We have seen how quietly Mademoiselle Danglars and
Mademoiselle d'Armilly accomplished their transformation and
flight; the fact being that every one was too much occupied
in his or her own affairs to think of theirs. We will leave
the banker contemplating the enormous magnitude of his debt
before the phantom of bankruptcy, and follow the baroness,
who after being momentarily crushed under the weight of the
blow which had struck her, had gone to seek her usual
adviser, Lucien Debray. The baroness had looked forward to
this marriage as a means of ridding her of a guardianship
which, over a girl of Eugenie's character, could not fail to
be rather a troublesome undertaking; for in the tacit
relations which maintain the bond of family union, the
mother, to maintain her ascendancy over her daughter, must
never fail to be a model of wisdom and a type of perfection.
Now, Madame Danglars feared Eugenie's sagacity and the
influence of Mademoiselle d'Armilly; she had frequently
observed the contemptuous expression with which her daughter
looked upon Debray, -- an expression which seemed to imply
that she understood all her mother's amorous and pecuniary
relationships with the intimate secretary; moreover, she saw
that Eugenie detested Debray, -- not only because he was a
source of dissension and scandal under the paternal roof,
but because she had at once classed him in that catalogue of
bipeds whom Plato endeavors to withdraw from the appellation
of men, and whom Diogenes designated as animals upon two
legs without feathers.
Unfortunately, in this world of ours, each person views
things through a certain medium, and so is prevented from
seeing in the same light as others, and Madame Danglars,
therefore, very much regretted that the marriage of Eugenie
had not taken place, not only because the match was good,
and likely to insure the happiness of her child, but because
it would also set her at liberty. She ran therefore to
Debray, who, after having like the rest of Paris witnessed
the contract scene and the scandal attending it, had retired
in haste to his club, where he was chatting with some
friends upon the events which served as a subject of
conversation for three-fourths of that city known as the
capital of the world.
At the precise time when Madame Danglars, dressed in black
and concealed in a long veil, was ascending the stairs
leading to Debray's apartments, -- notwithstanding the
assurances of the concierge that the young man was not at
home, -- Debray was occupied in repelling the insinuations
of a friend, who tried to persuade him that after the
terrible scene which had just taken place he ought, as a
friend of the family, to marry Mademoiselle Danglars and her
two millions. Debray did not defend himself very warmly, for
the idea had sometimes crossed his mind; still, when he
recollected the independent, proud spirit of Eugenie, he
positively rejected it as utterly impossible, though the
same thought again continually recurred and found a
resting-place in his heart. Tea, play, and the conversation,
which had become interesting during the discussion of such
serious affairs, lasted till one o'clock in the morning.
Meanwhile Madame Danglars, veiled and uneasy, awaited the
return of Debray in the little green room, seated between
two baskets of flowers, which she had that morning sent, and
which, it must be confessed, Debray had himself arranged and
watered with so much care that his absence was half excused
in the eyes of the poor woman.
At twenty minutes of twelve, Madame Danglars, tired of
waiting, returned home. Women of a certain grade are like
prosperous grisettes in one respect, they seldom return home
after twelve o'clock. The baroness returned to the hotel
with as much caution as Eugenie used in leaving it; she ran
lightly up-stairs, and with an aching heart entered her
apartment, contiguous, as we know, to that of Eugenie. She
was fearful of exciting any remark, and believed firmly in
her daughter's innocence and fidelity to the paternal roof.
She listened at Eugenie's door, and hearing no sound tried
to enter, but the bolts were in place. Madame Danglars then
concluded that the young girl had been overcome with the
terrible excitement of the evening, and had gone to bed and
to sleep. She called the maid and questioned her.
"Mademoiselle Eugenie," said the maid, "retired to her
apartment with Mademoiselle d'Armilly; they then took tea
together, after which they desired me to leave, saying that
they needed me no longer." Since then the maid had been
below, and like every one else she thought the young ladies
were in their own room; Madame Danglars, therefore, went to
bed without a shadow of suspicion, and began to muse over
the recent events. In proportion as her memory became
clearer, the occurrences of the evening were revealed in
their true light; what she had taken for confusion was a
tumult; what she had regarded as something distressing, was
in reality a disgrace. And then the baroness remembered that
she had felt no pity for poor Mercedes, who had been
afflicted with as severe a blow through her husband and son.
