Chapter 59 The Will
SOON AS Barrois had left the room, Noirtier looked at Valentine with a
malicious expression that said many things. The young girl perfectly
understood the look, and so did Villefort, for his countenance became
clouded, and he knitted his eyebrows angrily. He took a seat, and quietly
awaited the arrival of the notary. Noirtier saw him seat himself with an
appearance of perfect indifference, at the same time giving a side look at
Valentine, which made her understand that she also was to remain in the
room. Three-quarters of an hour after, Barrois returned, bringing the
notary with him. "Sir," said Villefort, after the first
salutations were over, "you were sent for by M. Noirtier, whom you
see here. All his limbs have become completely paralysed, he has lost his
voice also, and we ourselves find much trouble in endeavoring to catch
some fragments of his meaning." Noirtier cast an appealing look on
Valentine, which look was at once so earnest and imperative, that she
answered immediately. "Sir," said she, "I perfectly
understand my grandfather's meaning at all times."
is quite true," said Barrois; "and that is what I told the
gentleman as we walked along."
me," said the notary, turning first to Villefort and then to
Valentine--"permit me to state that the case in question is just one
of those in which a public officer like myself cannot proceed to act
without thereby incurring a dangerous responsibility. The first thing
necessary to render an act valid is, that the notary should be thoroughly
convinced that he has faithfully interpreted the will and wishes of the
person dictating the act. Now I cannot be sure of the approbation or
disapprobation of a client who cannot speak, and as the object of his
desire or his repugnance cannot be clearly proved to me, on account of his
want of speech, my services here would be quite useless, and cannot be
legally exercised." The notary then prepared to retire. An
imperceptible smile of triumph was expressed on the lips of the procureur.
Noirtier looked at Valentine with an expression so full of grief, that she
arrested the departure of the notary. "Sir," said she, "the
language which I speak with my grandfather may be easily learnt, and I can
teach you in a few minutes, to understand it almost as well as I can
myself. Will you tell me what you require, in order to set your conscience
quite at ease on the subject?"
order to render an act valid, I must be certain of the approbation or
disapprobation of my client. Illness of body would not affect the validity
of the deed, but sanity of mind is absolutely requisite."
sir, by the help of two signs, with which I will acquaint you presently,
you may ascertain with perfect certainty that my grandfather is still in
the full possession of all his mental faculties. M. Noirtier, being
deprived of voice and motion, is accustomed to convey his meaning by
closing his eyes when he wishes to signify 'yes,' and to wink when he
means 'no.' You now know quite enough to enable you to converse with M.
Noirtier;--try." Noirtier gave Valentine such a look of tenderness
and gratitude that it was comprehended even by the notary himself.
"You have heard and understood what your granddaughter has been
saying, sir, have you?" asked the notary. Noirtier closed his eyes.
"And you approve of what she said--that is to say, you declare that
the signs which she mentioned are really those by means of which you are
accustomed to convey your thoughts?"
was you who sent for me?"
make your will?"
you do not wish me to go away without fulfilling your original
intentions?" The old man winked violently. "Well, sir,"
said the young girl, "do you understand now, and is your conscience
perfectly at rest on the subject?" But before the notary could
answer, Villefort had drawn him aside. "Sir," said he, "do
you suppose for a moment that a man can sustain a physical shock, such as
M. Noirtier has received, without any detriment to his mental
is not exactly that, sir," said the notary, "which makes me
uneasy, but the difficulty will be in wording his thoughts and intentions,
so as to be able to get his answers."
must see that to be an utter impossibility," said Villefort.
Valentine and the old man heard this conversation, and Noirtier fixed his
eye so earnestly on Valentine that she felt bound to answer to the look.
said she, "that need not make you uneasy, however difficult it may at
first sight appear to be. I can discover and explain to you my
grandfather's thoughts, so as to put an end to all your doubts and fears
on the subject. I have now been six years with M. Noirtier, and let him
tell you if ever once, during that time, he has entertained a thought
which he was unable to make me understand."
signed the old man.
us try what we can do, then," said the notary. "You accept this
young lady as your interpreter, M. Noirtier?"
sir, what do you require of me, and what document is it that you wish to
be drawn up?" Valentine named all the letters of the alphabet until
she came to W. At this letter the eloquent eye of Noirtier gave her notice
that she was to stop. "It is very evident that it is the letter W
which M. Noirtier wants," said the notary. "Wait," said
Valentine; and, turning to her grandfather, she repeated, "Wa--We--Wi"--The
old man stopped her at the last syllable. Valentine then took the
dictionary, and the notary watched her while she turned over the pages.
