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    Chapter 109

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    Chapter 109
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    CHAPTER 109
    The Assizes.

    The Benedetto affair, as it was called at the Palais, and by
    people in general, had produced a tremendous sensation.
    Frequenting the Cafe de Paris, the Boulevard de Gand, and
    the Bois de Boulogne, during his brief career of splendor,
    the false Cavalcanti had formed a host of acquaintances. The
    papers had related his various adventures, both as the man
    of fashion and the galley-slave; and as every one who had
    been personally acquainted with Prince Andrea Cavalcanti
    experienced a lively curiosity in his fate, they all
    determined to spare no trouble in endeavoring to witness the
    trial of M. Benedetto for the murder of his comrade in
    chains. In the eyes of many, Benedetto appeared, if not a
    victim to, at least an instance of, the fallibility of the
    law. M. Cavalcanti, his father, had been seen in Paris, and
    it was expected that he would re-appear to claim the
    illustrious outcast. Many, also, who were not aware of the
    circumstances attending his withdrawal from Paris, were
    struck with the worthy appearance, the gentlemanly bearing,
    and the knowledge of the world displayed by the old
    patrician, who certainly played the nobleman very well, so
    long as he said nothing, and made no arithmetical
    calculations. As for the accused himself, many remembered
    him as being so amiable, so handsome, and so liberal, that
    they chose to think him the victim of some conspiracy, since
    in this world large fortunes frequently excite the
    malevolence and jealousy of some unknown enemy. Every one,
    therefore, ran to the court; some to witness the sight,
    others to comment upon it. From seven o'clock in the morning
    a crowd was stationed at the iron gates, and an hour before
    the trial commenced the hall was full of the privileged.
    Before the entrance of the magistrates, and indeed
    frequently afterwards, a court of justice, on days when some
    especial trial is to take place, resembles a drawing-room
    where many persons recognize each other and converse if they
    can do so without losing their seats; or, if they are
    separated by too great a number of lawyers, communicate by
    signs.

    It was one of the magnificent autumn days which make amends
    for a short summer; the clouds which M. de Villefort had
    perceived at sunrise had all disappeared as if by magic, and
    one of the softest and most brilliant days of September
    shone forth in all its splendor.

    Beauchamp, one of the kings of the press, and therefore
    claiming the right of a throne everywhere, was eying
    everybody through his monocle. He perceived Chateau-Renaud
    and Debray, who had just gained the good graces of a
    sergeant-at-arms, and who had persuaded the latter to let
    them stand before, instead of behind him, as they ought to
    have done. The worthy sergeant had recognized the minister's
    secretary and the millionnaire, and, by way of paying extra
    attention to his noble neighbors, promised to keep their
    places while they paid a visit to Beauchamp.

    "Well," said Beauchamp, "we shall see our friend!"

    "Yes, indeed!" replied Debray. "That worthy prince. Deuce
    take those Italian princes!"

    "A man, too, who could boast of Dante for a genealogist, and
    could reckon back to the 'Divine Comedy.'"

    "A nobility of the rope!" said Chateau-Renaud
    phlegmatically.

    "He will be condemned, will he not?" asked Debray of
    Beauchamp.

    "My dear fellow, I think we should ask you that question;
    you know such news much better than we do. Did you see the
    president at the minister's last night?"

    "Yes."

    "What did he say?"

    "Something which will surprise you."

    "Oh, make haste and tell me, then; it is a long time since
    that has happened."

    "Well, he told me that Benedetto, who is considered a
    serpent of subtlety and a giant of cunning, is really but a
    very commonplace, silly rascal, and altogether unworthy of
    the experiments that will be made on his phrenological
    organs after his death."

    "Bah," said Beauchamp, "he played the prince very well."

    "Yes, for you who detest those unhappy princes, Beauchamp,
    and are always delighted to find fault with them; but not
    for me, who discover a gentleman by instinct, and who scent
    out an aristocratic family like a very bloodhound of
    heraldry."

    "Then you never believed in the principality?"

    "Yes. -- in the principality, but not in the prince."

    "Not so bad," said Beauchamp; "still, I assure you, he
    passed very well with many people; I saw him at the
    ministers' houses."

    "Ah, yes," said Chateau-Renaud. "The idea of thinking
    ministers understand anything about princes!"

    "There is something in what you have just said," said
    Beauchamp, laughing.

    "But," said Debray to Beauchamp, "if I spoke to the
    president, you must have been with the procureur."

    "It was an impossibility; for the last week M. de Villefort
    has secluded himself. It is natural enough; this strange
    chain of domestic afflictions, followed by the no less
    strange death of his daughter" --

    "Strange? What do you mean, Beauchamp?"

    "Oh, yes; do you pretend that all this has been unobserved
    at the minister's?" said Beauchamp, placing his eye-glass in
    his eye, where he tried to make it remain.

    "My dear sir," said Chateau-Renaud, "allow me to tell you
    that you do not understand that manoeuvre with the eye-glass
    half so well as Debray. Give him a lesson, Debray."

    "Stay," said Beauchamp, "surely I am not deceived."

    "What is it?"

    "It is she!"

    "Whom do you mean?"

    "They said she had left."

    "Mademoiselle Eugenie?" said Chateau-Renaud; "has she
    returned?"

    "No, but her mother."

    "Madame Danglars? Nonsense! Impossible!" said
    Chateau-Renaud; "only ten days after the flight of her
    daughter, and three days from the bankruptcy of her
    husband?"

    Debray colored slightly, and followed with his eyes the
    direction of Beauchamp's glance. "Come," he said, "it is
    only a veiled lady, some foreign princess, perhaps the
    mother of Cavalcanti. But you were just speaking on a very
    interesting topic, Beauchamp."

