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    Chapter 44

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    Chapter 44
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    CHAPTER 44
    The Vendetta.

    "At what point shall I begin my story, your excellency?"
    asked Bertuccio.

    "Where you please," returned Monte Cristo, "since I know
    nothing at all of it."

    "I thought the Abbe Busoni had told your excellency."

    "Some particulars, doubtless, but that is seven or eight
    years ago, and I have forgotten them."

    "Then I can speak without fear of tiring your excellency."

    "Go on, M. Bertuccio; you will supply the want of the
    evening papers."

    "The story begins in 1815."

    "Ah," said Monte Cristo, "1815 is not yesterday."

    "No, monsieur, and yet I recollect all things as clearly as
    if they had happened but then. I had a brother, an elder
    brother, who was in the service of the emperor; he had
    become lieutenant in a regiment composed entirely of
    Corsicans. This brother was my only friend; we became
    orphans -- I at five, he at eighteen. He brought me up as if
    I had been his son, and in 1814 he married. When the emperor
    returned from the Island of Elba, my brother instantly
    joined the army, was slightly wounded at Waterloo, and
    retired with the army beyond the Loire."

    "But that is the history of the Hundred Days, M. Bertuccio,"
    said the count; "unless I am mistaken, it has been already
    written."

    "Excuse me, excellency, but these details are necessary, and
    you promised to be patient."

    "Go on; I will keep my word."

    "One day we received a letter. I should tell you that we
    lived in the little village of Rogliano, at the extremity of
    Cape Corso. This letter was from my brother. He told us that
    the army was disbanded, and that he should return by
    Chateauroux, Clermont-Ferrand, Le Puy, and Nimes; and, if I
    had any money, he prayed me to leave it for him at Nimes,
    with an inn-keeper with whom I had dealings."

    "In the smuggling line?" said Monte Cristo.

    "Eh, your excellency? Every one must live."

    "Certainly; go on."

    "I loved my brother tenderly, as I told your excellency, and
    I resolved not to send the money, but to take it to him
    myself. I possessed a thousand francs. I left five hundred
    with Assunta, my sister-in-law, and with the other five
    hundred I set off for Nimes. It was easy to do so, and as I
    had my boat and a lading to take in at sea, everything
    favored my project. But, after we had taken in our cargo,
    the wind became contrary, so that we were four or five days
    without being able to enter the Rhone. At last, however, we
    succeeded, and worked up to Arles. I left the boat between
    Bellegarde and Beaucaire, and took the road to Nimes."

    "We are getting to the story now?"

    "Yes, your excellency; excuse me, but, as you will see, I
    only tell you what is absolutely necessary. Just at this
    time the famous massacres took place in the south of France.
    Three brigands, called Trestaillon, Truphemy, and Graffan,
    publicly assassinated everybody whom they suspected of
    Bonapartism. You have doubtless heard of these massacres,
    your excellency?"

    "Vaguely; I was far from France at that period. Go on."

    "As I entered Nimes, I literally waded in blood; at every
    step you encountered dead bodies and bands of murderers, who
    killed, plundered, and burned. At the sight of this
    slaughter and devastation I became terrified, not for myself
    -- for I, a simple Corsican fisherman, had nothing to fear;
    on the contrary, that time was most favorable for us
    smugglers -- but for my brother, a soldier of the empire,
    returning from the army of the Loire, with his uniform and
    his epaulets, there was everything to apprehend. I hastened
    to the inn-keeper. My misgivings had been but too true. My
    brother had arrived the previous evening at Nimes, and, at
    the very door of the house where he was about to demand
    hospitality, he had been assassinated. I did all in my power
    to discover the murderers, but no one durst tell me their
    names, so much were they dreaded. I then thought of that
    French justice of which I had heard so much, and which
    feared nothing, and I went to the king's attorney."

    "And this king's attorney was named Villefort?" asked Monte
    Cristo carelessly.

    "Yes, your excellency; he came from Marseilles, where he had
    been deputy-procureur. His zeal had procured him
    advancement, and he was said to be one of the first who had
    informed the government of the departure from the Island of
    Elba."

    "Then," said Monte Cristo "you went to him?"

    "'Monsieur,' I said, 'my brother was assassinated yesterday
    in the streets of Nimes, I know not by whom, but it is your
    duty to find out. You are the representative of justice
    here, and it is for justice to avenge those she has been
    unable to protect.' -- 'Who was your brother?' asked he. --
    'A lieutenant in the Corsican battalion.' -- 'A soldier of
    the usurper, then?' -- 'A soldier of the French army.' --
    'Well,' replied he, 'he has smitten with the sword, and he
    has perished by the sword.' -- 'You are mistaken, monsieur,'
    I replied; 'he has perished by the poniard.' -- 'What do you
    want me to do?' asked the magistrate. -- 'I have already
    told you -- avenge him.' -- 'On whom?' -- 'On his
    murderers.' -- 'How should I know who they are?' -- 'Order
    them to be sought for.' -- 'Why, your brother has been
    involved in a quarrel, and killed in a duel. All these old
    soldiers commit excesses which were tolerated in the time of
    the emperor, but which are not suffered now, for the people
    here do not like soldiers of such disorderly conduct.' --
    'Monsieur,' I replied, 'it is not for myself that I entreat
    your interference -- I should grieve for him or avenge him,
    but my poor brother had a wife, and were anything to happen
    to me, the poor creature would perish from want, for my
    brother's pay alone kept her. Pray, try and obtain a small
    government pension for her.'

