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    Chapter 6

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    CHAPTER 6
    The Deputy Procureur du Roi.

    In one of the aristocratic mansions built by Puget in the
    Rue du Grand Cours opposite the Medusa fountain, a second
    marriage feast was being celebrated, almost at the same hour
    with the nuptial repast given by Dantes. In this case,
    however, although the occasion of the entertainment was
    similar, the company was strikingly dissimilar. Instead of a
    rude mixture of sailors, soldiers, and those belonging to
    the humblest grade of life, the present assembly was
    composed of the very flower of Marseilles society, --
    magistrates who had resigned their office during the
    usurper's reign; officers who had deserted from the imperial
    army and joined forces with Conde; and younger members of
    families, brought up to hate and execrate the man whom five
    years of exile would convert into a martyr, and fifteen of
    restoration elevate to the rank of a god.

    The guests were still at table, and the heated and energetic
    conversation that prevailed betrayed the violent and
    vindictive passions that then agitated each dweller of the
    South, where unhappily, for five centuries religious strife
    had long given increased bitterness to the violence of party
    feeling.

    The emperor, now king of the petty Island of Elba, after
    having held sovereign sway over one-half of the world,
    counting as his subjects a small population of five or six
    thousand souls, -- after having been accustomed to hear the
    "Vive Napoleons" of a hundred and twenty millions of human
    beings, uttered in ten different languages, -- was looked
    upon here as a ruined man, separated forever from any fresh
    connection with France or claim to her throne.

    The magistrates freely discussed their political views; the
    military part of the company talked unreservedly of Moscow
    and Leipsic, while the women commented on the divorce of
    Josephine. It was not over the downfall of the man, but over
    the defeat of the Napoleonic idea, that they rejoiced, and
    in this they foresaw for themselves the bright and cheering
    prospect of a revivified political existence.

    An old man, decorated with the cross of Saint Louis, now
    rose and proposed the health of King Louis XVIII. It was the
    Marquis de Saint-Meran. This toast, recalling at once the
    patient exile of Hartwell and the peace-loving King of
    France, excited universal enthusiasm; glasses were elevated
    in the air a l'Anglais, and the ladies, snatching their
    bouquets from their fair bosoms, strewed the table with
    their floral treasures. In a word, an almost poetical fervor
    prevailed.

    "Ah," said the Marquise de Saint-Meran, a woman with a
    stern, forbidding eye, though still noble and distinguished
    in appearance, despite her fifty years -- "ah, these
    revolutionists, who have driven us from those very
    possessions they afterwards purchased for a mere trifle
    during the Reign of Terror, would be compelled to own, were
    they here, that all true devotion was on our side, since we
    were content to follow the fortunes of a falling monarch,
    while they, on the contrary, made their fortune by
    worshipping the rising sun; yes, yes, they could not help
    admitting that the king, for whom we sacrificed rank,
    wealth, and station was truly our 'Louis the well-beloved,'
    while their wretched usurper his been, and ever will be, to
    them their evil genius, their 'Napoleon the accursed.' Am I
    not right, Villefort?"

    "I beg your pardon, madame. I really must pray you to excuse
    me, but -- in truth -- I was not attending to the
    conversation."

    "Marquise, marquise!" interposed the old nobleman who had
    proposed the toast, "let the young people alone; let me tell
    you, on one's wedding day there are more agreeable subjects
    of conversation than dry politics."

    "Never mind, dearest mother," said a young and lovely girl,
    with a profusion of light brown hair, and eyes that seemed
    to float in liquid crystal, "'tis all my fault for seizing
    upon M. de Villefort, so as to prevent his listening to what
    you said. But there -- now take him -- he is your own for as
    long as you like. M. Villefort, I beg to remind you my
    mother speaks to you."

    "If the marquise will deign to repeat the words I but
    imperfectly caught, I shall be delighted to answer," said M.
    de Villefort.

    "Never mind, Renee," replied the marquise, with a look of
    tenderness that seemed out of keeping with her harsh dry
    features; but, however all other feelings may be withered in
    a woman's nature, there is always one bright smiling spot in
    the desert of her heart, and that is the shrine of maternal
    love. "I forgive you. What I was saying, Villefort, was,
    that the Bonapartists had not our sincerity, enthusiasm, or
    devotion."

    "They had, however, what supplied the place of those fine
    qualities," replied the young man, "and that was fanaticism.
    Napoleon is the Mahomet of the West, and is worshipped by
    his commonplace but ambitions followers, not only as a
    leader and lawgiver, but also as the personification of
    equality."

