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Chapter 60 The Telegraph

  • M. and Madame de Villefort found on their return that the Count of Mont_risto, who had come to visit them in their absence, had been ushered into th_rawing-room, and was still awaiting them there. Madame de Villefort, who ha_ot yet sufficiently recovered from her late emotion to allow of he_ntertaining visitors so immediately, retired to her bedroom, while th_rocureur, who could better depend upon himself, proceeded at once to th_alon. Although M. de Villefort flattered himself that, to all outward view, he had completely masked the feelings which were passing in his mind, he di_ot know that the cloud was still lowering on his brow, so much so that th_ount, whose smile was radiant, immediately noticed his sombre and thoughtfu_ir. "Ma foi," said Monte Cristo, after the first compliments were over, "wha_s the matter with you, M. de Villefort? Have I arrived at the moment when yo_ere drawing up an indictment for a capital crime?" Villefort tried to smile.
  • "No, count," he replied, "I am the only victim in this case. It is I who los_y cause, and it is ill-luck, obstinacy, and folly which have caused it to b_ecided against me."
  • "To what do you refer?" said Monte Cristo with well-feigned interest. "Hav_ou really met with some great misfortune?"
  • "Oh, no, monsieur," said Villefort with a bitter smile; "it is only a loss o_oney which I have sustained — nothing worth mentioning, I assure you."
  • "True," said Monte Cristo, "the loss of a sum of money becomes almos_mmaterial with a fortune such as you possess, and to one of your philosophi_pirit."
  • "It is not so much the loss of the money that vexes me," said Villefort,
  • "though, after all, 900,000 francs are worth regretting; but I am the mor_nnoyed with this fate, chance, or whatever you please to call the power whic_as destroyed my hopes and my fortune, and may blast the prospects of my chil_lso, as it is all occasioned by an old man relapsed into second childhood."
  • "What do you say?" said the count; "900,000 francs? It is indeed a sum whic_ight be regretted even by a philosopher. And who is the cause of all thi_nnoyance?"
  • "My father, as I told you."
  • "M. Noirtier? But I thought you told me he had become entirely paralyzed, an_hat all his faculties were completely destroyed?"
  • "Yes, his bodily faculties, for he can neither move nor speak, nevertheless h_hinks, acts, and wills in the manner I have described. I left him about fiv_inutes ago, and he is now occupied in dictating his will to two notaries."
  • "But to do this he must have spoken?"
  • "He has done better than that — he has made himself understood."
  • "How was such a thing possible?"
  • "By the help of his eyes, which are still full of life, and, as you perceive, possess the power of inflicting mortal injury."
  • "My dear," said Madame de Villefort, who had just entered the room, "perhap_ou exaggerate the evil."
  • "Good-morning, madame," said the count, bowing. Madame de Villefor_cknowledged the salutation with one of her most gracious smiles. "What i_his that M. de Villefort has been telling me?" demanded Monte Cristo "an_hat incomprehensible misfortune" —
  • "Incomprehensible is not the word," interrupted the procureur, shrugging hi_houlders. "It is an old man's caprice."
  • "And is there no means of making him revoke his decision?"
  • "Yes," said Madame de Villefort; "and it is still entirely in the power of m_usband to cause the will, which is now in prejudice of Valentine, to b_ltered in her favor." The count, who perceived that M. and Madame d_illefort were beginning to speak in parables, appeared to pay no attention t_he conversation, and feigned to be busily engaged in watching Edward, who wa_ischievously pouring some ink into the bird's water-glass. "My dear," sai_illefort, in answer to his wife, "you know I have never been accustomed t_lay the patriarch in my family, nor have I ever considered that the fate of _niverse was to be decided by my nod. Nevertheless, it is necessary that m_ill should be respected in my family, and that the folly of an old man an_he caprice of a child should not be allowed to overturn a project which _ave entertained for so many years. The Baron d'Epinay was my friend, as yo_now, and an alliance with his son is the most suitable thing that coul_ossibly be arranged."
  • "Do you think," said Madame de Villefort, "that Valentine is in league wit_im? She has always been opposed to this marriage, and I should not be at al_urprised if what we have just seen and heard is nothing but the execution o_ plan concerted between them."
  • "Madame," said Villefort, "believe me, a fortune of 900,000 francs is not s_asily renounced."
  • "She could, nevertheless, make up her mind to renounce the world, sir, sinc_t is only about a year ago that she herself proposed entering a convent."
  • "Never mind," replied Villefort; "I say that this marriage shall b_onsummated."
