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Chapter 54 CAPTIVITY: THE THIRD DAY

  • Felton had fallen; but there was still another step to be taken. He must b_etained, or rather he must be left quite alone; and Milady but obscurel_erceived the means which could lead to this result.
  • Still more must be done. He must be made to speak, in order that he might b_poken to—for Milady very well knew that her greatest seduction was in he_oice, which so skillfully ran over the whole gamut of tones from human speec_o language celestial.
  • Yet in spite of all this seduction Milady might fail—for Felton wa_orewarned, and that against the least chance. From that moment she watche_ll his actions, all his words, from the simplest glance of his eyes to hi_estures—even to a breath that could be interpreted as a sigh. In short, sh_tudied everything, as a skillful comedian does to whom a new part has bee_ssigned in a line to which he is not accustomed.
  • Face to face with Lord de Winter her plan of conduct was more easy. She ha_aid that down the preceding evening. To remain silent and dignified in hi_resence; from time to time to irritate him by affected disdain, by _ontemptuous word; to provoke him to threats and violence which would produc_ contrast with her own resignation—such was her plan. Felton would see all; perhaps he would say nothing, but he would see.
  • In the morning, Felton came as usual; but Milady allowed him to preside ove_ll the preparations for breakfast without addressing a word to him. At th_oment when he was about to retire, she was cheered with a ray of hope, fo_he thought he was about to speak; but his lips moved without any soun_eaving his mouth, and making a powerful effort to control himself, he sen_ack to his heart the words that were about to escape from his lips, and wen_ut. Toward midday, Lord de Winter entered.
  • It was a tolerably fine winter's day, and a ray of that pale English sun whic_ights but does not warm came through the bars of her prison.
  • Milady was looking out at the window, and pretended not to hear the door as i_pened.
  • "Ah, ah!" said Lord de Winter, "after having played comedy, after havin_layed tragedy, we are now playing melancholy?"
  • The prisoner made no reply.
  • "Yes, yes," continued Lord de Winter, "I understand. You would like very wel_o be at liberty on that beach! You would like very well to be in a good shi_ancing upon the waves of that emerald-green sea; you would like very well, either on land or on the ocean, to lay for me one of those nice littl_mbuscades you are so skillful in planning. Patience, patience! In four days'
  • time the shore will be beneath your feet, the sea will be open to you—mor_pen than will perhaps be agreeable to you, for in four days England will b_elieved of you."
  • Milady folded her hands, and raising her fine eyes toward heaven, "Lord, Lord," said she, with an angelic meekness of gesture and tone, "pardon thi_an, as I myself pardon him."
  • "Yes, pray, accursed woman!" cried the baron; "your prayer is so much the mor_enerous from your being, I swear to you, in the power of a man who will neve_ardon you!" and he went out.
  • At the moment he went out a piercing glance darted through the opening of th_early closed door, and she perceived Felton, who drew quickly to one side t_revent being seen by her.
  • Then she threw herself upon her knees, and began to pray.
  • "My God, my God!" said she, "thou knowest in what holy cause I suffer; giv_e, then, strength to suffer."
  • The door opened gently; the beautiful supplicant pretended not to hear th_oise, and in a voice broken by tears, she continued:
  • "God of vengeance! God of goodness! wilt thou allow the frightful projects o_his man to be accomplished?"
  • Then only she pretended to hear the sound of Felton's steps, and rising quic_s thought, she blushed, as if ashamed of being surprised on her knees.
  • "I do not like to disturb those who pray, madame," said Felton, seriously; "d_ot disturb yourself on my account, I beseech you."
  • "How do you know I was praying, sir?" said Milady, in a voice broken by sobs.
  • "You were deceived, sir; I was not praying."
  • "Do you think, then, madame," replied Felton, in the same serious voice, bu_ith a milder tone, "do you think I assume the right of preventing a creatur_rom prostrating herself before her Creator? God forbid! Besides, repentanc_ecomes the guilty; whatever crimes they may have committed, for me the guilt_re sacred at the feet of God!"
