It was, indeed, Maximilian Morrel, who had passed a wretched
existence since the previous day. With the instinct peculiar
to lovers he had anticipated after the return of Madame de
Saint-Meran and the death of the marquis, that something
would occur at M. de Villefort's in connection with his
attachment for Valentine. His presentiments were realized,
as we shall see, and his uneasy forebodings had goaded him
pale and trembling to the gate under the chestnut-trees.
Valentine was ignorant of the cause of this sorrow and
anxiety, and as it was not his accustomed hour for visiting
her, she had gone to the spot simply by accident or perhaps
through sympathy. Morrel called her, and she ran to the
gate. "You here at this hour?" said she. "Yes, my poor
girl," replied Morrel; "I come to bring and to hear bad
"This is, indeed, a house of mourning," said Valentine;
"speak, Maximilian, although the cup of sorrow seems already
"Dear Valentine," said Morrel, endeavoring to conceal his
own emotion, "listen, I entreat you; what I am about to say
is very serious. When are you to be married?"
"I will tell you all," said Valentine; "from you I have
nothing to conceal. This morning the subject was introduced,
and my dear grandmother, on whom I depended as my only
support, not only declared herself favorable to it, but is
so anxious for it, that they only await the arrival of M.
d'Epinay, and the following day the contract will be
signed." A deep sigh escaped the young man, who gazed long
and mournfully at her he loved. "Alas," replied he, "it is
dreadful thus to hear my condemnation from your own lips.
The sentence is passed, and, in a few hours, will be
executed; it must be so, and I will not endeavor to prevent
it. But, since you say nothing remains but for M. d'Epinay
to arrive that the contract may be signed, and the following
day you will be his, to-morrow you will be engaged to M.
d'Epinay, for he came this morning to Paris." Valentine
uttered a cry.
"I was at the house of Monte Cristo an hour since," said
Morrel; "we were speaking, he of the sorrow your family had
experienced, and I of your grief, when a carriage rolled
into the court-yard. Never, till then, had I placed any
confidence in presentiments, but now I cannot help believing
them, Valentine. At the sound of that carriage I shuddered;
soon I heard steps on the staircase, which terrified me as
much as the footsteps of the commander did Don Juan. The
door at last opened; Albert de Morcerf entered first, and I
began to hope my fears were vain, when, after him, another
young man advanced, and the count exclaimed -- `Ah, here is
the Baron Franz d'Epinay!' I summoned all my strength and
courage to my support. Perhaps I turned pale and trembled,
but certainly I smiled; and five minutes after I left,
without having heard one word that had passed."
"Poor Maximilian!" murmured Valentine.
"Valentine, the time has arrived when you must answer me.
And remember my life depends on your answer. What do you
intend doing?" Valentine held down her head; she was
"Listen," said Morrel; "it is not the first time you have
contemplated our present position, which is a serious and
urgent one; I do not think it is a moment to give way to
useless sorrow; leave that for those who like to suffer at
their leisure and indulge their grief in secret. There are
such in the world, and God will doubtless reward them in
heaven for their resignation on earth, but those who mean to
contend must not lose one precious moment, but must return
immediately the blow which fortune strikes. Do you intend to
struggle against our ill-fortune? Tell me, Valentine for it
is that I came to know."
Valentine trembled, and looked at him with amazement. The
idea of resisting her father, her grandmother, and all the
family, had never occurred to her. "What do you say,
Maximilian?" asked Valentine. "What do you mean by a
struggle? Oh, it would be a sacrilege. What? I resist my
father's order, and my dying grandmother's wish?
Impossible!" Morrel started. "You are too noble not to
understand me, and you understand me so well that you
already yield, dear Maximilian. No, no; I shall need all my
strength to struggle with myself and support my grief in
secret, as you say. But to grieve my father -- to disturb my
grandmother's last moments -- never!"
"You are right," said Morrel, calmly.
"In what a tone you speak!" cried Valentine.
"I speak as one who admires you, mademoiselle."
"Mademoiselle," cried Valentine; "mademoiselle! Oh, selfish
man, -- he sees me in despair, and pretends he cannot
"You mistake -- I understand you perfectly. You will not
oppose M. Villefort, you will not displease the marchioness,
and to-morrow you will sign the contract which will bind you
to your husband."
"But, mon Dieu, tell me, how can I do otherwise?"
"Do not appeal to me, mademoiselle; I shall be a bad judge
in such a case; my selfishness will blind me," replied
Morrel, whose low voice and clinched hands announced his
"What would you have proposed, Maximilian, had you found me
willing to accede?"
"It is not for me to say."
"You are wrong; you must advise me what to do."
"Do you seriously ask my advice, Valentine?"
"Certainly, dear Maximilian, for if it is good, I will
follow it; you know my devotion to you."
"Valentine," said Morrel pushing aside a loose plank, "give
me your hand in token of forgiveness of my anger; my senses
are confused, and during the last hour the most extravagant
thoughts have passed through my brain. Oh, if you refuse my
"What do you advise?" said Valentine, raising her eyes to
heaven and sighing. "I am free," replied Maximilian, "and
rich enough to support you. I swear to make you my lawful
wife before my lips even shall have approached your
"You make me tremble!" said the young girl.
"Follow me," said Morrel; "I will take you to my sister, who
is worthy also to be yours. We will embark for Algiers, for
England, for America, or, if your prefer it, retire to the
country and only return to Paris when our friends have
reconciled your family." Valentine shook her head. "I feared
it, Maximilian," said she; "it is the counsel of a madman,
and I should be more mad than you, did I not stop you at
once with the word `Impossible, impossible!'"
"You will then submit to what fate decrees for you without
even attempting to contend with it?" said Morrel
sorrowfully. "Yes, -- if I die!"
