List Of Contents | Contents of Marquise de Brinvilliers, by Dumas, Pere
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was a letter wasted, and that was all.

"The water was again given; she turned and twisted much, but said
that on this subject she had said all she possibly could; if she said
anything else, it would be untrue."

The ordinary question was at an end.  The marquise had now taken half
the quantity of water she had thought enough to drown her.  The
executioner paused before he proceeded to the extraordinary question.
Instead of the trestle two feet and a half high on which she lay,
they passed under her body a trestle of three and a half feet, which
gave the body a greater arch, and as this was done without
lengthening the ropes, her limbs were still further stretched, and
the bonds, tightly straining at wrists and ankles, penetrated the
flesh and made the blood run.  The question began once more,
interrupted by the demands of the registrar and the answers of the
sufferer.  Her cries seemed not even to be heard.

"On the large trestle, during the stretching, she said several times,
'O God, you tear me to, pieces!  Lord, pardon me!  Lord, have mercy
upon me!'

"Asked if she had nothing more to tell regarding her accomplices, she
said they might kill her, but she would not tell a lie that would
destroy her soul.

"The water was given, she moved about a little, but would not speak.

"Admonished that she should tell the composition of the poisons and
their antidotes, she said that she did not know what was in them; the
only thing she could recall was toads; that Sainte-Croix never
revealed his secret to her; that she did not believe he made them
himself, but had them prepared by Glazer; she seemed to remember that
some of them contained nothing but rarefied arsenic; that as to an
antidote, she knew of no other than milk; and Sainte-Croix had told
her that if one had taken milk in the morning, and on the first onset
of the poison took another glassful, one would have nothing to fear.

"Admonished to say if she could add anything further, she said she
had now told everything; and if they killed her, they could not
extract anything more.

"More water was given; she writhed a little, and said she was dead,
but nothing more.

"More water was given; she writhed more violently, but would say no

"Yet again water was given; writhing and twisting, she said, with a
deep groan, 'O my God, I am killed!' but would speak no more."

Then they tortured her no further: she was let down, untied, and
placed before the fire in the usual manner.  While there, close to
the fire, lying on the mattress, she was visited by the good doctor,
who, feeling he could not bear to witness the spectacle just
described, had asked her leave to retire, that he might say a mass
for her, that God might grant her patience and courage.  It is plain
that the good priest had not prayed in vain.

"Ah," said the marquise, when she perceived him, "I have long been
desiring to see you again, that you might comfort me.  My torture has
been very long and very painful, but this is the last time I shall
have to treat with men; now all is with God for the future.  See my
hands, sir, and my feet, are they not torn and wounded?  Have not my
executioners smitten me in the same places where Christ was smitten?"

"And therefore, madame," replied the priest, "these sufferings now
are your happiness; each torture is one step nearer to heaven.  As
you say, you are now for God alone; all your thoughts and hopes must
be fastened upon Him; we must pray to Him, like the penitent king, to
give you a place among His elect; and since nought that is impure can
pass thither, we must strive, madame, to purify you from all that
might bar the way to heaven."

The marquise rose with the doctor's aid, for she could scarcely
stand; tottering, she stepped forward between him and the
executioner, who took charge of her immediately after the sentence
was read, and was not allowed to leave her before it was completely
carried out.  They all three entered the chapel and went into the
choir, where the doctor and the marquise knelt in adoration of the
Blessed Sacrament.  At that moment several persons appeared in the
nave, drawn by curiosity.  They could not be turned out, so the
executioner, to save the marquise from being annoyed, shut the gate
of the choir, and let the patient pass behind the altar.  There she
sat down in a chair, and the doctor on a seat opposite; then he first
saw, by the light of the chapel window, how greatly changed she was.
Her face, generally so pale, was inflamed, her eyes glowing and
feverish, all her body involuntarily trembling.  The doctor would
have spoken a few words of consolation, but she did not attend.
"Sir," she said, "do you know that my sentence is an ignominious one?
Do you know there is fire in the sentence?"

The doctor gave no answer; but, thinking she needed something, bade
the gaoler to bring her wine.  A minute later he brought it in a cup,
and the doctor handed it to the marquise, who moistened her lips and
then gave it back.  She then noticed that her neck was uncovered, and
took out her handkerchief to cover it, asking the gaoler for a pin to
fasten it with.  When he was slow in finding a pin, looking on his
person for it, she fancied that he feared she would choke herself,
and shaking her head, said, with a smile, "You have nothing to fear
now; and here is the doctor, who will pledge his word that I will do
myself no mischief."

