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The Count of Monte Cristo

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Chapter 55. Major Cavalcanti


Both the count and Baptistin had told the truth when they announced to Morcerf the proposed visit of the major, which had served Monte Cristo as a pretext for declining Albert’s invitation. Seven o’clock had just struck, and M. Bertuccio, according to the command which had been given him, had two hours before left for Auteuil, when a cab stopped at the door, and after depositing its occupant at the gate, immediately hurried away, as if ashamed of its employment. The visitor was about fifty-two years of age, dressed in one of the green surtouts, ornamented with black frogs, which have so long maintained their popularity all over Europe. He wore trousers of blue cloth, boots tolerably clean, but not of the brightest polish, and a little too thick in the soles, buckskin gloves, a hat somewhat resembling in shape those usually worn by the gendarmes, and a black cravat striped with white, which, if the proprietor had not worn it of his own free will, might have passed for a halter, so much did it resemble one. Such was the picturesque costume of the person who rang at the gate, and demanded if it was not at No. 30 in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées that the Count of Monte Cristo lived, and who, being answered by the porter in the affirmative, entered, closed the gate after him, and began to ascend the steps.

The small and angular head of this man, his white hair and thick gray moustaches, caused him to be easily recognized by Baptistin, who had received an exact description of the expected visitor, and who was awaiting him in the hall. Therefore, scarcely had the stranger time to pronounce his name before the count was apprised of his arrival. He was ushered into a simple and elegant drawing-room, and the count rose to meet him with a smiling air.

“Ah, my dear sir, you are most welcome; I was expecting you.”

“Indeed,” said the Italian, “was your excellency then aware of my visit?”

“Yes; I had been told that I should see you today at seven o’clock.”

“Then you have received full information concerning my arrival?”

“Of course.”

“Ah, so much the better, I feared this little precaution might have been forgotten.”

“What precaution?”

“That of informing you beforehand of my coming.”

“Oh, no, it has not.”

“But you are sure you are not mistaken.”

“Very sure.”

“It really was I whom your excellency expected at seven o’clock this evening?”

“I will prove it to you beyond a doubt.”

“Oh, no, never mind that,” said the Italian; “it is not worth the trouble.”

“Yes, yes,” said Monte Cristo. His visitor appeared slightly uneasy. “Let me see,” said the count; “are you not the Marquis Bartolomeo Cavalcanti?”

“Bartolomeo Cavalcanti,” joyfully replied the Italian; “yes, I am really he.”

“Ex-major in the Austrian service?”

“Was I a major?” timidly asked the old soldier.

“Yes,” said Monte Cristo “you were a major; that is the title the French give to the post which you filled in Italy.”

“Very good,” said the major, “I do not demand more, you understand——”

“Your visit here today is not of your own suggestion, is it?” said Monte Cristo.

“No, certainly not.”

“You were sent by some other person?”

“Yes.”

“By the excellent Abbé Busoni?”

“Exactly so,” said the delighted major.

“And you have a letter?”

“Yes, there it is.”

“Give it to me, then.” And Monte Cristo took the letter, which he opened and read. The major looked at the count with his large staring eyes, and then took a survey of the apartment, but his gaze almost immediately reverted to the proprietor of the room.

“Yes, yes, I see. ‘Major Cavalcanti, a worthy patrician of Lucca, a descendant of the Cavalcanti of Florence,’” continued Monte Cristo, reading aloud, “‘possessing an income of half a million.’”

Monte Cristo raised his eyes from the paper, and bowed.

“Half a million,” said he, “magnificent!”

“Half a million, is it?” said the major.

“Yes, in so many words; and it must be so, for the abbé knows correctly the amount of all the largest fortunes in Europe.”

“Be it half a million, then; but on my word of honor, I had no idea that it was so much.”

“Because you are robbed by your steward. You must make some reformation in that quarter.”

“You have opened my eyes,” said the Italian gravely; “I will show the gentlemen the door.”

Monte Cristo resumed the perusal of the letter:

“‘And who only needs one thing more to make him happy.’”

“Yes, indeed but one!” said the major with a sigh.

“‘Which is to recover a lost and adored son.’”

“A lost and adored son!”

“‘Stolen away in his infancy, either by an enemy of his noble family or by the gypsies.’”

“At the age of five years!” said the major with a deep sigh, and raising his eye to heaven.

“Unhappy father,” said Monte Cristo. The count continued:

“‘I have given him renewed life and hope, in the assurance that you have the power of restoring the son whom he has vainly sought for fifteen years.’”

The major looked at the count with an indescribable expression of anxiety.

“I have the power of so doing,” said Monte Cristo. The major recovered his self-possession.

“So, then,” said he, “the letter was true to the end?”

“Did you doubt it, my dear Monsieur Bartolomeo?”

“No, indeed; certainly not; a good man, a man holding religious office, as does the Abbé Busoni, could not condescend to deceive or play off a joke; but your excellency has not read all.”

“Ah, true,” said Monte Cristo “there is a postscript.”

“Yes, yes,” repeated the major, “yes—there—is—a—postscript.”

“‘In order to save Major Cavalcanti the trouble of drawing on his banker, I send him a draft for 2,000 francs to defray his travelling expenses, and credit on you for the further sum of 48,000 francs, which you still owe me.’”

The major awaited the conclusion of the postscript, apparently with great anxiety.

“Very good,” said the count.

“He said ‘very good,’” muttered the major, “then—sir——” replied he.

“Then what?” asked Monte Cristo.

“Then the postscript——”

“Well; what of the postscript?”

“Then the postscript is as favorably received by you as the rest of the letter?”

“Certainly; the Abbé Busoni and myself have a small account open between us. I do not remember if it is exactly 48,000 francs, which I am still owing him, but I dare say we shall not dispute the difference. You attached great importance, then, to this postscript, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti?”

“I must explain to you,” said the major, “that, fully confiding in the signature of the Abbé Busoni, I had not provided myself with any other funds; so that if this resource had failed me, I should have found myself very unpleasantly situated in Paris.”

“Is it possible that a man of your standing should be embarrassed anywhere?” said Monte Cristo.

“Why, really I know no one,” said the major.

“But then you yourself are known to others?”

“Yes, I am known, so that——”

“Proceed, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti.”

“So that you will remit to me these 48,000 francs?”

“Certainly, at your first request.” The major’s eyes dilated with pleasing astonishment. “But sit down,” said Monte Cristo; “really I do not know what I have been thinking of—I have positively kept you standing for the last quarter of an hour.”

“Don’t mention it.” The major drew an armchair towards him, and proceeded to seat himself.

“Now,” said the count, “what will you take—a glass of sherry, port, or Alicante?”

“Alicante, if you please; it is my favorite wine.”

“I have some that is very good. You will take a biscuit with it, will you not?”

“Yes, I will take a biscuit, as you are so obliging.”

Monte Cristo rang; Baptistin appeared. The count advanced to meet him.

“Well?” said he in a low voice.

“The young man is here,” said the valet de chambre in the same tone.

“Into what room did you take him?”

“Into the blue drawing-room, according to your excellency’s orders.”

“That’s right; now bring the Alicante and some biscuits.”

Baptistin left the room.

“Really,” said the major, “I am quite ashamed of the trouble I am giving you.”

