A Device of Classical Tragedy
After a moments silence, employed by milady in observing the young man who was listening to her, milady continued her recital.
When evening came I was so weak that almost every instant I fainted, and every time that I fainted I thanked God, for I thought I was going to die.
In the midst of one of these fainting fits I heard the door open. Terror recalled me to myself.
He entered the apartment, followed by a man in a mask. He himself was masked, but I knew his step, I knew his voice. I knew him by that imposing carriage which hell bestowed on his person for the curse of humanity.
Well, said he to me, have you made up your mind?
You have said Puritans have but one word. Mine you have heard, and that is to pursue you on earth before the tribunal of men, in heaven before 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 avenger.
Executioner, said he, do your duty.
Oh, his name, his name! cried Felton; tell it me!
Then in spite of my cries, in spite of my resistancefor I began to realize that for me there was a question of something worse than deaththe executioner seized me, threw me on the floor, bruised me with his rough grasp. Suffocated by sobs, almost without consciousness, invoking God, who did not listen to me, I suddenly uttered a frightful cry of pain and shame. A burning fire, a red-hot iron, the iron of the executioner, was imprinted on my shoulder.
Felton uttered a groan.
Here, said milady, rising with the majesty of a queenhere, Felton, behold the new martyrdom invented for a young girl, pure, and yet the victim of a scoundrels brutality. Learn to know the hearts of men, and henceforth make yourself less easily the instrument of their unjust revenges.
Milady, with a swift gesture, opened her dress, tore the cambric that covered her bosom, and, red with feigned anger and simulated modesty, showed the young man the ineffaceable impression which dishonoured her beautiful shoulder.
But, cried Felton, it is a fleur-de-lis which I see there.
And therein consisted the infamy, replied milady. The brand of England!it would have been 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 a shamelessness which appeared to him sublime, he ended by falling on his knees.
Pardon! pardon! cried Felton; oh, pardon!
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