She passed her finger slowly down the columns, and when she came to the
word "Will," M. Noirtier's eye bade her stop. "Will,"
said the notary; "it is very evident that M. Noirtier is desirous of
making his will."
yes, yes," motioned the invalid.
sir, you must allow that this is most extraordinary," said the
astonished notary, turning to M. de Villefort. "Yes," said the
procureur, "and I think the will promises to be yet more
extraordinary, for I cannot see how it is to be drawn up without the
intervention of Valentine, and she may, perhaps, be considered as too much
interested in its contents to allow of her being a suitable interpreter of
the obscure and ill-defined wishes of her grandfather."
no, no," replied the eye of the paralytic.
said Villefort, "do you mean to say that Valentine is not interested
in your will?"
said the notary, whose interest had been greatly excited, and who had
resolved on publishing far and wide the account of this extraordinary and
picturesque scene, "what appeared so impossible to me an hour ago,
has now become quite easy and practicable, and this may be a perfectly
valid will, provided it be read in the presence of seven witnesses,
approved by the testator, and sealed by the notary in the presence of the
witnesses. As to the time, it will not require very much more than the
generality of wills. There are certain forms necessary to be gone through,
and which are always the same. As to the details, the greater part will be
furnished afterwards by the state in which we find the affairs of the
testator, and by yourself, who, having had the management of them, can
doubtless give full information on the subject. But besides all this, in
order that the instrument may not be contested, I am anxious to give it
the greatest possible authenticity, therefore, one of my colleagues will
help me, and, contrary to custom, will assist in the dictation of the
testament. Are you satisfied, sir?" continued the notary, addressing
the old man.
looked the invalid, his eye beaming with delight at the ready
interpretation of his meaning.
is he going to do?" thought Villefort, whose position demanded much
reserve, but who was longing to know what his father's intentions were. He
left the room to give orders for another notary to be sent, but Barrois,
who had heard all that passed, had guessed his master's wishes, and had
already gone to fetch one. The procureur then told his wife to come up. In
the course of a quarter of an hour every one had assembled in the chamber
of the paralytic; the second notary had also arrived. A few words sufficed
for a mutual understanding between the two officers of the law. They read
to Noirtier the formal copy of a will, in order to give him an idea of the
terms in which such documents are generally couched; then, in order to
test the capacity of the testator, the first notary said, turning towards
him,--"When an individual makes his will, it is generally in favor or
in prejudice of some person."
you an exact idea of the amount of your fortune?"
will name to you several sums which will increase by gradation; you will
stop me when I reach the one representing the amount of your own
There was a kind of solemnity in this interrogation. Never had the
struggle between mind and matter been more apparent than now, and if it
was not a sublime, it was, at least, a curious spectacle. They had formed
a circle round the invalid; the second notary was sitting at a table,
prepared for writing, and his colleague was standing before the testator
in the act of interrogating him on the subject to which we have alluded.
"Your fortune exceeds 300,000 francs, does it not?" asked he.
Noirtier made a sign that it did. "Do you possess 400,000
francs?" inquired the notary. Noirtier's eye remained immovable.
"Five hundred thousand?" The same expression continued.
"Six hundred thousand--700,000--800,000--900,000?" Noirtier
stopped him at the last-named sum. "You are then in possession of
900,000 francs?" asked the notary. "Yes."
stock is in your own hands?" The look which M. Noirtier cast on
Barrois showed that there was something wanting which he knew where to
find. The old servant left the room, and presently returned, bringing with
him a small casket. "Do you permit us to open this casket?"
asked the notary. Noirtier gave his assent. They opened it, and found
900,000 francs in bank scrip. The first notary handed over each note, as
he examined it, to his colleague.
total amount was found to be as M. Noirtier had stated. "It is all as
he has said; it is very evident that the mind still retains its full force
and vigor." Then, turning towards the paralytic, he said, "You
possess, then, 900,000 francs of capital, which, according to the manner
in which you have invested it, ought to bring in an income of about 40,000
whom do you desire to leave this fortune?"
said Madame de Villefort, "there is not much doubt on that subject.
M. Noirtier tenderly loves his granddaughter, Mademoiselle de Villefort;
it is she who has nursed and tended him for six years, and has, by her
devoted attention, fully secured the affection, I had almost said the
gratitude, of her grandfather, and it is but just that she should reap the
fruit of her devotion." The eye of Noirtier clearly showed by its
expression that he was not deceived by the false assent given by Madame de
Villefort's words and manner to the motives which she supposed him to
entertain. "Is it, then, to Mademoiselle Valentine de Villefort that
you leave these 900,000 francs?" demanded the notary, thinking he had
only to insert this clause, but waiting first for the assent of Noirtier,
which it was necessary should be given before all the witnesses of this
singular scene. Valentine, when her name was made the subject of
discussion, had stepped back, to escape unpleasant observation; her eyes
were cast down, and she was crying. The old man looked at her for an
instant with an expression of the deepest tenderness, then, turning
towards the notary, he significantly winked his eye in token of dissent.