  • "Guilty? I?" said Milady, with a smile which might have disarmed the angel o_he last judgment. "Guilty? Oh, my God, thou knowest whether I am guilty! Sa_ am condemned, sir, if you please; but you know that God, who loves martyrs, sometimes permits the innocent to be condemned."
  • "Were you condemned, were you innocent, were you a martyr," replied Felton,
  • "the greater would be the necessity for prayer; and I myself would aid yo_ith my prayers."
  • "Oh, you are a just man!" cried Milady, throwing herself at his feet. "I ca_old out no longer, for I fear I shall be wanting in strength at the momen_hen I shall be forced to undergo the struggle, and confess my faith. Listen, then, to the supplication of a despairing woman. You are abused, sir; but tha_s not the question. I only ask you one favor; and if you grant it me, I wil_less you in this world and in the next."
  • "Speak to the master, madame," said Felton; "happily I am neither charged wit_he power of pardoning nor punishing. It is upon one higher placed than I a_hat God has laid this responsibility."
  • "To you—no, to you alone! Listen to me, rather than add to my destruction, rather than add to my ignominy!"
  • "If you have merited this shame, madame, if you have incurred this ignominy, you must submit to it as an offering to God."
  • "What do you say? Oh, you do not understand me! When I speak of ignominy, yo_hink I speak of some chastisement, of imprisonment or death. Would to heaven!
  • Of what consequence to me is imprisonment or death?"
  • "It is I who no longer understand you, madame," said Felton.
  • "Or, rather, who pretend not to understand me, sir!" replied the prisoner, with a smile of incredulity.
  • "No, madame, on the honor of a soldier, on the faith of a Christian."
  • "What, you are ignorant of Lord de Winter's designs upon me?"
  • "I am."
  • "Impossible; you are his confidant!"
  • "I never lie, madame."
  • "Oh, he conceals them too little for you not to divine them."
  • "I seek to divine nothing, madame; I wait till I am confided in, and apar_rom that which Lord de Winter has said to me before you, he has confide_othing to me."
  • "Why, then," cried Milady, with an incredible tone of truthfulness, "you ar_ot his accomplice; you do not know that he destines me to a disgrace whic_ll the punishments of the world cannot equal in horror?"
  • "You are deceived, madame," said Felton, blushing; "Lord de Winter is no_apable of such a crime."
  • "Good," said Milady to herself; "without thinking what it is, he calls it _rime!" Then aloud, "The friend of THAT WRETCH is capable of everything."
  • "Whom do you call 'that wretch'?" asked Felton.
  • "Are there, then, in England two men to whom such an epithet can be applied?"
  • "You mean George Villiers?" asked Felton, whose looks became excited.
  • "Whom Pagans and unbelieving Gentiles call Duke of Buckingham," replie_ilady. "I could not have thought that there was an Englishman in all Englan_ho would have required so long an explanation to make him understand of who_ was speaking."
  • "The hand of the Lord is stretched over him," said Felton; "he will not escap_he chastisement he deserves."
  • Felton only expressed, with regard to the duke, the feeling of execratio_hich all the English had declared toward him whom the Catholics themselve_alled the extortioner, the pillager, the debauchee, and whom the Puritan_tyled simply Satan.
  • "Oh, my God, my God!" cried Milady; "when I supplicate thee to pour upon thi_an the chastisement which is his due, thou knowest it is not my own vengeanc_ pursue, but the deliverance of a whole nation that I implore!"
  • "Do you know him, then?" asked Felton.
  • "At length he interrogates me!" said Milady to herself, at the height of jo_t having obtained so quickly such a great result. "Oh, know him? Yes, yes! t_y misfortune, to my eternal misfortune!" and Milady twisted her arms as if i_ paroxysm of grief.
  • Felton no doubt felt within himself that his strength was abandoning him, an_e made several steps toward the door; but the prisoner, whose eye never lef_im, sprang in pursuit of him and stopped him.
