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    Chapter 59

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    Chapter 59
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    CHAPTER 59
    The Will.

    As soon as Barrois had left the room, Noirtier looked at
    Valentine with a malicious expression that said many things.
    The young girl perfectly understood the look, and so did
    Villefort, for his countenance became clouded, and he
    knitted his eyebrows angrily. He took a seat, and quietly
    awaited the arrival of the notary. Noirtier saw him seat
    himself with an appearance of perfect indifference, at the
    same time giving a side look at Valentine, which made her
    understand that she also was to remain in the room.
    Three-quarters of an hour after, Barrois returned, bringing
    the notary with him. "Sir," said Villefort, after the first
    salutations were over, "you were sent for by M. Noirtier,
    whom you see here. All his limbs have become completely
    paralysed, he has lost his voice also, and we ourselves find
    much trouble in endeavoring to catch some fragments of his
    meaning." Noirtier cast an appealing look on Valentine,
    which look was at once so earnest and imperative, that she
    answered immediately. "Sir," said she, "I perfectly
    understand my grandfather's meaning at all times."

    "That is quite true," said Barrois; "and that is what I told
    the gentleman as we walked along."

    "Permit me," said the notary, turning first to Villefort and
    then to Valentine -- "permit me to state that the case in
    question is just one of those in which a public officer like
    myself cannot proceed to act without thereby incurring a
    dangerous responsibility. The first thing necessary to
    render an act valid is, that the notary should be thoroughly
    convinced that he has faithfully interpreted the will and
    wishes of the person dictating the act. Now I cannot be sure
    of the approbation or disapprobation of a client who cannot
    speak, and as the object of his desire or his repugnance
    cannot be clearly proved to me, on account of his want of
    speech, my services here would be quite useless, and cannot
    be legally exercised." The notary then prepared to retire.
    An imperceptible smile of triumph was expressed on the lips
    of the procureur. Noirtier looked at Valentine with an
    expression so full of grief, that she arrested the departure
    of the notary. "Sir," said she, "the language which I speak
    with my grandfather may be easily learnt, and I can teach
    you in a few minutes, to understand it almost as well as I
    can myself. Will you tell me what you require, in order to
    set your conscience quite at ease on the subject?"

    "In order to render an act valid, I must be certain of the
    approbation or disapprobation of my client. Illness of body
    would not affect the validity of the deed, but sanity of
    mind is absolutely requisite."

    "Well, sir, by the help of two signs, with which I will
    acquaint you presently, you may ascertain with perfect
    certainty that my grandfather is still in the full
    possession of all his mental faculties. M. Noirtier, being
    deprived of voice and motion, is accustomed to convey his
    meaning by closing his eyes when he wishes to signify 'yes,'
    and to wink when he means 'no.' You now know quite enough to
    enable you to converse with M. Noirtier; -- try." Noirtier
    gave Valentine such a look of tenderness and gratitude that
    it was comprehended even by the notary himself. "You have
    heard and understood what your granddaughter has been
    saying, sir, have you?" asked the notary. Noirtier closed
    his eyes. "And you approve of what she said -- that is to
    say, you declare that the signs which she mentioned are
    really those by means of which you are accustomed to convey
    your thoughts?"

    "Yes."

    "It was you who sent for me?"

    "Yes."

    "To make your will?"

    "Yes."

    "And you do not wish me to go away without fulfilling your
    original intentions?" The old man winked violently. "Well,
    sir," said the young girl, "do you understand now, and is
    your conscience perfectly at rest on the subject?" But
    before the notary could answer, Villefort had drawn him
    aside. "Sir," said he, "do you suppose for a moment that a
    man can sustain a physical shock, such as M. Noirtier has
    received, without any detriment to his mental faculties?"

    "It is not exactly that, sir," said the notary, "which makes
    me uneasy, but the difficulty will be in wording his
    thoughts and intentions, so as to be able to get his
    answers."

    "You must see that to be an utter impossibility," said
    Villefort. Valentine and the old man heard this
    conversation, and Noirtier fixed his eye so earnestly on
    Valentine that she felt bound to answer to the look.

