The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 108 of 400

“Oh, come, then, come!” cried she, hastening away with the young man. During this time, Madame Morrel had told her son everything. The young man knew quite well that, after the succession of misfortunes which had befallen his father, great changes had taken place in the style of living and housekeeping; but he did not know that matters had reached such a point. He was thunderstruck. Then, rushing hastily out of the apartment, he ran up-stairs, expecting to find his father in his study, but he rapped there in vain.

While he was yet at the door of the study he heard the bedroom door open, turned, and saw his father. Instead of going direct to his study, M. Morrel had returned to his bed-chamber, which he was only this moment quitting. Morrel uttered a cry of surprise at the sight of his son, of whose arrival he was ignorant. He remained motionless on the spot, pressing with his left hand something he had concealed under his coat. Maximilian sprang down the staircase, and threw his arms round his father’s neck; but suddenly he recoiled, and placed his right hand on Morrel’s breast. “Father,” he exclaimed, turning pale as death, “what are you going to do with that brace of pistols under your coat?”

“Oh, this is what I feared!” said Morrel.

“Father, father, in heaven’s name,” exclaimed the young man, “what are these weapons for?”

“Maximilian,” replied Morrel, looking fixedly at his son, “you are a man, and a man of honor. Come, and I will explain to you.”

And with a firm step Morrel went up to his study, while Maximilian followed him, trembling as he went. Morrel opened the door, and closed it behind his son; then, crossing the anteroom, went to his desk on which he placed the pistols, and pointed with his finger to an open ledger. In this ledger was made out an exact balance-sheet of his affair’s. Morrel had to pay, within half an hour, 287,500 francs. All he possessed was 15,257 francs. “Read!” said Morrel.

The young man was overwhelmed as he read. Morrel said not a word. What could he say? What need he add to such a desperate proof in figures? “And have you done all that is possible, father, to meet this disastrous result?” asked the young man, after a moment’s pause. “I have,” replied Morrel.

“You have no money coming in on which you can rely?”


“You have exhausted every resource?”


“And in half an hour,” said Maximilian in a gloomy voice, “our name is dishonored!”

“Blood washes out dishonor,” said Morrel.

“You are right, father; I understand you.” Then extending his hand towards one of the pistols, he said, “There is one for you and one for me—thanks!” Morrel caught his hand. “Your mother—your sister! Who will support them?” A shudder ran through the young man’s frame. “Father,” he said, “do you reflect that you are bidding me to live?”

“Yes, I do so bid you,” answered Morrel, “it is your duty. You have a calm, strong mind, Maximilian. Maximilian, you are no ordinary man. I make no requests or commands; I only ask you to examine my position as if it were your own, and then judge for yourself.”

The young man reflected for a moment, then an expression of sublime resignation appeared in his eyes, and with a slow and sad gesture he took off his two epaulets, the insignia of his rank. “Be it so, then, my father,” he said, extending his hand to Morrel, “die in peace, my father; I will live.” Morrel was about to cast himself on his knees before his son, but Maximilian caught him in his arms, and those two noble hearts were pressed against each other for a moment. “You know it is not my fault,” said Morrel. Maximilian smiled. “I know, father, you are the most honorable man I have ever known.”

“Good, my son. And now there is no more to be said; go and rejoin your mother and sister.”

“My father,” said the young man, bending his knee, “bless me!” Morrel took the head of his son between his two hands, drew him forward, and kissing his forehead several times said, “Oh, yes, yes, I bless you in my own name, and in the name of three generations of irreproachable men, who say through me, ‘The edifice which misfortune has destroyed, providence may build up again.’ On seeing me die such a death, the most inexorable will have pity on you. To you, perhaps, they will accord the time they have refused to me. Then do your best to keep our name free from dishonor. Go to work, labor, young man, struggle ardently and courageously; live, yourself, your mother and sister, with the most rigid economy, so that from day to day the property of those whom I leave in your hands may augment and fructify. Reflect how glorious a day it will be, how grand, how solemn, that day of complete restoration, on which you will say in this very office, ‘My father died because he could not do what I have this day done; but he died calmly and peaceably, because in dying he knew what I should do.'”

“My father, my father!” cried the young man, “why should you not live?”

“If I live, all would be changed; if I live, interest would be converted into doubt, pity into hostility; if I live I am only a man who his broken his word, failed in his engagements—in fact, only a bankrupt. If, on the contrary, I die, remember, Maximilian, my corpse is that of an honest but unfortunate man. Living, my best friends would avoid my house; dead, all Marseilles will follow me in tears to my last home. Living, you would feel shame at my name; dead, you may raise your head and say, ‘I am the son of him you killed, because, for the first time, he has been compelled to break his word.'”

The young man uttered a groan, but appeared resigned.

“And now,” said Morrel, “leave me alone, and endeavor to keep your mother and sister away.”

“Will you not see my sister once more?” asked Maximilian. A last but final hope was concealed by the young man in the effect of this interview, and therefore he had suggested it. Morrel shook his head. “I saw her this morning, and bade her adieu.”

“Have you no particular commands to leave with me, my father?” inquired Maximilian in a faltering voice.

“Yes; my son, and a sacred command.”

“Say it, my father.”

“The house of Thomson & French is the only one who, from humanity, or, it may be, selfishness—it is not for me to read men’s hearts—has had any pity for me. Its agent, who will in ten minutes present himself to receive the amount of a bill of 287,500 francs, I will not say granted, but offered me three months. Let this house be the first repaid, my son, and respect this man.”

“Father, I will,” said Maximilian.

“And now, once more, adieu,” said Morrel. “Go, leave me; I would be alone. You will find my will in the secretary in my bedroom.”

The young man remained standing and motionless, having but the force of will and not the power of execution.

“Hear me, Maximilian,” said his father. “Suppose I was a soldier like you, and ordered to carry a certain redoubt, and you knew I must be killed in the assault, would you not say to me, as you said just now, ‘Go, father; for you are dishonored by delay, and death is preferable to shame!'”

“Yes, yes,” said the young man, “yes;” and once again embracing his father with convulsive pressure, he said, “Be it so, my father.”

And he rushed out of the study. When his son had left him, Morrel remained an instant standing with his eyes fixed on the door; then putting forth his arm, he pulled the bell. After a moment’s interval, Cocles appeared.

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