A publicity document prepared by Noel Corbu around 1955. It is not a manuscript, nor has it been signed or deposited. It has never been published. Pierre Jarnac has a copy and it appears in his bibliography for 1962-64.
In February 1250, Rhedae (Rennes-le-Château) a powerful citadel and town of 30,000 people waited in a fever for the arrival of Blanche of Castille – Queen Regent of the Kingdom of France.
Blanche of Castille came to Rhedae not to stay there, but to put the treasure of the Crown into safekeeping, for, throughout the kingdom, Shepherds, Vagabonds, Villeins, small feudal lords were all in revolt (the Shepherds’ Revolt) and everywhere was pillaged and ruined. Even Paris was threatened. Only Rhedae with its unfathomable caverns and enormous citadel was in a position to protect and conserve the Royal Treasure.
A veritable army had guarded the treasure during the whole length of the journey. It had reached Rhedae without mishap. And now the Queen arrived.
The Seneschal Pierre de Voisin waited for Blanche of Castille and her following. When the reception was finished, Blanche of Castille went down alone to the underground room of the keep, where the chests containing the treasure of France were to be found. She asked Seigneur de Voisin for ten men, ten prisoners to whom she had promised liberty. They arrived and bowed before the queen. Without a word, she pointed at a stone with a ring on it. Putting their backs into it, two men raised the stone with difficulty. The gaping hole revealed a dark staircase.
“Take the torches”, ordered the Queen, “and follow me.”
The staircase seemed to descend forever until suddenly it ended in a sort of rotunda, from which several dark and sinister entrances emanated. “Wait for me there”, ordered the Queen, and taking hold of a torch, she plunged into one of the gloomy passages. After about a hundred metres, she stopped. There was quite a pronounced bend in the passage. The queen pushed one stone with her toe while she pushed another with her free hand. A faint click was heard. Then with her shoulder, she pushed the outside wall of the curve and smoothly, this sank back, swivelled round and as it turned, another opening was revealed while the passage was blocked by the section of wall. Without knowing the secret, a person would search in vain, because when the door was closed the passage continued into the bowels of the earth and nothing on the walls indicated that there was a door on the side.
The Queen retraced her steps and ordered the men, who were waiting for her, to bring down the trunks, the chests and the cases that were in the room of the keep. Sweating, breathing heavily, the prisoners transported the treasure while the Queen stood near the door of the secret room, counting the cases. When everything had been brought down, she asked the men to put the cases in order as well as the chests, and while they were busy at this work, she leaned silently against two other stones and the heavy door closed, walling the ten unfortunate prisoners in alive.
Without listening to the slight sound that filtered through the thick wall, she fled, climbing back up to the room in the keep, and there, she fell on her knees and begged God for mercy for what she had been obliged to do. Nobody knew the secret except herself; no-one would know it except her son, the king. The life of France depended on it. She had promised those men their freedom. But was it not the best of freedoms to die a martyr and so gain Paradise?
When she came back into the room and Seneschal de Voisin saw her, he could not hold back his surprise. The queen had aged ten years in a few hours. For much of the night Blanche of Castille wrote. She indicated where the treasure was situated and how to get to it by several places and how to avoid the traps. Then she changed these indications, muddling them up, mixing them with some verses from the Gospel, and took as the key the first letters of each line of an inscription, which was found on a tombstone in the cemetery. This done, she slipped the parchments into some wooden rollers, which she had sent to the chaplain. She explained to him that these rollers were to be hidden in the church.
The queen, the chaplain and a little monk in the château church, dedicated to St. Marie-Madeleine, slid aside the stone, which was used for the altar, and hid the rollers inside one of the pillars, which was hollow.
1252 - Blanche of Castille was about to die. Peace reigned in the kingdom; with superhuman courage, she had put an end to the revolt. But the effort was too great - and then there were dreadful memories that came to haunt her. The supreme test came when she caught leprosy and the waters of Rennes-les-Bains could do nothing to cure her sickness. Now resigned and at peace, she waited for death. To a faithful servant, she gave a case for her son, St. Louis, telling him where to find the parchments. A useless precaution, really, as St Louis knew where the treasure was.
