Obvious typographical errors have been corrected, and inconsistent spelling has been made consistent.
This volume does not have any illustrations.
The Works of Alexandre Dumas in Thirty Volumes
THE SON OF MONTE-CRISTO
Illustrated with Drawings on Wood by Eminent French and American Artists
New York P. F. Collier and Son MCMIV
I. A MARRIAGE CONTRACT AND ITS END 3
II. A CALM BRIDE 8
III. A FAMILY TRAGEDY 13
IV. A PECULIAR TRIAL 16
V. THE RESULT OF THE CATASTROPHE 20
VI. BENEDETTO, THE MURDERER 23
VII. A MIRACLE 29
VIII. THE SENTENCE OF DEATH 35
IX. THE EDITORIAL ROOMS 43
X. PONTOON NO. 2 50
XI. THE DEAD LIVE 55
XII. THE CONFESSION 59
XIII. FORGIVENESS 72
XIV. THE RAT-KING 78
XV. IN THE BAGNIO 88
XVI. THE ESCAPE 94
XVII. IN THE MOUNTAIN PASS OF OLIOLLES 98
XVIII. THE MOTHER 107
XIX. ON THE SEA 111
XX. MONTE-CRISTO 116
XXI. WITH THE PANDURS 127
XXII. THE QUEEN OF FLOWERS 132
XXIII. GREEN, WHITE AND RED 138
XXIV. A FIGHT IN THE STREETS 150
XXV. THE MASKS FALL 152
XXVI. LOVE OF COUNTRY 156
XXVII. SHADOWS OF THE PAST 160
XXVIII. THE CONSPIRATORS 164
XXIX. FATHER AND SON 168
XXX. IN THE WELL 178
XXXI. SPERO 186
XXXII. ECARTE 194
XXXIII. FORWARD! 198
XXXIV. SERGEANT COUCOU 204
XXXV. MISS CLARY 207
XXXVI. A MOTHER 215
XXXVII. THE RING 218
XXXVIII. "SEARCH FOR THE WIFE!" 226
XXXIX. DEPEND ONLY ON YOURSELF 233
XL. THE SACRIFICE 240
XLI. HOW AND WHERE COUCOU TOOK LEAVE 249
XLII. IN THE SPIDER'S WEB 263
XLIII. MANUELITA 273
XLIV. THE HUMORS OF A LADY-MILLIONNAIRE 291
XLV. MALDAR 305
XLVI. MISS CLARY'S SECRET 310
XLVII. AN AMERICAN WAGER 314
XLVIII. THE WEDDING BREAKFAST 325
XLIX. MALDAR'S FAREWELL 331
L. THE HOLY SIGNAL 336
LI. UARGLA 340
LII. CAPTAIN JOLIETTE 342
LIII. THE LION IN CONFLICT WITH THE LION 345
LIV. MEDJE 352
LV. "DO NOT DIE, CAPTAIN!" 363
LVI. THE FLIGHT 368
LVII. AT THE FOOT OF THE KIOBEH 370
LVIII. MONTE-CRISTO BECOMES EDMOND DANTES 374
LIX. EDMOND DANTES 377
LX. SECRETS 381
THE SON OF MONTE-CRISTO
A MARRIAGE CONTRACT AND ITS END
In the month of July of the year 1829, a man created a great sensation in Paris, and even attracted the attention of the lions of society. Where he came from—who he was—what was his past life—none knew; and the mystery surrounding him only tended to make the hero of the season more interesting.
The Count of Monte-Cristo, from Italy—from Malta—no one knew whence—had unlimited credit with the banking house of Danglars, one of the largest in Paris; owned the finest mansion—a superb villa—at Auteuil, and the handsomest turnout on the road, which he presented to a banker's wife, without letting any one know his reason for doing so; all this was sufficient to make him the central point around which revolved the social gossip of the day. But, besides this, the handsome stranger makes his appearance at the theatres in the company of a lady in Grecian dress, whose transcendent beauty and countless diamonds awake alike admiration and cupidity. Like moths around the flame, society flutters about the legendary count, and it is principally the golden youth who find in him their centre of attraction. Among the latter were more especially Albert Morcerf, the son of a general, Debray, a young and talented attache at the Foreign Office, Beauchamp, and Chateau-Renaud, who served as the asteroids of the new star in the Parisian sky.
Sometimes they were joined at those famous dinners which only a Monte-Cristo understood how to give, by a Count Andrea Cavalcanti, who at first appeared there with his father, Major Cavalcanti. Although he was a stranger, he was received in society through his acquaintance with Monte-Cristo and with Baron Danglars, in whose banking house he had a large sum on deposit.
The young count, a perfect Apollo, with classically-cut features, did not fail to produce an impression upon Eugenie, a proud, black-eyed brunette, the only daughter of the millionnaire Danglars; and as the millions of the father, in conjunction with the peculiar beauty of the daughter, began to interest the count, it was not long before they thought of marriage. Danglars, who had been a heavy loser in certain speculations of which the public was ignorant, hoped to rehabilitate himself with the millions of his prospective son-in-law, and therefore there was nothing to prevent the marriage of the proud Eugenie and the handsome Andrea.
One July evening, representatives of the high financial society, and a few members of the aristocracy, were invited to Danglars' house to witness the signing of the marriage contract of the only daughter of the house with the Italian, Count Andrea Cavalcanti, of the princely house of Cavalcanti. At five o'clock, when the guests arrived, they found all the rooms in the mansion brilliant with wax-lights.
The bride was simply yet tastefully attired: a white satin dress trimmed with lace of the same color; a single white rose, which was half hidden in her raven black hair, formed the only ornament of the young lady, whose jewels, it was well known, represented a fortune. The young count was surrounded by representatives of the gilded youth, who give the tone in the Jockey Club, and are the recognized authorities for all Europe in questions of taste, fashion, and sport.
Baron Danglars was the centre of a group of bankers, to whom he developed his celebrated projects which had increased his millions, taking good care, however, not to mention his losses. Madame Danglars, the handsome mother of the pretty Eugenie, was surrounded by a circle of young and old cavaliers, who paid court to her with the greatest ceremony, and whose adorations were accepted by the lady as a tribute due her, although it could not be denied that she favored the young attache Debray.
The lawyers were already there, yet the ceremony appeared to be purposely delayed, as if they were waiting for the arrival of a missing guest. And this was indeed the case.
When the footman announced the Count of Monte-Cristo a stir was created among the guests. The star of the evening was overwhelmed with questions, which he paid no attention to, but quietly busied himself with the three representatives of the Danglars family.
The way he observed the young Count Cavalcanti was very strange, though very few noticed it, as the Count of Monte-Cristo was relating a robbery which had been committed in his house, in which one of the thieves had been murdered, most probably by his own comrade. No one noticed the pallor of Count Cavalcanti, as they were too much interested in Monte-Cristo's story. When he had finished, the ceremony was proceeded with.
The marriage contract between Mademoiselle Eugenie and Count Andrea Cavalcanti was read, the millions mentioned therein causing a sensation even among the cream of the financial and aristocratic world, and the signing of the paper was next in order. This circumstance recalled to Madame Danglars the absence of a friend of the house, the procureur du roi Villefort, and she asked Monte-Cristo whether he knew where he was.
"I am indirectly the cause of the absence of the procureur du roi," said the count, as if to apologize. "The man who was murdered in my house was recognized as a former galley-slave named Caderousse, and a letter was found in his pocket which bore a remarkable address."
Every one crowded around the count, while the young bridegroom slowly walked toward a neighboring room.
"Could you tell us the address?" asked Madame Danglars.
"Certainly," replied the count. "You will all laugh over it. It was none other than that of the hero of our reunion to-night—Count Andrea Cavalcanti."
The surprised guests turned around as if to exact an explanation from the latter. He had, however, already left the room. The servants were searching all over the house for him, when a new commotion was heard.
The dazed servants returned from their search, and behind them appeared a detective accompanied by several policemen.
"I am looking for a man named Andrea Cavalcanti," said the detective, in the well-known monotonous way which never fails to make an impression even upon those who are not principals.
"By what right?" asked Danglars, who could not suppress his uneasiness.
"Andrea Cavalcanti is charged with having murdered the galley-slave Caderousse, with whom he was formerly chained in the galleys."
Like lightning from a clear sky this announcement fell upon the aristocratic assembly. Madame Danglars fainted, the policemen searched the house, but could not find the culprit, the guests ran here and there like a flock of sheep surprised by a fox, the servants stood motionless with dazed faces, consternation and confusion reigned supreme.
A CALM BRIDE
No one among all the company in Danglars' house possessed their self-possession so much as just the one who was the least expected to do so.
Two days after the catastrophe, when Eugenie's most intimate friend, the music teacher, Louise d'Armilly, came to condole with her, the proud daughter of the banker repulsed her with a disdainful laugh.
"I am not made for marriage," she said; "at first I was engaged to Monsieur de Morcerf, whose father shot himself a few days ago, in a fit of remorse at having acquired his wealth by dishonorable means; then I was to be married to Prince Cavalcanti, to add to the millions which my father possesses, or which he perhaps does not call his own, the imaginary wealth of a—jail-bird."
"What should be done now?" asked her modest friend in an anxious tone.
