Thursday, 26 February 2015

VIII. Beware of Creoles...

Skipping the Thiébaults' return to Paris in 1784, which you can find in Arthur John Butler's translation, I'll just give you a small tale related to magnetism which the good Englishman did not see fit to include. For the record, Charles Deslon (1750-1786) was, as you can infer from what follows, a successful magnetic healer. He was also a friend of Dieudonné Thiébault, which explains why the father and the son were often found around his "tub" despite their relatively good health.

Among all of M. Deslon’s lady regulars, I could mention Mme X..., a young Creole who first aroused a surprise that soon turned into horror.
It was one o’clock when she came to M. Deslon’s for the first time. “Monsieur,” she said, going straight to him as he stood up to greet her, “I burnt myself and I would like you to heal me.” At once, the determined nineteen-year-old woman uncovered one of the most beautiful arms in the world, tainted by an ugly wound.
After showing her a seat, M. Deslon politely inquired as to the causes of this accident...
“It does not matter,” she answered; “I was burnt and I suffer; I was told that magnetism would relieve and even heal me, and I have come to try.”
The other guests’ surprise rose even higher, but M. Deslon simply magnetised her, and he took away the inflammation in half an hour. Then he said:
“Now, Madame, keep your arm covered at all times, and it should heal soon.”
She thanked M. Deslon, said “This is extraordinary” two or three times, and left.
On the next morning, when everyone had all but forgotten about her, she came again and said:
“Monsieur, I need your services once more.”
He examined her arm; the flesh was raw and badly inflamed.
“Madame,” he asked, “what has happened to the scab that should have formed?”
“I tore it off, Monsieur.”
This attracted everyone’s attention, and M. Deslon’s face turned cold and stern...
“Monsieur,” the young lady pursued in a firm and assured tone, “you may find my conduct surprising, but let me explain it. I have a little daughter whom I adore; I heard so much about magnetism that I thought it could save my child, should anything happen to her; however, before using it on her, I wanted to try it on myself. Since my health was perfectly good, I decided to inflict a wound on myself; I put hot wax on my arm, and after tearing it off, I came to see you yesterday morning. You relieved me incredibly fast; yet I was still not entirely convinced; hence I tore the scab off, and I have come for the last trial.”
You can imagine the effect this speech from a calm, charming and perfectly tranquil young woman had on us. As for M. Deslon, he answered:
“Madame, I respect your motives, even though you used contemptible methods; once again, I will do my utmost to soothe your pain; but I must warn you that should you come here again after another impudence of this nature, I will not be able to take care of you.”
The session was longer than the previous day’s, but equally successful. Everyone had observed this new experience very intently, mostly because of the young woman’s expression and attention, as her eyes went from her arm to her hands, then to M. Deslon’s arms and his own arm; she looked entirely foreign to what happened around her as well and to her own pain; so that she was regarded as a heroic mother. Once M. Deslon was finished, she said:
“Monsieur, I am entirely convinced.”
When she stood up to leave, several ladies came to speak to her, to talk about her courage and the daughter who had instilled it in her; they even expressed a desire to see this child; she promised to bring her, and she did. The child was a sweet one-year-old girl, endowed with a remarkable liberty of movement: from the moment of her birth, she had been rolling around on rugs and carpets and was often exposed to the fresh air and even to the sun; when she was four months old, she already made her way everywhere she wanted, using chairs to support herself.
Mme X... visited M. Deslon several times; but suddenly, an adventure that complements everything I have already said about her made her disappear. Here is the story:
This lady, who was born into a distinguished family and had married into another, had a lover who was also married. The previous anecdote has shown her strong passions, imperious will and exalted mind; you can guess that while she was demanding, she could not always be expected to act with caution. The offended wife had suspicions and stopped entertaining the rival mistress, and the two women had not seen each other for six months when the former fell ill. She recovered soon and had started receiving when, one evening around nine o’clock, Mme X... entered. This visit seemed extraordinary, but everything remained within the boundaries of politeness. After spending some time near the ill woman’s bedside, Mme X... walked to the fireplace to warm her feet, moved aside a soup dish placed in front of the fire, and left shortly afterwards. Then, the other lady asked for her soup; but as she swallowed the first spoonful, she spat it out at once, exclaiming: “What have you given me? This pottage tastes foul!” They went to the kitchen, and the broth they found here was delicious. Besides, there could be no suspicion about her servants, all honest and devoted people, while Mme X...’s conduct seemed increasingly suspicious with every passing second. A doctor arrived soon; he was told about what had just happened; they gave some soup to a dog, which at once showed signs of violent poisoning and died. Now the matter was too grave to ignore; the lady’s brother ran to see the police prefect and gave him an account of everything. At midnight and a half, the police arrived at Mme X...’s. She had just gone to bed and looked scandalised that anyone would dare come at this hour. They asked for the key to her desk drawers; she handed them without resisting; they found nothing. They then asked for her purse, which she refused to give. They took it by force, and inside, they found traces of arsenic and a small piece of paper that has contained it. This was all the proof they needed, and the scaffold was a fitting punishment for such a crime; but Mme X...’s and her husband’s family obtained a lettre de cachet, which allowed the culprit to disappear. In 1814, in Paris, I met a colonel who came back from emigration; he knew all the protagonists of this affair and remembered every detail.

No comments:

Post a Comment