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Chapter 110 The Indictment.

  • The judges took their places in the midst of the most profound silence; th_ury took their seats; M. de Villefort, the object of unusual attention, an_e had almost said of general admiration, sat in the arm-chair and cast _ranquil glance around him. Every one looked with astonishment on that grav_nd severe face, whose calm expression personal griefs had been unable t_isturb, and the aspect of a man who was a stranger to all human emotion_xcited something very like terror.
  • "Gendarmes," said the president, "lead in the accused."
  • At these words the public attention became more intense, and all eyes wer_urned towards the door through which Benedetto was to enter. The door soo_pened and the accused appeared. The same impression was experienced by al_resent, and no one was deceived by the expression of his countenance. Hi_eatures bore no sign of that deep emotion which stops the beating of th_eart and blanches the cheek. His hands, gracefully placed, one upon his hat, the other in the opening of his white waistcoat, were not at all tremulous; his eye was calm and even brilliant. Scarcely had he entered the hall when h_lanced at the whole body of magistrates and assistants; his eye rested longe_n the president, and still more so on the king's attorney. By the side o_ndrea was stationed the lawyer who was to conduct his defence, and who ha_een appointed by the court, for Andrea disdained to pay any attention t_hose details, to which he appeared to attach no importance. The lawyer was _oung man with light hair whose face expressed a hundred times more emotio_han that which characterized the prisoner.
  • The president called for the indictment, revised as we know, by the clever an_mplacable pen of Villefort. During the reading of this, which was long, th_ublic attention was continually drawn towards Andrea, who bore the inspectio_ith Spartan unconcern. Villefort had never been so concise and eloquent. Th_rime was depicted in the most vivid colors; the former life of the prisoner, his transformation, a review of his life from the earliest period, were se_orth with all the talent that a knowledge of human life could furnish to _ind like that of the procureur. Benedetto was thus forever condemned i_ublic opinion before the sentence of the law could be pronounced. Andrea pai_o attention to the successive charges which were brought against him. M. d_illefort, who examined him attentively, and who no doubt practiced upon hi_ll the psychological studies he was accustomed to use, in vain endeavored t_ake him lower his eyes, notwithstanding the depth and profundity of his gaze.
  • At length the reading of the indictment was ended.
  • "Accused," said the president, "your name and surname?" Andrea arose. "Excus_e, Mr. President," he said, in a clear voice, "but I see you are going t_dopt a course of questions through which I cannot follow you. I have an idea, which I will explain by and by, of making an exception to the usual form o_ccusation. Allow me, then, if you please, to answer in different order, or _ill not do so at all." The astonished president looked at the jury, who i_urn looked at Villefort. The whole assembly manifested great surprise, bu_ndrea appeared quite unmoved. "Your age?" said the president; "will yo_nswer that question?"
  • "I will answer that question, as well as the rest, Mr. President, but in it_urn."
  • "Your age?" repeated the president.
  • "I am twenty-one years old, or rather I shall be in a few days, as I was bor_he night of the 27th of September, 1817." M. de Villefort, who was bus_aking down some notes, raised his head at the mention of this date. "Wher_ere you born?" continued the president.
  • "At Auteuil, near Paris." M. de Villefort a second time raised his head, looked at Benedetto as if he had been gazing at the head of Medusa, and becam_ivid. As for Benedetto, he gracefully wiped his lips with a fine cambri_ocket-handkerchief. "Your profession?"
  • "First I was a forger," answered Andrea, as calmly as possible; "then I becam_ thief, and lately have become an assassin." A murmur, or rather storm, o_ndignation burst from all parts of the assembly. The judges themselve_ppeared to be stupefied, and the jury manifested tokens of disgust fo_ynicism so unexpected in a man of fashion. M. de Villefort pressed his han_pon his brow, which, at first pale, had become red and burning; then h_uddenly arose and looked around as though he had lost his senses — he wante_ir.
  • "Are you looking for anything, Mr. Procureur?" asked Benedetto, with his mos_ngratiating smile. M. de Villefort answered nothing, but sat, or rather thre_imself down again upon his chair. "And now, prisoner, will you consent t_ell your name?" said the president. "The brutal affectation with which yo_ave enumerated and classified your crimes calls for a severe reprimand on th_art of the court, both in the name of morality, and for the respect due t_umanity. You appear to consider this a point of honor, and it may be for thi_eason, that you have delayed acknowledging your name. You wished it to b_receded by all these titles."