    "He!" cried the marquise: "Napoleon the type of equality!
    For mercy's sake, then, what would you call Robespierre?
    Come, come, do not strip the latter of his just rights to
    bestow them on the Corsican, who, to my mind, has usurped
    quite enough."

    "Nay, madame; I would place each of these heroes on his
    right pedestal -- that of Robespierre on his scaffold in the
    Place Louis Quinze; that of Napoleon on the column of the
    Place Vendome. The only difference consists in the opposite
    character of the equality advocated by these two men; one is
    the equality that elevates, the other is the equality that
    degrades; one brings a king within reach of the guillotine,
    the other elevates the people to a level with the throne.
    Observe," said Villefort, smiling, "I do not mean to deny
    that both these men were revolutionary scoundrels, and that
    the 9th Thermidor and the 4th of April, in the year 1814,
    were lucky days for France, worthy of being gratefully
    remembered by every friend to monarchy and civil order; and
    that explains how it comes to pass that, fallen, as I trust
    he is forever, Napoleon has still retained a train of
    parasitical satellites. Still, marquise, it has been so with
    other usurpers -- Cromwell, for instance, who was not half
    so bad as Napoleon, had his partisans and advocates."

    "Do you know, Villefort, that you are talking in a most
    dreadfully revolutionary strain? But I excuse it, it is
    impossible to expect the son of a Girondin to be free from a
    small spice of the old leaven." A deep crimson suffused the
    countenance of Villefort.

    "'Tis true, madame," answered he, "that my father was a
    Girondin, but he was not among the number of those who voted
    for the king's death; he was an equal sufferer with yourself
    during the Reign of Terror, and had well-nigh lost his head
    on the same scaffold on which your father perished."

    "True," replied the marquise, without wincing in the
    slightest degree at the tragic remembrance thus called up;
    "but bear in mind, if you please, that our respective
    parents underwent persecution and proscription from
    diametrically opposite principles; in proof of which I may
    remark, that while my family remained among the stanchest
    adherents of the exiled princes, your father lost no time in
    joining the new government; and that while the Citizen
    Noirtier was a Girondin, the Count Noirtier became a
    senator."

    "Dear mother," interposed Renee, "you know very well it was
    agreed that all these disagreeable reminiscences should
    forever be laid aside."

    "Suffer me, also, madame," replied Villefort, "to add my
    earnest request to Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran's, that you
    will kindly allow the veil of oblivion to cover and conceal
    the past. What avails recrimination over matters wholly past
    recall? For my own part, I have laid aside even the name of
    my father, and altogether disown his political principles.
    He was -- nay, probably may still be -- a Bonapartist, and
    is called Noirtier; I, on the contrary, am a stanch
    royalist, and style myself de Villefort. Let what may remain
    of revolutionary sap exhaust itself and die away with the
    old trunk, and condescend only to regard the young shoot
    which has started up at a distance from the parent tree,
    without having the power, any more than the wish, to
    separate entirely from the stock from which it sprung."

    "Bravo, Villefort!" cried the marquis; "excellently well
    said! Come, now, I have hopes of obtaining what I have been
    for years endeavoring to persuade the marquise to promise;
    namely, a perfect amnesty and forgetfulness of the past."

    "With all my heart," replied the marquise; "let the past be
    forever forgotten. I promise you it affords me as little
    pleasure to revive it as it does you. All I ask is, that
    Villefort will be firm and inflexible for the future in his
    political principles. Remember, also, Villefort, that we
    have pledged ourselves to his majesty for your fealty and
    strict loyalty, and that at our recommendation the king
    consented to forget the past, as I do" (and here she
    extended to him her hand) -- "as I now do at your entreaty.
    But bear in mind, that should there fall in your way any one
    guilty of conspiring against the government, you will be so
    much the more bound to visit the offence with rigorous
    punishment, as it is known you belong to a suspected
    family."

    "Alas, madame," returned Villefort, "my profession, as well
    as the times in which we live, compels me to be severe. I
    have already successfully conducted several public
    prosecutions, and brought the offenders to merited
    punishment. But we have not done with the thing yet."

    "Do you, indeed, think so?" inquired the marquise.

    "I am, at least, fearful of it. Napoleon, in the Island of
    Elba, is too near France, and his proximity keeps up the
    hopes of his partisans. Marseilles is filled with half-pay
    officers, who are daily, under one frivolous pretext or
    other, getting up quarrels with the royalists; from hence
    arise continual and fatal duels among the higher classes of
    persons, and assassinations in the lower."

