Valentine was alone; two other clocks, slower than that of
Saint-Philippe du Roule, struck the hour of midnight from
different directions, and excepting the rumbling of a few
carriages all was silent. Then Valentine's attention was
engrossed by the clock in her room, which marked the
seconds. She began counting them, remarking that they were
much slower than the beatings of her heart; and still she
doubted, -- the inoffensive Valentine could not imagine that
any one should desire her death. Why should they? To what
end? What had she done to excite the malice of an enemy?
There was no fear of her falling asleep. One terrible idea
pressed upon her mind, -- that some one existed in the world
who had attempted to assassinate her, and who was about to
endeavor to do so again. Supposing this person, wearied at
the inefficacy of the poison, should, as Monte Cristo
intimated, have recourse to steel! -- What if the count
should have no time to run to her rescue! -- What if her
last moments were approaching, and she should never again
see Morrel! When this terrible chain of ideas presented
itself, Valentine was nearly persuaded to ring the bell, and
call for help. But through the door she fancied she saw the
luminous eye of the count -- that eye which lived in her
memory, and the recollection overwhelmed her with so much
shame that she asked herself whether any amount of gratitude
could ever repay his adventurous and devoted friendship.
Twenty minutes, twenty tedious minutes, passed thus, then
ten more, and at last the clock struck the half-flour. Just
then the sound of finger-nails slightly grating against the
door of the library informed Valentine that the count was
still watching, and recommended her to do the same; at the
same time, on the opposite side, that is towards Edward's
room, Valentine fancied that she heard the creaking of the
floor; she listened attentively, holding her breath till she
was nearly suffocated; the lock turned, and the door slowly
opened. Valentine had raised herself upon her elbow, and had
scarcely time to throw herself down on the bed and shade her
eyes with her arm; then, trembling, agitated, and her heart
beating with indescribable terror, she awaited the event.
Some one approached the bed and drew back the curtains.
Valentine summoned every effort, and breathed with that
regular respiration which announces tranquil sleep.
"Valentine!" said a low voice. Still silent: Valentine had
promised not to awake. Then everything was still, excepting
that Valentine heard the almost noiseless sound of some
liquid being poured into the glass she had just emptied.
Then she ventured to open her eyelids, and glance over her
extended arm. She saw a woman in a white dressing-gown
pouring a liquor from a phial into her glass. During this
short time Valentine must have held her breath, or moved in
some slight degree, for the woman, disturbed, stopped and
leaned over the bed, in order the better to ascertain
whether Valentine slept -- it was Madame de Villefort.
On recognizing her step-mother, Valentine could not repress
a shudder, which caused a vibration in the bed. Madame de
Villefort instantly stepped back close to the wall, and
there, shaded by the bed-curtains, she silently and
attentively watched the slightest movement of Valentine. The
latter recollected the terrible caution of Monte Cristo; she
fancied that the hand not holding the phial clasped a long
sharp knife. Then collecting all her remaining strength, she
forced herself to close her eyes; but this simple operation
upon the most delicate organs of our frame, generally so
easy to accomplish, became almost impossible at this moment,
so much did curiosity struggle to retain the eyelid open and
learn the truth. Madame de Villefort, however, reassured by
the silence, which was alone disturbed by the regular
breathing of Valentine, again extended her hand, and half
hidden by the curtains succeeded in emptying the contents of
the phial into the glass. Then she retired so gently that
Valentine did not know she had left the room. She only
witnessed the withdrawal of the arm -- the fair round arm of
a woman but twenty-five years old, and who yet spread death
It is impossible to describe the sensations experienced by
Valentine during the minute and a half Madame de Villefort
remained in the room. The grating against the library-door
aroused the young girl from the stupor in which she was
plunged, and which almost amounted to insensibility. She
raised her head with an effort. The noiseless door again
turned on its hinges, and the Count of Monte Cristo
reappeared. "Well," said he, "do you still doubt?"
"Oh," murmured the young girl.
"Have you seen?"
"Did you recognize?" Valentine groaned. "Oh, yes;" she said,
"I saw, but I cannot believe!"
"Would you rather die, then, and cause Maximilian's death?"
"Oh," repeated the young girl, almost bewildered, "can I not
leave the house? -- can I not escape?"
"Valentine, the hand which now threatens you will pursue you
everywhere; your servants will be seduced with gold, and
death will be offered to you disguised in every shape. You
will find it in the water you drink from the spring, in the
fruit you pluck from the tree."
"But did you not say that my kind grandfather's precaution
had neutralized the poison?"
"Yes, but not against a strong dose; the poison will be
changed, and the quantity increased." He took the glass and
raised it to his lips. "It is already done," he said;
"brucine is no longer employed, but a simple narcotic! I can
recognize the flavor of the alcohol in which it has been
dissolved. If you had taken what Madame de Villefort has
poured into your glass, Valentine -- Valentine -- you would
have been doomed!"
