The Book of Were-Wolves
Sabine Baring-Gould

Part 3 out of 4

well be supposed to issue from the earth's womb, and its
characteristics are sufficient to decide its paternity. Typhus, the
whirlwind or typhoon, has a hundred dragon or serpent heads, the long
writhing strive of vapour which run before the hurricane cloud. He
belches fire, that is, lightnings issue from the clouds, and his
roaring is like the howling of wild dogs. Typhus ascends to heaven to
make war on the gods, who fly from him in various fantastic shapes;
who cannot see in this ascent the hurricane climbing up the vault of
sky, and in the flying gods, the many fleeting fragments of white
cloud which are seen drifting across the heavens before the gale!

[1. Apud TWYSDEN, Hist. Anglicæ Script. x. 1652. p. 1216.]

Typhus, according to Hesiod, is the father of all bad winds, which
destroy with rain and tempest, all in fact which went among the Greeks
by the name of {Greek _laílaps_}, bringing injury to the agriculturist
and peril to the voyager.

_?Ek dè Tufwéos é?st? a?némwn ménos u!gròn á?eptwn,
nósfi Nótou Boréw te, kaì a?rgéstew Zefúrou te.
oí! ge mèn e?n ðeófin geneh`, ðnhtoïs még? ó?neiar.
ai! d? á?llai mapsau~rai e?pipneíousi ðalassan.
ai! d? h?'toi píptousai e?s heroeideá pónton,
ph~ma méga ðnhtoi~si, kakh~j ðúousin a?éllhj.
á?llote d? á?llai a?eísi, diaskidna~si te nh~as,
naútas te fðeírousi. kakou~ d? ou? gígnetai a?lkh`
a?ndrásin, oí! keínhjsi sinántwntai katà pónton.
ai! d? aû? kaì katà gai~an a?peíriton, a?nðemóessan
é?rg? e?ratà fðeírousi xamaigenéwn a?nðrw'pwn,
pimpleu~sai kóniós te kaì a?rgaléou kolosurtou~

_Hesiod. Theog._ 870, _seq._

In both modern Greek and Lithuanian household mythology the dragon or
drake has become an ogre, a gigantic man with few of the dracontine
attributes remaining. Von Hahn, in his _Griechische und Albanesische
Märchen_, tells many tales of drakes, and in all, the old
characteristics have been lost, and the drake is simply a gigantic man
with magical and superhuman powers.

It is the same among the Lithuanian peasantry. A dragon walks on two
legs, talks, flirts with a lady, and marries her. He retains his evil
disposition, but has sloughed off his scales and wings.

Such is the change which has taken place in the popular conception of
the dragon, which is an impersonification of the thunderstorm. A
similar change has taken place in the swan-maiden and were-wolf myths.

In ancient Indian Vedaic mythology the apsaras were heavenly damsels
who dwelt in the tether, between earth and sun. Their name, which
signifies "the shapeless," or "those who go in the water "--it is
uncertain which. is the correct derivation--is expressive of the white
cirrus, constantly changing form, and apparently floating swan-like on
the blue heaven-sea. These apsaras, according to the Vedaic creed,
were fond of changing their shapes, appearing generally as ducks or
swans, occasionally as human beings. The souls of heroes were given to
them for lovers and husbands. One of the most graceful of the early
Indian myths is the story of the apsaras, Urvaçî. Urvaçî loved
Puravaras and became his 'wife, on the condition that she was n-ever
to behold him in a state of nudity. They remained together for years,
till the heavenly companions of Urvaçî determined to secure her return
to them. They accordingly beguiled Puravaras into leaving his bed in
the darkness of night, and then with a lightning flash they disclosed
him, in his nudity, to his wife, who was thereupon constrained to
leave him. He pursued her, full of sorrow at his loss, and found her
at length swimming in a large lotus pond, in swan's shape.

That this story is not a mere invention, but rests on some
mythological explanation of natural phenomena, I think more than
probable, as it is found all over the world with few variations. As
every Aryan branch retains the story, or traces of it, there can be no
doubt that the belief in swan-maidens, who swam in the heavenly sea,
and who sometimes became the wives of those fortunate men who managed
to steal from them their feather dresses, formed an integral portion
of the old mythological system of the Aryan family, before it was
broken up into Indian, Persian, Greek, Latin, Russian, Scandinavian,
Teutonic, and other races. But more, as the same myth is found. in
tribes not Aryan, and far removed from contact with European or Indian
superstition,--as, for instance, among Samoyeds and American
Indians,--it is even possible that this story may be a tradition of
the first primæval stock of men.

But it is time for me to leave the summer cirrus and turn to the
tempest-born rain-cloud. It is represented in ancient Indian mythology
by the Vritra or Râkshasas. At first the form of these dæmons was
uncertain and obscure. Vritra is often used as an appellative for a
cloud, and kabhanda, an old name for a rain-cloud, in later times
became the name of a devil. Of Vritra, who envelopes the mountains
with vapour, it is said, "The darkness stood retaining the water, the
mountains lay in the belly of Vritra." By degrees Vritra stood out
more prominently as a dæmon, and he is described as a "devourer" of
gigantic proportions. In the same way Râkshasas obtained corporeal
form and individuality. He is a misshapen giant "like to a cloud,"
with a red beard and red hair, with pointed protruding teeth, ready to
lacerate and devour human flesh. His body is covered with coarse
bristling hair, his huge mouth is open, he looks from side to side as
he walks, lusting after the flesh and blood of men, to satisfy his
raging hunger, and quench his consuming thirst. Towards nightfall his
strength increases manifold. He can change his shape at will. He
haunts the woods, and roams howling through the jungle; in short, he
is to the Hindoo what the were-wolf is to the European.

A certain wood was haunted by a Râkschasa; he one day came across a
Brahmin, and with a bound reached his shoulders, and clung to them,
exclaiming, "Heh! go on with you!" And the Brahmin, quaking with fear,
advanced with him. But when he observed that the feet of the Râkschasa
were as delicate as the stamens of the lotus, he asked him, How is it
that you have such weak and slender feet? The Râkschasa replied, "I
never walk nor touch the earth with my feet. I have made a vow not to
do so." Presently they came to a large pond. Then the Râkschasa bade
the Brahmin wait at the edge whilst he bathed and prayed to the gods.
But the Brahmin thought: "As soon as these prayers and ablutions are
over, he will tear me to pieces with his fangs and eat me. He has
vowed not to walk; I will be off post haste!" so he ran away, and the
Râkschasa dared not follow him for fear of breaking his VOW.
(_Pantschatantra_, v. 13.) There is a similar story in the
Mahâbhârata, xiii., and in the Kathâ Sarit Sâgara, v. 49-53.

I have said sufficient to show that natural phenomena gave rise to
mythological stories, and that these stories have gradually
deteriorated, and have been degraded into vulgar superstitions. And I
have shown that both the doctrine of metempsychosis and the
mythological explanations of meteorological changes have given rise to
abundant fable, and among others to the popular and wide-spread
superstition of lycanthropy. I shall now pass from myth to history,
and shall give instances of bloodthirstiness, cruelty, and



The history of the man whose name heads this chapter I purpose giving
in detail, as the circumstances I shall narrate have, I believe, never
before been given with accuracy to the English public. The name of
Gilles de Laval may be well known, as sketches of his bloody career
have appeared in many biographies, but these sketches have been very
incomplete, as the material from which they were composed was meagre.
M. Michelet alone ventured to give the public an idea of the crimes
which brought a marshal of France to the gallows, and his revelations
were such that, in the words of M. Henri

Martin, "this iron age, which seemed unable to feel surprise at any
amount of evil, was struck with dismay."

M. Michelet derived his information from the abstract of the papers
relating, to the case, made by order of Ann of Brittany, in the
Imperial Library. The original documents were in the library at
Nantes, and a great portion of them were destroyed in the Revolution
of 1789. But a careful analysis had been made of them, and this
valuable abridgment, which was inaccessible to M. Michelet, came into
the hands of M. Lacroix, the eminent French antiquarian, who published
a memoir of the marshal from the information he had thus obtained, and
it is his work, by far the most complete and circumstantial which has
appeared, that I condense into the following chapters.

"The most monstrously depraved imagination," says M. Henri Martin,
"never could have conceived what the trial reveals." M. Lacroix has
been obliged to draw a veil over much that transpired, and I must draw
it closer still. I have, however, said enough to show that this
memorable trial presents horrors probably unsurpassed in the whole
volume of the world's history.

During the year 1440, a terrible rumour spread through Brittany, and
especially through the ancient _pays de Retz_, which extends along the
south of the Loire from Nantes to Paimbuf, to the effect that one of
the most famous and powerful noblemen in Brittany, Gilles de Laval,
Maréchal de Retz, was guilty of crimes of the most diabolical nature.

Gilles de Laval, eldest son of Gay de Laval, second of his name, Sire
de Retz, had raised the junior branch of the illustrious house of
Laval above the elder branch, which was related to the reigning family
of Brittany. He lost his father when he was aged twenty, and remained
master of a vast territorial inheritance, which was increased by his
marriage with Catharine de Thouars in 1420. He employed a portion of
their fortune in the cause of Charles VII., and in strengthening the
French crown. During seven consecutive years, from 1426 to 1433, he
was engaged in military enterprises against the English; his name is
always cited along with those of Dunois, Xaintrailles, Florent
d'Illiers, Gaucourt, Richemont, and the most faithful servants of the
king. His services were speedily acknowledged by the king creating him
Marshal of France. In 1427, he assaulted the Castle of Lude, and
carried it by storm; he killed with his own hand the commander of the
place; next year he captured from the English the fortress of
Rennefort, and the Castle of Malicorne; in 1429, he took an active
part in the expedition of Joan of Arc for the deliverance of Orleans,
and the occupation of Jargeau, and he was with her in the moat, when
she was wounded by an arrow under the walls of Paris.

The marshal, councillor, and chamberlain of the king participated in
the direction of public affairs, and soon obtained the entire
confidence of his master. He accompanied Charles to Rheims on the
occasion of his coronation, and had the honour of bearing the
oriflamme, brought for the occasion from the abbey of S. Remi. His
intrepidity on the field of battle was as remarkable as his sagacity
in council, and he proved himself to be both an excellent warrior and
a shrewd politician.

Suddenly, to the surprise of every one, he quitted the service of
Charles VII., and sheathed for ever his sword, in the retirement of
the country. The death of his maternal grandfather, Jean de Craon, in
1432, made him so enormously wealthy, that his revenues were estimated
at 800,000 livres; nevertheless, in two years, by his excessive
prodigality, he managed to lose a considerable portion of his
inheritance. Mauléon, S. Etienne de Malemort, Loroux-Botereau, Pornic,
and Chantolé, he sold to John V., Duke of Brittany, his kinsman, and
other lands and seigneurial rights he ceded to the Bishop of Nantes,
and to the chapter of the cathedral in that city.