“Pray don’t mention such a thing,” said the count. Baptistin re-entered with glasses, wine, and biscuits. The count filled one glass, but in the other he only poured a few drops of the ruby-colored liquid. The bottle was covered with spiders’ webs, and all the other signs which indicate the age of wine more truly than do wrinkles on a man’s face. The major made a wise choice; he took the full glass and a biscuit. The count told Baptistin to leave the plate within reach of his guest, who began by sipping the Alicante with an expression of great satisfaction, and then delicately steeped his biscuit in the wine.

“So, sir, you lived at Lucca, did you? You were rich, noble, held in great esteem—had all that could render a man happy?”

“All,” said the major, hastily swallowing his biscuit, “positively all.”

“And yet there was one thing wanting in order to complete your happiness?”

“Only one thing,” said the Italian.

“And that one thing, your lost child.”

“Ah,” said the major, taking a second biscuit, “that consummation of my happiness was indeed wanting.” The worthy major raised his eyes to heaven and sighed.

“Let me hear, then,” said the count, “who this deeply regretted son was; for I always understood you were a bachelor.”

“That was the general opinion, sir,” said the major, “and I——”

“Yes,” replied the count, “and you confirmed the report. A youthful indiscretion, I suppose, which you were anxious to conceal from the world at large?”

The major recovered himself, and resumed his usual calm manner, at the same time casting his eyes down, either to give himself time to compose his countenance, or to assist his imagination, all the while giving an under-look at the count, the protracted smile on whose lips still announced the same polite curiosity.

“Yes,” said the major, “I did wish this fault to be hidden from every eye.”

“Not on your own account, surely,” replied Monte Cristo; “for a man is above that sort of thing?”

“Oh, no, certainly not on my own account,” said the major with a smile and a shake of the head.

“But for the sake of the mother?” said the count.

“Yes, for the mother’s sake—his poor mother!” cried the major, taking a third biscuit.

“Take some more wine, my dear Cavalcanti,” said the count, pouring out for him a second glass of Alicante; “your emotion has quite overcome you.”

“His poor mother,” murmured the major, trying to get the lachrymal gland in operation, so as to moisten the corner of his eye with a false tear.

“She belonged to one of the first families in Italy, I think, did she not?”

“She was of a noble family of Fiesole, count.”

“And her name was——”

“Do you desire to know her name——?”

“Oh,” said Monte Cristo “it would be quite superfluous for you to tell me, for I already know it.”

“The count knows everything,” said the Italian, bowing.

“Oliva Corsinari, was it not?”

“Oliva Corsinari!”

“A marchioness?”

“A marchioness!”

“And you married her at last, notwithstanding the opposition of her family?”

“Yes, that was the way it ended.”

“And you have doubtless brought all your papers with you?” said Monte Cristo.

“What papers?”

“The certificate of your marriage with Oliva Corsinari, and the register of your child’s birth.”

“The register of my child’s birth?”

“The register of the birth of Andrea Cavalcanti—of your son; is not his name Andrea?”

“I believe so,” said the major.

“What? You believe so?”

“I dare not positively assert it, as he has been lost for so long a time.”

“Well, then,” said Monte Cristo “you have all the documents with you?”

“Your excellency, I regret to say that, not knowing it was necessary to come provided with these papers, I neglected to bring them.”

“That is unfortunate,” returned Monte Cristo.

“Were they, then, so necessary?”

“They were indispensable.”

The major passed his hand across his brow. “Ah, perbacco, indispensable, were they?”

“Certainly they were; supposing there were to be doubts raised as to the validity of your marriage or the legitimacy of your child?”

“True,” said the major, “there might be doubts raised.”

“In that case your son would be very unpleasantly situated.”

“It would be fatal to his interests.”

“It might cause him to fail in some desirable matrimonial alliance.”

“O peccato!”

“You must know that in France they are very particular on these points; it is not sufficient, as in Italy, to go to the priest and say, ‘We love each other, and want you to marry us.’ Marriage is a civil affair in France, and in order to marry in an orthodox manner you must have papers which undeniably establish your identity.”

“That is the misfortune! You see I have not these necessary papers.”

“Fortunately, I have them, though,” said Monte Cristo.

“You?”

“Yes.”

“You have them?”

“I have them.”

“Ah, indeed?” said the major, who, seeing the object of his journey frustrated by the absence of the papers, feared also that his forgetfulness might give rise to some difficulty concerning the 48,000 francs—“ah, indeed, that is a fortunate circumstance; yes, that really is lucky, for it never occurred to me to bring them.”

“I do not at all wonder at it—one cannot think of everything; but, happily, the Abbé Busoni thought for you.”

“He is an excellent person.”

“He is extremely prudent and thoughtful.”

“He is an admirable man,” said the major; “and he sent them to you?”

“Here they are.”

The major clasped his hands in token of admiration.

“You married Oliva Corsinari in the church of San Paolo del Monte-Cattini; here is the priest’s certificate.”

“Yes indeed, there it is truly,” said the Italian, looking on with astonishment.

“And here is Andrea Cavalcanti’s baptismal register, given by the curé of Saravezza.”

“All quite correct.”

“Take these documents, then; they do not concern me. You will give them to your son, who will, of course, take great care of them.”

“I should think so, indeed! If he were to lose them——”

“Well, and if he were to lose them?” said Monte Cristo.

“In that case,” replied the major, “it would be necessary to write to the curé for duplicates, and it would be some time before they could be obtained.”

“It would be a difficult matter to arrange,” said Monte Cristo.

“Almost an impossibility,” replied the major.

“I am very glad to see that you understand the value of these papers.”

“I regard them as invaluable.”

“Now,” said Monte Cristo “as to the mother of the young man——”

“As to the mother of the young man——” repeated the Italian, with anxiety.

“As regards the Marchesa Corsinari——”

“Really,” said the major, “difficulties seem to thicken upon us; will she be wanted in any way?”

“No, sir,” replied Monte Cristo; “besides, has she not——”

“Yes, sir,” said the major, “she has——”

“Paid the last debt of nature?”

“Alas, yes,” returned the Italian.

“I knew that,” said Monte Cristo; “she has been dead these ten years.”

“And I am still mourning her loss,” exclaimed the major, drawing from his pocket a checked handkerchief, and alternately wiping first the left and then the right eye.

“What would you have?” said Monte Cristo; “we are all mortal. Now, you understand, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti, that it is useless for you to tell people in France that you have been separated from your son for fifteen years. Stories of gypsies, who steal children, are not at all in vogue in this part of the world, and would not be believed. You sent him for his education to a college in one of the provinces, and now you wish him to complete his education in the Parisian world. That is the reason which has induced you to leave Via Reggio, where you have lived since the death of your wife. That will be sufficient.”

“You think so?”

“Certainly.”

“Very well, then.”

“If they should hear of the separation——”

“Ah, yes; what could I say?”

“That an unfaithful tutor, bought over by the enemies of your family——”

“By the Corsinari?”

“Precisely. Had stolen away this child, in order that your name might become extinct.”

“That is reasonable, since he is an only son.”

“Well, now that all is arranged, do not let these newly awakened remembrances be forgotten. You have, doubtless, already guessed that I was preparing a surprise for you?”

“An agreeable one?” asked the Italian.

“Ah, I see the eye of a father is no more to be deceived than his heart.”

“Hum!” said the major.

“Someone has told you the secret; or, perhaps, you guessed that he was here.”

“That who was here?”

“Your child—your son—your Andrea!”

“I did guess it,” replied the major with the greatest possible coolness. “Then he is here?”

