The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 320 of 400

“Enough,” said Morrel; “who is your second witness?”

“I know no one in Paris, Morrel, on whom I could confer that honor besides you and your brother Emmanuel. Do you think Emmanuel would oblige me?”

“I will answer for him, count.”

“Well? that is all I require. To-morrow morning, at seven o’clock, you will be with me, will you not?”

“We will.”

“Hush, the curtain is rising. Listen! I never lose a note of this opera if I can avoid it; the music of William Tell is so sweet.”

Chapter 89. A Nocturnal Interview.

Monte Cristo waited, according to his usual custom, until Duprez had sung his famous “Suivez-moi;” then he rose and went out. Morrel took leave of him at the door, renewing his promise to be with him the next morning at seven o’clock, and to bring Emmanuel. Then he stepped into his coupe, calm and smiling, and was at home in five minutes. No one who knew the count could mistake his expression when, on entering, he said, “Ali, bring me my pistols with the ivory cross.”

Ali brought the box to his master, who examined the weapons with a solicitude very natural to a man who is about to intrust his life to a little powder and shot. These were pistols of an especial pattern, which Monte Cristo had had made for target practice in his own room. A cap was sufficient to drive out the bullet, and from the adjoining room no one would have suspected that the count was, as sportsmen would say, keeping his hand in. He was just taking one up and looking for the point to aim at on a little iron plate which served him as a target, when his study door opened, and Baptistin entered. Before he had spoken a word, the count saw in the next room a veiled woman, who had followed closely after Baptistin, and now, seeing the count with a pistol in his hand and swords on the table, rushed in. Baptistin looked at his master, who made a sign to him, and he went out, closing the door after him. “Who are you, madame?” said the count to the veiled woman.

The stranger cast one look around her, to be certain that they were quite alone; then bending as if she would have knelt, and joining her hands, she said with an accent of despair, “Edmond, you will not kill my son?” The count retreated a step, uttered a slight exclamation, and let fall the pistol he held. “What name did you pronounce then, Madame de Morcerf?” said he. “Yours!” cried she, throwing back her veil,—“yours, which I alone, perhaps, have not forgotten. Edmond, it is not Madame de Morcerf who is come to you, it is Mercedes.”

“Mercedes is dead, madame,” said Monte Cristo; “I know no one now of that name.”

“Mercedes lives, sir, and she remembers, for she alone recognized you when she saw you, and even before she saw you, by your voice, Edmond,—by the simple sound of your voice; and from that moment she has followed your steps, watched you, feared you, and she needs not to inquire what hand has dealt the blow which now strikes M. de Morcerf.”

“Fernand, do you mean?” replied Monte Cristo, with bitter irony; “since we are recalling names, let us remember them all.” Monte Cristo had pronounced the name of Fernand with such an expression of hatred that Mercedes felt a thrill of horror run through every vein. “You see, Edmond, I am not mistaken, and have cause to say, ‘Spare my son!'”

“And who told you, madame, that I have any hostile intentions against your son?”

“No one, in truth; but a mother has twofold sight. I guessed all; I followed him this evening to the opera, and, concealed in a parquet box, have seen all.”

“If you have seen all, madame, you know that the son of Fernand has publicly insulted me,” said Monte Cristo with awful calmness.

“Oh, for pity’s sake!”

“You have seen that he would have thrown his glove in my face if Morrel, one of my friends, had not stopped him.”

“Listen to me, my son has also guessed who you are,—he attributes his father’s misfortunes to you.”

“Madame, you are mistaken, they are not misfortunes,—it is a punishment. It is not I who strike M. de Morcerf; it is providence which punishes him.”

“And why do you represent providence?” cried Mercedes. “Why do you remember when it forgets? What are Yanina and its vizier to you, Edmond? What injury his Fernand Mondego done you in betraying Ali Tepelini?”

“Ah, madame,” replied Monte Cristo, “all this is an affair between the French captain and the daughter of Vasiliki. It does not concern me, you are right; and if I have sworn to revenge myself, it is not on the French captain, or the Count of Morcerf, but on the fisherman Fernand, the husband of Mercedes the Catalane.”

“Ah, sir!” cried the countess, “how terrible a vengeance for a fault which fatality made me commit!—for I am the only culprit, Edmond, and if you owe revenge to any one, it is to me, who had not fortitude to bear your absence and my solitude.”

“But,” exclaimed Monte Cristo, “why was I absent? And why were you alone?”

“Because you had been arrested, Edmond, and were a prisoner.”

“And why was I arrested? Why was I a prisoner?”

“I do not know,” said Mercedes. “You do not, madame; at least, I hope not. But I will tell you. I was arrested and became a prisoner because, under the arbor of La Reserve, the day before I was to marry you, a man named Danglars wrote this letter, which the fisherman Fernand himself posted.” Monte Cristo went to a secretary, opened a drawer by a spring, from which he took a paper which had lost its original color, and the ink of which had become of a rusty hue—this he placed in the hands of Mercedes. It was Danglars’ letter to the king’s attorney, which the Count of Monte Cristo, disguised as a clerk from the house of Thomson & French, had taken from the file against Edmond Dantes, on the day he had paid the two hundred thousand francs to M. de Boville. Mercedes read with terror the following lines:—

“The king’s attorney is informed by a friend to the throne and religion that one Edmond Dantes, second in command on board the Pharaon, this day arrived from Smyrna, after having touched at Naples and Porto-Ferrajo, is the bearer of a letter from Murat to the usurper, and of another letter from the usurper to the Bonapartist club in Paris. Ample corroboration of this statement may be obtained by arresting the above-mentioned Edmond Dantes, who either carries the letter for Paris about with him, or has it at his father’s abode. Should it not be found in possession of either father or son, then it will assuredly be discovered in the cabin belonging to the said Dantes on board the Pharaon.”

“How dreadful!” said Mercedes, passing her hand across her brow, moist with perspiration; “and that letter”—

“I bought it for two hundred thousand francs, madame,” said Monte Cristo; “but that is a trifle, since it enables me to justify myself to you.”

“And the result of that letter”—

“You well know, madame, was my arrest; but you do not know how long that arrest lasted. You do not know that I remained for fourteen years within a quarter of a league of you, in a dungeon in the Chateau d’If. You do not know that every day of those fourteen years I renewed the vow of vengeance which I had made the first day; and yet I was not aware that you had married Fernand, my calumniator, and that my father had died of hunger!”

“Can it be?” cried Mercedes, shuddering.

“That is what I heard on leaving my prison fourteen years after I had entered it; and that is why, on account of the living Mercedes and my deceased father, I have sworn to revenge myself on Fernand, and—I have revenged myself.”

“And you are sure the unhappy Fernand did that?”

“I am satisfied, madame, that he did what I have told you; besides, that is not much more odious than that a Frenchman by adoption should pass over to the English; that a Spaniard by birth should have fought against the Spaniards; that a stipendiary of Ali should have betrayed and murdered Ali. Compared with such things, what is the letter you have just read?—a lover’s deception, which the woman who has married that man ought certainly to forgive; but not so the lover who was to have married her. Well, the French did not avenge themselves on the traitor, the Spaniards did not shoot the traitor, Ali in his tomb left the traitor unpunished; but I, betrayed, sacrificed, buried, have risen from my tomb, by the grace of God, to punish that man. He sends me for that purpose, and here I am.” The poor woman’s head and arms fell; her legs bent under her, and she fell on her knees. “Forgive, Edmond, forgive for my sake, who love you still!”

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