When Dantes returned next morning to the chamber of his companion i_aptivity, he found Faria seated and looking composed. In the ray of ligh_hich entered by the narrow window of his cell, he held open in his left hand, of which alone, it will be recollected, he retained the use, a sheet of paper, which, from being constantly rolled into a small compass, had the form of _ylinder, and was not easily kept open. He did not speak, but showed the pape_o Dantes.
"What is that?" he inquired.
"Look at it," said the abbe with a smile.
"I have looked at it with all possible attention," said Dantes, "and I onl_ee a half-burnt paper, on which are traces of Gothic characters inscribe_ith a peculiar kind of ink."
"This paper, my friend," said Faria, "I may now avow to you, since I have th_roof of your fidelity — this paper is my treasure, of which, from this da_orth, one-half belongs to you."
The sweat started forth on Dantes brow. Until this day and for how long _ime! — he had refrained from talking of the treasure, which had brought upo_he abbe the accusation of madness. With his instinctive delicacy Edmond ha_referred avoiding any touch on this painful chord, and Faria had been equall_ilent. He had taken the silence of the old man for a return to reason; an_ow these few words uttered by Faria, after so painful a crisis, seemed t_ndicate a serious relapse into mental alienation.
"Your treasure?" stammered Dantes. Faria smiled.
"Yes," said he. "You have, indeed, a noble nature, Edmond, and I see by you_aleness and agitation what is passing in your heart at this moment. No, b_ssured, I am not mad. This treasure exists, Dantes, and if I have not bee_llowed to possess it, you will. Yes — you. No one would listen or believe me, because everyone thought me mad; but you, who must know that I am not, liste_o me, and believe me so afterwards if you will."
"Alas," murmured Edmond to himself, "this is a terrible relapse! There wa_nly this blow wanting." Then he said aloud, "My dear friend, your attack has, perhaps, fatigued you; had you not better repose awhile? To-morrow, if yo_ill, I will hear your narrative; but to-day I wish to nurse you carefully.
Besides," he said, "a treasure is not a thing we need hurry about."
"On the contrary, it is a matter of the utmost importance, Edmond!" replie_he old man. "Who knows if to-morrow, or the next day after, the third attac_ay not come on? and then must not all be over? Yes, indeed, I have ofte_hought with a bitter joy that these riches, which would make the wealth of _ozen families, will be forever lost to those men who persecute me. This ide_as one of vengeance to me, and I tasted it slowly in the night of my dungeo_nd the despair of my captivity. But now I have forgiven the world for th_ove of you; now that I see you, young and with a promising future, — now tha_ think of all that may result to you in the good fortune of such _isclosure, I shudder at any delay, and tremble lest I should not assure t_ne as worthy as yourself the possession of so vast an amount of hidde_ealth." Edmond turned away his head with a sigh.
"You persist in your incredulity, Edmond," continued Faria. "My words have no_onvinced you. I see you require proofs. Well, then, read this paper, which _ave never shown to any one."
"To-morrow, my dear friend," said Edmond, desirous of not yielding to the ol_an's madness. "I thought it was understood that we should not talk of tha_ntil to-morrow."
"Then we will not talk of it until to-morrow; but read this paper to-day."
"I will not irritate him," thought Edmond, and taking the paper, of which hal_as wanting, — having been burnt, no doubt, by some accident, — he read: —
"This treasure, which may amount to two… of Roman crowns in the most distan_… of the second opening wh… declare to belong to him alo… heir. "25th April, l49"
"Well!" said Faria, when the young man had finished reading it.
"Why," replied Dantes, "I see nothing but broken lines and unconnected words, which are rendered illegible by fire."
"Yes, to you, my friend, who read them for the first time; but not for me, wh_ave grown pale over them by many nights' study, and have reconstructed ever_hrase, completed every thought."
"And do you believe you have discovered the hidden meaning?"
"I am sure I have, and you shall judge for yourself; but first listen to th_istory of this paper."
"Silence!" exclaimed Dantes. "Steps approach — I go — adieu."
And Dantes, happy to escape the history and explanation which would be sure t_onfirm his belief in his friend's mental instability, glided like a snak_long the narrow passage; while Faria, restored by his alarm to a certai_mount of activity, pushed the stone into place with his foot, and covered i_ith a mat in order the more effectually to avoid discovery.
It was the governor, who, hearing of Faria's illness from the jailer, had com_n person to see him.
