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    Chapter 108

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    Chapter 108
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    CHAPTER 108
    The Judge.

    We remember that the Abbe Busoni remained alone with
    Noirtier in the chamber of death, and that the old man and
    the priest were the sole guardians of the young girl's body.
    Perhaps it was the Christian exhortations of the abbe,
    perhaps his kind charity, perhaps his persuasive words,
    which had restored the courage of Noirtier, for ever since
    he had conversed with the priest his violent despair had
    yielded to a calm resignation which surprised all who knew
    his excessive affection for Valentine. M. de Villefort had
    not seen his father since the morning of the death. The
    whole establishment had been changed; another valet was
    engaged for himself, a new servant for Noirtier, two women
    had entered Madame de Villefort's service, -- in fact,
    everywhere, to the concierge and coachmen, new faces were
    presented to the different masters of the house, thus
    widening the division which had always existed between the
    members of the same family.

    The assizes, also, were about to begin, and Villefort, shut
    up in his room, exerted himself with feverish anxiety in
    drawing up the case against the murderer of Caderousse. This
    affair, like all those in which the Count of Monte Cristo
    had interfered, caused a great sensation in Paris. The
    proofs were certainly not convincing, since they rested upon
    a few words written by an escaped galley-slave on his
    death-bed, and who might have been actuated by hatred or
    revenge in accusing his companion. But the mind of the
    procureur was made up; he felt assured that Benedetto was
    guilty, and he hoped by his skill in conducting this
    aggravated case to flatter his self-love, which was about
    the only vulnerable point left in his frozen heart.

    The case was therefore prepared owing to the incessant labor
    of Villefort, who wished it to be the first on the list in
    the coming assizes. He had been obliged to seclude himself
    more than ever, to evade the enormous number of applications
    presented to him for the purpose of obtaining tickets of
    admission to the court on the day of trial. And then so
    short a time had elapsed since the death of poor Valentine,
    and the gloom which overshadowed the house was so recent,
    that no one wondered to see the father so absorbed in his
    professional duties, which were the only means he had of
    dissipating his grief.

    Once only had Villefort seen his father; it was the day
    after that upon which Bertuccio had paid his second visit to
    Benedetto, when the latter was to learn his father's name.
    The magistrate, harassed and fatigued, had descended to the
    garden of his house, and in a gloomy mood, similar to that
    in which Tarquin lopped off the tallest poppies, he began
    knocking off with his cane the long and dying branches of
    the rose-trees, which, placed along the avenue, seemed like
    the spectres of the brilliant flowers which had bloomed in
    the past season. More than once he had reached that part of
    the garden where the famous boarded gate stood overlooking
    the deserted enclosure, always returning by the same path,
    to begin his walk again, at the same pace and with the same
    gesture, when he accidentally turned his eyes towards the
    house, whence he heard the noisy play of his son, who had
    returned from school to spend the Sunday and Monday with his
    mother. While doing so, he observed M. Noirtier at one of
    the open windows, where the old man had been placed that he
    might enjoy the last rays of the sun which yet yielded some
    heat, and was now shining upon the dying flowers and red
    leaves of the creeper which twined around the balcony.

    The eye of the old man was riveted upon a spot which
    Villefort could scarcely distinguish. His glance was so full
    of hate, of ferocity, and savage impatience, that Villefort
    turned out of the path he had been pursuing, to see upon
    what person this dark look was directed. Then he saw beneath
    a thick clump of linden-trees, which were nearly divested of
    foliage, Madame de Villefort sitting with a book in her
    hand, the perusal of which she frequently interrupted to
    smile upon her son, or to throw back his elastic ball, which
    he obstinately threw from the drawing-room into the garden.
    Villefort became pale; he understood the old man's meaning.
    Noirtier continued to look at the same object, but suddenly
    his glance was transferred from the wife to the husband, and
    Villefort himself had to submit to the searching
    investigation of eyes, which, while changing their direction
    and even their language, had lost none of their menacing
    expression. Madame de Villefort, unconscious of the passions
    that exhausted their fire over her head, at that moment held
    her son's ball, and was making signs to him to reclaim it
    with a kiss. Edward begged for a long while, the maternal
    kiss probably not offering sufficient recompense for the
    trouble he must take to obtain it; however at length he
    decided, leaped out of the window into a cluster of
    heliotropes and daisies, and ran to his mother, his forehead
    streaming with perspiration. Madame de Villefort wiped his
    forehead, pressed her lips upon it, and sent him back with
    the ball in one hand and some bonbons in the other.

