Madame de Saint-Meran.
A gloomy scene had indeed just passed at the house of M. de
Villefort. After the ladies had departed for the ball,
whither all the entreaties of Madame de Villefort had failed
in persuading him to accompany them, the procureur had shut
himself up in his study, according to his custom. with a
heap of papers calculated to alarm any one else, but which
generally scarcely satisfied his inordinate desires. But
this time the papers were a mere matter of form. Villefort
had secluded himself, not to study, but to reflect; and with
the door locked and orders given that he should not be
disturbed excepting for important business, he sat down in
his arm-chair and began to ponder over the events, the
remembrance of which had during the last eight days filled
his mind with so many gloomy thoughts and bitter
recollections. Then, instead of plunging into the mass of
documents piled before him, he opened the drawer of his
desk. touched a spring, and drew out a parcel of cherished
memoranda, amongst which he had carefully arranged, in
characters only known to himself, the names of all those
who, either in his political career, in money matters, at
the bar, or in his mysterious love affairs, had become his
Their number was formidable, now that he had begun to fear,
and yet these names, powerful though they were, had often
caused him to smile with the same kind of satisfaction
experienced by a traveller who from the summit of a mountain
beholds at his feet the craggy eminences, the almost
impassable paths, and the fearful chasms, through which he
has so perilously climbed. When he had run over all these
names in his memory, again read and studied them, commenting
meanwhile upon his lists, he shook his head.
"No," he murmured, "none of my enemies would have waited so
patiently and laboriously for so long a space of time, that
they might now come and crush me with this secret.
Sometimes, as Hamlet says --
`Foul deeds will rise,
Tho, all the earth o'erwhelm them to men's eyes;'
but, like a phosphoric light, they rise but to mislead. The
story has been told by the Corsican to some priest, who in
his turn has repeated it. M. de Monte Cristo may have heard
it, and to enlighten himself -- but why should he wish to
enlighten himself upon the subject?" asked Villefort, after
a moment's reflection, "what interest can this M. de Monte
Cristo or M. Zaccone, -- son of a shipowner of Malta,
discoverer of a mine in Thessaly, now visiting Paris for the
first time, -- what interest, I say, can he take in
discovering a gloomy, mysterious, and useless fact like
this? However, among all the incoherent details given to me
by the Abbe Busoni and by Lord Wilmore, by that friend and
that enemy, one thing appears certain and clear in my
opinion -- that in no period, in no case, in no
circumstance, could there have been any contact between him
But Villefort uttered words which even he himself did not
believe. He dreaded not so much the revelation, for he could
reply to or deny its truth; -- he cared little for that
mene, tekel, upharsin, which appeared suddenly in letters of
blood upon the wall; -- but what he was really anxious for
was to discover whose hand had traced them. While he was
endeavoring to calm his fears, -- and instead of dwelling
upon the political future that had so often been the subject
of his ambitious dreams, was imagining a future limited to
the enjoyments of home, in fear of awakening the enemy that
had so long slept, -- the noise of a carriage sounded in the
yard, then he heard the steps of an aged person ascending
the stairs, followed by tears and lamentations, such as
servants always give vent to when they wish to appear
interested in their master's grief. He drew back the bolt of
his door, and almost directly an old lady entered,
unannounced, carrying her shawl on her arm, and her bonnet
in her hand. The white hair was thrown back from her yellow
forehead, and her eyes, already sunken by the furrows of
age, now almost disappeared beneath the eyelids swollen with
grief. "Oh, sir," she said; "oh, sir, what a misfortune! I
shall die of it; oh, yes, I shall certainly die of it!"
And then, falling upon the chair nearest the door, she burst
into a paroxysm of sobs. The servants, standing in the
doorway, not daring to approach nearer, were looking at
Noirtier's old servant, who had heard the noise from his
master's room, and run there also, remaining behind the
others. Villefort rose, and ran towards his mother-in-law,
for it was she.
"Why, what can have happened?" he exclaimed, "what has thus
disturbed you? Is M. de Saint-Meran with you?"
"M. de Saint-Meran is dead," answered the old marchioness,
without preface and without expression; she appeared to be
stupefied. Villefort drew back, and clasping his hands
together, exclaimed -- "Dead! -- so suddenly?"