The rumour soon spread that these extensive cessions of territory were
sops thrown to the duke and to the bishop, to restrain the one from
confiscating his goods, and the other from pronouncing
excommunication, for the crimes of which the people whisperingly
accused him; but these rumours were probably without foundation, for
eventually it was found hard to persuade the duke of the guilt of his
kinsman, and the bishop was the most determined instigator of the

The marshal seldom visited the ducal court, but he often appeared in
the city of Nantes, where he inhabited the Hôtel de la Suze, with a
princely retinue. He had, always accompanying him, a guard of two
hundred men at arms, and a numerous suit of pages, esquires,
chaplains, singers, astrologers, &c., all of whom he paid handsomely.

Whenever he left the town, or moved to one of his other seats, the
cries of the poor, which had been restrained during the time of his
presence, broke forth. Tears flowed, curses were uttered, a
long-continued wail rose to heaven, the moment that the last of the
marshal's party had left the neighbourhood. Mothers had lost their
children, babes had been snatched from the cradle, infants had been
spirited away almost from the maternal arms, and it was known by sad
experience that the vanished little ones would never be seen again.

But on no part of the country did the shadow of this great fear fall
so deeply as on the villages in the neighbourhood of the Castle of
Machecoul, a gloomy château, composed of huge towers, and surrounded
by deep moats, a residence much frequented by Do Retz, notwithstanding
its sombre and repulsive appearance. This fortress was always in a
condition to resist a siege: the drawbridge was raised, the portcullis
down, the gates closed, the men under arms, the culverins on the
bastion always loaded. No one, except the servants, had penetrated
into this mysterious asylum and had come forth alive. In the
surrounding country strange tales of horror and devilry circulated in
whispers, and yet it was observed that the chapel of the castle was
gorgeously decked with tapestries of silk and cloth of gold, that the
sacred vessels were encrusted with gems, and that the vestments of the
priests were of the most sumptuous character. The excessive devotion
of the marshal was also noticed; he was said to hear mass thrice
daily, and to be passionately fond of ecclesiastical music. He was
said to have asked permission of the pope, that a crucifer should
precede him in processions. But when dusk settled down over the
forest, and one by one the windows of the castle became illumined,
peasants would point to one casement high up in an isolated tower,
from which a clear light streamed through the gloom of night; they
spoke of a fierce red glare which irradiated the chamber at times, and
of sharp cries ringing out of it, through the hushed woods, to be
answered only by the howl of the wolf as it rose from its lair to
begin its nocturnal rambles.

On certain days, at fixed hours, the drawbridge sank, and the servants
of De Retz stood in the gateway distributing clothes, money, and food
to the mendicants who crowded round them soliciting alms. It often
happened that children were among the beggars: as often one of the
servants would promise them some dainty if they would go to the
kitchen for it. Those children who accepted the offer were never seen

In 1440 the long-pent-up exasperation of the people broke all bounds,
and with one voice they charged the marshal with the murder of their
children, whom they said he had sacrificed to the devil.

This charge came to the ears of the Duke of Brittany, but he
pooh-poohed it, and would have taken no steps to investigate the
truth, had not one of his nobles insisted on his doing so. At the same
time Jean do Châteaugiron, bishop of Nantes, and the noble and sage
Pierre de l'Hospital, grand-seneschal of Brittany, wrote to the duke,
expressing very decidedly their views, that the charge demanded
thorough investigation.

John V., reluctant to move against a relation, a man who had served
his country so well, and was in such a high position, at last yielded
to their request, and authorized them to seize the persons of the Sire
de Retz and his accomplices. A _serjent d'armes_, Jean Labbé, was
charged with this difficult commission. He picked a band of resolute
fellows, twenty in all, and in the middle of September they presented
themselves at the gate of the castle, and summoned the Sire do Retz to
surrender. As soon as Gilles heard that a troop in the livery of
Brittany was at the gate, he inquired who was their leader? On
receiving the answer "Labbé," he started, turned pale, crossed
himself, and prepared to surrender, observing that it was impossible
to resist fate.

Years before, one of his astrologers had assured him that he would one
day pass into the hands of an Abbé, and, till this moment, De Retz had
supposed that the prophecy signified that he should eventually become
a monk.

Gilles de Sillé, Roger de Briqueville, and other of the accomplices of
the marshal, took to flight, but Henriet and Pontou remained with him.

The drawbridge was lowered and the marshal offered his sword to Jean
Labbé. The gallant serjeant approached, knelt to the marshal, and
unrolled before him a parchment sealed with the seal of Brittany.

"Tell me the tenor of this parchment?" said Gilles de Retz with

"Our good Sire of Brittany enjoins you, my lord, by these presents, to
follow me to the good town of Nantes, there to clear yourself of
certain criminal charges brought against you."

"I will follow immediately, my friend, glad to obey the will of my
lord of Brittany: but, that it may not be said that the Seigneur de
Retz has received a message without largess, I order my treasurer,
Henriet, to hand over to you and your followers twenty gold crowns."

"Grand-merci, monseigneur! I pray God that he may give you good and
long life."

"Pray God only to have mercy upon me, and to pardon my sins."

The marshal had his horses saddled, and left Machecoul with Pontou and
Henriet, who had thrown in their lot with him.

It was with lively emotion that the people in the villages traversed
by the little troop, saw the redoubted Gilles de Laval ride through
their streets, surrounded by soldiers in the livery of the Duke of
Brittany, and unaccompanied by a single soldier of his own. The roads
and streets were thronged, peasants left the fields, women their
kitchens, labourers deserted their cattle at the plough, to throng the
road to Nantes. The cavalcade proceeded in silence. The very crowd
which had gathered to see it, was hushed. Presently a shrill woman's
voice was raised:--

"My child! restore my child!"

Then a wild, wrathful howl broke from the lips of the throng, rang
along the Nantes road, and only died away, as the great gates of the
Chateau de Bouffay closed on the prisoner.

The whole population of Nantes was in commotion, and it was said that
the investigation would be fictitious, that the duke would screen his
kinsman, and that the object of general execration would escape with
the surrender of some of his lands.

And such would probably have been the event of the trial, had not the
Bishop of Nantes and the grand-seneschal taken a very decided course
in the matter. They gave the duke no peace till he had yielded to
their demand for a thorough investigation and a public trial.

John V. nominated Jean de Toucheronde to collect information, and to
take down the charges brought against the marshal. At the same time he
was given to understand that the matter was not to be pressed, and
that the charges upon which the marshal was to be tried were to be
softened down as much as possible.

The commissioner, Jean de Toucheronde, opened the investigation on the
18th September, assisted only by his clerk, Jean Thomas. The witnesses
were introduced either singly, or in groups, if they were relations.
On entering, the witness knelt before the commissioner, kissed the
crucifix, and swore with his hand on the Gospels that he would speak
the truth, and nothing but the truth: after this he related all the
facts referring to the charge, which came under his cognizance,
without being interrupted or interrogated.

The first to present herself was Perrine Loessard, living at la

She related, with tears in her eyes, that two years ago, in the month
of September, the Sire de Retz had passed with all his retinue through
la Roche-Bernard, on his way from Vannes, and had lodged with Jean
Collin. She lived opposite the house in which the nobleman was

Her child, the finest in the village, a lad aged ten, had attracted
the notice of Pontou, and perhaps of the marshal himself, who stood at
a window, leaning on his squire's shoulder.

Pontou spoke to the child, and asked him whether he would like to be a
chorister; the boy replied that his ambition was to be a soldier.

"Well, then," said the squire, "I will equip you."

The lad then laid hold of Pontou's dagger, and expressed his desire to
have such a weapon in his belt. Thereupon the mother had ran up and
had made him leave hold of the dagger, saying that the boy was doing
very well at school, and was getting on with his letters, for he was
one day to be a monk. Pontou had dissuaded her from this project, and
had proposed to take the child with him to Machecoul, and to educate
him to be a soldier. Thereupon he had paid her clown a hundred sols to
buy the lad a dress, and had obtained permission to carry him off.

Next day her son had been mounted on a horse purchased for him from
Jean Collin, and had left the village in the retinue of the Sire de
Retz. The poor mother at parting had gone in tears to the marshal, and
had entreated him to be kind to her child. From that time she had been
able to obtain no information regarding her son. She had watched the
Sire de Retz whenever he had passed through La Roche Bernard, but had
never observed her child among his pages. She had questioned several
of the marshal's people, but they had laughed at her; the only answer
she had obtained was: "Be not afraid. He is either at Machecoul, or
else at Tiffauges, or else at Pornic, or somewhere." Perrine's story
was corroborated by Jean Collin, his wife, and his mother-in-law.

Jean Lemegren and his wife, Alain Dulix, Perrot Duponest, Guillaume
Guillon, Guillaume Portayer, Etienne de Monclades, and Jean Lefebure,
all inhabitants of S. Etienne de Montluc, deposed that a little child,
son of Guillaume Brice of the said parish, having lost his father at
the age of nine, lived on alms, and went round the country begging.

This child, named Jamet, had vanished suddenly at midsummer, and
nothing was known of what had become of him; but strong suspicions
were entertained of his having been carried off by an aged hag who had
appeared shortly before in the neighbourhood, and who had vanished
along with the child.

On the 27th September, Jean de Toucheronde, assisted by Nicolas
Chateau, notary of the court at Nantes, received the depositions of
several inhabitants of Pont-de-Launay, near Bouvron: to wit, Guillaume
Fourage and wife; Jeanne, wife of Jean Leflou; and Richarde, wife of
Jean Gandeau.

These depositions, though very vague, afforded sufficient cause for
suspicion to rest on the marshal. Two years before, a child of twelve,
son of Jean Bernard, and another child of the same age, son of
Ménégué, had gone to Machecoul. The son of Ménégué had returned alone
in the evening, relating that his companion had asked him to wait for
him on the road whilst he begged at the gates of the Sire de Retz. The
son of Ménégué said that he had waited three hours, but his companion
had not returned. The wife of Guillaume Fourage deposed that she had
seen the lad at this time with an old hag, who was leading him by the
hand towards Machecoul. That same evening this hag passed over the
bridge of Launay, and the wife of Fourage asked her what had become of
little Bernard. The old woman neither stopped nor answered further
than by saying he was well provided for. The boy had not been seen
since. On the 28th September, the Duke of Brittany joined another
commissioner, Jean Couppegorge, and a second notary, Michel Estallure,
to Toucheronde and Chateau.

