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 The Count of Monte Cristo

by Alexandre Dumas

Chapter 1. Marseilles--The Arrival.

On the 24th of February, 1815, the look-out at Notre-Dame de la Garde
signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and
Naples.

As usual, a pilot put off immediately, and rounding the Chateau d'If,
got on board the vessel between Cape Morgion and Rion island.

Immediately, and according to custom, the ramparts of Fort Saint-Jean
were covered with spectators; it is always an event at Marseilles for a
ship to come into port, especially when this ship, like the Pharaon, has
been built, rigged, and laden at the old Phocee docks, and belongs to an
owner of the city.

The ship drew on and had safely passed the strait, which some volcanic
shock has made between the Calasareigne and Jaros islands; had doubled
Pomegue, and approached the harbor under topsails, jib, and spanker, but
so slowly and sedately that the idlers, with that instinct which is
the forerunner of evil, asked one another what misfortune could have
happened on board. However, those experienced in navigation saw plainly
that if any accident had occurred, it was not to the vessel herself,
for she bore down with all the evidence of being skilfully handled, the
anchor a-cockbill, the jib-boom guys already eased off, and standing by
the side of the pilot, who was steering the Pharaon towards the narrow
entrance of the inner port, was a young man, who, with activity and
vigilant eye, watched every motion of the ship, and repeated each
direction of the pilot.

The vague disquietude which prevailed among the spectators had so much
affected one of the crowd that he did not await the arrival of the
vessel in harbor, but jumping into a small skiff, desired to be pulled
alongside the Pharaon, which he reached as she rounded into La Reserve
basin.

When the young man on board saw this person approach, he left his
station by the pilot, and, hat in hand, leaned over the ship's bulwarks.

He was a fine, tall, slim young fellow of eighteen or twenty, with
black eyes, and hair as dark as a raven's wing; and his whole appearance
bespoke that calmness and resolution peculiar to men accustomed from
their cradle to contend with danger.

"Ah, is it you, Dantes?" cried the man in the skiff. "What's the matter?
and why have you such an air of sadness aboard?"

"A great misfortune, M. Morrel," replied the young man,--"a great
misfortune, for me especially! Off Civita Vecchia we lost our brave
Captain Leclere."

"And the cargo?" inquired the owner, eagerly.

"Is all safe, M. Morrel; and I think you will be satisfied on that head.
But poor Captain Leclere--"

"What happened to him?" asked the owner, with an air of considerable
resignation. "What happened to the worthy captain?"

"He died."

"Fell into the sea?"

"No, sir, he died of brain-fever in dreadful agony." Then turning to the
crew, he said, "Bear a hand there, to take in sail!"

All hands obeyed, and at once the eight or ten seamen who composed the
crew, sprang to their respective stations at the spanker brails and
outhaul, topsail sheets and halyards, the jib downhaul, and the topsail
clewlines and buntlines. The young sailor gave a look to see that his
orders were promptly and accurately obeyed, and then turned again to the
owner.

"And how did this misfortune occur?" inquired the latter, resuming the
interrupted conversation.

"Alas, sir, in the most unexpected manner. After a long talk with the
harbor-master, Captain Leclere left Naples greatly disturbed in mind.
In twenty-four hours he was attacked by a fever, and died three days
afterwards. We performed the usual burial service, and he is at his
rest, sewn up in his hammock with a thirty-six pound shot at his head
and his heels, off El Giglio island. We bring to his widow his sword and
cross of honor. It was worth while, truly," added the young man with a
melancholy smile, "to make war against the English for ten years, and to
die in his bed at last, like everybody else."

"Why, you see, Edmond," replied the owner, who appeared more comforted
at every moment, "we are all mortal, and the old must make way for the
young. If not, why, there would be no promotion; and since you assure me
that the cargo--"

"Is all safe and sound, M. Morrel, take my word for it; and I advise you
not to take 25,000 francs for the profits of the voyage."

Then, as they were just passing the Round Tower, the young man shouted:
"Stand by there to lower the topsails and jib; brail up the spanker!"

The order was executed as promptly as it would have been on board a
man-of-war.

"Let go--and clue up!" At this last command all the sails were lowered,
and the vessel moved almost imperceptibly onwards.

"Now, if you will come on board, M. Morrel," said Dantes, observing the
owner's impatience, "here is your supercargo, M. Danglars, coming out of
his cabin, who will furnish you with every particular. As for me, I must
look after the anchoring, and dress the ship in mourning."

The owner did not wait for a second invitation. He seized a rope which
Dantes flung to him, and with an activity that would have done credit to
a sailor, climbed up the side of the ship, while the young man, going
to his task, left the conversation to Danglars, who now came towards
the owner. He was a man of twenty-five or twenty-six years of age, of
unprepossessing countenance, obsequious to his superiors, insolent to
his subordinates; and this, in addition to his position as responsible
agent on board, which is always obnoxious to the sailors, made him as
much disliked by the crew as Edmond Dantes was beloved by them.

"Well, M. Morrel," said Danglars, "you have heard of the misfortune that
has befallen us?"

"Yes--yes: poor Captain Leclere! He was a brave and an honest man."

"And a first-rate seaman, one who had seen long and honorable service,
as became a man charged with the interests of a house so important as
that of Morrel & Son," replied Danglars.

"But," replied the owner, glancing after Dantes, who was watching the
anchoring of his vessel, "it seems to me that a sailor needs not be so
old as you say, Danglars, to understand his business, for our friend
Edmond seems to understand it thoroughly, and not to require instruction
from any one."

"Yes," said Danglars, darting at Edmond a look gleaming with hate. "Yes,
he is young, and youth is invariably self-confident. Scarcely was the
captain's breath out of his body when he assumed the command without
consulting any one, and he caused us to lose a day and a half at the
Island of Elba, instead of making for Marseilles direct."

"As to taking command of the vessel," replied Morrel, "that was his duty
as captain's mate; as to losing a day and a half off the Island of Elba,
he was wrong, unless the vessel needed repairs."

"The vessel was in as good condition as I am, and as, I hope you are,
M. Morrel, and this day and a half was lost from pure whim, for the
pleasure of going ashore, and nothing else."

"Dantes," said the shipowner, turning towards the young man, "come this
way!"

"In a moment, sir," answered Dantes, "and I'm with you." Then calling to
the crew, he said--"Let go!"

The anchor was instantly dropped, and the chain ran rattling through the
port-hole. Dantes continued at his post in spite of the presence of the
pilot, until this manoeuvre was completed, and then he added, "Half-mast
the colors, and square the yards!"

"You see," said Danglars, "he fancies himself captain already, upon my
word."

"And so, in fact, he is," said the owner.

"Except your signature and your partner's, M. Morrel."

"And why should he not have this?" asked the owner; "he is young, it is
true, but he seems to me a thorough seaman, and of full experience."

A cloud passed over Danglars' brow. "Your pardon, M. Morrel," said
Dantes, approaching, "the vessel now rides at anchor, and I am at your
service. You hailed me, I think?"

Danglars retreated a step or two. "I wished to inquire why you stopped
at the Island of Elba?"

"I do not know, sir; it was to fulfil the last instructions of Captain
Leclere, who, when dying, gave me a packet for Marshal Bertrand."

"Then did you see him, Edmond?"

"Who?"

"The marshal."

"Yes."

Morrel looked around him, and then, drawing Dantes on one side, he said
suddenly--"And how is the emperor?"

"Very well, as far as I could judge from the sight of him."

"You saw the emperor, then?"

"He entered the marshal's apartment while I was there."

"And you spoke to him?"

"Why, it was he who spoke to me, sir," said Dantes, with a smile.

"And what did he say to you?"

"Asked me questions about the vessel, the time she left Marseilles, the
course she had taken, and what was her cargo. I believe, if she had not
been laden, and I had been her master, he would have bought her. But I
told him I was only mate, and that she belonged to the firm of Morrel &
Son. 'Ah, yes,' he said, 'I know them. The Morrels have been shipowners
from father to son; and there was a Morrel who served in the same
regiment with me when I was in garrison at Valence.'"

"Pardieu, and that is true!" cried the owner, greatly delighted. "And
that was Policar Morrel, my uncle, who was afterwards a captain. Dantes,
you must tell my uncle that the emperor remembered him, and you will see
it will bring tears into the old soldier's eyes. Come, come," continued
he, patting Edmond's shoulder kindly, "you did very right, Dantes, to
follow Captain Leclere's instructions, and touch at Elba, although if
it were known that you had conveyed a packet to the marshal, and had
conversed with the emperor, it might bring you into trouble."

"How could that bring me into trouble, sir?" asked Dantes; "for I did
not even know of what I was the bearer; and the emperor merely made such
inquiries as he would of the first comer. But, pardon me, here are the
health officers and the customs inspectors coming alongside." And the
young man went to the gangway. As he departed, Danglars approached, and
said,--

"Well, it appears that he has given you satisfactory reasons for his
landing at Porto-Ferrajo?"

"Yes, most satisfactory, my dear Danglars."

"Well, so much the better," said the supercargo; "for it is not pleasant
to think that a comrade has not done his duty."

"Dantes has done his," replied the owner, "and that is not saying much.
It was Captain Leclere who gave orders for this delay."

"Talking of Captain Leclere, has not Dantes given you a letter from
him?"

"To me?--no--was there one?"

"I believe that, besides the packet, Captain Leclere confided a letter
to his care."

"Of what packet are you speaking, Danglars?"

"Why, that which Dantes left at Porto-Ferrajo."

"How do you know he had a packet to leave at Porto-Ferrajo?"

Danglars turned very red.

"I was passing close to the door of the captain's cabin, which was half
open, and I saw him give the packet and letter to Dantes."

"He did not speak to me of it," replied the shipowner; "but if there be
any letter he will give it to me."

Danglars reflected for a moment. "Then, M. Morrel, I beg of you,"
said he, "not to say a word to Dantes on the subject. I may have been
mistaken."

At this moment the young man returned; Danglars withdrew.

"Well, my dear Dantes, are you now free?" inquired the owner.

"Yes, sir."

"You have not been long detained."

"No. I gave the custom-house officers a copy of our bill of lading; and
as to the other papers, they sent a man off with the pilot, to whom I
gave them."

"Then you have nothing more to do here?"

"No--everything is all right now."

"Then you can come and dine with me?"

"I really must ask you to excuse me, M. Morrel. My first visit is due to
my father, though I am not the less grateful for the honor you have done
me."

"Right, Dantes, quite right. I always knew you were a good son."

"And," inquired Dantes, with some hesitation, "do you know how my father
is?"

"Well, I believe, my dear Edmond, though I have not seen him lately."

"Yes, he likes to keep himself shut up in his little room."

"That proves, at least, that he has wanted for nothing during your
absence."

Dantes smiled. "My father is proud, sir, and if he had not a meal
left, I doubt if he would have asked anything from anyone, except from
Heaven."

"Well, then, after this first visit has been made we shall count on
you."

"I must again excuse myself, M. Morrel, for after this first visit has
been paid I have another which I am most anxious to pay."

"True, Dantes, I forgot that there was at the Catalans some one who
expects you no less impatiently than your father--the lovely Mercedes."

Dantes blushed.

"Ah, ha," said the shipowner, "I am not in the least surprised, for
she has been to me three times, inquiring if there were any news of the
Pharaon. Peste, Edmond, you have a very handsome mistress!"

"She is not my mistress," replied the young sailor, gravely; "she is my
betrothed."

"Sometimes one and the same thing," said Morrel, with a smile.

"Not with us, sir," replied Dantes.

"Well, well, my dear Edmond," continued the owner, "don't let me detain
you. You have managed my affairs so well that I ought to allow you all
the time you require for your own. Do you want any money?"

"No, sir; I have all my pay to take--nearly three months' wages."

"You are a careful fellow, Edmond."

"Say I have a poor father, sir."

"Yes, yes, I know how good a son you are, so now hasten away to see
your father. I have a son too, and I should be very wroth with those who
detained him from me after a three months' voyage."

"Then I have your leave, sir?"

"Yes, if you have nothing more to say to me."

"Nothing."

"Captain Leclere did not, before he died, give you a letter for me?"

"He was unable to write, sir. But that reminds me that I must ask your
leave of absence for some days."

"To get married?"

"Yes, first, and then to go to Paris."

"Very good; have what time you require, Dantes. It will take quite six
weeks to unload the cargo, and we cannot get you ready for sea until
three months after that; only be back again in three months, for the
Pharaon," added the owner, patting the young sailor on the back, "cannot
sail without her captain."

"Without her captain!" cried Dantes, his eyes sparkling with animation;
"pray mind what you say, for you are touching on the most secret wishes
of my heart. Is it really your intention to make me captain of the
Pharaon?"

"If I were sole owner we'd shake hands on it now, my dear Dantes,
and call it settled; but I have a partner, and you know the Italian
proverb--Chi ha compagno ha padrone--'He who has a partner has a
master.' But the thing is at least half done, as you have one out of two
votes. Rely on me to procure you the other; I will do my best."

"Ah, M. Morrel," exclaimed the young seaman, with tears in his eyes,
and grasping the owner's hand, "M. Morrel, I thank you in the name of my
father and of Mercedes."

"That's all right, Edmond. There's a providence that watches over the
deserving. Go to your father: go and see Mercedes, and afterwards come
to me."

"Shall I row you ashore?"

"No, thank you; I shall remain and look over the accounts with Danglars.
Have you been satisfied with him this voyage?"

"That is according to the sense you attach to the question, sir. Do you
mean is he a good comrade? No, for I think he never liked me since the
day when I was silly enough, after a little quarrel we had, to propose
to him to stop for ten minutes at the island of Monte Cristo to settle
the dispute--a proposition which I was wrong to suggest, and he quite
right to refuse. If you mean as responsible agent when you ask me the
question, I believe there is nothing to say against him, and that you
will be content with the way in which he has performed his duty."

"But tell me, Dantes, if you had command of the Pharaon should you be
glad to see Danglars remain?"

"Captain or mate, M. Morrel, I shall always have the greatest respect
for those who possess the owners' confidence."

"That's right, that's right, Dantes! I see you are a thoroughly good
fellow, and will detain you no longer. Go, for I see how impatient you
are."

"Then I have leave?"

"Go, I tell you."

"May I have the use of your skiff?"

"Certainly."

"Then, for the present, M. Morrel, farewell, and a thousand thanks!"

"I hope soon to see you again, my dear Edmond. Good luck to you."

The young sailor jumped into the skiff, and sat down in the stern
sheets, with the order that he be put ashore at La Canebiere. The two
oarsmen bent to their work, and the little boat glided away as rapidly
as possible in the midst of the thousand vessels which choke up the
narrow way which leads between the two rows of ships from the mouth of
the harbor to the Quai d'Orleans.

The shipowner, smiling, followed him with his eyes until he saw him
spring out on the quay and disappear in the midst of the throng, which
from five o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock at night, swarms
in the famous street of La Canebiere,--a street of which the modern
Phocaeans are so proud that they say with all the gravity in the world,
and with that accent which gives so much character to what is said, "If
Paris had La Canebiere, Paris would be a second Marseilles." On turning
round the owner saw Danglars behind him, apparently awaiting orders,
but in reality also watching the young sailor,--but there was a great
difference in the expression of the two men who thus followed the
movements of Edmond Dantes.

 

 

Chapter 2. Father and Son.

We will leave Danglars struggling with the demon of hatred, and
endeavoring to insinuate in the ear of the shipowner some evil
suspicions against his comrade, and follow Dantes, who, after having
traversed La Canebiere, took the Rue de Noailles, and entering a small
house, on the left of the Allees de Meillan, rapidly ascended four
flights of a dark staircase, holding the baluster with one hand, while
with the other he repressed the beatings of his heart, and paused before
a half-open door, from which he could see the whole of a small room.

This room was occupied by Dantes' father. The news of the arrival of the
Pharaon had not yet reached the old man, who, mounted on a chair, was
amusing himself by training with trembling hand the nasturtiums and
sprays of clematis that clambered over the trellis at his window.
Suddenly, he felt an arm thrown around his body, and a well-known voice
behind him exclaimed, "Father--dear father!"

The old man uttered a cry, and turned round; then, seeing his son, he
fell into his arms, pale and trembling.

"What ails you, my dearest father? Are you ill?" inquired the young man,
much alarmed.

"No, no, my dear Edmond--my boy--my son!--no; but I did not expect you;
and joy, the surprise of seeing you so suddenly--Ah, I feel as if I were
going to die."

"Come, come, cheer up, my dear father! 'Tis I--really I! They say joy
never hurts, and so I came to you without any warning. Come now, do
smile, instead of looking at me so solemnly. Here I am back again, and
we are going to be happy."

"Yes, yes, my boy, so we will--so we will," replied the old man; "but
how shall we be happy? Shall you never leave me again? Come, tell me all
the good fortune that has befallen you."

"God forgive me," said the young man, "for rejoicing at happiness
derived from the misery of others, but, Heaven knows, I did not seek
this good fortune; it has happened, and I really cannot pretend to
lament it. The good Captain Leclere is dead, father, and it is probable
that, with the aid of M. Morrel, I shall have his place. Do you
understand, father? Only imagine me a captain at twenty, with a hundred
louis pay, and a share in the profits! Is this not more than a poor
sailor like me could have hoped for?"

"Yes, my dear boy," replied the old man, "it is very fortunate."

"Well, then, with the first money I touch, I mean you to have a small
house, with a garden in which to plant clematis, nasturtiums, and
honeysuckle. But what ails you, father? Are you not well?"

"'Tis nothing, nothing; it will soon pass away"--and as he said so the
old man's strength failed him, and he fell backwards.

"Come, come," said the young man, "a glass of wine, father, will revive
you. Where do you keep your wine?"

"No, no; thanks. You need not look for it; I do not want it," said the
old man.

"Yes, yes, father, tell me where it is," and he opened two or three
cupboards.

"It is no use," said the old man, "there is no wine."

"What, no wine?" said Dantes, turning pale, and looking alternately
at the hollow cheeks of the old man and the empty cupboards. "What, no
wine? Have you wanted money, father?"

"I want nothing now that I have you," said the old man.

"Yet," stammered Dantes, wiping the perspiration from his brow,--"yet I
gave you two hundred francs when I left, three months ago."

"Yes, yes, Edmond, that is true, but you forgot at that time a little
debt to our neighbor, Caderousse. He reminded me of it, telling me if
I did not pay for you, he would be paid by M. Morrel; and so, you see,
lest he might do you an injury"--

"Well?"

"Why, I paid him."

"But," cried Dantes, "it was a hundred and forty francs I owed
Caderousse."

"Yes," stammered the old man.

"And you paid him out of the two hundred francs I left you?"

The old man nodded.

"So that you have lived for three months on sixty francs," muttered
Edmond.

"You know how little I require," said the old man.

"Heaven pardon me," cried Edmond, falling on his knees before his
father.

"What are you doing?"

"You have wounded me to the heart."

"Never mind it, for I see you once more," said the old man; "and now
it's all over--everything is all right again."

"Yes, here I am," said the young man, "with a promising future and a
little money. Here, father, here!" he said, "take this--take it, and
send for something immediately." And he emptied his pockets on the
table, the contents consisting of a dozen gold pieces, five or six
five-franc pieces, and some smaller coin. The countenance of old Dantes
brightened.

"Whom does this belong to?" he inquired.

"To me, to you, to us! Take it; buy some provisions; be happy, and
to-morrow we shall have more."

"Gently, gently," said the old man, with a smile; "and by your leave I
will use your purse moderately, for they would say, if they saw me buy
too many things at a time, that I had been obliged to await your return,
in order to be able to purchase them."

"Do as you please; but, first of all, pray have a servant, father. I
will not have you left alone so long. I have some smuggled coffee and
most capital tobacco, in a small chest in the hold, which you shall have
to-morrow. But, hush, here comes somebody."

"'Tis Caderousse, who has heard of your arrival, and no doubt comes to
congratulate you on your fortunate return."

"Ah, lips that say one thing, while the heart thinks another," murmured
Edmond. "But, never mind, he is a neighbor who has done us a service on
a time, so he's welcome."

As Edmond paused, the black and bearded head of Caderousse appeared at
the door. He was a man of twenty-five or six, and held a piece of cloth,
which, being a tailor, he was about to make into a coat-lining.

"What, is it you, Edmond, back again?" said he, with a broad
Marseillaise accent, and a grin that displayed his ivory-white teeth.

"Yes, as you see, neighbor Caderousse; and ready to be agreeable to you
in any and every way," replied Dantes, but ill-concealing his coldness
under this cloak of civility.

"Thanks--thanks; but, fortunately, I do not want for anything; and it
chances that at times there are others who have need of me." Dantes made
a gesture. "I do not allude to you, my boy. No!--no! I lent you money,
and you returned it; that's like good neighbors, and we are quits."

"We are never quits with those who oblige us," was Dantes' reply; "for
when we do not owe them money, we owe them gratitude."

"What's the use of mentioning that? What is done is done. Let us talk
of your happy return, my boy. I had gone on the quay to match a piece of
mulberry cloth, when I met friend Danglars. 'You at Marseilles?'--'Yes,'
says he.

"'I thought you were at Smyrna.'--'I was; but am now back again.'

"'And where is the dear boy, our little Edmond?'

"'Why, with his father, no doubt,' replied Danglars. And so I came,"
added Caderousse, "as fast as I could to have the pleasure of shaking
hands with a friend."

"Worthy Caderousse!" said the old man, "he is so much attached to us."

"Yes, to be sure I am. I love and esteem you, because honest folks are
so rare. But it seems you have come back rich, my boy," continued the
tailor, looking askance at the handful of gold and silver which Dantes
had thrown on the table.

The young man remarked the greedy glance which shone in the dark eyes of
his neighbor. "Eh," he said, negligently, "this money is not mine. I was
expressing to my father my fears that he had wanted many things in my
absence, and to convince me he emptied his purse on the table. Come,
father" added Dantes, "put this money back in your box--unless neighbor
Caderousse wants anything, and in that case it is at his service."

"No, my boy, no," said Caderousse. "I am not in any want, thank God,
my living is suited to my means. Keep your money--keep it, I say;--one
never has too much;--but, at the same time, my boy, I am as much obliged
by your offer as if I took advantage of it."

"It was offered with good will," said Dantes.

"No doubt, my boy; no doubt. Well, you stand well with M. Morrel I
hear,--you insinuating dog, you!"

"M. Morrel has always been exceedingly kind to me," replied Dantes.

"Then you were wrong to refuse to dine with him."

"What, did you refuse to dine with him?" said old Dantes; "and did he
invite you to dine?"

"Yes, my dear father," replied Edmond, smiling at his father's
astonishment at the excessive honor paid to his son.

"And why did you refuse, my son?" inquired the old man.

"That I might the sooner see you again, my dear father," replied the
young man. "I was most anxious to see you."

"But it must have vexed M. Morrel, good, worthy man," said Caderousse.
"And when you are looking forward to be captain, it was wrong to annoy
the owner."

"But I explained to him the cause of my refusal," replied Dantes, "and I
hope he fully understood it."

"Yes, but to be captain one must do a little flattery to one's patrons."

"I hope to be captain without that," said Dantes.

"So much the better--so much the better! Nothing will give greater
pleasure to all your old friends; and I know one down there behind the
Saint Nicolas citadel who will not be sorry to hear it."

"Mercedes?" said the old man.

"Yes, my dear father, and with your permission, now I have seen you, and
know you are well and have all you require, I will ask your consent to
go and pay a visit to the Catalans."

"Go, my dear boy," said old Dantes: "and heaven bless you in your wife,
as it has blessed me in my son!"

"His wife!" said Caderousse; "why, how fast you go on, father Dantes;
she is not his wife yet, as it seems to me."

"So, but according to all probability she soon will be," replied Edmond.

"Yes--yes," said Caderousse; "but you were right to return as soon as
possible, my boy."

"And why?"

"Because Mercedes is a very fine girl, and fine girls never lack
followers; she particularly has them by dozens."

"Really?" answered Edmond, with a smile which had in it traces of slight
uneasiness.

"Ah, yes," continued Caderousse, "and capital offers, too; but you know,
you will be captain, and who could refuse you then?"

"Meaning to say," replied Dantes, with a smile which but ill-concealed
his trouble, "that if I were not a captain"--

"Eh--eh!" said Caderousse, shaking his head.

"Come, come," said the sailor, "I have a better opinion than you of
women in general, and of Mercedes in particular; and I am certain that,
captain or not, she will remain ever faithful to me."

"So much the better--so much the better," said Caderousse. "When one
is going to be married, there is nothing like implicit confidence; but
never mind that, my boy,--go and announce your arrival, and let her know
all your hopes and prospects."

"I will go directly," was Edmond's reply; and, embracing his father, and
nodding to Caderousse, he left the apartment.

Caderousse lingered for a moment, then taking leave of old Dantes, he
went downstairs to rejoin Danglars, who awaited him at the corner of the
Rue Senac.

"Well," said Danglars, "did you see him?"

"I have just left him," answered Caderousse.

"Did he allude to his hope of being captain?"

"He spoke of it as a thing already decided."

"Indeed!" said Danglars, "he is in too much hurry, it appears to me."

"Why, it seems M. Morrel has promised him the thing."

"So that he is quite elated about it?"

"Why, yes, he is actually insolent over the matter--has already offered
me his patronage, as if he were a grand personage, and proffered me a
loan of money, as though he were a banker."

"Which you refused?"

"Most assuredly; although I might easily have accepted it, for it was
I who put into his hands the first silver he ever earned; but now M.
Dantes has no longer any occasion for assistance--he is about to become
a captain."

"Pooh!" said Danglars, "he is not one yet."

"Ma foi, it will be as well if he is not," answered Caderousse; "for if
he should be, there will be really no speaking to him."

"If we choose," replied Danglars, "he will remain what he is; and
perhaps become even less than he is."

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing--I was speaking to myself. And is he still in love with the
Catalane?"

"Over head and ears; but, unless I am much mistaken, there will be a
storm in that quarter."

"Explain yourself."

"Why should I?"

"It is more important than you think, perhaps. You do not like Dantes?"

"I never like upstarts."

"Then tell me all you know about the Catalane."

"I know nothing for certain; only I have seen things which induce me to
believe, as I told you, that the future captain will find some annoyance
in the vicinity of the Vieilles Infirmeries."

"What have you seen?--come, tell me!"

"Well, every time I have seen Mercedes come into the city she has
been accompanied by a tall, strapping, black-eyed Catalan, with a red
complexion, brown skin, and fierce air, whom she calls cousin."

"Really; and you think this cousin pays her attentions?"

"I only suppose so. What else can a strapping chap of twenty-one mean
with a fine wench of seventeen?"

"And you say that Dantes has gone to the Catalans?"

"He went before I came down."

"Let us go the same way; we will stop at La Reserve, and we can drink a
glass of La Malgue, whilst we wait for news."

"Come along," said Caderousse; "but you pay the score."

"Of course," replied Danglars; and going quickly to the designated
place, they called for a bottle of wine, and two glasses.

Pere Pamphile had seen Dantes pass not ten minutes before; and assured
that he was at the Catalans, they sat down under the budding foliage
of the planes and sycamores, in the branches of which the birds were
singing their welcome to one of the first days of spring.

 

 

Chapter 3. The Catalans.

Beyond a bare, weather-worn wall, about a hundred paces from the spot
where the two friends sat looking and listening as they drank their
wine, was the village of the Catalans. Long ago this mysterious colony
quitted Spain, and settled on the tongue of land on which it is to this
day. Whence it came no one knew, and it spoke an unknown tongue. One of
its chiefs, who understood Provencal, begged the commune of Marseilles
to give them this bare and barren promontory, where, like the sailors of
old, they had run their boats ashore. The request was granted; and three
months afterwards, around the twelve or fifteen small vessels which
had brought these gypsies of the sea, a small village sprang up. This
village, constructed in a singular and picturesque manner, half Moorish,
half Spanish, still remains, and is inhabited by descendants of the
first comers, who speak the language of their fathers. For three or four
centuries they have remained upon this small promontory, on which
they had settled like a flight of seabirds, without mixing with the
Marseillaise population, intermarrying, and preserving their original
customs and the costume of their mother-country as they have preserved
its language.

Our readers will follow us along the only street of this little village,
and enter with us one of the houses, which is sunburned to the beautiful
dead-leaf color peculiar to the buildings of the country, and within
coated with whitewash, like a Spanish posada. A young and beautiful
girl, with hair as black as jet, her eyes as velvety as the gazelle's,
was leaning with her back against the wainscot, rubbing in her slender
delicately moulded fingers a bunch of heath blossoms, the flowers of
which she was picking off and strewing on the floor; her arms, bare to
the elbow, brown, and modelled after those of the Arlesian Venus, moved
with a kind of restless impatience, and she tapped the earth with her
arched and supple foot, so as to display the pure and full shape of her
well-turned leg, in its red cotton, gray and blue clocked, stocking. At
three paces from her, seated in a chair which he balanced on two legs,
leaning his elbow on an old worm-eaten table, was a tall young man of
twenty, or two-and-twenty, who was looking at her with an air in which
vexation and uneasiness were mingled. He questioned her with his eyes,
but the firm and steady gaze of the young girl controlled his look.

"You see, Mercedes," said the young man, "here is Easter come round
again; tell me, is this the moment for a wedding?"

"I have answered you a hundred times, Fernand, and really you must be
very stupid to ask me again."

"Well, repeat it,--repeat it, I beg of you, that I may at last believe
it! Tell me for the hundredth time that you refuse my love, which had
your mother's sanction. Make me understand once for all that you are
trifling with my happiness, that my life or death are nothing to you.
Ah, to have dreamed for ten years of being your husband, Mercedes, and
to lose that hope, which was the only stay of my existence!"

"At least it was not I who ever encouraged you in that hope, Fernand,"
replied Mercedes; "you cannot reproach me with the slightest coquetry.
I have always said to you, 'I love you as a brother; but do not ask from
me more than sisterly affection, for my heart is another's.' Is not this
true, Fernand?"

"Yes, that is very true, Mercedes," replied the young man, "Yes, you
have been cruelly frank with me; but do you forget that it is among the
Catalans a sacred law to intermarry?"

"You mistake, Fernand; it is not a law, but merely a custom, and, I pray
of you, do not cite this custom in your favor. You are included in the
conscription, Fernand, and are only at liberty on sufferance, liable at
any moment to be called upon to take up arms. Once a soldier, what would
you do with me, a poor orphan, forlorn, without fortune, with nothing
but a half-ruined hut and a few ragged nets, the miserable inheritance
left by my father to my mother, and by my mother to me? She has been
dead a year, and you know, Fernand, I have subsisted almost entirely on
public charity. Sometimes you pretend I am useful to you, and that is
an excuse to share with me the produce of your fishing, and I accept it,
Fernand, because you are the son of my father's brother, because we were
brought up together, and still more because it would give you so much
pain if I refuse. But I feel very deeply that this fish which I go and
sell, and with the produce of which I buy the flax I spin,--I feel very
keenly, Fernand, that this is charity."

"And if it were, Mercedes, poor and lone as you are, you suit me as
well as the daughter of the first shipowner or the richest banker
of Marseilles! What do such as we desire but a good wife and careful
housekeeper, and where can I look for these better than in you?"

"Fernand," answered Mercedes, shaking her head, "a woman becomes a bad
manager, and who shall say she will remain an honest woman, when
she loves another man better than her husband? Rest content with my
friendship, for I say once more that is all I can promise, and I will
promise no more than I can bestow."

"I understand," replied Fernand, "you can endure your own wretchedness
patiently, but you are afraid to share mine. Well, Mercedes, beloved by
you, I would tempt fortune; you would bring me good luck, and I should
become rich. I could extend my occupation as a fisherman, might get a
place as clerk in a warehouse, and become in time a dealer myself."

"You could do no such thing, Fernand; you are a soldier, and if you
remain at the Catalans it is because there is no war; so remain a
fisherman, and contented with my friendship, as I cannot give you more."

"Well, I will do better, Mercedes. I will be a sailor; instead of the
costume of our fathers, which you despise, I will wear a varnished hat,
a striped shirt, and a blue jacket, with an anchor on the buttons. Would
not that dress please you?"

"What do you mean?" asked Mercedes, with an angry glance,--"what do you
mean? I do not understand you?"

"I mean, Mercedes, that you are thus harsh and cruel with me, because
you are expecting some one who is thus attired; but perhaps he whom you
await is inconstant, or if he is not, the sea is so to him."

"Fernand," cried Mercedes, "I believed you were good-hearted, and I was
mistaken! Fernand, you are wicked to call to your aid jealousy and the
anger of God! Yes, I will not deny it, I do await, and I do love him of
whom you speak; and, if he does not return, instead of accusing him of
the inconstancy which you insinuate, I will tell you that he died loving
me and me only." The young girl made a gesture of rage. "I understand
you, Fernand; you would be revenged on him because I do not love you;
you would cross your Catalan knife with his dirk. What end would that
answer? To lose you my friendship if he were conquered, and see that
friendship changed into hate if you were victor. Believe me, to seek a
quarrel with a man is a bad method of pleasing the woman who loves that
man. No, Fernand, you will not thus give way to evil thoughts. Unable to
have me for your wife, you will content yourself with having me for
your friend and sister; and besides," she added, her eyes troubled and
moistened with tears, "wait, wait, Fernand; you said just now that the
sea was treacherous, and he has been gone four months, and during these
four months there have been some terrible storms."

Fernand made no reply, nor did he attempt to check the tears which
flowed down the cheeks of Mercedes, although for each of these tears he
would have shed his heart's blood; but these tears flowed for another.
He arose, paced a while up and down the hut, and then, suddenly stopping
before Mercedes, with his eyes glowing and his hands clinched,--"Say,
Mercedes," he said, "once for all, is this your final determination?"

"I love Edmond Dantes," the young girl calmly replied, "and none but
Edmond shall ever be my husband."

"And you will always love him?"

"As long as I live."

Fernand let fall his head like a defeated man, heaved a sigh that was
like a groan, and then suddenly looking her full in the face, with
clinched teeth and expanded nostrils, said,--"But if he is dead"--

"If he is dead, I shall die too."

"If he has forgotten you"--

"Mercedes!" called a joyous voice from without,--"Mercedes!"

"Ah," exclaimed the young girl, blushing with delight, and fairly
leaping in excess of love, "you see he has not forgotten me, for here he
is!" And rushing towards the door, she opened it, saying, "Here, Edmond,
here I am!"

Fernand, pale and trembling, drew back, like a traveller at the sight
of a serpent, and fell into a chair beside him. Edmond and Mercedes were
clasped in each other's arms. The burning Marseilles sun, which shot
into the room through the open door, covered them with a flood of light.
At first they saw nothing around them. Their intense happiness isolated
them from all the rest of the world, and they only spoke in broken
words, which are the tokens of a joy so extreme that they seem rather
the expression of sorrow. Suddenly Edmond saw the gloomy, pale, and
threatening countenance of Fernand, as it was defined in the shadow.
By a movement for which he could scarcely account to himself, the young
Catalan placed his hand on the knife at his belt.

"Ah, your pardon," said Dantes, frowning in his turn; "I did not
perceive that there were three of us." Then, turning to Mercedes, he
inquired, "Who is this gentleman?"

"One who will be your best friend, Dantes, for he is my friend, my
cousin, my brother; it is Fernand--the man whom, after you, Edmond, I
love the best in the world. Do you not remember him?"

"Yes!" said Dantes, and without relinquishing Mercedes hand clasped in
one of his own, he extended the other to the Catalan with a cordial air.
But Fernand, instead of responding to this amiable gesture, remained
mute and trembling. Edmond then cast his eyes scrutinizingly at the
agitated and embarrassed Mercedes, and then again on the gloomy and
menacing Fernand. This look told him all, and his anger waxed hot.

"I did not know, when I came with such haste to you, that I was to meet
an enemy here."

"An enemy!" cried Mercedes, with an angry look at her cousin. "An enemy
in my house, do you say, Edmond! If I believed that, I would place my
arm under yours and go with you to Marseilles, leaving the house to
return to it no more."

Fernand's eye darted lightning. "And should any misfortune occur to
you, dear Edmond," she continued with the same calmness which proved to
Fernand that the young girl had read the very innermost depths of his
sinister thought, "if misfortune should occur to you, I would ascend the
highest point of the Cape de Morgion and cast myself headlong from it."

Fernand became deadly pale. "But you are deceived, Edmond," she
continued. "You have no enemy here--there is no one but Fernand, my
brother, who will grasp your hand as a devoted friend."

And at these words the young girl fixed her imperious look on the
Catalan, who, as if fascinated by it, came slowly towards Edmond, and
offered him his hand. His hatred, like a powerless though furious wave,
was broken against the strong ascendancy which Mercedes exercised over
him. Scarcely, however, had he touched Edmond's hand than he felt he had
done all he could do, and rushed hastily out of the house.

"Oh," he exclaimed, running furiously and tearing his hair--"Oh, who
will deliver me from this man? Wretched--wretched that I am!"

"Hallo, Catalan! Hallo, Fernand! where are you running to?" exclaimed a
voice.

The young man stopped suddenly, looked around him, and perceived
Caderousse sitting at table with Danglars, under an arbor.

"Well", said Caderousse, "why don't you come? Are you really in such a
hurry that you have no time to pass the time of day with your friends?"

"Particularly when they have still a full bottle before them," added
Danglars. Fernand looked at them both with a stupefied air, but did not
say a word.

"He seems besotted," said Danglars, pushing Caderousse with his knee.
"Are we mistaken, and is Dantes triumphant in spite of all we have
believed?"

"Why, we must inquire into that," was Caderousse's reply; and turning
towards the young man, said, "Well, Catalan, can't you make up your
mind?"

Fernand wiped away the perspiration steaming from his brow, and slowly
entered the arbor, whose shade seemed to restore somewhat of calmness to
his senses, and whose coolness somewhat of refreshment to his exhausted
body.

"Good-day," said he. "You called me, didn't you?" And he fell, rather
than sat down, on one of the seats which surrounded the table.

"I called you because you were running like a madman, and I was afraid
you would throw yourself into the sea," said Caderousse, laughing. "Why,
when a man has friends, they are not only to offer him a glass of wine,
but, moreover, to prevent his swallowing three or four pints of water
unnecessarily!"

Fernand gave a groan, which resembled a sob, and dropped his head into
his hands, his elbows leaning on the table.

"Well, Fernand, I must say," said Caderousse, beginning the
conversation, with that brutality of the common people in which
curiosity destroys all diplomacy, "you look uncommonly like a rejected
lover;" and he burst into a hoarse laugh.

"Bah!" said Danglars, "a lad of his make was not born to be unhappy in
love. You are laughing at him, Caderousse."

"No," he replied, "only hark how he sighs! Come, come, Fernand," said
Caderousse, "hold up your head, and answer us. It's not polite not to
reply to friends who ask news of your health."

"My health is well enough," said Fernand, clinching his hands without
raising his head.

"Ah, you see, Danglars," said Caderousse, winking at his friend, "this
is how it is; Fernand, whom you see here, is a good and brave Catalan,
one of the best fishermen in Marseilles, and he is in love with a very
fine girl, named Mercedes; but it appears, unfortunately, that the fine
girl is in love with the mate of the Pharaon; and as the Pharaon arrived
to-day--why, you understand!"

"No; I do not understand," said Danglars.

"Poor Fernand has been dismissed," continued Caderousse.

"Well, and what then?" said Fernand, lifting up his head, and looking at
Caderousse like a man who looks for some one on whom to vent his anger;
"Mercedes is not accountable to any person, is she? Is she not free to
love whomsoever she will?"

"Oh, if you take it in that sense," said Caderousse, "it is another
thing. But I thought you were a Catalan, and they told me the Catalans
were not men to allow themselves to be supplanted by a rival. It was
even told me that Fernand, especially, was terrible in his vengeance."

Fernand smiled piteously. "A lover is never terrible," he said.

"Poor fellow!" remarked Danglars, affecting to pity the young man from
the bottom of his heart. "Why, you see, he did not expect to see Dantes
return so suddenly--he thought he was dead, perhaps; or perchance
faithless! These things always come on us more severely when they come
suddenly."

"Ah, ma foi, under any circumstances," said Caderousse, who drank as he
spoke, and on whom the fumes of the wine began to take effect,--"under
any circumstances Fernand is not the only person put out by the
fortunate arrival of Dantes; is he, Danglars?"

"No, you are right--and I should say that would bring him ill-luck."

"Well, never mind," answered Caderousse, pouring out a glass of wine
for Fernand, and filling his own for the eighth or ninth time, while
Danglars had merely sipped his. "Never mind--in the meantime he marries
Mercedes--the lovely Mercedes--at least he returns to do that."

During this time Danglars fixed his piercing glance on the young man, on
whose heart Caderousse's words fell like molten lead.

"And when is the wedding to be?" he asked.

"Oh, it is not yet fixed!" murmured Fernand.

"No, but it will be," said Caderousse, "as surely as Dantes will be
captain of the Pharaon--eh, Danglars?"

Danglars shuddered at this unexpected attack, and turned to Caderousse,
whose countenance he scrutinized, to try and detect whether the blow
was premeditated; but he read nothing but envy in a countenance already
rendered brutal and stupid by drunkenness.

"Well," said he, filling the glasses, "let us drink to Captain Edmond
Dantes, husband of the beautiful Catalane!"

Caderousse raised his glass to his mouth with unsteady hand, and
swallowed the contents at a gulp. Fernand dashed his on the ground.

"Eh, eh, eh!" stammered Caderousse. "What do I see down there by the
wall, in the direction of the Catalans? Look, Fernand, your eyes are
better than mine. I believe I see double. You know wine is a deceiver;
but I should say it was two lovers walking side by side, and hand in
hand. Heaven forgive me, they do not know that we can see them, and they
are actually embracing!"

Danglars did not lose one pang that Fernand endured.

"Do you know them, Fernand?" he said.

"Yes," was the reply, in a low voice. "It is Edmond and Mercedes!"

"Ah, see there, now!" said Caderousse; "and I did not recognize them!
Hallo, Dantes! hello, lovely damsel! Come this way, and let us know when
the wedding is to be, for Fernand here is so obstinate he will not tell
us."

"Hold your tongue, will you?" said Danglars, pretending to restrain
Caderousse, who, with the tenacity of drunkards, leaned out of the
arbor. "Try to stand upright, and let the lovers make love without
interruption. See, look at Fernand, and follow his example; he is
well-behaved!"

Fernand, probably excited beyond bearing, pricked by Danglars, as the
bull is by the bandilleros, was about to rush out; for he had risen from
his seat, and seemed to be collecting himself to dash headlong upon his
rival, when Mercedes, smiling and graceful, lifted up her lovely head,
and looked at them with her clear and bright eyes. At this Fernand
recollected her threat of dying if Edmond died, and dropped again
heavily on his seat. Danglars looked at the two men, one after the
other, the one brutalized by liquor, the other overwhelmed with love.

"I shall get nothing from these fools," he muttered; "and I am very much
afraid of being here between a drunkard and a coward. Here's an envious
fellow making himself boozy on wine when he ought to be nursing his
wrath, and here is a fool who sees the woman he loves stolen from under
his nose and takes on like a big baby. Yet this Catalan has eyes that
glisten like those of the vengeful Spaniards, Sicilians, and Calabrians,
and the other has fists big enough to crush an ox at one blow.
Unquestionably, Edmond's star is in the ascendant, and he will marry the
splendid girl--he will be captain, too, and laugh at us all, unless"--a
sinister smile passed over Danglars' lips--"unless I take a hand in the
affair," he added.

"Hallo!" continued Caderousse, half-rising, and with his fist on the
table, "hallo, Edmond! do you not see your friends, or are you too proud
to speak to them?"

"No, my dear fellow!" replied Dantes, "I am not proud, but I am happy,
and happiness blinds, I think, more than pride."

"Ah, very well, that's an explanation!" said Caderousse. "How do you do,
Madame Dantes?"

Mercedes courtesied gravely, and said--"That is not my name, and in my
country it bodes ill fortune, they say, to call a young girl by the name
of her betrothed before he becomes her husband. So call me Mercedes, if
you please."

"We must excuse our worthy neighbor, Caderousse," said Dantes, "he is so
easily mistaken."

"So, then, the wedding is to take place immediately, M. Dantes," said
Danglars, bowing to the young couple.

"As soon as possible, M. Danglars; to-day all preliminaries will be
arranged at my father's, and to-morrow, or next day at latest, the
wedding festival here at La Reserve. My friends will be there, I hope;
that is to say, you are invited, M. Danglars, and you, Caderousse."

"And Fernand," said Caderousse with a chuckle; "Fernand, too, is
invited!"

"My wife's brother is my brother," said Edmond; "and we, Mercedes and I,
should be very sorry if he were absent at such a time."

Fernand opened his mouth to reply, but his voice died on his lips, and
he could not utter a word.

"To-day the preliminaries, to-morrow or next day the ceremony! You are
in a hurry, captain!"

"Danglars," said Edmond, smiling, "I will say to you as Mercedes said
just now to Caderousse, 'Do not give me a title which does not belong to
me'; that may bring me bad luck."

"Your pardon," replied Danglars, "I merely said you seemed in a hurry,
and we have lots of time; the Pharaon cannot be under weigh again in
less than three months."

"We are always in a hurry to be happy, M. Danglars; for when we have
suffered a long time, we have great difficulty in believing in good
fortune. But it is not selfishness alone that makes me thus in haste; I
must go to Paris."

"Ah, really?--to Paris! and will it be the first time you have ever been
there, Dantes?"

"Yes."

"Have you business there?"

"Not of my own; the last commission of poor Captain Leclere; you know
to what I allude, Danglars--it is sacred. Besides, I shall only take the
time to go and return."

"Yes, yes, I understand," said Danglars, and then in a low tone, he
added, "To Paris, no doubt to deliver the letter which the grand marshal
gave him. Ah, this letter gives me an idea--a capital idea! Ah; Dantes,
my friend, you are not yet registered number one on board the good ship
Pharaon;" then turning towards Edmond, who was walking away, "A pleasant
journey," he cried.

"Thank you," said Edmond with a friendly nod, and the two lovers
continued on their way, as calm and joyous as if they were the very
elect of heaven.

 

 

Chapter 4. Conspiracy.

Danglars followed Edmond and Mercedes with his eyes until the two lovers
disappeared behind one of the angles of Fort Saint Nicolas, then turning
round, he perceived Fernand, who had fallen, pale and trembling, into
his chair, while Caderousse stammered out the words of a drinking-song.

"Well, my dear sir," said Danglars to Fernand, "here is a marriage which
does not appear to make everybody happy."

"It drives me to despair," said Fernand.

"Do you, then, love Mercedes?"

"I adore her!"

"For long?"

"As long as I have known her--always."

"And you sit there, tearing your hair, instead of seeking to remedy your
condition; I did not think that was the way of your people."

"What would you have me do?" said Fernand.

"How do I know? Is it my affair? I am not in love with Mademoiselle
Mercedes; but for you--in the words of the gospel, seek, and you shall
find."

"I have found already."

"What?"

"I would stab the man, but the woman told me that if any misfortune
happened to her betrothed, she would kill herself."

"Pooh! Women say those things, but never do them."

"You do not know Mercedes; what she threatens she will do."

"Idiot!" muttered Danglars; "whether she kill herself or not, what
matter, provided Dantes is not captain?"

"Before Mercedes should die," replied Fernand, with the accents of
unshaken resolution, "I would die myself!"

"That's what I call love!" said Caderousse with a voice more tipsy than
ever. "That's love, or I don't know what love is."

"Come," said Danglars, "you appear to me a good sort of fellow, and hang
me, I should like to help you, but"--

"Yes," said Caderousse, "but how?"

"My dear fellow," replied Danglars, "you are three parts drunk; finish
the bottle, and you will be completely so. Drink then, and do not meddle
with what we are discussing, for that requires all one's wit and cool
judgment."

"I--drunk!" said Caderousse; "well that's a good one! I could drink
four more such bottles; they are no bigger than cologne flasks. Pere
Pamphile, more wine!" and Caderousse rattled his glass upon the table.

"You were saying, sir"--said Fernand, awaiting with great anxiety the
end of this interrupted remark.

"What was I saying? I forget. This drunken Caderousse has made me lose
the thread of my sentence."

"Drunk, if you like; so much the worse for those who fear wine, for it
is because they have bad thoughts which they are afraid the liquor will
extract from their hearts;" and Caderousse began to sing the two last
lines of a song very popular at the time,--

'Tous les mechants sont beuveurs d'eau; C'est bien prouve par le
deluge.' [*]

* "The wicked are great drinkers of water; As the flood
proved once for all."

"You said, sir, you would like to help me, but"--

"Yes; but I added, to help you it would be sufficient that Dantes
did not marry her you love; and the marriage may easily be thwarted,
methinks, and yet Dantes need not die."

"Death alone can separate them," remarked Fernand.

"You talk like a noodle, my friend," said Caderousse; "and here is
Danglars, who is a wide-awake, clever, deep fellow, who will prove to
you that you are wrong. Prove it, Danglars. I have answered for you. Say
there is no need why Dantes should die; it would, indeed, be a pity he
should. Dantes is a good fellow; I like Dantes. Dantes, your health."

Fernand rose impatiently. "Let him run on," said Danglars, restraining
the young man; "drunk as he is, he is not much out in what he says.
Absence severs as well as death, and if the walls of a prison were
between Edmond and Mercedes they would be as effectually separated as if
he lay under a tombstone."

"Yes; but one gets out of prison," said Caderousse, who, with what sense
was left him, listened eagerly to the conversation, "and when one gets
out and one's name is Edmond Dantes, one seeks revenge"--

"What matters that?" muttered Fernand.

"And why, I should like to know," persisted Caderousse, "should they put
Dantes in prison? he has not robbed or killed or murdered."

"Hold your tongue!" said Danglars.

"I won't hold my tongue!" replied Caderousse; "I say I want to know why
they should put Dantes in prison; I like Dantes; Dantes, your health!"
and he swallowed another glass of wine.

Danglars saw in the muddled look of the tailor the progress of his
intoxication, and turning towards Fernand, said, "Well, you understand
there is no need to kill him."

"Certainly not, if, as you said just now, you have the means of having
Dantes arrested. Have you that means?"

"It is to be found for the searching. But why should I meddle in the
matter? it is no affair of mine."

"I know not why you meddle," said Fernand, seizing his arm; "but this I
know, you have some motive of personal hatred against Dantes, for he who
himself hates is never mistaken in the sentiments of others."

"I!--motives of hatred against Dantes? None, on my word! I saw you were
unhappy, and your unhappiness interested me; that's all; but since you
believe I act for my own account, adieu, my dear friend, get out of the
affair as best you may;" and Danglars rose as if he meant to depart.

"No, no," said Fernand, restraining him, "stay! It is of very little
consequence to me at the end of the matter whether you have any angry
feeling or not against Dantes. I hate him! I confess it openly. Do you
find the means, I will execute it, provided it is not to kill the man,
for Mercedes has declared she will kill herself if Dantes is killed."

Caderousse, who had let his head drop on the table, now raised it, and
looking at Fernand with his dull and fishy eyes, he said,--"Kill Dantes!
who talks of killing Dantes? I won't have him killed--I won't! He's my
friend, and this morning offered to share his money with me, as I shared
mine with him. I won't have Dantes killed--I won't!"

"And who has said a word about killing him, muddlehead?" replied
Danglars. "We were merely joking; drink to his health," he added,
filling Caderousse's glass, "and do not interfere with us."

"Yes, yes, Dantes' good health!" said Caderousse, emptying his glass,
"here's to his health! his health--hurrah!"

"But the means--the means?" said Fernand.

"Have you not hit upon any?" asked Danglars.

"No!--you undertook to do so."

"True," replied Danglars; "the French have the superiority over the
Spaniards, that the Spaniards ruminate, while the French invent."

"Do you invent, then," said Fernand impatiently.

"Waiter," said Danglars, "pen, ink, and paper."

"Pen, ink, and paper," muttered Fernand.

"Yes; I am a supercargo; pen, ink, and paper are my tools, and without
my tools I am fit for nothing."

"Pen, ink, and paper, then," called Fernand loudly.

"There's what you want on that table," said the waiter.

"Bring them here." The waiter did as he was desired.

"When one thinks," said Caderousse, letting his hand drop on the paper,
"there is here wherewithal to kill a man more sure than if we waited at
the corner of a wood to assassinate him! I have always had more dread
of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper, than of a sword or
pistol."

"The fellow is not so drunk as he appears to be," said Danglars. "Give
him some more wine, Fernand." Fernand filled Caderousse's glass, who,
like the confirmed toper he was, lifted his hand from the paper and
seized the glass.

The Catalan watched him until Caderousse, almost overcome by this fresh
assault on his senses, rested, or rather dropped, his glass upon the
table.

"Well!" resumed the Catalan, as he saw the final glimmer of Caderousse's
reason vanishing before the last glass of wine.

"Well, then, I should say, for instance," resumed Danglars, "that if
after a voyage such as Dantes has just made, in which he touched at the
Island of Elba, some one were to denounce him to the king's procureur as
a Bonapartist agent"--

"I will denounce him!" exclaimed the young man hastily.

"Yes, but they will make you then sign your declaration, and confront
you with him you have denounced; I will supply you with the means of
supporting your accusation, for I know the fact well. But Dantes cannot
remain forever in prison, and one day or other he will leave it, and
the day when he comes out, woe betide him who was the cause of his
incarceration!"

"Oh, I should wish nothing better than that he would come and seek a
quarrel with me."

"Yes, and Mercedes! Mercedes, who will detest you if you have only the
misfortune to scratch the skin of her dearly beloved Edmond!"

"True!" said Fernand.

"No, no," continued Danglars; "if we resolve on such a step, it would
be much better to take, as I now do, this pen, dip it into this ink, and
write with the left hand (that the writing may not be recognized) the
denunciation we propose." And Danglars, uniting practice with theory,
wrote with his left hand, and in a writing reversed from his usual
style, and totally unlike it, the following lines, which he handed to
Fernand, and which Fernand read in an undertone:--

"The honorable, the king's attorney, is informed by a friend of the
throne and religion, that one Edmond Dantes, mate of the ship Pharaon,
arrived this morning from Smyrna, after having touched at Naples
and Porto-Ferrajo, has been intrusted by Murat with a letter for the
usurper, and by the usurper with a letter for the Bonapartist committee
in Paris. Proof of this crime will be found on arresting him, for the
letter will be found upon him, or at his father's, or in his cabin on
board the Pharaon."

"Very good," resumed Danglars; "now your revenge looks like
common-sense, for in no way can it revert to yourself, and the matter
will thus work its own way; there is nothing to do now but fold the
letter as I am doing, and write upon it, 'To the king's attorney,' and
that's all settled." And Danglars wrote the address as he spoke.

"Yes, and that's all settled!" exclaimed Caderousse, who, by a last
effort of intellect, had followed the reading of the letter, and
instinctively comprehended all the misery which such a denunciation
must entail. "Yes, and that's all settled; only it will be an infamous
shame;" and he stretched out his hand to reach the letter.

"Yes," said Danglars, taking it from beyond his reach; "and as what I
say and do is merely in jest, and I, amongst the first and foremost,
should be sorry if anything happened to Dantes--the worthy Dantes--look
here!" And taking the letter, he squeezed it up in his hands and threw
it into a corner of the arbor.

"All right!" said Caderousse. "Dantes is my friend, and I won't have him
ill-used."

"And who thinks of using him ill? Certainly neither I nor Fernand,"
said Danglars, rising and looking at the young man, who still remained
seated, but whose eye was fixed on the denunciatory sheet of paper flung
into the corner.

"In this case," replied Caderousse, "let's have some more wine. I wish
to drink to the health of Edmond and the lovely Mercedes."

"You have had too much already, drunkard," said Danglars; "and if you
continue, you will be compelled to sleep here, because unable to stand
on your legs."

"I?" said Caderousse, rising with all the offended dignity of a drunken
man, "I can't keep on my legs? Why, I'll wager I can go up into the
belfry of the Accoules, and without staggering, too!"

"Done!" said Danglars, "I'll take your bet; but to-morrow--to-day it is
time to return. Give me your arm, and let us go."

"Very well, let us go," said Caderousse; "but I don't want your arm at
all. Come, Fernand, won't you return to Marseilles with us?"

"No," said Fernand; "I shall return to the Catalans."

"You're wrong. Come with us to Marseilles--come along."

"I will not."

"What do you mean? you will not? Well, just as you like, my prince;
there's liberty for all the world. Come along, Danglars, and let the
young gentleman return to the Catalans if he chooses."

Danglars took advantage of Caderousse's temper at the moment, to take
him off towards Marseilles by the Porte Saint-Victor, staggering as he
went.

When they had advanced about twenty yards, Danglars looked back and
saw Fernand stoop, pick up the crumpled paper, and putting it into his
pocket then rush out of the arbor towards Pillon.

"Well," said Caderousse, "why, what a lie he told! He said he was going
to the Catalans, and he is going to the city. Hallo, Fernand!"

"Oh, you don't see straight," said Danglars; "he's gone right enough."

"Well," said Caderousse, "I should have said not--how treacherous wine
is!"

"Come, come," said Danglars to himself, "now the thing is at work and it
will effect its purpose unassisted."

 

 

Chapter 5. The Marriage-Feast.

The morning's sun rose clear and resplendent, touching the foamy waves
into a network of ruby-tinted light.

The feast had been made ready on the second floor at La Reserve, with
whose arbor the reader is already familiar. The apartment destined for
the purpose was spacious and lighted by a number of windows, over each
of which was written in golden letters for some inexplicable reason the
name of one of the principal cities of France; beneath these windows a
wooden balcony extended the entire length of the house. And although
the entertainment was fixed for twelve o'clock, an hour previous to
that time the balcony was filled with impatient and expectant guests,
consisting of the favored part of the crew of the Pharaon, and other
personal friends of the bride-groom, the whole of whom had arrayed
themselves in their choicest costumes, in order to do greater honor to
the occasion.

Various rumors were afloat to the effect that the owners of the Pharaon
had promised to attend the nuptial feast; but all seemed unanimous in
doubting that an act of such rare and exceeding condescension could
possibly be intended.

Danglars, however, who now made his appearance, accompanied by
Caderousse, effectually confirmed the report, stating that he had
recently conversed with M. Morrel, who had himself assured him of his
intention to dine at La Reserve.

In fact, a moment later M. Morrel appeared and was saluted with an
enthusiastic burst of applause from the crew of the Pharaon, who hailed
the visit of the shipowner as a sure indication that the man whose
wedding feast he thus delighted to honor would ere long be first in
command of the ship; and as Dantes was universally beloved on board his
vessel, the sailors put no restraint on their tumultuous joy at finding
that the opinion and choice of their superiors so exactly coincided with
their own.

With the entrance of M. Morrel, Danglars and Caderousse were despatched
in search of the bride-groom to convey to him the intelligence of the
arrival of the important personage whose coming had created such a
lively sensation, and to beseech him to make haste.

Danglars and Caderousse set off upon their errand at full speed; but ere
they had gone many steps they perceived a group advancing towards them,
composed of the betrothed pair, a party of young girls in attendance on
the bride, by whose side walked Dantes' father; the whole brought up by
Fernand, whose lips wore their usual sinister smile.

Neither Mercedes nor Edmond observed the strange expression of his
countenance; they were so happy that they were conscious only of the
sunshine and the presence of each other.

Having acquitted themselves of their errand, and exchanged a hearty
shake of the hand with Edmond, Danglars and Caderousse took their places
beside Fernand and old Dantes,--the latter of whom attracted universal
notice. The old man was attired in a suit of glistening watered silk,
trimmed with steel buttons, beautifully cut and polished. His thin
but wiry legs were arrayed in a pair of richly embroidered clocked
stockings, evidently of English manufacture, while from his
three-cornered hat depended a long streaming knot of white and blue
ribbons. Thus he came along, supporting himself on a curiously carved
stick, his aged countenance lit up with happiness, looking for all the
world like one of the aged dandies of 1796, parading the newly opened
gardens of the Tuileries and Luxembourg. Beside him glided Caderousse,
whose desire to partake of the good things provided for the
wedding-party had induced him to become reconciled to the Dantes, father
and son, although there still lingered in his mind a faint and unperfect
recollection of the events of the preceding night; just as the brain
retains on waking in the morning the dim and misty outline of a dream.

As Danglars approached the disappointed lover, he cast on him a look of
deep meaning, while Fernand, as he slowly paced behind the happy pair,
who seemed, in their own unmixed content, to have entirely forgotten
that such a being as himself existed, was pale and abstracted;
occasionally, however, a deep flush would overspread his countenance,
and a nervous contraction distort his features, while, with an agitated
and restless gaze, he would glance in the direction of Marseilles, like
one who either anticipated or foresaw some great and important event.

Dantes himself was simply, but becomingly, clad in the dress peculiar to
the merchant service--a costume somewhat between a military and a civil
garb; and with his fine countenance, radiant with joy and happiness, a
more perfect specimen of manly beauty could scarcely be imagined.

Lovely as the Greek girls of Cyprus or Chios, Mercedes boasted the same
bright flashing eyes of jet, and ripe, round, coral lips. She moved
with the light, free step of an Arlesienne or an Andalusian. One more
practiced in the arts of great cities would have hid her blushes beneath
a veil, or, at least, have cast down her thickly fringed lashes, so as
to have concealed the liquid lustre of her animated eyes; but, on the
contrary, the delighted girl looked around her with a smile that seemed
to say: "If you are my friends, rejoice with me, for I am very happy."

As soon as the bridal party came in sight of La Reserve, M. Morrel
descended and came forth to meet it, followed by the soldiers and
sailors there assembled, to whom he had repeated the promise already
given, that Dantes should be the successor to the late Captain Leclere.
Edmond, at the approach of his patron, respectfully placed the arm of
his affianced bride within that of M. Morrel, who, forthwith conducting
her up the flight of wooden steps leading to the chamber in which the
feast was prepared, was gayly followed by the guests, beneath whose
heavy tread the slight structure creaked and groaned for the space of
several minutes.

"Father," said Mercedes, stopping when she had reached the centre of the
table, "sit, I pray you, on my right hand; on my left I will place him
who has ever been as a brother to me," pointing with a soft and gentle
smile to Fernand; but her words and look seemed to inflict the direst
torture on him, for his lips became ghastly pale, and even beneath the
dark hue of his complexion the blood might be seen retreating as though
some sudden pang drove it back to the heart.

During this time, Dantes, at the opposite side of the table, had been
occupied in similarly placing his most honored guests. M. Morrel was
seated at his right hand, Danglars at his left; while, at a sign from
Edmond, the rest of the company ranged themselves as they found it most
agreeable.

Then they began to pass around the dusky, piquant, Arlesian sausages,
and lobsters in their dazzling red cuirasses, prawns of large size and
brilliant color, the echinus with its prickly outside and dainty morsel
within, the clovis, esteemed by the epicures of the South as more than
rivalling the exquisite flavor of the oyster,--all the delicacies, in
fact, that are cast up by the wash of waters on the sandy beach, and
styled by the grateful fishermen "fruits of the sea."

"A pretty silence truly!" said the old father of the bride-groom, as
he carried to his lips a glass of wine of the hue and brightness of the
topaz, and which had just been placed before Mercedes herself. "Now,
would anybody think that this room contained a happy, merry party, who
desire nothing better than to laugh and dance the hours away?"

"Ah," sighed Caderousse, "a man cannot always feel happy because he is
about to be married."

"The truth is," replied Dantes, "that I am too happy for noisy mirth;
if that is what you meant by your observation, my worthy friend, you
are right; joy takes a strange effect at times, it seems to oppress us
almost the same as sorrow."

Danglars looked towards Fernand, whose excitable nature received and
betrayed each fresh impression.

"Why, what ails you?" asked he of Edmond. "Do you fear any approaching
evil? I should say that you were the happiest man alive at this
instant."

"And that is the very thing that alarms me," returned Dantes. "Man does
not appear to me to be intended to enjoy felicity so unmixed; happiness
is like the enchanted palaces we read of in our childhood, where fierce,
fiery dragons defend the entrance and approach; and monsters of all
shapes and kinds, requiring to be overcome ere victory is ours. I own
that I am lost in wonder to find myself promoted to an honor of which I
feel myself unworthy--that of being the husband of Mercedes."

"Nay, nay!" cried Caderousse, smiling, "you have not attained that honor
yet. Mercedes is not yet your wife. Just assume the tone and manner of
a husband, and see how she will remind you that your hour is not yet
come!"

The bride blushed, while Fernand, restless and uneasy, seemed to start
at every fresh sound, and from time to time wiped away the large drops
of perspiration that gathered on his brow.

"Well, never mind that, neighbor Caderousse; it is not worth while to
contradict me for such a trifle as that. 'Tis true that Mercedes is not
actually my wife; but," added he, drawing out his watch, "in an hour and
a half she will be."

A general exclamation of surprise ran round the table, with the
exception of the elder Dantes, whose laugh displayed the still perfect
beauty of his large white teeth. Mercedes looked pleased and gratified,
while Fernand grasped the handle of his knife with a convulsive clutch.

"In an hour?" inquired Danglars, turning pale. "How is that, my friend?"

"Why, thus it is," replied Dantes. "Thanks to the influence of M.
Morrel, to whom, next to my father, I owe every blessing I enjoy, every
difficulty his been removed. We have purchased permission to waive the
usual delay; and at half-past two o'clock the mayor of Marseilles will
be waiting for us at the city hall. Now, as a quarter-past one has
already struck, I do not consider I have asserted too much in saying,
that, in another hour and thirty minutes Mercedes will have become
Madame Dantes."

Fernand closed his eyes, a burning sensation passed across his brow, and
he was compelled to support himself by the table to prevent his falling
from his chair; but in spite of all his efforts, he could not refrain
from uttering a deep groan, which, however, was lost amid the noisy
felicitations of the company.

"Upon my word," cried the old man, "you make short work of this kind of
affair. Arrived here only yesterday morning, and married to-day at three
o'clock! Commend me to a sailor for going the quick way to work!"

"But," asked Danglars, in a timid tone, "how did you manage about the
other formalities--the contract--the settlement?"

"The contract," answered Dantes, laughingly, "it didn't take long to
fix that. Mercedes has no fortune; I have none to settle on her. So, you
see, our papers were quickly written out, and certainly do not come very
expensive." This joke elicited a fresh burst of applause.

"So that what we presumed to be merely the betrothal feast turns out to
be the actual wedding dinner!" said Danglars.

"No, no," answered Dantes; "don't imagine I am going to put you off in
that shabby manner. To-morrow morning I start for Paris; four days to
go, and the same to return, with one day to discharge the commission
intrusted to me, is all the time I shall be absent. I shall be back here
by the first of March, and on the second I give my real marriage feast."

This prospect of fresh festivity redoubled the hilarity of the guests
to such a degree, that the elder Dantes, who, at the commencement of
the repast, had commented upon the silence that prevailed, now found
it difficult, amid the general din of voices, to obtain a moment's
tranquillity in which to drink to the health and prosperity of the bride
and bride-groom.

Dantes, perceiving the affectionate eagerness of his father, responded
by a look of grateful pleasure; while Mercedes glanced at the clock and
made an expressive gesture to Edmond.

Around the table reigned that noisy hilarity which usually prevails at
such a time among people sufficiently free from the demands of
social position not to feel the trammels of etiquette. Such as at
the commencement of the repast had not been able to seat themselves
according to their inclination rose unceremoniously, and sought out more
agreeable companions. Everybody talked at once, without waiting for a
reply and each one seemed to be contented with expressing his or her own
thoughts.

Fernand's paleness appeared to have communicated itself to Danglars.
As for Fernand himself, he seemed to be enduring the tortures of the
damned; unable to rest, he was among the first to quit the table,
and, as though seeking to avoid the hilarious mirth that rose in such
deafening sounds, he continued, in utter silence, to pace the farther
end of the salon.

Caderousse approached him just as Danglars, whom Fernand seemed most
anxious to avoid, had joined him in a corner of the room.

"Upon my word," said Caderousse, from whose mind the friendly treatment
of Dantes, united with the effect of the excellent wine he had partaken
of, had effaced every feeling of envy or jealousy at Dantes' good
fortune,--"upon my word, Dantes is a downright good fellow, and when I
see him sitting there beside his pretty wife that is so soon to be. I
cannot help thinking it would have been a great pity to have served him
that trick you were planning yesterday."

"Oh, there was no harm meant," answered Danglars; "at first I certainly
did feel somewhat uneasy as to what Fernand might be tempted to do; but
when I saw how completely he had mastered his feelings, even so far as
to become one of his rival's attendants, I knew there was no further
cause for apprehension." Caderousse looked full at Fernand--he was
ghastly pale.

"Certainly," continued Danglars, "the sacrifice was no trifling one,
when the beauty of the bride is concerned. Upon my soul, that future
captain of mine is a lucky dog! Gad, I only wish he would let me take
his place."

"Shall we not set forth?" asked the sweet, silvery voice of Mercedes;
"two o'clock has just struck, and you know we are expected in a quarter
of an hour."

"To be sure!--to be sure!" cried Dantes, eagerly quitting the table;
"let us go directly!"

His words were re-echoed by the whole party, with vociferous cheers.

At this moment Danglars, who had been incessantly observing every change
in Fernand's look and manner, saw him stagger and fall back, with an
almost convulsive spasm, against a seat placed near one of the open
windows. At the same instant his ear caught a sort of indistinct sound
on the stairs, followed by the measured tread of soldiery, with the
clanking of swords and military accoutrements; then came a hum and buzz
as of many voices, so as to deaden even the noisy mirth of the bridal
party, among whom a vague feeling of curiosity and apprehension quelled
every disposition to talk, and almost instantaneously the most deathlike
stillness prevailed.

The sounds drew nearer. Three blows were struck upon the panel of the
door. The company looked at each other in consternation.

"I demand admittance," said a loud voice outside the room, "in the name
of the law!" As no attempt was made to prevent it, the door was opened,
and a magistrate, wearing his official scarf, presented himself,
followed by four soldiers and a corporal. Uneasiness now yielded to the
most extreme dread on the part of those present.

"May I venture to inquire the reason of this unexpected visit?" said
M. Morrel, addressing the magistrate, whom he evidently knew; "there is
doubtless some mistake easily explained."

"If it be so," replied the magistrate, "rely upon every reparation being
made; meanwhile, I am the bearer of an order of arrest, and although I
most reluctantly perform the task assigned me, it must, nevertheless, be
fulfilled. Who among the persons here assembled answers to the name of
Edmond Dantes?" Every eye was turned towards the young man who, spite of
the agitation he could not but feel, advanced with dignity, and said, in
a firm voice, "I am he; what is your pleasure with me?"

"Edmond Dantes," replied the magistrate, "I arrest you in the name of
the law!"

"Me!" repeated Edmond, slightly changing color, "and wherefore, I pray?"

"I cannot inform you, but you will be duly acquainted with the
reasons that have rendered such a step necessary at the preliminary
examination."

M. Morrel felt that further resistance or remonstrance was useless. He
saw before him an officer delegated to enforce the law, and perfectly
well knew that it would be as unavailing to seek pity from a magistrate
decked with his official scarf, as to address a petition to some cold
marble effigy. Old Dantes, however, sprang forward. There are situations
which the heart of a father or a mother cannot be made to understand.
He prayed and supplicated in terms so moving, that even the officer
was touched, and, although firm in his duty, he kindly said, "My worthy
friend, let me beg of you to calm your apprehensions. Your son has
probably neglected some prescribed form or attention in registering his
cargo, and it is more than probable he will be set at liberty directly
he has given the information required, whether touching the health of
his crew, or the value of his freight."

"What is the meaning of all this?" inquired Caderousse, frowningly, of
Danglars, who had assumed an air of utter surprise.

"How can I tell you?" replied he; "I am, like yourself, utterly
bewildered at all that is going on, and cannot in the least make out
what it is about." Caderousse then looked around for Fernand, but he had
disappeared.

The scene of the previous night now came back to his mind with startling
clearness. The painful catastrophe he had just witnessed appeared
effectually to have rent away the veil which the intoxication of the
evening before had raised between himself and his memory.

"So, so," said he, in a hoarse and choking voice, to Danglars, "this,
then, I suppose, is a part of the trick you were concerting yesterday?
All I can say is, that if it be so, 'tis an ill turn, and well deserves
to bring double evil on those who have projected it."

"Nonsense," returned Danglars, "I tell you again I have nothing whatever
to do with it; besides, you know very well that I tore the paper to
pieces."

"No, you did not!" answered Caderousse, "you merely threw it by--I saw
it lying in a corner."

"Hold your tongue, you fool!--what should you know about it?--why, you
were drunk!"

"Where is Fernand?" inquired Caderousse.

"How do I know?" replied Danglars; "gone, as every prudent man ought to
be, to look after his own affairs, most likely. Never mind where he is,
let you and I go and see what is to be done for our poor friends."

During this conversation, Dantes, after having exchanged a cheerful
shake of the hand with all his sympathizing friends, had surrendered
himself to the officer sent to arrest him, merely saying, "Make
yourselves quite easy, my good fellows, there is some little mistake to
clear up, that's all, depend upon it; and very likely I may not have to
go so far as the prison to effect that."

"Oh, to be sure!" responded Danglars, who had now approached the group,
"nothing more than a mistake, I feel quite certain."

Dantes descended the staircase, preceded by the magistrate, and followed
by the soldiers. A carriage awaited him at the door; he got in, followed
by two soldiers and the magistrate, and the vehicle drove off towards
Marseilles.

"Adieu, adieu, dearest Edmond!" cried Mercedes, stretching out her arms
to him from the balcony.

The prisoner heard the cry, which sounded like the sob of a broken
heart, and leaning from the coach he called out, "Good-by, Mercedes--we
shall soon meet again!" Then the vehicle disappeared round one of the
turnings of Fort Saint Nicholas.

"Wait for me here, all of you!" cried M. Morrel; "I will take the first
conveyance I find, and hurry to Marseilles, whence I will bring you word
how all is going on."

"That's right!" exclaimed a multitude of voices, "go, and return as
quickly as you can!"

This second departure was followed by a long and fearful state of
terrified silence on the part of those who were left behind. The old
father and Mercedes remained for some time apart, each absorbed in
grief; but at length the two poor victims of the same blow raised their
eyes, and with a simultaneous burst of feeling rushed into each other's
arms.

Meanwhile Fernand made his appearance, poured out for himself a glass
of water with a trembling hand; then hastily swallowing it, went to sit
down at the first vacant place, and this was, by mere chance, placed
next to the seat on which poor Mercedes had fallen half fainting,
when released from the warm and affectionate embrace of old Dantes.
Instinctively Fernand drew back his chair.

"He is the cause of all this misery--I am quite sure of it," whispered
Caderousse, who had never taken his eyes off Fernand, to Danglars.

"I don't think so," answered the other; "he's too stupid to imagine such
a scheme. I only hope the mischief will fall upon the head of whoever
wrought it."

"You don't mention those who aided and abetted the deed," said
Caderousse.

"Surely," answered Danglars, "one cannot be held responsible for every
chance arrow shot into the air."

"You can, indeed, when the arrow lights point downward on somebody's
head."

Meantime the subject of the arrest was being canvassed in every
different form.

"What think you, Danglars," said one of the party, turning towards him,
"of this event?"

"Why," replied he, "I think it just possible Dantes may have been
detected with some trifling article on board ship considered here as
contraband."

"But how could he have done so without your knowledge, Danglars, since
you are the ship's supercargo?"

"Why, as for that, I could only know what I was told respecting the
merchandise with which the vessel was laden. I know she was loaded with
cotton, and that she took in her freight at Alexandria from Pastret's
warehouse, and at Smyrna from Pascal's; that is all I was obliged to
know, and I beg I may not be asked for any further particulars."

"Now I recollect," said the afflicted old father; "my poor boy told me
yesterday he had got a small case of coffee, and another of tobacco for
me!"

"There, you see," exclaimed Danglars. "Now the mischief is out; depend
upon it the custom-house people went rummaging about the ship in our
absence, and discovered poor Dantes' hidden treasures."

Mercedes, however, paid no heed to this explanation of her lover's
arrest. Her grief, which she had hitherto tried to restrain, now burst
out in a violent fit of hysterical sobbing.

"Come, come," said the old man, "be comforted, my poor child; there is
still hope!"

"Hope!" repeated Danglars.

"Hope!" faintly murmured Fernand, but the word seemed to die away on his
pale agitated lips, and a convulsive spasm passed over his countenance.

"Good news! good news!" shouted forth one of the party stationed in the
balcony on the lookout. "Here comes M. Morrel back. No doubt, now, we
shall hear that our friend is released!"

Mercedes and the old man rushed to meet the shipowner and greeted him at
the door. He was very pale.

"What news?" exclaimed a general burst of voices.

"Alas, my friends," replied M. Morrel, with a mournful shake of his
head, "the thing has assumed a more serious aspect than I expected."

"Oh, indeed--indeed, sir, he is innocent!" sobbed forth Mercedes.

"That I believe!" answered M. Morrel; "but still he is charged"--

"With what?" inquired the elder Dantes.

"With being an agent of the Bonapartist faction!" Many of our readers
may be able to recollect how formidable such an accusation became in the
period at which our story is dated.

A despairing cry escaped the pale lips of Mercedes; the old man sank
into a chair.

"Ah, Danglars!" whispered Caderousse, "you have deceived me--the trick
you spoke of last night has been played; but I cannot suffer a poor
old man or an innocent girl to die of grief through your fault. I am
determined to tell them all about it."

"Be silent, you simpleton!" cried Danglars, grasping him by the arm, "or
I will not answer even for your own safety. Who can tell whether Dantes
be innocent or guilty? The vessel did touch at Elba, where he quitted
it, and passed a whole day in the island. Now, should any letters or
other documents of a compromising character be found upon him, will it
not be taken for granted that all who uphold him are his accomplices?"

With the rapid instinct of selfishness, Caderousse readily perceived the
solidity of this mode of reasoning; he gazed, doubtfully, wistfully, on
Danglars, and then caution supplanted generosity.

"Suppose we wait a while, and see what comes of it," said he, casting a
bewildered look on his companion.

"To be sure!" answered Danglars. "Let us wait, by all means. If he be
innocent, of course he will be set at liberty; if guilty, why, it is no
use involving ourselves in a conspiracy."

"Let us go, then. I cannot stay here any longer."

"With all my heart!" replied Danglars, pleased to find the other so
tractable. "Let us take ourselves out of the way, and leave things for
the present to take their course."

After their departure, Fernand, who had now again become the friend and
protector of Mercedes, led the girl to her home, while the friends of
Dantes conducted the now half-fainting man back to his abode.

The rumor of Edmond's arrest as a Bonapartist agent was not slow in
circulating throughout the city.

"Could you ever have credited such a thing, my dear Danglars?" asked M.
Morrel, as, on his return to the port for the purpose of gleaning fresh
tidings of Dantes, from M. de Villefort, the assistant procureur, he
overtook his supercargo and Caderousse. "Could you have believed such a
thing possible?"

"Why, you know I told you," replied Danglars, "that I considered the
circumstance of his having anchored at the Island of Elba as a very
suspicious circumstance."

"And did you mention these suspicions to any person beside myself?"

"Certainly not!" returned Danglars. Then added in a low whisper, "You
understand that, on account of your uncle, M. Policar Morrel, who served
under the other government, and who does not altogether conceal what
he thinks on the subject, you are strongly suspected of regretting the
abdication of Napoleon. I should have feared to injure both Edmond and
yourself, had I divulged my own apprehensions to a soul. I am too well
aware that though a subordinate, like myself, is bound to acquaint the
shipowner with everything that occurs, there are many things he ought
most carefully to conceal from all else."

"'Tis well, Danglars--'tis well!" replied M. Morrel. "You are a worthy
fellow; and I had already thought of your interests in the event of poor
Edmond having become captain of the Pharaon."

"Is it possible you were so kind?"

"Yes, indeed; I had previously inquired of Dantes what was his opinion
of you, and if he should have any reluctance to continue you in your
post, for somehow I have perceived a sort of coolness between you."

"And what was his reply?"

"That he certainly did think he had given you offence in an affair
which he merely referred to without entering into particulars, but that
whoever possessed the good opinion and confidence of the ship's owner
would have his preference also."

"The hypocrite!" murmured Danglars.

"Poor Dantes!" said Caderousse. "No one can deny his being a
noble-hearted young fellow."

"But meanwhile," continued M. Morrel, "here is the Pharaon without a
captain."

"Oh," replied Danglars, "since we cannot leave this port for the next
three months, let us hope that ere the expiration of that period Dantes
will be set at liberty."

"No doubt; but in the meantime?"

"I am entirely at your service, M. Morrel," answered Danglars. "You know
that I am as capable of managing a ship as the most experienced captain
in the service; and it will be so far advantageous to you to accept my
services, that upon Edmond's release from prison no further change will
be requisite on board the Pharaon than for Dantes and myself each to
resume our respective posts."

"Thanks, Danglars--that will smooth over all difficulties. I fully
authorize you at once to assume the command of the Pharaon, and look
carefully to the unloading of her freight. Private misfortunes must
never be allowed to interfere with business."

"Be easy on that score, M. Morrel; but do you think we shall be
permitted to see our poor Edmond?"

"I will let you know that directly I have seen M. de Villefort, whom I
shall endeavor to interest in Edmond's favor. I am aware he is a furious
royalist; but, in spite of that, and of his being king's attorney, he is
a man like ourselves, and I fancy not a bad sort of one."

"Perhaps not," replied Danglars; "but I hear that he is ambitious, and
that's rather against him."

"Well, well," returned M. Morrel, "we shall see. But now hasten on
board, I will join you there ere long." So saying, the worthy shipowner
quitted the two allies, and proceeded in the direction of the Palais de
Justice.

"You see," said Danglars, addressing Caderousse, "the turn things have
taken. Do you still feel any desire to stand up in his defence?"

"Not the slightest, but yet it seems to me a shocking thing that a mere
joke should lead to such consequences."

"But who perpetrated that joke, let me ask? neither you nor myself, but
Fernand; you knew very well that I threw the paper into a corner of the
room--indeed, I fancied I had destroyed it."

"Oh, no," replied Caderousse, "that I can answer for, you did not. I
only wish I could see it now as plainly as I saw it lying all crushed
and crumpled in a corner of the arbor."

"Well, then, if you did, depend upon it, Fernand picked it up, and
either copied it or caused it to be copied; perhaps, even, he did not
take the trouble of recopying it. And now I think of it, by Heavens, he
may have sent the letter itself! Fortunately, for me, the handwriting
was disguised."

"Then you were aware of Dantes being engaged in a conspiracy?"

"Not I. As I before said, I thought the whole thing was a joke, nothing
more. It seems, however, that I have unconsciously stumbled upon the
truth."

"Still," argued Caderousse, "I would give a great deal if nothing of the
kind had happened; or, at least, that I had had no hand in it. You will
see, Danglars, that it will turn out an unlucky job for both of us."

"Nonsense! If any harm come of it, it should fall on the guilty person;
and that, you know, is Fernand. How can we be implicated in any way?
All we have got to do is, to keep our own counsel, and remain perfectly
quiet, not breathing a word to any living soul; and you will see that
the storm will pass away without in the least affecting us."

"Amen!" responded Caderousse, waving his hand in token of adieu to
Danglars, and bending his steps towards the Allees de Meillan, moving
his head to and fro, and muttering as he went, after the manner of one
whose mind was overcharged with one absorbing idea.

"So far, then," said Danglars, mentally, "all has gone as I would have
it. I am, temporarily, commander of the Pharaon, with the certainty of
being permanently so, if that fool of a Caderousse can be persuaded to
hold his tongue. My only fear is the chance of Dantes being released.
But, there, he is in the hands of Justice; and," added he with a smile,
"she will take her own." So saying, he leaped into a boat, desiring to
be rowed on board the Pharaon, where M. Morrel had agreed to meet him.

 

 

Chapter 6. The Deputy Procureur du Roi.

In one of the aristocratic mansions built by Puget in the Rue du Grand
Cours opposite the Medusa fountain, a second marriage feast was being
celebrated, almost at the same hour with the nuptial repast given
by Dantes. In this case, however, although the occasion of the
entertainment was similar, the company was strikingly dissimilar.
Instead of a rude mixture of sailors, soldiers, and those belonging to
the humblest grade of life, the present assembly was composed of the
very flower of Marseilles society,--magistrates who had resigned their
office during the usurper's reign; officers who had deserted from the
imperial army and joined forces with Conde; and younger members of
families, brought up to hate and execrate the man whom five years of
exile would convert into a martyr, and fifteen of restoration elevate to
the rank of a god.

The guests were still at table, and the heated and energetic
conversation that prevailed betrayed the violent and vindictive passions
that then agitated each dweller of the South, where unhappily, for five
centuries religious strife had long given increased bitterness to the
violence of party feeling.

The emperor, now king of the petty Island of Elba, after having held
sovereign sway over one-half of the world, counting as his subjects
a small population of five or six thousand souls,--after having been
accustomed to hear the "Vive Napoleons" of a hundred and twenty millions
of human beings, uttered in ten different languages,--was looked upon
here as a ruined man, separated forever from any fresh connection with
France or claim to her throne.

The magistrates freely discussed their political views; the military
part of the company talked unreservedly of Moscow and Leipsic, while
the women commented on the divorce of Josephine. It was not over the
downfall of the man, but over the defeat of the Napoleonic idea, that
they rejoiced, and in this they foresaw for themselves the bright and
cheering prospect of a revivified political existence.

An old man, decorated with the cross of Saint Louis, now rose and
proposed the health of King Louis XVIII. It was the Marquis de
Saint-Meran. This toast, recalling at once the patient exile of Hartwell
and the peace-loving King of France, excited universal enthusiasm;
glasses were elevated in the air a l'Anglais, and the ladies, snatching
their bouquets from their fair bosoms, strewed the table with their
floral treasures. In a word, an almost poetical fervor prevailed.

"Ah," said the Marquise de Saint-Meran, a woman with a stern, forbidding
eye, though still noble and distinguished in appearance, despite her
fifty years--"ah, these revolutionists, who have driven us from those
very possessions they afterwards purchased for a mere trifle during the
Reign of Terror, would be compelled to own, were they here, that all
true devotion was on our side, since we were content to follow the
fortunes of a falling monarch, while they, on the contrary, made their
fortune by worshipping the rising sun; yes, yes, they could not help
admitting that the king, for whom we sacrificed rank, wealth, and
station was truly our 'Louis the well-beloved,' while their wretched
usurper his been, and ever will be, to them their evil genius, their
'Napoleon the accursed.' Am I not right, Villefort?"

"I beg your pardon, madame. I really must pray you to excuse me, but--in
truth--I was not attending to the conversation."

"Marquise, marquise!" interposed the old nobleman who had proposed the
toast, "let the young people alone; let me tell you, on one's wedding
day there are more agreeable subjects of conversation than dry
politics."

"Never mind, dearest mother," said a young and lovely girl, with a
profusion of light brown hair, and eyes that seemed to float in liquid
crystal, "'tis all my fault for seizing upon M. de Villefort, so as to
prevent his listening to what you said. But there--now take him--he is
your own for as long as you like. M. Villefort, I beg to remind you my
mother speaks to you."

"If the marquise will deign to repeat the words I but imperfectly
caught, I shall be delighted to answer," said M. de Villefort.

"Never mind, Renee," replied the marquise, with a look of tenderness
that seemed out of keeping with her harsh dry features; but, however all
other feelings may be withered in a woman's nature, there is always one
bright smiling spot in the desert of her heart, and that is the shrine
of maternal love. "I forgive you. What I was saying, Villefort, was,
that the Bonapartists had not our sincerity, enthusiasm, or devotion."

"They had, however, what supplied the place of those fine qualities,"
replied the young man, "and that was fanaticism. Napoleon is the
Mahomet of the West, and is worshipped by his commonplace but
ambitions followers, not only as a leader and lawgiver, but also as the
personification of equality."

"He!" cried the marquise: "Napoleon the type of equality! For mercy's
sake, then, what would you call Robespierre? Come, come, do not strip
the latter of his just rights to bestow them on the Corsican, who, to my
mind, has usurped quite enough."

"Nay, madame; I would place each of these heroes on his right
pedestal--that of Robespierre on his scaffold in the Place Louis Quinze;
that of Napoleon on the column of the Place Vendome. The only difference
consists in the opposite character of the equality advocated by these
two men; one is the equality that elevates, the other is the equality
that degrades; one brings a king within reach of the guillotine, the
other elevates the people to a level with the throne. Observe," said
Villefort, smiling, "I do not mean to deny that both these men were
revolutionary scoundrels, and that the 9th Thermidor and the 4th of
April, in the year 1814, were lucky days for France, worthy of being
gratefully remembered by every friend to monarchy and civil order;
and that explains how it comes to pass that, fallen, as I trust he is
forever, Napoleon has still retained a train of parasitical satellites.
Still, marquise, it has been so with other usurpers--Cromwell, for
instance, who was not half so bad as Napoleon, had his partisans and
advocates."

"Do you know, Villefort, that you are talking in a most dreadfully
revolutionary strain? But I excuse it, it is impossible to expect the
son of a Girondin to be free from a small spice of the old leaven." A
deep crimson suffused the countenance of Villefort.

"'Tis true, madame," answered he, "that my father was a Girondin, but he
was not among the number of those who voted for the king's death; he
was an equal sufferer with yourself during the Reign of Terror, and
had well-nigh lost his head on the same scaffold on which your father
perished."

"True," replied the marquise, without wincing in the slightest degree at
the tragic remembrance thus called up; "but bear in mind, if you please,
that our respective parents underwent persecution and proscription from
diametrically opposite principles; in proof of which I may remark, that
while my family remained among the stanchest adherents of the exiled
princes, your father lost no time in joining the new government; and
that while the Citizen Noirtier was a Girondin, the Count Noirtier
became a senator."

"Dear mother," interposed Renee, "you know very well it was agreed that
all these disagreeable reminiscences should forever be laid aside."

"Suffer me, also, madame," replied Villefort, "to add my earnest request
to Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran's, that you will kindly allow the veil of
oblivion to cover and conceal the past. What avails recrimination over
matters wholly past recall? For my own part, I have laid aside even the
name of my father, and altogether disown his political principles. He
was--nay, probably may still be--a Bonapartist, and is called Noirtier;
I, on the contrary, am a stanch royalist, and style myself de Villefort.
Let what may remain of revolutionary sap exhaust itself and die away
with the old trunk, and condescend only to regard the young shoot which
has started up at a distance from the parent tree, without having the
power, any more than the wish, to separate entirely from the stock from
which it sprung."

"Bravo, Villefort!" cried the marquis; "excellently well said! Come,
now, I have hopes of obtaining what I have been for years endeavoring
to persuade the marquise to promise; namely, a perfect amnesty and
forgetfulness of the past."

"With all my heart," replied the marquise; "let the past be forever
forgotten. I promise you it affords me as little pleasure to revive it
as it does you. All I ask is, that Villefort will be firm and inflexible
for the future in his political principles. Remember, also, Villefort,
that we have pledged ourselves to his majesty for your fealty and strict
loyalty, and that at our recommendation the king consented to forget the
past, as I do" (and here she extended to him her hand)--"as I now do at
your entreaty. But bear in mind, that should there fall in your way any
one guilty of conspiring against the government, you will be so much the
more bound to visit the offence with rigorous punishment, as it is known
you belong to a suspected family."

"Alas, madame," returned Villefort, "my profession, as well as the times
in which we live, compels me to be severe. I have already successfully
conducted several public prosecutions, and brought the offenders to
merited punishment. But we have not done with the thing yet."

"Do you, indeed, think so?" inquired the marquise.

"I am, at least, fearful of it. Napoleon, in the Island of Elba, is
too near France, and his proximity keeps up the hopes of his partisans.
Marseilles is filled with half-pay officers, who are daily, under one
frivolous pretext or other, getting up quarrels with the royalists;
from hence arise continual and fatal duels among the higher classes of
persons, and assassinations in the lower."

"You have heard, perhaps," said the Comte de Salvieux, one of M. de
Saint-Meran's oldest friends, and chamberlain to the Comte d'Artois,
"that the Holy Alliance purpose removing him from thence?"

"Yes; they were talking about it when we left Paris," said M. de
Saint-Meran; "and where is it decided to transfer him?"

"To Saint Helena."

"For heaven's sake, where is that?" asked the marquise.

"An island situated on the other side of the equator, at least two
thousand leagues from here," replied the count.

"So much the better. As Villefort observes, it is a great act of folly
to have left such a man between Corsica, where he was born, and Naples,
of which his brother-in-law is king, and face to face with Italy, the
sovereignty of which he coveted for his son."

"Unfortunately," said Villefort, "there are the treaties of 1814, and we
cannot molest Napoleon without breaking those compacts."

"Oh, well, we shall find some way out of it," responded M. de Salvieux.
"There wasn't any trouble over treaties when it was a question of
shooting the poor Duc d'Enghien."

"Well," said the marquise, "it seems probable that, by the aid of the
Holy Alliance, we shall be rid of Napoleon; and we must trust to the
vigilance of M. de Villefort to purify Marseilles of his partisans. The
king is either a king or no king; if he be acknowledged as sovereign of
France, he should be upheld in peace and tranquillity; and this can best
be effected by employing the most inflexible agents to put down every
attempt at conspiracy--'tis the best and surest means of preventing
mischief."

"Unfortunately, madame," answered Villefort, "the strong arm of the law
is not called upon to interfere until the evil has taken place."

"Then all he has got to do is to endeavor to repair it."

"Nay, madame, the law is frequently powerless to effect this; all it can
do is to avenge the wrong done."

"Oh, M. de Villefort," cried a beautiful young creature, daughter to
the Comte de Salvieux, and the cherished friend of Mademoiselle de
Saint-Meran, "do try and get up some famous trial while we are at
Marseilles. I never was in a law-court; I am told it is so very
amusing!"

"Amusing, certainly," replied the young man, "inasmuch as, instead of
shedding tears as at the fictitious tale of woe produced at a theatre,
you behold in a law-court a case of real and genuine distress--a drama
of life. The prisoner whom you there see pale, agitated, and alarmed,
instead of--as is the case when a curtain falls on a tragedy--going home
to sup peacefully with his family, and then retiring to rest, that he
may recommence his mimic woes on the morrow,--is removed from your
sight merely to be reconducted to his prison and delivered up to the
executioner. I leave you to judge how far your nerves are calculated to
bear you through such a scene. Of this, however, be assured, that should
any favorable opportunity present itself, I will not fail to offer you
the choice of being present."

"For shame, M. de Villefort!" said Renee, becoming quite pale; "don't
you see how you are frightening us?--and yet you laugh."

"What would you have? 'Tis like a duel. I have already recorded
sentence of death, five or six times, against the movers of political
conspiracies, and who can say how many daggers may be ready sharpened,
and only waiting a favorable opportunity to be buried in my heart?"

"Gracious heavens, M. de Villefort," said Renee, becoming more and more
terrified; "you surely are not in earnest."

