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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas [Pere]

Part 21 out of 31

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passing both her hands through the opening, she clasped and
wrung them. "I must know what you mean to do!" said she.
"Where are you going?"

"Oh, fear not," said Maximilian, stopping at a short
distance, "I do not intend to render another man responsible
for the rigorous fate reserved for me. Another might
threaten to seek M. Franz, to provoke him, and to fight with
him; all that would be folly. What has M. Franz to do with
it? He saw me this morning for the first time, and has
already forgotten he has seen me. He did not even know I
existed when it was arranged by your two families that you
should be united. I have no enmity against M. Franz, and
promise you the punishment shall not fall on him."

"On whom, then! -- on me?"

"On you? Valentine! Oh, heaven forbid! Woman is sacred; the
woman one loves is holy."

"On yourself, then, unhappy man; on yourself?"

"I am the only guilty person, am I not?' said Maximilian.

"Maximilian!" said Valentine, "Maximilian, come back, I
entreat you!" He drew near with his sweet smile, and but for
his paleness one might have thought him in his usual happy
mood. "Listen, my dear, my adored Valentine," said he in his
melodious and grave tone; "those who, like us, have never
had a thought for which we need blush before the world, such
may read each other's hearts. I never was romantic, and am
no melancholy hero. I imitate neither Manfred nor Anthony;
but without words, protestations, or vows, my life has
entwined itself with yours; you leave me, and you are right
in doing so, -- I repeat it, you are right; but in losing
you, I lose my life.

"The moment you leave me, Valentine, I am alone in the
world. My sister is happily married; her husband is only my
brother-in-law, that is, a man whom the ties of social life
alone attach to me; no one then longer needs my useless
life. This is what I shall do; I will wait until the very
moment you are married, for I will not lose the shadow of
one of those unexpected chances which are sometimes reserved
for us, since M. Franz may, after all, die before that time,
a thunderbolt may fall even on the altar as you approach it,
-- nothing appears impossible to one condemned to die, and
miracles appear quite reasonable when his escape from death
is concerned. I will, then, wait until the last moment, and
when my misery is certain, irremediable, hopeless, I will
write a confidential letter to my brother-in-law, another to
the prefect of police, to acquaint them with my intention,
and at the corner of some wood, on the brink of some abyss,
on the bank of some river, I will put an end to my
existence, as certainly as I am the son of the most honest
man who ever lived in France."

Valentine trembled convulsively; she loosened her hold of
the gate, her arms fell by her side, and two large tears
rolled down her cheeks. The young man stood before her,
sorrowful and resolute. "Oh, for pity's sake," said she,
"you will live, will you not?"

"No, on my honor," said Maximilian; "but that will not
affect you. You have done your duty, and your conscience
will be at rest." Valentine fell on her knees, and pressed
her almost bursting heart. "Maximilian," said she,
"Maximilian, my friend, my brother on earth, my true husband
in heaven, I entreat you, do as I do, live in suffering;
perhaps we may one day be united."

"Adieu, Valentine," repeated Morrel.

"My God," said Valentine, raising both her hands to heaven
with a sublime expression, "I have done my utmost to remain
a submissive daughter; I have begged, entreated, implored;
he has regarded neither my prayers, my entreaties, nor my
tears. It is done," cried she, willing away her tears, and
resuming her firmness, "I am resolved not to die of remorse,
but rather of shame. Live, Maximilian, and I will be yours.
Say when shall it be? Speak, command, I will obey." Morrel,
who had already gone some few steps away, again returned,
and pale with joy extended both hands towards Valentine
through the opening. "Valentine," said he, "dear Valentine,
you must not speak thus -- rather let me die. Why should I
obtain you by violence, if our love is mutual? Is it from
mere humanity you bid me live? I would then rather die."

"Truly," murmured Valentine, "who on this earth cares for
me, if he does not? Who has consoled me in my sorrow but he?
On whom do my hopes rest? On whom does my bleeding heart
repose? On him, on him, always on him! Yes, you are right,
Maximilian, I will follow you. I will leave the paternal
home, I will give up all. Oh, ungrateful girl that I am,"
cried Valentine, sobbing, "I will give up all, even my dear
old grandfather, whom I had nearly forgotten."

"No," said Maximilian, "you shall not leave him. M. Noirtier
has evinced, you say, a kind feeling towards me. Well,
before you leave, tell him all; his consent would be your
justification in God's sight. As soon as we are married, he
shall come and live with us, instead of one child, he shall
have two. You have told me how you talk to him and how he
answers you; I shall very soon learn that language by signs,
Valentine, and I promise you solemnly, that instead of
despair, it is happiness that awaits us."

"Oh, see, Maximilian, see the power you have over me, you
almost make me believe you; and yet, what you tell me is
madness, for my father will curse me -- he is inflexible --
he will never pardon me. Now listen to me, Maximilian; if by
artifice, by entreaty, by accident -- in short, if by any
means I can delay this marriage, will you wait?"

"Yes, I promise you, as faithfully as you have promised me
that this horrible marriage shall not take place, and that
if you are dragged before a magistrate or a priest, you will

"I promise you by all that is most sacred to me in the
world, namely, by my mother."

"We will wait, then," said Morrel.

"Yes, we will wait," replied Valentine, who revived at these
words; "there are so many things which may save unhappy
beings such as we are."

"I rely on you, Valentine," said Morrel; "all you do will be
well done; only if they disregard your prayers, if your
father and Madame de Saint-Meran insist that M. d'Epinay
should be called to-morrow to sign the contract" --

"Then you have my promise, Maximilian."

"Instead of signing" --

"I will go to you, and we will fly; but from this moment
until then, let us not tempt providence, let us not see each
other. It is a miracle, it is a providence that we have not
been discovered. If we were surprised, if it were known that
we met thus, we should have no further resource."

"You are right, Valentine; but how shall I ascertain?"

"From the notary, M. Deschamps."

"I know him."

"And for myself -- I will write to you, depend on me. I
dread this marriage, Maximilian, as much as you."

"Thank you, my adored Valentine, thank you; that is enough.
When once I know the hour, I will hasten to this spot, you
can easily get over this fence with my assistance, a
carriage will await us at the gate, in which you will
accompany me to my sister's; there living, retired or
mingling in society, as you wish, we shall be enabled to use
our power to resist oppression, and not suffer ourselves to
be put to death like sheep, which only defend themselves by

"Yes," said Valentine, "I will now acknowledge you are
right, Maximilian; and now are you satisfied with your
betrothal?" said the young girl sorrowfully.

"My adored Valentine, words cannot express one half of my
satisfaction." Valentine had approached, or rather, had
placed her lips so near the fence, that they nearly touched
those of Morrel, which were pressed against the other side
of the cold and inexorable barrier. "Adieu, then, till we
meet again," said Valentine, tearing herself away. "I shall
hear from you?"


"Thanks, thanks, dear love, adieu!" The sound of a kiss was
heard, and Valentine fled through the avenue. Morrel
listened to catch the last sound of her dress brushing the
branches, and of her footstep on the gravel, then raised his
eyes with an ineffable smile of thankfulness to heaven for
being permitted to be thus loved, and then also disappeared.
The young man returned home and waited all the evening and
all the next day without getting any message. It was only on
the following day, at about ten o'clock in the morning, as
he was starting to call on M. Deschamps, the notary, that he
received from the postman a small billet, which he knew to
be from Valentine, although he had not before seen her
writing. It was to this effect: --

Tears, entreaties, prayers, have availed me nothing.
Yesterday, for two hours, I was at the church of
Saint-Phillippe du Roule, and for two hours I prayed most
fervently. Heaven is as inflexible as man, and the signature
of the contract is fixed for this evening at nine o'clock. I
have but one promise and but one heart to give; that promise
is pledged to you, that heart is also yours. This evening,
then, at a quarter to nine at the gate.

Your betrothed,

Valentine de Villefort.

P.S. -- My poor grandmother gets worse and worse; yesterday
her fever amounted to delirium; to-day her delirium is
almost madness. You will be very kind to me, will you not,
Morrel, to make me forget my sorrow in leaving her thus? I
think it is kept a secret from grandpapa Noirtier, that the
contract is to be signed this evening.

Morrel went also to the notary, who confirmed the news that
the contract was to be signed that evening. Then he went to
call on Monte Cristo and heard still more. Franz had been to
announce the ceremony, and Madame de Villefort had also
written to beg the count to excuse her not inviting him; the
death of M. de Saint-Meran and the dangerous illness of his
widow would cast a gloom over the meeting which she would
regret should be shared by the count whom she wished every
happiness. The day before Franz had been presented to Madame
de Saint-Meran, who had left her bed to receive him, but had
been obliged to return to it immediately after. It is easy
to suppose that Morrel's agitation would not escape the
count's penetrating eye. Monte Cristo was more affectionate
than ever, -- indeed, his manner was so kind that several
times Morrel was on the point of telling him all. But he
recalled the promise he had made to Valentine, and kept his

The young man read Valentine's letter twenty times in the
course of the day. It was her first, and on what an
occasion! Each time he read it he renewed his vow to make
her happy. How great is the power of a woman who has made so
courageous a resolution! What devotion does she deserve from
him for whom she has sacrificed everything! How ought she
really to be supremely loved! She becomes at once a queen
and a wife, and it is impossible to thank and love her
sufficiently. Morrel longed intensely for the moment when he
should hear Valentine say, "Here I am, Maximilian; come and
help me." He had arranged everything for her escape; two
ladders were hidden in the clover-field; a cabriolet was
ordered for Maximilian alone, without a servant, without
lights; at the turning of the first street they would light
the lamps, as it would be foolish to attract the notice of
the police by too many precautions. Occasionally he
shuddered; he thought of the moment when, from the top of
that wall, he should protect the descent of his dear
Valentine, pressing in his arms for the first time her of
whom he had yet only kissed the delicate hand.

