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Chapter 27
The Story.

"First, sir," said Caderousse, "you must make me a promise."

"What is that?" inquired the abbe.

"Why, if you ever make use of the details I am about to give
you, that you will never let any one know that it was I who
supplied them; for the persons of whom I am about to talk
are rich and powerful, and if they only laid the tips of
their fingers on me, I should break to pieces like glass."

"Make yourself easy, my friend," replied the abbe. "I am a
priest, and confessions die in my breast. Recollect, our
only desire is to carry out, in a fitting manner, the last
wishes of our friend. Speak, then, without reserve, as
without hatred; tell the truth, the whole truth; I do not
know, never may know, the persons of whom you are about to
speak; besides, I am an Italian, and not a Frenchman, and
belong to God, and not to man, and I shall shortly retire to
my convent, which I have only quitted to fulfil the last
wishes of a dying man." This positive assurance seemed to
give Caderousse a little courage.

"Well, then, under these circumstances," said Caderousse, "I
will, I even believe I ought to undeceive you as to the
friendship which poor Edmond thought so sincere and

"Begin with his father, if you please." said the abbe;
"Edmond talked to me a great deal about the old man for whom
he had the deepest love."

"The history is a sad one, sir," said Caderousse, shaking
his head; "perhaps you know all the earlier part of it?"

"Yes." answered the abbe; "Edmond related to me everything
until the moment when he was arrested in a small cabaret
close to Marseilles."

"At La Reserve! Oh, yes; I can see it all before me this

"Was it not his betrothal feast?"

"It was and the feast that began so gayly had a very
sorrowful ending; a police commissary, followed by four
soldiers, entered, and Dantes was arrested."

"Yes, and up to this point I know all," said the priest.
"Dantes himself only knew that which personally concerned
him, for he never beheld again the five persons I have named
to you, or heard mention of any one of them."

"Well, when Dantes was arrested, Monsieur Morrel hastened to
obtain the particulars, and they were very sad. The old man
returned alone to his home, folded up his wedding suit with
tears in his eyes, and paced up and down his chamber the
whole day, and would not go to bed at all, for I was
underneath him and heard him walking the whole night; and
for myself, I assure you I could not sleep either, for the
grief of the poor father gave me great uneasiness, and every
step he took went to my heart as really as if his foot had
pressed against my breast. The next day Mercedes came to
implore the protection of M. de Villefort; she did not
obtain it, however, and went to visit the old man; when she
saw him so miserable and heart-broken, having passed a
sleepless night, and not touched food since the previous
day, she wished him to go with her that she might take care
of him; but the old man would not consent. `No,' was the old
man's reply, `I will not leave this house, for my poor dear
boy loves me better than anything in the world; and if he
gets out of prison he will come and see me the first thing,
and what would he think if I did not wait here for him?' I
heard all this from the window, for I was anxious that
Mercedes should persuade the old man to accompany her, for
his footsteps over my head night and day did not leave me a
moment's repose."

"But did you not go up-stairs and try to console the poor
old man?" asked the abbe.

"Ah, sir," replied Caderousse, "we cannot console those who
will not be consoled, and he was one of these; besides, I
know not why, but he seemed to dislike seeing me. One night,
however, I heard his sobs, and I could not resist my desire
to go up to him, but when I reached his door he was no
longer weeping but praying. I cannot now repeat to you, sir,
all the eloquent words and imploring language he made use
of; it was more than piety, it was more than grief, and I,
who am no canter, and hate the Jesuits, said then to myself,
`It is really well, and I am very glad that I have not any
children; for if I were a father and felt such excessive
grief as the old man does, and did not find in my memory or
heart all he is now saying, I should throw myself into the
sea at once, for I could not bear it.'"

"Poor father!" murmured the priest.

