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    Chapter 72

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    Chapter 72
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    CHAPTER 72
    Madame de Saint-Meran.

    A gloomy scene had indeed just passed at the house of M. de
    Villefort. After the ladies had departed for the ball,
    whither all the entreaties of Madame de Villefort had failed
    in persuading him to accompany them, the procureur had shut
    himself up in his study, according to his custom. with a
    heap of papers calculated to alarm any one else, but which
    generally scarcely satisfied his inordinate desires. But
    this time the papers were a mere matter of form. Villefort
    had secluded himself, not to study, but to reflect; and with
    the door locked and orders given that he should not be
    disturbed excepting for important business, he sat down in
    his arm-chair and began to ponder over the events, the
    remembrance of which had during the last eight days filled
    his mind with so many gloomy thoughts and bitter
    recollections. Then, instead of plunging into the mass of
    documents piled before him, he opened the drawer of his
    desk. touched a spring, and drew out a parcel of cherished
    memoranda, amongst which he had carefully arranged, in
    characters only known to himself, the names of all those
    who, either in his political career, in money matters, at
    the bar, or in his mysterious love affairs, had become his
    enemies.

    Their number was formidable, now that he had begun to fear,
    and yet these names, powerful though they were, had often
    caused him to smile with the same kind of satisfaction
    experienced by a traveller who from the summit of a mountain
    beholds at his feet the craggy eminences, the almost
    impassable paths, and the fearful chasms, through which he
    has so perilously climbed. When he had run over all these
    names in his memory, again read and studied them, commenting
    meanwhile upon his lists, he shook his head.

    "No," he murmured, "none of my enemies would have waited so
    patiently and laboriously for so long a space of time, that
    they might now come and crush me with this secret.
    Sometimes, as Hamlet says --

    'Foul deeds will rise,
    Tho, all the earth o'erwhelm them to men's eyes;'

    but, like a phosphoric light, they rise but to mislead. The
    story has been told by the Corsican to some priest, who in
    his turn has repeated it. M. de Monte Cristo may have heard
    it, and to enlighten himself -- but why should he wish to
    enlighten himself upon the subject?" asked Villefort, after
    a moment's reflection, "what interest can this M. de Monte
    Cristo or M. Zaccone, -- son of a shipowner of Malta,
    discoverer of a mine in Thessaly, now visiting Paris for the
    first time, -- what interest, I say, can he take in
    discovering a gloomy, mysterious, and useless fact like
    this? However, among all the incoherent details given to me
    by the Abbe Busoni and by Lord Wilmore, by that friend and
    that enemy, one thing appears certain and clear in my
    opinion -- that in no period, in no case, in no
    circumstance, could there have been any contact between him
    and me."

    But Villefort uttered words which even he himself did not
    believe. He dreaded not so much the revelation, for he could
    reply to or deny its truth; -- he cared little for that
    mene, tekel, upharsin, which appeared suddenly in letters of
    blood upon the wall; -- but what he was really anxious for
    was to discover whose hand had traced them. While he was
    endeavoring to calm his fears, -- and instead of dwelling
    upon the political future that had so often been the subject
    of his ambitious dreams, was imagining a future limited to
    the enjoyments of home, in fear of awakening the enemy that
    had so long slept, -- the noise of a carriage sounded in the
    yard, then he heard the steps of an aged person ascending
    the stairs, followed by tears and lamentations, such as
    servants always give vent to when they wish to appear
    interested in their master's grief. He drew back the bolt of
    his door, and almost directly an old lady entered,
    unannounced, carrying her shawl on her arm, and her bonnet
    in her hand. The white hair was thrown back from her yellow
    forehead, and her eyes, already sunken by the furrows of
    age, now almost disappeared beneath the eyelids swollen with
    grief. "Oh, sir," she said; "oh, sir, what a misfortune! I
    shall die of it; oh, yes, I shall certainly die of it!"

    And then, falling upon the chair nearest the door, she burst
    into a paroxysm of sobs. The servants, standing in the
    doorway, not daring to approach nearer, were looking at
    Noirtier's old servant, who had heard the noise from his
    master's room, and run there also, remaining behind the
    others. Villefort rose, and ran towards his mother-in-law,
    for it was she.

    "Why, what can have happened?" he exclaimed, "what has thus
    disturbed you? Is M. de Saint-Meran with you?"

    "M. de Saint-Meran is dead," answered the old marchioness,
    without preface and without expression; she appeared to be
    stupefied. Villefort drew back, and clasping his hands
    together, exclaimed -- "Dead! -- so suddenly?"