When the afternoon arrived and he felt that the hour was
drawing near, he wished for solitude, his agitation was
extreme; a simple question from a friend would have
irritated him. He shut himself in his room, and tried to
read, but his eye glanced over the page without
understanding a word, and he threw away the book, and for
the second time sat down to sketch his plan, the ladders and
the fence. At length the hour drew near. Never did a man
deeply in love allow the clocks to go on peacefully. Morrel
tormented his so effectually that they struck eight at
half-past six. He then said, "It is time to start; the
signature was indeed fixed to take place at nine o'clock,
but perhaps Valentine will not wait for that." Consequently,
Morrel, having left the Rue Meslay at half-past eight by his
timepiece, entered the clover-field while the clock of
Saint-Phillippe du Roule was striking eight. The horse and
cabriolet were concealed behind a small ruin, where Morrel
had often waited.

The night gradually drew on, and the foliage in the garden
assumed a deeper hue. Then Morrel came out from his
hiding-place with a beating heart, and looked through the
small opening in the gate; there was yet no one to be seen.
The clock struck half-past eight, and still another
half-hour was passed in waiting, while Morrel walked to and
fro, and gazed more and more frequently through the opening.
The garden became darker still, but in the darkness he
looked in vain for the white dress, and in the silence he
vainly listened for the sound of footsteps. The house, which
was discernible through the trees, remained in darkness, and
gave no indication that so important an event as the
signature of a marriage-contract was going on. Morrel looked
at his watch, which wanted a quarter to ten; but soon the
same clock he had already heard strike two or three times
rectified the error by striking half-past nine.

This was already half an hour past the time Valentine had
fixed. It was a terrible moment for the young man. The
slightest rustling of the foliage, the least whistling of
the wind, attracted his attention, and drew the perspiration
to his brow; then he tremblingly fixed his ladder, and, not
to lose a moment, placed his foot on the first step. Amidst
all these alternations of hope and fear, the clock struck
ten. "It is impossible," said Maximilian, "that the signing
of a contract should occupy so long a time without
unexpected interruptions. I have weighed all the chances,
calculated the time required for all the forms; something
must have happened." And then he walked rapidly to and fro,
and pressed his burning forehead against the fence. Had
Valentine fainted? or had she been discovered and stopped in
her flight? These were the only obstacles which appeared
possible to the young man.

The idea that her strength had failed her in attempting to
escape, and that she had fainted in one of the paths, was
the one that most impressed itself upon his mind. "In that
case," said he, "I should lose her, and by my own fault." He
dwelt on this idea for a moment, then it appeared reality.
He even thought he could perceive something on the ground at
a distance; he ventured to call, and it seemed to him that
the wind wafted back an almost inarticulate sigh. At last
the half-hour struck. It was impossible to wait longer, his
temples throbbed violently, his eyes were growing dim; he
passed one leg over the wall, and in a moment leaped down on
the other side. He was on Villefort's premises -- had
arrived there by scaling the wall. What might be the
consequences? However, he had not ventured thus far to draw
back. He followed a short distance close under the wall,
then crossed a path, hid entered a clump of trees. In a
moment he had passed through them, and could see the house
distinctly. Then Morrel saw that he had been right in
believing that the house was not illuminated. Instead of
lights at every window, as is customary on days of ceremony,
he saw only a gray mass, which was veiled also by a cloud,
which at that moment obscured the moon's feeble light. A
light moved rapidly from time to time past three windows of
the second floor. These three windows were in Madame de
Saint-Meran's room. Another remained motionless behind some
red curtains which were in Madame de Villefort's bedroom.
Morrel guessed all this. So many times, in order to follow
Valentine in thought at every hour in the day, had he made
her describe the whole house, that without having seen it he
knew it all.

This darkness and silence alarmed Morrel still more than
Valentine's absence had done. Almost mad with grief, and
determined to venture everything in order to see Valentine
once more, and be certain of the misfortune he feared,
Morrel gained the edge of the clump of trees, and was going
to pass as quickly as possible through the flower-garden,
when the sound of a voice, still at some distance, but which
was borne upon the wind, reached him.

At this sound, as he was already partially exposed to view,
he stepped back and concealed himself completely, remaining
perfectly motionless. He had formed his resolution. If it
was Valentine alone, he would speak as she passed; if she
was accompanied, and he could not speak, still he should see
her, and know that she was safe; if they were strangers, he
would listen to their conversation, and might understand
something of this hitherto incomprehensible mystery. The
moon had just then escaped from behind the cloud which had
concealed it, and Morrel saw Villefort come out upon the
steps, followed by a gentleman in black. They descended, and
advanced towards the clump of trees, and Morrel soon
recognized the other gentleman as Doctor d'Avrigny.

The young man, seeing them approach, drew back mechanically,
until he found himself stopped by a sycamore-tree in the
centre of the clump; there he was compelled to remain. Soon
the two gentlemen stopped also.

"Ah, my dear doctor," said the procureur, "heaven declares
itself against my house! What a dreadful death -- what a
blow! Seek not to console me; alas, nothing can alleviate so
great a sorrow -- the wound is too deep and too fresh! Dead,
dead!" The cold sweat sprang to the young man's brow, and
his teeth chattered. Who could be dead in that house, which
Villefort himself had called accursed? "My dear M. de
Villefort," replied the doctor, with a tone which redoubled
the terror of the young man, "I have not led you here to
console you; on the contrary" --

"What can you mean?" asked the procureur, alarmed.

"I mean that behind the misfortune which has just happened
to you, there is another, perhaps, still greater."

"Can it be possible?" murmured Villefort, clasping his
hands. "What are you going to tell me?"

"Are we quite alone, my friend?"

"Yes, quite; but why all these precautions?"

"Because I have a terrible secret to communicate to you,"
said the doctor. "Let us sit down."

Villefort fell, rather than seated himself The doctor stood
before him, with one hand placed on his shoulder. Morrel,
horrified, supported his head with one hand, and with the
other pressed his heart, lest its beatings should be heard.
"Dead, dead!" repeated he within himself; and he felt as if
he were also dying.

"Speak, doctor -- I am listening," said Villefort; "strike
-- I am prepared for everything!"

"Madame de Saint-Meran was, doubtless, advancing in years,
but she enjoyed excellent health." Morrel began again to
breathe freely, which he had not done during the last ten

"Grief has consumed her," said Villefort -- "yes, grief,
doctor! After living forty years with the marquis" --

"It is not grief, my dear Villefort," said the doctor;
"grief may kill, although it rarely does, and never in a
day, never in an hour, never in ten minutes." Villefort
answered nothing, he simply raised his head, which had been
cast down before, and looked at the doctor with amazement.

"Were you present during the last struggle?" asked M.

"I was," replied the procureur; "you begged me not to

"Did you notice the symptoms of the disease to which Madame
de Saint-Meran has fallen a victim?"

"I did. Madame de Saint-Meran had three successive attacks,
at intervals of some minutes, each one more serious than the
former. When you arrived, Madame de Saint-Meran had already
been panting for breath some minutes; she then had a fit,
which I took to be simply a nervous attack, and it was only
when I saw her raise herself in the bed, and her limbs and
neck appear stiffened, that I became really alarmed. Then I
understood from your countenance there was more to fear than
I had thought. This crisis past, I endeavored to catch your
eye, but could not. You held her hand -- you were feeling
her pulse -- and the second fit came on before you had
turned towards me. This was more terrible than the first;
the same nervous movements were repeated, and the mouth
contracted and turned purple."

"And at the third she expired."

"At the end of the first attack I discovered symptoms of
tetanus; you confirmed my opinion."

"Yes, before others," replied the doctor; "but now we are
alone" --

"What are you going to say? Oh, spare me!"

"That the symptoms of tetanus and poisoning by vegetable
substances are the same." M. de Villefort started from his
seat, then in a moment fell down again, silent and
motionless. Morrel knew not if he were dreaming or awake.
"Listen," said the doctor; "I know the full importance of the
statement I have just made, and the disposition of the man
to whom I have made it."

"Do you speak to me as a magistrate or as a friend?" asked

"As a friend, and only as a friend, at this moment. The
similarity in the symptoms of tetanus and poisoning by
vegetable substances is so great, that were I obliged to
affirm by oath what I have now stated, I should hesitate; I
therefore repeat to you, I speak not to a magistrate, but to
a friend. And to that friend I say. `During the
three-quarters of an hour that the struggle continued, I
watched the convulsions and the death of Madame de
Saint-Meran, and am thoroughly convinced that not only did
her death proceed from poison, but I could also specify the

"Can it be possible?"

"The symptoms are marked, do you see? -- sleep broken by
nervous spasms, excitation of the brain, torpor of the nerve
centres. Madame de Saint-Meran succumbed to a powerful dose
of brucine or of strychnine, which by some mistake, perhaps,
has been given to her." Villefort seized the doctor's hand.
"Oh, it is impossible," said he, "I must be dreaming! It is
frightful to hear such things from such a man as you! Tell
me, I entreat you, my dear doctor, that you may be

"Doubtless I may, but" --


"But I do not think so."