1270 – Tunis – St. Louis died of the plague. He had his son Philippe come to him and confided the secret of the Royal Treasure to him.
1285 – Philippe the Hardi was ill. All his troops were sick, and also he was being harried unceasingly by the men of Aragon. With difficulty he managed to reach Perpignan with the remains of his army. Half-unconscious, he died. He had no time to pass on the secret of the Royal Treasure to his son, the future Philippe le Bel. No-one knew any more where the Treasure of France was to be found.
King Philippe le Bel was soon forced to make false money, because he did not know the whereabouts of the Royal Treasure.
1370 – Rhedae was invaded by the Spanish, who pillaged, burned and destroyed everything. The town was an ocean of flames, the keep was suddenly transformed into a powder keg and everything collapsed. When the Spaniards withdrew, Rhedae was no more than a heap of ruins.
1645 – In memory of Blanche of Castille, Rhedae was called Rennes-le-Château. It was no more than a straggling little market town of two thousand inhabitants. The château was rebuilt, but not on the same spot. Of the proud citadel of Ancient Rhedae almost nothing more remained. One day a shepherd called Ignace Paris, guarding his sheep around the village, heard one of his lambs bleating. He looked for it but did not see it. However, the bleating was very close by. He looked again and saw that it came from the ground. The animal had fallen into a hole, which had formed in the soil. He leaned over and saw it. Carefully he got down to it, but the animal was frightened and, instead of coming towards him, it began to flee into the passage, into which the hole opened. Ignace found some pieces of wood and some dry grass. Striking a flint, he set them alight, making a sort of torch, and set off in pursuit of his lamb. Seeing the torch, the lamb became even more frightened and fled even further in. Suddenly the two of them found themselves in a room. It was crammed full of chests. Gold pieces were slipping out of one of them, that was rotting away. The shepherd could not believe his eyes. He demolished the chest completely and there was a stream of gold. But suddenly he recoiled in fright. Scattered around were some skeletons that seemed to be mounting a guard around the treasure. So, feverishly, he took off his beret and filled it with coins. Then his shepherd’s instinct got the better of him. He got hold of his lamb, which, being frightened as well, had taken refuge in a corner; then he fled away for several metres and there was the hole. He put the coins down, made the lamb climb up out of the hole, went back to pick up his coins again and climbed back up into the fresh air himself. He wiped his brow, which was running with sweat. Only then did he realise that he was in possession of a terrible secret. His sheep hadn’t moved. His faithful dog had guarded them during his short absence. The shepherd’s terror came back again when he saw the skeletons, but the lure of gold was stronger. He wanted this secret for himself alone, so he went back down into the hole. He wanted to be certain that there were no other ways into the passage that other people could find. He lit his grass torch again and followed the side opposite the room. He hadn’t gone ten metres when he stopped abruptly. A yawning chasm opened right in front of him, completely cutting off the whole passage. He threw a stone into it. It rebounded endlessly. From that side the secret was well guarded. No-one could ever pass. Reassured, Ignace climbed back out. He contemplated the pieces of gold; he played with them in amusement. He was rich, richer than his lord of the manor. But no-one must know about it. So, to stop up the hole, he used some large branches first of all, then some stones, and then some earth. When he had finished there was no sign to suggest that there was a hole there. He marked the spot carefully and, as night fell, he returned to Rennes. For his simple mind, the shock was severe. He saw the treasure, but he also saw the skeletons that guarded it. It was with an air of bewilderment that he arrived home, where, without saying a word, he put his beret full of coins on the table. His wife went into a flap.
“ Where did you get those coins?” she cried.
He withdrew into silence. He could not say anything if he wanted to. Hearing the cries of his wife, the neighbours came to see what was the matter - and they saw the coins. They notified the lord, who came running over.
The shepherd was questioned. He was accused of stealing, of killing a traveller. He defended himself and ended up by telling his story, but in his mind he realised that the secret no longer belonged to him. He could not enjoy it anymore. He threw himself at the lord to kill him, but the guards were there and it was he who was killed. Ignace Paris took his secret to the tomb. The Lord, the guards and all the inhabitants searched in vain for the shepherd’s hole. He had hidden it so well that the secret was lost once more.
