To Kill a Man
"Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort is dead?"
The priest asked as he walked along with a young lady. She was saddened deeply, leading the way down the night road. Her white, night gown shimmered in the evening night.
"Yes, he's dead. The doctor came over to check on him and confirmed our worst fear. He has truly left us." Frantically, she picked up her pace.
"Do not worry, Valentine, your grandfather will still be there when we arrive. There is no need to rush."
No one could contain themselves in the hall. The loyal servants without their master were shocked, unable to speak. They only looked at the guests coming in with the corners of their eyes.
"Good evening," said the priest as he followed Valentine into the master's room.
"That is him," she said as they entered. The lights were dim and the window covers were shut. The only person in the room was the doctor, sitting on the bed next to Noirtier who sat still in his wheelchair.
"I'm sorry, Valentine," he said grimly, "there was nothing we could do."
Valentine sniffled, but kept her voice calm. "I understand. Did you find out how he died?"
"No, I'm sorry." The doctor looked down at the floor with sorrow. "I know how much you cared for him, Miss Valentine. If only there was something I could do…"
"That is alright. I brought Father Abbé to help me. Father, this is Doctor Ami. Ami, Father."
"Nice to meet you," Doctor Ami said, shaking the priest's hand.
"Likewise. May I see Mr. Noirtier?"
"Why, absolutely." Abbé ventured toward the unmoving man. Slowly, he examined the man, checking for a pulse and any vital signs. There was doubt about it. He was cold to the touch, unresponsive to anything, white to the bone. He has seen this many times. This time was no different from the others.
"Did he drink anything today?"
Valentine shook her head. "No, nothing unusual. Just had his medication and stayed in his room all day."
"Then this man is dead due to natural causes. No doubt about it."
No one wanted to speak. It was early in the morning, and this was a very unfortunate event.
"We will have to prepare for a funeral. There is no reason for us to leave a renowned man such as Noirtier to sit in this room and wither away. If you find anything like a will, please inform me."
"Oh, I found his diary if you that qualifies, Abbé."
Valentine pulled a black, worn out book out of a desk, along with a metal key. She walked toward the others, scanning the outside of the book. Father Abbé looked at her oddly.
"I believe guys such as your grandfather own journals, not diaries."
"They are the same thing, Abbé."
"No, in other cultures, journals are considered to be a log of one's most significant events, while diaries are…"
"Knock it off you two," said Doctor Ami from his seat. "You two realize we have a dead man in the room beside us? This is not the time for childish quarrels."
Valentine stared at the book, and then decided to open it up. Some pages were really dilapidated and as worn out as the front cover.
"Do you not have any respect your grandfather's keepsakes?"
"I do," she said, quickly closing the book but retaining the page with her thumb. The other two stared at her with insulted looks. "I just always wanted to know about my grandfather before he was crippled. I would like to know him a little more."
"If you want, but you may not be content with what you find," quietly foreshadowed the priest.
"Let's start from the beginning…July 14th. Revolution has struck…"
July 14th, 1789
"Revolution has struck. The storming of the Bastille has occurred. No one has been excused from revolution. You were either with or against. It didn't matter to me. I led the assault, weapon in arm. I had to, the government is wrong. If I didn't do it, who would?"
"My grandfather never told me this," mumbled Valentine under her breath.
"Me neither, I could only imagine what else he has committed," responded the doctor.
"Let us see what else…"
"We needed to have change, and needed everyone to understand this. Heads were severed onto pikes we held as we marched throughout the city. Blood dripped onto my hands, a dark, red stain. It did not matter too much, for nearly everyone was tarnished red with spilt blood. The march was endless, but we succeeded. The message was sent. When I got home, I washed off the blood as thoroughly as I could, but the smell still remained, putrid and decaying."
"You can stop if you want Valentine," Abbé said.
"Please, you read, Father Abbé." Valentine shook her head in disgust as she handed the book to the priest. She sat down on the bed to help regain her mental composure.
"Please, continue," said the doctor.
"Alright. The next date is not long after."
