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Their villanies were terminated in the following manner. Sainte Croix, when preparing poison, was accustomed to wear a glass mask; but one day it happened to drop off by accident, and he was found suffocated in his laboratory. As he had no family, his effects were examined by order of government. Among them was found a small box, with the following written request affixed to it:—
"I humbly beg that those into whose hands this box may fall, will do me the favour to deliver it into the hands only of the Marchioness de Brinvilliers, who resides in the street Neuve St. Paul, as everything it contains concerns her, and belongs to her alone; and as, besides, there is nothing in it that can be of use to any person except her; and in case she shall be dead before me, to burn it, and everything it contains, without opening or altering anything; and, in order that no one may plead ignorance, I swear by the God whom I adore, and by all that is most sacred, that I advance nothing but what is true. And if my intentions, just and reasonable as they are, be thwarted in this point, I charge their consciences with it, both in this world and the next, in order that I may unload mine, protesting that this is my last will.
"Done at Paris, this 25th of May, in the afternoon, 1672. "Die Stb. Croix."
This most singular and incredible petition of course produced the immediate opening of the box, which was found to contain a great abundance of poisons of every kind, with labels, on which their effects were marked, as proved by experiments on animals.
La Chaussee, the servant of Sainte Croix, and the accomplice in his crimes, laid claim to his property, but was imprisoned; and, having confessed more acts of villany than were even suspected, was broken alive upon the wheel in 1673.
The Marchioness endeavoured to get possession of the box; but, failing to do this, she fled first to England, and afterwards to Liege, where she took refuge in a convent. She was decoyed from this asylum by Desgrais, an active officer of justice, disguised as an abbe, and was conveyed to Paris. She went with much firmness to the place of execution, July 16th, 1676, where she was beheaded, and afterwards burned,—"a punishment," says Beckman, " too mild for such an offender." She had been flattered with the hopes of a pardon; and when she mounted the scaffold, she cried out, " C'est, done, tout de bon!" (" It's in earnest, then !")
Iu many of the cases of secret poisoning recorded in history, the proofs of poisoning were clear enough, but inquiry was hushed up on account of the rank of the parties; in others, nothing was wanted but an examination conducted by competent persons. The progress of law has delivered us from one kind of danger; the progress of chemistry is daily liberating us from the other. Investigations which, in the last century, would have been abandoned as too difficult, are now conducted to a satisfactory termination: thus Christison tells us, when discussing the tests for the oxide of arsenic in the solid state:—" In the ruder periods of analytic chemistry we find Hahnemann recommending a retort as the fittest instrument, and stating ten grains as the least quantity he could detect. Afterwards Dr. Black substituted a small glass tube, coated with clay, and afterwards well heated; and in this way he could detect a single grain. In a paper published in the ' Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal,' I showed how a sixteenth of a grain might be detected; and, more lately, how so minute a quantity might be subjected to this test as a hundredth part of a grain."—(Christison on Poisons, p. 179.)
If it was a just subject of exultation to the Roman lyrist that punishment was the constant, though tardy, follower of guilt,* it is still more grateful when Vengeance, guided by the torch of Science, tracks the footsteps of the poisoner with such rapidity that detection, like lightning following the thunder, seems the adjunct, rather than the consequence of the crime.
* Raro antecedentem scelestum,
XIII. A FOREIGN COOK IN 1630.
To my noble lady, the lady Cot. Madam,
You spoke to me for a cook who had seen the world abroad, and I think the bearer hereof will fit your ladyship's turn. He can marinate* fish, make gellies: he is excellent for piquant sauce, and the Haugou;" besides, Madam, he is passing good for an Olla: he will tell your ladyship that the reverend Matron, the Olla podrida, hath intellectuals and senses: Mutton, Beef, and Bacon are to her as the Will, Understanding, and Memory are to the Soul; Cabbage, Turnips, Artichokes, Potatoes, and Dates, are her five Senses, and Pepper the Common Sense; she must have Marrow to keep Life in her, and some Birds to make her light: by all means she must go adorned with chains of Sausages. He is also good at larding of meat after the mode of France. Madam, you may make proof of him, and if your ladyship find him too saucy or wasteful, you may return him whence you had him."
Howell's Letters, let. xxxvi. In this humorous letter the author speaks of chains of sausages. An old name in the city for a roast turkey surrounded by sausages is, 'An Alderman in Chains.'
XIV. A CHAPTER ON HATS.
"Geronte. Hippocrate dit cela?
Geronte. Dans quel chapitre, s'il vous plait?
We fear that it would be but labour lost to search the works of the sage of Cos for the chapter indicated in our motto; but we have no doubt that it will be a very prominent one in a treatise on physic and things in general, to be brought out by some zealous phrenologist about the year 2000. Does not every one know that the size of the hat shows the size of the head, and the size of the head the size of the brain, and the size of the brain the
* Haugou. A misprint for haut-gout, literally high taste, or high flavour. Most ragouts may be called haut-gouts.
quantum of nous possessed by each individual? At present, indeed, the dictates of justice are strangely neglected in these matters. The phrenologists complain bitterly that the microcephalia or small-headed men, are often seen in possession of place and power: though a secretary of state, the circumference of whose head in inches may be 21'25, brow beating some poor clerk with a circumference of 235, is so monstrous a spectacle, that the cow lording it over the farmer, in the children's storybook of the World turned upside-down, is in comparison seemly and laudable. It is true that the natural tendency of a big head on dry land is exactly the reverse of what it is in the water; for while in the latter it has a tendency to sink its possessor, on the former it more frequently floats him up to the highest dignities in church and state. "But then," cry the followers of Gall and Spurzheim, "observe the knavish arts of the promoted men of long heads! They fence themselves and their property around with such laws and devices, that the next generation obtain the benefit of their fathers' success, though their heads should be as peaked as a sugar-loaf; nay, the influence of an ancestral brain-pan is felt for centuries afterwards in regiments and frigates showered upon descendants, who would seem rather to belong to the Malay than the Caucasian variety of the human species." We trust that these things will not always be so, but that a day will once arrive when electors will not throw up their hats until they have seen the candidate's; when a coalheaver's hat will be known, not by the broadness of the brim, but by the narrowness of the interior; an operahat, not by its flexibility, but by the cavity destined to contain the organ of music; and a cardinal's, not by its colour, but its vast size. Until the commencement of this happy era,—until the return of Astraea—the least that can be done by the microcephaK in high places is to wear large hats stuffed: if it is well to conceal the want of hip or calf, surely it is even more important to hide the want of head. It would be but a sacrifice to public decency—a part of the homage paid by ignorance to knowled ee.