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The Count of Monte Cristo

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Chapter 4. Conspiracy


Danglars followed Edmond and Mercédès with his eyes until the two lovers disappeared behind one of the angles of Fort Saint Nicolas; then, turning round, he perceived Fernand, who had fallen, pale and trembling, into his chair, while Caderousse stammered out the words of a drinking-song.

“Well, my dear sir,” said Danglars to Fernand, “here is a marriage which does not appear to make everybody happy.”

“It drives me to despair,” said Fernand.

“Do you, then, love Mercédès?”

“I adore her!”

“For long?”

“As long as I have known her—always.”

“And you sit there, tearing your hair, instead of seeking to remedy your condition; I did not think that was the way of your people.”

“What would you have me do?” said Fernand.

“How do I know? Is it my affair? I am not in love with Mademoiselle Mercédès; but for you—in the words of the gospel, seek, and you shall find.”

“I have found already.”

“What?”

“I would stab the man, but the woman told me that if any misfortune happened to her betrothed, she would kill herself.”

“Pooh! Women say those things, but never do them.”

“You do not know Mercédès; what she threatens she will do.”

“Idiot!” muttered Danglars; “whether she kill herself or not, what matter, provided Dantès is not captain?”

“Before Mercédès should die,” replied Fernand, with the accents of unshaken resolution, “I would die myself!”

“That’s what I call love!” said Caderousse with a voice more tipsy than ever. “That’s love, or I don’t know what love is.”

“Come,” said Danglars, “you appear to me a good sort of fellow, and hang me, I should like to help you, but——”

“Yes,” said Caderousse, “but how?”

“My dear fellow,” replied Danglars, “you are three parts drunk; finish the bottle, and you will be completely so. Drink then, and do not meddle with what we are discussing, for that requires all one’s wit and cool judgment.”

“I—drunk!” said Caderousse; “well that’s a good one! I could drink four more such bottles; they are no bigger than cologne flasks. Père Pamphile, more wine!”

And Caderousse rattled his glass upon the table.

“You were saying, sir——” said Fernand, awaiting with great anxiety the end of this interrupted remark.

“What was I saying? I forget. This drunken Caderousse has made me lose the thread of my sentence.”

“Drunk, if you like; so much the worse for those who fear wine, for it is because they have bad thoughts which they are afraid the liquor will extract from their hearts;” and Caderousse began to sing the two last lines of a song very popular at the time:

‘Tous les méchants sont buveurs d’eau;
C’est bien prouvé par le déluge.’[1]

“You said, sir, you would like to help me, but——”

“Yes; but I added, to help you it would be sufficient that Dantès did not marry her you love; and the marriage may easily be thwarted, methinks, and yet Dantès need not die.”

“Death alone can separate them,” remarked Fernand.

“You talk like a noodle, my friend,” said Caderousse; “and here is Danglars, who is a wide-awake, clever, deep fellow, who will prove to you that you are wrong. Prove it, Danglars. I have answered for you. Say there is no need why Dantès should die; it would, indeed, be a pity he should. Dantès is a good fellow; I like Dantès. Dantès, your health.”

Fernand rose impatiently. “Let him run on,” said Danglars, restraining the young man; “drunk as he is, he is not much out in what he says. Absence severs as well as death, and if the walls of a prison were between Edmond and Mercédès they would be as effectually separated as if he lay under a tombstone.”

“Yes; but one gets out of prison,” said Caderousse, who, with what sense was left him, listened eagerly to the conversation, “and when one gets out and one’s name is Edmond Dantès, one seeks revenge——”

“What matters that?” muttered Fernand.

“And why, I should like to know,” persisted Caderousse, “should they put Dantès in prison? he has neither robbed, nor killed, nor murdered.”

“Hold your tongue!” said Danglars.

“I won’t hold my tongue!” replied Caderousse; “I say I want to know why they should put Dantès in prison; I like Dantès; Dantès, your health!” and he swallowed another glass of wine.

Danglars saw in the muddled look of the tailor the progress of his intoxication, and turning towards Fernand, said, “Well, you understand there is no need to kill him.”

“Certainly not, if, as you said just now, you have the means of having Dantès arrested. Have you that means?”

“It is to be found for the searching. But why should I meddle in the matter? it is no affair of mine.”

“I know not why you meddle,” said Fernand, seizing his arm; “but this I know, you have some motive of personal hatred against Dantès, for he who himself hates is never mistaken in the sentiments of others.”

“I! motives of hatred against Dantès? None, on my word! I saw you were unhappy, and your unhappiness interested me; that’s all; but since you believe I act for my own account, adieu, my dear friend, get out of the affair as best you may;” and Danglars rose as if he meant to depart.

“No, no,” said Fernand, restraining him, “stay! It is of very little consequence to me at the end of the matter whether you have any angry feeling or not against Dantès. I hate him! I confess it openly. Do you find the means, I will execute it, provided it is not to kill the man, for Mercédès has declared she will kill herself if Dantès is killed.”

Caderousse, who had let his head drop on the table, now raised it, and looking at Fernand with his dull and fishy eyes, he said, “Kill Dantès! who talks of killing Dantès? I won’t have him killed—I won’t! He’s my friend, and this morning offered to share his money with me, as I shared mine with him. I won’t have Dantès killed—I won’t!”

“And who has said a word about killing him, muddlehead?” replied Danglars. “We were merely joking; drink to his health,” he added, filling Caderousse’s glass, “and do not interfere with us.”

“Yes, yes, Dantès’ good health!” said Caderousse, emptying his glass, “here’s to his health! his health—hurrah!”

“But the means—the means?” said Fernand.

“Have you not hit upon any?” asked Danglars.

“No!—you undertook to do so.”

“True,” replied Danglars; “the French have the superiority over the Spaniards, that the Spaniards ruminate, while the French invent.”

“Do you invent, then,” said Fernand impatiently.

“Waiter,” said Danglars, “pen, ink, and paper.”

“Pen, ink, and paper,” muttered Fernand.

“Yes; I am a supercargo; pen, ink, and paper are my tools, and without my tools I am fit for nothing.”

“Pen, ink, and paper, then,” called Fernand loudly.

“There’s what you want on that table,” said the waiter.

“Bring them here.” The waiter did as he was desired.

“When one thinks,” said Caderousse, letting his hand drop on the paper, “there is here wherewithal to kill a man more sure than if we waited at the corner of a wood to assassinate him! I have always had more dread of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper, than of a sword or pistol.”

“The fellow is not so drunk as he appears to be,” said Danglars. “Give him some more wine, Fernand.” Fernand filled Caderousse’s glass, who, like the confirmed toper he was, lifted his hand from the paper and seized the glass.

The Catalan watched him until Caderousse, almost overcome by this fresh assault on his senses, rested, or rather dropped, his glass upon the table.

“Well!” resumed the Catalan, as he saw the final glimmer of Caderousse’s reason vanishing before the last glass of wine.

“Well, then, I should say, for instance,” resumed Danglars, “that if after a voyage such as Dantès has just made, in which he touched at the Island of Elba, someone were to denounce him to the king’s procureur as a Bonapartist agent——”

“I will denounce him!” exclaimed the young man hastily.

“Yes, but they will make you then sign your declaration, and confront you with him you have denounced; I will supply you with the means of supporting your accusation, for I know the fact well. But Dantès cannot remain forever in prison, and one day or other he will leave it, and the day when he comes out, woe betide him who was the cause of his incarceration!”

