Archive for May, 2012


Gaspard Hauser

On the following days, as Gaspard Hauser becomes accustomed to the little room that has been prepared for him in the West Tower, memories start coming back to him.

And these memories are quite astounding.

As far back as they go, they remind him only of the cold of an underground gaol lit by an inaccessible ventilation opening.  He still thinks to be wearing the short pants of humid leather that are never changed, to smell the straw of his plank bed, the roughness of which, through a simple unbleached shirt, has doubtless definitively curved his spine.  A basin, at the foot of his bed, mysteriously emptied at night, a jug of water and a piece of bread, are the only things that are familiar to this troglodyte.  And then there is the “Black Man” as he calls him, the Argus of his den, half torturer, half teacher, of whom he speaks in fear and who, in the last weeks of his reclusion, taught him to write his name and to mumble:  “I want to be a cavalier.”.  A few days before his liberation, he also taught him to walk, by pushing him and carrying him in his cavern.

Finally, on the Monday of Pentecost 1828, after having made him traverse a vast forest near Nuremberg, supporting him when he is too tired, the “Black Man” points to the faraway towers of the city, and says to him, before disappearing into the bushes:

“Go towards this great village.”

A few hours later, Gaspard comes across the two cobblers.

What do the good people of Nuremberg make of this extraordinary, romanesque story?

Most of them are convinced of its veracity, because of the impression of total frankness that its hero communicates.

Very few people who visit his room during the first months, to look at him as if he were a side-show in a fair, in an attempt to recognize him, have any doubts before his limpid eyes and that totally candid air.

The young man is given a sort of preceptor, the excellent Professor Daumer, in whose home he is soon placed, and the bourgmeister of the city, Herr Binder, goes to work with great generosity to facilitate anything that could contribute to the return of Gaspard to the society of men.  He has his theory on the child, assuring that he had been the victim of a kidnapping, and he sends out, urbi et orbi, notices to obtain information from all who have any knowledge of the kidnapping of a baby between 1810 and 1814.

He receives a pile of letters,  messages, testimonies, which suscitate a lot of others.  The progress of Gaspard, who now speaks fluently, and even prettily plays the clavecin, exacerbates the interest of the scholarly and grand worlds, which are sorting through the Gotha, hunting for an imitator of Louis XVII who could perhaps be “Europe’s orphan”.  Which is what the journalists and shopkeepers of the old continent are now calling him.

For, with the favourable conclusions of Feuerbach, President of the Royal Court of Justice and the most eminent criminologist of his time, along with the request from a great English aristocrat, Lord Stanhope, who wants to take Gaspard to England to give him a princely education, there are now, throughout Europe, innumerable subscribers to gazettes whom the story of Gaspard Hauser deeply moves.

Two years go by in this way, which the civilized world of the time uses to embroider on the myth of the good savage, incarnated by Gaspard.

Gaspard Hauser

The inhabitants of Nuremberg have become gradually used to the young man’s presence.  He is a model young man, discrete, affable and rather solitary.  His days are spent in outings to the city’s Orangerie, in philosophical conversations with Pastor Fuhrmann, in diverse reading, thanks to which he avidly reconstitutes this world which was missing to him for such a long time.

And then, one evening, he who is so punctual, is late for dinner.

Anguish takes hold of his tutor who starts to search for him in the garden and the surrounding streets.  Finally, he is discovered, lying on the last steps of the cellar.  He has a big wound on his forehead.

While he is being transported onto a bed, he regains consciousness and murmurs:

“The Black Man…  The Black Man…  the chimneysweep…”

Gaspard has been aggressed by a mysterious man, dressed in a black cape.  He saw his face in black too and that is why he thought he recognized a chimneysweep.

The “Black Man” had told him that he had to die, before hitting him.

News of the attempted murder spreads throughout Nuremberg and, from there, throughout the whole kingdom.

President Feuerbach exults and, before the ampleur of the controversy, Louis I of Bavaria, himself, orders an investigation with 500 florins reward “to whomever would provide information, a simple clue”.

Gaspard’s wound is not very serious.  Some therefore conclude that he is only a simulator…

Why this interest from the King, himself, in an affair which is, after all, a simple Police matter?

Of course, there is talk about an exceptional incident which has overflowed Bavaria’s borders.

There are also stories, and even a solidly argued thesis now, about Gaspard’s princely origin…  The great Feuerbach is the most zealous defender of this thesis, which the aggression by the “Black Man” permits to establish, according to him, more solidly than ever…

***

Stephanie de Beauharnais, first cousin once removed of Empress Josephine, adopted daughter of Napoleon, and wife of the Grand Duke Karl-Louis of Bade.

Stephanie de Beauharnais came into the world as, in Paris, the walls of the Bastille are collapsing.  The daughter of a first cousin to General de Beauharnais, Empress Josephine’s first husband, her early childhood is filled with flights and privations.

When Napoleon, on the eve of mounting the throne, learns of the existence of this cousin who is living obscurely, he becomes indignant and decides to adopt her as his daughter.

Soon she is a Highness, ranked above all the other Princesses, and even above Napoleon’s sisters.  The Emperor, putting in place a matrimonial politic which had so well succeeded with other sovereigns, intends to see her marry the Crown Prince of Bade.

He so wants her to sit on this throne that, when his nieces bully the young girl about etiquette, he sits her on his knee, telling her in front of the entourage:

“Come!  No-one will make you get up from here!…”

What a disappointment when the fiance appears at Court!

Karl-Louis of Bade has a rather ungracious face and, as well, he is not at all fashionably dressed.

With his powders and his long wig a marteaux, he looks as if he has escaped from the Old Regime.  And sad-faced as well.

He agrees to have his hair cut like Napoleon’s hussards.  Stephanie finds him even uglier.

The mariage takes place with a pomp which has to surpass, the Emperor says, that of the kings, and soon, pretty Stephanie enters the Grand-Ducal Palace of Karlsruhe – four hundred bedrooms lined up under the lugubrious Lead Tower, a poor man’s Versailles, with even less comfort – and what plotting goes on there!

***

To be continued.

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Gaspard Hauser, as he appeared to the two cobblers.

On this Monday of Pentecost 1828, all is calm is Nuremberg, where two cobblers are returning home, drunk from all the beer that they have consumed.  At the precise moment when the bell of the old cathedral finishes ringing its five chimes, the two companions suddenly stop.  In front of them, leaning against a house which is already in the shadow of the two cathedral towers, they can see a very strange creature…  One of them, Weichmann, firstly asks himself if it is not an old mannequin that a junk collector has placed there to signal his business.  The other, Beck, follows the person who is now dragging himself ahead of them, looking more and more tired.  He catches up to him and sees a young man around fifteen, covered in mud, with bushy hair under his old flat hat, and wearing scarecrow clothes.  When he sees the two men, he jumps and turns a bewildered face towards them.  Moved, as much by the beer as by this spectacle, Beck asks the child if he is ill and where he comes from.  His only answer is a painful sigh.  Beck shakes him by the arm before thinking to search his pockets.  He takes out a crushed letter which he holds out to Weichmann.  It is addressed to Captain von Wessnich, Commander of the 4th Light Horse Squadron, at Nuremberg.

