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The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas [Pere]

Part 15 out of 17

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"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"'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 the door opened; I was lying on the floor, for
my strength began to abandon me.

"At the noise I raised myself up on one hand.

"'Well,' said a voice which vibrated in too terrible a manner in
my ear not to be recognized, 'well! Are we softened a little?
Will we not pay for our liberty with a single promise of silence?
Come, I am a good sort of a prince,' added he, 'and although I
like not Puritans I do them justice; and it is the same with
Puritanesses, when they are pretty. Come, take a little oath for
me on the cross; I won't ask anything more of you.'

"'On the cross,' cried I, rising, for at that abhorred voice I
had recovered all my strength, 'on the cross I swear that no
promise, no menace, no force, no torture, shall close my mouth!
On the cross I swear to denounce you everywhere as a murderer, as
a thief of honor, as a base coward! On the cross I swear, if I
ever leave this place, to call down vengeance upon you from the
whole human race!'

"'Beware!' said the voice, in a threatening accent that I had
never yet heard. 'I have an extraordinary means which I will not
employ but in the last extremity to close your mouth, or at least
to prevent anyone from believing a word you may utter.'

"I mustered all my strength to reply to him with a burst of

"He saw that it was a merciless war between us--a war to the

"'Listen!' said he. 'I give you the rest of tonight and all day
tomorrow. Reflect: promise to be silent, and riches,
consideration, even honor, shall surround you; threaten to speak,
and I will condemn you to infamy.'

"'You?' cried I. 'You?'

"'To interminable, ineffaceable infamy!'

"'You?' repeated I. Oh, I declare to you, Felton, I thought him

"'Yes, yes, I!' replied he.

"'Oh, leave me!' said I. 'Begone, if you do not desire to see me
dash my head against that wall before your eyes!'

"'Very well, it is your own doing. Till tomorrow evening, then!'

"'Till tomorrow evening, then!' replied I, allowing myself to
fall, and biting the carpet with rage."

Felton leaned for support upon a piece of furniture; and Milady
saw, with the joy of a demon, that his strength would fail him
perhaps before the end of her recital.


After a moment of silence employed by Milady in observing the
young man who listened to her, Milady continued her recital.

"It was nearly three days since I had eaten or drunk anything. I
suffered frightful torments. At times there passed before me
clouds which pressed my brow, which veiled my eyes; this was

"When the evening came I was so weak that every time I fainted I
thanked God, for I thought I was about to die.

"In the midst of one of these swoons I heard the door open.
Terror recalled me to myself.

"He entered the apartment followed by a man in a mask. He was
masked likewise; but I knew his step, I knew his voice, I knew
him by that imposing bearing which hell has bestowed upon his
person for the curse of humanity.

"'Well,' said he to me, 'have you made your mind up to take the
oath I requested of you?'

"'You have said Puritans have but one word. Mine you have heard,
and that is to pursue you--on earth to the tribunal of men, in
heaven to the tribunal of God.'

"'You persist, then?'

"'I swear it before the God who hears me. I will take the whole
world as a witness of your crime, and that until I have found an

"'You are a prostitute,' said he, in a voice of thunder, 'and you
shall undergo the punishment of prostitutes! Branded in the eyes
of the world you invoke, try to prove to that world that you are
neither guilty nor mad!'

"Then, addressing the man who accompanied him, 'Executioner,'
said he, 'do your duty.'"

"Oh, his name, his name!" cried Felton. "His name, tell it me!"

"Then in spite of my cries, in spite of my resistance--for I
began to comprehend that there was a question of something worse
than death--the executioner seized me, threw me on the floor,
fastened me with his bonds, and suffocated by sobs, almost
without sense, invoking God, who did not listen to me, I uttered
all at once a frightful cry of pain and shame. A burning fire, a
red-hot iron, the iron of the executioner, was imprinted on my

Felton uttered a groan.

"Here," said Milady, rising with the majesty of a queen, "here,
Felton, behold the new martyrdom invented for a pure young girl,
the victim of the brutality of a villain. Learn to know the
heart of men, and henceforth make yourself less easily the
instrument of their unjust vengeance."

Milady, with a rapid gesture, opened her robe, tore the cambric
that covered her bosom, and red with feigned anger and simulated
shame, showed the young man the ineffaceable impression which
dishonored that beautiful shoulder.

"But," cried Felton, "that is a FLEUR-DE-LIS which I see there."

"And therein consisted the infamy," replied Milady. "The brand
of England!--it would be necessary to prove what tribunal had
imposed it on me, and I could have made a public appeal to all
the tribunals of the kingdom; but the brand of France!--oh, by
that, by THAT I was branded indeed!"

This was too much for Felton.

Pale, motionless, overwhelmed by this frightful revelation,
dazzled by the superhuman beauty of this woman who unveiled
herself before him with an immodesty which appeared to him
sublime, he ended by falling on his knees before her as the early
Christians did before those pure and holy martyrs whom the
persecution of the emperors gave up in the circus to the
sanguinary sensuality of the populace. The brand disappeared;
the beauty alone remained.

"Pardon! Pardon!" cried Felton, "oh, pardon!"

Milady read in his eyes LOVE! LOVE!

"Pardon for what?" asked she.

"Pardon me for having joined with your persecutors."

Milady held out her hand to him.

"So beautiful! so young!" cried Felton, covering that hand with
his kisses.

Milady let one of those looks fall upon him which make a slave of
a king.

Felton was a Puritan; he abandoned the hand of this woman to kiss
her feet.

He no longer loved her; he adored her.

When this crisis was past, when Milady appeared to have resumed
her self-possession, which she had never lost; when Felton had
seen her recover with the veil of chastity those treasures of
love which were only concealed from him to make him desire them
the more ardently, he said, "Ah, now! I have only one thing to
ask of you; that is, the name of your true executioner. For to
me there is but one; the other was an instrument, that was all."

"What, brother!" cried Milady, "must I name him again? Have you
not yet divined who he is?"

"What?" cried Felton, "he--again he--always he? What--the truly

"The truly guilty," said Milady, "is the ravager of England, the
persecutor of true believers, the base ravisher of the honor of
so many women--he who, to satisfy a caprice of his corrupt heart,
is about to make England shed so much blood, who protects the
Protestants today and will betray them tomorrow--"

"Buckingham! It is, then, Buckingham!" cried Felton, in a high
state of excitement.

Milady concealed her face in her hands, as if she could not
endure the shame which this name recalled to her.

"Buckingham, the executioner of this angelic creature!" cried
Felton. "And thou hast not hurled thy thunder at him, my God!
And thou hast left him noble, honored, powerful, for the ruin of
us all!"

"God abandons him who abandons himself," said Milady.

"But he will draw upon his head the punishment reserved for the
damned!" said Felton, with increasing exultation. "He wills that
human vengeance should precede celestial justice."

"Men fear him and spare him."