    Villefort, drawn by an irresistible attraction, like that of
    the bird to the serpent, walked towards the house. As he
    approached it, Noirtier's gaze followed him, and his eyes
    appeared of such a fiery brightness that Villefort felt them
    pierce to the depths of his heart. In that earnest look
    might be read a deep reproach, as well as a terrible menace.
    Then Noirtier raised his eyes to heaven, as though to remind
    his son of a forgotten oath. "It is well, sir," replied
    Villefort from below, -- "it is well; have patience but one
    day longer; what I have said I will do." Noirtier seemed to
    be calmed by these words, and turned his eyes with
    indifference to the other side. Villefort violently
    unbuttoned his great-coat, which seemed to strangle him, and
    passing his livid hand across his forehead, entered his
    study.

    The night was cold and still; the family had all retired to
    rest but Villefort, who alone remained up, and worked till
    five o'clock in the morning, reviewing the last
    interrogatories made the night before by the examining
    magistrates, compiling the depositions of the witnesses, and
    putting the finishing stroke to the deed of accusation,
    which was one of the most energetic and best conceived of
    any he had yet delivered.

    The next day, Monday, was the first sitting of the assizes.
    The morning dawned dull and gloomy, and Villefort saw the
    dim gray light shine upon the lines he had traced in red
    ink. The magistrate had slept for a short time while the
    lamp sent forth its final struggles; its flickerings awoke
    him, and he found his fingers as damp and purple as though
    they had been dipped in blood. He opened the window; a
    bright yellow streak crossed the sky, and seemed to divide
    in half the poplars, which stood out in black relief on the
    horizon. In the clover-fields beyond the chestnut-trees, a
    lark was mounting up to heaven, while pouring out her clear
    morning song. The damps of the dew bathed the head of
    Villefort, and refreshed his memory. "To-day," he said with
    an effort, -- "to-day the man who holds the blade of justice
    must strike wherever there is guilt." Involuntarily his eyes
    wandered towards the window of Noirtier's room, where he had
    seen him the preceding night. The curtain was drawn, and yet
    the image of his father was so vivid to his mind that he
    addressed the closed window as though it had been open, and
    as if through the opening he had beheld the menacing old
    man. "Yes," he murmured, -- "yes, be satisfied."

    His head dropped upon his chest, and in this position he
    paced his study; then he threw himself, dressed as he was,
    upon a sofa, less to sleep than to rest his limbs, cramped
    with cold and study. By degrees every one awoke. Villefort,
    from his study, heard the successive noises which accompany
    the life of a house, -- the opening and shutting of doors,
    the ringing of Madame de Villefort's bell, to summon the
    waiting-maid, mingled with the first shouts of the child,
    who rose full of the enjoyment of his age. Villefort also
    rang; his new valet brought him the papers, and with them a
    cup of chocolate.

    "What are you bringing me?" said he.

    "A cup of chocolate."

    "I did not ask for it. Who has paid me this attention?"

    "My mistress, sir. She said you would have to speak a great
    deal in the murder case, and that you should take something
    to keep up your strength;" and the valet placed the cup on
    the table nearest to the sofa, which was, like all the rest,
    covered with papers. The valet then left the room. Villefort
    looked for an instant with a gloomy expression, then,
    suddenly, taking it up with a nervous motion, he swallowed
    its contents at one draught. It might have been thought that
    he hoped the beverage would be mortal, and that he sought
    for death to deliver him from a duty which he would rather
    die than fulfil. He then rose, and paced his room with a
    smile it would have been terrible to witness. The chocolate
    was inoffensive, for M. de Villefort felt no effects. The
    breakfast-hour arrived, but M. de Villefort was not at
    table. The valet re-entered.

    "Madame de Villefort wishes to remind you, sir," he said,
    "that eleven o'clock has just struck, and that the trial
    commences at twelve."

    "Well," said Villefort, "what then?"

    "Madame de Villefort is dressed; she is quite ready, and
    wishes to know if she is to accompany you, sir?"

    "Where to?"

    "To the Palais."

    "What to do?"

    "My mistress wishes much to be present at the trial."

    "Ah," said Villefort, with a startling accent; "does she
    wish that?" -- The man drew back and said, "If you wish to
    go alone, sir, I will go and tell my mistress." Villefort
    remained silent for a moment, and dented his pale cheeks
    with his nails. "Tell your mistress," he at length answered,
    "that I wish to speak to her, and I beg she will wait for me
    in her own room."

    "Yes, sir."

    "Then come to dress and shave me."

