"I will do my best," said the inn-keeper of the Pont du Gard, shutting up his knife.
"Well, then, we will go into Paris. But how will you pass through the barrier without exciting suspicion? It seems to me that you are in more danger riding than on foot."
"Wait," said Caderousse, "we shall see." He then took the great-coat with the large collar, which the groom had left behind in the tilbury, and put it on his back; then he took off Cavalcanti's hat, which he placed upon his own head, and finally he assumed the careless attitude of a servant whose master drives himself.
"But, tell me," said Andrea, "am I to remain bareheaded?"
"Pooh," said Caderousse; "it is so windy that your hat can easily appear to have blown off."
"Come, come; enough of this," said Cavalcanti.
"What are you waiting for?" said Caderousse. "I hope I am not the cause."
"Hush," said Andrea. They passed the barrier without accident. At the first cross street Andrea stopped his horse, and Caderousse leaped out.
"Well!" said Andrea,—"my servant's coat and my hat?"
"Ah," said Caderousse, "you would not like me to risk taking cold?"
"But what am I to do?"
"You? Oh, you are young while I am beginning to get old. Au revoir, Benedetto;" and running into a court, he disappeared. "Alas," said Andrea, sighing, "one cannot be completely happy in this world!"
Chapter 65. A Conjugal Scene.
At the Place Louis XV. the three young people separated—that is to say, Morrel went to the Boulevards, Chateau-Renaud to the Pont de la Revolution, and Debray to the Quai. Most probably Morrel and Chateau-Renaud returned to their "domestic hearths," as they say in the gallery of the Chamber in well-turned speeches, and in the theatre of the Rue Richelieu in well-written pieces; but it was not the case with Debray. When he reached the wicket of the Louvre, he turned to the left, galloped across the Carrousel, passed through the Rue Saint-Roch, and, issuing from the Rue de la Michodiere, he arrived at M. Danglars' door just at the same time that Villefort's landau, after having deposited him and his wife at the Faubourg St. Honore, stopped to leave the baroness at her own house. Debray, with the air of a man familiar with the house, entered first into the court, threw his bridle into the hands of a footman, and returned to the door to receive Madame Danglars, to whom he offered his arm, to conduct her to her apartments. The gate once closed, and Debray and the baroness alone in the court, he asked,—"What was the matter with you, Hermine? and why were you so affected at that story, or rather fable, which the count related?"
"Because I have been in such shocking spirits all the evening, my friend," said the baroness.
"No, Hermine," replied Debray; "you cannot make me believe that; on the contrary, you were in excellent spirits when you arrived at the count's. M. Danglars was disagreeable, certainly, but I know how much you care for his ill-humor. Some one has vexed you; I will allow no one to annoy you."
"You are deceived, Lucien, I assure you," replied Madame Danglars; "and what I have told you is really the case, added to the ill-humor you remarked, but which I did not think it worth while to allude to." It was evident that Madame Danglars was suffering from that nervous irritability which women frequently cannot account for even to themselves; or that, as Debray had guessed, she had experienced some secret agitation that she would not acknowledge to any one. Being a man who knew that the former of these symptoms was one of the inherent penalties of womanhood, he did not then press his inquiries, but waited for a more appropriate opportunity when he should again interrogate her, or receive an avowal proprio motu. At the door of her apartment the baroness met Mademoiselle Cornelie, her confidential maid. "What is my daughter doing?" asked Madame Danglars.
"She practiced all the evening, and then went to bed," replied Mademoiselle Cornelie.
"Yet I think I hear her piano."
"It is Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly, who is playing while Mademoiselle Danglars is in bed."
"Well," said Madame Danglars, "come and undress me." They entered the bedroom. Debray stretched himself upon a large couch, and Madame Danglars passed into her dressing-room with Mademoiselle Cornelie. "My dear M. Lucien," said Madame Danglars through the door, "you are always complaining that Eugenie will not address a word to you."
"Madame," said Lucien, playing with a little dog, who, recognizing him as a friend of the house, expected to be caressed, "I am not the only one who makes similar complaints, I think I heard Morcerf say that he could not extract a word from his betrothed."
"True," said Madame Danglars; "yet I think this will all pass off, and that you will one day see her enter your study."
"At least that of the minister."
"To ask for an engagement at the Opera. Really, I never saw such an infatuation for music; it is quite ridiculous for a young lady of fashion." Debray smiled. "Well," said he, "let her come, with your consent and that of the baron, and we will try and give her an engagement, though we are very poor to pay such talent as hers."
"Go, Cornelie," said Madame Danglars, "I do not require you any longer."
Cornelie obeyed, and the next minute Madame Danglars left her room in a charming loose dress, and came and sat down close to Debray. Then she began thoughtfully to caress the little spaniel. Lucien looked at her for a moment in silence. "Come, Hermine," he said, after a short time, "answer candidly,—something vexes you—is it not so?"
"Nothing," answered the baroness.
And yet, as she could scarcely breathe, she rose and went towards a looking-glass. "I am frightful to-night," she said. Debray rose, smiling, and was about to contradict the baroness upon this latter point, when the door opened suddenly. M. Danglars appeared; Debray reseated himself. At the noise of the door Madame Danglars turned round, and looked upon her husband with an astonishment she took no trouble to conceal. "Good-evening, madame," said the banker; "good-evening, M. Debray."
Probably the baroness thought this unexpected visit signified a desire to make up for the sharp words he had uttered during the day. Assuming a dignified air, she turned round to Debray, without answering her husband. "Read me something, M. Debray," she said. Debray, who was slightly disturbed at this visit, recovered himself when he saw the calmness of the baroness, and took up a book marked by a mother-of-pearl knife inlaid with gold. "Excuse me," said the banker, "but you will tire yourself, baroness, by such late hours, and M. Debray lives some distance from here."
Debray was petrified, not only to hear Danglars speak so calmly and politely, but because it was apparent that beneath outward politeness there really lurked a determined spirit of opposition to anything his wife might wish to do. The baroness was also surprised, and showed her astonishment by a look which would doubtless have had some effect upon her husband if he had not been intently occupied with the paper, where he was looking to see the closing stock quotations. The result was, that the proud look entirely failed of its purpose.
"M. Lucien," said the baroness, "I assure you I have no desire to sleep, and that I have a thousand things to tell you this evening, which you must listen to, even though you slept while hearing me."
"I am at your service, madame," replied Lucien coldly.
"My dear M. Debray," said the banker, "do not kill yourself to-night listening to the follies of Madame Danglars, for you can hear them as well to-morrow; but I claim to-night and will devote it, if you will allow me, to talk over some serious matters with my wife." This time the blow was so well aimed, and hit so directly, that Lucien and the baroness were staggered, and they interrogated each other with their eyes, as if to seek help against this aggression, but the irresistible will of the master of the house prevailed, and the husband was victorious.
"Do not think I wish to turn you out, my dear Debray," continued Danglars; "oh, no, not at all. An unexpected occurrence forces me to ask my wife to have a little conversation with me; it is so rarely I make such a request, I am sure you cannot grudge it to me." Debray muttered something, bowed and went out, knocking himself against the edge of the door, like Nathan in "Athalie."
"It is extraordinary," he said, when the door was closed behind him, "how easily these husbands, whom we ridicule, gain an advantage over us."
Lucien having left, Danglars took his place on the sofa, closed the open book, and placing himself in a dreadfully dictatorial attitude, he began playing with the dog; but the animal, not liking him as well as Debray, and attempting to bite him, Danglars seized him by the skin of his neck and threw him upon a couch on the other side of the room. The animal uttered a cry during the transit, but, arrived at its destination, it crouched behind the cushions, and stupefied at such unusual treatment remained silent and motionless. "Do you know, sir," asked the baroness, "that you are improving? Generally you are only rude, but to-night you are brutal."
"It is because I am in a worse humor than usual," replied Danglars. Hermine looked at the banker with supreme disdain. These glances frequently exasperated the pride of Danglars, but this evening he took no notice of them.
"And what have I to do with your ill-humor?" said the baroness, irritated at the impassibility of her husband; "do these things concern me? Keep your ill-humor at home in your money boxes, or, since you have clerks whom you pay, vent it upon them."
"Not so," replied Danglars; "your advice is wrong, so I shall not follow it. My money boxes are my Pactolus, as, I think, M. Demoustier says, and I will not retard its course, or disturb its calm. My clerks are honest men, who earn my fortune, whom I pay much below their deserts, if I may value them according to what they bring in; therefore I shall not get into a passion with them; those with whom I will be in a passion are those who eat my dinners, mount my horses, and exhaust my fortune."
"And pray who are the persons who exhaust your fortune? Explain yourself more clearly, I beg, sir."
"Oh, make yourself easy!—I am not speaking riddles, and you will soon know what I mean. The people who exhaust my fortune are those who draw out 700,000 francs in the course of an hour."
"I do not understand you, sir," said the baroness, trying to disguise the agitation of her voice and the flush of her face. "You understand me perfectly, on the contrary," said Danglars: "but, if you will persist, I will tell you that I have just lost 700,000 francs upon the Spanish loan."
"And pray," asked the baroness, "am I responsible for this loss?"
"Is it my fault you have lost 700,000 francs?"
"Certainly it is not mine."
"Once for all, sir," replied the baroness sharply, "I tell you I will not hear cash named; it is a style of language I never heard in the house of my parents or in that of my first husband."
"Oh, I can well believe that, for neither of them was worth a penny."
"The better reason for my not being conversant with the slang of the bank, which is here dinning in my ears from morning to night; that noise of jingling crowns, which are constantly being counted and re-counted, is odious to me. I only know one thing I dislike more, which is the sound of your voice."
"Really?" said Danglars. "Well, this surprises me, for I thought you took the liveliest interest in all my affairs!"
"I? What could put such an idea into your head?"
"I should like to know upon what occasion?"
