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Chapter 39 The Guests.

  • In the house in the Rue du Helder, where Albert had invited the Count of Mont_risto, everything was being prepared on the morning of the 21st of May to d_onor to the occasion. Albert de Morcerf inhabited a pavilion situated at th_orner of a large court, and directly opposite another building, in which wer_he servants' apartments. Two windows only of the pavilion faced the street; three other windows looked into the court, and two at the back into th_arden. Between the court and the garden, built in the heavy style of th_mperial architecture, was the large and fashionable dwelling of the Count an_ountess of Morcerf. A high wall surrounded the whole of the hotel, surmounte_t intervals by vases filled with flowers, and broken in the centre by a larg_ate of gilded iron, which served as the carriage entrance. A small door, close to the lodge of the concierge, gave ingress and egress to the servant_nd masters when they were on foot.
  • It was easy to discover that the delicate care of a mother, unwilling to par_rom her son, and yet aware that a young man of the viscount's age require_he full exercise of his liberty, had chosen this habitation for Albert. Ther_ere not lacking, however, evidences of what we may call the intelligen_goism of a youth who is charmed with the indolent, careless life of an onl_on, and who lives as it were in a gilded cage. By means of the two window_ooking into the street, Albert could see all that passed; the sight of wha_s going on is necessary to young men, who always want to see the worl_raverse their horizon, even if that horizon is only a public thoroughfare.
  • Then, should anything appear to merit a more minute examination, Albert d_orcerf could follow up his researches by means of a small gate, similar t_hat close to the concierge's door, and which merits a particular description.
  • It was a little entrance that seemed never to have been opened since the hous_as built, so entirely was it covered with dust and dirt; but the well-oile_inges and locks told quite another story. This door was a mockery to th_oncierge, from whose vigilance and jurisdiction it was free, and, like tha_amous portal in the "Arabian Nights," opening at the "Sesame" of Ali Baba, i_as wont to swing backward at a cabalistic word or a concerted tap fro_ithout from the sweetest voices or whitest fingers in the world. At the en_f a long corridor, with which the door communicated, and which formed th_nte-chamber, was, on the right, Albert's breakfast-room, looking into th_ourt, and on the left the salon, looking into the garden. Shrubs and creepin_lants covered the windows, and hid from the garden and court these tw_partments, the only rooms into which, as they were on the ground-floor, th_rying eyes of the curious could penetrate. On the floor above were simila_ooms, with the addition of a third, formed out of the ante-chamber; thes_hree rooms were a salon, a boudoir, and a bedroom. The salon down-stairs wa_nly an Algerian divan, for the use of smokers. The boudoir up-stair_ommunicated with the bed-chamber by an invisible door on the staircase; i_as evident that every precaution had been taken. Above this floor was a larg_telier, which had been increased in size by pulling down the partitions — _andemonium, in which the artist and the dandy strove for preeminence. Ther_ere collected and piled up all Albert's successive caprices, hunting-horns, bass-viols, flutes — a whole orchestra, for Albert had had not a taste but _ancy for music; easels, palettes, brushes, pencils — for music had bee_ucceeded by painting; foils, boxing-gloves, broadswords, and single-sticks — for, following the example of the fashionable young men of the time, Albert d_orcerf cultivated, with far more perseverance than music and drawing, th_hree arts that complete a dandy's education, i.e., fencing, boxing, an_ingle-stick; and it was here that he received Grisier, Cook, and Charle_eboucher. The rest of the furniture of this privileged apartment consisted o_ld cabinets, filled with Chinese porcelain and Japanese vases, Lucca dell_obbia faience, and Palissy platters; of old arm-chairs, in which perhaps ha_at Henry IV. or Sully, Louis XIII. or Richelieu — for two of these arm- chairs, adorned with a carved shield, on which were engraved the fleur-de-li_f France on an azure field evidently came from the Louvre, or, at least, som_oyal residence. Over these dark and sombre chairs were thrown splendi_tuffs, dyed beneath Persia's sun, or woven by the fingers of the women o_alcutta or of Chandernagor. What these stuffs did there, it was impossible t_ay; they awaited, while gratifying the eyes, a destination unknown to thei_wner himself; in the meantime they filled the place with their golden an_ilky reflections. In the centre of the room was a Roller and Blanchet "bab_rand" piano in rosewood, but holding the potentialities of an orchestra i_ts narrow and sonorous cavity, and groaning beneath the weight of th_hefs-d'oeuvre of Beethoven, Weber, Mozart, Haydn, Gretry, and Porpora. On th_alls, over the doors, on the ceiling, were swords, daggers, Malay creeses, maces, battle-axes; gilded, damasked, and inlaid suits of armor; dried plants, minerals, and stuffed birds, their flame-colored wings outspread in motionles_light, and their beaks forever open. This was Albert's favorite loungin_lace.
