Part 15 out of 31
and which he himself had forgotten, has taken this method of
requiting the obligation?"
"Everything is possible in this affair, even a miracle."
"What was his name?" asked Monte Cristo.
"He gave no other name," answered Julie, looking earnestly
at the count, "than that at the end of his letter -- `Sinbad
"Which is evidently not his real name, but a fictitious
Then, noticing that Julie was struck with the sound of his
"Tell me," continued he, "was he not about my height,
perhaps a little taller, with his chin imprisoned, as it
were, in a high cravat; his coat closely buttoned up, and
constantly taking out his pencil?"
"Oh, do you then know him?" cried Julie, whose eyes sparkled
"No," returned Monte Cristo "I only guessed. I knew a Lord
Wilmore, who was constantly doing actions of this kind."
"Without revealing himself?"
"He was an eccentric being, and did not believe in the
existence of gratitude."
"Oh, heaven," exclaimed Julie, clasping her hands, "in what
did he believe, then?"
"He did not credit it at the period which I knew him," said
Monte Cristo, touched to the heart by the accents of Julie's
voice; "but, perhaps, since then he has had proofs that
gratitude does exist."
"And do you know this gentleman, monsieur?" inquired
"Oh, if you do know him," cried Julie, "can you tell us
where he is -- where we can find him? Maximilian -- Emmanuel
-- if we do but discover him, he must believe in the
gratitude of the heart!" Monte Cristo felt tears start into
his eyes, and he again walked hastily up and down the room.
"In the name of heaven," said Maximilian, "if you know
anything of him, tell us what it is."
"Alas," cried Monte Cristo, striving to repress his emotion,
"if Lord Wilmore was your unknown benefactor, I fear you
will never see him again. I parted from him two years ago at
Palermo, and he was then on the point of setting out for the
most remote regions; so that I fear he will never return."
"Oh, monsieur, this is cruel of you," said Julie, much
affected; and the young lady's eyes swam with tears.
"Madame," replied Monte Cristo gravely, and gazing earnestly
on the two liquid pearls that trickled down Julie's cheeks,
"had Lord Wilmore seen what I now see, he would become
attached to life, for the tears you shed would reconcile him
to mankind;" and he held out his hand to Julie, who gave him
hers, carried away by the look and accent of the count.
"But," continued she, "Lord Wilmore had a family or friends,
he must have known some one, can we not -- "
"Oh, it is useless to inquire," returned the count;
"perhaps, after all, he was not the man you seek for. He was
my friend: he had no secrets from me, and if this had been
so he would have confided in me."
"And he told you nothing?"
"Not a word."
"Nothing that would lead you to suppose?"
"And yet you spoke of him at once."
"Ah, in such a case one supposes" --
"Sister, sister," said Maximilian, coming to the count's
aid, "monsieur is quite right. Recollect what our excellent
father so often told us, `It was no Englishman that thus
saved us.'" Monte Cristo started. "What did your father tell
you, M. Morrel?" said he eagerly.
"My father thought that this action had been miraculously
performed -- he believed that a benefactor had arisen from
the grave to save us. Oh, it was a touching superstition,
monsieur, and although I did not myself believe it, I would
not for the world have destroyed my father's faith. How
often did he muse over it and pronounce the name of a dear
friend -- a friend lost to him forever; and on his
death-bed, when the near approach of eternity seemed to have
illumined his mind with supernatural light, this thought,
which had until then been but a doubt, became a conviction,
and his last words were, `Maximilian, it was Edmond
Dantes!'" At these words the count's paleness, which had for
some time been increasing, became alarming; he could not
speak; he looked at his watch like a man who has forgotten
the hour, said a few hurried words to Madame Herbault, and
pressing the hands of Emmanuel and Maximilian, -- "Madame,"
said he, "I trust you will allow me to visit you
occasionally; I value your friendship, and feel grateful to
you for your welcome, for this is the first time for many
years that I have thus yielded to my feelings;" and he
hastily quitted the apartment.
"This Count of Monte Cristo is a strange man," said
"Yes," answered Maximilian, "but I feel sure he has an
excellent heart, and that he likes us."
"His voice went to my heart," observed Julie; "and two or
three times I fancied that I had heard it before."
Pyramus and Thisbe.
About two-thirds of the way along the Faubourg Saint-Honore,
and in the rear of one of the most imposing mansions in this
rich neighborhood, where the various houses vie with each
other for elegance of design and magnificence of
construction, extended a large garden, where the
wide-spreading chestnut-trees raised their heads high above
the walls in a solid rampart, and with the coming of every
spring scattered a shower of delicate pink and white
blossoms into the large stone vases that stood upon the two
square pilasters of a curiously wrought iron gate, that
dated from the time of Louis XII. This noble entrance,
however, in spite of its striking appearance and the
graceful effect of the geraniums planted in the two vases,
as they waved their variegated leaves in the wind and
charmed the eye with their scarlet bloom, had fallen into
utter disuse. The proprietors of the mansion had many years
before thought it best to confine themselves to the
possession of the house itself, with its thickly planted
court-yard, opening into the Faubourg Saint-Honore, and to
the garden shut in by this gate, which formerly communicated
with a fine kitchen-garden of about an acre. For the demon
of speculation drew a line, or in other words projected a
street, at the farther side of the kitchen-garden. The
street was laid out, a name was chosen and posted up on an
iron plate, but before construction was begun, it occurred
to the possessor of the property that a handsome sum might
be obtained for the ground then devoted to fruits and
vegetables, by building along the line of the proposed
street, and so making it a branch of communication with the
Faubourg Saint-Honore itself, one of the most important
thoroughfares in the city of Paris.
In matters of speculation, however, though "man proposes,"
"money disposes." From some such difficulty the newly named
street died almost in birth, and the purchaser of the
kitchen-garden, having paid a high price for it, and being
quite unable to find any one willing to take his bargain off
his hands without a considerable loss, yet still clinging to
the belief that at some future day he should obtain a sum
for it that would repay him, not only for his past outlay,
but also the interest upon the capital locked up in his new
acquisition, contented himself with letting the ground
temporarily to some market-gardeners, at a yearly rental of
500 francs. And so, as we have said, the iron gate leading
into the kitchen-garden had been closed up and left to the
rust, which bade fair before long to eat off its hinges,
while to prevent the ignoble glances of the diggers and
delvers of the ground from presuming to sully the
aristocratic enclosure belonging to the mansion, the gate
had been boarded up to a height of six feet. True, the
planks were not so closely adjusted but that a hasty peep
might be obtained through their interstices; but the strict
decorum and rigid propriety of the inhabitants of the house
left no grounds for apprehending that advantage would be
taken of that circumstance.
Horticulture seemed, however, to have been abandoned in the
deserted kitchen-garden; and where cabbages, carrots,
radishes, pease, and melons had once flourished, a scanty
crop of lucerne alone bore evidence of its being deemed
worthy of cultivation. A small, low door gave egress from
the walled space we have been describing into the projected
street, the ground having been abandoned as unproductive by
its various renters, and had now fallen so completely in
general estimation as to return not even the one-half per
cent it had originally paid. Towards the house the
chestnut-trees we have before mentioned rose high above the
wall, without in any way affecting the growth of other
luxuriant shrubs and flowers that eagerly dressed forward to
fill up the vacant spaces, as though asserting their right
to enjoy the boon of light and air. At one corner, where the
foliage became so thick as almost to shut out day, a large
stone bench and sundry rustic seats indicated that this
sheltered spot was either in general favor or particular use
by some inhabitant of the house, which was faintly
discernible through the dense mass of verdure that partially
concealed it, though situated but a hundred paces off.
Whoever had selected this retired portion of the grounds as
the boundary of a walk, or as a place for meditation, was
abundantly justified in the choice by the absence of all
glare, the cool, refreshing shade, the screen it afforded
from the scorching rays of the sun, that found no entrance
there even during the burning days of hottest summer, the
incessant and melodious warbling of birds, and the entire
removal from either the noise of the street or the bustle of
the mansion. On the evening of one of the warmest days
spring had yet bestowed on the inhabitants of Paris, might
be seen negligently thrown upon the stone bench, a book, a
parasol, and a work-basket, from which hung a partly
embroidered cambric handkerchief, while at a little distance
from these articles was a young woman, standing close to the
iron gate, endeavoring to discern something on the other
side by means of the openings in the planks, -- the
earnestness of her attitude and the fixed gaze with which
she seemed to seek the object of her wishes, proving how
much her feelings were interested in the matter. At that
instant the little side-gate leading from the waste ground
to the street was noiselessly opened, and a tall, powerful
young man appeared. He was dressed in a common gray blouse
and velvet cap, but his carefully arranged hair, beard and
mustache, all of the richest and glossiest black, ill
accorded with his plebeian attire. After casting a rapid
glance around him, in order to assure himself that he was
unobserved, he entered by the small gate, and, carefully
closing and securing it after him, proceeded with a hurried
step towards the barrier.
At the sight of him she expected, though probably not in
such a costume, the young woman started in terror, and was
about to make a hasty retreat. But the eye of love had
already seen, even through the narrow chinks of the wooden
palisades, the movement of the white robe, and observed the
fluttering of the blue sash. Pressing his lips close to the
planks, he exclaimed, "Don't be alarmed, Valentine -- it is
I!" Again the timid girl found courage to return to the
gate, saying, as she did so, "And why do you come so late
to-day? It is almost dinner-time, and I had to use no little
diplomacy to get rid of my watchful mother-in-law, my
too-devoted maid, and my troublesome brother, who is always
teasing me about coming to work at my embroidery, which I am
in a fair way never to get done. So pray excuse yourself as
well as you can for having made me wait, and, after that,
tell me why I see you in a dress so singular that at first I
did not recognize you."
