Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 59 The Will.

  • As soon as Barrois had left the room, Noirtier looked at Valentine with _alicious expression that said many things. The young girl perfectl_nderstood the look, and so did Villefort, for his countenance became clouded, and he knitted his eyebrows angrily. He took a seat, and quietly awaited th_rrival of the notary. Noirtier saw him seat himself with an appearance o_erfect indifference, at the same time giving a side look at Valentine, whic_ade her understand that she also was to remain in the room. Three-quarters o_n hour after, Barrois returned, bringing the notary with him. "Sir," sai_illefort, after the first salutations were over, "you were sent for by M.
  • Noirtier, whom you see here. All his limbs have become completely paralysed, he has lost his voice also, and we ourselves find much trouble in endeavorin_o catch some fragments of his meaning." Noirtier cast an appealing look o_alentine, which look was at once so earnest and imperative, that she answere_mmediately. "Sir," said she, "I perfectly understand my grandfather's meanin_t all times."
  • "That is quite true," said Barrois; "and that is what I told the gentleman a_e walked along."
  • "Permit me," said the notary, turning first to Villefort and then to Valentine — "permit me to state that the case in question is just one of those in whic_ public officer like myself cannot proceed to act without thereby incurring _angerous responsibility. The first thing necessary to render an act valid is, that the notary should be thoroughly convinced that he has faithfull_nterpreted the will and wishes of the person dictating the act. Now I canno_e sure of the approbation or disapprobation of a client who cannot speak, an_s the object of his desire or his repugnance cannot be clearly proved to me, on account of his want of speech, my services here would be quite useless, an_annot be legally exercised." The notary then prepared to retire. A_mperceptible smile of triumph was expressed on the lips of the procureur.
  • Noirtier looked at Valentine with an expression so full of grief, that sh_rrested the departure of the notary. "Sir," said she, "the language which _peak with my grandfather may be easily learnt, and I can teach you in a fe_inutes, to understand it almost as well as I can myself. Will you tell m_hat you require, in order to set your conscience quite at ease on th_ubject?"
  • "In order to render an act valid, I must be certain of the approbation o_isapprobation of my client. Illness of body would not affect the validity o_he deed, but sanity of mind is absolutely requisite."
  • "Well, sir, by the help of two signs, with which I will acquaint yo_resently, you may ascertain with perfect certainty that my grandfather i_till in the full possession of all his mental faculties. M. Noirtier, bein_eprived of voice and motion, is accustomed to convey his meaning by closin_is eyes when he wishes to signify `yes,' and to wink when he means `no.' Yo_ow know quite enough to enable you to converse with M. Noirtier; — try."
  • Noirtier gave Valentine such a look of tenderness and gratitude that it wa_omprehended even by the notary himself. "You have heard and understood wha_our granddaughter has been saying, sir, have you?" asked the notary. Noirtie_losed his eyes. "And you approve of what she said — that is to say, yo_eclare that the signs which she mentioned are really those by means of whic_ou are accustomed to convey your thoughts?"
  • "Yes."
  • "It was you who sent for me?"
  • "Yes."
  • "To make your will?"
  • "Yes."
  • "And you do not wish me to go away without fulfilling your origina_ntentions?" The old man winked violently. "Well, sir," said the young girl,
  • "do you understand now, and is your conscience perfectly at rest on th_ubject?" But before the notary could answer, Villefort had drawn him aside.
  • "Sir," said he, "do you suppose for a moment that a man can sustain a physica_hock, such as M. Noirtier has received, without any detriment to his menta_aculties?"
  • "It is not exactly that, sir," said the notary, "which makes me uneasy, bu_he difficulty will be in wording his thoughts and intentions, so as to b_ble to get his answers."
  • "You must see that to be an utter impossibility," said Villefort. Valentin_nd the old man heard this conversation, and Noirtier fixed his eye s_arnestly on Valentine that she felt bound to answer to the look.
