Chapter 11 The Corsican Ogre
THE SIGHT of this agitation Louis XVIII pushed from him violently the
table at which he was sitting.
ails you, baron?" he exclaimed. "You appear quite aghast. Has
your uneasiness anything to do with what M. de Blacas has told me, and M.
de Villefort has just confirmed?" M. de Blacas moved suddenly towards
the baron, but the fright of the courtier pleaded for the forbearance of
the statesman; and besides, as matters were, it was much more to his
advantage that the prefect of police should triumph over him than that he
should humiliate the prefect.
what is it?" asked Louis XVIII. The minister of police, giving way to
an impulse of despair, was about to throw himself at the feet of Louis
XVIII., who retreated a step and frowned.
you speak?" he said.
sire, what a dreadful misfortune! I am, indeed, to be pitied. I can never
said Louis XVIII, "I command you to speak."
sire, the usurper left Elba on the 26th February, and landed on the 1st of
where? In Italy?" asked the king eagerly.
France, sire,--at a small port, near Antibes, in the Gulf of Juan."
"The usurper landed in France, near Antibes, in the Gulf of Juan, two
hundred and fifty leagues from Paris, on the 1st of March, and you only
acquired this information to-day, the 4th of March! Well, sir, what you
tell me is impossible. You must have received a false report, or you have
sire, it is but too true!" Louis made a gesture of indescribable
anger and alarm, and then drew himself up as if this sudden blow had
struck him at the same moment in heart and countenance.
France!" he cried, "the usurper in France! Then they did not
watch over this man. Who knows? they were, perhaps, in league with
sire," exclaimed the Duc de Blacas, "M. Dandré is not a man to be accused of
treason! Sire, we have all been blind, and the minister of police has
shared the general blindness, that is all."
Villefort, and then suddenly checking himself, he was silent; then he
continued, "Your pardon, sire," he said, bowing, "my zeal
carried me away. Will your majesty deign to excuse me?"
sir, speak boldly," replied Louis. "You alone forewarned us of
the evil; now try and aid us with the remedy."
said Villefort, "the usurper is detested in the south; and it seems
to me that if he ventured into the south, it would be easy to raise
Languedoc and Provence against him."
assuredly," replied the minister; "but he is advancing by Gap
is advancing!" said Louis XVIII. "Is he then advancing on
Paris?" The minister of police maintained a silence which was
equivalent to a complete avowal.
sir?" inquired the king, of Villefort. "Do you think it possible
to rouse that as well as Provence?"
I am sorry to tell your majesty a cruel fact; but the feeling in Dauphiné is quite the reverse of that in
Provence or Languedoc. The mountaineers are Bonapartists, sire."
murmured Louis, "he was well informed. And how many men had he with
do not know, sire," answered the minister of police.
you do not know! Have you neglected to obtain information on that point?
Of course it is of no consequence," he added, with a withering smile.
it was impossible to learn; the despatch simply stated the fact of the
landing and the route taken by the usurper."
how did this despatch reach you?" inquired the king. The minister
bowed his head, and while a deep color overspread his cheeks, he stammered
the telegraph, sire."--Louis XVIII. advanced a step, and folded his
arms over his chest as Napoleon would have done.
then," he exclaimed, turning pale with anger, "seven conjoined
and allied armies overthrew that man. A miracle of heaven replaced me on
the throne of my fathers after five-and-twenty years of exile. I have,
during those five-and-twenty years, spared no pains to understand the
people of France and the interests which were confided to me; and now,
when I see the fruition of my wishes almost within reach, the power I hold
in my hands bursts, and shatters me to atoms!"
it is fatality!" murmured the minister, feeling that the pressure of
circumstances, however light a thing to destiny, was too much for any
human strength to endure.
our enemies say of us is then true. We have learnt nothing, forgotten
nothing! If I were betrayed as he was, I would console myself; but to be
in the midst of persons elevated by myself to places of honor, who ought
to watch over me more carefully than over themselves,--for my fortune is
theirs--before me they were nothing--after me they will be nothing, and
perish miserably from incapacity--ineptitude! Oh, yes, sir, you are
right--it is fatality!"
minister quailed before this outburst of sarcasm. M. de Blacas wiped the
moisture from his brow. Villefort smiled within himself, for he felt his
fall," continued King Louis, who at the first glance had sounded the
abyss on which the monarchy hung suspended,--"to fall, and learn of
that fall by telegraph! Oh, I would rather mount the scaffold of my
brother, Louis XVI., than thus descend the staircase at the Tuileries
driven away by ridicule. Ridicule, sir--why, you know not its power in
France, and yet you ought to know it!"
