"What would you have, sir?" said the lady, laughing; "we do what we can. All the world has not the secret of the Medicis or the Borgias."
"Now," replied the count, shrugging his shoulders, "shall I tell you the cause of all these stupidities? It is because, at your theatres, by what at least I could judge by reading the pieces they play, they see persons swallow the contents of a phial, or suck the button of a ring, and fall dead instantly. Five minutes afterwards the curtain falls, and the spectators depart. They are ignorant of the consequences of the murder; they see neither the police commissary with his badge of office, nor the corporal with his four men; and so the poor fools believe that the whole thing is as easy as lying. But go a little way from France—go either to Aleppo or Cairo, or only to Naples or Rome, and you will see people passing by you in the streets—people erect, smiling, and fresh-colored, of whom Asmodeus, if you were holding on by the skirt of his mantle, would say, 'That man was poisoned three weeks ago; he will be a dead man in a month.'"
"Then," remarked Madame de Villefort, "they have again discovered the secret of the famous aquatofana that they said was lost at Perugia."
"Ah, but madame, does mankind ever lose anything? The arts change about and make a tour of the world; things take a different name, and the vulgar do not follow them—that is all; but there is always the same result. Poisons act particularly on some organ or another—one on the stomach, another on the brain, another on the intestines. Well, the poison brings on a cough, the cough an inflammation of the lungs, or some other complaint catalogued in the book of science, which, however, by no means precludes it from being decidedly mortal; and if it were not, would be sure to become so, thanks to the remedies applied by foolish doctors, who are generally bad chemists, and which will act in favor of or against the malady, as you please; and then there is a human being killed according to all the rules of art and skill, and of whom justice learns nothing, as was said by a terrible chemist of my acquaintance, the worthy Abbe Adelmonte of Taormina, in Sicily, who has studied these national phenomena very profoundly."
"It is quite frightful, but deeply interesting," said the young lady, motionless with attention. "I thought, I must confess, that these tales, were inventions of the Middle Ages."
"Yes, no doubt, but improved upon by ours. What is the use of time, rewards of merit, medals, crosses, Monthyon prizes, if they do not lead society towards more complete perfection? Yet man will never be perfect until he learns to create and destroy; he does know how to destroy, and that is half the battle."
"So," added Madame de Villefort, constantly returning to her object, "the poisons of the Borgias, the Medicis, the Renes, the Ruggieris, and later, probably, that of Baron de Trenck, whose story has been so misused by modern drama and romance"—
"Were objects of art, madame, and nothing more," replied the count. "Do you suppose that the real savant addresses himself stupidly to the mere individual? By no means. Science loves eccentricities, leaps and bounds, trials of strength, fancies, if I may be allowed so to term them. Thus, for instance, the excellent Abbe Adelmonte, of whom I spoke just now, made in this way some marvellous experiments."
"Yes; I will mention one to you. He had a remarkably fine garden, full of vegetables, flowers, and fruit. From amongst these vegetables he selected the most simple—a cabbage, for instance. For three days he watered this cabbage with a distillation of arsenic; on the third, the cabbage began to droop and turn yellow. At that moment he cut it. In the eyes of everybody it seemed fit for table, and preserved its wholesome appearance. It was only poisoned to the Abbe Adelmonte. He then took the cabbage to the room where he had rabbits—for the Abbe Adelmonte had a collection of rabbits, cats, and guinea-pigs, fully as fine as his collection of vegetables, flowers, and fruit. Well, the Abbe Adelmonte took a rabbit, and made it eat a leaf of the cabbage. The rabbit died. What magistrate would find, or even venture to insinuate, anything against this? What procureur has ever ventured to draw up an accusation against M. Magendie or M. Flourens, in consequence of the rabbits, cats, and guinea-pigs they have killed?—not one. So, then, the rabbit dies, and justice takes no notice. This rabbit dead, the Abbe Adelmonte has its entrails taken out by his cook and thrown on the dunghill; on this dunghill is a hen, who, pecking these intestines, is in her turn taken ill, and dies next day. At the moment when she is struggling in the convulsions of death, a vulture is flying by (there are a good many vultures in Adelmonte's country); this bird darts on the dead fowl, and carries it away to a rock, where it dines off its prey. Three days afterwards, this poor vulture, which has been very much indisposed since that dinner, suddenly feels very giddy while flying aloft in the clouds, and falls heavily into a fish-pond. The pike, eels, and carp eat greedily always, as everybody knows—well, they feast on the vulture. Now suppose that next day, one of these eels, or pike, or carp, poisoned at the fourth remove, is served up at your table. Well, then, your guest will be poisoned at the fifth remove, and die, at the end of eight or ten days, of pains in the intestines, sickness, or abscess of the pylorus. The doctors open the body and say with an air of profound learning, 'The subject has died of a tumor on the liver, or of typhoid fever!'"
"But," remarked Madame de Villefort, "all these circumstances which you link thus to one another may be broken by the least accident; the vulture may not see the fowl, or may fall a hundred yards from the fish-pond."
"Ah, that is where the art comes in. To be a great chemist in the East, one must direct chance; and this is to be achieved."—Madame de Villefort was in deep thought, yet listened attentively. "But," she exclaimed, suddenly, "arsenic is indelible, indestructible; in whatsoever way it is absorbed, it will be found again in the body of the victim from the moment when it has been taken in sufficient quantity to cause death."
"Precisely so," cried Monte Cristo—"precisely so; and this is what I said to my worthy Adelmonte. He reflected, smiled, and replied to me by a Sicilian proverb, which I believe is also a French proverb, 'My son, the world was not made in a day—but in seven. Return on Sunday.' On the Sunday following I did return to him. Instead of having watered his cabbage with arsenic, he had watered it this time with a solution of salts, having their basis in strychnine, strychnos colubrina, as the learned term it. Now, the cabbage had not the slightest appearance of disease in the world, and the rabbit had not the smallest distrust; yet, five minutes afterwards, the rabbit was dead. The fowl pecked at the rabbit, and the next day was a dead hen. This time we were the vultures; so we opened the bird, and this time all special symptoms had disappeared, there were only general symptoms. There was no peculiar indication in any organ—an excitement of the nervous system—that was it; a case of cerebral congestion—nothing more. The fowl had not been poisoned—she had died of apoplexy. Apoplexy is a rare disease among fowls, I believe, but very common among men." Madame de Villefort appeared more and more thoughtful.
"It is very fortunate," she observed, "that such substances could only be prepared by chemists; otherwise, all the world would be poisoning each other."
"By chemists and persons who have a taste for chemistry," said Monte Cristo carelessly.
"And then," said Madame de Villefort, endeavoring by a struggle, and with effort, to get away from her thoughts, "however skilfully it is prepared, crime is always crime, and if it avoid human scrutiny, it does not escape the eye of God. The Orientals are stronger than we are in cases of conscience, and, very prudently, have no hell—that is the point."
"Really, madame, this is a scruple which naturally must occur to a pure mind like yours, but which would easily yield before sound reasoning. The bad side of human thought will always be defined by the paradox of Jean Jacques Rousseau,—you remember,—the mandarin who is killed five hundred leagues off by raising the tip of the finger. Man's whole life passes in doing these things, and his intellect is exhausted by reflecting on them. You will find very few persons who will go and brutally thrust a knife in the heart of a fellow-creature, or will administer to him, in order to remove him from the surface of the globe on which we move with life and animation, that quantity of arsenic of which we just now talked. Such a thing is really out of rule—eccentric or stupid. To attain such a point, the blood must be heated to thirty-six degrees, the pulse be, at least, at ninety, and the feelings excited beyond the ordinary limit. But suppose one pass, as is permissible in philology, from the word itself to its softened synonym, then, instead of committing an ignoble assassination you make an 'elimination;' you merely and simply remove from your path the individual who is in your way, and that without shock or violence, without the display of the sufferings which, in the case of becoming a punishment, make a martyr of the victim, and a butcher, in every sense of the word, of him who inflicts them. Then there will be no blood, no groans, no convulsions, and above all, no consciousness of that horrid and compromising moment of accomplishing the act,—then one escapes the clutch of the human law, which says, 'Do not disturb society!' This is the mode in which they manage these things, and succeed in Eastern climes, where there are grave and phlegmatic persons who care very little for the questions of time in conjunctures of importance."
"Yet conscience remains," remarked Madame de Villefort in an agitated voice, and with a stifled sigh.
"Yes," answered Monte Cristo "happily, yes, conscience does remain; and if it did not, how wretched we should be! After every action requiring exertion, it is conscience that saves us, for it supplies us with a thousand good excuses, of which we alone are judges; and these reasons, howsoever excellent in producing sleep, would avail us but very little before a tribunal, when we were tried for our lives. Thus Richard III., for instance, was marvellously served by his conscience after the putting away of the two children of Edward IV.; in fact, he could say, 'These two children of a cruel and persecuting king, who have inherited the vices of their father, which I alone could perceive in their juvenile propensities—these two children are impediments in my way of promoting the happiness of the English people, whose unhappiness they (the children) would infallibly have caused.' Thus was Lady Macbeth served by her conscience, when she sought to give her son, and not her husband (whatever Shakespeare may say), a throne. Ah, maternal love is a great virtue, a powerful motive—so powerful that it excuses a multitude of things, even if, after Duncan's death, Lady Macbeth had been at all pricked by her conscience."
Madame de Villefort listened with avidity to these appalling maxims and horrible paradoxes, delivered by the count with that ironical simplicity which was peculiar to him. After a moment's silence, the lady inquired, "Do you know, my dear count," she said, "that you are a very terrible reasoner, and that you look at the world through a somewhat distempered medium? Have you really measured the world by scrutinies, or through alembics and crucibles? For you must indeed be a great chemist, and the elixir you administered to my son, which recalled him to life almost instantaneously"—
"Oh, do not place any reliance on that, madame; one drop of that elixir sufficed to recall life to a dying child, but three drops would have impelled the blood into his lungs in such a way as to have produced most violent palpitations; six would have suspended his respiration, and caused syncope more serious than that in which he was; ten would have destroyed him. You know, madame, how suddenly I snatched him from those phials which he so imprudently touched?"
