Chapter 26 The Pont Du Gard Inn
uch of my readers as have made a pedestrian excursion
to the south of France may perchance have noticed, about
midway between the town of Beaucaire and the village of
Bellegarde, -- a little nearer to the former than to the latter, --
a small roadside inn, from the front of which hung, creaking
and flapping in the wind, a sheet of tin covered with a
grotesque representation of the Pont du Gard. This modern
place of entertainment stood on the left-hand side of the post
road, and backed upon the Rhone. It also boasted of what in
Languedoc is styled a garden, consisting of a small plot of
ground, on the side opposite to the main entrance reserved
for the reception of guests. A few dingy olives and stunted
fig-trees struggled hard for existence, but their withered
dusty foliage abundantly proved how unequal was the
conflict. Between these sickly shrubs grew a scanty supply of
garlic, tomatoes, and eschalots; while, lone and solitary, like
a forgotten sentinel, a tall pine raised its melancholy head in
one of the corners of this unattractive spot, and displayed its
flexible stem and fan-shaped summit dried and cracked by
the fierce heat of the sub-tropical sun.
In the surrounding plain, which more resembled a dusty
lake than solid ground, were scattered a few miserable stalks
of wheat, the effect, no doubt, of a curious desire on the part
of the agriculturists of the country to see whether such a
thing as the raising of grain in those parched regions was
practicable. Each stalk served as a perch for a grasshopper,
which regaled the passers by through this Egyptian scene
with its strident, monotonous note.
For about seven or eight years the little tavern had been kept
by a man and his wife, with two servants, -- a chambermaid
named Trinette, and a hostler called Pecaud. This small staff
was quite equal to all the requirements, for a canal between
transportation by substituting boats for the cart and the
stagecoach. And, as though to add to the daily misery which
this prosperous canal inflicted on the unfortunate inn-keeper,
whose utter ruin it was fast accomplishing, it was situated
between the Rhone from which it had its source and the
post-road it had depleted, not a hundred steps from the inn,
of which we have given a brief but faithful description.
The inn-keeper himself was a man of from forty to fifty-five
years of age, tall, strong, and bony, a perfect specimen of the
natives of those southern latitudes; he had dark, sparkling,
and deep-set eyes, hooked nose, and teeth white as those of a
carnivorous animal; his hair, like his beard, which he wore
under his chin, was thick and curly, and in spite of his age
but slightly interspersed with a few silvery threads. His
naturally dark complexion had assumed a still further shade
of brown from the habit the unfortunate man had acquired
of stationing himself from morning till eve at the threshold
of his door, on the lookout for guests who seldom came, yet
there he stood, day after day, exposed to the meridional rays
of a burning sun, with no other protection for his head than
a red handkerchief twisted around it, after the manner of the
Spanish muleteers. This man was our old acquaintance,
Gaspard Caderousse. His wife, on the contrary, whose
maiden name had been Madeleine Radelle, was pale, meagre,
and sickly-looking. Born in the neighborhood of Arles, she
had shared in the beauty for which its women are proverbial;
but that beauty had gradually withered beneath the
devastating influence of the slow fever so prevalent among
dwellers by the ponds of Aiguemortes and the marshes of
Camargue. She remained nearly always in her second-floor
chamber, shivering in her chair, or stretched languid and
feeble on her bed, while her husband kept his daily watch at
the door -- a duty he performed with so much the greater
willingness, as it saved him the necessity of listening to the
endless plaints and murmurs of his helpmate, who never
saw him without breaking out into bitter invectives against
fate; to all of which her husband would calmly return an
unvarying reply, in these philosophic words: --
"Hush, La Carconte. It is God's pleasure that things should
The sobriquet of La Carconte had been bestowed on
Madeleine Radelle from the fact that she had been born in a
village, so called, situated between Salon and Lambesc; and
as a custom existed among the inhabitants of that part of
France where Caderousse lived of styling every person by
some particular and distinctive appellation, her husband had
bestowed on her the name of La Carconte in place of her
sweet and euphonious name of Madeleine, which, in all
probability, his rude gutteral language would not have
enabled him to pronounce. Still, let it not be supposed that
amid this affected resignation to the will of Providence, the
unfortunate inn-keeper did not writhe under the double
misery of seeing the hateful canal carry off his customers and
his profits, and the daily infliction of his peevish partner's
murmurs and lamentations.