"Well, Valentine," resumed Maximilian, "I can only say again
that you are right. Truly, it is I who am mad, and you prove
to me that passion blinds the most well-meaning. I
appreciate your calm reasoning. It is then understood that
to-morrow you will be irrevocably promised to M. Franz
d'Epinay, not only by that theatrical formality invented to
heighten the effect of a comedy called the signature of the
contract, but your own will?"
"Again you drive me to despair, Maximilian," said Valentine,
"again you plunge the dagger into the wound! What would you
do, tell me, if your sister listened to such a proposition?"
"Mademoiselle," replied Morrel with a bitter smile, "I am
selfish -- you have already said so -- and as a selfish man
I think not of what others would do in my situation, but of
what I intend doing myself. I think only that I have known
you not a whole year. From the day I first saw you, all my
hopes of happiness have been in securing your affection. One
day you acknowledged that you loved me, and since that day
my hope of future happiness has rested on obtaining you, for
to gain you would be life to me. Now, I think no more; I say
only that fortune has turned against me -- I had thought to
gain heaven, and now I have lost it. It is an every-day
occurrence for a gambler to lose not only what he possesses
but also what he has not." Morrel pronounced these words
with perfect calmness; Valentine looked at him a moment with
her large, scrutinizing eyes, endeavoring not to let Morrel
discover the grief which struggled in her heart. "But, in a
word, what are you going to do?" asked she.
"I am going to have the honor of taking my leave of you,
mademoiselle, solemnly assuring you that I wish your life
may be so calm, so happy, and so fully occupied, that there
may be no place for me even in your memory."
"Oh!" murmured Valentine.
"Adieu, Valentine, adieu!" said Morrel, bowing.
"Where are you going?" cried the young girl, extending her
hand through the opening, and seizing Maximilian by his
coat, for she understood from her own agitated feelings that
her lover's calmness could not be real; "where are you
"I am going, that I may not bring fresh trouble into your
family: and to set an example which every honest and devoted
man, situated as I am, may follow."
"Before you leave me, tell me what you are going to do,
Maximilian." The young man smiled sorrowfully. "Speak,
speak!" said Valentine; "I entreat you."
"Has your resolution changed, Valentine?"
"It cannot change, unhappy man; you know it must not!" cried
the young girl. "Then adieu, Valentine!" Valentine shook the
gate with a strength of which she could not have been
supposed to be possessed, as Morrel was going away, and
passing both her hands through the opening, she clasped and
wrung them. "I must know what you mean to do!" said she.
"Where are you going?"
"Oh, fear not," said Maximilian, stopping at a short
distance, "I do not intend to render another man responsible
for the rigorous fate reserved for me. Another might
threaten to seek M. Franz, to provoke him, and to fight with
him; all that would be folly. What has M. Franz to do with
it? He saw me this morning for the first time, and has
already forgotten he has seen me. He did not even know I
existed when it was arranged by your two families that you
should be united. I have no enmity against M. Franz, and
promise you the punishment shall not fall on him."
"On whom, then! -- on me?"
"On you? Valentine! Oh, heaven forbid! Woman is sacred; the
woman one loves is holy."
"On yourself, then, unhappy man; on yourself?"
"I am the only guilty person, am I not?' said Maximilian.
"Maximilian!" said Valentine, "Maximilian, come back, I
entreat you!" He drew near with his sweet smile, and but for
his paleness one might have thought him in his usual happy
mood. "Listen, my dear, my adored Valentine," said he in his
melodious and grave tone; "those who, like us, have never
had a thought for which we need blush before the world, such
may read each other's hearts. I never was romantic, and am
no melancholy hero. I imitate neither Manfred nor Anthony;
but without words, protestations, or vows, my life has
entwined itself with yours; you leave me, and you are right
in doing so, -- I repeat it, you are right; but in losing
you, I lose my life.
"The moment you leave me, Valentine, I am alone in the
world. My sister is happily married; her husband is only my
brother-in-law, that is, a man whom the ties of social life
alone attach to me; no one then longer needs my useless
life. This is what I shall do; I will wait until the very
moment you are married, for I will not lose the shadow of
one of those unexpected chances which are sometimes reserved
for us, since M. Franz may, after all, die before that time,
a thunderbolt may fall even on the altar as you approach it,
-- nothing appears impossible to one condemned to die, and
miracles appear quite reasonable when his escape from death
is concerned. I will, then, wait until the last moment, and
when my misery is certain, irremediable, hopeless, I will
write a confidential letter to my brother-in-law, another to
the prefect of police, to acquaint them with my intention,
and at the corner of some wood, on the brink of some abyss,
on the bank of some river, I will put an end to my
existence, as certainly as I am the son of the most honest
man who ever lived in France."
Valentine trembled convulsively; she loosened her hold of
the gate, her arms fell by her side, and two large tears
rolled down her cheeks. The young man stood before her,
sorrowful and resolute. "Oh, for pity's sake," said she,
"you will live, will you not?"
"No, on my honor," said Maximilian; "but that will not
affect you. You have done your duty, and your conscience
will be at rest." Valentine fell on her knees, and pressed
her almost bursting heart. "Maximilian," said she,
"Maximilian, my friend, my brother on earth, my true husband
in heaven, I entreat you, do as I do, live in suffering;
perhaps we may one day be united."
"Adieu, Valentine," repeated Morrel.
"My God," said Valentine, raising both her hands to heaven
with a sublime expression, "I have done my utmost to remain
a submissive daughter; I have begged, entreated, implored;
he has regarded neither my prayers, my entreaties, nor my
tears. It is done," cried she, willing away her tears, and
resuming her firmness, "I am resolved not to die of remorse,
but rather of shame. Live, Maximilian, and I will be yours.
