"Edmond," said the poor mother, who tried every means, "when I call you Edmond, why do you not call me Mercedes?"
"Mercedes!" repeated Monte Cristo; "Mercedes! Well yes, you are right; that name has still its charms, and this is the first time for a long period that I have pronounced it so distinctly. Oh, Mercedes, I have uttered your name with the sigh of melancholy, with the groan of sorrow, with the last effort of despair; I have uttered it when frozen with cold, crouched on the straw in my dungeon; I have uttered it, consumed with heat, rolling on the stone floor of my prison. Mercedes, I must revenge myself, for I suffered fourteen years,—fourteen years I wept, I cursed; now I tell you, Mercedes, I must revenge myself."
The count, fearing to yield to the entreaties of her he had so ardently loved, called his sufferings to the assistance of his hatred. "Revenge yourself, then, Edmond," cried the poor mother; "but let your vengeance fall on the culprits,—on him, on me, but not on my son!"
"It is written in the good book," said Monte Cristo, "that the sins of the fathers shall fall upon their children to the third and fourth generation. Since God himself dictated those words to his prophet, why should I seek to make myself better than God?"
"Edmond," continued Mercedes, with her arms extended towards the count, "since I first knew you, I have adored your name, have respected your memory. Edmond, my friend, do not compel me to tarnish that noble and pure image reflected incessantly on the mirror of my heart. Edmond, if you knew all the prayers I have addressed to God for you while I thought you were living and since I have thought you must be dead! Yes, dead, alas! I imagined your dead body buried at the foot of some gloomy tower, or cast to the bottom of a pit by hateful jailers, and I wept! What could I do for you, Edmond, besides pray and weep? Listen; for ten years I dreamed each night the same dream. I had been told that you had endeavored to escape; that you had taken the place of another prisoner; that you had slipped into the winding sheet of a dead body; that you had been thrown alive from the top of the Chateau d'If, and that the cry you uttered as you dashed upon the rocks first revealed to your jailers that they were your murderers. Well, Edmond, I swear to you, by the head of that son for whom I entreat your pity,—Edmond, for ten years I saw every night every detail of that frightful tragedy, and for ten years I heard every night the cry which awoke me, shuddering and cold. And I, too, Edmond—oh! believe me—guilty as I was—oh, yes, I, too, have suffered much!"
"Have you known what it is to have your father starve to death in your absence?" cried Monte Cristo, thrusting his hands into his hair; "have you seen the woman you loved giving her hand to your rival, while you were perishing at the bottom of a dungeon?"
"No," interrupted Mercedes, "but I have seen him whom I loved on the point of murdering my son." Mercedes uttered these words with such deep anguish, with an accent of such intense despair, that Monte Cristo could not restrain a sob. The lion was daunted; the avenger was conquered. "What do you ask of me?" said he,—"your son's life? Well, he shall live!" Mercedes uttered a cry which made the tears start from Monte Cristo's eyes; but these tears disappeared almost instantaneously, for, doubtless, God had sent some angel to collect them—far more precious were they in his eyes than the richest pearls of Guzerat and Ophir.
"Oh," said she, seizing the count's hand and raising it to her lips; "oh, thank you, thank you, Edmond! Now you are exactly what I dreamt you were,—the man I always loved. Oh, now I may say so!"
"So much the better," replied Monte Cristo; "as that poor Edmond will not have long to be loved by you. Death is about to return to the tomb, the phantom to retire in darkness."
"What do you say, Edmond?"
"I say, since you command me, Mercedes, I must die."
"Die? and why so? Who talks of dying? Whence have you these ideas of death?"
"You do not suppose that, publicly outraged in the face of a whole theatre, in the presence of your friends and those of your son—challenged by a boy who will glory in my forgiveness as if it were a victory—you do not suppose that I can for one moment wish to live. What I most loved after you, Mercedes, was myself, my dignity, and that strength which rendered me superior to other men; that strength was my life. With one word you have crushed it, and I die."
"But the duel will not take place, Edmond, since you forgive?"
"It will take place," said Monte Cristo, in a most solemn tone; "but instead of your son's blood to stain the ground, mine will flow." Mercedes shrieked, and sprang towards Monte Cristo, but, suddenly stopping, "Edmond," said she, "there is a God above us, since you live and since I have seen you again; I trust to him from my heart. While waiting his assistance I trust to your word; you have said that my son should live, have you not?"
"Yes, madame, he shall live," said Monte Cristo, surprised that without more emotion Mercedes had accepted the heroic sacrifice he made for her. Mercedes extended her hand to the count.
"Edmond," said she, and her eyes were wet with tears while looking at him to whom she spoke, "how noble it is of you, how great the action you have just performed, how sublime to have taken pity on a poor woman who appealed to you with every chance against her, Alas, I am grown old with grief more than with years, and cannot now remind my Edmond by a smile, or by a look, of that Mercedes whom he once spent so many hours in contemplating. Ah, believe me, Edmond, as I told you, I too have suffered much; I repeat, it is melancholy to pass one's life without having one joy to recall, without preserving a single hope; but that proves that all is not yet over. No, it is not finished; I feel it by what remains in my heart. Oh, I repeat it, Edmond; what you have just done is beautiful—it is grand; it is sublime."
"Do you say so now, Mercedes?—then what would you say if you knew the extent of the sacrifice I make to you? Suppose that the Supreme Being, after having created the world and fertilized chaos, had paused in the work to spare an angel the tears that might one day flow for mortal sins from her immortal eyes; suppose that when everything was in readiness and the moment had come for God to look upon his work and see that it was good—suppose he had snuffed out the sun and tossed the world back into eternal night—then—even then, Mercedes, you could not imagine what I lose in sacrificing my life at this moment." Mercedes looked at the count in a way which expressed at the same time her astonishment, her admiration, and her gratitude. Monte Cristo pressed his forehead on his burning hands, as if his brain could no longer bear alone the weight of its thoughts. "Edmond," said Mercedes, "I have but one word more to say to you." The count smiled bitterly. "Edmond," continued she, "you will see that if my face is pale, if my eyes are dull, if my beauty is gone; if Mercedes, in short, no longer resembles her former self in her features, you will see that her heart is still the same. Adieu, then, Edmond; I have nothing more to ask of heaven—I have seen you again, and have found you as noble and as great as formerly you were. Adieu, Edmond, adieu, and thank you."
But the count did not answer. Mercedes opened the door of the study and had disappeared before he had recovered from the painful and profound revery into which his thwarted vengeance had plunged him. The clock of the Invalides struck one when the carriage which conveyed Madame de Morcerf away rolled on the pavement of the Champs-Elysees, and made Monte Cristo raise his head. "What a fool I was," said he, "not to tear my heart out on the day when I resolved to avenge myself!"
Chapter 90. The Meeting.
After Mercedes had left Monte Cristo, he fell into profound gloom. Around him and within him the flight of thought seemed to have stopped; his energetic mind slumbered, as the body does after extreme fatigue. "What?" said he to himself, while the lamp and the wax lights were nearly burnt out, and the servants were waiting impatiently in the anteroom; "what? this edifice which I have been so long preparing, which I have reared with so much care and toil, is to be crushed by a single touch, a word, a breath! Yes, this self, of whom I thought so much, of whom I was so proud, who had appeared so worthless in the dungeons of the Chateau d'If, and whom I had succeeded in making so great, will be but a lump of clay to-morrow. Alas, it is not the death of the body I regret; for is not the destruction of the vital principle, the repose to which everything is tending, to which every unhappy being aspires,—is not this the repose of matter after which I so long sighed, and which I was seeking to attain by the painful process of starvation when Faria appeared in my dungeon? What is death for me? One step farther into rest,—two, perhaps, into silence.
"No, it is not existence, then, that I regret, but the ruin of projects so slowly carried out, so laboriously framed. Providence is now opposed to them, when I most thought it would be propitious. It is not God's will that they should be accomplished. This burden, almost as heavy as a world, which I had raised, and I had thought to bear to the end, was too great for my strength, and I was compelled to lay it down in the middle of my career. Oh, shall I then, again become a fatalist, whom fourteen years of despair and ten of hope had rendered a believer in providence? And all this—all this, because my heart, which I thought dead, was only sleeping; because it has awakened and has begun to beat again, because I have yielded to the pain of the emotion excited in my breast by a woman's voice. Yet," continued the count, becoming each moment more absorbed in the anticipation of the dreadful sacrifice for the morrow, which Mercedes had accepted, "yet, it is impossible that so noble-minded a woman should thus through selfishness consent to my death when I am in the prime of life and strength; it is impossible that she can carry to such a point maternal love, or rather delirium. There are virtues which become crimes by exaggeration. No, she must have conceived some pathetic scene; she will come and throw herself between us; and what would be sublime here will there appear ridiculous." The blush of pride mounted to the count's forehead as this thought passed through his mind. "Ridiculous?" repeated he; "and the ridicule will fall on me. I ridiculous? No, I would rather die."
By thus exaggerating to his own mind the anticipated ill-fortune of the next day, to which he had condemned himself by promising Mercedes to spare her son, the count at last exclaimed, "Folly, folly, folly!—to carry generosity so far as to put myself up as a mark for that young man to aim at. He will never believe that my death was suicide; and yet it is important for the honor of my memory,—and this surely is not vanity, but a justifiable pride,—it is important the world should know that I have consented, by my free will, to stop my arm, already raised to strike, and that with the arm which has been so powerful against others I have struck myself. It must be; it shall be."
