Hardly had the door closed, than Villefort threw himself into a chair.
‘Alas, alas!’ murmured he, ‘if the procureur himself had been here in Marseilles, I should have been ruined. This accursed letter would have destroyed all my hopes. Oh! Father, must your past career always interfere with mine?’
Suddenly a light passed over his face, a smile played round his mouth, and his lips relaxed.
‘This will do,’ said he, ‘and from this letter, which might have ruined me, I will make my fortune.’
Dantès rose and looked forward, when he saw rise within a hundred yards of him the black and frowning rock on which stands the Chateau d’If. This gloomy fortress, which has for three hundred years furnished food for so many wild legends, seemed to Dantès like a scaffold to a malefactor . . .
‘I am not going there to be imprisoned,’ said Dantès; ‘it is only used for political prisoners. I have committed no crime. Are there any magistrates or judges at the Château d’If?’
I heard this news, and knew it even before you could; for three days ago I posted from Marseilles to Paris with all possible speed, and half desperate because I could not send two hundred leagues ahead of me the thought which was agitating my brain . . . I was aware of this project . . . By a letter addressed to you from the Isle of Elba . . . To you, and which I discovered in the pocket of a messenger; had that letter fallen into the hands of anyone else but me, you, dear father, probably would have been shot by now.
Villefort dictated a petition, in which, from an excellent intention no doubt, Dantès’ services were exaggerated, and he was made out one of the most active agents of Napoleon’s return. It was evident that at the sight of this document the minister would instantly release him . . .
As for Villefort, instead of sending anything to Paris, he carefully preserved the petition that so fearfully compromised Dantès, in the hopes of an event that seemed not unlikely, that is, a second restoration.
The abbé’s eyes glistened; he seized the inspector’s hand.
‘But what if I am not released,’ cried he, ‘and am detained here until my death? Had not the government better profit by it? I will offer six millions, and I will content myself with the rest . . . I am not mad! . . . The treasure which I speak of really exists, and I offer to sign a treaty with you, in which I promise to lead you to the spot where you shall dig, and if I deceive you, bring me back here again,—I ask no more.’