sire," murmured the minister, "for pity's"--
M. de Villefort," resumed the king, addressing the young man, who,
motionless and breathless, was listening to a conversation on which
depended the destiny of a kingdom. "Approach, and tell monsieur that
it is possible to know beforehand all that he has not known."
it was really impossible to learn secrets which that man concealed from
all the world."
impossible! Yes--that is a great word, sir. Unfortunately, there are great
words, as there are great men; I have measured them. Really impossible for
a minister who has an office, agents, spies, and fifteen hundred thousand
francs for secret service money, to know what is going on at sixty leagues
from the coast of France! Well, then, see, here is a gentleman who had
none of these resources at his disposal--a gentleman, only a simple
magistrate, who learned more than you with all your police, and who would
have saved my crown, if, like you, he had the power of directing a
telegraph." The look of the minister of police was turned with
concentrated spite on Villefort, who bent his head in modest triumph.
do not mean that for you, Blacas," continued Louis XVIII.; "for
if you have discovered nothing, at least you have had the good sense to
persevere in your suspicions. Any other than yourself would have
considered the disclosure of M. de Villefort insignificant, or else
dictated by venal ambition," These words were an allusion to the
sentiments which the minister of police had uttered with so much
confidence an hour before.
understood the king's intent. Any other person would, perhaps, have been
overcome by such an intoxicating draught of praise; but he feared to make
for himself a mortal enemy of the police minister, although he saw that
Dandré was irrevocably lost. In fact,
the minister, who, in the plenitude of his power, had been unable to
unearth Napoleon's secret, might in despair at his own downfall
interrogate Dantès and so lay bare the motives of
Villefort's plot. Realizing this, Villefort came to the rescue of the
crest-fallen minister, instead of aiding to crush him.
said Villefort, "the suddenness of this event must prove to your
majesty that the issue is in the hands of Providence; what your majesty is
pleased to attribute to me as profound perspicacity is simply owing to
chance, and I have profited by that chance, like a good and devoted
servant--that's all. Do not attribute to me more than I deserve, sire,
that your majesty may never have occasion to recall the first opinion you
have been pleased to form of me." The minister of police thanked the
young man by an eloquent look, and Villefort understood that he had
succeeded in his design; that is to say, that without forfeiting the
gratitude of the king, he had made a friend of one on whom, in case of
necessity, he might rely.
well," resumed the king. "And now, gentlemen," he
continued, turning towards M. de Blacas and the minister of police,
"I have no further occasion for you, and you may retire; what now
remains to do is in the department of the minister of war."
sire," said M. de Blacas, "we can rely on the army; your majesty
knows how every report confirms their loyalty and attachment."
not mention reports, duke, to me, for I know now what confidence to place
in them. Yet, speaking of reports, baron, what have you learned with
regard to the affair in the Rue Saint-Jacques?"
affair in the Rue Saint-Jacques!" exclaimed Villefort, unable to
repress an exclamation. Then, suddenly pausing, he added, "Your
pardon, sire, but my devotion to your majesty has made me forget, not the
respect I have, for that is too deeply engraved in my heart, but the rules
on, go on, sir," replied the king; "you have to-day earned the
right to make inquiries here."
interposed the minister of police, "I came a moment ago to give your
majesty fresh information which I had obtained on this head, when your
majesty's attention was attracted by the terrible event that has occurred
in the gulf, and now these facts will cease to interest your
the contrary, sir,--on the contrary," said Louis XVIII., "this
affair seems to me to have a decided connection with that which occupies
our attention, and the death of General Quesnel will, perhaps, put us on
the direct track of a great internal conspiracy." At the name of
General Quesnel, Villefort trembled.
points to the conclusion, sire," said the minister of police,
"that death was not the result of suicide, as we first believed, but
of assassination. General Quesnel, it appears, had just left a Bonapartist
club when he disappeared. An unknown person had been with him that
morning, and made an appointment with him in the Rue Saint-Jacques;
unfortunately, the general's valet, who was dressing his hair at the
moment when the stranger entered, heard the street mentioned, but did not
catch the number." As the police minister related this to the king,
Villefort, who looked as if his very life hung on the speaker's lips,
turned alternately red and pale. The king looked towards him.
you not think with me, M. de Villefort, that General Quesnel, whom they
believed attached to the usurper, but who was really entirely devoted to
me, has perished the victim of a Bonapartist ambush?"
is probable, sire," replied Villefort. "But is this all that is
are on the track of the man who appointed the meeting with him."
his track?" said Villefort.
the servant has given his description. He is a man of from fifty to
fifty-two years of age, dark, with black eyes covered with shaggy
eyebrows, and a thick mustache. He was dressed in a blue frock-coat,
buttoned up to the chin, and wore at his button-hole the rosette of an
officer of the Legion of Honor. Yesterday a person exactly corresponding
with this description was followed, but he was lost sight of at the corner
of the Rue de la Jussienne and the Rue Coq-Héron."
