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Part II Baroness Emmuska Orczy

XXVI The Bitterest Foe

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Table Of Contents: El Dorado

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That man thus harassed, thus fagged out, thus martyrised at all hours of the day and night, was her husband, whom she loved with every fibre of her being, with every throb of her heart.

Torture? Oh, no! these were advanced and civilised times that could afford to look with horror on the excesses of medieval days. This was a revolution that made for progress, and challenged the opinion of the world. The cells of the Temple of La Force or the Conciergerie held no secret inquisition with iron maidens and racks and thumbscrews; but a few men had put their tortuous brains together, and had said one to another: "We want to find out from that man where we can lay our hands on little Capet, so we won't let him sleep until he has told us. It is not torture--oh, no! Who would dare to say that we torture our prisoners? It is only a little horseplay, worrying to the prisoner, no doubt; but, after all, he can end the unpleasantness at any moment. He need but to answer our question, and he can go to sleep as comfortably as a little child. The want of sleep is very trying, the want of proper food and of fresh air is very weakening; the prisoner must give way sooner or later--"

So these fiends had decided it between them, and they had put their idea into execution for one whole week. Marguerite looked at Chauvelin as she would on some monstrous, inscrutable Sphinx, marveling if God--even in His anger--could really have created such a fiendish brain, or, having created it, could allow it to wreak such devilry unpunished.

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Even now she felt that he was enjoying the mental anguish which he had put upon her, and she saw his thin, evil lips curled into a smile.

"So you came to-night to tell me all this?" she asked as soon as she could trust herself to speak. Her impulse was to shriek out her indignation, her horror of him, into his face. She longed to call down God's eternal curse upon this fiend; but instinctively she held herself in check. Her indignation, her words of loathing would only have added to his delight.

"You have had your wish," she added coldly; "now, I pray you, go."

"Your pardon, Lady Blakeney," he said with all his habitual blandness; "my object in coming to see you tonight was twofold. Methought that I was acting as your friend in giving you authentic news of Sir Percy, and in suggesting the possibility of your adding your persuasion to ours."

"My persuasion? You mean that I--"

"You would wish to see your husband, would you not, Lady Blakeney?"


"Then I pray you command me. I will grant you the permission whenever you wish to go."

"You are in the hope, citizen," she said, "that I will do my best to break my husband's spirit by my tears or my prayers--is that it?"

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El Dorado
Baroness Emmuska Orczy

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