  • "It is quite wonderful, Mr. President, how entirely you have read m_houghts," said Benedetto, in his softest voice and most polite manner. "Thi_s, indeed, the reason why I begged you to alter the order of the questions."
  • The public astonishment had reached its height. There was no longer any decei_r bravado in the manner of the accused. The audience felt that a startlin_evelation was to follow this ominous prelude.
  • "Well," said the president; "your name?"
  • "I cannot tell you my name, since I do not know it; but I know my father's, and can tell it to you."
  • A painful giddiness overwhelmed Villefort; great drops of acrid sweat fel_rom his face upon the papers which he held in his convulsed hand.
  • "Repeat your father's name," said the president. Not a whisper, not a breath, was heard in that vast assembly; every one waited anxiously.
  • "My father is king's attorney," replied Andrea calmly.
  • "King's attorney?" said the president, stupefied, and without noticing th_gitation which spread over the face of M. de Villefort; "king's attorney?"
  • "Yes; and if you wish to know his name, I will tell it, — he is name_illefort." The explosion, which had been so long restrained from a feeling o_espect to the court of justice, now burst forth like thunder from the breast_f all present; the court itself did not seek to restrain the feelings of th_udience. The exclamations, the insults addressed to Benedetto, who remaine_erfectly unconcerned, the energetic gestures, the movement of the gendarmes, the sneers of the scum of the crowd always sure to rise to the surface in cas_f any disturbance — all this lasted five minutes, before the door-keepers an_agistrates were able to restore silence. In the midst of this tumult th_oice of the president was heard to exclaim, — "Are you playing with justice, accused, and do you dare set your fellow-citizens an example of disorder whic_ven in these times has never been equalled?"
  • Several persons hurried up to M. de Villefort, who sat half bowed over in hi_hair, offering him consolation, encouragement, and protestations of zeal an_ympathy. Order was re-established in the hall, except that a few people stil_oved about and whispered to one another. A lady, it was said, had jus_ainted; they had supplied her with a smelling-bottle, and she had recovered.
  • During the scene of tumult, Andrea had turned his smiling face towards th_ssembly; then, leaning with one hand on the oaken rail of the dock, in th_ost graceful attitude possible, he said: "Gentlemen, I assure you I had n_dea of insulting the court, or of making a useless disturbance in th_resence of this honorable assembly. They ask my age; I tell it. They as_here I was born; I answer. They ask my name, I cannot give it, since m_arents abandoned me. But though I cannot give my own name, not possessin_ne, I can tell them my father's. Now I repeat, my father is named M. d_illefort, and I am ready to prove it."
  • There was an energy, a conviction, and a sincerity in the manner of the youn_an, which silenced the tumult. All eyes were turned for a moment towards th_rocureur, who sat as motionless as though a thunderbolt had changed him int_ corpse. "Gentlemen," said Andrea, commanding silence by his voice an_anner; "I owe you the proofs and explanations of what I have said."
  • "But," said the irritated president, "you called yourself Benedetto, declare_ourself an orphan, and claimed Corsica as your country."
  • "I said anything I pleased, in order that the solemn declaration I have jus_ade should not be withheld, which otherwise would certainly have been th_ase. I now repeat that I was born at Auteuil on the night of the 27th o_eptember, 1817, and that I am the son of the procureur, M. de Villefort. D_ou wish for any further details? I will give them. I was born in No. 28, Ru_e la Fontaine, in a room hung with red damask; my father took me in his arms, telling my mother I was dead, wrapped me in a napkin marked with an H and a_, and carried me into a garden, where he buried me alive."
  • A shudder ran through the assembly when they saw that the confidence of th_risoner increased in proportion to the terror of M. de Villefort. "But ho_ave you become acquainted with all these details?" asked the president.
  • "I will tell you, Mr. President. A man who had sworn vengeance against m_ather, and had long watched his opportunity to kill him, had introduce_imself that night into the garden in which my father buried me. He wa_oncealed in a thicket; he saw my father bury something in the ground, an_tabbed him; then thinking the deposit might contain some treasure he turne_p the ground, and found me still living. The man carried me to the foundlin_sylum, where I was registered under the number 37. Three months afterwards, _oman travelled from Rogliano to Paris to fetch me, and having claimed me a_er son, carried me away. Thus, you see, though born in Paris, I was brough_p in Corsica."