"From day to day he lived on alone, and more and more
solitary. M. Morrel and Mercedes came to see him, but his
door was closed; and, although I was certain he was at home,
he would not make any answer. One day, when, contrary to his
custom, he had admitted Mercedes, and the poor girl, in
spite of her own grief and despair, endeavored to console
him, he said to her, -- `Be assured, my dear daughter, he is
dead; and instead of expecting him, it is he who is awaiting
us; I am quite happy, for I am the oldest, and of course
shall see him first.' However well disposed a person may be,
why you see we leave off after a time seeing persons who are
in sorrow, they make one melancholy; and so at last old
Dantes was left all to himself, and I only saw from time to
time strangers go up to him and come down again with some
bundle they tried to hide; but I guessed what these bundles
were, and that he sold by degrees what he had to pay for his
subsistence. At length the poor old fellow reached the end
of all he had; he owed three quarters' rent, and they
threatened to turn him out; he begged for another week,
which was granted to him. I know this, because the landlord
came into my apartment when he left his. For the first three
days I heard him walking about as usual, but, on the fourth
I heard nothing. I then resolved to go up to him at all
risks. The door was closed, but I looked through the
keyhole, and saw him so pale and haggard, that believing him
very ill, I went and told M. Morrel and then ran on to
Mercedes. They both came immediately, M. Morrel bringing a
doctor, and the doctor said it was inflammation of the
bowels, and ordered him a limited diet. I was there, too,
and I never shall forget the old man's smile at this
prescription. From that time he received all who came; he
had an excuse for not eating any more; the doctor had put
him on a diet." The abbe uttered a kind of groan. "The story
interests you, does it not, sir?" inquired Caderousse.

"Yes," replied the abbe, "it is very affecting."

"Mercedes came again, and she found him so altered that she
was even more anxious than before to have him taken to her
own home. This was M. Morrel's wish also, who would fain
have conveyed the old man against his consent; but the old
man resisted, and cried so that they were actually
frightened. Mercedes remained, therefore, by his bedside,
and M. Morrel went away, making a sign to the Catalan that
he had left his purse on the chimney-piece. But availing
himself of the doctor's order, the old man would not take
any sustenance; at length (after nine days of despair and
fasting), the old man died, cursing those who had caused his
misery, and saying to Mercedes, `If you ever see my Edmond
again, tell him I die blessing him.'" The abbe rose from his
chair, made two turns round the chamber, and pressed his
trembling hand against his parched throat. "And you believe
he died" --

"Of hunger, sir, of hunger," said Caderousse. "I am as
certain of it as that we two are Christians."

The abbe, with a shaking hand, seized a glass of water that
was standing by him half-full, swallowed it at one gulp, and
then resumed his seat, with red eyes and pale cheeks. "This
was, indeed, a horrid event." said he in a hoarse voice.

"The more so, sir, as it was men's and not God's doing."

"Tell me of those men," said the abbe, "and remember too,"
he added in an almost menacing tone, "you have promised to
tell me everything. Tell me, therefore, who are these men
who killed the son with despair, and the father with

"Two men jealous of him, sir; one from love, and the other
from ambition, -- Fernand and Danglars."

"How was this jealousy manifested? Speak on."

"They denounced Edmond as a Bonapartist agent."

"Which of the two denounced him? Which was the real

"Both, sir; one with a letter, and the other put it in the

"And where was this letter written?"

"At La Reserve, the day before the betrothal feast."

"'Twas so, then -- 'twas so, then," murmured the abbe. "Oh,
Faria, Faria, how well did you judge men and things!"

"What did you please to say, sir?" asked Caderousse.

"Nothing, nothing," replied the priest; "go on."

"It was Danglars who wrote the denunciation with his left
hand, that his writing might not be recognized, and Fernand
who put it in the post."

"But," exclaimed the abbe suddenly, "you were there

"I!" said Caderousse, astonished; "who told you I was

The abbe saw he had overshot the mark, and he added quickly,
-- "No one; but in order to have known everything so well,
you must have been an eye-witness."

"True, true!" said Caderousse in a choking voice, "I was

"And did you not remonstrate against such infamy?" asked the
abbe; "if not, you were an accomplice."

"Sir," replied Caderousse, "they had made me drink to such
an excess that I nearly lost all perception. I had only an
indistinct understanding of what was passing around me. I
said all that a man in such a state could say; but they both
assured me that it was a jest they were carrying on, and
perfectly harmless."

"Next day -- next day, sir, you must have seen plain enough
what they had been doing, yet you said nothing, though you
were present when Dantes was arrested."