“He is,” said Monte Cristo; “when the valet de chambre came in just now, he told me of his arrival.”

“Ah, very well, very well,” said the major, clutching the buttons of his coat at each exclamation.

“My dear sir,” said Monte Cristo, “I understand your emotion; you must have time to recover yourself. I will, in the meantime, go and prepare the young man for this much-desired interview, for I presume that he is not less impatient for it than yourself.”

“I should quite imagine that to be the case,” said Cavalcanti.

“Well, in a quarter of an hour he shall be with you.”

“You will bring him, then? You carry your goodness so far as even to present him to me yourself?”

“No; I do not wish to come between a father and son. Your interview will be private. But do not be uneasy; even if the powerful voice of nature should be silent, you cannot well mistake him; he will enter by this door. He is a fine young man, of fair complexion—a little too fair, perhaps—pleasing in manners; but you will see and judge for yourself.”

“By the way,” said the major, “you know I have only the 2,000 francs which the Abbé Busoni sent me; this sum I have expended upon travelling expenses, and——”

“And you want money; that is a matter of course, my dear M. Cavalcanti. Well, here are 8,000 francs on account.”

The major’s eyes sparkled brilliantly.

“It is 40,000 francs which I now owe you,” said Monte Cristo.

“Does your excellency wish for a receipt?” said the major, at the same time slipping the money into the inner pocket of his coat.

“For what?” said the count.

“I thought you might want it to show the Abbé Busoni.”

“Well, when you receive the remaining 40,000, you shall give me a receipt in full. Between honest men such excessive precaution is, I think, quite unnecessary.”

“Yes, so it is, between perfectly upright people.”

“One word more,” said Monte Cristo.

“Say on.”

“You will permit me to make one remark?”

“Certainly; pray do so.”

“Then I should advise you to leave off wearing that style of dress.”

“Indeed,” said the major, regarding himself with an air of complete satisfaction.

“Yes. It may be worn at Via Reggio; but that costume, however elegant in itself, has long been out of fashion in Paris.”

“That’s unfortunate.”

“Oh, if you really are attached to your old mode of dress; you can easily resume it when you leave Paris.”

“But what shall I wear?”

“What you find in your trunks.”

“In my trunks? I have but one portmanteau.”

“I dare say you have nothing else with you. What is the use of boring one’s self with so many things? Besides an old soldier always likes to march with as little baggage as possible.”

“That is just the case—precisely so.”

“But you are a man of foresight and prudence, therefore you sent your luggage on before you. It has arrived at the Hôtel des Princes, Rue de Richelieu. It is there you are to take up your quarters.”

“Then, in these trunks——”

“I presume you have given orders to your valet de chambre to put in all you are likely to need,—your plain clothes and your uniform. On grand occasions you must wear your uniform; that will look very well. Do not forget your crosses. They still laugh at them in France, and yet always wear them, for all that.”

“Very well, very well,” said the major, who was in ecstasy at the attention paid him by the count.

“Now,” said Monte Cristo, “that you have fortified yourself against all painful excitement, prepare yourself, my dear M. Cavalcanti, to meet your lost Andrea.”

Saying which Monte Cristo bowed, and disappeared behind the tapestry, leaving the major fascinated beyond expression with the delightful reception which he had received at the hands of the count.


Chapter 56. Andrea Cavalcanti


The Count of Monte Cristo entered the adjoining room, which Baptistin had designated as the drawing-room, and found there a young man, of graceful demeanor and elegant appearance, who had arrived in a cab about half an hour previously. Baptistin had not found any difficulty in recognizing the person who presented himself at the door for admittance. He was certainly the tall young man with light hair, red beard, black eyes, and brilliant complexion, whom his master had so particularly described to him. When the count entered the room the young man was carelessly stretched on a sofa, tapping his boot with the gold-headed cane which he held in his hand. On perceiving the count he rose quickly.

“The Count of Monte Cristo, I believe?” said he.

“Yes, sir, and I think I have the honor of addressing Count Andrea Cavalcanti?”

“Count Andrea Cavalcanti,” repeated the young man, accompanying his words with a bow.

“You are charged with a letter of introduction addressed to me, are you not?” said the count.

“I did not mention that, because the signature seemed to me so strange.”

“The letter signed ‘Sinbad the Sailor,’ is it not?”

“Exactly so. Now, as I have never known any Sinbad, with the exception of the one celebrated in the Thousand and One Nights——”

“Well, it is one of his descendants, and a great friend of mine; he is a very rich Englishman, eccentric almost to insanity, and his real name is Lord Wilmore.”

“Ah, indeed? Then that explains everything that is extraordinary,” said Andrea. “He is, then, the same Englishman whom I met—at—ah—yes, indeed. Well, monsieur, I am at your service.”

“If what you say be true,” replied the count, smiling, “perhaps you will be kind enough to give me some account of yourself and your family?”

“Certainly, I will do so,” said the young man, with a quickness which gave proof of his ready invention. “I am (as you have said) the Count Andrea Cavalcanti, son of Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti, a descendant of the Cavalcanti whose names are inscribed in the golden book at Florence. Our family, although still rich (for my father’s income amounts to half a million), has experienced many misfortunes, and I myself was, at the age of five years, taken away by the treachery of my tutor, so that for fifteen years I have not seen the author of my existence. Since I have arrived at years of discretion and become my own master, I have been constantly seeking him, but all in vain. At length I received this letter from your friend, which states that my father is in Paris, and authorizes me to address myself to you for information respecting him.”

“Really, all you have related to me is exceedingly interesting,” said Monte Cristo, observing the young man with a gloomy satisfaction; “and you have done well to conform in everything to the wishes of my friend Sinbad; for your father is indeed here, and is seeking you.”

The count from the moment of first entering the drawing-room, had not once lost sight of the expression of the young man’s countenance; he had admired the assurance of his look and the firmness of his voice; but at these words, so natural in themselves, “Your father is indeed here, and is seeking you,” young Andrea started, and exclaimed, “My father? Is my father here?”

“Most undoubtedly,” replied Monte Cristo; “your father, Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti.” The expression of terror which, for the moment, had overspread the features of the young man, had now disappeared.

“Ah, yes, that is the name, certainly. Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti. And you really mean to say; monsieur, that my dear father is here?”

“Yes, sir; and I can even add that I have only just left his company. The history which he related to me of his lost son touched me to the quick; indeed, his griefs, hopes, and fears on that subject might furnish material for a most touching and pathetic poem. At length, he one day received a letter, stating that the abductors of his son now offered to restore him, or at least to give notice where he might be found, on condition of receiving a large sum of money, by way of ransom. Your father did not hesitate an instant, and the sum was sent to the frontier of Piedmont, with a passport signed for Italy. You were in the south of France, I think?”

“Yes,” replied Andrea, with an embarrassed air, “I was in the south of France.”

“A carriage was to await you at Nice?”

“Precisely so; and it conveyed me from Nice to Genoa, from Genoa to Turin, from Turin to Chambéry, from Chambéry to Pont-de-Beauvoisin, and from Pont-de-Beauvoisin to Paris.”

“Indeed? Then your father ought to have met with you on the road, for it is exactly the same route which he himself took, and that is how we have been able to trace your journey to this place.”

“But,” said Andrea, “if my father had met me, I doubt if he would have recognized me; I must be somewhat altered since he last saw me.”

