Part 3 out of 31
Villefort had, as we have said, hastened back to Madame de
Saint-Meran's in the Place du Grand Cours, and on entering
the house found that the guests whom he had left at table
were taking coffee in the salon. Renee was, with all the
rest of the company, anxiously awaiting him, and his
entrance was followed by a general exclamation.
"Well, Decapitator, Guardian of the State, Royalist, Brutus,
what is the matter?" said one. "Speak out."
"Are we threatened with a fresh Reign of Terror?" asked
"Has the Corsican ogre broken loose?" cried a third.
"Marquise," said Villefort, approaching his future
mother-in-law, "I request your pardon for thus leaving you.
Will the marquis honor me by a few moments' private
"Ah, it is really a serious matter, then?" asked the
marquis, remarking the cloud on Villefort's brow.
"So serious that I must take leave of you for a few days;
so," added he, turning to Renee, "judge for yourself if it
be not important."
"You are going to leave us?" cried Renee, unable to hide her
emotion at this unexpected announcement.
"Alas," returned Villefort, "I must!"
"Where, then, are you going?" asked the marquise.
"That, madame, is an official secret; but if you have any
commissions for Paris, a friend of mine is going there
to-night, and will with pleasure undertake them." The guests
looked at each other.
"You wish to speak to me alone?" said the marquis.
"Yes, let us go to the library, please." The marquis took
his arm, and they left the salon.
"Well," asked he, as soon as they were by themselves, "tell
me what it is?"
"An affair of the greatest importance, that demands my
immediate presence in Paris. Now, excuse the indiscretion,
marquis, but have you any landed property?"
"All my fortune is in the funds; seven or eight hundred
"Then sell out -- sell out, marquis, or you will lose it
"But how can I sell out here?"
"You have a broker, have you not?"
"Then give me a letter to him, and tell him to sell out
without an instant's delay, perhaps even now I shall arrive
"The deuce you say!" replied the marquis, "let us lose no
And, sitting down, he wrote a letter to his broker, ordering
him to sell out at the market price.
"Now, then," said Villefort, placing the letter in his
pocketbook, "I must have another!"
"To the king."
"To the king?"
"I dare not write to his majesty."
"I do not ask you to write to his majesty, but ask M. de
Salvieux to do so. I want a letter that will enable me to
reach the king's presence without all the formalities of
demanding an audience; that would occasion a loss of
"But address yourself to the keeper of the seals; he has the
right of entry at the Tuileries, and can procure you
audience at any hour of the day or night."
"Doubtless; but there is no occasion to divide the honors of
my discovery with him. The keeper would leave me in the
background, and take all the glory to himself. I tell you,
marquis, my fortune is made if I only reach the Tuileries
the first, for the king will not forget the service I do
"In that case go and get ready. I will call Salvieux and
make him write the letter."
"Be as quick as possible, I must be on the road in a quarter
of an hour."
"Tell your coachman to stop at the door."
"You will present my excuses to the marquise and
Mademoiselle Renee, whom I leave on such a day with great
"You will find them both here, and can make your farewells
"A thousand thanks -- and now for the letter."
The marquis rang, a servant entered.
"Say to the Comte de Salvieux that I would like to see him."
"Now, then, go," said the marquis.
"I shall be gone only a few moments."
Villefort hastily quitted the apartment, but reflecting that
the sight of the deputy procureur running through the
streets would be enough to throw the whole city into
confusion, he resumed his ordinary pace. At his door he
perceived a figure in the shadow that seemed to wait for
him. It was Mercedes, who, hearing no news of her lover, had
come unobserved to inquire after him.
As Villefort drew near, she advanced and stood before him.
Dantes had spoken of Mercedes, and Villefort instantly
recognized her. Her beauty and high bearing surprised him,
and when she inquired what had become of her lover, it
seemed to him that she was the judge, and he the accused.
"The young man you speak of," said Villefort abruptly, "is a
great criminal. and I can do nothing for him, mademoiselle."
Mercedes burst into tears, and, as Villefort strove to pass
her, again addressed him.
"But, at least, tell me where he is, that I may know whether
he is alive or dead," said she.
"I do not know; he is no longer in my hands," replied
And desirous of putting an end to the interview, he pushed
by her, and closed the door, as if to exclude the pain he
felt. But remorse is not thus banished; like Virgil's
wounded hero, he carried the arrow in his wound, and,
arrived at the salon, Villefort uttered a sigh that was
almost a sob, and sank into a chair.
Then the first pangs of an unending torture seized upon his
heart. The man he sacrificed to his ambition, that innocent
victim immolated on the altar of his father's faults,
appeared to him pale and threatening, leading his affianced
bride by the hand, and bringing with him remorse, not such
as the ancients figured, furious and terrible, but that slow
and consuming agony whose pangs are intensified from hour to
hour up to the very moment of death. Then he had a moment's
hesitation. He had frequently called for capital punishment
on criminals, and owing to his irresistible eloquence they
had been condemned, and yet the slightest shadow of remorse
had never clouded Villefort's brow, because they were
guilty; at least, he believed so; but here was an innocent
man whose happiness he had destroyed: in this case he was
not the judge, but the executioner.
As he thus reflected, he felt the sensation we have
described, and which had hitherto been unknown to him, arise
in his bosom, and fill him with vague apprehensions. It is
thus that a wounded man trembles instinctively at the
approach of the finger to his wound until it be healed, but
Villefort's was one of those that never close, or if they
do, only close to reopen more agonizing than ever. If at
this moment the sweet voice of Renee had sounded in his ears
pleading for mercy, or the fair Mercedes had entered and
said, "In the name of God, I conjure you to restore me my
affianced husband," his cold and trembling hands would have
signed his release; but no voice broke the stillness of the
chamber, and the door was opened only by Villefort's valet,
who came to tell him that the travelling carriage was in
Villefort rose, or rather sprang, from his chair, hastily
opened one of the drawers of his desk, emptied all the gold
it contained into his pocket, stood motionless an instant,
his hand pressed to his head, muttered a few inarticulate
sounds, and then, perceiving that his servant had placed his
cloak on his shoulders, he sprang into the carriage,
ordering the postilions to drive to M. de Saint-Meran's. The
hapless Dantes was doomed.
As the marquis had promised, Villefort found the marquise
and Renee in waiting. He started when he saw Renee, for he
fancied she was again about to plead for Dantes. Alas, her
emotions were wholly personal: she was thinking only of
She loved Villefort, and he left her at the moment he was
about to become her husband. Villefort knew not when he
should return, and Renee, far from pleading for Dantes,
hated the man whose crime separated her from her lover.
Meanwhile what of Mercedes? She had met Fernand at the
corner of the Rue de la Loge; she had returned to the
Catalans, and had despairingly cast herself on her couch.
Fernand, kneeling by her side, took her hand, and covered it
with kisses that Mercedes did not even feel. She passed the
night thus. The lamp went out for want of oil, but she paid
no heed to the darkness, and dawn came, but she knew not
that it was day. Grief had made her blind to all but one
object -- that was Edmond.
"Ah, you are there," said she, at length, turning towards
"I have not quitted you since yesterday," returned Fernand
M. Morrel had not readily given up the fight. He had learned
that Dantes had been taken to prison, and he had gone to all
his friends, and the influential persons of the city; but
the report was already in circulation that Dantes was
arrested as a Bonapartist agent; and as the most sanguine
looked upon any attempt of Napoleon to remount the throne as
impossible, he met with nothing but refusal, and had
returned home in despair, declaring that the matter was
serious and that nothing more could be done.
Caderousse was equally restless and uneasy, but instead of
seeking, like M. Morrel, to aid Dantes, he had shut himself
up with two bottles of black currant brandy, in the hope of
drowning reflection. But he did not succeed, and became too
intoxicated to fetch any more drink, and yet not so
intoxicated as to forget what had happened. With his elbows
on the table he sat between the two empty bottles, while
spectres danced in the light of the unsnuffed candle --
spectres such as Hoffmann strews over his punch-drenched
pages, like black, fantastic dust.
Danglars alone was content and joyous -- he had got rid of
an enemy and made his own situation on the Pharaon secure.
