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reathing that sea
breeze, so much more invigorating and balsamic as the land is
approached, contemplating all the power of those preparations she was
commissioned to destroy, all the power of that army which she was to
combat alone—she, a woman with a few bags of gold—Milady compared
herself mentally to Judith, the terrible Jewess, when she penetrated
the camp of the Assyrians and beheld the enormous mass of chariots,
horses, men, and arms, which a gesture of her hand was to dissipate
like a cloud of smoke.

They entered the roadstead; but as they drew near in order to cast
anchor, a little cutter, looking like a coastguard formidably armed,
approached the merchant vessel and dropped into the sea a boat which
directed its course to the ladder. This boat contained an officer, a
mate, and eight rowers. The officer alone went on board, where he was
received with all the deference inspired by the uniform.

The officer conversed a few instants with the captain, gave him several
papers, of which he was the bearer, to read, and upon the order of the
merchant captain the whole crew of the vessel, both passengers and
sailors, were called upon deck.

When this species of summons was made the officer inquired aloud the
point of the brig’s departure, its route, its landings; and to all
these questions the captain replied without difficulty and without
hesitation. Then the officer began to pass in review all the people,
one after the other, and stopping when he came to Milady, surveyed her
very closely, but without addressing a single word to her.

He then returned to the captain, said a few words to him, and as if
from that moment the vessel was under his command, he ordered a
maneuver which the crew executed immediately. Then the vessel resumed
its course, still escorted by the little cutter, which sailed side by
side with it, menacing it with the mouths of its six cannon. The boat
followed in the wake of the ship, a speck near the enormous mass.

During the examination of Milady by the officer, as may well be
imagined, Milady on her part was not less scrutinizing in her glances.
But however great was the power of this woman with eyes of flame in
reading the hearts of those whose secrets she wished to divine, she met
this time with a countenance of such impassivity that no discovery
followed her investigation. The officer who had stopped in front of her
and studied her with so much care might have been twenty-five or
twenty-six years of age. He was of pale complexion, with clear blue
eyes, rather deeply set; his mouth, fine and well cut, remained
motionless in its correct lines; his chin, strongly marked, denoted
that strength of will which in the ordinary Britannic type denotes
mostly nothing but obstinacy; a brow a little receding, as is proper
for poets, enthusiasts, and soldiers, was scarcely shaded by short thin
hair which, like the beard which covered the lower part of his face,
was of a beautiful deep chestnut color.

When they entered the port, it was already night. The fog increased the
darkness, and formed round the sternlights and lanterns of the jetty a
circle like that which surrounds the moon when the weather threatens to
become rainy. The air they breathed was heavy, damp, and cold.

Milady, that woman so courageous and firm, shivered in spite of
herself.

The officer desired to have Milady’s packages pointed out to him, and
ordered them to be placed in the boat. When this operation was
complete, he invited her to descend by offering her his hand.

Milady looked at this man, and hesitated. “Who are you, sir,” asked
she, “who has the kindness to trouble yourself so particularly on my
account?”

“You may perceive, madame, by my uniform, that I am an officer in the
English navy,” replied the young man.

“But is it the custom for the officers in the English navy to place
themselves at the service of their female compatriots when they land in
a port of Great Britain, and carry their gallantry so far as to conduct
them ashore?”

“Yes, madame, it is the custom, not from gallantry but prudence, that
in time of war foreigners should be conducted to particular hôtels, in
order that they may remain under the eye of the government until full
information can be obtained about them.”

These words were pronounced with the most exact politeness and the most
perfect calmness. Nevertheless, they had not the power of convincing
Milady.

“But I am not a foreigner, sir,” said she, with an accent as pure as
ever was heard between Portsmouth and Manchester; “my name is Lady
Clarik, and this measure—”

“This measure is general, madame; and you will seek in vain to evade
it.”

“I will follow you, then, sir.”

Accepting the hand of the officer, she began the descent of the ladder,
at the foot of which the boat waited. The officer followed her. A large
cloak was spread at the stern; the officer requested her to sit down
upon this cloak, and placed himself beside her.

“Row!” said he to the sailors.

The eight oars fell at once into the sea, making but a single sound,
giving but a single stroke, and the boat seemed to fly over the surface
of the water.

In five minutes they gained the land.

The officer leaped to the pier, and offered his hand to Milady. A
carriage was in waiting.

“Is this carriage for us?” asked Milady.

“Yes, madame,” replied the officer.

“The hôtel, then, is far away?”

“At the other end of the town.”

“Very well,” said Milady; and she resolutely entered the carriage.

The officer saw that the baggage was fastened carefully behind the
carriage; and this operation ended, he took his place beside Milady,
and shut the door.

Immediately, without any order being given or his place of destination
indicated, the coachman set off at a rapid pace, and plunged into the
streets of the city.

So strange a reception naturally gave Milady ample matter for
reflection; so seeing that the young officer did not seem at all
disposed for conversation, she reclined in her corner of the carriage,
and one after the other passed in review all the surmises which
presented themselves to her mind.

At the end of a quarter of an hour, however, surprised at the length of
the journey, she leaned forward toward the door to see whither she was
being conducted. Houses were no longer to be seen; trees appeared in
the darkness like great black phantoms chasing one another. Milady
shuddered.

“But we are no longer in the city, sir,” said she.

The young officer preserved silence.

“I beg you to understand, sir, I will go no farther unless you tell me
whither you are taking me.”

This threat brought no reply.

“Oh, this is too much,” cried Milady. “Help! help!”

No voice replied to hers; the carriage continued to roll on with
rapidity; the officer seemed a statue.

Milady looked at the officer with one of those terrible expressions
peculiar to her countenance, and which so rarely failed of their
effect; anger made her eyes flash in the darkness.

The young man remained immovable.

Milady tried to open the door in order to throw herself out.

“Take care, madame,” said the young man, coolly, “you will kill
yourself in jumping.”

Milady reseated herself, foaming. The officer leaned forward, looked at
her in his turn, and appeared surprised to see that face, just before
so beautiful, distorted with passion and almost hideous. The artful
creature at once comprehended that she was injuring herself by allowing
him thus to read her soul; she collected her features, and in a
complaining voice said: “In the name of heaven, sir, tell me if it is
to you, if it is to your government, if it is to an enemy I am to
attribute the violence that is done me?”

“No violence will be offered to you, madame, and what happens to you is
the result of a very simple measure which we are obliged to adopt with
all who land in England.”

“Then you don’t know me, sir?”

“It is the first time I have had the honor of seeing you.”

“And on your honor, you have no cause of hatred against me?”

“None, I swear to you.”

There was so much serenity, coolness, mildness even, in the voice of
the young man, that Milady felt reassured.

At length after a journey of nearly an hour, the carriage stopped
before an iron gate, which closed an avenue leading to a castle severe
in form, massive, and isolated. Then, as the wheels rolled over a fine
gravel, Milady could hear a vast roaring, which she at once recognized
as the noise of the sea dashing against some steep cliff.

The carriage passed under two arched gateways, and at length stopped in
a court large, dark, and square. Almost immediately the door of the
carriage was opened, the young man sprang lightly out and presented his
hand to Milady, who leaned upon it, and in her turn alighted with
tolerable calmness.

“Still, then, I am a prisoner,” said Milady, looking around her, and
bringing back her eyes with a most gracious smile to the young officer;
“but I feel assured it will not be for long,” added she. “My own
conscience and your politeness, sir, are the guarantees of that.”

However flattering this compliment, the officer made no reply; but
drawing from his belt a little silver whistle, such as boatswains use
in ships of war, he whistled three times, with three different
modulations. Immediately several men appeared, who unharnessed the
smoking horses, and put the carriage into a coach house.

Then the officer, with the same calm politeness, invited his prisoner
to enter the house. She, with a still-smiling countenance, took his
arm, and passed with him under a low arched door, which by a vaulted
passage, lighted only at the farther end, led to a stone staircase
around an angle of stone. They then came to a massive door, which after
the introduction into the lock of a key which the young man carried
with him, turned heavily upon its hinges, and disclosed the chamber
destined for Milady.

With a single glance the prisoner took in the apartment in its minutest
details. It was a chamber whose furniture was at once appropriate for a
prisoner or a free man; and yet bars at the windows and outside bolts
at the door decided the question in favor of the prison.

In an instant all the strength of mind of this creature, though drawn
from the most vigorous sources, abandoned her; she sank into a large
easy chair, with her arms crossed, her head lowered, and expecting
every instant to see a judge enter to interrogate her.

But no one entered except two or three marines, who brought her trunks
and packages, deposited them in a corner, and retired without speaking.

The officer superintended all these details with the same calmness
Milady had constantly seen in him, never pronouncing a word himself,
and making himself obeyed by a gesture of his hand or a sound of his
whistle.

It might have been said that between this man and his inferiors spoken
language did not exist, or had become useless.

At length Milady could hold out no longer; she broke the silence. “In
the name of heaven, sir,” cried she, “what means all that is passing?
Put an end to my doubts; I have courage enough for any danger I can
foresee, for every misfortune which I understand. Where am I, and why
am I here? If I am free, why these bars and these doors? If I am a
prisoner, what crime have I committed?”

“You are here in the apartment destined for you, madame. I received
orders to go and take charge of you on the sea, and to conduct you to
this castle. This order I believe I have accomplished with all the
exactness of a soldier, but also with the courtesy of a gentleman.
There terminates, at least to the present moment, the duty I had to
fulfill toward you; the rest concerns another person.”

“And who is that other person?” asked Milady, warmly. “Can you not tell
me his name?”

At the moment a great jingling of spurs was heard on the stairs. Some
voices passed and faded away, and the sound of a single footstep
approached the door.

“That person is here, madame,” said the officer, leaving the entrance
open, and drawing himself up in an attitude of respect.

At the same time the door opened; a man appeared on the threshold. He
was without a hat, carried a sword, and flourished a handkerchief in
his hand.

Milady thought she recognized this shadow in the gloom; she supported
herself with one hand upon the arm of the chair, and advanced her head
as if to meet a certainty.

The stranger advanced slowly, and as he advanced, after entering into
the circle of light projected by the lamp, Milady involuntarily drew
back.

Then when she had no longer any doubt, she cried, in a state of stupor,
“What, my brother, is it you?”

“Yes, fair lady!” replied Lord de Winter, making a bow, half courteous,
half ironical; “it is I, myself.”

“But this castle, then?”

“Is mine.”

“This chamber?”

“Is yours.”

“I am, then, your prisoner?”

“Nearly so.”

“But this is a frightful abuse of power!”

“No high-sounding words! Let us sit down and chat quietly, as brother
and sister ought to do.”

Then, turning toward the door, and seeing that the young officer was
waiting for his last orders, he said. “All is well, I thank you; now
leave us alone, Mr. Felton.”

Chapter L.
CHAT BETWEEN BROTHER AND SISTER

During the time which Lord de Winter took to shut the door, close a
shutter, and draw a chair near to his sister-in-law’s _fauteuil_,
Milady, anxiously thoughtful, plunged her glance into the depths of
possibility, and discovered all the plan, of which she could not even
obtain a glance as long as she was ignorant into whose hands she had
fallen. She knew her brother-in-law to be a worthy gentleman, a bold
hunter, an intrepid player, enterprising with women, but by no means
remarkable for his skill in intrigues. How had he discovered her
arrival, and caused her to be seized? Why did he detain her?

Athos had dropped some words which proved that the conversation she had
with the cardinal had fallen into outside ears; but she could not
suppose that he had dug a countermine so promptly and so boldly. She
rather feared that her preceding operations in England might have been
discovered. Buckingham might have guessed that it was she who had cut
off the two studs, and avenge himself for that little treachery; but
Buckingham was incapable of going to any excess against a woman,
particularly if that woman was supposed to have acted from a feeling of
jealousy.

This supposition appeared to her most reasonable. It seemed to her that
they wanted to revenge the past, and not to anticipate the future. At
all events, she congratulated herself upon having fallen into the hands
of her brother-in-law, with whom she reckoned she could deal very
easily, rather than into the hands of an acknowledged and intelligent
enemy.

“Yes, let us chat, brother,” said she, with a kind of cheerfulness,
decided as she was to draw from the conversation, in spite of all the
dissimulation Lord de Winter could bring, the revelations of which she
stood in need to regulate her future conduct.

“You have, then, decided to come to England again,” said Lord de
Winter, “in spite of the resolutions you so often expressed in Paris
never to set your feet on British ground?”

Milady replied to this question by another question. “To begin with,
tell me,” said she, “how have you watched me so closely as to be aware
beforehand not only of my arrival, but even of the day, the hour, and
the port at which I should arrive?”

Lord de Winter adopted the same tactics as Milady, thinking that as his
sister-in-law employed them they must be the best.

“But tell me, my dear sister,” replied he, “what makes you come to
England?”

“I come to see you,” replied Milady, without knowing how much she
aggravated by this reply the suspicions to which D’Artagnan’s letter
had given birth in the mind of her brother-in-law, and only desiring to
gain the good will of her auditor by a falsehood.

“Ah, to see me?” said de Winter, cunningly.

“To be sure, to see you. What is there astonishing in that?”

“And you had no other object in coming to England but to see me?”

“No.”

“So it was for me alone you have taken the trouble to cross the
Channel?”

“For you alone.”

“The deuce! What tenderness, my sister!”

“But am I not your nearest relative?” demanded Milady, with a tone of
the most touching ingenuousness.

“And my only heir, are you not?” said Lord de Winter in his turn,
fixing his eyes on those of Milady.

Whatever command she had over herself, Milady could not help starting;
and as in pronouncing the last words Lord de Winter placed his hand
upon the arm of his sister, this start did not escape him.

In fact, the blow was direct and severe. The first idea that occurred
to Milady’s mind was that she had been betrayed by Kitty, and that she
had recounted to the baron the selfish aversion toward himself of which
she had imprudently allowed some marks to escape before her servant.
She also recollected the furious and imprudent attack she had made upon
D’Artagnan when he spared the life of her brother.

“I do not understand, my Lord,” said she, in order to gain time and
make her adversary speak out. “What do you mean to say? Is there any
secret meaning concealed beneath your words?”

“Oh, my God, no!” said Lord de Winter, with apparent good nature. “You
wish to see me, and you come to England. I learn this desire, or rather
I suspect that you feel it; and in order to spare you all the
annoyances of a nocturnal arrival in a port and all the fatigues of
landing, I send one of my officers to meet you, I place a carriage at
his orders, and he brings you hither to this castle, of which I am
governor, whither I come every day, and where, in order to satisfy our
mutual desire of seeing each other, I have prepared you a chamber. What
is there more astonishing in all that I have said to you than in what
you have told me?”

“No; what I think astonishing is that you should expect my coming.”

