THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Stephen, and who would not have taken the trouble had I
not been told that when you travel much it is necessary.
Besides, you must have something on the panels of your
carriage, to escape being searched by the custom-house
officers. Excuse my putting such a question to you."
"It is not indiscreet," returned Morcerf, with the simplicity of
conviction. "You have guessed rightly. These are our arms,
that is, those of my father, but they are, as you see, joined to
another shield, which has gules, a silver tower, which are my
mother's. By her side I am Spanish, but the family of Morcerf
is French, and, I have heard, one of the oldest of the south of
"Yes," replied Monte Cristo "these blazons prove that.
Almost all the armed pilgrims that went to the Holy Land
took for their arms either a cross, in honor of their mission,
or birds of passage, in sign of the long voyage they were
about to undertake, and which they hoped to accomplish on
the wings of faith. One of your ancestors had joined the
Crusades, and supposing it to be only that of St. Louis, that
makes you mount to the thirteenth century, which is
"It is possible," said Morcerf; "my father has in his study a
genealogical tree which will tell you all that, and on which I
made commentaries that would have greatly edified Hozier
and Jaucourt. At present I no longer think of it, and yet I
must tell you that we are beginning to occupy ourselves
greatly with these things under our popular government."
"Well, then, your government would do well to choose from
the past something better than the things that I have noticed
on your monuments, and which have no heraldic meaning
whatever. As for you, viscount," continued Monte Cristo to
Morcerf, "you are more fortunate than the government, for
your arms are really beautiful, and speak to the imagination.
Yes, you are at once from Provence and Spain; that explains,
if the portrait you showed me be like, the dark hue I so much
admired on the visage of the noble Catalan." It would have
required the penetration of Oedipus or the Sphinx to have
divined the irony the count concealed beneath these words,
apparently uttered with the greatest politeness. Morcerf
thanked him with a smile, and pushed open the door above
which were his arms, and which, as we have said, opened
into the salon. In the most conspicuous part of the salon was
another portrait. It was that of a man, from five to eight and
thirty, in the uniform of a general officer, wearing the double
epaulet of heavy bullion, that indicates superior rank, the
ribbon of the Legion of Honor around his neck, which
showed he was a commander, and on the right breast, the
star of a grand officer of the order of the Saviour, and on the
left that of the grand cross of Charles III., which proved that
the person represented by the picture had served in the wars
of Greece and Spain, or, what was just the same thing as
regarded decorations, had fulfilled some diplomatic mission
in the two countries.
Monte Cristo was engaged in examining this portrait with
no less care than he had bestowed upon the other, when
another door opened, and he found himself opposite to the
Count of Morcerf in person. He was a man of forty to
forty-five years, but he seemed at least fifty, and his black
mustache and eyebrows contrasted strangely with his almost
white hair, which was cut short, in the military fashion. He
was dressed in plain clothes, and wore at his button-hole the
ribbons of the different orders to which he belonged. He
entered with a tolerably dignified step, and some little haste.
Monte Cristo saw him advance towards him without making
a single step. It seemed as if his feet were rooted to the
ground, and his eyes on the Count of Morcerf. "Father," said
the young man, "I have the honor of presenting to you the
Count of Monte Cristo, the generous friend whom I had the
good fortune to meet in the critical situation of which I have
"You are most welcome, monsieur," said the Count of
Morcerf, saluting Monte Cristo with a smile, "and monsieur
has rendered our house, in preserving its only heir, a service
which insures him our eternal gratitude." As he said these
words, the count of Morcerf pointed to a chair, while he
seated himself in another opposite the window.
Monte Cristo, in taking the seat Morcerf offered him, placed
himself in such a manner as to remain concealed in the
shadow of the large velvet curtains, and read on the
careworn and livid features of the count a whole history of
secret griefs written in each wrinkle time had planted there.
"The countess," said Morcerf, "was at her toilet when she was
informed of the visit she was about to receive. She will,
however, be in the salon in ten minutes."