1885 - One hot day in the month of May, abbé Bérenger Saunière climbed on foot up the hard hillside that led to Rennes-le-Château. Nobody came to welcome him at the railway station in Couiza, not even a member of his family, who lived nearby at Montazels, which was 500 metres from the station. Nothing. He knew Rennes-le-Château, a tiny little village without a future, and it was to there that Monsignor had sent him. He was still a young priest, still only thirty three years old. It was almost a punishment. In short, he was looking at the dregs in the bottom of the cup.
His arrival in the village was depressing. He learned that the key to the presbytery was with Alexandrine Denarnaud. He found the house eventually, a minute hovel at the entrance to the village. It was a pretty young girl who greeted him; neither her mother nor her father were there. But that did not matter. She went with M. le curé.
The visit to presbytery was disastrous. Everything was in a bad state. It was damp and cold and the few bits of furniture that were there were mouldy. A huge sense of discouragement overwhelmed the priest. The young girl noticed and did all she could to cheer him up. Finally Alexandrine arrived and invited the priest to dinner.
In the days that followed, the priest found the kindness of the young girl, whose name was Marie, and that of her father and mother invaluable; and as and their house was tiny, he suggested that they came and lived with him in the presbytery, which was so big. Her brother Barthélémy could remain in the little house for as long as he wished, until he got married.
The Denarnaud family accepted and although the priest was often short of money, it was a family life that he led. Marie, her mother Alexandrine and her father Guillaume knew just how to please him. Often, Marie who worked in the hat factory at Esperaza, and Alexandrine would even lend him money.
1892 – The abbé had gained the esteem of all his parishioners. He was on the best of terms with the Mayor and the councillors, so he made use of this by asking for some money to redo the main altar, which was no longer in keeping with the style of the day, and also to put the roof, which was in a bad state, in order. The Mayor and the local Council agreed and loaned him 2,400 francs. This was a huge amount for that time. The abbé was happy. Thanks to this money, he could do the repairs and alterations, which he thought were advisable. From Couiza, he brought in a mason, named Babou, who began the work and started by demolishing the main altar. The abbé used to go and see the work at 9 o’clock in the morning. Being February, it wasn’t very warm. As he arrived in the church the mason called him over about a cavity he had found in one of the pillars of the main altar. In this cavity there were some wooden rollers sealed with wax. Intrigued by this, the abbé took one, broke open the wax cap and saw a greyish mass, which he drew out. It was a parchment, written in Old French and Latin. The abbé recognised fragments from the Gospel, but mixed in amongst them were other words such as pieces of gold, jewellery, etc. The abbé caught his breath. There was a mystery here. The scattered words danced before his eyes. He recognised some numbers. The abbé pulled himself together because Babou was there looking at him pretending to be indifferent. He told him that they were sacred documents that had been put there by other priests, perhaps at the time of the French Revolution. The abbé told the mason that they weren’t worth anything and that he should go to lunch, during which time he would say mass. Babou didn’t push the matter and went off. As soon as he had gone, the abbé got out all the rollers, broke the wax that was sealing them up and read their contents. He was glad to see then that everything was all muddled up, but nevertheless, he was sure that these parchments would reveal a fantastic secret.
After dinner, Babou started to gossip and, the news spread like wildfire. Soon the whole village knew that rollers containing parchments had been found. The Mayor came to see the priest, who showed them to him without any fuss, but he didn’t understand anything and unfortunately the priest didn’t know anyone who could prove that these documents were worthless, being as they spoke of St. Matthew, St. Luke and St. John. The Mayor did not press him, but the priest was afraid that if Babou carried on, he would make another discovery. Under the pretext of having to go on a journey and so not being able to oversee the works, he stopped everything.
During the night, the priest, aided by Marie, tried to decipher the documents, but so many things escaped him. There were whole phrases in Old French and Latin that he did not understand. The only thing he could decipher at all well were the verses from the Gospel, and the signature of Blanche of Castille with her seal. All the rest formed a puzzle that did not fit together. Marie suggested that he should go and see a Latin expert in Paris, but the journey was expensive. Marie and her family gave the priest all their savings, and with the little that he had, it was enough.
