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Chapter 83
The Hand of God.

Caderousse continued to call piteously, "Help, reverend sir,
help!"

"What is the matter?" asked Monte Cristo.

"Help," cried Caderousse; "I am murdered!"

"We are here; -- take courage."

"Ah, it's all over! You are come too late -- you are come to
see me die. What blows, what blood!" He fainted. Ali and his
master conveyed the wounded man into a room. Monte Cristo
motioned to Ali to undress him, and he then examined his
dreadful wounds. "My God!" he exclaimed, "thy vengeance is
sometimes delayed, but only that it may fall the more
effectually." Ali looked at his master for further
instructions. "Bring here immediately the king's attorney,
M. de Villefort, who lives in the Faubourg St. Honore. As
you pass the lodge, wake the porter, and send him for a
surgeon." Ali obeyed, leaving the abbe alone with
Caderousse, who had not yet revived.

When the wretched man again opened his eyes, the count
looked at him with a mournful expression of pity, and his
lips moved as if in prayer. "A surgeon, reverend sir -- a
surgeon!" said Caderousse.

"I have sent for one," replied the abbe.

"I know he cannot save my life, but he may strengthen me to
give my evidence."

"Against whom?"

"Against my murderer."

"Did you recognize him?"

"Yes; it was Benedetto."

"The young Corsican?"

"Himself."

"Your comrade?"

"Yes. After giving me the plan of this house, doubtless
hoping I should kill the count and he thus become his heir,
or that the count would kill me and I should be out of his
way, he waylaid me, and has murdered me."

"I have also sent for the procureur."

"He will not come in time; I feel my life fast ebbing."

"Wait a moment," said Monte Cristo. He left the room, and
returned in five minutes with a phial. The dying man's eyes
were all the time riveted on the door, through which he
hoped succor would arrive. "Hasten, reverend sir, hasten! I
shall faint again!" Monte Cristo approached, and dropped on
his purple lips three or four drops of the contents of the
phial. Caderousse drew a deep breath. "Oh," said he, "that
is life to me; more, more!"

"Two drops more would kill you," replied the abbe.

"Oh, send for some one to whom I can denounce the wretch!"

"Shall I write your deposition? You can sign it."

"Yes yes," said Caderousse; and his eyes glistened at the
thought of this posthumous revenge. Monte Cristo wrote: --

"I die, murdered by the Corsican Benedetto, my comrade in
the galleys at Toulouse, No. 59."

"Quick, quick!" said Caderousse, "or I shall be unable to
sign it."

Monte Cristo gave the pen to Caderousse, who collected all
his strength, signed it, and fell back on his bed, saying:
"You will relate all the rest, reverend sir; you will say he
calls himself Andrea Cavalcanti. He lodges at the Hotel des
Princes. Oh, I am dying!" He again fainted. The abbe made
him smell the contents of the phial, and he again opened his
eyes. His desire for revenge had not forsaken him.

"Ah, you will tell all I have said, will you not, reverend
sir?"

"Yes, and much more."

"What more will you say?"

"I will say he had doubtless given you the plan of this
house, in the hope the count would kill you. I will say,
likewise, he had apprised the count, by a note, of your
intention, and, the count being absent, I read the note and
sat up to await you."

"And he will be guillotined, will be not?" said Caderousse.
"Promise me that, and I will die with that hope."

"I will say," continued the count, "that he followed and
watched you the whole time, and when he saw you leave the
house, ran to the angle of the wall to conceal himself."

"Did you see all that?"

"Remember my words: `If you return home safely, I shall
believe God has forgiven you, and I will forgive you also.'"

"And you did not warn me!" cried Caderousse, raising himself
on his elbows. "You knew I should be killed on leaving this
house, and did not warn me!"

"No; for I saw God's justice placed in the hands of
Benedetto, and should have thought it sacrilege to oppose
the designs of providence."

"God's justice! Speak not of it, reverend sir. If God were
just, you know how many would be punished who now escape."

"Patience," said the abbe, in a tone which made the dying
man shudder; "have patience!" Caderousse looked at him with
amazement. "Besides," said the abbe, "God is merciful to
all, as he has been to you; he is first a father, then a
judge."

"Do you then believe in God?" said Caderousse.

"Had I been so unhappy as not to believe in him until now,"
said Monte Cristo, "I must believe on seeing you."
Caderousse raised his clinched hands towards heaven.

"Listen," said the abbe, extending his hand over the wounded
man, as if to command him to believe; "this is what the God
in whom, on your death-bed, you refuse to believe, has done
for you -- he gave you health, strength, regular employment,
even friends -- a life, in fact, which a man might enjoy
with a calm conscience. Instead of improving these gifts,
rarely granted so abundantly, this has been your course --
you have given yourself up to sloth and drunkenness, and in
a fit of intoxication have ruined your best friend."

"Help!" cried Caderousse; "I require a surgeon, not a
priest; perhaps I am not mortally wounded -- I may not die;
perhaps they can yet save my life."

"Your wounds are so far mortal that, without the three drops
I gave you, you would now be dead. Listen, then."

"Ah," murmured Caderousse, "what a strange priest you are;
you drive the dying to despair, instead of consoling them."