Beck asks whether the Captain is related to the boy and receives a grunt in reply.  Weichmann is beginning to find this meeting a nuisance.  Beck decides that they can’t leave the child there and proposes to take him to the officer’s home.

Only the Captain’s wife is at home.  A good woman, who comforts the child, sits him down on a chair and asks him all sorts of questions…  He endlessly replies in such strange German that the woman takes a long time to understand what he means:

“I want to be a cavalier.”

She renounces questioning him because he appears so tired, and gives him a piece of roast meat, with a glass of beer.  The adolescent turns his head away in disgust.  On the other hand, he accepts some dry bread and swallows several glasses of water.

Nuremberg, where on 26 May 1828, two cobblers saw an unknown adolescent staggering down the street.

It is clear to see that it is mostly sleep that he needs and Frau von Wessnich decides to take him to the stable.  The child lets himself fall into the straw and immediately goes into a deep sleep.

The Captain soon returns home and reads the letter, which says this:

“Honoured Captain, I send you a boy who wants to serve the King in the Army.  He was left at my home on 7 October 1812.  I am only a working-man, employed by the day.  I have ten children of my own;  I have enough to do to raise them.  The mother abandoned this child to me.  But I don’t know who she was and I didn’t contact the Police;  I raised him as a Christian.  Since 1812, he has not been outside the house.  No-one knows where he has been raised and he, himself, does not know the name of the town, nor where my house is;  you can question him about it as much as you want, he will not be able to answer you.  I taught him to read and write a bit, and when he is asked what he wants to do, he says that he wants to be a soldier like his father.  I have taken him as far as Neumarkt;  he has to make the rest of the way alone.

Good Captain, don’t beat him to make him say where he has come from, since he doesn’t know.  I took him away at night, and he will not be able to find his way back,  If you don’t want to keep him, you can kill him or hang him in your fireplace.”

A note written on the same type of paper, coming from the child’s mother, it says, indicates:

“The little one has been baptised under the name of Gaspard.  Give him a Surname and deign to take care of him, whoever finds him.  When he is seventeen, send him to Nuremberg, to the 6th Cavalry Regiment, his father was a soldier there.  He was born on 30 April 1812.  I am an unfortunate girl and cannot keep him.  His father is dead.”

These letters, written in the same hand by someone who has made an awkward attempt at disguising his writing, seem to be fakes.  The Captain, who doesn’t want to be taken advantage of, goes to shake the sleeper.  Here is our vagabond at the Post of Police where he is again assailed with questions.  Once more, he says his litany, then pulls his head into his oversized jacket, with an infinitely distressed air.  He looks so pitiful that the public servants renounce tormenting him any more.  One of them however slips a pencil into his hand.  He is mocked by his colleagues who say that this miserable child can’t know how to write since he doesn’t even know how to speak!…  We’ll see tomorrow!  Just put the poor dog in one of the city’s towers and let him sleep!

But as soon as he sees the pencil, the child appears to be delighted.  He takes it and slowly writes with great application these two words:  Gaspard Hauser.  It’s probably his name, decide the policemen, who notice that, although the letters are not well drawn, like those traced by children in kindergarten, the name is perfectly spelt.  Unfortunately, Gaspard’s science stops there and, when he is asked to write also where he comes from, he mumbles lamentably.

What is Gaspard Hauser’s physical aspect?  He is fairly tall, he has fine skin, a fair complexion, very blue eyes and his hair is so blond that it appears silvery.  Above all, there is something in his allure that appears to be perplexity, hesitancy, constraint, as if he has just, at that moment, fallen from another planet…

To be continued.

The Count of Saint-Germain.

The Count of Saint-Germain was Rose-Croix, like Descartes, Willermoz, or Goethe.  He dreamed, like all Rosicrucians of the epoch, of organizing a European government.  Which explains the zeal that he displayed in serving the kings, but not for just any old job.  This is what distinguishes him from someone like Casanova, to whom he is often wrongfully compared.  He is nothing like the seductive rascal, busker, cheat and chaser of skirts.  Saint-Germain is, on the contrary, an Initiate of high rank, with immense culture and uncontestably endowed with paranormal powers.

***

In 1774, Saint-Germain is placed in the presence of Marie-Antoinette.  He tells her that the Encyclopaedist Party wants power and that soon the Catholic Religion and the Magistrature will be abolished.  The Queen replies:

“So, Royalty will be the only thing left!”

“Not even that!  But a Republic whose sceptre will be the executioner’s axe!  From all parts of the Kingdom will surge men avid for vengeance.  They will destroy everything in their way and civil war will break out with all its horrors.  You will then regret not having listened to me….”

***

This prediction comes to us from one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, Madame d’Adhemar.  It is in conformity with what we know about Saint-Germain, who is endowed with fulgurant intuitions and knowledge which allow him to deduct, from facts that had scarcely any significance for his contemporaries, future realities.  This is doubtless the essence of all prophetism…

***

The cover of a strange manuscript on alchemical symbolism attributed to the Count of Saint-Germain. This work, which has not been entirely decoded, is in the Troyes Library.

It is certain that great culture – and that of Saint-Germain was truly encyclopaedic – confers a sort of immortality.  In the measure that it allows us to make events that we have not known live again and draw lessons from them and project them into the future…

***

Apart from a prodigious memory, the Count was supremely clever in making people curious without satisfying their curiosity.  By letting people believe a little and showing them a lot, he must have ended up suggesting even more.  He succeeded in this for twenty years with Louis XV, who was nothing like a naive man…

***

As a high, Rosicrucian dignitary, Saint-Germain was very rich, and could have substituted some precious stones for others of a lesser value…  Still with a disinterested aim, because he was sincerely monarchist and, kept informed by his Rosicrucian Brothers of all that was in preparation in France, he wanted, in this way, among others, to save Royalty, despite the King.  By amusing him firstly, to capture his trust and bring him later to make the indispensable reforms.

***

We are fairly sure that Saint-Germain practised complete sexual abstinence.  This is confirmed for example by a letter of 1745 from Horace Walpole, the English Prime Minister, who knew him well.  The Count surely used chastity to produce paranormal phenomena.

If he wanted to approach women, it was because they were the obligatory intermediaries for arriving at the thrones where his political and moral actions could be put in motion…  As for the famous elixir, he very honestly said that it could only retard inevitable ageing.

***

Madame de Genlis assures that he had found, thanks to his deep knowledge of chemistry, a liqueur appropriate for his temperament”.   However, this admirer of the Count emitted a theory that was very new for her time:  she said that

“without his passions and his intemperance, Man’s age would be one hundred, and a very long life, one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty”.

