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    Chapter 48

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    CHAPTER 48

    If the Count of Monte Cristo had been for a long time
    familiar with the ways of Parisian society, he would have
    appreciated better the significance of the step which M. de
    Villefort had taken. Standing well at court, whether the
    king regnant was of the older or younger branch, whether the
    government was doctrinaire liberal, or conservative; looked
    upon by all as a man of talent, since those who have never
    experienced a political check are generally so regarded;
    hated by many, but warmly supported by others, without being
    really liked by anybody, M. de Villefort held a high
    position in the magistracy, and maintained his eminence like
    a Harlay or a Mole. His drawing-room, under the regenerating
    influence of a young wife and a daughter by his first
    marriage, scarcely eighteen, was still one of the
    well-regulated Paris salons where the worship of traditional
    customs and the observance of rigid etiquette were carefully
    maintained. A freezing politeness, a strict fidelity to
    government principles, a profound contempt for theories and
    theorists, a deep-seated hatred of ideality, -- these were
    the elements of private and public life displayed by M. de

    He was not only a magistrate, he was almost a diplomatist.
    His relations with the former court, of which he always
    spoke with dignity and respect, made him respected by the
    new one, and he knew so many things, that not only was he
    always carefully considered, but sometimes consulted.
    Perhaps this would not have been so had it been possible to
    get rid of M. de Villefort; but, like the feudal barons who
    rebelled against their sovereign, he dwelt in an impregnable
    fortress. This fortress was his post as king's attorney, all
    the advantages of which he exploited with marvellous skill,
    and which he would not have resigned but to be made deputy,
    and thus to replace neutrality by opposition. Ordinarily M.
    de Villefort made and returned very few visits. His wife
    visited for him, and this was the received thing in the
    world, where the weighty and multifarious occupations of the
    magistrate were accepted as an excuse for what was really
    only calculated pride, a manifestation of professed
    superiority -- in fact, the application of the axiom,
    "Pretend to think well of yourself, and the world will think
    well of you," an axiom a hundred times more useful in
    society nowadays than that of the Greeks, "Know thyself," a
    knowledge for which, in our days, we have substituted the
    less difficult and more advantageous science of knowing

    To his friends M. de Villefort was a powerful protector; to
    his enemies, he was a silent, but bitter opponent; for those
    who were neither the one nor the other, he was a statue of
    the law-made man. He had a haughty bearing, a look either
    steady and impenetrable or insolently piercing and
    inquisitorial. Four successive revolutions had built and
    cemented the pedestal upon which his fortune was based. M.
    de Villefort had the reputation of being the least curious
    and the least wearisome man in France. He gave a ball every
    year, at which he appeared for a quarter of an hour only, --
    that is to say, five and forty minutes less than the king is
    visible at his balls. He was never seen at the theatres, at
    concerts, or in any place of public resort. Occasionally,
    but seldom, he played at whist, and then care was taken to
    select partners worthy of him -- sometimes they were
    ambassadors, sometimes archbishops, or sometimes a prince,
    or a president, or some dowager duchess. Such was the man
    whose carriage had just now stopped before the Count of
    Monte Cristo's door. The valet de chambre announced M. de
    Villefort at the moment when the count, leaning over a large
    table, was tracing on a map the route from St. Petersburg to

    The procureur entered with the same grave and measured step
    he would have employed in entering a court of justice. He
    was the same man, or rather the development of the same man,
    whom we have heretofore seen as assistant attorney at
    Marseilles. Nature, according to her way, had made no
    deviation in the path he had marked out for himself. From
    being slender he had now become meagre; once pale, he was
    now yellow; his deep-set eyes were hollow, and the gold
    spectacles shielding his eyes seemed to be an integral
    portion of his face. He dressed entirely in black, with the
    exception of his white tie, and his funeral appearance was
    only mitigated by the slight line of red ribbon which passed
    almost imperceptibly through his button-hole, and appeared
    like a streak of blood traced with a delicate brush.
    Although master of himself, Monte Cristo, scrutinized with
    irrepressible curiosity the magistrate whose salute he
    returned, and who, distrustful by habit, and especially
    incredulous as to social prodigies, was much more dispised
    to look upon "the noble stranger," as Monte Cristo was
    already called, as an adventurer in search of new fields, or
    an escaped criminal, rather than as a prince of the Holy
    See, or a sultan of the Thousand and One Nights.

