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."
"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."
"By introducing to you a new acquaintance."
"A man or a woman?"
"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 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.
"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."