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    Chapter 43

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    Chapter 43
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    CHAPTER 43
    The House at Auteuil.

    Monte Cristo noticed, as they descended the staircase, that
    Bertuccio signed himself in the Corsican manner; that is,
    had formed the sign of the cross in the air with his thumb,
    and as he seated himself in the carriage, muttered a short
    prayer. Any one but a man of exhaustless thirst for
    knowledge would have had pity on seeing the steward's
    extraordinary repugnance for the count's projected drive
    without the walls; but the Count was too curious to let
    Bertuccio off from this little journey. In twenty minutes
    they were at Auteuil; the steward's emotion had continued to
    augment as they entered the village. Bertuccio, crouched in
    the corner of the carriage, began to examine with a feverish
    anxiety every house they passed. "Tell them to stop at Rue
    de la Fontaine, No. 28," said the count, fixing his eyes on
    the steward, to whom he gave this order. Bertuccio's
    forehead was covered with perspiration; however, he obeyed,
    and, leaning out of the window, he cried to the coachman, --
    "Rue de la Fontaine, No. 28." No. 28 was situated at the
    extremity of the village; during the drive night had set in,
    and darkness gave the surroundings the artificial appearance
    of a scene on the stage. The carriage stopped, the footman
    sprang off the box, and opened the door. "Well," said the
    count, "you do not get out, M. Bertuccio -- you are going to
    stay in the carriage, then? What are you thinking of this
    evening?" Bertuccio sprang out, and offered his shoulder to
    the count, who, this time, leaned upon it as he descended
    the three steps of the carriage. "Knock," said the count,
    "and announce me." Bertuccio knocked, the door opened, and
    the concierge appeared. "What is it?" asked he.

    "It is your new master, my good fellow," said the footman.
    And he held out to the concierge the notary's order.

    "The house is sold, then?" demanded the concierge; "and this
    gentleman is coming to live here?"

    "Yes, my friend," returned the count; "and I will endeavor
    to give you no cause to regret your old master."

    "Oh, monsieur," said the concierge, "I shall not have much
    cause to regret him, for he came here but seldom; it is five
    years since he was here last, and he did well to sell the
    house, for it did not bring him in anything at all."

    "What was the name of your old master?" said Monte Cristo.

    "The Marquis of Saint-Meran. Ah, I am sure he has not sold
    the house for what he gave for it."

    "The Marquis of Saint-Meran!" returned the count. "The name
    is not unknown to me; the Marquis of Saint-Meran!" and he
    appeared to meditate.

    "An old gentleman," continued the concierge, "a stanch
    follower of the Bourbons; he had an only daughter, who
    married M. de Villefort, who had been the king's attorney at
    Nimes, and afterwards at Versailles." Monte Cristo glanced
    at Bertuccio, who became whiter than the wall against which
    he leaned to prevent himself from falling. "And is not this
    daughter dead?" demanded Monte Cristo; "I fancy I have heard
    so."

    "Yes, monsieur, one and twenty years ago; and since then we
    have not seen the poor marquis three times."

    "Thanks, thanks," said Monte Cristo, judging from the
    steward's utter prostration that he could not stretch the
    cord further without danger of breaking it. "Give me a
    light."

    "Shall I accompany you, monsieur?"

    "No, it is unnecessary; Bertuccio will show me a light." And
    Monte Cristo accompanied these words by the gift of two gold
    pieces, which produced a torrent of thanks and blessings
    from the concierge. "Ah, monsieur," said he, after having
    vainly searched on the mantle-piece and the shelves, "I have
    not got any candles."

    "Take one of the carriage-lamps, Bertuccio," said the count,
    "and show me the apartments." The steward obeyed in silence,
    but it was easy to see, from the manner in which the hand
    that held the light trembled, how much it cost him to obey.
    They went over a tolerably large ground-floor; a second
    floor consisted of a salon, a bathroom, and two bedrooms;
    near one of the bedrooms they came to a winding staircase
    that led down to the garden.

    "Ah, here is a private staircase," said the count; "that is
    convenient. Light me, M. Bertuccio, and go first; we will
    see where it leads to."

    "Monsieur," replied Bertuccio, "it leads to the garden."

    "And, pray, how do you know that?"

    "It ought to do so, at least."

