"I entreat you, doctor!"
"All the horrors that disturb my thoughts make your house odious and fatal. Adieu, sir."
"One word—one single word more, doctor! You go, leaving me in all the horror of my situation, after increasing it by what you have revealed to me. But what will be reported of the sudden death of the poor old servant?"
"True," said M. d'Avrigny; "we will return." The doctor went out first, followed by M. de Villefort. The terrified servants were on the stairs and in the passage where the doctor would pass. "Sir," said d'Avrigny to Villefort, so loud that all might hear, "poor Barrois has led too sedentary a life of late; accustomed formerly to ride on horseback, or in the carriage, to the four corners of Europe, the monotonous walk around that arm-chair has killed him—his blood has thickened. He was stout, had a short, thick neck; he was attacked with apoplexy, and I was called in too late. By the way," added he in a low tone, "take care to throw away that cup of syrup of violets in the ashes."
The doctor, without shaking hands with Villefort, without adding a word to what he had said, went out, amid the tears and lamentations of the whole household. The same evening all Villefort's servants, who had assembled in the kitchen, and had a long consultation, came to tell Madame de Villefort that they wished to leave. No entreaty, no proposition of increased wages, could induce them to remain; to every argument they replied, "We must go, for death is in this house." They all left, in spite of prayers and entreaties, testifying their regret at leaving so good a master and mistress, and especially Mademoiselle Valentine, so good, so kind, and so gentle. Villefort looked at Valentine as they said this. She was in tears, and, strange as it was, in spite of the emotions he felt at the sight of these tears, he looked also at Madame de Villefort, and it appeared to him as if a slight gloomy smile had passed over her thin lips, like a meteor seen passing inauspiciously between two clouds in a stormy sky.
Chapter 81. The Room of the Retired Baker.
The evening of the day on which the Count of Morcerf had left Danglars' house with feelings of shame and anger at the rejection of the projected alliance, M. Andrea Cavalcanti, with curled hair, mustaches in perfect order, and white gloves which fitted admirably, had entered the courtyard of the banker's house in La Chaussee d'Antin. He had not been more than ten minutes in the drawing-room before he drew Danglars aside into the recess of a bow-window, and, after an ingenious preamble, related to him all his anxieties and cares since his noble father's departure. He acknowledged the extreme kindness which had been shown him by the banker's family, in which he had been received as a son, and where, besides, his warmest affections had found an object on which to centre in Mademoiselle Danglars. Danglars listened with the most profound attention; he had expected this declaration for the last two or three days, and when at last it came his eyes glistened as much as they had lowered on listening to Morcerf. He would not, however, yield immediately to the young man's request, but made a few conscientious objections. "Are you not rather young, M. Andrea, to think of marrying?"
"I think not, sir," replied M. Cavalcanti; "in Italy the nobility generally marry young. Life is so uncertain, that we ought to secure happiness while it is within our reach."
"Well, sir," said Danglars, "in case your proposals, which do me honor, are accepted by my wife and daughter, by whom shall the preliminary arrangements be settled? So important a negotiation should, I think, be conducted by the respective fathers of the young people."
"Sir, my father is a man of great foresight and prudence. Thinking that I might wish to settle in France, he left me at his departure, together with the papers establishing my identity, a letter promising, if he approved of my choice, 150,000 livres per annum from the day I was married. So far as I can judge, I suppose this to be a quarter of my father's revenue."
"I," said Danglars, "have always intended giving my daughter 500,000 francs as her dowry; she is, besides, my sole heiress."
"All would then be easily arranged if the baroness and her daughter are willing. We should command an annuity of 175,000 livres. Supposing, also, I should persuade the marquis to give me my capital, which is not likely, but still is possible, we would place these two or three millions in your hands, whose talent might make it realize ten per cent."
"I never give more than four per cent, and generally only three and a half; but to my son-in-law I would give five, and we would share the profit."
"Very good, father-in-law," said Cavalcanti, yielding to his low-born nature, which would escape sometimes through the aristocratic gloss with which he sought to conceal it. Correcting himself immediately, he said, "Excuse me, sir; hope alone makes me almost mad,—what will not reality do?"
"But," said Danglars,—who, on his part, did not perceive how soon the conversation, which was at first disinterested, was turning to a business transaction,—"there is, doubtless, a part of your fortune your father could not refuse you?"
"Which?" asked the young man.
"That you inherit from your mother."
"Truly, from my mother, Leonora Corsinari."
"How much may it amount to?"
"Indeed, sir," said Andrea, "I assure you I have never given the subject a thought, but I suppose it must have been at least two millions." Danglars felt as much overcome with joy as the miser who finds a lost treasure, or as the shipwrecked mariner who feels himself on solid ground instead of in the abyss which he expected would swallow him up.
"Well, sir," said Andrea, bowing to the banker respectfully, "may I hope?"
"You may not only hope," said Danglars, "but consider it a settled thing, if no obstacle arises on your part."
"I am, indeed, rejoiced," said Andrea.
"But," said Danglars thoughtfully, "how is it that your patron, M. de Monte Cristo, did not make his proposal for you?" Andrea blushed imperceptibly. "I have just left the count, sir," said he; "he is, doubtless, a delightful man but inconceivably peculiar in his ideas. He esteems me highly. He even told me he had not the slightest doubt that my father would give me the capital instead of the interest of my property. He has promised to use his influence to obtain it for me; but he also declared that he never had taken on himself the responsibility of making proposals for another, and he never would. I must, however, do him the justice to add that he assured me if ever he had regretted the repugnance he felt to such a step it was on this occasion, because he thought the projected union would be a happy and suitable one. Besides, if he will do nothing officially, he will answer any questions you propose to him. And now," continued he, with one of his most charming smiles, "having finished talking to the father-in-law, I must address myself to the banker."
"And what may you have to say to him?" said Danglars, laughing in his turn.
"That the day after to-morrow I shall have to draw upon you for about four thousand francs; but the count, expecting my bachelor's revenue could not suffice for the coming month's outlay, has offered me a draft for twenty thousand francs. It bears his signature, as you see, which is all-sufficient."
"Bring me a million such as that," said Danglars, "I shall be well pleased," putting the draft in his pocket. "Fix your own hour for to-morrow, and my cashier shall call on you with a check for eighty thousand francs."
"At ten o'clock then, if you please; I should like it early, as I am going into the country to-morrow."
"Very well, at ten o'clock; you are still at the Hotel des Princes?"
The following morning, with the banker's usual punctuality, the eighty thousand francs were placed in the young man's hands as he was on the point of starting, after having left two hundred francs for Caderousse. He went out chiefly to avoid this dangerous enemy, and returned as late as possible in the evening. But scarcely had he stepped out of his carriage when the porter met him with a parcel in his hand. "Sir," said he, "that man has been here."
"What man?" said Andrea carelessly, apparently forgetting him whom he but too well recollected.
"Him to whom your excellency pays that little annuity."
"Oh," said Andrea, "my father's old servant. Well, you gave him the two hundred francs I had left for him?"
"Yes, your excellency." Andrea had expressed a wish to be thus addressed. "But," continued the porter, "he would not take them." Andrea turned pale, but as it was dark his pallor was not perceptible. "What? he would not take them?" said he with slight emotion.
"No, he wished to speak to your excellency; I told him you were gone out, and after some dispute he believed me and gave me this letter, which he had brought with him already sealed."
"Give it me," said Andrea, and he read by the light of his carriage-lamp,—"You know where I live; I expect you tomorrow morning at nine o'clock."
Andrea examined it carefully, to ascertain if the letter had been opened, or if any indiscreet eyes had seen its contents; but it was so carefully folded, that no one could have read it, and the seal was perfect. "Very well," said he. "Poor man, he is a worthy creature." He left the porter to ponder on these words, not knowing which most to admire, the master or the servant. "Take out the horses quickly, and come up to me," said Andrea to his groom. In two seconds the young man had reached his room and burnt Caderousse's letter. The servant entered just as he had finished. "You are about my height, Pierre," said he.
"I have that honor, your excellency."
"You had a new livery yesterday?"
"I have an engagement with a pretty little girl for this evening, and do not wish to be known; lend me your livery till to-morrow. I may sleep, perhaps, at an inn." Pierre obeyed. Five minutes after, Andrea left the hotel, completely disguised, took a cabriolet, and ordered the driver to take him to the Cheval Rouge, at Picpus. The next morning he left that inn as he had left the Hotel des Princes, without being noticed, walked down the Faubourg St. Antoine, along the boulevard to Rue Menilmontant, and stopping at the door of the third house on the left looked for some one of whom to make inquiry in the porter's absence. "For whom are you looking, my fine fellow?" asked the fruiteress on the opposite side.
"Monsieur Pailletin, if you please, my good woman," replied Andrea.
