Milady had however achieved a half-triumph,
and success doubled her forces.
It was not difficult to conquer, as
she had hitherto done, men prompt to let themselves
be seduced, and whom the gallant education of a court
led quickly into her net. Milady was handsome
enough not to find much resistance on the part of
the flesh, and she was sufficiently skillful to prevail
over all the obstacles of the mind.
But this time she had to contend with
an unpolished nature, concentrated and insensible
by force of austerity. Religion and its observances
had made Felton a man inaccessible to ordinary seductions.
There fermented in that sublimated brain plans so
vast, projects so tumultuous, that there remained
no room for any capricious or material love that
sentiment which is fed by leisure and grows with corruption.
Milady had, then, made a breach by her false virtue
in the opinion of a man horribly prejudiced against
her, and by her beauty in the heart of a man hitherto
chaste and pure. In short, she had taken the measure
of motives hitherto unknown to herself, through this
experiment, made upon the most rebellious subject
that nature and religion could submit to her study.
Many a time, nevertheless, during
the evening she despaired of fate and of herself.
She did not invoke God, we very well know, but she
had faith in the genius of evil that immense
sovereignty which reigns in all the details of human
life, and by which, as in the Arabian fable, a single
pomegranate seed is sufficient to reconstruct a ruined
Milady, being well prepared for the
reception of Felton, was able to erect her batteries
for the next day. She knew she had only two days
left; that when once the order was signed by Buckingham and
Buckingham would sign it the more readily from its
bearing a false name, and he could not, therefore,
recognize the woman in question once this
order was signed, we say, the baron would make her
embark immediately, and she knew very well that women
condemned to exile employ arms much less powerful
in their seductions than the pretendedly virtuous woman
whose beauty is lighted by the sun of the world, whose
style the voice of fashion lauds, and whom a halo
of aristocracy gilds with enchanting splendors.
To be a woman condemned to a painful and disgraceful
punishment is no impediment to beauty, but it is an
obstacle to the recovery of power. Like all persons
of real genius, Milady knew what suited her nature
and her means. Poverty was repugnant to her;
degradation took away two-thirds of her greatness.
Milady was only a queen while among queens. The
pleasure of satisfied pride was necessary to her domination.
To command inferior beings was rather a humiliation
than a pleasure for her.
She should certainly return from her
exile she did not doubt that a single instant;
but how long might this exile last? For an active,
ambitious nature, like that of Milady, days not spent
in climbing are inauspicious days. What word,
then, can be found to describe the days which they
occupy in descending? To lose a year, two years,
three years, is to talk of an eternity; to return
after the death or disgrace of the cardinal, perhaps;
to return when d’Artagnan and his friends, happy
and triumphant, should have received from the queen
the reward they had well acquired by the services
they had rendered her these were devouring
ideas that a woman like Milady could not endure.
For the rest, the storm which raged within her doubled
her strength, and she would have burst the walls of
her prison if her body had been able to take for a
single instant the proportions of her mind.
Then that which spurred her on additionally
in the midst of all this was the remembrance of the
cardinal. What must the mistrustful, restless,
suspicious cardinal think of her silence the
cardinal, not merely her only support, her only prop,
her only protector at present, but still further,
the principal instrument of her future fortune and
vengeance? She knew him; she knew that at her
return from a fruitless journey it would be in vain
to tell him of her imprisonment, in vain to enlarge
upon the sufferings she had undergone. The cardinal
would reply, with the sarcastic calmness of the skeptic,
strong at once by power and genius, “You should
not have allowed yourself to be taken.”
Then Milady collected all her energies,
murmuring in the depths of her soul the name of Felton the
only beam of light that penetrated to her in the hell
into which she had fallen; and like a serpent which
folds and unfolds its rings to ascertain its strength,
she enveloped Felton beforehand in the thousand meshes
of her inventive imagination.
Time, however, passed away; the hours,
one after another, seemed to awaken the clock as they
passed, and every blow of the brass hammer resounded
upon the heart of the prisoner. At nine o’clock,
Lord de Winter made his customary visit, examined
the window and the bars, sounded the floor and the
walls, looked to the chimney and the doors, without,
during this long and minute examination, he or Milady
pronouncing a single word.
Doubtless both of them understood
that the situation had become too serious to lose
time in useless words and aimless wrath.
“Well,” said the baron,
on leaving her “you will not escape tonight!”
At ten o’clock Felton came and
placed the sentinel. Milady recognized his step.
She was as well acquainted with it now as a mistress
is with that of the lover of her heart; and yet Milady
at the same time detested and despised this weak fanatic.
That was not the appointed hour. Felton did not
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
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
As to the soldier, he only smiled.
