HotFreeBooks.com
Edmond Dantes
by Edmund Flagg
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

EDMOND DANTES.

THE SEQUEL TO

ALEXANDER DUMAS'

CELEBRATED NOVEL OF

THE COUNT OF MONTE-CRISTO.

AN ENTIRE NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION.

BY

EDMUND FLAGG

* * * * *

"EDMOND DANTES," one of the greatest novels ever written, is the sequel to Alexander Dumas' world-renowned chef-d'oeuvre, "The Count of Monte-Cristo," taking up the fascinating narrative where the latter ends and continuing it with marvellous power and absorbing interest. Every word tells, and the number of unusually stirring incidents is legion, while the plot is phenomenal in its strength, merit and ingeniousness. The superb book deals with the exciting career of Edmond Dantes, who first figures as the Count of Monte-Cristo, and then as the Deputy from Marseilles takes an active part in the French Revolution of 1848. Dramatic and graphic scenes abound, the reader finding startling surprises at every turn. Love, philanthropy, politics and bloodshed form the staple of the novel and are handled with extraordinary skill. Besides the hero, Haydee, Mercedes, Valentine de Villefort, Eugenie Danglars, Louise d'Armilly, Zuleika (Dantes' daughter), Benedetto, Lucien Debray, Albert de Morcerf, Beauchamp, Chateau-Renaud, Ali, Maximilian Morell, Giovanni Massetti, and Esperance (Dantes' son) figure prominently, while Lamartine, Ledru Rollin, Louis Blanc and hosts of revolutionary leaders are introduced. "EDMOND DANTES" will delight all who read it.

* * * * *

NEW YORK:

WM. L. ALLISON COMPANY

PUBLISHERS.

* * * * *

COPYRIGHT:—1884.

T. B. PETERSON & BROTHERS.

* * * * *

EDMOND DANTES.

AN ENTIRE NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION.

"Edmond Dantes" the Sequel to Alexander Dumas' masterpiece, "The Count of Monte-Cristo," is a novel that will delight, entertain and instruct all who read it. It has wonderful fascination, absorbing interest and rare merit, combined with remarkable power, amazing ingenuity and thorough originality. In it the narrative is taken up immediately at the close of "The Count of Monte-Cristo," and continued in a style of exceeding cleverness. There is a terrible volcanic tempest on the Mediterranean, in which Monte-Cristo and Haydee are wrecked, a vivid picture of the French Revolution of 1848 is given and the love affair of Zuleika and Giovanni Massetti is recounted in a manner unsurpassed for novelty and excitement. The central figure is Edmond Dantes, and about him are grouped Mercedes, Eugenie Danglars, Louise d'Armilly, Valentine de Villefort, Esperance (the son of Monte-Cristo), Benedetto, Albert de Morcerf, Maximilian Morrel, Ali and the other old friends of "Monte-Cristo" readers, as well as numerous political leaders famous in French history, namely, Lamartine, Ledru Rollin, Louis Blanc, Armand Marrast, Flocon, Albert and others. Thiers, Guizot, Odillon Barrot, General Lamoriciere, General Bugeaud and other noted historical characters are introduced, as well as Lucien Debray, Chateau-Renaud, Beauchamp, etc. No one can afford to miss the opportunity to read "Edmond Dantes," which is published only by T. B. Peterson & Brothers, who also issue the only correct, complete and unabridged editions of the other volumes of the great "Monte-Cristo" Series, namely, "The Count of Monte-Cristo," "The Countess of Monte-Cristo," "The Wife of Monte-Cristo, Haydee," and "The Son of Monte-Cristo, Esperance."



CONTENTS.

Chapter. Page. I. STORM AND SHIPWRECK, 21

II. THE ISLAND, 38

III. THE CONFLAGRATION, 55

IV. THE NEWS FROM ALGERIA, 70

V. EDMOND DANTES, DEPUTY FROM MARSEILLES, 82

VI. THE MYSTERY THICKENS, 91

VII. DANTES AND HIS DAUGHTER, 100

VIII. A VAST PRINTING HOUSE, 116

IX. ARMAND MARRAST, 126

X. THE COMMUNISTS, 134

XI. "WAIT AND HOPE," 168

XII. THE MYSTERIOUS PRIMA DONNA, 178

XIII. THE ITALIAN LOVER, 195

XIV. THE MINUTE VIALS, 202

XV. THE UNKNOWN NURSE, 208

XVI. A NOTABLE FETE, 215

XVII. THE REVOLUTION BEGINS, 244

XVIII. THE MIDNIGHT CONCLAVE, 251

XIX. THE SECOND DAY, 257

XX. ANOTHER MIDNIGHT CONCLAVE, 269

XXI. THE THIRD DAY, 278

XXII. THE LAST SESSION OF THE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, 294

XXIII. THE SACK OF THE TUILERIES, 303

XXIV. A MEMORABLE NIGHT, 306

XXV. THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT, 313

XXVI. DANTES AND MERCEDES, 323

XXVII. ESPERANCE AND ZULEIKA, 334

XXVIII. CAPTAIN JOLIETTE'S LOVE, 343

XXIX. ZULEIKA GOES TO M. DANTES, 355

XXX. TWO INTERVIEWS, 362

XXXI. VAMPA'S ANSWER, 371



EDMOND DANTES.

THE SEQUEL TO

THE COUNT OF MONTE-CRISTO.



CHAPTER I.

STORM AND SHIPWRECK.

The Count of Monte-Cristo, with the beautiful Haydee clinging lovingly about his neck, her head pillowed upon his shoulder, stood on the deck of his superb yacht, the Alcyon, gazing at the fast-vanishing isle where he had left Maximilian Morrel and Valentine de Villefort.

It was just daybreak, but by the faint glimmering light he could plainly distinguish the figures of a man and a woman upon the distant beach. They were walking arm in arm. Presently another figure, a man's, approached them and seemed to deliver something.

"Look," said the Count to Haydee, "Jacopo has given Maximilian my letter; he reads it to Valentine, and now they know all. Jacopo points toward the yacht; they see us and are waving their handkerchiefs in token of adieu."

Haydee raised her head and glanced in the direction of the Isle of Monte-Cristo.

"I see them, my lord," she replied, in a joyous tone; "they are happy."

"Yes," said the Count, "they are happy, but they deserve their happiness, and all is well."

"They owe their happiness to you, my lord," resumed Haydee, meekly.

"They owe it to God," answered Monte-Cristo, solemnly; "I was but His humble instrument, and He has allowed me in this to make some slight atonement for the wrong I committed in taking vengeance into my own mortal hands."

Haydee was silent. She knew the sad history of Edmond Dantes, and was aware of how remorselessly the Count of Monte-Cristo had avenged the wrongs of the humble sailor of Marseilles. This she had learned from her lord's own lips within the past few days. The strict seclusion in which she had lived in Paris had necessarily excluded her from all personal knowledge of the Count's subtle war upon his enemies; true, she had emerged from her retirement to testify against Morcerf at his trial before the House of Peers, but at that time she was ignorant of the fact that by causing the foe of her family to be convicted of felony, treason and outrage she had simply promoted Monte-Cristo's vengeance on Fernand, the Catalan. But, though silent, the beautiful Greek girl, with her thoroughly oriental ideas, could not realize that the man who stood beside her, the being she almost worshiped, had been guilty of the least wrong in avenging himself. Besides, she would never have admitted, even in the most secret recesses of her own heart, that Monte-Cristo, who to her mind symbolized all that was good, pure and heroic in human nature, could have been wrong in anything he did.

Meanwhile the Count also had been silent, and a shade of the deepest sadness had settled upon his pallid but intellectual visage. He gazed at the Isle of Monte-Cristo until it became a mere dot in the distance; then, putting his arm tenderly about his lovely companion's waist, he drew her gently toward the cabin.

As they vanished down the companion-way, Bertuccio and the captain of the Alcyon, followed by Ali, the Nubian, advanced to the prow of the yacht.

"Captain," said Bertuccio, "can you tell me whither we are bound? I feel an irresistible desire to know."

"Yes," answered the captain, "I can tell you. The Count ordered me to make with all possible speed for the Island of Crete."

Bertuccio gave a sigh of relief.

"I feared we were bound for Italy," he said. "But," he added, after an instant's thought, "why should we go to Rome? Luigi Vampa is amply able to care for all the Count's interests there, if, indeed, any remain now that the Baron Danglars has been attended to."

The captain, who was an old Italian smuggler, placed his finger warningly upon his lips and glanced warily around when Luigi Vampa's name was mentioned, but said nothing. Bertuccio took the hint and the conversation was dropped.

Pressing onward under full sail, the magnificent yacht shot over the blue waters of the Mediterranean with the speed of an eagle on the wing. It sped past Corsica and Sardinia, and soon the arid, uninviting shores of Tunis were visible; then it passed between Sicily and Malta, steering directly toward the Island of Crete.

Up to this time the weather had been of the most delightful description. Not a cloud had obscured the sky, and during the entire voyage the unruffled surface of the Mediterranean had resembled that of some peaceful lake. It was now the tenth of October, and just cool enough to be pleasant; the spice-laden breezes from the coast of Africa reached the yacht tempered by the moist atmosphere of the sea, furnishing an additional element of enjoyment.

The Count of Monte-Cristo and Haydee, who seemed inseparable, came on deck every morning at dawn, and each evening walked back and forth, admiring the gorgeous sunset and watching the shades of night as they gradually settled down upon the wide expanse of the waters.

It required no unusual penetration to see that they were lovers and that their delight in each other's society was unalloyed. Haydee clung to the Count, who, with his arm wound about her slender waist, looked down into the liquid depths of her eyes with a smile of perfect content, while his free hand ever and anon toyed with her night-black tresses.

One evening as they were walking thus—it was the evening of the fifteenth of October, and Crete was distant but two days' sail—Monte-Cristo tenderly took Haydee's hand in his and said to her in a tone of ineffable softness:

"Haydee, do you remember what you said to me on the Isle of Monte-Cristo just before we parted from Valentine and Maximilian?"

