Tag Archive: mental health


The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise’s death did not bring any financial gain to her two brothers-in-law.  They must have known before they killed her that she would not have mentioned them in her Will, considering their behaviour toward her.  Even if they had hoped for her money, they certainly couldn’t have passed off her death as natural.

***

The Abbot and the Knight fled.  The Knight took up service with the Venetians who were at war with the Turks at the time.  He fought bravely everywhere he went.  Even with temerity, to the point that his companions in arms became certain that he wanted to die in combat.  He did in fact die under the walls of Candia in 1659 after a battle lost by the Venetians.

The Abbot changed his name and managed to flee to Holland where he started a new life.  For many years, he consecrated himself to piety, expiating his faults by extraordinary mortifications.  He finally converted to protestantism and died very old, highly respected by all.  As for the husband, he was arrested as an accomplice and condemned to perpetual banishment.  He went to the Venaissin County, which was then papal territory and a haven for many a cutthroat, then died soon afterwards, unknown and forgotten.

***

The most guilty in this sad story is the husband who, from start to finish, kept a cool head and cooked up the plan which would allow him to get his hands on his wife’s money.  The comportment of his two brothers is different.  In the opinion of Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, it was of a pathological and paranormal nature…

Their whole comportment was absurd.  Any specialist of mental disorders would recognize morbid behaviour here.  Whether the origine of it was in hate, jealousy, powerlessness, a death wish or erotic delirium…  The Abbot’s comportment, coming back to fire on the young woman in front of ten witnesses is characteristic.  Just like his brother, he is under the influence of something or someone who has entered his mind like a parasite and is making him act like a sleepwalker.  Louis Pauwels is sure that the next day, this man would remember absolutely nothing of what he had done during the night.  This is what Roman Catholic theology calls “lucid somnambulist possession”.  Under its influence the individual loses conscienceness of himself and allows a foreign spirit (or mind) to take possession of his soul a bit like a parasite in a body…

***

The History of criminology and psychiatry is full of cases where individuals have “acted out” after one of these personality splits.  In L’Obsession, Jules Claretie describes the story of a painter, at the end of the XIXth Century, who was obsessed by the idea that his second personality takes over his body at certain times, without him ever being able to foresee what misdeed his other self will commit.  The painter is finally cured by an Alsatian doctor who suggests to him that he is witnessing the death and burial of the “other one”.

To write his novel, Claretie spent months gathering information at the Salpetriere mental asylum.  In the same way, in La Somnambule, Mintorn recounts the story of a pastor, an exemplary husband and father who, in a somnambulist state seduces and rapes women and kills children, without his normal personality being conscious of it…

These stories obviously bring to mind the chef-d’oeuvre of Robert Louis Stevenson, Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde

***

Such states enter into the genesis of many crimes.  In particular, crimes of passion.  Trances, split personalities and also “hypnotic states” have been the subject of resounding judicial controversies for well over a century.  In January 1888, in a little Algerian town, the body of Madame Grille is discovered in a luxurious colonial villa, lying naked on a bed beside a young man of 22, Henri Chambige, whose face had been smashed by a shot from a firearm.  Saved, the young man declared that he and this married woman were passionately in love, but that the woman did not have enough courage to flee with him, and had proposed that they end it all with a double suicide.  The victim’s husband assured that his wife had been hypnotized.  This gave rise to a long battle of experts, which opposed the Nancy school, with Bernheim maintaining that crimes under hypnosis were perfectly possible, to the Salpetriere school which, with Charcot, savagely denied it…

***

So, who could have hypnotized the two assassins?  Their brother, an accomplice, or in a manner of speaking, the Marquise herself…

Diane, Marquise de Ganges, painted by Mignard as Saint Roseline (Hospice de Villeneuve-les-Avignon).

Diane, Marquise de Ganges, painted by Mignard as Saint Roseline (Hospice de Villeneuve-les-Avignon).

This is where the paranormal enters the picture.  In the beginning, even before her marriage, the Marquise did not seem very sure of herself:  strong-willed people do not visit fortune-tellers to find out whether the man they have chosen is the right one.  Louis Pauwels is reminded of a story recounted by Paul Bourget in L’Irreparable.  Perfectly relaxed and happy before her marriage, a young woman changes radically, as soon as the ring is on her finger, into a being who is perpetually depressed and worried.  In the Marquise’s case, the clairvoyants could have played the role of fixing this anguish, being “catalysts”, convincing her that someone wants to kill her.  Gradually, her fear becomes so strong – particularly as the prediction is made a second time – that it creates a sort of psychosis of assassination in her two brothers-in-law.  According to the schema described by many mental illness specialists and psychiatrists, which consists in projecting one’s own ideas and tendencies onto those of other people.  To the classical:  “I love her, therefore she loves me” is substituted here “I don’t love them therefore they hate me, and therefore they want to kill me”…  And this fear is projected with such force onto the two men, who are themselves weak-minded, that it finishes by completely destroying their personalities.  Doubtless helped along by the husband as well, they finish by acting like hallucinated, irresponsible beings.  “Someone possesses my soul and governs it!  I am only a slavish, terrified spectator of all the things that I accomplish”, says the hero of the Horia, Maupassant’s short story.

There are cases like this where it is the victim who plays the role of the executioner…

***

As for the clairvoyants, the first one is La Voisin who was to become the sinister heroine of the Affair of the Poisons which provoked a real crisis under the reign of Louis XIV, with the effacement of La Montespan and the discovery by the Lieutenant of Police of Paris, Gabriel de La Reynie, that the greatest names of the kingdom were implicated.  History has not remembered the name of the second one.  But both predict to the Marquise that she will be assassinated in a family affair.  And it is there that the paranormal intervenes a second time.  Louis Pauwels thinks that the clairvoyants only read, by telepathy, the young woman’s fear.  The force of her obsession was such that she managed to transmit their prediction to them…

They are greatly responsible for having formulated this prediction.  When clairvoyants read death in cards or via other mancies, they usually abstain from saying so.  For either they are telling the truth and then, many examples prove it, nothing can stop the wheel of Destiny, or they are mistaken and the result can be identical.  Louis Pauwels says that he knows two people who died on the exact date that had been predicted to them.  One in a car accident, the other from a heart attack.  Because it was their destiny or because they died of panic?