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
“You are here!” said she.
“I promised to come,” said Felton, “and
I have come.”
“You promised me something else.”
“What, my God!” said the
young man, who in spite of his self-command felt his
knees tremble and the sweat start from his brow.
“You promised to bring a knife,
and to leave it with me after our interview.”
“Say no more of that, madame,”
said Felton. “There is no situation, however
terrible it may be, which can authorize a creature
of God to inflict death upon himself. I have
reflected, and I cannot, must not be guilty of such
“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 word.”
“Oh, my God!” murmured Felton.
“You may retire,” said Milady. “I
will not talk.”
“Here is the knife,” said
Felton, drawing from his pocket the weapon which he
had brought, according to his promise, but which he
hesitated to give to his prisoner.
“Let me see it,” said Milady.
“For what purpose?”
“Upon my honor, I will instantly
return it to you. You shall place it on that
table, and you may remain between it and me.”
Felton offered the weapon to Milady,
who examined the temper of it attentively, and who
tried the point on the tip of her finger.
“Well,” said she, returning
the knife to the young officer, “this is fine
and good steel. You are a faithful friend, Felton.”
Felton took back the weapon, and laid
it upon the table, as he had agreed with the prisoner.
Milady followed him with her eyes,
and made a gesture of satisfaction.
“Now,” said she, “listen to me.”
The request was needless. The
young officer stood upright before her, awaiting her
words as if to devour them.
“Felton,” said Milady,
with a solemnity full of melancholy, “imagine
that your sister, the daughter of your father, speaks
to you. While yet young, unfortunately handsome,
I was dragged into a snare. I resisted.
Ambushes and violences multiplied around me, but
I resisted. The religion I serve, the God I adore,
were blasphemed because I called upon that religion
and that God, but still I resisted. Then outrages
were heaped upon me, and as my soul was not subdued
they wished to defile my body forever. Finally ”
Milady stopped, and a bitter smile passed over her
“Finally,” said Felton, “finally,
what did they do?”
“At length, one evening my enemy
resolved to paralyze the resistance he could not conquer.
One evening he mixed a powerful narcotic with my water.
Scarcely had I finished my repast, when I felt myself
sink by degrees into a strange torpor. Although
I was without mistrust, a vague fear seized me, and
I tried to struggle against sleepiness. I arose.
I wished to run to the window and call for help, but
my legs refused their office. It appeared as
if the ceiling sank upon my head and crushed me with
its weight. I stretched out my arms. I tried
to speak. I could only utter inarticulate sounds,
and irresistible faintness came over me. I supported
myself by a chair, feeling that I was about to fall,
but this support was soon insufficient on account
of my weak arms. I fell upon one knee, then upon
both. I tried to pray, but my tongue was frozen.
God doubtless neither heard nor saw me, and I sank
upon the floor a prey to a slumber which resembled
“Of all that passed in that
sleep, or the time which glided away while it lasted,
I have no remembrance. The only thing I recollect
is that I awoke in bed in a round chamber, the furniture
of which was sumptuous, and into which light only
penetrated by an opening in the ceiling. No door
gave entrance to the room. It might be called
a magnificent prison.
“It was a long time before I
was able to make out what place I was in, or to take
account of the details I describe. My mind appeared
to strive in vain to shake off the heavy darkness
of the sleep from which I could not rouse myself.
I had vague perceptions of space traversed, of the
rolling of a carriage, of a horrible dream in which
my strength had become exhausted; but all this was
so dark and so indistinct in my mind that these events
seemed to belong to another life than mine, and yet
mixed with mine in fantastic duality.
“At times the state into which
I had fallen appeared so strange that I believed myself
dreaming. I arose trembling. My clothes were
near me on a chair; I neither remembered having undressed
myself nor going to bed. Then by degrees the
reality broke upon me, full of chaste terrors.
I was no longer in the house where I had dwelt.
As well as I could judge by the light of the sun,
the day was already two-thirds gone. It was the
evening before when I had fallen asleep; my sleep,
then, must have lasted twenty-four hours! What
had taken place during this long sleep?
“I dressed myself as quickly
as possible; my slow and stiff motions all attested
that the effects of the narcotic were not yet entirely
dissipated. The chamber was evidently furnished
for the reception of a woman; and the most finished
coquette could not have formed a wish, but on casting
her eyes about the apartment, she would have found
that wish accomplished.
“Certainly I was not the first
captive that had been shut up in this splendid prison;
but you may easily comprehend, Felton, that the more
superb the prison, the greater was my terror.
“Yes, it was a prison, for I
tried in vain to get out of it. I sounded all
the walls, in the hopes of discovering a door, but
everywhere the walls returned a full and flat sound.