“Oh, the voice of nature,” said Monte Cristo.

“True,” interrupted the young man, “I had not looked upon it in that light.”

“Now,” replied Monte Cristo “there is only one source of uneasiness left in your father’s mind, which is this—he is anxious to know how you have been employed during your long absence from him, how you have been treated by your persecutors, and if they have conducted themselves towards you with all the deference due to your rank. Finally, he is anxious to see if you have been fortunate enough to escape the bad moral influence to which you have been exposed, and which is infinitely more to be dreaded than any physical suffering; he wishes to discover if the fine abilities with which nature had endowed you have been weakened by want of culture; and, in short, whether you consider yourself capable of resuming and retaining in the world the high position to which your rank entitles you.”

“Sir!” exclaimed the young man, quite astounded, “I hope no false report——”

“As for myself, I first heard you spoken of by my friend Wilmore, the philanthropist. I believe he found you in some unpleasant position, but do not know of what nature, for I did not ask, not being inquisitive. Your misfortunes engaged his sympathies, so you see you must have been interesting. He told me that he was anxious to restore you to the position which you had lost, and that he would seek your father until he found him. He did seek, and has found him, apparently, since he is here now; and, finally, my friend apprised me of your coming, and gave me a few other instructions relative to your future fortune. I am quite aware that my friend Wilmore is peculiar, but he is sincere, and as rich as a gold mine, consequently, he may indulge his eccentricities without any fear of their ruining him, and I have promised to adhere to his instructions. Now, sir, pray do not be offended at the question I am about to put to you, as it comes in the way of my duty as your patron. I would wish to know if the misfortunes which have happened to you—misfortunes entirely beyond your control, and which in no degree diminish my regard for you—I would wish to know if they have not, in some measure, contributed to render you a stranger to the world in which your fortune and your name entitle you to make a conspicuous figure?”

“Sir,” returned the young man, with a reassurance of manner, “make your mind easy on this score. Those who took me from my father, and who always intended, sooner or later, to sell me again to my original proprietor, as they have now done, calculated that, in order to make the most of their bargain, it would be politic to leave me in possession of all my personal and hereditary worth, and even to increase the value, if possible. I have, therefore, received a very good education, and have been treated by these kidnappers very much as the slaves were treated in Asia Minor, whose masters made them grammarians, doctors, and philosophers, in order that they might fetch a higher price in the Roman market.”

Monte Cristo smiled with satisfaction; it appeared as if he had not expected so much from M. Andrea Cavalcanti.

“Besides,” continued the young man, “if there did appear some defect in education, or offence against the established forms of etiquette, I suppose it would be excused, in consideration of the misfortunes which accompanied my birth, and followed me through my youth.”

“Well,” said Monte Cristo in an indifferent tone, “you will do as you please, count, for you are the master of your own actions, and are the person most concerned in the matter, but if I were you, I would not divulge a word of these adventures. Your history is quite a romance, and the world, which delights in romances in yellow covers, strangely mistrusts those which are bound in living parchment, even though they be gilded like yourself. This is the kind of difficulty which I wished to represent to you, my dear count. You would hardly have recited your touching history before it would go forth to the world, and be deemed unlikely and unnatural. You would be no longer a lost child found, but you would be looked upon as an upstart, who had sprung up like a mushroom in the night. You might excite a little curiosity, but it is not everyone who likes to be made the centre of observation and the subject of unpleasant remark.”

“I agree with you, monsieur,” said the young man, turning pale, and, in spite of himself, trembling beneath the scrutinizing look of his companion, “such consequences would be extremely unpleasant.”

“Nevertheless, you must not exaggerate the evil,” said Monte Cristo, “for by endeavoring to avoid one fault you will fall into another. You must resolve upon one simple and single line of conduct, and for a man of your intelligence, this plan is as easy as it is necessary; you must form honorable friendships, and by that means counteract the prejudice which may attach to the obscurity of your former life.”

Andrea visibly changed countenance.

“I would offer myself as your surety and friendly adviser,” said Monte Cristo, “did I not possess a moral distrust of my best friends, and a sort of inclination to lead others to doubt them too; therefore, in departing from this rule, I should (as the actors say) be playing a part quite out of my line, and should, therefore, run the risk of being hissed, which would be an act of folly.”

“However, your excellency,” said Andrea, “in consideration of Lord Wilmore, by whom I was recommended to you——”

“Yes, certainly,” interrupted Monte Cristo; “but Lord Wilmore did not omit to inform me, my dear M. Andrea, that the season of your youth was rather a stormy one. Ah,” said the count, watching Andrea’s countenance, “I do not demand any confession from you; it is precisely to avoid that necessity that your father was sent for from Lucca. You shall soon see him. He is a little stiff and pompous in his manner, and he is disfigured by his uniform; but when it becomes known that he has been for eighteen years in the Austrian service, all that will be pardoned. We are not generally very severe with the Austrians. In short, you will find your father a very presentable person, I assure you.”

“Ah, sir, you have given me confidence; it is so long since we were separated, that I have not the least remembrance of him, and, besides, you know that in the eyes of the world a large fortune covers all defects.”

“He is a millionaire—his income is 500,000 francs.”

“Then,” said the young man, with anxiety, “I shall be sure to be placed in an agreeable position.”

“One of the most agreeable possible, my dear sir; he will allow you an income of 50,000 livres per annum during the whole time of your stay in Paris.”

“Then in that case I shall always choose to remain there.”

“You cannot control circumstances, my dear sir; ‘man proposes, and God disposes.’” Andrea sighed.

“But,” said he, “so long as I do remain in Paris, and nothing forces me to quit it, do you mean to tell me that I may rely on receiving the sum you just now mentioned to me?”

“You may.”

“Shall I receive it from my father?” asked Andrea, with some uneasiness.

“Yes, you will receive it from your father personally, but Lord Wilmore will be the security for the money. He has, at the request of your father, opened an account of 5,000 francs a month at M. Danglars’, which is one of the safest banks in Paris.”

“And does my father mean to remain long in Paris?” asked Andrea.

“Only a few days,” replied Monte Cristo. “His service does not allow him to absent himself more than two or three weeks together.”

“Ah, my dear father!” exclaimed Andrea, evidently charmed with the idea of his speedy departure.

“Therefore,” said Monte Cristo feigning to mistake his meaning—“therefore I will not, for another instant, retard the pleasure of your meeting. Are you prepared to embrace your worthy father?”

“I hope you do not doubt it.”

“Go, then, into the drawing-room, my young friend, where you will find your father awaiting you.”

Andrea made a low bow to the count, and entered the adjoining room. Monte Cristo watched him till he disappeared, and then touched a spring in a panel made to look like a picture, which, in sliding partly from the frame, discovered to view a small opening, so cleverly contrived that it revealed all that was passing in the drawing-room now occupied by Cavalcanti and Andrea. The young man closed the door behind him, and advanced towards the major, who had risen when he heard steps approaching him.

“Ah, my dear father!” said Andrea in a loud voice, in order that the count might hear him in the next room, “is it really you?”

“How do you do, my dear son?” said the major gravely.

“After so many years of painful separation,” said Andrea, in the same tone of voice, and glancing towards the door, “what a happiness it is to meet again!”

“Indeed it is, after so long a separation.”

“Will you not embrace me, sir?” said Andrea.

“If you wish it, my son,” said the major; and the two men embraced each other after the fashion of actors on the stage; that is to say, each rested his head on the other’s shoulder.