Seizing a pen, he drew a paper from a secret drawer in his desk, and wrote at the bottom of the document (which was no other than his will, made since his arrival in Paris) a sort of codicil, clearly explaining the nature of his death. "I do this, O my God," said he, with his eyes raised to heaven, "as much for thy honor as for mine. I have during ten years considered myself the agent of thy vengeance, and other wretches, like Morcerf, Danglars, Villefort, even Morcerf himself, must not imagine that chance has freed them from their enemy. Let them know, on the contrary, that their punishment, which had been decreed by providence, is only delayed by my present determination, and although they escape it in this world, it awaits them in another, and that they are only exchanging time for eternity."
While he was thus agitated by gloomy uncertainties,—wretched waking dreams of grief,—the first rays of morning pierced his windows, and shone upon the pale blue paper on which he had just inscribed his justification of providence. It was just five o'clock in the morning when a slight noise like a stifled sigh reached his ear. He turned his head, looked around him, and saw no one; but the sound was repeated distinctly enough to convince him of its reality.
He arose, and quietly opening the door of the drawing-room, saw Haidee, who had fallen on a chair, with her arms hanging down and her beautiful head thrown back. She had been standing at the door, to prevent his going out without seeing her, until sleep, which the young cannot resist, had overpowered her frame, wearied as she was with watching. The noise of the door did not awaken her, and Monte Cristo gazed at her with affectionate regret. "She remembered that she had a son," said he; "and I forgot I had a daughter." Then, shaking his head sorrowfully, "Poor Haidee," said he; "she wished to see me, to speak to me; she has feared or guessed something. Oh, I cannot go without taking leave of her; I cannot die without confiding her to some one." He quietly regained his seat, and wrote under the other lines:—
"I bequeath to Maximilian Morrel, captain of Spahis,—and son of my former patron, Pierre Morrel, shipowner at Marseilles,—the sum of twenty millions, a part of which may be offered to his sister Julia and brother-in-law Emmanuel, if he does not fear this increase of fortune may mar their happiness. These twenty millions are concealed in my grotto at Monte Cristo, of which Bertuccio knows the secret. If his heart is free, and he will marry Haidee, the daughter of Ali Pasha of Yanina, whom I have brought up with the love of a father, and who has shown the love and tenderness of a daughter for me, he will thus accomplish my last wish. This will has already constituted Haidee heiress of the rest of my fortune, consisting of lands, funds in England, Austria, and Holland, furniture in my different palaces and houses, and which without the twenty millions and the legacies to my servants, may still amount to sixty millions."
He was finishing the last line when a cry behind him made him start, and the pen fell from his hand. "Haidee," said he, "did you read it?"
"Oh, my lord," said she, "why are you writing thus at such an hour? Why are you bequeathing all your fortune to me? Are you going to leave me?"
"I am going on a journey, dear child," said Monte Cristo, with an expression of infinite tenderness and melancholy; "and if any misfortune should happen to me."
The count stopped. "Well?" asked the young girl, with an authoritative tone the count had never observed before, and which startled him. "Well, if any misfortune happen to me," replied Monte Cristo, "I wish my daughter to be happy." Haidee smiled sorrowfully, and shook her head. "Do you think of dying, my lord?" said she.
"The wise man, my child, has said, 'It is good to think of death.'"
"Well, if you die," said she, "bequeath your fortune to others, for if you die I shall require nothing;" and, taking the paper, she tore it in four pieces, and threw it into the middle of the room. Then, the effort having exhausted her strength, she fell not asleep this time, but fainting on the floor. The count leaned over her and raised her in his arms; and seeing that sweet pale face, those lovely eyes closed, that beautiful form motionless and to all appearance lifeless, the idea occurred to him for the first time, that perhaps she loved him otherwise than as a daughter loves a father.
"Alas," murmured he, with intense suffering, "I might, then, have been happy yet." Then he carried Haidee to her room, resigned her to the care of her attendants, and returning to his study, which he shut quickly this time, he again copied the destroyed will. As he was finishing, the sound of a cabriolet entering the yard was heard. Monte Cristo approached the window, and saw Maximilian and Emmanuel alight. "Good," said he; "it was time,"—and he sealed his will with three seals. A moment afterwards he heard a noise in the drawing-room, and went to open the door himself. Morrel was there; he had come twenty minutes before the time appointed. "I am perhaps come too soon, count," said he, "but I frankly acknowledge that I have not closed my eyes all night, nor has any one in my house. I need to see you strong in your courageous assurance, to recover myself." Monte Cristo could not resist this proof of affection; he not only extended his hand to the young man, but flew to him with open arms. "Morrel," said he, "it is a happy day for me, to feel that I am beloved by such a man as you. Good-morning, Emmanuel; you will come with me then, Maximilian?"
"Did you doubt it?" said the young captain.
"But if I were wrong"—
"I watched you during the whole scene of that challenge yesterday; I have been thinking of your firmness all night, and I said to myself that justice must be on your side, or man's countenance is no longer to be relied on."
"But, Morrel, Albert is your friend?"
"Simply an acquaintance, sir."
"You met on the same day you first saw me?"
"Yes, that is true; but I should not have recollected it if you had not reminded me."
"Thank you, Morrel." Then ringing the bell once, "Look." said he to Ali, who came immediately, "take that to my solicitor. It is my will, Morrel. When I am dead, you will go and examine it."
"What?" said Morrel, "you dead?"
"Yes; must I not be prepared for everything, dear friend? But what did you do yesterday after you left me?"
"I went to Tortoni's, where, as I expected, I found Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud. I own I was seeking them."
"Why, when all was arranged?"
"Listen, count; the affair is serious and unavoidable."
"Did you doubt it!"
"No; the offence was public, and every one is already talking of it."
"Well, I hoped to get an exchange of arms,—to substitute the sword for the pistol; the pistol is blind."
"Have you succeeded?" asked Monte Cristo quickly, with an imperceptible gleam of hope.
"No; for your skill with the sword is so well known."
"Ah?—who has betrayed me?"
"The skilful swordsman whom you have conquered."
"And you failed?"
"They positively refused."
"Morrel," said the count, "have you ever seen me fire a pistol?"
"Well, we have time; look." Monte Cristo took the pistols he held in his hand when Mercedes entered, and fixing an ace of clubs against the iron plate, with four shots he successively shot off the four sides of the club. At each shot Morrel turned pale. He examined the bullets with which Monte Cristo performed this dexterous feat, and saw that they were no larger than buckshot. "It is astonishing," said he. "Look, Emmanuel." Then turning towards Monte Cristo, "Count," said he, "in the name of all that is dear to you, I entreat you not to kill Albert!—the unhappy youth has a mother."
"You are right," said Monte Cristo; "and I have none." These words were uttered in a tone which made Morrel shudder. "You are the offended party, count."
"Doubtless; what does that imply?"
"That you will fire first."
"I fire first?"
"Oh, I obtained, or rather claimed that; we had conceded enough for them to yield us that."
"And at what distance?"
"Twenty paces." A smile of terrible import passed over the count's lips. "Morrel," said he, "do not forget what you have just seen."
"The only chance for Albert's safety, then, will arise from your emotion."
"I suffer from emotion?" said Monte Cristo.
"Or from your generosity, my friend; to so good a marksman as you are, I may say what would appear absurd to another."
"What is that?"
"Break his arm—wound him—but do not kill him."
"I will tell you, Morrel," said the count, "that I do not need entreating to spare the life of M. de Morcerf; he shall be so well spared, that he will return quietly with his two friends, while I"—
"That will be another thing; I shall be brought home."
"No, no," cried Maximilian, quite unable to restrain his feelings.
"As I told you, my dear Morrel, M. de Morcerf will kill me." Morrel looked at him in utter amazement. "But what has happened, then, since last evening, count?"
"The same thing that happened to Brutus the night before the battle of Philippi; I have seen a ghost."
"And that ghost"—
"Told me, Morrel, that I had lived long enough." Maximilian and Emmanuel looked at each other. Monte Cristo drew out his watch. "Let us go," said he; "it is five minutes past seven, and the appointment was for eight o'clock." A carriage was in readiness at the door. Monte Cristo stepped into it with his two friends. He had stopped a moment in the passage to listen at a door, and Maximilian and Emmanuel, who had considerately passed forward a few steps, thought they heard him answer by a sigh to a sob from within. As the clock struck eight they drove up to the place of meeting. "We are first," said Morrel, looking out of the window. "Excuse me, sir," said Baptistin, who had followed his master with indescribable terror, "but I think I see a carriage down there under the trees."
Monte Cristo sprang lightly from the carriage, and offered his hand to assist Emmanuel and Maximilian. The latter retained the count's hand between his. "I like," said he, "to feel a hand like this, when its owner relies on the goodness of his cause."
"It seems to me," said Emmanuel, "that I see two young men down there, who are evidently, waiting." Monte Cristo drew Morrel a step or two behind his brother-in-law. "Maximilian," said he, "are your affections disengaged?" Morrel looked at Monte Cristo with astonishment. "I do not seek your confidence, my dear friend. I only ask you a simple question; answer it;—that is all I require."
"I love a young girl, count."
"Do you love her much?"
"More than my life."
"Another hope defeated!" said the count. Then, with a sigh, "Poor Haidee!" murmured he.
"To tell the truth, count, if I knew less of you, I should think that you were less brave than you are."
"Because I sigh when thinking of some one I am leaving? Come, Morrel, it is not like a soldier to be so bad a judge of courage. Do I regret life? What is it to me, who have passed twenty years between life and death? Moreover, do not alarm yourself, Morrel; this weakness, if it is such, is betrayed to you alone. I know the world is a drawing-room, from which we must retire politely and honestly; that is, with a bow, and our debts of honor paid."