"Have pity on me doctor! So many dreadful things have
happened to me lately that I am on the verge of madness."

"Has any one besides me seen Madame de Saint-Meran?"


"Has anything been sent for from a chemist's that I have not


"Had Madame de Saint-Meran any enemies?"

"Not to my knowledge."

"Would her death affect any one's interest?"

"It could not indeed, my daughter is her only heiress --
Valentine alone. Oh, if such a thought could present itself,
I would stab myself to punish my heart for having for one
instant harbored it."

"Indeed, my dear friend," said M. d'Avrigny, "I would not
accuse any one; I speak only of an accident, you understand,
-- of a mistake, -- but whether accident or mistake, the
fact is there; it is on my conscience and compels me to
speak aloud to you. Make inquiry."

"Of whom? -- how? -- of what?"

"May not Barrois, the old servant, have made a mistake, and
have given Madame de Saint-Meran a dose prepared for his

"For my father?"


"But how could a dose prepared for M. Noirtier poison Madame
de Saint-Meran?"

"Nothing is more simple. You know poisons become remedies in
certain diseases, of which paralysis is one. For instance,
having tried every other remedy to restore movement and
speech to M. Noirtier, I resolved to try one last means, and
for three months I have been giving him brucine; so that in
the last dose I ordered for him there were six grains. This
quantity, which is perfectly safe to administer to the
paralyzed frame of M. Noirtier, which has become gradually
accustomed to it, would be sufficient to kill another

"My dear doctor, there is no communication between M.
Noirtier's apartment and that of Madame de Saint-Meran, and
Barrois never entered my mother-in-law's room. In short,
doctor although I know you to be the most conscientious man
in the world, and although I place the utmost reliance in
you, I want, notwithstanding my conviction, to believe this
axiom, errare humanum est."

"Is there one of my brethren in whom you have equal
confidence with myself?"

"Why do you ask me that? -- what do you wish?"

"Send for him; I will tell him what I have seen, and we will
consult together, and examine the body."

"And you will find traces of poison?"

"No, I did not say of poison, but we can prove what was the
state of the body; we shall discover the cause of her sudden
death, and we shall say, `Dear Villefort, if this thing has
been caused by negligence, watch over your servants; if from
hatred, watch your enemies.'"

"What do you propose to me, d'Avrigny?" said Villefort in
despair; "so soon as another is admitted into our secret, an
inquest will become necessary; and an inquest in my house --
impossible! Still," continued the procureur, looking at the
doctor with uneasiness, "if you wish it -- if you demand it,
why then it shall be done. But, doctor, you see me already
so grieved -- how can I introduce into my house so much
scandal, after so much sorrow? My wife and my daughter would
die of it! And I, doctor -- you know a man does not arrive
at the post I occupy -- one has not been king's attorney
twenty-five years without having amassed a tolerable number
of enemies; mine are numerous. Let this affair be talked of,
it will be a triumph for them, which will make them rejoice,
and cover me with shame. Pardon me, doctor, these worldly
ideas; were you a priest I should not dare tell you that,
but you are a man, and you know mankind. Doctor, pray recall
your words; you have said nothing, have you?"

"My dear M. de Villefort," replied the doctor, "my first
duty is to humanity. I would have saved Madame de
Saint-Meran, if science could have done it; but she is dead
and my duty regards the living. Let us bury this terrible
secret in the deepest recesses of our hearts; I am willing,
if any one should suspect this, that my silence on the
subject should be imputed to my ignorance. Meanwhile, sir,
watch always -- watch carefully, for perhaps the evil may
not stop here. And when you have found the culprit, if you
find him, I will say to you, `You are a magistrate, do as
you will!'"

"I thank you, doctor," said Villefort with indescribable
joy; "I never had a better friend than you." And, as if he
feared Doctor d'Avrigny would recall his promise, he hurried
him towards the house.

When they were gone, Morrel ventured out from under the
trees, and the moon shone upon his face, which was so pale
it might have been taken for that of a ghost. "I am
manifestly protected in a most wonderful, but most terrible
manner," said he; "but Valentine, poor girl, how will she
bear so much sorrow?"

As he thought thus, he looked alternately at the window with
red curtains and the three windows with white curtains. The
light had almost disappeared from the former; doubtless
Madame de Villefort had just put out her lamp, and the
nightlamp alone reflected its dull light on the window. At
the extremity of the building, on the contrary, he saw one
of the three windows open. A wax-light placed on the
mantle-piece threw some of its pale rays without, and a
shadow was seen for one moment on the balcony. Morrel
shuddered; he thought he heard a sob.

It cannot be wondered at that his mind, generally so
courageous, but now disturbed by the two strongest human
passions, love and fear, was weakened even to the indulgence
of superstitious thoughts. Although it was impossible that
Valentine should see him, hidden as he was, he thought he
heard the shadow at the window call him; his disturbed mind
told him so. This double error became an irresistible
reality, and by one of the incomprehensible transports of
youth, he bounded from his hiding-place, and with two
strides, at the risk of being seen, at the risk of alarming
Valentine, at the risk of being discovered by some
exclamation which might escape the young girl, he crossed
the flower-garden, which by the light of the moon resembled
a large white lake, and having passed the rows of
orange-trees which extended in front of the house, he
reached the step, ran quickly up and pushed the door, which
opened without offering any resistance. Valentine had not
seen him. Her eyes, raised towards heaven, were watching a
silvery cloud gliding over the azure, its form that of a
shadow mounting towards heaven. Her poetic and excited mind
pictured it as the soul of her grandmother.

Meanwhile, Morrel had traversed the anteroom and found the
staircase, which, being carpeted, prevented his approach
being heard, and he had regained that degree of confidence
that the presence of M. de Villefort even would not have
alarmed him. He was quite prepared for any such encounter.
He would at once approach Valentine's father and acknowledge
all, begging Villefort to pardon and sanction the love which
united two fond and loving hearts. Morrel was mad. Happily
he did not meet any one. Now, especially, did he find the
description Valentine had given of the interior of the house
useful to him; he arrived safely at the top of the
staircase, and while he was feeling his way, a sob indicated
the direction he was to take. He turned back, a door partly
open enabled him to see his road, and to hear the voice of
one in sorrow. He pushed the door open and entered. At the
other end of the room, under a white sheet which covered it,
lay the corpse, still more alarming to Morrel since the
account he had so unexpectedly overheard. By its side, on
her knees, and with her head buried in the cushion of an
easy-chair, was Valentine, trembling and sobbing, her hands
extended above her head, clasped and stiff. She had turned
from the window, which remained open, and was praying in
accents that would have affected the most unfeeling; her
words were rapid, incoherent, unintelligible, for the
burning weight of grief almost stopped her utterance. The
moon shining through the open blinds made the lamp appear to
burn paler, and cast a sepulchral hue over the whole scene.
Morrel could not resist this; he was not exemplary for
piety, he was not easily impressed, but Valentine suffering,
weeping, wringing her hands before him, was more than he
could bear in silence. He sighed, and whispered a name, and
the head bathed in tears and pressed on the velvet cushion
of the chair -- a head like that of a Magdalen by Correggio
-- was raised and turned towards him. Valentine perceived
him without betraying the least surprise. A heart
overwhelmed with one great grief is insensible to minor
emotions. Morrel held out his hand to her. Valentine, as her
only apology for not having met him, pointed to the corpse
under the sheet, and began to sob again. Neither dared for
some time to speak in that room. They hesitated to break the
silence which death seemed to impose; at length Valentine

"My friend," said she, "how came you here? Alas, I would say
you are welcome, had not death opened the way for you into
this house."

"Valentine," said Morrel with a trembling voice, "I had
waited since half-past eight, and did not see you come; I
became uneasy, leaped the wall, found my way through the
garden, when voices conversing about the fatal event" --

"What voices ?" asked Valentine. Morrel shuddered as he
thought of the conversation of the doctor and M. de
Villefort, and he thought he could see through the sheet the
extended hands, the stiff neck, and the purple lips.

"Your servants," said he, "who were repeating the whole of
the sorrowful story; from them I learned it all."

"But it was risking the failure of our plan to come up here,

"Forgive me," replied Morrel; "I will go away."

"No," said Valentine, "you might meet some one; stay."

"But if any one should come here" --

The young girl shook her head. "No one will come," said she;
"do not fear, there is our safeguard," pointing to the bed.

"But what has become of M. d'Epinay?" replied Morrel.

"M. Franz arrived to sign the contract just as my dear
grandmother was dying."

"Alas," said Morrel with a feeling of selfish joy; for he
thought this death would cause the wedding to be postponed
indefinitely. "But what redoubles my sorrow," continued the
young girl, as if this feeling was to receive its immediate
punishment, "is that the poor old lady, on her death-bed,
requested that the marriage might take place as soon as
possible; she also, thinking to protect me, was acting
against me."

"Hark!" said Morrel. They both listened; steps were
distinctly heard in the corridor and on the stairs.

"It is my father, who has just left his study."

"To accompany the doctor to the door," added Morrel.

