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Chapter 103 Maximilian.

  • Villefort rose, half ashamed of being surprised in such a paroxysm of grief.
  • The terrible office he had held for twenty-five years had succeeded in makin_im more or less than man. His glance, at first wandering, fixed itself upo_orrel. "Who are you, sir," he asked, "that forget that this is not the manne_o enter a house stricken with death? Go, sir, go!" But Morrel remaine_otionless; he could not detach his eyes from that disordered bed, and th_ale corpse of the young girl who was lying on it. "Go! — do you hear?" sai_illefort, while d'Avrigny advanced to lead Morrel out. Maximilian stared fo_ moment at the corpse, gazed all around the room, then upon the two men; h_pened his mouth to speak, but finding it impossible to give utterance to th_nnumerable ideas that occupied his brain, he went out, thrusting his hand_hrough his hair in such a manner that Villefort and d'Avrigny, for a momen_iverted from the engrossing topic, exchanged glances, which seemed to say, —
  • "He is mad!"
  • But in less than five minutes the staircase groaned beneath an extraordinar_eight. Morrel was seen carrying, with superhuman strength, the arm-chai_ontaining Noirtier up-stairs. When he reached the landing he placed the arm- chair on the floor and rapidly rolled it into Valentine's room. This coul_nly have been accomplished by means of unnatural strength supplied b_owerful excitement. But the most fearful spectacle was Noirtier being pushe_owards the bed, his face expressing all his meaning, and his eyes supplyin_he want of every other faculty. That pale face and flaming glance appeared t_illefort like a frightful apparition. Each time he had been brought int_ontact with his father, something terrible had happened. "See what they hav_one!" cried Morrel, with one hand leaning on the back of the chair, and th_ther extended towards Valentine. "See, my father, see!"
  • Villefort drew back and looked with astonishment on the young man, who, almos_ stranger to him, called Noirtier his father. At this moment the whole sou_f the old man seemed centred in his eyes which became bloodshot; the veins o_he throat swelled; his cheeks and temples became purple, as though he wa_truck with epilepsy; nothing was wanting to complete this but the utteranc_f a cry. And the cry issued from his pores, if we may thus speak — a cr_rightful in its silence. D'Avrigny rushed towards the old man and made hi_nhale a powerful restorative.
  • "Sir," cried Morrel, seizing the moist hand of the paralytic, "they ask me wh_ am, and what right I have to be here. Oh, you know it, tell them, tel_hem!" And the young man's voice was choked by sobs. As for the old man, hi_hest heaved with his panting respiration. One could have thought that he wa_ndergoing the agonies preceding death. At length, happier than the young man, who sobbed without weeping, tears glistened in the eyes of Noirtier. "Tel_hem," said Morrel in a hoarse voice, "tell them that I am her betrothed. Tel_hem she was my beloved, my noble girl, my only blessing in the world. Tel_hem — oh, tell them, that corpse belongs to me!"
  • The young man overwhelmed by the weight of his anguish, fell heavily on hi_nees before the bed, which his fingers grasped with convulsive energy.
  • D'Avrigny, unable to bear the sight of this touching emotion, turned away; an_illefort, without seeking any further explanation, and attracted towards hi_y the irresistible magnetism which draws us towards those who have loved th_eople for whom we mourn, extended his hand towards the young man. But Morre_aw nothing; he had grasped the hand of Valentine, and unable to weep vente_is agony in groans as he bit the sheets. For some time nothing was heard i_hat chamber but sobs, exclamations, and prayers. At length Villefort, th_ost composed of all, spoke: "Sir," said he to Maximilian, "you say you love_alentine, that you were betrothed to her. I knew nothing of this engagement, of this love, yet I, her father, forgive you, for I see that your grief i_eal and deep; and besides my own sorrow is too great for anger to find _lace in my heart. But you see that the angel whom you hoped for has left thi_arth — she has nothing more to do with the adoration of men. Take a las_arewell, sir, of her sad remains; take the hand you expected to possess onc_ore within your own, and then separate yourself from her forever. Valentin_ow requires only the ministrations of the priest."
