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?"
"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!"
"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?"
"Who married the Marquis of Saint-Meran's daughter?"
"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" —
"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.