"That is to the purpose. Have you brought your arms?"
"I?—what for? I hope these gentlemen have theirs."
"I will inquire," said Morrel.
"Do; but make no treaty—you understand me?"
"You need not fear." Morrel advanced towards Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud, who, seeing his intention, came to meet him. The three young men bowed to each other courteously, if not affably.
"Excuse me, gentlemen," said Morrel, "but I do not see M. de Morcerf."
"He sent us word this morning," replied Chateau-Renaud, "that he would meet us on the ground."
"Ah," said Morrel. Beauchamp pulled out his watch. "It is only five minutes past eight," said he to Morrel; "there is not much time lost yet."
"Oh, I made no allusion of that kind," replied Morrel.
"There is a carriage coming," said Chateau-Renaud. It advanced rapidly along one of the avenues leading towards the open space where they were assembled. "You are doubtless provided with pistols, gentlemen? M. de Monte Cristo yields his right of using his."
"We had anticipated this kindness on the part of the count," said Beauchamp, "and I have brought some weapons which I bought eight or ten days since, thinking to want them on a similar occasion. They are quite new, and have not yet been used. Will you examine them."
"Oh, M. Beauchamp, if you assure me that M. de Morcerf does not know these pistols, you may readily believe that your word will be quite sufficient."
"Gentlemen," said Chateau-Renaud, "it is not Morcerf coming in that carriage;—faith, it is Franz and Debray!" The two young men he announced were indeed approaching. "What chance brings you here, gentlemen?" said Chateau-Renaud, shaking hands with each of them. "Because," said Debray, "Albert sent this morning to request us to come." Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud exchanged looks of astonishment. "I think I understand his reason," said Morrel.
"What is it?"
"Yesterday afternoon I received a letter from M. de Morcerf, begging me to attend the opera."
"And I," said Debray.
"And I also," said Franz.
"And we, too," added Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud.
"Having wished you all to witness the challenge, he now wishes you to be present at the combat."
"Exactly so," said the young men; "you have probably guessed right."
"But, after all these arrangements, he does not come himself," said Chateau-Renaud. "Albert is ten minutes after time."
"There he comes," said Beauchamp, "on horseback, at full gallop, followed by a servant."
"How imprudent," said Chateau-Renaud, "to come on horseback to fight a duel with pistols, after all the instructions I had given him."
"And besides," said Beauchamp, "with a collar above his cravat, an open coat and white waistcoat! Why has he not painted a spot upon his heart?—it would have been more simple." Meanwhile Albert had arrived within ten paces of the group formed by the five young men. He jumped from his horse, threw the bridle on his servant's arms, and joined them. He was pale, and his eyes were red and swollen; it was evident that he had not slept. A shade of melancholy gravity overspread his countenance, which was not natural to him. "I thank you, gentlemen," said he, "for having complied with my request; I feel extremely grateful for this mark of friendship." Morrel had stepped back as Morcerf approached, and remained at a short distance. "And to you also, M. Morrel, my thanks are due. Come, there cannot be too many."
"Sir," said Maximilian, "you are not perhaps aware that I am M. de Monte Cristo's friend?"
"I was not sure, but I thought it might be so. So much the better; the more honorable men there are here the better I shall be satisfied."
"M. Morrel," said Chateau-Renaud, "will you apprise the Count of Monte Cristo that M. de Morcerf is arrived, and we are at his disposal?" Morrel was preparing to fulfil his commission. Beauchamp had meanwhile drawn the box of pistols from the carriage. "Stop, gentlemen," said Albert; "I have two words to say to the Count of Monte Cristo."
"In private?" asked Morrel.
"No, sir; before all who are here."
Albert's witnesses looked at each other. Franz and Debray exchanged some words in a whisper, and Morrel, rejoiced at this unexpected incident, went to fetch the count, who was walking in a retired path with Emmanuel. "What does he want with me?" said Monte Cristo.
"I do not know, but he wishes to speak to you."
"Ah?" said Monte Cristo, "I trust he is not going to tempt me by some fresh insult!"
"I do not think that such is his intention," said Morrel.
The count advanced, accompanied by Maximilian and Emmanuel. His calm and serene look formed a singular contrast to Albert's grief-stricken face, who approached also, followed by the other four young men. When at three paces distant from each other, Albert and the count stopped.
"Approach, gentlemen," said Albert; "I wish you not to lose one word of what I am about to have the honor of saying to the Count of Monte Cristo, for it must be repeated by you to all who will listen to it, strange as it may appear to you."
"Proceed, sir," said the count.
"Sir," said Albert, at first with a tremulous voice, but which gradually became firmer, "I reproached you with exposing the conduct of M. de Morcerf in Epirus, for guilty as I knew he was, I thought you had no right to punish him; but I have since learned that you had that right. It is not Fernand Mondego's treachery towards Ali Pasha which induces me so readily to excuse you, but the treachery of the fisherman Fernand towards you, and the almost unheard-of miseries which were its consequences; and I say, and proclaim it publicly, that you were justified in revenging yourself on my father, and I, his son, thank you for not using greater severity."
Had a thunderbolt fallen in the midst of the spectators of this unexpected scene, it would not have surprised them more than did Albert's declaration. As for Monte Cristo, his eyes slowly rose towards heaven with an expression of infinite gratitude. He could not understand how Albert's fiery nature, of which he had seen so much among the Roman bandits, had suddenly stooped to this humiliation. He recognized the influence of Mercedes, and saw why her noble heart had not opposed the sacrifice she knew beforehand would be useless. "Now, sir," said Albert, "if you think my apology sufficient, pray give me your hand. Next to the merit of infallibility which you appear to possess, I rank that of candidly acknowledging a fault. But this confession concerns me only. I acted well as a man, but you have acted better than man. An angel alone could have saved one of us from death—that angel came from heaven, if not to make us friends (which, alas, fatality renders impossible), at least to make us esteem each other."
Monte Cristo, with moistened eye, heaving breast, and lips half open, extended to Albert a hand which the latter pressed with a sentiment resembling respectful fear. "Gentlemen," said he, "M. de Monte Cristo receives my apology. I had acted hastily towards him. Hasty actions are generally bad ones. Now my fault is repaired. I hope the world will not call me cowardly for acting as my conscience dictated. But if any one should entertain a false opinion of me," added he, drawing himself up as if he would challenge both friends and enemies, "I shall endeavor to correct his mistake."
"What happened during the night?" asked Beauchamp of Chateau-Renaud; "we appear to make a very sorry figure here."
"In truth, what Albert has just done is either very despicable or very noble," replied the baron.
"What can it mean?" said Debray to Franz. "The Count of Monte Cristo acts dishonorably to M. de Morcerf, and is justified by his son! Had I ten Yaninas in my family, I should only consider myself the more bound to fight ten times." As for Monte Cristo, his head was bent down, his arms were powerless. Bowing under the weight of twenty-four years' reminiscences, he thought not of Albert, of Beauchamp, of Chateau-Renaud, or of any of that group; but he thought of that courageous woman who had come to plead for her son's life, to whom he had offered his, and who had now saved it by the revelation of a dreadful family secret, capable of destroying forever in that young man's heart every feeling of filial piety.
"Providence still," murmured he; "now only am I fully convinced of being the emissary of God!"
Chapter 91. Mother and Son.
The Count of Monte Cristo bowed to the five young men with a melancholy and dignified smile, and got into his carriage with Maximilian and Emmanuel. Albert, Beauchamp, and Chateau-Renaud remained alone. Albert looked at his two friends, not timidly, but in a way that appeared to ask their opinion of what he had just done.
"Indeed, my dear friend," said Beauchamp first, who had either the most feeling or the least dissimulation, "allow me to congratulate you; this is a very unhoped-for conclusion of a very disagreeable affair."
Albert remained silent and wrapped in thought. Chateau-Renaud contented himself with tapping his boot with his flexible cane. "Are we not going?" said he, after this embarrassing silence. "When you please," replied Beauchamp; "allow me only to compliment M. de Morcerf, who has given proof to-day of rare chivalric generosity."
"Oh, yes," said Chateau-Renaud.
"It is magnificent," continued Beauchamp, "to be able to exercise so much self-control!"
"Assuredly; as for me, I should have been incapable of it," said Chateau-Renaud, with most significant coolness.
"Gentlemen," interrupted Albert, "I think you did not understand that something very serious had passed between M. de Monte Cristo and myself."
"Possibly, possibly," said Beauchamp immediately; "but every simpleton would not be able to understand your heroism, and sooner or later you will find yourself compelled to explain it to them more energetically than would be convenient to your bodily health and the duration of your life. May I give you a friendly counsel? Set out for Naples, the Hague, or St. Petersburg—calm countries, where the point of honor is better understood than among our hot-headed Parisians. Seek quietude and oblivion, so that you may return peaceably to France after a few years. Am I not right, M. de Chateau-Renaud?"
"That is quite my opinion," said the gentleman; "nothing induces serious duels so much as a duel forsworn."
"Thank you, gentlemen," replied Albert, with a smile of indifference; "I shall follow your advice—not because you give it, but because I had before intended to quit France. I thank you equally for the service you have rendered me in being my seconds. It is deeply engraved on my heart, and, after what you have just said, I remember that only." Chateau-Renaud and Beauchamp looked at each other; the impression was the same on both of them, and the tone in which Morcerf had just expressed his thanks was so determined that the position would have become embarrassing for all if the conversation had continued.