"Listen," continued the abbe. "When you had betrayed your
friend God began not to strike, but to warn you. Poverty
overtook you. You had already passed half your life in
coveting that which you might have honorably acquired; and
already you contemplated crime under the excuse of want,
when God worked a miracle in your behalf, sending you, by my
hands, a fortune -- brilliant, indeed, for you, who had
never possessed any. But this unexpected, unhoped-for,
unheard-of fortune sufficed you no longer when you once
possessed it; you wished to double it, and how? -- by a
murder! You succeeded, and then God snatched it from you,
and brought you to justice."

"It was not I who wished to kill the Jew," said Caderousse;
"it was La Carconte."

"Yes," said Monte Cristo, "and God, -- I cannot say in
justice, for his justice would have slain you, -- but God,
in his mercy, spared your life."

"Pardieu, to transport me for life, how merciful!"

"You thought it a mercy then, miserable wretch! The coward
who feared death rejoiced at perpetual disgrace; for like
all galley-slaves, you said, `I may escape from prison, I
cannot from the grave.' And you said truly; the way was
opened for you unexpectedly. An Englishman visited Toulon,
who had vowed to rescue two men from infamy, and his choice
fell on you and your companion. You received a second
fortune, money and tranquillity were restored to you, and
you, who had been condemned to a felon's life, might live as
other men. Then, wretched creature, then you tempted God a
third time. `I have not enough,' you said, when you had more
than you before possessed, and you committed a third crime,
without reason, without excuse. God is wearied; he has
punished you." Caderousse was fast sinking. "Give me drink,"
said he: "I thirst -- I burn!" Monte Cristo gave him a glass
of water. "And yet that villain, Benedetto, will escape!"

"No one, I tell you, will escape; Benedetto will be
punished."

"Then, you, too, will be punished, for you did not do your
duty as a priest -- you should have prevented Benedetto from
killing me."

"I?" said the count, with a smile which petrified the dying
man, "when you had just broken your knife against the coat
of mail which protected my breast! Yet perhaps if I had
found you humble and penitent, I might have prevented
Benedetto from killing you; but I found you proud and
blood-thirsty, and I left you in the hands of God."

"I do not believe there is a God," howled Caderousse; "you
do not believe it; you lie -- you lie!"

"Silence," said the abbe; "you will force the last drop of
blood from your veins. What! you do not believe in God when
he is striking you dead? you will not believe in him, who
requires but a prayer, a word, a tear, and he will forgive?
God, who might have directed the assassin's dagger so as to
end your career in a moment, has given you this quarter of
an hour for repentance. Reflect, then, wretched man, and
repent."

"No," said Caderousse, "no; I will not repent. There is no
God; there is no providence -- all comes by chance." --

"There is a providence; there is a God," said Monte Cristo,
"of whom you are a striking proof, as you lie in utter
despair, denying him, while I stand before you, rich, happy,
safe and entreating that God in whom you endeavor not to
believe, while in your heart you still believe in him."

"But who are you, then?" asked Caderousse, fixing his dying
eyes on the count. "Look well at me!" said Monte Cristo,
putting the light near his face. "Well, the abbe -- the Abbe
Busoni." Monte Cristo took off the wig which disfigured him,
and let fall his black hair, which added so much to the
beauty of his pallid features. "Oh?" said Caderousse,
thunderstruck, "but for that black hair, I should say you
were the Englishman, Lord Wilmore."

"I am neither the Abbe Busoni nor Lord Wilmore," said Monte
Cristo; "think again, -- do you not recollect me?" Those was
a magic effect in the count's words, which once more revived
the exhausted powers of the miserable man. "Yes, indeed,"
said he; "I think I have seen you and known you formerly."

"Yes, Caderousse, you have seen me; you knew me once."

"Who, then, are you? and why, if you knew me, do you let me
die?"

"Because nothing can save you; your wounds are mortal. Had
it been possible to save you, I should have considered it
another proof of God's mercy, and I would again have
endeavored to restore you, I swear by my father's tomb."

"By your father's tomb!" said Caderousse, supported by a
supernatural power, and half-raising himself to see more
distinctly the man who had just taken the oath which all men
hold sacred; "who, then, are you?" The count had watched the
approach of death. He knew this was the last struggle. He
approached the dying man, and, leaning over him with a calm
and melancholy look, he whispered, "I am -- I am" -- And his
almost closed lips uttered a name so low that the count
himself appeared afraid to hear it. Caderousse, who had
raised himself on his knees, and stretched out his arm,
tried to draw back, then clasping his hands, and raising
them with a desperate effort, "O my God, my God!" said he,
"pardon me for having denied thee; thou dost exist, thou art
indeed man's father in heaven, and his judge on earth. My
God, my Lord, I have long despised thee! Pardon me, my God;
receive me, O my Lord!" Caderousse sighed deeply, and fell
back with a groan. The blood no longer flowed from his
wounds. He was dead.

"One!" said the count mysteriously, his eyes fixed on the
corpse, disfigured by so awful a death. Ten minutes
afterwards the surgeon and the procureur arrived, the one
accompanied by the porter, the other by Ali, and were
received by the Abbe Busoni, who was praying by the side of
the corpse.



The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction
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