"It is a great honor to me," returned Monte Cristo, "to be thus,
on the first day of my arrival in Paris, brought in contact
with a man whose merit equals his reputation, and to whom
fortune has for once been equitable, but has she not still on
the plains of Metidja, or in the mountains of Atlas, a
marshal's staff to offer you?"
"Oh," replied Morcerf, reddening slightly, "I have left the
service, monsieur. Made a peer at the Restoration, I served
through the first campaign under the orders of Marshal
Bourmont. I could, therefore, expect a higher rank, and who
knows what might have happened had the elder branch
remained on the throne? But the Revolution of July was, it
seems, sufficiently glorious to allow itself to be ungrateful,
and it was so for all services that did not date from the
imperial period. I tendered my resignation, for when you
have gained your epaulets on the battle-field, you do not
know how to manoeuvre on the slippery grounds of the
salons. I have hung up my sword, and cast myself into
politics. I have devoted myself to industry; I study the useful
arts. During the twenty years I served, I often wished to do
so, but I had not the time."
"These are the ideas that render your nation superior to any
other," returned Monte Cristo. "A gentleman of high birth,
possessor of an ample fortune, you have consented to gain
your promotion as an obscure soldier, step by step -- this is
uncommon; then become general, peer of France,
commander of the Legion of Honor, you consent to again
commence a second apprenticeship, without any other hope
or any other desire than that of one day becoming useful to
your fellow-creatures; this, indeed, is praiseworthy, -- nay,
more, it is sublime." Albert looked on and listened with
astonishment; he was not used to see Monte Cristo give vent
to such bursts of enthusiasm. "Alas," continued the stranger,
doubtless to dispel the slight cloud that covered Morcerf's
brow, "we do not act thus in Italy; we grow according to our
race and our species, and we pursue the same lines, and
often the same uselessness, all our lives."
"But, monsieur," said the Count of Morcerf, "for a man of
your merit, Italy is not a country, and France opens her arms
to receive you; respond to her call. France will not, perhaps,
be always ungrateful. She treats her children ill, but she
always welcomes strangers."
"Ah, father," said Albert with a smile, "it is evident you do
not know the Count of Monte Cristo; he despises all honors,
and contents himself with those written on his passport."
"That is the most just remark," replied the stranger, "I ever
heard made concerning myself."
"You have been free to choose your career," observed the
Count of Morcerf, with a sigh; "and you have chosen the
path strewed with flowers."
"Precisely, monsieur," replied Monte Cristo with one of those
smiles that a painter could never represent or a physiologist
"If I did not fear to fatigue you," said the general, evidently
charmed with the count's manners, "I would have taken you
to the Chamber; there is a debate very curious to those who
are strangers to our modern senators."
"I shall be most grateful, monsieur, if you will, at some
future time, renew your offer, but I have been flattered with
the hope of being introduced to the countess, and I will
"Ah, here is my mother," cried the viscount. Monte Cristo,
turned round hastily, and saw Madame de Morcerf at the
entrance of the salon, at the door opposite to that by which
her husband had entered, pale and motionless; when Monte
Cristo turned round, she let fall her arm, which for some
unknown reason had been resting on the gilded door-post.
She had been there some moments, and had heard the last
words of the visitor. The latter rose and bowed to the
countess, who inclined herself without speaking. "Ah, good
heavens, madame," said the count, "are you ill, or is it the
heat of the room that affects you?"
