Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 101 Locusta.

  • Valentine was alone; two other clocks, slower than that of Saint-Philippe d_oule, struck the hour of midnight from different directions, and exceptin_he rumbling of a few carriages all was silent. Then Valentine's attention wa_ngrossed by the clock in her room, which marked the seconds. She bega_ounting them, remarking that they were much slower than the beatings of he_eart; and still she doubted, — the inoffensive Valentine could not imagin_hat any one should desire her death. Why should they? To what end? What ha_he done to excite the malice of an enemy? There was no fear of her fallin_sleep. One terrible idea pressed upon her mind, — that some one existed i_he world who had attempted to assassinate her, and who was about to endeavo_o do so again. Supposing this person, wearied at the inefficacy of th_oison, should, as Monte Cristo intimated, have recourse to steel! — What i_he count should have no time to run to her rescue! — What if her last moment_ere approaching, and she should never again see Morrel! When this terribl_hain of ideas presented itself, Valentine was nearly persuaded to ring th_ell, and call for help. But through the door she fancied she saw the luminou_ye of the count — that eye which lived in her memory, and the recollectio_verwhelmed her with so much shame that she asked herself whether any amoun_f gratitude could ever repay his adventurous and devoted friendship.
  • Twenty minutes, twenty tedious minutes, passed thus, then ten more, and a_ast the clock struck the half-flour. Just then the sound of finger-nail_lightly grating against the door of the library informed Valentine that th_ount was still watching, and recommended her to do the same; at the sam_ime, on the opposite side, that is towards Edward's room, Valentine fancie_hat she heard the creaking of the floor; she listened attentively, holdin_er breath till she was nearly suffocated; the lock turned, and the doo_lowly opened. Valentine had raised herself upon her elbow, and had scarcel_ime to throw herself down on the bed and shade her eyes with her arm; then, trembling, agitated, and her heart beating with indescribable terror, sh_waited the event.
  • Some one approached the bed and drew back the curtains. Valentine summone_very effort, and breathed with that regular respiration which announce_ranquil sleep. "Valentine!" said a low voice. Still silent: Valentine ha_romised not to awake. Then everything was still, excepting that Valentin_eard the almost noiseless sound of some liquid being poured into the glas_he had just emptied. Then she ventured to open her eyelids, and glance ove_er extended arm. She saw a woman in a white dressing-gown pouring a liquo_rom a phial into her glass. During this short time Valentine must have hel_er breath, or moved in some slight degree, for the woman, disturbed, stoppe_nd leaned over the bed, in order the better to ascertain whether Valentin_lept — it was Madame de Villefort.
  • On recognizing her step-mother, Valentine could not repress a shudder, whic_aused a vibration in the bed. Madame de Villefort instantly stepped bac_lose to the wall, and there, shaded by the bed-curtains, she silently an_ttentively watched the slightest movement of Valentine. The latte_ecollected the terrible caution of Monte Cristo; she fancied that the han_ot holding the phial clasped a long sharp knife. Then collecting all he_emaining strength, she forced herself to close her eyes; but this simpl_peration upon the most delicate organs of our frame, generally so easy t_ccomplish, became almost impossible at this moment, so much did curiosit_truggle to retain the eyelid open and learn the truth. Madame de Villefort, however, reassured by the silence, which was alone disturbed by the regula_reathing of Valentine, again extended her hand, and half hidden by th_urtains succeeded in emptying the contents of the phial into the glass. The_he retired so gently that Valentine did not know she had left the room. Sh_nly witnessed the withdrawal of the arm — the fair round arm of a woman bu_wenty-five years old, and who yet spread death around her.
  • It is impossible to describe the sensations experienced by Valentine durin_he minute and a half Madame de Villefort remained in the room. The gratin_gainst the library-door aroused the young girl from the stupor in which sh_as plunged, and which almost amounted to insensibility. She raised her hea_ith an effort. The noiseless door again turned on its hinges, and the Coun_f Monte Cristo reappeared. "Well," said he, "do you still doubt?"
  • "Oh," murmured the young girl.
  • "Have you seen?"
  • "Alas!"
  • "Did you recognize?" Valentine groaned. "Oh, yes;" she said, "I saw, but _annot believe!"
  • "Would you rather die, then, and cause Maximilian's death?"
  • "Oh," repeated the young girl, almost bewildered, "can I not leave the house?
  • — can I not escape?"
  • "Valentine, the hand which now threatens you will pursue you everywhere; you_ervants will be seduced with gold, and death will be offered to you disguise_n every shape. You will find it in the water you drink from the spring, i_he fruit you pluck from the tree."
  • "But did you not say that my kind grandfather's precaution had neutralized th_oison?"
  • "Yes, but not against a strong dose; the poison will be changed, and th_uantity increased." He took the glass and raised it to his lips. "It i_lready done," he said; "brucine is no longer employed, but a simple narcotic!
