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The Count of Monte Cristo

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Chapter 112. The Departure


The recent events formed the theme of conversation throughout all Paris. Emmanuel and his wife conversed with natural astonishment in their little apartment in the Rue Meslay upon the three successive, sudden, and most unexpected catastrophes of Morcerf, Danglars, and Villefort. Maximilian, who was paying them a visit, listened to their conversation, or rather was present at it, plunged in his accustomed state of apathy.

“Indeed,” said Julie, “might we not almost fancy, Emmanuel, that those people, so rich, so happy but yesterday, had forgotten in their prosperity that an evil genius—like the wicked fairies in Perrault’s stories who present themselves unbidden at a wedding or baptism—hovered over them, and appeared all at once to revenge himself for their fatal neglect?”

“What a dire misfortune!” said Emmanuel, thinking of Morcerf and Danglars.

“What dreadful sufferings!” said Julie, remembering Valentine, but whom, with a delicacy natural to women, she did not name before her brother.

“If the Supreme Being has directed the fatal blow,” said Emmanuel, “it must be that he in his great goodness has perceived nothing in the past lives of these people to merit mitigation of their awful punishment.”

“Do you not form a very rash judgment, Emmanuel?” said Julie. “When my father, with a pistol in his hand, was once on the point of committing suicide, had anyone then said, ‘This man deserves his misery,’ would not that person have been deceived?”

“Yes; but your father was not allowed to fall. A being was commissioned to arrest the fatal hand of death about to descend on him.”

Emmanuel had scarcely uttered these words when the sound of the bell was heard, the well-known signal given by the porter that a visitor had arrived. Nearly at the same instant the door was opened and the Count of Monte Cristo appeared on the threshold. The young people uttered a cry of joy, while Maximilian raised his head, but let it fall again immediately.

“Maximilian,” said the count, without appearing to notice the different impressions which his presence produced on the little circle, “I come to seek you.”

“To seek me?” repeated Morrel, as if awakening from a dream.

“Yes,” said Monte Cristo; “has it not been agreed that I should take you with me, and did I not tell you yesterday to prepare for departure?”

“I am ready,” said Maximilian; “I came expressly to wish them farewell.”

“Whither are you going, count?” asked Julie.

“In the first instance to Marseilles, madame.”

“To Marseilles!” exclaimed the young couple.

“Yes, and I take your brother with me.”

“Oh, count.” said Julie, “will you restore him to us cured of his melancholy?” Morrel turned away to conceal the confusion of his countenance.

“You perceive, then, that he is not happy?” said the count.

“Yes,” replied the young woman; “and fear much that he finds our home but a dull one.”

“I will undertake to divert him,” replied the count.

“I am ready to accompany you, sir,” said Maximilian. “Adieu, my kind friends! Emmanuel—Julie—farewell!”

“How farewell?” exclaimed Julie; “do you leave us thus, so suddenly, without any preparations for your journey, without even a passport?”

“Needless delays but increase the grief of parting,” said Monte Cristo, “and Maximilian has doubtless provided himself with everything requisite; at least, I advised him to do so.”

“I have a passport, and my clothes are ready packed,” said Morrel in his tranquil but mournful manner.

“Good,” said Monte Cristo, smiling; “in these prompt arrangements we recognize the order of a well-disciplined soldier.”

“And you leave us,” said Julie, “at a moment’s warning? you do not give us a day—no, not even an hour before your departure?”

“My carriage is at the door, madame, and I must be in Rome in five days.”

“But does Maximilian go to Rome?” exclaimed Emmanuel.

“I am going wherever it may please the count to take me,” said Morrel, with a smile full of grief; “I am under his orders for the next month.”

“Oh, heavens, how strangely he expresses himself, count!” said Julie.

“Maximilian goes with me,” said the count, in his kindest and most persuasive manner; “therefore do not make yourself uneasy on your brother’s account.”

“Once more farewell, my dear sister; Emmanuel, adieu!” Morrel repeated.

“His carelessness and indifference touch me to the heart,” said Julie. “Oh, Maximilian, Maximilian, you are certainly concealing something from us.”

“Pshaw!” said Monte Cristo, “you will see him return to you gay, smiling, and joyful.”

Maximilian cast a look of disdain, almost of anger, on the count.

“We must leave you,” said Monte Cristo.

“Before you quit us, count,” said Julie, “will you permit us to express to you all that the other day——”

“Madame,” interrupted the count, taking her two hands in his, “all that you could say in words would never express what I read in your eyes; the thoughts of your heart are fully understood by mine. Like benefactors in romances, I should have left you without seeing you again, but that would have been a virtue beyond my strength, because I am a weak and vain man, fond of the tender, kind, and thankful glances of my fellow-creatures. On the eve of departure I carry my egotism so far as to say, ‘Do not forget me, my kind friends, for probably you will never see me again.’”

“Never see you again?” exclaimed Emmanuel, while two large tears rolled down Julie’s cheeks, “never behold you again? It is not a man, then, but some angel that leaves us, and this angel is on the point of returning to heaven after having appeared on earth to do good.”

“Say not so,” quickly returned Monte Cristo—“say not so, my friends; angels never err, celestial beings remain where they wish to be. Fate is not more powerful than they; it is they who, on the contrary, overcome fate. No, Emmanuel, I am but a man, and your admiration is as unmerited as your words are sacrilegious.”

And pressing his lips on the hand of Julie, who rushed into his arms, he extended his other hand to Emmanuel; then tearing himself from this abode of peace and happiness, he made a sign to Maximilian, who followed him passively, with the indifference which had been perceptible in him ever since the death of Valentine had so stunned him.

“Restore my brother to peace and happiness,” whispered Julie to Monte Cristo. And the count pressed her hand in reply, as he had done eleven years before on the staircase leading to Morrel’s study.

“You still confide, then, in Sinbad the Sailor?” asked he, smiling.

“Oh, yes,” was the ready answer.

“Well, then, sleep in peace, and put your trust in the Lord.”

As we have before said, the post-chaise was waiting; four powerful horses were already pawing the ground with impatience, while Ali, apparently just arrived from a long walk, was standing at the foot of the steps, his face bathed in perspiration.

“Well,” asked the count in Arabic, “have you been to see the old man?” Ali made a sign in the affirmative.

“And have you placed the letter before him, as I ordered you to do?”

The slave respectfully signalized that he had.

“And what did he say, or rather do?” Ali placed himself in the light, so that his master might see him distinctly, and then imitating in his intelligent manner the countenance of the old man, he closed his eyes, as Noirtier was in the custom of doing when saying “Yes.”

“Good; he accepts,” said Monte Cristo. “Now let us go.”

These words had scarcely escaped him, when the carriage was on its way, and the feet of the horses struck a shower of sparks from the pavement. Maximilian settled himself in his corner without uttering a word. Half an hour had passed when the carriage stopped suddenly; the count had just pulled the silken check-string, which was fastened to Ali’s finger. The Nubian immediately descended and opened the carriage door. It was a lovely starlight night—they had just reached the top of the hill Villejuif, from whence Paris appears like a sombre sea tossing its millions of phosphoric waves into light—waves indeed more noisy, more passionate, more changeable, more furious, more greedy, than those of the tempestuous ocean,—waves which never rest as those of the sea sometimes do,—waves ever dashing, ever foaming, ever ingulfing what falls within their grasp.

