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第14节 公债风波 【
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本文地址:http://www.yeidj.com.cn/book/story.php?id=608
文章摘要:公债风波 ,一言难尽作用于枚速马工,慌里慌张无机盐南沙。

打这次聚会后,又过了几天,阿尔贝·马尔塞夫就到香榭丽舍大道去拜访基督山伯爵。伯爵身为巨富,此处虽身临时住所,却也装饰得富丽堂皇,因此从外面看他的府邸犹如宫殿一般。阿尔贝是来替腾格拉尔夫人再表谢忱的,男爵夫人自己已写信向伯爵道了一次谢,信上的署名为“腾格拉尔男爵夫人,母亲家姓名:爱米娜·萨尔维欧”。陪着阿尔贝来访的是吕西安·德布雷,他陪他朋友谈话的时候,顺口恭维了伯爵几句。伯爵本人恰也喜欢玩弄手腕,当然不难看出对方的来意。他断定吕西安这次来访,是出于两方面好奇心,而主要的一方面还是来自安顿大马路。换句话说,腾格拉尔夫人看不透伯爵是个什么样的人,能把价值三万法郎的马匹甩手送人,而且看歌剧时带去的希腊女奴,只身上佩戴的钻石就值百万法郎,象这样的人,他的生活方式究竟什么样,是她迫切希望知道的,但她又不好亲自拜访,亲眼看看伯爵的家境和家中陈设,所以派了她最信任的耳目来观察一番,然后回去向她忠实地汇报。但信爵装得毫不知情,似乎一点没有察觉吕西安的来访与男爵夫人的好奇心之间有什么关系。

“那么说来,您和腾格拉尔男爵一直互相来往啦?”伯爵问阿尔贝·马尔塞夫。

“是的,伯爵,我跟您说过。”

“那么,那件事就没有一点儿变化?”

“这件事可以说完全定局啦。”吕西安说道。他也许认为当时该他说的就是这么一句话,所以说完后,就戴上单片儿眼镜,嘴里咬着金头手杖的扶手,在房间里转游了一圈,细细观看纹章和图画。

“噢!”基督山伯爵说道,“听您说了以后,我真没想到这件事会办得这么快。”

“嗯,事情上了轨道,就用不着我们出什么力了。我们早就把这种事情丢到脑后去了,它们可以自行解决。等到我们再上心的时候,就会意想不到地发现它们马上就到达设想目标了。家父和腾格拉尔先生一起在西班牙服役——家父在作战部队,腾格拉尔先生在军粮处。家父是由于革命而破产的,腾格拉尔先生却压根儿没有什么祖传产业,他们两人都在那儿打下了基础,慢慢起家的。”

“确实是这样,”基督山说道,“我记得有一次拜访他的时候,他曾跟我说起过。”说到这里,他斜睨着瞟了吕西安一眼,见他正在翻看一本纪念册。“还有,欧热妮小姐长得漂亮吗——我记得好象她叫这个名字,是不是?”

“很漂亮,可以说,很美,”阿尔贝回答道,“不过她那种类型的美我是欣赏不了的。我这人不识好歹。”

“您说话的口气好象都已经做她丈夫了。”

“啊!”阿尔贝回答说,转过头来也看吕西安在干什么。

“说实话,”基督山说道,压低了声音,“照我看,您好象对这桩婚事并不十分热心。”

“腾格拉尔小姐太有钱了,我可高攀不上,“马尔塞夫回答说,“所以我有些胆怯。”

“噢!”基督山嚷道,“这个理由实在精妙!难道您自己算不上有钱?”

“家父的年收入大约是五万里弗,我结婚以后,他大概能给我一万或者一万二千。”

“这个数目吗也许算不上大,特别是大巴黎,”伯爵说道,“但不是一切都要靠钱,名誉和社会地位也很重要。您的名声很好,您的地位谁都羡慕,而马尔塞夫伯爵又是一个军人,军官的公子和一个文官家庭联姻实在是件很可庆贺的事——不因利害考虑来缔结婚姻是一种最高贵的行为。依我看,和腾格拉尔小姐结合最合适不过了,她可以让您富有,而您可以让她高贵。”

阿尔贝摇了摇头,显得若有所思。“还有些别的情况。”他说道。

“我承认。”基督山说,“我实在有点不好理解您为什么要拒绝一位有钱又漂亮的小姐。”

“噢!”马尔塞夫说道,“这种嫌恶感——如果能称做嫌恶感的话——并不完全是我个人造成的。”

“那又能是谁造成的呢?您告诉过我,令尊是很赞成这门婚事的。”

“家母不赞成,她的判断力从来都清晰深刻,但对这件商议中的婚事毫不乐观。我说不清究竟是为了什么,但她好象对腾格拉尔一家人有什么偏见。”

“哦!”伯爵用一种稍显勉强的口气说道,“这大概很容易解释,马尔塞夫伯爵夫人是身价最高的贵族,所以不愿意您跟一个出身微贱的家庭联姻——那倒是很自然的。”

“我不清楚这是不是她的理由,”阿尔贝说道,“但有一点我清楚,就是,如果这件婚事成功,她就会感到很痛苦。六星期以前,本来大家准备一起商谈一次,以便把那件事定下来,可我突然生了一场病——”

“是吗?”伯爵微笑着打断他的话问道。

“噢,还会有假?当然是急出来的。这么着就把那次商谈推迟了两个月。事情本来不必着急,您知道,我还没满二十一,而欧热妮才十七岁。可那两个月的期限下星期就要到期。事情不得不办了。亲爱的伯爵,您想象不到我的心里多么为难。呀!象您这么自由的人多快活!”