    "You have heard, perhaps," said the Comte de Salvieux, one
    of M. de Saint-Meran's oldest friends, and chamberlain to
    the Comte d'Artois, "that the Holy Alliance purpose removing
    him from thence?"

    "Yes; they were talking about it when we left Paris," said
    M. de Saint-Meran; "and where is it decided to transfer
    him?"

    "To Saint Helena."

    "For heaven's sake, where is that?" asked the marquise.

    "An island situated on the other side of the equator, at
    least two thousand leagues from here," replied the count.

    "So much the better. As Villefort observes, it is a great
    act of folly to have left such a man between Corsica, where
    he was born, and Naples, of which his brother-in-law is
    king, and face to face with Italy, the sovereignty of which
    he coveted for his son."

    "Unfortunately," said Villefort, "there are the treaties of
    1814, and we cannot molest Napoleon without breaking those
    compacts."

    "Oh, well, we shall find some way out of it," responded M.
    de Salvieux. "There wasn't any trouble over treaties when it
    was a question of shooting the poor Duc d'Enghien."

    "Well," said the marquise, "it seems probable that, by the
    aid of the Holy Alliance, we shall be rid of Napoleon; and
    we must trust to the vigilance of M. de Villefort to purify
    Marseilles of his partisans. Tbe king is either a king or no
    king; if he be acknowledged as sovereign of France, he
    should be upheld in peace and tranquillity; and this can
    best be effected by employing the most inflexible agents to
    put down every attempt at conspiracy -- 'tis the best and
    surest means of preventing mischief."

    "Unfortunately, madame," answered Villefort, "the strong arm
    of the law is not called upon to interfere until the evil
    has taken place."

    "Then all he has got to do is to endeavor to repair it."

    "Nay, madame, the law is frequently powerless to effect
    this; all it can do is to avenge the wrong done."

    "Oh, M. de Villefort," cried a beautiful young creature,
    daughter to the Comte de Salvieux, and the cherished friend
    of Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran, "do try and get up some
    famous trial while we are at Marseilles. I never was in a
    law-court; I am told it is so very amusing!"

    "Amusing, certainly," replied the young man, "inasmuch as,
    instead of shedding tears as at the fictitious tale of woe
    produced at a theatre, you behold in a law-court a case of
    real and genuine distress -- a drama of life. The prisoner
    whom you there see pale, agitated, and alarmed, instead of
    -- as is the case when a curtain falls on a tragedy -- going
    home to sup peacefully with his family, and then retiring to
    rest, that he may recommence his mimic woes on the morrow,
    -- is removed from your sight merely to be reconducted to
    his prison and delivered up to the executioner. I leave you
    to judge how far your nerves are calculated to bear you
    through such a scene. Of this, however, be assured, that
    should any favorable opportunity present itself, I will not
    fail to offer you the choice of being present."

    "For shame, M. de Villefort!" said Renee, becoming quite
    pale; "don't you see how you are frightening us? -- and yet
    you laugh."

    "What would you have? 'Tis like a duel. I have already
    recorded sentence of death, five or six times, against the
    movers of political conspiracies, and who can say how many
    daggers may be ready sharpened, and only waiting a favorable
    opportunity to be buried in my heart?"

    "Gracious heavens, M. de Villefort," said Renee, becoming
    more and more terrified; "you surely are not in earnest."

    "Indeed I am," replied the young magistrate with a smile;
    "and in the interesting trial that young lady is anxious to
    witness, the case would only be still more aggravated.
    Suppose, for instance, the prisoner, as is more than
    probable, to have served under Napoleon -- well, can you
    expect for an instant, that one accustomed, at the word of
    his commander, to rush fearlessly on the very bayonets of
    his foe, will scruple more to drive a stiletto into the
    heart of one he knows to be his personal enemy, than to
    slaughter his fellow-creatures, merely because bidden to do
    so by one he is bound to obey? Besides, one requires the
    excitement of being hateful in the eyes of the accused, in
    order to lash one's self into a state of sufficient
    vehemence and power. I would not choose to see the man
    against whom I pleaded smile, as though in mockery of my
    words. No; my pride is to see the accused pale, agitated,
    and as though beaten out of all composure by the fire of my
    eloquence." Renee uttered a smothered exclamation.

    "Bravo!" cried one of the guests; "that is what I call
    talking to some purpose."

    "Just the person we require at a time like the present,"
    said a second.

