"And what sort of persons do you expect to breakfast?" said Beauchamp.
"A gentleman, and a diplomatist."
"Then we shall have to wait two hours for the gentleman, and three for th_iplomatist. I shall come back to dessert; keep me some strawberries, coffee, and cigars. I shall take a cutlet on my way to the Chamber."
"Do not do anything of the sort; for were the gentleman a Montmorency, and th_iplomatist a Metternich, we will breakfast at eleven; in the meantime, follo_ebray's example, and take a glass of sherry and a biscuit."
"Be it so; I will stay; I must do something to distract my thoughts."
"You are like Debray, and yet it seems to me that when the minister is out o_pirits, the opposition ought to be joyous."
"Ah, you do not know with what I am threatened. I shall hear this morning tha_. Danglars make a speech at the Chamber of Deputies, and at his wife's thi_vening I shall hear the tragedy of a peer of France. The devil take th_onstitutional government, and since we had our choice, as they say, at least, how could we choose that?"
"I understand; you must lay in a stock of hilarity."
"Do not run down M. Danglars' speeches," said Debray; "he votes for you, fo_e belongs to the opposition."
"Pardieu, that is exactly the worst of all. I am waiting until you send him t_peak at the Luxembourg, to laugh at my ease."
"My dear friend," said Albert to Beauchamp, "it is plain that the affairs o_pain are settled, for you are most desperately out of humor this morning.
Recollect that Parisian gossip has spoken of a marriage between myself an_lle. Eugenie Danglars; I cannot in conscience, therefore, let you run dow_he speeches of a man who will one day say to me, `Vicomte, you know I give m_aughter two millions.'"
"Ah, this marriage will never take place," said Beauchamp. "The king has mad_im a baron, and can make him a peer, but he cannot make him a gentleman, an_he Count of Morcerf is too aristocratic to consent, for the paltry sum of tw_illion francs, to a mesalliance. The Viscount of Morcerf can only wed _archioness."
"But two million francs make a nice little sum," replied Morcerf.
"It is the social capital of a theatre on the boulevard, or a railroad fro_he Jardin des Plantes to La Rapee."
"Never mind what he says, Morcerf," said Debray, "do you marry her. You marr_ money-bag label, it is true; well, but what does that matter? It is bette_o have a blazon less and a figure more on it. You have seven martlets on you_rms; give three to your wife, and you will still have four; that is one mor_han M. de Guise had, who so nearly became King of France, and whose cousi_as Emperor of Germany."
"On my word, I think you are right, Lucien," said Albert absently.
"To be sure; besides, every millionaire is as noble as a bastard — that is, h_an be."
"Do not say that, Debray," returned Beauchamp, laughing, "for here is Chateau- Renaud, who, to cure you of your mania for paradoxes, will pass the sword o_enaud de Montauban, his ancestor, through your body."
"He will sully it then," returned Lucien; "for I am low — very low."
"Oh, heavens," cried Beauchamp, "the minister quotes Beranger, what shall w_ome to next?"
"M. de Chateau-Renaud — M. Maximilian Morrel," said the servant, announcin_wo fresh guests.
"Now, then, to breakfast," said Beauchamp; "for, if I remember, you told m_ou only expected two persons, Albert."
"Morrel," muttered Albert — "Morrel — who is he?" But before he had finished, M. de Chateau-Renaud, a handsome young man of thirty, gentleman all over, — that is, with the figure of a Guiche and the wit of a Mortemart, — too_lbert's hand. "My dear Albert," said he, "let me introduce to you M.
Maximilian Morrel, captain of Spahis, my friend; and what is more — howeve_he man speaks for himself —-my preserver. Salute my hero, viscount." And h_tepped on one side to give place to a young man of refined and dignifie_earing, with large and open brow, piercing eyes, and black mustache, whom ou_eaders have already seen at Marseilles, under circumstances sufficientl_ramatic not to be forgotten. A rich uniform, half French, half Oriental, se_ff his graceful and stalwart figure, and his broad chest was decorated wit_he order of the Legion of Honor. The young officer bowed with easy an_legant politeness. "Monsieur," said Albert with affectionate courtesy, "th_ount of Chateau-Renaud knew how much pleasure this introduction would giv_e; you are his friend, be ours also."
"Well said," interrupted Chateau-Renaud; "and pray that, if you should ever b_n a similar predicament, he may do as much for you as he did for me."
"What has he done?" asked Albert.
"Oh, nothing worth speaking of," said Morrel; "M. de Chateau-Renau_xaggerates."
"Not worth speaking of?" cried Chateau-Renaud; "life is not worth speaking of!
— that is rather too philosophical, on my word, Morrel. It is very well fo_ou, who risk your life every day, but for me, who only did so once" —
"We gather from all this, baron, that Captain Morrel saved your life."
"On what occasion?" asked Beauchamp.
"Beauchamp, my good fellow, you know I am starving," said Debray: "do not se_im off on some long story."
"Well, I do not prevent your sitting down to table," replied Beauchamp,
"Chateau-Renaud can tell us while we eat our breakfast."
"Gentlemen," said Morcerf, "it is only a quarter past ten, and I expect som_ne else."
"Ah, true, a diplomatist!" observed Debray.
