We have seen how quietly Mademoiselle Danglars and Mademoiselle d'Armill_ccomplished their transformation and flight; the fact being that every on_as too much occupied in his or her own affairs to think of theirs. We wil_eave the banker contemplating the enormous magnitude of his debt before th_hantom of bankruptcy, and follow the baroness, who after being momentaril_rushed under the weight of the blow which had struck her, had gone to see_er usual adviser, Lucien Debray. The baroness had looked forward to thi_arriage as a means of ridding her of a guardianship which, over a girl o_ugenie's character, could not fail to be rather a troublesome undertaking; for in the tacit relations which maintain the bond of family union, th_other, to maintain her ascendancy over her daughter, must never fail to be _odel of wisdom and a type of perfection.
Now, Madame Danglars feared Eugenie's sagacity and the influence o_ademoiselle d'Armilly; she had frequently observed the contemptuou_xpression with which her daughter looked upon Debray, — an expression whic_eemed to imply that she understood all her mother's amorous and pecuniar_elationships with the intimate secretary; moreover, she saw that Eugeni_etested Debray, — not only because he was a source of dissension and scanda_nder the paternal roof, but because she had at once classed him in tha_atalogue of bipeds whom Plato endeavors to withdraw from the appellation o_en, and whom Diogenes designated as animals upon two legs without feathers.
Unfortunately, in this world of ours, each person views things through _ertain medium, and so is prevented from seeing in the same light as others, and Madame Danglars, therefore, very much regretted that the marriage o_ugenie had not taken place, not only because the match was good, and likel_o insure the happiness of her child, but because it would also set her a_iberty. She ran therefore to Debray, who, after having like the rest of Pari_itnessed the contract scene and the scandal attending it, had retired i_aste to his club, where he was chatting with some friends upon the event_hich served as a subject of conversation for three-fourths of that city know_s the capital of the world.
At the precise time when Madame Danglars, dressed in black and concealed in _ong veil, was ascending the stairs leading to Debray's apartments, — notwithstanding the assurances of the concierge that the young man was not a_ome, — Debray was occupied in repelling the insinuations of a friend, wh_ried to persuade him that after the terrible scene which had just taken plac_e ought, as a friend of the family, to marry Mademoiselle Danglars and he_wo millions. Debray did not defend himself very warmly, for the idea ha_ometimes crossed his mind; still, when he recollected the independent, prou_pirit of Eugenie, he positively rejected it as utterly impossible, though th_ame thought again continually recurred and found a resting-place in hi_eart. Tea, play, and the conversation, which had become interesting durin_he discussion of such serious affairs, lasted till one o'clock in th_orning.
Meanwhile Madame Danglars, veiled and uneasy, awaited the return of Debray i_he little green room, seated between two baskets of flowers, which she ha_hat morning sent, and which, it must be confessed, Debray had himsel_rranged and watered with so much care that his absence was half excused i_he eyes of the poor woman.
At twenty minutes of twelve, Madame Danglars, tired of waiting, returned home.
Women of a certain grade are like prosperous grisettes in one respect, the_eldom return home after twelve o'clock. The baroness returned to the hote_ith as much caution as Eugenie used in leaving it; she ran lightly up-stairs, and with an aching heart entered her apartment, contiguous, as we know, t_hat of Eugenie. She was fearful of exciting any remark, and believed firml_n her daughter's innocence and fidelity to the paternal roof. She listened a_ugenie's door, and hearing no sound tried to enter, but the bolts were i_lace. Madame Danglars then concluded that the young girl had been overcom_ith the terrible excitement of the evening, and had gone to bed and to sleep.
She called the maid and questioned her.
"Mademoiselle Eugenie," said the maid, "retired to her apartment wit_ademoiselle d'Armilly; they then took tea together, after which they desire_e to leave, saying that they needed me no longer." Since then the maid ha_een below, and like every one else she thought the young ladies were in thei_wn room; Madame Danglars, therefore, went to bed without a shadow o_uspicion, and began to muse over the recent events. In proportion as he_emory became clearer, the occurrences of the evening were revealed in thei_rue light; what she had taken for confusion was a tumult; what she ha_egarded as something distressing, was in reality a disgrace. And then th_aroness remembered that she had felt no pity for poor Mercedes, who had bee_fflicted with as severe a blow through her husband and son.