August 1st, 1789
"The National Assembly plans to abolish feudalism soon. That is good, for that will show progress toward the society we want. My wife fears for me and my health, for I am placing a lot of time into this revolution. She said she would even go into the revolution herself and march thousands of miles to help this uprising end quicker. I do not believe she can, nor do I want to see her try. It is very dangerous out in the riots. On a brighter note, my son is doing well. Gerard isn't causing trouble, just playing carelessly with his mother."
October 5th, 1789
"My wife has gone on a march without telling me in advance. It surprises me that she has done something like this. She left a note, saying that she will march thousands of other women into the streets, protesting against the royalists. My son has had a sour look on his face all day, perhaps of all the noises in the street from rebels or from missing his mother. Even though I am quite upset, all that matters is that she comes back safe. She also left me more, much like a poem, which I have placed in my drawer for security. I will write it down so that I may always have a copy with me at night."
"Every night, I sleep beside your beating heart,
Happy at the moment, fearful of the future.
Everyday, you head out into the streets,
Rioting, protesting, fighting, protecting,
As I wait at home, my hands close to my heart,
Wishing that you would come home alive today,
Back home to your wife and your child.
We have said our vows, to protect one another,
And also our family until death takes us away.
This is what we want others to see in us,
And also our one and only son,
Who needs his caring father in his life.
Do not ever leave me,
I know I will never leave you."
The priest took a moment to pause. He glanced over at the entrance to the bedroom. Many servants, including the ones in the hall, were listening intently to the story that he was reading.
"Please, come in and listen," said the holy man.
The crowd sluggishly walked in as they took their seats around the room to listen. A number of them sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the bed, while others sat on the wooden floor. A few chose to stand against the wall.
Valentine welcomed those around her, calling a few by name.
"Now let us see here, the next entry is…"
"Excuse me, Father Abbé Busoni?"
There was a man at the door. He wore clothes for casual attire, and had an upright poise. He seemed to have expected the priest to arrive.
"Yes, I am Father Abbé Busoni. Do you need something?"
"Only a minute of your time."
Everyone looked at the two with curiosity and impatience.
"Everyone can keep going. Here, Ami, continue reading."
He handed the book to Doctor Ami, careful not to damage the book or change the page, and walked outside. He closed the door behind him, and looked at the man who stood in front of him.
"Well, kind sir, what would you like to talk about?"
"My name is Maximilien. I heard about you from my friend, the Count of Monte Cristo. Tell me, are you experienced in herblore, the study of plants as I have heard?"
"If I think about it," said the priest, stroking his chin, "I may know a few things about plants and their effects, but why do you ask?"
"I need you find out who killed Noirtier, my grandfather-in-law."
Abbé seemed shocked at the reason. "Killed? But we have confirmed that he died of natural causes."
"I highly doubt it. I am not sure if you have heard from your friends, maybe from the Count of Monte Cristo, but the Villeforts have been rapidly killed recently with poisons. Valentine's father went mad after the poisoning of his wife and son. There is no way that Monsieur Villefort simply died of natural causes."
"And yet, he could. He was an old man, and his age finally caught up to him earlier today." The priest casually turned his head to listen to the current diary entry. He discontinued the conversation for a slight moment. "I think they're talking about the execution of King Louis XVI."
"Listen to me, father, he was poisoned, and I need your help to help me prove it."
The father shook his head. Maximilien thought he heard a chuckle coming from the holy man.
"I am only here to confirm the passing away of Noirtier de Villefort and help the family prepare for the funeral which would soon come. Now, would you like to come inside? They are reading from his journal which contained much of his life which you probably did not know before, and will perhaps quell your mind from this empty vengeance-seeking."
Maximilien stared at the ground for a moment with mourn, taking in what the priest had said and deciding what to do, finally looking up at the priest to reply.
"Sure, I would not mind."
"After this day, I do not believe anyone in this house could say that Noirtier was an ordinary man. He influenced a lot of people and held a high position that any ordinary man could only dream of having."
Doctor Ami gently closed the book and placed it back on the desk. The door opened and the two men came in.
"Welcome back, gentlemen. Did you want to hear about what we read?"
