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    Chapter 9

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    Chapter 9
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    CHAPTER 9
    The Evening of the Betrothal.

    Villefort had, as we have said, hastened back to Madame de
    Saint-Meran's in the Place du Grand Cours, and on entering
    the house found that the guests whom he had left at table
    were taking coffee in the salon. Renee was, with all the
    rest of the company, anxiously awaiting him, and his
    entrance was followed by a general exclamation.

    "Well, Decapitator, Guardian of the State, Royalist, Brutus,
    what is the matter?" said one. "Speak out."

    "Are we threatened with a fresh Reign of Terror?" asked
    another.

    "Has the Corsican ogre broken loose?" cried a third.

    "Marquise," said Villefort, approaching his future
    mother-in-law, "I request your pardon for thus leaving you.
    Will the marquis honor me by a few moments' private
    conversation?"

    "Ah, it is really a serious matter, then?" asked the
    marquis, remarking the cloud on Villefort's brow.

    "So serious that I must take leave of you for a few days;
    so," added he, turning to Renee, "judge for yourself if it
    be not important."

    "You are going to leave us?" cried Renee, unable to hide her
    emotion at this unexpected announcement.

    "Alas," returned Villefort, "I must!"

    "Where, then, are you going?" asked the marquise.

    "That, madame, is an official secret; but if you have any
    commissions for Paris, a friend of mine is going there
    to-night, and will with pleasure undertake them." The guests
    looked at each other.

    "You wish to speak to me alone?" said the marquis.

    "Yes, let us go to the library, please." The marquis took
    his arm, and they left the salon.

    "Well," asked he, as soon as they were by themselves, "tell
    me what it is?"

    "An affair of the greatest importance, that demands my
    immediate presence in Paris. Now, excuse the indiscretion,
    marquis, but have you any landed property?"

    "All my fortune is in the funds; seven or eight hundred
    thousand francs."

    "Then sell out -- sell out, marquis, or you will lose it
    all."

    "But how can I sell out here?"

    "You have it broker, have you not?"

    "Yes."

    "Then give me a letter to him, and tell him to sell out
    without an instant's delay, perhaps even now I shall arrive
    too late."

    "The deuce you say!" replied the marquis, "let us lose no
    time, then!"

    And, sitting down, he wrote a letter to his broker, ordering
    him to sell out at the market price.

    "Now, then," said Villefort, placing the letter in his
    pocketbook, "I must have another!"

    "To whom?"

    "To the king."

    "To the king?"

    "Yes."

    "I dare not write to his majesty."

    "I do not ask you to write to his majesty, but ask M. de
    Salvieux to do so. I want a letter that will enable me to
    reach the king's presence without all the formalities of
    demanding an audience; that would occasion a loss of
    precious time."

    "But address yourself to the keeper of the seals; he has the
    right of entry at the Tuileries, and can procure you
    audience at any hour of the day or night."

    "Doubtless; but there is no occasion to divide the honors of
    my discovery with him. The keeper would leave me in the
    background, and take all the glory to himself. I tell you,
    marquis, my fortune is made if I only reach the Tuileries
    the first, for the king will not forget the service I do
    him."

    "In that case go and get ready. I will call Salvieux and
    make him write the letter."

    "Be as quick as possible, I must be on the road in a quarter
    of an hour."

    "Tell your coachman to stop at the door."

    "You will present my excuses to the marquise and
    Mademoiselle Renee, whom I leave on such a day with great
    regret."

    "You will find them both here, and can make your farewells
    in person."

    "A thousand thanks -- and now for the letter."

    The marquis rang, a servant entered.

    "Say to the Comte de Salvieux that I would like to see him."

    "Now, then, go," said the marquis.

    "I shall be gone only a few moments."

    Villefort hastily quitted the apartment, but reflecting that
    the sight of the deputy procureur running through the
    streets would be enough to throw the whole city into
    confusion, he resumed his ordinary pace. At his door he
    perceived a figure in the shadow that seemed to wait for
    him. It was Mercedes, who, hearing no news of her lover, had
    come unobserved to inquire after him.

    As Villefort drew near, she advanced and stood before him.
    Dantes had spoken of Mercedes, and Villefort instantly
    recognized her. Her beauty and high bearing surprised him,
    and when she inquired what had become of her lover, it
    seemed to him that she was the judge, and he the accused.

    "The young man you speak of," said Villefort abruptly, "is a
    great criminal. and I can do nothing for him, mademoiselle."
    Mercedes burst into tears, and, as Villefort strove to pass
    her, again addressed him.

    "But, at least, tell me where he is, that I may know whether
    he is alive or dead," said she.

    "I do not know; he is no longer in my hands," replied
    Villefort.