    "A week ago," continued Madame de Saint-Meran, "we went out
    together in the carriage after dinner. M. de Saint-Meran had
    been unwell for some days; still, the idea of seeing our
    dear Valentine again inspired him with courage, and
    notwithstanding his illness he would leave. At six leagues
    from Marseilles, after having eaten some of the lozenges he
    is accustomed to take, he fell into such a deep sleep, that
    it appeared to me unnatural; still I hesitated to wake him,
    although I fancied that his face was flushed, and that the
    veins of his temples throbbed more violently than usual.
    However, as it became dark, and I could no longer see, I
    fell asleep; I was soon aroused by a piercing shriek, as
    from a person suffering in his dreams, and he suddenly threw
    his head back violently. I called the valet, I stopped the
    postilion, I spoke to M. de Saint-Meran, I applied my
    smelling-salts; but all was over, and I arrived at Aix by
    the side of a corpse." Villefort stood with his mouth half
    open, quite stupefied.

    "Of course you sent for a doctor?"

    "Immediately; but, as I have told you, it was too late."

    "Yes; but then he could tell of what complaint the poor
    marquis had died."

    "Oh, yes, sir, he told me; it appears to have been an
    apoplectic stroke."

    "And what did you do then?"

    "M. de Saint-Meran had always expressed a desire, in case
    his death happened during his absence from Paris, that his
    body might be brought to the family vault. I had him put
    into a leaden coffin, and I am preceding him by a few days."

    "Oh, my poor mother," said Villefort, "to have such duties
    to perform at your age after such a blow!"

    "God has supported me through all; and then, my dear
    marquis, he would certainly have done everything for me that
    I performed for him. It is true that since I left him, I
    seem to have lost my senses. I cannot cry; at my age they
    say that we have no more tears, -- still I think that when
    one is in trouble one should have the power of weeping.
    Where is Valentine. sir? It is on her account I am here; I
    wish to see Valentine." Villefort thought it would be
    terrible to reply that Valentine was at a ball; so he only
    said that she had gone out with her step-mother, and that
    she should be fetched. "This instant, sir -- this instant, I
    beseech you!" said the old lady. Villefort placed the arm of
    Madame de Saint-Meran within his own, and conducted her to
    his apartment. "Rest yourself, mother," he said.

    The marchioness raised her head at this word, and beholding
    the man who so forcibly reminded her of her deeply-regretted
    child, who still lived for her in Valentine, she felt
    touched at the name of mother, and bursting into tears, she
    fell on her knees before an arm-chair, where she buried her
    venerable head. Villefort left her to the care of the women,
    while old Barrois ran, half-scared, to his master; for
    nothing frightens old people so much as when death relaxes
    its vigilance over them for a moment in order to strike some
    other old person. Then, while Madame de Saint-Meran remained
    on her knees, praying fervently, Villefort sent for a cab,
    and went himself to fetch his wife and daughter from Madame
    de Morcerf's. He was so pale when he appeared at the door of
    the ball-room, that Valentine ran to him, saying --

    "Oh, father, some misfortune has happened!"

    "Your grandmamma has just arrived, Valentine," said M. de
    Villefort.

    "And grandpapa?" inquired the young girl, trembling with
    apprehension. M. de Villefort only replied by offering his
    arm to his daughter. It was just in time, for Valentine's
    head swam, and she staggered; Madame de Villefort instantly
    hastened to her assistance, and aided her husband in
    dragging her to the carriage, saying -- "What a singular
    event! Who could have thought it? Ah, yes, it is indeed
    strange!" And the wretched family departed, leaving a cloud
    of sadness hanging over the rest of the evening. At the foot
    of the stairs, Valentine found Barrois awaiting her.

    "M. Noirtier wishes to see you to-night, he said, in an
    undertone.

    "Tell him I will come when I leave my dear grandmamma," she
    replied, feeling, with true delicacy, that the person to
    whom she could be of the most service just then was Madame
    de Saint-Meran. Valentine found her grandmother in bed;
    silent caresses, heartwrung sobs, broken sighs, burning
    tears, were all that passed in this sad interview, while
    Madame de Villefort, leaning on her husband's arm,
    maintained all outward forms of respect, at least towards
    the poor widow. She soon whispered to her husband, "I think
    it would be better for me to retire, with your permission,
    for the sight of me appears still to afflict your
    mother-in-law." Madame de Saint-Meran heard her. "Yes, yes,"
    she said softly to Valentine, "let her leave; but do you
    stay." Madame de Villefort left, and Valentine remained
    alone beside the bed, for the procureur, overcome with
    astonishment at the unexpected death, had followed his wife.
    Meanwhile, Barrois had returned for the first time to old
    Noirtier, who having heard the noise in the house, had, as
    we have said, sent his old servant to inquire the cause; on
    his return, his quick intelligent eye interrogated the
    messenger. "Alas, sir," exclaimed Barrois, "a great
    misfortune has happened. Madame de Saint-Meran has arrived,
    and her husband is dead!"