"Fate shows my path," answered Eugenie, firmly. "I am not intended to become the slave of a hypocritical and egotistical man. You are aware that my inclination pushes me toward the stage, where my voice, my beauty, and my independent spirit will assure me success. The time has now arrived when I must decide: here, the scandal and contempt of the crowd; there, applause, fame, and honor. I foresaw it all, though I did not think it would come in such a shameful way. I have fifty thousand francs pin-money, and my jewels are worth as much more. Order a carriage; I have passports for both of us; in an hour we depart for Belgium."
Louise listened to her friend speechless with astonishment; although she knew the firmness of her character, she was not prepared for so much independence.
"But we two girls alone," she hesitatingly said, "cannot—"
"I have looked out for that, too," replied Eugenie, calmly; "the passport is made out in the name of Monsieur Leon d'Armilly and sister; while you go for the carriage I will pack the trunks, and change myself into Monsieur Leon d'Armilly."
Louise mechanically left the room to order the carriage to come to Danglars' house. When she came back an elegant young man stood near the trunks, whom no one would have recognized at the first glance as the proud and courted beauty, Eugenie Danglars. With great difficulty the two girls carried the trunk through a side door of the house and deposited it at the next street corner. There the coachman awaited them, and in a quarter of an hour they had left Paris.
Let us now return to Prince Cavalcanti, alias Benedetto, the hero of the interrupted party at the banker Danglars' house.
With that cunning peculiar to criminals who scent danger from afar, he had made his exit at the right time. After he had pocketed the diamonds which formed a part of Eugenie's trousseau, and which were exposed in the parlor, he scaled the window, slipped an overcoat over his dress, and made his way out of the house. In thirty minutes he reached an out-of-the-way suburb of Paris. Without losing a minute of his precious time, he took a carriage, and left the city under the pretence of having to catch a friend, who had departed for the chase on the previous day. The big tip he gave the driver spurred the latter on, and at the end of an hour Benedetto found himself at Loures, where he discharged his driver, saying that he would spend the night there.
Benedetto now formed a decisive plan. He did not remain in Loures, but went on foot to Chapelle-en-Serval, a mile distant, where he arrived covered with dirt and dust, and entered the nearest inn, telling the host that he had fallen from his horse. "If you could get me a coach or a horse, so that I could return to Compiegne, I would be very grateful to you."
The host really had a horse at his disposal, and in a quarter of an hour Benedetto, accompanied by the host's son, was on the road to Compiegne, which he reached about midnight. After he had discharged the boy at the market-place of the little city, he went to the inn called the Bell and Bottle, which he had patronized in former times, and to which he was admitted now.
After Benedetto had eaten a hearty supper, he inquired if he could get a room on the ground floor, but was forced to accept one on the first story, as the other had been taken by a young man who had just arrived with his sister.
The hunted culprit was so tired out by his exertions that he fell into a deep sleep, and did not wake up early next morning, as he had intended, but at nine o'clock. Struck by an indescribable fear, he quickly dressed himself and peered through the window blinds. He recoiled in terror, for his first glance had fallen upon two policemen who leaned against the doors with their guns in their hands. His first thoughts were that he was followed and was lost. He quickly collected himself, suppressed his excitement, and seizing a piece of paper, scribbled these words on it with a lead pencil:
"I have no money, but do not desire to owe anything. The inclosed diamond pin will fully pay for my bill. I was ashamed to acknowledge this, and therefore left at five o'clock."
After he had attached the pin to the paper, he opened the door and crawled up the chimney with the agility of a chimney-sweep. Here, however, the difficulty was to continue his way without being perceived by any one. He therefore returned and entered another chimney, intending to wait there until all danger was over. He already began to think himself saved, when he lost his balance and crashed with a loud noise through the opening and into a room which was occupied, as was betrayed by a sudden scream.
A young man and a lady were in the room. The latter had uttered the cry, while the former pulled vigorously at the bell-rope.
"Rescue me—hide me!" were the first words the villain spoke. He was about to say more, but the words stuck in his throat, for he had recognized the young man as Eugenie Danglars.
"Andrea, the murderer!" exclaimed the two women.
"Have mercy! rescue me!" implored Benedetto.
"It is too late," replied Eugenie, "the door is being opened."
At the same moment, the policemen, followed by the whole inn staff, entered the room. Benedetto saw he was lost. He pulled out a dagger, as if he wished to attack his captors, but desisted when he saw it would be fruitless.
"Kill yourself!" exclaimed Eugenie, with the accent of a tragedy queen.
"Bah!" replied Benedetto, "it is too early yet; the whole thing is a misunderstanding, and I have friends."
With great coolness he held out his hands to the policemen, who put handcuffs on them.
"Give my regards to your father, Mademoiselle Danglars, and do not be ashamed. You are my bride, and we ought to have been man and wife to-day," said Benedetto, sarcastically, as he left the room with the policemen, leaving Eugenie exposed to the curious and contemptuous glances of the waiters.
A FAMILY TRAGEDY
The procureur du roi, Villefort, was one of the most respected and influential men in Paris, and his reputation as district-attorney was spotless. Married the second time to a handsome and refined lady, Monsieur de Villefort spent his leisure time in the society of his wife, a grown daughter by his first marriage, named Valentine, his little son, Edouard, presented to him by his second wife, and his old father, Noirtier de Villefort, in an elegant mansion in the Faubourg St. Honore. The only grief he had was the condition of his father, who had been stricken with paralysis, which had not only robbed him of the use of his limbs, but of his speech too. The old man could only make himself understood by his beloved grandchild Valentine, and by a faithful servant named Barrois, by the rising and falling of his eyelids.
In the house of this immensely respected man, certain things had happened within a few months which attracted general attention, though no one could explain them. The parents of the deceased Madame de Villefort, who had been staying at their son-in-law's house on a visit, had died suddenly one after the other, the doctors being unable to assign any other cause for their deaths than apoplexy. These facts would not have caused any talk, since the two persons who had died were both very old, had they not been followed almost immediately by the deaths of the old servant of Monsieur Noirtier and of Valentine, the blooming daughter of the procureur du roi, and the bride of a young officer named Morrel, under circumstances which looked very much like poisoning.
It was a terrible time for Monsieur de Villefort, who saw himself obliged, in his official capacity, to investigate his own household. After long observation, he had a terrible suspicion, which was confirmed by a hundred little things, that his own wife was the four-times murderess!
The reasons which actuated her to commit these terrible crimes were very clear. Valentine, the step-daughter, possessed a large fortune which she had inherited from her dead mother; she was the sole heiress of the grandparents who had died so suddenly; upon the death of Valentine all her wealth would revert to Monsieur de Villefort, and his sole heir would be his son.
Villefort, the husband, struggled terribly with Villefort, the district-attorney; he tried to ward off the guilt from his wife, but his efforts were fruitless. It was the same day on which the sensational case of Prince Cavalcanti, alias Benedetto, was before the Court of Special Sessions, and Monsieur de Villefort was forced to attend the sitting in his official capacity as district-attorney. Before he went he sent for his wife, who wished to attend the trial of a case which caused great excitement all over Paris.
Madame de Villefort came to his room fully dressed for the street, being under the impression that her husband would ask her to accompany him to the court-house. She trembled, however, when she noticed his face, which was torn by conflicting passions.
"Where do you get the poison from, madame, which you are in the habit of using?" asked the procureur du roi, in a tone of command.
Madame de Villefort turned deathly pale.
"I do not understand what you mean," she stammered.
"I mean," said the man of the law, "where do you keep the poison with which you murdered my parents-in-law, Barrois, and my daughter, Valentine?"
Stunned by this terrible charge Madame de Villefort fell to the floor; she no longer dared to deny the accusation, and was oppressed by a feeling of deep despair.
"Every crime, madame," continued the procureur du roi, "has its penalty; yours will be the scaffold. This expiation, however, would be as terrible for me as for you. Fate has left you to pay for your deeds by your own hand. You have, perhaps, still a few drops of poison left, which will save both you and me the scandal of a public hanging. I am going to the court-house, and I hope that when I return you will have expiated your crimes."
With a cry, the unhappy woman became unconscious, while Monsieur de Villefort, hardly able to collect his thoughts, left the room and rode to attend the Cavalcanti-Benedetto case.
A PECULIAR TRIAL
All Paris was excited over the case of the handsome Andrea Cavalcanti, who was to descend from the heights of society into the depths of the criminal world. The lion of the day was to change himself into a common convict.
Large sums of money were paid for seats in the court-house, and long before the proceedings began every seat in the room was occupied by representatives of the most aristocratic families.
After the usual preliminaries, the judge, the jury, and the district-attorney took their places. Upon an order from the judge the policemen brought in the prisoner. Instead of a man borne down by shame, Cavalcanti showed himself to the crowd dressed in a ball suit, his face beaming with good humor.
The complaint was read without making the slightest impression upon the prisoner, who sat on his seat with the same ease and grace as he did, but a few days before, in the famous restaurant The Golden House.
"Prisoner," said the judge, "stand up and answer the questions I shall put to you. What is your full name?"
"I am very sorry," replied Andrea, without the slightest embarrassment, "that I am unable to answer the question just now; you can continue, however, and later on I will take an opportunity to give you information about the matter."
