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Chapter 102 Valentine.

  • 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-
  • quarters empty."
  • 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!"