    "'Every revolution has its catastrophes,' returned M. de
    Villefort; 'your brother has been the victim of this. It is
    a misfortune, and government owes nothing to his family. If
    we are to judge by all the vengeance that the followers of
    the usurper exercised on the partisans of the king, when, in
    their turn, they were in power, your brother would be
    to-day, in all probability, condemned to death. What has
    happened is quite natural, and in conformity with the law of
    reprisals.' -- 'What,' cried I, 'do you, a magistrate, speak
    thus to me?' -- 'All these Corsicans are mad, on my honor,'
    replied M. de Villefort; 'they fancy that their countryman
    is still emperor. You have mistaken the time, you should
    have told me this two months ago, it is too late now. Go
    now, at once, or I shall have you put out.'

    "I looked at him an instant to see if there was anything to
    hope from further entreaty. But he was a man of stone. I
    approached him, and said in a low voice, 'Well, since you
    know the Corsicans so well, you know that they always keep
    their word. You think that it was a good deed to kill my
    brother, who was a Bonapartist, because you are a royalist.
    Well, I, who am a Bonapartist also, declare one thing to
    you, which is, that I will kill you. From this moment I
    declare the vendetta against you, so protect yourself as
    well as you can, for the next time we meet your last hour
    has come.' And before he had recovered from his surprise, I
    opened the door and left the room."

    "Well, well," said Monte Cristo, "such an innocent looking
    person as you are to do those things, M. Bertuccio, and to a
    king's attorney at that! But did he know what was meant by
    the terrible word 'vendetta'?"

    "He knew so well, that from that moment he shut himself in
    his house, and never went out unattended, seeking me high
    and low. Fortunately, I was so well concealed that he could
    not find me. Then he became alarmed, and dared not stay any
    longer at Nimes, so he solicited a change of residence, and,
    as he was in reality very influential, he was nominated to
    Versailles. But, as you know, a Corsican who has sworn to
    avenge himself cares not for distance, so his carriage, fast
    as it went, was never above half a day's journey before me,
    who followed him on foot. The most important thing was, not
    to kill him only -- for I had an opportunity of doing so a
    hundred times -- but to kill him without being discovered --
    at least, without being arrested. I no longer belonged to
    myself, for I had my sister-in-law to protect and provide
    for. For three months I watched M. de Villefort, for three
    months he took not a step out-of-doors without my following
    him. At length I discovered that he went mysteriously to
    Auteuil. I followed him thither, and I saw him enter the
    house where we now are, only, instead of entering by the
    great door that looks into the street, he came on horseback,
    or in his carriage, left the one or the other at the little
    inn, and entered by the gate you see there." Monte Cristo
    made a sign with his head to show that he could discern in
    the darkness the door to which Bertuccio alluded. "As I had
    nothing more to do at Versailles, I went to Auteuil, and
    gained all the information I could. If I wished to surprise
    him, it was evident this was the spot to lie in wait for
    him. The house belonged, as the concierge informed your
    excellency, to M. de Saint-Meran, Villefort's father-in-law.
    M. de Saint-Meran lived at Marseilles, so that this country
    house was useless to him, and it was reported to be let to a
    young widow, known only by the name of 'the baroness.'

    "One evening, as I was looking over the wall, I saw a young
    and handsome woman who was walking alone in that garden,
    which was not overlooked by any windows, and I guessed that
    she was awaiting M. de Villefort. When she was sufficiently
    near for me to distinguish her features, I saw she was from
    eighteen to nineteen, tall and very fair. As she had a loose
    muslin dress on and as nothing concealed her figure, I saw
    she would ere long become a mother. A few moments after, the
    little door was opened and a man entered. The young woman
    hastened to meet him. They threw themselves into each
    other's arms, embraced tenderly, and returned together to
    the house. The man was M. de Villefort; I fully believed
    that when he went out in the night he would be forced to
    traverse the whole of the garden alone."

    "And," asked the count, "did you ever know the name of this
    woman?"

    "No, excellency," returned Bertuccio; "you will see that I
    had no time to learn it."

    "Go on."

    "That evening," continued Bertuccio, "I could have killed
    the procureur, but as I was not sufficiently acquainted with
    the neighborhood, I was fearful of not killing him on the
    spot, and that if his cries were overheard I might be taken;
    so I put it off until the next occasion, and in order that
    nothing should escape me, I took a chamber looking into the
    street bordered by the wall of the garden. Three days after,
    about seven o'clock in the evening, I saw a servant on
    horseback leave the house at full gallop, and take the road
    to Sevres. I concluded that he was going to Versailles, and
    I was not deceived. Three hours later, the man returned
    covered with dust, his errand was performed, and two minutes
    after, another man on foot, muffled in a mantle, opened the
    little door of the garden, which he closed after him. I
    descended rapidly; although I had not seen Villefort's face,
    I recognized him by the beating of my heart. I crossed the
    street, and stopped at a post placed at the angle of the
    wall, and by means of which I had once before looked into
    the garden. This time I did not content myself with looking,
    but I took my knife out of my pocket, felt that the point
    was sharp, and sprang over the wall. My first care was to
    run to the door; he had left the key in it, taking the
    simple precaution of turning it twice in the lock. Nothing,
    then, preventing my escape by this means, I examined the
    grounds. The garden was long and narrow; a stretch of smooth
    turf extended down the middle, and at the corners were
    clumps of trees with thick and massy foliage, that made a
    background for the shrubs and flowers. In order to go from
    the door to the house, or from the house to the door, M. de
    Villefort would be obliged to pass by one of these clumps of
    trees.

