Days of Captivity

Let us return to milady, whom our eyes, turned toward the coast of France, have lost from sight for an instant.

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

On two occasions her fortune has failed her, on two occasions she has found herself discovered and betrayed; and on both these occasions she failed before the fatal genius sent doubtlessly by Heaven to combat her: D’Artagnan has conquered her-her, the invincible power of evil.

He had deceived her love, humbled her pride, thwarted her ambition: and now he is ruining her fortune, depriving her of liberty, and even threatening her life. Moreover, he has lifted the corner of her mask —that ægis with which she covered herself, and which rendered her so strong.

From Buckingham, whom she hates as she hates all she has loved, D’Artagnan averted the tempest with which Richelieu threatened him in the person of the queen. D’Artagnan has passed himself off on her as De Wardes, for whom she had conceived one of those invincible tigress-like fancies common to women of her character. D’Artagnan knows the terrible secret which she has sworn no one should know without dying. Finally, just as she has obtained from Richelieu a signed permit by means of which she is going to take vengeance on her enemy, this paper is torn from her hands, and D’Artagnan holds her prisoner, and is about to send her to some filthy Botany Bay, some infamous Tyburn of the Indian Ocean.

For all this, doubtless, D’Artagnan is responsible. From whom can come so many disgraces heaped on her head, if not from him? He alone could have transmitted to Lord Winter all these frightful secrets, which he has discovered, one after another, in consequence of Fate. He knows her brother-in-law; he must have written to him.

“Come, come! I must have been mad to be carried away so,” says she, plunging into the glass, which reflects back the burning glance by which she seems to question herself. “No violence; violence is a proof of weakness. In the first place, I have never succeeded by that means. Perhaps if I employed my strength against women, I should have a chance to find them weaker than myself, and consequently to conquer them. But I battle with men, and for them I am only a woman. Let me battle like a woman, then. My strength is in my weakness.”

Then, as if to render an account to herself of the changes she could impose upon her countenance, so noble and so expressive, she made it assume successively all expressions, from passionate anger, which convulsed her features, to the sweetest, most affectionate, and most seducing smile. Then her hair in turn, under her skilful hands, took on all the undulations she thought might assist the charms of her face. At length she murmured, satisfied with herself,

“Come, nothing is lost. I am still beautiful.”

In fact, as was shown by this last reflection—this instinctive return to hope—sentiment of weakness or fear did not dwell long in that deep soul. Milady sat down to table, ate of several dishes, drank a little Spanish wine, and felt all her resolution return.

Before she went to bed she had commented on, analyzed, turned on all sides, examined on all points, the words the gestures, the signs, and even the silence of the two men; and the result of her commentary, her analysis, her study, was that Felton, everything considered, was decided to be the more vulnerable of her two persecutors.

“Weak or strong,” repeated milady, “that man has a spark of pity in his soul. Of that spark I will make a flame that shall devour him. As to the other, he knows me, he fears me, and knows what he has to

  By PanEris using Melati.

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