M. and Madame de Villefort found on their return that the
Count of Monte Cristo, who had come to visit them in their
absence, had been ushered into the drawing-room, and was
still awaiting them there. Madame de Villefort, who had not
yet sufficiently recovered from her late emotion to allow of
her entertaining visitors so immediately, retired to her
bedroom, while the procureur, who could better depend upon
himself, proceeded at once to the salon. Although M. de
Villefort flattered himself that, to all outward view, he
had completely masked the feelings which were passing in his
mind, he did not know that the cloud was still lowering on
his brow, so much so that the count, whose smile was
radiant, immediately noticed his sombre and thoughtful air.
"Ma foi," said Monte Cristo, after the first compliments
were over, "what is the matter with you, M. de Villefort?
Have I arrived at the moment when you were drawing up an
indictment for a capital crime?" Villefort tried to smile.
"No, count," he replied, "I am the only victim in this case.
It is I who lose my cause, and it is ill-luck, obstinacy,
and folly which have caused it to be decided against me."
"To what do you refer?" said Monte Cristo with well-feigned
interest. "Have you really met with some great misfortune?"
"Oh, no, monsieur," said Villefort with a bitter smile; "it
is only a loss of money which I have sustained -- nothing
worth mentioning, I assure you."
"True," said Monte Cristo, "the loss of a sum of money
becomes almost immaterial with a fortune such as you
possess, and to one of your philosophic spirit."
"It is not so much the loss of the money that vexes me,"
said Villefort, "though, after all, 900,000 francs are worth
regretting; but I am the more annoyed with this fate,
chance, or whatever you please to call the power which has
destroyed my hopes and my fortune, and may blast the
prospects of my child also, as it is all occasioned by an
old man relapsed into second childhood."
"What do you say?" said the count; "900,000 francs? It is
indeed a sum which might be regretted even by a philosopher.
And who is the cause of all this annoyance?"
"My father, as I told you."
"M. Noirtier? But I thought you told me he had become
entirely paralyzed, and that all his faculties were
"Yes, his bodily faculties, for he can neither move nor
speak, nevertheless he thinks, acts, and wills in the manner
I have described. I left him about five minutes ago, and he
is now occupied in dictating his will to two notaries."
"But to do this he must have spoken?"
"He has done better than that -- he has made himself
"How was such a thing possible?"
"By the help of his eyes, which are still full of life, and,
as you perceive, possess the power of inflicting mortal
"My dear," said Madame de Villefort, who had just entered
the room, "perhaps you exaggerate the evil."
"Good-morning, madame," said the count, bowing. Madame de
Villefort acknowledged the salutation with one of her most
gracious smiles. "What is this that M. de Villefort has been
telling me?" demanded Monte Cristo "and what
incomprehensible misfortune" --
"Incomprehensible is not the word," interrupted the
procureur, shrugging his shoulders. "It is an old man's
"And is there no means of making him revoke his decision?"
"Yes," said Madame de Villefort; "and it is still entirely
in the power of my husband to cause the will, which is now
in prejudice of Valentine, to be altered in her favor." The
count, who perceived that M. and Madame de Villefort were
beginning to speak in parables, appeared to pay no attention
to the conversation, and feigned to be busily engaged in
watching Edward, who was mischievously pouring some ink into
the bird's water-glass. "My dear," said Villefort, in answer
to his wife, "you know I have never been accustomed to play
the patriarch in my family, nor have I ever considered that
the fate of a universe was to be decided by my nod.
Nevertheless, it is necessary that my will should be
respected in my family, and that the folly of an old man and
the caprice of a child should not be allowed to overturn a
project which I have entertained for so many years. The
Baron d'Epinay was my friend, as you know, and an alliance
with his son is the most suitable thing that could possibly
"Do you think," said Madame de Villefort, "that Valentine is
in league with him? She has always been opposed to this
marriage, and I should not be at all surprised if what we
have just seen and heard is nothing but the execution of a
plan concerted between them."
"Madame," said Villefort, "believe me, a fortune of 900,000
francs is not so easily renounced."
"She could, nevertheless, make up her mind to renounce the
world, sir, since it is only about a year ago that she
herself proposed entering a convent."
"Never mind," replied Villefort; "I say that this marriage
shall be consummated."
"Notwithstanding your father's wishes to the contrary?" said
Madame de Villefort, selecting a new point of attack. "That
is a serious thing." Monte Cristo, who pretended not to be
listening, heard however, every word that was said.
