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Chapter 12


CHAPTER 12
Father and Son.

M. Noirtier -- for it was, indeed, he who entered -- looked
after the servant until the door was closed, and then,
fearing, no doubt, that he might be overheard in the
ante-chamber, he opened the door again, nor was the
precaution useless, as appeared from the rapid retreat of
Germain, who proved that he was not exempt from the sin
which ruined our first parents. M. Noirtier then took the
trouble to close and bolt the ante-chamber door, then that
of the bed-chamber, and then extended his hand to Villefort,
who had followed all his motions with surprise which he
could not conceal.

"Well, now, my dear Gerard," said he to the young man, with
a very significant look, "do you know, you seem as if you
were not very glad to see me?"

"My dear father," said Villefort, "I am, on the contrary,
delighted; but I so little expected your visit, that it has
somewhat overcome me."

"But, my dear fellow," replied M. Noirtier, seating himself,
"I might say the same thing to you, when you announce to me
your wedding for the 28th of February, and on the 3rd of
March you turn up here in Paris."

"And if I have come, my dear father," said Gerard, drawing
closer to M. Noirtier, "do not complain, for it is for you
that I came, and my journey will be your salvation."

"Ah, indeed!" said M. Noirtier, stretching himself out at
his ease in the chair. "Really, pray tell me all about it,
for it must be interesting."

"Father, you have heard speak of a certain Bonapartist club
in the Rue Saint-Jacques?"

"No. 53; yes, I am vice-president."

"Father, your coolness makes me shudder."

"Why, my dear boy, when a man has been proscribed by the
mountaineers, has escaped from Paris in a hay-cart, been
hunted over the plains of Bordeaux by Robespierre's
bloodhounds, he becomes accustomed to most things. But go
on, what about the club in the Rue Saint-Jacques?"

"Why, they induced General Quesnel to go there, and General
Quesnel, who quitted his own house at nine o'clock in the
evening, was found the next day in the Seine."

"And who told you this fine story?"

"The king himself."

"Well, then, in return for your story," continued Noirtier,
"I will tell you another."

"My dear father, I think I already know what you are about
to tell me."

"Ah, you have heard of the landing of the emperor?"

"Not so loud, father, I entreat of you -- for your own sake
as well as mine. Yes, I heard this news, and knew it even
before you could; for three days ago I posted from
Marseilles to Paris with all possible speed, half-desperate
at the enforced delay."

"Three days ago? You are crazy. Why, three days ago the
emperor had not landed."

"No matter, I was aware of his intention."

"How did you know about it?"

"By a letter addressed to you from the Island of Elba."

"To me?"

"To you; and which I discovered in the pocket-book of the
messenger. Had that letter fallen into the hands of another,
you, my dear father, would probably ere this have been
shot." Villefort's father laughed.

"Come, come," said he, "will the Restoration adopt imperial
methods so promptly? Shot, my dear boy? What an idea! Where
is the letter you speak of? I know you too well to suppose
you would allow such a thing to pass you."

"I burnt it, for fear that even a fragment should remain;
for that letter must have led to your condemnation."

"And the destruction of your future prospects," replied
Noirtier; "yes, I can easily comprehend that. But I have
nothing to fear while I have you to protect me."

"I do better than that, sir -- I save you."

"You do? Why, really, the thing becomes more and more
dramatic -- explain yourself."

"I must refer again to the club in the Rue Saint-Jacques."

"It appears that this club is rather a bore to the police.
Why didn't they search more vigilantly? they would have
found" --

"They have not found; but they are on the track."

"Yes, that the usual phrase; I am quite familiar with it.
When the police is at fault, it declares that it is on the
track; and the government patiently awaits the day when it
comes to say, with a sneaking air, that the track is lost."

"Yes, but they have found a corpse; the general has been
killed, and in all countries they call that a murder."

"A murder do you call it? why, there is nothing to prove
that the general was murdered. People are found every day in
the Seine, having thrown themselves in, or having been
drowned from not knowing how to swim."

"Father, you know very well that the general was not a man
to drown himself in despair, and people do not bathe in the
Seine in the month of January. No, no, do not be deceived;
this was murder in every sense of the word."

"And who thus designated it?"