"Diplomat or not, I don't know; I only know that he charged himself on m_ccount with a mission, which he terminated so entirely to my satisfaction, that had I been king, I should have instantly created him knight of all m_rders, even had I been able to offer him the Golden Fleece and the Garter."
"Well, since we are not to sit down to table," said Debray, "take a glass o_herry, and tell us all about it."
"You all know that I had the fancy of going to Africa."
"It is a road your ancestors have traced for you," said Albert gallantly.
"Yes? but I doubt that your object was like theirs — to rescue the Hol_epulchre."
"You are quite right, Beauchamp," observed the young aristocrat. "It was onl_o fight as an amateur. I cannot bear duelling since two seconds, whom I ha_hosen to arrange an affair, forced me to break the arm of one of my bes_riends, one whom you all know — poor Franz d'Epinay."
"Ah, true," said Debray, "you did fight some time ago; about what?"
"The devil take me, if I remember," returned Chateau-Renaud. "But I recollec_erfectly one thing, that, being unwilling to let such talents as mine sleep, I wished to try upon the Arabs the new pistols that had been given to me. I_onsequence I embarked for Oran, and went from thence to Constantine, where _rrived just in time to witness the raising of the siege. I retreated with th_est, for eight and forty hours. I endured the rain during the day, and th_old during the night tolerably well, but the third morning my horse died o_old. Poor brute — accustomed to be covered up and to have a stove in th_table, the Arabian finds himself unable to bear ten degrees of cold i_rabia."
"That's why you want to purchase my English horse," said Debray, "you think h_ill bear the cold better."
"You are mistaken, for I have made a vow never to return to Africa."
"You were very much frightened, then?" asked Beauchamp.
"Well, yes, and I had good reason to be so," replied Chateau-Renaud. "I wa_etreating on foot, for my horse was dead. Six Arabs came up, full gallop, t_ut off my head. I shot two with my double-barrelled gun, and two more with m_istols, but I was then disarmed, and two were still left; one seized me b_he hair (that is why I now wear it so short, for no one knows what ma_appen), the other swung a yataghan, and I already felt the cold steel on m_eck, when this gentleman whom you see here charged them, shot the one wh_eld me by the hair, and cleft the skull of the other with his sabre. He ha_ssigned himself the task of saving a man's life that day; chance caused tha_an to be myself. When I am rich I will order a statue of Chance from Klagman_r Marochetti."
"Yes," said Morrel, smiling, "it was the 5th of September, the anniversary o_he day on which my father was miraculously preserved; therefore, as far as i_ies in my power, I endeavor to celebrate it by some" —
"Heroic action," interrupted Chateau-Renaud. "I was chosen. But that is no_ll — after rescuing me from the sword, he rescued me from the cold, not b_haring his cloak with me, like St. Martin, but by giving me the whole; the_rom hunger by sharing with me — guess what?"
"A Strasbourg pie?" asked Beauchamp.
"No, his horse; of which we each of us ate a slice with a hearty appetite. I_as very hard."
"The horse?" said Morcerf, laughing.
"No, the sacrifice," returned Chateau-Renaud; "ask Debray if he woul_acrifice his English steed for a stranger?"
"Not for a stranger," said Debray, "but for a friend I might, perhaps."
"I divined that you would become mine, count," replied Morrel; "besides, as _ad the honor to tell you, heroism or not, sacrifice or not, that day I owe_n offering to bad fortune in recompense for the favors good fortune had o_ther days granted to us."
"The history to which M. Morrel alludes," continued Chateau-Renaud, "is a_dmirable one, which he will tell you some day when you are better acquainte_ith him; to-day let us fill our stomachs, and not our memories. What time d_ou breakfast, Albert?"
"At half-past ten."
"Precisely?" asked Debray, taking out his watch.
"Oh, you will give me five minutes' grace," replied Morcerf, "for I als_xpect a preserver."
"Of myself," cried Morcerf; "parbleu, do you think I cannot be saved as wel_s any one else, and that there are only Arabs who cut off heads? Ou_reakfast is a philanthropic one, and we shall have at table — at least, _ope so — two benefactors of humanity."
"What shall we do?" said Debray; "we have only one Monthyon prize."
"Well, it will be given to some one who has done nothing to deserve it," sai_eauchamp; "that is the way the Academy mostly escapes from the dilemma."
"And where does he come from?" asked Debray. "You have already answered th_uestion once, but so vaguely that I venture to put it a second time."
"Really," said Albert, "I do not know; when I invited him three months ago, h_as then at Rome, but since that time who knows where he may have gone?"
"And you think him capable of being exact?" demanded Debray.
"I think him capable of everything."
"Well, with the five minutes' grace, we have only ten left."
"I will profit by them to tell you something about my guest."
"I beg pardon," interrupted Beauchamp; "are there any materials for an articl_n what you are going to tell us?"
"Yes, and for a most curious one."
"Go on, then, for I see I shall not get to the Chamber this morning, and _ust make up for it."
"I was at Rome during the last Carnival."
"We know that," said Beauchamp.
"Yes, but what you do not know is that I was carried off by bandits."
"There are no bandits," cried Debray.
"Yes there are, and most hideous, or rather most admirable ones, for I foun_hem ugly enough to frighten me."
"Come, my dear Albert," said Debray, "confess that your cook is behindhand, that the oysters have not arrived from Ostend or Marennes, and that, lik_adame de Maintenon, you are going to replace the dish by a story. Say so a_nce; we are sufficiently well-bred to excuse you, and to listen to you_istory, fabulous as it promises to be."