    "What a splendid business that last case of yours was, my
    dear Villefort!" remarked a third; "I mean the trial of the
    man for murdering his father. Upon my word, you killed him
    ere the executioner had laid his hand upon him."

    "Oh, as for parricides, and such dreadful people as that,"
    interposed Renee, "it matters very little what is done to
    them; but as regards poor unfortunate creatures whose only
    crime consists in having mixed themselves up in political
    intrigues" --

    "Why, that is the very worst offence they could possibly
    commit; for, don't you see, Renee, the king is the father of
    his people, and he who shall plot or contrive aught against
    the life and safety of the parent of thirty-two millions of
    souls, is a parricide upon a fearfully great scale?"

    "I don't know anything about that," replied Renee; "but, M.
    de Villefort, you have promised me -- have you not? --
    always to show mercy to those I plead for."

    "Make yourself quite easy on that point," answered
    Villefort, with one of his sweetest smiles; "you and I will
    always consult upon our verdicts."

    "My love," said the marquise, "attend to your doves, your
    lap-dogs, and embroidery, but do not meddle with what you do
    not understand. Nowadays the military profession is in
    abeyance and the magisterial robe is the badge of honor.
    There is a wise Latin proverb that is very much in point."

    "Cedant arma togae," said Villefort with a bow.

    "I cannot speak Latin," responded the marquise.

    "Well," said Renee, "I cannot help regretting you had not
    chosen some other profession than your own -- a physician,
    for instance. Do you know I always felt a shudder at the
    idea of even a destroying angel?"

    "Dear, good Renee," whispered Villefort, as he gazed with
    unutterable tenderness on the lovely speaker.

    "Let us hope, my child," cried the marquis, "that M. de
    Villefort may prove the moral and political physician of
    this province; if so, he will have achieved a noble work."

    "And one which will go far to efface the recollection of his
    father's conduct," added the incorrigible marquise.

    "Madame," replied Villefort, with a mournful smile, "I have
    already had the honor to observe that my father has -- at
    least, I hope so -- abjured his past errors, and that he is,
    at the present moment, a firm and zealous friend to religion
    and order -- a better royalist, possibly, than his son; for
    he has to atone for past dereliction, while I have no other
    impulse than warm, decided preference and conviction."
    Having made this well-turned speech, Villefort looked
    carefully around to mark the effect of his oratory, much as
    he would have done had he been addressing the bench in open
    court.

    "Do you know, my dear Villefort," cried the Comte de
    Salvieux, "that is exactly what I myself said the other day
    at the Tuileries, when questioned by his majesty's principal
    chamberlain touching the singularity of an alliance between
    the son of a Girondin and the daughter of an officer of the
    Duc de Conde; and I assure you he seemed fully to comprehend
    that this mode of reconciling political differences was
    based upon sound and excellent principles. Then the king,
    who, without our suspecting it, had overheard our
    conversation, interrupted us by saying, 'Villefort' --
    observe that the king did not pronounce the word Noirtier,
    but, on the contrary, placed considerable emphasis on that
    of Villefort -- 'Villefort,' said his majesty, 'is a young
    man of great judgment and discretion, who will be sure to
    make a figure in his profession; I like him much, and it
    gave me great pleasure to hear that he was about to become
    the son-in-law of the Marquis and Marquise de Saint-Meran. I
    should myself have recommended the match, had not the noble
    marquis anticipated my wishes by requesting my consent to
    it.'"

    "Is it possible the king could have condescended so far as
    to express himself so favorably of me?" asked the enraptured
    Villefort.

    "I give you his very words; and if the marquis chooses to be
    candid, he will confess that they perfectly agree with what
    his majesty said to him, when he went six months ago to
    consult him upon the subject of your espousing his
    daughter."

    "That is true," answered the marquis.

    "How much do I owe this gracious prince! What is there I
    would not do to evince my earnest gratitude!"

    "That is right," cried the marquise. "I love to see you
    thus. Now, then, were a conspirator to fall into your hands,
    he would be most welcome."

    "For my part, dear mother." interposed Renee, "I trust your
    wishes will not prosper, and that Providence will only
    permit petty offenders, poor debtors, and miserable cheats
    to fall into M. de Villefort's hands, -- then I shall be
    contented."

    "Just the same as though you prayed that a physician might
    only be called upon to prescribe for headaches, measles, and
    the stings of wasps, or any other slight affection of the
    epidermis. If you wish to see me the king's attorney, you
    must desire for me some of those violent and dangerous
    diseases from the cure of which so much honor redounds to
    the physician."