"Dearest Valentine," said the young man, "the difference
between our respective stations makes me fear to offend you
by speaking of my love, but yet I cannot find myself in your
presence without longing to pour forth my soul, and tell you
how fondly I adore you. If it be but to carry away with me
the recollection of such sweet moments, I could even thank
you for chiding me, for it leaves me a gleam of hope, that
if you did not expect me (and that indeed would be worse
than vanity to suppose), at least I was in your thoughts.
You asked me the cause of my being late, and why I come
disguised. I will candidly explain the reason of both, and I
trust to your goodness to pardon me. I have chosen a trade."
"A trade? Oh, Maximilian, how can you jest at a time when we
have such deep cause for uneasiness?"
"Heaven keep me from jesting with that which is far dearer
to me than life itself! But listen to me, Valentine, and I
will tell you all about it. I became weary of ranging fields
and scaling walls, and seriously alarmed at the idea
suggested by you, that if caught hovering about here your
father would very likely have me sent to prison as a thief.
That would compromise the honor of the French army, to say
nothing of the fact that the continual presence of a captain
of Spahis in a place where no warlike projects could be
supposed to account for it might well create surprise; so I
have become a gardener, and, consequently, adopted the
costume of my calling."
"What excessive nonsense you talk, Maximilian!"
"Nonsense? Pray do not call what I consider the wisest
action of my life by such a name. Consider, by becoming a
gardener I effectually screen our meetings from all
suspicion or danger."
"I beseech of you, Maximilian, to cease trifling, and tell
me what you really mean."
"Simply, that having ascertained that the piece of ground on
which I stand was to let, I made application for it, was
readily accepted by the proprietor, and am now master of
this fine crop of lucerne. Think of that, Valentine! There
is nothing now to prevent my building myself a little hut on
my plantation, and residing not twenty yards from you. Only
imagine what happiness that would afford me. I can scarcely
contain myself at the bare idea. Such felicity seems above
all price -- as a thing impossible and unattainable. But
would you believe that I purchase all this delight, joy, and
happiness, for which I would cheerfully have surrendered ten
years of my life, at the small cost of 500 francs per annum,
paid quarterly? Henceforth we have nothing to fear. I am on
my own ground, and have an undoubted right to place a ladder
against the wall, and to look over when I please, without
having any apprehensions of being taken off by the police as
a suspicious character. I may also enjoy the precious
privilege of assuring you of my fond, faithful, and
unalterable affection, whenever you visit your favorite
bower, unless, indeed, it offends your pride to listen to
professions of love from the lips of a poor workingman, clad
in a blouse and cap." A faint cry of mingled pleasure and
surprise escaped from the lips of Valentine, who almost
instantly said, in a saddened tone, as though some envious
cloud darkened the joy which illumined her heart, "Alas, no,
Maximilian, this must not be, for many reasons. We should
presume too much on our own strength, and, like others,
perhaps, be led astray by our blind confidence in each
"How can you for an instant entertain so unworthy a thought,
dear Valentine? Have I not, from the first blessed hour of
our acquaintance, schooled all my words and actions to your
sentiments and ideas? And you have, I am sure, the fullest
confidence in my honor. When you spoke to me of experiencing
a vague and indefinite sense of coming danger, I placed
myself blindly and devotedly at your service, asking no
other reward than the pleasure of being useful to you; and
have I ever since, by word or look, given you cause of
regret for having selected me from the numbers that would
willingly have sacrificed their lives for you? You told me,
my dear Valentine, that you were engaged to M. d'Epinay, and
that your father was resolved upon completing the match, and
that from his will there was no appeal, as M. de Villefort
was never known to change a determination once formed. I
kept in the background, as you wished, and waited, not for
the decision of your heart or my own, but hoping that
providence would graciously interpose in our behalf, and
order events in our favor. But what cared I for delays or
difficulties, Valentine, as long as you confessed that you
loved me, and took pity on me? If you will only repeat that
avowal now and then, I can endure anything."
"Ah, Maximilian, that is the very thing that makes you so
bold, and which renders me at once so happy and unhappy,
that I frequently ask myself whether it is better for me to
endure the harshness of my mother-in-law, and her blind
preference for her own child, or to be, as I now am,
insensible to any pleasure save such as I find in these
meetings, so fraught with danger to both."
"I will not admit that word," returned the young man; "it is
at once cruel and unjust. Is it possible to find a more
submissive slave than myself? You have permitted me to
converse with you from time to time, Valentine, but
forbidden my ever following you in your walks or elsewhere
-- have I not obeyed? And since I found means to enter this
enclosure to exchange a few words with you through this gate
-- to be close to you without really seeing you -- have I
ever asked so much as to touch the hem of your gown or tried
to pass this barrier which is but a trifle to one of my
youth and strength? Never has a complaint or a murmur
escaped me. I have been bound by my promises as rigidly as
any knight of olden times. Come, come, dearest Valentine,
confess that what I say is true, lest I be tempted to call
"It is true," said Valentine, as she passed the end of her
slender fingers through a small opening in the planks, and
permitted Maximilian to press his lips to them, "and you are
a true and faithful friend; but still you acted from motives
of self-interest, my dear Maximilian, for you well knew that
from the moment in which you had manifested an opposite
spirit all would have been ended between us. You promised to
bestow on me the friendly affection of a brother. For I have
no friend but yourself upon earth, who am neglected and
forgotten by my father, harassed and persecuted by my
mother-in-law, and left to the sole companionship of a
paralyzed and speechless old man, whose withered hand can no
longer press mine, and who can speak to me with the eye
alone, although there still lingers in his heart the warmest
tenderness for his poor grandchild. Oh, how bitter a fate is
mine, to serve either as a victim or an enemy to all who are
stronger than myself, while my only friend and supporter is
a living corpse! Indeed, indeed, Maximilian, I am very
miserable, and if you love me it must be out of pity."
"Valentine," replied the young man, deeply affected, "I will
not say you are all I love in the world, for I dearly prize
my sister and brother-in-law; but my affection for them is
calm and tranquil, in no manner resembling what I feel for
you. When I think of you my heart beats fast, the blood
burns in my veins, and I can hardly breathe; but I solemnly
promise you to restrain all this ardor, this fervor and
intensity of feeling, until you yourself shall require me to
render them available in serving or assisting you. M. Franz
is not expected to return home for a year to come, I am
told; in that time many favorable and unforeseen chances may
befriend us. Let us, then, hope for the best; hope is so
sweet a comforter. Meanwhile, Valentine, while reproaching
me with selfishness, think a little what you have been to me
-- the beautiful but cold resemblance of a marble Venus.
What promise of future reward have you made me for all the
submission and obedience I have evinced? -- none whatever.
What granted me? -- scarcely more. You tell me of M. Franz
d'Epinay, your betrothed lover, and you shrink from the idea
of being his wife; but tell me, Valentine, is there no other
sorrow in your heart? You see me devoted to you, body and
soul, my life and each warm drop that circles round my heart
are consecrated to your service; you know full well that my
existence is bound up in yours -- that were I to lose you I
would not outlive the hour of such crushing misery; yet you
speak with calmness of the prospect of your being the wife
of another! Oh, Valentine, were I in your place, and did I
feel conscious, as you do, of being worshipped, adored, with
such a love as mine, a hundred times at least should I have
passed my hand between these iron bars, and said, `Take this
hand, dearest Maximilian, and believe that, living or dead,
I am yours -- yours only, and forever!'" The poor girl made
no reply, but her lover could plainly hear her sobs and
tears. A rapid change took place in the young man's
feelings. "Dearest, dearest Valentine," exclaimed he,
"forgive me if I have offended you, and forget the words I
spoke if they have unwittingly caused you pain."
"No, Maximilian, I am not offended," answered she, "but do
you not see what a poor, helpless being I am, almost a
stranger and an outcast in my father's house, where even he
is seldom seen; whose will has been thwarted, and spirits
broken, from the age of ten years, beneath the iron rod so
sternly held over me; oppressed, mortified, and persecuted,
day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, no person has
cared for, even observed my sufferings, nor have I ever
breathed one word on the subject save to yourself. Outwardly
and in the eyes of the world, I am surrounded by kindness
and affection; but the reverse is the case. The general
remark is, `Oh, it cannot be expected that one of so stern a
character as M. Villefort could lavish the tenderness some
fathers do on their daughters. What though she has lost her
own mother at a tender age, she has had the happiness to
find a second mother in Madame de Villefort.' The world,
however, is mistaken; my father abandons me from utter
indifference, while my mother-in-law detests me with a
hatred so much the more terrible because it is veiled
beneath a continual smile."
"Hate you, sweet Valentine," exclaimed the young man; "how
is it possible for any one to do that?"
"Alas," replied the weeping girl, "I am obliged to own that
my mother-in-law's aversion to me arises from a very natural
source -- her overweening love for her own child, my brother
"But why should it?"
"I do not know; but, though unwilling to introduce money
matters into our present conversation, I will just say this
much -- that her extreme dislike to me has its origin there;
and I much fear she envies me the fortune I enjoy in right
of my mother, and which will be more than doubled at the
death of M. and Mme. de Saint-Meran, whose sole heiress I
am. Madame de Villefort has nothing of her own, and hates me
for being so richly endowed. Alas, how gladly would I
exchange the half of this wealth for the happiness of at
least sharing my father's love. God knows, I would prefer
sacrificing the whole, so that it would obtain me a happy
and affectionate home."
