We will leave Villefort on the road to Paris, travelling --
thanks to trebled fees -- with all speed, and passing
through two or three apartments, enter at the Tuileries the
little room with the arched window, so well known as having
been the favorite closet of Napoleon and Louis XVIII., and
now of Louis Philippe.
There, seated before a walnut table he had brought with him
from Hartwell, and to which, from one of those fancies not
uncommon to great people, he was particularly attached, the
king, Louis XVIII., was carelessly listening to a man of
fifty or fifty-two years of age, with gray hair,
aristocratic bearing, and exceedingly gentlemanly attire,
and meanwhile making a marginal note in a volume of
Gryphius's rather inaccurate, but much sought-after, edition
of Horace -- a work which was much indebted to the sagacious
observations of the philosophical monarch.
"You say, sir" -- said the king.
"That I am exceedingly disquieted, sire."
"Really, have you had a vision of the seven fat kine and the
seven lean kine?"
"No, sire, for that would only betoken for us seven years of
plenty and seven years of scarcity; and with a king as full
of foresight as your majesty, scarcity is not a thing to be
"Then of what other scourge are you afraid, my dear Blacas?"
"Sire, I have every reason to believe that a storm is
brewing in the south."
"Well, my dear duke," replied Louis XVIII., "I think you are
wrongly informed, and know positively that, on the contrary,
it is very fine weather in that direction." Man of ability
as he was, Louis XVIII. liked a pleasant jest.
"Sire," continued M. de Blacas, "if it only be to reassure a
faithful servant, will your majesty send into Languedoc,
Provence, and Dauphine, trusty men, who will bring you back
a faithful report as to the feeling in these three
"Caninus surdis," replied the king, continuing the
annotations in his Horace.
"Sire," replied the courtier, laughing, in order that he
might seem to comprehend the quotation, "your majesty may be
perfectly right in relying on the good feeling of France,
but I fear I am not altogether wrong in dreading some
"By Bonaparte, or, at least, by his adherents."
"My dear Blacas," said the king, "you with your alarms
prevent me from working."
"And you, sire, prevent me from sleeping with your
"Wait, my dear sir, wait a moment; for I have such a
delightful note on the Pastor quum traheret -- wait, and I
will listen to you afterwards."
There was a brief pause, during which Louis XVIII. wrote, in
a hand as small as possible, another note on the margin of
his Horace, and then looking at the duke with the air of a
man who thinks he has an idea of his own, while he is only
commenting upon the idea of another, said, --
"Go on, my dear duke, go on -- I listen."
"Sire," said Blacas, who had for a moment the hope of
sacrificing Villefort to his own profit, "I am compelled to
tell you that these are not mere rumors destitute of
foundation which thus disquiet me; but a serious-minded man,
deserving all my confidence, and charged by me to watch over
the south" (the duke hesitated as he pronounced these
words), "has arrived by post to tell me that a great peril
threatens the king, and so I hastened to you, sire."
"Mala ducis avi domum," continued Louis XVIII., still
"Does your majesty wish me to drop the subject?"
"By no means, my dear duke; but just stretch out your hand."
"Whichever you please -- there to the left."
"I tell you to the left, and you are looking to the right; I
mean on my left -- yes, there. You will find yesterday's
report of the minister of police. But here is M. Dandre
himself;" and M. Dandre, announced by the
"Come in," said Louis XVIII., with repressed smile, "come
in, Baron, and tell the duke all you know -- the latest news
of M. de Bonaparte; do not conceal anything, however
serious, -- let us see, the Island of Elba is a volcano, and
we may expect to have issuing thence flaming and bristling
war -- bella, horrida bella." M. Dandre leaned very
respectfully on the back of a chair with his two hands, and
"Has your majesty perused yesterday's report?"
"Yes, yes; but tell the duke himself, who cannot find
anything, what the report contains -- give him the
particulars of what the usurper is doing in his islet."
"Monsieur," said the baron to the duke, "all the servants of
his majesty must approve of the latest intelligence which we
have from the Island of Elba. Bonaparte" -- M. Dandre looked
at Louis XVIII., who, employed in writing a note, did not
even raise his head. "Bonaparte," continued the baron, "is
mortally wearied, and passes whole days in watching his
miners at work at Porto-Longone."
"And scratches himself for amusement," added the king.
"Scratches himself?" inquired the duke, "what does your
"Yes, indeed, my dear duke. Did you forget that this great
man, this hero, this demigod, is attacked with a malady of
the skin which worries him to death, prurigo?"
"And, moreover, my dear duke," continued the minister of
police, "we are almost assured that, in a very short time,
the usurper will be insane."