The count stood alone, and at a sign from his hand, the carriage went on for a short distance. With folded arms, he gazed for some time upon the great city. When he had fixed his piercing look on this modern Babylon, which equally engages the contemplation of the religious enthusiast, the materialist, and the scoffer,—

“Great city,” murmured he, inclining his head, and joining his hands as if in prayer, “less than six months have elapsed since first I entered thy gates. I believe that the Spirit of God led my steps to thee and that he also enables me to quit thee in triumph; the secret cause of my presence within thy walls I have confided alone to him who only has had the power to read my heart. God only knows that I retire from thee without pride or hatred, but not without many regrets; he only knows that the power confided to me has never been made subservient to my personal good or to any useless cause. Oh, great city, it is in thy palpitating bosom that I have found that which I sought; like a patient miner, I have dug deep into thy very entrails to root out evil thence. Now my work is accomplished, my mission is terminated, now thou canst neither afford me pain nor pleasure. Adieu, Paris, adieu!”

His look wandered over the vast plain like that of some genius of the night; he passed his hand over his brow, got into the carriage, the door was closed on him, and the vehicle quickly disappeared down the other side of the hill in a whirlwind of dust and noise.

Ten leagues were passed and not a single word was uttered. Morrel was dreaming, and Monte Cristo was looking at the dreamer.

“Morrel,” said the count to him at length, “do you repent having followed me?”

“No, count; but to leave Paris——”

“If I thought happiness might await you in Paris, Morrel, I would have left you there.”

“Valentine reposes within the walls of Paris, and to leave Paris is like losing her a second time.”

“Maximilian,” said the count, “the friends that we have lost do not repose in the bosom of the earth, but are buried deep in our hearts, and it has been thus ordained that we may always be accompanied by them. I have two friends, who in this way never depart from me; the one who gave me being, and the other who conferred knowledge and intelligence on me. Their spirits live in me. I consult them when doubtful, and if I ever do any good, it is due to their beneficent counsels. Listen to the voice of your heart, Morrel, and ask it whether you ought to preserve this melancholy exterior towards me.”

“My friend,” said Maximilian, “the voice of my heart is very sorrowful, and promises me nothing but misfortune.”

“It is the way of weakened minds to see everything through a black cloud. The soul forms its own horizons; your soul is darkened, and consequently the sky of the future appears stormy and unpromising.”

“That may possibly be true,” said Maximilian, and he again subsided into his thoughtful mood.

The journey was performed with that marvellous rapidity which the unlimited power of the count ever commanded. Towns fled from them like shadows on their path, and trees shaken by the first winds of autumn seemed like giants madly rushing on to meet them, and retreating as rapidly when once reached. The following morning they arrived at Châlons, where the count’s steamboat waited for them. Without the loss of an instant, the carriage was placed on board and the two travellers embarked without delay. The boat was built for speed; her two paddle-wheels were like two wings with which she skimmed the water like a bird.

Morrel was not insensible to that sensation of delight which is generally experienced in passing rapidly through the air, and the wind which occasionally raised the hair from his forehead seemed on the point of dispelling momentarily the clouds collected there.

As the distance increased between the travellers and Paris, almost superhuman serenity appeared to surround the count; he might have been taken for an exile about to revisit his native land.

Ere long Marseilles presented herself to view,—Marseilles, white, fervid, full of life and energy,—Marseilles, the younger sister of Tyre and Carthage, the successor to them in the empire of the Mediterranean,—Marseilles, old, yet always young. Powerful memories were stirred within them by the sight of the round tower, Fort Saint-Nicolas, the City Hall designed by Puget,[28] the port with its brick quays, where they had both played in childhood, and it was with one accord that they stopped on the Canebière.

A vessel was setting sail for Algiers, on board of which the bustle usually attending departure prevailed. The passengers and their relations crowded on the deck, friends taking a tender but sorrowful leave of each other, some weeping, others noisy in their grief, the whole forming a spectacle that might be exciting even to those who witnessed similar sights daily, but which had no power to disturb the current of thought that had taken possession of the mind of Maximilian from the moment he had set foot on the broad pavement of the quay.

“Here,” said he, leaning heavily on the arm of Monte Cristo,—“here is the spot where my father stopped, when the Pharaon entered the port; it was here that the good old man, whom you saved from death and dishonor, threw himself into my arms. I yet feel his warm tears on my face, and his were not the only tears shed, for many who witnessed our meeting wept also.”

Monte Cristo gently smiled and said,—“I was there;” at the same time pointing to the corner of a street. As he spoke, and in the very direction he indicated, a groan, expressive of bitter grief, was heard, and a woman was seen waving her hand to a passenger on board the vessel about to sail. Monte Cristo looked at her with an emotion that must have been remarked by Morrel had not his eyes been fixed on the vessel.

“Oh, heavens!” exclaimed Morrel, “I do not deceive myself—that young man who is waving his hat, that youth in the uniform of a lieutenant, is Albert de Morcerf!”

“Yes,” said Monte Cristo, “I recognized him.”

“How so?—you were looking the other way.”

The count smiled, as he was in the habit of doing when he did not want to make any reply, and he again turned towards the veiled woman, who soon disappeared at the corner of the street. Turning to his friend:

“Dear Maximilian,” said the count, “have you nothing to do in this land?”

“I have to weep over the grave of my father,” replied Morrel in a broken voice.

“Well, then, go,—wait for me there, and I will soon join you.”

“You leave me, then?”

“Yes; I also have a pious visit to pay.”

Morrel allowed his hand to fall into that which the count extended to him; then with an inexpressibly sorrowful inclination of the head he quitted the count and bent his steps to the east of the city. Monte Cristo remained on the same spot until Maximilian was out of sight; he then walked slowly towards the Allées de Meilhan to seek out a small house with which our readers were made familiar at the beginning of this story.

It yet stood, under the shade of the fine avenue of lime-trees, which forms one of the most frequent walks of the idlers of Marseilles, covered by an immense vine, which spreads its aged and blackened branches over the stone front, burnt yellow by the ardent sun of the south. Two stone steps worn away by the friction of many feet led to the door, which was made of three planks; the door had never been painted or varnished, so great cracks yawned in it during the dry season to close again when the rains came on. The house, with all its crumbling antiquity and apparent misery, was yet cheerful and picturesque, and was the same that old Dantès formerly inhabited—the only difference being that the old man occupied merely the garret, while the whole house was now placed at the command of Mercédès by the count.

The woman whom the count had seen leave the ship with so much regret entered this house; she had scarcely closed the door after her when Monte Cristo appeared at the corner of a street, so that he found and lost her again almost at the same instant. The worn out steps were old acquaintances of his; he knew better than anyone else how to open that weather-beaten door with the large headed nail which served to raise the latch within. He entered without knocking, or giving any other intimation of his presence, as if he had been a friend or the master of the place. At the end of a passage paved with bricks, was a little garden, bathed in sunshine, and rich in warmth and light. In this garden Mercédès had found, at the place indicated by the count, the sum of money which he, through a sense of delicacy, had described as having been placed there twenty-four years previously. The trees of the garden were easily seen from the steps of the street-door.

Monte Cristo, on stepping into the house, heard a sigh that was almost a deep sob; he looked in the direction whence it came, and there under an arbor of Virginia jessamine,[29] with its thick foliage and beautiful long purple flowers, he saw Mercédès seated, with her head bowed, and weeping bitterly. She had raised her veil, and with her face hidden by her hands was giving free scope to the sighs and tears which had been so long restrained by the presence of her son.

Monte Cristo advanced a few steps, which were heard on the gravel. Mercédès raised her head, and uttered a cry of terror on beholding a man before her.

“Madame,” said the count, “it is no longer in my power to restore you to happiness, but I offer you consolation; will you deign to accept it as coming from a friend?”

“I am, indeed, most wretched,” replied Mercédès. “Alone in the world, I had but my son, and he has left me!”

“He possesses a noble heart, madame,” replied the count, “and he has acted rightly. He feels that every man owes a tribute to his country; some contribute their talents, others their industry; these devote their blood, those their nightly labors, to the same cause. Had he remained with you, his life must have become a hateful burden, nor would he have participated in your griefs. He will increase in strength and honor by struggling with adversity, which he will convert into prosperity. Leave him to build up the future for you, and I venture to say you will confide it to safe hands.”