In Paris, several Latin experts were pointed out to the priest, who was very much on his guard and only gave a part of the documents to each one. At the end of five days, he had finished. He knew it was about the crown of France, that there were 18 million 500 thousand gold coins, some jewellery and some religious objects. In all, it was an immense fortune. But in spite of the Latin experts, there was still something that was quite unknown – the place where the treasure would be found. It was a puzzle with no means of solving it. There was a key word but the priest did not know it. Quite worried and somewhat contrite, the priest returned to Rennes and confided his results to Marie.
The following day the priest went back to the church. The altar was partly demolished. He looked to see where this word might be found, but there was nothing on the pillar, not even an inscription. There were some on the altar table, but they did not correspond, and in spite of his efforts, he found nothing. Marie herself took a walk in the cemetery and suddenly her attention was drawn by a very old tomb. The stone bore inscriptions, which had always seemed strange to her. The words were cut with no rhyme or reason. Was it that one? She called the priest, who noted down the whole text and during the evening they had a go. Suddenly he found the combination. The treasure was theirs. There were six points of entry, the one in the keep was the easiest, but where was the keep? Everything had been razed to the ground. Yes, but on one side of one of the parchments there were some lines and these lines must start from the main altar. The lines were height measurements and were oriented in relation to the church. Marie and the priest burned with fever. It was two o’clock in the morning. In the village everyone was asleep, so they did not hesitate. They took some ropes, which they measured carefully and spread them as indicated by the lines on the plan. It was very cold, the wind blew, but they did not care. The ropes intersected in the middle of a spot known as la Capella, the Château. It was an empty piece of land, but it was too late to carry on because the peasants were starting to get up.
The following night the priest and Marie, who had carefully noted where the place was, began to dig. Forty centimetres into the soil they found a stone slab. They got it free. It had a rusty ring at its centre. With the help of crowbars, they managed to raise it. A dark staircase appeared. The priest decided that Marie should keep a look-out while he went down. The staircase was endless. The lantern, which he was using, threw out hardly any light. He went down at least twenty-five metres and came upon a round room. His feeble light showed 6 openings, yawning widely all around. The place was sinister and the priest had to summon all his courage. Water was dripping down the walls. Not a sound pierced the silence except for his own jerky breathing. It was like a tomb. He looked at his notes again. Finally he chose a tunnel and turning towards it, he went forward. He looked for the stones with the signs. There was one with a cross at the bottom which had to be pushed while using his hand to rock the 7th stone from the one bearing a crown, and leaning quite heavily against the wall until he heard the click.
The priest’s heart was pounding wildly. He was completely drenched with sweat. He rocked the stone while pushing the other one with his foot and pushed with his shoulder, but nothing happened. The wall did not move. The priest was gripped by a nervous spasm and trembled from head to foot. Were the signs false? Was he mistaken? Perhaps the mechanism would not work any more after such a long period of time? He pulled himself together and had a think. The parchment said “after the click, push with the shoulder”, so he had pushed it. He would have to begin again. He took a big breath, made the two movements again and waited. After a few seconds he heard a slight noise. That must be the click. Biting his lips until they bled, he leaned on the wall. He felt his heart stop, the wall opened in. It turned and opened up a black hole, closing the other side of the tunnel. The priest had to get his breath, to calm down and then resolutely he went in. He gave a cry of horror, in spite of himself. Three skeletons were there near the door. They seemed to be mounting guard. Near them, some chests, some half-rotten trunks allowing coins to run out of them, some jewels. The parchments did not lie. The priest began to feel giddy; he wanted to cry, to call out. There was a considerable fortune there and it was his, no-one else’s but his. Good-bye poverty, he was rich, immensely rich, richer than the pope. The treasure of the kings of France was his. Forcing himself to calm down, he began to count the chests. There were at least two hundred. But he could not prevent a shiver each time he came into contact with a skeleton. There were ten in all, their drama pressing in on the priest, who imagined these men dying of hunger and thirst by the side of a treasure, which could have made them all-powerful.