Like other dwellers in the south, he was a man of sober
habits and moderate desires, but fond of external show, vain,
and addicted to display. During the days of his prosperity,
not a festivity took place without himself and wife being
among the spectators. He dressed in the picturesque
costume worn upon grand occasions by the inhabitants of
the south of France, bearing equal resemblance to the style
adopted both by the Catalans and Andalusians; while La
Carconte displayed the charming fashion prevalent among
the women of Arles, a mode of attire borrowed equally from
Greece and Arabia. But, by degrees, watch-chains, necklaces,
parti-colored scarfs, embroidered bodices, velvet vests,
elegantly worked stockings, striped gaiters, and silver
buckles for the shoes, all disappeared; and Gaspard
Caderousse, unable to appear abroad in his pristine splendor,
had given up any further participation in the pomps and
vanities, both for himself and wife, although a bitter feeling
of envious discontent filled his mind as the sound of mirth
and merry music from the joyous revellers reached even the
miserable hostelry to which he still clung, more for the
shelter than the profit it afforded.
Caderousse, then, was, as usual, at his place of observation
before the door, his eyes glancing listlessly from a piece of
closely shaven grass -- on which some fowls were
industriously, though fruitlessly, endeavoring to turn up
some grain or insect suited to their palate -- to the deserted
road, which led away to the north and south, when he was
aroused by the shrill voice of his wife, and grumbling to
himself as he went, he mounted to her chamber, first taking
care, however, to set the entrance door wide open, as an
invitation to any chance traveller who might be passing.
At the moment Caderousse quitted his sentry-like watch
before the door, the road on which he so eagerly strained his
sight was void and lonely as a desert at mid-day. There it lay
stretching out into one interminable line of dust and sand,
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THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
with its sides bordered by tall, meagre trees, altogether
presenting so uninviting an appearance, that no one in his
senses could have imagined that any traveller, at liberty to
regulate his hours for journeying, would choose to expose
himself in such a formidable Sahara. Nevertheless, had
Caderousse but retained his post a few minutes longer, he
might have caught a dim outline of something approaching
from the direction of Bellegarde; as the moving object drew
nearer, he would easily have perceived that it consisted of a
man and horse, between whom the kindest and most
amiable understanding appeared to exist. The horse was of
Hungarian breed, and ambled along at an easy pace. His
rider was a priest, dressed in black, and wearing a
three-cornered hat; and, spite of the ardent rays of a
noonday sun, the pair came on with a fair degree of rapidity.
Having arrived before the Pont du Gard, the horse stopped,
but whether for his own pleasure or that of his rider would
have been difficult to say. However that might have been,
the priest, dismounting, led his steed by the bridle in search
of some place to which he could secure him. Availing
himself of a handle that projected from a half-fallen door, he
tied the animal safely and having drawn a red cotton
handkerchief, from his pocket, wiped away the perspiration
that streamed from his brow, then, advancing to the door,
struck thrice with the end of his iron-shod stick. At this
unusual sound, a huge black dog came rushing to meet the
daring assailant of his ordinarily tranquil abode, snarling
and displaying his sharp white teeth with a determined
hostility that abundantly proved how little he was
accustomed to society. At that moment a heavy footstep was
heard descending the wooden staircase that led from the
upper floor, and, with many bows and courteous smiles,
mine host of the Pont du Gard besought his guest to enter.
"You are welcome, sir, most welcome!" repeated the
astonished Caderousse. "Now, then, Margotin," cried he,
speaking to the dog, "will you be quiet? Pray don't heed him,
sir! -- he only barks, he never bites. I make no doubt a glass
of good wine would be acceptable this dreadfully hot day."
Then perceiving for the first time the garb of the traveller he
had to entertain, Caderousse hastily exclaimed: "A thousand
pardons! I really did not observe whom I had the honor to
receive under my poor roof. What would the abbe please to
have? What refreshment can I offer? All I have is at his
The priest gazed on the person addressing him with a long
and searching gaze -- there even seemed a disposition on his
part to court a similar scrutiny on the part of the inn-keeper;
then, observing in the countenance of the latter no other
expression than extreme surprise at his own want of
attention to an inquiry so courteously worded, he deemed it
as well to terminate this dumb show, and therefore said,
speaking with a strong Italian accent, "You are, I presume, M.
"Yes, sir," answered the host, even more surprised at the
question than he had been by the silence which had
preceded it; "I am Gaspard Caderousse, at your service."
"Gaspard Caderousse," rejoined the priest. "Yes, -- Christian
and surname are the same. You formerly lived, I believe in
the Allees de Meillan, on the fourth floor?"
"And you followed the business of a tailor?"
"True, I was a tailor, till the trade fell off. It is so hot at
Marseilles, that really I believe that the respectable
inhabitants will in time go without any clothing whatever.
But talking of heat, is there nothing I can offer you by way of
"Yes; let me have a bottle of your best wine, and then, with
your permission, we will resume our conversation from
where we left off."
"As you please, sir," said Caderousse, who, anxious not to
lose the present opportunity of finding a customer for one of
the few bottles of Cahors still remaining in his possession,
hastily raised a trap-door in the floor of the apartment they
were in, which served both as parlor and kitchen. Upon
issuing forth from his subterranean retreat at the expiration
of five minutes, he found the abbe seated upon a wooden
stool, leaning his elbow on a table, while Margotin, whose
animosity seemed appeased by the unusual command of the
traveller for refreshments, had crept up to him, and had
established himself very comfortably between his knees, his
long, skinny neck resting on his lap, while his dim eye was
fixed earnestly on the traveller's face.
