finished when you came back."

"Well, madame," said the doctor, "if you will, we can pray again;
kneel down, and let us say the 'Veni Sancte Spiritus'."

She obeyed, and said the prayer with much unction and piety.  The
prayer finished, M. Pirot was about to take up the pen to go on with
the confession, when she said, "Pray let me submit to you one
question which is troubling me.  Yesterday you gave me great hope of
the mercy of God; but I cannot presume to hope I shall be saved
without spending a long time in purgatory; my crime is far too
atrocious to be pardoned on any other conditions; and when I have
attained to a love of God far greater than I can feel here, I should
not expect to be saved before my stains have been purified by fire,
without suffering the penalty that my sins have deserved.  But I have
been told that the flames of purgatory where souls are burned for a
time are just the same as the flames of hell where those who are
damned burn through all eternity tell me, then, how can a soul
awaking in purgatory at the moment of separation from this body be
sure that she is not really in hell? how can she know that the flames
that burn her and consume not will some day cease?  For the torment
she suffers is like that of the damned, and the flames wherewith she
is burned are even as the flames of hell.  This I would fain know,
that at this awful moment I may feel no doubt, that I may know for
certain whether I dare hope or must despair."

"Madame," replied the doctor, "you are right, and God is too just to
add the horror of uncertainty to His rightful punishments.  At that
moment when the soul quits her earthly body the judgment of God is
passed upon her: she hears the sentence of pardon or of doom; she
knows whether she is in the state of grace or of mortal sin; she sees
whether she is to be plunged forever into hell, or if God sends her
for a time to purgatory.  This sentence, madame, you will learn at
the very instant when the executioner's axe strikes you; unless,
indeed, the fire of charity has so purified you in this life that you
may pass, without any purgatory at all, straight to the home of the
blessed who surround the throne of the Lord, there to receive a
recompense for earthly martyrdom."

"Sir," replied the marquise, "I have such faith in all you say that I
feel I understand it all now, and I am satisfied."

The doctor and the marquise then resumed the confession that was
interrupted the night before.  The marquise had during the night
recollected certain articles that she wanted to add.  So they
continued, the doctor making her pause now and then in the narration
of the heavier offences to recite an act of contrition.

After an hour and a half they came to tell her to go down.  The
registrar was waiting to read her the sentence.  She listened very
calmly, kneeling, only moving her head; then, with no alteration in
her voice, she said, "In a moment: we will have one word more, the
doctor and I, and then I am at your disposal."  She then continued to
dictate the rest of her confession.  When she reached the end, she
begged him to offer a short prayer with her, that God might help her
to appear with such becoming contrition before her judges as should
atone for her scandalous effrontery.  She then took up her cloak, a
prayer-book which Father Chavigny had left with her, and followed the
concierge, who led her to the torture chamber, where her sentence was
to be read.

First, there was an examination which lasted five hours.  The
marquise told all she had promised to tell, denying that she had any
accomplices, and affirming that she knew nothing of the composition
of the poisons she had administered, and nothing of their antidotes.
When this was done, and the judges saw that they could extract
nothing further, they signed to the registrar to read the sentence.
She stood to hear it: it was as follows:

"That by the finding of the court, d'Aubray de Brinvilliers is
convicted of causing the death by poison of Maitre Dreux d'Aubray,
her father, and of the two Maitres d'Aubray, her brothers, one a
civil lieutenant, the other a councillor to the Parliament, also of
attempting the life of Therese d'Aubray, her sister; in punishment
whereof the court has condemned and does condemn the said d'Aubray de
Brinvilliers to make the rightful atonement before the great gate of
the church of Paris, whither she shall be conveyed in a tumbril,
barefoot, a rope on her neck, holding in her hands a burning torch
two pounds in weight; and there on her knees she shall say and
declare that maliciously, with desire for revenge and seeking their
goods, she did poison her father, cause to be poisoned her two
brothers, and attempt the life of her sister, whereof she doth
repent, asking pardon of God, of the king, and of the judges; and
when this is done, she shall be conveyed and carried in the same
tumbril to the Place de Greve of this town, there to have her head
cut off on a scaffold to be set up for the purpose at that place;
afterwards her body to be burnt and the ashes scattered; and first
she is to be subjected to the question ordinary and extraordinary,
that she may reveal the names of her accomplices.  She is declared to
be deprived of all successions from her said father, brothers, and
sister, from the date of the several crimes; and all her goods are
confiscated to the proper persons; and the sum of 4000 livres shall
be paid out of her estate to the king, and 400 livres to the Church
for prayers to be said on behalf of the poisoned persons; and all the
costs shall be paid, including those of Amelin called Lachaussee.  In
Parliament, 16th July 1676."

The marquise heard her sentence without showing any sign of fear or
weakness.  When it was finished, she said to the registrar, "Will
you, sir, be so kind as to read it again?  I had not expected the
tumbril, and I was so much struck by that that I lost the thread of
what followed."

The registrar read the sentence again.  From that moment she was the
property of the executioner, who approached her.  She knew him by the
cord he held in his hands, and extended her own, looking him over
coolly from head to foot without a word.  The judges then filed out,
disclosing as they did so the various apparatus of the question.  The
marquise firmly gazed upon the racks and ghastly rings, on which so
many had been stretched crying and screaming.  She noticed the three
buckets of water

[Note: The torture with the water was thus administered.  There were
eight vessels, each containing 2 pints of water.  Four of these
were given for the ordinary, and eight for the extraordinary.  The
executioner inserted a horn into the patient's mouth, and if he shut
his teeth, forced him to open them by pinching his nose with the
finger and thumb.]

prepared for her, and turned to the registrar--for she would not
address the executioner--saying, with a smile, "No doubt all this
water is to drown me in?  I hope you don't suppose that a person of
my size could swallow it all."  The executioner said not a word, but
began taking off her cloak and all her other garments, until she was
completely naked.  He then led her up to the wall and made her sit on
the rack of the ordinary question, two feet from the ground.  There
she was again asked to give the names of her accomplices, the
composition of the poison and its antidote; but she made the same
reply as to the doctor, only adding, "If you do not believe me, you
have my body in your hands, and you can torture me."

The registrar signed to the executioner to do his duty.  He first
fastened the feet of the marquise to two rings close together fixed
to a board; then making her lie down, he fastened her wrists to two
other rings in the wall, distant about three feet from each other.
The head was at the same height as the feet, and the body, held up on
a trestle, described a half-curve, as though lying over a wheel.  To
increase the stretch of the limbs, the man gave two turns to a crank,
which pushed the feet, at first about twelve inches from the rings,
to a distance of six inches.  And here we may leave our narrative to
reproduce the official report.

"On the small trestle, while she was being stretched, she said
several times, 'My God!  you are killing me!  And I only spoke the

"The water was given: she turned and twisted, saying, 'You are
killing me!'

"The water was again given.

"Admonished to name her accomplices, she said there was only one man,
who had asked her for poison to get rid of his wife, but he was dead.

"The water was given; she moved a little, but would not say anything.

"Admonished to say why, if she had no accomplice, she had written
from the Conciergerie to Penautier, begging him to do all he could
for her, and to remember that his interests in this matter were the
same as her own, she said that she never knew Penautier had had any
understanding with Sainte-Croix about the poisons, and it would be a
lie to say otherwise; but when a paper was found in Sainte-Croix's
box that concerned Penautier, she remembered how often she had seen
him at the house, and thought it possible that the friendship might
have included some business about the poisons; that, being in doubt
on the point, she risked writing a letter as though she were sure,
for by doing so she was not prejudicing her own case; for either
Penautier was an accomplice of Sainte-Croix or he was not.  If he
was, he would suppose the marquise knew enough to accuse him, and
would accordingly do his best to save her; if he was not, the letter

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