"Eugenie," she said to herself, "is lost, and so are we. The affair, as i_ill be reported, will cover us with shame; for in a society such as our_atire inflicts a painful and incurable wound. How fortunate that Eugenie i_ossessed of that strange character which has so often made me tremble!" An_er glance was turned towards heaven, where a mysterious providence dispose_ll things, and out of a fault, nay, even a vice, sometimes produces _lessing. And then her thoughts, cleaving through space like a bird in th_ir, rested on Cavalcanti. This Andrea was a wretch, a robber, an assassin, and yet his manners showed the effects of a sort of education, if not _omplete one; he had been presented to the world with the appearance of a_mmense fortune, supported by an honorable name. How could she extricat_erself from this labyrinth? To whom would she apply to help her out of thi_ainful situation? Debray, to whom she had run, with the first instinct of _oman towards the man she loves, and who yet betrays her, — Debray could bu_ive her advice, she must apply to some one more powerful than he.
The baroness then thought of M. de Villefort. It was M. de Villefort who ha_emorselessly brought misfortune into her family, as though they had bee_trangers. But, no; on reflection, the procureur was not a merciless man; an_t was not the magistrate, slave to his duties, but the friend, the loya_riend, who roughly but firmly cut into the very core of the corruption; i_as not the executioner, but the surgeon, who wished to withdraw the honor o_anglars from ignominious association with the disgraced young man they ha_resented to the world as their son-in-law. And since Villefort, the friend o_anglars, had acted in this way, no one could suppose that he had bee_reviously acquainted with, or had lent himself to, any of Andrea's intrigues.
Villefort's conduct, therefore, upon reflection, appeared to the baroness a_f shaped for their mutual advantage. But the inflexibility of the procureu_hould stop there; she would see him the next day, and if she could not mak_im fail in his duties as a magistrate, she would, at least, obtain all th_ndulgence he could allow. She would invoke the past, recall ol_ecollections; she would supplicate him by the remembrance of guilty, ye_appy days. M. de Villefort would stifle the affair; he had only to turn hi_yes on one side, and allow Andrea to fly, and follow up the crime under tha_hadow of guilt called contempt of court. And after this reasoning she slep_asily.
At nine o'clock next morning she arose, and without ringing for her maid o_iving the least sign of her activity, she dressed herself in the same simpl_tyle as on the previous night; then running down-stairs, she left the hotel.
walked to the Rue de Provence, called a cab, and drove to M. de Villefort'_ouse. For the last month this wretched house had presented the gloom_ppearance of a lazaretto infected with the plague. Some of the apartment_ere closed within and without; the shutters were only opened to admit _inute's air, showing the scared face of a footman, and immediately afterward_he window would be closed, like a gravestone falling on a sepulchre, and th_eighbors would say to each other in a low voice, "Will there be anothe_uneral to-day at the procureur's house?" Madame Danglars involuntaril_huddered at the desolate aspect of the mansion; descending from the cab, sh_pproached the door with trembling knees, and rang the bell. Three times di_he bell ring with a dull, heavy sound, seeming to participate, in the genera_adness, before the concierge appeared and peeped through the door, which h_pened just wide enough to allow his words to be heard. He saw a lady, _ashionable, elegantly dressed lady, and yet the door remained almost closed.
"Do you intend opening the door?" said the baroness.
"First, madame, who are you?"
"Who am I? You know me well enough."
"We no longer know any one, madame."
"You must be mad, my friend," said the baroness.
"Where do you come from?"
"Oh, this is too much!"
"Madame, these are my orders; excuse me. Your name?"
"The baroness Danglars; you have seen me twenty times."
"Possibly, madame. And now, what do you want?"
"Oh, how extraordinary! I shall complain to M. de Villefort of th_mpertinence of his servants."
"Madame, this is precaution, not impertinence; no one enters here without a_rder from M. d'Avrigny, or without speaking to the procureur."
"Well, I have business with the procureur."
"Is it pressing business?"
"You can imagine so, since I have not even brought my carriage out yet. Bu_nough of this — here is my card, take it to your master."
"Madame will await my return?"
"Yes; go." The concierge closed the door, leaving Madame Danglars in th_treet. She had not long to wait; directly afterwards the door was opened wid_nough to admit her, and when she had passed through, it was again shut.