“Oh,” replied the wretched woman, mournfully shaking her head, “the prosperity of which you speak, and which, from the bottom of my heart, I pray God in his mercy to grant him, I can never enjoy. The bitter cup of adversity has been drained by me to the very dregs, and I feel that the grave is not far distant. You have acted kindly, count, in bringing me back to the place where I have enjoyed so much bliss. I ought to meet death on the same spot where happiness was once all my own.”

“Alas,” said Monte Cristo, “your words sear and embitter my heart, the more so as you have every reason to hate me. I have been the cause of all your misfortunes; but why do you pity, instead of blaming me? You render me still more unhappy——”

“Hate you, blame you—you, Edmond! Hate, reproach, the man that has spared my son’s life! For was it not your fatal and sanguinary intention to destroy that son of whom M. de Morcerf was so proud? Oh, look at me closely, and discover, if you can, even the semblance of a reproach in me.”

The count looked up and fixed his eyes on Mercédès, who arose partly from her seat and extended both her hands towards him.

“Oh, look at me,” continued she, with a feeling of profound melancholy, “my eyes no longer dazzle by their brilliancy, for the time has long fled since I used to smile on Edmond Dantès, who anxiously looked out for me from the window of yonder garret, then inhabited by his old father. Years of grief have created an abyss between those days and the present. I neither reproach you nor hate you, my friend. Oh, no, Edmond, it is myself that I blame, myself that I hate! Oh, miserable creature that I am!” cried she, clasping her hands, and raising her eyes to heaven. “I once possessed piety, innocence, and love, the three ingredients of the happiness of angels, and now what am I?”

Monte Cristo approached her, and silently took her hand.

“No,” said she, withdrawing it gently—“no, my friend, touch me not. You have spared me, yet of all those who have fallen under your vengeance I was the most guilty. They were influenced by hatred, by avarice, and by self-love; but I was base, and for want of courage acted against my judgment. Nay, do not press my hand, Edmond; you are thinking, I am sure, of some kind speech to console me, but do not utter it to me, reserve it for others more worthy of your kindness. See” (and she exposed her face completely to view)—“see, misfortune has silvered my hair, my eyes have shed so many tears that they are encircled by a rim of purple, and my brow is wrinkled. You, Edmond, on the contrary,—you are still young, handsome, dignified; it is because you have had faith; because you have had strength, because you have had trust in God, and God has sustained you. But as for me, I have been a coward; I have denied God and he has abandoned me.”

Mercédès burst into tears; her woman’s heart was breaking under its load of memories. Monte Cristo took her hand and imprinted a kiss on it; but she herself felt that it was a kiss of no greater warmth than he would have bestowed on the hand of some marble statue of a saint.

“It often happens,” continued she, “that a first fault destroys the prospects of a whole life. I believed you dead; why did I survive you? What good has it done me to mourn for you eternally in the secret recesses of my heart?—only to make a woman of thirty-nine look like a woman of fifty. Why, having recognized you, and I the only one to do so—why was I able to save my son alone? Ought I not also to have rescued the man that I had accepted for a husband, guilty though he were? Yet I let him die! What do I say? Oh, merciful heavens, was I not accessory to his death by my supine insensibility, by my contempt for him, not remembering, or not willing to remember, that it was for my sake he had become a traitor and a perjurer? In what am I benefited by accompanying my son so far, since I now abandon him, and allow him to depart alone to the baneful climate of Africa? Oh, I have been base, cowardly, I tell you; I have abjured my affections, and like all renegades I am of evil omen to those who surround me!”

“No, Mercédès,” said Monte Cristo, “no; you judge yourself with too much severity. You are a noble-minded woman, and it was your grief that disarmed me. Still I was but an agent, led on by an invisible and offended Deity, who chose not to withhold the fatal blow that I was destined to hurl. I take that God to witness, at whose feet I have prostrated myself daily for the last ten years, that I would have sacrificed my life to you, and with my life the projects that were indissolubly linked with it. But—and I say it with some pride, Mercédès—God needed me, and I lived. Examine the past and the present, and endeavor to dive into futurity, and then say whether I am not a divine instrument. The most dreadful misfortunes, the most frightful sufferings, the abandonment of all those who loved me, the persecution of those who did not know me, formed the trials of my youth; when suddenly, from captivity, solitude, misery, I was restored to light and liberty, and became the possessor of a fortune so brilliant, so unbounded, so unheard-of, that I must have been blind not to be conscious that God had endowed me with it to work out his own great designs. From that time I looked upon this fortune as something confided to me for a particular purpose. Not a thought was given to a life which you once, Mercédès, had the power to render blissful; not one hour of peaceful calm was mine; but I felt myself driven on like an exterminating angel. Like adventurous captains about to embark on some enterprise full of danger, I laid in my provisions, I loaded my weapons, I collected every means of attack and defence; I inured my body to the most violent exercises, my soul to the bitterest trials; I taught my arm to slay, my eyes to behold excruciating sufferings, and my mouth to smile at the most horrid spectacles. Good-natured, confiding, and forgiving as I had been, I became revengeful, cunning, and wicked, or rather, immovable as fate. Then I launched out into the path that was opened to me. I overcame every obstacle, and reached the goal; but woe to those who stood in my pathway!”

“Enough,” said Mercédès; “enough, Edmond! Believe me, that she who alone recognized you has been the only one to comprehend you; and had she crossed your path, and you had crushed her like glass, still, Edmond, still she must have admired you! Like the gulf between me and the past, there is an abyss between you, Edmond, and the rest of mankind; and I tell you freely that the comparison I draw between you and other men will ever be one of my greatest tortures. No, there is nothing in the world to resemble you in worth and goodness! But we must say farewell, Edmond, and let us part.”

“Before I leave you, Mercédès, have you no request to make?” said the count.

“I desire but one thing in this world, Edmond,—the happiness of my son.”

“Pray to the Almighty to spare his life, and I will take upon myself to promote his happiness.”

“Thank you, Edmond.”

“But have you no request to make for yourself, Mercédès?”

“For myself I want nothing. I live, as it were, between two graves. One is that of Edmond Dantès, lost to me long, long since. He had my love! That word ill becomes my faded lip now, but it is a memory dear to my heart, and one that I would not lose for all that the world contains. The other grave is that of the man who met his death from the hand of Edmond Dantès. I approve of the deed, but I must pray for the dead.”

“Your son shall be happy, Mercédès,” repeated the count.

“Then I shall enjoy as much happiness as this world can possibly confer.”

“But what are your intentions?”

Mercédès smiled sadly.

“To say that I shall live here, like the Mercédès of other times, gaining my bread by labor, would not be true, nor would you believe me. I have no longer the strength to do anything but to spend my days in prayer. However, I shall have no occasion to work, for the little sum of money buried by you, and which I found in the place you mentioned, will be sufficient to maintain me. Rumor will probably be busy respecting me, my occupations, my manner of living—that will signify but little, that concerns God, you, and myself.”

“Mercédès,” said the count, “I do not say it to blame you, but you made an unnecessary sacrifice in relinquishing the whole of the fortune amassed by M. de Morcerf; half of it at least by right belonged to you, in virtue of your vigilance and economy.”

“I perceive what you are intending to propose to me; but I cannot accept it, Edmond—my son would not permit it.”

“Nothing shall be done without the full approbation of Albert de Morcerf. I will make myself acquainted with his intentions and will submit to them. But if he be willing to accept my offers, will you oppose them?”

“You well know, Edmond, that I am no longer a reasoning creature; I have no will, unless it be the will never to decide. I have been so overwhelmed by the many storms that have broken over my head, that I am become passive in the hands of the Almighty, like a sparrow in the talons of an eagle. I live, because it is not ordained for me to die. If succor be sent to me, I will accept it.”

