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    Chapter 75

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    Chapter 75
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    CHAPTER 75
    A Signed Statement.

    Noirtier was prepared to receive them, dressed in black, and
    installed in his arm-chair. When the three persons he
    expected had entered, he looked at the door, which his valet
    immediately closed.

    "Listen," whispered Villefort to Valentine, who could not
    conceal her joy; "if M. Noirtier wishes to communicate
    anything which would delay your marriage, I forbid you to
    understand him." Valentine blushed, but did not answer.
    Villefort, approaching Noirtier -- "Here is M. Franz
    d'Epinay," said he; "you requested to see him. We have all
    wished for this interview, and I trust it will convince you
    how ill-formed are your objections to Valentine's marriage."

    Noirtier answered only by a look which made Villefort's
    blood run cold. He motioned to Valentine to approach. In a
    moment, thanks to her habit of conversing with her
    grandfather, she understood that he asked for a key. Then
    his eye was fixed on the drawer of a small chest between the
    windows. She opened the drawer, and found a key; and,
    understanding that was what he wanted, again watched his
    eyes, which turned toward an old secretary which had been
    neglected for many years and was supposed to contain nothing
    but useless documents. "Shall I open the secretary?" asked

    "Yes," said the old man.

    "And the drawers?"


    "Those at the side?"


    "The middle one?"

    "Yes." Valentine opened it and drew out a bundle of papers.
    "Is that what you wish for?" asked she.


    She took successively all the other papers out till the
    drawer was empty. "But there are no more," said she.
    Noirtier's eye was fixed on the dictionary. "Yes, I
    understand, grandfather," said the young girl.

    "He pointed to each letter of the alphabet. At the letter S
    the old man stopped her. She opened, and found the word

    "Ah, is there a secret spring?" said Valentine.

    "Yes," said Noirtier.

    "And who knows it?" Noirtier looked at the door where the
    servant had gone out. "Barrois?" said she.


    "Shall I call him?"


    Valentine went to the door, and called Barrois. Villefort's
    impatience during this scene made the perspiration roll from
    his forehead, and Franz was stupefied. The old servant came.
    "Barrois," said Valentine, "my grandfather has told me to
    open that drawer in the secretary, but there is a secret
    spring in it, which you know -- will you open it?"

    Barrois looked at the old man. "Obey," said Noirtier's
    intelligent eye. Barrois touched a spring, the false bottom
    came out, and they saw a bundle of papers tied with a black

    "Is that what you wish for?" said Barrois.


    "Shall I give these papers to M. de Villefort?"


    "To Mademoiselle Valentine?"


    "To M. Franz d'Epinay?"


    Franz, astonished, advanced a step. "To me, sir?" said he.

    "Yes." Franz took them from Barrois and casting a glance at
    the cover, read: --

    "'To be given, after my death, to General Durand, who shall
    bequeath the packet to his son, with an injunction to
    preserve it as containing an important document.'

    "Well, sir," asked Franz, "what do you wish me to do with
    this paper?"

    "To preserve it, sealed up as it is, doubtless," said the

    "No," replied Noirtier eagerly.

    "Do you wish him to read it?" said Valentine.

    "Yes," replied the old man. "You understand, baron, my
    grandfather wishes you to read this paper," said Valentine.

    "Then let us sit down," said Villefort impatiently, "for it
    will take some time."

    "Sit down," said the old man. Villefort took a chair, but
    Valentine remained standing by her father's side, and Franz
    before him, holding the mysterious paper in his hand.
    "Read," said the old man. Franz untied it, and in the midst
    of the most profound silence read:

    "'Extract from the Report of a meeting of the Bonapartist
    Club in the Rue Saint-Jacques, held February 5th, 1815.'"

    Franz stopped. "February 5th, 1815!" said he; "it is the day
    my father was murdered." Valentine and Villefort were dumb;
    the eye of the old man alone seemed to say clearly, "Go on."