Without losing sight of her for an instant, the concierge took a whistle fro_is pocket as soon as they entered the court, and blew it. The valet d_hambre appeared on the door-steps. "You will excuse this poor fellow, madame," he said, as he preceded the baroness, "but his orders are precise, and M. de Villefort begged me to tell you that he could not act otherwise."
In the court showing his merchandise, was a tradesman who had been admitte_ith the same precautions. The baroness ascended the steps; she felt hersel_trongly infected with the sadness which seemed to magnify her own, and stil_uided by the valet de chambre, who never lost sight of her for an instant, she was introduced to the magistrate's study. Preoccupied as Madame Danglar_ad been with the object of her visit, the treatment she had received fro_hese underlings appeared to her so insulting, that she began by complainin_f it. But Villefort, raising his head, bowed down by grief, looked up at he_ith so sad a smile that her complaints died upon her lips. "Forgive m_ervants," he said, "for a terror I cannot blame them for; from bein_uspected they have become suspicious."
Madame Danglars had often heard of the terror to which the magistrate alluded, but without the evidence of her own eyesight she could never have believe_hat the sentiment had been carried so far. "You too, then, are unhappy?" sh_aid. "Yes, madame," replied the magistrate.
"Then you pity me!"
"And you understand what brings me here?"
"You wish to speak to me about the circumstance which has just happened?"
"Yes, sir, — a fearful misfortune."
"You mean a mischance."
"A mischance?" repeated the baroness.
"Alas, madame," said the procureur with his imperturbable calmness of manner,
"I consider those alone misfortunes which are irreparable."
"And do you suppose this will be forgotten?"
"Everything will be forgotten, madame," said Villefort. "Your daughter will b_arried to-morrow, if not to-day — in a week, if not to-morrow; and I do no_hink you can regret the intended husband of your daughter."
Madame Danglars gazed on Villefort, stupefied to find him so almos_nsultingly calm. "Am I come to a friend?" she asked in a tone full o_ournful dignity. "You know that you are, madame," said Villefort, whose pal_heeks became slightly flushed as he gave her the assurance. And truly thi_ssurance carried him back to different events from those now occupying th_aroness and him. "Well, then, be more affectionate, my dear Villefort," sai_he baroness. "Speak to me not as a magistrate, but as a friend; and when I a_n bitter anguish of spirit, do not tell me that I ought to be gay." Villefor_owed. "When I hear misfortunes named, madame," he said, "I have within th_ast few months contracted the bad habit of thinking of my own, and then _annot help drawing up an egotistical parallel in my mind. That is the reaso_hat by the side of my misfortunes yours appear to me mere mischances; that i_hy my dreadful position makes yours appear enviable. But this annoys you; le_s change the subject. You were saying, madame" —
"I came to ask you, my friend," said the baroness, "what will be done wit_his impostor?"
"Impostor," repeated Villefort; "certainly, madame, you appear to extenuat_ome cases, and exaggerate others. Impostor, indeed! — M. Andrea Cavalcanti, or rather M. Benedetto, is nothing more nor less than an assassin!"
"Sir, I do not deny the justice of your correction, but the more severely yo_rm yourself against that unfortunate man, the more deeply will you strike ou_amily. Come, forget him for a moment, and instead of pursuing him let hi_o."
"You are too late, madame; the orders are issued."
"Well, should he be arrested — do they think they will arrest him?"
"I hope so."
"If they should arrest him (I know that sometimes prisoners afford means o_scape), will you leave him in prison?" — The procureur shook his head. "A_east keep him there till my daughter be married."
"Impossible, madame; justice has its formalities."
"What, even for me?" said the baroness, half jesting, half in earnest. "Fo_ll, even for myself among the rest," replied Villefort.
"Ah," exclaimed the baroness, without expressing the ideas which th_xclamation betrayed. Villefort looked at her with that piercing glance whic_eads the secrets of the heart. "Yes, I know what you mean," he said; "yo_efer to the terrible rumors spread abroad in the world, that the deaths whic_ave kept me in mourning for the last three months, and from which Valentin_as only escaped by a miracle, have not happened by natural means."
"I was not thinking of that," replied Madame Danglars quickly. "Yes, you wer_hinking of it, and with justice. You could not help thinking of it, an_aying to yourself, `you, who pursue crime so vindictively, answer now, wh_re there unpunished crimes in your dwelling?'" The baroness became pale. "Yo_ere saying this, were you not?"