The priests recovered his spirits. He had to climb back up. Marie was up there and waiting for him. Would he tell her? He hesitated, but as far as she was concerned, there would be no point in lying, because she knew as much about it as he did. Since he would have to go back down again to convert all this gold into cash, he needed someone he could trust and she had already proved her devotion to him in enough ways. He went up. Marie was there, worried by the priest’s long absence. Quickly they put the slab back, covering it again with earth. In the middle of the stones and brambles, no-one would be aware of it. The priest had not yet said anything to Marie, but she understood and, now at the ruined presbytery, he told her about everything he had seen. It was dazzling. They made innumerable plans. Before anything else, Marie, with her peasant shrewdness, recommended that they should not arouse suspicions. She knew the story of the shepherd and she told it to the priest. Neither one of them could sleep that night.
On the following day they both drew up a plan. They would go to the treasure room the following night. They would take a few pieces and then the priest would go to Spain, which was not far, and sell them. He would send the money by post to Couiza, in Marie’s name.
That went very well. The priest often went to different countries, sometimes Spain, sometimes Belgium, sometimes Switzerland and Germany. He sold his pieces for a very good price because they were rare. He also sold some jewels. The money poured back in, so he completely renovated the church and the presbytery. He ordered the finest furniture and knick-knacks. He got the finest clothes for Marie. He spent money without counting it. He ordered the best wines, the best liqueurs; he invited everybody, who came see him, to pay a visit. Every day there were sumptuous meals washed down with the best vintage wines. Life was good.
The priest bought some pieces of land around the presbytery including the one on which he found the slab. He had an idea and that was to buy in Marie’s name. No-one would know. He also demolished the tomb in the cemetery and removed the inscriptions from the tombstone, which harboured the keyword. The parchments he put in the treasure room, he knew the secret by heart, so did Marie. They were both merry; everything was smiling on them.
On day the Mayor came to reproach him over what he had done in the cemetery, but the priest mocked him. It was too late. However, to pacify the Mayor, he made it clear that if he needed anything, he should not be embarrassed to ask, and to justify his sudden fortune, he mentioned being the heir of an uncle, who had died in America. The Mayor wasn’t fooled, but there was nothing he could do. The priest had played him with the parchments, he hesitated, he needed money, he wanted to buy a house, some land, his daughter was to be married, he told the priest, who went out and came back with a small bag containing 5,000 gold francs, which he forced the Mayor to take. Henceforth the Mayor would often come to see the priest and he never left empty handed, so both the priest and the Mayor had everything they wanted.
He showered it all on Alexandrine and Guillaume as well; everything they wanted they had. Alexandrine tried to find out from Marie where it all came from, but she was banging her head against a brick wall. Marie did not know and she kept it that way.
1897 – The priest looked forward to Monseigneur Billard coming for the Mission. The church was brand new. The garden, which was in front of it, was an ocean of flowers; the grotto dedicated to Notre Dame de Lourdes. Everything was resplendent. The cross would be inaugurated by Monseigneur; even the cemetery resembled a garden rather than a funeral place.
Alexandrine surpassed herself with the cooking, the Bishop could not want for more: foie gras, hors d’oeuvres, roast meat, cakes, everything washed down with the oldest and most famous wines; spirits, liqueurs followed without number. When evening arrived, Monseigneur was feeling good. He saw everything with a rosy glow. For a little while he sang, he punched jokes with the priest. He mistook his hat and put on the priest’s instead of his own. Happily the priest noticed it and changed it for him. The priest was radiant, he had won over his Bishop. He didn’t doubt that he would be showered with honours, made a canon soon, perhaps a Bishop one day; he would make the Church a gift from his immense fortune; he would certainly be appointed cardinal. So he would prepare a sumptuous residence for himself with a tower that he could use as a library; when he died, his memory would be blessed.
But alas, nothing came from the Bishopric. Monseigneur seemed to hold it against him that he had made such a display of himself. The years passed, the building went ahead, the villa was splendid, the Tower was finished, the ring road as well. The book-binders worked hard in the garden to bind all the books for the library; original editions, Sèvres vases, Dresden china, it was more than Rich, it was Royal.
