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    Chapter 103

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    Chapter 103
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    CHAPTER 103
    Maximilian.

    Villefort rose, half ashamed of being surprised in such a
    paroxysm of grief. The terrible office he had held for
    twenty-five years had succeeded in making him more or less
    than man. His glance, at first wandering, fixed itself upon
    Morrel. "Who are you, sir," he asked, "that forget that this
    is not the manner to enter a house stricken with death? Go,
    sir, go!" But Morrel remained motionless; he could not
    detach his eyes from that disordered bed, and the pale
    corpse of the young girl who was lying on it. "Go! -- do you
    hear?" said Villefort, while d'Avrigny advanced to lead
    Morrel out. Maximilian stared for a moment at the corpse,
    gazed all around the room, then upon the two men; he opened
    his mouth to speak, but finding it impossible to give
    utterance to the innumerable ideas that occupied his brain,
    he went out, thrusting his hands through his hair in such a
    manner that Villefort and d'Avrigny, for a moment diverted
    from the engrossing topic, exchanged glances, which seemed
    to say, -- "He is mad!"

    But in less than five minutes the staircase groaned beneath
    an extraordinary weight. Morrel was seen carrying, with
    superhuman strength, the arm-chair containing Noirtier
    up-stairs. When he reached the landing he placed the
    arm-chair on the floor and rapidly rolled it into
    Valentine's room. This could only have been accomplished by
    means of unnatural strength supplied by powerful excitement.
    But the most fearful spectacle was Noirtier being pushed
    towards the bed, his face expressing all his meaning, and
    his eyes supplying the want of every other faculty. That
    pale face and flaming glance appeared to Villefort like a
    frightful apparition. Each time he had been brought into
    contact with his father, something terrible had happened.
    "See what they have done!" cried Morrel, with one hand
    leaning on the back of the chair, and the other extended
    towards Valentine. "See, my father, see!"

    Villefort drew back and looked with astonishment on the
    young man, who, almost a stranger to him, called Noirtier
    his father. At this moment the whole soul of the old man
    seemed centred in his eyes which became bloodshot; the veins
    of the throat swelled; his cheeks and temples became purple,
    as though he was struck with epilepsy; nothing was wanting
    to complete this but the utterance of a cry. And the cry
    issued from his pores, if we may thus speak -- a cry
    frightful in its silence. D'Avrigny rushed towards the old
    man and made him inhale a powerful restorative.

    "Sir," cried Morrel, seizing the moist hand of the
    paralytic, "they ask me who I am, and what right I have to
    be here. Oh, you know it, tell them, tell them!" And the
    young man's voice was choked by sobs. As for the old man,
    his chest heaved with his panting respiration. One could
    have thought that he was undergoing the agonies preceding
    death. At length, happier than the young man, who sobbed
    without weeping, tears glistened in the eyes of Noirtier.
    "Tell them," said Morrel in a hoarse voice, "tell them that
    I am her betrothed. Tell them she was my beloved, my noble
    girl, my only blessing in the world. Tell them -- oh, tell
    them, that corpse belongs to me!"

    The young man overwhelmed by the weight of his anguish, fell
    heavily on his knees before the bed, which his fingers
    grasped with convulsive energy. D'Avrigny, unable to bear
    the sight of this touching emotion, turned away; and
    Villefort, without seeking any further explanation, and
    attracted towards him by the irresistible magnetism which
    draws us towards those who have loved the people for whom we
    mourn, extended his hand towards the young man. But Morrel
    saw nothing; he had grasped the hand of Valentine, and
    unable to weep vented his agony in groans as he bit the
    sheets. For some time nothing was heard in that chamber but
    sobs, exclamations, and prayers. At length Villefort, the
    most composed of all, spoke: "Sir," said he to Maximilian,
    "you say you loved Valentine, that you were betrothed to
    her. I knew nothing of this engagement, of this love, yet I,
    her father, forgive you, for I see that your grief is real
    and deep; and besides my own sorrow is too great for anger
    to find a place in my heart. But you see that the angel whom
    you hoped for has left this earth -- she has nothing more to
    do with the adoration of men. Take a last farewell, sir, of
    her sad remains; take the hand you expected to possess once
    more within your own, and then separate yourself from her
    forever. Valentine now requires only the ministrations of
    the priest."

