From the day in which the bizarre contract had been concluded between the Baronet and Daniele, for which he was obliged to be the keeper of his corpse, the moral state of these two men had completely changed: the Baronet, restored to health and in tranquility, he had resumed his usual occupations; he had returned to his rural work; he had called his friends around him, with whom he had been disgusted before because of the infirmity of his spirit; he had resumed his studies, his business; in short, he had become the same man he was a few years ago. He always loved Daniel, and always with pleasure he saw him beside him; but now the aspect of things had changed: and the Baronet no longer felt the need for the melodies of the young pianist to chase away those ghosts that at present no longer came to besiege him. Indeed, it is professional to confess that Daniel’s appearance rather caused an unpleasant sensation in Edmondo, since Edmondo no longer saw in the young Italian that the man destined to watch over his mortal remains. This does not mean that Edmondo disliked Daniele, towards whom he felt attracted by an overbearing force; but theguardian of death could not fail to give birth to a feeling of repugnance in the soul of the Baronet.
For his part, Daniel, instead of being pleased with the prodigious fortune that would one day be due to him, seemed more worried than in the past: he was always absent-minded, taciturn, or inconclusive. In the presence of Edmund, he forced himself to appear less shaken and more pleasant, but now, not so often and he saw the Baronet, and in the evening when he was in the circle of his friends, Daniele appeared only for a moment in the green room, and he soon vanished to abandon himself to solitude of his thoughts, or to find distractions and amusement in the Manheim theater.
The month had passed since he was in Schoene Aussicht : the Baronet, faithful to his promise, had given him a bill of thirty thousand francs payable at sight and negotiated on a banker in Manheim. In giving him this money, the Baronet had said with a smile: Here is a very small anticipation on what my corpse will give you. Daniele was free to continue his travels and to return to Naples. Edmondo no longer made any request to retain him any more time in Schoene AussichtMeanwhile the young pianist did not know how to come up with any resolution. He no longer wanted to continue his travels, because he understood their futility. On the other hand, was he not now the heir to immense wealth? What need did he have to kill himself with work, in the certainty of never being able to earn that million, which he saw shining forth in the future? Return to Naples? This resolution was far from his mind, because Daniele did not want to set foot in the town where Emma was, if he did not first become a millionaire.
Meanwhile, he felt the need to move away from Schoene Aussicht immediately . Every day that he extended his stay in this place, his soul became blacker and his face paler. In the golden apartment where he had a room, in the silk bed where he threw himself down to rest, Daniel could no longer find rest and peace; the sleep that had returned to Edmund’s eyelashes fled from his eyes. Daniele wanted to do everything possible to fly away from himself, so as not to find himself face to face with his own thoughts, but in the meantime he did not know how to leave the armchair on which he remains for hours in absolute immobility.
What had brought about such a strange change in Daniel? A hellish idea that had presented itself to him as a sinister light. At first he had rejected this idea with all the strength of his soul, he had trembled in thinking of it; but that idea, which at first had been shown to him in horror, began, as it were, to become familiar with him. This idea was a crime !
Our pen avoids revealing what Daniele was thinking about in order to shorten the term of his expectation and to make the distance that separated him from the object of his desires disappear! His chest leapt at the thought of flying, twice a millionaire, to the Duke of Gonsalvo, as soon as two years had passed. An obstacle stood in the way of the fulfillment of his vows, a life! A man had to become corpsebecause he could have grasped that happiness which was shown to him far away with all the charms of seduction. Two million and Emma! And to get this happiness a moment was enough, a single moment of courage, of daring !! – When a man has reached the age of forty, has he not lived long enough, and especially when this man has enjoyed all the delights of life to the point of satiety? What are the years that follow but a series of ailments and miseries? What are twenty or thirty years more than a man drags in on earth in respect to eternity? And what is the life of a man in the immensity of creation? What is an existence in the middle of generations? – So made atrocious thoughts wandered around in the head of the young pianist, while other thoughts of different kinds, seductive images of pleasure, of joys, of delights fulfilled the horrible persuasion.