The inhabitants of Machecoul, a little town over which the Sire de
Retz exercised supreme power, appeared now to depose against their
lord. André Barbier, shoemaker, declared that last Easter, a child,
son of his neighbour Georges Lebarbier, had disappeared. He was last
seen gathering plums behind the hotel Rondeau. This disappearance
surprised none in Machecoul, and no one ventured to comment on it.
André and his wife were in daily terror of losing their own child.
They had been a pilgrimage to S. Jean d'Angely, and had been asked
there whether it was the custom at Machecoul to eat children. On their
return they had heard of two children having vanished--the son of Jean
Gendron, and that of Alexandre Châtellier. André Barbier had made some
inquiries about the circumstances of their disappearance, and had been
advised to hold his tongue, and to shut his ears and eyes, unless he
were prepared to be thrown into a dungeon by the lord of Machecoul.

"But, bless me!" he had said, "am I to believe that a fairy spirits
off and eats our little ones?"

"Believe what you like," was the advice given to him; "but ask no
questions." As this conversation had taken place, one of the marshal's
men at arms had passed, when all those who had been speaking took to
their heels. André, who had run with the rest, without knowing exactly
why he fled, came upon a man near the church of the Holy Trinity, who
was weeping bitterly, and crying out,--"O my God, wilt Thou not
restore to me my little one?" This man had also been robbed of his

Licette, wife of Guillaume Sergent, living at La Boneardière, in the
parish of S. Croix de Machecoul, had lost her son two years before,
and had not seen him since; she besought the commissioners, with tears
in her eyes, to restore him to her.

"I left him," said she, "at home whilst I went into the field with my
husband to sow flax. He was a bonny little lad, and he was as good as
he was bonny. He had to look after his tiny sister, who was a year and
a half old. On my return home, the little girl was found, but she
could not tell me what had become of him. Afterwards we found in the
marsh a small red woollen cap which had belonged to my poor darling;
but it was in vain that we dragged the marsh, nothing was found more,
except good evidence that he had not been drowned. A hawker who sold
needles and thread passed through Machecoul at the time, and told me
that an old woman in grey, with a black hood on her head, had bought
of him some children's toys, and had a few moments after passed him,
leading a little boy by the hand."

Georges Lebarbier, living near the gate of the châtelet de Machecoul,
gave an account of the manner in which his son had evanesced. The boy
was apprenticed to Jean Pelletier, tailor to Mme. de Retz and to the
household of the castle. He seemed to be getting on in his profession,
when last year, about S. Barnabas' day, he went to play at ball on the
castle green. He never returned from the game.

This youth and his master, Jean Pelletier, had been in the habit of
eating and drinking at the castle, and bad always laughed at the
ominous stories told by the people.

Guillaume Hilaire and his wife confirmed the statements of Lebarbier.
They also said that they knew of the loss of the sons of Jean Gendron,
Jeanne Rouen, and Alexandre Châtellier. The son of Jean Gendron, aged
twelve, lived with the said Hilaire and learned of him the trade of
skinner. He had been working in the shop for seven or eight years, and
was a steady, hardworking lad. One day Messieurs Gilles de Sillé and
Roger de Briqueville entered the shop to purchase a pair of hunting
gloves. They asked if little Gendron might take a message for them to
the castle. Hilaire readily consented, and the boy received beforehand
the payment for going--a gold angelus, and he started, promising to be
back directly. But he had never returned. That evening Hiliare and his
wife, observing Gilles de Sillé and Roger de Briqueville returning to
the castle, ran to them and asked what had become of the apprentice.
They replied that they had no notion of where he was, as they had been
absent hunting, but that it was possible he might have been sent to
Tiffauges, another castle of De Retz.

Guillaume Hilaire, whose depositions were more grave and explicit than
the others, positively asserted that Jean Dujardin, valet to Roger de
Briqueville had told him he knew of a cask secreted in the castle,
full of children's corpses. He said that he had often heard people say
that children were enticed to the château and then murdered, but had
treated it as an idle tale. He said, moreover, that the marshal was
not accused of having any hand in the murders, but that his servants
were supposed to be guilty.

Jean Gendron himself deposed to the loss of his son, and he added that
his was not the only child which had vanished mysteriously at
Machecoul. He knew of thirty that had disappeared.

Jean Chipholon, elder and junior, Jean Aubin, and Clement Doré, all
inhabitants of the parish of Thomage, deposed that they had known a
poor man of the same parish, named Mathelin Thomas, who had lost his
son, aged twelve, and that he had died of grief in consequence.

Jeanne Rouen, of Machecoul, who for nine years had been in a state of
uncertainty whether her son were alive or dead, deposed that the child
had been carried off whilst keeping sheep. She had thought that he had
been devoured of wolves, but two women of Machecoul, now deceased, had
seen Gilles de Sillé approach the little shepherd, speak to him, and
point to the castle. Shortly after the lad had walked off in that
direction. The husband of Jeanne Rouen went to the château to inquire
after his son, but could obtain no information. When next Gilles de
Sillé appeared in the town, the disconsolate mother entreated him to
restore her child to her. Gilles replied that he knew nothing about
him, as he had been to the king at Amboise.

Jeanne, widow of Aymery Hedelin, living at Machecoul, had also lost,
eight years before, a little child as he had pursued some butterflies
into the wood. At the same time four other children had been carried
off, those of Gendron, Rouen, and Macé Sorin. She said that the story
circulated through the country was, that Gilles de Sillé stole
children to make them over to the English, in order to obtain the
ransom of his brother who was a captive. But she added that this
report was traced to the servants of Sillé, and that it was propagated
by them.

One of the last children to disappear was that of Noël Aise, living in
the parish of S. Croix.

A man from Tiffauges had said to her (Jeanne Hedelin) that for one
child stolen at Machecoul, there were seven carried away at Tiffauges.

Macé Sorin confirmed the deposition of the widow Hedelin., and
repeated the circumstances connected with the loss of the children of
Châtellier, Rouen, Gendron, and Lebarbier.

Perrine Rondeau had entered the castle with the company of Jean Labbé.
She had entered a stable, and had found a heap of ashes and powder,
which had a sickly and peculiar smell. At the bottom of a trough she
had found a child's shirt covered with blood.

Several inhabitants of the bourg of Fresnay, to wit, Perrot,
Parqueteau, Jean Soreau, Catherine Degrépie, Gilles Garnier, Perrine
Viellard, Marguerite Rediern, Marie Carfin, Jeanne Laudais, said that
they had heard Guillaume Hamelin, last Easter, lamenting the loss of
two children.

Isabeau, wife of Guillaume Hamelin, confirmed these depositions,
saving that she had lost them seven years before. She had at that time
four children; the eldest aged fifteen, the youngest aged seven, went
together to Machecoul to buy some bread, but they did not return. She
sat up for them all night and next morning. She heard that another
child had been lost, the son of Michaut Bonnel of S. Ciré de Retz.

Guillemette, wife of Michaut Bonnel, said that her son had been
carried off whilst guarding cows.

Guillaume Rodigo and his wife, living at Bourg-neuf-en-Retz, deposed
that on the eve of last S. Bartholomew's day, the Sire do Retz lodged
with Guillaume Plumet in his village.

Pontou, who accompanied the marshal, saw a lad of fifteen, named
Bernard Lecanino, servant to Rodigo, standing at the door of his
house. The lad could not speak much French, but only bas-Breton.
Pontou beckoned to him and spoke to him in a low tone. That evening,
at ten o'clock, Bernard left his master's house, Rodigo and his wife
being absent. The servant maid, who saw him go out, called to him that
the supper table was not yet cleared, but he paid no attention to what
she said. Rodigo, annoyed at the loss of his servant, asked some of
the marshal's men what had become of him. They replied mockingly that
they knew nothing of the little Breton, but that he had probably been
sent to Tiffauges to be trained as page to their lord.

Marguerite Sorain, the chambermaid alluded to above, confirmed the
statement of Rodigo, adding that Pontou had entered the house and
spoken with Bernard. Guillaume Plumet and wife confirmed what Rodigo
and Sorain had said.

Thomas Aysée and wife deposed to the loss of their son, aged ten, who
had gone to beg at the gate of the castle of Machecoul; and a little
girl had seen him drawn by an offer of meat into the château.

Jamette, wife of Eustache Drouet of S. Léger, had sent two sons, one
aged ten, the other seven, to the castle to obtain alms. They had not
been seen since.

On the 2nd October the commissioners sat again, and the charges became
graver, and the servants of the marshal became more and more

The disappearance of thirteen other children was substantiated under
circumstances throwing strong suspicion on the inmates of the castle.
I will not give the details, for they much resemble those of the
former depositions. Suffice it to say that before the commissioners
closed the inquiry, a herald of the Duke of Brittany in tabard blew
three calls on the trumpet, from the steps of the tower of Bouffay,
summoning all who had additional charges to bring against the Sire de
Retz, to present themselves without delay. As no fresh witnesses
arrived, the case was considered to be made out, and the commissioners
visited the duke, with the information they had collected, in their

The duke hesitated long as to the steps he should take. Should he
judge and sentence a kinsman, the most powerful of his vassals, the
bravest of his captains, a councillor of the king, a marshal of

Whilst still unsettled in his mind as to the course he should pursue,
he received a letter from Gilles de Retz, which produced quite a
different effect from that which it had been intended to produce.


"IT is quite true that I am perhaps the most detestable of all
sinners, having sinned horribly again and again, yet have I never
failed in my religious duties. I have heard many masses, vespers, &c.,
have fasted in Lent and on vigils, have confessed my sins, deploring
them heartily, and have received the blood of our Lord at least once
in the year.

Since I have been languishing in prison, awaiting your honoured
justice, I have been overwhelmed with incomparable repentance for my
crimes, which I am ready to acknowledge and to expiate as is suitable.

"Wherefore I supplicate you, M. my cousin, to give me licence to
retire into a monastery, and there to lead a good and exemplary life.
I care not into what monastery I am sent, but I intend that all my
goods, &c., should be distributed among the poor, who are the members
of Jesus Christ on earth . . . . Awaiting your glorious clemency, on
which I rely, I pray God our Lord to protect you and your kingdom.

He who addresses you is in all earthly humility,"

Carmelite in intention."

The duke read this letter to Pierre de l'Hospital, president of
Brittany, and to the Bishop of Nantes, who were those most resolute in
pressing on the trial. They were horrified at the tone of this
dreadful communication, and assured the duke that the case was so
clear, and the steps taken had been so decided, that it was impossible
for him to allow De Retz to escape trial by such an impious device as
he suggested. In the meantime, the bishop and the grand-seneschal had
set on foot an investigation at the castle of Machecoul, and had found
numerous traces of human remains. But a complete examination could not
be made, as the duke was anxious to screen his kinsman as much as
possible, and refused to authorize one.

The duke now summoned his principal officers and held a council with
them. They unanimously sided with the bishop and de l'Hospital, and
when John still hesitated, the Bishop of Nantes rose and said:
"Monseigneur, this case is one for the church as much as for your
court to take up. Consequently, if your President of Brittany does not
bring the case into secular court, by the Judge of heaven and earth! I
will cite the author of these execrable crimes to appear before our
ecclesiastical tribunal."