  • However, the morning of the appointment, the young man had established himsel_n the small salon down-stairs. There, on a table, surrounded at some distanc_y a large and luxurious divan, every species of tobacco known, — from th_ellow tobacco of Petersburg to the black of Sinai, and so on along the scal_rom Maryland and Porto-Rico, to Latakia, — was exposed in pots of crackle_arthenware of which the Dutch are so fond; beside them, in boxes of fragran_ood, were ranged, according to their size and quality, pueros, regalias, havanas, and manillas; and, in an open cabinet, a collection of German pipes, of chibouques, with their amber mouth-pieces ornamented with coral, and o_arghiles, with their long tubes of morocco, awaiting the caprice or th_ympathy of the smokers. Albert had himself presided at the arrangement, or, rather, the symmetrical derangement, which, after coffee, the guests at _reakfast of modern days love to contemplate through the vapor that escape_rom their mouths, and ascends in long and fanciful wreaths to the ceiling. A_ quarter to ten, a valet entered; he composed, with a little groom name_ohn, and who only spoke English, all Albert's establishment, although th_ook of the hotel was always at his service, and on great occasions th_ount's chasseur also. This valet, whose name was Germain, and who enjoyed th_ntire confidence of his young master, held in one hand a number of papers, and in the other a packet of letters, which he gave to Albert. Albert glance_arelessly at the different missives, selected two written in a small an_elicate hand, and enclosed in scented envelopes, opened them and peruse_heir contents with some attention. "How did these letters come?" said he.
  • "One by the post, Madame Danglars' footman left the other."
  • "Let Madame Danglars know that I accept the place she offers me in her box.
  • Wait; then, during the day, tell Rosa that when I leave the Opera I will su_ith her as she wishes. Take her six bottles of different wine — Cyprus, sherry, and Malaga, and a barrel of Ostend oysters; get them at Borel's, an_e sure you say they are for me."
  • "At what o'clock, sir, do you breakfast?"
  • "What time is it now?"
  • "A quarter to ten."
  • "Very well, at half past ten. Debray will, perhaps, be obliged to go to th_inister — and besides" (Albert looked at his tablets), "it is the hour I tol_he count, 21st May, at half past ten; and though I do not much rely upon hi_romise, I wish to be punctual. Is the countess up yet?"
  • "If you wish, I will inquire."
  • "Yes, ask her for one of her liqueur cellarets, mine is incomplete; and tel_er I shall have the honor of seeing her about three o'clock, and that _equest permission to introduce some one to her." The valet left the room.
  • Albert threw himself on the divan, tore off the cover of two or three of th_apers, looked at the theatre announcements, made a face seeing they gave a_pera, and not a ballet; hunted vainly amongst the advertisements for a ne_ooth-powder of which he had heard, and threw down, one after the other, th_hree leading papers of Paris, muttering, "These papers become more and mor_tupid every day." A moment after, a carriage stopped before the door, and th_ervant announced M. Lucien Debray. A tall young man, with light hair, clea_ray eyes, and thin and compressed lips, dressed in a blue coat wit_eautifully carved gold buttons, a white neckcloth, and a tortoiseshell eye- glass suspended by a silken thread, and which, by an effort of th_uperciliary and zygomatic muscles, he fixed in his eye, entered, with a half- official air, without smiling or speaking. "Good-morning, Lucien, good- morning," said Albert; "your punctuality really alarms me. What do I say?
  • punctuality! You, whom I expected last, you arrive at five minutes to ten, when the time fixed was half-past! Has the ministry resigned?"
  • "No, my dear fellow," returned the young man, seating himself on the divan;
  • "reassure yourself; we are tottering always, but we never fall, and I begin t_elieve that we shall pass into a state of immobility, and then the affairs o_he Peninsula will completely consolidate us."
  • "Ah, true; you drive Don Carlos out of Spain."
  • "No, no, my dear fellow, do not confound our plans. We take him to the othe_ide of the French frontier, and offer him hospitality at Bourges."
  • "At Bourges?"
  • "Yes, he has not much to complain of; Bourges is the capital of Charles VII.
  • Do you not know that all Paris knew it yesterday, and the day before it ha_lready transpired on the Bourse, and M. Danglars (I do not know by what mean_hat man contrives to obtain intelligence as soon as we do) made a million!"
  • "And you another order, for I see you have a blue ribbon at your button-hole."
  • "Yes; they sent me the order of Charles III.," returned Debray, carelessly.
  • "Come, do not affect indifference, but confess you were pleased to have it."
  • "Oh, it is very well as a finish to the toilet. It looks very neat on a blac_oat buttoned up."
  • "And makes you resemble the Prince of Wales or the Duke of Reichstadt."
  • "It is for that reason you see me so early."
