Part 30 out of 31
"What did he say?"
"Something which will surprise you."
"Oh, make haste and tell me, then; it is a long time since
that has happened."
"Well, he told me that Benedetto, who is considered a
serpent of subtlety and a giant of cunning, is really but a
very commonplace, silly rascal, and altogether unworthy of
the experiments that will be made on his phrenological
organs after his death."
"Bah," said Beauchamp, "he played the prince very well."
"Yes, for you who detest those unhappy princes, Beauchamp,
and are always delighted to find fault with them; but not
for me, who discover a gentleman by instinct, and who scent
out an aristocratic family like a very bloodhound of
"Then you never believed in the principality?"
"Yes. -- in the principality, but not in the prince."
"Not so bad," said Beauchamp; "still, I assure you, he
passed very well with many people; I saw him at the
"Ah, yes," said Chateau-Renaud. "The idea of thinking
ministers understand anything about princes!"
"There is something in what you have just said," said
"But," said Debray to Beauchamp, "if I spoke to the
president, you must have been with the procureur."
"It was an impossibility; for the last week M. de Villefort
has secluded himself. It is natural enough; this strange
chain of domestic afflictions, followed by the no less
strange death of his daughter" --
"Strange? What do you mean, Beauchamp?"
"Oh, yes; do you pretend that all this has been unobserved
at the minister's?" said Beauchamp, placing his eye-glass in
his eye, where he tried to make it remain.
"My dear sir," said Chateau-Renaud, "allow me to tell you
that you do not understand that manoeuvre with the eye-glass
half so well as Debray. Give him a lesson, Debray."
"Stay," said Beauchamp, "surely I am not deceived."
"What is it?"
"It is she!"
"Whom do you mean?"
"They said she had left."
"Mademoiselle Eugenie?" said Chateau-Renaud; "has she
"No, but her mother."
"Madame Danglars? Nonsense! Impossible!" said
Chateau-Renaud; "only ten days after the flight of her
daughter, and three days from the bankruptcy of her
Debray colored slightly, and followed with his eyes the
direction of Beauchamp's glance. "Come," he said, "it is
only a veiled lady, some foreign princess, perhaps the
mother of Cavalcanti. But you were just speaking on a very
interesting topic, Beauchamp."
"Yes; you were telling us about the extraordinary death of
"Ah, yes, so I was. But how is it that Madame de Villefort
is not here?"
"Poor, dear woman," said Debray, "she is no doubt occupied
in distilling balm for the hospitals, or in making cosmetics
for herself or friends. Do you know she spends two or three
thousand crowns a year in this amusement? But I wonder she
is not here. I should have been pleased to see her, for I
like her very much."
"And I hate her," said Chateau-Renaud.
"I do not know. Why do we love? Why do we hate? I detest
her, from antipathy."
"Or, rather, by instinct."
"Perhaps so. But to return to what you were saying,
"Well, do you know why they die so multitudinously at M. de
"`Multitudinously' [drv] is good," said Chateau-Renaud.
"My good fellow, you'll find the word in Saint-Simon."
"But the thing itself is at M. de Villefort's; but let's get
back to the subject."
"Talking of that," said Debray, "Madame was making inquiries
about that house, which for the last three months has been
hung with black."
"Who is Madame?" asked Chateau-Renaud.
"The minister's wife, pardieu!"
"Oh, your pardon! I never visit ministers; I leave that to
"Really, You were only before sparkling, but now you are
brilliant; take compassion on us, or, like Jupiter, you will
wither us up."
"I will not speak again," said Chateau-Renaud; "pray have
compassion upon me, and do not take up every word I say."
"Come, let us endeavor to get to the end of our story,
Beauchamp; I told you that yesterday Madame made inquiries
of me upon the subject; enlighten me, and I will then
communicate my information to her."
"Well, gentlemen, the reason people die so multitudinously
(I like the word) at M. de Villefort's is that there is an
assassin in the house!" The two young men shuddered, for the
same idea had more than once occurred to them. "And who is
the assassin;" they asked together.
"Young Edward!" A burst of laughter from the auditors did
not in the least disconcert the speaker, who continued, --
"Yes, gentlemen; Edward, the infant phenomenon, who is quite
an adept in the art of killing."
"You are jesting."
"Not at all. I yesterday engaged a servant, who had just
left M. de Villefort -- I intend sending him away to-morrow,
for he eats so enormously, to make up for the fast imposed
upon him by his terror in that house. Well, now listen."
"We are listening."
"It appears the dear child has obtained possession of a
bottle containing some drug, which he every now and then
uses against those who have displeased him. First, M. and
Madame de Saint-Meran incurred his displeasure, so he poured
out three drops of his elixir -- three drops were
sufficient; then followed Barrois, the old servant of M.
Noirtier, who sometimes rebuffed this little wretch -- he
therefore received the same quantity of the elixir; the same
happened to Valentine, of whom he was jealous; he gave her
the same dose as the others, and all was over for her as
well as the rest."
"Why, what nonsense are you telling us?" said
"Yes, it is an extraordinary story," said Beauchamp; "is it
"It is absurd," said Debray.
"Ah," said Beauchamp, "you doubt me? Well, you can ask my
servant, or rather him who will no longer be my servant
to-morrow, it was the talk of the house."
"And this elixir, where is it? what is it?"
"The child conceals it."
"But where did he find it?"
"In his mother's laboratory."
"Does his mother then, keep poisons in her laboratory?"
"How can I tell? You are questioning me like a king's
attorney. I only repeat what I have been told, and like my
informant I can do no more. The poor devil would eat
nothing, from fear."
"It is incredible!"
"No, my dear fellow, it is not at all incredible. You saw
the child pass through the Rue Richelieu last year, who
amused himself with killing his brothers and sisters by
sticking pins in their ears while they slept. The generation
who follow us are very precocious."
"Come, Beauchamp," said Chateau-Renaud, "I will bet anything
you do not believe a word of all you have been telling us."
"I do not see the Count of Monte Cristo here."
"He is worn out," said Debray; "besides, he could not well
appear in public, since he has been the dupe of the
Cavalcanti, who, it appears, presented themselves to him
with false letters of credit, and cheated him out of 100,000
francs upon the hypothesis of this principality."
"By the way, M. de Chateau-Renaud," asked Beauchamp, "how is
"Ma foi, I have called three times without once seeing him.
Still, his sister did not seem uneasy, and told me that
though she had not seen him for two or three days, she was
sure he was well."
"Ah, now I think of it, the Count of Monte Cristo cannot
appear in the hall," said Beauchamp.
"Because he is an actor in the drama."
"Has he assassinated any one, then?"
"No, on the contrary, they wished to assassinate him. You
know that it was in leaving his house that M. de Caderousse
was murdered by his friend Benedetto. You know that the
famous waistcoat was found in his house, containing the
letter which stopped the signature of the marriage-contract.
Do you see the waistcoat? There it is, all blood-stained, on
the desk, as a testimony of the crime."
"Ah, very good."
"Hush, gentlemen, here is the court; let us go back to our
places." A noise was heard in the hall; the sergeant called
his two patrons with an energetic "hem!" and the door-keeper
appearing, called out with that shrill voice peculiar to his
order, ever since the days of Beaumarchais, "The court,
The judges took their places in the midst of the most
profound silence; the jury took their seats; M. de
Villefort, the object of unusual attention, and we had
almost said of general admiration, sat in the arm-chair and
cast a tranquil glance around him. Every one looked with
astonishment on that grave and severe face, whose calm
expression personal griefs had been unable to disturb, and
the aspect of a man who was a stranger to all human emotions
excited something very like terror.
"Gendarmes," said the president, "lead in the accused."
At these words the public attention became more intense, and
all eyes were turned towards the door through which
Benedetto was to enter. The door soon opened and the accused
appeared. The same impression was experienced by all
present, and no one was deceived by the expression of his
countenance. His features bore no sign of that deep emotion
which stops the beating of the heart and blanches the cheek.
His hands, gracefully placed, one upon his hat, the other in
the opening of his white waistcoat, were not at all
tremulous; his eye was calm and even brilliant. Scarcely had
he entered the hall when he glanced at the whole body of
magistrates and assistants; his eye rested longer on the
president, and still more so on the king's attorney. By the
side of Andrea was stationed the lawyer who was to conduct
his defence, and who had been appointed by the court, for
Andrea disdained to pay any attention to those details, to
which he appeared to attach no importance. The lawyer was a
young man with light hair whose face expressed a hundred
times more emotion than that which characterized the
The president called for the indictment, revised as we know,
by the clever and implacable pen of Villefort. During the
reading of this, which was long, the public attention was
continually drawn towards Andrea, who bore the inspection
with Spartan unconcern. Villefort had never been so concise
and eloquent. The crime was depicted in the most vivid
colors; the former life of the prisoner, his transformation,
a review of his life from the earliest period, were set
forth with all the talent that a knowledge of human life
could furnish to a mind like that of the procureur.
Benedetto was thus forever condemned in public opinion
before the sentence of the law could be pronounced. Andrea
paid no attention to the successive charges which were
brought against him. M. de Villefort, who examined him
attentively, and who no doubt practiced upon him all the
psychological studies he was accustomed to use, in vain
endeavored to make him lower his eyes, notwithstanding the
depth and profundity of his gaze. At length the reading of
the indictment was ended.
