"Still?" cried Villefort; "oh, doctor, what a dreadful word is that."
"Yes," said the physician, "I repeat it; she is still alive, and I am astonished at it."
"But is she safe?" asked the father.
"Yes, since she lives." At that moment d'Avrigny's glance met Noirtier's eye. It glistened with such extraordinary joy, so rich and full of thought, that the physician was struck. He placed the young girl again on the chair,—her lips were scarcely discernible, they were so pale and white, as well as her whole face,—and remained motionless, looking at Noirtier, who appeared to anticipate and commend all he did. "Sir," said d'Avrigny to Villefort, "call Mademoiselle Valentine's maid, if you please." Villefort went himself to find her; and d'Avrigny approached Noirtier. "Have you something to tell me?" asked he. The old man winked his eyes expressively, which we may remember was his only way of expressing his approval.
"Well, I will remain with you." At this moment Villefort returned, followed by the lady's maid; and after her came Madame de Villefort.
"What is the matter, then, with this dear child? she has just left me, and she complained of being indisposed, but I did not think seriously of it." The young woman with tears in her eyes and every mark of affection of a true mother, approached Valentine and took her hand. D'Avrigny continued to look at Noirtier; he saw the eyes of the old man dilate and become round, his cheeks turn pale and tremble; the perspiration stood in drops upon his forehead. "Ah," said he, involuntarily following Noirtier's eyes, which were fixed on Madame de Villefort, who repeated,—"This poor child would be better in bed. Come, Fanny, we will put her to bed." M. d'Avrigny, who saw that would be a means of his remaining alone with Noirtier, expressed his opinion that it was the best thing that could be done; but he forbade that anything should be given to her except what he ordered.
They carried Valentine away; she had revived, but could scarcely move or speak, so shaken was her frame by the attack. She had, however, just power to give one parting look to her grandfather, who in losing her seemed to be resigning his very soul. D'Avrigny followed the invalid, wrote a prescription, ordered Villefort to take a cabriolet, go in person to a chemist's to get the prescribed medicine, bring it himself, and wait for him in his daughter's room. Then, having renewed his injunction not to give Valentine anything, he went down again to Noirtier, shut the doors carefully, and after convincing himself that no one was listening,—"Do you," said he, "know anything of this young lady's illness?"
"Yes," said the old man.
"We have no time to lose; I will question, and do you answer me." Noirtier made a sign that he was ready to answer. "Did you anticipate the accident which has happened to your granddaughter?"
"Yes." D'Avrigny reflected a moment; then approaching Noirtier,—"Pardon what I am going to say," added he, "but no indication should be neglected in this terrible situation. Did you see poor Barrois die?" Noirtier raised his eyes to heaven. "Do you know of what he died!" asked d'Avrigny, placing his hand on Noirtier's shoulder.
"Yes," replied the old man.
"Do you think he died a natural death?" A sort of smile was discernible on the motionless lips of Noirtier.
"Then you have thought that Barrois was poisoned?"
"Do you think the poison he fell a victim to was intended for him?"
"Do you think the same hand which unintentionally struck Barrois has now attacked Valentine?"
"Then will she die too?" asked d'Avrigny, fixing his penetrating gaze on Noirtier. He watched the effect of this question on the old man. "No," replied he with an air of triumph which would have puzzled the most clever diviner. "Then you hope?" said d'Avrigny, with surprise.
"What do you hope?" The old man made him understand with his eyes that he could not answer. "Ah, yes, it is true," murmured d'Avrigny. Then, turning to Noirtier,—"Do you hope the assassin will be tried?"
"Then you hope the poison will take no effect on Valentine?"
"It is no news to you," added d'Avrigny, "to tell you that an attempt has been made to poison her?" The old man made a sign that he entertained no doubt upon the subject. "Then how do you hope Valentine will escape?" Noirtier kept his eyes steadfastly fixed on the same spot. D'Avrigny followed the direction and saw that they were fixed on a bottle containing the mixture which he took every morning. "Ah, indeed?" said d'Avrigny, struck with a sudden thought, "has it occurred to you"—Noirtier did not let him finish. "Yes," said he. "To prepare her system to resist poison?"
"By accustoming her by degrees"—
"Yes, yes, yes," said Noirtier, delighted to be understood.
"Of course. I had told you that there was brucine in the mixture I give you."
"And by accustoming her to that poison, you have endeavored to neutralize the effect of a similar poison?" Noirtier's joy continued. "And you have succeeded," exclaimed d'Avrigny. "Without that precaution Valentine would have died before assistance could have been procured. The dose has been excessive, but she has only been shaken by it; and this time, at any rate, Valentine will not die." A superhuman joy expanded the old man's eyes, which were raised towards heaven with an expression of infinite gratitude. At this moment Villefort returned. "Here, doctor," said he, "is what you sent me for."
"Was this prepared in your presence?"
"Yes," replied the procureur.
"Have you not let it go out of your hands?"
"No." D'Avrigny took the bottle, poured some drops of the mixture it contained in the hollow of his hand, and swallowed them. "Well," said he, "let us go to Valentine; I will give instructions to every one, and you, M. de Villefort, will yourself see that no one deviates from them."
At the moment when d'Avrigny was returning to Valentine's room, accompanied by Villefort, an Italian priest, of serious demeanor and calm and firm tone, hired for his use the house adjoining the hotel of M. de Villefort. No one knew how the three former tenants of that house left it. About two hours afterwards its foundation was reported to be unsafe; but the report did not prevent the new occupant establishing himself there with his modest furniture the same day at five o'clock. The lease was drawn up for three, six, or nine years by the new tenant, who, according to the rule of the proprietor, paid six months in advance. This new tenant, who, as we have said, was an Italian, was called Il Signor Giacomo Busoni. Workmen were immediately called in, and that same night the passengers at the end of the faubourg saw with surprise that carpenters and masons were occupied in repairing the lower part of the tottering house.
Chapter 95. Father and Daughter.
We saw in a preceding chapter how Madame Danglars went formally to announce to Madame de Villefort the approaching marriage of Eugenie Danglars and M. Andrea Cavalcanti. This announcement, which implied or appeared to imply, the approval of all the persons concerned in this momentous affair, had been preceded by a scene to which our readers must be admitted. We beg them to take one step backward, and to transport themselves, the morning of that day of great catastrophes, into the showy, gilded salon we have before shown them, and which was the pride of its owner, Baron Danglars. In this room, at about ten o'clock in the morning, the banker himself had been walking to and fro for some minutes thoughtfully and in evident uneasiness, watching both doors, and listening to every sound. When his patience was exhausted, he called his valet. "Etienne," said he, "see why Mademoiselle Eugenie has asked me to meet her in the drawing-room, and why she makes me wait so long."
Having given this vent to his ill-humor, the baron became more calm; Mademoiselle Danglars had that morning requested an interview with her father, and had fixed on the gilded drawing-room as the spot. The singularity of this step, and above all its formality, had not a little surprised the banker, who had immediately obeyed his daughter by repairing first to the drawing-room. Etienne soon returned from his errand. "Mademoiselle's lady's maid says, sir, that mademoiselle is finishing her toilette, and will be here shortly."
Danglars nodded, to signify that he was satisfied. To the world and to his servants Danglars assumed the character of the good-natured man and the indulgent father. This was one of his parts in the popular comedy he was performing,—a make-up he had adopted and which suited him about as well as the masks worn on the classic stage by paternal actors, who seen from one side, were the image of geniality, and from the other showed lips drawn down in chronic ill-temper. Let us hasten to say that in private the genial side descended to the level of the other, so that generally the indulgent man disappeared to give place to the brutal husband and domineering father. "Why the devil does that foolish girl, who pretends to wish to speak to me, not come into my study? and why on earth does she want to speak to me at all?"
He was turning this thought over in his brain for the twentieth time, when the door opened and Eugenie appeared, attired in a figured black satin dress, her hair dressed and gloves on, as if she were going to the Italian Opera. "Well, Eugenie, what is it you want with me? and why in this solemn drawing-room when the study is so comfortable?"
"I quite understand why you ask, sir," said Eugenie, making a sign that her father might be seated, "and in fact your two questions suggest fully the theme of our conversation. I will answer them both, and contrary to the usual method, the last first, because it is the least difficult. I have chosen the drawing-room, sir, as our place of meeting, in order to avoid the disagreeable impressions and influences of a banker's study. Those gilded cashbooks, drawers locked like gates of fortresses, heaps of bank-bills, come from I know not where, and the quantities of letters from England, Holland, Spain, India, China, and Peru, have generally a strange influence on a father's mind, and make him forget that there is in the world an interest greater and more sacred than the good opinion of his correspondents. I have, therefore, chosen this drawing-room, where you see, smiling and happy in their magnificent frames, your portrait, mine, my mother's, and all sorts of rural landscapes and touching pastorals. I rely much on external impressions; perhaps, with regard to you, they are immaterial, but I should be no artist if I had not some fancies."