"The king himself."

"The king! I thought he was philosopher enough to allow that
there was no murder in politics. In politics, my dear
fellow, you know, as well as I do, there are no men, but
ideas -- no feelings, but interests; in politics we do not
kill a man, we only remove an obstacle, that is all. Would
you like to know how matters have progressed? Well, I will
tell you. It was thought reliance might be placed in General
Quesnel; he was recommended to us from the Island of Elba;
one of us went to him, and invited him to the Rue
Saint-Jacques, where he would find some friends. He came
there, and the plan was unfolded to him for leaving Elba,
the projected landing, etc. When he had heard and
comprehended all to the fullest extent, he replied that he
was a royalist. Then all looked at each other, -- he was
made to take an oath, and did so, but with such an ill grace
that it was really tempting Providence to swear him, and
yet, in spite of that, the general was allowed to depart
free -- perfectly free. Yet he did not return home. What
could that mean? why, my dear fellow, that on leaving us he
lost his way, that's all. A murder? really, Villefort, you
surprise me. You, a deputy procureur, to found an accusation
on such bad premises! Did I ever say to you, when you were
fulfilling your character as a royalist, and cut off the
head of one of my party, `My son, you have committed a
murder?' No, I said, `Very well, sir, you have gained the
victory; to-morrow, perchance, it will be our turn.'"

"But, father, take care; when our turn comes, our revenge
will be sweeping."

"I do not understand you."

"You rely on the usurper's return?"

"We do."

"You are mistaken; he will not advance two leagues into the
interior of France without being followed, tracked, and
caught like a wild beast."

"My dear fellow, the emperor is at this moment on the way to
Grenoble; on the 10th or 12th he will be at Lyons, and on
the 20th or 25th at Paris."

"The people will rise."

"Yes, to go and meet him."

"He has but a handful of men with him, and armies will be
despatched against him."

"Yes, to escort him into the capital. Really, my dear
Gerard, you are but a child; you think yourself well
informed because the telegraph has told you, three days
after the landing, `The usurper has landed at Cannes with
several men. He is pursued.' But where is he? what is he
doing? You do not know at all, and in this way they will
chase him to Paris, without drawing a trigger."

"Grenoble and Lyons are faithful cities, and will oppose to
him an impassable barrier."

"Grenoble will open her gates to him with enthusiasm -- all
Lyons will hasten to welcome him. Believe me, we are as well
informed as you, and our police are as good as your own.
Would you like a proof of it? well, you wished to conceal
your journey from me, and yet I knew of your arrival half an
hour after you had passed the barrier. You gave your
direction to no one but your postilion, yet I have your
address, and in proof I am here the very instant you are
going to sit at table. Ring, then, if you please, for a
second knife, fork, and plate, and we will dine together."

"Indeed!" replied Villefort, looking at his father with
astonishment, "you really do seem very well informed."

"Eh? the thing is simple enough. You who are in power have
only the means that money produces -- we who are in
expectation, have those which devotion prompts."

"Devotion!" said Villefort, with a sneer.

"Yes, devotion; for that is, I believe, the phrase for
hopeful ambition."

And Villefort's father extended his hand to the bell-rope,
to summon the servant whom his son had not called. Villefort
caught his arm.

"Wait, my dear father," said the young man, "one word more."

"Say on."

"However stupid the royalist police may be, they do know one
terrible thing."

"What is that?"

"The description of the man who, on the morning of the day
when General Quesnel disappeared, presented himself at his
house."

"Oh, the admirable police have found that out, have they?
And what may be that description?"

"Dark complexion; hair, eyebrows, and whiskers, black; blue
frock-coat, buttoned up to the chin; rosette of an officer
of the Legion of Honor in his button-hole; a hat with wide
brim, and a cane."

"Ah, ha, that's it, is it?" said Noirtier; "and why, then,
have they not laid hands on him?"

"Because yesterday, or the day before, they lost sight of
him at the corner of the Rue Coq-Heron."

"Didn't I say that your police were good for nothing?"

"Yes; but they may catch him yet."

