The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas [Pere]
Part 29 out of 31
"Shall I drive you back to Paris?" he asked.
"No, thank you."
"Do you wish anything?"
"Leave me to pray." The count withdrew without opposition,
but it was only to place himself in a situation where he
could watch every movement of Morrel, who at length arose,
brushed the dust from his knees, and turned towards Paris,
without once looking back. He walked slowly down the Rue de
la Roquette. The count, dismissing his carriage, followed
him about a hundred paces behind. Maximilian crossed the
canal and entered the Rue Meslay by the boulevards. Five
minutes after the door had been closed on Morrel's entrance,
it was again opened for the count. Julie was at the entrance
of the garden, where she was attentively watching Penelon,
who, entering with zeal into his profession of gardener, was
very busy grafting some Bengal roses. "Ah, count," she
exclaimed, with the delight manifested by every member of
the family whenever he visited the Rue Meslay.
"Maximilian has just returned, has he not, madame?" asked
"Yes, I think I saw him pass; but pray, call Emmanuel."
"Excuse me, madame, but I must go up to Maximilian's room
this instant," replied Monte Cristo, "I have something of
the greatest importance to tell him."
"Go, then," she said with a charming smile, which
accompanied him until he had disappeared. Monte Cristo soon
ran up the staircase conducting from the ground-floor to
Maximilian's room; when he reached the landing he listened
attentively, but all was still. Like many old houses
occupied by a single family, the room door was panelled with
glass; but it was locked, Maximilian was shut in, and it was
impossible to see what was passing in the room, because a
red curtain was drawn before the glass. The count's anxiety
was manifested by a bright color which seldom appeared on
the face of that imperturbable man.
"What shall I do!" he uttered, and reflected for a moment;
"shall I ring? No, the sound of a bell, announcing a
visitor, will but accelerate the resolution of one in
Maximilian's situation, and then the bell would be followed
by a louder noise." Monte Cristo trembled from head to foot
and as if his determination had been taken with the rapidity
of lightning, he struck one of the panes of glass with his
elbow; the glass was shivered to atoms, then withdrawing the
curtain he saw Morrel, who had been writing at his desk,
bound from his seat at the noise of the broken window.
"I beg a thousand pardons," said the count, "there is
nothing the matter, but I slipped down and broke one of your
panes of glass with my elbow. Since it is opened, I will
take advantage of it to enter your room; do not disturb
yourself -- do not disturb yourself!" And passing his hand
through the broken glass, the count opened the door. Morrel,
evidently discomposed, came to meet Monte Cristo less with
the intention of receiving him than to exclude his entry.
"Ma foi," said Monte Cristo, rubbing his elbow, "it's all
your servant's fault; your stairs are so polished, it is
like walking on glass."
"Are you hurt, sir?" coldly asked Morrel.
"I believe not. But what are you about there? You were
"Your fingers are stained with ink."
"Ah, true, I was writing. I do sometimes, soldier though I
Monte Cristo advanced into the room; Maximilian was obliged
to let him pass, but he followed him. "You were writing?"
said Monte Cristo with a searching look.
"I have already had the honor of telling you I was," said
The count looked around him. "Your pistols are beside your
desk," said Monte Cristo, pointing with his finger to the
pistols on the table.
"I am on the point of starting on a journey," replied Morrel
"My friend," exclaimed Monte Cristo in a tone of exquisite
"My friend, my dear Maximilian, do not make a hasty
resolution, I entreat you."
"I make a hasty resolution?" said Morrel, shrugging his
shoulders; "is there anything extraordinary in a journey?"
"Maximilian," said the count, "let us both lay aside the
mask we have assumed. You no more deceive me with that false
calmness than I impose upon you with my frivolous
solicitude. You can understand, can you not, that to have
acted as I have done, to have broken that glass, to have
intruded on the solitude of a friend -- you can understand
that, to have done all this, I must have been actuated by
real uneasiness, or rather by a terrible conviction. Morrel,
you are going to destroy yourself!"
"Indeed, count," said Morrel, shuddering; "what has put this
into your head?"
"I tell you that you are about to destroy yourself,"
continued the count, "and here is proof of what I say;" and,
approaching the desk, he removed the sheet of paper which
Morrel had placed over the letter he had begun, and took the
latter in his hands.
Morrel rushed forward to tear it from him, but Monte Cristo
perceiving his intention, seized his wrist with his iron
grasp. "You wish to destroy yourself," said the count; "you
have written it."
"Well," said Morrel, changing his expression of calmness for
one of violence -- "well, and if I do intend to turn this
pistol against myself, who shall prevent me -- who will dare
prevent me? All my hopes are blighted, my heart is broken,
my life a burden, everything around me is sad and mournful;
earth has become distasteful to me, and human voices
distract me. It is a mercy to let me die, for if I live I
shall lose my reason and become mad. When, sir, I tell you
all this with tears of heartfelt anguish, can you reply that
I am wrong, can you prevent my putting an end to my
miserable existence? Tell me, sir, could you have the
courage to do so?"
"Yes, Morrel," said Monte Cristo, with a calmness which
contrasted strangely with the young man's excitement; "yes,
I would do so."
"You?" exclaimed Morrel, with increasing anger and reproach
-- "you, who have deceived me with false hopes, who have
cheered and soothed me with vain promises, when I might, if
not have saved her, at least have seen her die in my arms!
You, who pretend to understand everything, even the hidden
sources of knowledge, -- and who enact the part of a
guardian angel upon earth, and could not even find an
antidote to a poison administered to a young girl! Ah, sir,
indeed you would inspire me with pity, were you not hateful
in my eyes."
"Yes; you tell me to lay aside the mask, and I will do so,
be satisfied! When you spoke to me at the cemetery, I
answered you -- my heart was softened; when you arrived
here, I allowed you to enter. But since you abuse my
confidence, since you have devised a new torture after I
thought I had exhausted them all, then, Count of Monte
Cristo my pretended benefactor -- then, Count of Monte
Cristo, the universal guardian, be satisfied, you shall
witness the death of your friend;" and Morrel, with a
maniacal laugh, again rushed towards the pistols.
"And I again repeat, you shall not commit suicide."
"Prevent me, then!" replied Morrel, with another struggle,
which, like the first, failed in releasing him from the
count's iron grasp.
"I will prevent you."
"And who are you, then, that arrogate to yourself this
tyrannical right over free and rational beings?"
"Who am I?" repeated Monte Cristo. "Listen; I am the only
man in the world having the right to say to you, `Morrel,
your father's son shall not die to-day;'" and Monte Cristo,
with an expression of majesty and sublimity, advanced with
arms folded toward the young man, who, involuntarily
overcome by the commanding manner of this man, recoiled a
"Why do you mention my father?" stammered he; "why do you
mingle a recollection of him with the affairs of today?"
"Because I am he who saved your father's life when he wished
to destroy himself, as you do to-day -- because I am the man
who sent the purse to your young sister, and the Pharaon to
old Morrel -- because I am the Edmond Dantes who nursed you,
a child, on my knees." Morrel made another step back,
staggering, breathless, crushed; then all his strength give
way, and he fell prostrate at the feet of Monte Cristo. Then
his admirable nature underwent a complete and sudden
revulsion; he arose, rushed out of the room and to the
stairs, exclaiming energetically, "Julie, Julie -- Emmanuel,
Monte Cristo endeavored also to leave, but Maximilian would
have died rather than relax his hold of the handle of the
door, which he closed upon the count. Julie, Emmanuel, and
some of the servants, ran up in alarm on hearing the cries
of Maximilian. Morrel seized their hands, and opening the
door exclaimed in a voice choked with sobs, "On your knees
-- on your knees -- he is our benefactor -- the saviour of
our father! He is" --
He would have added "Edmond Dantes," but the count seized
his arm and prevented him. Julie threw herself into the arms
of the count; Emmanuel embraced him as a guardian angel;
Morrel again fell on his knees, and struck the ground with
his forehead. Then the iron-hearted man felt his heart swell
in his breast; a flame seemed to rush from his throat to his
eyes, he bent his head and wept. For a while nothing was
heard in the room but a succession of sobs, while the
incense from their grateful hearts mounted to heaven. Julie
had scarcely recovered from her deep emotion when she rushed
out of the room, descended to the next floor, ran into the
drawing-room with childlike joy and raised the crystal globe
which covered the purse given by the unknown of the Allees
de Meillan. Meanwhile, Emmanuel in a broken voice said to
the count, "Oh, count, how could you, hearing us so often
speak of our unknown benefactor, seeing us pay such homage
of gratitude and adoration to his memory, -- how could you
continue so long without discovering yourself to us? Oh, it
was cruel to us, and -- dare I say it? -- to you also."
"Listen, my friends," said the count -- "I may call you so
since we have really been friends for the last eleven years
-- the discovery of this secret has been occasioned by a
great event which you must never know. I wish to bury it
during my whole life in my own bosom, but your brother
Maximilian wrested it from me by a violence he repents of
now, I am sure." Then turning around, and seeing that
Morrel, still on his knees, had thrown himself into an
arm-chair, be added in a low voice, pressing Emmanuel's hand
significantly, "Watch over him."
"Why so?" asked the young man, surprised.
"I cannot explain myself; but watch over him." Emmanuel
looked around the room and caught sight of the pistols; his
eyes rested on the weapons, and he pointed to them. Monte
Cristo bent his head. Emmanuel went towards the pistols.