"A week ago," continued Madame de Saint-Meran, "we went out
together in the carriage after dinner. M. de Saint-Meran had
been unwell for some days; still, the idea of seeing our
dear Valentine again inspired him with courage, and
notwithstanding his illness he would leave. At six leagues
from Marseilles, after having eaten some of the lozenges he
is accustomed to take, he fell into such a deep sleep, that
it appeared to me unnatural; still I hesitated to wake him,
although I fancied that his face was flushed, and that the
veins of his temples throbbed more violently than usual.
However, as it became dark, and I could no longer see, I
fell asleep; I was soon aroused by a piercing shriek, as
from a person suffering in his dreams, and he suddenly threw
his head back violently. I called the valet, I stopped the
postilion, I spoke to M. de Saint-Meran, I applied my
smelling-salts; but all was over, and I arrived at Aix by
the side of a corpse." Villefort stood with his mouth half
open, quite stupefied.
"Of course you sent for a doctor?"
"Immediately; but, as I have told you, it was too late."
"Yes; but then he could tell of what complaint the poor
marquis had died."
"Oh, yes, sir, he told me; it appears to have been an
"And what did you do then?"
"M. de Saint-Meran had always expressed a desire, in case
his death happened during his absence from Paris, that his
body might be brought to the family vault. I had him put
into a leaden coffin, and I am preceding him by a few days."
"Oh, my poor mother," said Villefort, "to have such duties
to perform at your age after such a blow!"
"God has supported me through all; and then, my dear
marquis, he would certainly have done everything for me that
I performed for him. It is true that since I left him, I
seem to have lost my senses. I cannot cry; at my age they
say that we have no more tears, -- still I think that when
one is in trouble one should have the power of weeping.
Where is Valentine. sir? It is on her account I am here; I
wish to see Valentine." Villefort thought it would be
terrible to reply that Valentine was at a ball; so he only
said that she had gone out with her step-mother, and that
she should be fetched. "This instant, sir -- this instant, I
beseech you!" said the old lady. Villefort placed the arm of
Madame de Saint-Meran within his own, and conducted her to
his apartment. "Rest yourself, mother," he said.
The marchioness raised her head at this word, and beholding
the man who so forcibly reminded her of her deeply-regretted
child, who still lived for her in Valentine, she felt
touched at the name of mother, and bursting into tears, she
fell on her knees before an arm-chair, where she buried her
venerable head. Villefort left her to the care of the women,
while old Barrois ran, half-scared, to his master; for
nothing frightens old people so much as when death relaxes
its vigilance over them for a moment in order to strike some
other old person. Then, while Madame de Saint-Meran remained
on her knees, praying fervently, Villefort sent for a cab,
and went himself to fetch his wife and daughter from Madame
de Morcerf's. He was so pale when he appeared at the door of
the ball-room, that Valentine ran to him, saying --
"Oh, father, some misfortune has happened!"
"Your grandmamma has just arrived, Valentine," said M. de
"And grandpapa?" inquired the young girl, trembling with
apprehension. M. de Villefort only replied by offering his
arm to his daughter. It was just in time, for Valentine's
head swam, and she staggered; Madame de Villefort instantly
hastened to her assistance, and aided her husband in
dragging her to the carriage, saying -- "What a singular
event! Who could have thought it? Ah, yes, it is indeed
strange!" And the wretched family departed, leaving a cloud
of sadness hanging over the rest of the evening. At the foot
of the stairs, Valentine found Barrois awaiting her.
"M. Noirtier wishes to see you to-night, he said, in an
"Tell him I will come when I leave my dear grandmamma," she
replied, feeling, with true delicacy, that the person to
whom she could be of the most service just then was Madame
de Saint-Meran. Valentine found her grandmother in bed;
silent caresses, heartwrung sobs, broken sighs, burning
tears, were all that passed in this sad interview, while
Madame de Villefort, leaning on her husband's arm,
maintained all outward forms of respect, at least towards
the poor widow. She soon whispered to her husband, "I think
it would be better for me to retire, with your permission,
for the sight of me appears still to afflict your
mother-in-law." Madame de Saint-Meran heard her. "Yes, yes,"
she said softly to Valentine, "let her leave; but do you
stay." Madame de Villefort left, and Valentine remained
alone beside the bed, for the procureur, overcome with
astonishment at the unexpected death, had followed his wife.
