In one of the aristocratic mansions built by Puget in the
Rue du Grand Cours opposite the Medusa fountain, a second
marriage feast was being celebrated, almost at the same hour
with the nuptial repast given by Dantes. In this case,
however, although the occasion of the entertainment was
similar, the company was strikingly dissimilar. Instead of a
rude mixture of sailors, soldiers, and those belonging to
the humblest grade of life, the present assembly was
composed of the very flower of Marseilles society, --
magistrates who had resigned their office during the
usurper's reign; officers who had deserted from the imperial
army and joined forces with Conde; and younger members of
families, brought up to hate and execrate the man whom five
years of exile would convert into a martyr, and fifteen of
restoration elevate to the rank of a god.
The guests were still at table, and the heated and energetic
conversation that prevailed betrayed the violent and
vindictive passions that then agitated each dweller of the
South, where unhappily, for five centuries religious strife
had long given increased bitterness to the violence of party
The emperor, now king of the petty Island of Elba, after
having held sovereign sway over one-half of the world,
counting as his subjects a small population of five or six
thousand souls, -- after having been accustomed to hear the
"Vive Napoleons" of a hundred and twenty millions of human
beings, uttered in ten different languages, -- was looked
upon here as a ruined man, separated forever from any fresh
connection with France or claim to her throne.
The magistrates freely discussed their political views; the
military part of the company talked unreservedly of Moscow
and Leipsic, while the women commented on the divorce of
Josephine. It was not over the downfall of the man, but over
the defeat of the Napoleonic idea, that they rejoiced, and
in this they foresaw for themselves the bright and cheering
prospect of a revivified political existence.
An old man, decorated with the cross of Saint Louis, now
rose and proposed the health of King Louis XVIII. It was the
Marquis de Saint-Meran. This toast, recalling at once the
patient exile of Hartwell and the peace-loving King of
France, excited universal enthusiasm; glasses were elevated
in the air a l'Anglais, and the ladies, snatching their
bouquets from their fair bosoms, strewed the table with
their floral treasures. In a word, an almost poetical fervor
"Ah," said the Marquise de Saint-Meran, a woman with a
stern, forbidding eye, though still noble and distinguished
in appearance, despite her fifty years -- "ah, these
revolutionists, who have driven us from those very
possessions they afterwards purchased for a mere trifle
during the Reign of Terror, would be compelled to own, were
they here, that all true devotion was on our side, since we
were content to follow the fortunes of a falling monarch,
while they, on the contrary, made their fortune by
worshipping the rising sun; yes, yes, they could not help
admitting that the king, for whom we sacrificed rank,
wealth, and station was truly our `Louis the well-beloved,'
while their wretched usurper his been, and ever will be, to
them their evil genius, their `Napoleon the accursed.' Am I
not right, Villefort?"
"I beg your pardon, madame. I really must pray you to excuse
me, but -- in truth -- I was not attending to the
"Marquise, marquise!" interposed the old nobleman who had
proposed the toast, "let the young people alone; let me tell
you, on one's wedding day there are more agreeable subjects
of conversation than dry politics."
"Never mind, dearest mother," said a young and lovely girl,
with a profusion of light brown hair, and eyes that seemed
to float in liquid crystal, "'tis all my fault for seizing
upon M. de Villefort, so as to prevent his listening to what
you said. But there -- now take him -- he is your own for as
long as you like. M. Villefort, I beg to remind you my
mother speaks to you."
"If the marquise will deign to repeat the words I but
imperfectly caught, I shall be delighted to answer," said M.
"Never mind, Renee," replied the marquise, with a look of
tenderness that seemed out of keeping with her harsh dry
features; but, however all other feelings may be withered in
a woman's nature, there is always one bright smiling spot in
the desert of her heart, and that is the shrine of maternal
love. "I forgive you. What I was saying, Villefort, was,
that the Bonapartists had not our sincerity, enthusiasm, or
"They had, however, what supplied the place of those fine
qualities," replied the young man, "and that was fanaticism.
Napoleon is the Mahomet of the West, and is worshipped by
his commonplace but ambitions followers, not only as a
leader and lawgiver, but also as the personification of
"He!" cried the marquise: "Napoleon the type of equality!