Say when shall it be? Speak, command, I will obey." Morrel,
who had already gone some few steps away, again returned,
and pale with joy extended both hands towards Valentine
through the opening. "Valentine," said he, "dear Valentine,
you must not speak thus -- rather let me die. Why should I
obtain you by violence, if our love is mutual? Is it from
mere humanity you bid me live? I would then rather die."
"Truly," murmured Valentine, "who on this earth cares for
me, if he does not? Who has consoled me in my sorrow but he?
On whom do my hopes rest? On whom does my bleeding heart
repose? On him, on him, always on him! Yes, you are right,
Maximilian, I will follow you. I will leave the paternal
home, I will give up all. Oh, ungrateful girl that I am,"
cried Valentine, sobbing, "I will give up all, even my dear
old grandfather, whom I had nearly forgotten."
"No," said Maximilian, "you shall not leave him. M. Noirtier
has evinced, you say, a kind feeling towards me. Well,
before you leave, tell him all; his consent would be your
justification in God's sight. As soon as we are married, he
shall come and live with us, instead of one child, he shall
have two. You have told me how you talk to him and how he
answers you; I shall very soon learn that language by signs,
Valentine, and I promise you solemnly, that instead of
despair, it is happiness that awaits us."
"Oh, see, Maximilian, see the power you have over me, you
almost make me believe you; and yet, what you tell me is
madness, for my father will curse me -- he is inflexible --
he will never pardon me. Now listen to me, Maximilian; if by
artifice, by entreaty, by accident -- in short, if by any
means I can delay this marriage, will you wait?"
"Yes, I promise you, as faithfully as you have promised me
that this horrible marriage shall not take place, and that
if you are dragged before a magistrate or a priest, you will
"I promise you by all that is most sacred to me in the
world, namely, by my mother."
"We will wait, then," said Morrel.
"Yes, we will wait," replied Valentine, who revived at these
words; "there are so many things which may save unhappy
beings such as we are."
"I rely on you, Valentine," said Morrel; "all you do will be
well done; only if they disregard your prayers, if your
father and Madame de Saint-Meran insist that M. d'Epinay
should be called to-morrow to sign the contract" --
"Then you have my promise, Maximilian."
"Instead of signing" --
"I will go to you, and we will fly; but from this moment
until then, let us not tempt providence, let us not see each
other. It is a miracle, it is a providence that we have not
been discovered. If we were surprised, if it were known that
we met thus, we should have no further resource."
"You are right, Valentine; but how shall I ascertain?"
"From the notary, M. Deschamps."
"I know him."
"And for myself -- I will write to you, depend on me. I
dread this marriage, Maximilian, as much as you."
"Thank you, my adored Valentine, thank you; that is enough.
When once I know the hour, I will hasten to this spot, you
can easily get over this fence with my assistance, a
carriage will await us at the gate, in which you will
accompany me to my sister's; there living, retired or
mingling in society, as you wish, we shall be enabled to use
our power to resist oppression, and not suffer ourselves to
be put to death like sheep, which only defend themselves by
"Yes," said Valentine, "I will now acknowledge you are
right, Maximilian; and now are you satisfied with your
betrothal?" said the young girl sorrowfully.
"My adored Valentine, words cannot express one half of my
satisfaction." Valentine had approached, or rather, had
placed her lips so near the fence, that they nearly touched
those of Morrel, which were pressed against the other side
of the cold and inexorable barrier. "Adieu, then, till we
meet again," said Valentine, tearing herself away. "I shall
hear from you?"
"Thanks, thanks, dear love, adieu!" The sound of a kiss was
heard, and Valentine fled through the avenue. Morrel
listened to catch the last sound of her dress brushing the
branches, and of her footstep on the gravel, then raised his
eyes with an ineffable smile of thankfulness to heaven for
being permitted to be thus loved, and then also disappeared.
The young man returned home and waited all the evening and
all the next day without getting any message. It was only on
the following day, at about ten o'clock in the morning, as
he was starting to call on M. Deschamps, the notary, that he
received from the postman a small billet, which he knew to
be from Valentine, although he had not before seen her
writing. It was to this effect: --
Tears, entreaties, prayers, have availed me nothing.
Yesterday, for two hours, I was at the church of
Saint-Phillippe du Roule, and for two hours I prayed most
fervently. Heaven is as inflexible as man, and the signature
of the contract is fixed for this evening at nine o'clock. I
have but one promise and but one heart to give; that promise
is pledged to you, that heart is also yours. This evening,
then, at a quarter to nine at the gate.
Valentine de Villefort.
P.S. -- My poor grandmother gets worse and worse; yesterday
her fever amounted to delirium; to-day her delirium is
almost madness. You will be very kind to me, will you not,
Morrel, to make me forget my sorrow in leaving her thus? I
think it is kept a secret from grandpapa Noirtier, that the
contract is to be signed this evening.
