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The Count of Monte Cristo

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Chapter 70. The Ball


It was in the warmest days of July, when in due course of time the Saturday arrived upon which the ball was to take place at M. de Morcerf’s. It was ten o’clock at night; the branches of the great trees in the garden of the count’s house stood out boldly against the azure canopy of heaven, which was studded with golden stars, but where the last fleeting clouds of a vanishing storm yet lingered.

From the apartments on the ground floor might be heard the sound of music, with the whirl of the waltz and galop, while brilliant streams of light shone through the openings of the Venetian blinds. At this moment the garden was only occupied by about ten servants, who had just received orders from their mistress to prepare the supper, the serenity of the weather continuing to increase. Until now, it had been undecided whether the supper should take place in the dining-room, or under a long tent erected on the lawn, but the beautiful blue sky, studded with stars, had settled the question in favor of the lawn.

The gardens were illuminated with colored lanterns, according to the Italian custom, and, as is usual in countries where the luxuries of the table—the rarest of all luxuries in their complete form—are well understood, the supper-table was loaded with wax-lights and flowers.

At the time the Countess of Morcerf returned to the rooms, after giving her orders, many guests were arriving, more attracted by the charming hospitality of the countess than by the distinguished position of the count; for, owing to the good taste of Mercédès, one was sure of finding some devices at her entertainment worthy of describing, or even copying in case of need.

Madame Danglars, in whom the events we have related had caused deep anxiety, had hesitated about going to Madame de Morcerf’s, when during the morning her carriage happened to meet that of Villefort. The latter made a sign, and when the carriages had drawn close together, said:

“You are going to Madame de Morcerf’s, are you not?”

“No,” replied Madame Danglars, “I am too ill.”

“You are wrong,” replied Villefort, significantly; “it is important that you should be seen there.”

“Do you think so?” asked the baroness.

“I do.”

“In that case I will go.”

And the two carriages passed on towards their different destinations. Madame Danglars therefore came, not only beautiful in person, but radiant with splendor; she entered by one door at the time when Mercédès appeared at the door. The countess took Albert to meet Madame Danglars. He approached, paid her some well merited compliments on her toilet, and offered his arm to conduct her to a seat. Albert looked around him.

“You are looking for my daughter?” said the baroness, smiling.

“I confess it,” replied Albert. “Could you have been so cruel as not to bring her?”

“Calm yourself. She has met Mademoiselle de Villefort, and has taken her arm; see, they are following us, both in white dresses, one with a bouquet of camellias, the other with one of myosotis. But tell me——”

“Well, what do you wish to know?”

“Will not the Count of Monte Cristo be here tonight?”

“Seventeen!” replied Albert.

“What do you mean?”

“I only mean that the count seems the rage,” replied the viscount, smiling, “and that you are the seventeenth person that has asked me the same question. The count is in fashion; I congratulate him upon it.”

“And have you replied to everyone as you have to me?”

“Ah, to be sure, I have not answered you; be satisfied, we shall have this ‘lion’; we are among the privileged ones.”

“Were you at the Opera yesterday?”

“No.”

“He was there.”

“Ah, indeed? And did the eccentric person commit any new originality?”

“Can he be seen without doing so? Elssler was dancing in Le Diable boiteux; the Greek princess was in ecstasies. After the cachucha he placed a magnificent ring on the stem of a bouquet, and threw it to the charming danseuse, who, in the third act, to do honor to the gift, reappeared with it on her finger. And the Greek princess,—will she be here?”

“No, you will be deprived of that pleasure; her position in the count’s establishment is not sufficiently understood.”

“Wait; leave me here, and go and speak to Madame de Villefort, who is trying to attract your attention.”

Albert bowed to Madame Danglars, and advanced towards Madame de Villefort, whose lips opened as he approached.

“I wager anything,” said Albert, interrupting her, “that I know what you were about to say.”

“Well, what is it?”

“If I guess rightly, will you confess it?”

“Yes.”

“On your honor?”

“On my honor.”

“You were going to ask me if the Count of Monte Cristo had arrived, or was expected.”

“Not at all. It is not of him that I am now thinking. I was going to ask you if you had received any news of Monsieur Franz.”

“Yes,—yesterday.”

“What did he tell you?”

“That he was leaving at the same time as his letter.”

“Well, now then, the count?”

“The count will come, of that you may be satisfied.”

“You know that he has another name besides Monte Cristo?”

“No, I did not know it.”

“Monte Cristo is the name of an island, and he has a family name.”

“I never heard it.”

“Well, then, I am better informed than you; his name is Zaccone.”

“It is possible.”

“He is a Maltese.”

“That is also possible.

“The son of a shipowner.”

“Really, you should relate all this aloud, you would have the greatest success.”

“He served in India, discovered a mine in Thessaly, and comes to Paris to establish a mineral water-cure at Auteuil.”

“Well, I’m sure,” said Morcerf, “this is indeed news! Am I allowed to repeat it?”

“Yes, but cautiously, tell one thing at a time, and do not say I told you.”

“Why so?”

“Because it is a secret just discovered.”

“By whom?”

“The police.”

“Then the news originated——”

“At the prefect’s last night. Paris, you can understand, is astonished at the sight of such unusual splendor, and the police have made inquiries.”

“Well, well! Nothing more is wanting than to arrest the count as a vagabond, on the pretext of his being too rich.”