"And I say to you, fabulous as it may seem, I tell it as a true one fro_eginning to end. The brigands had carried me off, and conducted me to _loomy spot, called the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian."
"I know it," said Chateau-Renaud; "I narrowly escaped catching a fever there."
"And I did more than that," replied Morcerf, "for I caught one. I was informe_hat I was prisoner until I paid the sum of 4,000 Roman crowns — about 24,00_rancs. Unfortunately, I had not above 1,500. I was at the end of my journe_nd of my credit. I wrote to Franz — and were he here he would confirm ever_ord — I wrote then to Franz that if he did not come with the four thousan_rowns before six, at ten minutes past I should have gone to join the blesse_aints and glorious martyrs in whose company I had the honor of being; an_ignor Luigi Vampa, such was the name of the chief of these bandits, woul_ave scrupulously kept his word."
"But Franz did come with the four thousand crowns," said Chateau-Renaud. "_an whose name is Franz d'Epinay or Albert de Morcerf has not much difficult_n procuring them."
"No, he arrived accompanied simply by the guest I am going to present to you."
"Ah, this gentleman is a Hercules killing Cacus, a Perseus freeing Andromeda."
"No, he is a man about my own size."
"Armed to the teeth?"
"He had not even a knitting-needle."
"But he paid your ransom?"
"He said two words to the chief and I was free."
"And they apologized to him for having carried you off?" said Beauchamp.
"Why, he is a second Ariosto."
"No, his name is the Count of Monte Cristo."
"There is no Count of Monte Cristo" said Debray.
"I do not think so," added Chateau-Renaud, with the air of a man who knows th_hole of the European nobility perfectly.
"Does any one know anything of a Count of Monte Cristo?"
"He comes possibly from the Holy Land, and one of his ancestors possesse_alvary, as the Mortemarts did the Dead Sea."
"I think I can assist your researches," said Maximilian. "Monte Cristo is _ittle island I have often heard spoken of by the old sailors my fathe_mployed — a grain of sand in the centre of the Mediterranean, an atom in th_nfinite."
"Precisely!" cried Albert. "Well, he of whom I speak is the lord and master o_his grain of sand, of this atom; he has purchased the title of coun_omewhere in Tuscany."
"He is rich, then?"
"I believe so."
"But that ought to be visible."
"That is what deceives you, Debray."
"I do not understand you."
"Have you read the `Arabian Nights'?"
"What a question!"
"Well, do you know if the persons you see there are rich or poor, if thei_acks of wheat are not rubies or diamonds? They seem like poor fishermen, an_uddenly they open some mysterious cavern filled with the wealth of th_ndies."
"Which means that my Count of Monte Cristo is one of those fishermen. He ha_ven a name taken from the book, since he calls himself Sinbad the Sailor, an_as a cave filled with gold."
"And you have seen this cavern, Morcerf?" asked Beauchamp.
"No, but Franz has; for heaven's sake, not a word of this before him. Fran_ent in with his eyes blindfolded, and was waited on by mutes and by women t_hom Cleopatra was a painted strumpet. Only he is not quite sure about th_omen, for they did not come in until after he had taken hashish, so that wha_e took for women might have been simply a row of statues."
The two young men looked at Morcerf as if to say, — "Are you mad, or are yo_aughing at us?"
"And I also," said Morrel thoughtfully, "have heard something like this fro_n old sailor named Penelon."
"Ah," cried Albert, "it is very lucky that M. Morrel comes to aid me; you ar_exed, are you not, that he thus gives a clew to the labyrinth?"
"My dear Albert," said Debray, "what you tell us is so extraordinary."
"Ah, because your ambassadors and your consuls do not tell you of them — the_ave no time. They are too much taken up with interfering in the affairs o_heir countrymen who travel."
"Now you get angry, and attack our poor agents. How will you have them protec_ou? The Chamber cuts down their salaries every day, so that now they hav_carcely any. Will you be ambassador, Albert? I will send you t_onstantinople."
"No, lest on the first demonstration I make in favor of Mehemet Ali, th_ultan send me the bowstring, and make my secretaries strangle me."
"You say very true," responded Debray.
"Yes," said Albert, "but this has nothing to do with the existence of th_ount of Monte Cristo."
"Pardieu, every one exists."
"Doubtless, but not in the same way; every one has not black slaves, _rincely retinue, an arsenal of weapons that would do credit to an Arabia_ortress, horses that cost six thousand francs apiece, and Greek mistresses."
"Have you seen the Greek mistress?"
"I have both seen and heard her. I saw her at the theatre, and heard her on_orning when I breakfasted with the count."
"He eats, then?"
"Yes; but so little, it can hardly be called eating."
"He must be a vampire."
"Laugh, if you will; the Countess G—— , who knew Lord Ruthven, declared tha_he count was a vampire."
"Ah, capital," said Beauchamp. "For a man not connected with newspapers, her_s the pendant to the famous sea-serpent of the Constitutionnel."
"Wild eyes, the iris of which contracts or dilates at pleasure," said Debray;
"facial angle strongly developed, magnificent forehead, livid complexion, black beard, sharp and white teeth, politeness unexceptionable."
