Noirtier was prepared to receive them, dressed in black, and
installed in his arm-chair. When the three persons he
expected had entered, he looked at the door, which his valet
"Listen," whispered Villefort to Valentine, who could not
conceal her joy; "if M. Noirtier wishes to communicate
anything which would delay your marriage, I forbid you to
understand him." Valentine blushed, but did not answer.
Villefort, approaching Noirtier -- "Here is M. Franz
d'Epinay," said he; "you requested to see him. We have all
wished for this interview, and I trust it will convince you
how ill-formed are your objections to Valentine's marriage."
Noirtier answered only by a look which made Villefort's
blood run cold. He motioned to Valentine to approach. In a
moment, thanks to her habit of conversing with her
grandfather, she understood that he asked for a key. Then
his eye was fixed on the drawer of a small chest between the
windows. She opened the drawer, and found a key; and,
understanding that was what he wanted, again watched his
eyes, which turned toward an old secretary which had been
neglected for many years and was supposed to contain nothing
but useless documents. "Shall I open the secretary?" asked
"Yes," said the old man.
"And the drawers?"
"Those at the side?"
"The middle one?"
"Yes." Valentine opened it and drew out a bundle of papers.
"Is that what you wish for?" asked she.
She took successively all the other papers out till the
drawer was empty. "But there are no more," said she.
Noirtier's eye was fixed on the dictionary. "Yes, I
understand, grandfather," said the young girl.
"He pointed to each letter of the alphabet. At the letter S
the old man stopped her. She opened, and found the word
"Ah, is there a secret spring?" said Valentine.
"Yes," said Noirtier.
"And who knows it?" Noirtier looked at the door where the
servant had gone out. "Barrois?" said she.
"Shall I call him?"
Valentine went to the door, and called Barrois. Villefort's
impatience during this scene made the perspiration roll from
his forehead, and Franz was stupefied. The old servant came.
"Barrois," said Valentine, "my grandfather has told me to
open that drawer in the secretary, but there is a secret
spring in it, which you know -- will you open it?"
Barrois looked at the old man. "Obey," said Noirtier's
intelligent eye. Barrois touched a spring, the false bottom
came out, and they saw a bundle of papers tied with a black
"Is that what you wish for?" said Barrois.
"Shall I give these papers to M. de Villefort?"
"To Mademoiselle Valentine?"
"To M. Franz d'Epinay?"
Franz, astonished, advanced a step. "To me, sir?" said he.
"Yes." Franz took them from Barrois and casting a glance at
the cover, read: --
"`To be given, after my death, to General Durand, who shall
bequeath the packet to his son, with an injunction to
preserve it as containing an important document.'
"Well, sir," asked Franz, "what do you wish me to do with
"To preserve it, sealed up as it is, doubtless," said the
"No," replied Noirtier eagerly.
"Do you wish him to read it?" said Valentine.
"Yes," replied the old man. "You understand, baron, my
grandfather wishes you to read this paper," said Valentine.
"Then let us sit down," said Villefort impatiently, "for it
will take some time."
"Sit down," said the old man. Villefort took a chair, but
Valentine remained standing by her father's side, and Franz
before him, holding the mysterious paper in his hand.
"Read," said the old man. Franz untied it, and in the midst
of the most profound silence read:
"`Extract from the Report of a meeting of the Bonapartist
Club in the Rue Saint-Jacques, held February 5th, 1815.'"
Franz stopped. "February 5th, 1815!" said he; "it is the day
my father was murdered." Valentine and Villefort were dumb;
the eye of the old man alone seemed to say clearly, "Go on."
"But it was on leaving this club," said he, "my father
disappeared." Noirtier's eye continued to say, "Read." He
"`The undersigned Louis Jacques Beaurepaire,
lieutenant-colonel of artillery, Etienne Duchampy, general
of brigade, and Claude Lecharpal, keeper of woods and
forests, Declare, that on the 4th of February, a letter
arrived from the Island of Elba, recommending to the
kindness and the confidence of the Bonapartist Club, General
Flavien de Quesnel, who having served the emperor from 1804
to 1814 was supposed to be devoted to the interests of the
Napoleon dynasty, notwithstanding the title of baron which
Louis XVIII. had just granted to him with his estate of
"`A note was in consequence addressed to General de Quesnel,
begging him to be present at the meeting next day, the 5th.