“好!您为什么不也做个自由人呢?有谁不让您这么做呢?”

“噢!如果我不娶腾格拉尔小姐,家父就太失望了。”

“那么就娶她吧。”伯爵说道,暗含讽刺地耸了耸肩。

“可是,”马尔塞夫答道。“那又会让家母痛苦不堪的。”

“那么别娶她。”伯爵说道。

“哎,我看着办吧。我得好好考虑一下,想出个最好的办法。请您给我一片忠告吧,如果可能,再把我从这种为难的境况中解救出来,好不好?我想,与其让我的好妈妈难过,我宁可胃犯伯爵。”

基督山转过身去,最后这句话好象触动了他。“啊!”他冲德布雷问道。德布雷正靠在客厅另一头的一只安乐椅里,右手拿一支铅笔,左手拿着一本抄簿。“您在那儿干什么?临摹波森的画吗?”

“不,不!我现在做的这件事跟画画相差十万八千里。我是在解数学。”

“数学?”

“对,我是在算——慢着,马尔塞夫,这件事和你有点儿间接的关系——我正在算上次海地公债涨价让腾格拉尔银行赚了多少钱,三天之内,它从二○六涨到了四○九,而那位谨慎的银行家大部分股是在二○六的时候买进的。他一定到手三十万里弗了。”

“这还算不上他的绝活儿,”马尔塞夫说道,“他不是去年在西班牙证券市场上赚了一百万吗?”

“我的好先生,”吕西安说道,“基督山伯爵在这儿,他可以给你引用意大利人的两句诗:人生何所求,致富和自由。他们给我讲这件事时候,我总是耸耸肩而已,什么话都不说。”

“可您不是在大谈海地公债吗?”基督山说道。

“啊,海地公债!——那又是另外一回事了!海地公债属于法国证券赌博中的‘爱卡代’。他们或许会喜欢打‘扑克’,要‘惠斯特’,沉湎于‘波士顿’,但那些时间长了要生厌的,最后他们还得回来玩‘爱卡代’,因为这个百玩不厌。腾格拉尔先生昨天在四○六的时候抛出,捞了三十万法郎进了腰包。要是他等到现在,价格就会跌到二○五,他不仅赚不到三十万法郎,而且还要蚀掉两万或两万五。”

“怎么会突然从四○九跌到二○五呢?”基督山问道。“请原谅,我对这种种证券赌博的伎俩实在太无知了。”

“因为,”阿尔贝大笑着说,“信息接二连三地来,而前后的信息常常大不一样。”

“啊,”伯爵说道,“我看腾格拉尔先生在一天中输赢三十万法郎是件平常事,他一定很有钱了。”

“其实并不是他在赌,”吕西安叫道,“而是腾格拉尔夫人,她实在是大胆。”

“可你是一个很理智的人,吕西安,你知道现在的信息有多么不可靠,既然你是个信息来源,你当然应该阻止这种事情。”马尔塞夫带笑说道。

“她的丈夫根本就控制不了她,我又怎么能有所作为呢?

吕西安问道,“你知道男爵夫人的个性——谁都影响不了她,她想怎么做就怎么做。”

“啊,假如我处在你的位置”阿尔贝说。

“怎么样?”

“我就要改变她,这也算是对她未来的女婿助一把力。”

“你怎么去帮呢?”

“啊,那很简单——我要给她个教训。”

“教训?”

“是的。你这位部长秘书的地位使你在传播政治消息上很有权威,你一张口,那些证券投机商就立刻把你的话记录下来。你让她一下子蚀掉十万法郎,就可以教她谨慎一点了。”

“我不明白您的意思。”吕西安低声说道。

“这是明摆着的,”年轻人用毫不矫饰的口气直率地答道,“挑一个适当日子向她透露一件外界不知晓的消息,或是一个只有你一个人知道的急讯,譬如说,昨天有人看到亨利四世在盖勃拉里家里。那会让公债涨价的。她会根据这个消息做她的决定,而第二天,当波尚在他的报纸上宣布‘据传昨日曾有人目睹国王驾临着勃拉里府,此消息毫无根据。本报可证实陛下并未离开新桥’的时候,她肯定会蚀本啦。”

吕西安脸上似笑非笑。基督山表面显得虽然漠不关心,实际上对这一段谈话却一字不漏地记在心上,他那具有洞察力的目光甚至已经在那位秘书困惑的态度上读到了一种含而不露的秘密。这种困惑的态度阿尔贝完全没有注意到,而吕西安却因此草草结束他的问题;他显然很不安。伯爵在送他走的时候向他低语了些什么,他回答道:“很好,伯爵阁下,我接受您的建议。”伯爵回到小马尔塞夫那儿。

“您不想想,”他对他说,“您在德布雷的面前这样议论您的岳母是不合适的吗?”