For mercy's sake, then, what would you call Robespierre?
Come, come, do not strip the latter of his just rights to
bestow them on the Corsican, who, to my mind, has usurped
"Nay, madame; I would place each of these heroes on his
right pedestal -- that of Robespierre on his scaffold in the
Place Louis Quinze; that of Napoleon on the column of the
Place Vendome. The only difference consists in the opposite
character of the equality advocated by these two men; one is
the equality that elevates, the other is the equality that
degrades; one brings a king within reach of the guillotine,
the other elevates the people to a level with the throne.
Observe," said Villefort, smiling, "I do not mean to deny
that both these men were revolutionary scoundrels, and that
the 9th Thermidor and the 4th of April, in the year 1814,
were lucky days for France, worthy of being gratefully
remembered by every friend to monarchy and civil order; and
that explains how it comes to pass that, fallen, as I trust
he is forever, Napoleon has still retained a train of
parasitical satellites. Still, marquise, it has been so with
other usurpers -- Cromwell, for instance, who was not half
so bad as Napoleon, had his partisans and advocates."
"Do you know, Villefort, that you are talking in a most
dreadfully revolutionary strain? But I excuse it, it is
impossible to expect the son of a Girondin to be free from a
small spice of the old leaven." A deep crimson suffused the
countenance of Villefort.
"'Tis true, madame," answered he, "that my father was a
Girondin, but he was not among the number of those who voted
for the king's death; he was an equal sufferer with yourself
during the Reign of Terror, and had well-nigh lost his head
on the same scaffold on which your father perished."
"True," replied the marquise, without wincing in the
slightest degree at the tragic remembrance thus called up;
"but bear in mind, if you please, that our respective
parents underwent persecution and proscription from
diametrically opposite principles; in proof of which I may
remark, that while my family remained among the stanchest
adherents of the exiled princes, your father lost no time in
joining the new government; and that while the Citizen
Noirtier was a Girondin, the Count Noirtier became a
"Dear mother," interposed Renee, "you know very well it was
agreed that all these disagreeable reminiscences should
forever be laid aside."
"Suffer me, also, madame," replied Villefort, "to add my
earnest request to Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran's, that you
will kindly allow the veil of oblivion to cover and conceal
the past. What avails recrimination over matters wholly past
recall? For my own part, I have laid aside even the name of
my father, and altogether disown his political principles.
He was -- nay, probably may still be -- a Bonapartist, and
is called Noirtier; I, on the contrary, am a stanch
royalist, and style myself de Villefort. Let what may remain
of revolutionary sap exhaust itself and die away with the
old trunk, and condescend only to regard the young shoot
which has started up at a distance from the parent tree,
without having the power, any more than the wish, to
separate entirely from the stock from which it sprung."
"Bravo, Villefort!" cried the marquis; "excellently well
said! Come, now, I have hopes of obtaining what I have been
for years endeavoring to persuade the marquise to promise;
namely, a perfect amnesty and forgetfulness of the past."
"With all my heart," replied the marquise; "let the past be
forever forgotten. I promise you it affords me as little
pleasure to revive it as it does you. All I ask is, that
Villefort will be firm and inflexible for the future in his
political principles. Remember, also, Villefort, that we
have pledged ourselves to his majesty for your fealty and
strict loyalty, and that at our recommendation the king
consented to forget the past, as I do" (and here she
extended to him her hand) -- "as I now do at your entreaty.
But bear in mind, that should there fall in your way any one
guilty of conspiring against the government, you will be so
much the more bound to visit the offence with rigorous
punishment, as it is known you belong to a suspected
"Alas, madame," returned Villefort, "my profession, as well
as the times in which we live, compels me to be severe. I
have already successfully conducted several public
prosecutions, and brought the offenders to merited
punishment. But we have not done with the thing yet."
"Do you, indeed, think so?" inquired the marquise.
"I am, at least, fearful of it. Napoleon, in the Island of
Elba, is too near France, and his proximity keeps up the
hopes of his partisans. Marseilles is filled with half-pay
officers, who are daily, under one frivolous pretext or
other, getting up quarrels with the royalists; from hence
arise continual and fatal duels among the higher classes of
persons, and assassinations in the lower."
