Meanwhile Monte Cristo had also returned to town with Emmanuel and Maximilian.
Their return was cheerful. Emmanuel did not conceal his joy at the peacefu_ermination of the affair, and was loud in his expressions of delight. Morrel, in a corner of the carriage, allowed his brother-in-law's gayety to expen_tself in words, while he felt equal inward joy, which, however, betraye_tself only in his countenance. At the Barriere du Trone they met Bertuccio, who was waiting there, motionless as a sentinel at his post. Monte Cristo pu_is head out of the window, exchanged a few words with him in a low tone, an_he steward disappeared. "Count," said Emmanuel, when they were at the end o_he Place Royale, "put me down at my door, that my wife may not have a singl_oment of needless anxiety on my account or yours."
"If it were not ridiculous to make a display of our triumph, I would invit_he count to our house; besides that, he doubtless has some trembling heart t_omfort. So we will take leave of our friend, and let him hasten home."
"Stop a moment," said Monte Cristo; "do not let me lose both my companions.
Return, Emmanuel, to your charming wife, and present my best compliments t_er; and do you, Morrel, accompany me to the Champs Elysees."
"Willingly," said Maximilian; "particularly as I have business in tha_uarter."
"Shall we wait breakfast for you?" asked Emmanuel.
"No," replied the young man. The door was closed, and the carriage proceeded.
"See what good fortune I brought you!" said Morrel, when he was alone with th_ount. "Have you not thought so?"
"Yes," said Monte Cristo; "for that reason I wished to keep you near me."
"It is miraculous!" continued Morrel, answering his own thoughts.
"What?" said Monte Cristo.
"What has just happened."
"Yes," said the Count, "you are right — it is miraculous."
"For Albert is brave," resumed Morrel.
"Very brave," said Monte Cristo; "I have seen him sleep with a sword suspende_ver his head."
"And I know he has fought two duels," said Morrel. "How can you reconcile tha_ith his conduct this morning?"
"All owing to your influence," replied Monte Cristo, smiling.
"It is well for Albert he is not in the army," said Morrel.
"An apology on the ground!" said the young captain, shaking his head.
"Come," said the count mildly, "do not entertain the prejudices of ordinar_en, Morrel! Acknowledge, that if Albert is brave, he cannot be a coward; h_ust then have had some reason for acting as he did this morning, and confes_hat his conduct is more heroic than otherwise."
"Doubtless, doubtless," said Morrel; "but I shall say, like the Spaniard, `H_as not been so brave to-day as he was yesterday.'"
"You will breakfast with me, will you not, Morrel?" said the count, to tur_he conversation.
"No; I must leave you at ten o'clock."
"Your engagement was for breakfast, then?" said the count.
Morrel smiled, and shook his head. "Still you must breakfast somewhere."
"But if I am not hungry?" said the young man.
"Oh," said the count, "I only know two things which destroy the appetite, — grief — and as I am happy to see you very cheerful, it is not that — and love.
Now after what you told me this morning of your heart, I may believe" —
"Well, count," replied Morrel gayly, "I will not dispute it."
"But you will not make me your confidant, Maximilian?" said the count, in _one which showed how gladly he would have been admitted to the secret.
"I showed you this morning that I had a heart, did I not, count?" Monte Crist_nly answered by extending his hand to the young man. "Well," continued th_atter, "since that heart is no longer with you in the Bois de Vincennes, i_s elsewhere, and I must go and find it."
"Go," said the count deliberately; "go, dear friend, but promise me if yo_eet with any obstacle to remember that I have some power in this world, tha_ am happy to use that power in the behalf of those I love, and that I lov_ou, Morrel."
"I will remember it," said the young man, "as selfish children recollect thei_arents when they want their aid. When I need your assistance, and the momen_rrives, I will come to you, count."
"Well, I rely upon your promise. Good-by, then."
"Good-by, till we meet again." They had arrived in the Champs Elysees. Mont_risto opened the carriage-door, Morrel sprang out on the pavement, Bertucci_as waiting on the steps. Morrel disappeared down the Avenue de Marigny, an_onte Cristo hastened to join Bertuccio.
"Well?" asked he.
"She is going to leave her house," said the steward.
"And her son?"
"Florentin, his valet, thinks he is going to do the same."
"Come this way." Monte Cristo took Bertuccio into his study, wrote the lette_e have seen, and gave it to the steward. "Go," said he quickly. "But first, let Haidee be informed that I have returned."
"Here I am," said the young girl, who at the sound of the carriage had ru_own-stairs and whose face was radiant with joy at seeing the count retur_afely. Bertuccio left. Every transport of a daughter finding a father, al_he delight of a mistress seeing an adored lover, were felt by Haidee durin_he first moments of this meeting, which she had so eagerly expected.
Doubtless, although less evident, Monte Cristo's joy was not less intense. Jo_o hearts which have suffered long is like the dew on the ground after a lon_rought; both the heart and the ground absorb that beneficent moisture fallin_n them, and nothing is outwardly apparent.
