Part 14 out of 17
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
"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
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
"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
The color mounted to the face of Athos, and he made a step toward
"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
"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
The cardinal became as pale as death; lightning darted from his
eyes. He turned round as if to give an order to Cahusac and
Houdiniere. 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,
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
"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
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
Bethune, 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
"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 Bethune! Where
is Bethune, 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
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."
52 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
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
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
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
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
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
At length Felton, who had not yet looked at Milady, turned toward
"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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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.
53 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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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."
54 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
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
"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
"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
"What, you are ignorant of Lord de Winter's designs upon me?"
"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
"You mean George Villiers?" asked Felton, whose looks became
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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.
55 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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"They have eyes," repeated Milady, with an accent of
indescribable grief, "but they see not; ears have they, but they
"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
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
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,
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Well," said Milady, "for you I will wait."
"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."
56 CAPTIVITY: THE FIFTH DAY
Milady had however achieved a half-triumph, and success doubled
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
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
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
"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."
"That I can have nothing to say to a man who does not keep his
"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
"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.
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
"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.