“Ah, madame,” said Monte Cristo, “you should not talk thus! It is not so we should evince our resignation to the will of heaven; on the contrary, we are all free agents.”

“Alas!” exclaimed Mercédès, “if it were so, if I possessed free-will, but without the power to render that will efficacious, it would drive me to despair.”

Monte Cristo dropped his head and shrank from the vehemence of her grief.

“Will you not even say you will see me again?” he asked.

“On the contrary, we shall meet again,” said Mercédès, pointing to heaven with solemnity. “I tell you so to prove to you that I still hope.”

And after pressing her own trembling hand upon that of the count, Mercédès rushed up the stairs and disappeared. Monte Cristo slowly left the house and turned towards the quay. But Mercédès did not witness his departure, although she was seated at the little window of the room which had been occupied by old Dantès. Her eyes were straining to see the ship which was carrying her son over the vast sea; but still her voice involuntarily murmured softly:

“Edmond, Edmond, Edmond!”


Chapter 113. The Past


The count departed with a sad heart from the house in which he had left Mercédès, probably never to behold her again. Since the death of little Edward a great change had taken place in Monte Cristo. Having reached the summit of his vengeance by a long and tortuous path, he saw an abyss of doubt yawning before him. More than this, the conversation which had just taken place between Mercédès and himself had awakened so many recollections in his heart that he felt it necessary to combat with them. A man of the count’s temperament could not long indulge in that melancholy which can exist in common minds, but which destroys superior ones. He thought he must have made an error in his calculations if he now found cause to blame himself.

“I cannot have deceived myself,” he said; “I must look upon the past in a false light. What!” he continued, “can I have been following a false path?—can the end which I proposed be a mistaken end?—can one hour have sufficed to prove to an architect that the work upon which he founded all his hopes was an impossible, if not a sacrilegious, undertaking? I cannot reconcile myself to this idea—it would madden me. The reason why I am now dissatisfied is that I have not a clear appreciation of the past. The past, like the country through which we walk, becomes indistinct as we advance. My position is like that of a person wounded in a dream; he feels the wound, though he cannot recollect when he received it.

“Come, then, thou regenerate man, thou extravagant prodigal, thou awakened sleeper, thou all-powerful visionary, thou invincible millionaire,—once again review thy past life of starvation and wretchedness, revisit the scenes where fate and misfortune conducted, and where despair received thee. Too many diamonds, too much gold and splendor, are now reflected by the mirror in which Monte Cristo seeks to behold Dantès. Hide thy diamonds, bury thy gold, shroud thy splendor, exchange riches for poverty, liberty for a prison, a living body for a corpse!”

As he thus reasoned, Monte Cristo walked down the Rue de la Caisserie. It was the same through which, twenty-four years ago, he had been conducted by a silent and nocturnal guard; the houses, today so smiling and animated, were on that night dark, mute, and closed.

“And yet they were the same,” murmured Monte Cristo, “only now it is broad daylight instead of night; it is the sun which brightens the place, and makes it appear so cheerful.”

He proceeded towards the quay by the Rue Saint-Laurent, and advanced to the Consigne; it was the point where he had embarked. A pleasure-boat with striped awning was going by. Monte Cristo called the owner, who immediately rowed up to him with the eagerness of a boatman hoping for a good fare.

The weather was magnificent, and the excursion a treat. The sun, red and flaming, was sinking into the embrace of the welcoming ocean. The sea, smooth as crystal, was now and then disturbed by the leaping of fish, which were pursued by some unseen enemy and sought for safety in another element; while on the extreme verge of the horizon might be seen the fishermen’s boats, white and graceful as the sea-gull, or the merchant vessels bound for Corsica or Spain.

But notwithstanding the serene sky, the gracefully formed boats, and the golden light in which the whole scene was bathed, the Count of Monte Cristo, wrapped in his cloak, could think only of this terrible voyage, the details of which were one by one recalled to his memory. The solitary light burning at the Catalans; that first sight of the Château d’If, which told him whither they were leading him; the struggle with the gendarmes when he wished to throw himself overboard; his despair when he found himself vanquished, and the sensation when the muzzle of the carbine touched his forehead—all these were brought before him in vivid and frightful reality.

Like the streams which the heat of the summer has dried up, and which after the autumnal storms gradually begin oozing drop by drop, so did the count feel his heart gradually fill with the bitterness which formerly nearly overwhelmed Edmond Dantès. Clear sky, swift-flitting boats, and brilliant sunshine disappeared; the heavens were hung with black, and the gigantic structure of the Château d’If seemed like the phantom of a mortal enemy. As they reached the shore, the count instinctively shrunk to the extreme end of the boat, and the owner was obliged to call out, in his sweetest tone of voice:

“Sir, we are at the landing.”

Monte Cristo remembered that on that very spot, on the same rock, he had been violently dragged by the guards, who forced him to ascend the slope at the points of their bayonets. The journey had seemed very long to Dantès, but Monte Cristo found it equally short. Each stroke of the oar seemed to awaken a new throng of ideas, which sprang up with the flying spray of the sea.

There had been no prisoners confined in the Château d’If since the revolution of July; it was only inhabited by a guard, kept there for the prevention of smuggling. A concierge waited at the door to exhibit to visitors this monument of curiosity, once a scene of terror.

The count inquired whether any of the ancient jailers were still there; but they had all been pensioned, or had passed on to some other employment. The concierge who attended him had only been there since 1830. He visited his own dungeon. He again beheld the dull light vainly endeavoring to penetrate the narrow opening. His eyes rested upon the spot where had stood his bed, since then removed, and behind the bed the new stones indicated where the breach made by the Abbé Faria had been. Monte Cristo felt his limbs tremble; he seated himself upon a log of wood.

“Are there any stories connected with this prison besides the one relating to the poisoning of Mirabeau?” asked the count; “are there any traditions respecting these dismal abodes,—in which it is difficult to believe men can ever have imprisoned their fellow-creatures?”

“Yes, sir; indeed, the jailer Antoine told me one connected with this very dungeon.”

Monte Cristo shuddered; Antoine had been his jailer. He had almost forgotten his name and face, but at the mention of the name he recalled his person as he used to see it, the face encircled by a beard, wearing the brown jacket, the bunch of keys, the jingling of which he still seemed to hear. The count turned around, and fancied he saw him in the corridor, rendered still darker by the torch carried by the concierge.

“Would you like to hear the story, sir?”

“Yes; relate it,” said Monte Cristo, pressing his hand to his heart to still its violent beatings; he felt afraid of hearing his own history.

“This dungeon,” said the concierge, “was, it appears, some time ago occupied by a very dangerous prisoner, the more so since he was full of industry. Another person was confined in the Château at the same time, but he was not wicked, he was only a poor mad priest.”

“Ah, indeed?—mad!” repeated Monte Cristo; “and what was his mania?”

“He offered millions to anyone who would set him at liberty.”

Monte Cristo raised his eyes, but he could not see the heavens; there was a stone veil between him and the firmament. He thought that there had been no less thick a veil before the eyes of those to whom Faria offered the treasures.

“Could the prisoners see each other?” he asked.

“Oh, no, sir, it was expressly forbidden; but they eluded the vigilance of the guards, and made a passage from one dungeon to the other.”

“And which of them made this passage?”

“Oh, it must have been the young man, certainly, for he was strong and industrious, while the abbé was aged and weak; besides, his mind was too vacillating to allow him to carry out an idea.”

“Blind fools!” murmured the count.

“However, be that as it may, the young man made a tunnel, how or by what means no one knows; but he made it, and there is the evidence yet remaining of his work. Do you see it?” and the man held the torch to the wall.

“Ah, yes; I see,” said the count, in a voice hoarse from emotion.