"Are you quite alone?" inquired the guest, as Caderousse
placed before him the bottle of wine and a glass.
"Quite, quite alone," replied the man -- "or, at least,
practically so, for my poor wife, who is the only person in
the house besides myself, is laid up with illness, and unable
to render me the least assistance, poor thing!"
"You are married, then?" said the priest, with a show of
interest, glancing round as he spoke at the scanty furnishings
of the apartment.
"Ah, sir," said Caderousse with a sigh, "it is easy to perceive I
am not a rich man; but in this world a man does not thrive
the better for being honest." The abbe fixed on him a
searching, penetrating glance.
"Yes, honest -- I can certainly say that much for myself,"
continued the inn-keeper, fairly sustaining the scrutiny of
the abbe's gaze; "I can boast with truth of being an honest
man; and," continued he significantly, with a hand on his
breast and shaking his head, "that is more than every one can
"So much the better for you, if what you assert be true," said
the abbe; "for I am firmly persuaded that, sooner or later, the
good will be rewarded, and the wicked punished."
"Such words as those belong to your profession," answered
Caderousse, "and you do well to repeat them; but," added he,
with a bitter expression of countenance, "one is free to
believe them or not, as one pleases."
"You are wrong to speak thus," said the abbe; "and perhaps I
may, in my own person, be able to prove to you how
completely you are in error."
"What mean you?" inquired Caderousse with a look of
"In the first place, I must be satisfied that you are the person
I am in search of."
"What proofs do you require?"
"Did you, in the year 1814 or 1815, know anything of a
young sailor named Dantes?"
"Dantes? Did I know poor dear Edmond? Why, Edmond
Dantes and myself were intimate friends!" exclaimed
Caderousse, whose countenance flushed darkly as he caught
the penetrating gaze of the abbe fixed on him, while the clear,
calm eye of the questioner seemed to dilate with feverish
"You remind me," said the priest, "that the young man
concerning whom I asked you was said to bear the name of
"Said to bear the name!" repeated Caderousse, becoming
excited and eager. "Why, he was so called as truly as I myself
bore the appellation of Gaspard Caderousse; but tell me, I
pray, what has become of poor Edmond? Did you know him?
Is he alive and at liberty? Is he prosperous and happy?"
"He died a more wretched, hopeless, heart-broken prisoner
than the felons who pay the penalty of their crimes at the
galleys of Toulon."
A deadly pallor followed the flush on the countenance of
Caderousse, who turned away, and the priest saw him
wiping the tears from his eyes with the corner of the red
handkerchief twisted round his head.
"Poor fellow, poor fellow!" murmured Caderousse. "Well,
there, sir, is another proof that good people are never
rewarded on this earth, and that none but the wicked
prosper. Ah," continued Caderousse, speaking in the highly
colored language of the south, "the world grows worse and
worse. Why does not God, if he really hates the wicked, as
he is said to do, send down brimstone and fire, and consume
"You speak as though you had loved this young Dantes,"
observed the abbe, without taking any notice of his
"And so I did," replied Caderousse; "though once, I confess, I
envied him his good fortune. But I swear to you, sir, I swear
to you, by everything a man holds dear, I have, since then,
deeply and sincerely lamented his unhappy fate." There was
a brief silence, during which the fixed, searching eye of the
abbe was employed in scrutinizing the agitated features of
"You knew the poor lad, then?" continued Caderousse.
"I was called to see him on his dying bed, that I might
administer to him the consolations of religion."
"And of what did he die?" asked Caderousse in a choking
"Of what, think you, do young and strong men die in prison,
when they have scarcely numbered their thirtieth year,
unless it be of imprisonment?" Caderousse wiped away the
large beads of perspiration that gathered on his brow.
"But the strangest part of the story is," resumed the abbe,
"that Dantes, even in his dying moments, swore by his
crucified Redeemer, that he was utterly ignorant of the cause
of his detention."
"And so he was," murmured Caderousse. "How should he
have been otherwise? Ah, sir, the poor fellow told you the
"And for that reason, he besought me to try and clear up a
mystery he had never been able to penetrate, and to clear his
memory should any foul spot or stain have fallen on it."
And here the look of the abbe, becoming more and more
fixed, seemed to rest with ill-concealed satisfaction on the
gloomy depression which was rapidly spreading over the
countenance of Caderousse.
"A rich Englishman," continued the abbe, "who had been his
companion in misfortune, but had been released from prison
during the second restoration, was possessed of a diamond
of immense value; this jewel he bestowed on Dantes upon
himself quitting the prison, as a mark of his gratitude for the
kindness and brotherly care with which Dantes had nursed
him in a severe illness he underwent during his confinement.