"Raving mad; his head becomes weaker. Sometimes he weeps
bitterly, sometimes laughs boisterously, at other time he
passes hours on the seashore, flinging stones in the water
and when the flint makes `duck-and-drake' five or six times,
he appears as delighted as if he had gained another Marengo
or Austerlitz. Now, you must agree that these are
indubitable symptoms of insanity."
"Or of wisdom, my dear baron -- or of wisdom," said Louis
XVIII., laughing; "the greatest captains of antiquity amused
themselves by casting pebbles into the ocean -- see
Plutarch's life of Scipio Africanus."
M. de Blacas pondered deeply between the confident monarch
and the truthful minister. Villefort, who did not choose to
reveal the whole secret, lest another should reap all the
benefit of the disclosure, had yet communicated enough to
cause him the greatest uneasiness.
"Well, well, Dandre," said Louis XVIII., "Blacas is not yet
convinced; let us proceed, therefore, to the usurper's
conversion." The minister of police bowed.
"The usurper's conversion!" murmured the duke, looking at
the king and Dandre, who spoke alternately, like Virgil's
shepherds. "The usurper converted!"
"Decidedly, my dear duke."
"In what way converted?"
"To good principles. Tell him all about it, baron."
"Why, this is the way of it," said the minister, with the
gravest air in the world: "Napoleon lately had a review, and
as two or three of his old veterans expressed a desire to
return to France, he gave them their dismissal, and exhorted
them to `serve the good king.' These were his own words, of
that I am certain."
"Well, Blacas, what think you of this?" inquired the king
triumphantly, and pausing for a moment from the voluminous
scholiast before him.
"I say, sire, that the minister of police is greatly
deceived or I am; and as it is impossible it can be the
minister of police as he has the guardianship of the safety
and honor of your majesty, it is probable that I am in
error. However, sire, if I might advise, your majesty will
interrogate the person of whom I spoke to you, and I will
urge your majesty to do him this honor."
"Most willingly, duke; under your auspices I will receive
any person you please, but you must not expect me to be too
confiding. Baron, have you any report more recent than this
dated the 20th February. -- this is the 4th of March?"
"No, sire, but I am hourly expecting one; it may have
arrived since I left my office."
"Go thither, and if there be none -- well, well," continued
Louis XVIII., "make one; that is the usual way, is it not?"
and the king laughed facetiously.
"Oh, sire," replied the minister, "we have no occasion to
invent any; every day our desks are loaded with most
circumstantial denunciations, coming from hosts of people
who hope for some return for services which they seek to
render, but cannot; they trust to fortune, and rely upon
some unexpected event in some way to justify their
"Well, sir, go"; said Louis XVIII., "and remember that I am
waiting for you."
"I will but go and return, sire; I shall be back in ten
"And I, sire," said M. de Blacas, "will go and find my
"Wait, sir, wait," said Louis XVIII. "Really, M. de Blacas,
I must change your armorial bearings; I will give you an
eagle with outstretched wings, holding in its claws a prey
which tries in vain to escape, and bearing this device --
"Sire, I listen," said De Blacas, biting his nails with
"I wish to consult you on this passage, `Molli fugiens
anhelitu,' you know it refers to a stag flying from a wolf.
Are you not a sportsman and a great wolf-hunter? Well, then,
what do you think of the molli anhelitu?"
"Admirable, sire; but my messenger is like the stag you
refer to, for he has posted two hundred and twenty leagues
in scarcely three days."
"Which is undergoing great fatigue and anxiety, my dear
duke, when we have a telegraph which transmits messages in
three or four hours, and that without getting in the least
out of breath."
"Ah, sire, you recompense but badly this poor young man, who
has come so far, and with so much ardor, to give your
majesty useful information. If only for the sake of M. de
Salvieux, who recommends him to me, I entreat your majesty
to receive him graciously."
"M. de Salvieux, my brother's chamberlain?"
"He is at Marseilles."
"And writes me thence."
"Does he speak to you of this conspiracy?"
"No; but strongly recommends M. de Villefort, and begs me to
present him to your majesty."
"M. de Villefort!" cried the king, "is the messenger's name
M. de Villefort?"
"And he comes from Marseilles?"
"Why did you not mention his name at once?" replied the
king, betraying some uneasiness.
"Sire, I thought his name was unknown to your majesty."
"No, no, Blacas; he is a man of strong and elevated
understanding, ambitious, too, and, pardieu, you know his
"Noirtier the Girondin? -- Noirtier the senator?"
"And your majesty has employed the son of such a man?"
"Blacas, my friend, you have but limited comprehension. I
told you Villefort was ambitious, and to attain this
ambition Villefort would sacrifice everything, even his
"Then, sire, may I present him?"
"This instant, duke! Where is he?"