Faria sat up to receive him, avoiding all gestures in order that he migh_onceal from the governor the paralysis that had already half stricken hi_ith death. His fear was lest the governor, touched with pity, might order hi_o be removed to better quarters, and thus separate him from his youn_ompanion. But fortunately this was not the case, and the governor left him, convinced that the poor madman, for whom in his heart he felt a kind o_ffection, was only troubled with a slight indisposition.
During this time, Edmond, seated on his bed with his head in his hands, trie_o collect his scattered thoughts. Faria, since their first acquaintance, ha_een on all points so rational and logical, so wonderfully sagacious, in fact, that he could not understand how so much wisdom on all points could be allie_ith madness. Was Faria deceived as to his treasure, or was all the worl_eceived as to Faria?
Dantes remained in his cell all day, not daring to return to his friend, thinking thus to defer the moment when he should be convinced, once for all, that the abbe was mad — such a conviction would be so terrible!
But, towards the evening after the hour for the customary visit had gone by, Faria, not seeing the young man appear, tried to move and get over th_istance which separated them. Edmond shuddered when he heard the painfu_fforts which the old man made to drag himself along; his leg was inert, an_e could no longer make use of one arm. Edmond was obliged to assist him, fo_therwise he would not have been able to enter by the small aperture which le_o Dantes' chamber.
"Here I am, pursuing you remorselessly," he said with a benignant smile. "Yo_hought to escape my munificence, but it is in vain. Listen to me."
Edmond saw there was no escape, and placing the old man on his bed, he seate_imself on the stool beside him.
"You know," said the abbe, "that I was the secretary and intimate friend o_ardinal Spada, the last of the princes of that name. I owe to this worth_ord all the happiness I ever knew. He was not rich, although the wealth o_is family had passed into a proverb, and I heard the phrase very often, `A_ich as a Spada.' But he, like public rumor, lived on this reputation fo_ealth; his palace was my paradise. I was tutor to his nephews, who are dead; and when he was alone in the world, I tried by absolute devotion to his will, to make up to him all he had done for me during ten years of unremittin_indness. The cardinal's house had no secrets for me. I had often seen m_oble patron annotating ancient volumes, and eagerly searching amongst dust_amily manuscripts. One day when I was reproaching him for his unavailin_earches, and deploring the prostration of mind that followed them, he looke_t me, and, smiling bitterly, opened a volume relating to the History of th_ity of Rome. There, in the twentieth chapter of the Life of Pope Alexande_I., were the following lines, which I can never forget: —
"`The great wars of Romagna had ended; Caesar Borgia, who had completed hi_onquest, had need of money to purchase all Italy. The pope had also need o_oney to bring matters to an end with Louis XII. King of France, who wa_ormidable still in spite of his recent reverses; and it was necessary, therefore, to have recourse to some profitable scheme, which was a matter o_reat difficulty in the impoverished condition of exhausted Italy. Hi_oliness had an idea. He determined to make two cardinals.'
"By choosing two of the greatest personages of Rome, especially rich men — this was the return the holy father looked for. In the first place, he coul_ell the great appointments and splendid offices which the cardinals alread_eld; and then he had the two hats to sell besides. There was a third point i_iew, which will appear hereafter. The pope and Caesar Borgia first found th_wo future cardinals; they were Giovanni Rospigliosi, who held four of th_ighest dignities of the Holy See, and Caesar Spada, one of the noblest an_ichest of the Roman nobility; both felt the high honor of such a favor fro_he pope. They were ambitious, and Caesar Borgia soon found purchasers fo_heir appointments. The result was, that Rospigliosi and Spada paid for bein_ardinals, and eight other persons paid for the offices the cardinals hel_efore their elevation, and thus eight hundred thousand crowns entered int_he coffers of the speculators.
"It is time now to proceed to the last part of the speculation. The pop_eaped attentions upon Rospigliosi and Spada, conferred upon them the insigni_f the cardinalate, and induced them to arrange their affairs and take u_heir residence at Rome. Then the pope and Caesar Borgia invited the tw_ardinals to dinner. This was a matter of dispute between the holy father an_is son. Caesar thought they could make use of one of the means which h_lways had ready for his friends, that is to say, in the first place, th_amous key which was given to certain persons with the request that they g_nd open a designated cupboard. This key was furnished with a small iro_oint, — a negligence on the part of the locksmith. When this was pressed t_ffect the opening of the cupboard, of which the lock was difficult, th_erson was pricked by this small point, and died next day. Then there was th_ing with the lion's head, which Caesar wore when he wanted to greet hi_riends with a clasp of the hand. The lion bit the hand thus favored, and a_he end of twenty-four hours, the bite was mortal. Caesar proposed to hi_ather, that they should either ask the cardinals to open the cupboard, o_hake hands with them; but Alexander VI., replied: `Now as to the worth_ardinals, Spada and Rospigliosi, let us ask both of them to dinner, somethin_ells me that we shall get that money back. Besides, you forget, Caesar, a_ndigestion declares itself immediately, while a prick or a bite occasions _elay of a day or two.' Caesar gave way before such cogent reasoning, and th_ardinals were consequently invited to dinner.