"No, I am content for tonight," replied Abbé. "We should return to our sleep before we lie unconscious in this room by dawn."
Everyone nodded and said good nights to one another. Maximilien quickly went to Valentine and embraced her closely. They spoke a few quiet words to one another, not allowing anyone to eavesdrop. Doctor Ami went over to the priest.
"Father, what would you want to do with the body?"
"Place a white cloth over him for now and prepare him for burial as soon as possible. I will talk to the family about where his resting place would be in the morning."
"Right away." The doctor went into his pack and started to search for his white, covering blanket. The couple, Valentine and Maximilien, approached the holy man once more.
"Again," spoke Valentine, "thank you for coming over this late at night to take care of my grandfather."
"Do not worry," the religious man replied, "this is the duty that I have been called to perform. Now, go in peace, children." With that, he left the house out the front door.
"You too, my dear, go to bed," Valentine said to Maximilien. "Your father would be worried, and not to mention he is sick and in need of your help. When the funeral is over, I might consider moving in with you to help take care of your father."
Maximilien smiled back, but did not speak right away as his smile turned into a frown. "Please do be careful, my beloved. If you were to die from poisoning this night, or any night on, I will truly feel sorrow much worse than I have felt before."
"I promise," she said, giving her lover a small tap on the lips, "now go to sleep, for me."
With a small nod gesture, Maximilien too, went home for the night. Some of the servants went to bed, while others stayed in the room. Now that Noirtier was cover in a white tarp to protect him in the night, Doctor Ami said his farewells and went home along with the others. Valentine walked over to her grandfather, kneeling and covering her face with her hands. She wiped away some of the tears from her eyes and stared at the body of her grandfather with doubt.
"Maximilien said you were poisoned, but I have a feeling that you were not poisoned. No, the Count of Monte Cristo did something, didn't he? I have a slight idea what, but if I needed to know, the Count would have told me something. Right? Please don't leave me, granddad. I miss you already."
She closed her eyes once more for a solemn prayer, and then got up. Some helpers were still in the room, watching Valentine with sympathetic looks.
"Say a few words to him and go to sleep. I'm going to bed first. Good night."
Valentine sniffled and went for the door. Before she got there, she took the journal off the desk and continued on. Back in her room, she continued searching through the book to see if there were any clues as to his current condition.
"There's nothing too much in here that tells of why he is crippled."
Page after partially crumpled page she checked, but one after another they disappointed her. Suddenly, the writing stopped. There were no more journal writings inside the book at all. She flipped to the several last entries in the diary to try to figure out what happened before that last journal write.
April 4th, 1814
"Napoleon has been banished to Elba, leaving his wife and children in Vienna. It pains me dearly that my leader which we have so hard with has abdicated and resigned from power. Our own generals in the army rose up against him and exiled him to an island several thousand kilometers from the coast. He will be allowed to govern there, but unable to return back to France, which will be governed by King Louis XVIII. I do hope my new leader will be able to succeed unlike like his ancestor. I cannot imagine being away from my son, because he and my wife mean everything to me. My son has been doing well with his job as a public executioner. He's showing real potential in his job, and for that, I am glad. However, years of tension are still between us, for he still remains a loyalist and I remain a Bonapartist. I suppose I had this coming to me, because I have done things that no man outside of the revolution would praise me for."
August 20th, 1814
"I have recently joined the group known as the Bonapartist Club. They are members of society who, just like myself, want Napoleon back in power. Not everyone who supported the French Revolution approves of his banishment, and now we want change. The president of the group wants to begin work right away, so I will have to work frantically to help the cause.
February 5th, 1815
"We have killed a man in the name of honor, but I worry that it is more of an act of malicious intent. I believe his name was M. d'Epiany. He was a stern loyalist and abided by his oath as a general to the king to reveal the information of what had happened that night. In an "honorable" duel, the president vanquished M. d'Epiany. Having loss, his body was tossed into the river. Even though he was defeated honorably, he was not buried and for that, I feel shameful. Lately, I have been feeling very shameful, because I am not sure if killing to make change is worth killing. In addition, I have been in physical fatigue. I experienced a seizure a week ago, and lost control of my left hand. I have not told anyone close, but I fear that I may experience another attack soon. If so, then I may not be able to write more journal entries or anything for that matter. Nonetheless, I hope to live a long time to see my son make honest and moral decisions."