"Waiting below, in my carriage."
"Seek him at once."
"I hasten to do so." The duke left the royal presence with
the speed of a young man; his really sincere royalism made
him youthful again. Louis XVIII. remained alone, and turning
his eyes on his half-opened Horace, muttered, --
"Justum et tenacem propositi virum."
M. de Blacas returned as speedily as he had departed, but in
the ante-chamber he was forced to appeal to the king's
authority. Villefort's dusty garb, his costume, which was
not of courtly cut, excited the susceptibility of M. de
Breze, who was all astonishment at finding that this young
man had the audacity to enter before the king in such
attire. The duke, however, overcame all difficulties with a
word -- his majesty's order; and, in spite of the
protestations which the master of ceremonies made for the
honor of his office and principles, Villefort was
The king was seated in the same place where the duke had
left him. On opening the door, Villefort found himself
facing him, and the young magistrate's first impulse was to
"Come in, M. de Villefort," said the king, "come in."
Villefort bowed, and advancing a few steps, waited until the
king should interrogate him.
"M. de Villefort," said Louis XVIII., "the Duc de Blacas
assures me you have some interesting information to
"Sire, the duke is right, and I believe your majesty will
think it equally important."
"In the first place, and before everything else, sir, is the
news as bad in your opinion as I am asked to believe?"
"Sire, I believe it to be most urgent, but I hope, by the
speed I have used, that it is not irreparable."
"Speak as fully as you please, sir," said the king, who
began to give way to the emotion which had showed itself in
Blacas's face and affected Villefort's voice. "Speak, sir,
and pray begin at the beginning; I like order in
"Sire," said Villefort, "I will render a faithful report to
your majesty, but I must entreat your forgiveness if my
anxiety leads to some obscurity in my language." A glance at
the king after this discreet and subtle exordium, assured
Villefort of the benignity of his august auditor, and he
went on: --
"Sire, I have come as rapidly to Paris as possible, to
inform your majesty that I have discovered, in the exercise
of my duties, not a commonplace and insignificant plot, such
as is every day got up in the lower ranks of the people and
in the army, but an actual conspiracy -- a storm which
menaces no less than your majesty's throne. Sire, the
usurper is arming three ships, he meditates some project,
which, however mad, is yet, perhaps, terrible. At this
moment he will have left Elba, to go whither I know not, but
assuredly to attempt a landing either at Naples, or on the
coast of Tuscany, or perhaps on the shores of France. Your
majesty is well aware that the sovereign of the Island of
Elba has maintained his relations with Italy and France?"
"I am, sir," said the king, much agitated; "and recently we
have had information that the Bonapartist clubs have had
meetings in the Rue Saint-Jacques. But proceed, I beg of
you. How did you obtain these details?"
"Sire, they are the results of an examination which I have
made of a man of Marseilles, whom I have watched for some
time, and arrested on the day of my departure. This person,
a sailor, of turbulent character, and whom I suspected of
Bonapartism, has been secretly to the Island of Elba. There
he saw the grand-marshal, who charged him with an oral
message to a Bonapartist in Paris, whose name I could not
extract from him; but this mission was to prepare men's
minds for a return (it is the man who says this, sire) -- a
return which will soon occur."
"And where is this man?"
"In prison, sire."
"And the matter seems serious to you?"
"So serious, sire, that when the circumstance surprised me
in the midst of a family festival, on the very day of my
betrothal, I left my bride and friends, postponing
everything, that I might hasten to lay at your majesty's
feet the fears which impressed me, and the assurance of my
"True," said Louis XVIII., "was there not a marriage
engagement between you and Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran?"
"Daughter of one of your majesty's most faithful servants."
"Yes, yes; but let us talk of this plot, M. de Villefort."
"Sire, I fear it is more than a plot; I fear it is a
"A conspiracy in these times," said Louis XVIII., smiling,
"is a thing very easy to meditate, but more difficult to
conduct to an end, inasmuch as, re-established so recently
on the throne of our ancestors, we have our eyes open at
once upon the past, the present, and the future. For the
last ten months my ministers have redoubled their vigilance,
in order to watch the shore of the Mediterranean. If
Bonaparte landed at Naples, the whole coalition would be on
foot before he could even reach Piomoino; if he land in
Tuscany, he will be in an unfriendly territory; if he land
in France, it must be with a handful of men, and the result
of that is easily foretold, execrated as he is by the
population. Take courage, sir; but at the same time rely on
our royal gratitude."
"Ah, here is M. Dandre!" cried de Blacas. At this instant
the minister of police appeared at the door, pale,
trembling, and as if ready to faint. Villefort was about to
retire, but M. de Blacas, taking his hand, restrained him.