"How do you know it is the doctor?" asked Valentine,

"I imagined it must be," said Morrel. Valentine looked at
the young man; they heard the street door close, then M. de
Villefort locked the garden door, and returned up-stairs. He
stopped a moment in the anteroom, as if hesitating whether
to turn to his own apartment or into Madame de
Saint-Meran's; Morrel concealed himself behind a door;
Valentine remained motionless, grief seeming to deprive her
of all fear. M. de Villefort passed on to his own room.
"Now," said Valentine, "you can neither go out by the front
door nor by the garden." Morrel looked at her with
astonishment. "There is but one way left you that is safe,"
said she; "it is through my grandfather's room." She rose,
"Come," she added. -- "Where?" asked Maximilian.

"To my grandfather's room."

"I in M. Noirtier's apartment?"


"Can you mean it, Valentine?"

"I have long wished it; he is my only remaining friend and
we both need his help, -- come."

"Be careful, Valentine," said Morrel, hesitating to comply
with the young girl's wishes; "I now see my error -- I acted
like a madman in coming in here. Are you sure you are more

"Yes," said Valentine; "and I have but one scruple, -- that
of leaving my dear grandmother's remains, which I had
undertaken to watch."

"Valentine," said Morrel, "death is in itself sacred."

"Yes," said Valentine; "besides, it will not be for long."
She then crossed the corridor, and led the way down a narrow
staircase to M. Noirtier's room; Morrel followed her on
tiptoe; at the door they found the old servant. "Barrois,"
said Valentine, "shut the door, and let no one come in." She
passed first. Noirtier, seated in his chair, and listening
to every sound, was watching the door; he saw Valentine, and
his eye brightened. There was something grave and solemn in
the approach of the young girl which struck the old man, and
immediately his bright eye began to interrogate. "Dear
grandfather." said she hurriedly, "you know poor grandmamma
died an hour since, and now I have no friend in the world
but you." His expressive eyes evinced the greatest
tenderness. "To you alone, then, may I confide my sorrows
and my hopes?" The paralytic motioned "Yes." Valentine took
Maximilian's hand. "Look attentively, then, at this
gentleman." The old man fixed his scrutinizing gaze with
slight astonishment on Morrel. "It is M. Maximilian Morrel,"
said she; "the son of that good merchant of Marseilles, whom
you doubtless recollect."

"Yes," said the old man. "He brings an irreproachable name,
which Maximilian is likely to render glorious, since at
thirty years of age he is a captain, an officer of the
Legion of Honor." The old man signified that he recollected
him. "Well, grandpapa," said Valentine, kneeling before him,
and pointing to Maximilian, "I love him, and will be only
his; were I compelled to marry another, I would destroy

The eyes of the paralytic expressed a multitude of
tumultuous thoughts. "You like M. Maximilian Morrel, do you
not, grandpapa?" asked Valentine.


"And you will protect us, who are your children, against the
will of my father?" -- Noirtier cast an intelligent glance
at Morrel, as if to say, "perhaps I may." Maximilian
understood him.

"Mademoiselle," said he, "you have a sacred duty to fulfil
in your deceased grandmother's room, will you allow me the
honor of a few minutes' conversation with M. Noirtier?"

"That is it," said the old man's eye. Then he looked
anxiously at Valentine.

"Do you fear he will not understand?"


"Oh, we have so often spoken of you, that he knows exactly
how I talk to you." Then turning to Maximilian, with an
adorable smile; although shaded by sorrow, -- "He knows
everything I know," said she.

Valentine arose, placed a chair for Morrel, requested
Barrois not to admit any one, and having tenderly embraced
her grandfather, and sorrowfully taken leave of Morrel, she
went away. To prove to Noirtier that he was in Valentine's
confidence and knew all their secrets, Morrel took the
dictionary, a pen, and some paper, and placed them all on a
table where there was a light.

"But first," said Morrel, "allow me, sir, to tell you who I
am, how much I love Mademoiselle Valentine, and what are my
designs respecting her." Noirtier made a sign that he would

It was an imposing sight to witness this old man, apparently
a mere useless burden, becoming the sole protector, support,
and adviser of the lovers who were both young, beautiful,
and strong. His remarkably noble and austere expression
struck Morrel, who began his story with trembling. He
related the manner in which he had become acquainted with
Valentine, and how he had loved her, and that Valentine, in
her solitude and her misfortune, had accepted the offer of
his devotion. He told him his birth, his position, his
fortune, and more than once, when he consulted the look of
the paralytic, that look answered, "That is good, proceed."

"And now," said Morrel, when he had finished the first part
of his recital, "now I have told you of my love and my
hopes, may I inform you of my intentions?"

"Yes," signified the old man.

"This was our resolution; a cabriolet was in waiting at the
gate, in which I intended to carry off Valentine to my
sister's house, to marry her, and to wait respectfully M. de
Villefort's pardon."

"No," said Noirtier.

"We must not do so?"


"You do not sanction our project?"


"There is another way," said Morrel. The old man's
interrogative eye said, "What?"

"I will go," continued Maximilian, "I will seek M. Franz
d'Epinay -- I am happy to be able to mention this in
Mademoiselle de Villefort's absence -- and will conduct
myself toward him so as to compel him to challenge me."
Noirtier's look continued to interrogate. "You wish to know
what I will do?"


"I will find him, as I told you. I will tell him the ties
which bind me to Mademoiselle Valentine; if he be a sensible
man, he will prove it by renouncing of his own accord the
hand of his betrothed, and will secure my friendship, and
love until death; if he refuse, either through interest or
ridiculous pride, after I have proved to him that he would
be forcing my wife from me, that Valentine loves me, and
will have no other, I will fight with him, give him every
advantage, and I shall kill him, or he will kill me; if I am
victorious, he will not marry Valentine, and if I die, I am
very sure Valentine will not marry him." Noirtier watched,
with indescribable pleasure, this noble and sincere
countenance, on which every sentiment his tongue uttered was
depicted, adding by the expression of his fine features all
that coloring adds to a sound and faithful drawing. Still,
when Morrel had finished, he shut his eyes several times,
which was his manner of saying "No."

"No?" said Morrel; "you disapprove of this second project,
as you did of the first?"

"I do," signified the old man.

"But what then must be done?" asked Morrel. "Madame de
Saint-Meran's last request was, that the marriage might not
be delayed; must I let things take their course?" Noirtier
did not move. "I understand," said Morrel; "I am to wait."


"But delay may ruin our plan, sir," replied the young man.
"Alone, Valentine has no power; she will be compelled to
submit. I am here almost miraculously, and can scarcely hope
for so good an opportunity to occur again. Believe me, there
are only the two plans I have proposed to you; forgive my
vanity, and tell me which you prefer. Do you authorize
Mademoiselle Valentine to intrust herself to my honor?"


"Do you prefer I should seek M. d'Epinay?"


"Whence then will come the help we need -- from chance?"
resumed Morrel.


"From you?"


"You thoroughly understand me, sir? Pardon my eagerness, for
my life depends on your answer. Will our help come from


"You are sure of it?"

"Yes." There was so much firmness in the look which gave
this answer, no one could, at any rate, doubt his will, if
they did his power. "Oh, thank you a thousand times! But
how, unless a miracle should restore your speech, your
gesture, your movement, how can you, chained to that
arm-chair, dumb and motionless, oppose this marriage?" A
smile lit up the old man's face, a strange smile of the eyes
in a paralyzed face. "Then I must wait?" asked the young


"But the contract?" The same smile returned. "Will you
assure me it shall not be signed?"

"Yes," said Noirtier.

"The contract shall not be signed!" cried Morrel. "Oh,
pardon me, sir; I can scarcely realize so great a happiness.
Will they not sign it?"

"No," said the paralytic. Notwithstanding that assurance,
Morrel still hesitated. This promise of an impotent old man
was so strange that, instead of being the result of the
power of his will, it might emanate from enfeebled organs.
Is it not natural that the madman, ignorant of his folly,
should attempt things beyond his power? The weak man talks
of burdens he can raise, the timid of giants he can
confront, the poor of treasures he spends, the most humble
peasant, in the height of his pride, calls himself Jupiter.
Whether Noirtier understood the young man's indecision, or
whether he had not full confidence in his docility, he
looked uneasily at him. "What do you wish, sir?" asked
Morrel; "that I should renew my promise of remaining
tranquil?" Noirtier's eye remained fixed and firm, as if to
imply that a promise did not suffice; then it passed from
his face to his hands.

"Shall I swear to you, sir?" asked Maximilian.

"Yes?" said the paralytic with the same solemnity. Morrel
understood that the old man attached great importance to an
oath. He extended his hand.

"I swear to you, on my honor," said he, "to await your
decision respecting the course I am to pursue with M.

"That is right," said the old man.

"Now," said Morrel, "do you wish me to retire?"


"Without seeing Mademoiselle Valentine?"


Morrel made a sign that he was ready to obey. "But," said
he, "first allow me to embrace you as your daughter did just
now." Noirtier's expression could not be understood. The
young man pressed his lips on the same spot, on the old
man's forehead, where Valentine's had been. Then he bowed a
second time and retired. He found outside the door the old
servant, to whom Valentine had given directions. Morrel was
conducted along a dark passage, which led to a little door
opening on the garden, soon found the spot where he had
entered, with the assistance of the shrubs gained the top of
the wall, and by his ladder was in an instant in the
clover-field where his cabriolet was still waiting for him.
He got in it, and thoroughly wearied by so many emotions,
arrived about midnight in the Rue Meslay, threw himself on
his bed and slept soundly.

Chapter 74
The Villefort Family Vault.