“Then we are once more reunited?” said Andrea.

“Once more,” replied the major.

“Never more to be separated?”

“Why, as to that—I think, my dear son, you must be by this time so accustomed to France as to look upon it almost as a second country.”

“The fact is,” said the young man, “that I should be exceedingly grieved to leave it.”

“As for me, you must know I cannot possibly live out of Lucca; therefore I shall return to Italy as soon as I can.”

“But before you leave France, my dear father, I hope you will put me in possession of the documents which will be necessary to prove my descent.”

“Certainly; I am come expressly on that account; it has cost me much trouble to find you, but I had resolved on giving them into your hands, and if I had to recommence my search, it would occupy all the few remaining years of my life.”

“Where are these papers, then?”

“Here they are.”

Andrea seized the certificate of his father’s marriage and his own baptismal register, and after having opened them with all the eagerness which might be expected under the circumstances, he read them with a facility which proved that he was accustomed to similar documents, and with an expression which plainly denoted an unusual interest in the contents. When he had perused the documents, an indefinable expression of pleasure lighted up his countenance, and looking at the major with a most peculiar smile, he said, in very excellent Tuscan:

“Then there is no longer any such thing, in Italy as being condemned to the galleys?”

The major drew himself up to his full height.

“Why?—what do you mean by that question?”

“I mean that if there were, it would be impossible to draw up with impunity two such deeds as these. In France, my dear sir, half such a piece of effrontery as that would cause you to be quickly despatched to Toulon for five years, for change of air.”

“Will you be good enough to explain your meaning?” said the major, endeavoring as much as possible to assume an air of the greatest majesty.

“My dear M. Cavalcanti,” said Andrea, taking the major by the arm in a confidential manner, “how much are you paid for being my father?”

The major was about to speak, when Andrea continued, in a low voice:

“Nonsense, I am going to set you an example of confidence, they give me 50,000 francs a year to be your son; consequently, you can understand that it is not at all likely I shall ever deny my parent.”

The major looked anxiously around him.

“Make yourself easy, we are quite alone,” said Andrea; “besides, we are conversing in Italian.”

“Well, then,” replied the major, “they paid me 50,000 francs down.”

“Monsieur Cavalcanti,” said Andrea, “do you believe in fairy tales?”

“I used not to do so, but I really feel now almost obliged to have faith in them.”

“You have, then, been induced to alter your opinion; you have had some proofs of their truth?” The major drew from his pocket a handful of gold.

“Most palpable proofs,” said he, “as you may perceive.”

“You think, then, that I may rely on the count’s promises?”

“Certainly I do.”

“You are sure he will keep his word with me?”

“To the letter, but at the same time, remember, we must continue to play our respective parts. I, as a tender father——”

“And I as a dutiful son, as they choose that I shall be descended from you.”

“Whom do you mean by they?”

“Ma foi, I can hardly tell, but I was alluding to those who wrote the letter; you received one, did you not?”

“Yes.”

“From whom?”

“From a certain Abbé Busoni.”

“Have you any knowledge of him?”

“No, I have never seen him.”

“What did he say in the letter?”

“You will promise not to betray me?”

“Rest assured of that; you well know that our interests are the same.”

“Then read for yourself;” and the major gave a letter into the young man’s hand. Andrea read in a low voice:

“‘You are poor; a miserable old age awaits you. Would you like to become rich, or at least independent? Set out immediately for Paris, and demand of the Count of Monte Cristo, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, No. 30, the son whom you had by the Marchesa Corsinari, and who was taken from you at five years of age. This son is named Andrea Cavalcanti. In order that you may not doubt the kind intention of the writer of this letter, you will find enclosed an order for 2,400 francs, payable in Florence, at Signor Gozzi’s; also a letter of introduction to the Count of Monte Cristo, on whom I give you a draft of 48,000 francs. Remember to go to the count on the 26th May at seven o’clock in the evening.

“(Signed) ‘Abbé Busoni.’”

“It is the same.”

“What do you mean?” said the major.

“I was going to say that I received a letter almost to the same effect.”

“You?”

“Yes.”

“From the Abbé Busoni?”

“No.”

“From whom, then?”

“From an Englishman, called Lord Wilmore, who takes the name of Sinbad the Sailor.”

“And of whom you have no more knowledge than I of the Abbé Busoni?”

“You are mistaken; there I am ahead of you.”

“You have seen him, then?”

“Yes, once.”

“Where?”

“Ah, that is just what I cannot tell you; if I did, I should make you as wise as myself, which it is not my intention to do.”

“And what did the letter contain?”

“Read it.”

“‘You are poor, and your future prospects are dark and gloomy. Do you wish for a name? should you like to be rich, and your own master?’”

“Parbleu!” said the young man; “was it possible there could be two answers to such a question?”

“‘Take the post-chaise which you will find waiting at the Porte de Gênes, as you enter Nice; pass through Turin, Chambéry, and Pont-de-Beauvoisin. Go to the Count of Monte Cristo, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, on the 26th of May, at seven o’clock in the evening, and demand of him your father. You are the son of the Marchese Cavalcanti and the Marchesa Oliva Corsinari. The marquis will give you some papers which will certify this fact, and authorize you to appear under that name in the Parisian world. As to your rank, an annual income of 50,000 livres will enable you to support it admirably. I enclose a draft for 5,000 livres, payable on M. Ferrea, banker at Nice, and also a letter of introduction to the Count of Monte Cristo, whom I have directed to supply all your wants.

“‘Sinbad the Sailor.’”

“Humph,” said the major; “very good. You have seen the count, you say?”

“I have only just left him.”

“And has he conformed to all that the letter specified?”

“He has.”

“Do you understand it?”

“Not in the least.”

“There is a dupe somewhere.”

“At all events, it is neither you nor I.”

“Certainly not.”

“Well, then——”

“Why, it does not much concern us, do you think it does?”

“No; I agree with you there. We must play the game to the end, and consent to be blindfolded.”

“Ah, you shall see; I promise you I will sustain my part to admiration.”

“I never once doubted your doing so.” Monte Cristo chose this moment for re-entering the drawing-room. On hearing the sound of his footsteps, the two men threw themselves in each other’s arms, and while they were in the midst of this embrace, the count entered.

“Well, marquis,” said Monte Cristo, “you appear to be in no way disappointed in the son whom your good fortune has restored to you.”

“Ah, your excellency, I am overwhelmed with delight.”

“And what are your feelings?” said Monte Cristo, turning to the young man.

“As for me, my heart is overflowing with happiness.”

“Happy father, happy son!” said the count.

“There is only one thing which grieves me,” observed the major, “and that is the necessity for my leaving Paris so soon.”

“Ah, my dear M. Cavalcanti, I trust you will not leave before I have had the honor of presenting you to some of my friends.”

“I am at your service, sir,” replied the major.

“Now, sir,” said Monte Cristo, addressing Andrea, “make your confession.”

“To whom?”

“Tell M. Cavalcanti something of the state of your finances.”

“Ma foi! monsieur, you have touched upon a tender chord.”

“Do you hear what he says, major?”

“Certainly I do.”

“But do you understand?”

“I do.”

“Your son says he requires money.”

“Well, what would you have me do?” said the major.

“You should furnish him with some of course,” replied Monte Cristo.

“I?”

“Yes, you,” said the count, at the same time advancing towards Andrea, and slipping a packet of bank-notes into the young man’s hand.