"Is it then so terrible a poison?"
"Oh, no. In the first place, let us agree that the word poison does not exist, because in medicine use is made of the most violent poisons, which become, according as they are employed, most salutary remedies."
"What, then, is it?"
"A skilful preparation of my friend's the worthy Abbe Adelmonte, who taught me the use of it."
"Oh," observed Madame de Villefort, "it must be an admirable anti-spasmodic."
"Perfect, madame, as you have seen," replied the count; "and I frequently make use of it—with all possible prudence though, be it observed," he added with a smile of intelligence.
"Most assuredly," responded Madame de Villefort in the same tone. "As for me, so nervous, and so subject to fainting fits, I should require a Doctor Adelmonte to invent for me some means of breathing freely and tranquillizing my mind, in the fear I have of dying some fine day of suffocation. In the meanwhile, as the thing is difficult to find in France, and your abbe is not probably disposed to make a journey to Paris on my account, I must continue to use Monsieur Planche's anti-spasmodics; and mint and Hoffman's drops are among my favorite remedies. Here are some lozenges which I have made up on purpose; they are compounded doubly strong." Monte Cristo opened the tortoise-shell box, which the lady presented to him, and inhaled the odor of the lozenges with the air of an amateur who thoroughly appreciated their composition. "They are indeed exquisite," he said; "but as they are necessarily submitted to the process of deglutition—a function which it is frequently impossible for a fainting person to accomplish—I prefer my own specific."
"Undoubtedly, and so should I prefer it, after the effects I have seen produced; but of course it is a secret, and I am not so indiscreet as to ask it of you."
"But I," said Monte Cristo, rising as he spoke—"I am gallant enough to offer it you."
"How kind you are."
"Only remember one thing—a small dose is a remedy, a large one is poison. One drop will restore life, as you have seen; five or six will inevitably kill, and in a way the more terrible inasmuch as, poured into a glass of wine, it would not in the slightest degree affect its flavor. But I say no more, madame; it is really as if I were prescribing for you." The clock struck half-past six, and a lady was announced, a friend of Madame de Villefort, who came to dine with her.
"If I had had the honor of seeing you for the third or fourth time, count, instead of only for the second," said Madame de Villefort; "if I had had the honor of being your friend, instead of only having the happiness of being under an obligation to you, I should insist on detaining you to dinner, and not allow myself to be daunted by a first refusal."
"A thousand thanks, madame," replied Monte Cristo "but I have an engagement which I cannot break. I have promised to escort to the Academie a Greek princess of my acquaintance who has never seen your grand opera, and who relies on me to conduct her thither."
"Adieu, then, sir, and do not forget the prescription."
"Ah, in truth, madame, to do that I must forget the hour's conversation I have had with you, which is indeed impossible." Monte Cristo bowed, and left the house. Madame de Villefort remained immersed in thought. "He is a very strange man," she said, "and in my opinion is himself the Adelmonte he talks about." As to Monte Cristo the result had surpassed his utmost expectations. "Good," said he, as he went away; "this is a fruitful soil, and I feel certain that the seed sown will not be cast on barren ground." Next morning, faithful to his promise, he sent the prescription requested.
Chapter 53. Robert le Diable.
The pretext of an opera engagement was so much the more feasible, as there chanced to be on that very night a more than ordinary attraction at the Academie Royale. Levasseur, who had been suffering under severe illness, made his reappearance in the character of Bertrand, and, as usual, the announcement of the most admired production of the favorite composer of the day had attracted a brilliant and fashionable audience. Morcerf, like most other young men of rank and fortune, had his orchestra stall, with the certainty of always finding a seat in at least a dozen of the principal boxes occupied by persons of his acquaintance; he had, moreover, his right of entry into the omnibus box. Chateau-Renaud rented a stall beside his own, while Beauchamp, as a journalist, had unlimited range all over the theatre. It happened that on this particular night the minister's box was placed at the disposal of Lucien Debray, who offered it to the Comte de Morcerf, who again, upon his mother's rejection of it, sent it to Danglars, with an intimation that he should probably do himself the honor of joining the baroness and her daughter during the evening, in the event of their accepting the box in question. The ladies received the offer with too much pleasure to dream of a refusal. To no class of persons is the presentation of a gratuitous opera-box more acceptable than to the wealthy millionaire, who still hugs economy while boasting of carrying a king's ransom in his waistcoat pocket.
Danglars had, however, protested against showing himself in a ministerial box, declaring that his political principles, and his parliamentary position as member of the opposition party would not permit him so to commit himself; the baroness had, therefore, despatched a note to Lucien Debray, bidding him call for them, it being wholly impossible for her to go alone with Eugenie to the opera. There is no gainsaying the fact that a very unfavorable construction would have been put upon the circumstance if the two women had gone without escort, while the addition of a third, in the person of her mother's admitted lover, enabled Mademoiselle Danglars to defy malice and ill-nature. One must take the world as one finds it.
The curtain rose, as usual, to an almost empty house, it being one of the absurdities of Parisian fashion never to appear at the opera until after the beginning of the performance, so that the first act is generally played without the slightest attention being paid to it, that part of the audience already assembled being too much occupied in observing the fresh arrivals, while nothing is heard but the noise of opening and shutting doors, and the buzz of conversation. "Surely," said Albert, as the door of a box on the first circle opened, "that must be the Countess G——."
"And who is the Countess G——?" inquired Chateau-Renaud.
"What a question! Now, do you know, baron, I have a great mind to pick a quarrel with you for asking it; as if all the world did not know who the Countess G—— was."
"Ah, to be sure," replied Chateau-Renaud; "the lovely Venetian, is it not?"
"Herself." At this moment the countess perceived Albert, and returned his salutation with a smile. "You know her, it seems?" said Chateau-Renaud.
"Franz introduced me to her at Rome," replied Albert.
"Well, then, will you do as much for me in Paris as Franz did for you in Rome?"
There was a cry of "Shut up!" from the audience. This manifestation on the part of the spectators of their wish to be allowed to hear the music, produced not the slightest effect on the two young men, who continued their conversation. "The countess was present at the races in the Champ-de-Mars," said Chateau-Renaud.
"Bless me, I quite forgot the races. Did you bet?"
"Oh, merely a paltry fifty louis."
"And who was the winner?"
"Nautilus. I staked on him."
"But there were three races, were there not?"
"Yes; there was the prize given by the Jockey Club—a gold cup, you know—and a very singular circumstance occurred about that race."
"What was it?"
"Oh, shut up!" again interposed some of the audience.
"Why, it was won by a horse and rider utterly unknown on the course."
"Is that possible?"
"True as day. The fact was, nobody had observed a horse entered by the name of Vampa, or that of a jockey styled Job, when, at the last moment, a splendid roan, mounted by a jockey about as big as your fist, presented themselves at the starting-post. They were obliged to stuff at least twenty pounds weight of shot in the small rider's pockets, to make him weight; but with all that he outstripped Ariel and Barbare, against whom he ran, by at least three whole lengths."
"And was it not found out at last to whom the horse and jockey belonged?"
"You say that the horse was entered under the name of Vampa?"
"Exactly; that was the title."
"Then," answered Albert, "I am better informed than you are, and know who the owner of that horse was."
"Shut up, there!" cried the pit in chorus. And this time the tone and manner in which the command was given, betokened such growing hostility that the two young men perceived, for the first time, that the mandate was addressed to them. Leisurely turning round, they calmly scrutinized the various countenances around them, as though demanding some one person who would take upon himself the responsibility of what they deemed excessive impertinence; but as no one responded to the challenge, the friends turned again to the front of the theatre, and affected to busy themselves with the stage. At this moment the door of the minister's box opened, and Madame Danglars, accompanied by her daughter, entered, escorted by Lucien Debray, who assiduously conducted them to their seats.
"Ha, ha," said Chateau-Renaud, "here comes some friends of yours, viscount! What are you looking at there? don't you see they are trying to catch your eye?" Albert turned round, just in time to receive a gracious wave of the fan from the baroness; as for Mademoiselle Eugenie, she scarcely vouchsafed to waste the glances of her large black eyes even upon the business of the stage. "I tell you what, my dear fellow," said Chateau-Renaud, "I cannot imagine what objection you can possibly have to Mademoiselle Danglars—that is, setting aside her want of ancestry and somewhat inferior rank, which by the way I don't think you care very much about. Now, barring all that, I mean to say she is a deuced fine girl!"
"Handsome, certainly," replied Albert, "but not to my taste, which I confess, inclines to something softer, gentler, and more feminine."
"Ah, well," exclaimed Chateau-Renaud, who because he had seen his thirtieth summer fancied himself duly warranted in assuming a sort of paternal air with his more youthful friend, "you young people are never satisfied; why, what would you have more? your parents have chosen you a bride built on the model of Diana, the huntress, and yet you are not content."
"No, for that very resemblance affrights me; I should have liked something more in the manner of the Venus of Milo or Capua; but this chase-loving Diana continually surrounded by her nymphs gives me a sort of alarm lest she should some day bring on me the fate of Actaeon."