The note indicated neither the street nor the number of the
house where the meeting was to be held; it bore no
signature, but it announced to the general that some one
would call for him if he would be ready at nine o'clock. The
meetings were always held from that time till midnight. At
nine o'clock the president of the club presented himself;
the general was ready, the president informed him that one
of the conditions of his introduction was that he should be
eternally ignorant of the place of meeting, and that he
would allow his eyes to be bandaged, swearing that he would
not endeavor to take off the bandage. General de Quesnel
accepted the condition, and promised on his honor not to
seek to discover the road they took. The general's carriage
was ready, but the president told him it was impossible for
him to use it, since it was useless to blindfold the master
if the coachman knew through what streets he went. "What
must be done then?" asked the general. -- "I have my
carriage here," said the president.
"`"Have you, then, so much confidence in your servant that
you can intrust him with a secret you will not allow me to
"`"Our coachman is a member of the club," said the
president; "we shall be driven by a State-Councillor."
"`"Then we run another risk," said the general, laughing,
"that of being upset." We insert this joke to prove that the
general was not in the least compelled to attend the
meeting, but that he came willingly. When they were seated
in the carriage the president reminded the general of his
promise to allow his eyes to be bandaged, to which he made
no opposition. On the road the president thought he saw the
general make an attempt to remove the handkerchief, and
reminded him of his oath. "Sure enough," said the general.
The carriage stopped at an alley leading out of the Rue
Saint-Jacques. The general alighted, leaning on the arm of
the president, of whose dignity he was not aware,
considering him simply as a member of the club; they went
through the alley, mounted a flight of stairs, and entered
"`"The deliberations had already begun. The members,
apprised of the sort of presentation which was to be made
that evening, were all in attendance. When in the middle of
the room the general was invited to remove his bandage, he
did so immediately, and was surprised to see so many
well-known faces in a society of whose existence he had till
then been ignorant. They questioned him as to his
sentiments, but he contented himself with answering, that
the letters from the Island of Elba ought to have informed
Franz interrupted himself by saying, "My father was a
royalist; they need not have asked his sentiments, which
were well known."
"And hence," said Villefort, "arose my affection for your
father, my dear M. Franz. Opinions held in common are a
ready bond of union."
"Read again," said the old man. Franz continued: --
"`The president then sought to make him speak more
explicitly, but M. de Quesnel replied that he wished first
to know what they wanted with him. He was then informed of
the contents of the letter from the Island of Elba, in which
he was recommended to the club as a man who would be likely
to advance the interests of their party. One paragraph spoke
of the return of Bonaparte and promised another letter and
further details, on the arrival of the Pharaon belonging to
the shipbuilder Morrel, of Marseilles, whose captain was
entirely devoted to the emperor. During all this time, the
general, on whom they thought to have relied as on a
brother, manifested evidently signs of discontent and
repugnance. When the reading was finished, he remained
silent, with knitted brows.
"`"Well," asked the president, "what do you say to this
"`"I say that it is too soon after declaring myself for
Louis XVIII. to break my vow in behalf of the ex-emperor."
This answer was too clear to permit of any mistake as to his
sentiments. "General," said the president, "we acknowledge
no King Louis XVIII., or an ex-emperor, but his majesty the
emperor and king, driven from France, which is his kingdom,
by violence and treason."
"`"Excuse me, gentlemen," said the general; "you may not
acknowledge Louis XVIII., but I do, as he has made me a
baron and a field-marshal, and I shall never forget that for
these two titles I am indebted to his happy return to
"`"Sir," said the president, rising with gravity, "be
careful what you say; your words clearly show us that they
are deceived concerning you in the Island of Elba, and have
deceived us! The communication has been made to you in
consequence of the confidence placed in you, and which does
you honor. Now we discover our error; a title and promotion
attach you to the government we wish to overturn. We will
not constrain you to help us; we enroll no one against his
conscience, but we will compel you to act generously, even
if you are not disposed to do so."
"`"You would call acting generously, knowing your conspiracy
and not informing against you, that is what I should call
becoming your accomplice. You see I am more candid than
"Ah, my father!" said Franz, interrupting himself. "I
understand now why they murdered him." Valentine could not
help casting one glance towards the young man, whose filial
enthusiasm it was delightful to behold. Villefort walked to
and fro behind them. Noirtier watched the expression of each
one, and preserved his dignified and commanding attitude.
Franz returned to the manuscript, and continued: --
"`"Sir," said the president, "you have been invited to join
this assembly -- you were not forced here; it was proposed
to you to come blindfolded -- you accepted. When you
complied with this twofold request you well knew we did not
wish to secure the throne of Louis XVIII., or we should not
take so much care to avoid the vigilance of the police. It
would be conceding too much to allow you to put on a mask to
aid you in the discovery of our secret, and then to remove
it that you may ruin those who have confided in you. No, no,
you must first say if you declare yourself for the king of a
day who now reigns, or for his majesty the emperor."
