Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 61

    • Rate it:
    • Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 28 ratings
    • 49 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 61
    Previous Chapter
    CHAPTER 61
    How a Gardener may get rid of the Dormice that eat His

    Not on the same night, as he had intended, but the next
    morning, the Count of Monte Cristo went out by the Barrier
    d'Enfer, taking the road to Orleans. Leaving the village of
    Linas, without stopping at the telegraph, which flourished
    its great bony arms as he passed, the count reached the
    tower of Montlhery, situated, as every one knows, upon the
    highest point of the plain of that name. At the foot of the
    hill the count dismounted and began to ascend by a little
    winding path, about eighteen inches wide; when he reached
    the summit he found himself stopped by a hedge, upon which
    green fruit had succeeded to red and white flowers.

    Monte Cristo looked for the entrance to the enclosure, and
    was not long in finding a little wooden gate, working on
    willow hinges, and fastened with a nail and string. The
    count soon mastered the mechanism, the gate opened, and he
    then found himself in a little garden, about twenty feet
    long by twelve wide, bounded on one side by part of the
    hedge, which contained the ingenious contrivance we have
    called a gate, and on the other by the old tower, covered
    with ivy and studded with wall-flowers. No one would have
    thought in looking at this old, weather-beaten,
    floral-decked tower (which might be likened to an elderly
    dame dressed up to receive her grandchildren at a birthday
    feast) that it would have been capable of telling strange
    things, if, -- in addition to the menacing ears which the
    proverb says all walls are provided with, -- it had also a
    voice. The garden was crossed by a path of red gravel, edged
    by a border of thick box, of many years' growth, and of a
    tone and color that would have delighted the heart of
    Delacroix, our modern Rubens. This path was formed in the
    shape of the figure of 8, thus, in its windings, making a
    walk of sixty feet in a garden of only twenty.

    Never had Flora, the fresh and smiling goddess of gardeners,
    been honored with a purer or more scrupulous worship than
    that which was paid to her in this little enclosure. In
    fact, of the twenty rose-trees which formed the parterre,
    not one bore the mark of the slug, nor were there evidences
    anywhere of the clustering aphis which is so destructive to
    plants growing in a damp soil. And yet it was not because
    the damp had been excluded from the garden; the earth, black
    as soot, the thick foliage of the trees betrayed its
    presence; besides, had natural humidity been wanting, it
    could have been immediately supplied by artificial means,
    thanks to a tank of water, sunk in one of the corners of the
    garden, and upon which were stationed a frog and a toad,
    who, from antipathy, no doubt, always remained on the two
    opposite sides of the basin. There was not a blade of grass
    to be seen in the paths, or a weed in the flower-beds; no
    fine lady ever trained and watered her geraniums, her cacti,
    and her rhododendrons, with more pains than this hitherto
    unseen gardener bestowed upon his little enclosure. Monte
    Cristo stopped after having closed the gate and fastened the
    string to the nail, and cast a look around.

    "The man at the telegraph," said he, "must either engage a
    gardener or devote himself passionately to agriculture."
    Suddenly he struck against something crouching behind a
    wheelbarrow filled with leaves; the something rose, uttering
    an exclamation of astonishment, and Monte Cristo found
    himself facing a man about fifty years old, who was plucking
    strawberries, which he was placing upon grape leaves. He had
    twelve leaves and about as many strawberries, which, on
    rising suddenly, he let fall from his hand. "You are
    gathering your crop, sir?" said Monte Cristo, smiling.

    "Excuse me, sir," replied the man, raising his hand to his
    cap; "I am not up there, I know, but I have only just come

    "Do not let me interfere with you in anything, my friend,"
    said the count; "gather your strawberries, if, indeed, there
    are any left."

    "I have ten left," said the man, "for here are eleven, and I
    had twenty-one, five more than last year. But I am not
    surprised; the spring has been warm this year, and
    strawberries require heat, sir. This is the reason that,
    instead of the sixteen I had last year, I have this year,
    you see, eleven, already plucked -- twelve, thirteen,
    fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. Ah, I miss
    three, they were here last night, sir -- I am sure they were
    here -- I counted them. It must be the Mere Simon's son who
    has stolen them; I saw him strolling about here this
    morning. Ah, the young rascal -- stealing in a garden -- he
    does not know where that may lead him to."

