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    Chapter 25

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    Chapter 25
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    CHAPTER 25
    The Unknown.

    Day, for which Dantes had so eagerly and impatiently waited
    with open eyes, again dawned. With the first light Dantes
    resumed his search. Again he climbed the rocky height he had
    ascended the previous evening, and strained his view to
    catch every peculiarity of the landscape; but it wore the
    same wild, barren aspect when seen by the rays of the
    morning sun which it had done when surveyed by the fading
    glimmer of eve. Descending into the grotto, he lifted the
    stone, filled his pockets with gems, put the box together as
    well and securely as he could, sprinkled fresh sand over the
    spot from which it had been taken, and then carefully trod
    down the earth to give it everywhere a uniform appearance;
    then, quitting the grotto, he replaced the stone, heaping on
    it broken masses of rocks and rough fragments of crumbling
    granite, filling the interstices with earth, into which he
    deftly inserted rapidly growing plants, such as the wild
    myrtle and flowering thorn, then carefully watering these
    new plantations, he scrupulously effaced every trace of
    footsteps, leaving the approach to the cavern as
    savage-looking and untrodden as he had found it. This done,
    he impatiently awaited the return of his companions. To wait
    at Monte Cristo for the purpose of watching like a dragon
    over the almost incalculable richs that had thus fallen into
    his possession satisfied not the cravings of his heart,
    which yearned to return to dwell among mankind, and to
    assume the rank, power, and influence which are always
    accorded to wealth -- that first and greatest of all the
    forces within the grasp of man.

    On the sixth day, the smugglers returned. From a distance
    Dantes recognized the rig and handling of The Young Amelia,
    and dragging himself with affected difficulty towards the
    landing-place, he met his companions with an assurance that,
    although considerably better than when they quitted him, he
    still suffered acutely from his late accident. He then
    inquired how they had fared in their trip. To this question
    the smugglers replied that, although successful in landing
    their cargo in safety, they had scarcely done so when they
    received intelligence that a guard-ship had just quitted the
    port of Toulon and was crowding all sail towards them. This
    obliged them to make all the speed they could to evade the
    enemy, when they could but lament the absence of Dantes,
    whose superior skill in the management of a vessel would
    have availed them so materially. In fact, the pursuing
    vessel had almost overtaken them when, fortunately, night
    came on, and enabled them to double the Cape of Corsica, and
    so elude all further pursuit. Upon the whole, however, the
    trip had been sufficiently successful to satisfy all
    concerned; while the crew, and particularly Jacopo,
    expressed great regrets that Dantes had not been an equal
    sharer with themselves in the profits, which amounted to no
    less a sum than fifty piastres each.

    Edmond preserved the most admirable self-command, not
    suffering the faintest indication of a smile to escape him
    at the enumeration of all the benefits he would have reaped
    had he been able to quit the island; but as The Young Amelia
    had merely come to Monte Cristo to fetch him away, he
    embarked that same evening, and proceeded with the captain
    to Leghorn. Arrived at Leghorn, he repaired to the house of
    a Jew, a dealer in precious stones, to whom he disposed of
    four of his smallest diamonds for five thousand francs each.
    Dantes half feared that such valuable jewels in the hands of
    a poor sailor like himself might excite suspicion; but the
    cunning purchaser asked no troublesome questions concerning
    a bargain by which he gained a round profit of at least
    eighty per cent.

    The following day Dantes presented Jacopo with an entirely
    new vessel, accompanying the gift by a donation of one
    hundred piastres, that he might provide himself with a
    suitable crew and other requisites for his outfit, upon
    condition that he would go at once to Marseilles for the
    purpose of inquiring after an old man named Louis Dantes,
    residing in the Allees de Meillan, and also a young woman
    called Mercedes, an inhabitant of the Catalan village.
    Jacopo could scarcely believe his senses at receiving this
    magnificent present, which Dantes hastened to account for by
    saying that he had merely been a sailor from whim and a
    desire to spite his family, who did not allow him as much
    money as he liked to spend; but that on his arrival at
    Leghorn he had come into possession of a large fortune, left
    him by an uncle, whose sole heir he was. The superior
    education of Dantes gave an air of such extreme probability
    to this statement that it never once occurred to Jacopo to
    doubt its accuracy. The term for which Edmond had engaged to
    serve on board The Young Amelia having expired, Dantes took
    leave of the captain, who at first tried all his powers of
    persuasion to induce him to remain as one of the crew, but
    having been told the history of the legacy, he ceased to
    importune him further. The following morning Jacopo set sail
    for Marseilles, with directions from Dantes to join him at
    the Island of Monte Cristo.

