At the Office of the King's Attorney.
Let us leave the banker driving his horses at their fullest
speed, and follow Madame Danglars in her morning excursion.
We have said that at half-past twelve o'clock Madame
Danglars had ordered her horses, and had left home in the
carriage. She directed her course towards the Faubourg Saint
Germain, went down the Rue Mazarine, and stopped at the
Passage du Pont-Neuf. She descended, and went through the
passage. She was very plainly dressed, as would be the case
with a woman of taste walking in the morning. At the Rue
Guenegaud she called a cab, and directed the driver to go to
the Rue de Harlay. As soon as she was seated in the vehicle,
she drew from her pocket a very thick black veil, which she
tied on to her straw bonnet. She then replaced the bonnet,
and saw with pleasure, in a little pocket-mirror, that her
white complexion and brilliant eyes were alone visible. The
cab crossed the Pont-Neuf and entered the Rue de Harlay by
the Place Dauphine; the driver was paid as the door opened,
and stepping lightly up the stairs Madame Danglars soon
reached the Salle des Pas-Perdus.
There was a great deal going on that morning, and many
business-like persons at the Palais; business-like persons
pay very little attention to women, and Madame Danglars
crossed the hall without exciting any more attention than
any other woman calling upon her lawyer. There was a great
press of people in M. de Villefort's ante-chamber, but
Madame Danglars had no occasion even to pronounce her name.
The instant she appeared the door-keeper rose, came to her,
and asked her whether she was not the person with whom the
procureur had made an appointment; and on her affirmative
answer being given, he conducted her by a private passage to
M. de Villefort's office. The magistrate was seated in an
arm-chair, writing, with his back towards the door; he did
not move as he heard it open, and the door-keeper pronounce
the words, "Walk in, madame," and then reclose it; but no
sooner had the man's footsteps ceased, than he started up,
drew the bolts, closed the curtains, and examined every
corner of the room. Then, when he had assured himself that
he could neither be seen nor heard, and was consequently
relieved of doubts, he said, -- "Thanks, madame, -- thanks
for your punctuality; "and he offered a chair to Madame
Danglars, which she accepted, for her heart beat so
violently that she felt nearly suffocated.
"It is a long time, madame," said the procureur, describing
a half-circle with his chair, so as to place himself exactly
opposite to Madame Danglars, -- "it is a long time since I
had the pleasure of speaking alone with you, and I regret
that we have only now met to enter upon a painful
"Nevertheless, sir, you see I have answered your first
appeal, although certainly the conversation must be much
more painful for me than for you." Villefort smiled
"It is true, then," he said, rather uttering his thoughts
aloud than addressing his companion, -- "it is true, then,
that all our actions leave their traces -- some sad, others
bright -- on our paths; it is true that every step in our
lives is like the course of an insect on the sands; -- it
leaves its track! Alas, to many the path is traced by
"Sir," said Madame Danglars, "you can feel for my emotion,
can you not? Spare me, then, I beseech you. When I look at
this room, -- whence so many guilty creatures have departed,
trembling and ashamed, when I look at that chair before
which I now sit trembling and ashamed, -- oh, it requires
all my reason to convince me that I am not a very guilty
woman and you a menacing judge." Villefort dropped his head
and sighed. "And I," he said, "I feel that my place is not
in the judge's seat, but on the prisoner's stool."
"You?" said Madame Danglars.
"I think, sir, you exaggerate your situation," said Madame
Danglars, whose beautiful eyes sparkled for a moment. "The
paths of which you were just speaking have been traced by
all young men of ardent imaginations. Besides the pleasure,
there is always remorse from the indulgence of our passions,
and, after all, what have you men to fear from all this? the
world excuses, and notoriety ennobles you."
"Madame," replied Villefort, "you know that I am no
hypocrite, or, at least, that I never deceive without a
reason. If my brow be severe, it is because many misfortunes
have clouded it; if my heart be petrified, it is that it
might sustain the blows it has received. I was not so in my
youth, I was not so on the night of the betrothal, when we
were all seated around a table in the Rue du Cours at
Marseilles. But since then everything has changed in and
about me; I am accustomed to brave difficulties, and, in the
conflict to crush those who, by their own free will, or by
chance, voluntarily or involuntarily, interfere with me in
my career. It is generally the case that what we most
ardently desire is as ardently withheld from us by those who
wish to obtain it, or from whom we attempt to snatch it.