Morrel went also to the notary, who confirmed the news that
the contract was to be signed that evening. Then he went to
call on Monte Cristo and heard still more. Franz had been to
announce the ceremony, and Madame de Villefort had also
written to beg the count to excuse her not inviting him; the
death of M. de Saint-Meran and the dangerous illness of his
widow would cast a gloom over the meeting which she would
regret should be shared by the count whom she wished every
happiness. The day before Franz had been presented to Madame
de Saint-Meran, who had left her bed to receive him, but had
been obliged to return to it immediately after. It is easy
to suppose that Morrel's agitation would not escape the
count's penetrating eye. Monte Cristo was more affectionate
than ever, -- indeed, his manner was so kind that several
times Morrel was on the point of telling him all. But he
recalled the promise he had made to Valentine, and kept his
The young man read Valentine's letter twenty times in the
course of the day. It was her first, and on what an
occasion! Each time he read it he renewed his vow to make
her happy. How great is the power of a woman who has made so
courageous a resolution! What devotion does she deserve from
him for whom she has sacrificed everything! How ought she
really to be supremely loved! She becomes at once a queen
and a wife, and it is impossible to thank and love her
sufficiently. Morrel longed intensely for the moment when he
should hear Valentine say, "Here I am, Maximilian; come and
help me." He had arranged everything for her escape; two
ladders were hidden in the clover-field; a cabriolet was
ordered for Maximilian alone, without a servant, without
lights; at the turning of the first street they would light
the lamps, as it would be foolish to attract the notice of
the police by too many precautions. Occasionally he
shuddered; he thought of the moment when, from the top of
that wall, he should protect the descent of his dear
Valentine, pressing in his arms for the first time her of
whom he had yet only kissed the delicate hand.
When the afternoon arrived and he felt that the hour was
drawing near, he wished for solitude, his agitation was
extreme; a simple question from a friend would have
irritated him. He shut himself in his room, and tried to
read, but his eye glanced over the page without
understanding a word, and he threw away the book, and for
the second time sat down to sketch his plan, the ladders and
the fence. At length the hour drew near. Never did a man
deeply in love allow the clocks to go on peacefully. Morrel
tormented his so effectually that they struck eight at
half-past six. He then said, "It is time to start; the
signature was indeed fixed to take place at nine o'clock,
but perhaps Valentine will not wait for that. Consequently,
Morrel, having left the Rue Meslay at half-past eight by his
timepiece, entered the clover-field while the clock of
Saint-Phillippe du Roule was striking eight. The horse and
cabriolet were concealed behind a small ruin, where Morrel
had often waited.
The night gradually drew on, and the foliage in the garden
assumed a deeper hue. Then Morrel came out from his
hiding-place with a beating heart, and looked through the
small opening in the gate; there was yet no one to be seen.
The clock struck half-past eight, and still another
half-hour was passed in waiting, while Morrel walked to and
fro, and gazed more and more frequently through the opening.
The garden became darker still, but in the darkness he
looked in vain for the white dress, and in the silence he
vainly listened for the sound of footsteps. The house, which
was discernible through the trees, remained in darkness, and
gave no indication that so important an event as the
signature of a marriage-contract was going on. Morrel looked
at his watch, which wanted a quarter to ten; but soon the
same clock he had already heard strike two or three times
rectified the error by striking half-past nine.
This was already half an hour past the time Valentine had
fixed. It was a terrible moment for the young man. The
slightest rustling of the foliage, the least whistling of
the wind, attracted his attention, and drew the perspiration
to his brow; then he tremblingly fixed his ladder, and, not
to lose a moment, placed his foot on the first step. Amidst
all these alternations of hope and fear, the clock struck
ten. "It is impossible," said Maximilian, "that the signing
of a contract should occupy so long a time without
unexpected interruptions. I have weighed all the chances,
calculated the time required for all the forms; something
must have happened." And then he walked rapidly to and fro,
and pressed his burning forehead against the fence. Had
Valentine fainted? or had she been discovered and stopped in
her flight? These were the only obstacles which appeared
possible to the young man.
The idea that her strength had failed her in attempting to
escape, and that she had fainted in one of the paths, was
the one that most impressed itself upon his mind. "In that
case," said he, "I should lose her, and by my own fault." He
dwelt on this idea for a moment, then it appeared reality.
He even thought he could perceive something on the ground at
a distance; he ventured to call, and it seemed to him that
the wind wafted back an almost inarticulate sigh. At last
the half-hour struck. It was impossible to wait longer, his
temples throbbed violently, his eyes were growing dim; he
passed one leg over the wall, and in a moment leaped down on
the other side. He was on Villefort's premises -- had
arrived there by scaling the wall. What might be the
consequences? However, he had not ventured thus far to draw
back. He followed a short distance close under the wall,
then crossed a path, hid entered a clump of trees. In a
moment he had passed through them, and could see the house
distinctly. Then Morrel saw that he had been right in
believing that the house was not illuminated. Instead of
lights at every window, as is customary on days of ceremony,
he saw only a gray mass, which was veiled also by a cloud,
which at that moment obscured the moon's feeble light. A
light moved rapidly from time to time past three windows of
the second floor. These three windows were in Madame de
Saint-Meran's room. Another remained motionless behind some
red curtains which were in Madame de Villefort's bedroom.
Morrel guessed all this. So many times, in order to follow
Valentine in thought at every hour in the day, had he made
her describe the whole house, that without having seen it he
knew it all.
This darkness and silence alarmed Morrel still more than
Valentine's absence had done. Almost mad with grief, and
determined to venture everything in order to see Valentine
once more, and be certain of the misfortune he feared,
Morrel gained the edge of the clump of trees, and was going
to pass as quickly as possible through the flower-garden,
when the sound of a voice, still at some distance, but which
was borne upon the wind, reached him.
At this sound, as he was already partially exposed to view,
he stepped back and concealed himself completely, remaining
perfectly motionless. He had formed his resolution. If it
was Valentine alone, he would speak as she passed; if she
was accompanied, and he could not speak, still he should see
her, and know that she was safe; if they were strangers, he
would listen to their conversation, and might understand
something of this hitherto incomprehensible mystery. The
moon had just then escaped from behind the cloud which had
concealed it, and Morrel saw Villefort come out upon the
steps, followed by a gentleman in black. They descended, and
advanced towards the clump of trees, and Morrel soon
recognized the other gentleman as Doctor d'Avrigny.
The young man, seeing them approach, drew back mechanically,
until he found himself stopped by a sycamore-tree in the
centre of the clump; there he was compelled to remain. Soon
the two gentlemen stopped also.
