The night-light continued to burn on the chimney-piece, exhausting the las_rops of oil which floated on the surface of the water. The globe of the lam_ppeared of a reddish hue, and the flame, brightening before it expired, thre_ut the last flickerings which in an inanimate object have been so ofte_ompared with the convulsions of a human creature in its final agonies. A dul_nd dismal light was shed over the bedclothes and curtains surrounding th_oung girl. All noise in the streets had ceased, and the silence wa_rightful. It was then that the door of Edward's room opened, and a head w_ave before noticed appeared in the glass opposite; it was Madame d_illefort, who came to witness the effects of the drink she had prepared. Sh_topped in the doorway, listened for a moment to the flickering of the lamp,
the only sound in that deserted room, and then advanced to the table to see i_alentine's glass were empty. It was still about a quarter full, as we befor_tated. Madame de Villefort emptied the contents into the ashes, which sh_isturbed that they might the more readily absorb the liquid; then sh_arefully rinsed the glass, and wiping it with her handkerchief replaced it o_he table.
If any one could have looked into the room just then he would have noticed th_esitation with which Madame de Villefort approached the bed and looke_ixedly on Valentine. The dim light, the profound silence, and the gloom_houghts inspired by the hour, and still more by her own conscience, al_ombined to produce a sensation of fear; the poisoner was terrified at th_ontemplation of her own work. At length she rallied, drew aside the curtain,
and leaning over the pillow gazed intently on Valentine. The young girl n_onger breathed, no breath issued through the half-closed teeth; the whit_ips no longer quivered — the eyes were suffused with a bluish vapor, and th_ong black lashes rested on a cheek white as wax. Madame de Villefort gaze_pon the face so expressive even in its stillness; then she ventured to rais_he coverlet and press her hand upon the young girl's heart. It was cold an_otionless. She only felt the pulsation in her own fingers, and withdrew he_and with a shudder. One arm was hanging out of the bed; from shoulder t_lbow it was moulded after the arms of Germain Pillon's "Graces,"* but th_ore-arm seemed to be slightly distorted by convulsion, and the hand, s_elicately formed, was resting with stiff outstretched fingers on th_ramework of the bed. The nails, too, were turning blue.
(* Germain Pillon was a famous French sculptor (1535-1598). His best know_ork is "The Three Graces," now in the Louvre.)
Madame de Villefort had no longer any doubt; all was over — she ha_onsummated the last terrible work she had to accomplish. There was no more t_o in the room, so the poisoner retired stealthily, as though fearing to hea_he sound of her own footsteps; but as she withdrew she still held aside th_urtain, absorbed in the irresistible attraction always exerted by the pictur_f death, so long as it is merely mysterious and does not excite disgust. Jus_hen the lamp again flickered; the noise startled Madame de Villefort, wh_huddered and dropped the curtain. Immediately afterwards the light expired,
and the room was plunged in frightful obscurity, while the clock at tha_inute struck half-past four. Overpowered with agitation, the poisone_ucceeded in groping her way to the door, and reached her room in an agony o_ear.
The darkness lasted two hours longer; then by degrees a cold light crep_hrough the Venetian blinds, until at length it revealed the objects in th_oom. About this time the nurse's cough was heard on the stairs and the woma_ntered the room with a cup in her hand. To the tender eye of a father or _over, the first glance would have sufficed to reveal Valentine's condition;
but to this hireling, Valentine only appeared to sleep. "Good," she exclaimed,
approaching the table, "she has taken part of her draught; the glass is three-
Then she went to the fireplace and lit the fire, and although she had jus_eft her bed, she could not resist the temptation offered by Valentine'_leep, so she threw herself into an arm-chair to snatch a little more rest.
The clock striking eight awoke her. Astonished at the prolonged slumber of th_atient, and frightened to see that the arm was still hanging out of the bed,
she advanced towards Valentine, and for the first time noticed the white lips.
She tried to replace the arm, but it moved with a frightful rigidity whic_ould not deceive a sick-nurse. She screamed aloud; then running to the doo_xclaimed, — "Help, help!"
"What is the matter?" asked M. d'Avrigny, at the foot of the stairs, it bein_he hour he usually visited her.
"What is it?" asked Villefort, rushing from his room. "Doctor, do you hea_hem call for help?"
"Yes, yes; let us hasten up; it was in Valentine's room." But before th_octor and the father could reach the room, the servants who were on the sam_loor had entered, and seeing Valentine pale and motionless on her bed, the_ifted up their hands towards heaven and stood transfixed, as though struck b_ightening. "Call Madame de Villefort! — wake Madame de Villefort!" cried th_rocureur from the door of his chamber, which apparently he scarcely dared t_eave. But instead of obeying him, the servants stood watching M. d'Avrigny,
who ran to Valentine, and raised her in his arms. "What? — this one, too?" h_xclaimed. "Oh, where will be the end?" Villefort rushed into the room. "Wha_re you saying, doctor?" he exclaimed, raising his hands to heaven.
"I say that Valentine is dead!" replied d'Avrigny, in a voice terrible in it_olemn calm.
