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    Chapter 28

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    Chapter 28
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    CHAPTER 28
    The Prison Register.

    The day after that in which the scene we have just described
    had taken place on the road between Bellegarde and
    Beaucaire, a man of about thirty or two and thirty, dressed
    in a bright blue frock coat, nankeen trousers, and a white
    waistcoat, having the appearance and accent of an
    Englishman, presented himself before the mayor of
    Marseilles. "Sir," said he, "I am chief clerk of the house
    of Thomson & French, of Rome. We are, and have been these
    ten years, connected with the house of Morrel & Son, of
    Marseilles. We have a hundred thousand francs or thereabouts
    loaned on their securities, and we are a little uneasy at
    reports that have reached us that the firm is on the brink
    of ruin. I have come, therefore, express from Rome, to ask
    you for information."

    "Sir," replied the mayor. "I know very well that during the
    last four or five years misfortune has seemed to pursue M.
    Morrel. He has lost four or five vessels, and suffered by
    three or four bankruptcies; but it is not for me, although I
    am a creditor myself to the amount of ten thousand francs,
    to give any information as to the state of his finances. Ask
    of me, as mayor, what is my opinion of M. Morrel, and I
    shall say that he is a man honorable to the last degree, and
    who has up to this time fulfilled every engagement with
    scrupulous punctuality. This is all I can say, sir; if you
    wish to learn more, address yourself to M. de Boville, the
    inspector of prisons, No. 15, Rue de Nouailles; he has, I
    believe, two hundred thousand francs in Morrel's hands, and
    if there be any grounds for apprehension, as this is a
    greater amount than mine, you will most probably find him
    better informed than myself."

    The Englishman seemed to appreciate this extreme delicacy,
    made his bow and went away, proceeding with a characteristic
    British stride towards the street mentioned. M. de Boville
    was in his private room, and the Englishman, on perceiving
    him, made a gesture of surprise, which seemed to indicate
    that it was not the first time he had been in his presence.
    As to M. de Boville, he was in such a state of despair, that
    it was evident all the faculties of his mind, absorbed in
    the thought which occupied him at the moment, did not allow
    either his memory or his imagination to stray to the past.
    The Englishman, with the coolness of his nation, addressed
    him in terms nearly similar to those with which he had
    accosted the mayor of Marseilles. "Oh, sir," exclaimed M. de
    Boville, "your fears are unfortunately but too well founded,
    and you see before you a man in despair. I had two hundred
    thousand francs placed in the hands of Morrel & Son; these
    two hundred thousand francs were the dowry of my daughter,
    who was to be married in a fortnight, and these two hundred
    thousand francs were payable, half on the 15th of this
    month, and the other half on the 15th of next month. I had
    informed M. Morrel of my desire to have these payments
    punctually, and he has been here within the last half-hour
    to tell me that if his ship, the Pharaon, did not come into
    port on the 15th, he would be wholly unable to make this
    payment."

    "But," said the Englishman, "this looks very much like a
    suspension of payment."

    "It looks more like bankruptcy!" exclaimed M. de Boville
    despairingly.

    The Englishman appeared to reflect a moment, and then said,
    -- "From which it would appear, sir, that this credit
    inspires you with considerable apprehension?"

    "To tell you the truth, I consider it lost."

    "Well, then, I will buy it of you!"

    "You?"

    "Yes, I!"

    "But at a tremendous discount, of course?"

    "No, for two hundred thousand francs. Our house," added the
    Englishman with a laugh, "does not do things in that way."

    "And you will pay" --

    "Ready money." And the Englishman drew from his pocket a
    bundle of bank-notes, which might have been twice the sum M.
    de Boville feared to lose. A ray of joy passed across M. de
    Boville's countenance, yet he made an effort at
    self-control, and said, -- "Sir, I ought to tell you that,
    in all probability, you will not realize six per cent of
    this sum."

    "That's no affair of mine," replied the Englishman, "that is
    the affair of the house of Thomson & French, in whose name I
    act. They have, perhaps, some motive to serve in hastening
    the ruin of a rival firm. But all I know, sir, is, that I am
    ready to hand you over this sum in exchange for your
    assignment of the debt. I only ask a brokerage."