"Accused," said the president, "your name and surname?"
Andrea arose. "Excuse me, Mr. President," he said, in a
clear voice, "but I see you are going to adopt a course of
questions through which I cannot follow you. I have an idea,
which I will explain by and by, of making an exception to
the usual form of accusation. Allow me, then, if you please,
to answer in different order, or I will not do so at all."
The astonished president looked at the jury, who in turn
looked at Villefort. The whole assembly manifested great
surprise, but Andrea appeared quite unmoved. "Your age?"
said the president; "will you answer that question?"
"I will answer that question, as well as the rest, Mr.
President, but in its turn."
"Your age?" repeated the president.
"I am twenty-one years old, or rather I shall be in a few
days, as I was born the night of the 27th of September,
1817." M. de Villefort, who was busy taking down some notes,
raised his head at the mention of this date. "Where were you
born?" continued the president.
"At Auteuil, near Paris." M. de Villefort a second time
raised his head, looked at Benedetto as if he had been
gazing at the head of Medusa, and became livid. As for
Benedetto, he gracefully wiped his lips with a fine cambric
pocket-handkerchief. "Your profession?"
"First I was a forger," answered Andrea, as calmly as
possible; "then I became a thief, and lately have become an
assassin." A murmur, or rather storm, of indignation burst
from all parts of the assembly. The judges themselves
appeared to be stupefied, and the jury manifested tokens of
disgust for cynicism so unexpected in a man of fashion. M.
de Villefort pressed his hand upon his brow, which, at first
pale, had become red and burning; then he suddenly arose and
looked around as though he had lost his senses -- he wanted
"Are you looking for anything, Mr. Procureur?" asked
Benedetto, with his most ingratiating smile. M. de Villefort
answered nothing, but sat, or rather threw himself down
again upon his chair. "And now, prisoner, will you consent
to tell your name?" said the president. "The brutal
affectation with which you have enumerated and classified
your crimes calls for a severe reprimand on the part of the
court, both in the name of morality, and for the respect due
to humanity. You appear to consider this a point of honor,
and it may be for this reason, that you have delayed
acknowledging your name. You wished it to be preceded by all
"It is quite wonderful, Mr. President, how entirely you have
read my thoughts," said Benedetto, in his softest voice and
most polite manner. "This is, indeed, the reason why I
begged you to alter the order of the questions." The public
astonishment had reached its height. There was no longer any
deceit or bravado in the manner of the accused. The audience
felt that a startling revelation was to follow this ominous
"Well," said the president; "your name?"
"I cannot tell you my name, since I do not know it; but I
know my father's, and can tell it to you."
A painful giddiness overwhelmed Villefort; great drops of
acrid sweat fell from his face upon the papers which he held
in his convulsed hand.
"Repeat your father's name," said the president. Not a
whisper, not a breath, was heard in that vast assembly;
every one waited anxiously.
"My father is king's attorney," replied Andrea calmly.
"King's attorney?" said the president, stupefied, and
without noticing the agitation which spread over the face of
M. de Villefort; "king's attorney?"
"Yes; and if you wish to know his name, I will tell it, --
he is named Villefort." The explosion, which had been so
long restrained from a feeling of respect to the court of
justice, now burst forth like thunder from the breasts of
all present; the court itself did not seek to restrain the
feelings of the audience. The exclamations, the insults
addressed to Benedetto, who remained perfectly unconcerned,
the energetic gestures, the movement of the gendarmes, the
sneers of the scum of the crowd always sure to rise to the
surface in case of any disturbance -- all this lasted five
minutes, before the door-keepers and magistrates were able
to restore silence. In the midst of this tumult the voice of
the president was heard to exclaim, -- "Are you playing with
justice, accused, and do you dare set your fellow-citizens
an example of disorder which even in these times has never
Several persons hurried up to M. de Villefort, who sat half
bowed over in his chair, offering him consolation,
encouragement, and protestations of zeal and sympathy. Order
was re-established in the hall, except that a few people
still moved about and whispered to one another. A lady, it
was said, had just fainted; they had supplied her with a
smelling-bottle, and she had recovered. During the scene of
tumult, Andrea had turned his smiling face towards the
assembly; then, leaning with one hand on the oaken rail of
the dock, in the most graceful attitude possible, he said:
"Gentlemen, I assure you I had no idea of insulting the
court, or of making a useless disturbance in the presence of
this honorable assembly. They ask my age; I tell it. They
ask where I was born; I answer. They ask my name, I cannot
give it, since my parents abandoned me. But though I cannot
give my own name, not possessing one, I can tell them my
father's. Now I repeat, my father is named M. de Villefort,
and I am ready to prove it."
There was an energy, a conviction, and a sincerity in the
manner of the young man, which silenced the tumult. All eyes
were turned for a moment towards the procureur, who sat as
motionless as though a thunderbolt had changed him into a
corpse. "Gentlemen," said Andrea, commanding silence by his
voice and manner; "I owe you the proofs and explanations of
what I have said."
"But," said the irritated president, "you called yourself
Benedetto, declared yourself an orphan, and claimed Corsica
as your country."
"I said anything I pleased, in order that the solemn
declaration I have just made should not be withheld, which
otherwise would certainly have been the case. I now repeat
that I was born at Auteuil on the night of the 27th of
September, 1817, and that I am the son of the procureur, M.
de Villefort. Do you wish for any further details? I will
give them. I was born in No. 28, Rue de la Fontaine, in a
room hung with red damask; my father took me in his arms,
telling my mother I was dead, wrapped me in a napkin marked
with an H and an N, and carried me into a garden, where he
buried me alive."
A shudder ran through the assembly when they saw that the
confidence of the prisoner increased in proportion to the
terror of M. de Villefort. "But how have you become
acquainted with all these details?" asked the president.
"I will tell you, Mr. President. A man who had sworn
vengeance against my father, and had long watched his
opportunity to kill him, had introduced himself that night
into the garden in which my father buried me. He was
concealed in a thicket; he saw my father bury something in
the ground, and stabbed him; then thinking the deposit might
contain some treasure he turned up the ground, and found me
still living. The man carried me to the foundling asylum,
where I was registered under the number 37. Three months
afterwards, a woman travelled from Rogliano to Paris to
fetch me, and having claimed me as her son, carried me away.
Thus, you see, though born in Paris, I was brought up in
There was a moment's silence, during which one could have
fancied the hall empty, so profound was the stillness.
"Proceed," said the president.
"Certainly, I might have lived happily amongst those good
people, who adored me, but my perverse disposition prevailed
over the virtues which my adopted mother endeavored to
instil into my heart. I increased in wickedness till I
committed crime. One day when I cursed providence for making
me so wicked, and ordaining me to such a fate, my adopted
father said to me, `Do not blaspheme, unhappy child, the
crime is that of your father, not yours, -- of your father,
who consigned you to hell if you died, and to misery if a
miracle preserved you alive.' After that I ceased to
blaspheme, but I cursed my father. That is why I have
uttered the words for which you blame me; that is why I have
filled this whole assembly with horror. If I have committed
an additional crime, punish me, but if you will allow that
ever since the day of my birth my fate has been sad, bitter,
and lamentable, then pity me."
"But your mother?" asked the president.
"My mother thought me dead; she is not guilty. I did not
even wish to know her name, nor do I know it." Just then a
piercing cry, ending in a sob, burst from the centre of the
crowd, who encircled the lady who had before fainted, and
who now fell into a violent fit of hysterics. She was
carried out of the hall, the thick veil which concealed her
face dropped off, and Madame Danglars was recognized.
Notwithstanding his shattered nerves, the ringing sensation
in his ears, and the madness which turned his brain,
Villefort rose as he perceived her. "The proofs, the
proofs!" said the president; "remember this tissue of
horrors must be supported by the clearest proofs "
"The proofs?" said Benedetto, laughing; "do you want
"Well, then, look at M. de Villefort, and then ask me for
Every one turned towards the procureur, who, unable to bear
the universal gaze now riveted on him alone, advanced
staggering into the midst of the tribunal, with his hair
dishevelled and his face indented with the mark of his
nails. The whole assembly uttered a long murmur of
astonishment. "Father," said Benedetto, "I am asked for
proofs, do you wish me to give them?"
"No, no, it is useless," stammered M. de Villefort in a
hoarse voice; "no, it is useless!"
"How useless?" cried the president, "what do you mean?"
"I mean that I feel it impossible to struggle against this
deadly weight which crushes me. Gentlemen, I know I am in
the hands of an avenging God! We need no proofs; everything
relating to this young man is true." A dull, gloomy silence,
like that which precedes some awful phenomenon of nature,
pervaded the assembly, who shuddered in dismay. "What, M. de
Villefort," cried the president, "do you yield to an
hallucination? What, are you no longer in possession of your
senses? This strange, unexpected, terrible accusation has
disordered your reason. Come, recover."
The procureur dropped his head; his teeth chattered like
those of a man under a violent attack of fever, and yet he
was deadly pale.
"I am in possession of all my senses, sir," he said; "my
body alone suffers, as you may suppose. I acknowledge myself
guilty of all the young man has brought against me, and from
this hour hold myself under the authority of the procureur
who will succeed me."
And as he spoke these words with a hoarse, choking voice, he
staggered towards the door, which was mechanically opened by
a door-keeper. The whole assembly were dumb with
astonishment at the revelation and confession which had
produced a catastrophe so different from that which had been
expected during the last fortnight by the Parisian world.
