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Novel to Film

The American
The death of the Marquis de Bellegarde
Excerpted from Act IV

Mrs. Bread: My lady put an end to her husband. I have the precious proof -- his own declaration, on his deathbed, when, the hour before he passed away in misery, he accused and denounced them. He wrote it down -- he signed it!

Newman: (Incredulous.) When he was dying?

Mrs. Bread: I held him up on the pillow, and the God of justice gave him strength. The Comte de Cintré had loved my lady -- he was her lover still. My lady, in her day, went far, and her day was very long.

Newman: Lord, the old hypocrite (aside) being shocked at poor little Noémie!

Mrs. Bread: That's how he held her -- that's how he made her go! (Coming closer still.) He knew things of her -- more even than I know! She had had money from him, and to the best of her ability she had made it up to him in money's worth! But he taught her that her debt would hang over her head till she had given him her helpless child.

Newman: (Attentive, horrified.) Ah, the infamous scoundrels! No wonder Madame de Cintré takes life hard!

Mrs. Bread: Her father tried to save her, but he was beaten -- he was ill. My lady spent half a night in his room -- a bitter winter's night.

Newman: And what did she do there?

Mrs. Bread: She stood over him and mocked and threatened him, while the Marquis, in the passage, kept the door. She calculated exactly what would do for him and never leave a mark. That particular potion that the doctor had left to soothe him, to save him, to stop his suffering, which without it was unbearable: do you know what she did with the blessed beneficent drug? She poured it away before his eyes, into the cold ashes of the hearth, and she told him, cruelly, why she did so!

Newman: It sounds like some creepy legend!

Mrs. Bread: I found the traces when she left him -- I found the empty phial. She had done her work well -- but I did mine. My pity warmed him into life in an instant -- he flickered up into a kind of supernatural flame, and in the very arms of death he was capable of the miracle of writing twenty words. He was like the angel of judgment! (Sinks back to chair, right, falls into it.)


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