    M. de Saint-Meran and Noirtier had never been on strict
    terms of friendship; still, the death of one old man always
    considerably affects another. Noirtier let his head fall
    upon his chest, apparently overwhelmed and thoughtful; then
    he closed one eye, in token of inquiry. "Mademoiselle
    Valentine?" Noirtier nodded his head. "She is at the ball,
    as you know, since she came to say good-by to you in full
    dress." Noirtier again closed his left eye. "Do you wish to
    see her?" Noirtier again made an affirmative sign. "Well,
    they have gone to fetch her, no doubt, from Madame de
    Morcerf's; I will await her return, and beg her to come up
    here. Is that what you wish for?"

    "Yes," replied the invalid.

    Barrois, therefore, as we have seen, watched for Valentine,
    and informed her of her grandfather's wish. Consequently,
    Valentine came up to Noirtier, on leaving Madame de
    Saint-Meran, who in the midst of her grief had at last
    yielded to fatigue and fallen into a feverish sleep. Within
    reach of her hand they placed a small table upon which stood
    a bottle of orangeade, her usual beverage, and a glass.
    Then, as we have said, the young girl left the bedside to
    see M. Noirtier. Valentine kissed the old man, who looked at
    her with such tenderness that her eyes again filled with
    tears, whose sources he thought must be exhausted. The old
    gentleman continued to dwell upon her with the same
    expression. "Yes, yes," said Valentine, "you mean that I
    have yet a kind grandfather left, do you not." The old man
    intimated that such was his meaning. "Ah, yes, happily I
    have," replied Valentine. "Without that, what would become
    of me?"

    It was one o'clock in the morning. Barrois, who wished to go
    to bed himself, observed that after such sad events every
    one stood in need of rest. Noirtier would not say that the
    only rest he needed was to see his child, but wished her
    good-night, for grief and fatigue had made her appear quite
    ill. The next morning she found her grandmother in bed; the
    fever had not abated, on the contrary her eyes glistened and
    she appeared to be suffering from violent nervous
    irritability. "Oh, dear grandmamma, are you worse?"
    exclaimed Valentine, perceiving all these signs of
    agitation.

    "No, my child, no," said Madame de Saint-Meran; "but I was
    impatiently waiting for your arrival, that I might send for
    your father."

    "My father?" inquired Valentine, uneasily.

    "Yes, I wish to speak to him." Valentine durst not oppose
    her grandmother's wish, the cause of which she did not know,
    and an instant afterwards Villefort entered. "Sir," said
    Madame de Saint-Meran, without using any circumlocution, and
    as if fearing she had no time to lose, "you wrote to me
    concerning the marriage of this child?"

    "Yes, madame," replied Villefort, "it is not only projected
    but arranged."

    "Your intended son-in-law is named M. Franz d'Epinay?"

    "Yes, madame."

    "Is he not the son of General d'Epinay who was on our side,
    and who was assassinated some days before the usurper
    returned from the Island of Elba?"

    "The same."

    "Does he not dislike the idea of marrying the granddaughter
    of a Jacobin?"

    "Our civil dissensions are now happily extinguished,
    mother," said Villefort; "M. d'Epinay was quite a child when
    his father died, he knows very little of M. Noirtier, and
    will meet him, if not with pleasure, at least with
    indifference."

    "Is it a suitable match?"

    "In every respect."

    "And the young man?"

    "Is regarded with universal esteem."

    "You approve of him?"

    "He is one of the most well-bred young men I know." During
    the whole of this conversation Valentine had remained
    silent. "Well, sir," said Madame de Saint-Meran, after a few
    minutes' reflection, "I must hasten the marriage, for I have
    but a short time to live."

    "You, madame?" "You, dear mamma?" exclaimed M. de Villefort
    and Valentine at the same time.

    "I know what I am saying," continued the marchioness; "I
    must hurry you, so that, as she has no mother, she may at
    least have a grandmother to bless her marriage. I am all
    that is left to her belonging to my poor Renee, whom you
    have so soon forgotten, sir."