Saint-Germain and the gerontologists of today do not say anything different.  As for the Baron de Gleichen, the Ambassador of the Margrave of Bayreuth who had known him very well, he describes the Count

“living on a great diet, never drinking while he eats, and purging himself with follicles of sene.  That’s all that he advises to his friends who question him on what they should do to live a long life”.

We can see that, in the domain of disciplined life-style, Saint-Germain was also very much ahead of his time.  This surely allowed him to appear younger than his age for a very long time.  He had, in fact, invented what we call dietetic and biochemistry…  Two hundred years before Niehans or Messegue…

***

Saint-Germain’s fortune was perhaps exaggerated…  By Gleichen in particular who, according to Madame du Deffand,  had this unfortunate habit.  He also lets people believe, in his Souvenirs, that the Count knew how to make precious stones.  Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, thinks that this should be taken in its symbolic Rosicrucian alchemical sense…

***

As for the fault in the diamond, it is easier to remove a fault than to manufacture a diamond.  Saint-Germain had very extensive chemical knowledge and is the author of a good twenty inventions in the domains of dyes and metal alloys.  He knew the principal stone cutters of Amsterdam.  Not to mention that, in two weeks, he could have made the round trip to Holland to bring the King a stone that he could have exchanged there…  Louis Pauwels thinks that his fortune, which was real, came to him from his Brotherhood and perhaps also from his family…

***

It was said that he was the son of a Jewish doctor from Strasbourg, or of a textile merchant from Moscow.  Of a Princess who had been Louis XV’s mistress, too.  The favour which he enjoyed with many sovereigns allows us, in fact, to think that he was of noble extraction.  This is Paul Chacornac’s thesis, which seems, to Louis Pauwels, to be the most probant:  Saint-Germain might have come from the princely Hungarian Rakoczi Family, the declared enemies of the House of Austria.  His father could be Franz II Rakoczi, proscrit in 1711, at the moment of the Szatmar Peace, who had found refuge at the Court of Louis XIV.  A weighty witness to confirm this version is the Countess de Genlis, to whom Saint-Germain delivered part of the truth.  He revealed to the Preceptress of the Orleans children:

“When I was seven, I roamed in the middle of forests with my Governor and my head had a price on it.  My mother, whom I was never more to see, attached her portrait to my arm.”

The Count showed this portrait, painted on a bracelet which never left his wrist, to Madame de Genlis, whose Memoires are a precious testimony on the end of the Old Regime…

***

It has been established that the only princely family to fill the conditions mentioned in the confidence that he made to Princess Amelie was the masculine Wittelsbach line.  A tragic line, marked by folly, one of whose last descendants is Louis II of Bavaria, who drowned [or had a heart-attack] in Starnberg Lake.  But this hypothesis is less satisfactory, for if Saint-Germain had been a Wittelsbach, why would he only have made an allusion to his mother’s origins?…

On the other hand, what is certain is that he was related to the Hesse Family, and it was  near the throne of the Prince de Hesse-Cassel, grandson of George II of England, that he ended his days…  temporarily.

***

In the comany of the Prince of Hesse, Saint-Germain made dyes which nothing could alter.

The Prince, who was a Mason of high rank, became his disciple, and together, they launched themselves into the manufacture of dyes which they produced in a factory installed on the Baltic.  Dyes that nothing, neither acid, nor air, nor sun, nor rain could alter, it seems.  The Prince of Hesse managed it on his master’s instructions for more than thirty years, and the German industry took certain techniques from it, of which it is still today very proud…

***

The Count made a mystery of his life because he had sworn it to his Rosicrucian Brothers and this corresponded to the sensitivity of an epoch where, to accede to those in power, you must not only have convictions and competences, but also a sense of the marvellous, wit, and be gifted in the performing arts to interest them while amusing them.  He consented to it to make his Masonic and alchemical ideal come true.  Not to make gold, but to study the processes of the transmutation of matter, which for the Rose-Croix, would permit, if they were known, to give to the whole of Humanity “health, riches, omniscience and ubiquity”.

This ideal, Saint-Germain was one of the only ones to push it so far, while living his own terrestrial and spiritual adventure to the hilt.

This is also his immortality.  It is in any case what Frederic II, King of Prussia, meant when, speaking as a connaisseur of men, he said of Saint-Germain:

“This man should never die!…”

***

The Count of Saint-Germain.

During a dinner, from which Saint-Germain is absent, the Duke de Choiseul, France’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, suddenly turns to his wife and asks her why she is not drinking.  Madame de Choiseul replies:

“Because Monsieur de Saint-Germain’s diet without wine suits me admirably!”

The Duke erupts in violent anger and orders his wife to stop following “the follies of such an equivocal man”.  The Bailie of Solar then asks:

“Is it true that the Government doesn’t know whence comes a man who lives in France in such distinguished fashion?”

Choiseul replies with a ferocious air:

“Without a doubt we do know!”

It is at this dinner that is formed the animosity which would now divide partisans and adversaries of the Count.  As an intelligent, sly man, Choiseul is very careful not to use a process which could discredit Saint-Germain in the King’s eyes, by showing him for example that he is mistaken in trusting him.  Since this is France, a much more redoubtable weapon must be used.  And to wield this weapon, he hires Gauwe, an actor exceptionally gifted as an imitator, who is entrusted with making fun of Saint-Germain.  Made-up and his hair powdered, wearing false diamonds and taking the same accent as the Count, he wanders through the Marais telling the most extravagant stories.  He says for example:

“Jesus Christ.  I knew him very intimately…  He was the best man in the world, but he was romanesque and thoughtless.  I often predicted to him that he would finish badly!”

Hearing such ridiculous things, his auditors could only believe that they were in the presence of a liar…

The Duke also made up a story about the Count’s elixir and his longevity and had it spread everywhere.  In town and at Court, it was said that a Baroness, who was very old, bought a phial of this miraculous water, that she locked it inside a cupboard, telling her chambermaid not to touch it.  To be sure that she wouldn’t, she told her that it was an extremely drastic remedy…  against colic.  The lady goes out and, in the middle of the night, the soubrette experiences violent intestinal pain.  She rushes to the phial, and drinks more than half of it.  As the liquid is very light-coloured, she replaces what she has drunk with water and goes to lie down on the lady’s sofa, in prey to an irresistable need to sleep.  When, early in the morning, the mistress of the house returns home and calls her women to undress her, she comes across a little girl of three or four lying on the sofa sucking her thumb and kicking her legs…

As a man of superior intelligence, Saint-Germain laughs at these roasts and even enters into his enemies’ games.

One day when he is visiting Madame de Marchais, he throws his hat and sword on a piece of furniture upon entering, sits down at the piano and executes a piece of music which is very much applauded.  He is asked the name of the composer.  He says gravely:

“I don’t know.  All that I know is that I heard this march during the entry of Alexander the Great into Babylon!”

