To those who attempt to relate what their eyes have seen, Abbot Caval replies:
“I have much better things to do than discuss this… I’ve seen enough as it is, I’ve made up my mind…”
In vain does Doctor Bernard solicit an official analysis of the traces of blood that he has collected from the bleeding picture. The intransigent Abbot answers:
“We know how to find the truth better than you do, Sir…”
It is hoped that, inside the locked chapel, the awaited miracle will occur in the absence of any witness. It doesn’t.
It is Rosette herself who gives an explanation for this:
“The violent contradictions which are perturbing people’s minds are disturbing the operations of grace at the moment,”
says she to Doctor Bernard, with great presence of mind.
The ecclesiastic authorities want to move quickly, even more so as, in Spain at the same epoch, an enormous scandal has just exploded, certain aspects of which recall what is then happening in Saint-Saturnin.
A certain Sister Patrocinio, who was carrying stigmata fairly similar to Rosette’s, had been thrown into prison by the Prosecutor and her wounds had healed with a few cataplasms. The nun had finally confessed to keeping her wounds open with a mysterious stone which had been given to her by her Confessor. The Patrocinio is locked up in a convent from whence Queen Isabella soon removes her to make her her favourite, causing great scandal at the Court and among the population.
The Episcopate fears that similar things might occur in the South of France. The conclusions of the Commission are quickly collected and they proclaim that it is impossible to see in these facts which have been submitted to it “the characteristics of a true miracle”. Curate Grand resentfully writes that same day in a letter: “Hell roars around us…”, while the satirical Parisian Press makes fun of the Sous-Prefet.
The uproar caused by this conclusion is far from being calmed, when the said Sous-Prefet, who is seen as a hero by some and an idiot by others, receives a letter signed by a certain Abbot Charvoz from Orelle.
It is this letter which will precipitate Rosette Tamisier’s sad destiny, without any recourse.
Abbot Charvoz was in fact the pontiff at the Oeuvre de misericorde and had been one of the first disciples of Vintras, the famous Norman heretic whom Barres evokes in La Colline inspiree.
In his letter, Abbot Charvoz takes the side of the miraculous thesis with great finesse and accuses the episcopal authority of wanting to stamp out the divine manifestations by lying about them.
At this epoch, the Roman Catholic religion was a State religion and heresy was hunted out. It took no more than this for the Sous-Prefet to accuse Rose of being a vintrasian heretic, and for the Public Prosecutor’s Office, prodded perhaps by the Archbishop of Avignon, to take hold of her case.
As soon as the judiciary machine entered into action, witness statements poured in. On the laic side, opinion is clearly favourable to Rosette at first. The Judge of the Peace at Salon sends an eulogy of the young woman which emanates from the Sisters of the Presentation and confirms that, during her stay in the Sisters’ House, Rosette had been fed by Communion wafers which had come to her miraculously.
The Judge of the Peace at the Isle includes with his report, which is also favourable, an undershirt which supports the authenticity of the stigmata of her adolescence. Even the Mayor of Saint-Saturnin sends a pathetic letter in which he is firmly on the side of the miracle.
Meanwhile, Curate Grand is begging Heaven for the prodigy to be renewed before the pilgrims who are more and more numerous and are leaving disappointed. Rosette has been ill since the beginning of the year and cannot even be moved. Evil gossipers use this to say that she can no longer slip into the chapel to prepare her “miracles” herself.
On the morning of 5 February however, a capital event will occur.
During the preceding night, she suffered atrociously and in the early morning she whispered to those at her side:
“I suffered too much for there not to be something exraordinary to have happened up there…”
When the Curate penetrates the chapel with a group of pilgrims, the spectacle is stunning. From all of the crucified one’s wounds, including his head, blood has flowed with an abundance never before observed.
The most sceptical people should have bowed to this evidence, but it is the complete opposite that takes place. Pressed to end it all, the Prosecutor of the Republic listens only to gossip and charges Rose with two offences: fraud and affront to religion.
The judge goes immediately to Saint-Saturnin and lengthily interrogates the miracle girl. With a gentleness and a politeness which appear very excessive to Curate Grand… The holy man fears that all this must hide a trap.
He was right: the magistrate has an arrest warrant signed which is executed the same day. Of what exactly is she accused?
Of something as vague as “affront” and as exorbitant as “theft”… Because of some Communion wafers which had disappeared for a while from the Curate’s taberacle…
The judge’s report concludes like this:
“Approximate value of the stolen objects: nothing.”
The little cabriolet which, the following day, carries Rosette to Apt is more or less her hearse, for from this moment she is going to disappear from the chronicles of the epoch.
In Apt and on the road which leads there, thousands of people, mysteriously alerted, line up and firstly watch in silence as the carriage passes by with drawn curtains.
When the coach arrives in the streets at the centre of the town, the crowd becomes extremely dense. A versatile and cruel crowd from whence rise the first cries, female voices of course:
“Let her be whipped!… Let her be whipped!…”
A few moments later, preceded by four gendarmes on horseback, who open a path for it with difficulty, the carriage penetrates the gaol.
From now on, it will be experts, chemists and magistrates who will take centre-stage. After having revoked the Sous-Prefet who was tenaciously defending Rosette, the Minister of the Interior hands the case over to the Minister of Justice who names a pharmacist to examine the picture. Laboriously, he attempts to demonstrate that Rosette used a leech to colour the wounds or a mixture with a potassium cyanide base.
The Accusation Dossier deposed on 10 July is so weak and so badly presented that the tribunal is obliged to dismiss the case. Abbot Grand and those faithful to the miracle girl are triumphant. Not for long, alas…
An old enemy of Rosette, Abbot Caire, thinks that this is the right moment to insinuate that the judicial complexity of this case itself well proves… the presence of Satan…
Immediately, taking for pretext an Article of the Code which punishes with imprisonment those who have insulted or defaced a religious object, the magistrates send the case back to the Correctional Tribunal of Carpentras.
To be continued.