"Oh, mon Dieu, that is very easily done. Last February you were the first who told me of the Haitian funds. You had dreamed that a ship had entered the harbor at Havre, that this ship brought news that a payment we had looked upon as lost was going to be made. I know how clear-sighted your dreams are; I therefore purchased immediately as many shares as I could of the Haitian debt, and I gained 400,000 francs by it, of which 100,000 have been honestly paid to you. You spent it as you pleased; that was your business. In March there was a question about a grant to a railway. Three companies presented themselves, each offering equal securities. You told me that your instinct,—and although you pretend to know nothing about speculations, I think on the contrary, that your comprehension is very clear upon certain affairs,—well, you told me that your instinct led you to believe the grant would be given to the company called the Southern. I bought two thirds of the shares of that company; as you had foreseen, the shares trebled in value, and I picked up a million, from which 250,000 francs were paid to you for pin-money. How have you spent this 250,000 francs?—it is no business of mine."
"When are you coming to the point?" cried the baroness, shivering with anger and impatience.
"Patience, madame, I am coming to it."
"In April you went to dine at the minister's. You heard a private conversation respecting Spanish affairs—on the expulsion of Don Carlos. I bought some Spanish shares. The expulsion took place and I pocketed 600,000 francs the day Charles V. repassed the Bidassoa. Of these 600,000 francs you took 50,000 crowns. They were yours, you disposed of them according to your fancy, and I asked no questions; but it is not the less true that you have this year received 500,000 livres."
"Well, sir, and what then?"
"Ah, yes, it was just after this that you spoiled everything."
"Really, your manner of speaking"—
"It expresses my meaning, and that is all I want. Well, three days after that you talked politics with M. Debray, and you fancied from his words that Don Carlos had returned to Spain. Well, I sold my shares, the news got out, and I no longer sold—I gave them away, next day I find the news was false, and by this false report I have lost 700,000. francs."
"Well, since I gave you a fourth of my gains, I think you owe me a fourth of my losses; the fourth of 700,000 francs is 175,000 francs."
"What you say is absurd, and I cannot see why M. Debray's name is mixed up in this affair."
"Because if you do not possess the 175,000 francs I reclaim, you must have lent them to your friends, and M. Debray is one of your friends."
"For shame!" exclaimed the baroness.
"Oh, let us have no gestures, no screams, no modern drama, or you will oblige me to tell you that I see Debray leave here, pocketing the whole of the 500,000 livres you have handed over to him this year, while he smiles to himself, saying that he has found what the most skilful players have never discovered—that is, a roulette where he wins without playing, and is no loser when he loses." The baroness became enraged. "Wretch!" she cried, "will you dare to tell me you did not know what you now reproach me with?"
"I do not say that I did know it, and I do not say that I did not know it. I merely tell you to look into my conduct during the last four years that we have ceased to be husband and wife, and see whether it has not always been consistent. Some time after our rupture, you wished to study music, under the celebrated baritone who made such a successful appearance at the Theatre Italien; at the same time I felt inclined to learn dancing of the danseuse who acquired such a reputation in London. This cost me, on your account and mine, 100,000 francs. I said nothing, for we must have peace in the house; and 100,000 francs for a lady and gentleman to be properly instructed in music and dancing are not too much. Well, you soon become tired of singing, and you take a fancy to study diplomacy with the minister's secretary. You understand, it signifies nothing to me so long as you pay for your lessons out of your own cashbox. But to-day I find you are drawing on mine, and that your apprenticeship may cost me 700,000 francs per month. Stop there, madame, for this cannot last. Either the diplomatist must give his lessons gratis, and I will tolerate him, or he must never set his foot again in my house;—do you understand, madame?"
"Oh, this is too much," cried Hermine, choking, "you are worse than despicable."
"But," continued Danglars, "I find you did not even pause there"—
"You are right; let us leave these facts alone, and reason coolly. I have never interfered in your affairs excepting for your good; treat me in the same way. You say you have nothing to do with my cash-box. Be it so. Do as you like with your own, but do not fill or empty mine. Besides, how do I know that this was not a political trick, that the minister enraged at seeing me in the opposition, and jealous of the popular sympathy I excite, has not concerted with M. Debray to ruin me?"
"A probable thing!"
"Why not? Who ever heard of such an occurrence as this?—a false telegraphic despatch—it is almost impossible for wrong signals to be made as they were in the last two telegrams. It was done on purpose for me—I am sure of it."
"Sir," said the baroness humbly, "are you not aware that the man employed there was dismissed, that they talked of going to law with him, that orders were issued to arrest him and that this order would have been put into execution if he had not escaped by flight, which proves that he was either mad or guilty? It was a mistake."
"Yes, which made fools laugh, which caused the minister to have a sleepless night, which has caused the minister's secretaries to blacken several sheets of paper, but which has cost me 700,000 francs."
"But, sir," said Hermine suddenly, "if all this is, as you say, caused by M. Debray, why, instead of going direct to him, do you come and tell me of it? Why, to accuse the man, do you address the woman?"
"Do I know M. Debray?—do I wish to know him?—do I wish to know that he gives advice?—do I wish to follow it?—do I speculate? No; you do all this, not I."
"Still it seems to me, that as you profit by it—"
Danglars shrugged his shoulders. "Foolish creature," he exclaimed. "Women fancy they have talent because they have managed two or three intrigues without being the talk of Paris! But know that if you had even hidden your irregularities from your husband, who has but the commencement of the art—for generally husbands will not see—you would then have been but a faint imitation of most of your friends among the women of the world. But it has not been so with me,—I see, and always have seen, during the last sixteen years. You may, perhaps, have hidden a thought; but not a step, not an action, not a fault, has escaped me, while you flattered yourself upon your address, and firmly believed you had deceived me. What has been the result?—that, thanks to my pretended ignorance, there is none of your friends, from M. de Villefort to M. Debray, who has not trembled before me. There is not one who has not treated me as the master of the house,—the only title I desire with respect to you; there is not one, in fact, who would have dared to speak of me as I have spoken of them this day. I will allow you to make me hateful, but I will prevent your rendering me ridiculous, and, above all, I forbid you to ruin me."
The baroness had been tolerably composed until the name of Villefort had been pronounced; but then she became pale, and, rising, as if touched by a spring, she stretched out her hands as though conjuring an apparition; she then took two or three steps towards her husband, as though to tear the secret from him, of which he was ignorant, or which he withheld from some odious calculation,—odious, as all his calculations were. "M. de Villefort!—What do you mean?"
"I mean that M. de Nargonne, your first husband, being neither a philosopher nor a banker, or perhaps being both, and seeing there was nothing to be got out of a king's attorney, died of grief or anger at finding, after an absence of nine months, that you had been enceinte six. I am brutal,—I not only allow it, but boast of it; it is one of the reasons of my success in commercial business. Why did he kill himself instead of you? Because he had no cash to save. My life belongs to my cash. M. Debray has made me lose 700,000 francs; let him bear his share of the loss, and we will go on as before; if not, let him become bankrupt for the 250,000 livres, and do as all bankrupts do—disappear. He is a charming fellow, I allow, when his news is correct; but when it is not, there are fifty others in the world who would do better than he."
Madame Danglars was rooted to the spot; she made a violent effort to reply to this last attack, but she fell upon a chair thinking of Villefort, of the dinner scene, of the strange series of misfortunes which had taken place in her house during the last few days, and changed the usual calm of her establishment to a scene of scandalous debate. Danglars did not even look at her, though she did her best to faint. He shut the bedroom door after him, without adding another word, and returned to his apartments; and when Madame Danglars recovered from her half-fainting condition, she could almost believe that she had had a disagreeable dream.
Chapter 66. Matrimonial Projects.
The day following this scene, at the hour the banker usually chose to pay a visit to Madame Danglars on his way to his office, his coupe did not appear. At this time, that is, about half-past twelve, Madame Danglars ordered her carriage, and went out. Danglars, hidden behind a curtain, watched the departure he had been waiting for. He gave orders that he should be informed as soon as Madame Danglars appeared; but at two o'clock she had not returned. He then called for his horses, drove to the Chamber, and inscribed his name to speak against the budget. From twelve to two o'clock Danglars had remained in his study, unsealing his dispatches, and becoming more and more sad every minute, heaping figure upon figure, and receiving, among other visits, one from Major Cavalcanti, who, as stiff and exact as ever, presented himself precisely at the hour named the night before, to terminate his business with the banker. On leaving the Chamber, Danglars, who had shown violent marks of agitation during the sitting, and been more bitter than ever against the ministry, re-entered his carriage, and told the coachman to drive to the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, No. 30.
Monte Cristo was at home; only he was engaged with some one and begged Danglars to wait for a moment in the drawing-room. While the banker was waiting in the anteroom, the door opened, and a man dressed as an abbe and doubtless more familiar with the house than he was, came in and instead of waiting, merely bowed, passed on to the farther apartments, and disappeared. A minute after the door by which the priest had entered reopened, and Monte Cristo appeared. "Pardon me," said he, "my dear baron, but one of my friends, the Abbe Busoni, whom you perhaps saw pass by, has just arrived in Paris; not having seen him for a long time, I could not make up my mind to leave him sooner, so I hope this will be sufficient reason for my having made you wait."
"Nay," said Danglars, "it is my fault; I have chosen my visit at a wrong time, and will retire."
"Not at all; on the contrary, be seated; but what is the matter with you? You look careworn; really, you alarm me. Melancholy in a capitalist, like the appearance of a comet, presages some misfortune to the world."
"I have been in ill-luck for several days," said Danglars, "and I have heard nothing but bad news."
"Ah, indeed?" said Monte Cristo. "Have you had another fall at the Bourse?"
"No; I am safe for a few days at least. I am only annoyed about a bankrupt of Trieste."
"Really? Does it happen to be Jacopo Manfredi?"
"Exactly so. Imagine a man who has transacted business with me for I don't know how long, to the amount of 800,000 or 900,000 francs during the year. Never a mistake or delay—a fellow who paid like a prince. Well, I was a million in advance with him, and now my fine Jacopo Manfredi suspends payment!"
"It is an unheard-of fatality. I draw upon him for 600,000. francs, my bills are returned unpaid, and, more than that, I hold bills of exchange signed by him to the value of 400,000. francs, payable at his correspondent's in Paris at the end of this month. To-day is the 30th. I present them; but my correspondent has disappeared. This, with my Spanish affairs, made a pretty end to the month."
"Then you really lost by that affair in Spain?"
