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Chapter 113 The Past.

  • The count departed with a sad heart from the house in which he had lef_ercedes, probably never to behold her again. Since the death of little Edwar_ great change had taken place in Monte Cristo. Having reached the summit o_is vengeance by a long and tortuous path, he saw an abyss of doubt yawnin_efore him. More than this, the conversation which had just taken plac_etween Mercedes and himself had awakened so many recollections in his hear_hat he felt it necessary to combat with them. A man of the count'_emperament could not long indulge in that melancholy which can exist i_ommon minds, but which destroys superior ones. He thought he must have mad_n error in his calculations if he now found cause to blame himself.
  • "I cannot have deceived myself," he said; "I must look upon the past in _alse light. What!" he continued, "can I have been following a false path? — can the end which I proposed be a mistaken end? — can one hour have suffice_o prove to an architect that the work upon which he founded all his hopes wa_n impossible, if not a sacrilegious, undertaking? I cannot reconcile mysel_o this idea — it would madden me. The reason why I am now dissatisfied i_hat I have not a clear appreciation of the past. The past, like the countr_hrough which we walk, becomes indistinct as we advance. My position is lik_hat of a person wounded in a dream; he feels the wound, though he canno_ecollect when he received it. Come, then, thou regenerate man, tho_xtravagant prodigal, thou awakened sleeper, thou all-powerful visionary, tho_nvincible millionaire, — once again review thy past life of starvation an_retchedness, revisit the scenes where fate and misfortune conducted, an_here despair received thee. Too many diamonds, too much gold and splendor, are now reflected by the mirror in which Monte Cristo seeks to behold Dantes.
  • Hide thy diamonds, bury thy gold, shroud thy splendor, exchange riches fo_overty, liberty for a prison, a living body for a corpse!" As he thu_easoned, Monte Cristo walked down the Rue de la Caisserie. It was the sam_hrough which, twenty-four years ago, he had been conducted by a silent an_octurnal guard; the houses, to-day so smiling and animated, were on tha_ight dark, mute, and closed. "And yet they were the same," murmured Mont_risto, "only now it is broad daylight instead of night; it is the sun whic_rightens the place, and makes it appear so cheerful."
  • He proceeded towards the quay by the Rue Saint-Laurent, and advanced to th_onsigne; it was the point where he had embarked. A pleasure-boat with stripe_wning was going by. Monte Cristo called the owner, who immediately rowed u_o him with the eagerness of a boatman hoping for a good fare. The weather wa_agnificent, and the excursion a treat.
  • The sun, red and flaming, was sinking into the embrace of the welcoming ocean.
  • The sea, smooth as crystal, was now and then disturbed by the leaping of fish, which were pursued by some unseen enemy and sought for safety in anothe_lement; while on the extreme verge of the horizon might be seen th_ishermen's boats, white and graceful as the sea-gull, or the merchant vessel_ound for Corsica or Spain.
  • But notwithstanding the serene sky, the gracefully formed boats, and th_olden light in which the whole scene was bathed, the Count of Monte Cristo, wrapped in his cloak, could think only of this terrible voyage, the details o_hich were one by one recalled to his memory. The solitary light burning a_he Catalans; that first sight of the Chateau d'If, which told him whithe_hey were leading him; the struggle with the gendarmes when he wished to thro_imself overboard; his despair when he found himself vanquished, and th_ensation when the muzzle of the carbine touched his forehead — all these wer_rought before him in vivid and frightful reality. Like the streams which th_eat of the summer has dried up, and which after the autumnal storms graduall_egin oozing drop by drop, so did the count feel his heart gradually fill wit_he bitterness which formerly nearly overwhelmed Edmond Dantes. Clear sky, swift-flitting boats, and brilliant sunshine disappeared; the heavens wer_ung with black, and the gigantic structure of the Chateau d'If seemed lik_he phantom of a mortal enemy. As they reached the shore, the coun_nstinctively shrunk to the extreme end of the boat, and the owner was oblige_o call out, in his sweetest tone of voice, "Sir, we are at the landing."
  • Monte Cristo remembered that on that very spot, on the same rock, he had bee_iolently dragged by the guards, who forced him to ascend the slope at th_oints of their bayonets. The journey had seemed very long to Dantes, bu_onte Cristo found it equally short. Each stroke of the oar seemed to awaken _ew throng of ideas, which sprang up with the flying spray of the sea.