When a fatal idea presents itself to the human spirit, the passions which it foments are so cunningly invented by quirks and false reasons that it is extremely difficult not to remain caught in the panic. Daniel fought with force the horrible thought which became the more dangerous the more it lost its horror; but nevertheless, every time he thought of Emma, of the two years that would expire, of the immense inheritance that awaited him, of those two tantalizing millions who invited him to enjoy it before the time, the superhuman joy of presenting himself like this rich and so full of gables to the proud Duke of Gonzalvo and his daughter; when Daniel thought about these things, the demon of the crime blew the most nefarious intentions into his soul, canceled all good intentions, and the unfortunate young man was all over again with that gloomy taciturnity which usually precedes the carrying out of a great crime. Since this infernal idea had fallen into the hands of Daniel’s soul, the colors of health disappeared from his face. He no longer knew how to find a note on the piano, which he rarely approached, he spoke alone, he loved solitary walks,Schoene Aussicht , and his gaze had taken on a strange and incomprehensible expression.
We cannot say what effect Edmund’s appearance produced on him by now. Daniele avoided running into the Baronet, whose glances he could no longer bear, as if he had feared that the latter would guess his thoughts. Edmondo had noticed the metamorphosis that had taken place in the young pianist, and attributed it entirely to his loves, to the sadness of the distance from the loved object, and often retouched it by smiling on this key: to which Daniele replied vague words, and soon , under a pretext, he returned to his solitude, where he harbored dark and deadly designs. fortunately, the deliberate crime did not offer an easy execution: it was almost impossible to make the baronet disappear from the worldwithout leaving a trace of the crime. It is well understood that impunity was the first condition that Daniel had calculated in the perfidious attack, which he was thinking about day and night, but impunity is not so easy, and, by the admirable disposition of Divine justice, the man who committed a crime carries it everywhere printed on his forehead even when he has managed to lose all traces of it.
Daniele thought; Will you kill by dagger? Nothing easier to perform, but at the same time nothing easier to discover. By murdering the Baronet at night and in his own bed, one could have conjectured a murder committed by thieves. But in the meantime, justice would be on the trail of the murderer; it would have started by taking possession of all the people residing in Schoene Aussicht , and certainly the singularity of Edmondo’s will would have called the suspicions on the person of the heir, who, not belonging to the deceased by any tie of blood; presented probable inductions of crime. On the other hand, if he, Daniel, had fallen into the hands of justice, even for simple ones suspicious, how could he have fulfilled the covenants of the will, and thus place himself in possession of the inheritance? It was therefore necessary to renounce any idea of murder by means of the dagger.
Will you kill with poison? This presented, it is true, less easy to discover, but very difficult to carry out. How to get the poison? who to trust? Having accomplices in the crime? In addition to this, since the thought of having been poisoned had arisen in the mind of the Baronet, would he not have immediately suspected his future heir as the author of the poisoning? The autopsy requested by the authorities, in spite of the deceased’s will, would not have annihilated the inheritance, annihilating its conditions? And could not the dying Baronet, in a moment of clairvoyance, destroy the will? But the difficulty which overcame all the others for the accomplishment of this crime was the procurement of the poison, without arousing suspicion in the person who would sell it. Add to all this the impossibility of hiding one’s disturbance in the presence of the dying man, of dr. Weiss, servants who would have come to lend the sick every possible help and remedy. It was therefore necessary not to think of a death by poisoning.
Kill with hindrance? It was risky and terrible: Daniele had neither strength nor courage for this. Apart from this, this kind of death presented the same ease of uncovering as murder by dagger. Science would immediately reveal the crime, and justice would not be long in finding the criminal. It was therefore a profession to stop even this idea which, it must be said, made Daniel himself tremble.
