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    Chapter 94

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    Chapter 94
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    CHAPTER 94
    Maximilian's Avowal.

    At the same moment M. de Villefort's voice was heard calling
    from his study, "What is the matter?" Morrel looked at
    Noirtier who had recovered his self-command, and with a
    glance indicated the closet where once before under somewhat
    similar circumstances, he had taken refuge. He had only time
    to get his hat and throw himself breathless into the closet
    when the procureur's footstep was heard in the passage.
    Villefort sprang into the room, ran to Valentine, and took
    her in his arms. "A physician, a physician, -- M.
    d'Avrigny!" cried Villefort; "or rather I will go for him
    myself." He flew from the apartment, and Morrel at the same
    moment darted out at the other door. He had been struck to
    the heart by a frightful recollection -- the conversation he
    had heard between the doctor and Villefort the night of
    Madame de Saint-Meran's death, recurred to him; these
    symptoms, to a less alarming extent, were the same which had
    preceded the death of Barrois. At the same time Monte
    Cristo's voice seemed to resound in his ear with the words
    he had heard only two hours before, "Whatever you want,
    Morrel, come to me; I have great power." More rapidly than
    thought, he darted down the Rue Matignon, and thence to the
    Avenue des Champs Elysees.

    Meanwhile M. de Villefort arrived in a hired cabriolet at M.
    d'Avrigny's door. He rang so violently that the porter was
    alarmed. Villefort ran up-stairs without saying a word. The
    porter knew him, and let him pass, only calling to him, "In
    his study, Monsieur Procureur -- in his study!" Villefort
    pushed, or rather forced, the door open. "Ah," said the
    doctor, "is it you?"

    "Yes," said Villefort, closing the door after him, "it is I,
    who am come in my turn to ask you if we are quite alone.
    Doctor, my house is accursed!"

    "What?" said the latter with apparent coolness, but with
    deep emotion, "have you another invalid?"

    "Yes, doctor," cried Villefort, clutching his hair, "yes!"

    D'Avrigny's look implied, "I told you it would be so." Then
    he slowly uttered these words, "Who is now dying in your
    house? What new victim is going to accuse you of weakness
    before God?" A mournful sob burst from Villefort's heart; he
    approached the doctor, and seizing his arm, -- "Valentine,"
    said he, "it is Valentine's turn!"

    "Your daughter?" cried d'Avrigny with grief and surprise.

    "You see you were deceived," murmured the magistrate; "come
    and see her, and on her bed of agony entreat her pardon for
    having suspected her."

    "Each time you have applied to me," said the doctor, "it has
    been too late; still I will go. But let us make haste, sir;
    with the enemies you have to do with there is no time to be
    lost."

    "Oh, this time, doctor, you shall not have to reproach me
    with weakness. This time I will know the assassin, and will
    pursue him."

    "Let us try first to save the victim before we think of
    revenging her," said d'Avrigny. "Come." The same cabriolet
    which had brought Villefort took them back at full speed,
    and at this moment Morrel rapped at Monte Cristo's door. The
    count was in his study and was reading with an angry look
    something which Bertuccio had brought in haste. Hearing the
    name of Morrel, who had left him only two hours before, the
    count raised his head, arose, and sprang to meet him. "What
    is the matter, Maximilian?" asked he; "you are pale, and the
    perspiration rolls from your forehead." Morrel fell into a
    chair. "Yes," said he, "I came quickly; I wanted to speak to
    you."

    "Are all your family well?" asked the count, with an
    affectionate benevolence, whose sincerity no one could for a
    moment doubt.

    "Thank you, count -- thank you," said the young man,
    evidently embarrassed how to begin the conversation; "yes,
    every one in my family is well."

    "So much the better; yet you have something to tell me?"
    replied the count with increased anxiety.

    "Yes," said Morrel, "it is true; I have but now left a house
    where death has just entered, to run to you."

    "Are you then come from M. de Morcerf's?" asked Monte
    Cristo.

    "No," said Morrel; "is some one dead in his house?"

    "The general has just blown his brains out," replied Monte
    Cristo with great coolness.

    "Oh, what a dreadful event!" cried Maximilian.

    "Not for the countess, or for Albert," said Monte Cristo; "a
    dead father or husband is better than a dishonored one, --
    blood washes out shame."

