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Chapter 43 The House at Auteuil.

  • Monte Cristo noticed, as they descended the staircase, that Bertuccio signe_imself in the Corsican manner; that is, had formed the sign of the cross i_he air with his thumb, and as he seated himself in the carriage, muttered _hort prayer. Any one but a man of exhaustless thirst for knowledge would hav_ad pity on seeing the steward's extraordinary repugnance for the count'_rojected drive without the walls; but the Count was too curious to le_ertuccio off from this little journey. In twenty minutes they were a_uteuil; the steward's emotion had continued to augment as they entered th_illage. Bertuccio, crouched in the corner of the carriage, began to examin_ith a feverish anxiety every house they passed. "Tell them to stop at Rue d_a Fontaine, No. 28," said the count, fixing his eyes on the steward, to who_e gave this order. Bertuccio's forehead was covered with perspiration; however, he obeyed, and, leaning out of the window, he cried to the coachman, — "Rue de la Fontaine, No. 28." No. 28 was situated at the extremity of th_illage; during the drive night had set in, and darkness gave the surrounding_he artificial appearance of a scene on the stage. The carriage stopped, th_ootman sprang off the box, and opened the door. "Well," said the count, "yo_o not get out, M. Bertuccio — you are going to stay in the carriage, then?
  • What are you thinking of this evening?" Bertuccio sprang out, and offered hi_houlder to the count, who, this time, leaned upon it as he descended th_hree steps of the carriage. "Knock," said the count, "and announce me."
  • Bertuccio knocked, the door opened, and the concierge appeared. "What is it?"
  • asked he.
  • "It is your new master, my good fellow," said the footman. And he held out t_he concierge the notary's order.
  • "The house is sold, then?" demanded the concierge; "and this gentleman i_oming to live here?"
  • "Yes, my friend," returned the count; "and I will endeavor to give you n_ause to regret your old master."
  • "Oh, monsieur," said the concierge, "I shall not have much cause to regre_im, for he came here but seldom; it is five years since he was here last, an_e did well to sell the house, for it did not bring him in anything at all."
  • "What was the name of your old master?" said Monte Cristo.
  • "The Marquis of Saint-Meran. Ah, I am sure he has not sold the house for wha_e gave for it."
  • "The Marquis of Saint-Meran!" returned the count. "The name is not unknown t_e; the Marquis of Saint-Meran!" and he appeared to meditate.
  • "An old gentleman," continued the concierge, "a stanch follower of th_ourbons; he had an only daughter, who married M. de Villefort, who had bee_he king's attorney at Nimes, and afterwards at Versailles." Monte Crist_lanced at Bertuccio, who became whiter than the wall against which he leane_o prevent himself from falling. "And is not this daughter dead?" demande_onte Cristo; "I fancy I have heard so."
  • "Yes, monsieur, one and twenty years ago; and since then we have not seen th_oor marquis three times."
  • "Thanks, thanks," said Monte Cristo, judging from the steward's utte_rostration that he could not stretch the cord further without danger o_reaking it. "Give me a light."
  • "Shall I accompany you, monsieur?"
  • "No, it is unnecessary; Bertuccio will show me a light." And Monte Crist_ccompanied these words by the gift of two gold pieces, which produced _orrent of thanks and blessings from the concierge. "Ah, monsieur," said he, after having vainly searched on the mantle-piece and the shelves, "I have no_ot any candles."
  • "Take one of the carriage-lamps, Bertuccio," said the count, "and show me th_partments." The steward obeyed in silence, but it was easy to see, from th_anner in which the hand that held the light trembled, how much it cost him t_bey. They went over a tolerably large ground-floor; a second floor consiste_f a salon, a bathroom, and two bedrooms; near one of the bedrooms they cam_o a winding staircase that led down to the garden.
  • "Ah, here is a private staircase," said the count; "that is convenient. Ligh_e, M. Bertuccio, and go first; we will see where it leads to."
  • "Monsieur," replied Bertuccio, "it leads to the garden."
  • "And, pray, how do you know that?"
  • "It ought to do so, at least."
  • "Well, let us be sure of that." Bertuccio sighed, and went on first; th_tairs did, indeed, lead to the garden. At the outer door the steward paused.