“And yet that is the most simple thing in the world, my dear sister.
Have you not observed that the captain of your little vessel, on
entering the roadstead, sent forward, in order to obtain permission to
enter the port, a little boat bearing his logbook and the register of
his voyagers? I am commandant of the port. They brought me that book. I
recognized your name in it. My heart told me what your mouth has just
confirmed—that is to say, with what view you have exposed yourself to
the dangers of a sea so perilous, or at least so troublesome at this
moment—and I sent my cutter to meet you. You know the rest.”

Milady knew that Lord de Winter lied, and she was the more alarmed.

“My brother,” continued she, “was not that my Lord Buckingham whom I
saw on the jetty this evening as we arrived?”

“Himself. Ah, I can understand how the sight of him struck you,”
replied Lord de Winter. “You came from a country where he must be very
much talked of, and I know that his armaments against France greatly
engage the attention of your friend the cardinal.”

“My friend the cardinal!” cried Milady, seeing that on this point as on
the other Lord de Winter seemed well instructed.

“Is he not your friend?” replied the baron, negligently. “Ah, pardon! I
thought so; but we will return to my Lord Duke presently. Let us not
depart from the sentimental turn our conversation had taken. You came,
you say, to see me?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I reply that you shall be served to the height of your wishes,
and that we shall see each other every day.”

“Am I, then, to remain here eternally?” demanded Milady, with a certain
terror.

“Do you find yourself badly lodged, sister? Demand anything you want,
and I will hasten to have you furnished with it.”

“But I have neither my women nor my servants.”

“You shall have all, madame. Tell me on what footing your household was
established by your first husband, and although I am only your
brother-in-law, I will arrange one similar.”

“My first husband!” cried Milady, looking at Lord de Winter with eyes
almost starting from their sockets.

“Yes, your French husband. I don’t speak of my brother. If you have
forgotten, as he is still living, I can write to him and he will send
me information on the subject.”

A cold sweat burst from the brow of Milady.

“You jest!” said she, in a hollow voice.

“Do I look so?” asked the baron, rising and going a step backward.

“Or rather you insult me,” continued she, pressing with her stiffened
hands the two arms of her easy chair, and raising herself upon her
wrists.

“I insult you!” said Lord de Winter, with contempt. “In truth, madame,
do you think that can be possible?”

“Indeed, sir,” said Milady, “you must be either drunk or mad. Leave the
room, and send me a woman.”

“Women are very indiscreet, my sister. Cannot I serve you as a waiting
maid? By that means all our secrets will remain in the family.”

“Insolent!” cried Milady; and as if acted upon by a spring, she bounded
toward the baron, who awaited her attack with his arms crossed, but
nevertheless with one hand on the hilt of his sword.

“Come!” said he. “I know you are accustomed to assassinate people; but
I warn you I shall defend myself, even against you.”

“You are right,” said Milady. “You have all the appearance of being
cowardly enough to lift your hand against a woman.”

“Perhaps so; and I have an excuse, for mine would not be the first hand
of a man that has been placed upon you, I imagine.”

And the baron pointed, with a slow and accusing gesture, to the left
shoulder of Milady, which he almost touched with his finger.

Milady uttered a deep, inward shriek, and retreated to a corner of the
room like a panther which crouches for a spring.

“Oh, growl as much as you please,” cried Lord de Winter, “but don’t try
to bite, for I warn you that it would be to your disadvantage. There
are here no procurators who regulate successions beforehand. There is
no knight-errant to come and seek a quarrel with me on account of the
fair lady I detain a prisoner; but I have judges quite ready who will
quickly dispose of a woman so shameless as to glide, a bigamist, into
the bed of Lord de Winter, my brother. And these judges, I warn you,
will soon send you to an executioner who will make both your shoulders
alike.”

The eyes of Milady darted such flashes that although he was a man and
armed before an unarmed woman, he felt the chill of fear glide through
his whole frame. However, he continued all the same, but with
increasing warmth: “Yes, I can very well understand that after having
inherited the fortune of my brother it would be very agreeable to you
to be my heir likewise; but know beforehand, if you kill me or cause me
to be killed, my precautions are taken. Not a penny of what I possess
will pass into your hands. Were you not already rich enough—you who
possess nearly a million? And could you not stop your fatal career, if
you did not do evil for the infinite and supreme joy of doing it? Oh,
be assured, if the memory of my brother were not sacred to me, you
should rot in a state dungeon or satisfy the curiosity of sailors at
Tyburn. I will be silent, but you must endure your captivity quietly.
In fifteen or twenty days I shall set out for La Rochelle with the
army; but on the eve of my departure a vessel which I shall see depart
will take you hence and convey you to our colonies in the south. And be
assured that you shall be accompanied by one who will blow your brains
out at the first attempt you make to return to England or the
Continent.”

Milady listened with an attention that dilated her inflamed eyes.

“Yes, at present,” continued Lord de Winter, “you will remain in this
castle. The walls are thick, the doors strong, and the bars solid;
besides, your window opens immediately over the sea. The men of my
crew, who are devoted to me for life and death, mount guard around this
apartment, and watch all the passages that lead to the courtyard. Even
if you gained the yard, there would still be three iron gates for you
to pass. The order is positive. A step, a gesture, a word, on your
part, denoting an effort to escape, and you are to be fired upon. If
they kill you, English justice will be under an obligation to me for
having saved it trouble. Ah! I see your features regain their calmness,
your countenance recovers its assurance. You are saying to yourself:
‘Fifteen days, twenty days? Bah! I have an inventive mind; before that
is expired some idea will occur to me. I have an infernal spirit. I
shall meet with a victim. Before fifteen days are gone by I shall be
away from here.’ Ah, try it!”

Milady, finding her thoughts betrayed, dug her nails into her flesh to
subdue every emotion that might give to her face any expression except
agony.

Lord de Winter continued: “The officer who commands here in my absence
you have already seen, and therefore know him. He knows how, as you
must have observed, to obey an order—for you did not, I am sure, come
from Portsmouth hither without endeavoring to make him speak. What do
you say of him? Could a statue of marble have been more impassive and
more mute? You have already tried the power of your seductions upon
many men, and unfortunately you have always succeeded; but I give you
leave to try them upon this one. _Pardieu!_ if you succeed with him, I
pronounce you the demon himself.”

He went toward the door and opened it hastily.

“Call Mr. Felton,” said he. “Wait a minute longer, and I will introduce
him to you.”

There followed between these two personages a strange silence, during
which the sound of a slow and regular step was heard approaching.
Shortly a human form appeared in the shade of the corridor, and the
young lieutenant, with whom we are already acquainted, stopped at the
threshold to receive the orders of the baron.

“Come in, my dear John,” said Lord de Winter, “come in, and shut the
door.”

The young officer entered.

“Now,” said the baron, “look at this woman. She is young; she is
beautiful; she possesses all earthly seductions. Well, she is a
monster, who, at twenty-five years of age, has been guilty of as many
crimes as you could read of in a year in the archives of our tribunals.
Her voice prejudices her hearers in her favor; her beauty serves as a
bait to her victims; her body even pays what she promises—I must do her
that justice. She will try to seduce you, perhaps she will try to kill
you. I have extricated you from misery, Felton; I have caused you to be
named lieutenant; I once saved your life, you know on what occasion. I
am for you not only a protector, but a friend; not only a benefactor,
but a father. This woman has come back again into England for the
purpose of conspiring against my life. I hold this serpent in my hands.
Well, I call you, and say to you: Friend Felton, John, my child, guard
me, and more particularly guard yourself, against this woman. Swear, by
your hopes of salvation, to keep her safely for the chastisement she
has merited. John Felton, I trust your word! John Felton, I put faith
in your loyalty!”

“My Lord,” said the young officer, summoning to his mild countenance
all the hatred he could find in his heart, “my Lord, I swear all shall
be done as you desire.”

Milady received this look like a resigned victim; it was impossible to
imagine a more submissive or a more mild expression than that which
prevailed on her beautiful countenance. Lord de Winter himself could
scarcely recognize the tigress who, a minute before, prepared
apparently for a fight.

“She is not to leave this chamber, understand, John,” continued the
baron. “She is to correspond with nobody; she is to speak to no one but
you—if you will do her the honor to address a word to her.”

“That is sufficient, my Lord! I have sworn.”

“And now, madame, try to make your peace with God, for you are judged
by men!”

Milady let her head sink, as if crushed by this sentence. Lord de
Winter went out, making a sign to Felton, who followed him, shutting
the door after him.

One instant after, the heavy step of a marine who served as sentinel
was heard in the corridor—his ax in his girdle and his musket on his
shoulder.

Milady remained for some minutes in the same position, for she thought
they might perhaps be examining her through the keyhole; she then
slowly raised her head, which had resumed its formidable expression of
menace and defiance, ran to the door to listen, looked out of her
window, and returning to bury herself again in her large armchair, she
reflected.

Chapter LI.
OFFICER

Meanwhile, the cardinal looked anxiously for news from England; but no
news arrived that was not annoying and threatening.

Although La Rochelle was invested, however certain success might
appear—thanks to the precautions taken, and above all to the dyke,
which prevented the entrance of any vessel into the besieged city—the
blockade might last a long time yet. This was a great affront to the
king’s army, and a great inconvenience to the cardinal, who had no
longer, it is true, to embroil Louis XIII. with Anne of Austria—for that
affair was over—but he had to adjust matters for M. de Bassompierre,
who was embroiled with the Duc d’Angoulême.

As to Monsieur, who had begun the siege, he left to the cardinal the
task of finishing it.

The city, notwithstanding the incredible perseverance of its mayor, had
attempted a sort of mutiny for a surrender; the mayor had hanged the
mutineers. This execution quieted the ill-disposed, who resolved to
allow themselves to die of hunger—this death always appearing to them
more slow and less sure than strangulation.

On their side, from time to time, the besiegers took the messengers
which the Rochellais sent to Buckingham, or the spies which Buckingham
sent to the Rochellais. In one case or the other, the trial was soon
over. The cardinal pronounced the single word, “Hanged!” The king was
invited to come and see the hanging. He came languidly, placing himself
in a good situation to see all the details. This amused him sometimes a
little, and made him endure the siege with patience; but it did not
prevent his getting very tired, or from talking at every moment of
returning to Paris—so that if the messengers and the spies had failed,
his Eminence, notwithstanding all his inventiveness, would have found
himself much embarrassed.

Nevertheless, time passed on, and the Rochellais did not surrender. The
last spy that was taken was the bearer of a letter. This letter told
Buckingham that the city was at an extremity; but instead of adding,
“If your succor does not arrive within fifteen days, we will
surrender,” it added, quite simply, “If your succor comes not within
fifteen days, we shall all be dead with hunger when it comes.”

The Rochellais, then, had no hope but in Buckingham. Buckingham was
their Messiah. It was evident that if they one day learned positively
that they must not count on Buckingham, their courage would fail with
their hope.

The cardinal looked, then, with great impatience for the news from
England which would announce to him that Buckingham would not come.

The question of carrying the city by assault, though often debated in
the council of the king, had been always rejected. In the first place,
La Rochelle appeared impregnable. Then the cardinal, whatever he said,
very well knew that the horror of bloodshed in this encounter, in which
Frenchman would combat against Frenchman, was a retrograde movement of
sixty years impressed upon his policy; and the cardinal was at that
period what we now call a man of progress. In fact, the sack of La
Rochelle, and the assassination of three of four thousand Huguenots who
allowed themselves to be killed, would resemble too closely, in 1628,
the massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572; and then, above all this, this
extreme measure, which was not at all repugnant to the king, good
Catholic as he was, always fell before this argument of the besieging
generals—La Rochelle is impregnable except to famine.

The cardinal could not drive from his mind the fear he entertained of
his terrible emissary—for he comprehended the strange qualities of this
woman, sometimes a serpent, sometimes a lion. Had she betrayed him? Was
she dead? He knew her well enough in all cases to know that, whether
acting for or against him, as a friend or an enemy, she would not
remain motionless without great impediments; but whence did these
impediments arise? That was what he could not know.

And yet he reckoned, and with reason, on Milady. He had divined in the
past of this woman terrible things which his red mantle alone could
cover; and he felt, from one cause or another, that this woman was his
own, as she could look to no other but himself for a support superior
to the danger which threatened her.

He resolved, then, to carry on the war alone, and to look for no
success foreign to himself, but as we look for a fortunate chance. He
continued to press the raising of the famous dyke which was to starve
La Rochelle. Meanwhile, he cast his eyes over that unfortunate city,
which contained so much deep misery and so many heroic virtues, and
recalling the saying of Louis XI., his political predecessor, as he
himself was the predecessor of Robespierre, he repeated this maxim of
Tristan’s gossip: “Divide in order to reign.”

Henry IV., when besieging Paris, had loaves and provisions thrown over
the walls. The cardinal had little notes thrown over in which he
represented to the Rochellais how unjust, selfish, and barbarous was
the conduct of their leaders. These leaders had corn in abundance, and
would not let them partake of it; they adopted as a maxim—for they,
too, had maxims—that it was of very little consequence that women,
children, and old men should die, so long as the men who were to defend
the walls remained strong and healthy. Up to that time, whether from
devotedness or from want of power to act against it, this maxim,
without being generally adopted, nevertheless passed from theory into
practice; but the notes did it injury. The notes reminded the men that
the children, women, and old men whom they allowed to die were their
sons, their wives, and their fathers, and that it would be more just
for everyone to be reduced to the common misery, in order that equal
conditions should give birth to unanimous resolutions.

These notes had all the effect that he who wrote them could expect, in
that they induced a great number of the inhabitants to open private
negotiations with the royal army.

But at the moment when the cardinal saw his means already bearing
fruit, and applauded himself for having put it in action, an inhabitant
of La Rochelle who had contrived to pass the royal lines—God knows how,
such was the watchfulness of Bassompierre, Schomberg, and the Duc
d’Angoulême, themselves watched over by the cardinal—an inhabitant of
La Rochelle, we say, entered the city, coming from Portsmouth, and
saying that he had seen a magnificent fleet ready to sail within eight
days. Still further, Buckingham announced to the mayor that at length
the great league was about to declare itself against France, and that
the kingdom would be at once invaded by the English, Imperial, and
Spanish armies. This letter was read publicly in all parts of the city.
Copies were put up at the corners of the streets; and even they who had
begun to open negotiations interrupted them, being resolved to await
the succor so pompously announced.

This unexpected circumstance brought back Richelieu’s former anxiety,
and forced him in spite of himself once more to turn his eyes to the
other side of the sea.

During this time, exempt from the anxiety of its only and true chief,
the royal army led a joyous life, neither provisions nor money being
wanting in the camp. All the corps rivaled one another in audacity and
gaiety. To take spies and hang them, to make hazardous expeditions upon
the dyke or the sea, to imagine wild plans, and to execute them
coolly—such were the pastimes which made the army find these days short
which were not only so long to the Rochellais, a prey to famine and
anxiety, but even to the cardinal, who blockaded them so closely.