"Ah, my dear doctor," said the procureur, "heaven declares
itself against my house! What a dreadful death -- what a
blow! Seek not to console me; alas, nothing can alleviate so
great a sorrow -- the wound is too deep and too fresh! Dead,
dead!" The cold sweat sprang to the young man's brow, and
his teeth chattered. Who could be dead in that house, which
Villefort himself had called accursed? "My dear M. de
Villefort," replied the doctor, with a tone which redoubled
the terror of the young man, "I have not led you here to
console you; on the contrary" --
"What can you mean?" asked the procureur, alarmed.
"I mean that behind the misfortune which has just happened
to you, there is another, perhaps, still greater."
"Can it be possible?" murmured Villefort, clasping his
hands. "What are you going to tell me?"
"Are we quite alone, my friend?"
"Yes, quite; but why all these precautions?"
"Because I have a terrible secret to communicate to you,"
said the doctor. "Let us sit down."
Villefort fell, rather than seated himself The doctor stood
before him, with one hand placed on his shoulder. Morrel,
horrified, supported his head with one hand, and with the
other pressed his heart, lest its beatings should be heard.
"Dead, dead!" repeated he within himself; and he felt as if
he were also dying.
"Speak, doctor -- I am listening," said Villefort; "strike
-- I am prepared for everything!"
"Madame de Saint-Meran was, doubtless, advancing in years,
but she enjoyed excellent health." Morrel began again to
breathe freely, which he had not done during the last ten
"Grief has consumed her," said Villefort -- "yes, grief,
doctor! After living forty years with the marquis" --
"It is not grief, my dear Villefort," said the doctor;
"grief may kill, although it rarely does, and never in a
day, never in an hour, never in ten minutes." Villefort
answered nothing, he simply raised his head, which had been
cast down before, and looked at the doctor with amazement.
"Were you present during the last struggle?" asked M.
"I was," replied the procureur; "you begged me not to
"Did you notice the symptoms of the disease to which Madame
de Saint-Meran has fallen a victim?"
"I did. Madame de Saint-Meran had three successive attacks,
at intervals of some minutes, each one more serious than the
former. When you arrived, Madame de Saint-Meran had already
been panting for breath some minutes; she then had a fit,
which I took to be simply a nervous attack, and it was only
when I saw her raise herself in the bed, and her limbs and
neck appear stiffened, that I became really alarmed. Then I
understood from your countenance there was more to fear than
I had thought. This crisis past, I endeavored to catch your
eye, but could not. You held her hand -- you were feeling
her pulse -- and the second fit came on before you had
turned towards me. This was more terrible than the first;
the same nervous movements were repeated, and the mouth
contracted and turned purple."
"And at the third she expired."
"At the end of the first attack I discovered symptoms of
tetanus; you confirmed my opinion."
"Yes, before others," replied the doctor; "but now we are
"What are you going to say? Oh, spare me!"
"That the symptoms of tetanus and poisoning by vegetable
substances are the same." M. de Villefort started from his
seat, then in a moment fell down again, silent and
motionless. Morrel knew not if he were dreaming or awake.
"Listen," said the doctor; "I know the full importance of the
statement I have just made, and the disposition of the man
to whom I have made it."
"Do you speak to me as a magistrate or as a friend?" asked
"As a friend, and only as a friend, at this moment. The
similarity in the symptoms of tetanus and poisoning by
vegetable substances is so great, that were I obliged to
affirm by oath what I have now stated, I should hesitate; I
therefore repeat to you, I speak not to a magistrate, but to
a friend. And to that friend I say. `During the
three-quarters of an hour that the struggle continued, I
watched the convulsions and the death of Madame de
Saint-Meran, and am thoroughly convinced that not only did
her death proceed from poison, but I could also specify the
"Can it be possible?"
"The symptoms are marked, do you see? -- sleep broken by
nervous spasms, excitation of the brain, torpor of the nerve
centres. Madame de Saint-Meran succumbed to a powerful dose
of brucine or of strychnine, which by some mistake, perhaps,
has been given to her." Villefort seized the doctor's hand.
"Oh, it is impossible," said he, "I must be dreaming! It is
frightful to hear such things from such a man as you! Tell
me, I entreat you, my dear doctor, that you may be
"Doubtless I may, but" --
"But I do not think so."
"Have pity on me doctor! So many dreadful things have
happened to me lately that I am on the verge of madness."
"Has any one besides me seen Madame de Saint-Meran?"
"Has anything been sent for from a chemist's that I have not
"Had Madame de Saint-Meran any enemies?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Would her death affect any one's interest?"
"It could not indeed, my daughter is her only heiress --
Valentine alone. Oh, if such a thought could present itself,
I would stab myself to punish my heart for having for one
instant harbored it."
"Indeed, my dear friend," said M. d'Avrigny, "I would not
accuse any one; I speak only of an accident, you understand,
-- of a mistake, -- but whether accident or mistake, the
fact is there; it is on my conscience and compels me to
speak aloud to you. Make inquiry."
"Of whom? -- how? -- of what?"
"May not Barrois, the old servant, have made a mistake, and
have given Madame de Saint-Meran a dose prepared for his
"For my father?"
"But how could a dose prepared for M. Noirtier poison Madame
"Nothing is more simple. You know poisons become remedies in
certain diseases, of which paralysis is one. For instance,
having tried every other remedy to restore movement and
speech to M. Noirtier, I resolved to try one last means, and
for three months I have been giving him brucine; so that in
the last dose I ordered for him there were six grains. This
quantity, which is perfectly safe to administer to the
paralyzed frame of M. Noirtier, which has become gradually
accustomed to it, would be sufficient to kill another
"My dear doctor, there is no communication between M.
