The World's Greatest Books, Vol III
by Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton, Eds.
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Don't hurt him," said the Bedouin chief. "Every drop of his blood is worth ten thousand piastres."

Late that night, as Amalek, the great Rechabite Bedouin sheikh, was sitting before his tent, a horseman rode up to him.

"Salaam," he cried. "Sheikh of sheikhs, it is done! The brother of the Queen of England is your slave!"

"Good!" said Amalek. "May your mother eat the hump of a young camel! Is the brother of the queen with Sheikh Salem?"

"No," said the horseman, "Sheikh Salem is in paradise, and many of our men are with him. The brother of the Queen of the English is a mighty warrior. He fought like a lion, but we brought his horse down at last and took him alive."

"Good!" said Amalek. "Camels shall be given to all the widows of the men he has killed, and I will find them new husbands. Go and tell Fakredeen the good news!"

Amalek and Fakredeen would not have cared had they lost a hundred men in the affair. The Bedouin chief and the emir of Lebanon could bring into the field more than twenty thousand lances, and the capture of Tancred was part of a political scheme which they were engineering for the conquest of Syria. They knew from Besso that the young English prince was fabulously rich, and, as they wanted arms, they meant to hold him to the extraordinary ransom of two million piastres.

"My foster father will pay it," said Fakredeen. "He told me that he would have to rebuild Solomon's temple if the English prince asked him to. We will get him to help us rebuild Solomon's empire."

III.—The Vision on the Mount

On the wild granite scarp of Mount Sinai, about seven thousand feet above the blue seas that lave its base, is a small plain hemmed in by pinnacles of rock. In the centre of the plain are a cypress tree and a fountain. This is the traditional scene of the greatest event in the history of mankind. It was here that Moses received the divine laws on which the civilisation of the world is based.

Tancred of Montacute knelt down on the sacred soil, and bowed his head in prayer. Far below him, in one of the green-valleys sloping down to the sea, Fakredeen and a band of Bedouins pitched their tents for the night, and talked in awed tones of their strange companion. Wonderful is the power of soul with which a great idea endues a man. The young emir of Lebanon and his men were no longer the captors of Tancred, but his followers. He had preached to them with the eyes of flame and the words of fire of a prophet; and they now asked of him, not a ransom, but a revelation. They wanted him to bring down from Sinai the new word of power, which would bind their scattered tribes into a mighty nation, with a divine mission for all the world.

What was this word to be? Tancred did not know any more than his followers, and he knelt all day long under the Arabian sun, waiting for the divine revelation. The sunlight faded, and the shadows fell around him, and he still remained bowed in a strange, quiet ecstasy of expectation. But at last, lifting up his eyes to the clear, starry sky of Arabia, he prayed:

"O Lord God of Israel, I come to Thine ancient dwelling-place to pour forth the heart of tortured Europe. Why does no impulse from Thy renovating will strike again into the soul of man? Faith fades and duty dies, and a profound melancholy falls upon the world. Our kings cannot rule, our priests doubt, and our multitudes toil and moan, and call in their madness upon unknown gods. If this transfigured mount may not again behold Thee, if Thou wilt not again descend to teach and console us, send, oh send, one of the starry messengers that guard Thy throne, to save Thy creatures from their terrible despair!"

As he prayed all the stars of Arabia grew strangely dim. The wild peaks of Sinai, standing sharp and black in the lucid, purple air, melted into shadowy, changing masses. The huge branches of the cypress-tree moved mysteriously above his head, and he fell upon the earth senseless and in a trance.

It seemed to Tancred that a mighty form was bending over him with a countenance like an oriental night, dark yet lustrous, mystical yet clear. The solemn eyes of the shadowy apparition were full of the brightness and energy of youth and the calm wisdom of the ages.

"I am the Angel of Arabia," said the spectral figure, waving a sceptre fashioned like a palm-tree, "the guardian spirit of the land which governs the world; for its power lies neither in the sword nor in the shield, for these pass away, but in ideas which are divine. All the thoughts of every nation come from a higher power than man, but the thoughts of Arabia come directly from the Most High. You want a new revelation to Christendom? Listen to the ancient message of Arabia!

"Your people now hanker after other gods than the God of Sinai and Calvary. But the eternal principles of that Arabian faith, which moulded them from savages into civilised men when they descended from their northern forests fifteen hundred years ago, and spread all over the world, can alone breathe new vigour into them, now that they are decaying in the dust and fever of their great cities. Tell them that they must cease from seeking in their vain philosophies for the solution of their social problems. Their, longing for the brotherhood of mankind can only be satisfied when they acknowledge the sway of a common father. Tell them that they are the children of God. Announce the sublime and solacing doctrine of theocratic equality. Fear not, falter not. Obey the impulse of thine own spirit, and find a ready instrument in every human being."

A sound as of thunder roused Tancred from his trance. Above him the mountains rose sharp and black in the clear purple air, and the Arabian stars shone with undimmed brightness; but the voice of the angel still lingered in his ear. He went down the mountain; at its base he found his followers sleeping amid their camels. He aroused Fakredeen, and told him that he had received the word which would bind together the warring nations of Arabia and Palestine, and reshape the earth.

IV.—The Mystic Queen

"It has been a great day," said Tancred to Fakredeen, as they were sitting some months afterwards in the castle of the young emir of Lebanon, where all the princes of Syria had assembled to discuss the foundation of the new empire. "If your friends will only work together as they promise, Syria is ours."

"Even Lebanon," said Fakredeen, "can send forth more than fifty thousand well-armed footmen, and Amalek is gathering all the horsemen of the desert, from Petraea to Yemen, under our banner. If we can only win over the Ansarey," he continued, "we shall have all Syria and Arabia as a base for our operations."

"The Ansarey?" exclaimed Tancred. "They hold the mountains around Antioch, which are the key of Palestine, don't they? What is their religion? Do you think that the doctrine of theocratic equality would appeal to them as it did to the Arabians?"

"I don't know," said the emir. "They never allow strangers to enter their country. They are a very ancient people, and they fight so well in their mountains that even the Turks have not been able to conquer them."

"But can't we make overtures?" said Tancred.

"That is what I have done," said Fakredeen. "The Queen of the Ansarey has heard about you, and I have arranged that we should go and see her as soon as the Syrian assembly was over. Everything is ready for our journey, so, if you like, we will start at once."

It was a difficult expedition, as the Queen of the Ansarey was then waging war on the Turkish pasha of Aleppo. Happily, the travellers came upon a band of Ansareys who were raiding the Turkish province, and were led by them through their black ravines to the fortress palace of the queen.

She received them, sitting on her divan, clothed in a purple robe, and shrouded in a long veil. This she took off when Tancred came towards her, and he marvelled at the strangeness of her beauty. There was nothing oriental about her. She was a Greek girl of the ancient type, with violet eyes, fair cheeks, and dark hair.

"Prince," she said, "we are a people who wish neither to see nor to be seen. We do not care what goes on in the world around. Our mountains are wild and barren, but while Apollo dwells among us, we do not care for gold, or silk, or jewels."

"Apollo!" cried Tancred. "Are the gods of Olympus still worshipped on earth?"

"Yes, Apollo still lives among us, and another greater than Apollo," said the young queen, looking at Tancred long and earnestly. "Follow me, and you shall now behold the secret of the Ansarey."

Her maidens adorned her with a garland of roses, and put a garland on the head of Tancred, and she led him through a portal of bronze, down an underground passage, into an Ionic temple, filled with the white and lovely forms of the gods of ancient Greece.

"Do you know this?" said the queen to Tancred, looking at a statue in golden ivory, and then at the young Englishman, whose clear-cut features and hyacinthine locks curiously resembled those of the carven image.

"It is Phoebus Apollo," said Tancred, and, moved by admiration at the beauty of the figure, he murmured some lines of Homer.

"Ah, you know all!" cried the queen. "You know our secret language. Yes, this is Phoebus Apollo. He used to stand in Antioch in the ancient days before the Christians drove us into the mountains. And look," she said, pointing to the statue beside Apollo, "here is the Syrian goddess before whom the pilgrims of the world once knelt. She is named Astarte, and I am called after her."

"Oh, angels watch over me!" said Tancred to himself as Queen Astarte fixed her violet eyes upon him with a glance of love that could not be mistaken, and led him back into the hall of audience.

There he saw Fakredeen bending over a maiden with a flower-like face, and large, dark, lustrous eyes.

"She is my foster-sister, Eva," said Fakredeen. "The Ansareys captured her on the plain of Aleppo."

Tancred had met Eva at the house of Besso in Jerusalem, but she did not then exercise over him the strange charm which now drew him to her side. It seemed to him that the beautiful Jewish girl had been sent to help him in his struggle against the heathen spells of Astarte. As he was meditating how he could rescue her, a messenger came in, and announced that the pasha of Aleppo had invaded the mountains at the head of 5,000 troops.

"Ah!" cried Astarte. "Few of them will ever see Aleppo again. I have 25,000 men under arms, and you, my prince," she said, turning to Tancred, "shall command them."

Tancred had learnt something of the arts of mountain warfare from Sheikh Amalek. He allowed the Turkish troops to penetrate into the heart of the wild hills, and then, as they were marching down a long defile, he attacked them from the crests above, shooting them down like sheep and burying them in avalanches of rolling rock. Instead of returning to the fortress palace, he sent his men on ahead, and rode out alone into the desert, and went through the Syrian wilderness back to Jerusalem.

Riding up to the door of Besso's house by Sion gate, he asked if there were any news of Eva. A negro led him into a garden, and there, sitting by the side of a fountain, was the lovely Jewish maiden.