"Yes, sir, I was there, and very anxious to speak; but
Danglars restrained me. `If he should really be guilty,'
said he, `and did really put in to the Island of Elba; if he
is really charged with a letter for the Bonapartist
committee at Paris, and if they find this letter upon him,
those who have supported him will pass for his accomplices.'
I confess I had my fears, in the state in which politics
then were, and I held my tongue. It was cowardly, I confess,
but it was not criminal."

"I understand -- you allowed matters to take their course,
that was all."

"Yes, sir," answered Caderousse; "and remorse preys on me
night and day. I often ask pardon of God, I swear to you,
because this action, the only one with which I have
seriously to reproach myself in all my life, is no doubt the
cause of my abject condition. I am expiating a moment of
selfishness, and so I always say to La Carconte, when she
complains, `Hold your tongue, woman; it is the will of
God.'" And Caderousse bowed his head with every sign of real

"Well, sir," said the abbe, "you have spoken unreservedly;
and thus to accuse yourself is to deserve pardon."

"Unfortunately, Edmond is dead, and has not pardoned me."

"He did not know," said the abbe.

"But he knows it all now," interrupted Caderousse; "they say
the dead know everything." There was a brief silence; the
abbe rose and paced up and down pensively, and then resumed
his seat. "You have two or three times mentioned a M.
Morrel," he said; "who was he?"

"The owner of the Pharaon and patron of Dantes."

"And what part did he play in this sad drama?" inquired the

"The part of an honest man, full of courage and real regard.
Twenty times he interceded for Edmond. When the emperor
returned, he wrote, implored, threatened, and so
energetically, that on the second restoration he was
persecuted as a Bonapartist. Ten times, as I told you, he
came to see Dantes' father, and offered to receive him in
his own house; and the night or two before his death, as I
have already said, he left his purse on the mantelpiece,
with which they paid the old man's debts, and buried him
decently; and so Edmond's father died, as he had lived,
without doing harm to any one. I have the purse still by me
-- a large one, made of red silk."

"And," asked the abbe, "is M. Morrel still alive?"

"Yes," replied Caderousse.

"In that case," replied the abbe, "he should be rich,

Caderousse smiled bitterly. "Yes, happy as myself," said he.

"What! M. Morrel unhappy?" exclaimed the abbe.

"He is reduced almost to the last extremity -- nay, he is
almost at the point of dishonor."


"Yes," continued Caderousse, "so it is; after five and
twenty years of labor, after having acquired a most
honorable name in the trade of Marseilles, M. Morrel is
utterly ruined; he has lost five ships in two years, has
suffered by the bankruptcy of three large houses, and his
only hope now is in that very Pharaon which poor Dantes
commanded, and which is expected from the Indies with a
cargo of cochineal and indigo. If this ship founders, like
the others, he is a ruined man."

"And has the unfortunate man wife or children?" inquired the

"Yes, he has a wife, who through everything has behaved like
an angel; he has a daughter, who was about to marry the man
she loved, but whose family now will not allow him to wed
the daughter of a ruined man; he has, besides, a son, a
lieutenant in the army; and, as you may suppose, all this,
instead of lessening, only augments his sorrows. If he were
alone in the world he would blow out his brains, and there
would be an end."

"Horrible!" ejaculated the priest.

"And it is thus heaven recompenses virtue, sir," added
Caderousse. "You see, I, who never did a bad action but that
I have told you of -- am in destitution, with my poor wife
dying of fever before my very eyes, and I unable to do
anything in the world for her; I shall die of hunger, as old
Dantes did, while Fernand and Danglars are rolling in

"How is that?"

"Because their deeds have brought them good fortune, while
honest men have been reduced to misery."

"What has become of Danglars, the instigator, and therefore
the most guilty?"

