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In 1531, when Henriette was five, Scaliger sent an invitation to a wandering
physician named Michele de Nostradame, who had been reputed to have had some
success curing plague victims. Scaliger, a doctor himself, could not wait to hear
Nostradamus tell how he had discovered a cure for diseases which had ravaged the
French countryside.
Nostradamus, for his part, was excited to meet Scaliger. Nostradamus‘ career so far
had not been as illustrious. On October 3, 1529, Nostradamus enrolled in medical school
at the Medical Faculty at Montpellier to study for his medical doctorate. On the liber
scolasticorum where Nostradamus had written his name for admission, the Student
Registrar, Guillame Rondelet, scratched out Nostradamus‘ entry, noting in the margin:
He whom you here see crossed outmark well, readerhas been an apothecary or
quack. We have established through Chante, an apothecary of this city, and through
students, who have heard him speak ill of doctors. Wherefore as laid down by statute I
have been enjoined to strike him out from the book of students.
Nostradamus had been expelled both for being an apothecary and for making
obnoxious jokes about medical doctors. Booted out of medical school before he could
even crack a book, Nostradamus went on the road, like a carnival doctor, traveling from
town to town, seeking out medical cures, learning about plants and remedies, and hoping
to make money curing the strangers that he met on his way. It was reported in some parts
that Nostradamus actually cured certain plague victims. It is difficult to know whether
these cures in fact occurred, and, if they did, whether Nostradamus‘ cures were
accidental, but whichever the case, his reputation as a healer began to spread through
southern France. The invitation from Scaliger was a Godsend for Nostradamus.
Nostradamus viewed Scaliger as an intellectual giant, stating that he was the ―father to
the eloquence of Cicero, in his perfect and supreme poetry another Virgil, in his medical
teaching worth any two to Galen, and to whom I remain more indebted than to anybody
else in this world.‖ In fact, Nostradamus would later name his eldest son Cesar in honor
of Scaliger. Surely, Nostradamus thought, he could pick up substantial knowledge living
in the orbit of this famous doctor and philosopher. And so it was that Nostradamus made
his way across Southern France to the small town of Agen.
When Nostradamus arrived in Agen in 1531, the two men spent hours each day on
Scaliger‘s porch debating botany or astrology or grammar, and each enjoyed the other‘s
company immensely. Nostradamus was as impressed as Scaliger was with the quickness
of his eldest daughter Henriette, and Nostradamus developed a true fondness for the girl.
Seven years after Nostradamus arrived in Agen, the two doctors were sharing a smoke on
Scaliger‘s porch, when Scaliger brought up the subject of Nostradamus‘ love interests.
Scaliger had noticed that Nostradamus had turned down most of the invitations to fetes
and galas thrown by neighborhood Agen women who were hoping to rope this eligible
bachelor for their daughters. Wasn‘t Nostradamus interested in love? And that‘s when
Nostradamus confessed to Scaliger that the only female he found interesting at all was
Scaliger‘s now-twelve year-old daughter Henriette. At first, this was somewhat repulsive
to Scaliger. After all, Nostradamus had met the girl when Henriette was only five. Was
this man some kind of pervert? But in 1538, a girl who was twelve was eligible to marry,
and Scaliger could not deny that his own wife was some thirty years younger than he.
Scaliger, too, had married a woman at a very young age. It was an awkward moment for
the two scholars, but Scaliger quickly applied his keen logical mind to the problem.