    "But it was on leaving this club," said he, "my father
    disappeared." Noirtier's eye continued to say, "Read." He
    resumed: --

    "'The undersigned Louis Jacques Beaurepaire,
    lieutenant-colonel of artillery, Etienne Duchampy, general
    of brigade, and Claude Lecharpal, keeper of woods and
    forests, Declare, that on the 4th of February, a letter
    arrived from the Island of Elba, recommending to the
    kindness and the confidence of the Bonapartist Club, General
    Flavien de Quesnel, who having served the emperor from 1804
    to 1814 was supposed to be devoted to the interests of the
    Napoleon dynasty, notwithstanding the title of baron which
    Louis XVIII. had just granted to him with his estate of

    "'A note was in consequence addressed to General de Quesnel,
    begging him to be present at the meeting next day, the 5th.
    The note indicated neither the street nor the number of the
    house where the meeting was to be held; it bore no
    signature, but it announced to the general that some one
    would call for him if he would be ready at nine o'clock. The
    meetings were always held from that time till midnight. At
    nine o'clock the president of the club presented himself;
    the general was ready, the president informed him that one
    of the conditions of his introduction was that he should be
    eternally ignorant of the place of meeting, and that he
    would allow his eyes to be bandaged, swearing that he would
    not endeavor to take off the bandage. General de Quesnel
    accepted the condition, and promised on his honor not to
    seek to discover the road they took. The general's carriage
    was ready, but the president told him it was impossible for
    him to use it, since it was useless to blindfold the master
    if the coachman knew through what streets he went. "What
    must be done then?" asked the general. -- "I have my
    carriage here," said the president.

    "'"Have you, then, so much confidence in your servant that
    you can intrust him with a secret you will not allow me to

    "'"Our coachman is a member of the club," said the
    president; "we shall be driven by a State-Councillor."

    "'"Then we run another risk," said the general, laughing,
    "that of being upset." We insert this joke to prove that the
    general was not in the least compelled to attend the
    meeting, but that he came willingly. When they were seated
    in the carriage the president reminded the general of his
    promise to allow his eyes to be bandaged, to which he made
    no opposition. On the road the president thought he saw the
    general make an attempt to remove the handkerchief, and
    reminded him of his oath. "Sure enough," said the general.
    The carriage stopped at an alley leading out of the Rue
    Saint-Jacques. The general alighted, leaning on the arm of
    the president, of whose dignity he was not aware,
    considering him simply as a member of the club; they went
    through the alley, mounted a flight of stairs, and entered
    the assembly-room.

    "'"The deliberations had already begun. The members,
    apprised of the sort of presentation which was to be made
    that evening, were all in attendance. When in the middle of
    the room the general was invited to remove his bandage, he
    did so immediately, and was surprised to see so many
    well-known faces in a society of whose existence he had till
    then been ignorant. They questioned him as to his
    sentiments, but he contented himself with answering, that
    the letters from the Island of Elba ought to have informed
    them'" --

    Franz interrupted himself by saying, "My father was a
    royalist; they need not have asked his sentiments, which
    were well known."

    "And hence," said Villefort, "arose my affection for your
    father, my dear M. Franz. Opinions held in common are a
    ready bond of union."

    "Read again," said the old man. Franz continued: --

    "'The president then sought to make him speak more
    explicitly, but M. de Quesnel replied that he wished first
    to know what they wanted with him. He was then informed of
    the contents of the letter from the Island of Elba, in which
    he was recommended to the club as a man who would be likely
    to advance the interests of their party. One paragraph spoke
    of the return of Bonaparte and promised another letter and
    further details, on the arrival of the Pharaon belonging to
    the shipbuilder Morrel, of Marseilles, whose captain was
    entirely devoted to the emperor. During all this time, the
    general, on whom they thought to have relied as on a
    brother, manifested evidently signs of discontent and
    repugnance. When the reading was finished, he remained
    silent, with knitted brows.