"Indeed I am," replied the young magistrate with a smile; "and in the
interesting trial that young lady is anxious to witness, the case would
only be still more aggravated. Suppose, for instance, the prisoner,
as is more than probable, to have served under Napoleon--well, can
you expect for an instant, that one accustomed, at the word of his
commander, to rush fearlessly on the very bayonets of his foe, will
scruple more to drive a stiletto into the heart of one he knows to
be his personal enemy, than to slaughter his fellow-creatures, merely
because bidden to do so by one he is bound to obey? Besides, one
requires the excitement of being hateful in the eyes of the accused, in
order to lash one's self into a state of sufficient vehemence and power.
I would not choose to see the man against whom I pleaded smile, as
though in mockery of my words. No; my pride is to see the accused pale,
agitated, and as though beaten out of all composure by the fire of my
eloquence." Renee uttered a smothered exclamation.

"Bravo!" cried one of the guests; "that is what I call talking to some
purpose."

"Just the person we require at a time like the present," said a second.

"What a splendid business that last case of yours was, my dear
Villefort!" remarked a third; "I mean the trial of the man for murdering
his father. Upon my word, you killed him ere the executioner had laid
his hand upon him."

"Oh, as for parricides, and such dreadful people as that," interposed
Renee, "it matters very little what is done to them; but as regards
poor unfortunate creatures whose only crime consists in having mixed
themselves up in political intrigues"--

"Why, that is the very worst offence they could possibly commit; for,
don't you see, Renee, the king is the father of his people, and he who
shall plot or contrive aught against the life and safety of the parent
of thirty-two millions of souls, is a parricide upon a fearfully great
scale?"

"I don't know anything about that," replied Renee; "but, M. de
Villefort, you have promised me--have you not?--always to show mercy to
those I plead for."

"Make yourself quite easy on that point," answered Villefort, with
one of his sweetest smiles; "you and I will always consult upon our
verdicts."

"My love," said the marquise, "attend to your doves, your lap-dogs, and
embroidery, but do not meddle with what you do not understand. Nowadays
the military profession is in abeyance and the magisterial robe is
the badge of honor. There is a wise Latin proverb that is very much in
point."

"Cedant arma togae," said Villefort with a bow.

"I cannot speak Latin," responded the marquise.

"Well," said Renee, "I cannot help regretting you had not chosen some
other profession than your own--a physician, for instance. Do you know I
always felt a shudder at the idea of even a destroying angel?"

"Dear, good Renee," whispered Villefort, as he gazed with unutterable
tenderness on the lovely speaker.

"Let us hope, my child," cried the marquis, "that M. de Villefort may
prove the moral and political physician of this province; if so, he will
have achieved a noble work."

"And one which will go far to efface the recollection of his father's
conduct," added the incorrigible marquise.

"Madame," replied Villefort, with a mournful smile, "I have already had
the honor to observe that my father has--at least, I hope so--abjured
his past errors, and that he is, at the present moment, a firm and
zealous friend to religion and order--a better royalist, possibly, than
his son; for he has to atone for past dereliction, while I have no other
impulse than warm, decided preference and conviction." Having made this
well-turned speech, Villefort looked carefully around to mark the effect
of his oratory, much as he would have done had he been addressing the
bench in open court.

"Do you know, my dear Villefort," cried the Comte de Salvieux, "that
is exactly what I myself said the other day at the Tuileries, when
questioned by his majesty's principal chamberlain touching the
singularity of an alliance between the son of a Girondin and the
daughter of an officer of the Duc de Conde; and I assure you he seemed
fully to comprehend that this mode of reconciling political differences
was based upon sound and excellent principles. Then the king, who,
without our suspecting it, had overheard our conversation, interrupted
us by saying, 'Villefort'--observe that the king did not pronounce the
word Noirtier, but, on the contrary, placed considerable emphasis on
that of Villefort--'Villefort,' said his majesty, 'is a young man of
great judgment and discretion, who will be sure to make a figure in his
profession; I like him much, and it gave me great pleasure to hear that
he was about to become the son-in-law of the Marquis and Marquise de
Saint-Meran. I should myself have recommended the match, had not the
noble marquis anticipated my wishes by requesting my consent to it.'"

"Is it possible the king could have condescended so far as to express
himself so favorably of me?" asked the enraptured Villefort.

"I give you his very words; and if the marquis chooses to be candid,
he will confess that they perfectly agree with what his majesty said to
him, when he went six months ago to consult him upon the subject of your
espousing his daughter."

"That is true," answered the marquis.

"How much do I owe this gracious prince! What is there I would not do to
evince my earnest gratitude!"

"That is right," cried the marquise. "I love to see you thus. Now, then,
were a conspirator to fall into your hands, he would be most welcome."

"For my part, dear mother." interposed Renee, "I trust your wishes will
not prosper, and that Providence will only permit petty offenders,
poor debtors, and miserable cheats to fall into M. de Villefort's
hands,--then I shall be contented."

"Just the same as though you prayed that a physician might only be
called upon to prescribe for headaches, measles, and the stings of
wasps, or any other slight affection of the epidermis. If you wish to
see me the king's attorney, you must desire for me some of those violent
and dangerous diseases from the cure of which so much honor redounds to
the physician."

At this moment, and as though the utterance of Villefort's wish had
sufficed to effect its accomplishment, a servant entered the room, and
whispered a few words in his ear. Villefort immediately rose from table
and quitted the room upon the plea of urgent business; he soon, however,
returned, his whole face beaming with delight. Renee regarded him with
fond affection; and certainly his handsome features, lit up as they then
were with more than usual fire and animation, seemed formed to excite
the innocent admiration with which she gazed on her graceful and
intelligent lover.

"You were wishing just now," said Villefort, addressing her, "that
I were a doctor instead of a lawyer. Well, I at least resemble the
disciples of Esculapius in one thing--that of not being able to call a
day my own, not even that of my betrothal."

"And wherefore were you called away just now?" asked Mademoiselle de
Saint-Meran, with an air of deep interest.

"For a very serious matter, which bids fair to make work for the
executioner."

"How dreadful!" exclaimed Renee, turning pale.

"Is it possible?" burst simultaneously from all who were near enough to
the magistrate to hear his words.

"Why, if my information prove correct, a sort of Bonaparte conspiracy
has just been discovered."

"Can I believe my ears?" cried the marquise.

"I will read you the letter containing the accusation, at least," said
Villefort:--

"'The king's attorney is informed by a friend to the throne and the
religions institutions of his country, that one named Edmond Dantes,
mate of the ship Pharaon, this day arrived from Smyrna, after having
touched at Naples and Porto-Ferrajo, has been the bearer of a letter
from Murat to the usurper, and again taken charge of another letter from
the usurper to the Bonapartist club in Paris. Ample corroboration of
this statement may be obtained by arresting the above-mentioned Edmond
Dantes, who either carries the letter for Paris about with him, or has
it at his father's abode. Should it not be found in the possession
of father or son, then it will assuredly be discovered in the cabin
belonging to the said Dantes on board the Pharaon.'"

"But," said Renee, "this letter, which, after all, is but an anonymous
scrawl, is not even addressed to you, but to the king's attorney."

"True; but that gentleman being absent, his secretary, by his orders,
opened his letters; thinking this one of importance, he sent for me,
but not finding me, took upon himself to give the necessary orders for
arresting the accused party."

"Then the guilty person is absolutely in custody?" said the marquise.

"Nay, dear mother, say the accused person. You know we cannot yet
pronounce him guilty."

"He is in safe custody," answered Villefort; "and rely upon it, if
the letter is found, he will not be likely to be trusted abroad again,
unless he goes forth under the especial protection of the headsman."

"And where is the unfortunate being?" asked Renee.

"He is at my house."

"Come, come, my friend," interrupted the marquise, "do not neglect your
duty to linger with us. You are the king's servant, and must go wherever
that service calls you."

"O Villefort!" cried Renee, clasping her hands, and looking towards
her lover with piteous earnestness, "be merciful on this the day of our
betrothal."

The young man passed round to the side of the table where the fair
pleader sat, and leaning over her chair said tenderly,--

"To give you pleasure, my sweet Renee, I promise to show all the lenity
in my power; but if the charges brought against this Bonapartist hero
prove correct, why, then, you really must give me leave to order his
head to be cut off." Renee shuddered.

"Never mind that foolish girl, Villefort," said the marquise. "She will
soon get over these things." So saying, Madame de Saint-Meran extended
her dry bony hand to Villefort, who, while imprinting a son-in-law's
respectful salute on it, looked at Renee, as much as to say, "I must try
and fancy 'tis your dear hand I kiss, as it should have been."

"These are mournful auspices to accompany a betrothal," sighed poor
Renee.

"Upon my word, child!" exclaimed the angry marquise, "your folly exceeds
all bounds. I should be glad to know what connection there can possibly
be between your sickly sentimentality and the affairs of the state!"

"O mother!" murmured Renee.

"Nay, madame, I pray you pardon this little traitor. I promise you that
to make up for her want of loyalty, I will be most inflexibly severe;"
then casting an expressive glance at his betrothed, which seemed to say,
"Fear not, for your dear sake my justice shall be tempered with mercy,"
and receiving a sweet and approving smile in return, Villefort quitted
the room.

 

 

Chapter 7. The Examination.

No sooner had Villefort left the salon, than he assumed the grave air
of a man who holds the balance of life and death in his hands. Now, in
spite of the nobility of his countenance, the command of which, like a
finished actor, he had carefully studied before the glass, it was by
no means easy for him to assume an air of judicial severity. Except the
recollection of the line of politics his father had adopted, and which
might interfere, unless he acted with the greatest prudence, with his
own career, Gerard de Villefort was as happy as a man could be. Already
rich, he held a high official situation, though only twenty-seven.
He was about to marry a young and charming woman, whom he loved, not
passionately, but reasonably, as became a deputy attorney of the
king; and besides her personal attractions, which were very great,
Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran's family possessed considerable political
influence, which they would, of course, exert in his favor. The dowry
of his wife amounted to fifty thousand crowns, and he had, besides,
the prospect of seeing her fortune increased to half a million at her
father's death. These considerations naturally gave Villefort a feeling
of such complete felicity that his mind was fairly dazzled in its
contemplation.

At the door he met the commissary of police, who was waiting for him.
The sight of this officer recalled Villefort from the third heaven to
earth; he composed his face, as we have before described, and said, "I
have read the letter, sir, and you have acted rightly in arresting
this man; now inform me what you have discovered concerning him and the
conspiracy."

"We know nothing as yet of the conspiracy, monsieur; all the papers
found have been sealed up and placed on your desk. The prisoner himself
is named Edmond Dantes, mate on board the three-master the Pharaon,
trading in cotton with Alexandria and Smyrna, and belonging to Morrel &
Son, of Marseilles."

"Before he entered the merchant service, had he ever served in the
marines?"

"Oh, no, monsieur, he is very young."

"How old?"

"Nineteen or twenty at the most."

At this moment, and as Villefort had arrived at the corner of the
Rue des Conseils, a man, who seemed to have been waiting for him,
approached; it was M. Morrel.

"Ah, M. de Villefort," cried he, "I am delighted to see you. Some
of your people have committed the strangest mistake--they have just
arrested Edmond Dantes, mate of my vessel."

"I know it, monsieur," replied Villefort, "and I am now going to examine
him."

"Oh," said Morrel, carried away by his friendship, "you do not know him,
and I do. He is the most estimable, the most trustworthy creature in the
world, and I will venture to say, there is not a better seaman in all
the merchant service. Oh, M. de Villefort, I beseech your indulgence for
him."

Villefort, as we have seen, belonged to the aristocratic party at
Marseilles, Morrel to the plebeian; the first was a royalist, the other
suspected of Bonapartism. Villefort looked disdainfully at Morrel, and
replied,--

"You are aware, monsieur, that a man may be estimable and trustworthy in
private life, and the best seaman in the merchant service, and yet be,
politically speaking, a great criminal. Is it not true?"

The magistrate laid emphasis on these words, as if he wished to apply
them to the owner himself, while his eyes seemed to plunge into
the heart of one who, interceding for another, had himself need of
indulgence. Morrel reddened, for his own conscience was not quite clear
on politics; besides, what Dantes had told him of his interview with the
grand-marshal, and what the emperor had said to him, embarrassed him. He
replied, however,--

"I entreat you, M. de Villefort, be, as you always are, kind and
equitable, and give him back to us soon." This give us sounded
revolutionary in the deputy's ears.

"Ah, ah," murmured he, "is Dantes then a member of some Carbonari
society, that his protector thus employs the collective form? He was, if
I recollect, arrested in a tavern, in company with a great many others."
Then he added, "Monsieur, you may rest assured I shall perform my duty
impartially, and that if he be innocent you shall not have appealed
to me in vain; should he, however, be guilty, in this present epoch,
impunity would furnish a dangerous example, and I must do my duty."

As he had now arrived at the door of his own house, which adjoined
the Palais de Justice, he entered, after having, coldly saluted the
shipowner, who stood, as if petrified, on the spot where Villefort had
left him. The ante-chamber was full of police agents and gendarmes, in
the midst of whom, carefully watched, but calm and smiling, stood the
prisoner. Villefort traversed the ante-chamber, cast a side glance at
Dantes, and taking a packet which a gendarme offered him, disappeared,
saying, "Bring in the prisoner."

Rapid as had been Villefort's glance, it had served to give him an idea
of the man he was about to interrogate. He had recognized intelligence
in the high forehead, courage in the dark eye and bent brow, and
frankness in the thick lips that showed a set of pearly teeth.
Villefort's first impression was favorable; but he had been so often
warned to mistrust first impulses, that he applied the maxim to the
impression, forgetting the difference between the two words. He stifled,
therefore, the feelings of compassion that were rising, composed his
features, and sat down, grim and sombre, at his desk. An instant after
Dantes entered. He was pale, but calm and collected, and saluting his
judge with easy politeness, looked round for a seat, as if he had been
in M. Morrel's salon. It was then that he encountered for the first
time Villefort's look,--that look peculiar to the magistrate, who, while
seeming to read the thoughts of others, betrays nothing of his own.

"Who and what are you?" demanded Villefort, turning over a pile of
papers, containing information relative to the prisoner, that a police
agent had given to him on his entry, and that, already, in an hour's
time, had swelled to voluminous proportions, thanks to the corrupt
espionage of which "the accused" is always made the victim.

"My name is Edmond Dantes," replied the young man calmly; "I am mate of
the Pharaon, belonging to Messrs. Morrel & Son."

"Your age?" continued Villefort.

"Nineteen," returned Dantes.

"What were you doing at the moment you were arrested?"

"I was at the festival of my marriage, monsieur," said the young man,
his voice slightly tremulous, so great was the contrast between that
happy moment and the painful ceremony he was now undergoing; so great
was the contrast between the sombre aspect of M. de Villefort and the
radiant face of Mercedes.

"You were at the festival of your marriage?" said the deputy, shuddering
in spite of himself.

"Yes, monsieur; I am on the point of marrying a young girl I have been
attached to for three years." Villefort, impassive as he was, was struck
with this coincidence; and the tremulous voice of Dantes, surprised
in the midst of his happiness, struck a sympathetic chord in his own
bosom--he also was on the point of being married, and he was summoned
from his own happiness to destroy that of another. "This philosophic
reflection," thought he, "will make a great sensation at M. de
Saint-Meran's;" and he arranged mentally, while Dantes awaited further
questions, the antithesis by which orators often create a reputation for
eloquence. When this speech was arranged, Villefort turned to Dantes.

"Go on, sir," said he.

"What would you have me say?"

"Give all the information in your power."

"Tell me on which point you desire information, and I will tell all I
know; only," added he, with a smile, "I warn you I know very little."

"Have you served under the usurper?"

"I was about to be mustered into the Royal Marines when he fell."

"It is reported your political opinions are extreme," said Villefort,
who had never heard anything of the kind, but was not sorry to make this
inquiry, as if it were an accusation.

"My political opinions!" replied Dantes. "Alas, sir, I never had any
opinions. I am hardly nineteen; I know nothing; I have no part to play.
If I obtain the situation I desire, I shall owe it to M. Morrel. Thus
all my opinions--I will not say public, but private--are confined to
these three sentiments,--I love my father, I respect M. Morrel, and
I adore Mercedes. This, sir, is all I can tell you, and you see how
uninteresting it is." As Dantes spoke, Villefort gazed at his ingenuous
and open countenance, and recollected the words of Renee, who, without
knowing who the culprit was, had besought his indulgence for him. With
the deputy's knowledge of crime and criminals, every word the young man
uttered convinced him more and more of his innocence. This lad, for he
was scarcely a man,--simple, natural, eloquent with that eloquence of
the heart never found when sought for; full of affection for everybody,
because he was happy, and because happiness renders even the wicked
good--extended his affection even to his judge, spite of Villefort's
severe look and stern accent. Dantes seemed full of kindness.

"Pardieu," said Villefort, "he is a noble fellow. I hope I shall gain
Renee's favor easily by obeying the first command she ever imposed on
me. I shall have at least a pressure of the hand in public, and a sweet
kiss in private." Full of this idea, Villefort's face became so joyous,
that when he turned to Dantes, the latter, who had watched the change on
his physiognomy, was smiling also.

"Sir," said Villefort, "have you any enemies, at least, that you know."

"I have enemies?" replied Dantes; "my position is not sufficiently
elevated for that. As for my disposition, that is, perhaps, somewhat
too hasty; but I have striven to repress it. I have had ten or twelve
sailors under me, and if you question them, they will tell you that
they love and respect me, not as a father, for I am too young, but as an
elder brother."

"But you may have excited jealousy. You are about to become captain at
nineteen--an elevated post; you are about to marry a pretty girl, who
loves you; and these two pieces of good fortune may have excited the
envy of some one."

"You are right; you know men better than I do, and what you say may
possibly be the case, I confess; but if such persons are among my
acquaintances I prefer not to know it, because then I should be forced
to hate them."

"You are wrong; you should always strive to see clearly around you. You
seem a worthy young man; I will depart from the strict line of my duty
to aid you in discovering the author of this accusation. Here is the
paper; do you know the writing?" As he spoke, Villefort drew the letter
from his pocket, and presented it to Dantes. Dantes read it. A cloud
passed over his brow as he said,--

"No, monsieur, I do not know the writing, and yet it is tolerably plain.
Whoever did it writes well. I am very fortunate," added he, looking
gratefully at Villefort, "to be examined by such a man as you; for this
envious person is a real enemy." And by the rapid glance that the young
man's eyes shot forth, Villefort saw how much energy lay hid beneath
this mildness.

"Now," said the deputy, "answer me frankly, not as a prisoner to a
judge, but as one man to another who takes an interest in him, what
truth is there in the accusation contained in this anonymous letter?"
And Villefort threw disdainfully on his desk the letter Dantes had just
given back to him.

"None at all. I will tell you the real facts. I swear by my honor as a
sailor, by my love for Mercedes, by the life of my father"--

"Speak, monsieur," said Villefort. Then, internally, "If Renee could
see me, I hope she would be satisfied, and would no longer call me a
decapitator."

"Well, when we quitted Naples, Captain Leclere was attacked with a brain
fever. As we had no doctor on board, and he was so anxious to arrive at
Elba, that he would not touch at any other port, his disorder rose to
such a height, that at the end of the third day, feeling he was dying,
he called me to him. 'My dear Dantes,' said he, 'swear to perform what I
am going to tell you, for it is a matter of the deepest importance.'

"'I swear, captain,' replied I.

"'Well, as after my death the command devolves on you as mate,
assume the command, and bear up for the Island of Elba, disembark at
Porto-Ferrajo, ask for the grand-marshal, give him this letter--perhaps
they will give you another letter, and charge you with a commission. You
will accomplish what I was to have done, and derive all the honor and
profit from it.'

"'I will do it, captain; but perhaps I shall not be admitted to the
grand marshal's presence as easily as you expect?'

"'Here is a ring that will obtain audience of him, and remove every
difficulty,' said the captain. At these words he gave me a ring. It was
time--two hours after he was delirious; the next day he died."

"And what did you do then?"

"What I ought to have done, and what every one would have done in my
place. Everywhere the last requests of a dying man are sacred; but with
a sailor the last requests of his superior are commands. I sailed for
the Island of Elba, where I arrived the next day; I ordered everybody
to remain on board, and went on shore alone. As I had expected, I found
some difficulty in obtaining access to the grand-marshal; but I sent the
ring I had received from the captain to him, and was instantly admitted.
He questioned me concerning Captain Leclere's death; and, as the latter
had told me, gave me a letter to carry on to a person in Paris. I
undertook it because it was what my captain had bade me do. I landed
here, regulated the affairs of the vessel, and hastened to visit my
affianced bride, whom I found more lovely than ever. Thanks to M.
Morrel, all the forms were got over; in a word I was, as I told you,
at my marriage-feast; and I should have been married in an hour, and
to-morrow I intended to start for Paris, had I not been arrested on this
charge which you as well as I now see to be unjust."

"Ah," said Villefort, "this seems to me the truth. If you have been
culpable, it was imprudence, and this imprudence was in obedience to the
orders of your captain. Give up this letter you have brought from Elba,
and pass your word you will appear should you be required, and go and
rejoin your friends.

"I am free, then, sir?" cried Dantes joyfully.

"Yes; but first give me this letter."

"You have it already, for it was taken from me with some others which I
see in that packet."

"Stop a moment," said the deputy, as Dantes took his hat and gloves. "To
whom is it addressed?"

"To Monsieur Noirtier, Rue Coq-Heron, Paris." Had a thunderbolt fallen
into the room, Villefort could not have been more stupefied. He sank
into his seat, and hastily turning over the packet, drew forth the fatal
letter, at which he glanced with an expression of terror.

"M. Noirtier, Rue Coq-Heron, No. 13," murmured he, growing still paler.

"Yes," said Dantes; "do you know him?"

"No," replied Villefort; "a faithful servant of the king does not know
conspirators."

"It is a conspiracy, then?" asked Dantes, who after believing himself
free, now began to feel a tenfold alarm. "I have, however, already told
you, sir, I was entirely ignorant of the contents of the letter."

"Yes; but you knew the name of the person to whom it was addressed,"
said Villefort.

"I was forced to read the address to know to whom to give it."

"Have you shown this letter to any one?" asked Villefort, becoming still
more pale.

"To no one, on my honor."

"Everybody is ignorant that you are the bearer of a letter from the
Island of Elba, and addressed to M. Noirtier?"

"Everybody, except the person who gave it to me."

"And that was too much, far too much," murmured Villefort. Villefort's
brow darkened more and more, his white lips and clinched teeth filled
Dantes with apprehension. After reading the letter, Villefort covered
his face with his hands.

"Oh," said Dantes timidly, "what is the matter?" Villefort made no
answer, but raised his head at the expiration of a few seconds, and
again perused the letter.

"And you say that you are ignorant of the contents of this letter?"

"I give you my word of honor, sir," said Dantes; "but what is the
matter? You are ill--shall I ring for assistance?--shall I call?"

"No," said Villefort, rising hastily; "stay where you are. It is for me
to give orders here, and not you."

"Monsieur," replied Dantes proudly, "it was only to summon assistance
for you."

"I want none; it was a temporary indisposition. Attend to yourself;
answer me." Dantes waited, expecting a question, but in vain. Villefort
fell back on his chair, passed his hand over his brow, moist with
perspiration, and, for the third time, read the letter.

"Oh, if he knows the contents of this!" murmured he, "and that Noirtier
is the father of Villefort, I am lost!" And he fixed his eyes upon
Edmond as if he would have penetrated his thoughts.

"Oh, it is impossible to doubt it," cried he, suddenly.

"In heaven's name!" cried the unhappy young man, "if you doubt me,
question me; I will answer you." Villefort made a violent effort, and in
a tone he strove to render firm,--

"Sir," said he, "I am no longer able, as I had hoped, to restore you
immediately to liberty; before doing so, I must consult the trial
justice; what my own feeling is you already know."

"Oh, monsieur," cried Dantes, "you have been rather a friend than a
judge."

"Well, I must detain you some time longer, but I will strive to make it
as short as possible. The principal charge against you is this letter,
and you see"--Villefort approached the fire, cast it in, and waited
until it was entirely consumed.

"You see, I destroy it?"

"Oh," exclaimed Dantes, "you are goodness itself."

"Listen," continued Villefort; "you can now have confidence in me after
what I have done."

"Oh, command, and I will obey."

"Listen; this is not a command, but advice I give you."

"Speak, and I will follow your advice."

"I shall detain you until this evening in the Palais de Justice. Should
any one else interrogate you, say to him what you have said to me, but
do not breathe a word of this letter."

"I promise." It was Villefort who seemed to entreat, and the prisoner
who reassured him.

"You see," continued he, glancing toward the grate, where fragments of
burnt paper fluttered in the flames, "the letter is destroyed; you and I
alone know of its existence; should you, therefore, be questioned, deny
all knowledge of it--deny it boldly, and you are saved."

"Be satisfied; I will deny it."

"It was the only letter you had?"

"It was."

"Swear it."

"I swear it."

Villefort rang. A police agent entered. Villefort whispered some words
in his ear, to which the officer replied by a motion of his head.

"Follow him," said Villefort to Dantes. Dantes saluted Villefort
and retired. Hardly had the door closed when Villefort threw himself
half-fainting into a chair.

"Alas, alas," murmured he, "if the procureur himself had been at
Marseilles I should have been ruined. This accursed letter would have
destroyed all my hopes. Oh, my father, must your past career always
interfere with my successes?" Suddenly a light passed over his face,
a smile played round his set mouth, and his haggard eyes were fixed in
thought.

"This will do," said he, "and from this letter, which might have ruined
me, I will make my fortune. Now to the work I have in hand." And after
having assured himself that the prisoner was gone, the deputy procureur
hastened to the house of his betrothed.

 

 

Chapter 8. The Chateau D'If.

The commissary of police, as he traversed the ante-chamber, made a sign
to two gendarmes, who placed themselves one on Dantes' right and the
other on his left. A door that communicated with the Palais de Justice
was opened, and they went through a long range of gloomy corridors,
whose appearance might have made even the boldest shudder. The Palais de
Justice communicated with the prison,--a sombre edifice, that from
its grated windows looks on the clock-tower of the Accoules. After
numberless windings, Dantes saw a door with an iron wicket. The
commissary took up an iron mallet and knocked thrice, every blow seeming
to Dantes as if struck on his heart. The door opened, the two gendarmes
gently pushed him forward, and the door closed with a loud sound behind
him. The air he inhaled was no longer pure, but thick and mephitic,--he
was in prison. He was conducted to a tolerably neat chamber, but grated
and barred, and its appearance, therefore, did not greatly alarm him;
besides, the words of Villefort, who seemed to interest himself so
much, resounded still in his ears like a promise of freedom. It was four
o'clock when Dantes was placed in this chamber. It was, as we have said,
the 1st of March, and the prisoner was soon buried in darkness. The
obscurity augmented the acuteness of his hearing; at the slightest sound
he rose and hastened to the door, convinced they were about to liberate
him, but the sound died away, and Dantes sank again into his seat. At
last, about ten o'clock, and just as Dantes began to despair, steps were
heard in the corridor, a key turned in the lock, the bolts creaked,
the massy oaken door flew open, and a flood of light from two torches
pervaded the apartment. By the torchlight Dantes saw the glittering
sabres and carbines of four gendarmes. He had advanced at first, but
stopped at the sight of this display of force.

"Are you come to fetch me?" asked he.

"Yes," replied a gendarme.

"By the orders of the deputy procureur?"

"I believe so." The conviction that they came from M. de Villefort
relieved all Dantes' apprehensions; he advanced calmly, and placed
himself in the centre of the escort. A carriage waited at the door, the
coachman was on the box, and a police officer sat beside him.

"Is this carriage for me?" said Dantes.

"It is for you," replied a gendarme.

Dantes was about to speak; but feeling himself urged forward, and having
neither the power nor the intention to resist, he mounted the steps, and
was in an instant seated inside between two gendarmes; the two others
took their places opposite, and the carriage rolled heavily over the
stones.

The prisoner glanced at the windows--they were grated; he had changed
his prison for another that was conveying him he knew not whither.
Through the grating, however, Dantes saw they were passing through the
Rue Caisserie, and by the Rue Saint-Laurent and the Rue Taramis, to the
port. Soon he saw the lights of La Consigne.

The carriage stopped, the officer descended, approached the guardhouse,
a dozen soldiers came out and formed themselves in order; Dantes saw the
reflection of their muskets by the light of the lamps on the quay.

"Can all this force be summoned on my account?" thought he.

The officer opened the door, which was locked, and, without speaking
a word, answered Dantes' question; for he saw between the ranks of
the soldiers a passage formed from the carriage to the port. The two
gendarmes who were opposite to him descended first, then he was ordered
to alight and the gendarmes on each side of him followed his example.
They advanced towards a boat, which a custom-house officer held by a
chain, near the quay.

The soldiers looked at Dantes with an air of stupid curiosity. In an
instant he was placed in the stern-sheets of the boat, between the
gendarmes, while the officer stationed himself at the bow; a shove sent
the boat adrift, and four sturdy oarsmen impelled it rapidly towards the
Pilon. At a shout from the boat, the chain that closes the mouth of
the port was lowered and in a second they were, as Dantes knew, in the
Frioul and outside the inner harbor.

The prisoner's first feeling was of joy at again breathing the pure
air--for air is freedom; but he soon sighed, for he passed before La
Reserve, where he had that morning been so happy, and now through the
open windows came the laughter and revelry of a ball. Dantes folded his
hands, raised his eyes to heaven, and prayed fervently.

The boat continued her voyage. They had passed the Tete de Morte,
were now off the Anse du Pharo, and about to double the battery. This
manoeuvre was incomprehensible to Dantes.

"Whither are you taking me?" asked he.

"You will soon know."

"But still"--

"We are forbidden to give you any explanation." Dantes, trained in
discipline, knew that nothing would be more absurd than to question
subordinates, who were forbidden to reply; and so he remained silent.

The most vague and wild thoughts passed through his mind. The boat they
were in could not make a long voyage; there was no vessel at anchor
outside the harbor; he thought, perhaps, they were going to leave him on
some distant point. He was not bound, nor had they made any attempt to
handcuff him; this seemed a good augury. Besides, had not the deputy,
who had been so kind to him, told him that provided he did not pronounce
the dreaded name of Noirtier, he had nothing to apprehend? Had not
Villefort in his presence destroyed the fatal letter, the only proof
against him?

He waited silently, striving to pierce through the darkness.

They had left the Ile Ratonneau, where the lighthouse stood, on the
right, and were now opposite the Point des Catalans. It seemed to the
prisoner that he could distinguish a feminine form on the beach, for it
was there Mercedes dwelt. How was it that a presentiment did not warn
Mercedes that her lover was within three hundred yards of her?

One light alone was visible; and Dantes saw that it came from Mercedes'
chamber. Mercedes was the only one awake in the whole settlement. A loud
cry could be heard by her. But pride restrained him and he did not utter
it. What would his guards think if they heard him shout like a madman?

He remained silent, his eyes fixed upon the light; the boat went on, but
the prisoner thought only of Mercedes. An intervening elevation of land
hid the light. Dantes turned and perceived that they had got out to sea.
While he had been absorbed in thought, they had shipped their oars and
hoisted sail; the boat was now moving with the wind.

In spite of his repugnance to address the guards, Dantes turned to the
nearest gendarme, and taking his hand,--

"Comrade," said he, "I adjure you, as a Christian and a soldier, to tell
me where we are going. I am Captain Dantes, a loyal Frenchman, thought
accused of treason; tell me where you are conducting me, and I promise
you on my honor I will submit to my fate."

The gendarme looked irresolutely at his companion, who returned for
answer a sign that said, "I see no great harm in telling him now," and
the gendarme replied,--

"You are a native of Marseilles, and a sailor, and yet you do not know
where you are going?"

"On my honor, I have no idea."

"Have you no idea whatever?"

"None at all."

"That is impossible."

"I swear to you it is true. Tell me, I entreat."

"But my orders."

"Your orders do not forbid your telling me what I must know in ten
minutes, in half an hour, or an hour. You see I cannot escape, even if I
intended."

"Unless you are blind, or have never been outside the harbor, you must
know."

"I do not."

"Look round you then." Dantes rose and looked forward, when he saw
rise within a hundred yards of him the black and frowning rock on which
stands the Chateau d'If. This gloomy fortress, which has for more than
three hundred years furnished food for so many wild legends, seemed to
Dantes like a scaffold to a malefactor.

"The Chateau d'If?" cried he, "what are we going there for?" The
gendarme smiled.

"I am not going there to be imprisoned," said Dantes; "it is only
used for political prisoners. I have committed no crime. Are there any
magistrates or judges at the Chateau d'If?"

"There are only," said the gendarme, "a governor, a garrison, turnkeys,
and good thick walls. Come, come, do not look so astonished, or you
will make me think you are laughing at me in return for my good nature."
Dantes pressed the gendarme's hand as though he would crush it.

"You think, then," said he, "that I am taken to the Chateau d'If to be
imprisoned there?"

"It is probable; but there is no occasion to squeeze so hard."

"Without any inquiry, without any formality?"

"All the formalities have been gone through; the inquiry is already
made."

"And so, in spite of M. de Villefort's promises?"

"I do not know what M. de Villefort promised you," said the gendarme,
"but I know we are taking you to the Chateau d'If. But what are you
doing? Help, comrades, help!"

By a rapid movement, which the gendarme's practiced eye had perceived,
Dantes sprang forward to precipitate himself into the sea; but four
vigorous arms seized him as his feet quitted the bottom of the boat. He
fell back cursing with rage.

"Good!" said the gendarme, placing his knee on his chest; "believe
soft-spoken gentlemen again! Harkye, my friend, I have disobeyed my
first order, but I will not disobey the second; and if you move, I will
blow your brains out." And he levelled his carbine at Dantes, who felt
the muzzle against his temple.

For a moment the idea of struggling crossed his mind, and of so ending
the unexpected evil that had overtaken him. But he bethought him of M.
de Villefort's promise; and, besides, death in a boat from the hand of
a gendarme seemed too terrible. He remained motionless, but gnashing his
teeth and wringing his hands with fury.

At this moment the boat came to a landing with a violent shock. One of
the sailors leaped on shore, a cord creaked as it ran through a pulley,
and Dantes guessed they were at the end of the voyage, and that they
were mooring the boat.

His guards, taking him by the arms and coat-collar, forced him to rise,
and dragged him towards the steps that lead to the gate of the fortress,
while the police officer carrying a musket with fixed bayonet followed
behind.

Dantes made no resistance; he was like a man in a dream: he saw soldiers
drawn up on the embankment; he knew vaguely that he was ascending a
flight of steps; he was conscious that he passed through a door, and
that the door closed behind him; but all this indistinctly as through
a mist. He did not even see the ocean, that terrible barrier against
freedom, which the prisoners look upon with utter despair.

They halted for a minute, during which he strove to collect his
thoughts. He looked around; he was in a court surrounded by high walls;
he heard the measured tread of sentinels, and as they passed before the
light he saw the barrels of their muskets shine.

They waited upwards of ten minutes. Certain Dantes could not escape, the
gendarmes released him. They seemed awaiting orders. The orders came.

"Where is the prisoner?" said a voice.

"Here," replied the gendarmes.

"Let him follow me; I will take him to his cell."

"Go!" said the gendarmes, thrusting Dantes forward.

The prisoner followed his guide, who led him into a room almost under
ground, whose bare and reeking walls seemed as though impregnated with
tears; a lamp placed on a stool illumined the apartment faintly,
and showed Dantes the features of his conductor, an under-jailer,
ill-clothed, and of sullen appearance.

"Here is your chamber for to-night," said he. "It is late, and the
governor is asleep. To-morrow, perhaps, he may change you. In the
meantime there is bread, water, and fresh straw; and that is all a
prisoner can wish for. Goodnight." And before Dantes could open his
mouth--before he had noticed where the jailer placed his bread or the
water--before he had glanced towards the corner where the straw was,
the jailer disappeared, taking with him the lamp and closing the door,
leaving stamped upon the prisoner's mind the dim reflection of the
dripping walls of his dungeon.

Dantes was alone in darkness and in silence--cold as the shadows that
he felt breathe on his burning forehead. With the first dawn of day the
jailer returned, with orders to leave Dantes where he was. He found the
prisoner in the same position, as if fixed there, his eyes swollen with
weeping. He had passed the night standing, and without sleep. The jailer
advanced; Dantes appeared not to perceive him. He touched him on the
shoulder. Edmond started.

"Have you not slept?" said the jailer.

"I do not know," replied Dantes. The jailer stared.

"Are you hungry?" continued he.

"I do not know."

"Do you wish for anything?"

"I wish to see the governor." The jailer shrugged his shoulders and left
the chamber.

Dantes followed him with his eyes, and stretched forth his hands towards
the open door; but the door closed. All his emotion then burst forth;
he cast himself on the ground, weeping bitterly, and asking himself what
crime he had committed that he was thus punished.

The day passed thus; he scarcely tasted food, but walked round and
round the cell like a wild beast in its cage. One thought in particular
tormented him: namely, that during his journey hither he had sat so
still, whereas he might, a dozen times, have plunged into the sea, and,
thanks to his powers of swimming, for which he was famous, have gained
the shore, concealed himself until the arrival of a Genoese or Spanish
vessel, escaped to Spain or Italy, where Mercedes and his father could
have joined him. He had no fears as to how he should live--good seamen
are welcome everywhere. He spoke Italian like a Tuscan, and Spanish like
a Castilian; he would have been free, and happy with Mercedes and
his father, whereas he was now confined in the Chateau d'If, that
impregnable fortress, ignorant of the future destiny of his father and
Mercedes; and all this because he had trusted to Villefort's promise.
The thought was maddening, and Dantes threw himself furiously down on
his straw. The next morning at the same hour, the jailer came again.

"Well," said the jailer, "are you more reasonable to-day?" Dantes made
no reply.

"Come, cheer up; is there anything that I can do for you?"

"I wish to see the governor."

"I have already told you it was impossible."

"Why so?"

"Because it is against prison rules, and prisoners must not even ask for
it."

"What is allowed, then?"

"Better fare, if you pay for it, books, and leave to walk about."

"I do not want books, I am satisfied with my food, and do not care to
walk about; but I wish to see the governor."

"If you worry me by repeating the same thing, I will not bring you any
more to eat."

"Well, then," said Edmond, "if you do not, I shall die of hunger--that
is all."

The jailer saw by his tone he would be happy to die; and as every
prisoner is worth ten sous a day to his jailer, he replied in a more
subdued tone.

"What you ask is impossible; but if you are very well behaved you will
be allowed to walk about, and some day you will meet the governor, and
if he chooses to reply, that is his affair."

"But," asked Dantes, "how long shall I have to wait?"

"Ah, a month--six months--a year."

"It is too long a time. I wish to see him at once."

"Ah," said the jailer, "do not always brood over what is impossible, or
you will be mad in a fortnight."

"You think so?"

"Yes; we have an instance here; it was by always offering a million of
francs to the governor for his liberty that an abbe became mad, who was
in this chamber before you."

"How long has he left it?"

"Two years."

"Was he liberated, then?"

"No; he was put in a dungeon."

"Listen!" said Dantes. "I am not an abbe, I am not mad; perhaps I shall
be, but at present, unfortunately, I am not. I will make you another
offer."

"What is that?"

"I do not offer you a million, because I have it not; but I will give
you a hundred crowns if, the first time you go to Marseilles, you will
seek out a young girl named Mercedes, at the Catalans, and give her two
lines from me."

"If I took them, and were detected, I should lose my place, which is
worth two thousand francs a year; so that I should be a great fool to
run such a risk for three hundred."

"Well," said Dantes, "mark this; if you refuse at least to tell Mercedes
I am here, I will some day hide myself behind the door, and when you
enter I will dash out your brains with this stool."

"Threats!" cried the jailer, retreating and putting himself on the
defensive; "you are certainly going mad. The abbe began like you, and in
three days you will be like him, mad enough to tie up; but, fortunately,
there are dungeons here." Dantes whirled the stool round his head.

"All right, all right," said the jailer; "all right, since you will have
it so. I will send word to the governor."

"Very well," returned Dantes, dropping the stool and sitting on it as if
he were in reality mad. The jailer went out, and returned in an instant
with a corporal and four soldiers.

"By the governor's orders," said he, "conduct the prisoner to the tier
beneath."

"To the dungeon, then," said the corporal.

"Yes; we must put the madman with the madmen." The soldiers seized
Dantes, who followed passively.

He descended fifteen steps, and the door of a dungeon was opened, and
he was thrust in. The door closed, and Dantes advanced with outstretched
hands until he touched the wall; he then sat down in the corner until
his eyes became accustomed to the darkness. The jailer was right; Dantes
wanted but little of being utterly mad.

 

 

Chapter 9. The Evening of the Betrothal.

Villefort had, as we have said, hastened back to Madame de Saint-Meran's
in the Place du Grand Cours, and on entering the house found that the
guests whom he had left at table were taking coffee in the salon. Renee
was, with all the rest of the company, anxiously awaiting him, and his
entrance was followed by a general exclamation.

"Well, Decapitator, Guardian of the State, Royalist, Brutus, what is the
matter?" said one. "Speak out."

"Are we threatened with a fresh Reign of Terror?" asked another.

"Has the Corsican ogre broken loose?" cried a third.

"Marquise," said Villefort, approaching his future mother-in-law, "I
request your pardon for thus leaving you. Will the marquis honor me by a
few moments' private conversation?"

"Ah, it is really a serious matter, then?" asked the marquis, remarking
the cloud on Villefort's brow.

"So serious that I must take leave of you for a few days; so," added he,
turning to Renee, "judge for yourself if it be not important."

"You are going to leave us?" cried Renee, unable to hide her emotion at
this unexpected announcement.

"Alas," returned Villefort, "I must!"

"Where, then, are you going?" asked the marquise.

"That, madame, is an official secret; but if you have any commissions
for Paris, a friend of mine is going there to-night, and will with
pleasure undertake them." The guests looked at each other.

"You wish to speak to me alone?" said the marquis.

"Yes, let us go to the library, please." The marquis took his arm, and
they left the salon.

"Well," asked he, as soon as they were by themselves, "tell me what it
is?"

"An affair of the greatest importance, that demands my immediate
presence in Paris. Now, excuse the indiscretion, marquis, but have you
any landed property?"

"All my fortune is in the funds; seven or eight hundred thousand
francs."

"Then sell out--sell out, marquis, or you will lose it all."

"But how can I sell out here?"

"You have a broker, have you not?"

"Yes."

"Then give me a letter to him, and tell him to sell out without an
instant's delay, perhaps even now I shall arrive too late."

"The deuce you say!" replied the marquis, "let us lose no time, then!"

And, sitting down, he wrote a letter to his broker, ordering him to sell
out at the market price.

"Now, then," said Villefort, placing the letter in his pocketbook, "I
must have another!"

"To whom?"

"To the king."

"To the king?"

"Yes."

"I dare not write to his majesty."

"I do not ask you to write to his majesty, but ask M. de Salvieux to
do so. I want a letter that will enable me to reach the king's presence
without all the formalities of demanding an audience; that would
occasion a loss of precious time."

"But address yourself to the keeper of the seals; he has the right of
entry at the Tuileries, and can procure you audience at any hour of the
day or night."

"Doubtless; but there is no occasion to divide the honors of my
discovery with him. The keeper would leave me in the background, and
take all the glory to himself. I tell you, marquis, my fortune is made
if I only reach the Tuileries the first, for the king will not forget
the service I do him."

"In that case go and get ready. I will call Salvieux and make him write
the letter."

"Be as quick as possible, I must be on the road in a quarter of an
hour."

"Tell your coachman to stop at the door."

"You will present my excuses to the marquise and Mademoiselle Renee,
whom I leave on such a day with great regret."

"You will find them both here, and can make your farewells in person."

"A thousand thanks--and now for the letter."

The marquis rang, a servant entered.

"Say to the Comte de Salvieux that I would like to see him."

"Now, then, go," said the marquis.

"I shall be gone only a few moments."

Villefort hastily quitted the apartment, but reflecting that the sight
of the deputy procureur running through the streets would be enough to
throw the whole city into confusion, he resumed his ordinary pace. At
his door he perceived a figure in the shadow that seemed to wait for
him. It was Mercedes, who, hearing no news of her lover, had come
unobserved to inquire after him.

As Villefort drew near, she advanced and stood before him. Dantes had
spoken of Mercedes, and Villefort instantly recognized her. Her beauty
and high bearing surprised him, and when she inquired what had become of
her lover, it seemed to him that she was the judge, and he the accused.

"The young man you speak of," said Villefort abruptly, "is a great
criminal, and I can do nothing for him, mademoiselle." Mercedes burst
into tears, and, as Villefort strove to pass her, again addressed him.

"But, at least, tell me where he is, that I may know whether he is alive
or dead," said she.

"I do not know; he is no longer in my hands," replied Villefort.

And desirous of putting an end to the interview, he pushed by her, and
closed the door, as if to exclude the pain he felt. But remorse is not
thus banished; like Virgil's wounded hero, he carried the arrow in his
wound, and, arrived at the salon, Villefort uttered a sigh that was
almost a sob, and sank into a chair.

Then the first pangs of an unending torture seized upon his heart. The
man he sacrificed to his ambition, that innocent victim immolated on
the altar of his father's faults, appeared to him pale and threatening,
leading his affianced bride by the hand, and bringing with him remorse,
not such as the ancients figured, furious and terrible, but that slow
and consuming agony whose pangs are intensified from hour to hour up
to the very moment of death. Then he had a moment's hesitation. He had
frequently called for capital punishment on criminals, and owing to his
irresistible eloquence they had been condemned, and yet the slightest
shadow of remorse had never clouded Villefort's brow, because they were
guilty; at least, he believed so; but here was an innocent man whose
happiness he had destroyed: in this case he was not the judge, but the
executioner.

As he thus reflected, he felt the sensation we have described, and which
had hitherto been unknown to him, arise in his bosom, and fill him
with vague apprehensions. It is thus that a wounded man trembles
instinctively at the approach of the finger to his wound until it be
healed, but Villefort's was one of those that never close, or if they
do, only close to reopen more agonizing than ever. If at this moment the
sweet voice of Renee had sounded in his ears pleading for mercy, or the
fair Mercedes had entered and said, "In the name of God, I conjure you
to restore me my affianced husband," his cold and trembling hands
would have signed his release; but no voice broke the stillness of the
chamber, and the door was opened only by Villefort's valet, who came to
tell him that the travelling carriage was in readiness.

Villefort rose, or rather sprang, from his chair, hastily opened one
of the drawers of his desk, emptied all the gold it contained into
his pocket, stood motionless an instant, his hand pressed to his head,
muttered a few inarticulate sounds, and then, perceiving that his
servant had placed his cloak on his shoulders, he sprang into the
carriage, ordering the postilions to drive to M. de Saint-Meran's. The
hapless Dantes was doomed.

As the marquis had promised, Villefort found the marquise and Renee
in waiting. He started when he saw Renee, for he fancied she was again
about to plead for Dantes. Alas, her emotions were wholly personal: she
was thinking only of Villefort's departure.

She loved Villefort, and he left her at the moment he was about to
become her husband. Villefort knew not when he should return, and Renee,
far from pleading for Dantes, hated the man whose crime separated her
from her lover.

Meanwhile what of Mercedes? She had met Fernand at the corner of the Rue
de la Loge; she had returned to the Catalans, and had despairingly cast
herself on her couch. Fernand, kneeling by her side, took her hand, and
covered it with kisses that Mercedes did not even feel. She passed the
night thus. The lamp went out for want of oil, but she paid no heed to
the darkness, and dawn came, but she knew not that it was day. Grief had
made her blind to all but one object--that was Edmond.

"Ah, you are there," said she, at length, turning towards Fernand.

"I have not quitted you since yesterday," returned Fernand sorrowfully.

M. Morrel had not readily given up the fight. He had learned that Dantes
had been taken to prison, and he had gone to all his friends, and
the influential persons of the city; but the report was already in
circulation that Dantes was arrested as a Bonapartist agent; and as the
most sanguine looked upon any attempt of Napoleon to remount the throne
as impossible, he met with nothing but refusal, and had returned home
in despair, declaring that the matter was serious and that nothing more
could be done.

Caderousse was equally restless and uneasy, but instead of seeking, like
M. Morrel, to aid Dantes, he had shut himself up with two bottles of
black currant brandy, in the hope of drowning reflection. But he did not
succeed, and became too intoxicated to fetch any more drink, and yet not
so intoxicated as to forget what had happened. With his elbows on the
table he sat between the two empty bottles, while spectres danced in the
light of the unsnuffed candle--spectres such as Hoffmann strews over his
punch-drenched pages, like black, fantastic dust.

Danglars alone was content and joyous--he had got rid of an enemy and
made his own situation on the Pharaon secure. Danglars was one of those
men born with a pen behind the ear, and an inkstand in place of a heart.
Everything with him was multiplication or subtraction. The life of a man
was to him of far less value than a numeral, especially when, by taking
it away, he could increase the sum total of his own desires. He went to
bed at his usual hour, and slept in peace.

Villefort, after having received M. de Salvieux' letter, embraced Renee,
kissed the marquise's hand, and shaken that of the marquis, started for
Paris along the Aix road.

Old Dantes was dying with anxiety to know what had become of Edmond. But
we know very well what had become of Edmond.

 

 

Chapter 10. The King's Closet at the Tuileries.

We will leave Villefort on the road to Paris, travelling--thanks
to trebled fees--with all speed, and passing through two or three
apartments, enter at the Tuileries the little room with the arched
window, so well known as having been the favorite closet of Napoleon and
Louis XVIII., and now of Louis Philippe.

There, seated before a walnut table he had brought with him from
Hartwell, and to which, from one of those fancies not uncommon to
great people, he was particularly attached, the king, Louis XVIII., was
carelessly listening to a man of fifty or fifty-two years of age, with
gray hair, aristocratic bearing, and exceedingly gentlemanly attire,
and meanwhile making a marginal note in a volume of Gryphius's rather
inaccurate, but much sought-after, edition of Horace--a work which
was much indebted to the sagacious observations of the philosophical
monarch.

"You say, sir"--said the king.

"That I am exceedingly disquieted, sire."

"Really, have you had a vision of the seven fat kine and the seven lean
kine?"

"No, sire, for that would only betoken for us seven years of plenty and
seven years of scarcity; and with a king as full of foresight as your
majesty, scarcity is not a thing to be feared."

"Then of what other scourge are you afraid, my dear Blacas?"

"Sire, I have every reason to believe that a storm is brewing in the
south."

"Well, my dear duke," replied Louis XVIII., "I think you are wrongly
informed, and know positively that, on the contrary, it is very fine
weather in that direction." Man of ability as he was, Louis XVIII. liked
a pleasant jest.

"Sire," continued M. de Blacas, "if it only be to reassure a faithful
servant, will your majesty send into Languedoc, Provence, and Dauphine,
trusty men, who will bring you back a faithful report as to the feeling
in these three provinces?"

"Caninus surdis," replied the king, continuing the annotations in his
Horace.

"Sire," replied the courtier, laughing, in order that he might seem
to comprehend the quotation, "your majesty may be perfectly right in
relying on the good feeling of France, but I fear I am not altogether
wrong in dreading some desperate attempt."

"By whom?"

"By Bonaparte, or, at least, by his adherents."

"My dear Blacas," said the king, "you with your alarms prevent me from
working."

"And you, sire, prevent me from sleeping with your security."

"Wait, my dear sir, wait a moment; for I have such a delightful note on
the Pastor quum traheret--wait, and I will listen to you afterwards."

There was a brief pause, during which Louis XVIII. wrote, in a hand as
small as possible, another note on the margin of his Horace, and then
looking at the duke with the air of a man who thinks he has an idea of
his own, while he is only commenting upon the idea of another, said,--

"Go on, my dear duke, go on--I listen."

"Sire," said Blacas, who had for a moment the hope of sacrificing
Villefort to his own profit, "I am compelled to tell you that these are
not mere rumors destitute of foundation which thus disquiet me; but a
serious-minded man, deserving all my confidence, and charged by me to
watch over the south" (the duke hesitated as he pronounced these words),
"has arrived by post to tell me that a great peril threatens the king,
and so I hastened to you, sire."

"Mala ducis avi domum," continued Louis XVIII., still annotating.

"Does your majesty wish me to drop the subject?"

"By no means, my dear duke; but just stretch out your hand."

"Which?"

"Whichever you please--there to the left."

"Here, sire?"

"I tell you to the left, and you are looking to the right; I mean on my
left--yes, there. You will find yesterday's report of the minister of
police. But here is M. Dandre himself;" and M. Dandre, announced by the
chamberlain-in-waiting, entered.

"Come in," said Louis XVIII., with repressed smile, "come in, Baron, and
tell the duke all you know--the latest news of M. de Bonaparte; do not
conceal anything, however serious,--let us see, the Island of Elba is a
volcano, and we may expect to have issuing thence flaming and bristling
war--bella, horrida bella." M. Dandre leaned very respectfully on the
back of a chair with his two hands, and said,--

"Has your majesty perused yesterday's report?"

"Yes, yes; but tell the duke himself, who cannot find anything, what the
report contains--give him the particulars of what the usurper is doing
in his islet."

"Monsieur," said the baron to the duke, "all the servants of his majesty
must approve of the latest intelligence which we have from the Island
of Elba. Bonaparte"--M. Dandre looked at Louis XVIII., who, employed in
writing a note, did not even raise his head. "Bonaparte," continued
the baron, "is mortally wearied, and passes whole days in watching his
miners at work at Porto-Longone."

"And scratches himself for amusement," added the king.

"Scratches himself?" inquired the duke, "what does your majesty mean?"

"Yes, indeed, my dear duke. Did you forget that this great man, this
hero, this demigod, is attacked with a malady of the skin which worries
him to death, prurigo?"

"And, moreover, my dear duke," continued the minister of police, "we are
almost assured that, in a very short time, the usurper will be insane."

"Insane?"

"Raving mad; his head becomes weaker. Sometimes he weeps bitterly,
sometimes laughs boisterously, at other time he passes hours on
the seashore, flinging stones in the water and when the flint makes
'duck-and-drake' five or six times, he appears as delighted as if he had
gained another Marengo or Austerlitz. Now, you must agree that these are
indubitable symptoms of insanity."

"Or of wisdom, my dear baron--or of wisdom," said Louis XVIII.,
laughing; "the greatest captains of antiquity amused themselves
by casting pebbles into the ocean--see Plutarch's life of Scipio
Africanus."

M. de Blacas pondered deeply between the confident monarch and the
truthful minister. Villefort, who did not choose to reveal the whole
secret, lest another should reap all the benefit of the disclosure, had
yet communicated enough to cause him the greatest uneasiness.

"Well, well, Dandre," said Louis XVIII., "Blacas is not yet convinced;
let us proceed, therefore, to the usurper's conversion." The minister of
police bowed.

"The usurper's conversion!" murmured the duke, looking at the king and
Dandre, who spoke alternately, like Virgil's shepherds. "The usurper
converted!"

"Decidedly, my dear duke."

"In what way converted?"

"To good principles. Tell him all about it, baron."

"Why, this is the way of it," said the minister, with the gravest air in
the world: "Napoleon lately had a review, and as two or three of his
old veterans expressed a desire to return to France, he gave them their
dismissal, and exhorted them to 'serve the good king.' These were his
own words, of that I am certain."

"Well, Blacas, what think you of this?" inquired the king triumphantly,
and pausing for a moment from the voluminous scholiast before him.

"I say, sire, that the minister of police is greatly deceived or I am;
and as it is impossible it can be the minister of police as he has the
guardianship of the safety and honor of your majesty, it is probable
that I am in error. However, sire, if I might advise, your majesty will
interrogate the person of whom I spoke to you, and I will urge your
majesty to do him this honor."

"Most willingly, duke; under your auspices I will receive any person you
please, but you must not expect me to be too confiding. Baron, have you
any report more recent than this dated the 20th February.--this is the
4th of March?"

"No, sire, but I am hourly expecting one; it may have arrived since I
left my office."

"Go thither, and if there be none--well, well," continued Louis XVIII.,
"make one; that is the usual way, is it not?" and the king laughed
facetiously.

"Oh, sire," replied the minister, "we have no occasion to invent any;
every day our desks are loaded with most circumstantial denunciations,
coming from hosts of people who hope for some return for services which
they seek to render, but cannot; they trust to fortune, and rely upon
some unexpected event in some way to justify their predictions."

"Well, sir, go"; said Louis XVIII., "and remember that I am waiting for
you."

"I will but go and return, sire; I shall be back in ten minutes."

"And I, sire," said M. de Blacas, "will go and find my messenger."

"Wait, sir, wait," said Louis XVIII. "Really, M. de Blacas, I
must change your armorial bearings; I will give you an eagle with
outstretched wings, holding in its claws a prey which tries in vain to
escape, and bearing this device--Tenax."

"Sire, I listen," said De Blacas, biting his nails with impatience.

"I wish to consult you on this passage, 'Molli fugiens anhelitu,' you
know it refers to a stag flying from a wolf. Are you not a sportsman
and a great wolf-hunter? Well, then, what do you think of the molli
anhelitu?"

"Admirable, sire; but my messenger is like the stag you refer to, for he
has posted two hundred and twenty leagues in scarcely three days."

"Which is undergoing great fatigue and anxiety, my dear duke, when we
have a telegraph which transmits messages in three or four hours, and
that without getting in the least out of breath."

"Ah, sire, you recompense but badly this poor young man, who has come so
far, and with so much ardor, to give your majesty useful information. If
only for the sake of M. de Salvieux, who recommends him to me, I entreat
your majesty to receive him graciously."

"M. de Salvieux, my brother's chamberlain?"

"Yes, sire."

"He is at Marseilles."

"And writes me thence."

"Does he speak to you of this conspiracy?"

"No; but strongly recommends M. de Villefort, and begs me to present him
to your majesty."

"M. de Villefort!" cried the king, "is the messenger's name M. de
Villefort?"

"Yes, sire."

"And he comes from Marseilles?"

"In person."

"Why did you not mention his name at once?" replied the king, betraying
some uneasiness.

"Sire, I thought his name was unknown to your majesty."

"No, no, Blacas; he is a man of strong and elevated understanding,
ambitious, too, and, pardieu, you know his father's name!"

"His father?"

"Yes, Noirtier."

"Noirtier the Girondin?--Noirtier the senator?"

"He himself."

"And your majesty has employed the son of such a man?"

"Blacas, my friend, you have but limited comprehension. I told you
Villefort was ambitious, and to attain this ambition Villefort would
sacrifice everything, even his father."

"Then, sire, may I present him?"

"This instant, duke! Where is he?"

"Waiting below, in my carriage."

"Seek him at once."

"I hasten to do so." The duke left the royal presence with the speed of
a young man; his really sincere royalism made him youthful again. Louis
XVIII. remained alone, and turning his eyes on his half-opened Horace,
muttered,--

"Justum et tenacem propositi virum."

M. de Blacas returned as speedily as he had departed, but in the
ante-chamber he was forced to appeal to the king's authority.
Villefort's dusty garb, his costume, which was not of courtly cut,
excited the susceptibility of M. de Breze, who was all astonishment at
finding that this young man had the audacity to enter before the king
in such attire. The duke, however, overcame all difficulties with a
word--his majesty's order; and, in spite of the protestations which the
master of ceremonies made for the honor of his office and principles,
Villefort was introduced.

The king was seated in the same place where the duke had left him. On
opening the door, Villefort found himself facing him, and the young
magistrate's first impulse was to pause.

"Come in, M. de Villefort," said the king, "come in." Villefort bowed,
and advancing a few steps, waited until the king should interrogate him.

"M. de Villefort," said Louis XVIII., "the Duc de Blacas assures me you
have some interesting information to communicate."

"Sire, the duke is right, and I believe your majesty will think it
equally important."

"In the first place, and before everything else, sir, is the news as bad
in your opinion as I am asked to believe?"

"Sire, I believe it to be most urgent, but I hope, by the speed I have
used, that it is not irreparable."

"Speak as fully as you please, sir," said the king, who began to give
way to the emotion which had showed itself in Blacas's face and affected
Villefort's voice. "Speak, sir, and pray begin at the beginning; I like
order in everything."

"Sire," said Villefort, "I will render a faithful report to your
majesty, but I must entreat your forgiveness if my anxiety leads to some
obscurity in my language." A glance at the king after this discreet
and subtle exordium, assured Villefort of the benignity of his august
auditor, and he went on:--

"Sire, I have come as rapidly to Paris as possible, to inform your
majesty that I have discovered, in the exercise of my duties, not a
commonplace and insignificant plot, such as is every day got up in the
lower ranks of the people and in the army, but an actual conspiracy--a
storm which menaces no less than your majesty's throne. Sire, the
usurper is arming three ships, he meditates some project, which, however
mad, is yet, perhaps, terrible. At this moment he will have left Elba,
to go whither I know not, but assuredly to attempt a landing either at
Naples, or on the coast of Tuscany, or perhaps on the shores of France.
Your majesty is well aware that the sovereign of the Island of Elba has
maintained his relations with Italy and France?"

"I am, sir," said the king, much agitated; "and recently we have had
information that the Bonapartist clubs have had meetings in the Rue
Saint-Jacques. But proceed, I beg of you. How did you obtain these
details?"

"Sire, they are the results of an examination which I have made of a man
of Marseilles, whom I have watched for some time, and arrested on the
day of my departure. This person, a sailor, of turbulent character,
and whom I suspected of Bonapartism, has been secretly to the Island
of Elba. There he saw the grand-marshal, who charged him with an oral
message to a Bonapartist in Paris, whose name I could not extract from
him; but this mission was to prepare men's minds for a return (it is the
man who says this, sire)--a return which will soon occur."

"And where is this man?"

"In prison, sire."

"And the matter seems serious to you?"

"So serious, sire, that when the circumstance surprised me in the midst
of a family festival, on the very day of my betrothal, I left my bride
and friends, postponing everything, that I might hasten to lay at your
majesty's feet the fears which impressed me, and the assurance of my
devotion."

"True," said Louis XVIII., "was there not a marriage engagement between
you and Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran?"

"Daughter of one of your majesty's most faithful servants."

"Yes, yes; but let us talk of this plot, M. de Villefort."

"Sire, I fear it is more than a plot; I fear it is a conspiracy."

"A conspiracy in these times," said Louis XVIII., smiling, "is a thing
very easy to meditate, but more difficult to conduct to an end, inasmuch
as, re-established so recently on the throne of our ancestors, we have
our eyes open at once upon the past, the present, and the future. For
the last ten months my ministers have redoubled their vigilance, in
order to watch the shore of the Mediterranean. If Bonaparte landed at
Naples, the whole coalition would be on foot before he could even reach
Piomoino; if he land in Tuscany, he will be in an unfriendly territory;
if he land in France, it must be with a handful of men, and the result
of that is easily foretold, execrated as he is by the population. Take
courage, sir; but at the same time rely on our royal gratitude."

"Ah, here is M. Dandre!" cried de Blacas. At this instant the minister
of police appeared at the door, pale, trembling, and as if ready to
faint. Villefort was about to retire, but M. de Blacas, taking his hand,
restrained him.

 

 

Chapter 11. The Corsican Ogre.

At the sight of this agitation Louis XVIII. pushed from him violently
the table at which he was sitting.

"What ails you, baron?" he exclaimed. "You appear quite aghast. Has your
uneasiness anything to do with what M. de Blacas has told me, and M. de
Villefort has just confirmed?" M. de Blacas moved suddenly towards the
baron, but the fright of the courtier pleaded for the forbearance of
the statesman; and besides, as matters were, it was much more to his
advantage that the prefect of police should triumph over him than that
he should humiliate the prefect.

"Sire"--stammered the baron.

"Well, what is it?" asked Louis XVIII. The minister of police, giving
way to an impulse of despair, was about to throw himself at the feet of
Louis XVIII., who retreated a step and frowned.

"Will you speak?" he said.

"Oh, sire, what a dreadful misfortune! I am, indeed, to be pitied. I can
never forgive myself!"

"Monsieur," said Louis XVIII., "I command you to speak."

"Well, sire, the usurper left Elba on the 26th February, and landed on
the 1st of March."

"And where? In Italy?" asked the king eagerly.

"In France, sire,--at a small port, near Antibes, in the Gulf of Juan."

"The usurper landed in France, near Antibes, in the Gulf of Juan, two
hundred and fifty leagues from Paris, on the 1st of March, and you only
acquired this information to-day, the 4th of March! Well, sir, what you
tell me is impossible. You must have received a false report, or you
have gone mad."

"Alas, sire, it is but too true!" Louis made a gesture of indescribable
anger and alarm, and then drew himself up as if this sudden blow had
struck him at the same moment in heart and countenance.

"In France!" he cried, "the usurper in France! Then they did not watch
over this man. Who knows? they were, perhaps, in league with him."

"Oh, sire," exclaimed the Duc de Blacas, "M. Dandre is not a man to be
accused of treason! Sire, we have all been blind, and the minister of
police has shared the general blindness, that is all."

"But"--said Villefort, and then suddenly checking himself, he was
silent; then he continued, "Your pardon, sire," he said, bowing, "my
zeal carried me away. Will your majesty deign to excuse me?"

"Speak, sir, speak boldly," replied Louis. "You alone forewarned us of
the evil; now try and aid us with the remedy."

"Sire," said Villefort, "the usurper is detested in the south; and it
seems to me that if he ventured into the south, it would be easy to
raise Languedoc and Provence against him."

"Yes, assuredly," replied the minister; "but he is advancing by Gap and
Sisteron."

"Advancing--he is advancing!" said Louis XVIII. "Is he then advancing on
Paris?" The minister of police maintained a silence which was equivalent
to a complete avowal.

"And Dauphine, sir?" inquired the king, of Villefort. "Do you think it
possible to rouse that as well as Provence?"

"Sire, I am sorry to tell your majesty a cruel fact; but the feeling
in Dauphine is quite the reverse of that in Provence or Languedoc. The
mountaineers are Bonapartists, sire."

"Then," murmured Louis, "he was well informed. And how many men had he
with him?"

"I do not know, sire," answered the minister of police.

"What, you do not know! Have you neglected to obtain information on that
point? Of course it is of no consequence," he added, with a withering
smile.

"Sire, it was impossible to learn; the despatch simply stated the fact
of the landing and the route taken by the usurper."

"And how did this despatch reach you?" inquired the king. The minister
bowed his head, and while a deep color overspread his cheeks, he
stammered out,--

"By the telegraph, sire."--Louis XVIII. advanced a step, and folded his
arms over his chest as Napoleon would have done.

"So then," he exclaimed, turning pale with anger, "seven conjoined and
allied armies overthrew that man. A miracle of heaven replaced me on
the throne of my fathers after five-and-twenty years of exile. I have,
during those five-and-twenty years, spared no pains to understand the
people of France and the interests which were confided to me; and now,
when I see the fruition of my wishes almost within reach, the power I
hold in my hands bursts, and shatters me to atoms!"

"Sire, it is fatality!" murmured the minister, feeling that the pressure
of circumstances, however light a thing to destiny, was too much for any
human strength to endure.

"What our enemies say of us is then true. We have learnt nothing,
forgotten nothing! If I were betrayed as he was, I would console myself;
but to be in the midst of persons elevated by myself to places of honor,
who ought to watch over me more carefully than over themselves,--for my
fortune is theirs--before me they were nothing--after me they will be
nothing, and perish miserably from incapacity--ineptitude! Oh, yes, sir,
you are right--it is fatality!"

The minister quailed before this outburst of sarcasm. M. de Blacas wiped
the moisture from his brow. Villefort smiled within himself, for he felt
his increased importance.

"To fall," continued King Louis, who at the first glance had sounded the
abyss on which the monarchy hung suspended,--"to fall, and learn of that
fall by telegraph! Oh, I would rather mount the scaffold of my brother,
Louis XVI., than thus descend the staircase at the Tuileries driven away
by ridicule. Ridicule, sir--why, you know not its power in France, and
yet you ought to know it!"

"Sire, sire," murmured the minister, "for pity's"--

"Approach, M. de Villefort," resumed the king, addressing the young man,
who, motionless and breathless, was listening to a conversation on which
depended the destiny of a kingdom. "Approach, and tell monsieur that it
is possible to know beforehand all that he has not known."

"Sire, it was really impossible to learn secrets which that man
concealed from all the world."

"Really impossible! Yes--that is a great word, sir. Unfortunately, there
are great words, as there are great men; I have measured them. Really
impossible for a minister who has an office, agents, spies, and fifteen
hundred thousand francs for secret service money, to know what is going
on at sixty leagues from the coast of France! Well, then, see, here is a
gentleman who had none of these resources at his disposal--a gentleman,
only a simple magistrate, who learned more than you with all your
police, and who would have saved my crown, if, like you, he had the
power of directing a telegraph." The look of the minister of police was
turned with concentrated spite on Villefort, who bent his head in modest
triumph.

"I do not mean that for you, Blacas," continued Louis XVIII.; "for if
you have discovered nothing, at least you have had the good sense
to persevere in your suspicions. Any other than yourself would have
considered the disclosure of M. de Villefort insignificant, or else
dictated by venal ambition," These words were an allusion to the
sentiments which the minister of police had uttered with so much
confidence an hour before.

Villefort understood the king's intent. Any other person would, perhaps,
have been overcome by such an intoxicating draught of praise; but
he feared to make for himself a mortal enemy of the police minister,
although he saw that Dandre was irrevocably lost. In fact, the
minister, who, in the plenitude of his power, had been unable to unearth
Napoleon's secret, might in despair at his own downfall interrogate
Dantes and so lay bare the motives of Villefort's plot. Realizing this,
Villefort came to the rescue of the crest-fallen minister, instead of
aiding to crush him.

"Sire," said Villefort, "the suddenness of this event must prove to your
majesty that the issue is in the hands of Providence; what your majesty
is pleased to attribute to me as profound perspicacity is simply owing
to chance, and I have profited by that chance, like a good and devoted
servant--that's all. Do not attribute to me more than I deserve, sire,
that your majesty may never have occasion to recall the first opinion
you have been pleased to form of me." The minister of police thanked
the young man by an eloquent look, and Villefort understood that he had
succeeded in his design; that is to say, that without forfeiting the
gratitude of the king, he had made a friend of one on whom, in case of
necessity, he might rely.

"'Tis well," resumed the king. "And now, gentlemen," he continued,
turning towards M. de Blacas and the minister of police, "I have no
further occasion for you, and you may retire; what now remains to do is
in the department of the minister of war."

"Fortunately, sire," said M. de Blacas, "we can rely on the army; your
majesty knows how every report confirms their loyalty and attachment."

"Do not mention reports, duke, to me, for I know now what confidence to
place in them. Yet, speaking of reports, baron, what have you learned
with regard to the affair in the Rue Saint-Jacques?"

"The affair in the Rue Saint-Jacques!" exclaimed Villefort, unable to
repress an exclamation. Then, suddenly pausing, he added, "Your pardon,
sire, but my devotion to your majesty has made me forget, not the
respect I have, for that is too deeply engraved in my heart, but the
rules of etiquette."

"Go on, go on, sir," replied the king; "you have to-day earned the right
to make inquiries here."

"Sire," interposed the minister of police, "I came a moment ago to give
your majesty fresh information which I had obtained on this head, when
your majesty's attention was attracted by the terrible event that has
occurred in the gulf, and now these facts will cease to interest your
majesty."

"On the contrary, sir,--on the contrary," said Louis XVIII., "this
affair seems to me to have a decided connection with that which occupies
our attention, and the death of General Quesnel will, perhaps, put us on
the direct track of a great internal conspiracy." At the name of General
Quesnel, Villefort trembled.

"Everything points to the conclusion, sire," said the minister of
police, "that death was not the result of suicide, as we first believed,
but of assassination. General Quesnel, it appears, had just left a
Bonapartist club when he disappeared. An unknown person had been
with him that morning, and made an appointment with him in the Rue
Saint-Jacques; unfortunately, the general's valet, who was dressing
his hair at the moment when the stranger entered, heard the street
mentioned, but did not catch the number." As the police minister related
this to the king, Villefort, who looked as if his very life hung on the
speaker's lips, turned alternately red and pale. The king looked towards
him.

"Do you not think with me, M. de Villefort, that General Quesnel, whom
they believed attached to the usurper, but who was really entirely
devoted to me, has perished the victim of a Bonapartist ambush?"

"It is probable, sire," replied Villefort. "But is this all that is
known?"

"They are on the track of the man who appointed the meeting with him."

"On his track?" said Villefort.

"Yes, the servant has given his description. He is a man of from fifty
to fifty-two years of age, dark, with black eyes covered with shaggy
eyebrows, and a thick mustache. He was dressed in a blue frock-coat,
buttoned up to the chin, and wore at his button-hole the rosette of an
officer of the Legion of Honor. Yesterday a person exactly corresponding
with this description was followed, but he was lost sight of at the
corner of the Rue de la Jussienne and the Rue Coq-Heron." Villefort
leaned on the back of an arm-chair, for as the minister of police went
on speaking he felt his legs bend under him; but when he learned that
the unknown had escaped the vigilance of the agent who followed him, he
breathed again.

"Continue to seek for this man, sir," said the king to the minister of
police; "for if, as I am all but convinced, General Quesnel, who
would have been so useful to us at this moment, has been murdered, his
assassins, Bonapartists or not, shall be cruelly punished." It required
all Villefort's coolness not to betray the terror with which this
declaration of the king inspired him.

"How strange," continued the king, with some asperity; "the police think
that they have disposed of the whole matter when they say, 'A murder has
been committed,' and especially so when they can add, 'And we are on the
track of the guilty persons.'"

"Sire, your majesty will, I trust, be amply satisfied on this point at
least."

"We shall see. I will no longer detain you, M. de Villefort, for you
must be fatigued after so long a journey; go and rest. Of course you
stopped at your father's?" A feeling of faintness came over Villefort.

"No, sire," he replied, "I alighted at the Hotel de Madrid, in the Rue
de Tournon."

"But you have seen him?"

"Sire, I went straight to the Duc de Blacas."

"But you will see him, then?"

"I think not, sire."

"Ah, I forgot," said Louis, smiling in a manner which proved that all
these questions were not made without a motive; "I forgot you and
M. Noirtier are not on the best terms possible, and that is another
sacrifice made to the royal cause, and for which you should be
recompensed."

"Sire, the kindness your majesty deigns to evince towards me is a
recompense which so far surpasses my utmost ambition that I have nothing
more to ask for."

"Never mind, sir, we will not forget you; make your mind easy. In the
meanwhile" (the king here detached the cross of the Legion of Honor
which he usually wore over his blue coat, near the cross of St. Louis,
above the order of Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel and St. Lazare, and gave it
to Villefort)--"in the meanwhile take this cross."

"Sire," said Villefort, "your majesty mistakes; this is an officer's
cross."

"Ma foi," said Louis XVIII., "take it, such as it is, for I have not the
time to procure you another. Blacas, let it be your care to see that the
brevet is made out and sent to M. de Villefort." Villefort's eyes were
filled with tears of joy and pride; he took the cross and kissed it.

"And now," he said, "may I inquire what are the orders with which your
majesty deigns to honor me?"

"Take what rest you require, and remember that if you are not able to
serve me here in Paris, you may be of the greatest service to me at
Marseilles."

"Sire," replied Villefort, bowing, "in an hour I shall have quitted
Paris."

"Go, sir," said the king; "and should I forget you (kings' memories are
short), do not be afraid to bring yourself to my recollection. Baron,
send for the minister of war. Blacas, remain."

"Ah, sir," said the minister of police to Villefort, as they left the
Tuileries, "you entered by luck's door--your fortune is made."

"Will it be long first?" muttered Villefort, saluting the minister,
whose career was ended, and looking about him for a hackney-coach.
One passed at the moment, which he hailed; he gave his address to the
driver, and springing in, threw himself on the seat, and gave loose to
dreams of ambition.

Ten minutes afterwards Villefort reached his hotel, ordered horses to be
ready in two hours, and asked to have his breakfast brought to him. He
was about to begin his repast when the sound of the bell rang sharp and
loud. The valet opened the door, and Villefort heard some one speak his
name.

"Who could know that I was here already?" said the young man. The valet
entered.

"Well," said Villefort, "what is it?--Who rang?--Who asked for me?"

"A stranger who will not send in his name."

"A stranger who will not send in his name! What can he want with me?"

"He wishes to speak to you."

"To me?"

"Yes."

"Did he mention my name?"

"Yes."

"What sort of person is he?"

"Why, sir, a man of about fifty."

"Short or tall?"

"About your own height, sir."

"Dark or fair?"

"Dark,--very dark; with black eyes, black hair, black eyebrows."

"And how dressed?" asked Villefort quickly.

"In a blue frock-coat, buttoned up close, decorated with the Legion of
Honor."

"It is he!" said Villefort, turning pale.

"Eh, pardieu," said the individual whose description we have twice
given, entering the door, "what a great deal of ceremony! Is it the
custom in Marseilles for sons to keep their fathers waiting in their
anterooms?"

"Father!" cried Villefort, "then I was not deceived; I felt sure it must
be you."

"Well, then, if you felt so sure," replied the new-comer, putting his
cane in a corner and his hat on a chair, "allow me to say, my dear
Gerard, that it was not very filial of you to keep me waiting at the
door."

"Leave us, Germain," said Villefort. The servant quitted the apartment
with evident signs of astonishment.

 

 

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.

 

 

Chapter 13. The Hundred Days.

M. Noirtier was a true prophet, and things progressed rapidly, as he had
predicted. Every one knows the history of the famous return from Elba,
a return which was unprecedented in the past, and will probably remain
without a counterpart in the future.

Louis XVIII. made but a faint attempt to parry this unexpected blow;
the monarchy he had scarcely reconstructed tottered on its precarious
foundation, and at a sign from the emperor the incongruous structure
of ancient prejudices and new ideas fell to the ground. Villefort,
therefore, gained nothing save the king's gratitude (which was rather
likely to injure him at the present time) and the cross of the Legion of
Honor, which he had the prudence not to wear, although M. de Blacas had
duly forwarded the brevet.

Napoleon would, doubtless, have deprived Villefort of his office had
it not been for Noirtier, who was all powerful at court, and thus the
Girondin of '93 and the Senator of 1806 protected him who so lately
had been his protector. All Villefort's influence barely enabled him to
stifle the secret Dantes had so nearly divulged. The king's procureur
alone was deprived of his office, being suspected of royalism.

However, scarcely was the imperial power established--that is, scarcely
had the emperor re-entered the Tuileries and begun to issue orders from
the closet into which we have introduced our readers,--he found on the
table there Louis XVIII.'s half-filled snuff-box,--scarcely had this
occurred when Marseilles began, in spite of the authorities, to rekindle
the flames of civil war, always smouldering in the south, and it
required but little to excite the populace to acts of far greater
violence than the shouts and insults with which they assailed the
royalists whenever they ventured abroad.

Owing to this change, the worthy shipowner became at that moment--we
will not say all powerful, because Morrel was a prudent and rather
a timid man, so much so, that many of the most zealous partisans of
Bonaparte accused him of "moderation"--but sufficiently influential to
make a demand in favor of Dantes.

Villefort retained his place, but his marriage was put off until a more
favorable opportunity. If the emperor remained on the throne, Gerard
required a different alliance to aid his career; if Louis XVIII.
returned, the influence of M. de Saint-Meran, like his own, could
be vastly increased, and the marriage be still more suitable. The
deputy-procureur was, therefore, the first magistrate of Marseilles,
when one morning his door opened, and M. Morrel was announced.

Any one else would have hastened to receive him; but Villefort was a man
of ability, and he knew this would be a sign of weakness. He made Morrel
wait in the ante-chamber, although he had no one with him, for the
simple reason that the king's procureur always makes every one wait, and
after passing a quarter of an hour in reading the papers, he ordered M.
Morrel to be admitted.

Morrel expected Villefort would be dejected; he found him as he had
found him six weeks before, calm, firm, and full of that glacial
politeness, that most insurmountable barrier which separates the
well-bred from the vulgar man.

He had entered Villefort's office expecting that the magistrate would
tremble at the sight of him; on the contrary, he felt a cold shudder all
over him when he saw Villefort sitting there with his elbow on his desk,
and his head leaning on his hand. He stopped at the door; Villefort
gazed at him as if he had some difficulty in recognizing him; then,
after a brief interval, during which the honest shipowner turned his hat
in his hands,--

"M. Morrel, I believe?" said Villefort.

"Yes, sir."

"Come nearer," said the magistrate, with a patronizing wave of the hand,
"and tell me to what circumstance I owe the honor of this visit."

"Do you not guess, monsieur?" asked Morrel.

"Not in the least; but if I can serve you in any way I shall be
delighted."

"Everything depends on you."

"Explain yourself, pray."

"Monsieur," said Morrel, recovering his assurance as he proceeded, "do
you recollect that a few days before the landing of his majesty the
emperor, I came to intercede for a young man, the mate of my ship, who
was accused of being concerned in correspondence with the Island of
Elba? What was the other day a crime is to-day a title to favor. You
then served Louis XVIII., and you did not show any favor--it was your
duty; to-day you serve Napoleon, and you ought to protect him--it is
equally your duty; I come, therefore, to ask what has become of him?"

Villefort by a strong effort sought to control himself. "What is his
name?" said he. "Tell me his name."

"Edmond Dantes."

Villefort would probably have rather stood opposite the muzzle of a
pistol at five-and-twenty paces than have heard this name spoken; but he
did not blanch.

"Dantes," repeated he, "Edmond Dantes."

"Yes, monsieur." Villefort opened a large register, then went to a
table, from the table turned to his registers, and then, turning to
Morrel,--

"Are you quite sure you are not mistaken, monsieur?" said he, in the
most natural tone in the world.

Had Morrel been a more quick-sighted man, or better versed in these
matters, he would have been surprised at the king's procureur answering
him on such a subject, instead of referring him to the governors of the
prison or the prefect of the department. But Morrel, disappointed in
his expectations of exciting fear, was conscious only of the other's
condescension. Villefort had calculated rightly.

"No," said Morrel; "I am not mistaken. I have known him for ten years,
the last four of which he was in my service. Do not you recollect, I
came about six weeks ago to plead for clemency, as I come to-day to
plead for justice. You received me very coldly. Oh, the royalists were
very severe with the Bonapartists in those days."

"Monsieur," returned Villefort, "I was then a royalist, because I
believed the Bourbons not only the heirs to the throne, but the chosen
of the nation. The miraculous return of Napoleon has conquered me, the
legitimate monarch is he who is loved by his people."

"That's right!" cried Morrel. "I like to hear you speak thus, and I
augur well for Edmond from it."

"Wait a moment," said Villefort, turning over the leaves of a register;
"I have it--a sailor, who was about to marry a young Catalan girl. I
recollect now; it was a very serious charge."

"How so?"

"You know that when he left here he was taken to the Palais de Justice."

"Well?"

"I made my report to the authorities at Paris, and a week after he was
carried off."

"Carried off!" said Morrel. "What can they have done with him?"

"Oh, he has been taken to Fenestrelles, to Pignerol, or to the
Sainte-Marguerite islands. Some fine morning he will return to take
command of your vessel."

"Come when he will, it shall be kept for him. But how is it he is not
already returned? It seems to me the first care of government should be
to set at liberty those who have suffered for their adherence to it."

"Do not be too hasty, M. Morrel," replied Villefort. "The order of
imprisonment came from high authority, and the order for his liberation
must proceed from the same source; and, as Napoleon has scarcely been
reinstated a fortnight, the letters have not yet been forwarded."

"But," said Morrel, "is there no way of expediting all these
formalities--of releasing him from arrest?"

"There has been no arrest."

"How?"

"It is sometimes essential to government to cause a man's disappearance
without leaving any traces, so that no written forms or documents may
defeat their wishes."

"It might be so under the Bourbons, but at present"--

"It has always been so, my dear Morrel, since the reign of Louis XIV.
The emperor is more strict in prison discipline than even Louis himself,
and the number of prisoners whose names are not on the register is
incalculable." Had Morrel even any suspicions, so much kindness would
have dispelled them.

"Well, M. de Villefort, how would you advise me to act?" asked he.

"Petition the minister."

"Oh, I know what that is; the minister receives two hundred petitions
every day, and does not read three."

"That is true; but he will read a petition countersigned and presented
by me."

"And will you undertake to deliver it?"

"With the greatest pleasure. Dantes was then guilty, and now he is
innocent, and it is as much my duty to free him as it was to condemn
him." Villefort thus forestalled any danger of an inquiry, which,
however improbable it might be, if it did take place would leave him
defenceless.

"But how shall I address the minister?"

"Sit down there," said Villefort, giving up his place to Morrel, "and
write what I dictate."

"Will you be so good?"

"Certainly. But lose no time; we have lost too much already."

"That is true. Only think what the poor fellow may even now be
suffering." Villefort shuddered at the suggestion; but he had gone
too far to draw back. Dantes must be crushed to gratify Villefort's
ambition.

Villefort dictated a petition, in which, from an excellent intention, no
doubt, Dantes' patriotic services were exaggerated, and he was made out
one of the most active agents of Napoleon's return. It was evident that
at the sight of this document the minister would instantly release him.
The petition finished, Villefort read it aloud.

"That will do," said he; "leave the rest to me."

"Will the petition go soon?"

"To-day."

"Countersigned by you?"

"The best thing I can do will be to certify the truth of the contents
of your petition." And, sitting down, Villefort wrote the certificate at
the bottom.

"What more is to be done?"

"I will do whatever is necessary." This assurance delighted Morrel, who
took leave of Villefort, and hastened to announce to old Dantes that he
would soon see his son.

As for Villefort, instead of sending to Paris, he carefully preserved
the petition that so fearfully compromised Dantes, in the hopes of an
event that seemed not unlikely,--that is, a second restoration. Dantes
remained a prisoner, and heard not the noise of the fall of Louis
XVIII.'s throne, or the still more tragic destruction of the empire.

Twice during the Hundred Days had Morrel renewed his demand, and twice
had Villefort soothed him with promises. At last there was Waterloo,
and Morrel came no more; he had done all that was in his power, and any
fresh attempt would only compromise himself uselessly.

Louis XVIII. remounted the throne; Villefort, to whom Marseilles
had become filled with remorseful memories, sought and obtained the
situation of king's procureur at Toulouse, and a fortnight afterwards
he married Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran, whose father now stood higher at
court than ever.

And so Dantes, after the Hundred Days and after Waterloo, remained in
his dungeon, forgotten of earth and heaven. Danglars comprehended the
full extent of the wretched fate that overwhelmed Dantes; and, when
Napoleon returned to France, he, after the manner of mediocre minds,
termed the coincidence, "a decree of Providence." But when Napoleon
returned to Paris, Danglars' heart failed him, and he lived in constant
fear of Dantes' return on a mission of vengeance. He therefore informed
M. Morrel of his wish to quit the sea, and obtained a recommendation
from him to a Spanish merchant, into whose service he entered at the end
of March, that is, ten or twelve days after Napoleon's return. He then
left for Madrid, and was no more heard of.

Fernand understood nothing except that Dantes was absent. What had
become of him he cared not to inquire. Only, during the respite the
absence of his rival afforded him, he reflected, partly on the means of
deceiving Mercedes as to the cause of his absence, partly on plans of
emigration and abduction, as from time to time he sat sad and motionless
on the summit of Cape Pharo, at the spot from whence Marseilles and
the Catalans are visible, watching for the apparition of a young and
handsome man, who was for him also the messenger of vengeance. Fernand's
mind was made up; he would shoot Dantes, and then kill himself. But
Fernand was mistaken; a man of his disposition never kills himself, for
he constantly hopes.

During this time the empire made its last conscription, and every man
in France capable of bearing arms rushed to obey the summons of the
emperor. Fernand departed with the rest, bearing with him the terrible
thought that while he was away, his rival would perhaps return and marry
Mercedes. Had Fernand really meant to kill himself, he would have done
so when he parted from Mercedes. His devotion, and the compassion he
showed for her misfortunes, produced the effect they always produce on
noble minds--Mercedes had always had a sincere regard for Fernand, and
this was now strengthened by gratitude.

"My brother," said she as she placed his knapsack on his shoulders,
"be careful of yourself, for if you are killed, I shall be alone in the
world." These words carried a ray of hope into Fernand's heart. Should
Dantes not return, Mercedes might one day be his.

Mercedes was left alone face to face with the vast plain that had never
seemed so barren, and the sea that had never seemed so vast. Bathed in
tears she wandered about the Catalan village. Sometimes she stood mute
and motionless as a statue, looking towards Marseilles, at other times
gazing on the sea, and debating as to whether it were not better to cast
herself into the abyss of the ocean, and thus end her woes. It was
not want of courage that prevented her putting this resolution into
execution; but her religious feelings came to her aid and saved her.
Caderousse was, like Fernand, enrolled in the army, but, being married
and eight years older, he was merely sent to the frontier. Old Dantes,
who was only sustained by hope, lost all hope at Napoleon's downfall.
Five months after he had been separated from his son, and almost at the
hour of his arrest, he breathed his last in Mercedes' arms. M. Morrel
paid the expenses of his funeral, and a few small debts the poor old man
had contracted.

There was more than benevolence in this action; there was courage; the
south was aflame, and to assist, even on his death-bed, the father of so
dangerous a Bonapartist as Dantes, was stigmatized as a crime.

 

 

Chapter 14. The Two Prisoners.

A year after Louis XVIII.'s restoration, a visit was made by the
inspector-general of prisons. Dantes in his cell heard the noise of
preparation,--sounds that at the depth where he lay would have been
inaudible to any but the ear of a prisoner, who could hear the splash of
the drop of water that every hour fell from the roof of his dungeon. He
guessed something uncommon was passing among the living; but he had so
long ceased to have any intercourse with the world, that he looked upon
himself as dead.

The inspector visited, one after another, the cells and dungeons of
several of the prisoners, whose good behavior or stupidity recommended
them to the clemency of the government. He inquired how they were fed,
and if they had any request to make. The universal response was, that
the fare was detestable, and that they wanted to be set free.

The inspector asked if they had anything else to ask for. They shook
their heads. What could they desire beyond their liberty? The inspector
turned smilingly to the governor.

"I do not know what reason government can assign for these useless
visits; when you see one prisoner, you see all,--always the same
thing,--ill fed and innocent. Are there any others?"

"Yes; the dangerous and mad prisoners are in the dungeons."

"Let us visit them," said the inspector with an air of fatigue. "We must
play the farce to the end. Let us see the dungeons."

"Let us first send for two soldiers," said the governor. "The prisoners
sometimes, through mere uneasiness of life, and in order to be sentenced
to death, commit acts of useless violence, and you might fall a victim."

"Take all needful precautions," replied the inspector.

Two soldiers were accordingly sent for, and the inspector descended
a stairway, so foul, so humid, so dark, as to be loathsome to sight,
smell, and respiration.

"Oh," cried the inspector, "who can live here?"

"A most dangerous conspirator, a man we are ordered to keep the most
strict watch over, as he is daring and resolute."

"He is alone?"

"Certainly."

"How long has he been there?"

"Nearly a year."

"Was he placed here when he first arrived?"

"No; not until he attempted to kill the turnkey, who took his food to
him."

"To kill the turnkey?"

"Yes, the very one who is lighting us. Is it not true, Antoine?" asked
the governor.

"True enough; he wanted to kill me!" returned the turnkey.

"He must be mad," said the inspector.

"He is worse than that,--he is a devil!" returned the turnkey.

"Shall I complain of him?" demanded the inspector.

"Oh, no; it is useless. Besides, he is almost mad now, and in another
year he will be quite so."

"So much the better for him,--he will suffer less," said the inspector.
He was, as this remark shows, a man full of philanthropy, and in every
way fit for his office.

"You are right, sir," replied the governor; "and this remark proves that
you have deeply considered the subject. Now we have in a dungeon about
twenty feet distant, and to which you descend by another stair, an abbe,
formerly leader of a party in Italy, who has been here since 1811, and
in 1813 he went mad, and the change is astonishing. He used to weep, he
now laughs; he grew thin, he now grows fat. You had better see him, for
his madness is amusing."

"I will see them both," returned the inspector; "I must conscientiously
perform my duty." This was the inspector's first visit; he wished to
display his authority.

"Let us visit this one first," added he.

"By all means," replied the governor, and he signed to the turnkey to
open the door. At the sound of the key turning in the lock, and the
creaking of the hinges, Dantes, who was crouched in a corner of the
dungeon, whence he could see the ray of light that came through a narrow
iron grating above, raised his head. Seeing a stranger, escorted by two
turnkeys holding torches and accompanied by two soldiers, and to whom
the governor spoke bareheaded, Dantes, who guessed the truth, and that
the moment to address himself to the superior authorities was come,
sprang forward with clasped hands.

The soldiers interposed their bayonets, for they thought that he was
about to attack the inspector, and the latter recoiled two or three
steps. Dantes saw that he was looked upon as dangerous. Then, infusing
all the humility he possessed into his eyes and voice, he addressed the
inspector, and sought to inspire him with pity.

The inspector listened attentively; then, turning to the governor,
observed, "He will become religious--he is already more gentle; he is
afraid, and retreated before the bayonets--madmen are not afraid of
anything; I made some curious observations on this at Charenton." Then,
turning to the prisoner, "What is it you want?" said he.

"I want to know what crime I have committed--to be tried; and if I am
guilty, to be shot; if innocent, to be set at liberty."

"Are you well fed?" said the inspector.

"I believe so; I don't know; it's of no consequence. What matters
really, not only to me, but to officers of justice and the king, is that
an innocent man should languish in prison, the victim of an infamous
denunciation, to die here cursing his executioners."

"You are very humble to-day," remarked the governor; "you are not
so always; the other day, for instance, when you tried to kill the
turnkey."

"It is true, sir, and I beg his pardon, for he his always been very good
to me, but I was mad."

"And you are not so any longer?"

"No; captivity has subdued me--I have been here so long."

"So long?--when were you arrested, then?" asked the inspector.

"The 28th of February, 1815, at half-past two in the afternoon."

"To-day is the 30th of July, 1816,--why it is but seventeen months."

"Only seventeen months," replied Dantes. "Oh, you do not know what is
seventeen months in prison!--seventeen ages rather, especially to a man
who, like me, had arrived at the summit of his ambition--to a man, who,
like me, was on the point of marrying a woman he adored, who saw an
honorable career opened before him, and who loses all in an instant--who
sees his prospects destroyed, and is ignorant of the fate of his
affianced wife, and whether his aged father be still living! Seventeen
months captivity to a sailor accustomed to the boundless ocean, is a
worse punishment than human crime ever merited. Have pity on me,
then, and ask for me, not intelligence, but a trial; not pardon, but a
verdict--a trial, sir, I ask only for a trial; that, surely, cannot be
denied to one who is accused!"

"We shall see," said the inspector; then, turning to the governor, "On
my word, the poor devil touches me. You must show me the proofs against
him."

"Certainly; but you will find terrible charges."

"Monsieur," continued Dantes, "I know it is not in your power to release
me; but you can plead for me--you can have me tried--and that is all
I ask. Let me know my crime, and the reason why I was condemned.
Uncertainty is worse than all."

"Go on with the lights," said the inspector.

"Monsieur," cried Dantes, "I can tell by your voice you are touched with
pity; tell me at least to hope."

