M. de Villefort kept the promise he had made to Madame Danglars, to endeavo_o find out how the Count of Monte Cristo had discovered the history of th_ouse at Auteuil. He wrote the same day for the required information to M. d_oville, who, from having been an inspector of prisons, was promoted to a hig_ffice in the police; and the latter begged for two days time to ascertai_xactly who would be most likely to give him full particulars. At the end o_he second day M. de Villefort received the following note: —
"The person called the Count of Monte Cristo is an intimate acquaintance o_ord Wilmore, a rich foreigner, who is sometimes seen in Paris and who i_here at this moment; he is also known to the Abbe Busoni, a Sicilian priest, of high repute in the East, where he has done much good."
M. de Villefort replied by ordering the strictest inquiries to be mad_especting these two persons; his orders were executed, and the followin_vening he received these details: —
"The abbe, who was in Paris only for a month, inhabited a small two-storie_ouse behind Saint-Sulpice; there were two rooms on each floor and he was th_nly tenant. The two lower rooms consisted of a dining-room, with a table, chairs, and side-board of walnut, — and a wainscoted parlor, withou_rnaments, carpet, or timepiece. It was evident that the abbe limited himsel_o objects of strict necessity. He preferred to use the sitting-room upstairs, which was more library than parlor, and was furnished with theological book_nd parchments, in which he delighted to bury himself for months at a time, according to his valet de chambre. His valet looked at the visitors through _ort of wicket; and if their faces were unknown to him or displeased him, h_eplied that the abbe was not in Paris, an answer which satisfied mos_ersons, because the abbe was known to be a great traveller. Besides, whethe_t home or not, whether in Paris or Cairo, the abbe always left something t_ive away, which the valet distributed through this wicket in his master'_ame. The other room near the library was a bedroom. A bed without curtains, four arm-chairs, and a couch, covered with yellow Utrecht velvet, composed, with a prie-Dieu, all its furniture. Lord Wilmore resided in Rue Fontaine- Saint-George. He was one of those English tourists who consume a large fortun_n travelling. He hired the apartment in which he lived furnished, passed onl_ few hours in the day there, and rarely slept there. One of his peculiaritie_as never to speak a word of French, which he however wrote with grea_acility."
The day after this important information had been given to the king'_ttorney, a man alighted from a carriage at the corner of the Rue Ferou, an_apping at an olive-green door, asked if the Abbe Busoni were within. "No, h_ent out early this morning," replied the valet.
"I might not always be content with that answer," replied the visitor, "for _ome from one to whom everyone must be at home. But have the kindness to giv_he Abbe Busoni" —
"I told you he was not at home," repeated the valet. "Then on his return giv_im that card and this sealed paper. Will he be at home at eight o'clock thi_vening?"
"Doubtless, unless he is at work, which is the same as if he were out."
"I will come again at that time," replied the visitor, who then retired.
At the appointed hour the same man returned in the same carriage, which, instead of stopping this time at the end of the Rue Ferou, drove up to th_reen door. He knocked, and it opened immediately to admit him. From the sign_f respect the valet paid him, he saw that his note had produced a goo_ffect. "Is the abbe at home?" asked he.
"Yes; he is at work in his library, but he expects you, sir," replied th_alet. The stranger ascended a rough staircase, and before a table, illumine_y a lamp whose light was concentrated by a large shade while the rest of th_partment was in partial darkness, he perceived the abbe in a monk's dress, with a cowl on his head such as was used by learned men of the Middle Ages.
"Have I the honor of addressing the Abbe Busoni?" asked the visitor.
"Yes, sir," replied the abbe; "and you are the person whom M. de Boville, formerly an inspector of prisons, sends to me from the prefect of police?"
"One of the agents appointed to secure the safety of Paris?"
"Yes, sir" replied the stranger with a slight hesitation, and blushing.
The abbe replaced the large spectacles, which covered not only his eyes bu_is temples, and sitting down motioned to his visitor to do the same. "I am a_our service, sir," said the abbe, with a marked Italian accent.
"The mission with which I am charged, sir," replied the visitor, speaking wit_esitation, "is a confidential one on the part of him who fulfils it, and hi_y whom he is employed." The abbe bowed. "Your probity," replied the stranger,
"is so well known to the prefect that he wishes as a magistrate to ascertai_rom you some particulars connected with the public safety, to ascertain whic_ am deputed to see you. It is hoped that no ties of friendship or human_onsideration will induce you to conceal the truth."
"Provided, sir, the particulars you wish for do not interfere with my scruple_r my conscience. I am a priest, sir, and the secrets of confession, fo_nstance, must remain between me and God, and not between me and huma_ustice."
"Do not alarm yourself, monsieur, we will duly respect your conscience."
At this moment the abbe pressed down his side of the shade and so raised it o_he other, throwing a bright light on the stranger's face, while his ow_emained obscured. "Excuse me, abbe," said the envoy of the prefect of th_olice, "but the light tries my eyes very much." The abbe lowered the shade.
"Now, sir, I am listening — go on."
"I will come at once to the point. Do you know the Count of Monte Cristo?"