  • There had been no prisoners confined in the Chateau d'If since the revolutio_f July; it was only inhabited by a guard, kept there for the prevention o_muggling. A concierge waited at the door to exhibit to visitors this monumen_f curiosity, once a scene of terror. The count inquired whether any of th_ncient jailers were still there; but they had all been pensioned, or ha_assed on to some other employment. The concierge who attended him had onl_een there since 1830. He visited his own dungeon. He again beheld the dul_ight vainly endeavoring to penetrate the narrow opening. His eyes rested upo_he spot where had stood his bed, since then removed, and behind the bed th_ew stones indicated where the breach made by the Abbe Faria had been. Mont_risto felt his limbs tremble; he seated himself upon a log of wood.
  • "Are there any stories connected with this prison besides the one relating t_he poisoning of Mirabeau?" asked the count; "are there any tradition_especting these dismal abodes, — in which it is difficult to believe men ca_ver have imprisoned their fellow-creatures?"
  • "Yes, sir; indeed, the jailer Antoine told me one connected with this ver_ungeon."
  • Monte Cristo shuddered; Antoine had been his jailer. He had almost forgotte_is name and face, but at the mention of the name he recalled his person as h_sed to see it, the face encircled by a beard, wearing the brown jacket, th_unch of keys, the jingling of which he still seemed to hear. The count turne_round, and fancied he saw him in the corridor, rendered still darker by th_orch carried by the concierge. "Would you like to hear the story, sir?"
  • "Yes; relate it," said Monte Cristo, pressing his hand to his heart to stil_ts violent beatings; he felt afraid of hearing his own history.
  • "This dungeon," said the concierge, "was, it appears, some time ago occupie_y a very dangerous prisoner, the more so since he was full of industry.
  • Another person was confined in the Chateau at the same time, but he was no_icked, he was only a poor mad priest."
  • "Ah, indeed? — mad!" repeated Monte Cristo; "and what was his mania?"
  • "He offered millions to any one who would set him at liberty."
  • Monte Cristo raised his eyes, but he could not see the heavens; there was _tone veil between him and the firmament. He thought that there had been n_ess thick a veil before the eyes of those to whom Faria offered th_reasures. "Could the prisoners see each other?" he asked.
  • "Oh, no, sir, it was expressly forbidden; but they eluded the vigilance of th_uards, and made a passage from one dungeon to the other."
  • "And which of them made this passage?"
  • "Oh, it must have been the young man, certainly, for he was strong an_ndustrious, while the abbe was aged and weak; besides, his mind was to_acillating to allow him to carry out an idea."
  • "Blind fools!" murmured the count.
  • "However, be that as it may, the young man made a tunnel, how or by what mean_o one knows; but he made it, and there is the evidence yet remaining of hi_ork. Do you see it?" and the man held the torch to the wall.
  • "Ah, yes; I see," said the count, in a voice hoarse from emotion.
  • "The result was that the two men communicated with one another; how long the_id so, nobody knows. One day the old man fell ill and died. Now guess wha_he young one did?"
  • "Tell me."
  • "He carried off the corpse, which he placed in his own bed with its face t_he wall; then he entered the empty dungeon, closed the entrance, and slippe_nto the sack which had contained the dead body. Did you ever hear of such a_dea?" Monte Cristo closed his eyes, and seemed again to experience all th_ensations he had felt when the coarse canvas, yet moist with the cold dews o_eath, had touched his face. The jailer continued: "Now this was his project.
  • He fancied that they buried the dead at the Chateau d'If, and imagining the_ould not expend much labor on the grave of a prisoner, he calculated o_aising the earth with his shoulders, but unfortunately their arrangements a_he Chateau frustrated his projects. They never buried the dead; they merel_ttached a heavy cannon-ball to the feet, and then threw them into the sea.
  • This is what was done. The young man was thrown from the top of the rock; th_orpse was found on the bed next day, and the whole truth was guessed, for th_en who performed the office then mentioned what they had not dared to spea_f before, that at the moment the corpse was thrown into the deep, they hear_ shriek, which was almost immediately stifled by the water in which i_isappeared." The count breathed with difficulty; the cold drops ran down hi_orehead, and his heart was full of anguish.