And, indeed, it required but one glance at Mademoiselle Danglars to comprehend the justness of Morcerf's remark—she was beautiful, but her beauty was of too marked and decided a character to please a fastidious taste; her hair was raven black, but its natural waves seemed somewhat rebellious; her eyes, of the same color as her hair, were surmounted by well-arched brows, whose great defect, however, consisted in an almost habitual frown, while her whole physiognomy wore that expression of firmness and decision so little in accordance with the gentler attributes of her sex—her nose was precisely what a sculptor would have chosen for a chiselled Juno. Her mouth, which might have been found fault with as too large, displayed teeth of pearly whiteness, rendered still more conspicuous by the brilliant carmine of her lips, contrasting vividly with her naturally pale complexion. But that which completed the almost masculine look Morcerf found so little to his taste, was a dark mole, of much larger dimensions than these freaks of nature generally are, placed just at the corner of her mouth; and the effect tended to increase the expression of self-dependence that characterized her countenance. The rest of Mademoiselle Eugenie's person was in perfect keeping with the head just described; she, indeed, reminded one of Diana, as Chateau-Renaud observed, but her bearing was more haughty and resolute. As regarded her attainments, the only fault to be found with them was the same that a fastidious connoisseur might have found with her beauty, that they were somewhat too erudite and masculine for so young a person. She was a perfect linguist, a first-rate artist, wrote poetry, and composed music; to the study of the latter she professed to be entirely devoted, following it with an indefatigable perseverance, assisted by a schoolfellow,—a young woman without fortune whose talent promised to develop into remarkable powers as a singer. It was rumored that she was an object of almost paternal interest to one of the principal composers of the day, who excited her to spare no pains in the cultivation of her voice, which might hereafter prove a source of wealth and independence. But this counsel effectually decided Mademoiselle Danglars never to commit herself by being seen in public with one destined for a theatrical life; and acting upon this principle, the banker's daughter, though perfectly willing to allow Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly (that was the name of the young virtuosa) to practice with her through the day, took especial care not to be seen in her company. Still, though not actually received at the Hotel Danglars in the light of an acknowledged friend, Louise was treated with far more kindness and consideration than is usually bestowed on a governess.
The curtain fell almost immediately after the entrance of Madame Danglars into her box, the band quitted the orchestra for the accustomed half-hour's interval allowed between the acts, and the audience were left at liberty to promenade the salon or lobbies, or to pay and receive visits in their respective boxes. Morcerf and Chateau-Renaud were amongst the first to avail themselves of this permission. For an instant the idea struck Madame Danglars that this eagerness on the part of the young viscount arose from his impatience to join her party, and she whispered her expectations to her daughter, that Albert was hurrying to pay his respects to them. Mademoiselle Eugenie, however, merely returned a dissenting movement of the head, while, with a cold smile, she directed the attention of her mother to an opposite box on the first circle, in which sat the Countess G——, and where Morcerf had just made his appearance. "So we meet again, my travelling friend, do we?" cried the countess, extending her hand to him with all the warmth and cordiality of an old acquaintance; "it was really very good of you to recognize me so quickly, and still more so to bestow your first visit on me."
"Be assured," replied Albert, "that if I had been aware of your arrival in Paris, and had known your address, I should have paid my respects to you before this. Allow me to introduce my friend, Baron de Chateau-Renaud, one of the few true gentlemen now to be found in France, and from whom I have just learned that you were a spectator of the races in the Champ-de-Mars, yesterday." Chateau-Renaud bowed to the countess.
"So you were at the races, baron?" inquired the countess eagerly.
"Well, then," pursued Madame G—— with considerable animation, "you can probably tell me who won the Jockey Club stakes?"
"I am sorry to say I cannot," replied the baron; "and I was just asking the same question of Albert."
"Are you very anxious to know, countess?" asked Albert.
"To know what?"
"The name of the owner of the winning horse?"
"Excessively; only imagine—but do tell me, viscount, whether you really are acquainted with it or no?"
"I beg your pardon, madame, but you were about to relate some story, were you not? You said, 'only imagine,'—and then paused. Pray continue."
"Well, then, listen. You must know I felt so interested in the splendid roan horse, with his elegant little rider, so tastefully dressed in a pink satin jacket and cap, that I could not help praying for their success with as much earnestness as though the half of my fortune were at stake; and when I saw them outstrip all the others, and come to the winning-post in such gallant style, I actually clapped my hands with joy. Imagine my surprise, when, upon returning home, the first object I met on the staircase was the identical jockey in the pink jacket! I concluded that, by some singular chance, the owner of the winning horse must live in the same hotel as myself; but, as I entered my apartments, I beheld the very gold cup awarded as a prize to the unknown horse and rider. Inside the cup was a small piece of paper, on which were written these words—'From Lord Ruthven to Countess G——.'"
"Precisely; I was sure of it," said Morcerf.
"Sure of what?"
"That the owner of the horse was Lord Ruthven himself."
"What Lord Ruthven do you mean?"
"Why, our Lord Ruthven—the Vampire of the Salle Argentino!"
"Is it possible?" exclaimed the countess; "is he here in Paris?"
"To be sure,—why not?"
"And you visit him?—meet him at your own house and elsewhere?"
"I assure you he is my most intimate friend, and M. de Chateau-Renaud has also the honor of his acquaintance."
"But why are you so sure of his being the winner of the Jockey Club prize?"
"Was not the winning horse entered by the name of Vampa?"
"What of that?"
"Why, do you not recollect the name of the celebrated bandit by whom I was made prisoner?"
"And from whose hands the count extricated me in so wonderful a manner?"
"To be sure, I remember it all now."
"He called himself Vampa. You see, it's evident where the count got the name."
"But what could have been his motive for sending the cup to me?"
"In the first place, because I had spoken much of you to him, as you may believe; and in the second, because he delighted to see a countrywoman take so lively an interest in his success."
"I trust and hope you never repeated to the count all the foolish remarks we used to make about him?"
"I should not like to affirm upon oath that I have not. Besides, his presenting you the cup under the name of Lord Ruthven"—
"Oh, but that is dreadful! Why, the man must owe me a fearful grudge."
"Does his action appear like that of an enemy?"
"No; certainly not."
"And so he is in Paris?"
"And what effect does he produce?"
"Why," said Albert, "he was talked about for a week; then the coronation of the queen of England took place, followed by the theft of Mademoiselle Mars's diamonds; and so people talked of something else."
"My good fellow," said Chateau-Renaud, "the count is your friend and you treat him accordingly. Do not believe what Albert is telling you, countess; so far from the sensation excited in the Parisian circles by the appearance of the Count of Monte Cristo having abated, I take upon myself to declare that it is as strong as ever. His first astounding act upon coming amongst us was to present a pair of horses, worth 32,000 francs, to Madame Danglars; his second, the almost miraculous preservation of Madame de Villefort's life; now it seems that he has carried off the prize awarded by the Jockey Club. I therefore maintain, in spite of Morcerf, that not only is the count the object of interest at this present moment, but also that he will continue to be so for a month longer if he pleases to exhibit an eccentricity of conduct which, after all, may be his ordinary mode of existence."
"Perhaps you are right," said Morcerf; "meanwhile, who is in the Russian ambassador's box?"
"Which box do you mean?" asked the countess.
"The one between the pillars on the first tier—it seems to have been fitted up entirely afresh."
"Did you observe any one during the first act?" asked Chateau-Renaud.
"In that box."
"No," replied the countess, "it was certainly empty during the first act;" then, resuming the subject of their previous conversation, she said, "And so you really believe it was your mysterious Count of Monte Cristo that gained the prize?"
"I am sure of it."
"And who afterwards sent the cup to me?"
"But I don't know him," said the countess; "I have a great mind to return it."
"Do no such thing, I beg of you; he would only send you another, formed of a magnificent sapphire, or hollowed out of a gigantic ruby. It is his way, and you must take him as you find him." At this moment the bell rang to announce the drawing up of the curtain for the second act. Albert rose to return to his place. "Shall I see you again?" asked the countess. "At the end of the next act, with your permission, I will come and inquire whether there is anything I can do for you in Paris?"
"Pray take notice," said the countess, "that my present residence is 22 Rue de Rivoli, and that I am at home to my friends every Saturday evening. So now, you are both forewarned." The young men bowed, and quitted the box. Upon reaching their stalls, they found the whole of the audience in the parterre standing up and directing their gaze towards the box formerly possessed by the Russian ambassador. A man of from thirty-five to forty years of age, dressed in deep black, had just entered, accompanied by a young woman dressed after the Eastern style. The lady was surpassingly beautiful, while the rich magnificence of her attire drew all eyes upon her. "Hullo," said Albert; "it is Monte Cristo and his Greek!"
The strangers were, indeed, no other than the count and Haidee. In a few moments the young girl had attracted the attention of the whole house, and even the occupants of the boxes leaned forward to scrutinize her magnificent diamonds. The second act passed away during one continued buzz of voices—one deep whisper—intimating that some great and universally interesting event had occurred; all eyes, all thoughts, were occupied with the young and beautiful woman, whose gorgeous apparel and splendid jewels made a most extraordinary spectacle. Upon this occasion an unmistakable sign from Madame Danglars intimated her desire to see Albert in her box directly the curtain fell on the second act, and neither the politeness nor good taste of Morcerf would permit his neglecting an invitation so unequivocally given. At the close of the act he therefore went to the baroness. Having bowed to the two ladies, he extended his hand to Debray. By the baroness he was most graciously welcomed, while Eugenie received him with her accustomed coldness.
"My dear fellow," said Debray, "you have come in the nick of time. There is madame overwhelming me with questions respecting the count; she insists upon it that I can tell her his birth, education, and parentage, where he came from, and whither he is going. Being no disciple of Cagliostro, I was wholly unable to do this; so, by way of getting out of the scrape, I said, 'Ask Morcerf; he has got the whole history of his beloved Monte Cristo at his fingers' ends;' whereupon the baroness signified her desire to see you."
"Is it not almost incredible," said Madame Danglars, "that a person having at least half a million of secret-service money at his command, should possess so little information?"
"Let me assure you, madame," said Lucien, "that had I really the sum you mention at my disposal, I would employ it more profitably than in troubling myself to obtain particulars respecting the Count of Monte Cristo, whose only merit in my eyes consists in his being twice as rich as a nabob. However, I have turned the business over to Morcerf, so pray settle it with him as may be most agreeable to you; for my own part, I care nothing about the count or his mysterious doings."
"I am very sure no nabob would have sent me a pair of horses worth 32,000 francs, wearing on their heads four diamonds valued at 5,000 francs each."
"He seems to have a mania for diamonds," said Morcerf, smiling, "and I verily believe that, like Potemkin, he keeps his pockets filled, for the sake of strewing them along the road, as Tom Thumb did his flint stones."
"Perhaps he has discovered some mine," said Madame Danglars. "I suppose you know he has an order for unlimited credit on the baron's banking establishment?"
"I was not aware of it," replied Albert, "but I can readily believe it."
"And, further, that he stated to M. Danglars his intention of only staying a year in Paris, during which time he proposed to spend six millions.
