The Count of Monte Cristo vol 3
Alexandre Dumas
Novels
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The Count of Monte Cristo (French: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo) is an adventure novel written by French author Alexandre Dumas (père) completed in 1844. It is one of the author's more popular works, along with The Three Musketeers. On the day in 1815 when Napoleon escapes the Island of Elba, Edmond Dantès brings the ship Pharaon into dock at Marseille. His captain, Leclère, died on the passage; the ship's owner, Morrel, will make Dantès the next captain. On his deathbed, Leclère charged Dantès to deliver a package to General Bertrand (exiled with Napoleon), and a letter from Elba to an unknown man in Paris. Dantès' colleague Danglars is jealous of Dantès' rapid promotion and, as the two men are at odds, fearful for his own employment should Dantès ascend. On the eve of Dantès' wedding to his Catalan fiancée Mercédès, Danglars meets at a cabaret with Fernand Mondego, Mercédès' cousin and a rival for her affections, and the two hatch a plot to anonymously denounce Dantès, accusing him of being a Bonapartist traitor. Danglars and Mondego set a trap for Dantès.

The Count of Monte Cristo

by
Alexandre Dumas [père]

In Five Volumes
Volume Three


Establishing the presence of the poison.

“Are you not my master?”

Chapter 48. Ideology

If the Count of Monte Cristo had been for a long time familiar with the ways of Parisian society, he would have appreciated better the significance of the step which M. de Villefort had taken. Standing well at court, whether the king regnant was of the older or younger branch, whether the government was doctrinaire liberal, or conservative; looked upon by all as a man of talent, since those who have never experienced a political check are generally so regarded; hated by many, but warmly supported by others, without being really liked by anybody, M. de Villefort held a high position in the magistracy, and maintained his eminence like a Harlay or a Molé. His drawing-room, under the regenerating influence of a young wife and a daughter by his first marriage, scarcely eighteen, was still one of the well-regulated Paris salons where the worship of traditional customs and the observance of rigid etiquette were carefully maintained. A freezing politeness, a strict fidelity to government principles, a profound contempt for theories and theorists, a deep-seated hatred of ideality, — these were the elements of private and public life displayed by M. de Villefort.

Madame de Villefort.

M. de Villefort was not only a magistrate, he was almost a diplomatist. His relations with the former court, of which he always spoke with dignity and respect, made him respected by the new one, and he knew so many things, that not only was he always carefully considered, but sometimes consulted. Perhaps this would not have been so had it been possible to get rid of M. de Villefort; but, like the feudal barons who rebelled against their sovereign, he dwelt in an impregnable fortress. This fortress was his post as king’s attorney, all the advantages of which he exploited with marvellous skill, and which he would not have resigned but to be made deputy, and thus to replace neutrality by opposition.

Ordinarily M. de Villefort made and returned very few visits. His wife visited for him, and this was the received thing in the world, where the weighty and multifarious occupations of the magistrate were accepted as an excuse for what was really only calculated pride, a manifestation of professed superiority — in fact, the application of the axiom, Pretend to think well of yourself, and the world will think well of you, an axiom a hundred times more useful in society nowadays than that of the Greeks, “Know thyself,” a knowledge for which, in our days, we have substituted the less difficult and more advantageous science of knowing others.

To his friends M. de Villefort was a powerful protector; to his enemies, he was a silent, but bitter opponent; for those who were neither the one nor the other, he was a statue of the law-made man. He had a haughty bearing, a look either steady and impenetrable or insolently piercing and inquisitorial. Four successive revolutions had built and cemented the pedestal upon which his fortune was based.

M. de Villefort had the reputation of being the least curious and the least wearisome man in France. He gave a ball every year, at which he appeared for a quarter of an hour only, — that is to say, five-and-forty minutes less than the king is visible at his balls. He was never seen at the theatres, at concerts, or in any place of public resort. Occasionally, but seldom, he played at whist, and then care was taken to select partners worthy of him — sometimes they were ambassadors, sometimes archbishops, or sometimes a prince, or a president, or some dowager duchess.

Such was the man whose carriage had just now stopped before the Count of Monte Cristo’s door. The valet de chambre announced M. de Villefort at the moment when the count, leaning over a large table, was tracing on a map the route from St. Petersburg to China.

The procureur entered with the same grave and measured step he would have employed in entering a court of justice. He was the same man, or rather the development of the same man, whom we have heretofore seen as assistant attorney at Marseilles. Nature, according to her way, had made no deviation in the path he had marked out for himself. From being slender he had now become meagre; once pale, he was now yellow; his deep-set eyes were hollow, and the gold spectacles shielding his eyes seemed to be an integral portion of his face. He dressed entirely in black, with the exception of his white tie, and his funeral appearance was only mitigated by the slight line of red ribbon which passed almost imperceptibly through his button-hole, and appeared like a streak of blood traced with a delicate brush.

Although master of himself, Monte Cristo, scrutinized with irrepressible curiosity the magistrate whose salute he returned, and who, distrustful by habit, and especially incredulous as to social prodigies, was much more despised to look upon “the noble stranger,” as Monte Cristo was already called, as an adventurer in search of new fields, or an escaped criminal, rather than as a prince of the Holy See, or a sultan of the Thousand and One Nights.

“Sir,” said Villefort, in the squeaky tone assumed by magistrates in their oratorical periods, and of which they cannot, or will not, divest themselves in society, “sir, the signal service which you yesterday rendered to my wife and son has made it a duty for me to offer you my thanks. I have come, therefore, to discharge this duty, and to express to you my overwhelming gratitude.”

And as he said this, the “eye severe” of the magistrate had lost nothing of its habitual arrogance. He spoke in a voice of the procureur-general, with the rigid inflexibility of neck and shoulders which caused his flatterers to say (as we have before observed) that he was the living statue of the law.

“Monsieur,” replied the count, with a chilling air, “I am very happy to have been the means of preserving a son to his mother, for they say that the sentiment of maternity is the most holy of all; and the good fortune which occurred to me, monsieur, might have enabled you to dispense with a duty which, in its discharge, confers an undoubtedly great honor; for I am aware that M. de Villefort is not usually lavish of the favor which he now bestows on me, — a favor which, however estimable, is unequal to the satisfaction which I have in my own consciousness.”

Villefort, astonished at this reply, which he by no means expected, started like a soldier who feels the blow levelled at him over the armor he wears, and a curl of his disdainful lip indicated that from that moment he noted in the tablets of his brain that the Count of Monte Cristo was by no means a highly bred gentleman.