    Having seen Jacopo fairly out of the harbor, Dantes
    proceeded to make his final adieus on board The Young
    Amelia, distributing so liberal a gratuity among her crew as
    to secure for him the good wishes of all, and expressions of
    cordial interest in all that concerned him. To the captain
    he promised to write when he had made up his mind as to his
    future plans. Then Dantes departed for Genoa. At the moment
    of his arrival a small yacht was under trial in the bay;
    this yacht had been built by order of an Englishman, who,
    having heard that the Genoese excelled all other builders
    along the shores of the Mediterranean in the construction of
    fast-sailing vessels, was desirous of possessing a specimen
    of their skill; the price agreed upon between the Englishman
    and the Genoese builder was forty thousand francs. Dantes,
    struck with the beauty and capability of the little vessel,
    applied to its owner to transfer it to him, offering sixty
    thousand francs, upon condition that he should be allowed to
    take immediate possession. The proposal was too advantageous
    to be refused, the more so as the person for whom the yacht
    was intended had gone upon a tour through Switzerland, and
    was not expected back in less than three weeks or a month,
    by which time the builder reckoned upon being able to
    complete another. A bargain was therefore struck. Dantes led
    the owner of the yacht to the dwelling of a Jew; retired
    with the latter for a few minutes to a small back parlor,
    and upon their return the Jew counted out to the shipbuilder
    the sum of sixty thousand francs in bright gold pieces.

    The delighted builder then offered his services in providing
    a suitable crew for the little vessel, but this Dantes
    declined with many thanks, saying he was accustomed to
    cruise about quite alone, and his principal pleasure
    consisted in managing his yacht himself; the only thing the
    builder could oblige him in would be to contrive a sort of
    secret closet in the cabin at his bed's head, the closet to
    contain three divisions, so constructed as to be concealed
    from all but himself. The builder cheerfully undertook the
    commission, and promised to have these secret places
    completed by the next day, Dantes furnishing the dimensions
    and plan in accordance with which they were to be
    constructed.

    The following day Dantes sailed with his yacht from Genoa,
    under the inspection of an immense crowd drawn together by
    curiosity to see the rich Spanish nobleman who preferred
    managing his own yacht. But their wonder was soon changed to
    admiration at seeing the perfect skill with which Dantes
    handled the helm. The boat, indeed, seemed to be animated
    with almost human intelligence, so promptly did it obey the
    slightest touch; and Dantes required but a short trial of
    his beautiful craft to acknowledge that the Genoese had not
    without reason attained their high reputation in the art of
    shipbuilding. The spectators followed the little vessel with
    their eyes as long as it remained visible; they then turned
    their conjectures upon her probable destination. Some
    insisted she was making for Corsica, others the Island of
    Elba; bets were offered to any amount that she was bound for
    Spain; while Africa was positively reported by many persons
    as her intended course; but no one thought of Monte Cristo.
    Yet thither it was that Dantes guided his vessel, and at
    Monte Cristo he arrived at the close of the second day; his
    boat had proved herself a first-class sailer, and had come
    the distance from Genoa in thirty-five hours. Dantes had
    carefully noted the general appearance of the shore, and,
    instead of landing at the usual place, he dropped anchor in
    the little creek. The island was utterly deserted, and bore
    no evidence of having been visited since he went away; his
    treasure was just as he had left it. Early on the following
    morning he commenced the removal of his riches, and ere
    nightfall the whole of his immense wealth was safely
    deposited in the compartments of the secret locker.