Danglars was one of those men born with a pen behind the
ear, and an inkstand in place of a heart. Everything with
him was multiplication or subtraction. The life of a man was
to him of far less value than a numeral, especially when, by
taking it away, he could increase the sum total of his own
desires. He went to bed at his usual hour, and slept in
Villefort, after having received M. de Salvieux' letter,
embraced Renee, kissed the marquise's hand, and shaken that
of the marquis, started for Paris along the Aix road.
Old Dantes was dying with anxiety to know what had become of
Edmond. But we know very well what had become of Edmond.
The King's Closet at the Tuileries.
We will leave Villefort on the road to Paris, travelling --
thanks to trebled fees -- with all speed, and passing
through two or three apartments, enter at the Tuileries the
little room with the arched window, so well known as having
been the favorite closet of Napoleon and Louis XVIII., and
now of Louis Philippe.
There, seated before a walnut table he had brought with him
from Hartwell, and to which, from one of those fancies not
uncommon to great people, he was particularly attached, the
king, Louis XVIII., was carelessly listening to a man of
fifty or fifty-two years of age, with gray hair,
aristocratic bearing, and exceedingly gentlemanly attire,
and meanwhile making a marginal note in a volume of
Gryphius's rather inaccurate, but much sought-after, edition
of Horace -- a work which was much indebted to the sagacious
observations of the philosophical monarch.
"You say, sir" -- said the king.
"That I am exceedingly disquieted, sire."
"Really, have you had a vision of the seven fat kine and the
seven lean kine?"
"No, sire, for that would only betoken for us seven years of
plenty and seven years of scarcity; and with a king as full
of foresight as your majesty, scarcity is not a thing to be
"Then of what other scourge are you afraid, my dear Blacas?"
"Sire, I have every reason to believe that a storm is
brewing in the south."
"Well, my dear duke," replied Louis XVIII., "I think you are
wrongly informed, and know positively that, on the contrary,
it is very fine weather in that direction." Man of ability
as he was, Louis XVIII. liked a pleasant jest.
"Sire," continued M. de Blacas, "if it only be to reassure a
faithful servant, will your majesty send into Languedoc,
Provence, and Dauphine, trusty men, who will bring you back
a faithful report as to the feeling in these three
"Caninus surdis," replied the king, continuing the
annotations in his Horace.
"Sire," replied the courtier, laughing, in order that he
might seem to comprehend the quotation, "your majesty may be
perfectly right in relying on the good feeling of France,
but I fear I am not altogether wrong in dreading some
"By Bonaparte, or, at least, by his adherents."
"My dear Blacas," said the king, "you with your alarms
prevent me from working."
"And you, sire, prevent me from sleeping with your
"Wait, my dear sir, wait a moment; for I have such a
delightful note on the Pastor quum traheret -- wait, and I
will listen to you afterwards."
There was a brief pause, during which Louis XVIII. wrote, in
a hand as small as possible, another note on the margin of
his Horace, and then looking at the duke with the air of a
man who thinks he has an idea of his own, while he is only
commenting upon the idea of another, said, --
"Go on, my dear duke, go on -- I listen."
"Sire," said Blacas, who had for a moment the hope of
sacrificing Villefort to his own profit, "I am compelled to
tell you that these are not mere rumors destitute of
foundation which thus disquiet me; but a serious-minded man,
deserving all my confidence, and charged by me to watch over
the south" (the duke hesitated as he pronounced these
words), "has arrived by post to tell me that a great peril
threatens the king, and so I hastened to you, sire."
"Mala ducis avi domum," continued Louis XVIII., still
"Does your majesty wish me to drop the subject?"
"By no means, my dear duke; but just stretch out your hand."
"Whichever you please -- there to the left."
"I tell you to the left, and you are looking to the right; I
mean on my left -- yes, there. You will find yesterday's
report of the minister of police. But here is M. Dandre
himself;" and M. Dandre, announced by the
"Come in," said Louis XVIII., with repressed smile, "come
in, Baron, and tell the duke all you know -- the latest news
of M. de Bonaparte; do not conceal anything, however
serious, -- let us see, the Island of Elba is a volcano, and
we may expect to have issuing thence flaming and bristling
war -- bella, horrida bella." M. Dandre leaned very
respectfully on the back of a chair with his two hands, and
"Has your majesty perused yesterday's report?"
"Yes, yes; but tell the duke himself, who cannot find
anything, what the report contains -- give him the
particulars of what the usurper is doing in his islet."
"Monsieur," said the baron to the duke, "all the servants of
his majesty must approve of the latest intelligence which we
have from the Island of Elba. Bonaparte" -- M. Dandre looked
at Louis XVIII., who, employed in writing a note, did not
even raise his head. "Bonaparte," continued the baron, "is
mortally wearied, and passes whole days in watching his
miners at work at Porto-Longone."
"And scratches himself for amusement," added the king.
"Scratches himself?" inquired the duke, "what does your
"Yes, indeed, my dear duke. Did you forget that this great
man, this hero, this demigod, is attacked with a malady of
the skin which worries him to death, prurigo?"
"And, moreover, my dear duke," continued the minister of
police, "we are almost assured that, in a very short time,
the usurper will be insane."
"Raving mad; his head becomes weaker. Sometimes he weeps
bitterly, sometimes laughs boisterously, at other time he
passes hours on the seashore, flinging stones in the water
and when the flint makes `duck-and-drake' five or six times,
he appears as delighted as if he had gained another Marengo
or Austerlitz. Now, you must agree that these are
indubitable symptoms of insanity."
"Or of wisdom, my dear baron -- or of wisdom," said Louis
XVIII., laughing; "the greatest captains of antiquity amused
themselves by casting pebbles into the ocean -- see
Plutarch's life of Scipio Africanus."
M. de Blacas pondered deeply between the confident monarch
and the truthful minister. Villefort, who did not choose to
reveal the whole secret, lest another should reap all the
benefit of the disclosure, had yet communicated enough to
cause him the greatest uneasiness.
"Well, well, Dandre," said Louis XVIII., "Blacas is not yet
convinced; let us proceed, therefore, to the usurper's
conversion." The minister of police bowed.
"The usurper's conversion!" murmured the duke, looking at
the king and Dandre, who spoke alternately, like Virgil's
shepherds. "The usurper converted!"
"Decidedly, my dear duke."
"In what way converted?"
"To good principles. Tell him all about it, baron."
"Why, this is the way of it," said the minister, with the
gravest air in the world: "Napoleon lately had a review, and
as two or three of his old veterans expressed a desire to
return to France, he gave them their dismissal, and exhorted
them to `serve the good king.' These were his own words, of
that I am certain."
"Well, Blacas, what think you of this?" inquired the king
triumphantly, and pausing for a moment from the voluminous
scholiast before him.
"I say, sire, that the minister of police is greatly
deceived or I am; and as it is impossible it can be the
minister of police as he has the guardianship of the safety
and honor of your majesty, it is probable that I am in
error. However, sire, if I might advise, your majesty will
interrogate the person of whom I spoke to you, and I will
urge your majesty to do him this honor."
"Most willingly, duke; under your auspices I will receive
any person you please, but you must not expect me to be too
confiding. Baron, have you any report more recent than this
dated the 20th February. -- this is the 4th of March?"
"No, sire, but I am hourly expecting one; it may have
arrived since I left my office."
"Go thither, and if there be none -- well, well," continued
Louis XVIII., "make one; that is the usual way, is it not?"
and the king laughed facetiously.
"Oh, sire," replied the minister, "we have no occasion to
invent any; every day our desks are loaded with most
circumstantial denunciations, coming from hosts of people
who hope for some return for services which they seek to
render, but cannot; they trust to fortune, and rely upon
some unexpected event in some way to justify their
"Well, sir, go"; said Louis XVIII., "and remember that I am
waiting for you."
"I will but go and return, sire; I shall be back in ten
"And I, sire," said M. de Blacas, "will go and find my
"Wait, sir, wait," said Louis XVIII. "Really, M. de Blacas,
I must change your armorial bearings; I will give you an
eagle with outstretched wings, holding in its claws a prey
which tries in vain to escape, and bearing this device --
"Sire, I listen," said De Blacas, biting his nails with
"I wish to consult you on this passage, `Molli fugiens
anhelitu,' you know it refers to a stag flying from a wolf.
Are you not a sportsman and a great wolf-hunter? Well, then,
what do you think of the molli anhelitu?"
