How a Gardener may get rid of the Dormice that eat His
Not on the same night, as he had intended, but the next
morning, the Count of Monte Cristo went out by the Barrier
d'Enfer, taking the road to Orleans. Leaving the village of
Linas, without stopping at the telegraph, which flourished
its great bony arms as he passed, the count reached the
tower of Montlhery, situated, as every one knows, upon the
highest point of the plain of that name. At the foot of the
hill the count dismounted and began to ascend by a little
winding path, about eighteen inches wide; when he reached
the summit he found himself stopped by a hedge, upon which
green fruit had succeeded to red and white flowers.
Monte Cristo looked for the entrance to the enclosure, and
was not long in finding a little wooden gate, working on
willow hinges, and fastened with a nail and string. The
count soon mastered the mechanism, the gate opened, and he
then found himself in a little garden, about twenty feet
long by twelve wide, bounded on one side by part of the
hedge, which contained the ingenious contrivance we have
called a gate, and on the other by the old tower, covered
with ivy and studded with wall-flowers. No one would have
thought in looking at this old, weather-beaten,
floral-decked tower (which might be likened to an elderly
dame dressed up to receive her grandchildren at a birthday
feast) that it would have been capable of telling strange
things, if, -- in addition to the menacing ears which the
proverb says all walls are provided with, -- it had also a
voice. The garden was crossed by a path of red gravel, edged
by a border of thick box, of many years' growth, and of a
tone and color that would have delighted the heart of
Delacroix, our modern Rubens. This path was formed in the
shape of the figure of 8, thus, in its windings, making a
walk of sixty feet in a garden of only twenty.
Never had Flora, the fresh and smiling goddess of gardeners,
been honored with a purer or more scrupulous worship than
that which was paid to her in this little enclosure. In
fact, of the twenty rose-trees which formed the parterre,
not one bore the mark of the slug, nor were there evidences
anywhere of the clustering aphis which is so destructive to
plants growing in a damp soil. And yet it was not because
the damp had been excluded from the garden; the earth, black
as soot, the thick foliage of the trees betrayed its
presence; besides, had natural humidity been wanting, it
could have been immediately supplied by artificial means,
thanks to a tank of water, sunk in one of the corners of the
garden, and upon which were stationed a frog and a toad,
who, from antipathy, no doubt, always remained on the two
opposite sides of the basin. There was not a blade of grass
to be seen in the paths, or a weed in the flower-beds; no
fine lady ever trained and watered her geraniums, her cacti,
and her rhododendrons, with more pains than this hitherto
unseen gardener bestowed upon his little enclosure. Monte
Cristo stopped after having closed the gate and fastened the
string to the nail, and cast a look around.
"The man at the telegraph," said he, "must either engage a
gardener or devote himself passionately to agriculture."
Suddenly he struck against something crouching behind a
wheelbarrow filled with leaves; the something rose, uttering
an exclamation of astonishment, and Monte Cristo found
himself facing a man about fifty years old, who was plucking
strawberries, which he was placing upon grape leaves. He had
twelve leaves and about as many strawberries, which, on
rising suddenly, he let fall from his hand. "You are
gathering your crop, sir?" said Monte Cristo, smiling.
"Excuse me, sir," replied the man, raising his hand to his
cap; "I am not up there, I know, but I have only just come
"Do not let me interfere with you in anything, my friend,"
said the count; "gather your strawberries, if, indeed, there
are any left."
"I have ten left," said the man, "for here are eleven, and I
had twenty-one, five more than last year. But I am not
surprised; the spring has been warm this year, and
strawberries require heat, sir. This is the reason that,
instead of the sixteen I had last year, I have this year,
you see, eleven, already plucked -- twelve, thirteen,
fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. Ah, I miss
three, they were here last night, sir -- I am sure they were
here -- I counted them. It must be the Mere Simon's son who
has stolen them; I saw him strolling about here this
morning. Ah, the young rascal -- stealing in a garden -- he
does not know where that may lead him to."
"Certainly, it is wrong," said Monte Cristo, "but you should
take into consideration the youth and greediness of the
"Of course," said the gardener, "but that does not make it
the less unpleasant. But, sir, once more I beg pardon;
perhaps you are an officer that I am detaining here." And he
glanced timidly at the count's blue coat.
"Calm yourself, my friend," said the count, with the smile
which he made at will either terrible or benevolent, and
which now expressed only the kindliest feeling; "I am not an
inspector, but a traveller, brought here by a curiosity he
half repents of, since he causes you to lose your time."
"Ah, my time is not valuable," replied the man with a
melancholy smile. "Still it belongs to government, and I
ought not to waste it; but, having received the signal that
I might rest for an hour" (here he glanced at the sun-dial,
for there was everything in the enclosure of Montlhery, even
a sun-dial), "and having ten minutes before me, and my
strawberries being ripe, when a day longer -- by-the-by,
sir, do you think dormice eat them?"
"Indeed, I should think not," replied Monte Cristo; "dormice
are bad neighbors for us who do not eat them preserved, as
the Romans did."
"What? Did the Romans eat them?" said the gardener -- "ate
"I have read so in Petronius," said the count.
"Really? They can't be nice, though they do say `as fat as a
dormouse.' It is not a wonder they are fat, sleeping all
day, and only waking to eat all night. Listen. Last year I
had four apricots -- they stole one, I had one nectarine,
only one -- well, sir, they ate half of it on the wall; a
splendid nectarine -- I never ate a better."
"You ate it?"
"That is to say, the half that was left -- you understand;
it was exquisite, sir. Ah, those gentlemen never choose the
worst morsels; like Mere Simon's son, who has not chosen the
worst strawberries. But this year," continued the
horticulturist, "I'll take care it shall not happen, even if
I should be forced to sit by the whole night to watch when
the strawberries are ripe." Monte Cristo had seen enough.
Every man has a devouring passion in his heart, as every
fruit has its worm; that of the telegraph man was
horticulture. He began gathering the grape-leaves which
screened the sun from the grapes, and won the heart of the
gardener. "Did you come here, sir, to see the telegraph?" he
"Yes, if it isn't contrary to the rules."
"Oh, no," said the gardener; "not in the least, since there
is no danger that anyone can possibly understand what we are
"I have been told," said the count, "that you do not always
yourselves understand the signals you repeat."
"That is true, sir, and that is what I like best," said the
"Why do you like that best?"
"Because then I have no responsibility. I am a machine then,
and nothing else, and so long as I work, nothing more is
required of me."
"Is it possible," said Monte Cristo to himself, "that I can
have met with a man that has no ambition? That would spoil
"Sir," said the gardener, glancing at the sun-dial, "the ten
minutes are almost up; I must return to my post. Will you go
up with me?"
"I follow you." Monte Cristo entered the tower, which was
divided into three stories. The tower contained implements,
such as spades, rakes, watering-pots, hung against the wall;
this was all the furniture. The second was the man's
conventional abode, or rather sleeping-place; it contained a
few poor articles of household furniture -- a bed, a table,
two chairs, a stone pitcher -- and some dry herbs, hung up
to the ceiling, which the count recognized as sweet pease,
and of which the good man was preserving the seeds; he had
labelled them with as much care as if he had been master
botanist in the Jardin des Plantes.
"Does it require much study to learn the art of
telegraphing?" asked Monte Cristo.
"The study does not take long; it was acting as a
supernumerary that was so tedious."
"And what is the pay?"
"A thousand francs, sir."
"It is nothing."
"No; but then we are lodged, as you perceive."
Monte Cristo looked at the room. They passed to the third
story; it was the telegraph room. Monte Cristo looked in
turn at the two iron handles by which the machine was
worked. "It is very interesting," he said, "but it must be
very tedious for a lifetime."
"Yes. At first my neck was cramped with looking at it, but
at the end of a year I became used to it; and then we have
our hours of recreation, and our holidays."
"When we have a fog."
"Ah, to be sure."
"Those are indeed holidays to me; I go into the garden, I
plant, I prune, I trim, I kill the insects all day long."
"How long have you been here?"
"Ten years, and five as a supernumerary make fifteen."
"You are -- "
"Fifty-five years old."
"How long must you have served to claim the pension?"
"Oh, sir, twenty-five years."
"And how much is the pension?"
"A hundred crowns."
"Poor humanity!" murmured Monte Cristo.
"What did you say, sir?" asked the man.
"I was saying it was very interesting."
"All you were showing me. And you really understand none of
"None at all."
"And have you never tried to understand them?"
"Never. Why should I?"
"But still there are some signals only addressed to you."
"And do you understand them?"
"They are always the same."
"And they mean -- "
"Nothing new; You have an hour; or To-morrow."
"This is simple enough," said the count; "but look, is not
your correspondent putting itself in motion?"
"Ah, yes; thank you, sir."
"And what is it saying -- anything you understand?"
"Yes; it asks if I am ready."
"And you reply?"
"By the same sign, which, at the same time, tells my
right-hand correspondent that I am ready, while it gives
notice to my left-hand correspondent to prepare in his
"It is very ingenious," said the count.
"You will see," said the man proudly; "in five minutes he
"I have, then, five minutes," said Monte Cristo to himself;
"it is more time than I require. My dear sir, will you allow
me to ask you a question?"
"What is it, sir?"
"You are fond of gardening?"
"And you would be pleased to have, instead of this terrace
of twenty feet, an enclosure of two acres?"
"Sir, I should make a terrestrial paradise of it."
"You live badly on your thousand francs?"
"Badly enough; but yet I do live."
"Yes; but you have a wretchedly small garden."
"True, the garden is not large."
"And, then, such as it is, it is filled with dormice, who
"Ah, they are my scourges."
"Tell me, should you have the misfortune to turn your head
while your right-hand correspondent was telegraphing" --
"I should not see him."
"Then what would happen?"
"I could not repeat the signals."
"Not having repeated them, through negligence, I should be
"A hundred francs."
"The tenth of your income -- that would be fine work."
"Ah," said the man.
"Has it ever happened to you?" said Monte Cristo.
"Once, sir, when I was grafting a rose-tree."
"Well, suppose you were to alter a signal, and substitute
"Ah, that is another case; I should be turned off, and lose
"Three hundred francs?"
"A hundred crowns, yes, sir; so you see that I am not likely
to do any of these things."
"Not even for fifteen years' wages? Come, it is worth
"For fifteen thousand francs?"
"Sir, you alarm me."
"Sir, you are tempting me?"
"Just so; fifteen thousand francs, do you understand?"
"Sir, let me see my right-hand correspondent."
"On the contrary, do not look at him, but at this."
"What is it?"
"What? Do you not know these bits of paper?"
"Exactly; there are fifteen of them."
"And whose are they?"
"Yours, if you like."
"Mine?" exclaimed the man, half-suffocated.
"Yes; yours -- your own property."
"Sir, my right-hand correspondent is signalling."
"Let him signal."
"Sir, you have distracted me; I shall be fined."
"That will cost you a hundred francs; you see it is your
interest to take my bank-notes."
"Sir, my right-hand correspondent redoubles his signals; he
"Never mind -- take these;" and the count placed the packet
in the man's hands. "Now this is not all," he said; "you
cannot live upon your fifteen thousand francs."
"I shall still have my place."
"No, you will lose it, for you are going to alter your
"Oh, sir, what are you proposing?"
"Sir, unless you force me" --
"I think I can effectually force you;" and Monte Cristo drew
another packet from his pocket. "Here are ten thousand more
francs," he said, "with the fifteen thousand already in your
pocket, they will make twenty-five thousand. With five
thousand you can buy a pretty little house with two acres of
land; the remaining twenty thousand will bring you in a
thousand francs a year."
"A garden with two acres of land!"
"And a thousand francs a year."
"Come, take them," and Monte Cristo forced the bank-notes
into his hand.
"What am I to do?"
"Nothing very difficult."
"But what is it?"
"To repeat these signs." Monte Cristo took a paper from his
pocket, upon which were drawn three signs, with numbers to
indicate the order in which they were to be worked.
"There, you see it will not take long."
"Yes; but" --
"Do this, and you will have nectarines and all the rest."
The shot told; red with fever, while the large drops fell
from his brow, the man executed, one after the other, the
three signs given by the count, in spite of the frightful
contortions of the right-hand correspondent, who, not
understanding the change, began to think the gardener had
gone mad. As to the left-hand one, he conscientiously
repeated the same signals, which were finally transmitted to
the Minister of the Interior. "Now you are rich," said Monte
"Yes," replied the man, "but at what a price!"
"Listen, friend," said Monte Cristo. "I do not wish to cause
you any remorse; believe me, then, when I swear to you that
you have wronged no man, but on the contrary have benefited
mankind." The man looked at the bank-notes, felt them,
counted them, turned pale, then red, then rushed into his
room to drink a glass of water, but he had no time to reach
the water-jug, and fainted in the midst of his dried herbs.
Five minutes after the new telegram reached the minister,
Debray had the horses put to his carriage, and drove to
"Has your husband any Spanish bonds?" he asked of the
"I think so, indeed! He has six millions' worth."
"He must sell them at whatever price."
"Because Don Carlos has fled from Bourges, and has returned
"How do you know?" Debray shrugged his shoulders. "The idea
of asking how I hear the news," he said. The baroness did
not wait for a repetition; she ran to her husband, who
immediately hastened to his agent, and ordered him to sell
at any price. When it was seen that Danglars sold, the
Spanish funds fell directly. Danglars lost five hundred
thousand francs; but he rid himself of all his Spanish
shares. The same evening the following was read in Le
"[By telegraph.] The king, Don Carlos, has escaped the
vigilance of his guardians at Bourges, and has returned to
Spain by the Catalonian frontier. Barcelona has risen in his
All that evening nothing was spoken of but the foresight of
Danglars, who had sold his shares, and of the luck of the
stock-jobber, who only lost five hundred thousand francs by
such a blow. Those who had kept their shares, or bought
those of Danglars, looked upon themselves as ruined, and
passed a very bad night. Next morning Le Moniteur contained
"It was without any foundation that Le Messager yesterday
announced the flight of Don Carlos and the revolt of
Barcelona. The king (Don Carlos) has not left Bourges, and
the peninsula is in the enjoyment of profound peace. A
telegraphic signal, improperly interpreted, owing to the
fog, was the cause of this error."
The funds rose one per cent higher than before they had
fallen. This, reckoning his loss, and what he had missed
gaining, made the difference of a million to Danglars.
"Good," said Monte Cristo to Morrel, who was at his house
when the news arrived of the strange reverse of fortune of
which Danglars's had been the victim, "I have just made a
discovery for twenty-five thousand francs, for which I would
have paid a hundred thousand."
"What have you discovered?" asked Morrel.
"I have just discovered how a gardener may get rid of the
dormice that eat his peaches."