"Well," said Beauchamp, "let them now say that drama is
"Ma foi!" said Chateau-Renaud, "I would rather end my career
like M. de Morcerf; a pistol-shot seems quite delightful
compared with this catastrophe."
"And moreover, it kills," said Beauchamp.
"And to think that I had an idea of marrying his daughter,"
said Debray. "She did well to die, poor girl!"
"The sitting is adjourned, gentlemen," said the president;
"fresh inquiries will be made, and the case will be tried
next session by another magistrate." As for Andrea, who was
calm and more interesting than ever, he left the hall,
escorted by gendarmes, who involuntarily paid him some
attention. "Well, what do you think of this, my fine
fellow?" asked Debray of the sergeant-at-arms, slipping a
louis into his hand. "There will be extenuating
circumstances," he replied.
Notwithstanding the density of the crowd, M. de Villefort
saw it open before him. There is something so awe-inspiring
in great afflictions that even in the worst times the first
emotion of a crowd has generally been to sympathize with the
sufferer in a great catastrophe. Many people have been
assassinated in a tumult, but even criminals have rarely
been insulted during trial. Thus Villefort passed through
the mass of spectators and officers of the Palais, and
withdrew. Though he had acknowledged his guilt, he was
protected by his grief. There are some situations which men
understand by instinct, but which reason is powerless to
explain; in such cases the greatest poet is he who gives
utterance to the most natural and vehement outburst of
sorrow. Those who hear the bitter cry are as much impressed
as if they listened to an entire poem, and when the sufferer
is sincere they are right in regarding his outburst as
It would be difficult to describe the state of stupor in
which Villefort left the Palais. Every pulse beat with
feverish excitement, every nerve was strained, every vein
swollen, and every part of his body seemed to suffer
distinctly from the rest, thus multiplying his agony a
thousand-fold. He made his way along the corridors through
force of habit; he threw aside his magisterial robe, not out
of deference to etiquette, but because it was an unbearable
burden, a veritable garb of Nessus, insatiate in torture.
Having staggered as far as the Rue Dauphine, he perceived
his carriage, awoke his sleeping coachman by opening the
door himself, threw himself on the cushions, and pointed
towards the Faubourg Saint-Honore; the carriage drove on.
The weight of his fallen fortunes seemed suddenly to crush
him; he could not foresee the consequences; he could not
contemplate the future with the indifference of the hardened
criminal who merely faces a contingency already familiar.
God was still in his heart. "God," he murmured, not knowing
what he said, -- "God -- God!" Behind the event that had
overwhelmed him he saw the hand of God. The carriage rolled
rapidly onward. Villefort, while turning restlessly on the
cushions, felt something press against him. He put out his
hand to remove the object; it was a fan which Madame de
Villefort had left in the carriage; this fan awakened a
recollection which darted through his mind like lightning.
He thought of his wife.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, as though a redhot iron were piercing
his heart. During the last hour his own crime had alone been
presented to his mind; now another object, not less
terrible, suddenly presented itself. His wife! He had just
acted the inexorable judge with her, he had condemned her to
death, and she, crushed by remorse, struck with terror,
covered with the shame inspired by the eloquence of his
irreproachable virtue, -- she, a poor, weak woman, without
help or the power of defending herself against his absolute
and supreme will, -- she might at that very moment, perhaps,
be preparing to die! An hour had elapsed since her
condemnation; at that moment, doubtless, she was recalling
all her crimes to her memory; she was asking pardon for her
sins; perhaps she was even writing a letter imploring
forgiveness from her virtuous husband -- a forgiveness she
was purchasing with her death! Villefort again groaned with
anguish and despair. "Ah," he exclaimed, "that woman became
criminal only from associating with me! I carried the
infection of crime with me, and she has caught it as she
would the typhus fever, the cholera, the plague! And yet I
have punished her -- I have dared to tell her -- I have --
`Repent and die!' But no, she must not die; she shall live,
and with me. We will flee from Paris and go as far as the
earth reaches. I told her of the scaffold; oh, heavens, I
forgot that it awaits me also! How could I pronounce that
word? Yes, we will fly; I will confess all to her, -- I will
tell her daily that I also have committed a crime! -- Oh,
what an alliance -- the tiger and the serpent; worthy wife
of such as I am! She must live that my infamy may diminish
hers." And Villefort dashed open the window in front of the
"Faster, faster!" he cried, in a tone which electrified the
coachman. The horses, impelled by fear, flew towards the
"Yes, yes," repeated Villefort, as he approached his home --
"yes, that woman must live; she must repent, and educate my
son, the sole survivor, with the exception of the
indestructible old man, of the wreck of my house. She loves
him; it was for his sake she has committed these crimes. We
ought never to despair of softening the heart of a mother
who loves her child. She will repent, and no one will know
that she has been guilty. The events which have taken place
in my house, though they now occupy the public mind, will be
forgotten in time, or if, indeed, a few enemies should
persist in remembering them, why then I will add them to my
list of crimes. What will it signify if one, two, or three
more are added? My wife and child shall escape from this
gulf, carrying treasures with them; she will live and may
yet be happy, since her child, in whom all her love is
centred, will be with her. I shall have performed a good
action, and my heart will be lighter." And the procureur
breathed more freely than he had done for some time.
The carriage stopped at the door of the house. Villefort
leaped out of the carriage, and saw that his servants were
surprised at his early return; he could read no other
expression on their features. Neither of them spoke to him;
they merely stood aside to let him pass by, as usual,
nothing more. As he passed by M. Noirtier's room, he
perceived two figures through the half-open door; but he
experienced no curiosity to know who was visiting his
father: anxiety carried him on further.
"Come," he said, as he ascended the stairs leading to his
wife's room, "nothing is changed here." He then closed the
door of the landing. "No one must disturb us," he said; "I
must speak freely to her, accuse myself, and say" -- he
approached the door, touched the crystal handle, which
yielded to his hand. "Not locked," he cried; "that is well."
And he entered the little room in which Edward slept; for
though the child went to school during the day, his mother
could not allow him to be separated from her at night. With
a single glance Villefort's eye ran through the room. "Not
here," he said; "doubtless she is in her bedroom." He rushed
towards the door, found it bolted, and stopped, shuddering.
"Heloise!" he cried. He fancied he heard the sound of a
piece of furniture being removed. "Heloise!" he repeated.
"Who is there?" answered the voice of her he sought. He
thought that voice more feeble than usual.
"Open the door!" cried Villefort. "Open; it is I." But
notwithstanding this request, notwithstanding the tone of
anguish in which it was uttered, the door remained closed.
Villefort burst it open with a violent blow. At the entrance
of the room which led to her boudoir, Madame de Villefort
was standing erect, pale, her features contracted, and her
eyes glaring horribly. "Heloise, Heloise!" he said, "what is
the matter? Speak!" The young woman extended her stiff white
hands towards him. "It is done, monsieur," she said with a
rattling noise which seemed to tear her throat. "What more
do you want?" and she fell full length on the floor.
Villefort ran to her and seized her hand, which convulsively
clasped a crystal bottle with a golden stopper. Madame de
Villefort was dead. Villefort, maddened with horror, stepped
back to the threshhold of the door, fixing his eyes on the
corpse: "My son!" he exclaimed suddenly, "where is my son?
-- Edward, Edward!" and he rushed out of the room, still
crying, "Edward, Edward!" The name was pronounced in such a
tone of anguish that the servants ran up.
"Where is my son?" asked Villefort; "let him be removed from
the house, that he may not see" --
"Master Edward is not down-stairs, sir," replied the valet.
"Then he must be playing in the garden; go and see."
"No, sir; Madame de Villefort sent for him half an hour ago;
he went into her room, and has not been down-stairs since."
A cold perspiration burst out on Villefort's brow; his legs
trembled, and his thoughts flew about madly in his brain
like the wheels of a disordered watch. "In Madame de
Villefort's room?" he murmured and slowly returned, with one
hand wiping his forehead, and with the other supporting
himself against the wall. To enter the room he must again
see the body of his unfortunate wife. To call Edward he must
reawaken the echo of that room which now appeared like a
sepulchre; to speak seemed like violating the silence of the
tomb. His tongue was paralyzed in his mouth.
"Edward!" he stammered -- "Edward!" The child did not
answer. Where, then, could he be, if he had entered his
mother's room and not since returned? He stepped forward.
The corpse of Madame de Villefort was stretched across the
doorway leading to the room in which Edward must be; those
glaring eyes seemed to watch over the threshold, and the
lips bore the stamp of a terrible and mysterious irony.
Through the open door was visible a portion of the boudoir,
containing an upright piano and a blue satin couch.
Villefort stepped forward two or three paces, and beheld his
child lying -- no doubt asleep -- on the sofa. The unhappy
man uttered an exclamation of joy; a ray of light seemed to
penetrate the abyss of despair and darkness. He had only to
step over the corpse, enter the boudoir, take the child in
his arms, and flee far, far away.