"The table was laid in a vineyard belonging to the pope, near San Pierdarena, a charming retreat which the cardinals knew very well by report. Rospigliosi, quite set up with his new dignities, went with a good appetite and his mos_ngratiating manner. Spada, a prudent man, and greatly attached to his onl_ephew, a young captain of the highest promise, took paper and pen, and mad_is will. He then sent word to his nephew to wait for him near the vineyard; but it appeared the servant did not find him.
"Spada knew what these invitations meant; since Christianity, so eminentl_ivilizing, had made progress in Rome, it was no longer a centurion who cam_rom the tyrant with a message, `Caesar wills that you die.' but it was _egate a latere, who came with a smile on his lips to say from the pope, `Hi_oliness requests you to dine with him.'
"Spada set out about two o'clock to San Pierdarena. The pope awaited him. Th_irst sight that attracted the eyes of Spada was that of his nephew, in ful_ostume, and Caesar Borgia paying him most marked attentions. Spada turne_ale, as Caesar looked at him with an ironical air, which proved that he ha_nticipated all, and that the snare was well spread. They began dinner an_pada was only able to inquire of his nephew if he had received his message.
The nephew replied no; perfectly comprehending the meaning of the question. I_as too late, for he had already drunk a glass of excellent wine, placed fo_im expressly by the pope's butler. Spada at the same moment saw anothe_ottle approach him, which he was pressed to taste. An hour afterwards _hysician declared they were both poisoned through eating mushrooms. Spad_ied on the threshold of the vineyard; the nephew expired at his own door, making signs which his wife could not comprehend.
"Then Caesar and the pope hastened to lay hands on the heritage, unde_resence of seeking for the papers of the dead man. But the inheritanc_onsisted in this only, a scrap of paper on which Spada had written: — `_equeath to my beloved nephew my coffers, my books, and, amongst others, m_reviary with the gold corners, which I beg he will preserve in remembrance o_is affectionate uncle.'
"The heirs sought everywhere, admired the breviary, laid hands on th_urniture, and were greatly astonished that Spada, the rich man, was reall_he most miserable of uncles — no treasures — unless they were those o_cience, contained in the library and laboratories. That was all. Caesar an_is father searched, examined, scrutinized, but found nothing, or at leas_ery little; not exceeding a few thousand crowns in plate, and about the sam_n ready money; but the nephew had time to say to his wife before he expired: `Look well among my uncle's papers; there is a will.'
"They sought even more thoroughly than the august heirs had done, but it wa_ruitless. There were two palaces and a vineyard behind the Palatine Hill; bu_n these days landed property had not much value, and the two palaces and th_ineyard remained to the family since they were beneath the rapacity of th_ope and his son. Months and years rolled on. Alexander VI. died, poisoned, — you know by what mistake. Caesar, poisoned at the same time, escaped b_hedding his skin like a snake; but the new skin was spotted by the poiso_ill it looked like a tiger's. Then, compelled to quit Rome, he went and go_imself obscurely killed in a night skirmish, scarcely noticed in history.
After the pope's death and his son's exile, it was supposed that the Spad_amily would resume the splendid position they had held before the cardinal'_ime; but this was not the case. The Spadas remained in doubtful ease, _ystery hung over this dark affair, and the public rumor was, that Caesar, _etter politician than his father, had carried off from the pope the fortun_f the two cardinals. I say the two, because Cardinal Rospigliosi, who had no_aken any precaution, was completely despoiled.
"Up to this point," said Faria, interrupting the thread of his narrative,
"this seems to you very meaningless, no doubt, eh?"
"Oh, my friend," cried Dantes, "on the contrary, it seems as if I were readin_ most interesting narrative; go on, I beg of you."
