The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 20 of 400

“And what was his reply?”

“That he certainly did think he had given you offence in an affair which he merely referred to without entering into particulars, but that whoever possessed the good opinion and confidence of the ship’s owner would have his preference also.”

“The hypocrite!” murmured Danglars.

“Poor Dantes!” said Caderousse. “No one can deny his being a noble-hearted young fellow.”

“But meanwhile,” continued M. Morrel, “here is the Pharaon without a captain.”

“Oh,” replied Danglars, “since we cannot leave this port for the next three months, let us hope that ere the expiration of that period Dantes will be set at liberty.”

“No doubt; but in the meantime?”

“I am entirely at your service, M. Morrel,” answered Danglars. “You know that I am as capable of managing a ship as the most experienced captain in the service; and it will be so far advantageous to you to accept my services, that upon Edmond’s release from prison no further change will be requisite on board the Pharaon than for Dantes and myself each to resume our respective posts.”

“Thanks, Danglars—that will smooth over all difficulties. I fully authorize you at once to assume the command of the Pharaon, and look carefully to the unloading of her freight. Private misfortunes must never be allowed to interfere with business.”

“Be easy on that score, M. Morrel; but do you think we shall be permitted to see our poor Edmond?”

“I will let you know that directly I have seen M. de Villefort, whom I shall endeavor to interest in Edmond’s favor. I am aware he is a furious royalist; but, in spite of that, and of his being king’s attorney, he is a man like ourselves, and I fancy not a bad sort of one.”

“Perhaps not,” replied Danglars; “but I hear that he is ambitious, and that’s rather against him.”

“Well, well,” returned M. Morrel, “we shall see. But now hasten on board, I will join you there ere long.” So saying, the worthy shipowner quitted the two allies, and proceeded in the direction of the Palais de Justice.

“You see,” said Danglars, addressing Caderousse, “the turn things have taken. Do you still feel any desire to stand up in his defence?”

“Not the slightest, but yet it seems to me a shocking thing that a mere joke should lead to such consequences.”

“But who perpetrated that joke, let me ask? neither you nor myself, but Fernand; you knew very well that I threw the paper into a corner of the room—indeed, I fancied I had destroyed it.”

“Oh, no,” replied Caderousse, “that I can answer for, you did not. I only wish I could see it now as plainly as I saw it lying all crushed and crumpled in a corner of the arbor.”

“Well, then, if you did, depend upon it, Fernand picked it up, and either copied it or caused it to be copied; perhaps, even, he did not take the trouble of recopying it. And now I think of it, by Heavens, he may have sent the letter itself! Fortunately, for me, the handwriting was disguised.”

“Then you were aware of Dantes being engaged in a conspiracy?”

“Not I. As I before said, I thought the whole thing was a joke, nothing more. It seems, however, that I have unconsciously stumbled upon the truth.”

“Still,” argued Caderousse, “I would give a great deal if nothing of the kind had happened; or, at least, that I had had no hand in it. You will see, Danglars, that it will turn out an unlucky job for both of us.”

“Nonsense! If any harm come of it, it should fall on the guilty person; and that, you know, is Fernand. How can we be implicated in any way? All we have got to do is, to keep our own counsel, and remain perfectly quiet, not breathing a word to any living soul; and you will see that the storm will pass away without in the least affecting us.”

“Amen!” responded Caderousse, waving his hand in token of adieu to Danglars, and bending his steps towards the Allees de Meillan, moving his head to and fro, and muttering as he went, after the manner of one whose mind was overcharged with one absorbing idea.

“So far, then,” said Danglars, mentally, “all has gone as I would have it. I am, temporarily, commander of the Pharaon, with the certainty of being permanently so, if that fool of a Caderousse can be persuaded to hold his tongue. My only fear is the chance of Dantes being released. But, there, he is in the hands of Justice; and,” added he with a smile, “she will take her own.” So saying, he leaped into a boat, desiring to be rowed on board the Pharaon, where M. Morrel had agreed to meet him.

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