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    Chapter 67

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    Chapter 67
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    CHAPTER 67
    At the Office of the King's Attorney.

    Let us leave the banker driving his horses at their fullest
    speed, and follow Madame Danglars in her morning excursion.
    We have said that at half-past twelve o'clock Madame
    Danglars had ordered her horses, and had left home in the
    carriage. She directed her course towards the Faubourg Saint
    Germain, went down the Rue Mazarine, and stopped at the
    Passage du Pont-Neuf. She descended, and went through the
    passage. She was very plainly dressed, as would be the case
    with a woman of taste walking in the morning. At the Rue
    Guenegaud she called a cab, and directed the driver to go to
    the Rue de Harlay. As soon as she was seated in the vehicle,
    she drew from her pocket a very thick black veil, which she
    tied on to her straw bonnet. She then replaced the bonnet,
    and saw with pleasure, in a little pocket-mirror, that her
    white complexion and brilliant eyes were alone visible. The
    cab crossed the Pont-Neuf and entered the Rue de Harlay by
    the Place Dauphine; the driver was paid as the door opened,
    and stepping lightly up the stairs Madame Danglars soon
    reached the Salle des Pas-Perdus.

    There was a great deal going on that morning, and many
    business-like persons at the Palais; business-like persons
    pay very little attention to women, and Madame Danglars
    crossed the hall without exciting any more attention than
    any other woman calling upon her lawyer. There was a great
    press of people in M. de Villefort's ante-chamber, but
    Madame Danglars had no occasion even to pronounce her name.
    The instant she appeared the door-keeper rose, came to her,
    and asked her whether she was not the person with whom the
    procureur had made an appointment; and on her affirmative
    answer being given, he conducted her by a private passage to
    M. de Villefort's office. The magistrate was seated in an
    arm-chair, writing, with his back towards the door; he did
    not move as he heard it open, and the door-keeper pronounce
    the words, "Walk in, madame," and then reclose it; but no
    sooner had the man's footsteps ceased, than he started up,
    drew the bolts, closed the curtains, and examined every
    corner of the room. Then, when he had assured himself that
    he could neither be seen nor heard, and was consequently
    relieved of doubts, he said, -- "Thanks, madame, -- thanks
    for your punctuality; "and he offered a chair to Madame
    Danglars, which she accepted, for her heart beat so
    violently that she felt nearly suffocated.

    "It is a long time, madame," said the procureur, describing
    a half-circle with his chair, so as to place himself exactly
    opposite to Madame Danglars, -- "it is a long time since I
    had the pleasure of speaking alone with you, and I regret
    that we have only now met to enter upon a painful
    conversation."

    "Nevertheless, sir, you see I have answered your first
    appeal, although certainly the conversation must be much
    more painful for me than for you." Villefort smiled
    bitterly.

    "It is true, then," he said, rather uttering his thoughts
    aloud than addressing his companion, -- "it is true, then,
    that all our actions leave their traces -- some sad, others
    bright -- on our paths; it is true that every step in our
    lives is like the course of an insect on the sands; -- it
    leaves its track! Alas, to many the path is traced by
    tears."

    "Sir," said Madame Danglars, "you can feel for my emotion,
    can you not? Spare me, then, I beseech you. When I look at
    this room, -- whence so many guilty creatures have departed,
    trembling and ashamed, when I look at that chair before
    which I now sit trembling and ashamed, -- oh, it requires
    all my reason to convince me that I am not a very guilty
    woman and you a menacing judge." Villefort dropped his head
    and sighed. "And I," he said, "I feel that my place is not
    in the judge's seat, but on the prisoner's stool."

    "You?" said Madame Danglars.

    "Yes, I."

    "I think, sir, you exaggerate your situation," said Madame
    Danglars, whose beautiful eyes sparkled for a moment. "The
    paths of which you were just speaking have been traced by
    all young men of ardent imaginations. Besides the pleasure,
    there is always remorse from the indulgence of our passions,
    and, after all, what have you men to fear from all this? the
    world excuses, and notoriety ennobles you."