The resolution of the bishop compelled the duke to yield, and it was
decided that the trial should take its course without let or

In the meantime, the unhappy wife of Gilles de Retz, who had been
separated from him for some while, and who loathed his crimes, though
she still felt for him as her husband, hurried to the duke with her
daughter to entreat pardon for the wretched man. But the duke refused
to hear her. Thereupon she went to Amboise to intercede with the king
for him who bad once been his close friend and adviser.



On the 10th October, Nicolas Chateau, notary of the duke, went to the
Château of Bouffay, to read to the prisoner the summons to appear in
person on the morrow before Messire de l'Hospital, President of
Brittany, Seneschal of Rennes, and Chief Justice of the Duchy of

The Sire de Retz, who believed himself already a novice in the
Carmelite order, had dressed in white, and was engaged in singing
litanies. When the summons had been read, he ordered a page to give
the notary wine and cake, and then he returned to his prayers with
every appearance of compunction and piety.

On the morrow Jean Labbé and four soldiers conducted him to the hall
of justice. He asked for Pontou and Henriet to accompany him, but this
was not permitted.

He was adorned with all his military insignia, as though to impose on
his judges; he had around his neck massive chains of gold, and several
collars of knightly orders. His costume, with the exception of his
purpoint, was white, in token of his repentance. His purpoint was of
pearl-grey silk, studded with gold stars, and girded around his waist
by a scarlet belt, from which dangled a poignard in scarlet velvet
sheath. His collar, cufs, and the edging of his purpoint were of white
ermine, his little round cap or _chapel_ was white, surrounded with a
belt of ermine--a fur which only the great feudal lords of Brittany
had a right to wear. All the rest of his dress, to the shoes which
were long and pointed, was white.

No one at a first glance would have thought the Sire do Retz to be by
nature so cruel and vicious as he was supposed to be. On the contrary,
his physiognomy was calm and phlegmatic, somewhat pale, and expressive
of melancholy. His hair and moustache were light brown, and his beard
was clipped to a point. This beard, which resembled no other beard,
was black, but under certain lights it assumed a blue hue, and it was
this peculiarity which obtained for the Sire do Retz the surname of
Blue-beard, a name which has attached to him in popular romance, at
the same time that his story has undergone strange metamorphoses.

But on closer examination of the countenance of Gilles de Retz,
contraction in the muscles of the face, nervous quivering of the
mouth, spasmodic twitchings of the brows, and above all, the sinister
expression of the eyes, showed that there was something strange and
frightful in the man. At intervals he ground his teeth like a wild
beast preparing to dash upon his prey, and then his lips became so
contracted, as they were drawn in and glued, as it were, to his teeth,
that their very colour was indiscernible.

At times also his eyes became fixed, and the pupils dilated to such an
extent, with a sombre fire quivering in them, that the iris seemed to
fill the whole orbit, which became circular, and sank back into the
head. At these moments his complexion became livid and cadaverous; his
brow, especially just over the nose, was covered with deep wrinkles,
and his beard appeared to bristle, and to assume its bluish hues. But,
after a few moments, his features became again serene, with a sweet
smile reposing upon them, and his expression relaxed into a vague and
tender melancholy.

"Messires," said he, saluting his judges, "I pray you to expedite my
matter, and despatch as speedily as possible my unfortunate case; for
I am peculiarly anxious to consecrate myself to the service of God,
who has pardoned my great sins. I shall not fail, I assure you, to
endow several of the churches in Nantes, and I shall distribute the
greater portion of my goods among the poor, to secure the salvation of
my soul."

"Monseigneur," replied gravely Pierre de l'Hospital: "It is always
well to think of the salvation of one's soul; but, if you please,
think now that we are concerned with the salvation of your body."

"I have confessed to the father superior of the Carmelites," replied
the marshal, with tranquillity; "and through his absolution I have
been able to communicate: I am, therefore, guiltless and purified."

"Men's justice is not in common with that of God, monseigneur, and I
cannot tell you what will be your sentence. Be ready to make your
defence, and listen to the charges brought against you, which M. le
lieutenant du Procureur de Nantes will read."

The officer rose, and read the following paper of charges, which I
shall condense:--

"Having heard the bitter complaints of several of the inhabitants of
the diocese of Nantes, whose names follow hereinafter (here follow the
names of the parents of the lost children), we, Philippe do Livron,
lieutenant assesseur of Messire le Procureur de Nantes, have invited,
and do invite, the very noble and very wise Messire Pierre de
l'Hospital, President of Brittany, &c., to bring to trial the very
high and very powerful lord, Gilles de Laval, Sire de Retz, Machecoul,
Ingrande and other places, Councillor of his Majesty the King, and
Marshal of France:

"Forasmuch as the said Sire de Retz has seized and caused to be seized
several little children, not only ten or twenty, but thirty, forty,
fifty, sixty, one hundred, two hundred, and more, and has murdered and
slain them inhumanly, and then burned their bodies to convert them to

"Forasmuch as persevering in evil, the said Sire, notwithstanding that
the powers that be are ordained of God, and that every one should be
an obedient subject to his prince, . . . has assaulted Jean Leferon,
subject of the Duke of Brittany, the said Jean Leferon being guardian
of the fortress of Malemort, in the name of Geoffrey Leferon, his
brother, to whom the said lord had made over the possession of the
said place:

"Forasmuch as the said Sire forced Jean Leferon to give up to him the
said place, and moreover retook the lordship of Malemort in despite of
the order of the duke and of justice:

"Forasmuch as the said Sire arrested Master Jean Rousseau, sergeant of
the duke, who was sent to him with injunctions from the said duke, and
beat his men with their own staves, although their persons were under
the protection of his grace:

"We conclude that the said Sire de Retz, homicide in fact and in
intent according to the first count, rebel and felon according to the
second, should be condemned to suffer corporal punishment, and to pay
a fine of his possessions in lands and goods held in fief to the said
nobleman, and that these should be confiscated and remitted to the
crown of Brittany."

This requisition was evidently drawn up with the view of saving the
life of the Sire de Retz; for the crime of homicide was presented
without aggravating circumstances, in such a manner that it could be
denied or shelved, whilst the crimes of felony and rebellion against
the Duke of Brittany were brought into exaggerated prominence.

Gilles de Retz had undoubtedly been forewarned of the course which was
to be pursued, and he was prepared to deny totally the charges made in
the first count.

"Monseigneur," said Pierre de l'Hospital, whom the form of the
requisition had visibly astonished: "What justification have you to
make? Take an oath on the Gospels to declare the truth."

"No, messire!" answered the marshal. "The witnesses are bound to
declare what they know upon oath, but the accused is never put on his

"Quite so," replied the judge. "Because the accused may be put on the
rack and constrained to speak the truth, an' please you."

Gilles de Retz turned pale, bit his lips, and cast a glance of
malignant hate at Pierre de l'Hospital; then, composing his
countenance, he spoke with an appearance of calm:--

"Messires, I shall not deny that I behaved wrongfully in the case of
Jean Rousseau; but, in excuse, let me say that the said Rousseau was
full of wine, and he behaved with such indecorum towards me in the
presence of my servants, that it was quite intolerable. Nor will I
deny my revenge on the brothers Leferon: Jean had declared that the
said Grace of Brittany had confiscated my fortress of Malemort, which
I had sold to him, and for which I have not yet received payment; and
Geoffrey Leferon had announced far and wide that I was about to be
expelled Brittany as a traitor and a rebel. To punish them I
re-entered my fortress of Malemort.--As for the other charges, I shall
say nothing about them, they are simply false and calumnious."

"Indeed exclaimed Pierre de l'Hospital, whose blood boiled with
indignation against the wretch who stood before him with such
effrontery. "All these witnesses who complain of having lost their
children, lied under oath!"

"Undoubtedly, if they accuse me of having anything to do with their
loss. What am I to know about them, am I their keeper?"

"The answer of Cain!" exclaimed Pierre de l'Hospital, rising from his
seat in the vehemence of his emotion. "However, as you solemnly deny
these charges, we must question Henriet and Pontou."

"Henriet, Pontou!" cried the marshal, trembling; "they accuse me of
nothing, surely!"

"Not as yet, they have not been questioned, but they are about to be
brought into court, and I do not expect that they will lie in the face
of justice."

"I demand that my servants be not brought forward as witnesses against
their master," said the marshal, his eyes dilating, his brow
wrinkling, and his beard bristling blue upon his chin: "a master is
above the gossiping tales and charges of his servants."

"Do you think then, messire, that your servants will accuse you?"

"I demand that I, a marshal of France, a baron of the duchy, should be
sheltered from the slanders of small folk, whom I disown as my
servants if they are untrue to their master."

"Messire, I see we must put you on the rack, or nothing will be got
from you."

"Hola! I appeal to his grace the Duke of Brittany, and ask an
adjournment, that I may take advice on the charges brought against me,
which I have denied, and which I deny still."

"Well, I shall adjourn the case till the 25th of this month, that you
may be well prepared to meet the accusations."

On his way back to prison, the marshal passed Henriet and Pontou as
they were being conducted to the court. Henriet pretended not to see
his master, but Pontou burst into tears on meeting him. The marshal
held out his hand, and Pontou kissed it affectionately.

"Remember what I have done for you, and be faithful servants," said
Gilles de Retz. Henriet recoiled from him with a shudder, and the
marshal passed on.

"I shall speak," whispered Henriet; "for we have another master beside
our poor master of Retz, and we shall soon be with the heavenly one."

The president ordered the clerk to read again the requisition of the
lieutenant, that the two presumed accomplices of Gilles de Retz might
be informed of the charges brought against their master. Henriet burst
into tears, trembled violently, and cried out that he would tell all.
Pontou, alarmed, tried to hinder his companion, and said that Henriet
was touched in his head, and that what he was about to say would be
the ravings of insanity.

Silence was imposed upon him.

"I will speak out," continued Henriet and yet I dare not speak of the
horrors which I know have taken place, before that image of my Lord
Christ; "and he pointed tremblingly to a large crucifix above the seat
of the judge.

"Henriet." moaned Pontou, squeezing his hand, "you will destroy
yourself as well as your master."

Pierre de l'Hospital rose, and the figure of our Redeemer was solemnly

Henriet, who had great difficulty in overcoming his agitation, than
began his revelations.

The following is the substance of them:--

On leaving the university of Angers, he had taken the situation of
reader in the house of Gilles de Retz. The marshal took a liking to
him, and made him his chamberlain and confidant.

On the occasion of the Sire de la Suze, brother of the Sire de Retz,
taking possession of the castle of Chantoncé, Charles de Soenne, who
had arrived at Chantoncé, assured Henriet that he had found in the
oubliettes of a tower a number of dead children, some headless, others
frightfully mutilated. Henriet then thought that this was but a
calumny invented by the Sire de la Suze.