“Indeed, that doubtless would have happened if his credentials had not been so favorable.”

“Poor count! And is he aware of the danger he has been in?”

“I think not.”

“Then it will be but charitable to inform him. When he arrives, I will not fail to do so.”

Just then, a handsome young man, with bright eyes, black hair, and glossy moustache, respectfully bowed to Madame de Villefort. Albert extended his hand.

“Madame,” said Albert, “allow me to present to you M. Maximilian Morrel, captain of Spahis, one of our best, and, above all, of our bravest officers.”

“I have already had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman at Auteuil, at the house of the Count of Monte Cristo,” replied Madame de Villefort, turning away with marked coldness of manner.

This answer, and especially the tone in which it was uttered, chilled the heart of poor Morrel. But a recompense was in store for him; turning around, he saw near the door a beautiful fair face, whose large blue eyes were, without any marked expression, fixed upon him, while the bouquet of myosotis was gently raised to her lips.

The salutation was so well understood that Morrel, with the same expression in his eyes, placed his handkerchief to his mouth; and these two living statues, whose hearts beat so violently under their marble aspect, separated from each other by the whole length of the room, forgot themselves for a moment, or rather forgot the world in their mutual contemplation. They might have remained much longer lost in one another, without anyone noticing their abstraction. The Count of Monte Cristo had just entered.

We have already said that there was something in the count which attracted universal attention wherever he appeared. It was not the coat, unexceptional in its cut, though simple and unornamented; it was not the plain white waistcoat; it was not the trousers, that displayed the foot so perfectly formed—it was none of these things that attracted the attention,—it was his pale complexion, his waving black hair, his calm and serene expression, his dark and melancholy eye, his mouth, chiselled with such marvellous delicacy, which so easily expressed such high disdain,—these were what fixed the attention of all upon him.

Many men might have been handsomer, but certainly there could be none whose appearance was more significant, if the expression may be used. Everything about the count seemed to have its meaning, for the constant habit of thought which he had acquired had given an ease and vigor to the expression of his face, and even to the most trifling gesture, scarcely to be understood. Yet the Parisian world is so strange, that even all this might not have won attention had there not been connected with it a mysterious story gilded by an immense fortune.

Meanwhile he advanced through the assemblage of guests under a battery of curious glances towards Madame de Morcerf, who, standing before a mantle-piece ornamented with flowers, had seen his entrance in a looking-glass placed opposite the door, and was prepared to receive him. She turned towards him with a serene smile just at the moment he was bowing to her. No doubt she fancied the count would speak to her, while on his side the count thought she was about to address him; but both remained silent, and after a mere bow, Monte Cristo directed his steps to Albert, who received him cordially.

“Have you seen my mother?” asked Albert.

“I have just had the pleasure,” replied the count; “but I have not seen your father.”

“See, he is down there, talking politics with that little group of great geniuses.”

“Indeed?” said Monte Cristo; “and so those gentlemen down there are men of great talent. I should not have guessed it. And for what kind of talent are they celebrated? You know there are different sorts.”

“That tall, harsh-looking man is very learned, he discovered, in the neighborhood of Rome, a kind of lizard with a vertebra more than lizards usually have, and he immediately laid his discovery before the Institute. The thing was discussed for a long time, but finally decided in his favor. I can assure you the vertebra made a great noise in the learned world, and the gentleman, who was only a knight of the Legion of Honor, was made an officer.”

“Come,” said Monte Cristo, “this cross seems to me to be wisely awarded. I suppose, had he found another additional vertebra, they would have made him a commander.”

“Very likely,” said Albert.

“And who can that person be who has taken it into his head to wrap himself up in a blue coat embroidered with green?”

“Oh, that coat is not his own idea; it is the Republic’s, which deputed David[12] to devise a uniform for the Academicians.”

“Indeed?” said Monte Cristo; “so this gentleman is an Academician?”

“Within the last week he has been made one of the learned assembly.”

“And what is his especial talent?”

“His talent? I believe he thrusts pins through the heads of rabbits, he makes fowls eat madder, and punches the spinal marrow out of dogs with whalebone.”

“And he is made a member of the Academy of Sciences for this?”

“No; of the French Academy.”

“But what has the French Academy to do with all this?”

“I was going to tell you. It seems——”

“That his experiments have very considerably advanced the cause of science, doubtless?”

“No; that his style of writing is very good.”

“This must be very flattering to the feelings of the rabbits into whose heads he has thrust pins, to the fowls whose bones he has dyed red, and to the dogs whose spinal marrow he has punched out?”

Albert laughed.

“And the other one?” demanded the count.

“That one?”

“Yes, the third.”

“The one in the dark blue coat?”

“Yes.”

“He is a colleague of the count, and one of the most active opponents to the idea of providing the Chamber of Peers with a uniform. He was very successful upon that question. He stood badly with the Liberal papers, but his noble opposition to the wishes of the court is now getting him into favor with the journalists. They talk of making him an ambassador.”

“And what are his claims to the peerage?”

“He has composed two or three comic operas, written four or five articles in the Siècle, and voted five or six years on the ministerial side.”

“Bravo, viscount,” said Monte Cristo, smiling; “you are a delightful cicerone. And now you will do me a favor, will you not?”

“What is it?”