    "I?"

    "Yes; you were telling us about the extraordinary death of
    Valentine."

    "Ah, yes, so I was. But how is it that Madame de Villefort
    is not here?"

    "Poor, dear woman," said Debray, "she is no doubt occupied
    in distilling balm for the hospitals, or in making cosmetics
    for herself or friends. Do you know she spends two or three
    thousand crowns a year in this amusement? But I wonder she
    is not here. I should have been pleased to see her, for I
    like her very much."

    "And I hate her," said Chateau-Renaud.

    "Why?"

    "I do not know. Why do we love? Why do we hate? I detest
    her, from antipathy."

    "Or, rather, by instinct."

    "Perhaps so. But to return to what you were saying,
    Beauchamp."

    "Well, do you know why they die so multitudinously at M. de
    Villefort's?"

    "'Multitudinously' [drv] is good," said Chateau-Renaud.

    "My good fellow, you'll find the word in Saint-Simon."

    "But the thing itself is at M. de Villefort's; but let's get
    back to the subject."

    "Talking of that," said Debray, "Madame was making inquiries
    about that house, which for the last three months has been
    hung with black."

    "Who is Madame?" asked Chateau-Renaud.

    "The minister's wife, pardieu!"

    "Oh, your pardon! I never visit ministers; I leave that to
    the princes."

    "Really, You were only before sparkling, but now you are
    brilliant; take compassion on us, or, like Jupiter, you will
    wither us up."

    "I will not speak again," said Chateau-Renaud; "pray have
    compassion upon me, and do not take up every word I say."

    "Come, let us endeavor to get to the end of our story,
    Beauchamp; I told you that yesterday Madame made inquiries
    of me upon the subject; enlighten me, and I will then
    communicate my information to her."

    "Well, gentlemen, the reason people die so multitudinously
    (I like the word) at M. de Villefort's is that there is an
    assassin in the house!" The two young men shuddered, for the
    same idea had more than once occurred to them. "And who is
    the assassin;" they asked together.

    "Young Edward!" A burst of laughter from the auditors did
    not in the least disconcert the speaker, who continued, --
    "Yes, gentlemen; Edward, the infant phenomenon, who is quite
    an adept in the art of killing."

    "You are jesting."

    "Not at all. I yesterday engaged a servant, who had just
    left M. de Villefort -- I intend sending him away to-morrow,
    for he eats so enormously, to make up for the fast imposed
    upon him by his terror in that house. Well, now listen."

    "We are listening."

    "It appears the dear child has obtained possession of a
    bottle containing some drug, which he every now and then
    uses against those who have displeased him. First, M. and
    Madame de Saint-Meran incurred his displeasure, so he poured
    out three drops of his elixir -- three drops were
    sufficient; then followed Barrois, the old servant of M.
    Noirtier, who sometimes rebuffed this little wretch -- he
    therefore received the same quantity of the elixir; the same
    happened to Valentine, of whom he was jealous; he gave her
    the same dose as the others, and all was over for her as
    well as the rest."

    "Why, what nonsense are you telling us?" said
    Chateau-Renaud.

    "Yes, it is an extraordinary story," said Beauchamp; "is it
    not?"

    "It is absurd," said Debray.

    "Ah," said Beauchamp, "you doubt me? Well, you can ask my
    servant, or rather him who will no longer be my servant
    to-morrow, it was the talk of the house."

    "And this elixir, where is it? what is it?"

    "The child conceals it."

    "But where did he find it?"

    "In his mother's laboratory."

    "Does his mother then, keep poisons in her laboratory?"

    "How can I tell? You are questioning me like a king's
    attorney. I only repeat what I have been told, and like my
    informant I can do no more. The poor devil would eat
    nothing, from fear."

    "It is incredible!"

    "No, my dear fellow, it is not at all incredible. You saw
    the child pass through the Rue Richelieu last year, who
    amused himself with killing his brothers and sisters by
    sticking pins in their ears while they slept. The generation
    who follow us are very precocious."

    "Come, Beauchamp," said Chateau-Renaud, "I will bet anything
    you do not believe a word of all you have been telling us."

    "I do not see the Count of Monte Cristo here."

    "He is worn out," said Debray; "besides, he could not well
    appear in public, since he has been the dupe of the
    Cavalcanti, who, it appears, presented themselves to him
    with false letters of credit, and cheated him out of 100,000
    francs upon the hypothesis of this principality."

    "By the way, M. de Chateau-Renaud," asked Beauchamp, "how is
    Morrel?"

    "Ma foi, I have called three times without once seeing him.
    Still, his sister did not seem uneasy, and told me that
    though she had not seen him for two or three days, she was
    sure he was well."

    "Ah, now I think of it, the Count of Monte Cristo cannot
    appear in the hall," said Beauchamp.

    "Why not?"

    "Because he is an actor in the drama."

    "Has he assassinated any one, then?"

    "No, on the contrary, they wished to assassinate him. You
    know that it was in leaving his house that M. de Caderousse
    was murdered by his friend Benedetto. You know that the
    famous waistcoat was found in his house, containing the
    letter which stopped the signature of the marriage-contract.
    Do you see the waistcoat? There it is, all blood-stained, on
    the desk, as a testimony of the crime."

    "Ah, very good."

    "Hush, gentlemen, here is the court; let us go back to our
    places." A noise was heard in the hall; the sergeant called
    his two patrons with an energetic "hem!" and the door-keeper
    appearing, called out with that shrill voice peculiar to his
    order, ever since the days of Beaumarchais, "The court,
    gentlemen!"
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