Noirtier's apartment and that of Madame de Saint-Meran, and
Barrois never entered my mother-in-law's room. In short,
doctor although I know you to be the most conscientious man
in the world, and although I place the utmost reliance in
you, I want, notwithstanding my conviction, to believe this
axiom, errare humanum est."
"Is there one of my brethren in whom you have equal
confidence with myself?"
"Why do you ask me that? -- what do you wish?"
"Send for him; I will tell him what I have seen, and we will
consult together, and examine the body."
"And you will find traces of poison?"
"No, I did not say of poison, but we can prove what was the
state of the body; we shall discover the cause of her sudden
death, and we shall say, `Dear Villefort, if this thing has
been caused by negligence, watch over your servants; if from
hatred, watch your enemies.'"
"What do you propose to me, d'Avrigny?" said Villefort in
despair; "so soon as another is admitted into our secret, an
inquest will become necessary; and an inquest in my house --
impossible! Still," continued the procureur, looking at the
doctor with uneasiness, "if you wish it -- if you demand it,
why then it shall be done. But, doctor, you see me already
so grieved -- how can I introduce into my house so much
scandal, after so much sorrow? My wife and my daughter would
die of it! And I, doctor -- you know a man does not arrive
at the post I occupy -- one has not been king's attorney
twenty-five years without having amassed a tolerable number
of enemies; mine are numerous. Let this affair be talked of,
it will be a triumph for them, which will make them rejoice,
and cover me with shame. Pardon me, doctor, these worldly
ideas; were you a priest I should not dare tell you that,
but you are a man, and you know mankind. Doctor, pray recall
your words; you have said nothing, have you?"
"My dear M. de Villefort," replied the doctor, "my first
duty is to humanity. I would have saved Madame de
Saint-Meran, if science could have done it; but she is dead
and my duty regards the living. Let us bury this terrible
secret in the deepest recesses of our hearts; I am willing,
if any one should suspect this, that my silence on the
subject should be imputed to my ignorance. Meanwhile, sir,
watch always -- watch carefully, for perhaps the evil may
not stop here. And when you have found the culprit, if you
find him, I will say to you, `You are a magistrate, do as
"I thank you, doctor," said Villefort with indescribable
joy; "I never had a better friend than you." And, as if he
feared Doctor d'Avrigny would recall his promise, he hurried
him towards the house.
When they were gone, Morrel ventured out from under the
trees, and the moon shone upon his face, which was so pale
it might have been taken for that of a ghost. "I am
manifestly protected in a most wonderful, but most terrible
manner," said he; "but Valentine, poor girl, how will she
bear so much sorrow?"
As he thought thus, he looked alternately at the window with
red curtains and the three windows with white curtains. The
light had almost disappeared from the former; doubtless
Madame de Villefort had just put out her lamp, and the
nightlamp alone reflected its dull light on the window. At
the extremity of the building, on the contrary, he saw one
of the three windows open. A wax-light placed on the
mantle-piece threw some of its pale rays without, and a
shadow was seen for one moment on the balcony. Morrel
shuddered; he thought he heard a sob.
It cannot be wondered at that his mind, generally so
courageous, but now disturbed by the two strongest human
passions, love and fear, was weakened even to the indulgence
of superstitious thoughts. Although it was impossible that
Valentine should see him, hidden as he was, he thought he
heard the shadow at the window call him; his disturbed mind
told him so. This double error became an irresistible
reality, and by one of the incomprehensible transports of
youth, he bounded from his hiding-place, and with two
strides, at the risk of being seen, at the risk of alarming
Valentine, at the risk of being discovered by some
exclamation which might escape the young girl, he crossed
the flower-garden, which by the light of the moon resembled
a large white lake, and having passed the rows of
orange-trees which extended in front of the house, he
reached the step, ran quickly up and pushed the door, which
opened without offering any resistance. Valentine had not
seen him. Her eyes, raised towards heaven, were watching a
silvery cloud gliding over the azure, its form that of a
shadow mounting towards heaven. Her poetic and excited mind
pictured it as the soul of her grandmother.
Meanwhile, Morrel had traversed the anteroom and found the
staircase, which, being carpeted, prevented his approach
being heard, and he had regained that degree of confidence
that the presence of M. de Villefort even would not have
alarmed him. He was quite prepared for any such encounter.
He would at once approach Valentine's father and acknowledge
all, begging Villefort to pardon and sanction the love which
united two fond and loving hearts. Morrel was mad. Happily
he did not meet any one. Now, especially, did he find the
description Valentine had given of the interior of the house
useful to him; he arrived safely at the top of the
staircase, and while he was feeling his way, a sob indicated
the direction he was to take. He turned back, a door partly
open enabled him to see his road, and to hear the voice of
one in sorrow. He pushed the door open and entered. At the
other end of the room, under a white sheet which covered it,
lay the corpse, still more alarming to Morrel since the
account he had so unexpectedly overheard. By its side, on
her knees, and with her head buried in the cushion of an
easy-chair, was Valentine, trembling and sobbing, her hands
extended above her head, clasped and stiff. She had turned
from the window, which remained open, and was praying in
accents that would have affected the most unfeeling; her
words were rapid, incoherent, unintelligible, for the
burning weight of grief almost stopped her utterance. The
moon shining through the open blinds made the lamp appear to
burn paler, and cast a sepulchral hue over the whole scene.