He was always waiting for something from the Bishopric, but when it did arrive, it was bad news: Mgr. Billard was dead. He was replaced by Mgr. Beauséjour. The priest’s hopes rose again, but still for nothing, except a summons to go to the Bishopric with his accounts. Mgr. wanted to know where the priest’s fortune came from. He demanded accounts and explanations. The priest hesitated. He was afraid to tell his secret. Marie advised him to keep silent. If he said anything, it would be finished, especially as there had been the separation of the Church and the State. If the secret was known, there would be a lawsuit between the Church and the State in order to find out to which one the treasure belonged, and the priest wouldn’t have anything any more, because it would be sequestered, confiscated until the end of the action, which would last for years, perhaps centuries. After having thought everything through, the priest decided to say nothing, and if, for want of honour, the Church did not leave him alone, it would get nothing when he died. He made it clear to the Bishop, but the latter wanted to know the truth. He was obsessed with the priest’s expenses. He wanted this treasure, the existence of which he sensed, not for him, but for the Church. He would break this priest if he had to, but he would know the truth.
The Bishop’s Coadjutor, Mgr. Cantagril, wrote letter upon letter to abbé Saunière. He defended himself step by step. He certainly did not want to go to Carcassonne to give any explanations. He knew that if he went there he would be lost. So he had his doctor make some false certificates to say that he could not move.
Monseigneur Beauséjour understood this trick and decided to drive him into a corner. He accused him of trafficking in masses, so he would be obliged to come and justify himself. Thrown into a panic, the priest consulted a number of his friends, who advised him to get a lawyer. He found Maitre Mis, but he told him that he needed a lawyer who had general religious experience in the ecclesiastical courts, and thus could do nothing for him. Finally the priest found Canon Huguet d’Espiens, who agreed to conduct his defence. He told him not to move, to wait and to do nothing. When the priest did not come, the Bishop was furious and pronounced a sentence of interdiction on account of his being contumacious.
Immediately Canon Huguet made an appeal to the Court of Rome. The priest took hope again. He hinted to the canon that if the affair finished well, his fortune was made. He also told him to make the Church understand that while he could say nothing during his lifetime, the Church would know everything at his death.
But, despite the steps taken by Canon Huguet, although Rome abandoned the accusation of trafficking in masses and ordered a dismissal, the Bishop’s Office was determined to find out where the priest’s immense fortune came from. But, being as embittered as he could possibly be, after all the hopes he had had, the priest refused categorically to answer, and finally he was put under an interdict for contempt of court and rebellion.
Having nothing more to hope for unless he revealed his secret, which was out of the question, as he made clear in a final letter to the bishop, he did everything possible to obstruct the new priest appointed to Rennes-le-Château. First of all, he himself rented the presbytery on a 99-year lease and he recommended his former parishioners not to take him in as a lodger. The new priest could not live in the village, so he went to live in Couiza and had climb up to Rennes-le-Château on foot to say mass. But there, alone, a new disappointment awaited him, because, abbé Saunière had already had a private chapel made at the side of his sumptuous dwelling, in case of bad weather, and all the villagers went there to hear him say mass, so there was no-one in the church.
Preoccupied by his disputes with the Church, abbé Saunière made no more constructions, but when everything had come to an end, he started dreaming again of endless plans and projects. One day he tried a motor car. Immediately he wanted one. But, although the road to Rennes was not suitable for an automobile, that didn’t matter, he would have one made. He was also going to build a splendid tomb with a fine chapel above it so that he could say mass there on All Saints Day. Then thinking that the Tower would not be grand enough, he would have another floor put in as well as a winter garden. He imagined a rampart around Rennes as well as another tower, this one being 50 metres high with a library, which followed the spiral staircase. Monseigneur would be green with envy. So, for two years, these were his projects. No-one pleased him. Because he always wanted something bigger, finer, he added to his projects. Then, to please his parishioners, he had water laid on to all the houses. Finally everything was ready. He signed the order forms. All these works came to the fabulous sum of 8 million gold francs, nearly 3 billion of our francs (as in 1950s-60s. Trans)
Only abbé Saunière had paid too dearly. He suffered from cirrhosis of the liver. In spite of the diet that the doctor had prescribed for him, he could not stop eating and drinking well, and the drama came to a head. On 22nd January, it was a glorious day, so he wanted to go on the terrace despite Marie’s advice. He wanted to enjoy this unique panorama. But the wind was cold, all the same. He felt an illness overcoming him. He choked, in pain he went back indoors. Marie ran up to him, she sent for the doctor, but when he arrived it was too late. The priest was dead.
