The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 238 of 400

Chapter 66. Matrimonial Projects.

The day following this scene, at the hour the banker usually chose to pay a visit to Madame Danglars on his way to his office, his coupe did not appear. At this time, that is, about half-past twelve, Madame Danglars ordered her carriage, and went out. Danglars, hidden behind a curtain, watched the departure he had been waiting for. He gave orders that he should be informed as soon as Madame Danglars appeared; but at two o’clock she had not returned. He then called for his horses, drove to the Chamber, and inscribed his name to speak against the budget. From twelve to two o’clock Danglars had remained in his study, unsealing his dispatches, and becoming more and more sad every minute, heaping figure upon figure, and receiving, among other visits, one from Major Cavalcanti, who, as stiff and exact as ever, presented himself precisely at the hour named the night before, to terminate his business with the banker. On leaving the Chamber, Danglars, who had shown violent marks of agitation during the sitting, and been more bitter than ever against the ministry, re-entered his carriage, and told the coachman to drive to the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, No. 30.

Monte Cristo was at home; only he was engaged with some one and begged Danglars to wait for a moment in the drawing-room. While the banker was waiting in the anteroom, the door opened, and a man dressed as an abbe and doubtless more familiar with the house than he was, came in and instead of waiting, merely bowed, passed on to the farther apartments, and disappeared. A minute after the door by which the priest had entered reopened, and Monte Cristo appeared. “Pardon me,” said he, “my dear baron, but one of my friends, the Abbe Busoni, whom you perhaps saw pass by, has just arrived in Paris; not having seen him for a long time, I could not make up my mind to leave him sooner, so I hope this will be sufficient reason for my having made you wait.”

“Nay,” said Danglars, “it is my fault; I have chosen my visit at a wrong time, and will retire.”

“Not at all; on the contrary, be seated; but what is the matter with you? You look careworn; really, you alarm me. Melancholy in a capitalist, like the appearance of a comet, presages some misfortune to the world.”

“I have been in ill-luck for several days,” said Danglars, “and I have heard nothing but bad news.”

“Ah, indeed?” said Monte Cristo. “Have you had another fall at the Bourse?”

“No; I am safe for a few days at least. I am only annoyed about a bankrupt of Trieste.”

“Really? Does it happen to be Jacopo Manfredi?”

“Exactly so. Imagine a man who has transacted business with me for I don’t know how long, to the amount of 800,000 or 900,000 francs during the year. Never a mistake or delay—a fellow who paid like a prince. Well, I was a million in advance with him, and now my fine Jacopo Manfredi suspends payment!”


“It is an unheard-of fatality. I draw upon him for 600,000. francs, my bills are returned unpaid, and, more than that, I hold bills of exchange signed by him to the value of 400,000. francs, payable at his correspondent’s in Paris at the end of this month. To-day is the 30th. I present them; but my correspondent has disappeared. This, with my Spanish affairs, made a pretty end to the month.”

“Then you really lost by that affair in Spain?”

“Yes; only 700,000 francs out of my cash-box—nothing more!”

“Why, how could you make such a mistake—such an old stager?”

“Oh, it is all my wife’s fault. She dreamed Don Carlos had returned to Spain; she believes in dreams. It is magnetism, she says, and when she dreams a thing it is sure to happen, she assures me. On this conviction I allow her to speculate, she having her bank and her stockbroker; she speculated and lost. It is true she speculates with her own money, not mine; nevertheless, you can understand that when 700,000. francs leave the wife’s pocket, the husband always finds it out. But do you mean to say you have not heard of this? Why, the thing has made a tremendous noise.”

“Yes, I heard it spoken of, but I did not know the details, and then no one can be more ignorant than I am of the affairs in the Bourse.”

“Then you do not speculate?”

“I?—How could I speculate when I already have so much trouble in regulating my income? I should be obliged, besides my steward, to keep a clerk and a boy. But touching these Spanish affairs, I think that the baroness did not dream the whole of the Don Carlos matter. The papers said something about it, did they not?”

“Then you believe the papers?”

“I?—not the least in the world; only I fancied that the honest Messager was an exception to the rule, and that it only announced telegraphic despatches.”

“Well, that’s what puzzles me,” replied Danglars; “the news of the return of Don Carlos was brought by telegraph.”

“So that,” said Monte Cristo, “you have lost nearly 1,700,000 francs this month.”

“Not nearly, indeed; that is exactly my loss.”

“Diable,” said Monte Cristo compassionately, “it is a hard blow for a third-rate fortune.”

“Third-rate,” said Danglars, rather humble, “what do you mean by that?”

“Certainly,” continued Monte Cristo, “I make three assortments in fortune—first-rate, second-rate, and third-rate fortunes. I call those first-rate which are composed of treasures one possesses under one’s hand, such as mines, lands, and funded property, in such states as France, Austria, and England, provided these treasures and property form a total of about a hundred millions; I call those second-rate fortunes, that are gained by manufacturing enterprises, joint-stock companies, viceroyalties, and principalities, not drawing more than 1,500,000 francs, the whole forming a capital of about fifty millions; finally, I call those third-rate fortunes, which are composed of a fluctuating capital, dependent upon the will of others, or upon chances which a bankruptcy involves or a false telegram shakes, such as banks, speculations of the day—in fact, all operations under the influence of greater or less mischances, the whole bringing in a real or fictitious capital of about fifteen millions. I think this is about your position, is it not?”

“Confound it, yes!” replied Danglars.

“The result, then, of six more such months as this would be to reduce the third-rate house to despair.”

“Oh,” said Danglars, becoming very pale, how you are running on!”

“Let us imagine seven such months,” continued Monte Cristo, in the same tone. “Tell me, have you ever thought that seven times 1,700,000 francs make nearly twelve millions? No, you have not;—well, you are right, for if you indulged in such reflections, you would never risk your principal, which is to the speculator what the skin is to civilized man. We have our clothes, some more splendid than others,—this is our credit; but when a man dies he has only his skin; in the same way, on retiring from business, you have nothing but your real principal of about five or six millions, at the most; for third-rate fortunes are never more than a fourth of what they appear to be, like the locomotive on a railway, the size of which is magnified by the smoke and steam surrounding it. Well, out of the five or six millions which form your real capital, you have just lost nearly two millions, which must, of course, in the same degree diminish your credit and fictitious fortune; to follow out my simile, your skin has been opened by bleeding, and this if repeated three or four times will cause death—so pay attention to it, my dear Monsieur Danglars. Do you want money? Do you wish me to lend you some?”

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