The Sorceress, by Jules Michelet, , at sacred-texts.com
WHAT this dreadful blow was for the Cadière family may be imagined. The sick girl's seizures became frequent and appalling, while, cruel aggravation, a regular epidemic of the same sort spread amongst her bosom friends. Her neighbour, Madame Allemand, who also was subject to ecstasies, but who had hitherto taken them as coming from God, was seized with sudden terror and thought hell was upon her. The good lady (she was now fifty) remembered that for certain she had often had unclean thoughts; she believed herself delivered up to the devil, saw nothing but devils about her, and though well looked after by her daughter, ran from her own house and asked asylum with the Cadières. The latter's house henceforth became uninhabitable, and business out of the question. The elder brother was furious, and gave vent to his rancour against Girard, crying repeatedly, "It will be a case of Gauffridi . . . the man shall be burned, he shall be burned too!" And the Jacobin added, "Sooner than put up with it, we would spend the family savings to the last penny."
In the night of the 17th-18th November, Charlotte yelled and choked till they thought she was going to die. The elder Cadière brother, the dealer, lost his head, and started shouting out of the window, screaming to the neighbours, "Help! help! the devil is strangling my sister!"who came running up with next to nothing on. The doctors and surgeons diagnosed her state to be a suffocation of the womb, and ordered her to be cupped. Whilst the cupping-glasses were being fetched, they
managed to open her clenched teeth and made her swallow a taste of brandy, which brought her round. Meantime the physicians of the soul were likewise coming on the scene one after the other, first an old priest, Mme. Cadière's confessor, soon followed by sundry curés of Toulon. The noise, the shouts, the arrival of the priests in full fig, the paraphernalia for exorcism, had quickly collected a crowd in the street. New arrivals kept asking what the matter was,and were answered, "It is Charlotte Cadière, bewitched by Girard." The pity and indignation of the populace may be imagined.
The Jesuits were intensely dismayed, but anxious to throw off their panic. They were guilty of a very barbarous act; going away to the Palace, they demanded imperatively that legal steps should be taken against Cadière, and the attack delivered that very day. The result was, the poor girl, on the very bed where she lay, but now almost at death's door, directly after the awful crisis she had gone through, received without the smallest warning a visit from the police. . . .
Sabatier had refused to leave the Bishop before he had summoned his judge, his ordinary, the Vicar-General Larmedieu, and his apparitor (or episcopal procurator), Esprit Reybaud, and directed them to take instant proceedings.
The thing was impossible really, illegal in Canon Law. A preliminary declaration as to the facts was required before proceeding to interrogations. Another difficulty: the ecclesiastical judge had no power to order such a visit except for a refusal of the sacrament. The two Church legists were bound to point out these objections; but Sabatier would not hear a word. If things were to be delayed in this way by an adherence to cold, formal legality, his shot would miss fire, and no one would be tempted at all.
Larmedieu, or Larme-Dieu (what a touching name!) was a complacent judge, well disposed to the clergy. He was none of those hard-bitten magistrates who rush straight before them, like wild boars blind with fury, along the high-road of the law
without seeing anybody or drawing any distinctions between individuals. He had shown great consideration in the affair of Father Aubany, superintendent of Ollioules. He had put the law in motion so slowly as to give Aubany time to make good his escape. Then, on learning he was at Marseilles, as if Marseilles had been miles away from France, an Ultima Thule, or the Terra Incognita of the old maps, he took no further steps. Here all was different; the same judge who had been so paralytic where Aubany was concerned had wings for Cadière,and the wings of the lightning.
At nine o'clock in the morning the inhabitants of the alley were watching inquisitively the arrival of a very imposing procession, Messire Larmedieu at its head, followed by the prosecutor of the Episcopal Court, the pair of them respectfully escorted by two vicars of the parish, doctors in theology. They invaded the house, and summoned the sick girl before them. She was made to give an oath to tell the truth against herself, an oath to incriminate herself by revealing to justice what were really secrets of her own conscience and the confessional.
She need not have answered, no proper formalities having been observed. But she raised no difficulties, and swore as she was directed,which was equivalent to throwing up her case and delivering herself into their hands. For, once bound by the oath, she told everything, even the shameful and ludicrous details it is so cruel for a young girl to have to confess.
Larmedieu's official report and his first interrogatory point to a fixed and settled plan between himself and the Jesuits. This was to display Girard as the dupe and victim of Charlotte Cadière's wiles. A man of fifty, a doctor of the Church, a schoolmaster, a director of religious women, who has remained so innocent and credulous through it all as to be trapped by a little girl, a mere child! The artful, abandoned creature deceived him, it would seem, about her visions, but did not succeed in alluring him to share her wild doings.
Furious at her failure, she revenged herself by imputing to
him every abomination the imagination of a Messalina could suggest to her.
Far from the interrogatory giving any confirmation of all this, the most touching feature is the victim's gentleness. Obviously her accusations were only dragged from her by means of the oath she had taken. She is gentle towards her enemies, even towards the treacherous Guiol, who (her brother says) betrayed her, did everything she could to corrupt her, and eventually ruined her by inducing her to give up the papers that would have been her safeguard.
