‘Well!’ said the count, astonished at his perseverance, which he could not understand, and looking still more earnestly at Maximilian, ‘let it begin again . . . God has passed sentence on them, and they must submit to their punishment. They will all disappear like the houses children build with cards, and which fall, one by one, under the breath of their builder, even if there are two hundred of them. Three months ago, it was M. de Saint-Méran: Madame de Saint-Méran two months ago: the other day it was Barrois: today the old Noirtier or the young Valentine.’
‘I told you there was brucine in the mixture I gave you? . . . And by accustoming her to that poison, you have tried to neutralize the effect of a similar poison?’
Noirtier’s joy continued.
‘And you have succeeded,’ exclaimed d’Avrigny. ‘Without that precaution Valentine would have died before assistance could have been summoned. The dose has been excessive, but she has only been shaken by it; and this time, at any rate, Valentine will not die.’
I do not despise bankruptcies, believe me, but those which enrich, not those which ruin. Now if you marry M. Cavalcanti, and I acquire the three millions, or even if it is thought I am going to acquire them, my credit will be restored and my fortune, which for the last month or two has been swallowed up in gulfs which have been opened in my path by an unforeseeable fatality, will revive. Do you understand me?
‘Which of you, gentlemen,’ asked the magistrate . . . ‘answers to the name of Andrea Cavalcanti?’
A cry of stupor was heard from all parts of the room . . .
‘A galley slave, escaped from confinement at Toulouse . . . He is accused,’ said the commissary, with his inflexible voice, ‘of having assassinated the man named Caderousse, his former companion in prison, at the moment he was making his escape from the house of the Count of Monte Cristo.’
Whatever may happen, Valentine, do not be alarmed; though you suffer; though you lose sight, hearing, consciousness, fear nothing; though you should awake and not know where you are, still do not fear; even though you should find yourself in a sepulchral vault or a coffin. Reassure yourself, then, and reflect: “At this moment a friend, a father, who lives for my happiness and that of Maximilian, watches over me!”