"So Fakredeen brought you safely away, Eva," he said tenderly. "I was afraid that Astarte meant to harm you."

"She would have killed me," said Eva, "if she could. I am afraid that your faith in your idea of theocratic equality has been destroyed by the Ansareys. How can you build up an empire in a land divided by so many jarring creeds? Do you still believe in Arabia?"

"I believe in Arabia," cried Tancred, kneeling down at her feet, "because I believe in you. You are the angel of Arabia, and the angel of my life. You cannot guess what influence you have had on my fate. You came into my life like another messenger from God. Thanks to you, my faith has never faltered. Will you not share it, dearest?"

He clasped her hand, and gazed with passionate adoration into her face. As her head fell upon his shoulder, the negro came running to the fountain.

"The Duke of Bellamont!" he said to Tancred.

Tancred looked up, and saw the Duke of Bellamont coming through the pomegranate trees of the garden.

"Father," he said, advancing towards the duke, "I have found my mission in life, and I am going to marry this lady."

* * * * *


Marguerite de Valois

Alexandre Dumas, pere (to distinguish him from his son of the same name), early became known as a talented writer, and especially as a poet and dramatist. His first published work appeared in 1823; then came volumes of poems in 1825, 1826, and the drama of "Henry III." in 1828. In "Marguerite de Valois," published in 1845, the first of the "Valois" series of historical romances, Dumas takes us back from the days of Richelieu and the "Three Musketeers" to the preceding century and the early struggles of Catholic and Huguenot. It was a stirring time in France, full of horrors and bloodshed, plots and intrigues, when Marguerite de Valois married Henry of Navarre, and Alexandre Dumas gives us, in his wonderfully, vivid and attractive style, a great picture of the French court in the time of Charles IX. Little affection existed between Henry and his bride, but strong ties of interest and ambition bound them together, and for a long time they both adhered loyally to the treaty of political alliance they had drawn up for their mutual advantage. Dumas died on December 5, 1870, after experiencing many changes of fortune. His son also won considerable reputation as a dramatist and novelist.

I.—Henry of Navarre and Marguerite

On Monday, August 18, 1572, a great festival was held in the palace of the Louvre. It was to celebrate the marriage of Henry of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois, a marriage that perplexed a good many people, and alarmed others.

For Henry de Bourbon, King of Navarre, was the leader of the Huguenot party, and Marguerite was the daughter of Catherine de Medici, and the sister of the king, Charles IX., and this alliance between a Protestant and a Catholic, it seemed, was to end the strife that rent the nation. The king, too, had set his heart on this marriage, and the Huguenots were somewhat reassured by the king's declaration that Catholic and Huguenot alike were now his subjects, and were equally beloved by him. Still, there were many on both sides who feared and distrusted the alliance.

At midnight, six days later, on August 24, the tocsin sounded, and the massacre of St. Bartholomew began.

The marriage, indeed, was in no sense a love match; but Henry succeeded at once in making Marguerite his friend, for he was alive to the dangers that surrounded him.

"Madame," he said, presenting himself at Marguerite's rooms on the night of the wedding festival, "whatever many persons may have said, I think our marriage is a good marriage. I stand well with you—you stand well with me. Therefore, we ought to act towards each other like good allies, since to-day we have been allied in the sight of God! Don't you think so?"

"Without question, sir!"

"I know, madame, that the ground at court is full of dangerous abysses; and I know that, though I am young and have never injured any person, I have many enemies. The king hates me, his brothers, the Duke of Anjou and the Duke D'Alencon, hate me. Catherine de Medici hated my mother too much not to hate me. Well, against these menaces, which must soon become attacks, I can only defend myself by your aid, for you are beloved by all those who hate me!"

"I?" said Marguerite.

"Yes, you!" replied Henry. "And if you will—I do not say love me—but if you will be my ally I can brave anything; while, if you become my enemy, I am lost."

"Your enemy! Never, sir!" exclaimed Marguerite.

"And my ally."

"Most decidedly!"

And Marguerite turned round and presented her hand to the king. "It is agreed," she said.

"Political alliance, frank and loyal?" asked Henry.

"Frank and loyal," was the answer.

At the door Henry turned and said softly, "Thanks, Marguerite; thanks! You are a true daughter of France. Lacking your love, your friendship will not fail me. I rely on you, as you, for your part, may rely on me. Adieu, madame."

He kissed his wife's hand; and then, with a quick step, the king went down the corridor to his own apartment. "I have more need of fidelity in politics than in love," he said to himself.

If on both sides there was little attempt at fidelity in love, there was an honourable alliance, which was maintained unbroken and saved the life of Henry of Navarre from his enemies on more than one occasion.

On the day of the St. Bartholomew massacre, while the Huguenots were being murdered throughout Paris, Charles IX., instigated by his mother, summoned Henry of Navarre to the royal armoury, and called upon him to turn Catholic or die.

"Will you kill me, sire—me, your brother-in-law?" exclaimed Henry.

Charles IX. turned away to the open window. "I must kill someone," he cried, and firing his arquebuse, struck a man who was passing.

Then, animated by a murderous fury, Charles loaded and fired his arquebuse without stopping, shouting with joy when his aim was successful.

"It's all over with me!" said Henry to himself. "When he sees no one else to kill, he will kill me!"

Catherine de Medici entered as the king fired his last shot. "Is it done?" she said, anxiously.

"No," the king exclaimed, throwing his arquebuse on the floor. "No; the obstinate blockhead will not consent!"

Catherine gave a glance at Henry which Charles understood perfectly, and which said, "Why, then, is he alive?"

"He lives," said the king, "because he is my relative."

Henry felt that it was with Catherine he had to contend.

"Madame," he said, addressing her, "I can see quite clearly that all this comes from you and not from brother-in-law Charles. It was you who planned this massacre to ensnare me into a trap which was to destroy us all. It was you who made your daughter the bait. It has been you who have separated me now from my wife, that she might not see me killed before her eyes!"

"Yes; but that shall not be!" cried another voice; and Marguerite, breathless and impassioned, burst into the room.

"Sir," said Marguerite to Henry, "your last words were an accusation, and were both right and wrong. They have made me the means for attempting to destroy you, but I was ignorant that in marrying me you were going to destruction. I myself owe my life to chance, for this very night they all but killed me in seeking you. Directly I knew of your danger I sought you. If you are exiled, sir, I will be exiled too; if they imprison you they shall imprison me also; if they kill you, I will also die!"

She gave her hand to her husband and he seized it eagerly.

"Brother," cried Marguerite to Charles IX., "remember, you made him my husband!"

"Faith, Margot is right, and Henry is my brother-in-law," said the king.

II.—The Boar Hunt

As time went on, if Catherine's hatred of Henry of Navarre did not diminish, Charles IX. certainly became more friendly.

Catherine was for ever intriguing and plotting for the fortune of her sons and the downfall of her son-in-law, but Henry always managed to evade the webs she wove. At a certain boar-hunt Charles was indebted to Henry for his life.

It was at the time when the king's brother D'Anjou had accepted the crown of Poland, and the second brother, D'Alencon, a weak-minded, ambitious man, was secretly hoping for a crown somewhere, that Henry paid his debt for the king's mercy to him on the night of St. Bartholomew.

Charles was an intrepid hunter, but the boar had swerved as the king's spear was aimed at him, and, maddened with rage, the animal had rushed at him. Charles tried to draw his hunting-knife but the sheath was so tight it was impossible.

"The boar! the boar!" shouted the king. "Help, D'Alencon, help!"

D'Alencon was ghastly white as he placed his arquebuse to his shoulder and fired. The ball, instead of hitting the boar, felled the king's horse.

"I think," D'Alencon murmured to himself, "that D'Anjou is King of France, and I King of Poland."

The boar's tusk had indeed grazed the king's thigh when a hand in an iron glove dashed itself against the mouth of the beast, and a knife was plunged into its shoulder.

Charles rose with difficulty, and seemed for a moment as if about to fall by the dead boar. Then he looked at Henry of Navarre, and for the first time in four-and-twenty years his heart was touched.

"Thanks, Harry!" he said. "D'Alencon, for a first-rate marksman you made a most curious shot."

On Marguerite coming up to congratulate the king and thank her husband, Charles added, "Margot, you may well thank him. But for him Henry III. would be King of France."

"Alas, madame," returned Henry, "M. D'Anjou, who is always my enemy, will now hate me more than ever; but everyone has to do what he can."

Had Charles IX. been killed, the Duke d'Anjou would have been King of France, and D'Alencon most probably King of Poland. Henry of Navarre would have gained nothing by this change of affairs.

Instead of Charles IX. who tolerated him, he would have had the Duke d'Anjou on the throne, who, being absolutely at one with his mother, Catherine, had sworn his death, and would have kept his oath.

These ideas were in his brain when the wild boar rushed on Charles, and like lightning he saw that his own existence was bound up with the life of Charles IX. But the king knew nothing of the spring and motive of the devotion which had saved his life, and on the following day he showed his gratitude to Henry by carrying him off from his apartments, and out of the Louvre. Catherine, in her fear lest Henry of Navarre should be some day King of France, had arranged the assassination of her son-in- law; and Charles, getting wind of this, warned him that the air of the Louvre was not good for him that night, and kept him in his company. Instead of Henry, it was one of his followers who was killed.

III.—The Poisoned Book

Once more Catherine resolved to destroy Henry. The Huguenots had plotted with D'Alencon that he should be King of Navarre, since Henry not only abjured Protestantism but remained in Paris, being kept there indeed by the will of Charles IX.

Catherine, aware of D'Alencon's scheme, assured her son that Henry was suffering from an incurable disease, and must be taken away from Paris when D'Alencon started for Navarre.

