Mother Marie-Thérèse Vauzou
February 2, 1899
Mother Marie-Thérèse Vauzou, once the mistress of novices at the Convent of Saint-Gildard but now her order's superior general, judiciously lowered her bulk into the very armchair in which her former charge, Bernadette Soubirous, had died so many years before. The elderly nun was not padded so much as plated with fat, like a stately rhinoceros. The angle of the chair was intended to promote reclining. Nevertheless, the Benedictine brother charged with taking the superior general's testimony understood that Mother Vauzou was determined to sit erect, which feat, after some adjustment and repositioning, she managed to accomplish. Now, perched on the edge of the chair, one liver-spotted hand folded over the other in her lap, she might have appeared quite composed were it not for a tic that made her right cheek jump every few seconds.
"So, if I'm to understand you correctly, Brother, they are talking of canonizing the little Soubirous?" Mother Vauzou spat out the question like a bad taste.
"They are," the Benedictine conceded.
She turned to look at him; her large face, wreathed in a wimple of starched white linen, hovered like a full moon over the blackness of her habit. She had wide-open eyes the color of smoked glass and an enormous beaked nose; her expression was disdainful. "A mistake, if you ask me!" the old nun hissed.
September 22, 1909
Thirty years after the interment of the body of Bernadette Soubirous, to whom the Mother of God had appeared eighteen times in the Grotto of Massabielle, just outside the Pyrenean town of Lourdes, the Bishop of Nevers, Monsignor Gauthey, dispatched a messenger with a request that a Dr. David and a Dr. Jourdan attend at an exhumation to take place at the Convent of Saint-Gildard the following week.