“Oh, I should wish nothing better than that he would come and seek a quarrel with me.”

“Yes, and Mercédès! Mercédès, who will detest you if you have only the misfortune to scratch the skin of her dearly beloved Edmond!”

“True!” said Fernand.

“No, no,” continued Danglars; “if we resolve on such a step, it would be much better to take, as I now do, this pen, dip it into this ink, and write with the left hand (that the writing may not be recognized) the denunciation we propose.” And Danglars, uniting practice with theory, wrote with his left hand, and in a writing reversed from his usual style, and totally unlike it, the following lines, which he handed to Fernand, and which Fernand read in an undertone:

“The honorable, the king’s attorney, is informed by a friend of the throne and religion, that one Edmond Dantès, mate of the ship Pharaon, arrived this morning from Smyrna, after having touched at Naples and Porto-Ferrajo, has been intrusted by Murat with a letter for the usurper, and by the usurper with a letter for the Bonapartist committee in Paris. Proof of this crime will be found on arresting him, for the letter will be found upon him, or at his father’s, or in his cabin on board the Pharaon.”

“Very good,” resumed Danglars; “now your revenge looks like common sense, for in no way can it revert to yourself, and the matter will thus work its own way; there is nothing to do now but fold the letter as I am doing, and write upon it, ‘To the king’s attorney,’ and that’s all settled.” And Danglars wrote the address as he spoke.

“Yes, and that’s all settled!” exclaimed Caderousse, who, by a last effort of intellect, had followed the reading of the letter, and instinctively comprehended all the misery which such a denunciation must entail. “Yes, and that’s all settled; only it will be an infamous shame;” and he stretched out his hand to reach the letter.

“Yes,” said Danglars, taking it from beyond his reach; “and as what I say and do is merely in jest, and I, amongst the first and foremost, should be sorry if anything happened to Dantès—the worthy Dantès—look here!” And taking the letter, he squeezed it up in his hands and threw it into a corner of the arbor.

“All right!” said Caderousse. “Dantès is my friend, and I won’t have him ill-used.”

“And who thinks of using him ill? Certainly neither I nor Fernand,” said Danglars, rising and looking at the young man, who still remained seated, but whose eye was fixed on the denunciatory sheet of paper flung into the corner.

“In this case,” replied Caderousse, “let’s have some more wine. I wish to drink to the health of Edmond and the lovely Mercédès.”

“You have had too much already, drunkard,” said Danglars; “and if you continue, you will be compelled to sleep here, because unable to stand on your legs.”

“I?” said Caderousse, rising with all the offended dignity of a drunken man, “I can’t keep on my legs? Why, I’ll wager I can go up into the belfry of the Accoules, and without staggering, too!”

“Done!” said Danglars, “I’ll take your bet; but tomorrow—today it is time to return. Give me your arm, and let us go.”

“Very well, let us go,” said Caderousse; “but I don’t want your arm at all. Come, Fernand, won’t you return to Marseilles with us?”

“No,” said Fernand; “I shall return to the Catalans.”

“You’re wrong. Come with us to Marseilles—come along.”

“I will not.”

“What do you mean? you will not? Well, just as you like, my prince; there’s liberty for all the world. Come along, Danglars, and let the young gentleman return to the Catalans if he chooses.”

Danglars took advantage of Caderousse’s temper at the moment, to take him off towards Marseilles by the Porte Saint-Victor, staggering as he went.

When they had advanced about twenty yards, Danglars looked back and saw Fernand stoop, pick up the crumpled paper, and putting it into his pocket then rush out of the arbor towards Pillon.

“Well,” said Caderousse, “why, what a lie he told! He said he was going to the Catalans, and he is going to the city. Hallo, Fernand! You are coming, my boy!”

“Oh, you don’t see straight,” said Danglars; “he’s gone right by the road to the Vieilles Infirmeries.”

“Well,” said Caderousse, “I should have sworn that he turned to the right—how treacherous wine is!”

“Come, come,” said Danglars to himself, “now the thing is at work and it will effect its purpose unassisted.”


Chapter 5. The Marriage Feast


The morning’s sun rose clear and resplendent, touching the foamy waves into a network of ruby-tinted light.

The feast had been made ready on the second floor at La Réserve, with whose arbor the reader is already familiar. The apartment destined for the purpose was spacious and lighted by a number of windows, over each of which was written in golden letters for some inexplicable reason the name of one of the principal cities of France; beneath these windows a wooden balcony extended the entire length of the house. And although the entertainment was fixed for twelve o’clock, an hour previous to that time the balcony was filled with impatient and expectant guests, consisting of the favored part of the crew of the Pharaon, and other personal friends of the bridegroom, the whole of whom had arrayed themselves in their choicest costumes, in order to do greater honor to the occasion.

Various rumors were afloat to the effect that the owners of the Pharaon had promised to attend the nuptial feast; but all seemed unanimous in doubting that an act of such rare and exceeding condescension could possibly be intended.

Danglars, however, who now made his appearance, accompanied by Caderousse, effectually confirmed the report, stating that he had recently conversed with M. Morrel, who had himself assured him of his intention to dine at La Réserve.

In fact, a moment later M. Morrel appeared and was saluted with an enthusiastic burst of applause from the crew of the Pharaon, who hailed the visit of the shipowner as a sure indication that the man whose wedding feast he thus delighted to honor would ere long be first in command of the ship; and as Dantès was universally beloved on board his vessel, the sailors put no restraint on their tumultuous joy at finding that the opinion and choice of their superiors so exactly coincided with their own.

With the entrance of M. Morrel, Danglars and Caderousse were despatched in search of the bridegroom to convey to him the intelligence of the arrival of the important personage whose coming had created such a lively sensation, and to beseech him to make haste.

Danglars and Caderousse set off upon their errand at full speed; but ere they had gone many steps they perceived a group advancing towards them, composed of the betrothed pair, a party of young girls in attendance on the bride, by whose side walked Dantès’ father; the whole brought up by Fernand, whose lips wore their usual sinister smile.

Neither Mercédès nor Edmond observed the strange expression of his countenance; they were so happy that they were conscious only of the sunshine and the presence of each other.

Having acquitted themselves of their errand, and exchanged a hearty shake of the hand with Edmond, Danglars and Caderousse took their places beside Fernand and old Dantès,—the latter of whom attracted universal notice.

The old man was attired in a suit of glistening watered silk, trimmed with steel buttons, beautifully cut and polished. His thin but wiry legs were arrayed in a pair of richly embroidered clocked stockings, evidently of English manufacture, while from his three-cornered hat depended a long streaming knot of white and blue ribbons. Thus he came along, supporting himself on a curiously carved stick, his aged countenance lit up with happiness, looking for all the world like one of the aged dandies of 1796, parading the newly opened gardens of the Luxembourg and Tuileries.

Beside him glided Caderousse, whose desire to partake of the good things provided for the wedding party had induced him to become reconciled to the Dantès, father and son, although there still lingered in his mind a faint and unperfect recollection of the events of the preceding night; just as the brain retains on waking in the morning the dim and misty outline of a dream.