    "Sir," said Villefort, in the squeaky tone assumed by
    magistrates in their oratorical periods, and of which they
    cannot, or will not, divest themselves in society, "sir, the
    signal service which you yesterday rendered to my wife and
    son has made it a duty for me to offer you my thanks. I have
    come, therefore, to discharge this duty, and to express to
    you my overwhelming gratitude." And as he said this, the
    "eye severe" of the magistrate had lost nothing of its
    habitual arrogance. He spoke in a voice of the
    procureur-general, with the rigid inflexibility of neck and
    shoulders which caused his flatterers to say (as we have
    before observed) that he was the living statue of the law.

    "Monsieur," replied the count, with a chilling air, "I am
    very happy to have been the means of preserving a son to his
    mother, for they say that the sentiment of maternity is the
    most holy of all; and the good fortune which occurred to me,
    monsieur, might have enabled you to dispense with a duty
    which, in its discharge, confers an undoubtedly great honor;
    for I am aware that M. de Villefort is not usually lavish of
    the favor which he now bestows on me, -- a favor which,
    however estimable, is unequal to the satisfaction which I
    have in my own consciousness." Villefort, astonished at this
    reply, which he by no means expected, started like a soldier
    who feels the blow levelled at him over the armor he wears,
    and a curl of his disdainful lip indicated that from that
    moment he noted in the tablets of his brain that the Count
    of Monte Cristo was by no means a highly bred gentleman. He
    glanced around. in order to seize on something on which the
    conversation might turn, and seemed to fall easily on a
    topic. He saw the map which Monte Cristo had been examining
    when he entered, and said, "You seem geographically engaged,
    sir? It is a rich study for you, who, as I learn, have seen
    as many lands as are delineated on this map."

    "Yes, sir," replied the count; "l have sought to make of the
    human race, taken in the mass, what you practice every day
    on individuals -- a physiological study. I have believed it
    was much easier to descend from the whole to a part than to
    ascend from a part to the whole. It is an algebraic axiom,
    which makes us proceed from a known to an unknown quantity,
    and not from an unknown to a known; but sit down, sir, I beg
    of you."

    Monte Cristo pointed to a chair, which the procureur was
    obliged to take the trouble to move forwards himself, while
    the count merely fell back into his own, on which he had
    been kneeling when M. Villefort entered. Thus the count was
    halfway turned towards his visitor, having his back towards
    the window, his elbow resting on the geographical chart
    which furnished the theme of conversation for the moment, --
    a conversation which assumed, as in the case of the
    interviews with Danglars and Morcerf, a turn analogous to
    the persons, if not to the situation. "Ah, you
    philosophize," replied Villefort, after a moment's silence,
    during which, like a wrestler who encounters a powerful
    opponent, he took breath; "well, sir, really, if, like you,
    I had nothing else to do, I should seek a more amusing

    "Why, in truth, sir," was Monte Cristo's reply, "man is but
    an ugly caterpillar for him who studies him through a solar
    microscope; but you said, I think, that I had nothing else
    to do. Now, really, let me ask, sir, have you? -- do you
    believe you have anything to do? or to speak in plain terms,
    do you really think that what you do deserves being called

    Villefort's astonishment redoubled at this second thrust so
    forcibly made by his strange adversary. It was a long time
    since the magistrate had heard a paradox so strong, or
    rather, to say the truth more exactly, it was the first time
    he had ever heard of it. The procureur exerted himself to
    reply. "Sir," he responded, "you are a stranger, and I
    believe you say yourself that a portion of your life has
    been spent in Oriental countries, so you are not aware how
    human justice, so expeditions in barbarous countries, takes
    with us a prudent and well-studied course."

    "Oh, yes -- yes, I do, sir; it is the pede claudo of the
    ancients. I know all that, for it is with the justice of all
    countries especially that I have occupied myself -- it is
    with the criminal procedure of all nations that I have
    compared natural justice, and I must say, sir, that it is
    the law of primitive nations, that is, the law of
    retaliation, that I have most frequently found to be
    according to the law of God."

    "If this law were adopted, sir," said the procureur, "it
    would greatly simplify our legal codes, and in that case the
    magistrates would not (as you just observed) have much to

    "It may, perhaps, come to this in time," observed Monte
    Cristo; "you know that human inventions march from the
    complex to the simple, and simplicity is always perfection."

    "In the meanwhile," continued the magistrate, "our codes are
    in full force, with all their contradictory enactments
    derived from Gallic customs, Roman laws, and Frank usages;
    the knowledge of all which, you will agree, is not to be
    acquired without extended labor; it needs tedious study to
    acquire this knowledge, and, when acquired, a strong power
    of brain to retain it."