The Cadières were appalled by their sister's simplicity. In her respect for her oath she had given herself away completely, made herself the butt for the contempt, ribaldry, and lampoons even of men who were ill-disposed to the Jesuits, and libertines and fools of every sort and description.
As the thing was done, they wished at any rate it should be accurately recorded, that the report drawn up by the priests might be verified by a more formal legal act. From accused, as she was made to appear, they constituted her accuser, taking the offensive themselves and engaging the King's magistrate, the "lieutenant, civil and military," Marteli Chantard, to come and take her deposition. In this document, at once lucid and brief, are distinctly established, first, the fact of seduction; further, the expostulations she had addressed to Girard with regard to his licentious caresses, expostulations he only laughed at; further, the advice he had given her to let herself be possessed by the devil; lastly, the sucking by means of which the impostor kept her wounds open.
The King's official, the lieutenant, ought to have dealt with the case in his own court. For the ecclesiastical judge having failed in his extreme haste to fulfil the proper formalities of ecclesiastical law, his action was really null and void. The lay magistrate, however, had not the courage of his opinions. He consented to assist at the clerical inquest, accepted Larmedieu
as assessor, and actually sat to hear evidence in the Bishop's Court at the Palace. The latter's registrar, and not the royal "lieutenant's" registrar, wrote the report of the proceedings. Did he report impartially? This is open to legitimate doubt, when we see how this same clerical registrar systematically intimidated the witnesses, and went every evening to show their depositions to the Jesuits. 1
The two joint vicars of Charlotte Cadière's parish, who were heard first, gave their evidence drily, showing no bias in her favour, but none against her, and none for the Jesuits (Nov. 24th). The latter now foresaw a complete fiasco, and losing all shame and at the risk of shocking public opinion, resolved on a bold and decisive stroke. They extracted an order from the Bishop to imprison Cadière herself and the principal witnesses she proposed to tender. These were the two Allemand ladies and Mlle. Batarelle, of whom the latter was confined in the Refuge, a convent prison, the other two in a house of correction, the Bon Pasteur (Good Shepherd), where madwomen were shut up and common street-walkers subjected to correction. Charlotte (Nov. 26th) was dragged from her bed and handed over to the Ursuline Sisters, penitents of Father Girard, who duly provided her with a bed of rotten straw.
Then, a reign of terror being thus established, they could hear witnesses. One was the woman Guiol, notorious for having selected the witnesses (Nov. 28th), two highly respectable, specially procured girls for Girardan adroit, venomous tongue, chosen to inflict the first sting and start the open sore of calumny. The other was Laugier, the little sempstress Charlotte Cadière was supporting and the expenses of whose apprenticeship she had paid. With child by Girard, this Laugier had indulged in recriminations against her seducer; now she purged this fault by mocking at Charlotte and throwing dirt at her benefactressbut clumsily, like the abandoned creature she was, attributing
bold, shameless speeches to her, quite inconsistent with her general behaviour. To these succeeded Mlle. Gravier and her cousin, Mlle. Reboul, and in fact the whole gang of the Girardines, as they were called at Toulon.
Nevertheless things could not be so cleverly arranged but that the truth peeped through here and there. The wife of a "procureur," in whose house the Girardines used to meet, said with brutal frankness there was no standing it, they turned the whole place upside down so; she described their noisy laughter, the feasts paid for out of the collections they levied for the poor, etc., etc. (p. 55).
Much anxiety was felt lest the nuns should side with Mile. Cadière. The Bishop's registrar was sent to inform them (as if on the Bishop's authority) that any who spoke ill-advisedly would be punished. By way of putting still stronger pressure on them, they brought back from Marseilles their gallant Father Aubany, whose ascendency over them was well known. The matter of violating the little girl was arranged, and her relatives given to understand the law would do no more for them. The child's honour was estimated at eight hundred livres, and this sum paid on Aubany's behalf. This settled, he came back full of zeal, a Jesuit to the backbone, to his flock at Ollioules,and the poor flock trembled not a little on the father's informing them that he was commissioned to warn them that, if they were not discreet, they would be put to the question. 2
For all this, they failed to elicit what they wanted from the fifteen nuns. Barely two or three were for Girard, and all detailed facts, especially facts relating to July 7th, which directly incriminated the Jesuit.
His colleagues in despair adopted heroic measures in order to secure proper evidence being given. They established themselves on permanent guard in an intermediate hall leading to the court, where they stopped the witnesses, cajoling or threatening them, as the case might be, and if they were against Girard,
barring their entrance altogether and impudently putting them to the door again. 3
The ecclesiastical judge and the King's "lieutenant" were simply cat's-paws in the hands of the Jesuits. This the whole town realised with horror, while in the course of December, January, and February the Cadière family formulated and circulated a complaint on the grounds of refusal of justice and subornation of witnesses. The Jesuits themselves felt the position was no longer tenable, and appealed for assistance from higher quarters. The best thing would apparently have been a simple decree of the Great council, citing the whole case before its own judges, and so hushing up everything,as Mazarin did in the Louviers business. But the Chancellor was DAguesseau, and the Jesuits were not desirous the matter should be referred to Paris. They retained the case in Provence, and obtained a decision from the King ( Jan. 16th, 1731) that the Parlement of Provence, in which they had many friends, should give the verdict on evidence to be called by two of its counsellors at Toulon.