As Danglars approached the disappointed lover, he cast on him a look of deep meaning, while Fernand, as he slowly paced behind the happy pair, who seemed, in their own unmixed content, to have entirely forgotten that such a being as himself existed, was pale and abstracted; occasionally, however, a deep flush would overspread his countenance, and a nervous contraction distort his features, while, with an agitated and restless gaze, he would glance in the direction of Marseilles, like one who either anticipated or foresaw some great and important event.

Dantès himself was simply, but becomingly, clad in the dress peculiar to the merchant service—a costume somewhat between a military and a civil garb; and with his fine countenance, radiant with joy and happiness, a more perfect specimen of manly beauty could scarcely be imagined.

Lovely as the Greek girls of Cyprus or Chios, Mercédès boasted the same bright flashing eyes of jet, and ripe, round, coral lips. She moved with the light, free step of an Arlesienne or an Andalusian. One more practiced in the arts of great cities would have hid her blushes beneath a veil, or, at least, have cast down her thickly fringed lashes, so as to have concealed the liquid lustre of her animated eyes; but, on the contrary, the delighted girl looked around her with a smile that seemed to say: “If you are my friends, rejoice with me, for I am very happy.”

As soon as the bridal party came in sight of La Réserve, M. Morrel descended and came forth to meet it, followed by the soldiers and sailors there assembled, to whom he had repeated the promise already given, that Dantès should be the successor to the late Captain Leclere. Edmond, at the approach of his patron, respectfully placed the arm of his affianced bride within that of M. Morrel, who, forthwith conducting her up the flight of wooden steps leading to the chamber in which the feast was prepared, was gayly followed by the guests, beneath whose heavy tread the slight structure creaked and groaned for the space of several minutes.

“Father,” said Mercédès, stopping when she had reached the centre of the table, “sit, I pray you, on my right hand; on my left I will place him who has ever been as a brother to me,” pointing with a soft and gentle smile to Fernand; but her words and look seemed to inflict the direst torture on him, for his lips became ghastly pale, and even beneath the dark hue of his complexion the blood might be seen retreating as though some sudden pang drove it back to the heart.

During this time, Dantès, at the opposite side of the table, had been occupied in similarly placing his most honored guests. M. Morrel was seated at his right hand, Danglars at his left; while, at a sign from Edmond, the rest of the company ranged themselves as they found it most agreeable.

Then they began to pass around the dusky, piquant, Arlesian sausages, and lobsters in their dazzling red cuirasses, prawns of large size and brilliant color, the echinus with its prickly outside and dainty morsel within, the clovis, esteemed by the epicures of the South as more than rivalling the exquisite flavor of the oyster, North. All the delicacies, in fact, that are cast up by the wash of waters on the sandy beach, and styled by the grateful fishermen “fruits of the sea.”

“A pretty silence truly!” said the old father of the bridegroom, as he carried to his lips a glass of wine of the hue and brightness of the topaz, and which had just been placed before Mercédès herself. “Now, would anybody think that this room contained a happy, merry party, who desire nothing better than to laugh and dance the hours away?”

“Ah,” sighed Caderousse, “a man cannot always feel happy because he is about to be married.”

“The truth is,” replied Dantès, “that I am too happy for noisy mirth; if that is what you meant by your observation, my worthy friend, you are right; joy takes a strange effect at times, it seems to oppress us almost the same as sorrow.”

Danglars looked towards Fernand, whose excitable nature received and betrayed each fresh impression.

“Why, what ails you?” asked he of Edmond. “Do you fear any approaching evil? I should say that you were the happiest man alive at this instant.”

“And that is the very thing that alarms me,” returned Dantès. “Man does not appear to me to be intended to enjoy felicity so unmixed; happiness is like the enchanted palaces we read of in our childhood, where fierce, fiery dragons defend the entrance and approach; and monsters of all shapes and kinds, requiring to be overcome ere victory is ours. I own that I am lost in wonder to find myself promoted to an honor of which I feel myself unworthy—that of being the husband of Mercédès.”

“Nay, nay!” cried Caderousse, smiling, “you have not attained that honor yet. Mercédès is not yet your wife. Just assume the tone and manner of a husband, and see how she will remind you that your hour is not yet come!”

The bride blushed, while Fernand, restless and uneasy, seemed to start at every fresh sound, and from time to time wiped away the large drops of perspiration that gathered on his brow.

“Well, never mind that, neighbor Caderousse; it is not worthwhile to contradict me for such a trifle as that. ’Tis true that Mercédès is not actually my wife; but,” added he, drawing out his watch, “in an hour and a half she will be.”

A general exclamation of surprise ran round the table, with the exception of the elder Dantès, whose laugh displayed the still perfect beauty of his large white teeth. Mercédès looked pleased and gratified, while Fernand grasped the handle of his knife with a convulsive clutch.

“In an hour?” inquired Danglars, turning pale. “How is that, my friend?”

“Why, thus it is,” replied Dantès. “Thanks to the influence of M. Morrel, to whom, next to my father, I owe every blessing I enjoy, every difficulty has been removed. We have purchased permission to waive the usual delay; and at half-past two o’clock the Mayor of Marseilles will be waiting for us at the city hall. Now, as a quarter-past one has already struck, I do not consider I have asserted too much in saying, that, in another hour and thirty minutes Mercédès will have become Madame Dantès.”

Fernand closed his eyes, a burning sensation passed across his brow, and he was compelled to support himself by the table to prevent his falling from his chair; but in spite of all his efforts, he could not refrain from uttering a deep groan, which, however, was lost amid the noisy felicitations of the company.

“Upon my word,” cried the old man, “you make short work of this kind of affair. Arrived here only yesterday morning, and married today at three o’clock! Commend me to a sailor for going the quick way to work!”

“But,” asked Danglars, in a timid tone, “how did you manage about the other formalities—the contract—the settlement?”

“The contract,” answered Dantès, laughingly, “it didn’t take long to fix that. Mercédès has no fortune; I have none to settle on her. So, you see, our papers were quickly written out, and certainly do not come very expensive.” This joke elicited a fresh burst of applause.

“So that what we presumed to be merely the betrothal feast turns out to be the actual wedding dinner!” said Danglars.

“No, no,” answered Dantès; “don’t imagine I am going to put you off in that shabby manner. Tomorrow morning I start for Paris; four days to go, and the same to return, with one day to discharge the commission entrusted to me, is all the time I shall be absent. I shall be back here by the first of March, and on the second I give my real marriage feast.”

This prospect of fresh festivity redoubled the hilarity of the guests to such a degree, that the elder Dantès, who, at the commencement of the repast, had commented upon the silence that prevailed, now found it difficult, amid the general din of voices, to obtain a moment’s tranquillity in which to drink to the health and prosperity of the bride and bridegroom.

Dantès, perceiving the affectionate eagerness of his father, responded by a look of grateful pleasure; while Mercédès glanced at the clock and made an expressive gesture to Edmond.

Around the table reigned that noisy hilarity which usually prevails at such a time among people sufficiently free from the demands of social position not to feel the trammels of etiquette. Such as at the commencement of the repast had not been able to seat themselves according to their inclination rose unceremoniously, and sought out more agreeable companions. Everybody talked at once, without waiting for a reply and each one seemed to be contented with expressing his or her own thoughts.

Fernand’s paleness appeared to have communicated itself to Danglars. As for Fernand himself, he seemed to be enduring the tortures of the damned; unable to rest, he was among the first to quit the table, and, as though seeking to avoid the hilarious mirth that rose in such deafening sounds, he continued, in utter silence, to pace the farther end of the salon.

