The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 167 of 400

“Our expedition made a favorable beginning. We anchored our vessel—which had a double hold, where our goods were concealed—amidst a number of other vessels that bordered the banks of the Rhone from Beaucaire to Arles. On our arrival we began to discharge our cargo in the night, and to convey it into the town, by the help of the inn-keeper with whom we were connected. Whether success rendered us imprudent, or whether we were betrayed, I know not; but one evening, about five o’clock, our little cabin-boy came breathlessly, to inform us that he had seen a detachment of custom-house officers advancing in our direction. It was not their proximity that alarmed us, for detachments were constantly patrolling along the banks of the Rhone, but the care, according to the boy’s account, that they took to avoid being seen. In an instant we were on the alert, but it was too late; our vessel was surrounded, and amongst the custom-house officers I observed several gendarmes, and, as terrified at the sight of their uniforms as I was brave at the sight of any other, I sprang into the hold, opened a port, and dropped into the river, dived, and only rose at intervals to breathe, until I reached a ditch that had recently been made from the Rhone to the canal that runs from Beaucaire to Aigues-Mortes. I was now safe, for I could swim along the ditch without being seen, and I reached the canal in safety. I had designedly taken this direction. I have already told your excellency of an inn-keeper from Nimes who had set up a little tavern on the road from Bellegarde to Beaucaire.”

“Yes,” said Monte Cristo “I perfectly recollect him; I think he was your colleague.”

“Precisely,” answered Bertuccio; “but he had, seven or eight years before this period, sold his establishment to a tailor at Marseilles, who, having almost ruined himself in his old trade, wished to make his fortune in another. Of course, we made the same arrangements with the new landlord that we had with the old; and it was of this man that I intended to ask shelter.”

“What was his name?” inquired the count, who seemed to become somewhat interested in Bertuccio’s story.

“Gaspard Caderousse; he had married a woman from the village of Carconte, and whom we did not know by any other name than that of her village. She was suffering from malarial fever, and seemed dying by inches. As for her husband, he was a strapping fellow of forty, or five and forty, who had more than once, in time of danger, given ample proof of his presence of mind and courage.”

“And you say,” interrupted Monte Cristo “that this took place towards the year”—

“1829, your excellency.”

“In what month?”


“The beginning or the end?”

“The evening of the 3d.”

“Ah,” said Monte Cristo “the evening of the 3d of June, 1829. Go on.”

“It was from Caderousse that I intended demanding shelter, and, as we never entered by the door that opened onto the road, I resolved not to break through the rule, so climbing over the garden-hedge, I crept amongst the olive and wild fig trees, and fearing that Caderousse might have some guest, I entered a kind of shed in which I had often passed the night, and which was only separated from the inn by a partition, in which holes had been made in order to enable us to watch an opportunity of announcing our presence. My intention was, if Caderousse was alone, to acquaint him with my presence, finish the meal the custom-house officers had interrupted, and profit by the threatened storm to return to the Rhone, and ascertain the state of our vessel and its crew. I stepped into the shed, and it was fortunate I did so, for at that moment Caderousse entered with a stranger.

“I waited patiently, not to overhear what they said, but because I could do nothing else; besides, the same thing had occurred often before. The man who was with Caderousse was evidently a stranger to the South of France; he was one of those merchants who come to sell jewellery at the Beaucaire fair, and who during the month the fair lasts, and during which there is so great an influx of merchants and customers from all parts of Europe, often have dealings to the amount of 100,000 to 150,000 francs. Caderousse entered hastily. Then, seeing that the room was, as usual, empty, and only guarded by the dog, he called to his wife, ‘Hello, Carconte,’ said he, ‘the worthy priest has not deceived us; the diamond is real.’ An exclamation of joy was heard, and the staircase creaked beneath a feeble step. ‘What do you say?’ asked his wife, pale as death.

“‘I say that the diamond is real, and that this gentleman, one of the first jewellers of Paris, will give us 50,000. francs for it. Only, in order to satisfy himself that it really belongs to us, he wishes you to relate to him, as I have done already, the miraculous manner in which the diamond came into our possession. In the meantime please to sit down, monsieur, and I will fetch you some refreshment.’ The jeweller examined attentively the interior of the inn and the apparent poverty of the persons who were about to sell him a diamond that seemed to have come from the casket of a prince. ‘Relate your story, madame,’ said he, wishing, no doubt, to profit by the absence of the husband, so that the latter could not influence the wife’s story, to see if the two recitals tallied.

