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List Of Contents | Contents of Marquise de Ganges, by Dumas, Pere
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"choose, whether poison, fire, or"--he made a sign to the chevalier,
who drew his sword--" or steel."

The marquise had one moment's hope: at the motion which she saw the
chevalier make she thought he was coming to her assistance; but being
soon undeceived, and finding herself between two men, both
threatening her, she slipped from her bed and fell on her knees.

"What have I done," she cried, "oh, my God?  that you should thus
decree my death, and after having made yourselves judges should make
yourselves executioners?  I am guilty of no fault towards you except
of having been too faithful in my duty to my husband, who is your
brother."

Then seeing that it was vain to continue imploring the abbe, whose
looks and gestures spoke a mind made up, she turned towards the
chevalier.

"And you too, brother," said she, "oh, God, God!  you, too!  Oh, have
pity on me, in the name of Heaven!"

But he, stamping his foot and pressing the point of his sword to her
bosom, answered--

"Enough, madam, enough; take your choice without delay; for if you do
not take it, we will take it for you."

The marquise turned once again to the abbe, and her forehead struck
the muzzle of the pistol.  Then she saw that she must die indeed, and
choosing of the three forms of death that which seemed to her the
least terrible, "Give me the poison, then," said she, "and may God
forgive you my death!"

With these words she took the glass, but the thick black liquid of
which it was full aroused such repulsion that she would have
attempted a last appeal; but a horrible imprecation from the abbe and
a threatening movement from his brother took from her the very last
gleam of hope.  She put the glass to her lips, and murmuring once
more, "God!  Saviour!  have pity on me!" she swallowed the contents.

As she did so a few drops of the liquid fell upon her breast, and
instantly burned her skin like live coals; indeed, this infernal
draught was composed of arsenic and sublimate infused in aqua-fortis;
then, thinking that no more would be required of her, she dropped the
glass.

The marquise was mistaken: the abbe picked it up, and observing that
all the sediment had remained at the bottom, he gathered together on
a silver bodkin all that had coagulated on the sides of the glass and
all that had sunk to the bottom, and presenting this ball, which was
about the size of a nut, to the marquise, on the end of the bodkin,
he said, "Come, madame, you must swallow the holy-water sprinkler."

The marquise opened her lips, with resignation; but instead of doing
as the abbe commanded, she kept this remainder of the poison in her
mouth, threw herself on the bed with a scream, and clasping the
pillows, in her pain, she put out the poison between the sheets,
unperceived by her assassins; and then turning back to them, folded
her hands in entreaty and said, "In the name of God, since you have
killed my body, at least do not destroy my soul, but send me a
confessor."

Cruel though the abbe and the chevalier were, they were no doubt
beginning to weary of such a scene; moreover, the mortal deed was
accomplished--after what she had drunk, the marquise could live but a
few minutes; at her petition they went out, locking the door behind
them.  But no sooner did the marquise find herself alone than the
possibility of flight presented itself to her.  She ran to the
window: this was but twenty-two feet above the ground, but the earth
below was covered with stones and rubbish.  The marquise, being only
in her nightdress, hastened to slip on a silk petticoat; but at the
moment when she finished tying it round her waist she heard a step
approaching her room, and believing that her murderers were returning
to make an end of her, she flew like a madwoman to the window.  At
the moment of her setting foot on the window ledge, the door opened:
the marquise, ceasing to consider anything, flung herself down, head
first.

Fortunately, the new-comer, who was the castle chaplain, had time to
reach out and seize her skirt.  The skirt, not strong enough to bear
the weight of the marquise, tore; but its resistance, slight though it
was, sufficed nevertheless to change the direction of her body: the
marquise, whose head would have been shattered on the stones, fell on
her feet instead, and beyond their being bruised by the stones,
received no injury.  Half stunned though she was by her fall, the
marquise saw something coming after her, and sprang aside.  It was an
enormous pitcher of water, beneath which the priest, when he saw her
escaping him, had tried to crush her; but either because he had ill
carried out his attempt or because the marquise had really had time
to move away, the vessel was shattered at her feet without touching
her, and the priest, seeing that he had missed his aim, ran to warn
the abbe and the chevalier that the victim was escaping.