But when, some while after, the Sire de Retz retook the castle of
Chantoncé and had ceded it to the Duke of Brittany, he one evening
summoned Henriet, Pontou, and a certain Petit Robin to his room; the
two latter were already deep in the secrets of their master. But
before confiding anything to Henriet, De Retz made him take a solemn
oath never to reveal what he was about to tell him. The oath taken,
the Sire de Retz, addressing the three, said that on the morrow an
officer of the duke would take possession of the castle in the name of
the duke, and that it was necessary, before this took place, that a
certain well should be emptied of children's corpses, and that their
bodies should be put into boxes and transported to Machecoul.

Henriet, Pontou, and Petit Robin went together, furnished with ropes
and hooks, to the tower where were the corpses. They toiled all night
in removing the half-decayed bodies, and with them they filled three
large cases, which they sent by a boat down the Loire to Machecoul,
where they were reduced to ashes.

Henriet counted thirty-six children's heads, but there were more
bodies than heads. This night's work, he said, bad produced a profound
impression on his imagination, and he was constantly haunted with a
vision of these heads rolling as in a game of skittles, and clashing
with a mournful wail. Henriet soon began to collect children for his
master, and was present whilst he massacred them. They were murdered
invariably in one room at Machecoul. The marshal used to bathe in
their blood; he was fond of making Gilles do Sillé, Pontou, or Henriet
torture them, and he experienced intense pleasure in seeing them in
their agonies. But his great passion was to welter in their blood. His
servants would stab a child in the jugular vein, and let the blood
squirt over him. The room was often steeped in blood. When the
horrible deed was done, and the child was dead, the marshal would be
filled with grief for what he had done, and would toss weeping and
praying on a bed, or recite fervent prayers and litanies on his knees,
whilst his servants washed the floor, and burned in the huge fireplace
the bodies of the murdered children. With the bodies were burned the
clothes and everything that had belonged to the little victims.

An insupportable odour filled the room, but the Maréchal do Retz
inhaled it with delight.

Henriet acknowledged that he had seen forty children put to death in
this manner, and he was able to give an account of several, so that it
was possible to identify them with the children reported to be lost.

"It is quite impossible," said the lieutenant, who had been given the
cue to do all that was possible to save the marshal--"It is impossible
that bodies could be burned in a chamber fireplace."

"It was done, for all that, messire," replied Henriet. "The fireplace
was very large, both at the hotel Suze, and also at Machecoul; we
piled up great faggots and logs, and laid the dead children among
them. In a few hours the operation was complete, and we flung the
ashes out of the window into the moat."

Henriet remembered the case of the two sons of Hamelin; he said that,
whilst the one child was being tortured, the other was on its knees
sobbing and praying to God, till its own turn came.

"What you have said concerning the excesses of Messire de Retz,"
exclaimed the lieutenant du procureur, "seems to be pure invention,
and destitute of all probability. The greatest monsters of iniquity
never committed such crimes, except perhaps some Cæsars of old Rome."

"Messire, it was the acts of these Cæsars that my Lord of Retz desired
to imitate. I used to read to him the chronicles of Suetonius, and
Tacitus, in which their cruelties are recorded. He used to delight in
hearing of them, and he said that it gave him greater pleasure to hack
off a child's head than to assist at a banquet. Sometimes he would
seat himself on the breast of a little one, and with a knife sever the
head from the body at a single blow; sometimes he cut the throat half
through very gently, that the child might languish, and he would wash
his hands and his beard in its blood. Sometimes he had all the limbs
chopped off at once from the trunk; at other times he ordered us to
hang the infants till they were nearly dead, and then take them down
and cut their throats. I remember having brought to him three little
girls who were asking charity at the castle gates. He bade me cut
their throats whilst he looked on. André Bricket found another little
girl crying on the steps of the house at Vannes because she had lost
her mother. He brought the little thing--it was but a babe--in his
arms to my lord, and it was killed before him. Pontou and I had to
make away with the body. We threw it down a privy in one of the
towers, but the corpse caught on a nail in the outer wall, so that it
would be visible to all who passed. Pontou was let down by a rope, and
he disengaged it with great difficulty."

"How many children do you estimate that the Sire de Retz and his
servants have killed?"

"The reckoning is long. I, for my part, confess to having killed
twelve with my own hand, by my master's orders, and I have brought him
about sixty. I knew that things of the kind went on before I was
admitted to the secret; for the castle of Machecoul had been occupied
a short while by the Sire do la Sage. My lord recovered it speedily,
for he knew that there were many children's corpses hidden in a
hayloft. There were forty there quite dry and black as coal, because
they had been charred. One of the women of Madame de Retz came by
chance into the loft and saw the corpses. Roger de Briqueville wanted
to kill her, but the maréchal would not let him."

"Have you nothing more to declare?

"Nothing. I ask Pontou, my friend, to corroborate what I have said."

This deposition, so circumstantial and detailed, produced on the
judges a profound impression of horror. Human imagination at this time
had not penetrated such mysteries of refined cruelty. Several times,
as Henriet spake, the president had shown his astonishment and
indignation by signing himself with the cross. Several times his face
had become scarlet, and his eyes had fallen; he had pressed his hand
to his brow, to assure himself that he was not labouring under a
hideous dream, and a quiver of horror had run through his whole frame.

Pontou had taken no part in the revelation of Henriet; but when the
latter appealed to him he raised his head, looked sadly round the
court, and sighed.

"Etienne Cornillant, alias Pontou, I command you in the name of God
and of justice, to declare what you know."

This injunction of Pierre do l'Hospital remained unresponded to, and
Pontou seemed to strengthen himself in his resolution not to accuse
his master.

But Henriet, flinging himself into the arms of his accomplice,
implored him, as he valued his soul, no longer to harden his heart to
the calls of God; but to bring to light the crimes he had committed
along with the Sire do Retz.

The lieutenant du procureur, who hitherto had endeavoured to extenuate
or discredit the charges brought against Gilles do Retz, tried a last
expedient to counterbalance the damaging confessions of Henriet, and
to withhold Pontou from giving way.

"You have heard, monseigneur," said he to the president, "the
atrocities which have been acknowledged by Henriet, and you, as I do,
consider them to be pure inventions of the aforesaid, made out of
bitter hatred and envy with the purpose of ruining his master. I
therefore demand that Henriet should be put on the rack, that he may
be brought to give the lie to his former statements."

"You forget," replied de l'Hospital, "that the rack is for those who
do _not_ confess, and not for those who freely acknowledge their
crimes. Therefore I order the second accused, Etienne Cornillant,
alias Pontou, to be placed on the rack if he continues silent. Pontou!
will you speak or will you not?"

"Monseigneur, he will speak!" exclaimed Henriet. Oh, Pontou, dear
friend, resist not God any more."

"Well then, messeigneurs," said Pontou, with emotion; "I will satisfy
you; I cannot defend my poor lord against the allegations of Henriet,
who has confessed all through dread of eternal damnation."

He then fully substantiated all the statements of the other, adding
other facts of the same character, known only to himself.

Notwithstanding the avowal of Pontou and Henriet, the adjourned trial
was not hurried on. It would have been easy to have captured some of
the accomplices of the wretched man; but the duke, who was informed of
the whole of the proceedings, did not wish to augment the scandal by
increasing the number of the accused. He even forbade researches to be
made in the castles and mansions of the Sire de Retz, fearing lest
proofs of fresh crimes, more mysterious and more horrible than those
already divulged, should come to light.

The dismay spread through the country by the revelations already made,
demanded that religion and morality, which had been so grossly
outraged, should be speedily avenged. People wondered at the delay in
pronouncing sentence, and it was loudly proclaimed in Nantes that the
Sire de Retz was rich enough to purchase his life. It is true that
Madame de Retz solicited the king and the duke again to give pardon to
her husband; but the duke, counselled by the bishop, refused to extend
his authority to interfere with the course of justice; and the king,
after having sent one of his councillors to Nantes to investigate the
case, determined not to stir in it.



On the 24th October the trial of the Maréchal de Retz was resumed. The
prisoner entered in a Carmelite habit, knelt and prayed in silence
before the examination began. Then he ran his eye over the court, and
the sight of the rack, windlass, and cords made a slight shudder run
through him.

"Messire Gilles de Laval," began the president; "you appear before me
now for the second time to answer to a certain requisition read by M.
le Lieutenant du Procureur de Nantes."

"I shall answer frankly, monseigneur," said the prisoner calmly; "but
I reserve the right of appeal to the benign intervention of the very
venerated majesty of the King of France, of whom I am, or have been,
chamberlain and marshal, as may be proved by my letters patent duly
enregistered in the parliament at Paris--"

"This is no affair of the King of France," interrupted Pierre de
l'Hospital; "if you were chamberlain and marshal of his Majesty, you
are also vassal of his grace the Duke of Brittany."

"I do not deny it; but, on the contrary, I trust to his Grace of
Brittany to allow me to retire to a convent of Carmelites, there to
repent me of my sins."

"That is as may be; will you confess, or must I send you to the rack?"

"Torture me not!" exclaimed Gilles de Retz "I will confess all. Tell
me first, what have Henriet and Pontou said?"

"They have confessed. M. le Lieutenant du Procureur shall read you
their allegations."

"Not so," said the lieutenant, who continued to show favour to the
accused; "I pronounce them false, unless Messire de Retz confirms them
by oath, which God forbid!"

Pierre de l'Hospital made a motion of anger to check this scandalous
pleading in favour of the accused, and then nodded to the clerk to
read the evidence.

The Sire do Retz, on hearing that his servants had made such explicit
avowals of their acts, remained motionless, as though thunderstruck.
He saw that it was in vain for him to equivocate, and that he would
have to confess all.

"What have you to say?" asked the president, when the confessions of
Henriet and Pontou had been read.

"Say what befits you, my lord," interrupted the lieutenant du
procureur, as though to indicate to the accused the line he was to
take: "are not these abominable lies and calumnies trumped up to ruin

"Alas, no!" replied the Sire do Retz; and his face was pale as death:
"Henriet and Pontou have spoken the truth. God has loosened their

"My lord! relieve yourself of the burden of your crimes by
acknowledging them at once," said M. do l'Hospital earnestly.

"Messires!" said the prisoner, after a moment's silence: "it is quite
true that I have robbed mothers of their little ones; and that I have
killed their children, or caused them to be killed, either by cutting
their throats with daggers or knives, or by chopping off their heads
with cleavers; or else I have had their skulls broken by hammers or
sticks; sometimes I had their limbs hewn off one after another; at
other times I have ripped them open, that I might examine their
entrails and hearts; I have occasionally strangled them or put them to
a slow death; and when the children were dead I had their bodies
burned and reduced to ashes."

"When did you begin your execrable practices?" asked Pierre de
l'Hospital, staggered by the frankness of these horrible avowals: "the
evil one must have possessed you."