Thus, the greater number of a man's errors come before him
disguised under the specious form of necessity; then, after
error has been committed in a moment of excitement, of
delirium, or of fear, we see that we might have avoided and
escaped it. The means we might have used, which we in our
blindness could not see, then seem simple and easy, and we
say, `Why did I not do this, instead of that?' Women, on the
contrary, are rarely tormented with remorse; for the
decision does not come from you, -- your misfortunes are
generally imposed upon you, and your faults the results of
"In any case, sir, you will allow," replied Madame Danglars,
"that, even if the fault were alone mine, I last night
received a severe punishment for it."
"Poor thing," said Villefort, pressing her hand, "it was too
severe for your strength, for you were twice overwhelmed,
and yet" --
"Well, I must tell you. Collect all your courage, for you
have not yet heard all."
"Ah," exclaimed Madame Danglars, alarmed, "what is there
more to hear?"
"You only look back to the past, and it is, indeed, bad
enough. Well, picture to yourself a future more gloomy still
-- certainly frightful, perhaps sanguinary." The baroness
knew how calm Villefort naturally was, and his present
excitement frightened her so much that she opened her mouth
to scream, but the sound died in her throat. "How has this
terrible past been recalled?" cried Villefort; "how is it
that it has escaped from the depths of the tomb and the
recesses of our hearts, where it was buried, to visit us
now, like a phantom, whitening our cheeks and flushing our
brows with shame?"
"Alas," said Hermine, "doubtless it is chance."
"Chance?" replied Villefort; "No, no, madame, there is no
such thing as chance."
"Oh, yes; has not a fatal chance revealed all this? Was it
not by chance the Count of Monte Cristo bought that house?
Was it not by chance he caused the earth to be dug up? Is it
not by chance that the unfortunate child was disinterred
under the trees? -- that poor innocent offspring of mine,
which I never even kissed, but for whom I wept many, many
tears. Ah, my heart clung to the count when he mentioned the
dear spoil found beneath the flowers."
"Well, no, madame, -- this is the terrible news I have to
tell you," said Villefort in a hollow voice -- "no, nothing
was found beneath the flowers; there was no child
disinterred -- no. You must not weep, no, you must not
groan, you must tremble!"
"What can you mean?" asked Madame Danglars, shuddering.
"I mean that M. de Monte Cristo, digging underneath these
trees, found neither skeleton nor chest, because neither of
them was there!"
"Neither of them there?" repeated Madame Danglars, her
staring, wide-open eyes expressing her alarm.
"Neither of them there!" she again said, as though striving
to impress herself with the meaning of the words which
"No," said Villefort, burying his face in his hands, "no, a
hundred times no!"
"Then you did not bury the poor child there, sir? Why did
you deceive me? Where did you place it? tell me -- where?"
"There! But listen to me -- listen -- and you will pity me
who has for twenty years alone borne the heavy burden of
grief I am about to reveal, without casting the least
portion upon you."
"Oh, you frighten me! But speak; I will listen."
"You recollect that sad night, when you were half-expiring
on that bed in the red damask room, while I, scarcely less
agitated than you, awaited your delivery. The child was
born, was given to me -- motionless, breathless, voiceless;
we thought it dead." Madame Danglars moved rapidly, as
though she would spring from her chair, but Villefort
stopped, and clasped his hands as if to implore her
attention. "We thought it dead," he repeated; "I placed it
in the chest, which was to take the place of a coffin; I
descended to the garden, I dug a hole, and then flung it
down in haste. Scarcely had I covered it with earth, when
the arm of the Corsican was stretched towards me; I saw a
shadow rise, and, at the same time, a flash of light. I felt
pain; I wished to cry out, but an icy shiver ran through my
veins and stifled my voice; I fell lifeless, and fancied
myself killed. Never shall I forget your sublime courage,
when, having returned to consciousness, I dragged myself to
the foot of the stairs, and you, almost dying yourself, came
to meet me. We were obliged to keep silent upon the dreadful
catastrophe. You had the fortitude to regain the house,
assisted by your nurse. A duel was the pretext for my wound.
