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    Chapter 110

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    Chapter 110
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    CHAPTER 110
    The Indictment.

    The judges took their places in the midst of the most
    profound silence; the jury took their seats; M. de
    Villefort, the object of unusual attention, and we had
    almost said of general admiration, sat in the arm-chair and
    cast a tranquil glance around him. Every one looked with
    astonishment on that grave and severe face, whose calm
    expression personal griefs had been unable to disturb, and
    the aspect of a man who was a stranger to all human emotions
    excited something very like terror.

    "Gendarmes," said the president, "lead in the accused."

    At these words the public attention became more intense, and
    all eyes were turned towards the door through which
    Benedetto was to enter. The door soon opened and the accused
    appeared. The same impression was experienced by all
    present, and no one was deceived by the expression of his
    countenance. His features bore no sign of that deep emotion
    which stops the beating of the heart and blanches the cheek.
    His hands, gracefully placed, one upon his hat, the other in
    the opening of his white waistcoat, were not at all
    tremulous; his eye was calm and even brilliant. Scarcely had
    he entered the hall when he glanced at the whole body of
    magistrates and assistants; his eye rested longer on the
    president, and still more so on the king's attorney. By the
    side of Andrea was stationed the lawyer who was to conduct
    his defence, and who had been appointed by the court, for
    Andrea disdained to pay any attention to those details, to
    which he appeared to attach no importance. The lawyer was a
    young man with light hair whose face expressed a hundred
    times more emotion than that which characterized the
    prisoner.

    The president called for the indictment, revised as we know,
    by the clever and implacable pen of Villefort. During the
    reading of this, which was long, the public attention was
    continually drawn towards Andrea, who bore the inspection
    with Spartan unconcern. Villefort had never been so concise
    and eloquent. The crime was depicted in the most vivid
    colors; the former life of the prisoner, his transformation,
    a review of his life from the earliest period, were set
    forth with all the talent that a knowledge of human life
    could furnish to a mind like that of the procureur.
    Benedetto was thus forever condemned in public opinion
    before the sentence of the law could be pronounced. Andrea
    paid no attention to the successive charges which were
    brought against him. M. de Villefort, who examined him
    attentively, and who no doubt practiced upon him all the
    psychological studies he was accustomed to use, in vain
    endeavored to make him lower his eyes, notwithstanding the
    depth and profundity of his gaze. At length the reading of
    the indictment was ended.

    "Accused," said the president, "your name and surname?"
    Andrea arose. "Excuse me, Mr. President," he said, in a
    clear voice, "but I see you are going to adopt a course of
    questions through which I cannot follow you. I have an idea,
    which I will explain by and by, of making an exception to
    the usual form of accusation. Allow me, then, if you please,
    to answer in different order, or I will not do so at all."
    The astonished president looked at the jury, who in turn
    looked at Villefort. The whole assembly manifested great
    surprise, but Andrea appeared quite unmoved. "Your age?"
    said the president; "will you answer that question?"

    "I will answer that question, as well as the rest, Mr.
    President, but in its turn."

    "Your age?" repeated the president.

    "I am twenty-one years old, or rather I shall be in a few
    days, as I was born the night of the 27th of September,
    1817." M. de Villefort, who was busy taking down some notes,
    raised his head at the mention of this date. "Where were you
    born?" continued the president.

    "At Auteuil, near Paris." M. de Villefort a second time
    raised his head, looked at Benedetto as if he had been
    gazing at the head of Medusa, and became livid. As for
    Benedetto, he gracefully wiped his lips with a fine cambric
    pocket-handkerchief. "Your profession?"

    "First I was a forger," answered Andrea, as calmly as
    possible; "then I became a thief, and lately have become an
    assassin." A murmur, or rather storm, of indignation burst
    from all parts of the assembly. The judges themselves
    appeared to be stupefied, and the jury manifested tokens of
    disgust for cynicism so unexpected in a man of fashion. M.
    de Villefort pressed his hand upon his brow, which, at first
    pale, had become red and burning; then he suddenly arose and
    looked around as though he had lost his senses -- he wanted
    air.

    "Are you looking for anything, Mr. Procureur?" asked
    Benedetto, with his most ingratiating smile. M. de Villefort
    answered nothing, but sat, or rather threw himself down
    again upon his chair. "And now, prisoner, will you consent
    to tell your name?" said the president. "The brutal
    affectation with which you have enumerated and classified
    your crimes calls for a severe reprimand on the part of the
    court, both in the name of morality, and for the respect due
    to humanity. You appear to consider this a point of honor,
    and it may be for this reason, that you have delayed
    acknowledging your name. You wished it to be preceded by all
    these titles."