  • "Sir," said she, "that need not make you uneasy, however difficult it may a_irst sight appear to be. I can discover and explain to you my grandfather'_houghts, so as to put an end to all your doubts and fears on the subject. _ave now been six years with M. Noirtier, and let him tell you if ever once, during that time, he has entertained a thought which he was unable to make m_nderstand."
  • "No," signed the old man.
  • "Let us try what we can do, then," said the notary. "You accept this youn_ady as your interpreter, M. Noirtier?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Well, sir, what do you require of me, and what document is it that you wis_o be drawn up?" Valentine named all the letters of the alphabet until sh_ame to W. At this letter the eloquent eye of Noirtier gave her notice tha_he was to stop. "It is very evident that it is the letter W which M. Noirtie_ants," said the notary. "Wait," said Valentine; and, turning to he_randfather, she repeated, "Wa — We — Wi" — The old man stopped her at th_ast syllable. Valentine then took the dictionary, and the notary watched he_hile she turned over the pages. She passed her finger slowly down th_olumns, and when she came to the word "Will," M. Noirtier's eye bade he_top. "Will," said the notary; "it is very evident that M. Noirtier i_esirous of making his will."
  • "Yes, yes, yes," motioned the invalid.
  • "Really, sir, you must allow that this is most extraordinary," said th_stonished notary, turning to M. de Villefort. "Yes," said the procureur, "an_ think the will promises to be yet more extraordinary, for I cannot see ho_t is to be drawn up without the intervention of Valentine, and she may, perhaps, be considered as too much interested in its contents to allow of he_eing a suitable interpreter of the obscure and ill-defined wishes of he_randfather."
  • "No, no, no," replied the eye of the paralytic.
  • "What?" said Villefort, "do you mean to say that Valentine is not intereste_n your will?"
  • "No."
  • "Sir," said the notary, whose interest had been greatly excited, and who ha_esolved on publishing far and wide the account of this extraordinary an_icturesque scene, "what appeared so impossible to me an hour ago, has no_ecome quite easy and practicable, and this may be a perfectly valid will, provided it be read in the presence of seven witnesses, approved by th_estator, and sealed by the notary in the presence of the witnesses. As to th_ime, it will not require very much more than the generality of wills. Ther_re certain forms necessary to be gone through, and which are always the same.
  • As to the details, the greater part will be furnished afterwards by the stat_n which we find the affairs of the testator, and by yourself, who, having ha_he management of them, can doubtless give full information on the subject.
  • But besides all this, in order that the instrument may not be contested, I a_nxious to give it the greatest possible authenticity, therefore, one of m_olleagues will help me, and, contrary to custom, will assist in the dictatio_f the testament. Are you satisfied, sir?" continued the notary, addressin_he old man.
  • "Yes," looked the invalid, his eye beaming with delight at the read_nterpretation of his meaning.
  • "What is he going to do?" thought Villefort, whose position demanded muc_eserve, but who was longing to know what his father's intentions were. H_eft the room to give orders for another notary to be sent, but Barrois, wh_ad heard all that passed, had guessed his master's wishes, and had alread_one to fetch one. The procureur then told his wife to come up. In the cours_f a quarter of an hour every one had assembled in the chamber of th_aralytic; the second notary had also arrived. A few words sufficed for _utual understanding between the two officers of the law. They read t_oirtier the formal copy of a will, in order to give him an idea of the term_n which such documents are generally couched; then, in order to test th_apacity of the testator, the first notary said, turning towards him, — "Whe_n individual makes his will, it is generally in favor or in prejudice of som_erson."
  • "Yes."
  • "Have you an exact idea of the amount of your fortune?"
  • "Yes."
  • "I will name to you several sums which will increase by gradation; you wil_top me when I reach the one representing the amount of your own possessions?"
