The name “Mas Du Diable” directly translates to “the Devil’s Farmhouse”. There are many local tales of how the house came by this name. Two of these have been published in books.
One book is called, “Le mas du diable, récits et portraits cévenols d’hier et d’aujourd’hui” by Jean Bouchon, which contains a short story about the people who lived here and how the house came to be known as the Mas du Diable. There is also a book about the house and its history called “Le Mas Du Diable” by Brigitte Mathieu in 1993, about the history of the house and how La Métairie de Malbos (The Small holding of Malbos) came to be known as Mas du Diable.
Le Mas Du Diable
This is a translation from the French, of the short story in récits et portraits cévenols d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, which our friend Douglas kindly did for us.
At the end of the valley of the Auzon, close to the hamlet of Cessous there was once the smallholding of ‘Malbosc’.
This desolate place had been abandoned for years to the brambles and bad weather until one day in 1775 a bold local peasant Antoine Dugas decided to rent the land and buildings from the Baron d’Aigremont, its owner, in order to settle his family there. This good working man was well versed in working the fields even if he was not too bright. As we say now he didn’t wear the trousers in the house or outside. Nevertheless, sure of what he was doing he borrowed some money from a certain M Bargeton from Cessus, and set to work.
By force of his labours our good man soon put a fine face on his property and his land began to be productive; his pigs fattened up and his barn well filled.
Soon however his neighbour, M Sugier, became jealous of Dugas’ success and he began to steal from his harvests and made life difficult. Hate set in between the two.
When Dugas took on a domestic servant, one Savanier, things took a turn for the worse.
This Savanier was pretty unscrupulous and could see that he could profit from the situation between the neighbours. He fell in league with Sugier to take advantage of his simple master.
He convinced Antoine Dugas that he was a wizard who spent time with the devil and he persuaded his master that he could be rid of his neighbour by force of wizardry….. for a few sovereigns. The deal was done and as if by magic Sugier disappeared.
Thus it was until one day in 1778 when poor Antoine Dugas, while working his land, fell into a ravine and broke his back.
Our man was paralysed.
Now confined to bed he was at the mercy of the scoundrels.
One night, in deep darkness everything started to shake around the property. Mysterious shadows, terrible noises, diabolical laughter, the sound of breaking branches…… Suddenly the cry of a wolf. The family were afraid! Terrified in his bed Dugas called on Savanier to help them. The good-for-nothing set to to take advantage of this comedy he had set up with some accomplices – including Sugier.
The author of this din is none other than the devil he insisted, “he has come to collect his payment for having got rid of Sugier. He is threatening to take away the Dugas family.
“What do I have to do to prevent him? Trembled Dugas
Everything went. The sausages, bacon, walnuts, chestnuts… all flew out of the window.
Satisfied, the devil disappeared with his booty. But the following night he was back, wanting even more and even more menacing. Dugas was more and more afraid, to the point that his wife and children fled leaving the unfortunate paraplegic terrified on his couch.
Soon, the villainous band, laughing at the panic of their victims, were feasting at their expense.
It was then that Bargeton the creditor reappeared. This cunning one found Dugas and charitably proposed that his own wife and elder son should come and stay to look after him. Dugas, moved by his kindness thanked him.
But the devil was still hanging around and when Antoine Dugas was completely demoralised Bargeton pesruaded him to fetch the notaire and transfer the lease on the property of Malbosc to him at a derisory sum, reduced by the outstanding debt and interest!
Thus Bargeton took the place of Dugas in this property which the latter had worked over the years to improve, but even more, he took charge of all that was still there: two sheep, several barrels of wine, chestnuts and even the modest house … the whole smallholding.
Bargeton had got a ‘good deal’ and had a good laugh.
Several days later, worn out and paralysed the unfortunate Dugas was carried off on a ladder to the home of a distant relative and Bargeton, proud of his craftiness went around boasting of his exploits.
Thus word of the affair spread.
Certain tongues stared to wag It wasn’t the first time that Bargeton had taken advantage like this. Witnesses, more and more numerous, began to complain before the legal authorities.
Condemned by these accusations Bargeton was called before the judge.
The trial lasted for years at the end of which his wife, his son and Bargeton, together with their accomplices were found guilty; some went to prison others were fined.
But Dugas never got his property back as in the meantime he had died, poor and full of shame.
Since then honest people have taken over the smallholding of Malbosc which ever since has taken the evocative name of the ‘Mas du Diable’.