"Oh! yes, my lord," was the low reply. "I said I loved you as one loves a father, brother, husband—I loved you as my life."

"And do you now regret those words?"

"Regret them! Oh! my lord, how could I do that?"

"I asked you," said the Count, slowly, "because we are nearing our destination. In two days we shall land upon the shore of Crete, and, once there, it is my intention to make you my wife, provided your feelings toward me are still unchanged. Marriage, my child, is the most important step in life, and I do not wish you to take that step without fully understanding the promptings of your own dear heart. Only misery can follow the union of two souls not in perfect accord, not entirely devoted the one to the other. I am much older than you, Haydee, and my sufferings have aged me still more than years. I am a sad and weary man. You, on the contrary, stand just upon the threshold of existence; the world and its pleasures are all before you. Think, my child, think deeply before you pronounce the irrevocable vow."

Haydee threw herself passionately upon Monte-Cristo's breast.

"My lord," she cried, in accents broken by extreme agitation and emotion, "am I not your slave?"

"No, Haydee," answered the Count, his bosom heaving and his eyes lighting up with a strange flash, "you are free, your fate rests in your own hands."

"Then," said the young girl, ardently, "I will decide it this very instant. I accept my freedom that I may voluntarily offer myself to you, my love, my husband. You have suffered. Granted. So have I. Your sufferings have aged you; mine have transformed a child into a woman—a woman who knows the promptings of her heart, who knows that it beats for you, and you alone in all the world. My lord, I resign myself to you. Do you accept the gift?"

As Haydee concluded, her beautiful eyes were suffused with tears and her whole frame quivered with intense excitement.

Monte-Cristo bent down and kissed her upon the forehead.

"Haydee, my own Haydee," he said, with a slight tremor in his manly voice, "I accept the gift. Be my wife, the wife of Monte-Cristo, and no effort of mine shall be wanting to assure your happiness."

At that moment there was a sinister flash in the heavens, that were as yet without a cloud. The livid light shot downward to the water and seemingly plunged to the depths of the Mediterranean.

The Count gave a start and drew his beloved Haydee closer to him; the frightened girl trembled from head to foot and clung to him for protection.

"Oh! my lord, my lord," she murmured, "does Heaven disapprove of our plighted troth?"

"Calm yourself, Haydee," answered Monte-Cristo. "The lightning is God's seal, and He has set it upon our betrothal."

The flash was now repeated and was succeeded by several others of increased intensity, but as yet no thunder rolled and there was not the slightest indication of an approaching storm.

Monte-Cristo took Haydee's hand and led her to the side of the yacht. Not a single wave wrinkled the surface of the sea for miles and miles; the water seemed asleep, while down upon it the moon poured a flood of silvery radiance. The stars, too, were beaming brightly. Still, however, the intense lightning shot athwart the placid sky. It had become almost incessant. Monte-Cristo could not account for the bewildering phenomenon. He summoned the captain of the Alcyon and said to him:

"Giacomo, you have sailed the Mediterranean all your life, have you not?"

"All my life, Excellency," replied he, touching his cap.

"Have you ever before seen lightning such as this on a calm night?"

"Never, Excellency."

"It certainly cannot be heat-lightning."

"I think not, Excellency. Heat-lightning has a quicker flash and is much less intense."

"What do you suppose it portends?"

"I can form no idea, Excellency."

"Oh! my lord," said Haydee, "a terrible storm is coming, I am sure; I feel a premonition Of approaching danger. I pray you, guard against it."

"Nonsense, my child," returned Monte-Cristo, with a laugh that, in spite of all his efforts at self-control, betrayed nervous agitation and an undefinable dread. "The sky is clear, the moon is shining brilliantly and the sea is altogether tranquil; if a storm were coming it would not be so. Banish your fears and reassure yourself; the lightning is but a freak of nature."

The captain, too, was disturbed, though he could give himself no satisfactory reason for his uneasiness.

Ali, with the characteristic superstition of the Nubian race, had prostrated himself upon the deck, and was making signs the Moslems of his country use to drive away malignant spirits.

The night, however, passed without accident, though the singular lightning continued for several hours.

Next morning the sun rose, encircled by a ruddy band, fringed on the outer rim with a faint yellow, while its beams had a sullen glare instead of their normal brilliancy. The lightning of the previous night was absent, but soon another and not less disquieting phenomenon manifested itself; as far as the eye could reach the sea seemed boiling, and, at intervals, a puff, as if of vapor, would filter through the waves, rising and disappearing in the heavens. Meanwhile the wind had fallen, and amid an almost dead calm the sails of the Alcyon hung listlessly, with only an occasional flapping. The yacht moved forward, indeed, but so slowly that it scarcely appeared to move at all.

Monte-Cristo and Haydee came on deck at dawn, but the young girl displayed such terror at the unwonted aspect of the sun and the sea that the Count speedily persuaded her to return with him to the cabin. There she cowered upon a divan, hiding her face in her hands and moaning piteously. Her fiance, distressed at her condition, endeavored to soothe and comfort her, but utterly without avail; her fears could neither be banished nor allayed. At length he threw himself on a rug at her feet, and, disengaging her hands from her face, drew them about his neck; Haydee clasped him frantically and clung to him as if she deemed that embrace a final one.

As they were sitting thus, the Alcyon received a sudden and violent shock that shook the noble yacht from stem to stern. Instantly there was a sound of hurrying feet on deck, and the captain could be heard shouting hoarsely to the sailors.

Monte-Cristo leaped up and caught Haydee in his arms. At that moment Ali darted down the companion-way and stood trembling before his master.

"What was that shock?" demanded the Count, hurriedly.

The agitated Nubian made a sign signifying he did not know, but that all was yet safe.

"Remain with your mistress, Ali," said Monte-Cristo. "I am going to see what is the matter."

"Oh! no, no," cried Haydee, imploringly, as the Count placed her again on the divan and was moving away. "Oh! no, no; do not leave me, my lord, or I shall die!"

Ashy pale, Haydee arose from the divan, and cast herself on her knees at Monte-Cristo's feet.

"Swear to me, at least, that you will not needlessly expose yourself to danger," she uttered, in a pleading tone.

"I swear it," answered the Count. "Ali will faithfully guard you while I am gone," he added, "and ere you can realize my absence, I shall be again at your side."

With these words he tore himself away and hastened to the deck.

There a scene met his eye as unexpected as it was appalling. The entire surface of the Mediterranean was aglow with phosphorescence, and the sun was veiled completely by a heavy cloud that seemed to cover the whole expanse of the sky. This cloud was not black, but of a bloody hue, and the atmosphere was so densely charged with sulphur that it was almost impossible to breathe. The sea was boiling more furiously than ever, and the puffs of vapor that had before only occasionally filtered through the waves now leaped up incessantly, each puff attended with a slight explosion; the vapor was grayish when it first arose from the water, but as it ascended it became red, mingling at length with the bloody cloud that each moment acquired greater density. The wind blew fitfully, sometimes amounting to a gale and then utterly vanishing without the slightest warning. Soon the bloody cloud seemed to settle of its own weight upon the sea, growing so thick that the eye could not penetrate it, and a few feet from the yacht all was inky darkness.

Monte-Cristo hurried to the captain, who was endeavoring to quiet the superstitious fears of the sailors. Drawing him aside, he said, in a low tone:

"Giacomo, we are in frightful danger. This elemental disturbance is volcanic, and how it will end cannot be foretold. No doubt an earthquake is devastating the nearest land, or will do so before many hours have elapsed. At any moment rocks or islands may arise from the sea, and obstruct our passage. All we can do is to hold ourselves in readiness for whatever calamity may happen, and make for Crete as rapidly as possible, with the hope of eventually getting beyond the volcanic zone. Do not enlighten the crew as to the cause of the disturbance; did they know, or even suspect it, they could not be controlled, but would become either stupefied or reckless. Try to convince them that we are simply in the midst of a severe electrical storm that will speedily exhaust its fury and subside. Now, to work, and remember that everything depends upon your courage and resolution."

Giacomo rejoined the sailors, who were huddled together at the stern of the yacht like so many frightened sheep. He spoke to them, doing his utmost to reassure them, and ultimately succeeded so well that they resumed their neglected duties with some show of alacrity and even cheerfulness.

Meanwhile, Monte-Cristo, with folded arms and an outward show of calmness, was pacing the deck as if nothing unusual were in progress, and his demeanor was not without its effect on the sailors, who looked upon him with a species of awe and admiration. At times he went below to cheer the drooping spirits of his beloved Haydee, but speedily returned that the influence of his presence might not be lost.

Thus the day passed. A night of painful suspense succeeded it, during which not a soul on board the Alcyon thought of sleeping. Nothing, however, occurred, save that the intense lightning of the previous night was renewed. Toward eleven o'clock the breeze freshened to such an extent that the yacht sped along on her course with great fleetness.

In the morning the sun arose amid a purple haze, and the Mediterranean presented a more tumultuous and threatening aspect than it had the preceding day. The breeze was still blowing stiffly, and the lightning continued. Giacomo informed Monte-Cristo that unless a calm should suddenly come on they would certainly arrive at Crete by noon. The sailors, he added, were in good spirits, and might be relied upon, though they were much fatigued by reason of their unceasing labor.

At ten o'clock the man at the wheel hurriedly summoned the captain to his side, and, with a look of terror and bewilderment, directed his attention to the compass, the needle of which no longer pointed to the north, but was dancing a mad dance, not remaining stationary for a single instant. To complicate the situation still further, the sun was suddenly obscured, absolute darkness invading both sea and sky. Only when the vivid lightning tore the dense clouds apart were those on board the Alcyon enabled to catch a glimpse of what was going on about them, and that glimpse was but momentary. Thunder peals were now added to the terrors of the time, while the yacht tossed and plunged on angry, threatening billows. Showers of sparks and glowing cinders, as if from some mighty conflagration, poured down into the water, striking its surface with an ominous hiss; they resembled meteors, and their brilliancy was augmented by the surrounding gloom. Rain also began to descend, not in drops, but in broad sheets and with the roar of a cataract; in a moment everybody on the Alcyon's deck was drenched to the skin.