Though we scarcely expected it, our secret remained in our
own keeping alone. I was taken to Versailles; for three
months I struggled with death; at last, as I seemed to cling
to life, I was ordered to the South. Four men carried me
from Paris to Chalons, walking six leagues a day; Madame de
Villefort followed the litter in her carriage. At Chalons I
was put upon the Saone, thence I passed on to he Rhone,
whence I descended, merely with the current, to Arles; at
Arles I was again placed on my litter, and continued my
journey to Marseilles. My recovery lasted six months. I
never heard you mentioned, and I did not dare inquire for
you. When I returned to Paris, I learned that you, the widow
of M. de Nargonne, had married M. Danglars.
"What was the subject of my thoughts from the time
consciousness returned to me? Always the same -- always the
child's corpse, coming every night in my dreams, rising from
the earth, and hovering over the grave with menacing look
and gesture. I inquired immediately on my return to Paris;
the house had not been inhabited since we left it, but it
had just been let for nine years. I found the tenant. I
pretended that I disliked the idea that a house belonging to
my wife's father and mother should pass into the hands of
strangers. I offered to pay them for cancelling the lease;
they demanded 6,000 francs. I would have given 10,000 -- I
would have given 20,000. I had the money with me; I made the
tenant sign the deed of resilition, and when I had obtained
what I so much wanted, I galloped to Auteuil.
"No one had entered the house since I had left it. It was
five o'clock in the afternoon; I ascended into the red room,
and waited for night. There all the thoughts which had
disturbed me during my year of constant agony came back with
double force. The Corsican, who had declared the vendetta
against me, who had followed me from Nimes to Paris, who had
hid himself in the garden, who had struck me, had seen me
dig the grave, had seen me inter the child, -- he might
become acquainted with your person, -- nay, he might even
then have known it. Would he not one day make you pay for
keeping this terrible secret? Would it not be a sweet
revenge for him when he found that I had not died from the
blow of his dagger? It was therefore necessary, before
everything else, and at all risks, that I should cause all
traces of the past to disappear -- that I should destroy
every material vestige; too much reality would always remain
in my recollection. It was for this I had annulled the lease
-- it was for this I had come -- it was for this I was
waiting. Night arrived; I allowed it to become quite dark. I
was without a light in that room; when the wind shook all
the doors, behind which I continually expected to see some
spy concealed, I trembled. I seemed everywhere to hear your
moans behind me in the bed, and I dared not turn around. My
heart beat so violently that I feared my wound would open.
At length, one by one, all the noises in the neighborhood
ceased. I understood that I had nothing to fear, that I
should neither be seen nor heard, so I decided upon
descending to the garden.
"Listen, Hermine; I consider myself as brave as most men,
but when I drew from my breast the little key of the
staircase, which I had found in my coat -- that little key
we both used to cherish so much, which you wished to have
fastened to a golden ring -- when I opened the door, and saw
the pale moon shedding a long stream of white light on the
spiral staircase like a spectre, I leaned against the wall,
and nearly shrieked. I seemed to be going mad. At last I
mastered my agitation. I descended the staircase step by
step; the only thing I could not conquer was a strange
trembling in my knees. I grasped the railings; if I had
relaxed my hold for a moment, I should have fallen. I
reached the lower door. Outside this door a spade was placed
against the wall; I took it, and advanced towards the
thicket. I had provided myself with a dark lantern. In the
middle of the lawn I stopped to light it, then I continued
"It was the end of November, all the verdure of the garden
had disappeared, the trees were nothing more than skeletons
with their long bony arms, and the dead leaves sounded on
the gravel under my feet. My terror overcame me to such a
degree as I approached the thicket, that I took a pistol
from my pocket and armed myself. I fancied continually that
I saw the figure of the Corsican between the branches. I
examined the thicket with my dark lantern; it was empty. I
looked carefully around; I was indeed alone, -- no noise
disturbed the silence but the owl, whose piercing cry seemed
to be calling up the phantoms of the night. I tied my
lantern to a forked branch I had noticed a year before at
the precise spot where I stopped to dig the hole.