“伯爵阁下,”马尔塞夫说道,“求您别把那个称呼用得太早。”

“现在,老老实实地告诉我,令堂真的非常反对这桩婚事吗?”

“非常反对,所以男爵夫人很少到我们家来,而家母,我想,她一辈子就没有去拜访过腾格拉尔夫人两次以上。”

“那么,”伯爵说道,“我就可以放心坦白地对您说了。腾格拉尔先生是我的银行家,维尔福先生因为我碰巧一次帮了他的忙,曾经十分客气地来拜访过我。我猜想宴会来往将会接二连三。现在,为了表明我并不期望他们请求,也为了要比他们抢先一步,我想请腾格拉尔先生夫妇和维尔福先生夫妇到我的欧特伊乡村别墅去吃饭。如果我同时邀请您和令尊令堂,看上去就象是一次为促成婚事而举行的宴会了,至少马尔塞夫夫人会这么看,特别是如果腾格拉尔男爵赏脸带上她的女儿同行的话。那么样,令堂就会对我产生厌恶感,而那正是我绝对不愿意看到的事;正相反——这一点,请你有空儿向她说明——我很希望能得到她的敬意。”

“真的,伯爵,”马尔塞夫说道,“我衷心地感谢您对我这样坦白,而且我很感激地接受您把我排除在外的这个建议。您说您希望获得家母的好感,我可以向您保证,她对您的好感已经是非同寻常了。”

“您认为是这样吗?”基督山饶有兴趣地问道。

“噢,这一点我可以肯定。那天您走了之后,我们谈论了您一个钟头呢。现在再谈谈我们刚才说的事吧。如果家母理解了您这一番考虑——我会向她解释的——我相信她一定会十分感激您的,不过要是家父知道了,他倒是也会大为恼火。”

伯爵大笑起来。“哦,”他对马尔塞夫说,“我想,大为恼火的恐怕不只令尊一个人吧。腾格拉尔先生夫妇也会把我看成一个非常不知礼的人。他们知道我和您很亲密——的确,您是我在巴黎结识最久的人之一,要是他们看不到您,肯定要问我为什么不邀请您。您必须要给自己想法弄一个事先另有安排的借口,而且要看起来象真的一样,然后写张条子告诉我。您要知道,跟银行家打交道,没有书面证明是不会奏效的。”

“我有更好的办法,”阿尔贝说道,“家母本打算到海边去,您定在哪一天请客?”

“星期六。”

“今天是星期二,我们明天傍晚动身,后天我们就到的黎港了。真的,伯爵阁下,您确实是一个让人喜欢的人,能让所有人各安其心。”

“您实在太过奖了,我只是不想让您难堪而已。”

“您什么时候发请帖?”

“今天就发。”

“那好,我马上去拜访腾格拉尔先生,跟他说家母和我明天要离开巴黎。我没有见过您,因此您请客的事我一无所知。”

“看您笨的!您忘了德布雷先生不是刚才还看见您在我这儿吗?”

“呀,真是的!”

“正好相反,我见过您,而且非正式地邀请过您,而您却马上说您无法应邀前来,因为您要到的黎港去。”

“好吧,那么,就这么定了。但您在明天以前总督来拜访家母一次吧?”

“明天以前?这件事实在不好办到,况且,你们也得忙着准备起程。”

“那太好了!来一手更漂亮的吧。您以前只能算得上可爱,可如果您接受我的建议,您可就是可敬佩的了。”

“我怎么才能得到这个荣誉呢?”

“您今天如空气一般自由,请和我一起用晚餐吧。我们不请别人——就您、家母和我。您等于可以说还没有见过家母,您可以有个机会更加仔细地观察她。她是一个非凡的女人,我唯一觉着遗憾的事,是世界上找不到一个象她那么好而又比她年轻二十岁的女人,如果有的话,我向您保证,除了马尔塞夫伯爵夫人以外,用不多久就又会有一位马尔塞夫子爵夫人啦。至于家父,您是碰不到他的,他参加官方活动,要到王室议员府去赴宴。我们可以谈谈我们过去旅行的经过,而您,您是走遍了全世界的人,可以讲讲您的奇遇。您可以把那天晚上陪您去戏院,您把她称为您的奴隶而实际上待她像一位公主的那个希腊美人的身世告诉我们。怎么样,接受我的邀请吧,家母也会感谢您的。”

“万分感谢,”伯爵说道,“您的邀请是最赏脸不过了,可实在遗憾之至,我确实无法接受。我并不象您想象的那么自由,恰恰相反,我有一个非常要紧的约会。”

“哎呀,真得当心!您刚才还在教我遇到人家请吃饭的时候怎么去编造一个可信的借口来推托。我要看看你有没有事先有约会的证据。我虽然不是腾格拉尔先生那样的银行家,但我的多疑心倒也不逊于他。”

“我来告诉您个证据。”伯爵回答,他拉了拉铃。

“哼!”马尔塞夫说道,“您回避和家母一起吃饭这已经是第二次了,您显然是想躲开她。”

基督山吃了一惊。“噢,您在开玩笑吧!”他说,“况且,证明我话的人已经来了。”巴浦斯汀进来站到了门口。“我事先并不知道您要来看我,是不是?”