"I," said Felton, "I do not fear him, nor will I spare him."

The soul of Milady was bathed in an infernal joy.

"But how can Lord de Winter, my protector, my father," asked
Felton, "possibly be mixed up with all this?"

"Listen, Felton," resumed Milady, "for by the side of base and
contemptible men there are often found great and generous
natures. I had an affianced husband, a man whom I loved, and who
loved me--a heart like yours, Felton, a man like you. I went to
him and told him all; he knew me, that man did, and did not doubt
an instant. He was a nobleman, a man equal to Buckingham in
every respect. He said nothing; he only girded on his sword,
wrapped himself in his cloak, and went straight to Buckingham

"Yes, yes," said Felton; "I understand how he would act. But
with such men it is not the sword that should be employed; it is
the poniard."

"Buckingham had left England the day before, sent as ambassador
to Spain, to demand the hand of the Infanta for King Charles I,
who was then only Prince of Wales. My affianced husband

"'Hear me,' said he; 'this man has gone, and for the moment has
consequently escaped my vengeance; but let us be united, as we
were to have been, and then leave it to Lord de Winter to
maintain his own honor and that of his wife.'"

"Lord de Winter!" cried Felton.

"Yes," said Milady, "Lord de Winter; and now you can understand
it all, can you not? Buckingham remained nearly a year absent.
A week before his return Lord de Winter died, leaving me his sole
heir. Whence came the blow? God who knows all, knows without
doubt; but as for me, I accuse nobody."

"Oh, what an abyss; what an abyss!" cried Felton.

"Lord de Winter died without revealing anything to his brother.
The terrible secret was to be concealed till it burst, like a
clap of thunder, over the head of the guilty. Your protector had
seen with pain this marriage of his elder brother with a
portionless girl. I was sensible that I could look for no
support from a man disappointed in his hopes of an inheritance.
I went to France, with a determination to remain there for the
rest of my life. But all my fortune is in England.
Communication being closed by the war, I was in want of
everything. I was then obliged to come back again. Six days
ago, I landed at Portsmouth."

"Well?" said Felton.

"Well; Buckingham heard by some means, no doubt, of my return.
He spoke of me to Lord de Winter, already prejudiced against me,
and told him that his sister-in-law was a prostitute, a branded
woman. The noble and pure voice of my husband was no longer here
to defend me. Lord de Winter believed all that was told him with
so much the more ease that it was his interest to believe it. He
caused me to be arrested, had me conducted hither, and placed me
under your guard. You know the rest. The day after tomorrow he
banishes me, he transports me; the day after tomorrow he exiles
me among the infamous. Oh, the train is well laid; the plot is
clever. My honor will not survive it! You see, then, Felton, I
can do nothing but die. Felton, give me that knife!"

And at these words, as if all her strength was exhausted, Milady
sank, weak and languishing, into the arms of the young officer,
who, intoxicated with love, anger, and voluptuous sensations
hitherto unknown, received her with transport, pressed her
against his heart, all trembling at the breath from that charming
mouth, bewildered by the contact with that palpitating bosom.

"No, no," said he. "No, you shall live honored and pure; you
shall live to triumph over your enemies."

Milady put him from her slowly with her hand, while drawing him
nearer with her look; but Felton, in his turn, embraced her more
closely, imploring her like a divinity.

"Oh, death, death!" said she, lowering her voice and her eyelids,
"oh, death, rather than shame! Felton, my brother, my friend, I
conjure you!"

"No," cried Felton, "no; you shall live and you shall be

"Felton, I bring misfortune to all who surround me! Felton,
abandon me! Felton, let me die!"

"Well, then, we will live and die together!" cried he, pressing
his lips to those of the prisoner.

Several strokes resounded on the door; this time Milady really
pushed him away from her.

"Hark," said she, "we have been overheard! Someone is coming!
All is over! We are lost!"

"No," said Felton; it is only the sentinel warning me that they
are about to change the guard."

"Then run to the door, and open it yourself."

Felton obeyed; this woman was now his whole thought, his whole

He found himself face to face with a sergeant commanding a watch-

"Well, what is the matter?" asked the young lieutenant.

"You told me to open the door if I heard anyone cry out," said
the soldier; "but you forgot to leave me the key. I heard you
cry out, without understanding what you said. I tried to open
the door, but it was locked inside; then I called the sergeant."

"And here I am," said the sergeant.

Felton, quite bewildered, almost mad, stood speechless.

Milady plainly perceived that it was now her turn to take part in
the scene. She ran to the table, and seizing the knife which
Felton had laid down, exclaimed, "And by what right will you
prevent me from dying?"

"Great God!" exclaimed Felton, on seeing the knife glitter in her

At that moment a burst of ironical laughter resounded through the
corridor. The baron, attracted by the noise, in his chamber
gown, his sword under his arm, stood in the doorway.

"Ah," said he, "here we are, at the last act of the tragedy. You
see, Felton, the drama has gone through all the phases I named;
but be easy, no blood will flow."

Milady perceived that all was lost unless she gave Felton an
immediate and terrible proof of her courage.

"You are mistaken, my Lord, blood will flow; and may that blood
fall back on those who cause it to flow!"

Felton uttered a cry, and rushed toward her. He was too late;
Milady had stabbed herself.

But the knife had fortunately, we ought to say skillfully, come
in contact with the steel busk, which at that period, like a
cuirass, defended the chests of women. It had glided down it,
tearing the robe, and had penetrated slantingly between the flesh
and the ribs. Milady's robe was not the less stained with blood
in a second.

Milady fell down, and seemed to be in a swoon.

Felton snatched away the knife.

"See, my Lord," said he, in a deep, gloomy tone, "here is a woman
who was under my guard, and who has killed herself!"

"Be at ease, Felton," said Lord de Winter. "She is not dead;
demons do not die so easily. Be tranquil, and go wait for me in
my chamber."

"But, my Lord--"

"Go, sir, I command you!"

At this injunction from his superior, Felton obeyed; but in going
out, he put the knife into his bosom.

As to Lord de Winter, he contented himself with calling the woman
who waited on Milady, and when she was come, he recommended the
prisoner, who was still fainting, to her care, and left them

Meanwhile, all things considered and notwithstanding his
suspicions, as the wound might be serious, he immediately sent
off a mounted man to find a physician.


As Lord de Winter had thought, Milady's wound was not dangerous.
So soon as she was left alone with the woman whom the baron had
summoned to her assistance she opened her eyes.

It was, however, necessary to affect weakness and pain--not a
very difficult task for so finished an actress as Milady. Thus
the poor woman was completely the dupe of the prisoner, whom,
notwithstanding her hints, she persisted in watching all night.

But the presence of this woman did not prevent Milady from

There was no longer a doubt that Felton was convinced; Felton was
hers. If an angel appeared to that young man as an accuser of
Milady, he would take him, in the mental disposition in which he
now found himself, for a messenger sent by the devil.

