Chapter 27 The Story
"FIRST, SIR," said Caderousse,
"you must make me a promise."
"What is that?" inquired the abbé.
"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 abbé. "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
"Begin with his father, if you
please." said the abbé; "Edmond
talked to me a great deal about the old man for whom he had the deepest
"The history is a sad one, sir,"
said Caderousse, shaking his head; "perhaps you know all the earlier
part of it?"
"Yes." answered the abbé; "Edmond related to me everything until
the moment when he was arrested in a small cabaret close to
"At La Rèserve! Oh, yes; I can see it all before me
"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 Dantès was
"Yes, and up to this point I know
all," said the priest. "Dantès
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
"Well, when Dantès 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 Mercédès
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 Mercédès should persuade the old man to accompany
her, for his footsteps over my head night and day did not leave me a
"But did you not go up-stairs and try to
console the poor old man?" asked the abbé.
"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 Mercédès 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 Mercédès,
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 Dantès 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 Mercédès.
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 abbé uttered a kind of groan. "The story
interests you, does it not, sir?" inquired Caderousse.
"Yes," replied the abbé, "it is very affecting."
"Mercédès 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. Mercédès 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 Mercédès,
'If you ever see my Edmond again, tell him I die blessing him.'" The
abbé 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
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 abbé, "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 famine?"
"Two men jealous of him, sir; one from
love, and the other from ambition,--Fernand and Danglars."
"How was this jealousy manifested? Speak
"They denounced Edmond as a Bonapartist
"Which of the two denounced him? Which
was the real delinquent?"
"Both, sir; one with a letter, and the
other put it in the post."
"And where was this letter written?"
"At La Rèserve, the day before the betrothal
"'Twas so, then--'twas so, then,"
murmured the abbé. "Oh, Faria, Faria, how well did you
judge men and things!"
"What did you please to say, sir?"
"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 abbé suddenly, "you were there
"I!" said Caderousse, astonished;
"who told you I was there?"
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
"True, true!" said Caderousse in a
choking voice, "I was there."
"And did you not remonstrate against such
infamy?" asked the abbé;
"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
"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 Dantès was
"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
"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
"Well, sir," said the abbé, "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 abbé.
"But he knows it all now,"
interrupted Caderousse; "they say the dead know everything."
There was a brief silence; the abbé 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
"And what part did he play in this sad
drama?" inquired the abbé.
"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 Dantès' 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 abbé, "is M. Morrel still alive?"
"Yes," replied Caderousse.
"In that case," replied the abbé, "he should be rich, happy."
Caderousse smiled bitterly. "Yes, happy
as myself," said he.
"What! M. Morrel unhappy?" exclaimed
"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 Dantès 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 abbé.
"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 Dantès
did, while Fernand and Danglars are rolling in wealth."
"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 strongbox."
"Ah!" said the abbé, 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."
"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
"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
"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
"Destiny! destiny!" murmured the abbé.
"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 abbé.
"So that now," continued Caderousse,
"he owns a magnificent house--No. 27, Rue du Helder, Paris." The
abbé opened his mouth,
hesitated for a moment, then, making an effort at self-control, he said,
tell me that she has disappeared?"
"Disappeared," said Caderousse,
"yes, as the sun disappears, to rise the next day with still more
"Has she made a fortune also?"
inquired the abbé, with an ironical smile.
"Mercédès is at this moment one of the greatest ladies
in Paris," replied Caderousse.
"Go on," said the abbé; "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."
"Mercédès 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 Dantès. 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 Mercédès
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.
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 Mercédès'
heart; that other was absent, had disappeared, perhaps was dead. At this
last thought Mercédès
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 Dantès 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, Mercédès, 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
at the second he reminded her that he loved her. Mercédès
begged for six months more in which to await and mourn for Edmond."
"So that," said the abbé, 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
was married," proceeded Caderousse; "but although in the eyes of
the world she appeared calm, she nearly fainted as she passed La Rèserve, 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
"Did you ever see Mercédès
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 abbé started. "Her
son?" said he.
"Yes," replied Caderousse,
"But, then, to be able to instruct her
child," continued the abbé, "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? Mercédès
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
"And yet what?" asked the abbé.
"Yet, I am sure, she is not happy,"
"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 valet-de-chambre."
"Then you did not see either of
"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
who at once shut the blind."
"And M. de Villefort?" asked the abbé.
"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-Méran, 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 abbé; "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 abbé took the diamond from his pocket, and giving
it to Caderousse, said,--"Here, my friend, take this diamond, it is
"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
"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
Caderousse, who touched the diamond, withdrew
his hand. The abbé smiled. "In exchange," he
continued, "give me the red silk purse that M. Morrel left on old
Dantès' 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 abbé a long purse of faded red silk, round which
were two copper runners that had once been gilt. The abbé took it, and in return gave Caderousse the
"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 abbé to himself, "you would have done."
The abbé 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
"'Tis well," said the abbé, 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 abbé 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 fortune."