    "Directly, sir." The valet re-appeared almost instantly,
    and, having shaved his master, assisted him to dress
    entirely in black. When he had finished, he said, --

    "My mistress said she should expect you, sir, as soon as you
    had finished dressing."

    "I am going to her." And Villefort, with his papers under
    his arm and hat in hand, directed his steps toward the
    apartment of his wife. At the door he paused for a moment to
    wipe his damp, pale brow. He then entered the room. Madame
    de Villefort was sitting on an ottoman and impatiently
    turning over the leaves of some newspapers and pamphlets
    which young Edward, by way of amusing himself, was tearing
    to pieces before his mother could finish reading them. She
    was dressed to go out, her bonnet was placed beside her on a
    chair, and her gloves were on her hands.

    "Ah, here you are, monsieur," she said in her naturally calm
    voice; "but how pale you are! Have you been working all
    night? Why did you not come down to breakfast? Well, will
    you take me, or shall I take Edward?" Madame de Villefort
    had multiplied her questions in order to gain one answer,
    but to all her inquiries M. de Villefort remained mute and
    cold as a statue. "Edward," said Villefort, fixing an
    imperious glance on the child, "go and play in the
    drawing-room, my dear; I wish to speak to your mamma."
    Madame de Villefort shuddered at the sight of that cold
    countenance, that resolute tone, and the awfully strange
    preliminaries. Edward raised his head, looked at his mother,
    and then, finding that she did not confirm the order, began
    cutting off the heads of his leaden soldiers.

    "Edward," cried M. de Villefort, so harshly that the child
    started up from the floor, "do you hear me? -- Go!" The
    child, unaccustomed to such treatment, arose, pale and
    trembling; it would be difficult to say whether his emotion
    were caused by fear or passion. His father went up to him,
    took him in his arms, and kissed his forehead. "Go," he
    said: "go, my child." Edward ran out. M. de Villefort went
    to the door, which he closed behind the child, and bolted.
    "Dear me!" said the young woman, endeavoring to read her
    husband's inmost thoughts, while a smile passed over her
    countenance which froze the impassibility of Villefort;
    "what is the matter?"

    "Madame, where do you keep the poison you generally use?"
    said the magistrate, without any introduction, placing
    himself between his wife and the door.

    Madame de Villefort must have experienced something of the
    sensation of a bird which, looking up, sees the murderous
    trap closing over its head. A hoarse, broken tone, which was
    neither a cry nor a sigh, escaped from her, while she became
    deadly pale. "Monsieur," she said, "I -- I do not understand
    you." And, in her first paroxysm of terror, she had raised
    herself from the sofa, in the next, stronger very likely
    than the other, she fell down again on the cushions. "I
    asked you," continued Villefort, in a perfectly calm tone,
    "where you conceal the poison by the aid of which you have
    killed my father-in-law, M. de Saint-Meran, my
    mother-in-law, Madame de Saint-Meran, Barrois, and my
    daughter Valentine."

    "Ah, sir," exclaimed Madame de Villefort, clasping her
    hands, "what do you say?"

    "It is not for you to interrogate, but to answer."

    "Is it to the judge or to the husband?" stammered Madame de
    Villefort. "To the judge -- to the judge, madame!" It was
    terrible to behold the frightful pallor of that woman, the
    anguish of her look, the trembling of her whole frame. "Ah,
    sir," she muttered, "ah, sir," and this was all.

    "You do not answer, madame!" exclaimed the terrible
    interrogator. Then he added, with a smile yet more terrible
    than his anger, "It is true, then; you do not deny it!" She
    moved forward. "And you cannot deny it!" added Villefort,
    extending his hand toward her, as though to seize her in the
    name of justice. "You have accomplished these different
    crimes with impudent address, but which could only deceive
    those whose affections for you blinded them. Since the death
    of Madame de Saint-Meran, I have known that a poisoner lived
    in my house. M. d'Avrigny warned me of it. After the death
    of Barrois my suspicions were directed towards an angel, --
    those suspicions which, even when there is no crime, are
    always alive in my heart; but after the death of Valentine,
    there has been no doubt in my mind, madame, and not only in
    mine, but in those of others; thus your crime, known by two
    persons, suspected by many, will soon become public, and, as
    I told you just now, you no longer speak to the husband, but
    to the judge."

    The young woman hid her face in her hands. "Oh, sir," she
    stammered, "I beseech you, do not believe appearances."

    "Are you, then, a coward?" cried Villefort, in a
    contemptuous voice. "But I have always observed that
    poisoners were cowards. Can you be a coward, -- you who have
    had the courage to witness the death of two old men and a
    young girl murdered by you?"

