Saturday, December 3, 2016

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The Most Dangerous and Daring Escape of Blanche Gamond

The Dangerous and Daring Escape of...



Blanche Gamond belonged to a Protestant family of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, when the Protestants were subjected to the most rigorous persecution, Mademoiselle Gamond, whose piety was of the most fervent and exalted kind, resolved to fly the kingdom. The city of Saint-Paul was closely invested, and the dragoons overran all the neighboring country in search of the Protestants. Blanche left the city and wandered about for some time alone, and afterwards with her parents, who had joined her. At times they were exposed to all the hardships of forest life, and it was only at intervals that they could venture to show themselves in towns. In this manner they traveled through the greater part of Dauphiné; but they were obliged to separate at last, to escape the more easily from the dragoons; and our poor heroine was about to pass the frontier with her brother and her mother and sister, when she was taken near Goncelin. Her brother escaped from the soldiers, but her mother and her sister were brutally ill-treated by these wretches, and were taken to Grenoble and thrown into a horrible dungeon. Blanche Gamond was then twenty-one years of age. She was subjected for a long time to the most terrible tortures; but insulted, mercilessly beaten, dying of hunger, and sinking under a lingering illness, as she was, she bore all with the courage and the resignation of a martyr.

The following is her account of her attempt at escape, the consequences of which were most disastrous to her:—
“We were told to get ourselves ready in three days for a voyage to America; ‘and when,’ it was added, ‘you are once on shipboard you will be made to walk the plank, and will be thrust into the sea, so that the detested race of the Huguenots may perish with you.’

“ ‘It concerns me little,’ I replied, ‘whether my body be eaten by the fish in the sea or by the worms in the earth.’

“When they had left us alone, Susan de Montélimart said, ‘We might make our escape by this window if we could only break the bars.’

“ ‘We are at such a height from the ground,’ I replied, ‘that we should either kill or lame ourselves; and then we should only be recaptured and treated worse than before. If that should happen, I could never survive my sufferings. I prefer death, therefore, and will rather set out for America. God will deliver us, as he delivered the victims of La Rapine.’ ”

La Rapine, or D’Herapine, who had been formerly condemned for robbery, under his real name of Guichard, had become director of the hospital of Valence, where he was told to employ all the means in his power for the conversion of the Protestants—a commission which he executed with all the cynicism and the ferocity of one of the worst of scoundrels.

“Susan replied, ‘If they had done to me what they have done to you I should have died ere this; but they are killing us of hunger; and, besides, they are going to take us to America, and we shall be half dead when they throw us in the sea. We might get out of this window. We seem to be despising the means which God has placed within our reach; but, for my part, I mean to attempt to use them.’

“At length, by her persuasion, I joined her in cutting a piece of cloth into shreds, and sewing it together; and when we had made a long band in this manner we tied a piece of stone to the end of it and lowered it, to ascertain the height of the window from the ground. We were on the fourth storey, and we found that our band was too short; but we lengthened it, and finally the end touched the ground. I then put my head out of the window and said to my dear sisters, ‘Alas! we shall kill ourselves, for it almost frightens me to death to look down.’

“That same evening, when our guards were asleep, we crept to the window with bare feet, for we were afraid that the priest, whose chamber was beneath ours, would hear our footsteps. Susan was the first to get out, and she was followed by Mademoiselle Terrasson de Die, then by me and by Mademoiselle Anne Dumas, of La Salle, in Languedoc. When I got outside and began to lay hold of the band, my strength failed me, and I heard the bones of my arm crack. My dress caught in a hook outside the window, and I was obliged to support myself with one arm while I disengaged myself with the other. I no longer felt either strength or courage, and I cried, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ But I seized the band with my teeth, and joining my two hands over it, I fell, rather than lowered myself, to the ground, striking against the stones with such violence that I cried, ‘Mercy! My God, I am either killed or maimed for life!’

I was obliged to support myself with one arm.
 “The dear sisters who were waiting for me ran up to me and asked me where I was hurt.