“Do not introduce me to any of these gentlemen; and should they wish it, you will warn me.” Just then the count felt his arm pressed. He turned round; it was Danglars.

“Ah! is it you, baron?” said he.

“Why do you call me baron?” said Danglars; “you know that I care nothing for my title. I am not like you, viscount; you like your title, do you not?”

“Certainly,” replied Albert, “seeing that without my title I should be nothing; while you, sacrificing the baron, would still remain the millionaire.”

“Which seems to me the finest title under the royalty of July,” replied Danglars.

“Unfortunately,” said Monte Cristo, “one’s title to a millionaire does not last for life, like that of baron, peer of France, or academician; for example, the millionaires Franck & Poulmann, of Frankfurt, who have just become bankrupts.”

“Indeed?” said Danglars, becoming pale.

“Yes; I received the news this evening by a courier. I had about a million in their hands, but, warned in time, I withdrew it a month ago.”

“Ah, mon Dieu!” exclaimed Danglars, “they have drawn on me for 200,000 francs!”

“Well, you can throw out the draft; their signature is worth five per cent.”

“Yes, but it is too late,” said Danglars, “I have honored their bills.”

“Then,” said Monte Cristo, “here are 200,000 francs gone after——”

“Hush, do not mention these things,” said Danglars; then, approaching Monte Cristo, he added, “especially before young M. Cavalcanti;” after which he smiled, and turned towards the young man in question.

Albert had left the count to speak to his mother, Danglars to converse with young Cavalcanti; Monte Cristo was for an instant alone. Meanwhile the heat became excessive. The footmen were hastening through the rooms with waiters loaded with ices. Monte Cristo wiped the perspiration from his forehead, but drew back when the waiter was presented to him; he took no refreshment. Madame de Morcerf did not lose sight of Monte Cristo; she saw that he took nothing, and even noticed his gesture of refusal.

“Albert,” she asked, “did you notice that?”

“What, mother?”

“That the count has never been willing to partake of food under the roof of M. de Morcerf.”

“Yes; but then he breakfasted with me—indeed, he made his first appearance in the world on that occasion.”

“But your house is not M. de Morcerf’s,” murmured Mercédès; “and since he has been here I have watched him.”

“Well?”

“Well, he has taken nothing yet.”

“The count is very temperate.”

Mercédès smiled sadly.

“Approach him,” said she, “and when the next waiter passes, insist upon his taking something.”

“But why, mother?”

“Just to please me, Albert,” said Mercédès. Albert kissed his mother’s hand, and drew near the count. Another salver passed, loaded like the preceding ones; she saw Albert attempt to persuade the count, but he obstinately refused. Albert rejoined his mother; she was very pale.

“Well,” said she, “you see he refuses?”

“Yes; but why need this annoy you?”

“You know, Albert, women are singular creatures. I should like to have seen the count take something in my house, if only an ice. Perhaps he cannot reconcile himself to the French style of living, and might prefer something else.”

“Oh, no; I have seen him eat of everything in Italy; no doubt he does not feel inclined this evening.”

“And besides,” said the countess, “accustomed as he is to burning climates, possibly he does not feel the heat as we do.”

“I do not think that, for he has complained of feeling almost suffocated, and asked why the Venetian blinds were not opened as well as the windows.”

“In a word,” said Mercédès, “it was a way of assuring me that his abstinence was intended.”

And she left the room.

A minute afterwards the blinds were thrown open, and through the jessamine and clematis that overhung the window one could see the garden ornamented with lanterns, and the supper laid under the tent. Dancers, players, talkers, all uttered an exclamation of joy—everyone inhaled with delight the breeze that floated in. At the same time Mercédès reappeared, paler than before, but with that imperturbable expression of countenance which she sometimes wore. She went straight to the group of which her husband formed the centre.

“Do not detain those gentlemen here, count,” she said; “they would prefer, I should think, to breathe in the garden rather than suffocate here, since they are not playing.”

“Ah,” said a gallant old general, who, in 1809, had sung Partant pour la Syrie,—“we will not go alone to the garden.”

“Then,” said Mercédès, “I will lead the way.”

Turning towards Monte Cristo, she added, “count, will you oblige me with your arm?”

The count almost staggered at these simple words; then he fixed his eyes on Mercédès. It was only a momentary glance, but it seemed to the countess to have lasted for a century, so much was expressed in that one look. He offered his arm to the countess; she took it, or rather just touched it with her little hand, and they together descended the steps, lined with rhododendrons and camellias. Behind them, by another outlet, a group of about twenty persons rushed into the garden with loud exclamations of delight.


Chapter 71. Bread and Salt


Madame de Morcerf entered an archway of trees with her companion. It led through a grove of lindens to a conservatory.

“It was too warm in the room, was it not, count?” she asked.

“Yes, madame; and it was an excellent idea of yours to open the doors and the blinds.” As he ceased speaking, the count felt the hand of Mercédès tremble. “But you,” he said, “with that light dress, and without anything to cover you but that gauze scarf, perhaps you feel cold?”

“Do you know where I am leading you?” said the countess, without replying to the question.

“No, madame,” replied Monte Cristo; “but you see I make no resistance.”

“We are going to the greenhouse that you see at the other end of the grove.”