Milady smiled at this thought, for Felton was now her only hope--
her only means of safety.

But Lord de Winter might suspect him; Felton himself might now be

Toward four o'clock in the morning the doctor arrived; but since
the time Milady stabbed herself, however short, the wound had
closed. The doctor could therefore measure neither the direction
nor the depth of it; he only satisfied himself by Milady's pulse
that the case was not serious.

In the morning Milady, under the pretext that she had not slept
well in the night and wanted rest, sent away the woman who
attended her.

She had one hope, which was that Felton would appear at the
breakfast hour; but Felton did not come.

Were her fears realized? Was Felton, suspected by the baron,
about to fail her at the decisive moment? She had only one day
left. Lord de Winter had announced her embarkation for the
twenty-third, and it was now the morning of the twenty-second.

Nevertheless she still waited patiently till the hour for dinner.

Although she had eaten nothing in the morning, the dinner was
brought in at its usual time. Milady then perceived, with
terror, that the uniform of the soldiers who guarded her was

Then she ventured to ask what had become of Felton.

She was told that he had left the castle an hour before on
horseback. She inquired if the baron was still at the castle.
The soldier replied that he was, and that he had given orders to
be informed if the prisoner wished to speak to him.

Milady replied that she was too weak at present, and that her
only desire was to be left alone.

The soldier went out, leaving the dinner served.

Felton was sent away. The marines were removed. Felton was then

This was the last blow to the prisoner.

Left alone, she arose. The bed, which she had kept from prudence
and that they might believe her seriously wounded, burned her
like a bed of fire. She cast a glance at the door; the baron had
had a plank nailed over the grating. He no doubt feared that by
this opening she might still by some diabolical means corrupt her

Milady smiled with joy. She was free now to give way to her
transports without being observed. She traversed her chamber
with the excitement of a furious maniac or of a tigress shut up
in an iron cage. CERTES, if the knife had been left in her
power, she would now have thought, not of killing herself, but of
killing the baron.

At six o'clock Lord de Winter came in. He was armed at all
points. This man, in whom Milady till that time had only seen a
very simple gentleman, had become an admirable jailer. He
appeared to foresee all, to divine all, to anticipate all.

A single look at Milady apprised him of all that was passing in
her mind.

"Ay!" said he, "I see; but you shall not kill me today. You
have no longer a weapon; and besides, I am on my guard. You had
begun to pervert my poor Felton. He was yielding to your
infernal influence; but I will save him. He will never see you
again; all is over. Get your clothes together. Tomorrow you
will go. I had fixed the embarkation for the twenty-fourth; but
I have reflected that the more promptly the affair takes place
the more sure it will be. Tomorrow, by twelve o'clock, I shall
have the order for your exile, signed, BUCKINGHAM. If you
speak a single word to anyone before going aboard ship, my
sergeant will blow your brains out. He has orders to do so. If
when on the ship you speak a single word to anyone before the
captain permits you, the captain will have you thrown into the
sea. That is agreed upon.

"AU REVOIR; then; that is all I have to say today. Tomorrow I
will see you again, to take my leave." With these words the
baron went out. Milady had listened to all this menacing tirade
with a smile of disdain on her lips, but rage in her heart.

Supper was served. Milady felt that she stood in need of all her
strength. She did not know what might take place during this
night which approached so menacingly--for large masses of cloud
rolled over the face of the sky, and distant lightning announced
a storm.

The storm broke about ten o'clock. Milady felt a consolation in
seeing nature partake of the disorder of her heart. The thunder
growled in the air like the passion and anger in her thoughts.
It appeared to her that the blast as it swept along disheveled
her brow, as it bowed the branches of the trees and bore away
their leaves. She howled as the hurricane howled; and her voice
was lost in the great voice of nature, which also seemed to groan
with despair.

All at once she heard a tap at her window, and by the help of a
flash of lightning she saw the face of a man appear behind the

She ran to the window and opened it.

"Felton!" cried she. "I am saved."

"Yes," said Felton; "but silence, silence! I must have time to
file through these bars. Only take care that I am not seen
through the wicket."

"Oh, it is a proof that the Lord is on our side, Felton," replied
Milady. "They have closed up the grating with a board."

"That is well; God has made them senseless," said Felton.

"But what must I do?" asked Milady.

"Nothing, nothing, only shut the window. Go to bed, or at least
lie down in your clothes. As soon as I have done I will knock on
one of the panes of glass. But will you be able to follow me?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Your wound?"

"Gives me pain, but will not prevent my walking."

"Be ready, then, at the first signal."

Milady shut the window, extinguished the lamp, and went, as
Felton had desired her, to lie down on the bed. Amid the moaning
of the storm she heard the grinding of the file upon the bars,
and by the light of every flash she perceived the shadow of
Felton through the panes.

She passed an hour without breathing, panting, with a cold sweat
upon her brow, and her heart oppressed by frightful agony at
every movement she heard in the corridor.

There are hours which last a year.

At the expiration of an hour, Felton tapped again.

Milady sprang out of bed and opened the window. Two bars removed
formed an opening for a man to pass through.

"Are you ready?" asked Felton.

"Yes. Must I take anything with me?"

"Money, if you have any."

"Yes; fortunately they have left me all I had."

"So much the better, for I have expended all mine in chartering a

"Here!" said Milady, placing a bag full of louis in Felton's

Felton took the bag and threw it to the foot of the wall.

"Now," said he, "will you come?"

"I am ready."

Milady mounted upon a chair and passed the upper part of her body
through the window. She saw the young officer suspended over the
abyss by a ladder of ropes. For the first time an emotion of
terror reminded her that she was a woman.

The dark space frightened her.

"I expected this," said Felton.

"It's nothing, it's nothing!" said Milady. "I will descend with
my eyes shut."

"Have you confidence in me?" said Felton.

"You ask that?"

"Put your two hands together. Cross them; that's right!"

Felton tied her two wrists together with his handkerchief, and
then with a cord over the handkerchief.

"What are you doing?" asked Milady, with surprise.

"Pass your arms around my neck, and fear nothing."

"But I shall make you lose your balance, and we shall both be
dashed to pieces."

"Don't be afraid. I am a sailor."

Not a second was to be lost. Milady passed her two arms round
Felton's neck, and let herself slip out of the window. Felton
began to descend the ladder slowly, step by step. Despite the
weight of two bodies, the blast of the hurricane shook them in
the air.

All at once Felton stopped.

"What is the matter?" asked Milady.

"Silence," said Felton, "I hear footsteps."

"We are discovered!"

There was a silence of several seconds.

"No," said Felton, "it is nothing."

"But what, then, is the noise?"

"That of the patrol going their rounds."

"Where is their road?"

"Just under us."

"They will discover us!"

"No, if it does not lighten."

"But they will run against the bottom of the ladder."