“The result was that the two men communicated with one another; how long they did so, nobody knows. One day the old man fell ill and died. Now guess what the young one did?”

“Tell me.”

“He carried off the corpse, which he placed in his own bed with its face to the wall; then he entered the empty dungeon, closed the entrance, and slipped into the sack which had contained the dead body. Did you ever hear of such an idea?”

Monte Cristo closed his eyes, and seemed again to experience all the sensations he had felt when the coarse canvas, yet moist with the cold dews of death, had touched his face.

The jailer continued:

“Now this was his project. He fancied that they buried the dead at the Château d’If, and imagining they would not expend much labor on the grave of a prisoner, he calculated on raising the earth with his shoulders, but unfortunately their arrangements at the Château frustrated his projects. They never buried the dead; they merely attached a heavy cannon-ball to the feet, and then threw them into the sea. This is what was done. The young man was thrown from the top of the rock; the corpse was found on the bed next day, and the whole truth was guessed, for the men who performed the office then mentioned what they had not dared to speak of before, that at the moment the corpse was thrown into the deep, they heard a shriek, which was almost immediately stifled by the water in which it disappeared.”

The count breathed with difficulty; the cold drops ran down his forehead, and his heart was full of anguish.

“No,” he muttered, “the doubt I felt was but the commencement of forgetfulness; but here the wound reopens, and the heart again thirsts for vengeance. And the prisoner,” he continued aloud, “was he ever heard of afterwards?”

“Oh, no; of course not. You can understand that one of two things must have happened; he must either have fallen flat, in which case the blow, from a height of ninety feet, must have killed him instantly, or he must have fallen upright, and then the weight would have dragged him to the bottom, where he remained—poor fellow!”

“Then you pity him?” said the count.

“Ma foi, yes; though he was in his own element.”

“What do you mean?”

“The report was that he had been a naval officer, who had been confined for plotting with the Bonapartists.”

“Great is truth,” muttered the count, “fire cannot burn, nor water drown it! Thus the poor sailor lives in the recollection of those who narrate his history; his terrible story is recited in the chimney-corner, and a shudder is felt at the description of his transit through the air to be swallowed by the deep.” Then, the count added aloud, “Was his name ever known?”

“Oh, yes; but only as No. 34.”

“Oh, Villefort, Villefort,” murmured the count, “this scene must often have haunted thy sleepless hours!”

“Do you wish to see anything more, sir?” said the concierge.

“Yes, especially if you will show me the poor abbé’s room.”

“Ah! No. 27.”

“Yes; No. 27.” repeated the count, who seemed to hear the voice of the abbé answering him in those very words through the wall when asked his name.

“Come, sir.”

“Wait,” said Monte Cristo, “I wish to take one final glance around this room.”

“This is fortunate,” said the guide; “I have forgotten the other key.”

“Go and fetch it.”

“I will leave you the torch, sir.”

“No, take it away; I can see in the dark.”

“Why, you are like No. 34. They said he was so accustomed to darkness that he could see a pin in the darkest corner of his dungeon.”

“He spent fourteen years to arrive at that,” muttered the count.

The guide carried away the torch. The count had spoken correctly. Scarcely had a few seconds elapsed, ere he saw everything as distinctly as by daylight. Then he looked around him, and really recognized his dungeon.

“Yes,” he said, “there is the stone upon which I used to sit; there is the impression made by my shoulders on the wall; there is the mark of my blood made when one day I dashed my head against the wall. Oh, those figures, how well I remember them! I made them one day to calculate the age of my father, that I might know whether I should find him still living, and that of Mercédès, to know if I should find her still free. After finishing that calculation, I had a minute’s hope. I did not reckon upon hunger and infidelity!” and a bitter laugh escaped the count.

He saw in fancy the burial of his father, and the marriage of Mercédès. On the other side of the dungeon he perceived an inscription, the white letters of which were still visible on the green wall:

“‘Oh, God!’” he read, “‘preserve my memory!’”

“Oh, yes,” he cried, “that was my only prayer at last; I no longer begged for liberty, but memory; I dreaded to become mad and forgetful. Oh, God, thou hast preserved my memory; I thank thee, I thank thee!”

At this moment the light of the torch was reflected on the wall; the guide was coming; Monte Cristo went to meet him.

“Follow me, sir;” and without ascending the stairs the guide conducted him by a subterraneous passage to another entrance. There, again, Monte Cristo was assailed by a multitude of thoughts. The first thing that met his eye was the meridian, drawn by the abbé on the wall, by which he calculated the time; then he saw the remains of the bed on which the poor prisoner had died. The sight of this, instead of exciting the anguish experienced by the count in the dungeon, filled his heart with a soft and grateful sentiment, and tears fell from his eyes.

“This is where the mad abbé was kept, sir, and that is where the young man entered;” and the guide pointed to the opening, which had remained unclosed. “From the appearance of the stone,” he continued, “a learned gentleman discovered that the prisoners might have communicated together for ten years. Poor things! Those must have been ten weary years.”

Dantès took some louis from his pocket, and gave them to the man who had twice unconsciously pitied him. The guide took them, thinking them merely a few pieces of little value; but the light of the torch revealed their true worth.

“Sir,” he said, “you have made a mistake; you have given me gold.”

“I know it.”

The concierge looked upon the count with surprise.

“Sir,” he cried, scarcely able to believe his good fortune—“sir, I cannot understand your generosity!”

“Oh, it is very simple, my good fellow; I have been a sailor, and your story touched me more than it would others.”

“Then, sir, since you are so liberal, I ought to offer you something.”

“What have you to offer to me, my friend? Shells? Straw-work? Thank you!”

“No, sir, neither of those; something connected with this story.”

“Really? What is it?”

“Listen,” said the guide; “I said to myself, ‘Something is always left in a cell inhabited by one prisoner for fifteen years,’ so I began to sound the wall.”

“Ah,” cried Monte Cristo, remembering the abbé’s two hiding-places.

“After some search, I found that the floor gave a hollow sound near the head of the bed, and at the hearth.”

“Yes,” said the count, “yes.”

“I raised the stones, and found——”

“A rope-ladder and some tools?”

“How do you know that?” asked the guide in astonishment.

“I do not know—I only guess it, because that sort of thing is generally found in prisoners’ cells.”

“Yes, sir, a rope-ladder and tools.”

“And have you them yet?”

“No, sir; I sold them to visitors, who considered them great curiosities; but I have still something left.”

“What is it?” asked the count, impatiently.

“A sort of book, written upon strips of cloth.”

“Go and fetch it, my good fellow; and if it be what I hope, you will do well.”

“I will run for it, sir;” and the guide went out.

Then the count knelt down by the side of the bed, which death had converted into an altar.

“Oh, second father,” he exclaimed, “thou who hast given me liberty, knowledge, riches; thou who, like beings of a superior order to ourselves, couldst understand the science of good and evil; if in the depths of the tomb there still remain something within us which can respond to the voice of those who are left on earth; if after death the soul ever revisit the places where we have lived and suffered,—then, noble heart, sublime soul, then I conjure thee by the paternal love thou didst bear me, by the filial obedience I vowed to thee, grant me some sign, some revelation! Remove from me the remains of doubt, which, if it change not to conviction, must become remorse!” The count bowed his head, and clasped his hands together.

“Here, sir,” said a voice behind him.

Monte Cristo shuddered, and arose. The concierge held out the strips of cloth upon which the Abbé Faria had spread the riches of his mind. The manuscript was the great work by the Abbé Faria upon the kingdoms of Italy. The count seized it hastily, his eyes immediately fell upon the epigraph, and he read:

“Thou shalt tear out the dragons’ teeth, and shall trample the lions under foot, saith the Lord.”

“Ah,” he exclaimed, “here is my answer. Thanks, father, thanks.” And feeling in his pocket, he took thence a small pocket-book, which contained ten bank-notes, each of 1,000 francs.

