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Chapter 111

Notwithstanding the density of the crowd, M. de Villefort
saw it open before him. There is something so awe-inspiring
in great afflictions that even in the worst times the first
emotion of a crowd has generally been to sympathize with the
sufferer in a great catastrophe. Many people have been
assassinated in a tumult, but even criminals have rarely
been insulted during trial. Thus Villefort passed through
the mass of spectators and officers of the Palais, and
withdrew. Though he had acknowledged his guilt, he was
protected by his grief. There are some situations which men
understand by instinct, but which reason is powerless to
explain; in such cases the greatest poet is he who gives
utterance to the most natural and vehement outburst of
sorrow. Those who hear the bitter cry are as much impressed
as if they listened to an entire poem, and when the sufferer
is sincere they are right in regarding his outburst as

It would be difficult to describe the state of stupor in
which Villefort left the Palais. Every pulse beat with
feverish excitement, every nerve was strained, every vein
swollen, and every part of his body seemed to suffer
distinctly from the rest, thus multiplying his agony a
thousand-fold. He made his way along the corridors through
force of habit; he threw aside his magisterial robe, not out
of deference to etiquette, but because it was an unbearable
burden, a veritable garb of Nessus, insatiate in torture.
Having staggered as far as the Rue Dauphine, he perceived
his carriage, awoke his sleeping coachman by opening the
door himself, threw himself on the cushions, and pointed
towards the Faubourg Saint-Honore; the carriage drove on.
The weight of his fallen fortunes seemed suddenly to crush
him; he could not foresee the consequences; he could not
contemplate the future with the indifference of the hardened
criminal who merely faces a contingency already familiar.
God was still in his heart. "God," he murmured, not knowing
what he said, -- "God -- God!" Behind the event that had
overwhelmed him he saw the hand of God. The carriage rolled
rapidly onward. Villefort, while turning restlessly on the
cushions, felt something press against him. He put out his
hand to remove the object; it was a fan which Madame de
Villefort had left in the carriage; this fan awakened a
recollection which darted through his mind like lightning.
He thought of his wife.

"Oh!" he exclaimed, as though a redhot iron were piercing
his heart. During the last hour his own crime had alone been
presented to his mind; now another object, not less
terrible, suddenly presented itself. His wife! He had just
acted the inexorable judge with her, he had condemned her to
death, and she, crushed by remorse, struck with terror,
covered with the shame inspired by the eloquence of his
irreproachable virtue, -- she, a poor, weak woman, without
help or the power of defending herself against his absolute
and supreme will, -- she might at that very moment, perhaps,
be preparing to die! An hour had elapsed since her
condemnation; at that moment, doubtless, she was recalling
all her crimes to her memory; she was asking pardon for her
sins; perhaps she was even writing a letter imploring
forgiveness from her virtuous husband -- a forgiveness she
was purchasing with her death! Villefort again groaned with
anguish and despair. "Ah," he exclaimed, "that woman became
criminal only from associating with me! I carried the
infection of crime with me, and she has caught it as she
would the typhus fever, the cholera, the plague! And yet I
have punished her -- I have dared to tell her -- I have --
`Repent and die!' But no, she must not die; she shall live,
and with me. We will flee from Paris and go as far as the
earth reaches. I told her of the scaffold; oh, heavens, I
forgot that it awaits me also! How could I pronounce that
word? Yes, we will fly; I will confess all to her, -- I will
tell her daily that I also have committed a crime! -- Oh,
what an alliance -- the tiger and the serpent; worthy wife
of such as I am! She must live that my infamy may diminish
hers." And Villefort dashed open the window in front of the

"Faster, faster!" he cried, in a tone which electrified the
coachman. The horses, impelled by fear, flew towards the

"Yes, yes," repeated Villefort, as he approached his home --
"yes, that woman must live; she must repent, and educate my
son, the sole survivor, with the exception of the
indestructible old man, of the wreck of my house. She loves
him; it was for his sake she has committed these crimes. We
ought never to despair of softening the heart of a mother
who loves her child. She will repent, and no one will know
that she has been guilty. The events which have taken place
in my house, though they now occupy the public mind, will be
forgotten in time, or if, indeed, a few enemies should
persist in remembering them, why then I will add them to my
list of crimes. What will it signify if one, two, or three
more are added? My wife and child shall escape from this
gulf, carrying treasures with them; she will live and may
yet be happy, since her child, in whom all her love is
centred, will be with her. I shall have performed a good
action, and my heart will be lighter." And the procureur
breathed more freely than he had done for some time.

The carriage stopped at the door of the house. Villefort
leaped out of the carriage, and saw that his servants were
surprised at his early return; he could read no other
expression on their features. Neither of them spoke to him;
they merely stood aside to let him pass by, as usual,
nothing more. As he passed by M. Noirtier's room, he
perceived two figures through the half-open door; but he
experienced no curiosity to know who was visiting his
father: anxiety carried him on further.

