‘The Legend of The Devil's Treasure’
Auguste de Labouļsse-Rochefort

Paul Smith

Revised 9 April 2017

Unattested to before being mentioned by Auguste de Labouïsse-Rochefort in his book Voyage à Rennes-les-Bains published in 1832 (possibly first written in 1803, just after his marriage in 1802 to Eleonore Musard de Saint-Michel, a composer of sonnets), ‘The Legend of the Devil’s Treasure’ is a tale about a wizard who partly succeeded in stealing some of the Devil's wealth, only to lose it again. Labouïsse-Rochefort's father-in-law was a self-made millionaire who later lost most of his fortune (thus explaining what inspired the legend).

Labouïsse-Rochefort became a member of the Arcadian Academy in 1832, commenting: “A Shepherd of Arcady by the gentle inclination of my heart, I could not help but want to be a member of this illustrious Arcadian Academy” (Remerciement à l'Académie des Arcades de Rome, Castelnaudary, G. P. Labadie, 8 pages, 16 Septembre 1832)

From Voyage ą Rennes-les-Bains pages 469-471 (1832):

Very near to us were the remains of the fortress of Blanchefort, where for a long time the Devil kept guard over an immense treasure. The country people thought that it definitely consisted of 19½ million in gold, without however knowing whether this consisted of gold sheep, gold cows, gold tokens or “Louis d’or” (20 franc piece). – Here is how the great affair was discovered.

One day, when the Devil had some time to spare (this was before the Revolution) and when it was sunny weather, he began to spread out the 19½ million over the mountain. A young local shepherdess, who had risen that morning, witnessed these huge piles of lovely, very shiny money. She was surprised, moved, troubled, she ran back and called her mother, father, aunt, uncle… – They came running. – But the Devil was swift and it had all disappeared.

However, the good news had spread to the village; there was intrigue, excitement, animation... – Several inhabitants agreed on a plan, banded together and made up their minds to go and consult a wizard. The plan was carried out and he was informed of the marvelous discovery. The wizard wasn’t a fool, he specified first that he was to be given half the treasure when when it had been attained, and that beforehand he needed four or five hundred francs to prepare for his journey. The money was counted out, they set out, they arrived. The wizard warns them that he is going to fight against the Devil, and that when he calls, somebody must come to his aid to defeat the Devil. – Everybody promises to be brave and go to their places. The wizard makes some passes, invocations, threats; he traces circles and strange figures.

Suddenly a great noise is heard… The people become frightened; they flee… As if from a hail of shots or stones!… In vain does the wizard cry for help, Help me! Help me!… He is left calling, with the outcome of the conflict unknown. – He reappeared at last, a long time afterwards, unhappy, panting, covered in dust; he complains that he was abandoned, that he had already overwhelmed the Devil once and that if someone had come running to his call, victory would have been achieved… and the purse gained. – He reproached them for their cowardice and left muttering and murmuring for Limoux, after having earned, at little cost, the five hundred francs which had been promised him. – The annoying thing about this affair was that M. de Fleury, then Lord of the villages of Montferrand, Bains, Rennes, as well as the ruins of Blanchefort, wanted to bring an action against them for having attempted to violate his lands…

But as the millions were imaginary, his anger abated, and the Devil held on to his treasure, which they had attempted to take from him.

Wretched, naked,
Forehead bald and mis-shapen,
Armed with a halberd,
At the foot of this snow-capped mountain,
The Angel of the bastard-race,
With his dry and absurd tune,
Keeps constantly under his guard,
This immense revenue,
Which I watch from this rock,
As if I had come,
To mount guard for it,
And steal those contents,
Which to surrender he cannot be far from.