***

The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

Three months go by, then the Marquise’s husband, during one of his rare visits, invites her to travel to his marquisate of Ganges, tucked in between the Cevennes and the deep gorges of the Herault.  Until then, the Marquis had always gone alone to this ancient, fortified town, but this time the Abbot and the Knight go with them.

Despite his bad behaviour, she still has confidence in her husband.  She is sure that he still loves her a little and that he particularly loves the beautiful children that she has given him.  Still, she is so worried that, before leaving, she goes to a notary to make a secret Will.  If something happens to her, she wants to leave her estate to her children, and only to them.  Anything that she might write later would be false and dictated under constraint.  This alone must be her Last Will and Testament…

Here she is at Ganges where the arrival of her caleche has drawn a few townspeople into the street.  Then the heavy doors of the manor house close behind her.  Her husband is there to welcome her under the porch.  Coldly, he announces that he has to leave almost immediately, called to Toulouse for important political business.  He will leave his wife in the care of his two brothers and will return as quickly as he can…  The young woman understands everything.  She now knows that they want to kill her, and that her brothers-in-law are criminals.  They are readying themselves and the whole empty house vibrates with the terror which descends inside her.  The poor thing guesses that she has a few hours respite;  until nighttime perhaps or the next day.  They have all the time in the world anyway and the walled house is so big that no-one would even hear her cry out.  She is in her bedchamber and looks around her.  Her windows open onto a deep ravine and there are three doors, none of which can be locked.  So, trembling, she sits down on her bed and waits.  Already, night is falling and no servant comes to bring her clothes, or lights.  What are her dear children doing now, in Avignon?  And, above all, what will become of them?

Diane's bedchamber in the Chateau de Ganges.

Diane’s bedchamber in the Chateau de Ganges.

When it is dark, she sees, as if in a nightmare, the Abbot and the Knight enter.  But the nightmare is real.  They both approach.  They are dreadfully pale and look hallucinated.  The Knight draws his sword and the Abbot holds a pistol in one hand and a glass in the other.

The Marquise screams, she begs and asks to be allowed to live.  In the name of her children.  In vain.  The two monsters close in on her and say that she has to die.  So, sensing that there is nothing more that she can do, that she has been abandoned by both God and men, she seizes the glass and swallows its contents in one gulp.  There remains a deposit at the bottom.  The Abbot, who is the most determined one, tells her to swallow it all.  The liquid burns her throat and stomach atrociously.  She throws herself onto the bed, twists her body and furtively spits the liquid onto the sheets.  She tells them that they are cursed because she is going to die without having been able to confess herself.  Finally, something which seems to touch them…  Eternal hellfire.  Like automatons, they go to find the chaplain, who is under their orders.  During their short absence, the Marquise makes herself vomit, then slips, dishevelled, stumbling, through a window on the ground floor.  In the deserted streets, she runs and arrives before a house that she thinks she recognizes.  It is that of the Maugirons, notables who came to visit her once at Saint-Andre.  She begs for water.

Diane, who had taken refuge with friends, was wounded five times by her brother-in-law's sword.

Diane, who had taken refuge with friends, was wounded five times by her brother-in-law’s sword.

The Maugirons, very upset, do what they can.  But already the Knight has arrived, looking like a mad somnambulist.  He pushes everyone away and plunges his sword five times into the young woman’s body.  At the fifth blow, the sword breaks in the middle.  He flees, running to join his brother who is waiting outside.  Everything has happened so fast that the Maugirons have been unable to stop it.  The two brothers have returned to their manor and the Knight wipes the blood off his boots and jacket.  He sees, through the window, one of the Maugirons’ domestics passing by, followed by a doctor.  The Abbot realizes that, if they have sent for the doctor, the Marquise is not yet dead.  He rushes outside and runs towards his sister-in-law’s house of refuge.  He manages to force a passage to her bed and, there, he presses a pistol to her heart and fires.

The Marquise was in fact still alive, and she survived her horrible wounds for another nineteen days…

The clairvoyant had told her that she would die three times.  The poison, the sword, the pistol.  Three weapons and so much determination to put an end to her life…

But who really killed her?  The Marquis’ two brothers of course.  But why?  Violence of unrequited desire?  Obtuse hate from two good-for-nothings?  Sordid interest, exalted by the husband’s complicity?

Surely.  But in this strange crime, of a cruelty perhaps without example in this century which counts however some terrifying ones, there was also the Marquise’s haunting certainty that she was going to be killed.  Contagious terror of assassination with which the clairvoyants had inoculated her, fear of being killed which engendered the assassins.

Vertigo in fact, which can wrap itself around everybody:  he who thinks himself to be persecuted and those who become persecutors.  Banal, sordid story of an inheritance, too?  Doubtless.  But, above all, murderous folly unleashed by a prediction.  When one believes that all is fated, all is then fated.  And he who believes the worst attracts the worst…

***

To be continued.

The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

Back in Avignon, the future Marquise de Ganges tells her fiance about the gruesome prediction of her death.  The Marquis de Ganges is twenty years old.  He bursts out laughing.  Their wedding takes place in January 1658, followed by memorable festivities.  The young woman is now the Marquise de Ganges, an adorable creature of whom Saint-Simon has just said that her eyes “are a miracle of tenderness and vivacity”

The Marquis de Ganges has two brothers.  One fancies himself to be a great lover, and is a spendthrift.  So much so that, in two seasons, he has managed to go through all of his inheritance.  The other is a priest.  A strange priest who gambles, runs after women and drinks too much.  The two brothers, who don’t get along, are at least in agreement on one point:  they find their sister-in-law excessively desirable and their attendance at her home is assiduous.

The Marquis de Ganges is there a lot less.  He is often in Paris, attempting to make a career for himself by being present at Court and, very soon after his wedding, indulging in love affairs.  He is still just as charming, and his wife, who is delighted to see him whenever he cares to return home, consoles herself in his absence by looking after their two children…

In the XVIIth Century, Avignon, which belonged to the Pope, was ruled by Roman Law which forbade a husband administering his wife's possessions.  Diane was therefore sole mistress of her fortune.