"Are you sure that Henry will die?" asked D'Alencon.

"The physician who gave me a certain book assured me of it."

"And where is this book? What is it?"

Catherine brought the book from her cabinet.

"Here it is. It is a treatise on the art of rearing and training falcons by an Italian. Give it to Henry, who is going hawking with the king to-day, and will not fail to read it."

"I dare not!" said D'Alencon, shuddering.

"Nonsense!" replied Catherine. "It is a book like any other, only the leaves have a way of sticking together. Don't attempt to read it yourself, for you will have to wet the finger in turning over each leaf, which takes up so much time."

"Oh," said D'Alencon, "Henry is with the court! Give me the book, and while he is away I will put it in his room."

D'Alencon's hand was trembling as he took the book from the queen-mother, and with some hesitation and fear he entered Henry's apartment and placed the volume, open at the title-page.

But it was not Henry, but Charles, seeking his brother-in-law, who found the book and carried it off to his own room. D'Alencon found the king reading.

"By heavens, this is an admirable book!" cried Charles. "Only it seems as if they had stuck the leaves together on purpose to conceal the wonders it contains."

D'Alencon's first thought was to snatch the book from his brother, but he hesitated.

The king again moistened his finger and turned over a page. "Let me finish this chapter," he said, "and then tell me what you please. I have already read fifty pages."

"He must have tasted the poison five-and-twenty times," thought D'Alencon. "He is a dead man!"

The poison did its deadly work. Charles was taken ill while out hunting, and returned to find his dog dead, and in its mouth pieces of paper from the precious book on falconry. The king turned pale. The book was poisoned! Many things flashed across his memory, and he knew his life was doomed.

Charles summoned Rene, a Florentine, the court perfumer to Catherine de Medici, to his presence, and bade him examine the dog.

"Sire," said Rene, after a close investigation, "the dog has been poisoned by arsenic."

"He has eaten a leaf of this book," said Charles; "and if you do not tell me whose book it is I will have your flesh torn from your bones by red-hot pincers."

"Sire," stammered the Florentine, "this book belongs to me!"

"And how did it leave your hands?"

"Her majesty the queen-mother took it from my house."

"Why did she do that?"

"I believe she intended sending it to the King of Navarre, who had asked for a book on hawking."

"Ah," said Charles, "I understand it all! The book was in Harry's room. It is destiny; I must yield to it. Tell me," he went on, turning to Rene, "this poison does not always kill at once?"

"No, sire; but it kills surely. It is a matter of time."

"Is there no remedy?"

"None, sire, unless it be instantly administered."

Charles compelled the wretched man to write in the fatal volume, "This book was given by me to the queen-mother, Catherine de Medici.—Rene," and then dismissed him.

Henry, at his own prayer and for his personal safety, was confined in the prison of Vincennes by the king's order. Charles grew worse, and the physicians discussed his malady without daring to guess at the truth.

Then Catherine came one day and explained to the king the cause of his disease.

"Listen, my son; you believe in magic?"

"Oh, fully," said Charles, repressing his smile of incredulity.

"Well," continued Catherine, "all your sufferings proceed from magic. An enemy afraid to attack you openly has done so in secret; a terrible conspiracy has been directed against your majesty. You doubt it, perhaps, but I know it for a certainty."

"I never doubt what you tell me," replied the king sarcastically. "I am curious to know how they have sought to kill me."

"By magic. Look here." The queen drew from under her mantle a figure of yellow wax about ten inches high, wearing a robe covered with golden stars, and over this a royal mantle.

"See, it has on its head a crown," said Catherine, "and there is a needle in its heart. Now do you recognise yourself?"


"Yes, in your royal robes, with the crown on your head."

"And who made this figure?" asked-the king, weary of the wretched farce. "The King of Navarre, of course!"

"No, sire; he did not actually make it, but it was found in the rooms of M. de la Mole, who serves the King of Navarre."

"So, then, the person who seeks to kill me is M. de la Mole?" said Charles.

"He is only the instrument, and behind the instrument is the hand that directs it," replied Catherine.

"This, then, is the cause of my illness. And now what must I do—for I know nothing of sorcery?"

"The death of the conspirator destroys the charm. Its power ends with his life. You are convinced now, are you not, of the cause of your illness?"

"Oh, certainly," Charles answered ironically. "And I am to punish M. de la Mole, as you say he is the guilty party?"

"I say he is the instrument, and," muttered Catherine, "we have infallible means for making him confess the name of his principal."

Catherine left hurriedly without understanding the sardonic laughter of the king, and as she went out Marguerite appeared.

"Oh, sire—sire," cried Marguerite, "you know what she says is false. It is terrible to accuse anyone's own mother, but she only lives to persecute the man who is devoted to you, Henry—your Henry—and I swear to you that what she says is false!"

"I think so, too, Margot. But Henry is safe. Safer in disgrace in Vincennes than in favour at the Louvre."

"Oh, thanks, thanks! But there is another person in whose welfare I am interested, whom I hardly dare mention to my brother, much less to my king."

"M. de la Mole, is it not? But do you know that a figure dressed in royal robes and pierced to the heart was found in his rooms?"

"I know it; but it was the figure of a woman, not of a man."

"And the needle?"

"Was a charm not to kill a man, but to make a woman love him."

"What was the name of this woman?"

"Marguerite!" cried the queen, throwing herself down and bathing the king's hand in her tears.

"Margot, what if I know the real author of the crime? For a crime has been committed, and I have not three months to live. I am poisoned, but it must be thought I die by magic."

"You know who is guilty?"

"Yes; but it must be kept from the world, and so it must be believed I die of magic, and by the agency of him they accuse."

"But it is monstrous!" exclaimed Marguerite. "You know he is innocent. Pardon him—pardon him!"

"I know it, but the world must believe him guilty. Let your friend die. His death alone can save the honour of our family. I am dying that the secret may be preserved."

M. de la Mole, after enduring excruciating tortures at the hand of Catherine, without making any admissions, died on the scaffold.

IV—"The Bourbon Shall Not Reign!"

Before he died Charles showed Catherine the poisoned book, which he had kept under lock and key.

"And now burn it, madame. I read this book too much, so fond was I of the chase. And the world must not know the weaknesses of kings. When it is burnt, please summon my brother Henry. I wish to speak to him about the regency."

Catherine brought Henry of Navarre to the king, and warned him that if he accepted the regency he was a dead man.

Charles, however, though on his death-bed, declared Henry should be regent.

"Madame," he said, addressing his mother, "if I had a son he would be king, and you would be regent. In your stead, did you decline, the King of Poland would be regent; and in his stead, D'Alencon. But I have no son, and therefore the throne belongs to D'Anjou, who is absent. To make D'Alencon regent is to invite civil war. I have therefore chosen the fittest person for regent Salute him, madame; salute him, D'Alencon. It is the King of Navarre!"

"Never," cried Catherine, "shall my race yield to a foreign one! Never shall a Bourbon reign while a Valois lives!"

She left the room, followed by D'Alencon.

"Henry," said Charles, "after my death you will be great and powerful. D'Anjou will not leave Poland—they will not let him. D'Alencon is a traitor. You alone are capable of governing. It is not the regency only, but the throne I give you."

A stream of blood choked his speech.

"The fatal moment is come," said Henry. "Am I to reign, or to live?"

"Live, sire!" a voice answered, and Rene appeared. "The queen has sent me to ruin you, but I have faith in your star. It is foretold that you shall be king. Do you know that the King of Poland will be here very soon? He has been summoned by the queen. A messenger has come from Warsaw. You shall be king, but not yet."

"What shall I do, then?"

"Fly instantly to where your friends wait for you."

Henry stooped and kissed his brother's forehead, then disappeared down a secret passage, passed through the postern, and, springing on his horse, galloped off.

"He flies! The King of Navarre flies!" cried the sentinels.

"Fire on him! Fire!" said the queen.

The sentinels levelled their pieces, but the king was out of reach.

"He flies!" muttered D'Alencon. "I am king, then!"

At the same moment the drawbridge was hastily lowered, and Henry d'Anjou galloped into the court, followed by four knights, crying, "France! France!"

"My son!" cried Catherine joyfully.

"Am I too late?" said D'Anjou.

"No. You are just in time. Listen!"

The captain of the king's guards appeared at the balcony of the king's apartment. He broke the wand he held in two places, and holding a piece in either hand, called out three times, "King Charles the Ninth is dead!"

King Charles the Ninth is dead! King Charles the Ninth is dead!"

"Charles the Ninth is dead!" said Catherine, crossing herself. "God save Henry the Third!"

All repeated the cry.

"I have conquered," said Catherine, "and the odious Bourbon shall not reign!"

* * * * *

The Black Tulip

"The Black Tulip," published in 1850, was the last of Alexandre Dumas' more famous stories, and ranks deservedly high among the short novels of its prolific author. Dumas visited Holland in May, 1849, in order to be present at the coronation of William III. at Amsterdam, and according to Flotow, the composer, it was the king himself who told Dumas the story of "The Black Tulip," and mentioned that none of the author's romances were concerned with the Dutch. Dumas, however, never gave any credit to this anecdote, and others have alleged that Paul Lacroix, the bibliophile, who was assisting Dumas with his novels at that time, is responsible for the plot. The question can never be answered, for who can disentangle the work of Dumas from that of his army of helpers? A feature of "The Black Tulip" is that in it is the bulb, and not a human being, that is the real centre of interest. The fate of the bulb is made of first importance, and the fortunes of Cornelius van Baerle, the tulip fancier, of Boxtel, and of Rosa, the gaoler's daughter, exciting though they are, take second place.

