The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 243 of 400

“Oh,” cried Madame Danglars, “it was enough to drive you mad!”

“I hoped for a moment that it might,” said Villefort; “but that happiness was denied me. However, recovering my strength and my ideas, ‘Why,’ said I, ‘should that man have carried away the corpse?'”

“But you said,” replied Madame Danglars, “he would require it as a proof.”

“Ah, no, madame, that could not be. Dead bodies are not kept a year; they are shown to a magistrate, and the evidence is taken. Now, nothing of the kind has happened.”

“What then?” asked Hermine, trembling violently.

“Something more terrible, more fatal, more alarming for us—the child was, perhaps, alive, and the assassin may have saved it!”

Madame Danglars uttered a piercing cry, and, seizing Villefort’s hands, exclaimed, “My child was alive?” said she; “you buried my child alive? You were not certain my child was dead, and you buried it? Ah”—

Madame Danglars had risen, and stood before the procureur, whose hands she wrung in her feeble grasp. “I know not; I merely suppose so, as I might suppose anything else,” replied Villefort with a look so fixed, it indicated that his powerful mind was on the verge of despair and madness. “Ah, my child, my poor child!” cried the baroness, falling on her chair, and stifling her sobs in her handkerchief. Villefort, becoming somewhat reassured, perceived that to avert the maternal storm gathering over his head, he must inspire Madame Danglars with the terror he felt. “You understand, then, that if it were so,” said he, rising in his turn, and approaching the baroness, to speak to her in a lower tone, “we are lost. This child lives, and some one knows it lives—some one is in possession of our secret; and since Monte Cristo speaks before us of a child disinterred, when that child could not be found, it is he who is in possession of our secret.”

“Just God, avenging God!” murmured Madame Danglars.

Villefort’s only answer was a stifled groan.

“But the child—the child, sir?” repeated the agitated mother.

“How I have searched for him,” replied Villefort, wringing his hands; “how I have called him in my long sleepless nights; how I have longed for royal wealth to purchase a million of secrets from a million of men, and to find mine among them! At last, one day, when for the hundredth time I took up my spade, I asked myself again and again what the Corsican could have done with the child. A child encumbers a fugitive; perhaps, on perceiving it was still alive, he had thrown it into the river.”

“Impossible!” cried Madame Danglars: “a man may murder another out of revenge, but he would not deliberately drown a child.”

“Perhaps,” continued Villefort, “he had put it in the foundling hospital.”

“Oh, yes, yes,” cried the baroness; “my child is there!”

“I ran to the hospital, and learned that the same night—the night of the 20th of September—a child had been brought there, wrapped in part of a fine linen napkin, purposely torn in half. This portion of the napkin was marked with half a baron’s crown, and the letter H.”

“Truly, truly,” said Madame Danglars, “all my linen is marked thus; Monsieur de Nargonne was a baronet, and my name is Hermine. Thank God, my child was not then dead!”

“No, it was not dead.”

“And you can tell me so without fearing to make me die of joy? Where is the child?” Villefort shrugged his shoulders. “Do I know?” said he; “and do you believe that if I knew I would relate to you all its trials and all its adventures as would a dramatist or a novel writer? Alas, no, I know not. A woman, about six months after, came to claim it with the other half of the napkin. This woman gave all the requisite particulars, and it was intrusted to her.”

“But you should have inquired for the woman; you should have traced her.”

“And what do you think I did? I feigned a criminal process, and employed all the most acute bloodhounds and skilful agents in search of her. They traced her to Chalons, and there they lost her.”

“They lost her?”

“Yes, forever.” Madame Danglars had listened to this recital with a sigh, a tear, or a shriek for every detail. “And this is all?” said she; “and you stopped there?”

“Oh, no,” said Villefort; “I never ceased to search and to inquire. However, the last two or three years I had allowed myself some respite. But now I will begin with more perseverance and fury than ever, since fear urges me, not my conscience.”

“But,” replied Madame Danglars, “the Count of Monte Cristo can know nothing, or he would not seek our society as he does.”

“Oh, the wickedness of man is very great,” said Villefort, “since it surpasses the goodness of God. Did you observe that man’s eyes while he was speaking to us?”


“But have you ever watched him carefully?”

“Doubtless he is capricious, but that is all; one thing alone struck me,—of all the exquisite things he placed before us, he touched nothing. I might have suspected he was poisoning us.”

“And you see you would have been deceived.”

“Yes, doubtless.”

“But believe me, that man has other projects. For that reason I wished to see you, to speak to you, to warn you against every one, but especially against him. Tell me,” cried Villefort, fixing his eyes more steadfastly on her than he had ever done before, “did you ever reveal to any one our connection?”

“Never, to any one.”

“You understand me,” replied Villefort, affectionately; “when I say any one,—pardon my urgency,—to any one living I mean?”

“Yes, yes, I understand very well,” ejaculated the baroness; “never, I swear to you.”

“Were you ever in the habit of writing in the evening what had transpired in the morning? Do you keep a journal?”

“No, my life has been passed in frivolity; I wish to forget it myself.”

“Do you talk in your sleep?”

“I sleep soundly, like a child; do you not remember?” The color mounted to the baroness’s face, and Villefort turned awfully pale.

“It is true,” said he, in so low a tone that he could hardly be heard.

“Well?” said the baroness.

“Well, I understand what I now have to do,” replied Villefort. “In less than one week from this time I will ascertain who this M. de Monte Cristo is, whence he comes, where he goes, and why he speaks in our presence of children that have been disinterred in a garden.” Villefort pronounced these words with an accent which would have made the count shudder had he heard him. Then he pressed the hand the baroness reluctantly gave him, and led her respectfully back to the door. Madame Danglars returned in another cab to the passage, on the other side of which she found her carriage, and her coachman sleeping peacefully on his box while waiting for her.

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