    "It was the end of September; the wind blew violently. The
    faint glimpses of the pale moon, hidden momentarily by
    masses of dark clouds that were sweeping across the sky,
    whitened the gravel walks that led to the house, but were
    unable to pierce the obscurity of the thick shrubberies, in
    which a man could conceal himself without any fear of
    discovery. I hid myself in the one nearest to the path
    Villefort must take, and scarcely was I there when, amidst
    the gusts of wind, I fancied I heard groans; but you know,
    or rather you do not know, your excellency, that he who is
    about to commit an assassination fancies that he hears low
    cries perpetually ringing in his ears. Two hours passed
    thus, during which I imagined I heard moans repeatedly.
    Midnight struck. As the last stroke died away, I saw a faint
    light shine through the windows of the private staircase by
    which we have just descended. The door opened, and the man
    in the mantle reappeared. The terrible moment had come, but
    I had so long been prepared for it that my heart did not
    fail in the least. I drew my knife from my pocket again,
    opened it, and made ready to strike. The man in the mantle
    advanced towards me, but as he drew near I saw that he had a
    weapon in his hand. I was afraid, not of a struggle, but of
    a failure. When he was only a few paces from me, I saw that
    what I had taken for a weapon was only a spade. I was still
    unable to divine for what reason M. de Villefort had this
    spade in his hands, when he stopped close to the thicket
    where I was, glanced round, and began to dig a hole in the
    earth. I then perceived that he was hiding something under
    his mantle, which he laid on the grass in order to dig more
    freely. Then, I confess, curiosity mingled with hatred; I
    wished to see what Villefort was going to do there, and I
    remained motionless, holding my breath. Then an idea crossed
    my mind, which was confirmed when I saw the procureur lift
    from under his mantle a box, two feet long, and six or eight
    inches deep. I let him place the box in the hole he had
    made, then, while he stamped with his feet to remove all
    traces of his occupation, I rushed on him and plunged my
    knife into his breast, exclaiming, -- 'I am Giovanni
    Bertuccio; thy death for my brother's; thy treasure for his
    widow; thou seest that my vengeance is more complete than I
    had hoped.' I know not if he heard these words; I think he
    did not, for he fell without a cry. I felt his blood gush
    over my face, but I was intoxicated, I was delirious, and
    the blood refreshed, instead of burning me. In a second I
    had disinterred the box; then, that it might not be known I
    had done so, I filled up the hole, threw the spade over the
    wall, and rushed through the door, which I double-locked,
    carrying off the key."

    "Ah," said Monte Cristo "it seems to me this was nothing but
    murder and robbery."

    "No, your excellency," returned Bertuccio; "it was a
    vendetta followed by restitution."

    "And was the sum a large one?"

    "It was not money."

    "Ah, I recollect," replied the count; "did you not say
    something of an infant?"

    "Yes, excellency; I hastened to the river, sat down on the
    bank, and with my knife forced open the lock of the box. In
    a fine linen cloth was wrapped a new-born child. Its purple
    visage, and its violet-colored hands showed that it had
    perished from suffocation, but as it was not yet cold, I
    hesitated to throw it into the water that ran at my feet.
    After a moment I fancied that I felt a slight pulsation of
    the heart, and as I had been assistant at the hospital at
    Bastia, I did what a doctor would have done -- I inflated
    the lungs by blowing air into them, and at the expiration of
    a quarter of an hour, it began to breathe, and cried feebly.
    In my turn I uttered a cry, but a cry of joy. 'God has not
    cursed me then,' I cried, 'since he permits me to save the
    life of a human creature, in exchange for the life I have
    taken away.'"

    "And what did you do with the child?" asked Monte Cristo.
    "It was an embarrassing load for a man seeking to escape."

    "I had not for a moment the idea of keeping it, but I knew
    that at Paris there was an asylum where they receive such
    creatures. As I passed the city gates I declared that I had
    found the child on the road, and I inquired where the asylum
    was; the box confirmed my statement, the linen proved that
    the infant belonged to wealthy parents, the blood with which
    I was covered might have proceeded from the child as well as
    from any one else. No objection was raised, but they pointed
    out the asylum, which was situated at the upper end of the
    Rue d'Enfer, and after having taken the precaution of
    cutting the linen in two pieces, so that one of the two
    letters which marked it was on the piece wrapped around the
    child, while the other remained in my possession, I rang the
    bell, and fled with all speed. A fortnight after I was at
    Rogliano, and I said to Assunta, -- 'Console thyself,
    sister; Israel is dead, but he is avenged.' She demanded
    what I meant, and when I had told her all, -- 'Giovanni,'
    said she, 'you should have brought this child with you; we
    would have replaced the parents it has lost, have called it
    Benedetto, and then, in consequence of this good action, God
    would have blessed us.' In reply I gave her the half of the
    linen I had kept in order to reclaim him if we became rich."

    "What letters were marked on the linen?" said Monte Cristo.

    "An H and an N, surmounted by a baron's coronet."

    "By heaven, M. Bertuccio, you make use of heraldic terms;
    where did you study heraldry?"

    "In your service, excellency, where everything is learned."

    "Go on, I am curious to know two things."

    "What are they, your excellency ?"

    "What became of this little boy? for I think you told me it
    was a boy, M. Bertuccio."