"But," exclaimed the young girl, "why am I thus pursued?"
"Why? -- are you so kind -- so good -- so unsuspicious of
ill, that you cannot understand, Valentine?"
"No, I have never injured her."
"But you are rich, Valentine; you have 200,000 livres a
year, and you prevent her son from enjoying these 200,000
"How so? The fortune is not her gift, but is inherited from
"Certainly; and that is why M. and Madame de Saint-Meran
have died; that is why M. Noirtier was sentenced the day he
made you his heir; that is why you, in your turn, are to die
-- it is because your father would inherit your property,
and your brother, his only son, succeed to his."
"Edward? Poor child! Are all these crimes committed on his
"Ah, then you at length understand?"
"Heaven grant that this may not be visited upon him!"
"Valentine, you are an angel!"
"But why is my grandfather allowed to live?"
"It was considered, that you dead, the fortune would
naturally revert to your brother, unless he were
disinherited; and besides, the crime appearing useless, it
would be folly to commit it."
"And is it possible that this frightful combination of
crimes has been invented by a woman?"
"Do you recollect in the arbor of the Hotel des Postes, at
Perugia, seeing a man in a brown cloak, whom your stepmother
was questioning upon aqua tofana? Well, ever since then, the
infernal project has been ripening in her brain."
"Ah, then, indeed, sir," said the sweet girl, bathed in
tears, "I see that I am condemned to die!"
"No, Valentine, for I have foreseen all their plots; no,
your enemy is conquered since we know her, and you will
live, Valentine -- live to be happy yourself, and to confer
happiness upon a noble heart; but to insure this you must
rely on me."
"Command me, sir -- what am I to do?"
"You must blindly take what I give you."
"Alas, were it only for my own sake, I should prefer to
"You must not confide in any one -- not even in your
"My father is not engaged in this fearful plot, is he, sir?"
asked Valentine, clasping her hands.
"No; and yet your father, a man accustomed to judicial
accusations, ought to have known that all these deaths have
not happened naturally; it is he who should have watched
over you -- he should have occupied my place -- he should
have emptied that glass -- he should have risen against the
assassin. Spectre against spectre!" he murmured in a low
voice, as he concluded his sentence.
"Sir," said Valentine, "I will do all I can to live. for
there are two beings whose existence depends upon mine -- my
grandfather and Maximilian."
"I will watch over them as I have over you."
"Well, sir, do as you will with me;" and then she added, in
a low voice, "oh, heavens, what will befall me?"
"Whatever may happen, Valentine, do not be alarmed; though
you suffer; though you lose sight, hearing, consciousness,
fear nothing; though you should awake and be ignorant where
you are, still do not fear; even though you should find
yourself in a sepulchral vault or coffin. Reassure yourself,
then, and say to yourself: `At this moment, a friend, a
father, who lives for my happiness and that of Maximilian,
watches over me!'"
"Alas, alas, what a fearful extremity!"
"Valentine, would you rather denounce your stepmother?"
"I would rather die a hundred times -- oh, yes, die!"
"No, you will not die; but will you promise me, whatever
happens, that you will not complain, but hope?"
"I will think of Maximilian!"
"You are my own darling child, Valentine! I alone can save
you, and I will." Valentine in the extremity of her terror
joined her hands, -- for she felt that the moment had
arrived to ask for courage, -- and began to pray, and while
uttering little more than incoherent words, she forgot that
her white shoulders had no other covering than her long
hair, and that the pulsations of her heart could he seen
through the lace of her nightdress. Monte Cristo gently laid
his hand on the young girl's arm, drew the velvet coverlet
close to her throat, and said with a paternal smile, -- "My
child, believe in my devotion to you as you believe in the
goodness of providence and the love of Maximilian."
Then he drew from his waistcoat-pocket the little emerald
box, raised the golden lid, and took from it a pastille
about the size of a pea, which he placed in her hand. She
took it, and looked attentively on the count; there was an
expression on the face of her intrepid protector which
commanded her veneration. She evidently interrogated him by
her look. "Yes," said he. Valentine carried the pastille to
her mouth, and swallowed it. "And now, my dear child, adieu
for the present. I will try and gain a little sleep, for you
"Go," said Valentine, "whatever happens, I promise you not
Monte Cristo for some time kept his eyes fixed on the young
girl, who gradually fell asleep, yielding to the effects of
the narcotic the count had given her. Then he took the
glass, emptied three parts of the contents in the fireplace,
that it might be supposed Valentine had taken it, and
replaced it on the table; then he disappeared, after
throwing a farewell glance on Valentine, who slept with the
confidence and innocence of an angel.