"Good-by, Albert," said Beauchamp suddenly, carelessly extending his hand to the young man. The latter did not appear to arouse from his lethargy; in fact, he did not notice the offered hand. "Good-by," said Chateau-Renaud in his turn, keeping his little cane in his left hand, and saluting with his right. Albert's lips scarcely whispered "Good-by," but his look was more explicit; it expressed a whole poem of restrained anger, proud disdain, and generous indignation. He preserved his melancholy and motionless position for some time after his two friends had regained their carriage; then suddenly unfastening his horse from the little tree to which his servant had tied it, he mounted and galloped off in the direction of Paris.
In a quarter of an hour he was entering the house in the Rue du Helder. As he alighted, he thought he saw his father's pale face behind the curtain of the count's bedroom. Albert turned away his head with a sigh, and went to his own apartments. He cast one lingering look on all the luxuries which had rendered life so easy and so happy since his infancy; he looked at the pictures, whose faces seemed to smile, and the landscapes, which appeared painted in brighter colors. Then he took away his mother's portrait, with its oaken frame, leaving the gilt frame from which he took it black and empty. Then he arranged all his beautiful Turkish arms, his fine English guns, his Japanese china, his cups mounted in silver, his artistic bronzes by Feucheres and Barye; examined the cupboards, and placed the key in each; threw into a drawer of his secretary, which he left open, all the pocket-money he had about him, and with it the thousand fancy jewels from his vases and his jewel-boxes; then he made an exact inventory of everything, and placed it in the most conspicuous part of the table, after putting aside the books and papers which had collected there.
At the beginning of this work, his servant, notwithstanding orders to the contrary, came to his room. "What do you want?" asked he, with a more sorrowful than angry tone. "Pardon me, sir," replied the valet; "you had forbidden me to disturb you, but the Count of Morcerf has called me."
"Well!" said Albert.
"I did not like to go to him without first seeing you."
"Because the count is doubtless aware that I accompanied you to the meeting this morning."
"It is probable," said Albert.
"And since he has sent for me, it is doubtless to question me on what happened there. What must I answer?"
"Then I shall say the duel did not take place?"
"You will say I apologized to the Count of Monte Cristo. Go."
The valet bowed and retired, and Albert returned to his inventory. As he was finishing this work, the sound of horses prancing in the yard, and the wheels of a carriage shaking his window, attracted his attention. He approached the window, and saw his father get into it, and drive away. The door was scarcely closed when Albert bent his steps to his mother's room; and, no one being there to announce him, he advanced to her bed-chamber, and distressed by what he saw and guessed, stopped for one moment at the door. As if the same idea had animated these two beings, Mercedes was doing the same in her apartments that he had just done in his. Everything was in order,—laces, dresses, jewels, linen, money, all were arranged in the drawers, and the countess was carefully collecting the keys. Albert saw all these preparations and understood them, and exclaiming, "My mother!" he threw his arms around her neck.
The artist who could have depicted the expression of these two countenances would certainly have made of them a beautiful picture. All these proofs of an energetic resolution, which Albert did not fear on his own account, alarmed him for his mother. "What are you doing?" asked he.
"What were you doing?" replied she.
"Oh, my mother!" exclaimed Albert, so overcome he could scarcely speak; "it is not the same with you and me—you cannot have made the same resolution I have, for I have come to warn you that I bid adieu to your house, and—and to you."
"I also," replied Mercedes, "am going, and I acknowledge I had depended on your accompanying me; have I deceived myself?"
"Mother," said Albert with firmness. "I cannot make you share the fate I have planned for myself. I must live henceforth without rank and fortune, and to begin this hard apprenticeship I must borrow from a friend the loaf I shall eat until I have earned one. So, my dear mother, I am going at once to ask Franz to lend me the small sum I shall require to supply my present wants."
"You, my poor child, suffer poverty and hunger? Oh, do not say so; it will break my resolutions."
"But not mine, mother," replied Albert. "I am young and strong; I believe I am courageous, and since yesterday I have learned the power of will. Alas, my dear mother, some have suffered so much, and yet live, and have raised a new fortune on the ruin of all the promises of happiness which heaven had made them—on the fragments of all the hope which God had given them! I have seen that, mother; I know that from the gulf in which their enemies have plunged them they have risen with so much vigor and glory that in their turn they have ruled their former conquerors, and have punished them. No, mother; from this moment I have done with the past, and accept nothing from it—not even a name, because you can understand that your son cannot bear the name of a man who ought to blush for it before another."
"Albert, my child," said Mercedes, "if I had a stronger heart, that is the counsel I would have given you; your conscience has spoken when my voice became too weak; listen to its dictates. You had friends, Albert; break off their acquaintance. But do not despair; you have life before you, my dear Albert, for you are yet scarcely twenty-two years old; and as a pure heart like yours wants a spotless name, take my father's—it was Herrera. I am sure, my dear Albert, whatever may be your career, you will soon render that name illustrious. Then, my son, return to the world still more brilliant because of your former sorrows; and if I am wrong, still let me cherish these hopes, for I have no future to look forward to. For me the grave opens when I pass the threshold of this house."
"I will fulfil all your wishes, my dear mother," said the young man. "Yes, I share your hopes; the anger of heaven will not pursue us, since you are pure and I am innocent. But, since our resolution is formed, let us act promptly. M. de Morcerf went out about half an hour ago; the opportunity is favorable to avoid an explanation."
"I am ready, my son," said Mercedes. Albert ran to fetch a carriage. He recollected that there was a small furnished house to let in the Rue de Saints Peres, where his mother would find a humble but decent lodging, and thither he intended conducting the countess. As the carriage stopped at the door, and Albert was alighting, a man approached and gave him a letter. Albert recognized the bearer. "From the count," said Bertuccio. Albert took the letter, opened, and read it, then looked round for Bertuccio, but he was gone. He returned to Mercedes with tears in his eyes and heaving breast, and without uttering a word he gave her the letter. Mercedes read:—
Albert,—While showing you that I have discovered your plans, I hope also to convince you of my delicacy. You are free, you leave the count's house, and you take your mother to your home; but reflect, Albert, you owe her more than your poor noble heart can pay her. Keep the struggle for yourself, bear all the suffering, but spare her the trial of poverty which must accompany your first efforts; for she deserves not even the shadow of the misfortune which has this day fallen on her, and providence is not willing that the innocent should suffer for the guilty. I know you are going to leave the Rue du Helder without taking anything with you. Do not seek to know how I discovered it; I know it—that is sufficient.
Now, listen, Albert. Twenty-four years ago I returned, proud and joyful, to my country. I had a betrothed, Albert, a lovely girl whom I adored, and I was bringing to my betrothed a hundred and fifty louis, painfully amassed by ceaseless toil. This money was for her; I destined it for her, and, knowing the treachery of the sea I buried our treasure in the little garden of the house my father lived in at Marseilles, on the Allees de Meillan. Your mother, Albert, knows that poor house well. A short time since I passed through Marseilles, and went to see the old place, which revived so many painful recollections; and in the evening I took a spade and dug in the corner of the garden where I had concealed my treasure. The iron box was there—no one had touched it—under a beautiful fig-tree my father had planted the day I was born, which overshadowed the spot. Well, Albert, this money, which was formerly designed to promote the comfort and tranquillity of the woman I adored, may now, through strange and painful circumstances, be devoted to the same purpose. Oh, feel for me, who could offer millions to that poor woman, but who return her only the piece of black bread forgotten under my poor roof since the day I was torn from her I loved. You are a generous man, Albert, but perhaps you may be blinded by pride or resentment; if you refuse me, if you ask another for what I have a right to offer you, I will say it is ungenerous of you to refuse the life of your mother at the hands of a man whose father was allowed by your father to die in all the horrors of poverty and despair.
Albert stood pale and motionless to hear what his mother would decide after she had finished reading this letter. Mercedes turned her eyes with an ineffable look towards heaven. "I accept it," said she; "he has a right to pay the dowry, which I shall take with me to some convent!" Putting the letter in her bosom, she took her son's arm, and with a firmer step than she even herself expected she went down-stairs.
Chapter 92. The Suicide.
Meanwhile Monte Cristo had also returned to town with Emmanuel and Maximilian. Their return was cheerful. Emmanuel did not conceal his joy at the peaceful termination of the affair, and was loud in his expressions of delight. Morrel, in a corner of the carriage, allowed his brother-in-law's gayety to expend itself in words, while he felt equal inward joy, which, however, betrayed itself only in his countenance. At the Barriere du Trone they met Bertuccio, who was waiting there, motionless as a sentinel at his post. Monte Cristo put his head out of the window, exchanged a few words with him in a low tone, and the steward disappeared. "Count," said Emmanuel, when they were at the end of the Place Royale, "put me down at my door, that my wife may not have a single moment of needless anxiety on my account or yours."
"If it were not ridiculous to make a display of our triumph, I would invite the count to our house; besides that, he doubtless has some trembling heart to comfort. So we will take leave of our friend, and let him hasten home."
"Stop a moment," said Monte Cristo; "do not let me lose both my companions. Return, Emmanuel, to your charming wife, and present my best compliments to her; and do you, Morrel, accompany me to the Champs Elysees."
"Willingly," said Maximilian; "particularly as I have business in that quarter."
"Shall we wait breakfast for you?" asked Emmanuel.
"No," replied the young man. The door was closed, and the carriage proceeded. "See what good fortune I brought you!" said Morrel, when he was alone with the count. "Have you not thought so?"
"Yes," said Monte Cristo; "for that reason I wished to keep you near me."
"It is miraculous!" continued Morrel, answering his own thoughts.
"What?" said Monte Cristo.
"What has just happened."
"Yes," said the Count, "you are right—it is miraculous."
"For Albert is brave," resumed Morrel.
"Very brave," said Monte Cristo; "I have seen him sleep with a sword suspended over his head."