"Just so, Lucien," returned Morcerf; "you have described him feature fo_eature. Yes, keen and cutting politeness. This man has often made me shudder; and one day that we were viewing an execution, I thought I should faint, mor_rom hearing the cold and calm manner in which he spoke of every descriptio_f torture, than from the sight of the executioner and the culprit."
"Did he not conduct you to the ruins of the Colosseum and suck your blood?"
"Or, having delivered you, make you sign a flaming parchment, surrenderin_our soul to him as Esau did his birth-right?"
"Rail on, rail on at your ease, gentlemen," said Morcerf, somewhat piqued.
"When I look at you Parisians, idlers on the Boulevard de Gand or the Bois d_oulogne, and think of this man, it seems to me we are not of the same race."
"I am highly flattered," returned Beauchamp. "At the same time," adde_hateau-Renaud, "your Count of Monte Cristo is a very fine fellow, alway_xcepting his little arrangements with the Italian banditti."
"There are no Italian banditti," said Debray.
"No vampire," cried Beauchamp. "No Count of Monte Cristo" added Debray. "Ther_s half-past ten striking, Albert."
"Confess you have dreamed this, and let us sit down to breakfast," continue_eauchamp. But the sound of the clock had not died away when Germai_nnounced, "His excellency the Count of Monte Cristo." The involuntary star_very one gave proved how much Morcerf's narrative had impressed them, an_lbert himself could not wholly refrain from manifesting sudden emotion. H_ad not heard a carriage stop in the street, or steps in the ante-chamber; th_oor had itself opened noiselessly. The count appeared, dressed with th_reatest simplicity, but the most fastidious dandy could have found nothing t_avil at in his toilet. Every article of dress — hat, coat, gloves, and boots — was from the first makers. He seemed scarcely five and thirty. But wha_truck everybody was his extreme resemblance to the portrait Debray had drawn.
The count advanced, smiling, into the centre of the room, and approache_lbert, who hastened towards him holding out his hand in a ceremonial manner.
"Punctuality," said Monte Cristo, "is the politeness of kings, according t_ne of your sovereigns, I think; but it is not the same with travellers.
However, I hope you will excuse the two or three seconds I am behindhand; fiv_undred leagues are not to be accomplished without some trouble, an_specially in France, where, it seems, it is forbidden to beat th_ostilions."
"My dear count," replied Albert, "I was announcing your visit to some of m_riends, whom I had invited in consequence of the promise you did me the hono_o make, and whom I now present to you. They are the Count of Chateau-Renaud, whose nobility goes back to the twelve peers, and whose ancestors had a plac_t the Round Table; M. Lucien Debray, private secretary to the minister of th_nterior; M. Beauchamp, an editor of a paper, and the terror of the Frenc_overnment, but of whom, in spite of his national celebrity, you perhaps hav_ot heard in Italy, since his paper is prohibited there; and M. Maximilia_orrel, captain of Spahis."
At this name the count, who had hitherto saluted every one with courtesy, bu_t the same time with coldness and formality, stepped a pace forward, and _light tinge of red colored his pale cheeks. "You wear the uniform of the ne_rench conquerors, monsieur," said he; "it is a handsome uniform." No on_ould have said what caused the count's voice to vibrate so deeply, and wha_ade his eye flash, which was in general so clear, lustrous, and limpid whe_e pleased. "You have never seen our Africans, count?" said Albert. "Never,"
replied the count, who was by this time perfectly master of himself again.
"Well, beneath this uniform beats one of the bravest and noblest hearts in th_hole army."
"Oh, M. de Morcerf," interrupted Morrel.
"Let me go on, captain. And we have just heard," continued Albert, "of a ne_eed of his, and so heroic a one, that, although I have seen him to-day fo_he first time, I request you to allow me to introduce him as my friend." A_hese words it was still possible to observe in Monte Cristo the concentrate_ook, changing color, and slight trembling of the eyelid that show emotion.
"Ah, you have a noble heart," said the count; "so much the better." Thi_xclamation, which corresponded to the count's own thought rather than to wha_lbert was saying, surprised everybody, and especially Morrel, who looked a_onte Cristo with wonder. But, at the same time, the intonation was so sof_hat, however strange the speech might seem, it was impossible to be offende_t it. "Why should he doubt it?" said Beauchamp to Chateau-Renaud.
"In reality," replied the latter, who, with his aristocratic glance and hi_nowledge of the world, had penetrated at once all that was penetrable i_onte Cristo, "Albert has not deceived us, for the count is a most singula_eing. What say you, Morrel!"
"Ma foi, he has an open look about him that pleases me, in spite of th_ingular remark he has made about me."
"Gentlemen," said Albert, "Germain informs me that breakfast is ready. My dea_ount, allow me to show you the way." They passed silently into the breakfast- room, and every one took his place. "Gentlemen," said the count, seatin_imself, "permit me to make a confession which must form my excuse for an_mproprieties I may commit. I am a stranger, and a stranger to such a degree, that this is the first time I have ever been at Paris. The French way o_iving is utterly unknown to me, and up to the present time I have followe_he Eastern customs, which are entirely in contrast to the Parisian. I be_ou, therefore, to excuse if you find anything in me too Turkish, too Italian, or too Arabian. Now, then, let us breakfast."
"With what an air he says all this," muttered Beauchamp; "decidedly he is _reat man."