"He must be the Shah of Persia, travelling incog."
"Have you noticed the remarkable beauty of the young woman, M. Lucien?" inquired Eugenie.
"I really never met with one woman so ready to do justice to the charms of another as yourself," responded Lucien, raising his lorgnette to his eye. "A most lovely creature, upon my soul!" was his verdict.
"Who is this young person, M. de Morcerf?" inquired Eugenie; "does anybody know?"
"Mademoiselle," said Albert, replying to this direct appeal, "I can give you very exact information on that subject, as well as on most points relative to the mysterious person of whom we are now conversing—the young woman is a Greek."
"So I should suppose by her dress; if you know no more than that, every one here is as well-informed as yourself."
"I am extremely sorry you find me so ignorant a cicerone," replied Morcerf, "but I am reluctantly obliged to confess, I have nothing further to communicate—yes, stay, I do know one thing more, namely, that she is a musician, for one day when I chanced to be breakfasting with the count, I heard the sound of a guzla—it is impossible that it could have been touched by any other finger than her own."
"Then your count entertains visitors, does he?" asked Madame Danglars.
"Indeed he does, and in a most lavish manner, I can assure you."
"I must try and persuade M. Danglars to invite him to a ball or dinner, or something of the sort, that he may be compelled to ask us in return."
"What," said Debray, laughing; "do you really mean you would go to his house?"
"Why not? my husband could accompany me."
"But do you know this mysterious count is a bachelor?"
"You have ample proof to the contrary, if you look opposite," said the baroness, as she laughingly pointed to the beautiful Greek.
"No, no!" exclaimed Debray; "that girl is not his wife: he told us himself she was his slave. Do you not recollect, Morcerf, his telling us so at your breakfast?"
"Well, then," said the baroness, "if slave she be, she has all the air and manner of a princess."
"Of the 'Arabian Nights'?"
"If you like; but tell me, my dear Lucien, what it is that constitutes a princess. Why, diamonds—and she is covered with them."
"To me she seems overloaded," observed Eugenie; "she would look far better if she wore fewer, and we should then be able to see her finely formed throat and wrists."
"See how the artist peeps out!" exclaimed Madame Danglars. "My poor Eugenie, you must conceal your passion for the fine arts."
"I admire all that is beautiful," returned the young lady.
"What do you think of the count?" inquired Debray; "he is not much amiss, according to my ideas of good looks."
"The count," repeated Eugenie, as though it had not occurred to her to observe him sooner; "the count?—oh, he is so dreadfully pale."
"I quite agree with you," said Morcerf; "and the secret of that very pallor is what we want to find out. The Countess G—— insists upon it that he is a vampire."
"Then the Countess G—— has returned to Paris, has she?" inquired the baroness.
"Is that she, mamma?" asked Eugenie; "almost opposite to us, with that profusion of beautiful light hair?"
"Yes," said Madame Danglars, "that is she. Shall I tell you what you ought to do, Morcerf?"
"Command me, madame."
"Well, then, you should go and bring your Count of Monte Cristo to us."
"What for?" asked Eugenie.
"What for? Why, to converse with him, of course. Have you really no desire to meet him?"
"None whatever," replied Eugenie.
"Strange child," murmured the baroness.
"He will very probably come of his own accord," said Morcerf. "There; do you see, madame, he recognizes you, and bows." The baroness returned the salute in the most smiling and graceful manner.
"Well," said Morcerf, "I may as well be magnanimous, and tear myself away to forward your wishes. Adieu; I will go and try if there are any means of speaking to him."
"Go straight to his box; that will be the simplest plan."
"But I have never been presented."
"Presented to whom?"
"To the beautiful Greek."
"You say she is only a slave?"
"While you assert that she is a queen, or at least a princess. No; I hope that when he sees me leave you, he will come out."
"That is possible—go."
"I am going," said Albert, as he made his parting bow. Just as he was passing the count's box, the door opened, and Monte Cristo came forth. After giving some directions to Ali, who stood in the lobby, the count took Albert's arm. Carefully closing the box door, Ali placed himself before it, while a crowd of spectators assembled round the Nubian.
"Upon my word," said Monte Cristo, "Paris is a strange city, and the Parisians a very singular people. See that cluster of persons collected around poor Ali, who is as much astonished as themselves; really one might suppose he was the only Nubian they had ever beheld. Now I can promise you, that a Frenchman might show himself in public, either in Tunis, Constantinople, Bagdad, or Cairo, without being treated in that way."
"That shows that the Eastern nations have too much good sense to waste their time and attention on objects undeserving of either. However, as far as Ali is concerned, I can assure you, the interest he excites is merely from the circumstance of his being your attendant—you, who are at this moment the most celebrated and fashionable person in Paris."
"Really? and what has procured me so fluttering a distinction?"
"What? why, yourself, to be sure! You give away horses worth a thousand louis; you save the lives of ladies of high rank and beauty; under the name of Major Brack you run thoroughbreds ridden by tiny urchins not larger than marmots; then, when you have carried off the golden trophy of victory, instead of setting any value on it, you give it to the first handsome woman you think of!"
"And who has filled your head with all this nonsense?"
"Why, in the first place, I heard it from Madame Danglars, who, by the by, is dying to see you in her box, or to have you seen there by others; secondly, I learned it from Beauchamp's journal; and thirdly, from my own imagination. Why, if you sought concealment, did you call your horse Vampa?"
"That was an oversight, certainly," replied the count; "but tell me, does the Count of Morcerf never visit the Opera? I have been looking for him, but without success."
"He will be here to-night."
"In what part of the house?"
"In the baroness's box, I believe."
"That charming young woman with her is her daughter?"
"I congratulate you." Morcerf smiled. "We will discuss that subject at length some future time," said he. "But what do you think of the music?"
"Why, the music you have been listening to."
"Oh, it is well enough as the production of a human composer, sung by featherless bipeds, to quote the late Diogenes."
"From which it would seem, my dear count, that you can at pleasure enjoy the seraphic strains that proceed from the seven choirs of paradise?"
"You are right, in some degree; when I wish to listen to sounds more exquisitely attuned to melody than mortal ear ever yet listened to, I go to sleep."
"Then sleep here, my dear count. The conditions are favorable; what else was opera invented for?"
"No, thank you. Your orchestra is too noisy. To sleep after the manner I speak of, absolute calm and silence are necessary, and then a certain preparation"—
"I know—the famous hashish!"
"Precisely. So, my dear viscount, whenever you wish to be regaled with music come and sup with me."
"I have already enjoyed that treat when breakfasting with you," said Morcerf.
"Do you mean at Rome?"
"Ah, then, I suppose you heard Haidee's guzla; the poor exile frequently beguiles a weary hour in playing over to me the airs of her native land." Morcerf did not pursue the subject, and Monte Cristo himself fell into a silent reverie. The bell rang at this moment for the rising of the curtain. "You will excuse my leaving you," said the count, turning in the direction of his box.
"What? Are you going?"
"Pray, say everything that is kind to Countess G—— on the part of her friend the Vampire."
"And what message shall I convey to the baroness!"
"That, with her permission, I shall do myself the honor of paying my respects in the course of the evening."
The third act had begun; and during its progress the Count of Morcerf, according to his promise, made his appearance in the box of Madame Danglars. The Count of Morcerf was not a person to excite either interest or curiosity in a place of public amusement; his presence, therefore, was wholly unnoticed, save by the occupants of the box in which he had just seated himself. The quick eye of Monte Cristo however, marked his coming; and a slight though meaning smile passed over his lips. Haidee, whose soul seemed centred in the business of the stage, like all unsophisticated natures, delighted in whatever addressed itself to the eye or ear.
The third act passed off as usual. Mesdemoiselles Noblet, Julie, and Leroux executed the customary pirouettes; Robert duly challenged the Prince of Granada; and the royal father of the princess Isabella, taking his daughter by the hand, swept round the stage with majestic strides, the better to display the rich folds of his velvet robe and mantle. After which the curtain again fell, and the spectators poured forth from the theatre into the lobbies and salon. The count left his box, and a moment later was saluting the Baronne Danglars, who could not restrain a cry of mingled pleasure and surprise. "You are welcome, count!" she exclaimed, as he entered. "I have been most anxious to see you, that I might repeat orally the thanks writing can so ill express."
"Surely so trifling a circumstance cannot deserve a place in your remembrance. Believe me, madame, I had entirely forgotten it."
"But it is not so easy to forget, monsieur, that the very next day after your princely gift you saved the life of my dear friend, Madame de Villefort, which was endangered by the very animals your generosity restored to me."
"This time, at least, I do not deserve your thanks. It was Ali, my Nubian slave, who rendered this service to Madame de Villefort."
"Was it Ali," asked the Count of Morcerf, "who rescued my son from the hands of bandits?"
"No, count," replied Monte Cristo taking the hand held out to him by the general; "in this instance I may fairly and freely accept your thanks; but you have already tendered them, and fully discharged your debt—if indeed there existed one—and I feel almost mortified to find you still reverting to the subject. May I beg of you, baroness, to honor me with an introduction to your daughter?"
"Oh, you are no stranger—at least not by name," replied Madame Danglars, "and the last two or three days we have really talked of nothing but you. Eugenie," continued the baroness, turning towards her daughter, "this is the Count of Monte Cristo." The Count bowed, while Mademoiselle Danglars bent her head slightly. "You have a charming young person with you to-night, count," said Eugenie. "Is she your daughter?"
"No, mademoiselle," said Monte Cristo, astonished at the coolness and freedom of the question. "She is a poor unfortunate Greek left under my care."
"And what is her name?"
"Haidee," replied Monte Cristo.
"A Greek?" murmured the Count of Morcerf.
"Yes, indeed, count," said Madame Danglars; "and tell me, did you ever see at the court of Ali Tepelini, whom you so gloriously and valiantly served, a more exquisite beauty or richer costume?"
"Did I hear rightly, monsieur," said Monte Cristo "that you served at Yanina?"
"I was inspector-general of the pasha's troops," replied Morcerf; "and it is no secret that I owe my fortune, such as it is, to the liberality of the illustrious Albanese chief."