said the notary, "do you not intend making Mademoiselle Valentine de
Villefort your residuary legatee?"
are not making any mistake, are you?" said the notary; "you
really mean to declare that such is not your intention?"
repeated Noirtier; "No." Valentine raised her head, struck dumb
with astonishment. It was not so much the conviction that she was
disinherited that caused her grief, but her total inability to account for
the feelings which had provoked her grandfather to such an act. But
Noirtier looked at her with so much affectionate tenderness that she
exclaimed, "Oh, grandpapa, I see now that it is only your fortune of
which you deprive me; you still leave me the love which I have always
yes, most assuredly," said the eyes of the paralytic, for he closed
them with an expression which Valentine could not mistake. "Thank
you, thank you," murmured she. The old man's declaration that
Valentine was not the destined inheritor of his fortune had excited the
hopes of Madame de Villefort; she gradually approached the invalid, and
said: "Then, doubtless, dear M. Noirtier, you intend leaving your
fortune to your grandson, Edward de Villefort?" The winking of the
eyes which answered this speech was most decided and terrible, and
expressed a feeling almost amounting to hatred.
said the notary; "then, perhaps, it is to your son, M. de Villefort?"
The two notaries looked at each other in mute astonishment and inquiry as
to what were the real intentions of the testator. Villefort and his wife
both grew red, one from shame, the other from anger.
have we all done, then, dear grandpapa?" said Valentine; "you no
longer seem to love any of us?" The old man's eyes passed rapidly
from Villefort and his wife, and rested on Valentine with a look of
unutterable fondness. "Well," said she; "if you love me,
grandpapa, try and bring that love to bear upon your actions at this
present moment. You know me well enough to be quite sure that I have never
thought of your fortune; besides, they say I am already rich in right of
my mother--too rich, even. Explain yourself, then." Noirtier fixed
his intelligent eyes on Valentine's hand. "My hand?" said she.
hand!" exclaimed every one.
gentlemen, you see it is all useless, and that my father's mind is really
impaired," said Villefort.
cried Valentine suddenly, "I understand. It is my marriage you mean,
is it not, dear grandpapa?"
yes, yes," signed the paralytic, casting on Valentine a look of
joyful gratitude for having guessed his meaning.
are angry with us all on account of this marriage, are you not?"
this is too absurd," said Villefort.
me, sir," replied the notary; "on the contrary, the meaning of
M. Noirtier is quite evident to me, and I can quite easily connect the
train of ideas passing in his mind."
do not wish me to marry M. Franz d'Epinay?" observed Valentine.
do not wish it," said the eye of her grandfather. "And you
disinherit your granddaughter," continued the notary, "because
she has contracted an engagement contrary to your wishes?"
that, but for this marriage, she would have been your heir?"
There was a profound silence. The two notaries were holding a consultation
as to the best means of proceeding with the affair. Valentine was looking
at her grandfather with a smile of intense gratitude, and Villefort was
biting his lips with vexation, while Madame de Villefort could not succeed
in repressing an inward feeling of joy, which, in spite of herself,
appeared in her whole countenance. "But," said Villefort, who
was the first to break the silence, "I consider that I am the best
judge of the propriety of the marriage in question. I am the only person
possessing the right to dispose of my daughter's hand. It is my wish that
she should marry M. Franz d'Epinay--and she shall marry him."
Valentine sank weeping into a chair.
said the notary, "how do you intend disposing of your fortune in case
Mademoiselle de Villefort still determines on marrying M. Franz?" The
old man gave no answer. "You will, of course, dispose of it in some
way or other?"
favor of some member of your family?"
you intend devoting it to charitable purposes, then?" pursued the
said the notary, "you are aware that the law does not allow a son to
be entirely deprived of his patrimony?"
only intend, then, to dispose of that part of your fortune which the law
allows you to subtract from the inheritance of your son?" Noirtier
made no answer. "Do you still wish to dispose of all?"
they will contest the will after your death?"
father knows me," replied Villefort; "he is quite sure that his
wishes will be held sacred by me; besides, he understands that in my
position I cannot plead against the poor." The eye of Noirtier beamed
with triumph. "What do you decide on, sir?" asked the notary of
sir; it is a resolution which my father has taken and I know he never
alters his mind. I am quite resigned. These 900,000 francs will go out of
the family in order to enrich some hospital; but it is ridiculous thus to
yield to the caprices of an old man, and I shall, therefore, act according
to my conscience." Having said this, Villefort quitted the room with
his wife, leaving his father at liberty to do as he pleased. The same day
the will was made, the witnesses were brought, it was approved by the old
man, sealed in the presence of all and given in charge to M. Deschamps,
the family notary.