The count looked at Mercédès as if to interrogate her, but she continued to walk on in silence, and he refrained from speaking. They reached the building, ornamented with magnificent fruits, which ripen at the beginning of July in the artificial temperature which takes the place of the sun, so frequently absent in our climate. The countess left the arm of Monte Cristo, and gathered a bunch of Muscatel grapes.

“See, count,” she said, with a smile so sad in its expression that one could almost detect the tears on her eyelids—“see, our French grapes are not to be compared, I know, with yours of Sicily and Cyprus, but you will make allowance for our northern sun.” The count bowed, but stepped back.

“Do you refuse?” said Mercédès, in a tremulous voice.

“Pray excuse me, madame,” replied Monte Cristo, “but I never eat Muscatel grapes.”

Mercédès let them fall, and sighed. A magnificent peach was hanging against an adjoining wall, ripened by the same artificial heat. Mercédès drew near, and plucked the fruit.

“Take this peach, then,” she said. The count again refused. “What, again?” she exclaimed, in so plaintive an accent that it seemed to stifle a sob; “really, you pain me.”

A long silence followed; the peach, like the grapes, fell to the ground.

“Count,” added Mercédès with a supplicating glance, “there is a beautiful Arabian custom, which makes eternal friends of those who have together eaten bread and salt under the same roof.”

“I know it, madame,” replied the count; “but we are in France, and not in Arabia, and in France eternal friendships are as rare as the custom of dividing bread and salt with one another.”

“But,” said the countess, breathlessly, with her eyes fixed on Monte Cristo, whose arm she convulsively pressed with both hands, “we are friends, are we not?”

The count became pale as death, the blood rushed to his heart, and then again rising, dyed his cheeks with crimson; his eyes swam like those of a man suddenly dazzled.

“Certainly, we are friends,” he replied; “why should we not be?”

The answer was so little like the one Mercédès desired, that she turned away to give vent to a sigh, which sounded more like a groan. “Thank you,” she said. And they walked on again. They went the whole length of the garden without uttering a word.

“Sir,” suddenly exclaimed the countess, after their walk had continued ten minutes in silence, “is it true that you have seen so much, travelled so far, and suffered so deeply?”

“I have suffered deeply, madame,” answered Monte Cristo.

“But now you are happy?”

“Doubtless,” replied the count, “since no one hears me complain.”

“And your present happiness, has it softened your heart?”

“My present happiness equals my past misery,” said the count.

“Are you not married?” asked the countess.

“I, married?” exclaimed Monte Cristo, shuddering; “who could have told you so?”

“No one told me you were, but you have frequently been seen at the Opera with a young and lovely woman.”

“She is a slave whom I bought at Constantinople, madame, the daughter of a prince. I have adopted her as my daughter, having no one else to love in the world.”

“You live alone, then?”

“I do.”

“You have no sister—no son—no father?”

“I have no one.”

“How can you exist thus without anyone to attach you to life?”

“It is not my fault, madame. At Malta, I loved a young girl, was on the point of marrying her, when war came and carried me away. I thought she loved me well enough to wait for me, and even to remain faithful to my memory. When I returned she was married. This is the history of most men who have passed twenty years of age. Perhaps my heart was weaker than the hearts of most men, and I suffered more than they would have done in my place; that is all.”

The countess stopped for a moment, as if gasping for breath. “Yes,” she said, “and you have still preserved this love in your heart—one can only love once—and did you ever see her again?”

“Never.”

“Never?”

“I never returned to the country where she lived.”

“To Malta?”

“Yes; Malta.”

“She is, then, now at Malta?”

“I think so.”

“And have you forgiven her for all she has made you suffer?”

“Her,—yes.”

“But only her; do you then still hate those who separated you?”

“I hate them? Not at all; why should I?” The countess placed herself before Monte Cristo, still holding in her hand a portion of the perfumed grapes.

“Take some,” she said.

“Madame, I never eat Muscatel grapes,” replied Monte Cristo, as if the subject had not been mentioned before. The countess dashed the grapes into the nearest thicket, with a gesture of despair.

“Inflexible man!” she murmured. Monte Cristo remained as unmoved as if the reproach had not been addressed to him.

Albert at this moment ran in. “Oh, mother,” he exclaimed, “such a misfortune has happened!”

“What? What has happened?” asked the countess, as though awakening from a sleep to the realities of life; “did you say a misfortune? Indeed, I should expect misfortunes.”

“M. de Villefort is here.”

“Well?”

“He comes to fetch his wife and daughter.”

“Why so?”

“Because Madame de Saint-Méran is just arrived in Paris, bringing the news of M. de Saint-Méran’s death, which took place on the first stage after he left Marseilles. Madame de Villefort, who was in very good spirits, would neither believe nor think of the misfortune, but Mademoiselle Valentine, at the first words, guessed the whole truth, notwithstanding all the precautions of her father; the blow struck her like a thunderbolt, and she fell senseless.”

“And how was M. de Saint-Méran related to Mademoiselle de Villefort?” said the count.

“He was her grandfather on the mother’s side. He was coming here to hasten her marriage with Franz.”

“Ah, indeed!”

“So Franz must wait. Why was not M. de Saint-Méran also grandfather to Mademoiselle Danglars?”

“Albert, Albert,” said Madame de Morcerf, in a tone of mild reproof, “what are you saying? Ah, count, he esteems you so highly, tell him that he has spoken amiss.”