"The family began to get accustomed to their obscurity. Years rolled on, an_mongst the descendants some were soldiers, others diplomatists; som_hurchmen, some bankers; some grew rich, and some were ruined. I come now t_he last of the family, whose secretary I was — the Count of Spada. I ha_ften heard him complain of the disproportion of his rank with his fortune; and I advised him to invest all he had in an annuity. He did so, and thu_oubled his income. The celebrated breviary remained in the family, and was i_he count's possession. It had been handed down from father to son; for th_ingular clause of the only will that had been found, had caused it to b_egarded as a genuine relic, preserved in the family with superstitiou_eneration. It was an illuminated book, with beautiful Gothic characters, an_o weighty with gold, that a servant always carried it before the cardinal o_ays of great solemnity.
"At the sight of papers of all sorts, — titles, contracts, parchments, whic_ere kept in the archives of the family, all descending from the poisone_ardinal, I in my turn examined the immense bundles of documents, like twent_ervitors, stewards, secretaries before me; but in spite of the mos_xhaustive researches, I found — nothing. Yet I had read, I had even written _recise history of the Borgia family, for the sole purpose of assuring mysel_hether any increase of fortune had occurred to them on the death of th_ardinal Caesar Spada; but could only trace the acquisition of the property o_he Cardinal Rospigliosi, his companion in misfortune.
"I was then almost assured that the inheritance had neither profited th_orgias nor the family, but had remained unpossessed like the treasures of th_rabian Nights, which slept in the bosom of the earth under the eyes of th_enie. I searched, ransacked, counted, calculated a thousand and a thousan_imes the income and expenditure of the family for three hundred years. It wa_seless. I remained in my ignorance, and the Count of Spada in his poverty. M_atron died. He had reserved from his annuity his family papers, his library, composed of five thousand volumes, and his famous breviary. All these h_equeathed to me, with a thousand Roman crowns, which he had in ready money, on condition that I would have anniversary masses said for the repose of hi_oul, and that I would draw up a genealogical tree and history of his house.
All this I did scrupulously. Be easy, my dear Edmond, we are near th_onclusion.
"In 1807, a month before I was arrested, and a fortnight after the death o_he Count of Spada, on the 25th of December (you will see presently how th_ate became fixed in my memory), I was reading, for the thousandth time, th_apers I was arranging, for the palace was sold to a stranger, and I was goin_o leave Rome and settle at Florence, intending to take with me twelv_housand francs I possessed, my library, and the famous breviary, when, tire_ith my constant labor at the same thing, and overcome by a heavy dinner I ha_aten, my head dropped on my hands, and I fell asleep about three o'clock i_he afternoon. I awoke as the clock was striking six. I raised my head; I wa_n utter darkness. I rang for a light, but as no one came, I determined t_ind one for myself. It was indeed but anticipating the simple manners which _hould soon be under the necessity of adopting. I took a wax-candle in on_and, and with the other groped about for a piece of paper (my match-box bein_mpty), with which I proposed to get a light from the small flame stil_laying on the embers. Fearing, however, to make use of any valuable piece o_aper, I hesitated for a moment, then recollected that I had seen in th_amous breviary, which was on the table beside me, an old paper quite yello_ith age, and which had served as a marker for centuries, kept there by th_equest of the heirs. I felt for it, found it, twisted it up together, an_utting it into the expiring flame, set light to it.
"But beneath my fingers, as if by magic, in proportion as the fire ascended, _aw yellowish characters appear on the paper. I grasped it in my hand, put ou_he flame as quickly as I could, lighted my taper in the fire itself, an_pened the crumpled paper with inexpressible emotion, recognizing, when I ha_one so, that these characters had been traced in mysterious and sympatheti_nk, only appearing when exposed to the fire; nearly one-third of the pape_ad been consumed by the flame. It was that paper you read this morning; rea_t again, Dantes, and then I will complete for you the incomplete words an_nconnected sense."
Faria, with an air of triumph, offered the paper to Dantes, who this time rea_he following words, traced with an ink of a reddish color resembling rust: —
"This 25th day of April, 1498, be… Alexander VI., and fearing that not… he ma_esire to become my heir, and re… and Bentivoglio, who were poisoned,… my sol_eir, that I have bu… and has visited with me, that is, in… Island of Mont_risto, all I poss… jewels, diamonds, gems; that I alone… may amount to nearl_wo mil… will find on raising the twentieth ro… creek to the east in a righ_ine. Two open… in these caves; the treasure is in the furthest a… whic_reasure I bequeath and leave en… as my sole heir. "25th April, 1498. "Caes…
"And now," said the abbe, "read this other paper;" and he presented to Dante_ second leaf with fragments of lines written on it, which Edmond read a_ollows: —
"… ing invited to dine by his Holiness … content with making me pay for m_at, … serves for me the fate of Cardinals Caprara … I declare to my nephew, Guido Spada … ried in a place he knows … the caves of the small … essed o_ngots, gold, money, … know of the existence of this treasure, which … lion_f Roman crowns, and which he … ck from the small … ings have been made … ngl_n the second; … tire to him … ar Spada."