  • "No," he muttered, "the doubt I felt was but the commencement o_orgetfulness; but here the wound reopens, and the heart again thirsts fo_engeance. And the prisoner," he continued aloud, "was he ever heard o_fterwards?"
  • "Oh, no; of course not. You can understand that one of two things must hav_appened; he must either have fallen flat, in which case the blow, from _eight of ninety feet, must have killed him instantly, or he must have falle_pright, and then the weight would have dragged him to the bottom, where h_emained — poor fellow!"
  • "Then you pity him?" said the count.
  • "Ma foi, yes; though he was in his own element."
  • "What do you mean?"
  • "The report was that he had been a naval officer, who had been confined fo_lotting with the Bonapartists."
  • "Great is truth," muttered the count, "fire cannot burn, nor water drown it!
  • Thus the poor sailor lives in the recollection of those who narrate hi_istory; his terrible story is recited in the chimney-corner, and a shudder i_elt at the description of his transit through the air to be swallowed by th_eep." Then, the count added aloud, "Was his name ever known?"
  • "Oh, yes; but only as No. 34."
  • "Oh, Villefort, Villefort," murmured the count, "this scene must often hav_aunted thy sleepless hours!"
  • "Do you wish to see anything more, sir?" said the concierge.
  • "Yes, especially if you will show me the poor abbe's room."
  • "Ah — No. 27."
  • "Yes; No. 27." repeated the count, who seemed to hear the voice of the abb_nswering him in those very words through the wall when asked his name.
  • "Come, sir."
  • "Wait," said Monte Cristo, "I wish to take one final glance around this room."
  • "This is fortunate," said the guide; "I have forgotten the other key."
  • "Go and fetch it."
  • "I will leave you the torch, sir."
  • "No, take it away; I can see in the dark."
  • "Why, you are like No. 34. They said he was so accustomed to darkness that h_ould see a pin in the darkest corner of his dungeon."
  • "He spent fourteen years to arrive at that," muttered the count.
  • The guide carried away the torch. The count had spoken correctly. Scarcely ha_ few seconds elapsed, ere he saw everything as distinctly as by daylight.
  • Then he looked around him, and really recognized his dungeon.
  • "Yes," he said, "there is the stone upon which I used to sit; there is th_mpression made by my shoulders on the wall; there is the mark of my bloo_ade when one day I dashed my head against the wall. Oh, those figures, ho_ell I remember them! I made them one day to calculate the age of my father, that I might know whether I should find him still living, and that o_ercedes, to know if I should find her still free. After finishing tha_alculation, I had a minute's hope. I did not reckon upon hunger an_nfidelity!" and a bitter laugh escaped the count. He saw in fancy the buria_f his father, and the marriage of Mercedes. On the other side of the dungeo_e perceived an inscription, the white letters of which were still visible o_he green wall. "`O God,'" he read, "`preserve my memory!' Oh, yes," he cried,
  • "that was my only prayer at last; I no longer begged for liberty, but memory; I dreaded to become mad and forgetful. O God, thou hast preserved my memory; _hank thee, I thank thee!" At this moment the light of the torch was reflecte_n the wall; the guide was coming; Monte Cristo went to meet him.
  • "Follow me, sir;" and without ascending the stairs the guide conducted him b_ subterraneous passage to another entrance. There, again, Monte Cristo wa_ssailed by a multitude of thoughts. The first thing that met his eye was th_eridian, drawn by the abbe on the wall, by which he calculated the time; the_e saw the remains of the bed on which the poor prisoner had died. The sigh_f this, instead of exciting the anguish experienced by the count in th_ungeon, filled his heart with a soft and grateful sentiment, and tears fel_rom his eyes.
  • "This is where the mad abbe was kept, sir, and that is where the young ma_ntered; "and the guide pointed to the opening, which had remained unclosed.
  • "From the appearance of the stone," he continued, "a learned gentlema_iscovered that the prisoners might have communicated together for ten years.
  • Poor things! Those must have been ten weary years."
  • Dantes took some louis from his pocket, and gave them to the man who had twic_nconsciously pitied him. The guide took them, thinking them merely a fe_ieces of little value; but the light of the torch revealed their true worth.
  • "Sir," he said, "you have made a mistake; you have given me gold."
  • "I know it." The concierge looked upon the count with surprise. "Sir," h_ried, scarcely able to believe his good fortune — "sir, I cannot understan_our generosity!"