Haydee had not ventured from the cabin since the first day of the elemental commotion; in obedience to his master's commands, Ali constantly watched over her whenever the Count was facing the strange storm with Giacomo and the sailors.

As the captain approached the man at the wheel, Monte-Cristo fixed his eyes upon the old Italian's countenance and saw it assume a deathly pallor as he noticed that the needle of the compass could no longer be depended on.

In an instant the Count was beside him and realized the extent of the new evil that had befallen them.

"We can steer but by guess now," said Giacomo, in a low, hoarse whisper. "God grant that we may be able to reach our destination."

As he spoke, a loud crash was heard, and the rudder, torn from its fastenings by the violence of the tempest, swept by them, vanishing amid the darkness. The man at the wheel gazed after it, uttering a cry of despair.

"We are completely at the mercy of the wind and waves!" said Monte-Cristo, in an undertone. "Can nothing be done?" he added, hurriedly.

"Nothing, Excellency," returned the captain. "A temporary rudder might be rigged were the sea calmer, but, boiling and seething as it is, such a thing is utterly impossible."

A panic had seized upon the sailors as they witnessed the catastrophe that rendered the Alcyon helpless, but this immediately gave place to stupor, and the men stood silent and overwhelmed.

Bertuccio, from the time the dread storm had broken forth, had been gloomy and uncommunicative; he had held persistently aloof both from Monte-Cristo and the crew. In the general turmoil and confusion his bearing and behavior had passed unnoticed even by the vigilant eye of the Count.

The steward now approached his master, and, taking him aside, whispered in his ear:

"Heaven's vengeance is pursuing the Alcyon and all on board because of my crimes! I feel it—I know it!"

The steward's face was as white as a sheet, but his eye betokened fixed resolution.

"Not another word of this," cried Monte-Cristo, sternly. "Should the superstitious sailors hear you, they would demand with one voice that you be cast into the boiling sea."

"And they would be right," rejoined Bertuccio, doggedly. "If I remain where I am, the Alcyon's doom is sealed. On the other hand, the moment you are rid of me the storm will cease as if by magic, and you will be saved."

"Be silent!" commanded Monte-Cristo. "You are a Corsican—show a Corsican's courage!"

"I will!" was the determined reply, and the steward walked with a firm tread to the side of the yacht.

"What do you mean?" said the Count, hurrying after him and placing his hand on his shoulder.

"You shall see!" answered Bertuccio.

Shaking off Monte-Cristo's grasp, he leaped upon the bulwarks and suddenly sprang far out amid the seething waves. The Count uttered a cry of horror that was echoed by the captain. As for the crew, so utterly stupefied were they that they did not seem to comprehend the suicidal act. For an instant Monte-Cristo and Giacomo saw the steward whirling about amid the tumultuous flood; then he was swept away, and vanished in the impenetrable darkness beyond.

The force of the wind had meanwhile augmented until a perfect hurricane was raging about the Alcyon; the noise was deafening, and the sails swelled to such an extent that they threatened to snap asunder. Suddenly they gave way, and the tattered shreds flew in all directions, like white-winged sea-fowl. Simultaneously the mast toppled and went by the board. The yacht, now a helpless wreck, pitched and tossed, but still shot onward, impelled by the wild fury of the gale. Gigantic waves at intervals swept the deck, each torrent as it retreated carrying with it all it could tear away, and making huge gaps in the bulwarks, to which the sailors were clinging with all the energy of desperation. Monte-Cristo had grasped the stump of the mast, and the captain clung with all his strength to the remains of the wheel. The lightning had become terrific, and the almost continuous roar of the thunder was sufficient to drown the mad din of the waters.

All at once the jagged outlines of a gigantic rock loomed up, directly in the course of the fated vessel; in another instant the Alcyon struck and remained fast, while a vivid flash of lightning revealed what appeared to be an island, about a quarter of a mile away. But though the wreck of the yacht was motionless, the furious sea continued to break over the deck, and it seemed only a question of a few moments when the battered and torn hull of the Alcyon would go to pieces. The boat the vessel carried had long since been wrenched from its fastenings and swept into the whirlpool.

Monte-Cristo, quitting the stump of the mast, darted down the companion-way into the cabin, and quickly returned to the deck bearing in his arms the swooning form of his adored Haydee. Ali followed him. The Nubian seemed to have entirely recovered from his fear, and manifested both alertness and decision.

Shifting his lifeless burden to his left arm and grasping her firmly, Monte-Cristo advanced to the side of the Alcyon. Pausing there for an instant, he said, addressing Giacomo and the crew:

"The yacht cannot hold together much longer; if we remain where we are we shall inevitably be ground to powder on the rock with our vessel. There is an island some distance to the right of us, and, sustained by Providence, we may succeed in reaching it by swimming. For my part, I shall try the venture and endeavor to save this lady. You, men, are untrammeled and stand a better chance of success than I do. I advise you all to follow my example; to cling further to the wreck is death!"

With these words the Count made his way to a gap in the bulwarks and, grasping Haydee tightly, leaped with her into the midst of the angry sea. Ali followed his master, and soon they were seen far in the distance, struggling and battling with the waves.



CHAPTER II.

THE ISLAND.

It was the month of December, but on the little Island of Salmis in the Grecian Archipelago the temperature was as mild and genial as that of June. The grass was rank and thick, while the blooming almond trees filled the atmosphere with fragrance. On a narrow strip of sandy beach three or four fishermen were preparing their nets and boats for a fishing expedition to the waters beyond. They chatted as they toiled. The eldest of them, a man about sixty, with silvered locks and a long gray beard, said:

"You may talk of storms as much as you please, but I maintain that the most severe tempest ever experienced in this neighborhood was the one I witnessed ten years ago last October, when we had the earthquake and the strange man, who now owns this island, was washed ashore."

"The Count of Monte-Cristo you mean?" remarked one of the party.

"Yes, the Count of Monte-Cristo, who has done so much for us all and whose wife is nothing less than an angel of goodness and charity."

"You rescued him, did you not, Alexis?"

"I found him lying upon the beach, with the lady who is now his wife tightly clasped in his arms, so tightly that I had no end of trouble to separate them. Both were unconscious at the time, and no wonder, for the sea was furious and they must have been dashed about at a fearful rate. It was a miracle they escaped with their lives. Near them lay that dark-skinned African, their servant, who styles himself Ali, as well as the corpses of several sailors. The African, however, revived just as I approached him. He's a man of iron, I tell you, for he immediately leaped to his feet and helped me to restore his master and mistress. When they came to, I took the whole party to my hut and cared for them. The next day I rowed the Count and the African out to the wreck of their vessel on that rock you see away over there, and they brought back with them a fabulous amount of money and jewels that they found in the strangest closets I ever saw in the cabin. Then the Count bought this island and has lived here ever since. He took the lady to Athens and was married to her there, and on his return he had the palace they now occupy built in the midst of the palm grove."

By this time the fishermen had completed their preparations and, leaping into their boats, they started on their expedition.

The palace in the palm grove to which old Alexis had alluded was, indeed, a magnificent dwelling, suitable in every respect for the residence of an oriental monarch. It was built in the Turkish fashion and its exterior was singularly beautiful and imposing. Huge palm trees surrounded it; they were planted in regular rows upon a vast lawn that was adorned with costly statues and fountains, while at intervals were scattered great flower beds filled with choice exotics and blooming plants of endless variety. A wide graveled walk and carriage-road led to the palace, the main entrance to which was flanked on either side by columns of dark-veined marble. The edifice itself was of green stone, and sparkled in the sunlight like a colossal emerald. It was surmounted by three zinc-covered domes, above each of which towered a gilded crescent.

Within all was elegance and luxury. There were immense salons, with marble floors, and walls covered with Smyrna hangings of the most beautiful description that of themselves must have cost a fortune. These salons were furnished with rich divans, tables of malachite, cabinets of ebony, and oriental rugs of the most artistic and complicated workmanship. There were dazzling reception rooms filled with exquisite statues and superb paintings, the works of the greatest sculptors and artists of the east and west, of the past and the present. Figures by Thorwaldsen, Powers and other modern celebrities of the block and chisel stood beside antique masterpieces framed by the genius of Phidias and his brother sculptors of old Greece and Rome, masterpieces that had been torn from the ruins of antiquity by the hand of the untiring and enterprising excavator. Among the paintings were fine specimens of the skill of Albert Duerer, Murillo, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Sir Joshua Reynolds and other votaries of the brush whose names are immortal. These paintings did not hang on the walls, for they were covered with rich tapestry from the looms of Benares and the Gobelins, but rested on delicately fashioned easels, themselves entitled to a high, rank as works of art. In the salons were statues by Michael Angelo, Pierre Puget and Pompeo Marchesi, and paintings by Claude Lorraine, Titian, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Correggio and Salvator Rosa.

The vast library was encircled by lofty bookcases of walnut and ebony, filled with rare and costly volumes from the curiously illuminated missals of monkish days to the latest scientific works, together with a liberal sprinkling of poetry and fiction; upon tables, stands and mantels were superb ornaments in brass repousse work and grand old faience, including some wonderful specimens of ancient Chinese crackle ware, the peculiar secret of the manufacture of which had been lost in the flight of ages.

At an exquisite desk of walnut, carved with grotesque images, sat the Count of Monte-Cristo; he was busily engaged in writing, and beside him lay a huge pile of manuscript that was ever and anon augmented by an additional sheet, hastily scrawled in strange, bewildering Semitic characters.