Caderousse approached him just as Danglars, whom Fernand seemed most anxious to avoid, had joined him in a corner of the room.

“Upon my word,” said Caderousse, from whose mind the friendly treatment of Dantès, united with the effect of the excellent wine he had partaken of, had effaced every feeling of envy or jealousy at Dantès’ good fortune,—“upon my word, Dantès is a downright good fellow, and when I see him sitting there beside his pretty wife that is so soon to be. I cannot help thinking it would have been a great pity to have served him that trick you were planning yesterday.”

“Oh, there was no harm meant,” answered Danglars; “at first I certainly did feel somewhat uneasy as to what Fernand might be tempted to do; but when I saw how completely he had mastered his feelings, even so far as to become one of his rival’s attendants, I knew there was no further cause for apprehension.” Caderousse looked full at Fernand—he was ghastly pale.

“Certainly,” continued Danglars, “the sacrifice was no trifling one, when the beauty of the bride is concerned. Upon my soul, that future captain of mine is a lucky dog! Gad! I only wish he would let me take his place.”

“Shall we not set forth?” asked the sweet, silvery voice of Mercédès; “two o’clock has just struck, and you know we are expected in a quarter of an hour.”


“To be sure!—to be sure!” cried Dantès, eagerly quitting the table; “let us go directly!”

His words were re-echoed by the whole party, with vociferous cheers.

At this moment Danglars, who had been incessantly observing every change in Fernand’s look and manner, saw him stagger and fall back, with an almost convulsive spasm, against a seat placed near one of the open windows. At the same instant his ear caught a sort of indistinct sound on the stairs, followed by the measured tread of soldiery, with the clanking of swords and military accoutrements; then came a hum and buzz as of many voices, so as to deaden even the noisy mirth of the bridal party, among whom a vague feeling of curiosity and apprehension quelled every disposition to talk, and almost instantaneously the most deathlike stillness prevailed.

The sounds drew nearer. Three blows were struck upon the panel of the door. The company looked at each other in consternation.

“I demand admittance,” said a loud voice outside the room, “in the name of the law!” As no attempt was made to prevent it, the door was opened, and a magistrate, wearing his official scarf, presented himself, followed by four soldiers and a corporal. Uneasiness now yielded to the most extreme dread on the part of those present.

“May I venture to inquire the reason of this unexpected visit?” said M. Morrel, addressing the magistrate, whom he evidently knew; “there is doubtless some mistake easily explained.”

“If it be so,” replied the magistrate, “rely upon every reparation being made; meanwhile, I am the bearer of an order of arrest, and although I most reluctantly perform the task assigned me, it must, nevertheless, be fulfilled. Who among the persons here assembled answers to the name of Edmond Dantès?”

Every eye was turned towards the young man who, spite of the agitation he could not but feel, advanced with dignity, and said, in a firm voice:

“I am he; what is your pleasure with me?”

“Edmond Dantès,” replied the magistrate, “I arrest you in the name of the law!”

“Me!” repeated Edmond, slightly changing color, “and wherefore, I pray?”

“I cannot inform you, but you will be duly acquainted with the reasons that have rendered such a step necessary at the preliminary examination.”

M. Morrel felt that further resistance or remonstrance was useless. He saw before him an officer delegated to enforce the law, and perfectly well knew that it would be as unavailing to seek pity from a magistrate decked with his official scarf, as to address a petition to some cold marble effigy. Old Dantès, however, sprang forward. There are situations which the heart of a father or a mother cannot be made to understand. He prayed and supplicated in terms so moving, that even the officer was touched, and, although firm in his duty, he kindly said, “My worthy friend, let me beg of you to calm your apprehensions. Your son has probably neglected some prescribed form or attention in registering his cargo, and it is more than probable he will be set at liberty directly he has given the information required, whether touching the health of his crew, or the value of his freight.”

“What is the meaning of all this?” inquired Caderousse, frowningly, of Danglars, who had assumed an air of utter surprise.

“How can I tell you?” replied he; “I am, like yourself, utterly bewildered at all that is going on, and cannot in the least make out what it is about.” Caderousse then looked around for Fernand, but he had disappeared.

The scene of the previous night now came back to his mind with startling clearness. The painful catastrophe he had just witnessed appeared effectually to have rent away the veil which the intoxication of the evening before had raised between himself and his memory.

“So, so,” said he, in a hoarse and choking voice, to Danglars, “this, then, I suppose, is a part of the trick you were concerting yesterday? All I can say is, that if it be so, ’tis an ill turn, and well deserves to bring double evil on those who have projected it.”

“Nonsense,” returned Danglars, “I tell you again I have nothing whatever to do with it; besides, you know very well that I tore the paper to pieces.”

“No, you did not!” answered Caderousse, “you merely threw it by—I saw it lying in a corner.”

“Hold your tongue, you fool!—what should you know about it?—why, you were drunk!”

“Where is Fernand?” inquired Caderousse.

“How do I know?” replied Danglars; “gone, as every prudent man ought to be, to look after his own affairs, most likely. Never mind where he is, let you and I go and see what is to be done for our poor friends.”

During this conversation, Dantès, after having exchanged a cheerful shake of the hand with all his sympathizing friends, had surrendered himself to the officer sent to arrest him, merely saying, “Make yourselves quite easy, my good fellows, there is some little mistake to clear up, that’s all, depend upon it; and very likely I may not have to go so far as the prison to effect that.”

“Oh, to be sure!” responded Danglars, who had now approached the group, “nothing more than a mistake, I feel quite certain.”

Dantès descended the staircase, preceded by the magistrate, and followed by the soldiers. A carriage awaited him at the door; he got in, followed by two soldiers and the magistrate, and the vehicle drove off towards Marseilles.

“Adieu, adieu, dearest Edmond!” cried Mercédès, stretching out her arms to him from the balcony.

The prisoner heard the cry, which sounded like the sob of a broken heart, and leaning from the coach he called out, “Good-bye, Mercédès—we shall soon meet again!” Then the vehicle disappeared round one of the turnings of Fort Saint Nicholas.

“Wait for me here, all of you!” cried M. Morrel; “I will take the first conveyance I find, and hurry to Marseilles, whence I will bring you word how all is going on.”

“That’s right!” exclaimed a multitude of voices, “go, and return as quickly as you can!”

This second departure was followed by a long and fearful state of terrified silence on the part of those who were left behind. The old father and Mercédès remained for some time apart, each absorbed in grief; but at length the two poor victims of the same blow raised their eyes, and with a simultaneous burst of feeling rushed into each other’s arms.

Meanwhile Fernand made his appearance, poured out for himself a glass of water with a trembling hand; then hastily swallowing it, went to sit down at the first vacant place, and this was, by mere chance, placed next to the seat on which poor Mercédès had fallen half fainting, when released from the warm and affectionate embrace of old Dantès. Instinctively Fernand drew back his chair.

“He is the cause of all this misery—I am quite sure of it,” whispered Caderousse, who had never taken his eyes off Fernand, to Danglars.

“I don’t think so,” answered the other; “he’s too stupid to imagine such a scheme. I only hope the mischief will fall upon the head of whoever wrought it.”

“You don’t mention those who aided and abetted the deed,” said Caderousse.

“Surely,” answered Danglars, “one cannot be held responsible for every chance arrow shot into the air.”

“You can, indeed, when the arrow lights point downward on somebody’s head.”