"But look!" exclaimed Madame Danglars.
"Where?" stammered Morcerf.
"There," said Monte Cristo placing his arms around the count, and leaning with him over the front of the box, just as Haidee, whose eyes were occupied in examining the theatre in search of her guardian, perceived his pale features close to Morcerf's face. It was as if the young girl beheld the head of Medusa. She bent forwards as though to assure herself of the reality of what she saw, then, uttering a faint cry, threw herself back in her seat. The sound was heard by the people about Ali, who instantly opened the box-door. "Why, count," exclaimed Eugenie, "what has happened to your ward? she seems to have been taken suddenly ill."
"Very probably," answered the count. "But do not be alarmed on her account. Haidee's nervous system is delicately organized, and she is peculiarly susceptible to the odors even of flowers—nay, there are some which cause her to faint if brought into her presence. However," continued Monte Cristo, drawing a small phial from his pocket, "I have an infallible remedy." So saying, he bowed to the baroness and her daughter, exchanged a parting shake of the hand with Debray and the count, and left Madame Danglars' box. Upon his return to Haidee he found her still very pale. As soon as she saw him she seized his hand; her own hands were moist and icy cold. "Who was it you were talking with over there?" she asked.
"With the Count of Morcerf," answered Monte Cristo. "He tells me he served your illustrious father, and that he owes his fortune to him."
"Wretch!" exclaimed Haidee, her eyes flashing with rage; "he sold my father to the Turks, and the fortune he boasts of was the price of his treachery! Did not you know that, my dear lord?"
"Something of this I heard in Epirus," said Monte Cristo; "but the particulars are still unknown to me. You shall relate them to me, my child. They are, no doubt, both curious and interesting."
"Yes, yes; but let us go. I feel as though it would kill me to remain long near that dreadful man." So saying, Haidee arose, and wrapping herself in her burnoose of white cashmire embroidered with pearls and coral, she hastily quitted the box at the moment when the curtain was rising upon the fourth act.
"Do you observe," said the Countess G—— to Albert, who had returned to her side, "that man does nothing like other people; he listens most devoutly to the third act of 'Robert le Diable,' and when the fourth begins, takes his departure."
Chapter 54. A Flurry in Stocks.
Some days after this meeting, Albert de Morcerf visited the Count of Monte Cristo at his house in the Champs Elysees, which had already assumed that palace-like appearance which the count's princely fortune enabled him to give even to his most temporary residences. He came to renew the thanks of Madame Danglars which had been already conveyed to the count through the medium of a letter, signed "Baronne Danglars, nee Hermine de Servieux." Albert was accompanied by Lucien Debray, who, joining in his friend's conversation, added some passing compliments, the source of which the count's talent for finesse easily enabled him to guess. He was convinced that Lucien's visit was due to a double feeling of curiosity, the larger half of which sentiment emanated from the Rue de la Chaussee d'Antin. In short, Madame Danglars, not being able personally to examine in detail the domestic economy and household arrangements of a man who gave away horses worth 30,000 francs and who went to the opera with a Greek slave wearing diamonds to the amount of a million of money, had deputed those eyes, by which she was accustomed to see, to give her a faithful account of the mode of life of this incomprehensible person. But the count did not appear to suspect that there could be the slightest connection between Lucien's visit and the curiosity of the baroness.
"You are in constant communication with the Baron Danglars?" the count inquired of Albert de Morcerf.
"Yes, count, you know what I told you?"
"All remains the same, then, in that quarter?"
"It is more than ever a settled thing," said Lucien,—and, considering that this remark was all that he was at that time called upon to make, he adjusted the glass to his eye, and biting the top of his gold headed cane, began to make the tour of the apartment, examining the arms and the pictures.
"Ah," said Monte Cristo "I did not expect that the affair would be so promptly concluded."
"Oh, things take their course without our assistance. While we are forgetting them, they are falling into their appointed order; and when, again, our attention is directed to them, we are surprised at the progress they have made towards the proposed end. My father and M. Danglars served together in Spain, my father in the army and M. Danglars in the commissariat department. It was there that my father, ruined by the revolution, and M. Danglars, who never had possessed any patrimony, both laid the foundations of their different fortunes."
"Yes," said Monte Cristo "I think M. Danglars mentioned that in a visit which I paid him; and," continued he, casting a side-glance at Lucien, who was turning over the leaves of an album, "Mademoiselle Eugenie is pretty—I think I remember that to be her name."
"Very pretty, or rather, very beautiful," replied Albert, "but of that style of beauty which I do not appreciate; I am an ungrateful fellow."
"You speak as if you were already her husband."
"Ah," returned Albert, in his turn looking around to see what Lucien was doing.
"Really," said Monte Cristo, lowering his voice, "you do not appear to me to be very enthusiastic on the subject of this marriage."
"Mademoiselle Danglars is too rich for me," replied Morcerf, "and that frightens me."
"Bah," exclaimed Monte Cristo, "that's a fine reason to give. Are you not rich yourself?"
"My father's income is about 50,000 francs per annum; and he will give me, perhaps, ten or twelve thousand when I marry."
"That, perhaps, might not be considered a large sum, in Paris especially," said the count; "but everything does not depend on wealth, and it is a fine thing to have a good name, and to occupy a high station in society. Your name is celebrated, your position magnificent; and then the Comte de Morcerf is a soldier, and it is pleasing to see the integrity of a Bayard united to the poverty of a Duguesclin; disinterestedness is the brightest ray in which a noble sword can shine. As for me, I consider the union with Mademoiselle Danglars a most suitable one; she will enrich you, and you will ennoble her." Albert shook his head, and looked thoughtful. "There is still something else," said he.
"I confess," observed Monte Cristo, "that I have some difficulty in comprehending your objection to a young lady who is both rich and beautiful."
"Oh," said Morcerf, "this repugnance, if repugnance it may be called, is not all on my side."
"Whence can it arise, then? for you told me your father desired the marriage."
"It is my mother who dissents; she has a clear and penetrating judgment, and does not smile on the proposed union. I cannot account for it, but she seems to entertain some prejudice against the Danglars."
"Ah," said the count, in a somewhat forced tone, "that may be easily explained; the Comtesse de Morcerf, who is aristocracy and refinement itself, does not relish the idea of being allied by your marriage with one of ignoble birth; that is natural enough."
"I do not know if that is her reason," said Albert, "but one thing I do know, that if this marriage be consummated, it will render her quite miserable. There was to have been a meeting six weeks ago in order to talk over and settle the affair; but I had such a sudden attack of indisposition"—
"Real?" interrupted the count, smiling.
"Oh, real enough, from anxiety doubtless,—at any rate they postponed the matter for two months. There is no hurry, you know. I am not yet twenty-one, and Eugenie is only seventeen; but the two months expire next week. It must be done. My dear count, you cannot imagine how my mind is harassed. How happy you are in being exempt from all this!"
"Well, and why should not you be free, too? What prevents you from being so?"
"Oh, it will be too great a disappointment to my father if I do not marry Mademoiselle Danglars."
"Marry her then," said the count, with a significant shrug of the shoulders.
"Yes," replied Morcerf, "but that will plunge my mother into positive grief."
"Then do not marry her," said the count.
"Well, I shall see. I will try and think over what is the best thing to be done; you will give me your advice, will you not, and if possible extricate me from my unpleasant position? I think, rather than give pain to my dear mother, I would run the risk of offending the count." Monte Cristo turned away; he seemed moved by this last remark. "Ah," said he to Debray, who had thrown himself into an easy-chair at the farthest extremity of the salon, and who held a pencil in his right hand and an account book in his left, "what are you doing there? Are you making a sketch after Poussin?"
"Oh, no," was the tranquil response; "I am too fond of art to attempt anything of that sort. I am doing a little sum in arithmetic."
"Yes; I am calculating—by the way, Morcerf, that indirectly concerns you—I am calculating what the house of Danglars must have gained by the last rise in Haiti bonds; from 206 they have risen to 409 in three days, and the prudent banker had purchased at 206; therefore he must have made 300,000 livres."
"That is not his biggest scoop," said Morcerf; "did he not make a million in Spaniards this last year?"
"My dear fellow," said Lucien, "here is the Count of Monte Cristo, who will say to you, as the Italians do,—
"'Danaro e santita, Meta della meta.' [*]
* "Money and sanctity, Each in a moiety.
"When they tell me such things, I only shrug my shoulders and say nothing."
"But you were speaking of Haitians?" said Monte Cristo.
"Ah, Haitians,—that is quite another thing! Haitians are the ecarte of French stock-jobbing. We may like bouillotte, delight in whist, be enraptured with boston, and yet grow tired of them all; but we always come back to ecarte—it is not only a game, it is a hors-d'oeuvre! M. Danglars sold yesterday at 405, and pockets 300,000 francs. Had he but waited till to-day, the price would have fallen to 205, and instead of gaining 300,000 francs, he would have lost 20 or 25,000."
"And what has caused the sudden fall from 409 to 206?" asked Monte Cristo. "I am profoundly ignorant of all these stock-jobbing intrigues."
"Because," said Albert, laughing, "one piece of news follows another, and there is often great dissimilarity between them."
"Ah," said the count, "I see that M. Danglars is accustomed to play at gaining or losing 300,000 francs in a day; he must be enormously rich."
"It is not he who plays!" exclaimed Lucien; "it is Madame Danglars: she is indeed daring."
"But you who are a reasonable being, Lucien, and who knows how little dependence is to be placed on the news, since you are at the fountain-head, surely you ought to prevent it," said Morcerf, with a smile.
"How can I, if her husband fails in controlling her?" asked Lucien; "you know the character of the baroness—no one has any influence with her, and she does precisely what she pleases."
"Ah, if I were in your place"—said Albert.
"I would reform her; it would be rendering a service to her future son-in-law."
"How would you set about it?"
"Ah, that would be easy enough—I would give her a lesson."
"Yes. Your position as secretary to the minister renders your authority great on the subject of political news; you never open your mouth but the stockbrokers immediately stenograph your words. Cause her to lose a hundred thousand francs, and that would teach her prudence."