The Count showed but small trace of the passage of years; he did not look much older than when he left the Isle of Monte-Cristo with Haydee on that voyage which was destined to result so disastrously for the Alcyon and her ill-fated crew. To be sure, his hair was slightly flecked with gray, but his visage still retained its full outline, and not a wrinkle marred its masculine beauty. He was clad in an exceedingly picturesque costume, half Greek and half Turkish, while upon his head was a red fez from the centre of which hung down a gilt tassel.

As he wrote his eyes sparkled and he seemed filled with enthusiasm. At length he threw aside his pen, and rising began to pace the vast apartment with long strides. "Alas!" he muttered, "perhaps after all I am only a vain dreamer, as hosts of others have been before me. But no, my scheme is feasible and cannot fail; it is based on sound principles and a thorough knowledge of mankind; besides, the immense wealth that an all-wise God has placed at my disposal will aid me and form a mighty factor in the cause. In the past I used that wealth solely for my own selfish ends, but now all is different; I have no thought of self—the philanthropist has replaced the egotist; I have aided the poor, relieved the stricken and brought joy to many a sorrowing home, but hitherto I have acted only in isolated cases; now I meditate a grand, a sublime stroke—to give freedom to man throughout the entire length and breadth of the Continent of Europe. If I succeed, and succeed I must, every down-trodden human being from the coast of France to the Ural Mountains, from the sunny Mediterranean to the frozen Arctic Ocean, will reap the benefit of my efforts and shake off the yoke of tyranny. Where shall I begin? Ah! with France, my own country, the land that gave me birth. I shall thus return good for evil, and Edmond Dantes, the prisoner of the Chateau d'If, will free the masses from their galling chains. My most potent instrument will be the public press; by means of journals I will found, or buy, the minds of all Europeans shall become familiarized with the theory of universal liberty and ripened for sweeping revolutions and the establishment of republics; I will also call fiction to my aid; struggling novelists and feuilletonists shall receive liberal subsidies from my hand on condition that they disseminate my ideas, theories and plans in their romances and feuilletons; thus will I reach thousands upon thousands who hold themselves aloof from politics, and almost insensibly they will be transformed into zealous, active partisans of the order of things that is to be; poets, too, shall sing the praises of freedom louder and more enthusiastically than ever before; in fine, no instrument, no means, however humble and apparently insignificant, shall be neglected when the proper moment arrives, but until it does arrive I must wait, wait patiently, wait though while waiting an internal fire consume me, and my veins throb with anxiety and expectation to the point of bursting."

He sank into a chair, and, burying his face in his hands, was lost in profound thought.

Meanwhile, a lovely woman, leading a beautiful girl of eight years and a handsome boy of nine, had noiselessly entered the apartment. It was Haydee, the wife of Monte-Cristo, Haydee grown mature and more beautiful than ever. Her night-black tresses were gathered in two wide braids at the back of her shapely head, so long that they reached below her waist. Her eyes were as bright as stars, and her slender hands, tipped with their pink nails, as white as the lily; her tiny feet, encased in Cinderella slippers of rose-hued satin, peeped out from beneath ample Turkish trousers, which were semi-transparent and disclosed the outlines of her beautifully turned limbs; she wore a close-fitting gilet of pearly silk, adorned with gilt fringe and cut low, displaying her snowy neck and magnificent shoulders; her arms were encompassed but not hidden by flowing sleeves of filmy gauze as fine as the tissue of a spider's web; about her neck flashed a collar of brilliant diamonds of enormous value, and on her tapering fingers were rings of emerald, ruby and sapphire; on her head was a red fez, precisely similar to her husband's; her countenance, a perfect revelation of angelic beauty, was wreathed in sunny smiles that betokened thorough happiness and contentment.

The little girl, Zuleika, the daughter of Monte-Cristo, was her exact image, a reproduction of her lovely mother in miniature, a promise of rare delight for the future. The child's costume was also modeled after Haydee's, but with modifications suited to her tender years. Zuleika was of a gentle, loving disposition, but a vein of romance and poetry had already developed itself in her notwithstanding her extreme youth. She sighed for the unknown delights of the sea, and the wail of the surf sounded to her like the most delicious of mysterious harmonies. Her infant imagination peopled the watery realm with spirits of good and evil always in contention, and the great ships, with their huge white sails, that she saw in the distance from the sandy beach of the Island of Salmis, were in her eyes the mighty birds of Arabian story.

The boy, Esperance, the son of Monte-Cristo, resembled his father both in disposition and appearance; his youthful soul was full of noble aspirations, while his daring and bravery filled even the hardy fishermen of the coast with wonder and amazement. He was a very manly and handsome child; quick, enthusiastic and energetic; his father's hope and his mother's idol; though Haydee saw, with extreme uneasiness, that the little lad was wise beyond his years, and was already devoted to Monte-Cristo's somewhat visionary schemes, which he appeared to grasp in all their complicated details. His attire was that of a Greek fisher boy; his trousers, rolled up above his knees, displayed his naked legs and bare feet; in one hand he held a rough sea cap that he had removed from his head at the door of the library. Esperance loved, above all other things, to be with the fishermen on the beach, and his joy knew no bounds when he was permitted to accompany them on their fishing expeditions to the waters beyond.

Haydee remained silently gazing at Monte-Cristo for a moment; then, advancing into the middle of the room, she stood beside him with the children. Zuleika, dropping her mother's hand, sprang lightly upon her father's knees, and, clasping him about the neck with her chubby arms, kissed him rapturously.

The Count started from his deep reverie and returned his daughter's kiss; then, looking up, he perceived Haydee and Esperance.

"Ah! my loved ones," said he, "so you are all here!"

"Yes, papa," returned Zuleika, in a clear, crystal voice, that sounded like the tinkle of a fairy bell, "we are all here—mamma, Esperance and 'Leika!"

Monte-Cristo smiled faintly, and patted the little girl tenderly on the cheek.

"Haydee," said he, "fortune favors us in our children; they are, indeed, a blessing to us."

"A veritable blessing, my lord," answered the lovely Haydee, "but still I cannot help feeling some terror at the thought that Esperance may one day be drawn into those political struggles you have so often foretold, and in which it is your intention to act a prominent part."

"Papa will lead the people to victory, and I will fight by his side!" cried Esperance, proudly.

Haydee gazed sadly at the enthusiastic boy, and tears came into her gazelle-like eyes.

"Oh! my lord," she said to her husband, "teach Esperance the arts of peace, implant in his boyish bosom, while there is yet time, the love of home and domestic joys."

The Count glanced admiringly at the little lad, who stood with dilated nostrils and eyes flashing fire; then, turning to Haydee, he said in an impressive tone:

"My beloved wife, Esperance is but an infant, and it may be years ere Europe shall awake from her lethargy and strive to overturn the thrones of her despots; before that period, the period of revolution and bloodshed, our son may change his opinions and cease to be the ardent Republican he is now."

"No, no," protested the enthusiastic boy; "I will be a Republican all my life!"

Monte-Cristo smiled sadly, and, drawing the lad to his knee, said to him:

"Esperance, my son, you are yet too young to know the ways of the world and the snares that monarchs set for the inexperienced and unwary. There are temptations at their command capable of winning over even the most zealous enemies, and they never hesitate to use them when the opportunity offers. At the proper time I will instruct you fully about all this; now, you cannot understand it."

As Monte-Cristo ceased to speak, Ali entered the library, followed by three native servants attached to the palace. The Nubian bowed low before his master and reverently kissed Haydee's hand; the servants did likewise. Then Ali handed the Count a sealed letter, making signs to the effect that he had found it tied with a cord to one of the palm trees on the lawn.

Monte-Cristo opened the letter and glanced at the signature; as he did so a look of surprise and annoyance settled upon his face.

The note was written in the French language, and read as follows:

COUNT OF MONTE-CRISTO: I am in hiding on the Island of Salmis and must see you without delay. Meet me at midnight in the almond grove near the eastern shore. Be sure to come alone. BENEDETTO.

"Humph!" said the Count to himself as he finished reading this singular epistle. "I thought I was rid of that scoundrel forever, but it seems that the galleys at Toulon cannot hold him. Well, I suppose I must meet him; otherwise he may take a notion to come here, which would be both inconvenient and disagreeable. I imagine he wants a little money to enable him to escape to the east; if that is all, I will gladly give it to be rid of his presence, on the island. I prefer not to have as a neighbor a thief and an assassin, even if he did shine so brilliantly once in aristocratic Parisian society as the Prince Cavalcanti!"

"What is the matter, my lord?" asked Haydee, noticing the expression on Monte-Cristo's countenance. "From whom is the letter?"

"Oh! it is nothing," answered the Count, with a smile. "A poor fellow wishes my assistance, and is too modest to ask it in person; that's all!"

Haydee was not satisfied with this indefinite reply; she knew that the contents of the letter so strangely conveyed to her husband had vexed and troubled him; but she also knew that Monte-Cristo could be as silent as the tomb about anything he wished to keep secret, and, therefore, judged it useless to attempt further questions. Besides, a singular presentiment of evil had taken possession of her at the sight of the ominous note, and she felt certain that some disaster was threatened; hence, she determined to be watchful and keep strict guard over her children until the mystery, whatever it was, should be cleared up.

As the clock in his library struck the quarter before midnight, Monte-Cristo arose from the chair in which he had been sitting; donning his fez and a light cloak, he prepared to go to the almond grove on the eastern portion of the island, the spot Benedetto had appointed for their meeting; prior to setting out he slipped into his pocket a well-filled purse, and thrust a loaded revolver into the belt he wore about his waist.

"The scoundrel was anxious that I should come alone, but he did not prohibit me from arming myself," muttered he, with a grim smile, "and I have seen too much of Signor Benedetto to care to leave the game entirely in his hands!"