"Leave them," said Monte Cristo. Then walking towards
Morrel, he took his hand; the tumultuous agitation of the
young man was succeeded by a profound stupor. Julie
returned, holding the silken purse in her hands, while tears
of joy rolled down her cheeks, like dewdrops on the rose.
"Here is the relic," she said; "do not think it will be less
dear to us now we are acquainted with our benefactor!"
"My child," said Monte Cristo, coloring, "allow me to take
back that purse? Since you now know my face, I wish to be
remembered alone through the affection I hope you will grant
"Oh," said Julie, pressing the purse to her heart, "no, no,
I beseech you do not take it, for some unhappy day you will
leave us, will you not?"
"You have guessed rightly, madame," replied Monte Cristo,
smiling; "in a week I shall have left this country, where so
many persons who merit the vengeance of heaven lived
happily, while my father perished of hunger and grief."
While announcing his departure, the count fixed his eyes on
Morrel, and remarked that the words, "I shall have left this
country," had failed to rouse him from his lethargy. He then
saw that he must make another struggle against the grief of
his friend, and taking the hands of Emmanuel and Julie,
which he pressed within his own, he said with the mild
authority of a father, "My kind friends, leave me alone with
Maximilian." Julie saw the means offered of carrying off her
precious relic, which Monte Cristo had forgotten. She drew
her husband to the door. "Let us leave them," she said. The
count was alone with Morrel, who remained motionless as a
"Come," said Monte-Cristo, touching his shoulder with his
finger, "are you a man again, Maximilian?"
"Yes; for I begin to suffer again."
The count frowned, apparently in gloomy hesitation.
"Maximilian, Maximilian," he said, "the ideas you yield to
are unworthy of a Christian."
"Oh, do not fear, my friend," said Morrel, raising his head,
and smiling with a sweet expression on the count; "I shall
no longer attempt my life."
"Then we are to have no more pistols -- no more despair?"
"No; I have found a better remedy for my grief than either a
bullet or a knife."
"Poor fellow, what is it?"
"My grief will kill me of itself."
"My friend," said Monte Cristo, with an expression of
melancholy equal to his own, "listen to me. One day, in a
moment of despair like yours, since it led to a similar
resolution, I also wished to kill myself; one day your
father, equally desperate, wished to kill himself too. If
any one had said to your father, at the moment he raised the
pistol to his head -- if any one had told me, when in my
prison I pushed back the food I had not tasted for three
days -- if anyone had said to either of us then, `Live --
the day will come when you will be happy, and will bless
life!' -- no matter whose voice had spoken, we should have
heard him with the smile of doubt, or the anguish of
incredulity, -- and yet how many times has your father
blessed life while embracing you -- how often have I myself"
"Ah," exclaimed Morrel, interrupting the count, "you had
only lost your liberty, my father had only lost his fortune,
but I have lost Valentine."
"Look at me," said Monte Cristo, with that expression which
sometimes made him so eloquent and persuasive -- "look at
me. There are no tears in my eyes, nor is there fever in my
veins, yet I see you suffer -- you, Maximilian, whom I love
as my own son. Well, does not this tell you that in grief,
as in life, there is always something to look forward to
beyond? Now, if I entreat, if I order you to live, Morrel,
it is in the conviction that one day you will thank me for
having preserved your life."
"Oh, heavens," said the young man, "oh, heavens -- what are
you saying, count? Take care. But perhaps you have never
"Child!" replied the count.
"I mean, as I love. You see, I have been a soldier ever
since I attained manhood. I reached the age of twenty-nine
without loving, for none of the feelings I before then
experienced merit the appellation of love. Well, at
twenty-nine I saw Valentine; for two years I have loved her,
for two years I have seen written in her heart, as in a
book, all the virtues of a daughter and wife. Count, to
possess Valentine would have been a happiness too infinite,
too ecstatic, too complete, too divine for this world, since
it has been denied me; but without Valentine the earth is
"I have told you to hope," said the count.
"Then have a care, I repeat, for you seek to persuade me,
and if you succeed I should lose my reason, for I should
hope that I could again behold Valentine." The count smiled.
"My friend, my father," said Morrel with excitement, "have a
care, I again repeat, for the power you wield over me alarms
me. Weigh your words before you speak, for my eyes have
already become brighter, and my heart beats strongly; be
cautious, or you will make me believe in supernatural
agencies. I must obey you, though you bade me call forth the
dead or walk upon the water."
"Hope, my friend," repeated the count.
"Ah," said Morrel, falling from the height of excitement to
the abyss of despair -- "ah, you are playing with me, like
those good, or rather selfish mothers who soothe their
children with honeyed words, because their screams annoy
them. No, my friend, I was wrong to caution you; do not
fear, I will bury my grief so deep in my heart, I will
disguise it so, that you shall not even care to sympathize
with me. Adieu, my friend, adieu!"
"On the contrary," said the count, "after this time you must
live with me -- you must not leave me, and in a week we
shall have left France behind us."
"And you still bid me hope?"
"I tell you to hope, because I have a method of curing you."
"Count, you render me sadder than before, if it be possible.
You think the result of this blow has been to produce an
ordinary grief, and you would cure it by an ordinary remedy
-- change of scene." And Morrel dropped his head with
disdainful incredulity. "What can I say more?" asked Monte
Cristo. "I have confidence in the remedy I propose, and only
ask you to permit me to assure you of its efficacy."
"Count, you prolong my agony."
"Then," said the count, "your feeble spirit will not even
grant me the trial I request? Come -- do you know of what
the Count of Monte Cristo is capable? do you know that he
holds terrestrial beings under his control? nay, that he can
almost work a miracle? Well, wait for the miracle I hope to
accomplish, or" --
"Or?" repeated Morrel.
"Or, take care, Morrel, lest I call you ungrateful."
"Have pity on me, count!"
"I feel so much pity towards you, Maximilian, that -- listen
to me attentively -- if I do not cure you in a month, to the
day, to the very hour, mark my words, Morrel, I will place
loaded pistols before you, and a cup of the deadliest
Italian poison -- a poison more sure and prompt than that
which has killed Valentine."
"Will you promise me?"
"Yes; for I am a man, and have suffered like yourself, and
also contemplated suicide; indeed, often since misfortune
has left me I have longed for the delights of an eternal
"But you are sure you will promise me this?" said Morrel,
intoxicated. "I not only promise, but swear it!" said Monte
Cristo extending his hand.
"In a month, then, on your honor, if I am not consoled, you
will let me take my life into my own hands, and whatever may
happen you will not call me ungrateful?"
"In a month, to the day, the very hour and the date are
sacred, Maximilian. I do not know whether you remember that
this is the 5th of September; it is ten years to-day since I
saved your father's life, who wished to die." Morrel seized
the count's hand and kissed it; the count allowed him to pay
the homage he felt due to him. "In a month you will find on
the table, at which we shall be then sitting, good pistols
and a delicious draught; but, on the other hand, you must
promise me not to attempt your life before that time."
"Oh, I also swear it!" Monte Cristo drew the young man
towards him, and pressed him for some time to his heart.
"And now," he said, "after to-day, you will come and live
with me; you can occupy Haidee's apartment, and my daughter
will at least be replaced by my son."
"Haidee?" said Morrel, "what has become of her?"
"She departed last night."
"To leave you?"
"To wait for me. Hold yourself ready then to join me at the
Champs Elysees, and lead me out of this house without any
one seeing my departure." Maximilian hung his head, and
obeyed with childlike reverence.
Dividing the Proceeds.
The apartment on the second floor of the house in the Rue
Saint-Germain-des-Pres, where Albert de Morcerf had selected
a home for his mother, was let to a very mysterious person.
This was a man whose face the concierge himself had never
seen, for in the winter his chin was buried in one of the
large red handkerchiefs worn by gentlemen's coachmen on a
cold night, and in the summer he made a point of always
blowing his nose just as he approached the door. Contrary to
custom, this gentleman had not been watched, for as the
report ran that he was a person of high rank, and one who
would allow no impertinent interference, his incognito was
His visits were tolerably regular, though occasionally he
appeared a little before or after his time, but generally,
both in summer and winter, he took possession of his
apartment about four o'clock, though he never spent the
night there. At half-past three in the winter the fire was
lighted by the discreet servant, who had the superintendence
of the little apartment, and in the summer ices were placed
on the table at the same hour. At four o'clock, as we have
already stated, the mysterious personage arrived. Twenty
minutes afterwards a carriage stopped at the house, a lady
alighted in a black or dark blue dress, and always thickly
veiled; she passed like a shadow through the lodge, and ran
up-stairs without a sound escaping under the touch of her
light foot. No one ever asked her where she was going. Her
face, therefore, like that of the gentleman, was perfectly
unknown to the two concierges, who were perhaps unequalled
throughout the capital for discretion. We need not say she
stopped at the second floor. Then she tapped in a peculiar
manner at a door, which after being opened to admit her was
again fastened, and curiosity penetrated no farther. They
used the same precautions in leaving as in entering the
house. The lady always left first, and as soon as she had
stepped into her carriage, it drove away, sometimes towards
the right hand, sometimes to the left; then about twenty
minutes afterwards the gentleman would also leave, buried in
his cravat or concealed by his handkerchief.