"Very well," replied M. Danglars, who had listened to all this preamble with imperturbable coolness, but without understanding a word, since like every man burdened with thoughts of the past, he was occupied with seeking the thread of his own ideas in those of the speaker.
"There is, then, the second point cleared up, or nearly so," said Eugenie, without the least confusion, and with that masculine pointedness which distinguished her gesture and her language; "and you appear satisfied with the explanation. Now, let us return to the first. You ask me why I have requested this interview; I will tell you in two words, sir; I will not marry count Andrea Cavalcanti."
Danglars leaped from his chair and raised his eyes and arms towards heaven.
"Yes, indeed, sir," continued Eugenie, still quite calm; "you are astonished, I see; for since this little affair began, I have not manifested the slightest opposition, and yet I am always sure, when the opportunity arrives, to oppose a determined and absolute will to people who have not consulted me, and things which displease me. However, this time, my tranquillity, or passiveness as philosophers say, proceeded from another source; it proceeded from a wish, like a submissive and devoted daughter" (a slight smile was observable on the purple lips of the young girl), "to practice obedience."
"Well?" asked Danglars.
"Well, sir," replied Eugenie, "I have tried to the very last and now that the moment has come, I feel in spite of all my efforts that it is impossible."
"But," said Danglars, whose weak mind was at first quite overwhelmed with the weight of this pitiless logic, marking evident premeditation and force of will, "what is your reason for this refusal, Eugenie? what reason do you assign?"
"My reason?" replied the young girl. "Well, it is not that the man is more ugly, more foolish, or more disagreeable than any other; no, M. Andrea Cavalcanti may appear to those who look at men's faces and figures as a very good specimen of his kind. It is not, either, that my heart is less touched by him than any other; that would be a schoolgirl's reason, which I consider quite beneath me. I actually love no one, sir; you know it, do you not? I do not then see why, without real necessity, I should encumber my life with a perpetual companion. Has not some sage said, 'Nothing too much'? and another, 'I carry all my effects with me'? I have been taught these two aphorisms in Latin and in Greek; one is, I believe, from Phaedrus, and the other from Bias. Well, my dear father, in the shipwreck of life—for life is an eternal shipwreck of our hopes—I cast into the sea my useless encumbrance, that is all, and I remain with my own will, disposed to live perfectly alone, and consequently perfectly free."
"Unhappy girl, unhappy girl!" murmured Danglars, turning pale, for he knew from long experience the solidity of the obstacle he had so suddenly encountered.
"Unhappy girl," replied Eugenie, "unhappy girl, do you say, sir? No, indeed; the exclamation appears quite theatrical and affected. Happy, on the contrary, for what am I in want of! The world calls me beautiful. It is something to be well received. I like a favorable reception; it expands the countenance, and those around me do not then appear so ugly. I possess a share of wit, and a certain relative sensibility, which enables me to draw from life in general, for the support of mine, all I meet with that is good, like the monkey who cracks the nut to get at its contents. I am rich, for you have one of the first fortunes in France. I am your only daughter, and you are not so exacting as the fathers of the Porte Saint-Martin and Gaiete, who disinherit their daughters for not giving them grandchildren. Besides, the provident law has deprived you of the power to disinherit me, at least entirely, as it has also of the power to compel me to marry Monsieur This or Monsieur That. And so—being, beautiful, witty, somewhat talented, as the comic operas say, and rich—and that is happiness, sir—why do you call me unhappy?"
Danglars, seeing his daughter smiling, and proud even to insolence, could not entirely repress his brutal feelings, but they betrayed themselves only by an exclamation. Under the fixed and inquiring gaze levelled at him from under those beautiful black eyebrows, he prudently turned away, and calmed himself immediately, daunted by the power of a resolute mind. "Truly, my daughter," replied he with a smile, "you are all you boast of being, excepting one thing; I will not too hastily tell you which, but would rather leave you to guess it." Eugenie looked at Danglars, much surprised that one flower of her crown of pride, with which she had so superbly decked herself, should be disputed. "My daughter," continued the banker, "you have perfectly explained to me the sentiments which influence a girl like you, who is determined she will not marry; now it remains for me to tell you the motives of a father like me, who has decided that his daughter shall marry." Eugenie bowed, not as a submissive daughter, but as an adversary prepared for a discussion.
"My daughter," continued Danglars, "when a father asks his daughter to choose a husband, he has always some reason for wishing her to marry. Some are affected with the mania of which you spoke just now, that of living again in their grandchildren. This is not my weakness, I tell you at once; family joys have no charm for me. I may acknowledge this to a daughter whom I know to be philosophical enough to understand my indifference, and not to impute it to me as a crime."
"This is not to the purpose," said Eugenie; "let us speak candidly, sir; I admire candor."
"Oh," said Danglars, "I can, when circumstances render it desirable, adopt your system, although it may not be my general practice. I will therefore proceed. I have proposed to you to marry, not for your sake, for indeed I did not think of you in the least at the moment (you admire candor, and will now be satisfied, I hope); but because it suited me to marry you as soon as possible, on account of certain commercial speculations I am desirous of entering into." Eugenie became uneasy.
"It is just as I tell you, I assure you, and you must not be angry with me, for you have sought this disclosure. I do not willingly enter into arithmetical explanations with an artist like you, who fears to enter my study lest she should imbibe disagreeable or anti-poetic impressions and sensations. But in that same banker's study, where you very willingly presented yourself yesterday to ask for the thousand francs I give you monthly for pocket-money, you must know, my dear young lady, that many things may be learned, useful even to a girl who will not marry. There one may learn, for instance, what, out of regard to your nervous susceptibility, I will inform you of in the drawing-room, namely, that the credit of a banker is his physical and moral life; that credit sustains him as breath animates the body; and M. de Monte Cristo once gave me a lecture on that subject, which I have never forgotten. There we may learn that as credit sinks, the body becomes a corpse, and this is what must happen very soon to the banker who is proud to own so good a logician as you for his daughter." But Eugenie, instead of stooping, drew herself up under the blow. "Ruined?" said she.
"Exactly, my daughter; that is precisely what I mean," said Danglars, almost digging his nails into his breast, while he preserved on his harsh features the smile of the heartless though clever man; "ruined—yes, that is it."
"Ah!" said Eugenie.
"Yes, ruined! Now it is revealed, this secret so full of horror, as the tragic poet says. Now, my daughter, learn from my lips how you may alleviate this misfortune, so far as it will affect you."
"Oh," cried Eugenie, "you are a bad physiognomist, if you imagine I deplore on my own account the catastrophe of which you warn me. I ruined? and what will that signify to me? Have I not my talent left? Can I not, like Pasta, Malibran, Grisi, acquire for myself what you would never have given me, whatever might have been your fortune, a hundred or a hundred and fifty thousand livres per annum, for which I shall be indebted to no one but myself; and which, instead of being given as you gave me those poor twelve thousand francs, with sour looks and reproaches for my prodigality, will be accompanied with acclamations, with bravos, and with flowers? And if I do not possess that talent, which your smiles prove to me you doubt, should I not still have that ardent love of independence, which will be a substitute for wealth, and which in my mind supersedes even the instinct of self-preservation? No, I grieve not on my own account, I shall always find a resource; my books, my pencils, my piano, all the things which cost but little, and which I shall be able to procure, will remain my own.
"Do you think that I sorrow for Madame Danglars? Undeceive yourself again; either I am greatly mistaken, or she has provided against the catastrophe which threatens you, and, which will pass over without affecting her. She has taken care for herself,—at least I hope so,—for her attention has not been diverted from her projects by watching over me. She has fostered my independence by professedly indulging my love for liberty. Oh, no, sir; from my childhood I have seen too much, and understood too much, of what has passed around me, for misfortune to have an undue power over me. From my earliest recollections, I have been beloved by no one—so much the worse; that has naturally led me to love no one—so much the better—now you have my profession of faith."
"Then," said Danglars, pale with anger, which was not at all due to offended paternal love,—"then, mademoiselle, you persist in your determination to accelerate my ruin?"
"Your ruin? I accelerate your ruin? What do you mean? I do not understand you."
"So much the better, I have a ray of hope left; listen."
"I am all attention," said Eugenie, looking so earnestly at her father that it was an effort for the latter to endure her unrelenting gaze.
"M. Cavalcanti," continued Danglars, "is about to marry you, and will place in my hands his fortune, amounting to three million livres."
"That is admirable!" said Eugenie with sovereign contempt, smoothing her gloves out one upon the other.