M. de Villefort staggered and buried his head in the bed. On the exclamatio_f the doctor and the cry of the father, the servants all fled with muttere_mprecations; they were heard running down the stairs and through the lon_assages, then there was a rush in the court, afterwards all was still; the_ad, one and all, deserted the accursed house. Just then, Madame de Villefort,
in the act of slipping on her dressing-gown, threw aside the drapery and for _oment stood motionless, as though interrogating the occupants of the room,
while she endeavored to call up some rebellious tears. On a sudden sh_tepped, or rather bounded, with outstretched arms, towards the table. She sa_'Avrigny curiously examining the glass, which she felt certain of havin_mptied during the night. It was now a third full, just as it was when sh_hrew the contents into the ashes. The spectre of Valentine rising before th_oisoner would have alarmed her less. It was, indeed, the same color as th_raught she had poured into the glass, and which Valentine had drank; it wa_ndeed the poison, which could not deceive M. d'Avrigny, which he now examine_o closely; it was doubtless a miracle from heaven, that, notwithstanding he_recautions, there should be some trace, some proof remaining to reveal th_rime. While Madame de Villefort remained rooted to the spot like a statue o_error, and Villefort, with his head hidden in the bedclothes, saw nothin_round him, d'Avrigny approached the window, that he might the better examin_he contents of the glass, and dipping the tip of his finger in, tasted it.
"Ah," he exclaimed, "it is no longer brucine that is used; let me see what i_s!"
Then he ran to one of the cupboards in Valentine's room, which had bee_ransformed into a medicine closet, and taking from its silver case a smal_ottle of nitric acid, dropped a little of it into the liquor, whic_mmediately changed to a blood-red color. "Ah," exclaimed d'Avrigny, in _oice in which the horror of a judge unveiling the truth was mingled with th_elight of a student making a discovery. Madame de Villefort was overpowered,
her eyes first flashed and then swam, she staggered towards the door an_isappeared. Directly afterwards the distant sound of a heavy weight fallin_n the ground was heard, but no one paid any attention to it; the nurse wa_ngaged in watching the chemical analysis, and Villefort was still absorbed i_rief. M. d'Avrigny alone had followed Madame de Villefort with his eyes, an_atched her hurried retreat. He lifted up the drapery over the entrance t_dward's room, and his eye reaching as far as Madame de Villefort's apartment,
he beheld her extended lifeless on the floor. "Go to the assistance of Madam_e Villefort," he said to the nurse. "Madame de Villefort is ill."
"But Mademoiselle de Villefort" — stammered the nurse.
"Mademoiselle de Villefort no longer requires help," said d'Avrigny, "sinc_he is dead."
"Dead, — dead!" groaned forth Villefort, in a paroxysm of grief, which was th_ore terrible from the novelty of the sensation in the iron heart of that man.
"Dead!" repeated a third voice. "Who said Valentine was dead?"
The two men turned round, and saw Morrel standing at the door, pale an_error-stricken. This is what had happened. At the usual time, Morrel ha_resented himself at the little door leading to Noirtier's room. Contrary t_ustom, the door was open, and having no occasion to ring he entered. H_aited for a moment in the hall and called for a servant to conduct him to M.
Noirtier; but no one answered, the servants having, as we know, deserted th_ouse. Morrel had no particular reason for uneasiness; Monte Cristo ha_romised him that Valentine should live, and so far he had always fulfille_is word. Every night the count had given him news, which was the next mornin_onfirmed by Noirtier. Still this extraordinary silence appeared strange t_im, and he called a second and third time; still no answer. Then h_etermined to go up. Noirtier's room was opened, like all the rest. The firs_hing he saw was the old man sitting in his arm-chair in his usual place, bu_is eyes expressed alarm, which was confirmed by the pallor which oversprea_is features.
"How are you, sir?" asked Morrel, with a sickness of heart.
"Well," answered the old man, by closing his eyes; but his appearanc_anifested increasing uneasiness.
"You are thoughtful, sir," continued Morrel; "you want something; shall I cal_ne of the servants?"
"Yes," replied Noirtier.
Morrel pulled the bell, but though he nearly broke the cord no one answered.
He turned towards Noirtier; the pallor and anguish expressed on hi_ountenance momentarily increased.
"Oh," exclaimed Morrel, "why do they not come? Is any one ill in the house?"
The eyes of Noirtier seemed as though they would start from their sockets.
"What is the matter? You alarm me. Valentine? Valentine?"
"Yes, yes," signed Noirtier. Maximilian tried to speak, but he coul_rticulate nothing; he staggered, and supported himself against the wainscot.
Then he pointed to the door.
"Yes, yes, yes!" continued the old man. Maximilian rushed up the littl_taircase, while Noirtier's eyes seemed to say, — "Quicker, quicker!"
In a minute the young man darted through several rooms, till at length h_eached Valentine's. There was no occasion to push the door, it was wide open.
A sob was the only sound he heard. He saw as though in a mist, a black figur_neeling and buried in a confused mass of white drapery. A terrible fea_ransfixed him. It was then he heard a voice exclaim "Valentine is dead!" an_nother voice which, like an echo repeated, — "Dead, — dead!"