The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 241 of 400

“You are right,” exclaimed Danglars, rising quickly, “I will write to-day.”

“Do so.”

“I will.”

“And if you should hear of anything very scandalous”—

“I will communicate it to you.”

“You will oblige me.” Danglars rushed out of the room, and made but one leap into his coupe.

Chapter 67. At the Office of the King’s Attorney.

Let us leave the banker driving his horses at their fullest speed, and follow Madame Danglars in her morning excursion. We have said that at half-past twelve o’clock Madame Danglars had ordered her horses, and had left home in the carriage. She directed her course towards the Faubourg Saint Germain, went down the Rue Mazarine, and stopped at the Passage du Pont-Neuf. She descended, and went through the passage. She was very plainly dressed, as would be the case with a woman of taste walking in the morning. At the Rue Guenegaud she called a cab, and directed the driver to go to the Rue de Harlay. As soon as she was seated in the vehicle, she drew from her pocket a very thick black veil, which she tied on to her straw bonnet. She then replaced the bonnet, and saw with pleasure, in a little pocket-mirror, that her white complexion and brilliant eyes were alone visible. The cab crossed the Pont-Neuf and entered the Rue de Harlay by the Place Dauphine; the driver was paid as the door opened, and stepping lightly up the stairs Madame Danglars soon reached the Salle des Pas-Perdus.

There was a great deal going on that morning, and many business-like persons at the Palais; business-like persons pay very little attention to women, and Madame Danglars crossed the hall without exciting any more attention than any other woman calling upon her lawyer. There was a great press of people in M. de Villefort’s ante-chamber, but Madame Danglars had no occasion even to pronounce her name. The instant she appeared the door-keeper rose, came to her, and asked her whether she was not the person with whom the procureur had made an appointment; and on her affirmative answer being given, he conducted her by a private passage to M. de Villefort’s office. The magistrate was seated in an arm-chair, writing, with his back towards the door; he did not move as he heard it open, and the door-keeper pronounce the words, “Walk in, madame,” and then reclose it; but no sooner had the man’s footsteps ceased, than he started up, drew the bolts, closed the curtains, and examined every corner of the room. Then, when he had assured himself that he could neither be seen nor heard, and was consequently relieved of doubts, he said,—“Thanks, madame,—thanks for your punctuality;” and he offered a chair to Madame Danglars, which she accepted, for her heart beat so violently that she felt nearly suffocated.

“It is a long time, madame,” said the procureur, describing a half-circle with his chair, so as to place himself exactly opposite to Madame Danglars,—“it is a long time since I had the pleasure of speaking alone with you, and I regret that we have only now met to enter upon a painful conversation.”

“Nevertheless, sir, you see I have answered your first appeal, although certainly the conversation must be much more painful for me than for you.” Villefort smiled bitterly.

“It is true, then,” he said, rather uttering his thoughts aloud than addressing his companion,—“it is true, then, that all our actions leave their traces—some sad, others bright—on our paths; it is true that every step in our lives is like the course of an insect on the sands;—it leaves its track! Alas, to many the path is traced by tears.”

“Sir,” said Madame Danglars, “you can feel for my emotion, can you not? Spare me, then, I beseech you. When I look at this room,—whence so many guilty creatures have departed, trembling and ashamed, when I look at that chair before which I now sit trembling and ashamed,—oh, it requires all my reason to convince me that I am not a very guilty woman and you a menacing judge.” Villefort dropped his head and sighed. “And I,” he said, “I feel that my place is not in the judge’s seat, but on the prisoner’s stool.”

“You?” said Madame Danglars.

“Yes, I.”

“I think, sir, you exaggerate your situation,” said Madame Danglars, whose beautiful eyes sparkled for a moment. “The paths of which you were just speaking have been traced by all young men of ardent imaginations. Besides the pleasure, there is always remorse from the indulgence of our passions, and, after all, what have you men to fear from all this? the world excuses, and notoriety ennobles you.”

“Madame,” replied Villefort, “you know that I am no hypocrite, or, at least, that I never deceive without a reason. If my brow be severe, it is because many misfortunes have clouded it; if my heart be petrified, it is that it might sustain the blows it has received. I was not so in my youth, I was not so on the night of the betrothal, when we were all seated around a table in the Rue du Cours at Marseilles. But since then everything has changed in and about me; I am accustomed to brave difficulties, and, in the conflict to crush those who, by their own free will, or by chance, voluntarily or involuntarily, interfere with me in my career. It is generally the case that what we most ardently desire is as ardently withheld from us by those who wish to obtain it, or from whom we attempt to snatch it. Thus, the greater number of a man’s errors come before him disguised under the specious form of necessity; then, after error has been committed in a moment of excitement, of delirium, or of fear, we see that we might have avoided and escaped it. The means we might have used, which we in our blindness could not see, then seem simple and easy, and we say, ‘Why did I not do this, instead of that?’ Women, on the contrary, are rarely tormented with remorse; for the decision does not come from you,—your misfortunes are generally imposed upon you, and your faults the results of others’ crimes.”

“In any case, sir, you will allow,” replied Madame Danglars, “that, even if the fault were alone mine, I last night received a severe punishment for it.”

“Poor thing,” said Villefort, pressing her hand, “it was too severe for your strength, for you were twice overwhelmed, and yet”—


“Well, I must tell you. Collect all your courage, for you have not yet heard all.”

“Ah,” exclaimed Madame Danglars, alarmed, “what is there more to hear?”

“You only look back to the past, and it is, indeed, bad enough. Well, picture to yourself a future more gloomy still—certainly frightful, perhaps sanguinary.” The baroness knew how calm Villefort naturally was, and his present excitement frightened her so much that she opened her mouth to scream, but the sound died in her throat. “How has this terrible past been recalled?” cried Villefort; “how is it that it has escaped from the depths of the tomb and the recesses of our hearts, where it was buried, to visit us now, like a phantom, whitening our cheeks and flushing our brows with shame?”

“Alas,” said Hermine, “doubtless it is chance.”

“Chance?” replied Villefort; “No, no, madame, there is no such thing as chance.”

“Oh, yes; has not a fatal chance revealed all this? Was it not by chance the Count of Monte Cristo bought that house? Was it not by chance he caused the earth to be dug up? Is it not by chance that the unfortunate child was disinterred under the trees?—that poor innocent offspring of mine, which I never even kissed, but for whom I wept many, many tears. Ah, my heart clung to the count when he mentioned the dear spoil found beneath the flowers.”

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