In the XVIIth Century, Avignon, which belonged to the Pope, was ruled by Roman Law which forbade a husband administering his wife’s possessions. Diane was therefore sole mistress of her fortune.

Until the day when she learns – there is always some kind soul to tell you these things – that her husband is unfaithful to her and that he is spending enormous amounts of money.  Her money, in fact, for she is a lot richer than he.  So the poor little Marquise begins to worry.  Even more so because she is unable to confide in anyone.  Particularly not her two brothers-in-law, who continually look her over with concupiscent eyes and are waiting only for a moment’s weakness to throw themselves on her.  And what does an unhappy woman do?  She goes to consult fortune-tellers.  Not La Voisin this time, of course.  This time it is another who is installed in Avignon, which allows her to visit her parents at the same time.  This fortune-teller is very good too because at the moment that she turns over the first tarot cards, she sighs:

“Jesus Mary!  You will die young…”

The Marquise asks whether there is no way to escape this fate.  The fortune-teller studies the cards for a long time, then finally says:

“Give everything that you own to your husband!”

The unhappy Marquise knows that this is practically done already, for she has just had word from Versailles.  The clairvoyant insists.

“Give him everything and retire quickly to a convent…  Sweet Jesus!  I see death everywhere!  The convent, I see only that to lengthen your life…  The death of someone close to you will soon announce your own!”

The Marquise asks how she will die.

The fortune-teller hesitates, then, as livid as the Marquise, she finally reveals:

“I still see death…  But I have never seen it like this.  My cards tell me that you will die three times!”

Neither the clairvoyant, nor the Marquise, knows what this means.

***

Her children are now a bit older and her brothers-in-law are pressing her each day to go hunting with them.  Finally, she agrees to go with them.  But they have barely entered the garrigue than the priest tells her that she is driving him crazy with desire and that he wants her immediately.  She resists him and, with difficulty, manages to flee.  He calls after her that he is going to get her anyway and that he will tell the Marquis that she has lots of lovers, and that he will believe him and is a violent man.

Another day, when they are alone in the big house, the other brother-in-law, the knight, attempts to rape her.  She manages to escape, leaving her pretty pink tulle corset behind.  The perverse priest and the disgusting knight hate her terribly from then on.  Meanwhile, the husband drifts from place to place, travelling, gallant at Versailles, gambler in Paris…

Joannis de Nochere, the Marquise de Ganges’ grandfather, has just died.  He leaves a colossal fortune to his granddaughter.  One of the biggest fortunes in France.  The marriage contract clearly states that these riches are not part of the dowry.  They belong to the Marquise alone, and she can dispose of them as she wishes, either by donation, or by Will.  Is it the repeated predictions, the increased hate of her brothers-in-law or the more and more revolting behaviour of her husband?  The little Marquise is now filled with fear which throws shadows at night on the walls of her bedchamber, which infiltrates in daylight the long corridors of her home and even appears to rise from the fountains and cypress trees in her vast garden.  She tells her governess:

“I am sure now, Nanette.  They want to kill me.  Yesterday, the priest gave me a cream dessert which had a bad taste.”

***

To be continued.

The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

It is 1656, in the ancient quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, whose narrow alley ways and high houses, the tops of which touch each other above the street, have always favourized the most equivocal fermentings of the mind.  In this sombre XVIIth Century, throughout which flames regularly devour witches, the little Rue d’Hautefeuille, bordered on one side by a disused Jewish cemetery and on the other by student lodgings, is no exception.  It could even be said that inside the few houses with little towers in this street, magi and fortune-tellers, adept in all types of mancies, are in charge of Paris.

One October afternoon, a young woman who is barely twenty years old, wearing deep mourning, has her carriage stop at the entrance to this little street.  If she wasn’t completely veiled, it could be seen that she is very beautiful.   So beautiful that the whole of the Court of the young Sun-King [Louis XIV] is ecstatic about it.  So beautiful that the Queen of Sweden, visiting Versailles, cannot refrain from saying:

“In all of the kingdoms that I have crossed, I have never met a woman who can compare to this beautiful Provencale!”

This beauty had been married at thirteen to an amiable officer fifteen years her senior.  She had very much loved him.  But he had recently died at sea after seven years of a happy union.  Now, his young widow is about to remarry, in obedience to her parents’ wishes.  This time her husband will be a gentleman of her own age, the Marquis de Ganges, Governor of Saint-Andre-de-Majencoules, an advanced post in the Cevennes.  The Marquis is also very beautiful, and so joyful!  Always dressed in the latest fashion, frequenting the best Parisian tailors, he is to be seen at Versailles at both the Petit and the Grand Risings.  He is always hunting, often in the King’s company.  He is exactly the same age as Louis XIV.  To resume, he is a perfect cavalier, who will go magnificently with this young, rich heiress…

Catherine Deshayes, wife of Monvoisin

Catherine Deshayes, wife of Monvoisin

A high oak door, flanked by torches, a flight of marble steps, and the young woman is at the lodgings of Catherine Deshayes, the wife of Monvoisin, whose profession is fortune-teller.  Upon entering the vestibule of the one whom the Greats, her clients, call La Voisin, the future Marquise has a moment’s hesitation.  She is shown a sinister hallway all hung in black and constellated with cabalistic signs.  But the maid leads her smilingly towards the magician’s lair.  The place has obviously been decorated by a succubus with refined taste and everything is intended to put the visitor in the right mood.  Between the standing statue of Belzebuth and a set of mirrors which allow people from the Past and from the Future to be seen, La Voisin lolls in an Egyptian armchair.  Fascinated, the young woman contemplates behind her a very crude allegory representing lust…

Draped in dark taffeta studded with little green dragons, her face hidden under a sort of nun’s cornette, La Voisin appears wary at first, and wants to know why the young woman has come to her.

“In a few days, I will have to make a capital decision.  I would like your spirits to advise me.”

The magician relaxes and tells her that she will ask them to answer her.  She asks her not to say anything but to write down, on the piece of paper that she hands to her, the questions that she wants to ask the spirits.  The young woman does not want to write anything down, fearing that the paper could be used against her.  La Voisin assures her that she will burn the paper before her eyes.