"Yes; only 700,000 francs out of my cash-box—nothing more!"
"Why, how could you make such a mistake—such an old stager?"
"Oh, it is all my wife's fault. She dreamed Don Carlos had returned to Spain; she believes in dreams. It is magnetism, she says, and when she dreams a thing it is sure to happen, she assures me. On this conviction I allow her to speculate, she having her bank and her stockbroker; she speculated and lost. It is true she speculates with her own money, not mine; nevertheless, you can understand that when 700,000. francs leave the wife's pocket, the husband always finds it out. But do you mean to say you have not heard of this? Why, the thing has made a tremendous noise."
"Yes, I heard it spoken of, but I did not know the details, and then no one can be more ignorant than I am of the affairs in the Bourse."
"Then you do not speculate?"
"I?—How could I speculate when I already have so much trouble in regulating my income? I should be obliged, besides my steward, to keep a clerk and a boy. But touching these Spanish affairs, I think that the baroness did not dream the whole of the Don Carlos matter. The papers said something about it, did they not?"
"Then you believe the papers?"
"I?—not the least in the world; only I fancied that the honest Messager was an exception to the rule, and that it only announced telegraphic despatches."
"Well, that's what puzzles me," replied Danglars; "the news of the return of Don Carlos was brought by telegraph."
"So that," said Monte Cristo, "you have lost nearly 1,700,000 francs this month."
"Not nearly, indeed; that is exactly my loss."
"Diable," said Monte Cristo compassionately, "it is a hard blow for a third-rate fortune."
"Third-rate," said Danglars, rather humble, "what do you mean by that?"
"Certainly," continued Monte Cristo, "I make three assortments in fortune—first-rate, second-rate, and third-rate fortunes. I call those first-rate which are composed of treasures one possesses under one's hand, such as mines, lands, and funded property, in such states as France, Austria, and England, provided these treasures and property form a total of about a hundred millions; I call those second-rate fortunes, that are gained by manufacturing enterprises, joint-stock companies, viceroyalties, and principalities, not drawing more than 1,500,000 francs, the whole forming a capital of about fifty millions; finally, I call those third-rate fortunes, which are composed of a fluctuating capital, dependent upon the will of others, or upon chances which a bankruptcy involves or a false telegram shakes, such as banks, speculations of the day—in fact, all operations under the influence of greater or less mischances, the whole bringing in a real or fictitious capital of about fifteen millions. I think this is about your position, is it not?"
"Confound it, yes!" replied Danglars.
"The result, then, of six more such months as this would be to reduce the third-rate house to despair."
"Oh," said Danglars, becoming very pale, how you are running on!"
"Let us imagine seven such months," continued Monte Cristo, in the same tone. "Tell me, have you ever thought that seven times 1,700,000 francs make nearly twelve millions? No, you have not;—well, you are right, for if you indulged in such reflections, you would never risk your principal, which is to the speculator what the skin is to civilized man. We have our clothes, some more splendid than others,—this is our credit; but when a man dies he has only his skin; in the same way, on retiring from business, you have nothing but your real principal of about five or six millions, at the most; for third-rate fortunes are never more than a fourth of what they appear to be, like the locomotive on a railway, the size of which is magnified by the smoke and steam surrounding it. Well, out of the five or six millions which form your real capital, you have just lost nearly two millions, which must, of course, in the same degree diminish your credit and fictitious fortune; to follow out my simile, your skin has been opened by bleeding, and this if repeated three or four times will cause death—so pay attention to it, my dear Monsieur Danglars. Do you want money? Do you wish me to lend you some?"
"What a bad calculator you are!" exclaimed Danglars, calling to his assistance all his philosophy and dissimulation. "I have made money at the same time by speculations which have succeeded. I have made up the loss of blood by nutrition. I lost a battle in Spain, I have been defeated in Trieste, but my naval army in India will have taken some galleons, and my Mexican pioneers will have discovered some mine."
"Very good, very good! But the wound remains and will reopen at the first loss."
"No, for I am only embarked in certainties," replied Danglars, with the air of a mountebank sounding his own praises; "to involve me, three governments must crumble to dust."
"Well, such things have been."
"That there should be a famine!"
"Recollect the seven fat and the seven lean kine."
"Or, that the sea should become dry, as in the days of Pharaoh, and even then my vessels would become caravans."
"So much the better. I congratulate you, my dear M. Danglars," said Monte Cristo; "I see I was deceived, and that you belong to the class of second-rate fortunes."
"I think I may aspire to that honor," said Danglars with a smile, which reminded Monte Cristo of the sickly moons which bad artists are so fond of daubing into their pictures of ruins. "But, while we are speaking of business," Danglars added, pleased to find an opportunity of changing the subject, "tell me what I am to do for M. Cavalcanti."
"Give him money, if he is recommended to you, and the recommendation seems good."
"Excellent; he presented himself this morning with a bond of 40,000 francs, payable at sight, on you, signed by Busoni, and returned by you to me, with your indorsement—of course, I immediately counted him over the forty bank-notes."
Monte Cristo nodded his head in token of assent. "But that is not all," continued Danglars; "he has opened an account with my house for his son."
"May I ask how much he allows the young man?"
"Five thousand francs per month."
"Sixty thousand francs per year. I thought I was right in believing that Cavalcanti to be a stingy fellow. How can a young man live upon 5,000 francs a month?"
"But you understand that if the young man should want a few thousands more"—
"Do not advance it; the father will never repay it. You do not know these ultramontane millionaires; they are regular misers. And by whom were they recommended to you?"
"Oh, by the house of Fenzi, one of the best in Florence."
"I do not mean to say you will lose, but, nevertheless, mind you hold to the terms of the agreement."
"Would you not trust the Cavalcanti?"
"I? oh, I would advance six millions on his signature. I was only speaking in reference to the second-rate fortunes we were mentioning just now."
"And with all this, how unassuming he is! I should never have taken him for anything more than a mere major."
"And you would have flattered him, for certainly, as you say, he has no manner. The first time I saw him he appeared to me like an old lieutenant who had grown mouldy under his epaulets. But all the Italians are the same; they are like old Jews when they are not glittering in Oriental splendor."
"The young man is better," said Danglars.
"Yes; a little nervous, perhaps, but, upon the whole, he appeared tolerable. I was uneasy about him."
"Because you met him at my house, just after his introduction into the world, as they told me. He has been travelling with a very severe tutor, and had never been to Paris before."
"Ah, I believe noblemen marry amongst themselves, do they not?" asked Danglars carelessly; "they like to unite their fortunes."
"It is usual, certainly; but Cavalcanti is an original who does nothing like other people. I cannot help thinking that he has brought his son to France to choose a wife."
"Do you think so?"
"I am sure of it."
"And you have heard his fortune mentioned?"
"Nothing else was talked of; only some said he was worth millions, and others that he did not possess a farthing."
"And what is your opinion?"
"I ought not to influence you, because it is only my own personal impression."
"Well, and it is that"—
"My opinion is, that all these old podestas, these ancient condottieri,—for the Cavalcanti have commanded armies and governed provinces,—my opinion, I say, is, that they have buried their millions in corners, the secret of which they have transmitted only to their eldest sons, who have done the same from generation to generation; and the proof of this is seen in their yellow and dry appearance, like the florins of the republic, which, from being constantly gazed upon, have become reflected in them."
"Certainly," said Danglars, "and this is further supported by the fact of their not possessing an inch of land."
"Very little, at least; I know of none which Cavalcanti possesses, excepting his palace in Lucca."
"Ah, he has a palace?" said Danglars, laughing; "come, that is something."
"Yes; and more than that, he lets it to the Minister of Finance while he lives in a simple house. Oh, as I told you before, I think the old fellow is very close."
"Come, you do not flatter him."
"I scarcely know him; I think I have seen him three times in my life; all I know relating to him is through Busoni and himself. He was telling me this morning that, tired of letting his property lie dormant in Italy, which is a dead nation, he wished to find a method, either in France or England, of multiplying his millions, but remember, that though I place great confidence in Busoni, I am not responsible for this."
"Never mind; accept my thanks for the client you have sent me. It is a fine name to inscribe on my ledgers, and my cashier was quite proud of it when I explained to him who the Cavalcanti were. By the way, this is merely a simple question, when this sort of people marry their sons, do they give them any fortune?"
"Oh, that depends upon circumstances. I know an Italian prince, rich as a gold mine, one of the noblest families in Tuscany, who, when his sons married according to his wish, gave them millions; and when they married against his consent, merely allowed them thirty crowns a month. Should Andrea marry according to his father's views, he will, perhaps, give him one, two, or three millions. For example, supposing it were the daughter of a banker, he might take an interest in the house of the father-in-law of his son; then again, if he disliked his choice, the major takes the key, double-locks his coffer, and Master Andrea would be obliged to live like the sons of a Parisian family, by shuffling cards or rattling the dice."
"Ah, that boy will find out some Bavarian or Peruvian princess; he will want a crown and an immense fortune."
"No; these grand lords on the other side of the Alps frequently marry into plain families; like Jupiter, they like to cross the race. But do you wish to marry Andrea, my dear M. Danglars, that you are asking so many questions?"
"Ma foi," said Danglars, "it would not be a bad speculation, I fancy, and you know I am a speculator."
"You are not thinking of Mademoiselle Danglars, I hope; you would not like poor Andrea to have his throat cut by Albert?"
"Albert," repeated Danglars, shrugging his shoulders; "ah, well; he would care very little about it, I think."
"But he is betrothed to your daughter, I believe?"
"Well, M. de Morcerf and I have talked about this marriage, but Madame de Morcerf and Albert"—
"You do not mean to say that it would not be a good match?"
"Indeed, I imagine that Mademoiselle Danglars is as good as M. de Morcerf."
"Mademoiselle Danglars' fortune will be great, no doubt, especially if the telegraph should not make any more mistakes."
"Oh, I do not mean her fortune only; but tell me"—
"Why did you not invite M. and Madame de Morcerf to your dinner?"
"I did so, but he excused himself on account of Madame de Morcerf being obliged to go to Dieppe for the benefit of sea air."
"Yes, yes," said Danglars, laughing, "it would do her a great deal of good."