As a matter of fact a layman, M. Faucon, and a clerical counsellor, M. de Charleval, presently arrived, and at once took up their lodging with the Jesuits (p. 407). These hot-headed delegates took so little pains to conceal their violent and cruel partiality that they launched against Charlotte Cadière a personal citation, such as was commonly served on the accused party, while Girard was politely requested to attend and left at liberty meantime; in fact, he went on saying Mass and confessing penitents just the same as before. But the complainant all the while was under lock and key, in her enemies' hands, lodged with Girard's devoted adherents and exposed to any and every species of cruelty.
The welcome accorded her by the good Ursuline Sisters had been for all the world the same as if they had been commissioned to do her to death. As a sleeping-room, they had
assigned her the cell of an insane nun who befouled everything round her, and she lay on the madwoman's straw amid the horrid stench she occasioned. With the utmost difficulty her relatives managed next day to get a blanket and a mattress admitted. They gave her as gaoler and nurse a lay Sister, Girard's protégée and familiar spirit. She was daughter of the same Mme. Guiol who had been Charlotte's betrayer, a creature well worthy to belong to such a mother and quite capable of dark deeds, a peril to her prisoner's modesty and possibly even to her life. The latter was condemned to a penance of all others the most cruel for her, forced abstention from confession and communion. She began to fall ill again directly she ceased to communicate. Then her inveterate enemy, Sabatier the Jesuit, came to the cell, and essaying a new and extraordinary departure, tried to win her over, to tempt her with the sacred wafer! Truly an unseemly bargaining! Going, going, gone!to receive communion, she must confess herself a slanderer, and so unworthy of the sacrament. She might even have done this, out of excessive humility. But in ruining herself she would have been ruining the Carmelite and her own brothers into the bargain.
Reduced to employ the artifices of the Pharisees, they glossed her words. What she spoke in a mystic sense was perversely taken as meant to apply to material reality. To avoid all these snares, she exhibited the last quality we should have expected from her, a remarkable degree of presence of mind (see in particular p. 391).
The most perfidious trick of all, contrived on purpose to alienate public sympathy and set the profane laughing at her, was to give her a lover. It was alleged she had proposed to a young scamp to elope with her and scour the wide world together.
The great nobleman of those days, who liked to have little lads as pages, were always ready to take into their service the prettiest of the peasants children on their lands. This the Bishop had done with one of his farm-tenant's boys, whom he trained
to polite arts. Later on, when his favourite grew up, he had him tonsured by way of giving him an air, and turned him into an abbé with the title of his lordship's almonerall by the time he was twenty. Such was the young Abbé Camerle. Brought up with the servants and broken to all sorts of dirty work, he was like many another country lad, when the rust has been partly, but not entirely, rubbed off, a scampish young lout, both simple and subtle at one and the same time. He was quick to notice that the prelate, from the moment of his arrival at Toulon, took an interest in Charlotte Cadière, and was not well disposed towards Girard. He thought to please and amuse his patron by constituting himself at Ollioules the spy of the suspicious relations subsisting between the two. But the instant the Bishop changed front and showed he was afraid of the Jesuits, Camerle exhibited an equal zeal and activity on Girard's behalf and in helping him against Mlle. Cadière.
Like another Joseph, he declares that Mlle. Cadière (à la Potiphar's wife) had tempted him, endeavoured to shake his virtue. Supposing it had been the truth, supposing she had paid him the compliment of showing some weakness towards him, surely this would only have made it the more cowardly of him to punish her for it and take advantage of a thoughtless word. But a training like this, first as page, then as seminarist, produces neither honour nor love of women.
She made a ready and excellent defence, and covered her accuser with confusion. So victorious were her answers, that the two unworthy commissioners of the Parlement cut short the confrontations and cut down the numbers of her witnesses. Of sixty-eight originally called by her, they allowed only thirty-eight to appear (12mo., vol. i., p. 62). Observing neither the delays nor the formalities of justice, they hurried on to the final scene of confrontation. Yet with all this lustre, they gained nothing; again on February 25th and 26th she repeated without any variation her damaging depositions.
So furious were they that they regretted bitterly they had no
executioner or torture "to make her sing out a bit." This was always ultima ratio; in every century the Parlements resorted to it. I have before me at the present moment an eloquent panegyric of torture, 4 written in 1780 by a learned member of Parlement, promoted to a seat on the Great Council, and dedicated to the King (Louis XVI.), and approved in most flattering terms by his Holiness Pius VI.