    "Sir! sir!"

    "Can you be a coward?" continued Villefort, with increasing
    excitement, "you, who could count, one by one, the minutes
    of four death agonies? You, who have arranged your infernal
    plans, and removed the beverages with a talent and precision
    almost miraculous? Have you, then, who have calculated
    everything with such nicety, have you forgotten to calculate
    one thing -- I mean where the revelation of your crimes will
    lead you to? Oh, it is impossible -- you must have saved
    some surer, more subtle and deadly poison than any other,
    that you might escape the punishment that you deserve. You
    have done this -- I hope so, at least." Madame de Villefort
    stretched out her hands, and fell on her knees.

    "I understand," he said, "you confess; but a confession made
    to the judges, a confession made at the last moment,
    extorted when the crime cannot be denied, diminishes not the
    punishment inflicted on the guilty!"

    "The punishment?" exclaimed Madame de Villefort, "the
    punishment, monsieur? Twice you have pronounced that word!"

    "Certainly. Did you hope to escape it because you were four
    times guilty? Did you think the punishment would be withheld
    because you are the wife of him who pronounces it? -- No,
    madame, no; the scaffold awaits the poisoner, whoever she
    may be, unless, as I just said, the poisoner has taken the
    precaution of keeping for herself a few drops of her
    deadliest potion." Madame de Villefort uttered a wild cry,
    and a hideous and uncontrollable terror spread over her
    distorted features. "Oh, do not fear the scaffold, madame,"
    said the magistrate; "I will not dishonor you, since that
    would be dishonor to myself; no, if you have heard me
    distinctly, you will understand that you are not to die on
    the scaffold."

    "No, I do not understand; what do you mean?" stammered the
    unhappy woman, completely overwhelmed. "I mean that the wife
    of the first magistrate in the capital shall not, by her
    infamy, soil an unblemished name; that she shall not, with
    one blow, dishonor her husband and her child."

    "No, no -- oh, no!"

    "Well, madame, it will be a laudable action on your part,
    and I will thank you for it!"

    "You will thank me -- for what?"

    "For what you have just said."

    "What did I say? Oh, my brain whirls; I no longer understand
    anything. Oh, my God, my God!" And she rose, with her hair
    dishevelled, and her lips foaming.

    "Have you answered the question I put to you on entering the
    room? -- where do you keep the poison you generally use,
    madame?" Madame de Villefort raised her arms to heaven, and
    convulsively struck one hand against the other. "No, no,"
    she vociferated, "no, you cannot wish that!"

    "What I do not wish, madame, is that you should perish on
    the scaffold. Do you understand?" asked Villefort.

    "Oh, mercy, mercy, monsieur!"

    "What I require is, that justice be done. I am on the earth
    to punish, madame," he added, with a flaming glance; "any
    other woman, were it the queen herself, I would send to the
    executioner; but to you I shall be merciful. To you I will
    say, 'Have you not, madame, put aside some of the surest,
    deadliest, most speedy poison?'"

    "Oh, pardon me, sir; let me live!"

    "She is cowardly," said Villefort.

    "Reflect that I am your wife!"

    "You are a poisoner."

    "In the name of heaven!"

    "No!"

    "In the name of the love you once bore me!"

    "No, no!"

    "In the name of our child! Ah, for the sake of our child,
    let me live!"

    "No, no, no, I tell you; one day, if I allow you to live,
    you will perhaps kill him, as you have the others!"

    "I? -- I kill my boy?" cried the distracted mother, rushing
    toward Villefort; "I kill my son? Ha, ha, ha!" and a
    frightful, demoniac laugh finished the sentence, which was
    lost in a hoarse rattle. Madame de Villefort fell at her
    husband's feet. He approached her. "Think of it, madame," he
    said; "if, on my return, justice his not been satisfied, I
    will denounce you with my own mouth, and arrest you with my
    own hands!" She listened, panting, overwhelmed, crushed; her
    eye alone lived, and glared horribly. "Do you understand
    me?" he said. "I am going down there to pronounce the
    sentence of death against a murderer. If I find you alive on
    my return, you shall sleep to-night in the conciergerie."
    Madame de Villefort sighed; her nerves gave way, and she
    sunk on the carpet. The king's attorney seemed to experience
    a sensation of pity; he looked upon her less severely, and,
    bowing to her, said slowly, "Farewell, madame, farewell!"
    That farewell struck Madame de Villefort like the
    executioner's knife. She fainted. The procureur went out,
    after having double-locked the door.
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    Chapter 108
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