Villefort was no longer the civilized man; he was a tiger
hurt unto death, gnashing his teeth in his wound. He no
longer feared realities, but phantoms. He leaped over the
corpse as if it had been a burning brazier. He took the
child in his arms, embraced him, shook him, called him, but
the child made no response. He pressed his burning lips to
the cheeks, but they were icy cold and pale; he felt the
stiffened limbs; he pressed his hand upon the heart, but it
no longer beat, -- the child was dead. A folded paper fell
from Edward's breast. Villefort, thunderstruck, fell upon
his knees; the child dropped from his arms, and rolled on
the floor by the side of its mother. He picked up the paper,
and, recognizing his wife's writing, ran his eyes rapidly
over its contents; it ran as follows: --
"You know that I was a good mother, since it was for my
son's sake I became criminal. A good mother cannot depart
without her son."
Villefort could not believe his eyes, -- he could not
believe his reason; he dragged himself towards the child's
body, and examined it as a lioness contemplates its dead
cub. Then a piercing cry escaped from his breast, and he
cried, "Still the hand of God." The presence of the two
victims alarmed him; he could not bear solitude shared only
by two corpses. Until then he had been sustained by rage, by
his strength of mind, by despair, by the supreme agony which
led the Titans to scale the heavens, and Ajax to defy the
gods. He now arose, his head bowed beneath the weight of
grief, and, shaking his damp, dishevelled hair, he who had
never felt compassion for any one determined to seek his
father, that he might have some one to whom he could relate
his misfortunes, -- some one by whose side he might weep. He
descended the little staircase with which we are acquainted,
and entered Noirtier's room. The old man appeared to be
listening attentively and as affectionately as his
infirmities would allow to the Abbe Busoni, who looked cold
and calm, as usual. Villefort, perceiving the abbe, passed
his hand across his brow. He recollected the call he had
made upon him after the dinner at Auteuil, and then the
visit the abbe had himself paid to his house on the day of
Valentine's death. "You here, sir!" he exclaimed; "do you,
then, never appear but to act as an escort to death?"
Busoni turned around, and, perceiving the excitement
depicted on the magistrate's face, the savage lustre of his
eyes, he understood that the revelation had been made at the
assizes; but beyond this he was ignorant. "I came to pray
over the body of your daughter."
"And now why are you here?"
"I come to tell you that you have sufficiently repaid your
debt, and that from this moment I will pray to God to
forgive you, as I do."
"Good heavens!" exclaimed Villefort, stepping back
fearfully, "surely that is not the voice of the Abbe
"No!" The abbe threw off his wig, shook his head, and his
hair, no longer confined, fell in black masses around his
"It is the face of the Count of Monte Cristo!" exclaimed the
procureur, with a haggard expression.
"You are not exactly right, M. Procureur; you must go
"That voice, that voice! -- where did I first hear it?"
"You heard it for the first time at Marseilles, twenty-three
years ago, the day of your marriage with Mademoiselle de
Saint-Meran. Refer to your papers."
"You are not Busoni? -- you are not Monte Cristo? Oh,
heavens -- you are, then, some secret, implacable, and
mortal enemy! I must have wronged you in some way at
Marseilles. Oh, woe to me!"
"Yes; you are now on the right path," said the count,
crossing his arms over his broad chest; "search -- search!"
"But what have I done to you?" exclaimed Villefort, whose
mind was balancing between reason and insanity, in that
cloud which is neither a dream nor reality; "what have I
done to you? Tell me, then! Speak!"
"You condemned me to a horrible, tedious death; you killed
my father; you deprived me of liberty, of love, and
"Who are you, then? Who are you?"
"I am the spectre of a wretch you buried in the dungeons of
the Chateau d'If. God gave that spectre the form of the
Count of Monte Cristo when he at length issued from his
tomb, enriched him with gold and diamonds, and led him to
"Ah, I recognize you -- I recognize you!" exclaimed the
king's attorney; "you are" --
"I am Edmond Dantes!"
"You are Edmond Dantes," cried Villefort, seizing the count
by the wrist; "then come here!" And up the stairs he dragged
Monte Cristo; who, ignorant of what had happened, followed
him in astonishment, foreseeing some new catastrophe.
"There, Edmond Dantes!" he said, pointing to the bodies of
his wife and child, "see, are you well avenged?" Monte
Cristo became pale at this horrible sight; he felt that he
had passed beyond the bounds of vengeance, and that he could
no longer say, "God is for and with me." With an expression
of indescribable anguish he threw himself upon the body of
the child, reopened its eyes, felt its pulse, and then
rushed with him into Valentine's room, of which he
double-locked the door. "My child," cried Villefort, "he
carries away the body of my child! Oh, curses, woe, death to
you!" and he tried to follow Monte Cristo; but as though in
a dream he was transfixed to the spot, -- his eyes glared as
though they were starting through the sockets; he griped the
flesh on his chest until his nails were stained with blood;
the veins of his temples swelled and boiled as though they
would burst their narrow boundary, and deluge his brain with
living fire. This lasted several minutes, until the
frightful overturn of reason was accomplished; then uttering
a loud cry followed by a burst of laughter, he rushed down
A quarter of an hour afterwards the door of Valentine's room
opened, and Monte Cristo reappeared. Pale, with a dull eye
and heavy heart, all the noble features of that face,
usually so calm and serene, were overcast by grief. In his
arms he held the child, whom no skill had been able to
recall to life. Bending on one knee, he placed it reverently
by the side of its mother, with its head upon her breast.
Then, rising, he went out, and meeting a servant on the
stairs, he asked, "Where is M. de Villefort?"
The servant, instead of answering, pointed to the garden.
Monte Cristo ran down the steps, and advancing towards the
spot designated beheld Villefort, encircled by his servants,
with a spade in his hand, and digging the earth with fury.
"It is not here!" he cried. "It is not here!" And then he
moved farther on, and began again to dig.
Monte Cristo approached him, and said in a low voice, with
an expression almost humble, "Sir, you have indeed lost a
son; but" --
Villefort interrupted him; he had neither listened nor
heard. "Oh, I will find it," he cried; "you may pretend he
is not here, but I will find him, though I dig forever!"
Monte Cristo drew back in horror. "Oh," he said, "he is
mad!" And as though he feared that the walls of the accursed
house would crumble around him, he rushed into the street,
for the first time doubting whether he had the right to do
as he had done. "Oh, enough of this, -- enough of this," he
cried; "let me save the last." On entering his house, he met
Morrel, who wandered about like a ghost awaiting the
heavenly mandate for return to the tomb. "Prepare yourself,
Maximilian," he said with a smile; "we leave Paris
"Have you nothing more to do there?" asked Morrel.
"No," replied Monte Cristo; "God grant I may not have done
too much already."
The next day they indeed left, accompanied only by
Baptistin. Haidee had taken away Ali, and Bertuccio remained
The recent event formed the theme of conversation throughout
all Paris. Emmanuel and his wife conversed with natural
astonishment in their little apartment in the Rue Meslay
upon the three successive, sudden, and most unexpected
catastrophes of Morcerf, Danglars, and Villefort.
Maximilian, who was paying them a visit, listened to their
conversation, or rather was present at it, plunged in his
accustomed state of apathy. "Indeed," said Julie, "might we
not almost fancy, Emmanuel, that those people, so rich, so
happy but yesterday, had forgotten in their prosperity that
an evil genius -- like the wicked fairies in Perrault's
stories who present themselves unbidden at a wedding or
baptism -- hovered over them, and appeared all at once to
revenge himself for their fatal neglect?"
"What a dire misfortune!" said Emmanuel, thinking of Morcerf
"What dreadful sufferings!" said Julie, remembering
Valentine, but whom, with a delicacy natural to women, she
did not name before her brother.
"If the Supreme Being has directed the fatal blow," said
Emmanuel, "it must be that he in his great goodness has
perceived nothing in the past lives of these people to merit
mitigation of their awful punishment."
"Do you not form a very rash judgment, Emmanuel?" said
Julie. "When my father, with a pistol in his hand, was once
on the point of committing suicide, had any one then said,
`This man deserves his misery,' would not that person have
"Yes; but your father was not allowed to fall. A being was
commissioned to arrest the fatal hand of death about to
descend on him."
Emmanuel had scarcely uttered these words when the sound of
the bell was heard, the well-known signal given by the
porter that a visitor had arrived. Nearly at the same
instant the door was opened and the Count of Monte Cristo
appeared on the threshold. The young people uttered a cry of
joy, while Maximilian raised his head, but let it fall again
immediately. "Maximilian," said the count, without appearing
to notice the different impressions which his presence
produced on the little circle, "I come to seek you."
"To seek me?" repeated Morrel, as if awakening from a dream.
"Yes," said Monte Cristo; "has it not been agreed that I
should take you with me, and did I not tell you yesterday to
prepare for departure?"
"I am ready," said Maximilian; "I came expressly to wish
"Whither are you going, count?" asked Julie.
"In the first instance to Marseilles, madame."
"To Marseilles!" exclaimed the young couple.
"Yes, and I take your brother with me."
"Oh, count." said Julie, "will you restore him to us cured
of his melancholy?" -- Morrel turned away to conceal the
confusion of his countenance.
"You perceive, then, that he is not happy?" said the count.
"Yes," replied the young woman; "and fear much that he finds
our home but a dull one."
"I will undertake to divert him," replied the count.
"I am ready to accompany you, sir," said Maximilian. "Adieu,
my kind friends! Emmanuel -- Julie -- farewell!"
"How farewell?" exclaimed Julie; "do you leave us thus, so
suddenly, without any preparations for your journey, without
even a passport?"