"You think I shall deprive you of those three millions," said Danglars; "but do not fear it. They are destined to produce at least ten. I and a brother banker have obtained a grant of a railway, the only industrial enterprise which in these days promises to make good the fabulous prospects that Law once held out to the eternally deluded Parisians, in the fantastic Mississippi scheme. As I look at it, a millionth part of a railway is worth fully as much as an acre of waste land on the banks of the Ohio. We make in our case a deposit, on a mortgage, which is an advance, as you see, since we gain at least ten, fifteen, twenty, or a hundred livres' worth of iron in exchange for our money. Well, within a week I am to deposit four millions for my share; the four millions, I promise you, will produce ten or twelve."
"But during my visit to you the day before yesterday, sir, which you appear to recollect so well," replied Eugenie, "I saw you arranging a deposit—is not that the term?—of five millions and a half; you even pointed it out to me in two drafts on the treasury, and you were astonished that so valuable a paper did not dazzle my eyes like lightning."
"Yes, but those five millions and a half are not mine, and are only a proof of the great confidence placed in me; my title of popular banker has gained me the confidence of charitable institutions, and the five millions and a half belong to them; at any other time I should not have hesitated to make use of them, but the great losses I have recently sustained are well known, and, as I told you, my credit is rather shaken. That deposit may be at any moment withdrawn, and if I had employed it for another purpose, I should bring on me a disgraceful bankruptcy. I do not despise bankruptcies, believe me, but they must be those which enrich, not those which ruin. Now, if you marry M. Cavalcanti, and I get the three millions, or even if it is thought I am going to get them, my credit will be restored, and my fortune, which for the last month or two has been swallowed up in gulfs which have been opened in my path by an inconceivable fatality, will revive. Do you understand me?"
"Perfectly; you pledge me for three millions, do you not?"
"The greater the amount, the more flattering it is to you; it gives you an idea of your value."
"Thank you. One word more, sir; do you promise me to make what use you can of the report of the fortune M. Cavalcanti will bring without touching the money? This is no act of selfishness, but of delicacy. I am willing to help rebuild your fortune, but I will not be an accomplice in the ruin of others."
"But since I tell you," cried Danglars, "that with these three million"—
"Do you expect to recover your position, sir, without touching those three million?"
"I hope so, if the marriage should take place and confirm my credit."
"Shall you be able to pay M. Cavalcanti the five hundred thousand francs you promise for my dowry?"
"He shall receive them on returning from the mayor's." [*]
* The performance of the civil marriage.
"What next? what more do you want?"
"I wish to know if, in demanding my signature, you leave me entirely free in my person?"
"Then, as I said before, sir,—very well; I am ready to marry M. Cavalcanti."
"But what are you up to?"
"Ah, that is my affair. What advantage should I have over you, if knowing your secret I were to tell you mine?" Danglars bit his lips. "Then," said he, "you are ready to pay the official visits, which are absolutely indispensable?"
"Yes," replied Eugenie.
"And to sign the contract in three days?"
"Then, in my turn, I also say, very well!" Danglars pressed his daughter's hand in his. But, extraordinary to relate, the father did not say, "Thank you, my child," nor did the daughter smile at her father. "Is the conference ended?" asked Eugenie, rising. Danglars motioned that he had nothing more to say. Five minutes afterwards the piano resounded to the touch of Mademoiselle d'Armilly's fingers, and Mademoiselle Danglars was singing Brabantio's malediction on Desdemona. At the end of the piece Etienne entered, and announced to Eugenie that the horses were in the carriage, and that the baroness was waiting for her to pay her visits. We have seen them at Villefort's; they proceeded then on their course.
Chapter 96. The Contract.
Three days after the scene we have just described, namely towards five o'clock in the afternoon of the day fixed for the signature of the contract between Mademoiselle Eugenie Danglars and Andrea Cavalcanti,—whom the banker persisted in calling prince,—a fresh breeze was stirring the leaves in the little garden in front of the Count of Monte Cristo's house, and the count was preparing to go out. While his horses were impatiently pawing the ground,—held in by the coachman, who had been seated a quarter of an hour on his box,—the elegant phaeton with which we are familiar rapidly turned the angle of the entrance-gate, and cast out on the doorsteps M. Andrea Cavalcanti, as decked up and gay as if he were going to marry a princess. He inquired after the count with his usual familiarity, and ascending lightly to the second story met him at the top of the stairs. The count stopped on seeing the young man. As for Andrea, he was launched, and when he was once launched nothing stopped him. "Ah, good morning, my dear count," said he. "Ah, M. Andrea," said the latter, with his half-jesting tone; "how do you do."
"Charmingly, as you see. I am come to talk to you about a thousand things; but, first tell me, were you going out or just returned?"
"I was going out, sir."
"Then, in order not to hinder you, I will get up with you if you please in your carriage, and Tom shall follow with my phaeton in tow."
"No," said the count, with an imperceptible smile of contempt, for he had no wish to be seen in the young man's society,—"no; I prefer listening to you here, my dear M. Andrea; we can chat better in-doors, and there is no coachman to overhear our conversation." The count returned to a small drawing-room on the first floor, sat down, and crossing his legs motioned to the young man to take a seat also. Andrea assumed his gayest manner. "You know, my dear count," said he, "the ceremony is to take place this evening. At nine o'clock the contract is to be signed at my father-in-law's."
"Ah, indeed?" said Monte Cristo.
"What; is it news to you? Has not M. Danglars informed you of the ceremony?"
"Oh, yes," said the count; "I received a letter from him yesterday, but I do not think the hour was mentioned."
"Possibly my father-in-law trusted to its general notoriety."
"Well," said Monte Cristo, "you are fortunate, M. Cavalcanti; it is a most suitable alliance you are contracting, and Mademoiselle Danglars is a handsome girl."
"Yes, indeed she is," replied Cavalcanti, in a very modest tone.
"Above all, she is very rich,—at least, I believe so," said Monte Cristo.
"Very rich, do you think?" replied the young man.
"Doubtless; it is said M. Danglars conceals at least half of his fortune."
"And he acknowledges fifteen or twenty millions," said Andrea with a look sparkling with joy.
"Without reckoning," added Monte Cristo, "that he is on the eve of entering into a sort of speculation already in vogue in the United States and in England, but quite novel in France."
"Yes, yes, I know what you mean,—the railway, of which he has obtained the grant, is it not?"
"Precisely; it is generally believed he will gain ten millions by that affair."
"Ten millions! Do you think so? It is magnificent!" said Cavalcanti, who was quite confounded at the metallic sound of these golden words. "Without reckoning," replied Monte Cristo, "that all his fortune will come to you, and justly too, since Mademoiselle Danglars is an only daughter. Besides, your own fortune, as your father assured me, is almost equal to that of your betrothed. But enough of money matters. Do you know, M. Andrea, I think you have managed this affair rather skilfully?"
"Not badly, by any means," said the young man; "I was born for a diplomatist."
"Well, you must become a diplomatist; diplomacy, you know, is something that is not to be acquired; it is instinctive. Have you lost your heart?"
"Indeed, I fear it," replied Andrea, in the tone in which he had heard Dorante or Valere reply to Alceste [*] at the Theatre Francais.
"Is your love returned?"
* In Moliere's comedy, Le Misanthrope.
"I suppose so," said Andrea with a triumphant smile, "since I am accepted. But I must not forget one grand point."
"That I have been singularly assisted."
"I have, indeed."
"No; by you."
"By me? Not at all, prince," said Monte Cristo laying a marked stress on the title, "what have I done for you? Are not your name, your social position, and your merit sufficient?"
"No," said Andrea,—"no; it is useless for you to say so, count. I maintain that the position of a man like you has done more than my name, my social position, and my merit."
"You are completely mistaken, sir," said Monte Cristo coldly, who felt the perfidious manoeuvre of the young man, and understood the bearing of his words; "you only acquired my protection after the influence and fortune of your father had been ascertained; for, after all, who procured for me, who had never seen either you or your illustrious father, the pleasure of your acquaintance?—two of my good friends, Lord Wilmore and the Abbe Busoni. What encouraged me not to become your surety, but to patronize you?—your father's name, so well known in Italy and so highly honored. Personally, I do not know you." This calm tone and perfect ease made Andrea feel that he was, for the moment, restrained by a more muscular hand than his own, and that the restraint could not be easily broken through.
"Oh, then my father has really a very large fortune, count?"
"It appears so, sir," replied Monte Cristo.
"Do you know if the marriage settlement he promised me has come?"
"I have been advised of it."
"But the three millions?"
"The three millions are probably on the road."
"Then I shall really have them?"
"Oh, well," said the count, "I do not think you have yet known the want of money." Andrea was so surprised that he pondered the matter for a moment. Then, arousing from his revery,—"Now, sir, I have one request to make to you, which you will understand, even if it should be disagreeable to you."
"Proceed," said Monte Cristo.
"I have formed an acquaintance, thanks to my good fortune, with many noted persons, and have, at least for the moment, a crowd of friends. But marrying, as I am about to do, before all Paris, I ought to be supported by an illustrious name, and in the absence of the paternal hand some powerful one ought to lead me to the altar; now, my father is not coming to Paris, is he? He is old, covered with wounds, and suffers dreadfully, he says, in travelling."