Morrel could not resist this; he was not exemplary for
piety, he was not easily impressed, but Valentine suffering,
weeping, wringing her hands before him, was more than he
could bear in silence. He sighed, and whispered a name, and
the head bathed in tears and pressed on the velvet cushion
of the chair -- a head like that of a Magdalen by Correggio
-- was raised and turned towards him. Valentine perceived
him without betraying the least surprise. A heart
overwhelmed with one great grief is insensible to minor
emotions. Morrel held out his hand to her. Valentine, as her
only apology for not having met him, pointed to the corpse
under the sheet, and began to sob again. Neither dared for
some time to speak in that room. They hesitated to break the
silence which death seemed to impose; at length Valentine
"My friend," said she, "how came you here? Alas, I would say
you are welcome, had not death opened the way for you into
"Valentine," said Morrel with a trembling voice, "I had
waited since half-past eight, and did not see you come; I
became uneasy, leaped the wall, found my way through the
garden, when voices conversing about the fatal event" --
"What voices ?" asked Valentine. Morrel shuddered as he
thought of the conversation of the doctor and M. de
Villefort, and he thought he could see through the sheet the
extended hands, the stiff neck, and the purple lips.
"Your servants," said he, "who were repeating the whole of
the sorrowful story; from them I learned it all."
"But it was risking the failure of our plan to come up here,
"Forgive me," replied Morrel; "I will go away."
"No," said Valentine, "you might meet some one; stay."
"But if any one should come here" --
The young girl shook her head. "No one will come," said she;
"do not fear, there is our safeguard," pointing to the bed.
"But what has become of M. d'Epinay?" replied Morrel.
"M. Franz arrived to sign the contract just as my dear
grandmother was dying."
"Alas," said Morrel with a feeling of selfish joy; for he
thought this death would cause the wedding to be postponed
indefinitely. "But what redoubles my sorrow," continued the
young girl, as if this feeling was to receive its immediate
punishment, "is that the poor old lady, on her death-bed,
requested that the marriage might take place as soon as
possible; she also, thinking to protect me, was acting
"Hark!" said Morrel. They both listened; steps were
distinctly heard in the corridor and on the stairs.
"It is my father, who has just left his study."
"To accompany the doctor to the door," added Morrel.
"How do you know it is the doctor?" asked Valentine,
"I imagined it must be," said Morrel. Valentine looked at
the young man; they heard the street door close, then M. de
Villefort locked the garden door, and returned up-stairs. He
stopped a moment in the anteroom, as if hesitating whether
to turn to his own apartment or into Madame de
Saint-Meran's; Morrel concealed himself behind a door;
Valentine remained motionless, grief seeming to deprive her
of all fear. M. de Villefort passed on to his own room.
"Now," said Valentine, "you can neither go out by the front
door nor by the garden." Morrel looked at her with
astonishment. "There is but one way left you that is safe,"
said she; "it is through my grandfather's room." She rose,
"Come," she added. -- "Where?" asked Maximilian.
"To my grandfather's room."
"I in M. Noirtier's apartment?"
"Can you mean it, Valentine?"
"I have long wished it; he is my only remaining friend and
we both need his help, -- come."
"Be careful, Valentine," said Morrel, hesitating to comply
with the young girl's wishes; "I now see my error -- I acted
like a madman in coming in here. Are you sure you are more
"Yes," said Valentine; "and I have but one scruple, -- that
of leaving my dear grandmother's remains, which I had
undertaken to watch."
"Valentine," said Morrel, "death is in itself sacred."
"Yes," said Valentine; "besides, it will not be for long."
She then crossed the corridor, and led the way down a narrow
staircase to M. Noirtier's room; Morrel followed her on
tiptoe; at the door they found the old servant. "Barrois,"
said Valentine, "shut the door, and let no one come in." She
passed first. Noirtier, seated in his chair, and listening
to every sound, was watching the door; he saw Valentine, and
his eye brightened. There was something grave and solemn in
the approach of the young girl which struck the old man, and
immediately his bright eye began to interrogate. "Dear
grandfather." said she hurriedly, "you know poor grandmamma
died an hour since, and now I have no friend in the world
but you." His expressive eyes evinced the greatest
tenderness. "To you alone, then, may I confide my sorrows
and my hopes?" The paralytic motioned "Yes." Valentine took
Maximilian's hand. "Look attentively, then, at this
gentleman." The old man fixed his scrutinizing gaze with
slight astonishment on Morrel. "It is M. Maximilian Morrel,"
said she; "the son of that good merchant of Marseilles, whom
you doubtless recollect."
"Yes," said the old man. "He brings an irreproachable name,
which Maximilian is likely to render glorious, since at
thirty years of age he is a captain, an officer of the
Legion of Honor." The old man signified that he recollected
him. "Well, grandpapa," said Valentine, kneeling before him,
and pointing to Maximilian, "I love him, and will be only
his; were I compelled to marry another, I would destroy
The eyes of the paralytic expressed a multitude of
tumultuous thoughts. "You like M. Maximilian Morrel, do you
not, grandpapa?" asked Valentine.
"And you will protect us, who are your children, against the
will of my father?" -- Noirtier cast an intelligent glance
at Morrel, as if to say, "perhaps I may." Maximilian
"Mademoiselle," said he, "you have a sacred duty to fulfil
in your deceased grandmother's room, will you allow me the
honor of a few minutes' conversation with M. Noirtier?"
"That is it," said the old man's eye. Then he looked
anxiously at Valentine.
"Do you fear he will not understand?"
"Oh, we have so often spoken of you, that he knows exactly
how I talk to you." Then turning to Maximilian, with an
adorable smile; although shaded by sorrow, -- "He knows
everything I know," said she.
Valentine arose, placed a chair for Morrel, requested
Barrois not to admit any one, and having tenderly embraced
her grandfather, and sorrowfully taken leave of Morrel, she
went away. To prove to Noirtier that he was in Valentine's
confidence and knew all their secrets, Morrel took the
dictionary, a pen, and some paper, and placed them all on a
table where there was a light.
