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It was near midnight; the moon, lessened by its decline, and reddened by the last traces of the storm, arose behind the little town of Armentieres, which showed against its pale light the dark outline of its houses, and the skeleton of its high belfry. In front of them the Lys rolled its waters like a river of molten tin; while on the other side was a black mass of trees, profiled on a stormy sky, invaded by large coppery clouds which created a sort of twilight amid the night. On the left was an old abandoned mill, with its motionless wings, from the ruins of which an owl threw out its shrill, periodical, and monotonous cry. On the right and on the left of the road, which the dismal procession pursued, appeared a few low, stunted trees, which looked like deformed dwarfs crouching down to watch men traveling at this sinister hour.
From time to time a broad sheet of lightning opened the horizon in its whole width, darted like a serpent over the black mass of trees, and like a terrible scimitar divided the heavens and the waters into two parts. Not a breath of wind now disturbed the heavy atmosphere. A deathlike silence oppressed all nature. The soil was humid and glittering with the rain which had recently fallen, and the refreshed herbs sent forth their perfume with additional energy.
Two lackeys dragged Milady, whom each held by one arm. The executioner walked behind them, and Lord de Winter, d'Artagnan, Porthos, and Aramis walked behind the executioner. Planchet and Bazin came last.
The two lackeys conducted Milady to the bank of the river. Her mouth was mute; but her eyes spoke with their inexpressible eloquence, supplicating by turns each of those on whom she looked.
Being a few paces in advance she whispered to the lackeys, "A thousand pistoles to each of you, if you will assist my escape; but if you deliver me up to your masters, I have near at hand avengers who will make you pay dearly for my death."
Grimaud hesitated. Mousqueton trembled in all his members.
Athos, who heard Milady's voice, came sharply up. Lord de Winter did the same.
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