I.—Mob Vengeance

On the 20th of August, 1672, the city of The Hague was crowded in every street with a mob of people, all armed with knives, muskets, or sticks, and all hurrying towards the Buytenhof.

Within that terrible prison was Cornelius de Witt, brother of John de Witt, the ex-Grand Pensionary of Holland.

These brothers De Witt had long served the United Provinces of the Dutch Republic, and the people had grown tired of the Republic, and wanted William, Prince of Orange, for Stadtholder. John de Witt had signed the Act re-establishing the Stadtholderate, but Cornelius had only signed it under the compulsion of an Orange mob that attacked his house at Dordrecht.

This was the first count against the De Witts—their objection to a Stadtholder. The second count was that the De Witts had always done their best to keep at peace with France. They knew that war with France meant ruin to Holland, but the more violent Orangists still believed that such a war would bring honour to the Dutch.

Hence the popular hatred against the De Witts. A miscreant named Tyckelaer fanned the flame against Cornelius by declaring that he had bribed him to assassinate William, the newly-elected Stadtholder.

Cornelius was arrested, brought to trial, and tortured on the rack, but no confession of guilt could be wrung from the innocent, high-souled man. Then the judges acquitted Tyckelaer, deprived Cornelius of all his offices, and passed sentence of banishment. John de Witt had already resigned the office of Grand Pensionary.

On the 20th of August, Cornelius was to leave his prison for exile, and a fierce Orangist populace, incited to violence by the harangues of Tyckelaer, was rushing to the Buytenhof prepared to do murder, and fearful lest the prisoner should escape alive. "To the gaol! To the gaol!" yelled the mob. But outside the prison was a line of cavalry drawn up under the command of Captain Tilly with orders to guard the Buytenhof, and while the populace stood in hesitation, not daring to attack the soldiers, John de Witt had quietly driven up to the prison, and had been admitted by the gaoler.

The shouts and clamour of the people could be heard within the prison as John de Witt, accompanied by Gryphus the gaoler, made his way to his brother's cell.

Cornelius learnt there was no time to be lost, but there was a question of certain correspondence between John de Witt and M. de Louvois of France to be discussed. These letters, entirely creditable though they were to the statesmanship of the Grand Pensionary, would have been accepted as evidence of treason by the maddened Orangists, and Cornelius, instead of burning them, had left them in the keeping of his godson, Van Baerle, a quiet, scholarly young man of Dordrecht, who was utterly unaware of the nature of the packet.

"They will kill us if these papers are found," said John de Witt, and opening the window, they heard the mob shouting, "Death to traitors!"

In spite of fingers and wrists broken by the rack, Cornelius managed to write a note.

DEAR GODSON: Burn the packet I gave you, burn without opening or looking at it, so that you may not know the contents. The secrets it contains bring death. Burn it, and you will have saved both John and Cornelius.

Farewell, from your affectionate


Then a letter was given to Craeke, John de Witt's faithful servant, who at once set off for Dordrecht, and within a few minutes the two brothers were driving away to the city gate. Rosa, the gaoler's daughter, unknown to her father, had opened the postern, and had herself bidden De Witt's coachman drive round to the rear of the prison, and by this means the fury of the mob was, for the moment, evaded.

And now the clamour of the Orangists was at the prison door, for Tilly's horse had withdrawn on an order signed by the deputies in the town hall, and the people were raging to get within the Buytenhof.

The mob burst open the great gate, and yelling, "Death to the traitors! To the gallows with Cornelius de Witt!" poured in, only to find the prisoner had escaped. But the escape was but from the prison, for the city gate was locked when the carriage of the De Witts drove up, locked by order of the deputies of the Town Hall, and a certain young man—who was none other than William, Prince of Orange—held the key.

Before another gate could be reached the mob, streaming from the Buytenhof, had overtaken the carriage, and the De Witts were at its mercy.

The two men, whose lives had been spent in the welfare of their country, were massacred with unspeakable savagery, and their bodies, stripped, and hacked almost beyond recognition, were then strung up on a hastily erected gibbet in the market-place.

When the worst had been done, the young man, who had secretly watched the proceedings from the window of a neighbouring house, returned the key to the gatekeeper.

Then the prince mounted a horse which an equerry held in waiting for him, and galloped off to camp to await the message of the States. He galloped proudly, for the burghers of The Hague had made of the corpses of the De Witts a stepping stone to power for William of Orange.

II.—Betrayed for his Bulbs

Doctor Cornelius van Baerle, the godson of Cornelius de Witt, was in his twenty-eighth year, an orphan, but nevertheless, a really happy man. His father had amassed a fortune of 400,000 guilders in trade with the Indies, and an estate brought him in 10,000 guilders a year. He was blessed with the love of a peaceful life with good nerves, ample wealth, and a philosophic mind.

Left alone in the big house at Dordrecht, he steadily resisted all temptations to public life. He took up the study of botany, and then, not knowing what to do with his time and money, decided to go in for one of the most extravagant hobbies of the time—the cultivation of his favourite flower, the tulip. The fame of Mynheer van Baerle's tulips soon spread in the district, and while Cornelius de Witt had roused deadly hatred by sowing the seeds of political passion, Van Baerle with his tulips won general goodwill. Yet, all unknowingly, Van Baerle had made an enemy, an implacable, relentless enemy. This was his neighbour, Isaac Boxtel, who lived next door to him in Dordrecht.

Boxtel, from childhood, had been a passionate tulip-grower. He had even produced a tulip of his own, and the Boxtel had won wide admiration. One day, to his horror, Boxtel discovered that his next-door neighbour, the wealthy Mynheer van Baerle, was also a tulip-grower. In bitter anguish Boxtel foresaw that he had a rival who, with all the resources at his command, might equal and possibly surpass the famous Boxtel creations. He almost choked with envy, and from the moment of his discovery lived under continual fear. The healthy pastime of tulip growing became, under these conditions, a morbid and evil occupation for Boxtel, while Van Baerle, on the other hand, totally unaware of the enmity brewing, threw himself into the business with the keenest zest, taking for his motto the old aphorism, "To despise flowers is to insult God."

So fierce was the envy that seized Boxtel that though he would have shrunk from the infamy of destroying a tulip, he would have killed the man who grew them. His own plants were neglected; it was useless and hopeless to contend against so wealthy a rival. Then Boxtel, fascinated by his evil passion, bought a telescope, and, perched on a ladder, studied Van Baerle's tulip beds and the drying-room, the tulip-grower's sacred place.

One night he lost all moral control, and tying the hind legs of two cats together with a piece of string, he flung the animals into Van Baerle's garden. To Boxtel's bitter mortification the cats, though they made havoc of many precious plants before they broke the string, left the four finest tulips untouched.

Shortly afterwards the Haarlem Tulip Society offered a prize of 100,000 guilders to whomsoever should produce a large black tulip, without spot or blemish. Van Baerle at once thought out the idea of the black tulip. He had already achieved a dark brown one, while Boxtel, who had only managed to produce a light brown one, gave up the quest as impossible, and could do nothing but spy on his neighbour's activities.

One evening in January 1672, Cornelius de Witt came to see his grandson, Cornelius van Baerle, and went with him alone into the sacred drying- room, the laboratory of the tulip-grower. Boxtel, with his telescope, recognised the well-known features of the statesman, and presently he saw him hand his godson a packet, which the latter put carefully away in a cabinet. This packet contained the correspondence of John de Witt and M. de Louvois.

Cornelius drove away, and Boxtel wondered what the packet contained. It could hardly be bulbs; it must be secret papers.

It was not till August, as we know, that Craeke was despatched to Van Baerle with the note bidding him destroy the packet.

Craeke arrived just when Van Baerle was nursing his precious bulbs—the bulbs of the black tulip—and his sudden entrance rudely disturbed the tulip-grower. He had not time to read the note; indeed, he was too much concerned with the welfare of his three particular bulbs to trouble about it, before a magistrate and some soldiers entered to arrest him. Van Baerle wrapped up the bulbs in the note from his godfather, and was sent off under close custody to The Hague. The magistrate carried off the packet from the cabinet.

All this was Boxtel's work. It was he who had reported to the magistrate the visit of De Witt and the placing of the packet in a cabinet. And now, with Van Baerle out of the house as a prisoner, Boxtel in the dead of night broke into his neighbour's house, to secure the priceless bulbs of the black tulip. He had made out where they were growing, and he plunged his hands into the soft soil—only to find nothing. Then the wretched man guessed that the bulbs had gone with the prisoner to The Hague, and decided to go in pursuit. Van Baerle could only keep them while he was alive, and then—they should be his, Isaac Boxtel's.

III.—The Theft of the Tulip

Van Baerle was placed in the cell occupied by Cornelius de Witt in the Buytenhof. Outside, in the market-place, the bodies of the De Witts were hanging, and Van Baerle read with horror the inscription, "Here hang that great rascal John de Witt and the little rascal Cornelius de Witt, enemies of their country."

Gryphus laughed when the prisoner asked him what it meant, and replied, "That's what happens to those that write secret letters to the enemies of the Prince of Orange."

A terrible despair fell on Van Baerle, but he refused to escape when Rosa, the gaoler's beautiful daughter, suggested it to him. He was brought to trial, and though he denied all knowledge of the correspondence, his goods were confiscated, and he was condemned to death. He bequeathed his three tulip bulbs to Rosa, explained how she must get a certain soil from Dordrecht, and went out calmly to die. On the scaffold Van Baerle was reprieved and sentenced to perpetual imprisonment, for the Prince of Orange shrank from further bloodshed.

One spectator in the crowd was bitterly disappointed. This was Boxtel, who had bribed the headsman to let him have Van Baerle's clothes, believing that he would thus obtain the priceless bulbs.