Quitting the palace by a private door, after making sure that everybody was asleep and that he was unobserved, Monte-Cristo bent his steps in the direction of the almond grove. It was a moonless night and very dark; the air was rather chill, while the roar of the surf sounded louder than usual in the crisp, bracing atmosphere. The Count gathered his cloak tightly about him and walked steadily onward, notwithstanding the thick darkness. At length the heavy odor of the almond blossoms warned him that he was approaching his destination, and he paused to survey the scene.

About fifty yards away the almond grove loomed up, casting a denser shade upon the surrounding blackness. The Count hastened his steps and in a few seconds stood among the trees. As he paused the figure of a man emerged from behind a huge fragment of rock and thus hailed him:

"Are you the Count of Monte-Cristo?"

"I am," was the firm reply.

"And are you alone, as I recommended?"

"Entirely alone. Now, if you have finished your questions, pray who are you?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Merely for form's sake."

"Well, then, I am Benedetto."

"Of course. As it was too dark for me to distinguish your features, I simply wanted to identify you. Now, state your business as briefly as possible."

"I escaped from Toulon long ago, and, after wandering all over Europe, settled in Athens, where I remained until a week since, when the result of a difficulty compelled me to quit the city."

"An assassination?"

"Yes, an assassination!"

Monte-Cristo shuddered to hear the cold-blooded villain talk so calmly of his foul crime, but, conquering his aversion, he said between his teeth:

"Proceed."

"I fled from Athens under cover of the night and the next morning hired a fisherman to bring me here in his boat, thinking that the island was inhabited only by a few poverty-stricken wretches who gained a scanty subsistence from the sea. On my arrival I was filled with terror at beholding your magnificent palace, which I was told belonged to a great lord. I naturally imagined that no one could inhabit such a dwelling save some high official of the Greek Government, and, without making further inquiries, again secured the services of the fisherman, who took me to the neighboring Island of Kylo. There I was in safety, for I fell in with a band of stout-hearted men, of whom I eventually became the chief."

"Bandits, no doubt!"

"Yes, bandits, if you will, but valiant men all the same. We prospered exceedingly and imagined that our career could be continued with impunity as long as we might desire; in this, however, we were sadly mistaken, for one fatal night the Greek soldiery suddenly descended upon us and hemmed us in on every side ere we were aware of their presence. We fought none the less desperately on that account, and in the sanguinary conflict all my companions were slain. I was grievously wounded and left for dead, but the following day managed to crawl to the beach and contrived to be conveyed hither, having learned by accident that the great lord of the Island of Salmis was no other than my old friend of happier days, the Count of Monte-Cristo, in short, yourself. Now, you know my story. I am a fugitive here as in France, and need your aid to enable me to escape."

"You want money?"

"Yes."

"How much?"

"A million of francs!"

"Man!" cried Monte-Cristo, breathless with astonishment at Benedetto's audacious demand, "you are out of your senses! I will give you a thousand francs, but not a sou more!"

"Beware how you trifle with a desperate man!" hissed Benedetto.

"What have I to fear?" said Monte-Cristo, calmly. "You are alone."

"I am not alone, Count of Monte-Cristo; my stout-hearted friends of the Island of Kylo are with me, and ready to support my demand!"

"Then you lied to me; your story was a base fabrication."

"Partly, Count; but enough of this—I want the million of francs; it is a small sum for you to spare an old friend, who did you as much service as Prince Andrea Cavalcanti! Are you going to give me the money?"

"I am not!" replied Monte-Cristo, drawing his revolver from his belt and cocking it.

"Ho! ho!" laughed Benedetto, mockingly, "that's your game, is it? Again I tell you to beware how you trifle with a desperate man!"

At the repetition of this phrase, as if it had been a preconcerted signal, a dozen stalwart figures started up from the darkness and surrounded Monte-Cristo, who instantly discharged his weapon right and left among them. Several of the bandits fell, pierced by the balls, and Benedetto, with a loud oath, leaped at the Count's throat, brandishing a long, keen-bladed dagger above his head.

Raising his empty revolver, Monte-Cristo with a hand of iron struck his on-coming assailant full in the face, stretching him instantly at his feet; but scarcely had he accomplished this when three of the bandits sprang upon him and hurled him to the earth beside Benedetto.

"Now," cried one of the miscreants with a frightful curse, at the same time placing the muzzle of a pistol at the Count's temple, "now, my lord of Salmis, your time has come!"

As he was about to fire, there arose a tremendous shout, and, headed by Ali, who swung aloft a Turkish yataghan, the entire force of Monte-Cristo's servants, armed to the teeth, swept down upon the astonished bandits. At the same instant a pistol-shot rang out, and the man who had threatened to take the Count's life fell to the ground a corpse. As Monte-Cristo regained his feet he saw Esperance standing a short distance away, the smoking weapon with which he had just killed his father's would-be murderer still clenched in his boyish hand. The struggle that ensued was of short duration, for the bandits, finding themselves outnumbered, speedily fled to their boats, leaving their wounded comrades behind them.

When the Count realized that Esperance, his beloved son, had saved him from death, he rushed to the heroic lad, took him in his arms and bore him beyond the reach of danger; this done, he returned to aid Ali and the servants, but they were already victors and in full possession of the field.

A search was made for the body of Benedetto, but it had disappeared.



CHAPTER III.

THE CONFLAGRATION.

As the Count of Monte-Cristo, Esperance, Ali and the servants approached the palace on their return from the struggle with the bandits in the almond grove, their ears were suddenly saluted by loud cries of terror. They came from the library and thither Monte-Cristo hurried, followed by his son. On the floor in the centre of the apartment Haydee lay in a swoon, and bending over her mother was Zuleika, screaming and wringing her little hands. The Count raised his wife and placed her upon a divan, while Esperance brought a water-jar and bathed her temples with its cool, refreshing contents, Zuleika meanwhile holding her mother's hands and sobbing violently.

At last Haydee recovered consciousness, and opening her eyes gazed wildly around her; seeing her husband, Esperance and Zuleika safe beside her, she uttered a faint sigh of relief. It was several moments longer before she could speak; then she exclaimed in a tremulous voice:

"Oh! my lord, did you meet that terrible man?"

"What man, Haydee?" asked the Count. "Do you mean Benedetto?"

"I do not know his name; I never saw him before," answered Haydee; "but his face was all battered and bleeding; on his uncovered head the locks were matted and unkempt, and his garments were torn as if in wrenching his way through a thicket of tangled briers."

"Benedetto, it was Benedetto!" cried Monte-Cristo. "You do not mean to say he was here, in this room?"

"He was here and only a short time ago," replied Haydee, with a shudder. "I was standing at the window with Zuleika when he rushed by me like a whirlwind, and going to your secretary endeavored to open it, but in vain; then with a cry of rage he ran to the window, leaped out into the darkness and was gone! I know nothing further, for as he vanished I fell to the floor in a swoon."

Monte-Cristo touched a bell and almost immediately Ali stood bowing before him, as calm and unmoved as though nothing unusual had occurred.

"Ali," said the Count, "post all the servants within and without the palace, and let the strictest watch be kept until dawn. The chief of the bandits, who is no other than the former Prince Cavalcanti, was here in our absence and must yet be hovering in the vicinity. See that he does not effect another entrance, as his purpose is robbery if not murder!"

Ali signified by his eloquent pantomime that he had already taken it upon himself to station the servants as his master directed, and that it would be utterly impossible for any one to approach the palace without being seen and seized.

As the faithful Nubian turned to retire, Monte-Cristo noticed that his right hand was bandaged as if wounded, and inquired whether he had been hurt in the conflict with the bandits. Ali explained that a dagger thrust had cut his palm, but that the wound had been properly cared for and would soon heal.

When the Count and his family were once more alone together, Haydee threw herself at her husband's feet and humbly demanded pardon.

"What have you done to require pardon?" asked Monte-Cristo, in astonishment. "Speak, but I forgive you beforehand.'

"Oh! my lord," said Haydee, still maintaining her kneeling posture despite her husband's efforts to raise her, "oh! my lord, I have been guilty of a despicable act, but my love for you and fears for your safety must be my excuse. You left the letter you received so strangely this morning lying upon your secretary. I opened it and hurriedly made myself acquainted with its contents, for I had a premonition that some terrible danger threatened you. Oh! my lord, pardon, pardon!"

Monte-Cristo raised her to her feet, and imprinted a kiss upon her pallid brow.

"So then, it is to you, Haydee, that I owe my timely rescue from the hands of Benedetto and his band of cut-throats! Had you committed even a much more serious fault than peeping into my correspondence, that would be more than sufficient to secure my full forgiveness. But do you know that Esperance shot and killed the miscreant who held his pistol to my temple and was about to blow out my brains?"

"Esperance?" said Haydee in bewilderment. "Did he not remain behind with Zuleika and myself?"

"No, mamma," said the boy, holding his head proudly erect. "I could not remain behind. I knew papa was in danger, and, taking a pistol that I had seen Ali load this morning from the cabinet of fire-arms, I followed the servants, arriving at the almond grove just in time."

Haydee ran to her son, and, taking him in her arms, pressed him fondly to her heart, kissing him again and again.

"Oh! Esperance," she cried, "had I known you were in the midst of those bloodthirsty cut-throats I should have died of terror! But you have saved your father's life, my son, and I bless you for it!"

"He is a little hero," said Monte-Cristo, impressively.

Zuleika had thrown herself upon the divan, and, utterly worn out by the excitement through which she had passed, was already wrapped in a deep slumber. The Count, Haydee and Esperance, however, could not resign themselves to sleep, and when the gray light of dawn appeared in the eastern sky, they were still in the library and still watching.

Benedetto had not been seen again, and a diligent search of the entire island, made by Ali and the servants, failed to reveal even the slightest trace of him. He had evidently succeeded in finding some fisherman's skiff and in it had made his escape.

This view of the case was confirmed a few hours later, when old Alexis came to the palace and informed Monte-Cristo that his smack had vanished during the night, having, in all probability, been carried off by thieves.