"A retired baker?" asked the fruiteress.
"He lives at the end of the yard, on the left, on the third story." Andrea went as she directed him, and on the third floor he found a hare's paw, which, by the hasty ringing of the bell, it was evident he pulled with considerable ill-temper. A moment after Caderousse's face appeared at the grating in the door. "Ah, you are punctual," said he, as he drew back the door.
"Confound you and your punctuality!" said Andrea, throwing himself into a chair in a manner which implied that he would rather have flung it at the head of his host.
"Come, come, my little fellow, don't be angry. See, I have thought about you—look at the good breakfast we are going to have; nothing but what you are fond of." Andrea, indeed, inhaled the scent of something cooking which was not unwelcome to him, hungry as he was; it was that mixture of fat and garlic peculiar to provincial kitchens of an inferior order, added to that of dried fish, and above all, the pungent smell of musk and cloves. These odors escaped from two deep dishes which were covered and placed on a stove, and from a copper pan placed in an old iron pot. In an adjoining room Andrea saw also a tolerably clean table prepared for two, two bottles of wine sealed, the one with green, the other with yellow, a supply of brandy in a decanter, and a measure of fruit in a cabbage-leaf, cleverly arranged on an earthenware plate.
"What do you think of it, my little fellow?" said Caderousse. "Ay, that smells good! You know I used to be a famous cook; do you recollect how you used to lick your fingers? You were among the first who tasted any of my dishes, and I think you relished them tolerably." While speaking, Caderousse went on peeling a fresh supply of onions.
"But," said Andrea, ill-temperedly, "by my faith, if it was only to breakfast with you, that you disturbed me, I wish the devil had taken you!"
"My boy," said Caderousse sententiously, "one can talk while eating. And then, you ungrateful being, you are not pleased to see an old friend? I am weeping with joy." He was truly crying, but it would have been difficult to say whether joy or the onions produced the greatest effect on the lachrymal glands of the old inn-keeper of the Pont-du-Gard. "Hold your tongue, hypocrite," said Andrea; "you love me!"
"Yes, I do, or may the devil take me. I know it is a weakness," said Caderousse, "but it overpowers me."
"And yet it has not prevented your sending for me to play me some trick."
"Come," said Caderousse, wiping his large knife on his apron, "if I did not like you, do you think I should endure the wretched life you lead me? Think for a moment. You have your servant's clothes on—you therefore keep a servant; I have none, and am obliged to prepare my own meals. You abuse my cookery because you dine at the table d'hote of the Hotel des Princes, or the Cafe de Paris. Well, I too could keep a servant; I too could have a tilbury; I too could dine where I like; but why do I not? Because I would not annoy my little Benedetto. Come, just acknowledge that I could, eh?" This address was accompanied by a look which was by no means difficult to understand. "Well," said Andrea, "admitting your love, why do you want me to breakfast with you?"
"That I may have the pleasure of seeing you, my little fellow."
"What is the use of seeing me after we have made all our arrangements?"
"Eh, dear friend," said Caderousse, "are wills ever made without codicils? But you first came to breakfast, did you not? Well, sit down, and let us begin with these pilchards, and this fresh butter; which I have put on some vine-leaves to please you, wicked one. Ah, yes; you look at my room, my four straw chairs, my images, three francs each. But what do you expect? This is not the Hotel des Princes."
"Come, you are growing discontented, you are no longer happy; you, who only wish to live like a retired baker." Caderousse sighed. "Well, what have you to say? you have seen your dream realized."
"I can still say it is a dream; a retired baker, my poor Benedetto, is rich—he has an annuity."
"Well, you have an annuity."
"Yes, since I bring you your two hundred francs." Caderousse shrugged his shoulders. "It is humiliating," said he, "thus to receive money given grudgingly,—an uncertain supply which may soon fail. You see I am obliged to economize, in case your prosperity should cease. Well, my friend, fortune is inconstant, as the chaplain of the regiment said. I know your prosperity is great, you rascal; you are to marry the daughter of Danglars."
"What? of Danglars?"
"Yes, to be sure; must I say Baron Danglars? I might as well say Count Benedetto. He was an old friend of mine and if he had not so bad a memory he ought to invite me to your wedding, seeing he came to mine. Yes, yes, to mine; gad, he was not so proud then,—he was an under-clerk to the good M. Morrel. I have dined many times with him and the Count of Morcerf, so you see I have some high connections and were I to cultivate them a little, we might meet in the same drawing-rooms."
"Come, your jealousy represents everything to you in the wrong light."
"That is all very fine, Benedetto mio, but I know what I am saying. Perhaps I may one day put on my best coat, and presenting myself at the great gate, introduce myself. Meanwhile let us sit down and eat." Caderousse set the example and attacked the breakfast with good appetite, praising each dish he set before his visitor. The latter seemed to have resigned himself; he drew the corks, and partook largely of the fish with the garlic and fat. "Ah, mate," said Caderousse, "you are getting on better terms with your old landlord!"
"Faith, yes," replied Andrea, whose hunger prevailed over every other feeling.
"So you like it, you rogue?"
"So much that I wonder how a man who can cook thus can complain of hard living."
"Do you see," said Caderousse, "all my happiness is marred by one thought?"
"What is that?"
"That I am dependent on another, I who have always gained my own livelihood honestly."
"Do not let that disturb you, I have enough for two."
"No, truly; you may believe me if you will; at the end of every month I am tormented by remorse."
"So much so, that yesterday I would not take the two hundred francs."
"Yes, you wished to speak to me; but was it indeed remorse, tell me?"
"True remorse; and, besides, an idea had struck me." Andrea shuddered; he always did so at Caderousse's ideas. "It is miserable—do you see?—always to wait till the end of the month."—"Oh," said Andrea philosophically, determined to watch his companion narrowly, "does not life pass in waiting? Do I, for instance, fare better? Well, I wait patiently, do I not?"
"Yes; because instead of expecting two hundred wretched francs, you expect five or six thousand, perhaps ten, perhaps even twelve, for you take care not to let any one know the utmost. Down there, you always had little presents and Christmas-boxes which you tried to hide from your poor friend Caderousse. Fortunately he is a cunning fellow, that friend Caderousse."
"There you are beginning again to ramble, to talk again and again of the past! But what is the use of teasing me with going all over that again?"
"Ah, you are only one and twenty, and can forget the past; I am fifty, and am obliged to recollect it. But let us return to business."
"I was going to say, if I were in your place"—
"I would realize"—
"How would you realize?"
"I would ask for six months' in advance, under pretence of being able to purchase a farm, then with my six months I would decamp."
"Well, well," said Andrea, "that isn't a bad idea."
"My dear friend," said Caderousse, "eat of my bread, and take my advice; you will be none the worse off, physically or morally."
"But," said Andrea, "why do you not act on the advice you gave me? Why do you not realize a six months', a year's advance even, and retire to Brussels? Instead of living the retired baker, you might live as a bankrupt, using his privileges; that would be very good."
"But how the devil would you have me retire on twelve hundred francs?"
"Ah, Caderousse," said Andrea, "how covetous you are! Two months ago you were dying with hunger."
"The appetite grows by what it feeds on," said Caderousse, grinning and showing his teeth, like a monkey laughing or a tiger growling. "And," added he, biting off with his large white teeth an enormous mouthful of bread, "I have formed a plan." Caderousse's plans alarmed Andrea still more than his ideas; ideas were but the germ, the plan was reality. "Let me see your plan; I dare say it is a pretty one."
"Why not? Who formed the plan by which we left the establishment of M——! eh? was it not I? and it was no bad one I believe, since here we are!"
"I do not say," replied Andrea, "that you never make a good one; but let us see your plan."
"Well," pursued Caderousse, "can you without expending one sou, put me in the way of getting fifteen thousand francs? No, fifteen thousand are not enough,—I cannot again become an honest man with less than thirty thousand francs."
"No," replied Andrea, dryly, "no, I cannot."
"I do not think you understand me," replied Caderousse, calmly; "I said without your laying out a sou."
"Do you want me to commit a robbery, to spoil all my good fortune—and yours with mine—and both of us to be dragged down there again?"
"It would make very little difference to me," said Caderousse, "if I were retaken, I am a poor creature to live alone, and sometimes pine for my old comrades; not like you, heartless creature, who would be glad never to see them again." Andrea did more than tremble this time, he turned pale.
"Come, Caderousse, no nonsense!" said he.
"Don't alarm yourself, my little Benedetto, but just point out to me some means of gaining those thirty thousand francs without your assistance, and I will contrive it."
"Well, I'll see—I'll try to contrive some way," said Andrea.
"Meanwhile you will raise my monthly allowance to five hundred francs, my little fellow? I have a fancy, and mean to get a housekeeper."