"Eugenie," she said to herself, "is lost, and so are we. The
affair, as it will be reported, will cover us with shame;
for in a society such as ours satire inflicts a painful and
incurable wound. How fortunate that Eugenie is possessed of
that strange character which has so often made me tremble!"
And her glance was turned towards heaven, where a mysterious
providence disposes all things, and out of a fault, nay,
even a vice, sometimes produces a blessing. And then her
thoughts, cleaving through space like a bird in the air,
rested on Cavalcanti. This Andrea was a wretch, a robber, an
assassin, and yet his manners showed the effects of a sort
of education, if not a complete one; he had been presented
to the world with the appearance of an immense fortune,
supported by an honorable name. How could she extricate
herself from this labyrinth? To whom would she apply to help
her out of this painful situation? Debray, to whom she had
run, with the first instinct of a woman towards the man she
loves, and who yet betrays her, -- Debray could but give her
advice, she must apply to some one more powerful than he.
The baroness then thought of M. de Villefort. It was M. de
Villefort who had remorselessly brought misfortune into her
family, as though they had been strangers. But, no; on
reflection, the procureur was not a merciless man; and it
was not the magistrate, slave to his duties, but the friend,
the loyal friend, who roughly but firmly cut into the very
core of the corruption; it was not the executioner, but the
surgeon, who wished to withdraw the honor of Danglars from
ignominious association with the disgraced young man they
had presented to the world as their son-in-law. And since
Villefort, the friend of Danglars, had acted in this way, no
one could suppose that he had been previously acquainted
with, or had lent himself to, any of Andrea's intrigues.
Villefort's conduct, therefore, upon reflection, appeared to
the baroness as if shaped for their mutual advantage. But
the inflexibility of the procureur should stop there; she
would see him the next day, and if she could not make him
fail in his duties as a magistrate, she would, at least,
obtain all the indulgence he could allow. She would invoke
the past, recall old recollections; she would supplicate him
by the remembrance of guilty, yet happy days. M. de
Villefort would stifle the affair; he had only to turn his
eyes on one side, and allow Andrea to fly, and follow up the
crime under that shadow of guilt called contempt of court.
And after this reasoning she slept easily.
At nine o'clock next morning she arose, and without ringing
for her maid or giving the least sign of her activity, she
dressed herself in the same simple style as on the previous
night; then running down-stairs, she left the hotel, walked
to the Rue de Provence, called a cab, and drove to M. de
Villefort's house. For the last month this wretched house
had presented the gloomy appearance of a lazaretto infected
with the plague. Some of the apartments were closed within
and without; the shutters were only opened to admit a
minute's air, showing the scared face of a footman, and
immediately afterwards the window would be closed, like a
gravestone falling on a sepulchre, and the neighbors would
say to each other in a low voice, "Will there be another
funeral to-day at the procureur's house?" Madame Danglars
involuntarily shuddered at the desolate aspect of the
mansion; descending from the cab, she approached the door
with trembling knees, and rang the bell. Three times did the
bell ring with a dull, heavy sound, seeming to participate,
in the general sadness, before the concierge appeared and
peeped through the door, which he opened just wide enough to
allow his words to be heard. He saw a lady, a fashionable,
elegantly dressed lady, and yet the door remained almost
"Do you intend opening the door?" said the baroness.
"First, madame, who are you?"
"Who am I? You know me well enough."
"We no longer know any one, madame."
"You must be mad, my friend," said the baroness.
"Where do you come from?"
"Oh, this is too much!"
"Madame, these are my orders; excuse me. Your name?"
"The baroness Danglars; you have seen me twenty times."
"Possibly, madame. And now, what do you want?"
"Oh, how extraordinary! I shall complain to M. de Villefort
of the impertinence of his servants."
"Madame, this is precaution, not impertinence; no one enters
here without an order from M. d'Avrigny, or without speaking
to the procureur."
"Well, I have business with the procureur."
"Is it pressing business?"
"You can imagine so, since I have not even brought my
carriage out yet. But enough of this -- here is my card,
take it to your master."
"Madame will await my return?"
