The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 191 of 400

“I fear, Valentine,” replied the lover, “that were she living I should never have had the happiness of knowing you; you would then have been too happy to have stooped from your grandeur to bestow a thought on me.”

“Now it is you who are unjust, Maximilian,” cried Valentine; “but there is one thing I wish to know.”

“And what is that?” inquired the young man, perceiving that Valentine hesitated.

“Tell me truly, Maximilian, whether in former days, when our fathers dwelt at Marseilles, there was ever any misunderstanding between them?”

“Not that I am aware of,” replied the young man, “unless, indeed, any ill-feeling might have arisen from their being of opposite parties—your father was, as you know, a zealous partisan of the Bourbons, while mine was wholly devoted to the emperor; there could not possibly be any other difference between them. But why do you ask?”

“I will tell you,” replied the young girl, “for it is but right you should know. Well, on the day when your appointment as an officer of the Legion of honor was announced in the papers, we were all sitting with my grandfather, M. Noirtier; M. Danglars was there also—you recollect M. Danglars, do you not, Maximilian, the banker, whose horses ran away with my mother-in-law and little brother, and very nearly killed them? While the rest of the company were discussing the approaching marriage of Mademoiselle Danglars, I was reading the paper to my grandfather; but when I came to the paragraph about you, although I had done nothing else but read it over to myself all the morning (you know you had told me all about it the previous evening), I felt so happy, and yet so nervous, at the idea of speaking your name aloud, and before so many people, that I really think I should have passed it over, but for the fear that my doing so might create suspicions as to the cause of my silence; so I summoned up all my courage, and read it as firmly and as steadily as I could.”

“Dear Valentine!”

“Well, would you believe it? directly my father caught the sound of your name he turned round quite hastily, and, like a poor silly thing, I was so persuaded that every one must be as much affected as myself by the utterance of your name, that I was not surprised to see my father start, and almost tremble; but I even thought (though that surely must have been a mistake) that M. Danglars trembled too.”

“‘Morrel, Morrel,’ cried my father, ‘stop a bit;’ then knitting his brows into a deep frown, he added, ‘surely this cannot be one of the Morrel family who lived at Marseilles, and gave us so much trouble from their violent Bonapartism—I mean about the year 1815.’—‘Yes,’ replied M. Danglars, ‘I believe he is the son of the old shipowner.'”

“Indeed,” answered Maximilian; “and what did your father say then, Valentine?”

“Oh, such a dreadful thing, that I don’t dare to tell you.”

“Always tell me everything,” said Maximilian with a smile.

“‘Ah,’ continued my father, still frowning, ‘their idolized emperor treated these madmen as they deserved; he called them ‘food for powder,’ which was precisely all they were good for; and I am delighted to see that the present government have adopted this salutary principle with all its pristine vigor; if Algiers were good for nothing but to furnish the means of carrying so admirable an idea into practice, it would be an acquisition well worthy of struggling to obtain. Though it certainly does cost France somewhat dear to assert her rights in that uncivilized country.'”

“Brutal politics, I must confess.” said Maximilian; “but don’t attach any serious importance, dear, to what your father said. My father was not a bit behind yours in that sort of talk. ‘Why,’ said he, ‘does not the emperor, who has devised so many clever and efficient modes of improving the art of war, organize a regiment of lawyers, judges and legal practitioners, sending them in the hottest fire the enemy could maintain, and using them to save better men?’ You see, my dear, that for picturesque expression and generosity of spirit there is not much to choose between the language of either party. But what did M. Danglars say to this outburst on the part of the procureur?”

“Oh, he laughed, and in that singular manner so peculiar to himself—half-malicious, half-ferocious; he almost immediately got up and took his leave; then, for the first time, I observed the agitation of my grandfather, and I must tell you, Maximilian, that I am the only person capable of discerning emotion in his paralyzed frame. And I suspected that the conversation that had been carried on in his presence (for they always say and do what they like before the dear old man, without the smallest regard for his feelings) had made a strong impression on his mind; for, naturally enough, it must have pained him to hear the emperor he so devotedly loved and served spoken of in that depreciating manner.”

“The name of M. Noirtier,” interposed Maximilian, “is celebrated throughout Europe; he was a statesman of high standing, and you may or may not know, Valentine, that he took a leading part in every Bonapartist conspiracy set on foot during the restoration of the Bourbons.”

“Oh, I have often heard whispers of things that seem to me most strange—the father a Bonapartist, the son a Royalist; what can have been the reason of so singular a difference in parties and politics? But to resume my story; I turned towards my grandfather, as though to question him as to the cause of his emotion; he looked expressively at the newspaper I had been reading. ‘What is the matter, dear grandfather?’ said I, ‘are you pleased?’ He gave me a sign in the affirmative. ‘With what my father said just now?’ He returned a sign in the negative. ‘Perhaps you liked what M. Danglars said?’ Another sign in the negative. ‘Oh, then, you were glad to hear that M. Morrel (I didn’t dare to say Maximilian) had been made an officer of the Legion of Honor?’ He signified assent; only think of the poor old man’s being so pleased to think that you, who were a perfect stranger to him, had been made an officer of the Legion of Honor! Perhaps it was a mere whim on his part, for he is falling, they say, into second childhood, but I love him for showing so much interest in you.”

“How singular,” murmured Maximilian; “your father hates me, while your grandfather, on the contrary—What strange feelings are aroused by politics.”

“Hush,” cried Valentine, suddenly; “some one is coming!” Maximilian leaped at one bound into his crop of lucerne, which he began to pull up in the most ruthless way, under the pretext of being occupied in weeding it.

“Mademoiselle, mademoiselle!” exclaimed a voice from behind the trees. “Madame is searching for you everywhere; there is a visitor in the drawing-room.”

“A visitor?” inquired Valentine, much agitated; “who is it?”

“Some grand personage—a prince I believe they said—the Count of Monte Cristo.”

“I will come directly,” cried Valentine aloud. The name of Monte Cristo sent an electric shock through the young man on the other side of the iron gate, to whom Valentine’s “I am coming” was the customary signal of farewell. “Now, then,” said Maximilian, leaning on the handle of his spade, “I would give a good deal to know how it comes about that the Count of Monte Cristo is acquainted with M. de Villefort.”

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