"And I know he has fought two duels," said Morrel. "How can you reconcile that with his conduct this morning?"
"All owing to your influence," replied Monte Cristo, smiling.
"It is well for Albert he is not in the army," said Morrel.
"An apology on the ground!" said the young captain, shaking his head.
"Come," said the count mildly, "do not entertain the prejudices of ordinary men, Morrel! Acknowledge, that if Albert is brave, he cannot be a coward; he must then have had some reason for acting as he did this morning, and confess that his conduct is more heroic than otherwise."
"Doubtless, doubtless," said Morrel; "but I shall say, like the Spaniard, 'He has not been so brave to-day as he was yesterday.'"
"You will breakfast with me, will you not, Morrel?" said the count, to turn the conversation.
"No; I must leave you at ten o'clock."
"Your engagement was for breakfast, then?" said the count.
Morrel smiled, and shook his head. "Still you must breakfast somewhere."
"But if I am not hungry?" said the young man.
"Oh," said the count, "I only know two things which destroy the appetite,—grief—and as I am happy to see you very cheerful, it is not that—and love. Now after what you told me this morning of your heart, I may believe"—
"Well, count," replied Morrel gayly, "I will not dispute it."
"But you will not make me your confidant, Maximilian?" said the count, in a tone which showed how gladly he would have been admitted to the secret.
"I showed you this morning that I had a heart, did I not, count?" Monte Cristo only answered by extending his hand to the young man. "Well," continued the latter, "since that heart is no longer with you in the Bois de Vincennes, it is elsewhere, and I must go and find it."
"Go," said the count deliberately; "go, dear friend, but promise me if you meet with any obstacle to remember that I have some power in this world, that I am happy to use that power in the behalf of those I love, and that I love you, Morrel."
"I will remember it," said the young man, "as selfish children recollect their parents when they want their aid. When I need your assistance, and the moment arrives, I will come to you, count."
"Well, I rely upon your promise. Good-by, then."
"Good-by, till we meet again." They had arrived in the Champs Elysees. Monte Cristo opened the carriage-door, Morrel sprang out on the pavement, Bertuccio was waiting on the steps. Morrel disappeared down the Avenue de Marigny, and Monte Cristo hastened to join Bertuccio.
"Well?" asked he.
"She is going to leave her house," said the steward.
"And her son?"
"Florentin, his valet, thinks he is going to do the same."
"Come this way." Monte Cristo took Bertuccio into his study, wrote the letter we have seen, and gave it to the steward. "Go," said he quickly. "But first, let Haidee be informed that I have returned."
"Here I am," said the young girl, who at the sound of the carriage had run down-stairs and whose face was radiant with joy at seeing the count return safely. Bertuccio left. Every transport of a daughter finding a father, all the delight of a mistress seeing an adored lover, were felt by Haidee during the first moments of this meeting, which she had so eagerly expected. Doubtless, although less evident, Monte Cristo's joy was not less intense. Joy to hearts which have suffered long is like the dew on the ground after a long drought; both the heart and the ground absorb that beneficent moisture falling on them, and nothing is outwardly apparent.
Monte Cristo was beginning to think, what he had not for a long time dared to believe, that there were two Mercedes in the world, and he might yet be happy. His eye, elate with happiness, was reading eagerly the tearful gaze of Haidee, when suddenly the door opened. The count knit his brow. "M. de Morcerf!" said Baptistin, as if that name sufficed for his excuse. In fact, the count's face brightened.
"Which," asked he, "the viscount or the count?"
"Oh," exclaimed Haidee, "is it not yet over?"
"I know not if it is finished, my beloved child," said Monte Cristo, taking the young girl's hands; "but I do know you have nothing more to fear."
"But it is the wretched"—
"That man cannot injure me, Haidee," said Monte Cristo; "it was his son alone that there was cause to fear."
"And what I have suffered," said the young girl, "you shall never know, my lord." Monte Cristo smiled. "By my father's tomb," said he, extending his hand over the head of the young girl, "I swear to you, Haidee, that if any misfortune happens, it will not be to me."
"I believe you, my lord, as implicitly as if God had spoken to me," said the young girl, presenting her forehead to him. Monte Cristo pressed on that pure beautiful forehead a kiss which made two hearts throb at once, the one violently, the other heavily. "Oh," murmured the count, "shall I then be permitted to love again? Ask M. de Morcerf into the drawing-room," said he to Baptistin, while he led the beautiful Greek girl to a private staircase.
We must explain this visit, which although expected by Monte Cristo, is unexpected to our readers. While Mercedes, as we have said, was making a similar inventory of her property to Albert's, while she was arranging her jewels, shutting her drawers, collecting her keys, to leave everything in perfect order, she did not perceive a pale and sinister face at a glass door which threw light into the passage, from which everything could be both seen and heard. He who was thus looking, without being heard or seen, probably heard and saw all that passed in Madame de Morcerf's apartments. From that glass door the pale-faced man went to the count's bedroom and raised with a constricted hand the curtain of a window overlooking the court-yard. He remained there ten minutes, motionless and dumb, listening to the beating of his own heart. For him those ten minutes were very long. It was then Albert, returning from his meeting with the count, perceived his father watching for his arrival behind a curtain, and turned aside. The count's eye expanded; he knew Albert had insulted the count dreadfully, and that in every country in the world such an insult would lead to a deadly duel. Albert returned safely—then the count was revenged.
An indescribable ray of joy illumined that wretched countenance like the last ray of the sun before it disappears behind the clouds which bear the aspect, not of a downy couch, but of a tomb. But as we have said, he waited in vain for his son to come to his apartment with the account of his triumph. He easily understood why his son did not come to see him before he went to avenge his father's honor; but when that was done, why did not his son come and throw himself into his arms?
It was then, when the count could not see Albert, that he sent for his servant, who he knew was authorized not to conceal anything from him. Ten minutes afterwards, General Morcerf was seen on the steps in a black coat with a military collar, black pantaloons, and black gloves. He had apparently given previous orders, for as he reached the bottom step his carriage came from the coach-house ready for him. The valet threw into the carriage his military cloak, in which two swords were wrapped, and, shutting the door, he took his seat by the side of the coachman. The coachman stooped down for his orders.
"To the Champs Elysees," said the general; "the Count of Monte Cristo's. Hurry!" The horses bounded beneath the whip; and in five minutes they stopped before the count's door. M. de Morcerf opened the door himself, and as the carriage rolled away he passed up the walk, rang, and entered the open door with his servant.
A moment afterwards, Baptistin announced the Count of Morcerf to Monte Cristo, and the latter, leading Haidee aside, ordered that Morcerf be asked into the drawing-room. The general was pacing the room the third time when, in turning, he perceived Monte Cristo at the door. "Ah, it is M. de Morcerf," said Monte Cristo quietly; "I thought I had not heard aright."
"Yes, it is I," said the count, whom a frightful contraction of the lips prevented from articulating freely.
"May I know the cause which procures me the pleasure of seeing M. de Morcerf so early?"
"Had you not a meeting with my son this morning?" asked the general.
"I had," replied the count.
"And I know my son had good reasons to wish to fight with you, and to endeavor to kill you."
"Yes, sir, he had very good ones; but you see that in spite of them he has not killed me, and did not even fight."
"Yet he considered you the cause of his father's dishonor, the cause of the fearful ruin which has fallen on my house."
"It is true, sir," said Monte Cristo with his dreadful calmness; "a secondary cause, but not the principal."
"Doubtless you made, then, some apology or explanation?"
"I explained nothing, and it is he who apologized to me."
"But to what do you attribute this conduct?"
"To the conviction, probably, that there was one more guilty than I."
"And who was that?"
"That may be," said the count, turning pale; "but you know the guilty do not like to find themselves convicted."
"I know it, and I expected this result."
"You expected my son would be a coward?" cried the count.
"M. Albert de Morcerf is no coward!" said Monte Cristo.
"A man who holds a sword in his hand, and sees a mortal enemy within reach of that sword, and does not fight, is a coward! Why is he not here that I may tell him so?"
"Sir." replied Monte Cristo coldly, "I did not expect that you had come here to relate to me your little family affairs. Go and tell M. Albert that, and he may know what to answer you."
"Oh, no, no," said the general, smiling faintly, "I did not come for that purpose; you are right. I came to tell you that I also look upon you as my enemy. I came to tell you that I hate you instinctively; that it seems as if I had always known you, and always hated you; and, in short, since the young people of the present day will not fight, it remains for us to do so. Do you think so, sir?"
"Certainly. And when I told you I had foreseen the result, it is the honor of your visit I alluded to."
"So much the better. Are you prepared?"
"You know that we shall fight till one of us is dead," said the general, whose teeth were clinched with rage. "Until one of us dies," repeated Monte Cristo, moving his head slightly up and down.
"Let us start, then; we need no witnesses."
"Very true," said Monte Cristo; "it is unnecessary, we know each other so well!"
"On the contrary," said the count, "we know so little of each other."
"Indeed?" said Monte Cristo, with the same indomitable coolness; "let us see. Are you not the soldier Fernand who deserted on the eve of the battle of Waterloo? Are you not the Lieutenant Fernand who served as guide and spy to the French army in Spain? Are you not the Captain Fernand who betrayed, sold, and murdered his benefactor, Ali? And have not all these Fernands, united, made Lieutenant-General, the Count of Morcerf, peer of France?"