“I made the tour of the room
at least twenty times, in search of an outlet of some
kind; but there was none. I sank exhausted with
fatigue and terror into an armchair.
“Meantime, night came on rapidly,
and with night my terrors increased. I did not
know but I had better remain where I was seated.
It appeared that I was surrounded with unknown dangers
into which I was about to fall at every instant.
Although I had eaten nothing since the evening before,
my fears prevented my feeling hunger.
“No noise from without by which
I could measure the time reached me; I only supposed
it must be seven or eight o’clock in the evening,
for it was in the month of October and it was quite
“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
“Scoundrel!” murmured Felton.
“Oh, yes, scoundrel!”
cried Milady, seeing the interest which the young
officer, whose soul seemed to hang on her lips, took
in this strange recital. “Oh, yes, scoundrel!
He believed, having triumphed over me in my sleep,
that all was completed. He came, hoping that I
would accept my shame, as my shame was consummated;
he came to offer his fortune in exchange for my love.
“All that the heart of a woman
could contain of haughty contempt and disdainful words,
I poured out upon this man. Doubtless he was
accustomed to such reproaches, for he listened to me
calm and smiling, with his arms crossed over his breast.
Then, when he thought I had said all, he advanced
toward me; I sprang toward the table, I seized a knife,
I placed it to my breast.
“Take one step more,”
said I, “and in addition to my dishonor, you
shall have my death to reproach yourself with.”
“There was, no doubt, in my
look, my voice, my whole person, that sincerity of
gesture, of attitude, of accent, which carries conviction
to the most perverse minds, for he paused.
“‘Your death?’ said
he; ’oh, no, you are too charming a mistress
to allow me to consent to lose you thus, after I have
had the happiness to possess you only a single time.
Adieu, my charmer; I will wait to pay you my next
visit till you are in a better humor.’
“At these words he blew a whistle;
the globe of fire which lighted the room reascended
and disappeared. I found myself again in complete
darkness. The same noise of a door opening and
shutting was repeated the instant afterward; the flaming
globe descended afresh, and I was completely alone.
“This moment was frightful;
if I had any doubts as to my misfortune, these doubts
had vanished in an overwhelming reality. I was
in the power of a man whom I not only detested, but
despised of a man capable of anything,
and who had already given me a fatal proof of what
he was able to do.”
“But who, then was this man?” asked Felton.
“I passed the night on a chair,
starting at the least noise, for toward midnight the
lamp went out, and I was again in darkness. But
the night passed away without any fresh attempt on
the part of my persecutor. Day came; the table
had disappeared, only I had still the knife in my hand.
“This knife was my only hope.
“I was worn out with fatigue.
Sleeplessness inflamed my eyes; I had not dared to
sleep a single instant. The light of day reassured
me; I went and threw myself on the bed, without parting
with the emancipating knife, which I concealed under
“When I awoke, a fresh meal was served.
“This time, in spite of my terrors,
in spite of my agony, I began to feel a devouring
hunger. It was forty-eight hours since I had taken
any nourishment. I ate some bread and some fruit;
then, remembering the narcotic mixed with the water
I had drunk, I would not touch that which was placed
on the table, but filled my glass at a marble fountain
fixed in the wall over my dressing table.
“And yet, notwithstanding these
precautions, I remained for some time in a terrible
agitation of mind. But my fears were this time
ill-founded; I passed the day without experiencing
anything of the kind I dreaded.
“I took the precaution to half
empty the carafe, in order that my suspicions might
not be noticed.
“The evening came on, and with
it darkness; but however profound was this darkness,
my eyes began to accustom themselves to it. I
saw, amid the shadows, the table sink through the
floor; a quarter of an hour later it reappeared, bearing
my supper. In an instant, thanks to the lamp,
my chamber was once more lighted.
“I was determined to eat only
such things as could not possibly have anything soporific
introduced into them. Two eggs and some fruit
composed my repast; then I drew another glass of water
from my protecting fountain, and drank it.
“At the first swallow, it appeared
to me not to have the same taste as in the morning.
Suspicion instantly seized me. I paused, but I
had already drunk half a glass.
“I threw the rest away with
horror, and waited, with the dew of fear upon my brow.
“No doubt some invisible witness
had seen me draw the water from that fountain, and
had taken advantage of my confidence in it, the better
to assure my ruin, so coolly resolved upon, so cruelly
“Half an hour had not passed
when the same symptoms began to appear; but as I had
only drunk half a glass of the water, I contended longer,
and instead of falling entirely asleep, I sank into
a state of drowsiness which left me a perception of
what was passing around me, while depriving me of
the strength either to defend myself or to fly.