"What has become of him? Why, he left Marseilles, and was
taken, on the recommendation of M. Morrel, who did not know
his crime, as cashier into a Spanish bank. During the war
with Spain he was employed in the commissariat of the French
army, and made a fortune; then with that money he speculated
in the funds, and trebled or quadrupled his capital; and,
having first married his banker's daughter, who left him a
widower, he has married a second time, a widow, a Madame de
Nargonne, daughter of M. de Servieux, the king's
chamberlain, who is in high favor at court. He is a
millionaire, and they have made him a baron, and now he is
the Baron Danglars, with a fine residence in the Rue de
Mont-Blanc, with ten horses in his stables, six footmen in
his ante-chamber, and I know not how many millions in his

"Ah!" said the abbe, in a peculiar tone, "he is happy."

"Happy? Who can answer for that? Happiness or unhappiness is
the secret known but to one's self and the walls -- walls
have ears but no tongue; but if a large fortune produces
happiness, Danglars is happy."

"And Fernand?"

"Fernand? Why, much the same story."

"But how could a poor Catalan fisher-boy, without education
or resources, make a fortune? I confess this staggers me."

"And it has staggered everybody. There must have been in his
life some strange secret that no one knows."

"But, then, by what visible steps has he attained this high
fortune or high position?"

"Both, sir -- he has both fortune and position -- both."

"This must be impossible!"

"It would seem so; but listen, and you will understand. Some
days before the return of the emperor, Fernand was drafted.
The Bourbons left him quietly enough at the Catalans, but
Napoleon returned, a special levy was made, and Fernand was
compelled to join. I went too; but as I was older than
Fernand, and had just married my poor wife, I was only sent
to the coast. Fernand was enrolled in the active troop, went
to the frontier with his regiment, and was at the battle of
Ligny. The night after that battle he was sentry at the door
of a general who carried on a secret correspondence with the
enemy. That same night the general was to go over to the
English. He proposed to Fernand to accompany him; Fernand
agreed to do so, deserted his post, and followed the
general. Fernand would have been court-martialed if Napoleon
had remained on the throne, but his action was rewarded by
the Bourbons. He returned to France with the epaulet of
sub-lieutenant, and as the protection of the general, who is
in the highest favor, was accorded to him, he was a captain
in 1823, during the Spanish war -- that is to say, at the
time when Danglars made his early speculations. Fernand was
a Spaniard, and being sent to Spain to ascertain the feeling
of his fellow-countrymen, found Danglars there, got on very
intimate terms with him, won over the support of the
royalists at the capital and in the provinces, received
promises and made pledges on his own part, guided his
regiment by paths known to himself alone through the
mountain gorges which were held by the royalists, and, in
fact, rendered such services in this brief campaign that,
after the taking of Trocadero, he was made colonel, and
received the title of count and the cross of an officer of
the Legion of Honor."

"Destiny! destiny!" murmured the abbe.

"Yes, but listen: this was not all. The war with Spain being
ended, Fernand's career was checked by the long peace which
seemed likely to endure throughout Europe. Greece only had
risen against Turkey, and had begun her war of independence;
all eyes were turned towards Athens -- it was the fashion to
pity and support the Greeks. The French government, without
protecting them openly, as you know, gave countenance to
volunteer assistance. Fernand sought and obtained leave to
go and serve in Greece, still having his name kept on the
army roll. Some time after, it was stated that the Comte de
Morcerf (this was the name he bore) had entered the service
of Ali Pasha with the rank of instructor-general. Ali Pasha
was killed, as you know, but before he died he recompensed
the services of Fernand by leaving him a considerable sum,
with which he returned to France, when he was gazetted

"So that now?" -- inquired the abbe.

"So that now," continued Caderousse, "he owns a magnificent
house -- No. 27, Rue du Helder, Paris." The abbe opened his
mouth, hesitated for a moment, then, making an effort at
self-control, he said, "And Mercedes -- they tell me that
she has disappeared?"

"Disappeared," said Caderousse, "yes, as the sun disappears,
to rise the next day with still more splendor."

"Has she made a fortune also?" inquired the abbe, with an
ironical smile.

"Mercedes is at this moment one of the greatest ladies in
Paris," replied Caderousse.

"Go on," said the abbe; "it seems as if I were listening to
the story of a dream. But I have seen things so
extraordinary, that what you tell me seems less astonishing
than it otherwise might."

