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?"
"It was you who sent for me?"
"To make your will?"
"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?"
"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?"
"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."
"Have you an exact idea of the amount of your fortune?"
"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?"
"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?"
"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?"
"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.
"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?"
"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?"
"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?"
"In favor of some member of your family?"
"Do you intend devoting it to charitable purposes, then?" pursued the notary.
"But," said the notary, "you are aware that the law does not allow a son to b_ntirely deprived of his patrimony?"
"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?"
"But they will contest the will after your death?"
"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.