***

Louis XV also seemed to be indifferent to the charlatanesque stories circulating about the Count.  However, he forbids anyone to mock him in his presence and defies his protege’s detractors by locking himself up for long hours with him, while ministers and those seeking favours wait outside the door.

In 1774, the Count of Saint-Germain had predicted to Marie-Antoinette the fall of Royalty and the creation of a Rebublic whose sceptre would be the executioner’s axe…

The declared hatred of the Kingdom’s most powerful man is therefore incapable of doing anything against Saint-Germain.  For years, the King entrusts him, not only with his worries, but also with important secret missions.  In England, he meets Walpole and, in Holland, he treats with Louis of Brunswick who is his close friend.  In all the countries that he traverses, he accedes to the foot of the thrones, warns or advises the sovereigns, and the greatest personalities show him their esteem.  But if he only returns to France to prophesy the future death of Marie-Antoinette on the scaffold, it is because the attacks of Choiseul, who secretly dreams of supplanting the King, finish by becoming too heavy for him to bear.  If they do not succeed in tarnishing his image with Louis XV, they at least discredit him in the eyes of posterity, which believed for a long time in the legend of the imposter, a Saint-Germain who was a master of frauds and falsifications…

In the last years of a reign which ends in debacle, his adventurous path through Europe is studded with disappearances which sometimes last for years.  In 1760, he is in England and the London Chronicle consecrates an article to him in which it praises his riches and talks lengthily about his talents…  As for the secret of his birth, the austere British paper affirms that it will be revealed only after his death and this secret “will astonish the world even more than the prodigies of his life”

***

For the moment, the mystery remains.  And that is a good thing.  For at the moment of prophesying in Paris Marie-Antoinette’s death on the scaffold and then disappearing, the Count de Saint-Germain says that he will only come back to France in a few generations.  To warn it, before dying for good, of the terrible dangers which threaten it.  So…

***

Louis XV was certainly not a king as abominable as the pampleteers tried to paint him, and perhaps Saint-Germain was slightly less angelic than some – including the King – believed…

***

Not only was Louis XV very intelligent, but he also sincerely wanted to better the lives of the poor whom his great-grandfather, the Sun King, Louis XIV, had seriously harmed…  It is true that he became discouraged too quickly, but it is also true that he pulled himself together in the second half of his reign.  Although it justifies nothing, Parliament’s permanent opposition, along with that of the Party of the Privileged, to all of his reforms, contributed a lot to explaining his failure.  He also had a big heart, we must recall…  He wanted the regicide Damiens to be pardoned.  It was argued, as always, raison d’Etat.  And it is also because he was a man with a big heart that he became so sincerely attached to Saint-Germain…

***

To be continued.

The Count of Saint-Germain.

When the Count of Saint-Germain is not singing or giving concerts and advice, about hygiene in particular, he is receiving confidences from the ladies and telling stories made more piquant in that the scene is always set in the Court of Francois I, Philippe le Bel, the Kings of the Middle Empire, the Grand Vizirs or the Sublime Porte.  With such veracity that Saint-Germain appears truly to have been there.  The question of his age and the reasons for his longevity again rise to the surface.

A conversation that he has one day with a young, incredulous Marquise finishes unsettling everybody…  He says to the pretty lady as she enters the salon in which he is:

“How happy I am to meet at last someone of your noble family!  I was very close to your grandfather’s great-grandfather…  He fought beside me at the Battle of Marignan!  Mortally wounded, he entrusted me with making sure that his gold cross was returned to his wife.  In those troubled times, I was only able to succeed in this mission by using an intermediary…  Did that cross really get there?”

Looking fearfully at this ghost who claims to have fought at Marignan, the lady stammers:

“But, Monsieur…  We effectively keep amongst our relics a cross which was given to us, a long time ago, by an unknown man, but no-one outside the family knows this detail!”

“No-one, except myself, Madame.  And I am happy to know that this precious piece of jewellery arrived at its destination!”

The young Marquise, stunned, her blood curdled, of course goes to swell the ranks of those who believe in the supernatural longevity of the Count.  Although in this last case, a coincidence could have been possible.  This is, however, unthinkable in the case of the Countess de Cergy, who is the first to recognize him in public, and to loudly proclaim it in front of witnesses…

Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour, seen here with Voltaire, both greatly estimed Saint-Germain.

Having one day met him at the home of Madame de Pompadour, she starts by staring at him for a long time.  The witnesses say, with the insistence of the major witness in a trial whose testimony could decide the life or death of the accused…  Controlling a sort of sacred fear, she finally asks him:

“I beg you, Monsieur, would you please tell me whether Monsieur your father resided in Venice around the year 1700… “

The Count replies with detachment:

“No, Madame.  I lost my father well before that.  But I, myself, was living in Venice at the end of the last century and at the beginning of this one.  I had the honour of courting you, and you had the goodness to find pretty a few barcarolles of my composition which we sang together.”

“Excuse my frankness, but that is not possible;  the Count de Saint-Germain of the epoch was forty-five and you are certainly that age now, right at this moment!”

The Count replies with a smile:

“Madame, do not be mistaken…  I am very old!”

“But you would have to be nearly a hundred!”

“That is not impossible!”

The Count then starts to recount to Madame de Cergy, who is very oppressed, a multitude of details connected to the stay that they made together in the Venitian State.  As he proposes to mention others, the lady, who has already had recourse to her smelling salts, exclaims:

“No, no…  I am quite convinced, but you are quite an extraordinary man…  an extraordinary devil!”

Saint-Germain exclaims in a voice which appears to some to be strange:

“No more qualifications!

But he takes control of himself and the old Countess de Cergy, whom death seems to have forgotten on Earth, continues:

“When I was the wife of the Ambassador to Venice, fifty years ago, I am sure that I saw you with the same face.  But you were calling yourself Marquis Baletti then… ”

“And Madame the Countess de Cergy still has a memory that is as fresh as fifty years ago!”

“I owe this advantage to an elixir that you gave me at our first interview… ”

“And did the Marquis de Baletti have a bad reputation?”

“On the contrary, he was a man who was very good company… ”

“Well then, since there are no complaints about him, I adopt him as my grandfather!”