    "It is quite wonderful, Mr. President, how entirely you have
    read my thoughts," said Benedetto, in his softest voice and
    most polite manner. "This is, indeed, the reason why I
    begged you to alter the order of the questions." The public
    astonishment had reached its height. There was no longer any
    deceit or bravado in the manner of the accused. The audience
    felt that a startling revelation was to follow this ominous
    prelude.

    "Well," said the president; "your name?"

    "I cannot tell you my name, since I do not know it; but I
    know my father's, and can tell it to you."

    A painful giddiness overwhelmed Villefort; great drops of
    acrid sweat fell from his face upon the papers which he held
    in his convulsed hand.

    "Repeat your father's name," said the president. Not a
    whisper, not a breath, was heard in that vast assembly;
    every one waited anxiously.

    "My father is king's attorney," replied Andrea calmly.

    "King's attorney?" said the president, stupefied, and
    without noticing the agitation which spread over the face of
    M. de Villefort; "king's attorney?"

    "Yes; and if you wish to know his name, I will tell it, --
    he is named Villefort." The explosion, which had been so
    long restrained from a feeling of respect to the court of
    justice, now burst forth like thunder from the breasts of
    all present; the court itself did not seek to restrain the
    feelings of the audience. The exclamations, the insults
    addressed to Benedetto, who remained perfectly unconcerned,
    the energetic gestures, the movement of the gendarmes, the
    sneers of the scum of the crowd always sure to rise to the
    surface in case of any disturbance -- all this lasted five
    minutes, before the door-keepers and magistrates were able
    to restore silence. In the midst of this tumult the voice of
    the president was heard to exclaim, -- "Are you playing with
    justice, accused, and do you dare set your fellow-citizens
    an example of disorder which even in these times his never
    been equalled?"

    Several persons hurried up to M. de Villefort, who sat half
    bowed over in his chair, offering him consolation,
    encouragement, and protestations of zeal and sympathy. Order
    was re-established in the hall, except that a few people
    still moved about and whispered to one another. A lady, it
    was said, had just fainted; they had supplied her with a
    smelling-bottle, and she had recovered. During the scene of
    tumult, Andrea had turned his smiling face towards the
    assembly; then, leaning with one hand on the oaken rail of
    the dock, in the most graceful attitude possible, he said:
    "Gentlemen, I assure you I had no idea of insulting the
    court, or of making a useless disturbance in the presence of
    this honorable assembly. They ask my age; I tell it. They
    ask where I was born; I answer. They ask my name, I cannot
    give it, since my parents abandoned me. But though I cannot
    give my own name, not possessing one, I can tell them my
    father's. Now I repeat, my father is named M. de Villefort,
    and I am ready to prove it."

    There was an energy, a conviction, and a sincerity in the
    manner of the young man, which silenced the tumult. All eyes
    were turned for a moment towards the procureur, who sat as
    motionless as though a thunderbolt had changed him into a
    corpse. "Gentlemen," said Andrea, commanding silence by his
    voice and manner; "I owe you the proofs and explanations of
    what I have said."

    "But," said the irritated president, "you called yourself
    Benedetto, declared yourself an orphan, and claimed Corsica
    as your country."

    "I said anything I pleased, in order that the solemn
    declaration I have just made should not be withheld, which
    otherwise would certainly have been the case. I now repeat
    that I was born at Auteuil on the night of the 27th of
    September, 1817, and that I am the son of the procureur, M.
    de Villefort. Do you wish for any further details? I will
    give them. I was born in No. 28, Rue de la Fontaine, in a
    room hung with red damask; my father took me in his arms,
    telling my mother I was dead, wrapped me in a napkin marked
    with an H and an N, and carried me into a garden, where he
    buried me alive."

    A shudder ran through the assembly when they saw that the
    confidence of the prisoner increased in proportion to the
    terror of M. de Villefort. "But how have you become
    acquainted with all these details?" asked the president.

    "I will tell you, Mr. President. A man who had sworn
    vengeance against my father, and had long watched his
    opportunity to kill him, had introduced himself that night
    into the garden in which my father buried me. He was
    concealed in a thicket; he saw my father bury something in
    the ground, and stabbed him; then thinking the deposit might
    contain some treasure he turned up the ground, and found me
    still living. The man carried me to the foundling asylum,
    where I was registered under the number 37. Three months
    afterwards, a woman travelled from Rogliano to Paris to
    fetch me, and having claimed me as her son, carried me away.
    Thus, you see, though born in Paris, I was brought up in
    Corsica."