Faria followed him with an excited look. "and now," he said, when he saw tha_antes had read the last line, "put the two fragments together, and judge fo_ourself." Dantes obeyed, and the conjointed pieces gave the following: —
"This 25th day of April, 1498, be… ing invited to dine by his Holines_lexander VI., and fearing that not… content with making me pay for my hat, h_ay desire to become my heir, and re… serves for me the fate of Cardinal_aprara and Bentivoglio, who were poisoned… I declare to my nephew, Guid_pada, my sole heir, that I have bu… ried in a place he knows and has visite_ith me, that is, in… the caves of the small Island of Monte Cristo all _oss… ssed of ingots, gold, money, jewels, diamonds, gems; that I alone… kno_f the existence of this treasure, which may amount to nearly two mil… lion_f Roman crowns, and which he will find on raising the twentieth ro… ck fro_he small creek to the east in a right line. Two open… ings have been made i_hese caves; the treasure is in the furthest a… ngle in the second; whic_reasure I bequeath and leave en… tire to him as my sole heir. "25th April, 1498. "Caes… ar Spada."
"Well, do you comprehend now?" inquired Faria.
"It is the declaration of Cardinal Spada, and the will so long sought for,"
replied Edmond, still incredulous.
"Yes; a thousand times, yes!"
"And who completed it as it now is?"
"I did. Aided by the remaining fragment, I guessed the rest; measuring th_ength of the lines by those of the paper, and divining the hidden meaning b_eans of what was in part revealed, as we are guided in a cavern by the smal_ay of light above us."
"And what did you do when you arrived at this conclusion?"
"I resolved to set out, and did set out at that very instant, carrying with m_he beginning of my great work, the unity of the Italian kingdom; but for som_ime the imperial police (who at this period, quite contrary to what Napoleo_esired so soon as he had a son born to him, wished for a partition o_rovinces) had their eyes on me; and my hasty departure, the cause of whic_hey were unable to guess, having aroused their suspicions, I was arrested a_he very moment I was leaving Piombino.
"Now," continued Faria, addressing Dantes with an almost paternal expression,
"now, my dear fellow, you know as much as I do myself. If we ever escap_ogether, half this treasure is yours; if I die here, and you escape alone, the whole belongs to you."
"But," inquired Dantes hesitating, "has this treasure no more legitimat_ossessor in the world than ourselves?"
"No, no, be easy on that score; the family is extinct. The last Count o_pada, moreover, made me his heir, bequeathing to me this symbolic breviary, he bequeathed to me all it contained; no, no, make your mind satisfied on tha_oint. If we lay hands on this fortune, we may enjoy it without remorse."
"And you say this treasure amounts to" —
"Two millions of Roman crowns; nearly thirteen millions of our money."*
(* $2,600,000 in 1894.)
"Impossible!" said Dantes, staggered at the enormous amount.
"Impossible? and why?" asked the old man. "The Spada family was one of th_ldest and most powerful families of the fifteenth century; and in thos_imes, when other opportunities for investment were wanting, suc_ccumulations of gold and jewels were by no means rare; there are at this da_oman families perishing of hunger, though possessed of nearly a million i_iamonds and jewels, handed down by entail, and which they cannot touch."
Edmond thought he was in a dream — he wavered between incredulity and joy.
"I have only kept this secret so long from you," continued Faria, "that _ight test your character, and then surprise you. Had we escaped before m_ttack of catalepsy, I should have conducted you to Monte Cristo; now," h_dded, with a sigh, "it is you who will conduct me thither. Well, Dantes, yo_o not thank me?"
"This treasure belongs to you, my dear friend," replied Dantes, "and to yo_nly. I have no right to it. I am no relation of yours."
"You are my son, Dantes," exclaimed the old man. "You are the child of m_aptivity. My profession condemns me to celibacy. God has sent you to me t_onsole, at one and the same time, the man who could not be a father, and th_risoner who could not get free." And Faria extended the arm of which alon_he use remained to him to the young man who threw himself upon his neck an_ept.