    "No excellency, I do not recollect telling you that."

    "I thought you did; I must have been mistaken."

    "No, you were not, for it was in reality a little boy. But
    your excellency wished to know two things; what was the
    second?"

    "The second was the crime of which you were accused when you
    asked for a confessor, and the Abbe Busoni came to visit you
    at your request in the prison at Nimes."

    "The story will be very long, excellency."

    "What matter? you know I take but little sleep, and I do not
    suppose you are very much inclined for it either." Bertuccio
    bowed, and resumed his story.

    "Partly to drown the recollections of the past that haunted
    me, partly to supply the wants of the poor widow, I eagerly
    returned to my trade of smuggler, which had become more easy
    since that relaxation of the laws which always follows a
    revolution. The southern districts were ill-watched in
    particular, in consequence of the disturbances that were
    perpetually breaking out in Avignon, Nimes, or Uzes. We
    profited by this respite on the part of the government to
    make friends everywhere. Since my brother's assassination in
    the streets of Nimes, I had never entered the town; the
    result was that the inn-keeper with whom we were connected,
    seeing that we would no longer come to him, was forced to
    come to us, and had established a branch to his inn, on the
    road from Bellegarde to Beaucaire, at the sign of the Pont
    du Gard. We had thus, at Aigues-Mortes, Martigues, or Bouc,
    a dozen places where we left our goods, and where, in case
    of necessity, we concealed ourselves from the gendarmes and
    custom-house officers. Smuggling is a profitable trade, when
    a certain degree of vigor and intelligence is employed; as
    for myself, brought up in the mountains, I had a double
    motive for fearing the gendarmes and custom-house officers,
    as my appearance before the judges would cause an inquiry,
    and an inquiry always looks back into the past. And in my
    past life they might find something far more grave than the
    selling of smuggled cigars, or barrels of brandy without a
    permit. So, preferring death to capture, I accomplished the
    most astonishing deeds, and which, more than once, showed me
    that the too great care we take of our bodies is the only
    obstacle to the success of those projects which require
    rapid decision, and vigorous and determined execution. In
    reality, when you have once devoted your life to your
    enterprises, you are no longer the equal of other men, or,
    rather, other men are no longer your equals, and whosoever
    has taken this resolution, feels his strength and resources
    doubled."

    "Philosophy, M. Bertuccio," interrupted the Count; "you have
    done a little of everything in your life."

    "Oh, excellency,"

    "No, no; but philosophy at half-past ten at night is
    somewhat late; yet I have no other observation to make, for
    what you say is correct, which is more than can be said for
    all philosophy."

    "My journeys became more and more extensive and more
    productive. Assunta took care of all, and our little fortune
    increased. One day as I was setting off on an expedition,
    'Go,' said she; 'at your return I will give you a surprise.'
    I questioned her, but in vain; she would tell me nothing,
    and I departed. Our expedition lasted nearly six weeks; we
    had been to Lucca to take in oil, to Leghorn for English
    cottons, and we ran our cargo without opposition, and
    returned home full of joy. When I entered the house, the
    first thing I beheld in the middle of Assunta's chamber was
    a cradle that might be called sumptuous compared with the
    rest of the furniture, and in it a baby seven or eight
    months old. I uttered a cry of joy; the only moments of
    sadness I had known since the assassination of the procureur
    were caused by the recollection that I had abandoned this
    child. For the assassination itself I had never felt any
    remorse. Poor Assunta had guessed all. She had profited by
    my absence, and furnished with the half of the linen, and
    having written down the day and hour at which I had
    deposited the child at the asylum, had set off for Paris,
    and had reclaimed it. No objection was raised, and the
    infant was given up to her. Ah, I confess, your excellency,
    when I saw this poor creature sleeping peacefully in its
    cradle, I felt my eyes filled with tears. 'Ah, Assunta,'
    cried I, 'you are an excellent woman, and heaven will bless
    you.'"

    "This," said Monte Cristo, "is less correct than your
    philosophy, -- it is only faith."

    "Alas, your excellency is right," replied Bertuccio, "and
    God made this infant the instrument of our punishment. Never
    did a perverse nature declare itself more prematurely, and
    yet it was not owing to any fault in his bringing up. He was
    a most lovely child, with large blue eyes, of that deep
    color that harmonizes so well with the blond complexion;
    only his hair, which was too light, gave his face a most
    singular expression, and added to the vivacity of his look,
    and the malice of his smile. Unfortunately, there is a
    proverb which says that 'red is either altogether good or
    altogether bad.' The proverb was but too correct as regarded
    Benedetto, and even in his infancy he manifested the worst
    disposition. It is true that the indulgence of his
    foster-mother encouraged him. This child, for whom my poor
    sister would go to the town, five or six leagues off, to
    purchase the earliest fruits and the most tempting
    sweetmeats, preferred to Palma grapes or Genoese preserves,
    the chestnuts stolen from a neighbor's orchard, or the dried
    apples in his loft, when he could eat as well of the nuts
    and apples that grew in my garden. One day, when Benedetto
    was about five or six, our neighbor Vasilio, who, according
    to the custom of the country, never locked up his purse or
    his valuables -- for, as your excellency knows, there are no
    thieves in Corsica -- complained that he had lost a louis
    out of his purse; we thought he must have made a mistake in
    counting his money, but he persisted in the accuracy of his
    statement. One day, Benedetto, who had been gone from the
    house since morning, to our great anxiety, did not return
    until late in the evening, dragging a monkey after him,
    which he said he had found chained to the foot of a tree.
    For more than a month past, the mischievous child, who knew
    not what to wish for, had taken it into his head to have a
    monkey. A boatman, who had passed by Rogliano, and who had
    several of these animals, whose tricks had greatly diverted
    him, had, doubtless, suggested this idea to him. 'Monkeys
    are not found in our woods chained to trees,' said I;
    'confess how you obtained this animal.' Benedetto maintained
    the truth of what he had said, and accompanied it with
    details that did more honor to his imagination than to his
    veracity. I became angry; he began to laugh, I threatened to
    strike him, and he made two steps backwards. 'You cannot
    beat me,' said he; 'you have no right, for you are not my
    father.'