"Mercedes was at first in the deepest despair at the blow
which deprived her of Edmond. I have told you of her
attempts to propitiate M. de Villefort, her devotion to the
elder Dantes. In the midst of her despair, a new affliction
overtook her. This was the departure of Fernand -- of
Fernand, whose crime she did not know, and whom she regarded
as her brother. Fernand went, and Mercedes remained alone.
Three months passed and still she wept -- no news of Edmond,
no news of Fernand, no companionship save that of an old man
who was dying with despair. One evening, after a day of
accustomed vigil at the angle of two roads leading to
Marseilles from the Catalans, she returned to her home more
depressed than ever. Suddenly she heard a step she knew,
turned anxiously around, the door opened, and Fernand,
dressed in the uniform of a sub-lieutenant, stood before
her. It was not the one she wished for most, but it seemed
as if a part of her past life had returned to her. Mercedes
seized Fernand's hands with a transport which he took for
love, but which was only joy at being no longer alone in the
world, and seeing at last a friend, after long hours of
solitary sorrow. And then, it must be confessed, Fernand had
never been hated -- he was only not precisely loved. Another
possessed all Mercedes' heart; that other was absent, had
disappeared, perhaps was dead. At this last thought Mercedes
burst into a flood of tears, and wrung her hands in agony;
but the thought, which she had always repelled before when
it was suggested to her by another, came now in full force
upon her mind; and then, too, old Dantes incessantly said to
her, `Our Edmond is dead; if he were not, he would return to
us.' The old man died, as I have told you; had he lived,
Mercedes, perchance, had not become the wife of another, for
he would have been there to reproach her infidelity. Fernand
saw this, and when he learned of the old man's death he
returned. He was now a lieutenant. At his first coming he
had not said a word of love to Mercedes; at the second he
reminded her that he loved her. Mercedes begged for six
months more in which to await and mourn for Edmond."

"So that," said the abbe, with a bitter smile, "that makes
eighteen months in all. What more could the most devoted
lover desire?" Then he murmured the words of the English
poet, "`Frailty, thy name is woman.'"

"Six months afterwards," continued Caderousse, "the marriage
took place in the church of Accoules."

"The very church in which she was to have married Edmond,"
murmured the priest; "there was only a change of

"Well, Mercedes was married," proceeded Caderousse; "but
although in the eyes of the world she appeared calm, she
nearly fainted as she passed La Reserve, where, eighteen
months before, the betrothal had been celebrated with him
whom she might have known she still loved had she looked to
the bottom of her heart. Fernand, more happy, but not more
at his ease -- for I saw at this time he was in constant
dread of Edmond's return -- Fernand was very anxious to get
his wife away, and to depart himself. There were too many
unpleasant possibilities associated with the Catalans, and
eight days after the wedding they left Marseilles."

"Did you ever see Mercedes again?" inquired the priest.

"Yes, during the Spanish war, at Perpignan, where Fernand
had left her; she was attending to the education of her
son." The abbe started. "Her son?" said he.

"Yes," replied Caderousse, "little Albert."

"But, then, to be able to instruct her child," continued the
abbe, "she must have received an education herself. I
understood from Edmond that she was the daughter of a simple
fisherman, beautiful but uneducated."

"Oh," replied Caderousse, "did he know so little of his
lovely betrothed? Mercedes might have been a queen, sir, if
the crown were to be placed on the heads of the loveliest
and most intelligent. Fernand's fortune was already waxing
great, and she developed with his growing fortune. She
learned drawing, music -- everything. Besides, I believe,
between ourselves, she did this in order to distract her
mind, that she might forget; and she only filled her head in
order to alleviate the weight on her heart. But now her
position in life is assured," continued Caderousse; "no
doubt fortune and honors have comforted her; she is rich, a
countess, and yet" -- Caderousse paused.

"And yet what?" asked the abbe.

"Yet, I am sure, she is not happy," said Caderousse.

"What makes you believe this?"

"Why, when I found myself utterly destitute, I thought my
old friends would, perhaps, assist me. So I went to
Danglars, who would not even receive me. I called on
Fernand, who sent me a hundred francs by his

"Then you did not see either of them?"

"No, but Madame de Morcerf saw me."

"How was that?"

"As I went away a purse fell at my feet -- it contained five
and twenty louis; I raised my head quickly, and saw
Mercedes, who at once shut the blind."