"Well, I own it."
"I will answer you."
Villefort drew his armchair nearer to Madame Danglars; then resting both hand_pon his desk he said in a voice more hollow than usual: "There are crime_hich remain unpunished because the criminals are unknown, and we might strik_he innocent instead of the guilty; but when the culprits are discovered"
(Villefort here extended his hand toward a large crucifix placed opposite t_is desk) — "when they are discovered, I swear to you, by all I hold mos_acred, that whoever they may be they shall die. Now, after the oath I hav_ust taken, and which I will keep, madame, dare you ask for mercy for tha_retch!"
"But, sir, are you sure he is as guilty as they say?"
"Listen; this is his description: `Benedetto, condemned, at the age o_ixteen, for five years to the galleys for forgery.' He promised well, as yo_ee — first a runaway, then an assassin."
"And who is this wretch?"
"Who can tell? — a vagabond, a Corsican."
"Has no one owned him?"
"No one; his parents are unknown."
"But who was the man who brought him from Lucca?"
"Another rascal like himself, perhaps his accomplice." The baroness claspe_er hands. "Villefort," she exclaimed in her softest and most captivatin_anner.
"For heaven's sake, madame," said Villefort, with a firmness of expression no_ltogether free from harshness — "for heaven's sake, do not ask pardon of m_or a guilty wretch! What am I? — the law. Has the law any eyes to witnes_our grief? Has the law ears to be melted by your sweet voice? Has the law _emory for all those soft recollections you endeavor to recall? No, madame; the law has commanded, and when it commands it strikes. You will tell me tha_ am a living being, and not a code — a man, and not a volume. Look at me, madame — look around me. Have mankind treated me as a brother? Have they love_e? Have they spared me? Has any one shown the mercy towards me that you no_sk at my hands? No, madame, they struck me, always struck me!
"Woman, siren that you are, do you persist in fixing on me that fascinatin_ye, which reminds me that I ought to blush? Well, be it so; let me blush fo_he faults you know, and perhaps — perhaps for even more than those! Bu_aving sinned myself, — it may be more deeply than others, — I never rest til_ have torn the disguises from my fellow-creatures, and found out thei_eaknesses. I have always found them; and more, — I repeat it with joy, wit_riumph, — I have always found some proof of human perversity or error. Ever_riminal I condemn seems to me living evidence that I am not a hideou_xception to the rest. Alas, alas, alas; all the world is wicked; let u_herefore strike at wickedness!"
Villefort pronounced these last words with a feverish rage, which gave _erocious eloquence to his words.
"But"' said Madame Danglars, resolving to make a last effort, "this young man, though a murderer, is an orphan, abandoned by everybody."
"So much the worse, or rather, so much the better; it has been so ordaine_hat he may have none to weep his fate."
"But this is trampling on the weak, sir."
"The weakness of a murderer!"
"His dishonor reflects upon us."
"Is not death in my house?"
"Oh, sir," exclaimed the baroness, "you are without pity for others, well, then, I tell you they will have no mercy on you!"
"Be it so!" said Villefort, raising his arms to heaven.
"At least, delay the trial till the next assizes; we shall then have si_onths before us."
"No, madame," said Villefort; "instructions have been given. There are ye_ive days left; five days are more than I require. Do you not think that _lso long for forgetfulness? While working night and day, I sometimes lose al_ecollection of the past, and then I experience the same sort of happiness _an imagine the dead feel; still, it is better than suffering."
"But, sir, he has fled; let him escape — inaction is a pardonable offence."
"I tell you it is too late; early this morning the telegraph was employed, an_t this very minute" —
"Sir," said the valet de chambre, entering the room, "a dragoon has brough_his despatch from the minister of the interior." Villefort seized the letter, and hastily broke the seal. Madame Danglars trembled with fear; Villefor_tarted with joy. "Arrested!" he exclaimed; "he was taken at Compiegne, an_ll is over." Madame Danglars rose from her seat, pale and cold. "Adieu, sir,"
she said. "Adieu, madame," replied the king's attorney, as in an almost joyfu_anner he conducted her to the door. Then, turning to his desk, he said, striking the letter with the back of his right hand, "Come, I had a forgery, three robberies, and two cases of arson, I only wanted a murder, and here i_s. It will be a splendid session!"