    "Certainly, it is wrong," said Monte Cristo, "but you should
    take into consideration the youth and greediness of the

    "Of course," said the gardener, "but that does not make it
    the less unpleasant. But, sir, once more I beg pardon;
    perhaps you are an officer that I am detaining here." And he
    glanced timidly at the count's blue coat.

    "Calm yourself, my friend," said the count, with the smile
    which he made at will either terrible or benevolent, and
    which now expressed only the kindliest feeling; "I am not an
    inspector, but a traveller, brought here by a curiosity he
    half repents of, since he causes you to lose your time."

    "Ah, my time is not valuable," replied the man with a
    melancholy smile. "Still it belongs to government, and I
    ought not to waste it; but, having received the signal that
    I might rest for an hour" (here he glanced at the sun-dial,
    for there was everything in the enclosure of Montlhery, even
    a sun-dial), "and having ten minutes before me, and my
    strawberries being ripe, when a day longer -- by-the-by,
    sir, do you think dormice eat them?"

    "Indeed, I should think not," replied Monte Cristo; "dormice
    are bad neighbors for us who do not eat them preserved, as
    the Romans did."

    "What? Did the Romans eat them?" said the gardener -- "ate

    "I have read so in Petronius," said the count.

    "Really? They can't be nice, though they do say 'as fat as a
    dormouse.' It is not a wonder they are fat, sleeping all
    day, and only waking to eat all night. Listen. Last year I
    had four apricots -- they stole one, I had one nectarine,
    only one -- well, sir, they ate half of it on the wall; a
    splendid nectarine -- I never ate a better."

    "You ate it?"

    "That is to say, the half that was left -- you understand;
    it was exquisite, sir. Ah, those gentlemen never choose the
    worst morsels; like Mere Simon's son, who has not chosen the
    worst strawberries. But this year," continued the
    horticulturist, "I'll take care it shall not happen, even if
    I should be forced to sit by the whole night to watch when
    the strawberries are ripe." Monte Cristo had seen enough.
    Every man has a devouring passion in his heart, as every
    fruit has its worm; that of the telegraph man was
    horticulture. He began gathering the grape-leaves which
    screened the sun from the grapes, and won the heart of the
    gardener. "Did you come here, sir, to see the telegraph?" he

    "Yes, if it isn't contrary to the rules."

    "Oh, no," said the gardener; "not in the least, since there
    is no danger that anyone can possibly understand what we are

    "I have been told," said the count, "that you do not always
    yourselves understand the signals you repeat."

    "That is true, sir, and that is what I like best," said the
    man, smiling.

    "Why do you like that best?"

    "Because then I have no responsibility. I am a machine then,
    and nothing else, and so long as I work, nothing more is
    required of me."

    "Is it possible," said Monte Cristo to himself, "that I can
    have met with a man that has no ambition? That would spoil
    my plans."

    "Sir," said the gardener, glancing at the sun-dial, "the ten
    minutes are almost up; I must return to my post. Will you go
    up with me?"

    "I follow you." Monte Cristo entered the tower, which was
    divided into three stories. The tower contained implements,
    such as spades, rakes, watering-pots, hung against the wall;
    this was all the furniture. The second was the man's
    conventional abode, or rather sleeping-place; it contained a
    few poor articles of household furniture -- a bed, a table,
    two chairs, a stone pitcher -- and some dry herbs, hung up
    to the ceiling, which the count recognized as sweet pease,
    and of which the good man was preserving the seeds; he had
    labelled them with as much care as if he had been master
    botanist in the Jardin des Plantes.

    "Does it require much study to learn the art of
    telegraphing?" asked Monte Cristo.

    "The study does not take long; it was acting as a
    supernumerary that was so tedious."

    "And what is the pay?"

    "A thousand francs, sir."

    "It is nothing."

    "No; but then we are lodged, as you perceive."