The day after Monte Cristo had called upon Danglars, the
mysterious lodger entered at ten o'clock in the morning
instead of four in the afternoon. Almost directly
afterwards, without the usual interval of time, a cab
arrived, and the veiled lady ran hastily up-stairs. The door
opened, but before it could be closed, the lady exclaimed:
"Oh, Lucien -- oh, my friend!" The concierge therefore heard
for the first time that the lodger's name was Lucien; still,
as he was the very perfection of a door-keeper, he made up
his mind not to tell his wife. "Well, what is the matter, my
dear?" asked the gentleman whose name the lady's agitation
revealed; "tell me what is the matter."
"Oh, Lucien, can I confide in you?"
"Of course, you know you can do so. But what can be the
matter? Your note of this morning has completely bewildered
me. This precipitation -- this unusual appointment. Come,
ease me of my anxiety, or else frighten me at once."
"Lucien, a great event has happened!" said the lady,
glancing inquiringly at Lucien, -- "M. Danglars left last
"Left? -- M. Danglars left? Where has he gone?"
"I do not know."
"What do you mean? Has he gone intending not to return?"
"Undoubtedly; -- at ten o'clock at night his horses took him
to the barrier of Charenton; there a post-chaise was waiting
for him -- he entered it with his valet de chambre, saying
that he was going to Fontainebleau."
"Then what did you mean" --
"Stay -- he left a letter for me."
"Yes; read it." And the baroness took from her pocket a
letter which she gave to Debray. Debray paused a moment
before reading, as if trying to guess its contents, or
perhaps while making up his mind how to act, whatever it
might contain. No doubt his ideas were arranged in a few
minutes, for he began reading the letter which caused so
much uneasiness in the heart of the baroness, and which ran
as follows: --
"Madame and most faithful wife."
Debray mechanically stopped and looked at the baroness,
whose face became covered with blushes. "Read," she said.
Debray continued: --
"When you receive this, you will no longer have a husband.
Oh, you need not be alarmed, you will only have lost him as
you have lost your daughter; I mean that I shall be
travelling on one of the thirty or forty roads leading out
of France. I owe you some explanations for my conduct, and
as you are a woman that can perfectly understand me, I will
give them. Listen, then. I received this morning five
millions which I paid away; almost directly afterwards
another demand for the same sum was presented to me; I put
this creditor off till to-morrow and I intend leaving
to-day, to escape that to-morrow, which would be rather too
unpleasant for me to endure. You understand this, do you
not, my most precious wife? I say you understand this,
because you are as conversant with my affairs as I am;
indeed, I think you understand them better, since I am
ignorant of what has become of a considerable portion of my
fortune, once very tolerable, while I am sure, madame, that
you know perfectly well. For women have infallible
instincts; they can even explain the marvellous by an
algebraic calculation they have invented; but I, who only
understand my own figures, know nothing more than that one
day these figures deceived me. Have you admired the rapidity
of my fall? Have you been slightly dazzled at the sudden
fusion of my ingots? I confess I have seen nothing but the
fire; let us hope you have found some gold among the ashes.
With this consoling idea, I leave you, madame, and most
prudent wife, without any conscientious reproach for
abandoning you; you have friends left, and the ashes I have
already mentioned, and above all the liberty I hasten to
restore to you. And here, madame, I must add another word of
explanation. So long as I hoped you were working for the
good of our house and for the fortune of our daughter, I
philosophically closed my eyes; but as you have transformed
that house into a vast ruin I will not be the foundation of
another man's fortune. You were rich when I married you, but
little respected. Excuse me for speaking so very candidly,
but as this is intended only for ourselves, I do not see why
I should weigh my words. I have augmented our fortune, and
it has continued to increase during the last fifteen years,
till extraordinary and unexpected catastrophes have suddenly
overturned it, -- without any fault of mine, I can honestly
declare. You, madame, have only sought to increase your own,
and I am convinced that you have succeeded. I leave you,
therefore, as I took you, -- rich, but little respected.
Adieu! I also intend from this time to work on my own
account. Accept my acknowledgments for the example you have
set me, and which I intend following.
"Your very devoted husband,
The baroness had watched Debray while he read this long and
painful letter, and saw him, notwithstanding his
self-control, change color once or twice. When he had ended
the perusal, he folded the letter and resumed his pensive
attitude. "Well?" asked Madame Danglars, with an anxiety
easy to be understood.
"Well, madame?" unhesitatingly repeated Debray.
"With what ideas does that letter inspire you?"
"Oh, it is simple enough, madame; it inspires me with the
idea that M. Danglars has left suspiciously."
"Certainly; but is this all you have to say to me?"
"I do not understand you," said Debray with freezing
"He is gone! Gone, never to return!"
"Oh, madame, do not think that!"
"I tell you he will never return. I know his character; he
is inflexible in any resolutions formed for his own
interests. If he could have made any use of me, he would
have taken me with him; he leaves me in Paris, as our
separation will conduce to his benefit; -- therefore he has
gone, and I am free forever," added Madame Danglars, in the
same supplicating tone. Debray, instead of answering,
allowed her to remain in an attitude of nervous inquiry.
"Well?" she said at length, "do you not answer me?"
"I have but one question to ask you, -- what do you intend
"I was going to ask you," replied the baroness with a
"Ah, then, you wish to ask advice of me?"
"Yes; I do wish to ask your advice," said Madame Danglars
with anxious expectation.
"Then if you wish to take my advice," said the young man
coldly, "I would recommend you to travel."
"To travel!" she murmured.
"Certainly; as M. Danglars says, you are rich, and perfectly
free. In my opinion, a withdrawal from Paris is absolutely
necessary after the double catastrophe of Mademoiselle
Danglars' broken contract and M. Danglars' disappearance.
The world will think you abandoned and poor, for the wife of
a bankrupt would never be forgiven, were she to keep up an
appearance of opulence. You have only to remain in Paris for
about a fortnight, telling the world you are abandoned, and
relating the details of this desertion to your best friends,
who will soon spread the report. Then you can quit your
house, leaving your jewels and giving up your jointure, and
every one's mouth will be filled with praises of your
disinterestedness. They will know you are deserted, and
think you also poor, for I alone know your real financial
position, and am quite ready to give up my accounts as an
honest partner." The dread with which the pale and
motionless baroness listened to this, was equalled by the
calm indifference with which Debray had spoken. "Deserted?"
she repeated; "ah, yes, I am, indeed, deserted! You are
right, sir, and no one can doubt my position." These were
the only words that this proud and violently enamoured woman
could utter in response to Debray.
"But then you are rich, -- very rich, indeed," continued
Debray, taking out some papers from his pocket-book, which
he spread upon the table. Madame Danglars did not see them;
she was engaged in stilling the beatings of her heart, and
restraining the tears which were ready to gush forth. At
length a sense of dignity prevailed, and if she did not
entirely master her agitation, she at least succeeded in
preventing the fall of a single tear. "Madame," said Debray,
"it is nearly six months since we have been associated. You
furnished a principal of 100,000 francs. Our partnership
began in the month of April. In May we commenced operations,
and in the course of the month gained 450,000 francs. In
June the profit amounted to 900,000. In July we added
1,700,000 francs, -- it was, you know, the month of the
Spanish bonds. In August we lost 300,000 francs at the
beginning of the month, but on the 13th we made up for it,
and we now find that our accounts, reckoning from the first
day of partnership up to yesterday, when I closed them,
showed a capital of 2,400,000 francs, that is, 1,200,000 for
each of us. Now, madame," said Debray, delivering up his
accounts in the methodical manner of a stockbroker, "there
are still 80,000 francs, the interest of this money, in my
"But," said the baroness, "I thought you never put the money
out to interest."
"Excuse me, madame," said Debray coldly, "I had your
permission to do so, and I have made use of it. There are,
then, 40,000 francs for your share, besides the 100,000 you
furnished me to begin with, making in all 1,340,000 francs
for your portion. Now, madame, I took the precaution of
drawing out your money the day before yesterday; it is not
long ago, you see, and I was in continual expectation of
being called on to deliver up my accounts. There is your
money, -- half in bank-notes, the other half in checks
payable to bearer. I say there, for as I did not consider my
house safe enough, or lawyers sufficiently discreet, and as
landed property carries evidence with it, and moreover since
you have no right to possess anything independent of your
husband, I have kept this sum, now your whole fortune, in a
chest concealed under that closet, and for greater security
I myself concealed it there.
"Now, madame," continued Debray, first opening the closet,
then the chest; -- "now, madame, here are 800 notes of 1,000
francs each, resembling, as you see, a large book bound in
iron; to this I add a certificate in the funds of 25,000
francs; then, for the odd cash, making I think about 110,000
francs, here is a check upon my banker, who, not being M.
Danglars, will pay you the amount, you may rest assured."
Madame Danglars mechanically took the check, the bond, and
the heap of bank-notes. This enormous fortune made no great
appearance on the table. Madame Danglars, with tearless
eyes, but with her breast heaving with concealed emotion,
placed the bank-notes in her bag, put the certificate and
check into her pocket-book, and then, standing pale and
mute, awaited one kind word of consolation. But she waited
"Now, madame," said Debray, "you have a splendid fortune, an
income of about 60,000 livres a year, which is enormous for
a woman who cannot keep an establishment here for a year, at
least. You will be able to indulge all your fancies;
besides, should you find your income insufficient, you can,
for the sake of the past, madame, make use of mine; and I am
ready to offer you all I possess, on loan."
"Thank you, sir -- thank you," replied the baroness; "you
forget that what you have just paid me is much more than a
poor woman requires, who intends for some time, at least, to
retire from the world."
Debray was, for a moment, surprised, but immediately
recovering himself, he bowed with an air which seemed to
say, "As you please, madame."