"Come," he said, as he ascended the stairs leading to his
wife's room, "nothing is changed here." He then closed the
door of the landing. "No one must disturb us," he said; "I
must speak freely to her, accuse myself, and say" -- he
approached the door, touched the crystal handle, which
yielded to his hand. "Not locked," he cried; "that is well."
And he entered the little room in which Edward slept; for
though the child went to school during the day, his mother
could not allow him to be separated from her at night. With
a single glance Villefort's eye ran through the room. "Not
here," he said; "doubtless she is in her bedroom." He rushed
towards the door, found it bolted, and stopped, shuddering.
"Heloise!" he cried. He fancied he heard the sound of a
piece of furniture being removed. "Heloise!" he repeated.

"Who is there?" answered the voice of her he sought. He
thought that voice more feeble than usual.

"Open the door!" cried Villefort. "Open; it is I." But
notwithstanding this request, notwithstanding the tone of
anguish in which it was uttered, the door remained closed.
Villefort burst it open with a violent blow. At the entrance
of the room which led to her boudoir, Madame de Villefort
was standing erect, pale, her features contracted, and her
eyes glaring horribly. "Heloise, Heloise!" he said, "what is
the matter? Speak!" The young woman extended her stiff white
hands towards him. "It is done, monsieur," she said with a
rattling noise which seemed to tear her throat. "What more
do you want?" and she fell full length on the floor.
Villefort ran to her and seized her hand, which convulsively
clasped a crystal bottle with a golden stopper. Madame de
Villefort was dead. Villefort, maddened with horror, stepped
back to the threshhold of the door, fixing his eyes on the
corpse: "My son!" he exclaimed suddenly, "where is my son?
-- Edward, Edward!" and he rushed out of the room, still
crying, "Edward, Edward!" The name was pronounced in such a
tone of anguish that the servants ran up.

"Where is my son?" asked Villefort; "let him be removed from
the house, that he may not see" --

"Master Edward is not down-stairs, sir," replied the valet.

"Then he must be playing in the garden; go and see."

"No, sir; Madame de Villefort sent for him half an hour ago;
he went into her room, and has not been down-stairs since."
A cold perspiration burst out on Villefort's brow; his legs
trembled, and his thoughts flew about madly in his brain
like the wheels of a disordered watch. "In Madame de
Villefort's room?" he murmured and slowly returned, with one
hand wiping his forehead, and with the other supporting
himself against the wall. To enter the room he must again
see the body of his unfortunate wife. To call Edward he must
reawaken the echo of that room which now appeared like a
sepulchre; to speak seemed like violating the silence of the
tomb. His tongue was paralyzed in his mouth.

"Edward!" he stammered -- "Edward!" The child did not
answer. Where, then, could he be, if he had entered his
mother's room and not since returned? He stepped forward.
The corpse of Madame de Villefort was stretched across the
doorway leading to the room in which Edward must be; those
glaring eyes seemed to watch over the threshold, and the
lips bore the stamp of a terrible and mysterious irony.
Through the open door was visible a portion of the boudoir,
containing an upright piano and a blue satin couch.
Villefort stepped forward two or three paces, and beheld his
child lying -- no doubt asleep -- on the sofa. The unhappy
man uttered an exclamation of joy; a ray of light seemed to
penetrate the abyss of despair and darkness. He had only to
step over the corpse, enter the boudoir, take the child in
his arms, and flee far, far away.

Villefort was no longer the civilized man; he was a tiger
hurt unto death, gnashing his teeth in his wound. He no
longer feared realities, but phantoms. He leaped over the
corpse as if it had been a burning brazier. He took the
child in his arms, embraced him, shook him, called him, but
the child made no response. He pressed his burning lips to
the cheeks, but they were icy cold and pale; he felt the
stiffened limbs; he pressed his hand upon the heart, but it
no longer beat, -- the child was dead. A folded paper fell
from Edward's breast. Villefort, thunderstruck, fell upon
his knees; the child dropped from his arms, and rolled on
the floor by the side of its mother. He picked up the paper,
and, recognizing his wife's writing, ran his eyes rapidly
over its contents; it ran as follows: --

"You know that I was a good mother, since it was for my
son's sake I became criminal. A good mother cannot depart
without her son."

Villefort could not believe his eyes, -- he could not
believe his reason; he dragged himself towards the child's
body, and examined it as a lioness contemplates its dead
cub. Then a piercing cry escaped from his breast, and he
cried, "Still the hand of God." The presence of the two
victims alarmed him; he could not bear solitude shared only
by two corpses. Until then he had been sustained by rage, by
his strength of mind, by despair, by the supreme agony which
led the Titans to scale the heavens, and Ajax to defy the
gods. He now arose, his head bowed beneath the weight of
grief, and, shaking his damp, dishevelled hair, he who had
never felt compassion for any one determined to seek his
father, that he might have some one to whom he could relate
his misfortunes, -- some one by whose side he might weep. He
descended the little staircase with which we are acquainted,
and entered Noirtier's room. The old man appeared to be
listening attentively and as affectionately as his
infirmities would allow to the Abbe Busoni, who looked cold
and calm, as usual. Villefort, perceiving the abbe, passed
his hand across his brow. He recollected the call he had
made upon him after the dinner at Auteuil, and then the
visit the abbe had himself paid to his house on the day of
Valentine's death. "You here, sir!" he exclaimed; "do you,
then, never appear but to act as an escort to death?"