    "'"Well," asked the president, "what do you say to this
    letter, general?"

    "'"I say that it is too soon after declaring myself for
    Louis XVIII. to break my vow in behalf of the ex-emperor."
    This answer was too clear to permit of any mistake as to his
    sentiments. "General," said the president, "we acknowledge
    no King Louis XVIII., or an ex-emperor, but his majesty the
    emperor and king, driven from France, which is his kingdom,
    by violence and treason."

    "'"Excuse me, gentlemen," said the general; "you may not
    acknowledge Louis XVIII., but I do, as he has made me a
    baron and a field-marshal, and I shall never forget that for
    these two titles I am indebted to his happy return to

    "'"Sir," said the president, rising with gravity, "be
    careful what you say; your words clearly show us that they
    are deceived concerning you in the Island of Elba, and have
    deceived us! The communication has been made to you in
    consequence of the confidence placed in you, and which does
    you honor. Now we discover our error; a title and promotion
    attach you to the government we wish to overturn. We will
    not constrain you to help us; we enroll no one against his
    conscience, but we will compel you to act generously, even
    if you are not disposed to do so."

    "'"You would call acting generously, knowing your conspiracy
    and not informing against you, that is what I should call
    becoming your accomplice. You see I am more candid than

    "Ah, my father!" said Franz, interrupting himself. "I
    understand now why they murdered him." Valentine could not
    help casting one glance towards the young man, whose filial
    enthusiasm it was delightful to behold. Villefort walked to
    and fro behind them. Noirtier watched the expression of each
    one, and preserved his dignified and commanding attitude.
    Franz returned to the manuscript, and continued: --

    "'"Sir," said the president, "you have been invited to join
    this assembly -- you were not forced here; it was proposed
    to you to come blindfolded -- you accepted. When you
    complied with this twofold request you well knew we did not
    wish to secure the throne of Louis XVIII., or we should not
    take so much care to avoid the vigilance of the police. It
    would be conceding too much to allow you to put on a mask to
    aid you in the discovery of our secret, and then to remove
    it that you may ruin those who have confided in you. No, no,
    you must first say if you declare yourself for the king of a
    day who now reigns, or for his majesty the emperor."

    "'"I am a royalist," replied the general; "I have taken the
    oath of allegiance to Louis XVIII., and I will adhere to
    it." These words were followed by a general murmur, and it
    was evident that several of the members were discussing the
    propriety of making the general repent of his rashness.

    "'The president again arose, and having imposed silence,
    said, -- "Sir, you are too serious and too sensible a man
    not to understand the consequences of our present situation,
    and your candor has already dictated to us the conditions
    which remain for us to offer you." The general, putting his
    hand on his sword, exclaimed, -- "If you talk of honor, do
    not begin by disavowing its laws, and impose nothing by

    "'"And you, sir," continued the president, with a calmness
    still more terrible than the general's anger, "I advise you
    not to touch your sword." The general looked around him with
    slight uneasiness; however he did not yield, but calling up
    all his fortitude, said, -- "I will not swear."

    "'"Then you must die," replied the president calmly. M.
    d'Epinay became very pale; he looked round him a second
    time, several members of the club were whispering, and
    getting their arms from under their cloaks. "General," said
    the president, "do not alarm yourself; you are among men of
    honor who will use every means to convince you before
    resorting to the last extremity, but as you have said, you
    are among conspirators, you are in possession of our secret,
    and you must restore it to us." A significant silence
    followed these words, and as the general did not reply, --
    "Close the doors," said the president to the door-keeper.

    "'The same deadly silence succeeded these words. Then the
    general advanced, and making a violent effort to control his
    feelings, -- "I have a son," said he, "and I ought to think
    of him, finding myself among assassins."