    "Sir," said she, "that need not make you uneasy, however
    difficult it may at first sight appear to be. I can discover
    and explain to you my grandfather's thoughts, so as to put
    an end to all your doubts and fears on the subject. I have
    now been six years with M. Noirtier, and let him tell you if
    ever once, during that time, he has entertained a thought
    which he was unable to make me understand."

    "No," signed the old man.

    "Let us try what we can do, then," said the notary. "You
    accept this young lady as your interpreter, M. Noirtier?"

    "Yes."

    "Well, sir, what do you require of me, and what document is
    it that you wish to be drawn up?" Valentine named all the
    letters of the alphabet until she came to W. At this letter
    the eloquent eye of Noirtier gave her notice that she was to
    stop. "It is very evident that it is the letter W which M.
    Noirtier wants," said the notary. "Wait," said Valentine;
    and, turning to her grandfather, she repeated, "Wa -- We --
    Wi" -- The old man stopped her at the last syllable.
    Valentine then took the dictionary, and the notary watched
    her while she turned over the pages. She passed her finger
    slowly down the columns, and when she came to the word
    "Will," M. Noirtier's eye bade her stop. "Will," said the
    notary; "it is very evident that M. Noirtier is desirous of
    making his will."

    "Yes, yes, yes," motioned the invalid.

    "Really, sir, you must allow that this is most
    extraordinary," said the astonished notary, turning to M. de
    Villefort. "Yes," said the procureur, "and I think the will
    promises to be yet more extraordinary, for I cannot see how
    it is to be drawn up without the intervention of Valentine,
    and she may, perhaps, be considered as too much interested
    in its contents to allow of her being a suitable interpreter
    of the obscure and ill-defined wishes of her grandfather."

    "No, no, no," replied the eye of the paralytic.

    "What?" said Villefort, "do you mean to say that Valentine
    is not interested in your will?"

    "No."

    "Sir," said the notary, whose interest had been greatly
    excited, and who had resolved on publishing far and wide the
    account of this extraordinary and picturesque scene, "what
    appeared so impossible to me an hour ago, has now become
    quite easy and practicable, and this may be a perfectly
    valid will, provided it be read in the presence of seven
    witnesses, approved by the testator, and sealed by the
    notary in the presence of the witnesses. As to the time, it
    will not require very much more than the generality of
    wills. There are certain forms necessary to be gone through,
    and which are always the same. As to the details, the
    greater part will be furnished afterwards by the state in
    which we find the affairs of the testator, and by yourself,
    who, having had the management of them, can doubtless give
    full information on the subject. But besides all this, in
    order that the instrument may not be contested, I am anxious
    to give it the greatest possible authenticity, therefore,
    one of my colleagues will help me, and, contrary to custom,
    will assist in the dictation of the testament. Are you
    satisfied, sir?" continued the notary, addressing the old
    man.

    "Yes," looked the invalid, his eye beaming with delight at
    the ready interpretation of his meaning.

    "What is he going to do?" thought Villefort, whose position
    demanded much reserve, but who was longing to know what his
    father's intentions were. He left the room to give orders
    for another notary to be sent, but Barrois, who had heard
    all that passed, had guessed his master's wishes, and had
    already gone to fetch one. The procureur then told his wife
    to come up. In the course of a quarter of an hour every one
    had assembled in the chamber of the paralytic; the second
    notary had also arrived. A few words sufficed for a mutual
    understanding between the two officers of the law. They read
    to Noirtier the formal copy of a will, in order to give him
    an idea of the terms in which such documents are generally
    couched; then, in order to test the capacity of the
    testator, the first notary said, turning towards him, --
    "When an individual makes his will, it is generally in favor
    or in prejudice of some person."

    "Yes."

    "Have you an exact idea of the amount of your fortune?"

    "Yes."

    "I will name to you several sums which will increase by
    gradation; you will stop me when I reach the one
    representing the amount of your own possessions?"