"Well, you shall have your five hundred francs," said Andrea; "but it is very hard for me, my poor Caderousse—you take advantage"—
"Bah," said Caderousse, "when you have access to countless stores." One would have said Andrea anticipated his companion's words, so did his eye flash like lightning, but it was but for a moment. "True," he replied, "and my protector is very kind."
"That dear protector," said Caderousse; "and how much does he give you monthly?"
"Five thousand francs."
"As many thousands as you give me hundreds! Truly, it is only bastards who are thus fortunate. Five thousand francs per month! What the devil can you do with all that?"
"Oh, it is no trouble to spend that; and I am like you, I want capital."
"Capital?—yes—I understand—every one would like capital."
"Well, and I shall get it."
"Who will give it to you—your prince?"
"Yes, my prince. But unfortunately I must wait."
"You must wait for what?" asked Caderousse.
"For his death."
"The death of your prince?"
"Because he has made his will in my favor."
"On my honor."
"For how much?"
"For five hundred thousand."
"Only that? It's little enough."
"But so it is."
"No it cannot be!"
"Are you my friend, Caderousse?"
"Yes, in life or death."
"Well, I will tell you a secret."
"What is it?"
"Ah, pardieu, mute as a carp."
"Well, I think"—Andrea stopped and looked around.
"You think? Do not fear; pardieu, we are alone."
"I think I have discovered my father."
"Your true father?"
"Not old Cavalcanti?"
"No, for he has gone again; the true one, as you say."
"And that father is"—
"Well, Caderousse, it is Monte Cristo."
"Yes, you understand, that explains all. He cannot acknowledge me openly, it appears, but he does it through M. Cavalcanti, and gives him fifty thousand francs for it."
"Fifty thousand francs for being your father? I would have done it for half that, for twenty thousand, for fifteen thousand; why did you not think of me, ungrateful man?"
"Did I know anything about it, when it was all done when I was down there?"
"Ah, truly? And you say that by his will"—
"He leaves me five hundred thousand livres."
"Are you sure of it?"
"He showed it me; but that is not all—there is a codicil, as I said just now."
"And in that codicil he acknowledges me."
"Oh, the good father, the brave father, the very honest father!" said Caderousse, twirling a plate in the air between his two hands.
"Now say if I conceal anything from you?"
"No, and your confidence makes you honorable in my opinion; and your princely father, is he rich, very rich?"
"Yes, he is that; he does not himself know the amount of his fortune."
"Is it possible?"
"It is evident enough to me, who am always at his house. The other day a banker's clerk brought him fifty thousand francs in a portfolio about the size of your plate; yesterday his banker brought him a hundred thousand francs in gold." Caderousse was filled with wonder; the young man's words sounded to him like metal, and he thought he could hear the rushing of cascades of louis. "And you go into that house?" cried he briskly.
"When I like."
Caderousse was thoughtful for a moment. It was easy to perceive he was revolving some unfortunate idea in his mind. Then suddenly,—"How I should like to see all that," cried he; "how beautiful it must be!"
"It is, in fact, magnificent," said Andrea.
"And does he not live in the Champs-Elysees?"
"Yes, No. 30."
"Ah," said Caderousse, "No. 30."
"Yes, a fine house standing alone, between a court-yard and a garden,—you must know it."
"Possibly; but it is not the exterior I care for, it is the interior. What beautiful furniture there must be in it!"
"Have you ever seen the Tuileries?"
"Well, it surpasses that."
"It must be worth one's while to stoop, Andrea, when that good M. Monte Cristo lets fall his purse."
"It is not worth while to wait for that," said Andrea; "money is as plentiful in that house as fruit in an orchard."
"But you should take me there one day with you."
"How can I? On what plea?"
"You are right; but you have made my mouth water. I must absolutely see it; I shall find a way."
"No nonsense, Caderousse!"
"I will offer myself as floor-polisher."
"The rooms are all carpeted."
"Well, then, I must be contented to imagine it."
"That is the best plan, believe me."
"Try, at least, to give me an idea of what it is."
"How can I?"
"Nothing is easier. Is it large?"
"How is it arranged?"
"Faith, I should require pen, ink, and paper to make a plan."
"They are all here," said Caderousse, briskly. He fetched from an old secretary a sheet of white paper and pen and ink. "Here," said Caderousse, "draw me all that on the paper, my boy." Andrea took the pen with an imperceptible smile and began. "The house, as I said, is between the court and the garden; in this way, do you see?" Andrea drew the garden, the court and the house.
"Not more than eight or ten feet."
"That is not prudent," said Caderousse.
"In the court are orange-trees in pots, turf, and clumps of flowers."
"And no steel-traps?"
"Are on either side of the gate, which you see there." And Andrea continued his plan.
"Let us see the ground floor," said Caderousse.
"On the ground-floor, dining-room, two drawing-rooms, billiard-room, staircase in the hall, and a little back staircase."
"Magnificent windows, so beautiful, so large, that I believe a man of your size should pass through each frame."
"Why the devil have they any stairs with such windows?"
"Luxury has everything."
"Yes, but they are never used. That Count of Monte Cristo is an original, who loves to look at the sky even at night."
"And where do the servants sleep?"
"Oh, they have a house to themselves. Picture to yourself a pretty coach-house at the right-hand side where the ladders are kept. Well, over that coach-house are the servants' rooms, with bells corresponding with the different apartments."
"Ah, diable—bells did you say?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, nothing! I only say they cost a load of money to hang, and what is the use of them, I should like to know?"
"There used to be a dog let loose in the yard at night, but it has been taken to the house at Auteuil, to that you went to, you know."
"I was saying to him only yesterday, 'You are imprudent, Monsieur Count; for when you go to Auteuil and take your servants the house is left unprotected.' 'Well,' said he, 'what next?' 'Well, next, some day you will be robbed.'"
"What did he answer?"
"He quietly said, 'What do I care if I am?'"
"Andrea, he has some secretary with a spring."
"How do you know?"
"Yes, which catches the thief in a trap and plays a tune. I was told there were such at the last exhibition."
"He has simply a mahogany secretary, in which the key is always kept."
"And he is not robbed?"
"No; his servants are all devoted to him."
"There ought to be some money in that secretary?"
"There may be. No one knows what there is."
"And where is it?"
"On the first floor."
"Sketch me the plan of that floor, as you have done of the ground floor, my boy."
"That is very simple." Andrea took the pen. "On the first story, do you see, there is the anteroom and the drawing-room; to the right of the drawing-room, a library and a study; to the left, a bedroom and a dressing-room. The famous secretary is in the dressing-room."
"Is there a window in the dressing-room?"
"Two,—one here and one there." Andrea sketched two windows in the room, which formed an angle on the plan, and appeared as a small square added to the rectangle of the bedroom. Caderousse became thoughtful. "Does he often go to Auteuil?" added he.
"Two or three times a week. To-morrow, for instance, he is going to spend the day and night there."
"Are you sure of it?"
"He has invited me to dine there."
"There's a life for you," said Caderousse; "a town house and a country house."
"That is what it is to be rich."
"And shall you dine there?"
"When you dine there, do you sleep there?"
"If I like; I am at home there." Caderousse looked at the young man, as if to get at the truth from the bottom of his heart. But Andrea drew a cigar-case from his pocket, took a Havana, quietly lit it, and began smoking. "When do you want your twelve hundred francs?" said he to Caderousse.
"Now, if you have them." Andrea took five and twenty louis from his pocket.
"Yellow boys?" said Caderousse; "no, I thank you."
"Oh, you despise them."
"On the contrary, I esteem them, but will not have them."
"You can change them, idiot; gold is worth five sous."
"Exactly; and he who changes them will follow friend Caderousse, lay hands on him, and demand what farmers pay him their rent in gold. No nonsense, my good fellow; silver simply, round coins with the head of some monarch or other on them. Anybody may possess a five-franc piece."
"But do you suppose I carry five hundred francs about with me? I should want a porter."
"Well, leave them with your porter; he is to be trusted. I will call for them."
"No, to-morrow; I shall not have time to day."
"Well, to-morrow I will leave them when I go to Auteuil."
"May I depend on it?"
"Because I shall secure my housekeeper on the strength of it."
"Now see here, will that be all? Eh? And will you not torment me any more?"
"Never." Caderousse had become so gloomy that Andrea feared he should be obliged to notice the change. He redoubled his gayety and carelessness. "How sprightly you are," said Caderousse; "One would say you were already in possession of your property."
"No, unfortunately; but when I do obtain it"—
"I shall remember old friends, I can tell you that."
"Yes, since you have such a good memory."
"What do you want? It looks as if you were trying to fleece me?"
"I? What an idea! I, who am going to give you another piece of good advice."
"What is it?"