Sometimes when the cardinal, always on horseback, like the lowest
_gendarme_ of the army, cast a pensive glance over those works, so
slowly keeping pace with his wishes, which the engineers, brought from
all the corners of France, were executing under his orders, if he met a
Musketeer of the company of Tréville, he drew near and looked at him in
a peculiar manner, and not recognizing in him one of our four
companions, he turned his penetrating look and profound thoughts in
another direction.

One day when oppressed with a mortal weariness of mind, without hope in
the negotiations with the city, without news from England, the cardinal
went out, without any other aim than to be out of doors, and
accompanied only by Cahusac and La Houdinière, strolled along the
beach. Mingling the immensity of his dreams with the immensity of the
ocean, he came, his horse going at a foot’s pace, to a hill from the
top of which he perceived behind a hedge, reclining on the sand and
catching in its passage one of those rays of the sun so rare at this
period of the year, seven men surrounded by empty bottles. Four of
these men were our Musketeers, preparing to listen to a letter one of
them had just received. This letter was so important that it made them
forsake their cards and their dice on the drumhead.

The other three were occupied in opening an enormous flagon of
Collicure wine; these were the lackeys of these gentlemen.

The cardinal was, as we have said, in very low spirits; and nothing
when he was in that state of mind increased his depression so much as
gaiety in others. Besides, he had another strange fancy, which was
always to believe that the causes of his sadness created the gaiety of
others. Making a sign to La Houdinière and Cahusac to stop, he alighted
from his horse, and went toward these suspected merry companions,
hoping, by means of the sand which deadened the sound of his steps and
of the hedge which concealed his approach, to catch some words of this
conversation which appeared so interesting. At ten paces from the hedge
he recognized the talkative Gascon; and as he had already perceived
that these men were Musketeers, he did not doubt that the three others
were those called the Inseparables; that is to say, Athos, Porthos, and
Aramis.

It may be supposed that his desire to hear the conversation was
augmented by this discovery. His eyes took a strange expression, and
with the step of a tiger-cat he advanced toward the hedge; but he had
not been able to catch more than a few vague syllables without any
positive sense, when a sonorous and short cry made him start, and
attracted the attention of the Musketeers.

“Officer!” cried Grimaud.

“You are speaking, you scoundrel!” said Athos, rising upon his elbow,
and transfixing Grimaud with his flaming look.

Grimaud therefore added nothing to his speech, but contented himself
with pointing his index finger in the direction of the hedge,
announcing by this gesture the cardinal and his escort.

With a single bound the Musketeers were on their feet, and saluted with
respect.

The cardinal seemed furious.

“It appears that Messieurs the Musketeers keep guard,” said he. “Are
the English expected by land, or do the Musketeers consider themselves
superior officers?”

“Monseigneur,” replied Athos, for amid the general fright he alone had
preserved the noble calmness and coolness that never forsook him,
“Monseigneur, the Musketeers, when they are not on duty, or when their
duty is over, drink and play at dice, and they are certainly superior
officers to their lackeys.”

“Lackeys?” grumbled the cardinal. “Lackeys who have the order to warn
their masters when anyone passes are not lackeys, they are sentinels.”

“Your Eminence may perceive that if we had not taken this precaution,
we should have been exposed to allowing you to pass without presenting
you our respects or offering you our thanks for the favor you have done
us in uniting us. D’Artagnan,” continued Athos, “you, who but lately
were so anxious for such an opportunity for expressing your gratitude
to Monseigneur, here it is; avail yourself of it.”

These words were pronounced with that imperturbable phlegm which
distinguished Athos in the hour of danger, and with that excessive
politeness which made of him at certain moments a king more majestic
than kings by birth.

D’Artagnan came forward and stammered out a few words of gratitude
which soon expired under the gloomy looks of the cardinal.

“It does not signify, gentlemen,” continued the cardinal, without
appearing to be in the least swerved from his first intention by the
diversion which Athos had started, “it does not signify, gentlemen. I
do not like to have simple soldiers, because they have the advantage of
serving in a privileged corps, thus to play the great lords; discipline
is the same for them as for everybody else.”

Athos allowed the cardinal to finish his sentence completely, and bowed
in sign of assent. Then he resumed in his turn: “Discipline,
Monseigneur, has, I hope, in no way been forgotten by us. We are not on
duty, and we believed that not being on duty we were at liberty to
dispose of our time as we pleased. If we are so fortunate as to have
some particular duty to perform for your Eminence, we are ready to obey
you. Your Eminence may perceive,” continued Athos, knitting his brow,
for this sort of investigation began to annoy him, “that we have not
come out without our arms.”

And he showed the cardinal, with his finger, the four muskets piled
near the drum, on which were the cards and dice.

“Your Eminence may believe,” added D’Artagnan, “that we would have come
to meet you, if we could have supposed it was Monseigneur coming toward
us with so few attendants.”

The cardinal bit his mustache, and even his lips a little.

“Do you know what you look like, all together, as you are armed and
guarded by your lackeys?” said the cardinal. “You look like four
conspirators.”

“Oh, as to that, Monseigneur, it is true,” said Athos; “we do conspire,
as your Eminence might have seen the other morning. Only we conspire
against the Rochellais.”

“Ah, you gentlemen of policy!” replied the cardinal, knitting his brow
in his turn, “the secret of many unknown things might perhaps be found
in your brains, if we could read them as you read that letter which you
concealed as soon as you saw me coming.”

The color mounted to the face of Athos, and he made a step toward his
Eminence.

“One might think you really suspected us, monseigneur, and we were
undergoing a real interrogatory. If it be so, we trust your Eminence
will deign to explain yourself, and we should then at least be
acquainted with our real position.”

“And if it were an interrogatory!” replied the cardinal. “Others
besides you have undergone such, Monsieur Athos, and have replied
thereto.”

“Thus I have told your Eminence that you had but to question us, and we
are ready to reply.”

“What was that letter you were about to read, Monsieur Aramis, and
which you so promptly concealed?”

“A woman’s letter, monseigneur.”

“Ah, yes, I see,” said the cardinal; “we must be discreet with this
sort of letters; but nevertheless, we may show them to a confessor, and
you know I have taken orders.”

“Monseigneur,” said Athos, with a calmness the more terrible because he
risked his head in making this reply, “the letter is a woman’s letter,
but it is neither signed Marion de Lorme, nor Madame d’Aiguillon.”

The cardinal became as pale as death; lightning darted from his eyes.
He turned round as if to give an order to Cahusac and Houdinière. Athos
saw the movement; he made a step toward the muskets, upon which the
other three friends had fixed their eyes, like men ill-disposed to
allow themselves to be taken. The cardinalists were three; the
Musketeers, lackeys included, were seven. He judged that the match
would be so much the less equal, if Athos and his companions were
really plotting; and by one of those rapid turns which he always had at
command, all his anger faded away into a smile.

“Well, well!” said he, “you are brave young men, proud in daylight,
faithful in darkness. We can find no fault with you for watching over
yourselves, when you watch so carefully over others. Gentlemen, I have
not forgotten the night in which you served me as an escort to the Red
Dovecot. If there were any danger to be apprehended on the road I am
going, I would request you to accompany me; but as there is none,
remain where you are, finish your bottles, your game, and your letter.
Adieu, gentlemen!”

And remounting his horse, which Cahusac led to him, he saluted them
with his hand, and rode away.

The four young men, standing and motionless, followed him with their
eyes without speaking a single word until he had disappeared. Then they
looked at one another.

The countenances of all gave evidence of terror, for notwithstanding
the friendly adieu of his Eminence, they plainly perceived that the
cardinal went away with rage in his heart.

Athos alone smiled, with a self-possessed, disdainful smile.

When the cardinal was out of hearing and sight, “That Grimaud kept bad
watch!” cried Porthos, who had a great inclination to vent his
ill-humor on somebody.

Grimaud was about to reply to excuse himself. Athos lifted his finger,
and Grimaud was silent.

“Would you have given up the letter, Aramis?” said D’Artagnan.

“I,” said Aramis, in his most flutelike tone, “I had made up my mind.
If he had insisted upon the letter being given up to him, I would have
presented the letter to him with one hand, and with the other I would
have run my sword through his body.”

“I expected as much,” said Athos; “and that was why I threw myself
between you and him. Indeed, this man is very much to blame for talking
thus to other men; one would say he had never had to do with any but
women and children.”

“My dear Athos, I admire you, but nevertheless we were in the wrong,
after all.”

“How, in the wrong?” said Athos. “Whose, then, is the air we breathe?
Whose is the ocean upon which we look? Whose is the sand upon which we
were reclining? Whose is that letter of your mistress? Do these belong
to the cardinal? Upon my honor, this man fancies the world belongs to
him. There you stood, stammering, stupefied, annihilated. One might
have supposed the Bastille appeared before you, and that the gigantic
Medusa had converted you into stone. Is being in love conspiring? You
are in love with a woman whom the cardinal has caused to be shut up,
and you wish to get her out of the hands of the cardinal. That’s a
match you are playing with his Eminence; this letter is your game. Why
should you expose your game to your adversary? That is never done. Let
him find it out if he can! We can find out his!”

“Well, that’s all very sensible, Athos,” said D’Artagnan.

“In that case, let there be no more question of what’s past, and let
Aramis resume the letter from his cousin where the cardinal interrupted
him.”

Aramis drew the letter from his pocket; the three friends surrounded
him, and the three lackeys grouped themselves again near the wine jar.

“You had only read a line or two,” said D’Artagnan; “read the letter
again from the commencement.”

“Willingly,” said Aramis.

“MY DEAR COUSIN, I think I shall make up my mind to set out for
Béthune, where my sister has placed our little servant in the convent
of the Carmelites; this poor child is quite resigned, as she knows she
cannot live elsewhere without the salvation of her soul being in
danger. Nevertheless, if the affairs of our family are arranged, as we
hope they will be, I believe she will run the risk of being damned, and
will return to those she regrets, particularly as she knows they are
always thinking of her. Meanwhile, she is not very wretched; what she
most desires is a letter from her intended. I know that such viands
pass with difficulty through convent gratings; but after all, as I have
given you proofs, my dear cousin, I am not unskilled in such affairs,
and I will take charge of the commission. My sister thanks you for your
good and eternal remembrance. She has experienced much anxiety; but she
is now at length a little reassured, having sent her secretary away in
order that nothing may happen unexpectedly.
“Adieu, my dear cousin. Tell us news of yourself as often as you
can; that is to say, as often as you can with safety. I embrace
you.

“MARIE MICHON”

“Oh, what do I not owe you, Aramis?” said D’Artagnan. “Dear Constance!
I have at length, then, intelligence of you. She lives; she is in
safety in a convent; she is at Béthune! Where is Béthune, Athos?”

“Why, upon the frontiers of Artois and of Flanders. The siege once
over, we shall be able to make a tour in that direction.”

“And that will not be long, it is to be hoped,” said Porthos; “for they
have this morning hanged a spy who confessed that the Rochellais were
reduced to the leather of their shoes. Supposing that after having
eaten the leather they eat the soles, I cannot see much that is left
unless they eat one another.”

“Poor fools!” said Athos, emptying a glass of excellent Bordeaux wine
which, without having at that period the reputation it now enjoys,
merited it no less, “poor fools! As if the Catholic religion was not
the most advantageous and the most agreeable of all religions! All the
same,” resumed he, after having clicked his tongue against his palate,
“they are brave fellows! But what the devil are you about, Aramis?”
continued Athos. “Why, you are squeezing that letter into your pocket!”

“Yes,” said D’Artagnan, “Athos is right, it must be burned. And yet if
we burn it, who knows whether Monsieur Cardinal has not a secret to
interrogate ashes?”

“He must have one,” said Athos.

“What will you do with the letter, then?” asked Porthos.

“Come here, Grimaud,” said Athos. Grimaud rose and obeyed. “As a
punishment for having spoken without permission, my friend, you will
please to eat this piece of paper; then to recompense you for the
service you will have rendered us, you shall afterward drink this glass
of wine. First, here is the letter. Eat heartily.”

Grimaud smiled; and with his eyes fixed upon the glass which Athos held
in his hand, he ground the paper well between his teeth and then
swallowed it.

“Bravo, Monsieur Grimaud!” said Athos; “and now take this. That’s well.
We dispense with your saying grace.”

Grimaud silently swallowed the glass of Bordeaux wine; but his eyes,
raised toward heaven during this delicious occupation, spoke a language
which, though mute, was not the less expressive.

“And now,” said Athos, “unless Monsieur Cardinal should form the
ingenious idea of ripping up Grimaud, I think we may be pretty much at
our ease respecting the letter.”

Meantime, his Eminence continued his melancholy ride, murmuring between
his mustaches, “These four men must positively be mine.”

Chapter LII.
CAPTIVITY: THE FIRST DAY

Let us return to Milady, whom a glance thrown upon the coast of France
has made us lose sight of for an instant.

We shall find her still in the despairing attitude in which we left
her, plunged in an abyss of dismal reflection—a dark hell at the gate
of which she has almost left hope behind, because for the first time
she doubts, for the first time she fears.

On two occasions her fortune has failed her, on two occasions she has
found herself discovered and betrayed; and on these two occasions it
was to one fatal genius, sent doubtlessly by the Lord to combat her,
that she has succumbed. D’Artagnan has conquered her—her, that
invincible power of evil.

He has deceived her in her love, humbled her in her pride, thwarted her
in her ambition; and now he ruins her fortune, deprives her of liberty,
and even threatens her life. Still more, he has lifted the corner of
her mask—that shield with which she covered herself and which rendered
her so strong.

D’Artagnan has turned aside from Buckingham, whom she hates as she
hates everyone she has loved, the tempest with which Richelieu
threatened him in the person of the queen. D’Artagnan had passed
himself upon her as De Wardes, for whom she had conceived one of those
tigerlike fancies common to women of her character. D’Artagnan knows
that terrible secret which she has sworn no one shall know without
dying. In short, at the moment in which she has just obtained from
Richelieu a _carte blanche_ by the means of which she is about to take
vengeance on her enemy, this precious paper is torn from her hands, and
it is D’Artagnan who holds her prisoner and is about to send her to
some filthy Botany Bay, some infamous Tyburn of the Indian Ocean.

All this she owes to D’Artagnan, without doubt. From whom can come so
many disgraces heaped upon her head, if not from him? He alone could
have transmitted to Lord de Winter all these frightful secrets which he
has discovered, one after another, by a train of fatalities. He knows
her brother-in-law. He must have written to him.

What hatred she distills! Motionless, with her burning and fixed
glances, in her solitary apartment, how well the outbursts of passion
which at times escape from the depths of her chest with her
respiration, accompany the sound of the surf which rises, growls,
roars, and breaks itself like an eternal and powerless despair against
the rocks on which is built this dark and lofty castle! How many
magnificent projects of vengeance she conceives by the light of the
flashes which her tempestuous passion casts over her mind against Mme.
Bonacieux, against Buckingham, but above all against
D’Artagnan—projects lost in the distance of the future.