“I dragged myself toward the
bed, to seek the only defense I had left my
saving knife; but I could not reach the bolster.
I sank on my knees, my hands clasped round one of
the bedposts; then I felt that I was lost.”
Felton became frightfully pale, and
a convulsive tremor crept through his whole body.
“And what was most frightful,”
continued Milady, her voice altered, as if she still
experienced the same agony as at that awful minute,
“was that at this time I retained a consciousness
of the danger that threatened me; was that my soul,
if I may say so, waked in my sleeping body; was that
I saw, that I heard. It is true that all was like
a dream, but it was not the less frightful.
“I saw the lamp ascend, and
leave me in darkness; then I heard the well-known
creaking of the door although I had heard that door
open but twice.
“I felt instinctively that someone
approached me; it is said that the doomed wretch in
the deserts of America thus feels the approach of the
“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
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
“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
“The idea came into your mind
to avenge yourself on this man, did it not?”
“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.”
said Felton; “I am eager to see you attain your
“Oh, I resolved that it should
take place as soon as possible. I had no doubt
he would return the following night. During the
day I had nothing to fear.
“When the hour of breakfast
came, therefore, I did not hesitate to eat and drink.
I had determined to make believe sup, but to eat nothing.
I was forced, then, to combat the fast of the evening
with the nourishment of the morning.
“Only I concealed a glass of
water, which remained after my breakfast, thirst having
been the chief of my sufferings when I remained forty-eight
hours without eating or drinking.
“The day passed away without
having any other influence on me than to strengthen
the resolution I had formed; only I took care that
my face should not betray the thoughts of my heart,
for I had no doubt I was watched. Several times,
even, I felt a smile on my lips. Felton, I dare
not tell you at what idea I smiled; you would hold
me in horror ”
“Go on! go on!” said Felton;
“you see plainly that I listen, and that I am
anxious to know the end.”
“Evening came; the ordinary
events took place. During the darkness, as before,
my supper was brought. Then the lamp was lighted,
and I sat down to table. I only ate some fruit.
I pretended to pour out water from the jug, but I
only drank that which I had saved in my glass.
The substitution was made so carefully that my spies,
if I had any, could have no suspicion of it.
“After supper I exhibited the
same marks of languor as on the preceding evening;
but this time, as I yielded to fatigue, or as if I
had become familiarized with danger, I dragged myself
toward my bed, let my robe fall, and lay down.
“I found my knife where I had
placed it, under my pillow, and while feigning to
sleep, my hand grasped the handle of it convulsively.
“Two hours passed away without
anything fresh happening. Oh, my God! who could
have said so the evening before? I began to fear
that he would not come.
“At length I saw the lamp rise
softly, and disappear in the depths of the ceiling;
my chamber was filled with darkness and obscurity,
but I made a strong effort to penetrate this darkness
“Nearly ten minutes passed;
I heard no other noise but the beating of my own heart.
I implored heaven that he might come.
“At length I heard the well-known
noise of the door, which opened and shut; I heard,
notwithstanding the thickness of the carpet, a step
which made the floor creak; I saw, notwithstanding
the darkness, a shadow which approached my bed.”
“Haste! haste!” said Felton;
“do you not see that each of your words burns
me like molten lead?”
“Then,” continued Milady,
“then I collected all my strength; I recalled
to my mind that the moment of vengeance, or rather,
of justice, had struck. I looked upon myself
as another Judith; I gathered myself up, my knife
in my hand, and when I saw him near me, stretching
out his arms to find his victim, then, with the last
cry of agony and despair, I struck him in the middle
of his breast.
“The miserable villain!
He had foreseen all. His breast was covered with
a coat-of-mail; the knife was bent against it.
“‘Ah, ah!’ cried
he, seizing my arm, and wresting from me the weapon
that had so badly served me, ’you want to take
my life, do you, my pretty Puritan? But that’s
more than dislike, that’s ingratitude! Come,
come, calm yourself, my sweet girl! I thought
you had softened. I am not one of those tyrants
who detain women by force. You don’t love
me. With my usual fatuity I doubted it; now I
am convinced. Tomorrow you shall be free.’
“I had but one wish; that was that he should
“‘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,’
“‘Very well,’ cried
I, ’then the place of my punishment will be that
of my tomb. I will die here, and you will see
if a phantom that accuses is not more terrible than
a living being that threatens!’
“‘You shall have no weapon left in your
“’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
“The second night the door opened;
I was lying on the floor, for my strength began to
“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!’
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 laughter.
“He saw that it was a merciless
war between us a war to the death.
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 mad!
“‘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
“‘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.