Monte Cristo was beginning to think, what he had not for a long time dared t_elieve, that there were two Mercedes in the world, and he might yet be happy.
His eye, elate with happiness, was reading eagerly the tearful gaze of Haidee, when suddenly the door opened. The count knit his brow. "M. de Morcerf!" sai_aptistin, as if that name sufficed for his excuse. In fact, the count's fac_rightened.
"Which," asked he, "the viscount or the count?"
"Oh," exclaimed Haidee, "is it not yet over?"
"I know not if it is finished, my beloved child," said Monte Cristo, takin_he young girl's hands; "but I do know you have nothing more to fear."
"But it is the wretched" —
"That man cannot injure me, Haidee," said Monte Cristo; "it was his son alon_hat there was cause to fear."
"And what I have suffered," said the young girl, "you shall never know, m_ord." Monte Cristo smiled. "By my father's tomb," said he, extending his han_ver the head of the young girl, "I swear to you, Haidee, that if an_isfortune happens, it will not be to me."
"I believe you, my lord, as implicitly as if God had spoken to me," said th_oung girl, presenting her forehead to him. Monte Cristo pressed on that pur_eautiful forehead a kiss which made two hearts throb at once, the on_iolently, the other heavily. "Oh," murmured the count, "shall I then b_ermitted to love again? Ask M. de Morcerf into the drawing-room," said he t_aptistin, while he led the beautiful Greek girl to a private staircase.
We must explain this visit, which although expected by Monte Cristo, i_nexpected to our readers. While Mercedes, as we have said, was making _imilar inventory of her property to Albert's, while she was arranging he_ewels, shutting her drawers, collecting her keys, to leave everything i_erfect order, she did not perceive a pale and sinister face at a glass doo_hich threw light into the passage, from which everything could be both see_nd heard. He who was thus looking, without being heard or seen, probabl_eard and saw all that passed in Madame de Morcerf's apartments. From tha_lass door the pale-faced man went to the count's bedroom and raised with _onstricted hand the curtain of a window overlooking the court-yard. H_emained there ten minutes, motionless and dumb, listening to the beating o_is own heart. For him those ten minutes were very long. It was then Albert, returning from his meeting with the count, perceived his father watching fo_is arrival behind a curtain, and turned aside. The count's eye expanded; h_new Albert had insulted the count dreadfully, and that in every country i_he world such an insult would lead to a deadly duel. Albert returned safely — then the count was revenged.
An indescribable ray of joy illumined that wretched countenance like the las_ay of the sun before it disappears behind the clouds which bear the aspect, not of a downy couch, but of a tomb. But as we have said, he waited in vai_or his son to come to his apartment with the account of his triumph. H_asily understood why his son did not come to see him before he went to aveng_is father's honor; but when that was done, why did not his son come and thro_imself into his arms?
It was then, when the count could not see Albert, that he sent for hi_ervant, who he knew was authorized not to conceal anything from him. Te_inutes afterwards, General Morcerf was seen on the steps in a black coat wit_ military collar, black pantaloons, and black gloves. He had apparently give_revious orders, for as he reached the bottom step his carriage came from th_oach-house ready for him. The valet threw into the carriage his militar_loak, in which two swords were wrapped, and, shutting the door, he took hi_eat by the side of the coachman. The coachman stooped down for his orders.
"To the Champs Elysees," said the general; "the Count of Monte Cristo's.
Hurry!" The horses bounded beneath the whip; and in five minutes they stoppe_efore the count's door. M. de Morcerf opened the door himself, and as th_arriage rolled away he passed up the walk, rang, and entered the open doo_ith his servant.
A moment afterwards, Baptistin announced the Count of Morcerf to Monte Cristo, and the latter, leading Haidee aside, ordered that Morcerf be asked into th_rawing-room. The general was pacing the room the third time when, in turning, he perceived Monte Cristo at the door. "Ah, it is M. de Morcerf," said Mont_risto quietly; "I thought I had not heard aright."
"Yes, it is I," said the count, whom a frightful contraction of the lip_revented from articulating freely.
"May I know the cause which procures me the pleasure of seeing M. de Morcer_o early?"
"Had you not a meeting with my son this morning?" asked the general.
"I had," replied the count.
"And I know my son had good reasons to wish to fight with you, and to endeavo_o kill you."
"Yes, sir, he had very good ones; but you see that in spite of them he has no_illed me, and did not even fight."
"Yet he considered you the cause of his father's dishonor, the cause of th_earful ruin which has fallen on my house."
"It is true, sir," said Monte Cristo with his dreadful calmness; "a secondar_ause, but not the principal."
"Doubtless you made, then, some apology or explanation?"
"I explained nothing, and it is he who apologized to me."
"But to what do you attribute this conduct?"
"To the conviction, probably, that there was one more guilty than I."
"And who was that?"
"That may be," said the count, turning pale; "but you know the guilty do no_ike to find themselves convicted."
"I know it, and I expected this result."
"You expected my son would be a coward?" cried the count.
"M. Albert de Morcerf is no coward!" said Monte Cristo.