The people were dazed at the audacity of the prisoner.
"How old are you?" continued the judge.
"I was born on the night between the 27th and the 28th of September, 1807, at Auteuil, near Paris."
"What is your business?"
"I never bothered about the usual trades of the general run of people. I was first a counterfeiter, then a thief, and afterward committed my first murder."
A storm of anger ran through the assembly, even the judge and the jury could not suppress their loathing at the unheard of cynicism of the prisoner.
"Are you going to give your name now?" asked the judge.
"I am not able to give you my own name, but I know that of my father."
"Name it, then."
"My father is a district-attorney," continued the prisoner with great calmness, glancing at Monsieur de Villefort, who turned deathly pale.
"District-attorney?" exclaimed the judge, greatly astonished. "And his name is?"
"His name is Monsieur de Villefort, and he is sitting in front of you."
"You are fooling with the court," said the judge angrily. "I warn you for the last time and command you to tell the truth."
"I am speaking the truth," replied the prisoner, "and can prove it. Listen, and then judge. I was born on the first floor of the house No. 28 Rue de la Fontaine, at Auteuil, on the night of the 27th to the 28th of September, 1807. My father, Monsieur de Villefort, told my mother I was dead, wrapped me in a napkin marked H. 15, put me in a small box and buried me alive in the garden of the house. At the same moment he received a thrust in the side with a knife held by a person who was concealed, and he sank to the ground unconscious. The man who attacked my father dug out the box which had been buried, and which he supposed contained money, and thereby saved my life. He brought me to the foundling asylum, where I was inscribed as No. 37. Three months later I was taken from the asylum by the sister-in-law of the man, who was a Corsican, and brought me to Corsica, where I was brought up, and in spite of the care of my foster-parents acquired vices which steeped me in crime."
"And who was your mother?" asked the judge.
"My mother thought I was dead; I am a child of sin; I do not know my mother and do not wish to know her."
A cry rang through the court-room at this point; a lady had fainted, and was carried out of the hall by several bystanders.
At this cry the procureur du roi arose, and showed his ghastly face to the crowd.
"How are you going to prove these astounding revelations?" asked the judge of the prisoner.
With a malicious look the latter pointed to Monsieur de Villefort.
"Father, they wish to have proofs; do you also want me to give them?"
"No, it is unnecessary; everything you have said is true. I resign my office, and desire the court to appoint my successor as procureur du roi," said Monsieur de Villefort, in a faint voice.
"What!" exclaimed the judge, "you, a man whose character is above suspicion, allow yourself to be intimidated by the crazy declarations of a criminal! Collect yourself, and crush the malicious accusations with a word."
Villefort shook his head. With trembling limbs he left the court-room a broken-down man. The crowd respectfully made way for him, the extent of his misfortune making a deep impression upon all hearts.
"The court is adjourned until further notice," said the judge. "Policemen, take your prisoner back to jail."
THE RESULT OF THE CATASTROPHE
On the 14th day of January, 1830, three months after the incidents related in the last chapter, Benedetto's trial was again before the Court of Special Sessions. Then, as now, life beat rapidly in Paris, one important thing followed the other, and it came about that the affair of the handsome "Prince Cavalcanti" was in danger of being tried before an audience consisting only of lawyers and policemen.
The weather was miserable. The snow fell in thick flakes, and the cold was so penetrating that it became impossible to remain long out of doors.
It was about eleven o'clock in the morning when an elegant carriage stopped in front of the court-house. A gentleman stepped out, and was about to ascend the broad steps of the building, when he suddenly stood still. He clapped his monocle to his eye, and loudly exclaimed:
"Beauchamp," came back the answer; and the two friends cordially shook hands.
"Really," said Chateau-Renaud, laughing, "I must be grateful to chance, which threw me in your way."
"What brings you here?"
"The trial of his highness Prince Benedetto de Cavalcanti, of course."
"I'm here for the same reason. I also wish to see the concluding act of the drama which has interested Paris so long. Do you think the poor devil has a chance of escaping the hangman's noose?"
"Hardly—but here we are. Why, the hall is about empty," exclaimed Beauchamp, wonderingly.
"Does that astonish you? Paris has always been ungrateful, and has long since forgotten that the Benedetto affair was once an important topic," replied Chateau-Renaud in a tone of indifference.
"Perhaps the trial has been postponed," said the journalist, and turning to a reporter of his acquaintance, he hurriedly asked: "Does Benedetto's trial take place to-day?"
"Benedetto's trial," answered the reporter, musingly: "ah, yes, now I know—the murder in Monte-Cristo's garden, and, if my memory is right, I believe the murderer pretends that he is the son of the procureur du roi, Monsieur de Villefort."
"Perfectly right; you have an enviable memory," laughingly said Beauchamp. "Well, does the trial take place?"
"Certainly, it's the third day of the case."
"Thank you. We can get some refreshments now and pass the time until the Benedetto case comes up," said Chateau-Renaud.
"If you desire to attend the trial, I will inform you when it's time," said the reporter, politely.
"You are very kind," answered Beauchamp, as he departed with his friend.
As they were leaving the corridor, Beauchamp nudged his companion lightly.
"Every one is not so ungrateful as to forget Benedetto. Debray is here too."
"Why not?" said Chateau-Renaud. "Debray has plenty of time to himself since the Ministry was overturned and carried a poor attache along with it in its fall."
"Well, he rescued his millions anyway," replied Beauchamp, indifferently, "Though, come to think of it," he continued maliciously, "it is quite natural for Debray to interest himself in Benedetto—the latter was half and half his son-in-law."
"Oh, Beauchamp, you are cynical; the relationship reminds one of a morganatic marriage," Chateau-Renaud laughingly interposed.
"By the way, has anything new been found out about the Baroness Danglars?"
"H'm—they say she has disappeared."
"And her good, honest husband?"
"Is knocking about somewhere. God only knows."
"Well, I must say there is nothing like Parisian life. The house of Danglars breaks. Father and mother Danglars disappear, in consequence of which Debray is without his flame; and the daughter—is anything known of her? To my taste, she was the best of the lot."
"Mademoiselle d'Armilly undoubtedly knows where she is—they were inseparable companions. They will come to the surface again; from what I know of Mademoiselle Danglars, she has about as much talent for singing as a lioness."
"A beautiful constellation. What became of Monsieur de Villefort?"
"He is an incurable maniac, and is in Dr. d'Avigny's private asylum."
"Not a bad business for the old gentleman. The house of Villefort has had a terrible end. Madame de Villefort and her son are dead, and poor Valentine—I am not generally sentimental, but I confess the death of the young girl was a terrible shock to me."
"Beauchamp, do you believe in miracles?" asked Chateau-Renaud, suddenly.
"That depends. Why do you ask?"
"Well, one of my friends gave me his word of honor that he saw Mademoiselle Valentine in Marseilles."
"Before or after the funeral?"
"That seems rather wonderful, but one is already accustomed to look upon everything with which the Count of Monte-Cristo has any connection as something miraculous."
"Have you heard the fable that the count was a vampire?"
"Who could have said such a thing? What is old Noirtier doing?"
"He has gone to the South; and the Morcerf family—"
"Well, what of them?"
"Nothing new. The father a suicide, the son in Africa, and the mother has disappeared."
"Just like Baroness Danglars."
"Yes, only with this difference, that Madame de Morcerf and her son gave their whole fortune to the poor."
"I am glad for the poor—I—"
"The Benedetto affair is now on," broke in the voice of the reporter, interrupting their conversation.
"Ah—thank you." And with this they all entered the court-room.
"Beauchamp," whispered Chateau-Renaud, pointing to a veiled lady who sat near them, "if I wasn't sure that the Baroness Dangl—"
"Hush! Do not mention any names. I think you are right, but I cannot understand why she comes in such disreputable company."
The lady spoken about, heavily veiled, held her head on her hand and awaited the beginning of the case. Her companion, a thin, yellow, dried-up old man, whose bald head in form and color recalled a ripe melon, sat as straight as a stick, and kept his eyes on the crucifix opposite him.
"Bring in the prisoner," ordered the judge.
A shudder ran through the lady, but she did not look up as Benedetto entered.
BENEDETTO, THE MURDERER
In the meantime the room had become almost filled, as a death sentence would probably be given. Almost half the spectators were ladies. A murmur of curiosity ran about the room, and many who were present remembered the moment in the former sitting when the prisoner, with the air of a stage hero, let fall the weighty words: "My father is the royal district-attorney, Monsieur Villefort." Unconsciously all eyes were turned to the ministerial box, as if hoping to encounter the pale, confused face of the all-powerful judge, who had himself been judged, but only the substitute of the procureur was seen.
Benedetto now entered. Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud could hardly restrain their astonishment, for very seldom has a man changed so much in three months. When they had seen Cavalcanti Benedetto last, he was the type of a parlor hero, and fascinated every one by his pleasing appearance; but the man who stood now before the judge was another—a broken-down man.
His curly hair had been shaved close to the skin, his eyes, which had formerly sparkled with life, were now dim. The small, finely formed hands were meekly crossed over the breast, and even the prisoner's clothes harmonized with his general appearance.
A policeman gruffly showed him to his seat. Benedetto bowed deeply, and sat on the edge of the hard wooden bench.