    "Well, let us be sure of that." Bertuccio sighed, and went
    on first; the stairs did, indeed, lead to the garden. At the
    outer door the steward paused. "Go on, Monsieur Bertuccio,"
    said the count. But he who was addressed stood there,
    stupefied, bewildered, stunned; his haggard eyes glanced
    around, as if in search of the traces of some terrible
    event, and with his clinched hands he seemed striving to
    shut out horrible recollections. "Well," insisted the Count.
    "No, no," cried Bertuccio, setting down the lantern at the
    angle of the interior wall. "No, monsieur, it is impossible;
    I can go no farther."

    "What does this mean?" demanded the irresistible voice of
    Monte Cristo.

    "Why, you must see, your excellency," cried the steward,
    "that this is not natural; that, having a house to purchase,
    you purchase it exactly at Auteuil, and that, purchasing it
    at Auteuil, this house should be No. 28, Rue de la Fontaine.
    Oh, why did I not tell you all? I am sure you would not have
    forced me to come. I hoped your house would have been some
    other one than this; as if there was not another house at
    Auteuil than that of the assassination!"

    "What, what!" cried Monte Cristo, stopping suddenly, "what
    words do you utter? Devil of a man, Corsican that you are --
    always mysteries or superstitions. Come, take the lantern,
    and let us visit the garden; you are not afraid of ghosts
    with me, I hope?" Bertuccio raised the lantern, and obeyed.
    The door, as it opened, disclosed a gloomy sky, in which the
    moon strove vainly to struggle through a sea of clouds that
    covered her with billows of vapor which she illumined for an
    instant, only to sink into obscurity. The steward wished to
    turn to the left. "No, no, monsieur," said Monte Cristo.
    "What is the use of following the alleys? Here is a
    beautiful lawn; let us go on straight forwards."

    Bertuccio wiped the perspiration from his brow, but obeyed;
    however, he continued to take the left hand. Monte Cristo,
    on the contrary, took the right hand; arrived near a clump
    of trees, he stopped. The steward could not restrain
    himself. "Move, monsieur -- move away, I entreat you; you
    are exactly in the spot!"

    "What spot?"

    "Where he fell."

    "My dear Monsieur Bertuccio," said Monte Cristo, laughing,
    "control yourself; we are not at Sartena or at Corte. This
    is not a Corsican arbor, but an English garden; badly kept,
    I own, but still you must not calumniate it for that."

    "Monsieur, I implore you do not stay there!"

    "I think you are going mad, Bertuccio," said the count
    coldly. "If that is the case, I warn you, I shall have you
    put in a lunatic asylum."

    "Alas, excellency," returned Bertuccio, joining his hands,
    and shaking his head in a manner that would have excited the
    count's laughter, had not thoughts of a superior interest
    occupied him, and rendered him attentive to the least
    revelation of this timorous conscience. "Alas, excellency,
    the evil has arrived!"

    "M. Bertuccio," said the count, "I am very glad to tell you,
    that while you gesticulate, you wring your hands and roll
    your eyes like a man possessed by a devil who will not leave
    him; and I have always observed, that the devil most
    obstinate to be expelled is a secret. I knew you were a
    Corsican. I knew you were gloomy, and always brooding over
    some old history of the vendetta; and I overlooked that in
    Italy, because in Italy those things are thought nothing of.
    But in France they are considered in very bad taste; there
    are gendarmes who occupy themselves with such affairs,
    judges who condemn, and scaffolds which avenge." Bertuccio
    clasped his hands, and as, in all these evolutions, he did
    not let fall the lantern, the light showed his pale and
    altered countenance. Monte Cristo examined him with the same
    look that, at Rome, he had bent upon the execution of
    Andrea, and then, in a tone that made a shudder pass through
    the veins of the poor steward, -- "The Abbe Busoni, then
    told me an untruth," said he, "when, after his journey in
    France, in 1829, he sent you to me, with a letter of
    recommendation, in which he enumerated all your valuable
    qualities. Well, I shall write to the abbe; I shall hold him
    responsible for his protege's misconduct, and I shall soon
    know all about this assassination. Only I warn you, that
    when I reside in a country, I conform to all its code, and I
    have no wish to put myself within the compass of the French
    laws for your sake."

    "Oh, do not do that, excellency; I have always served you
    faithfully," cried Bertuccio, in despair. "I have always
    been an honest man, and, as far as lay in my power, I have
    done good."