Saint-Germain is joking.  However, he leaves almost immediately, as if painful memories were coming back to him…

That an elixir of long life could exist, and that the Count could possess the secret of it, causes considerable gossip in Paris.  For some, the eminent position that the Count occupies in the King’s immediate entourage, then seems justified.  What sort of elixir is it and how is it made?  At the Court, the best informed assure that it is the drinkable gold of the Rose-Croix thaumaturgists, the absolute panacea against ageing and illness.  Opposing those whom this news exalts, the envious and the jealous would very much like to know, finally, what this Count thinks to achieve in France, since he seeks neither position nor honours.  To most of them, Saint-Germain opposes a disdainful silence.  When others, taking a detour, ask him if he isn’t mostly a man of Science and mention a formula which appears to them to resume all of that time’s knowledge, he loses his temper and says haughtily:

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!  I’m the only one who can talk about this matter.  I have deeply studied it!… “

But the next moment, a sort of shiver of fear passes over him.  He then seems worried and, unwillingly replies, as he does to Louis XV who asks him to explain the disappearance of Prosecutor Dumas:

“It is impossible for me to answer…   By doing so I would expose myself, and you too, to the greatest danger… “

[See https://marilynkaydennis.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/the-count-of-saint-germain-and-maitre-dumas/

and https://marilynkaydennis.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/the-count-of-saint-germain-and-maitre-dumas-part-2/ ]

Such answers confirm his enemies in their suspicions, by making them believe that he has a grave secret in his life and that the trust that Louis gives to a man who appears to have fallen from another planet could reveal itself to be very dangerous.  Leading them is the Duke de Choiseul, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the man who directed, in fact, France’s politics with the authority of a Prime Minister, for many long years.

To be continued.

The Count of Saint-Germain.

At the time, the rumours about the Count of Saint-Germain’s age did not necessarily give him a good reputation.  But as he accomplished all his visible religious duties, was very charitable and had the purest of life-styles, Marshal de Belle-Isle does not hesitate to present him to the King.  There then occur the sad events which lead to the death of Madame de Chateauroux at the age of twenty-seven.  The Count arrives at her bedside as fast as he can.  However, upon arriving in the lady’s apartments, he tells the King that he can do nothing.  The Bien-Aime wants to know why.  The Count replies that it is too late.

Questioned later on the reasons for his attitude, in an affair where the empirics with pointed hats would have blown all the smoke of their false science, Saint-Germain replies:

“If I had cured the Duchess, I would have become responsible for all of the violent deaths which could have arrived after that…  Each family would have ordered me to perform a miracle and woe betide me if I had failed in the enterprise!  That is how men are, quite egoistic… “

A very pertinent answer at an epoch where the horrors of La Brinvilliers and the Affair of the Poisons were still in everyone’s memory.  But the astonishing thing is that the monarch, far from blaming him for this admission of helplessness, does not want to do without him from then on.  How do we explain this?  Of course, the Count knows the smallest secrets of the European Gotha, and at first, it is above all the tales of the secret failings of some of the greats which amuse the King, and their genealogical mishaps, which the Count’s prodigious memory instantaneously restitutes.  Madame de Pompadour, who has quickly replaced the unfortunate Duchess in Louis’ heart, is his surest ally, for, none better that he can dissipate the monarch’s neurasthenia, which he contracted young, and which will make Abbot Galiani say:

“He has the worst job, the job of king, as much against his will as possible… “

Between the Duke de Chaulnes whom she calls “mon cochon” [my pig] and Madame d’Amblimont who is “mon torchon” [my rag], she finds in Saint-Germain the man of wit, mysterious and unsettling, the living remedy against this spleen which, from 1750, she is officially entrusted with dissipating…

Soon, the Count is in all of the secret discussions and the King demands that he be among those privileged people whom he takes with him to the country residences where Madame de Pompadour succeeds in creating the illusion of a home for her royal lover.  There, he finally ceases to be timid and dares to confess, with intelligence and vivacity, everything that obsesses him, above all this ungovernable France, whose refusals and seditions have dulled all his good dispositions from the beginning of his reign.  His fear of death too, that Saint-Germain tries to dissipate by initiating him into the hidden mysteries of Nature…

Soon, the King consents to renounce his sad debaucheries and to no longer occupy himself with tapistery works or stews that he cooks himself, but to apply himself to the Great Art…  Louis XV, alchemist!  This is the prodigy that Saint-Germain succeeds in performing inside two laboratories at the Trianon, where he firstly teaches the King to melt and distill.  To a delighted Duke des Deux-Ponts, Louis XV one day shows a diamond of the finest water, weighing twelve carats.  He says:

“I melted 24 carats of little diamonds, which gave me this which has been reduced to 12 by having it polished!”…

But what the King appreciates above all in Saint-Germain is his frank speech which cleanses him of the lies and hypocrisy of the Court.  In front of Monsieur de Brancas and Abbot Bernis, the Count tells him straight out that, to have any estime for men, you must be neither a Confessor, a Minister, nor Lieutenant de Police.  Louis enquires about King.  Saint-Germain answers:

“You saw, Sire, the fog a few days ago?  One couldn’t see four paces ahead.  Kings are surrounded by even thicker fogs, which give birth all around them to plotters, unfaithful ministers and all those who agree everywhere to make them see things in a different aspect to reality!”

And, it is true that Saint-Germain always gives disinterested advice.  Never is he seen to promote someone and never does he solicite a favour.  Around 1756, Louis XV has installed for him at Chambord, in the shade of the 365 chimneys of the biggest castle in the kingdom, a much bigger laboratory, where the Count also has working some alchemists whom he brought with him after a trip to Germany.  Pure self-interest from a sovereign who is hoping to fill his very empty coffers in this way?  Perhaps.  But when his works on the making of gold from a vile metal reveal themselves to be not profitable enough, the King still gives him his friendship.  In exchange, it is true, for a few services…

In 1756, Louis XV had an alchemical laboratory installed in Chambord Castle so that Saint-Germain could work in peace.

During one of these “little suppers”, where everyone lets himself go in the greatest gaiety, and where it is not even forbidden to mock the King, on condition that it is witty, France’s master asks him suddenly:

“It appears, Monsieur, that you have also succeeded in finding the secret for making the faults in diamonds disappear… ”

“I have been able to do it sometimes, Sire… ”

“In that case, you are the man to make me earn four thousand pounds on this one, for my jeweller, while estimating this diamond at six thousand pounds, told me that without the fault it would be worth ten!… “

Saint-Germain examines the stone.

“It’s a big fault.  But it is not impossible to remove it.  I shall bring this stone back to Your Majesty in two weeks… “

Two weeks later, Saint Germain presents the King with a diamond of the most perfect purety.  The Court jeweller carefully examines it, weighs it and notices that the difference in weight is almost nothing.  He says:

“Truly, Monsieur, you must be a wizard!”

Monsieur de Gontaut is immediately sent to the Paris jeweller and receives 9,600 pounds for it.

To be continued.

The Count of Saint-Germain.

During a visit that the Baron de Gleichen makes to the Count of Saint-Germain, the Count reveals to him his treasure collections.

“There were, among other things, an opal of monstrous size, a white sapphire the size of an egg and a quantity of diamonds and stones of a colour and size that were even more surprising in that they weren’t at all in settings.”