    "We never knew who had revealed this fatal secret, which we
    had so carefully concealed from him; however, it was this
    answer, in which the child's whole character revealed
    itself, that almost terrified me, and my arm fell without
    touching him. The boy triumphed, and this victory rendered
    him so audacious, that all the money of Assunta, whose
    affection for him seemed to increase as he became more
    unworthy of it, was spent in caprices she knew not how to
    contend against, and follies she had not the courage to
    prevent. When I was at Rogliano everything went on properly,
    but no sooner was my back turned than Benedetto became
    master, and everything went ill. When he was only eleven, he
    chose his companions from among the young men of eighteen or
    twenty, the worst characters in Bastia, or, indeed, in
    Corsica, and they had already, for some mischievous pranks,
    been several times threatened with a prosecution. I became
    alarmed, as any prosecution might be attended with serious
    consequences. I was compelled, at this period, to leave
    Corsica on an important expedition; I reflected for a long
    time, and with the hope of averting some impending
    misfortune, I resolved that Benedetto should accompany me. I
    hoped that the active and laborious life of a smuggler, with
    the severe discipline on board, would have a salutary effect
    on his character, which was now well-nigh, if not quite,
    corrupt. I spoke to Benedetto alone, and proposed to him to
    accompany me, endeavoring to tempt him by all the promises
    most likely to dazzle the imagination of a child of twelve.
    He heard me patiently, and when I had finished, burst out
    laughing.

    "'Are you mad, uncle?' (he called me by this name when he
    was in good humor); 'do you think I am going to change the
    life I lead for your mode of existence -- my agreeable
    indolence for the hard and precarious toil you impose on
    yourself, exposed to the bitter frost at night, and the
    scorching heat by day, compelled to conceal yourself, and
    when you are perceived, receive a volley of bullets, all to
    earn a paltry sum? Why, I have as much money as I want;
    mother Assunta always furnishes me when I ask for it! You
    see that I should be a fool to accept your offer.' The
    arguments, and his audacity, perfectly stupefied me.
    Benedetto rejoined his associates, and I saw him from a
    distance point me out to them as a fool."

    "Sweet child," murmured Monte Cristo.

    "Oh, had he been my own son," replied Bertuccio, "or even my
    nephew, I would have brought him back to the right road, for
    the knowledge that you are doing your duty gives you
    strength, but the idea that I was striking a child whose
    father I had killed, made it impossible for me to punish
    him. I gave my sister, who constantly defended the
    unfortunate boy, good advice, and as she confessed that she
    had several times missed money to a considerable amount, I
    showed her a safe place in which to conceal our little
    treasure for the future. My mind was already made up.
    Benedetto could read, write, and cipher perfectly, for when
    the fit seized him, he learned more in a day than others in
    a week. My intention was to enter him as a clerk in some
    ship, and without letting him know anything of my plan, to
    convey him some morning on board; by this means his future
    treatment would depend upon his own conduct. I set off for
    France, after having fixed upon the plan. Our cargo was to
    be landed in the Gulf of Lyons, and this was a difficult
    thing to do because it was then the year 1829. The most
    perfect tranquillity was restored, and the vigilance of the
    custom-house officers was redoubled, and their strictness
    was increased at this time, in consequence of the fair at
    Beaucaire.

    "Our expedition made a favorable beginning. We anchored our
    vessel -- which had a double hold, where our goods were
    concealed -- amidst a number of other vessels that bordered
    the banks of the Rhone from Beaucaire to Arles. On our
    arrival we began to discharge our cargo in the night, and to
    convey it into the town, by the help of the inn-keeper with
    whom we were connected. Whether success rendered us
    imprudent, or whether we were betrayed, I know not; but one
    evening, about five o'clock, our little cabin-boy came
    breathlessly, to inform us that he had seen a detachment of
    custom-house officers advancing in our direction. It was not
    their proximity that alarmed us, for detachments were
    constantly patrolling along the banks of the Rhone, but the
    care, according to the boy's account, that they took to
    avoid being seen. In an instant we were on the alert, but it
    was too late; our vessel was surrounded, and amongst the
    custom-house officers I observed several gendarmes, and, as
    terrified at the sight of their uniforms as I was brave at
    the sight of any other, I sprang into the hold, opened a
    port, and dropped into the river, dived, and only rose at
    intervals to breathe, until I reached a ditch that had
    recently been made from the Rhone to the canal that runs
    from Beaucaire to Aigues-Mortes. I was now safe, for I could
    swim along the ditch without being seen, and I reached the
    canal in safety. I had designedly taken this direction. I
    have already told your excellency of an inn-keeper from
    Nimes who had set up a little tavern on the road from
    Bellegarde to Beaucaire."