"I do not understand," stammered Lucien.
"It is very clear, notwithstanding," replied the young man, with an artlessness wholly free from affectation; "tell her some fine morning an unheard-of piece of intelligence—some telegraphic despatch, of which you alone are in possession; for instance, that Henri IV. was seen yesterday at Gabrielle's. That would boom the market; she will buy heavily, and she will certainly lose when Beauchamp announces the following day, in his gazette, 'The report circulated by some usually well-informed persons that the king was seen yesterday at Gabrielle's house, is totally without foundation. We can positively assert that his majesty did not quit the Pont-Neuf.'" Lucien half smiled. Monte Cristo, although apparently indifferent, had not lost one word of this conversation, and his penetrating eye had even read a hidden secret in the embarrassed manner of the secretary. This embarrassment had completely escaped Albert, but it caused Lucien to shorten his visit; he was evidently ill at ease. The count, in taking leave of him, said something in a low voice, to which he answered, "Willingly, count; I accept." The count returned to young Morcerf.
"Do you not think, on reflection," said he to him, "that you have done wrong in thus speaking of your mother-in-law in the presence of M. Debray?"
"My dear count," said Morcerf, "I beg of you not to apply that title so prematurely."
"Now, speaking without any exaggeration, is your mother really so very much averse to this marriage?"
"So much so that the baroness very rarely comes to the house, and my mother, has not, I think, visited Madame Danglars twice in her whole life."
"Then," said the count, "I am emboldened to speak openly to you. M. Danglars is my banker; M. de Villefort has overwhelmed me with politeness in return for a service which a casual piece of good fortune enabled me to render him. I predict from all this an avalanche of dinners and routs. Now, in order not to presume on this, and also to be beforehand with them, I have, if agreeable to you, thought of inviting M. and Madame Danglars, and M. and Madame de Villefort, to my country-house at Auteuil. If I were to invite you and the Count and Countess of Morcerf to this dinner, I should give it the appearance of being a matrimonial meeting, or at least Madame de Morcerf would look upon the affair in that light, especially if Baron Danglars did me the honor to bring his daughter. In that case your mother would hold me in aversion, and I do not at all wish that; on the contrary, I desire to stand high in her esteem."
"Indeed, count," said Morcerf, "I thank you sincerely for having used so much candor towards me, and I gratefully accept the exclusion which you propose. You say you desire my mother's good opinion; I assure you it is already yours to a very unusual extent."
"Do you think so?" said Monte Cristo, with interest.
"Oh, I am sure of it; we talked of you an hour after you left us the other day. But to return to what we were saying. If my mother could know of this attention on your part—and I will venture to tell her—I am sure that she will be most grateful to you; it is true that my father will be equally angry." The count laughed. "Well," said he to Morcerf, "but I think your father will not be the only angry one; M. and Madame Danglars will think me a very ill-mannered person. They know that I am intimate with you—that you are, in fact; one of the oldest of my Parisian acquaintances—and they will not find you at my house; they will certainly ask me why I did not invite you. Be sure to provide yourself with some previous engagement which shall have a semblance of probability, and communicate the fact to me by a line in writing. You know that with bankers nothing but a written document will be valid."
"I will do better than that," said Albert; "my mother is wishing to go to the sea-side—what day is fixed for your dinner?"
"This is Tuesday—well, to-morrow evening we leave, and the day after we shall be at Treport. Really, count, you have a delightful way of setting people at their ease."
"Indeed, you give me more credit than I deserve; I only wish to do what will be agreeable to you, that is all."
"When shall you send your invitations?"
"This very day."
"Well, I will immediately call on M. Danglars, and tell him that my mother and myself must leave Paris to-morrow. I have not seen you, consequently I know nothing of your dinner."
"How foolish you are! Have you forgotten that M. Debray has just seen you at my house?"
"Fix it this way. I have seen you, and invited you without any ceremony, when you instantly answered that it would be impossible for you to accept, as you were going to Treport."
"Well, then, that is settled; but you will come and call on my mother before to-morrow?"
"Before to-morrow?—that will be a difficult matter to arrange, besides, I shall just be in the way of all the preparations for departure."
"Well, you can do better. You were only a charming man before, but, if you accede to my proposal, you will be adorable."
"What must I do to attain such sublimity?"
"You are to-day free as air—come and dine with me; we shall be a small party—only yourself, my mother, and I. You have scarcely seen my mother; you shall have an opportunity of observing her more closely. She is a remarkable woman, and I only regret that there does not exist another like her, about twenty years younger; in that case, I assure you, there would very soon be a Countess and Viscountess of Morcerf. As to my father, you will not see him; he is officially engaged, and dines with the chief referendary. We will talk over our travels; and you, who have seen the whole world, will relate your adventures—you shall tell us the history of the beautiful Greek who was with you the other night at the Opera, and whom you call your slave, and yet treat like a princess. We will talk Italian and Spanish. Come, accept my invitation, and my mother will thank you."
"A thousand thanks," said the count, "your invitation is most gracious, and I regret exceedingly that it is not in my power to accept it. I am not so much at liberty as you suppose; on the contrary, I have a most important engagement."
"Ah, take care, you were teaching me just now how, in case of an invitation to dinner, one might creditably make an excuse. I require the proof of a pre-engagement. I am not a banker, like M. Danglars, but I am quite as incredulous as he is."
"I am going to give you a proof," replied the count, and he rang the bell.
"Humph," said Morcerf, "this is the second time you have refused to dine with my mother; it is evident that you wish to avoid her." Monte Cristo started. "Oh, you do not mean that," said he; "besides, here comes the confirmation of my assertion." Baptistin entered, and remained standing at the door. "I had no previous knowledge of your visit, had I?"
"Indeed, you are such an extraordinary person, that I would not answer for it."
"At all events, I could not guess that you would invite me to dinner."
"Well, listen, Baptistin, what did I tell you this morning when I called you into my laboratory?"
"To close the door against visitors as soon as the clock struck five," replied the valet.
"Ah, my dear count," said Albert.
"No, no, I wish to do away with that mysterious reputation that you have given me, my dear viscount; it is tiresome to be always acting Manfred. I wish my life to be free and open. Go on, Baptistin."
"Then to admit no one except Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti and his son."
"You hear—Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti—a man who ranks amongst the most ancient nobility of Italy, whose name Dante has celebrated in the tenth canto of 'The Inferno,' you remember it, do you not? Then there is his son, Andrea, a charming young man, about your own age, viscount, bearing the same title as yourself, and who is making his entry into the Parisian world, aided by his father's millions. The major will bring his son with him this evening, the contino, as we say in Italy; he confides him to my care. If he proves himself worthy of it, I will do what I can to advance his interests. You will assist me in the work, will you not?"
"Most undoubtedly. This Major Cavalcanti is an old friend of yours, then?"
"By no means. He is a perfect nobleman, very polite, modest, and agreeable, such as may be found constantly in Italy, descendants of very ancient families. I have met him several times at Florence, Bologna and Lucca, and he has now communicated to me the fact of his arrival in Paris. The acquaintances one makes in travelling have a sort of claim on one; they everywhere expect to receive the same attention which you once paid them by chance, as though the civilities of a passing hour were likely to awaken any lasting interest in favor of the man in whose society you may happen to be thrown in the course of your journey. This good Major Cavalcanti is come to take a second view of Paris, which he only saw in passing through in the time of the Empire, when he was on his way to Moscow. I shall give him a good dinner, he will confide his son to my care, I will promise to watch over him, I shall let him follow in whatever path his folly may lead him, and then I shall have done my part."
"Certainly; I see you are a model Mentor," said Albert "Good-by, we shall return on Sunday. By the way, I have received news of Franz."
"Have you? Is he still amusing himself in Italy?"
"I believe so; however, he regrets your absence extremely. He says you were the sun of Rome, and that without you all appears dark and cloudy; I do not know if he does not even go so far as to say that it rains."
"His opinion of me is altered for the better, then?"
"No, he still persists in looking upon you as the most incomprehensible and mysterious of beings."
"He is a charming young man," said Monte Cristo "and I felt a lively interest in him the very first evening of my introduction, when I met him in search of a supper, and prevailed upon him to accept a portion of mine. He is, I think, the son of General d'Epinay?"
"The same who was so shamefully assassinated in 1815?"
"By the Bonapartists."
"Yes. Really I like him extremely; is there not also a matrimonial engagement contemplated for him?"
"Yes, he is to marry Mademoiselle de Villefort."
"And you know I am to marry Mademoiselle Danglars," said Albert, laughing.
"Why do you do so?"
"I smile because there appears to me to be about as much inclination for the consummation of the engagement in question as there is for my own. But really, my dear count, we are talking as much of women as they do of us; it is unpardonable." Albert rose.
"Are you going?"
"Really, that is a good idea!—two hours have I been boring you to death with my company, and then you, with the greatest politeness, ask me if I am going. Indeed, count, you are the most polished man in the world. And your servants, too, how very well behaved they are; there is quite a style about them. Monsieur Baptistin especially; I could never get such a man as that. My servants seem to imitate those you sometimes see in a play, who, because they have only a word or two to say, aquit themselves in the most awkward manner possible. Therefore, if you part with M. Baptistin, give me the refusal of him."
"By all means."
"That is not all; give my compliments to your illustrious Luccanese, Cavalcante of the Cavalcanti; and if by any chance he should be wishing to establish his son, find him a wife very rich, very noble on her mother's side at least, and a baroness in right of her father, I will help you in the search."
"Ah, ha; you will do as much as that, will you?"
"Well, really, nothing is certain in this world."
"Oh, count, what a service you might render me! I should like you a hundred times better if, by your intervention, I could manage to remain a bachelor, even were it only for ten years."
"Nothing is impossible," gravely replied Monte Cristo; and taking leave of Albert, he returned into the house, and struck the gong three times. Bertuccio appeared. "Monsieur Bertuccio, you understand that I intend entertaining company on Saturday at Auteuil." Bertuccio slightly started. "I shall require your services to see that all be properly arranged. It is a beautiful house, or at all events may be made so."