"I seem to myself as though living a life of bondage, yet at
the same time am so conscious of my own weakness that I fear
to break the restraint in which I am held, lest I fall
utterly helpless. Then, too, my father is not a person whose
orders may be infringed with impunity; protected as he is by
his high position and firmly established reputation for
talent and unswerving integrity, no one could oppose him; he
is all-powerful even with the king; he would crush you at a
word. Dear Maximilian, believe me when I assure you that if
I do not attempt to resist my father's commands it is more
on your account than my own."
"But why, Valentine, do you persist in anticipating the
worst, -- why picture so gloomy a future?"
"Because I judge it from the past."
"Still, consider that although I may not be, strictly
speaking, what is termed an illustrious match for you, I am,
for many reasons, not altogether so much beneath your
alliance. The days when such distinctions were so nicely
weighed and considered no longer exist in France, and the
first families of the monarchy have intermarried with those
of the empire. The aristocracy of the lance has allied
itself with the nobility of the cannon. Now I belong to this
last-named class; and certainly my prospects of military
preferment are most encouraging as well as certain. My
fortune, though small, is free and unfettered, and the
memory of my late father is respected in our country,
Valentine, as that of the most upright and honorable
merchant of the city; I say our country, because you were
born not far from Marseilles."
"Don't speak of Marseilles, I beg of you, Maximilian; that
one word brings back my mother to my recollection -- my
angel mother, who died too soon for myself and all who knew
her; but who, after watching over her child during the brief
period allotted to her in this world, now, I fondly hope,
watches from her home in heaven. Oh, if my mother were still
living, there would be nothing to fear, Maximilian, for I
would tell her that I loved you, and she would protect us."
"I fear, Valentine," replied the lover, "that were she
living I should never have had the happiness of knowing you;
you would then have been too happy to have stooped from your
grandeur to bestow a thought on me."
"Now it is you who are unjust, Maximilian," cried Valentine;
"but there is one thing I wish to know."
"And what is that?" inquired the young man, perceiving that
"Tell me truly, Maximilian, whether in former days, when our
fathers dwelt at Marseilles, there was ever any
misunderstanding between them?"
"Not that I am aware of," replied the young man, "unless,
indeed, any ill-feeling might have arisen from their being
of opposite parties -- your father was, as you know, a
zealous partisan of the Bourbons, while mine was wholly
devoted to the emperor; there could not possibly be any
other difference between them. But why do you ask?"
"I will tell you," replied the young girl, "for it is but
right you should know. Well, on the day when your
appointment as an officer of the Legion of honor was
announced in the papers, we were all sitting with my
grandfather, M. Noirtier; M. Danglars was there also -- you
recollect M. Danglars, do you not, Maximilian, the banker,
whose horses ran away with my mother-in-law and little
brother, and very nearly killed them? While the rest of the
company were discussing the approaching marriage of
Mademoiselle Danglars, I was reading the paper to my
grandfather; but when I came to the paragraph about you,
although I had done nothing else but read it over to myself
all the morning (you know you had told me all about it the
previous evening), I felt so happy, and yet so nervous, at
the idea of speaking your name aloud, and before so many
people, that I really think I should have passed it over,
but for the fear that my doing so might create suspicions as
to the cause of my silence; so I summoned up all my courage,
and read it as firmly and as steadily as I could."
"Well, would you believe it? directly my father caught the
sound of your name he turned round quite hastily, and, like
a poor silly thing, I was so persuaded that every one must
be as much affected as myself by the utterance of your name,
that I was not surprised to see my father start, and almost
tremble; but I even thought (though that surely must have
been a mistake) that M. Danglars trembled too."
"`Morrel, Morrel,' cried my father, `stop a bit;' then
knitting his brows into a deep frown, he added, `surely this
cannot be one of the Morrel family who lived at Marseilles,
and gave us so much trouble from their violent Bonapartism
-- I mean about the year 1815.' -- `Yes,' replied M.
Danglars, `I believe he is the son of the old shipowner.'"
"Indeed," answered Maximilian; "and what did your father say
"Oh, such a dreadful thing, that I don't dare to tell you."
"Always tell me everything," said Maximilian with a smile.
"`Ah,' continued my father, still frowning, `their idolized
emperor treated these madmen as they deserved; he called
them `food for powder,' which was precisely all they were
good for; and I am delighted to see that the present
government have adopted this salutary principle with all its
pristine vigor; if Algiers were good for nothing but to
furnish the means of carrying so admirable an idea into
practice, it would be an acquisition well worthy of
struggling to obtain. Though it certainly does cost France
somewhat dear to assert her rights in that uncivilized
"Brutal politics, I must confess." said Maximilian; "but
don't attach any serious importance, dear, to what your
father said. My father was not a bit behind yours in that
sort of talk. `Why,' said he, `does not the emperor, who has
devised so many clever and efficient modes of improving the
art of war, organize a regiment of lawyers, judges and legal
practitioners, sending them in the hottest fire the enemy
could maintain, and using them to save better men?' You see,
my dear, that for picturesque expression and generosity of
spirit there is not much to choose between the language of
either party. But what did M. Danglars say to this outburst
on the part of the procureur?"
"Oh, he laughed, and in that singular manner so peculiar to
himself -- half-malicious, half-ferocious; he almost
immediately got up and took his leave; then, for the first
time, I observed the agitation of my grandfather, and I must
tell you, Maximilian, that I am the only person capable of
discerning emotion in his paralyzed frame. And I suspected
that the conversation that had been carried on in his
presence (for they always say and do what they like before
the dear old man, without the smallest regard for his
feelings) had made a strong impression on his mind; for,
naturally enough, it must have pained him to hear the
emperor he so devotedly loved and served spoken of in that
"The name of M. Noirtier," interposed Maximilian, "is
celebrated throughout Europe; he was a statesman of high
standing, and you may or may not know, Valentine, that he
took a leading part in every Bonapartist conspiracy set on
foot during the restoration of the Bourbons."
"Oh, I have often heard whispers of things that seem to me
most strange -- the father a Bonapartist, the son a
Royalist; what can have been the reason of so singular a
difference in parties and politics? But to resume my story;
I turned towards my grandfather, as though to question him
as to the cause of his emotion; he looked expressively at
the newspaper I had been reading. `What is the matter, dear
grandfather?' said I, `are you pleased?' He gave me a sign
in the affirmative. `With what my father said just now?' He
returned a sign in the negative. `Perhaps you liked what M.
Danglars said?' Another sign in the negative. `Oh, then, you
were glad to hear that M. Morrel (I didn't dare to say
Maximilian) had been made an officer of the Legion of
Honor?' He signified assent; only think of the poor old
man's being so pleased to think that you, who were a perfect
stranger to him, had been made an officer of the Legion of
Honor! Perhaps it was a mere whim on his part, for he is
falling, they say, into second childhood, but I love him for
showing so much interest in you."
"How singular," murmured Maximilian; "your father hates me,
while your grandfather, on the contrary -- What strange
feelings are aroused by politics."
"Hush," cried Valentine, suddenly; "some one is coming!"
Maximilian leaped at one bound into his crop of lucerne,
which he began to pull up in the most ruthless way, under
the pretext of being occupied in weeding it.
"Mademoiselle, mademoiselle!" exclaimed a voice from behind
the trees. "Madame is searching for you everywhere; there is
a visitor in the drawing-room."
"A visitor?" inquired Valentine, much agitated; "who is it?"
"Some grand personage -- a prince I believe they said -- the
Count of Monte Cristo."
"I will come directly," cried Valentine aloud. The name of
Monte Cristo sent an electric shock through the young man on
the other side of the iron gate, to whom Valentine's "I am
coming" was the customary signal of farewell. "Now, then,"
said Maximilian, leaning on the handle of his spade, "I
would give a good deal to know how it comes about that the
Count of Monte Cristo is acquainted with M. de Villefort."
It was really the Count of Monte Cristo who had just arrived
at Madame de Villefort's for the purpose of returning the
procureur's visit, and at his name, as may be easily
imagined, the whole house was in confusion. Madame de
Villefort, who was alone in her drawing-room when the count
was announced, desired that her son might be brought thither
instantly to renew his thanks to the count; and Edward, who
heard this great personage talked of for two whole days,
made all possible haste to come to him, not from obedience
to his mother, or out of any feeling of gratitude to the
count, but from sheer curiosity, and that some chance remark
might give him the opportunity for making one of the
impertinent speeches which made his mother say, -- "Oh, that
naughty child! But I can't be severe with him, he is really
After the usual civilities, the count inquired after M. de
Villefort. "My husband dines with the chancellor," replied
the young lady; "he has just gone, and I am sure he'll be
exceedingly sorry not to have had the pleasure of seeing you
before he went." Two visitors who were there when the count
arrived, having gazed at him with all their eyes, retired
after that reasonable delay which politeness admits and
curiosity requires. "What is your sister Valentine doing?"
inquired Madame de Villefort of Edward; "tell some one to
bid her come here, that I may have the honor of introducing
her to the count."
"You have a daughter, then, madame?" inquired the count;
"very young, I presume?"
"The daughter of M. de Villefort by his first marriage,"
replied the young wife, "a fine well-grown girl."