"Needless delays but increase the grief of parting," said
Monte Cristo, "and Maximilian has doubtless provided himself
with everything requisite; at least, I advised him to do
"I have a passport, and my clothes are ready packed," said
Morrel in his tranquil but mournful manner.
"Good," said Monte Cristo, smiling; "in these prompt
arrangements we recognize the order of a well-disciplined
"And you leave us," said Julie, "at a moment's warning? you
do not give us a day -- no, not even an hour before your
"My carriage is at the door, madame, and I must be in Rome
in five days."
"But does Maximilian go to Rome?" exclaimed Emmanuel.
"I am going wherever it may please the count to take me,"
said Morrel, with a smile full of grief; "I am under his
orders for the next month."
"Oh, heavens, how strangely he expresses himself, count!"
"Maximilian goes with me," said the count, in his kindest
and most persuasive manner; "therefore do not make yourself
uneasy on your brother's account."
"Once more farewell, my dear sister; Emmanuel, adieu!"
"His carelessness and indifference touch me to the heart,"
said Julie. "Oh, Maximilian, Maximilian, you are certainly
concealing something from us."
"Pshaw!" said Monte Cristo, "you will see him return to you
gay, smiling, and joyful."
Maximilian cast a look of disdain, almost of anger, on the
"We must leave you," said Monte Cristo.
"Before you quit us, count," said Julie, "will you permit us
to express to you all that the other day" --
"Madame," interrupted the count, taking her two hands in
his, "all that you could say in words would never express
what I read in your eyes; the thoughts of your heart are
fully understood by mine. Like benefactors in romances, I
should have left you without seeing you again, but that
would have been a virtue beyond my strength, because I am a
weak and vain man, fond of the tender, kind, and thankful
glances of my fellow-creatures. On the eve of departure I
carry my egotism so far as to say, `Do not forget me, my
kind friends, for probably you will never see me again.'"
"Never see you again?" exclaimed Emmanuel, while two large
tears rolled down Julie's cheeks, "never behold you again?
It is not a man, then, but some angel that leaves us, and
this angel is on the point of returning to heaven after
having appeared on earth to do good."
"Say not so," quickly returned Monte Cristo -- "say not so,
my friends; angels never err, celestial beings remain where
they wish to be. Fate is not more powerful than they; it is
they who, on the contrary, overcome fate. No, Emmanuel, I am
but a man, and your admiration is as unmerited as your words
are sacrilegious." And pressing his lips on the hand of
Julie, who rushed into his arms, he extended his other hand
to Emmanuel; then tearing himself from this abode of peace
and happiness, he made a sign to Maximilian, who followed
him passively, with the indifference which had been
perceptible in him ever since the death of Valentine had so
stunned him. "Restore my brother to peace and happiness,"
whispered Julie to Monte Cristo. And the count pressed her
hand in reply, as he had done eleven years before on the
staircase leading to Morrel's study.
"You still confide, then, in Sinbad the Sailor?" asked he,
"Oh, yes," was the ready answer.
"Well, then, sleep in peace, and put your trust in heaven."
As we have before said, the postchaise was waiting; four
powerful horses were already pawing the ground with
impatience, while Ali, apparently just arrived from a long
walk, was standing at the foot of the steps, his face bathed
in perspiration. "Well," asked the count in Arabic, "have
you been to see the old man?" Ali made a sign in the
"And have you placed the letter before him, as I ordered you
The slave respectfully signalized that he had. "And what did
he say, or rather do?" Ali placed himself in the light, so
that his master might see him distinctly, and then imitating
in his intelligent manner the countenance of the old man, he
closed his eyes, as Noirtier was in the custom of doing when
"Good; he accepts," said Monte Cristo. "Now let us go."
These words had scarcely escaped him, when the carriage was
on its way, and the feet of the horses struck a shower of
sparks from the pavement. Maximilian settled himself in his
corner without uttering a word. Half an hour had passed when
the carriage stopped suddenly; the count had just pulled the
silken check-string, which was fastened to Ali's finger. The
Nubian immediately descended and opened the carriage door.
It was a lovely starlight night -- they had just reached the
top of the hill Villejuif, from whence Paris appears like a
sombre sea tossing its millions of phosphoric waves into
light -- waves indeed more noisy, more passionate, more
changeable, more furious, more greedy, than those of the
tempestuous ocean, -- waves which never rest as those of the
sea sometimes do, -- waves ever dashing, ever foaming, ever
ingulfing what falls within their grasp. The count stood
alone, and at a sign from his hand, the carriage went on for
a short distance. With folded arms, he gazed for some time
upon the great city. When he had fixed his piercing look on
this modern Babylon, which equally engages the contemplation
of the religious enthusiast, the materialist, and the
scoffer, -- "Great city," murmured he, inclining his head,
and joining his hands as if in prayer, "less than six months
have elapsed since first I entered thy gates. I believe that
the Spirit of God led my steps to thee and that he also
enables me to quit thee in triumph; the secret cause of my
presence within thy walls I have confided alone to him who
only has had the power to read my heart. God only knows that
I retire from thee without pride or hatred, but not without
many regrets; he only knows that the power confided to me
has never been made subservient to my personal good or to
any useless cause. Oh, great city, it is in thy palpitating
bosom that I have found that which I sought; like a patient
miner, I have dug deep into thy very entrails to root out
evil thence. Now my work is accomplished, my mission is
terminated, now thou canst neither afford me pain nor
pleasure. Adieu, Paris, adieu!"
His look wandered over the vast plain like that of some
genius of the night; he passed his hand over his brow, got
into the carriage, the door was closed on him, and the
vehicle quickly disappeared down the other side of the hill
in a whirlwind of noise and dust.
Ten leagues were passed and not a single word was uttered.
Morrel was dreaming, and Monte Cristo was looking at the
"Morrel," said the count to him at length, "do you repent
having followed me?"
"No, count; but to leave Paris" --
"If I thought happiness might await you in Paris, Morrel, I
would have left you there."
"Valentine reposes within the walls of Paris, and to leave
Paris is like losing her a second time."
"Maximilian," said the count, "the friends that we have lost
do not repose in the bosom of the earth, but are buried deep
in our hearts, and it has been thus ordained that we may
always be accompanied by them. I have two friends, who in
this way never depart from me; the one who gave me being,
and the other who conferred knowledge and intelligence on
me. Their spirits live in me. I consult them when doubtful,
and if I ever do any good, it is due to their beneficent
counsels. Listen to the voice of your heart, Morrel, and ask
it whether you ought to preserve this melancholy exterior
"My friend," said Maximilian, "the voice of my heart is very
sorrowful, and promises me nothing but misfortune."
"It is the way of weakened minds to see everything through a
black cloud. The soul forms its own horizons; your soul is
darkened, and consequently the sky of the future appears
stormy and unpromising."
"That may possibly be true," said Maximilian, and he again
subsided into his thoughtful mood.
The journey was performed with that marvellous rapidity
which the unlimited power of the count ever commanded. Towns
fled from them like shadows on their path, and trees shaken
by the first winds of autumn seemed like giants madly
rushing on to meet them, and retreating as rapidly when once
reached. The following morning they arrived at Chalons,
where the count's steamboat waited for them. Without the
loss of an instant, the carriage was placed on board and the
two travellers embarked without delay. The boat was built
for speed; her two paddle-wheels were like two wings with
which she skimmed the water like a bird. Morrel was not
insensible to that sensation of delight which is generally
experienced in passing rapidly through the air, and the wind
which occasionally raised the hair from his forehead seemed
on the point of dispelling momentarily the clouds collected
As the distance increased between the travellers and Paris,
almost superhuman serenity appeared to surround the count;
he might have been taken for an exile about to revisit his
native land. Ere long Marseilles presented herself to view,
-- Marseilles, white, fervid, full of life and energy, --
Marseilles, the younger sister of Tyre and Carthage, the
successor to them in the empire of the Mediterranean, --
Marseilles, old, yet always young. Powerful memories were
stirred within them by the sight of the round tower, Fort
Saint-Nicolas, the City Hall designed by Puget,* the port
with its brick quays, where they had both played in
childhood, and it was with one accord that they stopped on
the Cannebiere. A vessel was setting sail for Algiers, on
board of which the bustle usually attending departure
prevailed. The passengers and their relations crowded on the
deck, friends taking a tender but sorrowful leave of each
other, some weeping, others noisy in their grief, the whole
forming a spectacle that might be exciting even to those who
witnessed similar sights daily, but which had no power to
disturb the current of thought that had taken possession of
the mind of Maximilian from the moment he had set foot on
the broad pavement of the quay.
* Pierre Puget, the sculptor-architect, was born at
Marseilles in 1622.
"Here," said he, leaning heavily on the arm of Monte Cristo,
-- "here is the spot where my father stopped, when the
Pharaon entered the port; it was here that the good old man,
whom you saved from death and dishonor, threw himself into
my arms. I yet feel his warm tears on my face, and his were
not the only tears shed, for many who witnessed our meeting
wept also." Monte Cristo gently smiled and said, -- "I was
there;" at the same time pointing to the corner of a street.
As he spoke, and in the very direction he indicated, a
groan, expressive of bitter grief, was heard, and a woman
was seen waving her hand to a passenger on board the vessel
about to sail. Monte Cristo looked at her with an emotion
that must have been remarked by Morrel had not his eyes been
fixed on the vessel.