"Admirable, sire; but my messenger is like the stag you
refer to, for he has posted two hundred and twenty leagues
in scarcely three days."
"Which is undergoing great fatigue and anxiety, my dear
duke, when we have a telegraph which transmits messages in
three or four hours, and that without getting in the least
out of breath."
"Ah, sire, you recompense but badly this poor young man, who
has come so far, and with so much ardor, to give your
majesty useful information. If only for the sake of M. de
Salvieux, who recommends him to me, I entreat your majesty
to receive him graciously."
"M. de Salvieux, my brother's chamberlain?"
"He is at Marseilles."
"And writes me thence."
"Does he speak to you of this conspiracy?"
"No; but strongly recommends M. de Villefort, and begs me to
present him to your majesty."
"M. de Villefort!" cried the king, "is the messenger's name
M. de Villefort?"
"And he comes from Marseilles?"
"Why did you not mention his name at once?" replied the
king, betraying some uneasiness.
"Sire, I thought his name was unknown to your majesty."
"No, no, Blacas; he is a man of strong and elevated
understanding, ambitious, too, and, pardieu, you know his
"Noirtier the Girondin? -- Noirtier the senator?"
"And your majesty has employed the son of such a man?"
"Blacas, my friend, you have but limited comprehension. I
told you Villefort was ambitious, and to attain this
ambition Villefort would sacrifice everything, even his
"Then, sire, may I present him?"
"This instant, duke! Where is he?"
"Waiting below, in my carriage."
"Seek him at once."
"I hasten to do so." The duke left the royal presence with
the speed of a young man; his really sincere royalism made
him youthful again. Louis XVIII. remained alone, and turning
his eyes on his half-opened Horace, muttered, --
"Justum et tenacem propositi virum."
M. de Blacas returned as speedily as he had departed, but in
the ante-chamber he was forced to appeal to the king's
authority. Villefort's dusty garb, his costume, which was
not of courtly cut, excited the susceptibility of M. de
Breze, who was all astonishment at finding that this young
man had the audacity to enter before the king in such
attire. The duke, however, overcame all difficulties with a
word -- his majesty's order; and, in spite of the
protestations which the master of ceremonies made for the
honor of his office and principles, Villefort was
The king was seated in the same place where the duke had
left him. On opening the door, Villefort found himself
facing him, and the young magistrate's first impulse was to
"Come in, M. de Villefort," said the king, "come in."
Villefort bowed, and advancing a few steps, waited until the
king should interrogate him.
"M. de Villefort," said Louis XVIII., "the Duc de Blacas
assures me you have some interesting information to
"Sire, the duke is right, and I believe your majesty will
think it equally important."
"In the first place, and before everything else, sir, is the
news as bad in your opinion as I am asked to believe?"
"Sire, I believe it to be most urgent, but I hope, by the
speed I have used, that it is not irreparable."
"Speak as fully as you please, sir," said the king, who
began to give way to the emotion which had showed itself in
Blacas's face and affected Villefort's voice. "Speak, sir,
and pray begin at the beginning; I like order in
"Sire," said Villefort, "I will render a faithful report to
your majesty, but I must entreat your forgiveness if my
anxiety leads to some obscurity in my language." A glance at
the king after this discreet and subtle exordium, assured
Villefort of the benignity of his august auditor, and he
went on: --
"Sire, I have come as rapidly to Paris as possible, to
inform your majesty that I have discovered, in the exercise
of my duties, not a commonplace and insignificant plot, such
as is every day got up in the lower ranks of the people and
in the army, but an actual conspiracy -- a storm which
menaces no less than your majesty's throne. Sire, the
usurper is arming three ships, he meditates some project,
which, however mad, is yet, perhaps, terrible. At this
moment he will have left Elba, to go whither I know not, but
assuredly to attempt a landing either at Naples, or on the
coast of Tuscany, or perhaps on the shores of France. Your
majesty is well aware that the sovereign of the Island of
Elba has maintained his relations with Italy and France?"
"I am, sir," said the king, much agitated; "and recently we
have had information that the Bonapartist clubs have had
meetings in the Rue Saint-Jacques. But proceed, I beg of
you. How did you obtain these details?"
"Sire, they are the results of an examination which I have
made of a man of Marseilles, whom I have watched for some
time, and arrested on the day of my departure. This person,
a sailor, of turbulent character, and whom I suspected of
Bonapartism, has been secretly to the Island of Elba. There
he saw the grand-marshal, who charged him with an oral
message to a Bonapartist in Paris, whose name I could not
extract from him; but this mission was to prepare men's
minds for a return (it is the man who says this, sire) -- a
return which will soon occur."
"And where is this man?"
"In prison, sire."
"And the matter seems serious to you?"
"So serious, sire, that when the circumstance surprised me
in the midst of a family festival, on the very day of my
betrothal, I left my bride and friends, postponing
everything, that I might hasten to lay at your majesty's
feet the fears which impressed me, and the assurance of my
"True," said Louis XVIII., "was there not a marriage
engagement between you and Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran?"
"Daughter of one of your majesty's most faithful servants."
"Yes, yes; but let us talk of this plot, M. de Villefort."
"Sire, I fear it is more than a plot; I fear it is a
"A conspiracy in these times," said Louis XVIII., smiling,
"is a thing very easy to meditate, but more difficult to
conduct to an end, inasmuch as, re-established so recently
on the throne of our ancestors, we have our eyes open at
once upon the past, the present, and the future. For the
last ten months my ministers have redoubled their vigilance,
in order to watch the shore of the Mediterranean. If
Bonaparte landed at Naples, the whole coalition would be on
foot before he could even reach Piomoino; if he land in
Tuscany, he will be in an unfriendly territory; if he land
in France, it must be with a handful of men, and the result
of that is easily foretold, execrated as he is by the
population. Take courage, sir; but at the same time rely on
our royal gratitude."
"Ah, here is M. Dandre!" cried de Blacas. At this instant
the minister of police appeared at the door, pale,
trembling, and as if ready to faint. Villefort was about to
retire, but M. de Blacas, taking his hand, restrained him.
The Corsican Ogre.
At the sight of this agitation Louis XVIII. pushed from him
violently the table at which he was sitting.
"What ails you, baron?" he exclaimed. "You appear quite
aghast. Has your uneasiness anything to do with what M. de
Blacas has told me, and M. de Villefort has just confirmed?"
M. de Blacas moved suddenly towards the baron, but the
fright of the courtier pleaded for the forbearance of the
statesman; and besides, as matters were, it was much more to
his advantage that the prefect of police should triumph over
him than that he should humiliate the prefect.
"Sire" -- stammered the baron.
"Well, what is it?" asked Louis XVIII. The minister of
police, giving way to an impulse of despair, was about to
throw himself at the feet of Louis XVIII., who retreated a
step and frowned.
"Will you speak?" he said.
"Oh, sire, what a dreadful misfortune! I am, indeed, to be
pitied. I can never forgive myself!"
"Monsieur," said Louis XVIII., "I command you to speak."
"Well, sire, the usurper left Elba on the 26th February, and
landed on the 1st of March."
"And where? In Italy?" asked the king eagerly.
"In France, sire, -- at a small port, near Antibes, in the
Gulf of Juan."
"The usurper landed in France, near Antibes, in the Gulf of
Juan, two hundred and fifty leagues from Paris, on the 1st
of March, and you only acquired this information to-day, the
4th of March! Well, sir, what you tell me is impossible. You
must have received a false report, or you have gone mad."
"Alas, sire, it is but too true!" Louis made a gesture of
indescribable anger and alarm, and then drew himself up as
if this sudden blow had struck him at the same moment in
heart and countenance.
"In France!" he cried, "the usurper in France! Then they did
not watch over this man. Who knows? they were, perhaps, in
league with him."
"Oh, sire," exclaimed the Duc de Blacas, "M. Dandre is not a
man to be accused of treason! Sire, we have all been blind,
and the minister of police has shared the general blindness,
that is all."
"But" -- said Villefort, and then suddenly checking himself,
he was silent; then he continued, "Your pardon, sire," he
said, bowing, "my zeal carried me away. Will your majesty
deign to excuse me?"