    "Poor countess," said Maximilian, "I pity her very much; she
    is so noble a woman!"

    "Pity Albert also, Maximilian; for believe me he is the
    worthy son of the countess. But let us return to yourself.
    You have hastened to me -- can I have the happiness of being
    useful to you?"

    "Yes, I need your help: that is I thought like a madman that
    you could lend me your assistance in a case where God alone
    can succor me."

    "Tell me what it is," replied Monte Cristo.

    "Oh," said Morrel, "I know not, indeed, if I may reveal this
    secret to mortal ears, but fatality impels me, necessity
    constrains me, count" -- Morrel hesitated. "Do you think I
    love you?" said Monte Cristo, taking the young man's hand
    affectionately in his.

    "Oh, you encourage me, and something tells me there,"
    placing his hand on his heart, "that I ought to have no
    secret from you."

    "You are right, Morrel; God is speaking to your heart, and
    your heart speaks to you. Tell me what it says."

    "Count, will you allow me to send Baptistin to inquire after
    some one you know?"

    "I am at your service, and still more my servants."

    "Oh, I cannot live if she is not better."

    "Shall I ring for Baptistin?"

    "No, I will go and speak to him myself." Morrel went out,
    called Baptistin, and whispered a few words to him. The
    valet ran directly. "Well, have you sent?" asked Monte
    Cristo, seeing Morrel return.

    "Yes, and now I shall be more calm."

    "You know I am waiting," said Monte Cristo, smiling.

    "Yes, and I will tell you. One evening I was in a garden; a
    clump of trees concealed me; no one suspected I was there.
    Two persons passed near me -- allow me to conceal their
    names for the present; they were speaking in an undertone,
    and yet I was so interested in what they said that I did not
    lose a single word."

    "This is a gloomy introduction, if I may judge from your
    pallor and shuddering, Morrel."

    "Oh, yes, very gloomy, my friend. Some one had just died in
    the house to which that garden belonged. One of the persons
    whose conversation I overheard was the master of the house;
    the other, the physician. The former was confiding to the
    latter his grief and fear, for it was the second time within
    a month that death had suddenly and unexpectedly entered
    that house which was apparently destined to destruction by
    some exterminating angel, as an object of God's anger."

    "Ah, indeed?" said Monte Cristo, looking earnestly at the
    young man, and by an imperceptible movement turning his
    chair, so that he remained in the shade while the light fell
    full on Maximilian's face. "Yes," continued Morrel, "death
    had entered that house twice within one month."

    "And what did the doctor answer?" asked Monte Cristo.

    "He replied -- he replied, that the death was not a natural
    one, and must be attributed" --

    "To what?"

    "To poison."

    "Indeed?" said Monte Cristo with a slight cough which in
    moments of extreme emotion helped him to disguise a blush,
    or his pallor, or the intense interest with which he
    listened; "indeed, Maximilian, did you hear that?"

    "Yes, my dear count, I heard it; and the doctor added that
    if another death occurred in a similar way he must appeal to
    justice." Monte Cristo listened, or appeared to do so, with
    the greatest calmness. "Well," said Maximilian, "death came
    a third time, and neither the master of the house nor the
    doctor said a word. Death is now, perhaps, striking a fourth
    blow. Count, what am I bound to do, being in possession of
    this secret?"

    "My dear friend," said Monte Cristo, "you appear to be
    relating an adventure which we all know by heart. I know the
    house where you heard it, or one very similar to it; a house
    with a garden, a master, a physician, and where there have
    been three unexpected and sudden deaths. Well, I have not
    intercepted your confidence, and yet I know all that as well
    as you, and I have no conscientious scruples. No, it does
    not concern me. You say an exterminating angel appears to
    have devoted that house to God's anger -- well, who says
    your supposition is not reality? Do not notice things which
    those whose interest it is to see them pass over. If it is
    God's justice, instead of his anger, which is walking
    through that house, Maximilian, turn away your face and let
    his justice accomplish its purpose." Morrel shuddered. There
    was something mournful, solemn, and terrible in the count's
    manner. "Besides," continued he, in so changed a tone that
    no one would have supposed it was the same person speaking
    -- "besides, who says that it will begin again?"

    "It has returned, count," exclaimed Morrel; "that is why I
    hastened to you."