"Oh," cried the general, as if branded with a hot iron, "wretch,—to reproach me with my shame when about, perhaps, to kill me! No, I did not say I was a stranger to you. I know well, demon, that you have penetrated into the darkness of the past, and that you have read, by the light of what torch I know not, every page of my life; but perhaps I may be more honorable in my shame than you under your pompous coverings. No—no, I am aware you know me; but I know you only as an adventurer sewn up in gold and jewellery. You call yourself in Paris the Count of Monte Cristo; in Italy, Sinbad the Sailor; in Malta, I forget what. But it is your real name I want to know, in the midst of your hundred names, that I may pronounce it when we meet to fight, at the moment when I plunge my sword through your heart."
The Count of Monte Cristo turned dreadfully pale; his eye seemed to burn with a devouring fire. He leaped towards a dressing-room near his bedroom, and in less than a moment, tearing off his cravat, his coat and waistcoat, he put on a sailor's jacket and hat, from beneath which rolled his long black hair. He returned thus, formidable and implacable, advancing with his arms crossed on his breast, towards the general, who could not understand why he had disappeared, but who on seeing him again, and feeling his teeth chatter and his legs sink under him, drew back, and only stopped when he found a table to support his clinched hand. "Fernand," cried he, "of my hundred names I need only tell you one, to overwhelm you! But you guess it now, do you not?—or, rather, you remember it? For, notwithstanding all my sorrows and my tortures, I show you to-day a face which the happiness of revenge makes young again—a face you must often have seen in your dreams since your marriage with Mercedes, my betrothed!"
The general, with his head thrown back, hands extended, gaze fixed, looked silently at this dreadful apparition; then seeking the wall to support him, he glided along close to it until he reached the door, through which he went out backwards, uttering this single mournful, lamentable, distressing cry,—"Edmond Dantes!" Then, with sighs which were unlike any human sound, he dragged himself to the door, reeled across the court-yard, and falling into the arms of his valet, he said in a voice scarcely intelligible,—"Home, home." The fresh air and the shame he felt at having exposed himself before his servants, partly recalled his senses, but the ride was short, and as he drew near his house all his wretchedness revived. He stopped at a short distance from the house and alighted.
The door was wide open, a hackney-coach was standing in the middle of the yard—a strange sight before so noble a mansion; the count looked at it with terror, but without daring to inquire its meaning, he rushed towards his apartment. Two persons were coming down the stairs; he had only time to creep into an alcove to avoid them. It was Mercedes leaning on her son's arm and leaving the house. They passed close by the unhappy being, who, concealed behind the damask curtain, almost felt Mercedes dress brush past him, and his son's warm breath, pronouncing these words,—"Courage, mother! Come, this is no longer our home!" The words died away, the steps were lost in the distance. The general drew himself up, clinging to the curtain; he uttered the most dreadful sob which ever escaped from the bosom of a father abandoned at the same time by his wife and son. He soon heard the clatter of the iron step of the hackney-coach, then the coachman's voice, and then the rolling of the heavy vehicle shook the windows. He darted to his bedroom to see once more all he had loved in the world; but the hackney-coach drove on and the head of neither Mercedes nor her son appeared at the window to take a last look at the house or the deserted father and husband. And at the very moment when the wheels of that coach crossed the gateway a report was heard, and a thick smoke escaped through one of the panes of the window, which was broken by the explosion.
Chapter 93. Valentine.
We may easily conceive where Morrel's appointment was. On leaving Monte Cristo he walked slowly towards Villefort's; we say slowly, for Morrel had more than half an hour to spare to go five hundred steps, but he had hastened to take leave of Monte Cristo because he wished to be alone with his thoughts. He knew his time well—the hour when Valentine was giving Noirtier his breakfast, and was sure not to be disturbed in the performance of this pious duty. Noirtier and Valentine had given him leave to go twice a week, and he was now availing himself of that permission. He had arrived; Valentine was expecting him. Uneasy and almost crazed, she seized his hand and led him to her grandfather. This uneasiness, amounting almost to frenzy, arose from the report Morcerf's adventure had made in the world, for the affair at the opera was generally known. No one at Villefort's doubted that a duel would ensue from it. Valentine, with her woman's instinct, guessed that Morrel would be Monte Cristo's second, and from the young man's well-known courage and his great affection for the count, she feared that he would not content himself with the passive part assigned to him. We may easily understand how eagerly the particulars were asked for, given, and received; and Morrel could read an indescribable joy in the eyes of his beloved, when she knew that the termination of this affair was as happy as it was unexpected.
"Now," said Valentine, motioning to Morrel to sit down near her grandfather, while she took her seat on his footstool,—"now let us talk about our own affairs. You know, Maximilian, grandpapa once thought of leaving this house, and taking an apartment away from M. de Villefort's."
"Yes," said Maximilian, "I recollect the project, of which I highly approved."
"Well," said Valentine, "you may approve again, for grandpapa is again thinking of it."
"Bravo," said Maximilian.
"And do you know," said Valentine, "what reason grandpapa gives for leaving this house." Noirtier looked at Valentine to impose silence, but she did not notice him; her looks, her eyes, her smile, were all for Morrel.
"Oh, whatever may be M. Noirtier's reason," answered Morrel, "I can readily believe it to be a good one."
"An excellent one," said Valentine. "He pretends the air of the Faubourg St. Honore is not good for me."
"Indeed?" said Morrel; "in that M. Noirtier may be right; you have not seemed to be well for the last fortnight."
"Not very," said Valentine. "And grandpapa has become my physician, and I have the greatest confidence in him, because he knows everything."
"Do you then really suffer?" asked Morrel quickly.
"Oh, it must not be called suffering; I feel a general uneasiness, that is all. I have lost my appetite, and my stomach feels as if it were struggling to get accustomed to something." Noirtier did not lose a word of what Valentine said. "And what treatment do you adopt for this singular complaint?"
"A very simple one," said Valentine. "I swallow every morning a spoonful of the mixture prepared for my grandfather. When I say one spoonful, I began by one—now I take four. Grandpapa says it is a panacea." Valentine smiled, but it was evident that she suffered.
Maximilian, in his devotedness, gazed silently at her. She was very beautiful, but her usual pallor had increased; her eyes were more brilliant than ever, and her hands, which were generally white like mother-of-pearl, now more resembled wax, to which time was adding a yellowish hue. From Valentine the young man looked towards Noirtier. The latter watched with strange and deep interest the young girl, absorbed by her affection, and he also, like Morrel, followed those traces of inward suffering which was so little perceptible to a common observer that they escaped the notice of every one but the grandfather and the lover.
"But," said Morrel, "I thought this mixture, of which you now take four spoonfuls, was prepared for M. Noirtier?"
"I know it is very bitter," said Valentine; "so bitter, that all I drink afterwards appears to have the same taste." Noirtier looked inquiringly at his granddaughter. "Yes, grandpapa," said Valentine; "it is so. Just now, before I came down to you, I drank a glass of sugared water; I left half, because it seemed so bitter." Noirtier turned pale, and made a sign that he wished to speak. Valentine rose to fetch the dictionary. Noirtier watched her with evident anguish. In fact, the blood was rushing to the young girl's head already, her cheeks were becoming red. "Oh," cried she, without losing any of her cheerfulness, "this is singular! I can't see! Did the sun shine in my eyes?" And she leaned against the window.
"The sun is not shining," said Morrel, more alarmed by Noirtier's expression than by Valentine's indisposition. He ran towards her. The young girl smiled. "Cheer up," said she to Noirtier. "Do not be alarmed, Maximilian; it is nothing, and has already passed away. But listen! Do I not hear a carriage in the court-yard?" She opened Noirtier's door, ran to a window in the passage, and returned hastily. "Yes," said she, "it is Madame Danglars and her daughter, who have come to call on us. Good-by;—I must run away, for they would send here for me, or, rather, farewell till I see you again. Stay with grandpapa, Maximilian; I promise you not to persuade them to stay."
Morrel watched her as she left the room; he heard her ascend the little staircase which led both to Madame de Villefort's apartments and to hers. As soon as she was gone, Noirtier made a sign to Morrel to take the dictionary. Morrel obeyed; guided by Valentine, he had learned how to understand the old man quickly. Accustomed, however, as he was to the work, he had to repeat most of the letters of the alphabet and to find every word in the dictionary, so that it was ten minutes before the thought of the old man was translated by these words, "Fetch the glass of water and the decanter from Valentine's room."
Morrel rang immediately for the servant who had taken Barrois's situation, and in Noirtier's name gave that order. The servant soon returned. The decanter and the glass were completely empty. Noirtier made a sign that he wished to speak. "Why are the glass and decanter empty?" asked he; "Valentine said she only drank half the glassful." The translation of this new question occupied another five minutes. "I do not know," said the servant, "but the housemaid is in Mademoiselle Valentine's room: perhaps she has emptied them."
"Ask her," said Morrel, translating Noirtier's thought this time by his look. The servant went out, but returned almost immediately. "Mademoiselle Valentine passed through the room to go to Madame de Villefort's," said he; "and in passing, as she was thirsty, she drank what remained in the glass; as for the decanter, Master Edward had emptied that to make a pond for his ducks." Noirtier raised his eyes to heaven, as a gambler does who stakes his all on one stroke. From that moment the old man's eyes were fixed on the door, and did not quit it.
It was indeed Madame Danglars and her daughter whom Valentine had seen; they had been ushered into Madame de Villefort's room, who had said she would receive them there. That is why Valentine passed through her room, which was on a level with Valentine's, and only separated from it by Edward's. The two ladies entered the drawing-room with that sort of official stiffness which preludes a formal communication. Among worldly people manner is contagious. Madame de Villefort received them with equal solemnity. Valentine entered at this moment, and the formalities were resumed. "My dear friend," said the baroness, while the two young people were shaking hands, "I and Eugenie are come to be the first to announce to you the approaching marriage of my daughter with Prince Cavalcanti." Danglars kept up the title of prince. The popular banker found that it answered better than count. "Allow me to present you my sincere congratulations," replied Madame de Villefort. "Prince Cavalcanti appears to be a young man of rare qualities."