"`"I am a royalist," replied the general; "I have taken the
oath of allegiance to Louis XVIII., and I will adhere to
it." These words were followed by a general murmur, and it
was evident that several of the members were discussing the
propriety of making the general repent of his rashness.
"`The president again arose, and having imposed silence,
said, -- "Sir, you are too serious and too sensible a man
not to understand the consequences of our present situation,
and your candor has already dictated to us the conditions
which remain for us to offer you." The general, putting his
hand on his sword, exclaimed, -- "If you talk of honor, do
not begin by disavowing its laws, and impose nothing by
"`"And you, sir," continued the president, with a calmness
still more terrible than the general's anger, "I advise you
not to touch your sword." The general looked around him with
slight uneasiness; however he did not yield, but calling up
all his fortitude, said, -- "I will not swear."
"`"Then you must die," replied the president calmly. M.
d'Epinay became very pale; he looked round him a second
time, several members of the club were whispering, and
getting their arms from under their cloaks. "General," said
the president, "do not alarm yourself; you are among men of
honor who will use every means to convince you before
resorting to the last extremity, but as you have said, you
are among conspirators, you are in possession of our secret,
and you must restore it to us." A significant silence
followed these words, and as the general did not reply, --
"Close the doors," said the president to the door-keeper.
"`The same deadly silence succeeded these words. Then the
general advanced, and making a violent effort to control his
feelings, -- "I have a son," said he, "and I ought to think
of him, finding myself among assassins."
"`"General," said the chief of the assembly, "one man may
insult fifty -- it is the privilege of weakness. But he does
wrong to use his privilege. Follow my advice, swear, and do
not insult." The general, again daunted by the superiority
of the chief, hesitated a moment; then advancing to the
president's desk, -- "What is the form, said he.
"`"It is this: -- `I swear by my honor not to reveal to any
one what I have seen and heard on the 5th of February, 1815,
between nine and ten o'clock in the evening; and I plead
guilty of death should I ever violate this oath.'" The
general appeared to be affected by a nervous tremor, which
prevented his answering for some moments; then, overcoming
his manifest repugnance, he pronounced the required oath,
but in so low a tone as to be scarcely audible to the
majority of the members, who insisted on his repeating it
clearly and distinctly, which he did.
"`"Now am I at liberty to retire?" said the general. The
president rose, appointed three members to accompany him,
and got into the carriage with the general after bandaging
his eyes. One of those three members was the coachman who
had driven them there. The other members silently dispersed.
"Where do you wish to be taken?" asked the president. --
"Anywhere out of your presence," replied M. d'Epinay.
"Beware, sir," replied the president, "you are no longer in
the assembly, and have only to do with individuals; do not
insult them unless you wish to be held responsible." But
instead of listening, M. d'Epinay went on, -- "You are still
as brave in your carriage as in your assembly because you
are still four against one." The president stopped the
coach. They were at that part of the Quai des Ormes where
the steps lead down to the river. "Why do you stop here?"
"`"Because, sir," said the president, "you have insulted a
man, and that man will not go one step farther without
demanding honorable reparation."
"`"Another method of assassination?" said the general,
shrugging his shoulders.
"`"Make no noise, sir, unless you wish me to consider you as
one of the men of whom you spoke just now as cowards, who
take their weakness for a shield. You are alone, one alone
shall answer you; you have a sword by your side, I have one
in my cane; you have no witness, one of these gentlemen will
serve you. Now, if you please, remove your bandage." The
general tore the handkerchief from his eyes. "At last," said
he, "I shall know with whom I have to do." They opened the
door and the four men alighted.'"
Franz again interrupted himself, and wiped the cold drops
from his brow; there was something awful in hearing the son
read aloud in trembling pallor these details of his father's
death, which had hitherto been a mystery. Valentine clasped
her hands as if in prayer. Noirtier looked at Villefort with
an almost sublime expression of contempt and pride. Franz
"`It was, as we said, the fifth of February. For three days
the mercury had been five or six degrees below freezing and
the steps were covered with ice. The general was stout and
tall, the president offered him the side of the railing to
assist him in getting down. The two witnesses followed. It
was a dark night. The ground from the steps to the river was
covered with snow and hoarfrost, the water of the river
looked black and deep. One of the seconds went for a lantern
in a coal-barge near, and by its light they examined the
weapons. The president's sword, which was simply, as he had
said, one he carried in his cane, was five inches shorter
than the general's, and had no guard. The general proposed
to cast lots for the swords, but the president said it was
he who had given the provocation, and when he had given it
he had supposed each would use his own arms. The witnesses
endeavored to insist, but the president bade them be silent.