"Fortunately it is too short by six feet."

"Here they are! My God!"


Both remained suspended, motionless and breathless, within twenty
paces of the ground, while the patrol passed beneath them
laughing and talking. This was a terrible moment for the

The patrol passed. The noise of their retreating footsteps and
the murmur of their voices soon died away.

"Now," said Felton, "we are safe."

Milady breathed a deep sigh and fainted.

Felton continued to descend. Near the bottom of the ladder, when
he found no more support for his feet, he clung with his hands;
at length, arrived at the last step, he let himself hang by the
strength of his wrists, and touched the ground. He stooped down,
picked up the bag of money, and placed it between his teeth.
Then he took Milady in his arms, and set off briskly in the
direction opposite to that which the patrol had taken. He soon
left the pathway of the patrol, descended across the rocks, and
when arrived on the edge of the sea, whistled.

A similar signal replied to him; and five minutes after, a boat
appeared, rowed by four men.

The boat approached as near as it could to the shore; but there
was not depth enough of water for it to touch land. Felton
walked into the sea up to his middle, being unwilling to trust
his precious burden to anybody.

Fortunately the storm began to subside, but still the sea was
disturbed. The little boat bounded over the waves like a nut-

"To the sloop," said Felton, "and row quickly."

The four men bent to their oars, but the sea was too high to let
them get much hold of it.

However, they left the castle behind; that was the principal
thing. The night was extremely dark. It was almost impossible
to see the shore from the boat; they would therefore be less
likely to see the boat from the shore.

A black point floated on the sea. That was the sloop. While the
boat was advancing with all the speed its four rowers could give
it, Felton untied the cord and then the handkerchief which bound
Milady's hands together. When her hands were loosed he took some
sea water and sprinkled it over her face.

Milady breathed a sigh, and opened her eyes.

"Where am I?" said she.

"Saved!" replied the young officer.

"Oh, saved, saved!" cried she. "Yes, there is the sky; here is
the sea! The air I breathe is the air of liberty! Ah, thanks,
Felton, thanks!"

The young man pressed her to his heart.

"But what is the matter with my hands!" asked Milady; "it seems
as if my wrists had been crushed in a vice."

Milady held out her arms; her wrists were bruised.

"Alas!" said Felton, looking at those beautiful hands, and
shaking his head sorrowfully.

"Oh, it's nothing, nothing!" cried Milady. "I remember now."

Milady looked around her, as if in search of something.

"It is there," said Felton, touching the bag of money with his

They drew near to the sloop. A sailor on watch hailed the boat;
the boat replied.

"What vessel is that?" asked Milady.

"The one I have hired for you."

"Where will it take me?"

"Where you please, after you have put me on shore at Portsmouth."

"What are you going to do at Portsmouth?" asked Milady.

"Accomplish the orders of Lord de Winter," said Felton, with a
gloomy smile.

"What orders?" asked Milady.

"You do not understand?" asked Felton.

"No; explain yourself, I beg."

"As he mistrusted me, he determined to guard you himself, and
sent me in his place to get Buckingham to sign the order for your

"But if he mistrusted you, how could he confide such an order to

"How could I know what I was the bearer of?"

"That's true! And you are going to Portsmouth?"

"I have no time to lose. Tomorrow is the twenty-third, and
Buckingham sets sail tomorrow with his fleet."

"He sets sail tomorrow! Where for?"

"For La Rochelle."

"He need not sail!" cried Milady, forgetting her usual presence
of mind.

"Be satisfied," replied Felton; "he will not sail."

Milady started with joy. She could read to the depths of the
heart of this young man; the death of Buckingham was written
there at full length.

"Felton," cried she, "you are as great as Judas Maccabeus! If
you die, I will die with you; that is all I can say to you."

"Silence!" cried Felton; "we are here."

In fact, they touched the sloop.

Felton mounted the ladder first, and gave his hand to Milady,
while the sailors supported her, for the sea was still much

An instant after they were on the deck.

"Captain," said Felton, "this is person of whom I spoke to you,
and whom you must convey safe and sound to France."

"For a thousand pistoles," said the captain.

"I have paid you five hundred of them."

"That's correct," said the captain.

"And here are the other five hundred," replied Milady, placing
her hand upon the bag of gold.

"No," said the captain, "I make but one bargain; and I have
agreed with this young man that the other five hundred shall not
be due to me till we arrive at Boulogne."

"And shall we arrive there?"

"Safe and sound, as true as my name's Jack Butler."

"Well," said Milady, "if you keep your word, instead of five
hundred, I will give you a thousand pistoles."

"Hurrah for you, then, my beautiful lady," cried the captain;
"and may God often send me such passengers as your Ladyship!"

"Meanwhile," said Felton, "convey me to the little bay of--; you
know it was agreed you should put in there."

The captain replied by ordering the necessary maneuvers, and
toward seven o'clock in the morning the little vessel cast anchor
in the bay that had been named.

During this passage, Felton related everything to Milady--how,
instead of going to London, he had chartered the little vessel;
how he had returned; how he had scaled the wall by fastening
cramps in the interstices of the stones, as he ascended, to give
him foothold; and how, when he had reached the bars, he fastened
his ladder. Milady knew the rest.

On her side, Milady tried to encourage Felton in his project; but
at the first words which issued from her mouth, she plainly saw
that the young fanatic stood more in need of being moderated than

It was agreed that Milady should wait for Felton till ten
o'clock; if he did not return by ten o'clock she was to sail.

In that case, and supposing he was at liberty, he was to rejoin
her in France, at the convent of the Carmelites at Bethune.


Felton took leave of Milady as a brother about to go for a mere walk
takes leave of his sister, kissing her hand.

His whole body appeared in its ordinary state of calmness, only an
unusual fire beamed from his eyes, like the effects of a fever; his brow
was more pale than it generally was; his teeth were clenched, and his
speech had a short dry accent which indicated that something dark was at
work within him.

As long as he remained in the boat which conveyed him to land, he kept
his face toward Milady, who, standing on the deck, followed him with her
eyes. Both were free from the fear of pursuit; nobody ever came into
Milady's apartment before nine o'clock, and it would require three hours
to go from the castle to London.

Felton jumped onshore, climbed the little ascent which led to the top of
the cliff, saluted Milady a last time, and took his course toward the

At the end of a hundred paces, the ground began to decline, and he could
only see the mast of the sloop.

He immediately ran in the direction of Portsmouth, which he saw at
nearly half a league before him, standing out in the haze of the
morning, with its houses and towers.

Beyond Portsmouth the sea was covered with vessels whose masts, like a
forest of poplars despoiled by the winter, bent with each breath of the

Felton, in his rapid walk, reviewed in his mind all the accusations
against the favorite of James I and Charles I, furnished by two years of
premature meditation and a long sojourn among the Puritans.