Madame Danglars had until then, perhaps, hoped for
something; but when she saw the careless bow of Debray, and
the glance by which it was accompanied, together with his
significant silence, she raised her head, and without
passion or violence or even hesitation, ran down-stairs,
disdaining to address a last farewell to one who could thus
part from her. "Bah," said Debray, when she had left, "these
are fine projects! She will remain at home, read novels, and
speculate at cards, since she can no longer do so on the
Bourse." Then taking up his account book, he cancelled with
the greatest care all the entries of the amounts he had just
paid away. "I have 1,060,000 francs remaining," he said.
"What a pity Mademoiselle de Villefort is dead! She suited
me in every respect, and I would have married her." And he
calmly waited until the twenty minutes had elapsed after
Madame Danglars' departure before he left the house. During
this time he occupied himself in making figures, with his
watch by his side.
Asmodeus -- that diabolical personage, who would have been
created by every fertile imagination if Le Sage had not
acquired the priority in his great masterpiece -- would have
enjoyed a singular spectacle, if he had lifted up the roof
of the little house in the Rue Saint-Germain-des-Pres, while
Debray was casting up his figures. Above the room in which
Debray had been dividing two millions and a half with Madame
Danglars was another, inhabited by persons who have played
too prominent a part in the incidents we have related for
their appearance not to create some interest. Mercedes and
Albert were in that room. Mercedes was much changed within
the last few days; not that even in her days of fortune she
had ever dressed with the magnificent display which makes us
no longer able to recognize a woman when she appears in a
plain and simple attire; nor indeed, had she fallen into
that state of depression where it is impossible to conceal
the garb of misery; no, the change in Mercedes was that her
eye no longer sparkled, her lips no longer smiled, and there
was now a hesitation in uttering the words which formerly
sprang so fluently from her ready wit.
It was not poverty which had broken her spirit; it was not a
want of courage which rendered her poverty burdensome.
Mercedes, although deposed from the exalted position she had
occupied, lost in the sphere she had now chosen, like a
person passing from a room splendidly lighted into utter
darkness, appeared like a queen, fallen from her palace to a
hovel, and who, reduced to strict necessity, could neither
become reconciled to the earthen vessels she was herself
forced to place upon the table, nor to the humble pallet
which had become her bed. The beautiful Catalane and noble
countess had lost both her proud glance and charming smile,
because she saw nothing but misery around her; the walls
were hung with one of the gray papers which economical
landlords choose as not likely to show the dirt; the floor
was uncarpeted; the furniture attracted the attention to the
poor attempt at luxury; indeed, everything offended eyes
accustomed to refinement and elegance.
Madame de Morcerf had lived there since leaving her house;
the continual silence of the spot oppressed her; still,
seeing that Albert continually watched her countenance to
judge the state of her feelings, she constrained herself to
assume a monotonous smile of the lips alone, which,
contrasted with the sweet and beaming expression that
usually shone from her eyes, seemed like "moonlight on a
statue," -- yielding light without warmth. Albert, too, was
ill at ease; the remains of luxury prevented him from
sinking into his actual position. If he wished to go out
without gloves, his hands appeared too white; if he wished
to walk through the town, his boots seemed too highly
polished. Yet these two noble and intelligent creatures,
united by the indissoluble ties of maternal and filial love,
had succeeded in tacitly understanding one another, and
economizing their stores, and Albert had been able to tell
his mother without extorting a change of countenance, --
"Mother, we have no more money."
Mercedes had never known misery; she had often, in her
youth, spoken of poverty, but between want and necessity,
those synonymous words, there is a wide difference. Amongst
the Catalans, Mercedes wished for a thousand things, but
still she never really wanted any. So long as the nets were
good, they caught fish; and so long as they sold their fish,
they were able to buy twine for new nets. And then, shut out
from friendship, having but one affection, which could not
be mixed up with her ordinary pursuits, she thought of
herself -- of no one but herself. Upon the little she earned
she lived as well as she could; now there were two to be
supported, and nothing to live upon.
Winter approached. Mercedes had no fire in that cold and
naked room -- she, who was accustomed to stoves which heated
the house from the hall to the boudoir; she had not even one
little flower -- she whose apartment had been a conservatory
of costly exotics. But she had her son. Hitherto the
excitement of fulfilling a duty had sustained them.
Excitement, like enthusiasm, sometimes renders us
unconscious to the things of earth. But the excitement had
calmed down, and they felt themselves obliged to descend
from dreams to reality; after having exhausted the ideal,
they found they must talk of the actual.
"Mother," exclaimed Albert, just as Madame Danglars was
descending the stairs, "let us reckon our riches, if you
please; I want capital to build my plans upon."
"Capital -- nothing!" replied Mercedes with a mournful
"No, mother, -- capital 3,000 francs. And I have an idea of
our leading a delightful life upon this 3,000 francs."
"Child!" sighed Mercedes.
"Alas, dear mother," said the young man, "I have unhappily
spent too much of your money not to know the value of it.
These 3,000 francs are enormous, and I intend building upon
this foundation a miraculous certainty for the future."
"You say this, my dear boy; but do you think we ought to
accept these 3,000 francs?" said Mercedes, coloring.
"I think so," answered Albert in a firm tone. "We will
accept them the more readily, since we have them not here;
you know they are buried in the garden of the little house
in the Allees de Meillan, at Marseilles. With 200 francs we
can reach Marseilles."
"With 200 francs? -- are you sure, Albert?"
"Oh, as for that, I have made inquiries respecting the
diligences and steamboats, and my calculations are made. You
will take your place in the coupe to Chalons. You see,
mother, I treat you handsomely for thirty-five francs."
Albert then took a pen, and wrote: --
Coupe, thirty-five francs ............................ 35
From Chalons to Lyons you will go on by the steamboat
-- six francs ......................................... 6
From Lyons to Avignon (still by steamboat),
sixteen francs ....................................... 16
From Avignon to Marseilles, seven franc................ 7
Expenses on the road, about fifty francs ............. 50
Total................................................ 114 frs.
"Let us put down 120," added Albert, smiling. "You see I am
generous, am I not, mother?"
"But you, my poor child?"
"I? do you not see that I reserve eighty francs for myself?
A young man does not require luxuries; besides, I know what
"With a post-chaise and valet de chambre?"
"Any way, mother."
"Well, be it so. But these 200 francs?"
"Here they are, and 200 more besides. See, I have sold my
watch for 100 francs, and the guard and seals for 300. How
fortunate that the ornaments were worth more than the watch.
Still the same story of superfluities! Now I think we are
rich, since instead of the 114 francs we require for the
journey we find ourselves in possession of 250."
"But we owe something in this house?"
"Thirty francs; but I pay that out of my 150 francs, -- that
is understood, -- and as I require only eighty francs for my
journey, you see I am overwhelmed with luxury. But that is
not all. What do you say to this, mother?"
And Albert took out of a little pocket-book with golden
clasps, a remnant of his old fancies, or perhaps a tender
souvenir from one of the mysterious and veiled ladies who
used to knock at his little door, -- Albert took out of this
pocket-book a note of 1,000 francs.
"What is this?" asked Mercedes.
"A thousand francs."
"But whence have you obtained them?"
"Listen to me, mother, and do not yield too much to
agitation." And Albert, rising, kissed his mother on both
cheeks, then stood looking at her. "You cannot imagine,
mother, how beautiful I think you!" said the young man,
impressed with a profound feeling of filial love. "You are,
indeed, the most beautiful and most noble woman I ever saw!"
"Dear child!" said Mercedes, endeavoring in vain to restrain
a tear which glistened in the corner of her eye. "Indeed,
you only wanted misfortune to change my love for you to
admiration. I am not unhappy while I possess my son!"
"Ah, just so," said Albert; "here begins the trial. Do you
know the decision we have come to, mother?"
"Have we come to any?"
"Yes; it is decided that you are to live at Marseilles, and
that I am to leave for Africa, where I will earn for myself
the right to use the name I now bear, instead of the one I
have thrown aside." Mercedes sighed. "Well, mother, I
yesterday engaged myself as substitute in the Spahis,"*
added the young man, lowering his eyes with a certain
feeling of shame, for even he was unconscious of the
sublimity of his self-abasement. "I thought my body was my
own, and that I might sell it. I yesterday took the place of
another. I sold myself for more than I thought I was worth,"
he added, attempting to smile; "I fetched 2,000 francs."
* The Spahis are French cavalry reserved for service in
"Then these 1,000 francs" -- said Mercedes, shuddering --
"Are the half of the sum, mother; the other will be paid in
Mercedes raised her eyes to heaven with an expression it
would be impossible to describe, and tears, which had
hitherto been restrained, now yielded to her emotion, and
ran down her cheeks.
"The price of his blood!" she murmured.
"Yes, if I am killed," said Albert, laughing. "But I assure
you, mother, I have a strong intention of defending my
person, and I never felt half so strong an inclination to
live as I do now."
"Besides, mother, why should you make up your mind that I am
to be killed? Has Lamoriciere, that Ney of the South, been
killed? Has Changarnier been killed? Has Bedeau been killed?
Has Morrel, whom we know, been killed? Think of your joy,
mother, when you see me return with an embroidered uniform!
I declare, I expect to look magnificent in it, and chose
that regiment only from vanity." Mercedes sighed while
endeavoring to smile; the devoted mother felt that she ought
not to allow the whole weight of the sacrifice to fall upon
her son. "Well, now you understand, mother!" continued
Albert; "here are more than 4,000 francs settled on you;
upon these you can live at least two years."
