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The Count of Monte Cristo

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Chapter 79. The Lemonade


Morrel was, in fact, very happy. M. Noirtier had just sent for him, and he was in such haste to know the reason of his doing so that he had not stopped to take a cab, placing infinitely more dependence on his own two legs than on the four legs of a cab-horse. He had therefore set off at a furious rate from the Rue Meslay, and was hastening with rapid strides in the direction of the Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

Morrel advanced with a firm, manly tread, and poor Barrois followed him as he best might. Morrel was only thirty-one, Barrois was sixty years of age; Morrel was deeply in love, and Barrois was dying with heat and exertion. These two men, thus opposed in age and interests, resembled two parts of a triangle, presenting the extremes of separation, yet nevertheless possessing their point of union. This point of union was Noirtier, and it was he who had just sent for Morrel, with the request that the latter would lose no time in coming to him—a command which Morrel obeyed to the letter, to the great discomfiture of Barrois. On arriving at the house, Morrel was not even out of breath, for love lends wings to our desires; but Barrois, who had long forgotten what it was to love, was sorely fatigued by the expedition he had been constrained to use.

The old servant introduced Morrel by a private entrance, closed the door of the study, and soon the rustling of a dress announced the arrival of Valentine. She looked marvellously beautiful in her deep mourning dress, and Morrel experienced such intense delight in gazing upon her that he felt as if he could almost have dispensed with the conversation of her grandfather.

But the easy-chair of the old man was heard rolling along the floor, and he soon made his appearance in the room. Noirtier acknowledged by a look of extreme kindness and benevolence the thanks which Morrel lavished on him for his timely intervention on behalf of Valentine and himself—an intervention which had saved them from despair. Morrel then cast on the invalid an interrogative look as to the new favor which he designed to bestow on him. Valentine was sitting at a little distance from them, timidly awaiting the moment when she should be obliged to speak. Noirtier fixed his eyes on her.

“Am I to say what you told me?” asked Valentine. Noirtier made a sign that she was to do so.

“Monsieur Morrel,” said Valentine to the young man, who was regarding her with the most intense interest, “my grandfather, M. Noirtier, had a thousand things to say, which he told me three days ago; and now, he has sent for you, that I may repeat them to you. I will repeat them, then; and since he has chosen me as his interpreter, I will be faithful to the trust, and will not alter a word of his intentions.”

“Oh, I am listening with the greatest impatience,” replied the young man; “speak, I beg of you.”

Valentine cast down her eyes; this was a good omen for Morrel, for he knew that nothing but happiness could have the power of thus overcoming Valentine.

“My grandfather intends leaving this house,” said she, “and Barrois is looking out for suitable apartments for him in another.”

“But you, Mademoiselle de Villefort,—you, who are necessary to M. Noirtier’s happiness——”

“I?” interrupted Valentine; “I shall not leave my grandfather,—that is an understood thing between us. My apartment will be close to his. Now, M. de Villefort must either give his consent to this plan or his refusal; in the first case, I shall leave directly, and in the second, I shall wait till I am of age, which will be in about ten months. Then I shall be free, I shall have an independent fortune, and”—

“And what?” demanded Morrel.

“And with my grandfather’s consent I shall fulfil the promise which I have made you.”

Valentine pronounced these last few words in such a low tone, that nothing but Morrel’s intense interest in what she was saying could have enabled him to hear them.

“Have I not explained your wishes, grandpapa?” said Valentine, addressing Noirtier.

“Yes,” looked the old man.

“Once under my grandfather’s roof, M. Morrel can visit me in the presence of my good and worthy protector, if we still feel that the union we contemplated will be likely to insure our future comfort and happiness; in that case I shall expect M. Morrel to come and claim me at my own hands. But, alas, I have heard it said that hearts inflamed by obstacles to their desire grew cold in time of security; I trust we shall never find it so in our experience!”

“Oh,” cried Morrel, almost tempted to throw himself on his knees before Noirtier and Valentine, and to adore them as two superior beings, “what have I ever done in my life to merit such unbounded happiness?”

“Until that time,” continued the young girl in a calm and self-possessed tone of voice, “we will conform to circumstances, and be guided by the wishes of our friends, so long as those wishes do not tend finally to separate us; in a word, and I repeat it, because it expresses all I wish to convey,—we will wait.”

“And I swear to make all the sacrifices which this word imposes, sir,” said Morrel, “not only with resignation, but with cheerfulness.”

“Therefore,” continued Valentine, looking playfully at Maximilian, “no more inconsiderate actions—no more rash projects; for you surely would not wish to compromise one who from this day regards herself as destined, honorably and happily, to bear your name?”

Morrel looked obedience to her commands. Noirtier regarded the lovers with a look of ineffable tenderness, while Barrois, who had remained in the room in the character of a man privileged to know everything that passed, smiled on the youthful couple as he wiped the perspiration from his bald forehead.

“How hot you look, my good Barrois,” said Valentine.

“Ah, I have been running very fast, mademoiselle, but I must do M. Morrel the justice to say that he ran still faster.”

Noirtier directed their attention to a waiter, on which was placed a decanter containing lemonade and a glass. The decanter was nearly full, with the exception of a little, which had been already drunk by M. Noirtier.

“Come, Barrois,” said the young girl, “take some of this lemonade; I see you are coveting a good draught of it.”

“The fact is, mademoiselle,” said Barrois, “I am dying with thirst, and since you are so kind as to offer it me, I cannot say I should at all object to drinking your health in a glass of it.”

“Take some, then, and come back immediately.”

Barrois took away the waiter, and hardly was he outside the door, which in his haste he forgot to shut, than they saw him throw back his head and empty to the very dregs the glass which Valentine had filled. Valentine and Morrel were exchanging their adieux in the presence of Noirtier when a ring was heard at the door-bell. It was the signal of a visit. Valentine looked at her watch.

“It is past noon,” said she, “and today is Saturday; I dare say it is the doctor, grandpapa.”

Noirtier looked his conviction that she was right in her supposition.

“He will come in here, and M. Morrel had better go,—do you not think so, grandpapa?”

“Yes,” signed the old man.

“Barrois,” cried Valentine, “Barrois!”

“I am coming, mademoiselle,” replied he.

“Barrois will open the door for you,” said Valentine, addressing Morrel. “And now remember one thing, Monsieur Officer, that my grandfather commands you not to take any rash or ill-advised step which would be likely to compromise our happiness.”

“I promised him to wait,” replied Morrel; “and I will wait.”

At this moment Barrois entered. “Who rang?” asked Valentine.

“Doctor d’Avrigny,” said Barrois, staggering as if he would fall.

“What is the matter, Barrois?” said Valentine. The old man did not answer, but looked at his master with wild staring eyes, while with his cramped hand he grasped a piece of furniture to enable him to stand upright.

“He is going to fall!” cried Morrel.

The rigors which had attacked Barrois gradually increased, the features of the face became quite altered, and the convulsive movement of the muscles appeared to indicate the approach of a most serious nervous disorder. Noirtier, seeing Barrois in this pitiable condition, showed by his looks all the various emotions of sorrow and sympathy which can animate the heart of man. Barrois made some steps towards his master.

“Ah, sir,” said he, “tell me what is the matter with me. I am suffering—I cannot see. A thousand fiery darts are piercing my brain. Ah, don’t touch me, pray don’t.”

