Since the death of Madame de Saint-Méran I have known that a poisoner lived in my house. M. d’Avrigny warned me of it. After the death of Barrois my suspicions were directed towards an angel . . . but after the death of Valentine, there had been no doubt in my mind, madame, and not only in mine, but in those of others; thus your crime, known by two persons, suspected by many, will soon become public, and as I told you just now, you no longer speak to the husband, but to the judge.
‘I am twenty-one years old; or rather I shall be in a few days, as I was born the night of the 27th of September, 1817 . . . At Auteuil, near Paris.’
M. de Villefort a second time raised his head, looked at Benedetto as if he had been gazing at the head of Medusa, and turned pale. As for Benedetto, he gracefully wiped his lips with a fine cambric pocket-handkerchief. . . .
‘First I was a forger . . . then I became a thief, and lately have become an assassin.’
He leaped over the corpse as though it had been a furnace. He took the child in his arms, pressed him, shook him, called him, but the child did not answer. He pressed his burning lips to his cheeks. But they were icy cold and pale; he felt his stiffened limbs; he pressed his hand to his heart, but it no longer beat: the child was dead. A folded paper fell from Edward’s breast . . .
‘You know that I was a good mother, since it was for my son’s sake I became criminal. A good mother cannot depart without her son.’
‘Great city! . . . less than six months have elapsed since first I entered thy gates. I believe that the spirit of God led my steps to thee, and that he also enables me to leave thee in triumph; the secret cause of my presence within thy walls I have confided alone to him, who only has had the power to read my heart. God only knows that I retire from thee without pride or hatred, but not without many regrets; he alone knows that the power confided to me has never been made subservient to my personal good or to any useless cause . . . Adieu Paris! Adieu!’
‘Oh saintly man who were a second father to me, who gave me freedom, learning, and wealth . . . Offer me . . . some revelation, and lift this lingering doubt which, if it is not altered by the conviction that what I have done was right, will become a source of remorse.’
The janitor was holding out the strips of cloth on which the abbé Faria had spread out all the treasures of his knowledge . . . The count seized it eagerly and his eye, falling first on the epigraph, read there these words:
‘Thou shalt draw the dragon’s teeth, though shalt trample on lions, saith the Lord.’