‘You understand, then, that if it were so,’ said Villefort, rising in his turn, and approaching the baroness, to speak to her in a lower tone, ‘we are lost; this child lives, and someone knows it lives; someone is in possession of our secret; and since Monte Cristo speaks before us of a child disinterred, when the child could not be found, it is he who is in possession of our secret.’
At the end of the second day M. de Villefort received the following note:—
‘The person called M. le Comte de Monte Cristo is an intimate acquaintance of Lord Wilmore, a rich foreigner, who is sometimes seen in Paris, and is there at this moment; he is also known to the Abbé Busoni, a Sicilian priest, of high repute in the East where he has done much good.’
M. de Villefort replied by ordering the strictest enquiries to be made representing these two persons[.]
A magnificent peach was hanging against an adjoining wall, ripened by the same artificial heat. Mercédès drew near, and plucked the fruit.
‘Take this peach, then,’ she said.
The count again refused.
‘What, again!’ she exclaimed, in so plaintive an accent that it seemed but to stifle a sob; ‘really you pain me.’
‘No,’ said Maximilian, ‘you shall not leave him. M. Noirtier has shown, you say, a kind feeling towards me. Well, before you leave, tell him all; his consent would be your justification in God’s sight. As soon as we are married, he shall come and live with us; instead of one child, he shall have two. You have told me how you talk to him, and how he answers you; I shall very soon learn that language by signs, Valentine; and I promise you solemnly that instead of despair, it is happiness that awaits us.’
The young man’s finger glided over the words, but at each one Noirtier answered by a negative sign.
Valentine hid her head between her hands.
At length, Franz arrived at the word MYSELF.
‘You!’ cried Franz, whose hair stood on end, ‘you, M. Noirtier!— you killed my father?’
Franz fell powerless on a chair; Villefort opened the door and escaped, for the idea had entered his mind to put an end to the little remaining life in the old man’s heart.