  • "Notwithstanding your father's wishes to the contrary?" said Madame d_illefort, selecting a new point of attack. "That is a serious thing." Mont_risto, who pretended not to be listening, heard however, every word that wa_aid. "Madame," replied Villefort "I can truly say that I have alway_ntertained a high respect for my father, because, to the natural feeling o_elationship was added the consciousness of his moral superiority. The name o_ather is sacred in two senses; he should be reverenced as the author of ou_eing and as a master whom we ought to obey. But, under the presen_ircumstances, I am justified in doubting the wisdom of an old man who, because he hated the father, vents his anger on the son. It would b_idiculous in me to regulate my conduct by such caprices. I shall stil_ontinue to preserve the same respect toward M. Noirtier; I will suffer, without complaint, the pecuniary deprivation to which he has subjected me; bu_ shall remain firm in my determination, and the world shall see which part_as reason on his side. Consequently I shall marry my daughter to the Baro_ranz d'Epinay, because I consider it would be a proper and eligible match fo_er to make, and, in short, because I choose to bestow my daughter's hand o_homever I please."
  • "What?" said the count, the approbation of whose eye Villefort had frequentl_olicited during this speech. "What? Do you say that M. Noirtier disinherit_ademoiselle de Villefort because she is going to marry M. le Baron Fran_'Epinay?"
  • "Yes, sir, that is the reason," said Villefort, shrugging his shoulders.
  • "The apparent reason, at least," said Madame de Villefort.
  • "The real reason, madame, I can assure you; I know my father."
  • "But I want to know in what way M. d'Epinay can have displeased your fathe_ore than any other person?"
  • "I believe I know M. Franz d'Epinay," said the count; "is he not the son o_eneral de Quesnel, who was created Baron d'Epinay by Charles X.?"
  • "The same," said Villefort.
  • "Well, but he is a charming young man, according to my ideas."
  • "He is, which makes me believe that it is only an excuse of M. Noirtier t_revent his granddaughter marrying; old men are always so selfish in thei_ffection," said Madame de Villefort.
  • "But," said Monte Cristo "do you not know any cause for this hatred?"
  • "Ah, ma foi, who is to know?"
  • "Perhaps it is some political difference?"
  • "My father and the Baron d'Epinay lived in the stormy times of which I onl_aw the ending," said Villefort.
  • "Was not your father a Bonapartist?" asked Monte Cristo; "I think I remembe_hat you told me something of that kind."
  • "My father has been a Jacobin more than anything else," said Villefort, carried by his emotion beyond the bounds of prudence; "and the senator's robe, which Napoleon cast on his shoulders, only served to disguise the old ma_ithout in any degree changing him. When my father conspired, it was not fo_he emperor, it was against the Bourbons; for M. Noirtier possessed thi_eculiarity, he never projected any Utopian schemes which could never b_ealized, but strove for possibilities, and he applied to the realization o_hese possibilities the terrible theories of The Mountain, — theories tha_ever shrank from any means that were deemed necessary to bring about th_esired result."
  • "Well," said Monte Cristo, "it is just as I thought; it was politics whic_rought Noirtier and M. d'Epinay into personal contact. Although Genera_'Epinay served under Napoleon, did he not still retain royalist sentiments?
  • And was he not the person who was assassinated one evening on leaving _onapartist meeting to which he had been invited on the supposition that h_avored the cause of the emperor?" Villefort looked at the count almost wit_error. "Am I mistaken, then?" said Monte Cristo.
  • "No, sir, the facts were precisely what you have stated," said Madame d_illefort; "and it was to prevent the renewal of old feuds that M. d_illefort formed the idea of uniting in the bonds of affection the tw_hildren of these inveterate enemies."
  • "It was a sublime and charitable thought," said Monte Cristo, "and the whol_orld should applaud it. It would be noble to see Mademoiselle Noirtier d_illefort assuming the title of Madame Franz d'Epinay." Villefort shuddere_nd looked at Monte Cristo as if he wished to read in his countenance the rea_eelings which had dictated the words he had just uttered. But the coun_ompletely baffled the procureur, and prevented him from discovering anythin_eneath the never-varying smile he was so constantly in the habit of assuming.
  • "Although," said Villefort, "it will be a serious thing for Valentine to los_er grandfather's fortune, I do not think that M. d'Epinay will be frightene_t this pecuniary loss. He will, perhaps, hold me in greater esteem than th_oney itself, seeing that I sacrifice everything in order to keep my word wit_im. Besides, he knows that Valentine is rich in right of her mother, and tha_he will, in all probability, inherit the fortune of M. and Madame de Saint- Meran, her mother's parents, who both love her tenderly."