When he compared the public crimes of this minister--startling crimes,
European crimes, if so we may say--with the private and unknown crimes
with which Milady had charged him, Felton found that the more culpable
of the two men which formed the character of Buckingham was the one of
whom the public knew not the life. This was because his love, so
strange, so new, and so ardent, made him view the infamous and imaginary
accusations of Milady de Winter as, through a magnifying glass, one
views as frightful monsters atoms in reality imperceptible by the side
of an ant.

The rapidity of his walk heated his blood still more; the idea that he
left behind him, exposed to a frightful vengeance, the woman he loved,
or rather whom he adored as a saint, the emotion he had experienced,
present fatigue--all together exalted his mind above human feeling.

He entered Portsmouth about eight o'clock in the morning. The whole
population was on foot; drums were beating in the streets and in the
port; the troops about to embark were marching toward the sea.

Felton arrived at the palace of the Admiralty, covered with dust, and
streaming with perspiration. His countenance, usually so pale, was
purple with heat and passion. The sentinel wanted to repulse him; but
Felton called to the officer of the post, and drawing from his pocket
the letter of which he was the bearer, he said, "A pressing message from
Lord de Winter."

At the name of Lord de Winter, who was known to be one of his Grace's
most intimate friends, the officer of the post gave orders to let Felton
pass, who, besides, wore the uniform of a naval officer.

Felton darted into the palace.

At the moment he entered the vestibule, another man was entering
likewise, dusty, out of breath, leaving at the gate a post horse, which,
on reaching the palace, tumbled on his foreknees.

Felton and he addressed Patrick, the duke's confidential lackey, at the
same moment. Felton named Lord de Winter; the unknown would not name
anybody, and pretended that it was to the duke alone he would make
himself known. Each was anxious to gain admission before the other.

Patrick, who knew Lord de Winter was in affairs of the service, and in
relations of friendship with the duke, gave the preference to the one
who came in his name. The other was forced to wait, and it was easily
to be seen how he cursed the delay.

The valet led Felton through a large hall in which waited the deputies
from La Rochelle, headed by the Prince de Soubise, and introduced him
into a closet where Buckingham, just out of the bath, was finishing his
toilet, upon which, as at all times, he bestowed extraordinary

"Lieutenant Felton, from Lord de Winter," said Patrick.

"From Lord de Winter!" repeated Buckingham; "let him come in."

Felton entered. At that moment Buckingham was throwing upon a couch a
rich toilet robe, worked with gold, in order to put on a blue velvet
doublet embroidered with pearls.

"Why didn't the baron come himself?" demanded Buckingham. "I expected
him this morning."

"He desired me to tell your Grace," replied Felton, "that he very much
regretted not having that honor, but that he was prevented by the guard
he is obliged to keep at the castle."

"Yes, I know that," said Buckingham; "he has a prisoner."

"It is of that prisoner that I wish to speak to your Grace," replied

"Well, then, speak!"

"That which I have to say of her can only be heard by yourself, my

"Leave us, Patrick," said Buckingham; "but remain within sound of the
bell. I shall call you presently."

Patrick went out.

"We are alone, sir," said Buckingham; "speak!"

"My Lord," said Felton, "the Baron de Winter wrote to you the other day
to request you to sign an order of embarkation relative to a young woman
named Charlotte Backson."

"Yes, sir; and I answered him, to bring or send me that order and I
would sign it."

"Here it is, my Lord."

"Give it to me," said the duke.

And taking it from Felton, he cast a rapid glance over the paper, and
perceiving that it was the one that had been mentioned to him, he placed
it on the table, took a pen, and prepared to sign it.

"Pardon, my Lord," said Felton, stopping the duke; "but does your Grace
know that the name of Charlotte Backson is not the true name of this
young woman?"

"Yes, sir, I know it," replied the duke, dipping the quill in the ink.

"Then your Grace knows her real name?" asked Felton, in a sharp tone.

"I know it"; and the duke put the quill to the paper. Felton grew pale.

"And knowing that real name, my Lord," replied Felton, "will you sign it
all the same?"

"Doubtless," said Buckingham, "and rather twice than once."

"I cannot believe," continued Felton, in a voice that became more sharp
and rough, "that your Grace knows that it is to Milady de Winter this

"I know it perfectly, although I am astonished that you know it."

"And will your Grace sign that order without remorse?"

Buckingham looked at the young man haughtily.

"Do you know, sir, that you are asking me very strange questions, and
that I am very foolish to answer them?"

"Reply to them, my Lord," said Felton; "the circumstances are more
serious than you perhaps believe."

Buckingham reflected that the young man, coming from Lord de Winter,
undoubtedly spoke in his name, and softened.

"Without remorse," said he. "The baron knows, as well as myself, that
Milady de Winter is a very guilty woman, and it is treating her very
favorably to commute her punishment to transportation."
The duke put his pen to the paper.

"You will not sign that order, my Lord!" said Felton, making a step
toward the duke.

"I will not sign this order! And why not?"

"Because you will look into yourself, and you will do justice to the

"I should do her justice by sending her to Tyburn," said Buckingham.
"This lady is infamous."

"My Lord, Milady de Winter is an angel; you know that she is, and I
demand her liberty of you."

"Bah! Are you mad, to talk to me thus?" said Buckingham.

"My Lord, excuse me! I speak as I can; I restrain myself. But, my
Lord, think of what you're about to do, and beware of going too far!"

"What do you say? God pardon me!" cried Buckingham, "I really think he
threatens me!"

"No, my Lord, I still plead. And I say to you: one drop of water
suffices to make the full vase overflow; one slight fault may draw down
punishment upon the head spared, despite many crimes."

"Mr. Felton," said Buckingham, "you will withdraw, and place yourself at
once under arrest."

"You will hear me to the end, my Lord. You have seduced this young
girl; you have outraged, defiled her. Repair your crimes toward her;
let her go free, and I will exact nothing else from you."

"You will exact!" said Buckingham, looking at Felton with astonishment,
and dwelling upon each syllable of the three words as he pronounced

"My Lord," continued Felton, becoming more excited as he spoke, "my
Lord, beware! All England is tired of your iniquities; my Lord, you
have abused the royal power, which you have almost usurped; my Lord, you
are held in horror by God and men. God will punish you hereafter, but I
will punish you here!"

"Ah, this is too much!" cried Buckingham, making a step toward the door.

Felton barred his passage.

"I ask it humbly of you, my Lord" said he; "sign the order for the
liberation of Milady de Winter. Remember that she is a woman whom you
have dishonored."

"Withdraw, sir," said Buckingham, "or I will call my attendant, and have
you placed in irons."

"You shall not call," said Felton, throwing himself between the duke and
the bell placed on a stand encrusted with silver. "Beware, my Lord, you
are in the hands of God!"

"In the hands of the devil, you mean!" cried Buckingham, raising his
voice so as to attract the notice of his people, without absolutely

"Sign, my Lord; sign the liberation of Milady de Winter," said Felton,
holding out paper to the duke.