The young woman takes the pen which is being held out to her, backs away and writes two lines on the paper, which she then gives to the clairvoyant, who rolls it into a ball and drops it immediately into the mouth of a furnace where aromatic herbs are burning.  Using an elementary sleight-of-hand, La Voisin has of course hidden the paper on which is written:

“Am I young?  Am I beautiful?  Am I a girl, a woman, or a widow?  Should I marry or remarry?  Will I live a long life, will I soon die?”

She leaves, having made an appointment to return in three days.  The time needed by the spirits to come up with the answers.  The time needed by La Voisin to gather information from one of her many spies who investigate for her around Paris…

When the future Marquise returns, she hears this:

“You are young, you are beautiful, you are a widow.  Soon you will remarry…”

Then, touching the head of a stuffed salamander with big orange spots, she concentrates for a moment then says this, which is true clairvoyance:

“I have to tell you…  yes… I have to tell you, that you are going to die young!”

The young woman wants to know whether the cards ever make a mistake.  La Voisin replies that they rarely do.  The young woman begs her to try again.  The fortune-teller slowly rises and goes towards her oven.  In a recipient she takes a pinch of resin which she rolls in what appears to be incense, then throws the little ball into the fire.

A green and blue flame rises, which she carefully inspects.  She turns back toward the young woman.

“There is little hope…  You will die young from a violent death!”

***

To be continued.

He was the runt of the litter.   His mother was a beauty queen with many prizes to her credit.

She had not been an enthusiastic participant in her mating with a much older dog at a distant kennel.  Her resentment had grown during her pregnancy and her owners had watched her very carefully during the whelping.  It was feared that she might decide to devour her puppies.

The thought might have crossed her mind, but she chose to just glare balefully at any human who came into sight.  Humans had betrayed her.  She, a prizewinning pedigree Pekinese bitch, who could trace her ancestors back to intimate companions to emperors, some of whom had even been suckled by the aristocratic ladies of the Court, had been humiliated.

She had been taken away from her territory, dumped unceremoniously into a strange room, and before she had had time to adjust to her new surroundings, That Dog had invaded her space.  And her person.  She had tried to refuse, both haughtily and very firmly, but it was his territory, so she had had to submit.  She could have fought him, but she was too frightened.  And bewildered.  Why had her humans done this to her?

The smell of him had lingered, even after her next shampoo.  It came back in waves.  Even now, after the birth of her puppies, she could still smell him.  Then there was The Runt.

He was much smaller than the others and she just knew that there was something wrong with him.  It wasn’t his size, nor the fact that his nose jutted out slightly – a hideous fault, which certainly didn’t come from her side.  (There was obviously bad blood in That Dog.)  It was something more subtle.  She couldn’t quite put her paw on it, but she knew that he shouldn’t be encouraged to live.

She tried to prevent him suckling.  Somehow, he managed to sneak to a teat while, exhausted, she was taking a well-earned nap.

After the puppies’ eyes had opened, humans started to visit the new mother.  They ooh-ed and ah-ed over the puppies – and ignored her completely.

Before her maternity, she had been the kennel’s star attraction.  Torn between indignation at being ignored and maternal pride, she decided that it was time to examine The Runt’s case more closely.

Apart from The Nose, everything about him was perfect show material.  His legs were beautifully bowed, his eyes bulged as they should, his socks were just the right height, his rusty markings were beautiful, his tail curled as it ought.  He was small of course, but the unavoidable defect was indubitably those few millimetres of Nose.  The perfect Pekinese nose is flat against the face, and this one wasn’t.

However, it wasn’t his physical appearance that repelled her.  It was something else.  A feeling.  He had to go.

She tried suffocation.  Pekinese jaws open to a surprising (and often very frightening) size.  She wrapped them around the runt’s neck and held her mouth shut.  She didn’t try to bite.  She just waited.  A kennel maid saw her and, with much shrieking, alerted the owners.  The Runt was removed from her jaws and she was accused of trying to bite off his head.  Which was quite untrue.  The time for eating him would have been at his birth.  It was much too late now.

She made a second attempt at suffocation a few days later, but was again thwarted.  After that, she was constantly watched, so she gave up trying to rid the world of her defective offspring.

***

My parents visited the kennel and were introduced to the now weaned Runt.  He had a very aristocratic pedigree name, but Daddy christened him Cheng with an acute accent on the “e”.  I don’t know why.  Was he trying to make the name sound French?  If so, why?  I don’t even know why he chose a Pekinese.  The only possible reason which comes to mind is that our next-door neighbours had a Pekinese.  An affable gentleman whose bulging eyes became completely blind and were further damaged by the poor old thing constantly running into things while roaring around the yard.  He was eventually helped to a merciful end.  However, when Cheng arrived home, our canine neighbour could still see and was very interested in the puppy next-door.

***

Cheng had been in our home for a few days and was poking his head into every cupboard he could reach, as soon as it was opened.  Mummy was kneeling in front of the open saucepan cupboard and Cheng’s head was inside.  Mummy sneezed.  The sound echoed through the cupboard and Cheng screeched, shot across the room, and cowered up against the wall, near the back door.  He was in the corner sitting on his backside with his front paws pawing the air.  Later, Mummy taught him to “clap hands” while in this position – a variation on this first pawing of the air.   However, he avoided going near the open saucepan cupboard again.

***

Cheng once appeared in a play.  I don’t remember the name of it, but the lady who carried him onstage (he was playing her lap-dog) was Miss Lorna Taylor.  I called her Auntie Lorna because, in our family, children did not address adults by their first names.  It was disrespectful.  Close family friends were given the honorary title of “aunt” or “uncle”.  Everyone else was Mr, Mrs or Miss.  We didn’t know any Lords, Ladies or knights at the time.

Cheng was usually taken home after his last scene in the play.  However, on the last night, he was allowed to take his curtain call with the rest of the cast.  Auntie Lorna carried him onstage and the audience applauded – and so did Cheng.  He sat up in Auntie Lorna’s arms and “clapped hands” with all his might.  The audience went wild.  It was his greatest moment.  He quite stole the curtain call from the other actors.

