The History of the Silver Child
The History of the Silver Child
About this time, M. Baron, counsellor of the Cour Royale of Nismes, formed the plan of dedicating to God a silver child, if the Duchess d'Angouleme would give a prince to France. This project was converted into a public religious vow, which was the subject of conversation both in public and private, whilst persons, whose imaginations were inflamed by these proceedings, ran about the streets crying Vivent les Boubons, or "the Bourbons forever." In consequence of this superstitious frenzy, it is said that at Alais women were advised and insigated to poison their Protestant husbands, and at length it was found convenient to accuse them of political crimes. They could no longer appear in public without insults and injuries. When the mobs met with Protestants, they seized them, and danced round them with barbarous joy, and amidst repeated cries of Vive le Roi, they sang verses, the burden of which was, "We will wash our hands in Protestant blood, and make black puddings of the blood of Calvin's children."
The citizens who came to the promenades for air and refreshment from the close and dirty streets were chased with shouts of Vive le Roi, as if those shouts were to justify every excess. If Protestants referred to the charter, they were directly assured it would be of no use to them, and that they had only been managed to be more effectually destroyed. Persons of rank were heard to say in the public streets, "All the Huguenots must be killed; this time their children must be killed, that none of the accursed race may remain."
Still, it is true, they were not murdered, but cruelly treated; Protestant children could no longer mix in the sports of Catholics, and were not even permitted to appear without their parents. At dark their families shut themselves up in their apartments; but even then stones were thrown against their windows. When they arose in the mornin it was not uncommon to find gibbets drawn on their doors or walls; and in the streets the Catholics held cords already soaped before their eyes, and pointed out the instruments by which they hoped and designed to exterminate them. Small gallows or models were handed about, and a man who lived opposite to one of the pastors, exhibited one of these models in his window, and made signs sufficiently intelligible when the minister passed. A figure representing a Protestant preacher was also hung up on a public crossway, and the most atrocious songs were sung under his window.
Towards the conclusion of the carnival, a plan had even been formed to make a caricature of the four ministers of the place, and burn them in effigy; but this was prevented by the mayor of Nismes, a Protestant. A dreadful song presented to the prefect, in the country dialect, with a false translation, was printed by his approval, and had a great run before he saw the extent of the error into which he had been betrayed. The sixty-third regiment of the line was publicly censured and insulted, for having, according to order, protected Protestants. In fact, the Protestants seemed to be as sheep destined for the slaughter.