Instead of employing this diamond in attempting to bribe his
jailers, who might only have taken it and then betrayed him
to the governor, Dantes carefully preserved it, that in the
event of his getting out of prison he might have
wherewithal to live, for the sale of such a diamond would
have quite sufficed to make his fortune."
"Then, I suppose," asked Caderousse, with eager, glowing
looks, "that it was a stone of immense value?"
"Why, everything is relative," answered the abbe. "To one in
Edmond's position the diamond certainly was of great value.
It was estimated at fifty thousand francs."
"Bless me!" exclaimed Caderousse, "fifty thousand francs!
Surely the diamond was as large as a nut to be worth all
"No," replied the abbe, "it was not of such a size as that; but
you shall judge for yourself. I have it with me."
The sharp gaze of Caderousse was instantly directed
towards the priest's garments, as though hoping to discover
the location of the treasure. Calmly drawing forth from his
pocket a small box covered with black shagreen, the abbe
opened it, and displayed to the dazzled eyes of Caderousse
the sparkling jewel it contained, set in a ring of admirable
workmanship. "And that diamond," cried Caderousse,
almost breathless with eager admiration, "you say, is worth
fifty thousand francs?"
"It is, without the setting, which is also valuable," replied the
abbe, as he closed the box, and returned it to his pocket,
while its brilliant hues seemed still to dance before the eyes
of the fascinated inn-keeper.
"But how comes the diamond in your possession, sir? Did
Edmond make you his heir?"
"No, merely his testamentary executor. `I once possessed
four dear and faithful friends, besides the maiden to whom I
was betrothed' he said; `and I feel convinced they have all
unfeignedly grieved over my loss. The name of one of the
four friends is Caderousse.'" The inn-keeper shivered.
"`Another of the number,'" continued the abbe, without
seeming to notice the emotion of Caderousse, "`is called
Danglars; and the third, in spite of being my rival,
entertained a very sincere affection for me.'" A fiendish smile
played over the features of Caderousse, who was about to
break in upon the abbe's speech, when the latter, waving his
hand, said, "Allow me to finish first, and then if you have
any observations to make, you can do so afterwards. `The
third of my friends, although my rival, was much attached to
me, -- his name was Fernand; that of my betrothed was' --
Stay, stay," continued the abbe, "I have forgotten what he
"Mercedes," said Caderousse eagerly.
"True," said the abbe, with a stifled sigh, "Mercedes it was."
"Go on," urged Caderousse.
"Bring me a carafe of water," said the abbe.
Caderousse quickly performed the stranger's bidding; and
after pouring some into a glass, and slowly swallowing its
contents, the abbe, resuming his usual placidity of manner,
said, as he placed his empty glass on the table, -- "Where did
we leave off?"
"The name of Edmond's betrothed was Mercedes."
"To be sure. `You will go to Marseilles,' said Dantes, -- for
you understand, I repeat his words just as he uttered them.
Do you understand?"
"`You will sell this diamond; you will divide the money into
five equal parts, and give an equal portion to these good
friends, the only persons who have loved me upon earth.'"
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
"But why into five parts?" asked Caderousse; "you only
mentioned four persons."
"Because the fifth is dead, as I hear. The fifth sharer in
Edmond's bequest, was his own father."
"Too true, too true!" ejaculated Caderousse, almost
suffocated by the contending passions which assailed him,
"the poor old man did die."
"I learned so much at Marseilles," replied the abbe, making a
strong effort to appear indifferent; "but from the length of
time that has elapsed since the death of the elder Dantes, I
was unable to obtain any particulars of his end. Can you
enlighten me on that point?"
"I do not know who could if I could not," said Caderousse.
"Why, I lived almost on the same floor with the poor old
man. Ah, yes, about a year after the disappearance of his son
the poor old man died."
"Of what did he die?"
"Why, the doctors called his complaint gastro-enteritis, I
believe; his acquaintances say he died of grief; but I, who
saw him in his dying moments, I say he died of" --
"Of what?" asked the priest, anxiously and eagerly.
"Why, of downright starvation."
"Starvation!" exclaimed the abbe, springing from his seat.
"Why, the vilest animals are not suffered to die by such a
death as that. The very dogs that wander houseless and
homeless in the streets find some pitying hand to cast them a
mouthful of bread; and that a man, a Christian, should be
allowed to perish of hunger in the midst of other men who
call themselves Christians, is too horrible for belief. Oh, it is
impossible -- utterly impossible!"
"What I have said, I have said," answered Caderousse.
"And you are a fool for having said anything about it," said a
voice from the top of the stairs. "Why should you meddle
with what does not concern you?"
