"I had but one wish; that was that he should kill me.
"'Beware!' said I, 'for my liberty is your dishonor.'
"'Explain yourself, my pretty sibyl!'
"'Yes; for as soon as I leave this place I will tell everything. I will proclaim the violence you have used toward me. I will describe my captivity. I will denounce this place of infamy. You are placed on high, my Lord, but tremble! Above you there is the king; above the king there is God!'
"However perfect master he was over himself, my persecutor allowed a movement of anger to escape him. I could not see the expression of his countenance, but I felt the arm tremble upon which my hand was placed.
"'Then you shall not leave this place,' said he.
"'Very well,' cried I, 'then the place of my punishment will be that of my tomb. I will die here, and you will see if a phantom that accuses is not more terrible than a living being that threatens!'
"'You shall have no weapon left in your power.'
"'There is a weapon which despair has placed within the reach of every creature who has the courage to use it. I will allow myself to die with hunger.'
"'Come,' said the wretch, 'is not peace much better than such a war as that? I will restore you to liberty this moment; I will proclaim you a piece of immaculate virtue; I will name you the Lucretia of England.'
"'And I will say that you are the Sextus. I will denounce you before men, as I have denounced you before God; and if it be necessary that, like Lucretia, I should sign my accusation with my blood, I will sign it.'
"'Ah!' said my enemy, in a jeering tone, 'that's quite another thing. My faith! everything considered, you are very well off here. You shall want for nothing, and if you let yourself die of hunger that will be your own fault.'
"At these words he retired. I heard the door open and shut, and I remained overwhelmed, less, I confess it, by my grief than by the mortification of not having avenged myself.
"He kept his word. All the day, all the next night passed away without my seeing him again. But I also kept my word with him, and I neither ate nor drank. I was, as I told him, resolved to die of hunger.
"I passed the day and the night in prayer, for I hoped that God would pardon me my suicide.
"The second night the door opened; I was lying on the floor, for my strength began to abandon me.
"At the noise I raised myself up on one hand.
"'Well,' said a voice which vibrated in too terrible a manner in my ear not to be recognized, 'well! Are we softened a little? Will we not pay for our liberty with a single promise of silence? Come, I am a good sort of a prince,' added he, 'and although I like not Puritans I do them justice; and it is the same with Puritanesses, when they are pretty. Come, take a little oath for me on the cross; I won't ask anything more of you.'
"'On the cross,' cried I, rising, for at that abhorred voice I had recovered all my strength, 'on the cross I swear that no promise, no menace, no force, no torture, shall close my mouth! On the cross I swear to denounce you everywhere as a murderer, as a thief of honor, as a base coward! On the cross I swear, if I ever leave this place, to call down vengeance upon you from the whole human race!'
"'Beware!' said the voice, in a threatening accent that I had never yet heard. 'I have an extraordinary means which I will not employ but in the last extremity to close your mouth, or at least to prevent anyone from believing a word you may utter.'
"I mustered all my strength to reply to him with a burst of laughter.
"He saw that it was a merciless war between us — a war to the death.
"'Listen!' said he. 'I give you the rest of tonight and all day tomorrow. Reflect: promise to be silent, and riches, consideration, even honor, shall surround you; threaten to speak, and I will condemn you to infamy.'
"'You?' cried I. 'You?'
"'To interminable, ineffaceable infamy!'
"'You?' repeated I. Oh, I declare to you, Felton, I thought him mad!
"'Yes, yes, I!' replied he.
"'Oh, leave me!' said I. 'Begone, if you do not desire to see me dash my head against that wall before your eyes!'
"'Very well, it is your own doing. Till tomorrow evening, then!'
"'Till tomorrow evening, then!' replied I, allowing myself to fall, and biting the carpet with rage."
Felton leaned for support upon a piece of furniture; and Milady saw, with the joy of a demon, that his strength would fail him perhaps before the end of her recital.