Meanwhile, Barrois had returned for the first time to old
Noirtier, who having heard the noise in the house, had, as
we have said, sent his old servant to inquire the cause; on
his return, his quick intelligent eye interrogated the
messenger. "Alas, sir," exclaimed Barrois, "a great
misfortune has happened. Madame de Saint-Meran has arrived,
and her husband is dead!"
M. de Saint-Meran and Noirtier had never been on strict
terms of friendship; still, the death of one old man always
considerably affects another. Noirtier let his head fall
upon his chest, apparently overwhelmed and thoughtful; then
he closed one eye, in token of inquiry. "Mademoiselle
Valentine?" Noirtier nodded his head. "She is at the ball,
as you know, since she came to say good-by to you in full
dress." Noirtier again closed his left eye. "Do you wish to
see her?" Noirtier again made an affirmative sign. "Well,
they have gone to fetch her, no doubt, from Madame de
Morcerf's; I will await her return, and beg her to come up
here. Is that what you wish for?"
"Yes," replied the invalid.
Barrois, therefore, as we have seen, watched for Valentine,
and informed her of her grandfather's wish. Consequently,
Valentine came up to Noirtier, on leaving Madame de
Saint-Meran, who in the midst of her grief had at last
yielded to fatigue and fallen into a feverish sleep. Within
reach of her hand they placed a small table upon which stood
a bottle of orangeade, her usual beverage, and a glass.
Then, as we have said, the young girl left the bedside to
see M. Noirtier. Valentine kissed the old man, who looked at
her with such tenderness that her eyes again filled with
tears, whose sources he thought must be exhausted. The old
gentleman continued to dwell upon her with the same
expression. "Yes, yes," said Valentine, "you mean that I
have yet a kind grandfather left, do you not." The old man
intimated that such was his meaning. "Ah, yes, happily I
have," replied Valentine. "Without that, what would become
It was one o'clock in the morning. Barrois, who wished to go
to bed himself, observed that after such sad events every
one stood in need of rest. Noirtier would not say that the
only rest he needed was to see his child, but wished her
good-night, for grief and fatigue had made her appear quite
ill. The next morning she found her grandmother in bed; the
fever had not abated, on the contrary her eyes glistened and
she appeared to be suffering from violent nervous
irritability. "Oh, dear grandmamma, are you worse?"
exclaimed Valentine, perceiving all these signs of
"No, my child, no," said Madame de Saint-Meran; "but I was
impatiently waiting for your arrival, that I might send for
"My father?" inquired Valentine, uneasily.
"Yes, I wish to speak to him." Valentine durst not oppose
her grandmother's wish, the cause of which she did not know,
and an instant afterwards Villefort entered. "Sir," said
Madame de Saint-Meran, without using any circumlocution, and
as if fearing she had no time to lose, "you wrote to me
concerning the marriage of this child?"
"Yes, madame," replied Villefort, "it is not only projected
"Your intended son-in-law is named M. Franz d'Epinay?"
"Is he not the son of General d'Epinay who was on our side,
and who was assassinated some days before the usurper
returned from the Island of Elba?"
"Does he not dislike the idea of marrying the granddaughter
of a Jacobin?"
"Our civil dissensions are now happily extinguished,
mother," said Villefort; "M. d'Epinay was quite a child when
his father died, he knows very little of M. Noirtier, and
will meet him, if not with pleasure, at least with
"Is it a suitable match?"
"In every respect."
"And the young man?"
"Is regarded with universal esteem."
"You approve of him?"
"He is one of the most well-bred young men I know." During
the whole of this conversation Valentine had remained
silent. "Well, sir," said Madame de Saint-Meran, after a few
minutes' reflection, "I must hasten the marriage, for I have
but a short time to live."
"You, madame?" "You, dear mamma?" exclaimed M. de Villefort
and Valentine at the same time.
"I know what I am saying," continued the marchioness; "I
must hurry you, so that, as she has no mother, she may at
least have a grandmother to bless her marriage. I am all
that is left to her belonging to my poor Renee, whom you
have so soon forgotten, sir."