"Madame," said the gaoler, handing her the pin she wanted, "I beg
your pardon for keeping you waiting.  I swear I did not distrust you;
if anyone distrusts you, it is not I."

Then kneeling before her, he begged to kiss her hand.  She gave it,
and asked him to pray to God for her.  "Ah yes," he cried, sobbing,
"with all my heart."  She then fastened her dress as best she could
with her hands tied, and when the gaoler had gone and she was alone
with the doctor, said:--

"Did you not hear what I said, sir?  I told you there was fire in my
sentence.  And though it is only after death that my body is to be
burnt, it will always be a terrible disgrace on my memory.  I am
saved the pain of being burnt alive, and thus, perhaps, saved from a
death of despair, but the shamefulness is the same, and it is that I
think of."

"Madame," said the doctor, "it in no way affects your soul's
salvation whether your body is cast into the fire and reduced to
ashes or whether it is buried in the ground and eaten by worms,
whether it is drawn on a hurdle and thrown upon a dung-heap, or
embalmed with Oriental perfumes and laid in a rich man's tomb.
Whatever may be your end, your body will arise on the appointed day,
and if Heaven so will, it will come forth from its ashes more
glorious than a royal corpse lying at this moment in a gilded casket.
Obsequies, madame, are for those who survive, not for the dead."

A sound was heard at the door of the choir.  The doctor went to see
what it was, and found a man who insisted on entering, all but
fighting with the executioner.  The doctor approached and asked what
was the matter.  The man was a saddler, from whom the marquise had
bought a carriage before she left France; this she had partly paid
for, but still owed him two hundred livres.  He produced the note he
had had from her, on which was a faithful record of the sums she had
paid on account.  The marquise at this point called out, not knowing
what was going on, and the doctor and executioner went to her.  "Have
they come to fetch me already?" said she.  "I am not well prepared
just at this moment; but never mind, I am ready."

The doctor reassured her, and told her what was going on.  "The man
is quite right," she said to the executioner; "tell him I will give
orders as far as I can about the money."  Then, seeing the
executioner retiring, she said to the doctor, "Must I go now, sir?
I wish they would give me a little more time; for though I am ready,
as I told you, I am not really prepared.  Forgive me, father; it is
the question and the sentence that have upset me it is this fire
burning in my eyes like hell-flames.

"Had they left me with you all this time, there would now be better
hope of my salvation."

"Madame," said the doctor, "you will probably have all the time
before nightfall to compose yourself and think what remains for you
to do."

"Ah, sir," she replied, with a smile, "do not think they will show so
much consideration for a poor wretch condemned to be burnt.  That
does not depend on ourselves; but as soon as everything is ready,
they will let us know, and we must start."

"Madame," said the doctor, "I am certain that they will give you the
time you need."

"No, no," she replied abruptly and feverishly, "no, I will not keep
them waiting.  As soon as the tumbril is at this door, they have only
to tell me, and I go down."

"Madame," said he, "I would not hold you back if I found you prepared
to stand before the face of God, for in your situation it is right to
ask for no time, and to go when the moment is come; but not everyone
is so ready as Christ was, who rose from prayer and awaked His
disciples that He might leave the garden and go out to meet His
enemies.  You at this moment are weak, and if they come for you just
now I should resist your departure."

"Be calm; the time is not yet come," said the executioner, who had
heard this talk.  He knew his statement must be believed, and wished
as far as possible to reassure the marquise.  "There is no hurry, and
we cannot start for another two of three hours."

This assurance calmed the marquise somewhat, and she thanked the man.
Then turning to the doctor, she said, "Here is a rosary that I would
rather should not fall into this person's hands.  Not that he could
not make good use of it; for, in spite of their trade, I fancy that
these people are Christians like ourselves.  But I should prefer to
leave this to somebody else."

"Madame," said the doctor, "if you will tell me your wishes in this
matter, I will see that they are carried out."

"Alas!" she said, "there is no one but my sister; and I fear lest
she, remembering my crime towards her, may be too horrified to touch

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