The Son of Monte-Cristo - novelonlinefull.com
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A man stood on a solitary rock. Suddenly he uttered a shout of triumph.
He had discovered the secret of immense wealth. And this man threw down the pickaxe in his hand and standing erect, cried aloud:
"Oh! you whose infamy condemned me to fourteen years of imprisonment, and whose name I do not yet know, beware! Dantes is free."
Young and with confidence in the future, Edmond Dantes, the lover of Mercedes, returned to Ma.r.s.eilles, with the promise of a captaincy. He was to marry Mercedes. It was at supper on the evening of the betrothal when soldiers came to arrest him. He was accused of having carried letters to Napoleon, at Elba. In vain did he a.s.sert and even prove his innocence before de Villefort, a magistrate. Edmond Dantes was torn from his betrothed, and imprisoned for fourteen years in the Chateau d'If.
Another prisoner was there, the Abbe Faria. This prisoner was supposed to be mad, because he had offered to buy his liberty with millions. The Abbe imparted to Dantes the secret of the treasure concealed by the Spadas in the caverns of the island of Monte-Cristo, a desolate rock in the Mediterranean. And this was not all, the old man had also imparted other secrets to his young companion.
And now Dantes was master of the treasure of the Spadas, and he started to find his old father and his fiancee. He swore to avenge himself on those who had betrayed him. He left the rock. He went to his father's house. His father had died of hunger. Mercedes, his fiancee, was married to another--to one of the three men who had woven the plot that had cost Dantes fourteen years of his youth. One was named Danglars, a rival claimant to the t.i.tle of captain. The second was a drunken man, more weak than wicked. The third was Fernando Mondego, a fisherman, who loved Mercedes. And it was this Fernando who had married Mercedes, and was now known by the t.i.tle of the Comte de Morcerf. Caderousse, still poor, kept a wine shop, and Danglars was one of the first bankers in Paris.
Another enemy, and perhaps the most infamous of them all, was the magistrate, de Villefort, who, knowing the innocence of Dantes, had nevertheless sentenced him to prison. Because Dantes in his explanation used the name of Noirtier, who was the father of Villefort, and said that the letters he brought from the island of Elba were given to him by this man, de Villefort, lest his own position should be compromised, got rid of this person as soon as possible, and sent him to the Chateau d'If for fourteen years.
These were the crimes that Dantes swore to punish. He did so. Danglars the banker he ruined. Fernando the fisherman, known when Dantes returned as the Comte de Morcerf, was accused in the Chamber of Peers of having betrayed Ali-Pacha of Jamna, and of selling his daughter Haydee to a Turkish merchant. His infamy was proved by Haydee herself, and Fernando Mondego was for ever dishonored. The wretched man, knowing that the blow came from Monte-Cristo, went to him to provoke a quarrel. Then Monte-Cristo said to him:
"Look me full in the face, Fernando, and you will understand the whole.
I am Edmond Dantes." And the man fled. Within an hour he blew out his brains.
Then came the turn of de Villefort. His wife, a perverse creature, to ensure an inheritance to her son, committed several murders with poisons. De Villefort himself had buried a child alive, the child of Madame Danglars and himself. But the child was saved by a Corsican, Bertuccio. The child, born of crime, had the most criminal instincts.
And one day Monte-Cristo found him in the prison at Toulon. He named him Benedetto. He a.s.sisted him to escape, and Benedetto a.s.sa.s.sinated Caderousse. And then Benedetto, tried for this murder, found himself face to face with his father Villefort, the Procureur de Roi. Benedetto loudly flung his father's crimes in his face, and Villefort fled from the court-room. When he reached home Villefort found that his wife had poisoned herself and his son, the only being he loved. And then Monte-Cristo appeared before him and told him his real name, Edmond Dantes! Villefort became insane.
And the work of vengeance was complete. Monte-Cristo was so rich that he was all-powerful. And yet he was terribly sad, for he was alone. Then it was that the gentle Haydee consoled him. To their son they gave the name of Esperance. And Haydee was dead! Esperance was dead!