However, in default of torture which would have "made her sing out," they induced her to speak by better means still. On February 27th, early in the day, the lay Sister who acted as her gaoler, Mme. Guiol's daughter, brings her a glass of wine. The girl is astonished; she is not thirsty, she never drinks wine in the morning, and still less wine without water. The lay Sister, a rough, sturdy servant-girl, such as are kept in convents to master disorderly or mad members of the community, and punish the pupils, overrules the weak invalid's objections with threats and domineering insistence. She does not want to drink, yet drinks nevertheless. Moreover, she is forced to drink it all off, to the very dregs, which have a disagreeable, salty taste (pp. 243-7) .
What was this unpleasant beverage? We have already seen, at the time of her miscarriage, how expert the former Director of Nuns was in the administration of drugs. In this case the strong wine would have been enough by itself, acting on a constitution weakened by sickness. It would have been quite sufficient to intoxicate her, to draw from her during the course of the same day some stammering words or other, which the Registrar would have twisted into a flat contradiction of her previous evidence. But a drug was added as well (perhaps the witches herb, which clouds the mind for several days), in order to prolong this condition, so that they might obtain formal testimony from her that would render it impossible for her to retract her denial.
We have the deposition she made on February 27th, showing a sudden and complete change of front, being, in fact, a direct
plea for Girard! Strangely enough, the Commissioners never notice so marked an alteration. The extraordinary and shameful spectacle of a young girl in a state of intoxication rouses no surprise or suspicion. She is made to declare Girard never laid hand upon her, that she herself felt neither pleasure nor pain, that all the sensations she experienced arose from an infirmity she labours under. Only the Carmelite, and her brothers, had persuaded her to recount as actual occurrences what was never anything better than a dream. Not satisfied with whitewashing Girard, she blackens her own friends, overwhelming them with monstrous charges and virtually putting the rope round their necks.
The surprising thing is the clearness and precision of the deposition, in which the hand of the practised Registrar is very evident. The astonishing circumstance is that having begun so well, they did not go on. Examination is held on one day only, the 27th. Nothing on the 28th; nothing from the 1st to the 6th of March.
Presumably on the 27th, under the influence of the wine, she was still able to speak and say something or other capable of being arranged consecutively. But by the 28th, the poison having exerted its full effects, she would seem to have been either in a stupor or in an unseemly state of delirium (like that common at the Witches Sabbath), and it was out of the question to produce her in public. Besides, once her wits were thoroughly confounded, it was an easy matter to give her other potions, without her knowing or remembering anything about it.
At this stage it was, I make no doubt, during the six days between February 28th and March 5th or 6th, that an occurrence took place, so repugnant in itself and so sad for the unhappy child, that it is merely hinted in three lines, without either herself or her brothers finding the heart to speak of it more particularly (p. 249 of the fol. edition, lines 10-13). They would never have mentioned it at all, had not the brothers been accused and seen plainly their own lives were threatened.
Girard went to see Charlotte, and once again took impudent, immoral freedoms with her!
This took place, according to what the brother and sister say, since the case began. But from November 26th to February 26th Girard was in a state of prostration and humiliation, invariably beaten in the war of witnesses he was waging with Cadière. Still less did he dare to see her after March 10th, the date when she recovered her full wits and left the convent where he had kept her confined. He only saw her during those five days when he was still her master, and the unhappy girl, demoralised by the effects of the poison, was no longer herself.
Madame Guiol had formerly betrayed Charlotte, and her daughter could do the same again. Girard, who had by then won the game by the contradiction she had given to her own statements, had the heartlessness to come to her prison, see her in the condition he had brought her to, dull or despairing, abandoned by heaven and earth alike, and if any power of clear thinking was left her, given up to the horrid pain of having, by her deposition, been the murderess of her own kith and kin. The end was come, and her fate was sealed. But the other trial was only beginning, against her brothers and the stout-hearted Carmelite. Remorse may have urged her to try and move Girard and induce him to drop the prosecution directed against them, and above all not to put her to the question.
The prisoner's condition was deplorable, and called for leniency. Minor infirmities arising from a purely sedentary life caused her much suffering, while as a consequence of her convulsions, she suffered from a prolapsus vulvæ, which was very painful at times (p. 343). What proves Girard to have been no casual criminal, but a man of perverted sentiment and abandoned character, is that in all this he saw only a better and surer means of confirming his advantage. He argued that if he adopted these means, she would be so far humiliated in her own eyes she would never pluck up a spirit again, never recover courage to recant her recantation. He hated her by this time,
and yet in jocose phrases of odious obscenity he spoke of this last infirmity, and seeing the poor creature defenceless, did her the outrageous indignity of touching it (p. 249). Her brother asserts the fact positively, though briefly and shamefacedly, without pursuing the subject further. Questioned on the matter herself, she answers in three letters, "Yes!"
Alas! her soul was not now her own, and she was long in regaining anything like composure. It was on March 6th she was to be brought up to confirm everything and finally and irretrievably undo her brothers; but when the time came she was choking, and unable to speak. The gentle-hearted Commissioners informed her the torture-chamber was next door, and explained to her the action of the wedges that would squeeze her bones, the rack and the iron spikes. Her body was so weak her courage failed her; and she endured to face her cruel master, who was in a position to laugh and triumph, having humiliated her in person, and still more deeply in conscience, making her the murderess of her own brothers!