"But melancholy," interrupted Master Edward, snatching the
feathers out of the tail of a splendid parroquet that was
screaming on its gilded perch, in order to make a plume for
his hat. Madame de Villefort merely cried, -- "Be still,
Edward!" She then added, -- "This young madcap is, however,
very nearly right, and merely re-echoes what he has heard me
say with pain a hundred times; for Mademoiselle de Villefort
is, in spite of all we can do to rouse her, of a melancholy
disposition and taciturn habit, which frequently injure the
effect of her beauty. But what detains her? Go, Edward, and
"Because they are looking for her where she is not to be
"And where are they looking for her?"
"With grandpapa Noirtier."
"And do you think she is not there?"
"No, no, no, no, no, she is not there," replied Edward,
singing his words.
"And where is she, then? If you know, why don't you tell?"
"She is under the big chestnut-tree," replied the spoiled
brat, as he gave, in spite of his mother's commands, live
flies to the parrot, which seemed keenly to relish such
fare. Madame de Villefort stretched out her hand to ring,
intending to direct her waiting-maid to the spot where she
would find Valentine, when the young lady herself entered
the apartment. She appeared much dejected; and any person
who considered her attentively might have observed the
traces of recent tears in her eyes.
Valentine, whom we have in the rapid march of our narrative
presented to our readers without formally introducing her,
was a tall and graceful girl of nineteen, with bright
chestnut hair, deep blue eyes, and that reposeful air of
quiet distinction which characterized her mother. Her white
and slender fingers, her pearly neck, her cheeks tinted with
varying hues reminded one of the lovely Englishwomen who
have been so poetically compared in their manner to the
gracefulness of a swan. She entered the apartment, and
seeing near her stepmother the stranger of whom she had
already heard so much, saluted him without any girlish
awkwardness, or even lowering her eyes, and with an elegance
that redoubled the count's attention. He rose to return the
salutation. "Mademoiselle de Villefort, my daughter-in-law,"
said Madame de Villefort to Monte Cristo, leaning back on
her sofa and motioning towards Valentine with her hand. "And
M. de Monte Cristo, King of China, Emperor of Cochin-China,"
said the young imp, looking slyly towards his sister.
Madame de Villefort at this really did turn pale, and was
very nearly angry with this household plague, who answered
to the name of Edward; but the count, on the contrary,
smiled, and appeared to look at the boy complacently, which
caused the maternal heart to bound again with joy and
"But, madame," replied the count, continuing the
conversation, and looking by turns at Madame de Villefort
and Valentine, "have I not already had the honor of meeting
yourself and mademoiselle before? I could not help thinking
so just now; the idea came over my mind, and as mademoiselle
entered the sight of her was an additional ray of light
thrown on a confused remembrance; excuse the remark."
"I do not think it likely, sir; Mademoiselle de Villefort is
not very fond of society, and we very seldom go out," said
the young lady.
"Then it was not in society that I met with mademoiselle or
yourself, madame, or this charming little merry boy.
Besides, the Parisian world is entirely unknown to me, for,
as I believe I told you, I have been in Paris but very few
days. No, -- but, perhaps, you will permit me to call to
mind -- stay!" The Count placed his hand on his brow as if
to collect his thoughts. "No -- it was somewhere -- away
from here -- it was -- I do not know -- but it appears that
this recollection is connected with a lovely sky and some
religious fete; mademoiselle was holding flowers in her
hand, the interesting boy was chasing a beautiful peacock in
a garden, and you, madame, were under the trellis of some
arbor. Pray come to my aid, madame; do not these
circumstances appeal to your memory?"
"No, indeed," replied Madame de Villefort; "and yet it
appears to me, sir, that if I had met you anywhere, the
recollection of you must have been imprinted on my memory."
"Perhaps the count saw us in Italy," said Valentine timidly.
"Yes, in Italy; it was in Italy most probably," replied
Monte Cristo; "you have travelled then in Italy,
"Yes; madame and I were there two years ago. The doctors,
anxious for my lungs, had prescribed the air of Naples. We
went by Bologna, Perugia, and Rome."
"Ah, yes -- true, mademoiselle," exclaimed Monte Cristo as
if this simple explanation was sufficient to revive the
recollection he sought. "It was at Perugia on Corpus Christi
Day, in the garden of the Hotel des Postes, when chance
brought us together; you, Madame de Villefort, and her son;
I now remember having had the honor of meeting you."
"I perfectly well remember Perugia, sir, and the Hotel des
Postes, and the festival of which you speak," said Madame de
Villefort, "but in vain do I tax my memory, of whose
treachery I am ashamed, for I really do not recall to mind
that I ever had the pleasure of seeing you before."
"It is strange, but neither do I recollect meeting with
you," observed Valentine, raising her beautiful eyes to the
"But I remember it perfectly," interposed the darling
"I will assist your memory, madame," continued the count;
"the day had been burning hot; you were waiting for horses,
which were delayed in consequence of the festival.
Mademoiselle was walking in the shade of the garden, and
your son disappeared in pursuit of the peacock."
"And I caught it, mamma, don't you remember?" interposed
Edward, "and I pulled three such beautiful feathers out of
"You, madame, remained under the arbor; do you not remember,
that while you were seated on a stone bench, and while, as I
told you, Mademoiselle de Villefort and your young son were
absent, you conversed for a considerable time with
"Yes, in truth, yes," answered the young lady, turning very
red, "I do remember conversing with a person wrapped in a
long woollen mantle; he was a medical man, I think."
"Precisely so, madame; this man was myself; for a fortnight
I had been at that hotel, during which period I had cured my
valet de chambre of a fever, and my landlord of the
jaundice, so that I really acquired a reputation as a
skilful physician. We discoursed a long time, madame, on
different subjects; of Perugino, of Raffaelle, of manners,
customs, of the famous aquatofana, of which they had told
you, I think you said, that certain individuals in Perugia
had preserved the secret."
"Yes, true," replied Madame de Villefort, somewhat uneasily,
"I remember now."
"I do not recollect now all the various subjects of which we
discoursed, madame," continued the count with perfect
calmness; "but I perfectly remember that, falling into the
error which others had entertained respecting me, you
consulted me as to the health of Mademoiselle de Villefort."
"Yes, really, sir, you were in fact a medical man," said
Madame de Villefort, "since you had cured the sick."
"Moliere or Beaumarchais would reply to you, madame, that it
was precisely because I was not, that I had cured my
patients; for myself, I am content to say to you that I have
studied chemistry and the natural sciences somewhat deeply,
but still only as an amateur, you understand." -- At this
moment the clock struck six. "It is six o'clock," said
Madame de Villefort, evidently agitated. "Valentine, will
you not go and see if your grandpapa will have his dinner?"
Valentine rose, and saluting the count, left the apartment
"Oh, madame," said the count, when Valentine had left the
room, "was it on my account that you sent Mademoiselle de
"By no means," replied the young lady quickly; "but this is
the hour when we usually give M. Noirtier the unwelcome meal
that sustains his pitiful existence. You are aware, sir, of
the deplorable condition of my husband's father?"
"Yes, madame, M. de Villefort spoke of it to me -- a
paralysis, I think."
"Alas, yes; the poor old gentleman is entirely helpless; the
mind alone is still active in this human machine, and that
is faint and flickering, like the light of a lamp about to
expire. But excuse me, sir, for talking of our domestic
misfortunes; I interrupted you at the moment when you were
telling me that you were a skilful chemist."
"No, madame, I did not say as much as that," replied the
count with a smile; "quite the contrary. I have studied
chemistry because, having determined to live in eastern
climates I have been desirous of following the example of
"Mithridates rex Ponticus," said the young scamp, as he tore
some beautiful portraits out of a splendid album, "the
individual who took cream in his cup of poison every morning
"Edward, you naughty boy," exclaimed Madame de Villefort,
snatching the mutilated book from the urchin's grasp, "you
are positively past bearing; you really disturb the
conversation; go, leave us, and join your sister Valentine
in dear grandpapa Noirtier's room."
"The album," said Edward sulkily.
"What do you mean? -- the album!"
"I want the album."
"How dare you tear out the drawings?"
"Oh, it amuses me."
"Go -- go at once."
"I won't go unless you give me the album," said the boy,
seating himself doggedly in an arm-chair, according to his
habit of never giving way.
"Take it, then, and pray disturb us no longer," said Madame
de Villefort, giving the album to Edward, who then went
towards the door, led by his mother. The count followed her
with his eyes.
"Let us see if she shuts the door after him," he muttered.
Madame de Villefort closed the door carefully after the
child, the count appearing not to notice her; then casting a
scrutinizing glance around the chamber, the young wife
returned to her chair, in which she seated herself. "Allow
me to observe, madame," said the count, with that kind tone
he could assume so well, "you are really very severe with
that dear clever child."
"Oh, sometimes severity is quite necessary," replied Madame
de Villefort, with all a mother's real firmness.
"It was his Cornelius Nepos that Master Edward was repeating
when he referred to King Mithridates," continued the count,
"and you interrupted him in a quotation which proves that
his tutor has by no means neglected him, for your son is
really advanced for his years."
"The fact is, count," answered the mother, agreeably
flattered, "he has great aptitude, and learns all that is
set before him. He has but one fault, he is somewhat wilful;
but really, on referring for the moment to what he said, do
you truly believe that Mithridates used these precautions,
and that these precautions were efficacious?"
"I think so, madame, because I myself have made use of them,
that I might not be poisoned at Naples, at Palermo, and at
Smyrna -- that is to say, on three several occasions when,
but for these precautions, I must have lost my life."
"And your precautions were successful?"
"Yes, I remember now your mentioning to me at Perugia
something of this sort."
