Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/160

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multitudes were similarly afflicted. Both religious parties made the most of these cases. In vain did such great authorities in medical science as Hecquet and Lorry attribute the whole to natural causes; the theologians on both sides declared them supernatural—the Jansenists attributing them to God, the Jesuits to Satan.

Of late years such cases have been treated in France with much shrewdness. When, about the middle of the present century, the Arab priests in Algiers tried to arouse fanaticism against the French Christians by performing miracles, the French Government, instead of persecuting the priests, sent Robert Houdin, the most renowed juggler of his time, to Algiers, and for every Arab miracle Houdin performed two; did an Arab marabout turn a rod into a serpent, Houdin turned his rod into two serpents, and afterward showed the people how this was done.

So, too, at the last International Exposition, the French Government, observing the evil effects produced by the mania for table turning and tipping, took occasion, when a great number of French schoolmasters and teachers were visiting the Exposition, to have public lectures given in which all the business of dark closets, hand-tying, materialization of spirits, presenting the faces of the departed, and ghostly portraiture, was fully performed by professional mountebanks, and afterward as fully explained by them.

So in this case. The Government simply ordered the gate of the cemetery to be locked, and, when the crowd could no longer approach the tomb, the miracles ceased. A little Parisian ridicule helped to end the matter. A wag wrote up over the gate of the cemetery:

"De par le Roi, défense à Dieu
De faire des miracles dans ce lieu"—

which, being translated from doggerel French into doggerel English, is—

"By order of the king, the Lord must forbear
To work any more of his miracles here."

But the theological spirit remained powerful. The French Revolution had not then intervened to bring it under healthy limits. The agitation was maintained, and, though the miracles and cases of possession were stopped in the cemetery, it spread. Again full course was given to myth-making and the retailing of wonders. It was said that men had allowed themselves to be roasted before slow fires, and had been afterward found uninjured; that some had enormous weights piled upon them, but had supernatural powers of resistance given them; and that, in one case, a voluntary crucifixion had taken place.

This agitation was long, troublesome, and no doubt robbed