"To leave behind you the diamond you have on your finger. We shall both get into trouble. You will ruin both yourself and me by your folly."
"How so?" said Andrea.
"How? You put on a livery, you disguise yourself as a servant, and yet keep a diamond on your finger worth four or five thousand francs."
"You guess well."
"I know something of diamonds; I have had some."
"You do well to boast of it," said Andrea, who, without becoming angry, as Caderousse feared, at this new extortion, quietly resigned the ring. Caderousse looked so closely at it that Andrea well knew that he was examining to see if all the edges were perfect.
"It is a false diamond," said Caderousse.
"You are joking now," replied Andrea.
"Do not be angry, we can try it." Caderousse went to the window, touched the glass with it, and found it would cut.
"Confiteor," said Caderousse, putting the diamond on his little finger; "I was mistaken; but those thieves of jewellers imitate so well that it is no longer worth while to rob a jeweller's shop—it is another branch of industry paralyzed."
"Have you finished?" said Andrea,—"do you want anything more?—will you have my waistcoat or my hat? Make free, now you have begun."
"No; you are, after all, a good companion; I will not detain you, and will try to cure myself of my ambition."
"But take care the same thing does not happen to you in selling the diamond you feared with the gold."
"I shall not sell it—do not fear."
"Not at least till the day after to-morrow," thought the young man.
"Happy rogue," said Caderousse; "you are going to find your servants, your horses, your carriage, and your betrothed!"
"Yes," said Andrea.
"Well, I hope you will make a handsome wedding-present the day you marry Mademoiselle Danglars."
"I have already told you it is a fancy you have taken in your head."
"What fortune has she?"
"But I tell you"—
"A million?" Andrea shrugged his shoulders.
"Let it be a million," said Caderousse; "you can never have so much as I wish you."
"Thank you," said the young man.
"Oh, I wish it you with all my heart!" added Caderousse with his hoarse laugh. "Stop, let me show you the way."
"It is not worth while."
"Yes, it is."
"Because there is a little secret, a precaution I thought it desirable to take, one of Huret & Fitchet's locks, revised and improved by Gaspard Caderousse; I will manufacture you a similar one when you are a capitalist."
"Thank you," said Andrea; "I will let you know a week beforehand." They parted. Caderousse remained on the landing until he had not only seen Andrea go down the three stories, but also cross the court. Then he returned hastily, shut his door carefully, and began to study, like a clever architect, the plan Andrea had left him.
"Dear Benedetto," said he, "I think he will not be sorry to inherit his fortune, and he who hastens the day when he can touch his five hundred thousand will not be his worst friend."
Chapter 82. The Burglary.
The day following that on which the conversation we have related took place, the Count of Monte Cristo set out for Auteuil, accompanied by Ali and several attendants, and also taking with him some horses whose qualities he was desirous of ascertaining. He was induced to undertake this journey, of which the day before he had not even thought and which had not occurred to Andrea either, by the arrival of Bertuccio from Normandy with intelligence respecting the house and sloop. The house was ready, and the sloop which had arrived a week before lay at anchor in a small creek with her crew of six men, who had observed all the requisite formalities and were ready again to put to sea.
The count praised Bertuccio's zeal, and ordered him to prepare for a speedy departure, as his stay in France would not be prolonged more than a month. "Now," said he, "I may require to go in one night from Paris to Treport; let eight fresh horses be in readiness on the road, which will enable me to go fifty leagues in ten hours."
"Your highness had already expressed that wish," said Bertuccio, "and the horses are ready. I have bought them, and stationed them myself at the most desirable posts, that is, in villages, where no one generally stops."
"That's well," said Monte Cristo; "I remain here a day or two—arrange accordingly." As Bertuccio was leaving the room to give the requisite orders, Baptistin opened the door: he held a letter on a silver waiter.
"What are you doing here?" asked the count, seeing him covered with dust; "I did not send for you, I think?"
Baptistin, without answering, approached the count, and presented the letter. "Important and urgent," said he. The count opened the letter, and read:—
"M. de Monte Cristo is apprised that this night a man will enter his house in the Champs-Elysees with the intention of carrying off some papers supposed to be in the secretary in the dressing-room. The count's well-known courage will render unnecessary the aid of the police, whose interference might seriously affect him who sends this advice. The count, by any opening from the bedroom, or by concealing himself in the dressing-room, would be able to defend his property himself. Many attendants or apparent precautions would prevent the villain from the attempt, and M. de Monte Cristo would lose the opportunity of discovering an enemy whom chance has revealed to him who now sends this warning to the count,—a warning he might not be able to send another time, if this first attempt should fail and another be made."
The count's first idea was that this was an artifice—a gross deception, to draw his attention from a minor danger in order to expose him to a greater. He was on the point of sending the letter to the commissary of police, notwithstanding the advice of his anonymous friend, or perhaps because of that advice, when suddenly the idea occurred to him that it might be some personal enemy, whom he alone should recognize and over whom, if such were the case, he alone would gain any advantage, as Fiesco [*] had done over the Moor who would have killed him. We know the Count's vigorous and daring mind, denying anything to be impossible, with that energy which marks the great man. From his past life, from his resolution to shrink from nothing, the count had acquired an inconceivable relish for the contests in which he had engaged, sometimes against nature, that is to say, against God, and sometimes against the world, that is, against the devil.
* The Genoese conspirator.
"They do not want my papers," said Monte Cristo, "they want to kill me; they are no robbers, but assassins. I will not allow the prefect of police to interfere with my private affairs. I am rich enough, forsooth, to distribute his authority on this occasion." The count recalled Baptistin, who had left the room after delivering the letter. "Return to Paris," said he; "assemble the servants who remain there. I want all my household at Auteuil."
"But will no one remain in the house, my lord?" asked Baptistin.
"Yes, the porter."
"My lord will remember that the lodge is at a distance from the house."
"The house might be stripped without his hearing the least noise."
"You are a fool, M. Baptistin. Thieves might strip the house—it would annoy me less than to be disobeyed." Baptistin bowed.
"You understand me?" said the count. "Bring your comrades here, one and all; but let everything remain as usual, only close the shutters of the ground floor."
"And those of the second floor?"
"You know they are never closed. Go!"
The count signified his intention of dining alone, and that no one but Ali should attend him. Having dined with his usual tranquillity and moderation, the count, making a signal to Ali to follow him, went out by the side-gate and on reaching the Bois de Boulogne turned, apparently without design towards Paris and at twilight; found himself opposite his house in the Champs-Elysees. All was dark; one solitary, feeble light was burning in the porter's lodge, about forty paces distant from the house, as Baptistin had said. Monte Cristo leaned against a tree, and with that scrutinizing glance which was so rarely deceived, looked up and down the avenue, examined the passers-by, and carefully looked down the neighboring streets, to see that no one was concealed. Ten minutes passed thus, and he was convinced that no one was watching him. He hastened to the side-door with Ali, entered hurriedly, and by the servants' staircase, of which he had the key, gained his bedroom without opening or disarranging a single curtain, without even the porter having the slightest suspicion that the house, which he supposed empty, contained its chief occupant.
Arrived in his bedroom, the count motioned to Ali to stop; then he passed into the dressing-room, which he examined. Everything appeared as usual—the precious secretary in its place, and the key in the secretary. He double locked it, took the key, returned to the bedroom door, removed the double staple of the bolt, and went in. Meanwhile Ali had procured the arms the count required—namely, a short carbine and a pair of double-barrelled pistols, with which as sure an aim might be taken as with a single-barrelled one. Thus armed, the count held the lives of five men in his hands. It was about half-past nine. The count and Ali ate in haste a crust of bread and drank a glass of Spanish wine; then Monte Cristo slipped aside one of the movable panels, which enabled him to see into the adjoining room. He had within his reach his pistols and carbine, and Ali, standing near him, held one of the small Arabian hatchets, whose form has not varied since the Crusades. Through one of the windows of the bedroom, on a line with that in the dressing-room, the count could see into the street.
Two hours passed thus. It was intensely dark; still Ali, thanks to his wild nature, and the count, thanks doubtless to his long confinement, could distinguish in the darkness the slightest movement of the trees. The little light in the lodge had long been extinct. It might be expected that the attack, if indeed an attack was projected, would be made from the staircase of the ground floor, and not from a window; in Monte Cristo's opinion, the villains sought his life, not his money. It would be his bedroom they would attack, and they must reach it by the back staircase, or by the window in the dressing-room. The clock of the Invalides struck a quarter to twelve; the west wind bore on its moistened gusts the doleful vibration of the three strokes.