"There must be a good deal done before it can deserve that title, your excellency, for the tapestried hangings are very old."
"Let them all be taken away and changed, then, with the exception of the sleeping-chamber which is hung with red damask; you will leave that exactly as it is." Bertuccio bowed. "You will not touch the garden either; as to the yard, you may do what you please with it; I should prefer that being altered beyond all recognition."
"I will do everything in my power to carry out your wishes, your excellency. I should be glad, however, to receive your excellency's commands concerning the dinner."
"Really, my dear M. Bertuccio," said the count, "since you have been in Paris, you have become quite nervous, and apparently out of your element; you no longer seem to understand me."
"But surely your excellency will be so good as to inform me whom you are expecting to receive?"
"I do not yet know myself, neither is it necessary that you should do so. 'Lucullus dines with Lucullus,' that is quite sufficient." Bertuccio bowed, and left the room.
Chapter 55. Major Cavalcanti.
Both the count and Baptistin had told the truth when they announced to Morcerf the proposed visit of the major, which had served Monte Cristo as a pretext for declining Albert's invitation. Seven o'clock had just struck, and M. Bertuccio, according to the command which had been given him, had two hours before left for Auteuil, when a cab stopped at the door, and after depositing its occupant at the gate, immediately hurried away, as if ashamed of its employment. The visitor was about fifty-two years of age, dressed in one of the green surtouts, ornamented with black frogs, which have so long maintained their popularity all over Europe. He wore trousers of blue cloth, boots tolerably clean, but not of the brightest polish, and a little too thick in the soles, buckskin gloves, a hat somewhat resembling in shape those usually worn by the gendarmes, and a black cravat striped with white, which, if the proprietor had not worn it of his own free will, might have passed for a halter, so much did it resemble one. Such was the picturesque costume of the person who rang at the gate, and demanded if it was not at No. 30 in the Avenue des Champs-Elysees that the Count of Monte Cristo lived, and who, being answered by the porter in the affirmative, entered, closed the gate after him, and began to ascend the steps.
The small and angular head of this man, his white hair and thick gray mustaches, caused him to be easily recognized by Baptistin, who had received an exact description of the expected visitor, and who was awaiting him in the hall. Therefore, scarcely had the stranger time to pronounce his name before the count was apprised of his arrival. He was ushered into a simple and elegant drawing-room, and the count rose to meet him with a smiling air. "Ah, my dear sir, you are most welcome; I was expecting you."
"Indeed," said the Italian, "was your excellency then aware of my visit?"
"Yes; I had been told that I should see you to-day at seven o'clock."
"Then you have received full information concerning my arrival?"
"Ah, so much the better, I feared this little precaution might have been forgotten."
"That of informing you beforehand of my coming."
"Oh, no, it has not."
"But you are sure you are not mistaken."
"It really was I whom your excellency expected at seven o'clock this evening?"
"I will prove it to you beyond a doubt."
"Oh, no, never mind that," said the Italian; "it is not worth the trouble."
"Yes, yes," said Monte Cristo. His visitor appeared slightly uneasy. "Let me see," said the count; "are you not the Marquis Bartolomeo Cavalcanti?"
"Bartolomeo Cavalcanti," joyfully replied the Italian; "yes, I am really he."
"Ex-major in the Austrian service?"
"Was I a major?" timidly asked the old soldier.
"Yes," said Monte Cristo "you were a major; that is the title the French give to the post which you filled in Italy."
"Very good," said the major, "I do not demand more, you understand"—
"Your visit here to-day is not of your own suggestion, is it?" said Monte Cristo.
"No, certainly not."
"You were sent by some other person?"
"By the excellent Abbe Busoni?"
"Exactly so," said the delighted major.
"And you have a letter?"
"Yes, there it is."
"Give it me, then;" and Monte Cristo took the letter, which he opened and read. The major looked at the count with his large staring eyes, and then took a survey of the apartment, but his gaze almost immediately reverted to the proprietor of the room. "Yes, yes, I see. 'Major Cavalcanti, a worthy patrician of Lucca, a descendant of the Cavalcanti of Florence,'" continued Monte Cristo, reading aloud, "'possessing an income of half a million.'" Monte Cristo raised his eyes from the paper, and bowed. "Half a million," said he, "magnificent!"
"Half a million, is it?" said the major.
"Yes, in so many words; and it must be so, for the abbe knows correctly the amount of all the largest fortunes in Europe."
"Be it half a million, then; but on my word of honor, I had no idea that it was so much."
"Because you are robbed by your steward. You must make some reformation in that quarter."
"You have opened my eyes," said the Italian gravely; "I will show the gentlemen the door." Monte Cristo resumed the perusal of the letter:—
"'And who only needs one thing more to make him happy.'"
"Yes, indeed but one!" said the major with a sigh.
"'Which is to recover a lost and adored son.'"
"A lost and adored son!"
"'Stolen away in his infancy, either by an enemy of his noble family or by the gypsies.'"
"At the age of five years!" said the major with a deep sigh, and raising his eye to heaven.
"Unhappy father," said Monte Cristo. The count continued:—
"'I have given him renewed life and hope, in the assurance that you have the power of restoring the son whom he has vainly sought for fifteen years.'" The major looked at the count with an indescribable expression of anxiety. "I have the power of so doing," said Monte Cristo. The major recovered his self-possession. "So, then," said he, "the letter was true to the end?"
"Did you doubt it, my dear Monsieur Bartolomeo?"
"No, indeed; certainly not; a good man, a man holding religious office, as does the Abbe Busoni, could not condescend to deceive or play off a joke; but your excellency has not read all."
"Ah, true," said Monte Cristo "there is a postscript."
"Yes, yes," repeated the major, "yes—there—is—a—postscript."
"'In order to save Major Cavalcanti the trouble of drawing on his banker, I send him a draft for 2,000 francs to defray his travelling expenses, and credit on you for the further sum of 48,000 francs, which you still owe me.'" The major awaited the conclusion of the postscript, apparently with great anxiety. "Very good," said the count.
"He said 'very good,'" muttered the major, "then—sir"—replied he.
"Then what?" asked Monte Cristo.
"Then the postscript"—
"Well; what of the postscript?"
"Then the postscript is as favorably received by you as the rest of the letter?"
"Certainly; the Abbe Busoni and myself have a small account open between us. I do not remember if it is exactly 48,000. francs, which I am still owing him, but I dare say we shall not dispute the difference. You attached great importance, then, to this postscript, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti?"
"I must explain to you," said the major, "that, fully confiding in the signature of the Abbe Busoni, I had not provided myself with any other funds; so that if this resource had failed me, I should have found myself very unpleasantly situated in Paris."
"Is it possible that a man of your standing should be embarrassed anywhere?" said Monte Cristo.
"Why, really I know no one," said the major.
"But then you yourself are known to others?"
"Yes, I am known, so that"—
"Proceed, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti."
"So that you will remit to me these 48,000 francs?"
"Certainly, at your first request." The major's eyes dilated with pleasing astonishment. "But sit down," said Monte Cristo; "really I do not know what I have been thinking of—I have positively kept you standing for the last quarter of an hour."
"Don't mention it." The major drew an arm-chair towards him, and proceeded to seat himself.
"Now," said the count, "what will you take—a glass of port, sherry, or Alicante?"
"Alicante, if you please; it is my favorite wine."
"I have some that is very good. You will take a biscuit with it, will you not?"
"Yes, I will take a biscuit, as you are so obliging."
Monte Cristo rang; Baptistin appeared. The count advanced to meet him. "Well?" said he in a low voice. "The young man is here," said the valet de chambre in the same tone.
"Into what room did you take him?"
"Into the blue drawing-room, according to your excellency's orders."
"That's right; now bring the Alicante and some biscuits."
Baptistin left the room. "Really," said the major, "I am quite ashamed of the trouble I am giving you."
"Pray don't mention such a thing," said the count. Baptistin re-entered with glasses, wine, and biscuits. The count filled one glass, but in the other he only poured a few drops of the ruby-colored liquid. The bottle was covered with spiders' webs, and all the other signs which indicate the age of wine more truly than do wrinkles on a man's face. The major made a wise choice; he took the full glass and a biscuit. The count told Baptistin to leave the plate within reach of his guest, who began by sipping the Alicante with an expression of great satisfaction, and then delicately steeped his biscuit in the wine.
"So, sir, you lived at Lucca, did you? You were rich, noble, held in great esteem—had all that could render a man happy?"
"All," said the major, hastily swallowing his biscuit, "positively all."
"And yet there was one thing wanting in order to complete your happiness?"
"Only one thing," said the Italian.
"And that one thing, your lost child."
"Ah," said the major, taking a second biscuit, "that consummation of my happiness was indeed wanting." The worthy major raised his eyes to heaven and sighed.
"Let me hear, then," said the count, "who this deeply regretted son was; for I always understood you were a bachelor."
"That was the general opinion, sir," said the major, "and I"—
"Yes," replied the count, "and you confirmed the report. A youthful indiscretion, I suppose, which you were anxious to conceal from the world at large?" The major recovered himself, and resumed his usual calm manner, at the same time casting his eyes down, either to give himself time to compose his countenance, or to assist his imagination, all the while giving an under-look at the count, the protracted smile on whose lips still announced the same polite curiosity. "Yes," said the major, "I did wish this fault to be hidden from every eye."
"Not on your own account, surely," replied Monte Cristo; "for a man is above that sort of thing?"
"Oh, no, certainly not on my own account," said the major with a smile and a shake of the head.
"But for the sake of the mother?" said the count.
"Yes, for the mother's sake—his poor mother!" cried the major, taking a third biscuit.
"Take some more wine, my dear Cavalcanti," said the count, pouring out for him a second glass of Alicante; "your emotion has quite overcome you."
"His poor mother," murmured the major, trying to get the lachrymal gland in operation, so as to moisten the corner of his eye with a false tear.
"She belonged to one of the first families in Italy, I think, did she not?"
"She was of a noble family of Fiesole, count."
"And her name was"—
"Do you desire to know her name?"—
"Oh," said Monte Cristo "it would be quite superfluous for you to tell me, for I already know it."