Yes; but in order to avenge herself she must be free. And to be free, a
prisoner has to pierce a wall, detach bars, cut through a floor—all
undertakings which a patient and strong man may accomplish, but before
which the feverish irritations of a woman must give way. Besides, to do
all this, time is necessary—months, years; and she has ten or twelve
days, as Lord de Winter, her fraternal and terrible jailer, has told
her.

And yet, if she were a man she would attempt all this, and perhaps
might succeed; why, then, did heaven make the mistake of placing that
manlike soul in that frail and delicate body?

The first moments of her captivity were terrible; a few convulsions of
rage which she could not suppress paid her debt of feminine weakness to
nature. But by degrees she overcame the outbursts of her mad passion;
and nervous tremblings which agitated her frame disappeared, and she
remained folded within herself like a fatigued serpent in repose.

“Go to, go to! I must have been mad to allow myself to be carried away
so,” says she, gazing into the glass, which reflects back to her eyes
the burning glance by which she appears to interrogate herself. “No
violence; violence is the proof of weakness. In the first place, I have
never succeeded by that means. Perhaps if I employed my strength
against women I might perchance find them weaker than myself, and
consequently conquer them; but it is with men that I struggle, and I am
but a woman to them. Let me fight like a woman, then; my strength is in
my weakness.”

Then, as if to render an account to herself of the changes she could
place upon her countenance, so mobile and so expressive, she made it
take all expressions from that of passionate anger, which convulsed her
features, to that of the most sweet, most affectionate, and most
seducing smile. Then her hair assumed successively, under her skillful
hands, all the undulations she thought might assist the charms of her
face. At length she murmured, satisfied with herself, “Come, nothing is
lost; I am still beautiful.”

It was then nearly eight o’clock in the evening. Milady perceived a
bed; she calculated that the repose of a few hours would not only
refresh her head and her ideas, but still further, her complexion. A
better idea, however, came into her mind before going to bed. She had
heard something said about supper. She had already been an hour in this
apartment; they could not long delay bringing her a repast. The
prisoner did not wish to lose time; and she resolved to make that very
evening some attempts to ascertain the nature of the ground she had to
work upon, by studying the characters of the men to whose guardianship
she was committed.

A light appeared under the door; this light announced the reappearance
of her jailers. Milady, who had arisen, threw herself quickly into the
armchair, her head thrown back, her beautiful hair unbound and
disheveled, her bosom half bare beneath her crumpled lace, one hand on
her heart, and the other hanging down.

The bolts were drawn; the door groaned upon its hinges. Steps sounded
in the chamber, and drew near.

“Place that table there,” said a voice which the prisoner recognized as
that of Felton.

The order was executed.

“You will bring lights, and relieve the sentinel,” continued Felton.

And this double order which the young lieutenant gave to the same
individuals proved to Milady that her servants were the same men as her
guards; that is to say, soldiers.

Felton’s orders were, for the rest, executed with a silent rapidity
that gave a good idea of the way in which he maintained discipline.

At length Felton, who had not yet looked at Milady, turned toward her.

“Ah, ah!” said he, “she is asleep; that’s well. When she wakes she can
sup.” And he made some steps toward the door.

“But, my lieutenant,” said a soldier, less stoical than his chief, and
who had approached Milady, “this woman is not asleep.”

“What, not asleep!” said Felton; “what is she doing, then?”

“She has fainted. Her face is very pale, and I have listened in vain; I
do not hear her breathe.”

“You are right,” said Felton, after having looked at Milady from the
spot on which he stood without moving a step toward her. “Go and tell
Lord de Winter that his prisoner has fainted—for this event not having
been foreseen, I don’t know what to do.”

The soldier went out to obey the orders of his officer. Felton sat down
upon an armchair which happened to be near the door, and waited without
speaking a word, without making a gesture. Milady possessed that great
art, so much studied by women, of looking through her long eyelashes
without appearing to open the lids. She perceived Felton, who sat with
his back toward her. She continued to look at him for nearly ten
minutes, and in these ten minutes the immovable guardian never turned
round once.

She then thought that Lord de Winter would come, and by his presence
give fresh strength to her jailer. Her first trial was lost; she acted
like a woman who reckons up her resources. As a result she raised her
head, opened her eyes, and sighed deeply.

At this sigh Felton turned round.

“Ah, you are awake, madame,” he said; “then I have nothing more to do
here. If you want anything you can ring.”

“Oh, my God, my God! how I have suffered!” said Milady, in that
harmonious voice which, like that of the ancient enchantresses, charmed
all whom she wished to destroy.

And she assumed, upon sitting up in the armchair, a still more graceful
and abandoned position than when she reclined.

Felton arose.

“You will be served, thus, madame, three times a day,” said he. “In the
morning at nine o’clock, in the day at one o’clock, and in the evening
at eight. If that does not suit you, you can point out what other hours
you prefer, and in this respect your wishes will be complied with.”

“But am I to remain always alone in this vast and dismal chamber?”
asked Milady.

“A woman of the neighbourhood has been sent for, who will be tomorrow
at the castle, and will return as often as you desire her presence.”

“I thank you, sir,” replied the prisoner, humbly.

Felton made a slight bow, and directed his steps toward the door. At
the moment he was about to go out, Lord de Winter appeared in the
corridor, followed by the soldier who had been sent to inform him of
the swoon of Milady. He held a vial of salts in his hand.

“Well, what is it—what is going on here?” said he, in a jeering voice,
on seeing the prisoner sitting up and Felton about to go out. “Is this
corpse come to life already? Felton, my lad, did you not perceive that
you were taken for a novice, and that the first act was being performed
of a comedy of which we shall doubtless have the pleasure of following
out all the developments?”

“I thought so, my lord,” said Felton; “but as the prisoner is a woman,
after all, I wish to pay her the attention that every man of gentle
birth owes to a woman, if not on her account, at least on my own.”

Milady shuddered through her whole system. These words of Felton’s
passed like ice through her veins.

“So,” replied de Winter, laughing, “that beautiful hair so skillfully
disheveled, that white skin, and that languishing look, have not yet
seduced you, you heart of stone?”

“No, my Lord,” replied the impassive young man; “your Lordship may be
assured that it requires more than the tricks and coquetry of a woman
to corrupt me.”

“In that case, my brave lieutenant, let us leave Milady to find out
something else, and go to supper; but be easy! She has a fruitful
imagination, and the second act of the comedy will not delay its steps
after the first.”

And at these words Lord de Winter passed his arm through that of
Felton, and led him out, laughing.

“Oh, I will be a match for you!” murmured Milady, between her teeth;
“be assured of that, you poor spoiled monk, you poor converted soldier,
who has cut his uniform out of a monk’s frock!”

“By the way,” resumed de Winter, stopping at the threshold of the door,
“you must not, Milady, let this check take away your appetite. Taste
that fowl and those fish. On my honor, they are not poisoned. I have a
very good cook, and he is not to be my heir; I have full and perfect
confidence in him. Do as I do. Adieu, dear sister, till your next
swoon!”

This was all that Milady could endure. Her hands clutched her armchair;
she ground her teeth inwardly; her eyes followed the motion of the door
as it closed behind Lord de Winter and Felton, and the moment she was
alone a fresh fit of despair seized her. She cast her eyes upon the
table, saw the glittering of a knife, rushed toward it and clutched it;
but her disappointment was cruel. The blade was round, and of flexible
silver.

A burst of laughter resounded from the other side of the ill-closed
door, and the door reopened.

“Ha, ha!” cried Lord de Winter; “ha, ha! Don’t you see, my brave
Felton; don’t you see what I told you? That knife was for you, my lad;
she would have killed you. Observe, this is one of her peculiarities,
to get rid thus, after one fashion or another, of all the people who
bother her. If I had listened to you, the knife would have been pointed
and of steel. Then no more of Felton; she would have cut your throat,
and after that everybody else’s. See, John, see how well she knows how
to handle a knife.”

In fact, Milady still held the harmless weapon in her clenched hand;
but these last words, this supreme insult, relaxed her hands, her
strength, and even her will. The knife fell to the ground.

“You were right, my Lord,” said Felton, with a tone of profound disgust
which sounded to the very bottom of the heart of Milady, “you were
right, my Lord, and I was wrong.”

And both again left the room.

But this time Milady lent a more attentive ear than the first, and she
heard their steps die away in the distance of the corridor.

“I am lost,” murmured she; “I am lost! I am in the power of men upon
whom I can have no more influence than upon statues of bronze or
granite; they know me by heart, and are steeled against all my weapons.
It is, however, impossible that this should end as they have decreed!”

In fact, as this last reflection indicated—this instinctive return to
hope—sentiments of weakness or fear did not dwell long in her ardent
spirit. Milady sat down to table, ate from several dishes, drank a
little Spanish wine, and felt all her resolution return.

Before she went to bed she had pondered, analyzed, turned on all sides,
examined on all points, the words, the steps, the gestures, the signs,
and even the silence of her interlocutors; and of this profound,
skillful, and anxious study the result was that Felton, everything
considered, appeared the more vulnerable of her two persecutors.

One expression above all recurred to the mind of the prisoner: “If I
had listened to you,” Lord de Winter had said to Felton.

Felton, then, had spoken in her favor, since Lord de Winter had not
been willing to listen to him.

“Weak or strong,” repeated Milady, “that man has, then, a spark of pity
in his soul; of that spark I will make a flame that shall devour him.
As to the other, he knows me, he fears me, and knows what he has to
expect of me if ever I escape from his hands. It is useless, then, to
attempt anything with him. But Felton—that’s another thing. He is a
young, ingenuous, pure man who seems virtuous; him there are means of
destroying.”

And Milady went to bed and fell asleep with a smile upon her lips.
Anyone who had seen her sleeping might have said she was a young girl
dreaming of the crown of flowers she was to wear on her brow at the
next festival.

Chapter LIII.
CAPTIVITY: THE SECOND DAY

Milady dreamed that she at length had D’Artagnan in her power, that she
was present at his execution; and it was the sight of his odious blood,
flowing beneath the ax of the headsman, which spread that charming
smile upon her lips.

She slept as a prisoner sleeps, rocked by his first hope.

In the morning, when they entered her chamber she was still in bed.
Felton remained in the corridor. He brought with him the woman of whom
he had spoken the evening before, and who had just arrived; this woman
entered, and approaching Milady’s bed, offered her services.

Milady was habitually pale; her complexion might therefore deceive a
person who saw her for the first time.

“I am in a fever,” said she; “I have not slept a single instant during
all this long night. I suffer horribly. Are you likely to be more
humane to me than others were yesterday? All I ask is permission to
remain abed.”

“Would you like to have a physician called?” said the woman.

Felton listened to this dialogue without speaking a word.

Milady reflected that the more people she had around her the more she
would have to work upon, and Lord de Winter would redouble his watch.
Besides, the physician might declare the ailment feigned; and Milady,
after having lost the first trick, was not willing to lose the second.

“Go and fetch a physician?” said she. “What could be the good of that?
These gentlemen declared yesterday that my illness was a comedy; it
would be just the same today, no doubt—for since yesterday evening they
have had plenty of time to send for a doctor.”

“Then,” said Felton, who became impatient, “say yourself, madame, what
treatment you wish followed.”

“Eh, how can I tell? My God! I know that I suffer, that’s all. Give me
anything you like, it is of little consequence.”

“Go and fetch Lord de Winter,” said Felton, tired of these eternal
complaints.

“Oh, no, no!” cried Milady; “no, sir, do not call him, I conjure you. I
am well, I want nothing; do not call him.”

She gave so much vehemence, such magnetic eloquence to this
exclamation, that Felton in spite of himself advanced some steps into
the room.

“He has come!” thought Milady.

“Meanwhile, madame, if you really suffer,” said Felton, “a physician
shall be sent for; and if you deceive us—well, it will be the worse for
you. But at least we shall not have to reproach ourselves with
anything.”

Milady made no reply, but turning her beautiful head round upon her
pillow, she burst into tears, and uttered heartbreaking sobs.

Felton surveyed her for an instant with his usual impassiveness; then,
seeing that the crisis threatened to be prolonged, he went out. The
woman followed him, and Lord de Winter did not appear.

“I fancy I begin to see my way,” murmured Milady, with a savage joy,
burying herself under the clothes to conceal from anybody who might be
watching her this burst of inward satisfaction.

Two hours passed away.

“Now it is time that the malady should be over,” said she; “let me
rise, and obtain some success this very day. I have but ten days, and
this evening two of them will be gone.”

In the morning, when they entered Milady’s chamber they had brought her
breakfast. Now, she thought, they could not long delay coming to clear
the table, and that Felton would then reappear.

Milady was not deceived. Felton reappeared, and without observing
whether Milady had or had not touched her repast, made a sign that the
table should be carried out of the room, it having been brought in
ready spread.

Felton remained behind; he held a book in his hand.

Milady, reclining in an armchair near the chimney, beautiful, pale, and
resigned, looked like a holy virgin awaiting martyrdom.

Felton approached her, and said, “Lord de Winter, who is a Catholic,
like yourself, madame, thinking that the deprivation of the rites and
ceremonies of your church might be painful to you, has consented that
you should read every day the ordinary of your Mass; and here is a book
which contains the ritual.”

At the manner in which Felton laid the book upon the little table near
which Milady was sitting, at the tone in which he pronounced the two
words, _your Mass_, at the disdainful smile with which he accompanied
them, Milady raised her head, and looked more attentively at the
officer.

By that plain arrangement of the hair, by that costume of extreme
simplicity, by the brow polished like marble and as hard and
impenetrable, she recognized one of those gloomy Puritans she had so
often met, not only in the court of King James, but in that of the King
of France, where, in spite of the remembrance of the St. Bartholomew,
they sometimes came to seek refuge.

She then had one of those sudden inspirations which only people of
genius receive in great crises, in supreme moments which are to decide
their fortunes or their lives.

Those two words, _your Mass_, and a simple glance cast upon Felton,
revealed to her all the importance of the reply she was about to make;
but with that rapidity of intelligence which was peculiar to her, this
reply, ready arranged, presented itself to her lips:

“I?” said she, with an accent of disdain in unison with that which she
had remarked in the voice of the young officer, “I, sir? _My Mass?_
Lord de Winter, the corrupted Catholic, knows very well that I am not
of his religion, and this is a snare he wishes to lay for me!”

“And of what religion are you, then, madame?” asked Felton, with an
astonishment which in spite of the empire he held over himself he could
not entirely conceal.

“I will tell it,” cried Milady, with a feigned exultation, “on the day
when I shall have suffered sufficiently for my faith.”

The look of Felton revealed to Milady the full extent of the space she
had opened for herself by this single word.

The young officer, however, remained mute and motionless; his look
alone had spoken.