    A week passed by. Dantes employed it in manoeuvring his
    yacht round the island, studying it as a skilful horseman
    would the animal he destined for some important service,
    till at the end of that time he was perfectly conversant
    with its good and bad qualities. The former Dantes proposed
    to augment, the latter to remedy.

    Upon the eighth day he discerned a small vessel under full
    sail approaching Monte Cristo. As it drew near, he
    recognized it as the boat he had given to Jacopo. He
    immediately signalled it. His signal was returned, and in
    two hours afterwards the newcomer lay at anchor beside the
    yacht. A mournful answer awaited each of Edmond's eager
    inquiries as to the information Jacopo had obtained. Old
    Dantes was dead, and Mercedes had disappeared. Dantes
    listened to these melancholy tidings with outward calmness;
    but, leaping lightly ashore, he signified his desire to be
    quite alone. In a couple of hours he returned. Two of the
    men from Jacopo's boat came on board the yacht to assist in
    navigating it, and he gave orders that she should be steered
    direct to Marseilles. For his father's death he was in some
    manner prepared; but he knew not how to account for the
    mysterious disappearance of Mercedes.

    Without divulging his secret, Dantes could not give
    sufficiently clear instructions to an agent. There were,
    besides, other particulars he was desirous of ascertaining,
    and those were of a nature he alone could investigate in a
    manner satisfactory to himself. His looking-glass had
    assured him, during his stay at Leghorn, that he ran no risk
    of recognition; moreover, he had now the means of adopting
    any disguise he thought proper. One fine morning, then, his
    yacht, followed by the little fishing-boat, boldly entered
    the port of Marseilles, and anchored exactly opposite the
    spot from whence, on the never-to-be-forgotten night of his
    departure for the Chateau d'If, he had been put on board the
    boat destined to convey him thither. Still Dantes could not
    view without a shudder the approach of a gendarme who
    accompanied the officers deputed to demand his bill of
    health ere the yacht was permitted to hold communication
    with the shore; but with that perfect self-possession he had
    acquired during his acquaintance with Faria, Dantes coolly
    presented an English passport he had obtained from Leghorn,
    and as this gave him a standing which a French passport
    would not have afforded, he was informed that there existed
    no obstacle to his immediate debarkation.

    The first person to attract the attention of Dantes, as he
    landed on the Canebiere, was one of the crew belonging to
    the Pharaon. Edmond welcomed the meeting with this fellow --
    who had been one of his own sailors -- as a sure means of
    testing the extent of the change which time had worked in
    his own appearance. Going straight towards him, he
    propounded a variety of questions on different subjects,
    carefully watching the man's countenance as he did so; but
    not a word or look implied that he had the slightest idea of
    ever having seen before the person with whom he was then
    conversing. Giving the sailor a piece of money in return for
    his civility, Dantes proceeded onwards; but ere he had gone
    many steps he heard the man loudly calling him to stop.
    Dantes instantly turned to meet him. "I beg your pardon,
    sir," said the honest fellow, in almost breathless haste,
    "but I believe you made a mistake; you intended to give me a
    two-franc piece, and see, you gave me a double Napoleon."

    "Thank you, my good friend. I see that I have made a
    trifling mistake, as you say; but by way of rewarding your
    honesty I give you another double Napoleon, that you may
    drink to my health, and be able to ask your messmates to
    join you."

    So extreme was the surprise of the sailor, that he was
    unable even to thank Edmond, whose receding figure he
    continued to gaze after in speechless astonishment. "Some
    nabob from India," was his comment.

    Dantes, meanwhile, went on his way. Each step he trod
    oppressed his heart with fresh emotion; his first and most
    indelible recollections were there; not a tree, not a
    street, that he passed but seemed filled with dear and
    cherished memories. And thus he proceeded onwards till he
    arrived at the end of the Rue de Noailles, from whence a
    full view of the Allees de Meillan was obtained. At this
    spot, so pregnant with fond and filial remembrances, his
    heart beat almost to bursting, his knees tottered under him,
    a mist floated over his sight, and had he not clung for
    support to one of the trees, he would inevitably have fallen
    to the ground and been crushed beneath the many vehicles
    continually passing there. Recovering himself, however, he
    wiped the perspiration from his brows, and stopped not again
    till he found himself at the door of the house in which his
    father had lived.