"Listen," said the baroness, smiling; "speaking to you as a friend I can say that the prince does not yet appear all he will be. He has about him a little of that foreign manner by which French persons recognize, at first sight, the Italian or German nobleman. Besides, he gives evidence of great kindness of disposition, much keenness of wit, and as to suitability, M. Danglars assures me that his fortune is majestic—that is his word."
"And then," said Eugenie, while turning over the leaves of Madame de Villefort's album, "add that you have taken a great fancy to the young man."
"And," said Madame de Villefort, "I need not ask you if you share that fancy."
"I?" replied Eugenie with her usual candor. "Oh, not the least in the world, madame! My wish was not to confine myself to domestic cares, or the caprices of any man, but to be an artist, and consequently free in heart, in person, and in thought." Eugenie pronounced these words with so firm a tone that the color mounted to Valentine's cheeks. The timid girl could not understand that vigorous nature which appeared to have none of the timidities of woman.
"At any rate," said she, "since I am to be married whether I will or not, I ought to be thankful to providence for having released me from my engagement with M. Albert de Morcerf, or I should this day have been the wife of a dishonored man."
"It is true," said the baroness, with that strange simplicity sometimes met with among fashionable ladies, and of which plebeian intercourse can never entirely deprive them,—"it is very true that had not the Morcerfs hesitated, my daughter would have married Monsieur Albert. The general depended much on it; he even came to force M. Danglars. We have had a narrow escape."
"But," said Valentine, timidly, "does all the father's shame revert upon the son? Monsieur Albert appears to me quite innocent of the treason charged against the general."
"Excuse me," said the implacable young girl, "Monsieur Albert claims and well deserves his share. It appears that after having challenged M. de Monte Cristo at the Opera yesterday, he apologized on the ground to-day."
"Impossible," said Madame de Villefort.
"Ah, my dear friend," said Madame Danglars, with the same simplicity we before noticed, "it is a fact. I heard it from M. Debray, who was present at the explanation." Valentine also knew the truth, but she did not answer. A single word had reminded her that Morrel was expecting her in M. Noirtier's room. Deeply engaged with a sort of inward contemplation, Valentine had ceased for a moment to join in the conversation. She would, indeed, have found it impossible to repeat what had been said the last few minutes, when suddenly Madame Danglars' hand, pressed on her arm, aroused her from her lethargy.
"What is it?" said she, starting at Madame Danglars' touch as she would have done from an electric shock. "It is, my dear Valentine," said the baroness, "that you are, doubtless, suffering."
"I?" said the young girl, passing her hand across her burning forehead.
"Yes, look at yourself in that glass; you have turned pale and then red successively, three or four times in one minute."
"Indeed," cried Eugenie, "you are very pale!"
"Oh, do not be alarmed; I have been so for many days." Artless as she was, the young girl knew that this was an opportunity to leave, and besides, Madame de Villefort came to her assistance. "Retire, Valentine," said she; "you are really suffering, and these ladies will excuse you; drink a glass of pure water, it will restore you." Valentine kissed Eugenie, bowed to Madame Danglars, who had already risen to take her leave, and went out. "That poor child," said Madame de Villefort when Valentine was gone, "she makes me very uneasy, and I should not be astonished if she had some serious illness."
Meanwhile, Valentine, in a sort of excitement which she could not quite understand, had crossed Edward's room without noticing some trick of the child, and through her own had reached the little staircase. She was within three steps of the bottom; she already heard Morrel's voice, when suddenly a cloud passed over her eyes, her stiffened foot missed the step, her hands had no power to hold the baluster, and falling against the wall she lost her balance wholly and toppled to the floor. Morrel bounded to the door, opened it, and found Valentine stretched out at the bottom of the stairs. Quick as a flash, he raised her in his arms and placed her in a chair. Valentine opened her eyes.
"Oh, what a clumsy thing I am," said she with feverish volubility; "I don't know my way. I forgot there were three more steps before the landing."
"You have hurt yourself, perhaps," said Morrel. "What can I do for you, Valentine?" Valentine looked around her; she saw the deepest terror depicted in Noirtier's eyes. "Don't worry, dear grandpapa," said she, endeavoring to smile; "it is nothing—it is nothing; I was giddy, that is all."
"Another attack of giddiness," said Morrel, clasping his hands. "Oh, attend to it, Valentine, I entreat you."
"But no," said Valentine,—"no, I tell you it is all past, and it was nothing. Now, let me tell you some news; Eugenie is to be married in a week, and in three days there is to be a grand feast, a betrothal festival. We are all invited, my father, Madame de Villefort, and I—at least, I understood it so."
"When will it be our turn to think of these things? Oh, Valentine, you who have so much influence over your grandpapa, try to make him answer—Soon."
"And do you," said Valentine, "depend on me to stimulate the tardiness and arouse the memory of grandpapa?"
"Yes," cried Morrel, "make haste. So long as you are not mine, Valentine, I shall always think I may lose you."
"Oh," replied Valentine with a convulsive movement, "oh, indeed, Maximilian, you are too timid for an officer, for a soldier who, they say, never knows fear. Ah, ha, ha!" she burst into a forced and melancholy laugh, her arms stiffened and twisted, her head fell back on her chair, and she remained motionless. The cry of terror which was stopped on Noirtier's lips, seemed to start from his eyes. Morrel understood it; he knew he must call assistance. The young man rang the bell violently; the housemaid who had been in Mademoiselle Valentine's room, and the servant who had replaced Barrois, ran in at the same moment. Valentine was so pale, so cold, so inanimate that without listening to what was said to them they were seized with the fear which pervaded that house, and they flew into the passage crying for help. Madame Danglars and Eugenie were going out at that moment; they heard the cause of the disturbance. "I told you so!" exclaimed Madame de Villefort. "Poor child!"
Chapter 94. Maximilian's Avowal.
At the same moment M. de Villefort's voice was heard calling from his study, "What is the matter?" Morrel looked at Noirtier who had recovered his self-command, and with a glance indicated the closet where once before under somewhat similar circumstances, he had taken refuge. He had only time to get his hat and throw himself breathless into the closet when the procureur's footstep was heard in the passage. Villefort sprang into the room, ran to Valentine, and took her in his arms. "A physician, a physician,—M. d'Avrigny!" cried Villefort; "or rather I will go for him myself." He flew from the apartment, and Morrel at the same moment darted out at the other door. He had been struck to the heart by a frightful recollection—the conversation he had heard between the doctor and Villefort the night of Madame de Saint-Meran's death, recurred to him; these symptoms, to a less alarming extent, were the same which had preceded the death of Barrois. At the same time Monte Cristo's voice seemed to resound in his ear with the words he had heard only two hours before, "Whatever you want, Morrel, come to me; I have great power." More rapidly than thought, he darted down the Rue Matignon, and thence to the Avenue des Champs Elysees.
Meanwhile M. de Villefort arrived in a hired cabriolet at M. d'Avrigny's door. He rang so violently that the porter was alarmed. Villefort ran up-stairs without saying a word. The porter knew him, and let him pass, only calling to him, "In his study, Monsieur Procureur—in his study!" Villefort pushed, or rather forced, the door open. "Ah," said the doctor, "is it you?"
"Yes," said Villefort, closing the door after him, "it is I, who am come in my turn to ask you if we are quite alone. Doctor, my house is accursed!"
"What?" said the latter with apparent coolness, but with deep emotion, "have you another invalid?"
"Yes, doctor," cried Villefort, clutching his hair, "yes!"
D'Avrigny's look implied, "I told you it would be so." Then he slowly uttered these words, "Who is now dying in your house? What new victim is going to accuse you of weakness before God?" A mournful sob burst from Villefort's heart; he approached the doctor, and seizing his arm,—"Valentine," said he, "it is Valentine's turn!"
"Your daughter?" cried d'Avrigny with grief and surprise.
"You see you were deceived," murmured the magistrate; "come and see her, and on her bed of agony entreat her pardon for having suspected her."
"Each time you have applied to me," said the doctor, "it has been too late; still I will go. But let us make haste, sir; with the enemies you have to do with there is no time to be lost."
"Oh, this time, doctor, you shall not have to reproach me with weakness. This time I will know the assassin, and will pursue him."
"Let us try first to save the victim before we think of revenging her," said d'Avrigny. "Come." The same cabriolet which had brought Villefort took them back at full speed, and at this moment Morrel rapped at Monte Cristo's door. The count was in his study and was reading with an angry look something which Bertuccio had brought in haste. Hearing the name of Morrel, who had left him only two hours before, the count raised his head, arose, and sprang to meet him. "What is the matter, Maximilian?" asked he; "you are pale, and the perspiration rolls from your forehead." Morrel fell into a chair. "Yes," said he, "I came quickly; I wanted to speak to you."
"Are all your family well?" asked the count, with an affectionate benevolence, whose sincerity no one could for a moment doubt.
"Thank you, count—thank you," said the young man, evidently embarrassed how to begin the conversation; "yes, every one in my family is well."
"So much the better; yet you have something to tell me?" replied the count with increased anxiety.
"Yes," said Morrel, "it is true; I have but now left a house where death has just entered, to run to you."
"Are you then come from M. de Morcerf's?" asked Monte Cristo.
"No," said Morrel; "is some one dead in his house?"
"The general has just blown his brains out," replied Monte Cristo with great coolness.
