The Conspirator Detective
Or, Prince Monte Cristo in New York
J. C. Cowdrick
The Banner Weekly - 1891 - États-Unis
Ce récit a été publié à deux reprises:
- une première fois sous le titre The Conspirator Detective, or, Prince Monte Cristo in New York dans l’hebdomadaire The Banner Weekly du n°437 (28 mars 1891) au n°449 (20 juin 1891). Le récit y a occupé la première page du magazine pour ses trois premières livraisons, avec à chaque fois une grande illustration, les livraisons suivantes étant reléguées en pages intérieures, sans illustration. Nous reproduisons ci-dessous les trois pages illustrées.
- une deuxième fois sous le titre (inversant titre et sous-titre) Prince Monte Cristo in New York or the Conspirator Detective dans le numéro 978 de la série The Dime Library de New York, le 21 juillet 1897.
L’histoire ne constitue pas, comme souvent, un simple plagiat éhonté du Comte de Monte-Cristo. Au début du récit, le « tout New York » est mis en émoi par l’arrivée de deux personnalités venues d’Europe. La cantatrice Vasari, chanteuse italienne qui ensorcelle les foules dans toutes les capitales, et qui devient instantanément la coqueluche de New York. Et le « Prince Monte Cristo » dont apparemment personne ne sait rien, sinon que c’est un jeune homme plein de charme, fascinant et disposant de moyens financiers considérables. La nature des relations entre ces deux personnages intrigue beaucoup : on les voit rarement au même endroit mais quand la cantatrice s’installe dans un pays, le « prince » arrive aussitôt après.
En parallèle des aventures mondaines du prince et de la diva, une deuxième intrigue se déroule. Un homme de loi véreux tient dans ses mains les clés de la succession Clayburn. Il s’agit d’un millionnaire mort depuis des dizaines d’années, dont le testament stipule que sa fortune devra être répartie entre tous ses descendants. Mais personne ne connaît l’identité de ces derniers, sauf l’homme de loi qui les garde secrètes. Il préfère attendre que les héritiers meurent les uns après les autres et que son neveu ait réussi à épouser l’une des rares descendants Clayburn afin de mettre la main sur la fortune.
Les deux intrigues, on s’en doute, finissent par se rejoindre : Vasari et Monte Cristo prennent la défense des héritiers spoliés et s’assurent que justice soit faite. Le récit se termine sur le départ des deux héros et une révélation fracassante – et de faible crédibilité – sur leurs relations.
Assez emberlificotée et pas très plausible, l’histoire se lit néanmoins agréablement. La dimension « Monte-Cristo » est cependant maigrelette. Le « prince » n’a aucun rapport avec le comte de Monte-Cristo : il semble qu’on l’ait simplement affublé de ce surnom parce qu’il symbolise la fortune et le pouvoir – un élément que, pour le coup, Prince Monte Cristo in New York partage avec tous les autres dime novels.
Ces dime novels peuvent être consultés sur le site Nickels and dimes de la Northern Illinois University
Version du Banner Weekly
Version de la New York Dime Library
Extrait du chapitre I The « prince » and the « queen »
Society was in a flaming furore over two grand attractions. One, Signorina Vasari, the renowned prima donna; the other, Prince Monte Cristo, a petted "lion" of the elite.
Both were recently from Paris, and later from London, which cities, according to society report, they had literally taken by storm. And it was an open secret that the "Prince" was enamored of the queenly songstress.
Certain it was that he had appeared in Paris soon after her debut in that gay capital, and the same thing had occurred in London; while here, in New York, a week after the appearance of the gifted prima donna — lo! the advent of the "Prince." And now, Gotham was as completely "taken" as Paris and London had been.
Two inquiries were the questions of the hour, one, "Have you heard the peerless Vasari?" The other, "Have you seen Prince Monte Cristo?"
To admit that you had neither heard the one nor seen the other was to confess that you were behind the age in which you lived, while an admission that you had heard the "Queen," but had not yet had the pleasure of seeing the "Lion," or vice versa, was to incur a sarcastic chiding, with the reminder that your cup of joy was only half-filled.
The newspapers devoted considerable space, daily, to recording the doings of these two personages, and within a week there were "Vasari" gloves, "Monte Cristo" hats, "Vasari" fans, and "Monte Cristo" canes, and a hundred and one other things similarly named.
In speaking of the prima donna's "hotel," the word is used in its French sense. She occupied a private house and kept her own retinue of servants. Her house was one of the finest of the many brownstones on Murray Hill, and there was scarcely a minute during her "at home" hours when carriages of the "four hundred" were not to be found before the door.
It was the same with Monte Cristo. He had brought furniture with him from Paris and London, and was established in a house of his own, which was second to none in the city in points of interior costliness and splendor. And, like that of the prima donna, his hotel was fairly besieged with the beau monde of the great city during his known reception hours, which he had fixed to suit his own convenience.
The " Prince " was a young man, apparently not over twenty-three, and about the medium in height. His hair and eyes were black, as was his fine, graceful mustache. He was ever faultlessly dressed, and always cool and easy in manner. There was something about him that drew people to him and made them his friends.
The "Queen" was set down at twenty-five, in point of age. She might have been younger, but certainly was not older. She was above the average height and proportions, but her movements were so easy, and her manner so graceful, that, with her queenly presence, this was not noticed. She was good-looking, but not beautiful. Her eyes and brows were black, and her wealth of hair was of a very dark bronze-brown. She was educated, refined, and could speak fluently five or six languages.
It was the afternoon of a pleasant fall day. The air was just cool enough to be bracing, and the fashionable drives were thronged with gay equipages of every description. And, not only so, but the sidewalks were almost crowded with promenaders out for an hour's airing.
Among the latter were two men with whom our romance has to do. Both were s stylishly dressed, and evidently moved in the "upper circle." (…)
"What!" Brewden exclaimed, "you have not seen the Prince yet!"
"I must own to the enormity," Laurence acknowledged, smilingly.
"Then you are not keeping pace with the times, that's all," Browden commented. "Why, he is the lion of the hour."
" Yes, I know he is; but that does not alter the fact in my case. I must meet him, however, for I am told that he is a very prince of good fellows."
"So you will find him, I assure you. And, as for wealth, he simply rolls in it. Have you heard the latest?"
"I presume not, being so far behind the times that I have not even seen the Prince. What is the latest?"
"Why, the Prince has actually bought up one night of the opera, out and out, paying an almost fabulous figure. He intends employing the occasion as a grand reception to his friends, and no doubt it will be a splendid affair."
" It will be something unique, certainly. Are the invitations out yet? I am growing interested, you see."
"No, the cards are not out yet, and it is known only to a few favored ones. It is to be a ball and opera combined. The floor is to be cleared, and dancing will be one of the features. Then there is to be a huge midnight supper in the Hall, with covers laid for thousands. Oh! it will eclipse anything that New York has ever seen."
"I should say so. By the way, what is the real name of this Prince Monte Cristo?"
"I do not know what it is. Nobody knows. He is a mystery to everybody."