    "I agree with you entirely, sir; but all that even you know
    with respect to the French code, I know, not only in
    reference to that code, but as regards the codes of all
    nations. The English, Turkish, Japanese, Hindu laws, are as
    familiar to me as the French laws, and thus I was right,
    when I said to you, that relatively (you know that
    everything is relative, sir) -- that relatively to what I
    have done, you have very little to do; but that relatively
    to all I have learned, you have yet a great deal to learn."

    "But with what motive have you learned all this?" inquired
    Villefort, in astonishment. Monte Cristo smiled. "Really,
    sir," he observed, "I see that in spite of the reputation
    which you have acquired as a superior man, you look at
    everything from the material and vulgar view of society,
    beginning with man, and ending with man -- that is to say,
    in the most restricted, most narrow view which it is
    possible for human understanding to embrace."

    "Pray, sir, explain yourself," said Villefort, more and more
    astonished, "I really do -- not -- understand you --

    "I say, sir, that with the eyes fixed on the social
    organization of nations, you see only the springs of the
    machine, and lose sight of the sublime workman who makes
    them act; I say that you do not recognize before you and
    around you any but those office-holders whose commissions
    have been signed by a minister or king; and that the men
    whom God has put above those office-holders, ministers, and
    kings, by giving them a mission to follow out, instead of a
    post to fill -- I say that they escape your narrow, limited
    field of observation. It is thus that human weakness fails,
    from its debilitated and imperfect organs. Tobias took the
    angel who restored him to light for an ordinary young man.
    The nations took Attila, who was doomed to destroy them, for
    a conqueror similar to other conquerors, and it was
    necessary for both to reveal their missions, that they might
    be known and acknowledged; one was compelled to say, 'I am
    the angel of the Lord'; and the other, 'I am the hammer of
    God,' in order that the divine essence in both might be

    "Then," said Villefort, more and more amazed, and really
    supposing he was speaking to a mystic or a madman, "you
    consider yourself as one of those extraordinary beings whom
    you have mentioned?"

    "And why not?" said Monte Cristo coldly.

    "Your pardon, sir," replied Villefort, quite astounded, "but
    you will excuse me if, when I presented myself to you, I was
    unaware that I should meet with a person whose knowledge and
    understanding so far surpass the usual knowledge and
    understanding of men. It is not usual with us corrupted
    wretches of civilization to find gentlemen like yourself,
    possessors, as you are, of immense fortune -- at least, so
    it is said -- and I beg you to observe that I do not
    inquire, I merely repeat; -- it is not usual, I say, for
    such privileged and wealthy beings to waste their time in
    speculations on the state of society, in philosophical
    reveries, intended at best to console those whom fate has
    disinherited from the goods of this world."

    "Really, sir," retorted the count, "have you attained the
    eminent situation in which you are, without having admitted,
    or even without having met with exceptions? and do you never
    use your eyes, which must have acquired so much finesse and
    certainty, to divine, at a glance, the kind of man by whom
    you are confronted? Should not a magistrate be not merely
    the best administrator of the law, but the most crafty
    expounder of the chicanery of his profession, a steel probe
    to search hearts, a touchstone to try the gold which in each
    soul is mingled with more or less of alloy?"

    "Sir," said Villefort, "upon my word, you overcome me. I
    really never heard a person speak as you do."

    "Because you remain eternally encircled in a round of
    general conditions, and have never dared to raise your wings
    into those upper spheres which God has peopled with
    invisible or exceptional beings."

    "And you allow then, sir, that spheres exist, and that these
    marked and invisible beings mingle amongst us?"

    "Why should they not? Can you see the air you breathe, and
    yet without which you could not for a moment exist?"

    "Then we do not see those beings to whom you allude?"

    "Yes, we do; you see them whenever God pleases to allow them
    to assume a material form. You touch them, come in contact
    with them, speak to them, and they reply to you."

    "Ah," said Villefort, smiling, "I confess I should like to
    be warned when one of these beings is in contact with me."

    "You have been served as you desire, monsieur, for you were
    warned just now, and I now again warn you."

    "Then you yourself are one of these marked beings?"