By this time his haggard eyes had the appearance of being ready to start from their sockets; his head fell back, and the lower extremities of the body began to stiffen. Valentine uttered a cry of horror; Morrel took her in his arms, as if to defend her from some unknown danger.

“M. d’Avrigny, M. d’Avrigny,” cried she, in a stifled voice. “Help, help!”

Barrois turned round and with a great effort stumbled a few steps, then fell at the feet of Noirtier, and resting his hand on the knee of the invalid, exclaimed:

“My master, my good master!”

At this moment M. de Villefort, attracted by the noise, appeared on the threshold. Morrel relaxed his hold of Valentine, and retreating to a distant corner of the room remained half hidden behind a curtain. Pale as if he had been gazing on a serpent, he fixed his terrified eye on the agonized sufferer.

Noirtier, burning with impatience and terror, was in despair at his utter inability to help his old domestic, whom he regarded more in the light of a friend than a servant. One might by the fearful swelling of the veins of his forehead and the contraction of the muscles round the eye, trace the terrible conflict which was going on between the living energetic mind and the inanimate and helpless body.

Barrois, his features convulsed, his eyes suffused with blood, and his head thrown back, was lying at full length, beating the floor with his hands, while his legs had become so stiff, that they looked as if they would break rather than bend. A slight appearance of foam was visible around the mouth, and he breathed painfully, and with extreme difficulty.

Villefort seemed stupefied with astonishment, and remained gazing intently on the scene before him without uttering a word. He had not seen Morrel. After a moment of dumb contemplation, during which his face became pale and his hair seemed to stand on end, he sprang towards the door, crying out:

“Doctor, doctor! come instantly, pray come!”

“Madame, madame!” cried Valentine, calling her step-mother, and running upstairs to meet her; “come quick, quick!—and bring your bottle of smelling-salts with you.”

“What is the matter?” said Madame de Villefort in a harsh and constrained tone.

“Oh! come! come!”

“But where is the doctor?” exclaimed Villefort; “where is he?”

Madame de Villefort now deliberately descended the staircase. In one hand she held her handkerchief, with which she appeared to be wiping her face, and in the other a bottle of English smelling-salts. Her first look on entering the room was at Noirtier, whose face, independent of the emotion which such a scene could not fail of producing, proclaimed him to be in possession of his usual health; her second glance was at the dying man. She turned pale, and her eye passed quickly from the servant and rested on the master.

“In the name of heaven, madame,” said Villefort, “where is the doctor? He was with you just now. You see this is a fit of apoplexy, and he might be saved if he could but be bled!”

“Has he eaten anything lately?” asked Madame de Villefort, eluding her husband’s question.

“Madame,” replied Valentine, “he has not even breakfasted. He has been running very fast on an errand with which my grandfather charged him, and when he returned, took nothing but a glass of lemonade.”

“Ah,” said Madame de Villefort, “why did he not take wine? Lemonade was a very bad thing for him.”

“Grandpapa’s bottle of lemonade was standing just by his side; poor Barrois was very thirsty, and was thankful to drink anything he could find.”

Madame de Villefort started. Noirtier looked at her with a glance of the most profound scrutiny.

“He has such a short neck,” said she.

“Madame,” said Villefort, “I ask where is M. d’Avrigny? In God’s name answer me!”

“He is with Edward, who is not quite well,” replied Madame de Villefort, no longer being able to avoid answering.

Villefort rushed upstairs to fetch him.

“Take this,” said Madame de Villefort, giving her smelling-bottle to Valentine. “They will, no doubt, bleed him; therefore I will retire, for I cannot endure the sight of blood;” and she followed her husband upstairs. Morrel now emerged from his hiding-place, where he had remained quite unperceived, so great had been the general confusion.

“Go away as quick as you can, Maximilian,” said Valentine, “and stay till I send for you. Go.”

Morrel looked towards Noirtier for permission to retire. The old man, who had preserved all his usual coolness, made a sign to him to do so. The young man pressed Valentine’s hand to his lips, and then left the house by a back staircase.

At the same moment that he quitted the room, Villefort and the doctor entered by an opposite door. Barrois was now showing signs of returning consciousness. The crisis seemed past, a low moaning was heard, and he raised himself on one knee. D’Avrigny and Villefort laid him on a couch.

“What do you prescribe, doctor?” demanded Villefort.

“Give me some water and ether. You have some in the house, have you not?”

“Yes.”

“Send for some oil of turpentine and tartar emetic.”

Villefort immediately despatched a messenger. “And now let everyone retire.”

“Must I go too?” asked Valentine timidly.

“Yes, mademoiselle, you especially,” replied the doctor abruptly.

Valentine looked at M. d’Avrigny with astonishment, kissed her grandfather on the forehead, and left the room. The doctor closed the door after her with a gloomy air.

“Look, look, doctor,” said Villefort, “he is quite coming round again; I really do not think, after all, it is anything of consequence.”

M. d’Avrigny answered by a melancholy smile.

“How do you feel, Barrois?” asked he.

“A little better, sir.”

“Will you drink some of this ether and water?”

“I will try; but don’t touch me.”

“Why not?”

“Because I feel that if you were only to touch me with the tip of your finger the fit would return.”

“Drink.”

Barrois took the glass, and, raising it to his purple lips, took about half of the liquid offered him.

“Where do you suffer?” asked the doctor.

“Everywhere. I feel cramps over my whole body.”

“Do you find any dazzling sensation before the eyes?”

“Yes.”

“Any noise in the ears?”

“Frightful.”

“When did you first feel that?”

“Just now.”

“Suddenly?”

“Yes, like a clap of thunder.”

“Did you feel nothing of it yesterday or the day before?”

“Nothing.”

“No drowsiness?”

“None.”

“What have you eaten today?”

“I have eaten nothing; I only drank a glass of my master’s lemonade—that’s all.” And Barrois turned towards Noirtier, who, immovably fixed in his armchair, was contemplating this terrible scene without allowing a word or a movement to escape him.

“Where is this lemonade?” asked the doctor eagerly.

“Downstairs in the decanter.”

“Whereabouts downstairs?”

“In the kitchen.”

“Shall I go and fetch it, doctor?” inquired Villefort.

“No, stay here and try to make Barrois drink the rest of this glass of ether and water. I will go myself and fetch the lemonade.”

D’Avrigny bounded towards the door, flew down the back staircase, and almost knocked down Madame de Villefort, in his haste, who was herself going down to the kitchen. She cried out, but d’Avrigny paid no attention to her; possessed with but one idea, he cleared the last four steps with a bound, and rushed into the kitchen, where he saw the decanter about three parts empty still standing on the waiter, where it had been left. He darted upon it as an eagle would seize upon its prey. Panting with loss of breath, he returned to the room he had just left. Madame de Villefort was slowly ascending the steps which led to her room.

“Is this the decanter you spoke of?” asked d’Avrigny.

“Yes, doctor.”

“Is this the same lemonade of which you partook?”

“I believe so.”

“What did it taste like?”

“It had a bitter taste.”

The doctor poured some drops of the lemonade into the palm of his hand, put his lips to it, and after having rinsed his mouth as a man does when he is tasting wine, he spat the liquor into the fireplace.

“It is no doubt the same,” said he. “Did you drink some too, M. Noirtier?”

“Yes.”

“And did you also discover a bitter taste?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, doctor,” cried Barrois, “the fit is coming on again. Oh, do something for me.” The doctor flew to his patient.