Busoni turned around, and, perceiving the excitement
depicted on the magistrate's face, the savage lustre of his
eyes, he understood that the revelation had been made at the
assizes; but beyond this he was ignorant. "I came to pray
over the body of your daughter."

"And now why are you here?"

"I come to tell you that you have sufficiently repaid your
debt, and that from this moment I will pray to God to
forgive you, as I do."

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Villefort, stepping back
fearfully, "surely that is not the voice of the Abbe

"No!" The abbe threw off his wig, shook his head, and his
hair, no longer confined, fell in black masses around his
manly face.

"It is the face of the Count of Monte Cristo!" exclaimed the
procureur, with a haggard expression.

"You are not exactly right, M. Procureur; you must go
farther back."

"That voice, that voice! -- where did I first hear it?"

"You heard it for the first time at Marseilles, twenty-three
years ago, the day of your marriage with Mademoiselle de
Saint-Meran. Refer to your papers."

"You are not Busoni? -- you are not Monte Cristo? Oh,
heavens -- you are, then, some secret, implacable, and
mortal enemy! I must have wronged you in some way at
Marseilles. Oh, woe to me!"

"Yes; you are now on the right path," said the count,
crossing his arms over his broad chest; "search -- search!"

"But what have I done to you?" exclaimed Villefort, whose
mind was balancing between reason and insanity, in that
cloud which is neither a dream nor reality; "what have I
done to you? Tell me, then! Speak!"

"You condemned me to a horrible, tedious death; you killed
my father; you deprived me of liberty, of love, and

"Who are you, then? Who are you?"

"I am the spectre of a wretch you buried in the dungeons of
the Chateau d'If. God gave that spectre the form of the
Count of Monte Cristo when he at length issued from his
tomb, enriched him with gold and diamonds, and led him to

"Ah, I recognize you -- I recognize you!" exclaimed the
king's attorney; "you are" --

"I am Edmond Dantes!"

"You are Edmond Dantes," cried Villefort, seizing the count
by the wrist; "then come here!" And up the stairs he dragged
Monte Cristo; who, ignorant of what had happened, followed
him in astonishment, foreseeing some new catastrophe.
"There, Edmond Dantes!" he said, pointing to the bodies of
his wife and child, "see, are you well avenged?" Monte
Cristo became pale at this horrible sight; he felt that he
had passed beyond the bounds of vengeance, and that he could
no longer say, "God is for and with me." With an expression
of indescribable anguish he threw himself upon the body of
the child, reopened its eyes, felt its pulse, and then
rushed with him into Valentine's room, of which he
double-locked the door. "My child," cried Villefort, "he
carries away the body of my child! Oh, curses, woe, death to
you!" and he tried to follow Monte Cristo; but as though in
a dream he was transfixed to the spot, -- his eyes glared as
though they were starting through the sockets; he griped the
flesh on his chest until his nails were stained with blood;
the veins of his temples swelled and boiled as though they
would burst their narrow boundary, and deluge his brain with
living fire. This lasted several minutes, until the
frightful overturn of reason was accomplished; then uttering
a loud cry followed by a burst of laughter, he rushed down
the stairs.

A quarter of an hour afterwards the door of Valentine's room
opened, and Monte Cristo reappeared. Pale, with a dull eye
and heavy heart, all the noble features of that face,
usually so calm and serene, were overcast by grief. In his
arms he held the child, whom no skill had been able to
recall to life. Bending on one knee, he placed it reverently
by the side of its mother, with its head upon her breast.
Then, rising, he went out, and meeting a servant on the
stairs, he asked, "Where is M. de Villefort?"

The servant, instead of answering, pointed to the garden.
Monte Cristo ran down the steps, and advancing towards the
spot designated beheld Villefort, encircled by his servants,
with a spade in his hand, and digging the earth with fury.
"It is not here!" he cried. "It is not here!" And then he
moved farther on, and began again to dig.

Monte Cristo approached him, and said in a low voice, with
an expression almost humble, "Sir, you have indeed lost a
son; but" --

Villefort interrupted him; he had neither listened nor
heard. "Oh, I will find it," he cried; "you may pretend he
is not here, but I will find him, though I dig forever!"
Monte Cristo drew back in horror. "Oh," he said, "he is
mad!" And as though he feared that the walls of the accursed
house would crumble around him, he rushed into the street,
for the first time doubting whether he had the right to do
as he had done. "Oh, enough of this, -- enough of this," he
cried; "let me save the last." On entering his house, he met
Morrel, who wandered about like a ghost awaiting the
heavenly mandate for return to the tomb. "Prepare yourself,
Maximilian," he said with a smile; "we leave Paris

"Have you nothing more to do there?" asked Morrel.

"No," replied Monte Cristo; "God grant I may not have done
too much already."

The next day they indeed left, accompanied only by
Baptistin. Haidee had taken away Ali, and Bertuccio remained
with Noirtier.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
General Fiction
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