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Chapter 69 The Inquiry.

  • 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?"
  • "Exactly, sir."
  • "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."
  • "Agreed."
  • "I asked you if you knew him?"
  • "Extremely well."
  • "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."
  • "Ah, indeed?"
  • "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."
  • "In Italy?"
  • "Everywhere."
  • "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?"
  • "The father's?"
  • "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."
  • "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?"
  • "One only."
  • "What is his name?"
  • "Lord Wilmore."
  • "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."
  • "Andrea?"
  • "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."
  • "However" —
  • "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?"
  • "Certainly."
  • "What do you know respecting it?"
  • "Do you wish to know why he bought it?"
  • "Yes."
  • "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.