“That emetic, Villefort—see if it is coming.”

Villefort sprang into the passage, exclaiming, “The emetic! the emetic!—is it come yet?” No one answered. The most profound terror reigned throughout the house.

“If I had anything by means of which I could inflate the lungs,” said d’Avrigny, looking around him, “perhaps I might prevent suffocation. But there is nothing which would do!—nothing!”

“Oh, sir,” cried Barrois, “are you going to let me die without help? Oh, I am dying! Oh, save me!”

“A pen, a pen!” said the doctor. There was one lying on the table; he endeavored to introduce it into the mouth of the patient, who, in the midst of his convulsions, was making vain attempts to vomit; but the jaws were so clenched that the pen could not pass them. This second attack was much more violent than the first, and he had slipped from the couch to the ground, where he was writhing in agony. The doctor left him in this paroxysm, knowing that he could do nothing to alleviate it, and, going up to Noirtier, said abruptly:

“How do you find yourself?—well?”

“Yes.”

“Have you any weight on the chest; or does your stomach feel light and comfortable—eh?”

“Yes.”

“Then you feel pretty much as you generally do after you have had the dose which I am accustomed to give you every Sunday?”

“Yes.”

“Did Barrois make your lemonade?”

“Yes.”

“Was it you who asked him to drink some of it?”

“No.”

“Was it M. de Villefort?”

“No.”

“Madame?”

“No.”

“It was your granddaughter, then, was it not?”

“Yes.”

A groan from Barrois, accompanied by a yawn which seemed to crack the very jawbones, attracted the attention of M. d’Avrigny; he left M. Noirtier, and returned to the sick man.

“Barrois,” said the doctor, “can you speak?” Barrois muttered a few unintelligible words. “Try and make an effort to do so, my good man.” said d’Avrigny. Barrois reopened his bloodshot eyes.

“Who made the lemonade?”

“I did.”

“Did you bring it to your master directly it was made?”

“No.”

“You left it somewhere, then, in the meantime?”

“Yes; I left it in the pantry, because I was called away.”

“Who brought it into this room, then?”

“Mademoiselle Valentine.” D’Avrigny struck his forehead with his hand.

“Gracious heaven,” exclaimed he.

“Doctor, doctor!” cried Barrois, who felt another fit coming.

“Will they never bring that emetic?” asked the doctor.

“Here is a glass with one already prepared,” said Villefort, entering the room.

“Who prepared it?”

“The chemist who came here with me.”

“Drink it,” said the doctor to Barrois.

“Impossible, doctor; it is too late; my throat is closing up. I am choking! Oh, my heart! Ah, my head!—Oh, what agony!—Shall I suffer like this long?”

“No, no, friend,” replied the doctor, “you will soon cease to suffer.”

“Ah, I understand you,” said the unhappy man. “My God, have mercy upon me!” and, uttering a fearful cry, Barrois fell back as if he had been struck by lightning. D’Avrigny put his hand to his heart, and placed a glass before his lips.

“Well?” said Villefort.

“Go to the kitchen and get me some syrup of violets.”

Villefort went immediately.

“Do not be alarmed, M. Noirtier,” said d’Avrigny; “I am going to take my patient into the next room to bleed him; this sort of attack is very frightful to witness.”

And taking Barrois under the arms, he dragged him into an adjoining room; but almost immediately he returned to fetch the lemonade. Noirtier closed his right eye.

“You want Valentine, do you not? I will tell them to send her to you.”

Villefort returned, and d’Avrigny met him in the passage.

“Well, how is he now?” asked he.

“Come in here,” said d’Avrigny, and he took him into the chamber where the sick man lay.

“Is he still in a fit?” said the procureur.

“He is dead.”

Villefort drew back a few steps, and, clasping his hands, exclaimed, with real amazement and sympathy, “Dead?—and so soon too!”

“Yes, it is very soon,” said the doctor, looking at the corpse before him; “but that ought not to astonish you; Monsieur and Madame de Saint-Méran died as soon. People die very suddenly in your house, M. de Villefort.”

“What?” cried the magistrate, with an accent of horror and consternation, “are you still harping on that terrible idea?”

“Still, sir; and I shall always do so,” replied d’Avrigny, “for it has never for one instant ceased to retain possession of my mind; and that you may be quite sure I am not mistaken this time, listen well to what I am going to say, M. de Villefort.”

The magistrate trembled convulsively.

“There is a poison which destroys life almost without leaving any perceptible traces. I know it well; I have studied it in all its forms and in the effects which it produces. I recognized the presence of this poison in the case of poor Barrois as well as in that of Madame de Saint-Méran. There is a way of detecting its presence. It restores the blue color of litmus-paper reddened by an acid, and it turns syrup of violets green. We have no litmus-paper, but, see, here they come with the syrup of violets.”

The doctor was right; steps were heard in the passage. M. d’Avrigny opened the door, and took from the hands of the chambermaid a cup which contained two or three spoonfuls of the syrup, he then carefully closed the door.

“Look,” said he to the procureur, whose heart beat so loudly that it might almost be heard, “here is in this cup some syrup of violets, and this decanter contains the remainder of the lemonade of which M. Noirtier and Barrois partook. If the lemonade be pure and inoffensive, the syrup will retain its color; if, on the contrary, the lemonade be drugged with poison, the syrup will become green. Look closely!”

The doctor then slowly poured some drops of the lemonade from the decanter into the cup, and in an instant a light cloudy sediment began to form at the bottom of the cup; this sediment first took a blue shade, then from the color of sapphire it passed to that of opal, and from opal to emerald. Arrived at this last hue, it changed no more. The result of the experiment left no doubt whatever on the mind.

“The unfortunate Barrois has been poisoned,” said d’Avrigny, “and I will maintain this assertion before God and man.”

Villefort said nothing, but he clasped his hands, opened his haggard eyes, and, overcome with his emotion, sank into a chair.


Chapter 80. The Accusation


M. d’Avrigny soon restored the magistrate to consciousness, who had looked like a second corpse in that chamber of death.

“Oh, death is in my house!” cried Villefort.

“Say, rather, crime!” replied the doctor.

“M. d’Avrigny,” cried Villefort, “I cannot tell you all I feel at this moment,—terror, grief, madness.”

“Yes,” said M. d’Avrigny, with an imposing calmness, “but I think it is now time to act. I think it is time to stop this torrent of mortality. I can no longer bear to be in possession of these secrets without the hope of seeing the victims and society generally revenged.”

Villefort cast a gloomy look around him. “In my house,” murmured he, “in my house!”

“Come, magistrate,” said M. d’Avrigny, “show yourself a man; as an interpreter of the law, do honor to your profession by sacrificing your selfish interests to it.”

“You make me shudder, doctor. Do you talk of a sacrifice?”

“I do.”

“Do you then suspect anyone?”

“I suspect no one; death raps at your door—it enters—it goes, not blindfolded, but circumspectly, from room to room. Well, I follow its course, I track its passage; I adopt the wisdom of the ancients, and feel my way, for my friendship for your family and my respect for you are as a twofold bandage over my eyes; well——”

“Oh, speak, speak, doctor; I shall have courage.”