"Well, I am come to ask a favor of you."
"Yes, of you."
"And pray what may it be?"
"Well, to take his part."
"Ah, my dear sir! What?—after the varied relations I have had the happiness to sustain towards you, can it be that you know me so little as to ask such a thing? Ask me to lend you half a million and, although such a loan is somewhat rare, on my honor, you would annoy me less! Know, then, what I thought I had already told you, that in participation in this world's affairs, more especially in their moral aspects, the Count of Monte Cristo has never ceased to entertain the scruples and even the superstitions of the East. I, who have a seraglio at Cairo, one at Smyrna, and one at Constantinople, preside at a wedding?—never!"
"Then you refuse me?"
"Decidedly; and were you my son or my brother I would refuse you in the same way."
"But what must be done?" said Andrea, disappointed.
"You said just now that you had a hundred friends."
"Very true, but you introduced me at M. Danglars'."
"Not at all! Let us recall the exact facts. You met him at a dinner party at my house, and you introduced yourself at his house; that is a totally different affair."
"Yes, but, by my marriage, you have forwarded that."
"I?—not in the least, I beg you to believe. Recollect what I told you when you asked me to propose you. 'Oh, I never make matches, my dear prince, it is my settled principle.'" Andrea bit his lips.
"But, at least, you will be there?"
"Will all Paris be there?"
"Well, like all Paris, I shall be there too," said the count.
"And will you sign the contract?"
"I see no objection to that; my scruples do not go thus far."
"Well, since you will grant me no more, I must be content with what you give me. But one word more, count."
"What is it?"
"Be careful; advice is worse than a service."
"Oh, you can give me this without compromising yourself."
"Tell me what it is."
"Is my wife's fortune five hundred thousand livres?"
"That is the sum M. Danglars himself announced."
"Must I receive it, or leave it in the hands of the notary?"
"This is the way such affairs are generally arranged when it is wished to do them stylishly: Your two solicitors appoint a meeting, when the contract is signed, for the next or the following day; then they exchange the two portions, for which they each give a receipt; then, when the marriage is celebrated, they place the amount at your disposal as the chief member of the alliance."
"Because," said Andrea, with a certain ill-concealed uneasiness, "I thought I heard my father-in-law say that he intended embarking our property in that famous railway affair of which you spoke just now."
"Well," replied Monte Cristo, "it will be the way, everybody says, of trebling your fortune in twelve months. Baron Danglars is a good father, and knows how to calculate."
"In that case," said Andrea, "everything is all right, excepting your refusal, which quite grieves me."
"You must attribute it only to natural scruples under similar circumstances."
"Well," said Andrea, "let it be as you wish. This evening, then, at nine o'clock."
"Adieu till then." Notwithstanding a slight resistance on the part of Monte Cristo, whose lips turned pale, but who preserved his ceremonious smile, Andrea seized the count's hand, pressed it, jumped into his phaeton, and disappeared.
The four or five remaining hours before nine o'clock arrived, Andrea employed in riding, paying visits,—designed to induce those of whom he had spoken to appear at the banker's in their gayest equipages,—dazzling them by promises of shares in schemes which have since turned every brain, and in which Danglars was just taking the initiative. In fact, at half-past eight in the evening the grand salon, the gallery adjoining, and the three other drawing-rooms on the same floor, were filled with a perfumed crowd, who sympathized but little in the event, but who all participated in that love of being present wherever there is anything fresh to be seen. An Academician would say that the entertainments of the fashionable world are collections of flowers which attract inconstant butterflies, famished bees, and buzzing drones.
No one could deny that the rooms were splendidly illuminated; the light streamed forth on the gilt mouldings and the silk hangings; and all the bad taste of decorations, which had only their richness to boast of, shone in its splendor. Mademoiselle Eugenie was dressed with elegant simplicity in a figured white silk dress, and a white rose half concealed in her jet black hair was her only ornament, unaccompanied by a single jewel. Her eyes, however, betrayed that perfect confidence which contradicted the girlish simplicity of this modest attire. Madame Danglars was chatting at a short distance with Debray, Beauchamp, and Chateau-Renaud.
Debray was admitted to the house for this grand ceremony, but on the same plane with every one else, and without any particular privilege. M. Danglars, surrounded by deputies and men connected with the revenue, was explaining a new theory of taxation which he intended to adopt when the course of events had compelled the government to call him into the ministry. Andrea, on whose arm hung one of the most consummate dandies of the opera, was explaining to him rather cleverly, since he was obliged to be bold to appear at ease, his future projects, and the new luxuries he meant to introduce to Parisian fashions with his hundred and seventy-five thousand livres per annum.
The crowd moved to and fro in the rooms like an ebb and flow of turquoises, rubies, emeralds, opals, and diamonds. As usual, the oldest women were the most decorated, and the ugliest the most conspicuous. If there was a beautiful lily, or a sweet rose, you had to search for it, concealed in some corner behind a mother with a turban, or an aunt with a bird of paradise.
At each moment, in the midst of the crowd, the buzzing, and the laughter, the door-keeper's voice was heard announcing some name well known in the financial department, respected in the army, or illustrious in the literary world, and which was acknowledged by a slight movement in the different groups. But for one whose privilege it was to agitate that ocean of human waves, how many were received with a look of indifference or a sneer of disdain! At the moment when the hand of the massive time-piece, representing Endymion asleep, pointed to nine on its golden face, and the hammer, the faithful type of mechanical thought, struck nine times, the name of the Count of Monte Cristo resounded in its turn, and as if by an electric shock all the assembly turned towards the door.
The count was dressed in black and with his habitual simplicity; his white waistcoat displayed his expansive noble chest and his black stock was singularly noticeable because of its contrast with the deadly paleness of his face. His only jewellery was a chain, so fine that the slender gold thread was scarcely perceptible on his white waistcoat. A circle was immediately formed around the door. The count perceived at one glance Madame Danglars at one end of the drawing-room, M. Danglars at the other, and Eugenie in front of him. He first advanced towards the baroness, who was chatting with Madame de Villefort, who had come alone, Valentine being still an invalid; and without turning aside, so clear was the road left for him, he passed from the baroness to Eugenie, whom he complimented in such rapid and measured terms, that the proud artist was quite struck. Near her was Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly, who thanked the count for the letters of introduction he had so kindly given her for Italy, which she intended immediately to make use of. On leaving these ladies he found himself with Danglars, who had advanced to meet him.
Having accomplished these three social duties, Monte Cristo stopped, looking around him with that expression peculiar to a certain class, which seems to say, "I have done my duty, now let others do theirs." Andrea, who was in an adjoining room, had shared in the sensation caused by the arrival of Monte Cristo, and now came forward to pay his respects to the count. He found him completely surrounded; all were eager to speak to him, as is always the case with those whose words are few and weighty. The solicitors arrived at this moment and arranged their scrawled papers on the velvet cloth embroidered with gold which covered the table prepared for the signature; it was a gilt table supported on lions' claws. One of the notaries sat down, the other remained standing. They were about to proceed to the reading of the contract, which half Paris assembled was to sign. All took their places, or rather the ladies formed a circle, while the gentlemen (more indifferent to the restraints of what Boileau calls the "energetic style") commented on the feverish agitation of Andrea, on M. Danglars' riveted attention, Eugenie's composure, and the light and sprightly manner in which the baroness treated this important affair.
The contract was read during a profound silence. But as soon as it was finished, the buzz was redoubled through all the drawing-rooms; the brilliant sums, the rolling millions which were to be at the command of the two young people, and which crowned the display of the wedding presents and the young lady's diamonds, which had been made in a room entirely appropriated for that purpose, had exercised to the full their delusions over the envious assembly. Mademoiselle Danglars' charms were heightened in the opinion of the young men, and for the moment seemed to outvie the sun in splendor. As for the ladies, it is needless to say that while they coveted the millions, they thought they did not need them for themselves, as they were beautiful enough without them. Andrea, surrounded by his friends, complimented, flattered, beginning to believe in the reality of his dream, was almost bewildered. The notary solemnly took the pen, flourished it above his head, and said, "Gentlemen, we are about to sign the contract."
The baron was to sign first, then the representative of M. Cavalcanti, senior, then the baroness, afterwards the "future couple," as they are styled in the abominable phraseology of legal documents. The baron took the pen and signed, then the representative. The baroness approached, leaning on Madame de Villefort's arm. "My dear," said she, as she took the pen, "is it not vexatious? An unexpected incident, in the affair of murder and theft at the Count of Monte Cristo's, in which he nearly fell a victim, deprives us of the pleasure of seeing M. de Villefort."
"Indeed?" said M. Danglars, in the same tone in which he would have said, "Oh, well, what do I care?"