"I cannot tell you that," replied the inspector; "I can only promise to
examine into your case."

"Oh, I am free--then I am saved!"

"Who arrested you?"

"M. Villefort. See him, and hear what he says."

"M. Villefort is no longer at Marseilles; he is now at Toulouse."

"I am no longer surprised at my detention," murmured Dantes, "since my
only protector is removed."

"Had M. de Villefort any cause of personal dislike to you?"

"None; on the contrary, he was very kind to me."

"I can, then, rely on the notes he has left concerning you?"

"Entirely."

"That is well; wait patiently, then." Dantes fell on his knees, and
prayed earnestly. The door closed; but this time a fresh inmate was left
with Dantes--hope.

"Will you see the register at once," asked the governor, "or proceed to
the other cell?"

"Let us visit them all," said the inspector. "If I once went up those
stairs. I should never have the courage to come down again."

"Ah, this one is not like the other, and his madness is less affecting
than this one's display of reason."

"What is his folly?"

"He fancies he possesses an immense treasure. The first year he offered
government a million of francs for his release; the second, two; the
third, three; and so on progressively. He is now in his fifth year of
captivity; he will ask to speak to you in private, and offer you five
millions."

"How curious!--what is his name?"

"The Abbe Faria."

"No. 27," said the inspector.

"It is here; unlock the door, Antoine." The turnkey obeyed, and the
inspector gazed curiously into the chamber of the "mad abbe."

In the centre of the cell, in a circle traced with a fragment of plaster
detached from the wall, sat a man whose tattered garments scarcely
covered him. He was drawing in this circle geometrical lines, and seemed
as much absorbed in his problem as Archimedes was when the soldier of
Marcellus slew him.

He did not move at the sound of the door, and continued his calculations
until the flash of the torches lighted up with an unwonted glare the
sombre walls of his cell; then, raising his head, he perceived with
astonishment the number of persons present. He hastily seized the
coverlet of his bed, and wrapped it round him.

"What is it you want?" said the inspector.

"I, monsieur," replied the abbe with an air of surprise--"I want
nothing."

"You do not understand," continued the inspector; "I am sent here by
government to visit the prison, and hear the requests of the prisoners."

"Oh, that is different," cried the abbe; "and we shall understand each
other, I hope."

"There, now," whispered the governor, "it is just as I told you."

"Monsieur," continued the prisoner, "I am the Abbe Faria, born at Rome.
I was for twenty years Cardinal Spada's secretary; I was arrested, why,
I know not, toward the beginning of the year 1811; since then I have
demanded my liberty from the Italian and French government."

"Why from the French government?"

"Because I was arrested at Piombino, and I presume that, like Milan and
Florence, Piombino has become the capital of some French department."

"Ah," said the inspector, "you have not the latest news from Italy?"

"My information dates from the day on which I was arrested," returned
the Abbe Faria; "and as the emperor had created the kingdom of Rome for
his infant son, I presume that he has realized the dream of Machiavelli
and Caesar Borgia, which was to make Italy a united kingdom."

"Monsieur," returned the inspector, "providence has changed this
gigantic plan you advocate so warmly."

"It is the only means of rendering Italy strong, happy, and
independent."

"Very possibly; only I am not come to discuss politics, but to inquire
if you have anything to ask or to complain of."

"The food is the same as in other prisons,--that is, very bad; the
lodging is very unhealthful, but, on the whole, passable for a dungeon;
but it is not that which I wish to speak of, but a secret I have to
reveal of the greatest importance."

"We are coming to the point," whispered the governor.

"It is for that reason I am delighted to see you," continued the abbe,
"although you have disturbed me in a most important calculation, which,
if it succeeded, would possibly change Newton's system. Could you allow
me a few words in private."

"What did I tell you?" said the governor.

"You knew him," returned the inspector with a smile.

"What you ask is impossible, monsieur," continued he, addressing Faria.

"But," said the abbe, "I would speak to you of a large sum, amounting to
five millions."

"The very sum you named," whispered the inspector in his turn.

"However," continued Faria, seeing that the inspector was about to
depart, "it is not absolutely necessary for us to be alone; the governor
can be present."

"Unfortunately," said the governor, "I know beforehand what you are
about to say; it concerns your treasures, does it not?" Faria fixed his
eyes on him with an expression that would have convinced any one else of
his sanity.

"Of course," said he; "of what else should I speak?"

"Mr. Inspector," continued the governor, "I can tell you the story as
well as he, for it has been dinned in my ears for the last four or five
years."

"That proves," returned the abbe, "that you are like those of Holy Writ,
who having ears hear not, and having eyes see not."

"My dear sir, the government is rich and does not want your treasures,"
replied the inspector; "keep them until you are liberated." The abbe's
eyes glistened; he seized the inspector's hand.

"But what if I am not liberated," cried he, "and am detained here until
my death? this treasure will be lost. Had not government better profit
by it? I will offer six millions, and I will content myself with the
rest, if they will only give me my liberty."

"On my word," said the inspector in a low tone, "had I not been told
beforehand that this man was mad, I should believe what he says."

"I am not mad," replied Faria, with that acuteness of hearing peculiar
to prisoners. "The treasure I speak of really exists, and I offer to
sign an agreement with you, in which I promise to lead you to the spot
where you shall dig; and if I deceive you, bring me here again,--I ask
no more."

The governor laughed. "Is the spot far from here?"

"A hundred leagues."

"It is not ill-planned," said the governor. "If all the prisoners took
it into their heads to travel a hundred leagues, and their guardians
consented to accompany them, they would have a capital chance of
escaping."

"The scheme is well known," said the inspector; "and the abbe's plan has
not even the merit of originality."

Then turning to Faria--"I inquired if you are well fed?" said he.

"Swear to me," replied Faria, "to free me if what I tell you prove true,
and I will stay here while you go to the spot."

"Are you well fed?" repeated the inspector.

"Monsieur, you run no risk, for, as I told you, I will stay here; so
there is no chance of my escaping."

"You do not reply to my question," replied the inspector impatiently.

"Nor you to mine," cried the abbe. "You will not accept my gold; I will
keep it for myself. You refuse me my liberty; God will give it me." And
the abbe, casting away his coverlet, resumed his place, and continued
his calculations.

"What is he doing there?" said the inspector.

"Counting his treasures," replied the governor.

Faria replied to this sarcasm with a glance of profound contempt. They
went out. The turnkey closed the door behind them.

"He was wealthy once, perhaps?" said the inspector.

"Or dreamed he was, and awoke mad."

"After all," said the inspector, "if he had been rich, he would not have
been here." So the matter ended for the Abbe Faria. He remained in his
cell, and this visit only increased the belief in his insanity.

Caligula or Nero, those treasure-seekers, those desirers of the
impossible, would have accorded to the poor wretch, in exchange for his
wealth, the liberty he so earnestly prayed for. But the kings of modern
times, restrained by the limits of mere probability, have neither
courage nor desire. They fear the ear that hears their orders, and the
eye that scrutinizes their actions. Formerly they believed themselves
sprung from Jupiter, and shielded by their birth; but nowadays they are
not inviolable.

It has always been against the policy of despotic governments to suffer
the victims of their persecutions to reappear. As the Inquisition rarely
allowed its victims to be seen with their limbs distorted and their
flesh lacerated by torture, so madness is always concealed in its cell,
from whence, should it depart, it is conveyed to some gloomy hospital,
where the doctor has no thought for man or mind in the mutilated being
the jailer delivers to him. The very madness of the Abbe Faria, gone mad
in prison, condemned him to perpetual captivity.

The inspector kept his word with Dantes; he examined the register, and
found the following note concerning him:--

Edmond Dantes:

Violent Bonapartist; took an active part in the return from Elba.

The greatest watchfulness and care to be exercised.

This note was in a different hand from the rest, which showed that it
had been added since his confinement. The inspector could not contend
against this accusation; he simply wrote,--"Nothing to be done."

This visit had infused new vigor into Dantes; he had, till then,
forgotten the date; but now, with a fragment of plaster, he wrote the
date, 30th July, 1816, and made a mark every day, in order not to lose
his reckoning again. Days and weeks passed away, then months--Dantes
still waited; he at first expected to be freed in a fortnight. This
fortnight expired, he decided that the inspector would do nothing until
his return to Paris, and that he would not reach there until his circuit
was finished, he therefore fixed three months; three months passed
away, then six more. Finally ten months and a half had gone by and
no favorable change had taken place, and Dantes began to fancy the
inspector's visit but a dream, an illusion of the brain.

At the expiration of a year the governor was transferred; he had
obtained charge of the fortress at Ham. He took with him several of his
subordinates, and amongst them Dantes' jailer. A new governor arrived;
it would have been too tedious to acquire the names of the prisoners;
he learned their numbers instead. This horrible place contained fifty
cells; their inhabitants were designated by the numbers of their cell,
and the unhappy young man was no longer called Edmond Dantes--he was now
number 34.

 

 

Chapter 15. Number 34 and Number 27.

Dantes passed through all the stages of torture natural to prisoners in
suspense. He was sustained at first by that pride of conscious innocence
which is the sequence to hope; then he began to doubt his own innocence,
which justified in some measure the governor's belief in his mental
alienation; and then, relaxing his sentiment of pride, he addressed his
supplications, not to God, but to man. God is always the last resource.
Unfortunates, who ought to begin with God, do not have any hope in him
till they have exhausted all other means of deliverance.

Dantes asked to be removed from his present dungeon into another; for
a change, however disadvantageous, was still a change, and would afford
him some amusement. He entreated to be allowed to walk about, to have
fresh air, books, and writing materials. His requests were not granted,
but he went on asking all the same. He accustomed himself to speaking to
the new jailer, although the latter was, if possible, more taciturn
than the old one; but still, to speak to a man, even though mute, was
something. Dantes spoke for the sake of hearing his own voice; he had
tried to speak when alone, but the sound of his voice terrified him.
Often, before his captivity, Dantes' mind had revolted at the idea of
assemblages of prisoners, made up of thieves, vagabonds, and murderers.
He now wished to be amongst them, in order to see some other face
besides that of his jailer; he sighed for the galleys, with the infamous
costume, the chain, and the brand on the shoulder. The galley-slaves
breathed the fresh air of heaven, and saw each other. They were very
happy. He besought the jailer one day to let him have a companion, were
it even the mad abbe.

The jailer, though rough and hardened by the constant sight of so much
suffering, was yet a man. At the bottom of his heart he had often had a
feeling of pity for this unhappy young man who suffered so; and he laid
the request of number 34 before the governor; but the latter sapiently
imagined that Dantes wished to conspire or attempt an escape, and
refused his request. Dantes had exhausted all human resources, and he
then turned to God.

All the pious ideas that had been so long forgotten, returned; he
recollected the prayers his mother had taught him, and discovered a new
meaning in every word; for in prosperity prayers seem but a mere
medley of words, until misfortune comes and the unhappy sufferer first
understands the meaning of the sublime language in which he invokes the
pity of heaven! He prayed, and prayed aloud, no longer terrified at
the sound of his own voice, for he fell into a sort of ecstasy. He
laid every action of his life before the Almighty, proposed tasks to
accomplish, and at the end of every prayer introduced the entreaty
oftener addressed to man than to God: "Forgive us our trespasses as
we forgive them that trespass against us." Yet in spite of his earnest
prayers, Dantes remained a prisoner.

Then gloom settled heavily upon him. Dantes was a man of great
simplicity of thought, and without education; he could not, therefore,
in the solitude of his dungeon, traverse in mental vision the history of
the ages, bring to life the nations that had perished, and rebuild the
ancient cities so vast and stupendous in the light of the imagination,
and that pass before the eye glowing with celestial colors in Martin's
Babylonian pictures. He could not do this, he whose past life was so
short, whose present so melancholy, and his future so doubtful. Nineteen
years of light to reflect upon in eternal darkness! No distraction could
come to his aid; his energetic spirit, that would have exalted in thus
revisiting the past, was imprisoned like an eagle in a cage. He clung to
one idea--that of his happiness, destroyed, without apparent cause,
by an unheard-of fatality; he considered and reconsidered this idea,
devoured it (so to speak), as the implacable Ugolino devours the skull
of Archbishop Roger in the Inferno of Dante.

Rage supplanted religious fervor. Dantes uttered blasphemies that made
his jailer recoil with horror, dashed himself furiously against the
walls of his prison, wreaked his anger upon everything, and chiefly upon
himself, so that the least thing,--a grain of sand, a straw, or a breath
of air that annoyed him, led to paroxysms of fury. Then the letter that
Villefort had showed to him recurred to his mind, and every line gleamed
forth in fiery letters on the wall like the mene tekel upharsin of
Belshazzar. He told himself that it was the enmity of man, and not the
vengeance of heaven, that had thus plunged him into the deepest misery.
He consigned his unknown persecutors to the most horrible tortures he
could imagine, and found them all insufficient, because after torture
came death, and after death, if not repose, at least the boon of
unconsciousness.

By dint of constantly dwelling on the idea that tranquillity was death,
and if punishment were the end in view other tortures than death must be
invented, he began to reflect on suicide. Unhappy he, who, on the brink
of misfortune, broods over ideas like these!

Before him is a dead sea that stretches in azure calm before the eye;
but he who unwarily ventures within its embrace finds himself struggling
with a monster that would drag him down to perdition. Once thus
ensnared, unless the protecting hand of God snatch him thence, all is
over, and his struggles but tend to hasten his destruction. This state
of mental anguish is, however, less terrible than the sufferings that
precede or the punishment that possibly will follow. There is a sort of
consolation at the contemplation of the yawning abyss, at the bottom of
which lie darkness and obscurity.

Edmond found some solace in these ideas. All his sorrows, all his
sufferings, with their train of gloomy spectres, fled from his cell when
the angel of death seemed about to enter. Dantes reviewed his past
life with composure, and, looking forward with terror to his future
existence, chose that middle line that seemed to afford him a refuge.

"Sometimes," said he, "in my voyages, when I was a man and commanded
other men, I have seen the heavens overcast, the sea rage and foam, the
storm arise, and, like a monstrous bird, beating the two horizons with
its wings. Then I felt that my vessel was a vain refuge, that trembled
and shook before the tempest. Soon the fury of the waves and the sight
of the sharp rocks announced the approach of death, and death then
terrified me, and I used all my skill and intelligence as a man and a
sailor to struggle against the wrath of God. But I did so because I was
happy, because I had not courted death, because to be cast upon a bed
of rocks and seaweed seemed terrible, because I was unwilling that I, a
creature made for the service of God, should serve for food to the gulls
and ravens. But now it is different; I have lost all that bound me to
life, death smiles and invites me to repose; I die after my own manner,
I die exhausted and broken-spirited, as I fall asleep when I have paced
three thousand times round my cell."

No sooner had this idea taken possession of him than he became more
composed, arranged his couch to the best of his power, ate little and
slept less, and found existence almost supportable, because he felt that
he could throw it off at pleasure, like a worn-out garment. Two methods
of self-destruction were at his disposal. He could hang himself with his
handkerchief to the window bars, or refuse food and die of starvation.
But the first was repugnant to him. Dantes had always entertained the
greatest horror of pirates, who are hung up to the yard-arm; he would
not die by what seemed an infamous death. He resolved to adopt the
second, and began that day to carry out his resolve. Nearly four years
had passed away; at the end of the second he had ceased to mark the
lapse of time.

Dantes said, "I wish to die," and had chosen the manner of his death,
and fearful of changing his mind, he had taken an oath to die. "When my
morning and evening meals are brought," thought he, "I will cast them
out of the window, and they will think that I have eaten them."

He kept his word; twice a day he cast out, through the barred aperture,
the provisions his jailer brought him--at first gayly, then with
deliberation, and at last with regret. Nothing but the recollection
of his oath gave him strength to proceed. Hunger made viands once
repugnant, now acceptable; he held the plate in his hand for an hour
at a time, and gazed thoughtfully at the morsel of bad meat, of tainted
fish, of black and mouldy bread. It was the last yearning for life
contending with the resolution of despair; then his dungeon seemed less
sombre, his prospects less desperate. He was still young--he was
only four or five and twenty--he had nearly fifty years to live. What
unforseen events might not open his prison door, and restore him to
liberty? Then he raised to his lips the repast that, like a voluntary
Tantalus, he refused himself; but he thought of his oath, and he
would not break it. He persisted until, at last, he had not sufficient
strength to rise and cast his supper out of the loophole. The next
morning he could not see or hear; the jailer feared he was dangerously
ill. Edmond hoped he was dying.

Thus the day passed away. Edmond felt a sort of stupor creeping over him
which brought with it a feeling almost of content; the gnawing pain at
his stomach had ceased; his thirst had abated; when he closed his eyes
he saw myriads of lights dancing before them like the will-o'-the-wisps
that play about the marshes. It was the twilight of that mysterious
country called Death!

Suddenly, about nine o'clock in the evening, Edmond heard a hollow sound
in the wall against which he was lying.

So many loathsome animals inhabited the prison, that their noise did
not, in general, awake him; but whether abstinence had quickened his
faculties, or whether the noise was really louder than usual, Edmond
raised his head and listened. It was a continual scratching, as if made
by a huge claw, a powerful tooth, or some iron instrument attacking the
stones.

Although weakened, the young man's brain instantly responded to the idea
that haunts all prisoners--liberty! It seemed to him that heaven had
at length taken pity on him, and had sent this noise to warn him on the
very brink of the abyss. Perhaps one of those beloved ones he had so
often thought of was thinking of him, and striving to diminish the
distance that separated them.

No, no, doubtless he was deceived, and it was but one of those dreams
that forerun death!

Edmond still heard the sound. It lasted nearly three hours; he then
heard a noise of something falling, and all was silent.

Some hours afterwards it began again, nearer and more distinct. Edmond
was intensely interested. Suddenly the jailer entered.

For a week since he had resolved to die, and during the four days that
he had been carrying out his purpose, Edmond had not spoken to the
attendant, had not answered him when he inquired what was the matter
with him, and turned his face to the wall when he looked too curiously
at him; but now the jailer might hear the noise and put an end to
it, and so destroy a ray of something like hope that soothed his last
moments.

The jailer brought him his breakfast. Dantes raised himself up and began
to talk about everything; about the bad quality of the food, about the
coldness of his dungeon, grumbling and complaining, in order to have an
excuse for speaking louder, and wearying the patience of his jailer,
who out of kindness of heart had brought broth and white bread for his
prisoner.

Fortunately, he fancied that Dantes was delirious; and placing the food
on the rickety table, he withdrew. Edmond listened, and the sound became
more and more distinct.

"There can be no doubt about it," thought he; "it is some prisoner who
is striving to obtain his freedom. Oh, if I were only there to help
him!" Suddenly another idea took possession of his mind, so used to
misfortune, that it was scarcely capable of hope--the idea that the
noise was made by workmen the governor had ordered to repair the
neighboring dungeon.

It was easy to ascertain this; but how could he risk the question? It
was easy to call his jailer's attention to the noise, and watch his
countenance as he listened; but might he not by this means destroy
hopes far more important than the short-lived satisfaction of his own
curiosity? Unfortunately, Edmond's brain was still so feeble that he
could not bend his thoughts to anything in particular.

He saw but one means of restoring lucidity and clearness to his
judgment. He turned his eyes towards the soup which the jailer had
brought, rose, staggered towards it, raised the vessel to his lips, and
drank off the contents with a feeling of indescribable pleasure. He had
often heard that shipwrecked persons had died through having eagerly
devoured too much food. Edmond replaced on the table the bread he was
about to devour, and returned to his couch--he did not wish to die. He
soon felt that his ideas became again collected--he could think, and
strengthen his thoughts by reasoning. Then he said to himself, "I must
put this to the test, but without compromising anybody. If it is a
workman, I need but knock against the wall, and he will cease to work,
in order to find out who is knocking, and why he does so; but as his
occupation is sanctioned by the governor, he will soon resume it. If, on
the contrary, it is a prisoner, the noise I make will alarm him, he will
cease, and not begin again until he thinks every one is asleep."

Edmond rose again, but this time his legs did not tremble, and his sight
was clear; he went to a corner of his dungeon, detached a stone, and
with it knocked against the wall where the sound came. He struck thrice.
At the first blow the sound ceased, as if by magic.

Edmond listened intently; an hour passed, two hours passed, and no sound
was heard from the wall--all was silent there.

Full of hope, Edmond swallowed a few mouthfuls of bread and water,
and, thanks to the vigor of his constitution, found himself well-nigh
recovered.

The day passed away in utter silence--night came without recurrence of
the noise.

"It is a prisoner," said Edmond joyfully. The night passed in perfect
silence. Edmond did not close his eyes.

In the morning the jailer brought him fresh provisions--he had already
devoured those of the previous day; he ate these listening anxiously for
the sound, walking round and round his cell, shaking the iron bars of
the loophole, restoring vigor and agility to his limbs by exercise, and
so preparing himself for his future destiny. At intervals he listened
to learn if the noise had not begun again, and grew impatient at the
prudence of the prisoner, who did not guess he had been disturbed by a
captive as anxious for liberty as himself.

Three days passed--seventy-two long tedious hours which he counted off
by minutes!

At length one evening, as the jailer was visiting him for the last time
that night, Dantes, with his ear for the hundredth time at the wall,
fancied he heard an almost imperceptible movement among the stones. He
moved away, walked up and down his cell to collect his thoughts, and
then went back and listened.

The matter was no longer doubtful. Something was at work on the other
side of the wall; the prisoner had discovered the danger, and had
substituted a lever for a chisel.

Encouraged by this discovery, Edmond determined to assist the
indefatigable laborer. He began by moving his bed, and looked around
for anything with which he could pierce the wall, penetrate the moist
cement, and displace a stone.

He saw nothing, he had no knife or sharp instrument, the window grating
was of iron, but he had too often assured himself of its solidity. All
his furniture consisted of a bed, a chair, a table, a pail, and a jug.
The bed had iron clamps, but they were screwed to the wood, and it would
have required a screw-driver to take them off. The table and chair
had nothing, the pail had once possessed a handle, but that had been
removed.

Dantes had but one resource, which was to break the jug, and with one of
the sharp fragments attack the wall. He let the jug fall on the floor,
and it broke in pieces.

Dantes concealed two or three of the sharpest fragments in his bed,
leaving the rest on the floor. The breaking of his jug was too natural
an accident to excite suspicion. Edmond had all the night to work in,
but in the darkness he could not do much, and he soon felt that he was
working against something very hard; he pushed back his bed, and waited
for day.

All night he heard the subterranean workman, who continued to mine his
way. Day came, the jailer entered. Dantes told him that the jug had
fallen from his hands while he was drinking, and the jailer went
grumblingly to fetch another, without giving himself the trouble to
remove the fragments of the broken one. He returned speedily, advised
the prisoner to be more careful, and departed.

Dantes heard joyfully the key grate in the lock; he listened until the
sound of steps died away, and then, hastily displacing his bed, saw
by the faint light that penetrated into his cell, that he had labored
uselessly the previous evening in attacking the stone instead of
removing the plaster that surrounded it.

The damp had rendered it friable, and Dantes was able to break it
off--in small morsels, it is true, but at the end of half an hour he had
scraped off a handful; a mathematician might have calculated that in
two years, supposing that the rock was not encountered, a passage twenty
feet long and two feet broad, might be formed.

The prisoner reproached himself with not having thus employed the hours
he had passed in vain hopes, prayer, and despondency. During the six
years that he had been imprisoned, what might he not have accomplished?

In three days he had succeeded, with the utmost precaution, in removing
the cement, and exposing the stone-work. The wall was built of rough
stones, among which, to give strength to the structure, blocks of hewn
stone were at intervals imbedded. It was one of these he had uncovered,
and which he must remove from its socket.

Dantes strove to do this with his nails, but they were too weak. The
fragments of the jug broke, and after an hour of useless toil, he
paused.

Was he to be thus stopped at the beginning, and was he to wait inactive
until his fellow workman had completed his task? Suddenly an idea
occurred to him--he smiled, and the perspiration dried on his forehead.

The jailer always brought Dantes' soup in an iron saucepan; this
saucepan contained soup for both prisoners, for Dantes had noticed that
it was either quite full, or half empty, according as the turnkey gave
it to him or to his companion first.

The handle of this saucepan was of iron; Dantes would have given ten
years of his life in exchange for it.

The jailer was accustomed to pour the contents of the saucepan into
Dantes' plate, and Dantes, after eating his soup with a wooden spoon,
washed the plate, which thus served for every day. Now when evening
came Dantes put his plate on the ground near the door; the jailer, as he
entered, stepped on it and broke it.

This time he could not blame Dantes. He was wrong to leave it there, but
the jailer was wrong not to have looked before him.

The jailer, therefore, only grumbled. Then he looked about for something
to pour the soup into; Dantes' entire dinner service consisted of one
plate--there was no alternative.

"Leave the saucepan," said Dantes; "you can take it away when you bring
me my breakfast." This advice was to the jailer's taste, as it spared
him the necessity of making another trip. He left the saucepan.

Dantes was beside himself with joy. He rapidly devoured his food,
and after waiting an hour, lest the jailer should change his mind and
return, he removed his bed, took the handle of the saucepan, inserted
the point between the hewn stone and rough stones of the wall, and
employed it as a lever. A slight oscillation showed Dantes that all
went well. At the end of an hour the stone was extricated from the wall,
leaving a cavity a foot and a half in diameter.

Dantes carefully collected the plaster, carried it into the corner of
his cell, and covered it with earth. Then, wishing to make the best
use of his time while he had the means of labor, he continued to work
without ceasing. At the dawn of day he replaced the stone, pushed his
bed against the wall, and lay down. The breakfast consisted of a piece
of bread; the jailer entered and placed the bread on the table.

"Well, don't you intend to bring me another plate?" said Dantes.

"No," replied the turnkey; "you destroy everything. First you break your
jug, then you make me break your plate; if all the prisoners followed
your example, the government would be ruined. I shall leave you the
saucepan, and pour your soup into that. So for the future I hope you
will not be so destructive."

Dantes raised his eyes to heaven and clasped his hands beneath the
coverlet. He felt more gratitude for the possession of this piece of
iron than he had ever felt for anything. He had noticed, however, that
the prisoner on the other side had ceased to labor; no matter, this was
a greater reason for proceeding--if his neighbor would not come to him,
he would go to his neighbor. All day he toiled on untiringly, and by
the evening he had succeeded in extracting ten handfuls of plaster and
fragments of stone. When the hour for his jailer's visit arrived, Dantes
straightened the handle of the saucepan as well as he could, and placed
it in its accustomed place. The turnkey poured his ration of soup
into it, together with the fish--for thrice a week the prisoners were
deprived of meat. This would have been a method of reckoning time, had
not Dantes long ceased to do so. Having poured out the soup, the turnkey
retired. Dantes wished to ascertain whether his neighbor had really
ceased to work. He listened--all was silent, as it had been for the last
three days. Dantes sighed; it was evident that his neighbor distrusted
him. However, he toiled on all the night without being discouraged; but
after two or three hours he encountered an obstacle. The iron made no
impression, but met with a smooth surface; Dantes touched it, and found
that it was a beam. This beam crossed, or rather blocked up, the hole
Dantes had made; it was necessary, therefore, to dig above or under
it. The unhappy young man had not thought of this. "O my God, my God!"
murmured he, "I have so earnestly prayed to you, that I hoped my prayers
had been heard. After having deprived me of my liberty, after having
deprived me of death, after having recalled me to existence, my God,
have pity on me, and do not let me die in despair!"

"Who talks of God and despair at the same time?" said a voice that
seemed to come from beneath the earth, and, deadened by the distance,
sounded hollow and sepulchral in the young man's ears. Edmond's hair
stood on end, and he rose to his knees.

"Ah," said he, "I hear a human voice." Edmond had not heard any one
speak save his jailer for four or five years; and a jailer is no man
to a prisoner--he is a living door, a barrier of flesh and blood adding
strength to restraints of oak and iron.

"In the name of heaven," cried Dantes, "speak again, though the sound of
your voice terrifies me. Who are you?"

"Who are you?" said the voice.

"An unhappy prisoner," replied Dantes, who made no hesitation in
answering.

"Of what country?"

"A Frenchman."

"Your name?"

"Edmond Dantes."

"Your profession?"

"A sailor."

"How long have you been here?"

"Since the 28th of February, 1815."

"Your crime?"

"I am innocent."

"But of what are you accused?"

"Of having conspired to aid the emperor's return."

"What! For the emperor's return?--the emperor is no longer on the
throne, then?"

"He abdicated at Fontainebleau in 1814, and was sent to the Island
of Elba. But how long have you been here that you are ignorant of all
this?"

"Since 1811."

Dantes shuddered; this man had been four years longer than himself in
prison.

"Do not dig any more," said the voice; "only tell me how high up is your
excavation?"

"On a level with the floor."

"How is it concealed?"

"Behind my bed."

"Has your bed been moved since you have been a prisoner?"

"No."

"What does your chamber open on?"

"A corridor."

"And the corridor?"

"On a court."

"Alas!" murmured the voice.

"Oh, what is the matter?" cried Dantes.

"I have made a mistake owing to an error in my plans. I took the wrong
angle, and have come out fifteen feet from where I intended. I took the
wall you are mining for the outer wall of the fortress."

"But then you would be close to the sea?"

"That is what I hoped."

"And supposing you had succeeded?"

"I should have thrown myself into the sea, gained one of the islands
near here--the Isle de Daume or the Isle de Tiboulen--and then I should
have been safe."

"Could you have swum so far?"

"Heaven would have given me strength; but now all is lost."

"All?"

"Yes; stop up your excavation carefully, do not work any more, and wait
until you hear from me."

"Tell me, at least, who you are?"

"I am--I am No. 27."

"You mistrust me, then," said Dantes. Edmond fancied he heard a bitter
laugh resounding from the depths.

"Oh, I am a Christian," cried Dantes, guessing instinctively that this
man meant to abandon him. "I swear to you by him who died for us that
naught shall induce me to breathe one syllable to my jailers; but I
conjure you do not abandon me. If you do, I swear to you, for I have got
to the end of my strength, that I will dash my brains out against the
wall, and you will have my death to reproach yourself with."

"How old are you? Your voice is that of a young man."

"I do not know my age, for I have not counted the years I have been
here. All I do know is, that I was just nineteen when I was arrested,
the 28th of February, 1815."

"Not quite twenty-six!" murmured the voice; "at that age he cannot be a
traitor."

"Oh, no, no," cried Dantes. "I swear to you again, rather than betray
you, I would allow myself to be hacked in pieces!"

"You have done well to speak to me, and ask for my assistance, for I was
about to form another plan, and leave you; but your age reassures me. I
will not forget you. Wait."

"How long?"

"I must calculate our chances; I will give you the signal."

"But you will not leave me; you will come to me, or you will let me come
to you. We will escape, and if we cannot escape we will talk; you
of those whom you love, and I of those whom I love. You must love
somebody?"

"No, I am alone in the world."

"Then you will love me. If you are young, I will be your comrade; if you
are old, I will be your son. I have a father who is seventy if he yet
lives; I only love him and a young girl called Mercedes. My father has
not yet forgotten me, I am sure, but God alone knows if she loves me
still; I shall love you as I loved my father."

"It is well," returned the voice; "to-morrow."

These few words were uttered with an accent that left no doubt of his
sincerity; Dantes rose, dispersed the fragments with the same precaution
as before, and pushed his bed back against the wall. He then gave
himself up to his happiness. He would no longer be alone. He was,
perhaps, about to regain his liberty; at the worst, he would have a
companion, and captivity that is shared is but half captivity. Plaints
made in common are almost prayers, and prayers where two or three are
gathered together invoke the mercy of heaven.

All day Dantes walked up and down his cell. He sat down occasionally
on his bed, pressing his hand on his heart. At the slightest noise he
bounded towards the door. Once or twice the thought crossed his mind
that he might be separated from this unknown, whom he loved already; and
then his mind was made up--when the jailer moved his bed and stooped to
examine the opening, he would kill him with his water jug. He would be
condemned to die, but he was about to die of grief and despair when this
miraculous noise recalled him to life.

The jailer came in the evening. Dantes was on his bed. It seemed to him
that thus he better guarded the unfinished opening. Doubtless there was
a strange expression in his eyes, for the jailer said, "Come, are you
going mad again?"

Dantes did not answer; he feared that the emotion of his voice would
betray him. The jailer went away shaking his head. Night came; Dantes
hoped that his neighbor would profit by the silence to address him, but
he was mistaken. The next morning, however, just as he removed his bed
from the wall, he heard three knocks; he threw himself on his knees.

"Is it you?" said he; "I am here."

"Is your jailer gone?"

"Yes," said Dantes; "he will not return until the evening; so that we
have twelve hours before us."

"I can work, then?" said the voice.

"Oh, yes, yes; this instant, I entreat you."

In a moment that part of the floor on which Dantes was resting his two
hands, as he knelt with his head in the opening, suddenly gave way; he
drew back smartly, while a mass of stones and earth disappeared in a
hole that opened beneath the aperture he himself had formed. Then from
the bottom of this passage, the depth of which it was impossible to
measure, he saw appear, first the head, then the shoulders, and lastly
the body of a man, who sprang lightly into his cell.

 

 

Chapter 16. A Learned Italian.

Seizing in his arms the friend so long and ardently desired, Dantes
almost carried him towards the window, in order to obtain a better view
of his features by the aid of the imperfect light that struggled through
the grating.

He was a man of small stature, with hair blanched rather by suffering
and sorrow than by age. He had a deep-set, penetrating eye, almost
buried beneath the thick gray eyebrow, and a long (and still black)
beard reaching down to his breast. His thin face, deeply furrowed by
care, and the bold outline of his strongly marked features, betokened a
man more accustomed to exercise his mental faculties than his physical
strength. Large drops of perspiration were now standing on his brow,
while the garments that hung about him were so ragged that one could
only guess at the pattern upon which they had originally been fashioned.

The stranger might have numbered sixty or sixty-five years; but a
certain briskness and appearance of vigor in his movements made it
probable that he was aged more from captivity than the course of time.
He received the enthusiastic greeting of his young acquaintance with
evident pleasure, as though his chilled affections were rekindled and
invigorated by his contact with one so warm and ardent. He thanked him
with grateful cordiality for his kindly welcome, although he must at
that moment have been suffering bitterly to find another dungeon where
he had fondly reckoned on discovering a means of regaining his liberty.

"Let us first see," said he, "whether it is possible to remove the
traces of my entrance here--our future tranquillity depends upon our
jailers being entirely ignorant of it." Advancing to the opening,
he stooped and raised the stone easily in spite of its weight; then,
fitting it into its place, he said,--

"You removed this stone very carelessly; but I suppose you had no tools
to aid you."

"Why," exclaimed Dantes, with astonishment, "do you possess any?"

"I made myself some; and with the exception of a file, I have all that
are necessary,--a chisel, pincers, and lever."

"Oh, how I should like to see these products of your industry and
patience."

"Well, in the first place, here is my chisel." So saying, he displayed a
sharp strong blade, with a handle made of beechwood.

"And with what did you contrive to make that?" inquired Dantes.

"With one of the clamps of my bedstead; and this very tool has sufficed
me to hollow out the road by which I came hither, a distance of about
fifty feet."

"Fifty feet!" responded Dantes, almost terrified.

"Do not speak so loud, young man--don't speak so loud. It frequently
occurs in a state prison like this, that persons are stationed outside
the doors of the cells purposely to overhear the conversation of the
prisoners."

"But they believe I am shut up alone here."

"That makes no difference."

"And you say that you dug your way a distance of fifty feet to get
here?"

"I do; that is about the distance that separates your chamber from mine;
only, unfortunately, I did not curve aright; for want of the necessary
geometrical instruments to calculate my scale of proportion, instead of
taking an ellipsis of forty feet, I made it fifty. I expected, as I told
you, to reach the outer wall, pierce through it, and throw myself into
the sea; I have, however, kept along the corridor on which your chamber
opens, instead of going beneath it. My labor is all in vain, for I find
that the corridor looks into a courtyard filled with soldiers."

"That's true," said Dantes; "but the corridor you speak of only bounds
one side of my cell; there are three others--do you know anything of
their situation?"

"This one is built against the solid rock, and it would take ten
experienced miners, duly furnished with the requisite tools, as many
years to perforate it. This adjoins the lower part of the governor's
apartments, and were we to work our way through, we should only get
into some lock-up cellars, where we must necessarily be recaptured. The
fourth and last side of your cell faces on--faces on--stop a minute, now
where does it face?"

The wall of which he spoke was the one in which was fixed the loophole
by which light was admitted to the chamber. This loophole, which
gradually diminished in size as it approached the outside, to an opening
through which a child could not have passed, was, for better security,
furnished with three iron bars, so as to quiet all apprehensions even
in the mind of the most suspicious jailer as to the possibility of a
prisoner's escape. As the stranger asked the question, he dragged the
table beneath the window.

"Climb up," said he to Dantes. The young man obeyed, mounted on the
table, and, divining the wishes of his companion, placed his back
securely against the wall and held out both hands. The stranger, whom
as yet Dantes knew only by the number of his cell, sprang up with an
agility by no means to be expected in a person of his years, and, light
and steady on his feet as a cat or a lizard, climbed from the table to
the outstretched hands of Dantes, and from them to his shoulders;
then, bending double, for the ceiling of the dungeon prevented him from
holding himself erect, he managed to slip his head between the upper
bars of the window, so as to be able to command a perfect view from top
to bottom.

An instant afterwards he hastily drew back his head, saying, "I thought
so!" and sliding from the shoulders of Dantes as dextrously as he had
ascended, he nimbly leaped from the table to the ground.

"What was it that you thought?" asked the young man anxiously, in his
turn descending from the table.

The elder prisoner pondered the matter. "Yes," said he at length, "it
is so. This side of your chamber looks out upon a kind of open gallery,
where patrols are continually passing, and sentries keep watch day and
night."

"Are you quite sure of that?"

"Certain. I saw the soldier's shape and the top of his musket; that made
me draw in my head so quickly, for I was fearful he might also see me."

"Well?" inquired Dantes.

"You perceive then the utter impossibility of escaping through your
dungeon?"

"Then," pursued the young man eagerly--

"Then," answered the elder prisoner, "the will of God be done!" and
as the old man slowly pronounced those words, an air of profound
resignation spread itself over his careworn countenance. Dantes gazed on
the man who could thus philosophically resign hopes so long and ardently
nourished with an astonishment mingled with admiration.

"Tell me, I entreat of you, who and what you are?" said he at length;
"never have I met with so remarkable a person as yourself."

"Willingly," answered the stranger; "if, indeed, you feel any curiosity
respecting one, now, alas, powerless to aid you in any way."

"Say not so; you can console and support me by the strength of your own
powerful mind. Pray let me know who you really are?"

The stranger smiled a melancholy smile. "Then listen," said he. "I am
the Abbe Faria, and have been imprisoned as you know in this Chateau
d'If since the year 1811; previously to which I had been confined for
three years in the fortress of Fenestrelle. In the year 1811 I was
transferred to Piedmont in France. It was at this period I learned that
the destiny which seemed subservient to every wish formed by Napoleon,
had bestowed on him a son, named king of Rome even in his cradle. I was
very far then from expecting the change you have just informed me of;
namely, that four years afterwards, this colossus of power would be
overthrown. Then who reigns in France at this moment--Napoleon II.?"

"No, Louis XVIII."

"The brother of Louis XVII.! How inscrutable are the ways of
providence--for what great and mysterious purpose has it pleased heaven
to abase the man once so elevated, and raise up him who was so abased?"

Dantes' whole attention was riveted on a man who could thus forget his
own misfortunes while occupying himself with the destinies of others.

"Yes, yes," continued he, "'Twill be the same as it was in England.
After Charles I., Cromwell; after Cromwell, Charles II., and then James
II., and then some son-in-law or relation, some Prince of Orange, a
stadtholder who becomes a king. Then new concessions to the people, then
a constitution, then liberty. Ah, my friend!" said the abbe, turning
towards Dantes, and surveying him with the kindling gaze of a prophet,
"you are young, you will see all this come to pass."

"Probably, if ever I get out of prison!"

"True," replied Faria, "we are prisoners; but I forget this sometimes,
and there are even moments when my mental vision transports me beyond
these walls, and I fancy myself at liberty."

"But wherefore are you here?"

"Because in 1807 I dreamed of the very plan Napoleon tried to realize in
1811; because, like Machiavelli, I desired to alter the political face
of Italy, and instead of allowing it to be split up into a quantity
of petty principalities, each held by some weak or tyrannical ruler,
I sought to form one large, compact, and powerful empire; and, lastly,
because I fancied I had found my Caesar Borgia in a crowned simpleton,
who feigned to enter into my views only to betray me. It was the plan of
Alexander VI. and Clement VII., but it will never succeed now, for they
attempted it fruitlessly, and Napoleon was unable to complete his work.
Italy seems fated to misfortune." And the old man bowed his head.

Dantes could not understand a man risking his life for such matters.
Napoleon certainly he knew something of, inasmuch as he had seen and
spoken with him; but of Clement VII. and Alexander VI. he knew nothing.

"Are you not," he asked, "the priest who here in the Chateau d'If is
generally thought to be--ill?"

"Mad, you mean, don't you?"

"I did not like to say so," answered Dantes, smiling.

"Well, then," resumed Faria with a bitter smile, "let me answer your
question in full, by acknowledging that I am the poor mad prisoner
of the Chateau d'If, for many years permitted to amuse the different
visitors with what is said to be my insanity; and, in all probability,
I should be promoted to the honor of making sport for the children, if
such innocent beings could be found in an abode devoted like this to
suffering and despair."

Dantes remained for a short time mute and motionless; at length he
said,--"Then you abandon all hope of escape?"

"I perceive its utter impossibility; and I consider it impious to
attempt that which the Almighty evidently does not approve."

"Nay, be not discouraged. Would it not be expecting too much to hope to
succeed at your first attempt? Why not try to find an opening in another
direction from that which has so unfortunately failed?"

"Alas, it shows how little notion you can have of all it has cost me to
effect a purpose so unexpectedly frustrated, that you talk of beginning
over again. In the first place, I was four years making the tools I
possess, and have been two years scraping and digging out earth, hard
as granite itself; then what toil and fatigue has it not been to remove
huge stones I should once have deemed impossible to loosen. Whole days
have I passed in these Titanic efforts, considering my labor well repaid
if, by night-time I had contrived to carry away a square inch of this
hard-bound cement, changed by ages into a substance unyielding as the
stones themselves; then to conceal the mass of earth and rubbish I dug
up, I was compelled to break through a staircase, and throw the
fruits of my labor into the hollow part of it; but the well is now so
completely choked up, that I scarcely think it would be possible to add
another handful of dust without leading to discovery. Consider also that
I fully believed I had accomplished the end and aim of my undertaking,
for which I had so exactly husbanded my strength as to make it just hold
out to the termination of my enterprise; and now, at the moment when I
reckoned upon success, my hopes are forever dashed from me. No, I repeat
again, that nothing shall induce me to renew attempts evidently at
variance with the Almighty's pleasure."

Dantes held down his head, that the other might not see how joy at the
thought of having a companion outweighed the sympathy he felt for the
failure of the abbe's plans.

The abbe sank upon Edmond's bed, while Edmond himself remained standing.
Escape had never once occurred to him. There are, indeed, some things
which appear so impossible that the mind does not dwell on them for an
instant. To undermine the ground for fifty feet--to devote three years
to a labor which, if successful, would conduct you to a precipice
overhanging the sea--to plunge into the waves from the height of fifty,
sixty, perhaps a hundred feet, at the risk of being dashed to pieces
against the rocks, should you have been fortunate enough to have escaped
the fire of the sentinels; and even, supposing all these perils past,
then to have to swim for your life a distance of at least three miles
ere you could reach the shore--were difficulties so startling and
formidable that Dantes had never even dreamed of such a scheme,
resigning himself rather to death. But the sight of an old man clinging
to life with so desperate a courage, gave a fresh turn to his ideas, and
inspired him with new courage. Another, older and less strong than he,
had attempted what he had not had sufficient resolution to undertake,
and had failed only because of an error in calculation. This same
person, with almost incredible patience and perseverance, had contrived
to provide himself with tools requisite for so unparalleled an attempt.
Another had done all this; why, then, was it impossible to Dantes? Faria
had dug his way through fifty feet, Dantes would dig a hundred; Faria,
at the age of fifty, had devoted three years to the task; he, who was
but half as old, would sacrifice six; Faria, a priest and savant,
had not shrunk from the idea of risking his life by trying to swim a
distance of three miles to one of the islands--Daume, Rattonneau, or
Lemaire; should a hardy sailer, an experienced diver, like himself,
shrink from a similar task; should he, who had so often for mere
amusement's sake plunged to the bottom of the sea to fetch up the bright
coral branch, hesitate to entertain the same project? He could do it in
an hour, and how many times had he, for pure pastime, continued in the
water for more than twice as long! At once Dantes resolved to follow the
brave example of his energetic companion, and to remember that what has
once been done may be done again.

After continuing some time in profound meditation, the young man
suddenly exclaimed, "I have found what you were in search of!"

Faria started: "Have you, indeed?" cried he, raising his head with quick
anxiety; "pray, let me know what it is you have discovered?"

"The corridor through which you have bored your way from the cell you
occupy here, extends in the same direction as the outer gallery, does it
not?"

"It does."

"And is not above fifteen feet from it?"

"About that."

"Well, then, I will tell you what we must do. We must pierce through the
corridor by forming a side opening about the middle, as it were the top
part of a cross. This time you will lay your plans more accurately; we
shall get out into the gallery you have described; kill the sentinel
who guards it, and make our escape. All we require to insure success is
courage, and that you possess, and strength, which I am not deficient
in; as for patience, you have abundantly proved yours--you shall now see
me prove mine."

"One instant, my dear friend," replied the abbe; "it is clear you do not
understand the nature of the courage with which I am endowed, and what
use I intend making of my strength. As for patience, I consider that I
have abundantly exercised that in beginning every morning the task of
the night before, and every night renewing the task of the day. But
then, young man (and I pray of you to give me your full attention), then
I thought I could not be doing anything displeasing to the Almighty in
trying to set an innocent being at liberty--one who had committed no
offence, and merited not condemnation."

"And have your notions changed?" asked Dantes with much surprise; "do
you think yourself more guilty in making the attempt since you have
encountered me?"

"No; neither do I wish to incur guilt. Hitherto I have fancied myself
merely waging war against circumstances, not men. I have thought it
no sin to bore through a wall, or destroy a staircase; but I cannot so
easily persuade myself to pierce a heart or take away a life." A slight
movement of surprise escaped Dantes.

"Is it possible," said he, "that where your liberty is at stake you can
allow any such scruple to deter you from obtaining it?"

"Tell me," replied Faria, "what has hindered you from knocking down your
jailer with a piece of wood torn from your bedstead, dressing yourself
in his clothes, and endeavoring to escape?"

"Simply the fact that the idea never occurred to me," answered Dantes.

"Because," said the old man, "the natural repugnance to the commission
of such a crime prevented you from thinking of it; and so it ever is
because in simple and allowable things our natural instincts keep us
from deviating from the strict line of duty. The tiger, whose nature
teaches him to delight in shedding blood, needs but the sense of smell
to show him when his prey is within his reach, and by following this
instinct he is enabled to measure the leap necessary to permit him to
spring on his victim; but man, on the contrary, loathes the idea of
blood--it is not alone that the laws of social life inspire him with
a shrinking dread of taking life; his natural construction and
physiological formation"--

Dantes was confused and silent at this explanation of the thoughts which
had unconsciously been working in his mind, or rather soul; for there
are two distinct sorts of ideas, those that proceed from the head and
those that emanate from the heart.

"Since my imprisonment," said Faria, "I have thought over all the most
celebrated cases of escape on record. They have rarely been successful.
Those that have been crowned with full success have been long meditated
upon, and carefully arranged; such, for instance, as the escape of the
Duc de Beaufort from the Chateau de Vincennes, that of the Abbe Dubuquoi
from For l'Eveque; of Latude from the Bastille. Then there are those for
which chance sometimes affords opportunity, and those are the best of
all. Let us, therefore, wait patiently for some favorable moment, and
when it presents itself, profit by it."

"Ah," said Dantes, "you might well endure the tedious delay; you were
constantly employed in the task you set yourself, and when weary with
toil, you had your hopes to refresh and encourage you."

"I assure you," replied the old man, "I did not turn to that source for
recreation or support."

"What did you do then?"

"I wrote or studied."

"Were you then permitted the use of pens, ink, and paper?"

"Oh, no," answered the abbe; "I had none but what I made for myself."

"You made paper, pens and ink?"

"Yes."

Dantes gazed with admiration, but he had some difficulty in believing.
Faria saw this.

"When you pay me a visit in my cell, my young friend," said he, "I will
show you an entire work, the fruits of the thoughts and reflections of
my whole life; many of them meditated over in the shades of the Colosseum
at Rome, at the foot of St. Mark's column at Venice, and on the borders
of the Arno at Florence, little imagining at the time that they would be
arranged in order within the walls of the Chateau d'If. The work I speak
of is called 'A Treatise on the Possibility of a General Monarchy in
Italy,' and will make one large quarto volume."

"And on what have you written all this?"

"On two of my shirts. I invented a preparation that makes linen as
smooth and as easy to write on as parchment."

"You are, then, a chemist?"

"Somewhat; I know Lavoisier, and was the intimate friend of Cabanis."

"But for such a work you must have needed books--had you any?"

"I had nearly five thousand volumes in my library at Rome; but after
reading them over many times, I found out that with one hundred and
fifty well-chosen books a man possesses, if not a complete summary of
all human knowledge, at least all that a man need really know. I devoted
three years of my life to reading and studying these one hundred and
fifty volumes, till I knew them nearly by heart; so that since I have
been in prison, a very slight effort of memory has enabled me to recall
their contents as readily as though the pages were open before me. I
could recite you the whole of Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, Titus
Livius, Tacitus, Strada, Jornandes, Dante, Montaigne, Shakespeare,
Spinoza, Machiavelli, and Bossuet. I name only the most important."

"You are, doubtless, acquainted with a variety of languages, so as to
have been able to read all these?"

"Yes, I speak five of the modern tongues--that is to say, German,
French, Italian, English, and Spanish; by the aid of ancient Greek I
learned modern Greek--I don't speak it so well as I could wish, but I am
still trying to improve myself."

"Improve yourself!" repeated Dantes; "why, how can you manage to do so?"

"Why, I made a vocabulary of the words I knew; turned, returned, and
arranged them, so as to enable me to express my thoughts through
their medium. I know nearly one thousand words, which is all that is
absolutely necessary, although I believe there are nearly one hundred
thousand in the dictionaries. I cannot hope to be very fluent, but I
certainly should have no difficulty in explaining my wants and wishes;
and that would be quite as much as I should ever require."

Stronger grew the wonder of Dantes, who almost fancied he had to do
with one gifted with supernatural powers; still hoping to find some
imperfection which might bring him down to a level with human beings, he
added, "Then if you were not furnished with pens, how did you manage to
write the work you speak of?"

"I made myself some excellent ones, which would be universally preferred
to all others if once known. You are aware what huge whitings are served
to us on maigre days. Well, I selected the cartilages of the heads of
these fishes, and you can scarcely imagine the delight with which
I welcomed the arrival of each Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, as
affording me the means of increasing my stock of pens; for I will freely
confess that my historical labors have been my greatest solace and
relief. While retracing the past, I forget the present; and traversing
at will the path of history I cease to remember that I am myself a
prisoner."

"But the ink," said Dantes; "of what did you make your ink?"

"There was formerly a fireplace in my dungeon," replied Faria, "but it
was closed up long ere I became an occupant of this prison. Still, it
must have been many years in use, for it was thickly covered with a
coating of soot; this soot I dissolved in a portion of the wine brought
to me every Sunday, and I assure you a better ink cannot be desired. For
very important notes, for which closer attention is required, I pricked
one of my fingers, and wrote with my own blood."

"And when," asked Dantes, "may I see all this?"

"Whenever you please," replied the abbe.

"Oh, then let it be directly!" exclaimed the young man.

"Follow me, then," said the abbe, as he re-entered the subterranean
passage, in which he soon disappeared, followed by Dantes.

 

 

Chapter 17. The Abbe's Chamber.

After having passed with tolerable ease through the subterranean
passage, which, however, did not admit of their holding themselves
erect, the two friends reached the further end of the corridor, into
which the abbe's cell opened; from that point the passage became much
narrower, and barely permitted one to creep through on hands and knees.
The floor of the abbe's cell was paved, and it had been by raising one
of the stones in the most obscure corner that Faria had to been able
to commence the laborious task of which Dantes had witnessed the
completion.

As he entered the chamber of his friend, Dantes cast around one eager
and searching glance in quest of the expected marvels, but nothing more
than common met his view.

"It is well," said the abbe; "we have some hours before us--it is now
just a quarter past twelve o'clock." Instinctively Dantes turned round
to observe by what watch or clock the abbe had been able so accurately
to specify the hour.

"Look at this ray of light which enters by my window," said the abbe,
"and then observe the lines traced on the wall. Well, by means of these
lines, which are in accordance with the double motion of the earth, and
the ellipse it describes round the sun, I am enabled to ascertain the
precise hour with more minuteness than if I possessed a watch; for that
might be broken or deranged in its movements, while the sun and earth
never vary in their appointed paths."

This last explanation was wholly lost upon Dantes, who had always
imagined, from seeing the sun rise from behind the mountains and set in
the Mediterranean, that it moved, and not the earth. A double movement
of the globe he inhabited, and of which he could feel nothing, appeared
to him perfectly impossible. Each word that fell from his companion's
lips seemed fraught with the mysteries of science, as worthy of digging
out as the gold and diamonds in the mines of Guzerat and Golconda,
which he could just recollect having visited during a voyage made in his
earliest youth.

"Come," said he to the abbe, "I am anxious to see your treasures."

The abbe smiled, and, proceeding to the disused fireplace, raised,
by the help of his chisel, a long stone, which had doubtless been the
hearth, beneath which was a cavity of considerable depth, serving as a
safe depository of the articles mentioned to Dantes.

"What do you wish to see first?" asked the abbe.

"Oh, your great work on the monarchy of Italy!"

Faria then drew forth from his hiding-place three or four rolls of
linen, laid one over the other, like folds of papyrus. These rolls
consisted of slips of cloth about four inches wide and eighteen long;
they were all carefully numbered and closely covered with writing,
so legible that Dantes could easily read it, as well as make out the
sense--it being in Italian, a language he, as a Provencal, perfectly
understood.

"There," said he, "there is the work complete. I wrote the word finis at
the end of the sixty-eighth strip about a week ago. I have torn up two
of my shirts, and as many handkerchiefs as I was master of, to complete
the precious pages. Should I ever get out of prison and find in all
Italy a printer courageous enough to publish what I have composed, my
literary reputation is forever secured."

"I see," answered Dantes. "Now let me behold the curious pens with which
you have written your work."

"Look!" said Faria, showing to the young man a slender stick about
six inches long, and much resembling the size of the handle of a fine
painting-brush, to the end of which was tied, by a piece of thread, one
of those cartilages of which the abbe had before spoken to Dantes;
it was pointed, and divided at the nib like an ordinary pen. Dantes
examined it with intense admiration, then looked around to see the
instrument with which it had been shaped so correctly into form.

"Ah, yes," said Faria; "the penknife. That's my masterpiece. I made
it, as well as this larger knife, out of an old iron candlestick." The
penknife was sharp and keen as a razor; as for the other knife, it would
serve a double purpose, and with it one could cut and thrust.

Dantes examined the various articles shown to him with the same
attention that he had bestowed on the curiosities and strange tools
exhibited in the shops at Marseilles as the works of the savages in the
South Seas from whence they had been brought by the different trading
vessels.

"As for the ink," said Faria, "I told you how I managed to obtain
that--and I only just make it from time to time, as I require it."

"One thing still puzzles me," observed Dantes, "and that is how you
managed to do all this by daylight?"

"I worked at night also," replied Faria.

"Night!--why, for heaven's sake, are your eyes like cats', that you can
see to work in the dark?"

"Indeed they are not; but God has supplied man with the intelligence
that enables him to overcome the limitations of natural conditions. I
furnished myself with a light."

"You did? Pray tell me how."

"I separated the fat from the meat served to me, melted it, and so made
oil--here is my lamp." So saying, the abbe exhibited a sort of torch
very similar to those used in public illuminations.

"But light?"

"Here are two flints and a piece of burnt linen."

"And matches?"

"I pretended that I had a disorder of the skin, and asked for a little
sulphur, which was readily supplied." Dantes laid the different things
he had been looking at on the table, and stood with his head drooping
on his breast, as though overwhelmed by the perseverance and strength of
Faria's mind.

"You have not seen all yet," continued Faria, "for I did not think it
wise to trust all my treasures in the same hiding-place. Let us shut
this one up." They put the stone back in its place; the abbe sprinkled
a little dust over it to conceal the traces of its having been removed,
rubbed his foot well on it to make it assume the same appearance as the
other, and then, going towards his bed, he removed it from the spot it
stood in. Behind the head of the bed, and concealed by a stone fitting
in so closely as to defy all suspicion, was a hollow space, and in this
space a ladder of cords between twenty-five and thirty feet in length.
Dantes closely and eagerly examined it; he found it firm, solid, and
compact enough to bear any weight.

"Who supplied you with the materials for making this wonderful work?"

"I tore up several of my shirts, and ripped out the seams in the sheets
of my bed, during my three years' imprisonment at Fenestrelle; and when
I was removed to the Chateau d'If, I managed to bring the ravellings
with me, so that I have been able to finish my work here."

"And was it not discovered that your sheets were unhemmed?"

"Oh, no, for when I had taken out the thread I required, I hemmed the
edges over again."

"With what?"

"With this needle," said the abbe, as, opening his ragged vestments, he
showed Dantes a long, sharp fish-bone, with a small perforated eye
for the thread, a small portion of which still remained in it. "I once
thought," continued Faria, "of removing these iron bars, and letting
myself down from the window, which, as you see, is somewhat wider than
yours, although I should have enlarged it still more preparatory to my
flight; however, I discovered that I should merely have dropped into a
sort of inner court, and I therefore renounced the project altogether
as too full of risk and danger. Nevertheless, I carefully preserved my
ladder against one of those unforeseen opportunities of which I spoke
just now, and which sudden chance frequently brings about." While
affecting to be deeply engaged in examining the ladder, the mind of
Dantes was, in fact, busily occupied by the idea that a person so
intelligent, ingenious, and clear-sighted as the abbe might probably be
able to solve the dark mystery of his own misfortunes, where he himself
could see nothing.

"What are you thinking of?" asked the abbe smilingly, imputing the deep
abstraction in which his visitor was plunged to the excess of his awe
and wonder.

"I was reflecting, in the first place," replied Dantes, "upon the
enormous degree of intelligence and ability you must have employed to
reach the high perfection to which you have attained. What would you not
have accomplished if you had been free?"

"Possibly nothing at all; the overflow of my brain would probably, in a
state of freedom, have evaporated in a thousand follies; misfortune
is needed to bring to light the treasures of the human intellect.
Compression is needed to explode gunpowder. Captivity has brought
my mental faculties to a focus; and you are well aware that from
the collision of clouds electricity is produced--from electricity,
lightning, from lightning, illumination."

"No," replied Dantes. "I know nothing. Some of your words are to me
quite empty of meaning. You must be blessed indeed to possess the
knowledge you have."

The abbe smiled. "Well," said he, "but you had another subject for your
thoughts; did you not say so just now?"

"I did!"

"You have told me as yet but one of them--let me hear the other."

"It was this,--that while you had related to me all the particulars of
your past life, you were perfectly unacquainted with mine."

"Your life, my young friend, has not been of sufficient length to admit
of your having passed through any very important events."

"It has been long enough to inflict on me a great and undeserved
misfortune. I would fain fix the source of it on man that I may no
longer vent reproaches upon heaven."

"Then you profess ignorance of the crime with which you are charged?"

"I do, indeed; and this I swear by the two beings most dear to me upon
earth,--my father and Mercedes."

"Come," said the abbe, closing his hiding-place, and pushing the bed
back to its original situation, "let me hear your story."

Dantes obeyed, and commenced what he called his history, but which
consisted only of the account of a voyage to India, and two or three
voyages to the Levant until he arrived at the recital of his last
cruise, with the death of Captain Leclere, and the receipt of a packet
to be delivered by himself to the grand marshal; his interview with that
personage, and his receiving, in place of the packet brought, a letter
addressed to a Monsieur Noirtier--his arrival at Marseilles, and
interview with his father--his affection for Mercedes, and their nuptual
feast--his arrest and subsequent examination, his temporary detention at
the Palais de Justice, and his final imprisonment in the Chateau d'If.
From this point everything was a blank to Dantes--he knew nothing
more, not even the length of time he had been imprisoned. His recital
finished, the abbe reflected long and earnestly.

"There is," said he, at the end of his meditations, "a clever maxim,
which bears upon what I was saying to you some little while ago, and
that is, that unless wicked ideas take root in a naturally depraved
mind, human nature, in a right and wholesome state, revolts at crime.
Still, from an artificial civilization have originated wants, vices, and
false tastes, which occasionally become so powerful as to stifle
within us all good feelings, and ultimately to lead us into guilt and
wickedness. From this view of things, then, comes the axiom that if you
visit to discover the author of any bad action, seek first to discover
the person to whom the perpetration of that bad action could be in any
way advantageous. Now, to apply it in your case,--to whom could your
disappearance have been serviceable?"

"To no one, by heaven! I was a very insignificant person."

"Do not speak thus, for your reply evinces neither logic nor philosophy;
everything is relative, my dear young friend, from the king who stands
in the way of his successor, to the employee who keeps his rival out of
a place. Now, in the event of the king's death, his successor inherits a
crown,--when the employee dies, the supernumerary steps into his shoes,
and receives his salary of twelve thousand livres. Well, these twelve
thousand livres are his civil list, and are as essential to him as the
twelve millions of a king. Every one, from the highest to the lowest
degree, has his place on the social ladder, and is beset by stormy
passions and conflicting interests, as in Descartes' theory of pressure
and impulsion. But these forces increase as we go higher, so that we
have a spiral which in defiance of reason rests upon the apex and not on
the base. Now let us return to your particular world. You say you were
on the point of being made captain of the Pharaon?"

"Yes."

"And about to become the husband of a young and lovely girl?"

"Yes."

"Now, could any one have had any interest in preventing the
accomplishment of these two things? But let us first settle the question
as to its being the interest of any one to hinder you from being captain
of the Pharaon. What say you?"

"I cannot believe such was the case. I was generally liked on board, and
had the sailors possessed the right of selecting a captain themselves, I
feel convinced their choice would have fallen on me. There was only one
person among the crew who had any feeling of ill-will towards me. I had
quarelled with him some time previously, and had even challenged him to
fight me; but he refused."

"Now we are getting on. And what was this man's name?"

"Danglars."

"What rank did he hold on board?"

"He was supercargo."

"And had you been captain, should you have retained him in his
employment?"

"Not if the choice had remained with me, for I had frequently observed
inaccuracies in his accounts."

"Good again! Now then, tell me, was any person present during your last
conversation with Captain Leclere?"

"No; we were quite alone."

"Could your conversation have been overheard by any one?"

"It might, for the cabin door was open--and--stay; now I
recollect,--Danglars himself passed by just as Captain Leclere was
giving me the packet for the grand marshal."

"That's better," cried the abbe; "now we are on the right scent. Did you
take anybody with you when you put into the port of Elba?"

"Nobody."

"Somebody there received your packet, and gave you a letter in place of
it, I think?"

"Yes; the grand marshal did."

"And what did you do with that letter?"

"Put it into my portfolio."

"You had your portfolio with you, then? Now, how could a sailor find
room in his pocket for a portfolio large enough to contain an official
letter?"

"You are right; it was left on board."

"Then it was not till your return to the ship that you put the letter in
the portfolio?"

"No."

"And what did you do with this same letter while returning from
Porto-Ferrajo to the vessel?"

"I carried it in my hand."

"So that when you went on board the Pharaon, everybody could see that
you held a letter in your hand?"

"Yes."

"Danglars, as well as the rest?"

"Danglars, as well as others."

"Now, listen to me, and try to recall every circumstance attending your
arrest. Do you recollect the words in which the information against you
was formulated?"

"Oh yes, I read it over three times, and the words sank deeply into my
memory."

"Repeat it to me."

Dantes paused a moment, then said, "This is it, word for word: 'The
king's attorney is informed by a friend to the throne and religion,
that one Edmond Dantes, mate on board the Pharaon, this day arrived
from Smyrna, after having touched at Naples and Porto-Ferrajo, has been
intrusted by Murat with a packet for the usurper; again, by the usurper,
with a letter for the Bonapartist Club in Paris. This proof of his guilt
may be procured by his immediate arrest, as the letter will be found
either about his person, at his father's residence, or in his cabin
on board the Pharaon.'" The abbe shrugged his shoulders. "The thing is
clear as day," said he; "and you must have had a very confiding nature,
as well as a good heart, not to have suspected the origin of the whole
affair."

"Do you really think so? Ah, that would indeed be infamous."

"How did Danglars usually write?"

"In a handsome, running hand."

"And how was the anonymous letter written?"

"Backhanded." Again the abbe smiled. "Disguised."

"It was very boldly written, if disguised."

"Stop a bit," said the abbe, taking up what he called his pen, and,
after dipping it into the ink, he wrote on a piece of prepared linen,
with his left hand, the first two or three words of the accusation.
Dantes drew back, and gazed on the abbe with a sensation almost
amounting to terror.

"How very astonishing!" cried he at length. "Why your writing exactly
resembles that of the accusation."

"Simply because that accusation had been written with the left hand; and
I have noticed that"--

"What?"

"That while the writing of different persons done with the right hand
varies, that performed with the left hand is invariably uniform."

"You have evidently seen and observed everything."

"Let us proceed."

"Oh, yes, yes!"

"Now as regards the second question."

"I am listening."

"Was there any person whose interest it was to prevent your marriage
with Mercedes?"

"Yes; a young man who loved her."

"And his name was"--

"Fernand."

"That is a Spanish name, I think?"

"He was a Catalan."

"You imagine him capable of writing the letter?"

"Oh, no; he would more likely have got rid of me by sticking a knife
into me."

"That is in strict accordance with the Spanish character; an
assassination they will unhesitatingly commit, but an act of cowardice,
never."

"Besides," said Dantes, "the various circumstances mentioned in the
letter were wholly unknown to him."

"You had never spoken of them yourself to any one?"

"To no one."

"Not even to your mistress?"

"No, not even to my betrothed."

"Then it is Danglars."

"I feel quite sure of it now."

"Wait a little. Pray, was Danglars acquainted with Fernand?"

"No--yes, he was. Now I recollect"--

"What?"

"To have seen them both sitting at table together under an arbor at Pere
Pamphile's the evening before the day fixed for my wedding. They were in
earnest conversation. Danglars was joking in a friendly way, but Fernand
looked pale and agitated."

"Were they alone?"

"There was a third person with them whom I knew perfectly well, and who
had, in all probability made their acquaintance; he was a tailor named
Caderousse, but he was very drunk. Stay!--stay!--How strange that it
should not have occurred to me before! Now I remember quite well, that
on the table round which they were sitting were pens, ink, and paper.
Oh, the heartless, treacherous scoundrels!" exclaimed Dantes, pressing
his hand to his throbbing brows.

"Is there anything else I can assist you in discovering, besides the
villany of your friends?" inquired the abbe with a laugh.

"Yes, yes," replied Dantes eagerly; "I would beg of you, who see so
completely to the depths of things, and to whom the greatest mystery
seems but an easy riddle, to explain to me how it was that I underwent
no second examination, was never brought to trial, and, above all, was
condemned without ever having had sentence passed on me?"

"That is altogether a different and more serious matter," responded the
abbe. "The ways of justice are frequently too dark and mysterious to
be easily penetrated. All we have hitherto done in the matter has been
child's play. If you wish me to enter upon the more difficult part of
the business, you must assist me by the most minute information on every
point."

"Pray ask me whatever questions you please; for, in good truth, you see
more clearly into my life than I do myself."

"In the first place, then, who examined you,--the king's attorney, his
deputy, or a magistrate?"

"The deputy."

"Was he young or old?"

"About six or seven and twenty years of age, I should say."

"So," answered the abbe. "Old enough to be ambitions, but too young to
be corrupt. And how did he treat you?"

"With more of mildness than severity."

"Did you tell him your whole story?"

"I did."

"And did his conduct change at all in the course of your examination?"

"He did appear much disturbed when he read the letter that had brought
me into this scrape. He seemed quite overcome by my misfortune."

"By your misfortune?"

"Yes."

"Then you feel quite sure that it was your misfortune he deplored?"

"He gave me one great proof of his sympathy, at any rate."

"And that?"

"He burnt the sole evidence that could at all have criminated me."

"What? the accusation?"

"No; the letter."

"Are you sure?"

"I saw it done."

"That alters the case. This man might, after all, be a greater scoundrel
than you have thought possible."

"Upon my word," said Dantes, "you make me shudder. Is the world filled
with tigers and crocodiles?"

"Yes; and remember that two-legged tigers and crocodiles are more
dangerous than the others."

"Never mind; let us go on."

"With all my heart! You tell me he burned the letter?"

"He did; saying at the same time, 'You see I thus destroy the only proof
existing against you.'"

"This action is somewhat too sublime to be natural."

"You think so?"

"I am sure of it. To whom was this letter addressed?"

"To M. Noirtier, No. 13 Coq-Heron, Paris."

"Now can you conceive of any interest that your heroic deputy could
possibly have had in the destruction of that letter?"

"Why, it is not altogether impossible he might have had, for he made me
promise several times never to speak of that letter to any one, assuring
me he so advised me for my own interest; and, more than this, he
insisted on my taking a solemn oath never to utter the name mentioned in
the address."

"Noirtier!" repeated the abbe; "Noirtier!--I knew a person of that
name at the court of the Queen of Etruria,--a Noirtier, who had been a
Girondin during the Revolution! What was your deputy called?"

"De Villefort!" The abbe burst into a fit of laughter, while Dantes
gazed on him in utter astonishment.

"What ails you?" said he at length.

"Do you see that ray of sunlight?"

"I do."

"Well, the whole thing is more clear to me than that sunbeam is to you.
Poor fellow! poor young man! And you tell me this magistrate expressed
great sympathy and commiseration for you?"

"He did."

"And the worthy man destroyed your compromising letter?"

"Yes."

"And then made you swear never to utter the name of Noirtier?"

"Yes."

"Why, you poor short-sighted simpleton, can you not guess who this
Noirtier was, whose very name he was so careful to keep concealed?
Noirtier was his father."

Had a thunderbolt fallen at the feet of Dantes, or hell opened its
yawning gulf before him, he could not have been more completely
transfixed with horror than he was at the sound of these unexpected
words. Starting up, he clasped his hands around his head as though to
prevent his very brain from bursting, and exclaimed, "His father! his
father!"

"Yes, his father," replied the abbe; "his right name was Noirtier de
Villefort." At this instant a bright light shot through the mind of
Dantes, and cleared up all that had been dark and obscure before.
The change that had come over Villefort during the examination, the
destruction of the letter, the exacted promise, the almost supplicating
tones of the magistrate, who seemed rather to implore mercy than to
pronounce punishment,--all returned with a stunning force to his memory.
He cried out, and staggered against the wall like a drunken man, then
he hurried to the opening that led from the abbe's cell to his own, and
said, "I must be alone, to think over all this."

When he regained his dungeon, he threw himself on his bed, where the
turnkey found him in the evening visit, sitting with fixed gaze and
contracted features, dumb and motionless as a statue. During these hours
of profound meditation, which to him had seemed only minutes, he had
formed a fearful resolution, and bound himself to its fulfilment by a
solemn oath.

Dantes was at length roused from his revery by the voice of Faria,
who, having also been visited by his jailer, had come to invite his
fellow-sufferer to share his supper. The reputation of being out of his
mind, though harmlessly and even amusingly so, had procured for the
abbe unusual privileges. He was supplied with bread of a finer, whiter
quality than the usual prison fare, and even regaled each Sunday with a
small quantity of wine. Now this was a Sunday, and the abbe had come to
ask his young companion to share the luxuries with him. Dantes followed;
his features were no longer contracted, and now wore their usual
expression, but there was that in his whole appearance that bespoke one
who had come to a fixed and desperate resolve. Faria bent on him his
penetrating eye: "I regret now," said he, "having helped you in your
late inquiries, or having given you the information I did."

"Why so?" inquired Dantes.

"Because it has instilled a new passion in your heart--that of
vengeance."

Dantes smiled. "Let us talk of something else," said he.

Again the abbe looked at him, then mournfully shook his head; but in
accordance with Dantes' request, he began to speak of other matters. The
elder prisoner was one of those persons whose conversation, like that
of all who have experienced many trials, contained many useful
and important hints as well as sound information; but it was never
egotistical, for the unfortunate man never alluded to his own sorrows.
Dantes listened with admiring attention to all he said; some of his
remarks corresponded with what he already knew, or applied to the sort
of knowledge his nautical life had enabled him to acquire. A part of the
good abbe's words, however, were wholly incomprehensible to him; but,
like the aurora which guides the navigator in northern latitudes, opened
new vistas to the inquiring mind of the listener, and gave fantastic
glimpses of new horizons, enabling him justly to estimate the delight an
intellectual mind would have in following one so richly gifted as Faria
along the heights of truth, where he was so much at home.

"You must teach me a small part of what you know," said Dantes, "if only
to prevent your growing weary of me. I can well believe that so learned
a person as yourself would prefer absolute solitude to being tormented
with the company of one as ignorant and uninformed as myself. If you
will only agree to my request, I promise you never to mention another
word about escaping." The abbe smiled. "Alas, my boy," said he, "human
knowledge is confined within very narrow limits; and when I have
taught you mathematics, physics, history, and the three or four modern
languages with which I am acquainted, you will know as much as I do
myself. Now, it will scarcely require two years for me to communicate to
you the stock of learning I possess."

"Two years!" exclaimed Dantes; "do you really believe I can acquire all
these things in so short a time?"

"Not their application, certainly, but their principles you may; to
learn is not to know; there are the learners and the learned. Memory
makes the one, philosophy the other."

"But cannot one learn philosophy?"

"Philosophy cannot be taught; it is the application of the sciences to
truth; it is like the golden cloud in which the Messiah went up into
heaven."

"Well, then," said Dantes, "What shall you teach me first? I am in a
hurry to begin. I want to learn."

"Everything," said the abbe. And that very evening the prisoners
sketched a plan of education, to be entered upon the following day.
Dantes possessed a prodigious memory, combined with an astonishing
quickness and readiness of conception; the mathematical turn of his
mind rendered him apt at all kinds of calculation, while his naturally
poetical feelings threw a light and pleasing veil over the dry reality
of arithmetical computation, or the rigid severity of geometry. He
already knew Italian, and had also picked up a little of the Romaic
dialect during voyages to the East; and by the aid of these two
languages he easily comprehended the construction of all the others, so
that at the end of six months he began to speak Spanish, English, and
German. In strict accordance with the promise made to the abbe, Dantes
spoke no more of escape. Perhaps the delight his studies afforded him
left no room for such thoughts; perhaps the recollection that he had
pledged his word (on which his sense of honor was keen) kept him from
referring in any way to the possibilities of flight. Days, even months,
passed by unheeded in one rapid and instructive course. At the end of
a year Dantes was a new man. Dantes observed, however, that Faria, in
spite of the relief his society afforded, daily grew sadder; one thought
seemed incessantly to harass and distract his mind. Sometimes he would
fall into long reveries, sigh heavily and involuntarily, then suddenly
rise, and, with folded arms, begin pacing the confined space of his
dungeon. One day he stopped all at once, and exclaimed, "Ah, if there
were no sentinel!"

"There shall not be one a minute longer than you please," said Dantes,
who had followed the working of his thoughts as accurately as though
his brain were enclosed in crystal so clear as to display its minutest
operations.

"I have already told you," answered the abbe, "that I loathe the idea of
shedding blood."

"And yet the murder, if you choose to call it so, would be simply a
measure of self-preservation."

"No matter! I could never agree to it."

"Still, you have thought of it?"

"Incessantly, alas!" cried the abbe.

"And you have discovered a means of regaining our freedom, have you
not?" asked Dantes eagerly.

"I have; if it were only possible to place a deaf and blind sentinel in
the gallery beyond us."

"He shall be both blind and deaf," replied the young man, with an air of
determination that made his companion shudder.

"No, no," cried the abbe; "impossible!" Dantes endeavored to renew the
subject; the abbe shook his head in token of disapproval, and refused to
make any further response. Three months passed away.

"Are you strong?" the abbe asked one day of Dantes. The young man, in
reply, took up the chisel, bent it into the form of a horseshoe, and
then as readily straightened it.

"And will you engage not to do any harm to the sentry, except as a last
resort?"

"I promise on my honor."

"Then," said the abbe, "we may hope to put our design into execution."

"And how long shall we be in accomplishing the necessary work?"

"At least a year."

"And shall we begin at once?"

"At once."

"We have lost a year to no purpose!" cried Dantes.

"Do you consider the last twelve months to have been wasted?" asked the
abbe.

"Forgive me!" cried Edmond, blushing deeply.

"Tut, tut!" answered the abbe, "man is but man after all, and you are
about the best specimen of the genus I have ever known. Come, let me
show you my plan." The abbe then showed Dantes the sketch he had made
for their escape. It consisted of a plan of his own cell and that of
Dantes, with the passage which united them. In this passage he proposed
to drive a level as they do in mines; this level would bring the two
prisoners immediately beneath the gallery where the sentry kept watch;
once there, a large excavation would be made, and one of the flag-stones
with which the gallery was paved be so completely loosened that at the
desired moment it would give way beneath the feet of the soldier, who,
stunned by his fall, would be immediately bound and gagged by Dantes
before he had power to offer any resistance. The prisoners were then to
make their way through one of the gallery windows, and to let themselves
down from the outer walls by means of the abbe's ladder of cords.
Dantes' eyes sparkled with joy, and he rubbed his hands with delight at
the idea of a plan so simple, yet apparently so certain to succeed.

That very day the miners began their labors, with a vigor and alacrity
proportionate to their long rest from fatigue and their hopes of
ultimate success. Nothing interrupted the progress of the work
except the necessity that each was under of returning to his cell in
anticipation of the turnkey's visits. They had learned to distinguish
the almost imperceptible sound of his footsteps as he descended towards
their dungeons, and happily, never failed of being prepared for his
coming. The fresh earth excavated during their present work, and which
would have entirely blocked up the old passage, was thrown, by degrees
and with the utmost precaution, out of the window in either Faria's
or Dantes' cell, the rubbish being first pulverized so finely that the
night wind carried it far away without permitting the smallest trace to
remain. More than a year had been consumed in this undertaking, the only
tools for which had been a chisel, a knife, and a wooden lever; Faria
still continuing to instruct Dantes by conversing with him, sometimes
in one language, sometimes in another; at others, relating to him the
history of nations and great men who from time to time have risen to
fame and trodden the path of glory.

The abbe was a man of the world, and had, moreover, mixed in the first
society of the day; he wore an air of melancholy dignity which Dantes,
thanks to the imitative powers bestowed on him by nature, easily
acquired, as well as that outward polish and politeness he had before
been wanting in, and which is seldom possessed except by those who
have been placed in constant intercourse with persons of high birth and
breeding. At the end of fifteen months the level was finished, and the
excavation completed beneath the gallery, and the two workmen could
distinctly hear the measured tread of the sentinel as he paced to and
fro over their heads.

Compelled, as they were, to await a night sufficiently dark to favor
their flight, they were obliged to defer their final attempt till that
auspicious moment should arrive; their greatest dread now was lest the
stone through which the sentry was doomed to fall should give way before
its right time, and this they had in some measure provided against by
propping it up with a small beam which they had discovered in the
walls through which they had worked their way. Dantes was occupied in
arranging this piece of wood when he heard Faria, who had remained
in Edmond's cell for the purpose of cutting a peg to secure their
rope-ladder, call to him in a tone indicative of great suffering. Dantes
hastened to his dungeon, where he found him standing in the middle of
the room, pale as death, his forehead streaming with perspiration, and
his hands clinched tightly together.

"Gracious heavens!" exclaimed Dantes, "what is the matter? what has
happened?"

"Quick! quick!" returned the abbe, "listen to what I have to say."
Dantes looked in fear and wonder at the livid countenance of Faria,
whose eyes, already dull and sunken, were surrounded by purple circles,
while his lips were white as those of a corpse, and his very hair seemed
to stand on end.

"Tell me, I beseech you, what ails you?" cried Dantes, letting his
chisel fall to the floor.

"Alas," faltered out the abbe, "all is over with me. I am seized with a
terrible, perhaps mortal illness; I can feel that the paroxysm is
fast approaching. I had a similar attack the year previous to my
imprisonment. This malady admits but of one remedy; I will tell you what
that is. Go into my cell as quickly as you can; draw out one of the feet
that support the bed; you will find it has been hollowed out for the
purpose of containing a small phial you will see there half-filled with
a red-looking fluid. Bring it to me--or rather--no, no!--I may be found
here, therefore help me back to my room while I have the strength to
drag myself along. Who knows what may happen, or how long the attack may
last?"

In spite of the magnitude of the misfortune which thus suddenly
frustrated his hopes, Dantes did not lose his presence of mind, but
descended into the passage, dragging his unfortunate companion with him;
then, half-carrying, half-supporting him, he managed to reach the abbe's
chamber, when he immediately laid the sufferer on his bed.

"Thanks," said the poor abbe, shivering as though his veins were filled
with ice. "I am about to be seized with a fit of catalepsy; when it
comes to its height I shall probably lie still and motionless as though
dead, uttering neither sigh nor groan. On the other hand, the symptoms
may be much more violent, and cause me to fall into fearful convulsions,
foam at the mouth, and cry out loudly. Take care my cries are not heard,
for if they are it is more than probable I should be removed to another
part of the prison, and we be separated forever. When I become quite
motionless, cold, and rigid as a corpse, then, and not before,--be
careful about this,--force open my teeth with the knife, pour from eight
to ten drops of the liquor contained in the phial down my throat, and I
may perhaps revive."

"Perhaps!" exclaimed Dantes in grief-stricken tones.

"Help! help!" cried the abbe, "I--I--die--I"--

So sudden and violent was the fit that the unfortunate prisoner was
unable to complete the sentence; a violent convulsion shook his whole
frame, his eyes started from their sockets, his mouth was drawn on one
side, his cheeks became purple, he struggled, foamed, dashed himself
about, and uttered the most dreadful cries, which, however, Dantes
prevented from being heard by covering his head with the blanket. The
fit lasted two hours; then, more helpless than an infant, and colder and
paler than marble, more crushed and broken than a reed trampled under
foot, he fell back, doubled up in one last convulsion, and became as
rigid as a corpse.

Edmond waited till life seemed extinct in the body of his friend, then,
taking up the knife, he with difficulty forced open the closely
fixed jaws, carefully administered the appointed number of drops, and
anxiously awaited the result. An hour passed away and the old man gave
no sign of returning animation. Dantes began to fear he had delayed too
long ere he administered the remedy, and, thrusting his hands into his
hair, continued gazing on the lifeless features of his friend. At length
a slight color tinged the livid cheeks, consciousness returned to the
dull, open eyeballs, a faint sigh issued from the lips, and the sufferer
made a feeble effort to move.

"He is saved! he is saved!" cried Dantes in a paroxysm of delight.

The sick man was not yet able to speak, but he pointed with evident
anxiety towards the door. Dantes listened, and plainly distinguished the
approaching steps of the jailer. It was therefore near seven o'clock;
but Edmond's anxiety had put all thoughts of time out of his head. The
young man sprang to the entrance, darted through it, carefully drawing
the stone over the opening, and hurried to his cell. He had scarcely
done so before the door opened, and the jailer saw the prisoner seated
as usual on the side of his bed. Almost before the key had turned in the
lock, and before the departing steps of the jailer had died away in
the long corridor he had to traverse, Dantes, whose restless anxiety
concerning his friend left him no desire to touch the food brought him,
hurried back to the abbe's chamber, and raising the stone by pressing
his head against it, was soon beside the sick man's couch. Faria had
now fully regained his consciousness, but he still lay helpless and
exhausted.

"I did not expect to see you again," said he feebly, to Dantes.

"And why not?" asked the young man. "Did you fancy yourself dying?"

"No, I had no such idea; but, knowing that all was ready for flight, I
thought you might have made your escape." The deep glow of indignation
suffused the cheeks of Dantes.

"Without you? Did you really think me capable of that?"

"At least," said the abbe, "I now see how wrong such an opinion would
have been. Alas, alas! I am fearfully exhausted and debilitated by this
attack."

"Be of good cheer," replied Dantes; "your strength will return." And
as he spoke he seated himself near the bed beside Faria, and took his
hands. The abbe shook his head.

"The last attack I had," said he, "lasted but half an hour, and after it
I was hungry, and got up without help; now I can move neither my right
arm nor leg, and my head seems uncomfortable, which shows that there
has been a suffusion of blood on the brain. The third attack will either
carry me off, or leave me paralyzed for life."

"No, no," cried Dantes; "you are mistaken--you will not die! And your
third attack (if, indeed, you should have another) will find you at
liberty. We shall save you another time, as we have done this, only with
a better chance of success, because we shall be able to command every
requisite assistance."

"My good Edmond," answered the abbe, "be not deceived. The attack which
has just passed away, condemns me forever to the walls of a prison. None
can fly from a dungeon who cannot walk."

"Well, we will wait,--a week, a month, two months, if need be,--and
meanwhile your strength will return. Everything is in readiness for our
flight, and we can select any time we choose. As soon as you feel able
to swim we will go."

"I shall never swim again," replied Faria. "This arm is paralyzed; not
for a time, but forever. Lift it, and judge if I am mistaken." The
young man raised the arm, which fell back by its own weight, perfectly
inanimate and helpless. A sigh escaped him.

"You are convinced now, Edmond, are you not?" asked the abbe. "Depend
upon it, I know what I say. Since the first attack I experienced of this
malady, I have continually reflected on it. Indeed, I expected it, for
it is a family inheritance; both my father and grandfather died of it
in a third attack. The physician who prepared for me the remedy I have
twice successfully taken, was no other than the celebrated Cabanis, and
he predicted a similar end for me."

"The physician may be mistaken!" exclaimed Dantes. "And as for your poor
arm, what difference will that make? I can take you on my shoulders, and
swim for both of us."

"My son," said the abbe, "you, who are a sailor and a swimmer, must know
as well as I do that a man so loaded would sink before he had done fifty
strokes. Cease, then, to allow yourself to be duped by vain hopes, that
even your own excellent heart refuses to believe in. Here I shall
remain till the hour of my deliverance arrives, and that, in all human
probability, will be the hour of my death. As for you, who are young
and active, delay not on my account, but fly--go--I give you back your
promise."

"It is well," said Dantes. "Then I shall also remain." Then, rising and
extending his hand with an air of solemnity over the old man's head, he
slowly added, "By the blood of Christ I swear never to leave you while
you live."

Faria gazed fondly on his noble-minded, single-hearted, high-principled
young friend, and read in his countenance ample confirmation of the
sincerity of his devotion and the loyalty of his purpose.

"Thanks," murmured the invalid, extending one hand. "I accept. You may
one of these days reap the reward of your disinterested devotion. But
as I cannot, and you will not, quit this place, it becomes necessary
to fill up the excavation beneath the soldier's gallery; he might, by
chance, hear the hollow sound of his footsteps, and call the attention
of his officer to the circumstance. That would bring about a discovery
which would inevitably lead to our being separated. Go, then, and set
about this work, in which, unhappily, I can offer you no assistance;
keep at it all night, if necessary, and do not return here to-morrow
till after the jailer his visited me. I shall have something of the
greatest importance to communicate to you."

Dantes took the hand of the abbe in his, and affectionately pressed
it. Faria smiled encouragingly on him, and the young man retired to his
task, in the spirit of obedience and respect which he had sworn to show
towards his aged friend.

 

 

Chapter 18. The Treasure.

When Dantes returned next morning to the chamber of his companion in
captivity, he found Faria seated and looking composed. In the ray of
light which entered by the narrow window of his cell, he held open in
his left hand, of which alone, it will be recollected, he retained the
use, a sheet of paper, which, from being constantly rolled into a small
compass, had the form of a cylinder, and was not easily kept open. He
did not speak, but showed the paper to Dantes.

"What is that?" he inquired.

"Look at it," said the abbe with a smile.

"I have looked at it with all possible attention," said Dantes, "and I
only see a half-burnt paper, on which are traces of Gothic characters
inscribed with a peculiar kind of ink."

"This paper, my friend," said Faria, "I may now avow to you, since I
have the proof of your fidelity--this paper is my treasure, of which,
from this day forth, one-half belongs to you."

The sweat started forth on Dantes brow. Until this day and for how
long a time!--he had refrained from talking of the treasure, which had
brought upon the abbe the accusation of madness. With his instinctive
delicacy Edmond had preferred avoiding any touch on this painful chord,
and Faria had been equally silent. He had taken the silence of the old
man for a return to reason; and now these few words uttered by Faria,
after so painful a crisis, seemed to indicate a serious relapse into
mental alienation.

"Your treasure?" stammered Dantes. Faria smiled.

"Yes," said he. "You have, indeed, a noble nature, Edmond, and I see
by your paleness and agitation what is passing in your heart at this
moment. No, be assured, I am not mad. This treasure exists, Dantes, and
if I have not been allowed to possess it, you will. Yes--you. No one
would listen or believe me, because everyone thought me mad; but you,
who must know that I am not, listen to me, and believe me so afterwards
if you will."

"Alas," murmured Edmond to himself, "this is a terrible relapse! There
was only this blow wanting." Then he said aloud, "My dear friend, your
attack has, perhaps, fatigued you; had you not better repose awhile?
To-morrow, if you will, I will hear your narrative; but to-day I wish
to nurse you carefully. Besides," he said, "a treasure is not a thing we
need hurry about."

"On the contrary, it is a matter of the utmost importance, Edmond!"
replied the old man. "Who knows if to-morrow, or the next day after,
the third attack may not come on? and then must not all be over? Yes,
indeed, I have often thought with a bitter joy that these riches, which
would make the wealth of a dozen families, will be forever lost to those
men who persecute me. This idea was one of vengeance to me, and I tasted
it slowly in the night of my dungeon and the despair of my captivity.
But now I have forgiven the world for the love of you; now that I see
you, young and with a promising future,--now that I think of all that
may result to you in the good fortune of such a disclosure, I shudder
at any delay, and tremble lest I should not assure to one as worthy as
yourself the possession of so vast an amount of hidden wealth." Edmond
turned away his head with a sigh.

"You persist in your incredulity, Edmond," continued Faria. "My words
have not convinced you. I see you require proofs. Well, then, read this
paper, which I have never shown to any one."

"To-morrow, my dear friend," said Edmond, desirous of not yielding to
the old man's madness. "I thought it was understood that we should not
talk of that until to-morrow."

"Then we will not talk of it until to-morrow; but read this paper
to-day."

"I will not irritate him," thought Edmond, and taking the paper,
of which half was wanting,--having been burnt, no doubt, by some
accident,--he read:--

"This treasure, which may amount to two... of Roman crowns in the most
distant a... of the second opening wh... declare to belong to him alo...
heir. "25th April, 149-"

"Well!" said Faria, when the young man had finished reading it.

"Why," replied Dantes, "I see nothing but broken lines and unconnected
words, which are rendered illegible by fire."

"Yes, to you, my friend, who read them for the first time; but not
for me, who have grown pale over them by many nights' study, and have
reconstructed every phrase, completed every thought."

"And do you believe you have discovered the hidden meaning?"

"I am sure I have, and you shall judge for yourself; but first listen to
the history of this paper."

"Silence!" exclaimed Dantes. "Steps approach--I go--adieu."

And Dantes, happy to escape the history and explanation which would be
sure to confirm his belief in his friend's mental instability, glided
like a snake along the narrow passage; while Faria, restored by his
alarm to a certain amount of activity, pushed the stone into place with
his foot, and covered it with a mat in order the more effectually to
avoid discovery.

It was the governor, who, hearing of Faria's illness from the jailer,
had come in person to see him.

Faria sat up to receive him, avoiding all gestures in order that he
might conceal from the governor the paralysis that had already half
stricken him with death. His fear was lest the governor, touched
with pity, might order him to be removed to better quarters, and thus
separate him from his young companion. But fortunately this was not the
case, and the governor left him, convinced that the poor madman, for
whom in his heart he felt a kind of affection, was only troubled with a
slight indisposition.

During this time, Edmond, seated on his bed with his head in his hands,
tried to collect his scattered thoughts. Faria, since their first
acquaintance, had been on all points so rational and logical, so
wonderfully sagacious, in fact, that he could not understand how so much
wisdom on all points could be allied with madness. Was Faria deceived as
to his treasure, or was all the world deceived as to Faria?

Dantes remained in his cell all day, not daring to return to his friend,
thinking thus to defer the moment when he should be convinced, once for
all, that the abbe was mad--such a conviction would be so terrible!

But, towards the evening after the hour for the customary visit had gone
by, Faria, not seeing the young man appear, tried to move and get over
the distance which separated them. Edmond shuddered when he heard the
painful efforts which the old man made to drag himself along; his
leg was inert, and he could no longer make use of one arm. Edmond was
obliged to assist him, for otherwise he would not have been able to
enter by the small aperture which led to Dantes' chamber.

"Here I am, pursuing you remorselessly," he said with a benignant smile.
"You thought to escape my munificence, but it is in vain. Listen to me."

Edmond saw there was no escape, and placing the old man on his bed, he
seated himself on the stool beside him.

"You know," said the abbe, "that I was the secretary and intimate friend
of Cardinal Spada, the last of the princes of that name. I owe to this
worthy lord all the happiness I ever knew. He was not rich, although the
wealth of his family had passed into a proverb, and I heard the phrase
very often, 'As rich as a Spada.' But he, like public rumor, lived on
this reputation for wealth; his palace was my paradise. I was tutor to
his nephews, who are dead; and when he was alone in the world, I tried
by absolute devotion to his will, to make up to him all he had done for
me during ten years of unremitting kindness. The cardinal's house had
no secrets for me. I had often seen my noble patron annotating ancient
volumes, and eagerly searching amongst dusty family manuscripts. One day
when I was reproaching him for his unavailing searches, and deploring
the prostration of mind that followed them, he looked at me, and,
smiling bitterly, opened a volume relating to the History of the City of
Rome. There, in the twentieth chapter of the Life of Pope Alexander VI.,
were the following lines, which I can never forget:--

"'The great wars of Romagna had ended; Caesar Borgia, who had completed
his conquest, had need of money to purchase all Italy. The pope had also
need of money to bring matters to an end with Louis XII. King of France,
who was formidable still in spite of his recent reverses; and it was
necessary, therefore, to have recourse to some profitable scheme,
which was a matter of great difficulty in the impoverished condition
of exhausted Italy. His holiness had an idea. He determined to make two
cardinals.'

"By choosing two of the greatest personages of Rome, especially rich
men--this was the return the holy father looked for. In the first place,
he could sell the great appointments and splendid offices which the
cardinals already held; and then he had the two hats to sell besides.
There was a third point in view, which will appear hereafter. The
pope and Caesar Borgia first found the two future cardinals; they were
Giovanni Rospigliosi, who held four of the highest dignities of the
Holy See, and Caesar Spada, one of the noblest and richest of the Roman
nobility; both felt the high honor of such a favor from the pope.
They were ambitious, and Caesar Borgia soon found purchasers for their
appointments. The result was, that Rospigliosi and Spada paid for being
cardinals, and eight other persons paid for the offices the cardinals
held before their elevation, and thus eight hundred thousand crowns
entered into the coffers of the speculators.

"It is time now to proceed to the last part of the speculation. The pope
heaped attentions upon Rospigliosi and Spada, conferred upon them the
insignia of the cardinalate, and induced them to arrange their affairs
and take up their residence at Rome. Then the pope and Caesar Borgia
invited the two cardinals to dinner. This was a matter of dispute
between the holy father and his son. Caesar thought they could make use
of one of the means which he always had ready for his friends, that is
to say, in the first place, the famous key which was given to certain
persons with the request that they go and open a designated cupboard.
This key was furnished with a small iron point,--a negligence on the
part of the locksmith. When this was pressed to effect the opening of
the cupboard, of which the lock was difficult, the person was pricked
by this small point, and died next day. Then there was the ring with the
lion's head, which Caesar wore when he wanted to greet his friends with
a clasp of the hand. The lion bit the hand thus favored, and at the
end of twenty-four hours, the bite was mortal. Caesar proposed to his
father, that they should either ask the cardinals to open the cupboard,
or shake hands with them; but Alexander VI., replied: 'Now as to the
worthy cardinals, Spada and Rospigliosi, let us ask both of them to
dinner, something tells me that we shall get that money back. Besides,
you forget, Caesar, an indigestion declares itself immediately, while
a prick or a bite occasions a delay of a day or two.' Caesar gave
way before such cogent reasoning, and the cardinals were consequently
invited to dinner.

"The table was laid in a vineyard belonging to the pope, near San
Pierdarena, a charming retreat which the cardinals knew very well by
report. Rospigliosi, quite set up with his new dignities, went with a
good appetite and his most ingratiating manner. Spada, a prudent man,
and greatly attached to his only nephew, a young captain of the highest
promise, took paper and pen, and made his will. He then sent word to his
nephew to wait for him near the vineyard; but it appeared the servant
did not find him.

"Spada knew what these invitations meant; since Christianity, so
eminently civilizing, had made progress in Rome, it was no longer a
centurion who came from the tyrant with a message, 'Caesar wills that
you die.' but it was a legate a latere, who came with a smile on his
lips to say from the pope, 'His holiness requests you to dine with him.'

"Spada set out about two o'clock to San Pierdarena. The pope awaited
him. The first sight that attracted the eyes of Spada was that of
his nephew, in full costume, and Caesar Borgia paying him most marked
attentions. Spada turned pale, as Caesar looked at him with an ironical
air, which proved that he had anticipated all, and that the snare was
well spread. They began dinner and Spada was only able to inquire of his
nephew if he had received his message. The nephew replied no; perfectly
comprehending the meaning of the question. It was too late, for he had
already drunk a glass of excellent wine, placed for him expressly by the
pope's butler. Spada at the same moment saw another bottle approach him,
which he was pressed to taste. An hour afterwards a physician declared
they were both poisoned through eating mushrooms. Spada died on the
threshold of the vineyard; the nephew expired at his own door, making
signs which his wife could not comprehend.

"Then Caesar and the pope hastened to lay hands on the heritage, under
presence of seeking for the papers of the dead man. But the inheritance
consisted in this only, a scrap of paper on which Spada had written:--'I
bequeath to my beloved nephew my coffers, my books, and, amongst others,
my breviary with the gold corners, which I beg he will preserve in
remembrance of his affectionate uncle.'

"The heirs sought everywhere, admired the breviary, laid hands on the
furniture, and were greatly astonished that Spada, the rich man, was
really the most miserable of uncles--no treasures--unless they were
those of science, contained in the library and laboratories. That was
all. Caesar and his father searched, examined, scrutinized, but found
nothing, or at least very little; not exceeding a few thousand crowns in
plate, and about the same in ready money; but the nephew had time to say
to his wife before he expired: 'Look well among my uncle's papers; there
is a will.'

"They sought even more thoroughly than the august heirs had done, but it
was fruitless. There were two palaces and a vineyard behind the Palatine
Hill; but in these days landed property had not much value, and the two
palaces and the vineyard remained to the family since they were beneath
the rapacity of the pope and his son. Months and years rolled on.
Alexander VI. died, poisoned,--you know by what mistake. Caesar,
poisoned at the same time, escaped by shedding his skin like a snake;
but the new skin was spotted by the poison till it looked like a
tiger's. Then, compelled to quit Rome, he went and got himself obscurely
killed in a night skirmish, scarcely noticed in history. After the
pope's death and his son's exile, it was supposed that the Spada family
would resume the splendid position they had held before the cardinal's
time; but this was not the case. The Spadas remained in doubtful ease,
a mystery hung over this dark affair, and the public rumor was, that
Caesar, a better politician than his father, had carried off from the
pope the fortune of the two cardinals. I say the two, because Cardinal
Rospigliosi, who had not taken any precaution, was completely despoiled.

"Up to this point," said Faria, interrupting the thread of his
narrative, "this seems to you very meaningless, no doubt, eh?"

"Oh, my friend," cried Dantes, "on the contrary, it seems as if I were
reading a most interesting narrative; go on, I beg of you."

"I will."

"The family began to get accustomed to their obscurity. Years rolled
on, and amongst the descendants some were soldiers, others diplomatists;
some churchmen, some bankers; some grew rich, and some were ruined. I
come now to the last of the family, whose secretary I was--the Count of
Spada. I had often heard him complain of the disproportion of his rank
with his fortune; and I advised him to invest all he had in an annuity.
He did so, and thus doubled his income. The celebrated breviary remained
in the family, and was in the count's possession. It had been handed
down from father to son; for the singular clause of the only will
that had been found, had caused it to be regarded as a genuine relic,
preserved in the family with superstitious veneration. It was an
illuminated book, with beautiful Gothic characters, and so weighty with
gold, that a servant always carried it before the cardinal on days of
great solemnity.

"At the sight of papers of all sorts,--titles, contracts, parchments,
which were kept in the archives of the family, all descending from
the poisoned cardinal, I in my turn examined the immense bundles of
documents, like twenty servitors, stewards, secretaries before me; but
in spite of the most exhaustive researches, I found--nothing. Yet I had
read, I had even written a precise history of the Borgia family, for
the sole purpose of assuring myself whether any increase of fortune had
occurred to them on the death of the Cardinal Caesar Spada; but could
only trace the acquisition of the property of the Cardinal Rospigliosi,
his companion in misfortune.

"I was then almost assured that the inheritance had neither profited the
Borgias nor the family, but had remained unpossessed like the treasures
of the Arabian Nights, which slept in the bosom of the earth under the
eyes of the genie. I searched, ransacked, counted, calculated a thousand
and a thousand times the income and expenditure of the family for three
hundred years. It was useless. I remained in my ignorance, and the
Count of Spada in his poverty. My patron died. He had reserved from
his annuity his family papers, his library, composed of five thousand
volumes, and his famous breviary. All these he bequeathed to me, with a
thousand Roman crowns, which he had in ready money, on condition that I
would have anniversary masses said for the repose of his soul, and that
I would draw up a genealogical tree and history of his house. All this I
did scrupulously. Be easy, my dear Edmond, we are near the conclusion.

"In 1807, a month before I was arrested, and a fortnight after the death
of the Count of Spada, on the 25th of December (you will see presently
how the date became fixed in my memory), I was reading, for the
thousandth time, the papers I was arranging, for the palace was sold
to a stranger, and I was going to leave Rome and settle at Florence,
intending to take with me twelve thousand francs I possessed, my
library, and the famous breviary, when, tired with my constant labor
at the same thing, and overcome by a heavy dinner I had eaten, my
head dropped on my hands, and I fell asleep about three o'clock in the
afternoon. I awoke as the clock was striking six. I raised my head;
I was in utter darkness. I rang for a light, but as no one came, I
determined to find one for myself. It was indeed but anticipating the
simple manners which I should soon be under the necessity of adopting.
I took a wax-candle in one hand, and with the other groped about for a
piece of paper (my match-box being empty), with which I proposed to
get a light from the small flame still playing on the embers. Fearing,
however, to make use of any valuable piece of paper, I hesitated for a
moment, then recollected that I had seen in the famous breviary, which
was on the table beside me, an old paper quite yellow with age, and
which had served as a marker for centuries, kept there by the request of
the heirs. I felt for it, found it, twisted it up together, and putting
it into the expiring flame, set light to it.

"But beneath my fingers, as if by magic, in proportion as the fire
ascended, I saw yellowish characters appear on the paper. I grasped it
in my hand, put out the flame as quickly as I could, lighted my taper
in the fire itself, and opened the crumpled paper with inexpressible
emotion, recognizing, when I had done so, that these characters had been
traced in mysterious and sympathetic ink, only appearing when exposed to
the fire; nearly one-third of the paper had been consumed by the flame.
It was that paper you read this morning; read it again, Dantes, and then
I will complete for you the incomplete words and unconnected sense."

Faria, with an air of triumph, offered the paper to Dantes, who this
time read the following words, traced with an ink of a reddish color
resembling rust:--

"This 25th day of April, 1498, be...
Alexander VI., and fearing that not...
he may desire to become my heir, and re...
and Bentivoglio, who were poisoned,...
my sole heir, that I have bu...
and has visited with me, that is, in...
Island of Monte Cristo, all I poss...
jewels, diamonds, gems; that I alone...
may amount to nearly two mil...
will find on raising the twentieth ro...
creek to the east in a right line. Two open...
in these caves; the treasure is in the furthest a...
which treasure I bequeath and leave en...
as my sole heir.
"25th April, 1498.
"Caes...

"And now," said the abbe, "read this other paper;" and he presented to
Dantes a second leaf with fragments of lines written on it, which Edmond
read as follows:--

"...ing invited to dine by his Holiness
...content with making me pay for my hat,
...serves for me the fate of Cardinals Caprara
...I declare to my nephew, Guido Spada
...ried in a place he knows
...the caves of the small
...essed of ingots, gold, money,
...know of the existence of this treasure, which
...lions of Roman crowns, and which he
...ck from the small
...ings have been made
...ngle in the second;
...tire to him
...ar Spada."

Faria followed him with an excited look, "and now," he said, when he saw
that Dantes had read the last line, "put the two fragments together, and
judge for yourself." Dantes obeyed, and the conjointed pieces gave the
following:--

"This 25th day of April, 1498, be...ing invited to dine by his Holiness
Alexander VI., and fearing that not...content with making me pay for my
hat, he may desire to become my heir, and re...serves for me the fate of
Cardinals Caprara and Bentivoglio, who were poisoned...I declare to my
nephew, Guido Spada, my sole heir, that I have bu...ried in a place
he knows and has visited with me, that is, in...the caves of the small
Island of Monte Cristo all I poss...ssed of ingots, gold, money, jewels,
diamonds, gems; that I alone...know of the existence of this treasure,
which may amount to nearly two mil...lions of Roman crowns, and which he
will find on raising the twentieth ro...ck from the small creek to the
east in a right line. Two open...ings have been made in these caves;
the treasure is in the furthest a...ngle in the second; which treasure I
bequeath and leave en...tire to him as my sole heir. "25th April, 1498.
"Caes...ar Spada."

"Well, do you comprehend now?" inquired Faria.

"It is the declaration of Cardinal Spada, and the will so long sought
for," replied Edmond, still incredulous.

"Yes; a thousand times, yes!"

"And who completed it as it now is?"

"I did. Aided by the remaining fragment, I guessed the rest; measuring
the length of the lines by those of the paper, and divining the hidden
meaning by means of what was in part revealed, as we are guided in a
cavern by the small ray of light above us."

"And what did you do when you arrived at this conclusion?"

"I resolved to set out, and did set out at that very instant, carrying
with me the beginning of my great work, the unity of the Italian
kingdom; but for some time the imperial police (who at this period,
quite contrary to what Napoleon desired so soon as he had a son born to
him, wished for a partition of provinces) had their eyes on me; and my
hasty departure, the cause of which they were unable to guess, having
aroused their suspicions, I was arrested at the very moment I was
leaving Piombino.

"Now," continued Faria, addressing Dantes with an almost paternal
expression, "now, my dear fellow, you know as much as I do myself. If
we ever escape together, half this treasure is yours; if I die here, and
you escape alone, the whole belongs to you."

"But," inquired Dantes hesitating, "has this treasure no more legitimate
possessor in the world than ourselves?"

"No, no, be easy on that score; the family is extinct. The last Count
of Spada, moreover, made me his heir, bequeathing to me this symbolic
breviary, he bequeathed to me all it contained; no, no, make your mind
satisfied on that point. If we lay hands on this fortune, we may enjoy
it without remorse."

"And you say this treasure amounts to"--

"Two millions of Roman crowns; nearly thirteen millions of our
money." [*]

* $2,600,000 in 1894.

"Impossible!" said Dantes, staggered at the enormous amount.

"Impossible? and why?" asked the old man. "The Spada family was one of
the oldest and most powerful families of the fifteenth century; and in
those times, when other opportunities for investment were wanting, such
accumulations of gold and jewels were by no means rare; there are at
this day Roman families perishing of hunger, though possessed of nearly
a million in diamonds and jewels, handed down by entail, and which they
cannot touch." Edmond thought he was in a dream--he wavered between
incredulity and joy.

"I have only kept this secret so long from you," continued Faria, "that
I might test your character, and then surprise you. Had we escaped
before my attack of catalepsy, I should have conducted you to Monte
Cristo; now," he added, with a sigh, "it is you who will conduct me
thither. Well, Dantes, you do not thank me?"

"This treasure belongs to you, my dear friend," replied Dantes, "and to
you only. I have no right to it. I am no relation of yours."

"You are my son, Dantes," exclaimed the old man. "You are the child of
my captivity. My profession condemns me to celibacy. God has sent you
to me to console, at one and the same time, the man who could not be a
father, and the prisoner who could not get free." And Faria extended the
arm of which alone the use remained to him to the young man who threw
himself upon his neck and wept.

 

 

Chapter 19. The Third Attack.

Now that this treasure, which had so long been the object of the abbe's
meditations, could insure the future happiness of him whom Faria really
loved as a son, it had doubled its value in his eyes, and every day he
expatiated on the amount, explaining to Dantes all the good which, with
thirteen or fourteen millions of francs, a man could do in these days to
his friends; and then Dantes' countenance became gloomy, for the oath of
vengeance he had taken recurred to his memory, and he reflected how much
ill, in these times, a man with thirteen or fourteen millions could do
to his enemies.

The abbe did not know the Island of Monte Cristo; but Dantes knew
it, and had often passed it, situated twenty-five miles from Pianosa,
between Corsica and the Island of Elba, and had once touched there. This
island was, always had been, and still is, completely deserted. It is a
rock of almost conical form, which looks as though it had been thrust
up by volcanic force from the depth to the surface of the ocean. Dantes
drew a plan of the island for Faria, and Faria gave Dantes advice as to
the means he should employ to recover the treasure. But Dantes was far
from being as enthusiastic and confident as the old man. It was past a
question now that Faria was not a lunatic, and the way in which he had
achieved the discovery, which had given rise to the suspicion of his
madness, increased Edmond's admiration of him; but at the same time
Dantes could not believe that the deposit, supposing it had ever
existed, still existed; and though he considered the treasure as by no
means chimerical, he yet believed it was no longer there.

However, as if fate resolved on depriving the prisoners of their last
chance, and making them understand that they were condemned to perpetual
imprisonment, a new misfortune befell them; the gallery on the sea
side, which had long been in ruins, was rebuilt. They had repaired it
completely, and stopped up with vast masses of stone the hole Dantes had
partly filled in. But for this precaution, which, it will be remembered,
the abbe had made to Edmond, the misfortune would have been still
greater, for their attempt to escape would have been detected, and they
would undoubtedly have been separated. Thus a new, a stronger, and more
inexorable barrier was interposed to cut off the realization of their
hopes.

"You see," said the young man, with an air of sorrowful resignation, to
Faria, "that God deems it right to take from me any claim to merit for
what you call my devotion to you. I have promised to remain forever with
you, and now I could not break my promise if I would. The treasure will
be no more mine than yours, and neither of us will quit this prison. But
my real treasure is not that, my dear friend, which awaits me beneath
the sombre rocks of Monte Cristo, it is your presence, our living
together five or six hours a day, in spite of our jailers; it is the
rays of intelligence you have elicited from my brain, the languages you
have implanted in my memory, and which have taken root there with all
their philological ramifications. These different sciences that you have
made so easy to me by the depth of the knowledge you possess of them,
and the clearness of the principles to which you have reduced them--this
is my treasure, my beloved friend, and with this you have made me rich
and happy. Believe me, and take comfort, this is better for me than tons
of gold and cases of diamonds, even were they not as problematical as
the clouds we see in the morning floating over the sea, which we take
for terra firma, and which evaporate and vanish as we draw near to
them. To have you as long as possible near me, to hear your eloquent
speech,--which embellishes my mind, strengthens my soul, and makes my
whole frame capable of great and terrible things, if I should ever be
free,--so fills my whole existence, that the despair to which I was just
on the point of yielding when I knew you, has no longer any hold over
me; and this--this is my fortune--not chimerical, but actual. I owe you
my real good, my present happiness; and all the sovereigns of the earth,
even Caesar Borgia himself, could not deprive me of this."

Thus, if not actually happy, yet the days these two unfortunates passed
together went quickly. Faria, who for so long a time had kept silence
as to the treasure, now perpetually talked of it. As he had prophesied
would be the case, he remained paralyzed in the right arm and the left
leg, and had given up all hope of ever enjoying it himself. But he was
continually thinking over some means of escape for his young companion,
and anticipating the pleasure he would enjoy. For fear the letter might
be some day lost or stolen, he compelled Dantes to learn it by heart;
and Dantes knew it from the first to the last word. Then he destroyed
the second portion, assured that if the first were seized, no one would
be able to discover its real meaning. Whole hours sometimes passed while
Faria was giving instructions to Dantes,--instructions which were to
serve him when he was at liberty. Then, once free, from the day and hour
and moment when he was so, he could have but one only thought, which
was, to gain Monte Cristo by some means, and remain there alone under
some pretext which would arouse no suspicions; and once there, to
endeavor to find the wonderful caverns, and search in the appointed
spot,--the appointed spot, be it remembered, being the farthest angle in
the second opening.

In the meanwhile the hours passed, if not rapidly, at least tolerably.
Faria, as we have said, without having recovered the use of his hand
and foot, had regained all the clearness of his understanding, and had
gradually, besides the moral instructions we have detailed, taught
his youthful companion the patient and sublime duty of a prisoner,
who learns to make something from nothing. They were thus perpetually
employed,--Faria, that he might not see himself grow old; Dantes, for
fear of recalling the almost extinct past which now only floated in his
memory like a distant light wandering in the night. So life went on for
them as it does for those who are not victims of misfortune and whose
activities glide along mechanically and tranquilly beneath the eye of
providence.

But beneath this superficial calm there were in the heart of the young
man, and perhaps in that of the old man, many repressed desires, many
stifled sighs, which found vent when Faria was left alone, and when
Edmond returned to his cell. One night Edmond awoke suddenly, believing
that he heard some one calling him. He opened his eyes upon utter
darkness. His name, or rather a plaintive voice which essayed to
pronounce his name, reached him. He sat up in bed and a cold sweat
broke out upon his brow. Undoubtedly the call came from Faria's dungeon.
"Alas," murmured Edmond; "can it be?"

He moved his bed, drew up the stone, rushed into the passage, and
reached the opposite extremity; the secret entrance was open. By the
light of the wretched and wavering lamp, of which we have spoken, Dantes
saw the old man, pale, but yet erect, clinging to the bedstead. His
features were writhing with those horrible symptoms which he already
knew, and which had so seriously alarmed him when he saw them for the
first time.

"Alas, my dear friend," said Faria in a resigned tone, "you understand,
do you not, and I need not attempt to explain to you?"

Edmond uttered a cry of agony, and, quite out of his senses, rushed
towards the door, exclaiming, "Help, help!" Faria had just sufficient
strength to restrain him.

"Silence," he said, "or you are lost. We must now only think of you, my
dear friend, and so act as to render your captivity supportable or your
flight possible. It would require years to do again what I have done
here, and the results would be instantly destroyed if our jailers
knew we had communicated with each other. Besides, be assured, my dear
Edmond, the dungeon I am about to leave will not long remain empty; some
other unfortunate being will soon take my place, and to him you will
appear like an angel of salvation. Perhaps he will be young, strong, and
enduring, like yourself, and will aid you in your escape, while I have
been but a hindrance. You will no longer have half a dead body tied
to you as a drag to all your movements. At length providence has done
something for you; he restores to you more than he takes away, and it
was time I should die."

Edmond could only clasp his hands and exclaim, "Oh, my friend, my
friend, speak not thus!" and then resuming all his presence of mind,
which had for a moment staggered under this blow, and his strength,
which had failed at the words of the old man, he said, "Oh, I have saved
you once, and I will save you a second time!" And raising the foot
of the bed, he drew out the phial, still a third filled with the red
liquor.

"See," he exclaimed, "there remains still some of the magic draught.
Quick, quick! tell me what I must do this time; are there any fresh
instructions? Speak, my friend; I listen."

"There is not a hope," replied Faria, shaking his head, "but no matter;
God wills it that man whom he has created, and in whose heart he has
so profoundly rooted the love of life, should do all in his power to
preserve that existence, which, however painful it may be, is yet always
so dear."

"Oh, yes, yes!" exclaimed Dantes; "and I tell you that I will save you
yet."

"Well, then, try. The cold gains upon me. I feel the blood flowing
towards my brain. These horrible chills, which make my teeth chatter
and seem to dislocate my bones, begin to pervade my whole frame; in five
minutes the malady will reach its height, and in a quarter of an hour
there will be nothing left of me but a corpse."

"Oh!" exclaimed Dantes, his heart wrung with anguish.

"Do as you did before, only do not wait so long, all the springs of
life are now exhausted in me, and death," he continued, looking at his
paralyzed arm and leg, "has but half its work to do. If, after having
made me swallow twelve drops instead of ten, you see that I do not
recover, then pour the rest down my throat. Now lift me on my bed, for I
can no longer support myself."

Edmond took the old man in his arms, and laid him on the bed.

"And now, my dear friend," said Faria, "sole consolation of my wretched
existence,--you whom heaven gave me somewhat late, but still gave me,
a priceless gift, and for which I am most grateful,--at the moment of
separating from you forever, I wish you all the happiness and all the
prosperity you so well deserve. My son, I bless thee!" The young man
cast himself on his knees, leaning his head against the old man's bed.

"Listen, now, to what I say in this my dying moment. The treasure of the
Spadas exists. God grants me the boon of vision unrestricted by time or
space. I see it in the depths of the inner cavern. My eyes pierce the
inmost recesses of the earth, and are dazzled at the sight of so much
riches. If you do escape, remember that the poor abbe, whom all the
world called mad, was not so. Hasten to Monte Cristo--avail yourself
of the fortune--for you have indeed suffered long enough." A violent
convulsion attacked the old man. Dantes raised his head and saw Faria's
eyes injected with blood. It seemed as if a flow of blood had ascended
from the chest to the head.

"Adieu, adieu!" murmured the old man, clasping Edmond's hand
convulsively--"adieu!"

"Oh, no,--no, not yet," he cried; "do not forsake me! Oh, succor him!
Help--help--help!"

"Hush--hush!" murmured the dying man, "that they may not separate us if
you save me!"

"You are right. Oh, yes, yes; be assured I shall save you! Besides,
although you suffer much, you do not seem to be in such agony as you
were before."

"Do not mistake. I suffer less because there is in me less strength to
endure. At your age we have faith in life; it is the privilege of
youth to believe and hope, but old men see death more clearly. Oh, 'tis
here--'tis here--'tis over--my sight is gone--my senses fail! Your hand,
Dantes! Adieu--adieu!" And raising himself by a final effort, in which
he summoned all his faculties, he said,--"Monte Cristo, forget not Monte
Cristo!" And he fell back on the bed. The crisis was terrible, and a
rigid form with twisted limbs, swollen eyelids, and lips flecked with
bloody foam, lay on the bed of torture, in place of the intellectual
being who so lately rested there.

Dantes took the lamp, placed it on a projecting stone above the bed,
whence its tremulous light fell with strange and fantastic ray on the
distorted countenance and motionless, stiffened body. With steady gaze
he awaited confidently the moment for administering the restorative.

When he believed that the right moment had arrived, he took the knife,
pried open the teeth, which offered less resistance than before, counted
one after the other twelve drops, and watched; the phial contained,
perhaps, twice as much more. He waited ten minutes, a quarter of an
hour, half an hour,--no change took place. Trembling, his hair erect,
his brow bathed with perspiration, he counted the seconds by the beating
of his heart. Then he thought it was time to make the last trial, and he
put the phial to the purple lips of Faria, and without having occasion
to force open his jaws, which had remained extended, he poured the whole
of the liquid down his throat.

The draught produced a galvanic effect, a violent trembling pervaded the
old man's limbs, his eyes opened until it was fearful to gaze upon them,
he heaved a sigh which resembled a shriek, and then his convulsed body
returned gradually to its former immobility, the eyes remaining open.

Half an hour, an hour, an hour and a half elapsed, and during this
period of anguish, Edmond leaned over his friend, his hand applied
to his heart, and felt the body gradually grow cold, and the heart's
pulsation become more and more deep and dull, until at length it
stopped; the last movement of the heart ceased, the face became livid,
the eyes remained open, but the eyeballs were glazed. It was six o'clock
in the morning, the dawn was just breaking, and its feeble ray came
into the dungeon, and paled the ineffectual light of the lamp. Strange
shadows passed over the countenance of the dead man, and at times gave
it the appearance of life. While the struggle between day and night
lasted, Dantes still doubted; but as soon as the daylight gained the
pre-eminence, he saw that he was alone with a corpse. Then an invincible
and extreme terror seized upon him, and he dared not again press the
hand that hung out of bed, he dared no longer to gaze on those fixed
and vacant eyes, which he tried many times to close, but in vain--they
opened again as soon as shut. He extinguished the lamp, carefully
concealed it, and then went away, closing as well as he could the
entrance to the secret passage by the large stone as he descended.

It was time, for the jailer was coming. On this occasion he began
his rounds at Dantes' cell, and on leaving him he went on to Faria's
dungeon, taking thither breakfast and some linen. Nothing betokened that
the man knew anything of what had occurred. He went on his way.

Dantes was then seized with an indescribable desire to know what was
going on in the dungeon of his unfortunate friend. He therefore
returned by the subterraneous gallery, and arrived in time to hear the
exclamations of the turnkey, who called out for help. Other turnkeys
came, and then was heard the regular tramp of soldiers. Last of all came
the governor.

Edmond heard the creaking of the bed as they moved the corpse, heard the
voice of the governor, who asked them to throw water on the dead man's
face; and seeing that, in spite of this application, the prisoner did
not recover, they sent for the doctor. The governor then went out,
and words of pity fell on Dantes' listening ears, mingled with brutal
laughter.

"Well, well," said one, "the madman has gone to look after his treasure.
Good journey to him!"

"With all his millions, he will not have enough to pay for his shroud!"
said another.

"Oh," added a third voice, "the shrouds of the Chateau d'If are not
dear!"

"Perhaps," said one of the previous speakers, "as he was a churchman,
they may go to some expense in his behalf."

"They may give him the honors of the sack."

Edmond did not lose a word, but comprehended very little of what was
said. The voices soon ceased, and it seemed to him as if every one had
left the cell. Still he dared not to enter, as they might have left some
turnkey to watch the dead. He remained, therefore, mute and motionless,
hardly venturing to breathe. At the end of an hour, he heard a faint
noise, which increased. It was the governor who returned, followed by
the doctor and other attendants. There was a moment's silence,--it was
evident that the doctor was examining the dead body. The inquiries soon
commenced.

The doctor analyzed the symptoms of the malady to which the prisoner had
succumbed, and declared that he was dead. Questions and answers followed
in a nonchalant manner that made Dantes indignant, for he felt that all
the world should have for the poor abbe a love and respect equal to his
own.

"I am very sorry for what you tell me," said the governor, replying to
the assurance of the doctor, "that the old man is really dead; for he
was a quiet, inoffensive prisoner, happy in his folly, and required no
watching."

"Ah," added the turnkey, "there was no occasion for watching him: he
would have stayed here fifty years, I'll answer for it, without any
attempt to escape."

"Still," said the governor, "I believe it will be requisite,
notwithstanding your certainty, and not that I doubt your science, but
in discharge of my official duty, that we should be perfectly assured
that the prisoner is dead." There was a moment of complete silence,
during which Dantes, still listening, knew that the doctor was examining
the corpse a second time.

"You may make your mind easy," said the doctor; "he is dead. I will
answer for that."

"You know, sir," said the governor, persisting, "that we are not content
in such cases as this with such a simple examination. In spite of all
appearances, be so kind, therefore, as to finish your duty by fulfilling
the formalities described by law."

"Let the irons be heated," said the doctor; "but really it is a useless
precaution." This order to heat the irons made Dantes shudder. He heard
hasty steps, the creaking of a door, people going and coming, and some
minutes afterwards a turnkey entered, saying,--

"Here is the brazier, lighted." There was a moment's silence, and then
was heard the crackling of burning flesh, of which the peculiar
and nauseous smell penetrated even behind the wall where Dantes was
listening in horror. The perspiration poured forth upon the young man's
brow, and he felt as if he should faint.

"You see, sir, he is really dead," said the doctor; "this burn in the
heel is decisive. The poor fool is cured of his folly, and delivered
from his captivity."

"Wasn't his name Faria?" inquired one of the officers who accompanied
the governor.

"Yes, sir; and, as he said, it was an ancient name. He was, too, very
learned, and rational enough on all points which did not relate to his
treasure; but on that, indeed, he was intractable."

"It is the sort of malady which we call monomania," said the doctor.

"You had never anything to complain of?" said the governor to the jailer
who had charge of the abbe.

"Never, sir," replied the jailer, "never; on the contrary, he sometimes
amused me very much by telling me stories. One day, too, when my wife
was ill, he gave me a prescription which cured her."

"Ah, ah!" said the doctor, "I did not know that I had a rival; but I
hope, governor, that you will show him all proper respect."

"Yes, yes, make your mind easy, he shall be decently interred in the
newest sack we can find. Will that satisfy you?"

"Must this last formality take place in your presence, sir?" inquired a
turnkey.

"Certainly. But make haste--I cannot stay here all day." Other
footsteps, going and coming, were now heard, and a moment afterwards the
noise of rustling canvas reached Dantes' ears, the bed creaked, and the
heavy footfall of a man who lifts a weight sounded on the floor; then
the bed again creaked under the weight deposited upon it.

"This evening," said the governor.

"Will there be any mass?" asked one of the attendants.

"That is impossible," replied the governor. "The chaplain of the chateau
came to me yesterday to beg for leave of absence, in order to take a
trip to Hyeres for a week. I told him I would attend to the prisoners
in his absence. If the poor abbe had not been in such a hurry, he might
have had his requiem."

"Pooh, pooh;" said the doctor, with the impiety usual in persons of his
profession; "he is a churchman. God will respect his profession, and not
give the devil the wicked delight of sending him a priest." A shout of
laughter followed this brutal jest. Meanwhile the operation of putting
the body in the sack was going on.

"This evening," said the governor, when the task was ended.

"At what hour?" inquired a turnkey.

"Why, about ten or eleven o'clock."

"Shall we watch by the corpse?"

"Of what use would it be? Shut the dungeon as if he were alive--that
is all." Then the steps retreated, and the voices died away in the
distance; the noise of the door, with its creaking hinges and bolts
ceased, and a silence more sombre than that of solitude ensued,--the
silence of death, which was all-pervasive, and struck its icy chill to
the very soul of Dantes. Then he raised the flag-stone cautiously with
his head, and looked carefully around the chamber. It was empty, and
Dantes emerged from the tunnel.

 

 

Chapter 20. The Cemetery of the Chateau D'If.

On the bed, at full length, and faintly illuminated by the pale light
that came from the window, lay a sack of canvas, and under its rude
folds was stretched a long and stiffened form; it was Faria's last
winding-sheet,--a winding-sheet which, as the turnkey said, cost so
little. Everything was in readiness. A barrier had been placed between
Dantes and his old friend. No longer could Edmond look into those
wide-open eyes which had seemed to be penetrating the mysteries of
death; no longer could he clasp the hand which had done so much to make
his existence blessed. Faria, the beneficent and cheerful companion,
with whom he was accustomed to live so intimately, no longer breathed.
He seated himself on the edge of that terrible bed, and fell into
melancholy and gloomy revery.

Alone--he was alone again--again condemned to silence--again face to
face with nothingness! Alone!--never again to see the face, never again
to hear the voice of the only human being who united him to earth! Was
not Faria's fate the better, after all--to solve the problem of life at
its source, even at the risk of horrible suffering? The idea of suicide,
which his friend had driven away and kept away by his cheerful presence,
now hovered like a phantom over the abbe's dead body.

"If I could die," he said, "I should go where he goes, and should
assuredly find him again. But how to die? It is very easy," he went on
with a smile; "I will remain here, rush on the first person that opens
the door, strangle him, and then they will guillotine me." But excessive
grief is like a storm at sea, where the frail bark is tossed from the
depths to the top of the wave. Dantes recoiled from the idea of so
infamous a death, and passed suddenly from despair to an ardent desire
for life and liberty.

"Die? oh, no," he exclaimed--"not die now, after having lived and
suffered so long and so much! Die? yes, had I died years ago; but now to
die would be, indeed, to give way to the sarcasm of destiny. No, I want
to live; I shall struggle to the very last; I will yet win back the
happiness of which I have been deprived. Before I die I must not forget
that I have my executioners to punish, and perhaps, too, who knows, some
friends to reward. Yet they will forget me here, and I shall die in
my dungeon like Faria." As he said this, he became silent and gazed
straight before him like one overwhelmed with a strange and amazing
thought. Suddenly he arose, lifted his hand to his brow as if his brain
were giddy, paced twice or thrice round the dungeon, and then paused
abruptly by the bed.

"Just God!" he muttered, "whence comes this thought? Is it from thee?
Since none but the dead pass freely from this dungeon, let me take
the place of the dead!" Without giving himself time to reconsider
his decision, and, indeed, that he might not allow his thoughts to be
distracted from his desperate resolution, he bent over the appalling
shroud, opened it with the knife which Faria had made, drew the corpse
from the sack, and bore it along the tunnel to his own chamber, laid it
on his couch, tied around its head the rag he wore at night around his
own, covered it with his counterpane, once again kissed the ice-cold
brow, and tried vainly to close the resisting eyes, which glared
horribly, turned the head towards the wall, so that the jailer might,
when he brought the evening meal, believe that he was asleep, as was
his frequent custom; entered the tunnel again, drew the bed against the
wall, returned to the other cell, took from the hiding-place the needle
and thread, flung off his rags, that they might feel only naked flesh
beneath the coarse canvas, and getting inside the sack, placed himself
in the posture in which the dead body had been laid, and sewed up the
mouth of the sack from the inside.

He would have been discovered by the beating of his heart, if by any
mischance the jailers had entered at that moment. Dantes might have
waited until the evening visit was over, but he was afraid that the
governor would change his mind, and order the dead body to be removed
earlier. In that case his last hope would have been destroyed. Now his
plans were fully made, and this is what he intended to do. If while he
was being carried out the grave-diggers should discover that they were
bearing a live instead of a dead body, Dantes did not intend to give
them time to recognize him, but with a sudden cut of the knife, he meant
to open the sack from top to bottom, and, profiting by their alarm,
escape; if they tried to catch him, he would use his knife to better
purpose.

If they took him to the cemetery and laid him in a grave, he would
allow himself to be covered with earth, and then, as it was night, the
grave-diggers could scarcely have turned their backs before he would
have worked his way through the yielding soil and escaped. He hoped that
the weight of earth would not be so great that he could not overcome it.
If he was detected in this and the earth proved too heavy, he would be
stifled, and then--so much the better, all would be over. Dantes had not
eaten since the preceding evening, but he had not thought of hunger, nor
did he think of it now. His situation was too precarious to allow him
even time to reflect on any thought but one.

The first risk that Dantes ran was, that the jailer, when he brought
him his supper at seven o'clock, might perceive the change that had been
made; fortunately, twenty times at least, from misanthropy or fatigue,
Dantes had received his jailer in bed, and then the man placed his bread
and soup on the table, and went away without saying a word. This time
the jailer might not be as silent as usual, but speak to Dantes, and
seeing that he received no reply, go to the bed, and thus discover all.

When seven o'clock came, Dantes' agony really began. His hand placed
upon his heart was unable to redress its throbbings, while, with the
other he wiped the perspiration from his temples. From time to time
chills ran through his whole body, and clutched his heart in a grasp
of ice. Then he thought he was going to die. Yet the hours passed on
without any unusual disturbance, and Dantes knew that he had escaped
the first peril. It was a good augury. At length, about the hour the
governor had appointed, footsteps were heard on the stairs. Edmond
felt that the moment had arrived, summoned up all his courage, held
his breath, and would have been happy if at the same time he could
have repressed the throbbing of his veins. The footsteps--they
were double--paused at the door--and Dantes guessed that the two
grave-diggers had come to seek him--this idea was soon converted
into certainty, when he heard the noise they made in putting down the
hand-bier. The door opened, and a dim light reached Dantes' eyes through
the coarse sack that covered him; he saw two shadows approach his bed,
a third remaining at the door with a torch in its hand. The two men,
approaching the ends of the bed, took the sack by its extremities.

"He's heavy though for an old and thin man," said one, as he raised the
head.

"They say every year adds half a pound to the weight of the bones," said
another, lifting the feet.

"Have you tied the knot?" inquired the first speaker.

"What would be the use of carrying so much more weight?" was the reply,
"I can do that when we get there."

"Yes, you're right," replied the companion.

"What's the knot for?" thought Dantes.

They deposited the supposed corpse on the bier. Edmond stiffened himself
in order to play the part of a dead man, and then the party, lighted by
the man with the torch, who went first, ascended the stairs. Suddenly he
felt the fresh and sharp night air, and Dantes knew that the mistral was
blowing. It was a sensation in which pleasure and pain were strangely
mingled. The bearers went on for twenty paces, then stopped, putting
the bier down on the ground. One of them went away, and Dantes heard his
shoes striking on the pavement.

"Where am I?" he asked himself.

"Really, he is by no means a light load!" said the other bearer, sitting
on the edge of the hand-barrow. Dantes' first impulse was to escape, but
fortunately he did not attempt it.

"Give us a light," said the other bearer, "or I shall never find what I
am looking for." The man with the torch complied, although not asked in
the most polite terms.

"What can he be looking for?" thought Edmond. "The spade, perhaps." An
exclamation of satisfaction indicated that the grave-digger had found
the object of his search. "Here it is at last," he said, "not without
some trouble though."

"Yes," was the answer, "but it has lost nothing by waiting."

As he said this, the man came towards Edmond, who heard a heavy metallic
substance laid down beside him, and at the same moment a cord was
fastened round his feet with sudden and painful violence.

"Well, have you tied the knot?" inquired the grave-digger, who was
looking on.

"Yes, and pretty tight too, I can tell you," was the answer.

"Move on, then." And the bier was lifted once more, and they proceeded.

They advanced fifty paces farther, and then stopped to open a door, then
went forward again. The noise of the waves dashing against the rocks on
which the chateau is built, reached Dantes' ear distinctly as they went
forward.

"Bad weather!" observed one of the bearers; "not a pleasant night for a
dip in the sea."

"Why, yes, the abbe runs a chance of being wet," said the other; and
then there was a burst of brutal laughter. Dantes did not comprehend the
jest, but his hair stood erect on his head.

"Well, here we are at last," said one of them. "A little farther--a
little farther," said the other. "You know very well that the last was
stopped on his way, dashed on the rocks, and the governor told us next
day that we were careless fellows."

They ascended five or six more steps, and then Dantes felt that they
took him, one by the head and the other by the heels, and swung him to
and fro. "One!" said the grave-diggers, "two! three!" And at the same
instant Dantes felt himself flung into the air like a wounded bird,
falling, falling, with a rapidity that made his blood curdle. Although
drawn downwards by the heavy weight which hastened his rapid descent, it
seemed to him as if the fall lasted for a century.

At last, with a horrible splash, he darted like an arrow into the
ice-cold water, and as he did so he uttered a shrill cry, stifled in a
moment by his immersion beneath the waves.

Dantes had been flung into the sea, and was dragged into its depths by
a thirty-six pound shot tied to his feet. The sea is the cemetery of the
Chateau d'If.

 

 

Chapter 21. The Island of Tiboulen.

Dantes, although stunned and almost suffocated, had sufficient presence
of mind to hold his breath, and as his right hand (prepared as he was
for every chance) held his knife open, he rapidly ripped up the sack,
extricated his arm, and then his body; but in spite of all his efforts
to free himself from the shot, he felt it dragging him down still lower.
He then bent his body, and by a desperate effort severed the cord that
bound his legs, at the moment when it seemed as if he were actually
strangled. With a mighty leap he rose to the surface of the sea, while
the shot dragged down to the depths the sack that had so nearly become
his shroud.

Dantes waited only to get breath, and then dived, in order to avoid
being seen. When he arose a second time, he was fifty paces from where
he had first sunk. He saw overhead a black and tempestuous sky, across
which the wind was driving clouds that occasionally suffered a twinkling
star to appear; before him was the vast expanse of waters, sombre and
terrible, whose waves foamed and roared as if before the approach of
a storm. Behind him, blacker than the sea, blacker than the sky, rose
phantom-like the vast stone structure, whose projecting crags seemed
like arms extended to seize their prey, and on the highest rock was a
torch lighting two figures. He fancied that these two forms were looking
at the sea; doubtless these strange grave-diggers had heard his cry.
Dantes dived again, and remained a long time beneath the water. This was
an easy feat to him, for he usually attracted a crowd of spectators in
the bay before the lighthouse at Marseilles when he swam there, and was
unanimously declared to be the best swimmer in the port. When he came up
again the light had disappeared.

He must now get his bearings. Ratonneau and Pomegue are the nearest
islands of all those that surround the Chateau d'If, but Ratonneau
and Pomegue are inhabited, as is also the islet of Daume. Tiboulen and
Lemaire were therefore the safest for Dantes' venture. The islands
of Tiboulen and Lemaire are a league from the Chateau d'If; Dantes,
nevertheless, determined to make for them. But how could he find his
way in the darkness of the night? At this moment he saw the light of
Planier, gleaming in front of him like a star. By leaving this light
on the right, he kept the Island of Tiboulen a little on the left; by
turning to the left, therefore, he would find it. But, as we have said,
it was at least a league from the Chateau d'If to this island. Often
in prison Faria had said to him, when he saw him idle and inactive,
"Dantes, you must not give way to this listlessness; you will be drowned
if you seek to escape, and your strength has not been properly exercised
and prepared for exertion." These words rang in Dantes' ears, even
beneath the waves; he hastened to cleave his way through them to see if
he had not lost his strength. He found with pleasure that his captivity
had taken away nothing of his power, and that he was still master of
that element on whose bosom he had so often sported as a boy.

Fear, that relentless pursuer, clogged Dantes' efforts. He listened for
any sound that might be audible, and every time that he rose to the top
of a wave he scanned the horizon, and strove to penetrate the darkness.
He fancied that every wave behind him was a pursuing boat, and he
redoubled his exertions, increasing rapidly his distance from the
chateau, but exhausting his strength. He swam on still, and already the
terrible chateau had disappeared in the darkness. He could not see it,
but he felt its presence. An hour passed, during which Dantes, excited
by the feeling of freedom, continued to cleave the waves. "Let us see,"
said he, "I have swum above an hour, but as the wind is against me, that
has retarded my speed; however, if I am not mistaken, I must be close
to Tiboulen. But what if I were mistaken?" A shudder passed over him.
He sought to tread water, in order to rest himself; but the sea was
too violent, and he felt that he could not make use of this means of
recuperation.

"Well," said he, "I will swim on until I am worn out, or the cramp
seizes me, and then I shall sink;" and he struck out with the energy of
despair.

Suddenly the sky seemed to him to become still darker and more dense,
and heavy clouds seemed to sweep down towards him; at the same time he
felt a sharp pain in his knee. He fancied for a moment that he had been
shot, and listened for the report; but he heard nothing. Then he put out
his hand, and encountered an obstacle and with another stroke knew that
he had gained the shore.

Before him rose a grotesque mass of rocks, that resembled nothing
so much as a vast fire petrified at the moment of its most fervent
combustion. It was the Island of Tiboulen. Dantes rose, advanced a few
steps, and, with a fervent prayer of gratitude, stretched himself on
the granite, which seemed to him softer than down. Then, in spite of the
wind and rain, he fell into the deep, sweet sleep of utter exhaustion.
At the expiration of an hour Edmond was awakened by the roar of thunder.
The tempest was let loose and beating the atmosphere with its mighty
wings; from time to time a flash of lightning stretched across the
heavens like a fiery serpent, lighting up the clouds that rolled on in
vast chaotic waves.

Dantes had not been deceived--he had reached the first of the two
islands, which was, in fact, Tiboulen. He knew that it was barren and
without shelter; but when the sea became more calm, he resolved to
plunge into its waves again, and swim to Lemaire, equally arid, but
larger, and consequently better adapted for concealment.

An overhanging rock offered him a temporary shelter, and scarcely had
he availed himself of it when the tempest burst forth in all its fury.
Edmond felt the trembling of the rock beneath which he lay; the waves,
dashing themselves against it, wetted him with their spray. He was
safely sheltered, and yet he felt dizzy in the midst of the warring of
the elements and the dazzling brightness of the lightning. It seemed
to him that the island trembled to its base, and that it would, like a
vessel at anchor, break moorings, and bear him off into the centre
of the storm. He then recollected that he had not eaten or drunk for
four-and-twenty hours. He extended his hands, and drank greedily of the
rainwater that had lodged in a hollow of the rock.

As he rose, a flash of lightning, that seemed to rive the remotest
heights of heaven, illumined the darkness. By its light, between the
Island of Lemaire and Cape Croiselle, a quarter of a league distant,
Dantes saw a fishing-boat driven rapidly like a spectre before the power
of winds and waves. A second after, he saw it again, approaching with
frightful rapidity. Dantes cried at the top of his voice to warn them of
their danger, but they saw it themselves. Another flash showed him four
men clinging to the shattered mast and the rigging, while a fifth clung
to the broken rudder.

The men he beheld saw him undoubtedly, for their cries were carried to
his ears by the wind. Above the splintered mast a sail rent to tatters
was waving; suddenly the ropes that still held it gave way, and it
disappeared in the darkness of the night like a vast sea-bird. At the
same moment a violent crash was heard, and cries of distress. Dantes
from his rocky perch saw the shattered vessel, and among the fragments
the floating forms of the hapless sailors. Then all was dark again.

Dantes ran down the rocks at the risk of being himself dashed to pieces;
he listened, he groped about, but he heard and saw nothing--the cries
had ceased, and the tempest continued to rage. By degrees the wind
abated, vast gray clouds rolled towards the west, and the blue firmament
appeared studded with bright stars. Soon a red streak became visible in
the horizon, the waves whitened, a light played over them, and gilded
their foaming crests with gold. It was day.

Dantes stood mute and motionless before this majestic spectacle, as if
he now beheld it for the first time; and indeed since his captivity
in the Chateau d'If he had forgotten that such scenes were ever to be
witnessed. He turned towards the fortress, and looked at both sea and
land. The gloomy building rose from the bosom of the ocean with imposing
majesty and seemed to dominate the scene. It was about five o'clock. The
sea continued to get calmer.

"In two or three hours," thought Dantes, "the turnkey will enter my
chamber, find the body of my poor friend, recognize it, seek for me in
vain, and give the alarm. Then the tunnel will be discovered; the men
who cast me into the sea and who must have heard the cry I uttered, will
be questioned. Then boats filled with armed soldiers will pursue the
wretched fugitive. The cannon will warn every one to refuse shelter to a
man wandering about naked and famished. The police of Marseilles will be
on the alert by land, whilst the governor pursues me by sea. I am cold,
I am hungry. I have lost even the knife that saved me. O my God, I have
suffered enough surely! Have pity on me, and do for me what I am unable
to do for myself."

As Dantes (his eyes turned in the direction of the Chateau d'If) uttered
this prayer, he saw off the farther point of the Island of Pomegue a
small vessel with lateen sail skimming the sea like a gull in search of
prey; and with his sailor's eye he knew it to be a Genoese tartan.
She was coming out of Marseilles harbor, and was standing out to sea
rapidly, her sharp prow cleaving through the waves. "Oh," cried Edmond,
"to think that in half an hour I could join her, did I not fear being
questioned, detected, and conveyed back to Marseilles! What can I do?
What story can I invent? under pretext of trading along the coast, these
men, who are in reality smugglers, will prefer selling me to doing a
good action. I must wait. But I cannot---- I am starving. In a few hours
my strength will be utterly exhausted; besides, perhaps I have not been
missed at the fortress. I can pass as one of the sailors wrecked last
night. My story will be accepted, for there is no one left to contradict
me."

As he spoke, Dantes looked toward the spot where the fishing-vessel had
been wrecked, and started. The red cap of one of the sailors hung to a
point of the rock and some timbers that had formed part of the vessel's
keel, floated at the foot of the crag. In an instant Dantes' plan was
formed. He swam to the cap, placed it on his head, seized one of the
timbers, and struck out so as to cut across the course the vessel was
taking.

"I am saved!" murmured he. And this conviction restored his strength.

He soon saw that the vessel, with the wind dead ahead, was tacking
between the Chateau d'If and the tower of Planier. For an instant he
feared lest, instead of keeping in shore, she should stand out to sea;
but he soon saw that she would pass, like most vessels bound for Italy,
between the islands of Jaros and Calaseraigne. However, the vessel and
the swimmer insensibly neared one another, and in one of its tacks
the tartan bore down within a quarter of a mile of him. He rose on the
waves, making signs of distress; but no one on board saw him, and the
vessel stood on another tack. Dantes would have shouted, but he knew
that the wind would drown his voice.

It was then he rejoiced at his precaution in taking the timber,
for without it he would have been unable, perhaps, to reach the
vessel--certainly to return to shore, should he be unsuccessful in
attracting attention.

Dantes, though almost sure as to what course the vessel would take, had
yet watched it anxiously until it tacked and stood towards him. Then
he advanced; but before they could meet, the vessel again changed her
course. By a violent effort he rose half out of the water, waving his
cap, and uttering a loud shout peculiar to sailers. This time he was
both seen and heard, and the tartan instantly steered towards him. At
the same time, he saw they were about to lower the boat.

An instant after, the boat, rowed by two men, advanced rapidly towards
him. Dantes let go of the timber, which he now thought to be useless,
and swam vigorously to meet them. But he had reckoned too much upon his
strength, and then he realized how serviceable the timber had been to
him. His arms became stiff, his legs lost their flexibility, and he was
almost breathless.

He shouted again. The two sailors redoubled their efforts, and one of
them cried in Italian, "Courage!"

The word reached his ear as a wave which he no longer had the strength
to surmount passed over his head. He rose again to the surface,
struggled with the last desperate effort of a drowning man, uttered a
third cry, and felt himself sinking, as if the fatal cannon shot were
again tied to his feet. The water passed over his head, and the sky
turned gray. A convulsive movement again brought him to the surface. He
felt himself seized by the hair, then he saw and heard nothing. He had
fainted.

When he opened his eyes Dantes found himself on the deck of the tartan.
His first care was to see what course they were taking. They were
rapidly leaving the Chateau d'If behind. Dantes was so exhausted that
the exclamation of joy he uttered was mistaken for a sigh.

As we have said, he was lying on the deck. A sailor was rubbing his
limbs with a woollen cloth; another, whom he recognized as the one who
had cried out "Courage!" held a gourd full of rum to his mouth; while
the third, an old sailer, at once the pilot and captain, looked on with
that egotistical pity men feel for a misfortune that they have escaped
yesterday, and which may overtake them to-morrow.

A few drops of the rum restored suspended animation, while the friction
of his limbs restored their elasticity.

"Who are you?" said the pilot in bad French.

"I am," replied Dantes, in bad Italian, "a Maltese sailor. We were
coming from Syracuse laden with grain. The storm of last night overtook
us at Cape Morgion, and we were wrecked on these rocks."

"Where do you come from?"

"From these rocks that I had the good luck to cling to while our captain
and the rest of the crew were all lost. I saw your vessel, and fearful
of being left to perish on the desolate island, I swam off on a piece of
wreckage to try and intercept your course. You have saved my life, and
I thank you," continued Dantes. "I was lost when one of your sailors
caught hold of my hair."

"It was I," said a sailor of a frank and manly appearance; "and it was
time, for you were sinking."

"Yes," returned Dantes, holding out his hand, "I thank you again."

"I almost hesitated, though," replied the sailor; "you looked more like
a brigand than an honest man, with your beard six inches, and your hair
a foot long." Dantes recollected that his hair and beard had not been
cut all the time he was at the Chateau d'If.

"Yes," said he, "I made a vow, to our Lady of the Grotto not to cut my
hair or beard for ten years if I were saved in a moment of danger; but
to-day the vow expires."

"Now what are we to do with you?" said the captain.

"Alas, anything you please. My captain is dead; I have barely escaped;
but I am a good sailor. Leave me at the first port you make; I shall be
sure to find employment."

"Do you know the Mediterranean?"

"I have sailed over it since my childhood."

"You know the best harbors?"

"There are few ports that I could not enter or leave with a bandage over
my eyes."

"I say, captain," said the sailor who had cried "Courage!" to Dantes,
"if what he says is true, what hinders his staying with us?"

"If he says true," said the captain doubtingly. "But in his present
condition he will promise anything, and take his chance of keeping it
afterwards."

"I will do more than I promise," said Dantes.

"We shall see," returned the other, smiling.

"Where are you going?" asked Dantes.

"To Leghorn."

"Then why, instead of tacking so frequently, do you not sail nearer the
wind?"

"Because we should run straight on to the Island of Rion."

"You shall pass it by twenty fathoms."

"Take the helm, and let us see what you know." The young man took the
helm, felt to see if the vessel answered the rudder promptly and
seeing that, without being a first-rate sailer, she yet was tolerably
obedient,--

"To the sheets," said he. The four seamen, who composed the crew,
obeyed, while the pilot looked on. "Haul taut."--They obeyed.

"Belay." This order was also executed; and the vessel passed, as Dantes
had predicted, twenty fathoms to windward.

"Bravo!" said the captain.

"Bravo!" repeated the sailors. And they all looked with astonishment at
this man whose eye now disclosed an intelligence and his body a vigor
they had not thought him capable of showing.

"You see," said Dantes, quitting the helm, "I shall be of some use to
you, at least during the voyage. If you do not want me at Leghorn, you
can leave me there, and I will pay you out of the first wages I get, for
my food and the clothes you lend me."

"Ah," said the captain, "we can agree very well, if you are reasonable."

"Give me what you give the others, and it will be all right," returned
Dantes.

"That's not fair," said the seaman who had saved Dantes; "for you know
more than we do."

"What is that to you, Jacopo?" returned the Captain. "Every one is free
to ask what he pleases."

"That's true," replied Jacopo; "I only make a remark."

"Well, you would do much better to find him a jacket and a pair of
trousers, if you have them."

"No," said Jacopo; "but I have a shirt and a pair of trousers."

"That is all I want," interrupted Dantes. Jacopo dived into the hold and
soon returned with what Edmond wanted.

"Now, then, do you wish for anything else?" said the patron.

"A piece of bread and another glass of the capital rum I tasted, for
I have not eaten or drunk for a long time." He had not tasted food for
forty hours. A piece of bread was brought, and Jacopo offered him the
gourd.

"Larboard your helm," cried the captain to the steersman. Dantes glanced
that way as he lifted the gourd to his mouth; then paused with hand in
mid-air.

"Hollo! what's the matter at the Chateau d'If?" said the captain.

A small white cloud, which had attracted Dantes' attention, crowned the
summit of the bastion of the Chateau d'If. At the same moment the faint
report of a gun was heard. The sailors looked at one another.

"What is this?" asked the captain.

"A prisoner has escaped from the Chateau d'If, and they are firing
the alarm gun," replied Dantes. The captain glanced at him, but he had
lifted the rum to his lips and was drinking it with so much composure,
that suspicions, if the captain had any, died away.

"At any rate," murmured he, "if it be, so much the better, for I have
made a rare acquisition." Under pretence of being fatigued, Dantes asked
to take the helm; the steersman, glad to be relieved, looked at the
captain, and the latter by a sign indicated that he might abandon it to
his new comrade. Dantes could thus keep his eyes on Marseilles.

"What is the day of the month?" asked he of Jacopo, who sat down beside
him.

"The 28th of February."

"In what year?"

"In what year--you ask me in what year?"

"Yes," replied the young man, "I ask you in what year!"

"You have forgotten then?"

"I got such a fright last night," replied Dantes, smiling, "that I have
almost lost my memory. I ask you what year is it?"

"The year 1829," returned Jacopo. It was fourteen years day for day
since Dantes' arrest. He was nineteen when he entered the Chateau d'If;
he was thirty-three when he escaped. A sorrowful smile passed over his
face; he asked himself what had become of Mercedes, who must believe him
dead. Then his eyes lighted up with hatred as he thought of the three
men who had caused him so long and wretched a captivity. He renewed
against Danglars, Fernand, and Villefort the oath of implacable
vengeance he had made in his dungeon. This oath was no longer a vain
menace; for the fastest sailer in the Mediterranean would have been
unable to overtake the little tartan, that with every stitch of canvas
set was flying before the wind to Leghorn.

 

 

Chapter 22. The Smugglers.

Dantes had not been a day on board before he had a very clear idea of
the men with whom his lot had been cast. Without having been in the
school of the Abbe Faria, the worthy master of The Young Amelia (the
name of the Genoese tartan) knew a smattering of all the tongues spoken
on the shores of that large lake called the Mediterranean, from the
Arabic to the Provencal, and this, while it spared him interpreters,
persons always troublesome and frequently indiscreet, gave him great
facilities of communication, either with the vessels he met at sea,
with the small boats sailing along the coast, or with the people without
name, country, or occupation, who are always seen on the quays of
seaports, and who live by hidden and mysterious means which we must
suppose to be a direct gift of providence, as they have no visible means
of support. It is fair to assume that Dantes was on board a smuggler.

At first the captain had received Dantes on board with a certain degree
of distrust. He was very well known to the customs officers of the
coast; and as there was between these worthies and himself a perpetual
battle of wits, he had at first thought that Dantes might be an emissary
of these industrious guardians of rights and duties, who perhaps
employed this ingenious means of learning some of the secrets of his
trade. But the skilful manner in which Dantes had handled the lugger had
entirely reassured him; and then, when he saw the light plume of smoke
floating above the bastion of the Chateau d'If, and heard the distant
report, he was instantly struck with the idea that he had on board his
vessel one whose coming and going, like that of kings, was accompanied
with salutes of artillery. This made him less uneasy, it must be owned,
than if the new-comer had proved to be a customs officer; but this
supposition also disappeared like the first, when he beheld the perfect
tranquillity of his recruit.

Edmond thus had the advantage of knowing what the owner was, without the
owner knowing who he was; and however the old sailor and his crew tried
to "pump" him, they extracted nothing more from him; he gave accurate
descriptions of Naples and Malta, which he knew as well as Marseilles,
and held stoutly to his first story. Thus the Genoese, subtle as he
was, was duped by Edmond, in whose favor his mild demeanor, his nautical
skill, and his admirable dissimulation, pleaded. Moreover, it is
possible that the Genoese was one of those shrewd persons who know
nothing but what they should know, and believe nothing but what they
should believe.

In this state of mutual understanding, they reached Leghorn. Here
Edmond was to undergo another trial; he was to find out whether he could
recognize himself, as he had not seen his own face for fourteen years.
He had preserved a tolerably good remembrance of what the youth had
been, and was now to find out what the man had become. His comrades
believed that his vow was fulfilled. As he had twenty times touched at
Leghorn, he remembered a barber in St. Ferdinand Street; he went there
to have his beard and hair cut. The barber gazed in amazement at this
man with the long, thick and black hair and beard, which gave his head
the appearance of one of Titian's portraits. At this period it was not
the fashion to wear so large a beard and hair so long; now a barber
would only be surprised if a man gifted with such advantages should
consent voluntarily to deprive himself of them. The Leghorn barber said
nothing and went to work.

When the operation was concluded, and Edmond felt that his chin was
completely smooth, and his hair reduced to its usual length, he asked
for a hand-glass. He was now, as we have said, three-and-thirty years
of age, and his fourteen years' imprisonment had produced a great
transformation in his appearance. Dantes had entered the Chateau d'If
with the round, open, smiling face of a young and happy man, with whom
the early paths of life have been smooth, and who anticipates a future
corresponding with his past. This was now all changed. The oval face
was lengthened, his smiling mouth had assumed the firm and marked
lines which betoken resolution; his eyebrows were arched beneath a brow
furrowed with thought; his eyes were full of melancholy, and from their
depths occasionally sparkled gloomy fires of misanthropy and hatred;
his complexion, so long kept from the sun, had now that pale color
which produces, when the features are encircled with black hair, the
aristocratic beauty of the man of the north; the profound learning
he had acquired had besides diffused over his features a refined
intellectual expression; and he had also acquired, being naturally of
a goodly stature, that vigor which a frame possesses which has so long
concentrated all its force within itself.

To the elegance of a nervous and slight form had succeeded the solidity
of a rounded and muscular figure. As to his voice, prayers, sobs, and
imprecations had changed it so that at times it was of a singularly
penetrating sweetness, and at others rough and almost hoarse. Moreover,
from being so long in twilight or darkness, his eyes had acquired the
faculty of distinguishing objects in the night, common to the hyena and
the wolf. Edmond smiled when he beheld himself: it was impossible that
his best friend--if, indeed, he had any friend left--could recognize
him; he could not recognize himself.

The master of The Young Amelia, who was very desirous of retaining
amongst his crew a man of Edmond's value, had offered to advance him
funds out of his future profits, which Edmond had accepted. His next
care on leaving the barber's who had achieved his first metamorphosis
was to enter a shop and buy a complete sailor's suit--a garb, as we all
know, very simple, and consisting of white trousers, a striped shirt,
and a cap. It was in this costume, and bringing back to Jacopo the shirt
and trousers he had lent him, that Edmond reappeared before the captain
of the lugger, who had made him tell his story over and over again
before he could believe him, or recognize in the neat and trim sailor
the man with thick and matted beard, hair tangled with seaweed, and body
soaking in seabrine, whom he had picked up naked and nearly drowned.
Attracted by his prepossessing appearance, he renewed his offers of an
engagement to Dantes; but Dantes, who had his own projects, would not
agree for a longer time than three months.

The Young Amelia had a very active crew, very obedient to their captain,
who lost as little time as possible. He had scarcely been a week at
Leghorn before the hold of his vessel was filled with printed muslins,
contraband cottons, English powder, and tobacco on which the excise had
forgotten to put its mark. The master was to get all this out of Leghorn
free of duties, and land it on the shores of Corsica, where certain
speculators undertook to forward the cargo to France. They sailed;
Edmond was again cleaving the azure sea which had been the first horizon
of his youth, and which he had so often dreamed of in prison. He left
Gorgone on his right and La Pianosa on his left, and went towards the
country of Paoli and Napoleon. The next morning going on deck, as he
always did at an early hour, the patron found Dantes leaning against
the bulwarks gazing with intense earnestness at a pile of granite rocks,
which the rising sun tinged with rosy light. It was the Island of Monte
Cristo. The Young Amelia left it three-quarters of a league to the
larboard, and kept on for Corsica.

Dantes thought, as they passed so closely to the island whose name was
so interesting to him, that he had only to leap into the sea and in
half an hour be at the promised land. But then what could he do without
instruments to discover his treasure, without arms to defend himself?
Besides, what would the sailors say? What would the patron think? He
must wait.

Fortunately, Dantes had learned how to wait; he had waited fourteen
years for his liberty, and now he was free he could wait at least six
months or a year for wealth. Would he not have accepted liberty without
riches if it had been offered to him? Besides, were not those riches
chimerical?--offspring of the brain of the poor Abbe Faria, had they
not died with him? It is true, the letter of the Cardinal Spada was
singularly circumstantial, and Dantes repeated it to himself, from one
end to the other, for he had not forgotten a word.

Evening came, and Edmond saw the island tinged with the shades of
twilight, and then disappear in the darkness from all eyes but his own,
for he, with vision accustomed to the gloom of a prison, continued to
behold it last of all, for he remained alone upon deck. The next morn
broke off the coast of Aleria; all day they coasted, and in the evening
saw fires lighted on land; the position of these was no doubt a signal
for landing, for a ship's lantern was hung up at the mast-head instead
of the streamer, and they came to within a gunshot of the shore. Dantes
noticed that the captain of The Young Amelia had, as he neared the land,
mounted two small culverins, which, without making much noise, can throw
a four ounce ball a thousand paces or so.

But on this occasion the precaution was superfluous, and everything
proceeded with the utmost smoothness and politeness. Four shallops came
off with very little noise alongside the lugger, which, no doubt, in
acknowledgement of the compliment, lowered her own shallop into the sea,
and the five boats worked so well that by two o'clock in the morning
all the cargo was out of The Young Amelia and on terra firma. The same
night, such a man of regularity was the patron of The Young Amelia, the
profits were divided, and each man had a hundred Tuscan livres, or about
eighty francs. But the voyage was not ended. They turned the bowsprit
towards Sardinia, where they intended to take in a cargo, which was to
replace what had been discharged. The second operation was as successful
as the first, The Young Amelia was in luck. This new cargo was destined
for the coast of the Duchy of Lucca, and consisted almost entirely of
Havana cigars, sherry, and Malaga wines.

There they had a bit of a skirmish in getting rid of the duties; the
excise was, in truth, the everlasting enemy of the patron of The Young
Amelia. A customs officer was laid low, and two sailors wounded; Dantes
was one of the latter, a ball having touched him in the left shoulder.
Dantes was almost glad of this affray, and almost pleased at being
wounded, for they were rude lessons which taught him with what eye he
could view danger, and with what endurance he could bear suffering. He
had contemplated danger with a smile, and when wounded had exclaimed
with the great philosopher, "Pain, thou art not an evil." He had,
moreover, looked upon the customs officer wounded to death, and, whether
from heat of blood produced by the encounter, or the chill of human
sentiment, this sight had made but slight impression upon him. Dantes
was on the way he desired to follow, and was moving towards the end
he wished to achieve; his heart was in a fair way of petrifying in his
bosom. Jacopo, seeing him fall, had believed him killed, and rushing
towards him raised him up, and then attended to him with all the
kindness of a devoted comrade.

This world was not then so good as Doctor Pangloss believed it, neither
was it so wicked as Dantes thought it, since this man, who had nothing
to expect from his comrade but the inheritance of his share of
the prize-money, manifested so much sorrow when he saw him fall.
Fortunately, as we have said, Edmond was only wounded, and with certain
herbs gathered at certain seasons, and sold to the smugglers by the
old Sardinian women, the wound soon closed. Edmond then resolved to
try Jacopo, and offered him in return for his attention a share of his
prize-money, but Jacopo refused it indignantly.

As a result of the sympathetic devotion which Jacopo had from the
first bestowed on Edmond, the latter was moved to a certain degree of
affection. But this sufficed for Jacopo, who instinctively felt that
Edmond had a right to superiority of position--a superiority which
Edmond had concealed from all others. And from this time the kindness
which Edmond showed him was enough for the brave seaman.

Then in the long days on board ship, when the vessel, gliding on with
security over the azure sea, required no care but the hand of the
helmsman, thanks to the favorable winds that swelled her sails, Edmond,
with a chart in his hand, became the instructor of Jacopo, as the poor
Abbe Faria had been his tutor. He pointed out to him the bearings of the
coast, explained to him the variations of the compass, and taught him to
read in that vast book opened over our heads which they call heaven,
and where God writes in azure with letters of diamonds. And when Jacopo
inquired of him, "What is the use of teaching all these things to a
poor sailor like me?" Edmond replied, "Who knows? You may one day be the
captain of a vessel. Your fellow-countryman, Bonaparte, became emperor."
We had forgotten to say that Jacopo was a Corsican.

Two months and a half elapsed in these trips, and Edmond had become
as skilful a coaster as he had been a hardy seaman; he had formed an
acquaintance with all the smugglers on the coast, and learned all the
Masonic signs by which these half pirates recognize each other. He had
passed and re-passed his Island of Monte Cristo twenty times, but not
once had he found an opportunity of landing there. He then formed a
resolution. As soon as his engagement with the patron of The Young
Amelia ended, he would hire a small vessel on his own account--for in
his several voyages he had amassed a hundred piastres--and under some
pretext land at the Island of Monte Cristo. Then he would be free to
make his researches, not perhaps entirely at liberty, for he would be
doubtless watched by those who accompanied him. But in this world we
must risk something. Prison had made Edmond prudent, and he was desirous
of running no risk whatever. But in vain did he rack his imagination;
fertile as it was, he could not devise any plan for reaching the island
without companionship.

Dantes was tossed about on these doubts and wishes, when the patron, who
had great confidence in him, and was very desirous of retaining him in
his service, took him by the arm one evening and led him to a tavern
on the Via del' Oglio, where the leading smugglers of Leghorn used
to congregate and discuss affairs connected with their trade. Already
Dantes had visited this maritime Bourse two or three times, and seeing
all these hardy free-traders, who supplied the whole coast for nearly
two hundred leagues in extent, he had asked himself what power might
not that man attain who should give the impulse of his will to all these
contrary and diverging minds. This time it was a great matter that was
under discussion, connected with a vessel laden with Turkey carpets,
stuffs of the Levant, and cashmeres. It was necessary to find some
neutral ground on which an exchange could be made, and then to try and
land these goods on the coast of France. If the venture was successful
the profit would be enormous, there would be a gain of fifty or sixty
piastres each for the crew.

The patron of The Young Amelia proposed as a place of landing the Island
of Monte Cristo, which being completely deserted, and having neither
soldiers nor revenue officers, seemed to have been placed in the midst
of the ocean since the time of the heathen Olympus by Mercury, the god
of merchants and robbers, classes of mankind which we in modern times
have separated if not made distinct, but which antiquity appears to have
included in the same category. At the mention of Monte Cristo Dantes
started with joy; he rose to conceal his emotion, and took a turn
around the smoky tavern, where all the languages of the known world were
jumbled in a lingua franca. When he again joined the two persons who had
been discussing the matter, it had been decided that they should touch
at Monte Cristo and set out on the following night. Edmond, being
consulted, was of opinion that the island afforded every possible
security, and that great enterprises to be well done should be done
quickly. Nothing then was altered in the plan, and orders were given to
get under weigh next night, and, wind and weather permitting, to make
the neutral island by the following day.

 

 

Chapter 23. The Island of Monte Cristo.

Thus, at length, by one of the unexpected strokes of fortune which
sometimes befall those who have for a long time been the victims of an
evil destiny, Dantes was about to secure the opportunity he wished for,
by simple and natural means, and land on the island without incurring
any suspicion. One night more and he would be on his way.

The night was one of feverish distraction, and in its progress visions
good and evil passed through Dantes' mind. If he closed his eyes, he saw
Cardinal Spada's letter written on the wall in characters of flame--if
he slept for a moment the wildest dreams haunted his brain. He ascended
into grottos paved with emeralds, with panels of rubies, and the
roof glowing with diamond stalactites. Pearls fell drop by drop, as
subterranean waters filter in their caves. Edmond, amazed, wonderstruck,
filled his pockets with the radiant gems and then returned to daylight,
when he discovered that his prizes had all changed into common pebbles.
He then endeavored to re-enter the marvellous grottos, but they had
suddenly receded, and now the path became a labyrinth, and then the
entrance vanished, and in vain did he tax his memory for the magic and
mysterious word which opened the splendid caverns of Ali Baba to the
Arabian fisherman. All was useless, the treasure disappeared, and had
again reverted to the genii from whom for a moment he had hoped to carry
it off. The day came at length, and was almost as feverish as the night
had been, but it brought reason to the aid of imagination, and Dantes
was then enabled to arrange a plan which had hitherto been vague and
unsettled in his brain. Night came, and with it the preparation for
departure, and these preparations served to conceal Dantes' agitation.
He had by degrees assumed such authority over his companions that he was
almost like a commander on board; and as his orders were always clear,
distinct, and easy of execution, his comrades obeyed him with celerity
and pleasure.

The old patron did not interfere, for he too had recognized the
superiority of Dantes over the crew and himself. He saw in the young man
his natural successor, and regretted that he had not a daughter, that
he might have bound Edmond to him by a more secure alliance. At seven
o'clock in the evening all was ready, and at ten minutes past seven they
doubled the lighthouse just as the beacon was kindled. The sea was calm,
and, with a fresh breeze from the south-east, they sailed beneath a
bright blue sky, in which God also lighted up in turn his beacon lights,
each of which is a world. Dantes told them that all hands might turn in,
and he would take the helm. When the Maltese (for so they called
Dantes) had said this, it was sufficient, and all went to their bunks
contentedly. This frequently happened. Dantes, cast from solitude into
the world, frequently experienced an imperious desire for solitude; and
what solitude is more complete, or more poetical, than that of a ship
floating in isolation on the sea during the obscurity of the night, in
the silence of immensity, and under the eye of heaven?

Now this solitude was peopled with his thoughts, the night lighted up by
his illusions, and the silence animated by his anticipations. When the
patron awoke, the vessel was hurrying on with every sail set, and every
sail full with the breeze. They were making nearly ten knots an hour.
The Island of Monte Cristo loomed large in the horizon. Edmond resigned
the lugger to the master's care, and went and lay down in his hammock;
but, in spite of a sleepless night, he could not close his eyes for a
moment. Two hours afterwards he came on deck, as the boat was about
to double the Island of Elba. They were just abreast of Mareciana, and
beyond the flat but verdant Island of La Pianosa. The peak of Monte
Cristo reddened by the burning sun, was seen against the azure sky.
Dantes ordered the helmsman to put down his helm, in order to leave La
Pianosa to starboard, as he knew that he should shorten his course by
two or three knots. About five o'clock in the evening the island was
distinct, and everything on it was plainly perceptible, owing to that
clearness of the atmosphere peculiar to the light which the rays of the
sun cast at its setting.

Edmond gazed very earnestly at the mass of rocks which gave out all the
variety of twilight colors, from the brightest pink to the deepest blue;
and from time to time his cheeks flushed, his brow darkened, and a mist
passed over his eyes. Never did a gamester, whose whole fortune is staked
on one cast of the die, experience the anguish which Edmond felt in his
paroxysms of hope. Night came, and at ten o'clock they anchored. The
Young Amelia was first at the rendezvous. In spite of his usual command
over himself, Dantes could not restrain his impetuosity. He was the
first to jump on shore; and had he dared, he would, like Lucius Brutus,
have "kissed his mother earth." It was dark, but at eleven o'clock the
moon rose in the midst of the ocean, whose every wave she silvered,
and then, "ascending high," played in floods of pale light on the rocky
hills of this second Pelion.

The island was familiar to the crew of The Young Amelia,--it was one of
her regular haunts. As to Dantes, he had passed it on his voyage to and
from the Levant, but never touched at it. He questioned Jacopo. "Where
shall we pass the night?" he inquired.

"Why, on board the tartan," replied the sailor.

"Should we not do better in the grottos?"

"What grottos?"

"Why, the grottos--caves of the island."

"I do not know of any grottos," replied Jacopo. The cold sweat sprang
forth on Dantes' brow.

"What, are there no grottos at Monte Cristo?" he asked.

"None."

For a moment Dantes was speechless; then he remembered that these caves
might have been filled up by some accident, or even stopped up, for the
sake of greater security, by Cardinal Spada. The point was, then, to
discover the hidden entrance. It was useless to search at night, and
Dantes therefore delayed all investigation until the morning. Besides,
a signal made half a league out at sea, and to which The Young Amelia
replied by a similar signal, indicated that the moment for business had
come. The boat that now arrived, assured by the answering signal that
all was well, soon came in sight, white and silent as a phantom, and
cast anchor within a cable's length of shore.

Then the landing began. Dantes reflected, as he worked, on the shout of
joy which, with a single word, he could evoke from all these men, if he
gave utterance to the one unchanging thought that pervaded his heart;
but, far from disclosing this precious secret, he almost feared that
he had already said too much, and by his restlessness and continual
questions, his minute observations and evident pre-occupation, aroused
suspicions. Fortunately, as regarded this circumstance at least, his
painful past gave to his countenance an indelible sadness, and
the glimmerings of gayety seen beneath this cloud were indeed but
transitory.

No one had the slightest suspicion; and when next day, taking a
fowling-piece, powder, and shot, Dantes declared his intention to go and
kill some of the wild goats that were seen springing from rock to rock,
his wish was construed into a love of sport, or a desire for solitude.
However, Jacopo insisted on following him, and Dantes did not oppose
this, fearing if he did so that he might incur distrust. Scarcely,
however, had they gone a quarter of a league when, having killed a kid,
he begged Jacopo to take it to his comrades, and request them to cook
it, and when ready to let him know by firing a gun. This and some dried
fruits and a flask of Monte Pulciano, was the bill of fare. Dantes
went on, looking from time to time behind and around about him. Having
reached the summit of a rock, he saw, a thousand feet beneath him, his
companions, whom Jacopo had rejoined, and who were all busy preparing
the repast which Edmond's skill as a marksman had augmented with a
capital dish.

Edmond looked at them for a moment with the sad and gentle smile of
a man superior to his fellows. "In two hours' time," said he, "these
persons will depart richer by fifty piastres each, to go and risk their
lives again by endeavoring to gain fifty more; then they will return
with a fortune of six hundred francs, and waste this treasure in some
city with the pride of sultans and the insolence of nabobs. At
this moment hope makes me despise their riches, which seem to me
contemptible. Yet perchance to-morrow deception will so act on me, that
I shall, on compulsion, consider such a contemptible possession as the
utmost happiness. Oh, no!" exclaimed Edmond, "that will not be. The
wise, unerring Faria could not be mistaken in this one thing. Besides,
it were better to die than to continue to lead this low and wretched
life." Thus Dantes, who but three months before had no desire but
liberty had now not liberty enough, and panted for wealth. The cause was
not in Dantes, but in providence, who, while limiting the power of man,
has filled him with boundless desires.

Meanwhile, by a cleft between two walls of rock, following a path worn
by a torrent, and which, in all human probability, human foot had never
before trod, Dantes approached the spot where he supposed the grottos
must have existed. Keeping along the shore, and examining the smallest
object with serious attention, he thought he could trace, on certain
rocks, marks made by the hand of man.

Time, which encrusts all physical substances with its mossy mantle, as
it invests all things of the mind with forgetfulness, seemed to have
respected these signs, which apparently had been made with some degree
of regularity, and probably with a definite purpose. Occasionally the
marks were hidden under tufts of myrtle, which spread into large bushes
laden with blossoms, or beneath parasitical lichen. So Edmond had
to separate the branches or brush away the moss to know where the
guide-marks were. The sight of marks renewed Edmond fondest hopes. Might
it not have been the cardinal himself who had first traced them, in
order that they might serve as a guide for his nephew in the event of
a catastrophe, which he could not foresee would have been so complete.
This solitary place was precisely suited to the requirements of a man
desirous of burying treasure. Only, might not these betraying marks have
attracted other eyes than those for whom they were made? and had the
dark and wondrous island indeed faithfully guarded its precious secret?

It seemed, however, to Edmond, who was hidden from his comrades by the
inequalities of the ground, that at sixty paces from the harbor the
marks ceased; nor did they terminate at any grotto. A large round rock,
placed solidly on its base, was the only spot to which they seemed to
lead. Edmond concluded that perhaps instead of having reached the end
of the route he had only explored its beginning, and he therefore turned
round and retraced his steps.

Meanwhile his comrades had prepared the repast, had got some water from
a spring, spread out the fruit and bread, and cooked the kid. Just at
the moment when they were taking the dainty animal from the spit, they
saw Edmond springing with the boldness of a chamois from rock to rock,
and they fired the signal agreed upon. The sportsman instantly changed
his direction, and ran quickly towards them. But even while they watched
his daring progress, Edmond's foot slipped, and they saw him stagger on
the edge of a rock and disappear. They all rushed towards him, for all
loved Edmond in spite of his superiority; yet Jacopo reached him first.

He found Edmond lying prone, bleeding, and almost senseless. He had
rolled down a declivity of twelve or fifteen feet. They poured a little
rum down his throat, and this remedy which had before been so beneficial
to him, produced the same effect as formerly. Edmond opened his eyes,
complained of great pain in his knee, a feeling of heaviness in his
head, and severe pains in his loins. They wished to carry him to the
shore; but when they touched him, although under Jacopo's directions, he
declared, with heavy groans, that he could not bear to be moved.

It may be supposed that Dantes did not now think of his dinner, but he
insisted that his comrades, who had not his reasons for fasting, should
have their meal. As for himself, he declared that he had only need of
a little rest, and that when they returned he should be easier. The
sailors did not require much urging. They were hungry, and the smell of
the roasted kid was very savory, and your tars are not very ceremonious.
An hour afterwards they returned. All that Edmond had been able to
do was to drag himself about a dozen paces forward to lean against a
moss-grown rock.

But, instead of growing easier, Dantes' pains appeared to increase in
violence. The old patron, who was obliged to sail in the morning in
order to land his cargo on the frontiers of Piedmont and France,
between Nice and Frejus, urged Dantes to try and rise. Edmond made great
exertions in order to comply; but at each effort he fell back, moaning
and turning pale.

"He has broken his ribs," said the commander, in a low voice. "No
matter; he is an excellent fellow, and we must not leave him. We will
try and carry him on board the tartan." Dantes declared, however,
that he would rather die where he was than undergo the agony which the
slightest movement cost him. "Well," said the patron, "let what may
happen, it shall never be said that we deserted a good comrade like you.
We will not go till evening." This very much astonished the sailors,
although, not one opposed it. The patron was so strict that this was the
first time they had ever seen him give up an enterprise, or even delay
in its execution. Dantes would not allow that any such infraction of
regular and proper rules should be made in his favor. "No, no," he said
to the patron, "I was awkward, and it is just that I pay the penalty of
my clumsiness. Leave me a small supply of biscuit, a gun, powder, and
balls, to kill the kids or defend myself at need, and a pickaxe, that I
may build a shelter if you delay in coming back for me."

"But you'll die of hunger," said the patron.

"I would rather do so," was Edmond reply, "than suffer the inexpressible
agonies which the slightest movement causes me." The patron turned
towards his vessel, which was rolling on the swell in the little harbor,
and, with sails partly set, would be ready for sea when her toilet
should be completed.

"What are we to do, Maltese?" asked the captain. "We cannot leave you
here so, and yet we cannot stay."

"Go, go!" exclaimed Dantes.

"We shall be absent at least a week," said the patron, "and then we must
run out of our course to come here and take you up again."

"Why," said Dantes, "if in two or three days you hail any fishing-boat,
desire them to come here to me. I will pay twenty-five piastres for my
passage back to Leghorn. If you do not come across one, return for me."
The patron shook his head.

"Listen, Captain Baldi; there's one way of settling this," said Jacopo.
"Do you go, and I will stay and take care of the wounded man."

"And give up your share of the venture," said Edmond, "to remain with
me?"

"Yes," said Jacopo, "and without any hesitation."

"You are a good fellow and a kind-hearted messmate," replied Edmond,
"and heaven will recompense you for your generous intentions; but I do
not wish any one to stay with me. A day or two of rest will set me up,
and I hope I shall find among the rocks certain herbs most excellent for
bruises."

A peculiar smile passed over Dantes' lips; he squeezed Jacopo's hand
warmly, but nothing could shake his determination to remain--and remain
alone. The smugglers left with Edmond what he had requested and set
sail, but not without turning about several times, and each time making
signs of a cordial farewell, to which Edmond replied with his hand
only, as if he could not move the rest of his body. Then, when they
had disappeared, he said with a smile,--"'Tis strange that it should be
among such men that we find proofs of friendship and devotion." Then
he dragged himself cautiously to the top of a rock, from which he had
a full view of the sea, and thence he saw the tartan complete her
preparations for sailing, weigh anchor, and, balancing herself as
gracefully as a water-fowl ere it takes to the wing, set sail. At
the end of an hour she was completely out of sight; at least, it was
impossible for the wounded man to see her any longer from the spot where
he was. Then Dantes rose more agile and light than the kid among the
myrtles and shrubs of these wild rocks, took his gun in one hand, his
pickaxe in the other, and hastened towards the rock on which the marks
he had noted terminated. "And now," he exclaimed, remembering the tale
of the Arabian fisherman, which Faria had related to him, "now, open
sesame!"

 

 

Chapter 24. The Secret Cave.

The sun had nearly reached the meridian, and his scorching rays fell
full on the rocks, which seemed themselves sensible of the heat.
Thousands of grasshoppers, hidden in the bushes, chirped with a
monotonous and dull note; the leaves of the myrtle and olive trees waved
and rustled in the wind. At every step that Edmond took he disturbed
the lizards glittering with the hues of the emerald; afar off he saw
the wild goats bounding from crag to crag. In a word, the island was
inhabited, yet Edmond felt himself alone, guided by the hand of God. He
felt an indescribable sensation somewhat akin to dread--that dread of
the daylight which even in the desert makes us fear we are watched and
observed. This feeling was so strong that at the moment when Edmond was
about to begin his labor, he stopped, laid down his pickaxe, seized his
gun, mounted to the summit of the highest rock, and from thence gazed
round in every direction.

But it was not upon Corsica, the very houses of which he could
distinguish; or on Sardinia; or on the Island of Elba, with its
historical associations; or upon the almost imperceptible line that to
the experienced eye of a sailor alone revealed the coast of Genoa
the proud, and Leghorn the commercial, that he gazed. It was at the
brigantine that had left in the morning, and the tartan that had just
set sail, that Edmond fixed his eyes. The first was just disappearing
in the straits of Bonifacio; the other, following an opposite direction,
was about to round the Island of Corsica. This sight reassured him. He
then looked at the objects near him. He saw that he was on the highest
point of the island,--a statue on this vast pedestal of granite, nothing
human appearing in sight, while the blue ocean beat against the base of
the island, and covered it with a fringe of foam. Then he descended with
cautious and slow step, for he dreaded lest an accident similar to that
he had so adroitly feigned should happen in reality.

Dantes, as we have said, had traced the marks along the rocks, and he
had noticed that they led to a small creek, which was hidden like the
bath of some ancient nymph. This creek was sufficiently wide at its
mouth, and deep in the centre, to admit of the entrance of a small
vessel of the lugger class, which would be perfectly concealed from
observation.

Then following the clew that, in the hands of the Abbe Faria, had
been so skilfully used to guide him through the Daedalian labyrinth of
probabilities, he thought that the Cardinal Spada, anxious not to be
watched, had entered the creek, concealed his little barque, followed
the line marked by the notches in the rock, and at the end of it had
buried his treasure. It was this idea that had brought Dantes back to
the circular rock. One thing only perplexed Edmond, and destroyed his
theory. How could this rock, which weighed several tons, have been
lifted to this spot, without the aid of many men? Suddenly an idea
flashed across his mind. Instead of raising it, thought he, they have
lowered it. And he sprang from the rock in order to inspect the base
on which it had formerly stood. He soon perceived that a slope had been
formed, and the rock had slid along this until it stopped at the spot
it now occupied. A large stone had served as a wedge; flints and pebbles
had been inserted around it, so as to conceal the orifice; this species
of masonry had been covered with earth, and grass and weeds had grown
there, moss had clung to the stones, myrtle-bushes had taken root, and
the old rock seemed fixed to the earth.

Dantes dug away the earth carefully, and detected, or fancied he
detected, the ingenious artifice. He attacked this wall, cemented by the
hand of time, with his pickaxe. After ten minutes' labor the wall gave
way, and a hole large enough to insert the arm was opened. Dantes
went and cut the strongest olive-tree he could find, stripped off its
branches, inserted it in the hole, and used it as a lever. But the rock
was too heavy, and too firmly wedged, to be moved by any one man, were
he Hercules himself. Dantes saw that he must attack the wedge. But
how? He cast his eyes around, and saw the horn full of powder which
his friend Jacopo had left him. He smiled; the infernal invention would
serve him for this purpose. With the aid of his pickaxe, Dantes, after
the manner of a labor-saving pioneer, dug a mine between the upper rock
and the one that supported it, filled it with powder, then made a match
by rolling his handkerchief in saltpetre. He lighted it and retired. The
explosion soon followed; the upper rock was lifted from its base by the
terrific force of the powder; the lower one flew into pieces; thousands
of insects escaped from the aperture Dantes had previously formed, and
a huge snake, like the guardian demon of the treasure, rolled himself
along in darkening coils, and disappeared.

Dantes approached the upper rock, which now, without any support, leaned
towards the sea. The intrepid treasure-seeker walked round it, and,
selecting the spot from whence it appeared most susceptible to attack,
placed his lever in one of the crevices, and strained every nerve to
move the mass. The rock, already shaken by the explosion, tottered
on its base. Dantes redoubled his efforts; he seemed like one of the
ancient Titans, who uprooted the mountains to hurl against the father
of the gods. The rock yielded, rolled over, bounded from point to point,
and finally disappeared in the ocean.

On the spot it had occupied was a circular space, exposing an iron ring
let into a square flag-stone. Dantes uttered a cry of joy and surprise;
never had a first attempt been crowned with more perfect success. He
would fain have continued, but his knees trembled, and his heart beat
so violently, and his sight became so dim, that he was forced to pause.
This feeling lasted but for a moment. Edmond inserted his lever in the
ring and exerted all his strength; the flag-stone yielded, and disclosed
steps that descended until they were lost in the obscurity of a
subterraneous grotto. Any one else would have rushed on with a cry of
joy. Dantes turned pale, hesitated, and reflected. "Come," said he to
himself, "be a man. I am accustomed to adversity. I must not be cast
down by the discovery that I have been deceived. What, then, would be
the use of all I have suffered? The heart breaks when, after having been
elated by flattering hopes, it sees all its illusions destroyed. Faria
has dreamed this; the Cardinal Spada buried no treasure here; perhaps he
never came here, or if he did, Caesar Borgia, the intrepid adventurer,
the stealthy and indefatigable plunderer, has followed him, discovered
his traces, pursued them as I have done, raised the stone, and
descending before me, has left me nothing." He remained motionless and
pensive, his eyes fixed on the gloomy aperture that was open at his
feet.

"Now that I expect nothing, now that I no longer entertain the slightest
hopes, the end of this adventure becomes simply a matter of curiosity."
And he remained again motionless and thoughtful.

"Yes, yes; this is an adventure worthy a place in the varied career of
that royal bandit. This fabulous event formed but a link in a long chain
of marvels. Yes, Borgia has been here, a torch in one hand, a sword in
the other, and within twenty paces, at the foot of this rock, perhaps
two guards kept watch on land and sea, while their master descended, as
I am about to descend, dispelling the darkness before his awe-inspiring
progress."

"But what was the fate of the guards who thus possessed his secret?"
asked Dantes of himself.

"The fate," replied he, smiling, "of those who buried Alaric."

"Yet, had he come," thought Dantes, "he would have found the treasure,
and Borgia, he who compared Italy to an artichoke, which he could devour
leaf by leaf, knew too well the value of time to waste it in replacing
this rock. I will go down."

Then he descended, a smile on his lips, and murmuring that last word of
human philosophy, "Perhaps!" But instead of the darkness, and the thick
and mephitic atmosphere he had expected to find, Dantes saw a dim and
bluish light, which, as well as the air, entered, not merely by the
aperture he had just formed, but by the interstices and crevices of
the rock which were visible from without, and through which he could
distinguish the blue sky and the waving branches of the evergreen oaks,
and the tendrils of the creepers that grew from the rocks. After having
stood a few minutes in the cavern, the atmosphere of which was rather
warm than damp, Dantes' eye, habituated as it was to darkness, could
pierce even to the remotest angles of the cavern, which was of granite
that sparkled like diamonds. "Alas," said Edmond, smiling, "these are
the treasures the cardinal has left; and the good abbe, seeing in a
dream these glittering walls, has indulged in fallacious hopes."

But he called to mind the words of the will, which he knew by heart. "In
the farthest angle of the second opening," said the cardinal's will. He
had only found the first grotto; he had now to seek the second.
Dantes continued his search. He reflected that this second grotto must
penetrate deeper into the island; he examined the stones, and sounded
one part of the wall where he fancied the opening existed, masked for
precaution's sake. The pickaxe struck for a moment with a dull sound
that drew out of Dantes' forehead large drops of perspiration. At last
it seemed to him that one part of the wall gave forth a more hollow and
deeper echo; he eagerly advanced, and with the quickness of perception
that no one but a prisoner possesses, saw that there, in all
probability, the opening must be.

However, he, like Caesar Borgia, knew the value of time; and, in
order to avoid fruitless toil, he sounded all the other walls with his
pickaxe, struck the earth with the butt of his gun, and finding nothing
that appeared suspicious, returned to that part of the wall whence
issued the consoling sound he had before heard. He again struck it, and
with greater force. Then a singular thing occurred. As he struck the
wall, pieces of stucco similar to that used in the ground work of
arabesques broke off, and fell to the ground in flakes, exposing a large
white stone. The aperture of the rock had been closed with stones, then
this stucco had been applied, and painted to imitate granite. Dantes
struck with the sharp end of his pickaxe, which entered someway between
the interstices. It was there he must dig. But by some strange play of
emotion, in proportion as the proofs that Faria, had not been
deceived became stronger, so did his heart give way, and a feeling of
discouragement stole over him. This last proof, instead of giving him
fresh strength, deprived him of it; the pickaxe descended, or rather
fell; he placed it on the ground, passed his hand over his brow, and
remounted the stairs, alleging to himself, as an excuse, a desire to
be assured that no one was watching him, but in reality because he felt
that he was about to faint. The island was deserted, and the sun seemed
to cover it with its fiery glance; afar off, a few small fishing boats
studded the bosom of the blue ocean.

Dantes had tasted nothing, but he thought not of hunger at such a
moment; he hastily swallowed a few drops of rum, and again entered the
cavern. The pickaxe that had seemed so heavy, was now like a feather in
his grasp; he seized it, and attacked the wall. After several blows he
perceived that the stones were not cemented, but had been merely placed
one upon the other, and covered with stucco; he inserted the point of
his pickaxe, and using the handle as a lever, with joy soon saw the
stone turn as if on hinges, and fall at his feet. He had nothing more
to do now, but with the iron tooth of the pickaxe to draw the stones
towards him one by one. The aperture was already sufficiently large for
him to enter, but by waiting, he could still cling to hope, and retard
the certainty of deception. At last, after renewed hesitation, Dantes
entered the second grotto. The second grotto was lower and more gloomy
than the first; the air that could only enter by the newly formed
opening had the mephitic smell Dantes was surprised not to find in the
outer cavern. He waited in order to allow pure air to displace the foul
atmosphere, and then went on. At the left of the opening was a dark and
deep angle. But to Dantes' eye there was no darkness. He glanced around
this second grotto; it was, like the first, empty.

The treasure, if it existed, was buried in this corner. The time had
at length arrived; two feet of earth removed, and Dantes' fate would
be decided. He advanced towards the angle, and summoning all his
resolution, attacked the ground with the pickaxe. At the fifth or sixth
blow the pickaxe struck against an iron substance. Never did funeral
knell, never did alarm-bell, produce a greater effect on the hearer.
Had Dantes found nothing he could not have become more ghastly pale.
He again struck his pickaxe into the earth, and encountered the same
resistance, but not the same sound. "It is a casket of wood bound with
iron," thought he. At this moment a shadow passed rapidly before the
opening; Dantes seized his gun, sprang through the opening, and mounted
the stair. A wild goat had passed before the mouth of the cave, and was
feeding at a little distance. This would have been a favorable occasion
to secure his dinner; but Dantes feared lest the report of his gun
should attract attention.

He thought a moment, cut a branch of a resinous tree, lighted it at the
fire at which the smugglers had prepared their breakfast, and descended
with this torch. He wished to see everything. He approached the hole he
had dug, and now, with the aid of the torch, saw that his pickaxe had in
reality struck against iron and wood. He planted his torch in the ground
and resumed his labor. In an instant a space three feet long by two feet
broad was cleared, and Dantes could see an oaken coffer, bound with cut
steel; in the middle of the lid he saw engraved on a silver plate, which
was still untarnished, the arms of the Spada family--viz., a sword,
pale, on an oval shield, like all the Italian armorial bearings, and
surmounted by a cardinal's hat; Dantes easily recognized them, Faria had
so often drawn them for him. There was no longer any doubt: the treasure
was there--no one would have been at such pains to conceal an empty
casket. In an instant he had cleared every obstacle away, and he saw
successively the lock, placed between two padlocks, and the two handles
at each end, all carved as things were carved at that epoch, when art
rendered the commonest metals precious. Dantes seized the handles, and
strove to lift the coffer; it was impossible. He sought to open it; lock
and padlock were fastened; these faithful guardians seemed unwilling
to surrender their trust. Dantes inserted the sharp end of the pickaxe
between the coffer and the lid, and pressing with all his force on the
handle, burst open the fastenings. The hinges yielded in their turn and
fell, still holding in their grasp fragments of the wood, and the chest
was open.

Edmond was seized with vertigo; he cocked his gun and laid it beside
him. He then closed his eyes as children do in order that they may see
in the resplendent night of their own imagination more stars than are
visible in the firmament; then he re-opened them, and stood motionless
with amazement. Three compartments divided the coffer. In the first,
blazed piles of golden coin; in the second, were ranged bars of
unpolished gold, which possessed nothing attractive save their value;
in the third, Edmond grasped handfuls of diamonds, pearls, and rubies,
which, as they fell on one another, sounded like hail against glass.
After having touched, felt, examined these treasures, Edmond rushed
through the caverns like a man seized with frenzy; he leaped on a rock,
from whence he could behold the sea. He was alone--alone with these
countless, these unheard-of treasures! was he awake, or was it but a
dream?

He would fain have gazed upon his gold, and yet he had not strength
enough; for an instant he leaned his head in his hands as if to prevent
his senses from leaving him, and then rushed madly about the rocks of
Monte Cristo, terrifying the wild goats and scaring the sea-fowls with
his wild cries and gestures; then he returned, and, still unable to
believe the evidence of his senses, rushed into the grotto, and found
himself before this mine of gold and jewels. This time he fell on
his knees, and, clasping his hands convulsively, uttered a prayer
intelligible to God alone. He soon became calmer and more happy, for
only now did he begin to realize his felicity. He then set himself to
work to count his fortune. There were a thousand ingots of gold, each
weighing from two to three pounds; then he piled up twenty-five thousand
crowns, each worth about eighty francs of our money, and bearing the
effigies of Alexander VI. and his predecessors; and he saw that the
complement was not half empty. And he measured ten double handfuls of
pearls, diamonds, and other gems, many of which, mounted by the most
famous workmen, were valuable beyond their intrinsic worth. Dantes
saw the light gradually disappear, and fearing to be surprised in the
cavern, left it, his gun in his hand. A piece of biscuit and a small
quantity of rum formed his supper, and he snatched a few hours' sleep,
lying over the mouth of the cave.

It was a night of joy and terror, such as this man of stupendous
emotions had already experienced twice or thrice in his lifetime.

 

 

Chapter 25. The Unknown.

Day, for which Dantes had so eagerly and impatiently waited with open
eyes, again dawned. With the first light Dantes resumed his search.
Again he climbed the rocky height he had ascended the previous evening,
and strained his view to catch every peculiarity of the landscape;
but it wore the same wild, barren aspect when seen by the rays of the
morning sun which it had done when surveyed by the fading glimmer of
eve. Descending into the grotto, he lifted the stone, filled his pockets
with gems, put the box together as well and securely as he could,
sprinkled fresh sand over the spot from which it had been taken, and
then carefully trod down the earth to give it everywhere a uniform
appearance; then, quitting the grotto, he replaced the stone, heaping
on it broken masses of rocks and rough fragments of crumbling granite,
filling the interstices with earth, into which he deftly inserted
rapidly growing plants, such as the wild myrtle and flowering thorn,
then carefully watering these new plantations, he scrupulously effaced
every trace of footsteps, leaving the approach to the cavern as
savage-looking and untrodden as he had found it. This done, he
impatiently awaited the return of his companions. To wait at Monte
Cristo for the purpose of watching like a dragon over the almost
incalculable riches that had thus fallen into his possession satisfied
not the cravings of his heart, which yearned to return to dwell among
mankind, and to assume the rank, power, and influence which are always
accorded to wealth--that first and greatest of all the forces within the
grasp of man.

On the sixth day, the smugglers returned. From a distance Dantes
recognized the rig and handling of The Young Amelia, and dragging
himself with affected difficulty towards the landing-place, he met his
companions with an assurance that, although considerably better than
when they quitted him, he still suffered acutely from his late accident.
He then inquired how they had fared in their trip. To this question the
smugglers replied that, although successful in landing their cargo in
safety, they had scarcely done so when they received intelligence that a
guard-ship had just quitted the port of Toulon and was crowding all
sail towards them. This obliged them to make all the speed they could to
evade the enemy, when they could but lament the absence of Dantes, whose
superior skill in the management of a vessel would have availed them so
materially. In fact, the pursuing vessel had almost overtaken them
when, fortunately, night came on, and enabled them to double the Cape of
Corsica, and so elude all further pursuit. Upon the whole, however, the
trip had been sufficiently successful to satisfy all concerned; while
the crew, and particularly Jacopo, expressed great regrets that Dantes
had not been an equal sharer with themselves in the profits, which
amounted to no less a sum than fifty piastres each.

Edmond preserved the most admirable self-command, not suffering the
faintest indication of a smile to escape him at the enumeration of all
the benefits he would have reaped had he been able to quit the island;
but as The Young Amelia had merely come to Monte Cristo to fetch him
away, he embarked that same evening, and proceeded with the captain to
Leghorn. Arrived at Leghorn, he repaired to the house of a Jew, a dealer
in precious stones, to whom he disposed of four of his smallest diamonds
for five thousand francs each. Dantes half feared that such valuable
jewels in the hands of a poor sailor like himself might excite
suspicion; but the cunning purchaser asked no troublesome questions
concerning a bargain by which he gained a round profit of at least
eighty per cent.

The following day Dantes presented Jacopo with an entirely new vessel,
accompanying the gift by a donation of one hundred piastres, that he
might provide himself with a suitable crew and other requisites for his
outfit, upon condition that he would go at once to Marseilles for the
purpose of inquiring after an old man named Louis Dantes, residing
in the Allees de Meillan, and also a young woman called Mercedes, an
inhabitant of the Catalan village. Jacopo could scarcely believe his
senses at receiving this magnificent present, which Dantes hastened to
account for by saying that he had merely been a sailor from whim and a
desire to spite his family, who did not allow him as much money as he
liked to spend; but that on his arrival at Leghorn he had come into
possession of a large fortune, left him by an uncle, whose sole heir
he was. The superior education of Dantes gave an air of such extreme
probability to this statement that it never once occurred to Jacopo to
doubt its accuracy. The term for which Edmond had engaged to serve on
board The Young Amelia having expired, Dantes took leave of the captain,
who at first tried all his powers of persuasion to induce him to remain
as one of the crew, but having been told the history of the legacy, he
ceased to importune him further. The following morning Jacopo set sail
for Marseilles, with directions from Dantes to join him at the Island of
Monte Cristo.

Having seen Jacopo fairly out of the harbor, Dantes proceeded to make
his final adieus on board The Young Amelia, distributing so liberal a
gratuity among her crew as to secure for him the good wishes of all,
and expressions of cordial interest in all that concerned him. To the
captain he promised to write when he had made up his mind as to his
future plans. Then Dantes departed for Genoa. At the moment of his
arrival a small yacht was under trial in the bay; this yacht had been
built by order of an Englishman, who, having heard that the Genoese
excelled all other builders along the shores of the Mediterranean in
the construction of fast-sailing vessels, was desirous of possessing a
specimen of their skill; the price agreed upon between the Englishman
and the Genoese builder was forty thousand francs. Dantes, struck with
the beauty and capability of the little vessel, applied to its owner to
transfer it to him, offering sixty thousand francs, upon condition that
he should be allowed to take immediate possession. The proposal was too
advantageous to be refused, the more so as the person for whom the
yacht was intended had gone upon a tour through Switzerland, and was
not expected back in less than three weeks or a month, by which time
the builder reckoned upon being able to complete another. A bargain was
therefore struck. Dantes led the owner of the yacht to the dwelling of
a Jew; retired with the latter for a few minutes to a small back parlor,
and upon their return the Jew counted out to the shipbuilder the sum of
sixty thousand francs in bright gold pieces.

The delighted builder then offered his services in providing a suitable
crew for the little vessel, but this Dantes declined with many thanks,
saying he was accustomed to cruise about quite alone, and his principal
pleasure consisted in managing his yacht himself; the only thing the
builder could oblige him in would be to contrive a sort of secret closet
in the cabin at his bed's head, the closet to contain three divisions,
so constructed as to be concealed from all but himself. The builder
cheerfully undertook the commission, and promised to have these secret
places completed by the next day, Dantes furnishing the dimensions and
plan in accordance with which they were to be constructed.

The following day Dantes sailed with his yacht from Genoa, under the
inspection of an immense crowd drawn together by curiosity to see the
rich Spanish nobleman who preferred managing his own yacht. But their
wonder was soon changed to admiration at seeing the perfect skill with
which Dantes handled the helm. The boat, indeed, seemed to be animated
with almost human intelligence, so promptly did it obey the slightest
touch; and Dantes required but a short trial of his beautiful craft to
acknowledge that the Genoese had not without reason attained their
high reputation in the art of shipbuilding. The spectators followed the
little vessel with their eyes as long as it remained visible; they then
turned their conjectures upon her probable destination. Some insisted
she was making for Corsica, others the Island of Elba; bets were offered
to any amount that she was bound for Spain; while Africa was positively
reported by many persons as her intended course; but no one thought of
Monte Cristo. Yet thither it was that Dantes guided his vessel, and at
Monte Cristo he arrived at the close of the second day; his boat had
proved herself a first-class sailer, and had come the distance from
Genoa in thirty-five hours. Dantes had carefully noted the general
appearance of the shore, and, instead of landing at the usual place, he
dropped anchor in the little creek. The island was utterly deserted, and
bore no evidence of having been visited since he went away; his treasure
was just as he had left it. Early on the following morning he commenced
the removal of his riches, and ere nightfall the whole of his immense
wealth was safely deposited in the compartments of the secret locker.

A week passed by. Dantes employed it in manoeuvring his yacht round the
island, studying it as a skilful horseman would the animal he destined
for some important service, till at the end of that time he was
perfectly conversant with its good and bad qualities. The former Dantes
proposed to augment, the latter to remedy.

Upon the eighth day he discerned a small vessel under full sail
approaching Monte Cristo. As it drew near, he recognized it as the boat
he had given to Jacopo. He immediately signalled it. His signal was
returned, and in two hours afterwards the new-comer lay at anchor beside
the yacht. A mournful answer awaited each of Edmond's eager inquiries
as to the information Jacopo had obtained. Old Dantes was dead, and
Mercedes had disappeared. Dantes listened to these melancholy tidings
with outward calmness; but, leaping lightly ashore, he signified his
desire to be quite alone. In a couple of hours he returned. Two of the
men from Jacopo's boat came on board the yacht to assist in navigating
it, and he gave orders that she should be steered direct to Marseilles.
For his father's death he was in some manner prepared; but he knew not
how to account for the mysterious disappearance of Mercedes.

Without divulging his secret, Dantes could not give sufficiently clear
instructions to an agent. There were, besides, other particulars he
was desirous of ascertaining, and those were of a nature he alone could
investigate in a manner satisfactory to himself. His looking-glass
had assured him, during his stay at Leghorn, that he ran no risk of
recognition; moreover, he had now the means of adopting any disguise
he thought proper. One fine morning, then, his yacht, followed by the
little fishing-boat, boldly entered the port of Marseilles, and anchored
exactly opposite the spot from whence, on the never-to-be-forgotten
night of his departure for the Chateau d'If, he had been put on board
the boat destined to convey him thither. Still Dantes could not view
without a shudder the approach of a gendarme who accompanied the
officers deputed to demand his bill of health ere the yacht was
permitted to hold communication with the shore; but with that perfect
self-possession he had acquired during his acquaintance with Faria,
Dantes coolly presented an English passport he had obtained from
Leghorn, and as this gave him a standing which a French passport would
not have afforded, he was informed that there existed no obstacle to his
immediate debarkation.

The first person to attract the attention of Dantes, as he landed on the
Canebiere, was one of the crew belonging to the Pharaon. Edmond welcomed
the meeting with this fellow--who had been one of his own sailors--as a
sure means of testing the extent of the change which time had worked in
his own appearance. Going straight towards him, he propounded a variety
of questions on different subjects, carefully watching the man's
countenance as he did so; but not a word or look implied that he had the
slightest idea of ever having seen before the person with whom he was
then conversing. Giving the sailor a piece of money in return for his
civility, Dantes proceeded onwards; but ere he had gone many steps he
heard the man loudly calling him to stop. Dantes instantly turned to
meet him. "I beg your pardon, sir," said the honest fellow, in almost
breathless haste, "but I believe you made a mistake; you intended to
give me a two-franc piece, and see, you gave me a double Napoleon."

"Thank you, my good friend. I see that I have made a trifling mistake,
as you say; but by way of rewarding your honesty I give you another
double Napoleon, that you may drink to my health, and be able to ask
your messmates to join you."

So extreme was the surprise of the sailor, that he was unable even
to thank Edmond, whose receding figure he continued to gaze after in
speechless astonishment. "Some nabob from India," was his comment.

Dantes, meanwhile, went on his way. Each step he trod oppressed his
heart with fresh emotion; his first and most indelible recollections
were there; not a tree, not a street, that he passed but seemed filled
with dear and cherished memories. And thus he proceeded onwards till he
arrived at the end of the Rue de Noailles, from whence a full view of
the Allees de Meillan was obtained. At this spot, so pregnant with fond
and filial remembrances, his heart beat almost to bursting, his knees
tottered under him, a mist floated over his sight, and had he not clung
for support to one of the trees, he would inevitably have fallen to the
ground and been crushed beneath the many vehicles continually passing
there. Recovering himself, however, he wiped the perspiration from his
brows, and stopped not again till he found himself at the door of the
house in which his father had lived.

The nasturtiums and other plants, which his father had delighted to
train before his window, had all disappeared from the upper part of the
house. Leaning against the tree, he gazed thoughtfully for a time at the
upper stories of the shabby little house. Then he advanced to the door,
and asked whether there were any rooms to be let. Though answered in the
negative, he begged so earnestly to be permitted to visit those on
the fifth floor, that, in despite of the oft-repeated assurance of the
concierge that they were occupied, Dantes succeeded in inducing the
man to go up to the tenants, and ask permission for a gentleman to be
allowed to look at them.

The tenants of the humble lodging were a young couple who had been
scarcely married a week; and seeing them, Dantes sighed heavily. Nothing
in the two small chambers forming the apartments remained as it had been
in the time of the elder Dantes; the very paper was different, while the
articles of antiquated furniture with which the rooms had been filled in
Edmond's time had all disappeared; the four walls alone remained as he
had left them. The bed belonging to the present occupants was placed as
the former owner of the chamber had been accustomed to have his; and, in
spite of his efforts to prevent it, the eyes of Edmond were suffused
in tears as he reflected that on that spot the old man had breathed
his last, vainly calling for his son. The young couple gazed with
astonishment at the sight of their visitor's emotion, and wondered to
see the large tears silently chasing each other down his otherwise stern
and immovable features; but they felt the sacredness of his grief,
and kindly refrained from questioning him as to its cause, while, with
instinctive delicacy, they left him to indulge his sorrow alone. When
he withdrew from the scene of his painful recollections, they both
accompanied him downstairs, reiterating their hope that he would come
again whenever he pleased, and assuring him that their poor dwelling
would ever be open to him. As Edmond passed the door on the fourth
floor, he paused to inquire whether Caderousse the tailor still dwelt
there; but he received, for reply, that the person in question had got
into difficulties, and at the present time kept a small inn on the route
from Bellegarde to Beaucaire.

Having obtained the address of the person to whom the house in the
Allees de Meillan belonged, Dantes next proceeded thither, and, under
the name of Lord Wilmore (the name and title inscribed on his passport),
purchased the small dwelling for the sum of twenty-five thousand francs,
at least ten thousand more than it was worth; but had its owner asked
half a million, it would unhesitatingly have been given. The very same
day the occupants of the apartments on the fifth floor of the house, now
become the property of Dantes, were duly informed by the notary who had
arranged the necessary transfer of deeds, etc., that the new landlord
gave them their choice of any of the rooms in the house, without the
least augmentation of rent, upon condition of their giving instant
possession of the two small chambers they at present inhabited.

This strange event aroused great wonder and curiosity in the
neighborhood of the Allees de Meillan, and a multitude of theories
were afloat, none of which was anywhere near the truth. But what raised
public astonishment to a climax, and set all conjecture at defiance, was
the knowledge that the same stranger who had in the morning visited the
Allees de Meillan had been seen in the evening walking in the little
village of the Catalans, and afterwards observed to enter a poor
fisherman's hut, and to pass more than an hour in inquiring after
persons who had either been dead or gone away for more than fifteen or
sixteen years. But on the following day the family from whom all these
particulars had been asked received a handsome present, consisting of an
entirely new fishing-boat, with two seines and a tender. The delighted
recipients of these munificent gifts would gladly have poured out
their thanks to their generous benefactor, but they had seen him,
upon quitting the hut, merely give some orders to a sailor, and then
springing lightly on horseback, leave Marseilles by the Porte d'Aix.

 

 

Chapter 26. The Pont du Gard Inn.

Such of my readers as have made a pedestrian excursion to the south
of France may perchance have noticed, about midway between the town of
Beaucaire and the village of Bellegarde,--a little nearer to the former
than to the latter,--a small roadside inn, from the front of which
hung, creaking and flapping in the wind, a sheet of tin covered with
a grotesque representation of the Pont du Gard. This modern place of
entertainment stood on the left-hand side of the post road, and backed
upon the Rhone. It also boasted of what in Languedoc is styled a garden,
consisting of a small plot of ground, on the side opposite to the main
entrance reserved for the reception of guests. A few dingy olives and
stunted fig-trees struggled hard for existence, but their withered dusty
foliage abundantly proved how unequal was the conflict. Between these
sickly shrubs grew a scanty supply of garlic, tomatoes, and eschalots;
while, lone and solitary, like a forgotten sentinel, a tall pine raised
its melancholy head in one of the corners of this unattractive spot, and
displayed its flexible stem and fan-shaped summit dried and cracked by
the fierce heat of the sub-tropical sun.

In the surrounding plain, which more resembled a dusty lake than solid
ground, were scattered a few miserable stalks of wheat, the effect,
no doubt, of a curious desire on the part of the agriculturists of the
country to see whether such a thing as the raising of grain in those
parched regions was practicable. Each stalk served as a perch for a
grasshopper, which regaled the passers by through this Egyptian scene
with its strident, monotonous note.

For about seven or eight years the little tavern had been kept by a man
and his wife, with two servants,--a chambermaid named Trinette, and
a hostler called Pecaud. This small staff was quite equal to all
the requirements, for a canal between Beaucaire and Aiguemortes had
revolutionized transportation by substituting boats for the cart and
the stagecoach. And, as though to add to the daily misery which this
prosperous canal inflicted on the unfortunate inn-keeper, whose utter
ruin it was fast accomplishing, it was situated between the Rhone from
which it had its source and the post-road it had depleted, not a
hundred steps from the inn, of which we have given a brief but faithful
description.

The inn-keeper himself was a man of from forty to fifty-five years of
age, tall, strong, and bony, a perfect specimen of the natives of those
southern latitudes; he had dark, sparkling, and deep-set eyes, hooked
nose, and teeth white as those of a carnivorous animal; his hair, like
his beard, which he wore under his chin, was thick and curly, and in
spite of his age but slightly interspersed with a few silvery threads.
His naturally dark complexion had assumed a still further shade of brown
from the habit the unfortunate man had acquired of stationing himself
from morning till eve at the threshold of his door, on the lookout for
guests who seldom came, yet there he stood, day after day, exposed to
the meridional rays of a burning sun, with no other protection for his
head than a red handkerchief twisted around it, after the manner of
the Spanish muleteers. This man was our old acquaintance, Gaspard
Caderousse. His wife, on the contrary, whose maiden name had been
Madeleine Radelle, was pale, meagre, and sickly-looking. Born in the
neighborhood of Arles, she had shared in the beauty for which its women
are proverbial; but that beauty had gradually withered beneath the
devastating influence of the slow fever so prevalent among dwellers
by the ponds of Aiguemortes and the marshes of Camargue. She remained
nearly always in her second-floor chamber, shivering in her chair, or
stretched languid and feeble on her bed, while her husband kept his
daily watch at the door--a duty he performed with so much the greater
willingness, as it saved him the necessity of listening to the endless
plaints and murmurs of his helpmate, who never saw him without breaking
out into bitter invectives against fate; to all of which her husband
would calmly return an unvarying reply, in these philosophic words:--

"Hush, La Carconte. It is God's pleasure that things should be so."

The sobriquet of La Carconte had been bestowed on Madeleine Radelle
from the fact that she had been born in a village, so called, situated
between Salon and Lambesc; and as a custom existed among the inhabitants
of that part of France where Caderousse lived of styling every person by
some particular and distinctive appellation, her husband had bestowed on
her the name of La Carconte in place of her sweet and euphonious name of
Madeleine, which, in all probability, his rude gutteral language would
not have enabled him to pronounce. Still, let it not be supposed
that amid this affected resignation to the will of Providence, the
unfortunate inn-keeper did not writhe under the double misery of seeing
the hateful canal carry off his customers and his profits, and the daily
infliction of his peevish partner's murmurs and lamentations.

Like other dwellers in the south, he was a man of sober habits and
moderate desires, but fond of external show, vain, and addicted to
display. During the days of his prosperity, not a festivity took place
without himself and wife being among the spectators. He dressed in the
picturesque costume worn upon grand occasions by the inhabitants of the
south of France, bearing equal resemblance to the style adopted both by
the Catalans and Andalusians; while La Carconte displayed the charming
fashion prevalent among the women of Arles, a mode of attire borrowed
equally from Greece and Arabia. But, by degrees, watch-chains,
necklaces, parti-colored scarfs, embroidered bodices, velvet vests,
elegantly worked stockings, striped gaiters, and silver buckles for the
shoes, all disappeared; and Gaspard Caderousse, unable to appear abroad
in his pristine splendor, had given up any further participation in the
pomps and vanities, both for himself and wife, although a bitter feeling
of envious discontent filled his mind as the sound of mirth and merry
music from the joyous revellers reached even the miserable hostelry to
which he still clung, more for the shelter than the profit it afforded.

Caderousse, then, was, as usual, at his place of observation before
the door, his eyes glancing listlessly from a piece of closely shaven
grass--on which some fowls were industriously, though fruitlessly,
endeavoring to turn up some grain or insect suited to their palate--to
the deserted road, which led away to the north and south, when he was
aroused by the shrill voice of his wife, and grumbling to himself as he
went, he mounted to her chamber, first taking care, however, to set the
entrance door wide open, as an invitation to any chance traveller who
might be passing.

At the moment Caderousse quitted his sentry-like watch before the door,
the road on which he so eagerly strained his sight was void and
lonely as a desert at mid-day. There it lay stretching out into one
interminable line of dust and sand, with its sides bordered by tall,
meagre trees, altogether presenting so uninviting an appearance, that no
one in his senses could have imagined that any traveller, at liberty
to regulate his hours for journeying, would choose to expose himself in
such a formidable Sahara. Nevertheless, had Caderousse but retained
his post a few minutes longer, he might have caught a dim outline of
something approaching from the direction of Bellegarde; as the moving
object drew nearer, he would easily have perceived that it consisted of
a man and horse, between whom the kindest and most amiable understanding
appeared to exist. The horse was of Hungarian breed, and ambled along
at an easy pace. His rider was a priest, dressed in black, and wearing a
three-cornered hat; and, spite of the ardent rays of a noonday sun, the
pair came on with a fair degree of rapidity.

Having arrived before the Pont du Gard, the horse stopped, but whether
for his own pleasure or that of his rider would have been difficult
to say. However that might have been, the priest, dismounting, led his
steed by the bridle in search of some place to which he could secure
him. Availing himself of a handle that projected from a half-fallen
door, he tied the animal safely and having drawn a red cotton
handkerchief, from his pocket, wiped away the perspiration that streamed
from his brow, then, advancing to the door, struck thrice with the end
of his iron-shod stick. At this unusual sound, a huge black dog came
rushing to meet the daring assailant of his ordinarily tranquil
abode, snarling and displaying his sharp white teeth with a determined
hostility that abundantly proved how little he was accustomed to
society. At that moment a heavy footstep was heard descending the
wooden staircase that led from the upper floor, and, with many bows and
courteous smiles, mine host of the Pont du Gard besought his guest to
enter.

"You are welcome, sir, most welcome!" repeated the astonished
Caderousse. "Now, then, Margotin," cried he, speaking to the dog, "will
you be quiet? Pray don't heed him, sir!--he only barks, he never bites.
I make no doubt a glass of good wine would be acceptable this dreadfully
hot day." Then perceiving for the first time the garb of the traveller
he had to entertain, Caderousse hastily exclaimed: "A thousand pardons!
I really did not observe whom I had the honor to receive under my poor
roof. What would the abbe please to have? What refreshment can I offer?
All I have is at his service."

The priest gazed on the person addressing him with a long and searching
gaze--there even seemed a disposition on his part to court a similar
scrutiny on the part of the inn-keeper; then, observing in the
countenance of the latter no other expression than extreme surprise at
his own want of attention to an inquiry so courteously worded, he deemed
it as well to terminate this dumb show, and therefore said, speaking
with a strong Italian accent, "You are, I presume, M. Caderousse?"

"Yes, sir," answered the host, even more surprised at the question
than he had been by the silence which had preceded it; "I am Gaspard
Caderousse, at your service."

"Gaspard Caderousse," rejoined the priest. "Yes,--Christian and surname
are the same. You formerly lived, I believe in the Allees de Meillan, on
the fourth floor?"

"I did."

"And you followed the business of a tailor?"

"True, I was a tailor, till the trade fell off. It is so hot at
Marseilles, that really I believe that the respectable inhabitants will
in time go without any clothing whatever. But talking of heat, is there
nothing I can offer you by way of refreshment?"

"Yes; let me have a bottle of your best wine, and then, with your
permission, we will resume our conversation from where we left off."

"As you please, sir," said Caderousse, who, anxious not to lose the
present opportunity of finding a customer for one of the few bottles of
Cahors still remaining in his possession, hastily raised a trap-door in
the floor of the apartment they were in, which served both as parlor
and kitchen. Upon issuing forth from his subterranean retreat at the
expiration of five minutes, he found the abbe seated upon a wooden
stool, leaning his elbow on a table, while Margotin, whose animosity
seemed appeased by the unusual command of the traveller for
refreshments, had crept up to him, and had established himself very
comfortably between his knees, his long, skinny neck resting on his lap,
while his dim eye was fixed earnestly on the traveller's face.

"Are you quite alone?" inquired the guest, as Caderousse placed before
him the bottle of wine and a glass.

"Quite, quite alone," replied the man--"or, at least, practically so,
for my poor wife, who is the only person in the house besides myself, is
laid up with illness, and unable to render me the least assistance, poor
thing!"

"You are married, then?" said the priest, with a show of interest,
glancing round as he spoke at the scanty furnishings of the apartment.

"Ah, sir," said Caderousse with a sigh, "it is easy to perceive I am not
a rich man; but in this world a man does not thrive the better for being
honest." The abbe fixed on him a searching, penetrating glance.

"Yes, honest--I can certainly say that much for myself," continued the
inn-keeper, fairly sustaining the scrutiny of the abbe's gaze; "I
can boast with truth of being an honest man; and," continued he
significantly, with a hand on his breast and shaking his head, "that is
more than every one can say nowadays."

"So much the better for you, if what you assert be true," said the
abbe; "for I am firmly persuaded that, sooner or later, the good will be
rewarded, and the wicked punished."

"Such words as those belong to your profession," answered Caderousse,
"and you do well to repeat them; but," added he, with a bitter
expression of countenance, "one is free to believe them or not, as one
pleases."

"You are wrong to speak thus," said the abbe; "and perhaps I may, in my
own person, be able to prove to you how completely you are in error."

"What mean you?" inquired Caderousse with a look of surprise.

"In the first place, I must be satisfied that you are the person I am in
search of."

"What proofs do you require?"

"Did you, in the year 1814 or 1815, know anything of a young sailor
named Dantes?"

"Dantes? Did I know poor dear Edmond? Why, Edmond Dantes and myself
were intimate friends!" exclaimed Caderousse, whose countenance flushed
darkly as he caught the penetrating gaze of the abbe fixed on him, while
the clear, calm eye of the questioner seemed to dilate with feverish
scrutiny.

"You remind me," said the priest, "that the young man concerning whom I
asked you was said to bear the name of Edmond."

"Said to bear the name!" repeated Caderousse, becoming excited and
eager. "Why, he was so called as truly as I myself bore the appellation
of Gaspard Caderousse; but tell me, I pray, what has become of poor
Edmond? Did you know him? Is he alive and at liberty? Is he prosperous
and happy?"

"He died a more wretched, hopeless, heart-broken prisoner than the
felons who pay the penalty of their crimes at the galleys of Toulon."

A deadly pallor followed the flush on the countenance of Caderousse, who
turned away, and the priest saw him wiping the tears from his eyes with
the corner of the red handkerchief twisted round his head.

"Poor fellow, poor fellow!" murmured Caderousse. "Well, there, sir, is
another proof that good people are never rewarded on this earth, and
that none but the wicked prosper. Ah," continued Caderousse, speaking
in the highly colored language of the south, "the world grows worse and
worse. Why does not God, if he really hates the wicked, as he is said to
do, send down brimstone and fire, and consume them altogether?"

"You speak as though you had loved this young Dantes," observed the
abbe, without taking any notice of his companion's vehemence.

"And so I did," replied Caderousse; "though once, I confess, I envied
him his good fortune. But I swear to you, sir, I swear to you, by
everything a man holds dear, I have, since then, deeply and sincerely
lamented his unhappy fate." There was a brief silence, during which
the fixed, searching eye of the abbe was employed in scrutinizing the
agitated features of the inn-keeper.

"You knew the poor lad, then?" continued Caderousse.

"I was called to see him on his dying bed, that I might administer to
him the consolations of religion."

"And of what did he die?" asked Caderousse in a choking voice.

"Of what, think you, do young and strong men die in prison, when
they have scarcely numbered their thirtieth year, unless it be of
imprisonment?" Caderousse wiped away the large beads of perspiration
that gathered on his brow.

"But the strangest part of the story is," resumed the abbe, "that
Dantes, even in his dying moments, swore by his crucified Redeemer, that
he was utterly ignorant of the cause of his detention."

"And so he was," murmured Caderousse. "How should he have been
otherwise? Ah, sir, the poor fellow told you the truth."

"And for that reason, he besought me to try and clear up a mystery he
had never been able to penetrate, and to clear his memory should any
foul spot or stain have fallen on it."

And here the look of the abbe, becoming more and more fixed, seemed to
rest with ill-concealed satisfaction on the gloomy depression which was
rapidly spreading over the countenance of Caderousse.

"A rich Englishman," continued the abbe, "who had been his companion
in misfortune, but had been released from prison during the second
restoration, was possessed of a diamond of immense value; this jewel he
bestowed on Dantes upon himself quitting the prison, as a mark of his
gratitude for the kindness and brotherly care with which Dantes had
nursed him in a severe illness he underwent during his confinement.
Instead of employing this diamond in attempting to bribe his jailers,
who might only have taken it and then betrayed him to the governor,
Dantes carefully preserved it, that in the event of his getting out of
prison he might have wherewithal to live, for the sale of such a diamond
would have quite sufficed to make his fortune."

"Then, I suppose," asked Caderousse, with eager, glowing looks, "that it
was a stone of immense value?"

"Why, everything is relative," answered the abbe. "To one in Edmond's
position the diamond certainly was of great value. It was estimated at
fifty thousand francs."

"Bless me!" exclaimed Caderousse, "fifty thousand francs! Surely the
diamond was as large as a nut to be worth all that."

"No," replied the abbe, "it was not of such a size as that; but you
shall judge for yourself. I have it with me."

The sharp gaze of Caderousse was instantly directed towards the priest's
garments, as though hoping to discover the location of the treasure.
Calmly drawing forth from his pocket a small box covered with black
shagreen, the abbe opened it, and displayed to the dazzled eyes of
Caderousse the sparkling jewel it contained, set in a ring of admirable
workmanship. "And that diamond," cried Caderousse, almost breathless
with eager admiration, "you say, is worth fifty thousand francs?"

"It is, without the setting, which is also valuable," replied the abbe,
as he closed the box, and returned it to his pocket, while its brilliant
hues seemed still to dance before the eyes of the fascinated inn-keeper.

"But how comes the diamond in your possession, sir? Did Edmond make you
his heir?"

"No, merely his testamentary executor. 'I once possessed four dear and
faithful friends, besides the maiden to whom I was betrothed' he said;
'and I feel convinced they have all unfeignedly grieved over my loss.
The name of one of the four friends is Caderousse.'" The inn-keeper
shivered.

"'Another of the number,'" continued the abbe, without seeming to notice
the emotion of Caderousse, "'is called Danglars; and the third, in spite
of being my rival, entertained a very sincere affection for me.'" A
fiendish smile played over the features of Caderousse, who was about to
break in upon the abbe's speech, when the latter, waving his hand, said,
"Allow me to finish first, and then if you have any observations to
make, you can do so afterwards. 'The third of my friends, although
my rival, was much attached to me,--his name was Fernand; that of my
betrothed was'--Stay, stay," continued the abbe, "I have forgotten what
he called her."

"Mercedes," said Caderousse eagerly.

"True," said the abbe, with a stifled sigh, "Mercedes it was."

"Go on," urged Caderousse.

"Bring me a carafe of water," said the abbe.

Caderousse quickly performed the stranger's bidding; and after pouring
some into a glass, and slowly swallowing its contents, the abbe,
resuming his usual placidity of manner, said, as he placed his empty
glass on the table,--"Where did we leave off?"

"The name of Edmond's betrothed was Mercedes."

"To be sure. 'You will go to Marseilles,' said Dantes,--for you
understand, I repeat his words just as he uttered them. Do you
understand?"

"Perfectly."

"'You will sell this diamond; you will divide the money into five equal
parts, and give an equal portion to these good friends, the only persons
who have loved me upon earth.'"

"But why into five parts?" asked Caderousse; "you only mentioned four
persons."

"Because the fifth is dead, as I hear. The fifth sharer in Edmond's
bequest, was his own father."

"Too true, too true!" ejaculated Caderousse, almost suffocated by the
contending passions which assailed him, "the poor old man did die."

"I learned so much at Marseilles," replied the abbe, making a strong
effort to appear indifferent; "but from the length of time that has
elapsed since the death of the elder Dantes, I was unable to obtain any
particulars of his end. Can you enlighten me on that point?"

"I do not know who could if I could not," said Caderousse. "Why, I lived
almost on the same floor with the poor old man. Ah, yes, about a year
after the disappearance of his son the poor old man died."

"Of what did he die?"

"Why, the doctors called his complaint gastro-enteritis, I believe;
his acquaintances say he died of grief; but I, who saw him in his dying
moments, I say he died of"--Caderousse paused.

"Of what?" asked the priest, anxiously and eagerly.

"Why, of downright starvation."

"Starvation!" exclaimed the abbe, springing from his seat. "Why, the
vilest animals are not suffered to die by such a death as that. The very
dogs that wander houseless and homeless in the streets find some pitying
hand to cast them a mouthful of bread; and that a man, a Christian,
should be allowed to perish of hunger in the midst of other men who
call themselves Christians, is too horrible for belief. Oh, it is
impossible--utterly impossible!"

"What I have said, I have said," answered Caderousse.

"And you are a fool for having said anything about it," said a voice
from the top of the stairs. "Why should you meddle with what does not
concern you?"

The two men turned quickly, and saw the sickly countenance of La
Carconte peering between the baluster rails; attracted by the sound of
voices, she had feebly dragged herself down the stairs, and, seated
on the lower step, head on knees, she had listened to the foregoing
conversation. "Mind your own business, wife," replied Caderousse
sharply. "This gentleman asks me for information, which common
politeness will not permit me to refuse."

"Politeness, you simpleton!" retorted La Carconte. "What have you to
do with politeness, I should like to know? Better study a little common
prudence. How do you know the motives that person may have for trying to
extract all he can from you?"

"I pledge you my word, madam," said the abbe, "that my intentions are
good; and that you husband can incur no risk, provided he answers me
candidly."

"Ah, that's all very fine," retorted the woman. "Nothing is easier than
to begin with fair promises and assurances of nothing to fear; but when
poor, silly folks, like my husband there, have been persuaded to
tell all they know, the promises and assurances of safety are quickly
forgotten; and at some moment when nobody is expecting it, behold
trouble and misery, and all sorts of persecutions, are heaped on the
unfortunate wretches, who cannot even see whence all their afflictions
come."

"Nay, nay, my good woman, make yourself perfectly easy, I beg of
you. Whatever evils may befall you, they will not be occasioned by my
instrumentality, that I solemnly promise you."

La Carconte muttered a few inarticulate words, then let her head again
drop upon her knees, and went into a fit of ague, leaving the two
speakers to resume the conversation, but remaining so as to be able to
hear every word they uttered. Again the abbe had been obliged to swallow
a draught of water to calm the emotions that threatened to overpower
him. When he had sufficiently recovered himself, he said, "It appears,
then, that the miserable old man you were telling me of was forsaken
by every one. Surely, had not such been the case, he would not have
perished by so dreadful a death."

"Why, he was not altogether forsaken," continued Caderousse, "for
Mercedes the Catalan and Monsieur Morrel were very kind to him;
but somehow the poor old man had contracted a profound hatred for
Fernand--the very person," added Caderousse with a bitter smile,
"that you named just now as being one of Dantes' faithful and attached
friends."

"And was he not so?" asked the abbe.

"Gaspard, Gaspard!" murmured the woman, from her seat on the stairs,
"mind what you are saying!" Caderousse made no reply to these words,
though evidently irritated and annoyed by the interruption, but,
addressing the abbe, said, "Can a man be faithful to another whose wife
he covets and desires for himself? But Dantes was so honorable and
true in his own nature, that he believed everybody's professions of
friendship. Poor Edmond, he was cruelly deceived; but it was fortunate
that he never knew, or he might have found it more difficult, when on
his deathbed, to pardon his enemies. And, whatever people may say,"
continued Caderousse, in his native language, which was not altogether
devoid of rude poetry, "I cannot help being more frightened at the idea
of the malediction of the dead than the hatred of the living."

"Imbecile!" exclaimed La Carconte.

"Do you, then, know in what manner Fernand injured Dantes?" inquired the
abbe of Caderousse.

"Do I? No one better."

"Speak out then, say what it was!"

"Gaspard!" cried La Carconte, "do as you will; you are master--but if
you take my advice you'll hold your tongue."

"Well, wife," replied Caderousse, "I don't know but what you're right!"

"So you will say nothing?" asked the abbe.

"Why, what good would it do?" asked Caderousse. "If the poor lad were
living, and came to me and begged that I would candidly tell which
were his true and which his false friends, why, perhaps, I should not
hesitate. But you tell me he is no more, and therefore can have nothing
to do with hatred or revenge, so let all such feeling be buried with
him."

"You prefer, then," said the abbe, "that I should bestow on men you say
are false and treacherous, the reward intended for faithful friendship?"

"That is true enough," returned Caderousse. "You say truly, the gift
of poor Edmond was not meant for such traitors as Fernand and Danglars;
besides, what would it be to them? no more than a drop of water in the
ocean."

"Remember," chimed in La Carconte, "those two could crush you at a
single blow!"

"How so?" inquired the abbe. "Are these persons, then, so rich and
powerful?"

"Do you not know their history?"

"I do not. Pray relate it to me!" Caderousse seemed to reflect for a few
moments, then said, "No, truly, it would take up too much time."

"Well, my good friend," returned the abbe, in a tone that indicated
utter indifference on his part, "you are at liberty, either to speak or
be silent, just as you please; for my own part, I respect your scruples
and admire your sentiments; so let the matter end. I shall do my duty
as conscientiously as I can, and fulfil my promise to the dying man. My
first business will be to dispose of this diamond." So saying, the abbe
again draw the small box from his pocket, opened it, and contrived to
hold it in such a light, that a bright flash of brilliant hues passed
before the dazzled gaze of Caderousse.

"Wife, wife!" cried he in a hoarse voice, "come here!"

"Diamond!" exclaimed La Carconte, rising and descending to the chamber
with a tolerably firm step; "what diamond are you talking about?"

"Why, did you not hear all we said?" inquired Caderousse. "It is a
beautiful diamond left by poor Edmond Dantes, to be sold, and the money
divided between his father, Mercedes, his betrothed bride, Fernand,
Danglars, and myself. The jewel is worth at least fifty thousand
francs."

"Oh, what a magnificent jewel!" cried the astonished woman.

"The fifth part of the profits from this stone belongs to us then, does
it not?" asked Caderousse.

"It does," replied the abbe; "with the addition of an equal division
of that part intended for the elder Dantes, which I believe myself at
liberty to divide equally with the four survivors."

"And why among us four?" inquired Caderousse.

"As being the friends Edmond esteemed most faithful and devoted to him."

"I don't call those friends who betray and ruin you," murmured the wife
in her turn, in a low, muttering voice.

"Of course not!" rejoined Caderousse quickly; "no more do I, and that
was what I was observing to this gentleman just now. I said I looked
upon it as a sacrilegious profanation to reward treachery, perhaps
crime."

"Remember," answered the abbe calmly, as he replaced the jewel and its
case in the pocket of his cassock, "it is your fault, not mine, that I
do so. You will have the goodness to furnish me with the address of both
Fernand and Danglars, in order that I may execute Edmond's last
wishes." The agitation of Caderousse became extreme, and large drops of
perspiration rolled from his heated brow. As he saw the abbe rise from
his seat and go towards the door, as though to ascertain if his horse
were sufficiently refreshed to continue his journey, Caderousse and his
wife exchanged looks of deep meaning.

"There, you see, wife," said the former, "this splendid diamond might
all be ours, if we chose!"

"Do you believe it?"

"Why, surely a man of his holy profession would not deceive us!"

"Well," replied La Carconte, "do as you like. For my part, I wash my
hands of the affair." So saying, she once more climbed the staircase
leading to her chamber, her body convulsed with chills, and her teeth
rattling in her head, in spite of the intense heat of the weather.
Arrived at the top stair, she turned round, and called out, in a warning
tone, to her husband, "Gaspard, consider well what you are about to do!"

"I have both reflected and decided," answered he. La Carconte then
entered her chamber, the flooring of which creaked beneath her heavy,
uncertain tread, as she proceeded towards her arm-chair, into which she
fell as though exhausted.

"Well," asked the abbe, as he returned to the apartment below, "what
have you made up your mind to do?"

"To tell you all I know," was the reply.

"I certainly think you act wisely in so doing," said the priest. "Not
because I have the least desire to learn anything you may please to
conceal from me, but simply that if, through your assistance, I could
distribute the legacy according to the wishes of the testator, why, so
much the better, that is all."

"I hope it may be so," replied Caderousse, his face flushed with
cupidity.

"I am all attention," said the abbe.

"Stop a minute," answered Caderousse; "we might be interrupted in the
most interesting part of my story, which would be a pity; and it is as
well that your visit hither should be made known only to ourselves."
With these words he went stealthily to the door, which he closed, and,
by way of still greater precaution, bolted and barred it, as he was
accustomed to do at night. During this time the abbe had chosen his
place for listening at his ease. He removed his seat into a corner of
the room, where he himself would be in deep shadow, while the light
would be fully thrown on the narrator; then, with head bent down and
hands clasped, or rather clinched together, he prepared to give his
whole attention to Caderousse, who seated himself on the little stool,
exactly opposite to him.

"Remember, this is no affair of mine," said the trembling voice of La
Carconte, as though through the flooring of her chamber she viewed the
scene that was enacting below.

"Enough, enough!" replied Caderousse; "say no more about it; I will take
all the consequences upon myself." And he began his story.

 

 

Chapter 27. The Story.

"First, sir," said Caderousse, "you must make me a promise."

"What is that?" inquired the abbe.

"Why, if you ever make use of the details I am about to give you, that
you will never let any one know that it was I who supplied them; for the
persons of whom I am about to talk are rich and powerful, and if they
only laid the tips of their fingers on me, I should break to pieces like
glass."

"Make yourself easy, my friend," replied the abbe. "I am a priest, and
confessions die in my breast. Recollect, our only desire is to carry
out, in a fitting manner, the last wishes of our friend. Speak, then,
without reserve, as without hatred; tell the truth, the whole truth; I
do not know, never may know, the persons of whom you are about to speak;
besides, I am an Italian, and not a Frenchman, and belong to God, and
not to man, and I shall shortly retire to my convent, which I have
only quitted to fulfil the last wishes of a dying man." This positive
assurance seemed to give Caderousse a little courage.

"Well, then, under these circumstances," said Caderousse, "I will, I
even believe I ought to undeceive you as to the friendship which poor
Edmond thought so sincere and unquestionable."

"Begin with his father, if you please." said the abbe; "Edmond talked to
me a great deal about the old man for whom he had the deepest love."

"The history is a sad one, sir," said Caderousse, shaking his head;
"perhaps you know all the earlier part of it?"

"Yes." answered the abbe; "Edmond related to me everything until the
moment when he was arrested in a small cabaret close to Marseilles."

"At La Reserve! Oh, yes; I can see it all before me this moment."

"Was it not his betrothal feast?"

"It was and the feast that began so gayly had a very sorrowful ending;
a police commissary, followed by four soldiers, entered, and Dantes was
arrested."

"Yes, and up to this point I know all," said the priest. "Dantes himself
only knew that which personally concerned him, for he never beheld again
the five persons I have named to you, or heard mention of any one of
them."

"Well, when Dantes was arrested, Monsieur Morrel hastened to obtain the
particulars, and they were very sad. The old man returned alone to his
home, folded up his wedding suit with tears in his eyes, and paced up
and down his chamber the whole day, and would not go to bed at all,
for I was underneath him and heard him walking the whole night; and for
myself, I assure you I could not sleep either, for the grief of the poor
father gave me great uneasiness, and every step he took went to my heart
as really as if his foot had pressed against my breast. The next day
Mercedes came to implore the protection of M. de Villefort; she did not
obtain it, however, and went to visit the old man; when she saw him so
miserable and heart-broken, having passed a sleepless night, and not
touched food since the previous day, she wished him to go with her that
she might take care of him; but the old man would not consent. 'No,' was
the old man's reply, 'I will not leave this house, for my poor dear boy
loves me better than anything in the world; and if he gets out of prison
he will come and see me the first thing, and what would he think if I
did not wait here for him?' I heard all this from the window, for I was
anxious that Mercedes should persuade the old man to accompany her, for
his footsteps over my head night and day did not leave me a moment's
repose."

"But did you not go up-stairs and try to console the poor old man?"
asked the abbe.

"Ah, sir," replied Caderousse, "we cannot console those who will not
be consoled, and he was one of these; besides, I know not why, but he
seemed to dislike seeing me. One night, however, I heard his sobs, and I
could not resist my desire to go up to him, but when I reached his door
he was no longer weeping but praying. I cannot now repeat to you, sir,
all the eloquent words and imploring language he made use of; it was
more than piety, it was more than grief, and I, who am no canter, and
hate the Jesuits, said then to myself, 'It is really well, and I am very
glad that I have not any children; for if I were a father and felt such
excessive grief as the old man does, and did not find in my memory or
heart all he is now saying, I should throw myself into the sea at once,
for I could not bear it.'"

"Poor father!" murmured the priest.

"From day to day he lived on alone, and more and more solitary. M.
Morrel and Mercedes came to see him, but his door was closed; and,
although I was certain he was at home, he would not make any answer.
One day, when, contrary to his custom, he had admitted Mercedes, and the
poor girl, in spite of her own grief and despair, endeavored to console
him, he said to her,--'Be assured, my dear daughter, he is dead; and
instead of expecting him, it is he who is awaiting us; I am quite happy,
for I am the oldest, and of course shall see him first.' However well
disposed a person may be, why you see we leave off after a time seeing
persons who are in sorrow, they make one melancholy; and so at last
old Dantes was left all to himself, and I only saw from time to time
strangers go up to him and come down again with some bundle they tried
to hide; but I guessed what these bundles were, and that he sold by
degrees what he had to pay for his subsistence. At length the poor old
fellow reached the end of all he had; he owed three quarters' rent, and
they threatened to turn him out; he begged for another week, which was
granted to him. I know this, because the landlord came into my apartment
when he left his. For the first three days I heard him walking about as
usual, but, on the fourth I heard nothing. I then resolved to go up to
him at all risks. The door was closed, but I looked through the keyhole,
and saw him so pale and haggard, that believing him very ill, I went and
told M. Morrel and then ran on to Mercedes. They both came immediately,
M. Morrel bringing a doctor, and the doctor said it was inflammation
of the bowels, and ordered him a limited diet. I was there, too, and I
never shall forget the old man's smile at this prescription. From that
time he received all who came; he had an excuse for not eating any more;
the doctor had put him on a diet." The abbe uttered a kind of groan.
"The story interests you, does it not, sir?" inquired Caderousse.

"Yes," replied the abbe, "it is very affecting."

"Mercedes came again, and she found him so altered that she was even
more anxious than before to have him taken to her own home. This was M.
Morrel's wish also, who would fain have conveyed the old man against his
consent; but the old man resisted, and cried so that they were actually
frightened. Mercedes remained, therefore, by his bedside, and M. Morrel
went away, making a sign to the Catalan that he had left his purse on
the chimney-piece. But availing himself of the doctor's order, the old
man would not take any sustenance; at length (after nine days of despair
and fasting), the old man died, cursing those who had caused his misery,
and saying to Mercedes, 'If you ever see my Edmond again, tell him I die
blessing him.'" The abbe rose from his chair, made two turns round the
chamber, and pressed his trembling hand against his parched throat. "And
you believe he died"--

"Of hunger, sir, of hunger," said Caderousse. "I am as certain of it as
that we two are Christians."

The abbe, with a shaking hand, seized a glass of water that was standing
by him half-full, swallowed it at one gulp, and then resumed his seat,
with red eyes and pale cheeks. "This was, indeed, a horrid event." said
he in a hoarse voice.

"The more so, sir, as it was men's and not God's doing."

"Tell me of those men," said the abbe, "and remember too," he added in
an almost menacing tone, "you have promised to tell me everything. Tell
me, therefore, who are these men who killed the son with despair, and
the father with famine?"

"Two men jealous of him, sir; one from love, and the other from
ambition,--Fernand and Danglars."

"How was this jealousy manifested? Speak on."

"They denounced Edmond as a Bonapartist agent."

"Which of the two denounced him? Which was the real delinquent?"

"Both, sir; one with a letter, and the other put it in the post."

"And where was this letter written?"

"At La Reserve, the day before the betrothal feast."

"'Twas so, then--'twas so, then," murmured the abbe. "Oh, Faria, Faria,
how well did you judge men and things!"

"What did you please to say, sir?" asked Caderousse.

"Nothing, nothing," replied the priest; "go on."

"It was Danglars who wrote the denunciation with his left hand, that his
writing might not be recognized, and Fernand who put it in the post."

"But," exclaimed the abbe suddenly, "you were there yourself."

"I!" said Caderousse, astonished; "who told you I was there?"

The abbe saw he had overshot the mark, and he added quickly,--"No one;
but in order to have known everything so well, you must have been an
eye-witness."

"True, true!" said Caderousse in a choking voice, "I was there."

"And did you not remonstrate against such infamy?" asked the abbe; "if
not, you were an accomplice."

"Sir," replied Caderousse, "they had made me drink to such an
excess that I nearly lost all perception. I had only an indistinct
understanding of what was passing around me. I said all that a man in
such a state could say; but they both assured me that it was a jest they
were carrying on, and perfectly harmless."

"Next day--next day, sir, you must have seen plain enough what they had
been doing, yet you said nothing, though you were present when Dantes
was arrested."

"Yes, sir, I was there, and very anxious to speak; but Danglars
restrained me. 'If he should really be guilty,' said he, 'and did really
put in to the Island of Elba; if he is really charged with a letter for
the Bonapartist committee at Paris, and if they find this letter upon
him, those who have supported him will pass for his accomplices.' I
confess I had my fears, in the state in which politics then were, and I
held my tongue. It was cowardly, I confess, but it was not criminal."

"I understand--you allowed matters to take their course, that was all."

"Yes, sir," answered Caderousse; "and remorse preys on me night and day.
I often ask pardon of God, I swear to you, because this action, the only
one with which I have seriously to reproach myself in all my life, is
no doubt the cause of my abject condition. I am expiating a moment of
selfishness, and so I always say to La Carconte, when she complains,
'Hold your tongue, woman; it is the will of God.'" And Caderousse bowed
his head with every sign of real repentance.

"Well, sir," said the abbe, "you have spoken unreservedly; and thus to
accuse yourself is to deserve pardon."

"Unfortunately, Edmond is dead, and has not pardoned me."

"He did not know," said the abbe.

"But he knows it all now," interrupted Caderousse; "they say the dead
know everything." There was a brief silence; the abbe rose and paced up
and down pensively, and then resumed his seat. "You have two or three
times mentioned a M. Morrel," he said; "who was he?"

"The owner of the Pharaon and patron of Dantes."

"And what part did he play in this sad drama?" inquired the abbe.

"The part of an honest man, full of courage and real regard. Twenty
times he interceded for Edmond. When the emperor returned, he wrote,
implored, threatened, and so energetically, that on the second
restoration he was persecuted as a Bonapartist. Ten times, as I told
you, he came to see Dantes' father, and offered to receive him in his
own house; and the night or two before his death, as I have already
said, he left his purse on the mantelpiece, with which they paid the old
man's debts, and buried him decently; and so Edmond's father died, as
he had lived, without doing harm to any one. I have the purse still by
me--a large one, made of red silk."

"And," asked the abbe, "is M. Morrel still alive?"

"Yes," replied Caderousse.

"In that case," replied the abbe, "he should be rich, happy."

Caderousse smiled bitterly. "Yes, happy as myself," said he.

"What! M. Morrel unhappy?" exclaimed the abbe.

"He is reduced almost to the last extremity--nay, he is almost at the
point of dishonor."

"How?"

"Yes," continued Caderousse, "so it is; after five and twenty years
of labor, after having acquired a most honorable name in the trade of
Marseilles, M. Morrel is utterly ruined; he has lost five ships in two
years, has suffered by the bankruptcy of three large houses, and his
only hope now is in that very Pharaon which poor Dantes commanded, and
which is expected from the Indies with a cargo of cochineal and indigo.
If this ship founders, like the others, he is a ruined man."

"And has the unfortunate man wife or children?" inquired the abbe.

"Yes, he has a wife, who through everything has behaved like an angel;
he has a daughter, who was about to marry the man she loved, but whose
family now will not allow him to wed the daughter of a ruined man; he
has, besides, a son, a lieutenant in the army; and, as you may suppose,
all this, instead of lessening, only augments his sorrows. If he were
alone in the world he would blow out his brains, and there would be an
end."

"Horrible!" ejaculated the priest.

"And it is thus heaven recompenses virtue, sir," added Caderousse. "You
see, I, who never did a bad action but that I have told you of--am in
destitution, with my poor wife dying of fever before my very eyes, and
I unable to do anything in the world for her; I shall die of hunger, as
old Dantes did, while Fernand and Danglars are rolling in wealth."

"How is that?"

"Because their deeds have brought them good fortune, while honest men
have been reduced to misery."

"What has become of Danglars, the instigator, and therefore the most
guilty?"

"What has become of him? Why, he left Marseilles, and was taken, on the
recommendation of M. Morrel, who did not know his crime, as cashier
into a Spanish bank. During the war with Spain he was employed in the
commissariat of the French army, and made a fortune; then with that
money he speculated in the funds, and trebled or quadrupled his capital;
and, having first married his banker's daughter, who left him a widower,
he has married a second time, a widow, a Madame de Nargonne, daughter of
M. de Servieux, the king's chamberlain, who is in high favor at court.
He is a millionaire, and they have made him a baron, and now he is the
Baron Danglars, with a fine residence in the Rue de Mont-Blanc, with ten
horses in his stables, six footmen in his ante-chamber, and I know not
how many millions in his strongbox."

"Ah!" said the abbe, in a peculiar tone, "he is happy."

"Happy? Who can answer for that? Happiness or unhappiness is the secret
known but to one's self and the walls--walls have ears but no tongue;
but if a large fortune produces happiness, Danglars is happy."

"And Fernand?"

"Fernand? Why, much the same story."

"But how could a poor Catalan fisher-boy, without education or
resources, make a fortune? I confess this staggers me."

"And it has staggered everybody. There must have been in his life some
strange secret that no one knows."

"But, then, by what visible steps has he attained this high fortune or
high position?"

"Both, sir--he has both fortune and position--both."

"This must be impossible!"

"It would seem so; but listen, and you will understand. Some days before
the return of the emperor, Fernand was drafted. The Bourbons left him
quietly enough at the Catalans, but Napoleon returned, a special levy
was made, and Fernand was compelled to join. I went too; but as I was
older than Fernand, and had just married my poor wife, I was only sent
to the coast. Fernand was enrolled in the active troop, went to the
frontier with his regiment, and was at the battle of Ligny. The night
after that battle he was sentry at the door of a general who carried on
a secret correspondence with the enemy. That same night the general
was to go over to the English. He proposed to Fernand to accompany him;
Fernand agreed to do so, deserted his post, and followed the general.
Fernand would have been court-martialed if Napoleon had remained on
the throne, but his action was rewarded by the Bourbons. He returned to
France with the epaulet of sub-lieutenant, and as the protection of
the general, who is in the highest favor, was accorded to him, he was
a captain in 1823, during the Spanish war--that is to say, at the time
when Danglars made his early speculations. Fernand was a Spaniard, and
being sent to Spain to ascertain the feeling of his fellow-countrymen,
found Danglars there, got on very intimate terms with him, won over the
support of the royalists at the capital and in the provinces, received
promises and made pledges on his own part, guided his regiment by paths
known to himself alone through the mountain gorges which were held
by the royalists, and, in fact, rendered such services in this brief
campaign that, after the taking of Trocadero, he was made colonel, and
received the title of count and the cross of an officer of the Legion of
Honor."

"Destiny! destiny!" murmured the abbe.

"Yes, but listen: this was not all. The war with Spain being ended,
Fernand's career was checked by the long peace which seemed likely to
endure throughout Europe. Greece only had risen against Turkey, and had
begun her war of independence; all eyes were turned towards Athens--it
was the fashion to pity and support the Greeks. The French government,
without protecting them openly, as you know, gave countenance to
volunteer assistance. Fernand sought and obtained leave to go and serve
in Greece, still having his name kept on the army roll. Some time after,
it was stated that the Comte de Morcerf (this was the name he bore) had
entered the service of Ali Pasha with the rank of instructor-general.
Ali Pasha was killed, as you know, but before he died he recompensed
the services of Fernand by leaving him a considerable sum, with which he
returned to France, when he was gazetted lieutenant-general."

"So that now?"--inquired the abbe.

"So that now," continued Caderousse, "he owns a magnificent house--No.
27, Rue du Helder, Paris." The abbe opened his mouth, hesitated for
a moment, then, making an effort at self-control, he said, "And
Mercedes--they tell me that she has disappeared?"

"Disappeared," said Caderousse, "yes, as the sun disappears, to rise the
next day with still more splendor."

"Has she made a fortune also?" inquired the abbe, with an ironical
smile.

"Mercedes is at this moment one of the greatest ladies in Paris,"
replied Caderousse.

"Go on," said the abbe; "it seems as if I were listening to the story of
a dream. But I have seen things so extraordinary, that what you tell me
seems less astonishing than it otherwise might."

"Mercedes was at first in the deepest despair at the blow which deprived
her of Edmond. I have told you of her attempts to propitiate M. de
Villefort, her devotion to the elder Dantes. In the midst of her
despair, a new affliction overtook her. This was the departure of
Fernand--of Fernand, whose crime she did not know, and whom she regarded
as her brother. Fernand went, and Mercedes remained alone. Three months
passed and still she wept--no news of Edmond, no news of Fernand, no
companionship save that of an old man who was dying with despair. One
evening, after a day of accustomed vigil at the angle of two roads
leading to Marseilles from the Catalans, she returned to her home
more depressed than ever. Suddenly she heard a step she knew, turned
anxiously around, the door opened, and Fernand, dressed in the uniform
of a sub-lieutenant, stood before her. It was not the one she wished for
most, but it seemed as if a part of her past life had returned to her.
Mercedes seized Fernand's hands with a transport which he took for love,
but which was only joy at being no longer alone in the world, and seeing
at last a friend, after long hours of solitary sorrow. And then, it must
be confessed, Fernand had never been hated--he was only not precisely
loved. Another possessed all Mercedes' heart; that other was absent, had
disappeared, perhaps was dead. At this last thought Mercedes burst into
a flood of tears, and wrung her hands in agony; but the thought, which
she had always repelled before when it was suggested to her by another,
came now in full force upon her mind; and then, too, old Dantes
incessantly said to her, 'Our Edmond is dead; if he were not, he would
return to us.' The old man died, as I have told you; had he lived,
Mercedes, perchance, had not become the wife of another, for he would
have been there to reproach her infidelity. Fernand saw this, and when
he learned of the old man's death he returned. He was now a lieutenant.
At his first coming he had not said a word of love to Mercedes; at the
second he reminded her that he loved her. Mercedes begged for six months
more in which to await and mourn for Edmond."

"So that," said the abbe, with a bitter smile, "that makes eighteen
months in all. What more could the most devoted lover desire?" Then he
murmured the words of the English poet, "'Frailty, thy name is woman.'"

"Six months afterwards," continued Caderousse, "the marriage took place
in the church of Accoules."

"The very church in which she was to have married Edmond," murmured the
priest; "there was only a change of bride-grooms."

"Well, Mercedes was married," proceeded Caderousse; "but although in the
eyes of the world she appeared calm, she nearly fainted as she passed
La Reserve, where, eighteen months before, the betrothal had been
celebrated with him whom she might have known she still loved had she
looked to the bottom of her heart. Fernand, more happy, but not more at
his ease--for I saw at this time he was in constant dread of Edmond's
return--Fernand was very anxious to get his wife away, and to depart
himself. There were too many unpleasant possibilities associated with
the Catalans, and eight days after the wedding they left Marseilles."

"Did you ever see Mercedes again?" inquired the priest.

"Yes, during the Spanish war, at Perpignan, where Fernand had left her;
she was attending to the education of her son." The abbe started. "Her
son?" said he.

"Yes," replied Caderousse, "little Albert."

"But, then, to be able to instruct her child," continued the abbe, "she
must have received an education herself. I understood from Edmond that
she was the daughter of a simple fisherman, beautiful but uneducated."

"Oh," replied Caderousse, "did he know so little of his lovely
betrothed? Mercedes might have been a queen, sir, if the crown were to
be placed on the heads of the loveliest and most intelligent. Fernand's
fortune was already waxing great, and she developed with his growing
fortune. She learned drawing, music--everything. Besides, I believe,
between ourselves, she did this in order to distract her mind, that she
might forget; and she only filled her head in order to alleviate the
weight on her heart. But now her position in life is assured," continued
Caderousse; "no doubt fortune and honors have comforted her; she is
rich, a countess, and yet"--Caderousse paused.

"And yet what?" asked the abbe.

"Yet, I am sure, she is not happy," said Caderousse.

"What makes you believe this?"

"Why, when I found myself utterly destitute, I thought my old friends
would, perhaps, assist me. So I went to Danglars, who would not even
receive me. I called on Fernand, who sent me a hundred francs by his
valet-de-chambre."

"Then you did not see either of them?"

"No, but Madame de Morcerf saw me."

"How was that?"

"As I went away a purse fell at my feet--it contained five and twenty
louis; I raised my head quickly, and saw Mercedes, who at once shut the
blind."

"And M. de Villefort?" asked the abbe.

"Oh, he never was a friend of mine, I did not know him, and I had
nothing to ask of him."

"Do you not know what became of him, and the share he had in Edmond's
misfortunes?"

"No; I only know that some time after Edmond's arrest, he married
Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran, and soon after left Marseilles; no doubt
he has been as lucky as the rest; no doubt he is as rich as Danglars,
as high in station as Fernand. I only, as you see, have remained poor,
wretched, and forgotten."

"You are mistaken, my friend," replied the abbe; "God may seem sometimes
to forget for a time, while his justice reposes, but there always comes
a moment when he remembers--and behold--a proof!" As he spoke, the
abbe took the diamond from his pocket, and giving it to Caderousse,
said,--"Here, my friend, take this diamond, it is yours."

"What, for me only?" cried Caderousse, "ah, sir, do not jest with me!"

"This diamond was to have been shared among his friends. Edmond had one
friend only, and thus it cannot be divided. Take the diamond, then, and
sell it; it is worth fifty thousand francs, and I repeat my wish that
this sum may suffice to release you from your wretchedness."

"Oh, sir," said Caderousse, putting out one hand timidly, and with the
other wiping away the perspiration which bedewed his brow,--"Oh, sir, do
not make a jest of the happiness or despair of a man."

"I know what happiness and what despair are, and I never make a jest of
such feelings. Take it, then, but in exchange--"

Caderousse, who touched the diamond, withdrew his hand. The abbe smiled.
"In exchange," he continued, "give me the red silk purse that M. Morrel
left on old Dantes' chimney-piece, and which you tell me is still in
your hands." Caderousse, more and more astonished, went toward a large
oaken cupboard, opened it, and gave the abbe a long purse of faded red
silk, round which were two copper runners that had once been gilt. The
abbe took it, and in return gave Caderousse the diamond.

"Oh, you are a man of God, sir," cried Caderousse; "for no one knew that
Edmond had given you this diamond, and you might have kept it."

"Which," said the abbe to himself, "you would have done." The abbe
rose, took his hat and gloves. "Well," he said, "all you have told me is
perfectly true, then, and I may believe it in every particular."

"See, sir," replied Caderousse, "in this corner is a crucifix in holy
wood--here on this shelf is my wife's testament; open this book, and I
will swear upon it with my hand on the crucifix. I will swear to you by
my soul's salvation, my faith as a Christian, I have told everything to
you as it occurred, and as the recording angel will tell it to the ear
of God at the day of the last judgment!"

"'Tis well," said the abbe, convinced by his manner and tone that
Caderousse spoke the truth. "'Tis well, and may this money profit you!
Adieu; I go far from men who thus so bitterly injure each other."
The abbe with difficulty got away from the enthusiastic thanks of
Caderousse, opened the door himself, got out and mounted his horse, once
more saluted the innkeeper, who kept uttering his loud farewells, and
then returned by the road he had travelled in coming. When Caderousse
turned around, he saw behind him La Carconte, paler and trembling more
than ever. "Is, then, all that I have heard really true?" she inquired.

"What? That he has given the diamond to us only?" inquired Caderousse,
half bewildered with joy; "yes, nothing more true! See, here it is." The
woman gazed at it a moment, and then said, in a gloomy voice, "Suppose
it's false?" Caderousse started and turned pale. "False!" he muttered.
"False! Why should that man give me a false diamond?"

"To get your secret without paying for it, you blockhead!"

Caderousse remained for a moment aghast under the weight of such an
idea. "Oh!" he said, taking up his hat, which he placed on the red
handkerchief tied round his head, "we will soon find out."

"In what way?"

"Why, the fair is on at Beaucaire, there are always jewellers from Paris
there, and I will show it to them. Look after the house, wife, and I
shall be back in two hours," and Caderousse left the house in haste,
and ran rapidly in the direction opposite to that which the priest had
taken. "Fifty thousand francs!" muttered La Carconte when left alone;
"it is a large sum of money, but it is not a fortune."

 

 

Chapter 28. The Prison Register.

The day after that in which the scene we have just described had taken
place on the road between Bellegarde and Beaucaire, a man of about
thirty or two and thirty, dressed in a bright blue frock coat, nankeen
trousers, and a white waistcoat, having the appearance and accent of
an Englishman, presented himself before the mayor of Marseilles. "Sir,"
said he, "I am chief clerk of the house of Thomson & French, of Rome. We
are, and have been these ten years, connected with the house of Morrel
& Son, of Marseilles. We have a hundred thousand francs or thereabouts
loaned on their securities, and we are a little uneasy at reports that
have reached us that the firm is on the brink of ruin. I have come,
therefore, express from Rome, to ask you for information."

"Sir," replied the mayor. "I know very well that during the last four or
five years misfortune has seemed to pursue M. Morrel. He has lost four
or five vessels, and suffered by three or four bankruptcies; but it
is not for me, although I am a creditor myself to the amount of
ten thousand francs, to give any information as to the state of his
finances. Ask of me, as mayor, what is my opinion of M. Morrel, and I
shall say that he is a man honorable to the last degree, and who has
up to this time fulfilled every engagement with scrupulous punctuality.
This is all I can say, sir; if you wish to learn more, address yourself
to M. de Boville, the inspector of prisons, No. 15, Rue de Nouailles;
he has, I believe, two hundred thousand francs in Morrel's hands, and if
there be any grounds for apprehension, as this is a greater amount than
mine, you will most probably find him better informed than myself."

The Englishman seemed to appreciate this extreme delicacy, made his bow
and went away, proceeding with a characteristic British stride towards
the street mentioned. M. de Boville was in his private room, and the
Englishman, on perceiving him, made a gesture of surprise, which seemed
to indicate that it was not the first time he had been in his presence.
As to M. de Boville, he was in such a state of despair, that it was
evident all the faculties of his mind, absorbed in the thought which
occupied him at the moment, did not allow either his memory or his
imagination to stray to the past. The Englishman, with the coolness of
his nation, addressed him in terms nearly similar to those with which
he had accosted the mayor of Marseilles. "Oh, sir," exclaimed M. de
Boville, "your fears are unfortunately but too well founded, and you see
before you a man in despair. I had two hundred thousand francs placed
in the hands of Morrel & Son; these two hundred thousand francs were the
dowry of my daughter, who was to be married in a fortnight, and these
two hundred thousand francs were payable, half on the 15th of this
month, and the other half on the 15th of next month. I had informed M.
Morrel of my desire to have these payments punctually, and he has been
here within the last half-hour to tell me that if his ship, the Pharaon,
did not come into port on the 15th, he would be wholly unable to make
this payment."

"But," said the Englishman, "this looks very much like a suspension of
payment."

"It looks more like bankruptcy!" exclaimed M. de Boville despairingly.

The Englishman appeared to reflect a moment, and then said,--"From which
it would appear, sir, that this credit inspires you with considerable
apprehension?"

"To tell you the truth, I consider it lost."

"Well, then, I will buy it of you!"

"You?"

"Yes, I!"

"But at a tremendous discount, of course?"

"No, for two hundred thousand francs. Our house," added the Englishman
with a laugh, "does not do things in that way."

"And you will pay"--

"Ready money." And the Englishman drew from his pocket a bundle of
bank-notes, which might have been twice the sum M. de Boville feared
to lose. A ray of joy passed across M. de Boville's countenance, yet
he made an effort at self-control, and said,--"Sir, I ought to tell
you that, in all probability, you will not realize six per cent of this
sum."

"That's no affair of mine," replied the Englishman, "that is the affair
of the house of Thomson & French, in whose name I act. They have,
perhaps, some motive to serve in hastening the ruin of a rival firm.
But all I know, sir, is, that I am ready to hand you over this sum in
exchange for your assignment of the debt. I only ask a brokerage."

"Of course, that is perfectly just," cried M. de Boville. "The
commission is usually one and a half; will you have two--three--five per
cent, or even more? Whatever you say."

"Sir," replied the Englishman, laughing, "I am like my house, and do not
do such things--no, the commission I ask is quite different."

"Name it, sir, I beg."

"You are the inspector of prisons?"

"I have been so these fourteen years."

"You keep the registers of entries and departures?"

"I do."

"To these registers there are added notes relative to the prisoners?"

"There are special reports on every prisoner."

"Well, sir, I was educated at home by a poor devil of an abbe, who
disappeared suddenly. I have since learned that he was confined in the
Chateau d'If, and I should like to learn some particulars of his death."

"What was his name?"

"The Abbe Faria."

"Oh, I recollect him perfectly," cried M. de Boville; "he was crazy."

"So they said."

"Oh, he was, decidedly."

"Very possibly; but what sort of madness was it?"

"He pretended to know of an immense treasure, and offered vast sums to
the government if they would liberate him."

"Poor devil!--and he is dead?"

"Yes, sir, five or six months ago--last February."

"You have a good memory, sir, to recollect dates so well."

"I recollect this, because the poor devil's death was accompanied by a
singular incident."

"May I ask what that was?" said the Englishman with an expression
of curiosity, which a close observer would have been astonished at
discovering in his phlegmatic countenance.

"Oh dear, yes, sir; the abbe's dungeon was forty or fifty feet distant
from that of one of Bonaparte's emissaries,--one of those who had
contributed the most to the return of the usurper in 1815,--a very
resolute and very dangerous man."

"Indeed!" said the Englishman.

"Yes," replied M. de Boville; "I myself had occasion to see this man
in 1816 or 1817, and we could only go into his dungeon with a file of
soldiers. That man made a deep impression on me; I shall never forget
his countenance!" The Englishman smiled imperceptibly.

"And you say, sir," he interposed, "that the two dungeons"--

"Were separated by a distance of fifty feet; but it appears that this
Edmond Dantes"--

"This dangerous man's name was"--

"Edmond Dantes. It appears, sir, that this Edmond Dantes had procured
tools, or made them, for they found a tunnel through which the prisoners
held communication with one another."

"This tunnel was dug, no doubt, with an intention of escape?"

"No doubt; but unfortunately for the prisoners, the Abbe Faria had an
attack of catalepsy, and died."

"That must have cut short the projects of escape."

"For the dead man, yes," replied M. de Boville, "but not for the
survivor; on the contrary, this Dantes saw a means of accelerating his
escape. He, no doubt, thought that prisoners who died in the Chateau
d'If were interred in an ordinary burial-ground, and he conveyed the
dead man into his own cell, took his place in the sack in which they had
sewed up the corpse, and awaited the moment of interment."

"It was a bold step, and one that showed some courage," remarked the
Englishman.

"As I have already told you, sir, he was a very dangerous man; and,
fortunately, by his own act disembarrassed the government of the fears
it had on his account."

"How was that?"

"How? Do you not comprehend?"

"No."

"The Chateau d'If has no cemetery, and they simply throw the dead into
the sea, after fastening a thirty-six pound cannon-ball to their feet."

"Well," observed the Englishman as if he were slow of comprehension.

"Well, they fastened a thirty-six pound ball to his feet, and threw him
into the sea."

"Really!" exclaimed the Englishman.

"Yes, sir," continued the inspector of prisons. "You may imagine the
amazement of the fugitive when he found himself flung headlong over the
rocks! I should like to have seen his face at that moment."

"That would have been difficult."

"No matter," replied De Boville, in supreme good-humor at the certainty
of recovering his two hundred thousand francs,--"no matter, I can fancy
it." And he shouted with laughter.

"So can I," said the Englishman, and he laughed too; but he laughed as
the English do, "at the end of his teeth."

"And so," continued the Englishman who first gained his composure, "he
was drowned?"

"Unquestionably."

"So that the governor got rid of the dangerous and the crazy prisoner at
the same time?"

"Precisely."

"But some official document was drawn up as to this affair, I suppose?"
inquired the Englishman.

"Yes, yes, the mortuary deposition. You understand, Dantes' relations,
if he had any, might have some interest in knowing if he were dead or
alive."

"So that now, if there were anything to inherit from him, they may do so
with easy conscience. He is dead, and no mistake about it."

"Oh, yes; and they may have the fact attested whenever they please."

"So be it," said the Englishman. "But to return to these registers."

"True, this story has diverted our attention from them. Excuse me."

"Excuse you for what? For the story? By no means; it really seems to me
very curious."

"Yes, indeed. So, sir, you wish to see all relating to the poor abbe,
who really was gentleness itself."

"Yes, you will much oblige me."

"Go into my study here, and I will show it to you." And they both
entered M. de Boville's study. Everything was here arranged in perfect
order; each register had its number, each file of papers its place. The
inspector begged the Englishman to seat himself in an arm-chair, and
placed before him the register and documents relative to the Chateau
d'If, giving him all the time he desired for the examination, while De
Boville seated himself in a corner, and began to read his newspaper. The
Englishman easily found the entries relative to the Abbe Faria; but it
seemed that the history which the inspector had related interested him
greatly, for after having perused the first documents he turned over the
leaves until he reached the deposition respecting Edmond Dantes. There
he found everything arranged in due order,--the accusation, examination,
Morrel's petition, M. de Villefort's marginal notes. He folded up
the accusation quietly, and put it as quietly in his pocket; read the
examination, and saw that the name of Noirtier was not mentioned in it;
perused, too, the application dated 10th April, 1815, in which Morrel,
by the deputy procureur's advice, exaggerated with the best intentions
(for Napoleon was then on the throne) the services Dantes had rendered
to the imperial cause--services which Villefort's certificates rendered
indispensable. Then he saw through the whole thing. This petition
to Napoleon, kept back by Villefort, had become, under the second
restoration, a terrible weapon against him in the hands of the king's
attorney. He was no longer astonished when he searched on to find in the
register this note, placed in a bracket against his name:--

Edmond Dantes.

An inveterate Bonapartist; took an active part in the return from the
Island of Elba.

To be kept in strict solitary confinement, and to be closely watched and
guarded.

Beneath these lines was written in another hand: "See note
above--nothing can be done." He compared the writing in the bracket with
the writing of the certificate placed beneath Morrel's petition, and
discovered that the note in the bracket was the same writing as the
certificate--that is to say, was in Villefort's handwriting. As to the
note which accompanied this, the Englishman understood that it might
have been added by some inspector who had taken a momentary interest in
Dantes' situation, but who had, from the remarks we have quoted, found
it impossible to give any effect to the interest he had felt.

As we have said, the inspector, from discretion, and that he might not
disturb the Abbe Faria's pupil in his researches, had seated himself
in a corner, and was reading Le Drapeau Blanc. He did not see the
Englishman fold up and place in his pocket the accusation written by
Danglars under the arbor of La Reserve, and which had the postmark,
"Marseilles, 27th Feb., delivery 6 o'clock, P.M." But it must be said
that if he had seen it, he attached so little importance to this scrap
of paper, and so much importance to his two hundred thousand francs,
that he would not have opposed whatever the Englishman might do, however
irregular it might be.

"Thanks," said the latter, closing the register with a slam, "I have
all I want; now it is for me to perform my promise. Give me a simple
assignment of your debt; acknowledge therein the receipt of the cash,
and I will hand you over the money." He rose, gave his seat to M. de
Boville, who took it without ceremony, and quickly drew up the required
assignment, while the Englishman counted out the bank-notes on the other
side of the desk.

 

 

Chapter 29. The House of Morrel & Son.

Any one who had quitted Marseilles a few years previously, well
acquainted with the interior of Morrel's warehouse, and had returned at
this date, would have found a great change. Instead of that air of life,
of comfort, and of happiness that permeates a flourishing and prosperous
business establishment--instead of merry faces at the windows, busy
clerks hurrying to and fro in the long corridors--instead of the court
filled with bales of goods, re-echoing with the cries and the jokes of
porters, one would have immediately perceived all aspect of sadness and
gloom. Out of all the numerous clerks that used to fill the deserted
corridor and the empty office, but two remained. One was a young man of
three or four and twenty, who was in love with M. Morrel's daughter, and
had remained with him in spite of the efforts of his friends to induce
him to withdraw; the other was an old one-eyed cashier, called "Cocles,"
or "Cock-eye," a nickname given him by the young men who used to throng
this vast now almost deserted bee-hive, and which had so completely
replaced his real name that he would not, in all probability, have
replied to any one who addressed him by it.

Cocles remained in M. Morrel's service, and a most singular change had
taken place in his position; he had at the same time risen to the rank
of cashier, and sunk to the rank of a servant. He was, however, the
same Cocles, good, patient, devoted, but inflexible on the subject of
arithmetic, the only point on which he would have stood firm against the
world, even against M. Morrel; and strong in the multiplication-table,
which he had at his fingers' ends, no matter what scheme or what trap
was laid to catch him. In the midst of the disasters that befell the
house, Cocles was the only one unmoved. But this did not arise from a
want of affection; on the contrary, from a firm conviction. Like the
rats that one by one forsake the doomed ship even before the vessel
weighs anchor, so all the numerous clerks had by degrees deserted the
office and the warehouse. Cocles had seen them go without thinking of
inquiring the cause of their departure. Everything was as we have said,
a question of arithmetic to Cocles, and during twenty years he had
always seen all payments made with such exactitude, that it seemed as
impossible to him that the house should stop payment, as it would to a
miller that the river that had so long turned his mill should cease to
flow.

Nothing had as yet occurred to shake Cocles' belief; the last month's
payment had been made with the most scrupulous exactitude; Cocles had
detected an overbalance of fourteen sous in his cash, and the same
evening he had brought them to M. Morrel, who, with a melancholy smile,
threw them into an almost empty drawer, saying:--

"Thanks, Cocles; you are the pearl of cashiers."

Cocles went away perfectly happy, for this eulogium of M. Morrel,
himself the pearl of the honest men of Marseilles, flattered him more
than a present of fifty crowns. But since the end of the month M. Morrel
had passed many an anxious hour. In order to meet the payments then due;
he had collected all his resources, and, fearing lest the report of his
distress should get bruited abroad at Marseilles when he was known to be
reduced to such an extremity, he went to the Beaucaire fair to sell his
wife's and daughter's jewels and a portion of his plate. By this means
the end of the month was passed, but his resources were now exhausted.
Credit, owing to the reports afloat, was no longer to be had; and to
meet the one hundred thousand francs due on the 10th of the present
month, and the one hundred thousand francs due on the 15th of the next
month to M. de Boville, M. Morrel had, in reality, no hope but the
return of the Pharaon, of whose departure he had learnt from a vessel
which had weighed anchor at the same time, and which had already arrived
in harbor. But this vessel which, like the Pharaon, came from Calcutta,
had been in for a fortnight, while no intelligence had been received of
the Pharaon.

Such was the state of affairs when, the day after his interview with M.
de Boville, the confidential clerk of the house of Thomson & French
of Rome, presented himself at M. Morrel's. Emmanuel received him; this
young man was alarmed by the appearance of every new face, for every new
face might be that of a new creditor, come in anxiety to question the
head of the house. The young man, wishing to spare his employer the pain
of this interview, questioned the new-comer; but the stranger declared
that he had nothing to say to M. Emmanuel, and that his business was
with M. Morrel in person. Emmanuel sighed, and summoned Cocles. Cocles
appeared, and the young man bade him conduct the stranger to M. Morrel's
apartment. Cocles went first, and the stranger followed him. On the
staircase they met a beautiful girl of sixteen or seventeen, who looked
with anxiety at the stranger.

"M. Morrel is in his room, is he not, Mademoiselle Julie?" said the
cashier.

"Yes; I think so, at least," said the young girl hesitatingly. "Go and
see, Cocles, and if my father is there, announce this gentleman."

"It will be useless to announce me, mademoiselle," returned the
Englishman. "M. Morrel does not know my name; this worthy gentleman has
only to announce the confidential clerk of the house of Thomson & French
of Rome, with whom your father does business."

The young girl turned pale and continued to descend, while the stranger
and Cocles continued to mount the staircase. She entered the office
where Emmanuel was, while Cocles, by the aid of a key he possessed,
opened a door in the corner of a landing-place on the second staircase,
conducted the stranger into an ante-chamber, opened a second door, which
he closed behind him, and after having left the clerk of the house of
Thomson & French alone, returned and signed to him that he could enter.
The Englishman entered, and found Morrel seated at a table, turning over
the formidable columns of his ledger, which contained the list of his
liabilities. At the sight of the stranger, M. Morrel closed the ledger,
arose, and offered a seat to the stranger; and when he had seen him
seated, resumed his own chair. Fourteen years had changed the worthy
merchant, who, in his thirty-sixth year at the opening of this history,
was now in his fiftieth; his hair had turned white, time and sorrow
had ploughed deep furrows on his brow, and his look, once so firm and
penetrating, was now irresolute and wandering, as if he feared being
forced to fix his attention on some particular thought or person. The
Englishman looked at him with an air of curiosity, evidently mingled
with interest. "Monsieur," said Morrel, whose uneasiness was increased
by this examination, "you wish to speak to me?"

"Yes, monsieur; you are aware from whom I come?"

"The house of Thomson & French; at least, so my cashier tells me."

"He has told you rightly. The house of Thomson & French had 300,000 or
400,000 francs to pay this month in France; and, knowing your strict
punctuality, have collected all the bills bearing your signature, and
charged me as they became due to present them, and to employ the money
otherwise." Morrel sighed deeply, and passed his hand over his forehead,
which was covered with perspiration.

"So then, sir," said Morrel, "you hold bills of mine?"

"Yes, and for a considerable sum."

"What is the amount?" asked Morrel with a voice he strove to render
firm.

"Here is," said the Englishman, taking a quantity of papers from his
pocket, "an assignment of 200,000 francs to our house by M. de Boville,
the inspector of prisons, to whom they are due. You acknowledge, of
course, that you owe this sum to him?"

"Yes; he placed the money in my hands at four and a half per cent nearly
five years ago."

"When are you to pay?"

"Half the 15th of this month, half the 15th of next."

"Just so; and now here are 32,500 francs payable shortly; they are all
signed by you, and assigned to our house by the holders."

"I recognize them," said Morrel, whose face was suffused, as he thought
that, for the first time in his life, he would be unable to honor his
own signature. "Is this all?"

"No, I have for the end of the month these bills which have been
assigned to us by the house of Pascal, and the house of Wild & Turner of
Marseilles, amounting to nearly 55,000. francs; in all, 287,500
francs." It is impossible to describe what Morrel suffered during
this enumeration. "Two hundred and eighty-seven thousand five hundred
francs," repeated he.

"Yes, sir," replied the Englishman. "I will not," continued he, after
a moment's silence, "conceal from you, that while your probity and
exactitude up to this moment are universally acknowledged, yet the
report is current in Marseilles that you are not able to meet your
liabilities." At this almost brutal speech Morrel turned deathly
pale. "Sir," said he, "up to this time--and it is now more than
four-and-twenty years since I received the direction of this house from
my father, who had himself conducted it for five and thirty years--never
has anything bearing the signature of Morrel & Son been dishonored."

"I know that," replied the Englishman. "But as a man of honor should
answer another, tell me fairly, shall you pay these with the same
punctuality?" Morrel shuddered, and looked at the man, who spoke with
more assurance than he had hitherto shown. "To questions frankly put,"
said he, "a straightforward answer should be given. Yes, I shall pay,
if, as I hope, my vessel arrives safely; for its arrival will again
procure me the credit which the numerous accidents, of which I have been
the victim, have deprived me; but if the Pharaon should be lost, and
this last resource be gone"--the poor man's eyes filled with tears.

"Well," said the other, "if this last resource fail you?"

"Well," returned Morrel, "it is a cruel thing to be forced to say, but,
already used to misfortune, I must habituate myself to shame. I fear I
shall be forced to suspend payment."

"Have you no friends who could assist you?" Morrel smiled mournfully.
"In business, sir," said he, "one has no friends, only correspondents."

"It is true," murmured the Englishman; "then you have but one hope."

"But one."

"The last?"

"The last."

"So that if this fail"--

"I am ruined,--completely ruined!"

"As I was on my way here, a vessel was coming into port."

"I know it, sir; a young man, who still adheres to my fallen fortunes,
passes a part of his time in a belvidere at the top of the house, in
hopes of being the first to announce good news to me; he has informed me
of the arrival of this ship."

"And it is not yours?"

"No, she is a Bordeaux vessel, La Gironde; she comes from India also;
but she is not mine."

"Perhaps she has spoken to the Pharaon, and brings you some tidings of
her?"

"Shall I tell you plainly one thing, sir? I dread almost as much to
receive any tidings of my vessel as to remain in doubt. Uncertainty
is still hope." Then in a low voice Morrel added,--"This delay is not
natural. The Pharaon left Calcutta the 5th February; she ought to have
been here a month ago."

"What is that?" said the Englishman. "What is the meaning of that
noise?"

"Oh, oh!" cried Morrel, turning pale, "what is it?" A loud noise was
heard on the stairs of people moving hastily, and half-stifled sobs.
Morrel rose and advanced to the door; but his strength failed him and
he sank into a chair. The two men remained opposite one another, Morrel
trembling in every limb, the stranger gazing at him with an air of
profound pity. The noise had ceased; but it seemed that Morrel expected
something--something had occasioned the noise, and something must
follow. The stranger fancied he heard footsteps on the stairs; and that
the footsteps, which were those of several persons, stopped at the door.
A key was inserted in the lock of the first door, and the creaking of
hinges was audible.

"There are only two persons who have the key to that door," murmured
Morrel, "Cocles and Julie." At this instant the second door opened,
and the young girl, her eyes bathed with tears, appeared. Morrel rose
tremblingly, supporting himself by the arm of the chair. He would have
spoken, but his voice failed him. "Oh, father!" said she, clasping her
hands, "forgive your child for being the bearer of evil tidings."

Morrel again changed color. Julie threw herself into his arms.

"Oh, father, father!" murmured she, "courage!"

"The Pharaon has gone down, then?" said Morrel in a hoarse voice. The
young girl did not speak; but she made an affirmative sign with her head
as she lay on her father's breast.

"And the crew?" asked Morrel.

"Saved," said the girl; "saved by the crew of the vessel that has just
entered the harbor." Morrel raised his two hands to heaven with an
expression of resignation and sublime gratitude. "Thanks, my God," said
he, "at least thou strikest but me alone." A tear moistened the eye of
the phlegmatic Englishman.

"Come in, come in," said Morrel, "for I presume you are all at the
door."

Scarcely had he uttered those words than Madame Morrel entered weeping
bitterly. Emmanuel followed her, and in the antechamber were visible the
rough faces of seven or eight half-naked sailors. At the sight of these
men the Englishman started and advanced a step; then restrained himself,
and retired into the farthest and most obscure corner of the apartment.
Madame Morrel sat down by her husband and took one of his hands in hers,
Julie still lay with her head on his shoulder, Emmanuel stood in the
centre of the chamber and seemed to form the link between Morrel's
family and the sailors at the door.

"How did this happen?" said Morrel.

"Draw nearer, Penelon," said the young man, "and tell us all about it."

An old seaman, bronzed by the tropical sun, advanced, twirling the
remains of a tarpaulin between his hands. "Good-day, M. Morrel," said
he, as if he had just quitted Marseilles the previous evening, and had
just returned from Aix or Toulon.

"Good-day, Penelon," returned Morrel, who could not refrain from smiling
through his tears, "where is the captain?"

"The captain, M. Morrel,--he has stayed behind sick at Palma; but please
God, it won't be much, and you will see him in a few days all alive and
hearty."

"Well, now tell your story, Penelon."

Penelon rolled his quid in his cheek, placed his hand before his
mouth, turned his head, and sent a long jet of tobacco-juice into the
antechamber, advanced his foot, balanced himself, and began,--"You see,
M. Morrel," said he, "we were somewhere between Cape Blanc and Cape
Boyador, sailing with a fair breeze, south-south-west after a week's
calm, when Captain Gaumard comes up to me--I was at the helm I should
tell you--and says, 'Penelon, what do you think of those clouds coming
up over there?' I was just then looking at them myself. 'What do I
think, captain? Why I think that they are rising faster than they have
any business to do, and that they would not be so black if they didn't
mean mischief.'--'That's my opinion too,' said the captain, 'and I'll
take precautions accordingly. We are carrying too much canvas. Avast,
there, all hands! Take in the studding-sl's and stow the flying jib.' It
was time; the squall was on us, and the vessel began to heel. 'Ah,' said
the captain, 'we have still too much canvas set; all hands lower
the mains'l!' Five minutes after, it was down; and we sailed under
mizzen-tops'ls and to'gall'nt sails. 'Well, Penelon,' said the captain,
'what makes you shake your head?' 'Why,' I says, 'I still think you've
got too much on.' 'I think you're right,' answered he, 'we shall have a
gale.' 'A gale? More than that, we shall have a tempest, or I don't know
what's what.' You could see the wind coming like the dust at Montredon;
luckily the captain understood his business. 'Take in two reefs in the
tops'ls,' cried the captain; 'let go the bowlin's, haul the brace, lower
the to'gall'nt sails, haul out the reef-tackles on the yards.'"

"That was not enough for those latitudes," said the Englishman; "I
should have taken four reefs in the topsails and furled the spanker."

His firm, sonorous, and unexpected voice made every one start. Penelon
put his hand over his eyes, and then stared at the man who thus
criticized the manoeuvres of his captain. "We did better than that,
sir," said the old sailor respectfully; "we put the helm up to run
before the tempest; ten minutes after we struck our tops'ls and scudded
under bare poles."

"The vessel was very old to risk that," said the Englishman.

"Eh, it was that that did the business; after pitching heavily for
twelve hours we sprung a leak. 'Penelon,' said the captain, 'I think we
are sinking, give me the helm, and go down into the hold.' I gave him
the helm, and descended; there was already three feet of water. 'All
hands to the pumps!' I shouted; but it was too late, and it seemed the
more we pumped the more came in. 'Ah,' said I, after four hours' work,
'since we are sinking, let us sink; we can die but once.' 'That's
the example you set, Penelon,' cries the captain; 'very well, wait a
minute.' He went into his cabin and came back with a brace of pistols.
'I will blow the brains out of the first man who leaves the pump,' said
he."

"Well done!" said the Englishman.

"There's nothing gives you so much courage as good reasons," continued
the sailor; "and during that time the wind had abated, and the sea gone
down, but the water kept rising; not much, only two inches an hour,
but still it rose. Two inches an hour does not seem much, but in twelve
hours that makes two feet, and three we had before, that makes five.
'Come,' said the captain, 'we have done all in our power, and M. Morrel
will have nothing to reproach us with, we have tried to save the ship,
let us now save ourselves. To the boats, my lads, as quick as you can.'
Now," continued Penelon, "you see, M. Morrel, a sailor is attached to
his ship, but still more to his life, so we did not wait to be told
twice; the more so, that the ship was sinking under us, and seemed to
say, 'Get along--save yourselves.' We soon launched the boat, and all
eight of us got into it. The captain descended last, or rather, he
did not descend, he would not quit the vessel; so I took him round the
waist, and threw him into the boat, and then I jumped after him. It
was time, for just as I jumped the deck burst with a noise like the
broadside of a man-of-war. Ten minutes after she pitched forward, then
the other way, spun round and round, and then good-by to the Pharaon. As
for us, we were three days without anything to eat or drink, so that we
began to think of drawing lots who should feed the rest, when we saw La
Gironde; we made signals of distress, she perceived us, made for us, and
took us all on board. There now, M. Morrel, that's the whole truth, on
the honor of a sailor; is not it true, you fellows there?" A general
murmur of approbation showed that the narrator had faithfully detailed
their misfortunes and sufferings.

"Well, well," said M. Morrel, "I know there was no one in fault but
destiny. It was the will of God that this should happen, blessed be his
name. What wages are due to you?"

"Oh, don't let us talk of that, M. Morrel."

"Yes, but we will talk of it."

"Well, then, three months," said Penelon.

"Cocles, pay two hundred francs to each of these good fellows," said
Morrel. "At another time," added he, "I should have said, Give them,
besides, two hundred francs over as a present; but times are changed,
and the little money that remains to me is not my own."

Penelon turned to his companions, and exchanged a few words with them.

"As for that, M. Morrel," said he, again turning his quid, "as for
that"--

"As for what?"

"The money."

"Well"--

"Well, we all say that fifty francs will be enough for us at present,
and that we will wait for the rest."

"Thanks, my friends, thanks!" cried Morrel gratefully; "take it--take
it; and if you can find another employer, enter his service; you are
free to do so." These last words produced a prodigious effect on the
seaman. Penelon nearly swallowed his quid; fortunately he recovered.
"What, M. Morrel!" said he in a low voice, "you send us away; you are
then angry with us!"

"No, no," said M. Morrel, "I am not angry, quite the contrary, and I do
not send you away; but I have no more ships, and therefore I do not want
any sailors."

"No more ships!" returned Penelon; "well, then, you'll build some; we'll
wait for you."

"I have no money to build ships with, Penelon," said the poor owner
mournfully, "so I cannot accept your kind offer."

"No more money? Then you must not pay us; we can scud, like the Pharaon,
under bare poles."

"Enough, enough!" cried Morrel, almost overpowered; "leave me, I pray
you; we shall meet again in a happier time. Emmanuel, go with them, and
see that my orders are executed."

"At least, we shall see each other again, M. Morrel?" asked Penelon.

"Yes; I hope so, at least. Now go." He made a sign to Cocles, who went
first; the seamen followed him and Emmanuel brought up the rear. "Now,"
said the owner to his wife and daughter, "leave me; I wish to speak with
this gentleman." And he glanced towards the clerk of Thomson & French,
who had remained motionless in the corner during this scene, in which he
had taken no part, except the few words we have mentioned. The two women
looked at this person whose presence they had entirely forgotten, and
retired; but, as she left the apartment, Julie gave the stranger a
supplicating glance, to which he replied by a smile that an indifferent
spectator would have been surprised to see on his stern features. The
two men were left alone. "Well, sir," said Morrel, sinking into a chair,
"you have heard all, and I have nothing further to tell you."

"I see," returned the Englishman, "that a fresh and unmerited misfortune
his overwhelmed you, and this only increases my desire to serve you."

"Oh, sir!" cried Morrel.

"Let me see," continued the stranger, "I am one of your largest
creditors."

"Your bills, at least, are the first that will fall due."

"Do you wish for time to pay?"

"A delay would save my honor, and consequently my life."

"How long a delay do you wish for?"--Morrel reflected. "Two months,"
said he.

"I will give you three," replied the stranger.

"But," asked Morrel, "will the house of Thomson & French consent?"

"Oh, I take everything on myself. To-day is the 5th of June."

"Yes."

"Well, renew these bills up to the 5th of September; and on the 5th of
September at eleven o'clock (the hand of the clock pointed to eleven), I
shall come to receive the money."

"I shall expect you," returned Morrel; "and I will pay you--or I shall
be dead." These last words were uttered in so low a tone that the
stranger could not hear them. The bills were renewed, the old ones
destroyed, and the poor ship-owner found himself with three months
before him to collect his resources. The Englishman received his thanks
with the phlegm peculiar to his nation; and Morrel, overwhelming him
with grateful blessings, conducted him to the staircase. The stranger
met Julie on the stairs; she pretended to be descending, but in reality
she was waiting for him. "Oh, sir"--said she, clasping her hands.

"Mademoiselle," said the stranger, "one day you will receive a letter
signed 'Sinbad the Sailor.' Do exactly what the letter bids you, however
strange it may appear."

"Yes, sir," returned Julie.

"Do you promise?"

"I swear to you I will."

"It is well. Adieu, mademoiselle. Continue to be the good, sweet girl
you are at present, and I have great hopes that heaven will reward you
by giving you Emmanuel for a husband."

Julie uttered a faint cry, blushed like a rose, and leaned against the
baluster. The stranger waved his hand, and continued to descend. In
the court he found Penelon, who, with a rouleau of a hundred francs in
either hand, seemed unable to make up his mind to retain them. "Come
with me, my friend," said the Englishman; "I wish to speak to you."

 

 

Chapter 30. The Fifth of September.

The extension provided for by the agent of Thomson & French, at the
moment when Morrel expected it least, was to the poor shipowner so
decided a stroke of good fortune that he almost dared to believe that
fate was at length grown weary of wasting her spite upon him. The same
day he told his wife, Emmanuel, and his daughter all that had occurred;
and a ray of hope, if not of tranquillity, returned to the family.
Unfortunately, however, Morrel had not only engagements with the house
of Thomson & French, who had shown themselves so considerate towards
him; and, as he had said, in business he had correspondents, and not
friends. When he thought the matter over, he could by no means account
for this generous conduct on the part of Thomson & French towards him;
and could only attribute it to some such selfish argument as this:--"We
had better help a man who owes us nearly 300,000 francs, and have those
300,000 francs at the end of three months than hasten his ruin, and
get only six or eight per cent of our money back again." Unfortunately,
whether through envy or stupidity, all Morrel's correspondents did not
take this view; and some even came to a contrary decision. The
bills signed by Morrel were presented at his office with scrupulous
exactitude, and, thanks to the delay granted by the Englishman, were
paid by Cocles with equal punctuality. Cocles thus remained in his
accustomed tranquillity. It was Morrel alone who remembered with alarm,
that if he had to repay on the 15th the 50,000 francs of M. de Boville,
and on the 30th the 32,500 francs of bills, for which, as well as the
debt due to the inspector of prisons, he had time granted, he must be a
ruined man.

The opinion of all the commercial men was that, under the reverses
which had successively weighed down Morrel, it was impossible for him to
remain solvent. Great, therefore, was the astonishment when at the
end of the month, he cancelled all his obligations with his usual
punctuality. Still confidence was not restored to all minds, and the
general opinion was that the complete ruin of the unfortunate shipowner
had been postponed only until the end of the month. The month passed,
and Morrel made extraordinary efforts to get in all his resources.
Formerly his paper, at any date, was taken with confidence, and was even
in request. Morrel now tried to negotiate bills at ninety days only, and
none of the banks would give him credit. Fortunately, Morrel had some
funds coming in on which he could rely; and, as they reached him, he
found himself in a condition to meet his engagements when the end of
July came. The agent of Thomson & French had not been again seen at
Marseilles; the day after, or two days after his visit to Morrel, he had
disappeared; and as in that city he had had no intercourse but with the
mayor, the inspector of prisons, and M. Morrel, his departure left no
trace except in the memories of these three persons. As to the sailors
of the Pharaon, they must have found snug berths elsewhere, for they
also had disappeared.

Captain Gaumard, recovered from his illness, had returned from Palma.
He delayed presenting himself at Morrel's, but the owner, hearing of
his arrival, went to see him. The worthy shipowner knew, from Penelon's
recital, of the captain's brave conduct during the storm, and tried to
console him. He brought him also the amount of his wages, which Captain
Gaumard had not dared to apply for. As he descended the staircase,
Morrel met Penelon, who was going up. Penelon had, it would seem, made
good use of his money, for he was newly clad. When he saw his employer,
the worthy tar seemed much embarrassed, drew on one side into the corner
of the landing-place, passed his quid from one cheek to the other,
stared stupidly with his great eyes, and only acknowledged the squeeze
of the hand which Morrel as usual gave him by a slight pressure in
return. Morrel attributed Penelon's embarrassment to the elegance of his
attire; it was evident the good fellow had not gone to such an expense
on his own account; he was, no doubt, engaged on board some other
vessel, and thus his bashfulness arose from the fact of his not having,
if we may so express ourselves, worn mourning for the Pharaon longer.
Perhaps he had come to tell Captain Gaumard of his good luck, and to
offer him employment from his new master. "Worthy fellows!" said Morrel,
as he went away, "may your new master love you as I loved you, and be
more fortunate than I have been!"

August rolled by in unceasing efforts on the part of Morrel to renew
his credit or revive the old. On the 20th of August it was known at
Marseilles that he had left town in the mailcoach, and then it was said
that the bills would go to protest at the end of the month, and that
Morrel had gone away and left his chief clerk Emmanuel, and his cashier
Cocles, to meet the creditors. But, contrary to all expectation, when
the 31st of August came, the house opened as usual, and Cocles appeared
behind the grating of the counter, examined all bills presented with
the usual scrutiny, and, from first to last, paid all with the usual
precision. There came in, moreover, two drafts which M. Morrel had fully
anticipated, and which Cocles paid as punctually as the bills which the
shipowner had accepted. All this was incomprehensible, and then, with
the tenacity peculiar to prophets of bad news, the failure was put off
until the end of September. On the 1st, Morrel returned; he was awaited
by his family with extreme anxiety, for from this journey to Paris
they hoped great things. Morrel had thought of Danglars, who was now
immensely rich, and had lain under great obligations to Morrel in former
days, since to him it was owing that Danglars entered the service of
the Spanish banker, with whom he had laid the foundations of his vast
wealth. It was said at this moment that Danglars was worth from six
to eight millions of francs, and had unlimited credit. Danglars, then,
without taking a crown from his pocket, could save Morrel; he had but to
pass his word for a loan, and Morrel was saved. Morrel had long thought
of Danglars, but had kept away from some instinctive motive, and had
delayed as long as possible availing himself of this last resource. And
Morrel was right, for he returned home crushed by the humiliation of a
refusal. Yet, on his arrival, Morrel did not utter a complaint, or
say one harsh word. He embraced his weeping wife and daughter, pressed
Emmanuel's hand with friendly warmth, and then going to his private room
on the second floor had sent for Cocles. "Then," said the two women to
Emmanuel, "we are indeed ruined."

It was agreed in a brief council held among them, that Julie should
write to her brother, who was in garrison at Nimes, to come to them
as speedily as possible. The poor women felt instinctively that they
required all their strength to support the blow that impended. Besides,
Maximilian Morrel, though hardly two and twenty, had great influence
over his father. He was a strong-minded, upright young man. At the time
when he decided on his profession his father had no desire to choose for
him, but had consulted young Maximilian's taste. He had at once declared
for a military life, and had in consequence studied hard, passed
brilliantly through the Polytechnic School, and left it as
sub-lieutenant of the 53d of the line. For a year he had held this rank,
and expected promotion on the first vacancy. In his regiment Maximilian
Morrel was noted for his rigid observance, not only of the obligations
imposed on a soldier, but also of the duties of a man; and he thus
gained the name of "the stoic." We need hardly say that many of those
who gave him this epithet repeated it because they had heard it, and did
not even know what it meant. This was the young man whom his mother and
sister called to their aid to sustain them under the serious trial which
they felt they would soon have to endure. They had not mistaken the
gravity of this event, for the moment after Morrel had entered his
private office with Cocles, Julie saw the latter leave it pale,
trembling, and his features betraying the utmost consternation. She
would have questioned him as he passed by her, but the worthy creature
hastened down the staircase with unusual precipitation, and only raised
his hands to heaven and exclaimed, "Oh, mademoiselle, mademoiselle,
what a dreadful misfortune! Who could ever have believed it!" A moment
afterwards Julie saw him go up-stairs carrying two or three heavy
ledgers, a portfolio, and a bag of money.

Morrel examined the ledgers, opened the portfolio, and counted the
money. All his funds amounted to 6,000, or 8,000. francs, his bills
receivable up to the 5th to 4,000 or 5,000, which, making the best of
everything, gave him 14,000. francs to meet debts amounting to 287,500
francs. He had not even the means for making a possible settlement on
account. However, when Morrel went down to his dinner, he appeared very
calm. This calmness was more alarming to the two women than the deepest
dejection would have been. After dinner Morrel usually went out and used
to take his coffee at the Phocaean club, and read the Semaphore; this
day he did not leave the house, but returned to his office.

As to Cocles, he seemed completely bewildered. For part of the day he
went into the court-yard, seated himself on a stone with his head bare
and exposed to the blazing sun. Emmanuel tried to comfort the women, but
his eloquence faltered. The young man was too well acquainted with the
business of the house, not to feel that a great catastrophe hung over
the Morrel family. Night came, the two women had watched, hoping that
when he left his room Morrel would come to them, but they heard him pass
before their door, and trying to conceal the noise of his footsteps.
They listened; he went into his sleeping-room, and fastened the door
inside. Madame Morrel sent her daughter to bed, and half an hour after
Julie had retired, she rose, took off her shoes, and went stealthily
along the passage, to see through the keyhole what her husband was
doing. In the passage she saw a retreating shadow; it was Julie, who,
uneasy herself, had anticipated her mother. The young lady went towards
Madame Morrel.

"He is writing," she said. They had understood each other without
speaking. Madame Morrel looked again through the keyhole, Morrel was
writing; but Madame Morrel remarked, what her daughter had not observed,
that her husband was writing on stamped paper. The terrible idea that he
was writing his will flashed across her; she shuddered, and yet had not
strength to utter a word. Next day M. Morrel seemed as calm as ever,
went into his office as usual, came to his breakfast punctually, and
then, after dinner, he placed his daughter beside him, took her head
in his arms, and held her for a long time against his bosom. In the
evening, Julie told her mother, that although he was apparently so calm,
she had noticed that her father's heart beat violently. The next
two days passed in much the same way. On the evening of the 4th of
September, M. Morrel asked his daughter for the key of his study. Julie
trembled at this request, which seemed to her of bad omen. Why did her
father ask for this key which she always kept, and which was only taken
from her in childhood as a punishment? The young girl looked at Morrel.

"What have I done wrong, father," she said, "that you should take this
key from me?"

"Nothing, my dear," replied the unhappy man, the tears starting to his
eyes at this simple question,--"nothing, only I want it." Julie made
a pretence to feel for the key. "I must have left it in my room,"
she said. And she went out, but instead of going to her apartment she
hastened to consult Emmanuel. "Do not give this key to your father,"
said he, "and to-morrow morning, if possible, do not quit him for a
moment." She questioned Emmanuel, but he knew nothing, or would not say
what he knew. During the night, between the 4th and 5th of September,
Madame Morrel remained listening for every sound, and, until three
o'clock in the morning, she heard her husband pacing the room in great
agitation. It was three o'clock when he threw himself on the bed.
The mother and daughter passed the night together. They had expected
Maximilian since the previous evening. At eight o'clock in the morning
Morrel entered their chamber. He was calm; but the agitation of the
night was legible in his pale and careworn visage. They did not dare
to ask him how he had slept. Morrel was kinder to his wife, more
affectionate to his daughter, than he had ever been. He could not cease
gazing at and kissing the sweet girl. Julie, mindful of Emmanuel's
request, was following her father when he quitted the room, but he said
to her quickly,--"Remain with your mother, dearest." Julie wished to
accompany him. "I wish you to do so," said he.

This was the first time Morrel had ever so spoken, but he said it in
a tone of paternal kindness, and Julie did not dare to disobey. She
remained at the same spot standing mute and motionless. An instant
afterwards the door opened, she felt two arms encircle her, and a mouth
pressed her forehead. She looked up and uttered an exclamation of joy.

"Maximilian, my dearest brother!" she cried. At these words Madame
Morrel rose, and threw herself into her son's arms. "Mother," said the
young man, looking alternately at Madame Morrel and her daughter, "what
has occurred--what has happened? Your letter has frightened me, and I
have come hither with all speed."

"Julie," said Madame Morrel, making a sign to the young man, "go and
tell your father that Maximilian has just arrived." The young lady
rushed out of the apartment, but on the first step of the staircase she
found a man holding a letter in his hand.

"Are you not Mademoiselle Julie Morrel?" inquired the man, with a strong
Italian accent.

"Yes, sir," replied Julie with hesitation; "what is your pleasure? I do
not know you."

"Read this letter," he said, handing it to her. Julie hesitated. "It
concerns the best interests of your father," said the messenger.

The young girl hastily took the letter from him. She opened it quickly
and read:--

"Go this moment to the Allees de Meillan, enter the house No. 15,
ask the porter for the key of the room on the fifth floor, enter the
apartment, take from the corner of the mantelpiece a purse netted in red
silk, and give it to your father. It is important that he should receive
it before eleven o'clock. You promised to obey me implicitly. Remember
your oath.

"Sinbad the Sailor."

The young girl uttered a joyful cry, raised her eyes, looked round to
question the messenger, but he had disappeared. She cast her eyes
again over the note to peruse it a second time, and saw there was a
postscript. She read:--

"It is important that you should fulfil this mission in person and
alone. If you go accompanied by any other person, or should any one else
go in your place, the porter will reply that he does not know anything
about it."

This postscript decreased greatly the young girl's happiness. Was there
nothing to fear? was there not some snare laid for her? Her innocence
had kept her in ignorance of the dangers that might assail a young girl
of her age. But there is no need to know danger in order to fear it;
indeed, it may be observed, that it is usually unknown perils that
inspire the greatest terror.

Julie hesitated, and resolved to take counsel. Yet, through a singular
impulse, it was neither to her mother nor her brother that she applied,
but to Emmanuel. She hastened down and told him what had occurred on the
day when the agent of Thomson & French had come to her father's, related
the scene on the staircase, repeated the promise she had made, and
showed him the letter. "You must go, then, mademoiselle," said Emmanuel.

"Go there?" murmured Julie.

"Yes; I will accompany you."

"But did you not read that I must be alone?" said Julie.

"And you shall be alone," replied the young man. "I will await you at
the corner of the Rue de Musee, and if you are so long absent as to make
me uneasy, I will hasten to rejoin you, and woe to him of whom you shall
have cause to complain to me!"

"Then, Emmanuel?" said the young girl with hesitation, "it is your
opinion that I should obey this invitation?"

"Yes. Did not the messenger say your father's safety depended upon it?"

"But what danger threatens him, then, Emmanuel?" she asked.

Emmanuel hesitated a moment, but his desire to make Julie decide
immediately made him reply.

"Listen," he said; "to-day is the 5th of September, is it not?"

"Yes."

"To-day, then, at eleven o'clock, your father has nearly three hundred
thousand francs to pay?"

"Yes, we know that."

"Well, then," continued Emmanuel, "we have not fifteen thousand francs
in the house."

"What will happen then?"

"Why, if to-day before eleven o'clock your father has not found someone
who will come to his aid, he will be compelled at twelve o'clock to
declare himself a bankrupt."

"Oh, come, then, come!" cried she, hastening away with the young man.
During this time, Madame Morrel had told her son everything. The young
man knew quite well that, after the succession of misfortunes which
had befallen his father, great changes had taken place in the style of
living and housekeeping; but he did not know that matters had reached
such a point. He was thunderstruck. Then, rushing hastily out of the
apartment, he ran up-stairs, expecting to find his father in his study,
but he rapped there in vain.

While he was yet at the door of the study he heard the bedroom door
open, turned, and saw his father. Instead of going direct to his study,
M. Morrel had returned to his bed-chamber, which he was only this moment
quitting. Morrel uttered a cry of surprise at the sight of his son,
of whose arrival he was ignorant. He remained motionless on the spot,
pressing with his left hand something he had concealed under his coat.
Maximilian sprang down the staircase, and threw his arms round his
father's neck; but suddenly he recoiled, and placed his right hand on
Morrel's breast. "Father," he exclaimed, turning pale as death, "what
are you going to do with that brace of pistols under your coat?"

"Oh, this is what I feared!" said Morrel.

"Father, father, in heaven's name," exclaimed the young man, "what are
these weapons for?"

"Maximilian," replied Morrel, looking fixedly at his son, "you are a
man, and a man of honor. Come, and I will explain to you."

And with a firm step Morrel went up to his study, while Maximilian
followed him, trembling as he went. Morrel opened the door, and closed
it behind his son; then, crossing the anteroom, went to his desk on
which he placed the pistols, and pointed with his finger to an open
ledger. In this ledger was made out an exact balance-sheet of his
affair's. Morrel had to pay, within half an hour, 287,500 francs. All he
possessed was 15,257 francs. "Read!" said Morrel.

The young man was overwhelmed as he read. Morrel said not a word. What
could he say? What need he add to such a desperate proof in figures?"
And have you done all that is possible, father, to meet this disastrous
result?" asked the young man, after a moment's pause. "I have," replied
Morrel.

"You have no money coming in on which you can rely?"

"None."

"You have exhausted every resource?"

"All."

"And in half an hour," said Maximilian in a gloomy voice, "our name is
dishonored!"

"Blood washes out dishonor," said Morrel.

"You are right, father; I understand you." Then extending his hand
towards one of the pistols, he said, "There is one for you and one for
me--thanks!" Morrel caught his hand. "Your mother--your sister! Who will
support them?" A shudder ran through the young man's frame. "Father," he
said, "do you reflect that you are bidding me to live?"

"Yes, I do so bid you," answered Morrel, "it is your duty. You have a
calm, strong mind, Maximilian. Maximilian, you are no ordinary man. I
make no requests or commands; I only ask you to examine my position as
if it were your own, and then judge for yourself."

The young man reflected for a moment, then an expression of sublime
resignation appeared in his eyes, and with a slow and sad gesture he
took off his two epaulets, the insignia of his rank. "Be it so, then,
my father," he said, extending his hand to Morrel, "die in peace, my
father; I will live." Morrel was about to cast himself on his knees
before his son, but Maximilian caught him in his arms, and those two
noble hearts were pressed against each other for a moment. "You know it
is not my fault," said Morrel. Maximilian smiled. "I know, father, you
are the most honorable man I have ever known."

"Good, my son. And now there is no more to be said; go and rejoin your
mother and sister."

"My father," said the young man, bending his knee, "bless me!" Morrel
took the head of his son between his two hands, drew him forward, and
kissing his forehead several times said, "Oh, yes, yes, I bless you in
my own name, and in the name of three generations of irreproachable
men, who say through me, 'The edifice which misfortune has destroyed,
providence may build up again.' On seeing me die such a death, the most
inexorable will have pity on you. To you, perhaps, they will accord the
time they have refused to me. Then do your best to keep our name free
from dishonor. Go to work, labor, young man, struggle ardently and
courageously; live, yourself, your mother and sister, with the most
rigid economy, so that from day to day the property of those whom I
leave in your hands may augment and fructify. Reflect how glorious a day
it will be, how grand, how solemn, that day of complete restoration, on
which you will say in this very office, 'My father died because he could
not do what I have this day done; but he died calmly and peaceably,
because in dying he knew what I should do.'"

"My father, my father!" cried the young man, "why should you not live?"

"If I live, all would be changed; if I live, interest would be converted
into doubt, pity into hostility; if I live I am only a man who his
broken his word, failed in his engagements--in fact, only a bankrupt.
If, on the contrary, I die, remember, Maximilian, my corpse is that of
an honest but unfortunate man. Living, my best friends would avoid my
house; dead, all Marseilles will follow me in tears to my last home.
Living, you would feel shame at my name; dead, you may raise your head
and say, 'I am the son of him you killed, because, for the first time,
he has been compelled to break his word.'"

The young man uttered a groan, but appeared resigned.

"And now," said Morrel, "leave me alone, and endeavor to keep your
mother and sister away."

"Will you not see my sister once more?" asked Maximilian. A last
but final hope was concealed by the young man in the effect of this
interview, and therefore he had suggested it. Morrel shook his head. "I
saw her this morning, and bade her adieu."

"Have you no particular commands to leave with me, my father?" inquired
Maximilian in a faltering voice.

"Yes; my son, and a sacred command."

"Say it, my father."

"The house of Thomson & French is the only one who, from humanity, or,
it may be, selfishness--it is not for me to read men's hearts--has had
any pity for me. Its agent, who will in ten minutes present himself to
receive the amount of a bill of 287,500 francs, I will not say granted,
but offered me three months. Let this house be the first repaid, my son,
and respect this man."

"Father, I will," said Maximilian.

"And now, once more, adieu," said Morrel. "Go, leave me; I would be
alone. You will find my will in the secretary in my bedroom."

The young man remained standing and motionless, having but the force of
will and not the power of execution.

"Hear me, Maximilian," said his father. "Suppose I was a soldier like
you, and ordered to carry a certain redoubt, and you knew I must be
killed in the assault, would you not say to me, as you said just now,
'Go, father; for you are dishonored by delay, and death is preferable to
shame!'"

"Yes, yes," said the young man, "yes;" and once again embracing his
father with convulsive pressure, he said, "Be it so, my father."

And he rushed out of the study. When his son had left him, Morrel
remained an instant standing with his eyes fixed on the door; then
putting forth his arm, he pulled the bell. After a moment's interval,
Cocles appeared.

It was no longer the same man--the fearful revelations of the three last
days had crushed him. This thought--the house of Morrel is about to stop
payment--bent him to the earth more than twenty years would otherwise
have done.

"My worthy Cocles," said Morrel in a tone impossible to describe, "do
you remain in the ante-chamber. When the gentleman who came three months
ago--the agent of Thomson & French--arrives, announce his arrival to
me." Cocles made no reply; he made a sign with his head, went into the
anteroom, and seated himself. Morrel fell back in his chair, his eyes
fixed on the clock; there were seven minutes left, that was all. The
hand moved on with incredible rapidity, he seemed to see its motion.

What passed in the mind of this man at the supreme moment of his agony
cannot be told in words. He was still comparatively young, he was
surrounded by the loving care of a devoted family, but he had convinced
himself by a course of reasoning, illogical perhaps, yet certainly
plausible, that he must separate himself from all he held dear in the
world, even life itself. To form the slightest idea of his feelings, one
must have seen his face with its expression of enforced resignation and
its tear-moistened eyes raised to heaven. The minute hand moved on.
The pistols were loaded; he stretched forth his hand, took one up, and
murmured his daughter's name. Then he laid it down seized his pen, and
wrote a few words. It seemed to him as if he had not taken a sufficient
farewell of his beloved daughter. Then he turned again to the clock,
counting time now not by minutes, but by seconds. He took up the deadly
weapon again, his lips parted and his eyes fixed on the clock, and then
shuddered at the click of the trigger as he cocked the pistol. At this
moment of mortal anguish the cold sweat came forth upon his brow, a pang
stronger than death clutched at his heart-strings. He heard the door of
the staircase creak on its hinges--the clock gave its warning to strike
eleven--the door of his study opened; Morrel did not turn round--he
expected these words of Cocles, "The agent of Thomson & French."

He placed the muzzle of the pistol between his teeth. Suddenly he heard
a cry--it was his daughter's voice. He turned and saw Julie. The pistol
fell from his hands. "My father!" cried the young girl, out of breath,
and half dead with joy--"saved, you are saved!" And she threw herself
into his arms, holding in her extended hand a red, netted silk purse.

"Saved, my child!" said Morrel; "what do you mean?"

"Yes, saved--saved! See, see!" said the young girl.

Morrel took the purse, and started as he did so, for a vague remembrance
reminded him that it once belonged to himself. At one end was the
receipted bill for the 287,000 francs, and at the other was a diamond
as large as a hazel-nut, with these words on a small slip of
parchment:--Julie's Dowry.

Morrel passed his hand over his brow; it seemed to him a dream. At this
moment the clock struck eleven. He felt as if each stroke of the hammer
fell upon his heart. "Explain, my child," he said, "Explain, my child,"
he said, "explain--where did you find this purse?"

"In a house in the Allees de Meillan, No. 15, on the corner of a
mantelpiece in a small room on the fifth floor."

"But," cried Morrel, "this purse is not yours!" Julie handed to her
father the letter she had received in the morning.

"And did you go alone?" asked Morrel, after he had read it.

"Emmanuel accompanied me, father. He was to have waited for me at the
corner of the Rue de Musee, but, strange to say, he was not there when I
returned."

"Monsieur Morrel!" exclaimed a voice on the stairs.--"Monsieur Morrel!"

"It is his voice!" said Julie. At this moment Emmanuel entered, his
countenance full of animation and joy. "The Pharaon!" he cried; "the
Pharaon!"

"What--what--the Pharaon! Are you mad, Emmanuel? You know the vessel is
lost."

"The Pharaon, sir--they signal the Pharaon! The Pharaon is entering the
harbor!" Morrel fell back in his chair, his strength was failing him;
his understanding weakened by such events, refused to comprehend such
incredible, unheard-of, fabulous facts. But his son came in. "Father,"
cried Maximilian, "how could you say the Pharaon was lost? The lookout
has signalled her, and they say she is now coming into port."

"My dear friends," said Morrel, "if this be so, it must be a miracle of
heaven! Impossible, impossible!"

But what was real and not less incredible was the purse he held in his
hand, the acceptance receipted--the splendid diamond.

"Ah, sir," exclaimed Cocles, "what can it mean?--the Pharaon?"

"Come, dear ones," said Morrel, rising from his seat, "let us go and
see, and heaven have pity upon us if it be false intelligence!" They all
went out, and on the stairs met Madame Morrel, who had been afraid to go
up into the study. In a moment they were at the Cannebiere. There was a
crowd on the pier. All the crowd gave way before Morrel. "The Pharaon,
the Pharaon!" said every voice.

And, wonderful to see, in front of the tower of Saint-Jean, was a
ship bearing on her stern these words, printed in white letters, "The
Pharaon, Morrel & Son, of Marseilles." She was the exact duplicate of
the other Pharaon, and loaded, as that had been, with cochineal and
indigo. She cast anchor, clued up sails, and on the deck was Captain
Gaumard giving orders, and good old Penelon making signals to M. Morrel.
To doubt any longer was impossible; there was the evidence of the
senses, and ten thousand persons who came to corroborate the testimony.
As Morrel and his son embraced on the pier-head, in the presence and
amid the applause of the whole city witnessing this event, a man, with
his face half-covered by a black beard, and who, concealed behind the
sentry-box, watched the scene with delight, uttered these words in a low
tone: "Be happy, noble heart, be blessed for all the good thou hast done
and wilt do hereafter, and let my gratitude remain in obscurity like
your good deeds."

And with a smile expressive of supreme content, he left his
hiding-place, and without being observed, descended one of the flights
of steps provided for debarkation, and hailing three times, shouted
"Jacopo, Jacopo, Jacopo!" Then a launch came to shore, took him on
board, and conveyed him to a yacht splendidly fitted up, on whose deck
he sprung with the activity of a sailor; thence he once again looked
towards Morrel, who, weeping with joy, was shaking hands most cordially
with all the crowd around him, and thanking with a look the unknown
benefactor whom he seemed to be seeking in the skies. "And now," said
the unknown, "farewell kindness, humanity, and gratitude! Farewell to
all the feelings that expand the heart! I have been heaven's substitute
to recompense the good--now the god of vengeance yields to me his power
to punish the wicked!" At these words he gave a signal, and, as if only
awaiting this signal, the yacht instantly put out to sea.

 

 

Chapter 31. Italy: Sinbad the Sailor.

Towards the beginning of the year 1838, two young men belonging to the
first society of Paris, the Vicomte Albert de Morcerf and the Baron
Franz d'Epinay, were at Florence. They had agreed to see the Carnival at
Rome that year, and that Franz, who for the last three or four years
had inhabited Italy, should act as cicerone to Albert. As it is no
inconsiderable affair to spend the Carnival at Rome, especially when
you have no great desire to sleep on the Piazza del Popolo, or the Campo
Vaccino, they wrote to Signor Pastrini, the proprietor of the Hotel de
Londres, Piazza di Spagna, to reserve comfortable apartments for them.
Signor Pastrini replied that he had only two rooms and a parlor on the
third floor, which he offered at the low charge of a louis per diem.
They accepted his offer; but wishing to make the best use of the time
that was left, Albert started for Naples. As for Franz, he remained at
Florence, and after having passed a few days in exploring the paradise
of the Cascine, and spending two or three evenings at the houses of
the Florentine nobility, he took a fancy into his head (having
already visited Corsica, the cradle of Bonaparte) to visit Elba, the
waiting-place of Napoleon.

One evening he cast off the painter of a sailboat from the iron ring
that secured it to the dock at Leghorn, wrapped himself in his coat and
lay down, and said to the crew,--"To the Island of Elba!" The boat shot
out of the harbor like a bird and the next morning Franz disembarked at
Porto-Ferrajo. He traversed the island, after having followed the
traces which the footsteps of the giant have left, and re-embarked
for Marciana. Two hours after he again landed at Pianosa, where he was
assured that red partridges abounded. The sport was bad; Franz only
succeeded in killing a few partridges, and, like every unsuccessful
sportsman, he returned to the boat very much out of temper. "Ah, if your
excellency chose," said the captain, "you might have capital sport."

"Where?"

"Do you see that island?" continued the captain, pointing to a conical
pile rising from the indigo sea.

"Well, what is this island?"

"The Island of Monte Cristo."

"But I have no permission to shoot over this island."

"Your excellency does not require a permit, for the island is
uninhabited."

"Ah, indeed!" said the young man. "A desert island in the midst of the
Mediterranean must be a curiosity."

"It is very natural; this island is a mass of rocks, and does not
contain an acre of land capable of cultivation."

"To whom does this island belong?"

"To Tuscany."

"What game shall I find there!"

"Thousands of wild goats."

"Who live upon the stones, I suppose," said Franz with an incredulous
smile.

"No, but by browsing the shrubs and trees that grow out of the crevices
of the rocks."

"Where can I sleep?"

"On shore in the grottos, or on board in your cloak; besides, if your
excellency pleases, we can leave as soon as you like--we can sail as
well by night as by day, and if the wind drops we can use our oars."

As Franz had sufficient time, and his apartments at Rome were not
yet available, he accepted the proposition. Upon his answer in the
affirmative, the sailors exchanged a few words together in a low tone.
"Well," asked he, "what now? Is there any difficulty in the way?"

"No." replied the captain, "but we must warn your excellency that the
island is an infected port."

"What do you mean?"

"Monte Cristo although uninhabited, yet serves occasionally as a refuge
for the smugglers and pirates who come from Corsica, Sardinia, and
Africa, and if it becomes known that we have been there, we shall have
to perform quarantine for six days on our return to Leghorn."

"The deuce! That puts a different face on the matter. Six days! Why,
that's as long as the Almighty took to make the world! Too long a
wait--too long."

"But who will say your excellency has been to Monte Cristo?"

"Oh, I shall not," cried Franz.

"Nor I, nor I," chorused the sailors.

"Then steer for Monte Cristo."

The captain gave his orders, the helm was put up, and the boat was soon
sailing in the direction of the island. Franz waited until all was in
order, and when the sail was filled, and the four sailors had taken
their places--three forward, and one at the helm--he resumed the
conversation. "Gaetano," said he to the captain, "you tell me Monte
Cristo serves as a refuge for pirates, who are, it seems to me, a very
different kind of game from the goats."

"Yes, your excellency, and it is true."

"I knew there were smugglers, but I thought that since the capture of
Algiers, and the destruction of the regency, pirates existed only in the
romances of Cooper and Captain Marryat."

"Your excellency is mistaken; there are pirates, like the bandits who
were believed to have been exterminated by Pope Leo XII., and who yet,
every day, rob travellers at the gates of Rome. Has not your excellency
heard that the French charge d'affaires was robbed six months ago within
five hundred paces of Velletri?"

"Oh, yes, I heard that."

"Well, then, if, like us, your excellency lived at Leghorn, you would
hear, from time to time, that a little merchant vessel, or an English
yacht that was expected at Bastia, at Porto-Ferrajo, or at Civita
Vecchia, has not arrived; no one knows what has become of it, but,
doubtless, it has struck on a rock and foundered. Now this rock it has
met has been a long and narrow boat, manned by six or eight men, who
have surprised and plundered it, some dark and stormy night, near some
desert and gloomy island, as bandits plunder a carriage in the recesses
of a forest."

"But," asked Franz, who lay wrapped in his cloak at the bottom of the
boat, "why do not those who have been plundered complain to the French,
Sardinian, or Tuscan governments?"

"Why?" said Gaetano with a smile.

"Yes, why?"

"Because, in the first place, they transfer from the vessel to their own
boat whatever they think worth taking, then they bind the crew hand and
foot, they attach to every one's neck a four and twenty pound ball, a
large hole is chopped in the vessel's bottom, and then they leave her.
At the end of ten minutes the vessel begins to roll heavily and settle
down. First one gun'l goes under, then the other. Then they lift and
sink again, and both go under at once. All at once there's a noise like
a cannon--that's the air blowing up the deck. Soon the water rushes
out of the scupper-holes like a whale spouting, the vessel gives a last
groan, spins round and round, and disappears, forming a vast whirlpool
in the ocean, and then all is over, so that in five minutes nothing but
the eye of God can see the vessel where she lies at the bottom of the
sea. Do you understand now," said the captain, "why no complaints are
made to the government, and why the vessel never reaches port?"

It is probable that if Gaetano had related this previous to proposing
the expedition, Franz would have hesitated, but now that they had
started, he thought it would be cowardly to draw back. He was one of
those men who do not rashly court danger, but if danger presents itself,
combat it with the most unalterable coolness. Calm and resolute, he
treated any peril as he would an adversary in a duel,--calculated
its probable method of approach; retreated, if at all, as a point of
strategy and not from cowardice; was quick to see an opening for attack,
and won victory at a single thrust. "Bah!" said he, "I have travelled
through Sicily and Calabria--I have sailed two months in the
Archipelago, and yet I never saw even the shadow of a bandit or a
pirate."

"I did not tell your excellency this to deter you from your project,"
replied Gaetano, "but you questioned me, and I have answered; that's
all."

"Yes, and your conversation is most interesting; and as I wish to enjoy
it as long as possible, steer for Monte Cristo."

The wind blew strongly, the boat made six or seven knots an hour, and
they were rapidly reaching the end of their voyage. As they drew near
the island seemed to lift from the sea, and the air was so clear that
they could already distinguish the rocks heaped on one another, like
cannon balls in an arsenal, with green bushes and trees growing in the
crevices. As for the sailors, although they appeared perfectly tranquil
yet it was evident that they were on the alert, and that they carefully
watched the glassy surface over which they were sailing, and on which a
few fishing-boats, with their white sails, were alone visible. They were
within fifteen miles of Monte Cristo when the sun began to set behind
Corsica, whose mountains appeared against the sky, showing their rugged
peaks in bold relief; this mass of rock, like the giant Adamastor, rose
dead ahead, a formidable barrier, and intercepting the light that gilded
its massive peaks so that the voyagers were in shadow. Little by little
the shadow rose higher and seemed to drive before it the last rays of
the expiring day; at last the reflection rested on the summit of the
mountain, where it paused an instant, like the fiery crest of a volcano,
then gloom gradually covered the summit as it had covered the base, and
the island now only appeared to be a gray mountain that grew continually
darker; half an hour after, the night was quite dark.

Fortunately, the mariners were used to these latitudes, and knew every
rock in the Tuscan Archipelago; for in the midst of this obscurity Franz
was not without uneasiness--Corsica had long since disappeared, and
Monte Cristo itself was invisible; but the sailors seemed, like the
lynx, to see in the dark, and the pilot who steered did not evince the
slightest hesitation. An hour had passed since the sun had set, when
Franz fancied he saw, at a quarter of a mile to the left, a dark mass,
but he could not precisely make out what it was, and fearing to excite
the mirth of the sailors by mistaking a floating cloud for land, he
remained silent; suddenly a great light appeared on the strand; land
might resemble a cloud, but the fire was not a meteor. "What is this
light?" asked he.

"Hush!" said the captain; "it is a fire."

"But you told me the island was uninhabited?"

"I said there were no fixed habitations on it, but I said also that it
served sometimes as a harbor for smugglers."

"And for pirates?"

"And for pirates," returned Gaetano, repeating Franz's words. "It is for
that reason I have given orders to pass the island, for, as you see, the
fire is behind us."

"But this fire?" continued Franz. "It seems to me rather reassuring than
otherwise; men who did not wish to be seen would not light a fire."

"Oh, that goes for nothing," said Gaetano. "If you can guess the
position of the island in the darkness, you will see that the fire
cannot be seen from the side or from Pianosa, but only from the sea."

"You think, then, this fire indicates the presence of unpleasant
neighbors?"

"That is what we must find out," returned Gaetano, fixing his eyes on
this terrestrial star.

"How can you find out?"

"You shall see." Gaetano consulted with his companions, and after five
minutes' discussion a manoeuvre was executed which caused the vessel to
tack about, they returned the way they had come, and in a few minutes
the fire disappeared, hidden by an elevation of the land. The pilot
again changed the course of the boat, which rapidly approached the
island, and was soon within fifty paces of it. Gaetano lowered the sail,
and the boat came to rest. All this was done in silence, and from the
moment that their course was changed not a word was spoken.

Gaetano, who had proposed the expedition, had taken all the
responsibility on himself; the four sailors fixed their eyes on him,
while they got out their oars and held themselves in readiness to row
away, which, thanks to the darkness, would not be difficult. As for
Franz, he examined his arms with the utmost coolness; he had two
double-barrelled guns and a rifle; he loaded them, looked at the
priming, and waited quietly. During this time the captain had thrown off
his vest and shirt, and secured his trousers round his waist; his feet
were naked, so he had no shoes and stockings to take off; after these
preparations he placed his finger on his lips, and lowering himself
noiselessly into the sea, swam towards the shore with such precaution
that it was impossible to hear the slightest sound; he could only
be traced by the phosphorescent line in his wake. This track soon
disappeared; it was evident that he had touched the shore. Every one on
board remained motionless for half an hour, when the same luminous track
was again observed, and the swimmer was soon on board. "Well?" exclaimed
Franz and the sailors in unison.

"They are Spanish smugglers," said he; "they have with them two Corsican
bandits."

"And what are these Corsican bandits doing here with Spanish smugglers?"

"Alas," returned the captain with an accent of the most profound pity,
"we ought always to help one another. Very often the bandits are hard
pressed by gendarmes or carbineers; well, they see a vessel, and good
fellows like us on board, they come and demand hospitality of us; you
can't refuse help to a poor hunted devil; we receive them, and for
greater security we stand out to sea. This costs us nothing, and saves
the life, or at least the liberty, of a fellow-creature, who on the
first occasion returns the service by pointing out some safe spot where
we can land our goods without interruption."

"Ah!" said Franz, "then you are a smuggler occasionally, Gaetano?"

"Your excellency, we must live somehow," returned the other, smiling
impenetrably.

"Then you know the men who are now on Monte Cristo?"

"Oh, yes, we sailors are like freemasons, and recognize each other by
signs."

"And do you think we have nothing to fear if we land?"

"Nothing at all; smugglers are not thieves."

"But these two Corsican bandits?" said Franz, calculating the chances of
peril.

"It is not their fault that they are bandits, but that of the
authorities."

"How so?"

"Because they are pursued for having made a stiff, as if it was not in a
Corsican's nature to revenge himself."

"What do you mean by having made a stiff?--having assassinated a man?"
said Franz, continuing his investigation.

"I mean that they have killed an enemy, which is a very different
thing," returned the captain.

"Well," said the young man, "let us demand hospitality of these
smugglers and bandits. Do you think they will grant it?"

"Without doubt."

"How many are they?"

"Four, and the two bandits make six."

"Just our number, so that if they prove troublesome, we shall be able to
hold them in check; so, for the last time, steer to Monte Cristo."

"Yes, but your excellency will permit us to take all due precautions."

"By all means, be as wise as Nestor and as prudent as Ulysses; I do more
than permit, I exhort you."

"Silence, then!" said Gaetano.

Every one obeyed. For a man who, like Franz, viewed his position in
its true light, it was a grave one. He was alone in the darkness with
sailors whom he did not know, and who had no reason to be devoted to
him; who knew that he had several thousand francs in his belt, and who
had often examined his weapons,--which were very beautiful,--if not with
envy, at least with curiosity. On the other hand, he was about to land,
without any other escort than these men, on an island which had, indeed,
a very religious name, but which did not seem to Franz likely to afford
him much hospitality, thanks to the smugglers and bandits. The history
of the scuttled vessels, which had appeared improbable during the day,
seemed very probable at night; placed as he was between two possible
sources of danger, he kept his eye on the crew, and his gun in his
hand. The sailors had again hoisted sail, and the vessel was once more
cleaving the waves. Through the darkness Franz, whose eyes were now more
accustomed to it, could see the looming shore along which the boat was
sailing, and then, as they rounded a rocky point, he saw the fire more
brilliant than ever, and about it five or six persons seated. The blaze
illumined the sea for a hundred paces around. Gaetano skirted the light,
carefully keeping the boat in the shadow; then, when they were opposite
the fire, he steered to the centre of the circle, singing a fishing
song, of which his companions sung the chorus. At the first words of
the song the men seated round the fire arose and approached the
landing-place, their eyes fixed on the boat, evidently seeking to
know who the new-comers were and what were their intentions. They soon
appeared satisfied and returned (with the exception of one, who
remained at the shore) to their fire, at which the carcass of a goat was
roasting. When the boat was within twenty paces of the shore, the man on
the beach, who carried a carbine, presented arms after the manner of
a sentinel, and cried, "Who comes there?" in Sardinian. Franz coolly
cocked both barrels. Gaetano then exchanged a few words with this man
which the traveller did not understand, but which evidently concerned
him. "Will your excellency give your name, or remain incognito?" asked
the captain.

"My name must rest unknown,--merely say I am a Frenchman travelling for
pleasure." As soon as Gaetano had transmitted this answer, the sentinel
gave an order to one of the men seated round the fire, who rose and
disappeared among the rocks. Not a word was spoken, every one seemed
occupied, Franz with his disembarkment, the sailors with their sails,
the smugglers with their goat; but in the midst of all this carelessness
it was evident that they mutually observed each other. The man who had
disappeared returned suddenly on the opposite side to that by which he
had left; he made a sign with his head to the sentinel, who, turning
to the boat, said, "S'accommodi." The Italian s'accommodi is
untranslatable; it means at once, "Come, enter, you are welcome; make
yourself at home; you are the master." It is like that Turkish phrase
of Moliere's that so astonished the bourgeois gentleman by the number of
things implied in its utterance. The sailors did not wait for a second
invitation; four strokes of the oar brought them to land; Gaetano sprang
to shore, exchanged a few words with the sentinel, then his comrades
disembarked, and lastly came Franz. One of his guns was swung over his
shoulder, Gaetano had the other, and a sailor held his rifle; his
dress, half artist, half dandy, did not excite any suspicion, and,
consequently, no disquietude. The boat was moored to the shore, and they
advanced a few paces to find a comfortable bivouac; but, doubtless,
the spot they chose did not suit the smuggler who filled the post of
sentinel, for he cried out, "Not that way, if you please."

Gaetano faltered an excuse, and advanced to the opposite side, while
two sailors kindled torches at the fire to light them on their way.
They advanced about thirty paces, and then stopped at a small esplanade
surrounded with rocks, in which seats had been cut, not unlike
sentry-boxes. Around in the crevices of the rocks grew a few dwarf oaks
and thick bushes of myrtles. Franz lowered a torch, and saw by the mass
of cinders that had accumulated that he was not the first to discover
this retreat, which was, doubtless, one of the halting-places of the
wandering visitors of Monte Cristo. As for his suspicions, once on
terra firma, once that he had seen the indifferent, if not friendly,
appearance of his hosts, his anxiety had quite disappeared, or rather,
at sight of the goat, had turned to appetite. He mentioned this to
Gaetano, who replied that nothing could be more easy than to prepare
a supper when they had in their boat, bread, wine, half a dozen
partridges, and a good fire to roast them by. "Besides," added he, "if
the smell of their roast meat tempts you, I will go and offer them two
of our birds for a slice."

"You are a born diplomat," returned Franz; "go and try."

Meanwhile the sailors had collected dried sticks and branches with which
they made a fire. Franz waited impatiently, inhaling the aroma of the
roasted meat, when the captain returned with a mysterious air.

"Well," said Franz, "anything new?--do they refuse?"

"On the contrary," returned Gaetano, "the chief, who was told you were a
young Frenchman, invites you to sup with him."

"Well," observed Franz, "this chief is very polite, and I see no
objection--the more so as I bring my share of the supper."

"Oh, it is not that; he has plenty, and to spare, for supper; but he
makes one condition, and rather a peculiar one, before he will receive
you at his house."

"His house? Has he built one here, then?"

"No; but he has a very comfortable one all the same, so they say."

"You know this chief, then?"

"I have heard talk of him."

"Favorably or otherwise?"

"Both."

"The deuce!--and what is this condition?"

"That you are blindfolded, and do not take off the bandage until he
himself bids you." Franz looked at Gaetano, to see, if possible, what he
thought of this proposal. "Ah," replied he, guessing Franz's thought, "I
know this is a serious matter."

"What should you do in my place?"

"I, who have nothing to lose,--I should go."

"You would accept?"

"Yes, were it only out of curiosity."

"There is something very peculiar about this chief, then?"

"Listen," said Gaetano, lowering his voice, "I do not know if what they
say is true"--he stopped to see if any one was near.

"What do they say?"

"That this chief inhabits a cavern to which the Pitti Palace is
nothing."

"What nonsense!" said Franz, reseating himself.

"It is no nonsense; it is quite true. Cama, the pilot of the Saint
Ferdinand, went in once, and he came back amazed, vowing that such
treasures were only to be heard of in fairy tales."

"Do you know," observed Franz, "that with such stories you make me think
of Ali Baba's enchanted cavern?"

"I tell you what I have been told."

"Then you advise me to accept?"

"Oh, I don't say that; your excellency will do as you please; I should
be sorry to advise you in the matter." Franz pondered the matter for a
few moments, concluded that a man so rich could not have any intention
of plundering him of what little he had, and seeing only the prospect
of a good supper, accepted. Gaetano departed with the reply. Franz was
prudent, and wished to learn all he possibly could concerning his host.
He turned towards the sailor, who, during this dialogue, had sat gravely
plucking the partridges with the air of a man proud of his office,
and asked him how these men had landed, as no vessel of any kind was
visible.

"Never mind that," returned the sailor, "I know their vessel."

"Is it a very beautiful vessel?"

"I would not wish for a better to sail round the world."

"Of what burden is she?"

"About a hundred tons; but she is built to stand any weather. She is
what the English call a yacht."

"Where was she built?"

"I know not; but my own opinion is she is a Genoese."

"And how did a leader of smugglers," continued Franz, "venture to build
a vessel designed for such a purpose at Genoa?"

"I did not say that the owner was a smuggler," replied the sailor.

"No; but Gaetano did, I thought."

"Gaetano had only seen the vessel from a distance, he had not then
spoken to any one."

"And if this person be not a smuggler, who is he?"

"A wealthy signor, who travels for his pleasure."

"Come," thought Franz, "he is still more mysterious, since the two
accounts do not agree."

"What is his name?"

"If you ask him he says Sinbad the Sailor; but I doubt if it be his real
name."

"Sinbad the Sailor?"

"Yes."

"And where does he reside?"

"On the sea."

"What country does he come from?"

"I do not know."

"Have you ever seen him?"

"Sometimes."

"What sort of a man is he?"

"Your excellency will judge for yourself."

"Where will he receive me?"

"No doubt in the subterranean palace Gaetano told you of."

"Have you never had the curiosity, when you have landed and found this
island deserted, to seek for this enchanted palace?"

"Oh, yes, more than once, but always in vain; we examined the grotto all
over, but we never could find the slightest trace of any opening; they
say that the door is not opened by a key, but a magic word."

"Decidedly," muttered Franz, "this is an Arabian Nights' adventure."

"His excellency waits for you," said a voice, which he recognized as
that of the sentinel. He was accompanied by two of the yacht's crew.
Franz drew his handkerchief from his pocket, and presented it to the man
who had spoken to him. Without uttering a word, they bandaged his eyes
with a care that showed their apprehensions of his committing some
indiscretion. Afterwards he was made to promise that he would not make
the least attempt to raise the bandage. He promised. Then his two guides
took his arms, and he went on, guided by them, and preceded by the
sentinel. After going about thirty paces, he smelt the appetizing odor
of the kid that was roasting, and knew thus that he was passing the
bivouac; they then led him on about fifty paces farther, evidently
advancing towards that part of the shore where they would not allow
Gaetano to go--a refusal he could now comprehend. Presently, by a change
in the atmosphere, he knew that they were entering a cave; after going
on for a few seconds more he heard a crackling, and it seemed to him as
though the atmosphere again changed, and became balmy and perfumed. At
length his feet touched on a thick and soft carpet, and his guides let
go their hold of him. There was a moment's silence, and then a voice, in
excellent French, although, with a foreign accent, said, "Welcome, sir.
I beg you will remove your bandage." It may be supposed, then, Franz
did not wait for a repetition of this permission, but took off
the handkerchief, and found himself in the presence of a man from
thirty-eight to forty years of age, dressed in a Tunisian costume--that
is to say, a red cap with a long blue silk tassel, a vest of black cloth
embroidered with gold, pantaloons of deep red, large and full gaiters
of the same color, embroidered with gold like the vest, and yellow
slippers; he had a splendid cashmere round his waist, and a small
sharp and crooked cangiar was passed through his girdle. Although of a
paleness that was almost livid, this man had a remarkably handsome face;
his eyes were penetrating and sparkling; his nose, quite straight, and
projecting direct from the brow, was of the pure Greek type, while
his teeth, as white as pearls, were set off to admiration by the black
mustache that encircled them.

His pallor was so peculiar, that it seemed to pertain to one who had
been long entombed, and who was incapable of resuming the healthy glow
and hue of life. He was not particularly tall, but extremely well made,
and, like the men of the south, had small hands and feet. But what
astonished Franz, who had treated Gaetano's description as a fable,
was the splendor of the apartment in which he found himself. The entire
chamber was lined with crimson brocade, worked with flowers of gold. In
a recess was a kind of divan, surmounted with a stand of Arabian swords
in silver scabbards, and the handles resplendent with gems; from the
ceiling hung a lamp of Venetian glass, of beautiful shape and color,
while the feet rested on a Turkey carpet, in which they sunk to the
instep; tapestry hung before the door by which Franz had entered, and
also in front of another door, leading into a second apartment which
seemed to be brilliantly illuminated. The host gave Franz time to
recover from his surprise, and, moreover, returned look for look, not
even taking his eyes off him. "Sir," he said, after a pause, "a thousand
excuses for the precaution taken in your introduction hither; but as,
during the greater portion of the year, this island is deserted, if the
secret of this abode were discovered. I should doubtless, find on my
return my temporary retirement in a state of great disorder, which would
be exceedingly annoying, not for the loss it occasioned me, but because
I should not have the certainty I now possess of separating myself from
all the rest of mankind at pleasure. Let me now endeavor to make you
forget this temporary unpleasantness, and offer you what no doubt you
did not expect to find here--that is to say, a tolerable supper and
pretty comfortable beds."

"Ma foi, my dear sir," replied Franz, "make no apologies. I have
always observed that they bandage people's eyes who penetrate enchanted
palaces, for instance, those of Raoul in the 'Huguenots,' and really
I have nothing to complain of, for what I see makes me think of the
wonders of the 'Arabian Nights.'"

"Alas, I may say with Lucullus, if I could have anticipated the honor of
your visit, I would have prepared for it. But such as is my hermitage,
it is at your disposal; such as is my supper, it is yours to share, if
you will. Ali, is the supper ready?" At this moment the tapestry moved
aside, and a Nubian, black as ebony, and dressed in a plain white tunic,
made a sign to his master that all was prepared in the dining-room.
"Now," said the unknown to Franz, "I do not know if you are of my
opinion, but I think nothing is more annoying than to remain two or
three hours together without knowing by name or appellation how to
address one another. Pray observe, that I too much respect the laws of
hospitality to ask your name or title. I only request you to give me one
by which I may have the pleasure of addressing you. As for myself,
that I may put you at your ease, I tell you that I am generally called
'Sinbad the Sailor.'"

"And I," replied Franz, "will tell you, as I only require his wonderful
lamp to make me precisely like Aladdin, that I see no reason why at this
moment I should not be called Aladdin. That will keep us from going away
from the East whither I am tempted to think I have been conveyed by some
good genius."

"Well, then, Signor Aladdin," replied the singular amphitryon, "you
heard our repast announced, will you now take the trouble to enter the
dining-room, your humble servant going first to show the way?" At these
words, moving aside the tapestry, Sinbad preceded his guest. Franz
now looked upon another scene of enchantment; the table was splendidly
covered, and once convinced of this important point he cast his eyes
around him. The dining-room was scarcely less striking than the room he
had just left; it was entirely of marble, with antique bas-reliefs of
priceless value; and at the four corners of this apartment, which was
oblong, were four magnificent statues, having baskets in their hands.
These baskets contained four pyramids of most splendid fruit; there were
Sicily pine-apples, pomegranates from Malaga, oranges from the Balearic
Isles, peaches from France, and dates from Tunis. The supper consisted
of a roast pheasant garnished with Corsican blackbirds; a boar's ham
with jelly, a quarter of a kid with tartar sauce, a glorious turbot,
and a gigantic lobster. Between these large dishes were smaller ones
containing various dainties. The dishes were of silver, and the plates
of Japanese china.

Franz rubbed his eyes in order to assure himself that this was not a
dream. Ali alone was present to wait at table, and acquitted himself
so admirably, that the guest complimented his host thereupon. "Yes,"
replied he, while he did the honors of the supper with much ease and
grace--"yes, he is a poor devil who is much devoted to me, and does all
he can to prove it. He remembers that I saved his life, and as he has a
regard for his head, he feels some gratitude towards me for having kept
it on his shoulders." Ali approached his master, took his hand, and
kissed it.

"Would it be impertinent, Signor Sinbad," said Franz, "to ask you the
particulars of this kindness?"

"Oh, they are simple enough," replied the host. "It seems the fellow
had been caught wandering nearer to the harem of the Bey of Tunis than
etiquette permits to one of his color, and he was condemned by the bey
to have his tongue cut out, and his hand and head cut off; the tongue
the first day, the hand the second, and the head the third. I always had
a desire to have a mute in my service, so learning the day his tongue
was cut out, I went to the bey, and proposed to give him for Ali a
splendid double-barreled gun which I knew he was very desirous of
having. He hesitated a moment, he was so very desirous to complete the
poor devil's punishment. But when I added to the gun an English cutlass
with which I had shivered his highness's yataghan to pieces, the bey
yielded, and agreed to forgive the hand and head, but on condition that
the poor fellow never again set foot in Tunis. This was a useless clause
in the bargain, for whenever the coward sees the first glimpse of the
shores of Africa, he runs down below, and can only be induced to appear
again when we are out of sight of that quarter of the globe."

Franz remained a moment silent and pensive, hardly knowing what to think
of the half-kindness, half-cruelty, with which his host related the
brief narrative. "And like the celebrated sailor whose name you have
assumed," he said, by way of changing the conversation, "you pass your
life in travelling?"

"Yes. I made a vow at a time when I little thought I should ever be able
to accomplish it," said the unknown with a singular smile; "and I made
some others also which I hope I may fulfil in due season." Although
Sinbad pronounced these words with much calmness, his eyes gave forth
gleams of extraordinary ferocity.

"You have suffered a great deal, sir?" said Franz inquiringly.

Sinbad started and looked fixedly at him, as he replied, "What makes you
suppose so?"

"Everything," answered Franz,--"your voice, your look, your pallid
complexion, and even the life you lead."

"I?--I live the happiest life possible, the real life of a pasha. I am
king of all creation. I am pleased with one place, and stay there; I get
tired of it, and leave it; I am free as a bird and have wings like
one; my attendants obey my slightest wish. Sometimes I amuse myself by
delivering some bandit or criminal from the bonds of the law. Then I
have my mode of dispensing justice, silent and sure, without respite or
appeal, which condemns or pardons, and which no one sees. Ah, if you had
tasted my life, you would not desire any other, and would never return
to the world unless you had some great project to accomplish there."

"Revenge, for instance!" observed Franz.

The unknown fixed on the young man one of those looks which penetrate
into the depth of the heart and thoughts. "And why revenge?" he asked.

"Because," replied Franz, "you seem to me like a man who, persecuted by
society, has a fearful account to settle with it."

"Ah," responded Sinbad, laughing with his singular laugh which displayed
his white and sharp teeth. "You have not guessed rightly. Such as you
see me I am, a sort of philosopher, and one day perhaps I shall go to
Paris to rival Monsieur Appert, and the little man in the blue cloak."

"And will that be the first time you ever took that journey?"

"Yes; it will. I must seem to you by no means curious, but I assure you
that it is not my fault I have delayed it so long--it will happen one
day or the other."

"And do you propose to make this journey very shortly?"

"I do not know; it depends on circumstances which depend on certain
arrangements."

"I should like to be there at the time you come, and I will endeavor
to repay you, as far as lies in my power, for your liberal hospitality
displayed to me at Monte Cristo."

"I should avail myself of your offer with pleasure," replied the host,
"but, unfortunately, if I go there, it will be, in all probability,
incognito."

The supper appeared to have been supplied solely for Franz, for the
unknown scarcely touched one or two dishes of the splendid banquet to
which his guest did ample justice. Then Ali brought on the dessert, or
rather took the baskets from the hands of the statues and placed them on
the table. Between the two baskets he placed a small silver cup with
a silver cover. The care with which Ali placed this cup on the table
roused Franz's curiosity. He raised the cover and saw a kind of greenish
paste, something like preserved angelica, but which was perfectly
unknown to him. He replaced the lid, as ignorant of what the cup
contained as he was before he had looked at it, and then casting his
eyes towards his host he saw him smile at his disappointment. "You
cannot guess," said he, "what there is in that small vase, can you?"

"No, I really cannot."

"Well, then, that green preserve is nothing less than the ambrosia which
Hebe served at the table of Jupiter."

"But," replied Franz, "this ambrosia, no doubt, in passing through
mortal hands has lost its heavenly appellation and assumed a human name;
in vulgar phrase, what may you term this composition, for which, to tell
the truth, I do not feel any particular desire?"

"Ah, thus it is that our material origin is revealed," cried Sinbad; "we
frequently pass so near to happiness without seeing, without regarding
it, or if we do see and regard it, yet without recognizing it. Are you
a man for the substantials, and is gold your god? taste this, and the
mines of Peru, Guzerat, and Golconda are opened to you. Are you a man
of imagination--a poet? taste this, and the boundaries of possibility
disappear; the fields of infinite space open to you, you advance free in
heart, free in mind, into the boundless realms of unfettered revery. Are
you ambitious, and do you seek after the greatnesses of the earth? taste
this, and in an hour you will be a king, not a king of a petty kingdom
hidden in some corner of Europe like France, Spain, or England, but king
of the world, king of the universe, king of creation; without bowing at
the feet of Satan, you will be king and master of all the kingdoms of
the earth. Is it not tempting what I offer you, and is it not an easy
thing, since it is only to do thus? look!" At these words he uncovered
the small cup which contained the substance so lauded, took a
teaspoonful of the magic sweetmeat, raised it to his lips, and swallowed
it slowly with his eyes half shut and his head bent backwards. Franz did
not disturb him whilst he absorbed his favorite sweetmeat, but when he
had finished, he inquired,--"What, then, is this precious stuff?"

"Did you ever hear," he replied, "of the Old Man of the Mountain, who
attempted to assassinate Philip Augustus?"

"Of course I have."

"Well, you know he reigned over a rich valley which was overhung by the
mountain whence he derived his picturesque name. In this valley were
magnificent gardens planted by Hassen-ben-Sabah, and in these gardens
isolated pavilions. Into these pavilions he admitted the elect,
and there, says Marco Polo, gave them to eat a certain herb, which
transported them to Paradise, in the midst of ever-blooming shrubs,
ever-ripe fruit, and ever-lovely virgins. What these happy persons took
for reality was but a dream; but it was a dream so soft, so voluptuous,
so enthralling, that they sold themselves body and soul to him who gave
it to them, and obedient to his orders as to those of a deity, struck
down the designated victim, died in torture without a murmur, believing
that the death they underwent was but a quick transition to that life of
delights of which the holy herb, now before you, had given them a slight
foretaste."

"Then," cried Franz, "it is hashish! I know that--by name at least."

"That is it precisely, Signor Aladdin; it is hashish--the purest and
most unadulterated hashish of Alexandria,--the hashish of Abou-Gor, the
celebrated maker, the only man, the man to whom there should be built a
palace, inscribed with these words, 'A grateful world to the dealer in
happiness.'"

"Do you know," said Franz, "I have a very great inclination to judge for
myself of the truth or exaggeration of your eulogies."

"Judge for yourself, Signor Aladdin--judge, but do not confine yourself
to one trial. Like everything else, we must habituate the senses to a
fresh impression, gentle or violent, sad or joyous. There is a struggle
in nature against this divine substance,--in nature which is not made
for joy and clings to pain. Nature subdued must yield in the combat, the
dream must succeed to reality, and then the dream reigns supreme, then
the dream becomes life, and life becomes the dream. But what changes
occur! It is only by comparing the pains of actual being with the joys
of the assumed existence, that you would desire to live no longer, but
to dream thus forever. When you return to this mundane sphere from
your visionary world, you would seem to leave a Neapolitan spring for a
Lapland winter--to quit paradise for earth--heaven for hell! Taste the
hashish, guest of mine--taste the hashish."

Franz's only reply was to take a teaspoonful of the marvellous
preparation, about as much in quantity as his host had eaten, and lift
it to his mouth. "Diable!" he said, after having swallowed the divine
preserve. "I do not know if the result will be as agreeable as you
describe, but the thing does not appear to me as palatable as you say."

"Because your palate his not yet been attuned to the sublimity of the
substances it flavors. Tell me, the first time you tasted oysters, tea,
porter, truffles, and sundry other dainties which you now adore, did you
like them? Could you comprehend how the Romans stuffed their pheasants
with assafoetida, and the Chinese eat swallows' nests? Eh? no! Well, it
is the same with hashish; only eat for a week, and nothing in the world
will seem to you to equal the delicacy of its flavor, which now appears
to you flat and distasteful. Let us now go into the adjoining chamber,
which is your apartment, and Ali will bring us coffee and pipes." They
both arose, and while he who called himself Sinbad--and whom we have
occasionally named so, that we might, like his guest, have some title by
which to distinguish him--gave some orders to the servant, Franz entered
still another apartment. It was simply yet richly furnished. It was
round, and a large divan completely encircled it. Divan, walls, ceiling,
floor, were all covered with magnificent skins as soft and downy as the
richest carpets; there were heavy-maned lion-skins from Atlas,
striped tiger-skins from Bengal; panther-skins from the Cape, spotted
beautifully, like those that appeared to Dante; bear-skins from Siberia,
fox-skins from Norway, and so on; and all these skins were strewn in
profusion one on the other, so that it seemed like walking over the most
mossy turf, or reclining on the most luxurious bed. Both laid themselves
down on the divan; chibouques with jasmine tubes and amber mouthpieces
were within reach, and all prepared so that there was no need to smoke
the same pipe twice. Each of them took one, which Ali lighted and then
retired to prepare the coffee. There was a moment's silence, during
which Sinbad gave himself up to thoughts that seemed to occupy him
incessantly, even in the midst of his conversation; and Franz abandoned
himself to that mute revery, into which we always sink when smoking
excellent tobacco, which seems to remove with its fume all the troubles
of the mind, and to give the smoker in exchange all the visions of the
soul. Ali brought in the coffee. "How do you take it?" inquired the
unknown; "in the French or Turkish style, strong or weak, sugar or none,
cool or boiling? As you please; it is ready in all ways."

"I will take it in the Turkish style," replied Franz.

"And you are right," said his host; "it shows you have a tendency for an
Oriental life. Ah, those Orientals; they are the only men who know how
to live. As for me," he added, with one of those singular smiles which
did not escape the young man, "when I have completed my affairs in
Paris, I shall go and die in the East; and should you wish to see me
again, you must seek me at Cairo, Bagdad, or Ispahan."

"Ma foi," said Franz, "it would be the easiest thing in the world; for I
feel eagle's wings springing out at my shoulders, and with those wings I
could make a tour of the world in four and twenty hours."

"Ah, yes, the hashish is beginning its work. Well, unfurl your wings,
and fly into superhuman regions; fear nothing, there is a watch over
you; and if your wings, like those of Icarus, melt before the sun, we
are here to ease your fall." He then said something in Arabic to Ali,
who made a sign of obedience and withdrew, but not to any distance. As
to Franz a strange transformation had taken place in him. All the bodily
fatigue of the day, all the preoccupation of mind which the events of
the evening had brought on, disappeared as they do at the first approach
of sleep, when we are still sufficiently conscious to be aware of the
coming of slumber. His body seemed to acquire an airy lightness, his
perception brightened in a remarkable manner, his senses seemed to
redouble their power, the horizon continued to expand; but it was not
the gloomy horizon of vague alarms, and which he had seen before he
slept, but a blue, transparent, unbounded horizon, with all the blue of
the ocean, all the spangles of the sun, all the perfumes of the summer
breeze; then, in the midst of the songs of his sailors,--songs so clear
and sonorous, that they would have made a divine harmony had their notes
been taken down,--he saw the Island of Monte Cristo, no longer as a
threatening rock in the midst of the waves, but as an oasis in the
desert; then, as his boat drew nearer, the songs became louder, for an
enchanting and mysterious harmony rose to heaven, as if some Loreley had
decreed to attract a soul thither, or Amphion, the enchanter, intended
there to build a city.

At length the boat touched the shore, but without effort, without shock,
as lips touch lips; and he entered the grotto amidst continued strains
of most delicious melody. He descended, or rather seemed to descend,
several steps, inhaling the fresh and balmy air, like that which may be
supposed to reign around the grotto of Circe, formed from such perfumes
as set the mind a dreaming, and such fires as burn the very senses; and
he saw again all he had seen before his sleep, from Sinbad, his singular
host, to Ali, the mute attendant; then all seemed to fade away and
become confused before his eyes, like the last shadows of the magic
lantern before it is extinguished, and he was again in the chamber of
statues, lighted only by one of those pale and antique lamps which watch
in the dead of the night over the sleep of pleasure. They were the
same statues, rich in form, in attraction, and poesy, with eyes of
fascination, smiles of love, and bright and flowing hair. They were
Phryne, Cleopatra, Messalina, those three celebrated courtesans. Then
among them glided like a pure ray, like a Christian angel in the midst
of Olympus, one of those chaste figures, those calm shadows, those
soft visions, which seemed to veil its virgin brow before these marble
wantons. Then the three statues advanced towards him with looks of love,
and approached the couch on which he was reposing, their feet hidden in
their long white tunics, their throats bare, hair flowing like waves,
and assuming attitudes which the gods could not resist, but which saints
withstood, and looks inflexible and ardent like those with which the
serpent charms the bird; and then he gave way before looks that held him
in a torturing grasp and delighted his senses as with a voluptuous kiss.
It seemed to Franz that he closed his eyes, and in a last look about him
saw the vision of modesty completely veiled; and then followed a dream
of passion like that promised by the Prophet to the elect. Lips of stone
turned to flame, breasts of ice became like heated lava, so that to
Franz, yielding for the first time to the sway of the drug, love was a
sorrow and voluptuousness a torture, as burning mouths were pressed to
his thirsty lips, and he was held in cool serpent-like embraces. The
more he strove against this unhallowed passion the more his senses
yielded to its thrall, and at length, weary of a struggle that taxed his
very soul, he gave way and sank back breathless and exhausted beneath
the kisses of these marble goddesses, and the enchantment of his
marvellous dream.

 

 

Chapter 32. The Waking.

When Franz returned to himself, he seemed still to be in a dream. He
thought himself in a sepulchre, into which a ray of sunlight in pity
scarcely penetrated. He stretched forth his hand, and touched stone; he
rose to his seat, and found himself lying on his bournous in a bed of
dry heather, very soft and odoriferous. The vision had fled; and as if
the statues had been but shadows from the tomb, they had vanished at
his waking. He advanced several paces towards the point whence the light
came, and to all the excitement of his dream succeeded the calmness of
reality. He found that he was in a grotto, went towards the opening, and
through a kind of fanlight saw a blue sea and an azure sky. The air and
water were shining in the beams of the morning sun; on the shore the
sailors were sitting, chatting and laughing; and at ten yards from them
the boat was at anchor, undulating gracefully on the water. There for
some time he enjoyed the fresh breeze which played on his brow, and
listened to the dash of the waves on the beach, that left against the
rocks a lace of foam as white as silver. He was for some time without
reflection or thought for the divine charm which is in the things of
nature, specially after a fantastic dream; then gradually this view
of the outer world, so calm, so pure, so grand, reminded him of the
illusiveness of his vision, and once more awakened memory. He recalled
his arrival on the island, his presentation to a smuggler chief,
a subterranean palace full of splendor, an excellent supper, and a
spoonful of hashish. It seemed, however, even in the very face of open
day, that at least a year had elapsed since all these things had passed,
so deep was the impression made in his mind by the dream, and so strong
a hold had it taken of his imagination. Thus every now and then he
saw in fancy amid the sailors, seated on a rock, or undulating in the
vessel, one of the shadows which had shared his dream with looks and
kisses. Otherwise, his head was perfectly clear, and his body refreshed;
he was free from the slightest headache; on the contrary, he felt a
certain degree of lightness, a faculty for absorbing the pure air, and
enjoying the bright sunshine more vividly than ever.

He went gayly up to the sailors, who rose as soon as they perceived him;
and the patron, accosting him, said, "The Signor Sinbad has left his
compliments for your excellency, and desires us to express the regret he
feels at not being able to take his leave in person; but he trusts you
will excuse him, as very important business calls him to Malaga."

"So, then, Gaetano," said Franz, "this is, then, all reality; there
exists a man who has received me in this island, entertained me right
royally, and his departed while I was asleep?"

"He exists as certainly as that you may see his small yacht with all
her sails spread; and if you will use your glass, you will, in all
probability, recognize your host in the midst of his crew." So saying,
Gaetano pointed in a direction in which a small vessel was making sail
towards the southern point of Corsica. Franz adjusted his telescope, and
directed it towards the yacht. Gaetano was not mistaken. At the stern
the mysterious stranger was standing up looking towards the shore, and
holding a spy-glass in his hand. He was attired as he had been on the
previous evening, and waved his pocket-handkerchief to his guest in
token of adieu. Franz returned the salute by shaking his handkerchief as
an exchange of signals. After a second, a slight cloud of smoke was seen
at the stern of the vessel, which rose gracefully as it expanded in
the air, and then Franz heard a slight report. "There, do you hear?"
observed Gaetano; "he is bidding you adieu." The young man took his
carbine and fired it in the air, but without any idea that the noise
could be heard at the distance which separated the yacht from the shore.

"What are your excellency's orders?" inquired Gaetano.

"In the first place, light me a torch."

"Ah, yes, I understand," replied the patron, "to find the entrance to
the enchanted apartment. With much pleasure, your excellency, if it
would amuse you; and I will get you the torch you ask for. But I too
have had the idea you have, and two or three times the same fancy has
come over me; but I have always given it up. Giovanni, light a torch,"
he added, "and give it to his excellency."

Giovanni obeyed. Franz took the lamp, and entered the subterranean
grotto, followed by Gaetano. He recognized the place where he had awaked
by the bed of heather that was there; but it was in vain that he carried
his torch all round the exterior surface of the grotto. He saw nothing,
unless that, by traces of smoke, others had before him attempted the
same thing, and, like him, in vain. Yet he did not leave a foot of this
granite wall, as impenetrable as futurity, without strict scrutiny; he
did not see a fissure without introducing the blade of his hunting sword
into it, or a projecting point on which he did not lean and press in
the hopes it would give way. All was vain; and he lost two hours in his
attempts, which were at last utterly useless. At the end of this time he
gave up his search, and Gaetano smiled.

When Franz appeared again on the shore, the yacht only seemed like a
small white speck on the horizon. He looked again through his glass, but
even then he could not distinguish anything. Gaetano reminded him that
he had come for the purpose of shooting goats, which he had utterly
forgotten. He took his fowling-piece, and began to hunt over the island
with the air of a man who is fulfilling a duty, rather than enjoying a
pleasure; and at the end of a quarter of an hour he had killed a goat
and two kids. These animals, though wild and agile as chamois, were too
much like domestic goats, and Franz could not consider them as game.
Moreover, other ideas, much more enthralling, occupied his mind. Since,
the evening before, he had really been the hero of one of the tales of
the "Thousand and One Nights," and he was irresistibly attracted towards
the grotto. Then, in spite of the failure of his first search, he began
a second, after having told Gaetano to roast one of the two kids. The
second visit was a long one, and when he returned the kid was roasted
and the repast ready. Franz was sitting on the spot where he was on the
previous evening when his mysterious host had invited him to supper; and
he saw the little yacht, now like a sea-gull on the wave, continuing her
flight towards Corsica. "Why," he remarked to Gaetano, "you told me that
Signor Sinbad was going to Malaga, while it seems he is in the direction
of Porto-Vecchio."

"Don't you remember," said the patron, "I told you that among the crew
there were two Corsican brigands?"

"True; and he is going to land them," added Franz.

"Precisely so," replied Gaetano. "Ah, he is one who fears neither God
nor Satan, they say, and would at any time run fifty leagues out of his
course to do a poor devil a service."

"But such services as these might involve him with the authorities
of the country in which he practices this kind of philanthropy," said
Franz.

"And what cares he for that," replied Gaetano with a laugh, "or any
authorities? He smiles at them. Let them try to pursue him! Why, in the
first place, his yacht is not a ship, but a bird, and he would beat any
frigate three knots in every nine; and if he were to throw himself on
the coast, why, is he not certain of finding friends everywhere?"

It was perfectly clear that the Signor Sinbad, Franz's host, had the
honor of being on excellent terms with the smugglers and bandits
along the whole coast of the Mediterranean, and so enjoyed exceptional
privileges. As to Franz, he had no longer any inducement to remain
at Monte Cristo. He had lost all hope of detecting the secret of the
grotto; he consequently despatched his breakfast, and, his boat being
ready, he hastened on board, and they were soon under way. At the
moment the boat began her course they lost sight of the yacht, as it
disappeared in the gulf of Porto-Vecchio. With it was effaced the
last trace of the preceding night; and then supper, Sinbad, hashish,
statues,--all became a dream for Franz. The boat sailed on all day and
all night, and next morning, when the sun rose, they had lost sight of
Monte Cristo. When Franz had once again set foot on shore, he forgot,
for the moment at least, the events which had just passed, while he
finished his affairs of pleasure at Florence, and then thought of
nothing but how he should rejoin his companion, who was awaiting him at
Rome.

He set out, and on the Saturday evening reached the Eternal City by the
mail-coach. An apartment, as we have said, had been retained beforehand,
and thus he had but to go to Signor Pastrini's hotel. But this was not
so easy a matter, for the streets were thronged with people, and Rome
was already a prey to that low and feverish murmur which precedes
all great events; and at Rome there are four great events in every
year,--the Carnival, Holy Week, Corpus Christi, and the Feast of St.
Peter. All the rest of the year the city is in that state of dull
apathy, between life and death, which renders it similar to a kind of
station between this world and the next--a sublime spot, a resting-place
full of poetry and character, and at which Franz had already halted five
or six times, and at each time found it more marvellous and striking. At
last he made his way through the mob, which was continually increasing
and getting more and more turbulent, and reached the hotel. On his
first inquiry he was told, with the impertinence peculiar to hired
hackney-coachmen and inn-keepers with their houses full, that there was
no room for him at the Hotel de Londres. Then he sent his card to Signor
Pastrini, and asked for Albert de Morcerf. This plan succeeded; and
Signor Pastrini himself ran to him, excusing himself for having made his
excellency wait, scolding the waiters, taking the candlestick from the
porter, who was ready to pounce on the traveller and was about to lead
him to Albert, when Morcerf himself appeared.

The apartment consisted of two small rooms and a parlor. The two rooms
looked onto the street--a fact which Signor Pastrini commented upon as
an inappreciable advantage. The rest of the floor was hired by a very
rich gentleman who was supposed to be a Sicilian or Maltese; but the
host was unable to decide to which of the two nations the traveller
belonged. "Very good, signor Pastrini," said Franz; "but we must have
some supper instantly, and a carriage for tomorrow and the following
days."

"As to supper," replied the landlord, "you shall be served immediately;
but as for the carriage"--

"What as to the carriage?" exclaimed Albert. "Come, come, Signor
Pastrini, no joking; we must have a carriage."

"Sir," replied the host, "we will do all in our power to procure you
one--this is all I can say."

"And when shall we know?" inquired Franz.

"To-morrow morning," answered the inn-keeper.

"Oh, the deuce! then we shall pay the more, that's all, I see plainly
enough. At Drake's or Aaron's one pays twenty-five lire for common days,
and thirty or thirty-five lire a day more for Sundays and feast days;
add five lire a day more for extras, that will make forty, and there's
an end of it."

"I am afraid if we offer them double that we shall not procure a
carriage."

"Then they must put horses to mine. It is a little worse for the
journey, but that's no matter."

"There are no horses." Albert looked at Franz like a man who hears a
reply he does not understand.

"Do you understand that, my dear Franz--no horses?" he said, "but can't
we have post-horses?"

"They have been all hired this fortnight, and there are none left but
those absolutely requisite for posting."

"What are we to say to this?" asked Franz.

"I say, that when a thing completely surpasses my comprehension, I am
accustomed not to dwell on that thing, but to pass to another. Is supper
ready, Signor Pastrini?"

"Yes, your excellency."

"Well, then, let us sup."

"But the carriage and horses?" said Franz.

"Be easy, my dear boy; they will come in due season; it is only a
question of how much shall be charged for them." Morcerf then, with that
delighted philosophy which believes that nothing is impossible to a full
purse or well-lined pocketbook, supped, went to bed, slept soundly, and
dreamed he was racing all over Rome at Carnival time in a coach with six
horses.

 

 

Chapter 33. Roman Bandits.

The next morning Franz woke first, and instantly rang the bell. The
sound had not yet died away when Signor Pastrini himself entered.

"Well, excellency," said the landlord triumphantly, and without waiting
for Franz to question him, "I feared yesterday, when I would not promise
you anything, that you were too late--there is not a single carriage to
be had--that is, for the last three days of the carnival."

"Yes," returned Franz, "for the very three days it is most needed."

"What is the matter?" said Albert, entering; "no carriage to be had?"

"Just so," returned Franz, "you have guessed it."

"Well, your Eternal City is a nice sort of place."

"That is to say, excellency," replied Pastrini, who was desirous of
keeping up the dignity of the capital of the Christian world in the
eyes of his guest, "that there are no carriages to be had from Sunday
to Tuesday evening, but from now till Sunday you can have fifty if you
please."

"Ah, that is something," said Albert; "to-day is Thursday, and who knows
what may arrive between this and Sunday?"

"Ten or twelve thousand travellers will arrive," replied Franz, "which
will make it still more difficult."

"My friend," said Morcerf, "let us enjoy the present without gloomy
forebodings for the future."

"At least we can have a window?"

"Where?"

"In the Corso."

"Ah, a window!" exclaimed Signor Pastrini,--"utterly impossible; there
was only one left on the fifth floor of the Doria Palace, and that has
been let to a Russian prince for twenty sequins a day."

The two young men looked at each other with an air of stupefaction.

"Well," said Franz to Albert, "do you know what is the best thing we can
do? It is to pass the Carnival at Venice; there we are sure of obtaining
gondolas if we cannot have carriages."

"Ah, the devil, no," cried Albert; "I came to Rome to see the Carnival,
and I will, though I see it on stilts."

"Bravo! an excellent idea. We will disguise ourselves as monster
pulchinellos or shepherds of the Landes, and we shall have complete
success."

"Do your excellencies still wish for a carriage from now to Sunday
morning?"

"Parbleu!" said Albert, "do you think we are going to run about on foot
in the streets of Rome, like lawyer's clerks?"

"I hasten to comply with your excellencies' wishes; only, I tell you
beforehand, the carriage will cost you six piastres a day."

"And, as I am not a millionaire, like the gentleman in the next
apartments," said Franz, "I warn you, that as I have been four times
before at Rome, I know the prices of all the carriages; we will give you
twelve piastres for to-day, tomorrow, and the day after, and then you
will make a good profit."

"But, excellency"--said Pastrini, still striving to gain his point.

"Now go," returned Franz, "or I shall go myself and bargain with your
affettatore, who is mine also; he is an old friend of mine, who has
plundered me pretty well already, and, in the hope of making more out
of me, he will take a less price than the one I offer you; you will lose
the preference, and that will be your fault."

"Do not give yourselves the trouble, excellency," returned Signor
Pastrini, with the smile peculiar to the Italian speculator when
he confesses defeat; "I will do all I can, and I hope you will be
satisfied."

"And now we understand each other."

"When do you wish the carriage to be here?"

"In an hour."

"In an hour it will be at the door."

An hour after the vehicle was at the door; it was a hack conveyance
which was elevated to the rank of a private carriage in honor of the
occasion, but, in spite of its humble exterior, the young men would have
thought themselves happy to have secured it for the last three days of
the Carnival. "Excellency," cried the cicerone, seeing Franz approach
the window, "shall I bring the carriage nearer to the palace?"

Accustomed as Franz was to the Italian phraseology, his first impulse
was to look round him, but these words were addressed to him. Franz
was the "excellency," the vehicle was the "carriage," and the Hotel de
Londres was the "palace." The genius for laudation characteristic of the
race was in that phrase.

Franz and Albert descended, the carriage approached the palace; their
excellencies stretched their legs along the seats; the cicerone sprang
into the seat behind. "Where do your excellencies wish to go?" asked he.

"To Saint Peter's first, and then to the Colosseum," returned Albert.
But Albert did not know that it takes a day to see Saint Peter's, and a
month to study it. The day was passed at Saint Peter's alone. Suddenly
the daylight began to fade away; Franz took out his watch--it was
half-past four. They returned to the hotel; at the door Franz ordered
the coachman to be ready at eight. He wished to show Albert the
Colosseum by moonlight, as he had shown him Saint Peter's by daylight.
When we show a friend a city one has already visited, we feel the same
pride as when we point out a woman whose lover we have been. He was
to leave the city by the Porta del Popolo, skirt the outer wall, and
re-enter by the Porta San Giovanni; thus they would behold the Colosseum
without finding their impressions dulled by first looking on the
Capitol, the Forum, the Arch of Septimus Severus, the Temple of
Antoninus and Faustina, and the Via Sacra. They sat down to dinner.
Signor Pastrini had promised them a banquet; he gave them a tolerable
repast. At the end of the dinner he entered in person. Franz thought
that he came to hear his dinner praised, and began accordingly, but at
the first words he was interrupted. "Excellency," said Pastrini, "I am
delighted to have your approbation, but it was not for that I came."

"Did you come to tell us you have procured a carriage?" asked Albert,
lighting his cigar.

"No; and your excellencies will do well not to think of that any longer;
at Rome things can or cannot be done; when you are told anything cannot
be done, there is an end of it."

"It is much more convenient at Paris,--when anything cannot be done, you
pay double, and it is done directly."

"That is what all the French say," returned Signor Pastrini, somewhat
piqued; "for that reason, I do not understand why they travel."

"But," said Albert, emitting a volume of smoke and balancing his chair
on its hind legs, "only madmen, or blockheads like us, ever do travel.
Men in their senses do not quit their hotel in the Rue du Helder, their
walk on the Boulevard de Gand, and the Cafe de Paris." It is of course
understood that Albert resided in the aforesaid street, appeared every
day on the fashionable walk, and dined frequently at the only restaurant
where you can really dine, that is, if you are on good terms with
its frequenters. Signor Pastrini remained silent a short time; it was
evident that he was musing over this answer, which did not seem
very clear. "But," said Franz, in his turn interrupting his host's
meditations, "you had some motive for coming here, may I beg to know
what it was?"

"Ah, yes; you have ordered your carriage at eight o'clock precisely?"

"I have."

"You intend visiting Il Colosseo."

"You mean the Colosseum?"

"It is the same thing. You have told your coachman to leave the city
by the Porta del Popolo, to drive round the walls, and re-enter by the
Porta San Giovanni?"

"These are my words exactly."

"Well, this route is impossible."

"Impossible!"

"Very dangerous, to say the least."

"Dangerous!--and why?"

"On account of the famous Luigi Vampa."

"Pray, who may this famous Luigi Vampa be?" inquired Albert; "he may be
very famous at Rome, but I can assure you he is quite unknown at Paris."

"What! do you not know him?"

"I have not that honor."

"You have never heard his name?"

"Never."

"Well, then, he is a bandit, compared to whom the Decesaris and the
Gasparones were mere children."

"Now then, Albert," cried Franz, "here is a bandit for you at last."

"I forewarn you, Signor Pastrini, that I shall not believe one word of
what you are going to tell us; having told you this, begin."

"Once upon a time"--

"Well, go on." Signor Pastrini turned toward Franz, who seemed to him
the more reasonable of the two; we must do him justice,--he had had a
great many Frenchmen in his house, but had never been able to comprehend
them. "Excellency," said he gravely, addressing Franz, "if you look
upon me as a liar, it is useless for me to say anything; it was for your
interest!"--

"Albert does not say you are a liar, Signor Pastrini," said Franz, "but
that he will not believe what you are going to tell us,--but I will
believe all you say; so proceed."

"But if your excellency doubt my veracity"--

"Signor Pastrini," returned Franz, "you are more susceptible than
Cassandra, who was a prophetess, and yet no one believed her; while
you, at least, are sure of the credence of half your audience. Come, sit
down, and tell us all about this Signor Vampa."

"I had told your excellency he is the most famous bandit we have had
since the days of Mastrilla."

"Well, what has this bandit to do with the order I have given the
coachman to leave the city by the Porta del Popolo, and to re-enter by
the Porta San Giovanni?"

"This," replied Signor Pastrini, "that you will go out by one, but I
very much doubt your returning by the other."

"Why?" asked Franz.

"Because, after nightfall, you are not safe fifty yards from the gates."

"On your honor is that true?" cried Albert.

"Count," returned Signor Pastrini, hurt at Albert's repeated doubts
of the truth of his assertions, "I do not say this to you, but to your
companion, who knows Rome, and knows, too, that these things are not to
be laughed at."

"My dear fellow," said Albert, turning to Franz, "here is an admirable
adventure; we will fill our carriage with pistols, blunderbusses, and
double-barrelled guns. Luigi Vampa comes to take us, and we take him--we
bring him back to Rome, and present him to his holiness the Pope, who
asks how he can repay so great a service; then we merely ask for a
carriage and a pair of horses, and we see the Carnival in the carriage,
and doubtless the Roman people will crown us at the Capitol, and
proclaim us, like Curtius and the veiled Horatius, the preservers of
their country." Whilst Albert proposed this scheme, Signor Pastrini's
face assumed an expression impossible to describe.

"And pray," asked Franz, "where are these pistols, blunderbusses, and
other deadly weapons with which you intend filling the carriage?"

"Not out of my armory, for at Terracina I was plundered even of my
hunting-knife."

"I shared the same fate at Aquapendente."

"Do you know, Signor Pastrini," said Albert, lighting a second cigar at
the first, "that this practice is very convenient for bandits, and that
it seems to be due to an arrangement of their own." Doubtless Signor
Pastrini found this pleasantry compromising, for he only answered half
the question, and then he spoke to Franz, as the only one likely to
listen with attention. "Your excellency knows that it is not customary
to defend yourself when attacked by bandits."

"What!" cried Albert, whose courage revolted at the idea of being
plundered tamely, "not make any resistance!"

"No, for it would be useless. What could you do against a dozen bandits
who spring out of some pit, ruin, or aqueduct, and level their pieces at
you?"

"Eh, parbleu!--they should kill me."

The inn-keeper turned to Franz with an air that seemed to say, "Your
friend is decidedly mad."

"My dear Albert," returned Franz, "your answer is sublime, and worthy
the 'Let him die,' of Corneille, only, when Horace made that answer, the
safety of Rome was concerned; but, as for us, it is only to gratify
a whim, and it would be ridiculous to risk our lives for so foolish a
motive." Albert poured himself out a glass of lacryma Christi, which he
sipped at intervals, muttering some unintelligible words.

"Well, Signor Pastrini," said Franz, "now that my companion is quieted,
and you have seen how peaceful my intentions are, tell me who is this
Luigi Vampa. Is he a shepherd or a nobleman?--young or old?--tall or
short? Describe him, in order that, if we meet him by chance, like
Bugaboo John or Lara, we may recognize him."

"You could not apply to any one better able to inform you on all these
points, for I knew him when he was a child, and one day that I fell
into his hands, going from Ferentino to Alatri, he, fortunately for me,
recollected me, and set me free, not only without ransom, but made me a
present of a very splendid watch, and related his history to me."

"Let us see the watch," said Albert.

Signor Pastrini drew from his fob a magnificent Breguet, bearing the
name of its maker, of Parisian manufacture, and a count's coronet.

"Here it is," said he.

"Peste," returned Albert, "I compliment you on it; I have its
fellow"--he took his watch from his waistcoat pocket--"and it cost me
3,000 francs."

"Let us hear the history," said Franz, motioning Signor Pastrini to seat
himself.

"Your excellencies permit it?" asked the host.

"Pardieu!" cried Albert, "you are not a preacher, to remain standing!"

The host sat down, after having made each of them a respectful bow,
which meant that he was ready to tell them all they wished to know
concerning Luigi Vampa. "You tell me," said Franz, at the moment Signor
Pastrini was about to open his mouth, "that you knew Luigi Vampa when he
was a child--he is still a young man, then?"

"A young man? he is only two and twenty;--he will gain himself a
reputation."

"What do you think of that, Albert?--at two and twenty to be thus
famous?"

"Yes, and at his age, Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon, who have all made
some noise in the world, were quite behind him."

"So," continued Franz, "the hero of this history is only two and
twenty?"

"Scarcely so much."

"Is he tall or short?"

"Of the middle height--about the same stature as his excellency,"
returned the host, pointing to Albert.

"Thanks for the comparison," said Albert, with a bow.

"Go on, Signor Pastrini," continued Franz, smiling at his friend's
susceptibility. "To what class of society does he belong?"

"He was a shepherd-boy attached to the farm of the Count of San-Felice,
situated between Palestrina and the lake of Gabri; he was born at
Pampinara, and entered the count's service when he was five years old;
his father was also a shepherd, who owned a small flock, and lived by
the wool and the milk, which he sold at Rome. When quite a child, the
little Vampa displayed a most extraordinary precocity. One day, when he
was seven years old, he came to the curate of Palestrina, and asked to
be taught to read; it was somewhat difficult, for he could not quit his
flock; but the good curate went every day to say mass at a little hamlet
too poor to pay a priest and which, having no other name, was called
Borgo; he told Luigi that he might meet him on his return, and that then
he would give him a lesson, warning him that it would be short, and that
he must profit as much as possible by it. The child accepted joyfully.
Every day Luigi led his flock to graze on the road that leads from
Palestrina to Borgo; every day, at nine o'clock in the morning, the
priest and the boy sat down on a bank by the wayside, and the little
shepherd took his lesson out of the priest's breviary. At the end of
three months he had learned to read. This was not enough--he must now
learn to write. The priest had a writing teacher at Rome make three
alphabets--one large, one middling, and one small; and pointed out to
him that by the help of a sharp instrument he could trace the letters on
a slate, and thus learn to write. The same evening, when the flock was
safe at the farm, the little Luigi hastened to the smith at Palestrina,
took a large nail, heated and sharpened it, and formed a sort of stylus.
The next morning he gathered an armful of pieces of slate and began. At
the end of three months he had learned to write. The curate, astonished
at his quickness and intelligence, made him a present of pens, paper,
and a penknife. This demanded new effort, but nothing compared to the
first; at the end of a week he wrote as well with this pen as with the
stylus. The curate related the incident to the Count of San-Felice,
who sent for the little shepherd, made him read and write before him,
ordered his attendant to let him eat with the domestics, and to give him
two piastres a month. With this, Luigi purchased books and pencils.
He applied his imitative powers to everything, and, like Giotto, when
young, he drew on his slate sheep, houses, and trees. Then, with his
knife, he began to carve all sorts of objects in wood; it was thus that
Pinelli, the famous sculptor, had commenced.

"A girl of six or seven--that is, a little younger than Vampa--tended
sheep on a farm near Palestrina; she was an orphan, born at Valmontone
and was named Teresa. The two children met, sat down near each other,
let their flocks mingle together, played, laughed, and conversed
together; in the evening they separated the Count of San-Felice's
flock from those of Baron Cervetri, and the children returned to their
respective farms, promising to meet the next morning. The next day they
kept their word, and thus they grew up together. Vampa was twelve, and
Teresa eleven. And yet their natural disposition revealed itself. Beside
his taste for the fine arts, which Luigi had carried as far as he
could in his solitude, he was given to alternating fits of sadness and
enthusiasm, was often angry and capricious, and always sarcastic. None
of the lads of Pampinara, Palestrina, or Valmontone had been able
to gain any influence over him or even to become his companion. His
disposition (always inclined to exact concessions rather than to make
them) kept him aloof from all friendships. Teresa alone ruled by a look,
a word, a gesture, this impetuous character, which yielded beneath the
hand of a woman, and which beneath the hand of a man might have broken,
but could never have been bended. Teresa was lively and gay, but
coquettish to excess. The two piastres that Luigi received every month
from the Count of San-Felice's steward, and the price of all the little
carvings in wood he sold at Rome, were expended in ear-rings, necklaces,
and gold hairpins. So that, thanks to her friend's generosity, Teresa
was the most beautiful and the best-attired peasant near Rome. The two
children grew up together, passing all their time with each other, and
giving themselves up to the wild ideas of their different characters.
Thus, in all their dreams, their wishes, and their conversations, Vampa
saw himself the captain of a vessel, general of an army, or governor of
a province. Teresa saw herself rich, superbly attired, and attended by a
train of liveried domestics. Then, when they had thus passed the day in
building castles in the air, they separated their flocks, and descended
from the elevation of their dreams to the reality of their humble
position.

"One day the young shepherd told the count's steward that he had seen a
wolf come out of the Sabine mountains, and prowl around his flock. The
steward gave him a gun; this was what Vampa longed for. This gun had
an excellent barrel, made at Breschia, and carrying a ball with the
precision of an English rifle; but one day the count broke the stock,
and had then cast the gun aside. This, however, was nothing to a
sculptor like Vampa; he examined the broken stock, calculated what
change it would require to adapt the gun to his shoulder, and made a
fresh stock, so beautifully carved that it would have fetched fifteen or
twenty piastres, had he chosen to sell it. But nothing could be farther
from his thoughts. For a long time a gun had been the young man's
greatest ambition. In every country where independence has taken the
place of liberty, the first desire of a manly heart is to possess a
weapon, which at once renders him capable of defence or attack, and, by
rendering its owner terrible, often makes him feared. From this moment
Vampa devoted all his leisure time to perfecting himself in the use of
his precious weapon; he purchased powder and ball, and everything served
him for a mark--the trunk of some old and moss-grown olivetree, that
grew on the Sabine mountains; the fox, as he quitted his earth on some
marauding excursion; the eagle that soared above their heads: and thus
he soon became so expert, that Teresa overcame the terror she at first
felt at the report, and amused herself by watching him direct the ball
wherever he pleased, with as much accuracy as if he placed it by hand.

"One evening a wolf emerged from a pine-wood hear which they were
usually stationed, but the wolf had scarcely advanced ten yards ere
he was dead. Proud of this exploit, Vampa took the dead animal on his
shoulders, and carried him to the farm. These exploits had gained Luigi
considerable reputation. The man of superior abilities always finds
admirers, go where he will. He was spoken of as the most adroit, the
strongest, and the most courageous contadino for ten leagues around; and
although Teresa was universally allowed to be the most beautiful girl of
the Sabines, no one had ever spoken to her of love, because it was known
that she was beloved by Vampa. And yet the two young people had never
declared their affection; they had grown together like two trees whose
roots are mingled, whose branches intertwined, and whose intermingled
perfume rises to the heavens. Only their wish to see each other had
become a necessity, and they would have preferred death to a day's
separation. Teresa was sixteen, and Vampa seventeen. About this time,
a band of brigands that had established itself in the Lepini mountains
began to be much spoken of. The brigands have never been really
extirpated from the neighborhood of Rome. Sometimes a chief is wanted,
but when a chief presents himself he rarely has to wait long for a band
of followers.

"The celebrated Cucumetto, pursued in the Abruzzo, driven out of the
kingdom of Naples, where he had carried on a regular war, had crossed
the Garigliano, like Manfred, and had taken refuge on the banks of the
Amasine between Sonnino and Juperno. He strove to collect a band of
followers, and followed the footsteps of Decesaris and Gasperone,
whom he hoped to surpass. Many young men of Palestrina, Frascati, and
Pampinara had disappeared. Their disappearance at first caused much
disquietude; but it was soon known that they had joined Cucumetto. After
some time Cucumetto became the object of universal attention; the most
extraordinary traits of ferocious daring and brutality were related of
him. One day he carried off a young girl, the daughter of a surveyor of
Frosinone. The bandit's laws are positive; a young girl belongs first
to him who carries her off, then the rest draw lots for her, and she is
abandoned to their brutality until death relieves her sufferings. When
their parents are sufficiently rich to pay a ransom, a messenger is sent
to negotiate; the prisoner is hostage for the security of the messenger;
should the ransom be refused, the prisoner is irrevocably lost. The
young girl's lover was in Cucumetto's troop; his name was Carlini. When
she recognized her lover, the poor girl extended her arms to him, and
believed herself safe; but Carlini felt his heart sink, for he but too
well knew the fate that awaited her. However, as he was a favorite with
Cucumetto, as he had for three years faithfully served him, and as he
had saved his life by shooting a dragoon who was about to cut him down,
he hoped the chief would have pity on him. He took Cucumetto one side,
while the young girl, seated at the foot of a huge pine that stood in
the centre of the forest, made a veil of her picturesque head-dress to
hide her face from the lascivious gaze of the bandits. There he told
the chief all--his affection for the prisoner, their promises of mutual
fidelity, and how every night, since he had been near, they had met in
some neighboring ruins.

"It so happened that night that Cucumetto had sent Carlini to a village,
so that he had been unable to go to the place of meeting. Cucumetto had
been there, however, by accident, as he said, and had carried the maiden
off. Carlini besought his chief to make an exception in Rita's favor, as
her father was rich, and could pay a large ransom. Cucumetto seemed to
yield to his friend's entreaties, and bade him find a shepherd to send
to Rita's father at Frosinone. Carlini flew joyfully to Rita, telling
her she was saved, and bidding her write to her father, to inform
him what had occurred, and that her ransom was fixed at three hundred
piastres. Twelve hours' delay was all that was granted--that is, until
nine the next morning. The instant the letter was written, Carlini
seized it, and hastened to the plain to find a messenger. He found a
young shepherd watching his flock. The natural messengers of the bandits
are the shepherds who live between the city and the mountains, between
civilized and savage life. The boy undertook the commission, promising
to be in Frosinone in less than an hour. Carlini returned, anxious to
see his mistress, and announce the joyful intelligence. He found the
troop in the glade, supping off the provisions exacted as contributions
from the peasants; but his eye vainly sought Rita and Cucumetto among
them. He inquired where they were, and was answered by a burst of
laughter. A cold perspiration burst from every pore, and his hair stood
on end. He repeated his question. One of the bandits rose, and offered
him a glass filled with Orvietto, saying, 'To the health of the brave
Cucumetto and the fair Rita.' At this moment Carlini heard a woman's
cry; he divined the truth, seized the glass, broke it across the face of
him who presented it, and rushed towards the spot whence the cry came.
After a hundred yards he turned the corner of the thicket; he found Rita
senseless in the arms of Cucumetto. At the sight of Carlini, Cucumetto
rose, a pistol in each hand. The two brigands looked at each other for
a moment--the one with a smile of lasciviousness on his lips, the other
with the pallor of death on his brow. A terrible battle between the
two men seemed imminent; but by degrees Carlini's features relaxed,
his hand, which had grasped one of the pistols in his belt, fell to his
side. Rita lay between them. The moon lighted the group.

"'Well,' said Cucumetto, 'have you executed your commission?'

"'Yes, captain,' returned Carlini. 'At nine o'clock to-morrow Rita's
father will be here with the money.'--'It is well; in the meantime, we
will have a merry night; this young girl is charming, and does credit to
your taste. Now, as I am not egotistical, we will return to our comrades
and draw lots for her.'--'You have determined, then, to abandon her to
the common law?' said Carlini.

"'Why should an exception be made in her favor?'

"'I thought that my entreaties'--

"'What right have you, any more than the rest, to ask for an
exception?'--'It is true.'--'But never mind,' continued Cucumetto,
laughing, 'sooner or later your turn will come.' Carlini's teeth
clinched convulsively.

"'Now, then,' said Cucumetto, advancing towards the other bandits, 'are
you coming?'--'I follow you.'

"Cucumetto departed, without losing sight of Carlini, for, doubtless,
he feared lest he should strike him unawares; but nothing betrayed a
hostile design on Carlini's part. He was standing, his arms folded, near
Rita, who was still insensible. Cucumetto fancied for a moment the young
man was about to take her in his arms and fly; but this mattered little
to him now Rita had been his; and as for the money, three hundred
piastres distributed among the band was so small a sum that he cared
little about it. He continued to follow the path to the glade; but, to
his great surprise, Carlini arrived almost as soon as himself. 'Let us
draw lots! let us draw lots!' cried all the brigands, when they saw the
chief.

"Their demand was fair, and the chief inclined his head in sign of
acquiescence. The eyes of all shone fiercely as they made their demand,
and the red light of the fire made them look like demons. The names of
all, including Carlini, were placed in a hat, and the youngest of the
band drew forth a ticket; the ticket bore the name of Diovolaccio. He
was the man who had proposed to Carlini the health of their chief, and
to whom Carlini replied by breaking the glass across his face. A large
wound, extending from the temple to the mouth, was bleeding profusely.
Diovalaccio, seeing himself thus favored by fortune, burst into a loud
laugh. 'Captain,' said he, 'just now Carlini would not drink your health
when I proposed it to him; propose mine to him, and let us see if he
will be more condescending to you than to me.' Every one expected an
explosion on Carlini's part; but to their great surprise, he took a
glass in one hand and a flask in the other, and filling it,--'Your
health, Diavolaccio,' said he calmly, and he drank it off, without his
hand trembling in the least. Then sitting down by the fire, 'My
supper,' said he; 'my expedition has given me an appetite.'--'Well done,
Carlini!' cried the brigands; 'that is acting like a good fellow;' and
they all formed a circle round the fire, while Diavolaccio disappeared.
Carlini ate and drank as if nothing had happened. The bandits looked on
with astonishment at this singular conduct until they heard footsteps.
They turned round, and saw Diavolaccio bearing the young girl in his
arms. Her head hung back, and her long hair swept the ground. As they
entered the circle, the bandits could perceive, by the firelight, the
unearthly pallor of the young girl and of Diavolaccio. This apparition
was so strange and so solemn, that every one rose, with the exception
of Carlini, who remained seated, and ate and drank calmly. Diavolaccio
advanced amidst the most profound silence, and laid Rita at the
captain's feet. Then every one could understand the cause of the
unearthly pallor in the young girl and the bandit. A knife was plunged
up to the hilt in Rita's left breast. Every one looked at Carlini;
the sheath at his belt was empty. 'Ah, ah,' said the chief, 'I now
understand why Carlini stayed behind.' All savage natures appreciate a
desperate deed. No other of the bandits would, perhaps, have done the
same; but they all understood what Carlini had done. 'Now, then,' cried
Carlini, rising in his turn, and approaching the corpse, his hand on the
butt of one of his pistols, 'does any one dispute the possession of
this woman with me?'--'No,' returned the chief, 'she is thine.' Carlini
raised her in his arms, and carried her out of the circle of firelight.
Cucumetto placed his sentinels for the night, and the bandits wrapped
themselves in their cloaks, and lay down before the fire. At midnight
the sentinel gave the alarm, and in an instant all were on the alert. It
was Rita's father, who brought his daughter's ransom in person. 'Here,'
said he, to Cucumetto, 'here are three hundred piastres; give me back
my child. But the chief, without taking the money, made a sign to him
to follow. The old man obeyed. They both advanced beneath the trees,
through whose branches streamed the moonlight. Cucumetto stopped at
last, and pointed to two persons grouped at the foot of a tree.

"'There,' said he, 'demand thy child of Carlini; he will tell thee
what has become of her;' and he returned to his companions. The old man
remained motionless; he felt that some great and unforeseen misfortune
hung over his head. At length he advanced toward the group, the meaning
of which he could not comprehend. As he approached, Carlini raised his
head, and the forms of two persons became visible to the old man's eyes.
A woman lay on the ground, her head resting on the knees of a man,
who was seated by her; as he raised his head, the woman's face became
visible. The old man recognized his child, and Carlini recognized the
old man. 'I expected thee,' said the bandit to Rita's father.--'Wretch!'
returned the old man, 'what hast thou done?' and he gazed with terror on
Rita, pale and bloody, a knife buried in her bosom. A ray of
moonlight poured through the trees, and lighted up the face of the
dead.--'Cucumetto had violated thy daughter,' said the bandit; 'I loved
her, therefore I slew her; for she would have served as the sport of
the whole band.' The old man spoke not, and grew pale as death. 'Now,'
continued Carlini, 'if I have done wrongly, avenge her;' and withdrawing
the knife from the wound in Rita's bosom, he held it out to the old man
with one hand, while with the other he tore open his vest.--'Thou hast
done well!' returned the old man in a hoarse voice; 'embrace me, my
son.' Carlini threw himself, sobbing like a child, into the arms of his
mistress's father. These were the first tears the man of blood had
ever wept. 'Now,' said the old man, 'aid me to bury my child.' Carlini
fetched two pickaxes; and the father and the lover began to dig at the
foot of a huge oak, beneath which the young girl was to repose. When
the grave was formed, the father kissed her first, and then the lover;
afterwards, one taking the head, the other the feet, they placed her
in the grave. Then they knelt on each side of the grave, and said the
prayers of the dead. Then, when they had finished, they cast the earth
over the corpse, until the grave was filled. Then, extending his
hand, the old man said; 'I thank you, my son; and now leave me
alone.'--'Yet'--replied Carlini.--'Leave me, I command you.' Carlini
obeyed, rejoined his comrades, folded himself in his cloak, and soon
appeared to sleep as soundly as the rest. It had been resolved the night
before to change their encampment. An hour before daybreak, Cucumetto
aroused his men, and gave the word to march. But Carlini would not quit
the forest, without knowing what had become of Rita's father. He went
toward the place where he had left him. He found the old man suspended
from one of the branches of the oak which shaded his daughter's grave.
He then took an oath of bitter vengeance over the dead body of the one
and the tomb of the other. But he was unable to complete this oath, for
two days afterwards, in an encounter with the Roman carbineers, Carlini
was killed. There was some surprise, however, that, as he was with his
face to the enemy, he should have received a ball between his shoulders.
That astonishment ceased when one of the brigands remarked to his
comrades that Cucumetto was stationed ten paces in Carlini's rear when
he fell. On the morning of the departure from the forest of Frosinone he
had followed Carlini in the darkness, and heard this oath of vengeance,
and, like a wise man, anticipated it. They told ten other stories of
this bandit chief, each more singular than the other. Thus, from Fondi
to Perusia, every one trembles at the name of Cucumetto.

"These narratives were frequently the theme of conversation between
Luigi and Teresa. The young girl trembled very much at hearing the
stories; but Vampa reassured her with a smile, tapping the butt of his
good fowling-piece, which threw its ball so well; and if that did not
restore her courage, he pointed to a crow, perched on some dead branch,
took aim, touched the trigger, and the bird fell dead at the foot of the
tree. Time passed on, and the two young people had agreed to be married
when Vampa should be twenty and Teresa nineteen years of age. They were
both orphans, and had only their employers' leave to ask, which had been
already sought and obtained. One day when they were talking over their
plans for the future, they heard two or three reports of firearms,
and then suddenly a man came out of the wood, near which the two young
persons used to graze their flocks, and hurried towards them. When he
came within hearing, he exclaimed. 'I am pursued; can you conceal me?'
They knew full well that this fugitive must be a bandit; but there is an
innate sympathy between the Roman brigand and the Roman peasant and the
latter is always ready to aid the former. Vampa, without saying a word,
hastened to the stone that closed up the entrance to their grotto, drew
it away, made a sign to the fugitive to take refuge there, in a retreat
unknown to every one, closed the stone upon him, and then went and
resumed his seat by Teresa. Instantly afterwards four carbineers, on
horseback, appeared on the edge of the wood; three of them appeared to
be looking for the fugitive, while the fourth dragged a brigand prisoner
by the neck. The three carbineers looked about carefully on every side,
saw the young peasants, and galloping up, began to question them. They
had seen no one. 'That is very annoying,' said the brigadier; for the
man we are looking for is the chief.'--'Cucumetto?' cried Luigi and
Teresa at the same moment.

"'Yes,' replied the brigadier; 'and as his head is valued at a thousand
Roman crowns, there would have been five hundred for you, if you had
helped us to catch him.' The two young persons exchanged looks. The
brigadier had a moment's hope. Five hundred Roman crowns are three
thousand lire, and three thousand lire are a fortune for two poor
orphans who are going to be married.

"'Yes, it is very annoying,' said Vampa; 'but we have not seen him.'

"Then the carbineers scoured the country in different directions, but
in vain; then, after a time, they disappeared. Vampa then removed the
stone, and Cucumetto came out. Through the crevices in the granite he
had seen the two young peasants talking with the carbineers, and guessed
the subject of their parley. He had read in the countenances of Luigi
and Teresa their steadfast resolution not to surrender him, and he drew
from his pocket a purse full of gold, which he offered to them. But
Vampa raised his head proudly; as to Teresa, her eyes sparkled when she
thought of all the fine gowns and gay jewellery she could buy with this
purse of gold.

"Cucumetto was a cunning fiend, and had assumed the form of a brigand
instead of a serpent, and this look from Teresa showed to him that she
was a worthy daughter of Eve, and he returned to the forest, pausing
several times on his way, under the pretext of saluting his protectors.
Several days elapsed, and they neither saw nor heard of Cucumetto. The
time of the Carnival was at hand. The Count of San-Felice announced a
grand masked ball, to which all that were distinguished in Rome were
invited. Teresa had a great desire to see this ball. Luigi asked
permission of his protector, the steward, that she and he might be
present amongst the servants of the house. This was granted. The ball
was given by the Count for the particular pleasure of his daughter
Carmela, whom he adored. Carmela was precisely the age and figure of
Teresa, and Teresa was as handsome as Carmela. On the evening of the
ball Teresa was attired in her best, her most brilliant ornaments in her
hair, and gayest glass beads,--she was in the costume of the women of
Frascati. Luigi wore the very picturesque garb of the Roman peasant
at holiday time. They both mingled, as they had leave to do, with the
servants and peasants.

"The festa was magnificent; not only was the villa brilliantly
illuminated, but thousands of colored lanterns were suspended from
the trees in the garden; and very soon the palace overflowed to the
terraces, and the terraces to the garden-walks. At each cross-path was
an orchestra, and tables spread with refreshments; the guests stopped,
formed quadrilles, and danced in any part of the grounds they pleased.
Carmela was attired like a woman of Sonnino. Her cap was embroidered
with pearls, the pins in her hair were of gold and diamonds, her girdle
was of Turkey silk, with large embroidered flowers, her bodice and skirt
were of cashmere, her apron of Indian muslin, and the buttons of her
corset were of jewels. Two of her companions were dressed, the one as a
woman of Nettuno, and the other as a woman of La Riccia. Four young men
of the richest and noblest families of Rome accompanied them with that
Italian freedom which has not its parallel in any other country in
the world. They were attired as peasants of Albano, Velletri,
Civita-Castellana, and Sora. We need hardly add that these peasant
costumes, like those of the young women, were brilliant with gold and
jewels.

"Carmela wished to form a quadrille, but there was one lady wanting.
Carmela looked all around her, but not one of the guests had a costume
similar to her own, or those of her companions. The Count of San-Felice
pointed out Teresa, who was hanging on Luigi's arm in a group of
peasants. 'Will you allow me, father?' said Carmela.--'Certainly,'
replied the count, 'are we not in Carnival time?'--Carmela turned
towards the young man who was talking with her, and saying a few words
to him, pointed with her finger to Teresa. The young man looked, bowed
in obedience, and then went to Teresa, and invited her to dance in a
quadrille directed by the count's daughter. Teresa felt a flush pass
over her face; she looked at Luigi, who could not refuse his assent.
Luigi slowly relinquished Teresa's arm, which he had held beneath his
own, and Teresa, accompanied by her elegant cavalier, took her appointed
place with much agitation in the aristocratic quadrille. Certainly, in
the eyes of an artist, the exact and strict costume of Teresa had a very
different character from that of Carmela and her companions; and Teresa
was frivolous and coquettish, and thus the embroidery and muslins, the
cashmere waist-girdles, all dazzled her, and the reflection of sapphires
and diamonds almost turned her giddy brain.

"Luigi felt a sensation hitherto unknown arising in his mind. It was
like an acute pain which gnawed at his heart, and then thrilled through
his whole body. He followed with his eye each movement of Teresa and her
cavalier; when their hands touched, he felt as though he should swoon;
every pulse beat with violence, and it seemed as though a bell were
ringing in his ears. When they spoke, although Teresa listened timidly
and with downcast eyes to the conversation of her cavalier, as Luigi
could read in the ardent looks of the good-looking young man that his
language was that of praise, it seemed as if the whole world was turning
round with him, and all the voices of hell were whispering in his ears
ideas of murder and assassination. Then fearing that his paroxysm might
get the better of him, he clutched with one hand the branch of a tree
against which he was leaning, and with the other convulsively grasped
the dagger with a carved handle which was in his belt, and which,
unwittingly, he drew from the scabbard from time to time. Luigi was
jealous! He felt that, influenced by her ambitions and coquettish
disposition, Teresa might escape him.

"The young peasant girl, at first timid and scared, soon recovered
herself. We have said that Teresa was handsome, but this is not all;
Teresa was endowed with all those wild graces which are so much more
potent than our affected and studied elegancies. She had almost all
the honors of the quadrille, and if she were envious of the Count of
San-Felice's daughter, we will not undertake to say that Carmela was not
jealous of her. And with overpowering compliments her handsome cavalier
led her back to the place whence he had taken her, and where Luigi
awaited her. Twice or thrice during the dance the young girl had glanced
at Luigi, and each time she saw that he was pale and that his features
were agitated, once even the blade of his knife, half drawn from its
sheath, had dazzled her eyes with its sinister glare. Thus, it was
almost tremblingly that she resumed her lover's arm. The quadrille had
been most perfect, and it was evident there was a great demand for a
repetition, Carmela alone objecting to it, but the Count of San-Felice
besought his daughter so earnestly, that she acceded. One of the
cavaliers then hastened to invite Teresa, without whom it was impossible
for the quadrille to be formed, but the young girl had disappeared. The
truth was, that Luigi had not felt the strength to support another such
trial, and, half by persuasion and half by force, he had removed Teresa
toward another part of the garden. Teresa had yielded in spite of
herself, but when she looked at the agitated countenance of the young
man, she understood by his silence and trembling voice that something
strange was passing within him. She herself was not exempt from internal
emotion, and without having done anything wrong, yet fully comprehended
that Luigi was right in reproaching her. Why, she did not know, but yet
she did not the less feel that these reproaches were merited. However,
to Teresa's great astonishment, Luigi remained mute, and not a word
escaped his lips the rest of the evening. When the chill of the night
had driven away the guests from the gardens, and the gates of the villa
were closed on them for the festa in-doors, he took Teresa quite away,
and as he left her at her home, he said,--

"'Teresa, what were you thinking of as you danced opposite the young
Countess of San-Felice?'--'I thought,' replied the young girl, with
all the frankness of her nature, 'that I would give half my life for a
costume such as she wore.'

"'And what said your cavalier to you?'--'He said it only depended on
myself to have it, and I had only one word to say.'

"'He was right,' said Luigi. 'Do you desire it as ardently as you
say?'--'Yes.'--'Well, then, you shall have it!'

"The young girl, much astonished, raised her head to look at him, but
his face was so gloomy and terrible that her words froze to her lips.
As Luigi spoke thus, he left her. Teresa followed him with her eyes into
the darkness as long as she could, and when he had quite disappeared,
she went into the house with a sigh.

"That night a memorable event occurred, due, no doubt, to the imprudence
of some servant who had neglected to extinguish the lights. The Villa
of San-Felice took fire in the rooms adjoining the very apartment of the
lovely Carmela. Awakened in the night by the light of the flames, she
sprang out of bed, wrapped herself in a dressing-gown, and attempted
to escape by the door, but the corridor by which she hoped to fly was
already a prey to the flames. She then returned to her room, calling for
help as loudly as she could, when suddenly her window, which was twenty
feet from the ground, was opened, a young peasant jumped into the
chamber, seized her in his arms, and with superhuman skill and strength
conveyed her to the turf of the grass-plot, where she fainted. When she
recovered, her father was by her side. All the servants surrounded her,
offering her assistance. An entire wing of the villa was burnt down; but
what of that, as long as Carmela was safe and uninjured? Her preserver
was everywhere sought for, but he did not appear; he was inquired after,
but no one had seen him. Carmela was greatly troubled that she had not
recognized him. As the count was immensely rich, excepting the danger
Carmela had run,--and the marvellous manner in which she had escaped,
made that appear to him rather a favor of providence than a real
misfortune,--the loss occasioned by the conflagration was to him but a
trifle.

"The next day, at the usual hour, the two young peasants were on the
borders of the forest. Luigi arrived first. He came toward Teresa in
high spirits, and seemed to have completely forgotten the events of the
previous evening. The young girl was very pensive, but seeing Luigi so
cheerful, she on her part assumed a smiling air, which was natural to
her when she was not excited or in a passion. Luigi took her arm beneath
his own, and led her to the door of the grotto. Then he paused. The
young girl, perceiving that there was something extraordinary, looked
at him steadfastly. 'Teresa,' said Luigi, 'yesterday evening you told
me you would give all the world to have a costume similar to that of the
count's daughter.'--'Yes,' replied Teresa with astonishment; 'but I was
mad to utter such a wish.'--'And I replied, "Very well, you shall have
it."'--'Yes,' replied the young girl, whose astonishment increased
at every word uttered by Luigi, 'but of course your reply was only to
please me.'

"'I have promised no more than I have given you, Teresa,' said Luigi
proudly. 'Go into the grotto and dress yourself.' At these words he
drew away the stone, and showed Teresa the grotto, lighted up by two
wax lights, which burnt on each side of a splendid mirror; on a rustic
table, made by Luigi, were spread out the pearl necklace and the diamond
pins, and on a chair at the side was laid the rest of the costume.

"Teresa uttered a cry of joy, and, without inquiring whence this attire
came, or even thanking Luigi, darted into the grotto, transformed into a
dressing-room. Luigi pushed the stone behind her, for on the crest of a
small adjacent hill which cut off the view toward Palestrina, he saw a
traveller on horseback, stopping a moment, as if uncertain of his road,
and thus presenting against the blue sky that perfect outline which is
peculiar to distant objects in southern climes. When he saw Luigi,
he put his horse into a gallop and advanced toward him. Luigi was not
mistaken. The traveller, who was going from Palestrina to Tivoli, had
mistaken his way; the young man directed him; but as at a distance of
a quarter of a mile the road again divided into three ways, and on
reaching these the traveller might again stray from his route, he begged
Luigi to be his guide. Luigi threw his cloak on the ground, placed his
carbine on his shoulder, and freed from his heavy covering, preceded
the traveller with the rapid step of a mountaineer, which a horse can
scarcely keep up with. In ten minutes Luigi and the traveller reached
the cross-roads. On arriving there, with an air as majestic as that of
an emperor, he stretched his hand towards that one of the roads which
the traveller was to follow.--"That is your road, excellency, and now
you cannot again mistake."--'And here is your recompense,' said the
traveller, offering the young herdsman some small pieces of money.

"'Thank you,' said Luigi, drawing back his hand; 'I render a service, I
do not sell it.'--'Well,' replied the traveller, who seemed used to this
difference between the servility of a man of the cities and the pride
of the mountaineer, 'if you refuse wages, you will, perhaps, accept a
gift.'--'Ah, yes, that is another thing.'--'Then,' said the traveller,
'take these two Venetian sequins and give them to your bride, to make
herself a pair of earrings.'

"'And then do you take this poniard,' said the young herdsman; 'you will
not find one better carved between Albano and Civita-Castellana.'

"'I accept it,' answered the traveller, 'but then the obligation will
be on my side, for this poniard is worth more than two sequins.'--'For a
dealer perhaps; but for me, who engraved it myself, it is hardly worth a
piastre.'

"'What is your name?' inquired the traveller.--'Luigi Vampa,' replied
the shepherd, with the same air as he would have replied, Alexander,
King of Macedon.--'And yours?'--'I,' said the traveller, 'am called
Sinbad the Sailor.'" Franz d'Epinay started with surprise.

"Sinbad the Sailor." he said.

"Yes," replied the narrator; "that was the name which the traveller gave
to Vampa as his own."

"Well, and what may you have to say against this name?" inquired Albert;
"it is a very pretty name, and the adventures of the gentleman of that
name amused me very much in my youth, I must confess."--Franz said no
more. The name of Sinbad the Sailor, as may well be supposed, awakened
in him a world of recollections, as had the name of the Count of Monte
Cristo on the previous evening.

"Proceed!" said he to the host.

"Vampa put the two sequins haughtily into his pocket, and slowly
returned by the way he had gone. As he came within two or three hundred
paces of the grotto, he thought he heard a cry. He listened to know
whence this sound could proceed. A moment afterwards he thought he heard
his own name pronounced distinctly. The cry proceeded from the grotto.
He bounded like a chamois, cocking his carbine as he went, and in a
moment reached the summit of a hill opposite to that on which he had
perceived the traveller. Three cries for help came more distinctly to
his ear. He cast his eyes around him and saw a man carrying off Teresa,
as Nessus, the centaur, carried Dejanira. This man, who was hastening
towards the wood, was already three-quarters of the way on the road from
the grotto to the forest. Vampa measured the distance; the man was at
least two hundred paces in advance of him, and there was not a chance
of overtaking him. The young shepherd stopped, as if his feet had
been rooted to the ground; then he put the butt of his carbine to his
shoulder, took aim at the ravisher, followed him for a second in his
track, and then fired. The ravisher stopped suddenly, his knees bent
under him, and he fell with Teresa in his arms. The young girl rose
instantly, but the man lay on the earth struggling in the agonies of
death. Vampa then rushed towards Teresa; for at ten paces from the dying
man her legs had failed her, and she had dropped on her knees, so that
the young man feared that the ball that had brought down his enemy, had
also wounded his betrothed. Fortunately, she was unscathed, and it was
fright alone that had overcome Teresa. When Luigi had assured himself
that she was safe and unharmed, he turned towards the wounded man. He
had just expired, with clinched hands, his mouth in a spasm of agony,
and his hair on end in the sweat of death. His eyes remained open and
menacing. Vampa approached the corpse, and recognized Cucumetto. From
the day on which the bandit had been saved by the two young peasants, he
had been enamoured of Teresa, and had sworn she should be his. From that
time he had watched them, and profiting by the moment when her lover had
left her alone, had carried her off, and believed he at length had her
in his power, when the ball, directed by the unerring skill of the young
herdsman, had pierced his heart. Vampa gazed on him for a moment
without betraying the slightest emotion; while, on the contrary, Teresa,
shuddering in every limb, dared not approach the slain ruffian but
by degrees, and threw a hesitating glance at the dead body over the
shoulder of her lover. Suddenly Vampa turned toward his mistress:--'Ah,'
said he--'good, good! You are dressed; it is now my turn to dress
myself.'

"Teresa was clothed from head to foot in the garb of the Count of
San-Felice's daughter. Vampa took Cucumetto's body in his arms and
conveyed it to the grotto, while in her turn Teresa remained outside.
If a second traveller had passed, he would have seen a strange thing,--a
shepherdess watching her flock, clad in a cashmere grown, with ear-rings
and necklace of pearls, diamond pins, and buttons of sapphires,
emeralds, and rubies. He would, no doubt, have believed that he had
returned to the times of Florian, and would have declared, on reaching
Paris, that he had met an Alpine shepherdess seated at the foot of
the Sabine Hill. At the end of a quarter of an hour Vampa quitted the
grotto; his costume was no less elegant than that of Teresa. He wore
a vest of garnet-colored velvet, with buttons of cut gold; a silk
waistcoat covered with embroidery; a Roman scarf tied round his neck; a
cartridge-box worked with gold, and red and green silk; sky-blue velvet
breeches, fastened above the knee with diamond buckles; garters of
deerskin, worked with a thousand arabesques, and a hat whereon hung
ribbons of all colors; two watches hung from his girdle, and a splendid
poniard was in his belt. Teresa uttered a cry of admiration. Vampa in
this attire resembled a painting by Leopold Robert, or Schnetz. He had
assumed the entire costume of Cucumetto. The young man saw the effect
produced on his betrothed, and a smile of pride passed over his
lips.--'Now,' he said to Teresa, 'are you ready to share my
fortune, whatever it may be?'--'Oh, yes!' exclaimed the young girl
enthusiastically.--'And follow me wherever I go?'--'To the world's
end.'--'Then take my arm, and let us on; we have no time to lose.'--The
young girl did so without questioning her lover as to where he was
conducting her, for he appeared to her at this moment as handsome,
proud, and powerful as a god. They went towards the forest, and soon
entered it. We need scarcely say that all the paths of the mountain were
known to Vampa; he therefore went forward without a moment's hesitation,
although there was no beaten track, but he knew his path by looking at
the trees and bushes, and thus they kept on advancing for nearly an hour
and a half. At the end of this time they had reached the thickest of the
forest. A torrent, whose bed was dry, led into a deep gorge. Vampa took
this wild road, which, enclosed between two ridges, and shadowed by the
tufted umbrage of the pines, seemed, but for the difficulties of its
descent, that path to Avernus of which Virgil speaks. Teresa had become
alarmed at the wild and deserted look of the plain around her, and
pressed closely against her guide, not uttering a syllable; but as she
saw him advance with even step and composed countenance, she endeavored
to repress her emotion. Suddenly, about ten paces from them, a man
advanced from behind a tree and aimed at Vampa.--'Not another step,' he
said, 'or you are a dead man.'--'What, then,' said Vampa, raising his
hand with a gesture of disdain, while Teresa, no longer able to restrain
her alarm, clung closely to him, 'do wolves rend each other?'--'Who
are you?' inquired the sentinel.--'I am Luigi Vampa, shepherd of
the San-Felice farm.'--'What do you want?'--'I would speak with your
companions who are in the glade at Rocca Bianca.'--'Follow me, then,'
said the sentinel; 'or, as you know your way, go first.'--Vampa smiled
disdainfully at this precaution on the part of the bandit, went before
Teresa, and continued to advance with the same firm and easy step as
before. At the end of ten minutes the bandit made them a sign to stop.
The two young persons obeyed. Then the bandit thrice imitated the cry of
a crow; a croak answered this signal.--'Good!' said the sentry, 'you may
now go on.'--Luigi and Teresa again set forward; as they went on
Teresa clung tremblingly to her lover at the sight of weapons and the
glistening of carbines through the trees. The retreat of Rocca Bianca
was at the top of a small mountain, which no doubt in former days
had been a volcano--an extinct volcano before the days when Remus and
Romulus had deserted Alba to come and found the city of Rome. Teresa
and Luigi reached the summit, and all at once found themselves in the
presence of twenty bandits. 'Here is a young man who seeks and wishes
to speak to you,' said the sentinel.--'What has he to say?' inquired
the young man who was in command in the chief's absence.--'I wish to
say that I am tired of a shepherd's life,' was Vampa's reply.--'Ah,
I understand,' said the lieutenant; 'and you seek admittance into our
ranks?'--'Welcome!' cried several bandits from Ferrusino, Pampinara,
and Anagni, who had recognized Luigi Vampa.--'Yes, but I came to ask
something more than to be your companion.'--'And what may that be?'
inquired the bandits with astonishment.--'I come to ask to be your
captain,' said the young man. The bandits shouted with laughter.
'And what have you done to aspire to this honor?' demanded the
lieutenant.--'I have killed your chief, Cucumetto, whose dress I now
wear; and I set fire to the villa San-Felice to procure a wedding-dress
for my betrothed.' An hour afterwards Luigi Vampa was chosen captain,
vice Cucumetto deceased."

"Well, my dear Albert," said Franz, turning towards his friend; "what
think you of citizen Luigi Vampa?"

"I say he is a myth," replied Albert, "and never had an existence."

"And what may a myth be?" inquired Pastrini.

"The explanation would be too long, my dear landlord," replied Franz.

"And you say that Signor Vampa exercises his profession at this moment
in the environs of Rome?"

"And with a boldness of which no bandit before him ever gave an
example."

"Then the police have vainly tried to lay hands on him?"

"Why, you see, he has a good understanding with the shepherds in the
plains, the fishermen of the Tiber, and the smugglers of the coast. They
seek for him in the mountains, and he is on the waters; they follow him
on the waters, and he is on the open sea; then they pursue him, and he
has suddenly taken refuge in the islands, at Giglio, Guanouti, or Monte
Cristo; and when they hunt for him there, he reappears suddenly at
Albano, Tivoli, or La Riccia."

"And how does he behave towards travellers?"

"Alas! his plan is very simple. It depends on the distance he may be
from the city, whether he gives eight hours, twelve hours, or a day
wherein to pay their ransom; and when that time has elapsed he allows
another hour's grace. At the sixtieth minute of this hour, if the
money is not forthcoming, he blows out the prisoner's brains with a
pistol-shot, or plants his dagger in his heart, and that settles the
account."

"Well, Albert," inquired Franz of his companion, "are you still disposed
to go to the Colosseum by the outer wall?"

"Quite so," said Albert, "if the way be picturesque." The clock struck
nine as the door opened, and a coachman appeared. "Excellencies," said
he, "the coach is ready."

"Well, then," said Franz, "let us to the Colosseum."

"By the Porta del Popolo or by the streets, your excellencies?"

"By the streets, morbleu, by the streets!" cried Franz.

"Ah, my dear fellow," said Albert, rising, and lighting his third cigar,
"really, I thought you had more courage." So saying, the two young men
went down the staircase, and got into the carriage.

 

 

Chapter 34. The Colosseum.

Franz had so managed his route, that during the ride to the Colosseum
they passed not a single ancient ruin, so that no preliminary impression
interfered to mitigate the colossal proportions of the gigantic building
they came to admire. The road selected was a continuation of the Via
Sistina; then by cutting off the right angle of the street in which
stands Santa Maria Maggiore and proceeding by the Via Urbana and
San Pietro in Vincoli, the travellers would find themselves directly
opposite the Colosseum. This itinerary possessed another great
advantage,--that of leaving Franz at full liberty to indulge his deep
reverie upon the subject of Signor Pastrini's story, in which his
mysterious host of Monte Cristo was so strangely mixed up. Seated with
folded arms in a corner of the carriage, he continued to ponder over
the singular history he had so lately listened to, and to ask himself
an interminable number of questions touching its various circumstances
without, however, arriving at a satisfactory reply to any of them. One
fact more than the rest brought his friend "Sinbad the Sailor" back
to his recollection, and that was the mysterious sort of intimacy that
seemed to exist between the brigands and the sailors; and Pastrini's
account of Vampa's having found refuge on board the vessels of smugglers
and fishermen, reminded Franz of the two Corsican bandits he had found
supping so amicably with the crew of the little yacht, which had even
deviated from its course and touched at Porto-Vecchio for the sole
purpose of landing them. The very name assumed by his host of Monte
Cristo and again repeated by the landlord of the Hotel de Londres,
abundantly proved to him that his island friend was playing his
philanthropic part on the shores of Piombino, Civita-Vecchio, Ostia, and
Gaeta, as on those of Corsica, Tuscany, and Spain; and further, Franz
bethought him of having heard his singular entertainer speak both
of Tunis and Palermo, proving thereby how largely his circle of
acquaintances extended.

But however the mind of the young man might be absorbed in these
reflections, they were at once dispersed at the sight of the dark
frowning ruins of the stupendous Colosseum, through the various openings
of which the pale moonlight played and flickered like the unearthly
gleam from the eyes of the wandering dead. The carriage stopped near the
Meta Sudans; the door was opened, and the young men, eagerly alighting,
found themselves opposite a cicerone, who appeared to have sprung up
from the ground, so unexpected was his appearance.

The usual guide from the hotel having followed them, they had paid two
conductors, nor is it possible, at Rome, to avoid this abundant supply
of guides; besides the ordinary cicerone, who seizes upon you directly
you set foot in your hotel, and never quits you while you remain in the
city, there is also a special cicerone belonging to each monument--nay,
almost to each part of a monument. It may, therefore, be easily imagined
there is no scarcity of guides at the Colosseum, that wonder of all
ages, which Martial thus eulogizes: "Let Memphis cease to boast the
barbarous miracles of her pyramids, and the wonders of Babylon be talked
of no more among us; all must bow to the superiority of the gigantic
labor of the Caesars, and the many voices of Fame spread far and wide
the surpassing merits of this incomparable monument."

As for Albert and Franz, they essayed not to escape from their
ciceronian tyrants; and, indeed, it would have been so much the more
difficult to break their bondage, as the guides alone are permitted to
visit these monuments with torches in their hands. Thus, then, the
young men made no attempt at resistance, but blindly and confidingly
surrendered themselves into the care and custody of their conductors.
Albert had already made seven or eight similar excursions to the
Colosseum, while his less favored companion trod for the first time in
his life the classic ground forming the monument of Flavius Vespasian;
and, to his credit be it spoken, his mind, even amid the glib loquacity
of the guides, was duly and deeply touched with awe and enthusiastic
admiration of all he saw; and certainly no adequate notion of these
stupendous ruins can be formed save by such as have visited them, and
more especially by moonlight, at which time the vast proportions of the
building appear twice as large when viewed by the mysterious beams of
a southern moonlit sky, whose rays are sufficiently clear and vivid to
light the horizon with a glow equal to the soft twilight of an eastern
clime. Scarcely, therefore, had the reflective Franz walked a hundred
steps beneath the interior porticoes of the ruin, than, abandoning
Albert to the guides (who would by no means yield their prescriptive
right of carrying their victims through the routine regularly laid down,
and as regularly followed by them, but dragged the unconscious visitor
to the various objects with a pertinacity that admitted of no appeal,
beginning, as a matter of course, with the Lions' Den, and finishing
with Caesar's "Podium,"), to escape a jargon and mechanical survey
of the wonders by which he was surrounded, Franz ascended a
half-dilapidated staircase, and, leaving them to follow their monotonous
round, seated himself at the foot of a column, and immediately opposite
a large aperture, which permitted him to enjoy a full and undisturbed
view of the gigantic dimensions of the majestic ruin.

Franz had remained for nearly a quarter of an hour perfectly hidden
by the shadow of the vast column at whose base he had found a
resting-place, and from whence his eyes followed the motions of Albert
and his guides, who, holding torches in their hands, had emerged from
a vomitarium at the opposite extremity of the Colosseum, and then again
disappeared down the steps conducting to the seats reserved for the
Vestal virgins, resembling, as they glided along, some restless shades
following the flickering glare of so many ignes-fatui. All at once his
ear caught a sound resembling that of a stone rolling down the staircase
opposite the one by which he had himself ascended. There was nothing
remarkable in the circumstance of a fragment of granite giving way and
falling heavily below; but it seemed to him that the substance that fell
gave way beneath the pressure of a foot, and also that some one, who
endeavored as much as possible to prevent his footsteps from being
heard, was approaching the spot where he sat. Conjecture soon became
certainty, for the figure of a man was distinctly visible to Franz,
gradually emerging from the staircase opposite, upon which the moon was
at that moment pouring a full tide of silvery brightness.

The stranger thus presenting himself was probably a person who, like
Franz, preferred the enjoyment of solitude and his own thoughts to
the frivolous gabble of the guides. And his appearance had nothing
extraordinary in it; but the hesitation with which he proceeded,
stopping and listening with anxious attention at every step he took,
convinced Franz that he expected the arrival of some person. By a sort
of instinctive impulse, Franz withdrew as much as possible behind his
pillar. About ten feet from the spot where he and the stranger were, the
roof had given way, leaving a large round opening, through which might
be seen the blue vault of heaven, thickly studded with stars. Around
this opening, which had, possibly, for ages permitted a free entrance
to the brilliant moonbeams that now illumined the vast pile, grew a
quantity of creeping plants, whose delicate green branches stood out in
bold relief against the clear azure of the firmament, while large masses
of thick, strong fibrous shoots forced their way through the chasm, and
hung floating to and fro, like so many waving strings. The person whose
mysterious arrival had attracted the attention of Franz stood in a kind
of half-light, that rendered it impossible to distinguish his features,
although his dress was easily made out. He wore a large brown mantle,
one fold of which, thrown over his left shoulder, served likewise
to mask the lower part of his countenance, while the upper part was
completely hidden by his broad-brimmed hat. The lower part of his dress
was more distinctly visible by the bright rays of the moon, which,
entering through the broken ceiling, shed their refulgent beams on feet
cased in elegantly made boots of polished leather, over which descended
fashionably cut trousers of black cloth.

From the imperfect means Franz had of judging, he could only come to
one conclusion,--that the person whom he was thus watching certainly
belonged to no inferior station of life. Some few minutes had elapsed,
and the stranger began to show manifest signs of impatience, when a
slight noise was heard outside the aperture in the roof, and almost
immediately a dark shadow seemed to obstruct the flood of light that had
entered it, and the figure of a man was clearly seen gazing with eager
scrutiny on the immense space beneath him; then, as his eye caught
sight of him in the mantle, he grasped a floating mass of thickly matted
boughs, and glided down by their help to within three or four feet
of the ground, and then leaped lightly on his feet. The man who had
performed this daring act with so much indifference wore the Transtevere
costume. "I beg your excellency's pardon for keeping you waiting," said
the man, in the Roman dialect, "but I don't think I'm many minutes after
my time, ten o'clock has just struck on the Lateran."

"Say not a word about being late," replied the stranger in purest
Tuscan; "'tis I who am too soon. But even if you had caused me to wait
a little while, I should have felt quite sure that the delay was not
occasioned by any fault of yours."

"Your excellency is perfectly right in so thinking," said the man; "I
came here direct from the Castle of St. Angelo, and I had an immense
deal of trouble before I could get a chance to speak to Beppo."

"And who is Beppo?"

"Oh, Beppo is employed in the prison, and I give him so much a year to
let me know what is going on within his holiness's castle."

"Indeed! You are a provident person, I see."

"Why, you see, no one knows what may happen. Perhaps some of these days
I may be entrapped, like poor Peppino and may be very glad to have some
little nibbling mouse to gnaw the meshes of my net, and so help me out
of prison."

"Briefly, what did you glean?"

"That two executions of considerable interest will take place the
day after to-morrow at two o'clock, as is customary at Rome at the
commencement of all great festivals. One of the culprits will be
mazzolato; [*] he is an atrocious villain, who murdered the priest who
brought him up, and deserves not the smallest pity. The other sufferer
is sentenced to be decapitato; [**] and he, your excellency, is poor
Peppino."

* Knocked on the head.

** Beheaded.

"The fact is, that you have inspired not only the pontifical government,
but also the neighboring states, with such extreme fear, that they are
glad of all opportunity of making an example."

"But Peppino did not even belong to my band: he was merely a poor
shepherd, whose only crime consisted in furnishing us with provisions."

"Which makes him your accomplice to all intents and purposes. But mark
the distinction with which he is treated; instead of being knocked on
the head as you would be if once they caught hold of you, he is simply
sentenced to be guillotined, by which means, too, the amusements of
the day are diversified, and there is a spectacle to please every
spectator."

"Without reckoning the wholly unexpected one I am preparing to surprise
them with."

"My good friend," said the man in the cloak, "excuse me for saying that
you seem to me precisely in the mood to commit some wild or extravagant
act."

"Perhaps I am; but one thing I have resolved on, and that is, to stop at
nothing to restore a poor devil to liberty, who has got into this scrape
solely from having served me. I should hate and despise myself as a
coward did I desert the brave fellow in his present extremity."

"And what do you mean to do?"

"To surround the scaffold with twenty of my best men, who, at a signal
from me, will rush forward directly Peppino is brought for execution,
and, by the assistance of their stilettos, drive back the guard, and
carry off the prisoner."

"That seems to me as hazardous as uncertain, and convinces me that my
scheme is far better than yours."

"And what is your excellency's project?"

"Just this. I will so advantageously bestow 2,000 piastres, that the
person receiving them shall obtain a respite till next year for Peppino;
and during that year, another skilfully placed 1,000 piastres will
afford him the means of escaping from his prison."

"And do you feel sure of succeeding?"

"Pardieu!" exclaimed the man in the cloak, suddenly expressing himself
in French.

"What did your excellency say?" inquired the other.

"I said, my good fellow, that I would do more single-handed by the
means of gold than you and all your troop could effect with stilettos,
pistols, carbines, and blunderbusses included. Leave me, then, to act,
and have no fears for the result."

"At least, there can be no harm in myself and party being in readiness,
in case your excellency should fail."

"None whatever. Take what precautions you please, if it is any
satisfaction to you to do so; but rely upon my obtaining the reprieve I
seek."

"Remember, the execution is fixed for the day after tomorrow, and that
you have but one day to work in."

"And what of that? Is not a day divided into twenty-four hours, each
hour into sixty minutes, and every minute sub-divided into sixty
seconds? Now in 86,400 seconds very many things can be done."

"And how shall I know whether your excellency has succeeded or not."

"Oh, that is very easily arranged. I have engaged the three lower
windows at the Cafe Rospoli; should I have obtained the requisite pardon
for Peppino, the two outside windows will be hung with yellow damasks,
and the centre with white, having a large cross in red marked on it."

"And whom will you employ to carry the reprieve to the officer directing
the execution?"

"Send one of your men, disguised as a penitent friar, and I will give it
to him. His dress will procure him the means of approaching the scaffold
itself, and he will deliver the official order to the officer, who, in
his turn, will hand it to the executioner; in the meantime, it will be
as well to acquaint Peppino with what we have determined on, if it
be only to prevent his dying of fear or losing his senses, because in
either case a very useless expense will have been incurred."

"Your excellency," said the man, "you are fully persuaded of my entire
devotion to you, are you not?"

"Nay, I flatter myself that there can be no doubt of it," replied the
cavalier in the cloak.

"Well, then, only fulfil your promise of rescuing Peppino, and
henceforward you shall receive not only devotion, but the most absolute
obedience from myself and those under me that one human being can render
to another."

"Have a care how far you pledge yourself, my good friend, for I may
remind you of your promise at some, perhaps, not very distant period,
when I, in my turn, may require your aid and influence."

"Let that day come sooner or later, your excellency will find me what
I have found you in this my heavy trouble; and if from the other end
of the world you but write me word to do such or such a thing, you may
regard it as done, for done it shall be, on the word and faith of"--

"Hush!" interrupted the stranger; "I hear a noise."

"'Tis some travellers, who are visiting the Colosseum by torchlight."

"'Twere better we should not be seen together; those guides are nothing
but spies, and might possibly recognize you; and, however I may be
honored by your friendship, my worthy friend, if once the extent of our
intimacy were known, I am sadly afraid both my reputation and credit
would suffer thereby."

"Well, then, if you obtain the reprieve?"

"The middle window at the Cafe Rospoli will be hung with white damask,
bearing a red cross."

"And if you fail?"

"Then all three windows will have yellow draperies."

"And then?"

"And then, my good fellow, use your daggers in any way you please, and I
further promise you to be there as a spectator of your prowess."

"We understand each other perfectly, then. Adieu, your excellency;
depend upon me as firmly as I do upon you."

Saying these words, the Transteverin disappeared down the staircase,
while his companion, muffling his features more closely than before in
the folds of his mantle, passed almost close to Franz, and descended
to the arena by an outward flight of steps. The next minute Franz heard
himself called by Albert, who made the lofty building re-echo with the
sound of his friend's name. Franz, however, did not obey the summons
till he had satisfied himself that the two men whose conversation he had
overheard were at a sufficient distance to prevent his encountering them
in his descent. In ten minutes after the strangers had departed,
Franz was on the road to the Piazza de Spagni, listening with studied
indifference to the learned dissertation delivered by Albert, after the
manner of Pliny and Calpurnius, touching the iron-pointed nets used to
prevent the ferocious beasts from springing on the spectators. Franz let
him proceed without interruption, and, in fact, did not hear what
was said; he longed to be alone, and free to ponder over all that had
occurred. One of the two men, whose mysterious meeting in the Colosseum
he had so unintentionally witnessed, was an entire stranger to him, but
not so the other; and though Franz had been unable to distinguish his
features, from his being either wrapped in his mantle or obscured by the
shadow, the tones of his voice had made too powerful an impression on
him the first time he had heard them for him ever again to forget them,
hear them when or where he might. It was more especially when this man
was speaking in a manner half jesting, half bitter, that Franz's ear
recalled most vividly the deep sonorous, yet well-pitched voice that had
addressed him in the grotto of Monte Cristo, and which he heard for the
second time amid the darkness and ruined grandeur of the Colosseum. And
the more he thought, the more entire was his conviction, that the person
who wore the mantle was no other than his former host and entertainer,
"Sinbad the Sailor."

Under any other circumstances, Franz would have found it impossible to
resist his extreme curiosity to know more of so singular a personage,
and with that intent have sought to renew their short acquaintance; but
in the present instance, the confidential nature of the conversation
he had overheard made him, with propriety, judge that his appearance at
such a time would be anything but agreeable. As we have seen, therefore,
he permitted his former host to retire without attempting a recognition,
but fully promising himself a rich indemnity for his present forbearance
should chance afford him another opportunity. In vain did Franz endeavor
to forget the many perplexing thoughts which assailed him; in vain did
he court the refreshment of sleep. Slumber refused to visit his eyelids
and the night was passed in feverish contemplation of the chain of
circumstances tending to prove the identity of the mysterious visitant
to the Colosseum with the inhabitant of the grotto of Monte Cristo; and
the more he thought, the firmer grew his opinion on the subject. Worn
out at length, he fell asleep at daybreak, and did not awake till late.
Like a genuine Frenchman, Albert had employed his time in arranging
for the evening's diversion; he had sent to engage a box at the Teatro
Argentino; and Franz, having a number of letters to write, relinquished
the carriage to Albert for the whole of the day. At five o'clock Albert
returned, delighted with his day's work; he had been occupied in leaving
his letters of introduction, and had received in return more invitations
to balls and routs than it would be possible for him to accept; besides
this, he had seen (as he called it) all the remarkable sights at Rome.
Yes, in a single day he had accomplished what his more serious-minded
companion would have taken weeks to effect. Neither had he neglected to
ascertain the name of the piece to be played that night at the Teatro
Argentino, and also what performers appeared in it.

The opera of "Parisina" was announced for representation, and the
principal actors were Coselli, Moriani, and La Specchia. The young men,
therefore, had reason to consider themselves fortunate in having the
opportunity of hearing one of the best works by the composer of "Lucia
di Lammermoor," supported by three of the most renowned vocalists of
Italy. Albert had never been able to endure the Italian theatres, with
their orchestras from which it is impossible to see, and the absence of
balconies, or open boxes; all these defects pressed hard on a man who
had had his stall at the Bouffes, and had shared a lower box at the
Opera. Still, in spite of this, Albert displayed his most dazzling and
effective costumes each time he visited the theatres; but, alas, his
elegant toilet was wholly thrown away, and one of the most worthy
representatives of Parisian fashion had to carry with him the mortifying
reflection that he had nearly overrun Italy without meeting with a
single adventure.

Sometimes Albert would affect to make a joke of his want of success; but
internally he was deeply wounded, and his self-love immensely piqued, to
think that Albert de Morcerf, the most admired and most sought after of
any young person of his day, should thus be passed over, and merely have
his labor for his pains. And the thing was so much the more annoying,
as, according to the characteristic modesty of a Frenchman, Albert had
quitted Paris with the full conviction that he had only to show himself
in Italy to carry all before him, and that upon his return he
should astonish the Parisian world with the recital of his numerous
love-affairs. Alas, poor Albert! none of those interesting adventures
fell in his way; the lovely Genoese, Florentines, and Neapolitans were
all faithful, if not to their husbands, at least to their lovers, and
thought not of changing even for the splendid appearance of Albert de
Morcerf; and all he gained was the painful conviction that the ladies of
Italy have this advantage over those of France, that they are faithful
even in their infidelity. Yet he could not restrain a hope that in
Italy, as elsewhere, there might be an exception to the general rule.
Albert, besides being an elegant, well-looking young man, was also
possessed of considerable talent and ability; moreover, he was a
viscount--a recently created one, certainly, but in the present day it
is not necessary to go as far back as Noah in tracing a descent, and
a genealogical tree is equally estimated, whether dated from 1399
or merely 1815; but to crown all these advantages, Albert de Morcerf
commanded an income of 50,000 livres, a more than sufficient sum to
render him a personage of considerable importance in Paris. It was
therefore no small mortification to him to have visited most of the
principal cities in Italy without having excited the most trifling
observation. Albert, however, hoped to indemnify himself for all these
slights and indifferences during the Carnival, knowing full well that
among the different states and kingdoms in which this festivity is
celebrated, Rome is the spot where even the wisest and gravest throw off
the usual rigidity of their lives, and deign to mingle in the follies of
this time of liberty and relaxation.

The Carnival was to commence on the morrow; therefore Albert had not
an instant to lose in setting forth the programme of his hopes,
expectations, and claims to notice. With this design he had engaged a
box in the most conspicuous part of the theatre, and exerted himself
to set off his personal attractions by the aid of the most rich and
elaborate toilet. The box taken by Albert was in the first circle;
although each of the three tiers of boxes is deemed equally
aristocratic, and is, for this reason, generally styled the "nobility's
boxes," and although the box engaged for the two friends was
sufficiently capacious to contain at least a dozen persons, it had cost
less than would be paid at some of the French theatres for one admitting
merely four occupants. Another motive had influenced Albert's selection
of his seat,--who knew but that, thus advantageously placed, he might
not in truth attract the notice of some fair Roman, and an introduction
might ensue that would procure him the offer of a seat in a carriage, or
a place in a princely balcony, from which he might behold the gayeties
of the Carnival? These united considerations made Albert more lively and
anxious to please than he had hitherto been. Totally disregarding the
business of the stage, he leaned from his box and began attentively
scrutinizing the beauty of each pretty woman, aided by a powerful
opera-glass; but, alas, this attempt to attract notice wholly failed;
not even curiosity had been excited, and it was but too apparent
that the lovely creatures, into whose good graces he was desirous of
stealing, were all so much engrossed with themselves, their lovers,
or their own thoughts, that they had not so much as noticed him or the
manipulation of his glass.

The truth was, that the anticipated pleasures of the Carnival, with the
"holy week" that was to succeed it, so filled every fair breast, as to
prevent the least attention being bestowed even on the business of the
stage. The actors made their entries and exits unobserved or unthought
of; at certain conventional moments, the spectators would suddenly cease
their conversation, or rouse themselves from their musings, to listen
to some brilliant effort of Moriani's, a well-executed recitative by
Coselli, or to join in loud applause at the wonderful powers of La
Specchia; but that momentary excitement over, they quickly relapsed into
their former state of preoccupation or interesting conversation. Towards
the close of the first act, the door of a box which had been hitherto
vacant was opened; a lady entered to whom Franz had been introduced in
Paris, where indeed, he had imagined she still was. The quick eye of
Albert caught the involuntary start with which his friend beheld the new
arrival, and, turning to him, he said hastily, "Do you know the woman
who has just entered that box?"

"Yes; what do you think of her?"

"Oh, she is perfectly lovely--what a complexion! And such magnificent
hair! Is she French?"

"No; a Venetian."

"And her name is--"

"Countess G----."

"Ah, I know her by name!" exclaimed Albert; "she is said to possess as
much wit and cleverness as beauty. I was to have been presented to her
when I met her at Madame Villefort's ball."

"Shall I assist you in repairing your negligence?" asked Franz.

"My dear fellow, are you really on such good terms with her as to
venture to take me to her box?"

"Why, I have only had the honor of being in her society and conversing
with her three or four times in my life; but you know that even such
an acquaintance as that might warrant my doing what you ask." At that
instant, the countess perceived Franz, and graciously waved her hand to
him, to which he replied by a respectful inclination of the head. "Upon
my word," said Albert, "you seem to be on excellent terms with the
beautiful countess."

"You are mistaken in thinking so," returned Franz calmly; "but you
merely fall into the same error which leads so many of our countrymen to
commit the most egregious blunders,--I mean that of judging the habits
and customs of Italy and Spain by our Parisian notions; believe me,
nothing is more fallacious than to form any estimate of the degree of
intimacy you may suppose existing among persons by the familiar terms
they seem upon; there is a similarity of feeling at this instant between
ourselves and the countess--nothing more."

"Is there, indeed, my good fellow? Pray tell me, is it sympathy of
heart?"

"No; of taste," continued Franz gravely.

"And in what manner has this congeniality of mind been evinced?"

"By the countess's visiting the Colosseum, as we did last night, by
moonlight, and nearly alone."

"You were with her, then?"

"I was."

"And what did you say to her?"

"Oh, we talked of the illustrious dead of whom that magnificent ruin is
a glorious monument!"

"Upon my word," cried Albert, "you must have been a very entertaining
companion alone, or all but alone, with a beautiful woman in such a
place of sentiment as the Colosseum, and yet to find nothing better a
talk about than the dead! All I can say is, if ever I should get such a
chance, the living should be my theme."

"And you will probably find your theme ill-chosen."

"But," said Albert, breaking in upon his discourse, "never mind the
past; let us only remember the present. Are you not going to keep your
promise of introducing me to the fair subject of our remarks?"

"Certainly, directly the curtain falls on the stage."

"What a confounded time this first act takes. I believe, on my soul,
that they never mean to finish it."

"Oh, yes, they will; only listen to that charming finale. How
exquisitely Coselli sings his part."

"But what an awkward, inelegant fellow he is."

"Well, then, what do you say to La Specchia? Did you ever see anything
more perfect than her acting?"

"Why, you know, my dear fellow, when one has been accustomed to Malibran
and Sontag, such singers as these don't make the same impression on you
they perhaps do on others."

"At least, you must admire Moriani's style and execution."

"I never fancied men of his dark, ponderous appearance singing with a
voice like a woman's."

"My good friend," said Franz, turning to him, while Albert continued to
point his glass at every box in the theatre, "you seem determined not to
approve; you are really too difficult to please." The curtain at length
fell on the performances, to the infinite satisfaction of the Viscount
of Morcerf, who seized his hat, rapidly passed his fingers through his
hair, arranged his cravat and wristbands, and signified to Franz that he
was waiting for him to lead the way. Franz, who had mutely interrogated
the countess, and received from her a gracious smile in token that he
would be welcome, sought not to retard the gratification of Albert's
eager impatience, but began at once the tour of the house, closely
followed by Albert, who availed himself of the few minutes required
to reach the opposite side of the theatre to settle the height and
smoothness of his collar, and to arrange the lappets of his coat. This
important task was just completed as they arrived at the countess's box.
At the knock, the door was immediately opened, and the young man who
was seated beside the countess, in obedience to the Italian custom,
instantly rose and surrendered his place to the strangers, who, in turn,
would be expected to retire upon the arrival of other visitors.

Franz presented Albert as one of the most distinguished young men of the
day, both as regarded his position in society and extraordinary talents;
nor did he say more than the truth, for in Paris and the circle in
which the viscount moved, he was looked upon and cited as a model of
perfection. Franz added that his companion, deeply grieved at having
been prevented the honor of being presented to the countess during her
sojourn in Paris, was most anxious to make up for it, and had requested
him (Franz) to remedy the past misfortune by conducting him to her box,
and concluded by asking pardon for his presumption in having taken
it upon himself to do so. The countess, in reply, bowed gracefully to
Albert, and extended her hand with cordial kindness to Franz; then,
inviting Albert to take the vacant seat beside her, she recommended
Franz to take the next best, if he wished to view the ballet, and
pointed to the one behind her own chair. Albert was soon deeply
engrossed in discoursing upon Paris and Parisian matters, speaking
to the countess of the various persons they both knew there. Franz
perceived how completely he was in his element; and, unwilling to
interfere with the pleasure he so evidently felt, took up Albert's
glass, and began in his turn to survey the audience. Sitting alone, in
the front of a box immediately opposite, but situated on the third
row, was a woman of exquisite beauty, dressed in a Greek costume, which
evidently, from the ease and grace with which she wore it, was her
national attire. Behind her, but in deep shadow, was the outline of a
masculine figure; but the features of this latter personage it was not
possible to distinguish. Franz could not forbear breaking in upon the
apparently interesting conversation passing between the countess and
Albert, to inquire of the former if she knew who was the fair Albanian
opposite, since beauty such as hers was well worthy of being observed by
either sex. "All I can tell about her," replied the countess, "is, that
she has been at Rome since the beginning of the season; for I saw her
where she now sits the very first night of the season, and since then
she has never missed a performance. Sometimes she is accompanied by the
person who is now with her, and at others she is merely attended by a
black servant."

"And what do you think of her personal appearance?"

"Oh, I consider her perfectly lovely--she is just my idea of what Medora
must have been."

Franz and the countess exchanged a smile, and then the latter resumed
her conversation with Albert, while Franz returned to his previous
survey of the house and company. The curtain rose on the ballet, which
was one of those excellent specimens of the Italian school, admirably
arranged and put on the stage by Henri, who has established for himself
a great reputation throughout Italy for his taste and skill in the
choreographic art--one of those masterly productions of grace, method,
and elegance in which the whole corps de ballet, from the principal
dancers to the humblest supernumerary, are all engaged on the stage at
the same time; and a hundred and fifty persons may be seen exhibiting
the same attitude, or elevating the same arm or leg with a simultaneous
movement, that would lead you to suppose that but one mind, one act of
volition, influenced the moving mass--the ballet was called "Poliska."
However much the ballet might have claimed his attention, Franz was too
deeply occupied with the beautiful Greek to take any note of it; while
she seemed to experience an almost childlike delight in watching it, her
eager, animated looks contrasting strongly with the utter indifference
of her companion, who, during the whole time the piece lasted, never
even moved, not even when the furious, crashing din produced by the
trumpets, cymbals, and Chinese bells sounded their loudest from the
orchestra. Of this he took no heed, but was, as far as appearances might
be trusted, enjoying soft repose and bright celestial dreams. The ballet
at length came to a close, and the curtain fell amid the loud, unanimous
plaudits of an enthusiastic and delighted audience.

Owing to the very judicious plan of dividing the two acts of the opera
with a ballet, the pauses between the performances are very short, the
singers in the opera having time to repose themselves and change
their costume, when necessary, while the dancers are executing their
pirouettes and exhibiting their graceful steps. The overture to the
second act began; and, at the first sound of the leader's bow across his
violin, Franz observed the sleeper slowly arise and approach the Greek
girl, who turned around to say a few words to him, and then, leaning
forward again on the railing of her box, she became as absorbed as
before in what was going on. The countenance of the person who had
addressed her remained so completely in the shade, that, though Franz
tried his utmost, he could not distinguish a single feature. The curtain
rose, and the attention of Franz was attracted by the actors; and his
eyes turned from the box containing the Greek girl and her strange
companion to watch the business of the stage.

Most of my readers are aware that the second act of "Parisina" opens
with the celebrated and effective duet in which Parisina, while
sleeping, betrays to Azzo the secret of her love for Ugo. The injured
husband goes through all the emotions of jealousy, until conviction
seizes on his mind, and then, in a frenzy of rage and indignation,
he awakens his guilty wife to tell her that he knows her guilt and to
threaten her with his vengeance. This duet is one of the most beautiful,
expressive and terrible conceptions that has ever emanated from the
fruitful pen of Donizetti. Franz now listened to it for the third
time; yet its notes, so tenderly expressive and fearfully grand as
the wretched husband and wife give vent to their different griefs and
passions, thrilled through the soul of Franz with an effect equal to his
first emotions upon hearing it. Excited beyond his usual calm
demeanor, Franz rose with the audience, and was about to join the
loud, enthusiastic applause that followed; but suddenly his purpose was
arrested, his hands fell by his sides, and the half-uttered "bravos"
expired on his lips. The occupant of the box in which the Greek girl sat
appeared to share the universal admiration that prevailed; for he left
his seat to stand up in front, so that, his countenance being fully
revealed, Franz had no difficulty in recognizing him as the mysterious
inhabitant of Monte Cristo, and the very same person he had encountered
the preceding evening in the ruins of the Colosseum, and whose voice and
figure had seemed so familiar to him. All doubt of his identity was now
at an end; his singular host evidently resided at Rome. The surprise
and agitation occasioned by this full confirmation of Franz's former
suspicion had no doubt imparted a corresponding expression to his
features; for the countess, after gazing with a puzzled look at
his face, burst into a fit of laughter, and begged to know what had
happened. "Countess," returned Franz, totally unheeding her raillery, "I
asked you a short time since if you knew any particulars respecting the
Albanian lady opposite; I must now beseech you to inform me who and what
is her husband?"

"Nay," answered the countess, "I know no more of him than yourself."

"Perhaps you never before noticed him?"

"What a question--so truly French! Do you not know that we Italians have
eyes only for the man we love?"

"True," replied Franz.

"All I can say is," continued the countess, taking up the lorgnette,
and directing it toward the box in question, "that the gentleman, whose
history I am unable to furnish, seems to me as though he had just
been dug up; he looks more like a corpse permitted by some friendly
grave-digger to quit his tomb for a while, and revisit this earth of
ours, than anything human. How ghastly pale he is!"

"Oh, he is always as colorless as you now see him," said Franz.

"Then you know him?" almost screamed the countess. "Oh, pray do, for
heaven's sake, tell us all about--is he a vampire, or a resuscitated
corpse, or what?"

"I fancy I have seen him before; and I even think he recognizes me."

"And I can well understand," said the countess, shrugging up her
beautiful shoulders, as though an involuntary shudder passed through her
veins, "that those who have once seen that man will never be likely
to forget him." The sensation experienced by Franz was evidently not
peculiar to himself; another, and wholly uninterested person, felt the
same unaccountable awe and misgiving. "Well." inquired Franz, after the
countess had a second time directed her lorgnette at the box, "what do
you think of our opposite neighbor?"

"Why, that he is no other than Lord Ruthven himself in a living form."
This fresh allusion to Byron [*] drew a smile to Franz's countenance;
although he could but allow that if anything was likely to induce belief
in the existence of vampires, it would be the presence of such a man as
the mysterious personage before him.

"I must positively find out who and what he is," said Franz, rising from
his seat.

"No, no," cried the countess; "you must not leave me. I depend upon you
to escort me home. Oh, indeed, I cannot permit you to go."

* Scott, of course: "The son of an ill-fated sire, and the
father of a yet more unfortunate family, bore in his looks
that cast of inauspicious melancholy by which the
physiognomists of that time pretended to distinguish those
who were predestined to a violent and unhappy death."--The
Abbot, ch. xxii.

"Is it possible," whispered Franz, "that you entertain any fear?"

"I'll tell you," answered the countess. "Byron had the most perfect
belief in the existence of vampires, and even assured me that he had
seen them. The description he gave me perfectly corresponds with
the features and character of the man before us. Oh, he is the exact
personification of what I have been led to expect! The coal-black hair,
large bright, glittering eyes, in which a wild, unearthly fire seems
burning,--the same ghastly paleness. Then observe, too, that the
woman with him is altogether unlike all others of her sex. She is a
foreigner--a stranger. Nobody knows who she is, or where she comes from.
No doubt she belongs to the same horrible race he does, and is, like
himself, a dealer in magical arts. I entreat of you not to go near
him--at least to-night; and if to-morrow your curiosity still continues
as great, pursue your researches if you will; but to-night you neither
can nor shall. For that purpose I mean to keep you all to myself." Franz
protested he could not defer his pursuit till the following day, for
many reasons. "Listen to me," said the countess, "and do not be so very
headstrong. I am going home. I have a party at my house to-night, and
therefore cannot possibly remain till the end of the opera. Now, I
cannot for one instant believe you so devoid of gallantry as to refuse a
lady your escort when she even condescends to ask you for it."

There was nothing else left for Franz to do but to take up his hat,
open the door of the box, and offer the countess his arm. It was quite
evident, by her manner, that her uneasiness was not feigned; and Franz
himself could not resist a feeling of superstitious dread--so much
the stronger in him, as it arose from a variety of corroborative
recollections, while the terror of the countess sprang from an
instinctive belief, originally created in her mind by the wild tales she
had listened to till she believed them truths. Franz could even feel her
arm tremble as he assisted her into the carriage. Upon arriving at
her hotel, Franz perceived that she had deceived him when she spoke of
expecting company; on the contrary, her own return before the appointed
hour seemed greatly to astonish the servants. "Excuse my little
subterfuge," said the countess, in reply to her companion's
half-reproachful observation on the subject; "but that horrid man had
made me feel quite uncomfortable, and I longed to be alone, that I might
compose my startled mind." Franz essayed to smile. "Nay," said she, "do
not smile; it ill accords with the expression of your countenance, and
I am sure it does not spring from your heart. However, promise me one
thing."

"What is it?"

"Promise me, I say."

"I will do anything you desire, except relinquish my determination of
finding out who this man is. I have more reasons than you can imagine
for desiring to know who he is, from whence he came, and whither he is
going."

"Where he comes from I am ignorant; but I can readily tell you where he
is going to, and that is down below, without the least doubt."

"Let us only speak of the promise you wished me to make," said Franz.

"Well, then, you must give me your word to return immediately to your
hotel, and make no attempt to follow this man to-night. There are
certain affinities between the persons we quit and those we meet
afterwards. For heaven's sake, do not serve as a conductor between that
man and me. Pursue your chase after him to-morrow as eagerly as you
please; but never bring him near me, if you would not see me die of
terror. And now, good-night; go to your rooms, and try to sleep away all
recollections of this evening. For my own part, I am quite sure I shall
not be able to close my eyes." So saying, the countess quitted Franz,
leaving him unable to decide whether she were merely amusing herself at
his expense, or whether her fears and agitations were genuine.

Upon his return to the hotel, Franz found Albert in his dressing-gown
and slippers, listlessly extended on a sofa, smoking a cigar. "My dear
fellow." cried he, springing up, "is it really you? Why, I did not
expect to see you before to-morrow."

"My dear Albert," replied Franz, "I am glad of this opportunity to
tell you, once and forever, that you entertain a most erroneous notion
concerning Italian women. I should have thought the continual failures
you have met with in all your own love affairs might have taught you
better by this time."

"Upon my soul, these women would puzzle the very Devil to read them
aright. Why, here--they give you their hand--they press yours in
return--they keep up a whispering conversation--permit you to accompany
them home. Why, if a Parisian were to indulge in a quarter of these
marks of flattering attention, her reputation would be gone forever."

"And the very reason why the women of this fine country put so little
restraint on their words and actions, is because they live so much
in public, and have really nothing to conceal. Besides, you must have
perceived that the countess was really alarmed."

"At what? At the sight of that respectable gentleman sitting opposite to
us in the same box with the lovely Greek girl? Now, for my part, I met
them in the lobby after the conclusion of the piece; and hang me, if
I can guess where you took your notions of the other world from. I
can assure you that this hobgoblin of yours is a deuced fine-looking
fellow--admirably dressed. Indeed, I feel quite sure, from the cut of
his clothes, they are made by a first-rate Paris tailor--probably
Blin or Humann. He was rather too pale, certainly; but then, you know,
paleness is always looked upon as a strong proof of aristocratic descent
and distinguished breeding." Franz smiled; for he well remembered that
Albert particularly prided himself on the entire absence of color in his
own complexion.

"Well, that tends to confirm my own ideas," said Franz, "that the
countess's suspicions were destitute alike of sense and reason. Did he
speak in your hearing? and did you catch any of his words?"

"I did; but they were uttered in the Romaic dialect. I knew that from
the mixture of Greek words. I don't know whether I ever told you that
when I was at college I was rather--rather strong in Greek."

"He spoke the Romaic language, did he?"

"I think so."

"That settles it," murmured Franz. "'Tis he, past all doubt."

"What do you say?"

"Nothing, nothing. But tell me, what were you thinking about when I came
in?"

"Oh, I was arranging a little surprise for you."

"Indeed. Of what nature?"

"Why, you know it is quite impossible to procure a carriage."

"Certainly; and I also know that we have done all that human means
afforded to endeavor to get one."

"Now, then, in this difficulty a bright idea has flashed across my
brain." Franz looked at Albert as though he had not much confidence in
the suggestions of his imagination. "I tell you what, Sir Franz,"
cried Albert, "you deserve to be called out for such a misgiving and
incredulous glance as that you were pleased to bestow on me just now."

"And I promise to give you the satisfaction of a gentleman if your
scheme turns out as ingenious as you assert."

"Well, then, hearken to me."

"I listen."

"You agree, do you not, that obtaining a carriage is out of the
question?"

"I do."

"Neither can we procure horses?"

"True; we have offered any sum, but have failed."

"Well, now, what do you say to a cart? I dare say such a thing might be
had."

"Very possibly."

"And a pair of oxen?"

"As easily found as the cart."

"Then you see, my good fellow, with a cart and a couple of oxen our
business can be managed. The cart must be tastefully ornamented; and
if you and I dress ourselves as Neapolitan reapers, we may get up a
striking tableau, after the manner of that splendid picture by Leopold
Robert. It would add greatly to the effect if the countess would join
us in the costume of a peasant from Puzzoli or Sorrento. Our group
would then be quite complete, more especially as the countess is quite
beautiful enough to represent a madonna."

"Well," said Franz, "this time, Albert, I am bound to give you credit
for having hit upon a most capital idea."

"And quite a national one, too," replied Albert with gratified pride.
"A mere masque borrowed from our own festivities. Ha, ha, ye Romans!
you thought to make us, unhappy strangers, trot at the heels of your
processions, like so many lazzaroni, because no carriages or horses are
to be had in your beggarly city. But you don't know us; when we can't
have one thing we invent another."

"And have you communicated your triumphant idea to anybody?"

"Only to our host. Upon my return home I sent for him, and I then
explained to him what I wished to procure. He assured me that nothing
would be easier than to furnish all I desired. One thing I was sorry
for; when I bade him have the horns of the oxen gilded, he told me there
would not be time, as it would require three days to do that; so you see
we must do without this little superfluity."

"And where is he now?"

"Who?"

"Our host."

"Gone out in search of our equipage, by to-morrow it might be too late."

"Then he will be able to give us an answer to-night."

"Oh, I expect him every minute." At this instant the door opened, and
the head of Signor Pastrini appeared. "Permesso?" inquired he.

"Certainly--certainly," cried Franz. "Come in, mine host."

"Now, then," asked Albert eagerly, "have you found the desired cart and
oxen?"

"Better than that!" replied Signor Pastrini, with the air of a man
perfectly well satisfied with himself.

"Take care, my worthy host," said Albert, "better is a sure enemy to
well."

"Let your excellencies only leave the matter to me," returned Signor
Pastrini in a tone indicative of unbounded self-confidence.

"But what have you done?" asked Franz. "Speak out, there's a worthy
fellow."

"Your excellencies are aware," responded the landlord, swelling with
importance, "that the Count of Monte Cristo is living on the same floor
with yourselves!"

"I should think we did know it," exclaimed Albert, "since it is owing
to that circumstance that we are packed into these small rooms, like two
poor students in the back streets of Paris."

"When, then, the Count of Monte Cristo, hearing of the dilemma in which
you are placed, has sent to offer you seats in his carriage and two
places at his windows in the Palazzo Rospoli." The friends looked at
each other with unutterable surprise.

"But do you think," asked Albert, "that we ought to accept such offers
from a perfect stranger?"

"What sort of person is this Count of Monte Cristo?" asked Franz of his
host. "A very great nobleman, but whether Maltese or Sicilian I cannot
exactly say; but this I know, that he is noble as a Borghese and rich as
a gold-mine."

"It seems to me," said Franz, speaking in an undertone to Albert, "that
if this person merited the high panegyrics of our landlord, he would
have conveyed his invitation through another channel, and not permitted
it to be brought to us in this unceremonious way. He would have
written--or"--

At this instant some one knocked at the door. "Come in," said Franz. A
servant, wearing a livery of considerable style and richness, appeared
at the threshold, and, placing two cards in the landlord's hands, who
forthwith presented them to the two young men, he said, "Please to
deliver these, from the Count of Monte Cristo to Viscomte Albert de
Morcerf and M. Franz d'Epinay. The Count of Monte Cristo," continued the
servant, "begs these gentlemen's permission to wait upon them as their
neighbor, and he will be honored by an intimation of what time they will
please to receive him."

"Faith, Franz," whispered Albert, "there is not much to find fault with
here."

"Tell the count," replied Franz, "that we will do ourselves the pleasure
of calling on him." The servant bowed and retired.

"That is what I call an elegant mode of attack," said Albert, "You were
quite correct in what you said, Signor Pastrini. The Count of Monte
Cristo is unquestionably a man of first-rate breeding and knowledge of
the world."

"Then you accept his offer?" said the host.

"Of course we do," replied Albert. "Still, I must own I am sorry to
be obliged to give up the cart and the group of reapers--it would have
produced such an effect! And were it not for the windows at the Palazzo
Rospoli, by way of recompense for the loss of our beautiful scheme, I
don't know but what I should have held on by my original plan. What say
you, Franz?"

"Oh, I agree with you; the windows in the Palazzo Rospoli alone decided
me." The truth was, that the mention of two places in the Palazzo
Rospoli had recalled to Franz the conversation he had overheard the
preceding evening in the ruins of the Colosseum between the mysterious
unknown and the Transteverin, in which the stranger in the cloak had
undertaken to obtain the freedom of a condemned criminal; and if this
muffled-up individual proved (as Franz felt sure he would) the same as
the person he had just seen in the Teatro Argentino, then he should be
able to establish his identity, and also to prosecute his researches
respecting him with perfect facility and freedom. Franz passed the night
in confused dreams respecting the two meetings he had already had with
his mysterious tormentor, and in waking speculations as to what the
morrow would produce. The next day must clear up every doubt; and
unless his near neighbor and would-be friend, the Count of Monte Cristo,
possessed the ring of Gyges, and by its power was able to render himself
invisible, it was very certain he could not escape this time. Eight
o'clock found Franz up and dressed, while Albert, who had not the same
motives for early rising, was still soundly asleep. The first act
of Franz was to summon his landlord, who presented himself with his
accustomed obsequiousness.

"Pray, Signor Pastrini," asked Franz, "is not some execution appointed
to take place to-day?"

"Yes, your excellency; but if your reason for inquiry is that you may
procure a window to view it from, you are much too late."

"Oh, no," answered Franz, "I had no such intention; and even if I had
felt a wish to witness the spectacle, I might have done so from Monte
Pincio--could I not?"

"Ah!" exclaimed mine host, "I did not think it likely your excellency
would have chosen to mingle with such a rabble as are always collected
on that hill, which, indeed, they consider as exclusively belonging to
themselves."

"Very possibly I may not go," answered Franz; "but in case I feel
disposed, give me some particulars of to-day's executions."

"What particulars would your excellency like to hear?"

"Why, the number of persons condemned to suffer, their names, and
description of the death they are to die."

"That happens just lucky, your excellency! Only a few minutes ago they
brought me the tavolettas."

"What are they?"

"Sort of wooden tablets hung up at the corners of streets the evening
before an execution, on which is pasted up a paper containing the names
of the condemned persons, their crimes, and mode of punishment. The
reason for so publicly announcing all this is, that all good and
faithful Catholics may offer up their prayers for the unfortunate
culprits, and, above all, beseech of heaven to grant them a sincere
repentance."

"And these tablets are brought to you that you may add your prayers to
those of the faithful, are they?" asked Franz somewhat incredulously.

"Oh, dear, no, your excellency! I have not time for anybody's affairs
but my own and those of my honorable guests; but I make an agreement
with the man who pastes up the papers, and he brings them to me as he
would the playbills, that in case any person staying at my hotel should
like to witness an execution, he may obtain every requisite information
concerning the time and place etc."

"Upon my word, that is a most delicate attention on your part, Signor
Pastrini," cried Franz.

"Why, your excellency," returned the landlord, chuckling and rubbing his
hands with infinite complacency, "I think I may take upon myself to
say I neglect nothing to deserve the support and patronage of the noble
visitors to this poor hotel."

"I see that plainly enough, my most excellent host, and you may rely
upon me to proclaim so striking a proof of your attention to your
guests wherever I go. Meanwhile, oblige me by a sight of one of these
tavolettas."

"Nothing can be easier than to comply with your excellency's wish," said
the landlord, opening the door of the chamber; "I have caused one to be
placed on the landing, close by your apartment." Then, taking the tablet
from the wall, he handed it to Franz, who read as follows:--

"'The public is informed that on Wednesday, February 23d, being the
first day of the Carnival, executions will take place in the Piazza
del Popolo, by order of the Tribunal of the Rota, of two persons, named
Andrea Rondola, and Peppino, otherwise called Rocca Priori; the former
found guilty of the murder of a venerable and exemplary priest, named
Don Cesare Torlini, canon of the church of St. John Lateran; and the
latter convicted of being an accomplice of the atrocious and sanguinary
bandit, Luigi Vampa, and his band. The first-named malefactor will be
subjected to the mazzuola, the second culprit beheaded. The prayers of
all good Christians are entreated for these unfortunate men, that it may
please God to awaken them to a sense of their guilt, and to grant them a
hearty and sincere repentance for their crimes.'"

This was precisely what Franz had heard the evening before in the ruins
of the Colosseum. No part of the programme differed,--the names of the
condemned persons, their crimes, and mode of punishment, all agreed
with his previous information. In all probability, therefore, the
Transteverin was no other than the bandit Luigi Vampa himself, and the
man shrouded in the mantle the same he had known as "Sinbad the Sailor,"
but who, no doubt, was still pursuing his philanthropic expedition
in Rome, as he had already done at Porto-Vecchio and Tunis. Time was
getting on, however, and Franz deemed it advisable to awaken Albert; but
at the moment he prepared to proceed to his chamber, his friend entered
the room in perfect costume for the day. The anticipated delights of
the Carnival had so run in his head as to make him leave his pillow long
before his usual hour. "Now, my excellent Signor Pastrini," said Franz,
addressing his landlord, "since we are both ready, do you think we may
proceed at once to visit the Count of Monte Cristo?"

"Most assuredly," replied he. "The Count of Monte Cristo is always an
early riser; and I can answer for his having been up these two hours."

"Then you really consider we shall not be intruding if we pay our
respects to him directly?"

"Oh, I am quite sure. I will take all the blame on myself if you find I
have led you into an error."

"Well, then, if it be so, are you ready, Albert?"

"Perfectly."

"Let us go and return our best thanks for his courtesy."

"Yes, let us do so." The landlord preceded the friends across the
landing, which was all that separated them from the apartments of the
count, rang at the bell, and, upon the door being opened by a servant,
said, "I signori Francesi."

The domestic bowed respectfully, and invited them to enter. They passed
through two rooms, furnished in a luxurious manner they had not expected
to see under the roof of Signor Pastrini, and were shown into an
elegantly fitted-up drawing-room. The richest Turkey carpets covered
the floor, and the softest and most inviting couches, easy-chairs, and
sofas, offered their high-piled and yielding cushions to such as desired
repose or refreshment. Splendid paintings by the first masters were
ranged against the walls, intermingled with magnificent trophies of
war, while heavy curtains of costly tapestry were suspended before the
different doors of the room. "If your excellencies will please to be
seated," said the man, "I will let the count know that you are here."

And with these words he disappeared behind one of the tapestried
portieres. As the door opened, the sound of a guzla reached the ears of
the young men, but was almost immediately lost, for the rapid closing
of the door merely allowed one rich swell of harmony to enter. Franz
and Albert looked inquiringly at each other, then at the gorgeous
furnishings of the apartment. Everything seemed more magnificent at a
second view than it had done at their first rapid survey.

"Well," said Franz to his friend, "what think you of all this?"

"Why, upon my soul, my dear fellow, it strikes me that our elegant and
attentive neighbor must either be some successful stock-jobber who has
speculated in the fall of the Spanish funds, or some prince travelling
incog."

"Hush, hush!" replied Franz; "we shall ascertain who and what he is--he
comes!" As Franz spoke, he heard the sound of a door turning on its
hinges, and almost immediately afterwards the tapestry was drawn aside,
and the owner of all these riches stood before the two young men. Albert
instantly rose to meet him, but Franz remained, in a manner, spellbound
on his chair; for in the person of him who had just entered he
recognized not only the mysterious visitant to the Colosseum, and the
occupant of the box at the Teatro Argentino, but also his extraordinary
host of Monte Cristo.

 

 

Chapter 35. La Mazzolata.

"Gentlemen," said the Count of Monte Cristo as he entered, "I pray you
excuse me for suffering my visit to be anticipated; but I feared to
disturb you by presenting myself earlier at your apartments; besides,
you sent me word that you would come to me, and I have held myself at
your disposal."

"Franz and I have to thank you a thousand times, count," returned
Albert; "you extricated us from a great dilemma, and we were on
the point of inventing a very fantastic vehicle when your friendly
invitation reached us."

"Indeed," returned the count, motioning the two young men to sit down.
"It was the fault of that blockhead Pastrini, that I did not sooner
assist you in your distress. He did not mention a syllable of your
embarrassment to me, when he knows that, alone and isolated as I am, I
seek every opportunity of making the acquaintance of my neighbors. As
soon as I learned I could in any way assist you, I most eagerly seized
the opportunity of offering my services." The two young men bowed. Franz
had, as yet, found nothing to say; he had come to no determination,
and as nothing in the count's manner manifested the wish that he should
recognize him, he did not know whether to make any allusion to the past,
or wait until he had more proof; besides, although sure it was he
who had been in the box the previous evening, he could not be equally
positive that this was the man he had seen at the Colosseum. He
resolved, therefore, to let things take their course without making any
direct overture to the count. Moreover, he had this advantage, he was
master of the count's secret, while the count had no hold on Franz, who
had nothing to conceal. However, he resolved to lead the conversation to
a subject which might possibly clear up his doubts.

"Count," said he, "you have offered us places in your carriage, and at
your windows in the Rospoli Palace. Can you tell us where we can obtain
a sight of the Piazza del Popolo?"

"Ah," said the count negligently, looking attentively at Morcerf, "is
there not something like an execution upon the Piazza del Popolo?"

"Yes," returned Franz, finding that the count was coming to the point he
wished.

"Stay, I think I told my steward yesterday to attend to this; perhaps I
can render you this slight service also." He extended his hand, and rang
the bell thrice. "Did you ever occupy yourself," said he to Franz, "with
the employment of time and the means of simplifying the summoning your
servants? I have. When I ring once, it is for my valet; twice, for my
majordomo; thrice, for my steward,--thus I do not waste a minute or a
word. Here he is." A man of about forty-five or fifty entered, exactly
resembling the smuggler who had introduced Franz into the cavern; but
he did not appear to recognize him. It was evident he had his orders.
"Monsieur Bertuccio," said the count, "you have procured me windows
looking on the Piazza del Popolo, as I ordered you yesterday."

"Yes, excellency," returned the steward; "but it was very late."

"Did I not tell you I wished for one?" replied the count, frowning.

"And your excellency has one, which was let to Prince Lobanieff; but I
was obliged to pay a hundred"--

"That will do--that will do, Monsieur Bertuccio; spare these gentlemen
all such domestic arrangements. You have the window, that is sufficient.
Give orders to the coachman; and be in readiness on the stairs to
conduct us to it." The steward bowed, and was about to quit the room.
"Ah," continued the count, "be good enough to ask Pastrini if he
has received the tavoletta, and if he can send us an account of the
execution."

"There is no need to do that," said Franz, taking out his tablets; "for
I saw the account, and copied it down."

"Very well, you can retire, M. Bertuccio; but let us know when breakfast
is ready. These gentlemen," added he, turning to the two friends, "will,
I trust, do me the honor to breakfast with me?"

"But, my dear count," said Albert, "we shall abuse your kindness."

"Not at all; on the contrary, you will give me great pleasure. You
will, one or other of you, perhaps both, return it to me at Paris. M.
Bertuccio, lay covers for three." He then took Franz's tablets out of
his hand. "'We announce,' he read, in the same tone with which he
would have read a newspaper, 'that to-day, the 23d of February, will be
executed Andrea Rondolo, guilty of murder on the person of the respected
and venerated Don Cesare Torlini, canon of the church of St. John
Lateran, and Peppino, called Rocca Priori, convicted of complicity with
the detestable bandit Luigi Vampa, and the men of his band.' Hum! 'The
first will be mazzolato, the second decapitato.' Yes," continued
the count, "it was at first arranged in this way; but I think since
yesterday some change has taken place in the order of the ceremony."

"Really?" said Franz.

"Yes, I passed the evening at the Cardinal Rospigliosi's, and there
mention was made of something like a pardon for one of the two men."

"For Andrea Rondolo?" asked Franz.

"No," replied the count, carelessly; "for the other (he glanced at the
tablets as if to recall the name), for Peppino, called Rocca Priori. You
are thus deprived of seeing a man guillotined; but the mazzuola still
remains, which is a very curious punishment when seen for the first
time, and even the second, while the other, as you must know, is very
simple. The mandaia [*] never fails, never trembles, never strikes thirty
times ineffectually, like the soldier who beheaded the Count of Chalais,
and to whose tender mercy Richelieu had doubtless recommended the
sufferer. Ah," added the count, in a contemptuous tone, "do not tell me
of European punishments, they are in the infancy, or rather the old age,
of cruelty."

* Guillotine.

"Really, count," replied Franz, "one would think that you had studied
the different tortures of all the nations of the world."

"There are, at least, few that I have not seen," said the count coldly.

"And you took pleasure in beholding these dreadful spectacles?"

"My first sentiment was horror, the second indifference, the third
curiosity."

"Curiosity--that is a terrible word."

"Why so? In life, our greatest preoccupation is death; is it not then,
curious to study the different ways by which the soul and body can part;
and how, according to their different characters, temperaments, and even
the different customs of their countries, different persons bear the
transition from life to death, from existence to annihilation? As for
myself, I can assure you of one thing,--the more men you see die, the
easier it becomes to die yourself; and in my opinion, death may be a
torture, but it is not an expiation."

"I do not quite understand you," replied Franz; "pray explain your
meaning, for you excite my curiosity to the highest pitch."

"Listen," said the count, and deep hatred mounted to his face, as the
blood would to the face of any other. "If a man had by unheard-of
and excruciating tortures destroyed your father, your mother, your
betrothed,--a being who, when torn from you, left a desolation, a wound
that never closes, in your breast,--do you think the reparation that
society gives you is sufficient when it interposes the knife of the
guillotine between the base of the occiput and the trapezal muscles of
the murderer, and allows him who has caused us years of moral sufferings
to escape with a few moments of physical pain?"

"Yes, I know," said Franz, "that human justice is insufficient to
console us; she can give blood in return for blood, that is all; but you
must demand from her only what it is in her power to grant."

"I will put another case to you," continued the count; "that where
society, attacked by the death of a person, avenges death by death. But
are there not a thousand tortures by which a man may be made to suffer
without society taking the least cognizance of them, or offering him
even the insufficient means of vengeance, of which we have just spoken?
Are there not crimes for which the impalement of the Turks, the augers
of the Persians, the stake and the brand of the Iroquois Indians, are
inadequate tortures, and which are unpunished by society? Answer me, do
not these crimes exist?"

"Yes," answered Franz; "and it is to punish them that duelling is
tolerated."

"Ah, duelling," cried the count; "a pleasant manner, upon my soul, of
arriving at your end when that end is vengeance! A man has carried off
your mistress, a man has seduced your wife, a man has dishonored your
daughter; he has rendered the whole life of one who had the right to
expect from heaven that portion of happiness God his promised to every
one of his creatures, an existence of misery and infamy; and you think
you are avenged because you send a ball through the head, or pass a
sword through the breast, of that man who has planted madness in your
brain, and despair in your heart. And remember, moreover, that it is
often he who comes off victorious from the strife, absolved of all crime
in the eyes of the world. No, no," continued the count, "had I to avenge
myself, it is not thus I would take revenge."

"Then you disapprove of duelling? You would not fight a duel?" asked
Albert in his turn, astonished at this strange theory.

"Oh, yes," replied the count; "understand me, I would fight a duel for
a trifle, for an insult, for a blow; and the more so that, thanks to
my skill in all bodily exercises, and the indifference to danger I have
gradually acquired, I should be almost certain to kill my man. Oh,
I would fight for such a cause; but in return for a slow, profound,
eternal torture, I would give back the same, were it possible; an eye
for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, as the Orientalists say,--our masters
in everything,--those favored creatures who have formed for themselves a
life of dreams and a paradise of realities."

"But," said Franz to the count, "with this theory, which renders you at
once judge and executioner of your own cause, it would be difficult to
adopt a course that would forever prevent your falling under the power
of the law. Hatred is blind, rage carries you away; and he who pours out
vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught."

"Yes, if he be poor and inexperienced, not if he be rich and skilful;
besides, the worst that could happen to him would be the punishment
of which we have already spoken, and which the philanthropic French
Revolution has substituted for being torn to pieces by horses or broken
on the wheel. What matters this punishment, as long as he is avenged? On
my word, I almost regret that in all probability this miserable Peppino
will not be beheaded, as you might have had an opportunity then of
seeing how short a time the punishment lasts, and whether it is worth
even mentioning; but, really this is a most singular conversation for
the Carnival, gentlemen; how did it arise? Ah, I recollect, you asked
for a place at my window; you shall have it; but let us first sit down
to table, for here comes the servant to inform us that breakfast is
ready." As he spoke, a servant opened one of the four doors of the
apartment, saying--"Al suo commodo!" The two young men arose and entered
the breakfast-room.

During the meal, which was excellent, and admirably served, Franz looked
repeatedly at Albert, in order to observe the impressions which he
doubted not had been made on him by the words of their entertainer; but
whether with his usual carelessness he had paid but little attention to
him, whether the explanation of the Count of Monte Cristo with regard
to duelling had satisfied him, or whether the events which Franz knew
of had had their effect on him alone, he remarked that his companion did
not pay the least regard to them, but on the contrary ate like a man
who for the last four or five months had been condemned to partake of
Italian cookery--that is, the worst in the world. As for the count, he
just touched the dishes; he seemed to fulfil the duties of a host by
sitting down with his guests, and awaited their departure to be served
with some strange or more delicate food. This brought back to Franz, in
spite of himself, the recollection of the terror with which the count
had inspired the Countess G----, and her firm conviction that the man in
the opposite box was a vampire. At the end of the breakfast Franz took
out his watch. "Well," said the count, "what are you doing?"

"You must excuse us, count," returned Franz, "but we have still much to
do."

"What may that be?"

"We have no masks, and it is absolutely necessary to procure them."

"Do not concern yourself about that; we have, I think, a private room in
the Piazza del Popolo; I will have whatever costumes you choose brought
to us, and you can dress there."

"After the execution?" cried Franz.

"Before or after, whichever you please."

"Opposite the scaffold?"

"The scaffold forms part of the fete."

"Count, I have reflected on the matter," said Franz, "I thank you for
your courtesy, but I shall content myself with accepting a place in your
carriage and at your window at the Rospoli Palace, and I leave you at
liberty to dispose of my place at the Piazza del Popolo."

"But I warn you, you will lose a very curious sight," returned the
count.

"You will describe it to me," replied Franz, "and the recital from your
lips will make as great an impression on me as if I had witnessed it. I
have more than once intended witnessing an execution, but I have never
been able to make up my mind; and you, Albert?"

"I," replied the viscount,--"I saw Castaing executed, but I think I was
rather intoxicated that day, for I had quitted college the same morning,
and we had passed the previous night at a tavern."

"Besides, it is no reason because you have not seen an execution at
Paris, that you should not see one anywhere else; when you travel, it is
to see everything. Think what a figure you will make when you are asked,
'How do they execute at Rome?' and you reply, 'I do not know'! And,
besides, they say that the culprit is an infamous scoundrel, who killed
with a log of wood a worthy canon who had brought him up like his own
son. Diable, when a churchman is killed, it should be with a different
weapon than a log, especially when he has behaved like a father. If you
went to Spain, would you not see the bull-fight? Well, suppose it is
a bull-fight you are going to see? Recollect the ancient Romans of
the Circus, and the sports where they killed three hundred lions and
a hundred men. Think of the eighty thousand applauding spectators, the
sage matrons who took their daughters, and the charming Vestals who made
with the thumb of their white hands the fatal sign that said, 'Come,
despatch the dying.'"

"Shall you go, then, Albert?" asked Franz.

"Ma foi, yes; like you, I hesitated, but the count's eloquence decides
me."

"Let us go, then," said Franz, "since you wish it; but on our way to the
Piazza del Popolo, I wish to pass through the Corso. Is this possible,
count?"

"On foot, yes, in a carriage, no."

"I will go on foot, then."

"Is it important that you should go that way?"

"Yes, there is something I wish to see."

"Well, we will go by the Corso. We will send the carriage to wait for us
on the Piazza del Popolo, by the Strada del Babuino, for I shall be glad
to pass, myself, through the Corso, to see if some orders I have given
have been executed."

"Excellency," said a servant, opening the door, "a man in the dress of a
penitent wishes to speak to you."

"Ah, yes" returned the count, "I know who he is, gentlemen; will you
return to the salon? you will find good cigars on the centre table. I
will be with you directly." The young men rose and returned into the
salon, while the count, again apologizing, left by another door. Albert,
who was a great smoker, and who had considered it no small sacrifice to
be deprived of the cigars of the Cafe de Paris, approached the table,
and uttered a cry of joy at perceiving some veritable puros.

"Well," asked Franz, "what think you of the Count of Monte Cristo?"

"What do I think?" said Albert, evidently surprised at such a question
from his companion; "I think he is a delightful fellow, who does the
honors of his table admirably; who has travelled much, read much, is,
like Brutus, of the Stoic school, and moreover," added he, sending a
volume of smoke up towards the ceiling, "that he has excellent cigars."
Such was Albert's opinion of the count, and as Franz well knew that
Albert professed never to form an opinion except upon long reflection,
he made no attempt to change it. "But," said he, "did you observe one
very singular thing?"

"What?"

"How attentively he looked at you."

"At me?"

"Yes."--Albert reflected. "Ah," replied he, sighing, "that is not very
surprising; I have been more than a year absent from Paris, and
my clothes are of a most antiquated cut; the count takes me for a
provincial. The first opportunity you have, undeceive him, I beg, and
tell him I am nothing of the kind." Franz smiled; an instant after the
count entered.

"I am now quite at your service, gentlemen," said he. "The carriage is
going one way to the Piazza del Popolo, and we will go another; and,
if you please, by the Corso. Take some more of these cigars, M. de
Morcerf."

"With all my heart," returned Albert; "Italian cigars are horrible. When
you come to Paris, I will return all this."

"I will not refuse; I intend going there soon, and since you allow me,
I will pay you a visit. Come, we have not any time to lose, it is
half-past twelve--let us set off." All three descended; the coachman
received his master's orders, and drove down the Via del Babuino.
While the three gentlemen walked along the Piazza de Spagni and the
Via Frattina, which led directly between the Fiano and Rospoli palaces,
Franz's attention was directed towards the windows of that last palace,
for he had not forgotten the signal agreed upon between the man in the
mantle and the Transtevere peasant. "Which are your windows?" asked he
of the count, with as much indifference as he could assume. "The three
last," returned he, with a negligence evidently unaffected, for he could
not imagine with what intention the question was put. Franz glanced
rapidly towards the three windows. The side windows were hung with
yellow damask, and the centre one with white damask and a red cross. The
man in the mantle had kept his promise to the Transteverin, and there
could now be no doubt that he was the count. The three windows were
still untenanted. Preparations were making on every side; chairs were
placed, scaffolds were raised, and windows were hung with flags. The
masks could not appear; the carriages could not move about; but the
masks were visible behind the windows, the carriages, and the doors.

Franz, Albert, and the count continued to descend the Corso. As they
approached the Piazza del Popolo, the crowd became more dense, and
above the heads of the multitude two objects were visible: the obelisk,
surmounted by a cross, which marks the centre of the square, and in
front of the obelisk, at the point where the three streets, del Babuino,
del Corso, and di Ripetta, meet, the two uprights of the scaffold,
between which glittered the curved knife of the mandaia. At the corner
of the street they met the count's steward, who was awaiting his master.
The window, let at an exorbitant price, which the count had doubtless
wished to conceal from his guests, was on the second floor of the great
palace, situated between the Via del Babuino and the Monte Pincio. It
consisted, as we have said, of a small dressing-room, opening into a
bedroom, and, when the door of communication was shut, the inmates were
quite alone. On chairs were laid elegant masquerade costumes of blue and
white satin. "As you left the choice of your costumes to me," said the
count to the two friends, "I have had these brought, as they will be
the most worn this year; and they are most suitable, on account of the
confetti (sweetmeats), as they do not show the flour."

Franz heard the words of the count but imperfectly, and he perhaps did
not fully appreciate this new attention to their wishes; for he was
wholly absorbed by the spectacle that the Piazza del Popolo presented,
and by the terrible instrument that was in the centre. It was the first
time Franz had ever seen a guillotine,--we say guillotine, because
the Roman mandaia is formed on almost the same model as the French
instrument. [*] The knife, which is shaped like a crescent, that cuts
with the convex side, falls from a less height, and that is all the
difference. Two men, seated on the movable plank on which the victim
is laid, were eating their breakfasts, while waiting for the criminal.
Their repast consisted apparently of bread and sausages. One of them
lifted the plank, took out a flask of wine, drank some, and then passed
it to his companion. These two men were the executioner's assistants.
At this sight Franz felt the perspiration start forth upon his brow. The
prisoners, transported the previous evening from the Carcere Nuovo to
the little church of Santa Maria del Popolo, had passed the night, each
accompanied by two priests, in a chapel closed by a grating, before
which were two sentinels, who were relieved at intervals. A double line
of carbineers, placed on each side of the door of the church, reached
to the scaffold, and formed a circle around it, leaving a path about ten
feet wide, and around the guillotine a space of nearly a hundred feet.
All the rest of the square was paved with heads. Many women held their
infants on their shoulders, and thus the children had the best view.
The Monte Pincio seemed a vast amphitheatre filled with spectators; the
balconies of the two churches at the corner of the Via del Babuino and
the Via di Ripetta were crammed; the steps even seemed a parti-colored
sea, that was impelled towards the portico; every niche in the wall
held its living statue. What the count said was true--the most curious
spectacle in life is that of death. And yet, instead of the silence and
the solemnity demanded by the occasion, laughter and jests arose from
the crowd. It was evident that the execution was, in the eyes of the
people, only the commencement of the Carnival. Suddenly the tumult
ceased, as if by magic, and the doors of the church opened. A
brotherhood of penitents, clothed from head to foot in robes of gray
sackcloth, with holes for the eyes, and holding in their hands lighted
tapers, appeared first; the chief marched at the head. Behind the
penitents came a man of vast stature and proportions. He was naked, with
the exception of cloth drawers at the left side of which hung a large
knife in a sheath, and he bore on his right shoulder a heavy iron
sledge-hammer. This man was the executioner. He had, moreover, sandals
bound on his feet by cords. Behind the executioner came, in the order
in which they were to die, first Peppino and then Andrea. Each was
accompanied by two priests. Neither had his eyes bandaged. Peppino
walked with a firm step, doubtless aware of what awaited him. Andrea was
supported by two priests. Each of them, from time to time, kissed the
crucifix a confessor held out to them. At this sight alone Franz felt
his legs tremble under him. He looked at Albert--he was as white as his
shirt, and mechanically cast away his cigar, although he had not half
smoked it. The count alone seemed unmoved--nay, more, a slight color
seemed striving to rise in his pale cheeks. His nostrils dilated like
those of a wild beast that scents its prey, and his lips, half opened,
disclosed his white teeth, small and sharp like those of a jackal. And
yet his features wore an expression of smiling tenderness, such as Franz
had never before witnessed in them; his black eyes especially were full
of kindness and pity. However, the two culprits advanced, and as they
approached their faces became visible. Peppino was a handsome young
man of four or five and twenty, bronzed by the sun; he carried his head
erect, and seemed on the watch to see on which side his liberator
would appear. Andrea was short and fat; his visage, marked with brutal
cruelty, did not indicate age; he might be thirty. In prison he had
suffered his beard to grow; his head fell on his shoulder, his legs
bent beneath him, and his movements were apparently automatic and
unconscious.

* Dr. Guillotin got the idea of his famous machine from
witnessing an execution in Italy.

"I thought," said Franz to the count, "that you told me there would be
but one execution."

"I told you true," replied he coldly.

"And yet here are two culprits."

"Yes; but only one of these two is about to die; the other has many
years to live."

"If the pardon is to come, there is no time to lose."

"And see, here it is," said the count. At the moment when Peppino
reached the foot of the mandaia, a priest arrived in some haste,
forced his way through the soldiers, and, advancing to the chief of the
brotherhood, gave him a folded paper. The piercing eye of Peppino had
noticed all. The chief took the paper, unfolded it, and, raising his
hand, "Heaven be praised, and his holiness also," said he in a loud
voice; "here is a pardon for one of the prisoners!"

"A pardon!" cried the people with one voice--"a pardon!" At this cry
Andrea raised his head. "Pardon for whom?" cried he.

Peppino remained breathless. "A pardon for Peppino, called Rocca
Priori," said the principal friar. And he passed the paper to the
officer commanding the carbineers, who read and returned it to him.

"For Peppino!" cried Andrea, who seemed roused from the torpor in
which he had been plunged. "Why for him and not for me? We ought to die
together. I was promised he should die with me. You have no right to put
me to death alone. I will not die alone--I will not!" And he broke
from the priests struggling and raving like a wild beast, and striving
desperately to break the cords that bound his hands. The executioner
made a sign, and his two assistants leaped from the scaffold and seized
him. "What is going on?" asked Franz of the count; for, as all the talk
was in the Roman dialect, he had not perfectly understood it. "Do you
not see?" returned the count, "that this human creature who is about to
die is furious that his fellow-sufferer does not perish with him? and,
were he able, he would rather tear him to pieces with his teeth and
nails than let him enjoy the life he himself is about to be deprived
of. Oh, man, man--race of crocodiles," cried the count, extending his
clinched hands towards the crowd, "how well do I recognize you there,
and that at all times you are worthy of yourselves!" Meanwhile Andrea
and the two executioners were struggling on the ground, and he kept
exclaiming, "He ought to die!--he shall die!--I will not die alone!"

"Look, look," cried the count, seizing the young men's hands--"look, for
on my soul it is curious. Here is a man who had resigned himself to his
fate, who was going to the scaffold to die--like a coward, it is true,
but he was about to die without resistance. Do you know what gave him
strength?--do you know what consoled him? It was, that another partook
of his punishment--that another partook of his anguish--that another
was to die before him. Lead two sheep to the butcher's, two oxen to the
slaughterhouse, and make one of them understand that his companion will
not die; the sheep will bleat for pleasure, the ox will bellow with joy.
But man--man, whom God created in his own image--man, upon whom God has
laid his first, his sole commandment, to love his neighbor--man, to whom
God has given a voice to express his thoughts--what is his first cry
when he hears his fellow-man is saved? A blasphemy. Honor to man, this
masterpiece of nature, this king of the creation!" And the count burst
into a laugh; a terrible laugh, that showed he must have suffered
horribly to be able thus to laugh. However, the struggle still
continued, and it was dreadful to witness. The people all took part
against Andrea, and twenty thousand voices cried, "Put him to death! put
him to death!" Franz sprang back, but the count seized his arm, and held
him before the window. "What are you doing?" said he. "Do you pity him?
If you heard the cry of 'Mad dog!' you would take your gun--you would
unhesitatingly shoot the poor beast, who, after all, was only guilty of
having been bitten by another dog. And yet you pity a man who, without
being bitten by one of his race, has yet murdered his benefactor; and
who, now unable to kill any one, because his hands are bound, wishes to
see his companion in captivity perish. No, no--look, look!"

The command was needless. Franz was fascinated by the horrible
spectacle. The two assistants had borne Andrea to the scaffold, and
there, in spite of his struggles, his bites, and his cries, had forced
him to his knees. During this time the executioner had raised his mace,
and signed to them to get out of the way; the criminal strove to rise,
but, ere he had time, the mace fell on his left temple. A dull and heavy
sound was heard, and the man dropped like an ox on his face, and then
turned over on his back. The executioner let fall his mace, drew his
knife, and with one stroke opened his throat, and mounting on his
stomach, stamped violently on it with his feet. At every stroke a jet of
blood sprang from the wound.

This time Franz could contain himself no longer, but sank, half
fainting, into a seat. Albert, with his eyes closed, was standing
grasping the window-curtains. The count was erect and triumphant, like
the Avenging Angel!

 

 

Chapter 36. The Carnival at Rome.

When Franz recovered his senses, he saw Albert drinking a glass of
water, of which, to judge from his pallor, he stood in great need;
and the count, who was assuming his masquerade costume. He glanced
mechanically towards the square--the scene was wholly changed; scaffold,
executioners, victims, all had disappeared; only the people remained,
full of noise and excitement. The bell of Monte Citorio, which only
sounds on the pope's decease and the opening of the Carnival, was
ringing a joyous peal. "Well," asked he of the count, "what has, then,
happened?"

"Nothing," replied the count; "only, as you see, the Carnival has
commenced. Make haste and dress yourself."

"In fact," said Franz, "this horrible scene has passed away like a
dream."

"It is but a dream, a nightmare, that has disturbed you."

"Yes, that I have suffered; but the culprit?"

"That is a dream also; only he has remained asleep, while you have
awakened; and who knows which of you is the most fortunate?"

"But Peppino--what has become of him?"

"Peppino is a lad of sense, who, unlike most men, who are happy in
proportion as they are noticed, was delighted to see that the general
attention was directed towards his companion. He profited by this
distraction to slip away among the crowd, without even thanking the
worthy priests who accompanied him. Decidedly man is an ungrateful and
egotistical animal. But dress yourself; see, M. de Morcerf sets you
the example." Albert was drawing on the satin pantaloon over his black
trousers and varnished boots. "Well, Albert," said Franz, "do you feel
much inclined to join the revels? Come, answer frankly."

"Ma foi, no," returned Albert. "But I am really glad to have seen such
a sight; and I understand what the count said--that when you have once
habituated yourself to a similar spectacle, it is the only one that
causes you any emotion."

"Without reflecting that this is the only moment in which you can study
character," said the count; "on the steps of the scaffold death tears
off the mask that has been worn through life, and the real visage is
disclosed. It must be allowed that Andrea was not very handsome, the
hideous scoundrel! Come, dress yourselves, gentlemen, dress yourselves."
Franz felt it would be ridiculous not to follow his two companions'
example. He assumed his costume, and fastened on the mask that scarcely
equalled the pallor of his own face. Their toilet finished, they
descended; the carriage awaited them at the door, filled with sweetmeats
and bouquets. They fell into the line of carriages. It is difficult to
form an idea of the perfect change that had taken place. Instead of the
spectacle of gloomy and silent death, the Piazza del Popolo presented a
spectacle of gay and noisy mirth and revelry. A crowd of masks flowed
in from all sides, emerging from the doors, descending from the windows.
From every street and every corner drove carriages filled with clowns,
harlequins, dominoes, mummers, pantomimists, Transteverins, knights, and
peasants, screaming, fighting, gesticulating, throwing eggs filled with
flour, confetti, nosegays, attacking, with their sarcasms and their
missiles, friends and foes, companions and strangers, indiscriminately,
and no one took offence, or did anything but laugh. Franz and Albert
were like men who, to drive away a violent sorrow, have recourse to
wine, and who, as they drink and become intoxicated, feel a thick veil
drawn between the past and the present. They saw, or rather continued
to see, the image of what they had witnessed; but little by little the
general vertigo seized them, and they felt themselves obliged to take
part in the noise and confusion. A handful of confetti that came from
a neighboring carriage, and which, while it covered Morcerf and his
two companions with dust, pricked his neck and that portion of his face
uncovered by his mask like a hundred pins, incited him to join in the
general combat, in which all the masks around him were engaged. He rose
in his turn, and seizing handfuls of confetti and sweetmeats, with which
the carriage was filled, cast them with all the force and skill he was
master of.

The strife had fairly begun, and the recollection of what they had seen
half an hour before was gradually effaced from the young men's minds,
so much were they occupied by the gay and glittering procession they now
beheld. As for the Count of Monte Cristo, he had never for an instant
shown any appearance of having been moved. Imagine the large and
splendid Corso, bordered from one end to the other with lofty palaces,
with their balconies hung with carpets, and their windows with flags. At
these balconies are three hundred thousand spectators--Romans, Italians,
strangers from all parts of the world, the united aristocracy of birth,
wealth, and genius. Lovely women, yielding to the influence of the
scene, bend over their balconies, or lean from their windows, and shower
down confetti, which are returned by bouquets; the air seems darkened
with the falling confetti and flying flowers. In the streets the lively
crowd is dressed in the most fantastic costumes--gigantic cabbages walk
gravely about, buffaloes' heads bellow from men's shoulders, dogs walk
on their hind legs; in the midst of all this a mask is lifted, and, as
in Callot's Temptation of St. Anthony, a lovely face is exhibited,
which we would fain follow, but from which we are separated by troops
of fiends. This will give a faint idea of the Carnival at Rome. At the
second turn, the count stopped the carriage, and requested permission to
withdraw, leaving the vehicle at their disposal. Franz looked up--they
were opposite the Rospoli Palace. At the centre window, the one hung
with white damask with a red cross, was a blue domino, beneath
which Franz's imagination easily pictured the beautiful Greek of the
Argentina. "Gentlemen," said the count, springing out, "when you are
tired of being actors, and wish to become spectators of this scene,
you know you have places at my windows. In the meantime, dispose of my
coachman, my carriage, and my servants." We have forgotten to mention,
that the count's coachman was attired in a bear-skin, exactly resembling
Odry's in "The Bear and the Pasha;" and the two footmen behind were
dressed up as green monkeys, with spring masks, with which they made
grimaces at every one who passed. Franz thanked the count for his
attention. As for Albert, he was busily occupied throwing bouquets at a
carriage full of Roman peasants that was passing near him. Unfortunately
for him, the line of carriages moved on again, and while he descended
the Piazza del Popolo, the other ascended towards the Palazzo di
Venezia. "Ah, my dear fellow," said he to Franz; "you did not see?"

"What?"

"There,--that calash filled with Roman peasants."

"No."

"Well, I am convinced they are all charming women."

"How unfortunate that you were masked, Albert," said Franz; "here was an
opportunity of making up for past disappointments."

"Oh," replied he, half laughing, half serious; "I hope the Carnival will
not pass without some amends in one shape or the other."

But, in spite of Albert's hope, the day passed unmarked by any incident,
excepting two or three encounters with the carriage full of Roman
peasants. At one of these encounters, accidentally or purposely,
Albert's mask fell off. He instantly rose and cast the remainder of the
bouquets into the carriage. Doubtless one of the charming females
Albert had detected beneath their coquettish disguise was touched by his
gallantry; for, as the carriage of the two friends passed her, she threw
a bunch of violets. Albert seized it, and as Franz had no reason to
suppose it was meant for him, he suffered Albert to retain it. Albert
placed it in his button-hole, and the carriage went triumphantly on.

"Well," said Franz to him; "there is the beginning of an adventure."

"Laugh if you please--I really think so. So I will not abandon this
bouquet."

"Pardieu," returned Franz, laughing, "in token of your ingratitude."
The jest, however, soon appeared to become earnest; for when Albert and
Franz again encountered the carriage with the contadini, the one who had
thrown the violets to Albert, clapped her hands when she beheld them
in his button-hole. "Bravo, bravo," said Franz; "things go wonderfully.
Shall I leave you? Perhaps you would prefer being alone?"

"No," replied he; "I will not be caught like a fool at a first
disclosure by a rendezvous under the clock, as they say at the
opera-balls. If the fair peasant wishes to carry matters any further,
we shall find her, or rather, she will find us to-morrow; then she will
give me some sign or other, and I shall know what I have to do."

"On my word," said Franz, "you are wise as Nestor and prudent as
Ulysses, and your fair Circe must be very skilful or very powerful if
she succeed in changing you into a beast of any kind." Albert was right;
the fair unknown had resolved, doubtless, to carry the intrigue no
farther; for although the young men made several more turns, they did
not again see the calash, which had turned up one of the neighboring
streets. Then they returned to the Rospoli Palace; but the count and
the blue domino had also disappeared; the two windows, hung with yellow
damask, were still occupied by the persons whom the count had invited.
At this moment the same bell that had proclaimed the beginning of the
mascherata sounded the retreat. The file on the Corso broke the line,
and in a second all the carriages had disappeared. Franz and Albert were
opposite the Via delle Maratte; the coachman, without saying a word,
drove up it, passed along the Piazza di Spagni and the Rospoli Palace
and stopped at the door of the hotel. Signor Pastrini came to the door
to receive his guests. Franz hastened to inquire after the count, and to
express regret that he had not returned in sufficient time; but Pastrini
reassured him by saying that the Count of Monte Cristo had ordered a
second carriage for himself, and that it had gone at four o'clock to
fetch him from the Rospoli Palace. The count had, moreover, charged
him to offer the two friends the key of his box at the Argentina. Franz
questioned Albert as to his intentions; but Albert had great projects
to put into execution before going to the theatre; and instead of making
any answer, he inquired if Signor Pastrini could procure him a tailor.
"A tailor," said the host; "and for what?"

"To make us between now and to-morrow two Roman peasant costumes,"
returned Albert. The host shook his head. "To make you two costumes
between now and to-morrow? I ask your excellencies' pardon, but this
is quite a French demand; for the next week you will not find a single
tailor who would consent to sew six buttons on a waistcoat if you paid
him a crown a piece for each button."

"Then I must give up the idea?"

"No; we have them ready-made. Leave all to me; and to-morrow, when you
awake, you shall find a collection of costumes with which you will be
satisfied."

"My dear Albert," said Franz, "leave all to our host; he has already
proved himself full of resources; let us dine quietly, and afterwards go
and see 'The Algerian Captive.'"

"Agreed," returned Albert; "but remember, Signor Pastrini, that both my
friend and myself attach the greatest importance to having to-morrow the
costumes we have asked for." The host again assured them they might rely
on him, and that their wishes should be attended to; upon which Franz
and Albert mounted to their apartments, and proceeded to disencumber
themselves of their costumes. Albert, as he took off his dress,
carefully preserved the bunch of violets; it was his token reserved
for the morrow. The two friends sat down to table; but they could
not refrain from remarking the difference between the Count of Monte
Cristo's table and that of Signor Pastrini. Truth compelled Franz, in
spite of the dislike he seemed to have taken to the count, to confess
that the advantage was not on Pastrini's side. During dessert, the
servant inquired at what time they wished for the carriage. Albert
and Franz looked at each other, fearing really to abuse the count's
kindness. The servant understood them. "His excellency the Count of
Monte Cristo had," he said, "given positive orders that the carriage was
to remain at their lordships' orders all day, and they could therefore
dispose of it without fear of indiscretion."

They resolved to profit by the count's courtesy, and ordered the horses
to be harnessed, while they substituted evening dress for that which
they had on, and which was somewhat the worse for the numerous combats
they had sustained. This precaution taken, they went to the theatre,
and installed themselves in the count's box. During the first act, the
Countess G---- entered. Her first look was at the box where she had seen
the count the previous evening, so that she perceived Franz and Albert
in the place of the very person concerning whom she had expressed so
strange an opinion to Franz. Her opera-glass was so fixedly directed
towards them, that Franz saw it would be cruel not to satisfy her
curiosity; and, availing himself of one of the privileges of the
spectators of the Italian theatres, who use their boxes to hold
receptions, the two friends went to pay their respects to the countess.
Scarcely had they entered, when she motioned to Franz to assume the seat
of honor. Albert, in his turn, sat behind.

"Well," said she, hardly giving Franz time to sit down, "it seems you
have nothing better to do than to make the acquaintance of this new Lord
Ruthven, and you are already the best friends in the world."

"Without being so far advanced as that, my dear countess," returned
Franz, "I cannot deny that we have abused his good nature all day."

"All day?"

"Yes; this morning we breakfasted with him; we rode in his carriage all
day, and now we have taken possession of his box."

"You know him, then?"

"Yes, and no."

"How so?"

"It is a long story."

"Tell it to me."

"It would frighten you too much."

"So much the more reason."

"At least wait until the story has a conclusion."

"Very well; I prefer complete histories; but tell me how you made his
acquaintance? Did any one introduce you to him?"

"No; it was he who introduced himself to us."

"When?"

"Last night, after we left you."

"Through what medium?"

"The very prosaic one of our landlord."

"He is staying, then, at the Hotel de Londres with you?"

"Not only in the same hotel, but on the same floor."

"What is his name--for, of course, you know?"

"The Count of Monte Cristo."

"That is not a family name?"

"No, it is the name of the island he has purchased."

"And he is a count?"

"A Tuscan count."

"Well, we must put up with that," said the countess, who was herself
from one of the oldest Venetian families. "What sort of a man is he?"

"Ask the Vicomte de Morcerf."

"You hear, M. de Morcerf, I am referred to you," said the countess.

"We should be very hard to please, madam," returned Albert, "did we not
think him delightful. A friend of ten years' standing could not have
done more for us, or with a more perfect courtesy."

"Come," observed the countess, smiling, "I see my vampire is only some
millionaire, who has taken the appearance of Lara in order to avoid
being confounded with M. de Rothschild; and you have seen her?"

"Her?"

"The beautiful Greek of yesterday."

"No; we heard, I think, the sound of her guzla, but she remained
perfectly invisible."

"When you say invisible," interrupted Albert, "it is only to keep up
the mystery; for whom do you take the blue domino at the window with the
white curtains?"

"Where was this window with white hangings?" asked the countess.

"At the Rospoli Palace."

"The count had three windows at the Rospoli Palace?"

"Yes. Did you pass through the Corso?"

"Yes."

"Well, did you notice two windows hung with yellow damask, and one with
white damask with a red cross? Those were the count's windows."

"Why, he must be a nabob. Do you know what those three windows were
worth?"

"Two or three hundred Roman crowns?"

"Two or three thousand."

"The deuce."

"Does his island produce him such a revenue?"

"It does not bring him a baiocco."

"Then why did he purchase it?"

"For a whim."

"He is an original, then?"

"In reality," observed Albert, "he seemed to me somewhat eccentric; were
he at Paris, and a frequenter of the theatres, I should say he was a
poor devil literally mad. This morning he made two or three exits worthy
of Didier or Anthony." At this moment a fresh visitor entered, and,
according to custom, Franz gave up his seat to him. This circumstance
had, moreover, the effect of changing the conversation; an hour
afterwards the two friends returned to their hotel. Signor Pastrini
had already set about procuring their disguises for the morrow; and he
assured them that they would be perfectly satisfied. The next morning,
at nine o'clock, he entered Franz's room, followed by a tailor, who
had eight or ten Roman peasant costumes on his arm; they selected two
exactly alike, and charged the tailor to sew on each of their hats about
twenty yards of ribbon, and to procure them two of the long silk sashes
of different colors with which the lower orders decorate themselves on
fete-days. Albert was impatient to see how he looked in his new dress--a
jacket and breeches of blue velvet, silk stockings with clocks, shoes
with buckles, and a silk waistcoat. This picturesque attire set him off
to great advantage; and when he had bound the scarf around his waist,
and when his hat, placed coquettishly on one side, let fall on his
shoulder a stream of ribbons, Franz was forced to confess that costume
has much to do with the physical superiority we accord to certain
nations. The Turks used to be so picturesque with their long and flowing
robes, but are they not now hideous with their blue frocks buttoned up
to the chin, and their red caps, which make them look like a bottle of
wine with a red seal? Franz complimented Albert, who looked at himself
in the glass with an unequivocal smile of satisfaction. They were thus
engaged when the Count of Monte Cristo entered.

"Gentlemen," said he, "although a companion is agreeable, perfect
freedom is sometimes still more agreeable. I come to say that to-day,
and for the remainder of the Carnival, I leave the carriage entirely at
your disposal. The host will tell you I have three or four more, so that
you will not inconvenience me in any way. Make use of it, I pray you,
for your pleasure or your business."

The young men wished to decline, but they could find no good reason for
refusing an offer which was so agreeable to them. The Count of Monte
Cristo remained a quarter of an hour with them, conversing on all
subjects with the greatest ease. He was, as we have already said,
perfectly well acquainted with the literature of all countries. A glance
at the walls of his salon proved to Franz and Albert that he was a
connoisseur of pictures. A few words he let fall showed them that he was
no stranger to the sciences, and he seemed much occupied with chemistry.
The two friends did not venture to return the count the breakfast he had
given them; it would have been too absurd to offer him in exchange for
his excellent table the very inferior one of Signor Pastrini. They told
him so frankly, and he received their excuses with the air of a man who
appreciated their delicacy. Albert was charmed with the count's manners,
and he was only prevented from recognizing him for a perfect gentleman
by reason of his varied knowledge. The permission to do what he liked
with the carriage pleased him above all, for the fair peasants had
appeared in a most elegant carriage the preceding evening, and Albert
was not sorry to be upon an equal footing with them. At half-past one
they descended, the coachman and footman had put on their livery over
their disguises, which gave them a more ridiculous appearance than
ever, and which gained them the applause of Franz and Albert. Albert
had fastened the faded bunch of violets to his button-hole. At the first
sound of the bell they hastened into the Corso by the Via Vittoria. At
the second turn, a bunch of fresh violets, thrown from a carriage filled
with harlequins, indicated to Albert that, like himself and his friend,
the peasants had changed their costume, also; and whether it was the
result of chance, or whether a similar feeling had possessed them both,
while he had changed his costume they had assumed his.

Albert placed the fresh bouquet in his button-hole, but he kept the
faded one in his hand; and when he again met the calash, he raised it to
his lips, an action which seemed greatly to amuse not only the fair lady
who had thrown it, but her joyous companions also. The day was as gay
as the preceding one, perhaps even more animated and noisy; the count
appeared for an instant at his window, but when they again passed he had
disappeared. It is almost needless to say that the flirtation between
Albert and the fair peasant continued all day. In the evening, on his
return, Franz found a letter from the embassy, informing him that he
would have the honor of being received by his holiness the next day. At
each previous visit he had made to Rome, he had solicited and obtained
the same favor; and incited as much by a religious feeling as by
gratitude, he was unwilling to quit the capital of the Christian world
without laying his respectful homage at the feet of one of St. Peter's
successors who has set the rare example of all the virtues. He did
not then think of the Carnival, for in spite of his condescension and
touching kindness, one cannot incline one's self without awe before the
venerable and noble old man called Gregory XVI. On his return from the
Vatican, Franz carefully avoided the Corso; he brought away with him a
treasure of pious thoughts, to which the mad gayety of the maskers
would have been profanation. At ten minutes past five Albert entered
overjoyed. The harlequin had reassumed her peasant's costume, and as
she passed she raised her mask. She was charming. Franz congratulated
Albert, who received his congratulations with the air of a man conscious
that they are merited. He had recognized by certain unmistakable signs,
that his fair incognita belonged to the aristocracy. He had made up his
mind to write to her the next day. Franz remarked, while he gave these
details, that Albert seemed to have something to ask of him, but that he
was unwilling to ask it. He insisted upon it, declaring beforehand
that he was willing to make any sacrifice the other wished. Albert let
himself be pressed just as long as friendship required, and then avowed
to Franz that he would do him a great favor by allowing him to occupy
the carriage alone the next day. Albert attributed to Franz's absence
the extreme kindness of the fair peasant in raising her mask. Franz
was not sufficiently egotistical to stop Albert in the middle of an
adventure that promised to prove so agreeable to his curiosity and so
flattering to his vanity. He felt assured that the perfect indiscretion
of his friend would duly inform him of all that happened; and as, during
three years that he had travelled all over Italy, a similar piece of
good fortune had never fallen to his share, Franz was by no means sorry
to learn how to act on such an occasion. He therefore promised Albert
that he would content himself the morrow with witnessing the Carnival
from the windows of the Rospoli Palace.

The next morning he saw Albert pass and repass, holding an enormous
bouquet, which he doubtless meant to make the bearer of his amorous
epistle. This belief was changed into certainty when Franz saw the
bouquet (conspicuous by a circle of white camellias) in the hand of a
charming harlequin dressed in rose-colored satin. The evening was no
longer joy, but delirium. Albert nothing doubted but that the fair
unknown would reply in the same manner. Franz anticipated his wishes by
saying that the noise fatigued him, and that he should pass the next day
in writing and looking over his journal. Albert was not deceived, for
the next evening Franz saw him enter triumphantly shaking a folded paper
which he held by one corner. "Well," said he, "was I mistaken?"

"She has answered you!" cried Franz.

"Read." This word was pronounced in a manner impossible to describe.
Franz took the letter, and read:--

Tuesday evening, at seven o'clock, descend from your carriage opposite
the Via dei Pontefici, and follow the Roman peasant who snatches your
torch from you. When you arrive at the first step of the church of
San Giacomo, be sure to fasten a knot of rose-colored ribbons to the
shoulder of your harlequin costume, in order that you may be recognized.
Until then you will not see me.

Constancy and Discretion.

"Well," asked he, when Franz had finished, "what do you think of that?"

"I think that the adventure is assuming a very agreeable appearance."

"I think so, also," replied Albert; "and I very much fear you will go
alone to the Duke of Bracciano's ball." Franz and Albert had received
that morning an invitation from the celebrated Roman banker. "Take care,
Albert," said Franz. "All the nobility of Rome will be present, and if
your fair incognita belong to the higher class of society, she must go
there."

"Whether she goes there or not, my opinion is still the same," returned
Albert. "You have read the letter?"

"Yes."

"You know how imperfectly the women of the mezzo cito are educated in
Italy?" (This is the name of the lower class.)

"Yes."

"Well, read the letter again. Look at the writing, and find if you
can, any blemish in the language or orthography." (The writing was, in
reality, charming, and the orthography irreproachable.) "You are born to
good fortune," said Franz, as he returned the letter.

"Laugh as much as you will," replied Albert, "I am in love."

"You alarm me," cried Franz. "I see that I shall not only go alone to
the Duke of Bracciano's, but also return to Florence alone."

"If my unknown be as amiable as she is beautiful," said Albert, "I shall
fix myself at Rome for six weeks, at least. I adore Rome, and I have
always had a great taste for archaeology."

"Come, two or three more such adventures, and I do not despair of seeing
you a member of the Academy." Doubtless Albert was about to discuss
seriously his right to the academic chair when they were informed that
dinner was ready. Albert's love had not taken away his appetite. He
hastened with Franz to seat himself, free to recommence the discussion
after dinner. After dinner, the Count of Monte Cristo was announced.
They had not seen him for two days. Signor Pastrini informed them that
business had called him to Civita Vecchia. He had started the previous
evening, and had only returned an hour since. He was charming. Whether
he kept a watch over himself, or whether by accident he did not sound
the acrimonious chords that in other circumstances had been touched, he
was to-night like everybody else. The man was an enigma to Franz. The
count must feel sure that Franz recognized him; and yet he had not let
fall a single word indicating any previous acquaintance between them.
On his side, however great Franz's desire was to allude to their former
interview, the fear of being disagreeable to the man who had loaded him
and his friend with kindness prevented him from mentioning it. The
count had learned that the two friends had sent to secure a box at the
Argentina Theatre, and were told they were all let. In consequence, he
brought them the key of his own--at least such was the apparent motive
of his visit. Franz and Albert made some difficulty, alleging their fear
of depriving him of it; but the count replied that, as he was going to
the Palli Theatre, the box at the Argentina Theatre would be lost if
they did not profit by it. This assurance determined the two friends to
accept it.

Franz had by degrees become accustomed to the count's pallor, which had
so forcibly struck him at their first meeting. He could not refrain from
admiring the severe beauty of his features, the only defect, or rather
the principal quality of which was the pallor. Truly, a Byronic hero!
Franz could not, we will not say see him, but even think of him without
imagining his stern head upon Manfred's shoulders, or beneath Lara's
helmet. His forehead was marked with the line that indicates the
constant presence of bitter thoughts; he had the fiery eyes that seem
to penetrate to the very soul, and the haughty and disdainful upper lip
that gives to the words it utters a peculiar character that impresses
them on the minds of those to whom they are addressed. The count was no
longer young. He was at least forty; and yet it was easy to understand
that he was formed to rule the young men with whom he associated at
present. And, to complete his resemblance with the fantastic heroes of
the English poet, the count seemed to have the power of fascination.
Albert was constantly expatiating on their good fortune in meeting such
a man. Franz was less enthusiastic; but the count exercised over him
also the ascendency a strong mind always acquires over a mind less
domineering. He thought several times of the project the count had
of visiting Paris; and he had no doubt but that, with his eccentric
character, his characteristic face, and his colossal fortune, he would
produce a great effect there. And yet he did not wish to be at Paris
when the count was there. The evening passed as evenings mostly pass at
Italian theatres; that is, not in listening to the music, but in paying
visits and conversing. The Countess G---- wished to revive the subject of
the count, but Franz announced he had something far newer to tell her,
and, in spite of Albert's demonstrations of false modesty, he informed
the countess of the great event which had preoccupied them for the last
three days. As similar intrigues are not uncommon in Italy, if we may
credit travellers, the comtess did not manifest the least incredulity,
but congratulated Albert on his success. They promised, upon separating,
to meet at the Duke of Bracciano's ball, to which all Rome was invited.
The heroine of the bouquet kept her word; she gave Albert no sign of her
existence the morrow or the day after.

At length Tuesday came, the last and most tumultuous day of the
Carnival. On Tuesday, the theatres open at ten o'clock in the morning,
as Lent begins after eight at night. On Tuesday, all those who through
want of money, time, or enthusiasm, have not been to see the Carnival
before, mingle in the gayety, and contribute to the noise and
excitement. From two o'clock till five Franz and Albert followed in the
fete, exchanging handfuls of confetti with the other carriages and
the pedestrians, who crowded amongst the horses' feet and the carriage
wheels without a single accident, a single dispute, or a single fight.
The fetes are veritable pleasure days to the Italians. The author of
this history, who has resided five or six years in Italy, does not
recollect to have ever seen a ceremony interrupted by one of those
events so common in other countries. Albert was triumphant in his
harlequin costume. A knot of rose-colored ribbons fell from his shoulder
almost to the ground. In order that there might be no confusion, Franz
wore his peasant's costume.

As the day advanced, the tumult became greater. There was not on the
pavement, in the carriages, at the windows, a single tongue that was
silent, a single arm that did not move. It was a human storm, made up
of a thunder of cries, and a hail of sweetmeats, flowers, eggs, oranges,
and nosegays. At three o'clock the sound of fireworks, let off on the
Piazza del Popolo and the Piazza di Venezia (heard with difficulty amid
the din and confusion) announced that the races were about to begin. The
races, like the moccoli, are one of the episodes peculiar to the last
days of the Carnival. At the sound of the fireworks the carriages
instantly broke ranks, and retired by the adjacent streets. All these
evolutions are executed with an inconceivable address and marvellous
rapidity, without the police interfering in the matter. The pedestrians
ranged themselves against the walls; then the trampling of horses and
the clashing of steel were heard. A detachment of carbineers, fifteen
abreast, galloped up the Corso in order to clear it for the barberi.
When the detachment arrived at the Piazza di Venezia, a second volley of
fireworks was discharged, to announce that the street was clear. Almost
instantly, in the midst of a tremendous and general outcry, seven
or eight horses, excited by the shouts of three hundred thousand
spectators, passed by like lightning. Then the Castle of Saint Angelo
fired three cannon to indicate that number three had won. Immediately,
without any other signal, the carriages moved on, flowing on towards the
Corso, down all the streets, like torrents pent up for a while, which
again flow into the parent river; and the immense stream again continued
its course between its two granite banks.

A new source of noise and movement was added to the crowd. The sellers
of moccoletti entered on the scene. The moccoli, or moccoletti, are
candles which vary in size from the pascal taper to the rushlight, and
which give to each actor in the great final scene of the Carnival two
very serious problems to grapple with,--first, how to keep his own
moccoletto alight; and secondly, how to extinguish the moccoletti of
others. The moccoletto is like life: man has found but one means of
transmitting it, and that one comes from God. But he has discovered a
thousand means of taking it away, and the devil has somewhat aided him.
The moccoletto is kindled by approaching it to a light. But who can
describe the thousand means of extinguishing the moccoletto?--the
gigantic bellows, the monstrous extinguishers, the superhuman fans.
Every one hastened to purchase moccoletti--Franz and Albert among the
rest.

The night was rapidly approaching; and already, at the cry of
"Moccoletti!" repeated by the shrill voices of a thousand vendors, two
or three stars began to burn among the crowd. It was a signal. At the
end of ten minutes fifty thousand lights glittered, descending from
the Palazzo di Venezia to the Piazza del Popolo, and mounting from the
Piazzo del Popolo to the Palazzo di Venezia. It seemed like the fete of
jack-o'-lanterns. It is impossible to form any idea of it without having
seen it. Suppose that all the stars had descended from the sky and
mingled in a wild dance on the face of the earth; the whole accompanied
by cries that were never heard in any other part of the world. The
facchino follows the prince, the Transteverin the citizen, every one
blowing, extinguishing, relighting. Had old AEolus appeared at this
moment, he would have been proclaimed king of the moccoli, and Aquilo
the heir-presumptive to the throne. This battle of folly and flame
continued for two hours; the Corso was light as day; the features of
the spectators on the third and fourth stories were visible. Every five
minutes Albert took out his watch; at length it pointed to seven. The
two friends were in the Via dei Pontefici. Albert sprang out, bearing
his moccoletto in his hand. Two or three masks strove to knock his
moccoletto out of his hand; but Albert, a first-rate pugilist, sent them
rolling in the street, one after the other, and continued his course
towards the church of San Giacomo. The steps were crowded with masks,
who strove to snatch each other's torches. Franz followed Albert with
his eyes, and saw him mount the first step. Instantly a mask, wearing
the well-known costume of a peasant woman, snatched his moccoletto from
him without his offering any resistance. Franz was too far off to hear
what they said; but, without doubt, nothing hostile passed, for he saw
Albert disappear arm-in-arm with the peasant girl. He watched them pass
through the crowd for some time, but at length he lost sight of them in
the Via Macello. Suddenly the bell that gives the signal for the end of
the carnival sounded, and at the same instant all the moccoletti were
extinguished as if by enchantment. It seemed as though one immense blast
of the wind had extinguished every one. Franz found himself in utter
darkness. No sound was audible save that of the carriages that were
carrying the maskers home; nothing was visible save a few lights that
burnt behind the windows. The Carnival was over.

 

 

Chapter 37. The Catacombs of Saint Sebastian.

In his whole life, perhaps, Franz had never before experienced so sudden
an impression, so rapid a transition from gayety to sadness, as in this
moment. It seemed as though Rome, under the magic breath of some demon
of the night, had suddenly changed into a vast tomb. By a chance, which
added yet more to the intensity of the darkness, the moon, which was on
the wane, did not rise until eleven o'clock, and the streets which the
young man traversed were plunged in the deepest obscurity. The distance
was short, and at the end of ten minutes his carriage, or rather the
count's, stopped before the Hotel de Londres. Dinner was waiting, but
as Albert had told him that he should not return so soon, Franz sat down
without him. Signor Pastrini, who had been accustomed to see them dine
together, inquired into the cause of his absence, but Franz merely
replied that Albert had received on the previous evening an invitation
which he had accepted. The sudden extinction of the moccoletti, the
darkness which had replaced the light, and the silence which had
succeeded the turmoil, had left in Franz's mind a certain depression
which was not free from uneasiness. He therefore dined very silently, in
spite of the officious attention of his host, who presented himself two
or three times to inquire if he wanted anything.

Franz resolved to wait for Albert as late as possible. He ordered the
carriage, therefore, for eleven o'clock, desiring Signor Pastrini to
inform him the moment that Albert returned to the hotel. At eleven
o'clock Albert had not come back. Franz dressed himself, and went out,
telling his host that he was going to pass the night at the Duke of
Bracciano's. The house of the Duke of Bracciano is one of the most
delightful in Rome, the duchess, one of the last heiresses of the
Colonnas, does its honors with the most consummate grace, and thus their
fetes have a European celebrity. Franz and Albert had brought to Rome
letters of introduction to them, and their first question on his arrival
was to inquire the whereabouts of his travelling companion. Franz
replied that he had left him at the moment they were about to extinguish
the moccoli, and that he had lost sight of him in the Via Macello. "Then
he has not returned?" said the duke.

"I waited for him until this hour," replied Franz.

"And do you know whither he went?"

"No, not precisely; however, I think it was something very like a
rendezvous."

"Diavolo!" said the duke, "this is a bad day, or rather a bad night,
to be out late; is it not, countess!" These words were addressed to
the Countess G----, who had just arrived, and was leaning on the arm of
Signor Torlonia, the duke's brother.

"I think, on the contrary, that it is a charming night," replied the
countess, "and those who are here will complain of but one thing--its
too rapid flight."

"I am not speaking," said the duke with a smile, "of the persons who are
here; the men run no other danger than that of falling in love with
you, and the women of falling ill of jealousy at seeing you so lovely; I
meant persons who were out in the streets of Rome."

"Ah," asked the countess, "who is out in the streets of Rome at this
hour, unless it be to go to a ball?"

"Our friend, Albert de Morcerf, countess, whom I left in pursuit of his
unknown about seven o'clock this evening," said Franz, "and whom I have
not seen since."

"And don't you know where he is?"

"Not at all."

"Is he armed?"

"He is in masquerade."

"You should not have allowed him to go," said the duke to Franz; "you,
who know Rome better than he does."

"You might as well have tried to stop number three of the barberi, who
gained the prize in the race to-day," replied Franz; "and then moreover,
what could happen to him?"

"Who can tell? The night is gloomy, and the Tiber is very near the Via
Macello." Franz felt a shudder run through his veins at observing that
the feeling of the duke and the countess was so much in unison with his
own personal disquietude. "I informed them at the hotel that I had the
honor of passing the night here, duke," said Franz, "and desired them to
come and inform me of his return."

"Ah," replied the duke, "here I think, is one of my servants who is
seeking you."

The duke was not mistaken; when he saw Franz, the servant came up to
him. "Your excellency," he said, "the master of the Hotel de Londres has
sent to let you know that a man is waiting for you with a letter from
the Viscount of Morcerf."

"A letter from the viscount!" exclaimed Franz.

"Yes."

"And who is the man?"

"I do not know."

"Why did he not bring it to me here?"

"The messenger did not say."

"And where is the messenger?"

"He went away directly he saw me enter the ball-room to find you."

"Oh," said the countess to Franz, "go with all speed--poor young man!
Perhaps some accident has happened to him."

"I will hasten," replied Franz.

"Shall we see you again to give us any information?" inquired the
countess.

"Yes, if it is not any serious affair, otherwise I cannot answer as to
what I may do myself."

"Be prudent, in any event," said the countess.

"Oh, pray be assured of that." Franz took his hat and went away in
haste. He had sent away his carriage with orders for it to fetch him at
two o'clock; fortunately the Palazzo Bracciano, which is on one side
in the Corso, and on the other in the Square of the Holy Apostles, is
hardly ten minutes' walk from the Hotel de Londres. As he came near the
hotel, Franz saw a man in the middle of the street. He had no doubt
that it was the messenger from Albert. The man was wrapped up in a large
cloak. He went up to him, but, to his extreme astonishment, the stranger
first addressed him. "What wants your excellency of me?" inquired the
man, retreating a step or two, as if to keep on his guard.

"Are not you the person who brought me a letter," inquired Franz, "from
the Viscount of Morcerf?"

"Your excellency lodges at Pastrini's hotel?"

"I do."

"Your excellency is the travelling companion of the viscount?"

"I am."

"Your excellency's name"--

"Is the Baron Franz d'Epinay."

"Then it is to your excellency that this letter is addressed."

"Is there any answer?" inquired Franz, taking the letter from him.

"Yes--your friend at least hopes so."

"Come up-stairs with me, and I will give it to you."

"I prefer waiting here," said the messenger, with a smile.

"And why?"

"Your excellency will know when you have read the letter."

"Shall I find you here, then?"

"Certainly."

Franz entered the hotel. On the staircase he met Signor Pastrini.
"Well?" said the landlord.

"Well--what?" responded Franz.

"You have seen the man who desired to speak with you from your friend?"
he asked of Franz.

"Yes, I have seen him," he replied, "and he has handed this letter to
me. Light the candles in my apartment, if you please." The inn-keeper
gave orders to a servant to go before Franz with a light. The young man
had found Signor Pastrini looking very much alarmed, and this had
only made him the more anxious to read Albert's letter; and so he went
instantly towards the waxlight, and unfolded it. It was written and
signed by Albert. Franz read it twice before he could comprehend what it
contained. It was thus worded:--

My Dear Fellow,--The moment you have received this, have the kindness
to take the letter of credit from my pocket-book, which you will find
in the square drawer of the secretary; add your own to it, if it be
not sufficient. Run to Torlonia, draw from him instantly four thousand
piastres, and give them to the bearer. It is urgent that I should have
this money without delay. I do not say more, relying on you as you may
rely on me. Your friend,

Albert de Morcerf.

P.S.--I now believe in Italian banditti.

Below these lines were written, in a strange hand, the following in
Italian:--

Se alle sei della mattina le quattro mile piastre non sono nelle mie
mani, alla sette il conte Alberto avra cessato di vivere.

Luigi Vampa.

"If by six in the morning the four thousand piastres are not in my
hands, by seven o'clock the Count Albert will have ceased to live."

This second signature explained everything to Franz, who now understood
the objection of the messenger to coming up into the apartment; the
street was safer for him. Albert, then, had fallen into the hands of
the famous bandit chief, in whose existence he had for so long a time
refused to believe. There was no time to lose. He hastened to open the
secretary, and found the pocket-book in the drawer, and in it the letter
of credit. There were in all six thousand piastres, but of these six
thousand Albert had already expended three thousand. As to Franz, he had
no letter of credit, as he lived at Florence, and had only come to Rome
to pass seven or eight days; he had brought but a hundred louis, and
of these he had not more than fifty left. Thus seven or eight hundred
piastres were wanting to them both to make up the sum that Albert
required. True, he might in such a case rely on the kindness of Signor
Torlonia. He was, therefore, about to return to the Palazzo Bracciano
without loss of time, when suddenly a luminous idea crossed his mind. He
remembered the Count of Monte Cristo. Franz was about to ring for Signor
Pastrini, when that worthy presented himself. "My dear sir," he said,
hastily, "do you know if the count is within?"

"Yes, your excellency; he has this moment returned."

"Is he in bed?"

"I should say no."

"Then ring at his door, if you please, and request him to be so kind
as to give me an audience." Signor Pastrini did as he was desired,
and returning five minutes after, he said,--"The count awaits your
excellency." Franz went along the corridor, and a servant introduced him
to the count. He was in a small room which Franz had not yet seen, and
which was surrounded with divans. The count came towards him. "Well,
what good wind blows you hither at this hour?" said he; "have you come
to sup with me? It would be very kind of you."

"No; I have come to speak to you of a very serious matter."

"A serious matter," said the count, looking at Franz with the
earnestness usual to him; "and what may it be?"

"Are we alone?"

"Yes," replied the count, going to the door, and returning. Franz gave
him Albert's letter. "Read that," he said. The count read it.

"Well, well!" said he.

"Did you see the postscript?"

"I did, indeed.

"'Se alle sei della mattina le quattro mile piastre non sono nelle mie
mani, alla sette il conte Alberto avra cessato di vivere.

"'Luigi Vampa.'"

"What think you of that?" inquired Franz.

"Have you the money he demands?"

"Yes, all but eight hundred piastres." The count went to his secretary,
opened it, and pulling out a drawer filled with gold, said to Franz,--"I
hope you will not offend me by applying to any one but myself."

"You see, on the contrary, I come to you first and instantly," replied
Franz.

"And I thank you; have what you will;" and he made a sign to Franz to
take what he pleased.

"Is it absolutely necessary, then, to send the money to Luigi Vampa?"
asked the young man, looking fixedly in his turn at the count.

"Judge for yourself," replied he. "The postscript is explicit."

"I think that if you would take the trouble of reflecting, you could
find a way of simplifying the negotiation," said Franz.

"How so?" returned the count, with surprise.

"If we were to go together to Luigi Vampa, I am sure he would not refuse
you Albert's freedom."

"What influence can I possibly have over a bandit?"

"Have you not just rendered him a service that can never be forgotten?"

"What is that?"

"Have you not saved Peppino's life?"

"Well, well," said the count, "who told you that?"

"No matter; I know it." The count knit his brows, and remained silent an
instant. "And if I went to seek Vampa, would you accompany me?"

"If my society would not be disagreeable."

"Be it so. It is a lovely night, and a walk without Rome will do us both
good."

"Shall I take any arms?"

"For what purpose?"

"Any money?"

"It is useless. Where is the man who brought the letter?"

"In the street."

"He awaits the answer?"

"Yes."

"I must learn where we are going. I will summon him hither."

"It is useless; he would not come up."

"To your apartments, perhaps; but he will not make any difficulty at
entering mine." The count went to the window of the apartment that
looked on to the street, and whistled in a peculiar manner. The man in
the mantle quitted the wall, and advanced into the middle of the street.
"Salite!" said the count, in the same tone in which he would have
given an order to his servant. The messenger obeyed without the least
hesitation, but rather with alacrity, and, mounting the steps at a
bound, entered the hotel; five seconds afterwards he was at the door of
the room. "Ah, it is you, Peppino," said the count. But Peppino, instead
of answering, threw himself on his knees, seized the count's hand,
and covered it with kisses. "Ah," said the count, "you have, then, not
forgotten that I saved your life; that is strange, for it is a week
ago."

"No, excellency; and never shall I forget it," returned Peppino, with an
accent of profound gratitude.

"Never? That is a long time; but it is something that you believe so.
Rise and answer." Peppino glanced anxiously at Franz. "Oh, you may speak
before his excellency," said he; "he is one of my friends. You allow me
to give you this title?" continued the count in French, "it is necessary
to excite this man's confidence."

"You can speak before me," said Franz; "I am a friend of the count's."

"Good!" returned Peppino. "I am ready to answer any questions your
excellency may address to me."

"How did the Viscount Albert fall into Luigi's hands?"

"Excellency, the Frenchman's carriage passed several times the one in
which was Teresa."

"The chief's mistress?"

"Yes. The Frenchman threw her a bouquet; Teresa returned it--all this
with the consent of the chief, who was in the carriage."

"What?" cried Franz, "was Luigi Vampa in the carriage with the Roman
peasants?"

"It was he who drove, disguised as the coachman," replied Peppino.

"Well?" said the count.

"Well, then, the Frenchman took off his mask; Teresa, with the chief's
consent, did the same. The Frenchman asked for a rendezvous; Teresa gave
him one--only, instead of Teresa, it was Beppo who was on the steps of
the church of San Giacomo."

"What!" exclaimed Franz, "the peasant girl who snatched his mocoletto
from him"--

"Was a lad of fifteen," replied Peppino. "But it was no disgrace to your
friend to have been deceived; Beppo has taken in plenty of others."

"And Beppo led him outside the walls?" said the count.

"Exactly so; a carriage was waiting at the end of the Via Macello. Beppo
got in, inviting the Frenchman to follow him, and he did not wait to be
asked twice. He gallantly offered the right-hand seat to Beppo, and sat
by him. Beppo told him he was going to take him to a villa a league from
Rome; the Frenchman assured him he would follow him to the end of the
world. The coachman went up the Via di Ripetta and the Porta San Paola;
and when they were two hundred yards outside, as the Frenchman became
somewhat too forward, Beppo put a brace of pistols to his head, the
coachman pulled up and did the same. At the same time, four of the band,
who were concealed on the banks of the Almo, surrounded the carriage.
The Frenchman made some resistance, and nearly strangled Beppo; but he
could not resist five armed men, and was forced to yield. They made
him get out, walk along the banks of the river, and then brought him
to Teresa and Luigi, who were waiting for him in the catacombs of St.
Sebastian."

"Well," said the count, turning towards Franz, "it seems to me that this
is a very likely story. What do you say to it?"

"Why, that I should think it very amusing," replied Franz, "if it had
happened to any one but poor Albert."

"And, in truth, if you had not found me here," said the count, "it might
have proved a gallant adventure which would have cost your friend dear;
but now, be assured, his alarm will be the only serious consequence."

"And shall we go and find him?" inquired Franz.

"Oh, decidedly, sir. He is in a very picturesque place--do you know the
catacombs of St. Sebastian?"

"I was never in them; but I have often resolved to visit them."

"Well, here is an opportunity made to your hand, and it would be
difficult to contrive a better. Have you a carriage?"

"No."

"That is of no consequence; I always have one ready, day and night."

"Always ready?"

"Yes. I am a very capricious being, and I should tell you that sometimes
when I rise, or after my dinner, or in the middle of the night, I
resolve on starting for some particular point, and away I go." The count
rang, and a footman appeared. "Order out the carriage," he said, "and
remove the pistols which are in the holsters. You need not awaken the
coachman; Ali will drive." In a very short time the noise of wheels
was heard, and the carriage stopped at the door. The count took out his
watch. "Half-past twelve," he said. "We might start at five o'clock and
be in time, but the delay may cause your friend to pass an uneasy night,
and therefore we had better go with all speed to extricate him from the
hands of the infidels. Are you still resolved to accompany me?"

"More determined than ever."

"Well, then, come along."

Franz and the count went downstairs, accompanied by Peppino. At the door
they found the carriage. Ali was on the box, in whom Franz recognized
the dumb slave of the grotto of Monte Cristo. Franz and the count got
into the carriage. Peppino placed himself beside Ali, and they set off
at a rapid pace. Ali had received his instructions, and went down the
Corso, crossed the Campo Vaccino, went up the Strada San Gregorio,
and reached the gates of St. Sebastian. Then the porter raised some
difficulties, but the Count of Monte Cristo produced a permit from the
governor of Rome, allowing him to leave or enter the city at any hour of
the day or night; the portcullis was therefore raised, the porter had
a louis for his trouble, and they went on their way. The road which the
carriage now traversed was the ancient Appian Way, and bordered with
tombs. From time to time, by the light of the moon, which began to rise,
Franz imagined that he saw something like a sentinel appear at various
points among the ruins, and suddenly retreat into the darkness on a
signal from Peppino. A short time before they reached the Baths of
Caracalla the carriage stopped, Peppino opened the door, and the count
and Franz alighted.

"In ten minutes," said the count to his companion, "we shall be there."

He then took Peppino aside, gave him an order in a low voice, and
Peppino went away, taking with him a torch, brought with them in the
carriage. Five minutes elapsed, during which Franz saw the shepherd
going along a narrow path that led over the irregular and broken surface
of the Campagna; and finally he disappeared in the midst of the tall
red herbage, which seemed like the bristling mane of an enormous lion.
"Now," said the count, "let us follow him." Franz and the count in their
turn then advanced along the same path, which, at the distance of
a hundred paces, led them over a declivity to the bottom of a small
valley. They then perceived two men conversing in the obscurity. "Ought
we to go on?" asked Franz of the count; "or shall we wait awhile?"

"Let us go on; Peppino will have warned the sentry of our coming." One
of the two men was Peppino, and the other a bandit on the lookout. Franz
and the count advanced, and the bandit saluted them. "Your excellency,"
said Peppino, addressing the count, "if you will follow me, the opening
of the catacombs is close at hand."

"Go on, then," replied the count. They came to an opening behind a clump
of bushes and in the midst of a pile of rocks, by which a man could
scarcely pass. Peppino glided first into this crevice; after they got
along a few paces the passage widened. Peppino passed, lighted his
torch, and turned to see if they came after him. The count first reached
an open space and Franz followed him closely. The passageway sloped in
a gentle descent, enlarging as they proceeded; still Franz and the count
were compelled to advance in a stooping posture, and were scarcely able
to proceed abreast of one another. They went on a hundred and fifty
paces in this way, and then were stopped by, "Who comes there?" At the
same time they saw the reflection of a torch on a carbine barrel.

"A friend!" responded Peppino; and, advancing alone towards the sentry,
he said a few words to him in a low tone; and then he, like the first,
saluted the nocturnal visitors, making a sign that they might proceed.

Behind the sentinel was a staircase with twenty steps. Franz and the
count descended these, and found themselves in a mortuary chamber. Five
corridors diverged like the rays of a star, and the walls, dug into
niches, which were arranged one above the other in the shape of
coffins, showed that they were at last in the catacombs. Down one of the
corridors, whose extent it was impossible to determine, rays of light
were visible. The count laid his hand on Franz's shoulder. "Would you
like to see a camp of bandits in repose?" he inquired.

"Exceedingly," replied Franz.

"Come with me, then. Peppino, put out the torch." Peppino obeyed, and
Franz and the count were in utter darkness, except that fifty paces in
advance of them a reddish glare, more evident since Peppino had put out
his torch, was visible along the wall. They advanced silently, the count
guiding Franz as if he had the singular faculty of seeing in the dark.
Franz himself, however, saw his way more plainly in proportion as he
went on towards the light, which served in some manner as a guide. Three
arcades were before them, and the middle one was used as a door. These
arcades opened on one side into the corridor where the count and Franz
were, and on the other into a large square chamber, entirely surrounded
by niches similar to those of which we have spoken. In the midst of this
chamber were four stones, which had formerly served as an altar, as was
evident from the cross which still surmounted them. A lamp, placed at
the base of a pillar, lighted up with its pale and flickering flame the
singular scene which presented itself to the eyes of the two visitors
concealed in the shadow. A man was seated with his elbow leaning on the
column, and was reading with his back turned to the arcades, through the
openings of which the new-comers contemplated him. This was the chief
of the band, Luigi Vampa. Around him, and in groups, according to their
fancy, lying in their mantles, or with their backs against a sort of
stone bench, which went all round the columbarium, were to be seen
twenty brigands or more, each having his carbine within reach. At the
other end, silent, scarcely visible, and like a shadow, was a
sentinel, who was walking up and down before a grotto, which was only
distinguishable because in that spot the darkness seemed more dense than
elsewhere. When the count thought Franz had gazed sufficiently on this
picturesque tableau, he raised his finger to his lips, to warn him to be
silent, and, ascending the three steps which led to the corridor of
the columbarium, entered the chamber by the middle arcade, and advanced
towards Vampa, who was so intent on the book before him that he did not
hear the noise of his footsteps.

"Who comes there?" cried the sentinel, who was less abstracted, and who
saw by the lamp-light a shadow approaching his chief. At this challenge,
Vampa rose quickly, drawing at the same moment a pistol from his girdle.
In a moment all the bandits were on their feet, and twenty carbines were
levelled at the count. "Well," said he in a voice perfectly calm, and no
muscle of his countenance disturbed, "well, my dear Vampa, it appears to
me that you receive a friend with a great deal of ceremony."

"Ground arms," exclaimed the chief, with an imperative sign of the hand,
while with the other he took off his hat respectfully; then, turning to
the singular personage who had caused this scene, he said, "Your pardon,
your excellency, but I was so far from expecting the honor of a visit,
that I did not really recognize you."

"It seems that your memory is equally short in everything, Vampa," said
the count, "and that not only do you forget people's faces, but also the
conditions you make with them."

"What conditions have I forgotten, your excellency?" inquired the
bandit, with the air of a man who, having committed an error, is anxious
to repair it.

"Was it not agreed," asked the count, "that not only my person, but also
that of my friends, should be respected by you?"

"And how have I broken that treaty, your excellency?"

"You have this evening carried off and conveyed hither the Vicomte
Albert de Morcerf. Well," continued the count, in a tone that made
Franz shudder, "this young gentleman is one of my friends--this young
gentleman lodges in the same hotel as myself--this young gentleman has
been up and down the Corso for eight hours in my private carriage, and
yet, I repeat to you, you have carried him off, and conveyed him hither,
and," added the count, taking the letter from his pocket, "you have set
a ransom on him, as if he were an utter stranger."

"Why did you not tell me all this--you?" inquired the brigand chief,
turning towards his men, who all retreated before his look. "Why have
you caused me thus to fail in my word towards a gentleman like the
count, who has all our lives in his hands? By heavens, if I thought one
of you knew that the young gentleman was the friend of his excellency, I
would blow his brains out with my own hand!"

"Well," said the count, turning towards Franz, "I told you there was
some mistake in this."

"Are you not alone?" asked Vampa with uneasiness.

"I am with the person to whom this letter was addressed, and to whom
I desired to prove that Luigi Vampa was a man of his word. Come, your
excellency," the count added, turning to Franz, "here is Luigi Vampa,
who will himself express to you his deep regret at the mistake he has
committed." Franz approached, the chief advancing several steps to meet
him. "Welcome among us, your excellency," he said to him; "you heard
what the count just said, and also my reply; let me add that I would
not for the four thousand piastres at which I had fixed your friend's
ransom, that this had happened."

"But," said Franz, looking round him uneasily, "where is the
Viscount?--I do not see him."

"Nothing has happened to him, I hope," said the count frowningly.

"The prisoner is there," replied Vampa, pointing to the hollow space in
front of which the bandit was on guard, "and I will go myself and tell
him he is free." The chief went towards the place he had pointed out
as Albert's prison, and Franz and the count followed him. "What is the
prisoner doing?" inquired Vampa of the sentinel.

"Ma foi, captain," replied the sentry, "I do not know; for the last hour
I have not heard him stir."

"Come in, your excellency," said Vampa. The count and Franz ascended
seven or eight steps after the chief, who drew back a bolt and opened
a door. Then, by the gleam of a lamp, similar to that which lighted the
columbarium, Albert was to be seen wrapped up in a cloak which one of
the bandits had lent him, lying in a corner in profound slumber. "Come,"
said the count, smiling with his own peculiar smile, "not so bad for a
man who is to be shot at seven o'clock to-morrow morning." Vampa looked
at Albert with a kind of admiration; he was not insensible to such a
proof of courage.

"You are right, your excellency," he said; "this must be one of your
friends." Then going to Albert, he touched him on the shoulder, saying,
"Will your excellency please to awaken?" Albert stretched out his arms,
rubbed his eyelids, and opened his eyes. "Oh," said he, "is it you,
captain? You should have allowed me to sleep. I had such a delightful
dream. I was dancing the galop at Torlonia's with the Countess G----."
Then he drew his watch from his pocket, that he might see how time sped.

"Half-past one only?" said he. "Why the devil do you rouse me at this
hour?"

"To tell you that you are free, your excellency."

"My dear fellow," replied Albert, with perfect ease of mind, "remember,
for the future, Napoleon's maxim, 'Never awaken me but for bad news;' if
you had let me sleep on, I should have finished my galop, and have been
grateful to you all my life. So, then, they have paid my ransom?"

"No, your excellency."

"Well, then, how am I free?"

"A person to whom I can refuse nothing has come to demand you."

"Come hither?"

"Yes, hither."

"Really? Then that person is a most amiable person." Albert looked
around and perceived Franz. "What," said he, "is it you, my dear Franz,
whose devotion and friendship are thus displayed?"

"No, not I," replied Franz, "but our neighbor, the Count of Monte
Cristo."

"Oh, my dear count," said Albert gayly, arranging his cravat and
wristbands, "you are really most kind, and I hope you will consider
me as under eternal obligations to you, in the first place for the
carriage, and in the next for this visit," and he put out his hand to
the Count, who shuddered as he gave his own, but who nevertheless did
give it. The bandit gazed on this scene with amazement; he was evidently
accustomed to see his prisoners tremble before him, and yet here was one
whose gay temperament was not for a moment altered; as for Franz, he was
enchanted at the way in which Albert had sustained the national honor in
the presence of the bandit. "My dear Albert," he said, "if you will make
haste, we shall yet have time to finish the night at Torlonia's. You
may conclude your interrupted galop, so that you will owe no ill-will to
Signor Luigi, who has, indeed, throughout this whole affair acted like a
gentleman."

"You are decidedly right, and we may reach the Palazzo by two o'clock.
Signor Luigi," continued Albert, "is there any formality to fulfil
before I take leave of your excellency?"

"None, sir," replied the bandit, "you are as free as air."

"Well, then, a happy and merry life to you. Come, gentlemen, come."

And Albert, followed by Franz and the count, descended the staircase,
crossed the square chamber, where stood all the bandits, hat in hand.
"Peppino," said the brigand chief, "give me the torch."

"What are you going to do?" inquired the count.

"I will show you the way back myself," said the captain; "that is
the least honor that I can render to your excellency." And taking the
lighted torch from the hands of the herdsman, he preceded his guests,
not as a servant who performs an act of civility, but like a king who
precedes ambassadors. On reaching the door, he bowed. "And now, your
excellency," added he, "allow me to repeat my apologies, and I hope you
will not entertain any resentment at what has occurred."

"No, my dear Vampa," replied the count; "besides, you compensate for
your mistakes in so gentlemanly a way, that one almost feels obliged to
you for having committed them."

"Gentlemen," added the chief, turning towards the young men, "perhaps
the offer may not appear very tempting to you; but if you should ever
feel inclined to pay me a second visit, wherever I may be, you shall be
welcome." Franz and Albert bowed. The count went out first, then Albert.
Franz paused for a moment. "Has your excellency anything to ask me?"
said Vampa with a smile.

"Yes, I have," replied Franz; "I am curious to know what work you were
perusing with so much attention as we entered."

"Caesar's 'Commentaries,'" said the bandit, "it is my favorite work."

"Well, are you coming?" asked Albert.

"Yes," replied Franz, "here I am," and he, in his turn, left the caves.
They advanced to the plain. "Ah, your pardon," said Albert, turning
round; "will you allow me, captain?" And he lighted his cigar at Vampa's
torch. "Now, my dear count," he said, "let us on with all the speed
we may. I am enormously anxious to finish my night at the Duke of
Bracciano's." They found the carriage where they had left it. The count
said a word in Arabic to Ali, and the horses went on at great speed. It
was just two o'clock by Albert's watch when the two friends entered into
the dancing-room. Their return was quite an event, but as they entered
together, all uneasiness on Albert's account ceased instantly. "Madame,"
said the Viscount of Morcerf, advancing towards the countess, "yesterday
you were so condescending as to promise me a galop; I am rather late in
claiming this gracious promise, but here is my friend, whose character
for veracity you well know, and he will assure you the delay arose from
no fault of mine." And as at this moment the orchestra gave the signal
for the waltz, Albert put his arm round the waist of the countess, and
disappeared with her in the whirl of dancers. In the meanwhile Franz was
considering the singular shudder that had passed over the Count of Monte
Cristo at the moment when he had been, in some sort, forced to give his
hand to Albert.

 

 

Chapter 38. The Compact.

The first words that Albert uttered to his friend, on the following
morning, contained a request that Franz would accompany him on a visit
to the count; true, the young man had warmly and energetically thanked
the count on the previous evening; but services such as he had rendered
could never be too often acknowledged. Franz, who seemed attracted
by some invisible influence towards the count, in which terror was
strangely mingled, felt an extreme reluctance to permit his friend to be
exposed alone to the singular fascination that this mysterious personage
seemed to exercise over him, and therefore made no objection to Albert's
request, but at once accompanied him to the desired spot, and, after a
short delay, the count joined them in the salon. "My dear count," said
Albert, advancing to meet him, "permit me to repeat the poor thanks I
offered last night, and to assure you that the remembrance of all I owe
to you will never be effaced from my memory; believe me, as long as I
live, I shall never cease to dwell with grateful recollection on the
prompt and important service you rendered me; and also to remember that
to you I am indebted even for my life."

"My very good friend and excellent neighbor," replied the count, with a
smile, "you really exaggerate my trifling exertions. You owe me nothing
but some trifle of 20,000. francs, which you have been saved out of
your travelling expenses, so that there is not much of a score between
us;--but you must really permit me to congratulate you on the ease and
unconcern with which you resigned yourself to your fate, and the perfect
indifference you manifested as to the turn events might take."

"Upon my word," said Albert, "I deserve no credit for what I could not
help, namely, a determination to take everything as I found it, and to
let those bandits see, that although men get into troublesome scrapes
all over the world, there is no nation but the French that can smile
even in the face of grim Death himself. All that, however, has nothing
to do with my obligations to you, and I now come to ask you whether, in
my own person, my family, or connections, I can in any way serve you?
My father, the Comte de Morcerf, although of Spanish origin, possesses
considerable influence, both at the court of France and Madrid, and I
unhesitatingly place the best services of myself, and all to whom my
life is dear, at your disposal."

"Monsieur de Morcerf," replied the count, "your offer, far from
surprising me, is precisely what I expected from you, and I accept it in
the same spirit of hearty sincerity with which it is made;--nay, I will
go still further, and say that I had previously made up my mind to ask a
great favor at your hands."

"Oh, pray name it."

"I am wholly a stranger to Paris--it is a city I have never yet seen."

"Is it possible," exclaimed Albert, "that you have reached your present
age without visiting the finest capital in the world? I can scarcely
credit it."

"Nevertheless, it is quite true; still, I agree with you in thinking
that my present ignorance of the first city in Europe is a reproach
to me in every way, and calls for immediate correction; but, in all
probability, I should have performed so important, so necessary a duty,
as that of making myself acquainted with the wonders and beauties of
your justly celebrated capital, had I known any person who would have
introduced me into the fashionable world, but unfortunately I possessed
no acquaintance there, and, of necessity, was compelled to abandon the
idea."

"So distinguished an individual as yourself," cried Albert, "could
scarcely have required an introduction."

"You are most kind; but as regards myself, I can find no merit I
possess, save that, as a millionaire, I might have become a partner in
the speculations of M. Aguado and M. Rothschild; but as my motive in
travelling to your capital would not have been for the pleasure of
dabbling in stocks, I stayed away till some favorable chance should
present itself of carrying my wish into execution. Your offer, however,
smooths all difficulties, and I have only to ask you, my dear M. de
Morcerf" (these words were accompanied by a most peculiar smile),
"whether you undertake, upon my arrival in France, to open to me the
doors of that fashionable world of which I know no more than a Huron or
a native of Cochin-China?"

"Oh, that I do, and with infinite pleasure," answered Albert; "and so
much the more readily as a letter received this morning from my father
summons me to Paris, in consequence of a treaty of marriage (my dear
Franz, do not smile, I beg of you) with a family of high standing, and
connected with the very cream of Parisian society."

"Connected by marriage, you mean," said Franz, laughingly.

"Well, never mind how it is," answered Albert, "it comes to the same
thing in the end. Perhaps by the time you return to Paris, I shall be
quite a sober, staid father of a family! A most edifying representative
I shall make of all the domestic virtues--don't you think so? But as
regards your wish to visit our fine city, my dear count, I can only say
that you may command me and mine to any extent you please."

"Then it is settled," said the count, "and I give you my solemn
assurance that I only waited an opportunity like the present to realize
plans that I have long meditated." Franz did not doubt that these plans
were the same concerning which the count had dropped a few words in the
grotto of Monte Cristo, and while the Count was speaking the young man
watched him closely, hoping to read something of his purpose in his
face, but his countenance was inscrutable especially when, as in the
present case, it was veiled in a sphinx-like smile. "But tell me now,
count," exclaimed Albert, delighted at the idea of having to chaperon so
distinguished a person as Monte Cristo; "tell me truly whether you are
in earnest, or if this project of visiting Paris is merely one of the
chimerical and uncertain air castles of which we make so many in the
course of our lives, but which, like a house built on the sand, is
liable to be blown over by the first puff of wind?"

"I pledge you my honor," returned the count, "that I mean to do as I
have said; both inclination and positive necessity compel me to visit
Paris."

"When do you propose going thither?"

"Have you made up your mind when you shall be there yourself?"

"Certainly I have; in a fortnight or three weeks' time, that is to say,
as fast as I can get there!"

"Nay," said the Count; "I will give you three months ere I join you; you
see I make an ample allowance for all delays and difficulties.

"And in three months' time," said Albert, "you will be at my house?"

"Shall we make a positive appointment for a particular day and hour?"
inquired the count; "only let me warn you that I am proverbial for my
punctilious exactitude in keeping my engagements."

"Day for day, hour for hour," said Albert; "that will suit me to a dot."

"So be it, then," replied the count, and extending his hand towards a
calendar, suspended near the chimney-piece, he said, "to-day is the 21st
of February;" and drawing out his watch, added, "it is exactly half-past
ten o'clock. Now promise me to remember this, and expect me the 21st of
May at the same hour in the forenoon."

"Capital," exclaimed Albert; "your breakfast shall be waiting."

"Where do you live?"

"No. 27, Rue du Helder."

"Have you bachelor's apartments there? I hope my coming will not put you
to any inconvenience."

"I reside in my father's house, but occupy a pavilion at the farther
side of the court-yard, entirely separated from the main building."

"Quite sufficient," replied the count, as, taking out his tablets,
he wrote down "No. 27, Rue du Helder, 21st May, half-past ten in the
morning."

"Now then," said the count, returning his tablets to his pocket, "make
yourself perfectly easy; the hand of your time-piece will not be more
accurate in marking the time than myself."

"Shall I see you again ere my departure?" asked Albert.

"That depends; when do you leave?"

"To-morrow evening, at five o'clock."

"In that case I must say adieu to you, as I am compelled to go to
Naples, and shall not return hither before Saturday evening or Sunday
morning. And you, baron," pursued the count, addressing Franz, "do you
also depart to-morrow?"

"Yes."

"For France?"

"No, for Venice; I shall remain in Italy for another year or two."

"Then we shall not meet in Paris?"

"I fear I shall not have that honor."

"Well, since we must part," said the count, holding out a hand to
each of the young men, "allow me to wish you both a safe and pleasant
journey." It was the first time the hand of Franz had come in contact
with that of the mysterious individual before him, and unconsciously he
shuddered at its touch, for it felt cold and icy as that of a corpse.
"Let us understand each other," said Albert; "it is agreed--is it
not?--that you are to be at No. 27, in the Rue du Helder, on the 21st of
May, at half-past ten in the morning, and your word of honor passed for
your punctuality?"

"The 21st of May, at half-past ten in the morning, Rue du Helder, No.
27," replied the Count. The young men then rose, and bowing to the
count, quitted the room. "What is the matter?" asked Albert of Franz,
when they had returned to their own apartments; "you seem more than
commonly thoughtful."

"I will confess to you, Albert," replied Franz, "the count is a very
singular person, and the appointment you have made to meet him in Paris
fills me with a thousand apprehensions."

"My dear fellow," exclaimed Albert, "what can there possibly be in that
to excite uneasiness? Why, you must have lost your senses."

"Whether I am in my senses or not," answered Franz, "that is the way I
feel."

"Listen to me, Franz," said Albert; "I am glad that the occasion has
presented itself for saying this to you, for I have noticed how cold you
are in your bearing towards the count, while he, on the other hand, has
always been courtesy itself to us. Have you anything particular against
him?"

"Possibly."

"Did you ever meet him previously to coming hither?"

"I have."

"And where?"

"Will you promise me not to repeat a single word of what I am about to
tell you?"

"I promise."

"Upon your honor?"

"Upon my honor."

"Then listen to me." Franz then related to his friend the history of his
excursion to the Island of Monte Cristo and of his finding a party of
smugglers there, and the two Corsican bandits with them. He dwelt with
considerable force and energy on the almost magical hospitality he had
received from the count, and the magnificence of his entertainment
in the grotto of the "Thousand and One Nights." He recounted, with
circumstantial exactitude, all the particulars of the supper, the
hashish, the statues, the dream, and how, at his awakening, there
remained no proof or trace of all these events, save the small
yacht, seen in the distant horizon driving under full sail toward
Porto-Vecchio. Then he detailed the conversation overheard by him at the
Colosseum, between the count and Vampa, in which the count had promised
to obtain the release of the bandit Peppino,--an engagement which, as
our readers are aware, he most faithfully fulfilled. At last he arrived
at the adventure of the preceding night, and the embarrassment in which
he found himself placed by not having sufficient cash by six or seven
hundred piastres to make up the sum required, and finally of his
application to the count and the picturesque and satisfactory result
that followed. Albert listened with the most profound attention. "Well,"
said he, when Franz had concluded, "what do you find to object to in
all you have related? The count is fond of travelling, and, being rich,
possesses a vessel of his own. Go but to Portsmouth or Southampton, and
you will find the harbors crowded with the yachts belonging to such of
the English as can afford the expense, and have the same liking for this
amusement. Now, by way of having a resting-place during his excursions,
avoiding the wretched cookery--which has been trying its best to poison
me during the last four months, while you have manfully resisted its
effects for as many years,--and obtaining a bed on which it is possible
to slumber, Monte Cristo has furnished for himself a temporary abode
where you first found him; but, to prevent the possibility of the Tuscan
government taking a fancy to his enchanted palace, and thereby depriving
him of the advantages naturally expected from so large an outlay of
capital, he has wisely enough purchased the island, and taken its name.
Just ask yourself, my good fellow, whether there are not many persons of
our acquaintance who assume the names of lands and properties they never
in their lives were masters of?"

"But," said Franz, "the Corsican bandits that were among the crew of his
vessel?"

"Why, really the thing seems to me simple enough. Nobody knows better
than yourself that the bandits of Corsica are not rogues or thieves, but
purely and simply fugitives, driven by some sinister motive from their
native town or village, and that their fellowship involves no disgrace
or stigma; for my own part, I protest that, should I ever go to Corsica,
my first visit, ere even I presented myself to the mayor or prefect,
should be to the bandits of Colomba, if I could only manage to find
them; for, on my conscience, they are a race of men I admire greatly."

"Still," persisted Franz, "I suppose you will allow that such men as
Vampa and his band are regular villains, who have no other motive than
plunder when they seize your person. How do you explain the influence
the count evidently possessed over those ruffians?"

"My good friend, as in all probability I own my present safety to that
influence, it would ill become me to search too closely into its source;
therefore, instead of condemning him for his intimacy with outlaws, you
must give me leave to excuse any little irregularity there may be in
such a connection; not altogether for preserving my life, for my own
idea was that it never was in much danger, but certainly for saving me
4,000 piastres, which, being translated, means neither more nor less
than 24,000 livres of our money--a sum at which, most assuredly, I
should never have been estimated in France, proving most indisputably,"
added Albert with a laugh, "that no prophet is honored in his own
country."

"Talking of countries," replied Franz, "of what country is the count,
what is his native tongue, whence does he derive his immense fortune,
and what were those events of his early life--a life as marvellous
as unknown--that have tinctured his succeeding years with so dark and
gloomy a misanthropy? Certainly these are questions that, in your place,
I should like to have answered."

"My dear Franz," replied Albert, "when, upon receipt of my letter, you
found the necessity of asking the count's assistance, you promptly went
to him, saying, 'My friend Albert de Morcerf is in danger; help me to
deliver him.' Was not that nearly what you said?"

"It was."

"Well, then, did he ask you, 'Who is M. Albert de Morcerf? how does he
come by his name--his fortune? what are his means of existence? what is
his birthplace! of what country is he a native?' Tell me, did he put all
these questions to you?"

"I confess he asked me none."

"No; he merely came and freed me from the hands of Signor Vampa, where,
I can assure you, in spite of all my outward appearance of ease and
unconcern, I did not very particularly care to remain. Now, then, Franz,
when, for services so promptly and unhesitatingly rendered, he but asks
me in return to do for him what is done daily for any Russian prince
or Italian nobleman who may pass through Paris--merely to introduce him
into society--would you have me refuse? My good fellow, you must have
lost your senses to think it possible I could act with such cold-blooded
policy." And this time it must be confessed that, contrary to the usual
state of affairs in discussions between the young men, the effective
arguments were all on Albert's side.

"Well," said Franz with a sigh, "do as you please my dear viscount, for
your arguments are beyond my powers of refutation. Still, in spite of
all, you must admit that this Count of Monte Cristo is a most singular
personage."

"He is a philanthropist," answered the other; "and no doubt his motive
in visiting Paris is to compete for the Monthyon prize, given, as you
are aware, to whoever shall be proved to have most materially advanced
the interests of virtue and humanity. If my vote and interest can obtain
it for him, I will readily give him the one and promise the other. And
now, my dear Franz, let us talk of something else. Come, shall we take
our luncheon, and then pay a last visit to St. Peter's?" Franz silently
assented; and the following afternoon, at half-past five o'clock,
the young men parted. Albert de Morcerf to return to Paris, and
Franz d'Epinay to pass a fortnight at Venice. But, ere he entered his
travelling carriage, Albert, fearing that his expected guest might
forget the engagement he had entered into, placed in the care of a
waiter at the hotel a card to be delivered to the Count of Monte Cristo,
on which, beneath the name of Vicomte Albert de Morcerf, he had written
in pencil--"27, Rue du Helder, on the 21st May, half-past ten A.M."

 

 

Chapter 39. The Guests.

In the house in the Rue du Helder, where Albert had invited the Count of
Monte Cristo, everything was being prepared on the morning of the
21st of May to do honor to the occasion. Albert de Morcerf inhabited a
pavilion situated at the corner of a large court, and directly opposite
another building, in which were the servants' apartments. Two windows
only of the pavilion faced the street; three other windows looked into
the court, and two at the back into the garden. Between the court and
the garden, built in the heavy style of the imperial architecture, was
the large and fashionable dwelling of the Count and Countess of Morcerf.
A high wall surrounded the whole of the hotel, surmounted at intervals
by vases filled with flowers, and broken in the centre by a large gate
of gilded iron, which served as the carriage entrance. A small door,
close to the lodge of the concierge, gave ingress and egress to the
servants and masters when they were on foot.

It was easy to discover that the delicate care of a mother, unwilling to
part from her son, and yet aware that a young man of the viscount's age
required the full exercise of his liberty, had chosen this habitation
for Albert. There were not lacking, however, evidences of what we may
call the intelligent egoism of a youth who is charmed with the indolent,
careless life of an only son, and who lives as it were in a gilded cage.
By means of the two windows looking into the street, Albert could see
all that passed; the sight of what is going on is necessary to young
men, who always want to see the world traverse their horizon, even if
that horizon is only a public thoroughfare. Then, should anything appear
to merit a more minute examination, Albert de Morcerf could follow up
his researches by means of a small gate, similar to that close to the
concierge's door, and which merits a particular description. It was a
little entrance that seemed never to have been opened since the house
was built, so entirely was it covered with dust and dirt; but the
well-oiled hinges and locks told quite another story. This door was a
mockery to the concierge, from whose vigilance and