    "Ah, madame," said Villefort, "you forget that I was obliged
    to give a mother to my child."

    "A stepmother is never a mother, sir. But this is not to the
    purpose, -- our business concerns Valentine, let us leave
    the dead in peace."

    All this was said with such exceeding rapidity, that there
    was something in the conversation that seemed like the
    beginning of delirium.

    "It shall be as you wish, madame," said Villefort; "more
    especially since your wishes coincide with mine, and as soon
    as M. d'Epinay arrives in Paris" --

    "My dear grandmother," interrupted Valentine, "consider
    decorum -- the recent death. You would not have me marry
    under such sad auspices?"

    "My child," exclaimed the old lady sharply, "let us hear
    none of the conventional objections that deter weak minds
    from preparing for the future. I also was married at the
    death-bed of my mother, and certainly I have not been less
    happy on that account."

    "Still that idea of death, madame," said Villefort.

    "Still? -- Always! I tell you I am going to die -- do you
    understand? Well, before dying, I wish to see my son-in-law.
    I wish to tell him to make my child happy; I wish to read in
    his eyes whether he intends to obey me; -- in fact, I will
    know him -- I will!" continued the old lady, with a fearful
    expression, "that I may rise from the depths of my grave to
    find him, if he should not fulfil his duty!"

    "Madame," said Villefort, "you must lay aside these exalted
    ideas, which almost assume the appearance of madness. The
    dead, once buried in their graves, rise no more."

    "And I tell you, sir, that you are mistaken. This night I
    have had a fearful sleep. It seemed as though my soul were
    already hovering over my body, my eyes, which I tried to
    open, closed against my will, and what will appear
    impossible above all to you, sir, I saw, with my eyes shut,
    in the spot where you are now standing, issuing from that
    corner where there is a door leading into Madame Villefort's
    dressing-room -- I saw, I tell you, silently enter, a white
    figure." Valentine screamed. "It was the fever that
    disturbed you, madame," said Villefort.

    "Doubt, if you please, but I am sure of what I say. I saw a
    white figure, and as if to prevent my discrediting the
    testimony of only one of my senses, I heard my glass removed
    -- the same which is there now on the table."

    "Oh, dear mother, it was a dream."

    "So little was it a dream, that I stretched my hand towards
    the bell; but when I did so, the shade disappeared; my maid
    then entered with a light."

    "But she saw no one?"

    "Phantoms are visible to those only who ought to see them.
    It was the soul of my husband! -- Well, if my husband's soul
    can come to me, why should not my soul reappear to guard my
    granddaughter? the tie is even more direct, it seems to me."

    "Oh, madame," said Villefort, deeply affected, in spite of
    himself, "do not yield to those gloomy thoughts; you will
    long live with us, happy, loved, and honored, and we will
    make you forget" --

    "Never, never, never," said the marchioness. "when does M.
    d'Epinay return?"

    "We expect him every moment."

    "It is well. As soon as he arrives inform me. We must be
    expeditious. And then I also wish to see a notary, that I
    may be assured that all our property returns to Valentine."

    "Ah, grandmamma," murmured Valentine, pressing her lips on
    the burning brow, "do you wish to kill me? Oh, how feverish
    you are; we must not send for a notary, but for a doctor."

    "A doctor?" said she, shrugging her shoulders, "I am not
    ill; I am thirsty -- that is all."

    "What are you drinking, dear grandmamma?"

    "The same as usual, my dear, my glass is there on the table
    -- give it to me, Valentine." Valentine poured the orangeade
    into a glass and gave it to her grandmother with a certain
    degree of dread, for it was the same glass she fancied that
    had been touched by the spectre. The marchioness drained the
    glass at a single draught, and then turned on her pillow,
    repeating, -- "The notary, the notary!"

    M. de Villefort left the room, and Valentine seated herself
    at the bedside of her grandmother. The poor child appeared
    herself to require the doctor she had recommended to her
    aged relative. A bright spot burned in either cheek, her
    respiration was short and difficult, and her pulse beat with
    feverish excitement. She was thinking of the despair of
    Maximilian, when he should be informed that Madame de
    Saint-Meran, instead of being an ally, was unconsciously
    acting as his enemy. More than once she thought of revealing
    all to her grandmother, and she would not have hesitated a
    moment, if Maximilian Morrel had been named Albert de
    Morcerf or Raoul de Chateau-Renaud; but Morrel was of
    plebeian extraction, and Valentine knew how the haughty
    Marquise de Saint-Meran despised all who were not noble. Her
    secret had each time been repressed when she was about to
    reveal it, by the sad conviction that it would be useless to
    do so; for, were it once discovered by her father and
    mother, all would be lost. Two hours passed thus; Madame de
    Saint-Meran was in a feverish sleep, and the notary had
    arrived. Though his coming was announced in a very low tone,
    Madame de Saint-Meran arose from her pillow. "The notary!"
    she exclaimed, "let him come in."