"As a matter of fact," said Monte Cristo, approaching, "I am much afraid that I am the involuntary cause of his absence."
"What, you, count?" said Madame Danglars, signing; "if you are, take care, for I shall never forgive you." Andrea pricked up his ears.
"But it is not my fault, as I shall endeavor to prove." Every one listened eagerly; Monte Cristo who so rarely opened his lips, was about to speak. "You remember," said the count, during the most profound silence, "that the unhappy wretch who came to rob me died at my house; the supposition is that he was stabbed by his accomplice, on attempting to leave it."
"Yes," said Danglars.
"In order that his wounds might be examined he was undressed, and his clothes were thrown into a corner, where the police picked them up, with the exception of the waistcoat, which they overlooked." Andrea turned pale, and drew towards the door; he saw a cloud rising in the horizon, which appeared to forebode a coming storm.
"Well, this waistcoat was discovered to-day, covered with blood, and with a hole over the heart." The ladies screamed, and two or three prepared to faint. "It was brought to me. No one could guess what the dirty rag could be; I alone suspected that it was the waistcoat of the murdered man. My valet, in examining this mournful relic, felt a paper in the pocket and drew it out; it was a letter addressed to you, baron."
"To me?" cried Danglars.
"Yes, indeed, to you; I succeeded in deciphering your name under the blood with which the letter was stained," replied Monte Cristo, amid the general outburst of amazement.
"But," asked Madame Danglars, looking at her husband with uneasiness, "how could that prevent M. de Villefort"—
"In this simple way, madame," replied Monte Cristo; "the waistcoat and the letter were both what is termed circumstantial evidence; I therefore sent them to the king's attorney. You understand, my dear baron, that legal methods are the safest in criminal cases; it was, perhaps, some plot against you." Andrea looked steadily at Monte Cristo and disappeared in the second drawing-room.
"Possibly," said Danglars; "was not this murdered man an old galley-slave?"
"Yes," replied the count; "a felon named Caderousse." Danglars turned slightly pale; Andrea reached the anteroom beyond the little drawing-room.
"But go on signing," said Monte Cristo; "I perceive that my story has caused a general emotion, and I beg to apologize to you, baroness, and to Mademoiselle Danglars." The baroness, who had signed, returned the pen to the notary. "Prince Cavalcanti," said the latter; "Prince Cavalcanti, where are you?"
"Andrea, Andrea," repeated several young people, who were already on sufficiently intimate terms with him to call him by his Christian name.
"Call the prince; inform him that it is his turn to sign," cried Danglars to one of the floorkeepers.
But at the same instant the crowd of guests rushed in alarm into the principal salon as if some frightful monster had entered the apartments, quaerens quem devoret. There was, indeed, reason to retreat, to be alarmed, and to scream. An officer was placing two soldiers at the door of each drawing-room, and was advancing towards Danglars, preceded by a commissary of police, girded with his scarf. Madame Danglars uttered a scream and fainted. Danglars, who thought himself threatened (certain consciences are never calm),—Danglars even before his guests showed a countenance of abject terror.
"What is the matter, sir?" asked Monte Cristo, advancing to meet the commissioner.
"Which of you gentlemen," asked the magistrate, without replying to the count, "answers to the name of Andrea Cavalcanti?" A cry of astonishment was heard from all parts of the room. They searched; they questioned. "But who then is Andrea Cavalcanti?" asked Danglars in amazement.
"A galley-slave, escaped from confinement at Toulon."
"And what crime has he committed?"
"He is accused," said the commissary with his inflexible voice, "of having assassinated the man named Caderousse, his former companion in prison, at the moment he was making his escape from the house of the Count of Monte Cristo." Monte Cristo cast a rapid glance around him. Andrea was gone.
Chapter 97. The Departure for Belgium.
A few minutes after the scene of confusion produced in the salons of M. Danglars by the unexpected appearance of the brigade of soldiers, and by the disclosure which had followed, the mansion was deserted with as much rapidity as if a case of plague or of cholera morbus had broken out among the guests. In a few minutes, through all the doors, down all the staircases, by every exit, every one hastened to retire, or rather to fly; for it was a situation where the ordinary condolences,—which even the best friends are so eager to offer in great catastrophes,—were seen to be utterly futile. There remained in the banker's house only Danglars, closeted in his study, and making his statement to the officer of gendarmes; Madame Danglars, terrified, in the boudoir with which we are acquainted; and Eugenie, who with haughty air and disdainful lip had retired to her room with her inseparable companion, Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly. As for the numerous servants (more numerous that evening than usual, for their number was augmented by cooks and butlers from the Cafe de Paris), venting on their employers their anger at what they termed the insult to which they had been subjected, they collected in groups in the hall, in the kitchens, or in their rooms, thinking very little of their duty, which was thus naturally interrupted. Of all this household, only two persons deserve our notice; these are Mademoiselle Eugenie Danglars and Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly.
The betrothed had retired, as we said, with haughty air, disdainful lip, and the demeanor of an outraged queen, followed by her companion, who was paler and more disturbed than herself. On reaching her room Eugenie locked her door, while Louise fell on a chair. "Ah, what a dreadful thing," said the young musician; "who would have suspected it? M. Andrea Cavalcanti a murderer—a galley-slave escaped—a convict!" An ironical smile curled the lip of Eugenie. "In truth I was fated," said she. "I escaped the Morcerf only to fall into the Cavalcanti."
"Oh, do not confound the two, Eugenie."
"Hold your tongue! The men are all infamous, and I am happy to be able now to do more than detest them—I despise them."
"What shall we do?" asked Louise.
"What shall we do?"
"Why, the same we had intended doing three days since—set off."
"What?—although you are not now going to be married, you intend still"—
"Listen, Louise. I hate this life of the fashionable world, always ordered, measured, ruled, like our music-paper. What I have always wished for, desired, and coveted, is the life of an artist, free and independent, relying only on my own resources, and accountable only to myself. Remain here? What for?—that they may try, a month hence, to marry me again; and to whom?—M. Debray, perhaps, as it was once proposed. No, Louise, no! This evening's adventure will serve for my excuse. I did not seek one, I did not ask for one. God sends me this, and I hail it joyfully!"
"How strong and courageous you are!" said the fair, frail girl to her brunette companion.
"Did you not yet know me? Come, Louise, let us talk of our affairs. The post-chaise"—
"Was happily bought three days since."
"Have you had it sent where we are to go for it?"
"Here it is."
And Eugenie, with her usual precision, opened a printed paper, and read,—
"M. Leon d'Armilly, twenty years of age; profession, artist; hair black, eyes black; travelling with his sister."
"Capital! How did you get this passport?"
"When I went to ask M. de Monte Cristo for letters to the directors of the theatres at Rome and Naples, I expressed my fears of travelling as a woman; he perfectly understood them, and undertook to procure for me a man's passport, and two days after I received this, to which I have added with my own hand, 'travelling with his sister.'"
"Well," said Eugenie cheerfully, "we have then only to pack up our trunks; we shall start the evening of the signing of the contract, instead of the evening of the wedding—that is all."
"But consider the matter seriously, Eugenie!"
"Oh, I am done with considering! I am tired of hearing only of market reports, of the end of the month, of the rise and fall of Spanish funds, of Haitian bonds. Instead of that, Louise—do you understand?—air, liberty, melody of birds, plains of Lombardy, Venetian canals, Roman palaces, the Bay of Naples. How much have we, Louise?" The young girl to whom this question was addressed drew from an inlaid secretary a small portfolio with a lock, in which she counted twenty-three bank-notes.
"Twenty-three thousand francs," said she.
"And as much, at least, in pearls, diamonds, and jewels," said Eugenie. "We are rich. With forty-five thousand francs we can live like princesses for two years, and comfortably for four; but before six months—you with your music, and I with my voice—we shall double our capital. Come, you shall take charge of the money, I of the jewel-box; so that if one of us had the misfortune to lose her treasure, the other would still have hers left. Now, the portmanteau—let us make haste—the portmanteau!"
"Stop!" said Louise, going to listen at Madame Danglars' door.
"What do you fear?"
"That we may be discovered."
"The door is locked."
"They may tell us to open it."
"They may if they like, but we will not."
"You are a perfect Amazon, Eugenie!" And the two young girls began to heap into a trunk all the things they thought they should require. "There now," said Eugenie, "while I change my costume do you lock the portmanteau." Louise pressed with all the strength of her little hands on the top of the portmanteau. "But I cannot," said she; "I am not strong enough; do you shut it."
"Ah, you do well to ask," said Eugenie, laughing; "I forgot that I was Hercules, and you only the pale Omphale!" And the young girl, kneeling on the top, pressed the two parts of the portmanteau together, and Mademoiselle d'Armilly passed the bolt of the padlock through. When this was done, Eugenie opened a drawer, of which she kept the key, and took from it a wadded violet silk travelling cloak. "Here," said she, "you see I have thought of everything; with this cloak you will not be cold."
