A young man, named Louis G—– a shoemaker, was on the point of marrying Victorine R—– a boot stitcher. This marriage was so fully resolved upon, by both parties, that the banns of the young couple were in course of publication, and Louis G—– as a matter of economy, took his meals, everyday, with his betrothed.
One day, however, a dispute occurred between the young people, relative to some trifling matter; they both grew quite angry, and the quarrel became so violent that Louis G—– quitted the table, and went away, vowing that he would never come back.
Next day, however, the young bookmaker returned to his betrothed, and begged her to forgive him. “Night,” says the proverb, “brings counsel;” the young woman, possibly alarmed that similar scenes should occur when it would be too late to escape them, refused to make peace with him, and broke off their engagement. The protestations, tears, and despair of the young man failed to shake her resolution to have nothing more to do with him. Several days passed; Louis G—– hoping that his sweetheart would have got over her displeasure, went again to her room. He knocked at the door in such a way as to let her know who it was; but she refused to open the door. He begged and prayed to be admitted, but she was implacable, and the door remained shut.
“Farewell, cruel girl!” he exclaimed, at length, “farewell forever! Try to find a husband who will love you as truly as I do!” Victorine, who was listening inside, heard a stifled groan, followed by a sound as of something heavy slipping against the door; then all was silent. Supposing that the young man had planted himself on the ground, at her door, to wait for her coming out, she determined to stay in until he had gone away.
A quarter of an hour had hardly elapsed, when another tenant of the house, coming down the stairs with a light in his hand, uttered a loud cry, and shouted for help. The neighbors rushed in, and Victorine R—– having opened her door, was horrified at seeing her dismissed lover stretched before her, pale and lifeless. Medical aid was sought for him without delay; but he was quite dead. The unhappy youth had plunged his awl into his heart, and the tool was sticking in the wound.
(The Spiritist Society of Paris, August 1858)
1. (To the spirit of Saint Louis.) Is the young woman, who was the involuntary cause of the death of her betrothed, responsible for the event?
A. Yes,for she did not love him.
2. Ought she, to prevent the catastrophe, to have married him, despite her repugnance for this union?
A. She was seeking an occasion for breaking off the match. She did, at the beginning of their intimacy, what she would have done later, had she married him.
3. You mean, then, that her culpability consists in having encouraged an affection that she did not share and of having thus been, unintentionally, the cause of the young man’s death?
A. Yes, that was it.
4. In that case, her responsibility must be less than it would have been if she had caused his death intentionally?
A. Evidently so.
5. Is the suicide of Louis G—– excused by the sort of insanity onto which he was thrown by the obstinacy of Victorine’s refusal to forgive him?
A. Yes, for his suicide, prompted by the violence of disappointed affection, is less criminal in the sight of God than is the suicide of him who casts away his life from a sentiment of cowardice.
The spirit of Louis G—– having been evoked subsequent meeting, the following conversation was held with him: –
1. What do you now think of your action?
A. Victorine is an ungrateful creature. It was very foolish of me to kill myself for her; she was not worth the sacrifice!
2. Did she not love you?
A. No, she fancied that she did, but she deceived herself. The scene I provoked opened her eyes, and she was glad to seize on that pretext for getting rid of me.
3. Did you really love her?
A. I was passionately in love with her; but I think that was all. If I had loved her with a pure and true affection, I should not have been willing to cause her pain.
4. If she had known that you would really kill yourself, would she have persisted in her refusal?
A. I don’t know; I think not, for she is not bad-hearted; but she would have been unhappy; it is better for her that the thing ended as it did.
5. On coming to her door, had you the intention of killing yourself if she refused to receive you?
A. No, I had no such though; I did not think she would be so obstinate. It was only when I saw her obstinacy that a sort of madness took hold of me.
6. You seem only to regret your suicide because Victorine was not worth it; is that the only feeling you have about it?
A. Just now, yes, for I am still in a state of confusion. It seems to me that I am still outside her door. But I feel something else that I cannot define.
7. Will you understand it in course of time?
A. Yes, when my mind becomes clearer...What I did was wrong...I ought to have left her in peace...I was weak, and I am suffering the consequences...Anger blinds a man and makes him do many foolish things. He understands this when it is too late!
8. You say you are suffering the consequences of your weakness; what is your suffering?
A. I did wrong in shortening my life; I ought not to have done so; I ought to have borne everything rather than put an end to it before the proper time. And, besides, I am unhappy; I suffer; and it is still she who makes me suffer; I seem to be still there, at her door; the ungrateful girl! Don’t speak of her; I don’t want to think of her; it pains me too much, Farewell.
We here behold a new proof of the distributive justice that regulates the punishment of the guilty according to the degree of his culpability. In the case we are considering, the beginning of the wrongdoing was with the young woman, who encouraged on the part of Louis G—— an affection that she did not share and with which she trifled; she will therefore bear the heaviest part of the responsibility of his fault. As for the young man, he is punished also by the sufferings he endures; but his penalty is comparatively light, because he only yielded to a sudden impulse in a moment of strong excitement, very different from the cool premeditation of those who kill themselves for the express purpose of shirking the appointed trials of their lives.