"Because it is the air she always breathed in her youth." Monte Cristo took no notice of this ill-natured remark.
"But still, if Albert be not so rich as Mademoiselle Danglars," said the count, "you must allow that he has a fine name?"
"So he has; but I like mine as well."
"Certainly; your name is popular, and does honor to the title they have adorned it with; but you are too intelligent not to know that according to a prejudice, too firmly rooted to be exterminated, a nobility which dates back five centuries is worth more than one that can only reckon twenty years."
"And for this very reason," said Danglars with a smile, which he tried to make sardonic, "I prefer M. Andrea Cavalcanti to M. Albert de Morcerf."
"Still, I should not think the Morcerfs would yield to the Cavalcanti?"
"The Morcerfs!—Stay, my dear count," said Danglars; "you are a man of the world, are you not?"
"I think so."
"And you understand heraldry?"
"Well, look at my coat-of-arms, it is worth more than Morcerf's."
"Because, though I am not a baron by birth, my real name is, at least, Danglars."
"Well, what then?"
"While his name is not Morcerf."
"Not the least in the world."
"I have been made a baron, so that I actually am one; he made himself a count, so that he is not one at all."
"Listen my dear count; M. de Morcerf has been my friend, or rather my acquaintance, during the last thirty years. You know I have made the most of my arms, though I never forgot my origin."
"A proof of great humility or great pride," said Monte Cristo.
"Well, when I was a clerk, Morcerf was a mere fisherman."
"And then he was called"—
"You are sure?"
"Pardieu, I have bought enough fish of him to know his name."
"Then, why did you think of giving your daughter to him?"
"Because Fernand and Danglars, being both parvenus, both having become noble, both rich, are about equal in worth, excepting that there have been certain things mentioned of him that were never said of me."
"Ah, yes; what you tell me recalls to mind something about the name of Fernand Mondego. I have heard that name in Greece."
"In conjunction with the affairs of Ali Pasha?"
"This is the mystery," said Danglars. "I acknowledge I would have given anything to find it out."
"It would be very easy if you much wished it?"
"Probably you have some correspondent in Greece?"
"I should think so."
"Well, write to your correspondent in Yanina, and ask him what part was played by a Frenchman named Fernand Mondego in the catastrophe of Ali Tepelini."
"You are right," exclaimed Danglars, rising quickly, "I will write to-day."
"And if you should hear of anything very scandalous"—
"I will communicate it to you."
"You will oblige me." Danglars rushed out of the room, and made but one leap into his coupe.
Chapter 67. At the Office of the King's Attorney.
Let us leave the banker driving his horses at their fullest speed, and follow Madame Danglars in her morning excursion. We have said that at half-past twelve o'clock Madame Danglars had ordered her horses, and had left home in the carriage. She directed her course towards the Faubourg Saint Germain, went down the Rue Mazarine, and stopped at the Passage du Pont-Neuf. She descended, and went through the passage. She was very plainly dressed, as would be the case with a woman of taste walking in the morning. At the Rue Guenegaud she called a cab, and directed the driver to go to the Rue de Harlay. As soon as she was seated in the vehicle, she drew from her pocket a very thick black veil, which she tied on to her straw bonnet. She then replaced the bonnet, and saw with pleasure, in a little pocket-mirror, that her white complexion and brilliant eyes were alone visible. The cab crossed the Pont-Neuf and entered the Rue de Harlay by the Place Dauphine; the driver was paid as the door opened, and stepping lightly up the stairs Madame Danglars soon reached the Salle des Pas-Perdus.
There was a great deal going on that morning, and many business-like persons at the Palais; business-like persons pay very little attention to women, and Madame Danglars crossed the hall without exciting any more attention than any other woman calling upon her lawyer. There was a great press of people in M. de Villefort's ante-chamber, but Madame Danglars had no occasion even to pronounce her name. The instant she appeared the door-keeper rose, came to her, and asked her whether she was not the person with whom the procureur had made an appointment; and on her affirmative answer being given, he conducted her by a private passage to M. de Villefort's office. The magistrate was seated in an arm-chair, writing, with his back towards the door; he did not move as he heard it open, and the door-keeper pronounce the words, "Walk in, madame," and then reclose it; but no sooner had the man's footsteps ceased, than he started up, drew the bolts, closed the curtains, and examined every corner of the room. Then, when he had assured himself that he could neither be seen nor heard, and was consequently relieved of doubts, he said,—"Thanks, madame,—thanks for your punctuality;" and he offered a chair to Madame Danglars, which she accepted, for her heart beat so violently that she felt nearly suffocated.
"It is a long time, madame," said the procureur, describing a half-circle with his chair, so as to place himself exactly opposite to Madame Danglars,—"it is a long time since I had the pleasure of speaking alone with you, and I regret that we have only now met to enter upon a painful conversation."
"Nevertheless, sir, you see I have answered your first appeal, although certainly the conversation must be much more painful for me than for you." Villefort smiled bitterly.
"It is true, then," he said, rather uttering his thoughts aloud than addressing his companion,—"it is true, then, that all our actions leave their traces—some sad, others bright—on our paths; it is true that every step in our lives is like the course of an insect on the sands;—it leaves its track! Alas, to many the path is traced by tears."
"Sir," said Madame Danglars, "you can feel for my emotion, can you not? Spare me, then, I beseech you. When I look at this room,—whence so many guilty creatures have departed, trembling and ashamed, when I look at that chair before which I now sit trembling and ashamed,—oh, it requires all my reason to convince me that I am not a very guilty woman and you a menacing judge." Villefort dropped his head and sighed. "And I," he said, "I feel that my place is not in the judge's seat, but on the prisoner's stool."
"You?" said Madame Danglars.
"I think, sir, you exaggerate your situation," said Madame Danglars, whose beautiful eyes sparkled for a moment. "The paths of which you were just speaking have been traced by all young men of ardent imaginations. Besides the pleasure, there is always remorse from the indulgence of our passions, and, after all, what have you men to fear from all this? the world excuses, and notoriety ennobles you."
"Madame," replied Villefort, "you know that I am no hypocrite, or, at least, that I never deceive without a reason. If my brow be severe, it is because many misfortunes have clouded it; if my heart be petrified, it is that it might sustain the blows it has received. I was not so in my youth, I was not so on the night of the betrothal, when we were all seated around a table in the Rue du Cours at Marseilles. But since then everything has changed in and about me; I am accustomed to brave difficulties, and, in the conflict to crush those who, by their own free will, or by chance, voluntarily or involuntarily, interfere with me in my career. It is generally the case that what we most ardently desire is as ardently withheld from us by those who wish to obtain it, or from whom we attempt to snatch it. Thus, the greater number of a man's errors come before him disguised under the specious form of necessity; then, after error has been committed in a moment of excitement, of delirium, or of fear, we see that we might have avoided and escaped it. The means we might have used, which we in our blindness could not see, then seem simple and easy, and we say, 'Why did I not do this, instead of that?' Women, on the contrary, are rarely tormented with remorse; for the decision does not come from you,—your misfortunes are generally imposed upon you, and your faults the results of others' crimes."
"In any case, sir, you will allow," replied Madame Danglars, "that, even if the fault were alone mine, I last night received a severe punishment for it."
"Poor thing," said Villefort, pressing her hand, "it was too severe for your strength, for you were twice overwhelmed, and yet"—
"Well, I must tell you. Collect all your courage, for you have not yet heard all."
"Ah," exclaimed Madame Danglars, alarmed, "what is there more to hear?"
"You only look back to the past, and it is, indeed, bad enough. Well, picture to yourself a future more gloomy still—certainly frightful, perhaps sanguinary." The baroness knew how calm Villefort naturally was, and his present excitement frightened her so much that she opened her mouth to scream, but the sound died in her throat. "How has this terrible past been recalled?" cried Villefort; "how is it that it has escaped from the depths of the tomb and the recesses of our hearts, where it was buried, to visit us now, like a phantom, whitening our cheeks and flushing our brows with shame?"
"Alas," said Hermine, "doubtless it is chance."
"Chance?" replied Villefort; "No, no, madame, there is no such thing as chance."
"Oh, yes; has not a fatal chance revealed all this? Was it not by chance the Count of Monte Cristo bought that house? Was it not by chance he caused the earth to be dug up? Is it not by chance that the unfortunate child was disinterred under the trees?—that poor innocent offspring of mine, which I never even kissed, but for whom I wept many, many tears. Ah, my heart clung to the count when he mentioned the dear spoil found beneath the flowers."
"Well, no, madame,—this is the terrible news I have to tell you," said Villefort in a hollow voice—"no, nothing was found beneath the flowers; there was no child disinterred—no. You must not weep, no, you must not groan, you must tremble!"
"What can you mean?" asked Madame Danglars, shuddering.
"I mean that M. de Monte Cristo, digging underneath these trees, found neither skeleton nor chest, because neither of them was there!"
"Neither of them there?" repeated Madame Danglars, her staring, wide-open eyes expressing her alarm.
"Neither of them there!" she again said, as though striving to impress herself with the meaning of the words which escaped her.
"No," said Villefort, burying his face in his hands, "no, a hundred times no!"
"Then you did not bury the poor child there, sir? Why did you deceive me? Where did you place it? tell me—where?"
"There! But listen to me—listen—and you will pity me who has for twenty years alone borne the heavy burden of grief I am about to reveal, without casting the least portion upon you."
"Oh, you frighten me! But speak; I will listen."