And she took two or three steps forward. Monte Cristo watched her with an air so thoughtful, and so full of affectionate admiration, that she turned back and grasped his hand; at the same time she seized that of her son, and joined them together.

“We are friends; are we not?” she asked.

“Oh, madame, I do not presume to call myself your friend, but at all times I am your most respectful servant.” The countess left with an indescribable pang in her heart, and before she had taken ten steps the count saw her raise her handkerchief to her eyes.

“Do not my mother and you agree?” asked Albert, astonished.

“On the contrary,” replied the count, “did you not hear her declare that we were friends?”

They re-entered the drawing-room, which Valentine and Madame de Villefort had just quitted. It is perhaps needless to add that Morrel departed almost at the same time.


Chapter 72. Madame de Saint-Méran


Agloomy scene had indeed just passed at the house of M. de Villefort. After the ladies had departed for the ball, whither all the entreaties of Madame de Villefort had failed in persuading him to accompany them, the procureur had shut himself up in his study, according to his custom, with a heap of papers calculated to alarm anyone else, but which generally scarcely satisfied his inordinate desires.

But this time the papers were a mere matter of form. Villefort had secluded himself, not to study, but to reflect; and with the door locked and orders given that he should not be disturbed excepting for important business, he sat down in his armchair and began to ponder over the events, the remembrance of which had during the last eight days filled his mind with so many gloomy thoughts and bitter recollections.

Then, instead of plunging into the mass of documents piled before him, he opened the drawer of his desk, touched a spring, and drew out a parcel of cherished memoranda, amongst which he had carefully arranged, in characters only known to himself, the names of all those who, either in his political career, in money matters, at the bar, or in his mysterious love affairs, had become his enemies.

Their number was formidable, now that he had begun to fear, and yet these names, powerful though they were, had often caused him to smile with the same kind of satisfaction experienced by a traveller who from the summit of a mountain beholds at his feet the craggy eminences, the almost impassable paths, and the fearful chasms, through which he has so perilously climbed. When he had run over all these names in his memory, again read and studied them, commenting meanwhile upon his lists, he shook his head.

“No,” he murmured, “none of my enemies would have waited so patiently and laboriously for so long a space of time, that they might now come and crush me with this secret. Sometimes, as Hamlet says:

‘Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes;’

but, like a phosphoric light, they rise but to mislead. The story has been told by the Corsican to some priest, who in his turn has repeated it. M. de Monte Cristo may have heard it, and to enlighten himself——

“But why should he wish to enlighten himself upon the subject?” asked Villefort, after a moment’s reflection, “what interest can this M. de Monte Cristo or M. Zaccone,—son of a shipowner of Malta, discoverer of a mine in Thessaly, now visiting Paris for the first time,—what interest, I say, can he take in discovering a gloomy, mysterious, and useless fact like this? However, among all the incoherent details given to me by the Abbé Busoni and by Lord Wilmore, by that friend and that enemy, one thing appears certain and clear in my opinion—that in no period, in no case, in no circumstance, could there have been any contact between him and me.”

But Villefort uttered words which even he himself did not believe. He dreaded not so much the revelation, for he could reply to or deny its truth;—he cared little for that mene, mene, tekel upharsin, which appeared suddenly in letters of blood upon the wall;—but what he was really anxious for was to discover whose hand had traced them. While he was endeavoring to calm his fears,—and instead of dwelling upon the political future that had so often been the subject of his ambitious dreams, was imagining a future limited to the enjoyments of home, in fear of awakening the enemy that had so long slept,—the noise of a carriage sounded in the yard, then he heard the steps of an aged person ascending the stairs, followed by tears and lamentations, such as servants always give vent to when they wish to appear interested in their master’s grief.

He drew back the bolt of his door, and almost directly an old lady entered, unannounced, carrying her shawl on her arm, and her bonnet in her hand. The white hair was thrown back from her yellow forehead, and her eyes, already sunken by the furrows of age, now almost disappeared beneath the eyelids swollen with grief.

“Oh, sir,” she said; “oh, sir, what a misfortune! I shall die of it; oh, yes, I shall certainly die of it!”

And then, falling upon the chair nearest the door, she burst into a paroxysm of sobs. The servants, standing in the doorway, not daring to approach nearer, were looking at Noirtier’s old servant, who had heard the noise from his master’s room, and run there also, remaining behind the others. Villefort rose, and ran towards his mother-in-law, for it was she.

“Why, what can have happened?” he exclaimed, “what has thus disturbed you? Is M. de Saint-Méran with you?”

“M. de Saint-Méran is dead,” answered the old marchioness, without preface and without expression; she appeared to be stupefied. Villefort drew back, and clasping his hands together, exclaimed:

“Dead!—so suddenly?”

“A week ago,” continued Madame de Saint-Méran, “we went out together in the carriage after dinner. M. de Saint-Méran had been unwell for some days; still, the idea of seeing our dear Valentine again inspired him with courage, and notwithstanding his illness he would leave. At six leagues from Marseilles, after having eaten some of the lozenges he is accustomed to take, he fell into such a deep sleep, that it appeared to me unnatural; still I hesitated to wake him, although I fancied that his face was flushed, and that the veins of his temples throbbed more violently than usual. However, as it became dark, and I could no longer see, I fell asleep; I was soon aroused by a piercing shriek, as from a person suffering in his dreams, and he suddenly threw his head back violently. I called the valet, I stopped the postilion, I spoke to M. de Saint-Méran, I applied my smelling-salts; but all was over, and I arrived at Aix by the side of a corpse.”