Van Baerle was sent to the prison of Loewenstein, and in February 1673, when he was thinking his tulips lost for ever, he heard Rosa's voice. Gryphus had applied for the gaolership of Loewenstein, and had been appointed.

Nothing could persuade him that if Van Baerle was not a traitor he was certainly in league with the devil, like all learned men, and he did all he could to mortify and annoy his prisoner. But Rosa would come every night when her father, stupefied by gin, was asleep, and talk to Cornelius through the barred grating of his cell door.

He taught her to read, and together they planned how the tulip bulbs should be brought to flower. One bulb Rosa was to plant, the second Van Baerle would cultivate in his cell with soil placed in an old water jug, and the third was to be kept in reserve.

Once more hope revived in Baerle's mind, but Rosa often suffered vexation because Cornelius thought more of his black tulip than of her.

In the meantime Boxtel, under the assumed name of Jacob Gisels, had made his way to Loewenstein in pursuit of the bulbs, and had ingratiated himself with Gryphus, offering to marry his daughter. Rosa's tulip had to be guarded from Gisels, who was always spying on her movements. She kept it in her room for safety, but Boxtel had a key made, and the day the tulip flowered, and arose a spotless black, he resolved to take it at once, and rush to Haarlem and claim the prize.

The day came. Rosa described to Cornelius the wonderful black tulip, and they drew up a letter to the president of the Horticultural Society at Haarlem, begging him to come and fetch the wonderful flower.

That very night while Cornelius and Rosa rejoiced as lovers—for now even Rosa was convinced of the prisoner's love for her—over the happiness of the flowering tulip, Boxtel crept into her room, and carried off the black tulip to Haarlem.

As for Van Baerle, he was beside himself with the rage of desperation when Rosa told him that the black tulip had been stolen. Rosa, bent on recovering the tulip, and certain in her own mind as to the thief, hastened away from Loewenstein the next day without a word, Gryphus was mad when he learnt his daughter was nowhere to be found, and put down the mysterious disappearance of Jacob Gisels and Rosa to the work of the devil, and was convinced that Van Baerle was the devil's agent.

The third day after the theft Gryphus, armed with a stick and a knife, attacked Cornelius, calling out, "Give me back my daughter." Cornelius got hold of the stick, forced Gryphus to drop the knife, and then proceeded to give the gaoler a thrashing. The noise brought in turnkeys and guards, who speedily carried off the wounded gaoler and arrested Van Baerle. To comfort the prisoner they assured him he would certainly be shot within twelve hours.

Then an officer, an aide-de-camp of the Prince of Orange, entered, escorted Van Baerle to the prison gate, and bade him enter a carriage. Believing himself about to die, he thought sadly of Rosa and of the tulip he was never to see again. The carriage rolled off, and they travelled all that day and night until the journey ended at Haarlem.

IV.—The Triumph of the Tulip

Rosa reached Haarlem just four hours after Boxtel's arrival, and she went at once to seek an interview with Mynheer van Systens, the President of the Horticultural Society. Immediate admittance was granted on her mentioning the magic words "black tulip."

"Sir, the black tulip has been stolen from me," said Rosa.

"But I only saw it two hours ago!" replied the president.

"You saw it—where?"

"Why, at your master's! Are you not in the service of Mynheer Isaac Boxtel?"

"I, sir? Certainly not! But this Isaac Boxtel, is he a thin, bald-headed, bow-legged, crook-backed, haggard-looking man?"

"You have described him exactly."

"He is the thief; he stole the black tulip from me."

"Well, go and find Mynheer Boxtel—he is at the White Swan Inn, and settle it with him." And with that the president took up his pen and went on writing, for he was busy over his report.

But Rosa still implored him, and while she was speaking the Prince of Orange entered the building. Rosa told everything, how she had received the bulb from the prisoner at Loewenstein, and how she had first seen the prisoner at The Hague. Then Boxtel was sent for. He was ready with his tale. The girl had plotted with her lover, the state prisoner, Cornelius van Baerle, and had stolen his—Boxtel's—black tulip, which he had unwisely mentioned. However, he had recovered it.

A thought struck Rosa.

"There were three bulbs. What has become of the others?" she asked.

"One failed, the second produced the black tulip, and the third is at home at Dordrecht," said Boxtel uneasily.

"You lie; it is here!" cried Rosa. And she drew from her bosom the third bulb, still wrapped in the same paper Van Baerle had so hastily put round the bulbs on his flight. "Take it, my lord," she said, handing it to the prince. And then, glancing at the paper for the first time, she added, "Oh, my lord, read this!"

William passed the third bulb to the president, and read the paper carefully. It was Cornelius de Witt's letter to his godson, exhorting him to burn the packet without opening it. It was the proof of Van Baerle's innocence and of his ownership of the bulbs.

"Go, Mynheer Boxtel; you shall have justice. And you, Mynheer van Systens, take care of this maiden and of the tulip," said the prince.

That same evening the prince summoned Rosa to the town hall, and talked to her. Rosa did not deny her love for Cornelius.

"But what is the good of loving a man condemned to live and die in prison?" the prince asked.

"I can help him to live and die," came the answer.

The prince sealed a letter, and sent it off to Loewenstein by Colonel van Deken. Then he turned to Rosa, and said, "The day after to-morrow is Sunday, and it will be the festival of the tulip. Take these 500 guilders, and dress yourself in the costume of a Friesland bride, for I want it to be a grand festival for you."

Sunday came, May 15, 1673, and all Haarlem gathered to do honour to the black tulip. Boxtel was in the crowd, feasting his eyes on the sacred flower, which was born aloft in a litter. The procession stopped, and the flower was placed on a pedestal, while the people cheered with wild enthusiasm. At the solemn moment when the Prince of Orange was to acclaim the triumphant owner of the black tulip and present the prize of 100,000 guilders, the coach with the unhappy prisoner Cornelius van Baerle drew up in the market-place.

Cornelius, hearing that the celebration of the black tulip was actually proceeding, besought his guard to let him have one glimpse of the flower; and the petition was granted by the Prince of Orange.

From a distance of six paces Van Baerle gazed at the black tulip, and then he, with the multitude, turned his eyes towards the prince. In dead silence the prince declared the occasion of the festival, the discovery of the wonderful black tulip, and concluded, "Let the owner of the black tulip approach."

Cornelius made an involuntary movement. Boxtel and Rosa rushed forward from the crowd.

The prince turned to Rosa. "This tulip is yours, is it not?" he said.

"Yes, my lord," she answered softly. And general applause came from the crowd.

"This tulip will henceforth bear the name of its producer, and will be called Tulipa nigra Rosa Baerttensis, because Van Baerle is to be the married name of this damsel," the prince announced; and at the same time he took Rosa's hand and placed it within the hand of the prisoner, who had rushed forward at the words he had heard.

Boxtel fell down in a fit, and when they raised him up he was dead.

The procession returned to the town hall, the prince declared Rosa the prizewinner, and informed Cornelius that, having been wrongfully condemned, his property was restored to him. Then he entered his coach, and was driven away.

Cornelius and Rosa departed for Dordrecht, and Van Baerle remained ever faithful to his wife and his tulips.

As for old Gryphus, after being the roughest gaoler of men, he lived to be the fiercest guardian of tulips at Dordrecht.

* * * * *

The Corsican Brothers

"The Corsican Brothers" is one of the most famous of Dumas' shorter stories. It was published in 1845, when the author was at the height of his powers, and is remarkable not only for its strong dramatic interest, but for its famous account of old Corsican manners and customs, being inspired by a visit to Corsica in 1834. The scenery of the island, and the life of the inhabitants, the survival of the vendetta, and the fierce family feuds, all made strong appeal to his imaginative mind. Several versions of the story have been dramatised for the English stage, and as a play "The Corsican Brothers" has enjoyed a long popularity; but Dumas himself, who was fond of adapting his works to the stage, never dramatised this story.

I.—The Twins

I was travelling in Corsica early in March 1841. Corsica is a French department, but it is by no means French, and Italian is the language commonly spoken. It is free from robbers, but it is still the land of the vendetta, and the province of Sartene, wherein I was travelling, is the home of family feuds, which last for years and are always accompanied by loss of life.

I was travelling alone across the island, but I had been obliged to take a guide; and when at five o'clock we halted on a hill overlooking the village of Sullacro, my guide asked me where I would like to stay for the night. There were, perhaps, one hundred and twenty houses in Sullacro for me to choose from, so after looking out carefully for the one that promised the most comfort, I decided in favour of a strong, fortified, squarely-built house.

"Certainly," said my guide. "That is the house of Madame Savilia de Franchi. Your honour has chosen wisely."

I was a little uncertain whether it was quite the right thing for me to seek hospitality at a house belonging to a lady, for, being only thirty-six, I considered myself a young man. But I found it quite impossible to make my guide understand my feelings. The notion that my staying a night could give occasion for gossip concerning my hostess, or that it made any difference whether I was old or young, was unintelligible to a Corsican.

Madame Savilia, I learnt from the guide, was about forty, and had two sons—twins—twenty-one years old. One lived with his mother, and was a Corsican; the other was in Paris, preparing to be a lawyer.

We soon arrived at the house we sought. My guide knocked vigorously at the door, which was promptly opened by a man in velvet waistcoat and breeches and leather gaiters. I explained that I sought hospitality, and was answered in return that the house was honoured by my request. My luggage was carried off, and I entered.

In the corridor a beautiful woman, tall, and dressed in black, met me. She bade me welcome, and promised me that of her son, telling me that the house was at my service.

A maid-servant was called to conduct me to the room of M. Louis, and as supper would be served in an hour, I went upstairs.

