The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 211 of 400

Chapter 56. Andrea Cavalcanti.

The Count of Monte Cristo entered the adjoining room, which Baptistin had designated as the drawing-room, and found there a young man, of graceful demeanor and elegant appearance, who had arrived in a cab about half an hour previously. Baptistin had not found any difficulty in recognizing the person who presented himself at the door for admittance. He was certainly the tall young man with light hair, red beard, black eyes, and brilliant complexion, whom his master had so particularly described to him. When the count entered the room the young man was carelessly stretched on a sofa, tapping his boot with the gold-headed cane which he held in his hand. On perceiving the count he rose quickly. “The Count of Monte Cristo, I believe?” said he.

“Yes, sir, and I think I have the honor of addressing Count Andrea Cavalcanti?”

“Count Andrea Cavalcanti,” repeated the young man, accompanying his words with a bow.

“You are charged with a letter of introduction addressed to me, are you not?” said the count.

“I did not mention that, because the signature seemed to me so strange.”

“The letter signed ‘Sinbad the Sailor,’ is it not?”

“Exactly so. Now, as I have never known any Sinbad, with the exception of the one celebrated in the ‘Thousand and One Nights'”—

“Well, it is one of his descendants, and a great friend of mine; he is a very rich Englishman, eccentric almost to insanity, and his real name is Lord Wilmore.”

“Ah, indeed? Then that explains everything that is extraordinary,” said Andrea. “He is, then, the same Englishman whom I met—at—ah—yes, indeed. Well, monsieur, I am at your service.”

“If what you say be true,” replied the count, smiling, “perhaps you will be kind enough to give me some account of yourself and your family?”

“Certainly, I will do so,” said the young man, with a quickness which gave proof of his ready invention. “I am (as you have said) the Count Andrea Cavalcanti, son of Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti, a descendant of the Cavalcanti whose names are inscribed in the golden book at Florence. Our family, although still rich (for my father’s income amounts to half a million), has experienced many misfortunes, and I myself was, at the age of five years, taken away by the treachery of my tutor, so that for fifteen years I have not seen the author of my existence. Since I have arrived at years of discretion and become my own master, I have been constantly seeking him, but all in vain. At length I received this letter from your friend, which states that my father is in Paris, and authorizes me to address myself to you for information respecting him.”

“Really, all you have related to me is exceedingly interesting,” said Monte Cristo, observing the young man with a gloomy satisfaction; “and you have done well to conform in everything to the wishes of my friend Sinbad; for your father is indeed here, and is seeking you.”

The count from the moment of first entering the drawing-room, had not once lost sight of the expression of the young man’s countenance; he had admired the assurance of his look and the firmness of his voice; but at these words, so natural in themselves, “Your father is indeed here, and is seeking you,” young Andrea started, and exclaimed, “My father? Is my father here?”

“Most undoubtedly,” replied Monte Cristo; “your father, Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti.” The expression of terror which, for the moment, had overspread the features of the young man, had now disappeared. “Ah, yes, that is the name, certainly. Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti. And you really mean to say; monsieur, that my dear father is here?”

“Yes, sir; and I can even add that I have only just left his company. The history which he related to me of his lost son touched me to the quick; indeed, his griefs, hopes, and fears on that subject might furnish material for a most touching and pathetic poem. At length, he one day received a letter, stating that the abductors of his son now offered to restore him, or at least to give notice where he might be found, on condition of receiving a large sum of money, by way of ransom. Your father did not hesitate an instant, and the sum was sent to the frontier of Piedmont, with a passport signed for Italy. You were in the south of France, I think?”

“Yes,” replied Andrea, with an embarrassed air, “I was in the south of France.”

“A carriage was to await you at Nice?”

“Precisely so; and it conveyed me from Nice to Genoa, from Genoa to Turin, from Turin to Chambery, from Chambery to Pont-de-Beauvoisin, and from Pont-de-Beauvoisin to Paris.”

“Indeed? Then your father ought to have met with you on the road, for it is exactly the same route which he himself took, and that is how we have been able to trace your journey to this place.”

“But,” said Andrea, “if my father had met me, I doubt if he would have recognized me; I must be somewhat altered since he last saw me.”

“Oh, the voice of nature,” said Monte Cristo.

“True,” interrupted the young man, “I had not looked upon it in that light.”

“Now,” replied Monte Cristo “there is only one source of uneasiness left in your father’s mind, which is this—he is anxious to know how you have been employed during your long absence from him, how you have been treated by your persecutors, and if they have conducted themselves towards you with all the deference due to your rank. Finally, he is anxious to see if you have been fortunate enough to escape the bad moral influence to which you have been exposed, and which is infinitely more to be dreaded than any physical suffering; he wishes to discover if the fine abilities with which nature had endowed you have been weakened by want of culture; and, in short, whether you consider yourself capable of resuming and retaining in the world the high position to which your rank entitles you.”

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