"Do you think so?" said Mercedes. These words were uttered
in so mournful a tone that their real meaning did not escape
Albert; he felt his heart beat, and taking his mother's hand
within his own he said, tenderly, --
"Yes, you will live!"
"I shall live! -- then you will not leave me, Albert?"
"Mother, I must go," said Albert in a firm, calm voice; "you
love me too well to wish me to remain useless and idle with
you; besides, I have signed."
"You will obey your own wish and the will of heaven!"
"Not my own wish, mother, but reason -- necessity. Are we
not two despairing creatures? What is life to you? --
Nothing. What is life to me? -- Very little without you,
mother; for believe me, but for you I should have ceased to
live on the day I doubted my father and renounced his name.
Well, I will live, if you promise me still to hope; and if
you grant me the care of your future prospects, you will
redouble my strength. Then I will go to the governor of
Algeria; he has a royal heart, and is essentially a soldier;
I will tell him my gloomy story. I will beg him to turn his
eyes now and then towards me, and if he keep his word and
interest himself for me, in six months I shall be an
officer, or dead. If I am an officer, your fortune is
certain, for I shall have money enough for both, and,
moreover, a name we shall both be proud of, since it will be
our own. If I am killed -- well then mother, you can also
die, and there will be an end of our misfortunes."
"It is well," replied Mercedes, with her eloquent glance;
"you are right, my love; let us prove to those who are
watching our actions that we are worthy of compassion."
"But let us not yield to gloomy apprehensions," said the
young man; "I assure you we are, or rather we shall be, very
happy. You are a woman at once full of spirit and
resignation; I have become simple in my tastes, and am
without passion, I hope. Once in service, I shall be rich --
once in M. Dantes' house, you will be at rest. Let us
strive, I beseech you, -- let us strive to be cheerful."
"Yes, let us strive, for you ought to live, and to be happy,
"And so our division is made, mother," said the young man,
affecting ease of mind. "We can now part; come, I shall
engage your passage."
"And you, my dear boy?"
"I shall stay here for a few days longer; we must accustom
ourselves to parting. I want recommendations and some
information relative to Africa. I will join you again at
"Well, be it so -- let us part," said Mercedes, folding
around her shoulders the only shawl she had taken away, and
which accidentally happened to be a valuable black cashmere.
Albert gathered up his papers hastily, rang the bell to pay
the thirty francs he owed to the landlord, and offering his
arm to his mother, they descended the stairs. Some one was
walking down before them, and this person, hearing the
rustling of a silk dress, turned around. "Debray!" muttered
"You, Morcerf?" replied the secretary, resting on the
stairs. Curiosity had vanquished the desire of preserving
his incognito, and he was recognized. It was, indeed,
strange in this unknown spot to find the young man whose
misfortunes had made so much noise in Paris.
"Morcerf!" repeated Debray. Then noticing in the dim light
the still youthful and veiled figure of Madame de Morcerf:
-- "Pardon me," he added with a smile, "I leave you,
Albert." Albert understood his thoughts. "Mother," he said,
turning towards Mercedes, "this is M. Debray, secretary of
the minister for the interior, once a friend of mine."
"How once?" stammered Debray; "what do you mean?"
"I say so, M. Debray, because I have no friends now, and I
ought not to have any. I thank you for having recognized me,
sir." Debray stepped forward, and cordially pressed the hand
of his interlocutor. "Believe me, dear Albert," he said,
with all the emotion he was capable of feeling, -- "believe
me, I feel deeply for your misfortunes, and if in any way I
can serve you, I am yours."
"Thank you, sir," said Albert, smiling. "In the midst of our
misfortunes, we are still rich enough not to require
assistance from any one. We are leaving Paris, and when our
journey is paid, we shall have 5,000 francs left." The blood
mounted to the temples of Debray, who held a million in his
pocket-book, and unimaginative as he was he could not help
reflecting that the same house had contained two women, one
of whom, justly dishonored, had left it poor with 1,500,000
francs under her cloak, while the other, unjustly stricken,
but sublime in her misfortune, was yet rich with a few
deniers. This parallel disturbed his usual politeness, the
philosophy he witnessed appalled him, he muttered a few
words of general civility and ran down-stairs.
That day the minister's clerks and the subordinates had a
great deal to put up with from his ill-humor. But that same
night, he found himself the possessor of a fine house,
situated on the Boulevard de la Madeleine, and an income of
50,000 livres. The next day, just as Debray was signing the
deed, that is about five o'clock in the afternoon, Madame de
Morcerf, after having affectionately embraced her son,
entered the coupe of the diligence, which closed upon her. A
man was hidden in Lafitte's banking-house, behind one of the
little arched windows which are placed above each desk; he
saw Mercedes enter the diligence, and he also saw Albert
withdraw. Then he passed his hand across his forehead, which
was clouded with doubt. "Alas," he exclaimed, "how can I
restore the happiness I have taken away from these poor
innocent creatures? God help me!"
The Lions' Den.
One division of La Force, in which the most dangerous and
desperate prisoners are confined, is called the court of
Saint-Bernard. The prisoners, in their expressive language,
have named it the "Lions' Den," probably because the
captives possess teeth which frequently gnaw the bars, and
sometimes the keepers also. It is a prison within a prison;
the walls are double the thickness of the rest. The gratings
are every day carefully examined by jailers, whose herculean
proportions and cold pitiless expression prove them to have
been chosen to reign over their subjects for their superior
activity and intelligence. The court-yard of this quarter is
enclosed by enormous walls, over which the sun glances
obliquely, when it deigns to penetrate into this gulf of
moral and physical deformity. On this paved yard are to be
seen, -- pacing to and fro from morning till night, pale,
careworn, and haggard, like so many shadows, -- the men whom
justice holds beneath the steel she is sharpening. There,
crouched against the side of the wall which attracts and
retains the most heat, they may be seen sometimes talking to
one another, but more frequently alone, watching the door,
which sometimes opens to call forth one from the gloomy
assemblage, or to throw in another outcast from society.
The court of Saint-Bernard has its own particular apartment
for the reception of guests; it is a long rectangle, divided
by two upright gratings placed at a distance of three feet
from one another to prevent a visitor from shaking hands
with or passing anything to the prisoners. It is a wretched,
damp, nay, even horrible spot, more especially when we
consider the agonizing conferences which have taken place
between those iron bars. And yet, frightful though this spot
may be, it is looked upon as a kind of paradise by the men
whose days are numbered; it is so rare for them to leave the
Lions' Den for any other place than the barrier
Saint-Jacques or the galleys!
In the court which we have attempted to describe, and from
which a damp vapor was rising, a young man with his hands in
his pockets, who had excited much curiosity among the
inhabitants of the "Den," might be seen walking. The cut of
his clothes would have made him pass for an elegant man, if
those clothes had not been torn to shreds; still they did
not show signs of wear, and the fine cloth, beneath the
careful hands of the prisoner, soon recovered its gloss in
the parts which were still perfect, for the wearer tried his
best to make it assume the appearance of a new coat. He
bestowed the same attention upon the cambric front of a
shirt, which had considerably changed in color since his
entrance into the prison, and he polished his varnished
boots with the corner of a handkerchief embroidered with
initials surmounted by a coronet. Some of the inmates of the
"Lions' Den" were watching the operations of the prisoner's
toilet with considerable interest. "See, the prince is
pluming himself," said one of the thieves. "He's a fine
looking fellow," said another; "if he had only a comb and
hair-grease, he'd take the shine off the gentlemen in white
"His coat looks almost new, and his boots shine like a
nigger's face. It's pleasant to have such well-dressed
comrades; but didn't those gendarmes behave shameful? --
must 'a been jealous, to tear such clothes!"
"He looks like a big-bug," said another; "dresses in fine
style. And, then, to be here so young! Oh, what larks!"
Meanwhile the object of this hideous admiration approached
the wicket, against which one of the keepers was leaning.
"Come, sir," he said, "lend me twenty francs; you will soon
be paid; you run no risks with me. Remember, I have
relations who possess more millions than you have deniers.
Come, I beseech you, lend me twenty francs, so that I may
buy a dressing-gown; it is intolerable always to be in a
coat and boots! And what a coat, sir, for a prince of the
Cavalcanti!" The keeper turned his back, and shrugged his
shoulders; he did not even laugh at what would have caused
any one else to do so; he had heard so many utter the same
things, -- indeed, he heard nothing else.
"Come," said Andrea, "you are a man void of compassion; I'll
have you turned out." This made the keeper turn around, and
he burst into a loud laugh. The prisoners then approached
and formed a circle. "I tell you that with that wretched
sum," continued Andrea, "I could obtain a coat, and a room
in which to receive the illustrious visitor I am daily
"Of course -- of course," said the prisoners; -- "any one
can see he's a gentleman!"
"Well, then, lend him the twenty francs," said the keeper,
leaning on the other shoulder; "surely you will not refuse a
"I am no comrade of these people," said the young man,
proudly, "you have no right to insult me thus."
The thieves looked at one another with low murmurs, and a
storm gathered over the head of the aristocratic prisoner,
raised less by his own words than by the manner of the
keeper. The latter, sure of quelling the tempest when the
waves became too violent, allowed them to rise to a certain
pitch that he might be revenged on the importunate Andrea,
and besides it would afford him some recreation during the
long day. The thieves had already approached Andrea, some
screaming, "La savate -- La savate!"* a cruel operation,
which consists in cuffing a comrade who may have fallen into
disgrace, not with an old shoe, but with an iron-heeled one.