"Indeed?" said the count with an air of surprise, remarkably
well counterfeited; "I really did not remember."
"I inquired of you if poisons acted equally, and with the
same effect, on men of the North as on men of the South; and
you answered me that the cold and sluggish habits of the
North did not present the same aptitude as the rich and
energetic temperaments of the natives of the South."
"And that is the case," observed Monte Cristo. "I have seen
Russians devour, without being visibly inconvenienced,
vegetable substances which would infallibly have killed a
Neapolitan or an Arab."
"And you really believe the result would be still more sure
with us than in the East, and in the midst of our fogs and
rains a man would habituate himself more easily than in a
warm latitude to this progressive absorption of poison?"
"Certainly; it being at the same time perfectly understood
that he should have been duly fortified against the poison
to which he had not been accustomed."
"Yes, I understand that; and how would you habituate
yourself, for instance, or rather, how did you habituate
yourself to it?"
"Oh, very easily. Suppose you knew beforehand the poison
that would be made use of against you; suppose the poison
was, for instance, brucine" --
"Brucine is extracted from the false angostura* is it not?"
inquired Madame de Villefort.
"Precisely, madame," replied Monte Cristo; "but I perceive I
have not much to teach you. Allow me to compliment you on
your knowledge; such learning is very rare among ladies."
* Brucoea ferruginea.
"Oh, I am aware of that," said Madame de Villefort; "but I
have a passion for the occult sciences, which speak to the
imagination like poetry, and are reducible to figures, like
an algebraic equation; but go on, I beg of you; what you say
interests me to the greatest degree."
"Well," replied Monte Cristo "suppose, then, that this
poison was brucine, and you were to take a milligramme the
first day, two milligrammes the second day, and so on. Well,
at the end of ten days you would have taken a centigramme,
at the end of twenty days, increasing another milligramme,
you would have taken three hundred centigrammes; that is to
say, a dose which you would support without inconvenience,
and which would be very dangerous for any other person who
had not taken the same precautions as yourself. Well, then,
at the end of a month, when drinking water from the same
carafe, you would kill the person who drank with you,
without your perceiving, otherwise than from slight
inconvenience, that there was any poisonous substance
mingled with this water."
"Do you know any other counter-poisons?"
"I do not."
"I have often read, and read again, the history of
Mithridates," said Madame de Villefort in a tone of
reflection, "and had always considered it a fable."
"No, madame, contrary to most history, it is true; but what
you tell me, madame, what you inquire of me, is not the
result of a chance query, for two years ago you asked me the
same questions, and said then, that for a very long time
this history of Mithridates had occupied your mind."
"True, sir. The two favorite studies of my youth were botany
and mineralogy, and subsequently, when I learned that the
use of simples frequently explained the whole history of a
people, and the entire life of individuals in the East, as
flowers betoken and symbolize a love affair, I have
regretted that I was not a man, that I might have been a
Flamel, a Fontana, or a Cabanis."
"And the more, madame," said Monte Cristo, "as the Orientals
do not confine themselves, as did Mithridates, to make a
cuirass of his poisons, but they also made them a dagger.
Science becomes, in their hands, not only a defensive
weapon, but still more frequently an offensive one; the one
serves against all their physical sufferings, the other
against all their enemies. With opium, belladonna, brucaea,
snake-wood, and the cherry-laurel, they put to sleep all who
stand in their way. There is not one of those women,
Egyptian, Turkish, or Greek, whom here you call `good
women,' who do not know how, by means of chemistry, to
stupefy a doctor, and in psychology to amaze a confessor."
"Really," said Madame de Villefort, whose eyes sparkled with
strange fire at this conversation.
"Oh, yes, indeed, madame," continued Monte Cristo, "the
secret dramas of the East begin with a love philtre and end
with a death potion -- begin with paradise and end with --
hell. There are as many elixirs of every kind as there are
caprices and peculiarities in the physical and moral nature
of humanity; and I will say further -- the art of these
chemists is capable with the utmost precision to accommodate
and proportion the remedy and the bane to yearnings for love
or desires for vengeance."
"But, sir," remarked the young woman, "these Eastern
societies, in the midst of which you have passed a portion
of your existence, are as fantastic as the tales that come
from their strange land. A man can easily be put out of the
way there, then; it is, indeed, the Bagdad and Bassora of
the `Thousand and One Nights.' The sultans and viziers who
rule over society there, and who constitute what in France
we call the government, are really Haroun-al-Raschids and
Giaffars, who not only pardon a poisoner, but even make him
a prime minister, if his crime has been an ingenious one,
and who, under such circumstances, have the whole story
written in letters of gold, to divert their hours of
idleness and ennui."
"By no means, madame; the fanciful exists no longer in the
East. There, disguised under other names, and concealed
under other costumes, are police agents, magistrates,
attorneys-general, and bailiffs. They hang, behead, and
impale their criminals in the most agreeable possible
manner; but some of these, like clever rogues, have
contrived to escape human justice, and succeed in their
fraudulent enterprises by cunning stratagems. Amongst us a
simpleton, possessed by the demon of hate or cupidity, who
has an enemy to destroy, or some near relation to dispose
of, goes straight to the grocer's or druggist's, gives a
false name, which leads more easily to his detection than
his real one, and under the pretext that the rats prevent
him from sleeping, purchases five or six grammes of arsenic
-- if he is really a cunning fellow, he goes to five or six
different druggists or grocers, and thereby becomes only
five or six times more easily traced; -- then, when he has
acquired his specific, he administers duly to his enemy, or
near kinsman, a dose of arsenic which would make a mammoth
or mastodon burst, and which, without rhyme or reason, makes
his victim utter groans which alarm the entire neighborhood.
Then arrive a crowd of policemen and constables. They fetch
a doctor, who opens the dead body, and collects from the
entrails and stomach a quantity of arsenic in a spoon. Next
day a hundred newspapers relate the fact, with the names of
the victim and the murderer. The same evening the grocer or
grocers, druggist or druggists, come and say, `It was I who
sold the arsenic to the gentleman;' and rather than not
recognize the guilty purchaser, they will recognize twenty.
Then the foolish criminal is taken, imprisoned,
interrogated, confronted, confounded, condemned, and cut off
by hemp or steel; or if she be a woman of any consideration,
they lock her up for life. This is the way in which you
Northerns understand chemistry, madame. Desrues was,
however, I must confess, more skilful."
"What would you have, sir?" said the lady, laughing; "we do
what we can. All the world has not the secret of the Medicis
or the Borgias."
"Now," replied the count, shrugging his shoulders, "shall I
tell you the cause of all these stupidities? It is because,
at your theatres, by what at least I could judge by reading
the pieces they play, they see persons swallow the contents
of a phial, or suck the button of a ring, and fall dead
instantly. Five minutes afterwards the curtain falls, and
the spectators depart. They are ignorant of the consequences
of the murder; they see neither the police commissary with
his badge of office, nor the corporal with his four men; and
so the poor fools believe that the whole thing is as easy as
lying. But go a little way from France -- go either to
Aleppo or Cairo, or only to Naples or Rome, and you will see
people passing by you in the streets -- people erect,
smiling, and fresh-colored, of whom Asmodeus, if you were
holding on by the skirt of his mantle, would say, `That man
was poisoned three weeks ago; he will be a dead man in a
"Then," remarked Madame de Villefort, "they have again
discovered the secret of the famous aquatofana that they
said was lost at Perugia."
"Ah, but madame, does mankind ever lose anything? The arts
change about and make a tour of the world; things take a
different name, and the vulgar do not follow them -- that is
all; but there is always the same result. Poisons act
particularly on some organ or another -- one on the stomach,
another on the brain, another on the intestines. Well, the
poison brings on a cough, the cough an inflammation of the
lungs, or some other complaint catalogued in the book of
science, which, however, by no means precludes it from being
decidedly mortal; and if it were not, would be sure to
become so, thanks to the remedies applied by foolish
doctors, who are generally bad chemists, and which will act
in favor of or against the malady, as you please; and then
there is a human being killed according to all the rules of
art and skill, and of whom justice learns nothing, as was
said by a terrible chemist of my acquaintance, the worthy
Abbe Adelmonte of Taormina, in Sicily, who has studied these
national phenomena very profoundly."
"It is quite frightful, but deeply interesting," said the
young lady, motionless with attention. "I thought, I must
confess, that these tales, were inventions of the Middle
"Yes, no doubt, but improved upon by ours. What is the use
of time, rewards of merit, medals, crosses, Monthyon prizes,
if they do not lead society towards more complete
perfection? Yet man will never be perfect until he learns to
create and destroy; he does know how to destroy, and that is
half the battle."
"So," added Madame de Villefort, constantly returning to her
object, "the poisons of the Borgias, the Medicis, the Renes,
the Ruggieris, and later, probably, that of Baron de Trenck,
whose story has been so misused by modern drama and romance"
"Were objects of art, madame, and nothing more," replied the
count. "Do you suppose that the real savant addresses
himself stupidly to the mere individual? By no means.
Science loves eccentricities, leaps and bounds, trials of
strength, fancies, if I may be allowed so to term them.