Two days after, a considerable crowd was assembled, towards
ten o'clock in the morning, around the door of M. de
Villefort's house, and a long file of mourning-coaches and
private carriages extended along the Faubourg Saint-Honore
and the Rue de la Pepiniere. Among them was one of a very
singular form, which appeared to have come from a distance.
It was a kind of covered wagon, painted black, and was one
of the first to arrive. Inquiry was made, and it was
ascertained that, by a strange coincidence, this carriage
contained the corpse of the Marquis de Saint-Meran, and that
those who had come thinking to attend one funeral would
follow two. Their number was great. The Marquis de
Saint-Meran, one of the most zealous and faithful
dignitaries of Louis XVIII. and King Charles X., had
preserved a great number of friends, and these, added to the
personages whom the usages of society gave Villefort a claim
on, formed a considerable body.

Due information was given to the authorities, and permission
obtained that the two funerals should take place at the same
time. A second hearse, decked with the same funereal pomp,
was brought to M. de Villefort's door, and the coffin
removed into it from the post-wagon. The two bodies were to
be interred in the cemetery of Pere-la-Chaise, where M. de
Villefort had long since had a tomb prepared for the
reception of his family. The remains of poor Renee were
already deposited there, and now, after ten years of
separation, her father and mother were to be reunited with
her. The Parisians, always curious, always affected by
funereal display, looked on with religious silence while the
splendid procession accompanied to their last abode two of
the number of the old aristocracy -- the greatest protectors
of commerce and sincere devotees to their principles. In one
of the mourning-coaches Beauchamp, Debray, and
Chateau-Renaud were talking of the very sudden death of the
marchioness. "I saw Madame de Saint-Meran only last year at
Marseilles, when I was coming back from Algiers," said
Chateau-Renaud; "she looked like a woman destined to live to
be a hundred years old, from her apparent sound health and
great activity of mind and body. How old was she?"

"Franz assured me," replied Albert, "that she was sixty-six
years old. But she has not died of old age, but of grief; it
appears that since the death of the marquis, which affected
her very deeply, she has not completely recovered her

"But of what disease, then, did she die?" asked Debray.

"It is said to have been a congestion of the brain, or
apoplexy, which is the same thing, is it not?"


"It is difficult to believe that it was apoplexy," said
Beauchamp. "Madame de Saint-Meran, whom I once saw, was
short, of slender form, and of a much more nervous than
sanguine temperament; grief could hardly produce apoplexy in
such a constitution as that of Madame de Saint-Meran."

"At any rate," said Albert, "whatever disease or doctor may
have killed her, M. de Villefort, or rather, Mademoiselle
Valentine, -- or, still rather, our friend Franz, inherits a
magnificent fortune, amounting, I believe, to 80,000 livres
per annum."

"And this fortune will be doubled at the death of the old
Jacobin, Noirtier."

"That is a tenacious old grandfather," said Beauchamp.
"Tenacem propositi virum. I think he must have made an
agreement with death to outlive all his heirs, and he
appears likely to succeed. He resembles the old
Conventionalist of '93, who said to Napoleon, in 1814, `You
bend because your empire is a young stem, weakened by rapid
growth. Take the Republic for a tutor; let us return with
renewed strength to the battle-field, and I promise you
500,000 soldiers, another Marengo, and a second Austerlitz.
Ideas do not become extinct, sire; they slumber sometimes,
but only revive the stronger before they sleep entirely.'
Ideas and men appeared the same to him. One thing only
puzzles me, namely, how Franz d'Epinay will like a
grandfather who cannot be separated from his wife. But where
is Franz?"

"In the first carriage, with M. de Villefort, who considers
him already as one of the family."

Such was the conversation in almost all the carriages; these
two sudden deaths, so quickly following each other,
astonished every one, but no one suspected the terrible
secret which M. d'Avrigny had communicated, in his nocturnal
walk to M. de Villefort. They arrived in about an hour at
the cemetery; the weather was mild, but dull, and in harmony
with the funeral ceremony. Among the groups which flocked
towards the family vault, Chateau-Renaud recognized Morrel,
who had come alone in a cabriolet, and walked silently along
the path bordered with yew-trees. "You here?" said
Chateau-Renaud, passing his arms through the young
captain's; "are you a friend of Villefort's? How is it that
I have never met you at his house?"

"I am no acquaintance of M. de Villefort's." answered
Morrel, "but I was of Madame de Saint-Meran." Albert came up
to them at this moment with Franz.

"The time and place are but ill-suited for an introduction."
said Albert; "but we are not superstitious. M. Morrel, allow
me to present to you M. Franz d'Epinay, a delightful
travelling companion, with whom I made the tour of Italy. My
dear Franz, M. Maximilian Morrel, an excellent friend I have
acquired in your absence, and whose name you will hear me
mention every time I make any allusion to affection, wit, or
amiability." Morrel hesitated for a moment; he feared it
would be hypocritical to accost in a friendly manner the man
whom he was tacitly opposing, but his oath and the gravity
of the circumstances recurred to his memory; he struggled to
conceal his emotion and bowed to Franz. "Mademoiselle de
Villefort is in deep sorrow, is she not?" said Debray to

"Extremely," replied he; "she looked so pale this morning, I
scarcely knew her." These apparently simple words pierced
Morrel to the heart. This man had seen Valentine, and spoken
to her! The young and high-spirited officer required all his
strength of mind to resist breaking his oath. He took the
arm of Chateau-Renaud, and turned towards the vault, where
the attendants had already placed the two coffins. "This is
a magnificent habitation," said Beauchamp, looking towards
the mausoleum; "a summer and winter palace. You will, in
turn, enter it, my dear d'Epinay, for you will soon be
numbered as one of the family. I, as a philosopher, should
like a little country-house, a cottage down there under the
trees, without so many free-stones over my poor body. In
dying, I will say to those around me what Voltaire wrote to
Piron: `Eo rus, and all will be over.' But come, Franz, take
courage, your wife is an heiress."

"Indeed, Beauchamp, you are unbearable. Politics has made
you laugh at everything, and political men have made you
disbelieve everything. But when you have the honor of
associating with ordinary men, and the pleasure of leaving
politics for a moment, try to find your affectionate heart,
which you leave with your stick when you go to the Chamber."

"But tell me," said Beauchamp, "what is life? Is it not a
hall in Death's anteroom?"

"I am prejudiced against Beauchamp," said Albert, drawing
Franz away, and leaving the former to finish his
philosophical dissertation with Debray. The Villefort vault
formed a square of white stones, about twenty feet high; an
interior partition separated the two families, and each
apartment had its entrance door. Here were not, as in other
tombs, ignoble drawers, one above another, where thrift
bestows its dead and labels them like specimens in a museum;
all that was visible within the bronze gates was a
gloomy-looking room, separated by a wall from the vault
itself. The two doors before mentioned were in the middle of
this wall, and enclosed the Villefort and Saint-Meran
coffins. There grief might freely expend itself without
being disturbed by the trifling loungers who came from a
picnic party to visit Pere-la-Chaise, or by lovers who make
it their rendezvous.

The two coffins were placed on trestles previously prepared
for their reception in the right-hand crypt belonging to the
Saint-Meran family. Villefort, Franz, and a few near
relatives alone entered the sanctuary.

As the religious ceremonies had all been performed at the
door, and there was no address given, the party all
separated; Chateau-Renaud, Albert, and Morrel, went one way,
and Debray and Beauchamp the other. Franz remained with M.
de Villefort; at the gate of the cemetery Morrel made an
excuse to wait; he saw Franz and M. de Villefort get into
the same mourning coach, and thought this meeting forboded
evil. He then returned to Paris, and although in the same
carriage with Chateau-Renaud and Albert, he did not hear one
word of their conversation. As Franz was about to take leave
of M. de Villefort, "When shall I see you again?" said the

"At what time you please, sir," replied Franz.

"As soon as possible."

"I am at your command, sir; shall we return together?"

"If not unpleasant to you."

"On the contrary, I shall feel much pleasure." Thus, the
future father and son-in-law stepped into the same carriage,
and Morrel, seeing them pass, became uneasy. Villefort and
Franz returned to the Faubourg Saint-Honore. The procureur,
without going to see either his wife or his daughter, went
at once to his study, and, offering the young man a chair,
-- "M. d'Epinay," said he, "allow me to remind you at this
moment, -- which is perhaps not so ill-chosen as at first
sight may appear, for obedience to the wishes of the
departed is the first offering which should be made at their
tomb, -- allow me then to remind you of the wish expressed
by Madame de Saint-Meran on her death-bed, that Valentine's
wedding might not be deferred. You know the affairs of the
deceased are in perfect order, and her will bequeaths to
Valentine the entire property of the Saint-Meran family; the
notary showed me the documents yesterday, which will enable
us to draw up the contract immediately. You may call on the
notary, M. Deschamps, Place Beauveau, Faubourg Saint-Honore,
and you have my authority to inspect those deeds."

"Sir," replied M. d'Epinay, "it is not, perhaps, the moment
for Mademoiselle Valentine, who is in deep distress, to
think of a husband; indeed, I fear" --

"Valentine will have no greater pleasure than that of
fulfilling her grandmother's last injunctions; there will be
no obstacle from that quarter, I assure you."

"In that case," replied Franz, "as I shall raise none, you
may make arrangements when you please; I have pledged my
word, and shall feel pleasure and happiness in adhering to

"Then," said Villefort, "nothing further is required. The
contract was to have been signed three days since; we shall
find it all ready, and can sign it to-day."

"But the mourning?" said Franz, hesitating.