As the last stroke died away, the count thought he heard a slight noise in the dressing-room; this first sound, or rather this first grinding, was followed by a second, then a third; at the fourth, the count knew what to expect. A firm and well-practised hand was engaged in cutting the four sides of a pane of glass with a diamond. The count felt his heart beat more rapidly. Inured as men may be to danger, forewarned as they may be of peril, they understand, by the fluttering of the heart and the shuddering of the frame, the enormous difference between a dream and a reality, between the project and the execution. However, Monte Cristo only made a sign to apprise Ali, who, understanding that danger was approaching from the other side, drew nearer to his master. Monte Cristo was eager to ascertain the strength and number of his enemies.
The window whence the noise proceeded was opposite the opening by which the count could see into the dressing-room. He fixed his eyes on that window—he distinguished a shadow in the darkness; then one of the panes became quite opaque, as if a sheet of paper were stuck on the outside, then the square cracked without falling. Through the opening an arm was passed to find the fastening, then a second; the window turned on its hinges, and a man entered. He was alone.
"That's a daring rascal," whispered the count.
At that moment Ali touched him slightly on the shoulder. He turned; Ali pointed to the window of the room in which they were, facing the street. "I see!" said he, "there are two of them; one does the work while the other stands guard." He made a sign to Ali not to lose sight of the man in the street, and turned to the one in the dressing-room.
The glass-cutter had entered, and was feeling his way, his arms stretched out before him. At last he appeared to have made himself familiar with his surroundings. There were two doors; he bolted them both.
When he drew near to the bedroom door, Monte Cristo expected that he was coming in, and raised one of his pistols; but he simply heard the sound of the bolts sliding in their copper rings. It was only a precaution. The nocturnal visitor, ignorant of the fact that the count had removed the staples, might now think himself at home, and pursue his purpose with full security. Alone and free to act as he wished, the man then drew from his pocket something which the count could not discern, placed it on a stand, then went straight to the secretary, felt the lock, and contrary to his expectation found that the key was missing. But the glass-cutter was a prudent man who had provided for all emergencies. The count soon heard the rattling of a bunch of skeleton keys, such as the locksmith brings when called to force a lock, and which thieves call nightingales, doubtless from the music of their nightly song when they grind against the bolt. "Ah, ha," whispered Monte Cristo with a smile of disappointment, "he is only a thief."
But the man in the dark could not find the right key. He reached the instrument he had placed on the stand, touched a spring, and immediately a pale light, just bright enough to render objects distinct, was reflected on his hands and countenance. "By heavens," exclaimed Monte Cristo, starting back, "it is"—
Ali raised his hatchet. "Don't stir," whispered Monte Cristo, "and put down your hatchet; we shall require no arms." Then he added some words in a low tone, for the exclamation which surprise had drawn from the count, faint as it had been, had startled the man who remained in the pose of the old knife-grinder. It was an order the count had just given, for immediately Ali went noiselessly, and returned, bearing a black dress and a three-cornered hat. Meanwhile Monte Cristo had rapidly taken off his great-coat, waistcoat, and shirt, and one might distinguish by the glimmering through the open panel that he wore a pliant tunic of steel mail, of which the last in France, where daggers are no longer dreaded, was worn by King Louis XVI., who feared the dagger at his breast, and whose head was cleft with a hatchet. The tunic soon disappeared under a long cassock, as did his hair under a priest's wig; the three-cornered hat over this effectually transformed the count into an abbe.
The man, hearing nothing more, stood erect, and while Monte Cristo was completing his disguise had advanced straight to the secretary, whose lock was beginning to crack under his nightingale.
"Try again," whispered the count, who depended on the secret spring, which was unknown to the picklock, clever as he might be—"try again, you have a few minutes' work there." And he advanced to the window. The man whom he had seen seated on a fence had got down, and was still pacing the street; but, strange as it appeared, he cared not for those who might pass from the avenue of the Champs-Elysees or by the Faubourg St. Honore; his attention was engrossed with what was passing at the count's, and his only aim appeared to be to discern every movement in the dressing-room.
Monte Cristo suddenly struck his finger on his forehead and a smile passed over his lips; then drawing near to Ali, he whispered,—
"Remain here, concealed in the dark, and whatever noise you hear, whatever passes, only come in or show yourself if I call you." Ali bowed in token of strict obedience. Monte Cristo then drew a lighted taper from a closet, and when the thief was deeply engaged with his lock, silently opened the door, taking care that the light should shine directly on his face. The door opened so quietly that the thief heard no sound; but, to his astonishment, the room was suddenly illuminated. He turned.
"Ah, good-evening, my dear M. Caderousse," said Monte Cristo; "what are you doing here, at such an hour?"
"The Abbe Busoni!" exclaimed Caderousse; and, not knowing how this strange apparition could have entered when he had bolted the doors, he let fall his bunch of keys, and remained motionless and stupefied. The count placed himself between Caderousse and the window, thus cutting off from the thief his only chance of retreat. "The Abbe Busoni!" repeated Caderousse, fixing his haggard gaze on the count.
"Yes, undoubtedly, the Abbe Busoni himself," replied Monte Cristo. "And I am very glad you recognize me, dear M. Caderousse; it proves you have a good memory, for it must be about ten years since we last met." This calmness of Busoni, combined with his irony and boldness, staggered Caderousse.
"The abbe, the abbe!" murmured he, clinching his fists, and his teeth chattering.
"So you would rob the Count of Monte Cristo?" continued the false abbe.
"Reverend sir," murmured Caderousse, seeking to regain the window, which the count pitilessly blocked—"reverend sir, I don't know—believe me—I take my oath"—
"A pane of glass out," continued the count, "a dark lantern, a bunch of false keys, a secretary half forced—it is tolerably evident"—
Caderousse was choking; he looked around for some corner to hide in, some way of escape.
"Come, come," continued the count, "I see you are still the same,—an assassin."
"Reverend sir, since you know everything, you know it was not I—it was La Carconte; that was proved at the trial, since I was only condemned to the galleys."
"Is your time, then, expired, since I find you in a fair way to return there?"
"No, reverend sir; I have been liberated by some one."
"That some one has done society a great kindness."
"Ah," said Caderousse, "I had promised"—
"And you are breaking your promise!" interrupted Monte Cristo.
"Alas, yes!" said Caderousse very uneasily.
"A bad relapse, that will lead you, if I mistake not, to the Place de Greve. So much the worse, so much the worse—diavolo, as they say in my country."
"Reverend sir, I am impelled"—
"Every criminal says the same thing."
"Pshaw!" said Busoni disdainfully; "poverty may make a man beg, steal a loaf of bread at a baker's door, but not cause him to open a secretary in a house supposed to be inhabited. And when the jeweller Johannes had just paid you 40,000. francs for the diamond I had given you, and you killed him to get the diamond and the money both, was that also poverty?"
"Pardon, reverend sir," said Caderousse; "you have saved my life once, save me again!"
"That is but poor encouragement."
"Are you alone, reverend sir, or have you there soldiers ready to seize me?"
"I am alone," said the abbe, "and I will again have pity on you, and will let you escape, at the risk of the fresh miseries my weakness may lead to, if you tell me the truth."
"Ah, reverend sir," cried Caderousse, clasping his hands, and drawing nearer to Monte Cristo, "I may indeed say you are my deliverer!"
"You mean to say you have been freed from confinement?"
"Yes, that is true, reverend sir."
"Who was your liberator?"
"What was his name?"
"I know him; I shall know if you lie."
"Ah, reverend sir, I tell you the simple truth."
"Was this Englishman protecting you?"
"No, not me, but a young Corsican, my companion."
"What was this young Corsican's name?"
"Is that his Christian name?"
"He had no other; he was a foundling."
"Then this young man escaped with you?"
"In what way?"
"We were working at St. Mandrier, near Toulon. Do you know St. Mandrier?"
"In the hour of rest, between noon and one o'clock"—
"Galley-slaves having a nap after dinner! We may well pity the poor fellows!" said the abbe.
"Nay," said Caderousse, "one can't always work—one is not a dog."
"So much the better for the dogs," said Monte Cristo.
"While the rest slept, then, we went away a short distance; we severed our fetters with a file the Englishman had given us, and swam away."
"And what is become of this Benedetto?"
"I don't know."
"You ought to know."
"No, in truth; we parted at Hyeres." And, to give more weight to his protestation, Caderousse advanced another step towards the abbe, who remained motionless in his place, as calm as ever, and pursuing his interrogation. "You lie," said the Abbe Busoni, with a tone of irresistible authority.
"You lie! This man is still your friend, and you, perhaps, make use of him as your accomplice."
"Oh, reverend sir!"
"Since you left Toulon what have you lived on? Answer me!"
"On what I could get."
"You lie," repeated the abbe a third time, with a still more imperative tone. Caderousse, terrified, looked at the count. "You have lived on the money he has given you."
"True," said Caderousse; "Benedetto has become the son of a great lord."
