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    Chapter 58

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    Chapter 58
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    CHAPTER 58
    M. Noirtier de Villefort.

    We will now relate what was passing in the house of the
    king's attorney after the departure of Madame Danglars and
    her daughter, and during the time of the conversation
    between Maximilian and Valentine, which we have just
    detailed. M. de Villefort entered his father's room,
    followed by Madame de Villefort. Both of the visitors, after
    saluting the old man and speaking to Barrois, a faithful
    servant, who had been twenty-five years in his service, took
    their places on either side of the paralytic.

    M. Noirtier was sitting in an arm-chair, which moved upon
    casters, in which he was wheeled into the room in the
    morning, and in the same way drawn out again at night. He
    was placed before a large glass, which reflected the whole
    apartment, and so, without any attempt to move, which would
    have been impossible, he could see all who entered the room
    and everything which was going on around him. M. Noirtier,
    although almost as immovable as a corpse, looked at the
    newcomers with a quick and intelligent expression,
    perceiving at once, by their ceremonious courtesy, that they
    were come on business of an unexpected and official
    character. Sight and hearing were the only senses remaining,
    and they, like two solitary sparks, remained to animate the
    miserable body which seemed fit for nothing but the grave;
    it was only, however, by means of one of these senses that
    he could reveal the thoughts and feelings that still
    occupied his mind, and the look by which he gave expression
    to his inner life was like the distant gleam of a candle
    which a traveller sees by night across some desert place,
    and knows that a living being dwells beyond the silence and
    obscurity. Noirtier's hair was long and white, and flowed
    over his shoulders; while in his eyes, shaded by thick black
    lashes, was concentrated, as it often happens with an organ
    which is used to the exclusion of the others, all the
    activity, address, force, and intelligence which were
    formerly diffused over his whole body; and so although the
    movement of the arm, the sound of the voice, and the agility
    of the body, were wanting, the speaking eye sufficed for
    all. He commanded with it; it was the medium through which
    his thanks were conveyed. In short, his whole appearance
    produced on the mind the impression of a corpse with living
    eyes, and nothing could be more startling than to observe
    the expression of anger or joy suddenly lighting up these
    organs, while the rest of the rigid and marble-like features
    were utterly deprived of the power of participation. Three
    persons only could understand this language of the poor
    paralytic; these were Villefort, Valentine, and the old
    servant of whom we have already spoken. But as Villefort saw
    his father but seldom, and then only when absolutely
    obliged, and as he never took any pains to please or gratify
    him when he was there, all the old man's happiness was
    centred in his granddaughter. Valentine, by means of her
    love, her patience, and her devotion, had learned to read in
    Noirtier's look all the varied feelings which were passing
    in his mind. To this dumb language, which was so
    unintelligible to others, she answered by throwing her whole
    soul into the expression of her countenance, and in this
    manner were the conversations sustained between the blooming
    girl and the helpless invalid, whose body could scarcely be
    called a living one, but who, nevertheless, possessed a fund
    of knowledge and penetration, united with a will as powerful
    as ever although clogged by a body rendered utterly
    incapable of obeying its impulses. Valentine had solved the
    problem, and was able easily to understand his thoughts, and
    to convey her own in return, and, through her untiring and
    devoted assiduity, it was seldom that, in the ordinary
    transactions of every-day life, she failed to anticipate the
    wishes of the living, thinking mind, or the wants of the
    almost inanimate body. As to the servant, he had, as we have
    said, been with his master for five and twenty years,
    therefore he knew all his habits, and it was seldom that
    Noirtier found it necessary to ask for anything, so prompt
    was he in administering to all the necessities of the
    invalid. Villefort did not need the help of either Valentine
    or the domestic in order to carry on with his father the
    strange conversation which he was about to begin. As we have
    said, he perfectly understood the old man's vocabulary, and
    if he did not use it more often, it was only indifference
    and ennui which prevented him from so doing. He therefore
    allowed Valentine to go into the garden, sent away Barrois,
    and after having seated himself at his father's right hand,
    while Madame de Villefort placed herself on the left, he
    addressed him thus: --

    "I trust you will not be displeased, sir, that Valentine has
    not come with us, or that I dismissed Barrois, for our
    conference will be one which could not with propriety be
    carried on in the presence of either. Madame de Villefort
    and I have a communication to make to you."