***

Cheng was my first dog and I loved him.  After a few years, he started biting anyone who entered his yard, including me.  He would come roaring down from the other end and fasten his teeth onto my calf.  I would drag him along with me as I walked.  Mummy was worried about it but, after he bit my face, his days with us were numbered.

For some time, he had been refusing to allow anyone to groom him and his long fur was matted.  We had bite marks on our hands from our attempts to even cut out some of the knots.

One day, I came home from school to find my mother in tears.  She had called the R.S.P.C.A. to take him away.  I thought that I would never forgive her.

She told me that, when the people had come for him, he had sat up and “clapped hands” for them.  The lady had said to Mummy, “How can you bear to part with him?”  Mummy had explained about the biting and refusal of grooming and recommended that they find a home for him without children.

***

It has been suggested that he might have suffered brain damage when his mother was trying to destroy him.  I now think that he could have been missing performing and was depressive.

***

I don’t know where he went.  I never saw him again.

I remember there being a photo of him onstage during his curtain call.  The photo was taken from the wings.  However, I haven’t been able to find it, and I don’t remember any other photos of him.

***

On 25 May 1479, Charles d’Amboise, in the name of Louis XI, took the city of Dole and massacred all of its inhabitants.

All of the contemporary chroniclers agree:  never was a more abominable massacre ever seen.  Never had there been more blood, brains and innards scattered throughout a city’s streets.  It happened on 25 May 1479.  On this day, at six o’clock in the morning, the inhabitants of Dole, who had already been under siege for three months by the royal troops, suddenly heard “great fracas and great rumblings”:  a group of Alsatians had just penetrated their city “by ruse and felony”.

Immediately, the portcullis was raised by these traitors, the drawbridge lowered and the favourite residence of the Dukes of Bourgogne (Burgundy) delivered to the soldiers of Louis XI.

Trembling with fear inside their houses, the Dolois heard horses’ hooves and clicking of armour;  then a terrifying, inhuman voice roaring :  “Kill them all!”

Terrified, most of them went to hide in their cellars.  A few, however, wanted to see the face of this man who was condemning them to death.  Going to the windows, they could see, through the slits in their shutters, a cavalier “with glittering eyes” who, standing in his stirrups, was inciting his men to carnage.

This is how the Dolois saw for the first time this diabolic Prince, known throughout the kingdom for his taste for blood, this great favourite of Louis XI, this human beast whose name made whole provinces tremble with fear :  Charles d’Amboise.

Travelling through the streets on his black horse, screaming his calls for death, he soon arrived before the Notre-Dame Church where some Dolois Companies of Archers and Arquebusiers were attempting to defend themselves.  Then, with a great laugh, he roared:

“Kill them all!.  Let not one remain!…  I want to see the blood of the  Comtois flow like a river in the streets of Dole…  Go on!  Kill them!  Kill them all!…”

The French immediately rushed on the houses, breaking down doors and windows, and the Prince gave the signal for the massacre by slicing off a woman’s head with a blow from an axe.

Immediately, the attack began.  Never had such butchery ever been seen before.  For four hours, they killed, they raped, they eviscerated, they exploded heads with blows from hammers.  Entire families died by the sword, others were burnt alive in the cellars – one of which would be called Cellar of Hell…  There were cadavers everywhere.  The soldiers were trampling around in blood, in bowels and the debris of brains…

Around ten o’clock, the most ferocious of them, the cruellest, began to tire of killing.  But Charles d’Amboise, Charles the Satanical, whose armour was red with blood, urged them on.  His eyes protruding from their sockets, foaming at the mouth, he was screeching :  “Kill, kill!…”

And the butchery continued.  When they had no more swords, they slit throats, stabbed, crushed heads, strangled.  Soon, there was no-one left to exterminate.

Then Charles d’Amboise attacked the cadavers.  As there was no-one alive, he cut off the heads of the dead;  and this appalling work amused him.  He roared with laughter, crying out:  “Look at them, these earthworms!”

While he was busy with his twentieth decapitated body, a soldier came to inform him that a group of Dolois had taken refuge inside a house.  He straightened up, an ugly expression on his face, and was about to rush over there when he changed his mind:

“Leave them there to breed!  They’ll give us some little ones that we’ll take pleasure in coming to kill in ten or fifteen years!…”

***

On the following day and those that followed, Charles d’Amboise, obsessed with murder (his contemporaries would say “possessed by the Angel of Evil”), would continue to burn villages, rape and kill the unfortunate Comtois by hundreds.  Throughout the whole Spring of 1479, and throughout the whole Summer and throughout the whole Autumn, untiringly he would kill “with a wolf’s smile”.

Winter brought him back to the side of Louis XI who would make him his Counsellor and the Governor of Bourgogne.  But, as soon as the good weather returned in 1480, he left again, sword in hand, hungry for cadavers and thirsty for blood.

Seeing him pass with his green eyes too shiny, his triangular face and his long, slim hands, the people say:  “It’s the Devil!…”

After the appalling massacres led by Charles d’Amboise in Dole and the whole of Burgundy, he was suddenly struck down, at Tours, with a mysterious illness which made him let out “inhuman cries”.

At the end of the year, he decides to go to his castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire to organize a feast there.  But at Tours, he is suddenly struck down by illness.  Transported to a nearby manor, he retires to bed, a fetid perspiration flowing from him, and soon begins to let out horrible cries…  The doctors hurry to his side and want to examine him.  He swears at them and continues to roar with pain.  He jumps and leaps on his bed.  A witness tells us that

“He twists as if he were the prey of flames.”

Finally, he enters into agony.  An agony so strange, so unnatural, that the people who approach him do not stop making the sign of the cross.  However, these gestures seem, not only to terrify him, but to make him suffer.  He emits appalling, inhuman cries which remind them sometimes of horses, sometimes of the cries of a pig being slaughtered.

After which, he roars blasphemous words, insults God, swears at the saints, says outrageous things about the Virgin and curses the Pope, to the consternation of those present.  It is then seriously thought that he is possessed by a demon.  Monks come to exorcise him.  He rudely pushes them away, spits in their faces and pronounces so many sacrilegious words that the unfortunate monks flee, appalled…

Finally, on 14 February 1481, after an attack of convulsions which almost throw him from his bed, Charles d’Amboise dies.  He has on his face an expression so revolting that no-one accepts to stay with his cadaver.