"Speak, sir, speak boldly," replied Louis. "You alone
forewarned us of the evil; now try and aid us with the
"Sire," said Villefort, "the usurper is detested in the
south; and it seems to me that if he ventured into the
south, it would be easy to raise Languedoc and Provence
"Yes, assuredly," replied the minister; "but he is advancing
by Gap and Sisteron."
"Advancing -- he is advancing!" said Louis XVIII. "Is he
then advancing on Paris?" The minister of police maintained
a silence which was equivalent to a complete avowal.
"And Dauphine, sir?" inquired the king, of Villefort. "Do
you think it possible to rouse that as well as Provence?"
"Sire, I am sorry to tell your majesty a cruel fact; but the
feeling in Dauphine is quite the reverse of that in Provence
or Languedoc. The mountaineers are Bonapartists, sire."
"Then," murmured Louis, "he was well informed. And how many
men had he with him?"
"I do not know, sire," answered the minister of police.
"What, you do not know! Have you neglected to obtain
information on that point? Of course it is of no
consequence," he added, with a withering smile.
"Sire, it was impossible to learn; the despatch simply
stated the fact of the landing and the route taken by the
"And how did this despatch reach you?" inquired the king.
The minister bowed his head, and while a deep color
overspread his cheeks, he stammered out, --
"By the telegraph, sire." -- Louis XVIII. advanced a step,
and folded his arms over his chest as Napoleon would have
"So then," he exclaimed, turning pale with anger, "seven
conjoined and allied armies overthrew that man. A miracle of
heaven replaced me on the throne of my fathers after
five-and-twenty years of exile. I have, during those
five-and-twenty years, spared no pains to understand the
people of France and the interests which were confided to
me; and now, when I see the fruition of my wishes almost
within reach, the power I hold in my hands bursts, and
shatters me to atoms!"
"Sire, it is fatality!" murmured the minister, feeling that
the pressure of circumstances, however light a thing to
destiny, was too much for any human strength to endure.
"What our enemies say of us is then true. We have learnt
nothing, forgotten nothing! If I were betrayed as he was, I
would console myself; but to be in the midst of persons
elevated by myself to places of honor, who ought to watch
over me more carefully than over themselves, -- for my
fortune is theirs -- before me they were nothing -- after me
they will be nothing, and perish miserably from incapacity
-- ineptitude! Oh, yes, sir, you are right -- it is
The minister quailed before this outburst of sarcasm. M. de
Blacas wiped the moisture from his brow. Villefort smiled
within himself, for he felt his increased importance.
"To fall," continued King Louis, who at the first glance had
sounded the abyss on which the monarchy hung suspended, --
"to fall, and learn of that fall by telegraph! Oh, I would
rather mount the scaffold of my brother, Louis XVI., than
thus descend the staircase at the Tuileries driven away by
ridicule. Ridicule, sir -- why, you know not its power in
France, and yet you ought to know it!"
"Sire, sire," murmured the minister, "for pity's" --
"Approach, M. de Villefort," resumed the king, addressing
the young man, who, motionless and breathless, was listening
to a conversation on which depended the destiny of a
kingdom. "Approach, and tell monsieur that it is possible to
know beforehand all that he has not known."
"Sire, it was really impossible to learn secrets which that
man concealed from all the world."
"Really impossible! Yes -- that is a great word, sir.
Unfortunately, there are great words, as there are great
men; I have measured them. Really impossible for a minister
who has an office, agents, spies, and fifteen hundred
thousand francs for secret service money, to know what is
going on at sixty leagues from the coast of France! Well,
then, see, here is a gentleman who had none of these
resources at his disposal -- a gentleman, only a simple
magistrate, who learned more than you with all your police,
and who would have saved my crown, if, like you, he had the
power of directing a telegraph." The look of the minister of
police was turned with concentrated spite on Villefort, who
bent his head in modest triumph.
"I do not mean that for you, Blacas," continued Louis
XVIII.; "for if you have discovered nothing, at least you
have had the good sense to persevere in your suspicions. Any
other than yourself would have considered the disclosure of
M. de Villefort insignificant, or else dictated by venal
ambition," These words were an allusion to the sentiments
which the minister of police had uttered with so much
confidence an hour before.
Villefort understood the king's intent. Any other person
would, perhaps, have been overcome by such an intoxicating
draught of praise; but he feared to make for himself a
mortal enemy of the police minister, although he saw that
Dandre was irrevocably lost. In fact, the minister, who, in
the plenitude of his power, had been unable to unearth
Napoleon's secret, might in despair at his own downfall
interrogate Dantes and so lay bare the motives of
Villefort's plot. Realizing this, Villefort came to the
rescue of the crest-fallen minister, instead of aiding to
"Sire," said Villefort, "the suddenness of this event must
prove to your majesty that the issue is in the hands of
Providence; what your majesty is pleased to attribute to me
as profound perspicacity is simply owing to chance, and I
have profited by that chance, like a good and devoted
servant -- that's all. Do not attribute to me more than I
deserve, sire, that your majesty may never have occasion to
recall the first opinion you have been pleased to form of
me." The minister of police thanked the young man by an
eloquent look, and Villefort understood that he had
succeeded in his design; that is to say, that without
forfeiting the gratitude of the king, he had made a friend
of one on whom, in case of necessity, he might rely.
"'Tis well," resumed the king. "And now, gentlemen," he
continued, turning towards M. de Blacas and the minister of
police, "I have no further occasion for you, and you may
retire; what now remains to do is in the department of the
minister of war."
"Fortunately, sire," said M. de Blacas, "we can rely on the
army; your majesty knows how every report confirms their
loyalty and attachment."
"Do not mention reports, duke, to me, for I know now what
confidence to place in them. Yet, speaking of reports,
baron, what have you learned with regard to the affair in
the Rue Saint-Jacques?"
"The affair in the Rue Saint-Jacques!" exclaimed Villefort,
unable to repress an exclamation. Then, suddenly pausing, he
added, "Your pardon, sire, but my devotion to your majesty
has made me forget, not the respect I have, for that is too
deeply engraved in my heart, but the rules of etiquette."
"Go on, go on, sir," replied the king; "you have to-day
earned the right to make inquiries here."
"Sire," interposed the minister of police, "I came a moment
ago to give your majesty fresh information which I had
obtained on this head, when your majesty's attention was
attracted by the terrible event that has occurred in the
gulf, and now these facts will cease to interest your
"On the contrary, sir, -- on the contrary," said Louis
XVIII., "this affair seems to me to have a decided
connection with that which occupies our attention, and the
death of General Quesnel will, perhaps, put us on the direct
track of a great internal conspiracy." At the name of
General Quesnel, Villefort trembled.
"Everything points to the conclusion, sire," said the
minister of police, "that death was not the result of
suicide, as we first believed, but of assassination. General
Quesnel, it appears, had just left a Bonapartist club when
he disappeared. An unknown person had been with him that
morning, and made an appointment with him in the Rue
Saint-Jacques; unfortunately, the general's valet, who was
dressing his hair at the moment when the stranger entered,
heard the street mentioned, but did not catch the number."
As the police minister related this to the king, Villefort,
who looked as if his very life hung on the speaker's lips,
turned alternately red and pale. The king looked towards
"Do you not think with me, M. de Villefort, that General
Quesnel, whom they believed attached to the usurper, but who
was really entirely devoted to me, has perished the victim
of a Bonapartist ambush?"
"It is probable, sire," replied Villefort. "But is this all
that is known?"
"They are on the track of the man who appointed the meeting
"On his track?" said Villefort.
"Yes, the servant has given his description. He is a man of
from fifty to fifty-two years of age, dark, with black eyes
covered with shaggy eyebrows, and a thick mustache. He was
dressed in a blue frock-coat, buttoned up to the chin, and
wore at his button-hole the rosette of an officer of the
Legion of Honor. Yesterday a person exactly corresponding
with this description was followed, but he was lost sight of
at the corner of the Rue de la Jussienne and the Rue
Coq-Heron." Villefort leaned on the back of an arm-chair,
for as the minister of police went on speaking he felt his
legs bend under him; but when he learned that the unknown
had escaped the vigilance of the agent who followed him, he
"Continue to seek for this man, sir," said the king to the
minister of police; "for if, as I am all but convinced,
General Quesnel, who would have been so useful to us at this
moment, has been murdered, his assassins, Bonapartists or
not, shall be cruelly punished." It required all Villefort's
coolness not to betray the terror with which this
declaration of the king inspired him.