"You mean Monsieur Zaccone, I presume?"
"Zaccone? — is not his name Monte Cristo?"
"Monte Cristo is the name of an estate, or, rather, of a rock, and not _amily name."
"Well, be it so — let us not dispute about words; and since M. de Monte Crist_nd M. Zaccone are the same" —
"Absolutely the same."
"Let us speak of M. Zaccone."
"I asked you if you knew him?"
"Who is he?"
"The son of a rich shipbuilder in Malta."
"I know that is the report; but, as you are aware, the police does not conten_tself with vague reports."
"However," replied the abbe, with an affable smile, "when that report is i_ccordance with the truth, everybody must believe it, the police as well a_ll the rest."
"Are you sure of what you assert?"
"What do you mean by that question?"
"Understand, sir, I do not in the least suspect your veracity; I ask if yo_re certain of it?"
"I knew his father, M. Zaccone."
"And when a child I often played with the son in the timber-yards."
"But whence does he derive the title of count?"
"You are aware that may be bought."
"And his immense riches, whence does he procure them?"
"They may not be so very great."
"How much do you suppose he possesses?"
"From one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand livres per annum."
"That is reasonable," said the visitor; "I have heard he had three or fou_illions."
"Two hundred thousand per annum would make four millions of capital."
"But I was told he had four millions per annum?"
"That is not probable."
"Do you know this Island of Monte Cristo?"
"Certainly, every one who has come from Palermo, Naples, or Rome to France b_ea must know it, since he has passed close to it and must have seen it."
"I am told it is a delightful place?"
"It is a rock."
"And why has the count bought a rock?"
"For the sake of being a count. In Italy one must have territorial possession_o be a count."
"You have, doubtless, heard the adventures of M. Zaccone's youth?"
"No, the son's."
"I know nothing certain; at that period of his life, I lost sight of my youn_omrade."
"Was he in the wars?"
"I think he entered the service."
"In what branch?"
"In the navy."
"Are you not his confessor?"
"No, sir; I believe he is a Lutheran."
"I say, I believe such is the case, I do not affirm it; besides, liberty o_onscience is established in France."
"Doubtless, and we are not now inquiring into his creed, but his actions; i_he name of the prefect of police, I ask you what you know of him.
"He passes for a very charitable man. Our holy father, the pope, has made hi_ knight of Jesus Christ for the services he rendered to the Christians in th_ast; he has five or six rings as testimonials from Eastern monarchs of hi_ervices."
"Does he wear them?"
"No, but he is proud of them; he is better pleased with rewards given to th_enefactors of man than to his destroyers."
"He is a Quaker then?"
"Exactly, he is a Quaker, with the exception of the peculiar dress."
"Has he any friends?"
"Yes, every one who knows him is his friend."
"But has he any enemies?"
"What is his name?"
"Where is he?"
"He is in Paris just now."
"Can he give me any particulars?"
"Important ones; he was in India with Zaccone."
"Do you know his abode?"
"It's somewhere in the Chaussee d'Antin; but I know neither the street nor th_umber."
"Are you at variance with the Englishman?"
"I love Zaccone, and he hates him; we are consequently not friends."
"Do you think the Count of Monte Cristo had ever been in France before he mad_his visit to Paris?"
"To that question I can answer positively; no, sir, he had not, because h_pplied to me six months ago for the particulars he required, and as I did no_now when I might again come to Paris, I recommended M. Cavalcanti to him."
"No, Bartolomeo, his father."
"Now, sir, I have but one question more to ask, and I charge you, in the nam_f honor, of humanity, and of religion, to answer me candidly."
"What is it, sir?"
"Do you know with what design M. de Monte Cristo purchased a house a_uteuil?"
"Certainly, for he told me."
"What is it, sir?"
"To make a lunatic asylum of it, similar to that founded by the Count o_isani at Palermo. Do you know about that institution?"
"I have heard of it."
"It is a magnificent charity." Having said this, the abbe bowed to imply h_ished to pursue his studies. The visitor either understood the abbe'_eaning, or had no more questions to ask; he arose, and the abbe accompanie_im to the door. "You are a great almsgiver," said the visitor, "and althoug_ou are said to be rich, I will venture to offer you something for your poo_eople; will you accept my offering?"
"I thank you, sir; I am only jealous in one thing, and that is that the relie_ give should be entirely from my own resources."
"My resolution, sir, is unchangeable, but you have only to search for yoursel_nd you will find, alas, but too many objects upon whom to exercise you_enevolence." The abbe once more bowed as he opened the door, the strange_owed and took his leave, and the carriage conveyed him straight to the hous_f M. de Villefort. An hour afterwards the carriage was again ordered, an_his time it went to the Rue Fontaine-Saint-George, and stopped at No. 5, where Lord Wilmore lived. The stranger had written to Lord Wilmore, requestin_n interview, which the latter had fixed for ten o'clock. As the envoy of th_refect of police arrived ten minutes before ten, he was told that Lor_ilmore, who was precision and punctuality personified, was not yet come in, but that he would be sure to return as the clock struck.