“说实话,您是一位如此非凡的人物,这个问题我不愿意回答。”

“一句话,我猜不到您会请我去吃饭吧?”

“大概吧。”

“那么,听我说,巴浦斯汀,今天早晨我叫你到实验室去的时候,跟你说过什么来着?”

“五点钟一敲,就关门谢客。”那位跟班回答。

“然后呢?”

“啊,伯爵阁下”阿尔贝说道。

“不,不,我想免掉您送给我的那种神秘的尊号,我亲爱的子爵,老是扮演曼费雷特是很没意思。我希望我的生活可以公开化。说下去,巴浦斯汀。”

“然后,除了巴陀罗米奥·卡瓦尔康蒂少校和他的儿子以外,其他客人一概谢绝。”

“您听到了吧:巴陀罗米奥·卡瓦尔康蒂少校——这位人物是意大利历史上历时最久的贵族之一,他这个家族的大名但丁曾在《地狱》的第十节中极力赞美过。您还记得吧,不记得了?还有他儿子,一个可爱的青年人,年龄跟您差不多,也有您的子爵衔头,他正要带着他的父亲的万贯家产涉足巴黎社会。少校今天傍晚带他的儿子来了,托我照顾他。如果看看他确实值得我照顾的话,我当然要尽力帮他的忙,您也帮我个忙,怎么样?”

“绝对没问题!那么,卡瓦尔康蒂少校是您的老朋友喽?”

“绝对不是。他是一位受人尊敬的贵族,非常谦恭有礼,为人十分随和,凡是意大利时间久远的巨族的后代,大多都这个样子。我曾在佛罗伦萨、博洛涅和卢卡见过他几次,他现在通知我要到这儿来了。旅游过程中认识的人往往对您有这样的要求。您曾经凑巧在旅途上和他们有过某种交往,那么不论您到哪儿,他们都希望能受到同样的接待,好象曾经献过一小时殷勤可以使您对他们永远关怀似的。这位卡瓦尔康蒂少校是第二次到巴黎来,帝国时代的时候,他当时在莫斯科,曾路过这个地方。一顿饭他就把他的儿子托我照料,我可以答应我好好地请他。不论他怎么取闹,我总得随他的便,到时我的责任也就尽完了。”

“当然喽,我发现您真是一位难得的导师,”阿尔贝说道。

“那么,再见吧,我们星期天回来。顺便跟您说一下,我得到弗兰士的消息了。”

“真的?他还在逍遥自在地在意大利玩吗?”

“我想是的。可是,他觉得您不在那儿是一件十分遗憾的事儿。他说您就是罗马的太阳,没有了您,一切都好象黑沉沉阴森森的了,我不清楚他说没说过简直就好象在下雨。”

“那么他对我的看法改变了吗?”

“没有,他仍然坚持把您看作是最不可思议和最神秘莫测的人。”

“他是一个可爱的青年,”基督山说道,“我第一次见到他,就是那天晚上我听说他在找顿晚餐吃,于是就请他来和我一起吃,我因此对他产生了浓厚的兴趣。我好象记得他是伊皮奈将军的儿子吧?”

“对。”

“就是在一八一五年被人无耻暗害的那个?”

“是被拿破仑党暗害的。”

“对了!我的确非常喜欢他,他不也在谈一门亲事吗?”

“对,他马上要娶维尔福小姐了。”

“真的?”

“正好象我快要娶腾格拉尔小姐一样。”阿尔贝笑着说。

“您笑啦!”

“是的。”

“笑什么呢?”

“我笑是因为他的对象也象我的那位一样,很希望这门婚事能成。但说真的,亲爱的伯爵,我们现在就跟女人谈论男人那样的在谈论她们了。这可是不可饶恕的呀!”阿尔贝站起身来。

“您要走吗?”

“真的,您太好啦!我耽误了您两个钟头,把您烦得要命,可您还是那么客气地问我是不是要走了!说实话,伯爵,您是世界上最文雅的人了!还有您的仆人,他们的态度也好极了。他们都很有风度,尤其是巴浦斯汀先生,我永远找不到象他那样的一个人,我的仆人们好象在模仿舞台上那种最最笨拙的角色出来说个一两句话。所以如果那天您辞退巴浦斯汀,一定请告诉我一声。”

“可以,子爵。”

“还有一件事。请代我向您那位荣耀的来宾,卡瓦尔康蒂族的卡瓦尔康蒂致意,如果他打算给他的儿子成家立室,希望为他找一个非常有钱的太太,我可以助您一臂之力。

“噢,噢!您真的这种事都愿意做吗?”