"Yes; go." The concierge closed the door, leaving Madame
Danglars in the street. She had not long to wait; directly
afterwards the door was opened wide enough to admit her, and
when she had passed through, it was again shut. Without
losing sight of her for an instant, the concierge took a
whistle from his pocket as soon as they entered the court,
and blew it. The valet de chambre appeared on the
door-steps. "You will excuse this poor fellow, madame," he
said, as he preceded the baroness, "but his orders are
precise, and M. de Villefort begged me to tell you that he
could not act otherwise."
In the court showing his merchandise, was a tradesman who
had been admitted with the same precautions. The baroness
ascended the steps; she felt herself strongly infected with
the sadness which seemed to magnify her own, and still
guided by the valet de chambre, who never lost sight of her
for an instant, she was introduced to the magistrate's
study. Preoccupied as Madame Danglars had been with the
object of her visit, the treatment she had received from
these underlings appeared to her so insulting, that she
began by complaining of it. But Villefort, raising his head,
bowed down by grief, looked up at her with so sad a smile
that her complaints died upon her lips. "Forgive my
servants," he said, "for a terror I cannot blame them for;
from being suspected they have become suspicious."
Madame Danglars had often heard of the terror to which the
magistrate alluded, but without the evidence of her own
eyesight she could never have believed that the sentiment
had been carried so far. "You too, then, are unhappy?" she
said. "Yes, madame," replied the magistrate.
"Then you pity me!"
"And you understand what brings me here?"
"You wish to speak to me about the circumstance which has
"Yes, sir, -- a fearful misfortune."
"You mean a mischance."
"A mischance?" repeated the baroness.
"Alas, madame," said the procureur with his imperturbable
calmness of manner, "I consider those alone misfortunes
which are irreparable."
"And do you suppose this will be forgotten?"
"Everything will be forgotten, madame," said Villefort.
"Your daughter will be married to-morrow, if not to-day --
in a week, if not to-morrow; and I do not think you can
regret the intended husband of your daughter."
Madame Danglars gazed on Villefort, stupefied to find him so
almost insultingly calm. "Am I come to a friend?" she asked
in a tone full of mournful dignity. "You know that you are,
madame," said Villefort, whose pale cheeks became slightly
flushed as he gave her the assurance. And truly this
assurance carried him back to different events from those
now occupying the baroness and him. "Well, then, be more
affectionate, my dear Villefort," said the baroness. "Speak
to me not as a magistrate, but as a friend; and when I am in
bitter anguish of spirit, do not tell me that I ought to be
gay." Villefort bowed. "When I hear misfortunes named,
madame," he said, "I have within the last few months
contracted the bad habit of thinking of my own, and then I
cannot help drawing up an egotistical parallel in my mind.
That is the reason that by the side of my misfortunes yours
appear to me mere mischances; that is why my dreadful
position makes yours appear enviable. But this annoys you;
let us change the subject. You were saying, madame" --
"I came to ask you, my friend," said the baroness, "what
will be done with this impostor?"
"Impostor," repeated Villefort; "certainly, madame, you
appear to extenuate some cases, and exaggerate others.
Impostor, indeed! -- M. Andrea Cavalcanti, or rather M.
Benedetto, is nothing more nor less than an assassin!"
"Sir, I do not deny the justice of your correction, but the
more severely you arm yourself against that unfortunate man,
the more deeply will you strike our family. Come, forget him
for a moment, and instead of pursuing him let him go."
"You are too late, madame; the orders are issued."
"Well, should he be arrested -- do they think they will
"I hope so."
"If they should arrest him (I know that sometimes prisoners
afford means of escape), will you leave him in prison?" --
The procureur shook his head. "At least keep him there till
my daughter be married."
"Impossible, madame; justice has its formalities."
"What, even for me?" said the baroness, half jesting, half
in earnest. "For all, even for myself among the rest,"
"Ah," exclaimed the baroness, without expressing the ideas
which the exclamation betrayed. Villefort looked at her with
that piercing glance which reads the secrets of the heart.
"Yes, I know what you mean," he said; "you refer to the
terrible rumors spread abroad in the world, that the deaths
which have kept me in mourning for the last three months,
and from which Valentine has only escaped by a miracle, have
not happened by natural means."
"I was not thinking of that," replied Madame Danglars
quickly. "Yes, you were thinking of it, and with justice.
You could not help thinking of it, and saying to yourself,
`you, who pursue crime so vindictively, answer now, why are
there unpunished crimes in your dwelling?'" The baroness
became pale. "You were saying this, were you not?"