“Well, sir, you have in your establishment, or in your family, perhaps, one of the frightful monstrosities of which each century produces only one. Locusta and Agrippina, living at the same time, were an exception, and proved the determination of Providence to effect the entire ruin of the Roman empire, sullied by so many crimes. Brunhilda and Fredegund were the results of the painful struggle of civilization in its infancy, when man was learning to control mind, were it even by an emissary from the realms of darkness. All these women had been, or were, beautiful. The same flower of innocence had flourished, or was still flourishing, on their brow, that is seen on the brow of the culprit in your house.”

Villefort shrieked, clasped his hands, and looked at the doctor with a supplicating air. But the latter went on without pity:

“‘Seek whom the crime will profit,’ says an axiom of jurisprudence.”

“Doctor,” cried Villefort, “alas, doctor, how often has man’s justice been deceived by those fatal words. I know not why, but I feel that this crime——”

“You acknowledge, then, the existence of the crime?”

“Yes, I see too plainly that it does exist. But it seems that it is intended to affect me personally. I fear an attack myself, after all these disasters.”

“Oh, man!” murmured d’Avrigny, “the most selfish of all animals, the most personal of all creatures, who believes the earth turns, the sun shines, and death strikes for him alone,—an ant cursing God from the top of a blade of grass! And have those who have lost their lives lost nothing?—M. de Saint-Méran, Madame de Saint-Méran, M. Noirtier——”

“How? M. Noirtier?”

“Yes; think you it was the poor servant’s life was coveted? No, no; like Shakespeare’s Polonius, he died for another. It was Noirtier the lemonade was intended for—it is Noirtier, logically speaking, who drank it. The other drank it only by accident, and, although Barrois is dead, it was Noirtier whose death was wished for.”

“But why did it not kill my father?”

“I told you one evening in the garden after Madame de Saint-Méran’s death—because his system is accustomed to that very poison, and the dose was trifling to him, which would be fatal to another; because no one knows, not even the assassin, that, for the last twelve months, I have given M. Noirtier brucine for his paralytic affection, while the assassin is not ignorant, for he has proved that brucine is a violent poison.”

“Oh, have pity—have pity!” murmured Villefort, wringing his hands.

“Follow the culprit’s steps; he first kills M. de Saint-Méran——”

“Oh, doctor!”

“I would swear to it; what I heard of his symptoms agrees too well with what I have seen in the other cases.” Villefort ceased to contend; he only groaned. “He first kills M. de Saint-Méran,” repeated the doctor, “then Madame de Saint-Méran,—a double fortune to inherit.” Villefort wiped the perspiration from his forehead. “Listen attentively.”

“Alas,” stammered Villefort, “I do not lose a single word.”

“M. Noirtier,” resumed M. d’Avrigny in the same pitiless tone,—“M. Noirtier had once made a will against you—against your family—in favor of the poor, in fact; M. Noirtier is spared, because nothing is expected from him. But he has no sooner destroyed his first will and made a second, than, for fear he should make a third, he is struck down. The will was made the day before yesterday, I believe; you see there has been no time lost.”

“Oh, mercy, M. d’Avrigny!”

“No mercy, sir! The physician has a sacred mission on earth; and to fulfil it he begins at the source of life, and goes down to the mysterious darkness of the tomb. When crime has been committed, and God, doubtless in anger, turns away his face, it is for the physician to bring the culprit to justice.”

“Have mercy on my child, sir,” murmured Villefort.

“You see it is yourself who have first named her—you, her father.”

“Have pity on Valentine! Listen, it is impossible. I would as willingly accuse myself! Valentine, whose heart is pure as a diamond or a lily!”

“No pity, procureur; the crime is fragrant. Mademoiselle herself packed all the medicines which were sent to M. de Saint-Méran; and M. de Saint-Méran is dead. Mademoiselle de Villefort prepared all the cooling draughts which Madame de Saint-Méran took, and Madame de Saint-Méran is dead. Mademoiselle de Villefort took from the hands of Barrois, who was sent out, the lemonade which M. Noirtier had every morning, and he has escaped by a miracle. Mademoiselle de Villefort is the culprit—she is the poisoner! To you, as the king’s attorney, I denounce Mademoiselle de Villefort, do your duty.”

“Doctor, I resist no longer—I can no longer defend myself—I believe you; but, for pity’s sake, spare my life, my honor!”

“M. de Villefort,” replied the doctor, with increased vehemence, “there are occasions when I dispense with all foolish human circumspection. If your daughter had committed only one crime, and I saw her meditating another, I would say ‘Warn her, punish her, let her pass the remainder of her life in a convent, weeping and praying.’ If she had committed two crimes, I would say, ‘Here, M. de Villefort, is a poison that the prisoner is not acquainted with,—one that has no known antidote, quick as thought, rapid as lightning, mortal as the thunderbolt; give her that poison, recommending her soul to God, and save your honor and your life, for it is yours she aims at; and I can picture her approaching your pillow with her hypocritical smiles and her sweet exhortations. Woe to you, M. de Villefort, if you do not strike first!’ This is what I would say had she only killed two persons but she has seen three deaths,—has contemplated three murdered persons,—has knelt by three corpses! To the scaffold with the poisoner—to the scaffold! Do you talk of your honor? Do what I tell you, and immortality awaits you!”

Villefort fell on his knees.

“Listen,” said he; “I have not the strength of mind you have, or rather that which you would not have, if instead of my daughter Valentine your daughter Madeleine were concerned.” The doctor turned pale. “Doctor, every son of woman is born to suffer and to die; I am content to suffer and to await death.”

“Beware,” said M. d’Avrigny, “it may come slowly; you will see it approach after having struck your father, your wife, perhaps your son.”

Villefort, suffocating, pressed the doctor’s arm.

“Listen,” cried he; “pity me—help me! No, my daughter is not guilty. If you drag us both before a tribunal I will still say, ‘No, my daughter is not guilty;—there is no crime in my house. I will not acknowledge a crime in my house; for when crime enters a dwelling, it is like death—it does not come alone.’ Listen. What does it signify to you if I am murdered? Are you my friend? Are you a man? Have you a heart? No, you are a physician! Well, I tell you I will not drag my daughter before a tribunal, and give her up to the executioner! The bare idea would kill me—would drive me like a madman to dig my heart out with my finger-nails! And if you were mistaken, doctor—if it were not my daughter—if I should come one day, pale as a spectre, and say to you, ‘Assassin, you have killed my child!’—hold—if that should happen, although I am a Christian, M. d’Avrigny, I should kill myself.”

“Well,” said the doctor, after a moment’s silence, “I will wait.”

Villefort looked at him as if he had doubted his words.

“Only,” continued M. d’Avrigny, with a slow and solemn tone, “if anyone falls ill in your house, if you feel yourself attacked, do not send for me, for I will come no more. I will consent to share this dreadful secret with you, but I will not allow shame and remorse to grow and increase in my conscience, as crime and misery will in your house.”

“Then you abandon me, doctor?”

“Yes, for I can follow you no farther, and I only stop at the foot of the scaffold. Some further discovery will be made, which will bring this dreadful tragedy to a close. Adieu.”

“I entreat you, doctor!”

“All the horrors that disturb my thoughts make your house odious and fatal. Adieu, sir.”

“One word—one single word more, doctor! You go, leaving me in all the horror of my situation, after increasing it by what you have revealed to me. But what will be reported of the sudden death of the poor old servant?”

“True,” said M. d’Avrigny; “we will return.”

The doctor went out first, followed by M. de Villefort. The terrified servants were on the stairs and in the passage where the doctor would pass.