"It came to me from myself,--no doubt at the instigation of the devil:
but still these acts of cruelty afforded me incomparable delight. The
desire to commit these atrocities came upon me eight years ago. I left
court to go to Chantoncé, that I might claim the property of my
grandfather, deceased. In the library of the castle I found a Latin
book--_Suetonius_, I believe--full of accounts of the cruelties of the
Roman Emperors. I read the charming history of Tiberius, Caracalla,
and other Cæsars, and the pleasure they took in watching the agonies
of tortured children. Thereupon I resolved to imitate and surpass
these same Cæsars, and that very night I began to do so. For some
while I confided my secret to no one, but afterwards I communicated it
to my cousin, Gilles de Sillé, then to Master Roger de Briqueville,
next in succession to Henriet, Pontou, Rossignol, and Robin." He then
confirmed all the accounts given by his two servants. He confessed to
about one hundred and twenty murders in a single year.

"An average of eight hundred in less than seven years!" exclaimed
Pierre de l'Hospital, with a cry of pain: "Ah! messire, you were
possessed! "

His confession was too explicit and circumstantial for the Lieutenant
du Procureur to say another word in his defence; but he pleaded that
the case should be made over to the ecclesiastical court, as there
were confessions of invocations of the devil and of witchcraft mixed
up with those of murder. Pierre de l'Hospital saw that the object of
the lieutenant was to gain time for Mme. de Retz to make a fresh
attempt to obtain a pardon; however he was unable to resist, so he
consented that the case should be transferred to the bishop's court.

But the bishop was not a man to let the matter slip, and there and
then a sergeant of the bishop summoned Gilles de Laval, Sire do Retz,
to appear forthwith before the ecclesiastical tribunal. The marshal
was staggered by this unexpected citation, and he did not think of
appealing against it to the president; he merely signed his readiness
to follow, and he was at once conducted into the ecclesiastical court
assembled hurriedly to try him.

This new trial lasted only a few hours.

The marshal, now thoroughly cowed, made no attempt to defend himself,
but he endeavoured to bribe the bishop into leniency, by promises of
the surrender of all his lands and goods to the Church, and begged to
be allowed to retire into the Carmelite monastery at Nantes.

His request was peremptorily refused, and sentence of death was
pronounced against him.

On the 25th October, the ecclesiastical court having pronounced
judgment, the sentence was transmitted to the secular court, which had
now no pretext upon which to withhold ratification.

There was some hesitation as to the kind of death the marshal was to
suffer. The members of the secular tribunal were not unanimous on this
point. The president put it to the vote, and collected the votes
himself; then he reseated himself, covered his head, and said in a
solemn voice:--

"The court, notwithstanding the quality, dignity, and nobility of the
accused, condemns him to be hung and burned. Wherefore I admonish you
who are condemned, to ask pardon of God, and grace to die well, in
great contrition for having committed the said crimes. And the said
sentence shall be carried into execution to-morrow morning between
eleven and twelve o'clock." A similar sentence was pronounced upon
Henriet and Pontou.

On the morrow, October 26th, at nine o'clock in the morning, a general
procession composed of half the people of Nantes, the clergy and the
bishop bearing the blessed Sacrament, left the cathedral and went
round the city visiting each of the principal churches, where masses
were said for the three under sentence.

At eleven the prisoners were conducted to the place of execution,
which was in the meadow of Biesse, on the further side of the Loire.

Three gibbets had been erected, one higher than the others, and
beneath each was a pile of faggots, tar, and brushwood.

It was a glorious, breezy day, not a cloud was to be seen in the blue
heavens; the Loire rolled silently towards the sea its mighty volumes
of turbid water, seeming bright and blue as it reflected the
brilliancy and colour of the sky. The poplars shivered and whitened in
the fresh air with a pleasant rustle, and the willows flickered and
wavered above the stream.

A vast crowd had assembled round the gallows; it was with difficulty
that a way was made for the condemned, who came on chanting the _De
profundis_. The spectators of all ages took up the psalm and chanted
it with them, so that the surge of the old Gregorian tone might have
been heard by the duke and the bishop, who had shut themselves up in
the château of Nantes during the hour of execution.

After the close of the psalm, which was terminated by the _Requiem
æternam_ instead of the _Gloria_, the Sire de Retz thanked those who
had conducted him, and then embraced Pontou and Henriet, before
delivering himself of the following address, or rather sermon:--

"My very dear friends and servants, be strong and courageous against
the assaults of the devil, and feel great displeasure and contrition
for your ill deeds, without despairing of God's mercy. Believe with
me, that there is no sin, however great, in the world, which God, in
his grace and loving kindness, will not pardon, when one asks it of
Him with contrition of heart. Remember that the Lord God is always
more ready to receive the sinner than is the sinner to ask of Him
pardon. Moreover, let us very humbly thank Him for his great love to
us in letting us die in full possession of our faculties, and not
cutting us off suddenly in the midst of our misdeeds. Let us conceive
such a love of God, and such repentance, that we shall not fear death,
which is only a little pang, without which we could not see God in his
glory. Besides we must desire to be freed from this world, in which is
only misery, that we may go to everlasting glory. Let us rejoice
rather, for although we have sinned grievously here below, yet we
shall be united in Paradise, our souls being parted from our bodies,
and we shall be together for ever and ever, if only we endure in our
pious and honourable contrition to our last sigh." [1] Then the
marshal, who was to be executed first, left his companions and placed
himself in the hands of his executioners. He took off his cap, knelt,
kissed a crucifix, and made a pious oration to the crowd much in the
style of his address to his friends Pontou and Henriet.

[1. The case of the Sire de Retz is one to make us see the great
danger there is in trusting to feelings in matters of religion. "If
thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," said our Lord. How
many hope to go to heaven because they have pious emotions!]

Then he commenced reciting the prayers of the dying; the executioner
passed the cord round his neck, and adjusted the knot. He mounted a
tall stool, erected at the foot of the gallows as a last honour paid
to the nobility of the criminal. The pile of firewood was lighted
before the executioners had left him.

Pontou and Henriet, who were still on their knees, raised their eyes
to their master and cried to him, extending their arms,--

"At this last hour, monseigneur, be a good and valiant soldier of God,
and remember the passion of Jesus Christ which wrought our redemption.
Farewell, we hope soon to meet in Paradise!

The stool was cast down, and the Sire de Retz dropped. The fire roared
up, the flames leaped about him, and enveloped him as be swung.

Suddenly, mingling with the deep booming of the cathedral bell,
swelled up the wild unearthly wail of the _Dies iræ_.

No sound among the crowd, only the growl of the fire, and the solemn
strain of the hymn

Lo, the Book, exactly worded,
Wherein all hath been recorded;
Thence shall judgment be awarded.
When the Judge his seat attaineth,
And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nothing unavenged remaineth.
What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding?
When the just are mercy needing.
King of Majesty tremendous,
Who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity! then befriend us.
* * * *
Low I kneel, with heart-submission;
See, like ashes, my contrition--
Help me in my last condition!
Ah I that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning,
Man for judgment must prepare him!
Spare, O, God, in mercy spare him!
Lord, who didst our souls redeem,
Grant a blessed requiem!

Six women, veiled, and robed in white, and six Carmelites advanced.
bearing a coffin.

It was whispered that one of the veiled women was Madame de Retz, and
that the others were members of the most illustrious houses of

The cord by which the marshal was hung was cut, and he fell into a
cradle of iron prepared to receive the corpse. The body was removed
before the fire had gained any mastery over it. It was placed in the
coffin., and the monks and the women transported it to the Carmelite
monastery of Nantes, according to the wishes of the deceased.

In the meantime, the sentence had been executed upon Pontou and
Henriet; they were hung and burned to dust. Their ashes were cast to
the winds; whilst in the Carmelite church of Our Lady were celebrated
with pomp the obsequies of the very high, very powerful, very
illustrious Seigneur Gilles de Laval, Sire de Retz, late Chamberlain
of King Charles VII., and Marshal of France!



The inhabitants of Austrian Galicia are quiet, inoffensive people,
take them as a whole. The Jews, who number a twelfth of the
population, are the most intelligent, energetic, and certainly the
most money-making individuals in the province, though the Poles
proper, or Mazurs, are not devoid of natural parts.

Perhaps as remarkable a phenomenon as any other in that kingdom--for
kingdom of Waldimir it was--is the enormous numerical preponderance of
the nobility over the untitled. In 1837 the proportions stood thus:
32,190 nobles to 2,076 tradesmen.

The average of execution for crime is nine a year, out of a population
of four and a half millions,--by no means a high figure, considering
the peremptory way in which justice is dealt forth in that province.
Yet, in the most quiet and well-disposed neighbourhoods, occasionally
the most startling atrocities are committed, occurring when least
expected, and sometimes perpetrated by the very person who is least

Just sixteen years ago there happened in the circle of Tornow, in
Western Galicia-the province is divided into nine circles-a
circumstance which will probably furnish the grandames with a story
for their firesides, during their bitter Galician winters, for many a
long year.

In the circle of Tornow, in the lordship of Parkost, is a little
hamlet called Polomyja, consisting of eight hovels and a Jewish
tavern. The inhabitants are mostly woodcutters, hewing down the firs
of the dense forest in which their village is situated, and conveying
them to the nearest water, down which they are floated to the Vistula.
Each tenant pays no rent for his cottage and pitch of field, but is
bound to work a fixed number of days for his landlord: a practice
universal in Galicia, and often productive of much discontent and
injustice, as the proprietor exacts labour from his tenant on those
days when the harvest has to be got in, or the land is m best
condition for tillage, and just when the peasant would gladly be
engaged upon his own small plot. Money is scarce in the province, and
this is accordingly the only way in which the landlord can be sure of
his dues.

Most of the villagers of Polomyja are miserably poor; but by
cultivating a little maize, and keeping a few fowls or a pig, they
scrape together sufficient to sustain life. During the summer the men
collect resin from the pines, from each of which, once in twelve
Years, they strip a slip of bark, leaving the resin to exude and
trickle into a small earthenware jar at its roots; and, during the
winter, as already stated, they fell the trees and roll them down to
the river.

Polomyja is not a cheerful spot--nested among dense masses of pine,
which shed a gloom over the little hamlet; yet, on a fine day, it is
pleasant enough for the old women to sit at their cottage doors,
scenting that matchless pine fragrance, sweeter than the balm of the
Spice Islands, for there is nothing cloying in that exquisite and
exhilarating odour; listening to the harp-like thrill of the breeze in
the old grey tree-tops, and knitting quietly at long stockings, whilst
their little grandchildren romp in the heather and tufted fern.

Towards evening, too, there is something indescribably beautiful in
the firwood. The sun dives among the trees, and paints their boles
with patches of luminous saffron, or falling over a level clearing,
glorifies it with its orange dye, so visibly contrasting with the
blue-purple shadow on the western rim of unreclaimed forest, deep and
luscious as the bloom on a plum. The birds then are hastening to their
nests, a ger-falcon, high overhead, is kindled with sunlight; capering
and gambolling among the branches, the merry squirrel skips home for
the night.