"By force? You are joking! Holloa, Patrick!"

"Sign, my Lord!"



"Help!" shouted the duke; and at the same time he sprang toward his

But Felton did not give him time to draw it. He held the knife with
which Milady had stabbed herself, open in his bosom; at one bound he was
upon the duke.

At that moment Patrick entered the room, crying, "A letter from France,
my Lord."

"From France!" cried Buckingham, forgetting everything in thinking from
whom that letter came.

Felton took advantage of this moment, and plunged the knife into his
side up to the handle.

"Ah, traitor," cried Buckingham, "you have killed me!"

"Murder!" screamed Patrick.

Felton cast his eyes round for means of escape, and seeing the door
free, he rushed into the next chamber, in which, as we have said, the
deputies from La Rochelle were waiting, crossed it as quickly as
possible, and rushed toward the staircase; but upon the first step he
met Lord de Winter, who, seeing him pale, confused, livid, and stained
with blood both on his hands and face, seized him by the throat, crying,
"I knew it! I guessed it! But too late by a minute, unfortunate,
unfortunate that I am!"

Felton made no resistance. Lord de Winter placed him in the hands of
the guards, who led him, while awaiting further orders, to a little
terrace commanding the sea; and then the baron hastened to the duke's

At the cry uttered by the duke and the scream of Patrick, the man whom
Felton had met in the antechamber rushed into the chamber.

He found the duke reclining upon a sofa, with his hand pressed upon the

"Laporte," said the duke, in a dying voice, "Laporte, do you come from

"Yes, monseigneur," replied the faithful cloak bearer of Anne of
Austria, "but too late, perhaps."

"Silence, Laporte, you may be overheard. Patrick, let no one enter.
Oh, I cannot tell what she says to me! My God, I am dying!"

And the duke swooned.

Meanwhile, Lord de Winter, the deputies, the leaders of the expedition,
the officers of Buckingham's household, had all made their way into the
chamber. Cries of despair resounded on all sides. The news, which
filled the palace with tears and groans, soon became known, and spread
itself throughout the city.

The report of a cannon announced that something new and unexpected had
taken place.

Lord de Winter tore his hair.

"Too late by a minute!" cried he, "too late by a minute! Oh, my God, my
God! what a misfortune!"

He had been informed at seven o'clock in the morning that a rope ladder
floated from one of the windows of the castle; he had hastened to
Milady's chamber, had found it empty, the window open, and the bars
filed, had remembered the verbal caution d'Artagnan had transmitted to
him by his messenger, had trembled for the duke, and running to the
stable without taking time to have a horse saddled, had jumped upon the
first he found, had galloped off like the wind, had alighted below in
the courtyard, had ascended the stairs precipitately, and on the top
step, as we have said, had encountered Felton.

The duke, however, was not dead. He recovered a little, reopened his
eyes, and hope revived in all hearts.

"Gentlemen," said he, "leave me along with Patrick and Laporte--ah, is
that you, de Winter? You sent me a strange madman this morning! See
the state in which he has put me."

"Oh, my Lord!" cried the baron, "I shall never console myself."

"And you would be quite wrong, my dear de Winter," said Buckingham,
holding out his hand to him. "I do not know the man who deserves being
regretted during the whole life of another man; but leave us, I pray

The baron went out sobbing.

There only remained in the closet of the wounded duke Laporte and
Patrick. A physician was sought for, but none was yet found.

"You will live, my Lord, you will live!" repeated the faithful servant
of Anne of Austria, on his knees before the duke's sofa.

"What has she written to me?" said Buckingham, feebly, streaming with
blood, and suppressing his agony to speak of her he loved, "what has she
written to me? Read me her letter."

"Oh, my Lord!" said Laporte.

"Obey, Laporte, do you not see I have no time to lose?"

Laporte broke the seal, and placed the paper before the eyes of the
duke; but Buckingham in vain tried to make out the writing.

"Read!" said he, "read! I cannot see. Read, then! For soon, perhaps,
I shall not hear, and I shall die without knowing what she has written
to me."

Laporte made no further objection, and read:

"My Lord, By that which, since I have known you, have suffered by you
and for you, I conjure you, if you have any care for my repose, to
countermand those great armaments which you are preparing against
France, to put an end to a war of which it is publicly said religion is
the ostensible cause, and of which, it is generally whispered, your love
for me is the concealed cause. This war may not only bring great
catastrophes upon England and France, but misfortune upon you, my Lord,
for which I should never console myself.

"Be careful of your life, which is menaced, and which will be dear to me
from the moment I am not obliged to see an enemy in you.

"Your affectionate


Buckingham collected all his remaining strength to listen to the reading
of the letter; then, when it was ended, as if he had met with a bitter
disappointment, he asked, "Have you nothing else to say to me by the
living voice, Laporte?"

"The queen charged me to tell you to watch over yourself, for she had
advice that your assassination would be attempted."

"And is that all--is that all?" replied Buckingham, impatiently.

"She likewise charged me to tell you that she still loved you."

"Ah," said Buckingham, "God be praised! My death, then, will not be to
her as the death of a stranger!"

Laporte burst into tears.

"Patrick," said the due, "bring me the casket in which the diamond studs
were kept."

Patrick brought the object desired, which Laporte recognized as having
belonged to the queen.

"Now the scent bag of white satin, on which her cipher is embroidered in

Patrick again obeyed.

"Here, Laporte," said Buckingham, "these are the only tokens I ever
received from her--this silver casket and these two letters. You will
restore them to her Majesty; and as a last memorial"--he looked round
for some valuable object--"you will add--"

He still sought; but his eyes, darkened by death, encountered only the
knife which had fallen from the hand of Felton, still smoking with the
blood spread over its blade.

"And you will add to them this knife," said the duke, pressing the hand
of Laporte. He had just strength enough to place the scent bag at the
bottom of the silver casket, and to let the knife fall into it, making a
sign to Laporte that he was no longer able to speak; than, in a last
convulsion, which this time he had not the power to combat, he slipped
from the sofa to the floor.

Patrick uttered a loud cry.

Buckingham tried to smile a last time; but death checked his thought,
which remained engraved on his brow like a last kiss of love.

At this moment the duke's surgeon arrived, quite terrified; he was
already on board the admiral's ship, where they had been obliged to seek

He approached the duke, took his hand, held it for an instant in his
own, and letting it fall, "All is useless," said he, "he is dead."

"Dead, dead!" cried Patrick.

At this cry all the crowd re-entered the apartment, and throughout the
palace and town there was nothing but consternation and tumult.

As soon as Lord de Winter saw Buckingham was dead, he ran to Felton,
whom the soldiers still guarded on the terrace of the palace.

"Wretch!" said he to the young man, who since the death of Buckingham
had regained that coolness and self-possession which never after
abandoned him, "wretch! what have you done?"