“What is this?”

“It is from your father.”

“From my father?”

“Yes; did you not tell him just now that you wanted money? Well, then, he deputes me to give you this.”

“Am I to consider this as part of my income on account?”

“No, it is for the first expenses of your settling in Paris.”

“Ah, how good my dear father is!”

“Silence,” said Monte Cristo; “he does not wish you to know that it comes from him.”

“I fully appreciate his delicacy,” said Andrea, cramming the notes hastily into his pocket.

“And now, gentlemen, I wish you good-morning,” said Monte Cristo.

“And when shall we have the honor of seeing you again, your excellency?” asked Cavalcanti.

“Ah,” said Andrea, “when may we hope for that pleasure?”

“On Saturday, if you will—Yes.—Let me see—Saturday—I am to dine at my country house, at Auteuil, on that day, Rue de la Fontaine, No. 28. Several persons are invited, and among others, M. Danglars, your banker. I will introduce you to him, for it will be necessary he should know you, as he is to pay your money.”

“Full dress?” said the major, half aloud.

“Oh, yes, certainly,” said the count; “uniform, cross, knee-breeches.”

“And how shall I be dressed?” demanded Andrea.

“Oh, very simply; black trousers, patent leather boots, white waistcoat, either a black or blue coat, and a long cravat. Go to Blin or Véronique for your clothes. Baptistin will tell you where, if you do not know their address. The less pretension there is in your attire, the better will be the effect, as you are a rich man. If you mean to buy any horses, get them of Devedeux, and if you purchase a phaeton, go to Baptiste for it.”

“At what hour shall we come?” asked the young man.

“About half-past six.”

“We will be with you at that time,” said the major. The two Cavalcanti bowed to the count, and left the house. Monte Cristo went to the window, and saw them crossing the street, arm in arm.

“There go two miscreants;” said he, “it is a pity they are not really related!” Then, after an instant of gloomy reflection, “Come, I will go to see the Morrels,” said he; “I think that disgust is even more sickening than hatred.”


Chapter 57. In the Lucern Patch


Our readers must now allow us to transport them again to the enclosure surrounding M. de Villefort’s house, and, behind the gate, half screened from view by the large chestnut-trees, which on all sides spread their luxuriant branches, we shall find some people of our acquaintance. This time Maximilian was the first to arrive. He was intently watching for a shadow to appear among the trees, and awaiting with anxiety the sound of a light step on the gravel walk.

At length, the long-desired sound was heard, and instead of one figure, as he had expected, he perceived that two were approaching him. The delay had been occasioned by a visit from Madame Danglars and Eugénie, which had been prolonged beyond the time at which Valentine was expected. That she might not appear to fail in her promise to Maximilian, she proposed to Mademoiselle Danglars that they should take a walk in the garden, being anxious to show that the delay, which was doubtless a cause of vexation to him, was not occasioned by any neglect on her part. The young man, with the intuitive perception of a lover, quickly understood the circumstances in which she was involuntarily placed, and he was comforted. Besides, although she avoided coming within speaking distance, Valentine arranged so that Maximilian could see her pass and repass, and each time she went by, she managed, unperceived by her companion, to cast an expressive look at the young man, which seemed to say, “Have patience! You see it is not my fault.”

And Maximilian was patient, and employed himself in mentally contrasting the two girls,—one fair, with soft languishing eyes, a figure gracefully bending like a weeping willow; the other a brunette, with a fierce and haughty expression, and as straight as a poplar. It is unnecessary to state that, in the eyes of the young man, Valentine did not suffer by the contrast. In about half an hour the girls went away, and Maximilian understood that Mademoiselle Danglars’ visit had at last come to an end. In a few minutes Valentine re-entered the garden alone. For fear that anyone should be observing her return, she walked slowly; and instead of immediately directing her steps towards the gate, she seated herself on a bench, and, carefully casting her eyes around, to convince herself that she was not watched, she presently arose, and proceeded quickly to join Maximilian.

“Good-evening, Valentine,” said a well-known voice.

“Good-evening, Maximilian; I know I have kept you waiting, but you saw the cause of my delay.”

“Yes, I recognized Mademoiselle Danglars. I was not aware that you were so intimate with her.”

“Who told you we were intimate, Maximilian?”

“No one, but you appeared to be so. From the manner in which you walked and talked together, one would have thought you were two school-girls telling your secrets to each other.”

“We were having a confidential conversation,” returned Valentine; “she was owning to me her repugnance to the marriage with M. de Morcerf; and I, on the other hand, was confessing to her how wretched it made me to think of marrying M. d’Épinay.”

“Dear Valentine!”

“That will account to you for the unreserved manner which you observed between me and Eugénie, as in speaking of the man whom I could not love, my thoughts involuntarily reverted to him on whom my affections were fixed.”

“Ah, how good you are to say so, Valentine! You possess a quality which can never belong to Mademoiselle Danglars. It is that indefinable charm which is to a woman what perfume is to the flower and flavor to the fruit, for the beauty of either is not the only quality we seek.”

“It is your love which makes you look upon everything in that light.”

“No, Valentine, I assure you such is not the case. I was observing you both when you were walking in the garden, and, on my honor, without at all wishing to depreciate the beauty of Mademoiselle Danglars, I cannot understand how any man can really love her.”

“The fact is, Maximilian, that I was there, and my presence had the effect of rendering you unjust in your comparison.”

“No; but tell me—it is a question of simple curiosity, and which was suggested by certain ideas passing in my mind relative to Mademoiselle Danglars——”

“I dare say it is something disparaging which you are going to say. It only proves how little indulgence we may expect from your sex,” interrupted Valentine.

“You cannot, at least, deny that you are very harsh judges of each other.”

“If we are so, it is because we generally judge under the influence of excitement. But return to your question.”

“Does Mademoiselle Danglars object to this marriage with M. de Morcerf on account of loving another?”

“I told you I was not on terms of strict intimacy with Eugénie.”

“Yes, but girls tell each other secrets without being particularly intimate; own, now, that you did question her on the subject. Ah, I see you are smiling.”

“If you are already aware of the conversation that passed, the wooden partition which interposed between us and you has proved but a slight security.”

“Come, what did she say?”

“She told me that she loved no one,” said Valentine; “that she disliked the idea of being married; that she would infinitely prefer leading an independent and unfettered life; and that she almost wished her father might lose his fortune, that she might become an artist, like her friend, Mademoiselle Louise d’Armilly.”

“Ah, you see——”

“Well, what does that prove?” asked Valentine.

“Nothing,” replied Maximilian.

“Then why did you smile?”

“Why, you know very well that you are reflecting on yourself, Valentine.”

“Do you want me to go away?”

“Ah, no, no. But do not let us lose time; you are the subject on which I wish to speak.”

“True, we must be quick, for we have scarcely ten minutes more to pass together.”

“Ma foi!” said Maximilian, in consternation.

“Yes, you are right; I am but a poor friend to you. What a life I cause you to lead, poor Maximilian, you who are formed for happiness! I bitterly reproach myself, I assure you.”

“Well, what does it signify, Valentine, so long as I am satisfied, and feel that even this long and painful suspense is amply repaid by five minutes of your society, or two words from your lips? And I have also a deep conviction that heaven would not have created two hearts, harmonizing as ours do, and almost miraculously brought us together, to separate us at last.”