    Monte Cristo looked at the room. They passed to the third
    story; it was the telegraph room. Monte Cristo looked in
    turn at the two iron handles by which the machine was
    worked. "It is very interesting," he said, "but it must be
    very tedious for a lifetime."

    "Yes. At first my neck was cramped with looking at it, but
    at the end of a year I became used to it; and then we have
    our hours of recreation, and our holidays."




    "When we have a fog."

    "Ah, to be sure."

    "Those are indeed holidays to me; I go into the garden, I
    plant, I prune, I trim, I kill the insects all day long."

    "How long have you been here?"

    "Ten years, and five as a supernumerary make fifteen."

    "You are -- "

    "Fifty-five years old."

    "How long must you have served to claim the pension?"

    "Oh, sir, twenty-five years."

    "And how much is the pension?"

    "A hundred crowns."

    "Poor humanity!" murmured Monte Cristo.

    "What did you say, sir?" asked the man.

    "I was saying it was very interesting."

    "What was?"

    "All you were showing me. And you really understand none of
    these signals?"

    "None at all."

    "And have you never tried to understand them?"

    "Never. Why should I?"

    "But still there are some signals only addressed to you."


    "And do you understand them?"

    "They are always the same."

    "And they mean -- "

    "Nothing new; You have an hour; or To-morrow."

    "This is simple enough," said the count; "but look, is not
    your correspondent putting itself in motion?"

    "Ah, yes; thank you, sir."

    "And what is it saying -- anything you understand?"

    "Yes; it asks if I am ready."

    "And you reply?"

    "By the same sign, which, at the same time, tells my
    right-hand correspondent that I am ready, while it gives
    notice to my left-hand correspondent to prepare in his

    "It is very ingenious," said the count.

    "You will see," said the man proudly; "in five minutes he
    will speak."

    "I have, then, five minutes," said Monte Cristo to himself;
    "it is more time than I require. My dear sir, will you allow
    me to ask you a question?"

    "What is it, sir?"

    "You are fond of gardening?"


    "And you would be pleased to have, instead of this terrace
    of twenty feet, an enclosure of two acres?"

    "Sir, I should make a terrestrial paradise of it."

    "You live badly on your thousand francs?"

    "Badly enough; but yet I do live."

    "Yes; but you have a wretchedly small garden."

    "True, the garden is not large."

    "And, then, such as it is, it is filled with dormice, who
    eat everything."

    "Ah, they are my scourges."

    "Tell me, should you have the misfortune to turn your head
    while your right-hand correspondent was telegraphing" --

    "I should not see him."

    "Then what would happen?"

    "I could not repeat the signals."

    "And then?"

    "Not having repeated them, through negligence, I should be

    "How much?"

    "A hundred francs."

    "The tenth of your income -- that would be fine work."

    "Ah," said the man.

    "Has it ever happened to you?" said Monte Cristo.

    "Once, sir, when I was grafting a rose-tree."

    "Well, suppose you were to alter a signal, and substitute

    "Ah, that is another case; I should be turned off, and lose
    my pension."

    "Three hundred francs?"

    "A hundred crowns, yes, sir; so you see that I am not likely
    to do any of these things."

    "Not even for fifteen years' wages? Come, it is worth
    thinking about?"

    "For fifteen thousand francs?"


    "Sir, you alarm me."


    "Sir, you are tempting me?"

    "Just so; fifteen thousand francs, do you understand?"

    "Sir, let me see my right-hand correspondent."

    "On the contrary, do not look at him, but at this."

    "What is it?"

    "What? Do you not know these bits of paper?"


    "Exactly; there are fifteen of them."

    "And whose are they?"

    "Yours, if you like."

    "Mine?" exclaimed the man, half-suffocated.

    "Yes; yours -- your own property."

    "Sir, my right-hand correspondent is signalling."

    "Let him signal."

    "Sir, you have distracted me; I shall be fined."

    "That will cost you a hundred francs; you see it is your
    interest to take my bank-notes."

    "Sir, my right-hand correspondent redoubles his signals; he
    is impatient."

    "Never mind -- take these;" and the count placed the packet
    in the man's hands. "Now this is not all," he said; "you
    cannot live upon your fifteen thousand francs."