"But first," said Morrel, "allow me, sir, to tell you who I
am, how much I love Mademoiselle Valentine, and what are my
designs respecting her." Noirtier made a sign that he would
It was an imposing sight to witness this old man, apparently
a mere useless burden, becoming the sole protector, support,
and adviser of the lovers who were both young, beautiful,
and strong. His remarkably noble and austere expression
struck Morrel, who began his story with trembling. He
related the manner in which he had become acquainted with
Valentine, and how he had loved her, and that Valentine, in
her solitude and her misfortune, had accepted the offer of
his devotion. He told him his birth, his position, his
fortune, and more than once, when he consulted the look of
the paralytic, that look answered, "That is good, proceed."
"And now," said Morrel, when he had finished the first part
of his recital, "now I have told you of my love and my
hopes, may I inform you of my intentions?"
"Yes," signified the old man.
"This was our resolution; a cabriolet was in waiting at the
gate, in which I intended to carry off Valentine to my
sister's house, to marry her, and to wait respectfully M. de
"No," said Noirtier.
"We must not do so?"
"You do not sanction our project?"
"There is another way," said Morrel. The old man's
interrogative eye said, "What?"
"I will go," continued Maximilian, "I will seek M. Franz
d'Epinay -- I am happy to be able to mention this in
Mademoiselle de Villefort's absence -- and will conduct
myself toward him so as to compel him to challenge me."
Noirtier's look continued to interrogate. "You wish to know
what I will do?"
"I will find him, as I told you. I will tell him the ties
which bind me to Mademoiselle Valentine; if he be a sensible
man, he will prove it by renouncing of his own accord the
hand of his betrothed, and will secure my friendship, and
love until death; if he refuse, either through interest or
ridiculous pride, after I have proved to him that he would
be forcing my wife from me, that Valentine loves me, and
will have no other, I will fight with him, give him every
advantage, and I shall kill him, or he will kill me; if I am
victorious, he will not marry Valentine, and if I die, I am
very sure Valentine will not marry him." Noirtier watched,
with indescribable pleasure, this noble and sincere
countenance, on which every sentiment his tongue uttered was
depicted, adding by the expression of his fine features all
that coloring adds to a sound and faithful drawing. Still,
when Morrel had finished, he shut his eyes several times,
which was his manner of saying "No."
"No?" said Morrel; "you disapprove of this second project,
as you did of the first?"
"I do," signified the old man.
"But what then must be done?" asked Morrel. "Madame de
Saint-Meran's last request was, that the marriage might not
be delayed; must I let things take their course?" Noirtier
did not move. "I understand," said Morrel; "I am to wait."
"But delay may ruin our plan, sir," replied the young man.
"Alone, Valentine has no power; she will be compelled to
submit. I am here almost miraculously, and can scarcely hope
for so good an opportunity to occur again. Believe me, there
are only the two plans I have proposed to you; forgive my
vanity, and tell me which you prefer. Do you authorize
Mademoiselle Valentine to intrust herself to my honor?"
"Do you prefer I should seek M. d'Epinay?"
"Whence then will come the help we need -- from chance?"
"You thoroughly understand me, sir? Pardon my eagerness, for
my life depends on your answer. Will our help come from
"You are sure of it?"
"Yes." There was so much firmness in the look which gave
this answer, no one could, at any rate, doubt his will, if
they did his power. "Oh, thank you a thousand times! But
how, unless a miracle should restore your speech, your
gesture, your movement, how can you, chained to that
arm-chair, dumb and motionless, oppose this marriage?" A
smile lit up the old man's face, a strange smile of the eyes
in a paralyzed face. "Then I must wait?" asked the young
"But the contract?" The same smile returned. "Will you
assure me it shall not be signed?"
"Yes," said Noirtier.
"The contract shall not be signed!" cried Morrel. "Oh,
pardon me, sir; I can scarcely realize so great a happiness.
Will they not sign it?"
"No," said the paralytic. Notwithstanding that assurance,
Morrel still hesitated. This promise of an impotent old man
was so strange that, instead of being the result of the
power of his will, it might emanate from enfeebled organs.
Is it not natural that the madman, ignorant of his folly,
should attempt things beyond his power? The weak man talks
of burdens he can raise, the timid of giants he can
confront, the poor of treasures he spends, the most humble
peasant, in the height of his pride, calls himself Jupiter.
Whether Noirtier understood the young man's indecision, or
whether he had not full confidence in his docility, he
looked uneasily at him. "What do you wish, sir?" asked
Morrel; "that I should renew my promise of remaining
tranquil?" Noirtier's eye remained fixed and firm, as if to
imply that a promise did not suffice; then it passed from
his face to his hands.
"Shall I swear to you, sir?" asked Maximilian.
"Yes?" said the paralytic with the same solemnity. Morrel
understood that the old man attached great importance to an
oath. He extended his hand.
"I swear to you, on my honor," said he, "to await your
decision respecting the course I am to pursue with M.
"That is right," said the old man.
"Now," said Morrel, "do you wish me to retire?"
"Without seeing Mademoiselle Valentine?"
Morrel made a sign that he was ready to obey. "But," said
he, "first allow me to embrace you as your daughter did just
now." Noirtier's expression could not be understood. The
young man pressed his lips on the same spot, on the old
man's forehead, where Valentine's had been. Then he bowed a
second time and retired. He found outside the door the old
servant, to whom Valentine had given directions. Morrel was
conducted along a dark passage, which led to a little door
opening on the garden, soon found the spot where he had
entered, with the assistance of the shrubs gained the top of
the wall, and by his ladder was in an instant in the
clover-field where his cabriolet was still waiting for him.
He got in it, and thoroughly wearied by so many emotions,
arrived about midnight in the Rue Meslay, threw himself on
his bed and slept soundly.