    "Yes," said Monte Cristo "I perfectly recollect him; I think
    he was your colleague."

    "Precisely," answered Bertuccio; "but he had, seven or eight
    years before this period, sold his establishment to a tailor
    at Marseilles, who, having almost ruined himself in his old
    trade, wished to make his fortune in another. Of course, we
    made the same arrangements with the new landlord that we had
    with the old; and it was of this man that I intended to ask
    shelter."

    "What was his name?" inquired the count, who seemed to
    become somewhat interested in Bertuccio's story.

    "Gaspard Caderousse; he had married a woman from the village
    of Carconte, and whom we did not know by any other name than
    that of her village. She was suffering from malarial fever,
    and seemed dying by inches. As for her husband, he was a
    strapping fellow of forty, or five and forty, who had more
    than once, in time of danger, given ample proof of his
    presence of mind and courage."

    "And you say," interrupted Monte Cristo "that this took
    place towards the year" --

    "1829, your excellency."

    "In what month?"

    "June."

    "The beginning or the end?"

    "The evening of the 3d."

    "Ah," said Monte Cristo "the evening of the 3d of June,
    1829. Go on."

    "It was from Caderousse that I intended demanding shelter,
    and, as we never entered by the door that opened onto the
    road, I resolved not to break through the rule, so climbing
    over the garden-hedge, I crept amongst the olive and wild
    fig trees, and fearing that Caderousse might have some
    guest, I entered a kind of shed in which I had often passed
    the night, and which was only separated from the inn by a
    partition, in which holes had been made in order to enable
    us to watch an opportunity of announcing our presence. My
    intention was, if Caderousse was alone, to acquaint him with
    my presence, finish the meal the custom-house officers had
    interrupted, and profit by the threatened storm to return to
    the Rhone, and ascertain the state of our vessel and its
    crew. I stepped into the shed, and it was fortunate I did
    so, for at that moment Caderousse entered with a stranger.

    "I waited patiently, not to overhear what they said, but
    because I could do nothing else; besides, the same thing had
    occurred often before. The man who was with Caderousse was
    evidently a stranger to the South of France; he was one of
    those merchants who come to sell jewellery at the Beaucaire
    fair, and who during the month the fair lasts, and during
    which there is so great an influx of merchants and customers
    from all parts of Europe, often have dealings to the amount
    of 100,000 to 150,000 francs. Caderousse entered hastily.
    Then, seeing that the room was, as usual, empty, and only
    guarded by the dog, he called to his wife, 'Hello,
    Carconte,' said he, 'the worthy priest has not deceived us;
    the diamond is real.' An exclamation of joy was heard, and
    the staircase creaked beneath a feeble step. 'What do you
    say?' asked his wife, pale as death.

    "'I say that the diamond is real, and that this gentleman,
    one of the first jewellers of Paris, will give us 50,000
    francs for it. Only, in order to satisfy himself that it
    really belongs to us, he wishes you to relate to him, as I
    have done already, the miraculous manner in which the
    diamond came into our possession. In the meantime please to
    sit down, monsieur, and I will fetch you some refreshment.'
    The jeweller examined attentively the interior of the inn
    and the apparent poverty of the persons who were about to
    sell him a diamond that seemed to have come from the casket
    of a prince. 'Relate your story, madame,' said he, wishing,
    no doubt, to profit by the absence of the husband, so that
    the latter could not influence the wife's story, to see if
    the two recitals tallied.

    "'Oh,' returned she, 'it was a gift of heaven. My husband
    was a great friend, in 1814 or 1815, of a sailor named
    Edmond Dantes. This poor fellow, whom Caderousse had
    forgotten, had not forgotten him, and at his death he
    bequeathed this diamond to him.' -- 'But how did he obtain
    it?' asked the jeweller; 'had he it before he was
    imprisoned?' -- 'No, monsieur; but it appears that in prison
    he made the acquaintance of a rich Englishman, and as in
    prison he fell sick, and Dantes took the same care of him as
    if he had been his brother, the Englishman, when he was set
    free, gave this stone to Dantes, who, less fortunate, died,
    and, in his turn, left it to us, and charged the excellent
    abbe, who was here this morning, to deliver it.' -- 'The
    same story,' muttered the jeweller; 'and improbable as it
    seemed at first, it may be true. There's only the price we
    are not agreed about.' -- 'How not agreed about?' said
    Caderousse. 'I thought we agreed for the price I asked.' --
    'That is,' replied the jeweller, 'I offered 40,000 francs.'
    -- 'Forty thousand,' cried La Carconte; 'we will not part
    with it for that sum. The abbe told us it was worth 50,000
    without the setting.'

    "'What was the abbe's name?' asked the indefatigable
    questioner. -- 'The Abbe Busoni,' said La Carconte. -- 'He
    was a foreigner?' -- 'An Italian, from the neighborhood of
    Mantua, I believe.' -- 'Let me see this diamond again,'
    replied the jeweller; 'the first time you are often mistaken
    as to the value of a stone.' Caderousse took from his pocket
    a small case of black shagreen, opened, and gave it to the
    jeweller. At the sight of the diamond, which was as large as
    a hazel-nut, La Carconte's eyes sparkled with cupidity."

    "And what did you think of this fine story, eavesdropper?"
    said Monte Cristo; "did you credit it?"

    "Yes, your excellency. I did not look on Caderousse as a bad
    man, and I thought him incapable of committing a crime, or
    even a theft."