The prisoner's lawyer, a celebrated advocate, bent down and whispered a few encouraging words to him. Benedetto listened attentively to them and murmured half aloud:
"May God have mercy on me."
"And the devil, too," whispered Beauchamp to Chateau-Renaud. "Benedetto has become a howling coward. It's a great pity!"
The judge beckoned to the actuary and ordered him to read the indictment. It was short and compact; it recited the murder of Caderousse, the robbery in the Count of Monte-Cristo's house, the revelations made by the prisoner with regard to M. de Villefort, the latter's confession, his insanity, and finally the suicide of his wife.
"Prisoner, stand up!" said the judge, in a soft voice, "and tell me your name."
"Benedetto," replied the former bandit in a modest, almost frightened voice.
"Are you guilty of the murder of Caderousse?"
"Judge," stammered Benedetto, "I must acknowledge my guilt." And burying his face in his hands, he tried to suppress his sobs.
"What kind of a comedy is the rascal playing?" grumbled Beauchamp.
"Hush!" replied Chateau-Renaud, "the proceedings are becoming interesting."
Benedetto answered all questions put to him without hesitation.
"I know," he said, "I am a great sinner, and bow to the justice of the people, as I do to the justice of God."
The duty of the jury was thus rendered easy, the murder was acknowledged, the antecedents of the prisoner were very bad, and the counterfeiter and murderer was as good as convicted at this stage of the proceedings.
"Call the witnesses," said the judge.
"Count of Monte-Cristo," cried the clerk.
No one answered.
"It is singular," said the judge, "that Monsieur de Monte-Cristo" (he purposely left out the title of count), "who is interested in this trial, has refused to obey the order of the court. Has he received a subpoena?"
The assistant district-attorney looked over his papers.
"The gentleman named," he said, with a malicious twirl of his lips, "has sold his property in France and has disappeared, no one knows where."
"Call the other witnesses," said the judge; "we shall attend to Monsieur de Monte-Cristo's case later on."
The other witnesses, mainly people who had come to Caderousse's assistance when he had called for help, were not slow in coming forward. Their testimony was short and precise. They confirmed the fact of Caderousse's being found with a knife in his heart.
"Have you anything to say, prisoner?" asked the judge.
"No, sir, these honest people unfortunately tell the truth," said Benedetto, meekly.
A murmur of applause ran round the room. When all was calm again the clerk exclaimed:
"Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort!"
"What!" exclaimed Beauchamp, springing up, as if electrified, "are they going to be so cruel as to make this unfortunate man testify again?"
"Gentlemen of the jury," said the judge, as if in answer to Beauchamp's question, "we have thought it necessary to call Monsieur de Villefort, although in the present state of his health there is little chance of his being able to clear up those points which are still obscure."
Deep silence reigned—the door was opened, and Monsieur de Villefort appeared on the threshold.
The Count of Monte-Cristo had indeed left Paris shortly after the first sitting of the Benedetto case had been so strangely interrupted. In his company was the young officer, Maximilian Morrel, who was so shocked at the death of his beloved Valentine as not to be any longer recognizable as the gay young officer who, with Chateau-Renaud, Beauchamp and Debray formed the leading cavaliers of the capital. A sympathy, which he could not account for himself, brought Morrel into a bond of friendship with the Count of Monte-Cristo, and he told him of his love for Valentine de Villefort and his grief at the sudden death of his idol.
But even Monte-Cristo's consolations brought no relief to the young man, and he resolved to put an end to his life, so as to be joined at least in death with his cherished darling.
He had already written the letter, the weapon lay on his table, when he was disturbed by an unwelcome visit from the Count of Monte-Cristo.
"What were you going to do, Maximilian?" asked Monte-Cristo, sternly.
"The one thing which is left to an unfortunate who has been robbed of the one most dear to him on earth," the young man replied, in a tone of resignation.
"I understand you; he who has known Valentine as I have could readily excuse the abominable step you were about to take."
"And do you not approve of it?" asked the young man, in a tone of astonishment.
"That depends on circumstances; these circumstances are, however, not yet here, much as you may wonder. I make you the following proposition: If, at the end of a month, you do not declare that you regard this suicide as a crime against yourself and all those dear to you, then I will give you a powder which will put an end to your life without leaving such ugly traces as that pistol on your desk."
"If you can wake the dead, then you can help me. But this miraculous power I do not believe even you have. Nevertheless, I have never refused you a favor, and accede to your request, on condition that you promise not to make any new attempts to prevent me from carrying out my design."
"Accepted," said the count, as he stretched out his hand affectionately toward the young man, who grasped it without hesitation.
"To-day a month," he continued, "I shall await you on the island of Monte-Cristo."
With these words Monte-Cristo left his friend.
Maximilian remained true to his word. Five days before the expiration of the fateful month he went from Paris to Marseilles and embarked from there on one of the yachts belonging to the count for the little island of Monte-Cristo, which he reached on the appointed day. Ali, the black servant of the count, met him on the wharf and conducted him to the count's apartments.
"Here I am, count, to receive the powder from your hands which will realize my hope to meet Valentine in another world."
"Nothing can induce you to give up your design then?" asked Monte-Cristo.
"Nothing, not even you," answered Morrel, firmly.
"Well, then, let it be so," said Monte-Cristo sternly, as he took a greenish, strongly smelling pastil from a box cut from an opal.
"It is hashish. Death is painless and recalls to the person taking it the most beautiful memories of his life."
Maximilian embraced his friend and swallowed the pastil.
The effect was wonderful. A delightful languor took possession of Maximilian. All the scenes of his childhood came back to him, only the form of his darling was missing. Suddenly the back part of the room appeared to open and a female form strode toward him with arms outstretched; it was the purified form of his beloved.
"Oh, how sweet is such a death," whispered Maximilian.
The figure strode nearer to him, embraced him and kissed his burning forehead.
"My poor lover," murmured a well-known voice.
"Valentine," exclaimed Maximilian, "Valentine, is it possible! I am not dreaming, you are alive! I clasp you in my arms, only to die myself!"
"I am alive, my dear friend, and bring you new life; it is no dream, we are at the realization of our hopes, we are united on earth forever."
Gradually Maximilian became conscious. He lay in the arms of his beloved Valentine and his faithful friend Monte-Cristo stood near him.
"Valentine and Maximilian," said the count solemnly, "my dear friends, from now on nothing shall separate you; I give you life back again, I now join your hands in the bonds which nothing can separate but the grave! May God bless you both as I do."
Overpowered with emotion the newly united couple sank at the feet of this curious man to thank him from the depths of their hearts. Monte-Cristo lifted Valentine tenderly from the ground and turning to her said:
"I shall leave you alone now, and go back to my apartments, where my wife, the Countess of Monte-Cristo, awaits me."
As soon as the count had gone the two lovers embraced each other again. Then the young man led the young girl to a divan, and asked her to tell him the wonderful story of her rescue and her return from the grave.
"I was," related Valentine, "as you know, very ill; but yet I hoped to become convalescent again! One night, as I lay on my bed of sickness, a door which I had never before perceived was opened. A man entered and approached my bed; I was just about to scream when I perceived that the spectre was none other than the Count of Monte-Cristo, who made signs to me to keep silent. He sat beside me and told me I was being gradually poisoned by my step-mother, and that she had already poisoned my grandparents Barrois in the same manner. He had himself given me an antidote. But the means he had were not sufficient to shield me from all danger, and he begged me to drink a potion, which would put me in a trance for the space of three days. I took the potion which the count gave me; I lost my senses. How long I lay thus I do not know, but when I woke I found myself in a coffin in a church, and the count standing beside me. A new and powerful potion restored me to my former vitality. The count brought me to his house, where I found everything necessary to a journey. After I had rested for a few days, I rode to Marseilles with the count, and from there to this lonely island, where I have found you, my dear Maximilian."
A new embrace ended this conversation, and they both left the apartment to go in search of the count, to thank him again for his trouble.
They went to the grotto and asked Jacopo, who had brought Maximilian to the island, where the count was.
"I have a letter for both of you from my master."
"Where is the Count of Monte-Cristo?" they both asked simultaneously.
"He has just left the island with his wife and his servant, Ali. You can still see the ship over there," replied Jacopo, pointing to a small boat on which could be described three persons. It was the count, Haydee, and Ali. Maximilian quickly opened the letter, which read as follows:
"MY DEAR MAXIMILIAN—A ship is lying at anchor for you. Jacopo will bring you to Livorno, where Monsieur Noirtier awaits his grandchild, whom he wishes to bless before you lead her to the altar. Everything you find in this grotto and my house in Paris are the wedding presents of a faithful friend, whom you will never see again. My last words are: Waiting and hoping. May you both live happy and think now and then of your devoted friend,
"EDMOND DANTES, Count of Monte-Cristo."
Meanwhile the count's vessel departed further and further from the island; a fresh breeze filled the sail and it disappeared from view. Valentine and Maximilian waved a cordial farewell to the travellers with their hands. Then the ship vanished from the horizon.
THE SENTENCE OF DEATH
Monsieur de Villefort was not alone—Dr. d'Avigny accompanied his patient, and whispered a word in his ear now and then.