    "Yes." There was a kind of solemnity in this interrogation.
    Never had the struggle between mind and matter been more
    apparent than now, and if it was not a sublime, it was, at
    least, a curious spectacle. They had formed a circle round
    the invalid; the second notary was sitting at a table,
    prepared for writing, and his colleague was standing before
    the testator in the act of interrogating him on the subject
    to which we have alluded. "Your fortune exceeds 300,000
    francs, does it not?" asked he. Noirtier made a sign that it
    did. "Do you possess 400,000 francs?" inquired the notary.
    Noirtier's eye remained immovable. "Five hundred thousand?"
    The same expression continued. "Six hundred thousand --
    700,000 -- 800,000 -- 900,000?" Noirtier stopped him at the
    last-named sum. "You are then in possession of 900,000
    francs?" asked the notary. "Yes."

    "In landed property?"

    "No."

    "In stock?"

    "Yes."

    "The stock is in your own hands?" The look which M. Noirtier
    cast on Barrois showed that there was something wanting
    which he knew where to find. The old servant left the room,
    and presently returned, bringing with him a small casket.
    "Do you permit us to open this casket?" asked the notary.
    Noirtier gave his assent. They opened it, and found 900,000
    francs in bank scrip. The first notary handed over each
    note, as he examined it, to his colleague.

    The total amount was found to be as M. Noirtier had stated.
    "It is all as he has said; it is very evident that the mind
    still retains its full force and vigor." Then, turning
    towards the paralytic, he said, "You possess, then, 900,000
    francs of capital, which, according to the manner in which
    you have invested it, ought to bring in an income of about
    40,000 livres?"

    "Yes."

    "To whom do you desire to leave this fortune?"

    "Oh," said Madame de Villefort, "there is not much doubt on
    that subject. M. Noirtier tenderly loves his granddaughter,
    Mademoiselle de Villefort; it is she who has nursed and
    tended him for six years, and has, by her devoted attention,
    fully secured the affection, I had almost said the
    gratitude, of her grandfather, and it is but just that she
    should reap the fruit of her devotion." The eye of Noirtier
    clearly showed by its expression that he was not deceived by
    the false assent given by Madame de Villefort's words and
    manner to the motives which she supposed him to entertain.
    "Is it, then, to Mademoiselle Valentine de Villefort that
    you leave these 900,000 francs?" demanded the notary,
    thinking he had only to insert this clause, but waiting
    first for the assent of Noirtier, which it was necessary
    should be given before all the witnesses of this singular
    scene. Valentine, when her name was made the subject of
    discussion, had stepped back, to escape unpleasant
    observation; her eyes were cast down, and she was crying.
    The old man looked at her for an instant with an expression
    of the deepest tenderness, then, turning towards the notary,
    he significantly winked his eye in token of dissent.

    "What," said the notary, "do you not intend making
    Mademoiselle Valentine de Villefort your residuary legatee?"

    "No."

    "You are not making any mistake, are you?" said the notary;
    "you really mean to declare that such is not your
    intention?"

    "No," repeated Noirtier; "No." Valentine raised her head,
    struck dumb with astonishment. It was not so much the
    conviction that she was disinherited that caused her grief,
    but her total inability to account for the feelings which
    had provoked her grandfather to such an act. But Noirtier
    looked at her with so much affectionate tenderness that she
    exclaimed, "Oh, grandpapa, I see now that it is only your
    fortune of which you deprive me; you still leave me the love
    which I have always enjoyed."

    "Ah, yes, most assuredly," said the eyes of the paralytic,
    for he closed them with an expression which Valentine could
    not mistake. "Thank you, thank you," murmured she. The old
    man's declaration that Valentine was not the destined
    inheritor of his fortune had excited the hopes of Madame de
    Villefort; she gradually approached the invalid, and said:
    "Then, doubtless, dear M. Noirtier, you intend leaving your
    fortune to your grandson, Edward de Villefort?" The winking
    of the eyes which answered this speech was most decided and
    terrible, and expressed a feeling almost amounting to
    hatred.

    "No?" said the notary; "then, perhaps, it is to your son, M.
    de Villefort?"

    "No." The two notaries looked at each other in mute
    astonishment and inquiry as to what were the real intentions
    of the testator. Villefort and his wife both grew red, one
    from shame, the other from anger.

    "What have we all done, then, dear grandpapa?" said
    Valentine; "you no longer seem to love any of us?" The old
    man's eyes passed rapidly from Villefort and his wife, and
    rested on Valentine with a look of unutterable fondness.
    "Well," said she; "if you love me, grandpapa, try and bring
    that love to bear upon your actions at this present moment.
    You know me well enough to be quite sure that I have never
    thought of your fortune; besides, they say I am already rich
    in right of my mother -- too rich, even. Explain yourself,
    then." Noirtier fixed his intelligent eyes on Valentine's
    hand. "My hand?" said she.

    "Yes."

    "Her hand!" exclaimed every one.

    "Oh, gentlemen, you see it is all useless, and that my
    father's mind is really impaired," said Villefort.

    "Ah," cried Valentine suddenly, "I understand. It is my
    marriage you mean, is it not, dear grandpapa?"

    "Yes, yes, yes," signed the paralytic, casting on Valentine
    a look of joyful gratitude for having guessed his meaning.

    "You are angry with us all on account of this marriage, are
    you not?"

    "Yes?"

    "Really, this is too absurd," said Villefort.

    "Excuse me, sir," replied the notary; "on the contrary, the
    meaning of M. Noirtier is quite evident to me, and I can
    quite easily connect the train of ideas passing in his
    mind."

    "You do not wish me to marry M. Franz d'Epinay?" observed
    Valentine.

    "I do not wish it," said the eye of her grandfather. "And
    you disinherit your granddaughter," continued the notary,
    "because she has contracted an engagement contrary to your
    wishes?"

    "Yes."

    "So that, but for this marriage, she would have been your
    heir?"

    "Yes." There was a profound silence. The two notaries were
    holding a consultation as to the best means of proceeding
    with the affair. Valentine was looking at her grandfather
    with a smile of intense gratitude, and Villefort was biting
    his lips with vexation, while Madame de Villefort could not
    succeed in repressing an inward feeling of joy, which, in
    spite of herself, appeared in her whole countenance. "But,"
    said Villefort, who was the first to break the silence, "I
    consider that I am the best judge of the propriety of the
    marriage in question. I am the only person possessing the
    right to dispose of my daughter's hand. It is my wish that
    she should marry M. Franz d'Epinay -- and she shall marry
    him." Valentine sank weeping into a chair.

    "Sir," said the notary, "how do you intend disposing of your
    fortune in case Mademoiselle de Villefort still determines
    on marrying M. Franz?" The old man gave no answer. "You
    will, of course, dispose of it in some way or other?"

    "Yes."

    "In favor of some member of your family?"

    "No."

    "Do you intend devoting it to charitable purposes, then?"
    pursued the notary.

    "Yes."

    "But," said the notary, "you are aware that the law does not
    allow a son to be entirely deprived of his patrimony?"

    "Yes."

    "You only intend, then, to dispose of that part of your
    fortune which the law allows you to subtract from the
    inheritance of your son?" Noirtier made no answer. "Do you
    still wish to dispose of all?"

    "Yes."

    "But they will contest the will after your death?"

    "No."

    "My father knows me," replied Villefort; "he is quite sure
    that his wishes will be held sacred by me; besides, he
    understands that in my position I cannot plead against the
    poor." The eye of Noirtier beamed with triumph. "What do you
    decide on, sir?" asked the notary of Villefort.

    "Nothing, sir; it is a resolution which my father has taken
    and I know he never alters his mind. I am quite resigned.
    These 900,000 francs will go out of the family in order to
    enrich some hospital; but it is ridiculous thus to yield to
    the caprices of an old man, and I shall, therefore, act
    according to my conscience." Having said this, Villefort
    quitted the room with his wife, leaving his father at
    liberty to do as he pleased. The same day the will was made,
    the witnesses were brought, it was approved by the old man,
    sealed in the presence of all and given in charge to M.
    Deschamps, the family notary.
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