    "Yes, monsieur, I believe so; for until now, no man has
    found himself in a position similar to mine. The dominions
    of kings are limited either by mountains or rivers, or a
    change of manners, or an alteration of language. My kingdom
    is bounded only by the world, for I am not an Italian, or a
    Frenchman, or a Hindu, or an American, or a Spaniard -- I am
    a cosmopolite. No country can say it saw my birth. God alone
    knows what country will see me die. I adopt all customs,
    speak all languages. You believe me to be a Frenchman, for I
    speak French with the same facility and purity as yourself.
    Well, Ali, my Nubian, believes me to be an Arab; Bertuccio,
    my steward, takes me for a Roman; Haidee, my slave, thinks
    me a Greek. You may, therefore, comprehend, that being of no
    country, asking no protection from any government,
    acknowledging no man as my brother, not one of the scruples
    that arrest the powerful, or the obstacles which paralyze
    the weak, paralyzes or arrests me. I have only two
    adversaries -- I will not say two conquerors, for with
    perseverance I subdue even them, -- they are time and
    distance. There is a third, and the most terrible -- that is
    my condition as a mortal being. This alone can stop me in my
    onward career, before I have attained the goal at which I
    aim, for all the rest I have reduced to mathematical terms.
    What men call the chances of fate -- namely, ruin, change,
    circumstances -- I have fully anticipated, and if any of
    these should overtake me, yet it will not overwhelm me.
    Unless I die, I shall always be what I am, and therefore it
    is that I utter the things you have never heard, even from
    the mouths of kings -- for kings have need, and other
    persons have fear of you. For who is there who does not say
    to himself, in a society as incongruously organized as ours,
    'Perhaps some day I shall have to do with the king's

    "But can you not say that, sir? The moment you become an
    inhabitant of France, you are naturally subjected to the
    French law."

    "I know it sir," replied Monte Cristo; "but when I visit a
    country I begin to study, by all the means which are
    available, the men from whom I may have anything to hope or
    to fear, till I know them as well as, perhaps better than,
    they know themselves. It follows from this, that the king's
    attorney, be he who he may, with whom I should have to deal,
    would assuredly be more embarrassed than I should."

    "That is to say," replied Villefort with hesitation, "that
    human nature being weak, every man, according to your creed,
    has committed faults."

    "Faults or crimes," responded Monte Cristo with a negligent

    "And that you alone, amongst the men whom you do not
    recognize as your brothers -- for you have said so,"
    observed Villefort in a tone that faltered somewhat -- "you
    alone are perfect."

    "No, not perfect," was the count's reply; "only
    impenetrable, that's all. But let us leave off this strain,
    sir, if the tone of it is displeasing to you; I am no more
    disturbed by your justice than are you by my second-sight."

    "No, no, -- by no means," said Villefort, who was afraid of
    seeming to abandon his ground. "No; by your brilliant and
    almost sublime conversation you have elevated me above the
    ordinary level; we no longer talk, we rise to dissertation.
    But you know how the theologians in their collegiate chairs,
    and philosophers in their controversies, occasionally say
    cruel truths; let us suppose for the moment that we are
    theologizing in a social way, or even philosophically, and I
    will say to you, rude as it may seem, 'My brother, you
    sacrifice greatly to pride; you may be above others, but
    above you there is God.'"

    "Above us all, sir," was Monte Cristo's response, in a tone
    and with an emphasis so deep that Villefort involuntarily
    shuddered. "I have my pride for men -- serpents always ready
    to threaten every one who would pass without crushing them
    under foot. But I lay aside that pride before God, who has
    taken me from nothing to make me what I am."

    "Then, count, I admire you," said Villefort, who, for the
    first time in this strange conversation, used the
    aristocratic form to the unknown personage, whom, until now,
    he had only called monsieur. "Yes, and I say to you, if you
    are really strong, really superior, really pious, or
    impenetrable, which you were right in saying amounts to the
    same thing -- then be proud, sir, for that is the
    characteristic of predominance. Yet you have unquestionably
    some ambition."

    "I have, sir."

    "And what may it be?"

    "I too, as happens to every man once in his life, have been
    taken by Satan into the highest mountain in the earth, and
    when there he showed me all the kingdoms of the world, and
    as he said before, so said he to me, 'Child of earth, what
    wouldst thou have to make thee adore me?' I reflected long,
    for a gnawing ambition had long preyed upon me, and then I
    replied, 'Listen, -- I have always heard of providence, and
    yet I have never seen him, or anything that resembles him,
    or which can make me believe that he exists. I wish to be
    providence myself, for I feel that the most beautiful,
    noblest, most sublime thing in the world, is to recompense
    and punish.' Satan bowed his head, and groaned. 'You
    mistake,' he said, 'providence does exist, only you have
    never seen him, because the child of God is as invisible as
    the parent. You have seen nothing that resembles him,
    because he works by secret springs, and moves by hidden
    ways. All I can do for you is to make you one of the agents
    of that providence.' The bargain was concluded. I may
    sacrifice my soul, but what matters it?" added Monte Cristo.
    "If the thing were to do again, I would again do it."
    Villefort looked at Monte Cristo with extreme amazement.
    "Count," he inquired, "have you any relations?"