"Are you ill, mother?" cried the viscount, springing towards
She thanked them both with a smile. "No," returned she, "but
I feel some emotion on seeing, for the first time, the man
without whose intervention we should have been in tears
and desolation. Monsieur," continued the countess,
advancing with the majesty of a queen, "I owe to you the life
of my son, and for this I bless you. Now, I thank you for the
pleasure you give me in thus affording me the opportunity
of thanking you as I have blessed you, from the bottom of
my heart." The count bowed again, but lower than before;
He was even paler than Mercedes. "Madame," said he, "the
count and yourself recompense too generously a simple
action. To save a man, to spare a father's feelings, or a
mother's sensibility, is not to do a good action, but a simple
deed of humanity." At these words, uttered with the most
exquisite sweetness and politeness, Madame de Morcerf
replied. "It is very fortunate for my son, monsieur, that he
found such a friend, and I thank God that things are thus."
And Mercedes raised her fine eyes to heaven with so fervent
an expression of gratitude, that the count fancied he saw
tears in them. M. de Morcerf approached her. "Madame,"
said he. "I have already made my excuses to the count for
quitting him, and I pray you to do so also. The sitting
commences at two; it is now three, and I am to speak."
"Go, then, and monsieur and I will strive our best to forget
your absence," replied the countess, with the same tone of
deep feeling. "Monsieur," continued she, turning to Monte
Cristo, "will you do us the honor of passing the rest of the
day with us?"
"Believe me, madame, I feel most grateful for your kindness,
but I got out of my travelling carriage at your door this
morning, and I am ignorant how I am installed in Paris,
which I scarcely know; this is but a trifling inquietude, I
know, but one that may be appreciated."
"We shall have the pleasure another time," said the countess;
"you promise that?" Monte Cristo inclined himself without
answering, but the gesture might pass for assent. "I will not
detain you, monsieur," continued the countess; "I would not
have our gratitude become indiscreet or importunate."
"My dear Count," said Albert, "I will endeavor to return your
politeness at Rome, and place my coupe at your disposal
until your own be ready."
"A thousand thanks for your kindness, viscount," returned
the Count of Monte Cristo "but I suppose that M. Bertuccio
has suitably employed the four hours and a half I have given
him, and that I shall find a carriage of some sort ready at the
door." Albert was used to the count's manner of proceeding;
he knew that, like Nero, he was in search of the impossible,
and nothing astonished him, but wishing to judge with his
own eyes how far the count's orders had been executed, he
accompanied him to the door of the house. Monte Cristo was
not deceived. As soon as he appeared in the Count of
Morcerf's ante-chamber, a footman, the same who at Rome
had brought the count's card to the two young men, and
announced his visit, sprang into the vestibule, and when he
arrived at the door the illustrious traveller found his carriage
awaiting him. It was a coupe of Koller's building, and with
horses and harness for which Drake had, to the knowledge
of all the lions of Paris, refused on the previous day seven
hundred guineas. "Monsieur," said the count to Albert, "I do
not ask you to accompany me to my house, as I can only
show you a habitation fitted up in a hurry, and I have, as
you know, a reputation to keep up as regards not being
taken by surprise. Give me, therefore, one more day before I
invite you; I shall then be certain not to fail in my
"If you ask me for a day, count, I know what to anticipate; it
will not be a house I shall see, but a palace. You have
decidedly some genius at your control."
"Ma foi, spread that idea," replied the Count of Monte Cristo,
putting his foot on the velvet-lined steps of his splendid
carriage, "and that will be worth something to me among the
ladies." As he spoke, he sprang into the vehicle, the door was
closed, but not so rapidly that Monte Cristo failed to
perceive the almost imperceptible movement which stirred
the curtains of the apartment in which he had left Madame
de Morcerf. When Albert returned to his mother, he found
her in the boudoir reclining in a large velvet arm-chair, the
whole room so obscure that only the shining spangle,
fastened here and there to the drapery, and the angles of the
gilded frames of the pictures, showed with some degree of
brightness in the gloom. Albert could not see the face of the
countess, as it was covered with a thin veil she had put on
her head, and which fell over her features in misty folds, but
it seemed to him as though her voice had altered. He could
distinguish amid the perfumes of the roses and heliotropes
in the flower-stands, the sharp and fragrant odor of volatile
salts, and he noticed in one of the chased cups on the
mantle-piece the countess's smelling-bottle, taken from its
shagreen case, and exclaimed in a tone of uneasiness, as he
entered, -- "My dear mother, have you been ill during my
"No, no, Albert, but you know these roses, tuberoses, and
orange-flowers throw out at first, before one is used to them,
such violent perfumes."