    "You are mistaken, sir," exclaimed Morrel, raising himself
    on one knee, his heart pierced by a more acute pang than any
    he had yet felt -- "you are mistaken; Valentine, dying as
    she has, not only requires a priest, but an avenger. You, M.
    de Villefort, send for the priest; I will be the avenger."

    "What do you mean, sir?" asked Villefort, trembling at the
    new idea inspired by the delirium of Morrel.

    "I tell you, sir, that two persons exist in you; the father
    has mourned sufficiently, now let the procureur fulfil his
    office."

    The eyes of Noirtier glistened, and d'Avrigny approached.

    "Gentlemen," said Morrel, reading all that passed through
    the minds of the witnesses to the scene, "I know what I am
    saying, and you know as well as I do what I am about to say
    -- Valentine has been assassinated!" Villefort hung his
    head, d'Avrigny approached nearer, and Noirtier said "Yes"
    with his eyes. "Now, sir," continued Morrel, "in these days
    no one can disappear by violent means without some inquiries
    being made as to the cause of her disappearance, even were
    she not a young, beautiful, and adorable creature like
    Valentine. Mr. Procureur," said Morrel with increasing
    vehemence, "no mercy is allowed; I denounce the crime; it is
    your place to seek the assassin." The young man's implacable
    eyes interrogated Villefort, who, on his side, glanced from
    Noirtier to d'Avrigny. But instead of finding sympathy in
    the eyes of the doctor and his father, he only saw an
    expression as inflexible as that of Maximilian. "Yes,"
    indicated the old man.

    "Assuredly," said d'Avrigny.

    "Sir," said Villefort, striving to struggle against this
    triple force and his own emotion, -- "sir, you are deceived;
    no one commits crimes here. I am stricken by fate. It is
    horrible, indeed, but no one assassinates."

    The eyes of Noirtier lighted up with rage, and d'Avrigny
    prepared to speak. Morrel, however, extended his arm, and
    commanded silence. "And I say that murders are committed
    here," said Morrel, whose voice, though lower in tone, lost
    none of its terrible distinctness: "I tell you that this is
    the fourth victim within the last four months. I tell you,
    Valentine's life was attempted by poison four days ago,
    though she escaped, owing to the precautions of M. Noirtier.
    I tell you that the dose has been double, the poison
    changed, and that this time it has succeeded. I tell you
    that you know these things as well as I do, since this
    gentleman has forewarned you, both as a doctor and as a
    friend."

    "Oh, you rave, sir," exclaimed Villefort, in vain
    endeavoring to escape the net in which he was taken.

    "I rave?" said Morrel; "well, then, I appeal to M. d'Avrigny
    himself. Ask him, sir, if he recollects the words he uttered
    in the garden of this house on the night of Madame de
    Saint-Meran's death. You thought yourselves alone, and
    talked about that tragical death, and the fatality you
    mentioned then is the same which has caused the murder of
    Valentine." Villefort and d'Avrigny exchanged looks. "Yes,
    yes," continued Morrel; "recall the scene, for the words you
    thought were only given to silence and solitude fell into my
    ears. Certainly, after witnessing the culpable indolence
    manifested by M. de Villefort towards his own relations, I
    ought to have denounced him to the authorities; then I
    should not have been an accomplice to thy death, as I now
    am, sweet, beloved Valentine; but the accomplice shall
    become the avenger. This fourth murder is apparent to all,
    and if thy father abandon thee, Valentine, it is I, and I
    swear it, that shall pursue the assassin." And this time, as
    though nature had at least taken compassion on the vigorous
    frame, nearly bursting with its own strength, the words of
    Morrel were stifled in his throat; his breast heaved; the
    tears, so long rebellious, gushed from his eyes; and he
    threw himself weeping on his knees by the side of the bed.

    Then d'Avrigny spoke. "And I, too," he exclaimed in a low
    voice, "I unite with M. Morrel in demanding justice for
    crime; my blood boils at the idea of having encouraged a
    murderer by my cowardly concession."