  • "Go on, Monsieur Bertuccio," said the count. But he who was addressed stoo_here, stupefied, bewildered, stunned; his haggard eyes glanced around, as i_n search of the traces of some terrible event, and with his clinched hands h_eemed striving to shut out horrible recollections. "Well," insisted th_ount. "No, no," cried Bertuccio, setting down the lantern at the angle of th_nterior wall. "No, monsieur, it is impossible; I can go no farther."
  • "What does this mean?" demanded the irresistible voice of Monte Cristo.
  • "Why, you must see, your excellency," cried the steward, "that this is no_atural; that, having a house to purchase, you purchase it exactly at Auteuil, and that, purchasing it at Auteuil, this house should be No. 28, Rue de l_ontaine. Oh, why did I not tell you all? I am sure you would not have force_e to come. I hoped your house would have been some other one than this; as i_here was not another house at Auteuil than that of the assassination!"
  • "What, what!" cried Monte Cristo, stopping suddenly, "what words do you utter?
  • Devil of a man, Corsican that you are — always mysteries or superstitions.
  • Come, take the lantern, and let us visit the garden; you are not afraid o_hosts with me, I hope?" Bertuccio raised the lantern, and obeyed. The door, as it opened, disclosed a gloomy sky, in which the moon strove vainly t_truggle through a sea of clouds that covered her with billows of vapor whic_he illumined for an instant, only to sink into obscurity. The steward wishe_o turn to the left. "No, no, monsieur," said Monte Cristo. "What is the us_f following the alleys? Here is a beautiful lawn; let us go on straigh_orwards."
  • Bertuccio wiped the perspiration from his brow, but obeyed; however, h_ontinued to take the left hand. Monte Cristo, on the contrary, took the righ_and; arrived near a clump of trees, he stopped. The steward could no_estrain himself. "Move, monsieur — move away, I entreat you; you are exactl_n the spot!"
  • "What spot?"
  • "Where he fell."
  • "My dear Monsieur Bertuccio," said Monte Cristo, laughing, "control yourself; we are not at Sartena or at Corte. This is not a Corsican arbor, but a_nglish garden; badly kept, I own, but still you must not calumniate it fo_hat."
  • "Monsieur, I implore you do not stay there!"
  • "I think you are going mad, Bertuccio," said the count coldly. "If that is th_ase, I warn you, I shall have you put in a lunatic asylum."
  • "Alas, excellency," returned Bertuccio, joining his hands, and shaking hi_ead in a manner that would have excited the count's laughter, had no_houghts of a superior interest occupied him, and rendered him attentive t_he least revelation of this timorous conscience. "Alas, excellency, the evi_as arrived!"
  • "M. Bertuccio," said the count, "I am very glad to tell you, that while yo_esticulate, you wring your hands and roll your eyes like a man possessed by _evil who will not leave him; and I have always observed, that the devil mos_bstinate to be expelled is a secret. I knew you were a Corsican. I knew yo_ere gloomy, and always brooding over some old history of the vendetta; and _verlooked that in Italy, because in Italy those things are thought nothin_f. But in France they are considered in very bad taste; there are gendarme_ho occupy themselves with such affairs, judges who condemn, and scaffold_hich avenge." Bertuccio clasped his hands, and as, in all these evolutions, he did not let fall the lantern, the light showed his pale and altere_ountenance. Monte Cristo examined him with the same look that, at Rome, h_ad bent upon the execution of Andrea, and then, in a tone that made a shudde_ass through the veins of the poor steward, — "The Abbe Busoni, then told m_n untruth," said he, "when, after his journey in France, in 1829, he sent yo_o me, with a letter of recommendation, in which he enumerated all you_aluable qualities. Well, I shall write to the abbe; I shall hold hi_esponsible for his protege's misconduct, and I shall soon know all about thi_ssassination. Only I warn you, that when I reside in a country, I conform t_ll its code, and I have no wish to put myself within the compass of th_rench laws for your sake."
  • "Oh, do not do that, excellency; I have always served you faithfully," crie_ertuccio, in despair. "I have always been an honest man, and, as far as la_n my power, I have done good."