    And desirous of putting an end to the interview, he pushed
    by her, and closed the door, as if to exclude the pain he
    felt. But remorse is not thus banished; like Virgil's
    wounded hero, he carried the arrow in his wound, and,
    arrived at the salon, Villefort uttered a sigh that was
    almost a sob, and sank into a chair.

    Then the first pangs of an unending torture seized upon his
    heart. The man he sacrificed to his ambition, that innocent
    victim immolated on the altar of his father's faults,
    appeared to him pale and threatening, leading his affianced
    bride by the hand, and bringing with him remorse, not such
    as the ancients figured, furious and terrible, but that slow
    and consuming agony whose pangs are intensified from hour to
    hour up to the very moment of death. Then he had a moment's
    hesitation. He had frequently called for capital punishment
    on criminals, and owing to his irresistible eloquence they
    had been condemned, and yet the slightest shadow of remorse
    had never clouded Villefort's brow, because they were
    guilty; at least, he believed so; but here was an innocent
    man whose happiness he had destroyed: in this case he was
    not the judge, but the executioner.

    As he thus reflected, he felt the sensation we have
    described, and which had hitherto been unknown to him, arise
    in his bosom, and fill him with vague apprehensions. It is
    thus that a wounded man trembles instinctively at the
    approach of the finger to his wound until it be healed, but
    Villefort's was one of those that never close, or if they
    do, only close to reopen more agonizing than ever. If at
    this moment the sweet voice of Renee had sounded in his ears
    pleading for mercy, or the fair Mercedes had entered and
    said, "In the name of God, I conjure you to restore me my
    affianced husband," his cold and trembling hands would have
    signed his release; but no voice broke the stillness of the
    chamber, and the door was opened only by Villefort's valet,
    who came to tell him that the travelling carriage was in
    readiness.

    Villefort rose, or rather sprang, from his chair, hastily
    opened one of the drawers of his desk, emptied all the gold
    it contained into his pocket, stood motionless an instant,
    his hand pressed to his head, muttered a few inarticulate
    sounds, and then, perceiving that his servant had placed his
    cloak on his shoulders, he sprang into the carriage,
    ordering the postilions to drive to M. de Saint-Meran's. The
    hapless Dantes was doomed.

    As the marquis had promised, Villefort found the marquise
    and Renee in waiting. He started when he saw Renee, for he
    fancied she was again about to plead for Dantes. Alas, her
    emotions were wholly personal: she was thinking only of
    Villefort's departure.

    She loved Villefort, and he left her at the moment he was
    about to become her husband. Villefort knew not when he
    should return, and Renee, far from pleading for Dantes,
    hated the man whose crime separated her from her lover.

    Meanwhile what of Mercedes? She had met Fernand at the
    corner of the Rue de la Loge; she had returned to the
    Catalans, and had despairingly cast herself on her couch.
    Fernand, kneeling by her side, took her hand, and covered it
    with kisses that Mercedes did not even feel. She passed the
    night thus. The lamp went out for want of oil, but she paid
    no heed to the darkness, and dawn came, but she knew not
    that it was day. Grief had made her blind to all but one
    object -- that was Edmond.

    "Ah, you are there," said she, at length, turning towards
    Fernand.

    "I have not quitted you since yesterday," returned Fernand
    sorrowfully.

    M. Morrel had not readily given up the fight. He had learned
    that Dantes had been taken to prison, and he had gone to all
    his friends, and the influential persons of the city; but
    the report was already in circulation that Dantes was
    arrested as a Bonapartist agent; and as the most sanguine
    looked upon any attempt of Napoleon to remount the throne as
    impossible, he met with nothing but refusal, and had
    returned home in despair, declaring that the matter was
    serious and that nothing more could be done.

    Caderousse was equally restless and uneasy, but instead of
    seeking, like M. Morrel, to aid Dantes, he had shut himself
    up with two bottles of black currant brandy, in the hope of
    drowning reflection. But he did not succeed, and became too
    intoxicated to fetch any more drink, and yet not so
    intoxicated as to forget what had happened. With his elbows
    on the table he sat between the two empty bottles, while
    spectres danced in the light of the unsnuffed candle --
    spectres such as Hoffmann strews over his punch-drenched
    pages, like black, fantastic dust.

    Danglars alone was content and joyous -- he had got rid of
    an enemy and made his own situation on the Pharaon secure.
    Danglars was one of those men born with a pen behind the
    ear, and an inkstand in place of a heart. Everything with
    him was multiplication or subtraction. The life of a man was
    to him of far less value than a numeral, especially when, by
    taking it away, he could increase the sum total of his own
    desires. He went to bed at his usual hour, and slept in
    peace.

    Villefort, after having received M. de Salvieux' letter,
    embraced Renee, kissed the marquise's hand, and shaken that
    of the marquis, started for Paris along the Aix road.

    Old Dantes was dying with anxiety to know what had become of
    Edmond. But we know very well what had become of Edmond.
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