"Ah, madame," said Villefort, "you forget that I was obliged
to give a mother to my child."
"A stepmother is never a mother, sir. But this is not to the
purpose, -- our business concerns Valentine, let us leave
the dead in peace."
All this was said with such exceeding rapidity, that there
was something in the conversation that seemed like the
beginning of delirium.
"It shall be as you wish, madame," said Villefort; "more
especially since your wishes coincide with mine, and as soon
as M. d'Epinay arrives in Paris" --
"My dear grandmother," interrupted Valentine, "consider
decorum -- the recent death. You would not have me marry
under such sad auspices?"
"My child," exclaimed the old lady sharply, "let us hear
none of the conventional objections that deter weak minds
from preparing for the future. I also was married at the
death-bed of my mother, and certainly I have not been less
happy on that account."
"Still that idea of death, madame," said Villefort.
"Still? -- Always! I tell you I am going to die -- do you
understand? Well, before dying, I wish to see my son-in-law.
I wish to tell him to make my child happy; I wish to read in
his eyes whether he intends to obey me; -- in fact, I will
know him -- I will!" continued the old lady, with a fearful
expression, "that I may rise from the depths of my grave to
find him, if he should not fulfil his duty!"
"Madame," said Villefort, "you must lay aside these exalted
ideas, which almost assume the appearance of madness. The
dead, once buried in their graves, rise no more."
"And I tell you, sir, that you are mistaken. This night I
have had a fearful sleep. It seemed as though my soul were
already hovering over my body, my eyes, which I tried to
open, closed against my will, and what will appear
impossible above all to you, sir, I saw, with my eyes shut,
in the spot where you are now standing, issuing from that
corner where there is a door leading into Madame Villefort's
dressing-room -- I saw, I tell you, silently enter, a white
figure." Valentine screamed. "It was the fever that
disturbed you, madame," said Villefort.
"Doubt, if you please, but I am sure of what I say. I saw a
white figure, and as if to prevent my discrediting the
testimony of only one of my senses, I heard my glass removed
-- the same which is there now on the table."
"Oh, dear mother, it was a dream."
"So little was it a dream, that I stretched my hand towards
the bell; but when I did so, the shade disappeared; my maid
then entered with a light."
"But she saw no one?"
"Phantoms are visible to those only who ought to see them.
It was the soul of my husband! -- Well, if my husband's soul
can come to me, why should not my soul reappear to guard my
granddaughter? the tie is even more direct, it seems to me."
"Oh, madame," said Villefort, deeply affected, in spite of
himself, "do not yield to those gloomy thoughts; you will
long live with us, happy, loved, and honored, and we will
make you forget" --
"Never, never, never," said the marchioness. "when does M.
"We expect him every moment."
"It is well. As soon as he arrives inform me. We must be
expeditious. And then I also wish to see a notary, that I
may be assured that all our property returns to Valentine."
"Ah, grandmamma," murmured Valentine, pressing her lips on
the burning brow, "do you wish to kill me? Oh, how feverish
you are; we must not send for a notary, but for a doctor."
"A doctor?" said she, shrugging her shoulders, "I am not
ill; I am thirsty -- that is all."
"What are you drinking, dear grandmamma?"
"The same as usual, my dear, my glass is there on the table
-- give it to me, Valentine." Valentine poured the orangeade
into a glass and gave it to her grandmother with a certain
degree of dread, for it was the same glass she fancied that
had been touched by the spectre. The marchioness drained the
glass at a single draught, and then turned on her pillow,
repeating, -- "The notary, the notary!"
M. de Villefort left the room, and Valentine seated herself
at the bedside of her grandmother. The poor child appeared
herself to require the doctor she had recommended to her
aged relative. A bright spot burned in either cheek, her
respiration was short and difficult, and her pulse beat with
feverish excitement. She was thinking of the despair of
Maximilian, when he should be informed that Madame de
Saint-Meran, instead of being an ally, was unconsciously
acting as his enemy. More than once she thought of revealing
all to her grandmother, and she would not have hesitated a
moment, if Maximilian Morrel had been named Albert de
Morcerf or Raoul de Chateau-Renaud; but Morrel was of
plebeian extraction, and Valentine knew how the haughty
Marquise de Saint-Meran despised all who were not noble. Her
secret had each time been repressed when she was about to
reveal it, by the sad conviction that it would be useless to
do so; for, were it once discovered by her father and
mother, all would be lost. Two hours passed thus; Madame de
Saint-Meran was in a feverish sleep, and the notary had
arrived. Though his coming was announced in a very low tone,
Madame de Saint-Meran arose from her pillow. "The notary!"
she exclaimed, "let him come in."