Three days later, they go to bury him.  For this considerably important person who is the King’s intimate Counsellor, Governor General of Ile-de-France, Champagne and Bourgogne, that is to say one of the highest dignitaries in the kingdom, a solemn funeral is held in the Church of the Cordeliers d’Amboise.  There are present, under a dais, the Bishop d’Albi, the dead man’s brother, princes, mitred abbots and penitents in hoods.

At the altar, a Cordelier says the Mass for the Dead.

But suddenly, at the moment of consecration, this monk begins to gesticulate.  Those present, astounded, see him wave his arms as if he is pushing away something or someone invisible.  Several times, he descends and climbs the steps, stumbling.  Then he stops, with his back to the tabernacle, looking terrified.  At this moment – he would later say – a voice that he is the only one to hear clamours in his ear:

“Stop, Priest, stop!  Your mass is useless!  It has no meaning!  Laughable!…  This damned man is already with me, body and soul…  Why bother blessing an empty coffin!…  For this coffin is empty!…  Empty!”

The poor Cordelier, just for an instant, believes that he can see before him a grimacing person.  Trembling, livid, he makes the sign of the cross, descends the altar steps, walks towards the catafalque and cries out:  “Open this coffin!…”

The Bishop d’Albi rises and asks for an explanation.  The Cordelier repeats:

“Open this coffin!  I will only continue to say this Mass after being certain that the body of Lord d’Amboise is really there…”

Then, the guards remove the mortuary sheet and open the coffin.

Those present let out a cry:  it is empty!

Immediately, princes, bishops, mitred priests, monks, penitents and ordinary people, panicked, run towards the door and flee.

And never was the body of Charles d’Amboise ever found…

***

This story can be found in many works, and notably in a book by the Prince de Broglie, La Tragique Histoire du chateau de Chaumont.  The Prince de Broglie was the last inhabitant of the Chateau de Chaumont.  That is to say the descendant – a distant one, but a descendant anyway – of Charles d’Amboise…

There has never been any explanation.  His body was never found.

The first idea which springs to mind, is that someone removed it.  But who?…  And why?…  Louis XI?…  Upon learning of it, he had an attack of apoplexy.  And then, he was too superstitious to commit this sort of action.  Having people hanged and profaning a coffin are two different things…  No, it could not have been Louis XI.  So who?  A member of the Amboise Family?…  For what reason?  There remains – and this is the opinion of a few Historians – the hypothesis of the body being kidnapped by Charles d’Amboise’s enemies, whether they were parents of the unfortunate inhabitants of Dole, or of lords despoiled by Louis XI’s Counsellor.

This could have been done so that Charles d’Amboise would be damned by preventing him from benefiting from:  (1) the religious ceremony called absolution;  (2) a burial in holy ground…

***

The thing that remains inexplicable is that the Cordelier asked that the coffin be opened, for it is very certain that, if the body had been removed by Charles d’Amboise’s enemies, these people did not go to the monk to tell him about it…  even in Confession!…  But there is another hypothesis.  It could be supposed that someone, who had had knowledge of the kidnapper’s secret, hid behind the altar and spoke to the Cordelier monk.  Who, troubled and appalled, thought to have had a vision…  But this is only an hypothesis…

So, the conclusion is an enormous question mark…

***

During Charles d’Amboise’s funeral service, a Cordelier monk suddenly asked for the coffin to be opened. It was and everyone present screamed in terror: the coffin was empty. His body was never found.

I didn’t write anything last week.  I was involved in a few personal problems and was not able to spend as much time as usual on WordPress.  So, firstly, my apologies to all of the people whose blogs I usually visit but didn’t.

I’m back again this week – obviously – and here is the link to Madison’s page:

http://madison-woods.com/index-of-stories/untitled-071312/

If you click onto the little blue creature underneath the story, it will take you to a list of more 100-word stories.

Here are the photo prompt and my 100-word story:

It comes every night.  It starts with the black handles on the white wardrobe closing in on me until they’re about to crush me.  Then they move far away, and the room is enormous and I feel so small.  Then the handles come back again, and it keeps going until the dream starts.

The dream itself is terrifying.  I don’t know why.  Nothing happens in it.  But I’m terrified while I’m dreaming it.

There’s this tree.  It looks dead.  Then a buzzard comes and sits on it.  It just sits.  It doesn’t do anything…

Doctor?…  Doctor!…  Oh, my God!…  He’s dead!



Presence

Today, I have decided to post a poem that I wrote in 2004.  It was originally in French and came third in a competition whose theme was “friendship”.  I subsequently translated it into English and re-worked it a bit.  The second version was published in an anthology in the United States of America in 2006.

I have typed the French version, printed it, added the accents, scanned it and inserted it below.  The English version is underneath the French one.

Its French title was “La Consolatrice”.  I have changed the title in English.

I prefer the French version of this poem because it is more sensual and suits the subject better.

The English version was baptized a “prose-poem” by an American expert.  It was the first time that I had ever heard of this style of poetry.

***

Presence

***

Sleek, supple, black coat shining,

She steps gracefully across the Chinese rug,

Skirts a floor-cushion, then pauses near the sofa,

Her green eyes anxious, questioning.

***

The seated man holds an opened letter in his left hand.

His stunned gaze travels around the sun-drenched room,

Seeking something … or someone.

She can feel his suffering.  It worries her.

***

Spicy perfume, from yellow roses on the coffee table,

Tickles her nose.  She sneezes.

The man extends an approximate hand.

She moves closer, meeting his caress.

***

The man speaks.  She doesn’t understand the words

But leaps lightly onto his lap.  He takes her in his arms,

Lays his cheek against her velvet head.

A salty drop, landing on her tiny nose, startles her.

She tastes it, then snuggles down and starts to purr.

***

Heather, aged 15, with her 13 year old sister.