Thus, for instance, the excellent Abbe Adelmonte, of whom I
spoke just now, made in this way some marvellous
"Yes; I will mention one to you. He had a remarkably fine
garden, full of vegetables, flowers, and fruit. From amongst
these vegetables he selected the most simple -- a cabbage,
for instance. For three days he watered this cabbage with a
distillation of arsenic; on the third, the cabbage began to
droop and turn yellow. At that moment he cut it. In the eyes
of everybody it seemed fit for table, and preserved its
wholesome appearance. It was only poisoned to the Abbe
Adelmonte. He then took the cabbage to the room where he had
rabbits -- for the Abbe Adelmonte had a collection of
rabbits, cats, and guinea-pigs, fully as fine as his
collection of vegetables, flowers, and fruit. Well, the Abbe
Adelmonte took a rabbit, and made it eat a leaf of the
cabbage. The rabbit died. What magistrate would find, or
even venture to insinuate, anything against this? What
procureur has ever ventured to draw up an accusation against
M. Magendie or M. Flourens, in consequence of the rabbits,
cats, and guinea-pigs they have killed? -- not one. So,
then, the rabbit dies, and justice takes no notice. This
rabbit dead, the Abbe Adelmonte has its entrails taken out
by his cook and thrown on the dunghill; on this dunghill is
a hen, who, pecking these intestines, is in her turn taken
ill, and dies next day. At the moment when she is struggling
in the convulsions of death, a vulture is flying by (there
are a good many vultures in Adelmonte's country); this bird
darts on the dead fowl, and carries it away to a rock, where
it dines off its prey. Three days afterwards, this poor
vulture, which has been very much indisposed since that
dinner, suddenly feels very giddy while flying aloft in the
clouds, and falls heavily into a fish-pond. The pike, eels,
and carp eat greedily always, as everybody knows -- well,
they feast on the vulture. Now suppose that next day, one of
these eels, or pike, or carp, poisoned at the fourth remove,
is served up at your table. Well, then, your guest will be
poisoned at the fifth remove, and die, at the end of eight
or ten days, of pains in the intestines, sickness, or
abscess of the pylorus. The doctors open the body and say
with an air of profound learning, `The subject has died of a
tumor on the liver, or of typhoid fever!'"
"But," remarked Madame de Villefort, "all these
circumstances which you link thus to one another may be
broken by the least accident; the vulture may not see the
fowl, or may fall a hundred yards from the fish-pond."
"Ah, that is where the art comes in. To be a great chemist
in the East, one must direct chance; and this is to be
achieved." -- Madame de Villefort was in deep thought, yet
listened attentively. "But," she exclaimed, suddenly,
"arsenic is indelible, indestructible; in whatsoever way it
is absorbed, it will be found again in the body of the
victim from the moment when it has been taken in sufficient
quantity to cause death."
"Precisely so," cried Monte Cristo -- "precisely so; and
this is what I said to my worthy Adelmonte. He reflected,
smiled, and replied to me by a Sicilian proverb, which I
believe is also a French proverb, `My son, the world was not
made in a day -- but in seven. Return on Sunday.' On the
Sunday following I did return to him. Instead of having
watered his cabbage with arsenic, he had watered it this
time with a solution of salts, having their basis in
strychnine, strychnos colubrina, as the learned term it.
Now, the cabbage had not the slightest appearance of disease
in the world, and the rabbit had not the smallest distrust;
yet, five minutes afterwards, the rabbit was dead. The fowl
pecked at the rabbit, and the next day was a dead hen. This
time we were the vultures; so we opened the bird, and this
time all special symptoms had disappeared, there were only
general symptoms. There was no peculiar indication in any
organ -- an excitement of the nervous system -- that was it;
a case of cerebral congestion -- nothing more. The fowl had
not been poisoned -- she had died of apoplexy. Apoplexy is a
rare disease among fowls, I believe, but very common among
men." Madame de Villefort appeared more and more thoughtful.
"It is very fortunate," she observed, "that such substances
could only be prepared by chemists; otherwise, all the world
would be poisoning each other."
"By chemists and persons who have a taste for chemistry,"
said Monte Cristo carelessly.
"And then," said Madame de Villefort, endeavoring by a
struggle, and with effort, to get away from her thoughts,
"however skilfully it is prepared, crime is always crime,
and if it avoid human scrutiny, it does not escape the eye
of God. The Orientals are stronger than we are in cases of
conscience, and, very prudently, have no hell -- that is the
"Really, madame, this is a scruple which naturally must
occur to a pure mind like yours, but which would easily
yield before sound reasoning. The bad side of human thought
will always be defined by the paradox of Jean Jacques
Rousseau, -- you remember, -- the mandarin who is killed
five hundred leagues off by raising the tip of the finger.
Man's whole life passes in doing these things, and his
intellect is exhausted by reflecting on them. You will find
very few persons who will go and brutally thrust a knife in
the heart of a fellow-creature, or will administer to him,
in order to remove him from the surface of the globe on
which we move with life and animation, that quantity of
arsenic of which we just now talked. Such a thing is really
out of rule -- eccentric or stupid. To attain such a point,
the blood must be heated to thirty-six degrees, the pulse
be, at least, at ninety, and the feelings excited beyond the
ordinary limit. But suppose one pass, as is permissible in
philology, from the word itself to its softened synonym,
then, instead of committing an ignoble assassination you
make an `elimination;' you merely and simply remove from
your path the individual who is in your way, and that
without shock or violence, without the display of the
sufferings which, in the case of becoming a punishment, make
a martyr of the victim, and a butcher, in every sense of the
word, of him who inflicts them. Then there will be no blood,
no groans, no convulsions, and above all, no consciousness
of that horrid and compromising moment of accomplishing the
act, -- then one escapes the clutch of the human law, which
says, `Do not disturb society!' This is the mode in which
they manage these things, and succeed in Eastern climes,
where there are grave and phlegmatic persons who care very
little for the questions of time in conjunctures of
"Yet conscience remains," remarked Madame de Villefort in an
agitated voice, and with a stifled sigh.
"Yes," answered Monte Cristo "happily, yes, conscience does
remain; and if it did not, how wretched we should be! After
every action requiring exertion, it is conscience that saves
us, for it supplies us with a thousand good excuses, of
which we alone are judges; and these reasons, howsoever
excellent in producing sleep, would avail us but very little
before a tribunal, when we were tried for our lives. Thus
Richard III., for instance, was marvellously served by his
conscience after the putting away of the two children of
Edward IV.; in fact, he could say, `These two children of a
cruel and persecuting king, who have inherited the vices of
their father, which I alone could perceive in their juvenile
propensities -- these two children are impediments in my way
of promoting the happiness of the English people, whose
unhappiness they (the children) would infallibly have
caused.' Thus was Lady Macbeth served by her conscience,
when she sought to give her son, and not her husband
(whatever Shakespeare may say), a throne. Ah, maternal love
is a great virtue, a powerful motive -- so powerful that it
excuses a multitude of things, even if, after Duncan's
death, Lady Macbeth had been at all pricked by her
Madame de Villefort listened with avidity to these appalling
maxims and horrible paradoxes, delivered by the count with
that ironical simplicity which was peculiar to him. After a
moment's silence, the lady inquired, "Do you know, my dear
count," she said, "that you are a very terrible reasoner,
and that you look at the world through a somewhat
distempered medium? Have you really measured the world by
scrutinies, or through alembics and crucibles? For you must
indeed be a great chemist, and the elixir you administered
to my son, which recalled him to life almost
"Oh, do not place any reliance on that, madame; one drop of
that elixir sufficed to recall life to a dying child, but
three drops would have impelled the blood into his lungs in
such a way as to have produced most violent palpitations;
six would have suspended his respiration, and caused syncope
more serious than that in which he was; ten would have
destroyed him. You know, madame, how suddenly I snatched him
from those phials which he so imprudently touched?"
"Is it then so terrible a poison?"
"Oh, no. In the first place, let us agree that the word
poison does not exist, because in medicine use is made of
the most violent poisons, which become, according as they
are employed, most salutary remedies."
"What, then, is it?"
"A skilful preparation of my friend's the worthy Abbe
Adelmonte, who taught me the use of it."
"Oh," observed Madame de Villefort, "it must be an admirable
"Perfect, madame, as you have seen," replied the count; "and
I frequently make use of it -- with all possible prudence
though, be it observed," he added with a smile of
"Most assuredly," responded Madame de Villefort in the same
tone. "As for me, so nervous, and so subject to fainting
fits, I should require a Doctor Adelmonte to invent for me
some means of breathing freely and tranquillizing my mind,
in the fear I have of dying some fine day of suffocation. In
the meanwhile, as the thing is difficult to find in France,
and your abbe is not probably disposed to make a journey to
Paris on my account, I must continue to use Monsieur
Planche's anti-spasmodics; and mint and Hoffman's drops are
among my favorite remedies. Here are some lozenges which I
have made up on purpose; they are compounded doubly strong."
Monte Cristo opened the tortoise-shell box, which the lady
presented to him, and inhaled the odor of the lozenges with
the air of an amateur who thoroughly appreciated their
composition. "They are indeed exquisite," he said; "but as
they are necessarily submitted to the process of deglutition
-- a function which it is frequently impossible for a
fainting person to accomplish -- I prefer my own specific."
"Undoubtedly, and so should I prefer it, after the effects I
have seen produced; but of course it is a secret, and I am
not so indiscreet as to ask it of you."
"But I," said Monte Cristo, rising as he spoke -- "I am
gallant enough to offer it you."
"How kind you are."