"Oh, heavens!" exclaimed Morrel, "I do not deceive myself --
that young man who is waving his hat, that youth in the
uniform of a lieutenant, is Albert de Morcerf!"
"Yes," said Monte Cristo, "I recognized him."
"How so? -- you were looking the other way." the count
smiled, as he was in the habit of doing when he did not want
to make any reply, and he again turned towards the veiled
woman, who soon disappeared at the corner of the street.
Turning to his friend, -- "Dear Maximilian," said the count,
"have you nothing to do in this land?"
"I have to weep over the grave of my father," replied Morrel
in a broken voice.
"Well, then, go, -- wait for me there, and I will soon join
"You leave me, then?"
"Yes; I also have a pious visit to pay."
Morrel allowed his hand to fall into that which the count
extended to him; then with an inexpressibly sorrowful
inclination of the head he quitted the count and bent his
steps to the east of the city. Monte Cristo remained on the
same spot until Maximilian was out of sight; he then walked
slowly towards the Allees de Meillan to seek out a small
house with which our readers were made familiar at the
beginning of this story. It yet stood, under the shade of
the fine avenue of lime-trees, which forms one of the most
frequent walks of the idlers of Marseilles, covered by an
immense vine, which spreads its aged and blackened branches
over the stone front, burnt yellow by the ardent sun of the
south. Two stone steps worn away by the friction of many
feet led to the door, which was made of three planks; the
door had never been painted or varnished, so great cracks
yawned in it during the dry season to close again when the
rains came on. The house, with all its crumbling antiquity
and apparent misery, was yet cheerful and picturesque, and
was the same that old Dantes formerly inhabited -- the only
difference being that the old man occupied merely the
garret, while the whole house was now placed at the command
of Mercedes by the count.
The woman whom the count had seen leave the ship with so
much regret entered this house; she had scarcely closed the
door after her when Monte Cristo appeared at the corner of a
street, so that he found and lost her again almost at the
same instant. The worn out steps were old acquaintances of
his; he knew better than any one else how to open that
weather-beaten door with the large headed nail which served
to raise the latch within. He entered without knocking, or
giving any other intimation of his presence, as if he had
been a friend or the master of the place. At the end of a
passage paved with bricks, was a little garden, bathed in
sunshine, and rich in warmth and light. In this garden
Mercedes had found, at the place indicated by the count, the
sum of money which he, through a sense of delicacy, had
described as having been placed there twenty-four years
previously. The trees of the garden were easily seen from
the steps of the street-door. Monte Cristo, on stepping into
the house, heard a sigh that was almost a deep sob; he
looked in the direction whence it came, and there under an
arbor of Virginia jessamine,* with its thick foliage and
beautiful long purple flowers, he saw Mercedes seated, with
her head bowed, and weeping bitterly. She had raised her
veil, and with her face hidden by her hands was giving free
scope to the sighs and tears which had been so long
restrained by the presence of her son. Monte Cristo advanced
a few steps, which were heard on the gravel. Mercedes raised
her head, and uttered a cry of terror on beholding a man
* The Carolina -- not Virginia -- jessamine, gelsemium
sempervirens (properly speaking not a jessamine at all) has
yellow blossoms. The reference is no doubt to the Wistaria
frutescens. -- Ed.
"Madame," said the count, "it is no longer in my power to
restore you to happiness, but I offer you consolation; will
you deign to accept it as coming from a friend?"
"I am, indeed, most wretched," replied Mercedes. "Alone in
the world, I had but my son, and he has left me!"
"He possesses a noble heart, madame," replied the count,
"and he has acted rightly. He feels that every man owes a
tribute to his country; some contribute their talents,
others their industry; these devote their blood, those their
nightly labors, to the same cause. Had he remained with you,
his life must have become a hateful burden, nor would he
have participated in your griefs. He will increase in
strength and honor by struggling with adversity, which he
will convert into prosperity. Leave him to build up the
future for you, and I venture to say you will confide it to
"Oh," replied the wretched woman, mournfully shaking her
head, "the prosperity of which you speak, and which, from
the bottom of my heart, I pray God in his mercy to grant
him, I can never enjoy. The bitter cup of adversity has been
drained by me to the very dregs, and I feel that the grave
is not far distant. You have acted kindly, count, in
bringing me back to the place where I have enjoyed so much
bliss. I ought to meet death on the same spot where
happiness was once all my own."
"Alas," said Monte Cristo, "your words sear and embitter my
heart, the more so as you have every reason to hate me. I
have been the cause of all your misfortunes; but why do you
pity, instead of blaming me? You render me still more
"Hate you, blame you -- you, Edmond! Hate, reproach, the man
that has spared my son's life! For was it not your fatal and
sanguinary intention to destroy that son of whom M. de
Morcerf was so proud? Oh, look at me closely, and discover
if you can even the semblance of a reproach in me." The
count looked up and fixed his eyes on Mercedes, who arose
partly from her seat and extended both her hands towards
him. "Oh, look at me," continued she, with a feeling of
profound melancholy, "my eyes no longer dazzle by their
brilliancy, for the time has long fled since I used to smile
on Edmond Dantes, who anxiously looked out for me from the
window of yonder garret, then inhabited by his old father.
Years of grief have created an abyss between those days and
the present. I neither reproach you nor hate you, my friend.
Oh, no, Edmond, it is myself that I blame, myself that I
hate! Oh, miserable creature that I am!" cried she, clasping
her hands, and raising her eyes to heaven. "I once possessed
piety, innocence, and love, the three ingredients of the
happiness of angels, and now what am I?" Monte Cristo
approached her, and silently took her hand. "No," said she,
withdrawing it gently -- "no, my friend, touch me not. You
have spared me, yet of all those who have fallen under your
vengeance I was the most guilty. They were influenced by
hatred, by avarice, and by self-love; but I was base, and
for want of courage acted against my judgment. Nay, do not
press my hand, Edmond; you are thinking, I am sure, of some
kind speech to console me, but do not utter it to me,
reserve it for others more worthy of your kindness. See"
(and she exposed her face completely to view) -- "see,
misfortune has silvered my hair, my eyes have shed so many
tears that they are encircled by a rim of purple, and my
brow is wrinkled. You, Edmond, on the contrary, -- you are
still young, handsome, dignified; it is because you have had
faith; because you have had strength, because you have had
trust in God, and God has sustained you. But as for me, I
have been a coward; I have denied God and he has abandoned
Mercedes burst into tears; her woman's heart was breaking
under its load of memories. Monte Cristo took her hand and
imprinted a kiss on it; but she herself felt that it was a
kiss of no greater warmth than he would have bestowed on the
hand of some marble statue of a saint. "It often happens,"
continued she, "that a first fault destroys the prospects of
a whole life. I believed you dead; why did I survive you?
What good has it done me to mourn for you eternally in the
secret recesses of my heart? -- only to make a woman of
thirty-nine look like a woman of fifty. Why, having
recognized you, and I the only one to do so -- why was I
able to save my son alone? Ought I not also to have rescued
the man that I had accepted for a husband, guilty though he
were? Yet I let him die! What do I say? Oh, merciful
heavens, was I not accessory to his death by my supine
insensibility, by my contempt for him, not remembering, or
not willing to remember, that it was for my sake he had
become a traitor and a perjurer? In what am I benefited by
accompanying my son so far, since I now abandon him, and
allow him to depart alone to the baneful climate of Africa?
Oh, I have been base, cowardly, I tell you; I have abjured
my affections, and like all renegades I am of evil omen to
those who surround me!"
"No, Mercedes," said Monte Cristo, "no; you judge yourself
with too much severity. You are a noble-minded woman, and it
was your grief that disarmed me. Still I was but an agent,
led on by an invisible and offended Deity, who chose not to
withhold the fatal blow that I was destined to hurl. I take
that God to witness, at whose feet I have prostrated myself
daily for the last ten years, that I would have sacrificed
my life to you, and with my life the projects that were
indissolubly linked with it. But -- and I say it with some
pride, Mercedes -- God needed me, and I lived. Examine the
past and the present, and endeavor to dive into futurity,
and then say whether I am not a divine instrument. The most
dreadful misfortunes, the most frightful sufferings, the
abandonment of all those who loved me, the persecution of
those who did not know me, formed the trials of my youth;
when suddenly, from captivity, solitude, misery, I was
restored to light and liberty, and became the possessor of a
fortune so brilliant, so unbounded, so unheard-of, that I
must have been blind not to be conscious that God had
endowed me with it to work out his own great designs. From
that time I looked upon this fortune as something confided
to me for an especial purpose. Not a thought was given to a
life which you once, Mercedes, had the power to render
blissful; not one hour of peaceful calm was mine; but I felt
myself driven on like an exterminating angel. Like
adventurous captains about to embark on some enterprise full
of danger, I laid in my provisions, I loaded my weapons, I
collected every means of attack and defence; I inured my
body to the most violent exercises, my soul to the bitterest
trials; I taught my arm to slay, my eyes to behold
excruciating sufferings, and my mouth to smile at the most
horrid spectacles. Good-natured, confiding, and forgiving as
I had been, I became revengeful, cunning, and wicked, or
rather, immovable as fate. Then I launched out into the path
that was opened to me. I overcame every obstacle, and
reached the goal; but woe to those who stood in my pathway!"