"Oh, what a dreadful event!" cried Maximilian.
"Not for the countess, or for Albert," said Monte Cristo; "a dead father or husband is better than a dishonored one,—blood washes out shame."
"Poor countess," said Maximilian, "I pity her very much; she is so noble a woman!"
"Pity Albert also, Maximilian; for believe me he is the worthy son of the countess. But let us return to yourself. You have hastened to me—can I have the happiness of being useful to you?"
"Yes, I need your help: that is I thought like a madman that you could lend me your assistance in a case where God alone can succor me."
"Tell me what it is," replied Monte Cristo.
"Oh," said Morrel, "I know not, indeed, if I may reveal this secret to mortal ears, but fatality impels me, necessity constrains me, count"—Morrel hesitated. "Do you think I love you?" said Monte Cristo, taking the young man's hand affectionately in his.
"Oh, you encourage me, and something tells me there," placing his hand on his heart, "that I ought to have no secret from you."
"You are right, Morrel; God is speaking to your heart, and your heart speaks to you. Tell me what it says."
"Count, will you allow me to send Baptistin to inquire after some one you know?"
"I am at your service, and still more my servants."
"Oh, I cannot live if she is not better."
"Shall I ring for Baptistin?"
"No, I will go and speak to him myself." Morrel went out, called Baptistin, and whispered a few words to him. The valet ran directly. "Well, have you sent?" asked Monte Cristo, seeing Morrel return.
"Yes, and now I shall be more calm."
"You know I am waiting," said Monte Cristo, smiling.
"Yes, and I will tell you. One evening I was in a garden; a clump of trees concealed me; no one suspected I was there. Two persons passed near me—allow me to conceal their names for the present; they were speaking in an undertone, and yet I was so interested in what they said that I did not lose a single word."
"This is a gloomy introduction, if I may judge from your pallor and shuddering, Morrel."
"Oh, yes, very gloomy, my friend. Some one had just died in the house to which that garden belonged. One of the persons whose conversation I overheard was the master of the house; the other, the physician. The former was confiding to the latter his grief and fear, for it was the second time within a month that death had suddenly and unexpectedly entered that house which was apparently destined to destruction by some exterminating angel, as an object of God's anger."
"Ah, indeed?" said Monte Cristo, looking earnestly at the young man, and by an imperceptible movement turning his chair, so that he remained in the shade while the light fell full on Maximilian's face. "Yes," continued Morrel, "death had entered that house twice within one month."
"And what did the doctor answer?" asked Monte Cristo.
"He replied—he replied, that the death was not a natural one, and must be attributed"—
"Indeed?" said Monte Cristo with a slight cough which in moments of extreme emotion helped him to disguise a blush, or his pallor, or the intense interest with which he listened; "indeed, Maximilian, did you hear that?"
"Yes, my dear count, I heard it; and the doctor added that if another death occurred in a similar way he must appeal to justice." Monte Cristo listened, or appeared to do so, with the greatest calmness. "Well," said Maximilian, "death came a third time, and neither the master of the house nor the doctor said a word. Death is now, perhaps, striking a fourth blow. Count, what am I bound to do, being in possession of this secret?"
"My dear friend," said Monte Cristo, "you appear to be relating an adventure which we all know by heart. I know the house where you heard it, or one very similar to it; a house with a garden, a master, a physician, and where there have been three unexpected and sudden deaths. Well, I have not intercepted your confidence, and yet I know all that as well as you, and I have no conscientious scruples. No, it does not concern me. You say an exterminating angel appears to have devoted that house to God's anger—well, who says your supposition is not reality? Do not notice things which those whose interest it is to see them pass over. If it is God's justice, instead of his anger, which is walking through that house, Maximilian, turn away your face and let his justice accomplish its purpose." Morrel shuddered. There was something mournful, solemn, and terrible in the count's manner. "Besides," continued he, in so changed a tone that no one would have supposed it was the same person speaking—"besides, who says that it will begin again?"
"It has returned, count," exclaimed Morrel; "that is why I hastened to you."
"Well, what do you wish me to do? Do you wish me, for instance, to give information to the procureur?" Monte Cristo uttered the last words with so much meaning that Morrel, starting up, cried out, "You know of whom I speak, count, do you not?"
"Perfectly well, my good friend; and I will prove it to you by putting the dots to the 'i,' or rather by naming the persons. You were walking one evening in M. de Villefort's garden; from what you relate, I suppose it to have been the evening of Madame de Saint-Meran's death. You heard M. de Villefort talking to M. d'Avrigny about the death of M. de Saint-Meran, and that no less surprising, of the countess. M. d'Avrigny said he believed they both proceeded from poison; and you, honest man, have ever since been asking your heart and sounding your conscience to know if you ought to expose or conceal this secret. Why do you torment them? 'Conscience, what hast thou to do with me?' as Sterne said. My dear fellow, let them sleep on, if they are asleep; let them grow pale in their drowsiness, if they are disposed to do so, and pray do you remain in peace, who have no remorse to disturb you." Deep grief was depicted on Morrel's features; he seized Monte Cristo's hand. "But it is beginning again, I say!"
"Well," said the Count, astonished at his perseverance, which he could not understand, and looking still more earnestly at Maximilian, "let it begin again,—it is like the house of the Atreidae; [*] God has condemned them, and they must submit to their punishment. They will all disappear, like the fabrics children build with cards, and which fall, one by one, under the breath of their builder, even if there are two hundred of them. Three months since it was M. de Saint-Meran; Madame de Saint-Meran two months since; the other day it was Barrois; to-day, the old Noirtier, or young Valentine."
* In the old Greek legend the Atreidae, or children of Atreus, were doomed to punishment because of the abominable crime of their father. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus is based on this legend.
"You knew it?" cried Morrel, in such a paroxysm of terror that Monte Cristo started,—he whom the falling heavens would have found unmoved; "you knew it, and said nothing?"
"And what is it to me?" replied Monte Cristo, shrugging his shoulders; "do I know those people? and must I lose the one to save the other? Faith, no, for between the culprit and the victim I have no choice."
"But I," cried Morrel, groaning with sorrow, "I love her!"
"You love?—whom?" cried Monte Cristo, starting to his feet, and seizing the two hands which Morrel was raising towards heaven.
"I love most fondly—I love madly—I love as a man who would give his life-blood to spare her a tear—I love Valentine de Villefort, who is being murdered at this moment! Do you understand me? I love her; and I ask God and you how I can save her?" Monte Cristo uttered a cry which those only can conceive who have heard the roar of a wounded lion. "Unhappy man," cried he, wringing his hands in his turn; "you love Valentine,—that daughter of an accursed race!" Never had Morrel witnessed such an expression—never had so terrible an eye flashed before his face—never had the genius of terror he had so often seen, either on the battle-field or in the murderous nights of Algeria, shaken around him more dreadful fire. He drew back terrified.
As for Monte Cristo, after this ebullition he closed his eyes as if dazzled by internal light. In a moment he restrained himself so powerfully that the tempestuous heaving of his breast subsided, as turbulent and foaming waves yield to the sun's genial influence when the cloud has passed. This silence, self-control, and struggle lasted about twenty seconds, then the count raised his pallid face. "See," said he, "my dear friend, how God punishes the most thoughtless and unfeeling men for their indifference, by presenting dreadful scenes to their view. I, who was looking on, an eager and curious spectator,—I, who was watching the working of this mournful tragedy,—I, who like a wicked angel was laughing at the evil men committed protected by secrecy (a secret is easily kept by the rich and powerful), I am in my turn bitten by the serpent whose tortuous course I was watching, and bitten to the heart!"
Morrel groaned. "Come, come," continued the count, "complaints are unavailing, be a man, be strong, be full of hope, for I am here and will watch over you." Morrel shook his head sorrowfully. "I tell you to hope. Do you understand me?" cried Monte Cristo. "Remember that I never uttered a falsehood and am never deceived. It is twelve o'clock, Maximilian; thank heaven that you came at noon rather than in the evening, or to-morrow morning. Listen, Morrel—it is noon; if Valentine is not now dead, she will not die."
"How so?" cried Morrel, "when I left her dying?" Monte Cristo pressed his hands to his forehead. What was passing in that brain, so loaded with dreadful secrets? What does the angel of light or the angel of darkness say to that mind, at once implacable and generous? God only knows.
Monte Cristo raised his head once more, and this time he was calm as a child awaking from its sleep. "Maximilian," said he, "return home. I command you not to stir—attempt nothing, not to let your countenance betray a thought, and I will send you tidings. Go."
"Oh, count, you overwhelm me with that coolness. Have you, then, power against death? Are you superhuman? Are you an angel?" And the young man, who had never shrunk from danger, shrank before Monte Cristo with indescribable terror. But Monte Cristo looked at him with so melancholy and sweet a smile, that Maximilian felt the tears filling his eyes. "I can do much for you, my friend," replied the count. "Go; I must be alone." Morrel, subdued by the extraordinary ascendancy Monte Cristo exercised over everything around him, did not endeavor to resist it. He pressed the count's hand and left. He stopped one moment at the door for Baptistin, whom he saw in the Rue Matignon, and who was running.
Meanwhile, Villefort and d'Avrigny had made all possible haste, Valentine had not revived from her fainting fit on their arrival, and the doctor examined the invalid with all the care the circumstances demanded, and with an interest which the knowledge of the secret intensified twofold. Villefort, closely watching his countenance and his lips, awaited the result of the examination. Noirtier, paler than even the young girl, more eager than Villefort for the decision, was watching also intently and affectionately. At last d'Avrigny slowly uttered these words:—"she is still alive!"