The two men turned quickly, and saw the sickly
countenance of La Carconte peering between the baluster
rails; attracted by the sound of voices, she had feebly
dragged herself down the stairs, and, seated on the lower
step, head on knees, she had listened to the foregoing
conversation. "Mind your own business, wife," replied
Caderousse sharply. "This gentleman asks me for
information, which common politeness will not permit me to
"Politeness, you simpleton!" retorted La Carconte. "What
have you to do with politeness, I should like to know? Better
study a little common prudence. How do you know the
motives that person may have for trying to extract all he can
"I pledge you my word, madam," said the abbe, "that my
intentions are good; and that your husband can incur no risk,
provided he answers me candidly."
"Ah, that's all very fine," retorted the woman. "Nothing is
easier than to begin with fair promises and assurances of
nothing to fear; but when poor, silly folks, like my husband
there, have been persuaded to tell all they know, the
promises and assurances of safety are quickly forgotten; and
at some moment when nobody is expecting it, behold
trouble and misery, and all sorts of persecutions, are heaped
on the unfortunate wretches, who cannot even see whence
all their afflictions come."
"Nay, nay, my good woman, make yourself perfectly easy, I
beg of you. Whatever evils may befall you, they will not be
occasioned by my instrumentality, that I solemnly promise
La Carconte muttered a few inarticulate words, then let her
head again drop upon her knees, and went into a fit of ague,
leaving the two speakers to resume the conversation, but
remaining so as to be able to hear every word they uttered.
Again the abbe had been obliged to swallow a draught of
water to calm the emotions that threatened to overpower
him. When he had sufficiently recovered himself, he said, "It
appears, then, that the miserable old man you were telling
me of was forsaken by every one. Surely, had not such been
the case, he would not have perished by so dreadful a
"Why, he was not altogether forsaken," continued
Caderousse, "for Mercedes the Catalan and Monsieur Morrel
were very kind to him; but somehow the poor old man had
contracted a profound hatred for Fernand -- the very
person," added Caderousse with a bitter smile, "that you
named just now as being one of Dantes' faithful and attached
"And was he not so?" asked the abbe.
"Gaspard, Gaspard!" murmured the woman, from her seat
on the stairs, "mind what you are saying!" Caderousse made
no reply to these words, though evidently irritated and
annoyed by the interruption, but, addressing the abbe, said,
"Can a man be faithful to another whose wife he covets and
desires for himself? But Dantes was so honorable and true in
his own nature, that he believed everybody's professions of
friendship. Poor Edmond, he was cruelly deceived; but it
was fortunate that he never knew, or he might have found it
more difficult, when on his deathbed, to pardon his enemies.
And, whatever people may say," continued Caderousse, in
his native language, which was not altogether devoid of
rude poetry, "I cannot help being more frightened at the idea
of the malediction of the dead than the hatred of the living."
"Imbecile!" exclaimed La Carconte.
"Do you, then, know in what manner Fernand injured
Dantes?" inquired the abbe of Caderousse.
"Do I? No one better."
"Speak out then, say what it was!"
"Gaspard!" cried La Carconte, "do as you will; you are
master -- but if you take my advice you'll hold your tongue."
"Well, wife," replied Caderousse, "I don't know but what
"So you will say nothing?" asked the abbe.
"Why, what good would it do?" asked Caderousse. "If the
poor lad were living, and came to me and begged that I
would candidly tell which were his true and which his false
friends, why, perhaps, I should not hesitate. But you tell me
he is no more, and therefore can have nothing to do with
hatred or revenge, so let all such feeling be buried with him."
"You prefer, then," said the abbe, "that I should bestow on
men you say are false and treacherous, the reward intended
for faithful friendship?"
"That is true enough," returned Caderousse. "You say truly,
the gift of poor Edmond was not meant for such traitors as
Fernand and Danglars; besides, what would it be to them?
no more than a drop of water in the ocean."
"Remember," chimed in La Carconte, "those two could crush
you at a single blow!"
"How so?" inquired the abbe. "Are these persons, then, so
rich and powerful?"
"Do you not know their history?"
"I do not. Pray relate it to me!" Caderousse seemed to reflect
for a few moments, then said, "No, truly, it would take up
too much time."
"Well, my good friend," returned the abbe, in a tone that
indicated utter indifference on his part, "you are at liberty,
either to speak or be silent, just as you please; for my own
part, I respect your scruples and admire your sentiments; so
let the matter end. I shall do my duty as conscientiously as I
can, and fulfil my promise to the dying man. My first
business will be to dispose of this diamond." So saying, the
abbe again drew the small box from his pocket, opened it,
and contrived to hold it in such a light, that a bright flash of
brilliant hues passed before the dazzled gaze of Caderousse.
"Wife, wife!" cried he in a hoarse voice, "come here!"
"Diamond!" exclaimed La Carconte, rising and descending to
the chamber with a tolerably firm step; "what diamond are
you talking about?"
"Why, did you not hear all we said?" inquired Caderousse.