"Oh, I am never cold, you know! Besides, with these men's clothes"—
"Will you dress here?"
"Shall you have time?"
"Do not be uneasy, you little coward! All our servants are busy, discussing the grand affair. Besides, what is there astonishing, when you think of the grief I ought to be in, that I shut myself up?—tell me!"
"No, truly—you comfort me."
"Come and help me."
From the same drawer she took a man's complete costume, from the boots to the coat, and a provision of linen, where there was nothing superfluous, but every requisite. Then, with a promptitude which indicated that this was not the first time she had amused herself by adopting the garb of the opposite sex, Eugenie drew on the boots and pantaloons, tied her cravat, buttoned her waistcoat up to the throat, and put on a coat which admirably fitted her beautiful figure. "Oh, that is very good—indeed, it is very good!" said Louise, looking at her with admiration; "but that beautiful black hair, those magnificent braids, which made all the ladies sigh with envy,—will they go under a man's hat like the one I see down there?"
"You shall see," said Eugenie. And with her left hand seizing the thick mass, which her long fingers could scarcely grasp, she took in her right hand a pair of long scissors, and soon the steel met through the rich and splendid hair, which fell in a cluster at her feet as she leaned back to keep it from her coat. Then she grasped the front hair, which she also cut off, without expressing the least regret; on the contrary, her eyes sparkled with greater pleasure than usual under her ebony eyebrows. "Oh, the magnificent hair!" said Louise, with regret.
"And am I not a hundred times better thus?" cried Eugenie, smoothing the scattered curls of her hair, which had now quite a masculine appearance; "and do you not think me handsomer so?"
"Oh, you are beautiful—always beautiful!" cried Louise. "Now, where are you going?"
"To Brussels, if you like; it is the nearest frontier. We can go to Brussels, Liege, Aix-la-Chapelle; then up the Rhine to Strasburg. We will cross Switzerland, and go down into Italy by the Saint-Gothard. Will that do?"
"What are you looking at?"
"I am looking at you; indeed you are adorable like that! One would say you were carrying me off."
"And they would be right, pardieu!"
"Oh, I think you swore, Eugenie." And the two young girls, whom every one might have thought plunged in grief, the one on her own account, the other from interest in her friend, burst out laughing, as they cleared away every visible trace of the disorder which had naturally accompanied the preparations for their escape. Then, having blown out the lights, the two fugitives, looking and listening eagerly, with outstretched necks, opened the door of a dressing-room which led by a side staircase down to the yard,—Eugenie going first, and holding with one arm the portmanteau, which by the opposite handle Mademoiselle d'Armilly scarcely raised with both hands. The yard was empty; the clock was striking twelve. The porter was not yet gone to bed. Eugenie approached softly, and saw the old man sleeping soundly in an arm-chair in his lodge. She returned to Louise, took up the portmanteau, which she had placed for a moment on the ground, and they reached the archway under the shadow of the wall.
Eugenie concealed Louise in an angle of the gateway, so that if the porter chanced to awake he might see but one person. Then placing herself in the full light of the lamp which lit the yard,—"Gate!" cried she, with her finest contralto voice, and rapping at the window.
The porter got up as Eugenie expected, and even advanced some steps to recognize the person who was going out, but seeing a young man striking his boot impatiently with his riding-whip, he opened it immediately. Louise slid through the half-open gate like a snake, and bounded lightly forward. Eugenie, apparently calm, although in all probability her heart beat somewhat faster than usual, went out in her turn. A porter was passing and they gave him the portmanteau; then the two young girls, having told him to take it to No. 36, Rue de la Victoire, walked behind this man, whose presence comforted Louise. As for Eugenie, she was as strong as a Judith or a Delilah. They arrived at the appointed spot. Eugenie ordered the porter to put down the portmanteau, gave him some pieces of money, and having rapped at the shutter sent him away. The shutter where Eugenie had rapped was that of a little laundress, who had been previously warned, and was not yet gone to bed. She opened the door.
"Mademoiselle," said Eugenie, "let the porter get the post-chaise from the coach-house, and fetch some post-horses from the hotel. Here are five francs for his trouble."
"Indeed," said Louise, "I admire you, and I could almost say respect you." The laundress looked on in astonishment, but as she had been promised twenty louis, she made no remark.
In a quarter of an hour the porter returned with a post-boy and horses, which were harnessed, and put in the post-chaise in a minute, while the porter fastened the portmanteau on with the assistance of a cord and strap. "Here is the passport," said the postilion, "which way are we going, young gentleman?"
"To Fontainebleau," replied Eugenie with an almost masculine voice.
"What do you say?" said Louise.
"I am giving them the slip," said Eugenie; "this woman to whom we have given twenty louis may betray us for forty; we will soon alter our direction." And the young girl jumped into the britzska, which was admirably arranged for sleeping in, without scarcely touching the step. "You are always right," said the music teacher, seating herself by the side of her friend.
A quarter of an hour afterwards the postilion, having been put in the right road, passed with a crack of his whip through the gateway of the Barriere Saint-Martin. "Ah," said Louise, breathing freely, "here we are out of Paris."
"Yes, my dear, the abduction is an accomplished fact," replied Eugenie. "Yes, and without violence," said Louise.
"I shall bring that forward as an extenuating circumstance," replied Eugenie. These words were lost in the noise which the carriage made in rolling over the pavement of La Villette. M. Danglars no longer had a daughter.
Chapter 98. The Bell and Bottle Tavern.
And now let us leave Mademoiselle Danglars and her friend pursuing their way to Brussels, and return to poor Andrea Cavalcanti, so inopportunely interrupted in his rise to fortune. Notwithstanding his youth, Master Andrea was a very skilful and intelligent boy. We have seen that on the first rumor which reached the salon he had gradually approached the door, and crossing two or three rooms at last disappeared. But we have forgotten to mention one circumstance, which nevertheless ought not to be omitted; in one of the rooms he crossed, the trousseau of the bride-elect was on exhibition. There were caskets of diamonds, cashmere shawls, Valenciennes lace, English veilings, and in fact all the tempting things, the bare mention of which makes the hearts of young girls bound with joy, and which is called the "corbeille." [*] Now, in passing through this room, Andrea proved himself not only to be clever and intelligent, but also provident, for he helped himself to the most valuable of the ornaments before him.
* Literally, "the basket," because wedding gifts were originally brought in such a receptacle.
Furnished with this plunder, Andrea leaped with a lighter heart from the window, intending to slip through the hands of the gendarmes. Tall and well proportioned as an ancient gladiator, and muscular as a Spartan, he walked for a quarter of an hour without knowing where to direct his steps, actuated by the sole idea of getting away from the spot where if he lingered he knew that he would surely be taken. Having passed through the Rue Mont Blanc, guided by the instinct which leads thieves always to take the safest path, he found himself at the end of the Rue Lafayette. There he stopped, breathless and panting. He was quite alone; on one side was the vast wilderness of the Saint-Lazare, on the other, Paris enshrouded in darkness. "Am I to be captured?" he cried; "no, not if I can use more activity than my enemies. My safety is now a mere question of speed." At this moment he saw a cab at the top of the Faubourg Poissonniere. The dull driver, smoking his pipe, was plodding along toward the limits of the Faubourg Saint-Denis, where no doubt he ordinarily had his station. "Ho, friend!" said Benedetto.
"What do you want, sir?" asked the driver.
"Is your horse tired?"
"Tired? oh, yes, tired enough—he has done nothing the whole of this blessed day! Four wretched fares, and twenty sous over, making in all seven francs, are all that I have earned, and I ought to take ten to the owner."
"Will you add these twenty francs to the seven you have?"
"With pleasure, sir; twenty francs are not to be despised. Tell me what I am to do for this."
"A very easy thing, if your horse isn't tired."
"I tell you he'll go like the wind,—only tell me which way to drive."
"Towards the Louvres."
"Ah, I know the way—you get good sweetened rum over there."
"Exactly so; I merely wish to overtake one of my friends, with whom I am going to hunt to-morrow at Chapelle-en-Serval. He should have waited for me here with a cabriolet till half-past eleven; it is twelve, and, tired of waiting, he must have gone on."
"It is likely."
"Well, will you try and overtake him?"
"Nothing I should like better."
"If you do not overtake him before we reach Bourget you shall have twenty francs; if not before Louvres, thirty."
"And if we do overtake him?"
"Forty," said Andrea, after a moment's hesitation, at the end of which he remembered that he might safely promise. "That's all right," said the man; "hop in, and we're off! Who-o-o-p, la!"