    Noirtier's face remained perfectly passive during this long
    preamble, while, on the contrary, Villefort's eye was
    endeavoring to penetrate into the inmost recesses of the old
    man's heart.

    "This communication," continued the procureur, in that cold
    and decisive tone which seemed at once to preclude all
    discussion, "will, we are sure, meet with your approbation."
    The eye of the invalid still retained that vacancy of
    expression which prevented his son from obtaining any
    knowledge of the feelings which were passing in his mind; he
    listened, nothing more. "Sir," resumed Villefort, "we are
    thinking of marrying Valentine." Had the old man's face been
    moulded in wax it could not have shown less emotion at this
    news than was now to be traced there. "The marriage will
    take place in less than three months," said Villefort.
    Noirtier's eye still retained its inanimate expression.

    Madame de Villefort now took her part in the conversation
    and added, -- "We thought this news would possess an
    interest for you, sir, who have always entertained a great
    affection for Valentine; it therefore only now remains for
    us to tell you the name of the young man for whom she is
    destined. It is one of the most desirable connections which
    could possibly be formed; he possesses fortune, a high rank
    in society, and every personal qualification likely to
    render Valentine supremely happy, -- his name, moreover,
    cannot be wholly unknown to you. It is M. Franz de Quesnel,
    Baron d'Epinay."

    While his wife was speaking, Villefort had narrowly watched
    the old man's countenance. When Madame de Villefort
    pronounced the name of Franz, the pupil of M. Noirtier's eye
    began to dilate, and his eyelids trembled with the same
    movement that may be perceived on the lips of an individual
    about to speak, and he darted a lightning glance at Madame
    de Villefort and his son. The procureur, who knew the
    political hatred which had formerly existed between M.
    Noirtier and the elder d'Epinay, well understood the
    agitation and anger which the announcement had produced;
    but, feigning not to perceive either, he immediately resumed
    the narrative begun by his wife. "Sir," said he, "you are
    aware that Valentine is about to enter her nineteenth year,
    which renders it important that she should lose no time in
    forming a suitable alliance. Nevertheless, you have not been
    forgotten in our plans, and we have fully ascertained
    beforehand that Valentine's future husband will consent, not
    to live in this house, for that might not be pleasant for
    the young people, but that you should live with them; so
    that you and Valentine, who are so attached to each other,
    would not be separated, and you would be able to pursue
    exactly the same course of life which you have hitherto
    done, and thus, instead of losing, you will be a gainer by
    the change, as it will secure to you two children instead of
    one, to watch over and comfort you."

    Noirtier's look was furious; it was very evident that
    something desperate was passing in the old man's mind, for a
    cry of anger and grief rose in his throat, and not being
    able to find vent in utterance, appeared almost to choke
    him, for his face and lips turned quite purple with the
    struggle. Villefort quietly opened a window, saying, "It is
    very warm, and the heat affects M. Noirtier." He then
    returned to his place, but did not sit down. "This
    marriage," added Madame de Villefort, "is quite agreeable to
    the wishes of M. d'Epinay and his family; besides, he had no
    relations nearer than an uncle and aunt, his mother having
    died at his birth, and his father having been assassinated
    in 1815, that is to say, when he was but two years old; it
    naturally followed that the child was permitted to choose
    his own pursuits, and he has, therefore, seldom acknowledged
    any other authority but that of his own will."

    "That assassination was a mysterious affair," said
    Villefort, "and the perpetrators have hitherto escaped
    detection, although suspicion has fallen on the head of more
    than one person." Noirtier made such an effort that his lips
    expanded into a smile.

    "Now," continued Villefort, "those to whom the guilt really
    belongs, by whom the crime was committed, on whose heads the
    justice of man may probably descend here, and the certain
    judgment of God hereafter, would rejoice in the opportunity
    thus afforded of bestowing such a peace-offering as
    Valentine on the son of him whose life they so ruthlessly
    destroyed." Noirtier had succeeded in mastering his emotion
    more than could have been deemed possible with such an
    enfeebled and shattered frame. "Yes, I understand," was the
    reply contained in his look; and this look expressed a
    feeling of strong indignation, mixed with profound contempt.
    Villefort fully understood his father's meaning, and
    answered by a slight shrug of his shoulders. He then
    motioned to his wife to take leave. "Now sir," said Madame
    de Villefort, "I must bid you farewell. Would you like me to
    send Edward to you for a short time?"