  • "And who are fully as well worth loving and tending as M. Noirtier," sai_adame de Villefort; "besides, they are to come to Paris in about a month, an_alentine, after the affront she has received, need not consider it necessar_o continue to bury herself alive by being shut up with M. Noirtier." Th_ount listened with satisfaction to this tale of wounded self-love an_efeated ambition. "But it seems to me," said Monte Cristo, "and I must begi_y asking your pardon for what I am about to say, that if M. Noirtie_isinherits Mademoiselle de Villefort because she is going to marry a ma_hose father he detested, he cannot have the same cause of complaint agains_his dear Edward."
  • "True," said Madame de Villefort, with an intonation of voice which it i_mpossible to describe; "is it not unjust — shamefully unjust? Poor Edward i_s much M. Noirtier's grandchild as Valentine, and yet, if she had not bee_oing to marry M. Franz, M. Noirtier would have left her all his money; an_upposing Valentine to be disinherited by her grandfather, she will still b_hree times richer than he." The count listened and said no more. "Count,"
  • said Villefort, "we will not entertain you any longer with our famil_isfortunes. It is true that my patrimony will go to endow charitabl_nstitutions, and my father will have deprived me of my lawful inheritanc_ithout any reason for doing so, but I shall have the satisfaction of knowin_hat I have acted like a man of sense and feeling. M. d'Epinay, to whom I ha_romised the interest of this sum, shall receive it, even if I endure the mos_ruel privations."
  • "However," said Madame de Villefort, returning to the one idea whic_ncessantly occupied her mind, "perhaps it would be better to explain thi_nlucky affair to M. d'Epinay, in order to give him the opportunity of himsel_enouncing his claim to the hand of Mademoiselle de Villefort."
  • "Ah, that would be a great pity," said Villefort.
  • "A great pity," said Monte Cristo.
  • "Undoubtedly," said Villefort, moderating the tones of his voice, "a marriag_nce concerted and then broken off, throws a sort of discredit on a youn_ady; then again, the old reports, which I was so anxious to put an end to, will instantly gain ground. No, it will all go well; M. d'Epinay, if he is a_onorable man, will consider himself more than ever pledged to Mademoiselle d_illefort, unless he were actuated by a decided feeling of avarice, but tha_s impossible."
  • "I agree with M. de Villefort," said Monte Cristo, fixing his eyes on Madam_e Villefort; "and if I were sufficiently intimate with him to allow of givin_y advice, I would persuade him, since I have been told M. d'Epinay is comin_ack, to settle this affair at once beyond all possibility of revocation. _ill answer for the success of a project which will reflect so much honor o_. de Villefort." The procureur arose, delighted with the proposition, but hi_ife slightly changed color. "Well, that is all that I wanted, and I will b_uided by a counsellor such as you are," said he, extending his hand to Mont_risto. "Therefore let every one here look upon what has passed to-day as i_t had not happened, and as though we had never thought of such a thing as _hange in our original plans."
  • "Sir," said the count, "the world, unjust as it is, will be pleased with you_esolution; your friends will be proud of you, and M. d'Epinay, even if h_ook Mademoiselle de Villefort without any dowry, which he will not do, woul_e delighted with the idea of entering a family which could make suc_acrifices in order to keep a promise and fulfil a duty." At the conclusion o_hese words, the count rose to depart. "Are you going to leave us, count?"
  • said Madame de Villefort.
  • "I am sorry to say I must do so, madame, I only came to remind you of you_romise for Saturday."
  • "Did you fear that we should forget it?"
  • "You are very good, madame, but M. de Villefort has so many important an_rgent occupations."
  • "My husband has given me his word, sir," said Madame de Villefort; "you hav_ust seen him resolve to keep it when he has everything to lose, and surel_here is more reason for his doing so where he has everything to gain."
  • "And," said Villefort, "is it at your house in the Champs-Elysees that yo_eceive your visitors?"
  • "No," said Monte Cristo, "which is precisely the reason which renders you_indness more meritorious, — it is in the country."
  • "In the country?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Where is it, then? Near Paris, is it not?"
  • "Very near, only half a league from the Barriers, — it is at Auteuil."
  • "At Auteuil?" said Villefort; "true, Madame de Villefort told me you lived a_uteuil, since it was to your house that she was taken. And in what part o_uteuil do you reside?"
  • "Rue de la Fontaine."
  • "Rue de la Fontaine!" exclaimed Villefort in an agitated tone; "at wha_umber?"
  • "No. 28."
  • "Then," cried Villefort, "was it you who bought M. de Saint-Meran's house!"
  • "Did it belong to M. de Saint-Meran?" demanded Monte Cristo.
  • "Yes," replied Madame de Villefort; "and, would you believe it, count" —
  • "Believe what?"
  • "You think this house pretty, do you not?"
  • "I think it charming."
  • "Well, my husband would never live in it."
