The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 193 of 400

“I do not think it likely, sir; Mademoiselle de Villefort is not very fond of society, and we very seldom go out,” said the young lady.

“Then it was not in society that I met with mademoiselle or yourself, madame, or this charming little merry boy. Besides, the Parisian world is entirely unknown to me, for, as I believe I told you, I have been in Paris but very few days. No,—but, perhaps, you will permit me to call to mind—stay!” The Count placed his hand on his brow as if to collect his thoughts. “No—it was somewhere—away from here—it was—I do not know—but it appears that this recollection is connected with a lovely sky and some religious fete; mademoiselle was holding flowers in her hand, the interesting boy was chasing a beautiful peacock in a garden, and you, madame, were under the trellis of some arbor. Pray come to my aid, madame; do not these circumstances appeal to your memory?”

“No, indeed,” replied Madame de Villefort; “and yet it appears to me, sir, that if I had met you anywhere, the recollection of you must have been imprinted on my memory.”

“Perhaps the count saw us in Italy,” said Valentine timidly.

“Yes, in Italy; it was in Italy most probably,” replied Monte Cristo; “you have travelled then in Italy, mademoiselle?”

“Yes; madame and I were there two years ago. The doctors, anxious for my lungs, had prescribed the air of Naples. We went by Bologna, Perugia, and Rome.”

“Ah, yes—true, mademoiselle,” exclaimed Monte Cristo as if this simple explanation was sufficient to revive the recollection he sought. “It was at Perugia on Corpus Christi Day, in the garden of the Hotel des Postes, when chance brought us together; you, Madame de Villefort, and her son; I now remember having had the honor of meeting you.”

“I perfectly well remember Perugia, sir, and the Hotel des Postes, and the festival of which you speak,” said Madame de Villefort, “but in vain do I tax my memory, of whose treachery I am ashamed, for I really do not recall to mind that I ever had the pleasure of seeing you before.”

“It is strange, but neither do I recollect meeting with you,” observed Valentine, raising her beautiful eyes to the count.

“But I remember it perfectly,” interposed the darling Edward.

“I will assist your memory, madame,” continued the count; “the day had been burning hot; you were waiting for horses, which were delayed in consequence of the festival. Mademoiselle was walking in the shade of the garden, and your son disappeared in pursuit of the peacock.”

“And I caught it, mamma, don’t you remember?” interposed Edward, “and I pulled three such beautiful feathers out of his tail.”

“You, madame, remained under the arbor; do you not remember, that while you were seated on a stone bench, and while, as I told you, Mademoiselle de Villefort and your young son were absent, you conversed for a considerable time with somebody?”

“Yes, in truth, yes,” answered the young lady, turning very red, “I do remember conversing with a person wrapped in a long woollen mantle; he was a medical man, I think.”

“Precisely so, madame; this man was myself; for a fortnight I had been at that hotel, during which period I had cured my valet de chambre of a fever, and my landlord of the jaundice, so that I really acquired a reputation as a skilful physician. We discoursed a long time, madame, on different subjects; of Perugino, of Raffaelle, of manners, customs, of the famous aquatofana, of which they had told you, I think you said, that certain individuals in Perugia had preserved the secret.”

“Yes, true,” replied Madame de Villefort, somewhat uneasily, “I remember now.”

“I do not recollect now all the various subjects of which we discoursed, madame,” continued the count with perfect calmness; “but I perfectly remember that, falling into the error which others had entertained respecting me, you consulted me as to the health of Mademoiselle de Villefort.”

“Yes, really, sir, you were in fact a medical man,” said Madame de Villefort, “since you had cured the sick.”

“Moliere or Beaumarchais would reply to you, madame, that it was precisely because I was not, that I had cured my patients; for myself, I am content to say to you that I have studied chemistry and the natural sciences somewhat deeply, but still only as an amateur, you understand.”—At this moment the clock struck six. “It is six o’clock,” said Madame de Villefort, evidently agitated. “Valentine, will you not go and see if your grandpapa will have his dinner?” Valentine rose, and saluting the count, left the apartment without speaking.

“Oh, madame,” said the count, when Valentine had left the room, “was it on my account that you sent Mademoiselle de Villefort away?”

“By no means,” replied the young lady quickly; “but this is the hour when we usually give M. Noirtier the unwelcome meal that sustains his pitiful existence. You are aware, sir, of the deplorable condition of my husband’s father?”

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