The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 232 of 400

“Ah,” said he, “we have at Pisa, Ugolino’s tower; at Ferrara, Tasso’s prison; at Rimini, the room of Francesca and Paolo.”

“Yes, but you have not this little staircase,” said Monte Cristo, opening a door concealed by the drapery. “Look at it, and tell me what you think of it.”

“What a wicked-looking, crooked staircase,” said Chateau-Renaud with a smile.

“I do not know whether the wine of Chios produces melancholy, but certainly everything appears to me black in this house,” said Debray.

Ever since Valentine’s dowry had been mentioned, Morrel had been silent and sad. “Can you imagine,” said Monte Cristo, “some Othello or Abbe de Ganges, one stormy, dark night, descending these stairs step by step, carrying a load, which he wishes to hide from the sight of man, if not from God?” Madame Danglars half fainted on the arm of Villefort, who was obliged to support himself against the wall. “Ah, madame,” cried Debray, “what is the matter with you? how pale you look!”

“It is very evident what is the matter with her,” said Madame de Villefort; “M. de Monte Cristo is relating horrible stories to us, doubtless intending to frighten us to death.”

“Yes,” said Villefort, “really, count, you frighten the ladies.”

“What is the matter?” asked Debray, in a whisper, of Madame Danglars.

“Nothing,” she replied with a violent effort. “I want air, that is all.”

“Will you come into the garden?” said Debray, advancing towards the back staircase.

“No, no,” she answered, “I would rather remain here.”

“Are you really frightened, madame?” said Monte Cristo.

“Oh, no, sir,” said Madame Danglars; “but you suppose scenes in a manner which gives them the appearance of reality.”

“Ah, yes,” said Monte Cristo smiling; “it is all a matter of imagination. Why should we not imagine this the apartment of an honest mother? And this bed with red hangings, a bed visited by the goddess Lucina? And that mysterious staircase, the passage through which, not to disturb their sleep, the doctor and nurse pass, or even the father carrying the sleeping child?” Here Madame Danglars, instead of being calmed by the soft picture, uttered a groan and fainted. “Madame Danglars is ill,” said Villefort; “it would be better to take her to her carriage.”

“Oh, mon Dieu,” said Monte Cristo, “and I have forgotten my smelling-bottle!”

“I have mine,” said Madame de Villefort; and she passed over to Monte Cristo a bottle full of the same kind of red liquid whose good properties the count had tested on Edward.

“Ah,” said Monte Cristo, taking it from her hand.

“Yes,” she said, “at your advice I have made the trial.”

“And have you succeeded?”

“I think so.”

Madame Danglars was carried into the adjoining room; Monte Cristo dropped a very small portion of the red liquid upon her lips; she returned to consciousness. “Ah,” she cried, “what a frightful dream!”

Villefort pressed her hand to let her know it was not a dream. They looked for M. Danglars, but, as he was not especially interested in poetical ideas, he had gone into the garden, and was talking with Major Cavalcanti on the projected railway from Leghorn to Florence. Monte Cristo seemed in despair. He took the arm of Madame Danglars, and conducted her into the garden, where they found Danglars taking coffee between the Cavalcanti. “Really, madame,” he said, “did I alarm you much?”

“Oh, no, sir,” she answered; “but you know, things impress us differently, according to the mood of our minds.” Villefort forced a laugh. “And then, you know,” he said, “an idea, a supposition, is sufficient.”

“Well,” said Monte Cristo, “you may believe me if you like, but it is my opinion that a crime has been committed in this house.”

“Take care,” said Madame de Villefort, “the king’s attorney is here.”

“Ah,” replied Monte Cristo, “since that is the case, I will take advantage of his presence to make my declaration.”

“Your declaration?” said Villefort.

“Yes, before witnesses.”

“Oh, this is very interesting,” said Debray; “if there really has been a crime, we will investigate it.”

“There has been a crime,” said Monte Cristo. “Come this way, gentlemen; come, M. Villefort, for a declaration to be available, should be made before the competent authorities.” He then took Villefort’s arm, and, at the same time, holding that of Madame Danglars under his own, he dragged the procureur to the plantain-tree, where the shade was thickest. All the other guests followed. “Stay,” said Monte Cristo, “here, in this very spot” (and he stamped upon the ground), “I had the earth dug up and fresh mould put in, to refresh these old trees; well, my man, digging, found a box, or rather, the iron-work of a box, in the midst of which was the skeleton of a newly born infant.” Monte Cristo felt the arm of Madame Danglars stiffen, while that of Villefort trembled. “A newly born infant,” repeated Debray; “this affair becomes serious!”

“Well,” said Chateau-Renaud, “I was not wrong just now then, when I said that houses had souls and faces like men, and that their exteriors carried the impress of their characters. This house was gloomy because it was remorseful: it was remorseful because it concealed a crime.”

“Who said it was a crime?” asked Villefort, with a last effort.

“How? is it not a crime to bury a living child in a garden?” cried Monte Cristo. “And pray what do you call such an action?”

“But who said it was buried alive?”

“Why bury it there if it were dead? This garden has never been a cemetery.”

“What is done to infanticides in this country?” asked Major Cavalcanti innocently.

“Oh, their heads are soon cut off,” said Danglars.

“Ah, indeed?” said Cavalcanti.

“I think so; am I not right, M. de Villefort?” asked Monte Cristo.

“Yes, count,” replied Villefort, in a voice now scarcely human.

Monte Cristo, seeing that the two persons for whom he had prepared this scene could scarcely endure it, and not wishing to carry it too far, said, “Come, gentlemen,—some coffee, we seem to have forgotten it,” and he conducted the guests back to the table on the lawn.

“Indeed, count,” said Madame Danglars, “I am ashamed to own it, but all your frightful stories have so upset me, that I must beg you to let me sit down;” and she fell into a chair. Monte Cristo bowed, and went to Madame de Villefort. “I think Madame Danglars again requires your bottle,” he said. But before Madame de Villefort could reach her friend the procureur had found time to whisper to Madame Danglars, “I must speak to you.”




“In my office, or in the court, if you like,—that is the surest place.”

“I will be there.”—At this moment Madame de Villefort approached. “Thanks, my dear friend,” said Madame Danglars, trying to smile; “it is over now, and I am much better.”

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