"And M. de Villefort?" asked the abbe.

"Oh, he never was a friend of mine, I did not know him, and
I had nothing to ask of him."

"Do you not know what became of him, and the share he had in
Edmond's misfortunes?"

"No; I only know that some time after Edmond's arrest, he
married Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran, and soon after left
Marseilles; no doubt he has been as lucky as the rest; no
doubt he is as rich as Danglars, as high in station as
Fernand. I only, as you see, have remained poor, wretched,
and forgotten."

"You are mistaken, my friend," replied the abbe; "God may
seem sometimes to forget for a time, while his justice
reposes, but there always comes a moment when he remembers
-- and behold -- a proof!" As he spoke, the abbe took the
diamond from his pocket, and giving it to Caderousse, said,
-- "Here, my friend, take this diamond, it is yours."

"What, for me only?" cried Caderousse, "ah, sir, do not jest
with me!"

"This diamond was to have been shared among his friends.
Edmond had one friend only, and thus it cannot be divided.
Take the diamond, then, and sell it; it is worth fifty
thousand francs, and I repeat my wish that this sum may
suffice to release you from your wretchedness."

"Oh, sir," said Caderousse, putting out one hand timidly,
and with the other wiping away the perspiration which
bedewed his brow, -- "Oh, sir, do not make a jest of the
happiness or despair of a man."

"I know what happiness and what despair are, and I never
make a jest of such feelings. Take it, then, but in exchange
-- "

Caderousse, who touched the diamond, withdrew his hand. The
abbe smiled. "In exchange," he continued, "give me the red
silk purse that M. Morrel left on old Dantes' chimney-piece,
and which you tell me is still in your hands." Caderousse,
more and more astonished, went toward a large oaken
cupboard, opened it, and gave the abbe a long purse of faded
red silk, round which were two copper runners that had once
been gilt. The abbe took it, and in return gave Caderousse
the diamond.

"Oh, you are a man of God, sir," cried Caderousse; "for no
one knew that Edmond had given you this diamond, and you
might have kept it."

"Which," said the abbe to himself, "you would have done."
The abbe rose, took his hat and gloves. "Well," he said,
"all you have told me is perfectly true, then, and I may
believe it in every particular."

"See, sir," replied Caderousse, "in this corner is a
crucifix in holy wood -- here on this shelf is my wife's
testament; open this book, and I will swear upon it with my
hand on the crucifix. I will swear to you by my soul's
salvation, my faith as a Christian, I have told everything
to you as it occurred, and as the recording angel will tell
it to the ear of God at the day of the last judgment!"

"'Tis well," said the abbe, convinced by his manner and tone
that Caderousse spoke the truth. "'Tis well, and may this
money profit you! Adieu; I go far from men who thus so
bitterly injure each other." The abbe with difficulty got
away from the enthusiastic thanks of Caderousse, opened the
door himself, got out and mounted his horse, once more
saluted the innkeeper, who kept uttering his loud farewells,
and then returned by the road he had travelled in coming.
When Caderousse turned around, he saw behind him La
Carconte, paler and trembling more than ever. "Is, then, all
that I have heard really true?" she inquired.

"What? That he has given the diamond to us only?" inquired
Caderousse, half bewildered with joy; "yes, nothing more
true! See, here it is." The woman gazed at it a moment, and
then said, in a gloomy voice, "Suppose it's false?"
Caderousse started and turned pale. "False!" he muttered.
"False! Why should that man give me a false diamond?"

"To get your secret without paying for it, you blockhead!"

Caderousse remained for a moment aghast under the weight of
such an idea. "Oh!" he said, taking up his hat, which he
placed on the red handkerchief tied round his head, "we will
soon find out."

"In what way?"

"Why, the fair is on at Beaucaire, there are always
jewellers from Paris there, and I will show it to them. Look
after the house, wife, and I shall be back in two hours,"
and Caderousse left the house in haste, and ran rapidly in
the direction opposite to that which the priest had taken.
"Fifty thousand francs!" muttered La Carconte when left
alone; "it is a large sum of money, but it is not a

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
General Fiction
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