“Those are kind and cheering words. You must hope for us both, Maximilian; that will make me at least partly happy.”

“But why must you leave me so soon?”

“I do not know particulars. I can only tell you that Madame de Villefort sent to request my presence, as she had a communication to make on which a part of my fortune depended. Let them take my fortune, I am already too rich; and, perhaps, when they have taken it, they will leave me in peace and quietness. You would love me as much if I were poor, would you not, Maximilian?”

“Oh, I shall always love you. What should I care for either riches or poverty, if my Valentine was near me, and I felt certain that no one could deprive me of her? But do you not fear that this communication may relate to your marriage?”

“I do not think that is the case.”

“However it may be, Valentine, you must not be alarmed. I assure you that, as long as I live, I shall never love anyone else!”

“Do you think to reassure me when you say that, Maximilian?”

“Pardon me, you are right. I am a brute. But I was going to tell you that I met M. de Morcerf the other day.”

“Well?”

“Monsieur Franz is his friend, you know.”

“What then?”

“Monsieur de Morcerf has received a letter from Franz, announcing his immediate return.” Valentine turned pale, and leaned her hand against the gate.

“Ah heavens, if it were that! But no, the communication would not come through Madame de Villefort.”

“Why not?”

“Because—I scarcely know why—but it has appeared as if Madame de Villefort secretly objected to the marriage, although she did not choose openly to oppose it.”

“Is it so? Then I feel as if I could adore Madame de Villefort.”

“Do not be in such a hurry to do that,” said Valentine, with a sad smile.

“If she objects to your marrying M. d’Épinay, she would be all the more likely to listen to any other proposition.”

“No, Maximilian, it is not suitors to which Madame de Villefort objects, it is marriage itself.”

“Marriage? If she dislikes that so much, why did she ever marry herself?”

“You do not understand me, Maximilian. About a year ago, I talked of retiring to a convent. Madame de Villefort, in spite of all the remarks which she considered it her duty to make, secretly approved of the proposition, my father consented to it at her instigation, and it was only on account of my poor grandfather that I finally abandoned the project. You can form no idea of the expression of that old man’s eye when he looks at me, the only person in the world whom he loves, and, I had almost said, by whom he is beloved in return. When he learned my resolution, I shall never forget the reproachful look which he cast on me, and the tears of utter despair which chased each other down his lifeless cheeks. Ah, Maximilian, I experienced, at that moment, such remorse for my intention, that, throwing myself at his feet, I exclaimed,—‘Forgive me, pray forgive me, my dear grandfather; they may do what they will with me, I will never leave you.’ When I had ceased speaking, he thankfully raised his eyes to heaven, but without uttering a word. Ah, Maximilian, I may have much to suffer, but I feel as if my grandfather’s look at that moment would more than compensate for all.”

“Dear Valentine, you are a perfect angel, and I am sure I do not know what I—sabring right and left among the Bedouins—can have done to merit your being revealed to me, unless, indeed, Heaven took into consideration the fact that the victims of my sword were infidels. But tell me what interest Madame de Villefort can have in your remaining unmarried?”

“Did I not tell you just now that I was rich, Maximilian—too rich? I possess nearly 50,000 livres in right of my mother; my grandfather and my grandmother, the Marquis and Marquise de Saint-Méran, will leave me as much, and M. Noirtier evidently intends making me his heir. My brother Edward, who inherits nothing from his mother, will, therefore, be poor in comparison with me. Now, if I had taken the veil, all this fortune would have descended to my father, and, in reversion, to his son.”

“Ah, how strange it seems that such a young and beautiful woman should be so avaricious.”

“It is not for herself that she is so, but for her son, and what you regard as a vice becomes almost a virtue when looked at in the light of maternal love.”

“But could you not compromise matters, and give up a portion of your fortune to her son?”

“How could I make such a proposition, especially to a woman who always professes to be so entirely disinterested?”

“Valentine, I have always regarded our love in the light of something sacred; consequently, I have covered it with the veil of respect, and hid it in the innermost recesses of my soul. No human being, not even my sister, is aware of its existence. Valentine, will you permit me to make a confidant of a friend and reveal to him the love I bear you?”

Valentine started. “A friend, Maximilian; and who is this friend? I tremble to give my permission.”

“Listen, Valentine. Have you never experienced for anyone that sudden and irresistible sympathy which made you feel as if the object of it had been your old and familiar friend, though, in reality, it was the first time you had ever met? Nay, further, have you never endeavored to recall the time, place, and circumstances of your former intercourse, and failing in this attempt, have almost believed that your spirits must have held converse with each other in some state of being anterior to the present, and that you are only now occupied in a reminiscence of the past?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that is precisely the feeling which I experienced when I first saw that extraordinary man.”

“Extraordinary, did you say?”

“Yes.”

“You have known him for some time, then?”

“Scarcely longer than eight or ten days.”

“And do you call a man your friend whom you have only known for eight or ten days? Ah, Maximilian, I had hoped you set a higher value on the title of friend.”

“Your logic is most powerful, Valentine, but say what you will, I can never renounce the sentiment which has instinctively taken possession of my mind. I feel as if it were ordained that this man should be associated with all the good which the future may have in store for me, and sometimes it really seems as if his eye was able to see what was to come, and his hand endowed with the power of directing events according to his own will.”

“He must be a prophet, then,” said Valentine, smiling.

“Indeed,” said Maximilian, “I have often been almost tempted to attribute to him the gift of prophecy; at all events, he has a wonderful power of foretelling any future good.”

“Ah,” said Valentine in a mournful tone, “do let me see this man, Maximilian; he may tell me whether I shall ever be loved sufficiently to make amends for all I have suffered.”

“My poor girl, you know him already.”

“I know him?”

“Yes; it was he who saved the life of your step-mother and her son.”

“The Count of Monte Cristo?”

“The same.”

“Ah,” cried Valentine, “he is too much the friend of Madame de Villefort ever to be mine.”

“The friend of Madame de Villefort! It cannot be; surely, Valentine, you are mistaken?”

“No, indeed, I am not; for I assure you, his power over our household is almost unlimited. Courted by my step-mother, who regards him as the epitome of human wisdom; admired by my father, who says he has never before heard such sublime ideas so eloquently expressed; idolized by Edward, who, notwithstanding his fear of the count’s large black eyes, runs to meet him the moment he arrives, and opens his hand, in which he is sure to find some delightful present,—M. de Monte Cristo appears to exert a mysterious and almost uncontrollable influence over all the members of our family.”

“If such be the case, my dear Valentine, you must yourself have felt, or at all events will soon feel, the effects of his presence. He meets Albert de Morcerf in Italy—it is to rescue him from the hands of the banditti; he introduces himself to Madame Danglars—it is that he may give her a royal present; your step-mother and her son pass before his door—it is that his Nubian may save them from destruction. This man evidently possesses the power of influencing events, both as regards men and things. I never saw more simple tastes united to greater magnificence. His smile is so sweet when he addresses me, that I forget it ever can be bitter to others. Ah, Valentine, tell me, if he ever looked on you with one of those sweet smiles? if so, depend on it, you will be happy.”

“Me?” said the young girl, “he never even glances at me; on the contrary, if I accidentally cross his path, he appears rather to avoid me. Ah, he is not generous, neither does he possess that supernatural penetration which you attribute to him, for if he did, he would have perceived that I was unhappy; and if he had been generous, seeing me sad and solitary, he would have used his influence to my advantage, and since, as you say, he resembles the sun, he would have warmed my heart with one of his life-giving rays. You say he loves you, Maximilian; how do you know that he does? All would pay deference to an officer like you, with a fierce moustache and a long sabre, but they think they may crush a poor weeping girl with impunity.”