"You recollect that sad night, when you were half-expiring on that bed in the red damask room, while I, scarcely less agitated than you, awaited your delivery. The child was born, was given to me—motionless, breathless, voiceless; we thought it dead." Madame Danglars moved rapidly, as though she would spring from her chair, but Villefort stopped, and clasped his hands as if to implore her attention. "We thought it dead," he repeated; "I placed it in the chest, which was to take the place of a coffin; I descended to the garden, I dug a hole, and then flung it down in haste. Scarcely had I covered it with earth, when the arm of the Corsican was stretched towards me; I saw a shadow rise, and, at the same time, a flash of light. I felt pain; I wished to cry out, but an icy shiver ran through my veins and stifled my voice; I fell lifeless, and fancied myself killed. Never shall I forget your sublime courage, when, having returned to consciousness, I dragged myself to the foot of the stairs, and you, almost dying yourself, came to meet me. We were obliged to keep silent upon the dreadful catastrophe. You had the fortitude to regain the house, assisted by your nurse. A duel was the pretext for my wound. Though we scarcely expected it, our secret remained in our own keeping alone. I was taken to Versailles; for three months I struggled with death; at last, as I seemed to cling to life, I was ordered to the South. Four men carried me from Paris to Chalons, walking six leagues a day; Madame de Villefort followed the litter in her carriage. At Chalons I was put upon the Saone, thence I passed on to the Rhone, whence I descended, merely with the current, to Arles; at Arles I was again placed on my litter, and continued my journey to Marseilles. My recovery lasted six months. I never heard you mentioned, and I did not dare inquire for you. When I returned to Paris, I learned that you, the widow of M. de Nargonne, had married M. Danglars.
"What was the subject of my thoughts from the time consciousness returned to me? Always the same—always the child's corpse, coming every night in my dreams, rising from the earth, and hovering over the grave with menacing look and gesture. I inquired immediately on my return to Paris; the house had not been inhabited since we left it, but it had just been let for nine years. I found the tenant. I pretended that I disliked the idea that a house belonging to my wife's father and mother should pass into the hands of strangers. I offered to pay them for cancelling the lease; they demanded 6,000 francs. I would have given 10,000—I would have given 20,000. I had the money with me; I made the tenant sign the deed of resilition, and when I had obtained what I so much wanted, I galloped to Auteuil.
"No one had entered the house since I had left it. It was five o'clock in the afternoon; I ascended into the red room, and waited for night. There all the thoughts which had disturbed me during my year of constant agony came back with double force. The Corsican, who had declared the vendetta against me, who had followed me from Nimes to Paris, who had hid himself in the garden, who had struck me, had seen me dig the grave, had seen me inter the child,—he might become acquainted with your person,—nay, he might even then have known it. Would he not one day make you pay for keeping this terrible secret? Would it not be a sweet revenge for him when he found that I had not died from the blow of his dagger? It was therefore necessary, before everything else, and at all risks, that I should cause all traces of the past to disappear—that I should destroy every material vestige; too much reality would always remain in my recollection. It was for this I had annulled the lease—it was for this I had come—it was for this I was waiting. Night arrived; I allowed it to become quite dark. I was without a light in that room; when the wind shook all the doors, behind which I continually expected to see some spy concealed, I trembled. I seemed everywhere to hear your moans behind me in the bed, and I dared not turn around. My heart beat so violently that I feared my wound would open. At length, one by one, all the noises in the neighborhood ceased. I understood that I had nothing to fear, that I should neither be seen nor heard, so I decided upon descending to the garden.
"Listen, Hermine; I consider myself as brave as most men, but when I drew from my breast the little key of the staircase, which I had found in my coat—that little key we both used to cherish so much, which you wished to have fastened to a golden ring—when I opened the door, and saw the pale moon shedding a long stream of white light on the spiral staircase like a spectre, I leaned against the wall, and nearly shrieked. I seemed to be going mad. At last I mastered my agitation. I descended the staircase step by step; the only thing I could not conquer was a strange trembling in my knees. I grasped the railings; if I had relaxed my hold for a moment, I should have fallen. I reached the lower door. Outside this door a spade was placed against the wall; I took it, and advanced towards the thicket. I had provided myself with a dark lantern. In the middle of the lawn I stopped to light it, then I continued my path.
"It was the end of November, all the verdure of the garden had disappeared, the trees were nothing more than skeletons with their long bony arms, and the dead leaves sounded on the gravel under my feet. My terror overcame me to such a degree as I approached the thicket, that I took a pistol from my pocket and armed myself. I fancied continually that I saw the figure of the Corsican between the branches. I examined the thicket with my dark lantern; it was empty. I looked carefully around; I was indeed alone,—no noise disturbed the silence but the owl, whose piercing cry seemed to be calling up the phantoms of the night. I tied my lantern to a forked branch I had noticed a year before at the precise spot where I stopped to dig the hole.
"The grass had grown very thickly there during the summer, and when autumn arrived no one had been there to mow it. Still one place where the grass was thin attracted my attention; it evidently was there I had turned up the ground. I went to work. The hour, then, for which I had been waiting during the last year had at length arrived. How I worked, how I hoped, how I struck every piece of turf, thinking to find some resistance to my spade! But no, I found nothing, though I had made a hole twice as large as the first. I thought I had been deceived—had mistaken the spot. I turned around, I looked at the trees, I tried to recall the details which had struck me at the time. A cold, sharp wind whistled through the leafless branches, and yet the drops fell from my forehead. I recollected that I was stabbed just as I was trampling the ground to fill up the hole; while doing so I had leaned against a laburnum; behind me was an artificial rockery, intended to serve as a resting-place for persons walking in the garden; in falling, my hand, relaxing its hold of the laburnum, felt the coldness of the stone. On my right I saw the tree, behind me the rock. I stood in the same attitude, and threw myself down. I rose, and again began digging and enlarging the hole; still I found nothing, nothing—the chest was no longer there!"
"The chest no longer there?" murmured Madame Danglars, choking with fear.
"Think not I contented myself with this one effort," continued Villefort. "No; I searched the whole thicket. I thought the assassin, having discovered the chest, and supposing it to be a treasure, had intended carrying it off, but, perceiving his error, had dug another hole, and deposited it there; but I could find nothing. Then the idea struck me that he had not taken these precautions, and had simply thrown it in a corner. In the last case I must wait for daylight to renew my search. I remained in the room and waited."
When daylight dawned I went down again. My first visit was to the thicket. I hoped to find some traces which had escaped me in the darkness. I had turned up the earth over a surface of more than twenty feet square, and a depth of two feet. A laborer would not have done in a day what occupied me an hour. But I could find nothing—absolutely nothing. Then I renewed the search. Supposing it had been thrown aside, it would probably be on the path which led to the little gate; but this examination was as useless as the first, and with a bursting heart I returned to the thicket, which now contained no hope for me."
"Oh," cried Madame Danglars, "it was enough to drive you mad!"
"I hoped for a moment that it might," said Villefort; "but that happiness was denied me. However, recovering my strength and my ideas, 'Why,' said I, 'should that man have carried away the corpse?'"
"But you said," replied Madame Danglars, "he would require it as a proof."
"Ah, no, madame, that could not be. Dead bodies are not kept a year; they are shown to a magistrate, and the evidence is taken. Now, nothing of the kind has happened."
"What then?" asked Hermine, trembling violently.
"Something more terrible, more fatal, more alarming for us—the child was, perhaps, alive, and the assassin may have saved it!"
Madame Danglars uttered a piercing cry, and, seizing Villefort's hands, exclaimed, "My child was alive?" said she; "you buried my child alive? You were not certain my child was dead, and you buried it? Ah"—
Madame Danglars had risen, and stood before the procureur, whose hands she wrung in her feeble grasp. "I know not; I merely suppose so, as I might suppose anything else," replied Villefort with a look so fixed, it indicated that his powerful mind was on the verge of despair and madness. "Ah, my child, my poor child!" cried the baroness, falling on her chair, and stifling her sobs in her handkerchief. Villefort, becoming somewhat reassured, perceived that to avert the maternal storm gathering over his head, he must inspire Madame Danglars with the terror he felt. "You understand, then, that if it were so," said he, rising in his turn, and approaching the baroness, to speak to her in a lower tone, "we are lost. This child lives, and some one knows it lives—some one is in possession of our secret; and since Monte Cristo speaks before us of a child disinterred, when that child could not be found, it is he who is in possession of our secret."
"Just God, avenging God!" murmured Madame Danglars.
Villefort's only answer was a stifled groan.
"But the child—the child, sir?" repeated the agitated mother.
"How I have searched for him," replied Villefort, wringing his hands; "how I have called him in my long sleepless nights; how I have longed for royal wealth to purchase a million of secrets from a million of men, and to find mine among them! At last, one day, when for the hundredth time I took up my spade, I asked myself again and again what the Corsican could have done with the child. A child encumbers a fugitive; perhaps, on perceiving it was still alive, he had thrown it into the river."
"Impossible!" cried Madame Danglars: "a man may murder another out of revenge, but he would not deliberately drown a child."
"Perhaps," continued Villefort, "he had put it in the foundling hospital."
"Oh, yes, yes," cried the baroness; "my child is there!"
"I ran to the hospital, and learned that the same night—the night of the 20th of September—a child had been brought there, wrapped in part of a fine linen napkin, purposely torn in half. This portion of the napkin was marked with half a baron's crown, and the letter H."
"Truly, truly," said Madame Danglars, "all my linen is marked thus; Monsieur de Nargonne was a baronet, and my name is Hermine. Thank God, my child was not then dead!"
"No, it was not dead."
"And you can tell me so without fearing to make me die of joy? Where is the child?" Villefort shrugged his shoulders. "Do I know?" said he; "and do you believe that if I knew I would relate to you all its trials and all its adventures as would a dramatist or a novel writer? Alas, no, I know not. A woman, about six months after, came to claim it with the other half of the napkin. This woman gave all the requisite particulars, and it was intrusted to her."
"But you should have inquired for the woman; you should have traced her."
"And what do you think I did? I feigned a criminal process, and employed all the most acute bloodhounds and skilful agents in search of her. They traced her to Chalons, and there they lost her."
"They lost her?"
"Yes, forever." Madame Danglars had listened to this recital with a sigh, a tear, or a shriek for every detail. "And this is all?" said she; "and you stopped there?"
"Oh, no," said Villefort; "I never ceased to search and to inquire. However, the last two or three years I had allowed myself some respite. But now I will begin with more perseverance and fury than ever, since fear urges me, not my conscience."
"But," replied Madame Danglars, "the Count of Monte Cristo can know nothing, or he would not seek our society as he does."
"Oh, the wickedness of man is very great," said Villefort, "since it surpasses the goodness of God. Did you observe that man's eyes while he was speaking to us?"
"But have you ever watched him carefully?"