“ ‘Everywhere,’ I replied; ‘I am sure that I have broken my thigh,’ and I begged of them to tie it up for me with my apron. I then limped away, my two sisters supporting me on either side. I made sixty or seventy steps in great pain, and reached the gate of the Faubourg de Valence: but it was closed. They helped me to get upon the wall, but when I stood upon the top of it, and saw how high it was, I said to my three dear sisters, ‘This is a second precipice, and I am not brave enough to attempt to descend. Leave me and go alone.’

“They let me down from the wall and left me there, and then they tried to get down themselves, and succeeded after great trouble. When they had reached the other side, Mademoiselle Dumas cried out to me, ‘We are going. We are very sorry to leave you behind. God preserve you from our enemies. I wish you prosperity, and give you my blessing, and I beg of you to give me yours in return.’

“ ‘Who am I,’ I replied, ‘to give you my blessing? but I pray that God will give you his. I pray fervently that he will lead you in all his ways; and I conjure you to leave this place as quickly as you can, or all of us may be recaptured.’

“I was thus left quite alone, still suffering the cruel and violent pains which had never left me from the moment of my fall. It was not yet daybreak, and I lifted up my heart to God. But I fainted in the midst of my prayer, and did not come to myself for, at least, a quarter of an hour. I had no one to console me, or even to offer me a single drop of water; but as soon as I came to myself I cried out, ‘Lord, do not abandon me.’ I lay for a time without being able to make any movement, and then I thought that at daybreak they would be sure to find me, and then I should be recaptured and taken to the hospice. ‘O God,’ I prayed, ‘grant me this mercy that this day may see the last of my troubles, for death is better than life. I have lived enough. Take my soul to thee, O God. Oh grant, if it please thee, that I may be taken to the tomb, and not to the hospice this day.’

“Day then began to break. I had not enough strength to raise myself, so that those who passed by did not know that I was lamed. I was only just able to hide my face from them by covering it with my tappeta. I was interrupted during my prayers by the agony which I suffered from my broken thigh and dislocated ankle. After a time a gentleman came by, and said, ‘It would be better, mademoiselle, for you to be at your own house than to remain here, and it would certainly be more becoming.’

“ ‘If you knew who I was, sir,’ I replied, ‘you would not address me in such language.’

“In another moment they opened the gate of the Faubourg and the passers-by said very hard and cruel things about me, seeing me lying at full length in the road so early in the morning.”

She begged one of them to fetch Mademoiselle Marsilière, a Protestant converted to Catholicism, whom she knew, and she prayed God that this early friend might turn out a good Samaritan, but this prayer was not heard.
“Are you asking for me?” said Mademoiselle Marsilière, when she approached the poor wounded creature. “Yes, mademoiselle; save me—for mercy’s sake help me. Take me to some place where I may die, so that no one may witness my sufferings.”

“But Mademoiselle Marsilière replied that I should endanger her safety as well as my own. ‘I must go,’ she said, ‘before any one sees me, or I shall be put in prison myself.’

“I was wounded to the heart at this treatment from a co-religionist, and I asked her if she had the courage to leave me in this condition. ‘Help me, at least,’ I said, ‘to crawl behind this wall, so that I may not be seen by the passers-by.’ ”

But neither the prayers nor the sufferings of the unfortunate Blanche had the least effect on the prudent and charitable person whom she had called to her aid. Mademoiselle Marsilière went away, but returned shortly afterwards with the almoner of the religious house of which she was a member, who, without paying the least regard to the distressed condition of the wounded girl, began to address to her a series of questions about her escape and her accomplices. At length two men, seizing her by the shoulders and the feet, carried her to the hospice and laid her down upon the stones in the courtyard.

It is impossible to enter fully here into all the details of the rigorous punishment endured by the poor girl for some months after this. She bore all with her ordinary courage and patience, but the mere recital of such atrocities would give too much pain to the most unfeeling heart.

She was at last allowed to return to her parents, and she recovered her health after her long sufferings, and retired to Switzerland with her family.

Compiled from sources in the public domain.

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