"It is a beautiful diamond left by poor Edmond Dantes, to be
sold, and the money divided between his father, Mercedes,
his betrothed bride, Fernand, Danglars, and myself. The
jewel is worth at least fifty thousand francs."
"Oh, what a magnificent jewel!" cried the astonished woman.
"The fifth part of the profits from this stone belongs to us
then, does it not?" asked Caderousse.
"It does," replied the abbe; "with the addition of an equal
division of that part intended for the elder Dantes, which I
believe myself at liberty to divide equally with the four
"And why among us four?" inquired Caderousse.
"As being the friends Edmond esteemed most faithful and
devoted to him."
"I don't call those friends who betray and ruin you,"
murmured the wife in her turn, in a low, muttering voice.
"Of course not!" rejoined Caderousse quickly; "no more do I,
and that was what I was observing to this gentleman just
now. I said I looked upon it as a sacrilegious profanation to
reward treachery, perhaps crime."
"Remember," answered the abbe calmly, as he replaced the
jewel and its case in the pocket of his cassock, "it is your fault,
not mine, that I do so. You will have the goodness to furnish
me with the address of both Fernand and Danglars, in order
that I may execute Edmond's last wishes." The agitation of
Caderousse became extreme, and large drops of perspiration
rolled from his heated brow. As he saw the abbe rise from
his seat and go towards the door, as though to ascertain if his
horse were sufficiently refreshed to continue his journey,
Caderousse and his wife exchanged looks of deep meaning.
"There, you see, wife," said the former, "this splendid
diamond might all be ours, if we chose!"
"Do you believe it?"
"Why, surely a man of his holy profession would not deceive
"Well," replied La Carconte, "do as you like. For my part, I
wash my hands of the affair." So saying, she once more
climbed the staircase leading to her chamber, her body
convulsed with chills, and her teeth rattling in her head, in
spite of the intense heat of the weather. Arrived at the top
stair, she turned round, and called out, in a warning tone, to
her husband, "Gaspard, consider well what you are about to
"I have both reflected and decided," answered he. La
Carconte then entered her chamber, the flooring of which
creaked beneath her heavy, uncertain tread, as she
proceeded towards her arm-chair, into which she fell as
"Well," asked the abbe, as he returned to the apartment
below, "what have you made up your mind to do?"
"To tell you all I know," was the reply.
"I certainly think you act wisely in so doing," said the priest.
"Not because I have the least desire to learn anything you
may please to conceal from me, but simply that if, through
your assistance, I could distribute the legacy according to the
wishes of the testator, why, so much the better, that is all."
"I hope it may be so," replied Caderousse, his face flushed
"I am all attention," said the abbe.
"Stop a minute," answered Caderousse; "we might be
interrupted in the most interesting part of my story, which
would be a pity; and it is as well that your visit hither should
be made known only to ourselves." With these words he
went stealthily to the door, which he closed, and, by way of
still greater precaution, bolted and barred it, as he was
accustomed to do at night. During this time the abbe had
chosen his place for listening at his ease. He removed his
seat into a corner of the room, where he himself would be in
deep shadow, while the light would be fully thrown on the
narrator; then, with head bent down and hands clasped, or
rather clinched together, he prepared to give his whole
attention to Caderousse, who seated himself on the little
stool, exactly opposite to him.
"Remember, this is no affair of mine," said the trembling
voice of La Carconte, as though through the flooring of her
chamber she viewed the scene that was enacting below.
"Enough, enough!" replied Caderousse; "say no more about
it; I will take all the consequences upon myself." And he
began his story.
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Chapter 27 The Story
irst, sir," said Caderousse, "you must make me a
"What is that?" inquired the abbe.
"Why, if you ever make use of the details I am about to give
you, that you will never let any one know that it was I who
supplied them; for the persons of whom I am about to talk
are rich and powerful, and if they only laid the tips of their
fingers on me, I should break to pieces like glass."
"Make yourself easy, my friend," replied the abbe. "I am a
priest, and confessions die in my breast. Recollect, our only
desire is to carry out, in a fitting manner, the last wishes of
our friend. Speak, then, without reserve, as without hatred;
tell the truth, the whole truth; I do not know, never may
know, the persons of whom you are about to speak; besides,
I am an Italian, and not a Frenchman, and belong to God,
and not to man, and I shall shortly retire to my convent,
which I have only quitted to fulfil the last wishes of a dying
man." This positive assurance seemed to give Caderousse a
"Well, then, under these circumstances," said Caderousse, "I
will, I even believe I ought to undeceive you as to the
friendship which poor Edmond thought so sincere and
"Begin with his father, if you please." said the abbe;
"Edmond talked to me a great deal about the old man for
whom he had the deepest love."
"The history is a sad one, sir," said Caderousse, shaking his
head; "perhaps you know all the earlier part of it?"
"Yes." answered the abbe; "Edmond related to me everything
until the moment when he was arrested in a small cabaret
close to Marseilles."