    "I shall still have my place."

    "No, you will lose it, for you are going to alter your
    correspondent's message."

    "Oh, sir, what are you proposing?"

    "A jest."

    "Sir, unless you force me" --

    "I think I can effectually force you;" and Monte Cristo drew
    another packet from his pocket. "Here are ten thousand more
    francs," he said, "with the fifteen thousand already in your
    pocket, they will make twenty-five thousand. With five
    thousand you can buy a pretty little house with two acres of
    land; the remaining twenty thousand will bring you in a
    thousand francs a year."

    "A garden with two acres of land!"

    "And a thousand francs a year."

    "Oh, heavens!"

    "Come, take them," and Monte Cristo forced the bank-notes
    into his hand.

    "What am I to do?"

    "Nothing very difficult."

    "But what is it?"

    "To repeat these signs." Monte Cristo took a paper from his
    pocket, upon which were drawn three signs, with numbers to
    indicate the order in which they were to be worked.

    "There, you see it will not take long."

    "Yes; but" --

    "Do this, and you will have nectarines and all the rest."
    The shot told; red with fever, while the large drops fell
    from his brow, the man executed, one after the other, the
    three signs given by the count, in spite of the frightful
    contortions of the right-hand correspondent, who, not
    understanding the change, began to think the gardener had
    gone mad. As to the left-hand one, he conscientiously
    repeated the same signals, which were finally transmitted to
    the Minister of the Interior. "Now you are rich," said Monte

    "Yes," replied the man, "but at what a price!"

    "Listen, friend," said Monte Cristo. "I do not wish to cause
    you any remorse; believe me, then, when I swear to you that
    you have wronged no man, but on the contrary have benefited
    mankind." The man looked at the bank-notes, felt them,
    counted them, turned pale, then red, then rushed into his
    room to drink a glass of water, but he had no time to reach
    the water-jug, and fainted in the midst of his dried herbs.
    Five minutes after the new telegram reached the minister,
    Debray had the horses put to his carriage, and drove to
    Danglars' house.

    "Has your husband any Spanish bonds?" he asked of the

    "I think so, indeed! He has six millions' worth."

    "He must sell them at whatever price."


    "Because Don Carlos has fled from Bourges, and has returned
    to Spain."

    "How do you know?" Debray shrugged his shoulders. "The idea
    of asking how I hear the news," he said. The baroness did
    not wait for a repetition; she ran to her husband, who
    immediately hastened to his agent, and ordered him to sell
    at any price. When it was seen that Danglars sold, the
    Spanish funds fell directly. Danglars lost five hundred
    thousand francs; but he rid himself of all his Spanish
    shares. The same evening the following was read in Le

    "[By telegraph.] The king, Don Carlos, has escaped the
    vigilance of his guardians at Bourges, and has returned to
    Spain by the Catalonian frontier. Barcelona has risen in his

    All that evening nothing was spoken of but the foresight of
    Danglars, who had sold his shares, and of the luck of the
    stock-jobber, who only lost five hundred thousand francs by
    such a blow. Those who had kept their shares, or bought
    those of Danglars, looked upon themselves as ruined, and
    passed a very bad night. Next morning Le Moniteur contained
    the following:

    "It was without any foundation that Le Messager yesterday
    announced the flight of Don Carlos and the revolt of
    Barcelona. The king (Don Carlos) has not left Bourges, and
    the peninsula is in the enjoyment of profound peace. A
    telegraphic signal, improperly interpreted, owing to the
    fog, was the cause of this error."

    The funds rose one per cent higher than before they had
    fallen. This, reckoning his loss, and what he had missed
    gaining, made the difference of a million to Danglars.
    "Good," said Monte Cristo to Morrel, who was at his house
    when the news arrived of the strange reverse of fortune of
    which Danglars's had been the victim, "I have just made a
    discovery for twenty-five thousand francs, for which I would
    have paid a hundred thousand."

    "What have you discovered?" asked Morrel.

    "I have just discovered how a gardener may get rid of the
    dormice that eat his peaches."
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 61
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Alexandre Dumas pere essay and need some advice, post your Alexandre Dumas pere essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?