The lantern was placed on the ground, the two adversaries
took their stations, and the duel began. The light made the
two swords appear like flashes of lightning; as for the men,
they were scarcely perceptible, the darkness was so great.
"`General d'Epinay passed for one of the best swordsmen in
the army, but he was pressed so closely in the onset that he
missed his aim and fell. The witnesses thought he was dead,
but his adversary, who knew he had not struck him, offered
him the assistance of his hand to rise. The circumstance
irritated instead of calming the general, and he rushed on
his adversary. But his opponent did not allow his guard to
be broken. He received him on his sword and three times the
general drew back on finding himself too closely engaged,
and then returned to the charge. At the third he fell again.
They thought he slipped, as at first, and the witnesses,
seeing he did not move, approached and endeavored to raise
him, but the one who passed his arm around the body found it
was moistened with blood. The general, who had almost
fainted, revived. "Ah," said he, "they have sent some
fencing-master to fight with me." The president, without
answering, approached the witness who held the lantern, and
raising his sleeve, showed him two wounds he had received in
his arm; then opening his coat, and unbuttoning his
waistcoat, displayed his side, pierced with a third wound.
Still he had not even uttered a sigh. General d'Epinay died
five minutes after.'"
Franz read these last words in a voice so choked that they
were hardly audible, and then stopped, passing his hand over
his eyes as if to dispel a cloud; but after a moment's
silence, he continued: --
"`The president went up the steps, after pushing his sword
into his cane; a track of blood on the snow marked his
course. He had scarcely arrived at the top when he heard a
heavy splash in the water -- it was the general's body,
which the witnesses had just thrown into the river after
ascertaining that he was dead. The general fell, then, in a
loyal duel, and not in ambush as it might have been
reported. In proof of this we have signed this paper to
establish the truth of the facts, lest the moment should
arrive when either of the actors in this terrible scene
should be accused of premeditated murder or of infringement
of the laws of honor.
"`Signed, Beaurepaire, Deschamps, and Lecharpal.'"
When Franz had finished reading this account, so dreadful
for a son; when Valentine, pale with emotion, had wiped away
a tear; when Villefort, trembling, and crouched in a corner,
had endeavored to lessen the storm by supplicating glances
at the implacable old man, -- "Sir," said d'Epinay to
Noirtier, "since you are well acquainted with all these
details, which are attested by honorable signatures, --
since you appear to take some interest in me, although you
have only manifested it hitherto by causing me sorrow,
refuse me not one final satisfaction -- tell me the name of
the president of the club, that I may at least know who
killed my father." Villefort mechanically felt for the
handle of the door; Valentine, who understood sooner than
anyone her grandfather's answer, and who had often seen two
scars upon his right arm, drew back a few steps.
"Mademoiselle," said Franz, turning towards Valentine,
"unite your efforts with mine to find out the name of the
man who made me an orphan at two years of age." Valentine
remained dumb and motionless.
"Hold, sir," said Villefort, "do not prolong this dreadful
scene. The names have been purposely concealed; my father
himself does not know who this president was, and if he
knows, he cannot tell you; proper names are not in the
"Oh, misery," cried Franz: "the only hope which sustained me
and enabled me to read to the end was that of knowing, at
least, the name of him who killed my father! Sir, sir,"
cried he, turning to Noirtier, "do what you can -- make me
understand in some way!"
"Yes," replied Noirtier.
"Oh, mademoiselle, -- mademoiselle!" cried Franz, "your
grandfather says he can indicate the person. Help me, --
lend me your assistance!" Noirtier looked at the dictionary.
Franz took it with a nervous trembling, and repeated the
letters of the alphabet successively, until he came to M. At
that letter the old man signified "Yes."
"M," repeated Franz. The young man's finger, glided over the
words, but at each one Noirtier answered by a negative sign.
Valentine hid her head between her hands. At length, Franz
arrived at the word MYSELF.
"You?" cried Franz, whose hair stood on end; "you, M.
Noirtier -- you killed my father?"
"Yes!" replied Noirtier, fixing a majestic look on the young
man. Franz fell powerless on a chair; Villefort opened the
door and escaped, for the idea had entered his mind to
stifle the little remaining life in the heart of this
terrible old man.