  • "Because you have the order of Charles III., and you wish to announce the goo_ews to me?"
  • "No, because I passed the night writing letters, — five and twenty despatches.
  • I returned home at daybreak, and strove to sleep; but my head ached and I go_p to have a ride for an hour. At the Bois de Boulogne, ennui and hunge_ttacked me at once, — two enemies who rarely accompany each other, and wh_re yet leagued against me, a sort of Carlo-republican alliance. I the_ecollected you gave a breakfast this morning, and here I am. I am hungry, feed me; I am bored, amuse me."
  • "It is my duty as your host," returned Albert, ringing the bell, while Lucie_urned over, with his gold-mounted cane, the papers that lay on the table.
  • "Germain, a glass of sherry and a biscuit. In the meantime. my dear Lucien, here are cigars — contraband, of course — try them, and persuade the ministe_o sell us such instead of poisoning us with cabbage leaves."
  • "Peste, I will do nothing of the kind; the moment they come from governmen_ou would find them execrable. Besides, that does not concern the home but th_inancial department. Address yourself to M. Humann, section of the indirec_ontributions, corridor A., No. 26."
  • "On my word," said Albert, "you astonish me by the extent of your knowledge.
  • Take a cigar."
  • "Really, my dear Albert," replied Lucien, lighting a manilla at a rose-colore_aper that burnt in a beautifully enamelled stand — "how happy you are to hav_othing to do. You do not know your own good fortune!"
  • "And what would you do, my dear diplomatist," replied Morcerf, with a sligh_egree of irony in his voice, "if you did nothing? What? private secretary t_ minister, plunged at once into European cabals and Parisian intrigues; having kings, and, better still, queens, to protect, parties to unite, elections to direct; making more use of your cabinet with your pen and you_elegraph than Napoleon did of his battle-fields with his sword and hi_ictories; possessing five and twenty thousand francs a year, besides you_lace; a horse, for which Chateau-Renaud offered you four hundred louis, an_hich you would not part with; a tailor who never disappoints you; with th_pera, the jockey-club, and other diversions, can you not amuse yourself?
  • Well, I will amuse you."
  • "How?"
  • "By introducing to you a new acquaintance."
  • "A man or a woman?"
  • "A man."
  • "I know so many men already."
  • "But you do not know this man."
  • "Where does he come from — the end of the world?"
  • "Farther still, perhaps."
  • "The deuce! I hope he does not bring our breakfast with him."
  • "Oh, no; our breakfast comes from my father's kitchen. Are you hungry?"
  • "Humiliating as such a confession is, I am. But I dined at M. de Villefort's, and lawyers always give you very bad dinners. You would think they felt som_emorse; did you ever remark that?"
  • "Ah, depreciate other persons' dinners; you ministers give such splendi_nes."
  • "Yes; but we do not invite people of fashion. If we were not forced t_ntertain a parcel of country boobies because they think and vote with us, w_hould never dream of dining at home, I assure you."
  • "Well, take another glass of sherry and another biscuit."
  • "Willingly. Your Spanish wine is excellent. You see we were quite right t_acify that country."
  • "Yes; but Don Carlos?"
  • "Well, Don Carlos will drink Bordeaux, and in ten years we will marry his so_o the little queen."
  • "You will then obtain the Golden Fleece, if you are still in the ministry."
  • "I think, Albert, you have adopted the system of feeding me on smoke thi_orning."
  • "Well, you must allow it is the best thing for the stomach; but I hea_eauchamp in the next room; you can dispute together, and that will pass awa_he time."
  • "About what?"
  • "About the papers."
  • "My dear friend," said Lucien with an air of sovereign contempt, "do I eve_ead the papers?"
  • "Then you will dispute the more."
  • "M. Beauchamp," announced the servant. "Come in, come in," said Albert, risin_nd advancing to meet the young man. "Here is Debray, who detests you withou_eading you, so he says."
  • "He is quite right," returned Beauchamp; "for I criticise him without knowin_hat he does. Good-day, commander!"
  • "Ah, you know that already," said the private secretary, smiling and shakin_ands with him.
  • "Pardieu?"
  • "And what do they say of it in the world?"
  • "In which world? we have so many worlds in the year of grace 1838."
  • "In the entire political world, of which you are one of the leaders."
  • "They say that it is quite fair, and that sowing so much red, you ought t_eap a little blue."
  • "Come, come, that is not bad!" said Lucien. "Why do you not join our party, m_ear Beauchamp? With your talents you would make your fortune in three or fou_ears."
  • "I only await one thing before following your advice; that is, a minister wh_ill hold office for six months. My dear Albert, one word, for I must giv_oor Lucien a respite. Do we breakfast or dine? I must go to the Chamber, fo_ur life is not an idle one."
  • "You only breakfast; I await two persons, and the instant they arrive we shal_it down to table."