The visitor was introduced into the drawing-room, which was like all othe_urnished drawing-rooms. A mantle-piece, with two modern Sevres vases, _imepiece representing Cupid with his bent bow, a mirror with an engraving o_ach side — one representing Homer carrying his guide, the other, Belisariu_egging — a grayish paper; red and black tapestry — such was the appearance o_ord Wilmore's drawing-room. It was illuminated by lamps with ground-glas_hades which gave only a feeble light, as if out of consideration for th_nvoy's weak sight. After ten minutes' expectation the clock struck ten; a_he fifth stroke the door opened and Lord Wilmore appeared. He was rathe_bove the middle height, with thin reddish whiskers, light complexion an_ight hair, turning rather gray. He was dressed with all the Englis_eculiarity, namely, in a blue coat, with gilt buttons and high collar, in th_ashion of 1811, a white kerseymere waistcoat, and nankeen pantaloons, thre_nches too short, but which were prevented by straps from slipping up to th_nee. His first remark on entering was, — "You know, sir, I do not spea_rench?"
"I know you do not like to converse in our language," replied the envoy. "Bu_ou may use it," replied Lord Wilmore; "I understand it."
"And I," replied the visitor, changing his idiom, "know enough of English t_eep up the conversation. Do not put yourself to the slightest inconvenience."
"Aw?" said Lord Wilmore, with that tone which is only known to natives o_reat Britain.
The envoy presented his letter of introduction, which the latter read wit_nglish coolness, and having finished, — "I understand," said he, "perfectly."
Then began the questions, which were similar to those which had been addresse_o the Abbe Busoni. But as Lord Wilmore, in the character of the count'_nemy, was less restrained in his answers, they were more numerous; h_escribed the youth of Monte Cristo, who he said, at ten years of age, entere_he service of one of the petty sovereigns of India who make war on th_nglish. It was there Wilmore had first met him and fought against him; and i_hat war Zaccone had been taken prisoner, sent to England, and consigned t_he hulks, whence he had escaped by swimming. Then began his travels, hi_uels, his caprices; then the insurrection in Greece broke out, and he ha_erved in the Grecian ranks. While in that service he had discovered a silve_ine in the mountains of Thessaly, but he had been careful to conceal it fro_very one. After the battle of Navarino, when the Greek government wa_onsolidated, he asked of King Otho a mining grant for that district, whic_as given him. Hence that immense fortune, which, in Lord Wilmore's opinion, possibly amounted to one or two millions per annum, — a precarious fortune, which might be momentarily lost by the failure of the mine.
"But," asked the visitor, "do you know why he came to France?"
"He is speculating in railways," said Lord Wilmore, "and as he is an exper_hemist and physicist, he has invented a new system of telegraphy, which he i_eeking to bring to perfection."
"How much does he spend yearly?" asked the prefect.
"Not more than five or six hundred thousand francs," said Lord Wilmore; "he i_ miser." Hatred evidently inspired the Englishman, who, knowing no othe_eproach to bring on the count, accused him of avarice. "Do you know his hous_t Auteuil?"
"What do you know respecting it?"
"Do you wish to know why he bought it?"
"The count is a speculator, who will certainly ruin himself in experiments. H_upposes there is in the neighborhood of the house he has bought a minera_pring equal to those at Bagneres, Luchon, and Cauterets. He is going to tur_is house into a Badhaus, as the Germans term it. He has already dug up al_he garden two or three times to find the famous spring, and, bein_nsuccessful, he will soon purchase all the contiguous houses. Now, as _islike him, and hope his railway, his electric telegraph, or his search fo_aths, will ruin him, I am watching for his discomfiture, which must soon tak_lace."
"What was the cause of your quarrel?"
"When he was in England he seduced the wife of one of my friends."
"Why do you not seek revenge?"
"I have already fought three duels with him," said the Englishman, "the firs_ith the pistol, the second with the sword, and the third with the sabre."
"And what was the result of those duels?"
"The first time, he broke my arm; the second, he wounded me in the breast; an_he third time, made this large wound." The Englishman turned down his shirt- collar, and showed a scar, whose redness proved it to be a recent one. "S_hat, you see, there is a deadly feud between us."
"But," said the envoy, "you do not go about it in the right way to kill him, if I understand you correctly."
"Aw?" said the Englishman, "I practice shooting every day, and every other da_risier comes to my house."
This was all the visitor wished to ascertain, or, rather, all the Englishma_ppeared to know. The agent arose, and having bowed to Lord Wilmore, wh_eturned his salutation with the stiff politeness of the English, he retired.
Lord Wilmore, having heard the door close after him, returned to his bedroom, where with one hand he pulled off his light hair, his red whiskers, his fals_aw, and his wound, to resume the black hair, dark complexion, and pearl_eeth of the Count of Monte Cristo. It was M. de Villefort, and not th_refect, who returned to the house of M. de Villefort. The procureur felt mor_t ease, although he had learned nothing really satisfactory, and, for th_irst time since the dinner-party at Auteuil, he slept soundly.