My room was evidently that of the absent son, and the most comfortable in the house. Its furniture was all modern, and there was a well-filled bookcase. I hastily looked at the volumes; they denoted a student of liberal mind.

A few minutes later, and my host, M. Lucien de Franchi, entered. I observed that he was young, of sunburnt complexion, well made, and fearless and resolute in his bearing.

"I am anxious to see that you have all you need," he said, "for we Corsicans are still savages, and this old hospitality, which is almost the only tradition of our forefathers left, has its shortcomings for the French."

I assured him that the apartment was far from suggesting savagery.

"My brother Louis likes to live after the French fashion," Lucien answered. He went on to speak of his brother, for whom he had a profound affection. They had already been parted for ten months, and it was three or four years before Louis was expected home.

As for Lucien, nothing, he said, would make him leave Corsica. He belonged to the island, and could not live without its torrents, its rocks, and its forests. The physical resemblance between himself and his brother, he told me, was very great; but there was considerable difference of temperament.

Having completed my own change of dress, I went into Lucien's room, at his suggestion. It was a regular armoury, and all the furniture was at least 300 years old.

While my host put on the dress of a mountaineer, for he mentioned to me that he had to attend a meeting after supper, he told me the history of some of the carbines and daggers that hung round the room. Of a truth, he came of an utterly fearless stock, to whom death was of small account by the side of courage and honour.

At supper, Madame de Franchi could not help expressing her anxiety for her absent son. No letter had been received, but Lucien for days had been feeling wretched and depressed.

"We are twins," he said simply, "and however greatly we are separated, we have one and the same body, as we had at our birth. When anything happens to one of us, be it physical or mental, it at once affects the other. I know that Louis is not dead, for I should have seen him again in that case."

"You would have told me if he had come?" said Madame de Franchi anxiously.

"At the very moment, mother."

I was amazed. Neither of them seemed to express the slightest doubt or surprise at this extraordinary statement.

Lucien went on to regret the passing of the old customs of Corsica. His very brother had succumbed to the French spirit, and on his return would settle down as an advocate at Ajaccio, and probably prosecute men who killed their enemies in a vendetta. "And I, too, am engaged in affairs unworthy of a De Franchi," he concluded. "You have come to Corsica with curiosity about its inhabitants. If you care to set out with me after supper, I will show you a real bandit."

I accepted the invitation with pleasure.

II.—M. Luden de Franchi

Lucien explained to me the object of our expedition. For ten years the village of Sullacro had been divided over the quarrel of two families, the Orlandi and the Colona—a quarrel that had originated in the seizure of a paltry hen belonging to the Orlandi, which had flown into the poultry-yard of the Colonas. Nine people had already been killed in this feud, and now Lucien, as arbitrator, was to bring it to an end. The local prefect had written to Paris that one word from De Franchi would end the dispute, and Louis had appealed to him.

To-night Lucien was to arrange matters with Orlandi, as he had already done with Colona, and the meeting-place was at the ruins of the Castle of Vicentello d'Istria. It was a steep ascent, but we arrived in good time, and while we sat and waited, Lucien told me terrible stories of feuds and vengeance. Orlandi made his appearance exactly at nine o'clock, and after some discussion agreed to Lucien's terms. I found that I was expected to act as surety for Orlandi, and accepted the responsibility.

"You will now be able to tell my brother, on your return to Paris, that it's all been settled as he wished," said Lucien.

On our way home Lucien showed wonderful marksmanship with his gun, and admitted he was equally skillful with the pistol. His brother Louis, on the other hand, had never touched either gun or pistol.

Next morning came the grand reconciliation of Orlandi and Colona, in the market square in the presence of the mayor and the notary. The mayor compelled the belligerents to shake hands, a document was signed declaring the vendetta at an end, and everybody went to mass.

Later in the day I was compelled to bid good-bye to Madame de Franchi and her son, and set out for Paris; but before I left Lucien told me how in his family his father had appeared to him on his death-bed, and that, not only at death, but at any great crisis in life, an apparition appeared. He was certain by his own depression that his brother Louis was suffering.

Lucien told me his brother's address, 7, Rue du Helder, and gave me a letter which I undertook to deliver personally.

We parted with great cordiality, and a week later I was back in Paris.

III.—The Fate of Louis

I was startled by the extraordinary resemblance of M. Louis de Franchi, whom I had at once called upon, to his brother.

I was relieved to find that he was not suffering from illness, and I told him of the anxiety of his family concerning his health. M. de Franchi replied that he had not been ill, but that he had been suffering from a very bitter disappointment, aggravated by the knowledge that his own suffering caused his brother to suffer, too. He hoped, however, that time would heal the wound in his heart.

We agreed to meet the following night at the opera ball at midnight, on the young lawyer's suggestion. I rallied him on his recovery from his sorrow, but Louis only said mournfully that he was driven by fate, dragged against his will.

"I am quite sure," he said, "that it would be better for me not to go, but nevertheless I am going."

Louis was too pre-occupied to talk when we met at the masked ball, and he suddenly left me for a lady carrying violets. Later he rejoined me, and together we set off to supper at three o'clock in the morning. It was my friend D——'s supper party, and he had included Louis in the invitation.

We found our friends waiting supper, and D—— announced that the only person who had not arrived was Chateau-Renard. It seemed there was a wager on that M. de Chateau-Renard would not arrive with a certain lady whom he had undertaken to bring to supper.

Louis, who was as pale as death, implored D—— not to mention the lady's name, and our host acceded to the request.

"Only as her husband is at Smyrna, or in India or Mexico or somewhere, and in such a case it's the same as if the lady wasn't married," D—— observed.

"I assure you her husband is coming back soon, and he is such a good fellow he would be horribly mortified to hear his wife had done anything silly in his absence."

Chateau-Renard had till four o'clock to save his bet. At five minutes to four he had not arrived, and Louis smiled at me over his wine. At that very moment the bell rang. D—— went to the door, and we could hear some argument going on in the hall.

Then a lady entered with obvious reluctance, escorted by D—— and Chateau-Renard.

"It's not yet four," said Chateau-Renard to D——.

"Quite right, my boy," the other answered. "You've won your bet."

"No, hardly yet, sir," said the unknown lady. "Now I know why you were so persistent. You have wagered to bring me here to supper, and I supposed you were taking me to sup with one of my own friends."

Both Chateau-Renard and D—— besought the lady to stay, but the fair unknown, after expressing her thanks to D—— for his welcome, turned to M. Louis de Franchi, and asked him to escort her home. Louis at once sprang forward.

Chateau-Renard, furious, insisted that he would know whom to hold accountable.

"If I am the person meant," said Louis, with great dignity, "you will find me at home at 7, Rue du Helder all day to-morrow."

Louis departed with his fair companion, and though Chateau-Renard was ostentatiously cheerful, the end of the supper-party was not at all a festive business.

At ten o'clock the same morning I arrived at the rooms of M. Louis de Franchi. The seconds of Chateau-Renard had already called, and I passed them on the stairs.

Louis had written me a note; with another friend, Baron Giordano Martelli, the affair was to be arranged with Baron de Chateaugrand, and M. de Boissy, the gentleman I had met on the stairs.

I looked at the cards of these two men, and asked Louis if the matter was of any great seriousness.

Louis replied by telling the story of the quarrel. A friend of his, a sea captain, had married a beautiful woman, so beautiful and so young that Louis could not help falling in love with her. As an honourable man he had kept away from the house, and then on being reproached by his friend, had frankly told him the reason.

In return, his friend, who was just setting off for Mexico, commended his wife, Emilie, whom he adored and trusted absolutely, to his care, and asked his wife to consider Louis de Franchi as her brother. For six months the captain had been away, and Emilie had been living at her mother's. To this house, among other visitors, had come M. de Chateau- Renard, and from the first, this typical man of the world had been an object of dislike to Louis. Emilie's flirtations with Chateau-Renard at last provoked a remonstrance from Louis, and in return the lady told him that he was in love with her himself, and that he was absurd in his notions. After that Louis had left off calling on Emilie, but gossip was soon busy with the lady's name.

An anonymous letter had made an appointment for Louis with the lady of the violets at the masked ball, and from this person he was informed again not only of Emilie's infidelity, but further, that M. de Chateau-Renard had wagered he would bring her to supper at D——'s.

The rest I knew, and I could only assent mournfully that things must go on, and that the proposals of Chateau-Renard's seconds could not be declined.

But M. Louis de Franchi had never touched sword or pistol in his life! However, there was nothing for it but to return M. de Chateaugrand's call.

Martelli and I found that Chateau-Renard's two supporters were both polite men of the world. They were as indifferent as Louis was to the choice of weapons, and by a spin of a coin it was decided that pistols were to be used.

The place agreed upon for the duel was the Bois de Vincennes, and the time nine o'clock the following morning.

I called in the evening on Louis to ask him if he had any instructions for me; but his only reply was "Counsel comes with the night," so I waited on him next morning.

He was just finishing a letter when I entered, and he bade his servant Joseph leave us undisturbed for ten minutes.

"I am anxious," said Louis, "that my friend Giordano Martelli, who is a Corsican, should not know of this letter. But you must promise to carry out my wishes, and then my family may be saved a second misfortune. Now, please read the letter."

I read the letter Louis had written. It was to his mother, and it said that he was dying of brain fever. Her son, writing in a lucid interval, was beyond hope of recovery. It would be posted to her a quarter of an hour after his death. There was an affectionate postscript to Lucien.

"What does this mean? I don't understand it," I said.

"It means that at ten minutes past nine I shall be dead. I have been forewarned, that is all. My father appeared to me last night and announced my death."

He spoke so simply of this visit, that if it was an illusion it was as terribly convincing as the truth.