“‘Oh,’ returned she, ‘it was a gift of heaven. My husband was a great friend, in 1814 or 1815, of a sailor named Edmond Dantes. This poor fellow, whom Caderousse had forgotten, had not forgotten him, and at his death he bequeathed this diamond to him.’—‘But how did he obtain it?’ asked the jeweller; ‘had he it before he was imprisoned?’—‘No, monsieur; but it appears that in prison he made the acquaintance of a rich Englishman, and as in prison he fell sick, and Dantes took the same care of him as if he had been his brother, the Englishman, when he was set free, gave this stone to Dantes, who, less fortunate, died, and, in his turn, left it to us, and charged the excellent abbe, who was here this morning, to deliver it.’—‘The same story,’ muttered the jeweller; ‘and improbable as it seemed at first, it may be true. There’s only the price we are not agreed about.’—‘How not agreed about?’ said Caderousse. ‘I thought we agreed for the price I asked.’—‘That is,’ replied the jeweller, ‘I offered 40,000 francs.’—‘Forty thousand,’ cried La Carconte; ‘we will not part with it for that sum. The abbe told us it was worth 50,000. without the setting.’

“‘What was the abbe’s name?’ asked the indefatigable questioner.—‘The Abbe Busoni,’ said La Carconte.—‘He was a foreigner?’—‘An Italian, from the neighborhood of Mantua, I believe.’—‘Let me see this diamond again,’ replied the jeweller; ‘the first time you are often mistaken as to the value of a stone.’ Caderousse took from his pocket a small case of black shagreen, opened, and gave it to the jeweller. At the sight of the diamond, which was as large as a hazel-nut, La Carconte’s eyes sparkled with cupidity.”

“And what did you think of this fine story, eavesdropper?” said Monte Cristo; “did you credit it?”

“Yes, your excellency. I did not look on Caderousse as a bad man, and I thought him incapable of committing a crime, or even a theft.”

“That did more honor to your heart than to your experience, M. Bertuccio. Had you known this Edmond Dantes, of whom they spoke?”

“No, your excellency, I had never heard of him before, and never but once afterwards, and that was from the Abbe Busoni himself, when I saw him in the prison at Nimes.”

“Go on.”

“The jeweller took the ring, and drawing from his pocket a pair of steel pliers and a small set of copper scales, he took the stone out of its setting, and weighed it carefully. ‘I will give you 45,000,’ said he, ‘but not a sou more; besides, as that is the exact value of the stone, I brought just that sum with me.’—‘Oh, that’s no matter,’ replied Caderousse, ‘I will go back with you to fetch the other 5,000 francs.’—‘No,’ returned the jeweller, giving back the diamond and the ring to Caderousse—‘no, it is worth no more, and I am sorry I offered so much, for the stone has a flaw in it, which I had not seen. However, I will not go back on my word, and I will give 45,000.’—‘At least, replace the diamond in the ring,’ said La Carconte sharply.—‘Ah, true,’ replied the jeweller, and he reset the stone.—‘No matter,’ observed Caderousse, replacing the box in his pocket, ‘some one else will purchase it.’—‘Yes,’ continued the jeweller; ‘but some one else will not be so easy as I am, or content himself with the same story. It is not natural that a man like you should possess such a diamond. He will inform against you. You will have to find the Abbe Busoni; and abbes who give diamonds worth two thousand louis are rare. The law would seize it, and put you in prison; if at the end of three or four months you are set at liberty, the ring will be lost, or a false stone, worth three francs, will be given you, instead of a diamond worth 50,000 or perhaps 55,000 francs; from which you must allow that one runs considerable risk in purchasing.’ Caderousse and his wife looked eagerly at each other.—‘No,’ said Caderousse, ‘we are not rich enough to lose 5,000 francs.’—‘As you please, my dear sir,’ said the jeweller; ‘I had, however, as you see, brought you the money in bright coin.’ And he drew from his pocket a handful of gold, and held it sparkling before the dazzled eyes of the innkeeper, and in the other hand he held a packet of bank-notes.

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