    "Madame," replied Villefort, "you know that I am no
    hypocrite, or, at least, that I never deceive without a
    reason. If my brow be severe, it is because many misfortunes
    have clouded it; if my heart be petrified, it is that it
    might sustain the blows it has received. I was not so in my
    youth, I was not so on the night of the betrothal, when we
    were all seated around a table in the Rue du Cours at
    Marseilles. But since then everything has changed in and
    about me; I am accustomed to brave difficulties, and, in the
    conflict to crush those who, by their own free will, or by
    chance, voluntarily or involuntarily, interfere with me in
    my career. It is generally the case that what we most
    ardently desire is as ardently withheld from us by those who
    wish to obtain it, or from whom we attempt to snatch it.
    Thus, the greater number of a man's errors come before him
    disguised under the specious form of necessity; then, after
    error has been committed in a moment of excitement, of
    delirium, or of fear, we see that we might have avoided and
    escaped it. The means we might have used, which we in our
    blindness could not see, then seem simple and easy, and we
    say, 'Why did I not do this, instead of that?' Women, on the
    contrary, are rarely tormented with remorse; for the
    decision does not come from you, -- your misfortunes are
    generally imposed upon you, and your faults the results of
    others' crimes."

    "In any case, sir, you will allow," replied Madame Danglars,
    "that, even if the fault were alone mine, I last night
    received a severe punishment for it."

    "Poor thing," said Villefort, pressing her hand, "it was too
    severe for your strength, for you were twice overwhelmed,
    and yet" --

    "Well?"

    "Well, I must tell you. Collect all your courage, for you
    have not yet heard all."

    "Ah," exclaimed Madame Danglars, alarmed, "what is there
    more to hear?"

    "You only look back to the past, and it is, indeed, bad
    enough. Well, picture to yourself a future more gloomy still
    -- certainly frightful, perhaps sanguinary." The baroness
    knew how calm Villefort naturally was, and his present
    excitement frightened her so much that she opened her mouth
    to scream, but the sound died in her throat. "How has this
    terrible past been recalled?" cried Villefort; "how is it
    that it has escaped from the depths of the tomb and the
    recesses of our hearts, where it was buried, to visit us
    now, like a phantom, whitening our cheeks and flushing our
    brows with shame?"

    "Alas," said Hermine, "doubtless it is chance."

    "Chance?" replied Villefort; "No, no, madame, there is no
    such thing as chance."

    "Oh, yes; has not a fatal chance revealed all this? Was it
    not by chance the Count of Monte Cristo bought that house?
    Was it not by chance he caused the earth to be dug up? Is it
    not by chance that the unfortunate child was disinterred
    under the trees? -- that poor innocent offspring of mine,
    which I never even kissed, but for whom I wept many, many
    tears. Ah, my heart clung to the count when he mentioned the
    dear spoil found beneath the flowers."

    "Well, no, madame, -- this is the terrible news I have to
    tell you," said Villefort in a hollow voice -- "no, nothing
    was found beneath the flowers; there was no child
    disinterred -- no. You must not weep, no, you must not
    groan, you must tremble!"

    "What can you mean?" asked Madame Danglars, shuddering.

    "I mean that M. de Monte Cristo, digging underneath these
    trees, found neither skeleton nor chest, because neither of
    them was there!"

    "Neither of them there?" repeated Madame Danglars, her
    staring, wide-open eyes expressing her alarm.

    "Neither of them there!" she again said, as though striving
    to impress herself with the meaning of the words which
    escaped her.

    "No," said Villefort, burying his face in his hands, "no, a
    hundred times no!"

    "Then you did not bury the poor child there, sir? Why did
    you deceive me? Where did you place it? tell me -- where?"

    "There! But listen to me -- listen -- and you will pity me
    who has for twenty years alone borne the heavy burden of
    grief I am about to reveal, without casting the least
    portion upon you."

    "Oh, you frighten me! But speak; I will listen."