"There is one thing more," said Louis. "If my brother was to hear that I had been killed in a duel, he would at once leave Sullacro to come and fight the man who had killed me. And then if he were killed in his turn my mother would be thrice widowed. To prevent that I have written this letter. If it is believed that I have died of brain fever no one can be blamed." He paused. "Unless, unless—but no, that must not be."

I knew that my own strange fear was his.

On the way to Vincennes Baron Giordano stopped to get a case of pistols, powder, and balls, and we arrived at our destination just as M. de Chateau-Renard's carriage drove up. At M. de Chateaugrand's suggestion we all made our way to a certain glade away from the public pathway.

Martelli and Chateaugrand measured, the distance together, while Louis bade me farewell, asking me to accept his watch, and begging me to keep the duel out of the papers, and to prevail upon Giordano not to let any word of the matter reach Sullacro.

M. Chateau-Renard was at his post. Baron Giordano gave Louis his pistol.

Chateaugrand called out, "Gentlemen, are you ready?" Then he clapped his hands "One, two, three."

Two shots went off at the same moment, and Louis de Franchi fell. His opponent was unhurt. I rushed to Louis and raised him up. Blood came to his lips. It was useless to send for a surgeon.

Chateau-Renard had withdrawn, but his seconds hastened to express their horror at the fatal ending of the combat.

Chateaugrand added that he hoped M. de Franchi bore no malice against his opponent.

"No, no, I forgive him!" said Louis. "But tell him to leave Paris. He must go."

The dying man spoke with difficulty. He reminded me of my promise, and asked me, as he fell back, to look at my watch.

It was exactly ten minutes past nine, and Louis was dead.

We carried the body back to the house, and Giordano made the required statement to the District Commissioner of Police. Then the house was sealed by the police, and Louis de Franchi was laid to rest in Pere-La-chaise. But M. de Chateau-Renard could not be persuaded to leave Paris, though MM. de Boissy and de Chateaugrand both did their best to induce him to go.

IV.—Lucien Takes Vengeance

One night, five days after the funeral, I was working late at my writing-table, when my servant entered, and told me in a frightened tone that M. de Franchi wanted to speak to me.

"Who?" I said, in astonishment.

"M. de Franchi, sir, your friend—the gentleman who has been here once or twice to see you."

"You must be out of your senses, Victor! Don't you know that he died five days ago?"

"Yes, sir; and that's why I am so upset. I heard a ring at the bell, and when I opened the door, he walked in, asked if you were at home, and told me to tell you that M. de Franchi desired to speak with you."

"Are you out of your mind, my good man? I suppose the hall is badly lit, and you were half-asleep and heard the name wrong. Go back and ask the name again."

"No, sir, I will swear that I'm not mistaken. I'm sure I heard and saw perfectly."

"Very well, then, show him in."

Victor went back to the door, trembling all the time, and said, "Please step in, sir."

My hasty sensation of terror was quickly dispelled. It was Lucien who was apologising to me for disturbing me at such an hour.

"The fact is," he said, "I only arrived ten minutes ago, and you will understand how impossible it was not to come and see you at once."

I at once thought of the letter I had sent. In five days it could not have reached Sullacro.

"Good heaven!" I cried. "Nothing is known to you?"

"Everything is known," he said quietly.

Lucien mentioned that on going to his brother's house, the people were so panic-stricken that they refused the door to him.

"Tell me," I said, when we were alone. "You must have been on your way here when you heard the fatal news?"

"On the contrary, I was at Sullacro. Have you for-forgotten what I told you about the apparitions in my family?"

"Has your brother appeared to you?" I cried.

"Yes. He told me he had been killed in a duel by M. de Chateau-Renard. I saw my brother in his room the day he was killed," Lucien went on, "and that night in a dream I saw the place where the duel was fought, and heard the name of M. de Chateau-Renard. And I have come to Paris to kill the man who killed my brother. My brother had never touched a pistol in his life, and it was as easy to kill him as to kill a tame stag. My mother knows why I have come. She is a true Corsican, and she kissed me on the forehead and said 'Go!'"

The next morning Lucien wrote to Giordano and sent a challenge to Chateau-Renard. Then he went with me to Vincennes, and, though he had never been there in his life before, Lucien walked straight to the spot where his brother had fallen. He turned round, walked twenty paces, and said, "This is where the villain stood, and to-morrow he will lie here."

Lucien predicted with absolute confidence the death of Chateau-Renard. The challenge was accepted, the same seconds acted, and on the morrow we assembled in the fatal glade. Chateau-Renard was obviously uneasy. The signal was given, both men fired, and, sure enough, Chateau-Renard fell, shot through the temple as Lucien had foretold.

Then, for the first time since Louis' death, Lucien burst into tears. He dropped his pistol and threw himself into my arms. "My brother, my dear brother!" he cried.

* * * * *

The Count of Monte Cristo

"The Count of Monte Cristo" appeared in 1844, when Dumas had been writing plays and stories for twenty years, and at a period when he was most extraordinarily prolific. In that year, assisted by his staff of compilers and transcribers, he is said to have turned out something like forty volumes! "Monte Cristo" first gave Dumas' novels a world-wide audience. Its unflagging spirit, the endless surprises, and the air of reality which was cast over the most extravagant situations made the work worthy of the popularity it enjoyed in almost every country in the world. The island from which it takes its name is a barren rock rising 2,000 feet out of the sea a few miles south of Elba. Dumas attempted to emulate Scott, and built a chateau near St. Germain, which he called Monte Cristo, costing over $125,000. It was afterwards sold for a tenth of that sum to pay his debts.

I.—The Conspiracy of Envy

On February 28, 1815, the three-masted Pharaon arrived at Marseilles from Smyrna, commanded by the first mate, young Edmond Dantes, the captain having died on the voyage. He had left a package for the Marechal Bertrand on the Isle of Elba, which Dantes had duly delivered, conversing with the exiled Emperor Napoleon himself.

The shipowner, M. Morrel, confirmed young Dantes in the command, and, overjoyed, he hastened to his father, and then to the village of the Catalans, near Marseilles, where the dark-eyed Mercedes, his betrothed, impatiently awaited him.

But his good fortune excited envy. Danglars, the supercargo of the Pharaon, wanted the command for himself, and Fernand, the Catalan cousin of Mercedes, hated Dantes because he had won her heart. Fernand's jealousy so took possession of him that he fell in willingly with a scheme which the envious Danglars proposed. Making use of Dantes' compromising visit to Elba, they addressed an anonymous denunciation to the procureur du roi, which, in this period of Bonapartist plots, was indeed a formidable matter. Caderousse, a boon companion, was at first taken into their confidence, but as he came to think it a dangerous trick to play the young captain, he refused to take part in it.

On the morrow the wedding-feast took place, and at two o'clock Dantes, radiant with joy and happiness, prepared to accompany his bride to the hotel de ville for the civil ceremony. But at that moment the measured tread of soldiery was heard on the stairs, and a magistrate presented himself, bearing an order for the arrest of Edmond Dantes. Resistance or remonstrance was useless, and Dantes suffered himself to be taken to Marseilles, where he was examined by the deputy procureur du roi, M. de Villefort. To him, on demand, he recounted the story of his visit to Elba.

"Ah!" said Villefort, "if you have been culpable it was imprudence. Give up this letter you have brought from Elba, and go and rejoin your friends."

"You have it already," cried Dantes.

Villefort glanced at it, and sank into his seat, stupefied. It was addressed to M. Noirtier, a staunch Bonapartist.

"Oh, if he knew the contents of this," murmured he, "and that Noirtier is father of Villefort, I am lost!" He approached the fire, and cast the fatal letter in.

"Sir," said he, "I shall detail you till this evening in the Palais de Justice. Should anyone else interrogate you do not breathe a word of this letter."

"I promise."

It was Villefort who seemed to entreat, and the prisoner to reassure him.

But the doom of Edmond Dantes was cast. Sacrificed to Villefort's ambition, he was lodged the same night in a dungeon of the gloomy fortress-prison of the Chateau d'If, while Villefort posted to Paris to warn the king that the usurper Bonaparte was meditating a landing in France.

Napoleon returned. There followed the Hundred Days, and Louis XVIII. again mounted the throne. M. Morrel's intercessions during Napoleon's brief triumph for the release of Dantes but served, on the restoration of Louis, to compromise further the unhappy prisoner, who languished in a foul prison in the depths of the Chateau d'If.

In the cell next to Dantes was another political prisoner, the Abbe Faria. He had been in the chateau four years when Dantes was immured, and, with marvellously contrived tools and incredible toil, had burrowed a tunnel through the rock fifty feet long, only to find that, instead of leading to the outer wall of the chateau, whence he could have flung himself into the sea, it led to the cell of another prisoner—Dantes. He penetrated it after Dantes had been solitary six years.

The prisoners met every day between the visits of their gaolers. Faria showed Dantes the products of his industry and ingenuity—his books, written on the linen of shirts, his fish-bone pens and needles, knives, and matches, all accomplished secretly; and beguiled much of the weariness of confinement by educating Dantes in the sciences, history, and languages. Dantes possessed a prodigious memory, combined with readiness of conception, and his studies progressed rapidly. Soon Dantes told the abbe his story, and the abbe had little difficulty in opening the eyes of the astonished Dantes to the villainy of his supposed friends and the deputy procurer. Thus was instilled into his heart a new passion—vengeance.

II.—The Cemetery of the Chateau d'If

More than seven years passed thus when coming into the abbe's dungeon one night, Dantes found him stricken with paralysis. His right arm and leg remained paralysed after the seizure. When Dantes next visited him the abbe showed him a paper, half-burnt, and rolled in a cylinder.