“是的。”

“好吧,真的,这个世界上的事情本来就是说不定的。”

“噢,伯爵,您这就给我帮了一个大忙了!如果有您的干预,我可以依然做一个单身汉,我就更要百倍地喜欢您了,即使我再独身十年也无怨无悔。”

“世界上没有不可能的事。”基督山郑重地回答。送走阿尔贝以后,他回到屋里,敲了三下钟。贝尔图乔进来了。

“贝尔图乔先生,你知道星期六那天我要在欧特伊请客。”

贝尔图乔微微一怔。“我要您去监督安排一切。那座房子很漂亮,至少可以布置成一座很漂亮的房子。”

“要称得上漂亮这两个字,得先下一番大功夫呢,伯爵阁下,因为那些门帘窗帷是太旧了。”

“那么就把它们都换掉吧,不过挂着红缎窗帷的卧室不必换,那个房间你一点儿都不要去动它。”贝尔图乔鞠了下躬。

“你也不要去动那个花园。至于前庭,随便你怎么布置好了,我倒希望能把它变得面目全非。”

“我一定尽力照您的愿望做,伯爵阁下。但关于请客的事,我很希望得到大人的指示。”

“说实话,我亲爱的贝尔图乔先生,”伯爵说道,“自从到了巴黎以后,你变得神经错乱,显然没有你本来的样子,你好象再也不懂我的意思啦。”

“能不能请大人开恩,把您想请的那几位客人先告诉我?”

“我自己还不知道呢,而且你也不必知道。什么人请什么人吃饭,明白这个就够了。”贝尔图乔鞠了一躬,离开了房间。
 

SOME DAYS after this meeting, Albert de Morcerf visited the Count of Monte Cristo at his house in the Champs Elysées, which had already assumed that palace-like appearance which the count's princely fortune enabled him to give even to his most temporary residences. He came to renew the thanks of Madame Danglars which had been already conveyed to the count through the medium of a letter, signed "Baronne Danglars, nee Hermine de Servieux." Albert was accompanied by Lucien Debray, who, joining in his friend's conversation, added some passing compliments, the source of which the count's talent for finesse easily enabled him to guess. He was convinced that Lucien's visit was due to a double feeling of curiosity, the larger half of which sentiment emanated from the Rue de la Chaussée d'Antin. In short, Madame Danglars, not being able personally to examine in detail the domestic economy and household arrangements of a man who gave away horses worth 30,000 francs and who went to the opera with a Greek slave wearing diamonds to the amount of a million of money, had deputed those eyes, by which she was accustomed to see, to give her a faithful account of the mode of life of this incomprehensible person. But the count did not appear to suspect that there could be the slightest connection between Lucien's visit and the curiosity of the baroness.

"You are in constant communication with the Baron Danglars?" the count inquired of Albert de Morcerf.

"Yes, count, you know what I told you?"

"All remains the same, then, in that quarter?"

"It is more than ever a settled thing," said Lucien,--and, considering that this remark was all that he was at that time called upon to make, he adjusted the glass to his eye, and biting the top of his gold headed cane, began to make the tour of the apartment, examining the arms and the pictures.

"Ah," said Monte Cristo "I did not expect that the affair would be so promptly concluded."

"Oh, things take their course without our assistance. While we are forgetting them, they are falling into their appointed order; and when, again, our attention is directed to them, we are surprised at the progress they have made towards the proposed end. My father and M. Danglars served together in Spain, my father in the army and M. Danglars in the commissariat department. It was there that my father, ruined by the revolution, and M. Danglars, who never had possessed any patrimony, both laid the foundations of their different fortunes."

"Yes," said Monte Cristo "I think M. Danglars mentioned that in a visit which I paid him; and," continued he, casting a side-glance at Lucien, who was turning over the leaves of an album, "Mademoiselle Eugénie is pretty--I think I remember that to be her name."

"Very pretty, or rather, very beautiful," replied Albert, "but of that style of beauty which I do not appreciate; I am an ungrateful fellow."

"You speak as if you were already her husband."

"Ah," returned Albert, in his turn looking around to see what Lucien was doing.

"Really," said Monte Cristo, lowering his voice, "you do not appear to me to be very enthusiastic on the subject of this marriage."

"Mademoiselle Danglars is too rich for me," replied Morcerf, "and that frightens me."

"Bah," exclaimed Monte Cristo, "that's a fine reason to give. Are you not rich yourself?"

"My father's income is about 50,000 francs per annum; and he will give me, perhaps, ten or twelve thousand when I marry."

"That, perhaps, might not be considered a large sum, in Paris especially," said the count; "but everything does not depend on wealth, and it is a fine thing to have a good name, and to occupy a high station in society. Your name is celebrated, your position magnificent; and then the Comte de Morcerf is a soldier, and it is pleasing to see the integrity of a Bayard united to the poverty of a Duguesclin; disinterestedness is the brightest ray in which a noble sword can shine. As for me, I consider the union with Mademoiselle Danglars a most suitable one; she will enrich you, and you will ennoble her." Albert shook his head, and looked thoughtful. "There is still something else," said he.

"I confess," observed Monte Cristo, "that I have some difficulty in comprehending your objection to a young lady who is both rich and beautiful."

"Oh," said Morcerf, "this repugnance, if repugnance it may be called, is not all on my side."

"Whence can it arise, then? for you told me your father desired the marriage."

"It is my mother who dissents; she has a clear and penetrating judgment, and does not smile on the proposed union. I cannot account for it, but she seems to entertain some prejudice against the Danglars."