“Sir,” said d’Avrigny to Villefort, so loud that all might hear, “poor Barrois has led too sedentary a life of late; accustomed formerly to ride on horseback, or in the carriage, to the four corners of Europe, the monotonous walk around that armchair has killed him—his blood has thickened. He was stout, had a short, thick neck; he was attacked with apoplexy, and I was called in too late. By the way,” added he in a low tone, “take care to throw away that cup of syrup of violets in the ashes.”

The doctor, without shaking hands with Villefort, without adding a word to what he had said, went out, amid the tears and lamentations of the whole household. The same evening all Villefort’s servants, who had assembled in the kitchen, and had a long consultation, came to tell Madame de Villefort that they wished to leave. No entreaty, no proposition of increased wages, could induce them to remain; to every argument they replied, “We must go, for death is in this house.”

They all left, in spite of prayers and entreaties, testifying their regret at leaving so good a master and mistress, and especially Mademoiselle Valentine, so good, so kind, and so gentle.

Villefort looked at Valentine as they said this. She was in tears, and, strange as it was, in spite of the emotions he felt at the sight of these tears, he looked also at Madame de Villefort, and it appeared to him as if a slight gloomy smile had passed over her thin lips, like a meteor seen passing inauspiciously between two clouds in a stormy sky.


Chapter 81. The Room of the Retired Baker


The evening of the day on which the Count of Morcerf had left Danglars’ house with feelings of shame and anger at the rejection of the projected alliance, M. Andrea Cavalcanti, with curled hair, moustaches in perfect order, and white gloves which fitted admirably, had entered the courtyard of the banker’s house in Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin. He had not been more than ten minutes in the drawing-room before he drew Danglars aside into the recess of a bow-window, and, after an ingenious preamble, related to him all his anxieties and cares since his noble father’s departure. He acknowledged the extreme kindness which had been shown him by the banker’s family, in which he had been received as a son, and where, besides, his warmest affections had found an object on which to centre in Mademoiselle Danglars.

Danglars listened with the most profound attention; he had expected this declaration for the last two or three days, and when at last it came his eyes glistened as much as they had lowered on listening to Morcerf. He would not, however, yield immediately to the young man’s request, but made a few conscientious objections.

“Are you not rather young, M. Andrea, to think of marrying?”

“I think not, sir,” replied M. Cavalcanti; “in Italy the nobility generally marry young. Life is so uncertain, that we ought to secure happiness while it is within our reach.”

“Well, sir,” said Danglars, “in case your proposals, which do me honor, are accepted by my wife and daughter, by whom shall the preliminary arrangements be settled? So important a negotiation should, I think, be conducted by the respective fathers of the young people.”

“Sir, my father is a man of great foresight and prudence. Thinking that I might wish to settle in France, he left me at his departure, together with the papers establishing my identity, a letter promising, if he approved of my choice, 150,000 livres per annum from the day I was married. So far as I can judge, I suppose this to be a quarter of my father’s revenue.”

“I,” said Danglars, “have always intended giving my daughter 500,000 francs as her dowry; she is, besides, my sole heiress.”

“All would then be easily arranged if the baroness and her daughter are willing. We should command an annuity of 175,000 livres. Supposing, also, I should persuade the marquis to give me my capital, which is not likely, but still is possible, we would place these two or three millions in your hands, whose talent might make it realize ten per cent.”

“I never give more than four per cent, and generally only three and a half; but to my son-in-law I would give five, and we would share the profits.”

“Very good, father-in-law,” said Cavalcanti, yielding to his low-born nature, which would escape sometimes through the aristocratic gloss with which he sought to conceal it. Correcting himself immediately, he said, “Excuse me, sir; hope alone makes me almost mad,—what will not reality do?”

“But,” said Danglars, who, on his part, did not perceive how soon the conversation, which was at first disinterested, was turning to a business transaction, “there is, doubtless, a part of your fortune your father could not refuse you?”

“Which?” asked the young man.

“That you inherit from your mother.”

“Truly, from my mother, Leonora Corsinari.”

“How much may it amount to?”

“Indeed, sir,” said Andrea, “I assure you I have never given the subject a thought, but I suppose it must have been at least two millions.”

Danglars felt as much overcome with joy as the miser who finds a lost treasure, or as the shipwrecked mariner who feels himself on solid ground instead of in the abyss which he expected would swallow him up.

“Well, sir,” said Andrea, bowing to the banker respectfully, “may I hope?”

“You may not only hope,” said Danglars, “but consider it a settled thing, if no obstacle arises on your part.”

“I am, indeed, rejoiced,” said Andrea.

“But,” said Danglars thoughtfully, “how is it that your patron, M. de Monte Cristo, did not make his proposal for you?”

Andrea blushed imperceptibly.

“I have just left the count, sir,” said he; “he is, doubtless, a delightful man but inconceivably peculiar in his ideas. He esteems me highly. He even told me he had not the slightest doubt that my father would give me the capital instead of the interest of my property. He has promised to use his influence to obtain it for me; but he also declared that he never had taken on himself the responsibility of making proposals for another, and he never would. I must, however, do him the justice to add that he assured me if ever he had regretted the repugnance he felt to such a step it was on this occasion, because he thought the projected union would be a happy and suitable one. Besides, if he will do nothing officially, he will answer any questions you propose to him. And now,” continued he, with one of his most charming smiles, “having finished talking to the father-in-law, I must address myself to the banker.”

“And what may you have to say to him?” said Danglars, laughing in his turn.

“That the day after tomorrow I shall have to draw upon you for about four thousand francs; but the count, expecting my bachelor’s revenue could not suffice for the coming month’s outlay, has offered me a draft for twenty thousand francs. It bears his signature, as you see, which is all-sufficient.”

“Bring me a million such as that,” said Danglars, “I shall be well pleased,” putting the draft in his pocket. “Fix your own hour for tomorrow, and my cashier shall call on you with a check for eighty thousand francs.”

“At ten o’clock then, if you please; I should like it early, as I am going into the country tomorrow.”

“Very well, at ten o’clock; you are still at the Hôtel des Princes?”

“Yes.”

The following morning, with the banker’s usual punctuality, the eighty thousand francs were placed in the young man’s hands, as he was on the point of starting, after having left two hundred francs for Caderousse. He went out chiefly to avoid this dangerous enemy, and returned as late as possible in the evening.

But scarcely had he stepped out of his carriage when the porter met him with a parcel in his hand.

“Sir,” said he, “that man has been here.”

“What man?” said Andrea carelessly, apparently forgetting him whom he but too well recollected.

“Him to whom your excellency pays that little annuity.”

“Oh,” said Andrea, “my father’s old servant. Well, you gave him the two hundred francs I had left for him?”

“Yes, your excellency.” Andrea had expressed a wish to be thus addressed. “But,” continued the porter, “he would not take them.”

Andrea turned pale, but as it was dark his pallor was not perceptible. “What? he would not take them?” said he with slight emotion.

“No, he wished to speak to your excellency; I told him you were gone out, and after some dispute he believed me and gave me this letter, which he had brought with him already sealed.”

“Give it me,” said Andrea, and he read by the light of his carriage-lamp:

“‘You know where I live; I expect you tomorrow morning at nine o’clock.’”

Andrea examined it carefully, to ascertain if the letter had been opened, or if any indiscreet eyes had seen its contents; but it was so carefully folded, that no one could have read it, and the seal was perfect.