Others proposed the "anguille," another kind of recreation,
in which a handkerchief is filled with sand, pebbles, and
two-sous pieces, when they have them, which the wretches
beat like a flail over the head and shoulders of the unhappy
sufferer. "Let us horsewhip the fine gentleman!" said
* Savate: an old shoe.
But Andrea, turning towards them, winked his eyes, rolled
his tongue around his cheeks, and smacked his lips in a
manner equivalent to a hundred words among the bandits when
forced to be silent. It was a Masonic sign Caderousse had
taught him. He was immediately recognized as one of them;
the handkerchief was thrown down, and the iron-heeled shoe
replaced on the foot of the wretch to whom it belonged. Some
voices were heard to say that the gentleman was right; that
he intended to be civil, in his way, and that they would set
the example of liberty of conscience, -- and the mob
retired. The keeper was so stupefied at this scene that he
took Andrea by the hands and began examining his person,
attributing the sudden submission of the inmates of the
Lions' Den to something more substantial than mere
fascination. Andrea made no resistance, although he
protested against it. Suddenly a voice was heard at the
wicket. "Benedetto!" exclaimed an inspector. The keeper
relaxed his hold. "I am called," said Andrea. "To the
visitors' room!" said the same voice.
"You see some one pays me a visit. Ah, my dear sir, you will
see whether a Cavalcanti is to be treated like a common
person!" And Andrea, gliding through the court like a black
shadow, rushed out through the wicket, leaving his comrades,
and even the keeper, lost in wonder. Certainly a call to the
visitors' room had scarcely astonished Andrea less than
themselves, for the wily youth, instead of making use of his
privilege of waiting to be claimed on his entry into La
Force, had maintained a rigid silence. "Everything," he
said, "proves me to be under the protection of some powerful
person, -- this sudden fortune, the facility with which I
have overcome all obstacles, an unexpected family and an
illustrious name awarded to me, gold showered down upon me,
and the most splendid alliances about to be entered into. An
unhappy lapse of fortune and the absence of my protector
have cast me down, certainly, but not forever. The hand
which has retreated for a while will be again stretched
forth to save me at the very moment when I shall think
myself sinking into the abyss. Why should I risk an
imprudent step? It might alienate my protector. He has two
means of extricating me from this dilemma, -- the one by a
mysterious escape, managed through bribery; the other by
buying off my judges with gold. I will say and do nothing
until I am convinced that he has quite abandoned me, and
Andrea had formed a plan which was tolerably clever. The
unfortunate youth was intrepid in the attack, and rude in
the defence. He had borne with the public prison, and with
privations of all sorts; still, by degrees nature, or rather
custom, had prevailed, and he suffered from being naked,
dirty, and hungry. It was at this moment of discomfort that
the inspector's voice called him to the visiting-room.
Andrea felt his heart leap with joy. It was too soon for a
visit from the examining magistrate, and too late for one
from the director of the prison, or the doctor; it must,
then, be the visitor he hoped for. Behind the grating of the
room into which Andrea had been led, he saw, while his eyes
dilated with surprise, the dark and intelligent face of M.
Bertuccio, who was also gazing with sad astonishment upon
the iron bars, the bolted doors, and the shadow which moved
behind the other grating.
"Ah," said Andrea, deeply affected.
"Good morning, Benedetto," said Bertuccio, with his deep,
"You -- you?" said the young man, looking fearfully around
"Do you not recognize me, unhappy child?"
"Silence, -- be silent!" said Andrea, who knew the delicate
sense of hearing possessed by the walls; "for heaven's sake,
do not speak so loud!"
"You wish to speak with me alone, do you not?" said
"That is well." And Bertuccio, feeling in his pocket, signed
to a keeper whom he saw through the window of the wicket.
"Read?" he said.
"What is that?" asked Andrea.
"An order to conduct you to a room, and to leave you there
to talk to me."
"Oh," cried Andrea, leaping with joy. Then he mentally
added, -- "Still my unknown protector! I am not forgotten.
They wish for secrecy, since we are to converse in a private
room. I understand, Bertuccio has been sent by my
The keeper spoke for a moment with an official, then opened
the iron gates and conducted Andrea to a room on the first
floor. The room was whitewashed, as is the custom in
prisons, but it looked quite brilliant to a prisoner, though
a stove, a bed, a chair, and a table formed the whole of its
sumptuous furniture. Bertuccio sat down upon the chair,
Andrea threw himself upon the bed; the keeper retired.
"Now," said the steward, "what have you to tell me?"
"And you?" said Andrea.
"You speak first."
"Oh, no. You must have much to tell me, since you have come
to seek me."
"Well, be it so. You have continued your course of villany;
you have robbed -- you have assassinated."
"Well, I should say! If you had me taken to a private room
only to tell me this, you might have saved yourself the
trouble. I know all these things. But there are some with
which, on the contrary, I am not acquainted. Let us talk of
those, if you please. Who sent you?"
"Come, come, you are going on quickly, M. Benedetto!"
"Yes, and to the point. Let us dispense with useless words.
Who sends you?"
"How did you know I was in prison?"
"I recognized you, some time since, as the insolent dandy
who so gracefully mounted his horse in the Champs Elysees."
"Oh, the Champs Elysees? Ah, yes; we burn, as they say at
the game of pincette. The Champs Elysees? Come, let us talk
a little about my father."
"Who, then, am I?"
"You, sir? -- you are my adopted father. But it was not you,
I presume, who placed at my disposal 100,000 francs, which I
spent in four or five months; it was not you who
manufactured an Italian gentleman for my father; it was not
you who introduced me into the world, and had me invited to
a certain dinner at Auteuil, which I fancy I am eating at
this moment, in company with the most distinguished people
in Paris -- amongst the rest with a certain procureur, whose
acquaintance I did very wrong not to cultivate, for he would
have been very useful to me just now; -- it was not you, in
fact, who bailed me for one or two millions, when the fatal
discovery of my little secret took place. Come, speak, my
worthy Corsican, speak!"
"What do you wish me to say?"
"I will help you. You were speaking of the Champs Elysees
just now, worthy foster-father."
"Well, in the Champs Elysees there resides a very rich
"At whose house you robbed and murdered, did you not?"
"I believe I did."
"The Count of Monte Cristo?"
"'Tis you who have named him, as M. Racine says. Well, am I
to rush into his arms, and strain him to my heart, crying,
`My father, my father!' like Monsieur Pixerecourt."*
"Do not let us jest," gravely replied Bertuccio, "and dare
not to utter that name again as you have pronounced it."
* Guilbert de Pixerecourt, French dramatist (1775-1844).
"Bah," said Andrea, a little overcome, by the solemnity of
Bertuccio's manner, "why not?"
"Because the person who bears it is too highly favored by
heaven to be the father of such a wretch as you."
"Oh, these are fine words."
"And there will be fine doings, if you do not take care."
"Menaces -- I do not fear them. I will say" --
"Do you think you are engaged with a pygmy like yourself?"
said Bertuccio, in so calm a tone, and with so steadfast a
look, that Andrea was moved to the very soul. "Do you think
you have to do with galley-slaves, or novices in the world?
Benedetto, you are fallen into terrible hands; they are
ready to open for you -- make use of them. Do not play with
the thunderbolt they have laid aside for a moment, but which
they can take up again instantly, if you attempt to
intercept their movements."
"My father -- I will know who my father is," said the
obstinate youth; "I will perish if I must, but I will know
it. What does scandal signify to me? What possessions, what
reputation, what `pull,' as Beauchamp says, -- have I? You
great people always lose something by scandal,
notwithstanding your millions. Come, who is my father?"
"I came to tell you."
"Ah," cried Benedetto, his eyes sparkling with joy. Just
then the door opened, and the jailer, addressing himself to
Bertuccio, said, -- "Excuse me, sir, but the examining
magistrate is waiting for the prisoner."
"And so closes our interview," said Andrea to the worthy
steward; "I wish the troublesome fellow were at the devil!"
"I will return to-morrow," said Bertuccio.
"Good! Gendarmes, I am at your service. Ah, sir, do leave a
few crowns for me at the gate that I may have some things I
am in need of!"
"It shall be done," replied Bertuccio. Andrea extended his
hand; Bertuccio kept his own in his pocket, and merely
jingled a few pieces of money. "That's what I mean," said
Andrea, endeavoring to smile, quite overcome by the strange
tranquillity of Bertuccio. "Can I be deceived?" he murmured,
as he stepped into the oblong and grated vehicle which they
call "the salad basket." "Never mind, we shall see!
To-morrow, then!" he added, turning towards Bertuccio.
"To-morrow!" replied the steward.
We remember that the Abbe Busoni remained alone with
Noirtier in the chamber of death, and that the old man and
the priest were the sole guardians of the young girl's body.
Perhaps it was the Christian exhortations of the abbe,
perhaps his kind charity, perhaps his persuasive words,
which had restored the courage of Noirtier, for ever since
he had conversed with the priest his violent despair had
yielded to a calm resignation which surprised all who knew
his excessive affection for Valentine. M. de Villefort had
not seen his father since the morning of the death. The
whole establishment had been changed; another valet was
engaged for himself, a new servant for Noirtier, two women
had entered Madame de Villefort's service, -- in fact,
everywhere, to the concierge and coachmen, new faces were
presented to the different masters of the house, thus
widening the division which had always existed between the
members of the same family.