Meantime the subject of the arrest was being canvassed in every different form.

“What think you, Danglars,” said one of the party, turning towards him, “of this event?”

“Why,” replied he, “I think it just possible Dantès may have been detected with some trifling article on board ship considered here as contraband.”

“But how could he have done so without your knowledge, Danglars, since you are the ship’s supercargo?”

“Why, as for that, I could only know what I was told respecting the merchandise with which the vessel was laden. I know she was loaded with cotton, and that she took in her freight at Alexandria from Pastret’s warehouse, and at Smyrna from Pascal’s; that is all I was obliged to know, and I beg I may not be asked for any further particulars.”

“Now I recollect,” said the afflicted old father; “my poor boy told me yesterday he had got a small case of coffee, and another of tobacco for me!”

“There, you see,” exclaimed Danglars. “Now the mischief is out; depend upon it the custom-house people went rummaging about the ship in our absence, and discovered poor Dantès’ hidden treasures.”

Mercédès, however, paid no heed to this explanation of her lover’s arrest. Her grief, which she had hitherto tried to restrain, now burst out in a violent fit of hysterical sobbing.

“Come, come,” said the old man, “be comforted, my poor child; there is still hope!”

“Hope!” repeated Danglars.

“Hope!” faintly murmured Fernand, but the word seemed to die away on his pale agitated lips, and a convulsive spasm passed over his countenance.

“Good news! good news!” shouted forth one of the party stationed in the balcony on the lookout. “Here comes M. Morrel back. No doubt, now, we shall hear that our friend is released!”

Mercédès and the old man rushed to meet the shipowner and greeted him at the door. He was very pale.

“What news?” exclaimed a general burst of voices.

“Alas, my friends,” replied M. Morrel, with a mournful shake of his head, “the thing has assumed a more serious aspect than I expected.”

“Oh, indeed—indeed, sir, he is innocent!” sobbed forth Mercédès.

“That I believe!” answered M. Morrel; “but still he is charged——”

“With what?” inquired the elder Dantès.

“With being an agent of the Bonapartist faction!” Many of our readers may be able to recollect how formidable such an accusation became in the period at which our story is dated.

A despairing cry escaped the pale lips of Mercédès; the old man sank into a chair.

“Ah, Danglars!” whispered Caderousse, “you have deceived me—the trick you spoke of last night has been played; but I cannot suffer a poor old man or an innocent girl to die of grief through your fault. I am determined to tell them all about it.”

“Be silent, you simpleton!” cried Danglars, grasping him by the arm, “or I will not answer even for your own safety. Who can tell whether Dantès be innocent or guilty? The vessel did touch at Elba, where he quitted it, and passed a whole day in the island. Now, should any letters or other documents of a compromising character be found upon him, will it not be taken for granted that all who uphold him are his accomplices?”

With the rapid instinct of selfishness, Caderousse readily perceived the solidity of this mode of reasoning; he gazed, doubtfully, wistfully, on Danglars, and then caution supplanted generosity.

“Suppose we wait a while, and see what comes of it,” said he, casting a bewildered look on his companion.

“To be sure!” answered Danglars. “Let us wait, by all means. If he be innocent, of course he will be set at liberty; if guilty, why, it is no use involving ourselves in a conspiracy.”

“Let us go, then. I cannot stay here any longer.”

“With all my heart!” replied Danglars, pleased to find the other so tractable. “Let us take ourselves out of the way, and leave things for the present to take their course.”

After their departure, Fernand, who had now again become the friend and protector of Mercédès, led the girl to her home, while some friends of Dantès conducted his father, nearly lifeless, to the Allées de Meilhan.

The rumor of Edmond’s arrest as a Bonapartist agent was not slow in circulating throughout the city.

“Could you ever have credited such a thing, my dear Danglars?” asked M. Morrel, as, on his return to the port for the purpose of gleaning fresh tidings of Dantès, from M. de Villefort, the assistant procureur, he overtook his supercargo and Caderousse. “Could you have believed such a thing possible?”

“Why, you know I told you,” replied Danglars, “that I considered the circumstance of his having anchored at the Island of Elba as a very suspicious circumstance.”

“And did you mention these suspicions to any person beside myself?”

“Certainly not!” returned Danglars. Then added in a low whisper, “You understand that, on account of your uncle, M. Policar Morrel, who served under the other government, and who does not altogether conceal what he thinks on the subject, you are strongly suspected of regretting the abdication of Napoleon. I should have feared to injure both Edmond and yourself, had I divulged my own apprehensions to a soul. I am too well aware that though a subordinate, like myself, is bound to acquaint the shipowner with everything that occurs, there are many things he ought most carefully to conceal from all else.”

“’Tis well, Danglars—’tis well!” replied M. Morrel. “You are a worthy fellow; and I had already thought of your interests in the event of poor Edmond having become captain of the Pharaon.”

“Is it possible you were so kind?”

“Yes, indeed; I had previously inquired of Dantès what was his opinion of you, and if he should have any reluctance to continue you in your post, for somehow I have perceived a sort of coolness between you.”

“And what was his reply?”

“That he certainly did think he had given you offence in an affair which he merely referred to without entering into particulars, but that whoever possessed the good opinion and confidence of the ship’s owners would have his preference also.”

“The hypocrite!” murmured Danglars.

“Poor Dantès!” said Caderousse. “No one can deny his being a noble-hearted young fellow.”

“But meanwhile,” continued M. Morrel, “here is the Pharaon without a captain.”

“Oh,” replied Danglars, “since we cannot leave this port for the next three months, let us hope that ere the expiration of that period Dantès will be set at liberty.”

“No doubt; but in the meantime?”

“I am entirely at your service, M. Morrel,” answered Danglars. “You know that I am as capable of managing a ship as the most experienced captain in the service; and it will be so far advantageous to you to accept my services, that upon Edmond’s release from prison no further change will be requisite on board the Pharaon than for Dantès and myself each to resume our respective posts.”

“Thanks, Danglars—that will smooth over all difficulties. I fully authorize you at once to assume the command of the Pharaon, and look carefully to the unloading of her freight. Private misfortunes must never be allowed to interfere with business.”

“Be easy on that score, M. Morrel; but do you think we shall be permitted to see our poor Edmond?”

“I will let you know that directly I have seen M. de Villefort, whom I shall endeavor to interest in Edmond’s favor. I am aware he is a furious royalist; but, in spite of that, and of his being king’s attorney, he is a man like ourselves, and I fancy not a bad sort of one.”

“Perhaps not,” replied Danglars; “but I hear that he is ambitious, and that’s rather against him.”

“Well, well,” returned M. Morrel, “we shall see. But now hasten on board, I will join you there ere long.”

So saying, the worthy shipowner quitted the two allies, and proceeded in the direction of the Palais de Justice.

“You see,” said Danglars, addressing Caderousse, “the turn things have taken. Do you still feel any desire to stand up in his defence?”

“Not the slightest, but yet it seems to me a shocking thing that a mere joke should lead to such consequences.”

“But who perpetrated that joke, let me ask? neither you nor myself, but Fernand; you knew very well that I threw the paper into a corner of the room—indeed, I fancied I had destroyed it.”

“Oh, no,” replied Caderousse, “that I can answer for, you did not. I only wish I could see it now as plainly as I saw it lying all crushed and crumpled in a corner of the arbor.”