"How can he be the son of a great lord?"
"A natural son."
"And what is that great lord's name?"
"The Count of Monte Cristo, the very same in whose house we are."
"Benedetto the count's son?" replied Monte Cristo, astonished in his turn.
"Well, I should think so, since the count has found him a false father—since the count gives him four thousand francs a month, and leaves him 500,000 francs in his will."
"Ah, yes," said the factitious abbe, who began to understand; "and what name does the young man bear meanwhile?"
"Is it, then, that young man whom my friend the Count of Monte Cristo has received into his house, and who is going to marry Mademoiselle Danglars?"
"And you suffer that, you wretch—you, who know his life and his crime?"
"Why should I stand in a comrade's way?" said Caderousse.
"You are right; it is not you who should apprise M. Danglars, it is I."
"Do not do so, reverend sir."
"Because you would bring us to ruin."
"And you think that to save such villains as you I will become an abettor of their plot, an accomplice in their crimes?"
"Reverend sir," said Caderousse, drawing still nearer.
"I will expose all."
"To M. Danglars."
"By heaven!" cried Caderousse, drawing from his waistcoat an open knife, and striking the count in the breast, "you shall disclose nothing, reverend sir!" To Caderousse's great astonishment, the knife, instead of piercing the count's breast, flew back blunted. At the same moment the count seized with his left hand the assassin's wrist, and wrung it with such strength that the knife fell from his stiffened fingers, and Caderousse uttered a cry of pain. But the count, disregarding his cry, continued to wring the bandit's wrist, until, his arm being dislocated, he fell first on his knees, then flat on the floor. The count then placed his foot on his head, saying, "I know not what restrains me from crushing thy skull, rascal."
"Ah, mercy—mercy!" cried Caderousse. The count withdrew his foot. "Rise!" said he. Caderousse rose.
"What a wrist you have, reverend sir!" said Caderousse, stroking his arm, all bruised by the fleshy pincers which had held it; "what a wrist!"
"Silence! God gives me strength to overcome a wild beast like you; in the name of that God I act,—remember that, wretch,—and to spare thee at this moment is still serving him."
"Oh!" said Caderousse, groaning with pain.
"Take this pen and paper, and write what I dictate."
"I don't know how to write, reverend sir."
"You lie! Take this pen, and write!" Caderousse, awed by the superior power of the abbe, sat down and wrote:—
Sir,—The man whom you are receiving at your house, and to whom you intend to marry your daughter, is a felon who escaped with me from confinement at Toulon. He was No. 59, and I No. 58. He was called Benedetto, but he is ignorant of his real name, having never known his parents.
"Sign it!" continued the count.
"But would you ruin me?"
"If I sought your ruin, fool, I should drag you to the first guard-house; besides, when that note is delivered, in all probability you will have no more to fear. Sign it, then!"
Caderousse signed it. "The address, 'To monsieur the Baron Danglars, banker, Rue de la Chaussee d'Antin.'" Caderousse wrote the address. The abbe took the note. "Now," said he, "that suffices—begone!"
"The way you came."
"You wish me to get out at that window?"
"You got in very well."
"Oh, you have some design against me, reverend sir."
"Idiot! what design can I have?"
"Why, then, not let me out by the door?"
"What would be the advantage of waking the porter?"—
"Ah, reverend sir, tell me, do you wish me dead?"
"I wish what God wills."
"But swear that you will not strike me as I go down."
"What do you intend doing with me?"
"I ask you what can I do? I have tried to make you a happy man, and you have turned out a murderer."
"Oh, monsieur," said Caderousse, "make one more attempt—try me once more!"
"I will," said the count. "Listen—you know if I may be relied on."
"Yes," said Caderousse.
"If you arrive safely at home"—
"What have I to fear, except from you?"
"If you reach your home safely, leave Paris, leave France, and wherever you may be, so long as you conduct yourself well, I will send you a small annuity; for, if you return home safely, then"—
"Then?" asked Caderousse, shuddering.
"Then I shall believe God has forgiven you, and I will forgive you too."
"As true as I am a Christian," stammered Caderousse, "you will make me die of fright!"
"Now begone," said the count, pointing to the window.
Caderousse, scarcely yet relying on this promise, put his legs out of the window and stood on the ladder. "Now go down," said the abbe, folding his arms. Understanding he had nothing more to fear from him, Caderousse began to go down. Then the count brought the taper to the window, that it might be seen in the Champs-Elysees that a man was getting out of the window while another held a light.
"What are you doing, reverend sir? Suppose a watchman should pass?" And he blew out the light. He then descended, but it was only when he felt his foot touch the ground that he was satisfied of his safety.
Monte Cristo returned to his bedroom, and, glancing rapidly from the garden to the street, he saw first Caderousse, who after walking to the end of the garden, fixed his ladder against the wall at a different part from where he came in. The count then looking over into the street, saw the man who appeared to be waiting run in the same direction, and place himself against the angle of the wall where Caderousse would come over. Caderousse climbed the ladder slowly, and looked over the coping to see if the street was quiet. No one could be seen or heard. The clock of the Invalides struck one. Then Caderousse sat astride the coping, and drawing up his ladder passed it over the wall; then he began to descend, or rather to slide down by the two stanchions, which he did with an ease which proved how accustomed he was to the exercise. But, once started, he could not stop. In vain did he see a man start from the shadow when he was halfway down—in vain did he see an arm raised as he touched the ground. Before he could defend himself that arm struck him so violently in the back that he let go the ladder, crying, "Help!" A second blow struck him almost immediately in the side, and he fell, calling, "Help, murder!" Then, as he rolled on the ground, his adversary seized him by the hair, and struck him a third blow in the chest. This time Caderousse endeavored to call again, but he could only utter a groan, and he shuddered as the blood flowed from his three wounds. The assassin, finding that he no longer cried out, lifted his head up by the hair; his eyes were closed, and the mouth was distorted. The murderer, supposing him dead, let fall his head and disappeared. Then Caderousse, feeling that he was leaving him, raised himself on his elbow, and with a dying voice cried with great effort, "Murder! I am dying! Help, reverend sir,—help!"
This mournful appeal pierced the darkness. The door of the back-staircase opened, then the side-gate of the garden, and Ali and his master were on the spot with lights.
Chapter 83. The Hand of God.
Caderousse continued to call piteously, "Help, reverend sir, help!"
"What is the matter?" asked Monte Cristo.
"Help," cried Caderousse; "I am murdered!"
"We are here;—take courage."
"Ah, it's all over! You are come too late—you are come to see me die. What blows, what blood!" He fainted. Ali and his master conveyed the wounded man into a room. Monte Cristo motioned to Ali to undress him, and he then examined his dreadful wounds. "My God!" he exclaimed, "thy vengeance is sometimes delayed, but only that it may fall the more effectually." Ali looked at his master for further instructions. "Bring here immediately the king's attorney, M. de Villefort, who lives in the Faubourg St. Honore. As you pass the lodge, wake the porter, and send him for a surgeon." Ali obeyed, leaving the abbe alone with Caderousse, who had not yet revived.
When the wretched man again opened his eyes, the count looked at him with a mournful expression of pity, and his lips moved as if in prayer. "A surgeon, reverend sir—a surgeon!" said Caderousse.
"I have sent for one," replied the abbe.
"I know he cannot save my life, but he may strengthen me to give my evidence."
"Against my murderer."
"Did you recognize him?"
"Yes; it was Benedetto."
"The young Corsican?"
"Yes. After giving me the plan of this house, doubtless hoping I should kill the count and he thus become his heir, or that the count would kill me and I should be out of his way, he waylaid me, and has murdered me."
"I have also sent for the procureur."
"He will not come in time; I feel my life fast ebbing."
"Wait a moment," said Monte Cristo. He left the room, and returned in five minutes with a phial. The dying man's eyes were all the time riveted on the door, through which he hoped succor would arrive. "Hasten, reverend sir, hasten! I shall faint again!" Monte Cristo approached, and dropped on his purple lips three or four drops of the contents of the phial. Caderousse drew a deep breath. "Oh," said he, "that is life to me; more, more!"
"Two drops more would kill you," replied the abbe.
"Oh, send for some one to whom I can denounce the wretch!"
"Shall I write your deposition? You can sign it."
"Yes, yes," said Caderousse; and his eyes glistened at the thought of this posthumous revenge. Monte Cristo wrote:—
"I die, murdered by the Corsican Benedetto, my comrade in the galleys at Toulouse, No. 59."
"Quick, quick!" said Caderousse, "or I shall be unable to sign it."
Monte Cristo gave the pen to Caderousse, who collected all his strength, signed it, and fell back on his bed, saying: "You will relate all the rest, reverend sir; you will say he calls himself Andrea Cavalcanti. He lodges at the Hotel des Princes. Oh, I am dying!" He again fainted. The abbe made him smell the contents of the phial, and he again opened his eyes. His desire for revenge had not forsaken him.