  • "Oh, it is very simple, my good fellow; I have been a sailor, and your stor_ouched me more than it would others."
  • "Then, sir, since you are so liberal, I ought to offer you something."
  • "What have you to offer to me, my friend? Shells? Straw-work? Thank you!"
  • "No, sir, neither of those; something connected with this story."
  • "Really? What is it?"
  • "Listen," said the guide; "I said to myself, `Something is always left in _ell inhabited by one prisoner for fifteen years,' so I began to sound th_all."
  • "Ah," cried Monte Cristo, remembering the abbe's two hiding-places.
  • "After some search, I found that the floor gave a hollow sound near the hea_f the bed, and at the hearth."
  • "Yes," said the count, "yes."
  • "I raised the stones, and found" —
  • "A rope-ladder and some tools?"
  • "How do you know that?" asked the guide in astonishment.
  • "I do not know — I only guess it, because that sort of thing is generall_ound in prisoners' cells."
  • "Yes, sir, a rope-ladder and tools."
  • "And have you them yet?"
  • "No, sir; I sold them to visitors, who considered them great curiosities; bu_ have still something left."
  • "What is it?" asked the count, impatiently.
  • "A sort of book, written upon strips of cloth."
  • "Go and fetch it, my good fellow; and if it be what I hope, you will do well."
  • "I will run for it, sir;" and the guide went out. Then the count knelt down b_he side of the bed, which death had converted into an altar. "Oh, secon_ather," he exclaimed, "thou who hast given me liberty, knowledge, riches; thou who, like beings of a superior order to ourselves, couldst understand th_cience of good and evil; if in the depths of the tomb there still remai_omething within us which can respond to the voice of those who are left o_arth; if after death the soul ever revisit the places where we have lived an_uffered, — then, noble heart, sublime soul, then I conjure thee by th_aternal love thou didst bear me, by the filial obedience I vowed to thee, grant me some sign, some revelation! Remove from me the remains of doubt, which, if it change not to conviction, must become remorse!" The count bowe_is head, and clasped his hands together.
  • "Here, sir," said a voice behind him.
  • Monte Cristo shuddered, and arose. The concierge held out the strips of clot_pon which the Abbe Faria had spread the riches of his mind. The manuscrip_as the great work by the Abbe Faria upon the kingdoms of Italy. The coun_eized it hastily, his eyes immediately fell upon the epigraph, and he read,
  • "`Thou shalt tear out the dragons' teeth, and shall trample the lions unde_oot, saith the Lord.'"
  • "Ah," he exclaimed, "here is my answer. Thanks, father, thanks." And feelin_n his pocket, he took thence a small pocket-book, which contained ten bank- notes, each of 1,000 francs.
  • "Here," he said, "take this pocket-book."
  • "Do you give it to me?"
  • "Yes; but only on condition that you will not open it till I am gone;" an_lacing in his breast the treasure he had just found, which was more valuabl_o him than the richest jewel, he rushed out of the corridor, and reaching hi_oat, cried, "To Marseilles!" Then, as he departed, he fixed his eyes upon th_loomy prison. "Woe," he cried, "to those who confined me in that wretche_rison; and woe to those who forgot that I was there!" As he repassed th_atalans, the count turned around and burying his head in his cloak murmure_he name of a woman. The victory was complete; twice he had overcome hi_oubts. The name he pronounced, in a voice of tenderness, amounting almost t_ove, was that of Haidee.
  • On landing, the count turned towards the cemetery, where he felt sure o_inding Morrel. He, too, ten years ago, had piously sought out a tomb, an_ought it vainly. He, who returned to France with millions, had been unable t_ind the grave of his father, who had perished from hunger. Morrel had indee_laced a cross over the spot, but it had fallen down and the grave-digger ha_urnt it, as he did all the old wood in the churchyard. The worthy merchan_ad been more fortunate. Dying in the arms of his children, he had been b_hem laid by the side of his wife, who had preceded him in eternity by tw_ears. Two large slabs of marble, on which were inscribed their names, wer_laced on either side of a little enclosure, railed in, and shaded by fou_ypress-trees. Morrel was leaning against one of these, mechanically fixin_is eyes on the graves. His grief was so profound that he was nearl_nconscious. "Maximilian," said the count, "you should not look on the graves, but there;" and he pointed upwards.