"Then, my dear mother," said Albert, putting his hand to the
bell, "they must be taken into the ante-chamber. You are
really ill, and just now were so pale as you came into the
"Was I pale, Albert?"
"Yes; a pallor that suits you admirably, mother, but which
did not the less alarm my father and myself."
"Did your father speak of it?" inquired Mercedes eagerly.
"No, madame; but do you not remember that he spoke of the
fact to you?"
"Yes, I do remember," replied the countess. A servant
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
entered, summoned by Albert's ring of the bell. "Take these
flowers into the anteroom or dressing-room," said the
viscount; "they make the countess ill." The footman obeyed
his orders. A long pause ensued, which lasted until all the
flowers were removed. "What is this name of Monte Cristo?"
inquired the countess, when the servant had taken away the
last vase of flowers, "is it a family name, or the name of the
estate, or a simple title?"
"I believe, mother, it is merely a title. The count purchased
an island in the Tuscan archipelago, and, as he told you
to-day, has founded a commandery. You know the same
thing was done for Saint Stephen of Florence, Saint George,
Constantinian of Parma, and even for the Order of Malta.
Except this, he has no pretension to nobility, and calls
himself a chance count, although the general opinion at
Rome is that the count is a man of very high distinction."
"His manners are admirable," said the countess, "at least, as
far as I could judge in the few minutes he remained here."
"They are perfect mother, so perfect, that they surpass by far
all I have known in the leading aristocracy of the three
proudest nobilities of Europe -- the English, the Spanish, and
the German." The countess paused a moment; then, after a
slight hesitation, she resumed, -- "You have seen, my dear
Albert -- I ask the question as a mother -- you have seen M.
de Monte Cristo in his house, you are quicksighted, have
much knowledge of the world, more tact than is usual at
your age, do you think the count is really what he appears to
"What does he appear to be?"
"Why, you have just said, -- a man of high distinction."
"I told you, my dear mother, he was esteemed such."
"But what is your own opinion, Albert?"
"I must tell you that I have not come to any decided opinion
respecting him, but I think him a Maltese."
"I do not ask you of his origin but what he is."
"Ah, what he is; that is quite another thing. I have seen so
many remarkable things in him, that if you would have me
really say what I think, I shall reply that I really do look
upon him as one of Byron's heroes, whom misery has
marked with a fatal brand; some Manfred, some Lara, some
Werner, one of those wrecks, as it were, of some ancient
family, who, disinherited of their patrimony, have achieved
one by the force of their adventurous genius, which has
placed them above the laws of society."
"You say" --
"I say that Monte Cristo is an island in the midst of the
Mediterranean, without inhabitants or garrison, the resort of
smugglers of all nations, and pirates of every flag. Who
knows whether or not these industrious worthies do not pay
to their feudal lord some dues for his protection?"
"That is possible," said the countess, reflecting.
"Never mind," continued the young man, "smuggler or not,
you must agree, mother dear, as you have seen him, that the
Count of Monte Cristo is a remarkable man, who will have
the greatest success in the salons of Paris. Why, this very
morning, in my rooms, he made his entree amongst us by
striking every man of us with amazement, not even
"And what do you suppose is the count's age?" inquired
Mercedes, evidently attaching great importance to this
"Thirty-five or thirty-six, mother."