"Don't be uneasy on that score," replied Villefort; "no
ceremony will be neglected in my house. Mademoiselle de
Villefort may retire during the prescribed three months to
her estate of Saint-Meran; I say hers, for she inherits it
to-day. There, after a few days, if you like, the civil
marriage shall be celebrated without pomp or ceremony.
Madame de Saint-Meran wished her daughter should be married
there. When that is over, you, sir, can return to Paris,
while your wife passes the time of her mourning with her

"As you please, sir," said Franz.

"Then," replied M. de Villefort, "have the kindness to wait
half an hour; Valentine shall come down into the
drawing-room. I will send for M. Deschamps; we will read and
sign the contract before we separate, and this evening
Madame de Villefort shall accompany Valentine to her
estate, where we will rejoin them in a week."

"Sir," said Franz, "I have one request to make."

"What is it?"

"I wish Albert de Morcerf and Raoul de Chateau-Renaud to be
present at this signature; you know they are my witnesses."

"Half an hour will suffice to apprise them; will you go for
them yourself, or shall you send?"

"I prefer going, sir."

"I shall expect you, then, in half an hour, baron, and
Valentine will be ready." Franz bowed and left the room.
Scarcely had the door closed, when M. de Villefort sent to
tell Valentine to be ready in the drawing-room in half an
hour, as he expected the notary and M. d'Epinay and his
witnesses. The news caused a great sensation throughout the
house; Madame de Villefort would not believe it, and
Valentine was thunderstruck. She looked around for help, and
would have gone down to her grandfather's room, but on the
stairs she met M. de Villefort, who took her arm and led her
into the drawing-room. In the anteroom, Valentine met
Barrois, and looked despairingly at the old servant. A
moment later, Madame de Villefort entered the drawing-room
with her little Edward. It was evident that she had shared
the grief of the family, for she was pale and looked
fatigued. She sat down, took Edward on her knees, and from
time to time pressed this child, on whom her affections
appeared centred, almost convulsively to her bosom. Two
carriages were soon heard to enter the court yard. One was
the notary's; the other, that of Franz and his friends. In a
moment the whole party was assembled. Valentine was so pale
one might trace the blue veins from her temples, round her
eyes and down her cheeks. Franz was deeply affected.
Chateau-Renaud and Albert looked at each other with
amazement; the ceremony which was just concluded had not
appeared more sorrowful than did that which was about to
begin. Madame de Villefort had placed herself in the shadow
behind a velvet curtain, and as she constantly bent over her
child, it was difficult to read the expression of her face.
M. de Villefort was, as usual, unmoved.

The notary, after having according to the customary method
arranged the papers on the table, taken his place in an
armchair, and raised his spectacles, turned towards Franz:

"Are you M. Franz de Quesnel, baron d'Epinay?" asked he,
although he knew it perfectly.

"Yes, sir," replied Franz. The notary bowed. "I have, then,
to inform you, sir, at the request of M. de Villefort, that
your projected marriage with Mademoiselle de Villefort has
changed the feeling of M. Noirtier towards his grandchild,
and that he disinherits her entirely of the fortune he would
have left her. Let me hasten to add," continued he, "that
the testator, having only the right to alienate a part of
his fortune, and having alienated it all, the will will not
bear scrutiny, and is declared null and void."

"Yes." said Villefort; "but I warn M. d'Epinay, that during
my life-time my father's will shall never be questioned, my
position forbidding any doubt to be entertained."

"Sir," said Franz, "I regret much that such a question has
been raised in the presence of Mademoiselle Valentine; I
have never inquired the amount of her fortune, which,
however limited it may be, exceeds mine. My family has
sought consideration in this alliance with M. de Villefort;
all I seek is happiness." Valentine imperceptibly thanked
him, while two silent tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Besides, sir," said Villefort, addressing himself to his
future son-in-law, "excepting the loss of a portion of your
hopes, this unexpected will need not personally wound you;
M. Noirtier's weakness of mind sufficiently explains it. It
is not because Mademoiselle Valentine is going to marry you
that he is angry, but because she will marry, a union with
any other would have caused him the same sorrow. Old age is
selfish, sir, and Mademoiselle de Villefort has been a
faithful companion to M. Noirtier, which she cannot be when
she becomes the Baroness d'Epinay. My father's melancholy
state prevents our speaking to him on any subjects, which
the weakness of his mind would incapacitate him from
understanding, and I am perfectly convinced that at the
present time, although, he knows that his granddaughter is
going to be married, M. Noirtier has even forgotten the name
of his intended grandson." M. de Villefort had scarcely said
this, when the door opened, and Barrois appeared.

"Gentlemen," said he, in a tone strangely firm for a servant
speaking to his masters under such solemn circumstances, --
"gentlemen, M. Noirtier de Villefort wishes to speak
immediately to M. Franz de Quesnel, baron d'Epinay;" he, as
well as the notary, that there might be no mistake in the
person, gave all his titles to the bride-groom elect.

Villefort started, Madame de Villefort let her son slip from
her knees, Valentine rose, pale and dumb as a statue. Albert
and Chateau-Renaud exchanged a second look, more full of
amazement than the first. The notary looked at Villefort.
"It is impossible," said the procureur. "M. d'Epinay cannot
leave the drawing-room at present."

"It is at this moment," replied Barrois with the same
firmness, "that M. Noirtier, my master, wishes to speak on
important subjects to M. Franz d'Epinay."

"Grandpapa Noirtier can speak now, then," said Edward, with
his habitual quickness. However, his remark did not make
Madame de Villefort even smile, so much was every mind
engaged, and so solemn was the situation. Astonishment was
at its height. Something like a smile was perceptible on
Madame de Villefort's countenance. Valentine instinctively
raised her eyes, as if to thank heaven.

"Pray go, Valentine," said; M. de Villefort, "and see what
this new fancy of your grandfather's is." Valentine rose
quickly, and was hastening joyfully towards the door, when
M. de Villefort altered his intention.

"Stop," said he; "I will go with you."

"Excuse me, sir," said Franz, "since M. Noirtier sent for
me, I am ready to attend to his wish; besides, I shall be
happy to pay my respects to him, not having yet had the
honor of doing so."

"Pray, sir," said Villefort with marked uneasiness, "do not
disturb yourself."

"Forgive me, sir," said Franz in a resolute tone. "I would
not lose this opportunity of proving to M. Noirtier how
wrong it would be of him to encourage feelings of dislike to
me, which I am determined to conquer, whatever they may be,
by my devotion." And without listening to Villefort he
arose, and followed Valentine, who was running down-stairs
with the joy of a shipwrecked mariner who finds a rock to
cling to. M. de Villefort followed them. Chateau-Renaud and
Morcerf exchanged a third look of still increasing wonder.

Chapter 75
A Signed Statement.

Noirtier was prepared to receive them, dressed in black, and
installed in his arm-chair. When the three persons he
expected had entered, he looked at the door, which his valet
immediately closed.

"Listen," whispered Villefort to Valentine, who could not
conceal her joy; "if M. Noirtier wishes to communicate
anything which would delay your marriage, I forbid you to
understand him." Valentine blushed, but did not answer.
Villefort, approaching Noirtier -- "Here is M. Franz
d'Epinay," said he; "you requested to see him. We have all
wished for this interview, and I trust it will convince you
how ill-formed are your objections to Valentine's marriage."

Noirtier answered only by a look which made Villefort's
blood run cold. He motioned to Valentine to approach. In a
moment, thanks to her habit of conversing with her
grandfather, she understood that he asked for a key. Then
his eye was fixed on the drawer of a small chest between the
windows. She opened the drawer, and found a key; and,
understanding that was what he wanted, again watched his
eyes, which turned toward an old secretary which had been
neglected for many years and was supposed to contain nothing
but useless documents. "Shall I open the secretary?" asked

"Yes," said the old man.

"And the drawers?"


"Those at the side?"


"The middle one?"

"Yes." Valentine opened it and drew out a bundle of papers.
"Is that what you wish for?" asked she.


She took successively all the other papers out till the
drawer was empty. "But there are no more," said she.
Noirtier's eye was fixed on the dictionary. "Yes, I
understand, grandfather," said the young girl.

"He pointed to each letter of the alphabet. At the letter S
the old man stopped her. She opened, and found the word

"Ah, is there a secret spring?" said Valentine.

"Yes," said Noirtier.

"And who knows it?" Noirtier looked at the door where the
servant had gone out. "Barrois?" said she.


"Shall I call him?"


Valentine went to the door, and called Barrois. Villefort's
impatience during this scene made the perspiration roll from
his forehead, and Franz was stupefied. The old servant came.
"Barrois," said Valentine, "my grandfather has told me to
open that drawer in the secretary, but there is a secret
spring in it, which you know -- will you open it?"

Barrois looked at the old man. "Obey," said Noirtier's
intelligent eye. Barrois touched a spring, the false bottom
came out, and they saw a bundle of papers tied with a black

"Is that what you wish for?" said Barrois.


"Shall I give these papers to M. de Villefort?"


"To Mademoiselle Valentine?"


"To M. Franz d'Epinay?"


Franz, astonished, advanced a step. "To me, sir?" said he.

"Yes." Franz took them from Barrois and casting a glance at
the cover, read: --

"`To be given, after my death, to General Durand, who shall
bequeath the packet to his son, with an injunction to
preserve it as containing an important document.'

"Well, sir," asked Franz, "what do you wish me to do with
this paper?"