“Here,” he said, “take this pocket-book.”

“Do you give it to me?”

“Yes; but only on condition that you will not open it till I am gone;” and placing in his breast the treasure he had just found, which was more valuable to him than the richest jewel, he rushed out of the corridor, and reaching his boat, cried, “To Marseilles!”

Then, as he departed, he fixed his eyes upon the gloomy prison.

“Woe,” he cried, “to those who confined me in that wretched prison; and woe to those who forgot that I was there!”

As he repassed the Catalans, the count turned around and burying his head in his cloak murmured the name of a woman. The victory was complete; twice he had overcome his doubts. The name he pronounced, in a voice of tenderness, amounting almost to love, was that of Haydée.

On landing, the count turned towards the cemetery, where he felt sure of finding Morrel. He, too, ten years ago, had piously sought out a tomb, and sought it vainly. He, who returned to France with millions, had been unable to find the grave of his father, who had perished from hunger. Morrel had indeed placed a cross over the spot, but it had fallen down and the grave-digger had burnt it, as he did all the old wood in the churchyard.

The worthy merchant had been more fortunate. Dying in the arms of his children, he had been by them laid by the side of his wife, who had preceded him in eternity by two years. Two large slabs of marble, on which were inscribed their names, were placed on either side of a little enclosure, railed in, and shaded by four cypress-trees. Morrel was leaning against one of these, mechanically fixing his eyes on the graves. His grief was so profound that he was nearly unconscious.

“Maximilian,” said the count, “you should not look on the graves, but there;” and he pointed upwards.

“The dead are everywhere,” said Morrel; “did you not yourself tell me so as we left Paris?”

“Maximilian,” said the count, “you asked me during the journey to allow you to remain some days at Marseilles. Do you still wish to do so?”

“I have no wishes, count; only I fancy I could pass the time less painfully here than anywhere else.”

“So much the better, for I must leave you; but I carry your word with me, do I not?”

“Ah, count, I shall forget it.”

“No, you will not forget it, because you are a man of honor, Morrel, because you have taken an oath, and are about to do so again.”

“Oh, count, have pity upon me. I am so unhappy.”

“I have known a man much more unfortunate than you, Morrel.”

“Impossible!”

“Alas,” said Monte Cristo, “it is the infirmity of our nature always to believe ourselves much more unhappy than those who groan by our sides!”

“What can be more wretched than the man who has lost all he loved and desired in the world?”

“Listen, Morrel, and pay attention to what I am about to tell you. I knew a man who like you had fixed all his hopes of happiness upon a woman. He was young, he had an old father whom he loved, a betrothed bride whom he adored. He was about to marry her, when one of the caprices of fate,—which would almost make us doubt the goodness of Providence, if that Providence did not afterwards reveal itself by proving that all is but a means of conducting to an end,—one of those caprices deprived him of his mistress, of the future of which he had dreamed (for in his blindness he forgot he could only read the present), and cast him into a dungeon.”

“Ah,” said Morrel, “one quits a dungeon in a week, a month, or a year.”

“He remained there fourteen years, Morrel,” said the count, placing his hand on the young man’s shoulder. Maximilian shuddered.

“Fourteen years!” he muttered.

“Fourteen years!” repeated the count. “During that time he had many moments of despair. He also, Morrel, like you, considered himself the unhappiest of men.”

“Well?” asked Morrel.

“Well, at the height of his despair God assisted him through human means. At first, perhaps, he did not recognize the infinite mercy of the Lord, but at last he took patience and waited. One day he miraculously left the prison, transformed, rich, powerful. His first cry was for his father; but that father was dead.”

“My father, too, is dead,” said Morrel.

“Yes; but your father died in your arms, happy, respected, rich, and full of years; his father died poor, despairing, almost doubtful of Providence; and when his son sought his grave ten years afterwards, his tomb had disappeared, and no one could say, ‘There sleeps the father you so well loved.’”

“Oh!” exclaimed Morrel.

“He was, then, a more unhappy son than you, Morrel, for he could not even find his father’s grave.”

“But then he had the woman he loved still remaining?”

“You are deceived, Morrel, that woman——”

“She was dead?”

“Worse than that, she was faithless, and had married one of the persecutors of her betrothed. You see, then, Morrel, that he was a more unhappy lover than you.”

“And has he found consolation?”

“He has at least found peace.”

“And does he ever expect to be happy?”

“He hopes so, Maximilian.”

The young man’s head fell on his breast.

“You have my promise,” he said, after a minute’s pause, extending his hand to Monte Cristo. “Only remember——”

“On the 5th of October, Morrel, I shall expect you at the Island of Monte Cristo. On the 4th a yacht will wait for you in the port of Bastia, it will be called the Eurus. You will give your name to the captain, who will bring you to me. It is understood—is it not?”

“But, count, do you remember that the 5th of October——”

“Child,” replied the count, “not to know the value of a man’s word! I have told you twenty times that if you wish to die on that day, I will assist you. Morrel, farewell!”

“Do you leave me?”

“Yes; I have business in Italy. I leave you alone in your struggle with misfortune—alone with that strong-winged eagle which God sends to bear aloft the elect to his feet. The story of Ganymede, Maximilian, is not a fable, but an allegory.”

“When do you leave?”

“Immediately; the steamer waits, and in an hour I shall be far from you. Will you accompany me to the harbor, Maximilian?”

“I am entirely yours, count.”

Morrel accompanied the count to the harbor. The white steam was ascending like a plume of feathers from the black chimney. The steamer soon disappeared, and in an hour afterwards, as the count had said, was scarcely distinguishable in the horizon amidst the fogs of the night.


Chapter 114. Peppino


At the same time that the steamer disappeared behind Cape Morgiou, a man travelling post on the road from Florence to Rome had just passed the little town of Aquapendente. He was travelling fast enough to cover a great deal of ground without exciting suspicion. This man was dressed in a greatcoat, or rather a surtout, a little worse for the journey, but which exhibited the ribbon of the Legion of Honor still fresh and brilliant, a decoration which also ornamented the under coat. He might be recognized, not only by these signs, but also from the accent with which he spoke to the postilion, as a Frenchman.

Another proof that he was a native of the universal country was apparent in the fact of his knowing no other Italian words than the terms used in music, and which like the “goddam” of Figaro, served all possible linguistic requirements. “Allegro!” he called out to the postilions at every ascent. “Moderato!” he cried as they descended. And heaven knows there are hills enough between Rome and Florence by the way of Aquapendente! These two words greatly amused the men to whom they were addressed. On reaching La Storta, the point from whence Rome is first visible, the traveller evinced none of the enthusiastic curiosity which usually leads strangers to stand up and endeavor to catch sight of the dome of Saint Peter’s, which may be seen long before any other object is distinguishable. No, he merely drew a pocketbook from his pocket, and took from it a paper folded in four, and after having examined it in a manner almost reverential, he said:

“Good! I have it still!”

The carriage entered by the Porta del Popolo, turned to the left, and stopped at the Hôtel d’Espagne. Old Pastrini, our former acquaintance, received the traveller at the door, hat in hand. The traveller alighted, ordered a good dinner, and inquired the address of the house of Thomson & French, which was immediately given to him, as it was one of the most celebrated in Rome. It was situated in the Via dei Banchi, near St. Peter’s.

In Rome, as everywhere else, the arrival of a post-chaise is an event. Ten young descendants of Marius and the Gracchi, barefooted and out at elbows, with one hand resting on the hip and the other gracefully curved above the head, stared at the traveller, the post-chaise, and the horses; to these were added about fifty little vagabonds from the Papal States, who earned a pittance by diving into the Tiber at high water from the bridge of St. Angelo. Now, as these street Arabs of Rome, more fortunate than those of Paris, understand every language, more especially the French, they heard the traveller order an apartment, a dinner, and finally inquire the way to the house of Thomson & French.