    It had been agreed that the old man should express his
    approbation by closing his eyes, his refusal by winking them
    several times, and if he had some desire or feeling to
    express, he raised them to heaven. If he wanted Valentine,
    he closed his right eye only, and if Barrois, the left. At
    Madame de Villefort's proposition he instantly winked his
    eyes. Provoked by a complete refusal, she bit her lip and
    said, "Then shall I send Valentine to you?" The old man
    closed his eyes eagerly, thereby intimating that such was
    his wish. M. and Madame de Villefort bowed and left the
    room, giving orders that Valentine should be summoned to her
    grandfather's presence, and feeling sure that she would have
    much to do to restore calmness to the perturbed spirit of
    the invalid. Valentine, with a color still heightened by
    emotion, entered the room just after her parents had quitted
    it. One look was sufficient to tell her that her grandfather
    was suffering, and that there was much on his mind which he
    was wishing to communicate to her. "Dear grandpapa," cried
    she, "what has happened? They have vexed you, and you are
    angry?" The paralytic closed his eyes in token of assent.
    "Who has displeased you? Is it my father?"


    "Madame de Villefort?"


    "Me?" The former sign was repeated. "Are you displeased with
    me?" cried Valentine in astonishment. M. Noirtier again
    closed his eyes. "And what have I done, dear grandpapa, that
    you should be angry with me?" cried Valentine.

    There was no answer, and she continued. "I have not seen you
    all day. Has any one been speaking to you against me?"

    "Yes," said the old man's look, with eagerness.

    "Let me think a moment. I do assure you, grandpapa -- Ah --
    M. and Madame de Villefort have just left this room, have
    they not?"


    "And it was they who told you something which made you
    angry? What was it then? May I go and ask them, that I may
    have the opportunity of making my peace with you?"

    "No, no," said Noirtier's look.

    "Ah, you frighten me. What can they have said?" and she
    again tried to think what it could be.

    "Ah, I know," said she, lowering her voice and going close
    to the old man. "They have been speaking of my marriage, --
    have they not?"

    "Yes," replied the angry look.

    "I understand; you are displeased at the silence I have
    preserved on the subject. The reason of it was, that they
    had insisted on my keeping the matter a secret, and begged
    me not to tell you anything of it. They did not even
    acquaint me with their intentions, and I only discovered
    them by chance, that is why I have been so reserved with
    you, dear grandpapa. Pray forgive me." But there was no look
    calculated to reassure her; all it seemed to say was, "It is
    not only your reserve which afflicts me."

    "What is it, then?" asked the young girl. "Perhaps you think
    I shall abandon you, dear grandpapa, and that I shall forget
    you when I am married?"


    "They told you, then, that M. d'Epinay consented to our all
    living together?"


    "Then why are you still vexed and grieved?" The old man's
    eyes beamed with an expression of gentle affection. "Yes, I
    understand," said Valentine; "it is because you love me."
    The old man assented. "And you are afraid I shall be


    "You do not like M. Franz?" The eyes repeated several times,
    "No, no, no."

    "Then you are vexed with the engagement?"


    "Well, listen," said Valentine, throwing herself on her
    knees, and putting her arm round her grandfather's neck, "I
    am vexed, too, for I do not love M. Franz d'Epinay." An
    expression of intense joy illumined the old man's eyes.
    "When I wished to retire into a convent, you remember how
    angry you were with me?" A tear trembled in the eye of the
    invalid. "Well," continued Valentine, "the reason of my
    proposing it was that I might escape this hateful marriage,
    which drives me to despair." Noirtier's breathing came thick
    and short. "Then the idea of this marriage really grieves
    you too? Ah, if you could but help me -- if we could both
    together defeat their plan! But you are unable to oppose
    them, -- you, whose mind is so quick, and whose will is so
    firm are nevertheless, as weak and unequal to the contest as
    I am myself. Alas, you, who would have been such a powerful
    protector to me in the days of your health and strength, can
    now only sympathize in my joys and sorrows, without being
    able to take any active part in them. However, this is much,
    and calls for gratitude and heaven has not taken away all my
    blessings when it leaves me your sympathy and kindness."