No time was lost in profiting by her weakness. The Parlement of Aix was at once appealed to, and its approval obtained that the Carmelite and the two Cadière brothers should presently be charged, and be tried separately, so that after Charlotte should have been condemned and punished, their case might next be taken and pushed to a conclusion through thick and thin.
On March 10th she was conveyed from the Ursuline convent at Toulon to St. Claire of Ollioules. Girard was not sure of her, and contrived that she should be carried thither, like some redoubtable brigand of that ill-reputed road, between troopers of the Marshal's posse. He demanded that at St. Claire she should be kept a close prisoner under lock and key. The Sisters were touched to the point of tears to see their poor sick favourite arrive so, scarce able to drag herself along, and escorted by armed men. Everybody pitied her; and two gallant individuals, M. Aubin, Procureur, and M. Claret, Notary, were found ready to draw up for her formal statements by which she retracted her
retractationterrible documents, in which she details the threats of the Commissioners and of the Lady Superior of the Ursulines, particularly the fact of the drugged wine they forced her to drink (March 10th to 16th, 1751, pp. 243, 248).
Simultaneously, these intrepid friends of justice drew up and forwarded to Paris, addressed to the office of the Great Seal, what was known as an "appeal against abuse of procedure," exposing the irregular and faulty methods of the court and the wilful breaches of law and justice involved in the high-handed doings of (1) the official in charge and the King's "lieutenant," and (2) the special Commissioners. The Chancellor dAguesseau showed himself weak and flaccid to the last degree, upholding the odious proceedings hitherto and allowing the case to be referred to the Parlement of Aix, open to such strong suspicion since the disgrace its two members had just covered themselves with.
This settled, they laid hands again on the victim, and from Ollioules had her dragged to Aix, once more in charge of the Marshal's men. The custom then was to sleep midway at a half-way house, a roadside tavern. Arrived there, the Brigadier explained that by his orders he was to sleep in the young woman's bedroom. They had actually pretended to think it likely that the sick girl, who could barely walk, would make her escape and jump out of the window. A vile design truly,to entrust her chastity to the self-restraint of the soldiery of the Dragonnades! What a triumph it would have been! What an excuse for ribaldry, if she had arrived at her destination enceinte! Luckily her mother had come up on her departure, had followed the cortège in spite of all remonstrances, and even the men-at-arms had not dared to drive her away with their butts. She stayed all night in the room, both of them keeping up and awake, and so protected her child's virtue (12mo. ed., vol. i., p. 52).
Her destination was the Ursuline convent at Aix, the Sisters of which were to guard her under orders from the King. But the Lady Superior pretended she had not yet received the order, and
what followed shows only too plainly how ferocious women are when once stirred by passion, and how they lose all womanly qualities. She kept her four hours at the door, in the open street, a show for the passers-by (vol. x. of 12 mo. ed., p. 404). There was time enough to call together the populace, the Jesuit rabble, the good working-people of the Church to howl and hiss, and a crowd of children, if need be, to throw stones. It meant four long hours in the pillory. Meantime any impartial spectators there may have been present were asking whether the Ursuline Sisters had orders to let the girl be killed. What tender gaolers the good Sisters made for their sick prisoner may be imagined.
The soil had been excellently well prepared. An active combination of Jesuit magistrates and intriguing ladies had organised a complete system of intimidation. No advocate would ruin his future chances by defending so ill-reputed a client. No one was willing to put up with the mortifications her gaolers kept in readiness for anyone who should face their parlour every day to hold interview with Cadière. Under these circumstances the defence of the prisoner devolved upon the Syndic of the Aix Bas, M. Chandon. He did not decline the formidable task; but, in much perplexity, he would have preferred a compromise. This the Jesuits refused. Then he showed the stuff he was made of, that he was a man of unassailable honour and an admirable courage. A trained lawyer, he exposed the monstrous irregularity of the proceedings. This meant an irreconcilable quarrel with the Parlement, no less than with the Jesuits. He brought out clearly and distinctly the spiritual incest of the confessor, though he did not, from motives of decency, specify how far his licentious practices had gone. He refrained likewise from speaking of the Girardines, the pious disciples he had got with child,a fact perfectly well known, but which no witness would have been willing to testify to. Eventually he brought the charge most likely to be practically effective under the circumstances against the criminal priest, attacking him as a Sorcerer. The advocate was greeted with a storm of mockery. He undertook to prove
the existence of the Devil from a series of texts from Holy Writ, starting with the Gospels,and his audience only laughed the louder.
The truth had been very adroitly distorted by making the honest Carmelite into a lover of Charlotte's, and the originator of a huge conspiracy of calumny directed against Girard and the Jesuit Fathers. Now the whole tribe of idle loungers and empty-headed worldlings, sneerers and philosophers alike, made fun of both sides equally, entirely impartial between Carmelites and Jesuits, but overjoyed to see the monks engaged in civil war among themselves. The Voltaireans, to anticipate by a few years the name they will presently be known by, the Voltaireans are actually biassed to some extent in favour of the Jesuits, polished men of the world, in preference to the old Mendicant Orders.