"So young, -- it is impossible," said Mercedes, replying at the
same time to what Albert said as well as to her own private
"It is the truth, however. Three or four times he has said to
me, and certainly without the slightest premeditation, `at
such a period I was five years old, at another ten years old, at
another twelve,' and I, induced by curiosity, which kept me
alive to these details, have compared the dates, and never
found him inaccurate. The age of this singular man, who is
of no age, is then, I am certain, thirty-five. Besides, mother,
remark how vivid his eye, how raven-black his hair, and his
brow, though so pale, is free from wrinkles, -- he is not only
vigorous, but also young." The countess bent her head, as if
beneath a heavy wave of bitter thoughts. "And has this man
displayed a friendship for you, Albert?" she asked with a
"I am inclined to think so."
"And -- do -- you -- like -- him?"
"Why, he pleases me in spite of Franz d'Epinay, who tries to
convince me that he is a being returned from the other
world." The countess shuddered. "Albert," she said, in a
voice which was altered by emotion, "I have always put you
on your guard against new acquaintances. Now you are a
man, and are able to give me advice; yet I repeat to you,
Albert, be prudent."
"Why, my dear mother, it is necessary, in order to make your
advice turn to account, that I should know beforehand what
I have to distrust. The count never plays, he only drinks pure
water tinged with a little sherry, and is so rich that he cannot,
without intending to laugh at me, try to borrow money.
What, then, have I to fear from him?"
"You are right," said the countess, "and my fears are
weakness, especially when directed against a man who has
saved your life. How did your father receive him, Albert? It
is necessary that we should be more than complaisant to the
count. M. de Morcerf is sometimes occupied, his business
makes him reflective, and he might, without intending it" --
"Nothing could be in better taste than my father's demeanor,
madame," said Albert; "nay, more, he seemed greatly
flattered at two or three compliments which the count very
skilfully and agreeably paid him with as much ease as if he
had known him these thirty years. Each of these little
tickling arrows must have pleased my father," added Albert
with a laugh. "And thus they parted the best possible friends,
and M. de Morcerf even wished to take him to the Chamber
to hear the speakers." The countess made no reply. She fell
into so deep a revery that her eyes gradually closed. The
young man, standing up before her, gazed upon her with
that filial affection which is so tender and endearing with
children whose mothers are still young and handsome. Then,
after seeing her eyes closed, and hearing her breathe gently,
he believed she had dropped asleep, and left the apartment
on tiptoe, closing the door after him with the utmost
precaution. "This devil of a fellow," he muttered, shaking his
head; "I said at the time he would create a sensation here,
and I measure his effect by an infallible thermometer. My
mother has noticed him, and he must therefore, perforce, be
remarkable." He went down to the stables, not without some
slight annoyance, when he remembered that the Count of
Monte Cristo had laid his hands on a "turnout" which sent
his bays down to second place in the opinion of connoisseurs.
"Most decidedly," said he, "men are not equal, and I must
beg my father to develop this theorem in the Chamber of
CHAPTER42 MONSIEUR BERTUCCIO
Chapter 42 Monsieur Bertuccio
eanwhile the count had arrived at his house; it had
taken him six minutes to perform the distance, but
these six minutes were sufficient to induce twenty young
men who knew the price of the equipage they had been
unable to purchase themselves, to put their horses in a
gallop in order to see the rich foreigner who could afford to
give 20,000 francs apiece for his horses. The house Ali had
chosen, and which was to serve as a town residence to
Monte Cristo, was situated on the right hand as you ascend
the Champs Elysees. A thick clump of trees and shrubs rose
in the centre, and masked a portion of the front; around this
shrubbery two alleys, like two arms, extended right and left,
and formed a carriage-drive from the iron gates to a double
portico, on every step of which stood a porcelain vase. filled
with flowers. This house, isolated from the rest, had, besides
the main entrance, another in the Rue Ponthieu. Even before
the coachman had hailed the concierge, the massy gates
rolled on their hinges -- they had seen the Count coming,
and at Paris, as everywhere else, he was served with the
rapidity of lightning. The coachman entered and traversed
the half-circle without slackening his speed, and the gates
were closed ere the wheels had ceased to sound on the
gravel. The carriage stopped at the left side of the portico,
two men presented themselves at the carriage-window; the
one was Ali, who, smiling with an expression of the most
sincere joy, seemed amply repaid by a mere look from
Monte Cristo. The other bowed respectfully, and offered his
arm to assist the count in descending. "Thanks, M.