    "Well, what do you wish me to do? Do you wish me, for
    instance, to give information to the procureur?" Monte
    Cristo uttered the last words with so much meaning that
    Morrel, starting up, cried out, "You know of whom I speak,
    count, do you not?"

    "Perfectly well, my good friend; and I will prove it to you
    by putting the dots to the 'i,' or rather by naming the
    persons. You were walking one evening in M. de Villefort's
    garden; from what you relate, I suppose it to have been the
    evening of Madame de Saint-Meran's death. You heard M. de
    Villefort talking to M. d'Avrigny about the death of M. de
    Saint-Meran, and that no less surprising, of the countess.
    M. d'Avrigny said he believed they both proceeded from
    poison; and you, honest man, have ever since been asking
    your heart and sounding your conscience to know if you ought
    to expose or conceal this secret. Why do you torment them?
    'Conscience, what hast thou to do with me?' as Sterne said.
    My dear fellow, let them sleep on, if they are asleep; let
    them grow pale in their drowsiness, if they are disposed to
    do so, and pray do you remain in peace, who have no remorse
    to disturb you." Deep grief was depicted on Morrel's
    features; he seized Monte Cristo's hand. "But it is
    beginning again, I say!"

    "Well," said the Count, astonished at his perseverance,
    which he could not understand, and looking still more
    earnestly at Maximilian, "let it begin again, -- it is like
    the house of the Atreidae;* God has condemned them, and they
    must submit to their punishment. They will all disappear,
    like the fabrics children build with cards, and which fall,
    one by one, under the breath of their builder, even if there
    are two hundred of them. Three months since it was M. de
    Saint-Meran; Madame de Saint-Meran two months since; the
    other day it was Barrois; to-day, the old Noirtier, or young
    Valentine."

    * In the old Greek legend the Atreidae, or children of
    Atreus, were doomed to punishment because of the abominable
    crime of their father. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus is based
    on this legend.

    "You knew it?" cried Morrel, in such a paroxysm of terror
    that Monte Cristo started, -- he whom the falling heavens
    would have found unmoved; "you knew it, and said nothing?"

    "And what is it to me?" replied Monte Cristo, shrugging his
    shoulders; "do I know those people? and must I lose the one
    to save the other? Faith, no, for between the culprit and
    the victim I have no choice."

    "But I," cried Morrel, groaning with sorrow, "I love her!"

    "You love? -- whom?" cried Monte Cristo, starting to his
    feet, and seizing the two hands which Morrel was raising
    towards heaven.

    "I love most fondly -- I love madly -- I love as a man who
    would give his life-blood to spare her a tear -- I love
    Valentine de Villefort, who is being murdered at this
    moment! Do you understand me? I love her; and I ask God and
    you how I can save her?" Monte Cristo uttered a cry which
    those only can conceive who have heard the roar of a wounded
    lion. "Unhappy man," cried he, wringing his hands in his
    turn; "you love Valentine, -- that daughter of an accursed
    race!" Never had Morrel witnessed such an expression --
    never had so terrible an eye flashed before his face --
    never had the genius of terror he had so often seen, either
    on the battle-field or in the murderous nights of Algeria,
    shaken around him more dreadful fire. He drew back
    terrified.

    As for Monte Cristo, after this ebullition he closed his
    eyes as if dazzled by internal light. In a moment he
    restrained himself so powerfully that the tempestuous
    heaving of his breast subsided, as turbulent and foaming
    waves yield to the sun's genial influence when the cloud has
    passed. This silence, self-control, and struggle lasted
    about twenty seconds, then the count raised his pallid face.
    "See," said he, "my dear friend, how God punishes the most
    thoughtless and unfeeling men for their indifference, by
    presenting dreadful scenes to their view. I, who was looking
    on, an eager and curious spectator, -- I, who was watching
    the working of this mournful tragedy, -- I, who like a
    wicked angel was laughing at the evil men committed
    protected by secrecy (a secret is easily kept by the rich
    and powerful), I am in my turn bitten by the serpent whose
    tortuous course I was watching, and bitten to the heart!"

    Morrel groaned. "Come, come," continued the count,
    "complaints are unavailing, be a man, be strong, be full of
    hope, for I am here and will watch over you." Morrel shook
    his head sorrowfully. "I tell you to hope. Do you understand
    me?" cried Monte Cristo. "Remember that I never uttered a
    falsehood and am never deceived. It is twelve o'clock,
    Maximilian; thank heaven that you came at noon rather than
    in the evening, or to-morrow morning. Listen, Morrel -- it
    is noon; if Valentine is not now dead, she will not die."