    At this moment, and as though the utterance of Villefort's
    wish had sufficed to effect its accomplishment, a servant
    entered the room, and whispered a few words in his ear.
    Villefort immediately rose from table and quitted the room
    upon the plea of urgent business; he soon, however,
    returned, his whole face beaming with delight. Renee
    regarded him with fond affection; and certainly his handsome
    features, lit up as they then were with more than usual fire
    and animation, seemed formed to excite the innocent
    admiration with which she gazed on her graceful and
    intelligent lover.

    "You were wishing just now," said Villefort, addressing her,
    "that I were a doctor instead of a lawyer. Well, I at least
    resemble the disciples of Esculapius in one thing -- that of
    not being able to call a day my own, not even that of my
    betrothal."

    "And wherefore were you called away just now?" asked
    Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran, with an air of deep interest.

    "For a very serious matter, which bids fair to make work for
    the executioner."

    "How dreadful!" exclaimed Renee, turning pale.

    "Is it possible?" burst simultaneously from all who were
    near enough to the magistrate to hear his words.

    "Why, if my information prove correct, a sort of Bonaparte
    conspiracy has just been discovered."

    "Can I believe my ears?" cried the marquise.

    "I will read you the letter containing the accusation, at
    least," said Villefort: --

    "'The king's attorney is informed by a friend to the throne
    and the religions institutions of his country, that one
    named Edmond Dantes, mate of the ship Pharaon, this day
    arrived from Smyrna, after having touched at Naples and
    Porto-Ferrajo, has been the bearer of a letter from Murat to
    the usurper, and again taken charge of another letter from
    the usurper to the Bonapartist club in Paris. Ample
    corroboration of this statement may be obtained by arresting
    the above-mentioned Edmond Dantes, who either carries the
    letter for Paris about with him, or has it at his father's
    abode. Should it not be found in the possession of father or
    son, then it will assuredly be discovered in the cabin
    belonging to the said Dantes on board the Pharaon.'"

    "But," said Renee, "this letter, which, after all, is but an
    anonymous scrawl, is not even addressed to you, but to the
    king's attorney."

    "True; but that gentleman being absent, his secretary, by
    his orders, opened his letters; thinking this one of
    importance, he sent for me, but not finding me, took upon
    himself to give the necessary orders for arresting the
    accused party."

    "Then the guilty person is absolutely in custody?" said the
    marquise.

    "Nay, dear mother, say the accused person. You know we
    cannot yet pronounce him guilty."

    "He is in safe custody," answered Villefort; "and rely upon
    it, if the letter is found, he will not be likely to be
    trusted abroad again, unless he goes forth under the
    especial protection of the headsman."

    "And where is the unfortunate being?" asked Renee.

    "He is at my house."

    "Come, come, my friend," interrupted the marquise, "do not
    neglect your duty to linger with us. You are the king's
    servant, and must go wherever that service calls you."

    "O Villefort!" cried Renee, clasping her hands, and looking
    towards her lover with piteous earnestness, "be merciful on
    this the day of our betrothal."

    The young man passed round to the side of the table where
    the fair pleader sat, and leaning over her chair said
    tenderly, --

    "To give you pleasure, my sweet Renee, I promise to show all
    the lenity in my power; but if the charges brought against
    this Bonapartist hero prove correct, why, then, you really
    must give me leave to order his head to be cut off." Renee
    shuddered.

    "Never mind that foolish girl, Villefort," said the
    marquise. "She will soon get over these things." So saying,
    Madame de Saint-Meran extended her dry bony hand to
    Villefort, who, while imprinting a son-in-law's respectful
    salute on it, looked at Renee, as much as to say, "I must
    try and fancy 'tis your dear hand I kiss, as it should have
    been."

    "These are mournful auspices to accompany a betrothal,"
    sighed poor Renee.

    "Upon my word, child!" exclaimed the angry marquise, "your
    folly exceeds all bounds. I should be glad to know what
    connection there can possibly be between your sickly
    sentimentality and the affairs of the state!"

    "O mother!" murmured Renee.

    "Nay, madame, I pray you pardon this little traitor. I
    promise you that to make up for her want of loyalty, I will
    be most inflexibly severe;" then casting an expressive
    glance at his betrothed, which seemed to say, "Fear not, for
    your dear sake my justice shall be tempered with mercy," and
    receiving a sweet and approving smile in return, Villefort
    quitted the room.
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