"At La Reserve! Oh, yes; I can see it all before me this
"Was it not his betrothal feast?"
"It was and the feast that began so gayly had a very
sorrowful ending; a police commissary, followed by four
soldiers, entered, and Dantes was arrested."
"Yes, and up to this point I know all," said the priest. "Dantes
himself only knew that which personally concerned him, for
he never beheld again the five persons I have named to you,
or heard mention of any one of them."
"Well, when Dantes was arrested, Monsieur Morrel hastened
to obtain the particulars, and they were very sad. The old
man returned alone to his home, folded up his wedding suit
with tears in his eyes, and paced up and down his chamber
the whole day, and would not go to bed at all, for I was
underneath him and heard him walking the whole night;
and for myself, I assure you I could not sleep either, for the
grief of the poor father gave me great uneasiness, and every
step he took went to my heart as really as if his foot had
pressed against my breast. The next day Mercedes came to
implore the protection of M. de Villefort; she did not obtain
it, however, and went to visit the old man; when she saw
him so miserable and heart-broken, having passed a
sleepless night, and not touched food since the previous day,
she wished him to go with her that she might take care of
him; but the old man would not consent. `No,' was the old
man's reply, `I will not leave this house, for my poor dear
boy loves me better than anything in the world; and if he
gets out of prison he will come and see me the first thing,
and what would he think if I did not wait here for him?' I
heard all this from the window, for I was anxious that
Mercedes should persuade the old man to accompany her,
for his footsteps over my head night and day did not leave
me a moment's repose."
"But did you not go up-stairs and try to console the poor old
man?" asked the abbe.
"Ah, sir," replied Caderousse, "we cannot console those who
will not be consoled, and he was one of these; besides, I
know not why, but he seemed to dislike seeing me. One
night, however, I heard his sobs, and I could not resist my
desire to go up to him, but when I reached his door he was
no longer weeping but praying. I cannot now repeat to you,
sir, all the eloquent words and imploring language he made
use of; it was more than piety, it was more than grief, and I,
who am no canter, and hate the Jesuits, said then to myself,
`It is really well, and I am very glad that I have not any
children; for if I were a father and felt such excessive grief as
the old man does, and did not find in my memory or heart
all he is now saying, I should throw myself into the sea at
once, for I could not bear it.'"
"Poor father!" murmured the priest.
"From day to day he lived on alone, and more and more
solitary. M. Morrel and Mercedes came to see him, but his
door was closed; and, although I was certain he was at home,
he would not make any answer. One day, when, contrary to
his custom, he had admitted Mercedes, and the poor girl, in
spite of her own grief and despair, endeavored to console
him, he said to her, -- `Be assured, my dear daughter, he is
dead; and instead of expecting him, it is he who is awaiting
us; I am quite happy, for I am the oldest, and of course shall
see him first.' However well disposed a person may be, why
you see we leave off after a time seeing persons who are in
sorrow, they make one melancholy; and so at last old Dantes
was left all to himself, and I only saw from time to time
strangers go up to him and come down again with some
bundle they tried to hide; but I guessed what these bundles
were, and that he sold by degrees what he had to pay for his
subsistence. At length the poor old fellow reached the end of
all he had; he owed three quarters' rent, and they threatened
to turn him out; he begged for another week, which was
granted to him. I know this, because the landlord came into
my apartment when he left his. For the first three days I
heard him walking about as usual, but, on the fourth I heard
nothing. I then resolved to go up to him at all risks. The door
was closed, but I looked through the keyhole, and saw him
so pale and haggard, that believing him very ill, I went and
told M. Morrel and then ran on to Mercedes. They both came
immediately, M. Morrel bringing a doctor, and the doctor
said it was inflammation of the bowels, and ordered him a
limited diet. I was there, too, and I never shall forget the old
man's smile at this prescription. From that time he received
all who came; he had an excuse for not eating any more; the
doctor had put him on a diet." The abbe uttered a kind of
groan. "The story interests you, does it not, sir?" inquired
"Yes," replied the abbe, "it is very affecting."
"Mercedes came again, and she found him so altered that she
was even more anxious than before to have him taken to her
own home. This was M. Morrel's wish also, who would fain
have conveyed the old man against his consent; but the old
man resisted, and cried so that they were actually frightened.
Mercedes remained, therefore, by his bedside, and M. Morrel
went away, making a sign to the Catalan that he had left his
purse on the chimney-piece. But availing himself of the
doctor's order, the old man would not take any sustenance;
at length (after nine days of despair and fasting), the old man
died, cursing those who had caused his misery, and saying
to Mercedes, `If you ever see my Edmond again, tell him I
die blessing him.'" The abbe rose from his chair, made two
turns round the chamber, and pressed his trembling hand
against his parched throat. "And you believe he died" --
"Of hunger, sir, of hunger," said Caderousse. "I am as certain
of it as that we two are Christians."