    "How so?" cried Morrel, "when I left her dying?" Monte
    Cristo pressed his hands to his forehead. What was passing
    in that brain, so loaded with dreadful secrets? What does
    the angel of light or the angel of darkness say to that
    mind, at once implacable and generous? God only knows.

    Monte Cristo raised his head once more, and this time he was
    calm as a child awaking from its sleep. "Maximilian," said
    he, "return home. I command you not to stir -- attempt
    nothing, not to let your countenance betray a thought, and I
    will send you tidings. Go."

    "Oh, count, you overwhelm me with that coolness. Have you,
    then, power against death? Are you superhuman? Are you an
    angel?" And the young man, who had never shrunk from danger,
    shrank before Monte Cristo with indescribable terror. But
    Monte Cristo looked at him with so melancholy and sweet a
    smile, that Maximilian felt the tears filling his eyes. "I
    can do much for you, my friend," replied the count. "Go; I
    must be alone." Morrel, subdued by the extraordinary
    ascendancy Monte Cristo exercised over everything around
    him, did not endeavor to resist it. He pressed the count's
    hand and left. He stopped one moment at the door for
    Baptistin, whom he saw in the Rue Matignon, and who was
    running.

    Meanwhile, Villefort and d'Avrigny had made all possible
    haste, Valentine had not revived from her fainting fit on
    their arrival, and the doctor examined the invalid with all
    the care the circumstances demanded, and with an interest
    which the knowledge of the secret intensified twofold.
    Villefort, closely watching his countenance and his lips,
    awaited the result of the examination. Noirtier, paler than
    even the young girl, more eager than Villefort for the
    decision, was watching also intently and affectionately. At
    last d'Avrigny slowly uttered these words: -- "she is still
    alive!"

    "Still?" cried Villefort; "oh, doctor, what a dreadful word
    is that."

    "Yes," said the physician, "I repeat it; she is still alive,
    and I am astonished at it."

    "But is she safe?" asked the father.

    "Yes, since she lives." At that moment d'Avrigny's glance
    met Noirtier's eye. It glistened with such extraordinary
    joy, so rich and full of thought, that the physician was
    struck. He placed the young girl again on the chair, -- her
    lips were scarcely discernible, they were so pale and white,
    as well as her whole face, -- and remained motionless,
    looking at Noirtier, who appeared to anticipate and commend
    all he did. "Sir," said d'Avrigny to Villefort, "call
    Mademoiselle Valentine's maid, if you please." Villefort
    went himself to find her; and d'Avrigny approached Noirtier.
    "Have you something to tell me?" asked he. The old man
    winked his eyes expressively, which we may remember was his
    only way of expressing his approval.

    "Privately?"

    "Yes."

    "Well, I will remain with you." At this moment Villefort
    returned, followed by the lady's maid; and after her came
    Madame de Villefort.

    "What is the matter, then, with this dear child? she has
    just left me, and she complained of being indisposed, but I
    did not think seriously of it." The young woman with tears
    in her eyes and every mark of affection of a true mother,
    approached Valentine and took her hand. D'Avrigny continued
    to look at Noirtier; he saw the eyes of the old man dilate
    and become round, his cheeks turn pale and tremble; the
    perspiration stood in drops upon his forehead. "Ah," said
    he, involuntarily following Noirtier's eyes, which were
    fixed on Madame de Villefort, who repeated, -- "This poor
    child would be better in bed. Come, Fanny, we will put her
    to bed." M. d'Avrigny, who saw that would be a means of his
    remaining alone with Noirtier, expressed his opinion that it
    was the best thing that could be done; but he forbade that
    anything should be given to her except what he ordered.

    They carried Valentine away; she had revived, but could
    scarcely move or speak, so shaken was her frame by the
    attack. She had, however, just power to give one parting
    look to her grandfather, who in losing her seemed to be
    resigning his very soul. D'Avrigny followed the invalid,
    wrote a prescription, ordered Villefort to take a cabriolet,
    go in person to a chemist's to get the prescribed medicine,
    bring it himself, and wait for him in his daughter's room.
    Then, having renewed his injunction not to give Valentine
    anything, he went down again to Noirtier, shut the doors
    carefully, and after convincing himself that no one was
    listening, -- "Do you," said he, "know anything of this
    young lady's illness?"