Bertuccio," said the count, springing lightly up the three
steps of the portico; "and the notary?"
"He is in the small salon, excellency," returned Bertuccio.
"And the cards I ordered to be engraved as soon as you
knew the number of the house?"
"Your excellency, it is done already. I have been myself to the
best engraver of the Palais Royal, who did the plate in my
presence. The first card struck off was taken, according to
your orders, to the Baron Danglars, Rue de la Chaussee
d'Antin, No. 7; the others are on the mantle-piece of your
"Good; what o'clock is it?"
"Four o'clock." Monte Cristo gave his hat, cane, and gloves to
the same French footman who had called his carriage at the
Count of Morcerf's, and then he passed into the small salon,
preceded by Bertuccio, who showed him the way. "These are
but indifferent marbles in this ante-chamber," said Monte
Cristo. "I trust all this will soon be taken away." Bertuccio
bowed. As the steward had said, the notary awaited him in
the small salon. He was a simple-looking lawyer's clerk,
elevated to the extraordinary dignity of a provincial
scrivener. "You are the notary empowered to sell the country
house that I wish to purchase, monsieur?" asked Monte
"Yes, count," returned the notary.
"Is the deed of sale ready?"
"Have you brought it?"
"Here it is."
"Very well; and where is this house that I purchase?" asked
the count carelessly, addressing himself half to Bertuccio,
half to the notary. The steward made a gesture that signified,
"I do not know." The notary looked at the count with
astonishment. "What!" said he, "does not the count know
where the house he purchases is situated?"
"No," returned the count.
"The count does not know?"
"How should I know? I have arrived from Cadiz this
morning. I have never before been at Paris, and it is the first
time I have ever even set my foot in France."
"Ah, that is different; the house you purchase is at Auteuil."
At these words Bertuccio turned pale. "And where is
Auteuil?" asked the count.
"Close by here, monsieur," replied the notary -- "a little
beyond Passy; a charming situation, in the heart of the Bois
"So near as that?" said the Count; "but that is not in the
country. What made you choose a house at the gates of Paris,
"I," cried the steward with a strange expression. "His
excellency did not charge me to purchase this house. If his
excellency will recollect -- if he will think" --
"Ah, true," observed Monte Cristo; "I recollect now. I read
the advertisement in one of the papers, and was tempted by
the false title, `a country house.'"
"It is not yet too late," cried Bertuccio, eagerly; "and if your
excellency will intrust me with the commission, I will find
you a better at Enghien, at Fontenay-aux-Roses, or at
"Oh, no," returned Monte Cristo negligently; "since I have
this, I will keep it."
"And you are quite right," said the notary, who feared to lose
his fee. "It is a charming place, well supplied with
spring-water and fine trees; a comfortable habitation,
although abandoned for a long time, without reckoning the
furniture, which, although old, is yet valuable, now that old
things are so much sought after. I suppose the count has the
tastes of the day?"
"To be sure," returned Monte Cristo; "it is very convenient,
"It is more -- it is magnificent."
"Peste, let us not lose such an opportunity," returned Monte
Cristo. "The deed, if you please, Mr. Notary." And he signed
it rapidly, after having first run his eye over that part of the
deed in which were specified the situation of the house and
the names of the proprietors. "Bertuccio," said he, "give
fifty-five thousand francs to monsieur." The steward left the
room with a faltering step, and returned with a bundle of
bank-notes, which the notary counted like a man who never
gives a receipt for money until after he is sure it is all there.
"And now," demanded the count, "are all the forms complied
"Have you the keys?"
"They are in the hands of the concierge, who takes care of the
house, but here is the order I have given him to install the
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested