Urbain Grandier HTML version

Chapter 3
Hardly had tranquillity been restored when Mignon, Duthibaut, Menuau, Meunier, and
Barot, having lost their cause before the Archbishop of Bordeaux, and finding themselves
threatened by Grandier with a prosecution for libel and forgery, met together to consult as
to the best means of defending themselves before the unbending severity of this man,
who would, they felt, destroy them if they did not destroy him.
The result of this consultation was that very shortly afterwards queer reports began to fly
about; it was whispered that the ghosts whom the pious director had expelled had again
invaded the convent, under an invisible and impalpable form, and that several of the nuns
had given, by their words and acts, incontrovertible proofs of being possessed.
When these reports were mentioned to Mignon, he, instead of denying their truth, cast up
his eyes to heaven and said that God was certainly a great and merciful God, but it was
also certain that Satan was very clever, especially when he was barked by that false
human science called magic. However, as to the reports, though they were not entirely
without foundation, he would not go so far as to say that any of the sisters were really
possessed by devils, that being a question which time alone could decide.
The effect of such an answer on minds already prepared to listen to the most impossible
things, may easily be guessed. Mignon let the gossip go its rounds for several months
without giving it any fresh food, but at length, when the time was ripe, he called on the
priest of Saint-Jacques at Chinon, and told him that matters had now come to such a pass
in the Ursuline convent that he felt it impossible to bear up alone under the responsibility
of caring for the salvation of the afflicted nuns, and he begged him to accompany him to
the convent. This priest, whose name was Pierre Barre, was exactly the man whom
Mignon needed in such a crisis. He was of melancholy temperament, and dreamed
dreams and saw visions; his one ambition was to gain a reputation for asceticism and
holiness. Desiring to surround his visit with the solemnity befitting such an important
event, he set out for Loudun at the head of all his parishioners, the whole procession
going on foot, in order to arouse interest and curiosity; but this measure was quite
needless it took less than that to set the town agog.
While the faithful filled the churches offering up prayers for the success of the exorcisms,
Mignon and Barre entered upon their task at the convent, where they remained shut up
with the nuns for six hours. At the end of this time Barre appeared and announced to his
parishioners that they might go back to Chinon without him, for he had made up his mind
to remain for the present at Loudun, in order to aid the venerable director of the Ursuline
convent in the holy work he had undertaken; he enjoined on them to pray morning and
evening, with all possible fervour, that, in spite of the serious dangers by which it was
surrounded, the good cause might finally triumph. This advice, unaccompanied as it was
by any explanation, redoubled the curiosity of the people, and the belief gained ground
that it was not merely one or two nuns who were possessed of devils, but the whole
sisterhood. It was not very long before the name of the magician who had worked this