"A great man in his own country," added Debray.
"A great man in every country, M. Debray," said Chateau-Renaud. The count was, it may be remembered, a most temperate guest. Albert remarked this, expressin_is fears lest, at the outset, the Parisian mode of life should displease th_raveller in the most essential point. "My dear count," said he, "I fear on_hing, and that is, that the fare of the Rue du Helder is not so much to you_aste as that of the Piazza di Spagni. I ought to have consulted you on th_oint, and have had some dishes prepared expressly."
"Did you know me better," returned the count, smiling, "you would not give on_hought of such a thing for a traveller like myself, who has successivel_ived on maccaroni at Naples, polenta at Milan, olla podrida at Valencia, pilau at Constantinople, karrick in India, and swallows' nests in China. I ea_verywhere, and of everything, only I eat but little; and to-day, that yo_eproach me with my want of appetite, is my day of appetite, for I have no_aten since yesterday morning."
"What," cried all the guests, "you have not eaten for four and twenty hours?"
"No," replied the count; "I was forced to go out of my road to obtain som_nformation near Nimes, so that I was somewhat late, and therefore I did no_hoose to stop."
"And you ate in your carriage?" asked Morcerf.
"No, I slept, as I generally do when I am weary without having the courage t_muse myself, or when I am hungry without feeling inclined to eat."
"But you can sleep when you please, monsieur?" said Morrel.
"You have a recipe for it?"
"An infallible one."
"That would be invaluable to us in Africa, who have not always any food t_at, and rarely anything to drink."
"Yes," said Monte Cristo; "but, unfortunately, a recipe excellent for a ma_ike myself would be very dangerous applied to an army, which might not awak_hen it was needed."
"May we inquire what is this recipe?" asked Debray.
"Oh, yes," returned Monte Cristo; "I make no secret of it. It is a mixture o_xcellent opium, which I fetched myself from Canton in order to have it pure, and the best hashish which grows in the East — that is, between the Tigris an_he Euphrates. These two ingredients are mixed in equal proportions, an_ormed into pills. Ten minutes after one is taken, the effect is produced. As_aron Franz d'Epinay; I think he tasted them one day."
"Yes," replied Morcerf, "he said something about it to me."
"But," said Beauchamp, who, as became a journalist, was very incredulous, "yo_lways carry this drug about you?"
"Would it be an indiscretion to ask to see those precious pills?" continue_eauchamp, hoping to take him at a disadvantage.
"No, monsieur," returned the count; and he drew from his pocket a marvellou_asket, formed out of a single emerald and closed by a golden lid whic_nscrewed and gave passage to a small greenish colored pellet about the siz_f a pea. This ball had an acrid and penetrating odor. There were four or fiv_ore in the emerald, which would contain about a dozen. The casket passe_round the table, but it was more to examine the admirable emerald than to se_he pills that it passed from hand to hand. "And is it your cook who prepare_hese pills?" asked Beauchamp.
"Oh, no, monsieur," replied Monte Cristo; "I do not thus betray my enjoyment_o the vulgar. I am a tolerable chemist, and prepare my pills myself."
"This is a magnificent emerald, and the largest I have ever seen," sai_hateau-Renaud, "although my mother has some remarkable family jewels."
"I had three similar ones," returned Monte Cristo. "I gave one to the Sultan, who mounted it in his sabre; another to our holy father the Pope, who had i_et in his tiara, opposite to one nearly as large, though not so fine, give_y the Emperor Napoleon to his predecessor, Pius VII. I kept the third fo_yself, and I had it hollowed out, which reduced its value, but rendered i_ore commodious for the purpose I intended." Every one looked at Monte Crist_ith astonishment; he spoke with so much simplicity that it was evident h_poke the truth, or that he was mad. However, the sight of the emerald mad_hem naturally incline to the former belief. "And what did these tw_overeigns give you in exchange for these magnificent presents?" asked Debray.
"The Sultan, the liberty of a woman," replied the Count; "the Pope, the lif_f a man; so that once in my life I have been as powerful as if heaven ha_rought me into the world on the steps of a throne."
"And it was Peppino you saved, was it not?" cried Morcerf; "it was for hi_hat you obtained pardon?"
"Perhaps," returned the count, smiling.
"My dear count, you have no idea what pleasure it gives me to hear you spea_hus," said Morcerf. "I had announced you beforehand to my friends as a_nchanter of the `Arabian Nights,' a wizard of the Middle Ages; but th_arisians are so subtle in paradoxes that they mistake for caprices of th_magination the most incontestable truths, when these truths do not form _art of their daily existence. For example, here is Debray who reads, an_eauchamp who prints, every day, `A member of the Jockey Club has been stoppe_nd robbed on the Boulevard;' `four persons have been assassinated in the Ru_t. Denis' or `the Faubourg St. Germain;' `ten, fifteen, or twenty thieves, have been arrested in a cafe on the Boulevard du Temple, or in the Thermes d_ulien,' — and yet these same men deny the existence of the bandits in th_aremma, the Campagna di Romana, or the Pontine Marshes. Tell them yoursel_hat I was taken by bandits, and that without your generous intercession _hould now have been sleeping in the Catacombs of St. Sebastian, instead o_eceiving them in my humble abode in the Rue du Helder."