"True," said Noirtier, looking carelessly around him, "true,
if this person were not on his guard, as he is;" and he
added with a smile, "He will consequently make a few changes
in his personal appearance." At these words he rose, and put
off his frock-coat and cravat, went towards a table on which
lay his son's toilet articles, lathered his face, took a
razor, and, with a firm hand, cut off the compromising
whiskers. Villefort watched him with alarm not devoid of
admiration.

His whiskers cut off, Noirtier gave another turn to his
hair; took, instead of his black cravat, a colored
neckerchief which lay at the top of an open portmanteau; put
on, in lieu of his blue and high-buttoned frock-coat, a coat
of Villefort's of dark brown, and cut away in front; tried
on before the glass a narrow-brimmed hat of his son's, which
appeared to fit him perfectly, and, leaving his cane in the
corner where he had deposited it, he took up a small bamboo
switch, cut the air with it once or twice, and walked about
with that easy swagger which was one of his principal
characteristics.

"Well," he said, turning towards his wondering son, when
this disguise was completed, "well, do you think your police
will recognize me now."

"No, father," stammered Villefort; "at least, I hope not."

"And now, my dear boy," continued Noirtier, "I rely on your
prudence to remove all the things which I leave in your
care."

"Oh, rely on me," said Villefort.

"Yes, yes; and now I believe you are right, and that you
have really saved my life; be assured I will return the
favor hereafter." Villefort shook his head.

"You are not convinced yet?"

"I hope at least, that you may be mistaken."

"Shall you see the king again?"

"Perhaps."

"Would you pass in his eyes for a prophet?"

"Prophets of evil are not in favor at the court, father."

"True, but some day they do them justice; and supposing a
second restoration, you would then pass for a great man."

"Well, what should I say to the king?"

"Say this to him: `Sire, you are deceived as to the feeling
in France, as to the opinions of the towns, and the
prejudices of the army; he whom in Paris you call the
Corsican ogre, who at Nevers is styled the usurper, is
already saluted as Bonaparte at Lyons, and emperor at
Grenoble. You think he is tracked, pursued, captured; he is
advancing as rapidly as his own eagles. The soldiers you
believe to be dying with hunger, worn out with fatigue,
ready to desert, gather like atoms of snow about the rolling
ball as it hastens onward. Sire, go, leave France to its
real master, to him who acquired it, not by purchase, but by
right of conquest; go, sire, not that you incur any risk,
for your adversary is powerful enough to show you mercy, but
because it would be humiliating for a grandson of Saint
Louis to owe his life to the man of Arcola, Marengo,
Austerlitz.' Tell him this, Gerard; or, rather, tell him
nothing. Keep your journey a secret; do not boast of what
you have come to Paris to do, or have done; return with all
speed; enter Marseilles at night, and your house by the
back-door, and there remain, quiet, submissive, secret, and,
above all, inoffensive; for this time, I swear to you, we
shall act like powerful men who know their enemies. Go, my
son -- go, my dear Gerard, and by your obedience to my
paternal orders, or, if you prefer it, friendly counsels, we
will keep you in your place. This will be," added Noirtier,
with a smile, "one means by which you may a second time save
me, if the political balance should some day take another
turn, and cast you aloft while hurling me down. Adieu, my
dear Gerard, and at your next journey alight at my door."
Noirtier left the room when he had finished, with the same
calmness that had characterized him during the whole of this
remarkable and trying conversation. Villefort, pale and
agitated, ran to the window, put aside the curtain, and saw
him pass, cool and collected, by two or three ill-looking
men at the corner of the street, who were there, perhaps, to
arrest a man with black whiskers, and a blue frock-coat, and
hat with broad brim.

Villefort stood watching, breathless, until his father had
disappeared at the Rue Bussy. Then he turned to the various
articles he had left behind him, put the black cravat and
blue frock-coat at the bottom of the portmanteau, threw the
hat into a dark closet, broke the cane into small bits and
flung it in the fire, put on his travelling-cap, and calling
his valet, checked with a look the thousand questions he was
ready to ask, paid his bill, sprang into his carriage, which
was ready, learned at Lyons that Bonaparte had entered
Grenoble, and in the midst of the tumult which prevailed
along the road, at length reached Marseilles, a prey to all
the hopes and fears which enter into the heart of man with
ambition and its first successes.


Alexandre Dumas pere