    "'"General," said the chief of the assembly, "one man may
    insult fifty -- it is the privilege of weakness. But he does
    wrong to use his privilege. Follow my advice, swear, and do
    not insult." The general, again daunted by the superiority
    of the chief, hesitated a moment; then advancing to the
    president's desk, -- "What is the form, said he.

    "'"It is this: -- 'I swear by my honor not to reveal to any
    one what I have seen and heard on the 5th of February, 1815,
    between nine and ten o'clock in the evening; and I plead
    guilty of death should I ever violate this oath.'" The
    general appeared to be affected by a nervous tremor, which
    prevented his answering for some moments; then, overcoming
    his manifest repugnance, he pronounced the required oath,
    but in so low a tone as to be scarcely audible to the
    majority of the members, who insisted on his repeating it
    clearly and distinctly, which he did.

    "'"Now am I at liberty to retire?" said the general. The
    president rose, appointed three members to accompany him,
    and got into the carriage with the general after bandaging
    his eyes. One of those three members was the coachman who
    had driven them there. The other members silently dispersed.
    "Where do you wish to be taken?" asked the president. --
    "Anywhere out of your presence," replied M. d'Epinay.
    "Beware, sir," replied the president, "you are no longer in
    the assembly, and have only to do with individuals; do not
    insult them unless you wish to be held responsible." But
    instead of listening, M. d'Epinay went on, -- "You are still
    as brave in your carriage as in your assembly because you
    are still four against one." The president stopped the
    coach. They were at that part of the Quai des Ormes where
    the steps lead down to the river. "Why do you stop here?"
    asked d'Epinay.

    "'"Because, sir," said the president, "you have insulted a
    man, and that man will not go one step farther without
    demanding honorable reparation."

    "'"Another method of assassination?" said the general,
    shrugging his shoulders.

    "'"Make no noise, sir, unless you wish me to consider you as
    one of the men of whom you spoke just now as cowards, who
    take their weakness for a shield. You are alone, one alone
    shall answer you; you have a sword by your side, I have one
    in my cane; you have no witness, one of these gentlemen will
    serve you. Now, if you please, remove your bandage." The
    general tore the handkerchief from his eyes. "At last," said
    he, "I shall know with whom I have to do." They opened the
    door and the four men alighted.'"

    Franz again interrupted himself, and wiped the cold drops
    from his brow; there was something awful in hearing the son
    read aloud in trembling pallor these details of his father's
    death, which had hitherto been a mystery. Valentine clasped
    her hands as if in prayer. Noirtier looked at Villefort with
    an almost sublime expression of contempt and pride. Franz
    continued: --

    "'It was, as we said, the fifth of February. For three days
    the mercury had been five or six degrees below freezing and
    the steps were covered with ice. The general was stout and
    tall, the president offered him the side of the railing to
    assist him in getting down. The two witnesses followed. It
    was a dark night. The ground from the steps to the river was
    covered with snow and hoarfrost, the water of the river
    looked black and deep. One of the seconds went for a lantern
    in a coal-barge near, and by its light they examined the
    weapons. The president's sword, which was simply, as he had
    said, one he carried in his cane, was five inches shorter
    than the general's, and had no guard. The general proposed
    to cast lots for the swords, but the president said it was
    he who had given the provocation, and when he had given it
    he had supposed each would use his own arms. The witnesses
    endeavored to insist, but the president bade them be silent.
    The lantern was placed on the ground, the two adversaries
    took their stations, and the duel began. The light made the
    two swords appear like flashes of lightning; as for the men,
    they were scarcely perceptible, the darkness was so great.