“Ah, Valentine, I assure you you are mistaken.”

“If it were otherwise—if he treated me diplomatically—that is to say, like a man who wishes, by some means or other, to obtain a footing in the house, so that he may ultimately gain the power of dictating to its occupants—he would, if it had been but once, have honored me with the smile which you extol so loudly; but no, he saw that I was unhappy, he understood that I could be of no use to him, and therefore paid no attention to me whatever. Who knows but that, in order to please Madame de Villefort and my father, he may not persecute me by every means in his power? It is not just that he should despise me so, without any reason. Ah, forgive me,” said Valentine, perceiving the effect which her words were producing on Maximilian: “I have done wrong, for I have given utterance to thoughts concerning that man which I did not even know existed in my heart. I do not deny the influence of which you speak, or that I have not myself experienced it, but with me it has been productive of evil rather than good.”

“Well, Valentine,” said Morrel with a sigh, “we will not discuss the matter further. I will not make a confidant of him.”

“Alas!” said Valentine, “I see that I have given you pain. I can only say how sincerely I ask pardon for having grieved you. But, indeed, I am not prejudiced beyond the power of conviction. Tell me what this Count of Monte Cristo has done for you.”

“I own that your question embarrasses me, Valentine, for I cannot say that the count has rendered me any ostensible service. Still, as I have already told you, I have an instinctive affection for him, the source of which I cannot explain to you. Has the sun done anything for me? No; he warms me with his rays, and it is by his light that I see you—nothing more. Has such and such a perfume done anything for me? No; its odor charms one of my senses—that is all I can say when I am asked why I praise it. My friendship for him is as strange and unaccountable as his for me. A secret voice seems to whisper to me that there must be something more than chance in this unexpected reciprocity of friendship. In his most simple actions, as well as in his most secret thoughts, I find a relation to my own. You will perhaps smile at me when I tell you that, ever since I have known this man, I have involuntarily entertained the idea that all the good fortune which has befallen me originated from him. However, I have managed to live thirty years without this protection, you will say; but I will endeavor a little to illustrate my meaning. He invited me to dine with him on Saturday, which was a very natural thing for him to do. Well, what have I learned since? That your mother and M. de Villefort are both coming to this dinner. I shall meet them there, and who knows what future advantages may result from the interview? This may appear to you to be no unusual combination of circumstances; nevertheless, I perceive some hidden plot in the arrangement—something, in fact, more than is apparent on a casual view of the subject. I believe that this singular man, who appears to fathom the motives of everyone, has purposely arranged for me to meet M. and Madame de Villefort, and sometimes, I confess, I have gone so far as to try to read in his eyes whether he was in possession of the secret of our love.”

“My good friend,” said Valentine, “I should take you for a visionary, and should tremble for your reason, if I were always to hear you talk in a strain similar to this. Is it possible that you can see anything more than the merest chance in this meeting? Pray reflect a little. My father, who never goes out, has several times been on the point of refusing this invitation; Madame de Villefort, on the contrary, is burning with the desire of seeing this extraordinary nabob in his own house, therefore, she has with great difficulty prevailed on my father to accompany her. No, no; it is as I have said, Maximilian,—there is no one in the world of whom I can ask help but yourself and my grandfather, who is little better than a corpse—no support to cling to but my mother in heaven!”

“I see that you are right, logically speaking,” said Maximilian; “but the gentle voice which usually has such power over me fails to convince me today.”

“I feel the same as regards yourself.” said Valentine; “and I own that, if you have no stronger proof to give me——”

“I have another,” replied Maximilian; “but I fear you will deem it even more absurd than the first.”

“So much the worse,” said Valentine, smiling.

“It is, nevertheless, conclusive to my mind. My ten years of service have also confirmed my ideas on the subject of sudden inspirations, for I have several times owed my life to a mysterious impulse which directed me to move at once either to the right or to the left, in order to escape the ball which killed the comrade fighting by my side, while it left me unharmed.”

“Dear Maximilian, why not attribute your escape to my constant prayers for your safety? When you are away, I no longer pray for myself, but for you.”

“Yes, since you have known me,” said Morrel, smiling; “but that cannot apply to the time previous to our acquaintance, Valentine.”

“You are very provoking, and will not give me credit for anything; but let me hear this second proof, which you yourself own to be absurd.”

“Well, look through this opening, and you will see the beautiful new horse which I rode here.”

“Ah! what a beautiful creature!” cried Valentine; “why did you not bring him close to the gate, so that I could talk to him and pat him?”

“He is, as you see, a very valuable animal,” said Maximilian. “You know that my means are limited, and that I am what would be designated a man of moderate pretensions. Well, I went to a horse dealer’s, where I saw this magnificent horse, which I have named Médéah. I asked the price; they told me it was 4,500 francs. I was, therefore, obliged to give it up, as you may imagine, but I own I went away with rather a heavy heart, for the horse had looked at me affectionately, had rubbed his head against me and, when I mounted him, had pranced in the most delightful way imaginable, so that I was altogether fascinated with him. The same evening some friends of mine visited me,—M. de Château-Renaud, M. Debray, and five or six other choice spirits, whom you do not know, even by name. They proposed a game of bouillotte. I never play, for I am not rich enough to afford to lose, or sufficiently poor to desire to gain. But I was at my own house, you understand, so there was nothing to be done but to send for the cards, which I did.

“Just as they were sitting down to table, M. de Monte Cristo arrived. He took his seat amongst them; they played, and I won. I am almost ashamed to say that my gains amounted to 5,000 francs. We separated at midnight. I could not defer my pleasure, so I took a cabriolet and drove to the horse dealer’s. Feverish and excited, I rang at the door. The person who opened it must have taken me for a madman, for I rushed at once to the stable. Médéah was standing at the rack, eating his hay. I immediately put on the saddle and bridle, to which operation he lent himself with the best grace possible; then, putting the 4,500 francs into the hands of the astonished dealer, I proceeded to fulfil my intention of passing the night in riding in the Champs-Élysées. As I rode by the count’s house I perceived a light in one of the windows, and fancied I saw the shadow of his figure moving behind the curtain. Now, Valentine, I firmly believe that he knew of my wish to possess this horse, and that he lost expressly to give me the means of procuring him.”

“My dear Maximilian, you are really too fanciful; you will not love even me long. A man who accustoms himself to live in such a world of poetry and imagination must find far too little excitement in a common, every-day sort of attachment such as ours. But they are calling me. Do you hear?”

“Ah, Valentine,” said Maximilian, “give me but one finger through this opening in the grating, one finger, the littlest finger of all, that I may have the happiness of kissing it.”

“Maximilian, we said we would be to each other as two voices, two shadows.”

“As you will, Valentine.”

“Shall you be happy if I do what you wish?”

“Oh, yes!”

Valentine mounted on a bench, and passed not only her finger but her whole hand through the opening. Maximilian uttered a cry of delight, and, springing forwards, seized the hand extended towards him, and imprinted on it a fervent and impassioned kiss. The little hand was then immediately withdrawn, and the young man saw Valentine hurrying towards the house, as though she were almost terrified at her own sensations.