“Very well,” said he. “Poor man, he is a worthy creature.” He left the porter to ponder on these words, not knowing which most to admire, the master or the servant.

“Take out the horses quickly, and come up to me,” said Andrea to his groom. In two seconds the young man had reached his room and burnt Caderousse’s letter. The servant entered just as he had finished.

“You are about my height, Pierre,” said he.

“I have that honor, your excellency.”

“You had a new livery yesterday?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I have an engagement with a pretty little girl for this evening, and do not wish to be known; lend me your livery till tomorrow. I may sleep, perhaps, at an inn.”

Pierre obeyed. Five minutes after, Andrea left the hotel, completely disguised, took a cabriolet, and ordered the driver to take him to the Cheval Rouge, at Picpus. The next morning he left that inn as he had left the Hôtel des Princes, without being noticed, walked down the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, along the boulevard to Rue Ménilmontant, and stopping at the door of the third house on the left looked for someone of whom to make inquiry in the porter’s absence.

“For whom are you looking, my fine fellow?” asked the fruiteress on the opposite side.

“Monsieur Pailletin, if you please, my good woman,” replied Andrea.

“A retired baker?” asked the fruiteress.

“Exactly.”

“He lives at the end of the yard, on the left, on the third story.”

Andrea went as she directed him, and on the third floor he found a hare’s paw, which, by the hasty ringing of the bell, it was evident he pulled with considerable ill-temper. A moment after Caderousse’s face appeared at the grating in the door.

“Ah! you are punctual,” said he, as he drew back the door.

“Confound you and your punctuality!” said Andrea, throwing himself into a chair in a manner which implied that he would rather have flung it at the head of his host.

“Come, come, my little fellow, don’t be angry. See, I have thought about you—look at the good breakfast we are going to have; nothing but what you are fond of.”

Andrea, indeed, inhaled the scent of something cooking which was not unwelcome to him, hungry as he was; it was that mixture of fat and garlic peculiar to Provençal kitchens of an inferior order, added to that of dried fish, and above all, the pungent smell of musk and cloves. These odors escaped from two deep dishes which were covered and placed on a stove, and from a copper pan placed in an old iron pot. In an adjoining room Andrea saw also a tolerably clean table prepared for two, two bottles of wine sealed, the one with green, the other with yellow, a supply of brandy in a decanter, and a measure of fruit in a cabbage-leaf, cleverly arranged on an earthenware plate.

“What do you think of it, my little fellow?” said Caderousse. “Ay, that smells good! You know I used to be a good cook; do you recollect how you used to lick your fingers? You were among the first who tasted any of my dishes, and I think you relished them tolerably.” While speaking, Caderousse went on peeling a fresh supply of onions.

“But,” said Andrea, ill-temperedly, “by my faith, if it was only to breakfast with you, that you disturbed me, I wish the devil had taken you!”

“My boy,” said Caderousse sententiously, “one can talk while eating. And then, you ungrateful being, you are not pleased to see an old friend? I am weeping with joy.”

He was truly crying, but it would have been difficult to say whether joy or the onions produced the greatest effect on the lachrymal glands of the old innkeeper of the Pont-du-Gard.

“Hold your tongue, hypocrite,” said Andrea; “you love me!”

“Yes, I do, or may the devil take me. I know it is a weakness,” said Caderousse, “but it overpowers me.”

“And yet it has not prevented your sending for me to play me some trick.”

“Come,” said Caderousse, wiping his large knife on his apron, “if I did not like you, do you think I should endure the wretched life you lead me? Think for a moment. You have your servant’s clothes on—you therefore keep a servant; I have none, and am obliged to prepare my own meals. You abuse my cookery because you dine at the table d’hôte of the Hôtel des Princes, or the Café de Paris. Well, I too could keep a servant; I too could have a tilbury; I too could dine where I like; but why do I not? Because I would not annoy my little Benedetto. Come, just acknowledge that I could, eh?”

This address was accompanied by a look which was by no means difficult to understand.

“Well,” said Andrea, “admitting your love, why do you want me to breakfast with you?”

“That I may have the pleasure of seeing you, my little fellow.”

“What is the use of seeing me after we have made all our arrangements?”

“Eh, dear friend,” said Caderousse, “are wills ever made without codicils? But you first came to breakfast, did you not? Well, sit down, and let us begin with these pilchards, and this fresh butter; which I have put on some vine-leaves to please you, wicked one. Ah, yes; you look at my room, my four straw chairs, my images, three francs each. But what do you expect? This is not the Hôtel des Princes.”

“Come, you are growing discontented, you are no longer happy; you, who only wish to live like a retired baker.”

Caderousse sighed.

“Well, what have you to say? you have seen your dream realized.”

“I can still say it is a dream; a retired baker, my poor Benedetto, is rich—he has an annuity.”

“Well, you have an annuity.”

“I have?”

“Yes, since I bring you your two hundred francs.”

Caderousse shrugged his shoulders.

“It is humiliating,” said he, “thus to receive money given grudgingly,—an uncertain supply which may soon fail. You see I am obliged to economize, in case your prosperity should cease. Well, my friend, fortune is inconstant, as the chaplain of the regiment said. I know your prosperity is great, you rascal; you are to marry the daughter of Danglars.”

“What? of Danglars?”

“Yes, to be sure; must I say Baron Danglars? I might as well say Count Benedetto. He was an old friend of mine and if he had not so bad a memory he ought to invite me to your wedding, seeing he came to mine. Yes, yes, to mine; gad, he was not so proud then,—he was an under-clerk to the good M. Morrel. I have dined many times with him and the Count of Morcerf, so you see I have some high connections and were I to cultivate them a little, we might meet in the same drawing-rooms.”

“Come, your jealousy represents everything to you in the wrong light.”

“That is all very fine, Benedetto mio, but I know what I am saying. Perhaps I may one day put on my best coat, and presenting myself at the great gate, introduce myself. Meanwhile let us sit down and eat.”

Caderousse set the example and attacked the breakfast with good appetite, praising each dish he set before his visitor. The latter seemed to have resigned himself; he drew the corks, and partook largely of the fish with the garlic and fat.

“Ah, mate,” said Caderousse, “you are getting on better terms with your old landlord!”

“Faith, yes,” replied Andrea, whose hunger prevailed over every other feeling.

“So you like it, you rogue?”

“So much that I wonder how a man who can cook thus can complain of hard living.”

“Do you see,” said Caderousse, “all my happiness is marred by one thought?”

“What is that?”

“That I am dependent on another, I who have always gained my own livelihood honestly.”

“Do not let that disturb you, I have enough for two.”

“No, truly; you may believe me if you will; at the end of every month I am tormented by remorse.”

“Good Caderousse!”

“So much so, that yesterday I would not take the two hundred francs.”

“Yes, you wished to speak to me; but was it indeed remorse, tell me?”

“True remorse; and, besides, an idea had struck me.”

Andrea shuddered; he always did so at Caderousse’s ideas.

“It is miserable—do you see?—always to wait till the end of the month.”

“Oh,” said Andrea philosophically, determined to watch his companion narrowly, “does not life pass in waiting? Do I, for instance, fare better? Well, I wait patiently, do I not?”

“Yes; because instead of expecting two hundred wretched francs, you expect five or six thousand, perhaps ten, perhaps even twelve, for you take care not to let anyone know the utmost. Down there, you always had little presents and Christmas-boxes, which you tried to hide from your poor friend Caderousse. Fortunately he is a cunning fellow, that friend Caderousse.”