    At these words there appeared in Noirtier's eye an
    expression of such deep meaning that the young girl thought
    she could read these words there: "You are mistaken; I can
    still do much for you."

    "Do you think you can help me, dear grandpapa?" said

    "Yes." Noirtier raised his eyes, it was the sign agreed on
    between him and Valentine when he wanted anything.

    "What is it you want, dear grandpapa?" said Valentine, and
    she endeavored to recall to mind all the things which he
    would be likely to need; and as the ideas presented
    themselves to her mind, she repeated them aloud, then, --
    finding that all her efforts elicited nothing but a constant
    "No," -- she said, "Come, since this plan does not answer, I
    will have recourse to another." She then recited all the
    letters of the alphabet from A down to N. When she arrived
    at that letter the paralytic made her understand that she
    had spoken the initial letter of the thing he wanted. "Ah,"
    said Valentine, "the thing you desire begins with the letter
    N; it is with N that we have to do, then. Well, let me see,
    what can you want that begins with N? Na -- Ne -- Ni -- No"

    "Yes, yes, yes," said the old man's eye.

    "Ah, it is No, then?"

    "Yes." Valentine fetched a dictionary, which she placed on a
    desk before Noirtier; she opened it, and, seeing that the
    odd man's eye was thoroughly fixed on its pages, she ran her
    finger quickly up and down the columns. During the six years
    which had passed since Noirtier first fell into this sad
    state, Valentine's powers of invention had been too often
    put to the test not to render her expert in devising
    expedients for gaining a knowledge of his wishes, and the
    constant practice had so perfected her in the art that she
    guessed the old man's meaning as quickly as if he himself
    had been able to seek for what he wanted. At the word
    "Notary," Noirtier made a sign to her to stop. "Notary,"
    said she, "do you want a notary, dear grandpapa?" The old
    man again signified that it was a notary he desired.

    "You would wish a notary to be sent for then?" said


    "Shall my father be informed of your wish?"


    "Do you wish the notary to be sent for immediately?"


    "Then they shall go for him directly, dear grandpapa. Is
    that all you want?"

    "Yes." Valentine rang the bell, and ordered the servant to
    tell Monsieur or Madame de Villefort that they were
    requested to come to M. Noirtier's room. "Are you satisfied
    now?" inquired Valentine.


    "I am sure you are; it is not very difficult to discover
    that," -- and the young girl smiled on her grandfather, as
    if he had been a child. M. de Villefort entered, followed by
    Barrois. "What do you want me for, sir?" demanded he of the

    "Sir," said Valentine, "my grandfather wishes for a notary."
    At this strange and unexpected demand M. de Villefort and
    his father exchanged looks. "Yes," motioned the latter, with
    a firmness which seemed to declare that with the help of
    Valentine and his old servant, who both knew what his wishes
    were, he was quite prepared to maintain the contest. "Do you
    wish for a notary?" asked Villefort.


    "What to do?"

    Noirtier made no answer. "What do you want with a notary?"
    again repeated Villefort. The invalid's eye remained fixed,
    by which expression he intended to intimate that his
    resolution was unalterable. "Is it to do us some ill turn?
    Do you think it is worth while?" said Villefort.

    "Still," said Barrois, with the freedom and fidelity of an
    old servant, "if M. Noirtier asks for a notary, I suppose he
    really wishes for a notary; therefore I shall go at once and
    fetch one." Barrois acknowledged no master but Noirtier, and
    never allowed his desires in any way to be contradicted.

    "Yes, I do want a notary," motioned the old man, shutting
    his eyes with a look of defiance, which seemed to say, "and
    I should like to see the person who dares to refuse my

    "You shall have a notary, as you absolutely wish for one,
    sir," said Villefort; "but I shall explain to him your state
    of health, and make excuses for you, for the scene cannot
    fail of being a most ridiculous one."

    "Never mind that," said Barrois; "I shall go and fetch a
    notary, nevertheless," -- and the old servant departed
    triumphantly on his mission.
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