The impossibility of execution had discouraged the young man, who kept this as a warning from heaven, and seemed determined to renounce such a terrible resolution. On the other hand, the gallows or the irons did not fail from time to time to show themselves from afar to the terrified mind of the young man, who was then taken by the salutary horror of the crime he had conceived.
However his reason was clouded by passions in this way, Daniele’s heart always felt a certain incomprehensible attachment to the Baronet; and the thought of murdering him, among the many insurmountable difficulties it presented, was that of having to suffocate that tender inexplicable feeling that Daniel felt for that man who had given him such splendid hospitality and who, dying, left him heir to all his riches. And this feeling was so strong that Daniel, having returned to himself, had enough vigor of will to chase away the thought of so much crime from his soul; indeed, to overcome temptation once and for all, he resolved to abandon that house and that country, and to entrust the future to events. Daniele had resolved to take leave of the Baronet.
At the end of two years, he said to himself, I will return to Naples, go to the Duke of Gonzalvo, and bring him a letter from the Baronet, in which he recognizes me as his heir. The delay of the inheritance will be compensated by the prodigious figure of two million and by ‘titles, of which I will ask in possession upon the death of the testator. We’ll see if that superb Gonzalvo will be satisfied and satisfied with it.
Daniel no longer wanted to delay in putting into effect the good resolution he had taken, and which he feared at every moment he would feel himself wavering. On the same day, he went up to the Baronet to take his leave of him and to beg him to write him that letter for the Duke of Gonzalvo, ignoring the relations that had passed between these two characters.
We have repeatedly made it clear that our main purpose in these narratives is to fix the attention of our readers on the most important moral truth:
THE HAND OF PROVIDENCE IN THE FACTS OF HUMAN LIFE.
That infinity of novels that take place in the society of men, most of which remain hidden in the eyes of history that touches only the social gables, are not, as we believe; what more or less evident demonstrations of that truth which is at least clairvoyant.
We seem to see that crimes are very often the double punishment inflicted by heaven on two sins that have remained hidden from the eyes of human justice. In the moral order, impunity is not for anyone; repentance alone, accompanied by a whole life of voluntary sacrifices, redeems a sin.
Edmondo was alone in the study room. Seated by his desk, he had replied to a letter from Maurice Barkley. By the time Daniele showed up in the study, the Baronet had just finished his letter and was putting his seal on it.
– Oh! good morning, dear Daniele, Edmund said, smiling and extending his hand, to whom should I attribute the honor of your visit?
– Forgive, Signor Baronet, if I come briefly to interrupt your occupations.
– What do you say! It is a pleasure you are giving me … I was busy handling my courier, indeed I ask your permission to send this letter.
Daniele bowed and sat down near the desk. Edmund rang the bell, and to the servant who appeared at the door he delivered the letter for the courier of Naples.
– Here I am, hurry up, he added then; this morning I am really happy, because with that letter that I sent to your country, in Naples, I have repaid myself from an ancient duty of gratitude, and, besides that, I am pleased to see you at an hour when you are not used to favoring me with your visits.
– How much goodness, Mr. Baronet!
– And always frowning, my dear Daniele! always thoughtful! We have entirely changed our parts: for the past it was you who spread a little relief on my sadness; and today I am the one who is doing this office to you. Too bad that I am not an artist too, and of your genius! But what a difference between the causes of our melancholy! I was not in love, and I never am, unfortunately for me: it must be very sweet to think of the beloved object, is it true Daniele?
– You are deceived, Signor Baronet, if you think that love is the cause of my bad mood. I do not deny that it has a large part of it, but it is quite the opposite reason that prevents me from abandoning myself to the distractions typical of my age.
– I do not want to be indiscreet, my dear Daniele, but I remind you that in me you have a friend and sincere; I hope I have given you sufficient proof.
– And indelible, Mr. Baronet; and I have resolved not to abuse your goodness any longer. My further abode in Schoene Aussicht seems entirely useless; so you will allow me to take my leave of you tomorrow.