"Doubtless he is capricious, but that is all; one thing alone struck me,—of all the exquisite things he placed before us, he touched nothing. I might have suspected he was poisoning us."
"And you see you would have been deceived."
"But believe me, that man has other projects. For that reason I wished to see you, to speak to you, to warn you against every one, but especially against him. Tell me," cried Villefort, fixing his eyes more steadfastly on her than he had ever done before, "did you ever reveal to any one our connection?"
"Never, to any one."
"You understand me," replied Villefort, affectionately; "when I say any one,—pardon my urgency,—to any one living I mean?"
"Yes, yes, I understand very well," ejaculated the baroness; "never, I swear to you."
"Were you ever in the habit of writing in the evening what had transpired in the morning? Do you keep a journal?"
"No, my life has been passed in frivolity; I wish to forget it myself."
"Do you talk in your sleep?"
"I sleep soundly, like a child; do you not remember?" The color mounted to the baroness's face, and Villefort turned awfully pale.
"It is true," said he, in so low a tone that he could hardly be heard.
"Well?" said the baroness.
"Well, I understand what I now have to do," replied Villefort. "In less than one week from this time I will ascertain who this M. de Monte Cristo is, whence he comes, where he goes, and why he speaks in our presence of children that have been disinterred in a garden." Villefort pronounced these words with an accent which would have made the count shudder had he heard him. Then he pressed the hand the baroness reluctantly gave him, and led her respectfully back to the door. Madame Danglars returned in another cab to the passage, on the other side of which she found her carriage, and her coachman sleeping peacefully on his box while waiting for her.
Chapter 68. A Summer Ball.
The same day during the interview between Madame Danglars and the procureur, a travelling-carriage entered the Rue du Helder, passed through the gateway of No. 27, and stopped in the yard. In a moment the door was opened, and Madame de Morcerf alighted, leaning on her son's arm. Albert soon left her, ordered his horses, and having arranged his toilet, drove to the Champs Elysees, to the house of Monte Cristo. The count received him with his habitual smile. It was a strange thing that no one ever appeared to advance a step in that man's favor. Those who would, as it were, force a passage to his heart, found an impassable barrier. Morcerf, who ran towards him with open arms, was chilled as he drew near, in spite of the friendly smile, and simply held out his hand. Monte Cristo shook it coldly, according to his invariable practice. "Here I am, dear count."
"Welcome home again."
"I arrived an hour since."
"No, from Treport."
"And I have come at once to see you."
"That is extremely kind of you," said Monte Cristo with a tone of perfect indifference.
"And what is the news?"
"You should not ask a stranger, a foreigner, for news."
"I know it, but in asking for news, I mean, have you done anything for me?"
"Had you commissioned me?" said Monte Cristo, feigning uneasiness.
"Come, come," said Albert, "do not assume so much indifference. It is said, sympathy travels rapidly, and when at Treport, I felt the electric shock; you have either been working for me or thinking of me."
"Possibly," said Monte Cristo, "I have indeed thought of you, but the magnetic wire I was guiding acted, indeed, without my knowledge."
"Indeed? Pray tell me how it happened?"
"Willingly. M. Danglars dined with me."
"I know it; to avoid meeting him, my mother and I left town."
"But he met here M. Andrea Cavalcanti."
"Your Italian prince?"
"Not so fast; M. Andrea only calls himself count."
"Calls himself, do you say?"
"Yes, calls himself."
"Is he not a count?"
"What can I know of him? He calls himself so. I, of course, give him the same title, and every one else does likewise."
"What a strange man you are! What next? You say M. Danglars dined here?"
"Yes, with Count Cavalcanti, the marquis his father, Madame Danglars, M. and Madame de Villefort,—charming people,—M. Debray, Maximilian Morrel, and M. de Chateau-Renaud."
"Did they speak of me?"
"Not a word."
"So much the worse."
"Why so? I thought you wished them to forget you?"
"If they did not speak of me, I am sure they thought about me, and I am in despair."
"How will that affect you, since Mademoiselle Danglars was not among the number here who thought of you? Truly, she might have thought of you at home."
"I have no fear of that; or, if she did, it was only in the same way in which I think of her."
"Touching sympathy! So you hate each other?" said the count.
"Listen," said Morcerf—"if Mademoiselle Danglars were disposed to take pity on my supposed martyrdom on her account, and would dispense with all matrimonial formalities between our two families, I am ready to agree to the arrangement. In a word, Mademoiselle Danglars would make a charming mistress—but a wife—diable!"
"And this," said Monte Cristo, "is your opinion of your intended spouse?"
"Yes; it is rather unkind, I acknowledge, but it is true. But as this dream cannot be realized, since Mademoiselle Danglars must become my lawful wife, live perpetually with me, sing to me, compose verses and music within ten paces of me, and that for my whole life, it frightens me. One may forsake a mistress, but a wife,—good heavens! There she must always be; and to marry Mademoiselle Danglars would be awful."
"You are difficult to please, viscount."
"Yes, for I often wish for what is impossible."
"What is that?"
"To find such a wife as my father found." Monte Cristo turned pale, and looked at Albert, while playing with some magnificent pistols.
"Your father was fortunate, then?" said he.
"You know my opinion of my mother, count; look at her,—still beautiful, witty, more charming than ever. For any other son to have stayed with his mother for four days at Treport, it would have been a condescension or a martyrdom, while I return, more contented, more peaceful—shall I say more poetic!—than if I had taken Queen Mab or Titania as my companion."
"That is an overwhelming demonstration, and you would make every one vow to live a single life."
"Such are my reasons for not liking to marry Mademoiselle Danglars. Have you ever noticed how much a thing is heightened in value when we obtain possession of it? The diamond which glittered in the window at Marle's or Fossin's shines with more splendor when it is our own; but if we are compelled to acknowledge the superiority of another, and still must retain the one that is inferior, do you not know what we have to endure?"
"Worldling," murmured the count.
"Thus I shall rejoice when Mademoiselle Eugenie perceives I am but a pitiful atom, with scarcely as many hundred thousand francs as she has millions." Monte Cristo smiled. "One plan occurred to me," continued Albert; "Franz likes all that is eccentric; I tried to make him fall in love with Mademoiselle Danglars; but in spite of four letters, written in the most alluring style, he invariably answered: 'My eccentricity may be great, but it will not make me break my promise.'"
"That is what I call devoted friendship, to recommend to another one whom you would not marry yourself." Albert smiled.—"Apropos," continued he, "Franz is coming soon, but it will not interest you; you dislike him, I think?"
"I?" said Monte Cristo; "my dear Viscount, how have you discovered that I did not like M. Franz! I like every one."
"And you include me in the expression every one—many thanks!"
"Let us not mistake," said Monte Cristo; "I love every one as God commands us to love our neighbor, as Christians; but I thoroughly hate but a few. Let us return to M. Franz d'Epinay. Did you say he was coming?"
"Yes; summoned by M. de Villefort, who is apparently as anxious to get Mademoiselle Valentine married as M. Danglars is to see Mademoiselle Eugenie settled. It must be a very irksome office to be the father of a grown-up daughter; it seems to make one feverish, and to raise one's pulse to ninety beats a minute until the deed is done."
"But M. d'Epinay, unlike you, bears his misfortune patiently."
"Still more, he talks seriously about the matter, puts on a white tie, and speaks of his family. He entertains a very high opinion of M. and Madame de Villefort."
"Which they deserve, do they not?"
"I believe they do. M. de Villefort has always passed for a severe but a just man."
"There is, then, one," said Monte Cristo, "whom you do not condemn like poor Danglars?"
"Because I am not compelled to marry his daughter perhaps," replied Albert, laughing.
"Indeed, my dear sir," said Monte Cristo, "you are revoltingly foppish."
"I foppish? how do you mean?"
"Yes; pray take a cigar, and cease to defend yourself, and to struggle to escape marrying Mademoiselle Danglars. Let things take their course; perhaps you may not have to retract."
"Bah," said Albert, staring.
"Doubtless, my dear viscount, you will not be taken by force; and seriously, do you wish to break off your engagement?"
"I would give a hundred thousand francs to be able to do so."
"Then make yourself quite easy. M. Danglars would give double that sum to attain the same end."
"Am I, indeed, so happy?" said Albert, who still could not prevent an almost imperceptible cloud passing across his brow. "But, my dear count, has M. Danglars any reason?"
"Ah, there is your proud and selfish nature. You would expose the self-love of another with a hatchet, but you shrink if your own is attacked with a needle."
"But yet M. Danglars appeared"—
"Delighted with you, was he not? Well, he is a man of bad taste, and is still more enchanted with another. I know not whom; look and judge for yourself."
"Thank you, I understand. But my mother—no, not my mother; I mistake—my father intends giving a ball."
"A ball at this season?"
"Summer balls are fashionable."
"If they were not, the countess has only to wish it, and they would become so."
"You are right; You know they are select affairs; those who remain in Paris in July must be true Parisians. Will you take charge of our invitation to Messieurs Cavalcanti?"
"When will it take place?"
"M. Cavalcanti's father will be gone."
"But the son will be here; will you invite young M. Cavalcanti?"
"I do not know him, viscount."
"You do not know him?"
"No, I never saw him until a few days since, and am not responsible for him."
"But you receive him at your house?"
"That is another thing: he was recommended to me by a good abbe, who may be deceived. Give him a direct invitation, but do not ask me to present him. If he were afterwards to marry Mademoiselle Danglars, you would accuse me of intrigue, and would be challenging me,—besides, I may not be there myself."
"At your ball."
"Why should you not be there?"
"Because you have not yet invited me."
"But I come expressly for that purpose."
"You are very kind, but I may be prevented."
"If I tell you one thing, you will be so amiable as to set aside all impediments."
"Tell me what it is."
"My mother begs you to come."
"The Comtesse de Morcerf?" said Monte Cristo, starting.
"Ah, count," said Albert, "I assure you Madame de Morcerf speaks freely to me, and if you have not felt those sympathetic fibres of which I spoke just now thrill within you, you must be entirely devoid of them, for during the last four days we have spoken of no one else."
"You have talked of me?"
"Yes, that is the penalty of being a living puzzle!"