  • "You are mistaken, sir," exclaimed Morrel, raising himself on one knee, hi_eart pierced by a more acute pang than any he had yet felt — "you ar_istaken; Valentine, dying as she has, not only requires a priest, but a_venger. You, M. de Villefort, send for the priest; I will be the avenger."
  • "What do you mean, sir?" asked Villefort, trembling at the new idea inspire_y the delirium of Morrel.
  • "I tell you, sir, that two persons exist in you; the father has mourne_ufficiently, now let the procureur fulfil his office."
  • The eyes of Noirtier glistened, and d'Avrigny approached.
  • "Gentlemen," said Morrel, reading all that passed through the minds of th_itnesses to the scene, "I know what I am saying, and you know as well as I d_hat I am about to say — Valentine has been assassinated!" Villefort hung hi_ead, d'Avrigny approached nearer, and Noirtier said "Yes" with his eyes.
  • "Now, sir," continued Morrel, "in these days no one can disappear by violen_eans without some inquiries being made as to the cause of her disappearance, even were she not a young, beautiful, and adorable creature like Valentine.
  • Mr. Procureur," said Morrel with increasing vehemence, "no mercy is allowed; _enounce the crime; it is your place to seek the assassin." The young man'_mplacable eyes interrogated Villefort, who, on his side, glanced fro_oirtier to d'Avrigny. But instead of finding sympathy in the eyes of th_octor and his father, he only saw an expression as inflexible as that o_aximilian. "Yes," indicated the old man.
  • "Assuredly," said d'Avrigny.
  • "Sir," said Villefort, striving to struggle against this triple force and hi_wn emotion, — "sir, you are deceived; no one commits crimes here. I a_tricken by fate. It is horrible, indeed, but no one assassinates."
  • The eyes of Noirtier lighted up with rage, and d'Avrigny prepared to speak.
  • Morrel, however, extended his arm, and commanded silence. "And I say tha_urders are committed here," said Morrel, whose voice, though lower in tone, lost none of its terrible distinctness: "I tell you that this is the fourt_ictim within the last four months. I tell you, Valentine's life was attempte_y poison four days ago, though she escaped, owing to the precautions of M.
  • Noirtier. I tell you that the dose has been double, the poison changed, an_hat this time it has succeeded. I tell you that you know these things as wel_s I do, since this gentleman has forewarned you, both as a doctor and as _riend."
  • "Oh, you rave, sir," exclaimed Villefort, in vain endeavoring to escape th_et in which he was taken.
  • "I rave?" said Morrel; "well, then, I appeal to M. d'Avrigny himself. Ask him, sir, if he recollects the words he uttered in the garden of this house on th_ight of Madame de Saint-Meran's death. You thought yourselves alone, an_alked about that tragical death, and the fatality you mentioned then is th_ame which has caused the murder of Valentine." Villefort and d'Avrign_xchanged looks. "Yes, yes," continued Morrel; "recall the scene, for th_ords you thought were only given to silence and solitude fell into my ears.
  • Certainly, after witnessing the culpable indolence manifested by M. d_illefort towards his own relations, I ought to have denounced him to th_uthorities; then I should not have been an accomplice to thy death, as I no_m, sweet, beloved Valentine; but the accomplice shall become the avenger.
  • This fourth murder is apparent to all, and if thy father abandon thee, Valentine, it is I, and I swear it, that shall pursue the assassin." And thi_ime, as though nature had at least taken compassion on the vigorous frame, nearly bursting with its own strength, the words of Morrel were stifled in hi_hroat; his breast heaved; the tears, so long rebellious, gushed from hi_yes; and he threw himself weeping on his knees by the side of the bed.
  • Then d'Avrigny spoke. "And I, too," he exclaimed in a low voice, "I unite wit_. Morrel in demanding justice for crime; my blood boils at the idea of havin_ncouraged a murderer by my cowardly concession."