– So soon! exclaimed Edmund, who did not expect this resolution of the young man: and is this perhaps the object of your visit this morning?
– Exactly, Signor Baronet, Daniele replied, lowering his eyes.
– And why such a resolution?
– Because I think it is useless to be a burden to you for a longer time; expired is the month since I am in Manheim, and although our relations are no longer the same as they were in the first days that I had the honor of receiving such splendid hospitality from you, yet they cannot in the least affect on my further stay in Schoene Aussicht .
– It is superfluous to say, Edmondo resumed, how pleased I would be to keep you in my house for some other time; but I don’t want to oppose your will, and you are free to do whatever suits you best. The mutual obligations we have imposed upon ourselves and the nature of my will have established bonds between us that have something more than mere friendship. Therefore, in any event of your life, in any embarrassing contingency in which you may find yourself; my dear Daniele, think that for me it will be one of the best days of my life when I will be able to lend you a tenuous service and give you a certificate of my unalterable affection.
– Well, Signor Conte, Daniele hastened to say, I will avail myself of your benevolence before I leave and I will have the courage to ask you for a favor.
– Good boy! Edmund exclaimed; here is what is called true affection and true esteem: let’s go up speak frankly, young man, as you would talk to your father.
– The grace I ask of you, Signor Conte, said Daniele, blushing, is to write me a letter for the Duke of Gonzalvo.
– For the Duke of Gonzalvo!
– Yes, Mr. Conte: in this letter you will give him the assurance of your will to appoint me your universal heir. Equipped with this writing, I will return to him with a different spirit, and it will be the same as if I were to introduce myself to him as a millionaire.
Edmund smiled, and after a few moments of silence, he said:
– This you ask me, my son, is absolutely impossible.
– Impossible! the young man exclaimed in surprise.
– Impossible, Edmondo replied.
– And for what reason, please? Daniele asked.
– I cannot tell you the reason, my dear Daniele: just tell you that between me and the Duke of Gonzalvo you are setting up a mortal barrier: our relations are forever broken; On the contrary, my dear son, I beg you, however sacred you are, never to speak of me to the Duke of Gonzalvo or reveal to him the place of my retreat. This will be a proof to which I place your affection for me.
– So I will never be able to tell him that I am destined to be the heir of Baronet Edmondo Brighton, Earl of Sierra Blonda?
– You will tell him one day after my death, if he still lives!
Daniele bowed his head in an act of discouragement and fell silent immersed in his dark thoughts. The demon of the crime again flashed a light of blood in the mind of the young man! Daniele’s eyes had fixed casually on the Baronet’s desk, so that it seemed that he was reading the superscription of a book that was there, while the young man’s thinking was far from dealing with books.
Edmund to divert the conversation from the sad subject to which it had set off, said to Daniele:
– This book on which you cast your eyes, my dear Daniel, is all written in my own hand. They are memories of my life that I have thrown into this scrapbook: important observations I have collected in my travels; information on certain rarities that I keep. Last night, in fact, re-reading some news on the island of Java, where I stayed for a few days, I remembered having to keep some branches of a tree that grows on this island called the Upas or The Poisontree (the poison tree ). I want to let you hear the news I have gathered about this terrible vegetable.