The sun goes down, but the sky is still shining with twilight. The
wild cat begins to hiss and squall in the forest, the heron to flap
hastily by, the stork on the top of the tavern chimney to poise itself
on one leg for sleep. To-whoo! an owl begins to wake up. Hark! the
woodcutters are coming home with a song.

Such is Polomyja in summer time, and much resembling it are the
hamlets scattered about the forest, at intervals of a few miles; in
each, the public-house being the most commodious and best-built
edifice, the church, whenever there is one, not remarkable for
anything but its bulbous steeple.

You would hardly believe that amidst all this poverty a beggar could
have picked up any subsistence, and yet, a few years ago, Sunday after
Sunday, there sat a white-bearded venerable man at the church door,
asking alms.

Poor people are proverbially compassionate and liberal, so that the
old man generally got a few coppers, and often some good woman bade
him come into her cottage, and let him have some food.

Occasionally Swiatek--that was the beggar's name, went his rounds
selling small pinchbeck ornaments and beads; generally, however, only
appealing to charity.

One Sunday, after church, a Mazur and his wife invited the old man
into their hut and gave him a crust of pie and some meat. There were
several children about, but a little girl, of nine or ten, attracted
the old man's attention by her artless tricks.

Swiatek felt in his pocket and produced a ring, enclosing a piece of
coloured glass set over foil. This he presented to the child, who ran
off delighted to show her acquisition to her companions.

"Is that little maid your daughter?" asked the beggar.

"No," answered the house-wife, "she is an orphan; there was a widow in
this place who died, leaving the child, and I have taken charge of
her; one mouth more will not matter much, and the good God will bless

"Ay, ay! to be sure He will; the orphans and fatherless are under His
own peculiar care."

"She's a good little thing, and gives no trouble," observed the woman.
"You go back to Polomyja tonight, I reckon."

"I do--ah!" exclaimed Swiatek, as the little girl ran up to him. You
like the ring, is it not beautiful? I found it under a big fir to the
left of the churchyard,there may be dozens there. You must turn round
three times, bow to the moon, and say, 'Zaboï!' then look among the
tree-roots till you find one."

"Come along!" screamed the child to its comrades; "we will go and look
for rings."

"You must seek separately," said Swiatek.

The children scampered off into the wood.

"I have done one good thing for you," laughed the beggar, "in ridding
you, for a time, of the noise of those children."

"I am glad of a little quiet now and then," said the woman; "the
children will not let the baby sleep at times with their clatter. Are
you going?"

"Yes; I must reach Polomyja to-night. I am old and very feeble, and
poor"--he began to fall into his customary whine-- very poor, but I
thank and pray to God for you."

Swiatek left the cottage.

_That little orphan was never seen again._

The Austrian Government has, of late years, been vigorously advancing
education among the lower orders, and establishing schools throughout
the province.

The children were returning from class one day, and were scattered
among the trees, some pursuing a field-mouse, others collecting
juniper-berries, and some sauntering with their hands in their
pockets, whistling.

"Where's Peter?" asked one little boy of another who was beside him.
"We three go home the same way, let us go together."

"Peter!" shouted the lad.

"Here I am!" was the answer from among the trees; "I'll be with you

"Oh, I see him!" said the elder boy. "There is some one talking to


"Yonder, among the pines. Ah! they have gone further into the shadow,
and I cannot see them any more. I wonder who was with him; a man, I

The boys waited till they were tired, and then they sauntered home,
determined to thrash Peter for having kept them waiting. _But Peter
was never seen again._

Some time after this a servant-girl, belonging to a small store kept
by a Russian, disappeared from a village five miles from Polomyja. She
had been sent with a parcel of grocery to a cottage at no very great
distance, but lying apart from the main cluster of hovels, and
surrounded by trees.

The day closed in, and her master waited her return anxiously, but as
several hours elapsed without any sign of her, he--assisted by the
neighbours--went in search of her.

A slight powdering of snow covered the ground, and her footsteps could
be traced at intervals where she had diverged from the beaten track.
In that part of the road where the trees were thickest, there were
marks of two pair of feet leaving the path; but owing to the density
of the trees at that spot and to the slightness of the fall of snow,
which did not reach the soil, where shaded by the pines, the
footprints were immediately lost. By the following morning a heavy
fall had obliterated any further traces which day-light might have

_The servant-girl also was never seen again._

During the winter of 1849 the wolves were supposed to have been
particularly ravenous, for thus alone did people account for the
mysterious disappearances of children.

A little boy had been sent to a fountain to fetch water; the pitcher
was found standing by the well, but _the boy had vanished_. The
villagers turned out, and those wolves which could be found were

We have already introduced our readers to Polomyja, although the
occurrences above related did not take place among those eight hovels,
but in neighbouring villages. The reason for our having given a more
detailed account of this cluster of houses--rude cabins they
were--will now become apparent.

In May, 1849, the innkeeper of Polomyja missed a couple of ducks, and
his suspicions fell upon the beggar who lived there, and whom he held
in no esteem, as he himself was a hard-working industrious man, whilst
Swiatek maintained himself, his wife, and children by mendicity,
although possessed of sufficient arable land to yield an excellent
crop of maize, and produce vegetables, if tilled with ordinary care.

As the publican approached the cottage a fragrant whiff of roast
greeted his nostrils.

"I'll catch the fellow in the act," said the innkeeper to himself,
stealing up to the door, and taking good care not to be observed.

As he threw open the door, he saw the mendicant hurriedly shuffle
something under his feet, and conceal it beneath his long clothes. The
publican was on him in an instant, had him by the throat, charged him
with theft, and dragged him from his seat. Judge of his sickening
horror when from beneath the pauper's clothes rolled forth the head of
a girl about the age of fourteen or fifteen years, carefully separated
from the trunk.

In a short while the neighbours came up. The venerable Swiatek was
locked up, along with his wife, his daughter--a girl of sixteen--and a
son, aged five.

The hut was thoroughly examined, and the mutilated remains of the poor
girl discovered. In a vat were found the legs and thighs, partly raw,
partly stewed or roasted. In a chest were the heart, liver, and
entrails, all prepared and cleaned, as neatly as though done by a
skilful butcher; and, finally, under the oven was a bowl full of fresh
blood. On his way to the magistrate of the district. the wretched man
flung himself repeatedly on the ground, struggled with his guards, and
endeavoured to suffocate himself by gulping clown clods of earth and
stones, but was prevented by his conductors.

When taken before the Protokoll at Dabkow, he stated that he had
already killed and--assisted by his family--eaten six persons: his
children, however, asserted most positively that the number was much
greater than he had represented, and their testimony is borne out by
the fact, that the remains of _fourteen_ different caps and suits of
clothes, male as well as female, were found in his house.

The origin of this horrible and depraved taste was as follows,
according to Swiatek's own confession:--

In 1846, three years previous, a Jewish tavern in the neighbourhood
had been burned down, and the host had himself perished in the flames.
Swiatek, whilst examining the ruins, had found the half-roasted corpse
of the publican among the charred rafters of the house. At that time
the old man was craving with hunger, having been destitute of food for
some time. The scent and the sight of the roasted flesh inspired him
with an uncontrollable desire to taste of it. He tore off a portion of
the carcase and satiated his hunger upon it, and at the same time he
conceived such a liking for it, that he could feel no rest till he had
tasted again. His second victim was the orphan above alluded to; since
then--that is, during the period of no less than three years--he had
frequently subsisted in the same manner, and had actually grown sleek
and fat upon his frightful meals.

The excitement roused by the discovery of these atrocities was
intense; several poor mothers who had bewailed the loss of their
little ones, felt their wounds reopened agonisingly. Popular
indignation rose to the highest pitch: there was some fear lest the
criminal should be torn in pieces himself by the enraged people, as
soon as he was brought to trial: but he saved the necessity of
precautions being taken to ensure his safety, for, on the first night
of his confinement, he hanged himself from the bars of the



It is well known that Oriental romance is full of stories of violators
of graves. Eastern superstition attributes to certain individuals a
passion for unearthing corpses and mangling them. Of a moonlight night
weird forms are seen stealing among the tombs, and burrowing into them
with their long nails, desiring to reach the bodies of the dead ere
the first streak of dawn compels them to retire. These ghouls, as they
are called, are supposed generally to require the flesh of the dead
for incantations or magical compositions, but very often they are
actuated by the sole desire of rending the sleeping corpse, and
disturbing its repose. There is every probability that these ghouls
were no mere creations of the imagination, but were actual
resurrectionists. Human fat and the hair of a corpse which has grown
in the grave, form ingredients in many a necromantic receipt, and the
witches who compounded these diabolical mixtures, would unearth
corpses in order to obtain the requisite ingredients. It was the same
in the middle ages, and to such an extent did the fear of ghouls
extend, that it was common in Brittany for churchyards to be provided
with lamps, kept burning during the night, that witches might be
deterred from venturing under cover of darkness to open the graves.

Fornari gives the following story of a ghoul in his _History of

In the beginning of the 15th century, there lived at Bagdad an aged
merchant who had grown wealthy in his business, and who had an only
son to whom he was tenderly attached. He resolved to marry him to the
daughter of another merchant, a girl of considerable fortune, but
without any personal attractions. Abul-Hassan, the merchant's son, on
being shown the portrait of the lady, requested his father to delay
the marriage till he could reconcile his mind to it. Instead, however,
of doing this, he fell in love with another girl, the daughter of a
sage, and he gave his father no peace till he consented to the
marriage with the object of his affections. The old man stood out as
long as he could, but finding that his son was bent on acquiring the
hand of the fair Nadilla, and was equally resolute not to accept the
rich and ugly lady, he did what most fathers, under such
circumstances, are constrained to do, he acquiesced.

The wedding took place with great pomp and ceremony, and a happy
honeymoon ensued, which might have been happier but for one little
circumstance which led to very serious consequences.

Abul-Hassan noticed that his bride quitted the nuptial couch as soon
as she thought her husband was asleep, and did not return to it, till
an boar before dawn.

Filled with curiosity, Hassan one night feigned sleep, and saw his
wife rise and leave the room as usual. He followed cautiously, and saw
her enter a cemetery. By the straggling moonbeams he beheld her go
into a tomb; he stepped in after her.

The scene within was horrible. A party of ghouls were assembled with
the spoils of the graves they had violated., and were feasting on the
flesh of the long-buried corpses. His own wife, who, by the way, never
touched supper at home, played no inconsiderable part in the hideous

As soon as he could safely escape, Abul-Hassan stole back to his bed.