"I knew," said the fisherman, "that the Island of Kylo was infested by bandits, but I had no idea they would venture here. Now, however, I thought I had better put you on your guard."

"I am much indebted to you, Alexis," said the Count; then, slipping a purse of money into his hand, he added: "Take that and provide yourself with a new boat."

Alexis touched his cap, bowed and was about to withdraw when Monte-Cristo said to him, assuming a careless tone:

"By the way, my good fellow, have you ever chanced to meet any of the bandits you mentioned?"

"Often, Excellency," replied Alexis.

"What kind of men are they?"

"Bold, bad wretches, whose hands have been more than once stained with innocent blood."

"What is their strength?"

"They number about fifty."

"Do any women dwell among them?"

"Yes, Excellency, their wives and sweethearts."

"Who is the leader of the band?"

"A strange, morose man, who has not been long in their midst."

"Is he a Greek?"

"No, Excellency, he is a foreigner."

"A Frenchman?"

"Quite likely, though I am not sure."

"What is his name?"

"He calls himself Demetrius."

"Did he ever question you about me?"

"Yes, Excellency."

"And what did you reply?"

"I told him you were the Count of Monte-Cristo."

"Ah! What did he say then?"

"He said he had heard of you before."

"That will do, Alexis; I have all the information I require."

The fisherman again touched his cap, and, making a low bow, took his departure.

Under ordinary circumstances Monte-Cristo would not have been disturbed by the presence of bandits so near the Island of Salmis, but it became an altogether different thing when those bandits were led by Benedetto.

A month passed, but in it nothing occurred calculated to break the tranquillity of the Count and his family. The bandits had not reappeared and Benedetto had given no sign of life. The faithful Ali no longer deemed it necessary to maintain his precautions against surprise, and the strict watch that had been kept up day and night ever since the conflict in the almond grove was abandoned. Haydee, Zuleika and Esperance resumed their usual mode of life, having apparently dismissed the robbers from their minds, while even Monte-Cristo seemed free from all uneasiness.

One night, while the Count was writing at a late hour in the library, he yielded to fatigue and fell asleep over his papers. His slumber was troubled with a strange and vivid dream.

A man in the picturesque garb of a Greek peasant, and wearing a mask on his face, suddenly stood before him, with his arms folded upon his breast. Monte-Cristo saw him distinctly, though unable to stir either hand or foot. The singular visitant surveyed the Count long and steadily. There was something vaguely familiar about him, but as to his identity the sleeper could form no idea. At last he slowly removed the mask, and recognition was instantaneous. The man was Danglars. He raised his right hand, and, pointing with his forefinger at the Count, said deliberately, with a hiss like some venomous serpent:

"Edmond Dantes, there is a bitter account open between us, and I am here to force you to a bitter settlement!"

The light of the huge lamp, suspended from the ceiling, fell full upon Danglars' countenance; it was as bloodless as that of a corpse, and the eyes shone with a remorseless, vindictive glare. The banker continued in the same hissing tone, his words penetrating to the very marrow of the slumberer's bones:

"Count of Monte-Cristo, for by that name it still pleases you to be called, listen to me. By the most ingenious and fiendish combinations possible for a human being to contrive, you wrecked my fortune and with it my hopes. You drove me ignominiously from Paris; in Rome you caused me to be starved and robbed by Luigi Vampa and his brigands; then with the malevolent magnanimity of an arch-demon you sent me forth into the world a fugitive and an outcast. Count of Monte-Cristo, Edmond Dantes, low-born sailor of Marseilles, modern Mephistopheles as you are, I will be even with you! You have had your vengeance; now you shall feel mine! Here in the Grecian Archipelago, on the Island of Salmis, I will torture you through your dearest affections, and grind you to dust beneath my heel!"

As Danglars finished, his features changed and became those of Villefort, while his Greek peasant's garb was transformed into the sombre habiliments of the Procureur du Roi. Villefort's face wore the look of madness, but there was a freezing calmness in his voice as he said:

"Edmond Dantes, Count of Monte-Cristo, gaze upon the ruin you have made. Through you I was dragged down from my high position, exposed, humiliated and deprived of reason. But although the mere wreck of my former self, I am not utterly powerless, as you shall learn to your cost. You raised up my infamous son, Benedetto, to be the instrument of my destruction. Now, he shall work yours, and avenge his unhappy father!"

The apparition paused, sighed deeply, and then resumed in a tone of still greater menace:

"Count of Monte-Cristo, look well to your beloved wife, Haydee, look well to your heroic son, Esperance, look well to your darling daughter, Zuleika, for this night they are in frightful danger! Look well to your fabulous riches, for they are threatened; look well to your stately and magnificent palace, for already the element that shall devour it is noiselessly and stealthily at work! Count of Monte-Cristo, farewell!"

A heart-rending shriek rang in the sleeper's ears, a mighty flash dazzled his eyes, and, with a grim smile upon his pallid countenance, Villefort vanished.

Monte-Cristo awoke with a quick start and passed his hand across his forehead, as if dazed; then he leaped to his feet and glanced breathlessly about him. Danglars and Villefort had been only the idle coinage of his brain, but the heart-rending shriek, the mighty flash, they were, indeed, stern realities—the shriek was Haydee's, and the flash was fire!

"My God!" cried Monte-Cristo, standing for an instant rooted to the spot, "can it be possible that this dream is the truth after all, and that I am even now to feel the vengeance of those two men?"

He sprang into the spacious hall that was as light as day, and, as he did so, the figure of a man rushed by him—it was Benedetto, and in his hand he held a long knife dripping with blood. The Count turned and pursued him, snatching a dagger from a table as he ran. At the door leading to the lawn, he grasped him firmly by the shoulder and held him.

"Murderer!" he shouted, "whose blood is that upon your knife?"

"The blood of Haydee, the Greek slave!" hissed Benedetto, with a glare of ferocious triumph, "the blood of Haydee, your wife! Edmond Dantes, I am even with you!"

Monte-Cristo struck at the assassin with his dagger, but Benedetto eluded the blow, and raising his own weapon inflicted a frightful gash upon the Count's cheek.

A terrible struggle ensued. Monte-Cristo was possessed of wonderful strength and activity, but in both these respects the two desperate antagonists seemed fairly matched. Three times did the Count bury his dagger in Benedetto's body, but, though the assassin's blood gushed copiously from his wounds, he continued to fight with the utmost determination. At length the men grappled in a supreme, deadly effort, but Monte-Cristo, making a false step, slipped on the blood-spattered marble floor, and Benedetto, with the quickness of thought, hurling him backward, freed himself and bounding through the open doorway vanished in the darkness beyond.

The Count uttered a groan of despair as he saw Haydee's self-confessed murderer escape him, and staggered to his feet; the fierce conflict with Benedetto had exhausted him, and he stood for an instant panting and breathless. The shrieks had now grown fainter and the hall was full of smoke. During all this time neither Ali nor any of the servants under him had appeared, a circumstance that, to Monte-Cristo, seemed inexplicable. He, however, did not pause to give it thought, but dashed up the stairway and strove to reach his wife's apartment; blinding, stifling clouds of smoke, through which penetrated the glare of the conflagration, drove him back again and again, but he renewed his attempts to force a passage with undaunted energy and courage. Finally, compressing his lips and holding his nostrils with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, he gave a headlong plunge, and succeeded in reaching Haydee's door; it was open, displaying a scene that caused the Count's heart to sink within him; the whole chamber was one sea of flame; fiery tongues, like so many writhing and hissing serpents, were licking and consuming the costly tapestry, the richly carved furniture and the magnificent objects of art; the curtains of the bed were blazing, and upon the couch lay the senseless form of the wife of Monte-Cristo, the pallor of her faultless countenance contrasting painfully with the ruddy glow of the devouring element. In Haydee's breast was a gaping wound, from which her life blood was slowly oozing in ruby drops.

Rendered utterly reckless by the terrible sight, the Count madly rushed to the couch, tore his beloved Haydee from it, and, clasping her tightly against his bosom, staggered into the corridor with his precious burden. There the smoke had increased in volume and density, but, summoning all his resolution and endurance to his aid, he plunged through it, and finally was successful in reaching the library.

Then, with the swiftness of a flash of lightning, the husband was replaced by the father, and Monte-Cristo, for the first time since Haydee's shrieks had awakened him from his dream, thought of his children. Where were they and what had happened to them? The Count felt a cold perspiration break out upon his forehead, and a feeling of unspeakable dread took entire possession of him. Haydee demanded immediate attention, but Esperance and Zuleika must instantly be found and rescued. At the top of his voice Monte-Cristo shouted for Ali, but no reply was returned. Fearing to leave Haydee for even a moment, the Count strode about the library like a caged wild animal, still holding her in his arms. He shouted again and again until he was hoarse, calling distractedly upon Esperance, Zuleika and all the servants in turn.

At last an answering shout came suddenly from the lawn, and old Alexis, followed by several fishermen, leaped into the library through an open window.

Resigning Haydee to Alexis, the Count, accompanied by the fishermen, fairly flew to the apartment of his children, situated on a corridor in another portion of the palace. There Esperance and Zuleika were discovered gagged and bound; they lay upon the floor of their chamber, while Ali, who had been treated in like manner, was extended near them. To release the prisoners was but the work of a moment, and then it was learned that all the servants under Ali were confined in their dormitory. They, as well as Monte-Cristo's children and the Nubian, had been suddenly seized by a party of rough-looking Greeks, evidently a portion of Benedetto's band.

Meanwhile the flames had spread from Haydee's chamber to the adjoining quarters of the edifice, and the entire palace seemed doomed, for to check the conflagration appeared impossible, but so happy had the Count been made by the recovery of his son and daughter, unharmed, that he gave himself no concern about the probable destruction of his magnificent property.