"Ah, you will tell all I have said, will you not, reverend sir?"
"Yes, and much more."
"What more will you say?"
"I will say he had doubtless given you the plan of this house, in the hope the count would kill you. I will say, likewise, he had apprised the count, by a note, of your intention, and, the count being absent, I read the note and sat up to await you."
"And he will be guillotined, will be not?" said Caderousse. "Promise me that, and I will die with that hope."
"I will say," continued the count, "that he followed and watched you the whole time, and when he saw you leave the house, ran to the angle of the wall to conceal himself."
"Did you see all that?"
"Remember my words: 'If you return home safely, I shall believe God has forgiven you, and I will forgive you also.'"
"And you did not warn me!" cried Caderousse, raising himself on his elbows. "You knew I should be killed on leaving this house, and did not warn me!"
"No; for I saw God's justice placed in the hands of Benedetto, and should have thought it sacrilege to oppose the designs of providence."
"God's justice! Speak not of it, reverend sir. If God were just, you know how many would be punished who now escape."
"Patience," said the abbe, in a tone which made the dying man shudder; "have patience!" Caderousse looked at him with amazement. "Besides," said the abbe, "God is merciful to all, as he has been to you; he is first a father, then a judge."
"Do you then believe in God?" said Caderousse.
"Had I been so unhappy as not to believe in him until now," said Monte Cristo, "I must believe on seeing you." Caderousse raised his clinched hands towards heaven.
"Listen," said the abbe, extending his hand over the wounded man, as if to command him to believe; "this is what the God in whom, on your death-bed, you refuse to believe, has done for you—he gave you health, strength, regular employment, even friends—a life, in fact, which a man might enjoy with a calm conscience. Instead of improving these gifts, rarely granted so abundantly, this has been your course—you have given yourself up to sloth and drunkenness, and in a fit of intoxication have ruined your best friend."
"Help!" cried Caderousse; "I require a surgeon, not a priest; perhaps I am not mortally wounded—I may not die; perhaps they can yet save my life."
"Your wounds are so far mortal that, without the three drops I gave you, you would now be dead. Listen, then."
"Ah," murmured Caderousse, "what a strange priest you are; you drive the dying to despair, instead of consoling them."
"Listen," continued the abbe. "When you had betrayed your friend God began not to strike, but to warn you. Poverty overtook you. You had already passed half your life in coveting that which you might have honorably acquired; and already you contemplated crime under the excuse of want, when God worked a miracle in your behalf, sending you, by my hands, a fortune—brilliant, indeed, for you, who had never possessed any. But this unexpected, unhoped-for, unheard-of fortune sufficed you no longer when you once possessed it; you wished to double it, and how?—by a murder! You succeeded, and then God snatched it from you, and brought you to justice."
"It was not I who wished to kill the Jew," said Caderousse; "it was La Carconte."
"Yes," said Monte Cristo, "and God,—I cannot say in justice, for his justice would have slain you,—but God, in his mercy, spared your life."
"Pardieu, to transport me for life, how merciful!"
"You thought it a mercy then, miserable wretch! The coward who feared death rejoiced at perpetual disgrace; for like all galley-slaves, you said, 'I may escape from prison, I cannot from the grave.' And you said truly; the way was opened for you unexpectedly. An Englishman visited Toulon, who had vowed to rescue two men from infamy, and his choice fell on you and your companion. You received a second fortune, money and tranquillity were restored to you, and you, who had been condemned to a felon's life, might live as other men. Then, wretched creature, then you tempted God a third time. 'I have not enough,' you said, when you had more than you before possessed, and you committed a third crime, without reason, without excuse. God is wearied; he has punished you." Caderousse was fast sinking. "Give me drink," said he: "I thirst—I burn!" Monte Cristo gave him a glass of water. "And yet that villain, Benedetto, will escape!"
"No one, I tell you, will escape; Benedetto will be punished."
"Then, you, too, will be punished, for you did not do your duty as a priest—you should have prevented Benedetto from killing me."
"I?" said the count, with a smile which petrified the dying man, "when you had just broken your knife against the coat of mail which protected my breast! Yet perhaps if I had found you humble and penitent, I might have prevented Benedetto from killing you; but I found you proud and blood-thirsty, and I left you in the hands of God."
"I do not believe there is a God," howled Caderousse; "you do not believe it; you lie—you lie!"
"Silence," said the abbe; "you will force the last drop of blood from your veins. What! you do not believe in God when he is striking you dead? you will not believe in him, who requires but a prayer, a word, a tear, and he will forgive? God, who might have directed the assassin's dagger so as to end your career in a moment, has given you this quarter of an hour for repentance. Reflect, then, wretched man, and repent."
"No," said Caderousse, "no; I will not repent. There is no God; there is no providence—all comes by chance."—
"There is a providence; there is a God," said Monte Cristo, "of whom you are a striking proof, as you lie in utter despair, denying him, while I stand before you, rich, happy, safe and entreating that God in whom you endeavor not to believe, while in your heart you still believe in him."
"But who are you, then?" asked Caderousse, fixing his dying eyes on the count. "Look well at me!" said Monte Cristo, putting the light near his face. "Well, the abbe—the Abbe Busoni." Monte Cristo took off the wig which disfigured him, and let fall his black hair, which added so much to the beauty of his pallid features. "Oh?" said Caderousse, thunderstruck, "but for that black hair, I should say you were the Englishman, Lord Wilmore."
"I am neither the Abbe Busoni nor Lord Wilmore," said Monte Cristo; "think again,—do you not recollect me?" Those was a magic effect in the count's words, which once more revived the exhausted powers of the miserable man. "Yes, indeed," said he; "I think I have seen you and known you formerly."
"Yes, Caderousse, you have seen me; you knew me once."
"Who, then, are you? and why, if you knew me, do you let me die?"
"Because nothing can save you; your wounds are mortal. Had it been possible to save you, I should have considered it another proof of God's mercy, and I would again have endeavored to restore you, I swear by my father's tomb."
"By your father's tomb!" said Caderousse, supported by a supernatural power, and half-raising himself to see more distinctly the man who had just taken the oath which all men hold sacred; "who, then, are you?" The count had watched the approach of death. He knew this was the last struggle. He approached the dying man, and, leaning over him with a calm and melancholy look, he whispered, "I am—I am"—And his almost closed lips uttered a name so low that the count himself appeared afraid to hear it. Caderousse, who had raised himself on his knees, and stretched out his arm, tried to draw back, then clasping his hands, and raising them with a desperate effort, "O my God, my God!" said he, "pardon me for having denied thee; thou dost exist, thou art indeed man's father in heaven, and his judge on earth. My God, my Lord, I have long despised thee! Pardon me, my God; receive me, O my Lord!" Caderousse sighed deeply, and fell back with a groan. The blood no longer flowed from his wounds. He was dead.
"One!" said the count mysteriously, his eyes fixed on the corpse, disfigured by so awful a death. Ten minutes afterwards the surgeon and the procureur arrived, the one accompanied by the porter, the other by Ali, and were received by the Abbe Busoni, who was praying by the side of the corpse.
Chapter 84. Beauchamp.
The daring attempt to rob the count was the topic of conversation throughout Paris for the next fortnight. The dying man had signed a deposition declaring Benedetto to be the assassin. The police had orders to make the strictest search for the murderer. Caderousse's knife, dark lantern, bunch of keys, and clothing, excepting the waistcoat, which could not be found, were deposited at the registry; the corpse was conveyed to the morgue. The count told every one that this adventure had happened during his absence at Auteuil, and that he only knew what was related by the Abbe Busoni, who that evening, by mere chance, had requested to pass the night in his house, to examine some valuable books in his library. Bertuccio alone turned pale whenever Benedetto's name was mentioned in his presence, but there was no reason why any one should notice his doing so. Villefort, being called on to prove the crime, was preparing his brief with the same ardor that he was accustomed to exercise when required to speak in criminal cases.
But three weeks had already passed, and the most diligent search had been unsuccessful; the attempted robbery and the murder of the robber by his comrade were almost forgotten in anticipation of the approaching marriage of Mademoiselle Danglars to the Count Andrea Cavalcanti. It was expected that this wedding would shortly take place, as the young man was received at the banker's as the betrothed. Letters had been despatched to M. Cavalcanti, as the count's father, who highly approved of the union, regretted his inability to leave Parma at that time, and promised a wedding gift of a hundred and fifty thousand livres. It was agreed that the three millions should be intrusted to Danglars to invest; some persons had warned the young man of the circumstances of his future father-in-law, who had of late sustained repeated losses; but with sublime disinterestedness and confidence the young man refused to listen, or to express a single doubt to the baron. The baron adored Count Andrea Cavalcanti: not so Mademoiselle Eugenie Danglars. With an instinctive hatred of matrimony, she suffered Andrea's attentions in order to get rid of Morcerf; but when Andrea urged his suit, she betrayed an entire dislike to him. The baron might possibly have perceived it, but, attributing it to a caprice, feigned ignorance.