  • "The dead are everywhere," said Morrel; "did you not yourself tell me so as w_eft Paris?"
  • "Maximilian," said the count, "you asked me during the journey to allow you t_emain some days at Marseilles. Do you still wish to do so?"
  • "I have no wishes, count; only I fancy I could pass the time less painfull_ere than anywhere else."
  • "So much the better, for I must leave you; but I carry your word with me, do _ot?"
  • "Ah, count, I shall forget it."
  • "No, you will not forget it, because you are a man of honor, Morrel, becaus_ou have taken an oath, and are about to do so again."
  • "Oh, count, have pity upon me. I am so unhappy."
  • "I have known a man much more unfortunate than you, Morrel."
  • "Impossible!"
  • "Alas," said Monte Cristo, "it is the infirmity of our nature always t_elieve ourselves much more unhappy than those who groan by our sides!"
  • "What can be more wretched than the man who has lost all he loved and desire_n the world?"
  • "Listen, Morrel, and pay attention to what I am about to tell you. I knew _an who like you had fixed all his hopes of happiness upon a woman. He wa_oung, he had an old father whom he loved, a betrothed bride whom he adored.
  • He was about to marry her, when one of the caprices of fate, — which woul_lmost make us doubt the goodness of providence, if that providence did no_fterwards reveal itself by proving that all is but a means of conducting t_n end, — one of those caprices deprived him of his mistress, of the future o_hich he had dreamed (for in his blindness he forgot he could only read th_resent), and cast him into a dungeon."
  • "Ah," said Morrel, "one quits a dungeon in a week, a month, or a year."
  • "He remained there fourteen years, Morrel," said the count, placing his han_n the young man's shoulder. Maximilian shuddered.
  • "Fourteen years!" he muttered — "Fourteen years!" repeated the count. "Durin_hat time he had many moments of despair. He also, Morrel, like you, considered himself the unhappiest of men."
  • "Well?" asked Morrel.
  • "Well, at the height of his despair God assisted him through human means. A_irst, perhaps, he did not recognize the infinite mercy of the Lord, but a_ast he took patience and waited. One day he miraculously left the prison, transformed, rich, powerful. His first cry was for his father; but that fathe_as dead."
  • "My father, too, is dead," said Morrel.
  • "Yes; but your father died in your arms, happy, respected, rich, and full o_ears; his father died poor, despairing, almost doubtful of providence; an_hen his son sought his grave ten years afterwards, his tomb had disappeared, and no one could say, `There sleeps the father you so well loved.'"
  • "Oh!" exclaimed Morrel.
  • "He was, then, a more unhappy son than you, Morrel, for he could not even fin_is father's grave."
  • "But then he had the woman he loved still remaining?"
  • "You are deceived, Morrel, that woman" —
  • "She was dead?"
  • "Worse than that, she was faithless, and had married one of the persecutors o_er betrothed. You see, then, Morrel, that he was a more unhappy lover tha_ou."
  • "And has he found consolation?"
  • "He has at least found peace."
  • "And does he ever expect to be happy?"
  • "He hopes so, Maximilian." The young man's head fell on his breast.
  • "You have my promise," he said, after a minute's pause, extending his hand t_onte Cristo. "Only remember" —
  • "On the 5th of October, Morrel, I shall expect you at the Island of Mont_risto. On the 4th a yacht will wait for you in the port of Bastia, it will b_alled the Eurus. You will give your name to the captain, who will bring yo_o me. It is understood — is it not?"
  • "But, count, do you remember that the 5th of October" —
  • "Child," replied the count, "not to know the value of a man's word! I hav_old you twenty times that if you wish to die on that day, I will assist you.
  • Morrel, farewell!"
  • "Do you leave me?"
  • "Yes; I have business in Italy. I leave you alone with your misfortunes, an_ith hope, Maximilian."
  • "When do you leave?"
  • "Immediately; the steamer waits, and in an hour I shall be far from you. Wil_ou accompany me to the harbor, Maximilian?"
  • "I am entirely yours, count." Morrel accompanied the count to the harbor. Th_hite steam was ascending like a plume of feathers from the black chimney. Th_teamer soon disappeared, and in an hour afterwards, as the count had said, was scarcely distinguishable in the horizon amidst the fogs of the night.