  • "Yes." There was a kind of solemnity in this interrogation. Never had th_truggle between mind and matter been more apparent than now, and if it wa_ot a sublime, it was, at least, a curious spectacle. They had formed a circl_ound the invalid; the second notary was sitting at a table, prepared fo_riting, and his colleague was standing before the testator in the act o_nterrogating him on the subject to which we have alluded. "Your fortun_xceeds 300,000 francs, does it not?" asked he. Noirtier made a sign that i_id. "Do you possess 400,000 francs?" inquired the notary. Noirtier's ey_emained immovable. "Five hundred thousand?" The same expression continued.
  • "Six hundred thousand — 700,000 — 800,000 — 900,000?" Noirtier stopped him a_he last-named sum. "You are then in possession of 900,000 francs?" asked th_otary. "Yes."
  • "In landed property?"
  • "No."
  • "In stock?"
  • "Yes."
  • "The stock is in your own hands?" The look which M. Noirtier cast on Barroi_howed that there was something wanting which he knew where to find. The ol_ervant left the room, and presently returned, bringing with him a smal_asket. "Do you permit us to open this casket?" asked the notary. Noirtie_ave his assent. They opened it, and found 900,000 francs in bank scrip. Th_irst notary handed over each note, as he examined it, to his colleague.
  • The total amount was found to be as M. Noirtier had stated. "It is all as h_as said; it is very evident that the mind still retains its full force an_igor." Then, turning towards the paralytic, he said, "You possess, then, 900,000 francs of capital, which, according to the manner in which you hav_nvested it, ought to bring in an income of about 40,000 livres?"
  • "Yes."
  • "To whom do you desire to leave this fortune?"
  • "Oh," said Madame de Villefort, "there is not much doubt on that subject. M.
  • Noirtier tenderly loves his granddaughter, Mademoiselle de Villefort; it i_he who has nursed and tended him for six years, and has, by her devote_ttention, fully secured the affection, I had almost said the gratitude, o_er grandfather, and it is but just that she should reap the fruit of he_evotion." The eye of Noirtier clearly showed by its expression that he wa_ot deceived by the false assent given by Madame de Villefort's words an_anner to the motives which she supposed him to entertain. "Is it, then, t_ademoiselle Valentine de Villefort that you leave these 900,000 francs?"
  • demanded the notary, thinking he had only to insert this clause, but waitin_irst for the assent of Noirtier, which it was necessary should be give_efore all the witnesses of this singular scene. Valentine, when her name wa_ade the subject of discussion, had stepped back, to escape unpleasan_bservation; her eyes were cast down, and she was crying. The old man looke_t her for an instant with an expression of the deepest tenderness, then, turning towards the notary, he significantly winked his eye in token o_issent.
  • "What," said the notary, "do you not intend making Mademoiselle Valentine d_illefort your residuary legatee?"
  • "No."
  • "You are not making any mistake, are you?" said the notary; "you really mea_o declare that such is not your intention?"
  • "No," repeated Noirtier; "No." Valentine raised her head, struck dumb wit_stonishment. It was not so much the conviction that she was disinherited tha_aused her grief, but her total inability to account for the feelings whic_ad provoked her grandfather to such an act. But Noirtier looked at her wit_o much affectionate tenderness that she exclaimed, "Oh, grandpapa, I see no_hat it is only your fortune of which you deprive me; you still leave me th_ove which I have always enjoyed."
  • "Ah, yes, most assuredly," said the eyes of the paralytic, for he closed the_ith an expression which Valentine could not mistake. "Thank you, thank you,"
  • murmured she. The old man's declaration that Valentine was not the destine_nheritor of his fortune had excited the hopes of Madame de Villefort; sh_radually approached the invalid, and said: "Then, doubtless, dear M.
  • Noirtier, you intend leaving your fortune to your grandson, Edward d_illefort?" The winking of the eyes which answered this speech was mos_ecided and terrible, and expressed a feeling almost amounting to hatred.
  • "No?" said the notary; "then, perhaps, it is to your son, M. de Villefort?"
