M. D'Avrigny soon restored the magistrate to consciousness,
who had looked like a second corpse in that chamber of
death. "Oh, death is in my house!" cried Villefort.
"Say, rather, crime!" replied the doctor.
"M. d'Avrigny," cried Villefort, "I cannot tell you all I
feel at this moment, -- terror, grief, madness."
"Yes," said M. d'Avrigny, with an imposing calmness, "but I
think it is now time to act. I think it is time to stop this
torrent of mortality. I can no longer bear to be in
possession of these secrets without the hope of seeing the
victims and society generally revenged." Villefort cast a
gloomy look around him. "In my house," murmured he, "in my
"Come, magistrate," said M. d'Avrigny, "show yourself a man;
as an interpreter of the law, do honor to your profession by
sacrificing your selfish interests to it."
"You make me shudder, doctor. Do you talk of a sacrifice?"
"Do you then suspect any one?"
"I suspect no one; death raps at your door -- it enters --
it goes, not blindfolded, but circumspectly, from room to
room. Well, I follow its course, I track its passage; I
adopt the wisdom of the ancients, and feel my way, for my
friendship for your family and my respect for you are as a
twofold bandage over my eyes; well" --
"Oh, speak, speak, doctor; I shall have courage."
"Well, sir, you have in your establishment, or in your
family, perhaps, one of the frightful monstrosities of which
each century produces only one. Locusta and Agrippina,
living at the same time, were an exception, and proved the
determination of providence to effect the entire ruin of the
Roman empire, sullied by so many crimes. Brunehilde and
Fredegonde were the results of the painful struggle of
civilization in its infancy, when man was learning to
control mind, were it even by an emissary from the realms of
darkness. All these women had been, or were, beautiful. The
same flower of innocence had flourished, or was still
flourishing, on their brow, that is seen on the brow of the
culprit in your house." Villefort shrieked, clasped his
hands, and looked at the doctor with a supplicating air. But
the latter went on without pity: --
"`Seek whom the crime will profit,' says an axiom of
"Doctor," cried Villefort, "alas, doctor, how often has
man's justice been deceived by those fatal words. I know not
why, but I feel that this crime" --
"You acknowledge, then, the existence of the crime?"
"Yes, I see too plainly that it does exist. But it seems
that it is intended to affect me personally. I fear an
attack myself, after all these disasters."
"Oh, man," murmured d'Avrigny, "the most selfish of all
animals, the most personal of all creatures, who believes
the earth turns, the sun shines, and death strikes for him
alone, -- an ant cursing God from the top of a blade of
grass! And have those who have lost their lives lost
nothing? -- M. de Saint-Meran, Madame de Saint-Meran, M.
"How? M. Noirtier?"
"Yes; think you it was the poor servant's life was coveted?
No, no; like Shakespeare's `Polonius,' he died for another.
It was Noirtier the lemonade was intended for -- it is
Noirtier, logically speaking, who drank it. The other drank
it only by accident, and, although Barrois is dead, it was
Noirtier whose death was wished for."
"But why did it not kill my father?"
"I told you one evening in the garden after Madame de
Saint-Meran's death -- because his system is accustomed to
that very poison, and the dose was trifling to him, which
would be fatal to another; because no one knows, not even
the assassin, that, for the last twelve months, I have given
M. Noirtier brucine for his paralytic affection, while the
assassin is not ignorant, for he has proved that brucine is
a violent poison."
"Oh, have pity -- have pity!" murmured Villefort, wringing
"Follow the culprit's steps; he first kills M. de
"I would swear to it; what I heard of his symptoms agrees
too well with what I have seen in the other cases."
Villefort ceased to contend; he only groaned. "He first
kills M. de Saint-Meran," repeated the doctor, "then Madame
de Saint-Meran, -- a double fortune to inherit." Villefort
wiped the perspiration from his forehead. "Listen
"Alas," stammered Villefort, "I do not lose a single word."
"M. Noirtier," resumed M. d'Avrigny in the same pitiless
tone, -- "M. Noirtier had once made a will against you --
against your family -- in favor of the poor, in fact; M.
Noirtier is spared, because nothing is expected from him.
But he has no sooner destroyed his first will and made a
second, than, for fear he should make a third, he is struck
down. The will was made the day before yesterday, I believe;
you see there has been no time lost."
"Oh, mercy, M. d'Avrigny!"
"No mercy, sir! The physician has a sacred mission on earth;
and to fulfil it he begins at the source of life, and goes
down to the mysterious darkness of the tomb. When crime has
been committed, and God, doubtless in anger, turns away his
face, it is for the physician to bring the culprit to
"Have mercy on my child, sir," murmured Villefort.
"You see it is yourself who have first named her -- you, her
"Have pity on Valentine! Listen -- it is impossible! I would
as willingly accuse myself! Valentine, whose heart is pure
as a diamond or a lily."
"No pity, procureur; the crime is fragrant. Mademoiselle
herself packed all the medicines which were sent to M. de
Saint-Meran; and M. de Saint-Meran is dead. Mademoiselle de
Villefort prepared all the cooling draughts which Madame de
Saint-Meran took, and Madame de Saint-Meran is dead.