He said nothing to his bride till next evening when supper was laid,
and she declined to eat; then he insisted on her partaking, and when
she positively refused, he exclaimed wrathfully,--"Yes, you keep your
appetite for your feast with the ghouls!" Nadilla was silent; she
turned pale and trembled, and without a word sought her bed. At
midnight she rose, fell on her husband with her nails and teeth, tore
his throat, and having opened a vein, attempted to suck his blood; but
Abul-Hassan springing to his feet threw her down, and with a blow
killed her. She was buried next day.

Three days after, at midnight, she re-appeared, attacked her husband
again, and again attempted to suck his blood. He fled from her, and on
the morrow opened her tomb, burned her to ashes, and cast them into
the Tigris.

This story connects the ghoul with the vampire. As will be seen by a
former chapter, the were-wolf and the vampire are closely related.

That the ancients held the same belief that the witches violate
corpses, is evident from the third episode in the _Golden Ass_ of
Apuleius. I will only quote the words of the crier:--

"I pray thee, tell me," replied I, "of what kind are the duties
attached to this funeral guardianship?" "Duties!" quoth the crier;
"why, keep wide awake all night, with thine eyes fixed steadily upon
the corpse, neither winking nor blinking, nor looking to the right nor
looking to the left, either to one side or the other, be it even
little; for the witches, infamous wretches that they are! can slip out
of their skins in an instant and change themselves into the form of
any animal they have a mind; and then they crawl along so slyly, that
the eyes of justice, nay, the eyes of the sun himself, are not keen
enough to perceive them. At all events, their wicked devices are
infinite in number and variety; and whether it be in the shape of a
bird, or a dog, or a mouse, or even of a common house-fly, that they
exercise their dire incantations, if thou art not vigilant in the
extreme, they will deceive thee one way or other, and overwhelm thee
with sleep; nevertheless, as regards the reward, 'twill be from four
to six aurei; nor, although 'tis a perilous service, wilt thou receive
more. Nay, hold! I had almost forgotten to give thee a necessary
caution. Clearly understand, that it the corpse be not restored to the
relatives entire, the deficient pieces of flesh torn off by the teeth
of the witches must be replaced from the face of the sleepy guardian."

Here we have the rending of corpses connected with change of form.

Marcassus relates that after a long war in Syria, during the night,
troops of lamias, female evil spirits, appeared upon the field of
battle, unearthing the hastily buried bodies of the soldiers, and
devouring the flesh off their bones. They were pursued and fired upon,
and some young men succeeded in killing a considerable number; but
during the day they had all of them the forms of wolves or hyænas.
That there is a foundation of truth in these horrible stories, and
that it is quite possible for a human being to be possessed of a
depraved appetite for rending corpses, is proved by an extraordinary
case brought before a court-martial in Paris, so late as July 10th,

The details are given with fulness in the _Annales
Medico-psychologiques_ for that month and year. They are too revolting
for reproduction. I will, however, give an outline of this remarkable

In the autumn of 1848, several of the cemeteries in the neighbourhood
of Paris were found to have been entered during the night, and graves
to have been rifled. The deeds were not those of medical students, for
the bodies had not been carried of, but were found lying about the
tombs in fragments. It was at first supposed that the perpetration of
these outrages must have been a wild beast, but footprints in the soft
earth left no doubt that it was a man. Close watch was kept at Père la
Chaise; but after a few corpses had been mangled there, the outrages

In the winter, another cemetery was ravaged, and it was not till March
in 1849, that a spring gun which had been set in the cemetery of S.
Parnasse, went off during the night, and warned the guardians of the
place that the mysterious visitor had fallen into their trap. They
rushed to the spot, only to see a dark figure in a military mantle
leap the wall, and disappear in the gloom. Marks of blood, however,
gave evidence that he had been hit by the gun when it had discharged.
At the same time, a fragment of blue cloth, torn from the mantle, was
obtained, and afforded a clue towards the identification of the
ravisher of the tombs.

On the following day, the police went from barrack to barrack,
inquiring whether officer or man were suffering from a gun-shot wound.
By this means they discovered the person. He was a junior officer in
the 1st Infantry regiment, of the name of Bertrand.

He was taken to the hospital to be cured of his wound, and on his
recovery, he was tried by court-martial.

His history was this.

He had been educated in the theological seminary of Langres, till, at
the age of twenty, he entered the army. He was a young man of retiring
habits, frank and cheerful to his comrades, so as to be greatly
beloved by them, of feminine delicacy and refinement, and subject to
fits of depression and melancholy. In February, 1847, as he was
walking with a friend in the country, he came to a churchyard, the
gate of which stood open. The day before a woman had been buried, but
the sexton had not completed filling in the grave, and he had been
engaged upon it on the present occasion, when a storm of rain had
driven him to shelter. Bertrand noticed the spade and pick lying
beside the grave, and--to use his own words:--"A cette vue des idées
noires me vinrent, j'eus comme un violent mal de tête, mon cur battait
avec force, je no me possédais plus." He managed by some excuse to get
rid of his companion, and then returning to the churchyard, he caught
up a spade and began to dig into the grave. "Soon I dragged the corpse
out of the earth, and I began to hash it with the spade, without well
knowing what I was about. A labourer saw me, and I laid myself flat on
the ground till he was out of sight, and then I cast the body back
into the grave. I then went away, bathed in a cold sweat, to a little
grove, where I reposed for several hours, notwithstanding the cold
rain which fell, in a condition of complete exhaustion. When I rose,
my limbs were as if broken, and my head weak. The same prostration and
sensation followed each attack.

Two days after, I returned to the cemetery, and opened the grave with
my hands. My hands bled, but I did not feel the pain; I tore the
corpse to shreds, and flung it back into the pit."

He had no further attack for four months, till his regiment came to
Paris. As he was one day walking in the gloomy, shadowy, alleys of
Père la Chaise, the same feeling came over him like a flood. In the
night he climbed the wall, and dug up a little girl of seven years
old. He tore her in half. A few days later, he opened the grave of a
woman who had died in childbirth, and had lain in the grave for
thirteen days. On the 16th November, he dug up an old woman of fifty,
and, ripping her to pieces, rolled among the fragments. He did the
same to another corpse on the 12th December. These are only a few of
the numerous cases of violation of tombs to which he owned. It was on
the night of the 15th March that the spring-gun shot him.

Bertrand declared at his trial, that whilst he was in the hospital he
had not felt any desire to renew his attempts, and that he considered
himself cured of his horrible propensities, for he had seen men dying
in the beds around him, and now: "Je suis guéri, car aujourd'hui j'ai
peur d'un mort."

The fits of exhaustion which followed his accesses are very
remarkable, as they precisely resemble those which followed the
berserkir rages of the Northmen, and the expeditions of the

The case of M. Bertrand is indubitably most singular and anomalous; it
scarcely bears the character of insanity, but seems to point rather to
a species of diabolical possession. At first the accesses chiefly
followed upon his drinking wine, but after a while they came upon him
without exciting cause. The manner in which he mutilated the dead was
different. Some he chopped with the spade, others he tore and ripped
with his teeth and nails. Sometimes he tore the mouth open and rent
the face back to the ears, he opened the stomachs, and pulled off the
limbs. Although he dug up the bodies of several men he felt no
inclination to mutilate them, whereas he delighted in rending female
corpses. He was sentenced to a year's imprisonment.



THE following curious specimen of a late mediæval sermon is taken from
the old German edition of the discourses of Dr. Johann Geiler von
Keysersperg, a famous preacher in Strasbourg. The volume is entitled:
"_Die Emeis_. Dis ist das Büch von der Omeissen, und durch Herr der
Künnig ich diente gern. Und sagt von Eigenschafft der Omeissen, und
gibt underweisung von der Unholden oder Hexen, und von Gespenst, der
Geist, und von dem Wütenden Heer Wunderbarlich."

This strange series of sermons was preached at Strasbourg in the year
1508, and was taken down and written out by a barefooted friar, Johann
Pauli, and by him published in 1517. The doctor died on Mid-Lent
Sunday, 1510. There is a Latin edition of his sermons, but whether of
the same series or not I cannot tell, as I have been unable to obtain
a sight of the volume. The German edition is illustrated with bold and
clever woodcuts. Among other, there are representations of the
Witches' Sabbath, the Wild Huntsman, and a Werewolf attacking a Man.

The sermon was preached on the third Sunday in Lent. No text is given,
but there is a general reference to the gospel for the day. This is
the discourse:-- [1]

[1. Headed thus:--"Am drittë sontag à fastê, occuli, predigt dé doctor
vô dê Werwölffenn."]

"What shall we say about were-wolves? for there are were-wolves which
run about the villages devouring men and children. As men say about
them, they run about full gallop, injuring men, and are called
ber-wölff, or wer-wölff. Do you ask me if I know aught about them? I
answer, Yes. They are apparently wolves which cat men and children,
and that happens on seven accounts:--

1. Esuriem Hunger.
2. Rabiem Savageness.
3. Senectutem Old age.
4. Experientiam Experience.
5. Insaniem Madness.
6. Diabolum The Devil.
7. Deum God.

The first happens through hunger; when the wolves find nothing to eat
in the woods, they must come to people and eat men when hunger drives
them to it. You see well, when it is very cold, that the stags come in
search of food up to the villages, and the birds actually into the
dining-room in search of victuals.

"Under the second head, wolves eat children through their innate
savageness, because they are savage, and that is (propter locum coitum
ferum). Their savageness arises first from their condition. Wolves
which live in cold places are smaller on that account, and more savage
than other wolves. Secondly, their savageness depends on the season;
they are more savage about Candlemas than at any other time of the
year, and men must be more on their guard against them then than at
other times. It is a proverb, 'He who seeks a wolf at Candlemas, a
peasant on Shrove Tuesday, and a parson in Lent, is a man of pluck.' .
. . Thirdly, their savageness depends on their having young. When the
wolves have young, they are more savage than when they have not. You
see it so in all beasts. A wild duck, when it has young poults, you
see what an uproar it makes. A cat fights for its young kittens; the
wolves do ditto.

"Under the third head, the wolves do injury on account of their age.
When a wolf is old, it is weak and feeble in its leas, so it can't ran
fast enough to catch stags, and therefore it rends a man, whom it can
catch easier than a wild animal. It also tears children and men easier
than wild animals, because of its teeth, for its teeth break off when
it is very old; you see it well in old women: how the last teeth
wobble, and they have scarcely a tooth left in their heads, and they
open their mouths for men to feed them with mash and stewed

"Under the fourth head, the injury the were-wolves do arises from
experience. It is said that human flesh is far sweeter than other
flesh; so when a wolf has once tasted human flesh, he desires to taste
it again. So he acts like old topers, who, when they know the best
wine, will not be put off with inferior quality.

"Under the fifth head, the injury arises from ignorance. A dog when it
is mad is also inconsiderate, and it bites any man; it does not
recognize its own lord: and what is a wolf but a wild dog which is mad
and inconsiderate, so that it regards no man.

"Under the sixth head, the injury comes of the Devil, who transforms
himself, and takes on him the form of a wolf So writes Vincentius in


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