Villefort stood with his mouth half open, quite stupefied.

“Of course you sent for a doctor?”

“Immediately; but, as I have told you, it was too late.”

“Yes; but then he could tell of what complaint the poor marquis had died.”

“Oh, yes, sir, he told me; it appears to have been an apoplectic stroke.”

“And what did you do then?”

“M. de Saint-Méran had always expressed a desire, in case his death happened during his absence from Paris, that his body might be brought to the family vault. I had him put into a leaden coffin, and I am preceding him by a few days.”

“Oh! my poor mother!” said Villefort, “to have such duties to perform at your age after such a blow!”

“God has supported me through all; and then, my dear marquis, he would certainly have done everything for me that I performed for him. It is true that since I left him, I seem to have lost my senses. I cannot cry; at my age they say that we have no more tears,—still I think that when one is in trouble one should have the power of weeping. Where is Valentine, sir? It is on her account I am here; I wish to see Valentine.”

Villefort thought it would be terrible to reply that Valentine was at a ball; so he only said that she had gone out with her step-mother, and that she should be fetched. “This instant, sir—this instant, I beseech you!” said the old lady. Villefort placed the arm of Madame de Saint-Méran within his own, and conducted her to his apartment.

“Rest yourself, mother,” he said.

The marchioness raised her head at this word, and beholding the man who so forcibly reminded her of her deeply-regretted child, who still lived for her in Valentine, she felt touched at the name of mother, and bursting into tears, she fell on her knees before an armchair, where she buried her venerable head. Villefort left her to the care of the women, while old Barrois ran, half-scared, to his master; for nothing frightens old people so much as when death relaxes its vigilance over them for a moment in order to strike some other old person. Then, while Madame de Saint-Méran remained on her knees, praying fervently, Villefort sent for a cab, and went himself to fetch his wife and daughter from Madame de Morcerf’s. He was so pale when he appeared at the door of the ball-room, that Valentine ran to him, saying:

“Oh, father, some misfortune has happened!”

“Your grandmamma has just arrived, Valentine,” said M. de Villefort.

“And grandpapa?” inquired the young girl, trembling with apprehension. M. de Villefort only replied by offering his arm to his daughter. It was just in time, for Valentine’s head swam, and she staggered; Madame de Villefort instantly hastened to her assistance, and aided her husband in dragging her to the carriage, saying:

“What a singular event! Who could have thought it? Ah, yes, it is indeed strange!”

And the wretched family departed, leaving a cloud of sadness hanging over the rest of the evening. At the foot of the stairs, Valentine found Barrois awaiting her.

“M. Noirtier wishes to see you tonight, he said, in an undertone.

“Tell him I will come when I leave my dear grandmamma,” she replied, feeling, with true delicacy, that the person to whom she could be of the most service just then was Madame de Saint-Méran.

Valentine found her grandmother in bed; silent caresses, heartwrung sobs, broken sighs, burning tears, were all that passed in this sad interview, while Madame de Villefort, leaning on her husband’s arm, maintained all outward forms of respect, at least towards the poor widow. She soon whispered to her husband:

“I think it would be better for me to retire, with your permission, for the sight of me appears still to afflict your mother-in-law.” Madame de Saint-Méran heard her.

“Yes, yes,” she said softly to Valentine, “let her leave; but do you stay.”

Madame de Villefort left, and Valentine remained alone beside the bed, for the procureur, overcome with astonishment at the unexpected death, had followed his wife. Meanwhile, Barrois had returned for the first time to old Noirtier, who having heard the noise in the house, had, as we have said, sent his old servant to inquire the cause; on his return, his quick intelligent eye interrogated the messenger.

“Alas, sir,” exclaimed Barrois, “a great misfortune has happened. Madame de Saint-Méran has arrived, and her husband is dead!”

M. de Saint-Méran and Noirtier had never been on strict terms of friendship; still, the death of one old man always considerably affects another. Noirtier let his head fall upon his chest, apparently overwhelmed and thoughtful; then he closed one eye, in token of inquiry.

Barrois asked, “Mademoiselle Valentine?”

Noirtier nodded his head.

“She is at the ball, as you know, since she came to say good-bye to you in full dress.” Noirtier again closed his left eye.

“Do you wish to see her?” Noirtier again made an affirmative sign.

“Well, they have gone to fetch her, no doubt, from Madame de Morcerf’s; I will await her return, and beg her to come up here. Is that what you wish for?”

“Yes,” replied the invalid.

Barrois, therefore, as we have seen, watched for Valentine, and informed her of her grandfather’s wish. Consequently, Valentine came up to Noirtier, on leaving Madame de Saint-Méran, who in the midst of her grief had at last yielded to fatigue and fallen into a feverish sleep. Within reach of her hand they placed a small table upon which stood a bottle of orangeade, her usual beverage, and a glass. Then, as we have said, the young girl left the bedside to see M. Noirtier.

Valentine kissed the old man, who looked at her with such tenderness that her eyes again filled with tears, whose sources he thought must be exhausted. The old gentleman continued to dwell upon her with the same expression.

“Yes, yes,” said Valentine, “you mean that I have yet a kind grandfather left, do you not.” The old man intimated that such was his meaning. “Ah, yes, happily I have,” replied Valentine. “Without that, what would become of me?”