    "I do not deny it," returned the count; "but why are you
    thus agitated. It is a bad sign; a quiet conscience does not
    occasion such paleness in the cheeks, and such fever in the
    hands of a man."

    "But, your excellency," replied Bertuccio hesitatingly, "did
    not the Abbe Busoni, who heard my confession in the prison
    at Nimes, tell you that I had a heavy burden upon my
    conscience?"

    "Yes; but as he said you would make an excellent steward, I
    concluded you had stolen -- that was all."

    "Oh, your excellency," returned Bertuccio in deep contempt.

    "Or, as you are a Corsican, that you had been unable to
    resist the desire of making a 'stiff,' as you call it."

    "Yes, my good master," cried Bertuccio, casting himself at
    the count's feet, "it was simply vengeance -- nothing else."

    "I understand that, but I do not understand what it is that
    galvanizes you in this manner."

    "But, monsieur, it is very natural," returned Bertuccio,
    "since it was in this house that my vengeance was
    accomplished."

    "What! my house?"

    "Oh, your excellency, it was not yours, then."

    "Whose, then? The Marquis de Saint-Meran, I think, the
    concierge said. What had you to revenge on the Marquis de
    Saint-Meran?"

    "Oh, it was not on him, monsieur; it was on another."

    "This is strange," returned Monte Cristo, seeming to yield
    to his reflections, "that you should find yourself without
    any preparation in a house where the event happened that
    causes you so much remorse."

    "Monsieur," said the steward, "it is fatality, I am sure.
    First, you purchase a house at Auteuil -- this house is the
    one where I have committed an assassination; you descend to
    the garden by the same staircase by which he descended; you
    stop at the spot where he received the blow; and two paces
    farther is the grave in which he had just buried his child.
    This is not chance, for chance, in this case, is too much
    like providence."

    "Well, amiable Corsican, let us suppose it is providence. I
    always suppose anything people please, and, besides, you
    must concede something to diseased minds. Come, collect
    yourself, and tell me all."

    "I have related it but once, and that was to the Abbe
    Busoni. Such things," continued Bertuccio, shaking his head,
    "are only related under the seal of confession."

    "Then," said the count, "I refer you to your confessor. Turn
    Chartreux or Trappist, and relate your secrets, but, as for
    me, I do not like any one who is alarmed by such phantasms,
    and I do not choose that my servants should be afraid to
    walk in the garden of an evening. I confess I am not very
    desirous of a visit from the commissary of police, for, in
    Italy, justice is only paid when silent -- in France she is
    paid only when she speaks. Peste, I thought you somewhat
    Corsican, a great deal smuggler, and an excellent steward;
    but I see you have other strings to your bow. You are no
    longer in my service, Monsieur Bertuccio."

    "Oh, your excellency, your excellency!" cried the steward,
    struck with terror at this threat, "if that is the only
    reason I cannot remain in your service, I will tell all, for
    if I quit you, it will only be to go to the scaffold."

    "That is different," replied Monte Cristo; "but if you
    intend to tell an untruth, reflect it were better not to
    speak at all."

    "No, monsieur, I swear to you, by my hopes of salvation, I
    will tell you all, for the Abbe Busoni himself only knew a
    part of my secret; but, I pray you, go away from that
    plane-tree. The moon is just bursting through the clouds,
    and there, standing where you do, and wrapped in that cloak
    that conceals your figure, you remind me of M. de
    Villefort."

    " What!" cried Monte Cristo, "it was M. de Villefort?"

    "Your excellency knows him?"

    "The former royal attorney at Nimes?"

    "Yes."

    "Who married the Marquis of Saint-Meran's daughter?"

    "Yes."

    "Who enjoyed the reputation of being the most severe, the
    most upright, the most rigid magistrate on the bench?"

    "Well, monsieur," said Bertuccio, "this man with this
    spotless reputation" --

    "Well?"

    "Was a villain."

    "Bah," replied Monte Cristo, "impossible!"

    "It is as I tell you."

    "Ah, really," said Monte Cristo. "Have you proof of this?"

    "I had it."

    "And you have lost it; how stupid!"

    "Yes; but by careful search it might be recovered."

    "Really," returned the count, "relate it to me, for it
    begins to interest me." And the count, humming an air from
    "Lucia," went to sit down on a bench, while Bertuccio
    followed him, collecting his thoughts. Bertuccio remained
    standing before him.
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