    The nasturtiums and other plants, which his father had
    delighted to train before his window, had all disappeared
    from the upper part of the house. Leaning against the tree,
    he gazed thoughtfully for a time at the upper stories of the
    shabby little house. Then he advanced to the door, and asked
    whether there were any rooms to be let. Though answered in
    the negative, he begged so earnestly to be permitted to
    visit those on the fifth floor, that, in despite of the
    oft-repeated assurance of the concierge that they were
    occupied, Dantes succeeded in inducing the man to go up to
    the tenants, and ask permission for a gentleman to be
    allowed to look at them.

    The tenants of the humble lodging were a young couple who
    had been scarcely married a week; and seeing them, Dantes
    sighed heavily. Nothing in the two small chambers forming
    the apartments remained as it had been in the time of the
    elder Dantes; the very paper was different, while the
    articles of antiquated furniture with which the rooms had
    been filled in Edmond's time had all disappeared; the four
    walls alone remained as he had left them. The bed belonging
    to the present occupants was placed as the former owner of
    the chamber had been accustomed to have his; and, in spite
    of his efforts to prevent it, the eyes of Edmond were
    suffused in tears as he reflected that on that spot the old
    man had breathed his last, vainly calling for his son. The
    young couple gazed with astonishment at the sight of their
    visitor's emotion, and wondered to see the large tears
    silently chasing each other down his otherwise stern and
    immovable features; but they felt the sacredness of his
    grief, and kindly refrained from questioning him as to its
    cause, while, with instinctive delicacy, they left him to
    indulge his sorrow alone. When he withdrew from the scene of
    his painful recollections, they both accompanied him
    downstairs, reiterating their hope that he would come again
    whenever he pleased, and assuring him that their poor
    dwelling would ever be open to him. As Edmond passed the
    door on the fourth floor, he paused to inquire whether
    Caderousse the tailor still dwelt there; but he received,
    for reply, that the person in question had got into
    difficulties, and at the present time kept a small inn on
    the route from Bellegarde to Beaucaire.

    Having obtained the address of the person to whom the house
    in the Allees de Meillan belonged, Dantes next proceeded
    thither, and, under the name of Lord Wilmore (the name and
    title inscribed on his passport), purchased the small
    dwelling for the sum of twenty-five thousand francs, at
    least ten thousand more than it was worth; but had its owner
    asked half a million, it would unhesitatingly have been
    given. The very same day the occupants of the apartments on
    the fifth floor of the house, now become the property of
    Dantes, were duly informed by the notary who had arranged
    the necessary transfer of deeds, etc., that the new landlord
    gave them their choice of any of the rooms in the house,
    without the least augmentation of rent, upon condition of
    their giving instant possession of the two small chambers
    they at present inhabited.

    This strange event aroused great wonder and curiosity in the
    neighborhood of the Allees de Meillan, and a multitude of
    theories were afloat, none of which was anywhere near the
    truth. But what raised public astonishment to a climax, and
    set all conjecture at defiance, was the knowledge that the
    same stranger who had in the morning visited the Allees de
    Meillan had been seen in the evening walking in the little
    village of the Catalans, and afterwards observed to enter a
    poor fisherman's hut, and to pass more than an hour in
    inquiring after persons who had either been dead or gone
    away for more than fifteen or sixteen years. But on the
    following day the family from whom all these particulars had
    been asked received a handsome present, consisting of an
    entirely new fishing-boat, with two seines and a tender. The
    delighted recipients of these munificent gifts would gladly
    have poured out their thanks to their generous benefactor,
    but they had seen him, upon quitting the hut, merely give
    some orders to a sailor, and then springing lightly on
    horseback, leave Marseilles by the Porte d'Aix.
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    Chapter 25
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