The notary, who was at the door, immediately entered. "Go,
Valentine," said Madame de Saint-Meran, "and leave me with
"But, grandmamma" --
"Leave me -- go!" The young girl kissed her grandmother, and
left with her handkerchief to her eyes; at the door she
found the valet de chambre, who told her that the doctor was
waiting in the dining-room. Valentine instantly ran down.
The doctor was a friend of the family, and at the same time
one of the cleverest men of the day, and very fond of
Valentine, whose birth he had witnessed. He had himself a
daughter about her age, but whose life was one continued
source of anxiety and fear to him from her mother having
"Oh," said Valentine, "we have been waiting for you with
such impatience, dear M. d'Avrigny. But, first of all, how
are Madeleine and Antoinette?" Madeleine was the daughter of
M. d'Avrigny, and Antoinette his niece. M. d'Avrigny smiled
sadly. "Antoinette is very well," he said, "and Madeleine
tolerably so. But you sent for me, my dear child. It is not
your father or Madame de Villefort who is ill. As for you,
although we doctors cannot divest our patients of nerves, I
fancy you have no further need of me than to recommend you
not to allow your imagination to take too wide a field."
Valentine colored. M. d'Avrigny carried the science of
divination almost to a miraculous extent, for he was one of
the physicians who always work upon the body through the
mind. "No," she replied, "it is for my poor grandmother. You
know the calamity that has happened to us, do you not?"
"I know nothing." said M. d'Avrigny.
"Alas," said Valentine, restraining her tears, "my
grandfather is dead."
"M. de Saint-Meran?"
"From an apoplectic stroke."
"An apoplectic stroke?" repeated the doctor.
"Yes, and my poor grandmother fancies that her husband, whom
she never left, has called her, and that she must go and
join him. Oh, M. d'Avrigny, I beseech you, do something for
"Where is she?"
"In her room with the notary."
"And M. Noirtier?"
"Just as he was, his mind perfectly clear, but the same
incapability of moving or speaking."
"And the same love for you -- eh, my dear child?"
"Yes," said Valentine, "he was very fond of me."
"Who does not love you?" Valentine smiled sadly. "What are
your grandmother's symptoms?"
"An extreme nervous excitement and a strangely agitated
sleep; she fancied this morning in her sleep that her soul
was hovering above her body, which she at the same time
watched. It must have been delirium; she fancies, too, that
she saw a phantom enter her chamber and even heard the noise
it made on touching her glass."
"It is singular," said the doctor; "I was not aware that
Madame de Saint-Meran was subject to such hallucinations."
"It is the first time I ever saw her in this condition,"
said Valentine; "and this morning she frightened me so that
I thought her mad; and my father, who you know is a
strong-minded man, himself appeared deeply impressed."
"We will go and see," said the doctor; "what you tell me
seems very strange." The notary here descended, and
Valentine was informed that her grandmother was alone. "Go
upstairs," she said to the doctor.
"Oh, I dare not -- she forbade my sending for you; and, as
you say, I am myself agitated, feverish and out of sorts. I
will go and take a turn in the garden to recover myself."
The doctor pressed Valentine's hand, and while he visited
her grandmother, she descended the steps. We need not say
which portion of the garden was her favorite walk. After
remaining for a short time in the parterre surrounding the
house, and gathering a rose to place in her waist or hair,
she turned into the dark avenue which led to the bench; then
from the bench she went to the gate. As usual, Valentine
strolled for a short time among her flowers, but without
gathering them. The mourning in her heart forbade her
assuming this simple ornament, though she had not yet had
time to put on the outward semblance of woe. She then turned
towards the avenue. As she advanced she fancied she heard a
voice speaking her name. She stopped astonished, then the
voice reached her ear more distinctly, and she recognized it
to be that of Maximilian.