"The grass had grown very thickly there during the summer,
and when autumn arrived no one had been there to mow it.
Still one place where the grass was thin attracted my
attention; it evidently was there I had turned up the
ground. I went to work. The hour, then, for which I had been
waiting during the last year had at length arrived. How I
worked, how I hoped, how I struck every piece of turf,
thinking to find some resistance to my spade! But no, I
found nothing, though I had made a hole twice as large as
the first. I thought I had been deceived -- had mistaken the
spot. I turned around, I looked at the trees, I tried to
recall the details which had struck me at the time. A cold,
sharp wind whistled through the leafless branches, and yet
the drops fell from my forehead. I recollected that I was
stabbed just as I was trampling the ground to fill up the
hole; while doing so I had leaned against a laburnum; behind
me was an artificial rockery, intended to serve as a
resting-place for persons walking in the garden; in falling,
my hand, relaxing its hold of the laburnum, felt the
coldness of the stone. On my right I saw the tree, behind me
the rock. I stood in the same attitude, and threw myself
down. I rose, and again began digging and enlarging the
hole; still I found nothing, nothing -- the chest was no
"The chest no longer there?" murmured Madame Danglars,
choking with fear.
Think not I contented myself with this one effort,"
continued Villefort. "No; I searched the whole thicket. I
thought the assassin, having discovered the chest, and
supposing it to be a treasure, had intended carrying it off,
but, perceiving his error, had dug another hole, and
deposited it there; but I could find nothing. Then the idea
struck me that he had not taken these precautions, and had
simply thrown it in a corner. In the last case I must wait
for daylight to renew my search. I remained the room and
When daylight dawned I went down again. My first visit was
to the thicket. I hoped to find some traces which had
escaped me in the darkness. I had turned up the earth over a
surface of more than twenty feet square, and a depth of two
feet. A laborer would not have done in a day what occupied
me an hour. But I could find nothing -- absolutely nothing.
Then I renewed the search. Supposing it had been thrown
aside, it would probably be on the path which led to the
little gate; but this examination was as useless as the
first, and with a bursting heart I returned to the thicket,
which now contained no hope for me."
"Oh," cried Madame Danglars, "it was enough to drive you
"I hoped for a moment that it might," said Villefort; "but
that happiness was denied me. However, recovering my
strength and my ideas, `Why,' said I, `should that man have
carried away the corpse?'"
"But you said," replied Madame Danglars, "he would require
it as a proof."
"Ah, no, madame, that could not be. Dead bodies are not kept
a year; they are shown to a magistrate, and the evidence is
taken. Now, nothing of the kind has happened."
"What then?" asked Hermine, trembling violently.
"Something more terrible, more fatal, more alarming for us
-- the child was, perhaps, alive, and the assassin may have
Madame Danglars uttered a piercing cry, and, seizing
Villefort's hands, exclaimed, "My child was alive?" said
she; "you buried my child alive? You were not certain my
child was dead, and you buried it? Ah" --
Madame Danglars had risen, and stood before the procureur,
whose hands she wrung in her feeble grasp. "I know not; I
merely suppose so, as I might suppose anything else,"
replied Villefort with a look so fixed, it indicated that
his powerful mind was on the verge of despair and madness.
"Ah, my child, my poor child!" cried the baroness, falling
on her chair, and stifling her sobs in her handkerchief.
Villefort, becoming somewhat reassured, perceived that to
avert the maternal storm gathering over his head, he must
inspire Madame Danglars with the terror he felt. "You
understand, then, that if it were so," said he, rising in
his turn, and approaching the baroness, to speak to her in a
lower tone, "we are lost. This child lives, and some one
knows it lives -- some one is in possession of our secret;
and since Monte Cristo speaks before us of a child
disinterred, when that child could not be found, it is he
who is in possession of our secret."