  • "Oh, merciful heavens!" murmured Villefort. Morrel raised his head, an_eading the eyes of the old man, which gleamed with unnatural lustre, —
  • "Stay," he said, "M. Noirtier wishes to speak."
  • "Yes," indicated Noirtier, with an expression the more terrible, from all hi_aculties being centred in his glance.
  • "Do you know the assassin?" asked Morrel.
  • "Yes," replied Noirtier.
  • "And will you direct us?" exclaimed the young man. "Listen, M. d'Avrigny, listen!" Noirtier looked upon Morrel with one of those melancholy smiles whic_ad so often made Valentine happy, and thus fixed his attention. Then, havin_iveted the eyes of his interlocutor on his own, he glanced towards the door.
  • "Do you wish me to leave?" said Morrel, sadly.
  • "Yes," replied Noirtier.
  • "Alas, alas, sir, have pity on me!"
  • The old man's eyes remained fixed on the door.
  • "May I, at least, return?" asked Morrel.
  • "Yes."
  • "Must I leave alone?"
  • "No."
  • "Whom am I to take with me? The procureur?"
  • "No."
  • "The doctor?"
  • "Yes."
  • "You wish to remain alone with M. de Villefort?"
  • "Yes."
  • "But can he understand you?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Oh," said Villefort, inexpressibly delighted to think that the inquiries wer_o be made by him alone, — "oh, be satisfied, I can understand my father."
  • D'Avrigny took the young man's arm, and led him out of the room. A more tha_eathlike silence then reigned in the house. At the end of a quarter of a_our a faltering footstep was heard, and Villefort appeared at the door of th_partment where d'Avrigny and Morrel had been staying, one absorbed i_editation, the other in grief. "You can come," he said, and led them back t_oirtier. Morrel looked attentively on Villefort. His face was livid, larg_rops rolled down his face, and in his fingers he held the fragments of _uill pen which he had torn to atoms.
  • "Gentlemen," he said in a hoarse voice, "give me your word of honor that thi_orrible secret shall forever remain buried amongst ourselves!" The two me_rew back.
  • "I entreat you." — continued Villefort.
  • "But," said Morrel, "the culprit — the murderer — the assassin."
  • "Do not alarm yourself, sir; justice will be done," said Villefort. "My fathe_as revealed the culprit's name; my father thirsts for revenge as much as yo_o, yet even he conjures you as I do to keep this secret. Do you not, father?"
  • "Yes," resolutely replied Noirtier. Morrel suffered an exclamation of horro_nd surprise to escape him. "Oh, sir," said Villefort, arresting Maximilian b_he arm, "if my father, the inflexible man, makes this request, it is becaus_e knows, be assured, that Valentine will be terribly revenged. Is it not so, father?" The old man made a sign in the affirmative. Villefort continued: "H_nows me, and I have pledged my word to him. Rest assured, gentlemen, tha_ithin three days, in a less time than justice would demand, the revenge _hall have taken for the murder of my child will be such as to make th_oldest heart tremble;" and as he spoke these words he ground his teeth, an_rasped the old man's senseless hand.
  • "Will this promise be fulfilled, M. Noirtier?" asked Morrel, while d'Avrign_ooked inquiringly.
  • "Yes," replied Noirtier with an expression of sinister joy.
  • "Swear, then," said Villefort, joining the hands of Morrel and d'Avrigny,
  • "swear that you will spare the honor of my house, and leave me to avenge m_hild." D'Avrigny turned round and uttered a very feeble "Yes," but Morrel, disengaging his hand, rushed to the bed, and after having pressed the col_ips of Valentine with his own, hurriedly left, uttering a long, deep groan o_espair and anguish. We have before stated that all the servants had fled. M.
  • de Villefort was therefore obliged to request M. d'Avrigny to superintend al_he arrangements consequent upon a death in a large city, more especially _eath under such suspicious circumstances.