It was one o’clock in the morning. Barrois, who wished to go to bed himself, observed that after such sad events everyone stood in need of rest. Noirtier would not say that the only rest he needed was to see his child, but wished her good-night, for grief and fatigue had made her appear quite ill.

The next morning she found her grandmother in bed; the fever had not abated, on the contrary her eyes glistened and she appeared to be suffering from violent nervous irritability.

“Oh, dear grandmamma, are you worse?” exclaimed Valentine, perceiving all these signs of agitation.

“No, my child, no,” said Madame de Saint-Méran; “but I was impatiently waiting for your arrival, that I might send for your father.”

“My father?” inquired Valentine, uneasily.

“Yes, I wish to speak to him.”

Valentine durst not oppose her grandmother’s wish, the cause of which she did not know, and an instant afterwards Villefort entered.

“Sir,” said Madame de Saint-Méran, without using any circumlocution, and as if fearing she had no time to lose, “you wrote to me concerning the marriage of this child?”

“Yes, madame,” replied Villefort, “it is not only projected but arranged.”

“Your intended son-in-law is named M. Franz d’Épinay?”

“Yes, madame.”

“Is he not the son of General d’Épinay who was on our side, and who was assassinated some days before the usurper returned from the Island of Elba?”

“The same.”

“Does he not dislike the idea of marrying the granddaughter of a Jacobin?”

“Our civil dissensions are now happily extinguished, mother,” said Villefort; “M. d’Épinay was quite a child when his father died, he knows very little of M. Noirtier, and will meet him, if not with pleasure, at least with indifference.”

“Is it a suitable match?”

“In every respect.”

“And the young man?”

“Is regarded with universal esteem.”

“You approve of him?”

“He is one of the most well-bred young men I know.”

During the whole of this conversation Valentine had remained silent.

“Well, sir,” said Madame de Saint-Méran, after a few minutes’ reflection, “I must hasten the marriage, for I have but a short time to live.”

“You, madame?” “You, dear mamma?” exclaimed M. de Villefort and Valentine at the same time.

“I know what I am saying,” continued the marchioness; “I must hurry you, so that, as she has no mother, she may at least have a grandmother to bless her marriage. I am all that is left to her belonging to my poor Renée, whom you have so soon forgotten, sir.”

“Ah, madame,” said Villefort, “you forget that I was obliged to give a mother to my child.”

“A stepmother is never a mother, sir. But this is not to the purpose,—our business concerns Valentine, let us leave the dead in peace.”

All this was said with such exceeding rapidity, that there was something in the conversation that seemed like the beginning of delirium.

“It shall be as you wish, madame,” said Villefort; “more especially since your wishes coincide with mine, and as soon as M. d’Épinay arrives in Paris——”

“My dear grandmother,” interrupted Valentine, “consider decorum—the recent death. You would not have me marry under such sad auspices?”

“My child,” exclaimed the old lady sharply, “let us hear none of the conventional objections that deter weak minds from preparing for the future. I also was married at the death-bed of my mother, and certainly I have not been less happy on that account.”

“Still that idea of death, madame,” said Villefort.

“Still?—Always! I tell you I am going to die—do you understand? Well, before dying, I wish to see my son-in-law. I wish to tell him to make my child happy; I wish to read in his eyes whether he intends to obey me;—in fact, I will know him—I will!” continued the old lady, with a fearful expression, “that I may rise from the depths of my grave to find him, if he should not fulfil his duty!”

“Madame,” said Villefort, “you must lay aside these exalted ideas, which almost assume the appearance of madness. The dead, once buried in their graves, rise no more.”

“And I tell you, sir, that you are mistaken. This night I have had a fearful sleep. It seemed as though my soul were already hovering over my body, my eyes, which I tried to open, closed against my will, and what will appear impossible above all to you, sir, I saw, with my eyes shut, in the spot where you are now standing, issuing from that corner where there is a door leading into Madame Villefort’s dressing-room—I saw, I tell you, silently enter, a white figure.”

Valentine screamed.

“It was the fever that disturbed you, madame,” said Villefort.

“Doubt, if you please, but I am sure of what I say. I saw a white figure, and as if to prevent my discrediting the testimony of only one of my senses, I heard my glass removed—the same which is there now on the table.”

“Oh, dear mother, it was a dream.”

“So little was it a dream, that I stretched my hand towards the bell; but when I did so, the shade disappeared; my maid then entered with a light.”

“But she saw no one?”

“Phantoms are visible to those only who ought to see them. It was the soul of my husband!—Well, if my husband’s soul can come to me, why should not my soul reappear to guard my granddaughter? the tie is even more direct, it seems to me.”

“Oh, madame,” said Villefort, deeply affected, in spite of himself, “do not yield to those gloomy thoughts; you will long live with us, happy, loved, and honored, and we will make you forget——”

“Never, never, never,” said the marchioness. “When does M. d’Épinay return?”

“We expect him every moment.”

“It is well. As soon as he arrives inform me. We must be expeditious. And then I also wish to see a notary, that I may be assured that all our property returns to Valentine.”

“Ah, grandmamma,” murmured Valentine, pressing her lips on the burning brow, “do you wish to kill me? Oh, how feverish you are; we must not send for a notary, but for a doctor!”