Seizing his children, he directed Ali and the fishermen to release the captive servants, and hastily returned to the library. As he entered the room Haydee uttered a low groan and opened her eyes; she was lying on a divan, where old Alexis had placed her. Esperance and Zuleika sprang to her side; she took each by the hand, and as she did so they saw the wound in her breast. Zuleika burst into tears. Esperance compressed his lips and grew deadly pale.

"My loved ones," said Haydee, faintly, "I feel that I am about to leave you forever, perhaps in a few moments. Be good children and obey your father in all things. Esperance, Zuleika, stoop and kiss me."

They did as she desired; her lips were already purple and cold; the stamp of death was upon her features. Suddenly her frame was convulsed and her eyes assumed a glassy look.

"Monte-Cristo, my husband, where are you?" she said, in a broken voice.

"Here, Haydee," answered the Count, approaching.

He strove to appear calm, but could not control his emotion.

"Nearer, nearer, Edmond," said Haydee, growing weaker and weaker.

The Count sank on his knees beside his dying wife and put his arms about her neck.

"Oh! Haydee, Haydee," he sobbed; "thrice accursed be the infamous wretch who has done this!"

"Edmond, my children, farewell," gasped Haydee; "I am going to a better land!"

The death rattle was in her throat; she raised herself with a mighty effort, gazed lovingly at her husband and children, and strove to speak again, but could not; then a flickering shade of violet passed over her countenance, and she fell back dead.

Esperance and Zuleika stood as if stunned; Monte-Cristo was overwhelmed with grief and despair.

"The whole palace is in flames! Save yourselves, save yourselves!" cried a fisherman, rushing into the library, followed by his companions, Ali and the servants.

Monte-Cristo leaped to his feet, seizing the corpse of Haydee and raising it in his arms. Ali grasped Esperance and Zuleika, and the entire party hastened from the burning edifice. They were not an instant too soon, for as they quitted the library the tempest of fire burst into it, accompanied by torrents of smoke. The fishermen and servants, commanded by the Nubian, had made every effort to save the doomed mansion, but in vain.

Monte-Cristo and his children found refuge in the hut of Alexis, to which Haydee's body was reverently borne.

The wife of Monte-Cristo was buried on the Island of Salmis, and over her remains her husband erected a massive monument.

Shortly afterwards the Count, Esperance and Zuleika, attended by the faithful Ali, quitted the Island and took passage on a vessel bound for France.



CHAPTER IV.

THE NEWS FROM ALGERIA.

Beauchamp, the journalist, sat at his desk in his editorial sanctum early one bright morning in the autumn of 1841. He had gone to work long before his usual hour, for important movements were on foot, the political atmosphere was agitated and Paris was in a state of feverish excitement; besides, Beauchamp had that day printed in his journal a dispatch from Algeria that would be certain to cause a great sensation, and, with the proper spirit of pride, the journalist desired to be at his post that he might receive the numerous congratulations his friends could not fail to offer, as the dispatch had appeared in his paper alone.

The sanctum had not an attractive look; in fact, it was rather dilapidated, while, in addition, the disorder occasioned by the previous night's work had not been repaired, and all was chaos and confusion.

Beauchamp was busily engaged in glancing over the rival morning papers when Lucien Debray entered and seated himself at another desk. The Ministerial Secretary smiled upon the journalist in a knowing way, and the latter, nodding to him with an air of triumph, silently pointed to the pile of journals he had finished examining. Lucien took them up, and without a word began scanning their contents.

"Glorious news that from the army in Algeria!" cried Chateau-Renaud, rushing into the sanctum.

"Glorious, indeed!" replied the editor, looking up from the paper over which he was hurriedly skimming. On the huge table at his side, as well as beneath it, and under his feet and his capacious arm-chair, nothing was to be seen but newspapers.

"Take a chair, Renaud, if you can find one, and help yourself to the news. You see I have Lucien similarly engaged yonder."

The Ministerial Secretary glanced up from his papers, returned his friend's salutation and resumed his reading. He was dressed with his customary elegance and richness, but his form and face were fuller than when last before the reader, and his brown hair was besprinkled with gray.

"I congratulate you, Beauchamp, on being the first to give the news," continued Chateau-Renaud. "Not a paper in Paris but your own has a line from the army this morning."

"Rather congratulate me and my paper on having a friend at court."

"Ha! and that explains the fact, otherwise inexplicable, that an opposition journal has intelligence, which only the Bureau of War could have anticipated! Treason—treason!"

The editor and the Secretary exchanged significant smiles.

"Oh! I don't doubt that your favors are reciprocal," continued the young aristocrat, laughing. "I've half a mind to be something useful myself—Minister—editor—anything but an idler and a law-giver—just to experience the exquisite sensation of a new pleasure—the pleasure of revealing and publishing to the world something it knew not before. Why, you two fellows, in this dark and dirty little room, are the two greatest men in Paris this morning—or were, rather, before your paper, Beauchamp, laid before the world what only you and Lucien knew previously. Oh! the delight, the rapture of knowing something that nobody else knows, and then of making the revelation!"

"And this news from Algeria is really important," remarked the editor.

"Important! So important that it will be before the Chambers this morning," replied the Secretary.

"So I supposed," said the Deputy, "and called to learn additional particulars, if you had any, on my way to the Chambers."

"We gave all we had, my dear Lycurgus, and for that were indebted to an official dispatch, telegraphed to the War Office, and faithfully re-telegraphed to us by our well-beloved Lucien."

"It's true, then, as I have sometimes suspected, that the wires radiate from the Minister's sanctum to the editor's?" was the laughing rejoinder.

"It must be so, or there's witchcraft in it. There's witchcraft, at any rate, in this new invention. Speed, secrecy, security and surety—no eastern genius of Arabian fiction can be compared to the electric telegraph; and how Ministers or editors continued to keep the world in vassalage, as they always have done, without this ready slave, seems now scarce less wonderful than the invention itself. Instead of detracting from the power of the press, the telegraph renders it more powerful than ever."

"But affairs in Algeria—is not the news splendid!" cried the editor. "Why did we not all become Spahis and win immortality, as some of our generals have?"

"As to immortality," said the Secretary, "we should have been far more likely to win the phantom as dead men than as living heroes."

"Debray was at the raising of the siege of Constantine," said Beauchamp laughing, "and knows all about the honors of war."

"Yes, indeed, and all about the raptures of starvation, of cold and hunger, after victory, and the ecstatic felicity of being pursued by six Bedouins, and after having slain five having my own neck encircled by the yataghan of the sixth!"

"And how chanced it that you saved your head, Lucien?" asked the Count.

"Save it—I didn't save it; but a most excellent friend of mine—a friend in need—galloped up and saved it for me."

"Yes," replied Beauchamp, "our gallant friend, Maximilian Morrel, the Captain of Spahis—now colonel of a regiment, and in the direct line of promotion to the first vacant baton—eh, Lucien? A lucky thing to save the head of one of the War Office from a Bedouin's yataghan. Up—up—up, like a balloon, has this young Spahi risen ever since."

"You are wrong, Beauchamp. Not like a balloon. Rather like a planet. Maximilian Morrel is one of the most gallant young men in the French army, and step by step, from rank to rank, has he hewn his own path with his good sabre, in a strong hand, nerved by a brave heart and proud ambition, to the position he now holds."

"His name I see among the immortals in the dispatch of this morning. Well, well, Morrel is a splendid fellow, no doubt, but it's a splendid thing to have friends in the War Office, nevertheless, who will give that splendor a chance to shine—will plant the lighted candle in a candlestick, and not smother its beams under a bushel."

"Morrel has now been in Africa five whole years," said the Secretary—"a few months only excepted after his marriage with Villefort's fair daughter, Valentine, (as was said) when he was indulged with a furlough for his honeymoon."

"She is not in Paris?" asked Beauchamp.

"No; she leads the life of a perfect recluse with her child, during her husband's absence, at his villa somewhere in the south—near Marseilles, where the department forwards her letters."

"Yet she is said to be a magnificent woman," remarked the Count.

"Wonderful!" cried Beauchamp. "A magnificent woman and a recluse!"

"Oh! but it was a love-match of the most devoted species, you must remember."

"True; she was to have married our friend, Franz d'Epinay."

"And died to save herself from that fate, I suppose—and afterwards was resurrected and blessed Morrel with her hand and heart, and the most exquisite person that even a jaded voluptuary could covet. Happy—happy—happy man!"

"Apropos of dying," said the Secretary, "do you remember how fast people died at M. de Villefort's house about that time?"

"Horrible! A whole family of two or three generations, one after the other! First M. and Madame de Saint-Meran—then Barrois, the old servant of M. Noirtier—then Valentine, and, last of all, Madame de Villefort and Edward, her idol. No wonder that M. le Procureur du Roi himself went mad under such an accumulation of horrors! By the by, Debray, is M. de Villefort still an inmate of the Maison Royale de Charenton?"

"I know nothing to the contrary," replied the Secretary, who had resumed his paper, and to whom the subject seemed not altogether agreeable. "He is an incurable." Then, as if to turn the subject, he continued: "Apropos of the immortals of Algeria, here is a name that seems destined even to a more rapid apotheosis than that of the favored Morrel."

"You mean Joliette?" said the editor. "Who, in the name of all that is mysterious and heroic, is this same Joliette? I have found it impossible to discover, with all the means at the command of the press."

"And I, with all the means at the command of the Government. All we can discover is this—that he is a man of about twenty-five; that he enlisted at Marseilles, and in less than three years has risen from the ranks to the command of a battalion. His career has been most brilliant."

"And to whose favor does he owe his wonderful advancement, Beauchamp?" asked the Deputy, laughing.

"To that of Marshal Bugeaud, Governor-General of Algeria."

"Ah!"

"Who has indulged him with an appointment in every forlorn hope!"

"Excellent!" cried the Count. "What more could a man resolved to be a military immortal desire? Immortality the goal—two paths conduct to it—each sure—death—life!—the former the shorter, and, perhaps, the surer! But there is one name I never see in the war dispatches. Do you ever meet with it, Messrs. editor and Secretary—I mean the name of our brilliant friend, Albert de Morcerf? The rumor ran that, after the disgrace and suicide of the Count, his father, he and his mother went south, and he later to Africa."

