List Of Contents | Contents of Marquise de Brinvilliers, by Dumas, Pere
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anything that belonged to me.  If she did not mind, it would be a
great comfort to me to think she would wear it after my death, and
that the sight of it would remind her to pray for me; but after what
has passed, the rosary could hardly fail to revive an odious
recollection.  My God, my God!  I am desperately wicked; can it be
that you will pardon me?"

"Madame," replied the doctor, "I think you are mistaken about Mlle,
d'Aubray.  You may see by her letter what are her feelings towards
you, and you must pray with this rosary up to the very end.  Let not
your prayers be interrupted or distracted, for no guilty penitent
must cease from prayer; and I, madame, will engage to deliver the
rosary where it will be gladly received."

And the marquise, who had been constantly distracted since the
morning, was now, thanks to the patient goodness of the doctor, able
to return with her former fervour to her prayers.  She prayed till
seven o'clock.  As the clock struck, the executioner without a word
came and stood before her; she saw that her moment had come, and said
to the doctor, grasping his arm, "A little longer; just a few
moments, I entreat."

"Madame," said the doctor, rising, "we will now adore the divine
blood of the Sacrament, praying that you may be thus cleansed from
all soil and sin that may be still in your heart.  Thus shall you
gain the respite you desire."

The executioner then tied tight the cords round her hands that he had
let loose before, and she advanced pretty firmly and knelt before the
altar, between the doctor and the chaplain.  The latter was in his
surplice, and chanted a 'Veni Creator, Salve Regina, and Tantum
ergo'.  These prayers over, he pronounced the blessing of the Holy
Sacrament, while the marquise knelt with her face upon the ground.
The executioner then went forward to get ready a shirt, and she made
her exit from the chapel, supported on the left by the doctor's arm,
on the right by the executioner's assistant.  Thus proceeding, she
first felt embarrassment and confusion.  Ten or twelve people were
waiting outside, and as she suddenly confronted them, she made a step
backward, and with her hands, bound though they were, pulled the
headdress down to cover half her face.  She passed through a small
door, which was closed behind her, and then found herself between the
two doors alone, with the doctor and the executioner's man.  Here the
rosary, in consequence of her violent movement to cover her face,
came undone, and several beads fell on the floor.  She went on,
however, without observing this; but the doctor stopped her, and he
and the man stooped down and picked up all the beads, which they put
into her hand.  Thanking them humbly for this attention, she said to
the man, "Sir, I know I have now no worldly possessions, that all I
have upon me belongs to you, and I may not give anything away without
your consent; but I ask you kindly to allow me to give this chaplet
to the doctor before I die: you will not be much the loser, for it is
of no value, and I am giving it to him for my sister.  Kindly let me
do this."

"Madame," said the man, "it is the custom for us to get all the
property of the condemned; but you are mistress of all you have, and
if the thing were of the very greatest value you might dispose of it
as you pleased."

The doctor, whose arm she held, felt her shiver at this gallantry,
which for her, with her natural haughty disposition, must have been
the worst humiliation imaginable; but the movement was restrained,
and her face gave no sign.  She now came to the porch of the
Conciergerie, between the court and the first door, and there she was
made to sit down, so as to be put into the right condition for making
the 'amende honorable'.  Each step brought her nearer to the
scaffold, and so did each incident cause her more uneasiness.  Now
she turned round desperately, and perceived the executioner holding a
shirt in his hand.  The door of the vestibule opened, and about fifty
people came in, among them the Countess of Soissons, Madame du
Refuge, Mlle. de Scudery, M, de Roquelaure, and the Abbe de Chimay.
At the sight the marquise reddened with shame, and turning to the
doctor, said, "Is this man to strip me again, as he did in the
question chamber?  All these preparations are very cruel; and, in
spite of myself, they divert my thoughts, from God."

Low as her voice was, the executioner heard, and reassured her,
saying that they would take nothing off, only putting the shirt over
her other clothes.

He then approached, and the marquise, unable to speak to the doctor
with a man on each side of her, showed him by her looks how deeply
she felt the ignominy of her situation.  Then, when the shirt had
been put on, for which operation her hands had to be untied, the man
raised the headdress which she had pulled down, and tied it round her
neck, then fastened her hands together with one rope and put another
round her waist, and yet another round her neck; then, kneeling
before her, he took off her shoes and stockings.  Then she stretched
out her hands to the doctor.