The abbe, with a shaking hand, seized a glass of water that
was standing by him half-full, swallowed it at one gulp, and
then resumed his seat, with red eyes and pale cheeks. "This
was, indeed, a horrid event." said he in a hoarse voice.
"The more so, sir, as it was men's and not God's doing."
"Tell me of those men," said the abbe, "and remember too,"
he added in an almost menacing tone, "you have promised
to tell me everything. Tell me, therefore, who are these men
who killed the son with despair, and the father with
"Two men jealous of him, sir; one from love, and the other
from ambition, -- Fernand and Danglars."
"How was this jealousy manifested? Speak on."
"They denounced Edmond as a Bonapartist agent."
"Which of the two denounced him? Which was the real
"Both, sir; one with a letter, and the other put it in the post."
"And where was this letter written?"
"At La Reserve, the day before the betrothal feast."
"'Twas so, then -- 'twas so, then," murmured the abbe. "Oh,
Faria, Faria, how well did you judge men and things!"
"What did you please to say, sir?" asked Caderousse.
"Nothing, nothing," replied the priest; "go on."
"It was Danglars who wrote the denunciation with his left
hand, that his writing might not be recognized, and Fernand
who put it in the post."
"But," exclaimed the abbe suddenly, "you were there
"I!" said Caderousse, astonished; "who told you I was there?"
The abbe saw he had overshot the mark, and he added
quickly, -- "No one; but in order to have known everything
so well, you must have been an eye-witness."
"True, true!" said Caderousse in a choking voice, "I was
"And did you not remonstrate against such infamy?" asked
the abbe; "if not, you were an accomplice."
"Sir," replied Caderousse, "they had made me drink to such
an excess that I nearly lost all perception. I had only an
indistinct understanding of what was passing around me. I
said all that a man in such a state could say; but they both
assured me that it was a jest they were carrying on, and
"Next day -- next day, sir, you must have seen plain enough
what they had been doing, yet you said nothing, though you
were present when Dantes was arrested."
"Yes, sir, I was there, and very anxious to speak; but
Danglars restrained me. `If he should really be guilty,' said
he, `and did really put in to the Island of Elba; if he is really
charged with a letter for the Bonapartist committee at Paris,
and if they find this letter upon him, those who have
supported him will pass for his accomplices.' I confess I had
my fears, in the state in which politics then were, and I held
my tongue. It was cowardly, I confess, but it was not
"I understand -- you allowed matters to take their course,
that was all."
"Yes, sir," answered Caderousse; "and remorse preys on me
night and day. I often ask pardon of God, I swear to you,
because this action, the only one with which I have seriously
to reproach myself in all my life, is no doubt the cause of my
abject condition. I am expiating a moment of selfishness, and
so I always say to La Carconte, when she complains, `Hold
your tongue, woman; it is the will of God.'" And Caderousse
bowed his head with every sign of real repentance.
"Well, sir," said the abbe, "you have spoken unreservedly;
and thus to accuse yourself is to deserve pardon."
"Unfortunately, Edmond is dead, and has not pardoned me."
"He did not know," said the abbe.
"But he knows it all now," interrupted Caderousse; "they say
the dead know everything." There was a brief silence; the
abbe rose and paced up and down pensively, and then
resumed his seat. "You have two or three times mentioned a
M. Morrel," he said; "who was he?"
"The owner of the Pharaon and patron of Dantes."
"And what part did he play in this sad drama?" inquired the
"The part of an honest man, full of courage and real regard.
Twenty times he interceded for Edmond. When the emperor
returned, he wrote, implored, threatened, and so
energetically, that on the second restoration he was
persecuted as a Bonapartist. Ten times, as I told you, he came
to see Dantes' father, and offered to receive him in his own
house; and the night or two before his death, as I have
already said, he left his purse on the mantelpiece, with
which they paid the old man's debts, and buried him
decently; and so Edmond's father died, as he had lived,
without doing harm to any one. I have the purse still by me
-- a large one, made of red silk."
"And," asked the abbe, "is M. Morrel still alive?"
"Yes," replied Caderousse.
"In that case," replied the abbe, "he should be rich, happy."
Caderousse smiled bitterly. "Yes, happy as myself," said he.
"What! M. Morrel unhappy?" exclaimed the abbe.
"He is reduced almost to the last extremity -- nay, he is
almost at the point of dishonor."
"Yes," continued Caderousse, "so it is; after five and twenty
years of labor, after having acquired a most honorable name
in the trade of Marseilles, M. Morrel is utterly ruined; he has
lost five ships in two years, has suffered by the bankruptcy
of three large houses, and his only hope now is in that very
Pharaon which poor Dantes commanded, and which is
expected from the Indies with a cargo of cochineal and
indigo. If this ship founders, like the others, he is a ruined
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