“I am in the hands of my enemies,” continued she, with that tone of
enthusiasm which she knew was familiar to the Puritans. “Well, let my
God save me, or let me perish for my God! That is the reply I beg you
to make to Lord de Winter. And as to this book,” added she, pointing to
the manual with her finger but without touching it, as if she must be
contaminated by it, “you may carry it back and make use of it yourself,
for doubtless you are doubly the accomplice of Lord de Winter—the
accomplice in his persecutions, the accomplice in his heresies.”

Felton made no reply, took the book with the same appearance of
repugnance which he had before manifested, and retired pensively.

Lord de Winter came toward five o’clock in the evening. Milady had had
time, during the whole day, to trace her plan of conduct. She received
him like a woman who had already recovered all her advantages.

“It appears,” said the baron, seating himself in the armchair opposite
that occupied by Milady, and stretching out his legs carelessly upon
the hearth, “it appears we have made a little apostasy!”

“What do you mean, sir!”

“I mean to say that since we last met you have changed your religion.
You have not by chance married a Protestant for a third husband, have
you?”

“Explain yourself, my Lord,” replied the prisoner, with majesty; “for
though I hear your words, I declare I do not understand them.”

“Then you have no religion at all; I like that best,” replied Lord de
Winter, laughing.

“Certainly that is most in accord with your own principles,” replied
Milady, frigidly.

“Oh, I confess it is all the same to me.”

“Oh, you need not avow this religious indifference, my Lord; your
debaucheries and crimes would vouch for it.”

“What, you talk of debaucheries, Madame Messalina, Lady Macbeth! Either
I misunderstand you or you are very shameless!”

“You only speak thus because you are overheard,” coolly replied Milady;
“and you wish to interest your jailers and your hangmen against me.”

“My jailers and my hangmen! Heyday, madame! you are taking a poetical
tone, and the comedy of yesterday turns to a tragedy this evening. As
to the rest, in eight days you will be where you ought to be, and my
task will be completed.”

“Infamous task! impious task!” cried Milady, with the exultation of a
victim who provokes his judge.

“My word,” said de Winter, rising, “I think the hussy is going mad!
Come, come, calm yourself, Madame Puritan, or I’ll remove you to a
dungeon. It’s my Spanish wine that has got into your head, is it not?
But never mind; that sort of intoxication is not dangerous, and will
have no bad effects.”

And Lord de Winter retired swearing, which at that period was a very
knightly habit.

Felton was indeed behind the door, and had not lost one word of this
scene. Milady had guessed aright.

“Yes, go, go!” said she to her brother; “the effects _are_ drawing
near, on the contrary; but you, weak fool, will not see them until it
is too late to shun them.”

Silence was re-established. Two hours passed away. Milady’s supper was
brought in, and she was found deeply engaged in saying her prayers
aloud—prayers which she had learned of an old servant of her second
husband, a most austere Puritan. She appeared to be in ecstasy, and did
not pay the least attention to what was going on around her. Felton
made a sign that she should not be disturbed; and when all was
arranged, he went out quietly with the soldiers.

Milady knew she might be watched, so she continued her prayers to the
end; and it appeared to her that the soldier who was on duty at her
door did not march with the same step, and seemed to listen. For the
moment she wished nothing better. She arose, came to the table, ate but
little, and drank only water.

An hour after, her table was cleared; but Milady remarked that this
time Felton did not accompany the soldiers. He feared, then, to see her
too often.

She turned toward the wall to smile—for there was in this smile such an
expression of triumph that this smile alone would have betrayed her.

She allowed, therefore, half an hour to pass away; and as at that
moment all was silence in the old castle, as nothing was heard but the
eternal murmur of the waves—that immense breaking of the ocean—with her
pure, harmonious, and powerful voice, she began the first couplet of
the psalm then in great favor with the Puritans:

“Thou leavest thy servants, Lord,
To see if they be strong;
But soon thou dost afford
Thy hand to lead them on.”

These verses were not excellent—very far from it; but as it is well
known, the Puritans did not pique themselves upon their poetry.

While singing, Milady listened. The soldier on guard at her door
stopped, as if he had been changed into stone. Milady was then able to
judge of the effect she had produced.

Then she continued her singing with inexpressible fervor and feeling.
It appeared to her that the sounds spread to a distance beneath the
vaulted roofs, and carried with them a magic charm to soften the hearts
of her jailers. It however likewise appeared that the soldier on duty—a
zealous Catholic, no doubt—shook off the charm, for through the door he
called: “Hold your tongue, madame! Your song is as dismal as a ‘De
profundis’; and if besides the pleasure of being in garrison here, we
must hear such things as these, no mortal can hold out.”

“Silence!” then exclaimed another stern voice which Milady recognized
as that of Felton. “What are you meddling with, stupid? Did anybody
order you to prevent that woman from singing? No. You were told to
guard her—to fire at her if she attempted to fly. Guard her! If she
flies, kill her; but don’t exceed your orders.”

An expression of unspeakable joy lightened the countenance of Milady;
but this expression was fleeting as the reflection of lightning.
Without appearing to have heard the dialogue, of which she had not lost
a word, she began again, giving to her voice all the charm, all the
power, all the seduction the demon had bestowed upon it:

“For all my tears, my cares,
My exile, and my chains,
I have my youth, my prayers,
And God, who counts my pains.”

Her voice, of immense power and sublime expression, gave to the rude,
unpolished poetry of these psalms a magic and an effect which the most
exalted Puritans rarely found in the songs of their brethren, and which
they were forced to ornament with all the resources of their
imagination. Felton believed he heard the singing of the angel who
consoled the three Hebrews in the furnace.

Milady continued:

“One day our doors will ope,
With God come our desire;
And if betrays that hope,
To death we can aspire.”

This verse, into which the terrible enchantress threw her whole soul,
completed the trouble which had seized the heart of the young officer.
He opened the door quickly; and Milady saw him appear, pale as usual,
but with his eye inflamed and almost wild.

“Why do you sing thus, and with such a voice?” said he.

“Your pardon, sir,” said Milady, with mildness. “I forgot that my songs
are out of place in this castle. I have perhaps offended you in your
creed; but it was without wishing to do so, I swear. Pardon me, then, a
fault which is perhaps great, but which certainly was involuntary.”

Milady was so beautiful at this moment, the religious ecstasy in which
she appeared to be plunged gave such an expression to her countenance,
that Felton was so dazzled that he fancied he beheld the angel whom he
had only just before heard.

“Yes, yes,” said he; “you disturb, you agitate the people who live in
the castle.”

The poor, senseless young man was not aware of the incoherence of his
words, while Milady was reading with her lynx’s eyes the very depths of
his heart.

“I will be silent, then,” said Milady, casting down her eyes with all
the sweetness she could give to her voice, with all the resignation she
could impress upon her manner.

“No, no, madame,” said Felton, “only do not sing so loud, particularly
at night.”

And at these words Felton, feeling that he could not long maintain his
severity toward his prisoner, rushed out of the room.

“You have done right, Lieutenant,” said the soldier. “Such songs
disturb the mind; and yet we become accustomed to them, her voice is so
beautiful.”

Chapter LIV.
CAPTIVITY: THE THIRD DAY

Felton had fallen; but there was still another step to be taken. He
must be retained, or rather he must be left quite alone; and Milady but
obscurely perceived the means which could lead to this result.

Still more must be done. He must be made to speak, in order that he
might be spoken to—for Milady very well knew that her greatest
seduction was in her voice, which so skillfully ran over the whole
gamut of tones from human speech to language celestial.

Yet in spite of all this seduction Milady might fail—for Felton was
forewarned, and that against the least chance. From that moment she
watched all his actions, all his words, from the simplest glance of his
eyes to his gestures—even to a breath that could be interpreted as a
sigh. In short, she studied everything, as a skillful comedian does to
whom a new part has been assigned in a line to which he is not
accustomed.

Face to face with Lord de Winter her plan of conduct was more easy. She
had laid that down the preceding evening. To remain silent and
dignified in his presence; from time to time to irritate him by
affected disdain, by a contemptuous word; to provoke him to threats and
violence which would produce a contrast with her own resignation—such
was her plan. Felton would see all; perhaps he would say nothing, but
he would see.

In the morning, Felton came as usual; but Milady allowed him to preside
over all the preparations for breakfast without addressing a word to
him. At the moment when he was about to retire, she was cheered with a
ray of hope, for she thought he was about to speak; but his lips moved
without any sound leaving his mouth, and making a powerful effort to
control himself, he sent back to his heart the words that were about to
escape from his lips, and went out. Toward midday, Lord de Winter
entered.

It was a tolerably fine winter’s day, and a ray of that pale English
sun which lights but does not warm came through the bars of her prison.

Milady was looking out at the window, and pretended not to hear the
door as it opened.

“Ah, ah!” said Lord de Winter, “after having played comedy, after
having played tragedy, we are now playing melancholy?”

The prisoner made no reply.

“Yes, yes,” continued Lord de Winter, “I understand. You would like
very well to be at liberty on that beach! You would like very well to
be in a good ship dancing upon the waves of that emerald-green sea; you
would like very well, either on land or on the ocean, to lay for me one
of those nice little ambuscades you are so skillful in planning.
Patience, patience! In four days’ time the shore will be beneath your
feet, the sea will be open to you—more open than will perhaps be
agreeable to you, for in four days England will be relieved of you.”

Milady folded her hands, and raising her fine eyes toward heaven,
“Lord, Lord,” said she, with an angelic meekness of gesture and tone,
“pardon this man, as I myself pardon him.”

“Yes, pray, accursed woman!” cried the baron; “your prayer is so much
the more generous from your being, I swear to you, in the power of a
man who will never pardon you!” and he went out.

At the moment he went out a piercing glance darted through the opening
of the nearly closed door, and she perceived Felton, who drew quickly
to one side to prevent being seen by her.

Then she threw herself upon her knees, and began to pray.

“My God, my God!” said she, “thou knowest in what holy cause I suffer;
give me, then, strength to suffer.”

The door opened gently; the beautiful supplicant pretended not to hear
the noise, and in a voice broken by tears, she continued:

“God of vengeance! God of goodness! wilt thou allow the frightful
projects of this man to be accomplished?”

Then only she pretended to hear the sound of Felton’s steps, and rising
quick as thought, she blushed, as if ashamed of being surprised on her
knees.

“I do not like to disturb those who pray, madame,” said Felton,
seriously; “do not disturb yourself on my account, I beseech you.”

“How do you know I was praying, sir?” said Milady, in a voice broken by
sobs. “You were deceived, sir; I was not praying.”

“Do you think, then, madame,” replied Felton, in the same serious
voice, but with a milder tone, “do you think I assume the right of
preventing a creature from prostrating herself before her Creator? God
forbid! Besides, repentance becomes the guilty; whatever crimes they
may have committed, for me the guilty are sacred at the feet of God!”

“Guilty? I?” said Milady, with a smile which might have disarmed the
angel of the last judgment. “Guilty? Oh, my God, thou knowest whether I
am guilty! Say I am condemned, sir, if you please; but you know that
God, who loves martyrs, sometimes permits the innocent to be
condemned.”

“Were you condemned, were you innocent, were you a martyr,” replied
Felton, “the greater would be the necessity for prayer; and I myself
would aid you with my prayers.”

“Oh, you are a just man!” cried Milady, throwing herself at his feet.
“I can hold out no longer, for I fear I shall be wanting in strength at
the moment when I shall be forced to undergo the struggle, and confess
my faith. Listen, then, to the supplication of a despairing woman. You
are abused, sir; but that is not the question. I only ask you one
favor; and if you grant it me, I will bless you in this world and in
the next.”

“Speak to the master, madame,” said Felton; “happily I am neither
charged with the power of pardoning nor punishing. It is upon one
higher placed than I am that God has laid this responsibility.”

“To you—no, to you alone! Listen to me, rather than add to my
destruction, rather than add to my ignominy!”

“If you have merited this shame, madame, if you have incurred this
ignominy, you must submit to it as an offering to God.”

“What do you say? Oh, you do not understand me! When I speak of
ignominy, you think I speak of some chastisement, of imprisonment or
death. Would to heaven! Of what consequence to me is imprisonment or
death?”

“It is I who no longer understand you, madame,” said Felton.

“Or, rather, who pretend not to understand me, sir!” replied the
prisoner, with a smile of incredulity.

“No, madame, on the honor of a soldier, on the faith of a Christian.”

“What, you are ignorant of Lord de Winter’s designs upon me?”

“I am.”

“Impossible; you are his confidant!”

“I never lie, madame.”

“Oh, he conceals them too little for you not to divine them.”

“I seek to divine nothing, madame; I wait till I am confided in, and
apart from that which Lord de Winter has said to me before you, he has
confided nothing to me.”

“Why, then,” cried Milady, with an incredible tone of truthfulness,
“you are not his accomplice; you do not know that he destines me to a
disgrace which all the punishments of the world cannot equal in
horror?”

“You are deceived, madame,” said Felton, blushing; “Lord de Winter is
not capable of such a crime.”

“Good,” said Milady to herself; “without thinking what it is, he calls
it a crime!” Then aloud, “The friend of that wretch is capable of
everything.”

“Whom do you call _that wretch?_” asked Felton.

“Are there, then, in England two men to whom such an epithet can be
applied?”

“You mean George Villiers?” asked Felton, whose looks became excited.

“Whom Pagans and unbelieving Gentiles call Duke of Buckingham,” replied
Milady. “I could not have thought that there was an Englishman in all
England who would have required so long an explanation to make him
understand of whom I was speaking.”

“The hand of the Lord is stretched over him,” said Felton; “he will not
escape the chastisement he deserves.”

Felton only expressed, with regard to the duke, the feeling of
execration which all the English had declared toward him whom the
Catholics themselves called the extortioner, the pillager, the
debauchee, and whom the Puritans styled simply Satan.

“Oh, my God, my God!” cried Milady; “when I supplicate thee to pour
upon this man the chastisement which is his due, thou knowest it is not
my own vengeance I pursue, but the deliverance of a whole nation that I
implore!”

“Do you know him, then?” asked Felton.

“At length he interrogates me!” said Milady to herself, at the height
of joy at having obtained so quickly such a great result. “Oh, know
him? Yes, yes! to my misfortune, to my eternal misfortune!” and Milady
twisted her arms as if in a paroxysm of grief.

Felton no doubt felt within himself that his strength was abandoning
him, and he made several steps toward the door; but the prisoner, whose
eye never left him, sprang in pursuit of him and stopped him.

“Sir,” cried she, “be kind, be clement, listen to my prayer! That
knife, which the fatal prudence of the baron deprived me of, because he
knows the use I would make of it! Oh, hear me to the end! that knife,
give it to me for a minute only, for mercy’s, for pity’s sake! I will
embrace your knees! You shall shut the door that you may be certain I
contemplate no injury to you! My God! to you—the only just, good, and
compassionate being I have met with! To you—my preserver, perhaps! One
minute that knife, one minute, a single minute, and I will restore it
to you through the grating of the door. Only one minute, Mr. Felton,
and you will have saved my honor!”