"Ah," said the count, in a somewhat forced tone, "that may be easily explained; the Comtesse de Morcerf, who is aristocracy and refinement itself, does not relish the idea of being allied by your marriage with one of ignoble birth; that is natural enough."

"I do not know if that is her reason," said Albert, "but one thing I do know, that if this marriage be consummated, it will render her quite miserable. There was to have been a meeting six weeks ago in order to talk over and settle the affair; but I had such a sudden attack of indisposition"--

"Real?" interrupted the count, smiling.

"Oh, real enough, from anxiety doubtless,--at any rate they postponed the matter for two months. There is no hurry, you know. I am not yet twenty-one, and Eugénie is only seventeen; but the two months expire next week. It must be done. My dear count, you cannot imagine now my mind is harassed. How happy you are in being exempt from all this!"

"Well, and why should not you be free, too? What prevents you from being so?"

"Oh, it will be too great a disappointment to my father if I do not marry Mademoiselle Danglars."

"Marry her then," said the count, with a significant shrug of the shoulders.

"Yes," replied Morcerf, "but that will plunge my mother into positive grief."

"Then do not marry her," said the count.

"Well, I shall see. I will try and think over what is the best thing to be done; you will give me your advice, will you not, and if possible extricate me from my unpleasant position? I think, rather than give pain to my dear mother, I would run the risk of offending the count." Monte Cristo turned away; he seemed moved by this last remark. "Ah," said he to Debray, who had thrown himself into an easy-chair at the farthest extremity of the salon, and who held a pencil in his right hand and an account book in his left, "what are you doing there? Are you making a sketch after Poussin?"

"Oh, no," was the tranquil response; "I am too fond of art to attempt anything of that sort. I am doing a little sum in arithmetic."

"In arithmetic?"

"Yes; I am calculating--by the way, Morcerf, that indirectly concerns you--I am calculating what the house of Danglars must have gained by the last rise in Haiti bonds; from 206 they have risen to 409 in three days, and the prudent banker had purchased at 206; therefore he must have made 300,000 livres."

"That is not his biggest scoop," said Morcerf; "did he not make a million in Spaniards this last year?"

"My dear fellow," said Lucien, "here is the Count of Monte Cristo, who will say to you, as the Italians do,--

 

"Danaro e santità,

Metà della metà. [1]

"When they tell me such things, I only shrug my shoulders and say nothing."

"But you were speaking of Haitians?" said Monte Cristo.

"Ah, Haitians,--that is quite another thing! Haitians are the écarté of French stock-jobbing. We may like bouillotte, delight in whist, be enraptured with boston, and yet grow tired of them all; but we always come back to écarté--it is not only a game, it is a hors-d'oeuvre! M. Danglars sold yesterday at 405, and pockets 300,000 francs. Had he but waited till to-day, the price would have fallen to 205, and instead of gaining 300,000 francs, he would have lost 20 or 25,000."

"And what has caused the sudden fall from 409 to 206?" asked Monte Cristo. "I am profoundly ignorant of all these stock-jobbing intrigues."

"Because," said Albert, laughing, "one piece of news follows another, and there is often great dissimilarity between them."

"Ah," said the count, "I see that M. Danglars is accustomed to play at gaining or losing 300,000 francs in a day; he must be enormously rich."

"It is not he who plays!" exclaimed Lucien; "it is Madame Danglars: she is indeed daring."

"But you who are a reasonable being, Lucien, and who know how little dependence is to be placed on the news, since you are at the fountain-head, surely you ought to prevent it," said Morcerf, with a smile.

"How can I, if her husband fails in controlling her?" asked Lucien; "you know the character of the baroness--no one has any influence with her, and she does precisely what she pleases."

"Ah, if I were in your place"--said Albert.

"Well?"

"I would reform her; it would be rendering a service to her future son-in-law."

"How would you set about it?"

"Ah, that would be easy enough--I would give her a lesson."

"A lesson?"

"Yes. Your position as secretary to the minister renders your authority great on the subject of political news; you never open your mouth but the stockbrokers immediately stenograph your words. Cause her to lose a hundred thousand francs, and that would teach her prudence."

"I do not understand," stammered Lucien.

"It is very clear, notwithstanding," replied the young man, with an artlessness wholly free from affectation; "tell her some fine morning an unheard-of piece of intelligence--some telegraphic despatch, of which you alone are in possession; for instance, that Henri IV was seen yesterday at Gabrielle's. That would boom the market; she will buy heavily, and she will certainly lose when Beauchamp announces the following day, in his gazette, 'The report circulated by some usually well-informed persons that the king was seen yesterday at Gabrielle's house, is totally without foundation. We can positively assert that his majesty did not quit the Pont-Neuf.'" Lucien half smiled. Monte Cristo, although apparently indifferent, had not lost one word of this conversation, and his penetrating eye had even read a hidden secret in the embarrassed manner of the secretary. This embarrassment had completely escaped Albert, but it caused Lucien to shorten his visit; he was evidently ill at ease. The count, in taking leave of him, said something in a low voice, to which he answered, "Willingly, count; I accept." The count returned to young Morcerf.

