Sous-Prefet Grave has spent a rather bad night. Up at five o’clock, he had prowled around his bedchamber in prey to an exaltation which he was having more and more trouble containing. This young public servant is convinced of the authenticity of the Saint-Saturnin miracles and this day is his day. In front of the atheist world, the incredulous of all kinds, the sniggerers of the “prefectoral”, he intends furnishing brilliant proofs of the miracle.
At eight o’clock on the dot, he climbs the mystical hill. Seeing him, the gendarmes stand to attention, and Abbot Grand, who is already there, tries to stop the impetuous public servant from opening the chapel door. He tells him that they should wait for the Archbishop. Using his police rights, the Sous-Prefet goes to the entrance grille, on the pretext of organizing the edifice’s interior security.
When Monsignor arrives, out of breath, a few minutes later, carried on a human tide difficult to control, the miracle is, it could be said, finished. With a precipitation which leads Curate Grand and Doctors Bernard and Clement to question his basic equilibrium, the Sous-Prefet has leapt onto the altar.
With an immaculate piece of linen, he has collected many drops of blood, after having applied the piece of material several times on the different wounds. Finally, and despite the adjurations and indignant trepignations of the doctors, he has even finished cleaning the picture by energetically rubbing all the wounds.
At the foot of the altar, Rosette is lost in her ecstasy, as pale as death.
Monsignor and the other important people present do not hide their disappointment. The Prelate still climbs onto a step-ladder that two gendarmes hold still and collects a few drops of red liquid but of a colour and an abundance which are much less than a moment before.
In the group of officials, everyone is elbowing his neighbour to try to see, and disappointment is written on all faces. On all faces except that of the Sous-Prefet who, in this consecrated place, is not afraid to speak to the audience.
“The prodigy has just been renewed! I saw drops of blood well up after I’d wiped them off… You must believe me!…”
This is too much for Monsignor who turns to leave. Passing in front of Rosette, who is of frightful pallor, he orders that she be taken home. The two doctors do this.
They support the young girl who walks with difficulty, and appears to be suffering a lot. When she arrives at the top of the chapel steps, the depressed crowd quietens. In the first row, a few pious women fall to their knees.
Among all those who had come this day to witness decisive events, rare were those who did not return home disappointed. Doubtless too much had been expected of this day, spoilt as well by the Sous-Prefet’s initiatives.
From this day on, many in the region begin to doubt, and the renown of these events throughout the countryside, only reinforces the controversies everywhere.
The day after the Archbishop’s memorable visit, another, even more spectacular, emission of blood occurs before numerous pilgrims.
Journalists rush from everywhere during these last days of the year. Those from the Gazette de Provence and from the Commune d’Avignon notably, who are rather favourable. But as Rosette’s reputation grows, the ecclesiastic authorities stay out of it more and more.
There is no doubt that, in the minds of the men of the Church, something is really happening at Saint-Saturnin. But what?
The Devil is starting to be evoked by several people to explain these phenomena. Not without perfidy, a missionary from Notre-Dame-de-Lumiere, Abbot Chavard, prepares a trap for Rosette in the form of a long, sick letter which relates invented prodigies, which this religious man says to have seen.
He asks Rose to give him an explanation of these mysteries by return mail, and is sure that he will be able to decode in her answer the diabolical influences which he says are being exercised on Rosette, who confesses in her letter:
“I am very proud and full of self-love, but I do not believe that it comes from the demon…”
In this missive full of humility where she confides to what point her poor life is torn among household worries, the vendanges and the mystical ordeals, this singular Father believes that he can clearly read the influence of the evil one.
Curate Grand is the only one who remains convinced of his parishioner’s sainthood and, some time later, he lets it be known, as a new mark of providence, that his joke has rapidly brought Abbot Chavard to despair and that he bitterly regrets it.
Between those who think that it is the Devil and those who believe in Heaven’s intervention, between Rosette’s laic partisans and the religious men who almost all swear to expose her, confusion is at its height at the beginning of 1850.
In light of this plague which is now attacking his good town, the Archbishop of Aix asks the local clergy for some explanations. The Bishop of Le Mans, the Bishop of Gap and also the Bishop of La Rochelle, without looking to give an opinion founded on anything, cry that it is trickery, while the occultists, led by Monsieur de Mirville, the author of the book Des Esprits, who was famous in his time, demand that information on this prodigy be sent to them so that they can “proclaim it in the whole Universe”.
Rosette remains unperturbed and announces for the 1st January a miracle of unprecedented force. The stigmata of her childhood have now returned in the form of bloody lines on her chest which form crosses or a heart whose imprint can be perfectly collected on a piece of linen.
On the eve of the Saint-Sylvestre [31 December], the partisans of one or the other side begin to physically fight in the region’s cabarets, and the journalists openly write that the devil is walking the streets of Saint-Saturnin. This is too much for the religious authorities.
At the moment when Curate Grand is putting the conditions of control into place, also without precedent for an imminent miracle, the Archbishop’s decision to constitute a Commission of Enquiry is communicated to him, and the Commission immediately arrives on the scene to seal the chapel’s door.
Then the Church’s investigators gallop around the region and the famous chapel at lightning speed before going to hear the Sous-Prefet of Apt. Who is flabbergasted for a moment when one of the members of the Commission, Abbot Caval, says straight out to him that Rosette Tamisier is assuredly a member of a sect that wants to install the reign of the “Spirit of Darkness” on Earth.
To be continued.