    "Yes," said the old man.

    "We have no time to lose; I will question, and do you answer
    me." Noirtier made a sign that he was ready to answer. "Did
    you anticipate the accident which has happened to your
    granddaughter?"

    "Yes." D'Avrigny reflected a moment; then approaching
    Noirtier, -- "Pardon what I am going to say," added he, "but
    no indication should be neglected in this terrible
    situation. Did you see poor Barrois die?" Noirtier raised
    his eyes to heaven. "Do you know of what he died!" asked
    d'Avrigny, placing his hand on Noirtier's shoulder.

    "Yes," replied the old man.

    "Do you think he died a natural death?" A sort of smile was
    discernible on the motionless lips of Noirtier.

    "Then you have thought that Barrois was poisoned?"

    "Yes."

    "Do you think the poison he fell a victim to was intended
    for him?"

    "No."

    "Do you think the same hand which unintentionally struck
    Barrois has now attacked Valentine?"

    "Yes."

    "Then will she die too?" asked d'Avrigny, fixing his
    penetrating gaze on Noirtier. He watched the effect of this
    question on the old man. "No," replied he with an air of
    triumph which would have puzzled the most clever diviner.
    "Then you hope?" said d'Avrigny, with surprise.

    "Yes."

    "What do you hope?" The old man made him understand with his
    eyes that he could not answer. "Ah, yes, it is true,"
    murmured d'Avrigny. Then, turning to Noirtier, -- "Do you
    hope the assassin will be tried?"

    "No."

    "Then you hope the poison will take no effect on Valentine?"

    "Yes."

    "It is no news to you," added d'Avrigny, "to tell you that
    an attempt has been made to poison her?" The old man made a
    sign that he entertained no doubt upon the subject. "Then
    how do you hope Valentine will escape?" Noirtier kept his
    eyes steadfastly fixed on the same spot. D'Avrigny followed
    the direction and saw that they were fixed on a bottle
    containing the mixture which he took every morning. "Ah,
    indeed?" said d'Avrigny, struck with a sudden thought, "has
    it occurred to you" -- Noirtier did not let him finish.
    "Yes," said he. "To prepare her system to resist poison?"

    "Yes."

    "By accustoming her by degrees" --

    "Yes, yes, yes," said Noirtier, delighted to be understood.

    "Of course. I had told you that there was brucine in the
    mixture I give you."

    "Yes."

    "And by accustoming her to that poison, you have endeavored
    to neutralize the effect of a similar poison?" Noirtier's
    joy continued. "And you have succeeded," exclaimed
    d'Avrigny. "Without that precaution Valentine would have
    died before assistance could have been procured. The dose
    has been excessive, but she has only been shaken by it; and
    this time, at any rate, Valentine will not die." A
    superhuman joy expanded the old man's eyes, which were
    raised towards heaven with an expression of infinite
    gratitude. At this moment Villefort returned. "Here,
    doctor," said he, "is what you sent me for."

    "Was this prepared in your presence?"

    "Yes," replied the procureur.

    "Have you not let it go out of your hands?"

    "No." D'Avrigny took the bottle, poured some drops of the
    mixture it contained in the hollow of his hand, and
    swallowed them. "Well," said he, "let us go to Valentine; I
    will give instructions to every one, and you, M. de
    Villefort, will yourself see that no one deviates from
    them."

    At the moment when d'Avrigny was returning to Valentine's
    room, accompanied by Villefort, an Italian priest, of
    serious demeanor and calm and firm tone, hired for his use
    the house adjoining the hotel of M. de Villefort. No one
    knew how the three former tenants of that house left it.
    About two hours afterwards its foundation was reported to be
    unsafe; but the report did not prevent the new occupant
    establishing himself there with his modest furniture the
    same day at five o'clock. The lease was drawn up for three,
    six, or nine years by the new tenant, who, according to the
    rule of the proprietor, paid six months in advance. This new
    tenant, who, as we have said, was an Italian, was called Il
    Signor Giacomo Busoni. Workmen were immediately called in,
    and that same night the passengers at the end of the
    faubourg saw with surprise that carpenters and masons were
    occupied in repairing the lower part of the tottering house.
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