"Ah," said Monte Cristo "you promised me never to mention that circumstance."
"It was not I who made that promise," cried Morcerf; "it must have been som_ne else whom you have rescued in the same manner, and whom you hav_orgotten. Pray speak of it, for I shall not only, I trust, relate the littl_ do know, but also a great deal I do not know."
"It seems to me," returned the count, smiling, "that you played a sufficientl_mportant part to know as well as myself what happened."
"Well, you promise me, if I tell all I know, to relate, in your turn, all tha_ do not know?"
"That is but fair," replied Monte Cristo.
"Well," said Morcerf, "for three days I believed myself the object of th_ttentions of a masque, whom I took for a descendant of Tullia or Poppoea, while I was simply the object of the attentions of a contadina, and I sa_ontadina to avoid saying peasant girl. What I know is, that, like a fool, _reater fool than he of whom I spoke just now, I mistook for this peasant gir_ young bandit of fifteen or sixteen, with a beardless chin and slim waist, and who, just as I was about to imprint a chaste salute on his lips, placed _istol to my head, and, aided by seven or eight others, led, or rather dragge_e, to the Catacombs of St. Sebastian, where I found a highly educated brigan_hief perusing Caesar's `Commentaries,' and who deigned to leave off readin_o inform me, that unless the next morning, before six o'clock, four thousan_iastres were paid into his account at his banker's, at a quarter past six _hould have ceased to exist. The letter is still to be seen, for it is i_ranz d'Epinay's possession, signed by me, and with a postscript of M. Luig_ampa. This is all I know, but I know not, count, how you contrived to inspir_o much respect in the bandits of Rome who ordinarily have so little respec_or anything. I assure you, Franz and I were lost in admiration."
"Nothing more simple," returned the count. "I had known the famous Vampa fo_ore than ten years. When he was quite a child, and only a shepherd, I gav_im a few gold pieces for showing me my way, and he, in order to repay me, gave me a poniard, the hilt of which he had carved with his own hand, an_hich you may have seen in my collection of arms. In after years, whether h_ad forgotten this interchange of presents, which ought to have cemented ou_riendship, or whether he did not recollect me, he sought to take me, but, o_he contrary, it was I who captured him and a dozen of his band. I might hav_anded him over to Roman justice, which is somewhat expeditious, and whic_ould have been particularly so with him; but I did nothing of the sort — _uffered him and his band to depart."
"With the condition that they should sin no more," said Beauchamp, laughing.
"I see they kept their promise."
"No, monsieur," returned Monte Cristo "upon the simple condition that the_hould respect myself and my friends. Perhaps what I am about to say may see_trange to you, who are socialists, and vaunt humanity and your duty to you_eighbor, but I never seek to protect a society which does not protect me, an_hich I will even say, generally occupies itself about me only to injure me; and thus by giving them a low place in my esteem, and preserving a neutralit_owards them, it is society and my neighbor who are indebted to me."
"Bravo," cried Chateau-Renaud; "you are the first man I ever met sufficientl_ourageous to preach egotism. Bravo, count, bravo!"
"It is frank, at least," said Morrel. "But I am sure that the count does no_egret having once deviated from the principles he has so boldly avowed."
"How have I deviated from those principles, monsieur?" asked Monte Cristo, wh_ould not help looking at Morrel with so much intensity, that two or thre_imes the young man had been unable to sustain that clear and piercing glance.
"Why, it seems to me," replied Morrel, "that in delivering M. de Morcerf, who_ou did not know, you did good to your neighbor and to society."
"Of which he is the brightest ornament," said Beauchamp, drinking off a glas_f champagne.
"My dear count," cried Morcerf, "you are at fault — you, one of the mos_ormidable logicians I know — and you must see it clearly proved that instea_f being an egotist, you are a philanthropist. Ah, you call yourself Oriental, a Levantine, Maltese, Indian, Chinese; your family name is Monte Cristo; Sinbad the Sailor is your baptismal appellation, and yet the first day you se_oot in Paris you instinctively display the greatest virtue, or rather th_hief defect, of us eccentric Parisians, — that is, you assume the vices yo_ave not, and conceal the virtues you possess."
"My dear vicomte," returned Monte Cristo, "I do not see, in all I have done, anything that merits, either from you or these gentlemen, the pretende_ulogies I have received. You were no stranger to me, for I knew you from th_ime I gave up two rooms to you, invited you to breakfast with me, lent yo_ne of my carriages, witnessed the Carnival in your company, and saw with yo_rom a window in the Piazza del Popolo the execution that affected you so muc_hat you nearly fainted. I will appeal to any of these gentlemen, could _eave my guest in the hands of a hideous bandit, as you term him? Besides, yo_now, I had the idea that you could introduce me into some of the Paris salon_hen I came to France. You might some time ago have looked upon thi_esolution as a vague project, but to-day you see it was a reality, and yo_ust submit to it under penalty of breaking your word."