Ten years had elapsed since that awful night when Monte-Cristo, with blanched hair, carried away the body of his only son.
A man stood alone on a rock on the island of Monte-Cristo. And this man was Edmond Dantes. For ten years he had lived on this rock. In all that time he had not seen a human face nor heard a human voice, except at rare intervals when some ship, driven from her course by contrary winds, sent her boats to this island for water. Then Monte-Cristo, concealing himself, watched these men and heard their joyous laughter.
Once, when Monte-Cristo had been on the rock eight years, he saw a ship coming toward it at full sail. It was not driven there by contrary winds or by a storm, and Monte-Cristo saw a man on deck surveying the island through a gla.s.s. Concealing himself he saw several men, whom he did not know, land, and search the island.
It will be remembered that long before, Ali and Bertuccio had, by their master's orders, blown up the grottos, the last vestiges of the Spada treasures.
He saw these men sound the rocks and try them with pickaxes. They were adventurers, who knew something of what the island had contained, but yet they found nothing. Monte-Cristo contrived to get near them without their knowledge. They were disputing, one insisting that the treasure was "there," and he laid his finger on a plan he had drawn.
"Have you not heard," said the other, "that the island was inhabited?"
"Sailors say that they often see at sunset a tall form on these rocks."
"An optical delusion."
"No--these sailors know what they say, but Italians are inclined to carry their religion into everything, so they call this form the Abbe of Monte-Cristo."
"We have not found him, and yet we have searched every corner."
"He may be dead."
"That may be, but surely this is a proof that no such treasures ever existed here, for if they had, he would not remain here to die of hunger!"
"At all events we will make a sacrifice to the unknown G.o.d, as the ancients did."
And they put together all the provisions they had--bread, fruit and wine--and with the point of a dagger they traced on the rock the words:
"For the Abbe of Monte-Cristo!"
Then they departed.
"Poor fools!" said the Count, as he watched the fast lessening sails.
"No, there is no treasure on this island save one, and that would be valueless to you!"
Monte-Cristo had lived all these years on roots and bark, for he had sworn never to touch money again while he lived.
On the night when we again find Monte-Cristo, he came down from the high rock by a narrow path which led to a platform. Here he stooped and turned over a flat stone, which left a dark cavity exposed. Into this place Monte-Cristo descended by steps cut in the rock. He reached a square room cut out of the granite. In the centre stood a marble sarcophagus, and there lay Esperance. The living was paler than the dead. Monte-Cristo laid his hand on that of his son.
"Esperance," he said, solemnly, "has not the day arrived?"
There was a long silence. Then--was it a reality? It seemed as if the lips moved and p.r.o.nounced the word:
"I knew it!" he murmured.
His face was transfigured, his white hair was like a halo about his head.
"I am coming, my son!" he said. "I must first finish my task."
He drew from his pocket a roll of parchment, and read it aloud:
"MY LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT.
"Let those who find this paper read it with coolness. Let them be on their guard against the surprises of their imagination. The man who is about to die, and whose name is signed to these lines, has been more powerful than the most powerful on earth. He has suffered as never man suffered. He has loved as never man loved! He has hated as well.
"Suffering, love and hatred have all pa.s.sed away--all is forgotten, all is dead within him except the memory of the child he adored and lost.
"This man possessed wealth greater than any sovereign. And this man dies in poverty. He so willed it that he might punish himself. He chose the wrong. He wished to bend all wills to his. He elected himself judge and meted out punishment. The wrongs he avenged were not social evils, they were private and his own. He bows low in penitence, that he did not employ his great fortune in doing good. He dies in poverty, though possessed of untold millions. He designates no heir, for he cannot feel that the most upright man may not become guilty when he knows himself to be all-powerful. He has, however, no right to destroy this wealth. It exists, though concealed. He bequeaths it to that power which men call Providence. It will bear this paper, and place in the hands of man these mysterious signs.
"Will the treasure be discovered?