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- The Count of Monte Cristo - 40/309 -
undeserved misfortune. I would fain fix the source of it on man that I may no longer vent reproaches upon heaven."
"Then you profess ignorance of the crime with which you are charged?"
"I do, indeed; and this I swear by the two beings most dear to me upon earth, -- my father and Mercedes."
"Come," said the abbe, closing his hiding-place, and pushing the bed back to its original situation, "let me hear your story."
Dantes obeyed, and commenced what he called his history, but which consisted only of the account of a voyage to India, and two or three voyages to the Levant until he arrived at the recital of his last cruise, with the death of Captain Leclere, and the receipt of a packet to be delivered by himself to the grand marshal; his interview with that personage, and his receiving, in place of the packet brought, a letter addressed to a Monsieur Noirtier -- his arrival at Marseilles, and interview with his father -- his affection for Mercedes, and their nuptual feast -- his arrest and subsequent examination, his temporary detention at the Palais de Justice, and his final imprisonment in the Chateau d'If. From this point everything was a blank to Dantes -- he knew nothing more, not even the length of time he had been imprisoned. His recital finished, the abbe reflected long and earnestly.
"There is," said he, at the end of his meditations, "a clever maxim, which bears upon what I was saying to you some little while ago, and that is, that unless wicked ideas take root in a naturally depraved mind, human nature, in a right and wholesome state, revolts at crime. Still, from an artificial civilization have originated wants, vices, and false tastes, which occasionally become so powerful as to stifle within us all good feelings, and ultimately to lead us into guilt and wickedness. From this view of things, then, comes the axiom that if you visit to discover the author of any bad action, seek first to discover the person to whom the perpetration of that bad action could be in any way advantageous. Now, to apply it in your case, -- to whom could your disappearance have been serviceable?"
"To no one, by heaven! I was a very insignificant person."
"Do not speak thus, for your reply evinces neither logic nor philosophy; everything is relative, my dear young friend, from the king who stands in the way of his successor, to the employee who keeps his rival out of a place. Now, in the event of the king's death, his successor inherits a crown, -- when the employee dies, the supernumerary steps into his shoes, and receives his salary of twelve thousand livres. Well, these twelve thousand livres are his civil list, and are as essential to him as the twelve millions of a king. Every one, from the highest to the lowest degree, has his place on the social ladder, and is beset by stormy passions and conflicting interests, as in Descartes' theory of pressure and impulsion. But these forces increase as we go higher, so that we have a spiral which in defiance of reason rests upon the apex and not on the base. Now let us return to your particular world. You say you were on the point of being made captain of the Pharaon?"
"And about to become the husband of a young and lovely girl?"
"Now, could any one have had any interest in preventing the accomplishment of these two things? But let us first settle the question as to its being the interest of any one to hinder you from being captain of the Pharaon. What say you?"
"I cannot believe such was the case. I was generally liked on board, and had the sailors possessed the right of selecting a captain themselves, I feel convinced their choice would have fallen on me. There was only one person among the crew who had any feeling of ill-will towards me. I had quarelled with him some time previously, and had even challenged him to fight me; but he refused."
"Now we are getting on. And what was this man's name?"
"What rank did he hold on board?"
"He was supercargo."
"And had you been captain, should you have retained him in his employment?"
"Not if the choice had remained with me, for I had frequently observed inaccuracies in his accounts."
"Good again! Now then, tell me, was any person present during your last conversation with Captain Leclere?"
"No; we were quite alone."
"Could your conversation have been overheard by any one?"
"It might, for the cabin door was open -- and -- stay; now I recollect, -- Danglars himself passed by just as Captain Leclere was giving me the packet for the grand marshal."
"That's better," cried the abbe; "now we are on the right scent. Did you take anybody with you when you put into the port of Elba?"
"Somebody there received your packet, and gave you a letter in place of it, I think?"
"Yes; the grand marshal did."
"And what did you do with that letter?"
"Put it into my portfolio."
"You had your portfolio with you, then? Now, how could a sailor find room in his pocket for a portfolio large enough to contain an official letter?"
"You are right; it was left on board."
"Then it was not till your return to the ship that you put the letter in the portfolio?"
"And what did you do with this same letter while returning from Porto-Ferrajo to the vessel?"
"I carried it in my hand."
"So that when you went on board the Pharaon, everybody could see that you held a letter in your hand?"
"Danglars, as well as the rest?"
"Danglars, as well as others."
"Now, listen to me, and try to recall every circumstance attending your arrest. Do you recollect the words in which the information against you was formulated?"
"Oh yes, I read it over three times, and the words sank deeply into my memory."
"Repeat it to me."
Dantes paused a moment, then said, "This is it, word for word: `The king's attorney is informed by a friend to the throne and religion, that one Edmond Dantes, mate on board the Pharaon, this day arrived from Smyrna, after having touched at Naples and Porto-Ferrajo, has been intrusted by Murat with a packet for the usurper; again, by the usurper, with a letter for the Bonapartist Club in Paris. This proof of his guilt may be procured by his immediate arrest, as the letter will be found either about his person, at his father's residence, or in his cabin on board the Pharaon.'" The abbe shrugged his shoulders. "The thing is clear as day," said he; "and you must have had a very confiding nature, as well as a good heart, not to have suspected the origin of the whole affair."
"Do you really think so? Ah, that would indeed be infamous."
"How did Danglars usually write?"
"In a handsome, running hand."
"And how was the anonymous letter written?"
"Backhanded." Again the abbe smiled. "Disguised."
"It was very boldly written, if disguised."
"Stop a bit," said the abbe, taking up what he called his pen, and, after dipping it into the ink, he wrote on a piece of prepared linen, with his left hand, the first two or three words of the accusation. Dantes drew back, and gazed on the abbe with a sensation almost amounting to terror.
"How very astonishing!" cried he at length. "Why your writing exactly resembles that of the accusation."
"Simply because that accusation had been written with the left hand; and I have noticed that" --
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