"I have avenged myself!" said he.

"Avenged yourself," said the baron. "Rather say that you have served as
an instrument to that accursed woman; but I swear to you that this crime
shall be her last."

"I don't know what you mean," replied Felton, quietly, "and I am
ignorant of whom you are speaking, my Lord. I killed the Duke of
Buckingham because he twice refused you yourself to appoint me captain;
I have punished him for his injustice, that is all."

De Winter, stupefied, looked on while the soldiers bound Felton, and
could not tell what to think of such insensibility.

One thing alone, however, threw a shade over the pallid brow of Felton.
At every noise he heard, the simple Puritan fancied he recognized the
step and voice of Milady coming to throw herself into his arms, to
accuse herself, and die with him.

All at once he started. His eyes became fixed upon a point of the sea,
commanded by the terrace where he was. With the eagle glance of a
sailor he had recognized there, where another would have seen only a
gull hovering over the waves, the sail of a sloop which was directed
toward the cost of France.

He grew deadly pale, placed his hand upon his heart, which was breaking,
and at once perceived all the treachery.

"One last favor, my Lord!" said he to the baron.

"What?" asked his Lordship.

"What o'clock is it?"

The baron drew out his watch. "It wants ten minutes to nine," said he.

Milady had hastened her departure by an hour and a half. As soon as she
heard the cannon which announced the fatal event, she had ordered the
anchor to be weighed. The vessel was making way under a blue sky, at
great distance from the coast.

"God has so willed it!" said he, with the resignation of a fanatic; but
without, however, being able to take his eyes from that ship, on board
of which he doubtless fancied he could distinguish the white outline of
her to whom he had sacrificed his life.

De Winter followed his look, observed his feelings, and guessed all.

"Be punished ALONE, for the first, miserable man!" said Lord de Winter
to Felton, who was being dragged away with his eyes turned toward the
sea; "but I swear to you by the memory of my brother whom I have loved
so much that your accomplice is not saved."

Felton lowered his head without pronouncing a syllable.

As to Lord de Winter, he descended the stairs rapidly, and went straight
to the port.


The first fear of the King of England, Charles I, on learning of the
death of the duke, was that such terrible news might discourage the
Rochellais; he tried, says Richelieu in his Memoirs, to conceal it from
them as long as possible, closing all the ports of his kingdom, and
carefully keeping watch that no vessel should sail until the army which
Buckingham was getting together had gone, taking upon himself, in
default of Buckingham, to superintend the departure.

He carried the strictness of this order so far as to detain in England
the ambassadors of Denmark, who had taken their leave, and the regular
ambassador of Holland, who was to take back to the port of Flushing the
Indian merchantmen of which Charles I had made restitution to the United

But as he did not think of giving this order till five hours after the
event--that is to say, till two o'clock in the afternoon--two vessels
had already left the port, the one bearing, as we know, Milady, who,
already anticipating the event, was further confirmed in that belief by
seeing the black flag flying at the masthead of the admiral's ship.

As to the second vessel, we will tell hereafter whom it carried, and how
it set sail.

During this time nothing new occurred in the camp at La Rochelle; only
the king, who was bored, as always, but perhaps a little more so in camp
than elsewhere, resolved to go incognito and spend the festival of St.
Louis at St. Germain, and asked the cardinal to order him an escort of
only twenty Musketeers. The cardinal, who sometimes became weary of the
king, granted this leave of absence with great pleasure to his royal
lieutenant, who promised to return about the fifteenth of September.

M. de Treville, being informed of this by his Eminence, packed his
portmanteau; and as without knowing the cause he knew the great desire
and even imperative need which his friends had of returning to Paris, it
goes without saying that he fixed upon them to form part of the escort.

The four young men heard the news a quarter of an hour after M. de
Treville, for they were the first to whom he communicated it. It was
then that d'Artagnan appreciated the favor the cardinal had conferred
upon him in making him at last enter the Musketeers--for without that
circumstance he would have been forced to remain in the camp while his
companions left it.

It goes without saying that this impatience to return toward Paris had
for a cause the danger which Mme. Bonacieux would run of meeting at the
convent of Bethune with Milady, her mortal enemy. Aramis therefore had
written immediately to Marie Michon, the seamstress at Tours who had
such fine acquaintances, to obtain from the queen authority for Mme.
Bonacieux to leave the convent, and to retire either into Lorraine or
Belgium. They had not long to wait for an answer. Eight or ten days
afterward Aramis received the following letter:

My Dear Cousin, Here is the authorization from my sister to withdraw
our little servant from the convent of Bethune, the air of which you
think is bad for her. My sister sends you this authorization with great
pleasure, for she is very partial to the little girl, to whom she
intends to be more serviceable hereafter.

I salute you,


To this letter was added an order, conceived in these terms:

At the Louvre, August 10, 1628
The superior of the convent of Bethune will place in the hands of the
person who shall present this note to her the novice who entered the
convent upon my recommendation and under my patronage.


It may be easily imagined how the relationship between Aramis and a
seamstress who called the queen her sister amused the young men; but
Aramis, after having blushed two or three times up to the whites of his
eyes at the gross pleasantry of Porthos, begged his friends not to
revert to the subject again, declaring that if a single word more was
said to him about it, he would never again implore his cousins to
interfere in such affairs.

There was no further question, therefore, about Marie Michon among the
four Musketeers, who besides had what they wanted: that was, the order
to withdraw Mme. Bonacieux from the convent of the Carmelites of
Bethune. It was true that this order would not be of great use to them
while they were in camp at La Rochelle; that is to say, at the other end
of France. Therefore d'Artagnan was going to ask leave of absence of M.
de Treville, confiding to him candidly the importance of his departure,
when the news was transmitted to him as well as to his three friends
that the king was about to set out for Paris with an escort of twenty
Musketeers, and that they formed part of the escort.

Their joy was great. The lackeys were sent on before with the baggage,
and they set out on the morning of the sixteenth.

The cardinal accompanied his Majesty from Surgeres to Mauzes; and there
the king and his minister took leave of each other with great
demonstrations of friendship.

The king, however, who sought distraction, while traveling as fast as
possible--for he was anxious to be in Paris by the twenty-third--stopped
from time to time to fly the magpie, a pastime for which the taste had
been formerly inspired in him by de Luynes, and for which he had always
preserved a great predilection. Out of the twenty Musketeers sixteen,
when this took place, rejoiced greatly at this relaxation; but the other
four cursed it heartily. D'Artagnan, in particular, had a perpetual
buzzing in his ears, which Porthos explained thus: "A very great lady
has told me that this means that somebody is talking of you somewhere."

At length the escort passed through Paris on the twenty-third, in the
night. The king thanked M. de Treville, and permitted him to distribute
furloughs for four days, on condition that the favored parties should
not appear in any public place, under penalty of the Bastille.