  • "Indeed?" returned Monte Cristo, "that is a prejudice on your part, M. d_illefort, for which I am quite at a loss to account."
  • "I do not like Auteuil, sir," said the procureur, making an evident effort t_ppear calm.
  • "But I hope you will not carry your antipathy so far as to deprive me of th_leasure of your company, sir," said Monte Cristo.
  • "No, count, — I hope — I assure you I shall do my best," stammered Villefort.
  • "Oh," said Monte Cristo, "I allow of no excuse. On Saturday, at six o'clock. _hall be expecting you, and if you fail to come, I shall think — for how do _now to the contrary? — that this house, which his remained uninhabited fo_wenty years, must have some gloomy tradition or dreadful legend connecte_ith it."
  • "I will come, count, — I will be sure to come," said Villefort eagerly.
  • "Thank you," said Monte Cristo; "now you must permit me to take my leave o_ou."
  • "You said before that you were obliged to leave us, monsieur," said Madame d_illefort, "and you were about to tell us why when your attention was calle_o some other subject."
  • "Indeed madame," said Monte Cristo: "I scarcely know if I dare tell you wher_ am going."
  • "Nonsense; say on."
  • "Well, then, it is to see a thing on which I have sometimes mused for hour_ogether."
  • "What is it?"
  • "A telegraph. So now I have told my secret."
  • "A telegraph?" repeated Madame de Villefort.
  • "Yes, a telegraph. I had often seen one placed at the end of a road on _illock, and in the light of the sun its black arms, bending in ever_irection, always reminded me of the claws of an immense beetle, and I assur_ou it was never without emotion that I gazed on it, for I could not hel_hinking how wonderful it was that these various signs should be made t_leave the air with such precision as to convey to the distance of thre_undred leagues the ideas and wishes of a man sitting at a table at one end o_he line to another man similarly placed at the opposite extremity, and al_his effected by a simple act of volition on the part of the sender of th_essage. I began to think of genii, sylphs, gnomes, in short, of all th_inisters of the occult sciences, until I laughed aloud at the freaks of m_wn imagination. Now, it never occurred to me to wish for a nearer inspectio_f these large insects, with their long black claws, for I always feared t_ind under their stone wings some little human genius fagged to death wit_abals, factions, and government intrigues. But one fine day I learned tha_he mover of this telegraph was only a poor wretch, hired for twelve hundre_rancs a year, and employed all day, not in studying the heavens like a_stronomer, or in gazing on the water like an angler, or even in enjoying th_rivilege of observing the country around him, but all his monotonous life wa_assed in watching his white-bellied, black-clawed fellow insect, four or fiv_eagues distant from him. At length I felt a desire to study this livin_hrysalis more closely, and to endeavor to understand the secret part playe_y these insect-actors when they occupy themselves simply with pullin_ifferent pieces of string."
  • "And are you going there?"
  • "I am."
  • "What telegraph do you intend visiting? that of the home department, or of th_bservatory?"
  • "Oh, no; I should find there people who would force me to understand things o_hich I would prefer to remain ignorant, and who would try to explain to me, in spite of myself, a mystery which even they do not understand. Ma foi, _hould wish to keep my illusions concerning insects unimpaired; it is quit_nough to have those dissipated which I had formed of my fellow-creatures. _hall, therefore, not visit either of these telegraphs, but one in the ope_ountry where I shall find a good-natured simpleton, who knows no more tha_he machine he is employed to work."
  • "You are a singular man," said Villefort.
  • "What line would you advise me to study?"
  • "The one that is most in use just at this time."
  • "The Spanish one, you mean, I suppose?"
  • "Yes; should you like a letter to the minister that they might explain to you"
  • "No," said Monte Cristo; "since, as I told you before, I do not wish t_omprehend it. The moment I understand it there will no longer exist _elegraph for me; it will he nothing more than a sign from M. Duchatel, o_rom M. Montalivet, transmitted to the prefect of Bayonne, mystified by tw_reek words, tele, graphein. It is the insect with black claws, and the awfu_ord which I wish to retain in my imagination in all its purity and all it_mportance."
  • "Go then; for in the course of two hours it will be dark, and you will not b_ble to see anything."
  • "Ma foi, you frighten me. Which is the nearest way? Bayonne?"
  • "Yes; the road to Bayonne."
  • "And afterwards the road to Chatillon?"
  • "Yes."
  • "By the tower of Montlhery, you mean?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Thank you. Good-by. On Saturday I will tell you my impressions concerning th_elegraph." At the door the count was met by the two notaries, who had jus_ompleted the act which was to disinherit Valentine, and who were leavin_nder the conviction of having done a thing which could not fail of redoundin_onsiderably to their credit.