Edmund opened the manuscript to a page that he had marked with a piece of paper and read the following  :
“This tree is native to Java; it reaches a considerable height, sometimes reaching eighty feet. A juice or gum, which is the deadliest poison, develops from it in large quantities; this is used by the natives to poison the tips of their arrows and other weapons. The scents which exhale from this tree are so murderous that neither an animal nor a plant can resist its influence. The rubber is extracted by means of offenders sentenced to death. When the sentence is pronounced against one of them, the judge asks him if he wants to die at the hands of the executioner, or to get on the Upas to pick up a rubber can. The condemned usually prefer this, because they have a distant chance of being saved. Before approaching the fatal tree, they receive all the corresponding instructions to make the operation less dangerous. As usual, similar instructions are given to them by a priest, who also fulfills the sacred office of preparing them to die. The condemned are wont to climb the tree, with his head covered by a leather cap and a mask with glass eyes; they are likewise provided with leather gloves. The condemned with great care avoid the contact of the branches, which, with a simple touch on any naked part of the body, cause death. The natives not only poison their weapons with the juice of this plant, but also the springs and reservoirs of water when they see an enemy approaching. The Dutch lost half of their army to such poisoning, and from that time on, they have always brought with them a quantity of live fish, which they throw into the water a few hours before venturing to drink it. A leaf of the Upas applied to a man’s forehead instantly causes death, almost without his feeling he is dying. It has the power to immediately stop the flow of blood and the movements of the heart. The dust of the dried leaves of the Upas is so terrible that a few atoms of it are enough to give death. ”
Daniele had followed the reading of this passage with unspeakable attention; no particularity had escaped him. It is impossible to describe the expression of his physiognomy when reading the information which we have quoted. The evil genius had suggested to Edmund the thought of reading that page of his manuscript.
Baronet Edmund Brighton had read his death sentence. The solution to the problem that Daniel had been looking for for several days was found!
– And you keep the leaves of this tree? Daniele asked with mad eyes.
– This amazes you! Edmund said deceived about the true and terrible significance of the young man’s request, well, I keep the leaves of this tree, which will now be reduced to dust. This whim of mine cost the lives of two of my slaves ; but I wanted at any cost to possess such a precious poison.
Daniel looked at the ground gloomy and concentrated, and said fiercely to himself:
– Ah! you killed two slaves to obtain this precious poison! Well you will die for it ! Well you said that this poison is precious … precious to me!
Daniele added aloud, and as if he had asked an indifferent question:
– And where do you keep, Mr. Conte, such a dangerous object?
– In a double-bottomed silver box in the green room chest; on the box it is written in French. Any indiscreet person who opens it to me and touches the object I contain will be punished with instant death.
– And how did you manage to put the fatal leaves in that box?
– I had the slaves place them there with every possible precaution without their having touched them.
– I suppose you are jealously guarding the key to that box, Daniele deftly asked.
– Of course; it is at the bottom of one of these little drawers, the Baronet replied abruptly.
Divine justice dictated his answers.
Daniel knew what he needed; he did not want to ask any more questions so as not to arouse suspicions in Edmondo’s mind, who was far from such suppositions.
The conversation continued on indifferent matters, Daniel tried to hide the agitation and disturbance that the premeditation of the enormous crime he was thinking about gave him.
– So that you have resolved to leave me tomorrow? said the Baronet, picking up the pristine subject of the conversation.
– Tomorrow, if I have the opportunity to find a place in the stagecoach for Darmstadt, where I intend to move.
– Tomorrow therefore I will thank you, my dear Daniel, for what you have done to restore to my spirit the tranquility that I had lost.
– Oh yes, tomorrow you will thank me! Daniele said with irony, which the Baronet took as a compliment.
– But from now on I wish you good luck, my son, good in love, of course, because we will take care of the rest, won’t we?
– How much I owe you, Baronet! Daniel exclaimed hypocritically, lowering his gaze in which the perfidy of the soul was already flashing.
He had risen: the sight of his future victim hurt his heart.
– See you tomorrow then, Edmondo said, extending his hand again, which this time Daniele did not have the strength to touch, and, lowering his eyes, he pretended not to have seen it.
– See you tomorrow, Signor Baronet, the young man replied in a low and hoarse voice.
– And we won’t see each other tonight in the usual circle of friends? Edmondo asked; think that it is the last evening that we will have the good of possessing you among us; you must not miss it!
– I will not fail, Signor Baronet, I will not fail this evening.
Daniele bowed, and left that room, adding to himself with incredible ferocity.
– And I will not miss this night!