    "Oh, merciful heavens!" murmured Villefort. Morrel raised
    his head, and reading the eyes of the old man, which gleamed
    with unnatural lustre, -- "Stay," he said, "M. Noirtier
    wishes to speak."

    "Yes," indicated Noirtier, with an expression the more
    terrible, from all his faculties being centred in his
    glance.

    "Do you know the assassin?" asked Morrel.

    "Yes," replied Noirtier.

    "And will you direct us?" exclaimed the young man. "Listen,
    M. d'Avrigny, listen!" Noirtier looked upon Morrel with one
    of those melancholy smiles which had so often made Valentine
    happy, and thus fixed his attention. Then, having riveted
    the eyes of his interlocutor on his own, he glanced towards
    the door.

    "Do you wish me to leave?" said Morrel, sadly.

    "Yes," replied Noirtier.

    "Alas, alas, sir, have pity on me!"

    The old man's eyes remained fixed on the door.

    "May I, at least, return?" asked Morrel.

    "Yes."

    "Must I leave alone?"

    "No."

    "Whom am I to take with me? The procureur?"

    "No."

    "The doctor?"

    "Yes."

    "You wish to remain alone with M. de Villefort?"

    "Yes."

    "But can he understand you?"

    "Yes."

    "Oh," said Villefort, inexpressibly delighted to think that
    the inquiries were to be made by him alone, -- "oh, be
    satisfied, I can understand my father." D'Avrigny took the
    young man's arm, and led him out of the room. A more than
    deathlike silence then reigned in the house. At the end of a
    quarter of an hour a faltering footstep was heard, and
    Villefort appeared at the door of the apartment where
    d'Avrigny and Morrel had been staying, one absorbed in
    meditation, the other in grief. "You can come," he said, and
    led them back to Noirtier. Morrel looked attentively on
    Villefort. His face was livid, large drops rolled down his
    face, and in his fingers he held the fragments of a quill
    pen which he had torn to atoms.

    "Gentlemen," he said in a hoarse voice, "give me your word
    of honor that this horrible secret shall forever remain
    buried amongst ourselves!" The two men drew back.

    "I entreat you." -- continued Villefort.

    "But," said Morrel, "the culprit -- the murderer -- the
    assassin."

    "Do not alarm yourself, sir; justice will be done," said
    Villefort. "My father has revealed the culprit's name; my
    father thirsts for revenge as much as you do, yet even he
    conjures you as I do to keep this secret. Do you not,
    father?"

    "Yes," resolutely replied Noirtier. Morrel suffered an
    exclamation of horror and surprise to escape him. "Oh, sir,"
    said Villefort, arresting Maximilian by the arm, "if my
    father, the inflexible man, makes this request, it is
    because he knows, be assured, that Valentine will be
    terribly revenged. Is it not so, father?" The old man made a
    sign in the affirmative. Villefort continued: "He knows me,
    and I have pledged my word to him. Rest assured, gentlemen,
    that within three days, in a less time than justice would
    demand, the revenge I shall have taken for the murder of my
    child will be such as to make the boldest heart tremble;"
    and as he spoke these words he ground his teeth, and grasped
    the old man's senseless hand.

    "Will this promise be fulfilled, M. Noirtier?" asked Morrel,
    while d'Avrigny looked inquiringly.

    "Yes," replied Noirtier with an expression of sinister joy.

    "Swear, then," said Villefort, joining the hands of Morrel
    and d'Avrigny, "swear that you will spare the honor of my
    house, and leave me to avenge my child." D'Avrigny turned
    round and uttered a very feeble "Yes," but Morrel,
    disengaging his hand, rushed to the bed, and after having
    pressed the cold lips of Valentine with his own, hurriedly
    left, uttering a long, deep groan of despair and anguish. We
    have before stated that all the servants had fled. M. de
    Villefort was therefore obliged to request M. d'Avrigny to
    superintend all the arrangements consequent upon a death in
    a large city, more especially a death under such suspicious
    circumstances.

    It was something terrible to witness the silent agony, the
    mute despair of Noirtier, whose tears silently rolled down
    his cheeks. Villefort retired to his study, and d'Avrigny
    left to summon the doctor of the mayoralty, whose office it
    is to examine bodies after decease, and who is expressly
    named "the doctor of the dead." M. Noirtier could not be
    persuaded to quit his grandchild. At the end of a quarter of
    an hour M. d'Avrigny returned with his associate; they found
    the outer gate closed, and not a servant remaining in the
    house; Villefort himself was obliged to open to them. But he
    stopped on the landing; he had not the courage to again
    visit the death chamber. The two doctors, therefore, entered
    the room alone. Noirtier was near the bed, pale, motionless,
    and silent as the corpse. The district doctor approached
    with the indifference of a man accustomed to spend half his
    time amongst the dead; he then lifted the sheet which was
    placed over the face, and just unclosed the lips.

    "Alas," said d'Avrigny, "she is indeed dead, poor child!"

    "Yes," answered the doctor laconically, dropping the sheet
    he had raised. Noirtier uttered a kind of hoarse, rattling
    sound; the old man's eyes sparkled, and the good doctor
    understood that he wished to behold his child. He therefore
    approached the bed, and while his companion was dipping the
    fingers with which he had touched the lips of the corpse in
    chloride of lime, he uncovered the calm and pale face, which
    looked like that of a sleeping angel. A tear, which appeared
    in the old man's eye, expressed his thanks to the doctor.
    The doctor of the dead then laid his permit on the corner of
    the table, and having fulfilled his duty, was conducted out
    by d'Avrigny. Villefort met them at the door of his study;
    having in a few words thanked the district doctor, he turned
    to d'Avrigny, and said, -- "And now the priest."

    "Is there any particular priest you wish to pray with
    Valentine?" asked d'Avrigny.

    "No." said Villefort; "fetch the nearest."

    "The nearest," said the district doctor, "is a good Italian
    abbe, who lives next door to you. Shall I call on him as I
    pass?"

    "D'Avrigny," said Villefort, "be so kind, I beseech you, as
    to accompany this gentleman. Here is the key of the door, so
    that you can go in and out as you please; you will bring the
    priest with you, and will oblige me by introducing him into
    my child's room."

    "Do you wish to see him?"

    "I only wish to be alone. You will excuse me, will you not?
    A priest can understand a father's grief." And M. de
    Villefort, giving the key to d'Avrigny, again bade farewell
    to the strange doctor, and retired to his study, where he
    began to work. For some temperaments work is a remedy for
    all afflictions. As the doctors entered the street, they saw
    a man in a cassock standing on the threshold of the next
    door. "This is the abbe of whom I spoke," said the doctor to
    d'Avrigny. D'Avrigny accosted the priest. "Sir," he said,
    "are you disposed to confer a great obligation on an unhappy
    father who has just lost his daughter? I mean M. de
    Villefort, the king's attorney."

    "Ah," said the priest, in a marked Italian accent; "yes, I
    have heard that death is in that house."

    "Then I need not tell you what kind of service he requires
    of you."

    "I was about to offer myself, sir," said the priest; "it is
    our mission to forestall our duties."

    "It is a young girl."

    "I know it, sir; the servants who fled from the house
    informed me. I also know that her name is Valentine, and I
    have already prayed for her."

    "Thank you, sir," said d'Avrigny; "since you have commenced
    your sacred office, deign to continue it. Come and watch by
    the dead, and all the wretched family will be grateful to
    you."

    "I am going, sir; and I do not hesitate to say that no
    prayers will be more fervent than mine." D'Avrigny took the
    priest's hand, and without meeting Villefort, who was
    engaged in his study, they reached Valentine's room, which
    on the following night was to be occupied by the
    undertakers. On entering the room, Noirtier's eyes met those
    of the abbe, and no doubt he read some particular expression
    in them, for he remained in the room. D'Avrigny recommended
    the attention of the priest to the living as well as to the
    dead, and the abbe promised to devote his prayers to
    Valentine and his attentions to Noirtier. In order,
    doubtless, that he might not be disturbed while fulfilling
    his sacred mission, the priest rose as soon as d'Avrigny
    departed, and not only bolted the door through which the
    doctor had just left, but also that leading to Madame de
    Villefort's room.
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