“There you are beginning again to ramble, to talk again and again of the past! But what is the use of teasing me with going all over that again?”

“Ah, you are only one-and-twenty, and can forget the past; I am fifty, and am obliged to recollect it. But let us return to business.”

“Yes.”

“I was going to say, if I were in your place——”

“Well.”

“I would realize——”

“How would you realize?”

“I would ask for six months’ in advance, under pretence of being able to purchase a farm, then with my six months I would decamp.”

“Well, well,” said Andrea, “that isn’t a bad idea.”

“My dear friend,” said Caderousse, “eat of my bread, and take my advice; you will be none the worse off, physically or morally.”

“But,” said Andrea, “why do you not act on the advice you gave me? Why do you not realize a six months’, a year’s advance even, and retire to Brussels? Instead of living the retired baker, you might live as a bankrupt, using his privileges; that would be very good.”

“But how the devil would you have me retire on twelve hundred francs?”

“Ah, Caderousse,” said Andrea, “how covetous you are! Two months ago you were dying with hunger.”

“The appetite grows by what it feeds on,” said Caderousse, grinning and showing his teeth, like a monkey laughing or a tiger growling. “And,” added he, biting off with his large white teeth an enormous mouthful of bread, “I have formed a plan.”

Caderousse’s plans alarmed Andrea still more than his ideas; ideas were but the germ, the plan was reality.

“Let me see your plan; I dare say it is a pretty one.”

“Why not? Who formed the plan by which we left the establishment of M——! eh? was it not I? and it was no bad one I believe, since here we are!”

“I do not say,” replied Andrea, “that you never make a good one; but let us see your plan.”

“Well,” pursued Caderousse, “can you without expending one sou, put me in the way of getting fifteen thousand francs? No, fifteen thousand are not enough,—I cannot again become an honest man with less than thirty thousand francs.”

“No,” replied Andrea, dryly, “no, I cannot.”

“I do not think you understand me,” replied Caderousse, calmly; “I said without your laying out a sou.”

“Do you want me to commit a robbery, to spoil all my good fortune—and yours with mine—and both of us to be dragged down there again?”

“It would make very little difference to me,” said Caderousse, “if I were retaken, I am a poor creature to live alone, and sometimes pine for my old comrades; not like you, heartless creature, who would be glad never to see them again.”

Andrea did more than tremble this time, he turned pale.

“Come, Caderousse, no nonsense!” said he.

“Don’t alarm yourself, my little Benedetto, but just point out to me some means of gaining those thirty thousand francs without your assistance, and I will contrive it.”

“Well, I’ll see—I’ll try to contrive some way,” said Andrea.

“Meanwhile you will raise my monthly allowance to five hundred francs, my little fellow? I have a fancy, and mean to get a housekeeper.”

“Well, you shall have your five hundred francs,” said Andrea; “but it is very hard for me, my poor Caderousse—you take advantage——”

“Bah,” said Caderousse, “when you have access to countless stores.”

One would have said Andrea anticipated his companion’s words, so did his eye flash like lightning, but it was but for a moment.

“True,” he replied, “and my protector is very kind.”

“That dear protector,” said Caderousse; “and how much does he give you monthly?”

“Five thousand francs.”

“As many thousands as you give me hundreds! Truly, it is only bastards who are thus fortunate. Five thousand francs per month! What the devil can you do with all that?”

“Oh, it is no trouble to spend that; and I am like you, I want capital.”

“Capital?—yes—I understand—everyone would like capital.”

“Well, and I shall get it.”

“Who will give it to you—your prince?”

“Yes, my prince. But unfortunately I must wait.”

“You must wait for what?” asked Caderousse.

“For his death.”

“The death of your prince?”

“Yes.”

“How so?”

“Because he has made his will in my favor.”

“Indeed?”

“On my honor.”

“For how much?”

“For five hundred thousand.”

“Only that? It’s little enough.”

“But so it is.”

“No, it cannot be!”

“Are you my friend, Caderousse?”

“Yes, in life or death.”

“Well, I will tell you a secret.”

“What is it?”

“But remember——”

“Ah! pardieu! mute as a carp.”

“Well, I think——”

Andrea stopped and looked around.

“You think? Do not fear; pardieu! we are alone.”

“I think I have discovered my father.”

“Your true father?”

“Yes.”

“Not old Cavalcanti?”

“No, for he has gone again; the true one, as you say.”

“And that father is——”

“Well, Caderousse, it is Monte Cristo.”

“Bah!”

“Yes, you understand, that explains all. He cannot acknowledge me openly, it appears, but he does it through M. Cavalcanti, and gives him fifty thousand francs for it.”

“Fifty thousand francs for being your father? I would have done it for half that, for twenty thousand, for fifteen thousand; why did you not think of me, ungrateful man?”

“Did I know anything about it, when it was all done when I was down there?”

“Ah, truly? And you say that by his will——”

“He leaves me five hundred thousand livres.”

“Are you sure of it?”

“He showed it me; but that is not all—there is a codicil, as I said just now.”

“Probably.”

“And in that codicil he acknowledges me.”

“Oh, the good father, the brave father, the very honest father!” said Caderousse, twirling a plate in the air between his two hands.

“Now, say if I conceal anything from you?”

“No, and your confidence makes you honorable in my opinion; and your princely father, is he rich, very rich?”

“Yes, he is that; he does not himself know the amount of his fortune.”

“Is it possible?”

“It is evident enough to me, who am always at his house. The other day a banker’s clerk brought him fifty thousand francs in a portfolio about the size of your plate; yesterday his banker brought him a hundred thousand francs in gold.”

Caderousse was filled with wonder; the young man’s words sounded to him like metal, and he thought he could hear the rushing of cascades of louis.

“And you go into that house?” cried he briskly.

“When I like.”

Caderousse was thoughtful for a moment. It was easy to perceive he was revolving some unfortunate idea in his mind. Then suddenly,—

“How I should like to see all that,” cried he; “how beautiful it must be!”

“It is, in fact, magnificent,” said Andrea.

“And does he not live in the Champs-Élysées?”

“Yes, No. 30.”

“Ah,” said Caderousse, “No. 30.”

“Yes, a fine house standing alone, between a courtyard and a garden,—you must know it.”

“Possibly; but it is not the exterior I care for, it is the interior. What beautiful furniture there must be in it!”

“Have you ever seen the Tuileries?”

“No.”

“Well, it surpasses that.”

“It must be worth one’s while to stoop, Andrea, when that good M. Monte Cristo lets fall his purse.”

“It is not worthwhile to wait for that,” said Andrea; “money is as plentiful in that house as fruit in an orchard.”

“But you should take me there one day with you.”

“How can I? On what plea?”

“You are right; but you have made my mouth water. I must absolutely see it; I shall find a way.”

“No nonsense, Caderousse!”

“I will offer myself as floor-polisher.”

“The rooms are all carpeted.”

“Well, then, I must be contented to imagine it.”

“That is the best plan, believe me.”

“Try, at least, to give me an idea of what it is.”

“How can I?”

“Nothing is easier. Is it large?”

“Middling.”

“How is it arranged?”

“Faith, I should require pen, ink, and paper to make a plan.”

“They are all here,” said Caderousse, briskly. He fetched from an old secretaire a sheet of white paper and pen and ink. “Here,” said Caderousse, “draw me all that on the paper, my boy.”