“To kill yourself?” cried Felton, with terror, forgetting to withdraw
his hands from the hands of the prisoner, “to kill yourself?”

“I have told, sir,” murmured Milady, lowering her voice, and allowing
herself to sink overpowered to the ground; “I have told my secret! He
knows all! My God, I am lost!”

Felton remained standing, motionless and undecided.

“He still doubts,” thought Milady; “I have not been earnest enough.”

Someone was heard in the corridor; Milady recognized the step of Lord
de Winter.

Felton recognized it also, and made a step toward the door.

Milady sprang toward him. “Oh, not a word,” said she in a concentrated
voice, “not a word of all that I have said to you to this man, or I am
lost, and it would be you—you—”

Then as the steps drew near, she became silent for fear of being heard,
applying, with a gesture of infinite terror, her beautiful hand to
Felton’s mouth.

Felton gently repulsed Milady, and she sank into a chair.

Lord de Winter passed before the door without stopping, and they heard
the noise of his footsteps soon die away.

Felton, as pale as death, remained some instants with his ear bent and
listening; then, when the sound was quite extinct, he breathed like a
man awaking from a dream, and rushed out of the apartment.

“Ah!” said Milady, listening in her turn to the noise of Felton’s
steps, which withdrew in a direction opposite to those of Lord de
Winter; “at length you are mine!”

Then her brow darkened. “If he tells the baron,” said she, “I am
lost—for the baron, who knows very well that I shall not kill myself,
will place me before him with a knife in my hand, and he will discover
that all this despair is but acted.”

She placed herself before the glass, and regarded herself attentively;
never had she appeared more beautiful.

“Oh, yes,” said she, smiling, “but we won’t tell him!”

In the evening Lord de Winter accompanied the supper.

“Sir,” said Milady, “is your presence an indispensable accessory of my
captivity? Could you not spare me the increase of torture which your
visits cause me?”

“How, dear sister!” said Lord de Winter. “Did not you sentimentally
inform me with that pretty mouth of yours, so cruel to me today, that
you came to England solely for the pleasure of seeing me at your ease,
an enjoyment of which you told me you so sensibly felt the deprivation
that you had risked everything for it—seasickness, tempest, captivity?
Well, here I am; be satisfied. Besides, this time, my visit has a
motive.”

Milady trembled; she thought Felton had told all. Perhaps never in her
life had this woman, who had experienced so many opposite and powerful
emotions, felt her heart beat so violently.

She was seated. Lord de Winter took a chair, drew it toward her, and
sat down close beside her. Then taking a paper out of his pocket, he
unfolded it slowly.

“Here,” said he, “I want to show you the kind of passport which I have
drawn up, and which will serve you henceforward as the rule of order in
the life I consent to leave you.”

Then turning his eyes from Milady to the paper, he read: “‘Order to
conduct—’ The name is blank,” interrupted Lord de Winter. “If you have
any preference you can point it out to me; and if it be not within a
thousand leagues of London, attention will be paid to your wishes. I
will begin again, then:

“‘Order to conduct to—the person named Charlotte Backson, branded by
the justice of the kingdom of France, but liberated after chastisement.
She is to dwell in this place without ever going more than three
leagues from it. In case of any attempt to escape, the penalty of death
is to be applied. She will receive five shillings per day for lodging
and food’”.

“That order does not concern me,” replied Milady, coldly, “since it
bears another name than mine.”

“A name? Have you a name, then?”

“I bear that of your brother.”

“Ay, but you are mistaken. My brother is only your second husband; and
your first is still living. Tell me his name, and I will put it in the
place of the name of Charlotte Backson. No? You will not? You are
silent? Well, then you must be registered as Charlotte Backson.”

Milady remained silent; only this time it was no longer from
affectation, but from terror. She believed the order ready for
execution. She thought that Lord de Winter had hastened her departure;
she thought she was condemned to set off that very evening. Everything
in her mind was lost for an instant; when all at once she perceived
that no signature was attached to the order. The joy she felt at this
discovery was so great she could not conceal it.

“Yes, yes,” said Lord de Winter, who perceived what was passing in her
mind; “yes, you look for the signature, and you say to yourself: ‘All
is not lost, for that order is not signed. It is only shown to me to
terrify me, that’s all.’ You are mistaken. Tomorrow this order will be
sent to the Duke of Buckingham. The day after tomorrow it will return
signed by his hand and marked with his seal; and four-and-twenty hours
afterward I will answer for its being carried into execution. Adieu,
madame. That is all I had to say to you.”

“And I reply to you, sir, that this abuse of power, this exile under a
fictitious name, are infamous!”

“Would you like better to be hanged in your true name, Milady? You know
that the English laws are inexorable on the abuse of marriage. Speak
freely. Although my name, or rather that of my brother, would be mixed
up with the affair, I will risk the scandal of a public trial to make
myself certain of getting rid of you.”

Milady made no reply, but became as pale as a corpse.

“Oh, I see you prefer peregrination. That’s well madame; and there is
an old proverb that says, ‘Traveling trains youth.’ My faith! you are
not wrong after all, and life is sweet. That’s the reason why I take
such care you shall not deprive me of mine. There only remains, then,
the question of the five shillings to be settled. You think me rather
parsimonious, don’t you? That’s because I don’t care to leave you the
means of corrupting your jailers. Besides, you will always have your
charms left to seduce them with. Employ them, if your check with regard
to Felton has not disgusted you with attempts of that kind.”

“Felton has not told him,” said Milady to herself. “Nothing is lost,
then.”

“And now, madame, till I see you again! Tomorrow I will come and
announce to you the departure of my messenger.”

Lord de Winter rose, saluted her ironically, and went out.

Milady breathed again. She had still four days before her. Four days
would quite suffice to complete the seduction of Felton.

A terrible idea, however, rushed into her mind. She thought that Lord
de Winter would perhaps send Felton himself to get the order signed by
the Duke of Buckingham. In that case Felton would escape her—for in
order to secure success, the magic of a continuous seduction was
necessary. Nevertheless, as we have said, one circumstance reassured
her. Felton had not spoken.

As she would not appear to be agitated by the threats of Lord de
Winter, she placed herself at the table and ate.

Then, as she had done the evening before, she fell on her knees and
repeated her prayers aloud. As on the evening before, the soldier
stopped his march to listen to her.

Soon after she heard lighter steps than those of the sentinel, which
came from the end of the corridor and stopped before her door.

“It is he,” said she. And she began the same religious chant which had
so strongly excited Felton the evening before.

But although her voice—sweet, full, and sonorous—vibrated as
harmoniously and as affectingly as ever, the door remained shut. It
appeared however to Milady that in one of the furtive glances she
darted from time to time at the grating of the door she thought she saw
the ardent eyes of the young man through the narrow opening. But
whether this was reality or vision, he had this time sufficient
self-command not to enter.

However, a few instants after she had finished her religious song,
Milady thought she heard a profound sigh. Then the same steps she had
heard approach slowly withdrew, as if with regret.

Chapter LV.
CAPTIVITY: THE FOURTH DAY

The next day, when Felton entered Milady’s apartment he found her
standing, mounted upon a chair, holding in her hands a cord made by
means of torn cambric handkerchiefs, twisted into a kind of rope one
with another, and tied at the ends. At the noise Felton made in
entering, Milady leaped lightly to the ground, and tried to conceal
behind her the improvised cord she held in her hand.

The young man was more pale than usual, and his eyes, reddened by want
of sleep, denoted that he had passed a feverish night. Nevertheless,
his brow was armed with a severity more austere than ever.

He advanced slowly toward Milady, who had seated herself, and taking an
end of the murderous rope which by neglect, or perhaps by design, she
allowed to be seen, “What is this, madame?” he asked coldly.

“That? Nothing,” said Milady, smiling with that painful expression
which she knew so well how to give to her smile. “Ennui is the mortal
enemy of prisoners; I had ennui, and I amused myself with twisting that
rope.”

Felton turned his eyes toward the part of the wall of the apartment
before which he had found Milady standing in the armchair in which she
was now seated, and over her head he perceived a gilt-headed screw,
fixed in the wall for the purpose of hanging up clothes or weapons.

He started, and the prisoner saw that start—for though her eyes were
cast down, nothing escaped her.

“What were you doing on that armchair?” asked he.

“Of what consequence?” replied Milady.

“But,” replied Felton, “I wish to know.”

“Do not question me,” said the prisoner; “you know that we who are true
Christians are forbidden to lie.”

“Well, then,” said Felton, “I will tell you what you were doing, or
rather what you meant to do; you were going to complete the fatal
project you cherish in your mind. Remember, madame, if our God forbids
falsehood, he much more severely condemns suicide.”

“When God sees one of his creatures persecuted unjustly, placed between
suicide and dishonor, believe me, sir,” replied Milady, in a tone of
deep conviction, “God pardons suicide, for then suicide becomes
martyrdom.”

“You say either too much or too little; speak, madame. In the name of
heaven, explain yourself.”

“That I may relate my misfortunes for you to treat them as fables; that
I may tell you my projects for you to go and betray them to my
persecutor? No, sir. Besides, of what importance to you is the life or
death of a condemned wretch? You are only responsible for my body, is
it not so? And provided you produce a carcass that may be recognized as
mine, they will require no more of you; nay, perhaps you will even have
a double reward.”

“I, madame, I?” cried Felton. “You suppose that I would ever accept the
price of your life? Oh, you cannot believe what you say!”

“Let me act as I please, Felton, let me act as I please,” said Milady,
elated. “Every soldier must be ambitious, must he not? You are a
lieutenant? Well, you will follow me to the grave with the rank of
captain.”

“What have I, then, done to you,” said Felton, much agitated, “that you
should load me with such a responsibility before God and before men? In
a few days you will be away from this place; your life, madame, will
then no longer be under my care, and,” added he, with a sigh, “then you
can do what you will with it.”

“So,” cried Milady, as if she could not resist giving utterance to a
holy indignation, “you, a pious man, you who are called a just man, you
ask but one thing—and that is that you may not be inculpated, annoyed,
by my death!”

“It is my duty to watch over your life, madame, and I will watch.”

“But do you understand the mission you are fulfilling? Cruel enough, if
I am guilty; but what name can you give it, what name will the Lord
give it, if I am innocent?”

“I am a soldier, madame, and fulfill the orders I have received.”

“Do you believe, then, that at the day of the Last Judgment God will
separate blind executioners from iniquitous judges? You are not willing
that I should kill my body, and you make yourself the agent of him who
would kill my soul.”

“But I repeat it again to you,” replied Felton, in great emotion, “no
danger threatens you; I will answer for Lord de Winter as for myself.”

“Dunce,” cried Milady, “dunce! who dares to answer for another man,
when the wisest, when those most after God’s own heart, hesitate to
answer for themselves, and who ranges himself on the side of the
strongest and the most fortunate, to crush the weakest and the most
unfortunate.”

“Impossible, madame, impossible,” murmured Felton, who felt to the
bottom of his heart the justness of this argument. “A prisoner, you
will not recover your liberty through me; living, you will not lose
your life through me.”

“Yes,” cried Milady, “but I shall lose that which is much dearer to me
than life, I shall lose my honor, Felton; and it is you, you whom I
make responsible, before God and before men, for my shame and my
infamy.”

This time Felton, immovable as he was, or appeared to be, could not
resist the secret influence which had already taken possession of him.
To see this woman, so beautiful, fair as the brightest vision, to see
her by turns overcome with grief and threatening; to resist at once the
ascendancy of grief and beauty—it was too much for a visionary; it was
too much for a brain weakened by the ardent dreams of an ecstatic
faith; it was too much for a heart furrowed by the love of heaven that
burns, by the hatred of men that devours.

Milady saw the trouble. She felt by intuition the flame of the opposing
passions which burned with the blood in the veins of the young fanatic.
As a skillful general, seeing the enemy ready to surrender, marches
toward him with a cry of victory, she rose, beautiful as an antique
priestess, inspired like a Christian virgin, her arms extended, her
throat uncovered, her hair disheveled, holding with one hand her robe
modestly drawn over her breast, her look illumined by that fire which
had already created such disorder in the veins of the young Puritan,
and went toward him, crying out with a vehement air, and in her
melodious voice, to which on this occasion she communicated a terrible
energy:

“Let this victim to Baal be sent,
To the lions the martyr be thrown!
Thy God shall teach thee to repent!
From th’ abyss he’ll give ear to my moan.”

Felton stood before this strange apparition like one petrified.

“Who art thou? Who art thou?” cried he, clasping his hands. “Art thou a
messenger from God; art thou a minister from hell; art thou an angel or
a demon; callest thou thyself Eloa or Astarte?”

“Do you not know me, Felton? I am neither an angel nor a demon; I am a
daughter of earth, I am a sister of thy faith, that is all.”

“Yes, yes!” said Felton, “I doubted, but now I believe.”

“You believe, and still you are an accomplice of that child of Belial
who is called Lord de Winter! You believe, and yet you leave me in the
hands of mine enemies, of the enemy of England, of the enemy of God!
You believe, and yet you deliver me up to him who fills and defiles the
world with his heresies and debaucheries—to that infamous Sardanapalus
whom the blind call the Duke of Buckingham, and whom believers name
Antichrist!”

“I deliver you up to Buckingham? I? what mean you by that?”

“They have eyes,” cried Milady, “but they see not; ears have they, but
they hear not.”

“Yes, yes!” said Felton, passing his hands over his brow, covered with
sweat, as if to remove his last doubt. “Yes, I recognize the voice
which speaks to me in my dreams; yes, I recognize the features of the
angel who appears to me every night, crying to my soul, which cannot
sleep: ‘Strike, save England, save thyself—for thou wilt die without
having appeased God!’ Speak, speak!” cried Felton, “I can understand
you now.”

A flash of terrible joy, but rapid as thought, gleamed from the eyes of
Milady.

However fugitive this homicide flash, Felton saw it, and started as if
its light had revealed the abysses of this woman’s heart. He recalled,
all at once, the warnings of Lord de Winter, the seductions of Milady,
her first attempts after her arrival. He drew back a step, and hung
down his head, without, however, ceasing to look at her, as if,
fascinated by this strange creature, he could not detach his eyes from
her eyes.

Milady was not a woman to misunderstand the meaning of this hesitation.
Under her apparent emotions her icy coolness never abandoned her.
Before Felton replied, and before she should be forced to resume this
conversation, so difficult to be sustained in the same exalted tone,
she let her hands fall; and as if the weakness of the woman overpowered
the enthusiasm of the inspired fanatic, she said: “But no, it is not
for me to be the Judith to deliver Bethulia from this Holofernes. The
sword of the eternal is too heavy for my arm. Allow me, then, to avoid
dishonor by death; let me take refuge in martyrdom. I do not ask you
for liberty, as a guilty one would, nor for vengeance, as would a
pagan. Let me die; that is all. I supplicate you, I implore you on my
knees—let me die, and my last sigh shall be a blessing for my
preserver.”