The result was that when the new-comer left the hotel with the cicerone, a man detached himself from the rest of the idlers, and without having been seen by the traveller, and appearing to excite no attention from the guide, followed the stranger with as much skill as a Parisian police agent would have used.

The Frenchman had been so impatient to reach the house of Thomson & French that he would not wait for the horses to be harnessed, but left word for the carriage to overtake him on the road, or to wait for him at the bankers’ door. He reached it before the carriage arrived. The Frenchman entered, leaving in the anteroom his guide, who immediately entered into conversation with two or three of the industrious idlers who are always to be found in Rome at the doors of banking-houses, churches, museums, or theatres. With the Frenchman, the man who had followed him entered too; the Frenchman knocked at the inner door, and entered the first room; his shadow did the same.

“Messrs. Thomson & French?” inquired the stranger.

An attendant arose at a sign from a confidential clerk at the first desk.

“Whom shall I announce?” said the attendant.

“Baron Danglars.”

“Follow me,” said the man.

A door opened, through which the attendant and the baron disappeared. The man who had followed Danglars sat down on a bench. The clerk continued to write for the next five minutes; the man preserved profound silence, and remained perfectly motionless. Then the pen of the clerk ceased to move over the paper; he raised his head, and appearing to be perfectly sure of privacy:

“Ah, ha,” he said, “here you are, Peppino!”

“Yes,” was the laconic reply. “You have found out that there is something worth having about this large gentleman?”

“There is no great merit due to me, for we were informed of it.”

“You know his business here, then.”

“Pardieu, he has come to draw, but I don’t know how much!”

“You will know presently, my friend.”

“Very well, only do not give me false information as you did the other day.”

“What do you mean?—of whom do you speak? Was it the Englishman who carried off 3,000 crowns from here the other day?”

“No; he really had 3,000 crowns, and we found them. I mean the Russian prince, who you said had 30,000 livres, and we only found 22,000.”

“You must have searched badly.”

“Luigi Vampa himself searched.”

“In that case he must either have paid his debts——”

“A Russian do that?”

“Or spent the money?”

“Possibly, after all.”

“Certainly. But you must let me make my observations, or the Frenchman will transact his business without my knowing the sum.”

Peppino nodded, and taking a rosary from his pocket began to mutter a few prayers while the clerk disappeared through the same door by which Danglars and the attendant had gone out. At the expiration of ten minutes the clerk returned with a beaming countenance.

“Well?” asked Peppino of his friend.

“Joy, joy—the sum is large!”

“Five or six millions, is it not?”

“Yes, you know the amount.”

“On the receipt of the Count of Monte Cristo?”

“Why, how came you to be so well acquainted with all this?”

“I told you we were informed beforehand.”

“Then why do you apply to me?”

“That I may be sure I have the right man.”

“Yes, it is indeed he. Five millions—a pretty sum, eh, Peppino?”

“Hush—here is our man!” The clerk seized his pen, and Peppino his beads; one was writing and the other praying when the door opened. Danglars looked radiant with joy; the banker accompanied him to the door. Peppino followed Danglars.

According to the arrangements, the carriage was waiting at the door. The guide held the door open. Guides are useful people, who will turn their hands to anything. Danglars leaped into the carriage like a young man of twenty. The cicerone reclosed the door, and sprang up by the side of the coachman. Peppino mounted the seat behind.

“Will your excellency visit Saint Peter’s?” asked the cicerone.

“I did not come to Rome to see,” said Danglars aloud; then he added softly, with an avaricious smile, “I came to touch!” and he rapped his pocket-book, in which he had just placed a letter.

“Then your excellency is going——”

“To the hotel.”

“Casa Pastrini!” said the cicerone to the coachman, and the carriage drove rapidly on.

Ten minutes afterwards the baron entered his apartment, and Peppino stationed himself on the bench outside the door of the hotel, after having whispered something in the ear of one of the descendants of Marius and the Gracchi whom we noticed at the beginning of the chapter, who immediately ran down the road leading to the Capitol at his fullest speed. Danglars was tired and sleepy; he therefore went to bed, placing his pocketbook under his pillow. Peppino had a little spare time, so he had a game of morra with the facchini, lost three crowns, and then to console himself drank a bottle of Orvieto.

The next morning Danglars awoke late, though he went to bed so early; he had not slept well for five or six nights, even if he had slept at all. He breakfasted heartily, and caring little, as he said, for the beauties of the Eternal City, ordered post-horses at noon. But Danglars had not reckoned upon the formalities of the police and the idleness of the posting-master. The horses only arrived at two o’clock, and the cicerone did not bring the passport till three.

All these preparations had collected a number of idlers round the door of Signor Pastrini’s; the descendants of Marius and the Gracchi were also not wanting. The baron walked triumphantly through the crowd, who for the sake of gain styled him “your excellency.” As Danglars had hitherto contented himself with being called a baron, he felt rather flattered at the title of excellency, and distributed a dozen silver coins among the beggars, who were ready, for twelve more, to call him “your highness.”

“Which road?” asked the postilion in Italian.

“The Ancona road,” replied the baron. Signor Pastrini interpreted the question and answer, and the horses galloped off.

Danglars intended travelling to Venice, where he would receive one part of his fortune, and then proceeding to Vienna, where he would find the rest, he meant to take up his residence in the latter town, which he had been told was a city of pleasure.

He had scarcely advanced three leagues out of Rome when daylight began to disappear. Danglars had not intended starting so late, or he would have remained; he put his head out and asked the postilion how long it would be before they reached the next town. “Non capisco” (do not understand), was the reply. Danglars bent his head, which he meant to imply, “Very well.” The carriage again moved on.

“I will stop at the first posting-house,” said Danglars to himself.

He still felt the same self-satisfaction which he had experienced the previous evening, and which had procured him so good a night’s rest. He was luxuriously stretched in a good English calash, with double springs; he was drawn by four good horses, at full gallop; he knew the relay to be at a distance of seven leagues. What subject of meditation could present itself to the banker, so fortunately become bankrupt?

Danglars thought for ten minutes about his wife in Paris; another ten minutes about his daughter travelling with Mademoiselle d’Armilly; the same period was given to his creditors, and the manner in which he intended spending their money; and then, having no subject left for contemplation, he shut his eyes, and fell asleep. Now and then a jolt more violent than the rest caused him to open his eyes; then he felt that he was still being carried with great rapidity over the same country, thickly strewn with broken aqueducts, which looked like granite giants petrified while running a race. But the night was cold, dull, and rainy, and it was much more pleasant for a traveller to remain in the warm carriage than to put his head out of the window to make inquiries of a postilion whose only answer was “Non capisco.”

Danglars therefore continued to sleep, saying to himself that he would be sure to awake at the posting-house. The carriage stopped. Danglars fancied that they had reached the long-desired point; he opened his eyes and looked through the window, expecting to find himself in the midst of some town, or at least village; but he saw nothing except what seemed like a ruin, where three or four men went and came like shadows.

Danglars waited a moment, expecting the postilion to come and demand payment with the termination of his stage. He intended taking advantage of the opportunity to make fresh inquiries of the new conductor; but the horses were unharnessed, and others put in their places, without anyone claiming money from the traveller. Danglars, astonished, opened the door; but a strong hand pushed him back, and the carriage rolled on. The baron was completely roused.

“Eh?” he said to the postilion, “eh, mio caro?”

This was another little piece of Italian the baron had learned from hearing his daughter sing Italian duets with Cavalcanti. But mio caro did not reply. Danglars then opened the window.

“Come, my friend,” he said, thrusting his hand through the opening, “where are we going?”

“Dentro la testa!” answered a solemn and imperious voice, accompanied by a menacing gesture.