    "You recollect that sad night, when you were half-expiring
    on that bed in the red damask room, while I, scarcely less
    agitated than you, awaited your delivery. The child was
    born, was given to me -- motionless, breathless, voiceless;
    we thought it dead." Madame Danglars moved rapidly, as
    though she would spring from her chair, but Villefort
    stopped, and clasped his hands as if to implore her
    attention. "We thought it dead," he repeated; "I placed it
    in the chest, which was to take the place of a coffin; I
    descended to the garden, I dug a hole, and then flung it
    down in haste. Scarcely had I covered it with earth, when
    the arm of the Corsican was stretched towards me; I saw a
    shadow rise, and, at the same time, a flash of light. I felt
    pain; I wished to cry out, but an icy shiver ran through my
    veins and stifled my voice; I fell lifeless, and fancied
    myself killed. Never shall I forget your sublime courage,
    when, having returned to consciousness, I dragged myself to
    the foot of the stairs, and you, almost dying yourself, came
    to meet me. We were obliged to keep silent upon the dreadful
    catastrophe. You had the fortitude to regain the house,
    assisted by your nurse. A duel was the pretext for my wound.
    Though we scarcely expected it, our secret remained in our
    own keeping alone. I was taken to Versailles; for three
    months I struggled with death; at last, as I seemed to cling
    to life, I was ordered to the South. Four men carried me
    from Paris to Chalons, walking six leagues a day; Madame de
    Villefort followed the litter in her carriage. At Chalons I
    was put upon the Saone, thence I passed on to he Rhone,
    whence I descended, merely with the current, to Arles; at
    Arles I was again placed on my litter, and continued my
    journey to Marseilles. My recovery lasted six months. I
    never heard you mentioned, and I did not dare inquire for
    you. When I returned to Paris, I learned that you, the widow
    of M. de Nargonne, had married M. Danglars.

    "What was the subject of my thoughts from the time
    consciousness returned to me? Always the same -- always the
    child's corpse, coming every night in my dreams, rising from
    the earth, and hovering over the grave with menacing look
    and gesture. I inquired immediately on my return to Paris;
    the house had not been inhabited since we left it, but it
    had just been let for nine years. I found the tenant. I
    pretended that I disliked the idea that a house belonging to
    my wife's father and mother should pass into the hands of
    strangers. I offered to pay them for cancelling the lease;
    they demanded 6,000 francs. I would have given 10,000 -- I
    would have given 20,000. I had the money with me; I made the
    tenant sign the deed of resilition, and when I had obtained
    what I so much wanted, I galloped to Auteuil.

    "No one had entered the house since I had left it. It was
    five o'clock in the afternoon; I ascended into the red room,
    and waited for night. There all the thoughts which had
    disturbed me during my year of constant agony came back with
    double force. The Corsican, who had declared the vendetta
    against me, who had followed me from Nimes to Paris, who had
    hid himself in the garden, who had struck me, had seen me
    dig the grave, had seen me inter the child, -- he might
    become acquainted with your person, -- nay, he might even
    then have known it. Would he not one day make you pay for
    keeping this terrible secret? Would it not be a sweet
    revenge for him when he found that I had not died from the
    blow of his dagger? It was therefore necessary, before
    everything else, and at all risks, that I should cause all
    traces of the past to disappear -- that I should destroy
    every material vestige; too much reality would always remain
    in my recollection. It was for this I had annulled the lease
    -- it was for this I had come -- it was for this I was
    waiting. Night arrived; I allowed it to become quite dark. I
    was without a light in that room; when the wind shook all
    the doors, behind which I continually expected to see some
    spy concealed, I trembled. I seemed everywhere to hear your
    moans behind me in the bed, and I dared not turn around. My
    heart beat so violently that I feared my wound would open.
    At length, one by one, all the noises in the neighborhood
    ceased. I understood that I had nothing to fear, that I
    should neither be seen nor heard, so I decided upon
    descending to the garden.

    "Listen, Hermine; I consider myself as brave as most men,
    but when I drew from my breast the little key of the
    staircase, which I had found in my coat -- that little key
    we both used to cherish so much, which you wished to have
    fastened to a golden ring -- when I opened the door, and saw
    the pale moon shedding a long stream of white light on the
    spiral staircase like a spectre, I leaned against the wall,
    and nearly shrieked. I seemed to be going mad. At last I
    mastered my agitation. I descended the staircase step by
    step; the only thing I could not conquer was a strange
    trembling in my knees. I grasped the railings; if I had
    relaxed my hold for a moment, I should have fallen. I
    reached the lower door. Outside this door a spade was placed
    against the wall; I took it, and advanced towards the
    thicket. I had provided myself with a dark lantern. In the
    middle of the lawn I stopped to light it, then I continued
    my path.

    "It was the end of November, all the verdure of the garden
    had disappeared, the trees were nothing more than skeletons
    with their long bony arms, and the dead leaves sounded on
    the gravel under my feet. My terror overcame me to such a
    degree as I approached the thicket, that I took a pistol
    from my pocket and armed myself. I fancied continually that
    I saw the figure of the Corsican between the branches. I
    examined the thicket with my dark lantern; it was empty. I
    looked carefully around; I was indeed alone, -- no noise
    disturbed the silence but the owl, whose piercing cry seemed
    to be calling up the phantoms of the night. I tied my
    lantern to a forked branch I had noticed a year before at
    the precise spot where I stopped to dig the hole.