"This paper," said Faria, "is my treasure; and if I have not been allowed to possess it, you will. Who knows if another attack may not come, and all be finished?"

The abbe had been secretary to the last of the Counts of Spada, one of the most powerful families of mediaeval Italy, and he, dying in poverty, had left Faria an old breviary, which had been in the family since the days of the Borgias. In this, by chance, Faria found a piece of yellowed paper, on which, when put in the fire, writing began to appear. From the remains of the paper he made out during the early days of his imprisonment, that a Cardinal Spada, at the end of the fifteenth century, fearing poisoning at the hands of Pope Alexander VI., had buried in the Island of Monte Cristo, a rock between Corsica and Elba, all his ingots, gold, money, and jewels, amounting then to nearly two million Roman crowns.

"The last Count of Spada made me his heir," said the abbe. "The treasure now amounts to nearly thirteen millions of money!"

The abbe remained paralysed, and had given up all hope of enjoying the treasure himself; and presently another seizure took him, and one night Dantes was alone with the corpse.

Next morning the preparations for burying the dead man were made, the body being placed in a sack and left in the cell till the evening. Dantes came into the cell again.

"Ah!" he muttered. "Since the dead leave this dungeon, let me assume the place of the dead!"

Opening the sack, he took out the dead body of his friend, and dragged it through the tunnel to his own cell. Placing it on his own bed, he covered it with the rags he wore himself. Then he sewed himself in the sack with one of the abbe's needles. In his hand he held the dead man's knife, and with palpitating heart awaited events.

Slowly the hours dragged on, until at length he heard the heavy footsteps of the gaolers descending to the cell. They lifted the sack, and carried him on a bier through the castle passages, until they came to a door, which was opened. On passing through this, the noise of the waves was heard as they dashed on the rocks below.

Then Dantes felt that they took him by the head and by the heels, and flung him into the sea, into whose depths he was dragged by a thirty- six-pound shot tied to his feet. The sea is the cemetery of Chateau d'If!

Although giddy, and almost suffocated, he had yet sufficient presence of mind to hold his breath; and as his right hand held his knife, he rapidly ripped up the sack, extricated his arm, and then, by a desperate effort, severed the cord that bound his legs at the moment he was suffocating. With a vigorous spring he rose to the surface, paused to breathe, and then dived again, in order to avoid being seen. When he rose again, he struck boldly out to sea, and, fortunately, was picked up by a sailing-vessel.

Now at liberty, fourteen years after his arrest, he renewed an oath of implacable vengeance against Danglars, Fernand, and Villefort. Nor was it long before he had discovered the secret cave in the island of Monte Cristo, with all its dazzling wealth, as the Abbe Faria had truly foretold. He now stood possessed of such means of vengeance as never in his wildest dreams had any innocent prisoner hoped to be able to command.

III.—Vengeance Begins

Some two years later Caspar Caderousse, the keeper of an inn near Beaucaire, was lounging listlessly at his door, when a traveller on horseback dismounted at his door and entered. The visitor—Monte Cristo—gave the name of Abbe Busoni, and astonished Caderousse by showing a minute knowledge of his earlier history. The abbe explained that he had been present at the death of Edmond Dantes in prison, and said that even in his dying moments the prisoner had protested he was utterly ignorant of the cause of his imprisonment.

"And so he was!" exclaimed Caderousse. "How should he have been otherwise?"

The abbe had heard of the death of Edmond's aged father, and now he was told the old man had died of starvation.

"Thus Heaven recompenses virtue," said Caderousse. "I am in destitution and shall die of hunger, as old Dantes did, whilst Fernand and Danglars roll in wealth. All their malpractices have turned to luck. Danglars speculated and made a fortune. He is a millionaire, and now Count Danglars. Fernand played traitor at the battle of Ligny, and that served for his recommendation to the Bourbons. Afterwards he became Count de Morcerf, and got a considerable sum by the betrayal of Ali Pasha in the Greek war of independence."

The abbe, making an effort, said, "And Mercedes—she disappeared?"

"Yes, as the sun, to rise next day with more splendour. She is rich, the Countess de Morcerf—she waited two hopeless years for Dantes—and yet I am sure she is not happy."

"And M. de Villefort?" asked the abbe.

"Some time after having arrested Dantes, he married and left Marseilles; no doubt but he has been as lucky as the rest."

"God may seem sometimes to forget for a time," said the abbe, "while His justice reposes, but there always comes a moment when He remembers."

* * * * *

Early in 1838 a certain Count of Monte Cristo became a great figure in the life of Paris. His name awakened thoughts of romance and dazzling wealth in the minds of all. It was Albert, the son of the Count de Morcerf, who first introduced the Count of Monte Cristo to the high society of Paris. They had become acquainted at Rome, where Monte Cristo had been able to render a great service to the Viscount Albert de Morcerf and his friend, the Baron Franz d'Epinay.

All sorts of stories were afloat in Paris as to the history of this Count of Monte Cristo. When he went to the opera he was accompanied by a beautiful Greek girl, named Haidee, whose guardian he was.

But nothing ruffled Monte Cristo. Calmness and deliberation marked all his movements; in some respects he was more like a machine than a human being. Everything he said he would do was done precisely. And now the schemes he had long studied in secret he had begun to carry through as certainly and relentlessly as Fate.

M. de Villefort, now procureur du roi, had a daughter by his first wife, for he had married a second time. Her name was Valentine, and at the command of her father, but not by her own wish, she was engaged to the Baron Franz d'Epinay. She loved a young military officer named Maximilian Morrel, a son of the Marseilles shipowner. But neither of them had dared to avow their affection for each other to Valentine's father.

Meanwhile, the tide of fortune seemed to have turned with Baron Danglars. His business had suffered many losses, but his greatest loss of all was due to some false news about the price of shares which had been telegraphed to Paris by means which Monte Cristo could have explained.

The baron's daughter was engaged to Albert de Morcerf, but the Count of Morcerf had now come under a cloud, for his betrayal of Ali Pasha had been made public; and perhaps the Count of Monte Cristo could have told how the truth came out at last. So the baron did not hesitate to break the engagement, and to accept as the suitor for his daughter a dashing young man known as Count Cavalcanti, who had been introduced to Paris by Monte Cristo, but concerning whose antecedents nothing seemed to be known.

The Count de Morcerf was tried for his betrayal of Ali, and seemed likely to be acquitted, when a veiled woman was brought to the place of trial, and testified before the committee that she was the daughter of Ali Pasha, and that Morcerf had not only betrayed her father to the Turks, but had sold her and her mother into slavery. The veiled woman was Haidee, the ward of Monte Cristo. The count was now a ruined man, and when his son Albert discovered the part that Monte Cristo had played, he publicly insulted the count at the opera.

A duel was averted, for Albert publicly apologised to the count when he learned the reasons for his actions. Furious that he had not been avenged by his son, Morcerf rushed to the house of Monte Cristo.

"I came to tell you," said Morcerf, "that as the young people of the present day will not fight, it remains for us to do it."

"So much the better," said Monte Cristo. "Are you prepared?"

"Yes, sir; and witnesses are unnecessary, as we know each other so little."

"Truly they are unnecessary," said Monte Cristo, "but for the reason that we know each other well. Are you not the soldier Fernand who deserted on the eve of Waterloo? Are you not the Lieutenant Fernand who served as guide and spy to the French army in Spain? Are you not the Captain Fernand who betrayed, sold, and murdered his benefactor, Ali?"

"Oh," cried the general, "wretch, to reproach me with my shame! Tell me your real name that I may pronounce it when I plunge my sword through your heart."

At this Monte Cristo, bounding to a dressing room near, quickly pulled off his coat, and waistcoat, and, donning a sailor's jacket and hat, was back in an instant.

Gazing for a moment in terror at this man who seemed to have risen from the dead to avenge his wrongs, Morcerf turned, seeking the wall to support him, and went out by the door uttering the cry—"Edmond Dantes!"

Events marched rapidly now, and Paris had scarcely ceased talking of the suicide of the Count de Morcerf, when Cavalcanti, identified as a former galley-slave named Benedetto, was arrested for the murder of a fellow- convict.

Danglars fled from France, his great business in ruin. With him he took a large sum of money belonging to Paris hospitals, which, however, was taken from him near Rome by brigands controlled by Monte Cristo.

IV.—Vengeance is Complete

In the household of Villefort, Monte Cristo had done nothing to bring vengeance on that evil man. He had seen from the first that Villefort's second wife was studying the art of poisoning, and he felt that revenge was already at work here. There had already been three mysterious deaths in the house, and now the beautiful Valentine seemed to be suffering from the early effects of some slow poison. Maximilian Morrel, in despair of Valentine's life, rushed to Monte Cristo for his advice and assistance.

"Must I let one of the accursed race escape?" Monte Cristo asked himself, but decided, for Maxmilian's sake, that he would save Valentine. He had bought the house adjoining that of Villefort, and, clearing out the tenants, had engaged workmen to remove so much of the old wall between the two houses that it was a simple matter for him to take out the remaining stones and pass into a large cupboard in Valentine's room. Here the count watched while Valentine was asleep, and saw Madame de Villefort creep into the room and substitute for the medicine in Valentine's glass a dose of poison.

He then entered the room and threw half the draught into the fireplace, leaving the rest in the glass. When Valentine awoke he gave her a pellet of hashish, which made her sink into a deathlike sleep.

Next morning the doctor declared that Valentine was dead. In the glass he discovered poison, and as the same poison was found in madame's laboratory, there was no doubt of her guilt. She admitted all, and confessed that her object had been to make her own son sole heir to Villefort's fortune.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse