The Benedetto affair, as it was called at the Palais, and by
people in general, had produced a tremendous sensation.
Frequenting the Cafe de Paris, the Boulevard de Gand, and
the Bois de Boulogne, during his brief career of splendor,
the false Cavalcanti had formed a host of acquaintances. The
papers had related his various adventures, both as the man
of fashion and the galley-slave; and as every one who had
been personally acquainted with Prince Andrea Cavalcanti
experienced a lively curiosity in his fate, they all
determined to spare no trouble in endeavoring to witness the
trial of M. Benedetto for the murder of his comrade in
chains. In the eyes of many, Benedetto appeared, if not a
victim to, at least an instance of, the fallibility of the
law. M. Cavalcanti, his father, had been seen in Paris, and
it was expected that he would re-appear to claim the
illustrious outcast. Many, also, who were not aware of the
circumstances attending his withdrawal from Paris, were
struck with the worthy appearance, the gentlemanly bearing,
and the knowledge of the world displayed by the old
patrician, who certainly played the nobleman very well, so
long as he said nothing, and made no arithmetical
calculations. As for the accused himself, many remembered
him as being so amiable, so handsome, and so liberal, that
they chose to think him the victim of some conspiracy, since
in this world large fortunes frequently excite the
malevolence and jealousy of some unknown enemy. Every one,
therefore, ran to the court; some to witness the sight,
others to comment upon it. From seven o'clock in the morning
a crowd was stationed at the iron gates, and an hour before
the trial commenced the hall was full of the privileged.
Before the entrance of the magistrates, and indeed
frequently afterwards, a court of justice, on days when some
especial trial is to take place, resembles a drawing-room
where many persons recognize each other and converse if they
can do so without losing their seats; or, if they are
separated by too great a number of lawyers, communicate by
It was one of the magnificent autumn days which make amends
for a short summer; the clouds which M. de Villefort had
perceived at sunrise had all disappeared as if by magic, and
one of the softest and most brilliant days of September
shone forth in all its splendor.
Beauchamp, one of the kings of the press, and therefore
claiming the right of a throne everywhere, was eying
everybody through his monocle. He perceived Chateau-Renaud
and Debray, who had just gained the good graces of a
sergeant-at-arms, and who had persuaded the latter to let
them stand before, instead of behind him, as they ought to
have done. The worthy sergeant had recognized the minister's
secretary and the millionnaire, and, by way of paying extra
attention to his noble neighbors, promised to keep their
places while they paid a visit to Beauchamp.
"Well," said Beauchamp, "we shall see our friend!"
"Yes, indeed!" replied Debray. "That worthy prince. Deuce
take those Italian princes!"
"A man, too, who could boast of Dante for a genealogist, and
could reckon back to the `Divine Comedy.'"
"A nobility of the rope!" said Chateau-Renaud
"He will be condemned, will he not?" asked Debray of
"My dear fellow, I think we should ask you that question;
you know such news much better than we do. Did you see the
president at the minister's last night?"
"What did he say?"
"Something which will surprise you."
"Oh, make haste and tell me, then; it is a long time since
that has happened."
"Well, he told me that Benedetto, who is considered a
serpent of subtlety and a giant of cunning, is really but a
very commonplace, silly rascal, and altogether unworthy of
the experiments that will be made on his phrenological
organs after his death."
"Bah," said Beauchamp, "he played the prince very well."
"Yes, for you who detest those unhappy princes, Beauchamp,
and are always delighted to find fault with them; but not
for me, who discover a gentleman by instinct, and who scent
out an aristocratic family like a very bloodhound of
"Then you never believed in the principality?"
"Yes. -- in the principality, but not in the prince."
"Not so bad," said Beauchamp; "still, I assure you, he
passed very well with many people; I saw him at the
"Ah, yes," said Chateau-Renaud. "The idea of thinking
ministers understand anything about princes!"
"There is something in what you have just said," said
"But," said Debray to Beauchamp, "if I spoke to the
president, you must have been with the procureur."
"It was an impossibility; for the last week M. de Villefort
has secluded himself. It is natural enough; this strange
chain of domestic afflictions, followed by the no less
strange death of his daughter" --
"Strange? What do you mean, Beauchamp?"
"Oh, yes; do you pretend that all this has been unobserved
at the minister's?" said Beauchamp, placing his eye-glass in
his eye, where he tried to make it remain.
"My dear sir," said Chateau-Renaud, "allow me to tell you
that you do not understand that manoeuvre with the eye-glass
half so well as Debray. Give him a lesson, Debray."
"Stay," said Beauchamp, "surely I am not deceived."
"What is it?"
"It is she!"
"Whom do you mean?"
"They said she had left."
"Mademoiselle Eugenie?" said Chateau-Renaud; "has she
"No, but her mother."
"Madame Danglars? Nonsense! Impossible!" said
Chateau-Renaud; "only ten days after the flight of her
daughter, and three days from the bankruptcy of her
Debray colored slightly, and followed with his eyes the
direction of Beauchamp's glance. "Come," he said, "it is
only a veiled lady, some foreign princess, perhaps the
mother of Cavalcanti. But you were just speaking on a very
interesting topic, Beauchamp."
"Yes; you were telling us about the extraordinary death of
"Ah, yes, so I was. But how is it that Madame de Villefort
is not here?"
"Poor, dear woman," said Debray, "she is no doubt occupied
in distilling balm for the hospitals, or in making cosmetics
for herself or friends. Do you know she spends two or three
thousand crowns a year in this amusement? But I wonder she
is not here. I should have been pleased to see her, for I
like her very much."
"And I hate her," said Chateau-Renaud.
"I do not know. Why do we love? Why do we hate? I detest
her, from antipathy."
"Or, rather, by instinct."
"Perhaps so. But to return to what you were saying,
"Well, do you know why they die so multitudinously at M. de
"`Multitudinously' [drv] is good," said Chateau-Renaud.
"My good fellow, you'll find the word in Saint-Simon."
"But the thing itself is at M. de Villefort's; but let's get
back to the subject."
"Talking of that," said Debray, "Madame was making inquiries
about that house, which for the last three months has been
hung with black."
"Who is Madame?" asked Chateau-Renaud.
"The minister's wife, pardieu!"
"Oh, your pardon! I never visit ministers; I leave that to
"Really, You were only before sparkling, but now you are
brilliant; take compassion on us, or, like Jupiter, you will
wither us up."
"I will not speak again," said Chateau-Renaud; "pray have
compassion upon me, and do not take up every word I say."
"Come, let us endeavor to get to the end of our story,
Beauchamp; I told you that yesterday Madame made inquiries
of me upon the subject; enlighten me, and I will then
communicate my information to her."
"Well, gentlemen, the reason people die so multitudinously
(I like the word) at M. de Villefort's is that there is an
assassin in the house!" The two young men shuddered, for the
same idea had more than once occurred to them. "And who is
the assassin;" they asked together.
"Young Edward!" A burst of laughter from the auditors did
not in the least disconcert the speaker, who continued, --
"Yes, gentlemen; Edward, the infant phenomenon, who is quite
an adept in the art of killing."
"You are jesting."
"Not at all. I yesterday engaged a servant, who had just
left M. de Villefort -- I intend sending him away to-morrow,
for he eats so enormously, to make up for the fast imposed
upon him by his terror in that house. Well, now listen."
"We are listening."
"It appears the dear child has obtained possession of a
bottle containing some drug, which he every now and then
uses against those who have displeased him. First, M. and
Madame de Saint-Meran incurred his displeasure, so he poured
out three drops of his elixir -- three drops were
sufficient; then followed Barrois, the old servant of M.
Noirtier, who sometimes rebuffed this little wretch -- he
therefore received the same quantity of the elixir; the same
happened to Valentine, of whom he was jealous; he gave her
the same dose as the others, and all was over for her as
well as the rest."
"Why, what nonsense are you telling us?" said
"Yes, it is an extraordinary story," said Beauchamp; "is it
"It is absurd," said Debray.
"Ah," said Beauchamp, "you doubt me? Well, you can ask my
servant, or rather him who will no longer be my servant
to-morrow, it was the talk of the house."
"And this elixir, where is it? what is it?"
"The child conceals it."
"But where did he find it?"
"In his mother's laboratory."
"Does his mother then, keep poisons in her laboratory?"
"How can I tell? You are questioning me like a king's
attorney. I only repeat what I have been told, and like my
informant I can do no more. The poor devil would eat
nothing, from fear."
"It is incredible!"
"No, my dear fellow, it is not at all incredible. You saw
the child pass through the Rue Richelieu last year, who
amused himself with killing his brothers and sisters by
sticking pins in their ears while they slept. The generation
who follow us are very precocious."
"Come, Beauchamp," said Chateau-Renaud, "I will bet anything
you do not believe a word of all you have been telling us."
"I do not see the Count of Monte Cristo here."
"He is worn out," said Debray; "besides, he could not well
appear in public, since he has been the dupe of the
Cavalcanti, who, it appears, presented themselves to him
with false letters of credit, and cheated him out of 100,000
francs upon the hypothesis of this principality."
"By the way, M. de Chateau-Renaud," asked Beauchamp, "how is
"Ma foi, I have called three times without once seeing him.
Still, his sister did not seem uneasy, and told me that
though she had not seen him for two or three days, she was
sure he was well."
"Ah, now I think of it, the Count of Monte Cristo cannot
appear in the hall," said Beauchamp.
"Because he is an actor in the drama."
"Has he assassinated any one, then?"
"No, on the contrary, they wished to assassinate him. You
know that it was in leaving his house that M. de Caderousse
was murdered by his friend Benedetto. You know that the
famous waistcoat was found in his house, containing the
letter which stopped the signature of the marriage-contract.
Do you see the waistcoat? There it is, all blood-stained, on
the desk, as a testimony of the crime."
"Ah, very good."
"Hush, gentlemen, here is the court; let us go back to our
places." A noise was heard in the hall; the sergeant called
his two patrons with an energetic "hem!" and the door-keeper
appearing, called out with that shrill voice peculiar to his
order, ever since the days of Beaumarchais, "The court,