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32. The Absolution. (continued)
"Delirium!" murmured the monk, shaking his head.
The executioner opened his eyes, turned toward the young man and grasped his arm.
"`Delirium,'" he repeated; "`delirium,' do you say? Oh, no! I remember too well. It was evening; I had thrown the body into the river and those words which my remorse repeats to me are those which I in my pride pronounced. After being the instrument of human justice I aspired to be that of the justice of God."
"But let me see, how was it done? Speak," said the monk.
"It was at night. A man came to me and showed me an order and I followed him. Four other noblemen awaited me. They led me away masked. I reserved the right of refusing if the office they required of me should seem unjust. We traveled five or six leagues, serious, silent, and almost without speaking. At length, through the window of a little hut, they showed me a woman sitting, leaning on a table, and said, `there is the person to be executed.'"
"Horrible!" said the monk. "And you obeyed?"
"Father, that woman was a monster. It was said that she had poisoned her second husband; she had tried to assassinate her brother-in-law; she had just poisoned a young woman who was her rival, and before leaving England she had, it was believed, caused the favorite of the king to be murdered."
"Buckingham?" cried the monk.
"The woman was English, then?"
"No, she was French, but she had married in England."
The monk turned pale, wiped his brow and went and bolted the door. The executioner thought that he had abandoned him and fell back, groaning, upon his bed.
"No, no; I am here," said the monk, quickly coming back to him. "Go on; who were those men?"
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