“Well, then, if you did, depend upon it, Fernand picked it up, and either copied it or caused it to be copied; perhaps, even, he did not take the trouble of recopying it. And now I think of it, by Heavens, he may have sent the letter itself! Fortunately, for me, the handwriting was disguised.”

“Then you were aware of Dantès being engaged in a conspiracy?”

“Not I. As I before said, I thought the whole thing was a joke, nothing more. It seems, however, that I have unconsciously stumbled upon the truth.”

“Still,” argued Caderousse, “I would give a great deal if nothing of the kind had happened; or, at least, that I had had no hand in it. You will see, Danglars, that it will turn out an unlucky job for both of us.”

“Nonsense! If any harm come of it, it should fall on the guilty person; and that, you know, is Fernand. How can we be implicated in any way? All we have got to do is, to keep our own counsel, and remain perfectly quiet, not breathing a word to any living soul; and you will see that the storm will pass away without in the least affecting us.”

“Amen!” responded Caderousse, waving his hand in token of adieu to Danglars, and bending his steps towards the Allées de Meilhan, moving his head to and fro, and muttering as he went, after the manner of one whose mind was overcharged with one absorbing idea.

“So far, then,” said Danglars, mentally, “all has gone as I would have it. I am, temporarily, commander of the Pharaon, with the certainty of being permanently so, if that fool of a Caderousse can be persuaded to hold his tongue. My only fear is the chance of Dantès being released. But, there, he is in the hands of Justice; and,” added he with a smile, “she will take her own.” So saying, he leaped into a boat, desiring to be rowed on board the Pharaon, where M. Morrel had agreed to meet him.


Chapter 6. The Deputy Procureur du Roi


In one of the aristocratic mansions built by Puget in the Rue du Grand Cours opposite the Medusa fountain, a second marriage feast was being celebrated, almost at the same hour with the nuptial repast given by Dantès. In this case, however, although the occasion of the entertainment was similar, the company was strikingly dissimilar. Instead of a rude mixture of sailors, soldiers, and those belonging to the humblest grade of life, the present assembly was composed of the very flower of Marseilles society,—magistrates who had resigned their office during the usurper’s reign; officers who had deserted from the imperial army and joined forces with Condé; and younger members of families, brought up to hate and execrate the man whom five years of exile would convert into a martyr, and fifteen of restoration elevate to the rank of a god.

The guests were still at table, and the heated and energetic conversation that prevailed betrayed the violent and vindictive passions that then agitated each dweller of the South, where unhappily, for five centuries religious strife had long given increased bitterness to the violence of party feeling.

The emperor, now king of the petty Island of Elba, after having held sovereign sway over one-half of the world, counting as his subjects a small population of five or six thousand souls,—after having been accustomed to hear the “Vive Napoléons” of a hundred and twenty millions of human beings, uttered in ten different languages,—was looked upon here as a ruined man, separated forever from any fresh connection with France or claim to her throne.

The magistrates freely discussed their political views; the military part of the company talked unreservedly of Moscow and Leipsic, while the women commented on the divorce of Josephine. It was not over the downfall of the man, but over the defeat of the Napoleonic idea, that they rejoiced, and in this they foresaw for themselves the bright and cheering prospect of a revivified political existence.

An old man, decorated with the cross of Saint Louis, now rose and proposed the health of King Louis XVIII. It was the Marquis de Saint-Méran. This toast, recalling at once the patient exile of Hartwell and the peace-loving King of France, excited universal enthusiasm; glasses were elevated in the air à l’Anglaise, and the ladies, snatching their bouquets from their fair bosoms, strewed the table with their floral treasures. In a word, an almost poetical fervor prevailed.

“Ah,” said the Marquise de Saint-Méran, a woman with a stern, forbidding eye, though still noble and distinguished in appearance, despite her fifty years—“ah, these revolutionists, who have driven us from those very possessions they afterwards purchased for a mere trifle during the Reign of Terror, would be compelled to own, were they here, that all true devotion was on our side, since we were content to follow the fortunes of a falling monarch, while they, on the contrary, made their fortune by worshipping the rising sun; yes, yes, they could not help admitting that the king, for whom we sacrificed rank, wealth, and station was truly our ‘Louis the well-beloved,’ while their wretched usurper has been, and ever will be, to them their evil genius, their ‘Napoleon the accursed.’ Am I not right, Villefort?”

“I beg your pardon, madame. I really must pray you to excuse me, but—in truth—I was not attending to the conversation.”

“Marquise, marquise!” interposed the old nobleman who had proposed the toast, “let the young people alone; let me tell you, on one’s wedding day there are more agreeable subjects of conversation than dry politics.”

“Never mind, dearest mother,” said a young and lovely girl, with a profusion of light brown hair, and eyes that seemed to float in liquid crystal, “’tis all my fault for seizing upon M. de Villefort, so as to prevent his listening to what you said. But there—now take him—he is your own for as long as you like. M. Villefort, I beg to remind you my mother speaks to you.”

“If the marquise will deign to repeat the words I but imperfectly caught, I shall be delighted to answer,” said M. de Villefort.

“Never mind, Renée,” replied the marquise, with a look of tenderness that seemed out of keeping with her harsh dry features; but, however all other feelings may be withered in a woman’s nature, there is always one bright smiling spot in the desert of her heart, and that is the shrine of maternal love. “I forgive you. What I was saying, Villefort, was, that the Bonapartists had not our sincerity, enthusiasm, or devotion.”

“They had, however, what supplied the place of those fine qualities,” replied the young man, “and that was fanaticism. Napoleon is the Mahomet of the West, and is worshipped by his commonplace but ambitious followers, not only as a leader and lawgiver, but also as the personification of equality.”

“He!” cried the marquise: “Napoleon the type of equality! For mercy’s sake, then, what would you call Robespierre? Come, come, do not strip the latter of his just rights to bestow them on the Corsican, who, to my mind, has usurped quite enough.”

“Nay, madame; I would place each of these heroes on his right pedestal—that of Robespierre on his scaffold in the Place Louis Quinze; that of Napoleon on the column of the Place Vendôme. The only difference consists in the opposite character of the equality advocated by these two men; one is the equality that elevates, the other is the equality that degrades; one brings a king within reach of the guillotine, the other elevates the people to a level with the throne. Observe,” said Villefort, smiling, “I do not mean to deny that both these men were revolutionary scoundrels, and that the 9th Thermidor and the 4th of April, in the year 1814, were lucky days for France, worthy of being gratefully remembered by every friend to monarchy and civil order; and that explains how it comes to pass that, fallen, as I trust he is forever, Napoleon has still retained a train of parasitical satellites. Still, marquise, it has been so with other usurpers—Cromwell, for instance, who was not half so bad as Napoleon, had his partisans and advocates.”

“Do you know, Villefort, that you are talking in a most dreadfully revolutionary strain? But I excuse it, it is impossible to expect the son of a Girondin to be free from a small spice of the old leaven.” A deep crimson suffused the countenance of Villefort.

“’Tis true, madame,” answered he, “that my father was a Girondin, but he was not among the number of those who voted for the king’s death; he was an equal sufferer with yourself during the Reign of Terror, and had well-nigh lost his head on the same scaffold on which your father perished.”