Hearing that voice, so sweet and suppliant, seeing that look, so timid
and downcast, Felton reproached himself. By degrees the enchantress had
clothed herself with that magic adornment which she assumed and threw
aside at will; that is to say, beauty, meekness, and tears—and above
all, the irresistible attraction of mystical voluptuousness, the most
devouring of all voluptuousness.

“Alas!” said Felton, “I can do but one thing, which is to pity you if
you prove to me you are a victim! But Lord de Winter makes cruel
accusations against you. You are a Christian; you are my sister in
religion. I feel myself drawn toward you—I, who have never loved anyone
but my benefactor—I who have met with nothing but traitors and impious
men. But you, madame, so beautiful in reality, you, so pure in
appearance, must have committed great iniquities for Lord de Winter to
pursue you thus.”

“They have eyes,” repeated Milady, with an accent of indescribable
grief, “but they see not; ears have they, but they hear not.”

“But,” cried the young officer, “speak, then, speak!”

“Confide my shame to you,” cried Milady, with the blush of modesty upon
her countenance, “for often the crime of one becomes the shame of
another—confide my shame to you, a man, and I a woman? Oh,” continued
she, placing her hand modestly over her beautiful eyes, “never!
never!—I could not!”

“To me, to a brother?” said Felton.

Milady looked at him for some time with an expression which the young
man took for doubt, but which, however, was nothing but observation, or
rather the wish to fascinate.

Felton, in his turn a suppliant, clasped his hands.

“Well, then,” said Milady, “I confide in my brother; I will dare to—”

At this moment the steps of Lord de Winter were heard; but this time
the terrible brother-in-law of Milady did not content himself, as on
the preceding day, with passing before the door and going away again.
He paused, exchanged two words with the sentinel; then the door opened,
and he appeared.

During the exchange of these two words Felton drew back quickly, and
when Lord de Winter entered, he was several paces from the prisoner.

The baron entered slowly, sending a scrutinizing glance from Milady to
the young officer.

“You have been here a very long time, John,” said he. “Has this woman
been relating her crimes to you? In that case I can comprehend the
length of the conversation.”

Felton started; and Milady felt she was lost if she did not come to the
assistance of the disconcerted Puritan.

“Ah, you fear your prisoner should escape!” said she. “Well, ask your
worthy jailer what favor I this instant solicited of him.”

“You demanded a favor?” said the baron, suspiciously.

“Yes, my Lord,” replied the young man, confused.

“And what favor, pray?” asked Lord de Winter.

“A knife, which she would return to me through the grating of the door
a minute after she had received it,” replied Felton.

“There is someone, then, concealed here whose throat this amiable lady
is desirous of cutting,” said de Winter, in an ironical, contemptuous
tone.

“There is myself,” replied Milady.

“I have given you the choice between America and Tyburn,” replied Lord
de Winter. “Choose Tyburn, madame. Believe me, the cord is more certain
than the knife.”

Felton grew pale, and made a step forward, remembering that at the
moment he entered Milady had a rope in her hand.

“You are right,” said she, “I have often thought of it.” Then she added
in a low voice, “And I will think of it again.”

Felton felt a shudder run to the marrow of his bones; probably Lord de
Winter perceived this emotion.

“Mistrust yourself, John,” said he. “I have placed reliance upon you,
my friend. Beware! I have warned you! But be of good courage, my lad;
in three days we shall be delivered from this creature, and where I
shall send her she can harm nobody.”

“You hear him!” cried Milady, with vehemence, so that the baron might
believe she was addressing heaven, and that Felton might understand she
was addressing him.

Felton lowered his head and reflected.

The baron took the young officer by the arm, and turned his head over
his shoulder, so as not to lose sight of Milady till he was gone out.

“Well,” said the prisoner, when the door was shut, “I am not so far
advanced as I believed. De Winter has changed his usual stupidity into
a strange prudence. It is the desire of vengeance, and how desire molds
a man! As to Felton, he hesitates. Ah, he is not a man like that cursed
D’Artagnan. A Puritan only adores virgins, and he adores them by
clasping his hands. A Musketeer loves women, and he loves them by
clasping his arms round them.”

Milady waited, then, with much impatience, for she feared the day would
pass away without her seeing Felton again. At last, in an hour after
the scene we have just described, she heard someone speaking in a low
voice at the door. Presently the door opened, and she perceived Felton.

The young man advanced rapidly into the chamber, leaving the door open
behind him, and making a sign to Milady to be silent; his face was much
agitated.

“What do you want with me?” said she.

“Listen,” replied Felton, in a low voice. “I have just sent away the
sentinel that I might remain here without anybody knowing it, in order
to speak to you without being overheard. The baron has just related a
frightful story to me.”

Milady assumed her smile of a resigned victim, and shook her head.

“Either you are a demon,” continued Felton, “or the baron—my
benefactor, my father—is a monster. I have known you four days; I have
loved him four years. I therefore may hesitate between you. Be not
alarmed at what I say; I want to be convinced. Tonight, after twelve, I
will come and see you, and you shall convince me.”

“No, Felton, no, my brother,” said she; “the sacrifice is too great,
and I feel what it must cost you. No, I am lost; do not be lost with
me. My death will be much more eloquent than my life, and the silence
of the corpse will convince you much better than the words of the
prisoner.”

“Be silent, madame,” cried Felton, “and do not speak to me thus; I came
to entreat you to promise me upon your honor, to swear to me by what
you hold most sacred, that you will make no attempt upon your life.”

“I will not promise,” said Milady, “for no one has more respect for a
promise or an oath than I have; and if I make a promise I must keep
it.”

“Well,” said Felton, “only promise till you have seen me again. If,
when you have seen me again, you still persist—well, then you shall be
free, and I myself will give you the weapon you desire.”

“Well,” said Milady, “for you I will wait.”

“Swear.”

“I swear it, by our God. Are you satisfied?”

“Well,” said Felton, “till tonight.”

And he darted out of the room, shut the door, and waited in the
corridor, the soldier’s half-pike in his hand, and as if he had mounted
guard in his place.

The soldier returned, and Felton gave him back his weapon.

Then, through the grating to which she had drawn near, Milady saw the
young man make a sign with delirious fervor, and depart in an apparent
transport of joy.

As for her, she returned to her place with a smile of savage contempt
upon her lips, and repeated, blaspheming, that terrible name of God, by
whom she had just sworn without ever having learned to know Him.

“My God,” said she, “what a senseless fanatic! My God, it is I—I—and
this fellow who will help me to avenge myself.”

Chapter LVI.
CAPTIVITY: THE FIFTH DAY

Milady had however achieved a half-triumph, and success doubled her
forces.

It was not difficult to conquer, as she had hitherto done, men prompt
to let themselves be seduced, and whom the gallant education of a court
led quickly into her net. Milady was handsome enough not to find much
resistance on the part of the flesh, and she was sufficiently skillful
to prevail over all the obstacles of the mind.

But this time she had to contend with an unpolished nature,
concentrated and insensible by force of austerity. Religion and its
observances had made Felton a man inaccessible to ordinary seductions.
There fermented in that sublimated brain plans so vast, projects so
tumultuous, that there remained no room for any capricious or material
love—that sentiment which is fed by leisure and grows with corruption.
Milady had, then, made a breach by her false virtue in the opinion of a
man horribly prejudiced against her, and by her beauty in the heart of
a man hitherto chaste and pure. In short, she had taken the measure of
motives hitherto unknown to herself, through this experiment, made upon
the most rebellious subject that nature and religion could submit to
her study.

Many a time, nevertheless, during the evening she despaired of fate and
of herself. She did not invoke God, we very well know, but she had
faith in the genius of evil—that immense sovereignty which reigns in
all the details of human life, and by which, as in the Arabian fable, a
single pomegranate seed is sufficient to reconstruct a ruined world.

Milady, being well prepared for the reception of Felton, was able to
erect her batteries for the next day. She knew she had only two days
left; that when once the order was signed by Buckingham—and Buckingham
would sign it the more readily from its bearing a false name, and he
could not, therefore, recognize the woman in question—once this order
was signed, we say, the baron would make her embark immediately, and
she knew very well that women condemned to exile employ arms much less
powerful in their seductions than the pretendedly virtuous woman whose
beauty is lighted by the sun of the world, whose style the voice of
fashion lauds, and whom a halo of aristocracy gilds with enchanting
splendors. To be a woman condemned to a painful and disgraceful
punishment is no impediment to beauty, but it is an obstacle to the
recovery of power. Like all persons of real genius, Milady knew what
suited her nature and her means. Poverty was repugnant to her;
degradation took away two-thirds of her greatness. Milady was only a
queen while among queens. The pleasure of satisfied pride was necessary
to her domination. To command inferior beings was rather a humiliation
than a pleasure for her.

She should certainly return from her exile—she did not doubt that a
single instant; but how long might this exile last? For an active,
ambitious nature, like that of Milady, days not spent in climbing are
inauspicious days. What word, then, can be found to describe the days
which they occupy in descending? To lose a year, two years, three
years, is to talk of an eternity; to return after the death or disgrace
of the cardinal, perhaps; to return when D’Artagnan and his friends,
happy and triumphant, should have received from the queen the reward
they had well acquired by the services they had rendered her—these were
devouring ideas that a woman like Milady could not endure. For the
rest, the storm which raged within her doubled her strength, and she
would have burst the walls of her prison if her body had been able to
take for a single instant the proportions of her mind.

Then that which spurred her on additionally in the midst of all this
was the remembrance of the cardinal. What must the mistrustful,
restless, suspicious cardinal think of her silence—the cardinal, not
merely her only support, her only prop, her only protector at present,
but still further, the principal instrument of her future fortune and
vengeance? She knew him; she knew that at her return from a fruitless
journey it would be in vain to tell him of her imprisonment, in vain to
enlarge upon the sufferings she had undergone. The cardinal would
reply, with the sarcastic calmness of the skeptic, strong at once by
power and genius, “You should not have allowed yourself to be taken.”

Then Milady collected all her energies, murmuring in the depths of her
soul the name of Felton—the only beam of light that penetrated to her
in the hell into which she had fallen; and like a serpent which folds
and unfolds its rings to ascertain its strength, she enveloped Felton
beforehand in the thousand meshes of her inventive imagination.

Time, however, passed away; the hours, one after another, seemed to
awaken the clock as they passed, and every blow of the brass hammer
resounded upon the heart of the prisoner. At nine o’clock, Lord de
Winter made his customary visit, examined the window and the bars,
sounded the floor and the walls, looked to the chimney and the doors,
without, during this long and minute examination, he or Milady
pronouncing a single word.

Doubtless both of them understood that the situation had become too
serious to lose time in useless words and aimless wrath.

“Well,” said the baron, on leaving her “you will not escape tonight!”

At ten o’clock Felton came and placed the sentinel. Milady recognized
his step. She was as well acquainted with it now as a mistress is with
that of the lover of her heart; and yet Milady at the same time
detested and despised this weak fanatic.

That was not the appointed hour. Felton did not enter.

Two hours after, as midnight sounded, the sentinel was relieved. This
time it _was_ the hour, and from this moment Milady waited with
impatience. The new sentinel commenced his walk in the corridor. At the
expiration of ten minutes Felton came.

Milady was all attention.

“Listen,” said the young man to the sentinel. “On no pretense leave the
door, for you know that last night my Lord punished a soldier for
having quit his post for an instant, although I, during his absence,
watched in his place.”

“Yes, I know it,” said the soldier.

“I recommend you therefore to keep the strictest watch. For my part I
am going to pay a second visit to this woman, who I fear entertains
sinister intentions upon her own life, and I have received orders to
watch her.”

“Good!” murmured Milady; “the austere Puritan lies.”

As to the soldier, he only smiled.

“Zounds, Lieutenant!” said he; “you are not unlucky in being charged
with such commissions, particularly if my Lord has authorized you to
look into her bed.”

Felton blushed. Under any other circumstances he would have reprimanded
the soldier for indulging in such pleasantry, but his conscience
murmured too loud for his mouth to dare speak.

“If I call, come,” said he. “If anyone comes, call me.”

“I will, Lieutenant,” said the soldier.

Felton entered Milady’s apartment. Milady arose.

“You are here!” said she.

“I promised to come,” said Felton, “and I have come.”

“You promised me something else.”

“What, my God!” said the young man, who in spite of his self-command
felt his knees tremble and the sweat start from his brow.

“You promised to bring a knife, and to leave it with me after our
interview.”

“Say no more of that, madame,” said Felton. “There is no situation,
however terrible it may be, which can authorize a creature of God to
inflict death upon himself. I have reflected, and I cannot, must not be
guilty of such a sin.”

“Ah, you have reflected!” said the prisoner, sitting down in her
armchair, with a smile of disdain; “and I also have reflected.”

“Upon what?”

“That I can have nothing to say to a man who does not keep his word.”

“Oh, my God!” murmured Felton.

“You may retire,” said Milady. “I will not talk.”

“Here is the knife,” said Felton, drawing from his pocket the weapon
which he had brought, according to his promise, but which he hesitated
to give to his prisoner.

“Let me see it,” said Milady.

“For what purpose?”

“Upon my honor, I will instantly return it to you. You shall place it
on that table, and you may remain between it and me.”

Felton offered the weapon to Milady, who examined the temper of it
attentively, and who tried the point on the tip of her finger.

“Well,” said she, returning the knife to the young officer, “this is
fine and good steel. You are a faithful friend, Felton.”

Felton took back the weapon, and laid it upon the table, as he had
agreed with the prisoner.

Milady followed him with her eyes, and made a gesture of satisfaction.

“Now,” said she, “listen to me.”

The request was needless. The young officer stood upright before her,
awaiting her words as if to devour them.

“Felton,” said Milady, with a solemnity full of melancholy, “imagine
that your sister, the daughter of your father, speaks to you. While yet
young, unfortunately handsome, I was dragged into a snare. I resisted.
Ambushes and violences multiplied around me, but I resisted. The
religion I serve, the God I adore, were blasphemed because I called
upon that religion and that God, but still I resisted. Then outrages
were heaped upon me, and as my soul was not subdued they wished to
defile my body forever. Finally—”

Milady stopped, and a bitter smile passed over her lips.

“Finally,” said Felton, “finally, what did they do?”

“At length, one evening my enemy resolved to paralyze the resistance he
could not conquer. One evening he mixed a powerful narcotic with my
water. Scarcely had I finished my repast, when I felt myself sink by
degrees into a strange torpor. Although I was without mistrust, a vague
fear seized me, and I tried to struggle against sleepiness. I arose. I
wished to run to the window and call for help, but my legs refused
their office. It appeared as if the ceiling sank upon my head and
crushed me with its weight. I stretched out my arms. I tried to speak.
I could only utter inarticulate sounds, and irresistible faintness came
over me. I supported myself by a chair, feeling that I was about to
fall, but this support was soon insufficient on account of my weak
arms. I fell upon one knee, then upon both. I tried to pray, but my
tongue was frozen. God doubtless neither heard nor saw me, and I sank
upon the floor a prey to a slumber which resembled death.