"Enough," said Mercedes; "enough, Edmond! Believe me, that
she who alone recognized you has been the only one to
comprehend you; and had she crossed your path, and you had
crushed her like glass, still, Edmond, still she must have
admired you! Like the gulf between me and the past, there is
an abyss between you, Edmond, and the rest of mankind; and I
tell you freely that the comparison I draw between you and
other men will ever be one of my greatest tortures. No,
there is nothing in the world to resemble you in worth and
goodness! But we must say farewell, Edmond, and let us
"Before I leave you, Mercedes, have you no request to make?"
said the count.
"I desire but one thing in this world, Edmond, -- the
happiness of my son."
"Pray to the Almighty to spare his life, and I will take
upon myself to promote his happiness."
"Thank you, Edmond."
"But have you no request to make for yourself, Mercedes?"
"For myself I want nothing. I live, as it were, between two
graves. One is that of Edmond Dantes, lost to me long, long
since. He had my love! That word ill becomes my faded lip
now, but it is a memory dear to my heart, and one that I
would not lose for all that the world contains. The other
grave is that of the man who met his death from the hand of
Edmond Dantes. I approve of the deed, but I must pray for
"Your son shall be happy, Mercedes," repeated the count.
"Then I shall enjoy as much happiness as this world can
"But what are your intentions?"
"To say that I shall live here, like the Mercedes of other
times, gaining my bread by labor, would not be true, nor
would you believe me. I have no longer the strength to do
anything but to spend my days in prayer. However, I shall
have no occasion to work, for the little sum of money buried
by you, and which I found in the place you mentioned, will
be sufficient to maintain me. Rumor will probably be busy
respecting me, my occupations, my manner of living -- that
will signify but little."
"Mercedes," said the count, "I do not say it to blame you,
but you made an unnecessary sacrifice in relinquishing the
whole of the fortune amassed by M. de Morcerf; half of it at
least by right belonged to you, in virtue of your vigilance
"I perceive what you are intending to propose to me; but I
cannot accept it, Edmond -- my son would not permit it."
"Nothing shall be done without the full approbation of
Albert de Morcerf. I will make myself acquainted with his
intentions and will submit to them. But if he be willing to
accept my offers, will you oppose them?"
"You well know, Edmond, that I am no longer a reasoning
creature; I have no will, unless it be the will never to
decide. I have been so overwhelmed by the many storms that
have broken over my head, that I am become passive in the
hands of the Almighty, like a sparrow in the talons of an
eagle. I live, because it is not ordained for me to die. If
succor be sent to me, I will accept it."
"Ah, madame," said Monte Cristo, "you should not talk thus!
It is not so we should evince our resignation to the will of
heaven; on the contrary, we are all free agents."
"Alas!" exclaimed Mercedes, "if it were so, if I possessed
free-will, but without the power to render that will
efficacious, it would drive me to despair." Monte Cristo
dropped his head and shrank from the vehemence of her grief.
"Will you not even say you will see me again?" he asked.
"On the contrary, we shall meet again," said Mercedes,
pointing to heaven with solemnity. "I tell you so to prove
to you that I still hope." And after pressing her own
trembling hand upon that of the count, Mercedes rushed up
the stairs and disappeared. Monte Cristo slowly left the
house and turned towards the quay. But Mercedes did not
witness his departure, although she was seated at the little
window of the room which had been occupied by old Dantes.
Her eyes were straining to see the ship which was carrying
her son over the vast sea; but still her voice involuntarily
murmured softly, "Edmond, Edmond, Edmond!"
The count departed with a sad heart from the house in which
he had left Mercedes, probably never to behold her again.
Since the death of little Edward a great change had taken
place in Monte Cristo. Having reached the summit of his
vengeance by a long and tortuous path, he saw an abyss of
doubt yawning before him. More than this, the conversation
which had just taken place between Mercedes and himself had
awakened so many recollections in his heart that he felt it
necessary to combat with them. A man of the count's
temperament could not long indulge in that melancholy which
can exist in common minds, but which destroys superior ones.
He thought he must have made an error in his calculations if
he now found cause to blame himself.
"I cannot have deceived myself," he said; "I must look upon
the past in a false light. What!" he continued, "can I have
been following a false path? -- can the end which I proposed
be a mistaken end? -- can one hour have sufficed to prove to
an architect that the work upon which he founded all his
hopes was an impossible, if not a sacrilegious, undertaking?
I cannot reconcile myself to this idea -- it would madden
me. The reason why I am now dissatisfied is that I have not
a clear appreciation of the past. The past, like the country
through which we walk, becomes indistinct as we advance. My
position is like that of a person wounded in a dream; he
feels the wound, though he cannot recollect when he received
it. Come, then, thou regenerate man, thou extravagant
prodigal, thou awakened sleeper, thou all-powerful
visionary, thou invincible millionaire, -- once again review
thy past life of starvation and wretchedness, revisit the
scenes where fate and misfortune conducted, and where
despair received thee. Too many diamonds, too much gold and
splendor, are now reflected by the mirror in which Monte
Cristo seeks to behold Dantes. Hide thy diamonds, bury thy
gold, shroud thy splendor, exchange riches for poverty,
liberty for a prison, a living body for a corpse!" As he
thus reasoned, Monte Cristo walked down the Rue de la
Caisserie. It was the same through which, twenty-four years
ago, he had been conducted by a silent and nocturnal guard;
the houses, to-day so smiling and animated, were on that
night dark, mute, and closed. "And yet they were the same,"
murmured Monte Cristo, "only now it is broad daylight
instead of night; it is the sun which brightens the place,
and makes it appear so cheerful."
He proceeded towards the quay by the Rue Saint-Laurent, and
advanced to the Consigne; it was the point where he had
embarked. A pleasure-boat with striped awning was going by.
Monte Cristo called the owner, who immediately rowed up to
him with the eagerness of a boatman hoping for a good fare.
The weather was magnificent, and the excursion a treat.
The sun, red and flaming, was sinking into the embrace of
the welcoming ocean. The sea, smooth as crystal, was now and
then disturbed by the leaping of fish, which were pursued by
some unseen enemy and sought for safety in another element;
while on the extreme verge of the horizon might be seen the
fishermen's boats, white and graceful as the sea-gull, or
the merchant vessels bound for Corsica or Spain.
But notwithstanding the serene sky, the gracefully formed
boats, and the golden light in which the whole scene was
bathed, the Count of Monte Cristo, wrapped in his cloak,
could think only of this terrible voyage, the details of
which were one by one recalled to his memory. The solitary
light burning at the Catalans; that first sight of the
Chateau d'If, which told him whither they were leading him;
the struggle with the gendarmes when he wished to throw
himself overboard; his despair when he found himself
vanquished, and the sensation when the muzzle of the carbine
touched his forehead -- all these were brought before him in
vivid and frightful reality. Like the streams which the heat
of the summer has dried up, and which after the autumnal
storms gradually begin oozing drop by drop, so did the count
feel his heart gradually fill with the bitterness which
formerly nearly overwhelmed Edmond Dantes. Clear sky,
swift-flitting boats, and brilliant sunshine disappeared;
the heavens were hung with black, and the gigantic structure
of the Chateau d'If seemed like the phantom of a mortal
enemy. As they reached the shore, the count instinctively
shrunk to the extreme end of the boat, and the owner was
obliged to call out, in his sweetest tone of voice, "Sir, we
are at the landing."
Monte Cristo remembered that on that very spot, on the same
rock, he had been violently dragged by the guards, who
forced him to ascend the slope at the points of their
bayonets. The journey had seemed very long to Dantes, but
Monte Cristo found it equally short. Each stroke of the oar
seemed to awaken a new throng of ideas, which sprang up with
the flying spray of the sea.
There had been no prisoners confined in the Chateau d'If
since the revolution of July; it was only inhabited by a
guard, kept there for the prevention of smuggling. A
concierge waited at the door to exhibit to visitors this
monument of curiosity, once a scene of terror. The count
inquired whether any of the ancient jailers were still
there; but they had all been pensioned, or had passed on to
some other employment. The concierge who attended him had
only been there since 1830. He visited his own dungeon. He
again beheld the dull light vainly endeavoring to penetrate
the narrow opening. His eyes rested upon the spot where had
stood his bed, since then removed, and behind the bed the
new stones indicated where the breach made by the Abbe Faria
had been. Monte Cristo felt his limbs tremble; he seated
himself upon a log of wood.
"Are there any stories connected with this prison besides
the one relating to the poisoning of Mirabeau?" asked the
count; "are there any traditions respecting these dismal
abodes, -- in which it is difficult to believe men can ever
have imprisoned their fellow-creatures?"
"Yes, sir; indeed, the jailer Antoine told me one connected
with this very dungeon."
Monte Cristo shuddered; Antoine had been his jailer. He had
almost forgotten his name and face, but at the mention of
the name he recalled his person as he used to see it, the
face encircled by a beard, wearing the brown jacket, the
bunch of keys, the jingling of which he still seemed to
hear. The count turned around, and fancied he saw him in the
corridor, rendered still darker by the torch carried by the
concierge. "Would you like to hear the story, sir?"
"Yes; relate it," said Monte Cristo, pressing his hand to
his heart to still its violent beatings; he felt afraid of
hearing his own history.