Auntie Heather was born on 6 October 1918.  Her mother and father, my grandparents, had been courting for six years when they finally married on 5 January 1918.  This was because Pa (short for Papa, later for Grandpa) refused to marry while the other men were away at war.

Grandma had very nearly stood him up on their first “appointment” as she called their dates.  She had confided to a work colleague that she wasn’t really attracted to him and thought that she wouldn’t go.  Her colleague had encouraged her to meet him, saying “You never know, you might like him.”  Much later, she had confessed this hesitation to her husband, who had replied, “I knew where you lived!”

During the First World War, Australia’s soldiers were all volunteers.  Pa had volunteered but, although he passed muster on height and chest measurement, his request had been refused.  He wouldn’t say why.  Later, when the War dragged on and thousands of men were being killed or wounded, height and chest measurements were lowered and Pa thought that he might be accepted this time.  He was refused for the second time.  Grandma used to say that men who had volunteered and been refused should have been given some sort of badge to wear so that they didn’t receive dirty looks from passers-by in the street.  Pa played sport and looked like a strapping young man who just didn’t want to go to war.  After his death, Grandma found his application papers with CARDIAC written across them in red.

Heather at the beach.

So Grandma, who, at the age of sixteen had refused her first offer of marriage, finally had to wait until she was twenty-nine before being able to tie the knot.  Pa was thirty-five.

Their first child was born nine months and one day after the wedding, at home with the assistance of a midwife.  Grandma’s pregnancy had been a bit rough and so had the birth, but mother and daughter were doing well, even if both were very tired after the ordeal.  Grandma managed to say to the midwife, “I just saved my good name!”  To which the midwife snapped, “You would have saved your good name if she had been born three weeks ago!”

While Grandma was still weak, one of her husband’s aunts paid her a visit and enquired about the baby’s name.  Grandma replied that she was to be christened “Brenda”.  The aunt exclaimed, “Brenda!  Brenda!  Brindle!  Brindle cow!  If you call her Brenda, I’ll call her ‘Cowie'”  So Grandma, in her weakened state, agreed to change the name, and my aunt was named Heather Catherine.  Relatives sent white heather to her from Scotland the Brave.

Heather with her future husband.

When Grandma had recovered sufficiently to go for a walk with her baby in the perambulator (later shortened to “pram”) “an old biddy up the street” (Grandma’s words)  admired the little one, then proceeded to say insinuatingly, “My daughter had her baby one year after her wedding!”  Grandma rose to her full height of five feet two inches and replied icily, “Well, my daughter was born nine months and one day after my wedding!”  Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

The little girl had her mother’s blonde hair and blue eyes but her features were those of her father.  Later, a dark-haired hazel-green eyed sister came along and Pa, who would have loved to have fathered a son, refused to allow Grandma to risk her life a third time to try to have a boy.

Heather with her father and mother on her wedding day.

The girls grew up in a two-bedroom brick house, with a dog and an enormous aviary in the backyard.  The birds were Pa’s but the dog was everyone’s.  She was a black Pomeranian who loved to taunt the biggest dogs she could find on her walks, then, when chased by them, leap into Grandma’s arms and let her deal with them.  Grandma was not amused by this.  She wasn’t afraid of dogs, but an angry German Shepherd, still being insulted by the black curly bundle in her arms, was not a reassuring encounter.

The girls shared a bedroom and this arrangement displayed its limitations when the younger of the two went into a depression (known as a nervous breakdown then) and piled all the blame for her state on her sister Heather, who was twenty years old at the time.  Not only did young Heather have to assume the burden of her mentally ill sister at this time, the antagonism lasted for the rest of their lives.  Her sister continued to systematically blame her for everything that had gone wrong with her life and eventually stopped talking to her.  At the same time she did everything that she could to try to turn the rest of the family against her.  Fortunately, not always successfully.  Auntie Heather maintained a dignified silence through it all.

The family (left to right) Heather’s sister (my mother), me at 14, Grandma, Heather’s husband, her daughter at 10, and Heather.

Despite these problems, which hadn’t yet reached complete maturity when I was born, Auntie Heather became one of my godmothers.  She was consulted, including by her sister, my mother, for questions concerning the correct way to dress for a particular event.  The sisters even collaborated as a medical first-aid team during the Second World War.  Auntie Heather always knew what the text-book said to do and my mother always knew how to do it.  Things didn’t go as well when they tried to reverse the roles.  The whole family was on first-aid alert duty on the night that the Japanese attacked Sydney Harbour.  The siren was at the end of the street, a few houses away.  On the bus, on their way to work the next morning, the girls thought that people were joking when they heard them talking about the attack and the siren going off.  They had slept through the whole thing and could have been fined for it.

Same people, different places. We’re all a bit older.

Auntie Heather was the matriarch of the family.  She outlived her parents, her younger sister, her husband (a high-ranking Free Mason) and her only child, my cousin.  She died last Friday, 29 June, and will be cremated tomorrow, 4 July 2012, in Sydney.

She is survived by her four grandchildren and her son-in-law, but I am the only one left who knew her when she was a young woman.  Which is why I have written this.  All of the people in these photos, except for me, are now deceased.

Gaspard Hauser

Stephanie de Beauharnais passes her time trying to avoid her enemies’ traps, and giving five children to Grand-Duke Karl-Louis of Bade, who adores her – three daughters of marvellous health and three sons…  who die in infancy…

At the Palace, it is the wife of Grand-Duke Karl-Frederik who gives the orders.  When Stephanie enters this family, the Grand-Duke is seventy-eight years old.  Louise Geyer, his morganic wife, to whom he has given the title of Countess of Hochberg, has given him three sons who cannot succeed him.

But “the Hochberg”, as she is called, is madly cupid and ambitious.  Napoleon is not yet at Saint Helena when she obtains the legitimization of her sons.  Karl-Louis, who is weak, lets her…

The people of Bade, who don’t like the arrogant commoner, are asking questions.  Why did this little Prince, born in 1812, a real force of Nature, to whom Stephanie had given birth in great suffering, die so suddenly?  As well as her second son, four years later, who was just as vigorous?…

***

Gaspard Hauser

For Gaspard Hauser, the attempted murder of 1830 puts an end to his tranquillity.  It is bad enough that the Municipality of Nuremberg pays for him to do nothing, but if, now, he becomes the man by whom scandal arrives…!