"You have heard, perhaps," said the Comte de Salvieux, one
of M. de Saint-Meran's oldest friends, and chamberlain to
the Comte d'Artois, "that the Holy Alliance purpose removing
him from thence?"
"Yes; they were talking about it when we left Paris," said
M. de Saint-Meran; "and where is it decided to transfer
"To Saint Helena."
"For heaven's sake, where is that?" asked the marquise.
"An island situated on the other side of the equator, at
least two thousand leagues from here," replied the count.
"So much the better. As Villefort observes, it is a great
act of folly to have left such a man between Corsica, where
he was born, and Naples, of which his brother-in-law is
king, and face to face with Italy, the sovereignty of which
he coveted for his son."
"Unfortunately," said Villefort, "there are the treaties of
1814, and we cannot molest Napoleon without breaking those
"Oh, well, we shall find some way out of it," responded M.
de Salvieux. "There wasn't any trouble over treaties when it
was a question of shooting the poor Duc d'Enghien."
"Well," said the marquise, "it seems probable that, by the
aid of the Holy Alliance, we shall be rid of Napoleon; and
we must trust to the vigilance of M. de Villefort to purify
Marseilles of his partisans. The king is either a king or no
king; if he be acknowledged as sovereign of France, he
should be upheld in peace and tranquillity; and this can
best be effected by employing the most inflexible agents to
put down every attempt at conspiracy -- 'tis the best and
surest means of preventing mischief."
"Unfortunately, madame," answered Villefort, "the strong arm
of the law is not called upon to interfere until the evil
has taken place."
"Then all he has got to do is to endeavor to repair it."
"Nay, madame, the law is frequently powerless to effect
this; all it can do is to avenge the wrong done."
"Oh, M. de Villefort," cried a beautiful young creature,
daughter to the Comte de Salvieux, and the cherished friend
of Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran, "do try and get up some
famous trial while we are at Marseilles. I never was in a
law-court; I am told it is so very amusing!"
"Amusing, certainly," replied the young man, "inasmuch as,
instead of shedding tears as at the fictitious tale of woe
produced at a theatre, you behold in a law-court a case of
real and genuine distress -- a drama of life. The prisoner
whom you there see pale, agitated, and alarmed, instead of
-- as is the case when a curtain falls on a tragedy -- going
home to sup peacefully with his family, and then retiring to
rest, that he may recommence his mimic woes on the morrow,
-- is removed from your sight merely to be reconducted to
his prison and delivered up to the executioner. I leave you
to judge how far your nerves are calculated to bear you
through such a scene. Of this, however, be assured, that
should any favorable opportunity present itself, I will not
fail to offer you the choice of being present."
"For shame, M. de Villefort!" said Renee, becoming quite
pale; "don't you see how you are frightening us? -- and yet
"What would you have? 'Tis like a duel. I have already
recorded sentence of death, five or six times, against the
movers of political conspiracies, and who can say how many
daggers may be ready sharpened, and only waiting a favorable
opportunity to be buried in my heart?"
"Gracious heavens, M. de Villefort," said Renee, becoming
more and more terrified; "you surely are not in earnest."
"Indeed I am," replied the young magistrate with a smile;
"and in the interesting trial that young lady is anxious to
witness, the case would only be still more aggravated.
Suppose, for instance, the prisoner, as is more than
probable, to have served under Napoleon -- well, can you
expect for an instant, that one accustomed, at the word of
his commander, to rush fearlessly on the very bayonets of
his foe, will scruple more to drive a stiletto into the
heart of one he knows to be his personal enemy, than to
slaughter his fellow-creatures, merely because bidden to do
so by one he is bound to obey? Besides, one requires the
excitement of being hateful in the eyes of the accused, in
order to lash one's self into a state of sufficient
vehemence and power. I would not choose to see the man
against whom I pleaded smile, as though in mockery of my
words. No; my pride is to see the accused pale, agitated,
and as though beaten out of all composure by the fire of my
eloquence." Renee uttered a smothered exclamation.
"Bravo!" cried one of the guests; "that is what I call
talking to some purpose."