"To preserve it, sealed up as it is, doubtless," said the

"No," replied Noirtier eagerly.

"Do you wish him to read it?" said Valentine.

"Yes," replied the old man. "You understand, baron, my
grandfather wishes you to read this paper," said Valentine.

"Then let us sit down," said Villefort impatiently, "for it
will take some time."

"Sit down," said the old man. Villefort took a chair, but
Valentine remained standing by her father's side, and Franz
before him, holding the mysterious paper in his hand.
"Read," said the old man. Franz untied it, and in the midst
of the most profound silence read:

"`Extract from the Report of a meeting of the Bonapartist
Club in the Rue Saint-Jacques, held February 5th, 1815.'"

Franz stopped. "February 5th, 1815!" said he; "it is the day
my father was murdered." Valentine and Villefort were dumb;
the eye of the old man alone seemed to say clearly, "Go on."

"But it was on leaving this club," said he, "my father
disappeared." Noirtier's eye continued to say, "Read." He
resumed: --

"`The undersigned Louis Jacques Beaurepaire,
lieutenant-colonel of artillery, Etienne Duchampy, general
of brigade, and Claude Lecharpal, keeper of woods and
forests, Declare, that on the 4th of February, a letter
arrived from the Island of Elba, recommending to the
kindness and the confidence of the Bonapartist Club, General
Flavien de Quesnel, who having served the emperor from 1804
to 1814 was supposed to be devoted to the interests of the
Napoleon dynasty, notwithstanding the title of baron which
Louis XVIII. had just granted to him with his estate of

"`A note was in consequence addressed to General de Quesnel,
begging him to be present at the meeting next day, the 5th.
The note indicated neither the street nor the number of the
house where the meeting was to be held; it bore no
signature, but it announced to the general that some one
would call for him if he would be ready at nine o'clock. The
meetings were always held from that time till midnight. At
nine o'clock the president of the club presented himself;
the general was ready, the president informed him that one
of the conditions of his introduction was that he should be
eternally ignorant of the place of meeting, and that he
would allow his eyes to be bandaged, swearing that he would
not endeavor to take off the bandage. General de Quesnel
accepted the condition, and promised on his honor not to
seek to discover the road they took. The general's carriage
was ready, but the president told him it was impossible for
him to use it, since it was useless to blindfold the master
if the coachman knew through what streets he went. "What
must be done then?" asked the general. -- "I have my
carriage here," said the president.

"`"Have you, then, so much confidence in your servant that
you can intrust him with a secret you will not allow me to

"`"Our coachman is a member of the club," said the
president; "we shall be driven by a State-Councillor."

"`"Then we run another risk," said the general, laughing,
"that of being upset." We insert this joke to prove that the
general was not in the least compelled to attend the
meeting, but that he came willingly. When they were seated
in the carriage the president reminded the general of his
promise to allow his eyes to be bandaged, to which he made
no opposition. On the road the president thought he saw the
general make an attempt to remove the handkerchief, and
reminded him of his oath. "Sure enough," said the general.
The carriage stopped at an alley leading out of the Rue
Saint-Jacques. The general alighted, leaning on the arm of
the president, of whose dignity he was not aware,
considering him simply as a member of the club; they went
through the alley, mounted a flight of stairs, and entered
the assembly-room.

"`"The deliberations had already begun. The members,
apprised of the sort of presentation which was to be made
that evening, were all in attendance. When in the middle of
the room the general was invited to remove his bandage, he
did so immediately, and was surprised to see so many
well-known faces in a society of whose existence he had till
then been ignorant. They questioned him as to his
sentiments, but he contented himself with answering, that
the letters from the Island of Elba ought to have informed
them'" --

Franz interrupted himself by saying, "My father was a
royalist; they need not have asked his sentiments, which
were well known."

"And hence," said Villefort, "arose my affection for your
father, my dear M. Franz. Opinions held in common are a
ready bond of union."

"Read again," said the old man. Franz continued: --

"`The president then sought to make him speak more
explicitly, but M. de Quesnel replied that he wished first
to know what they wanted with him. He was then informed of
the contents of the letter from the Island of Elba, in which
he was recommended to the club as a man who would be likely
to advance the interests of their party. One paragraph spoke
of the return of Bonaparte and promised another letter and
further details, on the arrival of the Pharaon belonging to
the shipbuilder Morrel, of Marseilles, whose captain was
entirely devoted to the emperor. During all this time, the
general, on whom they thought to have relied as on a
brother, manifested evidently signs of discontent and
repugnance. When the reading was finished, he remained
silent, with knitted brows.

"`"Well," asked the president, "what do you say to this
letter, general?"

"`"I say that it is too soon after declaring myself for
Louis XVIII. to break my vow in behalf of the ex-emperor."
This answer was too clear to permit of any mistake as to his
sentiments. "General," said the president, "we acknowledge
no King Louis XVIII., or an ex-emperor, but his majesty the
emperor and king, driven from France, which is his kingdom,
by violence and treason."

"`"Excuse me, gentlemen," said the general; "you may not
acknowledge Louis XVIII., but I do, as he has made me a
baron and a field-marshal, and I shall never forget that for
these two titles I am indebted to his happy return to

"`"Sir," said the president, rising with gravity, "be
careful what you say; your words clearly show us that they
are deceived concerning you in the Island of Elba, and have
deceived us! The communication has been made to you in
consequence of the confidence placed in you, and which does
you honor. Now we discover our error; a title and promotion
attach you to the government we wish to overturn. We will
not constrain you to help us; we enroll no one against his
conscience, but we will compel you to act generously, even
if you are not disposed to do so."

"`"You would call acting generously, knowing your conspiracy
and not informing against you, that is what I should call
becoming your accomplice. You see I am more candid than

"Ah, my father!" said Franz, interrupting himself. "I
understand now why they murdered him." Valentine could not
help casting one glance towards the young man, whose filial
enthusiasm it was delightful to behold. Villefort walked to
and fro behind them. Noirtier watched the expression of each
one, and preserved his dignified and commanding attitude.
Franz returned to the manuscript, and continued: --

"`"Sir," said the president, "you have been invited to join
this assembly -- you were not forced here; it was proposed
to you to come blindfolded -- you accepted. When you
complied with this twofold request you well knew we did not
wish to secure the throne of Louis XVIII., or we should not
take so much care to avoid the vigilance of the police. It
would be conceding too much to allow you to put on a mask to
aid you in the discovery of our secret, and then to remove
it that you may ruin those who have confided in you. No, no,
you must first say if you declare yourself for the king of a
day who now reigns, or for his majesty the emperor."

"`"I am a royalist," replied the general; "I have taken the
oath of allegiance to Louis XVIII., and I will adhere to
it." These words were followed by a general murmur, and it
was evident that several of the members were discussing the
propriety of making the general repent of his rashness.

"`The president again arose, and having imposed silence,
said, -- "Sir, you are too serious and too sensible a man
not to understand the consequences of our present situation,
and your candor has already dictated to us the conditions
which remain for us to offer you." The general, putting his
hand on his sword, exclaimed, -- "If you talk of honor, do
not begin by disavowing its laws, and impose nothing by

"`"And you, sir," continued the president, with a calmness
still more terrible than the general's anger, "I advise you
not to touch your sword." The general looked around him with
slight uneasiness; however he did not yield, but calling up
all his fortitude, said, -- "I will not swear."

"`"Then you must die," replied the president calmly. M.
d'Epinay became very pale; he looked round him a second
time, several members of the club were whispering, and
getting their arms from under their cloaks. "General," said
the president, "do not alarm yourself; you are among men of
honor who will use every means to convince you before
resorting to the last extremity, but as you have said, you
are among conspirators, you are in possession of our secret,
and you must restore it to us." A significant silence
followed these words, and as the general did not reply, --
"Close the doors," said the president to the door-keeper.

"`The same deadly silence succeeded these words. Then the
general advanced, and making a violent effort to control his
feelings, -- "I have a son," said he, "and I ought to think
of him, finding myself among assassins."

"`"General," said the chief of the assembly, "one man may
insult fifty -- it is the privilege of weakness. But he does
wrong to use his privilege. Follow my advice, swear, and do
not insult." The general, again daunted by the superiority
of the chief, hesitated a moment; then advancing to the
president's desk, -- "What is the form, said he.

"`"It is this: -- `I swear by my honor not to reveal to any
one what I have seen and heard on the 5th of February, 1815,
between nine and ten o'clock in the evening; and I plead
guilty of death should I ever violate this oath.'" The
general appeared to be affected by a nervous tremor, which
prevented his answering for some moments; then, overcoming
his manifest repugnance, he pronounced the required oath,
but in so low a tone as to be scarcely audible to the
majority of the members, who insisted on his repeating it
clearly and distinctly, which he did.

"`"Now am I at liberty to retire?" said the general. The
president rose, appointed three members to accompany him,
and got into the carriage with the general after bandaging
his eyes. One of those three members was the coachman who
had driven them there. The other members silently dispersed.
"Where do you wish to be taken?" asked the president. --
"Anywhere out of your presence," replied M. d'Epinay.
"Beware, sir," replied the president, "you are no longer in
the assembly, and have only to do with individuals; do not
insult them unless you wish to be held responsible." But
instead of listening, M. d'Epinay went on, -- "You are still
as brave in your carriage as in your assembly because you
are still four against one." The president stopped the
coach. They were at that part of the Quai des Ormes where
the steps lead down to the river. "Why do you stop here?"
asked d'Epinay.