As for the marquise, she had hardly touched the ground, when with
admirable presence of mind she pushed the end of one of her long
plaits so far down her throat as to provoke a fit of vomiting; this
was the more easily done that she had eaten heartily of the
collation, and happily the presence of the food had prevented the
poison from attacking the coats of the stomach so violently as would
otherwise have been the case.  Scarcely had she vomited when a tame
boar swallowed what she had rejected, and falling into a convulsion,
died immediately.

As we have said, the room looked upon an enclosed courtyard; and the
marquise at first thought that in leaping from her room into this
court she had only changed her prison; but soon perceiving a light
that flickered from an upper window of ore of the stables, she ran
thither, and found a groom who was just going to bed.

"In the name of Heaven, my good man," said she to him, "save me!
I am poisoned!  They want to kill me!  Do not desert me, I entreat
you!  Have pity on me, open this stable for me; let me get away!  Let
me escape!"

The groom did not understand much of what the marquise said to him;
but seeing a woman with disordered hair, half naked, asking help of
him, he took her by the arm, led her through the stables, opened a
door for her, and the marquise found herself in the street.  Two
women were passing; the groom put her into their hands, without being
able to explain to them what he did not know himself.  As for the
marquise, she seemed able to say nothing beyond these words: "Save
me!  I am poisoned!  In the name of Heaven, save me!"

All at once she escaped from their hands and began to run like a mad
woman; she had seen, twenty steps away, on the threshold of the door
by which she had come, her two murderers in pursuit of her.

Then they rushed after her; she shrieking that she was poisoned, they
shrieking that she was mad; and all this happening amid a crowd
which, not knowing what part to take, divided and made way for the
victim and the murderers.  Terror gave the marquise superhuman
strength: the woman who was accustomed to walk in silken shoes upon
velvet carpets, ran with bare and bleeding feet over stocks and
stones, vainly asking help, which none gave her; for, indeed, seeing
her thus, in mad flight, in a nightdress, with flying hair, her only
garment a tattered silk petticoat, it was difficult not to--think
that this woman was, as her brothers-in-law said, mad.

At last the chevalier came up with her, stopped her, dragged her, in
spite of her screams, into the nearest house, and closed the door
behind them, while the abbe, standing at the threshold with a pistol
in his hand, threatened to blow out the brains of any person who
should approach.

The house into which the chevalier and the marquise had gone belonged
to one M. Desprats, who at the moment was from home, and whose wife
was entertaining several of her friends.  The marquise and the
chevalier, still struggling together, entered the room where the
company was assembled: as among the ladies present were several who
also visited the marquise, they immediately arose, in the greatest
amazement, to give her the assistance that she implored; but the
chevalier hastily pushed them aside, repeating that the marquise was
mad.  To this reiterated accusation--to which, indeed, appearances
lent only too great a probability--the marquise replied by showing
her burnt neck and her blackened lips, and wringing her hands in
pain, cried out that she was poisoned, that she was going to die, and
begged urgently for milk, or at least for water.  Then the wife of a
Protestant minister, whose name was Madame Brunel, slipped into her
hand a box of orvietan, some pieces of which she hastened to swallow,
while another lady gave her a glass of water; but at the instant when
she was lifting it to her mouth, the chevalier broke it between her
teeth, and one of the pieces of glass cut her lips.  At this, all the
women would have flung themselves upon the chevalier; but the
marquise, fearing that he would only become more enraged, and hoping
to disarm him, asked, on the contrary, that she might be left alone
with him: all the company, yielding to her desire, passed into the
next room; this was what the chevalier, on his part, too, asked.

Scarcely were they alone, when the marquise, joining her hands, knelt
to him and said in the gentlest and most appealing voice that it was
possible to use, "Chevalier, my dear brother, will you not have pity
upon me, who have always had so much affection for you, and who, even
now, would give my blood for your service?  You know that the things
I am saying are not merely empty words; and yet how is it you are
treating me, though I have not deserved it?  And what will everyone
say to such dealings?  Ah, brother, what a great unhappiness is mine,
to have been so cruelly treated by you!  And yet--yes, brother--if
you will deign to have pity on me and to save my life, I swear, by my
hope of heaven, to keep no remembrance of what has happened; and to
consider you always as my protector and my friend."

All at once the marquise rose with a great cry and clasped her hand
to her right side.  While she was speaking, and before she perceived

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