So it goes on, confusion growing ever worse confounded. It rains pasquinades, directed more especially against the victim. A love affair plainly, people say, and look at the whole thing in the light of an amusement. Not a student or a scholar but makes his rhymes on Girard and his pupil and revives the old Provençal skits on Madeleine (of the Gauffridi affair), her six thousand imps, the fear these show of the whip, and miracles of the lash which put to flight those infesting Charlotte Cadière (MS. in the Toulon Library).
As to this particular point Girard's friends found no difficulty in clearing his reputation. He had acted entirely within his rights as a director of consciences and in accordance with ordinary usage. The rod is the attribute of fatherhood, and he had acted for his penitent's good and "for the cure of her soul." It was the custom of the age to thrash demoniacs, thrash madmen, thrash other sufferers from disease. It was the accredited means of driving out the enemy, be this who or what it might, demon or sickness. It was the popular view too; a worthy working-man of Toulon, observing Cadière's unhappy condition, declared roundly the only cure for the poor patient was a good bull's pizzle.
Girard, with the powerful supporters he possessed, had really no need to justify himself. And as a matter of fact he takes mighty little trouble to do so. His defence is charming in its offhandedness. He does not condescend so much as to be self-consistent in his depositions; he contradicts his own witnesses. He appears to make a joke of the whole thing, and says, with the swaggering tone of a great lord of the Regency days, that if he has been shut up alone with her, as they state, "it only happened on nine occasions."
"And why else did he do it, the good Father," his friends would ask, "except for the purpose of observing, judging, gauging precisely what he was to make of it?" This is the bounden duty of a director in such circumstances. Read the life of the famous St. Catherine of Genoa. At night her confessor used to conceal himself and remain in her bedroom to witness the wonders she wrought, and catch her out miracle-working, so to speak, flagrante delicto.
"But the unfortunate thing in this case was that hell, that never sleeps, had spread a snare for this lamb of God, and had spued forth this female dragon, this devouring monster, maniac and demoniac, to swallow him up and destroy him in the torrent of calumny."
It is a time-hallowed and excellent custom to strangle monsters in the cradle. But why not in later life as well? The charitable advice of Girard's lady friends was to employ sword and fire on her with the least possible delay. "Let her die!" these religious ladies claimed insistently. Many high-born dames also desired her chastisement, deeming it the height of insolence that the creature should have dared to complain and bring to trial a man of Girard's eminence, who had done her only too great an honour.
True there were in the Parlement some obstinate Jansenists, who as enemies of the Jesuits were more than well-disposed towards the girl. But how could they feel other than beaten and discouraged, seeing ranged against them at one and the same
time the redoubtable Society of Jesus, Versailles, the Court, the Cardinal Minister, and even the leaders of society at Aix? Were they likely to show a bolder front than the chief administrator of justice, the Chancellor d'Aguesseau, who had proved himself such a broken reed? The "Procureur Général" for his part displayed no hesitation; entrusted with the task of accusing Girard, he openly declared himself his friend and gave him his advice how to meet the charges of his accusers.
It was only a question of one thing,to decide by what act of reparation, what solemn expiation, what exemplary punishment, the complainant, now accused in her turn, should make satisfaction to Girard and to the Jesuits. These latter, for all their gentleness and generosity, agreed that in the interests of religion an example would be useful as a warning both to the Jansenist Convulsionaries and to the swarm of scribbling philosophers now beginning to appear.
On two counts Charlotte Cadière could be assailed, and a hold obtained over her:
1. She had slandered.But no law existed punishing slander with death. To get that length, it was needful to go farther afield, and say: "The old Roman text De famosis libellis (of slanderous libels) pronounces the penalty of death against such as have uttered libels injurious to the Emperors or to the religion of the Empire. Now the Jesuits are Religion. Therefore a document reflecting on a Jesuit deserved the last penalty of the law."
2. They had even a better hold than this.At the opening of the trial the episcopal judge, the judicious Larmedieu, had asked Charlotte if she had not divined the secrets of a number of persons, and she had replied in the affirmative. Therefore she could be qualified, in the terms laid down in the formulary for trials of witchcraft, as a divineress and deceiver. This in itself merited death by all ecclesiastical law. She might even be qualified as a witch, after the statements made by the ladies of Ollioules, who described how at night-time she would be in
several cells at one and the same time, how she used to weigh softly upon them, etc. Their infatuation, their sudden and unexpected tenderness, had indeed very much the look of bewitchment.