The rest of the pages were empty as she flipped each one to make sure there was nothing hidden. Valentine slowly wiped away her tears, which easily reappeared as she rubbed. She never knew about his grandfather, and now she had learned almost all of what she wanted to know. She placed the fragile book on her nightstand and turned off the light, crying herself to sleep with the tragic past she just learned.
"Have you decided to bury him in the church cemetery?"
Father Abbé spoke to Valentine with a curious tone. The time was noon, but the clouds which shrouded the city darkened the city in a shadow.
"Yes, Maximilien and I feel it would be best if we buried him with your church."
"Excellent. Where is the young sir?"
"He is most likely at work. He is helping his father who fell deeply ill recently. If he wasn't working so hard to help pay for his father's medication, then he would be here with me. Do you know Mr. Morrel, his father?"
"Why, if I recall, yes, I do. He has been a good businessman with me in the past. It is so sad that my dear friend has to suffer this way. Not once had he ever done me any wrong. Tell me, have you ever considered alleviating the two by paying for them? If your grandfather did not write a will, then all of his fortunes would be yours, including the house."
Valentine thought for a moment. "You are right. The servants who cleaned his room and the men who came in to escort my grandfather could not find any parchment of the sort."
"Then it's settled," said the holy man, "you have the riches of your family. I do feel bad for your father though, who, from what I hear, has gone insane."
"Yes, it is sad, but he was always at work, so I do not miss him as much. I still hear about him from my friends, but the tales are not ones that family would be proud of. But still, I do feel empty without my family. I want to move in with Maximilien and help him, hopefully marry him, but this old house has too many memories for me to leave."
"I see," he replied. The father slightly shook his head. "It is indeed a shame, for I would be happy to be witness to the marriage of you two. In any case, I should be heading back to my church to prepare his funeral for you."
"Thank you, father. Have a nice day and thank you so much once again."
"It is no trouble. Go in peace, miss."
Concluding with a religious gesture, he left the house. He walked out into the street and started to venture home. Quickly, he mumbled to himself, thinking out loud.
"I knew Noirtier very well. I know that he would want his daughter to move out of the old house and move in with the one she loves, but due to his paralysis, he could not even tell her how much he wanted her to be happy. Mr. Morrel is not well, so she would pay for the doctors that he could get, and live happily with Maximilien. Why wouldn't she move out…?"
As he approached the city church, he saw Maximilien waiting at the front gate. He was speaking with another priest.
"What do you mean he's not here? This is the only church for miles and you say there is no such priest here?"
"Excuse me, Maximilien, are you looking for me?"
Maximilien looked over and saw the priest he was looking for. He said his apologies to the other priest, who went back inside.
"Yes, I am. Tell me, did you find out who poisoned him?"
"Young sir, I beseech you, understand that your grandfather died of natural causes. If you do not trust me, then please find another priest or doctor to help you with your wild ideas."
Maximilien nodded slowly and continued on. "I know such a person. Do you know where the Count of Monte Cristo is? I know he would be able to help me with any problem."
"He lives three doors down on the road I'm on. Have you checked his house?"
"Yes, I have. A young lady at the door said he was out checking up on his close friend. Do you have any idea who that may be?"
A shake of the head. "No, I do not. Perhaps Valentine would know."
"She might," replied Maximilien, feeling a little embarrassed at his silliness. He thanked the man and went to his beloved's house. The father waved as the energetic, young man rushed off.
"I have always been vengeful in the past, but I have left that behind me, young Maximilien. I have interfered with your life once before, but I am no longer playing God. He died of natural causes, and without any regrets in life. Seeking revenge for one's loss does not lead to happiness, especially if it causes harm to another. I'm sure you will figure this out."
His little ramble over, Father Abbé Busoni went back on his journey home into the house three doors down the road.