In his famous Memoires, the Baron makes a big thing of this visit.  Because it is a totally exceptional favour accorded to him by Saint-Germain.  Rare are those who are able to enter the doors of his Marais hotel, filled, the Baron notes, with paintings by masters, among which he recognizes some Murillos and some Raphaels…

The extreme reticence with which he receives does not prevent the Count from being one of the most acclaimed men in Paris.  Precisely because of the mystery with which he surrounds himself, and of certain habits which appear frankly unheard-of to the marquises…

Everyone remembers the menus of the Grand Century.  However, while his guests stuff themselves with meats, fish, poultry, and attack after that pieces of venaison, whose strong odour fills the nostrils, the Count eats sparingly or, most often, doesn’t even unfold his serviette.  And what does he do while the others over-eat?  The Count of Saint-Germain talks, but there again, in a very different manner to that of the brilliant masters of calembours or the witty people of the epoch, reporting the day’s anecdote.  He goes back in time and describes the slightest circumstances of History, with so many details and such extraordinary clarity, that they believe that they are listening to a witness of that time.  When they press him to deliver his sources, he says that everything is in his prodigious memory, and when it is pointed out to him that it is not possible to make certain scenes so life-like, with such precision, without making it up – unless he has himself lived them – he agrees that he is perhaps older than he looks…

Added to his abstinence, the delicacy of his speech, which can be heard by the most chaste ears, creates an image of him which excites the beautiful marquises even more.  For, if they swallow laxative pills, if they even consent to become vegetarians for a short time, they would also love to keep him with them for a while, after supper.

But neither beauty, nor opulence, nor the rank of the mistress of the house succeed:  never does Saint-Germain pass a night outside his own residence, and very rare are those who have seen him up beyond midnight.  He is not known to have any lover or mistress, and this is perhaps what most troubles those who know him.  For, if he impresses by his lifestyle and his behaviour, he also seduces – infinitely – by his presentation…  Countess d’Adhemar writes in her souvenirs on Marie-Antoinette:

“His haughty, spiritual, sagacious  physionomy was the first thing to strike the eye.  He had a slim, graceful figure, delicate hands, lovely feet, elegant legs accentuated by tautly-pulled silk stockings.  His very tight breeches also displayed the rare perfection of his shape;  his smile showed the most beautiful teeth in the world, a pretty dimple decorated his chin, his hair was black, his eyes gentle and penetrating.  Oh!  What eyes!  I have never seen anywhere such eyes…”

For a man who came from nowhere and was always wanting to disappear, that is a portrait which gives him reality and presence!  Without in any way removing the mystery of his origins…  To the question which only a Highness dares to ask (Princess Amelie, sister to Frederic II of Prussia), he answers:

“I am, Madame, from a country which has never had a man of foreign origin for sovereign!”

The answer is sibylline to say the least…  When they insist, like the Baron de Gleichen, it is learnt that in his childhood he had been surrounded by a numerous suite, that he strolled on magnificent terraces, in a delicious climate, “as if he had been the Prince and Heir to a King of Grenada in the time of the Moors”

This symbolic figure, taken from an alchemical work, is supposed to represent, according to some authors, “the birth, by the union of cosmic forces”, of exceptional beings such as the Count of Saint-Germain.

Such a mysterious extraction permits, of course, to play around a bit with official identity.  In 1743, when he appears for the first time in Paris, with his air of grand young man in fashion and well-dressed, no-one at first bothers to enquire about his age.  The first to ask the question, to himself at first, will be Jean-Philippe Rameau, the genial composer, a serious mind if ever there was one.  All on his own, he personifies all of the music of the Grand Century, and he devoted himself so completely to his Art and to the responsibilities entrusted to him by kings, that strictly nothing is known about his private life.  Yet, one evening, when he is playing the clavecin in the rich home of the financier La Popeliere, he notices an elegant gentleman in the centre of a cluster of grand ladies dressed in green peking and canary tail.  He appears to be forty-five and is wearing a jacket of cinnamon cloth shot with green, the buttons of which are throwing out a thousand fires in the light of the candelabra.

The elderly master has himself served with a little sorbet, and then almost dies from shock.  The man comes, without any ceremony, to relay him at the clavecin and, in full light, there can be no more doubt:  he is certain of having seen this gentleman when he, himself, was just a simple organist for the Jesuits of the Rue Saint-Jacques.  The motive for his surprise is simple:  since this epoch, the man’s face has absolutely not changed.  Rameau, on the other hand, has become dry and wrinkled, already bent over with age.  A rapid calculation reveals to him that this meeting took place thirty-five years before and that, at the epoch, the person appeared to be forty!  He is told that it is a certain Count of Saint-Germain, and the incident marks the composer so strongly, that he talks about it all over Paris.  Some, who know him to be a bit wheezy, say that he is becoming senile as well, and joke about it at the dinner parties.  Others, knowing his good sense, begin to reflect.  Then to talk, when a certain Morin, Secretary of the Danish Legation, assures in turn that he had well known this gentleman too, that it was in Holland, many years ago, and that since all this time the Count, who was already a mature man then, had not taken on one wrinkle…

To be continued.

This is the only portrait that exists of the Count of Saint-Germain.

Sent to Frankfurt to represent Louis XV, Marshal de Belle-Isle was so active there and displayed such magnificence, that the Germans were slightly stunned…  In all ways, Monsieur the Duke had shown himself to be worthy of Superintendant Fouquet, his temerarious and unfortunate father-in-law.  So much so that the King of Prussia had been unable to stop himself from saying:

“It must be agreed that Marshal de Belle-Isle is Germany’s legislator!”

Alas!  A sudden reversal of fortune favourises his old enemy Maria-Theresa of Austria, against whom, like Cato the Ancient stubbornly working on Carthage’s destruction, he had succeeded in launching Europe’s armies.  So, here is this great captain abandoned by the Prussians, locked up in Prague and ordered to sound the retreat…  The Golden Fleece bestowed upon him in Frankfurt by Karl VII, who owed him his throne, is this evening a very poor protection against the stormy weather!   Freezing cold in his retreat, the Marshal is also suffering from atrocious rhumatisms which are attacking his lumbar region and all of his members.  Bitten by icy cold rain, and by the Central European gales even in his bed, he lives drugged, surrounded by a perpetual ballet of mediocre doctors, despairing of ever seeing the gentle climate of France again…  Then, one evening, he hears of a man who says that he is related to the House of Hesse and who, having learnt of his problems, claims to be able to cure him in five days.  In the necessity in which he finds himself, Belle-Isle has to try and, his back pressed against the damask of an armchair – his last luxury! – he receives this magician.

The unknown man orders him to lie down.  He imposes his hands on the Duke’s body and makes circles over it with a white jade wand.

The man of war wants to know what these mummeries are and whether he is trying to tie his laces.

The man wittily replies:

“Even the devil couldn’t tie such a temperament…  from what I’ve heard!  You are going to stop eating and take only three spoonfuls per day of this orgeat.  It’s an extract of emerald mixed with a few follicles of sene.”

