All Things Are Lights – Day 96 of 200

But how did Hugues know so much? Most of those she had contacted in Paris did not even know her name. Ah, but her appearance, that was harder to conceal. And if the friars’ records showed she was not burned at Mont Segur and they knew what she looked like, they could identify her from a description given by an informer in Paris.

“How did you contact your superior?” Hugues said again.

“I have nothing to say.”

“How long were you in Paris? Why did you leave?”

“I will not tell you.”

Again he stepped closer. “Where did you live in Paris?”

She did not answer. Her heart was thudding so hard that she thought — hoped — it might burst. That would be the greatest blessing ever.

Hugues said, “I will repeat certain names to you. You will tell me whether or not you know these persons. The first is Guillaume Bourdon, the bookseller.”

She felt as if she were hurtling down from a precipice. Oh, God, no! Not names. What if she recognized a name? How could she stop herself from giving it away? She dug her nails into her palms, praying that she would not betray anyone.


He went on through a long list. Most were people she had never heard of. Some, to her horror, were members of her little secret congregations scattered about Paris. How did he know about them? His network of agents? Yes, he had said he had almost found her, too.

But why Paris? Was not Toulouse his territory?

To each name she answered no. He held the candle near her face, closely watching her reaction.

I am a fool to think I can best him. He is a master at this. She felt despair weakening her, draining away her last reserve of strength.

Then he said, “Roland de Vency, the troubadour. “

Involuntarily, her head jerked up and she found herself staring at him. Quickly she lowered her eyes and forced her face to relax. But he had seen, and when she looked at him again, he wore that triumphant grin.

Then the grin faded, to be replaced by another expression, almost like pain. She had seen that look on a man’s face before. More than once Roland had looked at her that way.

“You are a beautiful, intelligent, strong-willed woman, Diane,” Hugues said. “You are God’s creation, even if the Devil has twisted you to his purposes. I cannot help admiring you.” He moved forward and sat down beside her.

She shrank away from him along the curving wall of the chamber.

“Diane, a priest is still a man. And a perfecta is still a woman, eh?” He seemed to be trying to laugh, but it came out as a series of hoarse grunts. She saw sweat gleaming on his forehead in the candlelight. He was losing his composure.

“I know you are pure, Diane. But have you never loved a man? Wanted one? Wondered what it was like? You must have. I want you because you are so pure — so untouched. Will you let me do what I want? I can help you. Think of the power I have. I can say a word, and you will not suffer at all. If you are very good to me, I can even save your life.”

His voice was soft, serpentine. And she felt disgusted, nauseated, as if she had suddenly found a snake in the straw with her.

Why had his mood changed so suddenly? Had this lust been lurking all the time under his stern inquisitor’s manner? Or did he hope to learn more from her by threatening her chastity? Did he hope that if he succeeded in persuading her to break her vow, she would be so weakened that she would betray her faith and friends?

“Come, Diane,” he said insinuatingly. “You have kept away from men all your life for all the wrong reasons. For a person like you to discover the pleasure of the body would be a small sin. It might even bring you closer to God.”

His false reasoning made her angry.

“God did not create the pleasure of the body,” she said scornfully.

He stood up. “You Cathars sin against God when you say that the body is evil. That is why God will forgive me for what I do with you.”

He blew out the candle.

God help me, if this priest tries to rape me, do I have the strength to fight him off?

“Even if you think me in error,” she pleaded, “you know what a vow of chastity is. Can you not respect my vow?”

“Respect the vow of a heretic?” His voice came contemptuously from the dark. “You made your vow to a false God. I may do whatever I want to a heretic. God will approve.”

She heard the rattle of the prayer beads wrapped around his waist as he moved toward her.

“Truly your God approves of rape,” she said, no longer caring how she might provoke him.

As he threw himself at her and bore her down, she realized that if only she had remained quiet, she might have, for a time at least, evaded him in the darkness. The smell of him, of sweat, meat, and wine, was hideous, sickening. He pressed his damp face against her, the stubble of his beard rasping her cheek. He pushed her onto her back and rolled on top of her. She felt his distended member pressing into her thighs like a club. He was panting like an animal. She felt as if she had suddenly become entangled with a rotting corpse.

“You disgust me,” she spat at him. “Filthy! Dirty!” All her rage and pain knotted her stomach, and she began to retch. There was nothing in her stomach but its own juices, and she vomited the burning liquid into the straw beside her head. The stench of her vomit mingled with the smell of Hugues made her sicker still. He was clawing at her skirt, dragging it up, pushing his knees between her legs. Coughing, choking, she began to pray, to give her strength as she fought him.

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