The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 164 of 400

Chapter 44. The Vendetta.

“At what point shall I begin my story, your excellency?” asked Bertuccio.

“Where you please,” returned Monte Cristo, “since I know nothing at all of it.”

“I thought the Abbe Busoni had told your excellency.”

“Some particulars, doubtless, but that is seven or eight years ago, and I have forgotten them.”

“Then I can speak without fear of tiring your excellency.”

“Go on, M. Bertuccio; you will supply the want of the evening papers.”

“The story begins in 1815.”

“Ah,” said Monte Cristo, “1815 is not yesterday.”

“No, monsieur, and yet I recollect all things as clearly as if they had happened but then. I had a brother, an elder brother, who was in the service of the emperor; he had become lieutenant in a regiment composed entirely of Corsicans. This brother was my only friend; we became orphans—I at five, he at eighteen. He brought me up as if I had been his son, and in 1814 he married. When the emperor returned from the Island of Elba, my brother instantly joined the army, was slightly wounded at Waterloo, and retired with the army beyond the Loire.”

“But that is the history of the Hundred Days, M. Bertuccio,” said the count; “unless I am mistaken, it has been already written.”

“Excuse me, excellency, but these details are necessary, and you promised to be patient.”

“Go on; I will keep my word.”

“One day we received a letter. I should tell you that we lived in the little village of Rogliano, at the extremity of Cape Corso. This letter was from my brother. He told us that the army was disbanded, and that he should return by Chateauroux, Clermont-Ferrand, Le Puy, and Nimes; and, if I had any money, he prayed me to leave it for him at Nimes, with an inn-keeper with whom I had dealings.”

“In the smuggling line?” said Monte Cristo.

“Eh, your excellency? Every one must live.”

“Certainly; go on.”

“I loved my brother tenderly, as I told your excellency, and I resolved not to send the money, but to take it to him myself. I possessed a thousand francs. I left five hundred with Assunta, my sister-in-law, and with the other five hundred I set off for Nimes. It was easy to do so, and as I had my boat and a lading to take in at sea, everything favored my project. But, after we had taken in our cargo, the wind became contrary, so that we were four or five days without being able to enter the Rhone. At last, however, we succeeded, and worked up to Arles. I left the boat between Bellegarde and Beaucaire, and took the road to Nimes.”

“We are getting to the story now?”

“Yes, your excellency; excuse me, but, as you will see, I only tell you what is absolutely necessary. Just at this time the famous massacres took place in the south of France. Three brigands, called Trestaillon, Truphemy, and Graffan, publicly assassinated everybody whom they suspected of Bonapartism. You have doubtless heard of these massacres, your excellency?”

“Vaguely; I was far from France at that period. Go on.”

“As I entered Nimes, I literally waded in blood; at every step you encountered dead bodies and bands of murderers, who killed, plundered, and burned. At the sight of this slaughter and devastation I became terrified, not for myself—for I, a simple Corsican fisherman, had nothing to fear; on the contrary, that time was most favorable for us smugglers—but for my brother, a soldier of the empire, returning from the army of the Loire, with his uniform and his epaulets, there was everything to apprehend. I hastened to the inn-keeper. My misgivings had been but too true. My brother had arrived the previous evening at Nimes, and, at the very door of the house where he was about to demand hospitality, he had been assassinated. I did all in my power to discover the murderers, but no one durst tell me their names, so much were they dreaded. I then thought of that French justice of which I had heard so much, and which feared nothing, and I went to the king’s attorney.”

“And this king’s attorney was named Villefort?” asked Monte Cristo carelessly.

“Yes, your excellency; he came from Marseilles, where he had been deputy-procureur. His zeal had procured him advancement, and he was said to be one of the first who had informed the government of the departure from the Island of Elba.”

“Then,” said Monte Cristo “you went to him?”

“‘Monsieur,’ I said, ‘my brother was assassinated yesterday in the streets of Nimes, I know not by whom, but it is your duty to find out. You are the representative of justice here, and it is for justice to avenge those she has been unable to protect.’—‘Who was your brother?’ asked he.—‘A lieutenant in the Corsican battalion.’—‘A soldier of the usurper, then?’—‘A soldier of the French army.’—‘Well,’ replied he, ‘he has smitten with the sword, and he has perished by the sword.’—‘You are mistaken, monsieur,’ I replied; ‘he has perished by the poniard.’—‘What do you want me to do?’ asked the magistrate.—‘I have already told you—avenge him.’—‘On whom?’—‘On his murderers.’—‘How should I know who they are?’—‘Order them to be sought for.’—‘Why, your brother has been involved in a quarrel, and killed in a duel. All these old soldiers commit excesses which were tolerated in the time of the emperor, but which are not suffered now, for the people here do not like soldiers of such disorderly conduct.’—‘Monsieur,’ I replied, ‘it is not for myself that I entreat your interference—I should grieve for him or avenge him, but my poor brother had a wife, and were anything to happen to me, the poor creature would perish from want, for my brother’s pay alone kept her. Pray, try and obtain a small government pension for her.’

“‘Every revolution has its catastrophes,’ returned M. de Villefort; ‘your brother has been the victim of this. It is a misfortune, and government owes nothing to his family. If we are to judge by all the vengeance that the followers of the usurper exercised on the partisans of the king, when, in their turn, they were in power, your brother would be to-day, in all probability, condemned to death. What has happened is quite natural, and in conformity with the law of reprisals.’—‘What,’ cried I, ‘do you, a magistrate, speak thus to me?’—‘All these Corsicans are mad, on my honor,’ replied M. de Villefort; ‘they fancy that their countryman is still emperor. You have mistaken the time, you should have told me this two months ago, it is too late now. Go now, at once, or I shall have you put out.’

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