    "That did more honor to your heart than to your experience,
    M. Bertuccio. Had you known this Edmond Dantes, of whom they
    spoke?"

    "No, your excellency, I had never heard of him before, and
    never but once afterwards, and that was from the Abbe Busoni
    himself, when I saw him in the prison at Nimes."

    "Go on."

    "The jeweller took the ring, and drawing from his pocket a
    pair of steel pliers and a small set of copper scales, he
    took the stone out of its setting, and weighed it carefully.
    'I will give you 45,000,' said he, 'but not a sou more;
    besides, as that is the exact value of the stone, I brought
    just that sum with me.' -- 'Oh, that's no matter,' replied
    Caderousse, 'I will go back with you to fetch the other
    5,000 francs.' -- 'No,' returned the jeweller, giving back
    the diamond and the ring to Caderousse -- 'no, it is worth
    no more, and I am sorry I offered so much, for the stone has
    a flaw in it, which I had not seen. However, I will not go
    back on my word, and I will give 45,000.' -- 'At least,
    replace the diamond in the ring,' said La Carconte sharply.
    -- 'Ah, true,' replied the jeweller, and he reset the stone.
    -- 'No matter,' observed Caderousse, replacing the box in
    his pocket, 'some one else will purchase it.' -- 'Yes,'
    continued the jeweller; 'but some one else will not be so
    easy as I am, or content himself with the same story. It is
    not natural that a man like you should possess such a
    diamond. He will inform against you. You will have to find
    the Abbe Busoni; and abbes who give diamonds worth two
    thousand louis are rare. The law would seize it, and put you
    in prison; if at the end of three or four months you are set
    at liberty, the ring will be lost, or a false stone, worth
    three francs, will be given you, instead of a diamond worth
    50,000 or perhaps 55,000 francs; from which you must allow
    that one runs considerable risk in purchasing.' Caderousse
    and his wife looked eagerly at each other. -- 'No,' said
    Caderousse, 'we are not rich enough to lose 5,000 francs.'
    -- 'As you please, my dear sir,' said the, jeweller; 'I had,
    however, as you see, brought you the money in bright coin.'
    And he drew from his pocket a handful of gold, and held it
    sparkling before the dazzled eyes of the innkeeper, and in
    the other hand he held a packet of bank-notes.

    "There was evidently a severe struggle in the mind of
    Caderousse; it was plain that the small shagreen case, which
    he turned over and over in his hand, did not seem to him
    commensurate in value to the enormous sum which fascinated
    his gaze. He turned towards his wife. 'What do you think of
    this?' he asked in a low voice. -- 'Let him have it -- let
    him have it,' she said. 'If he returns to Beaucaire without
    the diamond, he will inform against us, and, as he says, who
    knows if we shall ever again see the Abbe Busoni? -- in all
    probability we shall never see him.' -- 'Well, then, so I
    will!' said Caderousse; 'so you may have the diamond for
    45,000 francs. But my wife wants a gold chain, and I want a
    pair of silver buckles.' The jeweller drew from his pocket a
    long flat box, which contained several samples of the
    articles demanded. 'Here,' he said, 'I am very
    straightforward in my dealings -- take your choice.' The
    woman selected a gold chain worth about five louis, and the
    husband a pair of buckles. worth perhaps fifteen francs. --
    'I hope you will not complain now?' said the jeweller.

    "'The abbe told me it was worth 50,000 francs,' muttered
    Caderousse. 'Come, come -- give it to me! What a strange
    fellow you are,' said the jeweller, taking the diamond from
    his hand. 'I give you 45,000 francs -- that is, 2,500 livres
    of income, -- a fortune such as I wish I had myself, and you
    are not satisfied!' -- 'And the five and forty thousand
    francs,' inquired Caderousse in a hoarse voice, 'where are
    they? Come -- let us see them.' -- 'Here they are,' replied
    the jeweller, and he counted out upon the table 15,000
    francs in gold, and 30,000 francs in bank-notes.

    "'Wait while I light the lamp,' said La Carconte; 'it is
    growing dark, and there may be some mistake.' In fact, night
    had come on during this conversation, and with night the
    storm which had been threatening for the last half-hour. The
    thunder growled in the distance; but it was apparently not
    heard by the jeweller, Caderousse, or La Carconte, absorbed
    as they were all three with the demon of gain. I myself
    felt; a strange kind of fascination at the sight of all this
    gold and all these bank-notes; it seemed to me that I was in
    a dream, and, as it always happens in a dream, I felt myself
    riveted to the spot. Caderousse counted and again counted
    the gold and the notes, then handed them to his wife, who
    counted and counted them again in her turn. During this
    time, the jeweller made the diamond play and sparkle in the
    lamplight, and the gem threw out jets of light which made
    him unmindful of those which -- precursors of the storm --
    began to play in at the windows. 'Well,' inquired the
    jeweller, 'is the cash all right?'

    "'Yes,' said Caderousse. 'Give me the pocket-book, La
    Carconte, and find a bag somewhere.'