    "No, sir, I am alone in the world."

    "So much the worse."

    "Why?" asked Monte Cristo.

    "Because then you might witness a spectacle calculated to
    break down your pride. You say you fear nothing but death?"

    "I did not say that I feared it; I only said that death
    alone could check the execution of my plans."

    "And old age?"

    "My end will be achieved before I grow old."

    "And madness?"

    "I have been nearly mad; and you know the axiom, -- non bis
    in idem. It is an axiom of criminal law, and, consequently,
    you understand its full application."

    "Sir," continued Villefort, "there is something to fear
    besides death, old age, and madness. For instance, there is
    apoplexy -- that lightning-stroke which strikes but does not
    destroy you, and yet which brings everything to an end. You
    are still yourself as now, and yet you are yourself no
    longer; you who, like Ariel, verge on the angelic, are but
    an inert mass, which, like Caliban, verges on the brutal;
    and this is called in human tongues, as I tell you, neither
    more nor less than apoplexy. Come, if so you will, count,
    and continue this conversation at my house, any day you may
    be willing to see an adversary capable of understanding and
    anxious to refute you, and I will show you my father, M.
    Noirtier de Villefort, one of the most fiery Jacobins of the
    French Revolution; that is to say, he had the most
    remarkable audacity, seconded by a most powerful
    organization -- a man who has not, perhaps, like yourself
    seen all the kingdoms of the earth, but who has helped to
    overturn one of the greatest; in fact, a man who believed
    himself, like you, one of the envoys, not of God, but of a
    supreme being; not of providence, but of fate. Well, sir,
    the rupture of a blood-vessel on the lobe of the brain has
    destroyed all this, not in a day, not in an hour, but in a
    second. M. Noirtier, who, on the previous night, was the old
    Jacobin, the old senator, the old Carbonaro, laughing at the
    guillotine, the cannon, and the dagger -- M. Noirtier,
    playing with revolutions -- M. Noirtier, for whom France was
    a vast chess-board, from which pawns, rooks, knights, and
    queens were to disappear, so that the king was checkmated --
    M. Noirtier, the redoubtable, was the next morning 'poor M.
    Noirtier,' the helpless old man, at the tender mercies of
    the weakest creature in the household, that is, his
    grandchild, Valentine; a dumb and frozen carcass, in fact,
    living painlessly on, that time may be given for his frame
    to decompose without his consciousness of its decay."

    "Alas, sir," said Monte Cristo "this spectacle is neither
    strange to my eye nor my thought. I am something of a
    physician, and have, like my fellows, sought more than once
    for the soul in living and in dead matter; yet, like
    providence, it has remained invisible to my eyes, although
    present to my heart. A hundred writers since Socrates,
    Seneca, St. Augustine, and Gall, have made, in verse and
    prose, the comparison you have made, and yet I can well
    understand that a father's sufferings may effect great
    changes in the mind of a son. I will call on you, sir, since
    you bid me contemplate, for the advantage of my pride, this
    terrible spectacle, which must have been so great a source
    of sorrow to your family."

    "It would have been so unquestionably, had not God given me
    so large a compensation. In contrast with the old man, who
    is dragging his way to the tomb, are two children just
    entering into life -- Valentine, the daughter by my first
    wife -- Mademoiselle Renee de Saint-Meran -- and Edward, the
    boy whose life you have this day saved."

    "And what is your deduction from this compensation, sir?"
    inquired Monte Cristo.

    "My deduction is," replied Villefort, "that my father, led
    away by his passions, has committed some fault unknown to
    human justice, but marked by the justice of God. That God,
    desirous in his mercy to punish but one person, has visited
    this justice on him alone." Monte Cristo with a smile on his
    lips, uttered in the depths of his soul a groan which would
    have made Villefort fly had he but heard it. "Adieu, sir,"
    said the magistrate, who had risen from his seat; "I leave
    you, bearing a remembrance of you -- a remembrance of
    esteem, which I hope will not be disagreeable to you when
    you know me better; for I am not a man to bore my friends,
    as you will learn. Besides, you have made an eternal friend
    of Madame de Villefort." The count bowed, and contented
    himself with seeing Villefort to the door of his cabinet,
    the procureur being escorted to his carriage by two footmen,
    who, on a signal from their master, followed him with every
    mark of attention. When he had gone, Monte Cristo breathed a
    profound sigh, and said, -- "Enough of this poison, let me
    now seek the antidote." Then sounding his bell, he said to
    Ali, who entered, "I am going to madam's chamber -- have the
    carriage ready at one o'clock."
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