Chapter 102 Valentine
NIGHT-LIGHT continued to burn on the chimney-piece, exhausting the last
drops of oil which floated on the surface of the water. The globe of the
lamp appeared of a reddish hue, and the flame, brightening before it
expired, threw out the last flickerings which in an inanimate object have
been so often compared with the convulsions of a human creature in its
final agonies. A dull and dismal light was shed over the bedclothes and
curtains surrounding the young girl. All noise in the streets had ceased,
and the silence was frightful. It was then that the door of Edward's room
opened, and a head we have before noticed appeared in the glass opposite;
it was Madame de Villefort, who came to witness the effects of the drink
she had prepared. She stopped in the doorway, listened for a moment to the
flickering of the lamp, the only sound in that deserted room, and then
advanced to the table to see if Valentine's glass were empty. It was still
about a quarter full, as we before stated. Madame de Villefort emptied the
contents into the ashes, which she disturbed that they might the more
readily absorb the liquid; then she carefully rinsed the glass, and wiping
it with her handkerchief replaced it on the table.
any one could have looked into the room just then he would have noticed
the hesitation with which Madame de Villefort approached the bed and
looked fixedly on Valentine. The dim light, the profound silence, and the
gloomy thoughts inspired by the hour, and still more by her own
conscience, all combined to produce a sensation of fear; the poisoner was
terrified at the contemplation of her own work. At length she rallied,
drew aside the curtain, and leaning over the pillow gazed intently on
Valentine. The young girl no longer breathed, no breath issued through the
half-closed teeth; the white lips no longer quivered--the eyes were
suffused with a bluish vapor, and the long black lashes rested on a cheek
white as wax. Madame de Villefort gazed upon the face so expressive even
in its stillness; then she ventured to raise the coverlet and press her
hand upon the young girl's heart. It was cold and motionless. She only
felt the pulsation in her own fingers, and withdrew her hand with a
shudder. One arm was hanging out of the bed; from shoulder to elbow it was
moulded after the arms of Germain Pillon's "Graces,"* but the
fore-arm seemed to be slightly distorted by convulsion, and the hand, so
delicately formed, was resting with stiff outstretched fingers on the
framework of the bed. The nails, too, were turning blue.
Germain Pillon was a famous French sculptor (1535-1598). His best known
work is "The Three Graces," now in the Louvre.
de Villefort had no longer any doubt; all was over--she had consummated
the last terrible work she had to accomplish. There was no more to do in
the room, so the poisoner retired stealthily, as though fearing to hear
the sound of her own footsteps; but as she withdrew she still held aside
the curtain, absorbed in the irresistible attraction always exerted by the
picture of death, so long as it is merely mysterious and does not excite
disgust. Just then the lamp again flickered; the noise startled Madame de
Villefort, who shuddered and dropped the curtain. Immediately afterwards
the light expired, and the room was plunged in frightful obscurity, while
the clock at that minute struck half-past four. Overpowered with
agitation, the poisoner succeeded in groping her way to the door, and
reached her room in an agony of fear.
darkness lasted two hours longer; then by degrees a cold light crept
through the Venetian blinds, until at length it revealed the objects in
the room. About this time the nurse's cough was heard on the stairs and
the woman entered the room with a cup in her hand. To the tender eye of a
father or a lover, the first glance would have sufficed to reveal
Valentine's condition; but to this hireling, Valentine only appeared to
sleep. "Good," she exclaimed, approaching the table, "she
has taken part of her draught; the glass is three-quarters empty."
she went to the fireplace and lit the fire, and although she had just left
her bed, she could not resist the temptation offered by Valentine's sleep,
so she threw herself into an arm-chair to snatch a little more rest. The
clock striking eight awoke her. Astonished at the prolonged slumber of the
patient, and frightened to see that the arm was still hanging out of the
bed, she advanced towards Valentine, and for the first time noticed the
white lips. She tried to replace the arm, but it moved with a frightful
rigidity which could not deceive a sick-nurse. She screamed aloud; then
running to the door exclaimed,--"Help, help!"
is the matter?" asked M. d'Avrigny, at the foot of the stairs, it
being the hour he usually visited her.
is it?" asked Villefort, rushing from his room. "Doctor, do you
hear them call for help?"
yes; let us hasten up; it was in Valentine's room." But before the
doctor and the father could reach the room, the servants who were on the
same floor had entered, and seeing Valentine pale and motionless on her
bed, they lifted up their hands towards heaven and stood transfixed, as
though struck by lightening. "Call Madame de Villefort!--wake Madame
de Villefort!" cried the procureur from the door of his chamber,
which apparently he scarcely dared to leave. But instead of obeying him,
the servants stood watching M. d'Avrigny, who ran to Valentine, and raised
her in his arms. "What?--this one, too?" he exclaimed. "Oh,
where will be the end?" Villefort rushed into the room. "What
are you saying, doctor?" he exclaimed, raising his hands to heaven.