"Madame," replied Villefort "I can truly say that I have
always entertained a high respect for my father, because, to
the natural feeling of relationship was added the
consciousness of his moral superiority. The name of father
is sacred in two senses; he should be reverenced as the
author of our being and as a master whom we ought to obey.
But, under the present circumstances, I am justified in
doubting the wisdom of an old man who, because he hated the
father, vents his anger on the son. It would be ridiculous
in me to regulate my conduct by such caprices. I shall still
continue to preserve the same respect toward M. Noirtier; I
will suffer, without complaint, the pecuniary deprivation to
which he has subjected me; but I shall remain firm in my
determination, and the world shall see which party has
reason on his side. Consequently I shall marry my daughter
to the Baron Franz d'Epinay, because I consider it would be
a proper and eligible match for her to make, and, in short,
because I choose to bestow my daughter's hand on whomever I
"What?" said the count, the approbation of whose eye
Villefort had frequently solicited during this speech.
"What? Do you say that M. Noirtier disinherits Mademoiselle
de Villefort because she is going to marry M. le Baron Franz
"Yes, sir, that is the reason," said Villefort, shrugging
"The apparent reason, at least," said Madame de Villefort.
"The real reason, madame, I can assure you; I know my
"But I want to know in what way M. d'Epinay can have
displeased your father more than any other person?"
"I believe I know M. Franz d'Epinay," said the count; "is he
not the son of General de Quesnel, who was created Baron
d'Epinay by Charles X.?"
"The same," said Villefort.
"Well, but he is a charming young man, according to my
"He is, which makes me believe that it is only an excuse of
M. Noirtier to prevent his granddaughter marrying; old men
are always so selfish in their affection," said Madame de
"But," said Monte Cristo "do you not know any cause for this
"Ah, ma foi, who is to know?"
"Perhaps it is some political difference?"
"My father and the Baron d'Epinay lived in the stormy times
of which I only saw the ending," said Villefort.
"Was not your father a Bonapartist?" asked Monte Cristo; "I
think I remember that you told me something of that kind."
"My father has been a Jacobin more than anything else," said
Villefort, carried by his emotion beyond the bounds of
prudence; "and the senator's robe, which Napoleon cast on
his shoulders, only served to disguise the old man without
in any degree changing him. When my father conspired, it was
not for the emperor, it was against the Bourbons; for M.
Noirtier possessed this peculiarity, he never projected any
Utopian schemes which could never be realized, but strove
for possibilities, and he applied to the realization of
these possibilities the terrible theories of The Mountain,
-- theories that never shrank from any means that were
deemed necessary to bring about the desired result."
"Well," said Monte Cristo, "it is just as I thought; it was
politics which brought Noirtier and M. d'Epinay into
personal contact. Although General d'Epinay served under
Napoleon, did he not still retain royalist sentiments? And
was he not the person who was assassinated one evening on
leaving a Bonapartist meeting to which he had been invited
on the supposition that he favored the cause of the
emperor?" Villefort looked at the count almost with terror.
"Am I mistaken, then?" said Monte Cristo.
"No, sir, the facts were precisely what you have stated,"
said Madame de Villefort; "and it was to prevent the renewal
of old feuds that M. de Villefort formed the idea of uniting
in the bonds of affection the two children of these
"It was a sublime and charitable thought," said Monte
Cristo, "and the whole world should applaud it. It would be
noble to see Mademoiselle Noirtier de Villefort assuming the
title of Madame Franz d'Epinay." Villefort shuddered and
looked at Monte Cristo as if he wished to read in his
countenance the real feelings which had dictated the words
he had just uttered. But the count completely baffled the
procureur, and prevented him from discovering anything
beneath the never-varying smile he was so constantly in the
habit of assuming. "Although," said Villefort, "it will be a
serious thing for Valentine to lose her grandfather's
fortune, I do not think that M. d'Epinay will be frightened
at this pecuniary loss. He will, perhaps, hold me in greater
esteem than the money itself, seeing that I sacrifice
everything in order to keep my word with him. Besides, he
knows that Valentine is rich in right of her mother, and
that she will, in all probability, inherit the fortune of M.
and Madame de Saint-Meran, her mother's parents, who both
love her tenderly."
"And who are fully as well worth loving and tending as M.