“True,” replied the marquise, without wincing in the slightest degree at the tragic remembrance thus called up; “but bear in mind, if you please, that our respective parents underwent persecution and proscription from diametrically opposite principles; in proof of which I may remark, that while my family remained among the staunchest adherents of the exiled princes, your father lost no time in joining the new government; and that while the Citizen Noirtier was a Girondin, the Count Noirtier became a senator.”

“Dear mother,” interposed Renée, “you know very well it was agreed that all these disagreeable reminiscences should forever be laid aside.”

“Suffer me, also, madame,” replied Villefort, “to add my earnest request to Mademoiselle de Saint-Méran’s, that you will kindly allow the veil of oblivion to cover and conceal the past. What avails recrimination over matters wholly past recall? For my own part, I have laid aside even the name of my father, and altogether disown his political principles. He was—nay, probably may still be—a Bonapartist, and is called Noirtier; I, on the contrary, am a staunch royalist, and style myself de Villefort. Let what may remain of revolutionary sap exhaust itself and die away with the old trunk, and condescend only to regard the young shoot which has started up at a distance from the parent tree, without having the power, any more than the wish, to separate entirely from the stock from which it sprung.”

“Bravo, Villefort!” cried the marquis; “excellently well said! Come, now, I have hopes of obtaining what I have been for years endeavoring to persuade the marquise to promise; namely, a perfect amnesty and forgetfulness of the past.”

“With all my heart,” replied the marquise; “let the past be forever forgotten. I promise you it affords me as little pleasure to revive it as it does you. All I ask is, that Villefort will be firm and inflexible for the future in his political principles. Remember, also, Villefort, that we have pledged ourselves to his majesty for your fealty and strict loyalty, and that at our recommendation the king consented to forget the past, as I do” (and here she extended to him her hand)—“as I now do at your entreaty. But bear in mind, that should there fall in your way anyone guilty of conspiring against the government, you will be so much the more bound to visit the offence with rigorous punishment, as it is known you belong to a suspected family.”

“Alas, madame,” returned Villefort, “my profession, as well as the times in which we live, compels me to be severe. I have already successfully conducted several public prosecutions, and brought the offenders to merited punishment. But we have not done with the thing yet.”

“Do you, indeed, think so?” inquired the marquise.

“I am, at least, fearful of it. Napoleon, in the Island of Elba, is too near France, and his proximity keeps up the hopes of his partisans. Marseilles is filled with half-pay officers, who are daily, under one frivolous pretext or other, getting up quarrels with the royalists; from hence arise continual and fatal duels among the higher classes of persons, and assassinations in the lower.”

“You have heard, perhaps,” said the Comte de Salvieux, one of M. de Saint-Méran’s oldest friends, and chamberlain to the Comte d’Artois, “that the Holy Alliance purpose removing him from thence?”

“Yes; they were talking about it when we left Paris,” said M. de Saint-Méran; “and where is it decided to transfer him?”

“To Saint Helena.”

“For heaven’s sake, where is that?” asked the marquise.

“An island situated on the other side of the equator, at least two thousand leagues from here,” replied the count.

“So much the better. As Villefort observes, it is a great act of folly to have left such a man between Corsica, where he was born, and Naples, of which his brother-in-law is king, and face to face with Italy, the sovereignty of which he coveted for his son.”

“Unfortunately,” said Villefort, “there are the treaties of 1814, and we cannot molest Napoleon without breaking those compacts.”

“Oh, well, we shall find some way out of it,” responded M. de Salvieux. “There wasn’t any trouble over treaties when it was a question of shooting the poor Duc d’Enghien.”

“Well,” said the marquise, “it seems probable that, by the aid of the Holy Alliance, we shall be rid of Napoleon; and we must trust to the vigilance of M. de Villefort to purify Marseilles of his partisans. The king is either a king or no king; if he be acknowledged as sovereign of France, he should be upheld in peace and tranquillity; and this can best be effected by employing the most inflexible agents to put down every attempt at conspiracy—’tis the best and surest means of preventing mischief.”

“Unfortunately, madame,” answered Villefort, “the strong arm of the law is not called upon to interfere until the evil has taken place.”

“Then all he has got to do is to endeavor to repair it.”

“Nay, madame, the law is frequently powerless to effect this; all it can do is to avenge the wrong done.”

“Oh, M. de Villefort,” cried a beautiful young creature, daughter to the Comte de Salvieux, and the cherished friend of Mademoiselle de Saint-Méran, “do try and get up some famous trial while we are at Marseilles. I never was in a law-court; I am told it is so very amusing!”

“Amusing, certainly,” replied the young man, “inasmuch as, instead of shedding tears as at the fictitious tale of woe produced at a theatre, you behold in a law-court a case of real and genuine distress—a drama of life. The prisoner whom you there see pale, agitated, and alarmed, instead of—as is the case when a curtain falls on a tragedy—going home to sup peacefully with his family, and then retiring to rest, that he may recommence his mimic woes on the morrow,—is removed from your sight merely to be reconducted to his prison and delivered up to the executioner. I leave you to judge how far your nerves are calculated to bear you through such a scene. Of this, however, be assured, that should any favorable opportunity present itself, I will not fail to offer you the choice of being present.”

“For shame, M. de Villefort!” said Renée, becoming quite pale; “don’t you see how you are frightening us?—and yet you laugh.”

“What would you have? ’Tis like a duel. I have already recorded sentence of death, five or six times, against the movers of political conspiracies, and who can say how many daggers may be ready sharpened, and only waiting a favorable opportunity to be buried in my heart?”

“Gracious heavens, M. de Villefort,” said Renée, becoming more and more terrified; “you surely are not in earnest.”

“Indeed I am,” replied the young magistrate with a smile; “and in the interesting trial that young lady is anxious to witness, the case would only be still more aggravated. Suppose, for instance, the prisoner, as is more than probable, to have served under Napoleon—well, can you expect for an instant, that one accustomed, at the word of his commander, to rush fearlessly on the very bayonets of his foe, will scruple more to drive a stiletto into the heart of one he knows to be his personal enemy, than to slaughter his fellow-creatures, merely because bidden to do so by one he is bound to obey? Besides, one requires the excitement of being hateful in the eyes of the accused, in order to lash one’s self into a state of sufficient vehemence and power. I would not choose to see the man against whom I pleaded smile, as though in mockery of my words. No; my pride is to see the accused pale, agitated, and as though beaten out of all composure by the fire of my eloquence.” Renée uttered a smothered exclamation.

“Bravo!” cried one of the guests; “that is what I call talking to some purpose.”

“Just the person we require at a time like the present,” said a second.

“What a splendid business that last case of yours was, my dear Villefort!” remarked a third; “I mean the trial of the man for murdering his father. Upon my word, you killed him ere the executioner had laid his hand upon him.”

“Oh, as for parricides, and such dreadful people as that,” interposed Renée, “it matters very little what is done to them; but as regards poor unfortunate creatures whose only crime consists in having mixed themselves up in political intrigues——”

“Why, that is the very worst offence they could possibly commit; for, don’t you see, Renée, the king is the father of his people, and he who shall plot or contrive aught against the life and safety of the parent of thirty-two millions of souls, is a parricide upon a fearfully great scale?”

“I don’t know anything about that,” replied Renée; “but, M. de Villefort, you have promised me—have you not?—always to show mercy to those I plead for.”

“Make yourself quite easy on that point,” answered Villefort, with one of his sweetest smiles; “you and I will always consult upon our verdicts.”