What hindered burning her? Witch-burnings are still common everywhere in the eighteenth century. Spain in a single reign, that of Philip V., burns 1600 persons, even burning a witch as late as 1782. Germany burned a witch in 1751, and Switzerland one in 1781. Rome burns still,on the sly, it is true, in the furnaces and cellars of the Inquisition. 5
"But doubtless France at any rate is more humane?"France is inconsistent. In 1718 a wizard was burned at Bordeaux. 6
In 1724 and 1726 fires were lighted in the Place de Grève for offences which at Versailles passed for schoolboys tricks. The tutors to the royal infant (Louis XV.), the Duke of Orleans and Fleury, so easy-going at Court, are terribly severe in Paris. An ass-driver and a nobleman, a M. de Chauffours, were burned alive. The beginning of the Cardinal-Minister's supremacy could not be better celebrated than by a reform of manners, by a severe example given the corruptors of public morality.And what more appropriate example than a solemn and awful doom inflicted on this child of Satan, this girl who has assailed so fatally Father Girard's innocence?
The one thing needful to "thoroughly purge the good Father" was to establish the fact that (even granting he had done wrong
and had imitated M. de Chauffours) he had been the plaything, the victim of enchantment. The law was perfectly clear on the point; by the forms of ecclesiastical jurisprudence and in strict accordance with recent decisions, someone was bound to be burned. Of the five magistrates on the bench, two only would have burned Girard, while three went against Charlotte Cadière. A compromise was the result. The three who formed the majority did not insist on the stake and faggot, waived the long-drawn, gruesome spectacle of death by fire, declaring themselves satisfied with death pure and simple.
In the name of the five it was resolved and recommended to the Parlement, "That Charlotte Cadière, after first undergoing the question, ordinary and extraordinary, be then carried to Toulon, and there in the Place des Prêchems, be hanged by the neck and strangled."
The effect was instantaneous and startling,a prodigious reversal of public opinion. The men of the world, the scoffers, scoffed no more; their laughter was turned into shuddering. Frivolous as they were, they were not prepared to treat so appalling a piece of injustice lightly. They thought little of a girl being seduced, abused, and disgraced, treated as a mere plaything, driven by grief to death or madness; well and good, it was no business of theirs. But when it came to punishment as a criminal, when they pictured the wretched victim, the rope round her neck, being strangled on the gallows, their gorge rose, On all sides echoed the cry, "Never was seen, since the world began, so wicked an upsetting of common justice,the law of rape applied back foremost, the girl condemned to death for having been corrupted, the seducer strangling his victim!"
A highly unexpected phenomenon in a town like Aix, made up almost exclusively of judges, priests, and fashionables,the people suddenly shows itself alive, a violent eruption of popular feeling occurs. In serried ranks a crowd of men of every class marches with one impulse to the Ursuline convent. They call for Charlotte Cadière and her mother, and on their appearing
cry out, "Courage, mademoiselle, courage! We are with you . . . fear nothing!"
The great eighteenth century, justly entitled by Hegel the "reign of mind," deserves even better to be known as the "reign of humanity." Ladies of distinction, like Madame de Sévigné's grand-daughter, the charming Madame de Simiane, took possession of the poor girl, and gave her refuge in their bosom. More beautiful and more touching still, the Jansenist ladies, women of a fanatic purity of life, so hard on each other and displaying so exaggerated an austerity, sacrificed law to mercy in this crisis, threw their arms round the neck of the poor terrified creature, purified her with their chaste kisses and rebaptised her with their tears.
If Provence is fierce and strenuous, she is only the more admirable at such moments,fierce in her generosity and strenuous for great aims. Something of the same sort was seen during the early triumphs of Mirabeau, when he had about him at Marseilles a million of men. Here, in anticipation of a grander revolution, was a gallant revolutionary episode, a mighty protest against the imbecile Government of the day, and against the Jesuits, the Minister Fleury's special protégés,a unanimous protest in favour of humanity and pity, a plea for the defence of a woman, a child, so barbarously immolated. The Jesuits conceived the idea of actually organising among their disreputable hangers-on, their clients and the beggars depending on their charity, a nondescript mob, which they armed with handbells and cudgels to make head against the Cadières,these being the nicknames given to the respective parties. The second named included practically everybody. Marseilles rose en masse to carry in triumph the son of the advocate Chandon, while Toulon declared so emphatically for their unfortunate compatriot that the populace was for burning the Jesuits house there to the ground. The most touching of all these testimonials came to Charlotte from Ollioules. A plain simple boarder at the convent school, Mademoiselle Agnes, young and timid as
she was, followed the generous impulse of her heart, threw herself into the war of pamphlets, wrote and printed Charlotte Cadière's apology.
This deep and powerful movement reacted on the Parlement itself. The enemies of the Jesuits were instantly encouraged and fortified, so much so as to brave the threats of those in power, the influence the Jesuits could bring to bear, the lightnings of Versailles that Fleury might hurl at them. 7
Girard's own friends, seeing their numbers decreasing and their ranks thinning, called for an immediate decision,which was given October 11th, 1731.
No one ventured, in view of popular feeling, to propose confirming the savage recommendations of the Bench to have Charlotte Cadière strangled. Twelve counsellors sacrificed their honour, and declared Girard innocent; of the other twelve, certain Jansenist members condemned him to the stake as a sorcerer, while three or four, of a more reasonable temper, condemned him to death as a villain. Twelve being against twelve, the President, Lebret, had to give the casting vote. He gave it for Girard. Acquitted on the charge of sorcery and any crime involving death, he was sent back, as a priest and confessor, for trial before the ecclesiastical tribunals, presided over by the Ordinary of Toulon, his friend and intimate, Larmedieu.