  • There was a moment's silence, during which one could have fancied the hal_mpty, so profound was the stillness. "Proceed," said the president.
  • "Certainly, I might have lived happily amongst those good people, who adore_e, but my perverse disposition prevailed over the virtues which my adopte_other endeavored to instil into my heart. I increased in wickedness till _ommitted crime. One day when I cursed providence for making me so wicked, an_rdaining me to such a fate, my adopted father said to me, `Do not blaspheme, unhappy child, the crime is that of your father, not yours, — of your father, who consigned you to hell if you died, and to misery if a miracle preserve_ou alive.' After that I ceased to blaspheme, but I cursed my father. That i_hy I have uttered the words for which you blame me; that is why I have fille_his whole assembly with horror. If I have committed an additional crime, punish me, but if you will allow that ever since the day of my birth my fat_as been sad, bitter, and lamentable, then pity me."
  • "But your mother?" asked the president.
  • "My mother thought me dead; she is not guilty. I did not even wish to know he_ame, nor do I know it." Just then a piercing cry, ending in a sob, burst fro_he centre of the crowd, who encircled the lady who had before fainted, an_ho now fell into a violent fit of hysterics. She was carried out of the hall, the thick veil which concealed her face dropped off, and Madame Danglars wa_ecognized. Notwithstanding his shattered nerves, the ringing sensation in hi_ars, and the madness which turned his brain, Villefort rose as he perceive_er. "The proofs, the proofs!" said the president; "remember this tissue o_orrors must be supported by the clearest proofs "
  • "The proofs?" said Benedetto, laughing; "do you want proofs?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Well, then, look at M. de Villefort, and then ask me for proofs."
  • Every one turned towards the procureur, who, unable to bear the universal gaz_ow riveted on him alone, advanced staggering into the midst of the tribunal, with his hair dishevelled and his face indented with the mark of his nails.
  • The whole assembly uttered a long murmur of astonishment. "Father," sai_enedetto, "I am asked for proofs, do you wish me to give them?"
  • "No, no, it is useless," stammered M. de Villefort in a hoarse voice; "no, i_s useless!"
  • "How useless?" cried the president, "what do you mean?"
  • "I mean that I feel it impossible to struggle against this deadly weight whic_rushes me. Gentlemen, I know I am in the hands of an avenging God! We need n_roofs; everything relating to this young man is true." A dull, gloom_ilence, like that which precedes some awful phenomenon of nature, pervade_he assembly, who shuddered in dismay. "What, M. de Villefort," cried th_resident, "do you yield to an hallucination? What, are you no longer i_ossession of your senses? This strange, unexpected, terrible accusation ha_isordered your reason. Come, recover."
  • The procureur dropped his head; his teeth chattered like those of a man unde_ violent attack of fever, and yet he was deadly pale.
  • "I am in possession of all my senses, sir," he said; "my body alone suffers, as you may suppose. I acknowledge myself guilty of all the young man ha_rought against me, and from this hour hold myself under the authority of th_rocureur who will succeed me."
  • And as he spoke these words with a hoarse, choking voice, he staggered toward_he door, which was mechanically opened by a door-keeper. The whole assembl_ere dumb with astonishment at the revelation and confession which ha_roduced a catastrophe so different from that which had been expected durin_he last fortnight by the Parisian world.
  • "Well," said Beauchamp, "let them now say that drama is unnatural!"
  • "Ma foi!" said Chateau-Renaud, "I would rather end my career like M. d_orcerf; a pistol-shot seems quite delightful compared with this catastrophe."
  • "And moreover, it kills," said Beauchamp.
  • "And to think that I had an idea of marrying his daughter," said Debray. "Sh_id well to die, poor girl!"
  • "The sitting is adjourned, gentlemen," said the president; "fresh inquirie_ill be made, and the case will be tried next session by another magistrate."
  • As for Andrea, who was calm and more interesting than ever, he left the hall, escorted by gendarmes, who involuntarily paid him some attention. "Well, wha_o you think of this, my fine fellow?" asked Debray of the sergeant-at-arms, slipping a louis into his hand. "There will be extenuating circumstances," h_eplied.