  • "Sir," cried she, "be kind, be clement, listen to my prayer! That knife, whic_he fatal prudence of the baron deprived me of, because he knows the use _ould make of it! Oh, hear me to the end! that knife, give it to me for _inute only, for mercy's, for pity's sake! I will embrace your knees! Yo_hall shut the door that you may be certain I contemplate no injury to you! M_od! to you—the only just, good, and compassionate being I have met with! T_ou—my preserver, perhaps! One minute that knife, one minute, a single minute, and I will restore it to you through the grating of the door. Only one minute, Mr. Felton, and you will have saved my honor!"
  • "To kill yourself?" cried Felton, with terror, forgetting to withdraw hi_ands from the hands of the prisoner, "to kill yourself?"
  • "I have told, sir," murmured Milady, lowering her voice, and allowing hersel_o sink overpowered to the ground; "I have told my secret! He knows all! M_od, I am lost!"
  • Felton remained standing, motionless and undecided.
  • "He still doubts," thought Milady; "I have not been earnest enough."
  • Someone was heard in the corridor; Milady recognized the step of Lord d_inter.
  • Felton recognized it also, and made a step toward the door.
  • Milady sprang toward him. "Oh, not a word," said she in a concentrated voice,
  • "not a word of all that I have said to you to this man, or I am lost, and i_ould be you—you—"
  • Then as the steps drew near, she became silent for fear of being heard, applying, with a gesture of infinite terror, her beautiful hand to Felton'_outh.
  • Felton gently repulsed Milady, and she sank into a chair.
  • Lord de Winter passed before the door without stopping, and they heard th_oise of his footsteps soon die away.
  • Felton, as pale as death, remained some instants with his ear bent an_istening; then, when the sound was quite extinct, he breathed like a ma_waking from a dream, and rushed out of the apartment.
  • "Ah!" said Milady, listening in her turn to the noise of Felton's steps, whic_ithdrew in a direction opposite to those of Lord de Winter; "at length yo_re mine!"
  • Then her brow darkened. "If he tells the baron," said she, "I am lost—for th_aron, who knows very well that I shall not kill myself, will place me befor_im with a knife in my hand, and he will discover that all this despair is bu_cted."
  • She placed herself before the glass, and regarded herself attentively; neve_ad she appeared more beautiful.
  • "Oh, yes," said she, smiling, "but we won't tell him!"
  • In the evening Lord de Winter accompanied the supper.
  • "Sir," said Milady, "is your presence an indispensable accessory of m_aptivity? Could you not spare me the increase of torture which your visit_ause me?"
  • "How, dear sister!" said Lord de Winter. "Did not you sentimentally inform m_ith that pretty mouth of yours, so cruel to me today, that you came t_ngland solely for the pleasure of seeing me at your ease, an enjoyment o_hich you told me you so sensibly felt the deprivation that you had riske_verything for it—seasickness, tempest, captivity? Well, here I am; b_atisfied. Besides, this time, my visit has a motive."
  • Milady trembled; she thought Felton had told all. Perhaps never in her lif_ad this woman, who had experienced so many opposite and powerful emotions, felt her heart beat so violently.
  • She was seated. Lord de Winter took a chair, drew it toward her, and sat dow_lose beside her. Then taking a paper out of his pocket, he unfolded i_lowly.
  • "Here," said he, "I want to show you the kind of passport which I have draw_p, and which will serve you henceforward as the rule of order in the life _onsent to leave you."
  • Then turning his eyes from Milady to the paper, he read: "'Order to conduct—'
  • The name is blank," interrupted Lord de Winter. "If you have any preferenc_ou can point it out to me; and if it be not within a thousand leagues o_ondon, attention will be paid to your wishes. I will begin again, then:
  • "'Order to conduct to—the person named Charlotte Backson, branded by th_ustice of the kingdom of France, but liberated after chastisement. She is t_well in this place without ever going more than three leagues from it. I_ase of any attempt to escape, the penalty of death is to be applied. She wil_eceive five shillings per day for lodging and food'".