"Just God, avenging God!" murmured Madame Danglars.
Villefort's only answer was a stifled groan.
"But the child -- the child, sir?" repeated the agitated
"How I have searched for him," replied Villefort, wringing
his hands; "how I have called him in my long sleepless
nights; how I have longed for royal wealth to purchase a
million of secrets from a million of men, and to find mine
among them! At last, one day, when for the hundredth time I
took up my spade, I asked myself again and again what the
Corsican could have done with the child. A child encumbers a
fugitive; perhaps, on perceiving it was still alive, he had
thrown it into the river."
"Impossible!" cried Madame Danglars: "a man may murder
another out of revenge, but he would not deliberately drown
"Perhaps," continued Villefort, "he had put it in the
"Oh, yes, yes," cried the baroness; "my child is there!"
"I ran to the hospital, and learned that the same night --
the night of the 20th of September -- a child had been
brought there, wrapped in part of a fine linen napkin,
purposely torn in half. This portion of the napkin was
marked with half a baron's crown, and the letter H."
"Truly, truly," said Madame Danglars, "all my linen is
marked thus; Monsieur de Nargonne was a baronet, and my name
is Hermine. Thank God, my child was not then dead!"
"No, it was not dead."
"And you can tell me so without fearing to make me die of
joy? Where is the child?" Villefort shrugged his shoulders.
"Do I know?" said he; "and do you believe that if I knew I
would relate to you all its trials and all its adventures as
would a dramatist or a novel writer? Alas, no, I know not. A
woman, about six months after, came to claim it with the
other half of the napkin. This woman gave all the requisite
particulars, and it was intrusted to her."
"But you should have inquired for the woman; you should have
"And what do you think I did? I feigned a criminal process,
and employed all the most acute bloodhounds and skilful
agents in search of her. They traced her to Chalons, and
there they lost her."
"They lost her?"
"Yes, forever." Madame Danglars had listened to this recital
with a sigh, a tear, or a shriek for every detail. "And this
is all?" said she; "and you stopped there?"
"Oh, no," said Villefort; "I never ceased to search and to
inquire. However, the last two or three years I had allowed
myself some respite. But now I will begin with more
perseverance and fury than ever, since fear urges me, not my
"But," replied Madame Danglars, "the Count of Monte Cristo
can know nothing, or he would not seek our society as he
"Oh, the wickedness of man is very great," said Villefort,
"since it surpasses the goodness of God. Did you observe
that man's eyes while he was speaking to us?"
"But have you ever watched him carefully?"
"Doubtless he is capricious, but that is all; one thing
alone struck me, -- of all the exquisite things he placed
before us, he touched nothing. I might have suspected he was
"And you see you would have been deceived."
"But believe me, that man has other projects. For that
reason I wished to see you, to speak to you, to warn you
against every one, but especially against him. Tell me,"
cried Villefort, fixing his eyes more steadfastly on her
than he had ever done before, "did you ever reveal to any
one our connection?"
"Never, to any one."
"You understand me," replied Villefort, affectionately;
"when I say any one, -- pardon my urgency, -- to any one
living I mean?"
"Yes, yes, I understand very well," ejaculated the baroness;
"never, I swear to you."
"Were you ever in the habit of writing in the evening what
had transpired in the morning? Do you keep a journal?"
"No, my life has been passed in frivolity; I wish to forget
"Do you talk in your sleep?"
"I sleep soundly, like a child; do you not remember?" The
color mounted to the baroness's face, and Villefort turned
"It is true," said he, in so low a tone that he could hardly
"Well?" said the baroness.
"Well, I understand what I now have to do," replied
Villefort. "In less than one week from this time I will
ascertain who this M. de Monte Cristo is, whence he comes,
where he goes, and why he speaks in our presence of children
that have been disinterred in a garden." Villefort
pronounced these words with an accent which would have made
the count shudder had he heard him. Then he pressed the hand
the baroness reluctantly gave him, and led her respectfully
back to the door. Madame Danglars returned in another cab to
the passage, on the other side of which she found her
carriage, and her coachman sleeping peacefully on his box
while waiting for her.