  • "No." The two notaries looked at each other in mute astonishment and inquir_s to what were the real intentions of the testator. Villefort and his wif_oth grew red, one from shame, the other from anger.
  • "What have we all done, then, dear grandpapa?" said Valentine; "you no longe_eem to love any of us?" The old man's eyes passed rapidly from Villefort an_is wife, and rested on Valentine with a look of unutterable fondness. "Well,"
  • said she; "if you love me, grandpapa, try and bring that love to bear upo_our actions at this present moment. You know me well enough to be quite sur_hat I have never thought of your fortune; besides, they say I am already ric_n right of my mother — too rich, even. Explain yourself, then." Noirtie_ixed his intelligent eyes on Valentine's hand. "My hand?" said she.
  • "Yes."
  • "Her hand!" exclaimed every one.
  • "Oh, gentlemen, you see it is all useless, and that my father's mind is reall_mpaired," said Villefort.
  • "Ah," cried Valentine suddenly, "I understand. It is my marriage you mean, i_t not, dear grandpapa?"
  • "Yes, yes, yes," signed the paralytic, casting on Valentine a look of joyfu_ratitude for having guessed his meaning.
  • "You are angry with us all on account of this marriage, are you not?"
  • "Yes?"
  • "Really, this is too absurd," said Villefort.
  • "Excuse me, sir," replied the notary; "on the contrary, the meaning of M.
  • Noirtier is quite evident to me, and I can quite easily connect the train o_deas passing in his mind."
  • "You do not wish me to marry M. Franz d'Epinay?" observed Valentine.
  • "I do not wish it," said the eye of her grandfather. "And you disinherit you_randdaughter," continued the notary, "because she has contracted a_ngagement contrary to your wishes?"
  • "Yes."
  • "So that, but for this marriage, she would have been your heir?"
  • "Yes." There was a profound silence. The two notaries were holding _onsultation as to the best means of proceeding with the affair. Valentine wa_ooking at her grandfather with a smile of intense gratitude, and Villefor_as biting his lips with vexation, while Madame de Villefort could not succee_n repressing an inward feeling of joy, which, in spite of herself, appeare_n her whole countenance. "But," said Villefort, who was the first to brea_he silence, "I consider that I am the best judge of the propriety of th_arriage in question. I am the only person possessing the right to dispose o_y daughter's hand. It is my wish that she should marry M. Franz d'Epinay — and she shall marry him." Valentine sank weeping into a chair.
  • "Sir," said the notary, "how do you intend disposing of your fortune in cas_ademoiselle de Villefort still determines on marrying M. Franz?" The old ma_ave no answer. "You will, of course, dispose of it in some way or other?"
  • "Yes."
  • "In favor of some member of your family?"
  • "No."
  • "Do you intend devoting it to charitable purposes, then?" pursued the notary.
  • "Yes."
  • "But," said the notary, "you are aware that the law does not allow a son to b_ntirely deprived of his patrimony?"
  • "Yes."
  • "You only intend, then, to dispose of that part of your fortune which the la_llows you to subtract from the inheritance of your son?" Noirtier made n_nswer. "Do you still wish to dispose of all?"
  • "Yes."
  • "But they will contest the will after your death?"
  • "No."
  • "My father knows me," replied Villefort; "he is quite sure that his wishe_ill be held sacred by me; besides, he understands that in my position _annot plead against the poor." The eye of Noirtier beamed with triumph. "Wha_o you decide on, sir?" asked the notary of Villefort.
  • "Nothing, sir; it is a resolution which my father has taken and I know h_ever alters his mind. I am quite resigned. These 900,000 francs will go ou_f the family in order to enrich some hospital; but it is ridiculous thus t_ield to the caprices of an old man, and I shall, therefore, act according t_y conscience." Having said this, Villefort quitted the room with his wife, leaving his father at liberty to do as he pleased. The same day the will wa_ade, the witnesses were brought, it was approved by the old man, sealed i_he presence of all and given in charge to M. Deschamps, the family notary.