Villefort was only a ruin now. His hanging lower lip and glassy eyes impressed the spectators and the bench sadly, and even those who were accustomed to be attacked by him in the days of his power as a district-attorney now only felt pity for the man who had fallen so low.
The judge was moved when he arose and delivered the following address to the jury:
"Gentlemen of the jury! Dr. d'Avigny, who pays the greatest care to Monsieur de Villefort, was so kind as to accompany his patient to-day. Before I subpoenaed Monsieur de Villefort I inquired of his physician whether he could attend court without injury to himself. Doctor, will you confirm this statement to the gentlemen of the jury?"
"Certainly, judge," said the old physician, deeply moved. "Monsieur de Villefort's condition is hopeless, and would not be changed in any way by his appearing in court—the apathy of my patient is beyond description."
Thereupon Dr. d'Avigny turned to his patient and led him to a chair. Deep silence reigned throughout the room. The veiled lady looked keenly at the man, before whose gaze criminals were wont to tremble, and who had now sunk lower than the wretched beings he had formerly prosecuted.
Benedetto, in great excitement, had outstretched his arms toward Monsieur de Villefort, and almost immediately after fell back again in his seat crushed and annihilated.
"Monsieur de Villefort," said the judge, "tell us—" He proceeded no further. Villefort tried to rise, and made strenuous efforts to stammer forth some words. The judge waited a short while and then continued:
"Monsieur de Villefort, are you able to answer a few questions I shall address to you?"
Villefort nodded and stammered with some difficulty: "Yes."
"Benedetto," said the judge, turning toward the prisoner, "stand up."
Benedetto obeyed the order.
"Look at Monsieur de Villefort," continued the judge, "and tell me, upon your conscience, whether you uphold the accusations made by you at a former trial of this case."
Benedetto was either, as pious souls say, "touched by compassion," or else the most accomplished hypocrite in existence. He clasped both hands to his face and murmured in a voice choked with tears:
"What does the man want of me?" asked Monsieur de Villefort, who was gradually recovering his voice, and to the astonishment of the spectators was soon in possession of his speech.
"He calls you father," replied the judge, "you yourself have acknowledged him as your son."
Villefort put his hand to his forehead.
"My son? And he is alive? It is impossible—my children were killed in my house—my son is dead."
"Have you forgotten the night of the 27th and 28th of September, 1807?"
"No, I have forgotten nothing—that son I killed too."
"Yes, but he escaped death by a miracle, don't you know!"
"Ah, yes, I remember; it was no miracle; he owes his life to an attempt at assassination, and the murderer thought he was lifting up a treasure when he picked up the box containing the child."
"Then you acknowledge your son?"
Villefort laughed maliciously.
"Yes, certainly he is my son. How would he have been a counterfeiter and murderer otherwise? Oh, it is all right—the house in Auteuil, the napkin marked H; Villefort's son must become a murderer."
He stretched out his lean hand toward Benedetto and hissed ironically:
"You are my son. You have murdered already and will murder again."
"No, no," gasped Benedetto; "I have sinned terribly, but nothing on earth could make me increase my crimes! Father, I forgive you, and may God have mercy on both our souls."
A murmur of emotion ran through the room, and Benedetto, encouraged, continued in a sobbing voice:
"And you, too, my mother, whom I have never known, I forgive. If I could only have stammered your name and danced on your knee, I would never have become a criminal."
Deep sobbing was heard in the room and the veiled lady sank half unconscious in her seat. Her companion busied himself with her, and as soon as she had regained consciousness he whispered in her ear:
"Prudence—or all is lost."
"Monsieur de Villefort," said the judge solemnly, "you are discharged! Whatever your faults have been God has made you pay dear for them."
D'Avigny laid his hand on Villefort's arm and wished to take his patient with him, but the former district-attorney shook his head vigorously and said, rather sharply:
"I do not wish to go yet, I have something to say."
"Speak then, we are listening," said the judge, surprised.
"Judge and gentlemen of the jury," Villefort solemnly began, "you have heard the contrite words of the man who is unfortunately my son. Do not believe him—he lies!"
"Monsieur de Villefort," exclaimed the judge, warningly.
"Oh, let me finish," continued the ex-procureur du roi; "I am supposed to be insane, yet I see things clearer than a great many whose reason is unclouded! You believe I would have committed a sin had I killed him—you are wrong, it would have been the only good action of my life if I had freed the world of such a rascal and monster. Benedetto neither regrets nor forgives. I, his father, ought to know him. He is playing a well-studied part. Gentlemen of the jury, be careful! The responsibility which weighs on you is great. When a tiger escapes from his cage, he is shot down. Take the sword of justice and let it fall on his neck—I, the father of this man, move that he be condemned to death!"
A murmur of affright ran through the room; people forgot that a maniac stood before them, and only saw the district-attorney, who, like a second Brutus, delivered over his own son to the law. Like the judgment day the words rang through the room, "I move that he be condemned to death." As soon as the echo of the words died away, Villefort arose, and leaning on D'Avigny's arm, he bowed to the judge and slowly left the court-room.
"Upon my word," whispered Beauchamp to Chateau-Renaud, "Villefort is insane."
"Did you notice that Madame Danglars was struggling with a fainting fit?" asked Chateau-Renaud.
"Ah, bah! Benedetto is a handsome youth, and Madame Danglars is not a model of virtue; who knows what relations they have had with each other?"
"Perhaps Debray might know more, he—"
"Hush! the procureur du roi is speaking. I'll wager that his speech will be less shrewd than that of the maniac."
The procureur du roi arose amid the hushed silence of the court-room, and began to speak, throwing all the blame on Monsieur de Villefort rather than on Benedetto.
"Let us not be carried away by pity," he said, "for these unscrupulous men, who soil their judicial ermine in the lowest passions of mankind, and thereby endanger the lives and sacrifice the honor of their wives and children."
After the prisoner's counsel had summed up eloquently for his client and the judge had charged the jury, the latter went out, but returned in a short time.
"Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed upon a verdict?" asked the judge.
There was intense excitement in the court-room, the spectators literally holding their breath.
"Yes," answered the foreman; "we find the prisoner guilty, with extenuating circumstances."
The spectators clapped their hands.
"Prisoner, have you anything to say?" asked the judge.
"No," replied Benedetto, in a calm, dignified manner.
"The sentence of the court is, that you be sent to the galleys for life."
No sooner had the sentence been pronounced than the man who had accompanied Madame Danglars glided toward the bar where Benedetto stood, and whispered something in his ear.
"We have kept our word, have we not?"
"Yes; but the galleys?"
"We have saved your head. More we cannot do at present. Have patience."
The court officials coming up to take the prisoner interrupted the conversation. Benedetto was placed in a coach and driven to Bicetre. He was placed in a filthy jail, and then left to himself. He had not been long there when he felt a hand touch him and a voice whisper close to his ear.
"You are in luck, comrade," said the unknown. "Some rich lady is interested in you. You don't remember me, perhaps. 'Twas I who brought you that note two months ago. I got two gold pieces for doing so."
"Who was the lady, and how did you get here?"
"I don't know who she is, but she appears to be over forty. As for me, I am a priest, and committed wrong—"
At this moment the door was opened, and a voice called:
Benedetto arose, and peering through the grated cell-door saw a woman.
"What do you want?" he gruffly asked.
"I am your mother."
"I have one favor to ask of you."
"I am willing to do anything for you."
"Are you going to stay in Paris?"
"No, I shall leave France on the 26th of February."
"And you sail from Marseilles?"
"Then you will be near Toulon. I know that you do not wish me to see your face or learn your secret. But if you have any love for me, come and see me there."
The poor woman yearned to embrace her son, whose hypocritical words awoke the dormant love in her bosom.
"I promise to see you before I sail on the 26th."
"Come to Toulon, then, on the 24th. And, by the way, here is a letter from one of my comrades to whom I am under deep obligations. On your way home drop it into the letter-box."
She could not decline to do him this service. Her usual caution deserted her, and as she slipped the note in her bosom the light fell full on her face.
Benedetto recognized her at once as Madame Danglars, the wife of Baron Danglars, and the mother of the girl he was to have married. He could hardly restrain a cry of rage and astonishment.
"Good-by," he said. "Do not forget the 24th."
THE EDITORIAL ROOMS
"Well, my dear Chateau-Renaud, is there anything new?" asked Beauchamp of his friend, who had paid him a visit to his office.
"Bah—not much! It's the same old story in the Orient, and outside of that place nothing ever happens in the world."
"Nothing? What will you give me if I tell you something which will interest you, my dear Chateau-Renaud?"
"That depends. Who is the party?"
"Our friend, Albert de Morcerf."
"That is worth listening to: how is the poor fellow getting along?"
"Oh, splendidly! He distinguishes himself in every battle, and will one day become a famous general."
"I hope so. Do you still recollect the hard times poor Morcerf had when the first article from Yanina appeared in your paper?"
"I do. I went myself on the strength of it to Yanina, and the news I brought from there was perfectly crushing from our old friend."
"And Count Monte-Cristo has disappeared?"
"For the present, yes. Though I am sure that sooner or later he will show up again."
At this moment a loud uproar was heard near the door, and as Beauchamp opened it, a young man was seen who was struggling with the office boy to gain admission.