"How strange," continued the king, with some asperity; "the
police think that they have disposed of the whole matter
when they say, `A murder has been committed,' and especially
so when they can add, `And we are on the track of the guilty
"Sire, your majesty will, I trust, be amply satisfied on
this point at least."
"We shall see. I will no longer detain you, M. de Villefort,
for you must be fatigued after so long a journey; go and
rest. Of course you stopped at your father's?" A feeling of
faintness came over Villefort.
"No, sire," he replied, "I alighted at the Hotel de Madrid,
in the Rue de Tournon."
"But you have seen him?"
"Sire, I went straight to the Duc de Blacas."
"But you will see him, then?"
"I think not, sire."
"Ah, I forgot," said Louis, smiling in a manner which proved
that all these questions were not made without a motive; "I
forgot you and M. Noirtier are not on the best terms
possible, and that is another sacrifice made to the royal
cause, and for which you should be recompensed."
"Sire, the kindness your majesty deigns to evince towards me
is a recompense which so far surpasses my utmost ambition
that I have nothing more to ask for."
"Never mind, sir, we will not forget you; make your mind
easy. In the meanwhile" (the king here detached the cross of
the Legion of Honor which he usually wore over his blue
coat, near the cross of St. Louis, above the order of
Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel and St. Lazare, and gave it to
Villefort) -- "in the meanwhile take this cross."
"Sire," said Villefort, "your majesty mistakes; this is an
"Ma foi," said Louis XVIII., "take it, such as it is, for I
have not the time to procure you another. Blacas, let it be
your care to see that the brevet is made out and sent to M.
de Villefort." Villefort's eyes were filled with tears of
joy and pride; he took the cross and kissed it.
"And now," he said, "may I inquire what are the orders with
which your majesty deigns to honor me?"
"Take what rest you require, and remember that if you are
not able to serve me here in Paris, you may be of the
greatest service to me at Marseilles."
"Sire," replied Villefort, bowing, "in an hour I shall have
"Go, sir," said the king; "and should I forget you (kings'
memories are short), do not be afraid to bring yourself to
my recollection. Baron, send for the minister of war.
"Ah, sir," said the minister of police to Villefort, as they
left the Tuileries, "you entered by luck's door -- your
fortune is made."
"Will it be long first?" muttered Villefort, saluting the
minister, whose career was ended, and looking about him for
a hackney-coach. One passed at the moment, which he hailed;
he gave his address to the driver, and springing in, threw
himself on the seat, and gave loose to dreams of ambition.
Ten minutes afterwards Villefort reached his hotel, ordered
horses to be ready in two hours, and asked to have his
breakfast brought to him. He was about to begin his repast
when the sound of the bell rang sharp and loud. The valet
opened the door, and Villefort heard some one speak his
"Who could know that I was here already?" said the young
man. The valet entered.
"Well," said Villefort, "what is it? -- Who rang? -- Who
asked for me?"
"A stranger who will not send in his name."
"A stranger who will not send in his name! What can he want
"He wishes to speak to you."
"Did he mention my name?"
"What sort of person is he?"
"Why, sir, a man of about fifty."
"Short or tall?"
"About your own height, sir."
"Dark or fair?"
"Dark, -- very dark; with black eyes, black hair, black
"And how dressed?" asked Villefort quickly.
"In a blue frock-coat, buttoned up close, decorated with the
Legion of Honor."
"It is he!" said Villefort, turning pale.
"Eh, pardieu," said the individual whose description we have
twice given, entering the door, "what a great deal of
ceremony! Is it the custom in Marseilles for sons to keep
their fathers waiting in their anterooms?"
"Father!" cried Villefort, "then I was not deceived; I felt
sure it must be you."
"Well, then, if you felt so sure," replied the new-comer,
putting his cane in a corner and his hat on a chair, "allow
me to say, my dear Gerard, that it was not very filial of
you to keep me waiting at the door."
"Leave us, Germain," said Villefort. The servant quitted the
apartment with evident signs of astonishment.
Father and Son.
M. Noirtier -- for it was, indeed, he who entered -- looked
after the servant until the door was closed, and then,
fearing, no doubt, that he might be overheard in the
ante-chamber, he opened the door again, nor was the
precaution useless, as appeared from the rapid retreat of
Germain, who proved that he was not exempt from the sin
which ruined our first parents. M. Noirtier then took the
trouble to close and bolt the ante-chamber door, then that
of the bed-chamber, and then extended his hand to Villefort,
who had followed all his motions with surprise which he
could not conceal.
"Well, now, my dear Gerard," said he to the young man, with
a very significant look, "do you know, you seem as if you
were not very glad to see me?"
"My dear father," said Villefort, "I am, on the contrary,
delighted; but I so little expected your visit, that it has
somewhat overcome me."
"But, my dear fellow," replied M. Noirtier, seating himself,
"I might say the same thing to you, when you announce to me
your wedding for the 28th of February, and on the 3rd of
March you turn up here in Paris."
"And if I have come, my dear father," said Gerard, drawing
closer to M. Noirtier, "do not complain, for it is for you
that I came, and my journey will be your salvation."
"Ah, indeed!" said M. Noirtier, stretching himself out at
his ease in the chair. "Really, pray tell me all about it,
for it must be interesting."
"Father, you have heard speak of a certain Bonapartist club
in the Rue Saint-Jacques?"
"No. 53; yes, I am vice-president."
"Father, your coolness makes me shudder."
"Why, my dear boy, when a man has been proscribed by the
mountaineers, has escaped from Paris in a hay-cart, been
hunted over the plains of Bordeaux by Robespierre's
bloodhounds, he becomes accustomed to most things. But go
on, what about the club in the Rue Saint-Jacques?"
"Why, they induced General Quesnel to go there, and General
Quesnel, who quitted his own house at nine o'clock in the
evening, was found the next day in the Seine."
"And who told you this fine story?"
"The king himself."
"Well, then, in return for your story," continued Noirtier,
"I will tell you another."
"My dear father, I think I already know what you are about
to tell me."
"Ah, you have heard of the landing of the emperor?"
"Not so loud, father, I entreat of you -- for your own sake
as well as mine. Yes, I heard this news, and knew it even
before you could; for three days ago I posted from
Marseilles to Paris with all possible speed, half-desperate
at the enforced delay."
"Three days ago? You are crazy. Why, three days ago the
emperor had not landed."
"No matter, I was aware of his intention."
"How did you know about it?"
"By a letter addressed to you from the Island of Elba."
"To you; and which I discovered in the pocket-book of the
messenger. Had that letter fallen into the hands of another,
you, my dear father, would probably ere this have been
shot." Villefort's father laughed.
"Come, come," said he, "will the Restoration adopt imperial
methods so promptly? Shot, my dear boy? What an idea! Where
is the letter you speak of? I know you too well to suppose
you would allow such a thing to pass you."
"I burnt it, for fear that even a fragment should remain;
for that letter must have led to your condemnation."
"And the destruction of your future prospects," replied
Noirtier; "yes, I can easily comprehend that. But I have
nothing to fear while I have you to protect me."
"I do better than that, sir -- I save you."
"You do? Why, really, the thing becomes more and more
dramatic -- explain yourself."
"I must refer again to the club in the Rue Saint-Jacques."
"It appears that this club is rather a bore to the police.
Why didn't they search more vigilantly? they would have
"They have not found; but they are on the track."
"Yes, that the usual phrase; I am quite familiar with it.
When the police is at fault, it declares that it is on the
track; and the government patiently awaits the day when it
comes to say, with a sneaking air, that the track is lost."
"Yes, but they have found a corpse; the general has been
killed, and in all countries they call that a murder."
"A murder do you call it? why, there is nothing to prove
that the general was murdered. People are found every day in
the Seine, having thrown themselves in, or having been
drowned from not knowing how to swim."
"Father, you know very well that the general was not a man
to drown himself in despair, and people do not bathe in the
Seine in the month of January. No, no, do not be deceived;
this was murder in every sense of the word."
"And who thus designated it?"
"The king himself."
"The king! I thought he was philosopher enough to allow that
there was no murder in politics. In politics, my dear
fellow, you know, as well as I do, there are no men, but
ideas -- no feelings, but interests; in politics we do not
kill a man, we only remove an obstacle, that is all. Would
you like to know how matters have progressed? Well, I will
tell you. It was thought reliance might be placed in General
Quesnel; he was recommended to us from the Island of Elba;
one of us went to him, and invited him to the Rue
Saint-Jacques, where he would find some friends. He came
there, and the plan was unfolded to him for leaving Elba,
the projected landing, etc. When he had heard and
comprehended all to the fullest extent, he replied that he
was a royalist. Then all looked at each other, -- he was
made to take an oath, and did so, but with such an ill grace
that it was really tempting Providence to swear him, and
yet, in spite of that, the general was allowed to depart
free -- perfectly free. Yet he did not return home. What
could that mean? why, my dear fellow, that on leaving us he
lost his way, that's all. A murder? really, Villefort, you
surprise me. You, a deputy procureur, to found an accusation
on such bad premises! Did I ever say to you, when you were
fulfilling your character as a royalist, and cut off the
head of one of my party, `My son, you have committed a
murder?' No, I said, `Very well, sir, you have gained the
victory; to-morrow, perchance, it will be our turn.'"
"But, father, take care; when our turn comes, our revenge
will be sweeping."
"I do not understand you."
"You rely on the usurper's return?"
"You are mistaken; he will not advance two leagues into the
interior of France without being followed, tracked, and
caught like a wild beast."
"My dear fellow, the emperor is at this moment on the way to
Grenoble; on the 10th or 12th he will be at Lyons, and on
the 20th or 25th at Paris."
"The people will rise."
"Yes, to go and meet him."
"He has but a handful of men with him, and armies will be
despatched against him."
"Yes, to escort him into the capital. Really, my dear
Gerard, you are but a child; you think yourself well
informed because the telegraph has told you, three days
after the landing, `The usurper has landed at Cannes with
several men. He is pursued.' But where is he? what is he
doing? You do not know at all, and in this way they will
chase him to Paris, without drawing a trigger."
"Grenoble and Lyons are faithful cities, and will oppose to
him an impassable barrier."
"Grenoble will open her gates to him with enthusiasm -- all
Lyons will hasten to welcome him. Believe me, we are as well
informed as you, and our police are as good as your own.
Would you like a proof of it? well, you wished to conceal
your journey from me, and yet I knew of your arrival half an
hour after you had passed the barrier. You gave your
direction to no one but your postilion, yet I have your
address, and in proof I am here the very instant you are
going to sit at table. Ring, then, if you please, for a
second knife, fork, and plate, and we will dine together."
"Indeed!" replied Villefort, looking at his father with
astonishment, "you really do seem very well informed."
"Eh? the thing is simple enough. You who are in power have
only the means that money produces -- we who are in
expectation, have those which devotion prompts."
"Devotion!" said Villefort, with a sneer.
"Yes, devotion; for that is, I believe, the phrase for
And Villefort's father extended his hand to the bell-rope,
to summon the servant whom his son had not called. Villefort
caught his arm.
"Wait, my dear father," said the young man, "one word more."
"However stupid the royalist police may be, they do know one
"What is that?"
"The description of the man who, on the morning of the day
when General Quesnel disappeared, presented himself at his
"Oh, the admirable police have found that out, have they?
And what may be that description?"
"Dark complexion; hair, eyebrows, and whiskers, black; blue
frock-coat, buttoned up to the chin; rosette of an officer
of the Legion of Honor in his button-hole; a hat with wide
brim, and a cane."
"Ah, ha, that's it, is it?" said Noirtier; "and why, then,
have they not laid hands on him?"
"Because yesterday, or the day before, they lost sight of
him at the corner of the Rue Coq-Heron."
"Didn't I say that your police were good for nothing?"
"Yes; but they may catch him yet."
"True," said Noirtier, looking carelessly around him, "true,
if this person were not on his guard, as he is;" and he
added with a smile, "He will consequently make a few changes
in his personal appearance." At these words he rose, and put
off his frock-coat and cravat, went towards a table on which
lay his son's toilet articles, lathered his face, took a
razor, and, with a firm hand, cut off the compromising
whiskers. Villefort watched him with alarm not devoid of
His whiskers cut off, Noirtier gave another turn to his
hair; took, instead of his black cravat, a colored
neckerchief which lay at the top of an open portmanteau; put
on, in lieu of his blue and high-buttoned frock-coat, a coat
of Villefort's of dark brown, and cut away in front; tried
on before the glass a narrow-brimmed hat of his son's, which
appeared to fit him perfectly, and, leaving his cane in the
corner where he had deposited it, he took up a small bamboo
switch, cut the air with it once or twice, and walked about
with that easy swagger which was one of his principal
"Well," he said, turning towards his wondering son, when
this disguise was completed, "well, do you think your police
will recognize me now."
"No, father," stammered Villefort; "at least, I hope not."
"And now, my dear boy," continued Noirtier, "I rely on your
prudence to remove all the things which I leave in your
"Oh, rely on me," said Villefort.
"Yes, yes; and now I believe you are right, and that you
have really saved my life; be assured I will return the
favor hereafter." Villefort shook his head.
"You are not convinced yet?"
"I hope at least, that you may be mistaken."
"Shall you see the king again?"
"Would you pass in his eyes for a prophet?"
"Prophets of evil are not in favor at the court, father."
"True, but some day they do them justice; and supposing a
second restoration, you would then pass for a great man."
"Well, what should I say to the king?"
"Say this to him: `Sire, you are deceived as to the feeling
in France, as to the opinions of the towns, and the
prejudices of the army; he whom in Paris you call the
Corsican ogre, who at Nevers is styled the usurper, is
already saluted as Bonaparte at Lyons, and emperor at
Grenoble. You think he is tracked, pursued, captured; he is
advancing as rapidly as his own eagles. The soldiers you
believe to be dying with hunger, worn out with fatigue,
ready to desert, gather like atoms of snow about the rolling
ball as it hastens onward. Sire, go, leave France to its
real master, to him who acquired it, not by purchase, but by
right of conquest; go, sire, not that you incur any risk,
for your adversary is powerful enough to show you mercy, but
because it would be humiliating for a grandson of Saint
Louis to owe his life to the man of Arcola, Marengo,
Austerlitz.' Tell him this, Gerard; or, rather, tell him
nothing. Keep your journey a secret; do not boast of what
you have come to Paris to do, or have done; return with all
speed; enter Marseilles at night, and your house by the
back-door, and there remain, quiet, submissive, secret, and,
above all, inoffensive; for this time, I swear to you, we
shall act like powerful men who know their enemies. Go, my
son -- go, my dear Gerard, and by your obedience to my
paternal orders, or, if you prefer it, friendly counsels, we
will keep you in your place. This will be," added Noirtier,
with a smile, "one means by which you may a second time save
me, if the political balance should some day take another
turn, and cast you aloft while hurling me down. Adieu, my
dear Gerard, and at your next journey alight at my door."
Noirtier left the room when he had finished, with the same
calmness that had characterized him during the whole of this
remarkable and trying conversation. Villefort, pale and
agitated, ran to the window, put aside the curtain, and saw
him pass, cool and collected, by two or three ill-looking
men at the corner of the street, who were there, perhaps, to
arrest a man with black whiskers, and a blue frock-coat, and
hat with broad brim.
Villefort stood watching, breathless, until his father had
disappeared at the Rue Bussy. Then he turned to the various
articles he had left behind him, put the black cravat and
blue frock-coat at the bottom of the portmanteau, threw the
hat into a dark closet, broke the cane into small bits and
flung it in the fire, put on his travelling-cap, and calling
his valet, checked with a look the thousand questions he was
ready to ask, paid his bill, sprang into his carriage, which
was ready, learned at Lyons that Bonaparte had entered
Grenoble, and in the midst of the tumult which prevailed
along the road, at length reached Marseilles, a prey to all
the hopes and fears which enter into the heart of man with
ambition and its first successes.
The Hundred Days.
M. Noirtier was a true prophet, and things progressed
rapidly, as he had predicted. Every one knows the history of
the famous return from Elba, a return which was
unprecedented in the past, and will probably remain without
a counterpart in the future.
Louis XVIII. made but a faint attempt to parry this
unexpected blow; the monarchy he had scarcely reconstructed
tottered on its precarious foundation, and at a sign from
the emperor the incongruous structure of ancient prejudices
and new ideas fell to the ground. Villefort, therefore,
gained nothing save the king's gratitude (which was rather
likely to injure him at the present time) and the cross of
the Legion of Honor, which he had the prudence not to wear,
although M. de Blacas had duly forwarded the brevet.
Napoleon would, doubtless, have deprived Villefort of his
office had it not been for Noirtier, who was all powerful at
court, and thus the Girondin of '93 and the Senator of 1806
protected him who so lately had been his protector. All
Villefort's influence barely enabled him to stifle the
secret Dantes had so nearly divulged. The king's procureur
alone was deprived of his office, being suspected of
However, scarcely was the imperial power established -- that
is, scarcely had the emperor re-entered the Tuileries and
begun to issue orders from the closet into which we have
introduced our readers, -- he found on the table there Louis
XVIII.'s half-filled snuff-box, -- scarcely had this
occurred when Marseilles began, in spite of the authorities,
to rekindle the flames of civil war, always smouldering in
the south, and it required but little to excite the populace
to acts of far greater violence than the shouts and insults
with which they assailed the royalists whenever they
Owing to this change, the worthy shipowner became at that
moment -- we will not say all powerful, because Morrel was a
prudent and rather a timid man, so much so, that many of the
most zealous partisans of Bonaparte accused him of
"moderation" -- but sufficiently influential to make a
demand in favor of Dantes.
Villefort retained his place, but his marriage was put off
until a more favorable opportunity. If the emperor remained
on the throne, Gerard required a different alliance to aid
his career; if Louis XVIII. returned, the influence of M. de
Saint-Meran, like his own, could be vastly increased, and
the marriage be still more suitable. The deputy-procureur
was, therefore, the first magistrate of Marseilles, when one
morning his door opened, and M. Morrel was announced.
Any one else would have hastened to receive him; but
Villefort was a man of ability, and he knew this would be a
sign of weakness. He made Morrel wait in the ante-chamber,
although he had no one with him, for the simple reason that
the king's procureur always makes every one wait, and after
passing a quarter of an hour in reading the papers, he
ordered M. Morrel to be admitted.
Morrel expected Villefort would be dejected; he found him as
he had found him six weeks before, calm, firm, and full of
that glacial politeness, that most insurmountable barrier
which separates the well-bred from the vulgar man.
He had entered Villefort's office expecting that the
magistrate would tremble at the sight of him; on the
contrary, he felt a cold shudder all over him when he saw
Villefort sitting there with his elbow on his desk, and his
head leaning on his hand. He stopped at the door; Villefort
gazed at him as if he had some difficulty in recognizing
him; then, after a brief interval, during which the honest
shipowner turned his hat in his hands, --
"M. Morrel, I believe?" said Villefort.
"Come nearer," said the magistrate, with a patronizing wave
of the hand, "and tell me to what circumstance I owe the
honor of this visit."
"Do you not guess, monsieur?" asked Morrel.
"Not in the least; but if I can serve you in any way I shall
"Everything depends on you."
"Explain yourself, pray."
"Monsieur," said Morrel, recovering his assurance as he
proceeded, "do you recollect that a few days before the
landing of his majesty the emperor, I came to intercede for
a young man, the mate of my ship, who was accused of being
concerned in correspondence with the Island of Elba? What
was the other day a crime is to-day a title to favor. You
then served Louis XVIII., and you did not show any favor --
it was your duty; to-day you serve Napoleon, and you ought
to protect him -- it is equally your duty; I come,
therefore, to ask what has become of him?"
Villefort by a strong effort sought to control himself.
"What is his name?" said he. "Tell me his name."
Villefort would probably have rather stood opposite the
muzzle of a pistol at five-and-twenty paces than have heard
this name spoken; but he did not blanch.
"Dantes," repeated he, "Edmond Dantes."
"Yes, monsieur." Villefort opened a large register, then
went to a table, from the table turned to his registers, and
then, turning to Morrel, --
"Are you quite sure you are not mistaken, monsieur?" said
he, in the most natural tone in the world.
Had Morrel been a more quick-sighted man, or better versed
in these matters, he would have been surprised at the king's
procureur answering him on such a subject, instead of
referring him to the governors of the prison or the prefect
of the department. But Morrel, disappointed in his
expectations of exciting fear, was conscious only of the
other's condescension. Villefort had calculated rightly.
"No," said Morrel; "I am not mistaken. I have known him for
ten years, the last four of which he was in my service. Do
not you recollect, I came about six weeks ago to plead for
clemency, as I come to-day to plead for justice. You
received me very coldly. Oh, the royalists were very severe
with the Bonapartists in those days."
"Monsieur," returned Villefort, "I was then a royalist,
because I believed the Bourbons not only the heirs to the
throne, but the chosen of the nation. The miraculous return
of Napoleon has conquered me, the legitimate monarch is he
who is loved by his people."
"That's right!" cried Morrel. "I like to hear you speak
thus, and I augur well for Edmond from it."
"Wait a moment," said Villefort, turning over the leaves of
a register; "I have it -- a sailor, who was about to marry a
young Catalan girl. I recollect now; it was a very serious
"You know that when he left here he was taken to the Palais
"I made my report to the authorities at Paris, and a week
after he was carried off."
"Carried off!" said Morrel. "What can they have done with
"Oh, he has been taken to Fenestrelles, to Pignerol, or to
the Sainte-Marguerite islands. Some fine morning he will
return to take command of your vessel."
"Come when he will, it shall be kept for him. But how is it
he is not already returned? It seems to me the first care of
government should be to set at liberty those who have
suffered for their adherence to it."
"Do not be too hasty, M. Morrel," replied Villefort. "The
order of imprisonment came from high authority, and the
order for his liberation must proceed from the same source;
and, as Napoleon has scarcely been reinstated a fortnight,
the letters have not yet been forwarded."
"But," said Morrel, "is there no way of expediting all these
formalities -- of releasing him from arrest?"
"There has been no arrest."
"It is sometimes essential to government to cause a man's
disappearance without leaving any traces, so that no written
forms or documents may defeat their wishes."
"It might be so under the Bourbons, but at present" --
"It has always been so, my dear Morrel, since the reign of
Louis XIV. The emperor is more strict in prison discipline
than even Louis himself, and the number of prisoners whose
names are not on the register is incalculable." Had Morrel
even any suspicions, so much kindness would have dispelled
"Well, M. de Villefort, how would you advise me to act?"
"Petition the minister."
"Oh, I know what that is; the minister receives two hundred
petitions every day, and does not read three."
"That is true; but he will read a petition countersigned and
presented by me."
"And will you undertake to deliver it?"
"With the greatest pleasure. Dantes was then guilty, and now
he is innocent, and it is as much my duty to free him as it
was to condemn him." Villefort thus forestalled any danger
of an inquiry, which, however improbable it might be, if it
did take place would leave him defenceless.
"But how shall I address the minister?"
"Sit down there," said Villefort, giving up his place to
Morrel, "and write what I dictate."
"Will you be so good?"
"Certainly. But lose no time; we have lost too much
"That is true. Only think what the poor fellow may even now
be suffering." Villefort shuddered at the suggestion; but he
had gone too far to draw back. Dantes must be crushed to
gratify Villefort's ambition.
Villefort dictated a petition, in which, from an excellent
intention, no doubt, Dantes' patriotic services were
exaggerated, and he was made out one of the most active
agents of Napoleon's return. It was evident that at the
sight of this document the minister would instantly release
him. The petition finished, Villefort read it aloud.
"That will do," said he; "leave the rest to me."
"Will the petition go soon?"
"Countersigned by you?"
"The best thing I can do will be to certify the truth of the
contents of your petition." And, sitting down, Villefort
wrote the certificate at the bottom.
"What more is to be done?"
"I will do whatever is necessary." This assurance delighted
Morrel, who took leave of Villefort, and hastened to
announce to old Dantes that he would soon see his son.
As for Villefort, instead of sending to Paris, he carefully
preserved the petition that so fearfully compromised Dantes,
in the hopes of an event that seemed not unlikely, -- that
is, a second restoration. Dantes remained a prisoner, and
heard not the noise of the fall of Louis XVIII.'s throne, or
the still more tragic destruction of the empire.
Twice during the Hundred Days had Morrel renewed his demand,
and twice had Villefort soothed him with promises. At last
there was Waterloo, and Morrel came no more; he had done all
that was in his power, and any fresh attempt would only
compromise himself uselessly.
Louis XVIII. remounted the throne; Villefort, to whom
Marseilles had become filled with remorseful memories,
sought and obtained the situation of king's procureur at
Toulouse, and a fortnight afterwards he married Mademoiselle
de Saint-Meran, whose father now stood higher at court than
And so Dantes, after the Hundred Days and after Waterloo,
remained in his dungeon, forgotten of earth and heaven.
Danglars comprehended the full extent of the wretched fate
that overwhelmed Dantes; and, when Napoleon returned to
France, he, after the manner of mediocre minds, termed the
coincidence, "a decree of Providence." But when Napoleon
returned to Paris, Danglars' heart failed him, and he lived
in constant fear of Dantes' return on a mission of
vengeance. He therefore informed M. Morrel of his wish to
quit the sea, and obtained a recommendation from him to a
Spanish merchant, into whose service he entered at the end
of March, that is, ten or twelve days after Napoleon's
return. He then left for Madrid, and was no more heard of.
Fernand understood nothing except that Dantes was absent.
What had become of him he cared not to inquire. Only, during
the respite the absence of his rival afforded him, he
reflected, partly on the means of deceiving Mercedes as to
the cause of his absence, partly on plans of emigration and
abduction, as from time to time he sat sad and motionless on
the summit of Cape Pharo, at the spot from whence Marseilles
and the Catalans are visible, watching for the apparition of
a young and handsome man, who was for him also the messenger
of vengeance. Fernand's mind was made up; he would shoot
Dantes, and then kill himself. But Fernand was mistaken; a
man of his disposition never kills himself, for he
During this time the empire made its last conscription, and
every man in France capable of bearing arms rushed to obey
the summons of the emperor. Fernand departed with the rest,
bearing with him the terrible thought that while he was
away, his rival would perhaps return and marry Mercedes. Had
Fernand really meant to kill himself, he would have done so
when he parted from Mercedes. His devotion, and the
compassion he showed for her misfortunes, produced the
effect they always produce on noble minds -- Mercedes had
always had a sincere regard for Fernand, and this was now
strengthened by gratitude.
"My brother," said she as she placed his knapsack on his
shoulders, "be careful of yourself, for if you are killed, I
shall be alone in the world." These words carried a ray of
hope into Fernand's heart. Should Dantes not return,
Mercedes might one day be his.
Mercedes was left alone face to face with the vast plain
that had never seemed so barren, and the sea that had never
seemed so vast. Bathed in tears she wandered about the
Catalan village. Sometimes she stood mute and motionless as
a statue, looking towards Marseilles, at other times gazing
on the sea, and debating as to whether it were not better to
cast herself into the abyss of the ocean, and thus end her
woes. It was not want of courage that prevented her putting
this resolution into execution; but her religious feelings
came to her aid and saved her. Caderousse was, like Fernand,
enrolled in the army, but, being married and eight years
older, he was merely sent to the frontier. Old Dantes, who
was only sustained by hope, lost all hope at Napoleon's
downfall. Five months after he had been separated from his
son, and almost at the hour of his arrest, he breathed his
last in Mercedes' arms. M. Morrel paid the expenses of his
funeral, and a few small debts the poor old man had
There was more than benevolence in this action; there was
courage; the south was aflame, and to assist, even on his
death-bed, the father of so dangerous a Bonapartist as
Dantes, was stigmatized as a crime.
The Two Prisoners.
A year after Louis XVIII.'s restoration, a visit was made by
the inspector-general of prisons. Dantes in his cell heard
the noise of preparation, -- sounds that at the depth where
he lay would have been inaudible to any but the ear of a
prisoner, who could hear the splash of the drop of water that
every hour fell from the roof of his dungeon. He guessed
something uncommon was passing among the living; but he had
so long ceased to have any intercourse with the world, that
he looked upon himself as dead.
The inspector visited, one after another, the cells and
dungeons of several of the prisoners, whose good behavior or
stupidity recommended them to the clemency of the
government. He inquired how they were fed, and if they had
any request to make. The universal response was, that the
fare was detestable, and that they wanted to be set free.
The inspector asked if they had anything else to ask for.
They shook their heads. What could they desire beyond their
liberty? The inspector turned smilingly to the governor.
"I do not know what reason government can assign for these
useless visits; when you see one prisoner, you see all, --
always the same thing, -- ill fed and innocent. Are there
"Yes; the dangerous and mad prisoners are in the dungeons."
"Let us visit them," said the inspector with an air of
fatigue. "We must play the farce to the end. Let us see the
"Let us first send for two soldiers," said the governor.
"The prisoners sometimes, through mere uneasiness of life,
and in order to be sentenced to death, commit acts of
useless violence, and you might fall a victim."
"Take all needful precautions," replied the inspector.
Two soldiers were accordingly sent for, and the inspector
descended a stairway, so foul, so humid, so dark, as to be
loathsome to sight, smell, and respiration.
"Oh," cried the inspector, "who can live here?"
"A most dangerous conspirator, a man we are ordered to keep
the most strict watch over, as he is daring and resolute."
"He is alone?"
"How long his he been there?"
"Nearly a year."
"Was he placed here when he first arrived?"
"No; not until he attempted to kill the turnkey, who took
his food to him."
"To kill the turnkey?"
"Yes, the very one who is lighting us. Is it not true,
Antoine?" asked the governor.
"True enough; he wanted to kill me!" returned the turnkey.
"He must be mad," said the inspector.
"He is worse than that, -- he is a devil!" returned the
"Shall I complain of him?" demanded the inspector.
"Oh, no; it is useless. Besides, he is almost mad now, and
in another year he will be quite so."
"So much the better for him, -- he will suffer less," said
the inspector. He was, as this remark shows, a man full of
philanthropy, and in every way fit for his office.
"You are right, sir," replied the governor; "and this remark
proves that you have deeply considered the subject. Now we
have in a dungeon about twenty feet distant, and to which
you descend by another stair, an abbe, formerly leader of a
party in Italy, who has been here since 1811, and in 1813 he
went mad, and the change is astonishing. He used to weep, he
now laughs; he grew thin, he now grows fat. You had better
see him, for his madness is amusing."
"I will see them both," returned the inspector; "I must
conscientiously perform my duty." This was the inspector's
first visit; he wished to display his authority.
"Let us visit this one first," added he.
"By all means," replied the governor, and he signed to the
turnkey to open the door. At the sound of the key turning in
the lock, and the creaking of the hinges, Dantes, who was
crouched in a corner of the dungeon, whence he could see the
ray of light that came through a narrow iron grating above,
raised his head. Seeing a stranger, escorted by two turnkeys
holding torches and accompanied by two soldiers, and to whom
the governor spoke bareheaded, Dantes, who guessed the
truth, and that the moment to address himself to the
superior authorities was come, sprang forward with clasped
The soldiers interposed their bayonets, for they thought
that he was about to attack the inspector, and the latter
recoiled two or three steps. Dantes saw that he was looked
upon as dangerous. Then, infusing all the humility he
possessed into his eyes and voice, he addressed the
inspector, and sought to inspire him with pity.
The inspector listened attentively; then, turning to the
governor, observed, "He will become religious -- he is
already more gentle; he is afraid, and retreated before the
bayonets -- madmen are not afraid of anything; I made some
curious observations on this at Charenton." Then, turning to
the prisoner, "What is it you want?" said he.
"I want to know what crime I have committed -- to be tried;
and if I am guilty, to be shot; if innocent, to be set at
"Are you well fed?" said the inspector.
"I believe so; I don't know; it's of no consequence. What
matters really, not only to me, but to officers of justice
and the king, is that an innocent man should languish in
prison, the victim of an infamous denunciation, to die here
cursing his executioners."
"You are very humble to-day," remarked the governor; "you
are not so always; the other day, for instance, when you
tried to kill the turnkey."
"It is true, sir, and I beg his pardon, for he his always
been very good to me, but I was mad."
"And you are not so any longer?"