"I will keep it," returned Morcerf; "but I fear that you will be muc_isappointed, accustomed as you are to picturesque events and fantasti_orizons. Amongst us you will not meet with any of those episodes with whic_our adventurous existence has so familiarized you; our Chimborazo i_ortmartre, our Himalaya is Mount Valerien, our Great Desert is the plain o_renelle, where they are now boring an artesian well to water the caravans. W_ave plenty of thieves, though not so many as is said; but these thieves stan_n far more dread of a policeman than a lord. France is so prosaic, and Pari_o civilized a city, that you will not find in its eighty-five departments — _ay eighty-five, because I do not include Corsica — you will not find, then, in these eighty-five departments a single hill on which there is not _elegraph, or a grotto in which the commissary of police has not put up _aslamp. There is but one service I can render you, and for that I plac_yself entirely at your orders, that is, to present, or make my friend_resent, you everywhere; besides, you have no need of any one to introduce you — with your name, and your fortune, and your talent" (Monte Cristo bowed wit_ somewhat ironical smile) "you can present yourself everywhere, and be wel_eceived. I can be useful in one way only — if knowledge of Parisian habits, of the means of rendering yourself comfortable, or of the bazaars, can assist, you may depend upon me to find you a fitting dwelling here. I do not dar_ffer to share my apartments with you, as I shared yours at Rome — I, who d_ot profess egotism, but am yet egotist par excellence; for, except myself, these rooms would not hold a shadow more, unless that shadow were feminine."
"Ah," said the count, "that is a most conjugal reservation; I recollect tha_t Rome you said something of a projected marriage. May I congratulate you?"
"The affair is still in projection."
"And he who says in `projection,' means already decided," said Debray.
"No," replied Morcerf, "my father is most anxious about it; and I hope, er_ong, to introduce you, if not to my wife, at least to my betrothed — Mademoiselle Eugenie Danglars."
"Eugenie Danglars," said Monte Cristo; "tell me, is not her father Baro_anglars?"
"Yes," returned Morcerf, "a baron of a new creation."
"What matter," said Monte Cristo "if he has rendered the State services whic_erit this distinction?"
"Enormous ones," answered Beauchamp. "Although in reality a Liberal, h_egotiated a loan of six millions for Charles X., in 1829, who made him _aron and chevalier of the Legion of Honor; so that he wears the ribbon, not, as you would think, in his waistcoat-pocket, but at his button-hole."
"Ah," interrupted Morcerf, laughing, "Beauchamp, Beauchamp, keep that for th_orsaire or the Charivari, but spare my future father-in-law before me." Then, turning to Monte Cristo, "You just now spoke his name as if you knew th_aron?"
"I do not know him," returned Monte Cristo; "but I shall probably soon mak_is acquaintance, for I have a credit opened with him by the house of Richard & Blount, of London, Arstein & Eskeles of Vienna, and Thomson & French a_ome." As he pronounced the two last names, the count glanced at Maximilia_orrel. If the stranger expected to produce an effect on Morrel, he was no_istaken — Maximilian started as if he had been electrified. "Thomson & French," said he; "do you know this house, monsieur?"
"They are my bankers in the capital of the Christian world," returned th_ount quietly. "Can my influence with them be of any service to you?"
"Oh, count, you could assist me perhaps in researches which have been, up t_he present, fruitless. This house, in past years, did ours a great service, and has, I know not for what reason, always denied having rendered us thi_ervice."
"I shall be at your orders," said Monte Cristo bowing.
"But," continued Morcerf, "a propos of Danglars, — we have strangely wandere_rom the subject. We were speaking of a suitable habitation for the Count o_onte Cristo. Come, gentlemen, let us all propose some place. Where shall w_odge this new guest in our great capital?"
"Faubourg Saint-Germain," said Chateau-Renaud. "The count will find there _harming hotel, with a court and garden."
"Bah, Chateau-Renaud," returned Debray, "you only know your dull and gloom_aubourg Saint-Germain; do not pay any attention to him, count — live in th_haussee d'Antin, that's the real centre of Paris."
"Boulevard de l'Opera," said Beauchamp; "the second floor — a house with _alcony. The count will have his cushions of silver cloth brought there, an_s he smokes his chibouque, see all Paris pass before him."
"You have no idea, then, Morrel?" asked Chateau-Renaud; "you do not propos_nything."
"Oh, yes," returned the young man, smiling; "on the contrary, I have one, bu_ expected the count would be tempted by one of the brilliant proposals mad_im, yet as he has not replied to any of them, I will venture to offer him _uite of apartments in a charming hotel, in the Pompadour style, that m_ister has inhabited for a year, in the Rue Meslay."
"You have a sister?" asked the count.
"Yes, monsieur, a most excellent sister."
"Nearly nine years."
"Happy?" asked the count again.
"As happy as it is permitted to a human creature to be," replied Maximilian.
"She married the man she loved, who remained faithful to us in our falle_ortunes — Emmanuel Herbaut." Monte Cristo smiled imperceptibly. "I live ther_uring my leave of absence," continued Maximilian; "and I shall be, togethe_ith my brother-in-law Emmanuel, at the disposition of the Count, whenever h_hinks fit to honor us."
"One minute," cried Albert, without giving Monte Cristo the time to reply.
"Take care, you are going to immure a traveller, Sinbad the Sailor, a man wh_omes to see Paris; you are going to make a patriarch of him."
"Oh, no," said Morrel; "my sister is five and twenty, my brother-in-law i_hirty, they are gay, young, and happy. Besides, the count will be in his ow_ouse, and only see them when he thinks fit to do so."
"Thanks, monsieur," said Monte Cristo; "I shall content myself with bein_resented to your sister and her husband, if you will do me the honor t_ntroduce me; but I cannot accept the offer of any one of these gentlemen, since my habitation is already prepared."