Noirtier," said Madame de Villefort; "besides, they are to
come to Paris in about a month, and Valentine, after the
affront she has received, need not consider it necessary to
continue to bury herself alive by being shut up with M.
Noirtier." The count listened with satisfaction to this tale
of wounded self-love and defeated ambition. "But it seems to
me," said Monte Cristo, "and I must begin by asking your
pardon for what I am about to say, that if M. Noirtier
disinherits Mademoiselle de Villefort because she is going
to marry a man whose father he detested, he cannot have the
same cause of complaint against this dear Edward."
"True," said Madame de Villefort, with an intonation of
voice which it is impossible to describe; "is it not unjust
-- shamefully unjust? Poor Edward is as much M. Noirtier's
grandchild as Valentine, and yet, if she had not been going
to marry M. Franz, M. Noirtier would have left her all his
money; and supposing Valentine to be disinherited by her
grandfather, she will still be three times richer than he."
The count listened and said no more. "Count," said
Villefort, "we will not entertain you any longer with our
family misfortunes. It is true that my patrimony will go to
endow charitable institutions, and my father will have
deprived me of my lawful inheritance without any reason for
doing so, but I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that
I have acted like a man of sense and feeling. M. d'Epinay,
to whom I had promised the interest of this sum, shall
receive it, even if I endure the most cruel privations."
"However," said Madame de Villefort, returning to the one
idea which incessantly occupied her mind, "perhaps it would
be better to explain this unlucky affair to M. d'Epinay, in
order to give him the opportunity of himself renouncing his
claim to the hand of Mademoiselle de Villefort."
"Ah, that would be a great pity," said Villefort.
"A great pity," said Monte Cristo.
"Undoubtedly," said Villefort, moderating the tones of his
voice, "a marriage once concerted and then broken off,
throws a sort of discredit on a young lady; then again, the
old reports, which I was so anxious to put an end to, will
instantly gain ground. No, it will all go well; M. d'Epinay,
if he is an honorable man, will consider himself more than
ever pledged to Mademoiselle de Villefort, unless he were
actuated by a decided feeling of avarice, but that is
"I agree with M. de Villefort," said Monte Cristo, fixing
his eyes on Madame de Villefort; "and if I were sufficiently
intimate with him to allow of giving my advice, I would
persuade him, since I have been told M. d'Epinay is coming
back, to settle this affair at once beyond all possibility
of revocation. I will answer for the success of a project
which will reflect so much honor on M. de Villefort." The
procureur arose, delighted with the proposition, but his
wife slightly changed color. "Well, that is all that I
wanted, and I will be guided by a counsellor such as you
are," said he, extending his hand to Monte Cristo.
"Therefore let every one here look upon what has passed
to-day as if it had not happened, and as though we had never
thought of such a thing as a change in our original plans."
"Sir," said the count, "the world, unjust as it is, will be
pleased with your resolution; your friends will be proud of
you, and M. d'Epinay, even if he took Mademoiselle de
Villefort without any dowry, which he will not do, would be
delighted with the idea of entering a family which could
make such sacrifices in order to keep a promise and fulfil a
duty." At the conclusion of these words, the count rose to
depart. "Are you going to leave us, count?" said Madame de
"I am sorry to say I must do so, madame, I only came to
remind you of your promise for Saturday."
"Did you fear that we should forget it?"
"You are very good, madame, but M. de Villefort has so many
important and urgent occupations."
"My husband has given me his word, sir," said Madame de
Villefort; "you have just seen him resolve to keep it when
he has everything to lose, and surely there is more reason
for his doing so where he has everything to gain."
"And," said Villefort, "is it at your house in the
Champs-Elysees that you receive your visitors?"
"No," said Monte Cristo, "which is precisely the reason
which renders your kindness more meritorious, -- it is in
"In the country?"
"Where is it, then? Near Paris, is it not?"
"Very near, only half a league from the Barriers, -- it is
"At Auteuil?" said Villefort; "true, Madame de Villefort
told me you lived at Auteuil, since it was to your house
that she was taken. And in what part of Auteuil do you
"Rue de la Fontaine."
"Rue de la Fontaine!" exclaimed Villefort in an agitated
tone; "at what number?"
"Then," cried Villefort, "was it you who bought M. de
"Did it belong to M. de Saint-Meran?" demanded Monte Cristo.
"Yes," replied Madame de Villefort; "and, would you believe
it, count" --
"You think this house pretty, do you not?"
"I think it charming."
"Well, my husband would never live in it."
"Indeed?" returned Monte Cristo, "that is a prejudice on
your part, M. de Villefort, for which I am quite at a loss
"I do not like Auteuil, sir," said the procureur, making an
evident effort to appear calm.
"But I hope you will not carry your antipathy so far as to
deprive me of the pleasure of your company, sir," said Monte
"No, count, -- I hope -- I assure you I shall do my best,"
"Oh," said Monte Cristo, "I allow of no excuse. On Saturday,
at six o'clock. I shall be expecting you, and if you fail to
come, I shall think -- for how do I know to the contrary? --
that this house, which his remained uninhabited for twenty
years, must have some gloomy tradition or dreadful legend
connected with it."
"I will come, count, -- I will be sure to come," said
"Thank you," said Monte Cristo; "now you must permit me to
take my leave of you."
"You said before that you were obliged to leave us,
monsieur," said Madame de Villefort, "and you were about to
tell us why when your attention was called to some other
"Indeed madame," said Monte Cristo: "I scarcely know if I
dare tell you where I am going."
"Nonsense; say on."
"Well, then, it is to see a thing on which I have sometimes
mused for hours together."
"What is it?"
"A telegraph. So now I have told my secret."
"A telegraph?" repeated Madame de Villefort.
"Yes, a telegraph. I had often seen one placed at the end of
a road on a hillock, and in the light of the sun its black
arms, bending in every direction, always reminded me of the
claws of an immense beetle, and I assure you it was never
without emotion that I gazed on it, for I could not help
thinking how wonderful it was that these various signs
should be made to cleave the air with such precision as to
convey to the distance of three hundred leagues the ideas
and wishes of a man sitting at a table at one end of the
line to another man similarly placed at the opposite
extremity, and all this effected by a simple act of volition
on the part of the sender of the message. I began to think
of genii, sylphs, gnomes, in short, of all the ministers of
the occult sciences, until I laughed aloud at the freaks of
my own imagination. Now, it never occurred to me to wish for
a nearer inspection of these large insects, with their long
black claws, for I always feared to find under their stone
wings some little human genius fagged to death with cabals,
factions, and government intrigues. But one fine day I
learned that the mover of this telegraph was only a poor
wretch, hired for twelve hundred francs a year, and employed
all day, not in studying the heavens like an astronomer, or
in gazing on the water like an angler, or even in enjoying
the privilege of observing the country around him, but all
his monotonous life was passed in watching his
white-bellied, black-clawed fellow insect, four or five
leagues distant from him. At length I felt a desire to study
this living chrysalis more closely, and to endeavor to
understand the secret part played by these insect-actors
when they occupy themselves simply with pulling different
pieces of string."
"And are you going there?"
"What telegraph do you intend visiting? that of the home
department, or of the observatory?"
"Oh, no; I should find there people who would force me to
understand things of which I would prefer to remain
ignorant, and who would try to explain to me, in spite of
myself, a mystery which even they do not understand. Ma foi,
I should wish to keep my illusions concerning insects
unimpaired; it is quite enough to have those dissipated
which I had formed of my fellow-creatures. I shall,
therefore, not visit either of these telegraphs, but one in
the open country where I shall find a good-natured
simpleton, who knows no more than the machine he is employed
"You are a singular man," said Villefort.
"What line would you advise me to study?"
"The one that is most in use just at this time."
"The Spanish one, you mean, I suppose?"
"Yes; should you like a letter to the minister that they
might explain to you" --
"No," said Monte Cristo; "since, as I told you before, I do
not wish to comprehend it. The moment I understand it there
will no longer exist a telegraph for me; it will he nothing
more than a sign from M. Duchatel, or from M. Montalivet,
transmitted to the prefect of Bayonne, mystified by two
Greek words, tele, graphein. It is the insect with black
claws, and the awful word which I wish to retain in my
imagination in all its purity and all its importance."
"Go then; for in the course of two hours it will be dark,
and you will not be able to see anything."
"Ma foi, you frighten me. Which is the nearest way?
"Yes; the road to Bayonne."
"And afterwards the road to Chatillon?"
"By the tower of Montlhery, you mean?"
"Thank you. Good-by. On Saturday I will tell you my
impressions concerning the telegraph." At the door the count
was met by the two notaries, who had just completed the act
which was to disinherit Valentine, and who were leaving
under the conviction of having done a thing which could not
fail of redounding considerably to their credit.