"Only remember one thing -- a small dose is a remedy, a
large one is poison. One drop will restore life, as you have
seen; five or six will inevitably kill, and in a way the
more terrible inasmuch as, poured into a glass of wine, it
would not in the slightest degree affect its flavor. But I
say no more, madame; it is really as if I were prescribing
for you." The clock struck half-past six, and a lady was
announced, a friend of Madame de Villefort, who came to dine
"If I had had the honor of seeing you for the third or
fourth time, count, instead of only for the second," said
Madame de Villefort; "if I had had the honor of being your
friend, instead of only having the happiness of being under
an obligation to you, I should insist on detaining you to
dinner, and not allow myself to be daunted by a first
"A thousand thanks, madame," replied Monte Cristo "but I
have an engagement which I cannot break. I have promised to
escort to the Academie a Greek princess of my acquaintance
who has never seen your grand opera, and who relies on me to
conduct her thither."
"Adieu, then, sir, and do not forget the prescription."
"Ah, in truth, madame, to do that I must forget the hour's
conversation I have had with you, which is indeed
impossible." Monte Cristo bowed, and left the house. Madame
de Villefort remained immersed in thought. "He is a very
strange man," she said, "and in my opinion is himself the
Adelmonte he talks about." As to Monte Cristo the result had
surpassed his utmost expectations. "Good," said he, as he
went away; "this is a fruitful soil, and I feel certain that
the seed sown will not be cast on barren ground." Next
morning, faithful to his promise, he sent the prescription
Robert le Diable.
The pretext of an opera engagement was so much the more
feasible, as there chanced to be on that very night a more
than ordinary attraction at the Academie Royale. Levasseur,
who had been suffering under severe illness, made his
reappearance in the character of Bertrand, and, as usual,
the announcement of the most admired production of the
favorite composer of the day had attracted a brilliant and
fashionable audience. Morcerf, like most other young men of
rank and fortune, had his orchestra stall, with the
certainty of always finding a seat in at least a dozen of
the principal boxes occupied by persons of his acquaintance;
he had, moreover, his right of entry into the omnibus box.
Chateau-Renaud rented a stall beside his own, while
Beauchamp, as a journalist, had unlimited range all over the
theatre. It happened that on this particular night the
minister's box was placed at the disposal of Lucien Debray,
who offered it to the Comte de Morcerf, who again, upon his
mother's rejection of it, sent it to Danglars, with an
intimation that he should probably do himself the honor of
joining the baroness and her daughter during the evening, in
the event of their accepting the box in question. The ladies
received the offer with too much pleasure to dream of a
refusal. To no class of persons is the presentation of a
gratuitous opera-box more acceptable than to the wealthy
millionaire, who still hugs economy while boasting of
carrying a king's ransom in his waistcoat pocket.
Danglars had, however, protested against showing himself in
a ministerial box, declaring that his political principles,
and his parliamentary position as member of the opposition
party would not permit him so to commit himself; the
baroness had, therefore, despatched a note to Lucien Debray,
bidding him call for them, it being wholly impossible for
her to go alone with Eugenie to the opera. There is no
gainsaying the fact that a very unfavorable construction
would have been put upon the circumstance if the two women
had gone without escort, while the addition of a third, in
the person of her mother's admitted lover, enabled
Mademoiselle Danglars to defy malice and ill-nature. One
must take the world as one finds it.
The curtain rose, as usual, to an almost empty house, it
being one of the absurdities of Parisian fashion never to
appear at the opera until after the beginning of the
performance, so that the first act is generally played
without the slightest attention being paid to it, that part
of the audience already assembled being too much occupied in
observing the fresh arrivals, while nothing is heard but the
noise of opening and shutting doors, and the buzz of
conversation. "Surely," said Albert, as the door of a box on
the first circle opened, "that must be the Countess G----."
"And who is the Countess G---- ?" inquired Chateau-Renaud.
"What a question! Now, do you know, baron, I have a great
mind to pick a quarrel with you for asking it; as if all the
world did not know who the Countess G---- was."
"Ah, to be sure," replied Chateau-Renaud; "the lovely
Venetian, is it not?"
"Herself." At this moment the countess perceived Albert, and
returned his salutation with a smile. "You know her, it
seems?" said Chateau-Renaud.
"Franz introduced me to her at Rome," replied Albert.
"Well, then, will you do as much for me in Paris as Franz
did for you in Rome?"
There was a cry of "Shut up!" from the audience. This
manifestation on the part of the spectators of their wish to
be allowed to hear the music, produced not the slightest
effect on the two young men, who continued their
conversation. "The countess was present at the races in the
Champ-de-Mars," said Chateau-Renaud.
"Bless me, I quite forgot the races. Did you bet?"
"Oh, merely a paltry fifty louis."
"And who was the winner?"
"Nautilus. I staked on him."
"But there were three races, were there not?"
"Yes; there was the prize given by the Jockey Club -- a gold
cup, you know -- and a very singular circumstance occurred
about that race."
"What was it?"
"Oh, shut up!" again interposed some of the audience.
"Why, it was won by a horse and rider utterly unknown on the
"Is that possible?"
"True as day. The fact was, nobody had observed a horse
entered by the name of Vampa, or that of a jockey styled
Job, when, at the last moment, a splendid roan, mounted by a
jockey about as big as your fist, presented themselves at
the starting-post. They were obliged to stuff at least
twenty pounds weight of shot in the small rider's pockets,
to make him weight; but with all that he outstripped Ariel
and Barbare, against whom he ran, by at least three whole
"And was it not found out at last to whom the horse and
"You say that the horse was entered under the name of
"Exactly; that was the title."
"Then," answered Albert, "I am better informed than you are,
and know who the owner of that horse was."
"Shut up, there!" cried the pit in chorus. And this time the
tone and manner in which the command was given, betokened
such growing hostility that the two young men perceived, for
the first time, that the mandate was addressed to them.
Leisurely turning round, they calmly scrutinized the various
countenances around them, as though demanding some one
person who would take upon himself the responsibility of
what they deemed excessive impertinence; but as no one
responded to the challenge, the friends turned again to the
front of the theatre, and affected to busy themselves with
the stage. At this moment the door of the minister's box
opened, and Madame Danglars, accompanied by her daughter,
entered, escorted by Lucien Debray, who assiduously
conducted them to their seats.
"Ha, ha," said Chateau-Renaud, "here comes some friends of
yours, viscount! What are you looking at there? don't you
see they are trying to catch your eye?" Albert turned round,
just in time to receive a gracious wave of the fan from the
baroness; as for Mademoiselle Eugenie, she scarcely
vouchsafed to waste the glances of her large black eyes even
upon the business of the stage. "I tell you what, my dear
fellow," said Chateau-Renaud, "I cannot imagine what
objection you can possibly have to Mademoiselle Danglars --
that is, setting aside her want of ancestry and somewhat
inferior rank, which by the way I don't think you care very
much about. Now, barring all that, I mean to say she is a
deuced fine girl!"
"Handsome, certainly," replied Albert, "but not to my taste,
which I confess, inclines to something softer, gentler, and
"Ah, well," exclaimed Chateau-Renaud, who because he had
seen his thirtieth summer fancied himself duly warranted in
assuming a sort of paternal air with his more youthful
friend, "you young people are never satisfied; why, what
would you have more? your parents have chosen you a bride
built on the model of Diana, the huntress, and yet you are
"No, for that very resemblance affrights me; I should have
liked something more in the manner of the Venus of Milo or
Capua; but this chase-loving Diana continually surrounded by
her nymphs gives me a sort of alarm lest she should some day
bring on me the fate of Actaeon."
And, indeed, it required but one glance at Mademoiselle
Danglars to comprehend the justness of Morcerf's remark --
she was beautiful, but her beauty was of too marked and
decided a character to please a fastidious taste; her hair
was raven black, but its natural waves seemed somewhat
rebellious; her eyes, of the same color as her hair, were
surmounted by well-arched brows, whose great defect,
however, consisted in an almost habitual frown, while her
whole physiognomy wore that expression of firmness and
decision so little in accordance with the gentler attributes
of her sex -- her nose was precisely what a sculptor would
have chosen for a chiselled Juno. Her mouth, which might
have been found fault with as too large, displayed teeth of
pearly whiteness, rendered still more conspicuous by the
brilliant carmine of her lips, contrasting vividly with her
naturally pale complexion. But that which completed the
almost masculine look Morcerf found so little to his taste,
was a dark mole, of much larger dimensions than these freaks
of nature generally are, placed just at the corner of her
mouth; and the effect tended to increase the expression of
self-dependence that characterized her countenance. The rest
of Mademoiselle Eugenie's person was in perfect keeping with
the head just described; she, indeed, reminded one of Diana,
as Chateau-Renaud observed, but her bearing was more haughty
and resolute. As regarded her attainments, the only fault to
be found with them was the same that a fastidious
connoisseur might have found with her beauty, that they were
somewhat too erudite and masculine for so young a person.