The assizes, also, were about to begin, and Villefort, shut
up in his room, exerted himself with feverish anxiety in
drawing up the case against the murderer of Caderousse. This
affair, like all those in which the Count of Monte Cristo
had interfered, caused a great sensation in Paris. The
proofs were certainly not convincing, since they rested upon
a few words written by an escaped galley-slave on his
death-bed, and who might have been actuated by hatred or
revenge in accusing his companion. But the mind of the
procureur was made up; he felt assured that Benedetto was
guilty, and he hoped by his skill in conducting this
aggravated case to flatter his self-love, which was about
the only vulnerable point left in his frozen heart.
The case was therefore prepared owing to the incessant labor
of Villefort, who wished it to be the first on the list in
the coming assizes. He had been obliged to seclude himself
more than ever, to evade the enormous number of applications
presented to him for the purpose of obtaining tickets of
admission to the court on the day of trial. And then so
short a time had elapsed since the death of poor Valentine,
and the gloom which overshadowed the house was so recent,
that no one wondered to see the father so absorbed in his
professional duties, which were the only means he had of
dissipating his grief.
Once only had Villefort seen his father; it was the day
after that upon which Bertuccio had paid his second visit to
Benedetto, when the latter was to learn his father's name.
The magistrate, harassed and fatigued, had descended to the
garden of his house, and in a gloomy mood, similar to that
in which Tarquin lopped off the tallest poppies, he began
knocking off with his cane the long and dying branches of
the rose-trees, which, placed along the avenue, seemed like
the spectres of the brilliant flowers which had bloomed in
the past season. More than once he had reached that part of
the garden where the famous boarded gate stood overlooking
the deserted enclosure, always returning by the same path,
to begin his walk again, at the same pace and with the same
gesture, when he accidentally turned his eyes towards the
house, whence he heard the noisy play of his son, who had
returned from school to spend the Sunday and Monday with his
mother. While doing so, he observed M. Noirtier at one of
the open windows, where the old man had been placed that he
might enjoy the last rays of the sun which yet yielded some
heat, and was now shining upon the dying flowers and red
leaves of the creeper which twined around the balcony.
The eye of the old man was riveted upon a spot which
Villefort could scarcely distinguish. His glance was so full
of hate, of ferocity, and savage impatience, that Villefort
turned out of the path he had been pursuing, to see upon
what person this dark look was directed. Then he saw beneath
a thick clump of linden-trees, which were nearly divested of
foliage, Madame de Villefort sitting with a book in her
hand, the perusal of which she frequently interrupted to
smile upon her son, or to throw back his elastic ball, which
he obstinately threw from the drawing-room into the garden.
Villefort became pale; he understood the old man's meaning.
Noirtier continued to look at the same object, but suddenly
his glance was transferred from the wife to the husband, and
Villefort himself had to submit to the searching
investigation of eyes, which, while changing their direction
and even their language, had lost none of their menacing
expression. Madame de Villefort, unconscious of the passions
that exhausted their fire over her head, at that moment held
her son's ball, and was making signs to him to reclaim it
with a kiss. Edward begged for a long while, the maternal
kiss probably not offering sufficient recompense for the
trouble he must take to obtain it; however at length he
decided, leaped out of the window into a cluster of
heliotropes and daisies, and ran to his mother, his forehead
streaming with perspiration. Madame de Villefort wiped his
forehead, pressed her lips upon it, and sent him back with
the ball in one hand and some bonbons in the other.
Villefort, drawn by an irresistible attraction, like that of
the bird to the serpent, walked towards the house. As he
approached it, Noirtier's gaze followed him, and his eyes
appeared of such a fiery brightness that Villefort felt them
pierce to the depths of his heart. In that earnest look
might be read a deep reproach, as well as a terrible menace.
Then Noirtier raised his eyes to heaven, as though to remind
his son of a forgotten oath. "It is well, sir," replied
Villefort from below, -- "it is well; have patience but one
day longer; what I have said I will do." Noirtier seemed to
be calmed by these words, and turned his eyes with
indifference to the other side. Villefort violently
unbuttoned his great-coat, which seemed to strangle him, and
passing his livid hand across his forehead, entered his
The night was cold and still; the family had all retired to
rest but Villefort, who alone remained up, and worked till
five o'clock in the morning, reviewing the last
interrogatories made the night before by the examining
magistrates, compiling the depositions of the witnesses, and
putting the finishing stroke to the deed of accusation,
which was one of the most energetic and best conceived of
any he had yet delivered.
The next day, Monday, was the first sitting of the assizes.
The morning dawned dull and gloomy, and Villefort saw the
dim gray light shine upon the lines he had traced in red
ink. The magistrate had slept for a short time while the
lamp sent forth its final struggles; its flickerings awoke
him, and he found his fingers as damp and purple as though
they had been dipped in blood. He opened the window; a
bright yellow streak crossed the sky, and seemed to divide
in half the poplars, which stood out in black relief on the
horizon. In the clover-fields beyond the chestnut-trees, a
lark was mounting up to heaven, while pouring out her clear
morning song. The damps of the dew bathed the head of
Villefort, and refreshed his memory. "To-day," he said with
an effort, -- "to-day the man who holds the blade of justice
must strike wherever there is guilt." Involuntarily his eyes
wandered towards the window of Noirtier's room, where he had
seen him the preceding night. The curtain was drawn, and yet
the image of his father was so vivid to his mind that he
addressed the closed window as though it had been open, and
as if through the opening he had beheld the menacing old
man. "Yes," he murmured, -- "yes, be satisfied."
His head dropped upon his chest, and in this position he
paced his study; then he threw himself, dressed as he was,
upon a sofa, less to sleep than to rest his limbs, cramped
with cold and study. By degrees every one awoke. Villefort,
from his study, heard the successive noises which accompany
the life of a house, -- the opening and shutting of doors,
the ringing of Madame de Villefort's bell, to summon the
waiting-maid, mingled with the first shouts of the child,
who rose full of the enjoyment of his age. Villefort also
rang; his new valet brought him the papers, and with them a
cup of chocolate.
"What are you bringing me?" said he.
"A cup of chocolate."
"I did not ask for it. Who has paid me this attention?"
"My mistress, sir. She said you would have to speak a great
deal in the murder case, and that you should take something
to keep up your strength;" and the valet placed the cup on
the table nearest to the sofa, which was, like all the rest,
covered with papers. The valet then left the room. Villefort
looked for an instant with a gloomy expression, then,
suddenly, taking it up with a nervous motion, he swallowed
its contents at one draught. It might have been thought that
he hoped the beverage would be mortal, and that he sought
for death to deliver him from a duty which he would rather
die than fulfil. He then rose, and paced his room with a
smile it would have been terrible to witness. The chocolate
was inoffensive, for M. de Villefort felt no effects. The
breakfast-hour arrived, but M. de Villefort was not at
table. The valet re-entered.
"Madame de Villefort wishes to remind you, sir," he said,
"that eleven o'clock has just struck, and that the trial
commences at twelve."
"Well," said Villefort, "what then?"
"Madame de Villefort is dressed; she is quite ready, and
wishes to know if she is to accompany you, sir?"
"To the Palais."
"What to do?"
"My mistress wishes much to be present at the trial."
"Ah," said Villefort, with a startling accent; "does she
wish that?" -- The man drew back and said, "If you wish to
go alone, sir, I will go and tell my mistress." Villefort
remained silent for a moment, and dented his pale cheeks
with his nails. "Tell your mistress," he at length answered,
"that I wish to speak to her, and I beg she will wait for me
in her own room."
"Then come to dress and shave me."
"Directly, sir." The valet re-appeared almost instantly,
and, having shaved his master, assisted him to dress
entirely in black. When he had finished, he said, --
"My mistress said she should expect you, sir, as soon as you
had finished dressing."
"I am going to her." And Villefort, with his papers under
his arm and hat in hand, directed his steps toward the
apartment of his wife. At the door he paused for a moment to
wipe his damp, pale brow. He then entered the room. Madame
de Villefort was sitting on an ottoman and impatiently
turning over the leaves of some newspapers and pamphlets
which young Edward, by way of amusing himself, was tearing
to pieces before his mother could finish reading them. She
was dressed to go out, her bonnet was placed beside her on a
chair, and her gloves were on her hands.
"Ah, here you are, monsieur," she said in her naturally calm
voice; "but how pale you are! Have you been working all
night? Why did you not come down to breakfast? Well, will
you take me, or shall I take Edward?" Madame de Villefort
had multiplied her questions in order to gain one answer,
but to all her inquiries M. de Villefort remained mute and
cold as a statue. "Edward," said Villefort, fixing an
imperious glance on the child, "go and play in the
drawing-room, my dear; I wish to speak to your mamma."
Madame de Villefort shuddered at the sight of that cold
countenance, that resolute tone, and the awfully strange
preliminaries. Edward raised his head, looked at his mother,
and then, finding that she did not confirm the order, began
cutting off the heads of his leaden soldiers.
"Edward," cried M. de Villefort, so harshly that the child
started up from the floor, "do you hear me? -- Go!" The
child, unaccustomed to such treatment, arose, pale and
trembling; it would be difficult to say whether his emotion
were caused by fear or passion. His father went up to him,
took him in his arms, and kissed his forehead. "Go," he
said: "go, my child." Edward ran out. M. de Villefort went
to the door, which he closed behind the child, and bolted.
"Dear me!" said the young woman, endeavoring to read her
husband's inmost thoughts, while a smile passed over her
countenance which froze the impassibility of Villefort;
"what is the matter?"