  • I can recognize the flavor of the alcohol in which it has been dissolved. I_ou had taken what Madame de Villefort has poured into your glass, Valentine — Valentine — you would have been doomed!"
  • "But," exclaimed the young girl, "why am I thus pursued?"
  • "Why? — are you so kind — so good — so unsuspicious of ill, that you canno_nderstand, Valentine?"
  • "No, I have never injured her."
  • "But you are rich, Valentine; you have 200,000 livres a year, and you preven_er son from enjoying these 200,000 livres."
  • "How so? The fortune is not her gift, but is inherited from my relations."
  • "Certainly; and that is why M. and Madame de Saint-Meran have died; that i_hy M. Noirtier was sentenced the day he made you his heir; that is why you, in your turn, are to die — it is because your father would inherit you_roperty, and your brother, his only son, succeed to his."
  • "Edward? Poor child! Are all these crimes committed on his account?"
  • "Ah, then you at length understand?"
  • "Heaven grant that this may not be visited upon him!"
  • "Valentine, you are an angel!"
  • "But why is my grandfather allowed to live?"
  • "It was considered, that you dead, the fortune would naturally revert to you_rother, unless he were disinherited; and besides, the crime appearin_seless, it would be folly to commit it."
  • "And is it possible that this frightful combination of crimes has bee_nvented by a woman?"
  • "Do you recollect in the arbor of the Hotel des Postes, at Perugia, seeing _an in a brown cloak, whom your stepmother was questioning upon aqua tofana?
  • Well, ever since then, the infernal project has been ripening in her brain."
  • "Ah, then, indeed, sir," said the sweet girl, bathed in tears, "I see that _m condemned to die!"
  • "No, Valentine, for I have foreseen all their plots; no, your enemy i_onquered since we know her, and you will live, Valentine — live to be happ_ourself, and to confer happiness upon a noble heart; but to insure this yo_ust rely on me."
  • "Command me, sir — what am I to do?"
  • "You must blindly take what I give you."
  • "Alas, were it only for my own sake, I should prefer to die!"
  • "You must not confide in any one — not even in your father."
  • "My father is not engaged in this fearful plot, is he, sir?" asked Valentine, clasping her hands.
  • "No; and yet your father, a man accustomed to judicial accusations, ought t_ave known that all these deaths have not happened naturally; it is he wh_hould have watched over you — he should have occupied my place — he shoul_ave emptied that glass — he should have risen against the assassin. Spectr_gainst spectre!" he murmured in a low voice, as he concluded his sentence.
  • "Sir," said Valentine, "I will do all I can to live. for there are two being_hose existence depends upon mine — my grandfather and Maximilian."
  • "I will watch over them as I have over you."
  • "Well, sir, do as you will with me;" and then she added, in a low voice, "oh, heavens, what will befall me?"
  • "Whatever may happen, Valentine, do not be alarmed; though you suffer; thoug_ou lose sight, hearing, consciousness, fear nothing; though you should awak_nd be ignorant where you are, still do not fear; even though you should fin_ourself in a sepulchral vault or coffin. Reassure yourself, then, and say t_ourself: `At this moment, a friend, a father, who lives for my happiness an_hat of Maximilian, watches over me!'"
  • "Alas, alas, what a fearful extremity!"
  • "Valentine, would you rather denounce your stepmother?"
  • "I would rather die a hundred times — oh, yes, die!"
  • "No, you will not die; but will you promise me, whatever happens, that yo_ill not complain, but hope?"
  • "I will think of Maximilian!"
  • "You are my own darling child, Valentine! I alone can save you, and I will."
  • Valentine in the extremity of her terror joined her hands, — for she felt tha_he moment had arrived to ask for courage, — and began to pray, and whil_ttering little more than incoherent words, she forgot that her whit_houlders had no other covering than her long hair, and that the pulsations o_er heart could he seen through the lace of her nightdress. Monte Crist_ently laid his hand on the young girl's arm, drew the velvet coverlet clos_o her throat, and said with a paternal smile, — "My child, believe in m_evotion to you as you believe in the goodness of providence and the love o_aximilian."
  • Then he drew from his waistcoat-pocket the little emerald box, raised th_olden lid, and took from it a pastille about the size of a pea, which h_laced in her hand. She took it, and looked attentively on the count; ther_as an expression on the face of her intrepid protector which commanded he_eneration. She evidently interrogated him by her look. "Yes," said he.
  • Valentine carried the pastille to her mouth, and swallowed it. "And now, m_ear child, adieu for the present. I will try and gain a little sleep, for yo_re saved."
  • "Go," said Valentine, "whatever happens, I promise you not to fear."
  • Monte Cristo for some time kept his eyes fixed on the young girl, wh_radually fell asleep, yielding to the effects of the narcotic the count ha_iven her. Then he took the glass, emptied three parts of the contents in th_ireplace, that it might be supposed Valentine had taken it, and replaced i_n the table; then he disappeared, after throwing a farewell glance o_alentine, who slept with the confidence and innocence of an angel.