"Just the person we require at a time like the present,"
said a second.
"What a splendid business that last case of yours was, my
dear Villefort!" remarked a third; "I mean the trial of the
man for murdering his father. Upon my word, you killed him
ere the executioner had laid his hand upon him."
"Oh, as for parricides, and such dreadful people as that,"
interposed Renee, "it matters very little what is done to
them; but as regards poor unfortunate creatures whose only
crime consists in having mixed themselves up in political
"Why, that is the very worst offence they could possibly
commit; for, don't you see, Renee, the king is the father of
his people, and he who shall plot or contrive aught against
the life and safety of the parent of thirty-two millions of
souls, is a parricide upon a fearfully great scale?"
"I don't know anything about that," replied Renee; "but, M.
de Villefort, you have promised me -- have you not? --
always to show mercy to those I plead for."
"Make yourself quite easy on that point," answered
Villefort, with one of his sweetest smiles; "you and I will
always consult upon our verdicts."
"My love," said the marquise, "attend to your doves, your
lap-dogs, and embroidery, but do not meddle with what you do
not understand. Nowadays the military profession is in
abeyance and the magisterial robe is the badge of honor.
There is a wise Latin proverb that is very much in point."
"Cedant arma togae," said Villefort with a bow.
"I cannot speak Latin," responded the marquise.
"Well," said Renee, "I cannot help regretting you had not
chosen some other profession than your own -- a physician,
for instance. Do you know I always felt a shudder at the
idea of even a destroying angel?"
"Dear, good Renee," whispered Villefort, as he gazed with
unutterable tenderness on the lovely speaker.
"Let us hope, my child," cried the marquis, "that M. de
Villefort may prove the moral and political physician of
this province; if so, he will have achieved a noble work."
"And one which will go far to efface the recollection of his
father's conduct," added the incorrigible marquise.
"Madame," replied Villefort, with a mournful smile, "I have
already had the honor to observe that my father has -- at
least, I hope so -- abjured his past errors, and that he is,
at the present moment, a firm and zealous friend to religion
and order -- a better royalist, possibly, than his son; for
he has to atone for past dereliction, while I have no other
impulse than warm, decided preference and conviction."
Having made this well-turned speech, Villefort looked
carefully around to mark the effect of his oratory, much as
he would have done had he been addressing the bench in open
"Do you know, my dear Villefort," cried the Comte de
Salvieux, "that is exactly what I myself said the other day
at the Tuileries, when questioned by his majesty's principal
chamberlain touching the singularity of an alliance between
the son of a Girondin and the daughter of an officer of the
Duc de Conde; and I assure you he seemed fully to comprehend
that this mode of reconciling political differences was
based upon sound and excellent principles. Then the king,
who, without our suspecting it, had overheard our
conversation, interrupted us by saying, `Villefort' --
observe that the king did not pronounce the word Noirtier,
but, on the contrary, placed considerable emphasis on that
of Villefort -- `Villefort,' said his majesty, `is a young
man of great judgment and discretion, who will be sure to
make a figure in his profession; I like him much, and it
gave me great pleasure to hear that he was about to become
the son-in-law of the Marquis and Marquise de Saint-Meran. I
should myself have recommended the match, had not the noble
marquis anticipated my wishes by requesting my consent to
"Is it possible the king could have condescended so far as
to express himself so favorably of me?" asked the enraptured
"I give you his very words; and if the marquis chooses to be
candid, he will confess that they perfectly agree with what
his majesty said to him, when he went six months ago to
consult him upon the subject of your espousing his
"That is true," answered the marquis.
"How much do I owe this gracious prince! What is there I
would not do to evince my earnest gratitude!"
"That is right," cried the marquise. "I love to see you
thus. Now, then, were a conspirator to fall into your hands,
he would be most welcome."
"For my part, dear mother." interposed Renee, "I trust your
wishes will not prosper, and that Providence will only
permit petty offenders, poor debtors, and miserable cheats
to fall into M. de Villefort's hands, -- then I shall be
"Just the same as though you prayed that a physician might
only be called upon to prescribe for headaches, measles, and
the stings of wasps, or any other slight affection of the
epidermis. If you wish to see me the king's attorney, you
must desire for me some of those violent and dangerous
diseases from the cure of which so much honor redounds to
At this moment, and as though the utterance of Villefort's
wish had sufficed to effect its accomplishment, a servant
entered the room, and whispered a few words in his ear.