    "Of course, that is perfectly just," cried M. de Boville.
    "The commission is usually one and a half; will you have two
    -- three -- five per cent, or even more? Whatever you say."

    "Sir," replied the Englishman, laughing, "I am like my
    house, and do not do such things -- no, the commission I ask
    is quite different."

    "Name it, sir, I beg."

    "You are the inspector of prisons?"

    "I have been so these fourteen years."

    "You keep the registers of entries and departures?"

    "I do."

    "To these registers there are added notes relative to the
    prisoners?"

    "There are special reports on every prisoner."

    "Well, sir, I was educated at home by a poor devil of an
    abbe, who disappeared suddenly. I have since learned that he
    was confined in the Chateau d'If, and I should like to learn
    some particulars of his death."

    "What was his name?"

    "The Abbe Faria."

    "Oh, I recollect him perfectly," cried M. de Boville; "he
    was crazy."

    "So they said."

    "Oh, he was, decidedly."

    "Very possibly; but what sort of madness was it?"

    "He pretended to know of an immense treasure, and offered
    vast sums to the government if they would liberate him."

    "Poor devil! -- and he is dead?"

    "Yes, sir, five or six months ago -- last February."

    "You have a good memory, sir, to recollect dates so well."

    "I recollect this, because the poor devil's death was
    accompanied by a singular incident."

    "May I ask what that was?" said the Englishman with an
    expression of curiosity, which a close observer would have
    been astonished at discovering in his phlegmatic
    countenance.

    "Oh dear, yes, sir; the abbe's dungeon was forty or fifty
    feet distant from that of one of Bonaparte's emissaries, --
    one of those who had contributed the most to the return of
    the usurper in 1815, -- a very resolute and very dangerous
    man."

    "Indeed!" said the Englishman.

    "Yes," replied M. de Boville; "I myself had occasion to see
    this man in 1816 or 1817, and we could only go into his
    dungeon with a file of soldiers. That man made a deep
    impression on me; I shall never forget his countenance!" The
    Englishman smiled imperceptibly.

    "And you say, sir," he interposed, "that the two dungeons"
    --

    "Were separated by a distance of fifty feet; but it appears
    that this Edmond Dantes" --

    "This dangerous man's name was" --

    "Edmond Dantes. It appears, sir, that this Edmond Dantes had
    procured tools, or made them, for they found a tunnel
    through which the prisoners held communication with one
    another."

    "This tunnel was dug, no doubt, with an intention of
    escape?"

    "No doubt; but unfortunately for the prisoners, the Abbe
    Faria had an attack of catalepsy, and died."

    "That must have cut short the projects of escape."

    "For the dead man, yes," replied M. de Boville, "but not for
    the survivor; on the contrary, this Dantes saw a means of
    accelerating his escape. He, no doubt, thought that
    prisoners who died in the Chateau d'If were interred in an
    ordinary burial-ground, and he conveyed the dead man into
    his own cell, took his place in the sack in which they had
    sewed up the corpse, and awaited the moment of interment."

    "It was a bold step, and one that showed some courage,"
    remarked the Englishman.

    "As I have already told you, sir, he was a very dangerous
    man; and, fortunately, by his own act disembarrassed the
    government of the fears it had on his account."

    "How was that?"

    "How? Do you not comprehend?"

    "No."

    "The Chateau d'If has no cemetery, and they simply throw the
    dead into the sea, after fastening a thirty-six pound
    cannon-ball to their feet."

    "Well," observed the Englishman as if he were slow of
    comprehension.

    "Well, they fastened a thirty-six pound ball to his feet,
    and threw him into the sea."

    "Really!" exclaimed the Englishman.

    "Yes, sir," continued the inspector of prisons. "You may
    imagine the amazement of the fugitive when he found himself
    flung headlong over the rocks! I should like to have seen
    his face at that moment."

    "That would have been difficult."

    "No matter," replied De Boville, in supreme good-humor at
    the certainty of recovering his two hundred thousand francs,
    -- "no matter, I can fancy it." And he shouted with
    laughter.

    "So can I," said the Englishman, and he laughed too; but he
    laughed as the English do, "at the end of his teeth."