  • "That order does not concern me," replied Milady, coldly, "since it bear_nother name than mine."
  • "A name? Have you a name, then?"
  • "I bear that of your brother."
  • "Ay, but you are mistaken. My brother is only your second husband; and you_irst is still living. Tell me his name, and I will put it in the place of th_ame of Charlotte Backson. No? You will not? You are silent? Well, then yo_ust be registered as Charlotte Backson."
  • Milady remained silent; only this time it was no longer from affectation, bu_rom terror. She believed the order ready for execution. She thought that Lor_e Winter had hastened her departure; she thought she was condemned to set of_hat very evening. Everything in her mind was lost for an instant; when all a_nce she perceived that no signature was attached to the order. The joy sh_elt at this discovery was so great she could not conceal it.
  • "Yes, yes," said Lord de Winter, who perceived what was passing in her mind;
  • "yes, you look for the signature, and you say to yourself: 'All is not lost, for that order is not signed. It is only shown to me to terrify me, that'_ll.' You are mistaken. Tomorrow this order will be sent to the Duke o_uckingham. The day after tomorrow it will return signed by his hand an_arked with his seal; and four-and-twenty hours afterward I will answer fo_ts being carried into execution. Adieu, madame. That is all I had to say t_ou."
  • "And I reply to you, sir, that this abuse of power, this exile under _ictitious name, are infamous!"
  • "Would you like better to be hanged in your true name, Milady? You know tha_he English laws are inexorable on the abuse of marriage. Speak freely.
  • Although my name, or rather that of my brother, would be mixed up with th_ffair, I will risk the scandal of a public trial to make myself certain o_etting rid of you."
  • Milady made no reply, but became as pale as a corpse.
  • "Oh, I see you prefer peregrination. That's well madame; and there is an ol_roverb that says, 'Traveling trains youth.' My faith! you are not wrong afte_ll, and life is sweet. That's the reason why I take such care you shall no_eprive me of mine. There only remains, then, the question of the fiv_hillings to be settled. You think me rather parsimonious, don't you? That'_ecause I don't care to leave you the means of corrupting your jailers.
  • Besides, you will always have your charms left to seduce them with. Emplo_hem, if your check with regard to Felton has not disgusted you with attempt_f that kind."
  • "Felton has not told him," said Milady to herself. "Nothing is lost, then."
  • "And now, madame, till I see you again! Tomorrow I will come and announce t_ou the departure of my messenger."
  • Lord de Winter rose, saluted her ironically, and went out.
  • Milady breathed again. She had still four days before her. Four days woul_uite suffice to complete the seduction of Felton.
  • A terrible idea, however, rushed into her mind. She thought that Lord d_inter would perhaps send Felton himself to get the order signed by the Duk_f Buckingham. In that case Felton would escape her—for in order to secur_uccess, the magic of a continuous seduction was necessary. Nevertheless, a_e have said, one circumstance reassured her. Felton had not spoken.
  • As she would not appear to be agitated by the threats of Lord de Winter, sh_laced herself at the table and ate.
  • Then, as she had done the evening before, she fell on her knees and repeate_er prayers aloud. As on the evening before, the soldier stopped his march t_isten to her.
  • Soon after she heard lighter steps than those of the sentinel, which came fro_he end of the corridor and stopped before her door.
  • "It is he," said she. And she began the same religious chant which had s_trongly excited Felton the evening before.
  • But although her voice—sweet, full, and sonorous—vibrated as harmoniously an_s affectingly as ever, the door remained shut. It appeared however to Milad_hat in one of the furtive glances she darted from time to time at the gratin_f the door she thought she saw the ardent eyes of the young man through th_arrow opening. But whether this was reality or vision, he had this tim_ufficient self-command not to enter.
  • However, a few instants after she had finished her religious song, Milad_hought she heard a profound sigh. Then the same steps she had heard approac_lowly withdrew, as if with regret.