    The notary, who was at the door, immediately entered. "Go,
    Valentine," said Madame de Saint-Meran, "and leave me with
    this gentleman."

    "But, grandmamma" --

    "Leave me -- go!" The young girl kissed her grandmother, and
    left with her handkerchief to her eyes; at the door she
    found the valet de chambre, who told her that the doctor was
    waiting in the dining-room. Valentine instantly ran down.
    The doctor was a friend of the family, and at the same time
    one of the cleverest men of the day, and very fond of
    Valentine, whose birth he had witnessed. He had himself a
    daughter about her age, but whose life was one continued
    source of anxiety and fear to him from her mother having
    been consumptive.

    "Oh," said Valentine, "we have been waiting for you with
    such impatience, dear M. d'Avrigny. But, first of all, how
    are Madeleine and Antoinette?" Madeleine was the daughter of
    M. d'Avrigny, and Antoinette his niece. M. d'Avrigny smiled
    sadly. "Antoinette is very well," he said, "and Madeleine
    tolerably so. But you sent for me, my dear child. It is not
    your father or Madame de Villefort who is ill. As for you,
    although we doctors cannot divest our patients of nerves, I
    fancy you have no further need of me than to recommend you
    not to allow your imagination to take too wide a field."
    Valentine colored. M. d'Avrigny carried the science of
    divination almost to a miraculous extent, for he was one of
    the physicians who always work upon the body through the
    mind. "No," she replied, "it is for my poor grandmother. You
    know the calamity that has happened to us, do you not?"

    "I know nothing." said M. d'Avrigny.

    "Alas," said Valentine, restraining her tears, "my
    grandfather is dead."

    "M. de Saint-Meran?"

    "Yes."

    "Suddenly?"

    "From an apoplectic stroke."

    "An apoplectic stroke?" repeated the doctor.

    "Yes, and my poor grandmother fancies that her husband, whom
    she never left, has called her, and that she must go and
    join him. Oh, M. d'Avrigny, I beseech you, do something for
    her!"

    "Where is she?"

    "In her room with the notary."

    "And M. Noirtier?"

    "Just as he was, his mind perfectly clear, but the same
    incapability of moving or speaking."

    "And the same love for you -- eh, my dear child?"

    "Yes," said Valentine, "he was very fond of me."

    "Who does not love you?" Valentine smiled sadly. "What are
    your grandmother's symptoms?"

    "An extreme nervous excitement and a strangely agitated
    sleep; she fancied this morning in her sleep that her soul
    was hovering above her body, which she at the same time
    watched. It must have been delirium; she fancies, too, that
    she saw a phantom enter her chamber and even heard the noise
    it made on touching her glass."

    "It is singular," said the doctor; "I was not aware that
    Madame de Saint-Meran was subject to such hallucinations."

    "It is the first time I ever saw her in this condition,"
    said Valentine; "and this morning she frightened me so that
    I thought her mad; and my father, who you know is a
    strong-minded man, himself appeared deeply impressed."

    "We will go and see," said the doctor; "what you tell me
    seems very strange." The notary here descended, and
    Valentine was informed that her grandmother was alone. "Go
    upstairs," she said to the doctor.

    "And you?"

    "Oh, I dare not -- she forbade my sending for you; and, as
    you say, I am myself agitated, feverish and out of sorts. I
    will go and take a turn in the garden to recover myself."
    The doctor pressed Valentine's hand, and while he visited
    her grandmother, she descended the steps. We need not say
    which portion of the garden was her favorite walk. After
    remaining for a short time in the parterre surrounding the
    house, and gathering a rose to place in her waist or hair,
    she turned into the dark avenue which led to the bench; then
    from the bench she went to the gate. As usual, Valentine
    strolled for a short time among her flowers, but without
    gathering them. The mourning in her heart forbade her
    assuming this simple ornament, though she had not yet had
    time to put on the outward semblance of woe. She then turned
    towards the avenue. As she advanced she fancied she heard a
    voice speaking her name. She stopped astonished, then the
    voice reached her ear more distinctly, and she recognized it
    to be that of Maximilian.
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