  • "I do not deny it," returned the count; "but why are you thus agitated. It i_ bad sign; a quiet conscience does not occasion such paleness in the cheeks, and such fever in the hands of a man."
  • "But, your excellency," replied Bertuccio hesitatingly, "did not the Abb_usoni, who heard my confession in the prison at Nimes, tell you that I had _eavy burden upon my conscience?"
  • "Yes; but as he said you would make an excellent steward, I concluded you ha_tolen — that was all."
  • "Oh, your excellency," returned Bertuccio in deep contempt.
  • "Or, as you are a Corsican, that you had been unable to resist the desire o_aking a `stiff,' as you call it."
  • "Yes, my good master," cried Bertuccio, casting himself at the count's feet,
  • "it was simply vengeance — nothing else."
  • "I understand that, but I do not understand what it is that galvanizes you i_his manner."
  • "But, monsieur, it is very natural," returned Bertuccio, "since it was in thi_ouse that my vengeance was accomplished."
  • "What! my house?"
  • "Oh, your excellency, it was not yours, then."
  • "Whose, then? The Marquis de Saint-Meran, I think, the concierge said. Wha_ad you to revenge on the Marquis de Saint-Meran?"
  • "Oh, it was not on him, monsieur; it was on another."
  • "This is strange," returned Monte Cristo, seeming to yield to his reflections,
  • "that you should find yourself without any preparation in a house where th_vent happened that causes you so much remorse."
  • "Monsieur," said the steward, "it is fatality, I am sure. First, you purchas_ house at Auteuil — this house is the one where I have committed a_ssassination; you descend to the garden by the same staircase by which h_escended; you stop at the spot where he received the blow; and two pace_arther is the grave in which he had just buried his child. This is no_hance, for chance, in this case, is too much like providence."
  • "Well, amiable Corsican, let us suppose it is providence. I always suppos_nything people please, and, besides, you must concede something to disease_inds. Come, collect yourself, and tell me all."
  • "I have related it but once, and that was to the Abbe Busoni. Such things,"
  • continued Bertuccio, shaking his head, "are only related under the seal o_onfession."
  • "Then," said the count, "I refer you to your confessor. Turn Chartreux o_rappist, and relate your secrets, but, as for me, I do not like any one wh_s alarmed by such phantasms, and I do not choose that my servants should b_fraid to walk in the garden of an evening. I confess I am not very desirou_f a visit from the commissary of police, for, in Italy, justice is only pai_hen silent — in France she is paid only when she speaks. Peste, I thought yo_omewhat Corsican, a great deal smuggler, and an excellent steward; but I se_ou have other strings to your bow. You are no longer in my service, Monsieu_ertuccio."
  • "Oh, your excellency, your excellency!" cried the steward, struck with terro_t this threat, "if that is the only reason I cannot remain in your service, _ill tell all, for if I quit you, it will only be to go to the scaffold."
  • "That is different," replied Monte Cristo; "but if you intend to tell a_ntruth, reflect it were better not to speak at all."
  • "No, monsieur, I swear to you, by my hopes of salvation, I will tell you all, for the Abbe Busoni himself only knew a part of my secret; but, I pray you, g_way from that plane-tree. The moon is just bursting through the clouds, an_here, standing where you do, and wrapped in that cloak that conceals you_igure, you remind me of M. de Villefort."
  • "What!" cried Monte Cristo, "it was M. de Villefort?"
  • "Your excellency knows him?"
  • "The former royal attorney at Nimes?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Who married the Marquis of Saint-Meran's daughter?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Who enjoyed the reputation of being the most severe, the most upright, th_ost rigid magistrate on the bench?"
  • "Well, monsieur," said Bertuccio, "this man with this spotless reputation" —
  • "Well?"
  • "Was a villain."
  • "Bah," replied Monte Cristo, "impossible!"
  • "It is as I tell you."
  • "Ah, really," said Monte Cristo. "Have you proof of this?"
  • "I had it."
  • "And you have lost it; how stupid!"
  • "Yes; but by careful search it might be recovered."
  • "Really," returned the count, "relate it to me, for it begins to interest me."
  • And the count, humming an air from "Lucia," went to sit down on a bench, whil_ertuccio followed him, collecting his thoughts. Bertuccio remained standin_efore him.