“A doctor?” said she, shrugging her shoulders, “I am not ill; I am thirsty—that is all.”

“What are you drinking, dear grandmamma?”

“The same as usual, my dear, my glass is there on the table—give it to me, Valentine.” Valentine poured the orangeade into a glass and gave it to her grandmother with a certain degree of dread, for it was the same glass she fancied that had been touched by the spectre.

The marchioness drained the glass at a single draught, and then turned on her pillow, repeating,

“The notary, the notary!”

M. de Villefort left the room, and Valentine seated herself at the bedside of her grandmother. The poor child appeared herself to require the doctor she had recommended to her aged relative. A bright spot burned in either cheek, her respiration was short and difficult, and her pulse beat with feverish excitement. She was thinking of the despair of Maximilian, when he should be informed that Madame de Saint-Méran, instead of being an ally, was unconsciously acting as his enemy.

More than once she thought of revealing all to her grandmother, and she would not have hesitated a moment, if Maximilian Morrel had been named Albert de Morcerf or Raoul de Château-Renaud; but Morrel was of plebeian extraction, and Valentine knew how the haughty Marquise de Saint-Méran despised all who were not noble. Her secret had each time been repressed when she was about to reveal it, by the sad conviction that it would be useless to do so; for, were it once discovered by her father and mother, all would be lost.

Two hours passed thus; Madame de Saint-Méran was in a feverish sleep, and the notary had arrived. Though his coming was announced in a very low tone, Madame de Saint-Méran arose from her pillow.

“The notary!” she exclaimed, “let him come in.”

The notary, who was at the door, immediately entered. “Go, Valentine,” said Madame de Saint-Méran, “and leave me with this gentleman.”

“But, grandmamma——”

“Leave me—go!”

The young girl kissed her grandmother, and left with her handkerchief to her eyes; at the door she found the valet de chambre, who told her that the doctor was waiting in the dining-room. Valentine instantly ran down. The doctor was a friend of the family, and at the same time one of the cleverest men of the day, and very fond of Valentine, whose birth he had witnessed. He had himself a daughter about her age, but whose life was one continued source of anxiety and fear to him from her mother having been consumptive.

“Oh,” said Valentine, “we have been waiting for you with such impatience, dear M. d’Avrigny. But, first of all, how are Madeleine and Antoinette?”

Madeleine was the daughter of M. d’Avrigny, and Antoinette his niece. M. d’Avrigny smiled sadly.

“Antoinette is very well,” he said, “and Madeleine tolerably so. But you sent for me, my dear child. It is not your father or Madame de Villefort who is ill. As for you, although we doctors cannot divest our patients of nerves, I fancy you have no further need of me than to recommend you not to allow your imagination to take too wide a field.”

Valentine colored. M. d’Avrigny carried the science of divination almost to a miraculous extent, for he was one of the physicians who always work upon the body through the mind.

“No,” she replied, “it is for my poor grandmother. You know the calamity that has happened to us, do you not?”

“I know nothing.” said M. d’Avrigny.

“Alas,” said Valentine, restraining her tears, “my grandfather is dead.”

“M. de Saint-Méran?”

“Yes.”

“Suddenly?”

“From an apoplectic stroke.”

“An apoplectic stroke?” repeated the doctor.

“Yes, and my poor grandmother fancies that her husband, whom she never left, has called her, and that she must go and join him. Oh, M. d’Avrigny, I beseech you, do something for her!”

“Where is she?”

“In her room with the notary.”

“And M. Noirtier?”

“Just as he was, his mind perfectly clear, but the same incapability of moving or speaking.”

“And the same love for you—eh, my dear child?”

“Yes,” said Valentine, “he was very fond of me.”

“Who does not love you?” Valentine smiled sadly. “What are your grandmother’s symptoms?”

“An extreme nervous excitement and a strangely agitated sleep; she fancied this morning in her sleep that her soul was hovering above her body, which she at the same time watched. It must have been delirium; she fancies, too, that she saw a phantom enter her chamber and even heard the noise it made on touching her glass.”

“It is singular,” said the doctor; “I was not aware that Madame de Saint-Méran was subject to such hallucinations.”

“It is the first time I ever saw her in this condition,” said Valentine; “and this morning she frightened me so that I thought her mad; and my father, who you know is a strong-minded man, himself appeared deeply impressed.”

“We will go and see,” said the doctor; “what you tell me seems very strange.” The notary here descended, and Valentine was informed that her grandmother was alone.

“Go upstairs,” she said to the doctor.

“And you?”

“Oh, I dare not—she forbade my sending for you; and, as you say, I am myself agitated, feverish and out of sorts. I will go and take a turn in the garden to recover myself.”

The doctor pressed Valentine’s hand, and while he visited her grandmother, she descended the steps. We need not say which portion of the garden was her favorite walk. After remaining for a short time in the parterre surrounding the house, and gathering a rose to place in her waist or hair, she turned into the dark avenue which led to the bench; then from the bench she went to the gate. As usual, Valentine strolled for a short time among her flowers, but without gathering them. The mourning in her heart forbade her assuming this simple ornament, though she had not yet had time to put on the outward semblance of woe.

She then turned towards the avenue. As she advanced she fancied she heard a voice speaking her name. She stopped astonished, then the voice reached her ear more distinctly, and she recognized it to be that of Maximilian.