“You want to kill me, Monsieur de Saint-Germain!”

“Drink up!  The greatest princes have confidence in me, and have had for a long time!  Anyway, I leave you this as security…”

The unknown man, who has good manners and is dressed with as much care as simplicity, places a round lacquered box on a table, bows gracefully and disappears.  When the Duke opens the box, he discovers, astounded, the glittering flames of rubies, topazes, emeralds and diamonds, three or four of which are at least ten carats each…

A few months later, after having saved the essential of his reputation and his armies, Marshal de Belle-Isle is back at Versailles.  He is very happy to have his feet close to some burning logs, far from draughts, finally behind his coromandel screens;  while, on his sofas, marquises are teary-eyed at the story of his exploits…

But in this December 1744, terrible news spreads through Versailles.  Madame de Chateauroux, Louis XV’s  gracious favourite, is dying, poisoned by a dish of mushrooms.

The Duke sends a lackey to fetch the Count de Saint-Germain.

Belle-Isle had been so pleased with the treatment given to him one year previously by his mysterious visitor, that he had brought him back with him to Paris and installed him in the Marais, of which he has rapidly become the toast.  Each day that passes increases his popularity and good society continues to discover his talents, the depth of which blows their minds…

Despite his accent, Monsieur de Saint-Germain speaks the most careful French, and those who have tested him more deeply in the language domain have been able to see that he speaks as well Italian, Spanish, English and Portuguese with confounding purety.  It is also known that he excellently touches the clavecin, but when he plays the violin, he becomes absolutely prodigious…

People sometimes wonder whether it is only one violin that he is holding in his hands and not two or three!  He is able to produce such sonorities that he makes crystal objects explode if care has not been taken to remove them.  Philidor assures that this is great Art, and the great Rameau himself maintains that his Preludes are incomparable.

But the Count has other talents.  Firstly, he paints almost as well as Latour or Van Loo.  But his vast compositions, whose subjects are marvellously like the originals, bathe in colours, the secret of which he knows, and whose brilliance and permanence are those of precious stones.  He explains the success of this new technique by his knowledge of chemistry and physics, and highly educated people, like the father of Madame de Genlis, have to admit that, in these matters, his knowledge is much greater than theirs…

Stung, they have sent scholars to him, but they have only been able to incline before his knowledge of the exact Sciences.  Discovering along the way that Monsieur de Saint-Germain is also extremely well-versed in the language of Homer and Virgil, and that he writes and speaks Sanskrit, Chinese and Arabic with a perfection that makes his claim of having spent a lot of time in Asia and the Orient easily believable.  But his Science can also render him amiable.  To the pretty women of the Court, he offers magic boxes.  By exposing them to the fire’s heat, the agatha which decorates them fades and leaves in its place a shepherdess carrying a basket of flowers.  If the lid is again heated, the stone reappears…  He also knows how to make delicious sweets, which have the form of fruits, and book-bindings, which he constellates with little precious stones.  For precious stones seem to flow from the hands of this scintillating man…  He carries them on him, dissimulating them with exquisite taste under ribbons and laces.  Nonetheless, if he is asked, he doesn’t hesitate to show them.  The other day, during a gala at Versailles, his garters, his shoe-buckles, his snuff-box in gold encrusted with diamonds of the finest water, passed among all of the pretty hands and Monsieur de Gontaut could not help saying:

“But there’s more than two hundred thousand francs worth here!”

To be continued.

I’m not in school uniform here, but I must have been around this age.

The teacher on playground duty calls me over.

Have I done something wrong?  Can’t think of anything, but you never know.

I walk over to her, and a few girls gather ’round.  They smell blood.

“Marilyn, what country do you come from?”

Children have already asked me that question.  But this is the first time an adult has.  What’s wrong with me?  Do I look different?

“I was born here.”

“Oh.  Well, what country do your parents come from?”

My parents?  This is really serious!  Why does she think we’re foreigners?

“They were born here, too.  So were my grandparents.”

I threw the grandparent bit in for free.  How far back does she want me to go?

“I’m fourth generation Australian.”

Not quite true.  One great-grandfather was born in Wales.  But I think all the other “greats” were born here.  Close enough!

Similar questions from children never bother me.  They’re only children.  But this is a teacher!  There’s got to be something wrong with me!  I mustn’t be normal!

The bell rings, so that’s the end of that.

***

Many years later, in 2003, on Radio Haute-Angevine, in France, I tell this story to Jean-Francois while I’m his guest on Aux reveurs eveilles [Daydreamers’ Gathering Place].  He chuckles and says,

“Didn’t she mean,  ‘what planet do you come from?’ ?”

Probably.

***

I was a foreigner for nearly four decades in France.  It was my accent.  Most people didn’t know where I was born and guessed all sorts of places.  I was often English, but also Dutch, sometimes German.  Once, I was told that I spoke like the women from the North.  My mother-in-law said that I knitted like them too.  French women don’t hold their knitting needles the same way.

Once, in a bar, an acquaintance was complaining about “foreigners” coming to France.  I reminded him that I was a “foreigner”.  His reply was,

“Oh, you’re different.  You look French.”

So, apparently, foreigners are people who don’t look like you.  Which means that all men are foreigners to me.  Sounds right.

***

While being interviewed in France for State-funded courses susceptible of helping me to find work, I would be asked if I spoke a foreign language.  Having answered in the affirmative, the next question would be which one?  To which I would reply,

“French.”

“Non, non, non!  Foreign language!”

“Mais, oui!  French is my foreign language.  English is my maternal language.”

Confusion.  Fluttering of eyelashes.

“Yes, yes, of course!  We’ll just put down English.  Do you speak it, read it and write it?”

“Of course I do – it’s my maternal language.”

“Ah, yes!  That’s right!”

More confusion.  Big smiles.

To help things along, I would add that I also spoke, read and wrote French – my foreign language.

At this point, my public servant interviewer would often call for aspirin.

One last hope!  Perhaps I’m not French, nor even European, in which case, no State-funded course, therefore no more interview?

No such luck!  Dual nationality!

Make that two aspirins.

***

The photo was taken from the newspaper’s files. I had just had my hair cut short so no longer looked like this.

When I started getting into the papers in France, I was “Australian”.  I remained “Australian” until the dreadful day that Australia bowed to United States pressure to honour a treaty or two, and illegally invaded Iraq.

I was so ashamed that I was afraid to go out for days.  Hunger finally drove me to the shops.  However, people were really kind to me.  No-one mentioned Iraq in my presence and newspapers started calling me “Australian-born”, or “of Australian origin”.  I think that the French only accepted me as “French” when my other country attacked Iraq.