The world at large, the crowd of indifferent spectators, was satisfied. Indeed, so little attention has been paid to the terms of the decision that even now M. Fabre states, and M. Méry repeats the statement, "that both parties were acquitted." This
is to the last degree inaccurate. Charlotte Cadière was dealt with as guilty of calumny, and condemned to see her memorials and acts of defence torn up and burned by the hand of the common hangman.
Moreover, there lurked a grim implication underneath. Cadière being thus marked out, branded as a slanderer, the Jesuits were inevitably bound to push their endeavours, to continue their intrigues subterraneously, to follow up their successes with Cardinal Fleury and call down on her secret and arbitrary penalties. The town of Aix saw this plainly enough, and felt instinctively that the Parlement was really betraying her into the hands of her enemies. Hence such a formidable burst of indignation against President Lebret, and such alarming threats, he asked that the Flanders Regiment might be sent for to protect him.
Girard fled in a closed carriage, but was recognised, and would have been killed had he not rushed into the Jesuit church, where the hypocritical scoundrel started saying Mass. He escaped eventually, and returned to Dôle, honoured and glorified by the society, He died there in 1733, in the odour of sanctity. The courtier Lebret died in 1735.
Cardinal Fleury did whatever he could to please the Jesuits. At Aix, at Toulon, at Marseilles, he exiled, banished, and imprisoned. Toulon in especial was guilty as having carried Girard in effigy to the doors of his Girardines, and having borne aloft in ridicule the sacrosanct "tricorne" (three-cornered hat) of the Jesuits.
Charlotte Cadière should under the terms of the judgment, have been at liberty to return there and seek refuge with her mother. But I dare affirm she was never suffered to come back to the ardent stage of her native town, which had so loudly declared itself in her favour. What became of her? To this day no one has been able to discover.
If the mere crime of showing interest in her earned imprisonment, we cannot doubt she was not long in being imprisoned herself; that the Jesuits easily procured a lettre de cachet from
[paragraph continues] Versailles to shut up the poor girl in a prison cell, and so stifle and bury along with her a business that had been so unfortunate for their Order. No doubt they waited till public attention was directed elsewhere, till people were thinking of other matters. Then the tiger's claw would seize her again, and she would be plunged in the abyss of some remote, unknown convent, and her voice stifled for ever in an in pace.
She was only twenty-one at the time the judgment was delivered, and she had always hoped for a short life. Pray God, she had her wish! 8
287:1 Page 80 of the folio edition, vol. i., p. 33 of the 12mo.
288:2 Trial, 12mo., vol. ii., p. 198.
289:3 Ibid., 12mo., vol. i., p. 44.
292:4 Muyart de Vouglans, at the end of his Loix criminelles, fol., 1780.
301:5 This detail is sent us by a "Consultor" of the Holy Office still alive.
301:6 I am not here speaking of executions the people carried out on their own account. A hundred years ago, in a village of Provence, an old woman, to whom a landowner refused an alms, flew into a passion and said, "You will be dead to-morrow!" He had a stroke and died. The whole village,not the poor peasants only, but the most respectable inhabitants,gathered in a crowd, seized the old woman and put her on a pile of vine-cuttings, where she was burned alive. The Parlement made a pretence of inquiry, but no one was punished. To the present day the people of the village in question are called woman-burners (brulo-fenno) by their neighbours.
304:7 A grotesque anecdote symbolises and wonderfully well expresses the condition of the Parlement. The official reporter was reading his work, his conclusions with regard to the case as a trial for witchcraft and the share the Devil might have had in the affair. Suddenly a crash is heard; a black man comes tumbling down the chimney. . . . All fly in terror, except only the reporter himself, who is entangled in his own gown and unable to stir. . . . The man explains and apologises, being nothing more nor less than a chimney-sweep who has made a mistake between different flues (Pappon, iv. 430). In very fact it may well be said a great dread, that of the people, of the devil of popular indignation, pinned the Parlement down, and held it motionless, like the judge entangled in his gown in this story.
306:8 Persecution has gone on, both by means of the publication of falsified documents, and even in the pages of the historians of the present day. The Trial (folio, 1733) itself, our main source of information, is followed by an Index cleverly compiled to tell against Charlotte Cadière. Under her name is found noted consecutively and fully (as proven facts) anything and everything that was alleged against her, except that no reference is made to her retractation of what the drugged wine made her say. Under Girard, scarcely a word; for his doings the reader is referred to a crowd of passages he will never have the patience to look up.In binding some copies care has been taken to place in front of the Trial itself, to serve as antidotes, sundry apologies and defences of Girard's, and the like.Voltaire makes very light of the whole business, poking fun at both sides, particularly at the Jansenists.The historians of our own day, who most certainly have not read the Trial, MM. Cabasse, Fabre, Méry, suppose themselves impartial, and sum up dead against the victim!