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- The Count of Monte Cristo - 300/309 -
"Ma foi, yes; though he was in his own element."
"What do you mean?"
"The report was that he had been a naval officer, who had been confined for plotting with the Bonapartists."
"Great is truth," muttered the count, "fire cannot burn, nor water drown it! Thus the poor sailor lives in the recollection of those who narrate his history; his terrible story is recited in the chimney-corner, and a shudder is felt at the description of his transit through the air to be swallowed by the deep." Then, the count added aloud, "Was his name ever known?"
"Oh, yes; but only as No. 34."
"Oh, Villefort, Villefort," murmured the count, "this scene must often have haunted thy sleepless hours!"
"Do you wish to see anything more, sir?" said the concierge.
"Yes, especially if you will show me the poor abbe's room."
"Ah -- No. 27."
"Yes; No. 27." repeated the count, who seemed to hear the voice of the abbe answering him in those very words through the wall when asked his name.
"Wait," said Monte Cristo, "I wish to take one final glance around this room."
"This is fortunate," said the guide; "I have forgotten the other key."
"Go and fetch it."
"I will leave you the torch, sir."
"No, take it away; I can see in the dark."
"Why, you are like No. 34. They said he was so accustomed to darkness that he could see a pin in the darkest corner of his dungeon."
"He spent fourteen years to arrive at that," muttered the count.
The guide carried away the torch. The count had spoken correctly. Scarcely had a few seconds elapsed, ere he saw everything as distinctly as by daylight. Then he looked around him, and really recognized his dungeon.
"Yes," he said, "there is the stone upon which I used to sit; there is the impression made by my shoulders on the wall; there is the mark of my blood made when one day I dashed my head against the wall. Oh, those figures, how well I remember them! I made them one day to calculate the age of my father, that I might know whether I should find him still living, and that of Mercedes, to know if I should find her still free. After finishing that calculation, I had a minute's hope. I did not reckon upon hunger and infidelity!" and a bitter laugh escaped the count. He saw in fancy the burial of his father, and the marriage of Mercedes. On the other side of the dungeon he perceived an inscription, the white letters of which were still visible on the green wall. "`O God,'" he read, "`preserve my memory!' Oh, yes," he cried, "that was my only prayer at last; I no longer begged for liberty, but memory; I dreaded to become mad and forgetful. O God, thou hast preserved my memory; I thank thee, I thank thee!" At this moment the light of the torch was reflected on the wall; the guide was coming; Monte Cristo went to meet him.
"Follow me, sir;" and without ascending the stairs the guide conducted him by a subterraneous passage to another entrance. There, again, Monte Cristo was assailed by a multitude of thoughts. The first thing that met his eye was the meridian, drawn by the abbe on the wall, by which he calculated the time; then he saw the remains of the bed on which the poor prisoner had died. The sight of this, instead of exciting the anguish experienced by the count in the dungeon, filled his heart with a soft and grateful sentiment, and tears fell from his eyes.
"This is where the mad abbe was kept, sir, and that is where the young man entered; "and the guide pointed to the opening, which had remained unclosed. "From the appearance of the stone," he continued, "a learned gentleman discovered that the prisoners might have communicated together for ten years. Poor things! Those must have been ten weary years."
Dantes took some louis from his pocket, and gave them to the man who had twice unconsciously pitied him. The guide took them, thinking them merely a few pieces of little value; but the light of the torch revealed their true worth. "Sir," he said, "you have made a mistake; you have given me gold."
"I know it." The concierge looked upon the count with surprise. "Sir," he cried, scarcely able to believe his good fortune -- "sir, I cannot understand your generosity!"
"Oh, it is very simple, my good fellow; I have been a sailor, and your story touched me more than it would others."
"Then, sir, since you are so liberal, I ought to offer you something."
"What have you to offer to me, my friend? Shells? Straw-work? Thank you!"
"No, sir, neither of those; something connected with this story."
"Really? What is it?"
"Listen," said the guide; "I said to myself, `Something is always left in a cell inhabited by one prisoner for fifteen years,' so I began to sound the wall."
"Ah," cried Monte Cristo, remembering the abbe's two hiding-places.
"After some search, I found that the floor gave a hollow sound near the head of the bed, and at the hearth."
"Yes," said the count, "yes."
"I raised the stones, and found" --
"A rope-ladder and some tools?"
"How do you know that?" asked the guide in astonishment.
"I do not know -- I only guess it, because that sort of thing is generally found in prisoners' cells."
"Yes, sir, a rope-ladder and tools."
"And have you them yet?"
"No, sir; I sold them to visitors, who considered them great curiosities; but I have still something left."
"What is it?" asked the count, impatiently.
"A sort of book, written upon strips of cloth."
"Go and fetch it, my good fellow; and if it be what I hope, you will do well."
"I will run for it, sir;" and the guide went out. Then the count knelt down by the side of the bed, which death had converted into an altar. "Oh, second father," he exclaimed, "thou who hast given me liberty, knowledge, riches; thou who, like beings of a superior order to ourselves, couldst understand the science of good and evil; if in the depths of the tomb there still remain something within us which can respond to the voice of those who are left on earth; if after death the soul ever revisit the places where we have lived and suffered, -- then, noble heart, sublime soul, then I conjure thee by the paternal love thou didst bear me, by the filial obedience I vowed to thee, grant me some sign, some revelation! Remove from me the remains of doubt, which, if it change not to conviction, must become remorse!" The count bowed his head, and clasped his hands together.
"Here, sir," said a voice behind him.
Monte Cristo shuddered, and arose. The concierge held out the strips of cloth upon which the Abbe Faria had spread the riches of his mind. The manuscript was the great work by the Abbe Faria upon the kingdoms of Italy. The count seized it hastily, his eyes immediately fell upon the epigraph, and he read, "`Thou shalt tear out the dragons' teeth, and shall trample the lions under foot, saith the Lord.'"
"Ah," he exclaimed, "here is my answer. Thanks, father, thanks." And feeling in his pocket, he took thence a small pocket-book, which contained ten bank-notes, each of 1,000 francs.
"Here," he said, "take this pocket-book."
"Do you give it to me?"
"Yes; but only on condition that you will not open it till I am gone;" and placing in his breast the treasure he had just found, which was more valuable to him than the richest jewel, he rushed out of the corridor, and reaching his boat, cried, "To Marseilles!" Then, as he departed, he fixed his eyes upon the gloomy prison. "Woe," he cried, "to those who confined me in that wretched prison; and woe to those who forgot that I was there!" As he repassed the Catalans, the count turned around and burying his head in his cloak
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