"What is the meaning of this?" asked Beauchamp, in a tone of surprise, as he opened the door.
"Ah, Beauchamp!" exclaimed the stranger, "I knew you would admit me."
"At present I have not the honor of your acquaintance," replied Beauchamp, bowing.
"Permit me to refresh your memory; I am the man who called you into the court-room during the Benedetto trial. You were at the refreshment counter, and—"
"Ah, now I remember," said Beauchamp, in a friendly tone. "What can I do for you?"
"Pardon me, Monsieur Beauchamp, but I think I can do you a service."
"Then come into my office, Monsieur—what is your name now?"
"Gratillet, Monsieur Beauchamp," said the young man, following him into the office. After he had taken a chair proffered him he laughed to himself and in a tone of importance said:
"If I am not mistaken, you interest yourself for Benedetto?"
"A little, Monsieur Gratillet."
"When you have heard my report, you will do so more. I took good notice of Benedetto and have come to the conclusion that he has been picked out to do great things!"
"Really? Is he going to become a minister, or perhaps a king?"
"Laugh away; he will not die in the galleys."
"Then, perhaps, on the gallows; that is sometimes the end of a career like his."
"No, Benedetto is more ambitious than that. I will only give you the facts and tell you what I heard yesterday. Last night Benedetto received a visit in prison."
"Just as I tell you. A veiled lady visited him and remained an hour with him. Her face I could not recognize."
"Have you got wings with which to pursue Benedetto?"
"No, Monsieur Beauchamp. At the end of the proceedings I took a carriage and arrived at the prison only a quarter of an hour after Benedetto."
"I call that promptness. You saw the lady then?"
"Yes; I did not recognize her perfectly, but imagine she is the wife of a banker who left for parts unknown about three months ago."
Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud looked knowingly at one another, while Gratillet continued:
"The lady in question left the prison at ten o'clock and got into her carriage."
"No, a hackney coach she had hired."
"And you followed her again?"
"This time the matter was much easier; I got upon the box with the driver and arrived at her destination as soon as the occupant herself. The carriage drove to No. 8 Rue Contrescarpe. I looked closely at the house and read a sign near the door with the following card: 'Monsieur Magloire, taxidermist.' The lady got out and rang the bell, but to no purpose. Becoming bolder she knocked at the door. A sliding window was opened and a gruff voice asked:
"'Well, what do you want?'
"'I have a letter to deliver,' said the lady softly.
"I could not make out what she said. A hand was put through the opening and took the letter, whereupon the sliding window was again closed. The lady waited a while longer and then rode off."
"Did you follow her?"
"Oh, no, why should I have done that? I am interested in Benedetto, and the lady is only a side character. First of all, Monsieur Beauchamp, do you think the story suitable for your paper?"
"Hm! that could be talked over. In the meantime take a cigar."
"Thanks. Have you ever seen the departure of the galley-slaves from Bicetre?"
"No, but I imagine it must be a curious sight."
"It is. This morning I was in Bicetre to see Benedetto depart, and I must confess I almost pitied him. The handsome Andrea Cavalcanti was undressed and his clothes cut in the usual way."
"Why do they do that?" asked Chateau-Renaud.
"To prevent the flight of a convict. Whoever sees these cut clothes knows they belong to a galley-slave. The other prisoners said nothing while the operation was being performed; Benedetto, however, cried out aloud when the jailer cut his elegant coat, and when the rattle of the chains was heard in another room he gritted his teeth and cast such a look around him that I instinctively shuddered."
"Were you present during the chaining of the convicts, Monsieur Gratillet?"
"Certainly; I never do things by halves. The prisoners were brought into the courtyard and placed in rows of two each, who were tied to each other by a chain six feet long."
"Are you nearly finished with your story, Monsieur Gratillet?" said Beauchamp, thoughtfully.
"Directly. Just as the door opened through which the convicts have to pass to leave the courtyard, I noticed among the crowd assembled to see them off a small humpbacked man. On his crooked shoulders a monkey balanced, a poodle in uniform sat on its hind legs beside him, in his right hand he held a bird-cage, and along his left arm a large rat promenaded up and down. The rat had a wonderfully pointed nose and long tail. It ran up and down the whole time, looking in every direction with its sharp eyes. The prisoners, the jailers and spectators laughed at its antics. The hunchback drew nearer, and, as it seemed to me, looked at Benedetto. The latter, however, did not notice him, and now I perceived I had made a mistake, and that the gaze of the ratcatcher was directed to Benedetto's comrade in chains."
"Did you know this comrade in chains?" asked Beauchamp, hurriedly.
"Yes; it was a former priest named Anselmo, if you have ever heard anything of him."
"Certainly. The priest was a disgrace to the cloth," said Beauchamp. "So he is Benedetto's companion. A worthy pair."
"I thought so, too," continued Gratillet, laughing. "Suddenly the rat sprang from the arm of its master on to that of the ex-priest, and rubbing its pointed nose on his sleeve it fawned about him.
"'Oh, what a beautiful animal!' exclaimed Anselmo; 'present it to me.'
"'I would be a fool,' replied the hunchback, gruffly. 'I sell my animals, but I never give them away.'
"'But I have no money.'
"'You have a nice ring on your finger, give it to me and you can have my rat.'
"Now I am ready to swear to it," said Gratillet, solemnly, "that Anselmo had no ring on his finger before, whereas he had one now. He looked at the jailer and said: 'In case it is allowed, I should like to exchange my ring for the rat.'
"The jailer made no objection to this. The hunchback claimed that his rat was a wonderful animal, and he would show the tricks it could do. The rat sprang through little paper balloons, nodded and shook its head, just as it was asked, and finally crawled up Anselmo's sleeve. The prisoners were enthusiastic in their praises. Anselmo and the hunchback whispered softly together; finally, the jailer put a stop to the thing by shutting the gate and driving the prisoners back.
"'One word more,' exclaimed Anselmo, 'I do not know the name of my rat!'
"'The animal is called "Rat King,"' said the hunchback, putting his head once more through the door.
"I followed the hunchback; when he turned down a narrow street I cried to him: 'Au revoir, Monsieur Magloire,' and the look he gave me told me I had guessed right."
"You believe then—" said Chateau-Renaud.
"That the letter which the lady delivered in the Rue Contrescarpe was written by Anselmo and given to the lady through Benedetto, the letter inclosed the order for the rat, and everything went smoothly. The final act in the drama will not permit itself to be long waited for."
"As soon as we are ready," said Beauchamp, "Monsieur Gratillet can write it up for our paper. Can I count you, Monsieur Gratillet, from to-day on as one of my staff?"
"I desire no greater honor," replied Gratillet, his face beaming with joy.
PONTOON NO. 2
The galley-slaves were shipped from Chalons to Lyons. No accident marred the trip, and all the prisoners were in good humor, with the exception of Benedetto. Anselmo tried his best to arouse his comrade, but his efforts were fruitless. Benedetto remained silent and gloomy. When the convicts were leaving the ship at Lyons, Anselmo whispered to his companion:
"Magloire is a good fellow: the file he sent me is sharp."
"The file?" repeated Benedetto, not understanding the allusion; "he did not give you any instrument!"
"What a stupid fellow you are. But keep patience; later on I will tell you more."
Benedetto, since the journey from Paris, was no longer recognizable; he no longer resembled the proud Andrea Cavalcanti, and sometimes even thought he was going crazy.
What sustained him was the thought of the million his mother intended to give the Jesuits on the 25th of February. This million he must secure for himself; but how he was to do so he did not know himself.
At first he thought Anselmo would keep his word and free him; but gradually this hope vanished, and as the column marched into Toulon on the 28th of January, Benedetto was on the verge of despair.
In Toulon the iron necklace was taken off of the prisoners and replaced by an iron ball fastened to the leg. The prisoners were brought to the lavatory, given a bath, and then dressed in the historical clothing of a galley-slave.
As Anselmo and Benedetto were of the same stature, it was only natural that they were both chained together. They were placed in pontoon No. 2, and the little rat-king was their companion.
The rat soon made itself at home with all the prison officials and the prisoners, and not a night passed but what it played its tricks. Anselmo had taught it a great deal more, and when he asked it:
"Little rat-king, what are your feelings for the king, the law, and the turnkeys?" the little animal would bow at every side, cross its front feet over its breast, and move its pointed nose as if it were murmuring prayers, at the same time casting its eyes to the floor. If Anselmo would then ask:
"What is the penalty for those condemned to death?"
The rat would throw itself flat on the ground, and lie motionless, as if to appear dead.
Benedetto was the only one who was not amused. Whenever the rat came near him he would tremble violently. If Anselmo saw it he would make sarcastic remarks about princely ways, which caused Benedetto to grind his teeth with rage. His only desire now was to get away from his comrades in chains. But there was little hope for this, more especially as he heard a jailer one day tell Anselmo he should get rid of his grumbling companion; if the rat were to support the petition it would not be difficult, and the ex-priest laughingly replied:
"Not a bit of it; Benedetto is just as agreeable to me as another; let us leave things as they are!"
As soon as the jailer turned away, Benedetto, mad with rage, turned to the ex-priest and said:
"Why won't you free me from your society?"
