“Ah, that’s what interests me,” exclaimed Durtal.
“Of course I limit myself to repeating what was told me,” resumed Des Hermies, lighting his cigarette. “Well, Docre keeps white mice in cages, and he takes them along when he travels. He feeds them on consecrated hosts and on pastes impregnated with poisons skilfully dosed. When these unhappy beasts are saturated, he takes them, holds them over a chalice, and with a very sharp instrument he pricks them here and there. The blood flows into the vase and he uses it, in a way which I shall explain in a moment, to strike his enemies with death. Formerly he operated on chickens and guinea pigs, but he used the grease, not the blood, of these animals, become thus execrated and venomous tabernacles.
“Formerly he also used a recipe discovered by the Satanic society of the Re-Theurgistes-Optimates, of which I have spoken before, and he prepared a hash composed of flour, meat, Eucharist bread, mercury, animal semen, human blood, acetate of morphine and aspic oil.
“Latterly, and according to Gevingey this abomination is more perilous yet, he stuffs fishes with communion bread and with toxins skilfully graduated. These toxins are chosen from those which produce madness or lockjaw when absorbed through the pores. Then, when these fishes are thoroughly permeated with the substances sealed by sacrilege, Docre takes them out of the water, lets them rot, distills them, and expresses from them an essential oil one drop of which will produce madness. This drop, it appears, is applied externally, by touching the hair, as in Balzac’s Thirteen.”
“Hmmm,” said Durtal, “I am afraid that a drop of this oil long ago fell on the scalp of poor old Gevingey.”
“What is interesting about this story is not the outlandishness of these diabolical pharmacopoeia so much as the psychology of the persons who invent and manipulate them. Think. This is happening at the present day, and it is the priests who have invented philtres unknown to the sorcerers of the Middle Ages.”
“The priests, no! A priest. And what a priest!” remarked Carhaix.
“Gevingey is very precise. He affirms that others use them. Bewitchment by veniniferous blood of mice took place in 1879 at Chalons-sur-Marne in a demoniac circle—to which the canon belonged, it is true. In 1883, in Savoy, the oil of which I have spoken was prepared in a group of defrocked abbes. As you see, Docre is not the only one who practises this abominable science. It is known in the convents; some laymen, even, have an inkling of it.”
“But now, admitting that these preparations are real and that they are active, you have not explained how one can poison a man with them either from a distance or near at hand.”