"What," cried Morcerf; "you are, then, going to an hotel — that will be ver_ull for you."
"Was I so badly lodged at Rome?" said Monte Cristo smiling.
"Parbleu, at Rome you spent fifty thousand piastres in furnishing you_partments, but I presume that you are not disposed to spend a similar su_very day."
"It is not that which deterred me," replied Monte Cristo; "but as I determine_o have a house to myself, I sent on my valet de chambre, and he ought by thi_ime to have bought the house and furnished it."
"But you have, then, a valet de chambre who knows Paris?" said Beauchamp.
"It is the first time he has ever been in Paris. He is black, and canno_peak," returned Monte Cristo.
"It is Ali!" cried Albert, in the midst of the general surprise.
"Yes, Ali himself, my Nubian mute, whom you saw, I think, at Rome."
"Certainly," said Morcerf; "I recollect him perfectly. But how could yo_harge a Nubian to purchase a house, and a mute to furnish it? — he will d_verything wrong."
"Undeceive yourself, monsieur," replied Monte Cristo; "I am quite sure, that, on the contrary, he will choose everything as I wish. He knows my tastes, m_aprices, my wants. He has been here a week, with the instinct of a hound, hunting by himself. He will arrange everything for me. He knew, that I shoul_rrive to-day at ten o'clock; he was waiting for me at nine at the Barriere d_ontainebleau. He gave me this paper; it contains the number of my new abode; read it yourself," and Monte Cristo passed a paper to Albert. "Ah, that i_eally original," said Beauchamp.
"And very princely," added Chateau-Renaud.
"What, do you not know your house?" asked Debray.
"No," said Monte Cristo; "I told you I did not wish to be behind my time; _ressed myself in the carriage, and descended at the viscount's door." Th_oung men looked at each other; they did not know if it was a comedy Mont_risto was playing, but every word he uttered had such an air of simplicity, that it was impossible to suppose what he said was false — besides, why shoul_e tell a falsehood? "We must content ourselves, then," said Beauchamp, "wit_endering the count all the little services in our power. I, in my quality o_ournalist, open all the theatres to him."
"Thanks, monsieur," returned Monte Cristo, "my steward has orders to take _ox at each theatre."
"Is your steward also a Nubian?" asked Debray.
"No, he is a countryman of yours, if a Corsican is a countryman of any one's.
But you know him, M. de Morcerf."
"Is it that excellent M. Bertuccio, who understands hiring windows so well?"
"Yes, you saw him the day I had the honor of receiving you; he has been _oldier, a smuggler — in fact, everything. I would not be quite sure that h_as not been mixed up with the police for some trifle — a stab with a knife, for instance."
"And you have chosen this honest citizen for your steward," said Debray. "O_ow much does he rob you every year?"
"On my word," replied the count, "not more than another. I am sure he answer_y purpose, knows no impossibility, and so I keep him."
"Then," continued Chateau-Renaud, "since you have an establishment, a steward, and a hotel in the Champs Elysees, you only want a mistress." Albert smiled.
He thought of the fair Greek he had seen in the count's box at the Argentin_nd Valle theatres. "I have something better than that," said Monte Cristo; "_ave a slave. You procure your mistresses from the opera, the Vaudeville, o_he Varietes; I purchased mine at Constantinople; it cost me more, but I hav_othing to fear."
"But you forget," replied Debray, laughing, "that we are Franks by name an_ranks by nature, as King Charles said, and that the moment she puts her foo_n France your slave becomes free."
"Who will tell her?"
"The first person who sees her."
"She only speaks Romaic."
"That is different."
"But at least we shall see her," said Beauchamp, "or do you keep eunuchs a_ell as mutes?"
"Oh, no," replied Monte Cristo; "I do not carry brutalism so far. Every on_ho surrounds me is free to quit me, and when they leave me will no longe_ave any need of me or any one else; it is for that reason, perhaps, that the_o not quit me." They had long since passed to dessert and cigars.
"My dear Albert," said Debray, rising, "it is half-past two. Your guest i_harming, but you leave the best company to go into the worst sometimes. _ust return to the minister's. I will tell him of the count, and we shall soo_now who he is."
"Take care," returned Albert; "no one has been able to accomplish that."
"Oh, we have three millions for our police; it is true they are almost alway_pent beforehand, but, no matter, we shall still have fifty thousand francs t_pend for this purpose."
"And when you know, will you tell me?"
"I promise you. Au revoir, Albert. Gentlemen, good morning."
As he left the room, Debray called out loudly, "My carriage."
"Bravo," said Beauchamp to Albert; "I shall not go to the Chamber, but I hav_omething better to offer my readers than a speech of M. Danglars."
"For heaven's sake, Beauchamp," returned Morcerf, "do not deprive me of th_erit of introducing him everywhere. Is he not peculiar?"
"He is more than that," replied Chateau-Renaud; "he is one of the mos_xtraordinary men I ever saw in my life. Are you coming, Morrel?"
"Directly I have given my card to the count, who has promised to pay us _isit at Rue Meslay, No. 14."
"Be sure I shall not fail to do so," returned the count, bowing. An_aximilian Morrel left the room with the Baron de Chateau-Renaud, leavin_onte Cristo alone with Morcerf.