    "The grass had grown very thickly there during the summer,
    and when autumn arrived no one had been there to mow it.
    Still one place where the grass was thin attracted my
    attention; it evidently was there I had turned up the
    ground. I went to work. The hour, then, for which I had been
    waiting during the last year had at length arrived. How I
    worked, how I hoped, how I struck every piece of turf,
    thinking to find some resistance to my spade! But no, I
    found nothing, though I had made a hole twice as large as
    the first. I thought I had been deceived -- had mistaken the
    spot. I turned around, I looked at the trees, I tried to
    recall the details which had struck me at the time. A cold,
    sharp wind whistled through the leafless branches, and yet
    the drops fell from my forehead. I recollected that I was
    stabbed just as I was trampling the ground to fill up the
    hole; while doing so I had leaned against a laburnum; behind
    me was an artificial rockery, intended to serve as a
    resting-place for persons walking in the garden; in falling,
    my hand, relaxing its hold of the laburnum, felt the
    coldness of the stone. On my right I saw the tree, behind me
    the rock. I stood in the same attitude, and threw myself
    down. I rose, and again began digging and enlarging the
    hole; still I found nothing, nothing -- the chest was no
    longer there!"

    "The chest no longer there?" murmured Madame Danglars,
    choking with fear.

    Think not I contented myself with this one effort,"
    continued Villefort. "No; I searched the whole thicket. I
    thought the assassin, having discovered the chest, and
    supposing it to be a treasure, had intended carrying it off,
    but, perceiving his error, had dug another hole, and
    deposited it there; but I could find nothing. Then the idea
    struck me that he had not taken these precautions, and had
    simply thrown it in a corner. In the last case I must wait
    for daylight to renew my search. I remained the room and
    waited."

    "Oh, heavens!"

    When daylight dawned I went down again. My first visit was
    to the thicket. I hoped to find some traces which had
    escaped me in the darkness. I had turned up the earth over a
    surface of more than twenty feet square, and a depth of two
    feet. A laborer would not have done in a day what occupied
    me an hour. But I could find nothing -- absolutely nothing.
    Then I renewed the search. Supposing it had been thrown
    aside, it would probably be on the path which led to the
    little gate; but this examination was as useless as the
    first, and with a bursting heart I returned to the thicket,
    which now contained no hope for me."

    "Oh," cried Madame Danglars, "it was enough to drive you
    mad!"

    "I hoped for a moment that it might," said Villefort; "but
    that happiness was denied me. However, recovering my
    strength and my ideas, 'Why,' said I, 'should that man have
    carried away the corpse?'"

    "But you said," replied Madame Danglars, "he would require
    it as a proof."

    "Ah, no, madame, that could not be. Dead bodies are not kept
    a year; they are shown to a magistrate, and the evidence is
    taken. Now, nothing of the kind has happened."

    "What then?" asked Hermine, trembling violently.

    "Something more terrible, more fatal, more alarming for us
    -- the child was, perhaps, alive, and the assassin may have
    saved it!"

    Madame Danglars uttered a piercing cry, and, seizing
    Villefort's hands, exclaimed, "My child was alive?" said
    she; "you buried my child alive? You were not certain my
    child was dead, and you buried it? Ah" --

    Madame Danglars had risen, and stood before the procureur,
    whose hands she wrung in her feeble grasp. "I know not; I
    merely suppose so, as I might suppose anything else,"
    replied Villefort with a look so fixed, it indicated that
    his powerful mind was on the verge of despair and madness.
    "Ah, my child, my poor child!" cried the baroness, falling
    on her chair, and stifling her sobs in her handkerchief.
    Villefort, becoming somewhat reassured, perceived that to
    avert the maternal storm gathering over his head, he must
    inspire Madame Danglars with the terror he felt. "You
    understand, then, that if it were so," said he, rising in
    his turn, and approaching the baroness, to speak to her in a
    lower tone, "we are lost. This child lives, and some one
    knows it lives -- some one is in possession of our secret;
    and since Monte Cristo speaks before us of a child
    disinterred, when that child could not be found, it is he
    who is in possession of our secret."

    "Just God, avenging God!" murmured Madame Danglars.

    Villefort's only answer was a stifled groan.