"Do you not think, on reflection," said he to him, "that you have done wrong in thus speaking of your mother-in-law in the presence of M. Debray?"

"My dear count," said Morcerf, "I beg of you not to apply that title so prematurely."

"Now, speaking without any exaggeration, is your mother really so very much averse to this marriage?"

"So much so that the baroness very rarely comes to the house, and my mother, has not, I think, visited Madame Danglars twice in her whole life."

"Then," said the count, "I am emboldened to speak openly to you. M. Danglars is my banker; M. de Villefort has overwhelmed me with politeness in return for a service which a casual piece of good fortune enabled me to render him. I predict from all this an avalanche of dinners and routs. Now, in order not to presume on this, and also to be beforehand with them, I have, if agreeable to you, thought of inviting M. and Madame Danglars, and M. and Madame de Villefort, to my country-house at Auteuil. If I were to invite you and the Count and Countess of Morcerf to this dinner, I should give it the appearance of being a matrimonial meeting, or at least Madame de Morcerf would look upon the affair in that light, especially if Baron Danglars did me the honor to bring his daughter. In that case your mother would hold me in aversion, and I do not at all wish that; on the contrary, I desire to stand high in her esteem."

"Indeed, count," said Morcerf, "I thank you sincerely for having used so much candor towards me, and I gratefully accept the exclusion which you propose. You say you desire my mother's good opinion; I assure you it is already yours to a very unusual extent."

"Do you think so?" said Monte Cristo, with interest.

"Oh, I am sure of it; we talked of you an hour after you left us the other day. But to return to what we were saying. If my mother could know of this attention on your part--and I will venture to tell her--I am sure that she will be most grateful to you; it is true that my father will be equally angry." The count laughed. "Well," said he to Morcerf, "but I think your father will not be the only angry one; M. and Madame Danglars will think me a very ill-mannered person. They know that I am intimate with you--that you are, in fact; one of the oldest of my Parisian acquaintances--and they will not find you at my house; they will certainly ask me why I did not invite you. Be sure to provide yourself with some previous engagement which shall have a semblance of probability, and communicate the fact to me by a line in writing. You know that with bankers nothing but a written document will be valid."

"I will do better than that," said Albert; "my mother is wishing to go to the sea-side--what day is fixed for your dinner?"

"Saturday."

"This is Tuesday--well, to-morrow evening we leave, and the day after we shall be at Tréport. Really, count, you have a delightful way of setting people at their ease."

"Indeed, you give me more credit than I deserve; I only wish to do what will be agreeable to you, that is all."

"When shall you send your invitations?"

"This very day."

"Well, I will immediately call on M. Danglars, and tell him that my mother and myself must leave Paris to-morrow. I have not seen you, consequently I know nothing of your dinner."

"How foolish you are! Have you forgotten that M. Debray has just seen you at my house?"

"Ah, true,"

"Fix it this way. I have seen you, and invited you without any ceremony, when you instantly answered that it would be impossible for you to accept, as you were going to Tréport."

"Well, then, that is settled; but you will come and call on my mother before to-morrow?"

"Before to-morrow?--that will be a difficult matter to arrange, besides, I shall just be in the way of all the preparations for departure."

"Well, you can do better. You were only a charming man before, but, if you accede to my proposal, you will be adorable."

"What must I do to attain such sublimity?"

"You are to-day free as air--come and dine with me; we shall be a small party--only yourself, my mother, and I. You have scarcely seen my mother; you shall have an opportunity of observing her more closely. She is a remarkable woman, and I only regret that there does not exist another like her, about twenty years younger; in that case, I assure you, there would very soon be a Countess and Viscountess of Morcerf. As to my father, you will not see him; he is officially engaged, and dines with the chief referendary. We will talk over our travels; and you, who have seen the whole world, will relate your adventures--you shall tell us the history of the beautiful Greek who was with you the other night at the Opera, and whom you call your slave, and yet treat like a princess. We will talk Italian and Spanish. Come, accept my invitation, and my mother will thank you."

"A thousand thanks," said the count, "your invitation is most gracious, and I regret exceedingly that it is not in my power to accept it. I am not so much at liberty as you suppose; on the contrary, I have a most important engagement."

"Ah, take care, you were teaching me just now how, in case of an invitation to dinner, one might creditably make an excuse. I require the proof of a pre-engagement. I am not a banker, like M. Danglars, but I am quite as incredulous as he is."

"I am going to give you a proof," replied the count, and he rang the bell.

"Humph," said Morcerf, "this is the second time you have refused to dine with my mother; it is evident that you wish to avoid her." Monte Cristo started. "Oh, you do not mean that," said he; "besides, here comes the confirmation of my assertion." Baptistin entered, and remained standing at the door. "I had no previous knowledge of your visit, had I?"

"Indeed, you are such an extraordinary person, that I would not answer for it."

"At all events, I could not guess that you would invite me to dinner."

"Probably not."

"Well, listen, Baptistin, what did I tell you this morning when I called you into my laboratory?"

"To close the door against visitors as soon as the clock struck five," replied the valet.

"What then?"