"Then I am also a puzzle to your mother? I should have thought her too reasonable to be led by imagination."
"A problem, my dear count, for every one—for my mother as well as others; much studied, but not solved, you still remain an enigma, do not fear. My mother is only astonished that you remain so long unsolved. I believe, while the Countess G—— takes you for Lord Ruthven, my mother imagines you to be Cagliostro or the Count Saint-Germain. The first opportunity you have, confirm her in her opinion; it will be easy for you, as you have the philosophy of the one and the wit of the other."
"I thank you for the warning," said the count; "I shall endeavor to be prepared for all suppositions."
"You will, then, come on Saturday?"
"Yes, since Madame de Morcerf invites me."
"You are very kind."
"Will M. Danglars be there?"
"He has already been invited by my father. We shall try to persuade the great d'Aguesseau, [*] M. de Villefort, to come, but have not much hope of seeing him."
"'Never despair of anything,' says the proverb."
* Magistrate and orator of great eloquence—chancellor of France under Louis XV.
"Do you dance, count?"
"Yes, you; it would not be astonishing."
"That is very well before one is over forty. No, I do not dance, but I like to see others do so. Does Madame de Morcerf dance?"
"Never; you can talk to her, she so delights in your conversation."
"Yes, truly; and I assure you. You are the only man of whom I have heard her speak with interest." Albert rose and took his hat; the count conducted him to the door. "I have one thing to reproach myself with," said he, stopping Albert on the steps. "What is it?"
"I have spoken to you indiscreetly about Danglars."
"On the contrary, speak to me always in the same strain about him."
"I am glad to be reassured on that point. Apropos, when do you aspect M. d'Epinay?"
"Five or six days hence at the latest."
"And when is he to be married?"
"Immediately on the arrival of M. and Madame de Saint-Meran."
"Bring him to see me. Although you say I do not like him, I assure you I shall be happy to see him."
"I will obey your orders, my lord."
"Until Saturday, when I may expect you, may I not?"
"Yes, I promised you." The Count watched Albert, waving his hand to him. When he had mounted his phaeton, Monte Cristo turned, and seeing Bertuccio, "What news?" said he. "She went to the Palais," replied the steward.
"Did she stay long there?"
"An hour and a half."
"Did she return home?"
"Well, my dear Bertuccio," said the count, "I now advise you to go in quest of the little estate I spoke to you of in Normandy." Bertuccio bowed, and as his wishes were in perfect harmony with the order he had received, he started the same evening.
Chapter 69. The Inquiry.
M. de Villefort kept the promise he had made to Madame Danglars, to endeavor to find out how the Count of Monte Cristo had discovered the history of the house at Auteuil. He wrote the same day for the required information to M. de Boville, who, from having been an inspector of prisons, was promoted to a high office in the police; and the latter begged for two days time to ascertain exactly who would be most likely to give him full particulars. At the end of the second day M. de Villefort received the following note:—
"The person called the Count of Monte Cristo is an intimate acquaintance of Lord Wilmore, a rich foreigner, who is sometimes seen in Paris and who is there at this moment; he is also known to the Abbe Busoni, a Sicilian priest, of high repute in the East, where he has done much good."
M. de Villefort replied by ordering the strictest inquiries to be made respecting these two persons; his orders were executed, and the following evening he received these details:—
"The abbe, who was in Paris only for a month, inhabited a small two-storied house behind Saint-Sulpice; there were two rooms on each floor and he was the only tenant. The two lower rooms consisted of a dining-room, with a table, chairs, and side-board of walnut,—and a wainscoted parlor, without ornaments, carpet, or timepiece. It was evident that the abbe limited himself to objects of strict necessity. He preferred to use the sitting-room upstairs, which was more library than parlor, and was furnished with theological books and parchments, in which he delighted to bury himself for months at a time, according to his valet de chambre. His valet looked at the visitors through a sort of wicket; and if their faces were unknown to him or displeased him, he replied that the abbe was not in Paris, an answer which satisfied most persons, because the abbe was known to be a great traveller. Besides, whether at home or not, whether in Paris or Cairo, the abbe always left something to give away, which the valet distributed through this wicket in his master's name. The other room near the library was a bedroom. A bed without curtains, four arm-chairs, and a couch, covered with yellow Utrecht velvet, composed, with a prie-Dieu, all its furniture. Lord Wilmore resided in Rue Fontaine-Saint-George. He was one of those English tourists who consume a large fortune in travelling. He hired the apartment in which he lived furnished, passed only a few hours in the day there, and rarely slept there. One of his peculiarities was never to speak a word of French, which he however wrote with great facility."
The day after this important information had been given to the king's attorney, a man alighted from a carriage at the corner of the Rue Ferou, and rapping at an olive-green door, asked if the Abbe Busoni were within. "No, he went out early this morning," replied the valet.
"I might not always be content with that answer," replied the visitor, "for I come from one to whom everyone must be at home. But have the kindness to give the Abbe Busoni"—
"I told you he was not at home," repeated the valet. "Then on his return give him that card and this sealed paper. Will he be at home at eight o'clock this evening?"
"Doubtless, unless he is at work, which is the same as if he were out."
"I will come again at that time," replied the visitor, who then retired.
At the appointed hour the same man returned in the same carriage, which, instead of stopping this time at the end of the Rue Ferou, drove up to the green door. He knocked, and it opened immediately to admit him. From the signs of respect the valet paid him, he saw that his note had produced a good effect. "Is the abbe at home?" asked he.
"Yes; he is at work in his library, but he expects you, sir," replied the valet. The stranger ascended a rough staircase, and before a table, illumined by a lamp whose light was concentrated by a large shade while the rest of the apartment was in partial darkness, he perceived the abbe in a monk's dress, with a cowl on his head such as was used by learned men of the Middle Ages. "Have I the honor of addressing the Abbe Busoni?" asked the visitor.
"Yes, sir," replied the abbe; "and you are the person whom M. de Boville, formerly an inspector of prisons, sends to me from the prefect of police?"
"One of the agents appointed to secure the safety of Paris?"
"Yes, sir" replied the stranger with a slight hesitation, and blushing.
The abbe replaced the large spectacles, which covered not only his eyes but his temples, and sitting down motioned to his visitor to do the same. "I am at your service, sir," said the abbe, with a marked Italian accent.
"The mission with which I am charged, sir," replied the visitor, speaking with hesitation, "is a confidential one on the part of him who fulfils it, and him by whom he is employed." The abbe bowed. "Your probity," replied the stranger, "is so well known to the prefect that he wishes as a magistrate to ascertain from you some particulars connected with the public safety, to ascertain which I am deputed to see you. It is hoped that no ties of friendship or humane consideration will induce you to conceal the truth."
"Provided, sir, the particulars you wish for do not interfere with my scruples or my conscience. I am a priest, sir, and the secrets of confession, for instance, must remain between me and God, and not between me and human justice."
"Do not alarm yourself, monsieur, we will duly respect your conscience."
At this moment the abbe pressed down his side of the shade and so raised it on the other, throwing a bright light on the stranger's face, while his own remained obscured. "Excuse me, abbe," said the envoy of the prefect of the police, "but the light tries my eyes very much." The abbe lowered the shade. "Now, sir, I am listening—go on."
"I will come at once to the point. Do you know the Count of Monte Cristo?"
"You mean Monsieur Zaccone, I presume?"
"Zaccone?—is not his name Monte Cristo?"
"Monte Cristo is the name of an estate, or, rather, of a rock, and not a family name."
"Well, be it so—let us not dispute about words; and since M. de Monte Cristo and M. Zaccone are the same"—
"Absolutely the same."
"Let us speak of M. Zaccone."
"I asked you if you knew him?"
"Who is he?"
"The son of a rich shipbuilder in Malta."
"I know that is the report; but, as you are aware, the police does not content itself with vague reports."
"However," replied the abbe, with an affable smile, "when that report is in accordance with the truth, everybody must believe it, the police as well as all the rest."
"Are you sure of what you assert?"
"What do you mean by that question?"
"Understand, sir, I do not in the least suspect your veracity; I ask if you are certain of it?"
"I knew his father, M. Zaccone."
"And when a child I often played with the son in the timber-yards."
"But whence does he derive the title of count?"
"You are aware that may be bought."
"And his immense riches, whence does he procure them?"
"They may not be so very great."
"How much do you suppose he possesses?"
"From one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand livres per annum."
"That is reasonable," said the visitor; "I have heard he had three or four millions."
"Two hundred thousand per annum would make four millions of capital."
"But I was told he had four millions per annum."
"That is not probable."
"Do you know this Island of Monte Cristo?"
"Certainly, every one who has come from Palermo, Naples, or Rome to France by sea must know it, since he has passed close to it and must have seen it."
"I am told it is a delightful place?"
"It is a rock."
"And why has the count bought a rock?"
"For the sake of being a count. In Italy one must have territorial possessions to be a count."
"You have, doubtless, heard the adventures of M. Zaccone's youth?"
"No, the son's."
"I know nothing certain; at that period of his life, I lost sight of my young comrade."
"Was he in the wars?"
"I think he entered the service."
"In what branch?"
"In the navy."
"Are you not his confessor?"
"No, sir; I believe he is a Lutheran."
"I say, I believe such is the case, I do not affirm it; besides, liberty of conscience is established in France."
"Doubtless, and we are not now inquiring into his creed, but his actions; in the name of the prefect of police, I ask you what you know of him.
"He passes for a very charitable man. Our holy father, the pope, has made him a knight of Jesus Christ for the services he rendered to the Christians in the East; he has five or six rings as testimonials from Eastern monarchs of his services."
"Does he wear them?"
"No, but he is proud of them; he is better pleased with rewards given to the benefactors of man than to his destroyers."
"He is a Quaker then?"
"Exactly, he is a Quaker, with the exception of the peculiar dress."
"Has he any friends?"
"Yes, every one who knows him is his friend."
"But has he any enemies?"
"What is his name?"
"Where is he?"
"He is in Paris just now."
"Can he give me any particulars?"
"Important ones; he was in India with Zaccone."
"Do you know his abode?"
"It's somewhere in the Chaussee d'Antin; but I know neither the street nor the number."