"This dungeon," said the concierge, "was, it appears, some
time ago occupied by a very dangerous prisoner, the more so
since he was full of industry. Another person was confined
in the Chateau at the same time, but he was not wicked, he
was only a poor mad priest."
"Ah, indeed? -- mad!" repeated Monte Cristo; "and what was
"He offered millions to any one who would set him at
Monte Cristo raised his eyes, but he could not see the
heavens; there was a stone veil between him and the
firmament. He thought that there had been no less thick a
veil before the eyes of those to whom Faria offered the
treasures. "Could the prisoners see each other?" he asked.
"Oh, no, sir, it was expressly forbidden; but they eluded
the vigilance of the guards, and made a passage from one
dungeon to the other."
"And which of them made this passage?"
"Oh, it must have been the young man, certainly, for he was
strong and industrious, while the abbe was aged and weak;
besides, his mind was too vacillating to allow him to carry
out an idea."
"Blind fools!" murmured the count.
"However, be that as it may, the young man made a tunnel,
how or by what means no one knows; but he made it, and there
is the evidence yet remaining of his work. Do you see it?"
and the man held the torch to the wall.
"Ah, yes; I see," said the count, in a voice hoarse from
"The result was that the two men communicated with one
another; how long they did so, nobody knows. One day the old
man fell ill and died. Now guess what the young one did?"
"He carried off the corpse, which he placed in his own bed
with its face to the wall; then he entered the empty
dungeon, closed the entrance, and slipped into the sack
which had contained the dead body. Did you ever hear of such
an idea?" Monte Cristo closed his eyes, and seemed again to
experience all the sensations he had felt when the coarse
canvas, yet moist with the cold dews of death, had touched
his face. The jailer continued: "Now this was his project.
He fancied that they buried the dead at the Chateau d'If,
and imagining they would not expend much labor on the grave
of a prisoner, he calculated on raising the earth with his
shoulders, but unfortunately their arrangements at the
Chateau frustrated his projects. They never buried the dead;
they merely attached a heavy cannon-ball to the feet, and
then threw them into the sea. This is what was done. The
young man was thrown from the top of the rock; the corpse
was found on the bed next day, and the whole truth was
guessed, for the men who performed the office then mentioned
what they had not dared to speak of before, that at the
moment the corpse was thrown into the deep, they heard a
shriek, which was almost immediately stifled by the water in
which it disappeared." The count breathed with difficulty;
the cold drops ran down his forehead, and his heart was full
"No," he muttered, "the doubt I felt was but the
commencement of forgetfulness; but here the wound reopens,
and the heart again thirsts for vengeance. And the
prisoner," he continued aloud, "was he ever heard of
"Oh, no; of course not. You can understand that one of two
things must have happened; he must either have fallen flat,
in which case the blow, from a height of ninety feet, must
have killed him instantly, or he must have fallen upright,
and then the weight would have dragged him to the bottom,
where he remained -- poor fellow!"
"Then you pity him?" said the count.
"Ma foi, yes; though he was in his own element."
"What do you mean?"
"The report was that he had been a naval officer, who had
been confined for plotting with the Bonapartists."
"Great is truth," muttered the count, "fire cannot burn, nor
water drown it! Thus the poor sailor lives in the
recollection of those who narrate his history; his terrible
story is recited in the chimney-corner, and a shudder is
felt at the description of his transit through the air to be
swallowed by the deep." Then, the count added aloud, "Was
his name ever known?"
"Oh, yes; but only as No. 34."
"Oh, Villefort, Villefort," murmured the count, "this scene
must often have haunted thy sleepless hours!"
"Do you wish to see anything more, sir?" said the concierge.
"Yes, especially if you will show me the poor abbe's room."
"Ah -- No. 27."
"Yes; No. 27." repeated the count, who seemed to hear the
voice of the abbe answering him in those very words through
the wall when asked his name.
"Wait," said Monte Cristo, "I wish to take one final glance
around this room."
"This is fortunate," said the guide; "I have forgotten the
"Go and fetch it."
"I will leave you the torch, sir."
"No, take it away; I can see in the dark."
"Why, you are like No. 34. They said he was so accustomed to
darkness that he could see a pin in the darkest corner of
"He spent fourteen years to arrive at that," muttered the
The guide carried away the torch. The count had spoken
correctly. Scarcely had a few seconds elapsed, ere he saw
everything as distinctly as by daylight. Then he looked
around him, and really recognized his dungeon.
"Yes," he said, "there is the stone upon which I used to
sit; there is the impression made by my shoulders on the
wall; there is the mark of my blood made when one day I
dashed my head against the wall. Oh, those figures, how well
I remember them! I made them one day to calculate the age of
my father, that I might know whether I should find him still
living, and that of Mercedes, to know if I should find her
still free. After finishing that calculation, I had a
minute's hope. I did not reckon upon hunger and infidelity!"
and a bitter laugh escaped the count. He saw in fancy the
burial of his father, and the marriage of Mercedes. On the
other side of the dungeon he perceived an inscription, the
white letters of which were still visible on the green wall.
"`O God,'" he read, "`preserve my memory!' Oh, yes," he
cried, "that was my only prayer at last; I no longer begged
for liberty, but memory; I dreaded to become mad and
forgetful. O God, thou hast preserved my memory; I thank
thee, I thank thee!" At this moment the light of the torch
was reflected on the wall; the guide was coming; Monte
Cristo went to meet him.
"Follow me, sir;" and without ascending the stairs the guide
conducted him by a subterraneous passage to another
entrance. There, again, Monte Cristo was assailed by a
multitude of thoughts. The first thing that met his eye was
the meridian, drawn by the abbe on the wall, by which he
calculated the time; then he saw the remains of the bed on
which the poor prisoner had died. The sight of this, instead
of exciting the anguish experienced by the count in the
dungeon, filled his heart with a soft and grateful
sentiment, and tears fell from his eyes.
"This is where the mad abbe was kept, sir, and that is where
the young man entered; "and the guide pointed to the
opening, which had remained unclosed. "From the appearance
of the stone," he continued, "a learned gentleman discovered
that the prisoners might have communicated together for ten
years. Poor things! Those must have been ten weary years."
Dantes took some louis from his pocket, and gave them to the
man who had twice unconsciously pitied him. The guide took
them, thinking them merely a few pieces of little value; but
the light of the torch revealed their true worth. "Sir," he
said, "you have made a mistake; you have given me gold."
"I know it." The concierge looked upon the count with
surprise. "Sir," he cried, scarcely able to believe his good
fortune -- "sir, I cannot understand your generosity!"
"Oh, it is very simple, my good fellow; I have been a
sailor, and your story touched me more than it would
"Then, sir, since you are so liberal, I ought to offer you
"What have you to offer to me, my friend? Shells?
Straw-work? Thank you!"
"No, sir, neither of those; something connected with this
"Really? What is it?"
"Listen," said the guide; "I said to myself, `Something is
always left in a cell inhabited by one prisoner for fifteen
years,' so I began to sound the wall."
"Ah," cried Monte Cristo, remembering the abbe's two
"After some search, I found that the floor gave a hollow
sound near the head of the bed, and at the hearth."
"Yes," said the count, "yes."
"I raised the stones, and found" --
"A rope-ladder and some tools?"
"How do you know that?" asked the guide in astonishment.
"I do not know -- I only guess it, because that sort of
thing is generally found in prisoners' cells."
"Yes, sir, a rope-ladder and tools."
"And have you them yet?"
"No, sir; I sold them to visitors, who considered them great
curiosities; but I have still something left."
"What is it?" asked the count, impatiently.
"A sort of book, written upon strips of cloth."
"Go and fetch it, my good fellow; and if it be what I hope,
you will do well."
"I will run for it, sir;" and the guide went out. Then the
count knelt down by the side of the bed, which death had
converted into an altar. "Oh, second father," he exclaimed,
"thou who hast given me liberty, knowledge, riches; thou
who, like beings of a superior order to ourselves, couldst
understand the science of good and evil; if in the depths of
the tomb there still remain something within us which can
respond to the voice of those who are left on earth; if
after death the soul ever revisit the places where we have
lived and suffered, -- then, noble heart, sublime soul, then
I conjure thee by the paternal love thou didst bear me, by
the filial obedience I vowed to thee, grant me some sign,
some revelation! Remove from me the remains of doubt, which,
if it change not to conviction, must become remorse!" The
count bowed his head, and clasped his hands together.
"Here, sir," said a voice behind him.
Monte Cristo shuddered, and arose. The concierge held out
the strips of cloth upon which the Abbe Faria had spread the
riches of his mind. The manuscript was the great work by the
Abbe Faria upon the kingdoms of Italy. The count seized it
hastily, his eyes immediately fell upon the epigraph, and he
read, "`Thou shalt tear out the dragons' teeth, and shall
trample the lions under foot, saith the Lord.'"
"Ah," he exclaimed, "here is my answer. Thanks, father,
thanks." And feeling in his pocket, he took thence a small
pocket-book, which contained ten bank-notes, each of 1,000
"Here," he said, "take this pocket-book."
"Do you give it to me?"
"Yes; but only on condition that you will not open it till I
am gone;" and placing in his breast the treasure he had just
found, which was more valuable to him than the richest
jewel, he rushed out of the corridor, and reaching his boat,
cried, "To Marseilles!" Then, as he departed, he fixed his