"Because I do not wish to have any strange face about me," was the indifferent reply. "You do not embarrass me in the least, and as I do not embarrass you—"
"On the contrary, you are distasteful to me," interrupted Benedetto, violently.
"Really? Your candor pleases me. Under all circumstances, we shall stay together."
"And suppose I kill you?" hissed Benedetto.
"Hem, my boy, that is easier said than done. Besides, I can tell you why you hate me."
"I am curious to know! I hardly know myself why I hate you," said Benedetto, maliciously.
"Because you think I lied to you, because in prison I spoke of escape, and have not said a word about that since."
Benedetto stammered a few unintelligible words, and was ashamed to have had his thoughts read so easily.
"Do you know the story of Brutus, who pretended to be a simpleton, so as to bring about the downfall of Tarquin the more effectually?" asked Anselmo, with a malicious smile.
"You are making fun of me," Benedetto gruffly answered. "Did you deceive me when you gave me the letter for Monsieur Magloire?"
"Do you really think so?"
"What a question! Do you think Monsieur Magloire could aid us in escaping?"
"Suppose he has already done so."
Benedetto looked at his comrade with wide open mouth.
"Are you really so anxious to escape?" continued Anselmo.
"Really anxious? I would give my right hand were I able to escape from prison on a certain day!"
"And when is that?"
"I must leave Toulon on the night of the 24th of April."
"You must! That settles it."
"Do not be sarcastic—I must be at liberty or else—"
"Well? or else—"
"Then, you will not betray me, will you?"
"Your anxiety on that point comes rather late," said Anselmo dryly. "To reassure you, however, let me tell you that it is not to my interest to betray you. Look at me. Just as I stand here, I have the power to set you free on the spot."
Benedetto uttered a cry.
"Are you speaking the truth?" he breathlessly asked.
"And why should I deceive you? Let me give you my conditions, and if you accept them you will be free on the evening of the 24th of February."
"What are your conditions?" asked Benedetto faintly.
"Give me half of the million you are seeking to get, and we are quits."
The Corsican looked tremblingly at the ex-priest.
"How do you know?" he stammered.
"That you are seeking to get a million—well, out of your dreams. The words 'the 24th of February,' and 'one million,' form the Alpha and Omega of your thoughts, and in your sleep you constantly repeat these words. You want to be free on the 24th, so as to steal this million. Steal it, but give me my share!"
"And you want?" stammered Benedetto.
"One quarter! I could demand half, but I will be modest."
"How are you going to secure our freedom?" asked Benedetto after a pause.
"That is my affair! I have an accomplice whom I can trust."
"An accomplice? Who can it be?"
"Swear to me that you will give me a quarter part of your million, and I will show him to you."
Benedetto took the oath. Anselmo whistled for his rat, and, pointing to the little animal, solemnly said:
"Here is our savior—the little rat-king will free us!"
THE DEAD LIVE
Dr. D'Avigny sat in his private office and studied the sick-list of his asylum. A servant entered, and announced a young man who desired to speak with him.
"You know, Jean, that I do not like to receive visitors so late at night," said the physician.
"The gentleman gave me his card and told me you would receive him."
The doctor threw a glance at the card. No sooner had he read the name, Maximilian Morrel, than he hurriedly rose and said:
"Bring the gentleman in at once."
Dr. D'Avigny had only seen young Morrel once—at the time Valentine de Villefort sank apparently lifeless to the ground. As Maximilian entered, both men remembered the sorrowful circumstances under which they had met before, and, deeply moved, they shook each other's hand.
"Doctor," said Maximilian in a solemn voice, "I do not come to the physician but to the friend of the Villefort family."
D'Avigny bowed and Morrel continued:
"Can you tell me how Monsieur de Villefort is getting on?"
"His condition is hopeless," said the doctor sorrowfully; "as his attendant just informed me, he is again in possession of his senses, but I fear it is the last glimmering before the final extinguishment. He begged me to send for the district-attorney, as he wished to make an important communication to him, and as I hesitated he hurriedly said:
"'D'Avigny, I have no time to lose; Death is already sitting on my tongue.'"
"Then we must be quick," murmured Maximilian to himself, and then speaking aloud he said: "Doctor, would a great excitement injure your patient?"
"That depends upon the nature of the excitement," answered D'Avigny. "There can hardly be any more joys for Villefort, and troubles I would keep aloof from him."
"It is a question of a great joy, which, however, is not free from certain anxieties."
"You are speaking in riddles, Monsieur Morrel."
"Then let me unravel these riddles to you. Valentine de Villefort lives."
The old physician swayed from side to side and would have fallen to the ground had not Morrel caught him in his arms. Hot tears rolled over D'Avigny's cheeks, and sobbing he asked:
"Is it no dream? Does Valentine live?"
"She lives, and yearns to shake her old friend's hand," replied Morrel.
He then narrated to the astonished physician the extraordinary circumstance of Valentine's rescue from death. He told the dangers Monte-Cristo had undergone for her; how he had made the poisoned goblet of Madame de Villefort harmless, and how he had rescued him, too, from a suicide's death.
"And who is this Count of Monte-Cristo?" asked D'Avigny when Maximilian had ended.
"Doctor," said Morrel solemnly, "here my story ends. Who and what the Count of Monte-Cristo is I am not at liberty to tell. He has a mission to fulfil, rewards here and punishes there, and I myself have been at times moved to believe him a divine person. There is a mystery surrounding him, which he alone can clear up; but this I know, he is a noble man."
"Where is Valentine now?" asked D'Avigny after a short pause.
"Since the fall of the house of Villefort, Valentine has lived with her grandfather, Monsieur Noirtier, on his estate near Marseilles."
"That is the reason, then, why Monsieur Noirtier disappeared so suddenly from Paris?" said D'Avigny.
"Yes, the Count of Monte-Cristo informed the old man that Valentine lived, and was in need of his protection. Monsieur Noirtier immediately arranged his affairs, and up to five days ago they were both living quietly at Oliolles, near Marseilles."
"And since then?" asked the physician, uneasily.
"About five days ago Valentine received this note. Please read it and tell me what you think of it."
Morrel handed the following letter to the doctor:
"MADEMOISELLE VALENTINE—In Paris, in the house of Dr. D'Avigny, a dying man awaits your consolation. If you wish to see your father alive, hurry to him.
"The Count of Monte-Cristo must have written this note," said D'Avigny. "The initials M. C. prove it."
"We thought so, too," said Maximilian.
"Do you know where the count is now?"
"Where could he have found out that Monsieur de Villefort is dying? I myself have only known it since two days," said D'Avigny, meditatively.
"Oh, the count sometimes appears to be endowed with miraculous powers!" exclaimed Morrel, enthusiastically. "Valentine immediately travelled here under my protection. I—"
At this moment the door opened, and a young man about twenty-five years of age, with a fine open face, entered the room. Monsieur d'Avigny took pride in introducing him to Maximilian as his son Fritz.
"Papa," he said to the old gentleman, "Monsieur de Villefort is sinking rapidly."
"You have come at the right time," said D'Avigny, turning toward Maximilian; "where is Valentine?"
"At the home of my sister Madame d'Herbault."
"Then tell the two ladies, please, to come here at once," said the old gentleman. "Valentine can be at hand to come to her father when I call."
Morrel went away, and the father and son went to Monsieur de Villefort.
With his head between his hands, Monsieur de Villefort sat in his easy-chair, as if an uninterested spectator. When the door opened he rose in his chair, and, looking expectantly at the two physicians who entered, said:
"Well, is the district-attorney coming?"
"He will be here soon," replied D'Avigny, to quiet the old man.
"But I have no more time," exclaimed Villefort, passionately.
"Monsieur de Villefort," said the physician earnestly, "you know that the district-attorney can only be informed in cases of the utmost importance, and—"
"And is it not an important case when a man who has himself filled the office of district-attorney for years wishes to speak to his successor before he dies?" said Villefort, sharply. "What is the name of the new district-attorney?"
"Monsieur de Flambois."
"Oh, my former assistant," muttered the sick man, with a bitter smile. "Doctor, it is a question of rehabilitation. Tell Monsieur de Flambois to hurry up."
"I will do so," said Fritz, after an interchange of looks with his father, and he immediately left the room.
The old physician also went away, and immediately afterward Morrel conducted his sister and Valentine into the private office of the doctor.
Monsieur d'Avigny with deep emotion drew the young girl, who was attired in deep mourning, to his bosom, while the tears fell on Valentine's cheeks.
"My dearly beloved child," he said, with tenderness. "Thank God that my old eyes are permitted to see you once more."
"And my father?" asked Valentine, sobbing.
"You will see him, Valentine. Remain patient for a little while longer; he wants to see the district-attorney, and, as far as I understand, it is about some former injustice which he wishes to repair. Confide in me, I shall call you when the time comes. In the meantime take some refreshment, as you must be weak from the journey."
Valentine and Julie withdrew to an apartment which had been prepared for them, and d'Avigny and Morrel remained alone.
"If I could only understand," said the old man meditatively, "how Monsieur de Villefort ever could have such a daughter."
"Perhaps Valentine's mother, Mademoiselle de St. Meran, had a noble nature."
"I hardly think so. Of course I did not know Monsieur de Villefort's first wife, but, from what I have heard of her, she was very miserly, and a fit companion for her husband. Old Madame de St. Meran, too, was not exactly a tender-hearted woman."
