The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 227 of 400

“Does it require much study to learn the art of telegraphing?” asked Monte Cristo.

“The study does not take long; it was acting as a supernumerary that was so tedious.”

“And what is the pay?”

“A thousand francs, sir.”

“It is nothing.”

“No; but then we are lodged, as you perceive.”

Monte Cristo looked at the room. They passed to the third story; it was the telegraph room. Monte Cristo looked in turn at the two iron handles by which the machine was worked. “It is very interesting,” he said, “but it must be very tedious for a lifetime.”

“Yes. At first my neck was cramped with looking at it, but at the end of a year I became used to it; and then we have our hours of recreation, and our holidays.”




“When we have a fog.”

“Ah, to be sure.”

“Those are indeed holidays to me; I go into the garden, I plant, I prune, I trim, I kill the insects all day long.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Ten years, and five as a supernumerary make fifteen.”

“You are—”

“Fifty-five years old.”

“How long must you have served to claim the pension?”

“Oh, sir, twenty-five years.”

“And how much is the pension?”

“A hundred crowns.”

“Poor humanity!” murmured Monte Cristo.

“What did you say, sir?” asked the man.

“I was saying it was very interesting.”

“What was?”

“All you were showing me. And you really understand none of these signals?”

“None at all.”

“And have you never tried to understand them?”

“Never. Why should I?”

“But still there are some signals only addressed to you.”


“And do you understand them?”

“They are always the same.”

“And they mean—”

“Nothing new; You have an hour; or To-morrow.”

“This is simple enough,” said the count; “but look, is not your correspondent putting itself in motion?”

“Ah, yes; thank you, sir.”

“And what is it saying—anything you understand?”

“Yes; it asks if I am ready.”

“And you reply?”

“By the same sign, which, at the same time, tells my right-hand correspondent that I am ready, while it gives notice to my left-hand correspondent to prepare in his turn.”

“It is very ingenious,” said the count.

“You will see,” said the man proudly; “in five minutes he will speak.”

“I have, then, five minutes,” said Monte Cristo to himself; “it is more time than I require. My dear sir, will you allow me to ask you a question?”

“What is it, sir?”

“You are fond of gardening?”


“And you would be pleased to have, instead of this terrace of twenty feet, an enclosure of two acres?”

“Sir, I should make a terrestrial paradise of it.”

“You live badly on your thousand francs?”

“Badly enough; but yet I do live.”

“Yes; but you have a wretchedly small garden.”

“True, the garden is not large.”

“And, then, such as it is, it is filled with dormice, who eat everything.”

“Ah, they are my scourges.”

“Tell me, should you have the misfortune to turn your head while your right-hand correspondent was telegraphing”—

“I should not see him.”

“Then what would happen?”

“I could not repeat the signals.”

“And then?”

“Not having repeated them, through negligence, I should be fined.”

“How much?”

“A hundred francs.”

“The tenth of your income—that would be fine work.”

“Ah,” said the man.

“Has it ever happened to you?” said Monte Cristo.

“Once, sir, when I was grafting a rose-tree.”

“Well, suppose you were to alter a signal, and substitute another?”

“Ah, that is another case; I should be turned off, and lose my pension.”

“Three hundred francs?”

“A hundred crowns, yes, sir; so you see that I am not likely to do any of these things.”

“Not even for fifteen years’ wages? Come, it is worth thinking about?”

“For fifteen thousand francs?”


“Sir, you alarm me.”


“Sir, you are tempting me?”

“Just so; fifteen thousand francs, do you understand?”

“Sir, let me see my right-hand correspondent.”

“On the contrary, do not look at him, but at this.”

“What is it?”

“What? Do you not know these bits of paper?”


“Exactly; there are fifteen of them.”

“And whose are they?”

“Yours, if you like.”

“Mine?” exclaimed the man, half-suffocated.

“Yes; yours—your own property.”

“Sir, my right-hand correspondent is signalling.”

“Let him signal.”

“Sir, you have distracted me; I shall be fined.”

“That will cost you a hundred francs; you see it is your interest to take my bank-notes.”