Strange Lord Stanhope, who is in fact notoriously introverted, refuses to receive him.  He is entrusted to a certain Meyer, a brutal, suspicious teacher who holds him to be an imposter, to perfect his education.

His most constant protector, Feuerbach, dies, leaving him desperate.

***

On 14 December 1833, snow is falling heavily on the city.  As he does every day, Gaspard has gone for an outing, accompanied, this particular afternoon, by Pastor Fuhrmann whom he leaves, saying that he has a rendez-vous with a lady.

Half an hour later, he presents himself before Meyer, pale, ruffled, speaking with difficulty.  A stain of blood is spreading over his shirt.

He tells his host that a man had given him an appointment in the park at nightfall, to give him some decisive papers on his origin.

The stranger was dressed in a long cloak and a top-hat.  He held out a blue purse which he dropped.  While Gaspard was bending down to pick it up, the man knifed him and fled.

A few rare people file around Gaspard’s bed.  He is ordered to tell the truth.  He whispers:

“If only I knew who hurt me, I would willingly tell you!  Do you think that I gave myself the knife wound?  Ah!  Soon you will think differently!”

Two days after that, in the evening, he raises himself up on his bed and cries out in a pitiful voice:

“Mother!  Mother!…  Come!”

A few moments later, he calms down and murmurs:

“I am tired, very tired.  But I have such a big road to travel…”

He closes his eyes.  They think that he is asleep.  He is dead…

At the place where he was assassinated, there is still today a monument on which is engraved the following formula:

“Here an unknown man was killed by an unknown man.”

***

There have been hundreds of studies of Gaspard Hauser’s story.

Among the most serious of them can be cited those of Jean Mistler, Jacob Wassermann, Fritz Klee, or the articles of Alain Decaux and the admirable film of Werner Hertzog.

They opt for often contradictory theses, the first saying that Gaspard was an imposter.  Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, is of the opinion that an imposter of sixteen who manages to fool everyone for five years, while he is submitted to thorough medical and Police examinations, is not believable.

***

In the opinion of the Medecine of the time, as well as our psychoanalysts today, Gaspard was not at all mad, clinicly speaking.  His life is marked by no disturbing act, he is basically a peaceful being, preoccupied only with learning and finding the explanation of his origin…

***

 

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

The mystery of his origin has never been solved to everyone’s satisfaction.  Far from it.

It is certain, and has been proven, that he was not, as was said for a time, Napoleon’s son…

It would seem more plausible that he was that of Stephanie.  There are strong presumptions in favour of the hypothesis that her two male children had been poisoned, by order of the Hochberg.  Or rather that there had been a substitution in his cradle , in 1812, of the son of Karl and Stephanie by the cadaver of a child of low birth, who had even been believed to have been identified.

The little Prince would have been taken to Beuggen in the South of the Grand-Duchy where he was well treated at first.  In 1819, when one of the sons of the Grand-Duke mounted the throne, the child’s condition would have changed completely.  The Hochberg had obtained from the new sovereign, whose mistress she was, the promise that he would never marry and that the way to the throne would remain open for her own sons.

From then on, Gaspard became an object of blackmail, directed against the Grand-Duke, if he forgot his promise.  The surveillance around the child then tightened, and he was finally placed under the surveillance of a certain Richter, a guard in a castle where Gaspard occupied an attic.  Out of fear of seeing him run away, Richter locked him up in a prison cell, but only for a few weeks.  Terrified by his responsibility, Richter would have finally ridden himself of him in the way that we have seen.

The problem is that this thesis reposes on a series of hypotheses…  some of which are more than hazardous.

***

All the explanations given do not, in Louis Pauwels’ opinion, take enough into account Gaspard’s attitude, when he is discovered in Nuremberg.  All the testimonies agree that he is a completely disorientated being, totally untouched in intelligence, in sensitivity, even in behaviour…

He didn’t master language at all, had no experience of the most common objects, but it only took him a few months to learn to read, to speak, to play music.  The latest Science proves that a being maintained until his sixteenth year in this state of ignorance is condemned to definitive idiocy.  He hadn’t remained in either an attic or a prison cell either, for he would have rapidly died.

Louis Pauwels thinks that Gaspard’s brain was already “formed”, “programmed” as we say today.  That it was enough to give it an initial jolt for this intelligence, catapulted amongst men, to start functioning and to achieve adult performances of an above-average intelligence…

Gaspard was not a simulator and he didn’t commit suicide.  He was more likely the product of a mad scholar, a golem, one of those robots to whom life is temporarily given by attaching a verse from the Bible onto their foreheads.  A being who came from somewhere else, in any case, which was also confirmed by the first medical examinations.

The doctors were astounded to note that his skin was that of a very young girl and that the skin on the soles of his feet was so soft and so smooth that Gaspard must have really taken his first “human” steps in Nuremberg.

***

What killed him, was the incomprehension of men, the unsurmountable laziness of their hearts.  It is certain that Gaspard disturbed people, that he was different, totally unintelligible to his fellow men.

It takes less than that to throw the first stone…

Paul Verlaine, moved by what had happened to the mysterious adolescent, wrote “Pauvre Gaspard Hauser”.

Louis Pauwels thinks that the poet Verlaine had the best intuition of who Gaspard Hauser was.  In a ballad which was dedicated to him, he puts these words in his mouth [my apologies to those who love Verlaine – I am about to try to translate him into English]:

“I came, calm orphan

Rich only by my tranquil eyes

Towards the men of the big cities…

Was I born too early or too late?

What am I doing in this world?

Oh!  All of you, my suffering is deep

Pray for the poor Gaspard!”

***

Poetry is more and more indispensable to objective knowledge, as is shown by what is happening in the greatest American technological institutes which employ poets to contribute to the explanation and the representation of certain phenomena which are still inexplicable.

Louis Pauwels says that if you want a last argument, this one totally rational, know that the forensic doctors who practised Gaspard’s autopsy discovered that he didn’t have a human heart.  Or rather that he had a totally inverted heart, as far as it’s position and its circulatory flow are concerned…

***

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