Marie left him in the armchair where he had died, covered with a cloth edged with red pompoms, and all the poor people with whom he had been good, paid him a last visit, wanting to take away a relic, and everyone took one of the pompoms from the coverlet.
In spite of her immense grief, Marie prepared herself for a battle, because the priest’s heirs were there like a band of hungry wolves. Everyone was aware of the affection that the priest had for her and vice versa. While he had lived he had always defended her. Now it was over, she was alone. But she was capable of defending herself. So, immediately after the sumptuous funeral was over, (five priests said the mass) the heirs wanted to make an inventory and seal everything up. But Marie got out the papers. The priest was not at his home but in hers, and in front of the furious heirs, she got out the deeds, the invoices; everything had been acquired in the name of Marie Denarnaud. She was in her own home, and it was with dark enjoyment that she shooed them out. The heirs left, shouting threats at her, but there was nothing they could do. Marie was indeed the owner, everything belonged to her. So despairing of their cause, they tried cajoling her, but it was too late.
The Bishop wasn’t very happy either. He had hoped for much on the priest’s death, but all was not lost since Marie was there. She must know the secret. Even more, she was alone. So, a number of priests tried to extract both the secret and the estate from her, to get her to make a will in favour of the Church, but Marie, holding all the cards, eluded the questions, and made some evasive promises, postponing the decisions she must take until the next day. She hid herself away and during the years, she withdrew timidly into herself, distrusting the whole world.
Everyone knew that she was suspicious of them because they all tried and did more than try. They stole everything from her that was valuable. Everybody profited from her. Marie shut her eyes. All that was of such little importance. What they never found out was the secret. The years went by; Marie was completely alone. Her father died, then her mother, then her brother, she had only her sister-in-law, and two nieces and a nephew, everyone trying to find out, but she remained silent.
Marie grew old, she could no longer get to the treasure, the slab was too heavy, then it was too dangerous. She accepted virtual poverty, she would live meagrely, she would sell a few bits of furniture, it was enough. Now people deserted her, her visitors were few. Often in front of the fire, her favourite cat on her lap, she wondered to whom she could leave both the estate and the secret. She prayed to God and to the Blessed Virgin.
One day a family arrived on an outing; the site pleased them; they came back a second time. An idea began to germinate in Marie’s brain, and she offered them the house so that they could come and spend the holidays there. She could study them, find out what sort of people they were.
July arrived and the priest’s residence took on a party air. You could hear the cries of children playing, of the latest songs coming from T.S.F. radio station or a record player. The man had organised the most important things. Marie observed, listened, and often in the evening she stood under the windows to be sure to catch them unaware in conversation. With her muffled steps, she would enter the house silently and listen at the doors. When summer ended, she had decided. She was going to give them everything, the estate and the secret. First of all the estate. So as not to appear to be making a present of it to them, she sold it to them and in an act of supreme vengeance, she had the deed drawn up by a lawyer, who had been trying to get hold of the estate and the secret for years. As to the family, she would tell them on the day of her death. At her age, that would not be long.
The family finally came to live on the estate; dark days arrived. Monsieur had lost a lot of money, but he never took an interest in the treasure and he never questioned Marie about it. She was happy though. Half crippled as she was, the family took her in and took care of her. When Marie saw that they were unhappy, she could not stop herself from saying “Don’t worry. When I die, you will be very, very, rich. You will never be able to spend all the money you will have.” But she felt that no-one believed her and, in the end, she was glad. Too many people had tormented her, trying to find out. This indifference pleased her.
18th January 1953 – Marie did not feel well. She was hot, she took off her hat, but then she felt cold. When they came to see her at 8 o’clock in the morning, she was burning with fever, the thermometer read 39.9. The doctor was called quickly and he diagnosed an infectious influenza. It was 10 o’clock. Marie felt her brain darken. She wanted to talk about her secret, but it was too late. She fell into unconsciousness where she remained for five days and died with her secret.
She died on 29th January 1953