say that Valentine is dead!" replied d'Avrigny, in a voice terrible
in its solemn calm.
de Villefort staggered and buried his head in the bed. On the exclamation
of the doctor and the cry of the father, the servants all fled with
muttered imprecations; they were heard running down the stairs and through
the long passages, then there was a rush in the court, afterwards all was
still; they had, one and all, deserted the accursed house. Just then,
Madame de Villefort, in the act of slipping on her dressing-gown, threw
aside the drapery and for a moment stood motionless, as though
interrogating the occupants of the room, while she endeavored to call up
some rebellious tears. On a sudden she stepped, or rather bounded, with
outstretched arms, towards the table. She saw d'Avrigny curiously
examining the glass, which she felt certain of having emptied during the
night. It was now a third full, just as it was when she threw the contents
into the ashes. The spectre of Valentine rising before the poisoner would
have alarmed her less. It was, indeed, the same color as the draught she
had poured into the glass, and which Valentine had drank; it was indeed
the poison, which could not deceive M. d'Avrigny, which he now examined so
closely; it was doubtless a miracle from heaven, that, notwithstanding her
precautions, there should be some trace, some proof remaining to reveal
the crime. While Madame de Villefort remained rooted to the spot like a
statue of terror, and Villefort, with his head hidden in the bedclothes,
saw nothing around him, d'Avrigny approached the window, that he might the
better examine the contents of the glass, and dipping the tip of his
finger in, tasted it. "Ah," he exclaimed, "it is no longer
brucine that is used; let me see what it is!"
he ran to one of the cupboards in Valentine's room, which had been
transformed into a medicine closet, and taking from its silver case a
small bottle of nitric acid, dropped a little of it into the liquor, which
immediately changed to a blood-red color. "Ah," exclaimed
d'Avrigny, in a voice in which the horror of a judge unveiling the truth
was mingled with the delight of a student making a discovery. Madame de
Villefort was overpowered, her eyes first flashed and then swam, she
staggered towards the door and disappeared. Directly afterwards the
distant sound of a heavy weight falling on the ground was heard, but no
one paid any attention to it; the nurse was engaged in watching the
chemical analysis, and Villefort was still absorbed in grief. M. d'Avrigny
alone had followed Madame de Villefort with his eyes, and watched her
hurried retreat. He lifted up the drapery over the entrance to Edward's
room, and his eye reaching as far as Madame de Villefort's apartment, he
beheld her extended lifeless on the floor. "Go to the assistance of
Madame de Villefort," he said to the nurse. "Madame de Villefort
Mademoiselle de Villefort "--stammered the nurse.
de Villefort no longer requires help," said d'Avrigny, "since
she is dead."
groaned forth Villefort, in a paroxysm of grief, which was the more
terrible from the novelty of the sensation in the iron heart of that man.
repeated a third voice. "Who said Valentine was dead?"
two men turned round, and saw Morrel standing at the door, pale and
terror-stricken. This is what had happened. At the usual time, Morrel had
presented himself at the little door leading to Noirtier's room. Contrary
to custom, the door was open, and having no occasion to ring he entered.
He waited for a moment in the hall and called for a servant to conduct him
to M. Noirtier; but no one answered, the servants having, as we know,
deserted the house. Morrel had no particular reason for uneasiness; Monte
Cristo had promised him that Valentine should live, and so far he had
always fulfilled his word. Every night the count had given him news, which
was the next morning confirmed by Noirtier. Still this extraordinary
silence appeared strange to him, and he called a second and third time;
still no answer. Then he determined to go up. Noirtier's room was opened,
like all the rest. The first thing he saw was the old man sitting in his
arm-chair in his usual place, but his eyes expressed alarm, which was
confirmed by the pallor which overspread his features.
are you, sir?" asked Morrel, with a sickness of heart.
answered the old man, by closing his eyes; but his appearance manifested
are thoughtful, sir," continued Morrel; "you want something;
shall I call one of the servants?"
pulled the bell, but though he nearly broke the cord no one answered. He
turned towards Noirtier; the pallor and anguish expressed on his
countenance momentarily increased.
exclaimed Morrel, "why do they not come? Is any one ill in the
house?" The eyes of Noirtier seemed as though they would start from
their sockets. "What is the matter? You alarm me. Valentine?
yes," signed Noirtier. Maximilian tried to speak, but he could
articulate nothing; he staggered, and supported himself against the
wainscot. Then he pointed to the door.
yes, yes!" continued the old man. Maximilian rushed up the little
staircase, while Noirtier's eyes seemed to say,--"Quicker,
a minute the young man darted through several rooms, till at length he
reached Valentine's. There was no occasion to push the door, it was wide
open. A sob was the only sound he heard. He saw as though in a mist, a
black figure kneeling and buried in a confused mass of white drapery. A
terrible fear transfixed him. It was then he heard a voice exclaim
"Valentine is dead!" and another voice which, like an echo