"Ah, my dear count," said Albert.

"No, no, I wish to do away with that mysterious reputation that you have given me, my dear viscount; it is tiresome to be always acting Manfred. I wish my life to be free and open. Go on, Baptistin."

"Then to admit no one except Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti and his son."

"You hear--Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti--a man who ranks amongst the most ancient nobility of Italy, whose name Dante has celebrated in the tenth canto of The Inferno, you remember it, do you not? Then there is his son, Andrea, a charming young man, about your own age, viscount, bearing the same title as yourself, and who is making his entry into the Parisian world, aided by his father's millions. The major will bring his son with him this evening, the contino, as we say in Italy; he confides him to my care. If he proves himself worthy of it, I will do what I can to advance his interests. You will assist me in the work, will you not?"

"Most undoubtedly. This Major Cavalcanti is an old friend of yours, then?"

"By no means. He is a perfect nobleman, very polite, modest, and agreeable, such as may be found constantly in Italy, descendants of very ancient families. I have met him several times at Florence, Bologna and Lucca, and he has now communicated to me the fact of his arrival in Paris. The acquaintances one makes in travelling have a sort of claim on one; they everywhere expect to receive the same attention which you once paid them by chance, as though the civilities of a passing hour were likely to awaken any lasting interest in favor of the man in whose society you may happen to be thrown in the course of your journey. This good Major Cavalcanti is come to take a second view of Paris, which he only saw in passing through in the time of the Empire, when he was on his way to Moscow. I shall give him a good dinner, he will confide his son to my care, I will promise to watch over him, I shall let him follow in whatever path his folly may lead him, and then I shall have done my part."

"Certainly; I see you are a model Mentor," said Albert "Good-by, we shall return on Sunday. By the way, I have received news of Franz."

"Have you? Is he still amusing himself in Italy?"

"I believe so; however, he regrets your absence extremely . He says you were the sun of Rome, and that without you all appears dark and cloudy; I do not know if he does not even go so far as to say that it rains."

"His opinion of me is altered for the better, then?"

"No, he still persists in looking upon you as the most incomprehensible and mysterious of beings."

"He is a charming young man," said Monte Cristo "and I felt a lively interest in him the very first evening of my introduction, when I met him in search of a supper, and prevailed upon him to accept a portion of mine. He is, I think, the son of General d'Epinay?"

"He is."

"The same who was so shamefully assassinated in 1815?"

"By the Bonapartists."

"Yes. Really I like him extremely; is there not also a matrimonial engagement contemplated for him?"

"Yes, he is to marry Mademoiselle de Villefort."

"Indeed?"

"And you know I am to marry Mademoiselle Danglars," said Albert, laughing.

"You smile."

"Yes."

"Why do you do so?"

"I smile because there appears to me to be about as much inclination for the consummation of the engagement in question as there is for my own. But really, my dear count, we are talking as much of women as they do of us; it is unpardonable." Albert rose.

"Are you going?"

"Really, that is a good idea!--two hours have I been boring you to death with my company, and then you, with the greatest politeness, ask me if I am going. Indeed, count, you are the most polished man in the world. And your servants, too, how very well behaved they are; there is quite a style about them. Monsieur Baptistin especially; I could never get such a man as that. My servants seem to imitate those you sometimes see in a play, who, because they have only a word or two to say, aquit themselves in the most awkward manner possible. Therefore, if you part with M. Baptistin, give me the refusal of him."

"By all means."

"That is not all; give my compliments to your illustrious Luccanese, Cavalcante of the Cavalcanti; and if by any chance he should be wishing to establish his son, find him a wife very rich, very noble on her mother's side at least, and a baroness in right of her father, I will help you in the search."

"Ah, ha; you will do as much as that, will you?"

"Yes."

"Well, really, nothing is certain in this world."

"Oh, count, what a service you might render me! I should like you a hundred times better if, by your intervention, I could manage to remain a bachelor, even were it only for ten years."

"Nothing is impossible," gravely replied Monte Cristo; and taking leave of Albert, he returned into the house, and struck the gong three times. Bertuccio appeared. "Monsieur Bertuccio, you understand that I intend entertaining company on Saturday at Auteuil." Bertuccio slightly started. "I shall require your services to see that all be properly arranged. It is a beautiful house, or at all events may be made so."

"There must be a good deal done before it can deserve that title, your excellency, for the tapestried hangings are very old."

"Let them all be taken away and changed, then, with the exception of the sleeping-chamber which is hung with red damask; you will leave that exactly as it is." Bertuccio bowed. "You will not touch the garden either; as to the yard, you may do what you please with it; I should prefer that being altered beyond all recognition."

"I will do everything in my power to carry out your wishes, your excellency. I should be glad, however, to receive your excellency's commands concerning the dinner."

"Really, my dear M. Bertuccio," said the count, "since you have been in Paris, you have become quite nervous, and apparently out of your element; you no longer seem to understand me."

"But surely your excellency will be so good as to inform me whom you are expecting to receive?"

"I do not yet know myself, neither is it necessary that you should do so. 'Lucullus dines with Lucullus,' that is quite sufficient." Bertuccio bowed, and left the room.
 



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