Villefort immediately rose from table and quitted the room
upon the plea of urgent business; he soon, however,
returned, his whole face beaming with delight. Renee
regarded him with fond affection; and certainly his handsome
features, lit up as they then were with more than usual fire
and animation, seemed formed to excite the innocent
admiration with which she gazed on her graceful and
"You were wishing just now," said Villefort, addressing her,
"that I were a doctor instead of a lawyer. Well, I at least
resemble the disciples of Esculapius in one thing -- that of
not being able to call a day my own, not even that of my
"And wherefore were you called away just now?" asked
Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran, with an air of deep interest.
"For a very serious matter, which bids fair to make work for
"How dreadful!" exclaimed Renee, turning pale.
"Is it possible?" burst simultaneously from all who were
near enough to the magistrate to hear his words.
"Why, if my information prove correct, a sort of Bonaparte
conspiracy has just been discovered."
"Can I believe my ears?" cried the marquise.
"I will read you the letter containing the accusation, at
least," said Villefort: --
"`The king's attorney is informed by a friend to the throne
and the religions institutions of his country, that one
named Edmond Dantes, mate of the ship Pharaon, this day
arrived from Smyrna, after having touched at Naples and
Porto-Ferrajo, has been the bearer of a letter from Murat to
the usurper, and again taken charge of another letter from
the usurper to the Bonapartist club in Paris. Ample
corroboration of this statement may be obtained by arresting
the above-mentioned Edmond Dantes, who either carries the
letter for Paris about with him, or has it at his father's
abode. Should it not be found in the possession of father or
son, then it will assuredly be discovered in the cabin
belonging to the said Dantes on board the Pharaon.'"
"But," said Renee, "this letter, which, after all, is but an
anonymous scrawl, is not even addressed to you, but to the
"True; but that gentleman being absent, his secretary, by
his orders, opened his letters; thinking this one of
importance, he sent for me, but not finding me, took upon
himself to give the necessary orders for arresting the
"Then the guilty person is absolutely in custody?" said the
"Nay, dear mother, say the accused person. You know we
cannot yet pronounce him guilty."
"He is in safe custody," answered Villefort; "and rely upon
it, if the letter is found, he will not be likely to be
trusted abroad again, unless he goes forth under the
especial protection of the headsman."
"And where is the unfortunate being?" asked Renee.
"He is at my house."
"Come, come, my friend," interrupted the marquise, "do not
neglect your duty to linger with us. You are the king's
servant, and must go wherever that service calls you."
"O Villefort!" cried Renee, clasping her hands, and looking
towards her lover with piteous earnestness, "be merciful on
this the day of our betrothal."
The young man passed round to the side of the table where
the fair pleader sat, and leaning over her chair said
"To give you pleasure, my sweet Renee, I promise to show all
the lenity in my power; but if the charges brought against
this Bonapartist hero prove correct, why, then, you really
must give me leave to order his head to be cut off." Renee
"Never mind that foolish girl, Villefort," said the
marquise. "She will soon get over these things." So saying,
Madame de Saint-Meran extended her dry bony hand to
Villefort, who, while imprinting a son-in-law's respectful
salute on it, looked at Renee, as much as to say, "I must
try and fancy 'tis your dear hand I kiss, as it should have
"These are mournful auspices to accompany a betrothal,"
sighed poor Renee.
"Upon my word, child!" exclaimed the angry marquise, "your
folly exceeds all bounds. I should be glad to know what
connection there can possibly be between your sickly
sentimentality and the affairs of the state!"
"O mother!" murmured Renee.
"Nay, madame, I pray you pardon this little traitor. I
promise you that to make up for her want of loyalty, I will
be most inflexibly severe;" then casting an expressive
glance at his betrothed, which seemed to say, "Fear not, for
your dear sake my justice shall be tempered with mercy," and
receiving a sweet and approving smile in return, Villefort
quitted the room.