"I have hardly seen the name of Morcerf in print since the paragraph headed 'Yanina' in my paper, about which poor Albert was so anxious to fight me."

"Nor I," said Debray. "But where now is Madame de Morcerf? Without exception, she was the most splendid specimen of a woman I ever saw!"

"High praise, that!" cried the Count, laughing. "Who would suppose our cold, calculating, ambitious, haughty, talented and opulent diplomat and aristocrat had so much blood in his veins? When before was he known to admire anything, male or female—but himself—or, at all events, to be guilty of the bad taste of expressing that admiration?"

"Debray is right," replied the journalist, somewhat gravely. "Madame de Morcerf was, indeed, a noble and dignified woman—accomplished, lovely, dignified, amiable—"

"Stop!—stop!—in the name of all that's forbearing, be considerate of my weak nerves! You, too, Beauchamp. Well, she must have been a paragon to make the conquest of two of the most inveterate bachelors in all Paris! But where is this marvel of excellence—pardon me, Beauchamp," perceiving that the journalist looked yet more grave, and seemed in no mood for bantering or being bantered—"where is Madame de Morcerf at the present time?"

"At Marseilles, I have heard."

"And is married again?"

"No. She is yet a widow."

"And is a recluse, like Morrel's beautiful wife?"

"So says report. They dwell together."

"How romantic! The young wife, whose hero-husband is winning glory amid the perils of war and pestilence, pours her griefs, joys and anticipations into the bosom of the young mother, who appreciates and reciprocates all, because she has a son exposed to the same perils—and both beautiful as the morning! A charming picture! Two immortals in epaulets and sashes in the background are only wanted instead of one. But I must to the Chambers. M. Dantes is expected to speak in the tribune this morning upon his measure for the workmen."

"Do you know, Count, who this M. Dantes really is?" asked Debray.

"There's a question for a Ministerial Secretary to ask a member while a journalist sits by! I only know of M. Dantes that he is the most eloquent man I ever listened to. I don't mean that he's the greatest man, or the profoundest statesman, or the wisest politician, or the sagest political economist; but I do mean that, for natural powers of persuasion and denunciation—for natural oratory—I have never known his rival. If Plato's maxim, 'that oratory must be estimated by its effects,' is at all correct, then is M. Dantes the greatest orator in France, for the effect of his oratory is miraculous. There is a sort of magic in his clear, sonorous, powerful, yet most exquisitely modulated voice, and the wave of his arm is like that of a necromancer's wand."

"You are enthusiastic, Count," observed Beauchamp, "but very just. M. Dantes is, indeed, a remarkable man, and possessed of remarkable endowments, both of mind and body. His personal advantages are wonderful. Such a figure and grace as his are alone worth more than all the powers of other distinguished speakers for popular effect. 'The eyes of the multitude are more eloquent than their ears,' as the English Shakespeare says."

"I never saw such eyes and such a face," remarked Debray, "but once in my life. Do you remember the Count of Monte-Cristo, Messieurs?"

"We shall not soon forget him," was the reply. "But this man differs greatly from the Count in most respects, though certainly not unlike him in others."

"True," replied the Secretary; "in manners, habits, costume and a thousand other things there is a marked difference. Besides, the Count was said to be incalculably rich, while the Deputy has every appearance of being in very moderate circumstances. But he leads a life so retired that he is known only in the Chambers and in his public character. I allude to the Deputy's person, when I speak of resemblance to that wonderful Count, who set all Paris in a fever, and, more wonderful still, kept it so for a whole season. There is I know not what in his air and manners that often recalls to me that extraordinary man. There are the same large and powerful eyes, the same brilliant teeth for which the women envied the Count so much, the same graceful and dignified figure, the same peculiar voice, the same good taste in dress, and, above all, the same colorless, pallid face, as if, to borrow the idea of the Countess of G——, he had risen from the dead, or was a visitant from another world, or a vampire of this. Her celebrated friend, Lord B——, she used to say, was the only man she ever knew with such a complexion."

"But, if I recollect rightly," said Beauchamp, "the Count of Monte-Cristo was somewhat noted for his profusion of black hair and beard. The Deputy Dantes is so utterly out of the mode, and out of good taste, too, as to wear no beard, and his hair is short. His face is as smooth as a woman's, and he always wears a white cravat like a cure."

"But he is, nevertheless, one of the handsomest men in Paris," added the Count—"at least the women say so. You might add, the Deputy has many gray hairs among his black ones, and many furrows on his white brow, while Monte-Cristo had neither. Besides, M. Dantes has a handsome daughter and a son who resembles him greatly, both well grown, while the Count was childless."

"Well, well, be his person and family what they may," said the Secretary, rising, "I wish to God the Ministry could secure his talents. I tell you, Messieurs, that man's influence over the destinies of France is to be almost omnipotent. His powerful mind has grasped the great problem of the age—remuneration for labor. The next revolution in France will hinge upon that—mark the prediction—and this man and his coadjutors, among whom Beauchamp here is one, are doing all they can to hasten the crisis. The whole soul of this remarkable man seems devoted to the elevation of the masses—the laboring classes—the people—and to the amelioration of their condition. His efforts and those of all like him cannot ultimately succeed. But they will have a temporary triumph, and the streets of Paris will run with blood! These men are rousing terrible agencies. They are evoking the fiends of hunger and misery, which will neither obey them nor lie down at their bidding."

"And the magicians who have summoned these foul fiends will prove their earliest victims!" said Chateau-Renaud, in some excitement.

"Messieurs, listen a moment!" cried Beauchamp, rising. "Pardon me, but this discussion must cease, at least here. It can lead to no good result. As the conductor of a reform journal, I entirely differ with you both. But let not political differences interfere with our personal friendship. Come, come, old friends, let us forsake this place, redolent with politics, having a very atmosphere of discussion, and repair to the Chambers, taking Very's on our way."

"Agreed!" cried the Deputy and the Secretary, and the three left the journalist's sanctum arm in arm.



CHAPTER V.

EDMOND DANTES, DEPUTY FROM MARSEILLES.

Beauchamp, Lucien Debray and Chateau-Renaud were not the only persons puzzled with regard to the enigmatical M. Dantes; all Paris was more or less bothered about him; his entire career prior to his appearance at the capital as the Deputy from Marseilles seemed shrouded in impenetrable mystery, and this was the more galling to the curious Parisians as his wonderful oratorical powers and his intense republicanism rendered him the cynosure of all eyes and made him the sensation of the hour. The Government had instituted investigations concerning him, but without result; even in Marseilles his antecedents were unknown; he had come there from the east utterly unheralded, attended only by a black servant, and bringing with him his son and daughter, but almost immediately he had plunged into politics, winning his way to the front with startling rapidity. From the first he had ardently espoused the cause of the working people, and such was his personal magnetism that he had made hosts of admirers, and had been chosen Deputy with hardly a dissenting voice. Some of the inhabitants of Marseilles, indeed, remembered a youthful sailor named Edmond Dantes, but they asserted that he had been dead many years, and that the Deputy was unlike him in every particular.

As the young men passed the Theatre Francais, on their way to the Chamber of Deputies, after a glass of sherry and a biscuit at Very's, their attention was attracted by a crowd gathered around an immense poster spread upon the bill-board. There seemed no little excitement among the throng, a large proportion of whom appeared to be artisans and laborers, and loud expressions of admiration, accompanied by animated gestures, were heard. Nor were there wanting also words of deep denunciation and of significant threatening.

"Down! down with the tyrants! Bread or blood! Wages for work! Food for the laborer!" and other cries of equally fearful significance were audible.

"Do you hear that, Beauchamp?" said Debray, quietly.

"Undoubtedly," was the equally quiet reply.

"Those laborers have deserted the daily toil which would give them the bread they so fiercely demand, in order to discuss their imaginary misery, and denounce those who are richer than themselves."

"But what brings them to the theatre at this hour?" asked Chateau-Renaud.

"The new play," suggested Beauchamp.

"Ah! the new play. 'The Laborer of Lyons,' is it not?"

"Yes," said Debray, "and one of the most dangerous productions of the hour."

"It is evidently from the pen of one unaccustomed to dramatic composition, yet familiar with stage effect," added the journalist. "And yet, without the least claptrap, with but little melodramatic power, against strong opposition and bitter prejudices, and without claqueurs, its own native force and the popularity of the principles it supports have carried it triumphantly through the ordeal of two representations. It will, doubtless, have a long run, and its influence will be incalculable in the cause it advocates—the cause of human liberty and human right."

"No doubt it will exert a most baneful influence," bitterly rejoined Debray. "Without containing a syllable to which the Ministry can object, at least sufficiently to warrant its suppression, it yet abounds with principles, sentiments and theories of the most incendiary description, well calculated to rouse the disaffection of the laboring classes to frenzy. Its inevitable effect will be to give them a false and exaggerated idea of their wrongs and their rights, and to stimulate them to revolution. Oh! these men have much to answer for. They are drawing down an avalanche."

"They are the champions of human liberty," said Beauchamp, warmly, "and will be blessed by posterity, if not by the men of the present generation."

"Truce to politics, Messieurs!" cried the Deputy, observing that his friends were becoming excited. "I had heard of this play and its powerful character. Who's the author, Beauchamp?"

"The production is attributed to M. Dantes, the Deputy from Marseilles, with what truth I know not; but he is fully capable of composing such a drama. To-morrow night, it is supposed, the author, whoever he may be, will be compelled by the people to appear and claim the laurels ready to be showered on him in such profusion. But it is nearly three o'clock," continued Beauchamp, "and M. Dantes is expected to speak in the early part of the sitting."

"To the Chamber, then," said the others, and the trio mingled with the crowd hurrying in the same direction.

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