The delay demanded by Beauchamp had nearly expired. Morcerf appreciated the advice of Monte Cristo to let things die away of their own accord. No one had taken up the remark about the general, and no one had recognized in the officer who betrayed the castle of Yanina the noble count in the House of Peers. Albert, however felt no less insulted; the few lines which had irritated him were certainly intended as an insult. Besides, the manner in which Beauchamp had closed the conference left a bitter recollection in his heart. He cherished the thought of the duel, hoping to conceal its true cause even from his seconds. Beauchamp had not been seen since the day he visited Albert, and those of whom the latter inquired always told him he was out on a journey which would detain him some days. Where he was no one knew.
One morning Albert was awakened by his valet de chambre, who announced Beauchamp. Albert rubbed his eyes, ordered his servant to introduce him into the small smoking-room on the ground-floor, dressed himself quickly, and went down. He found Beauchamp pacing the room; on perceiving him Beauchamp stopped. "Your arrival here, without waiting my visit at your house to-day, looks well, sir," said Albert. "Tell me, may I shake hands with you, saying, 'Beauchamp, acknowledge you have injured me, and retain my friendship,' or must I simply propose to you a choice of arms?"
"Albert," said Beauchamp, with a look of sorrow which stupefied the young man, "let us first sit down and talk."
"Rather, sir, before we sit down, I must demand your answer."
"Albert," said the journalist, "these are questions which it is difficult to answer."
"I will facilitate it by repeating the question, 'Will you, or will you not, retract?'"
"Morcerf, it is not enough to answer 'yes' or 'no' to questions which concern the honor, the social interest, and the life of such a man as Lieutenant-general the Count of Morcerf, peer of France."
"What must then be done?"
"What I have done, Albert. I reasoned thus—money, time, and fatigue are nothing compared with the reputation and interests of a whole family; probabilities will not suffice, only facts will justify a deadly combat with a friend. If I strike with the sword, or discharge the contents of a pistol at man with whom, for three years, I have been on terms of intimacy, I must, at least, know why I do so; I must meet him with a heart at ease, and that quiet conscience which a man needs when his own arm must save his life."
"Well," said Morcerf, impatiently, "what does all this mean?"
"It means that I have just returned from Yanina."
"Here is my passport; examine the visa—Geneva, Milan, Venice, Trieste, Delvino, Yanina. Will you believe the government of a republic, a kingdom, and an empire?" Albert cast his eyes on the passport, then raised them in astonishment to Beauchamp. "You have been to Yanina?" said he.
"Albert, had you been a stranger, a foreigner, a simple lord, like that Englishman who came to demand satisfaction three or four months since, and whom I killed to get rid of, I should not have taken this trouble; but I thought this mark of consideration due to you. I took a week to go, another to return, four days of quarantine, and forty-eight hours to stay there; that makes three weeks. I returned last night, and here I am."
"What circumlocution! How long you are before you tell me what I most wish to know?"
"Because, in truth, Albert"—
"You fear to acknowledge that your correspondent his deceived you? Oh, no self-love, Beauchamp. Acknowledge it, Beauchamp; your courage cannot be doubted."
"Not so," murmured the journalist; "on the contrary"—
Albert turned frightfully pale; he endeavored to speak, but the words died on his lips. "My friend," said Beauchamp, in the most affectionate tone, "I should gladly make an apology; but, alas,"—
"The paragraph was correct, my friend."
"What? That French officer"—
"The traitor who surrendered the castle of the man in whose service he was"—
"Pardon me, my friend, that man was your father!" Albert advanced furiously towards Beauchamp, but the latter restrained him more by a mild look than by his extended hand.
"My friend," said he, "here is a proof of it."
Albert opened the paper, it was an attestation of four notable inhabitants of Yanina, proving that Colonel Fernand Mondego, in the service of Ali Tepelini, had surrendered the castle for two million crowns. The signatures were perfectly legal. Albert tottered and fell overpowered in a chair. It could no longer be doubted; the family name was fully given. After a moment's mournful silence, his heart overflowed, and he gave way to a flood of tears. Beauchamp, who had watched with sincere pity the young man's paroxysm of grief, approached him. "Now, Albert," said he, "you understand me—do you not? I wished to see all, and to judge of everything for myself, hoping the explanation would be in your father's favor, and that I might do him justice. But, on the contrary, the particulars which are given prove that Fernand Mondego, raised by Ali Pasha to the rank of governor-general, is no other than Count Fernand of Morcerf; then, recollecting the honor you had done me, in admitting me to your friendship, I hastened to you."
Albert, still extended on the chair, covered his face with both hands, as if to prevent the light from reaching him. "I hastened to you," continued Beauchamp, "to tell you, Albert, that in this changing age, the faults of a father cannot revert upon his children. Few have passed through this revolutionary period, in the midst of which we were born, without some stain of infamy or blood to soil the uniform of the soldier, or the gown of the magistrate. Now I have these proofs, Albert, and I am in your confidence, no human power can force me to a duel which your own conscience would reproach you with as criminal, but I come to offer you what you can no longer demand of me. Do you wish these proofs, these attestations, which I alone possess, to be destroyed? Do you wish this frightful secret to remain with us? Confided to me, it shall never escape my lips; say, Albert, my friend, do you wish it?"
Albert threw himself on Beauchamp's neck. "Ah, noble fellow!" cried he.
"Take these," said Beauchamp, presenting the papers to Albert.
Albert seized them with a convulsive hand, tore them in pieces, and trembling lest the least vestige should escape and one day appear to confront him, he approached the wax-light, always kept burning for cigars, and burned every fragment. "Dear, excellent friend," murmured Albert, still burning the papers.
"Let all be forgotten as a sorrowful dream," said Beauchamp; "let it vanish as the last sparks from the blackened paper, and disappear as the smoke from those silent ashes."
"Yes, yes," said Albert, "and may there remain only the eternal friendship which I promised to my deliverer, which shall be transmitted to our children's children, and shall always remind me that I owe my life and the honor of my name to you,—for had this been known, oh, Beauchamp, I should have destroyed myself; or,—no, my poor mother! I could not have killed her by the same blow,—I should have fled from my country."
"Dear Albert," said Beauchamp. But this sudden and factitious joy soon forsook the young man, and was succeeded by a still greater grief.
"Well," said Beauchamp, "what still oppresses you, my friend?"
"I am broken-hearted," said Albert. "Listen, Beauchamp! I cannot thus, in a moment relinquish the respect, the confidence, and pride with which a father's untarnished name inspires a son. Oh, Beauchamp, Beauchamp, how shall I now approach mine? Shall I draw back my forehead from his embrace, or withhold my hand from his? I am the most wretched of men. Ah, my mother, my poor mother!" said Albert, gazing through his tears at his mother's portrait; "if you know this, how much must you suffer!"
"Come," said Beauchamp, taking both his hands, "take courage, my friend."
"But how came that first note to be inserted in your journal? Some unknown enemy—an invisible foe—has done this."
"The more must you fortify yourself, Albert. Let no trace of emotion be visible on your countenance, bear your grief as the cloud bears within it ruin and death—a fatal secret, known only when the storm bursts. Go, my friend, reserve your strength for the moment when the crash shall come."
"You think, then, all is not over yet?" said Albert, horror-stricken.
"I think nothing, my friend; but all things are possible. By the way"—
"What?" said Albert, seeing that Beauchamp hesitated.
"Are you going to marry Mademoiselle Danglars?"
"Why do you ask me now?"
"Because the rupture or fulfilment of this engagement is connected with the person of whom we were speaking."
"How?" said Albert, whose brow reddened; "you think M. Danglars"—
"I ask you only how your engagement stands? Pray put no construction on my words I do not mean they should convey, and give them no undue weight."
"No." said Albert, "the engagement is broken off."
"Well," said Beauchamp. Then, seeing the young man was about to relapse into melancholy, "Let us go out, Albert," said he; "a ride in the wood in the phaeton, or on horseback, will refresh you; we will then return to breakfast, and you shall attend to your affairs, and I to mine."
"Willingly," said Albert; "but let us walk. I think a little exertion would do me good." The two friends walked out on the fortress. When arrived at the Madeleine,—"Since we are out," said Beauchamp, "let us call on M. de Monte Cristo; he is admirably adapted to revive one's spirits, because he never interrogates, and in my opinion those who ask no questions are the best comforters."