Andrea got into the cab, which passed rapidly through the Faubourg Saint-Denis, along the Faubourg Saint-Martin, crossed the barrier, and threaded its way through the interminable Villette. They never overtook the chimerical friend, yet Andrea frequently inquired of people on foot whom he passed and at the inns which were not yet closed, for a green cabriolet and bay horse; and as there are a great many cabriolets to be seen on the road to the Low Countries, and as nine-tenths of them are green, the inquiries increased at every step. Every one had just seen it pass; it was only five hundred, two hundred, one hundred steps in advance; at length they reached it, but it was not the friend. Once the cab was also passed by a calash rapidly whirled along by two post-horses. "Ah," said Cavalcanti to himself, "if I only had that britzska, those two good post-horses, and above all the passport that carries them on!" And he sighed deeply. The calash contained Mademoiselle Danglars and Mademoiselle d'Armilly. "Hurry, hurry!" said Andrea, "we must overtake him soon." And the poor horse resumed the desperate gallop it had kept up since leaving the barrier, and arrived steaming at Louvres.
"Certainly," said Andrea, "I shall not overtake my friend, but I shall kill your horse, therefore I had better stop. Here are thirty francs; I will sleep at the Red Horse, and will secure a place in the first coach. Good-night, friend." And Andrea, after placing six pieces of five francs each in the man's hand, leaped lightly on to the pathway. The cabman joyfully pocketed the sum, and turned back on his road to Paris. Andrea pretended to go towards the Red Horse inn, but after leaning an instant against the door, and hearing the last sound of the cab, which was disappearing from view, he went on his road, and with a lusty stride soon traversed the space of two leagues. Then he rested; he must be near Chapelle-en-Serval, where he pretended to be going. It was not fatigue that stayed Andrea here; it was that he might form some resolution, adopt some plan. It would be impossible to make use of a diligence, equally so to engage post-horses; to travel either way a passport was necessary. It was still more impossible to remain in the department of the Oise, one of the most open and strictly guarded in France; this was quite out of the question, especially to a man like Andrea, perfectly conversant with criminal matters.
He sat down by the side of the moat, buried his face in his hands and reflected. Ten minutes after he raised his head; his resolution was made. He threw some dust over the topcoat, which he had found time to unhook from the ante-chamber and button over his ball costume, and going to Chapelle-en-Serval he knocked loudly at the door of the only inn in the place. The host opened. "My friend," said Andrea, "I was coming from Montefontaine to Senlis, when my horse, which is a troublesome creature, stumbled and threw me. I must reach Compiegne to-night, or I shall cause deep anxiety to my family. Could you let me hire a horse of you?"
An inn-keeper has always a horse to let, whether it be good or bad. The host called the stable-boy, and ordered him to saddle "Whitey," then he awoke his son, a child of seven years, whom he ordered to ride before the gentleman and bring back the horse. Andrea gave the inn-keeper twenty francs, and in taking them from his pocket dropped a visiting card. This belonged to one of his friends at the Cafe de Paris, so that the innkeeper, picking it up after Andrea had left, was convinced that he had let his horse to the Count of Mauleon, 25 Rue Saint-Dominique, that being the name and address on the card. "Whitey" was not a fast animal, but he kept up an easy, steady pace; in three hours and a half Andrea had traversed the nine leagues which separated him from Compiegne, and four o'clock struck as he reached the place where the coaches stop. There is an excellent tavern at Compiegne, well remembered by those who have ever been there. Andrea, who had often stayed there in his rides about Paris, recollected the Bell and Bottle inn; he turned around, saw the sign by the light of a reflected lamp, and having dismissed the child, giving him all the small coin he had about him, he began knocking at the door, very reasonably concluding that having now three or four hours before him he had best fortify himself against the fatigues of the morrow by a sound sleep and a good supper. A waiter opened the door.
"My friend," said Andrea, "I have been dining at Saint-Jean-au-Bois, and expected to catch the coach which passes by at midnight, but like a fool I have lost my way, and have been walking for the last four hours in the forest. Show me into one of those pretty little rooms which overlook the court, and bring me a cold fowl and a bottle of Bordeaux." The waiter had no suspicions; Andrea spoke with perfect composure, he had a cigar in his mouth, and his hands in the pocket of his top coat; his clothes were fashionably made, his chin smooth, his boots irreproachable; he looked merely as if he had stayed out very late, that was all. While the waiter was preparing his room, the hostess arose; Andrea assumed his most charming smile, and asked if he could have No. 3, which he had occupied on his last stay at Compiegne. Unfortunately, No. 3 was engaged by a young man who was travelling with his sister. Andrea appeared in despair, but consoled himself when the hostess assured him that No. 7, prepared for him, was situated precisely the same as No. 3, and while warming his feet and chatting about the last races at Chantilly, he waited until they announced his room to be ready.
Andrea had not spoken without cause of the pretty rooms looking out upon the court of the Bell Tavern, which with its triple galleries like those of a theatre, with the jessamine and clematis twining round the light columns, forms one of the prettiest entrances to an inn that you can imagine. The fowl was tender, the wine old, the fire clear and sparkling, and Andrea was surprised to find himself eating with as good an appetite as though nothing had happened. Then he went to bed and almost immediately fell into that deep sleep which is sure to visit men of twenty years of age, even when they are torn with remorse. Now, here we are obliged to own that Andrea ought to have felt remorse, but that he did not. This was the plan which had appealed to him to afford the best chance of his security. Before daybreak he would awake, leave the inn after rigorously paying his bill, and reaching the forest, he would, under pretence of making studies in painting, test the hospitality of some peasants, procure himself the dress of a woodcutter and a hatchet, casting off the lion's skin to assume that of the woodman; then, with his hands covered with dirt, his hair darkened by means of a leaden comb, his complexion embrowned with a preparation for which one of his old comrades had given him the recipe, he intended, by following the wooded districts, to reach the nearest frontier, walking by night and sleeping in the day in the forests and quarries, and only entering inhabited regions to buy a loaf from time to time.
Once past the frontier, Andrea proposed making money of his diamonds; and by uniting the proceeds to ten bank-notes he always carried about with him in case of accident, he would then find himself possessor of about 50,000 livres, which he philosophically considered as no very deplorable condition after all. Moreover, he reckoned much on the interest of the Danglars to hush up the rumor of their own misadventures. These were the reasons which, added to the fatigue, caused Andrea to sleep so soundly. In order that he might awaken early he did not close the shutters, but contented himself with bolting the door and placing on the table an unclasped and long-pointed knife, whose temper he well knew, and which was never absent from him. About seven in the morning Andrea was awakened by a ray of sunlight, which played, warm and brilliant, upon his face. In all well-organized brains, the predominating idea—and there always is one—is sure to be the last thought before sleeping, and the first upon waking in the morning. Andrea had scarcely opened his eyes when his predominating idea presented itself, and whispered in his ear that he had slept too long. He jumped out of bed and ran to the window. A gendarme was crossing the court. A gendarme is one of the most striking objects in the world, even to a man void of uneasiness; but for one who has a timid conscience, and with good cause too, the yellow, blue, and white uniform is really very alarming.
"Why is that gendarme there?" asked Andrea of himself. Then, all at once, he replied, with that logic which the reader has, doubtless, remarked in him, "There is nothing astonishing in seeing a gendarme at an inn; instead of being astonished, let me dress myself." And the youth dressed himself with a facility his valet de chambre had failed to rob him of during the two months of fashionable life he had led in Paris. "Now then," said Andrea, while dressing himself, "I'll wait till he leaves, and then I'll slip away." And, saying this, Andrea, who had now put on his boots and cravat, stole gently to the window, and a second time lifted up the muslin curtain. Not only was the first gendarme still there, but the young man now perceived a second yellow, blue, and white uniform at the foot of the staircase, the only one by which he could descend, while a third, on horseback, holding a musket in his fist, was posted as a sentinel at the great street door which alone afforded the means of egress.
The appearance of the third gendarme settled the matter, for a crowd of curious loungers was extended before him, effectually blocking the entrance to the hotel. "They're after me!" was Andrea's first thought. "The devil!" A pallor overspread the young man's forehead, and he looked around him with anxiety. His room, like all those on the same floor, had but one outlet to the gallery in the sight of everybody. "I am lost!" was his second thought; and, indeed, for a man in Andrea's situation, an arrest meant the assizes, trial, and death,—death without mercy or delay. For a moment he convulsively pressed his head within his hands, and during that brief period he became nearly mad with terror; but soon a ray of hope glimmered in the multitude of thoughts which bewildered his mind, and a faint smile played upon his white lips and pallid cheeks. He looked around and saw the objects of his search upon the chimney-piece; they were a pen, ink, and paper. With forced composure he dipped the pen in the ink, and wrote the following lines upon a sheet of paper:—
"I have no money to pay my bill, but I am not a dishonest man; I leave behind me as a pledge this pin, worth ten times the amount. I shall be excused for leaving at daybreak, for I was ashamed."