"The count knows everything," said the Italian, bowing.
"Oliva Corsinari, was it not?"
"And you married her at last, notwithstanding the opposition of her family?"
"Yes, that was the way it ended."
"And you have doubtless brought all your papers with you?" said Monte Cristo.
"The certificate of your marriage with Oliva Corsinari, and the register of your child's birth."
"The register of my child's birth?"
"The register of the birth of Andrea Cavalcanti—of your son; is not his name Andrea?"
"I believe so," said the major.
"What? You believe so?"
"I dare not positively assert it, as he has been lost for so long a time."
"Well, then," said Monte Cristo "you have all the documents with you?"
"Your excellency, I regret to say that, not knowing it was necessary to come provided with these papers, I neglected to bring them."
"That is unfortunate," returned Monte Cristo.
"Were they, then, so necessary?"
"They were indispensable."
The major passed his hand across his brow. "Ah, per Bacco, indispensable, were they?"
"Certainly they were; supposing there were to be doubts raised as to the validity of your marriage or the legitimacy of your child?"
"True," said the major, "there might be doubts raised."
"In that case your son would be very unpleasantly situated."
"It would be fatal to his interests."
"It might cause him to fail in some desirable matrimonial alliance."
"You must know that in France they are very particular on these points; it is not sufficient, as in Italy, to go to the priest and say, 'We love each other, and want you to marry us.' Marriage is a civil affair in France, and in order to marry in an orthodox manner you must have papers which undeniably establish your identity."
"That is the misfortune! You see I have not these necessary papers."
"Fortunately, I have them, though," said Monte Cristo.
"You have them?"
"I have them."
"Ah, indeed?" said the major, who, seeing the object of his journey frustrated by the absence of the papers, feared also that his forgetfulness might give rise to some difficulty concerning the 48,000 francs—"ah, indeed, that is a fortunate circumstance; yes, that really is lucky, for it never occurred to me to bring them."
"I do not at all wonder at it—one cannot think of everything; but, happily, the Abbe Busoni thought for you."
"He is an excellent person."
"He is extremely prudent and thoughtful."
"He is an admirable man," said the major; "and he sent them to you?"
"Here they are."
The major clasped his hands in token of admiration. "You married Oliva Corsinari in the church of San Paolo del Monte-Cattini; here is the priest's certificate."
"Yes indeed, there it is truly," said the Italian, looking on with astonishment.
"And here is Andrea Cavalcanti's baptismal register, given by the curate of Saravezza."
"All quite correct."
"Take these documents, then; they do not concern me. You will give them to your son, who will, of course, take great care of them."
"I should think so, indeed! If he were to lose them"—
"Well, and if he were to lose them?" said Monte Cristo.
"In that case," replied the major, "it would be necessary to write to the curate for duplicates, and it would be some time before they could be obtained."
"It would be a difficult matter to arrange," said Monte Cristo.
"Almost an impossibility," replied the major.
"I am very glad to see that you understand the value of these papers."
"I regard them as invaluable."
"Now," said Monte Cristo "as to the mother of the young man"—
"As to the mother of the young man"—repeated the Italian, with anxiety.
"As regards the Marchesa Corsinari"—
"Really," said the major, "difficulties seem to thicken upon us; will she be wanted in any way?"
"No, sir," replied Monte Cristo; "besides, has she not"—
"Yes, sir," said the major, "she has"—
"Paid the last debt of nature?"
"Alas, yes," returned the Italian.
"I knew that," said Monte Cristo; "she has been dead these ten years."
"And I am still mourning her loss," exclaimed the major, drawing from his pocket a checked handkerchief, and alternately wiping first the left and then the right eye.
"What would you have?" said Monte Cristo; "we are all mortal. Now, you understand, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti, that it is useless for you to tell people in France that you have been separated from your son for fifteen years. Stories of gypsies, who steal children, are not at all in vogue in this part of the world, and would not be believed. You sent him for his education to a college in one of the provinces, and now you wish him to complete his education in the Parisian world. That is the reason which has induced you to leave Via Reggio, where you have lived since the death of your wife. That will be sufficient."
"You think so?"
"Very well, then."
"If they should hear of the separation"—
"Ah, yes; what could I say?"
"That an unfaithful tutor, bought over by the enemies of your family"—
"By the Corsinari?"
"Precisely. Had stolen away this child, in order that your name might become extinct."
"That is reasonable, since he is an only son."
"Well, now that all is arranged, do not let these newly awakened remembrances be forgotten. You have, doubtless, already guessed that I was preparing a surprise for you?"
"An agreeable one?" asked the Italian.
"Ah, I see the eye of a father is no more to be deceived than his heart."
"Hum!" said the major.
"Some one has told you the secret; or, perhaps, you guessed that he was here."
"That who was here?"
"Your child—your son—your Andrea!"
"I did guess it," replied the major with the greatest possible coolness. "Then he is here?"
"He is," said Monte Cristo; "when the valet de chambre came in just now, he told me of his arrival."
"Ah, very well, very well," said the major, clutching the buttons of his coat at each exclamation.
"My dear sir," said Monte Cristo, "I understand your emotion; you must have time to recover yourself. I will, in the meantime, go and prepare the young man for this much-desired interview, for I presume that he is not less impatient for it than yourself."
"I should quite imagine that to be the case," said Cavalcanti.
"Well, in a quarter of an hour he shall be with you."
"You will bring him, then? You carry your goodness so far as even to present him to me yourself?"
"No; I do not wish to come between a father and son. Your interview will be private. But do not be uneasy; even if the powerful voice of nature should be silent, you cannot well mistake him; he will enter by this door. He is a fine young man, of fair complexion—a little too fair, perhaps—pleasing in manners; but you will see and judge for yourself."
"By the way," said the major, "you know I have only the 2,000 francs which the Abbe Busoni sent me; this sum I have expended upon travelling expenses, and"—
"And you want money; that is a matter of course, my dear M. Cavalcanti. Well, here are 8,000 francs on account."
The major's eyes sparkled brilliantly.
"It is 40,000 francs which I now owe you," said Monte Cristo.
"Does your excellency wish for a receipt?" said the major, at the same time slipping the money into the inner pocket of his coat.
"For what?" said the count.
"I thought you might want it to show the Abbe Busoni."
"Well, when you receive the remaining 40,000, you shall give me a receipt in full. Between honest men such excessive precaution is, I think, quite unnecessary."
"Yes, so it is, between perfectly upright people."
"One word more," said Monte Cristo.
"You will permit me to make one remark?"
"Certainly; pray do so."
"Then I should advise you to leave off wearing that style of dress."
"Indeed," said the major, regarding himself with an air of complete satisfaction.
"Yes. It may be worn at Via Reggio; but that costume, however elegant in itself, has long been out of fashion in Paris."
"Oh, if you really are attached to your old mode of dress; you can easily resume it when you leave Paris."
"But what shall I wear?"
"What you find in your trunks."
"In my trunks? I have but one portmanteau."
"I dare say you have nothing else with you. What is the use of boring one's self with so many things? Besides an old soldier always likes to march with as little baggage as possible."
"That is just the case—precisely so."
"But you are a man of foresight and prudence, therefore you sent your luggage on before you. It has arrived at the Hotel des Princes, Rue de Richelieu. It is there you are to take up your quarters."
"Then, in these trunks"—
"I presume you have given orders to your valet de chambre to put in all you are likely to need,—your plain clothes and your uniform. On grand occasions you must wear your uniform; that will look very well. Do not forget your crosses. They still laugh at them in France, and yet always wear them, for all that."
"Very well, very well," said the major, who was in ecstasy at the attention paid him by the count.
"Now," said Monte Cristo, "that you have fortified yourself against all painful excitement, prepare yourself, my dear M. Cavalcanti, to meet your lost Andrea." Saying which Monte Cristo bowed, and disappeared behind the tapestry, leaving the major fascinated beyond expression with the delightful reception which he had received at the hands of the count.
Chapter 56. Andrea Cavalcanti.
The Count of Monte Cristo entered the adjoining room, which Baptistin had designated as the drawing-room, and found there a young man, of graceful demeanor and elegant appearance, who had arrived in a cab about half an hour previously. Baptistin had not found any difficulty in recognizing the person who presented himself at the door for admittance. He was certainly the tall young man with light hair, red beard, black eyes, and brilliant complexion, whom his master had so particularly described to him. When the count entered the room the young man was carelessly stretched on a sofa, tapping his boot with the gold-headed cane which he held in his hand. On perceiving the count he rose quickly. "The Count of Monte Cristo, I believe?" said he.
"Yes, sir, and I think I have the honor of addressing Count Andrea Cavalcanti?"
"Count Andrea Cavalcanti," repeated the young man, accompanying his words with a bow.
"You are charged with a letter of introduction addressed to me, are you not?" said the count.
"I did not mention that, because the signature seemed to me so strange."
"The letter signed 'Sinbad the Sailor,' is it not?"
"Exactly so. Now, as I have never known any Sinbad, with the exception of the one celebrated in the 'Thousand and One Nights'"—
"Well, it is one of his descendants, and a great friend of mine; he is a very rich Englishman, eccentric almost to insanity, and his real name is Lord Wilmore."
"Ah, indeed? Then that explains everything that is extraordinary," said Andrea. "He is, then, the same Englishman whom I met—at—ah—yes, indeed. Well, monsieur, I am at your service."
"If what you say be true," replied the count, smiling, "perhaps you will be kind enough to give me some account of yourself and your family?"
"Certainly, I will do so," said the young man, with a quickness which gave proof of his ready invention. "I am (as you have said) the Count Andrea Cavalcanti, son of Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti, a descendant of the Cavalcanti whose names are inscribed in the golden book at Florence. Our family, although still rich (for my father's income amounts to half a million), has experienced many misfortunes, and I myself was, at the age of five years, taken away by the treachery of my tutor, so that for fifteen years I have not seen the author of my existence. Since I have arrived at years of discretion and become my own master, I have been constantly seeking him, but all in vain. At length I received this letter from your friend, which states that my father is in Paris, and authorizes me to address myself to you for information respecting him."