"Are you at variance with the Englishman?"
"I love Zaccone, and he hates him; we are consequently not friends."
"Do you think the Count of Monte Cristo had ever been in France before he made this visit to Paris?"
"To that question I can answer positively; no, sir, he had not, because he applied to me six months ago for the particulars he required, and as I did not know when I might again come to Paris, I recommended M. Cavalcanti to him."
"No, Bartolomeo, his father."
"Now, sir, I have but one question more to ask, and I charge you, in the name of honor, of humanity, and of religion, to answer me candidly."
"What is it, sir?"
"Do you know with what design M. de Monte Cristo purchased a house at Auteuil?"
"Certainly, for he told me."
"What is it, sir?"
"To make a lunatic asylum of it, similar to that founded by the Count of Pisani at Palermo. Do you know about that institution?"
"I have heard of it."
"It is a magnificent charity." Having said this, the abbe bowed to imply he wished to pursue his studies. The visitor either understood the abbe's meaning, or had no more questions to ask; he arose, and the abbe accompanied him to the door. "You are a great almsgiver," said the visitor, "and although you are said to be rich, I will venture to offer you something for your poor people; will you accept my offering?"
"I thank you, sir; I am only jealous in one thing, and that is that the relief I give should be entirely from my own resources."
"My resolution, sir, is unchangeable, but you have only to search for yourself and you will find, alas, but too many objects upon whom to exercise your benevolence." The abbe once more bowed as he opened the door, the stranger bowed and took his leave, and the carriage conveyed him straight to the house of M. de Villefort. An hour afterwards the carriage was again ordered, and this time it went to the Rue Fontaine-Saint-George, and stopped at No. 5, where Lord Wilmore lived. The stranger had written to Lord Wilmore, requesting an interview, which the latter had fixed for ten o'clock. As the envoy of the prefect of police arrived ten minutes before ten, he was told that Lord Wilmore, who was precision and punctuality personified, was not yet come in, but that he would be sure to return as the clock struck.
The visitor was introduced into the drawing-room, which was like all other furnished drawing-rooms. A mantle-piece, with two modern Sevres vases, a timepiece representing Cupid with his bent bow, a mirror with an engraving on each side—one representing Homer carrying his guide, the other, Belisarius begging—a grayish paper; red and black tapestry—such was the appearance of Lord Wilmore's drawing-room. It was illuminated by lamps with ground-glass shades which gave only a feeble light, as if out of consideration for the envoy's weak sight. After ten minutes' expectation the clock struck ten; at the fifth stroke the door opened and Lord Wilmore appeared. He was rather above the middle height, with thin reddish whiskers, light complexion and light hair, turning rather gray. He was dressed with all the English peculiarity, namely, in a blue coat, with gilt buttons and high collar, in the fashion of 1811, a white kerseymere waistcoat, and nankeen pantaloons, three inches too short, but which were prevented by straps from slipping up to the knee. His first remark on entering was,—"You know, sir, I do not speak French?"
"I know you do not like to converse in our language," replied the envoy. "But you may use it," replied Lord Wilmore; "I understand it."
"And I," replied the visitor, changing his idiom, "know enough of English to keep up the conversation. Do not put yourself to the slightest inconvenience."
"Aw?" said Lord Wilmore, with that tone which is only known to natives of Great Britain.
The envoy presented his letter of introduction, which the latter read with English coolness, and having finished,—"I understand," said he, "perfectly."
Then began the questions, which were similar to those which had been addressed to the Abbe Busoni. But as Lord Wilmore, in the character of the count's enemy, was less restrained in his answers, they were more numerous; he described the youth of Monte Cristo, who he said, at ten years of age, entered the service of one of the petty sovereigns of India who make war on the English. It was there Wilmore had first met him and fought against him; and in that war Zaccone had been taken prisoner, sent to England, and consigned to the hulks, whence he had escaped by swimming. Then began his travels, his duels, his caprices; then the insurrection in Greece broke out, and he had served in the Grecian ranks. While in that service he had discovered a silver mine in the mountains of Thessaly, but he had been careful to conceal it from every one. After the battle of Navarino, when the Greek government was consolidated, he asked of King Otho a mining grant for that district, which was given him. Hence that immense fortune, which, in Lord Wilmore's opinion, possibly amounted to one or two millions per annum,—a precarious fortune, which might be momentarily lost by the failure of the mine.
"But," asked the visitor, "do you know why he came to France?"
"He is speculating in railways," said Lord Wilmore, "and as he is an expert chemist and physicist, he has invented a new system of telegraphy, which he is seeking to bring to perfection."
"How much does he spend yearly?" asked the prefect.
"Not more than five or six hundred thousand francs," said Lord Wilmore; "he is a miser." Hatred evidently inspired the Englishman, who, knowing no other reproach to bring on the count, accused him of avarice. "Do you know his house at Auteuil?"
"What do you know respecting it?"
"Do you wish to know why he bought it?"
"The count is a speculator, who will certainly ruin himself in experiments. He supposes there is in the neighborhood of the house he has bought a mineral spring equal to those at Bagneres, Luchon, and Cauterets. He is going to turn his house into a Badhaus, as the Germans term it. He has already dug up all the garden two or three times to find the famous spring, and, being unsuccessful, he will soon purchase all the contiguous houses. Now, as I dislike him, and hope his railway, his electric telegraph, or his search for baths, will ruin him, I am watching for his discomfiture, which must soon take place."
"What was the cause of your quarrel?"
"When he was in England he seduced the wife of one of my friends."
"Why do you not seek revenge?"
"I have already fought three duels with him," said the Englishman, "the first with the pistol, the second with the sword, and the third with the sabre."
"And what was the result of those duels?"
"The first time, he broke my arm; the second, he wounded me in the breast; and the third time, made this large wound." The Englishman turned down his shirt-collar, and showed a scar, whose redness proved it to be a recent one. "So that, you see, there is a deadly feud between us."
"But," said the envoy, "you do not go about it in the right way to kill him, if I understand you correctly."
"Aw?" said the Englishman, "I practice shooting every day, and every other day Grisier comes to my house."
This was all the visitor wished to ascertain, or, rather, all the Englishman appeared to know. The agent arose, and having bowed to Lord Wilmore, who returned his salutation with the stiff politeness of the English, he retired. Lord Wilmore, having heard the door close after him, returned to his bedroom, where with one hand he pulled off his light hair, his red whiskers, his false jaw, and his wound, to resume the black hair, dark complexion, and pearly teeth of the Count of Monte Cristo. It was M. de Villefort, and not the prefect, who returned to the house of M. de Villefort. The procureur felt more at ease, although he had learned nothing really satisfactory, and, for the first time since the dinner-party at Auteuil, he slept soundly.
Chapter 70. The Ball.
It was in the warmest days of July, when in due course of time the Saturday arrived upon which the ball was to take place at M. de Morcerf's. It was ten o'clock at night; the branches of the great trees in the garden of the count's house stood out boldly against the azure canopy of heaven, which was studded with golden stars, but where the last fleeting clouds of a vanishing storm yet lingered. From the apartments on the ground-floor might be heard the sound of music, with the whirl of the waltz and galop, while brilliant streams of light shone through the openings of the Venetian blinds. At this moment the garden was only occupied by about ten servants, who had just received orders from their mistress to prepare the supper, the serenity of the weather continuing to increase. Until now, it had been undecided whether the supper should take place in the dining-room, or under a long tent erected on the lawn, but the beautiful blue sky, studded with stars, had settled the question in favor of the lawn. The gardens were illuminated with colored lanterns, according to the Italian custom, and, as is usual in countries where the luxuries of the table—the rarest of all luxuries in their complete form—are well understood, the supper-table was loaded with wax-lights and flowers.
At the time the Countess of Morcerf returned to the rooms, after giving her orders, many guests were arriving, more attracted by the charming hospitality of the countess than by the distinguished position of the count; for, owing to the good taste of Mercedes, one was sure of finding some devices at her entertainment worthy of describing, or even copying in case of need. Madame Danglars, in whom the events we have related had caused deep anxiety, had hesitated about going to Madame de Morcerf's, when during the morning her carriage happened to meet that of Villefort. The latter made a sign, and when the carriages had drawn close together, said,—"You are going to Madame de Morcerf's, are you not?"
"No," replied Madame Danglars, "I am too ill."
"You are wrong," replied Villefort, significantly; "it is important that you should be seen there."
"Do you think so?" asked the baroness.
"In that case I will go." And the two carriages passed on towards their different destinations. Madame Danglars therefore came, not only beautiful in person, but radiant with splendor; she entered by one door at the time when Mercedes appeared at the door. The countess took Albert to meet Madame Danglars. He approached, paid her some well merited compliments on her toilet, and offered his arm to conduct her to a seat. Albert looked around him. "You are looking for my daughter?" said the baroness, smiling.
"I confess it," replied Albert. "Could you have been so cruel as not to bring her?"
"Calm yourself. She has met Mademoiselle de Villefort, and has taken her arm; see, they are following us, both in white dresses, one with a bouquet of camellias, the other with one of myosotis. But tell me"—
"Well, what do you wish to know?"
"Will not the Count of Monte Cristo be here to-night?"
"Seventeen!" replied Albert.
"What do you mean?"
"I only mean that the count seems the rage," replied the viscount, smiling, "and that you are the seventeenth person that has asked me the same question. The count is in fashion; I congratulate him upon it."
"And have you replied to every one as you have to me?"
"Ah, to be sure, I have not answered you; be satisfied, we shall have this 'lion;' we are among the privileged ones."
"Were you at the opera yesterday?"
"He was there."
"Ah, indeed? And did the eccentric person commit any new originality?"
"Can he be seen without doing so? Elssler was dancing in the 'Diable Boiteux;' the Greek princess was in ecstasies. After the cachucha he placed a magnificent ring on the stem of a bouquet, and threw it to the charming danseuse, who, in the third act, to do honor to the gift, reappeared with it on her finger. And the Greek princess,—will she be here?"
"No, you will be deprived of that pleasure; her position in the count's establishment is not sufficiently understood."
"Wait; leave me here, and go and speak to Madame de Villefort, who is trying to attract your attention."