"Well, I own it."
"I will answer you."
Villefort drew his armchair nearer to Madame Danglars; then
resting both hands upon his desk he said in a voice more
hollow than usual: "There are crimes which remain unpunished
because the criminals are unknown, and we might strike the
innocent instead of the guilty; but when the culprits are
discovered" (Villefort here extended his hand toward a large
crucifix placed opposite to his desk) -- "when they are
discovered, I swear to you, by all I hold most sacred, that
whoever they may be they shall die. Now, after the oath I
have just taken, and which I will keep, madame, dare you ask
for mercy for that wretch!"
"But, sir, are you sure he is as guilty as they say?"
"Listen; this is his description: `Benedetto, condemned, at
the age of sixteen, for five years to the galleys for
forgery.' He promised well, as you see -- first a runaway,
then an assassin."
"And who is this wretch?"
"Who can tell? -- a vagabond, a Corsican."
"Has no one owned him?"
"No one; his parents are unknown."
"But who was the man who brought him from Lucca?"
"Another rascal like himself, perhaps his accomplice." The
baroness clasped her hands. "Villefort," she exclaimed in
her softest and most captivating manner.
"For heaven's sake, madame," said Villefort, with a firmness
of expression not altogether free from harshness -- "for
heaven's sake, do not ask pardon of me for a guilty wretch!
What am I? -- the law. Has the law any eyes to witness your
grief? Has the law ears to be melted by your sweet voice?
Has the law a memory for all those soft recollections you
endeavor to recall? No, madame; the law has commanded, and
when it commands it strikes. You will tell me that I am a
living being, and not a code -- a man, and not a volume.
Look at me, madame -- look around me. Have mankind treated
me as a brother? Have they loved me? Have they spared me?
Has any one shown the mercy towards me that you now ask at
my hands? No, madame, they struck me, always struck me!
"Woman, siren that you are, do you persist in fixing on me
that fascinating eye, which reminds me that I ought to
blush? Well, be it so; let me blush for the faults you know,
and perhaps -- perhaps for even more than those! But having
sinned myself, -- it may be more deeply than others, -- I
never rest till I have torn the disguises from my
fellow-creatures, and found out their weaknesses. I have
always found them; and more, -- I repeat it with joy, with
triumph, -- I have always found some proof of human
perversity or error. Every criminal I condemn seems to me
living evidence that I am not a hideous exception to the
rest. Alas, alas, alas; all the world is wicked; let us
therefore strike at wickedness!"
Villefort pronounced these last words with a feverish rage,
which gave a ferocious eloquence to his words.
"But"' said Madame Danglars, resolving to make a last
effort, "this young man, though a murderer, is an orphan,
abandoned by everybody."
"So much the worse, or rather, so much the better; it has
been so ordained that he may have none to weep his fate."
"But this is trampling on the weak, sir."
"The weakness of a murderer!"
"His dishonor reflects upon us."
"Is not death in my house?"
"Oh, sir," exclaimed the baroness, "you are without pity for
others, well, then, I tell you they will have no mercy on
"Be it so!" said Villefort, raising his arms to heaven.
"At least, delay the trial till the next assizes; we shall
then have six months before us."
"No, madame," said Villefort; "instructions have been given.
There are yet five days left; five days are more than I
require. Do you not think that I also long for
forgetfulness? While working night and day, I sometimes lose
all recollection of the past, and then I experience the same
sort of happiness I can imagine the dead feel; still, it is
better than suffering."
"But, sir, he has fled; let him escape -- inaction is a
"I tell you it is too late; early this morning the telegraph
was employed, and at this very minute" --
"Sir," said the valet de chambre, entering the room, "a
dragoon has brought this despatch from the minister of the
interior." Villefort seized the letter, and hastily broke
the seal. Madame Danglars trembled with fear; Villefort
started with joy. "Arrested!" he exclaimed; "he was taken at
Compiegne, and all is over." Madame Danglars rose from her
seat, pale and cold. "Adieu, sir," she said. "Adieu,
madame," replied the king's attorney, as in an almost joyful
manner he conducted her to the door. Then, turning to his
desk, he said, striking the letter with the back of his
right hand, "Come, I had a forgery, three robberies, and two
cases of arson, I only wanted a murder, and here it is. It
will be a splendid session!"