“Of all that passed in that sleep, or the time which glided away while
it lasted, I have no remembrance. The only thing I recollect is that I
awoke in bed in a round chamber, the furniture of which was sumptuous,
and into which light only penetrated by an opening in the ceiling. No
door gave entrance to the room. It might be called a magnificent
prison.

“It was a long time before I was able to make out what place I was in,
or to take account of the details I describe. My mind appeared to
strive in vain to shake off the heavy darkness of the sleep from which
I could not rouse myself. I had vague perceptions of space traversed,
of the rolling of a carriage, of a horrible dream in which my strength
had become exhausted; but all this was so dark and so indistinct in my
mind that these events seemed to belong to another life than mine, and
yet mixed with mine in fantastic duality.

“At times the state into which I had fallen appeared so strange that I
believed myself dreaming. I arose trembling. My clothes were near me on
a chair; I neither remembered having undressed myself nor going to bed.
Then by degrees the reality broke upon me, full of chaste terrors. I
was no longer in the house where I had dwelt. As well as I could judge
by the light of the sun, the day was already two-thirds gone. It was
the evening before when I had fallen asleep; my sleep, then, must have
lasted twenty-four hours! What had taken place during this long sleep?

“I dressed myself as quickly as possible; my slow and stiff motions all
attested that the effects of the narcotic were not yet entirely
dissipated. The chamber was evidently furnished for the reception of a
woman; and the most finished coquette could not have formed a wish, but
on casting her eyes about the apartment, she would have found that wish
accomplished.

“Certainly I was not the first captive that had been shut up in this
splendid prison; but you may easily comprehend, Felton, that the more
superb the prison, the greater was my terror.

“Yes, it was a prison, for I tried in vain to get out of it. I sounded
all the walls, in the hopes of discovering a door, but everywhere the
walls returned a full and flat sound.

“I made the tour of the room at least twenty times, in search of an
outlet of some kind; but there was none. I sank exhausted with fatigue
and terror into an armchair.

“Meantime, night came on rapidly, and with night my terrors increased.
I did not know but I had better remain where I was seated. It appeared
that I was surrounded with unknown dangers into which I was about to
fall at every instant. Although I had eaten nothing since the evening
before, my fears prevented my feeling hunger.

“No noise from without by which I could measure the time reached me; I
only supposed it must be seven or eight o’clock in the evening, for it
was in the month of October and it was quite dark.

“All at once the noise of a door, turning on its hinges, made me start.
A globe of fire appeared above the glazed opening of the ceiling,
casting a strong light into my chamber; and I perceived with terror
that a man was standing within a few paces of me.

“A table, with two covers, bearing a supper ready prepared, stood, as
if by magic, in the middle of the apartment.

“That man was he who had pursued me during a whole year, who had vowed
my dishonor, and who, by the first words that issued from his mouth,
gave me to understand he had accomplished it the preceding night.”

“Scoundrel!” murmured Felton.

“Oh, yes, scoundrel!” cried Milady, seeing the interest which the young
officer, whose soul seemed to hang on her lips, took in this strange
recital. “Oh, yes, scoundrel! He believed, having triumphed over me in
my sleep, that all was completed. He came, hoping that I would accept
my shame, as my shame was consummated; he came to offer his fortune in
exchange for my love.

“All that the heart of a woman could contain of haughty contempt and
disdainful words, I poured out upon this man. Doubtless he was
accustomed to such reproaches, for he listened to me calm and smiling,
with his arms crossed over his breast. Then, when he thought I had said
all, he advanced toward me; I sprang toward the table, I seized a
knife, I placed it to my breast.

“Take one step more,” said I, “and in addition to my dishonor, you
shall have my death to reproach yourself with.”

“There was, no doubt, in my look, my voice, my whole person, that
sincerity of gesture, of attitude, of accent, which carries conviction
to the most perverse minds, for he paused.

“‘Your death?’ said he; ‘oh, no, you are too charming a mistress to
allow me to consent to lose you thus, after I have had the happiness to
possess you only a single time. Adieu, my charmer; I will wait to pay
you my next visit till you are in a better humor.’

“At these words he blew a whistle; the globe of fire which lighted the
room reascended and disappeared. I found myself again in complete
darkness. The same noise of a door opening and shutting was repeated
the instant afterward; the flaming globe descended afresh, and I was
completely alone.

“This moment was frightful; if I had any doubts as to my misfortune,
these doubts had vanished in an overwhelming reality. I was in the
power of a man whom I not only detested, but despised—of a man capable
of anything, and who had already given me a fatal proof of what he was
able to do.”

“But who, then, was this man?” asked Felton.

“I passed the night on a chair, starting at the least noise, for toward
midnight the lamp went out, and I was again in darkness. But the night
passed away without any fresh attempt on the part of my persecutor. Day
came; the table had disappeared, only I had still the knife in my hand.

“This knife was my only hope.

“I was worn out with fatigue. Sleeplessness inflamed my eyes; I had not
dared to sleep a single instant. The light of day reassured me; I went
and threw myself on the bed, without parting with the emancipating
knife, which I concealed under my pillow.

“When I awoke, a fresh meal was served.

“This time, in spite of my terrors, in spite of my agony, I began to
feel a devouring hunger. It was forty-eight hours since I had taken any
nourishment. I ate some bread and some fruit; then, remembering the
narcotic mixed with the water I had drunk, I would not touch that which
was placed on the table, but filled my glass at a marble fountain fixed
in the wall over my dressing table.

“And yet, notwithstanding these precautions, I remained for some time
in a terrible agitation of mind. But my fears were this time
ill-founded; I passed the day without experiencing anything of the kind
I dreaded.

“I took the precaution to half empty the _carafe_, in order that my
suspicions might not be noticed.

“The evening came on, and with it darkness; but however profound was
this darkness, my eyes began to accustom themselves to it. I saw, amid
the shadows, the table sink through the floor; a quarter of an hour
later it reappeared, bearing my supper. In an instant, thanks to the
lamp, my chamber was once more lighted.

“I was determined to eat only such things as could not possibly have
anything soporific introduced into them. Two eggs and some fruit
composed my repast; then I drew another glass of water from my
protecting fountain, and drank it.

“At the first swallow, it appeared to me not to have the same taste as
in the morning. Suspicion instantly seized me. I paused, but I had
already drunk half a glass.

“I threw the rest away with horror, and waited, with the dew of fear
upon my brow.

“No doubt some invisible witness had seen me draw the water from that
fountain, and had taken advantage of my confidence in it, the better to
assure my ruin, so coolly resolved upon, so cruelly pursued.

“Half an hour had not passed when the same symptoms began to appear;
but as I had only drunk half a glass of the water, I contended longer,
and instead of falling entirely asleep, I sank into a state of
drowsiness which left me a perception of what was passing around me,
while depriving me of the strength either to defend myself or to fly.

“I dragged myself toward the bed, to seek the only defense I had
left—my saving knife; but I could not reach the bolster. I sank on my
knees, my hands clasped round one of the bedposts; then I felt that I
was lost.”

Felton became frightfully pale, and a convulsive tremor crept through
his whole body.

“And what was most frightful,” continued Milady, her voice altered, as
if she still experienced the same agony as at that awful minute, “was
that at this time I retained a consciousness of the danger that
threatened me; was that my soul, if I may say so, waked in my sleeping
body; was that I saw, that I heard. It is true that all was like a
dream, but it was not the less frightful.

“I saw the lamp ascend, and leave me in darkness; then I heard the
well-known creaking of the door although I had heard that door open but
twice.

“I felt instinctively that someone approached me; it is said that the
doomed wretch in the deserts of America thus feels the approach of the
serpent.

“I wished to make an effort; I attempted to cry out. By an incredible
effort of will I even raised myself up, but only to sink down again
immediately, and to fall into the arms of my persecutor.”

“Tell me who this man was!” cried the young officer.

Milady saw at a single glance all the painful feelings she inspired in
Felton by dwelling on every detail of her recital; but she would not
spare him a single pang. The more profoundly she wounded his heart, the
more certainly he would avenge her. She continued, then, as if she had
not heard his exclamation, or as if she thought the moment was not yet
come to reply to it.

“Only this time it was no longer an inert body, without feeling, that
the villain had to deal with. I have told you that without being able
to regain the complete exercise of my faculties, I retained the sense
of my danger. I struggled, then, with all my strength, and doubtless
opposed, weak as I was, a long resistance, for I heard him cry out,
‘These miserable Puritans! I knew very well that they tired out their
executioners, but I did not believe them so strong against their
lovers!’

“Alas! this desperate resistance could not last long. I felt my
strength fail, and this time it was not my sleep that enabled the
coward to prevail, but my swoon.”

Felton listened without uttering any word or sound, except an inward
expression of agony. The sweat streamed down his marble forehead, and
his hand, under his coat, tore his breast.

“My first impulse, on coming to myself, was to feel under my pillow for
the knife I had not been able to reach; if it had not been useful for
defense, it might at least serve for expiation.

“But on taking this knife, Felton, a terrible idea occurred to me. I
have sworn to tell you all, and I will tell you all. I have promised
you the truth; I will tell it, were it to destroy me.”

“The idea came into your mind to avenge yourself on this man, did it
not?” cried Felton.

“Yes,” said Milady. “The idea was not that of a Christian, I knew; but
without doubt, that eternal enemy of our souls, that lion roaring
constantly around us, breathed it into my mind. In short, what shall I
say to you, Felton?” continued Milady, in the tone of a woman accusing
herself of a crime. “This idea occurred to me, and did not leave me; it
is of this homicidal thought that I now bear the punishment.”

“Continue, continue!” said Felton; “I am eager to see you attain your
vengeance!”

“Oh, I resolved that it should take place as soon as possible. I had no
doubt he would return the following night. During the day I had nothing
to fear.

“When the hour of breakfast came, therefore, I did not hesitate to eat
and drink. I had determined to make believe sup, but to eat nothing. I
was forced, then, to combat the fast of the evening with the
nourishment of the morning.

“Only I concealed a glass of water, which remained after my breakfast,
thirst having been the chief of my sufferings when I remained
forty-eight hours without eating or drinking.

“The day passed away without having any other influence on me than to
strengthen the resolution I had formed; only I took care that my face
should not betray the thoughts of my heart, for I had no doubt I was
watched. Several times, even, I felt a smile on my lips. Felton, I dare
not tell you at what idea I smiled; you would hold me in horror—”

“Go on! go on!” said Felton; “you see plainly that I listen, and that I
am anxious to know the end.”

“Evening came; the ordinary events took place. During the darkness, as
before, my supper was brought. Then the lamp was lighted, and I sat
down to table. I only ate some fruit. I pretended to pour out water
from the jug, but I only drank that which I had saved in my glass. The
substitution was made so carefully that my spies, if I had any, could
have no suspicion of it.

“After supper I exhibited the same marks of languor as on the preceding
evening; but this time, as I yielded to fatigue, or as if I had become
familiarized with danger, I dragged myself toward my bed, let my robe
fall, and lay down.

“I found my knife where I had placed it, under my pillow, and while
feigning to sleep, my hand grasped the handle of it convulsively.

“Two hours passed away without anything fresh happening. Oh, my God!
who could have said so the evening before? I began to fear that he
would not come.

“At length I saw the lamp rise softly, and disappear in the depths of
the ceiling; my chamber was filled with darkness and obscurity, but I
made a strong effort to penetrate this darkness and obscurity.

“Nearly ten minutes passed; I heard no other noise but the beating of
my own heart. I implored heaven that he might come.

“At length I heard the well-known noise of the door, which opened and
shut; I heard, notwithstanding the thickness of the carpet, a step
which made the floor creak; I saw, notwithstanding the darkness, a
shadow which approached my bed.”

“Haste! haste!” said Felton; “do you not see that each of your words
burns me like molten lead?”

“Then,” continued Milady, “then I collected all my strength; I recalled
to my mind that the moment of vengeance, or rather, of justice, had
struck. I looked upon myself as another Judith; I gathered myself up,
my knife in my hand, and when I saw him near me, stretching out his
arms to find his victim, then, with the last cry of agony and despair,
I struck him in the middle of his breast.

“The miserable villain! He had foreseen all. His breast was covered
with a coat-of-mail; the knife was bent against it.

“‘Ah, ah!’ cried he, seizing my arm, and wresting from me the weapon
that had so badly served me, ‘you want to take my life, do you, my
pretty Puritan? But that’s more than dislike, that’s ingratitude! Come,
come, calm yourself, my sweet girl! I thought you had softened. I am
not one of those tyrants who detain women by force. You don’t love me.
With my usual fatuity I doubted it; now I am convinced. Tomorrow you
shall be free.’

“I had but one wish; that was that he should kill me.

“‘Beware!’ said I, ‘for my liberty is your dishonor.’

“‘Explain yourself, my pretty sibyl!’

“‘Yes; for as soon as I leave this place I will tell everything. I will
proclaim the violence you have used toward me. I will describe my
captivity. I will denounce this place of infamy. You are placed on
high, my Lord, but tremble! Above you there is the king; above the king
there is God!’

“However perfect master he was over himself, my persecutor allowed a
movement of anger to escape him. I could not see the expression of his
countenance, but I felt the arm tremble upon which my hand was placed.

“‘Then you shall not leave this place,’ said he.

“‘Very well,’ cried I, ‘then the place of my punishment will be that of
my tomb. I will die here, and you will see if a phantom that accuses is
not more terrible than a living being that threatens!’

“‘You shall have no weapon left in your power.’

“‘There is a weapon which despair has placed within the reach of every
creature who has the courage to use it. I will allow myself to die with
hunger.’

“‘Come,’ said the wretch, ‘is not peace much better than such a war as
that? I will restore you to liberty this moment; I will proclaim you a
piece of immaculate virtue; I will name you the Lucretia of England.’

“‘And I will say that you are the Sextus. I will denounce you before
men, as I have denounced you before God; and if it be necessary that,
like Lucretia, I should sign my accusation with my blood, I will sign
it.’

“‘Ah!’ said my enemy, in a jeering tone, ‘that’s quite another thing.
My faith! everything considered, you are very well off here. You shall
want for nothing, and if you let yourself die of hunger that will be
your own fault.’

“At these words he retired. I heard the door open and shut, and I
remained overwhelmed, less, I confess it, by my grief than by the
mortification of not having avenged myself.

“He kept his word. All the day, all the next night passed away without
my seeing him again. But I also kept my word with him, and I neither
ate nor drank. I was, as I told him, resolved to die of hunger.

“I passed the day and the night in prayer, for I hoped that God would
pardon me my suicide.

“The second night th

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