Villefort leaned on the back of an arm-chair, for as the minister of
police went on speaking he felt his legs bend under him; but when he
learned that the unknown had escaped the vigilance of the agent who
followed him, he breathed again.
to seek for this man, sir," said the king to the minister of police;
"for if, as I am all but convinced, General Quesnel, who would have
been so useful to us at this moment, has been murdered, his assassins,
Bonapartists or not, shall be cruelly punished." It required all
Villefort's coolness not to betray the terror with which this declaration
of the king inspired him.
strange," continued the king, with some asperity; "the police
think that they have disposed of the whole matter when they say, 'A murder
has been committed,' and especially so when they can add, 'And we are on
the track of the guilty persons.'"
your majesty will, I trust, be amply satisfied on this point at
shall see. I will no longer detain you, M. de Villefort, for you must be
fatigued after so long a journey; go and rest. Of course you stopped at
your father's?" A feeling of faintness came over Villefort.
sire," he replied, "I alighted at the Hotel de Madrid, in the
Rue de Tournon."
you have seen him?"
I went straight to the Duc de Blacas."
you will see him, then?"
think not, sire."
I forgot," said Louis, smiling in a manner which proved that all
these questions were not made without a motive; "I forgot you and M.
Noirtier are not on the best terms possible, and that is another sacrifice
made to the royal cause, and for which you should be recompensed."
the kindness your majesty deigns to evince towards me is a recompense
which so far surpasses my utmost ambition that I have nothing more to ask
mind, sir, we will not forget you; make your mind easy. In the
meanwhile" (the king here detached the cross of the Legion of Honor
which he usually wore over his blue coat, near the cross of St. Louis,
above the order of Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel and St. Lazare, and gave it
to Villefort)--"in the meanwhile take this cross."
said Villefort, "your majesty mistakes; this is an officer's
foi," said Louis XVIII., "take it, such as it is, for I have not
the time to procure you another. Blacas, let it be your care to see that
the brevet is made out and sent to M. de Villefort." Villefort's eyes
were filled with tears of joy and pride; he took the cross and kissed it.
now," he said, "may I inquire what are the orders with which
your majesty deigns to honor me?"
what rest you require, and remember that if you are not able to serve me
here in Paris, you may be of the greatest service to me at
replied Villefort, bowing, "in an hour I shall have quitted
sir," said the king; "and should I forget you (kings' memories
are short), do not be afraid to bring yourself to my recollection. Baron,
send for the minister of war. Blacas, remain."
sir," said the minister of police to Villefort, as they left the
Tuileries, "you entered by luck's door--your fortune is made."
it be long first?" muttered Villefort, saluting the minister, whose
career was ended, and looking about him for a hackney-coach. One passed at
the moment, which he hailed; he gave his address to the driver, and
springing in, threw himself on the seat, and gave loose to dreams of
minutes afterwards Villefort reached his hotel, ordered horses to be ready
in two hours, and asked to have his breakfast brought to him. He was about
to begin his repast when the sound of the bell rang sharp and loud. The
valet opened the door, and Villefort heard some one speak his name.
could know that I was here already?" said the young man. The valet
said Villefort, "what is it?--Who rang?--Who asked for me?"
stranger who will not send in his name."
stranger who will not send in his name! What can he want with me?"
wishes to speak to you."
he mention my name?"
sort of person is he?"
sir, a man of about fifty."
your own height, sir."
dark; with black eyes, black hair, black eyebrows."
how dressed?" asked Villefort quickly.
a blue frock-coat, buttoned up close, decorated with the Legion of
is he!" said Villefort, turning pale.
" said the individual whose description we have twice given, entering
the door, "what a great deal of ceremony! Is it the custom in
Marseilles for sons to keep their fathers waiting in their
cried Villefort, "then I was not deceived; I felt sure it must be
then, if you felt so sure," replied the new-comer, putting his cane
in a corner and his hat on a chair, "allow me to say, my dear Gérard, that it was not very filial
of you to keep me waiting at the door."
us, Germain," said Villefort. The servant quitted the apartment with
evident signs of astonishment.