We had all been so proud of being French when France stood up to the United States and refused to join the aggression.  The Americans wrote and said bad things about us in their media and also put a ban on the importation of many French cheeses, supposedly because the way that they were made was dangerous for American health.  However, everyone knew that it was in retaliation for not obeying orders.  So my friends and acquaintances, including in the media, all understood how I must feel about what Australia had done.

***

When I returned to Australia, firstly in 2004 to be with my dying mother, then to settle here in 2005, I thought that I was coming home.  It turns out that I left home to come to Australia.  And I’m a foreigner again.  Or still.  I don’t really know any more.

***

Jeanne d’Arc, as represented by Saint-Sulpician inspired artists. But who were these beings from elsewhere who haunted the Bois-Chenu?

The Rouen judges lengthily interrogated Jeanne d’Arc on the fairytale phenomena in Domremy.  Here is what she answered on this subject, on Saturday 24 February 1431, during the third audience, to Maitre Jean Beaupere, Assessor at the Tribunal:

“Fairly close to Domremy, there is a certain tree which is called the Arbre des Dames, and others call it the Arbre des Fees.  Nearby, there is a fountain.  And I have heard that people sick with fever drink from this fountain and go to fetch its water to recover their health.  And this, I have seen myself;  but I don’t know whether they are cured or not.  I have heard that the sick, when they can get up, go to the tree to roll around.  It is a great tree, called fau, from whence comes the beautiful may.  It belonged, it is said, to My Lord Pierre de Bourlemont, Knight.  Sometimes, I went to roll there with the other girls, and made flower hats for this tree for the image of Notre-Dame-de-Domremy.  Several times, I heard said by the old people, not of my lineage, that the Lady Fairies lived there.  And I heard it said to a woman, named Jeanne, the wife of Mayor Aubery, from my part of the country, who was my godmother, that she had seen the Lady Fairies.  But I myself do not know whether that is true or not.  I have never seen a fairy at the tree, as far as I know.”

The judge asks:

“And have you seen any elsewhere?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve seen flower hats being put on the branches of the tree by young unmarried girls, and myself have sometime put some on with the other girls.  And sometimes we took them away, and sometimes we left them.  Since knowing that I had to come to France, I played a few games or rolled around, and the least that I could.  And I don’t know whether, since I have understood, I have danced near the tree.  Sometimes I could well have danced with the children;  but I didn’t sing there any more than I danced.”

So, Jeanne, known as Jeannette at Domremy, went to sing and dance under the Fairy Tree with her little friends.

***

During the same sitting of the Tribunal, she gave the following precision:

“My brother recounted that it was being said at Domremy:  ‘The Jeanne took her facts from the Fairy Tree.’  It’s false.  I told him the opposite.”

***

To tell the story of Jeanne d’Arc, it is always best to cite her own words.  Here is what she said about the voices:

“When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me to govern myself.  And the first time, I was very much afraid…”

And she adds this sentence where in a few simple words she paints the decor of this marvellous instant:

“And the voice came, around noon, in Summer, in my father’s garden.

“I heard the voice on my right, on the church side.  I rarely heard it without seeing a light.  This light is from the side where the voice makes itself heard…”

During the trial, a judge having asked her whether she had the help of her voices in the Tribunal room, she answered:

“If I were in a wood, I would well hear the voice coming to me…”

However, it would be wrong to conclude that she heard her voices only under trees.  They appear to have manifested themselves in vastly diverse places.  She never said that the presence of trees was a condition, if not indispensable, at least favourable, to her hearing the voices.

***

A fairy godmother. What could have given birth to these timeless stories?

In 1455, the trial of Jeanne d’Arc’s rehabilitation opened.  On this occasion, the Tribunal asked the Civil Provost of Vaucouleurs, Jean Dalie, to go to Domremy to question the people who had known the Pucelle [unmarried girl, usually considered a virgin].  A Rogatory Commission which was accompanied by a list of questions in which the Ninth Article concerned the Fairy Tree.  Here are a few answers:

From Jean Moreau, farmer, seventy years old (he was forty-three in 1429 when Jeanne left her village):

“The Fairy Tree?  I have heard it said by the women that marvellous beings that we call “fairies” used to go to dance under this tree.  But it is said that since we go there to read the Gospel according to Saint John, they don’t come back there any more.”

From Beatrice, widow of Estelleni, eighty years old (sixty-three in 1429):

“The Fairy Tree, I have been there myself with the Ladies and Lords of Domremy to roll beneath it, because it is a very beautiful tree.  It is beside a big track by which we go to Neufchateau.  It was said that, in the ancient times, the Lady-Fairies came under there;  but now they no longer come, because of their sins.”

From Jeannette, widow of Tiercelin, sixty years old (thirty-three in 1429):

“The tree in question is called the Fairy Tree because, in the ancient times, it is said, a lord called Sir Pierre Granier, Knight of Bourlemont, went to meet under the tree a lady called Fee [Fay or Fairy] and talk with her;  I heard it read in a book.  Girls and boys of Domremy go there each year on the Sunday of loetare or Sunday of the Fountains, to roll, eat and dance…”

From Hauviette, wife of Gerard, farmer, forty-five years old (eighteen in 1429):

“Since forever, that tree, we call it the Fairy Tree.  It was said in the ancient times, that ladies called fairies came there…  Myself, I’ve been there with Jeanne the Pucelle [Joan of Arc], my friend, and the others, on the Sunday of the Fountains;  we ate, we had fun…”

Finally, from Gerardin d’Epinal, farmer, sixty years old (thirty-three in 1429), this exquisite comparison:

“It is beautiful like a lily, that tree!  Its leaves and its branches fall all around right down to the ground.  Jeannette went there with the other girls…”

***

People believed in fairies, in a general way, throughout the whole of Europe practically up until the XVIIIth Century, and in certain places up until the end of the XIXth Century…

Historians of mentalities doctly explain that fairies come, for their name, from the antique fata, and from the three Parques (in all the tales, they are present at the birth of children to whom they dispense faults and qualities), and content themselves with adding that they constitute the most persistent vestiges left by paganism…

Certain modern mythologists are not far from thinking that the explanation of this myth will come to us, not from Historians of mentalities, but from scholars.

Now, American and Russian Physicists, among others, estime that interferences between our universe and an invisible world, which is however just as real as ours, are possible.  They add that at certain epochs, “beings” coming from this “elsewhere” were able to intervene in the destiny of men…

Which could have given birth to tales of fairies.

***

Should we then believe that Jeanne d’Arc, who thought that she was in communication with Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret and Saint [the Archangel] Michael, was in fact in contact with “mysterious unknown beings” visiting this world, and in whom today’s Physicists believe?

Guy Breton, whose work I have translated, says that we are all free to think what we like.  All that he knows, is that the most marvellous and most extraordinary being in the History of France, that person who has her equivalent in no other country, at no other epoch, was born precisely in a little village where, for a century, young men and young girls go to roll around under a Fairy Tree…

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