The first four furloughs granted, as may be imagined, were to our four
friends. Still further, Athos obtained of M. de Treville six days
instead of four, and introduced into these six days two more nights--for
they set out on the twenty-fourth at five o'clock in the evening, and as
a further kindness M. de Treville post-dated the leave to the morning of
the twenty-fifth.

"Good Lord!" said d'Artagnan, who, as we have often said, never stumbled
at anything. "It appears to me that we are making a great trouble of a
very simple thing. In two days, and by using up two or three horses
(that's nothing; I have plenty of money), I am at Bethune. I present my
letter from the queen to the superior, and I bring back the dear
treasure I go to seek--not into Lorraine, not into Belgium, but to
Paris, where she will be much better concealed, particularly while the
cardinal is at La Rochelle. Well, once returned from the country, half
by the protection of her cousin, half through what we have personally
done for her, we shall obtain from the queen what we desire. Remain,
then, where you are, and do not exhaust yourselves with useless fatigue.
Myself and Planchet are all that such a simple expedition requires."

To this Athos replied quietly: "We also have money left--for I have not
yet drunk all my share of the diamond, and Porthos and Aramis have not
eaten all theirs. We can therefore use up four horses as well as one.
But consider, d'Artagnan," added he, in a tone so solemn that it made
the young man shudder, "consider that Bethune is a city where the
cardinal has given rendezvous to a woman who, wherever she goes, brings
misery with her. If you had only to deal with four men, d'Artagnan, I
would allow you to go alone. You have to do with that woman! We four
will go; and I hope to God that with our four lackeys we may be in
sufficient number."

"You terrify me, Athos!" cried d'Artagnan. "My God! what do you

"Everything!" replied Athos.

D'Artagnan examined the countenances of his companions, which, like that
of Athos, wore an impression of deep anxiety; and they continued their
route as fast as their horses could carry them, but without adding
another word.

On the evening of the twenty-fifth, as they were entering Arras, and as
d'Artagnan was dismounting at the inn of the Golden Harrow to drink a
glass of wine, a horseman came out of the post yard, where he had just
had a relay, started off at a gallop, and with a fresh horse took the
road to Paris. At the moment he passed through the gateway into the
street, the wind blew open the cloak in which he was wrapped, although
it was in the month of August, and lifted his hat, which the traveler
seized with his hand the moment it had left his head, pulling it eagerly
over his eyes.

D'Artagnan, who had his eyes fixed upon this man, became very pale, and
let his glass fall.

"What is the matter, monsieur?" said Planchet. "Oh, come, gentlemen,
my master is ill!"

The three friends hastened toward d'Artagnan, who, instead of being ill,
ran toward his horse. They stopped him at the door.

"Well, where the devil are you going now?" cried Athos.

"It is he!" cried d'Artagnan, pale with anger, and with the sweat on his
brow, "it is he! let me overtake him!"

"He? What he?" asked Athos.

"He, that man!"

"What man?"

"That cursed man, my evil genius, whom I have always met with when
threatened by some misfortune, he who accompanied that horrible woman
when I met her for the first time, he whom I was seeking when I offended
our Athos, he whom I saw on the very morning Madame Bonacieux was
abducted. I have seen him; that is he! I recognized him when the wind
blew upon his cloak."

"The devil!" said Athos, musingly.

"To saddle, gentlemen! to saddle! Let us pursue him, and we shall
overtake him!"

"My dear friend," said Aramis, "remember that he goes in an opposite
direction from that in which we are going, that he has a fresh horse, and
ours are fatigued, so that we shall disable our own horses without even
a chance of overtaking him. Let the man go, d'Artagnan; let us save the

"Monsieur, monsieur!" cried a hostler, running out and looking after
the stranger, "monsieur, here is a paper which dropped out of your hat!
Eh, monsieur, eh!"

"Friend," said d'Artagnan, "a half-pistole for that paper!"

"My faith, monsieur, with great pleasure! Here it is!"

The hostler, enchanted with the good day's work he had done, returned to
the yard. D'Artagnan unfolded the paper.

"Well?" eagerly demanded all his three friends.

"Nothing but one word!" said d'Artagnan.

"Yes," said Aramis, "but that one word is the name of some town or

"Armentieres," read Porthos; "Armentieres? I don't know such a

"And that name of a town or village is written in her hand!" cried

"Come on, come on!" said d'Artagnan; "let us keep that paper carefully,
perhaps I have not thrown away my half-pistole. To horse, my friends,
to horse!"

And the four friends flew at a gallop along the road to Bethune.


Great criminals bear about them a kind of predestination which makes them
surmount all obstacles, which makes them escape all dangers, up to the
moment which a wearied Providence has marked as the rock of their
impious fortunes.

It was thus with Milady. She escaped the cruisers of both nations, and
arrived at Boulogne without accident.

When landing at Portsmouth, Milady was an Englishwoman whom the
persecutions of the French drove from La Rochelle; when landing at
Boulogne, after a two days' passage, she passed for a Frenchwoman whom
the English persecuted at Portsmouth out of their hatred for France.

Milady had, likewise, the best of passports--her beauty, her noble
appearance, and the liberality with which she distributed her pistoles.
Freed from the usual formalities by the affable smile and gallant
manners of an old governor of the port, who kissed her hand, she only
remained long enough at Boulogne to put into the post a letter,
conceived in the following terms:

"To his Eminence Monseigneur the Cardinal Richelieu, in his camp before
La Rochelle.

"Monseigneur, Let your Eminence be reassured. His Grace the Duke of
Buckingham WILL NOT SET OUT for France.

"BOULOGNE, evening of the twenty-fifth.

"P.S.-According to the desire of your Eminence, I report to the convent
of the Carmelites at Bethune, where I will await your orders."

Accordingly, that same evening Milady commenced her journey. Night
overtook her; she stopped, and slept at an inn. At five o'clock the
next morning she again proceeded, and in three hours after entered
Bethune. She inquired for the convent of the Carmelites, and went
thither immediately.

The superior met her; Milady showed her the cardinal's order. The
abbess assigned her a chamber, and had breakfast served.

All the past was effaced from the eyes of this woman; and her looks,
fixed on the future, beheld nothing but the high fortunes reserved for
her by the cardinal, whom she had so successfully served without his
name being in any way mixed up with the sanguinary affair. The ever-new
passions which consumed her gave to her life the appearance of those
clouds which float in the heavens, reflecting sometimes azure, sometimes
fire, sometimes the opaque blackness of the tempest, and which leave no
traces upon the earth behind them but devastation and death.

After breakfast, the abbess came to pay her a visit. There is very
little amusement in the cloister, and the good superior was eager to
make the acquaintance of her new boarder.

Milady wished to please the abbess. This was a very easy matter for a
woman so really superior as she was. She tried to be agreeable, and she
was charming, winning the good superior by her varied conversation and
by the graces of her whole personality.

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