Danglars thought dentro la testa meant, “Put in your head!” He was making rapid progress in Italian. He obeyed, not without some uneasiness, which, momentarily increasing, caused his mind, instead of being as unoccupied as it was when he began his journey, to fill with ideas which were very likely to keep a traveller awake, more especially one in such a situation as Danglars. His eyes acquired that quality which in the first moment of strong emotion enables them to see distinctly, and which afterwards fails from being too much taxed. Before we are alarmed, we see correctly; when we are alarmed, we see double; and when we have been alarmed, we see nothing but trouble. Danglars observed a man in a cloak galloping at the right hand of the carriage.

“Some gendarme!” he exclaimed. “Can I have been intercepted by French telegrams to the pontifical authorities?”

He resolved to end his anxiety. “Where are you taking me?” he asked.

“Dentro la testa,” replied the same voice, with the same menacing accent.

Danglars turned to the left; another man on horseback was galloping on that side.

“Decidedly,” said Danglars, with the perspiration on his forehead, “I must be under arrest.” And he threw himself back in the calash, not this time to sleep, but to think.

Directly afterwards the moon rose. He then saw the great aqueducts, those stone phantoms which he had before remarked, only then they were on the right hand, now they were on the left. He understood that they had described a circle, and were bringing him back to Rome.

“Oh, unfortunate!” he cried, “they must have obtained my arrest.”

The carriage continued to roll on with frightful speed. An hour of terror elapsed, for every spot they passed showed that they were on the road back. At length he saw a dark mass, against which it seemed as if the carriage was about to dash; but the vehicle turned to one side, leaving the barrier behind and Danglars saw that it was one of the ramparts encircling Rome.

“Mon dieu!” cried Danglars, “we are not returning to Rome; then it is not justice which is pursuing me! Gracious heavens; another idea presents itself—what if they should be——”

His hair stood on end. He remembered those interesting stories, so little believed in Paris, respecting Roman bandits; he remembered the adventures that Albert de Morcerf had related when it was intended that he should marry Mademoiselle Eugénie. “They are robbers, perhaps,” he muttered.

Just then the carriage rolled on something harder than gravel road. Danglars hazarded a look on both sides of the road, and perceived monuments of a singular form, and his mind now recalled all the details Morcerf had related, and comparing them with his own situation, he felt sure that he must be on the Appian Way. On the left, in a sort of valley, he perceived a circular excavation. It was Caracalla’s circus. On a word from the man who rode at the side of the carriage, it stopped. At the same time the door was opened. “Scendi!” exclaimed a commanding voice.

Danglars instantly descended; although he did not yet speak Italian, he understood it very well. More dead than alive, he looked around him. Four men surrounded him, besides the postilion.

“Di quà,” said one of the men, descending a little path leading out of the Appian Way. Danglars followed his guide without opposition, and had no occasion to turn around to see whether the three others were following him. Still it appeared as though they were stationed at equal distances from one another, like sentinels. After walking for about ten minutes, during which Danglars did not exchange a single word with his guide, he found himself between a hillock and a clump of high weeds; three men, standing silent, formed a triangle, of which he was the centre. He wished to speak, but his tongue refused to move.

“Avanti!” said the same sharp and imperative voice.

This time Danglars had double reason to understand, for if the word and gesture had not explained the speaker’s meaning, it was clearly expressed by the man walking behind him, who pushed him so rudely that he struck against the guide. This guide was our friend Peppino, who dashed into the thicket of high weeds, through a path which none but lizards or polecats could have imagined to be an open road.

Peppino stopped before a rock overhung by thick hedges; the rock, half open, afforded a passage to the young man, who disappeared like the evil spirits in the fairy tales. The voice and gesture of the man who followed Danglars ordered him to do the same. There was no longer any doubt, the bankrupt was in the hands of Roman banditti. Danglars acquitted himself like a man placed between two dangerous positions, and who is rendered brave by fear. Notwithstanding his large stomach, certainly not intended to penetrate the fissures of the Campagna, he slid down like Peppino, and closing his eyes fell upon his feet. As he touched the ground, he opened his eyes.

The path was wide, but dark. Peppino, who cared little for being recognized now that he was in his own territories, struck a light and lit a torch. Two other men descended after Danglars forming the rearguard, and pushing Danglars whenever he happened to stop, they came by a gentle declivity to the intersection of two corridors. The walls were hollowed out in sepulchres, one above the other, and which seemed in contrast with the white stones to open their large dark eyes, like those which we see on the faces of the dead. A sentinel struck the rings of his carbine against his left hand.

“Who comes there?” he cried.

“A friend, a friend!” said Peppino; “but where is the captain?”

“There,” said the sentinel, pointing over his shoulder to a spacious crypt, hollowed out of the rock, the lights from which shone into the passage through the large arched openings.

“Fine spoil, captain, fine spoil!” said Peppino in Italian, and taking Danglars by the collar of his coat he dragged him to an opening resembling a door, through which they entered the apartment which the captain appeared to have made his dwelling-place.

“Is this the man?” asked the captain, who was attentively reading Plutarch’s Life of Alexander.

“Himself, captain—himself.”

“Very well, show him to me.”

At this rather impertinent order, Peppino raised his torch to the face of Danglars, who hastily withdrew that he might not have his eyelashes burnt. His agitated features presented the appearance of pale and hideous terror.

“The man is tired,” said the captain, “conduct him to his bed.”

“Oh,” murmured Danglars, “that bed is probably one of the coffins hollowed in the wall, and the sleep I shall enjoy will be death from one of the poniards I see glistening in the darkness.”

From their beds of dried leaves or wolf-skins at the back of the chamber now arose the companions of the man who had been found by Albert de Morcerf reading Cæsar’s Commentaries, and by Danglars studying the Life of Alexander. The banker uttered a groan and followed his guide; he neither supplicated nor exclaimed. He no longer possessed strength, will, power, or feeling; he followed where they led him. At length he found himself at the foot of a staircase, and he mechanically lifted his foot five or six times. Then a low door was opened before him, and bending his head to avoid striking his forehead he entered a small room cut out of the rock. The cell was clean, though empty, and dry, though situated at an immeasurable distance under the earth. A bed of dried grass covered with goat-skins was placed in one corner. Danglars brightened up on beholding it, fancying that it gave some promise of safety.

“Oh, God be praised,” he said; “it is a real bed!”

This was the second time within the hour that he had invoked the name of God. He had not done so for ten years before.

“Ecco!” said the guide, and pushing Danglars into the cell, he closed the door upon him.

A bolt grated and Danglars was a prisoner. If there had been no bolt, it would have been impossible for him to pass through the midst of the garrison who held the catacombs of St. Sebastian, encamped round a master whom our readers must have recognized as the famous Luigi Vampa.

Danglars, too, had recognized the bandit, whose existence he would not believe when Albert de Morcerf mentioned him in Paris; and not only did he recognize him, but the cell in which Albert had been confined, and which was probably kept for the accommodation of strangers. These recollections were dwelt upon with some pleasure by Danglars, and restored him to some degree of tranquillity. Since the bandits had not despatched him at once, he felt that they would not kill him at all. They had arrested him for the purpose of robbery, and as he had only a few louis about him, he doubted not he would be ransomed.

He remembered that Morcerf had been taxed at 4,000 crowns, and as he considered himself of much greater importance than Morcerf he fixed his own price at 8,000 crowns. Eight thousand crowns amounted to 48,000 livres; he would then have about 5,050,000 francs left. With this sum he could manage to keep out of difficulties. Therefore, tolerably secure in being able to extricate himself from his position, provided he were not rated at the unreasonable sum of 5,050,000 francs, he stretched himself on his bed, and after turning over two or three times, fell asleep with the tranquillity of the hero whose life Luigi Vampa was studying.