"A man who holds a sword in his hand, and sees a mortal enemy within reach o_hat sword, and does not fight, is a coward! Why is he not here that I ma_ell him so?"
"Sir." replied Monte Cristo coldly, "I did not expect that you had come her_o relate to me your little family affairs. Go and tell M. Albert that, and h_ay know what to answer you."
"Oh, no, no," said the general, smiling faintly, "I did not come for tha_urpose; you are right. I came to tell you that I also look upon you as m_nemy. I came to tell you that I hate you instinctively; that it seems as if _ad always known you, and always hated you; and, in short, since the youn_eople of the present day will not fight, it remains for us to do so. Do yo_hink so, sir?"
"Certainly. And when I told you I had foreseen the result, it is the honor o_our visit I alluded to."
"So much the better. Are you prepared?"
"You know that we shall fight till one of us is dead," said the general, whos_eeth were clinched with rage. "Until one of us dies," repeated Monte Cristo, moving his head slightly up and down.
"Let us start, then; we need no witnesses."
"Very true," said Monte Cristo; "it is unnecessary, we know each other s_ell!"
"On the contrary," said the count, "we know so little of each other."
"Indeed?" said Monte Cristo, with the same indomitable coolness; "let us see.
Are you not the soldier Fernand who deserted on the eve of the battle o_aterloo? Are you not the Lieutenant Fernand who served as guide and spy t_he French army in Spain? Are you not the Captain Fernand who betrayed, sold, and murdered his benefactor, Ali? And have not all these Fernands, united, made Lieutenant-General, the Count of Morcerf, peer of France?"
"Oh," cried the general, as it branded with a hot iron, "wretch, — to reproac_e with my shame when about, perhaps, to kill me! No, I did not say I was _tranger to you. I know well, demon, that you have penetrated into th_arkness of the past, and that you have read, by the light of what torch _now not, every page of my life; but perhaps I may be more honorable in m_hame than you under your pompous coverings. No — no, I am aware you know me; but I know you only as an adventurer sewn up in gold and jewellery. You cal_ourself in Paris the Count of Monte Cristo; in Italy, Sinbad the Sailor; i_alta, I forget what. But it is your real name I want to know, in the midst o_our hundred names, that I may pronounce it when we meet to fight, at th_oment when I plunge my sword through your heart."
The Count of Monte Cristo turned dreadfully pale; his eye seemed to burn wit_ devouring fire. He leaped towards a dressing-room near his bedroom, and i_ess than a moment, tearing off his cravat, his coat and waistcoat, he put o_ sailor's jacket and hat, from beneath which rolled his long black hair. H_eturned thus, formidable and implacable, advancing with his arms crossed o_is breast, towards the general, who could not understand why he ha_isappeared, but who on seeing him again, and feeling his teeth chatter an_is legs sink under him, drew back, and only stopped when he found a table t_upport his clinched hand. "Fernand," cried he, "of my hundred names I nee_nly tell you one, to overwhelm you! But you guess it now, do you not? — or, rather, you remember it? For, notwithstanding all my sorrows and my tortures, I show you to-day a face which the happiness of revenge makes young again — _ace you must often have seen in your dreams since your marriage wit_ercedes, my betrothed!"
The general, with his head thrown back, hands extended, gaze fixed, looke_ilently at this dreadful apparition; then seeking the wall to support him, h_lided along close to it until he reached the door, through which he went ou_ackwards, uttering this single mournful, lamentable, distressing cry, —
"Edmond Dantes!" Then, with sighs which were unlike any human sound, h_ragged himself to the door, reeled across the court-yard, and falling int_he arms of his valet, he said in a voice scarcely intelligible, — "Home, home." The fresh air and the shame he felt at having exposed himself befor_is servants, partly recalled his senses, but the ride was short, and as h_rew near his house all his wretchedness revived. He stopped at a shor_istance from the house and alighted.
The door was wide open, a hackney-coach was standing in the middle of the yard — a strange sight before so noble a mansion; the count looked at it wit_error, but without daring to inquire its meaning, he rushed towards hi_partment. Two persons were coming down the stairs; he had only time to cree_nto an alcove to avoid them. It was Mercedes leaning on her son's arm an_eaving the house. They passed close by the unhappy being, who, conceale_ehind the damask curtain, almost felt Mercedes dress brush past him, and hi_on's warm breath, pronouncing these words, — "Courage, mother! Come, this i_o longer our home!" The words died away, the steps were lost in the distance.
The general drew himself up, clinging to the curtain; he uttered the mos_readful sob which ever escaped from the bosom of a father abandoned at th_ame time by his wife and son. He soon heard the clatter of the iron step o_he hackney-coach, then the coachman's voice, and then the rolling of th_eavy vehicle shook the windows. He darted to his bedroom to see once more al_e had loved in the world; but the hackney-coach drove on and the head o_either Mercedes nor her son appeared at the window to take a last look at th_ouse or the deserted father and husband. And at the very moment when th_heels of that coach crossed the gateway a report was heard, and a thick smok_scaped through one of the panes of the window, which was broken by th_xplosion.