He then drew the pin from his cravat and placed it on the paper. This done, instead of leaving the door fastened, he drew back the bolts and even placed the door ajar, as though he had left the room, forgetting to close it, and slipping into the chimney like a man accustomed to that kind of gymnastic exercise, having effaced the marks of his feet upon the floor, he commenced climbing the only opening which afforded him the means of escape. At this precise time, the first gendarme Andrea had noticed walked up-stairs, preceded by the commissary of police, and supported by the second gendarme who guarded the staircase and was himself re-enforced by the one stationed at the door.
Andrea was indebted for this visit to the following circumstances. At daybreak, the telegraphs were set at work in all directions, and almost immediately the authorities in every district had exerted their utmost endeavors to arrest the murderer of Caderousse. Compiegne, that royal residence and fortified town, is well furnished with authorities, gendarmes, and commissaries of police; they therefore began operations as soon as the telegraphic despatch arrived, and the Bell and Bottle being the best-known hotel in the town, they had naturally directed their first inquiries there.
Now, besides the reports of the sentinels guarding the Hotel de Ville, which is next door to the Bell and Bottle, it had been stated by others that a number of travellers had arrived during the night. The sentinel who was relieved at six o'clock in the morning, remembered perfectly that just as he was taking his post a few minutes past four a young man arrived on horseback, with a little boy before him. The young man, having dismissed the boy and horse, knocked at the door of the hotel, which was opened, and again closed after his entrance. This late arrival had attracted much suspicion, and the young man being no other than Andrea, the commissary and gendarme, who was a brigadier, directed their steps towards his room.
They found the door ajar. "Oh, ho," said the brigadier, who thoroughly understood the trick; "a bad sign to find the door open! I would rather find it triply bolted." And, indeed, the little note and pin upon the table confirmed, or rather corroborated, the sad truth. Andrea had fled. We say corroborated, because the brigadier was too experienced to be convinced by a single proof. He glanced around, looked in the bed, shook the curtains, opened the closets, and finally stopped at the chimney. Andrea had taken the precaution to leave no traces of his feet in the ashes, but still it was an outlet, and in this light was not to be passed over without serious investigation.
The brigadier sent for some sticks and straw, and having filled the chimney with them, set a light to it. The fire crackled, and the smoke ascended like the dull vapor from a volcano; but still no prisoner fell down, as they expected. The fact was, that Andrea, at war with society ever since his youth, was quite as deep as a gendarme, even though he were advanced to the rank of brigadier, and quite prepared for the fire, he had climbed out on the roof and was crouching down against the chimney-pots. At one time he thought he was saved, for he heard the brigadier exclaim in a loud voice, to the two gendarmes, "He is not here!" But venturing to peep, he perceived that the latter, instead of retiring, as might have been reasonably expected upon this announcement, were watching with increased attention.
It was now his turn to look about him; the Hotel de Ville, a massive sixteenth century building, was on his right; any one could descend from the openings in the tower, and examine every corner of the roof below, and Andrea expected momentarily to see the head of a gendarme appear at one of these openings. If once discovered, he knew he would be lost, for the roof afforded no chance of escape; he therefore resolved to descend, not through the same chimney by which he had come up, but by a similar one conducting to another room. He looked around for a chimney from which no smoke issued, and having reached it, he disappeared through the orifice without being seen by any one. At the same minute, one of the little windows of the Hotel de Ville was thrown open, and the head of a gendarme appeared. For an instant it remained motionless as one of the stone decorations of the building, then after a long sigh of disappointment the head disappeared. The brigadier, calm and dignified as the law he represented, passed through the crowd, without answering the thousand questions addressed to him, and re-entered the hotel.
"Well?" asked the two gendarmes.
"Well, my boys," said the brigadier, "the brigand must really have escaped early this morning; but we will send to the Villers-Coterets and Noyon roads, and search the forest, when we shall catch him, no doubt." The honorable functionary had scarcely expressed himself thus, in that intonation which is peculiar to brigadiers of the gendarmerie, when a loud scream, accompanied by the violent ringing of a bell, resounded through the court of the hotel. "Ah, what is that?" cried the brigadier.
"Some traveller seems impatient," said the host. "What number was it that rang?"
"Run, waiter!" At this moment the screams and ringing were redoubled. "Ah," said the brigadier, stopping the servant, "the person who is ringing appears to want something more than a waiter; we will attend upon him with a gendarme. Who occupies Number 3?"
"The little fellow who arrived last night in a post-chaise with his sister, and who asked for an apartment with two beds." The bell here rang for the third time, with another shriek of anguish.
"Follow me, Mr. Commissary!" said the brigadier; "tread in my steps."
"Wait an instant," said the host; "Number 3 has two staircases,—inside and outside."
"Good," said the brigadier. "I will take charge of the inside one. Are the carbines loaded?"
"Well, you guard the exterior, and if he attempts to fly, fire upon him; he must be a great criminal, from what the telegraph says."
The brigadier, followed by the commissary, disappeared by the inside staircase, accompanied by the noise which his assertions respecting Andrea had excited in the crowd. This is what had happened. Andrea had very cleverly managed to descend two-thirds of the chimney, but then his foot slipped, and notwithstanding his endeavors, he came into the room with more speed and noise than he intended. It would have signified little had the room been empty, but unfortunately it was occupied. Two ladies, sleeping in one bed, were awakened by the noise, and fixing their eyes upon the spot whence the sound proceeded, they saw a man. One of these ladies, the fair one, uttered those terrible shrieks which resounded through the house, while the other, rushing to the bell-rope, rang with all her strength. Andrea, as we can see, was surrounded by misfortune.
"For pity's sake," he cried, pale and bewildered, without seeing whom he was addressing,—"for pity's sake do not call assistance! Save me!—I will not harm you."
"Andrea, the murderer!" cried one of the ladies.
"Eugenie! Mademoiselle Danglars!" exclaimed Andrea, stupefied.
"Help, help!" cried Mademoiselle d'Armilly, taking the bell from her companion's hand, and ringing it yet more violently. "Save me, I am pursued!" said Andrea, clasping his hands. "For pity, for mercy's sake do not deliver me up!"
"It is too late, they are coming," said Eugenie.
"Well, conceal me somewhere; you can say you were needlessly alarmed; you can turn their suspicions and save my life!"
The two ladies, pressing closely to one another, and drawing the bedclothes tightly around them, remained silent to this supplicating voice, repugnance and fear taking possession of their minds.
"Well, be it so," at length said Eugenie; "return by the same road you came, and we will say nothing about you, unhappy wretch."
"Here he is, here he is!" cried a voice from the landing; "here he is! I see him!" The brigadier had put his eye to the keyhole, and had discovered Andrea in a posture of entreaty. A violent blow from the butt end of the musket burst open the lock, two more forced out the bolts, and the broken door fell in. Andrea ran to the other door, leading to the gallery, ready to rush out; but he was stopped short, and he stood with his body a little thrown back, pale, and with the useless knife in his clinched hand.
"Fly, then!" cried Mademoiselle d'Armilly, whose pity returned as her fears diminished; "fly!"
"Or kill yourself!" said Eugenie (in a tone which a Vestal in the amphitheatre would have used, when urging the victorious gladiator to finish his vanquished adversary). Andrea shuddered, and looked on the young girl with an expression which proved how little he understood such ferocious honor. "Kill myself?" he cried, throwing down his knife; "why should I do so?"
"Why, you said," answered Mademoiselle Danglars, "that you would be condemned to die like the worst criminals."
"Bah," said Cavalcanti, crossing his arms, "one has friends."
The brigadier advanced to him, sword in hand. "Come, come," said Andrea, "sheathe your sword, my fine fellow; there is no occasion to make such a fuss, since I give myself up;" and he held out his hands to be manacled. The girls looked with horror upon this shameful metamorphosis, the man of the world shaking off his covering and appearing as a galley-slave. Andrea turned towards them, and with an impertinent smile asked,—"Have you any message for your father, Mademoiselle Danglars, for in all probability I shall return to Paris?"
Eugenie covered her face with her hands. "Oh, ho!" said Andrea, "you need not be ashamed, even though you did post after me. Was I not nearly your husband?"
And with this raillery Andrea went out, leaving the two girls a prey to their own feelings of shame, and to the comments of the crowd. An hour after they stepped into their calash, both dressed in feminine attire. The gate of the hotel had been closed to screen them from sight, but they were forced, when the door was open, to pass through a throng of curious glances and whispering voices. Eugenie closed her eyes; but though she could not see, she could hear, and the sneers of the crowd reached her in the carriage. "Oh, why is not the world a wilderness?" she exclaimed, throwing herself into the arms of Mademoiselle d'Armilly, her eyes sparkling with the same kind of rage which made Nero wish that the Roman world had but one neck, that he might sever it at a single blow. The next day they stopped at the Hotel de Flandre, at Brussels. The same evening Andrea was incarcerated in the Conciergerie.