"Madame, where do you keep the poison you generally use?"
said the magistrate, without any introduction, placing
himself between his wife and the door.
Madame de Villefort must have experienced something of the
sensation of a bird which, looking up, sees the murderous
trap closing over its head. A hoarse, broken tone, which was
neither a cry nor a sigh, escaped from her, while she became
deadly pale. "Monsieur," she said, "I -- I do not understand
you." And, in her first paroxysm of terror, she had raised
herself from the sofa, in the next, stronger very likely
than the other, she fell down again on the cushions. "I
asked you," continued Villefort, in a perfectly calm tone,
"where you conceal the poison by the aid of which you have
killed my father-in-law, M. de Saint-Meran, my
mother-in-law, Madame de Saint-Meran, Barrois, and my
"Ah, sir," exclaimed Madame de Villefort, clasping her
hands, "what do you say?"
"It is not for you to interrogate, but to answer."
"Is it to the judge or to the husband?" stammered Madame de
Villefort. "To the judge -- to the judge, madame!" It was
terrible to behold the frightful pallor of that woman, the
anguish of her look, the trembling of her whole frame. "Ah,
sir," she muttered, "ah, sir," and this was all.
"You do not answer, madame!" exclaimed the terrible
interrogator. Then he added, with a smile yet more terrible
than his anger, "It is true, then; you do not deny it!" She
moved forward. "And you cannot deny it!" added Villefort,
extending his hand toward her, as though to seize her in the
name of justice. "You have accomplished these different
crimes with impudent address, but which could only deceive
those whose affections for you blinded them. Since the death
of Madame de Saint-Meran, I have known that a poisoner lived
in my house. M. d'Avrigny warned me of it. After the death
of Barrois my suspicions were directed towards an angel, --
those suspicions which, even when there is no crime, are
always alive in my heart; but after the death of Valentine,
there has been no doubt in my mind, madame, and not only in
mine, but in those of others; thus your crime, known by two
persons, suspected by many, will soon become public, and, as
I told you just now, you no longer speak to the husband, but
to the judge."
The young woman hid her face in her hands. "Oh, sir," she
stammered, "I beseech you, do not believe appearances."
"Are you, then, a coward?" cried Villefort, in a
contemptuous voice. "But I have always observed that
poisoners were cowards. Can you be a coward, -- you who have
had the courage to witness the death of two old men and a
young girl murdered by you?"
"Can you be a coward?" continued Villefort, with increasing
excitement, "you, who could count, one by one, the minutes
of four death agonies? You, who have arranged your infernal
plans, and removed the beverages with a talent and precision
almost miraculous? Have you, then, who have calculated
everything with such nicety, have you forgotten to calculate
one thing -- I mean where the revelation of your crimes will
lead you to? Oh, it is impossible -- you must have saved
some surer, more subtle and deadly poison than any other,
that you might escape the punishment that you deserve. You
have done this -- I hope so, at least." Madame de Villefort
stretched out her hands, and fell on her knees.
"I understand," he said, "you confess; but a confession made
to the judges, a confession made at the last moment,
extorted when the crime cannot be denied, diminishes not the
punishment inflicted on the guilty!"
"The punishment?" exclaimed Madame de Villefort, "the
punishment, monsieur? Twice you have pronounced that word!"
"Certainly. Did you hope to escape it because you were four
times guilty? Did you think the punishment would be withheld
because you are the wife of him who pronounces it? -- No,
madame, no; the scaffold awaits the poisoner, whoever she
may be, unless, as I just said, the poisoner has taken the
precaution of keeping for herself a few drops of her
deadliest potion." Madame de Villefort uttered a wild cry,
and a hideous and uncontrollable terror spread over her
distorted features. "Oh, do not fear the scaffold, madame,"
said the magistrate; "I will not dishonor you, since that
would be dishonor to myself; no, if you have heard me
distinctly, you will understand that you are not to die on
"No, I do not understand; what do you mean?" stammered the
unhappy woman, completely overwhelmed. "I mean that the wife
of the first magistrate in the capital shall not, by her
infamy, soil an unblemished name; that she shall not, with
one blow, dishonor her husband and her child."
"No, no -- oh, no!"
"Well, madame, it will be a laudable action on your part,
and I will thank you for it!"
"You will thank me -- for what?"
"For what you have just said."
"What did I say? Oh, my brain whirls; I no longer understand
anything. Oh, my God, my God!" And she rose, with her hair
dishevelled, and her lips foaming.
"Have you answered the question I put to you on entering the
room? -- where do you keep the poison you generally use,
madame?" Madame de Villefort raised her arms to heaven, and
convulsively struck one hand against the other. "No, no,"
she vociferated, "no, you cannot wish that!"
"What I do not wish, madame, is that you should perish on
the scaffold. Do you understand?" asked Villefort.
"Oh, mercy, mercy, monsieur!"
"What I require is, that justice be done. I am on the earth
to punish, madame," he added, with a flaming glance; "any
other woman, were it the queen herself, I would send to the
executioner; but to you I shall be merciful. To you I will
say, `Have you not, madame, put aside some of the surest,
deadliest, most speedy poison?'"
"Oh, pardon me, sir; let me live!"
"She is cowardly," said Villefort.
"Reflect that I am your wife!"
"You are a poisoner."
"In the name of heaven!"
"In the name of the love you once bore me!"
"In the name of our child! Ah, for the sake of our child,
let me live!"
"No, no, no, I tell you; one day, if I allow you to live,
you will perhaps kill him, as you have the others!"
"I? -- I kill my boy?" cried the distracted mother, rushing
toward Villefort; "I kill my son? Ha, ha, ha!" and a
frightful, demoniac laugh finished the sentence, which was
lost in a hoarse rattle. Madame de Villefort fell at her
husband's feet. He approached her. "Think of it, madame," he
said; "if, on my return, justice his not been satisfied, I
will denounce you with my own mouth, and arrest you with my
own hands!" She listened, panting, overwhelmed, crushed; her
eye alone lived, and glared horribly. "Do you understand
me?" he said. "I am going down there to pronounce the
sentence of death against a murderer. If I find you alive on
my return, you shall sleep to-night in the conciergerie."
Madame de Villefort sighed; her nerves gave way, and she
sunk on the carpet. The king's attorney seemed to experience
a sensation of pity; he looked upon her less severely, and,
bowing to her, said slowly, "Farewell, madame, farewell!"
That farewell struck Madame de Villefort like the
executioner's knife. She fainted. The procureur went out,
after having double-locked the door.
The Benedetto affair, as it was called at the Palais, and by
people in general, had produced a tremendous sensation.
Frequenting the Cafe de Paris, the Boulevard de Gand, and
the Bois de Boulogne, during his brief career of splendor,
the false Cavalcanti had formed a host of acquaintances. The
papers had related his various adventures, both as the man
of fashion and the galley-slave; and as every one who had
been personally acquainted with Prince Andrea Cavalcanti
experienced a lively curiosity in his fate, they all
determined to spare no trouble in endeavoring to witness the
trial of M. Benedetto for the murder of his comrade in
chains. In the eyes of many, Benedetto appeared, if not a
victim to, at least an instance of, the fallibility of the
law. M. Cavalcanti, his father, had been seen in Paris, and
it was expected that he would re-appear to claim the
illustrious outcast. Many, also, who were not aware of the
circumstances attending his withdrawal from Paris, were
struck with the worthy appearance, the gentlemanly bearing,
and the knowledge of the world displayed by the old
patrician, who certainly played the nobleman very well, so
long as he said nothing, and made no arithmetical
calculations. As for the accused himself, many remembered
him as being so amiable, so handsome, and so liberal, that
they chose to think him the victim of some conspiracy, since
in this world large fortunes frequently excite the
malevolence and jealousy of some unknown enemy. Every one,
therefore, ran to the court; some to witness the sight,
others to comment upon it. From seven o'clock in the morning
a crowd was stationed at the iron gates, and an hour before
the trial commenced the hall was full of the privileged.
Before the entrance of the magistrates, and indeed
frequently afterwards, a court of justice, on days when some
especial trial is to take place, resembles a drawing-room
where many persons recognize each other and converse if they
can do so without losing their seats; or, if they are
separated by too great a number of lawyers, communicate by
It was one of the magnificent autumn days which make amends
for a short summer; the clouds which M. de Villefort had
perceived at sunrise had all disappeared as if by magic, and
one of the softest and most brilliant days of September
shone forth in all its splendor.
Beauchamp, one of the kings of the press, and therefore
claiming the right of a throne everywhere, was eying
everybody through his monocle. He perceived Chateau-Renaud
and Debray, who had just gained the good graces of a
sergeant-at-arms, and who had persuaded the latter to let
them stand before, instead of behind him, as they ought to
have done. The worthy sergeant had recognized the minister's
secretary and the millionnaire, and, by way of paying extra
attention to his noble neighbors, promised to keep their
places while they paid a visit to Beauchamp.
"Well," said Beauchamp, "we shall see our friend!"
"Yes, indeed!" replied Debray. "That worthy prince. Deuce
take those Italian princes!"
"A man, too, who could boast of Dante for a genealogist, and
could reckon back to the `Divine Comedy.'"
"A nobility of the rope!" said Chateau-Renaud
"He will be condemned, will he not?" asked Debray of
"My dear fellow, I think we should ask you that question;
you know such news much better than we do. Did you see the
president at the minister's last night?"
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