Mademoiselle de Villefort took from the hands of Barrois,
who was sent out, the lemonade which M. Noirtier had every
morning, and he has escaped by a miracle. Mademoiselle de
Villefort is the culprit -- she is the poisoner! To you, as
the king's attorney, I denounce Mademoiselle de Villefort,
do your duty."
"Doctor, I resist no longer -- I can no longer defend myself
-- I believe you; but, for pity's sake, spare my life, my
"M. de Villefort," replied the doctor, with increased
vehemence, "there are occasions when I dispense with all
foolish human circumspection. If your daughter had committed
only one crime, and I saw her meditating another, I would
say `Warn her, punish her, let her pass the remainder of her
life in a convent, weeping and praying.' If she had
committed two crimes, I would say, `Here, M. de Villefort,
is a poison that the prisoner is not acquainted with, -- one
that has no known antidote, quick as thought, rapid as
lightning, mortal as the thunderbolt; give her that poison,
recommending her soul to God, and save your honor and your
life, for it is yours she aims at; and I can picture her
approaching your pillow with her hypocritical smiles and her
sweet exhortations. Woe to you, M. de Villefort, if you do
not strike first!' This is what I would say had she only
killed two persons but she has seen three deaths, -- has
contemplated three murdered persons, -- has knelt by three
corpses! To the scaffold with the poisoner -- to the
scaffold! Do you talk of your honor? Do what I tell you, and
immortality awaits you!"
Villefort fell on his knees. "Listen," said he; "I have not
the strength of mind you have, or rather that which you
would not have, if instead of my daughter Valentine your
daughter Madeleine were concerned." The doctor turned pale.
"Doctor, every son of woman is born to suffer and to die; I
am content to suffer and to await death."
"Beware," said M. d'Avrigny, "it may come slowly; you will
see it approach after having struck your father, your wife,
perhaps your son."
Villefort, suffocating, pressed the doctor's arm. "Listen,"
cried he; "pity me -- help me! No, my daughter is not
guilty. If you drag us both before a tribunal I will still
say, `No, my daughter is not guilty; -- there is no crime in
my house. I will not acknowledge a crime in my house; for
when crime enters a dwelling, it is like death -- it does
not come alone.' Listen. What does it signify to you if I am
murdered? Are you my friend? Are you a man? Have you a
heart? No, you are a physician! Well, I tell you I will not
drag my daughter before a tribunal, and give her up to the
executioner! The bare idea would kill me -- would drive me
like a madman to dig my heart out with my finger-nails! And
if you were mistaken, doctor -- if it were not my daughter
-- if I should come one day, pale as a spectre, and say to
you, `Assassin, you have killed my child!' -- hold -- if
that should happen, although I am a Christian, M. d'Avrigny,
I should kill myself."
"Well," said the doctor, after a moment's silence, "I will
wait." Villefort looked at him as if he had doubted his
words. "Only," continued M. d'Avrigny, with a slow and
solemn tone, "if any one falls ill in your house, if you
feel yourself attacked, do not send for me, for I will come
no more. I will consent to share this dreadful secret with
you, but I will not allow shame and remorse to grow and
increase in my conscience, as crime and misery will in your
"Then you abandon me, doctor?"
"Yes, for I can follow you no farther, and I only stop at
the foot of the scaffold. Some further discovery will be
made, which will bring this dreadful tragedy to a close.
"I entreat you, doctor!"
"All the horrors that disturb my thoughts make your house
odious and fatal. Adieu, sir."
"One word -- one single word more, doctor! You go, leaving
me in all the horror of my situation, after increasing it by
what you have revealed to me. But what will be reported of
the sudden death of the poor old servant?"
"True," said M. d'Avrigny; "we will return." The doctor went
out first, followed by M. de Villefort. The terrified
servants were on the stairs and in the passage where the
doctor would pass. "Sir," said d'Avrigny to Villefort, so
loud that all might hear, "poor Barrois has led too
sedentary a life of late; accustomed formerly to ride on
horseback, or in the carriage, to the four corners of
Europe, the monotonous walk around that arm-chair has killed
him -- his blood has thickened. He was stout, had a short,
thick neck; he was attacked with apoplexy, and I was called
in too late. By the way," added he in a low tone, "take care
to throw away that cup of syrup of violets in the ashes."
The doctor, without shaking hands with Villefort, without
adding a word to what he had said, went out, amid the tears
and lamentations of the whole household. The same evening
all Villefort's servants, who had assembled in the kitchen,
and had a long consultation, came to tell Madame de
Villefort that they wished to leave. No entreaty, no
proposition of increased wages, could induce them to remain;
to every argument they replied, "We must go, for death is in
this house." They all left, in spite of prayers and
entreaties, testifying their regret at leaving so good a
master and mistress, and especially Mademoiselle Valentine,
so good, so kind, and so gentle. Villefort looked at
Valentine as they said this. She was in tears, and, strange
as it was, in spite of the emotions he felt at the sight of
these tears, he looked also at Madame de Villefort, and it
appeared to him as if a slight gloomy smile had passed over
her thin lips, like a meteor seen passing inauspiciously
between two clouds in a stormy sky.