"Oh, sir," she cried, "in God's name, you see what they have done to
me!  Come and comfort me."

The doctor came at once, supporting her head upon his breast, trying
to comfort her; but she, in a tone of bitter lamentation, gazing at
the crowd, who devoured her with all their eyes, cried, "Oh, sir, is
not this a strange, barbarous curiosity?"

"Madame," said he, the tears in his eyes, "do not look at these eager
people from the point of view of their curiosity and barbarity,
though that is real enough, but consider it part of the humiliation
sent by God for the expiation of your crimes.  God, who was innocent,
was subject to very different opprobrium, and yet suffered all with
joy; for, as Tertullian observes, He was a victim fattened on the
joys of suffering alone."

As the doctor spoke these words, the executioner placed in the
marquise's hands the lighted torch which she was to carry to Notre-
Dame, there to make the 'amende honorable', and as it was too heavy,
weighing two pounds, the doctor supported it with his right hand,
while the registrar read her sentence aloud a second time.  The
doctor did all in his power to prevent her from hearing this by
speaking unceasingly of God.  Still she grew frightfully pale at the
words, "When this is done, she shall be conveyed on a tumbril,
barefoot, a cord round her neck, holding in her hands a burning torch
two pounds in weight," and the doctor could feel no doubt that in
spite of his efforts she had heard.  It became still worse when she
reached the threshold of the vestibule and saw the great crowd
waiting in the court.  Then her face worked convulsively, and
crouching down, as though she would bury her feet in the earth, she
addressed the doctor in words both plaintive and wild: "Is it
possible that, after what is now happening, M. de Brinvilliers can
endure to go on living?"

"Madame," said the doctor, "when our Lord was about to leave His
disciples, He did not ask God to remove them from this earth, but to
preserve them from all sin.  'My Father,' He said, 'I ask not that
You take them from the world, but keep them safe from evil.' If,
madame, you pray for M. de Brinvilliers, let it be only that he may
be kept in grace, if he has it, and may attain to it if he has it

But the words were useless: at that moment the humiliation was too
great and too public; her face contracted, her eyebrows knit, flames
darted from her eyes, her mouth was all twisted.  Her whole
appearance was horrible; the devil was once more in possession.
During this paroxysm, which lasted nearly a quarter of an hour,
Lebrun, who stood near, got such a vivid impression of her face that
the following night he could not sleep, and with the sight of it ever
before his eyes made the fine drawing which--is now in the Louvre,
giving to the figure the head of a tiger, in order to show that the
principal features were the same, and the whole resemblance very

The delay in progress was caused by the immense crowd blocking the
court, only pushed aside by archers on horseback, who separated the
people. The marquise now went out, and the doctor, lest the sight of
the people should completely distract her, put a crucifix in her
hand, bidding her fix her gaze upon it.  This advice she followed
till they gained the gate into the street where the tumbril was
waiting; then she lifted her eyes to see the shameful object.  It was
one of the smallest of carts, still splashed with mud and marked by
the stones it had carried, with no seat, only a little straw at the
bottom.  It was drawn by a wretched horse, well matching the
disgraceful conveyance.

The executioner bade her get in first, which she did very rapidly, as
if to escape observation.  There she crouched like a wild beast, in
the left corner, on the straw, riding backwards.  The doctor sat
beside her on the right.  Then the executioner got in, shutting the
door behind him, and sat opposite her, stretching his legs between
the doctor's.  His man, whose business it was to guide the horse, sat
on the front, back to back with the doctor and the marquise, his feet
stuck out on the shafts.  Thus it is easy to understand how Madame de
Sevigne, who was on the Pont Notre-Dame, could see nothing but the
headdress of the marquise as she was driven to Notre-Dame.

The cortege had only gone a few steps, when the face of the marquise,
for a time a little calmer, was again convulsed.  From her eyes,
fixed constantly on the crucifix, there darted a flaming glance, then
came a troubled and frenzied look which terrified the doctor.  He
knew she must have been struck by something she saw, and, wishing to
calm her, asked what it was.

"Nothing, nothing," she replied quickly, looking towards him; "it was

"But, madame," said he, "you cannot give the lie to your own eyes;
and a minute ago I saw a fire very different from the fire of love,
which only some displeasing sight can have provoked.  What may this
be?  Tell me, pray; for you promised to tell me of any sort of

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