The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 247 of 400

“The mission with which I am charged, sir,” replied the visitor, speaking with hesitation, “is a confidential one on the part of him who fulfils it, and him by whom he is employed.” The abbe bowed. “Your probity,” replied the stranger, “is so well known to the prefect that he wishes as a magistrate to ascertain from you some particulars connected with the public safety, to ascertain which I am deputed to see you. It is hoped that no ties of friendship or humane consideration will induce you to conceal the truth.”

“Provided, sir, the particulars you wish for do not interfere with my scruples or my conscience. I am a priest, sir, and the secrets of confession, for instance, must remain between me and God, and not between me and human justice.”

“Do not alarm yourself, monsieur, we will duly respect your conscience.”

At this moment the abbe pressed down his side of the shade and so raised it on the other, throwing a bright light on the stranger’s face, while his own remained obscured. “Excuse me, abbe,” said the envoy of the prefect of the police, “but the light tries my eyes very much.” The abbe lowered the shade. “Now, sir, I am listening—go on.”

“I will come at once to the point. Do you know the Count of Monte Cristo?”

“You mean Monsieur Zaccone, I presume?”

“Zaccone?—is not his name Monte Cristo?”

“Monte Cristo is the name of an estate, or, rather, of a rock, and not a family name.”

“Well, be it so—let us not dispute about words; and since M. de Monte Cristo and M. Zaccone are the same”—

“Absolutely the same.”

“Let us speak of M. Zaccone.”


“I asked you if you knew him?”

“Extremely well.”

“Who is he?”

“The son of a rich shipbuilder in Malta.”

“I know that is the report; but, as you are aware, the police does not content itself with vague reports.”

“However,” replied the abbe, with an affable smile, “when that report is in accordance with the truth, everybody must believe it, the police as well as all the rest.”

“Are you sure of what you assert?”

“What do you mean by that question?”

“Understand, sir, I do not in the least suspect your veracity; I ask if you are certain of it?”

“I knew his father, M. Zaccone.”

“Ah, indeed?”

“And when a child I often played with the son in the timber-yards.”

“But whence does he derive the title of count?”

“You are aware that may be bought.”

“In Italy?”


“And his immense riches, whence does he procure them?”

“They may not be so very great.”

“How much do you suppose he possesses?”

“From one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand livres per annum.”

“That is reasonable,” said the visitor; “I have heard he had three or four millions.”

“Two hundred thousand per annum would make four millions of capital.”

“But I was told he had four millions per annum.”

“That is not probable.”

“Do you know this Island of Monte Cristo?”

“Certainly, every one who has come from Palermo, Naples, or Rome to France by sea must know it, since he has passed close to it and must have seen it.”

“I am told it is a delightful place?”

“It is a rock.”

“And why has the count bought a rock?”

“For the sake of being a count. In Italy one must have territorial possessions to be a count.”

“You have, doubtless, heard the adventures of M. Zaccone’s youth?”

“The father’s?”

“No, the son’s.”

“I know nothing certain; at that period of his life, I lost sight of my young comrade.”

“Was he in the wars?”

“I think he entered the service.”

“In what branch?”

“In the navy.”

“Are you not his confessor?”

“No, sir; I believe he is a Lutheran.”

“A Lutheran?”

“I say, I believe such is the case, I do not affirm it; besides, liberty of conscience is established in France.”

“Doubtless, and we are not now inquiring into his creed, but his actions; in the name of the prefect of police, I ask you what you know of him.”

“He passes for a very charitable man. Our holy father, the pope, has made him a knight of Jesus Christ for the services he rendered to the Christians in the East; he has five or six rings as testimonials from Eastern monarchs of his services.”

“Does he wear them?”

“No, but he is proud of them; he is better pleased with rewards given to the benefactors of man than to his destroyers.”

“He is a Quaker then?”

“Exactly, he is a Quaker, with the exception of the peculiar dress.”

“Has he any friends?”

“Yes, every one who knows him is his friend.”

“But has he any enemies?”

“One only.”

“What is his name?”

“Lord Wilmore.”

“Where is he?”

“He is in Paris just now.”

“Can he give me any particulars?”

“Important ones; he was in India with Zaccone.”

“Do you know his abode?”

“It’s somewhere in the Chaussee d’Antin; but I know neither the street nor the number.”

“Are you at variance with the Englishman?”

“I love Zaccone, and he hates him; we are consequently not friends.”

“Do you think the Count of Monte Cristo had ever been in France before he made this visit to Paris?”

“To that question I can answer positively; no, sir, he had not, because he applied to me six months ago for the particulars he required, and as I did not know when I might again come to Paris, I recommended M. Cavalcanti to him.”


“No, Bartolomeo, his father.”

“Now, sir, I have but one question more to ask, and I charge you, in the name of honor, of humanity, and of religion, to answer me candidly.”

“What is it, sir?”

“Do you know with what design M. de Monte Cristo purchased a house at Auteuil?”

“Certainly, for he told me.”

“What is it, sir?”

“To make a lunatic asylum of it, similar to that founded by the Count of Pisani at Palermo. Do you know about that institution?”

“I have heard of it.”

“It is a magnificent charity.” Having said this, the abbe bowed to imply he wished to pursue his studies. The visitor either understood the abbe’s meaning, or had no more questions to ask; he arose, and the abbe accompanied him to the door. “You are a great almsgiver,” said the visitor, “and although you are said to be rich, I will venture to offer you something for your poor people; will you accept my offering?”

“I thank you, sir; I am only jealous in one thing, and that is that the relief I give should be entirely from my own resources.”


“My resolution, sir, is unchangeable, but you have only to search for yourself and you will find, alas, but too many objects upon whom to exercise your benevolence.” The abbe once more bowed as he opened the door, the stranger bowed and took his leave, and the carriage conveyed him straight to the house of M. de Villefort. An hour afterwards the carriage was again ordered, and this time it went to the Rue Fontaine-Saint-George, and stopped at No. 5, where Lord Wilmore lived. The stranger had written to Lord Wilmore, requesting an interview, which the latter had fixed for ten o’clock. As the envoy of the prefect of police arrived ten minutes before ten, he was told that Lord Wilmore, who was precision and punctuality personified, was not yet come in, but that he would be sure to return as the clock struck.

The visitor was introduced into the drawing-room, which was like all other furnished drawing-rooms. A mantle-piece, with two modern Sevres vases, a timepiece representing Cupid with his bent bow, a mirror with an engraving on each side—one representing Homer carrying his guide, the other, Belisarius begging—a grayish paper; red and black tapestry—such was the appearance of Lord Wilmore’s drawing-room. It was illuminated by lamps with ground-glass shades which gave only a feeble light, as if out of consideration for the envoy’s weak sight. After ten minutes’ expectation the clock struck ten; at the fifth stroke the door opened and Lord Wilmore appeared. He was rather above the middle height, with thin reddish whiskers, light complexion and light hair, turning rather gray. He was dressed with all the English peculiarity, namely, in a blue coat, with gilt buttons and high collar, in the fashion of 1811, a white kerseymere waistcoat, and nankeen pantaloons, three inches too short, but which were prevented by straps from slipping up to the knee. His first remark on entering was,—“You know, sir, I do not speak French?”

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