    "And so," continued the Englishman who first gained his
    composure, "he was drowned?"

    "Unquestionably."

    "So that the governor got rid of the dangerous and the crazy
    prisoner at the same time?"

    "Precisely."

    "But some official document was drawn up as to this affair,
    I suppose?" inquired the Englishman.

    "Yes, yes, the mortuary deposition. You understand, Dantes'
    relations, if he had any, might have some interest in
    knowing if he were dead or alive."

    "So that now, if there were anything to inherit from him,
    they may do so with easy conscience. He is dead, and no
    mistake about it."

    "Oh, yes; and they may have the fact attested whenever they
    please."

    "So be it," said the Englishman. "But to return to these
    registers."

    "True, this story has diverted our attention from them.
    Excuse me."

    "Excuse you for what? For the story? By no means; it really
    seems to me very curious."

    "Yes, indeed. So, sir, you wish to see all relating to the
    poor abbe, who really was gentleness itself."

    "Yes, you will much oblige me."

    "Go into my study here, and I will show it to you." And they
    both entered M. de Boville's study. Everything was here
    arranged in perfect order; each register had its number,
    each file of papers its place. The inspector begged the
    Englishman to seat himself in an arm-chair, and placed
    before him the register and documents relative to the
    Chateau d'If, giving him all the time he desired for the
    examination, while De Boville seated himself in a corner,
    and began to read his newspaper. The Englishman easily found
    the entries relative to the Abbe Faria; but it seemed that
    the history which the inspector had related interested him
    greatly, for after having perused the first documents he
    turned over the leaves until he reached the deposition
    respecting Edmond Dantes. There he found everything arranged
    in due order, -- the accusation, examination, Morrel's
    petition, M. de Villefort's marginal notes. He folded up the
    accusation quietly, and put it as quietly in his pocket;
    read the examination, and saw that the name of Noirtier was
    not mentioned in it; perused, too, the application dated
    10th April, 1815, in which Morrel, by the deputy procureur's
    advice, exaggerated with the best intentions (for Napoleon
    was then on the throne) the services Dantes had rendered to
    the imperial cause -- services which Villefort's
    certificates rendered indispensable. Then he saw through the
    whole thing. This petition to Napoleon, kept back by
    Villefort, had become, under the second restoration, a
    terrible weapon against him in the hands of the king's
    attorney. He was no longer astonished when he searched on to
    find in the register this note, placed in a bracket against
    his name: --

    Edmond Dantes.

    An inveterate Bonapartist; took an active part in the return
    from the Island of Elba.

    To be kept in strict solitary confinement, and to be closely
    watched and guarded.

    Beneath these lines was written in another hand: "See note
    above -- nothing can be done." He compared the writing in
    the bracket with the writing of the certificate placed
    beneath Morrel's petition, and discovered that the note in
    the bracket was the some writing as the certificate -- that
    is to say, was in Villefort's handwriting. As to the note
    which accompanied this, the Englishman understood that it
    might have been added by some inspector who had taken a
    momentary interest in Dantes' situation, but who had, from
    the remarks we have quoted, found it impossible to give any
    effect to the interest he had felt.

    As we have said, the inspector, from discretion, and that he
    might not disturb the Abbe Faria's pupil in his researches,
    had seated himself in a corner, and was reading Le Drapeau
    Blanc. He did not see the Englishman fold up and place in
    his pocket the accusation written by Danglars under the
    arbor of La Reserve, and which had the postmark,
    "Marseilles, 27th Feb., delivery 6 o'clock, P.M." But it
    must be said that if he had seen it, he attached so little
    importance to this scrap of paper, and so much importance to
    his two hundred thousand francs, that he would not have
    opposed whatever the Englishman might do, however irregular
    it might be.

    "Thanks," said the latter, closing the register with a slam,
    "I have all I want; now it is for me to perform my promise.
    Give me a simple assignment of your debt; acknowledge
    therein the receipt of the cash, and I will hand you over
    the money." He rose, gave his seat to M. de Boville, who
    took it without ceremony, and quickly drew up the required
    assignment, while the Englishman counted out the bank-notes
    on the other side of the desk.
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