    "La Carconte went to a cupboard, and returned with an old
    leathern pocket-book and a bag. From the former she took
    some greasy letters, and put in their place the bank-notes,
    and from the bag took two or three crowns of six livres
    each, which, in all probability, formed the entire fortune
    of the miserable couple. 'There,' said Caderousse; 'and now,
    although you have wronged us of perhaps 10,000 francs, will
    you have your supper with us? I invite you with good-will.'
    -- 'Thank you,' replied the jeweller, 'it must be getting
    late, and I must return to Beaucaire -- my wife will be
    getting uneasy.' He drew out his watch, and exclaimed,
    'Morbleu, nearly nine o'clock -- why, I shall not get back
    to Beaucaire before midnight! Good-night, my friends. If the
    Abbe Busoni should by any accident return, think of me.' --
    'In another week you will have left Beaucaire.' remarked
    Caderousse, 'for the fair ends in a few days.' -- 'True, but
    that makes no difference. Write to me at Paris, to M.
    Joannes, in the Palais Royal, arcade Pierre, No. 45. I will
    make the journey on purpose to see him, if it is worth
    while.' At this moment there was a tremendous clap of
    thunder, accompanied by a flash of lightning so vivid, that
    it quite eclipsed the light of the lamp.

    "'See here,' exclaimed Caderousse. 'You cannot think of
    going out in such weather as this.' -- 'Oh, I am not afraid
    of thunder,' said the jeweller. -- 'And then there are
    robbers,' said La Carconte. 'The road is never very safe
    during fair time.' -- 'Oh, as to the robbers,' said Joannes,
    'here is something for them,' and he drew from his pocket a
    pair of small pistols, loaded to the muzzle. 'Here,' said
    he, 'are dogs who bark and bite at the same time, they are
    for the two first who shall have a longing for your diamond,
    Friend Caderousse.'

    "Caderousse and his wife again interchanged a meaning look.
    It seemed as though they were both inspired at the same time
    with some horrible thought. 'Well, then, a good journey to
    you,' said Caderousse. -- 'Thanks,' replied the jeweller. He
    then took his cane, which he had placed against an old
    cupboard, and went out. At the moment when he opened the
    door, such a gust of wind came in that the lamp was nearly
    extinguished. 'Oh,' said he, 'this is very nice weather, and
    two leagues to go in such a storm.' -- 'Remain,' said
    Caderousse. 'You can sleep here.' -- 'Yes; do stay,' added
    La Carconte in a tremulous voice; 'we will take every care
    of you.' -- 'No; I must sleep at Beaucaire. So, once more,
    good-night.' Caderousse followed him slowly to the
    threshold. 'I can see neither heaven nor earth,' said the
    jeweller, who was outside the door. 'Do I turn to the right,
    or to the left hand?' -- 'To the right,' said Caderousse.
    'You cannot go wrong -- the road is bordered by trees on
    both sides.' -- 'Good -- all right,' said a voice almost
    lost in the distance. 'Close the door,' said La Carconte; 'I
    do not like open doors when it thunders.' -- 'Particularly
    when there is money in the house, eh?' answered Caderousse,
    double-locking the door.

    "He came into the room, went to the cupboard, took out the
    bag and pocket-book, and both began, for the third time, to
    count their gold and bank-notes. I never saw such an
    expression of cupidity as the flickering lamp revealed in
    those two countenances. The woman, especially, was hideous;
    her usual feverish tremulousness was intensified, her
    countenance had become livid, and her eyes resembled burning
    coals. 'Why,' she inquired in a hoarse voice, 'did you
    invite him to sleep here to-night?' -- 'Why?' said
    Caderousse with a shudder; 'why, that he might not have the
    trouble of returning to Beaucaire.' -- 'Ah,' responded the
    woman, with an expression impossible to describe; 'I thought
    it was for something else.' -- 'Woman, woman -- why do you
    have such ideas?' cried Caderousse; 'or, if you have them,
    why don't you keep them to yourself?' -- 'Well,' said La
    Carconte, after a moment's pause, 'you are not a man.' --
    'What do you mean?' added Caderousse. -- 'If you had been a
    man, you would not have let him go from here.' -- 'Woman!'
    -- 'Or else he should not have reached Beaucaire.' --
    'Woman!' -- 'The road takes a turn -- he is obliged to
    follow it -- while alongside of the canal there is a shorter
    road.' -- 'Woman! -- you offend the good God. There --
    listen!' And at this moment there was a tremendous peal of
    thunder, while the livid lightning illumined the room, and
    the thunder, rolling away in the distance, seemed to
    withdraw unwillingly from the cursed abode. 'Mercy!' said
    Caderousse, crossing himself.

    "At the same moment, and in the midst of the terrifying
    silence which usually follows a clap of thunder, they heard
    a knocking at the door. Caderousse and his wife started and
    looked aghast at each other. 'Who's there?' cried
    Caderousse, rising, and drawing up in a heap the gold and
    notes scattered over the table, and which he covered with
    his two hands. -- 'It is I,' shouted a voice. -- 'And who
    are you?' -- 'Eh, pardieu, Joannes, the jeweller.' -- 'Well,
    and you said I offended the good God,' said La Carconte with
    a horrid smile. 'Why, the good God sends him back again.'
    Caderousse sank pale and breathless into his chair. La
    Carconte, on the contrary, rose, and going with a firm step
    towards the door, opened it, saying, as she did so -- 'Come
    in, dear M. Joannes.' -- 'Ma foi,' said the jeweller,
    drenched with rain, 'I am not destined to return to
    Beaucaire to-night. The shortest follies are best, my dear
    Caderousse. You offered me hospitality, and I accept it, and
    have returned to sleep beneath your friendly roof.'
    Caderousse stammered out something, while he wiped away the
    sweat that started to his brow. La Carconte doubled-locked
    the door behind the jeweller.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 44
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