Andrea took the pen with an imperceptible smile and began.

“The house, as I said, is between the court and the garden; in this way, do you see?” Andrea drew the garden, the court and the house.

“High walls?”

“Not more than eight or ten feet.”

“That is not prudent,” said Caderousse.

“In the court are orange-trees in pots, turf, and clumps of flowers.”

“And no steel-traps?”

“No.”

“The stables?”

“Are on either side of the gate, which you see there.” And Andrea continued his plan.

“Let us see the ground floor,” said Caderousse.

“On the ground floor, dining-room, two drawing-rooms, billiard-room, staircase in the hall, and a little back staircase.”

“Windows?”

“Magnificent windows, so beautiful, so large, that I believe a man of your size should pass through each frame.”

“Why the devil have they any stairs with such windows?”

“Luxury has everything.”

“But shutters?”

“Yes, but they are never used. That Count of Monte Cristo is an original, who loves to look at the sky even at night.”

“And where do the servants sleep?”

“Oh, they have a house to themselves. Picture to yourself a pretty coach-house at the right-hand side where the ladders are kept. Well, over that coach-house are the servants’ rooms, with bells corresponding with the different apartments.”

“Ah, diable! bells did you say?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, nothing! I only say they cost a load of money to hang, and what is the use of them, I should like to know?”

“There used to be a dog let loose in the yard at night, but it has been taken to the house at Auteuil, to that you went to, you know.”

“Yes.”

“I was saying to him only yesterday, ‘You are imprudent, Monsieur Count; for when you go to Auteuil and take your servants the house is left unprotected.’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘what next?’ ‘Well, next, some day you will be robbed.’”

“What did he answer?”

“He quietly said, ‘What do I care if I am?’”

“Andrea, he has some secretaire with a spring.”

“How do you know?”

“Yes, which catches the thief in a trap and plays a tune. I was told there were such at the last exhibition.”

“He has simply a mahogany secretaire, in which the key is always kept.”

“And he is not robbed?”

“No; his servants are all devoted to him.”

“There ought to be some money in that secretaire?”

“There may be. No one knows what there is.”

“And where is it?”

“On the first floor.”

“Sketch me the plan of that floor, as you have done of the ground floor, my boy.”

“That is very simple.” Andrea took the pen. “On the first story, do you see, there is the anteroom and the drawing-room; to the right of the drawing-room, a library and a study; to the left, a bedroom and a dressing-room. The famous secretaire is in the dressing-room.”

“Is there a window in the dressing-room?”

“Two,—one here and one there.” Andrea sketched two windows in the room, which formed an angle on the plan, and appeared as a small square added to the rectangle of the bedroom. Caderousse became thoughtful.

“Does he often go to Auteuil?” added he.

“Two or three times a week. Tomorrow, for instance, he is going to spend the day and night there.”

“Are you sure of it?”

“He has invited me to dine there.”

“There’s a life for you,” said Caderousse; “a town house and a country house.”

“That is what it is to be rich.”

“And shall you dine there?”

“Probably.”

“When you dine there, do you sleep there?”

“If I like; I am at home there.”

Caderousse looked at the young man, as if to get at the truth from the bottom of his heart. But Andrea drew a cigar-case from his pocket, took a Havana, quietly lit it, and began smoking.

“When do you want your twelve hundred francs?” said he to Caderousse.

“Now, if you have them.” Andrea took five-and-twenty louis from his pocket.

“Yellow boys?” said Caderousse; “no, I thank you.”

“Oh, you despise them.”

“On the contrary, I esteem them, but will not have them.”

“You can change them, idiot; gold is worth five sous.”

“Exactly; and he who changes them will follow friend Caderousse, lay hands on him, and demand what farmers pay him their rent in gold. No nonsense, my good fellow; silver simply, round coins with the head of some monarch or other on them. Anybody may possess a five-franc piece.”

“But do you suppose I carry five hundred francs about with me? I should want a porter.”

“Well, leave them with your porter; he is to be trusted. I will call for them.”

“Today?”

“No, tomorrow; I shall not have time today.”

“Well, tomorrow I will leave them when I go to Auteuil.”

“May I depend on it?”

“Certainly.”

“Because I shall secure my housekeeper on the strength of it.”

“Now see here, will that be all? Eh? And will you not torment me any more?”

“Never.”

Caderousse had become so gloomy that Andrea feared he should be obliged to notice the change. He redoubled his gayety and carelessness.

“How sprightly you are,” said Caderousse; “One would say you were already in possession of your property.”

“No, unfortunately; but when I do obtain it——”

“Well?”

“I shall remember old friends, I can tell you that.”

“Yes, since you have such a good memory.”

“What do you want? It looks as if you were trying to fleece me?”

“I? What an idea! I, who am going to give you another piece of good advice.”

“What is it?”

“To leave behind you the diamond you have on your finger. We shall both get into trouble. You will ruin both yourself and me by your folly.”

“How so?” said Andrea.

“How? You put on a livery, you disguise yourself as a servant, and yet keep a diamond on your finger worth four or five thousand francs.”

“You guess well.”

“I know something of diamonds; I have had some.”

“You do well to boast of it,” said Andrea, who, without becoming angry, as Caderousse feared, at this new extortion, quietly resigned the ring. Caderousse looked so closely at it that Andrea well knew that he was examining to see if all the edges were perfect.

“It is a false diamond,” said Caderousse.

“You are joking now,” replied Andrea.

“Do not be angry, we can try it.” Caderousse went to the window, touched the glass with it, and found it would cut.

“Confiteor!” said Caderousse, putting the diamond on his little finger; “I was mistaken; but those thieves of jewellers imitate so well that it is no longer worthwhile to rob a jeweller’s shop—it is another branch of industry paralyzed.”

“Have you finished?” said Andrea,—“do you want anything more?—will you have my waistcoat or my hat? Make free, now you have begun.”

“No; you are, after all, a good companion; I will not detain you, and will try to cure myself of my ambition.”

“But take care the same thing does not happen to you in selling the diamond you feared with the gold.”

“I shall not sell it—do not fear.”

“Not at least till the day after tomorrow,” thought the young man.

“Happy rogue,” said Caderousse; “you are going to find your servants, your horses, your carriage, and your betrothed!”

“Yes,” said Andrea.

“Well, I hope you will make a handsome wedding-present the day you marry Mademoiselle Danglars.”

“I have already told you it is a fancy you have taken in your head.”

“What fortune has she?”

“But I tell you——”

“A million?”

Andrea shrugged his shoulders.

“Let it be a million,” said Caderousse; “you can never have so much as I wish you.”

“Thank you,” said the young man.

“Oh, I wish it you with all my heart!” added Caderousse with his hoarse laugh. “Stop, let me show you the way.”

“It is not worthwhile.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Why?”

“Because there is a little secret, a precaution I thought it desirable to take, one of Huret & Fichet’s locks, revised and improved by Gaspard Caderousse; I will manufacture you a similar one when you are a capitalist.”

“Thank you,” said Andrea; “I will let you know a week beforehand.”

They parted. Caderousse remained on the landing until he had not only seen Andrea go down the three stories, but also cross the court. Then he returned hastily, shut his door carefully, and began to study, like a clever architect, the plan Andrea had left him.

“Dear Benedetto,” said he, “I think he will not be sorry to inherit his fortune, and he who hastens the day when he can touch his five hundred thousand will not be his worst friend.”