    There was a moment's silence, during which one could have
    fancied the hall empty, so profound was the stillness.
    "Proceed," said the president.

    "Certainly, I might have lived happily amongst those good
    people, who adored me, but my perverse disposition prevailed
    over the virtues which my adopted mother endeavored to
    instil into my heart. I increased in wickedness till I
    committed crime. One day when I cursed providence for making
    me so wicked, and ordaining me to such a fate, my adopted
    father said to me, 'Do not blaspheme, unhappy child, the
    crime is that of your father, not yours, -- of your father,
    who consigned you to hell if you died, and to misery if a
    miracle preserved you alive.' After that I ceased to
    blaspheme, but I cursed my father. That is why I have
    uttered the words for which you blame me; that is why I have
    filled this whole assembly with horror. If I have committed
    an additional crime, punish me, but if you will allow that
    ever since the day of my birth my fate has been sad, bitter,
    and lamentable, then pity me."

    "But your mother?" asked the president.

    "My mother thought me dead; she is not guilty. I did not
    even wish to know her name, nor do I know it." Just then a
    piercing cry, ending in a sob, burst from the centre of the
    crowd, who encircled the lady who had before fainted, and
    who now fell into a violent fit of hysterics. She was
    carried out of the hall, the thick veil which concealed her
    face dropped off, and Madame Danglars was recognized.
    Notwithstanding his shattered nerves, the ringing sensation
    in his ears, and the madness which turned his brain,
    Villefort rose as he perceived her. "The proofs, the
    proofs!" said the president; "remember this tissue of
    horrors must be supported by the clearest proofs "

    "The proofs?" said Benedetto, laughing; "do you want
    proofs?"

    "Yes."

    "Well, then, look at M. de Villefort, and then ask me for
    proofs."

    Every one turned towards the procureur, who, unable to bear
    the universal gaze now riveted on him alone, advanced
    staggering into the midst of the tribunal, with his hair
    dishevelled and his face indented with the mark of his
    nails. The whole assembly uttered a long murmur of
    astonishment. "Father," said Benedetto, "I am asked for
    proofs, do you wish me to give them?"

    "No, no, it is useless," stammered M. de Villefort in a
    hoarse voice; "no, it is useless!"

    "How useless?" cried the president, "what do you mean?"

    "I mean that I feel it impossible to struggle against this
    deadly weight which crushes me. Gentlemen, I know I am in
    the hands of an avenging God! We need no proofs; everything
    relating to this young man is true." A dull, gloomy silence,
    like that which precedes some awful phenomenon of nature,
    pervaded the assembly, who shuddered in dismay. "What, M. de
    Villefort," cried the president, "do you yield to an
    hallucination? What, are you no longer in possession of your
    senses? This strange, unexpected, terrible accusation has
    disordered your reason. Come, recover."

    The procureur dropped his head; his teeth chattered like
    those of a man under a violent attack of fever, and yet he
    was deadly pale.

    "I am in possession of all my senses, sir," he said; "my
    body alone suffers, as you may suppose. I acknowledge myself
    guilty of all the young man has brought against me, and from
    this hour hold myself under the authority of the procureur
    who will succeed me."

    And as he spoke these words with a hoarse, choking voice, he
    staggered towards the door, which was mechanically opened by
    a door-keeper. The whole assembly were dumb with
    astonishment at the revelation and confession which had
    produced a catastrophe so different from that which had been
    expected during the last fortnight by the Parisian world.

    "Well," said Beauchamp, "let them now say that drama is
    unnatural!"

    "Ma foi!" said Chateau-Renaud, "I would rather end my career
    like M. de Morcerf; a pistol-shot seems quite delightful
    compared with this catastrophe."

    "And moreover, it kills," said Beauchamp.

    "And to think that I had an idea of marrying his daughter,"
    said Debray. "She did well to die, poor girl!"

    "The sitting is adjourned, gentlemen," said the president;
    "fresh inquiries will be made, and the case will be tried
    next session by another magistrate." As for Andrea, who was
    calm and more interesting than ever, he left the hall,
    escorted by gendarmes, who involuntarily paid him some
    attention. "Well, what do you think of this, my fine
    fellow?" asked Debray of the sergeant-at-arms, slipping a
    louis into his hand. "There will be extenuating
    circumstances," he replied.
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