She was a perfect linguist, a first-rate artist, wrote
poetry, and composed music; to the study of the latter she
professed to be entirely devoted, following it with an
indefatigable perseverance, assisted by a schoolfellow, -- a
young woman without fortune whose talent promised to develop
into remarkable powers as a singer. It was rumored that she
was an object of almost paternal interest to one of the
principal composers of the day, who excited her to spare no
pains in the cultivation of her voice, which might hereafter
prove a source of wealth and independence. But this counsel
effectually decided Mademoiselle Danglars never to commit
herself by being seen in public with one destined for a
theatrical life; and acting upon this principle, the
banker's daughter, though perfectly willing to allow
Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly (that was the name of the
young virtuosa) to practice with her through the day, took
especial care not to be seen in her company. Still, though
not actually received at the Hotel Danglars in the light of
an acknowledged friend, Louise was treated with far more
kindness and consideration than is usually bestowed on a
The curtain fell almost immediately after the entrance of
Madame Danglars into her box, the band quitted the orchestra
for the accustomed half-hour's interval allowed between the
acts, and the audience were left at liberty to promenade the
salon or lobbies, or to pay and receive visits in their
respective boxes. Morcerf and Chateau-Renaud were amongst
the first to avail themselves of this permission. For an
instant the idea struck Madame Danglars that this eagerness
on the part of the young viscount arose from his impatience
to join her party, and she whispered her expectations to her
daughter, that Albert was hurrying to pay his respects to
them. Mademoiselle Eugenie, however, merely returned a
dissenting movement of the head, while, with a cold smile,
she directed the attention of her mother to an opposite box
on the first circle, in which sat the Countess G---- , and
where Morcerf had just made his appearance. "So we meet
again, my travelling friend, do we?" cried the countess,
extending her hand to him with all the warmth and cordiality
of an old acquaintance; "it was really very good of you to
recognize me so quickly, and still more so to bestow your
first visit on me."
"Be assured," replied Albert, "that if I had been aware of
your arrival in Paris, and had known your address, I should
have paid my respects to you before this. Allow me to
introduce my friend, Baron de Chateau-Renaud, one of the few
true gentlemen now to be found in France, and from whom I
have just learned that you were a spectator of the races in
the Champ-de-Mars, yesterday." Chateau-Renaud bowed to the
"So you were at the races, baron?" inquired the countess
"Well, then," pursued Madame G---- with considerable
animation, "you can probably tell me who won the Jockey Club
"I am sorry to say I cannot," replied the baron; "and I was
just asking the same question of Albert."
"Are you very anxious to know, countess?" asked Albert.
"To know what?"
"The name of the owner of the winning horse?"
"Excessively; only imagine -- but do tell me, viscount,
whether you really are acquainted with it or no?"
"I beg your pardon, madame, but you were about to relate
some story, were you not? You said, `only imagine,' -- and
then paused. Pray continue."
"Well, then, listen. You must know I felt so interested in
the splendid roan horse, with his elegant little rider, so
tastefully dressed in a pink satin jacket and cap, that I
could not help praying for their success with as much
earnestness as though the half of my fortune were at stake;
and when I saw them outstrip all the others, and come to the
winning-post in such gallant style, I actually clapped my
hands with joy. Imagine my surprise, when, upon returning
home, the first object I met on the staircase was the
identical jockey in the pink jacket! I concluded that, by
some singular chance, the owner of the winning horse must
live in the same hotel as myself; but, as I entered my
apartments, I beheld the very gold cup awarded as a prize to
the unknown horse and rider. Inside the cup was a small
piece of paper, on which were written these words -- `From
Lord Ruthven to Countess G---- .'"
"Precisely; I was sure of it," said Morcerf.
"Sure of what?"
"That the owner of the horse was Lord Ruthven himself."
"What Lord Ruthven do you mean?"
"Why, our Lord Ruthven -- the Vampire of the Salle
"Is it possible?" exclaimed the countess; "is he here in
"To be sure, -- why not?"
"And you visit him? -- meet him at your own house and
"I assure you he is my most intimate friend, and M. de
Chateau-Renaud has also the honor of his acquaintance."
"But why are you so sure of his being the winner of the
Jockey Club prize?"
"Was not the winning horse entered by the name of Vampa?"
"What of that?"
"Why, do you not recollect the name of the celebrated bandit
by whom I was made prisoner?"
"And from whose hands the count extricated me in so
wonderful a manner?"
"To be sure, I remember it all now."
"He called himself Vampa. You see, it's evident where the
count got the name."
"But what could have been his motive for sending the cup to
"In the first place, because I had spoken much of you to
him, as you may believe; and in the second, because he
delighted to see a countrywoman take so lively an interest
in his success."
"I trust and hope you never repeated to the count all the
foolish remarks we used to make about him?"
"I should not like to affirm upon oath that I have not.
Besides, his presenting you the cup under the name of Lord
"Oh, but that is dreadful! Why, the man must owe me a
"Does his action appear like that of an enemy?"
"No; certainly not."
"Well, then" --
"And so he is in Paris?"
"And what effect does he produce?"
"Why," said Albert, "he was talked about for a week; then
the coronation of the queen of England took place, followed
by the theft of Mademoiselle Mars's diamonds; and so people
talked of something else."
"My good fellow," said Chateau-Renaud, "the count is your
friend and you treat him accordingly. Do not believe what
Albert is telling you, countess; so far from the sensation
excited in the Parisian circles by the appearance of the
Count of Monte Cristo having abated, I take upon myself to
declare that it is as strong as ever. His first astounding
act upon coming amongst us was to present a pair of horses,
worth 32,000 francs, to Madame Danglars; his second, the
almost miraculous preservation of Madame de Villefort's
life; now it seems that he has carried off the prize awarded
by the Jockey Club. I therefore maintain, in spite of
Morcerf, that not only is the count the object of interest
at this present moment, but also that he will continue to be
so for a month longer if he pleases to exhibit an
eccentricity of conduct which, after all, may be his
ordinary mode of existence."
"Perhaps you are right," said Morcerf; "meanwhile, who is in
the Russian ambassador's box?"
"Which box do you mean?" asked the countess.
"The one between the pillars on the first tier -- it seems
to have been fitted up entirely afresh."
"Did you observe any one during the first act?" asked
"In that box."
"No," replied the countess, "it was certainly empty during
the first act;" then, resuming the subject of their previous
conversation, she said, "And so you really believe it was
your mysterious Count of Monte Cristo that gained the
"I am sure of it."
"And who afterwards sent the cup to me?"
"But I don't know him," said the countess; "I have a great
mind to return it."
"Do no such thing, I beg of you; he would only send you
another, formed of a magnificent sapphire, or hollowed out
of a gigantic ruby. It is his way, and you must take him as
you find him." At this moment the bell rang to announce the
drawing up of the curtain for the second act. Albert rose to
return to his place. "Shall I see you again?" asked the
countess. "At the end of the next act, with your permission,
I will come and inquire whether there is anything I can do
for you in Paris?"
"Pray take notice," said the countess, "that my present
residence is 22 Rue de Rivoli, and that I am at home to my
friends every Saturday evening. So now, you are both
forewarned." The young men bowed, and quitted the box. Upon
reaching their stalls, they found the whole of the audience
in the parterre standing up and directing their gaze towards
the box formerly possessed by the Russian ambassador. A man
of from thirty-five to forty years of age, dressed in deep
black, had just entered, accompanied by a young woman
dressed after the Eastern style. The lady was surpassingly
beautiful, while the rich magnificence of her attire drew
all eyes upon her. "Hullo," said Albert; "it is Monte Cristo
and his Greek!"
The strangers were, indeed, no other than the count and
Haidee. In a few moments the young girl had attracted the
attention of the whole house, and even the occupants of the
boxes leaned forward to scrutinize her magnificent diamonds.
The second act passed away during one continued buzz of
voices -- one deep whisper -- intimating that some great and
universally interesting event had occurred; all eyes, all
thoughts, were occupied with the young and beautiful woman,
whose gorgeous apparel and splendid jewels made a most
extraordinary spectacle. Upon this occasion an unmistakable
sign from Madame Danglars intimated her desire to see Albert
in her box directly the curtain fell on the second act, and
neither the politeness nor good taste of Morcerf would
permit his neglecting an invitation so unequivocally given.
At the close of the act he therefore went to the baroness.
Having bowed to the two ladies, he extended his hand to
Debray. By the baroness he was most graciously welcomed,
while Eugenie received him with her accustomed coldness.
"My dear fellow," said Debray, "you have come in the nick of
time. There is madame overwhelming me with questions
respecting the count; she insists upon it that I can tell
her his birth, education, and parentage, where he came from,
and whither he is going. Being no disciple of Cagliostro, I
was wholly unable to do this; so, by way of getting out of
the scrape, I said, `Ask Morcerf; he has got the whole
history of his beloved Monte Cristo at his fingers' ends;'
whereupon the baroness signified her desire to see you."
"Is it not almost incredible," said Madame Danglars, "that a
person having at least half a million of secret-service
money at his command, should possess so little information?"
"Let me assure you, madame," said Lucien, "that had I really
the sum you mention at my disposal, I would employ it more
profitably than in troubling myself to obtain particulars
respecting the Count of Monte Cristo, whose only merit in my
eyes consists in his being twice as rich as a nabob.
However, I have turned the business over to Morcerf, so pray
settle it with him as may be most agreeable to you; for my
own part, I care nothing about the count or his mysterious
"I am very sure no nabob would have sent me a pair of horses
worth 32,000 francs, wearing on their heads four diamonds
valued at 5,000 francs each."
"He seems to have a mania for diamonds," said Morcerf,
smiling, "and I verily believe that, like Potemkin, he keeps
his pockets filled, for the sake of strewing them along the
road, as Tom Thumb did his flint stones."
"Perhaps he has discovered some mine," said Madame Danglars.
"I suppose you know he has an order for unlimited credit on
the baron's banking establishment?"
"I was not aware of it," replied Albert, "but I can readily
"And, further, that he stated to M. Danglars his intention
of only staying a year in Paris, during which time he
proposed to spend six millions.
"He must be the Shah of Persia, travelling incog."
"Have you noticed the remarkable beauty of the young woman,
M. Lucien?" inquired Eugenie.
"I really never met with one woman so ready to do justice to
the charms of another as yourself," responded Lucien,
raising his lorgnette to his eye. "A most lovely creature,
upon my soul!" was his verdict.