"`"Because, sir," said the president, "you have insulted a
man, and that man will not go one step farther without
demanding honorable reparation."

"`"Another method of assassination?" said the general,
shrugging his shoulders.

"`"Make no noise, sir, unless you wish me to consider you as
one of the men of whom you spoke just now as cowards, who
take their weakness for a shield. You are alone, one alone
shall answer you; you have a sword by your side, I have one
in my cane; you have no witness, one of these gentlemen will
serve you. Now, if you please, remove your bandage." The
general tore the handkerchief from his eyes. "At last," said
he, "I shall know with whom I have to do." They opened the
door and the four men alighted.'"

Franz again interrupted himself, and wiped the cold drops
from his brow; there was something awful in hearing the son
read aloud in trembling pallor these details of his father's
death, which had hitherto been a mystery. Valentine clasped
her hands as if in prayer. Noirtier looked at Villefort with
an almost sublime expression of contempt and pride. Franz
continued: --

"`It was, as we said, the fifth of February. For three days
the mercury had been five or six degrees below freezing and
the steps were covered with ice. The general was stout and
tall, the president offered him the side of the railing to
assist him in getting down. The two witnesses followed. It
was a dark night. The ground from the steps to the river was
covered with snow and hoarfrost, the water of the river
looked black and deep. One of the seconds went for a lantern
in a coal-barge near, and by its light they examined the
weapons. The president's sword, which was simply, as he had
said, one he carried in his cane, was five inches shorter
than the general's, and had no guard. The general proposed
to cast lots for the swords, but the president said it was
he who had given the provocation, and when he had given it
he had supposed each would use his own arms. The witnesses
endeavored to insist, but the president bade them be silent.
The lantern was placed on the ground, the two adversaries
took their stations, and the duel began. The light made the
two swords appear like flashes of lightning; as for the men,
they were scarcely perceptible, the darkness was so great.

"`General d'Epinay passed for one of the best swordsmen in
the army, but he was pressed so closely in the onset that he
missed his aim and fell. The witnesses thought he was dead,
but his adversary, who knew he had not struck him, offered
him the assistance of his hand to rise. The circumstance
irritated instead of calming the general, and he rushed on
his adversary. But his opponent did not allow his guard to
be broken. He received him on his sword and three times the
general drew back on finding himself too closely engaged,
and then returned to the charge. At the third he fell again.
They thought he slipped, as at first, and the witnesses,
seeing he did not move, approached and endeavored to raise
him, but the one who passed his arm around the body found it
was moistened with blood. The general, who had almost
fainted, revived. "Ah," said he, "they have sent some
fencing-master to fight with me." The president, without
answering, approached the witness who held the lantern, and
raising his sleeve, showed him two wounds he had received in
his arm; then opening his coat, and unbuttoning his
waistcoat, displayed his side, pierced with a third wound.
Still he had not even uttered a sigh. General d'Epinay died
five minutes after.'"

Franz read these last words in a voice so choked that they
were hardly audible, and then stopped, passing his hand over
his eyes as if to dispel a cloud; but after a moment's
silence, he continued: --

"`The president went up the steps, after pushing his sword
into his cane; a track of blood on the snow marked his
course. He had scarcely arrived at the top when he heard a
heavy splash in the water -- it was the general's body,
which the witnesses had just thrown into the river after
ascertaining that he was dead. The general fell, then, in a
loyal duel, and not in ambush as it might have been
reported. In proof of this we have signed this paper to
establish the truth of the facts, lest the moment should
arrive when either of the actors in this terrible scene
should be accused of premeditated murder or of infringement
of the laws of honor.

"`Signed, Beaurepaire, Deschamps, and Lecharpal.'"

When Franz had finished reading this account, so dreadful
for a son; when Valentine, pale with emotion, had wiped away
a tear; when Villefort, trembling, and crouched in a corner,
had endeavored to lessen the storm by supplicating glances
at the implacable old man, -- "Sir," said d'Epinay to
Noirtier, "since you are well acquainted with all these
details, which are attested by honorable signatures, --
since you appear to take some interest in me, although you
have only manifested it hitherto by causing me sorrow,
refuse me not one final satisfaction -- tell me the name of
the president of the club, that I may at least know who
killed my father." Villefort mechanically felt for the
handle of the door; Valentine, who understood sooner than
anyone her grandfather's answer, and who had often seen two
scars upon his right arm, drew back a few steps.
"Mademoiselle," said Franz, turning towards Valentine,
"unite your efforts with mine to find out the name of the
man who made me an orphan at two years of age." Valentine
remained dumb and motionless.

"Hold, sir," said Villefort, "do not prolong this dreadful
scene. The names have been purposely concealed; my father
himself does not know who this president was, and if he
knows, he cannot tell you; proper names are not in the

"Oh, misery," cried Franz: "the only hope which sustained me
and enabled me to read to the end was that of knowing, at
least, the name of him who killed my father! Sir, sir,"
cried he, turning to Noirtier, "do what you can -- make me
understand in some way!"

"Yes," replied Noirtier.

"Oh, mademoiselle, -- mademoiselle!" cried Franz, "your
grandfather says he can indicate the person. Help me, --
lend me your assistance!" Noirtier looked at the dictionary.
Franz took it with a nervous trembling, and repeated the
letters of the alphabet successively, until he came to M. At
that letter the old man signified "Yes."

"M," repeated Franz. The young man's finger, glided over the
words, but at each one Noirtier answered by a negative sign.
Valentine hid her head between her hands. At length, Franz
arrived at the word MYSELF.


"You?" cried Franz, whose hair stood on end; "you, M.
Noirtier -- you killed my father?"

"Yes!" replied Noirtier, fixing a majestic look on the young
man. Franz fell powerless on a chair; Villefort opened the
door and escaped, for the idea had entered his mind to
stifle the little remaining life in the heart of this
terrible old man.

Chapter 76
Progress of Cavalcanti the Younger.

Meanwhile M. Cavalcanti the elder had returned to his
service, not in the army of his majesty the Emperor of
Austria, but at the gaming-table of the baths of Lucca, of
which he was one of the most assiduous courtiers. He had
spent every farthing that had been allowed for his journey
as a reward for the majestic and solemn manner in which he
had maintained his assumed character of father. M. Andrea at
his departure inherited all the papers which proved that he
had indeed the honor of being the son of the Marquis
Bartolomeo and the Marchioness Oliva Corsinari. He was now
fairly launched in that Parisian society which gives such
ready access to foreigners, and treats them, not as they
really are, but as they wish to be considered. Besides, what
is required of a young man in Paris? To speak its language
tolerably, to make a good appearance, to be a good gamester,
and to pay in cash. They are certainly less particular with
a foreigner than with a Frenchman. Andrea had, then, in a
fortnight, attained a very fair position. He was called
count, he was said to possess 50,000 livres per annum; and
his father's immense riches, buried in the quarries of
Saravezza, were a constant theme. A learned man, before whom
the last circumstance was mentioned as a fact, declared he
had seen the quarries in question, which gave great weight
to assertions hitherto somewhat doubtful, but which now
assumed the garb of reality.

Such was the state of society in Paris at the period we
bring before our readers, when Monte Cristo went one evening
to pay M. Danglars a visit. M. Danglars was out, but the
count was asked to go and see the baroness, and he accepted
the invitation. It was never without a nervous shudder,
since the dinner at Auteuil, and the events which followed
it, that Madame Danglars heard Monte Cristo's name
announced. If he did not come, the painful sensation became
most intense; if, on the contrary, he appeared, his noble
countenance, his brilliant eyes, his amiability, his polite
attention even towards Madame Danglars, soon dispelled every
impression of fear. It appeared impossible to the baroness
that a man of such delightfully pleasing manners should
entertain evil designs against her; besides, the most
corrupt minds only suspect evil when it would answer some
interested end -- useless injury is repugnant to every mind.
When Monte Cristo entered the boudoir, -- to which we have
already once introduced our readers, and where the baroness
was examining some drawings, which her daughter passed to
her after having looked at them with M. Cavalcanti, -- his
presence soon produced its usual effect, and it was with
smiles that the baroness received the count, although she
had been a little disconcerted at the announcement of his
name. The latter took in the whole scene at a glance.

The baroness was partially reclining on a sofa, Eugenie sat
near her, and Cavalcanti was standing. Cavalcanti, dressed
in black, like one of Goethe's heroes, with varnished shoes
and white silk open-worked stockings, passed a white and
tolerably nice-looking hand through his light hair, and so
displayed a sparkling diamond, that in spite of Monte
Cristo's advice the vain young man had been unable to resist
putting on his little finger. This movement was accompanied
by killing glances at Mademoiselle Danglars, and by sighs
launched in the same direction. Mademoiselle Danglars was
still the same -- cold, beautiful, and satirical. Not one of
these glances, nor one sigh, was lost on her; they might
have been said to fall on the shield of Minerva, which some
philosophers assert protected sometimes the breast of
Sappho. Eugenie bowed coldly to the count, and availed
herself of the first moment when the conversation became
earnest to escape to her study, whence very soon two
cheerful and noisy voices being heard in connection with
occasional notes of the piano assured Monte Cristo that
Mademoiselle Danglars preferred to his society and to that
of M. Cavalcanti the company of Mademoiselle Louise
d'Armilly, her singing teacher.

It was then, especially while conversing with Madame
Danglars, and apparently absorbed by the charm of the

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