    "'General d'Epinay passed for one of the best swordsmen in
    the army, but he was pressed so closely in the onset that he
    missed his aim and fell. The witnesses thought he was dead,
    but his adversary, who knew he had not struck him, offered
    him the assistance of his hand to rise. The circumstance
    irritated instead of calming the general, and he rushed on
    his adversary. But his opponent did not allow his guard to
    be broken. He received him on his sword and three times the
    general drew back on finding himself too closely engaged,
    and then returned to the charge. At the third he fell again.
    They thought he slipped, as at first, and the witnesses,
    seeing he did not move, approached and endeavored to raise
    him, but the one who passed his arm around the body found it
    was moistened with blood. The general, who had almost
    fainted, revived. "Ah," said he, "they have sent some
    fencing-master to fight with me." The president, without
    answering, approached the witness who held the lantern, and
    raising his sleeve, showed him two wounds he had received in
    his arm; then opening his coat, and unbuttoning his
    waistcoat, displayed his side, pierced with a third wound.
    Still he had not even uttered a sigh. General d'Epinay died
    five minutes after.'"

    Franz read these last words in a voice so choked that they
    were hardly audible, and then stopped, passing his hand over
    his eyes as if to dispel a cloud; but after a moment's
    silence, he continued: --

    "'The president went up the steps, after pushing his sword
    into his cane; a track of blood on the snow marked his
    course. He had scarcely arrived at the top when he heard a
    heavy splash in the water -- it was the general's body,
    which the witnesses had just thrown into the river after
    ascertaining that he was dead. The general fell, then, in a
    loyal duel, and not in ambush as it might have been
    reported. In proof of this we have signed this paper to
    establish the truth of the facts, lest the moment should
    arrive when either of the actors in this terrible scene
    should be accused of premeditated murder or of infringement
    of the laws of honor.

    "'Signed, Beaurepaire, Deschamps, and Lecharpal.'"

    When Franz had finished reading this account, so dreadful
    for a son; when Valentine, pale with emotion, had wiped away
    a tear; when Villefort, trembling, and crouched in a corner,
    had endeavored to lessen the storm by supplicating glances
    at the implacable old man, -- "Sir," said d'Epinay to
    Noirtier, "since you are well acquainted with all these
    details, which are attested by honorable signatures, --
    since you appear to take some interest in me, although you
    have only manifested it hitherto by causing me sorrow,
    refuse me not one final satisfaction -- tell me the name of
    the president of the club, that I may at least know who
    killed my father." Villefort mechanically felt for the
    handle of the door; Valentine, who understood sooner than
    anyone her grandfather's answer, and who had often seen two
    scars upon his right arm, drew back a few steps.
    "Mademoiselle," said Franz, turning towards Valentine,
    "unite your efforts with mine to find out the name of the
    man who made me an orphan at two years of age." Valentine
    remained dumb and motionless.

    "Hold, sir," said Villefort, "do not prolong this dreadful
    scene. The names have been purposely concealed; my father
    himself does not know who this president was, and if he
    knows, he cannot tell you; proper names are not in the

    "Oh, misery," cried Franz: "the only hope which sustained me
    and enabled me to read to the end was that of knowing, at
    least, the name of him who killed my father! Sir, sir,"
    cried he, turning to Noirtier, "do what you can -- make me
    understand in some way!"

    "Yes," replied Noirtier.

    "Oh, mademoiselle, -- mademoiselle!" cried Franz, "your
    grandfather says he can indicate the person. Help me, --
    lend me your assistance!" Noirtier looked at the dictionary.
    Franz took it with a nervous trembling, and repeated the
    letters of the alphabet successively, until he came to M. At
    that letter the old man signified "Yes."

    "M," repeated Franz. The young man's finger, glided over the
    words, but at each one Noirtier answered by a negative sign.
    Valentine hid her head between her hands. At length, Franz
    arrived at the word MYSELF.


    "You?" cried Franz, whose hair stood on end; "you, M.
    Noirtier -- you killed my father?"

    "Yes!" replied Noirtier, fixing a majestic look on the young
    man. Franz fell powerless on a chair; Villefort opened the
    door and escaped, for the idea had entered his mind to
    stifle the little remaining life in the heart of this
    terrible old man.
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