“My love,” said the marquise, “attend to your doves, your lap-dogs, and embroidery, but do not meddle with what you do not understand. Nowadays the military profession is in abeyance and the magisterial robe is the badge of honor. There is a wise Latin proverb that is very much in point.”

“Cedant arma togæ,” said Villefort with a bow.

“I cannot speak Latin,” responded the marquise.

“Well,” said Renée, “I cannot help regretting you had not chosen some other profession than your own—a physician, for instance. Do you know I always felt a shudder at the idea of even a destroying angel?”

“Dear, good Renée,” whispered Villefort, as he gazed with unutterable tenderness on the lovely speaker.

“Let us hope, my child,” cried the marquis, “that M. de Villefort may prove the moral and political physician of this province; if so, he will have achieved a noble work.”

“And one which will go far to efface the recollection of his father’s conduct,” added the incorrigible marquise.

“Madame,” replied Villefort, with a mournful smile, “I have already had the honor to observe that my father has—at least, I hope so—abjured his past errors, and that he is, at the present moment, a firm and zealous friend to religion and order—a better royalist, possibly, than his son; for he has to atone for past dereliction, while I have no other impulse than warm, decided preference and conviction.” Having made this well-turned speech, Villefort looked carefully around to mark the effect of his oratory, much as he would have done had he been addressing the bench in open court.

“Do you know, my dear Villefort,” cried the Comte de Salvieux, “that is exactly what I myself said the other day at the Tuileries, when questioned by his majesty’s principal chamberlain touching the singularity of an alliance between the son of a Girondin and the daughter of an officer of the Duc de Condé; and I assure you he seemed fully to comprehend that this mode of reconciling political differences was based upon sound and excellent principles. Then the king, who, without our suspecting it, had overheard our conversation, interrupted us by saying, ‘Villefort’—observe that the king did not pronounce the word Noirtier, but, on the contrary, placed considerable emphasis on that of Villefort—‘Villefort,’ said his majesty, ‘is a young man of great judgment and discretion, who will be sure to make a figure in his profession; I like him much, and it gave me great pleasure to hear that he was about to become the son-in-law of the Marquis and Marquise de Saint-Méran. I should myself have recommended the match, had not the noble marquis anticipated my wishes by requesting my consent to it.’”

“Is it possible the king could have condescended so far as to express himself so favorably of me?” asked the enraptured Villefort.

“I give you his very words; and if the marquis chooses to be candid, he will confess that they perfectly agree with what his majesty said to him, when he went six months ago to consult him upon the subject of your espousing his daughter.”

“That is true,” answered the marquis.

“How much do I owe this gracious prince! What is there I would not do to evince my earnest gratitude!”

“That is right,” cried the marquise. “I love to see you thus. Now, then, were a conspirator to fall into your hands, he would be most welcome.”

“For my part, dear mother,” interposed Renée, “I trust your wishes will not prosper, and that Providence will only permit petty offenders, poor debtors, and miserable cheats to fall into M. de Villefort’s hands,—then I shall be contented.”

“Just the same as though you prayed that a physician might only be called upon to prescribe for headaches, measles, and the stings of wasps, or any other slight affection of the epidermis. If you wish to see me the king’s attorney, you must desire for me some of those violent and dangerous diseases from the cure of which so much honor redounds to the physician.”

At this moment, and as though the utterance of Villefort’s wish had sufficed to effect its accomplishment, a servant entered the room, and whispered a few words in his ear. Villefort immediately rose from table and quitted the room upon the plea of urgent business; he soon, however, returned, his whole face beaming with delight. Renée regarded him with fond affection; and certainly his handsome features, lit up as they then were with more than usual fire and animation, seemed formed to excite the innocent admiration with which she gazed on her graceful and intelligent lover.

“You were wishing just now,” said Villefort, addressing her, “that I were a doctor instead of a lawyer. Well, I at least resemble the disciples of Esculapius in one thing [people spoke in this style in 1815], that of not being able to call a day my own, not even that of my betrothal.”

“And wherefore were you called away just now?” asked Mademoiselle de Saint-Méran, with an air of deep interest.

“For a very serious matter, which bids fair to make work for the executioner.”

“How dreadful!” exclaimed Renée, turning pale.

“Is it possible?” burst simultaneously from all who were near enough to the magistrate to hear his words.

“Why, if my information prove correct, a sort of Bonapartist conspiracy has just been discovered.”

“Can I believe my ears?” cried the marquise.

“I will read you the letter containing the accusation, at least,” said Villefort:

“‘The king’s attorney is informed by a friend to the throne and the religious institutions of his country, that one named Edmond Dantès, mate of the ship Pharaon, this day arrived from Smyrna, after having touched at Naples and Porto-Ferrajo, has been the bearer of a letter from Murat to the usurper, and again taken charge of another letter from the usurper to the Bonapartist club in Paris. Ample corroboration of this statement may be obtained by arresting the above-mentioned Edmond Dantès, who either carries the letter for Paris about with him, or has it at his father’s abode. Should it not be found in the possession of father or son, then it will assuredly be discovered in the cabin belonging to the said Dantès on board the Pharaon.’”

“But,” said Renée, “this letter, which, after all, is but an anonymous scrawl, is not even addressed to you, but to the king’s attorney.”

“True; but that gentleman being absent, his secretary, by his orders, opened his letters; thinking this one of importance, he sent for me, but not finding me, took upon himself to give the necessary orders for arresting the accused party.”

“Then the guilty person is absolutely in custody?” said the marquise.

“Nay, dear mother, say the accused person. You know we cannot yet pronounce him guilty.”

“He is in safe custody,” answered Villefort; “and rely upon it, if the letter is found, he will not be likely to be trusted abroad again, unless he goes forth under the especial protection of the headsman.”

“And where is the unfortunate being?” asked Renée.

“He is at my house.”

“Come, come, my friend,” interrupted the marquise, “do not neglect your duty to linger with us. You are the king’s servant, and must go wherever that service calls you.”

“Oh, Villefort!” cried Renée, clasping her hands, and looking towards her lover with piteous earnestness, “be merciful on this the day of our betrothal.”

The young man passed round to the side of the table where the fair pleader sat, and leaning over her chair said tenderly:

“To give you pleasure, my sweet Renée, I promise to show all the lenity in my power; but if the charges brought against this Bonapartist hero prove correct, why, then, you really must give me leave to order his head to be cut off.”

Renée shuddered at the word cut, for the growth in question had a head.

“Never mind that foolish girl, Villefort,” said the marquise. “She will soon get over these things.” So saying, Madame de Saint-Méran extended her dry bony hand to Villefort, who, while imprinting a son-in-law’s respectful salute on it, looked at Renée, as much as to say, “I must try and fancy ’tis your dear hand I kiss, as it should have been.”

“These are mournful auspices to accompany a betrothal,” sighed poor Renée.

“Upon my word, child!” exclaimed the angry marquise, “your folly exceeds all bounds. I should be glad to know what connection there can possibly be between your sickly sentimentality and the affairs of the state!”

“Oh, mother!” murmured Renée.

“Nay, madame, I pray you pardon this little traitor. I promise you that to make up for her want of loyalty, I will be most inflexibly severe;” then casting an expressive glance at his betrothed, which seemed to say, “Fear not, for your dear sake my justice shall be tempered with mercy,” and receiving a sweet and approving smile in return, Villefort departed with paradise in his heart.