  • It was something terrible to witness the silent agony, the mute despair o_oirtier, whose tears silently rolled down his cheeks. Villefort retired t_is study, and d'Avrigny left to summon the doctor of the mayoralty, whos_ffice it is to examine bodies after decease, and who is expressly named "th_octor of the dead." M. Noirtier could not be persuaded to quit hi_randchild. At the end of a quarter of an hour M. d'Avrigny returned with hi_ssociate; they found the outer gate closed, and not a servant remaining i_he house; Villefort himself was obliged to open to them. But he stopped o_he landing; he had not the courage to again visit the death chamber. The tw_octors, therefore, entered the room alone. Noirtier was near the bed, pale, motionless, and silent as the corpse. The district doctor approached with th_ndifference of a man accustomed to spend half his time amongst the dead; h_hen lifted the sheet which was placed over the face, and just unclosed th_ips.
  • "Alas," said d'Avrigny, "she is indeed dead, poor child!"
  • "Yes," answered the doctor laconically, dropping the sheet he had raised.
  • Noirtier uttered a kind of hoarse, rattling sound; the old man's eye_parkled, and the good doctor understood that he wished to behold his child.
  • He therefore approached the bed, and while his companion was dipping th_ingers with which he had touched the lips of the corpse in chloride of lime, he uncovered the calm and pale face, which looked like that of a sleepin_ngel. A tear, which appeared in the old man's eye, expressed his thanks t_he doctor. The doctor of the dead then laid his permit on the corner of th_able, and having fulfilled his duty, was conducted out by d'Avrigny.
  • Villefort met them at the door of his study; having in a few words thanked th_istrict doctor, he turned to d'Avrigny, and said, — "And now the priest."
  • "Is there any particular priest you wish to pray with Valentine?" aske_'Avrigny.
  • "No." said Villefort; "fetch the nearest."
  • "The nearest," said the district doctor, "is a good Italian abbe, who live_ext door to you. Shall I call on him as I pass?"
  • "D'Avrigny," said Villefort, "be so kind, I beseech you, as to accompany thi_entleman. Here is the key of the door, so that you can go in and out as yo_lease; you will bring the priest with you, and will oblige me by introducin_im into my child's room."
  • "Do you wish to see him?"
  • "I only wish to be alone. You will excuse me, will you not? A priest ca_nderstand a father's grief." And M. de Villefort, giving the key t_'Avrigny, again bade farewell to the strange doctor, and retired to hi_tudy, where he began to work. For some temperaments work is a remedy for al_fflictions. As the doctors entered the street, they saw a man in a cassoc_tanding on the threshold of the next door. "This is the abbe of whom _poke," said the doctor to d'Avrigny. D'Avrigny accosted the priest. "Sir," h_aid, "are you disposed to confer a great obligation on an unhappy father wh_as just lost his daughter? I mean M. de Villefort, the king's attorney."
  • "Ah," said the priest, in a marked Italian accent; "yes, I have heard tha_eath is in that house."
  • "Then I need not tell you what kind of service he requires of you."
  • "I was about to offer myself, sir," said the priest; "it is our mission t_orestall our duties."
  • "It is a young girl."
  • "I know it, sir; the servants who fled from the house informed me. I also kno_hat her name is Valentine, and I have already prayed for her."
  • "Thank you, sir," said d'Avrigny; "since you have commenced your sacre_ffice, deign to continue it. Come and watch by the dead, and all the wretche_amily will be grateful to you."
  • "I am going, sir; and I do not hesitate to say that no prayers will be mor_ervent than mine." D'Avrigny took the priest's hand, and without meetin_illefort, who was engaged in his study, they reached Valentine's room, whic_n the following night was to be occupied by the undertakers. On entering th_oom, Noirtier's eyes met those of the abbe, and no doubt he read som_articular expression in them, for he remained in the room. D'Avrign_ecommended the attention of the priest to the living as well as to the dead, and the abbe promised to devote his prayers to Valentine and his attentions t_oirtier. In order, doubtless, that he might not be disturbed while fulfillin_is sacred mission, the priest rose as soon as d'Avrigny departed, and no_nly bolted the door through which the doctor had just left, but also tha_eading to Madame de Villefort's room.