“Sir, my right-hand correspondent redoubles his signals; he is impatient.”

“Never mind—take these;” and the count placed the packet in the man’s hands. “Now this is not all,” he said; “you cannot live upon your fifteen thousand francs.”

“I shall still have my place.”

“No, you will lose it, for you are going to alter your correspondent’s message.”

“Oh, sir, what are you proposing?”

“A jest.”

“Sir, unless you force me”—

“I think I can effectually force you;” and Monte Cristo drew another packet from his pocket. “Here are ten thousand more francs,” he said, “with the fifteen thousand already in your pocket, they will make twenty-five thousand. With five thousand you can buy a pretty little house with two acres of land; the remaining twenty thousand will bring you in a thousand francs a year.”

“A garden with two acres of land!”

“And a thousand francs a year.”

“Oh, heavens!”

“Come, take them,” and Monte Cristo forced the bank-notes into his hand.

“What am I to do?”

“Nothing very difficult.”

“But what is it?”

“To repeat these signs.” Monte Cristo took a paper from his pocket, upon which were drawn three signs, with numbers to indicate the order in which they were to be worked.

“There, you see it will not take long.”

“Yes; but”—

“Do this, and you will have nectarines and all the rest.” The shot told; red with fever, while the large drops fell from his brow, the man executed, one after the other, the three signs given by the count, in spite of the frightful contortions of the right-hand correspondent, who, not understanding the change, began to think the gardener had gone mad. As to the left-hand one, he conscientiously repeated the same signals, which were finally transmitted to the Minister of the Interior. “Now you are rich,” said Monte Cristo.

“Yes,” replied the man, “but at what a price!”

“Listen, friend,” said Monte Cristo. “I do not wish to cause you any remorse; believe me, then, when I swear to you that you have wronged no man, but on the contrary have benefited mankind.” The man looked at the bank-notes, felt them, counted them, turned pale, then red, then rushed into his room to drink a glass of water, but he had no time to reach the water-jug, and fainted in the midst of his dried herbs. Five minutes after the new telegram reached the minister, Debray had the horses put to his carriage, and drove to Danglars’ house.

“Has your husband any Spanish bonds?” he asked of the baroness.

“I think so, indeed! He has six millions’ worth.”

“He must sell them at whatever price.”


“Because Don Carlos has fled from Bourges, and has returned to Spain.”

“How do you know?” Debray shrugged his shoulders. “The idea of asking how I hear the news,” he said. The baroness did not wait for a repetition; she ran to her husband, who immediately hastened to his agent, and ordered him to sell at any price. When it was seen that Danglars sold, the Spanish funds fell directly. Danglars lost five hundred thousand francs; but he rid himself of all his Spanish shares. The same evening the following was read in Le Messager:

“[By telegraph.] The king, Don Carlos, has escaped the vigilance of his guardians at Bourges, and has returned to Spain by the Catalonian frontier. Barcelona has risen in his favor.”

All that evening nothing was spoken of but the foresight of Danglars, who had sold his shares, and of the luck of the stock-jobber, who only lost five hundred thousand francs by such a blow. Those who had kept their shares, or bought those of Danglars, looked upon themselves as ruined, and passed a very bad night. Next morning Le Moniteur contained the following:

“It was without any foundation that Le Messager yesterday announced the flight of Don Carlos and the revolt of Barcelona. The king (Don Carlos) has not left Bourges, and the peninsula is in the enjoyment of profound peace. A telegraphic signal, improperly interpreted, owing to the fog, was the cause of this error.”

The funds rose one per cent higher than before they had fallen. This, reckoning his loss, and what he had missed gaining, made the difference of a million to Danglars. “Good,” said Monte Cristo to Morrel, who was at his house when the news arrived of the strange reverse of fortune of which Danglars had been the victim, “I have just made a discovery for twenty-five thousand francs, for which I would have paid a hundred thousand.”

“What have you discovered?” asked Morrel.

“I have just discovered how a gardener may get rid of the dormice that eat his peaches.”

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