    "But the child -- the child, sir?" repeated the agitated
    mother.

    "How I have searched for him," replied Villefort, wringing
    his hands; "how I have called him in my long sleepless
    nights; how I have longed for royal wealth to purchase a
    million of secrets from a million of men, and to find mine
    among them! At last, one day, when for the hundredth time I
    took up my spade, I asked myself again and again what the
    Corsican could have done with the child. A child encumbers a
    fugitive; perhaps, on perceiving it was still alive, he had
    thrown it into the river."

    "Impossible!" cried Madame Danglars: "a man may murder
    another out of revenge, but he would not deliberately drown
    a child."

    "Perhaps," continued Villefort, "he had put it in the
    foundling hospital."

    "Oh, yes, yes," cried the baroness; "my child is there!"

    "I ran to the hospital, and learned that the same night --
    the night of the 20th of September -- a child had been
    brought there, wrapped in part of a fine linen napkin,
    purposely torn in half. This portion of the napkin was
    marked with half a baron's crown, and the letter H."

    "Truly, truly," said Madame Danglars, "all my linen is
    marked thus; Monsieur de Nargonne was a baronet, and my name
    is Hermine. Thank God, my child was not then dead!"

    "No, it was not dead."

    "And you can tell me so without fearing to make me die of
    joy? Where is the child?" Villefort shrugged his shoulders.
    "Do I know?" said he; "and do you believe that if I knew I
    would relate to you all its trials and all its adventures as
    would a dramatist or a novel writer? Alas, no, I know not. A
    woman, about six months after, came to claim it with the
    other half of the napkin. This woman gave all the requisite
    particulars, and it was intrusted to her."

    "But you should have inquired for the woman; you should have
    traced her."

    "And what do you think I did? I feigned a criminal process,
    and employed all the most acute bloodhounds and skilful
    agents in search of her. They traced her to Chalons, and
    there they lost her."

    "They lost her?"

    "Yes, forever." Madame Danglars had listened to this recital
    with a sigh, a tear, or a shriek for every detail. "And this
    is all?" said she; "and you stopped there?"

    "Oh, no," said Villefort; "I never ceased to search and to
    inquire. However, the last two or three years I had allowed
    myself some respite. But now I will begin with more
    perseverance and fury than ever, since fear urges me, not my
    conscience."

    "But," replied Madame Danglars, "the Count of Monte Cristo
    can know nothing, or he would not seek our society as he
    does."

    "Oh, the wickedness of man is very great," said Villefort,
    "since it surpasses the goodness of God. Did you observe
    that man's eyes while he was speaking to us?"

    "No."

    "But have you ever watched him carefully?"

    "Doubtless he is capricious, but that is all; one thing
    alone struck me, -- of all the exquisite things he placed
    before us, he touched nothing. I might have suspected he was
    poisoning us."

    "And you see you would have been deceived."

    "Yes, doubtless."

    "But believe me, that man has other projects. For that
    reason I wished to see you, to speak to you, to warn you
    against every one, but especially against him. Tell me,"
    cried Villefort, fixing his eyes more steadfastly on her
    than he had ever done before, "did you ever reveal to any
    one our connection?"

    "Never, to any one."

    "You understand me," replied Villefort, affectionately;
    "when I say any one, -- pardon my urgency, -- to any one
    living I mean?"

    "Yes, yes, I understand very well," ejaculated the baroness;
    "never, I swear to you."

    "Were you ever in the habit of writing in the evening what
    had transpired in the morning? Do you keep a journal?"

    "No, my life has been passed in frivolity; I wish to forget
    it myself."

    "Do you talk in your sleep?"

    "I sleep soundly, like a child; do you not remember?" The
    color mounted to the baroness's face, and Villefort turned
    awfully pale.

    "It is true," said he, in so low a tone that he could hardly
    be heard.

    "Well?" said the baroness.

    "Well, I understand what I now have to do," replied
    Villefort. "In less than one week from this time I will
    ascertain who this M. de Monte Cristo is, whence he comes,
    where he goes, and why he speaks in our presence of children
    that have been disinterred in a garden." Villefort
    pronounced these words with an accent which would have made
    the count shudder had he heard him. Then he pressed the hand
    the baroness reluctantly gave him, and led her respectfully
    back to the door. Madame Danglars returned in another cab to
    the passage, on the other side of which she found her
    carriage, and her coachman sleeping peacefully on his box
    while waiting for her.
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