"But she loved Valentine dearly," Morrel remarked.
"I admit that; although this love did not prevent her from trying to force Valentine into an obnoxious marriage. Monsieur d'Epinay was of an old aristocratic family, and that was why the old lady thought he would be a good match for her granddaughter. No, they were all selfish, and Valentine can congratulate herself for not being like them."
The entrance of the servant, who announced the arrival of Monsieur de Flambois and Monsieur d'Avigny, put an end to the conversation. The old physician immediately conducted Monsieur de Flambois to the bedside of his patient, whose eyes lighted up when he recognized the district-attorney.
"Monsieur de Villefort," began the district-attorney, bowing low, "you desired to speak to me to tell me something important. Do you wish our interview to be private?"
"No," said Villefort, solemnly. "I desire Monsieur d'Avigny to remain and act as a witness."
The physician seated himself on the bed, while Monsieur de Flambois took up a position at the writing desk.
"Monsieur de Villefort, we are ready."
"Gentlemen," said the sick man, in a clear, firm voice, "thanks to me and thanks to my wife, Heloise de Villefort, my family name has become infamous and I am not surprised my father no longer wishes to bear it."
"But, Monsieur de Villefort," interrupted the official.
"Let me speak. What would you think of a man who, to save himself, condemns another in cold blood to imprisonment for life."
"I would call him a criminal," said Flambois solemnly.
"Well, I am such a criminal. In the year 1814, I condemned a young man to life imprisonment and the heavens did not fall; I rose step by step, and for twenty-five years was looked upon as an honorable official whose reputation was above suspicion, although in my own heart I knew I was a rogue. But the man I thought had rotted away in jail was alive and revenged himself upon me. The first wife who bore my name was my accomplice, the second was a poisoner. She murdered every one who stood in her way; my son and Valentine became her victims; my other son sprung from a criminal attachment. I tried to kill him by burying him alive; as a punishment for me, he was rescued to die on the gallows."
"No, Monsieur de Villefort, Benedetto's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment," said Monsieur de Flambois.
"That is worse than the gallows," stammered the sick man. "My first and my second wife, Benedetto and myself deserved to have our names looked upon with loathing, but Valentine, my poor innocent Valentine, did not deserve this shame, and on her account I speak to-day."
"I do not understand you," said the district-attorney. "Your daughter Valentine—"
"Ah, what fools!" exclaimed Villefort. "How could you imagine that Valentine was my daughter? No, gentlemen, Valentine is not a Villefort! How could an angel be a member of such a sinful race!"
"I thought as much," muttered d'Avigny to himself, while Flambois looked at his former chief as if the latter were talking Sanscrit.
"When I married Renee de St. Meran," continued Monsieur de Villefort, after a short pause, "I was a young and ambitious official. My wife was also ambitious, and we were fitted in that respect for one another. Unfortunately for us both, there was a clause in the marriage contract, by which Monsieur and Madame de St. Meran pledged themselves to give our first child on its baptism a present of three hundred thousand francs. As soon as I was in possession of such a fortune, I could go to Paris, and once in the capital, I was sure to make my way. Renee was of the same mind as myself, she yearned to come to court and play a part in the world of society; Marseilles was too small for her. When Renee became enceinte we were both overjoyed. The birth of a child would smooth our path, and we only thought of the first smile of the little being, to arrange our plans. The event so anxiously awaited by us was to take place at the beginning of May, 1816. To have you understand what followed, I must go back to April, 1815. I was sitting at work on the evening of the 4th of April, when loud screams attracted my attention. I opened the window; it was ten o'clock, and in the moonlight I observed that the street in front of our house was filled with a noisy and turbulent crowd of people. Collecting my thoughts, I blew out my lamp. I saw a man running rapidly along the street, followed by a great crowd shouting, 'Down with the Englishman.' The man ran so quickly that he distanced all his pursuers, and I already thought that he was saved, when I saw him stagger and fall. In a moment his pursuers were upon him, a loud cry was heard, and the next moment the unfortunate man was thrown into the river. Not long after all was still again. I lighted my lamp again and was about to continue my work, when I heard a slight tap at the window. I became frightened. Who could want me at this hour? Grasping a pistol, I walked cautiously into the garden, from whence proceeded cries for help. I listened, and could now hear a soft voice with a foreign accent whisper:
"'Help, my lord. For pity's sake help me.'
"I immediately thought of the cry, 'Down with the Englishman,' which I had heard before. This must be the man who had been thrown in the water. I grasped the man, who was shivering with cold and dripping with water, and led him into my library. By the light of the lamp I saw he was about thirty years old.
"'You have rescued me, sir,' he said in a soft voice, with a peculiar accent, 'but you will not find me ungrateful.'
"'Who are you, and what am I to do for you?' I asked him.
"'I was thought to be an English spy in the service of the royalists,' he said, laughing sorrowfully, 'and the excited crowd threw me into the river. Fortunately, I did not lose my senses; I dived under, swam a short distance and then gained the bank.'
"'Then you are not an Englishman?' I asked.
"'I, an Englishman?' he repeated, with his eyes sparkling with rage; 'what are you thinking of?'
"'But who then are you?' I exclaimed.
"He looked searchingly at me.
"'You are young,' he then said, 'you do not know what betrayal is; I will confide in you! Besides, you are a Frenchman and hate the English as I do. Tell me where is the Emperor Napoleon at present?'
"'Are you sure?'
"'You love the emperor?'
"'I am his faithful servant.'
"'Thank Heaven. Would you assist me to reach Paris?'
"'Paris?' I repeated in astonishment.
"'Yes, I must reach the capital as soon as possible. I must rescue the emperor.'
"'The roads are not safe,' I hesitatingly replied, 'and if you have no passport—'
"'You are an official,' he interrupted me, 'perhaps a judge?'
"'I am what is called in England attorney for the crown.'
"'Ah, in England there are no judges,' he violently said. 'In England are only hangmen! Thank God I am in France; and my ancestors were French.'
"'And your home?'
"'Is the Orient, the land of the sun,' he said with emotion, as his eyes filled with tears. 'I am an Indian prince.'
"'That is the reason you hate England!' I suddenly exclaimed, as a light dawned on me.
"'Hate it! I curse it!' he said, in a choking voice. 'It is the home of traitors and murderers.'
"'But did you not tell me a little while ago that you were of French descent?'
"'Yes. Have you forgotten the names of those Frenchmen who fought so gloriously for India's independence? Dupleix, Labourdonnaye and Lally came with an army to India. My father belonged to Lally's detachment, and fell on the 27th of October, 1803, in the battle of Laswari. During his stay in India, he married a Mahratta at Scindia's court; two children resulted therefrom, a boy and a girl, and the son is the one you have rescued to-day.'
"'Then you are really a Frenchman?'
"'No; I call myself Mahratta; the blood of my mother betrays itself in my veins, for she was the daughter of a prince.'
"'And her name?'
"'I have almost forgotten it myself, as I was not permitted to pronounce it for such a long time. About five years ago Scindia began anew the struggle against English tyranny. We were defeated in the battle of Gwalior, and I and my sister Naya, a beautiful girl of fifteen, were taken prisoners by the English. For five years we suffered martyrdom; we were brought to England, and finally separated. About two months ago I managed to escape. I reached the coast, was taken on board a Spanish ship, and finally set foot on French ground. Paris is the place I desire to go to. Napoleon has promised us help if we assist him against the English. The whole of India will rise up and crush England, and Napoleon's throne will be secured forever.'
"The handsome youth stood before me like a prophet, and I enthusiastically exclaimed:
"'Whatever I can do to assist your plans shall be done. Tell me your name, and I will fill out your passport.'
"'I am the Rajah Siwadji Daola,' he said.
"'And your sister?' I asked; 'is she free, too?'
"'No; but she soon will be. A prince of the Mahrattas followed Naya to England; he loves her, and will soon bring her to France.'
"'To France? Have they a place to go to here?' I eagerly asked.
"'Let my sister and her husband find protection in your house,' he simply said, 'and the gods will reward you.'
"I hesitated for a moment, and then I cordially answered:
"'Let it be as you say—my house shall be open to your sister!'
"'A thousand thanks,' he joyfully cried. 'And so that you know my sister, look here.'
"He took out of his silk belt the half of a peculiarly formed bracelet, and handed it to me with the words:
"'Look at this bracelet! Whoever brings you the other half, receive in your house as a favor to me. I cannot leave the bracelet with you, but if you have a piece of wax I can make an impression which will answer the same purpose.'
"Wax was soon found, the broad gold plate, with its numerous hieroglyphics, was pressed in it, and after the impression had been secured the rajah hid the bracelet in his belt.
"'When can I get the pass?' he asked.
"'To-morrow morning. What name shall I put in?'
"'The name of my father—Jean d'Arras.'
"The rajah, upon my solicitation, threw himself on my bed and slept a few hours. As soon as the day dawned he left the house with me, enveloped in a wide mantle, and as we had no difficulty in getting the necessary passports from the prefecture, he was already that same morning on his way to Paris."
"Monsieur de Villefort," said D'Avigny, anxiously, "you are exerting yourself too much; postpone the continuation until to-morrow."