The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 74 of 400

“Adieu, adieu!” murmured the old man, clasping Edmond’s hand convulsively—“adieu!”

“Oh, no,—no, not yet,” he cried; “do not forsake me! Oh, succor him! Help—help—help!”

“Hush—hush!” murmured the dying man, “that they may not separate us if you save me!”

“You are right. Oh, yes, yes; be assured I shall save you! Besides, although you suffer much, you do not seem to be in such agony as you were before.”

“Do not mistake. I suffer less because there is in me less strength to endure. At your age we have faith in life; it is the privilege of youth to believe and hope, but old men see death more clearly. Oh, ’tis here—’tis here—’tis over—my sight is gone—my senses fail! Your hand, Dantes! Adieu—adieu!” And raising himself by a final effort, in which he summoned all his faculties, he said,—“Monte Cristo, forget not Monte Cristo!” And he fell back on the bed. The crisis was terrible, and a rigid form with twisted limbs, swollen eyelids, and lips flecked with bloody foam, lay on the bed of torture, in place of the intellectual being who so lately rested there.

Dantes took the lamp, placed it on a projecting stone above the bed, whence its tremulous light fell with strange and fantastic ray on the distorted countenance and motionless, stiffened body. With steady gaze he awaited confidently the moment for administering the restorative.

When he believed that the right moment had arrived, he took the knife, pried open the teeth, which offered less resistance than before, counted one after the other twelve drops, and watched; the phial contained, perhaps, twice as much more. He waited ten minutes, a quarter of an hour, half an hour,—no change took place. Trembling, his hair erect, his brow bathed with perspiration, he counted the seconds by the beating of his heart. Then he thought it was time to make the last trial, and he put the phial to the purple lips of Faria, and without having occasion to force open his jaws, which had remained extended, he poured the whole of the liquid down his throat.

The draught produced a galvanic effect, a violent trembling pervaded the old man’s limbs, his eyes opened until it was fearful to gaze upon them, he heaved a sigh which resembled a shriek, and then his convulsed body returned gradually to its former immobility, the eyes remaining open.

Half an hour, an hour, an hour and a half elapsed, and during this period of anguish, Edmond leaned over his friend, his hand applied to his heart, and felt the body gradually grow cold, and the heart’s pulsation become more and more deep and dull, until at length it stopped; the last movement of the heart ceased, the face became livid, the eyes remained open, but the eyeballs were glazed. It was six o’clock in the morning, the dawn was just breaking, and its feeble ray came into the dungeon, and paled the ineffectual light of the lamp. Strange shadows passed over the countenance of the dead man, and at times gave it the appearance of life. While the struggle between day and night lasted, Dantes still doubted; but as soon as the daylight gained the pre-eminence, he saw that he was alone with a corpse. Then an invincible and extreme terror seized upon him, and he dared not again press the hand that hung out of bed, he dared no longer to gaze on those fixed and vacant eyes, which he tried many times to close, but in vain—they opened again as soon as shut. He extinguished the lamp, carefully concealed it, and then went away, closing as well as he could the entrance to the secret passage by the large stone as he descended.

It was time, for the jailer was coming. On this occasion he began his rounds at Dantes’ cell, and on leaving him he went on to Faria’s dungeon, taking thither breakfast and some linen. Nothing betokened that the man knew anything of what had occurred. He went on his way.

Dantes was then seized with an indescribable desire to know what was going on in the dungeon of his unfortunate friend. He therefore returned by the subterraneous gallery, and arrived in time to hear the exclamations of the turnkey, who called out for help. Other turnkeys came, and then was heard the regular tramp of soldiers. Last of all came the governor.

Edmond heard the creaking of the bed as they moved the corpse, heard the voice of the governor, who asked them to throw water on the dead man’s face; and seeing that, in spite of this application, the prisoner did not recover, they sent for the doctor. The governor then went out, and words of pity fell on Dantes’ listening ears, mingled with brutal laughter.

“Well, well,” said one, “the madman has gone to look after his treasure. Good journey to him!”

“With all his millions, he will not have enough to pay for his shroud!” said another.

“Oh,” added a third voice, “the shrouds of the Chateau d’If are not dear!”

“Perhaps,” said one of the previous speakers, “as he was a churchman, they may go to some expense in his behalf.”

“They may give him the honors of the sack.”

Edmond did not lose a word, but comprehended very little of what was said. The voices soon ceased, and it seemed to him as if every one had left the cell. Still he dared not to enter, as they might have left some turnkey to watch the dead. He remained, therefore, mute and motionless, hardly venturing to breathe. At the end of an hour, he heard a faint noise, which increased. It was the governor who returned, followed by the doctor and other attendants. There was a moment’s silence,—it was evident that the doctor was examining the dead body. The inquiries soon commenced.

The doctor analyzed the symptoms of the malady to which the prisoner had succumbed, and declared that he was dead. Questions and answers followed in a nonchalant manner that made Dantes indignant, for he felt that all the world should have for the poor abbe a love and respect equal to his own.

“I am very sorry for what you tell me,” said the governor, replying to the assurance of the doctor, “that the old man is really dead; for he was a quiet, inoffensive prisoner, happy in his folly, and required no watching.”

“Ah,” added the turnkey, “there was no occasion for watching him: he would have stayed here fifty years, I’ll answer for it, without any attempt to escape.”

“Still,” said the governor, “I believe it will be requisite, notwithstanding your certainty, and not that I doubt your science, but in discharge of my official duty, that we should be perfectly assured that the prisoner is dead.” There was a moment of complete silence, during which Dantes, still listening, knew that the doctor was examining the corpse a second time.

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